I was fired because of a tarot card reading, how do I learn business jargon, and more

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

1. I was fired because of a tarot card reading

I worked for a company for many years, always receiving excellent reviews and having strong relationships with my coworkers. I *loved* my job. Last year, I went through a series of personal tragedies in a very short period of time. I sunk into a deep depression and my performance suffered. At first, I had an amazing supervisor who checked on me regularly, worked with me to accommodate therapy appointments, etc., but they left for a new job and a new boss came in. I explained what had been going on and that I was going to need time to deal with some of the legal, logistical, and emotional fallout. They seemed to empathize at first, but that understanding deteriorated and the relationship became extremely difficult. I tried my best, going along with their group bonding exercises (including vision boards) and planning sessions but nothing was ever good enough for my new boss. Eventually, I was fired. Among the reasons listed were my productivity and the claim that my “negativity and dark outlook was bringing down the rest of the team.” This was devastating. I didn’t fight it because I was negotiating a job offer and would have left anyway. I signed my paperwork and left quietly. Many friends from that job have continued to check on me and they helped me land on my feet again, though it’s not been easy.

A few weeks ago, a former coworker reached out and shared with me that the boss who fired me consulted a tarot card reader who said that my leaving would solve their problems. I was fired, at least in part, because of a tarot reading. And the person shared that the boss consults their cards before any major decision in the organization.

I want to let it go, but I can’t. I’m extremely upset. As much as I loved my old job, I don’t want it back. I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Do I reach out to HR and let them know? Do I let this go? What recourse, if any, do I have? Should I list my firing on job applications when asked? If this weren’t happening to me, I might find it funny. But instead, I just want to cry.

Well … the problem is that you’re hearing about this secondhand and it may or may not be true, and if you contact your old company about it, there’s a decent chance the response will be, “Huh? You were fired because of low productivity” since you note that your performance did suffer. And to be fair, while the way you heard this makes it sound ridiculous, plenty of people involve their faith traditions while making difficult decisions; when you set aside that initial reaction (which I had too), this isn’t meaningfully that different from someone talking with a pastor while struggling with whether to fire someone.

That said, you don’t have much to lose from trying, so you could give it a shot and see what happens. You’d want to be clear about what you’re asking for, though — if it’s just to inform them, it’s more likely that it’ll be blown off. But you could frame it as a request for the firing to be reclassified as a layoff and to negotiate what future reference-checkers are told (reasonable things to try when you’re fired in a situation like yours anyway).

2. How do I learn to use business jargon?

How do I learn to think and speak like a business professional? I recently transitioned from academia to a totally new field in the corporate world. Things have been mostly smooth with a major exception: my lack of business experience has left me very bad at thinking like a businessperson and writing in what one might call business professional or corporate-speak. I mean the type of writing that is to-the-point, puts things in terms of what adds value to the business, and uses phrases like “deliverables,” “relevant stakeholders,” “innovative approach,” “value-added,” etc. I understand it fine enough, but because I’m not versed in the lingo I’m afraid my writing comes off as either amateurish or overblown. The only way I was able to get my resume to sound right was due to a lot of help from friends who are more practiced in writing this way than I am. It has also caused me a lot of difficulty with the self-evaluation in my recent performance review. I had a lot of trouble identifying and writing about my accomplishments in business terms. For example, I’d say, “presented reports about llama grooming” instead of “provided innovative llama grooming strategies to relevant stakeholders” or something like that (that clunkiness is exactly what I’m talking about!).

How do people learn to think and speak about their job goals and duties in this way?

Noooooo! The type of writing and speaking you’re taking about is a problem, not something to emulate. Your “before” example on your resume isn’t very compelling, but your “after” example is truly terrible and exactly what ruins resumes. Undo those resume changes, seriously.

If you’re finding you speak in clearer language than some of your colleagues, that’s a good thing. What matters is that you’re easily understood and able to get your points across. The kind of jargony language you’re aspiring to is rightly the target of jokes and mockery. Just because you see it around you doesn’t mean you need to adopt it. (And if anyone has told you that you need to, that’s terribly wrongheaded — like telling someone they need to triple the length of their meetings or strive to alienate one customer a day. But it sounds like this is more internally generated than that.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m my employee’s landlord and I need her to move

In addition to my day job, I also own apartments and one of my employees at my full-time job lives in one of them. Can she file retaliation against me if I tell her she has to move? The apartment does not have anything to do with our workplace. I would like to fix the place up and it will take me a few months to do so. She pays $200 less and I know I can rent it out for more. Will telling her that she has to move out will cause problems at work?

It depends on your employee, what kind of landlord you’ve been, and how much notice you give her. If she’s generally reasonable, you’ve been a good landlord, you give her a very generous amount of notice to find other housing (that’s crucial), and you comply with the terms of the lease and local housing laws … it’ll probably be fine. But because she works for you, you need to be extremely careful about being fair and compassionate here (for example, aim for at least six months of notice since this doesn’t sound urgent) — because otherwise, yes, there could be blowback at work. Not that she’ll file against you for “retaliation” (unless she has some reason to believe this is a retaliatory move), but it could harm the relationship and/or your reputation at work among people who hear about it.

In general, you shouldn’t rent to people who work for you. There’s too much potential for problems (everything from the appearance of favoritism if you don’t address it when she does something fireable because you need her rent income, to the impact at work if you need to evict or she needs to press you to meet your legal obligations as a landlord, to the power dynamics making it harder for her to enforce her rights as a tenant).

4. Interviewing when I can’t move part of my face

In 2016 I came down with Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Think of it as a pretty strong Bell’s Palsy with a recovery rate of about 40%. The left side of my face doesn’t fully work. I’m unable to move my left eyebrow and my smile is very lopsided and looks bad, IMO, because I cannot pull up the left side of my mouth.

I’ve been on the hunt for a better job fit and I’m unsure about how I should address this during any interview where someone can see my face. I know that medical discussions should generally stay out of an interview process, but facial expressions are an important part of interviewing and communication. So far, I’ve never said anything to my interviewers regarding my condition, but I also wonder if my inability to properly smile has cost me moving forward in some of these processes.

Similar to yesterday’s letter about interviewing with bad eczema, the easiest thing to do is to address it right up-front: “I should mention that I have a medical condition where I can’t fully move the left side of my face. It doesn’t get in the way of anything, but you might notice it as we talk.” This isn’t a medical discussion; it’s just “here’s some context for something that might otherwise be distracting or misinterpreted” and then you move right along. Good luck!

5. Company ghosted me after I spent hours filling out forms

I am really annoyed that an interviewer ghosted me, am thinking of emailing them to express my frustration, and I’m hoping you can suggest some language.

Before the interview in question, the HR manager sent me, with less than 24 hours notice, a whopping 15 pages of forms that I had to print, fill out, scan, and send back to her before the interview the next day. Quite a bit of it was information that was on my resume, but the form said it was not acceptable to write “see resume.” There was also a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t need until you hired the person or were much closer to doing so — basically all the info for a background check, complete work history, references etc. (This was a first interview.) It took me hours to fill out the forms with unnecessary/duplicative information and get them back to her.

After requesting this of me, no one from this company — neither HR nor the hiring manager — has responded to me in the five weeks since this interview. I’m especially annoyed at the disparity here — that they can’t be bothered to take the two minutes to let me know I didn’t get the job, when they were just fine with making me fill out 15 pages of unnecessary forms. And of course, there’s also the usual frustration that I took time off of my full-time job to go to this interview. I know it will burn a bridge but I’m annoyed enough that I want to say something to HR. What do you think I should say? Should I mention the ridiculousness with the forms or just say “I wish you’d responded to me after I made the effort to come to the office and meet with you, etc.”

Well … it’s possible you’re still in the running. Five weeks after an interview isn’t so long that they’ve definitely moved on, and it’s possible you’re going to hear from them at some point. Given that, I wouldn’t burn the bridge just yet, unless you’re absolutely sure you wouldn’t work for them (in this role or any other).

If you really want to say something, once more time has gone by (maybe another month), you could say something like, “I put a lot of time into your hiring process, including several hours filling out forms on short notice the night before the interview, and am surprised no one has contacted me about the status of my candidacy, especially when I contacted you to ask. I realize this may be an oversight — emails get lost, things fall through the cracks — but not responding to candidates who take the time to interview with you gives such a poor impression of your company that I thought I’d bring it to your attention.”

But it’s unlikely to make an impression on them (other than possibly being an obstacle if you ever apply there in the future). This behavior is so common at this point that companies really don’t see it as a big deal, although it’s horribly rude. The reality is, they’re more likely to think you’re being a prima donna (although you aren’t). That said, there’s value in candidates pushing back on this, since if no one does, it definitely won’t change.

{ 727 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that per the commenting rules, comments need to be kind and focused on constructive advice to the letter-writers. Comments that don’t follow those rules (including comments attacking the personal character of any of the letter-writers) will be removed.

  2. CmdrShepard4ever*

    I think if OP 1 had been fired all of a sudden based solely on the tarrot cards, it might be something worth mentioning to the company. But since OP admits that their performance did actually decline, and the new manager was understanding at the start, it seems that there cause for them to be fired. Like Alison mentioned it’s not much different then had the boss talked to their spouse about it and the spouse suggested that OP be let go.

    It sucks OP I’m sorry, but I would try to look/move forward and do the best you can in this new job.

    1. Clementine*

      I think the most common use of tarot cards is to confirm an action one was going to take anyway. If the cards had shown something else, the boss would probably have pressed for a re-interpretation. That is my take on it, anyway.

      1. Rachel*

        This is similar to what I was thinking—the way most psychics and such work is by being good at reading people. I’m sure your ex-boss was very clear that they wanted to fire you, and the tarot reader reflected back what they wanted to hear.
        I’m glad you don’t work for this person anymore!

        1. Avasarala*

          I feel like I could have performed this reading.
          “My employee is struggling with depression and it’s severely affecting their performance. Also their constant negativity is bringing down the team. I feel awful about what they’re going through, but the business can’t take it anymore. Should I fire them?”
          “Well we have the Judgment card, which symbolizes new beginnings…”
          “You’re right, I just need to make a judgment. Thanks Avasarala!”

      2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        My thoughts exactly. To quote the xx, the stars and the charts and the cards make sense only when we want them to.

        Both true believers and casual dabblers in ~the arcane arts~ tend to approach things the same way: take what works for them, disregard what doesn’t. Firing people sucks. The boss probably wasn’t chomping at the bit to do it, but felt it needed to be done and was looking for some outside validation that it was the right thing to do.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I was thinking about Alison’s spiritual advisor analogy, and if you tell the spiritual advisor that you think all the problems stem from the cursed azalea you planted in the front yard, quite possibly they will advise you to cast it out. The tarot cards are just reflecting your conclusion back at you.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            I’m imagining it a different way: “Your azalea is cursed, and is causing all your woes. Luckily, I brought a pot to transport it to my yard where I will exorcise it and keep it so that the curse doesn’t return.”

            1. TardyTardis*

              At my house, it was a cursed quince bush (scared my daughter by the way the branches scrabbled against her window. If I had only known, it would have died years before we killed it).

        1. wb*

          If I learned my boss had consulted their priest before firing me I would absolutely flip out. That is just so inappropriate. Your religion has absolutely nothing to do with my job. Spiritual guidance is for spiritual matters. This is not a spiritual matter. This is an employment matter. What am I missing? How does ‘its just like talking to any spiritual advisor’ make this appropriate?

          I’d prefer a tarot card reading or psychic, actually, as cold-reading would just confirm whatever the boss already wanted to do…

          1. Cat*

            I mean, we don’t know what the subject of the consult is. It could be the boss had already made up their mind to fire the OP due to declining performance but was worried about the ethical aspects of firing someone who had dealt with a lot of personal problems recently. Everyone has to deal with that in their own way and consulting a spiritual advisor about that seems fine to me.

          2. Myrcallie*

            To be fair, a lot of people use spiritual advisors as secular advisors/counsellors too. My mum ‘doesn’t believe in therapy’, but she’ll take her problems to the priest any day to talk and pray about them, and usually that’s enough for her to come to a decision. It’s not like ‘the great spaghetti monster says you HAVE to fire this employee out of the blue!’, it’s usually ‘I have some thoughts, help me clarify them’.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My very limited experience confirms it – I got exactly one reading in my entire life, it was at a party, a casual friend was doing them, and I thought it’d be good party fun. (It wasn’t. Apparently it is a serious, big big deal for the people who do them.) I was told to think of a yes/no question about something in my life (“should I date my next-door neighbor?” “should I get a third cat?” something very specific) and the reading would give me an answer to my question; whether I should do that thing. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the boss came to the reading already wanting to know “Should I fire OP?” I imagine there was a 50% chance of him getting a yes answer, or an even higher chance of getting a vague answer that could be read as a “yes/maybe”, and then he just went with it.

      5. JSPA*

        People often use tarot to tell themselves information they don’t want to hear. People doing a reading for themselves, I think I’d say, yeah, that’s how to take it.

        But there are also unscrupulous practitioners who think nothing of saying, “your child is not really your child” or “there is a female person with dark energy who will lead to your destruction, you must fire them.”

        And, yes, the boss and the workplace may even be happier as a (short term) result. But if the pattern is, “fire people who are or should be receiving accommodations, and make everyone aware that their future is entirely dependent on the whims of Madame Rue,” that’s a major problem for the company.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Well, I found out about two boyfriends that my roommate at college had that she hadn’t told me about during a reading, but that doesn’t usually happen…

    2. Beth*

      Agreed. OP1, I can see how it’s galling to hear that tarot cards might have played a role in your firing. (I read them, and I’d still find that galling! They’re not that precise! That’s not how this works! And I imagine not really believing in them would just make it more frustrating.)

      But first of all, you only have this secondhand; you don’t actually know it’s what happened. And second, it sounds like you were fired under circumstances which lead a lot of people to be fired: your performance dropped, your boss tried to be supportive as you worked through some tough life stuff, but ultimately they decided it wasn’t tenable anymore and let you go. Even if that decision happened to be made while they were having a tarot reading done, it’s one they could easily justify based on the circumstances; you don’t have much of a leg to stand on in terms of contesting it.

      Based on both of those things, I suspect you’ll be happier if you pretend you never heard this and focus on moving on than if you try to report it or get any action taken based on it.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Right there with you! I read tarot cards on occasion, too, and I would NEVER outright tell someone to fire an employee or make another serious decision based solely on a reading. I generally leave it up to the person I’m reading for to tell me the question, or not, as they choose. So a lot of times, I don’t even know what exactly is being asked.

        Sometimes, I have a pretty good idea, based on what cards I’m seeing and in what order. And sometimes I have a strong hunch. But even if I -think- I know what’s going on with someone…I’m not going to assume I’m correct.

        In general, each position in a tarot layout is intended to represent an aspect of the situation. For example: recent past, current situation, near future, etc. Each card also has a variety of possible interpretations, which can vary depending on whether the card is right side up or upside down (reversed is the usual term). Not all readers use reversed cards, though. So it’s a combination of position, card, other cards nearby, and sometimes specific cards will jump out as being closely associated in a given reading.

        Tarot is an art, not a science. Pretty much anyone can learn the basics, but how well you read the cards is partly a matter of talent, partly a matter of practice. I have had more than one person say something like “YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT!” in response to a reading I was giving. But they seemed to find it helped them clarify their thinking.

        Anyway, if anyone is curious, I’m happy to talk about this more. Hit me up in the weekend open thread (preferably by name, as I don’t often make it through all of the posts!).

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I see it as the tarot is a mirror for the querent to examine their own feeling, thoughts and options with. A good reader will help a person reflect on their choices.

    3. JamieS*

      Yeah, what OP should focus on is that the manager wouldn’t have been asking the cards if they weren’t already thinking about firing OP in the first place. Doesn’t change the situation but it’s better to frame it mentally as ‘former manager who was thinking about firing me looked for a sign before doing so’ instead of ‘former manager arbitrarily fired me because some cards told them to’.

    4. anon*

      I’d be interested to know if praying to ask for guidance what to do with an employee in this situation, if that would be a problem. Strikes me as quite similar, asking a higher power for guidance.

      But OP, sorry you had all this happen to you. I’m glad you’ve got a new job to focus on. I’d probably (and reluctantly) move on and not raise this with the old company.

      1. Melewen*

        I can understand how it sounds at first, but instead of thinking of Tarot as woo, think of it as a way to organize and understand one’s own thoughts. The cards didn’t tell them what to do, the cards helped clarify a difficult decision.

        It’s really not that different than praying over a decision or making pro/con lists.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Even framed this way, a person is free to decide that they do not want to work for someone who always consults tarot cards/ministers/ anyone or anything else before making a decision.

          My suggestion here, OP, is rather than feeling blindsided by this news, you can chose to use it as confirmation that leaving was the right thing to do for you to do no matter what. We are free to disagree with how managers make their decisions.

          I had a job where I was denied a promotion. The reason given was because I refused to get on a ladder. A coworker volunteered to do all the ladder work for me, if the company would just promote me. So it was a bit of a surprise to everyone when the company still denied the promotion. What’s up here. Later, I found out the real reason I did not get promoted is because I was married. I had attachments to the area and they believed I did not have the flexibility to move all over the eastern half of the US.
          Now. They could have just said, the job requires you to move when necessary and I would have withdrawn my application. But that is not what they chose to do, they chose to give me a little smack down by saying my refusal to climb up a full story on a ladder was insubordination.

          Companies make odd choices in how they handle things and if we go down to the individual level some bosses make odd choices in how they handle things. Like your setting, I quickly concluded I was better off without this job and company. I attributed part of my problem with the promotion is that I stayed with the company too long, my own inertia was a contributing factor. I had warning signs that things were not well and good people had left the company before me.

          I am not sure why this person shared the info about the tarot cards. I wonder what they expected you to do in light of this info, are you supposed to go back and “rescue” them by informing TPTB? You might want to consider the perspective that it’s their circus and their monkeys to “fix” this, if any fixing needs to be done.

          As an aside, having hit some rough bumps in life myself, sometimes I just write something off as a loss. It’s gone. But in my own mind, I am able to list off some personal successes that far out weigh the loss. Perhaps you can find some personal successes that far out weigh the loss of this job here. The one I see is that you got yourself a new job in spite of having this mini-hell going on in your life. That’s huge. Not everyone is able to accomplish this.

          1. Avasarala*

            Yes. I would personally not want to work for a company where people consulted spiritual advisors, magic 8 balls, chicken bones, d20, the CEO’s spouse and kids, etc. when making business decisions. It’s not illegal to do so, but I would GTFO and you made the right call by doing so.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yes, exactly this. Used correctly, it’s really a tool for organizing and clarifying your thoughts. Also I feel good about never, ever mentioning tarot at work, reading these comments.

          1. Wintermute*

            I don’t think it’s a problem IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE, in fact I find all kinds of folk-spiritual traditions fascinating and interesting, especially with respect to looking at their psychological, sociological and social functions and how they evolve in a society. But business decisions should be made by business stakeholders and empirical methods that you can justify transparently if requested. I wouldn’t trust a boss that was praying for a sign about firing someone, or consulting their rabbi, their wife or their therapist either.

            It’s a sign of indecisive management at best, that they know what they want to do but seek external validation, at worst it’s a sign that one day I’ll be fired for crows perching on my car.

            1. RadManCF*

              ” But business decisions should be made by business stakeholders and empirical methods that you can justify transparently if requested. ”

            2. Kendra*

              The problem is, it’s hard to tell from the outside if they’re actually “consulting” with whoever, or just letting the process of vocalizing the issue to a neutral third party clarify their own opinion and thought process. Sometimes, having to figure out how to phrase something in a way that makes sense to an outsider does that; they’re not actually asking for their rabbi’s opinion or validation, the rabbi is just a trustworthy person who has an obligation not to spread everything they hear around.

              Not every decision (or even most!) can or should be made on the fly without putting any thought into it, and this is just part of some people’s thought process.

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              “But business decisions should be made by business stakeholders and empirical methods that you can justify transparently if requested.”


              While this is ideal, many businesses don’t actually do this. Many managers IMO are seat of the pants, “gut check” managers. Usually they just examine or bring in the data that supports their gut check.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            I’ve done tarot readings at work, as part of the annual charity drive. People seemed to enjoy it, and no one inquired as to how or why I’d acquired the skill. But I think it’s very much a “know your audience” kind of thing – at some companies, this wouldn’t be a good idea.

        3. Daisy*

          Yeah it doesn’t seem particularly odd or outrageous to me at all. It’s a way of contemplating a decision, like praying or meditating.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            And I can just as easily imagine someone feeling outraged if they heard that their boss in a secular job prayed over what to do and ended up firing them. But that’s not really an outrage you can do anything with, when there were actual performance issues.

            1. Observer*

              That’s really the key here. Even without performance issues it would be hard to say that there is real recourse. But in this case, there is no doubt that the OP really doesn’t have recourse. And HR would probably tell them that even without the Tarot cards, they would have been out. Because I have no doubt that the supervisor was able to present a good case for their firing without ever mentioning the Tarot cards.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Be that as it may, or may not, I doubt that OP’s boss walked into the room and the card reader said “OMG(!!!) I’m so glad you’re here. You have an employee named OP and you need yo fire her right now!!!”

            2. Legal Beagle*

              But plenty of people believe that prayer is “woo” also. It would be inappropriate to say “I prayed over this and The Flying Spaghetti Monster told me to fire you” just like it was not appropriate for the boss to tell employees about the tarot cards. But I don’t think it’s bad to *privately* pray over a big decision, and I don’t really see tarot reading as being much different in that context.

              1. Lucette Kensack*

                But I suspect most folks — and certainly most of the commenters here — would be outraged if a LW wrote in and said that their boss was firing them because they received a message from God that they should do so.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  Yes and if OP’s boss had consulted the cards and decided to fire people just because the cards said so that would be outrageous, but in this situation there was already reason for OP to be fired, boss was contemplating it and then decided to pray/sleep on it, consulted spouse/clergy/physic , tarot card reading etc.

                  If OP’s boss’s spouse told the boss to fire john smith randomly for no reason it would be inappropriate sure. But if the boss ran a decision they were contemplating by a spouse it and used them as a sounding board to clarify the bosses thoughts/feeling it would not be inappropriate.

            3. Jadelyn*

              The definition of “woo” is so subjective that that’s a completely individual determination and not really the sort of thing you can present as incontrovertible fact. It’s no more “woo” than praying over a tough decision, which I hear is a thing people do.

              For some people, they believe in the more “woo” aspects of tarot, that they’re a medium or channel to some other power that “answers” things for you.

              For other people, as has been described several times in this thread, it’s closer to a meditation tool that can help you reframe things to yourself or acknowledge things you didn’t want to acknowledge.

              I mean you’re basically looking several people in this thread in the metaphorical eye, and right after they’ve said “I use tarot like this” you’re immediately saying “No you don’t.” Which is…not a great look.

              1. Dankar*

                I don’t use tarot cards (though I do want to buy a set, given how gorgeous the art tends to be), but my understanding is that a lot of people use them as a kind of gut check. I think of it like that rhetorical game:

                “Should I let this employee go due to their performance?”
                Okay, the cards indicate you should be decisive and fire the employee. How do you feel?
                “Like I made the right decision and our team can move forward. I guess it is the right choice to make” or “I feel like I could maybe have been more flexible. Let me give the employee another chance to improve.”

                Often being given an “answer” allows you to measure how you feel about that outcome and make a decision more confidently.

                1. Joielle*

                  This is what I do! If I’m stuck on something it can help shuffle my thoughts a little. It’s like a writing prompt, but for thinking.

                  I don’t think consulting tarot cards about a business decision is necessarily an awful thing to do, but telling an employee about it displays staggeringly poor judgment.

                2. pamplemousse*

                  I started teaching myself tarot earlier this month (not really sure why, it just seemed interesting!) and it’s even more general than that. The cards have broad symbolic meanings that can be interpreted however you want.

                  The resources I’ve been using definitely tend to be on the down to earth side but they are VERY up front about it being a framework to help you think through situations and decisions, much like journaling, and that any answers you find ultimately come from yourself, not from some kind of Secret Source of Wisdom the cards let you tap into.

                  Letting someone go is a genuinely tough decision even if you know it’s the right thing to do, and I understand using whatever method helps you sort through it. (Talking about it at work is weird, though, in the same way that I wouldn’t say “I talked it over with my partner” or “I went for a really long run and thought about it the whole time” or whatever else helps you get clarity.)

      2. Anonymeece*

        I was thinking the same thing. A stronger analogy than the pastor one would be praying for guidance, and while some people might roll their eyes a bit at that, I’m sure a lot of bosses out there pray for insight on what to do about a problem at work.

        I do tarot cards, and in my experience, they’re good for sorting out one’s own thoughts, not providing mystical guidance from a higher power (some people do view this differently!). If a card comes up that indicates a problem, what’s going on in my life and thoughts will indicate how I interpret it – is it a work problem? A love problem? In this case, it might have been that the person wanted reassurance they were doing the right thing.

        OP, it hurts to be fired, and I get how this feels like salt in the wound, but I would let it go. It’s hearsay to begin with, you note that your productivity did drop (understandably!), and it’s not that far from praying for guidance.

    5. hbc*

      Yeah, I would have been ticked off if they reached into some Scrabble tiles to figure out who to fire, or used a random number generator, or asked their spouse to pick which name sounded best to get rid of. Those are blind decisions that don’t take into account performance. But it sounds like this was a performance-based decision where the manager was on the fence (because it’s really hard to decide when something like this has gone on too long), and whatever thing pushed them over the edge isn’t really the problem. It’s the fact that they made it to the fence to begin with, and they were one bad mood, tarot reading, or on-point meme away from tipping.

    6. Allypopx*

      It strikes me as a little different because “negativity and dark outlook” are definitely things you’d hear in a tarot reading and aren’t *necessarily* super performance based criticisms. Given that, I might agree with Alison about trying to negotiate reference terminology.

      1. Observer*

        Except that they really ARE performance related. Morale is a real issue and if someone is really pulling the mood in the office down it’s a legitimate issue for a boss.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          With workplace positivity being as aggressive and toxic as it is in many workplaces now (“have FUN at work, dammit, or else”) I would be very concerned if I found out a colleague had been fired with this wording. Safe to say something like this happening would pull the mood in the office down faster than a colleague going through tough times in their personal life ever could.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              But I think there is also a world of difference between being positive at work and being told you have to have forced FUN at work.

              We have had plenty of letters about grumpy gary, negative nancy, joyless jennifer that in of it self is a problem. You are not only paid to do your job, but to get along reasonable well with your coworkers. If someone is always talking about how terrible everything is, the company sucks, that boss sucks, that everything in their life is bad it can’t help but impact other coworkers. If you have an employee who is not only being negative, but is also having performance/productivity issues that seems to me that both issues should be brought up. Negativity creates a feed back loop, that makes you feel worse and even more negative.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                My bad, I used fun as shorthand on the assumption that everyone will have seen and heard other examples of the work positivity movement, when hopefully not all of us have been as fortunate. I have other examples. My boss was briefly very much into workplace positivity. I heard it all, up to and including “you should be all grateful you have jobs” said in the best-meaning way and without any clue about how it sounded. “Yes, our management cancelled our annual bonuses and it feels bad to you, but think about how much worse you could have it, you could be living in a van down by the river” (okay he did not actually say that, but you get the gist). It is a very annoying, minimizing trend. Thankfully, after a couple of years of this, he stopped. He is a sweet, well-meaning guy and we loved him no matter what, but I’ll be honest, it’s a relief not to have to hear those mantras anymore.

          1. Quill*

            Enforced positivity is, overall, pretty terrible for mental health. Sometimes you just gotta do your job and not worry about performatively not having negative emotions ever.

              1. Kat in VA*

                And it’s disproportionately shoved off on women. A man can just be having a “stressed, intense day” but a woman behaving similarly is being a bitch and dragging everyone down.

            1. OP #1*

              OP here. I can confirm to being told to smile all the time was definitely contributing to my unhappiness in the office. I couldn’t do it! I wanted to sit down and do my work quietly.

              1. PollyQ*

                Ugh! Annoying enough in general, but horrible if you’re suffering from depression. And I’d bet a large sum of internet money that (a) you’re a woman and (b) no one EVER told the men in the office to smil.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Oh barf! If it’s not a customer-facing job then why would you have to smile when doing it? Who on earth smiles at their Excel sheets or financial reports, *even if they enjoy the work*?!

              3. Observer*


                It’s pretty obvious that you didn’t have the best manager, and I’m glad you’re in a better place emotionally and in terms of your job. But the Tarot cards are a red herring. I really wonder what your former coworker was thinking when they shared that with you.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Enforced positivity is a big red flag, IMO, and will have me shotgunning resumes out ASAP.

          2. Observer*

            I hear that. And if it were ONLY that, I’d be concerned too. But the OP was also having real productivity issues as well.

        2. Allypopx*

          You’re right, I guess in context I just feel like if that’s been addressed and OP was taking steps to deal with it, it feels a little like kicking someone while they’re down because of their “bad energy”.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, I was trying to figure out what exactly I found so particularly galling about this letter and that’s exactly it.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yes, it strikes me as a potential disability discrimination issue: firing a depressed person for having a depressed aura.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              It could be, without knowing the full details it is hard to say.

              But it does seem that the employer and both bosses tried to make accommodations, but after a while the company realized that it couldn’t make any more reasonable accommodations to OP.

              But also it wasn’t just oh OP you are depressed and bumming everyone out we are going to fire you, but it seemed to me it was your productivity/performance has declined and you have a negative outlook we have to let you go.

          3. une autre Cassandra*

            That bothered me too. I guess we have no way to know for sure, because maybe OP had multiple chances to address an exceptionally bad attitude and just wasn’t making progress and really was dragging down morale, but it feels like “you didn’t get happy enough fast enough” and that’s truly off-putting.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              The problem is you seldom see men fired for a “bad attitude” or “negativity”.

              As long as my “attitude” that you don’t like doesn’t affect my work, there’s no reason to tell me my “attitude” is “bad”, “negative”, etc. All that does is tell me to change my emotions to please others, which I am usually not willing to do.

              In general, you don’t have the right to command my emotions and thoughts, just my actions when on the work site. Accepting a job doesn’t give the employer the right to brainwash someone. You can ask me not to grouse while on the job (an action), you can’t tell me not to have complaints about the job (a thought).

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          If someone exhibits negativity and a dark outlook about the company then that is a problem their boss should address. If someone exhibits negativity and a dark outlook because they are currently going through some really rough personal stuff then firing them over that would be a really, really crappy thing to do. If someone goes through a terrible divorce and then immediately finds out their mother is fatally ill are you going to demand they show up to work every day with a smile on their face? Of course not, that would be absurd.

      2. sfigato*

        Not to mention “negativity and dark outlook” could mean that they are pointing out flaws in arguments or problems in how work is being done or harassment that is taking place etc.

        1. Anon cause I'm frightened*

          Yep, been there. One year when current workplace was going through an especially rough patch of dysfunction with the new management, everyone decided to be honest on their annual surveys. I ended up seeing most of the comments and of course the overall numbers. There was a lot of constructive feedback and many good learning opportunities to be had. Instead, the following year was spent in meetings and lectures about positivity, discussions on why our survey numbers were low, and how to bring them up without changing anything. Finally we were told that one of the metrics the department would be measured on were our answers on our next survey. Apparently someone had committed to a specific increase in the numbers, don’t remember by how much, it was a percentage. Next time a survey was sent out, everyone just put “very satisfied” as their answer to everything. What’s the point of feedback if no one wants it? Feedback is only a gift if the recipient doesn’t throw the gift in the trash immediately after receiving it.

    7. Sharkie*

      I don’t know. I feel conflicted over this- my read is OP did everything to find accommodations and try to meet the new boss’s standards but the new boss just decided that OP’s wasn’t good enough and wanted them gone (especially the vision board bit- who says someone’s vision board isn’t good enough). If it wasn’t tarot cards it would have been a dartboard or a coin flip or tea leaves. If it was just bad performance with 0 improvements then yes fire the person. Something about this situation just feels not right- it’s a little too kicking someone when they are down for my taste.

      OP- I would reach out to see if you can get clarification on what this company will say for references in the future and move on. This might actually be a blessing in disguse for you- do you really want to work for someone with this management style?

      1. Sharkie*

        Also- “the claim that my negativity and dark outlook was bringing down the rest of the team………the boss who fired me consulted a tarot card reader who said that my leaving would solve their problems. ”
        This just adds a layer of yuck for me.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          No different than someone saying “I prayed and god told me it’d be best.”

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Agreed. I have had several deeply religious managers in the past, and they somehow managed to never use this as the reasoning behind their work decisions, for which I am very thankful. I used to be a pretty devout Christian and it would’ve still made me uncomfortable back then.

              1. Sharkie*

                Heck, even when I went to a Catholic High School, God never was the final reasoning behind major decisions. The board and school leadership looked at the hard facts, had the priest comment if it affected the Religion department of course but facts were the major decision drivers (I know this because there were a few mini controversies during my time where some parents were upset the school leaders weren’t listening to God enough)

                1. Wintermute*

                  let me guess, God was telling them the school board should do what oddly happened to align with their individual interests?

      2. Observer*

        Except that it’s clear that it wasn’t just the boss being difficult. Sure, the OP clearly was making efforts, but their performance WAS a problem – that’s the reason for all of those planning meetings, vision boards etc. Also, the OP says that there was “legal and logistical fallout” that they were going to need time to deal with. That indicates that things got pretty bad not just in terms of their personal situation but in terms of the knock on effects on others. If that happened outside of work, it was almost certainly also affecting work.

        It’s all good and fine that the OP tried to work with the new boss, and I totally believe that it was a good faith effort to make things work. But ultimately the items cited, especially the poor productivity are issues that are legitimate things for a boss to take account of.

        1. Sharkie*

          That is why I am conflicted. Just something isn’t sitting right with me about this. If it was straight performance fine- but the vision board? The fact that it seems like the manager was using the OP scapegoat for team issues and all the manager’s problems will be gone if OP was gone? That’s questionable

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            But we don’t know that is what was actually said. I take OP at their word that is what they were told by an ex coworker, but we don’t know if the coworker heard it directly from the boss or from someone else. What the boss said and what the coworker heard could be two different things, especially if the coworkers are not versed in the method/process of Tarrot card reading. Boss could have said one thing and coworkers due to their lack of knowledge with tarrot cards could have understood something different.

            1. annony*

              That’s what I am thinking. There is no way to know how much of a role Tarrot actually played since the story came to the OP second hand. For all we know, the boss had decided to fire the OP before the reading and the Tarrot reader said that the recent decision would result in good changes not the team. There isn’t enough information to really do anything, especially since even the OP felt it wasn’t working out (as evidenced by the fact that they were already negotiating another offer). I wouldn’t do anything at this point.

            2. OP #1*

              Ex-coworker shared that the boss was making *multiple* big decisions with the help of cards. They heard that cards were being used directly from the boss, who shared it with their whole team. My firing was just one of many instances and the coworker shared because they were uncomfortable with the trend.

    8. Sloan Kittering*

      Strongly agree. This is one of the few times I disagreed with the advice given. OP should probably focus on moving on from this job and letting it go. Whoever told her this was doing them no favors.

    9. Mk*

      I agree that the OP has little grounds for recourse because of surrounding circumstances.

      But I wholeheartedly disagree that it’s the same as consulting a priest or partner or something. It’s not that I’m diminishing ones faith. It’s that the nature of a tarot card reading is outside of anyone’s control. Whether a person believes that that is fated or something is immaterial and unfair to the person it effects. It’s like if instead of consulting a priest or rabbi or what have you for guidance, you said your God told you in a dream to fire so and so. It’s not something anyone can effect but the believer and has no place effecting real people, professionally or otherwise.

      1. Nonners*

        Tarot is really more like a rorshach test. It’s so rich in symbolism and mythology that it teases out what is already on the mind and can help externalize/project what’s going on in someone’s head so they can see it a bit more clearly, and assess from there.

        I doubt I’d feel comfortable applying it in management or organizational situations (and depending on who you ask, the boss is being unethical if their readings are targeting others rather than being framed for self-examination), but in some ways it’s like any more creative pursuit that helps you sort out an unrelated problem you’re working on.

        It’s tough to know secondhand whether the boss is using it as a psychological tool or is being scammed by some doom-and-gloom fortune teller–I guess that’s possible, but in my experience that’s more of a stereotype than the majority approach.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, as a commenter said on a completely different thread: “The Tarot can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.”

        2. knead me seymour*

          Yeah, I think knowledge of how tarot works is probably going to be a factor in how people read this part of the letter. In pop culture, I don’t think the interpretive aspect usually comes across, but in reality I think only a scam artist would try to use tarot to deliver immutable truths about a person’s past, present or future. So I agree with others who are saying that the tarot reading probably just confirmed what the boss already wanted to believe.

          That being said, based on the facts here, it sounds to me like the boss had personal issues with the LW that factored into the firing decision, which seems particularly crappy given that they were going through such a hard time personally. And if the boss does choose to publicize the fact that they consult tarot cards for business decisions, that doesn’t reflect well on their judgment, because many people who hear that are going to question whether they are really making reasoned decisions.

          1. Faithful Reader*

            ^^This. I read tarot and have been studying its history for many years. When I do readings for others, I explain that tarot cards are not a magic 8 ball, they’re not predictive, etc. — it’s a tool to allow people to tap into their own inner wisdom. As a result, I frequently find myself reframing people’s questions to move them away from binary, “yes/no” questions and toward more open-ended queries, such as “What do I need to know about xyz…”

            That being said, I am also a seasoned manager and I typically don’t consult the cards about ANYTHING work-related. (I might raise a question about something related to my own career path or something like that, but I would never in a million years use tarot to help me with a decision around firing someone or any decision that would materially impact another person.) Definitely not great judgement on the OP’s supervisor’s part to make it known that they used tarot in this way, the same way it would be problematic if they said they prayed about it or whatever. The only thing working in the supervisor’s favor is the fact that there were documented performance issues.

    10. Artemesia*

      It is no different than them ‘praying on it’ which is also icky to discuss in the workplace as a reason for a firing decision. The OP has zero to gain by making an issue of this; if she can negotiate a reference as ‘laid off’ and thinks mentioning the Taro cards would help — okay, but I’d be very ginger here.

    11. Leela*

      Proceeding as if the info passed on to OP was correct and needs no extra context-

      I think it’s worth bringing up to the company, not as in “I was fired because of a tarot card reading” but “FYI I have heard that the person who made the decision to fire me consulted tarot cards, and actually let that be known. Here’s how that lands for someone who was let go in the middle of dealing with (insert things that you were dealing with that are known/you’re comfortable talking about)”. I do actually think OP #1 has the standing to ask for a reclassification given this information, and if I was HR in that company (and HR isn’t completely disempowered from being good HR by company rules, a lot of them are), I would 100%, absolutely want to know about this. Not because it’s for sure true that the tarot card reading factored in to the firing, but because the phrase “X Company fired an employee going through personal tragedy because of a tarot card reading” is an unbelievably bad look and if they’ve got any sense, they’ll want to get ahead of that/talk to the manager and find out what happened.

      For what it’s worth, I agree that it’s not that different from talking to a spiritual advisor but as HR it leaves a really bad taste in my mouth that someone would factor in firing someone because they prayed on it and felt that was the answer they got or because they talked to a person of significance in their religion (pastor etc) as well.

      It’s hard to say from the outside how on the mark for “acceptable dip in performance because OP is human and humans going through tragedy would dip this much” OP was of course, it’s possible that the tarot card reading had no effect on anything but I do think it’s inappropriate either way for the manager to tell staff that they consulted tarot cards to decide whether to fire someone or not (or talked to a pastor, or prayed on it) as it’s pushing the boundary for your religion affecting people who work under you.

    12. Decima Dewey*

      It could be that the person who told OP thought they’d feel better if they knew that woo was involved, that it wasn’t personal. But all of us have ways to deal with decisions, whether it’s through Tarot, praying, talking to counselor, throwing the I Ching (Yeah, I’m old). I can’t tell how many times I’ve thought that I hadn’t made up my mind to do X or Y, and resorted to a coin toss. And then realized when the coin came up in favor of X that I really wanted to do Y.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        This happens to me sometimes with food orders. Often I am initially undecided between item A and item B, so I will ask the server between those two what they recommend. Often I am truly undecided and will agree with their recommendations, but sometimes when they suggest item A, I realize I really just want item B, or if they suggest item B I realize that is actually what I really wanted all along.

    13. whingedrinking*

      If we move it away from religious issues – I can well imagine that “should I fire someone?” is the kind of question someone might bring up with their therapist. Not because the therapist should tell them what to do, but because hopefully the therapist can help them work through the emotional challenges and lack of clarity that they’re feeling and reach a decision that they’re comfortable with moving forward.
      This does not mean that you should tell other people “I decided this because of therapy”, even if that is (indirectly) true. If the decision can be justified with good reasons, then it doesn’t really matter how you came to see those reasons (prayer, meditation, an hour in the bathtub). It’s unnecessary and in many cases, too personal.

    14. JSPA*

      I don’t see a tarot reading (or psychic) as parallel to other sorts of faith consultation. Not because one’s an act of faith, and one isn’t.

      But because it would be incredibly strange for most faith practitioners to specifically call for the firing of a scapegoat–and not terribly rare for a card reader or psychic to do so. In the same way that a priest, pastor, rabbi, imam etc is very unlikely to suggest (directly and in so many words and for no reason beyond “energy”) that you leave your marriage, cut off your family, etc.

      In part, this is because most mainstream faiths (for better or worse) have a codified set of beliefs that are supposed to apply broadly to everyone. These may be reactionary and discriminatory, but they’re not random and capricious. I would absolutely push back. I would also consider whether “low performance” was in the context of a disclosed set of issues that the employer either legally or by their mission statement and contracts is supposed to be open to accommodating.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I wonder if your experience in academia is coloring how you view “business jargon”? By that I mean: in academia, disciplines develop specific lexicons to name particular concepts… or to create an “insider” speak that’s difficult for outsiders to penetrate. Part of academic success relies on being able to understand, parse, and if necessary, mimic those lexicons.

    But (imo) the hallmarks of good writing are the same in business as they are for any written communication: Be clear, direct, specific, and accessible. You don’t need innovative strategies for relevant stakeholders—the clunkiness of “biz-speak” often makes it harder to understand what someone is trying to say. And if you continue to feel out of your depth or insecure about all that fluffery, I highly recommend investing in the Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit. (seriously)

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Academics and very technical people tend to do the absolute most when writing in a corporate environment. How do I know? Because I spend my days editing their writing and they do exactly what you said – they use every industry buzzword and every bit of jargon imaginable in their prose because they’re so used to talking about truly technical things that have very specific names and meanings not realizing that buzzwords and jargon are the stuff people make up when they want to sound smart, but aren’t really saying much of anything.

      I find myself highlighting specific phrases in the content that comes to me for review, and I put a note like, “What does this even mean?!!!!” Seriously – write how you naturally talk. Very few people naturally talk in buzzwords, OP, and, if they do, it’s probably because they have no clue what they’re talking about – the biggest offenders at my company are executive level people who aren’t well-versed in the products we sell (hey, they’re not software developers, so I get it), but they want to sound like an authority to a third party and, thus, they adopt this weird, overly formal, stilted manner of speaking, which is off-putting to the average reader.

      Say what you mean in the simplest way you can without being insulting to your audience. Trust me, readers will appreciate not having to read a line five times to try and parse what you’re getting at or having to grab a thesaurus because you’ve gone synonym/antonym crazy.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I second this, as someone who makes a living translating this kind of writing (and seriously considering about ripping my hair out right now because I’m really struggling with one of those texts).

        Write simply, and write as you talk naturally. Not only does it make it a lot easier to understand, but I also find it sounds more professional and shows you know what you’re talking about instead of throwing words at the wall to see what sticks.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I third this. I truly hate translating corporatespeak. Most of the time, I have no idea what they’re going on about (and I’m not sure the authors themselves do either).

          1. London Calling*

            Many years ago in my first job, a manager pulled me up for using industry jargon. She rightly pointed out that I, as an industry insider, knew what all this meant. The people I was trying to get information across to didn’t, and they’d be both confused and put off by me using it. Something I have never forgotten forty years later.

            1. Ariaflame*

              Even in academia, there’s a distinction (or should be) in publishing in the use of specific terms because their use is known and understood within a particular field because it is a shortcut way of describing things, and the use of scientific jargon or waffle just to be pretentious. Unfortunately many aspiring academics and researchers read papers that are written that way rather than clearly communicating and think that is how they are meant to write, and so the cycle continues.

              1. Artemesia*

                In both business and academia this stilted convoluted prose is used to mask usually quite simple or even simple minded ideas. The two best things to do with one’s writing is to get rid of adjectives and get rid of jargon. Use verbs and clear straightforward sentences in active voice if you want people to understand what you write.

                1. linger*

                  With one caveat: do use passive voice if it helps the topic flow. Especially in academic writing, we often want to talk about a result, and it’s less important who came up with it; so we make the result the topic and therefore also the grammatical subject, which forces some passive clauses. Often “writing consultants” come in to give seminars for grad students, and go “So many passives, oh NOES”, and we just have to roll our eyes and ignore them.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            They don’t Scarlet, lol. I know that when I’m coaching some of the people who write our proposal content, I ask them to explain some of this corporatespeak to me, and they can’t. I tell them, “If you can’t even explain what you wrote to me, a non-technical person, when the vast majority of the people who will be reading and evaluating our proposals are non-technical people, you have a problem.”

            And someone mentioned translating this stuff into other languages below – yes, this is also a huge problem for me as well. I’m trying to get my writers (none of whom are trained writers or who do this with any regularity) to write cleanly and concisely using simple language because we often have to have proposals translated into other languages – if the translators can’t figure out what the heck we’re talking about, the end result is going to be a Google Translate hot mess.

            1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

              As a corporate translator, it really does come back to whether the writer themselves can explain what the hell they’re talking about. If my colleagues and I don’t know what a writer is saying, we leave a comment asking what the writer meant to say. If the writer can answer that, I can reword it so the target audience will understand. If the writer themselves doesn’t know what they’re saying, how can I know, you know?

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              I worked in a Walmart in a previous life. One day the store manager came back from some sort of training seminar where they were taught jargon. But he didn’t get it right, so he gathered us around him and explained that we were being too proactive, and needed to instead be reactive. Fortunately, I was already well versed in not breaking out laughing at this sort of thing.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                LMAO! I admire your restraint because I would have died laughing right there. “Don’t take action – wait for customers to get mad and then respond!” Lol

          3. Working Mom*

            Yes! What’s important in your written communicate in a corporate setting, is to be clear, concise, and direct. I hear you saying you want to phrase things in a manner that focuses on business-impact. That is something to strive for – but not in the sense of using jargon. Honestly – to a certain extent, you’ll pick up certain phrases and terms that your team/business use just due to exposure. I’ll admit – I use the term ‘deliverables’ – in a way to categorize all the things due to a client by a specific date. You will soak up certain terms just by sheer exposure (for better or worse)!

            Let’s say you’re composing an email to senior leaders about a change you’d like to implement in a process. For sake of conversation – let’s say that you think TPS reports should all be submitted to one person for consistent review, and then distributed to senior leaders for report outs. Today – let’s say that each person’s individual manager reviews TPS reports, and they’re always edited differently, and end up presenting information in an inconsistent manner to senior leaders, and it the senior leaders don’t like spending their time trying to discern what each report really means.

            In this scenario, you’d want to summarize the issue and the impact it has on the business – senior leaders are spending precious time dissecting TPS reports and making them consistent before they can review them and make decisions based on the info they contain. Then you want to present your solution – streamline all of those report reviews to one qualified individual who understands what senior leaders want (this is called the voice of the customer, or VOC), and can ensure that all the reports provided to senior leaders present the info in the manner they wish to see. This potential solution would reduce re-work (time spent revising the TPS reports before going to senior leaders), possibly improve cycle-time (make the whole thing go faster), and ultimately – provide senior leaders with clear and consistent information.

            So what you want to do is clearly define the problem, your suggested solution, and identify the impact to the business directly. It’s not about the phrases or terms you use – but about communicating clearly and directly! (I did use some process-improvement terms in there that I defined along the way, this is my example of how ‘jargon’ will seep into your repertoire!)

          4. wordswords*

            Fully agreed! I hate translating anything that’s full of empty business jargon. It’s one thing if it’s jargon that actually means something specific, but usually it’s all value-added strategies for innovating etc. I spend 5 minutes trying to figure out what a sentence even means (answer: the original writer probably isn’t sure either, but just added more obfuscation!) so I can try to come up with an equivalent tangle of jargon platitudes. It’s godawful.

          5. Decima Dewey*

            Corporatespeak is sooo slippery, in that it’s subject to changes and fads. It would be a mistake for OP to bone up on the corporatespeak used in their office, only to have the boss call a meeting and declare that checklists, or handling each paper twice, or whatever will be the new way things are done.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Allow me to put in a word on behalf of the people who have to translate corporate jargon for overseas employees and customers.
          I’ve been trying for years to simplify our co’s written materials, because the phrasing my experts insist on is hard to read even for me. (And they wonder why our translation costs are high!?)

        3. frogs and turtles*

          Yes 1000 times. I also work editing academic prose and there was literally one time when I was certain the author was using English as a second language. (I’ve edited a lot of work by ESL PhDs, which adds a whole new layer to the academic jargon problem.) Nope, it was a guy born and raised in Minnesota.

        4. matcha123*

          Also in translation and I am so glad that so many of you are replying with similar answers! I absolutely HATE that style of writing, but have long felt that my writing was bad and that I was stupid because I couldn’t reproduce the same uh…written diarrhea.
          I hate translating texts where the authors seemed to have closed their eyes, grabbed jargony words, and threw it all into a mixer!

      2. Feline*

        The “write as you speak” advice is interesting, because I have spoken to people who speak in buzzwords. We have an exec who will talk nonstop in them. I suspect she has internalized them from all the documents she reads. But it makes her somewhat incomprehensible unless you are listening on a teleconference with Google at the ready.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          The advice is “write as you naturally speak” – that’s an important distinction. Most people didn’t go through life speak in buzzwords until they got into a job where they felt they needed to (or fell back on it because they didn’t understand what they were trying to sell, but needed to sound like they did).

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Except that “write as you naturally speak” is in fact terrible advice. Natural speech has a bunch of hesitations, back-tracking, sentence fragments, and “ums” and “ahs” thrown in to fill space while formulating the next thought. There is an old journalist’s trick to make someone look like an idiot, by printing a fastidiously accurate transcription of that person’s speech.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              You’re right – it should be “write as you naturally speak but without the pauses and weird breaks.” Basically, write how you would explain a concept to someone using your own, plain language. (I thought that was obvious, hence why I didn’t include the disclaimer initially ;) )

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Without the pauses and weird breaks, and also with the digressions tidied up. And also rewritten to be clear even without intonation, facial expressions, and body language to help convey meaning. Also, spoken language usually has a simple grammatical structure. Written language can accommodate more complex sentences, with subordinate clauses and parentheticals and the like. This complexity is a Good Thing, if used well, being a useful took to make up for the absence of intonation, facial expressions, etc.

                I understand the intent behind the advice, and I mostly agree with the intent. The aim is to avoid a certain sort of bad writing style. But it is still terrible advice. Someone might take it seriously, listen carefully to how people actually speak, and write like that. The results would not be pretty.

      3. Zennish*

        Actually… my personal experience in academia was that mostly, you got used to writing like that to fulfill page length requirements, or sound sufficiently “professory” for publication.

        1. Snark*

          There’s a certain amount of that, for sure, but there’s a certain amount of specialist language and jargon that arises just because you need some way to efficiently communicate common concepts with other specialists without writing an entire sentence.

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            I think there’s a progression in academic writing, at least there was for me. I began by parroting what I saw to sound like I knew what I was talking about, then I used all those terms because I actually did know what I was talking about and was excited that I could understand them, then I could finally get rid of most of them and only use the jargon that was essential – terms that really don’t have a great alternative and are used to really encapsulate a whole concept. Simplifying your language is actually the hardest thing to do because it requires you to really know what you’re talking about and have a mastery over your terms as well as your concepts. I think business speak will be the same – you may need to say the word “stakeholders” at some point, but adding it in for its own sake is unnecessary.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I agree with this. I find folks become more elegant and clear writers as they gain mastery over writing about core concepts. At the beginning it’s clunky and jargon-y. But my favorite academic writers are still those who understand a concept so completely that they can explain it in relatively simple and digestible terms for others. (I concede that this group is a very small minority of academics.)

            2. Artemesia*

              I review a lot of scholarly articles for publication and you can spot a dissertation someone is reworking for publication a mile off; they are mostly unreadable. some of the most prestigious and advanced scholars write clear lucid prose; it is almost always weak tea if it is hard to interpret.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            I distinguish between good jargon–specialized language used within a specific field–and bad jargon–puffed up language intended to make the message seem more impressive than it really is. Which is which is not always readily apparent to an outsider, but there is a foolproof way to distinguish between the two. Take a block of text containing jargon and translate it into ordinary language. Is the translation longer or shorter than the original?

      4. Anonymous Commenter #64*

        I feel your pain. A VP I used to work with—who was otherwise fabulous—spoke and wrote using so much business jargon I often had a hard time understanding what they meant. Every meeting they ran went over time because they were so verbose. Whenever I had to edit their writing it was a frustrating experience for both of us.

      5. TootsNYC*


        “their product-review app has surfaced 50,000 products…”

        I saw that twice last week.
        What the heck even is that?

        1. linger*

          Perhaps a phonetic representation of “servicing”, “serviced” ?
          (That at least would give it a plausible meaning.)

        2. linger*

          Oh, now I get it — “has been used to describe 50,000 products” / “has had 50,000 products covered on it”. And someone used a thesaurus to match “cover” to “surface”, possibly in an attempt to avoid a passive. *headdesk*

      6. Wintermute*

        That issue in academia is how scigen, a markov bot that chained context-and-information-free words together based on the probability of relation in a training sample (for those not into machine learning “it made nonsense that resembled a set of samples in terms of what words appeared near one another most often) AND GOT ACCEPTED TO ACADEMIC JOURNALS. Low-quality journals, but some of them weren’t even pay-to-play predatory journals.

        It’s also how Helen Pluckrose put together enough obscuring jargon to get a set of 20 deeply troubling premises and nonsensical farce concepts accepted at face value by somewhat more major journals, including winning an award for top contributions of the decade in “Gender, Place and Culture”

        It turns out once you reach a certain jargon density, in any field, is that you add superficial credibility and verbosity while adding no meaningful information, meaning you can appear very information-dense while saying nothing of substance.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Alan Sokal’s nonsense paper is another great example of this. It, too, got published! (Google “Sokal hoax” for anyone interested)

    2. Rachel*

      Ooh, you could also listen to the Weird Al song “Mission Statement.” Avoiding any phrase in there is probably a good shortcut.

      1. GDUB*

        I was just coming here to recommend Mission Statement. Also, just Google “worst business jargon” and some great complaining articles will come up. Don’t be generating those complaints!

        1. juliebulie*

          It’s also an occasional topic on the Friday Open Thread here, where people air their pet peeves about proactively leveraging synergy and so forth.

    3. Beth*

      Yes, very much this! Academia is so big on using The Right Words to show you know what you’re talking about–and in the context of a highly specialized field where using the technical terms right shows that you’ve done the background reading and followed ongoing conversations on this topic, and where you’re mostly talking with other experts in your niche field, that makes sense. But business isn’t like that; most of the time, either you aren’t the expert (e.g. you’re the salesperson but you didn’t design it, you’re the manager but your subordinates handle the fine details, etc.), or you’re talking to someone who isn’t the expert, and in both of those cases clarity is more important than showing your chops. Aim to talk like you’re talking to an undergrad who’s interested in your field, not a professor or grad student.

      1. Avasarala*

        I definitely felt that anxiety: “If I can’t use these business words, they’re going to think I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

        It was a slam in the face to handle stakeholder-deliverable-reach out-circle back-laden talks after almost a decade of working overseas in a non-English language. I really struggle to parse “understand how individuals must be enabled”–actually this kind of language is unhelpfully vague!

        How I’ve dealt with it is to identify a few key words and translate them in my brain based on how I’ve seen them used. I had some notes my first few days:
        “circle back= check back on this, reply later
        engagement=motivation, excitement, interest
        opportunities=problems, issues, challenges”

        I don’t see a lot of value in learning to use these for myself on a day-to-day basis because honestly I think I speak/write more clearly than this. But it can be helpful to mimic someone’s patterns when you want to convince them to agree with you. “That would severely impact employee engagement and our optics on mobility” could accompany a lengthier explanation of the impact, and I can brush my teeth later when I’m done saying it.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          When I got my first full time job, my friend (couple of years older, already working for the DWP) send me his copy of the “Buzzword Bingo” he and his colleagues played when roped in to pointless department head meetings.

          Since then, I’ve also learned that, in addition to buzzwords, there are also the dreaded TLAs (three letter acronyms). Did you know, for example, that in my industry alone there are approximately 3-4 different things that SME could stand for?

          OP – it will help for you to *learn* what all this jargon means so that you understand what is being said, but you should stick to writing clearly and concisely. (That said, depending on the area of business you are in “stakeholders” is a relevant term, not necessarily a buzzword)

          1. pleaset*

            Acronyms and even jargon are useful if used in the right way – for clarity within a specific group that knows what they mean and used them for clarity or brevity. They’re terrible if they’re used to obscure things, or used with outside groups that may not understand them.

            Acronyms in particular save time in writing and reading – but they have to be used carefully and not created for every little thing (ELT).

            “(That said, depending on the area of business you are in “stakeholders” is a relevant term, not necessarily a buzzword)”


            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

              Yeah, the trouble is, I’ve sat in on a meeting where two versions of SME were used *in the same sentence!*
              (something along the lines of “So we sent our SME to the SME to discuss whether our proposal fit within their requirements”)

              I keep saying we need a Glossary of Terms because we seem to come up with a new term or buzzword every time there’s a change at C-suite level (I’m on my fourth CEO in ten-plus years at the same company).

            2. knead me seymour*

              As an intern for a telecom company, during my first week I was supposed to take minutes for a meeting and it was so swollen with buzzwords and acronyms that I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying and did my best to record everything phonetically. Turns out GUI is not spelled the same way it’s pronounced. By the end of my internship I did understand most of the terms but I’ve never been good at picking up unnecessary jargon so I didn’t use much of it myself.

          2. Hellow Sweetie!*

            SME was hilarious to me, because those are my initials. When I started my most recent job no one explained to me that SME meant “Subject Matter Expert” and I saw my Team Leads notes filled with “Send this to the appropriate SME” and I was like – why are you giving me ALL of the projects?!

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Don’t forget “silo”! Which is used to convey keeping things (especially knowledge) isolated and not sharing them around, and is bad. It took me YEARS to figure out what “siloing” is and why it is bad. I was thinking of a silo as where you put your stuff in safe keeping for the future, which is good. (That’s what real silos are, right? I am a lifelong city dweller. As are 95% of the people talking about how we shouldn’t have silos.)

          1. snowglobe*

            I grew up in a farming community and the first time I heard “silos” in a business context, I knew immediately what they meant. Silos are very tall and narrow, and only store one thing.

            1. Odie*

              It’s still a tortured metaphor because silos are good–they keep rats out of food.

              And in that way, “silo” is a great example of business speak: a semi-recognizable figurative expression with a meaning wrested away from the reality of what silos are for. It’s not opaque, just incoherent.

              1. pleaset*

                “It’s not opaque, just incoherent.”
                Depends on the audience. The term is well-understood and clear in some contexts.

            2. throwaway123*

              I worked for an insurance company founded by farmers, so I thought we used the term because of the farming heritage aspect. I was surprised when I found out all corporations use it. It’s really strange, isn’t it?

          2. WellRed*

            My boss inadvertently siloed (can I use this as a verb) something last week. It caused me a problem when I came up against it.

            Can someone tell me: how do siloes compare to verticals (another word that needs to be done away with)?

            1. Lora*

              Heh, so there’s Silos (where a department acts like an ivory tower, nobody gets out much, they don’t play nice with others) and there’s Verticals where you have a lot of departments all working on the same thing.

              CurrentEmployer just did a re-org and now we are four Verticals depending on which sub-organization you support: let’s say the overall department I work for in Llama Groomers Inc is Hooves and Teeth, and we have five Alpaca Podiatrists, 15 Llama Dentists and 20 Camelid Generalists in our departments. In the Vicuna Barn, there might be one Alpaca Podiatrist, 2 Llama Dentists and 3 Camelid Generalists. In the Guanaco Barn, there are two Alpaca Podiatrists, 5 Llama Dentists and 5 Camelid Generalists. In the Dromedary Barn there are no Alpaca Podiatrists but 10 Camelid Generalists and 1 Llama Dentist. Everyone else works in the Tylopoda Barn. So the four barns would be the Verticals, even though as an Alpaca Podiatrist I can really work in any of the barns, I just have the most relevant experience to alpacas, guanacos and vicunas.

              If we were silos, then I’d do nothing but vicuna toes all day, and all the people sitting around me would also be doing nothing but vicuna toes, and if you asked us about Bactrian toes we would say “oh we don’t do that”. In this way, verticals are supposed to be better than silos.

              1. Lora*

                Now that I think about it more, most of the business speak really is a euphemism where people are trying to not sound very negative. But what they really mean can be any of the following:
                1) the organization does not have any kind of accountability as projects move through different stages and different departments
                2) a department has poor communication policies / skills / methods and nobody has made them be accountable
                3) we don’t trust That Department to have any kind of expertise or skill that makes them worth the effort of seeking out their input
                4) That Department is so chock full of a-holes that while they have expertise, it’s not worth the hassle of dealing with them
                Saying that something is silo’ed is a sort of passive voice way of saying, “they aren’t being managed effectively by anyone who should be in charge of coordinating everyone’s efforts”.

            2. Product Person*

              In my job, verticals is a useful word to separate markets we may or may not go after. A vertical market is a market in which vendors offer goods and services specific to an industry, trade, profession, or other group of customers with specialized needs. I can’t replace it with industry because some of our target markets is a profession or other group. I wouldn’t use the term in external communications, but internally it’s a great shorthand that everybody understands.

        3. juliebulie*

          I’ll go a step further and say if you do use too many of those phrases, people will assume you DON’T know what you’re talking about.

        4. katherine*

          Yeah, I feel like this advice

          I hate business jargon, hate the way it colonizes all language and thought, really could not hold more hate for it, and thus don’t use it, but I was once penalized in a job interview for a job that would have legitimately transformed my entire life because I didn’t use the right jargon in the interview.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        In an academic or other highly technical environment it’s often important to use precise, technical wording. Words often have more specific meanings than they do in colloquial use, and there are technical terms that are not used outside the field, because you don’t need them. It’s important to use those words – it’s not just about proving how smart you are, it’s about being accurate!

        However, it’s possible to write clear, concise text using the appropriate technical language. It’s not going to be easily readable by non experts, but if you’re writing for non experts, you use different language (also clear and concise).

        I think part of the OP’s problem is that they’re assuming that the jargony buzzword vocabulary has a precision of meaning that really isn’t there.

      3. JustaTech*

        My (very technical) company had a class on “better business writing” and one of the examples the teacher used of “way too many words in a sentence” was written by my coworker who was finishing his PhD at the time. The teacher was correct, even in that very technical context there was no reason to use 30 words in a sentence.

        At lunch the next day we came to the conclusion that in academia (where most of my coworkers started their working life) you use lots of big words and complex sentences to prove that you are smart. But in industry/business I don’t care how smart Fred From Ten Years Ago was, I care that I can easily read and understand his report.

        It’s actually pretty freeing. The only time I end up using a lot of “business speak” is when I’m writing my annual performance review, because that might be seen by folks on the non-technical side who like business jargon.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Echoing, please do not use these words listed in the posts here. They are empty and meaningless, in part from over use and in part because they are not specific.

      If you want to improve your business writing, be brief. That’s it. Be brief. Academia seems to like everything expanded out with as many words as possible. In the work world people do not have time for all those words. If you can say it in one sentence do not use three sentences.

      I was really shocked when I returned to college. The required length of the papers was astounding and these were for business classes. There was an expression that was widely used in group work, “I will write up some BS and we will be fine here.” The students called their papers BS! It was pretty normal to hear students say, “Yeah, I wrote some stack of crap and got an A on that exam.”
      Indeed from what I saw the more words I used the better my grade. As a returning student at age 40, I knew this was not how businesses operated. My uncle read one of my papers and he said, “What a stack of crap! This is what colleges are expecting now?” I had gotten an A on it. He had spent decades managing people. He instantly saw the problem.

      (Yeah, I was okay with my uncle calling it a stack of crap. He was right.) Cut your word count down by around 75% and you will be just fine.

      1. Consultant Catie*

        Came here to echo this as well! I’m in Big 4 Consulting and know exactly the terms and anxiety you’re talking about. However, I’m a comms lead, and anytime my analysts and consultants bring me anything they’ve written, I go through it and IMMEDIATELY delete all of those words. “Leverage,” “utilize,” “stakeholder,” “engage,” etc. Please don’t get into the habit of using these — the smartest and most senior people I know don’t use them, and it’s always the lowest-level people who talk like they swallowed a deck of corporate flashcards. People will always appreciate plain language over fancy “corporate” terms!

        1. Joielle*

          I agree with a lot of this, but “stakeholder” is a legitimately useful term! What else would you call that group of people? “Interested people”? “People who have a stake in the outcome”?

          Jargon for jargon’s sake is obviously unnecessary, but some words are just… the word for that concept.

          1. Consultant Catie*

            I totally get what you mean, and I think you’re right, in some cases it definitely is useful! I think for me, it’s one of my “trigger words” because we do a lot of customer-facing comms, so every time I see “stakeholder” I automatically have to re-evaluate and substitute a different word, like “attendees,” “employees,” “team members,” “leadership,” etc. Sometimes “stakeholder” is the most specific word to use, but for me it’s one of those words to be careful about.

            1. Artemesia*

              I have done a lot of program evaluation and ‘stakeholder’ really is a critical concept. The rule of thumb is that ‘any stakeholder not consulted at every key step of the process will reject the conclusions of the evaluation.’

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Yes, this. It’s really important to know who is impacted by one’s work, even if they’re not a customer – and equally, what is one a stakeholder in, so that if they change things, what do we need to change as a result, etc

                The whole point is there are different levels of stakeholders, at different times, and our work isn’t done in a silo – it’s so important to understand, for me, at least.

      2. Wintermute*

        you’re done writing when you have no more concepts left to explain. You’re done editing once you have no more words you could remove.

      3. Marketing Automation Guru*

        This puts into context something I hated in college.

        My communications teacher in business school said memos needed a specific structure (and if you didn’t use his structure so help you, your grade suffered).

        His structure was (again, remember, a memo) a section was always preceded by a Talking Headline. Because a talking headline was attention-getting, and should keep the person interested enough to keep reading.

        I argued that this is a memo – short, succinct, not a novel.

        Nope, my grade was dependant on writing a two-page memo with talking headlines.

        When I actually wrote a report in my first office job and used his method? It was too damn long! My boss didn’t read it. He wanted a *short* memo!

        I’ve come to the conclusion this old-fogey of a teacher had a great method for writing blog posts – they’re by nature more verbose, and talking headlines make for great SEO-heavy keyword section headers.

        But I also came to the conclusion that I knew better at 20 what a ‘memo’ actually meant than this professor.

        1. Artemesia*

          You will be the only 20 year old who does then in my experience. What I found was that they were devotees of O’Henry i.e. the surprise conclusion after a lot of meandering to bring us there. Teaching them that the recommendation goes first, and then the rationale and then the supporting information so like reading a Scientific American article you can stop whenever you want and still have the information was difficult. Business writing is not fiction nor creative writing. No one wants the big reveal — 1. the recommendation or conclusion or key point, 2. brief rationale, 3. the other supportive stuff or information on where to find that other stuff.

          1. Elenna*

            Pretty sure I knew this at 20. Put the main point at the start, a bunch of people aren’t going to even read the rest of your email.

      4. Jadelyn*

        That’s so interesting to me. Do you mind if I ask how long ago you had that experience in college? Because my boss has an MBA and apparently had the opposite experience; he’s talked with me (while cutting down something I’d drafted for us) about how they emphasized brevity and trained students to ruthlessly edit communications. I tend to be verbose, but based on his feedback I’ve been working on getting better about that. I’m wondering if that’s a thing that’s dependent on the school/program.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s been a while, I got my degree in 2005. I wonder if your boss learned to be brief in spite of his schooling not because of it. If he has worked a while, he would be used to the “less is best” writing style and whatever the school taught him he would know not to do that because of his work experience.

          Privately, I am hoping education has changed. Or dreaming of that day when courses become relevant and practical.

          But yeah, I will always remember how universal it was on campus to refer to one’s own work as “a pile of crap”.

    5. Just Elle*

      I think OP2 is confusing “ability to communicate value delivered” with “ability to use fancy words to hide that no value was actually delivered”.

      You still want to ‘brag’ about your accomplishments more than the “presented reports about llama grooming” example. But “provided innovative llama grooming strategies to relevant stakeholders” sounds exactly as impressive, just way more self important (in a bad way).

      In reality, all those fluffy words are what people use to try to convince others they delivered value when the cold hard facts don’t back it up.
      What you’d really like to say is “improved efficiency of llama grooming 5% by creating an automated report system.” And, if you don’t have facts to back it up (1) get some or (2) own that it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped and outline your next steps clearly.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        The part about quantifying took me a while to figure out. Everyone says to quantify your results on your resume. But to do that, you would have had to measure the effects of what you did WHILE YOU WERE DOING IT. Later on, it may be impossible to get those figures, especially if you’re not with that company anymore.

        1. Just Elle*

          I struggled with this at first too, especially when I did more wishy washy things with harder to measure results. Now, a part of every project I start is identifying a measurement system. It helps me know that my projects are actually effective / redirect me if not. But, bonus, it makes for inedible resume fodder.

          If you don’t have measurements though, I still think you can use strong confident language to craft a believable achievement. “Provided innovative llama grooming strategies to relevant stakeholders” sounds like you’re adding a lot of words to cover up for a lack of effectiveness (with a side helping of ‘how dumb do you think the reader (me) really is?’). But “Delivered high level summaries on llama grooming for a diverse audience including executives, groomers, and customers.” tells me what specifically you’re capable of – in this case, summarizing complicated data in a way that many groups can understand – something that actually is widely applicable to many jobs.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Folks in this comment thread may enjoy resumespeak over on tumblr – it’s a parody blog that takes simple sentences and translates them into the most convoluted business-speak possible. For example, “changed a lightbulb” becomes “Improved intra-facility safety and visibility metrics by rapidly identifying and replacing usage-fatigued electrically fluorescent illumination resource.”

      3. JSPA*

        OP #2:

        If you feel like you don’t have enough achievements, skills and results to shine, there are three options:

        1. put energy into more skills and results. Always good, but takes time.

        2. put energy into seeing how your specific achievements, skills and results can be presented as examples of higher-level skills or broader categories. This is Alison’s main focus in resumé writing. Also always good, and can almost instantly make a giant difference in how you and others see yourself, your skills, and the world.

        3. use jargon to hide the fact that there’s not much, under the jargon. If you’re in a workplace where this works for people, your managers are bad, your workplace is bad, and you don’t want to get sucked into that mindset.

        If you normally pick up on language pretty fast, and can’t figure out why the workplace jargon just isn’t gelling for you, that’s actually a warning about the language itself: there’s a teaspoon of meaning in gallon of snake oil. It’s the business executive equivalent of scat singing. (I’m not comparing it to rap because rap has actual content and meaning–often many layers of both–not only flow and style.)

        Granted, there are plenty of workplaces where practitioners of jargonism admire, glad-hand and promote each other, potentially absent any quantifiable skills or achievements. If that’s where you want to thrive, and how you want to thrive, I guess you can listen for stock phrases the same way you’d keep an ear out for the chorus of a hit song, and use them in much the same way. Or google “current business fads” and “current business trends,” ID the ones that are in circulation at your workplace, and make a cheat sheet.

    6. Goldfinch*

      I also recommend that LW skim a few style guides and industry journals to get an idea of what kind of writing is appropriate for their field. A relevant professional organization will be able to point to some appropriate resources.

      For example, the ASD-STE100 Guide to Simplified Technical English is a great resource for anyone in industries prone to dense vocabulary, particularly when writing for laypersons. (Not to say that you have to adhere to these documents word-for-word, but they give a good foundation for reshaping your perception of word usage.)

    7. Life is Good*

      I agree that OP should just write like they speak and take the advice of another commenter and also be as brief as possible.

      OP’s confusion reminds me of the time when my former small company in a rural area was bought by a company in the much larger city in the state. The new company people swooped in with their fancy buzz words, which none of us could understand. I went back to my office and googled the weird terms I had written down just so I could figure out what they had said. Some of the “locals” in the office started to adopt that way of speaking in order to fit in and were made fun of in private. Many of us realized, after a time, that the new company was actually shit to work for…these people were just trying to make it sound awesome.

    8. Third or Nothing!*

      Adding to the chorus: I started editing our company’s blog posts a few months ago and my goodness it’s obvious that the company we contracted to write them has no idea what we do. The rough drafts they send me are riddled with industry jargon and stilted language. I started asking if I can just write the posts myself since I have a marketing background, and the difference between my posts and their posts is quite stark. Theirs sound like a person trying to present at a conference, mine sound like we are chatting over a cuppa.

      Write simply but authoritatively. There’s no need to sound fancy as long as you use correct grammar and get your point across in a professional manner.

    9. Quill*

      Academia definitely has some… after many years of mostly chem classes I took my first microbiology class and struggled for most of a semester with “KiloDaltons.” Which are… actually grams per mole. This lead to me ranting to the biologists for a long time about why the hell they would un-metric metric, the whole point was that we DIDN’T have random concepts named after their discoverers that weren’t immediately obvious in how they connected to standard metric. :)

    10. Emily S*

      I actually wonder if part of #2’s question didn’t get overlooked. He wrote that he wants to learn how to write “the type of writing that is to-the-point, puts things in terms of what adds value to the business, and uses phrases like…[jargon].” Alison’s answer and the comments here have zeroed in on his incorrect assumptions about jargon being necessary, but didn’t really address the first two parts – that he is maybe struggling with brevity and in framing things in terms of business value.

      I went into marketing with an academic background in quantitative statistics. I recall a conversation I had with an old academic friend, a few years out of school, he was an assistant prof by then. I remember discussing with him some of the marketing experiments I was running and looking for his insights, and he remarked how interesting it must be working with applied statistics instead of doing research with statistics, because there’s a whole business context my stats live in that his never do. His statistics are always trying to uncover truths and learn more about the world – my statistics are trying to drive business value. Academia has a big problem with its overemphasis on statistically significant differences – it’s very difficult to publish results showing that something had no statistically significant results. The business world more readily sees the value of finding no difference between treatment A and treatment B – maybe treatment A is a lot more expensive than treatment B, or treatment B is more in line with the company’s ethical values, so getting effectively the same outcome for a reduced cost or with a more ethically agreeable process is a win. When I run marketing experiments, I’m bringing a set of assumptions, priorities, and values that the company has, which are not directly part of the experiment itself but influence how I interpret the results.

      I wonder if that’s the sort of thinking OP is having trouble transitioning to – understanding the business context and being able to interpret objective facts through the lens of what the company values and prioritizes.

      1. LilyP*

        I agree. Their examples of jargon aren’t even particularly jargon-y (deliverables and relevant stakeholders in particular I think are totally fine in most contexts). My advice would be to focus on really understanding the concepts and approaches that are new or different (like how your company decides what will create value, or how they manage projects, track growth, or gather input, etc). Probably you can use your existing vocabulary to describe everything you need to, but maybe you’ll learn a helpful term or two. Also, pay attention to how your colleagues write and whose writing is easy for YOU to understand — that’s who you want to emulate.

    11. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#2 — I’ve noticed that a lot of academics struggle with writing for business purposes, because they’ve been trained to write long-form expository prose. I’ve had to retrain some of my own people — nobody outside of a college or university has time to read a five page essay. Instead of torturing yourself, and everyone else, with corporate baffle-gab, train yourself to write short summaries:

      We should buy Acme Lama Scrubbers for our new lama grooming facility.
      1. Acme includes training and customer support in the price.
      2. Acme Lama Scrubbers use 25% less water than other brands we tested.
      3. Our test lamas all loved it.

      You can attach details in an appendix, if needed, but this is all that most managers and executives are going to have time to read.

      As for how to describe your own accomplishments, you may want to go back through the AAM archives for Alison’s advice about resumes and cover letters — many of her suggestions can be adapted for a performance self-evaluation. Keep it short and focus on the results you achieved.

      If you’re still struggling, there’s lots of good, publicly-accessible stuff on Purdue’s OWL site (owl.purdue.edu). Look under Subject-Specific Writing for their section on business and technical writing.

    12. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

      The thing about jargon is: There is more than one kind of jargon. When done right (which it seldom is, honestly), jargon allows people in a particular discipline to efficiently communicate because within that discipline, a specific word or phrase can have a very specific meaning. The jargon used in writing laws comes to mind – in a law, “must” means something different than “shall,” and while that difference isn’t apparent to ordinary people, it is to people who interpret laws (e.g., judges). That’s the good side of jargon.

      But all to often, jargon comes over to the Dark Side, in which it’s used because it sounds “good” or “official” or something, and it’s used in spite of the fact that its meaning is unclear – not only to listeners, but often even to the speaker/writer! In business uses, it’s almost always mere fluff that inflates and obfuscates without providing any additional information or context. It often is in academic writing, at least in my experience, but not nearly as often as in business writing.

      So it seems to me that the OP only needs to learn those bits of business jargon that are actually useful and the contexts in which they provide utility. But mostly, all she has to do is write clearly and concisely. And it seems that she can already do that, so yay! Problem mostly solved.

    13. OP2*

      I guess I’ve been trying to be more jargon-y because that seems to be how people speak and write at my current job! There are a lot of presentations that reflect this kind of writing and I assumed I needed to adapt. It’s felt expected, almost.

      1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

        Hmmm, well, how about this: Before deciding how jargon-y you need to be, try looking at the writing of the very best writers at your office. Because even though I don’t know you or the people you work with, I can *promise* you that many of them are pretty lousy writers. You definitely don’t want to imitate the bad ones. Maybe that will help you to decide how much of the jargon is actually useful and how much of it is just pure, puffy, useless verbiage.

        1. Mercator*

          Agreed. Actually, don’t just imitate them: ask them to review your writing and, later, help out with theirs. Good writers tend to care a lot about good writing in itself, and will appreciate others caring as well. Also, in my experience, they tend to be among the high performers, so you’ll spend more time with them and learn much more than just good writing.

      2. Mercator*

        I also was a scientist from a rarefied academic field entering the corporate world — my sympathies! I found a problem when entering business from academia: even though clarity and conciseness are crucial in both, the priorities are different. Academic writing aims at complete, formally correct communication of ideas, while business communication is all about “completing goals within deadline/budget” and “providing something to somebody else”. Also, in business you’ll be talking to a much more diverse audience i.e. not just your specialist peers but managers (actionable items, results), clients (budget, deadlines), compliance (detailed legal requirements), sales (possible pitches, price estimations), etc., and that requires adapting your delivery much more than you might be used to, in order to fulfill very different interests and expectations.

        So, assuming that you already are an all-around good writer, my advice to adapt to business communication would be: a) always stress “what to do next”, what actions to take; b) always stress “what can I do for you?”, what can you provide to your audience (even if it is “do X for me so I can do Y for you”); and c) carefully gauge your audience and adapt your message to them, if different from you. Ah, and the often overlooked d) assume the other side is juggling 10 other projects and needs to understand your point in seconds because that’s all the time she has for you. I’ve found that, if you keep those principles in mind, effective business writing will follow naturally.

        Case example: I actually got a (completely spontaneous) standing ovation from my boss in front of everybody because of a crucial writing sample that landed us $BIG_PROJECT_WITH_TIER_1_CLIENT, with an initially hostile audience, and I did it by keeping the above in mind all the time.

        Re jargon: as others have said, it does have its place. If you use it correctly, you’ll be taken seriously by the top people in your field — the ones you actually want to impress. For the general business jargon you mention, Google “Project management terminology” and follow the few first links. Then go through your company’s internal documents and any relevant regulations, white papers etc. that apply to your work and look everything up too. That alone will make you more knowledgeable than most of your peers and will signal to experts, managers and everyone important that you Actually Know What You’re Talking About. And that will, with no extra effort from your part, be obvious in your writing.

        Good luck.

  4. Clementine*

    For the landlord poster, I would never give up a reliable tenant for $200/month. Are you sure it’s worth the inevitable discord and suffering this will cause? I assume that you are totally legally in the clear here, but be sure of that too, because you wouldn’t be in all jurisdictions.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      Long-term renters who keep the property clean, pay rent on time, and are good neighbours are worth their weight in gold. If you like her maybe you could approach about remoulding the apartment while she is temporally out (vacation or put her in a hotel for a week) or work with her in some way. If you just want to get her out to increase the rent… In many places you could just give notice that the rent is increasing, if you are in a rent-controlled area it may be problematic.

    2. huskerd0nt*

      Agreed… that seems petty and not worth $200 a month (unless you’re in a cheap-as-hell rental market).

        1. ThatGuy*

          The issue is that you might remove your current renter and replace her with someone who doesn’t pay the rent. They you have months of unpaid rent followed by the expenses of evicting the new renter. That quickly wipes out any profit from the extra $200/month in rent. It’s not that the $200 is trivial it’s that it’s often a bad idea for a landlord to take a risk on a new tenant.

          1. VictorianCowgirl*

            In addition the profit won’t even be realized until the increase in rent has paid off the cost of the property betterments/renovations.

        2. Dagny*

          The other issue is that you can go a long time between tenants. Your annual rental income = monthly rent x number of months the unit is actually rented – costs of finding a new tenant. If your apartment is vacant for a month or two every year because you can’t find tenants, or you spend $1,000 per year plus a lot of your time ensuring that you find new renters once the current tenant gives notice, you’re not actually increasing your rental income.

          I think my rent is $100 or so less per month because I signed a 15 month lease, not a 9 month lease. There is an actual dollar value that can be assigned to not having the place be empty and not having to go through the cost of background checking and screening new tenants.

        3. AskAnEmployee*

          $200 is to a landlord. This isn’t an hourly worker. It’s a person in management who also has the good fortune of owning enough property that she can rent one out. I am sure she’s doing just fine. Now, you know who the $200 may be a lot to? The employee she’s looking to kick out so she can charge someone else more.

          Anyway, OP, you have your rights but I would not remove this tenant because you think you can probably increase the rent. It’s crappy thing to do IMO (I know most will disagree with me because capitalism outweighs compassion), and could well backfire for the reasons others have said (good, reliable tenants are nice to have; housing market could change; could backfire at work; etc.).

          1. annony*

            We can’t actually assume the landlord is doing well financially or that the employee is not able to afford to pay more. I find that an odd assumption. If the OP is supporting a family but the employee is single, it would be very easy for the OP to be in a worse financial situation. That isn’t even taking into account that if she bought the property at the wrong time she could even be upside down on the mortgage or unexpected medical expenses could screw up her finances. I’m not trying to say that the OP definitely needs the money, just that we have absolutely no way of knowing.

            1. yala*

              Hi, single person here. Would like to say…living single is actually pretty freaking expensive, and rent is the biggest part of that. It’s much easier to afford a place to live with two than with one. To afford a place of my own, I’d need to pay nearly double what I would pay to have one other person sharing the cost.

              It seems much more likely that Employee is in a tighter financial situation than OP. True, we have absolutely no way of knowing. OP could be supporting a husband, three kids, and four bedridden grandparents, but it seems unlikely.

              But OP doesn’t say anything about being upside down on the property. She’s renting it to Employee at below market rate. If it was a matter of trying to get to financial stability, it seems like the first step would be bringing up the Employee’s rent to the going rate, rather than spending the time and money to renovate the property.

              1. annony*

                I don’t disagree that living single is expensive. I’m just saying we have no information about their relative financial stability and there are a lot of assumptions that the OP is doing well financially and the employee is suffering.

                I definitely agree that if possible, the OP should try to raise the rent to fair market rate before jumping to not renewing the lease

                1. Avasarala*

                  Usually if someone owns enough property to rent some out, they’re doing better than someone who owns no property and is renting. Yes it’s an assumption but that is commonly the case.

          2. LilySparrow*

            If extensive renovations are needed in order to increase the rent by $200/mo, that tells me the current rent is already in line with the market, and the market is not very tight.

            If there was stiff competition and low vacancies in the price range, LW would be able to charge much more, with nothing but a coat of paint and minor maintenance.

            Giving a tenant several month’s notice that their lease will not renew, or that there will be an increase, is not an undue burden if there are plenty of similar places available in a similar price range.

            Though I agree with others that the cost/benefit calculation looks dicey if the current tenant is a good one.

            1. Ico*

              That’s not what the OP says. Although it seems like a word is missing, they are saying the employee is paying $200 less than, presumably, market rate right now. The renovations would be on top of that.

    3. Mainely Professional*

      Raising the rent $200 would gain you $2400 in rent over the course of a year. $4800 after two years, and $7200 after three. Subtract money for the month(s?) the apartment sits empty. Assuming rents are not incredibly low where this person is, you’re still looking at two years before you break even! I assume any kind of real renovation would cost at least the first year’s profit.

      I won’t impute that all landlords are bad, but I will say I’ve never been shown any consideration despite being a long term, stable, employed, rent paid on time automatically every month, non-smoking, non-pet/child-having, tenant. And this is why: because every landlord I’ve had would rather squeeze me for another $200 that they won’t see for years, but will require me to leave the place I’ve made my home.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Agreed with all of you about the landlord!! My grandparents were in real estate and had rental property. They would be the first to agree that a good renter is worth their weight in gold, and they would do the renovations/rent increase after they move on. I mean, eventually they will move. Of course, when the lease is up, you can always increase the rent somewhat (but not $200.00!!)

        1. WellRed*

          In a hot market, landlords frequently move out long term tenants, remodel and increase the rent by hundreds.

          1. JanetM*

            *nods* A friend is currently apartment hunting because everyone in their building was told that their leases would not be renewed; the building is going to be renovated into higher-end apartments.

          2. roisin54*

            This happened at my last place. The building was sold, the new owners jacked up the rent, and when people inevitably moved out because they couldn’t afford the higher rent, they’d renovate the vacated unit and charge even more rent for them (there were more related shenanigans but I’m trying to keep this brief.) I had been there for five years when this all happened, and I know others that left because of this that had been there even longer. The unit I used to live in now costs almost $1000 more a month than it did when I lived there.

            OP, if your employee really is a good tenant, don’t force her out just so you can renovate and raise the rent. Your reputation as a landlord will crater. Goodness knows I trash talk the owners of my old building every chance I get.

          3. Close Bracket*

            That’s happening to me right now. It might be a hot market, but my apartment will still sit empty (loss of income) while they renovate it (costs money), and then will sit empty while they try to find a tenant (loss of income). It’s going to take a long time for them to recoup those losses, even with the jacked up rent.

          4. Librarian1*

            Yeah, I don’t know where the OP lives, but this is extremely common in the city I live in and has been for years now.

      2. Witchy Human*

        I’m the same kind of clean, responsible renter as you, but if I was a landlord there would be no tenant perfect enough to justify losing $200 a month. It might be my home, but it’s also someone else’s livelihood.

        1. Cocobean*

          Sure, $200 is a lot of money per month. But remember the OP is saying the upgrades to the apartment will require the property to be vacant for a couple months. When you factor in a vacant apartment for a minimum of 2 months, plus the cost of upgrades, plus keeping utilities on in the apartment while upgrading, they will be spending a ton of money while forfeiting their current and reliable income.
          Had her letter said “this tenant is paying too little and someone else would pay $200 more per month“, I could understand. As someone with a background in property management, this is a terrible financial move to kick out a paying tenant, have a unit sit vacant, and spend a ton of money to not get much more per month.

          1. Emily S*

            It’s definitely a bit odd. I was a small-time landlord for a while – basement apartment in my own home. The only way I could see myself considering this scheme is if I was having other problems with the tenant and looking to get rid of her. In some areas with strong renter protection laws, renovations are one of the only excuses a landlord can legally offer for refusing to renew a lease. In my area, I wasn’t subject to this law because I rented less than 4 units on an owner-occupied property, but had I been subject to it, I would have been obligated to offer a renewal to my tenant every year unless I took the unit off the market entirely so that I could substantially renovate it, live in it myself, or put a family member in it, or unless I could make a case that she hadn’t been upholding her end of the previous lease. If you had some tenuous gray reason for wanting to get rid of the tenant but didn’t have them dead to rights over a lease violation, renovations would be the way to get them out.

            1. knead me seymour*

              In my area, this is actually very common. Rental prices are increasing at a ridiculous rate and many older buildings are able to renovate apartments and charge hundreds of dollars more in rent. Usually much more than $200, depending on how long the renter was living there. Rent increases are restricted so there is a big jump in price after someone moves out. However, I’ve never heard of anyone evicting a tenant so they can do this. They usually just wait until they move out.

          2. annony*

            I’m somewhat unsure of what she meant when she said the employee pays “$200 less.” Is it $200 less than market rate for the current condition? Or is it $200 less than she can get if she renovates? The latter doesn’t seem like much of a gain. If it is the former, she could compromise by gradually raising the rent.

        2. Mainely Professional*

          I get that. The point is, this landlord is going not going to see that $200/per month. And they’re going to an alienate an employee.

          Here’s the lowest lowball example I can give. Let’s say the rent is $1500 a month, and the renovations will only cost $1000 (lol), and afterwards they can raise the rent $200 to $1700.

          The apartment will sit vacant for one month -$1500
          They essentially have to return the security deposit if they want to preserve their relationship with the employee in this case -$1500
          Renovation cost -$1000
          Maybe the tenant caused damage the landlord is now going to pay for because they really needed to give back that security deposit $-200

          So far, the cost of kicking the tenant out is $4200, that takes one month. In another three months time (well 2.47 months, but $1700 rent is only paid once a month) they will have paid for the renovation, having collected $5100. They’ll be up $900. In another month’s time they will be up $2600, total.

          OR, if they do NOTHING, and don’t kick their tenant out, don’t leave the apartment vacant for a month, and just continue to charge $1500, they will be up $7500 in that period of five months. If they want the increase in rent to pay for the real cost of the renovation it will take 21 months. Almost two years.

          This strikes me as a poor financial (and workplace! don’t alienate your employees!) decision in order to pocket an additional $2400 a year (two years down the line). Maybe that makes me financially privileged. But I think it’s also good financial sense to stick with the safe, small returns. The only scenario here is to give the tenant like six months of notice that you’re about to destroy their life. So they can save up the thousands of dollars they’ll need to move house. You’ll note comments from other landlords here who think it’s bad idea to get rid of a long term tenant for meager profits.

      3. Moi*

        No but 200 is a lot cheaper and less stressful than having a tenant who doesn’t pay rent or who damages the apartment

    4. WellRed*

      I assume once she remodels she will be able to ask for more rent, above and beyond the discount the tenant is getting.

      1. Yorick*

        That’s kinda what I thought. “I could already charge $200 more, and I could do some renovations to get more hundreds more.” That does sound like it could be worth it.

    5. Me*

      I agree. The cost of reno’s + vacancy cost + who knows when you can rent it again at the rate you *think* you’ll get for it with hopefully a good tenant….seems short-sighted to me.

      That said, since it’s a horrible idea to rent to an employee, when the lease is up or if it’s month to month already, I’d broach it as you’ve realized its a terrible idea to rent to an employee both for the employee and you. 6 months seems reasonable to give.

      1. TootsNYC*

        re: renting to an employee

        In smaller towns and cities, that might not be as avoidable as you think.

        You get a tenant; later she gets a job at your company; later things get reorganized and now she works for you.

        You can’t either of you change jobs that easily–in smaller towns and cities, there are only so many employers.

    6. MonteCristo85*

      It really depends on the market. Where I am, $200/month would be a 30-50% increase in rent, so definitely significant. However, you do have to pay for all the renovations you are about to do, so I’d definitely do some cost benefit analysis on this before ousting a tenant. I’ve been a landlord for 15 years, and I’ve only asked someone to move voluntarily once, and that’s because I needed to live in the house myself. It is kind of unusual.

    7. Abogado Avocado*

      OP #3, what you don’t mention is whether you’ve got a written lease with this lessor, how long she’s been in the property as a renter, and whether the foregoing give your lessor rights to a notice period, etc. I hate to say that you should consult a lawyer, but you should consult a lawyer to understand your jurisdiction’s landlord-tenant laws. If you fear the lease termination will look like retaliation, it’s sure to be perceived that way if your termination violates the terms of the lease or the law.

    8. zinzarin*

      The question was about the workplace implications of evicting a renter who is a direct report at work.
      The details about *why* she wants to evict–as long as it’s not related to workplace issues or work performance–are immaterial.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Right. And the cost of renovations and why she wants to do them doesn’t matter. Anyone who owns housing knows that renovations have to be done from time to time so the place doesn’t disintegrate.

        OP should read the landlord/tenant laws for her state and consult an attorney if she’s unclear; treat her tenant fairly throughout the process; and preferable don’t rent to another employee again if it can be avoided.

      2. Starbuck*

        The details as to why certainly are going to have a bearing on how the evicted employee reacts, which is pretty relevant to how things should be handled by the OP I would think. But they should probably assume a significantly negative reaction regardless; no one likes to be kicked out and have to find a new place for more $$$.

    9. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Why doesn’t the landlord just raise her rent according to whatever step is legal in their state? It’s usually legal to raise someone’s rent $50 or $100 per month, each year.

  5. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    Um, I would not be cool with it if my boss’s pastor said that Jesus said to fire me (or anybody else) and they did so. I’m a Christian, but I think quite a few Muslim, Jewish etc people would also have problems with a boss’s imam or rabbi telling them to fire someone.

    It’s one thing to take advise from a spiritual leader. Maybe that is all this was. And I have no problem with someone praying before a major decision; it’s a sensible thing to do. But it sounds like it’s crossing the line into following orders. That’s not ok.

    And why in the world is the boss letting the whole office know about her rational for firing an someone else?!!

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, any sort of consideration that does not have a direct business connection and rules that apply to everyone in the similar situations isn’t appropriate.

      This sort of reasoning excuses employers who fire people who are LGBTQA, for instance.

      1. mark132*

        That’s quite a logical leap at the end there. Firing based off of a protected class is illegal, firing based on pulling names out of a hat or any other pseudo random method (tarot cards) is legal. It doesn’t strike me as terribly effective of course.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yeah, isn’t this the other side of “at will”? If you can fire someone for any reason, “a deity told me” is any reason right, as long as they’re not a protected class?

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            I would believe so. Also in this case as OP had performance problems, it would also have been perfectly legal to fire them in many places that have more laws about firing people. It doesn’t become illegal only because of the tarot cards being involved. Still I understand that mentioning the cards makes it seem more random and less about the poor performance.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            All classes are protected classes. You cannot fire someone based on their marital status, for example, and it doesn’t matter if the person is single or married.

            1. Cee*

              ??? All classes are not protected classes. It is perfectly legal to fire people for their sexuality in my state.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I think Hill meant in the sense that protected classes don’t just mean the minority “half” of the characteristic – for example, gender is a protected class, but it doesn’t just protect women, it protects everyone from actions taken based on their gender regardless of what that gender is. Not that all characteristics are protected, but within a characteristic everyone is protected.

          3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            You can fire someone in a protective class… for any reason EXCEPT specifically “fired for being X Ethnicity” for example.

            I can’t be fired “cuz you’re a girl. Ew girls” but I can be fired because that just wanted to.

            That’s why most places are vague and say “it’s not working out, byeeeee.” And are in the clear.

            Energy isn’t protected class. So you can be fired for having negative vibes and bad energy. But the sketchier the termination, the more likely you’re going to be accused of discrimination. They still have to prove it which requires evidence of discrimination.

          1. A*

            Yep! The Supreme Court literally just heard cases about whether LGBT folks should be a protected class in employment or whether we should be fireable if our boss’s religious beliefs say so.

        2. LQ*

          I have to say I really agree with Mike on this. “Jesus told me to” has absolutely been used to fire LGBTQIA employees. I know people who have been fired after they came out because that meant they weren’t godly enough. Just because it is illegal doesn’t mean people don’t do a whole lot of it.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It’s not illegal everywhere. In fact, it’s legal in more states than it’s not to fire someone for their sexual orientation.

        3. Cee*

          LGBTQ+ is not a federally protected class. I have been fired twice for my sexuality, both times by religious folks whose faith leaders’ guidance likely played a role.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, it’s not. Depending on where someone lives, it might be a protected class under state/local law. Not federal.

    2. Mathilde*

      Completely agree. That would not be okay either. Religion should be kept outside of work, and as a manager, it is generally not a good idea to seek advice from someone who doesn’t know the situation and the company. It is one thing to vent to your spouse, but a religious leader is generally expected to weigh in, and that is the problem.
      It is indeed even more problematic when you think about possible prejudice and discrimination at play.

      However, since this is all second-hand… the OP doesn’t have that many options. The company is never going to admit that they fired her because of a tarot reading – they might not even know this was the case, I doubt the manager gave it as a reason. It is probably more watercooler talk.

      1. boo bot*

        “a religious leader is generally expected to weigh in”

        I appreciate this perspective – I don’t have a religious background, and I was going to say, I feel like consulting a pastor or a tarot deck before firing someone is probably kind of like talking to your therapist or writing in a journal about it for most people – not asking an outside source for a yes/no, but using the process to examine your own perspective and get some clarity on an important decision.

        But if they’re actually asking the tarot cards or the pastor what they should do, then following the advice, that’s more concerning – I would imagine both things happen, and that it’s hard to know which it is from the outside.

        1. Witchkind*

          I read cards and this “is it just analytic help or outright asking me to make that business decision” uncertainty is why I will not do readings on business or legal matters. A lot of other readers have the same policy.

          Side anecdote: many jobs ago, my boss found out that I read tarot (it was a theater and I used to read as part of a show I did) and wanted me to read for him on business matters as actual advice. It was a horrible position to be put in, especially since he was my boss that could fire me. That REALLY help solidified my position. (Also why I’m careful about who I tell about that skillset!)

        2. sunny-dee*

          The thing is, the pastor is an actual person with a job that is very much a management job. A lot of people don’t realize it, but pastors essentially have to run their churches as a small business — hiring, firing, managing budgets and revenues and spending, managing facilities. There are good pastors and bad pastors (just like there are good managers and business owners and bad managers and business owners). But it’s different asking advice from someone who actually knows what it’s like to manage and work with people and throwing dice or tossing a coin. Especially since in case like the OP’s, there’s a human or ethical aspect to it — like, this person is a crappy employee, but they’re dealing with a lot in their life right now, and is it okay for me to fire them? Am I a bad person if I do this? I could see asking similar questions to another manager or a spouse or a best friend.

          Reading cards feels a lot less like talking to a pastor (a real person) and more like throwing a dart at the Bible and using a random verse as “proof” of what you should do.

          1. Legal Beagle*

            Meh. Not all religious leaders manage businesses, and even if they did, they know nothing about the specific workplace or employee that the boss is talking about. I think it’s fine to talk (in general terms) to your pastor, rabbi, imam, spouse, best friend, therapist, or mom about a tough decision you need to make at work, in order to share your feelings and get support. But outside parties shouldn’t be influencing a decision about whether someone keeps their job or not. That’s irresponsible and unfair.

          2. Sacred Ground*

            A pastor can run their church like a small business, that doesn’t mean a member of their congregation should run their business like a church.

            “Am I a bad person for firing someone?” is a legit question for one’s pastor. “Should I fire this person?” is not.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I can see me consulting my pastor before firing someone, but my pastor’s advice wouldn’t be about whether it would be good for the business, etc.

          It would be about whether, in my actions and my attitude, I am adhering to the tenets of my faith, whether I’m being loving* enough, and responsible enough, and whether I’ve been clear and fair and honest.

          And how to deal with the guilt I might feel.

          It would never, ever be about the wisdom of the business decision–it would always be about my faith and how I try to live it in this world.

          *”Loving” doesn’t mean, to me, “giving someone everything they want” or “never objecting” or “never holding accountable.” And “loving” applies to other people, like my problem employee’s suffering colleagues.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think a big part of the issue is that the employer is doing this openly.

      If she was consultin the tarot / praying / flipping a coin in private and using that as part of her decision making process it would not be great management but it would be up to her to use those methods in her decision making, but once she lets people know what she is doing it becomes a much bigger problem, as it comes over as unprofessional and arbitrary.

      That said, it sounds as though there were genuine reaspns for the LW to be let go, so I don’t think she has any standing t raise it (especially as her information is at least 2nd hand.

      I do think that LW could suggest to the former coworker who told her, that coworker raise it with their grandboss

    4. Bree*

      Yes, I also think making one’s religious and spiritual beliefs the basis of one’s business decision-making is inappropriate. Of course, what people do in private is their own, but I’m concerned that the LW’s colleague knew the tarot reading had been a factor, and apparently is also a factor in all major decisions. If the boss’ business decisions are widely thought to be based on tarot readings, that’s bad optics and bad management.

    5. snowglobe*

      In that scenario, I would not assume the pastor is telling the boss what to do, but the pastor is providing counseling, and maybe helping the boss sort out feelings of guilt or anxiety that might accompany the need to fire an employee.

      1. Yorick*

        That’s how I’m interpreting it, and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do when deciding whether to fire someone

      2. Isabel Kunkle*

        I was going to say: this. And (as someone who does read Tarot) that’s a difference that’d make me potentially feel weird. Going to a pastor or any other kind of counselor/personal adviser with “I think I need to fire this person, but I feel really bad about it for these reasons,” is a situation where a good counselor will help you sort out your own feelings rather than giving specific advice. It’s *possible* to use Tarot or other divination to do that, as people mentioned above, but I’ve more often seen the questions posed as a “Should I do this thing?” which would be crossing the same line as “Father, does God want me to fire Jane?” for me.

        (Also, I think bringing spiritual beliefs into concrete decisions is something that’s OK to do for yourself and a very close circle–like, “should I break up with this person” close–but that strikes me as really iffy when your choices directly and meaningfully affect others. I don’t want my politicians praying before they make laws, my CEOs reading Tarot before they decide whether or not to downsize, or my hairstylist meditating before mixing my colors.)

        It’s all secondhand, though, so I think the OP should just let it go.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I have prayed before finalizing a big decision. There is NO way I would let anyone at work know I did this and for so. many. reasons. The first thing that jumped into my head is the inference, “I pray, so you should too!” Yikes, no way. No way.
      It’s a private thing I do and it is one of many things that I do when considering a big decision.
      Writing here is the first time I have mentioned this to anyone because to me it’s private. There are some things we just keep to ourselves. She could have kept the tarot card thing to herself.

      1. OP #1*

        New boss also told me that they prayed for me, on more than one occasion. (I think I got “I pray for you” more often than constructive feedback.) As a a person of a different religion altogether, it wasn’t something I wanted to hear and wished she would have kept it private. Tarot ontop of it was just the icing on the cake.

        1. Blueberry*

          Ugh. You have all my sympathy, for this aspect and for the whole mess. I’m cheering you on, OP#1!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I agree with you.
          That “I pray for you” thing has an undertone of “nothing else is going to work here because, oh-whatta mess!”
          It becomes a stepping stone in the path of alienating people from any religion/belief. Additionally, I have seen believers use it as snark against each other.
          If a person wants to be transparent and above reproach on this matter they simply don’t mention it.

          For me, I have found there is actually no need to mention it. I have to wonder why the boss felt need to mention the tarot cards, I wonder what’s running in the background there. It’s really odd.

    7. Daisy*

      ‘my boss’s pastor said that Jesus said to fire me’

      I think you’re putting a very extreme spin on this than there’s no evidence for. We don’t know that the tarot reader ‘told’ the boss to fire OP (that would be quite unlike how tarot readings usually go, in my small understanding of it). Similarly I think it’s a super overreaction to hear the idea ‘discussed it with a pastor’ and assume that would mean ‘he said Jesus said to fire her’ (you say you’re a Christian – is that really what your own vicar would say if you talked to them about a business problem?!).

      What if this was a therapist? A mentor? I think bosses are allowed to ask people for advice.

      1. Isabel Kunkle*

        Unfortunately, in the US in 2019, there’s no shortage of places and sects where I’d think that interpretation was the most likely one.

          1. Isabel Kunkle*

            Possibly, but in a country that actually produced a song about letting Jesus take the wheel of your car, justified.

            More seriously: there are a number of churches here where the official doctrine is very much “ask Jesus to literally tell you what to do when you have big decisions coming up,” and/or “ask your pastor, who will ask Jesus.” If I knew someone was a member of those, and they mentioned talking to their pastor/God/etc about firing someone…yeah, I’d have some thoughts.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Any time 1) you’re blaming an entire nation of 350 million people for a country song that’s 20 years old or 2) you can simplify your argument by saying “you know how those people are,” you’re just prejudiced.

              1. Isabel Kunkle*

                Those people…whose doctrine specifically says “let your belief system make decisions for you?”

                Also: if someone uses their pastor or their faith responsibly, as a rubber duck (as per below), in these situations, they probably wouldn’t tell people at work that they discussed a business decision with their pastor, or would be more careful about how they phrased it.

              2. Blueberry*

                there are a number of churches here where the official doctrine is very much “ask Jesus to literally tell you what to do when you have big decisions coming up,” and/or “ask your pastor, who will ask Jesus.”

                I was raised in such a church: I can vouch for Isabel Kunkle that the above is a fact rather than another phrasing of “you know how those people are.”

                I could say a lot more, but a conversation debating whether or not any Christians have ever acted on homophobia in the history of anything is rather like a conversation debating whether or not the Moon is made of unripe cheese, anyway.

                1. Ico*

                  That is a complete non sequitur as a response to saying that because “the country” produced a country song that religious people make bad decisions.

              1. Isabel Kunkle*

                These days, thank God, yes, but there was a drippily sincere song using it literally (and I mean *literally*, I got a lot of drinking mileage out of speculating about ancient Middle Eastern drivers’ ed and whether it covered fishtailing) a while back.

    8. Lucette Kensack*

      Right. There are three ideas here that are getting conflated with each other, ranging from very normal and acceptable to absolutely inappropriate:

      1) Doing personal reflection to make a difficult decision. This is perfectly normal, and any manager considering firing someone would be expected to consider the decision carefully. As I understand it, tarot could fall into this category if it is used as a way to prompt consideration of different questions or provoke deeper reflection. Certainly some forms of prayer would fall into this category — praying for guidance.

      2) Seeking guidance from trusted advisors to make a difficult decision. Assuming that the manager follows appropriate guidelines on confidentiality, this is also normal and appropriate. Speaking to a religious leader (or mentor, or friend) about a difficult decision, considering questions they raise, even seeking their input or opinion — all ok. I have no idea if a tarot reading falls into this category; maybe the person who handles the cards serves this purpose? As they interpret the cards they offer questions for reflection or guidance on what they might mean for the manager’s decision?

      3) Handing over a decision to someone (or something) else. No, big problem, not appropriate. It is no more appropriate to let the tarot cards “decide” (“Whoops, you got the Seven of Pentacles, you better fire her!”) than to let your priest decide what salary to offer your new hire, or to draw straws about who on your team gets promoted.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Meant to say: I don’t know anything about tarot, probably obviously, so I picked the seven of pentacles basically randomly (there’s a poem I love with that title).

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Your example is making me smile. It’s actually a great example of how the cards clarify what you already know on some level, they don’t tell you what to do. The seven of Pentacles usually has a farmer toiling away in the field, representing something like “hard work and patience applied to the right things yields results in the long run”. One person could get that card and think “I am like a good farmer, and I will get my harvest in the end if I just keep plugging along”. Another might think “I am like a dumb farmer metaphorically trying to make avocados grow in Canada. I need to stop throwing good effort after bad.”

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            So your comment just made a connection for me:

            I know that lots of people on here absolutely loathe “personality assessments” like the MBTI, Strengths Finders, etc. I’ve always thought that the over-the-top negativity about those assessments among commenters is performative and, well, over-the-top.

            But I realize that I think of the MBTI (e.g.) like you’re describing using tarot cards. It’s not science, and I’m not going to make decisions based on it (“Aha, I’m an ENFP, I shall not apply for that job in accounting!”) but rather as a tool to prompt additional questions and reflections. Does that sound right?

            (Can imagine the uproar on this thread if the boss had used the MBTI as her reason for firing the LW??)

    9. Artemesia*

      It isn’t the taro cards (or the praying on it) — it is talking about it. The taro cards are no more offensive than the prayers — what is offensive is disclosing this to other employees.

  6. Filosofickle*

    #2: OP says “I mean the type of writing that is to-the-point, puts things in terms of what adds value to the business…”. Setting aside the jargon problem, these are important and she should be sure she’s doing these things. Among the academics I know, I wouldn’t say “to the point” is a strength of their writing, nor is business thinking. A friend of mine advises PhDs switching to corporate careers, and learning to communicate differently is a big adjustment for them. As it was for her.

    Pulling out the “what adds value to the business piece” I disagree that saying you presented reports about llama grooming is necessarily enough. Why does presenting these reports matter? What was the impact? Who were they for? Simply tossing in buzzwords like stakeholders and innovation isn’t helpful, as the example shows. But stating the value of what you do is helpful.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s definitely not enough! I linked in the piece to some advice on improving that kind of resume language (and framing it in terms of outcomes and accomplishments, not activities), but it’s 100 times better than the revised language.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Yup, because what does “presented innovative reports” really mean? How is a report innovative? If everyone in the business world presents reports, then there’s nothing innovative about that (god, I hate that word so much – no, everyone and every business is not innovative!!).

    3. MsPantaloons*

      I wonder if OP2 is hitting upon a slightly different anxiety that they don’t exactly know how to express?

      Perhaps it is less about the language, and more about the method that their new colleagues use to frame problems. I.e. in meetings, person A tends to present optimal solutions (or creative ideas, or some other X thing) while person B presents solutions that are “optimal for the business” and “add value” for their “key stakeholders” (while being business speaky, these are all also Real Things That Matter in for profit business). It could be a deeper concern that OP is seeing/framing in terms of the language, but is actually a real and meaningful difference in value/outlook.

      I would recommend that OP ponder whether that resonates as something they’re trying to get at – maybe it doesn’t! – and if so, look to mentors / manager / peers for guidance on what other people in the business are likely to care about in their decision making.

      1. SatsumaWolf*

        I agree, I think the OP is being misunderstood here – possibly because the use of the phrase “business jargon” gets people all in a tiz, sometimes unnecessarily. Just because a word is used often in business doesn’t make it the wrong word to use. Words have meaning and sometimes they are the right ones to use. “Stakeholder” means someone who has a stake in the project, for example, and that word is fine to use, you don’t have to try to find another way to say it if it makes sense to use it. “Innovative” also has a meaning and its use is only a problem if it hinders understanding. I the OPs question is more about how to think in terms of business needs, resources and concerns to make sure she is thinking along the same lines as the business, a d not an a academic. That is absolutely something to be learned – I’ve had to learn it myself and still am learning 7 years into industry. My advice to OP would be to cut herself some slack and this understanding comes with time in the business and with practice. Pay attention to colleagues you trust and admire and listen to what issues they concern themselves with. Also, if you have a good manager, check in with her of you have doubts, like, “I want to make sure I’m reading this issue correctly, is it that there’s a concern over assigning business resources to this project?” for example. (Not necessarily a great example but I hope you get my meaning).

        1. Amy Sly*

          The question does seem to be far more directed to “how to think like a business person.” My joke answer would be to watch Ghostbusters for this line: “Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities; we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results.”

          Along more serious lines, the point of a business is to make money. Thus, everything you do and suggest needs to be justified by how it will make the company money, whether by spending less, increasing profits, improving customer loyalty, increasing the number of customers, etc. That’s the company’s telos, so orient your communication that way.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          I the OPs question is more about how to think in terms of business needs, resources and concerns to make sure she is thinking along the same lines as the business, a d not an a academic.

          This may be part of it, but she also explicitly stated in the letter that she doesn’t know how to write in business speak and then gave examples for where she thought she was wrong (and she wasn’t).

      2. TechWorker*

        +1 – I’m not sure I agree with the business speak hatred here – ‘deliverable’ and ‘stakeholder’ are both concepts that mean specific things (at least where I work) and so using them is not so much jargon-y as… getting to the point!

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Yes – “stakeholder” in particular jumped out as a word that’s super-useful to use.

          OP, here’s an example: I am director of a university programne, and the students are my customers, (In the UK – they pay, and my performance metrics are their results, but more importantly, student satisfaction surveys) – but there are a load of people who don’t take or teach the class, but whose work is impacted by changes I make – they are the stakeholders (for example, if I change the timetable, my students now can’t take optional language classes, and llama grooming students can’t take my classes as optional units – so the people who run the language programmes & depend on a number of my students, or run the llama grooming programme, and like their students taking my classes are stakeholders. Or the team who’ll have to timetable my classes are stakeholders who’ll have to do major work to accommodate my changes etc)

          So it’s really useful, in business, to know who the stakeholders are as well as the customers, and something I’d talk about in a performance review is how I engaged with stakeholders early on in the change process, and it helped me identify potential problems and mitigate for them, finding specific solutions for group X that makes the course better for them – and as a result, the changes rolled out really smoothly, and I’ve had positive feedback from stakeholders that they feel really engaged with the programme, could avert issues and we’ve got a really good plan for implementing a new initiative in the new year.

          I know that’s probably tl;dr, but what I and others are saying is it’s worth interrogating the jargon to see if it’s shorthand for concepts and ways of working you already do, but don’t describe, or haven’t thought about yet. Of course some jargon is eye-roll-y, but used well, it can really help.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I should add, there is no shame in asking friendly colleagues or a manager what words/terms mean, if they’re being used in unfamiliar settings. Personally, I appreciate it when others ask me, as I’ve sat in too many meetings where people thought we’d agreed A, but it means different things to us all, so I quickly clarify terms if I’m not sure. Just be confident and friendly, and ask who they’re talking about when they say “relevant stakeholders” as you just want to check you’re on the same page.

          2. Filosofickle*

            Yes, stakeholder can be the right word and concept! I don’t use it in public-facing messaging, but internally it means is “everyone who is involved in or affected by what we’re doing.” Which is often a lot of people! I explicitly drag my clients away from thinking of “customers” as their only audience — consider your employees, execs, funders/investors, community, board, etc. All of these people are stakeholders. We have to be clear about who they are, why they care, and what their role should be. If I don’t ask good questions about “stakeholders”, my project will probably be unsuccessful.

        2. it's me*

          Yes, I have to agree. And as much as some people hate business buzzwords, the fact is that in some business cultures you are very much expected to speak that way and not doing so is viewed as a problem. One employee cannot expect to cure their entire company of valuing and noting the use of buzzwords.

        3. Media Monkey*

          agreed. the thing that makes me think someone is junior when i read their emails/ work are words like utilise and very convoluted sentences to explain simple concepts. but then my/ our job is to help clients understand things so being unclear doesn’t work!

      3. AndersonDarling*

        Very good point. 90% of the time, these buzzwords are just used as filler, but for some organizations, these are solid concepts they are conveying. Action Plans, Innovation, Opportunities for Improvement, Stakeholders, Shareholders…I came form a company where these ideas were used daily and were actually meaningful. It really was like learning a new vocabulary. It took a while to understand the concepts and it took even longer before I was confident enough to use this vocabulary in my own communication.
        But these are terms I use sparingly in my resume. You have to know your audience and you never know if someone will understand these terms or roll their eyes at the buzz jargon. I keep my resume language simple and use measurable performance examples to blow the reader away.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I think that might even be part of the problem. OP hears the buzzwords and sometimes they’re used in a meaningful way -such as stuff about stakeholders and deliverables. But too often they’re used to obfuscate and “sound businessy” without actually communicating anything. So as she’s trying to learn from example, it becomes incredibly difficult. As the newcomer she may not be able to discern yet when she’s hearing terms and just not fluent enough with them to understand the person’s point – or if she understands just fine and is observing someone using a ton of buzzwords to say absolutely nothing. When you’re new, it can be hard to tell.

          So I think the real crux of the question may be how to learn the terms better so she can tell that difference. Then use them as needed herself in a manner that actually does communicate real information, and avoid doing what Alison was advising against: jargon for jargon’s sake and saying nothing. If you’re talking about stakeholders there’s no reason to go out of your way to avoid calling them stakeholders, and doing so may in some circumstances sound awkward like circling the point. I think that’s what OP is concerned she may be doing. However I’d also note there may be plenty of times when using the buzzword is fine – but not using it is not necessarily awkward, so don’t be too concerned about not using it. If people seem to know what you’re talking about, it’s probably fine. But if you’re using a ton of words to describe something and someone stops you and asks “do you mean the deliverables?” that’s a clue you’re probably off track. But there is tons and tons of middle ground.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “stakeholders” can always be translated into some sort of actual thing–shareholders, customers, colleagues, parallel departments, suppliers, employees…

            And those are all MUCH more instructive to the reader. Even if you have to use several of them instead of the lazy way of using one word.

      4. Consultant Catie*

        I think this is a good point too. I came to consulting from industry and was really intimidated by phrases like these. A few things helped me through this anxiety:
        -Remember that, like the word “synergy,” people will be making fun of these words and the people who say them in a few years. There will always be people who overuse jargon in inappropriate settings and you don’t need to feel pressured to be one of them
        -The people using these words aren’t any smarter than you – they just know a few extra words.
        -If you don’t understand a word, write it down and look it up later (or ask someone if you’re comfortable with it)
        -Don’t let the jargon give you anxiety; they’re just words, you’ll learn them, and at the end of the day, an outside perspective without all that jargon is extremely valuable.

        Good luck!!

      5. TootsNYC*

        person A tends to present optimal solutions (or creative ideas, or some other X thing) while person B presents solutions that are “optimal for the business” and “add value”

        As a kid, I hated playing Scrabble with my mom.

        I was always trying to create the coolest word, the most unusual word.
        My mom played for points.
        And she wiped the board with me.

        It was a big lesson, actually. When is “fun” and “cool” an appropriate goal, and when do you need to play for points?

      6. OP2*

        This is a really excellent point and another issue (or maybe the actual issue?) that I’m dealing with. The approach and way of thinking is very different in the business world, and I’m trying to adapt to that as well. Any resources for this as well would be more than welcome.

  7. Kuododi*

    For the person/job applicant who filled out a 1/2 ton of administrative paperwork the night before the interview. My question is, were you by and chance applying to work in a government (local, state or federal??). If so I would bet a nickel that you were caught up in the paper generating nightmare that is applying to a government job. I’m pretty sure my time line between initial contact, first and follow up interviews, background checks etc… this whole process took between 6-8 weeks. (I applied to work in a state mental health agency.). The only suggestion I have would be to keep interviewing and if they contact you again, then make your decision about whether or not to continue the interview process. Good luck and hang in there!!!

      1. OP #5*

        Hi there- good guess, but no, it was an international law firm. I’m probably overreacting but I’m just so annoyed. And FTR, it’s been a while since I sent Alison my letter- its now been more like 10 weeks of ghosting. Sigh.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I actually have a rule that I won’t fill out hire paperwork before I’m hired. I’ve had it happen a few times at interviews. “Oh ok so while you’re waiting for your interviewer, can you fill out this W-4 and I9? And then the background check and credit check form?”

      So now a company, that may or may not hire me, that I may or may not ever hear from again, has my name, address, date of birth, social security number, passport information, every address I’ve lived at for the last 10 years (background check) and a photocopy of my driver’s license (again, background check.)

      No way.

      1. ACDC*


        They can have my name and address for an interview, but nothing else until I have an offer in front of me.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Nobody even gets my address until it’s relevant. If they’re not sending me anything in the mail, they don’t need it, and that’s not going to happen until job-offer time. I’ll tell you my region and you can have my “professional” email address and mobile number, and that’s enough!

  8. Jcarnall*

    LW3: Having to find a new place to live is a huge deal. But, I take your word for it that you need to ask your tenant to move out while you do renovations and then up the rent. The more notice you can give of this to your tenant, the better. Sit down with them – outside work, obviously – explain this is landlord to tenant, and give them all the details, including a time frame by which they have to have moved out, assurances that they can leave earlier with no issues about the lease if they find somewhere quickly, and any networking help you can give them to find a new place. Also, you’ll obviously give them their full deposit back promptly, since you’re renovating anyway.

    If there are any resources you as employer are able to provide to an employee who is about to lose their home because of landlord eviction, that should be a separate meeting at work and someone who isn’t you should be on the other side of the table.

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, maybe there should be someone on the other side of the table anyway, in that this employee should not be reporting to OP.

      OP writes that they fear retaliation from the employee, but the employee might also fear retaliation from OP, by which I mean she might be afraid that if she doesn’t unquestioningly accept this eviction, she’ll be punished at work, and therefore might not feel at liberty to discuss terms and conditions for the eviction like she normally would.

      If there’s another manager in OP’s organization that this employee could report to, it would probably be better to move her over.

      1. WellRed*

        That seems a little harsh: leave my property, and here’s your new manager. I’d wonder what I’d done to make my now former boss/landlord dislike me so much.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, I’m afraid this would backfire and read as “you have somehow offended me so profoundly that I want literally nothing to do with you (and won’t tell you why).”

      2. TootsNYC*

        in smaller communities, sometimes you don’t get much of a choice. There are only so many employers, and they are only so large.

        And there are also only so many rental properties, and if our OP owns several (sounds like it), it might be hard.

        But there’s a possible solution as well–OP, can you move that tenant to a different unit?

    2. Lime Lehmer*

      Have you done an analysis of the time it would take for you to recoup your renovation costs and forgone rent in order to charge an additional $200?

    3. Lifelong Renter*

      This! Tell heryou want to renovate the property which means she will need to move.
      Give her a huge timeline (actually like 6 months) with no penalty if she’s able to leave earlier, and tell her she will get her FULL deposit back when she’s leaving. You are renovating, wear and tear doesn’t really matter at this point.

      If you are able to have some flexibility, be prepared to cut a cheque for the deposit as soon as she asks for it as she may need to rely on that for a deposit on a new place in short notice.

      If you approach her as a landlord (not a boss, this conversation needs to stay out of work) in a place of kindness (you are uprooting her) and she’s a reasonable person this should go smoothly with no hard feelings.

      1. Jcarnall*

        “be prepared to cut a cheque for the deposit as soon as she asks for it as she may need to rely on that for a deposit on a new place in short notice”

        Yes, this is an especially valuable offer you can make.

        You don’t care about wear-and-tear on the furnishings – you’re renovating. Unless your tenant has caused actual structural damage, which seems unlikely, you can let her know that you will provide the cheque for her full deposit just as soon as she lets you know she’s got a new apartment lined up.

        Also, if there’s any items that came with the apartment that you’ll be getting rid of anyway in the renovation, you can let her know what she’d be welcome to take with her to her next apartment.

        Obviously you’ll also be able to provide a good reference for her as her landlord to a future landlord.

        And if there are resources that you as an employer can provide to an employee who will have to suddenly look for new accommodation because of the whim of their landlord, then ideally that’s a separate meeting without crossover, with someone else in your company talking to her in confidence about what she might need – unpaid PTO, reasonable permission to make phone calls to letting agencies in company time, accommodation about getting to leave early to check out a new apartment in daylight. You as her landlord shouldn’t be sitting in on these meetings, and let the manager who is meeting with her know that you expect anything she says about you as her landlord to be held in confidence, not repeated back to you (or anyone else).

  9. Grand Mouse*

    OP 5- I agree it is too early to completely write them off, but no update in that time is odd- like at least to give a timeframe for the hiring decision.

    This is about hiring practices in general, but when I haven’t been treated well by a company in the hiring process it definitely colors my perception of them. I wouldn’t do business with them again or recommend them. And it leaves me wondering what they disliked about me so much they couldn’t even send a rejection! I’m picturing Azula going like “don’t flatter yourself, you were never even a player”

      1. Carlie*

        Next 5 AAM letters: “Please help me deal with my direct report Sokka, who somehow manages to accidentally bring chaos everywhere he goes…”

  10. nnn*

    My first thought on #3 is do you need to fix it up right now? Can it wait until she moves out organically?

    If it does in fact need to be fixed up right now, it’s particularly important to do this as kindly and considerately as possible, because this overlap you have happening means that your employee/tenant is completely at your mercy for the most important aspects of her life and of her finances.

    Some ideas for how this can be done kindly and considerately:

    – Do you have another apartment the tenant can move into? I know that, since she’s also your employee, it might be better if she rented from another landlord, but if my landlord were kicking me out of my apartment for renovations I’d be far happier if they said “You can move into the apartment across the hall” than if I had to start an apartment hunt from scratch!
    – Another option I’d want available to me if my landlord were kicking me out for renovations is to have right of first refusal on the renovated apartment. I’m not sure if I’d want to live in the renovated apartment (I might want not want to keep renting from a landlord who’d kick me out), but if I’m particularly attached to the apartment or haven’t been able to find a better location or something, not even being offered the possibility of living there would add insult to injury.
    – Give her a ton of notice. A ridiculous amount of notice.
    – Offer to pay for her moving expenses. (A real, good, professional mover, not some random with a truck from Craigslist.) It’s literally your fault she’s incurring these expenses.
    – If she asks for a specific extension (e.g. “I’ve bought a condo but it won’t be ready until the month after the deadline”), give it to her unhesitatingly.
    – Don’t even think about charging her for any damage you might find. You’re going to be renovating, which makes a mess anyway.
    – In your capacity as her employer, don’t be stingy when she needs time off work for apartment-hunting or moving, or if her productivity drops because of this. It’s literally your fault she’s dealing with this additional stresser. (To avoid the appearance of favouritism, you also have to be equally considerate when other employees are dealing with moving house.)

    1. Marion Q*

      – Offer to pay for her moving expenses. (A real, good, professional mover, not some random with a truck from Craigslist.) It’s literally your fault she’s incurring these expenses.

      Whoa, no. There’s being kind and considerate (giving plenty of notice) and then there’s this.

      The thing is, this is what it means to rent: you don’t own your place and you can be asked to move out of the blue anytime. A renter should ideally be prepared for this. But even if they don’t, it’s not the owners responsibility to shoulder the moving expenses. It’s not the owner’s fault. Being a renter, that expense will incur sooner or later.

      1. Alica*

        I agree, that would be above, beyond and also weird. I understand that people get attached to their homes, but if you’re renting you should be prepared for the fact that you may have to move one day. Sitting tenants do have rights, but at the end of the day it’s the landlord’s property and they can decide to do what they want.

        Also re the last point, there’s being fair and then there’s showing favouritism – you should never be querying why your employees need time off, only if they have the PTO and there is sufficient coverage at work.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          I just have to point out here that while sitting tenants do have rights, as you say, in this case the renter may not be able to exercise or enforce those rights for fear of retaliation at her work since her landlord is also her boss. Since her rights are, or may be, thus curtailed, a lot of extra consideration is due. In any normal renting situation, it would be excessive for a landlord to pay moving expenses for an evicted tenant but this is most definitely not a normal situation. Offering to pay moving expenses seems to me a reasonable recompense for the excess power imbalance.

          A landlord’s power is balanced by a tenant’s rights but when the landlord is also the tenant’s boss, that power is multiplied past the tenant’s ability to exercise her rights. This is why it’s a bad idea in the first place to have a personal business relationship with a subordinate outside of work.

          I wonder if OP has considered simply raising the tenant’s rent to reflect the current market? If it’s $200/month below market now, maybe they could arrange a gradual increase to get it up to the market price in a year?

          1. Sacred Ground*

            If I were in the renter’s situation, and my landlord-who-is-also-my-boss wanted to evict me just to get another tenant in there to pay a somewhat higher rent, assuming I was a good and reliable tenant and not being evicted for cause, I would be pretty angry. Like, really angry. It would damage my relationship with them such that I’d be looking for another job as well as another apartment.

            1. Washi*

              I don’t really understand this. Isn’t the point of renting out apartments to make money? If my landlord thought I was paying below market rate and raised the rent, and I wasn’t willing to pay it, then of course they’d be within their rights to find another tenant willing to pay what they want. I think where the OP went wrong is renting to an employee, not in trying to make sure the property is in good shape and appropriately profitable.

              1. quirkypants*

                But most cities have protection in place so that landlords can’t raise the rent just because they can get better price elsewhere for a reason.

                Imagine your boss just arbitrarily told you she wants to pay you less and if you’re not willing to take it you can go elsewhere… I mean this might not be strictly illegal but would you just shrug your shoulders and move on?

                1. Antilles*

                  But most cities have protection in place so that landlords can’t raise the rent just because they can get better price elsewhere for a reason.
                  Not true. Only five states have cities with rent control (NY, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Oregon) and only Oregon’s law is statewide. In other words, rent control is basically limited to NYC, DC, a few of the California cities, plus all of Oregon.
                  If you’re living in any other major or mid-size city except for these? Or in a suburb rather than the city itself? Then your landlord can raise the rent as much as they’d like when renewal time comes up.
                  Also, FWIW, your second example is completely legal. They can cut your salary if they want as long as (a) they don’t make it retroactive, (b) they don’t cut your salary so much that it violates applicable minimum wage laws, and (c) you don’t have an actual formal contract specifying your pay. You can be angry about it and try to argue if you want, but at the end of the day, if the boss holds firm on “nope, this is your new pay level”, you can either accept it or exercise your right as an at-will employee to walk out the door. It might not be smart business in the big picture for your boss to do that (which is why it’s rarely done), but it’s fully allowed.

                2. Yorick*

                  Landlords raise the rent all the time. If they’ve been charging the employee way below market rate it’s reasonable for them to increase it by $200 at the end of the lease and see if the employee wants to stay for that price or leave.

                3. doreen*

                  I’m not sure it’s most cities, and I suspect that even most of the cities that do regulate rents have exceptions- for example, apartments in NYC buildings with fewer than six units are generally not regulated.

                4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  No. They can raise the rent but here they must give 60 days written notice first.

                  My rent is locked in with my lease. But since many do month to month, they leave a note saying “2 months from today, rent increases to X.”

                  They used to only have to give 30 days. People in Seattle were getting 20-30÷ rent increases at a time with what seems like a moment’s notice since you’ve got to give 20 days notice as well if you intend to vacate/move.

                5. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  You are right if OP and the employee signed a lease, the landlord can’t just raise the rent in the middle of the lease, the landlord would have to wait until the lease term is up. If they are on a month to month agreement the usual notice is 1 full month (if you notify on October 15th of the rent increase, it cant go into effect until December 1st) before the rent increase can go into effect.

                  But usually the landlord can choose to not renew a lease or month to month rental and try to rent it out at a higher price. Similar to employment law usually landlords can choose to not renew a lease for any reason as long as it is not discrimination. For example if a couple living in an apartment had a child, and it came out that the real reason for the non-renewal of the lease was the child that would be illegal. But if the landlord *These are general terms, every state/city/village will have different local laws.

                  The employee does have rights, and no one is advising OP to violate those rights. The biggest right has to do with how much notice the landlord has to give that they will not be renewing the lease before it is up. As other have suggested giving the employee 2 or 3 months notice would be nice.

                  @nnn I have to push back on your ideas that OP should pay for moving expenses, that is not OP’s responsibility, or that they should refund the entire security deposit even if the tenant damaged the property. Even with the renovation there could be damage that the tenant caused the OP would incur had it not been for that damage. I agree if a cabinet is broken and it is going to be replaced anyway don’t charge for that, but if OP was not planning on replacing the floors but the tenant left damage on the floors the requires a full or partial replacement that should be taken out of the security deposit.

              2. Mike C.*

                There are massive housing shortages that folks who own home may not be aware of, with massive rent increases on a regular basis. This has been cited as a cause of homelessness.

                1. AnotherSarah*

                  Yes! Echoing Mike C. There’s an assumption that a person can just move, which is not necessarily true–even if they have cash reserves! I think the OP should look and see if there are any listings around the rent their tenant is paying now…could be illuminating…and act accordingly.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Seriously. I worry about getting evicted because I’m not sure I could find any other place in my city that I could afford that wouldn’t result in a 1 1/2-2 hour each way commute. Also, moving is expensive and takes an ENORMOUS amount of work.

                3. yala*

                  Yeah, I’m sort of dreading the summer because if things go as planned, my roommate of 10+ years will be moving out, which leaves me and my brother to find another place. The only place that’s affordable and not awful-looking is clear across town from my job.
                  And much, much smaller.

                  And also, y’know…moving when you don’t want to really sucks. We’ve made this place our home. So it’s always a real kick in the teeth–leaving your home, moving expenses (a lot), rent increase, etc etc…

                4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  The shortage is in affordable housing in our area. There’s new housing being built every single day and a steady listing at the rising rates but yeah, fixed income folks are being put on the streets due to lack of rent control laws in a lot of locations. Rarely can a disabled or retired person afford the 1200+ for a studio apartment and are being pushed further and further out of the safe areas and into shady options.

                  That’s another thing that people don’t realize who own houses or who have solid paying career paths. I can afford to live on my own but many others my age are stuck renting poorly converted closets or basements from slum lords.

                5. Washi*

                  I am assuming people can just move, I guess. My husband and have lived in 4 apartments in 5 years, and if our landlord renovated our older building, we would probably need to move again, since the going rate for a renovated apartment in my area is $400-600 more than what we’re paying. It sucks, and I actively try not to think of my apartment as my permanent home for that reason. But it’s not personal and I don’t think landlords are bad people for renovating or raising rents to market value!

                6. yala*

                  “I don’t think landlords are bad people for renovating or raising rents to market value!”

                  I do! Because that’s how we get housing crises! Maybe not the renovating, but the market value depends as much on the landlords constantly raising rent to see what they can get away with as it does on demand. Sometimes moreso, because at the end of the day, people are always going to need somewhere to live. So if rent keeps going up and up and up, folks are going to just have to find a way to pay it, or move out of an area entirely, which results in a whole area having incredibly expensive housing that most folks can’t afford, but better off folks can.

                  It’s usually not personal (though in this case, there’s really no way to remove personal from the equation), but it does just keep making problems.

                7. Dankar*

                  Well, it’s not as though mortgages are 100% static. If the OP is managing a single-unit rental (like a standalone home or condo), HOA fees, home insurance and property taxes could all be increasing. Those are good reasons to set your monthly rent in line with market rates.

                  Landlords raising their rates are not the single cause of housing crises. The real cause is usually a mix of rapidly-growing areas unwilling to address housing shortages, needlessly restrictive single-family zoning laws and suburban annexation. Landlords raising rents on individual units are such a small part of that, and are really a symptom of the bigger issues.

                8. Gumby*

                  Yup. I’ve basically decided that if (when) I lose my current place, I will likely be moving out of the Bay Area entirely. My landlord has already basically said he’d give me 6 – 12 months of notice so I would spend maybe 1 month looking for something comparable then just look for jobs elsewhere. (There is nothing comparable. I have a sweetheart deal because I’ve been an exceptionally accommodating tenant in a variety of ways over many years. While I could afford to rent another place around here, I am not willing to make the trade-offs to the amount I shove into savings/retirement, etc. that would be required. So bye-bye Bay Area.)

                9. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Washi: the impact on the displaced tenant – and on the systemic problem of affordable housing shortage – is the same whether it’s personal or not

              3. Lynn Whitehat*

                Of course it is. But speaking as someone who has rental properties, you also want to be cognizant of the fact that these are people’s lives and homes.

              4. pleaset*

                Yeah. If it was to make $200 once, that would be annoying.

                But it will be $2400 in a year, and almost $10K over four years .

                1. Mainely Professional*

                  …You do understand that they won’t realize that $2400 in any meaningful sense until they’ve paid for the cost of the renovation. And if they expect the rent increase itself to pay for the cost of the renovation, that they won’t see anything like that in profit?

              5. yala*

                “I don’t really understand this. Isn’t the point of renting out apartments to make money?”

                Sure. But there’s a reason people hate landlords, and it’s because for many of them, profit outweighs decency.

                It’s not like OP isn’t already making money off of her employee renting from her. But the whole thing where landlords rent cheap until they can afford to remodel and raise the rates is part of what makes affordable housing such an impossibility for many people.

            2. Yorick*

              This seems like an unreasonable take, unless they didn’t give much notice or they passively aggressively tried to make you miserable so you’d move.

            3. vlookup*

              Yes! I’d be furious.

              It may be legal, but it’s a crappy thing to do, and I’d expect the fallout to spill over into their work relationship.

          2. TootsNYC*

            while sitting tenants do have rights, as you say, in this case the renter may not be able to exercise or enforce those rights for fear of retaliation at her work since her landlord is also her boss. Since her rights are, or may be, thus curtailed, a lot of extra consideration is due.

            Also, this landlord in particular should be scrupulous and maybe even a little generous in respecting those right, and not waiting for the tenant to call her on them.

      2. D'Arcy*

        Yeah, that’s way too much. Unless OP is an abruptly reformed slumlord who needs to extensively renovate the apartment building because she’s been putting off necessary basic maintenance for *years* until it reaches unlivable catastrophe levels, she doesn’t owe her renters *that* level of compensation.

        Assuming the renovations aren’t going to take the entire building off the market for years and/or radically change the number of units available, however, it would be fair and kind to offer the former residents first dibs on rentals once renovations are complete and the building reopens.

      3. Mainely Professional*

        No, renters can’t universally be asked to move out of the blue. That’s why you have a lease.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          If you don’t have a lease, at least in places I’ve lived, the assumption becomes that you are a month-to-month renter, and the landlord only technically has to give you 30 days’ notice to vacate. Ask me how I know!

      4. Harper the Other One*

        That expense will occur sooner or later, but I think what nnn is getting at is that if you’re trying to be as considerate as possible, offering moving expenses is a very kind thing to offer. Many people (understandably) don’t have enough money for deposit, connection fees for utilities, moving expenses, mail forwarding, etc. on hand on short notice. It would be a major financial stressor for an awful lot of people.

        I don’t think it’s a necessary offer but it’s certainly one that would make me think very highly of the landlord. And possible future tenants call references too sometimes, so it could also stand the landlord in good stead when they’re ready to fill the property again.

      5. Kimmybear*

        In my experience, this is not as unusual as some people seem to think. I have known friends who had movers paid for their landlord when it was their landlord’s fault they had to move. Examples have been the landlord decided to move in, ongoing water problems, or the leasing agent misrepresented the lease terms. Helps if they have been good tenants.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          But in those situations it is because the landlord had failed to deliver what was promised. In a rental situation a landlord does not owe a renter a place to live indefinitely. If they have a one year lease they owe them an apartment for one year, if they are on a month to month they owe them one month to live there.

          I agree that in order to preserve the employee/employer relationship OP should be considerate, but I think that means giving an extra month or two of notice not to renew lease beyond the time frame required by law.

          After a certain point extra notice won’t really matter because most apartments don’t go up for rent until a couple months before the old tenant is moving out. So having 5/6 month notice wouldn’t do the tenant much good because they most likely not be able to secure a place that far in advance.

      6. AvonLady Barksdale*

        There’s a middle ground here. I had a landlord who returned my security deposit– in full– a month before I moved out. We were great tenants and he was responsible for certain things like painting, and he knew there were no major damages, so we got a nice check to help with our set-up expenses in our new home. Since the LW wants to renovate, there’s no reason why she can’t do that for her tenant (assuming there’s a deposit).

      7. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        This has actually been offered at a few apartment communities where I have worked. It depends on the circumstances, and it certainly isn’t a COMMON offer, but it isn’t particularly weird or out of place.

      8. knead me seymour*

        I mean, as a renter you do have to come to terms with the fact that your rights are limited. Most of those of us who rent don’t do it for the thrill of uncertainty but because it’s all we can afford. But I think it’s understandable for a employee to resent their boss for kicking them out of their home just so they can charge higher rent. As a tenant, you accept this kind of thing from landlords because you have to, but if you have an outside relationship with the landlord, I think it would feel additionally crappy.

  11. Linzava*

    Hi OP#1,

    I’m 100% with you here, I would be furious. I’d probably only do a glassdoor review though. That way people can get a heads up that their employment could be in the hands of their manager’s personal religious practices.

    1. mark132*

      I think this is a great idea. Of course make sure to not overstate the case. But something like “Former coworker reported that some bosses make decisions based off of tarot cards, including my eventual termination”

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Given that this is based on second hand information received from one person, I would be very circumspect about doing this.

      OP1, I am sorry you got fired, but I think your current frame of mind and the horrible year you’ve had could be causing you to give this more focus than you should be. It would be healthier emotionally to put it behind you and move forward with your life and your career.

      1. pally*

        OP1, yes, this is best put behind you. You are in a better place now. Keep moving forward. A well-lived life is the best ‘medicine’ for such events.

        I can understand wanting management to know about these Tarot cards. Just so folks know what is going on. But it is second-hand information, so there’s maybe some room for interpretation.

        If it were me, and I’m not someone folks should emulate, I’d let it be known you have voodoo doll of the manager’s likeness. Let him think about the ramifications of that.

  12. It's a No From Me*

    LW #3, I had a 60-something woman who was a former physician rent out my home while I was living abroad. I returned to thousands of dollars of damage from a ripped toilet seat to a 2 foot long crack in a new floor to a washing machine that needed 8 hours of cleaning to eliminate the mold and much more damage.

    It looked like she’d moved a fraternity in with her, although my neighbors all said she lived alone (one of the neighbors was managing the property for me). The cost of repairs worked out to more than $200 per month for the months she lived her.

    Moral of the story: A good renter who takes care of the property is worth keeping! Don’t uproot your employee from her home to try to make an extra $200 per month. Or consider the possibility of renegotiating the rent if she has been living there for a while and prices have gone up in your community.

    1. Anonariffic*

      And on top of all that, I’m stuck on how an extra $200/month in future rent is worth months of no rent at all plus what I assume (based on the timeline and watching far too much HGTV) must be thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars in renovation costs.

      1. D'Arcy*

        I’m guessing the renovation was something that OP was planning on doing at some point *anyway*, and the wording of the letter indicates that it’s a building-wide renovation of an entire apartment cluster, not just the one unit.

        1. annony*

          It is probably cheaper to do the renovations all at one time than do most of them and leave this unit for later.

      2. doreen*

        I wouldn’t assume it was tens of thousands in renovation costs. The OP said she wants to
        ” fix the place up”, which could mean anything from DIY painting and refinishing floors on weekends/after work to a full-scale remodeling. People are assuming that the OP is going to get $200 more rent after she fixes the place up but that’s not how I read it. I think the coworker is paying $200 less that the apartment is worth in it’s present state, and that there may be more than a $200 increase in rent after it’s fixed up And we don’t know the actual rent numbers, which make a difference – losing 3 months rent on a $500 apt for a $200/mo increase apt is very different from losing 3 months with a $3000/mo apt.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          Where I live (Ontario), “renovictions” are so common that the landlord has to offer the tenant first right of refusal after the renovations are done, and the upgrades have to substantial in order to justify raising the rent above their current lease – not a coat of paint and a new bathroom sink, but a total overhaul of the space and/or the finishes.

          As someone who has been evicted so that the landlord could live in the apartment, I can say it’s an awful, destabilizing, traumatic experience. Do not assume that the employee will land on her feet or feel okay about you, especially if the rental market is tight. Moving and eviction is expensive and scary, so.do whatever you can to mitigate that.

          1. Bree*

            Yes, I’m in Toronto and my actual biggest fear is being renovicted from the rent-controlled unit I’ve been in for four years and then literally not being able to afford another place to live. The landlord could probably almost double the rent I’ve been paying if she wanted to. Thank goodness for tenant protection laws.

            So interpretation of this letter def. depends on how the local rental market works.

            1. Kaitlyn*

              I mean, there’s something so disconnected about someone writing in to be like, “I have a rental unit and I want more money for it!” and also controlling the income of the person who currently pays the money for it.

              1. a1*

                What makes you think OP controls the pay grade and salary? I’ve been a manager and never had that kind of control. You come in at a certain level, you get a corresponding pay. The most I could do was advocate for raises and/or bonuses, but the final decision still isn’t mine. The company/HR sets those guidelines.

                1. Dankar*

                  My previous supervisor didn’t even know what I was paid until I told her (in the course of discussing the possibility of a raise). I doubt my current supervisor does.

                  I guess you could argue that OP controls her tenants income in the sense that she is the one who can advocate for a pay raise and would presumably know if/when her income increases. But I think that’s a fairly tenuous argument. The real issue with the current set-up is the possibility of awkwardness; OP is lucky the employee has apparently been a model tenant. Evictions are deeply adversarial when you don’t see the other person in the office every day.

                2. Bree*

                  I think it’s a fair assumption that someone’s manager/supervisor has at least significant influence on their pay, raises, and/or continued employment, and that makes this situation tricky.

                3. Kaitlyn*

                  I didn’t say that the manager controls the pay grade and salary. I said she controls the income, which, in a super basic level, she does: she’s the one who presumably can hire and fire and advocate for a raise or not. The optics here are terrible, and the employee is probably terrified that she can’t step out of line lest she lose her job and her housing.

          2. Tomacco*

            Oh man, all of this! Being renovicted is awful. I’m also in Ontario – specifically Toronto where the housing market is dire for both buyers and renters – and have had several friends kicked out by renovictions, or the good old ‘my family member is moving in’ trick. Some of these people had lived in their houses/units 15+ years, some had started families there etc. These were spaces they, and their children, considered home. Being given 60 days to shift their entire lives – find a new home and have the money to pay first and last’s rent, pack up your old home, possibly move the kids to a new school etc. – was traumatizing. As far as I know not a single one of them was offered the renovated unit at the new price.

            I was a renter for 20 years. Nearly all of my friends still rent. We’re not dumb, we know that renting comes with the inherent possibility of being asked to vacate. But some people either truly don’t understand the anxiety it causes, or they just don’t care.

            1. Bree*

              The previous tenant in my unit was evicted on that “moving family in” trick after living there for 14 years, but it sat vacant for the requisite year before the landlord moved me in, at drastically higher rent. I only found out when the poor woman showed up at my door and shared the story, and now I live in fear of the same thing happening to me once they feel my rent has fallen far enough below the market.

          3. Louise*

            Thank you for bringing up the horrible practice of renovictions, which is exactly what this landlord is trying to do. Not only does it destabalizing and make vulnerable people who are already disadvantaged (compared to the landlord) but it also is a main factor in gentrification. I truly hope this person recognizes the absolutely massive amounts of power they have as both the landlord and boss of their tenant/employee and, if they absolutely must evict this person, they do so as generously and compassionately as humanly possible when you’re goal is to make more money off of people’s necessity to have shelter.

        2. Antilles*

          And we don’t know the actual rent numbers, which make a difference
          We also don’t know how hot the local market is. There’s a huge difference between “apartment was empty for months on end” versus “we lost one month of rent, including the two weeks it took for renovation”.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I read the letter as meaning that the tenant currently pays $200 under market rent and that OP thought that they could get more than current market rent once the renovations were done, so the over all difference may be more than $200, but I may well have misunderstood!

      4. Librarian1*

        I would bet the OP lives in a high cost of living city where she could raise the rent by a lot more than $200 if she renovates.

  13. phira*

    Removed. You need to be kind here. You’re welcome to repost this without the personal attacks on the LW’s character if you’d like. – Alison

  14. Beth*

    OP3: Your local laws probably have regulations on when you can force a tenant to move out and whether renovation or hoping for a higher rent is a legitimate reason. From a “can I do this?” standpoint, that’s where you should start–this stuff varies from state to state and sometimes even city to city, so check your local ordinances and make sure you’re crossing all your t’s and dotting your i’s.

    From an interpersonal standpoint, though, I have to say that this is going to come off as a jerk move. Your employee will probably be pretty upset about it, even if you make it clear that it’s nothing personal and you follow all the rules. I would be if my landlord pulled something like this! I’d feel pretty screwed over if I, as a tenant who pays rent religiously on time, takes good care of my space, and isn’t very demanding maintenance-wise got kicked out of my place just because my landlord hoped to make a little more on it each month. It might be just business to them, but it’s my home and my life that gets uprooted, you know? I’d be warning my friends off renting from them for sure.

    I would expect it to spill over into work. I doubt your employee would go so far as to intentionally plot revenge to retaliate against you, but it’s normal for people to be upset and hurt when you do things that negatively impact them, and that will affect your relationship. If others hear about it (and you should expect them to; you can’t reasonably ask your employee to not tell her coworkers that she’s moving, or to keep quiet as to why), you should expect that at least some of them will think differently of you as a result, especially if you’re in an area where a lot of people rent and likely fear this kind of landlord behavior. In your shoes, I’d seriously consider whether $200 a month is worth it, or if this can be handled some other way.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree. I would be very hurt if my landlord kicked me out because they thought they could make more money from someone else. It would hurt double if they were my employer/friend/family and saw me as a whole person. I would think they were greedy and that would definitely cool our relationship at work. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable with that kind of person having veto power over my living space and my income.

      1. Perpal*

        I dunno, if they were planning to rennovate etc I imagine this is stuff that HAS to happen once and a while, or else the place will get disgusting / slummy.

        1. Ok, but*

          I dont understand why the LL doesn’t wait until the employee’s lease is up, notify them in advance that it will not be renewed because of renovations. To me it sounds like the LL wants the employee to move NOW…
          in which case, the landlord should be prepared to buy the employee out of their lease.

          1. TootsNYC*

            that may actually be what the OP is planning; maybe she just left out things like when the lease is up.

            Also, in many, many places, a tenant signs a 1-year lease to start, and when it expires, they go month-to-month. So there’s no expiration date to rely on.

          2. annony*

            To me it sounded like they are waiting until the lease is up (or the lease is month to month) and they want to not renew. I agree that if they are trying to get the employee out before the lease is done it is pretty awful and there is no saving the professional relationship after doing something like that.

        2. Beth*

          It does eventually have to happen, but unless someone’s been there for a decade, it’s probably not urgent from a safety/health/livability perspective. Most of my landlords have used the time between tenants to do their upgrades.

          1. Pommette!*

            Landlords can also make lots of maintenance-type renovations without evicting their tenants. Lots of people would rather put up with the inconvenience of renovations in their home than with be renovicted in an appreciating rental market. Plus, a good landlord can offer a rebate on rent (or other compensation, as appropriate) while the renovations happen.

      2. Washi*

        I mean, that’s kind of the deal when you rent. Your landlord isn’t giving you their home out of the kindness of their heart because they see you as a “whole person,” it’s a business transaction from which they are trying to profit. My landlord raises prices periodically and it’s an older apartment, so I know there is always the possibility that they’ll decide this is the year to renovate and I have to move. Which is why the OP should not have mixed her day job and landlord job, because those dynamics do not go well together!

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          Agreed. I think its kinda crappy everyone is jumping on the LW that they shouldn’t renovate their property in an effort to make more money. I am sure if you had some sort of avenue to create more income for yourself, you would take it. Renting is a business agreement. Businesses do all sorts of things, to generate more income for themselves. Renovating an apartment is one of them.

          1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

            I mean … no, I would not kick someone out of her home over two hundred bucks. I think that’s immoral, like many other things business do to generate more income for themselves, but shouldn’t.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              I think the crux of it is whether you view $200 as a lot or a little. Is this a geographic area where the rent on the apartment is $550/month and the $200 would be a major increase in income for a landlord? Or is OP in a big city where the average 1-bedroom is like $3,000/month? In some situations it seems kind of outrageous to evict a tenant in the hopes of an additional couple hundred bucks, but in others it might be reasonable.

              1. Washi*

                Yeah, I guess I’ve been kind of assuming $200 would be a meaningful increase in income, otherwise, as others have pointed out, it probably doesn’t even make financial sense.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Even if it is a $200/$300 raise on $3,000, over time it can add up, it gives you a larger basis for future rent increases. At $3,200 a rent of increase of $100 might seem more reasonable than when the rent was at $3,000. Once you have broke a certain threshold increases on that threshold don’t seem as harsh until you get near the next one.

                Depending on the scope of the renovations an apartment would only have to be out of commission for 2/4 weeks. That is $3k in lost income, and say the renovation costs $5k its a total of $8k/200=40 months or 3.33 years. Even at $10k in renovation costs for $13k total it would only take 5.4 years. If the apartment holds out for 10 years before needing another major renovation that is an extra $11,040 in revenue.

              3. yala*

                I think $200 is a lot.

                I also think this is a Not Okay Thing To Do, especially to your employee, who will have to see you on a regular basis.

                $200/mo is kind of a huge amount to me. But it doesn’t sound to me like LW is hurting for that money, just that they want More.

                I feel like if you’re not in a bad way, it’s just not worth hurting someone else for the sake of More.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  OP says “She pays $200 less and I know I can rent it out for more.” it seems the employee might be paying $200 under market value right now, but once it is renovated OP could charge more than $200, maybe even $400/500.

                  It will suck for the employee, but it is not OP’s responsibility to subsidize their housing.

                2. yala*

                  Sure, but there’s a middle ground between “subsidize Employee’s housing” and “kick Employee out”: raising the rent during the lease renewal.

                  If Employee got a special rate that OP can’t keep giving them, that’s something else entirely. But it seems like Employee should at least have the option of paying the market rate before being kicked out.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @yala I think normally that would be a good suggestion if this was solely a tenant/landlord relationship. But having the tenant work for the OP it makes it harder to recommend that. If OP says to the employee/tenant I need to raise your rent by $200-$400, the employee/tenant might then fear that if they refuse or can’t afford the increase, it could impact how OP views them at work.

                  I think that renting to an employee was not the best idea, and OP should take this opportunity to terminate the landlord/tenant relationship. Sure it might be tough on the employee/tenant to find a new place, but the situation would have been the same if it was a different separate landlord that decided to no longer rent to the tenant.

            2. Yorick*

              I don’t think we can say that the increase after renovation would only be $200. Also, even if it were, it’s $200 a month, which adds up to thousands in only 1 year. I’m assuming the renovations that are needed don’t have to be super expensive.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            I certainly value a person who’s probably paid less than the OP having a place to live more than I value profits for a manager well-off enough to afford owning investment properties.

            1. Joielle*

              I do too, but the manager certainly doesn’t, which I don’t think is actually unreasonable. I think that’s one of the major problems with rental property disputes in general – for one person, it’s their home, and for the other, it’s just business. Something objectively legal and reasonable from a business perspective feels really personal when you’re talking about making someone leave the place they live. It’s messy! And it’s why you should never rent to (or rent from) someone you work with.

            2. Scarlet2*

              Thank you. Sometimes I’m just depressed by people’s casual callousness. “Who cares if people become homeless as long as someone can recoup their *investment*?”

          3. yala*

            ” I am sure if you had some sort of avenue to create more income for yourself, you would take it. ”

            Nah, not if it hurt someone. Especially if I was doing comfortably enough for myself.

        2. yala*

          Yeah, but she did.

          Which puts her in this position, where things ARE different from most rental issues, and OP and Employee/Tenant have no choice but to interact on a regular basis.

          Employee is a real person with human emotions, and if OP does this wrong (and there are lots of kinds of wrong ways it could be done), then they’re going to feel pretty bad about it, and it WILL impact their personal reactions, because people can’t just turn that off and on.

        3. Bree*

          There are lots of places where there are limits on the actions a landlord can take to make a bigger profit, including certain conditions under which tenants can and cannot be evicted, as well as limits to the amount rent can be increased annually. This is because access to safe housing is a necessity, and completely unfettered capitalism in this area is bad for communities, families and vulnerable people. We don’t know the local circumstances for the LW or their tenant, but there is definitely a completely reasonable moral perspective on this issue more broadly beyond “business transaction.”

        4. Beth*

          Sure, it’s a business transaction. But most landlords don’t often kick good tenants out so they can rent at a slightly higher rate to someone else! Unless it’s massively under the local going rate, it’s not usually worth it–it can take a month or two to fill an open spot (in which you’re not getting paid) and you have no guarantee that your incoming tenant will be good (and evicting a bad tenant is really expensive). Most landlords just raise the rent a bit every so often (annually, in my experience), and treat the difference between that and the current market rate as the price of stability.

        5. Avasarala*

          Absolutely and it makes business sense for landlords to squeeze their tenants, for companies to squeeze their employees.
          And vice versa, for tenants to try to get the most from their landlord they can, for employees to try to get the most money for the least work.

          But that’s a really adversarial relationship and most people would prefer to have a more friendly, compromising relationship with their direct managers and landlords. So I’d be really upset if the person I see every day acted like this to me. She asked me how my weekend was, you KNOW how my weekend was, you evicted me just to get yourself a little extra cash! I agree that OP was wrong to mix these two categories together, you’re just asking for trouble.

          My country has stricter renter protections so I basically can’t get kicked out or have my rent raised. There’s no other option, nobody can buy a house. I really appreciate it because it’s like worker protections: I’m not doing this to make a profit, I’m doing this to live.

      3. WellRed*

        It’s a business relationship. I rent and would hate this, but at the end of the day, hurt feelings have no place here.

    2. Quill*

      That’s why you need to give PLENTY of notice for this to be a professional interaction. It takes a lot of time to move, after all.

      The fact that you work with this person? It will change how they see you. People who get kicked out by their landlord will be mad at them until precisely the point where they decide they like their new place better. People who see that landlord in the office every day as their boss will not let go of that so easily.

    3. pamplemousse*

      I’m seeing a lot of people saying how they’d hypothetically feel here and it seems to be getting a little dramatic. I’ve had a landlord tell me we’d move out when the lease was up, 2 months in the future, because they wanted to renovate. Friends of mine have lost apartments because their landlord unexpectedly moved back to the US, needed to move a family member into the unit, etc. All of these were after the lease was scheduled to be up or after it had gone month to month, with at least 2 months of notice.

      And yeah, it sucks, but it’s also part of renting. You don’t have to make a down payment, you don’t have to repair the boiler when it breaks, you don’t build up equity, and you don’t get to assume a place is your forever home.

      The biggest thing you can do is let your tenant stop paying rent the minute she finds a new place (even prorating the last month, if you can). The worst thing when this happened to me was that we got 2 months of notice and the landlord expected us to pay both months of rent. I was 24 and couldn’t afford to pay double rent plus a security deposit, so even though I knew I was going to be kicked out May 31, I couldn’t sign a lease that started earlier than June 1, which meant that I spent all of April basically just fretting about it (apartment and roommate vacancies in my city tend to be posted a month in advance at the most). And then they refused to refund our deposits. So yeah, those people were jerks. Be as unlike that as possible.

      1. Avasarala*

        I see it like worker protections–one party in this is doing it to make money (the company/landlord) and one is doing this because they have to to live (the worker/renter). The landlord is the one making bank on the deal, so they should absorb more of the inconvenience and risk. It’s not possible in many areas to buy a house instead of renting an apartment, that’s just the reality of city living. 2 months of notice to have to move your whole house is nothing. It’s a super stressful and expensive process. I don’t think you should kick someone out outside their lease agreement if it’s not for a very very good reason, and give them more notice than 2 months.

        1. Ico*

          Especially in the case of an individual landlord, the landlord is making money because they have to live, too. They aren’t (necessarily at least) just making money for the fun of it – it’s their job.

  15. MommieMD*

    I would just forget the Tarot stuff, move with positivity to the new job, and be happy you left crazy behind.

    1. Bostonian*

      I totally agree. I would be upset in OP’s position, but once the flames subside, it’s a reassurance that they’re exactly where they need to be now.

    2. Anon Here*

      Yeah, and reconsider your friendship with the person who told you you were fired because of a tarot reading.

      There could be some truth to the story, but it sounds like that person is looking for drama, trying to make you feel bad. I wouldn’t take what they say at face value. Just leave it all behind.

  16. Green great dragon*

    #2 – completely agree with Alison about jargon, but I have certainly seen rather overblown language from ex-academic colleagues. The Plain English campaign (plainenglish [dot] co [dot] uk) is obviously UK based but we use it a lot.

    The other difference I see is that in academia you present your idea, evidence it, cite your sources, explain your methods, convince people! In business, at least in my field, you are assumed to know what you’re talking about, so don’t tell us everything you did – jump to the conclusion, then tell them the impact.

    I also offer my own writing technique – write it, then rewrite to reduce the length by at least half without losing important info.

    1. GDUB*

      A FANTASTIC guide to writing clearly and concisely is by — surprise! — the U.S. Federal government. You can find the Federal Plain Language Guidelines at plainlanguage.gov. I use it all the time to help scientists and engineers write more understandable prose.

    2. Filosofickle*

      100%. I naturally came to the work world with an academic writing style, and after many years I still struggle to pare it down to conclusion + impact (and maaaaybe a few supporting points about process or counter-arguments) in business.

      My approach is the same as yours — ramble it out and delete at least half. It has completely changed the effectiveness of my written comms.

    3. juliebulie*

      That is my writing technique too. Someone asked if it wouldn’t be easier to write it the short way to begin with. (Hmm, if that were so, don’t you think that’s the way I’d be doing it?)

      If I try to keep my draft short, I needlessly sacrifice a lot of good stuff because I’m afraid the document will be too long. Better to write it all out first and then figure out how much I need to get rid of.

      And “how much to get rid of” is about concepts and thoughts, not the number of words. (Though junk like “you need to proactively utilize all of your knowledge assets prior to beginning your communication journey” gets crossed out, too.)

  17. PX*

    OP2: disagree slightly with Alisons posted advice (although her comment above is better) – don’t think about “jargon”, but do think about your AUDIENCE. Thats one of the biggest pieces of communication advice I ever received, and moving work environments absolutely can mean you need to adjust your writing style.

    I would say the biggest things are to make your writing clear and concise (you can never go wrong with that) and focus on what matters. So indeed, if your office is one that needs you to focus on highlighting business value above all else, then learn how to do that in a way which feels natural to you. But I do think learning how to tailor your style and message to what is important in your particular context is important.

    1. LGC*

      True – that’s kind of my read. The issue isn’t that LW2 can’t write in businessspeak, it’s that she’s struggling to write for her audience. Plus, I think that it’s valuable to be able to interpret jargon and not get dazzled by it. So for that piece, I do think it’s worth it for LW2 to figure out what people mean when they use it (and she’s already done so).

      As terrible as this suggestion is, read a lot of the emails you get and listen to the conversations. (You will likely hate yourself and hate me for this. I hate myself for suggesting you do this to yourself.) What are people focused on? Honestly, the one thing I’ve learned is that even if you’re not in sales directly, a huge part of office work is “selling” things – ideas, initiatives, processes, so on and so forth.

    2. LizardOfOdds*

      Agree with this assessment. In some organizations, people write and otherwise communicate using business language/terminology. At the very least, OP2 should know what those words mean so s/he can interpret the conversations happening around the office — but I would argue that OP2 should also consider adopting some of the words/phrases that are used around the office. You don’t need to go overboard, but using the same or similar business language as other people in the organization is a way to build affinity and trust in an organization that has a common language.

  18. Temperance*

    LW1: it sounds like you’ve been going through a lot. Don’t dwell on this, as yes it is strange … but it sounds like the issues were more performance based than on cards. It’s just going to damage you more to dwell.

  19. Sun Tzu*

    OP #2: “How do I learn to think and speak like a business professional?”

    Well, first you need to leverage an innovative paradigm of interaction wit the stakeholders; this, in synergy with the production of visionary communication-based initiatives, will be able to leverage adaptive change for the benefit of the company.


    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I had a visceral reaction to this post. That reaction surprised me. Made me want to scream “f**k you!” and punch somebody.

      I guess I now know how I feel about business jargon. So thank you for that.

    2. Quill*

      You just tactically killed my brain… my poor, poor, science major brain that likes Chlorofluorocarbons, Hexanol, and RNA synthase better than words that sound like you hit randomize on thesaurus.com’s word of the day for an entire sentence.

    3. MonteCristo85*

      Crimeny, that didn’t even sound confusing to me. You should see some of the stuff we put out…we had one officer who was so good a business speak that he could rewrite a note that I had given him, and I couldn’t even tell what it meant, and I was the one who gave him the information to begin with.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        See also, lawyers, legalese, and patent documents. “But it’s my invention, how come I don’t know what it does now?”

    4. CarolineChickadee*

      Any time I hear a new buzzword in a meeting, I add it to my “collection” in the back of my notebook. It makes jargon-filled meetings somewhat more tolerable. I have dreams of turning them into cards for my break room table, sort of like a corporate Cards against Humanity or Mad Libs.

  20. lauren19*

    op1 can you speak to your lawyer/solicitor? fired for a tarot reading is like being fired for not doing hail mary. im not catholic but you know where I am coming from? if it is was low performance and perhaps the manager didn’t like you. I got fired from a job 7 years ago because the two old crones didn’t like me, simples. they preferred to fire me rather than talk about it. they were cowards. id try it. hope you have an update. enjoy your new job. in time losing that old job was a blessing as you don’t want to be around people like that.

    1. Ico*

      It’s really not the same at all. Someone else consulting their spiritual advisor is very different than compelling you to perform a religious act.

    2. Allypopx*

      If the employee was fired for partaking or not partaking in a tarot reading, maybe. But that analogy doesn’t work in this situation.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      Would a lawyer really accept “someone told me this a year after the fact” as evidence? Most lawyers I know would laugh.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They’d have to get a sworn statement at least. Which is unlikely to happen. And I believe it would have to have been said directly from firing decision maker to that person testifying to the claim.

        But even then it’s he said, she said and weak. So most reputable attorneys would tell you to forget it unless they were previous acts of discrimination to point towards to fatten the arguement up.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          Exactly. Hence my comment to Lauren. “Get a lawyer” is completely ridiculous in this case.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Also can we all remember that most lawyers do not offer free consultations, so “talk to a lawyer” is a hefty price tag. “asking a lawyer” can cost you a hundreds. This is why most people do not have attorneys at their finger tips and why retainers exist!

    4. Yorick*

      The employee was not fired for a tarot reading. Did you read the letter? The boss did a tarot reading to decide whether to fire the employee. That means the boss was already considering it. A tarot reading isn’t going to come up with “fire EmployeeName” randomly – the tarot reading is in no way the reason that the employee was fired.

      1. LilySparrow*

        More than that – LWs sympathetic ex-co-worker *said* that a Tarot reading was part of the decision process.

        I’m sure if the boss practiced some other form of meditation or prayer, and used that time to finalize big work decisions, that would come back through the gossip chain as “she said God told her to fire you” or “she fired you because her crystals talked to her,” or something equally wackadoo.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I imagine it depends on local laws, but I dounbt it would be grounds for any kind of legal challenge as LW1 was not fired due to the tarot reading, she was fired due to poor performance. Where I am (UK) you would ned to show that the dismissal was unfiar or on the basis of a protected characteristic to be abl to challenge it, and I don’t see any suggetion in OPs letter that that was the case, although of course there may be different law where she is.

      I think it’s also different from being fired due to not saying a Hail Mary – the equivalent to that would be if she were fired for refusing to *particate* in a Tarot reading, what was done (if the coworker is right) was more like her being fired after the manager had ‘thought about the issue prayerfully’ or prayed for guidance.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #1 – It sounds like the OP has had a really rough year, and this was just the icing on the cake (or since icing and cake are good things, maybe this is adding insult to injury instead). But, this also strikes me the same way as the episode of Sex And The City where Carrie got dumped on a post-it note. It’s awful in the moment, but it’s also ridiculous enough that it will become a good story. I think OP would be best advised to move on and figure out how eventually this will become one of those stories.

  22. TimeTravlR*

    In federal govt there has been a push for a while toward plain language, especially in written documents. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but it never hurts to throw in some good descriptive words when you’re doing your self-assessment.

  23. Blisskrieg*

    Alison, if we haven’t already, can we have a post for worst examples of corporate jargon? I thought “swim lanes” was most awful until “socialize” came along. hahahaha. We could vote on worst individual phrase, but people could also submit email examples that were over-laden.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        Swim lanes is used a lot (at least in my experience) in Sales organizations. It actually means a good thing, which is let others focus on their jobs (it is not the same as “that’s not my job”–it is meant to show that everyone has a role and to coordinate. Unfortunately I’ve gotten used to the phrase and have actually used it myself–gulp. HOWEVER, I will NEVER use “socialize.” That is a promise. STUPIDEST thing I have ever heard.

        1. Yvette*

          Doesn’t that also go along with “stay in your own lane” as in worry about your job, make sure you are doing what you are supposed to be doing before you worry about other people’s responsibilities?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That’s exactly what it sounds like, so I’m not sure why they don’t just say that (though I hope no one is saying either version in business writing because yikes!).

          2. TootsNYC*

            a little bit, but when you’re talking about “swim lanes,” you are talking proactively and positively, not reactively and critically.

            You draw “swim lanes” on a diagram, each representing a department or function, and then you map out how a product/project moves along toward the finish line, moving from lane to lane.

            So the product/project is SUPPOSED to change lanes (into the hands of different people/departments/functions). You aren’t usually worried about shooing people out of someone else’s lane at that point in the conversation.

            “Stay in your lane” probably originated with driving on roads.

            1. TootsNYC*

              “swim lane” terminology came about because the diagram looks like an overhead view of a competitive swimming pool

            2. Diahann Carroll*

              This is very interesting – I never hear swim lanes, so had no idea where that came from. I still think it’s a goofy way to get the point across, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

            3. Blisskrieg*

              Agreed. Was thinking more about this. Rather than “that’s not my job,” it means “let me excel at my job so you can do yours.”

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Ooh, socialization is real in my office! You literally have to talk to enough of the right people enough times about any proposed change until they all think it’s a good idea, if not their own idea!

        1. pleaset*

          These are not the same thing – they overlap but are not identical if used properly. If used just to sound fancy, then yeah, that’s bad.

          1. Joielle*

            This is my only issue with all of this – I’m 100% in favor of plain language and writing without jargon, but some of these words have actual, distinct meanings that are important in context. Just because a word is rarely used outside of a business context doesn’t automatically make it jargon and therefore bad. For example – people keep bringing up “stakeholder” as an example of a jargon-y word, but I don’t know that there’s a better word for that specific concept! Anything else I can think of is either overly wordy or means something a bit different.

            You wouldn’t go to your doctor and demand they explain what’s wrong with you without using any medical terms, and I don’t think this is a lot different.

            1. Blisskrieg*

              I agree–it’s not all bad. I consistently use “close the loop” and don’t feel badly doing it. It conveys finishing an item in a business sense, taking care of a detail, etc., where “finalize” is too formal or too big of a word for what trying to finish.

    2. Llama Wrangler*

      My friend was just complaining that her company’s project management framework refers to staff members as “resources” — not just in the sense of “do we have adequate resources for this project?” but to the point that they say “I am assigning a resource to work on this” by which they mean a human being. I think that would drive me up a wall.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        YUCK. I can, barely, tolerate “resources” if you are talking about all the things you need to accomplish a goal. “What resources do you need?” “Well, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a corporate license for a performance-monitoring tool, and access to the database.”

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        My company uses resource to mean both people and things, and yet, I’m okay with that one. I get the ick factor, but we basically are resources for our employers – that’s kind of a given.

      3. Live & Learn*

        Mine uses resources that way too. “How many resources are needed?”= How many people. They also use FTE= full time assigned employee.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Swim lanes can be found in Microsoft Visio’s cross-functional flowchart templates. These are used to create separate areas for functions. They really do look like swimlanes viewed from above.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        That one has been around so long–good question! One I haven’t heard in a while is “land the plane.” That one I found silly and I’m not sad to see go, however, I am hearing “put that in the parking lot” a lot now. That one actually has a really good purpose, at least the way my one coworker uses. During meetings, any short and intermediate projects that are generated go into the “parking lot.” It’s meant as a holding bin–and she does circle back over next months and completes the projects. Putting in the parking lot during the meetings allows needs to be identified but keeps the meeting on track.

        I am also hearing “ask” (as a noun) instead of request and that one shows every signs of sticking around.

  24. Perpal*

    It’s my understanding that tarot cards generally show what you want them to show. So while this second hand information sounds unprofessional (take ownership of decisions!) I don’t think it’s worth being particularly incensed about.

  25. RKMK*

    I empathize with OP2 and I’m not sure the answer from Alison is helpful because I have the same problem and I think I’ve gotten conflicting advice reading her advice on resumes. For example, my resume traditionally listed the tasks and responsibilities I’ve completed and been responsible for, but The New Advice for resumes is “list your accomplishments! Show your value-add to the org!” But in academic admin, the ”value-add” can’t really be conveyed in the quantifiable metrics I’m told I should be including – there’s steady annual budget, no “bottom line” to really affect or sales to measure. There’s time saved from found efficiencies, but since I couldn’t time my predecessor on how long it took them to do certain tasks, I’m not sure how I can provide hard numbers on improved output without totally making it up. The “accomplishment” is that everything runs smoothly, and frustrations and complaints descrease … but again there’s no hard data to support that (just feedback like “oh things run so much more smoothly/ are so much better organized now!”) Trying to bullshit “accomplishments” and “successes” and “metrics” in an environment where that’s truly defined as “reliable, competent, and reliably competent” is hard.

    1. hbc*

      They don’t have to be hard numbers. It can be “decreased complaints” and “consistently met annual budget” and “became known for finding process efficiencies.” I mean, it’s great if you can say “decreased complaints by 50%” or “made processes more efficient, including reducing a 10 step process to 3 steps” or “cut turnaround time from 5 days to 2”, but if you don’t have those numbers, you can describe your accomplishments qualitatively.

    2. Qualia*

      Alison has had posts on how to do this when you don’t have quantifiable data to refer to before – try searching the archive. There’s one on November 6 2017 that addresses it, and I’m sure there have been others.

    3. Wintermute*

      “concrete accomplishments” is of limited applicability at best, you have to know your field.

      In my field, that’s laughable, in IT Ops all your accomplishments are in terms of abstract negatives that you may not even know didn’t happen because you don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t put “flagged spearphishing campaign that would have landed us on the front page news for a data breach” unless you can tell the future that may have been. “no serious breaches occurred,” “No one sued us,” “no one died,” there are roles where the accomplishments are mostly what didn’t happen and maybe a couple of projects or deployments and some tangential process improvements that aren’t really what they’re looking at closely. “oh she optimized their ticketing system, cool, but can she administrate a 500-user llamanet 12.2 system?”

      What they do care about in IT is exactly what you did and can do. They want to know exact responsibilities because no one wants someone learning a new skill on production systems with the business on the line. They want to know what you used, what you did, what systems, what languages, what vendor equipment. I have a whole section on my resume that just lists software I’m proficient in broken down by type and whether my experience is as a user or administrator. I’ve had very good luck with it.

      So it really is a matter of knowing your field, what hiring managers value in that field, and what will set you apart. Ask yourself “when I look for a ______ how can I tell a good one from a bad one?” In some fields that’s concrete examples of things they accomplished other people would not have. In others it’s a wide range of technical skills and expertise in the exact equipment I have. Other managers might want to know you’ve exceeded sales targets and by how far. In others it’s someone who has done work in an environment that I am looking to develop my team into (how I got my current job, they’re transitioning to a network operations center model and I had experience as one).

  26. Phillip*

    Do other folks consider “deliverables” to be jargon? It’s admittedly not something I’d say in casual conversation, but I use it practically daily for work and would wanna train it out of my vocab if it’s “creating synergistic solutions” level goofball officespeak.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      It is definitely jargon, but at least it has some meaning. Although I would prefer to hear more specific language. What exactly are you delivering? The problem with most jargon is that it is vague.

      1. Phillip*

        Ah, gotcha. I pretty exclusively use it when defining exactly what they’ll be (e.g. the deliverables for this project are x and y), so I’m probably ok on vagueness, but I think I’ll reexamine anyway in case the usage is redundant.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yeah, the English major in me would prefer to phrase that as “We need to deliver x and y by a particular date”.

          Business jargon like to make nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, and verbs in adjectives (this case).

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Yes, you define them clearly and then use them as shorthand – same as “outcomes” and “outputs”

              2. pamplemousse*

                Being concise and being clear are sometimes in opposition. “Sought input from stakeholders to ultimately determine deliverables” is admirably concise but doesn’t mean anything. Whereas “Met with students, parents, and local community members to ensure our partnership was addressing the right problems'” is longer but gives me a clear idea of what the person actually did.

                1. pleaset*

                  Whether or not that sentence has meaning or not depends on the context, including the information around it and the audience’s knowledge. For example, if stakeholders is being used as shorthand for a list and the writer and readers know what’s on that list, the use of that word has meaning in that sentence.

                  Here’s a word that I think you’d agree has lots of meaning, but in this sentence we cannot tell what the meaning is: “Yes.”

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah in my experience there’s a list associated with the project. “The deliverables are a, b, c…j” and then in all other references to that project, saying just “the deliverables” is fine, and not inherently vague if you’re talking to people on the project. They had that list. So they know that phrase is shorthand for all the things that were listed. But if someone is speaking generally and tossing about “deliverables” it becomes incredibly vague.

          1. pleaset*


            And sometimes deliverables is not vague if the point of the discussion is not those things but something else, such as workload or success rates: “Two years after the hiring freeze, more than half the departments reported being overworked, missing deadlines on a wide variety of deliverables.”

            There are jargon words that tend to be abused, but most words can be fine if used properly.

            And to get back to the OP, in a resume, being clearer about what the deliverable are would be stronger.

        3. Diahann Carroll*

          Your example is fine because you explained what you meant by “deliverables” – Jedi Squirrel is right that the problem with buzzwords and jargon is that these concepts are never fully explained in written communication and are, therefore, vague and meaningless.

      2. pleaset*

        Here is clear and proper use: “What are project’s deliverables?”
        To which someone can answer with the details.

        We could also say “What will the project produce?” which has almost the same meaning.

        Oh – I see Phillip gives a clear example of use of the term.

    2. Quill*

      I never heard deliverables in real life until I started a job where I actually, physically have to send legal documents to be delivered until other countries. But at least it’s a pretty straightforward adaptation of a verb into an adjective to a noun, such as turning “things we can eat” into “edibles.”

    3. MonteCristo85*

      The issue is definitely vagueness. If you use it like “the deliverables for this project are xxx” it is fine and dandy. If you put it on a resume or a review like “deliverables provided on an as needed basis” that tell you absolutely squat.

    4. Mockingjay*

      We work on government contracts, which have a Deliverables section listing products and services to be provided. So in our case, it’s not jargon.

    5. Yorick*

      Most of the time it’s still pretty jargony. When I’ve seen it used recently, it’s often telling us what we need to do. Like, “Yorick, you have the following deliverables for the next meeting on 11/10: x, y, z.” Sure, I get what they mean, but I’d rather they said, “Yorick, please prepare x, y, and z for the next meeting.”

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This is an even better example of how to simplify things so as not to be overly reliant on jargon in the first place. It’s the exact same sentence, just clearer and better.

      2. Jedi Squirrel*

        The problem with the first one is also that you aren’t telling anybody to do anything. The second is clearly a request.

        Believe it or not, some people don’t pick up on these things.

    6. LQ*

      I hope not. Deliverables based contracts are a huge thing for us. And when you talk about that you talk a lot about what those deliverables should be.

      It also makes me think…sometimes stuff that sounds jargoney to some is really well defined and clear within that area of work. Folks just start saying deliverables instead of, “ya know, the stuff you need to give us before we pay you because we pay you for making things, not for talking to us.” Because people use shorthand. It’s very human.

    7. Susan Calvin*

      I’m not a native, but frequent professional speaker of English, and I’m pretty baffled by that as well (“stakeholders” too). Sure they’re unnecessarily vague if you could just be saying “report” or “end user” but if you need to cover multiple things or groups, or are indeed asking about it because you don’t *have* more specific information yet, then they’re literally the most succinct terms I can think of.

  27. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Has OP3 considered asking her tenant/employee to pay the higher rent the next time the lease comes up for renewal?

    In my state, a landlord can’t kick a tenant out (even if the lease runs out and it’s now month-to-month) unless you intend to rent to family. Even then it’s hard if you’re not fully selling to immediate family. Make sure you’re up on relevant laws.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes, I would rather my landlord raised the rent (a reasonable amount) than evicted me. My landlord does actually raise the rent $25 to $100 every year.

      1. yala*

        Same. Ours has gone up, and I’m more or less fine with that (even tho the office has gotten worse, and keeps finding ways to charge folks over other things), because we’ve put a lot of effort into making it our home, and it’s a good location.

        I don’t see why proposing a rent increase on the next lease renewal wouldn’t be the first step. If you get Employee paying something closer to market rate, then that just seems to make more longterm sense, so long as they’re a good tenant, and then remodel when they move out organically.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, I’m just thinking “…ask her? Maybe she’d be fine with that, especially with some notice.”

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      Wait, so otherwise you have to keep renting to the same people until either they die or they move of their own choice? What does “month-to-month” mean then?

  28. Mike C.*

    Yeah, telling OP3 to be happy with the rent they’re collecting and not try to further press the massive conflict of interest they create by being both landlord and manager with a say in raises and benefits is constructive advice.

    1. Mike C.*

      1. Gives employee larger than usual raise. No one else realizes this because the wages aren’t transparent.

      2. OP charges more for rent, effectively getting a cut of that raise. OP can then effectively squeeze their employee because they have detailed information about wages, benefits and raises employee receives.

      3. Profit.

      1. suzy q*

        Yeah even the appearance of this possibility seems like a good reason not to be in a landlord-and-employer situation to me!

      2. mf*

        This is a really good point. I’m sure OP3 isn’t exploiting her/his employee in this manner, but it could certainly appear that way to the employee, their coworkers, and management.

        OP3 should really rope in HR and let them know about this conflict of interest right away. And yeah, it’s the smart thing to do to just wait until the employee’s lease is up to kick them out of their apartment.

      3. pamplemousse*

        Yep. THIS. This is a huge and uncomfortable conflict of interest. And it can come about without any malicious intent; just knowing that your renter is going to get a raise of $200/month might make you more open to bumping the rent $50/month, for example, even if that’s not consciously part of your thought process.

        If it’s at all possible, I’d actually encourage OP to forgo the renovations for a year and get their tenant moved to a new manager immediately. Then you can deal with your tenant when they are just your tenant (and coworker, but that’s a lot better than tenant and direct report, yeesh).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        He’s referring to commenters saying that, not me, because I removed a comment from him (which attacked the OP) and left the others up.

        Mike, “constructive” doesn’t mean “advice we all agree with.” It means “advice that attempts to help solve the problem without engaging in personal attacks.”

        1. Mike C.*

          First off, there isn’t a problem here to be solved. The vast majority of landlords will just wait until the end of the lease to raise rent. Here the OP wants to break the lease, kick out the tenant out early, renovate and raise rent – all without “causing problems at work”. You yourself regularly tell people that sometimes the thing they want to do isn’t the smart thing to do – that’s constructive advice, not a personal attack. The “problem” solves itself if they just follow the law and wait rather than trying to find an unethical way to make a little more money. It’s also not a personal attack to point out the massive externalities that these sorts of schemes cause in our communities.

          Telling the OP that they shouldn’t try to kick out their tenant early isn’t a personal attack. Neither is telling them that they should consider the risk of replacing a known good tenant for someone who might not pay on time, damage the unit and so on.

          Furthermore, warning the OP about the massive conflict of interest they have in this situation is also constructive advice, and not in any way a “personal attack”. I’m not sure how you missed this, but surely you would have a problem with the idea of managers who help determine wages also determine their rent.

          I’m not sure where you get the idea that I expect everyone to agree with what I’m posting, I’m honestly really confused about that one.

          Oh, and I’ve had bosses that owned the building their employees lived in. They were all H1-B visa holders and it was incredibly special watching them scream that if they weren’t willing to work 6-7 days a week, not only would they lose their jobs, they would be evicted as well. Then deported.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Whoa, the letter says nothing about breaking the lease. I’d have given a very different answer if it did (namely: no). But that’s just not in the letter.

            Of course giving advice isn’t a personal attack. I removed your earlier comment because you attacked the character of the letter writer (after having been warned in the past not to do that). We’ll leave this here.

            1. LQ*

              I assumed it would be breaking the lease too. Otherwise you’d just say, hey we aren’t going to renew the lease. That’s not a big deal. I mean, be kind about it and give plenty of notice. But I fully assumed it was a break the lease to do this, which was why I was surprised the advice wasn’t, just wait.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                In the areas I’m familiar with, you can’t break the lease to renovate (unless you pay their temporary living expenses and they’re allowed to move back in afterwards); that’s the whole point of a binding lease agreement. So I don’t think that’s the case here but if it is, I’d certainly have a different take on it. (I assumed they’re on month to month or she’s planning to have her leave at the end of the leasing term.)

            2. a1*

              Is this why so many people are up in arms? They thought OP wanted to break the lease? I did not get that at all from the letter. What an odd assumption. There’s nothing in the letter about breaking a lease. I was so confused why people were calling this an eviction. It’s not! No wonder.

            3. JamieS*

              Are you assuming there is no lease? If OP is trying to kick out the tenant as opposed to not renewing the lease there either is no lease or they’re attempting to break it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m assuming they’re on a 30 day lease or she’s talking about having her move at the end of the lease term. (She can’t just break the lease; that goes to the “you need to follow applicable laws” part.)

                1. JamieS*

                  Well yeah legally they can’t do that. That doesn’t mean that’s not what they’re trying to do. Maybe OP just phrases things poorly but I don’t know any landlord, for reference I know about a dozen personally, who phrases not renewing a lease (written or an implied month to month) as kicking someone out. That combined with jumping to being worried about being accused of retaliation with no other reason to jump to that conclusion (such as a tense work relationship) has my BS radar buzzing.

    2. Colette*

      If the OP were considering renting to her employee – or hiring her tenant – this would be good advice, but this is the situation she has right now, and it’s easy to see how it could have happened without either of them deliberately choosing it. (Tenant gets hired as the same company as the OP and then get moved).

  29. Jedi Squirrel*

    OP #2:

    Please, please, please don’t ever use the word “impactful”, no matter how many times you see someone in business use it. It is devoid of meaning.

    Simple, plain English is always best. I definitely recommend reading Strunk and White, and Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”.

    1. Rugby*

      See, I think “impactful” is simple, plain English. It’s used regularly in my industry and I don’t think people would consider it jargon because it has a pretty clear definition that doesn’t need to be explained.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        It literally means “full of impact”. Okay…..what kind of impact? I have yet to find an instance where this word is used where it clarifies or adds any meaning to a paragraph.

        1. Rugby*

          Right, it means “full of impact”. I don’t know how much more clear it can get. Of course you would want to use it with other words to describe to type and extent of the impact and in some cases and there may be other words that better convey what you’re trying to say, but that doesn’t mean its meaningless.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            Yeah, you can use other words, but at that point, it’s superfluous.

            “This will be impactful in a beneficial way.”

            No. How about just:

            “This will be beneficial.”

            That’s the problem with jargon–you’re always reaching for words which are vague and for which much clearer words already exist.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Yup. And to use your second sentence, “This will be beneficial,” the next question is, how? The writer would then say something like, “This will be beneficial to the user because the software will cut unnecessary rework and result in a cost saving of 40%” or whatever. This shows how the software is impactful without the author just telling us it is.

            2. Clisby*

              Yes. I’m trying to think of an example where “impactful” adds anything, and I’m coming up with nothing.

          2. Avasarala*

            This will have an impact.
            This will be meaningful.
            This will be effective.
            This will work.

            Any of these are clearer than impactful…which isn’t a word…

    2. Quill*

      Anything that gets picked up as a buzzword by business as a whole looses its meaning until they loosen their grip.

      “Game changer”

    3. Lady Jay*

      Oooo, impactful is one of my least favourite words in the English language. It sounds as though it’s related to ahem bodily functions. Whenever possible I use synonyms: effective, meaningful, moving, inspiring, etc.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It sounds as though it’s related to ahem bodily functions.
        And just like that, impactful became one of my favorite words! A businesslike way to say “this is full of sh!t”? Awesome!

    4. Isabel Kunkle*

      Ugh, yes. Likewise, your molars or your bowels or the face of Mercury can be impacted, but third-quarter spending cannot be. It’s affected. “Impacted” means either you’re trying to over-hype whatever’s influencing the third-quarter spending, and you are Brent from Sales, and you also talk really loudly on speakerphone at your desk, and I hate you, or you don’t remember the difference between “affected” and “effected” and should really learn to Google that.

      Also: it’s “spending” or “budget” or “expenditures”. “Spend” is only a noun in Victorian porn.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Funny, when I lived in CA “impacted” was the state university’s system for a degree program that had more students enrolled than there were available classes, and thus if you selected that major you would not be graduating anywhere near on time. I managed student employees at the time, they all hated it.

  30. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – as Alison said, you’re getting this information about the tarot cards second hand, and who knows how the person telling you got the information. The tarot card thing may be true, but unless you hear something first hand, you have to take everything with a grain of salt. With that aside, look at this from your new manager’s perspective. Yes you had a terrible year, but they have no history with you. All they’re seeing is a low performer, with little to no improvement. I’m not saying what was done was right or fair, but try to move on and not dwell on it.
    #5 – let it go. Yes it’s annoying when you take time to interview and fill out a ton of paperwork, but nothing with a job hunt is guaranteed. Reach out ONCE and ask for an update, and if they don’t respond move on. Letting them know of your frustrations will only count against you.

  31. Annony*

    Wait, why should someone’s pastor have a say in anyone’s firing either?? I get that it’s legal, but I would have to say it’s still Not Cool. I understand there were performance problems in this case that might have warranted a firing, but in general I would really hope that people keep their religion out of the workplace (especially if that means firing someone!). Firing and hiring decisions should not be left to religious authorities who have no clue what’s going on at the company.

    1. Rugby*

      Religious counseling usually doesn’t involve telling people what to do or making decisions for them. It’s more like helping people think through their options and come to the best solution. Not much different than talking to a friend.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Have you ever talked through your options for a tough decision you need to make with a trusted person? This is no different. The other person isn’t making the decision, they are helping the person frame their thoughts to make it themself.

      1. Annony*

        But what about someone being a pastor (or a friend, or a trusted person) makes them qualified to understand the business implications of firing a person at a company they do not work at? If you’re having a hard time deciding whether to fire someone, shouldn’t you talk to your boss about it? Or someone related to the business?

        Now, if they’re talking to their pastor or friend about how to cope with their own feelings of guilt associated with having to fire someone– I totally respect that. But that’s them asking their pastor about themself, not an employee.

        1. Allypopx*

          It’s not meant to be advisory, or require deep knowledge of the subject matter. All counseling through tough decisions will follow a basic formula with “what are the pros, cons, outcomes, alternatives” and then once you talk YOURSELF to the right answer it’s “so what’s bothering you then?” It’s guidance through the thought process, not expert input.

          1. Tyrion*

            That is correct, and saying such counseling from a pastor “isn’t meaningfully that different” to goddamn tarot cards is utterly ridiculous.

            1. pamplemousse*

              Tarot cards aren’t fortune cookies or ouija boards. They essentially use a set of symbols and tropes to help you come to an answer on your own, through, basically, the process Allypopx describes.

              Let’s say I draw a tarot card with the question “What should I do about my underperforming employee” in mind? And I get the wheel: change, cycles, inevitable fate. I could interpret that as meaning that, yes, it’s time for a change and letting this person go is inevitable (“change”). Or I could interpret it as a reminder that the employee is at a low point in his/her life right now and I should wait for their wheel to turn around and put them back on top (“cycles”). Or I could mean it as saying that I shouldn’t take any action at all, because it’s all out of my hands (“inevitable fate”!).

      2. Mike C.*

        So when Pastor Bob says that you should all the gay folks because that’s what God would want, that’s something we should support?

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Yes, that is exactly what I said. *eyeroll*

          My point is that it’s not inherently a bad thing for someone to seek outside counsel about a tough decision. There is a difference in doing that and informing decisions based on religious/spiritual beliefs.

          1. Jennifer*

            Exactly. People consult others all the time about major decisions that will affect the lives of others. Divorce, children, moving, career changes, etc. Sometimes you need a sounding board.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          Yeah I didn’t understand that part of Alison’s answer (equating the tarot cards to a pastor…they’re both inappropriate in this context imo).

          Though if the boss really did say this to someone there (A tarot reading convinced him that OP was the source of all the problems), that’s a sign of lunacy

        3. LilySparrow*

          Well, Im sure you realize that in countries that have freedom of religion, people get to choose their own church and pastor, and normally choose one that they agree with.

          So you’re not really gonna accidentally wind up with a pastor who tells you to fire all the gay folks, unless you already believed that.

          Just like if you asked your pastor or your card reader or your bff “Have I cut this person enough slack? Where is the line between empathy and unsustainable bad performance?” You’d get an answer that is just a clarification or confirmation of your own opinions.

      3. Isabel Kunkle*

        Well, hopefully. I’ve listened to friends who’ve needed to make hard business decisions, and I’m all for talking things through with trusted outsiders, but I’ve also encountered situations where someone in the “trusted person” position absolutely would use it to advance their own agenda–“you should definitely fire Bob (because he’s gay, but I’m not saying that),” or “don’t promote Karen (because she’s dating my ex)” or whatever.

        So yes, *but* be really careful who you’re trusting, and, because your co-workers/employees/etc have no idea whether the outsider you trust is actually trustworthy and objective, maybe don’t let it get around that you talked with them about the issue.

    3. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

      I think talking to your pastor is more likely to be like talking to your therapist than like asking a religious authority to issue a decision for you.

    4. a1*

      It’s not “getting a say”. It’s counseling someone who has this decision to make, or has made. And not counseling on how to be a manager or run an office or the anything like that. But in how they feel, is it moral/ethical, etc. It’s be manager coming to them and saying something like “I need to fire someone and it’s eating me up inside” and taking it from there.

      1. Annony*

        Well Alison said “plenty of people involve their faith traditions while making difficult decisions” which seems different from what you’re talking about. I understand talking to a pastor about your own personal feelings, morals, ethics, etc.. but involving them in difficult [business] decisions seems like a major overstep to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          To clear this up, by “involve their faith traditions while making difficult decisions,” I mean — pray, seek counseling on sorting through your conflicted feelings, etc. Not “ask religious leader to decide for you.”

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            That makes sense, but if this was really said, i think it’s way over the top: “boss who fired me consulted a tarot card reader who said that my leaving would solve their problems.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I mean, most firings are to “solve a problem.” The problem is “I’ve been coaching this person for a while and their performance isn’t where I need it.”

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                Right, I meant more that the boss would tell others that a tarot card reader told them this… maybe it’s me but that strikes me as odd,

                1. Clisby*

                  As someone who has enjoyed Tarot cards (no need to get some outside reader; anybody with any self-insight can do this) I also think it’s odd that the boss would have mentioned it. I’d think it was odd if the boss had mentioned talking it over with her husband or with a rabbi, or whatever. Not odd that they did it – but they’d bring that up at work.

          2. Annony*

            Thank you for this clarification! I understand your point now (and am less freaked that I could be fired because my boss’s pastor thinks a women’s place is in the home or something similar!)

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It happens all the time. The key is most people keep it to themselves that they were counseled by whomever they consulted.

      Pastor. The bosses wife. The local cat that hangs out by the backdoor. It’s not rare to seek business advice from random places.

    6. Lynn Whitehat*

      I work in software, and we have a concept of “rubber duck debugging”. Stuff isn’t working, and you’ve hit an impasse trying to figure out why. So you explain what’s going on and what you’ve tried, etc, to a rubber duck. (Maybe you literally get one for the purpose. Or tell your coffee mug or potted plant or pet. Or whatever.) And it often works to clarify things! Not because the rubber duck knows anything about software. But just the act of getting your thoughts out of your head and laying them out in some kind of linear fashion can be clarifying.

      Talking to a human being, even one with no expertise in the subject (maybe even especially one with no expertise) can be even more illuminating because they can ask questions, like “what have you tried?” or “have you ever seen something like this before?” Not that you would actually put the decision in the hands of someone with no subject matter knowledge. But sometimes you can reason things out for yourself if you stop hamster-wheeling and lay out the situation for someone else (human, avian, or imaginary).

      1. Joielle*

        That makes perfect sense, but the rubber duck doesn’t bring its own biases to the table. If you talk out the problem with a rubber duck, there’s no risk that the duck will tell you “It sounds like you should let Karen go. She seems… difficult.” when the duck really doesn’t like that Karen is an outspoken woman. Whereas if you talk it out with a pastor, or tarot card reader, or really any other human, you do run that risk.

        Of course, this isn’t to say that people should only talk out business issues with inanimate objects. But you have to wonder about the judgment of a boss who would take that risk, AND apparently not understand that it was a risk, AND tell an employee about it.

    7. Typhon Worker Bee*

      Totally agree. This isn’t “consulting tarot cards is like consulting a pastor – totally fine”, but rather “consulting a pastor is like consulting tarot cards – totally unacceptable, keep it out of your secular workplace please”

  32. Anagram*

    Regarding #2, I’ve been in industries where not using the lingo and the buzzwords (and not following the changing lingo fashion) meant that you were “not in the loop”, or even literally underqualified, which obviously reflects on salary dynamics and bonuses. Good thing my roles were outside the “profit centers”.
    After a two-year gap around 2012-2013, still curious about what a “roadmap” is.

    1. Ali G*

      You just need to circle back with Jane, she can fill you in on the new Roadmap, and how it fits in with the long-term strategic plan and your annual KPIs for the year.

      1. Anagram*

        Yeah yeah, still drawing a blank there :) The rest I’ve seen before switching languages.
        As a translator and editor, I resent the buzzing, the obfuscating, and the lack of substance. Sometimes it also feels like everyone is their own version of Humpty Dumpty.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      A road map is a plan of how you want to develop the business, usually over the next 1-5 years. So maybe now you only make chocolate teapots, but next year you want to branch into chocolate coffee pots, and the year after that chocolate tea and coffee mugs.

      1. Anagram*

        Thanks, that’s what I would normally infer when I came across this first. But when a word turns into a buzzword… Argh.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      A roadmap is generally a high level outline of plans for the future. In software it’s “features we’re considering for the future but don’t have concrete plans for now”. I’m simplifying but that’s the gist.

    4. Anon for this*

      I’ve been looking for a good place to make my comment on how use/failure to use the up-to-date lingo is being perceived, and this subthread might be that place. I had a work peer suddenly switch from talking in normal English to talking and writing entirely in buzzwords after their job title/responsibilities changed. I was very alarmed (granted, I am easily alarmed) and did my best to keep my distance from the person. My understanding of the sudden change was that this person has decided to pursue management career and to do whatever it takes to get as close to the top as possible, so I cautiously got out of their way. You never know when the person decides that one of the obstacles standing between them and the management position that they desperately want is somehow you.

      I also had coworkers come to me asking to translate this person’s emails: “I know this is English, but I have no idea what it says”. I happily obliged. Just because I don’t speak the lingo, doesn’t mean I don’t have good reading comprehension of it.

      Thankfully in my field, I’ve only seen massive overuse of the lingo from 1) the C-level execs when they talked to us in townhall meetings, 2) people who really wanted to be C-level, but couldn’t get there just on their merit and skillset. The best managers I’ve had, at least 2-3 levels up, were able to get ahead very well using plain English. I do understand that this varies by field, and consider myself fortunate that mine is the way it is.

      PS we don’t use roadmap where I work, or maybe it went out of style and is no longer used, so I’m now curious what it is.

  33. Blessed with Flushable Turds*

    Business Jargon 101: Use nouns where verbs would make sense, and be sure to verb nouns in place of actual verbs.

    1. suzy q*

      I really feel like you architected actionable learning for us here. Must’ve been a heavy lift! But here’s my ask: can you sum up BizJar 202 just as pithily?

  34. CupcakeCounter*

    I’m assuming you have a proper lease with your tenant/direct report? If so, just inform them that due to upcoming renovations you will not be able to renew the lease. Let them know ASAP so they have time to look for another place. I would also let them know that after realizing how tough this conversation was that you will no longer be able to have a landlord/tenant relationship with them as it is a conflict of interest with day job. Be as accommodating as possible as the others have said above and offer to provide a great reference to other landlords.
    Leave the $200 out of it – renovations and the conflict are enough and most adults will understand even if they don’t like it at first.

    1. MonteCristo85*

      Yeah, this is the best way to handle it. Personally, I think you should give someone 3 months to move on a non emergency basis, but I just kind of pulled that number out of the air.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        90-days sounds about right. But I think the big thing is how you handle this as a boss and how you handle this as a landlord. So I think I would ASK something like this: “We’re going to be renovating the building you live in, and that includes your apartment. What do you want to do about this? How can I help as both a boss and a landlord? Here are some of the options I would propose. Also, in some ways I’d be more comfortable if you moved, because that would solve a conflict of interest for me… If you don’t like the options I’m offering, do you have any options you’d like me to consider?” Make it a matter of problem-solving together.

        I’ll note two other things. First, rents have skyrocketed because of the recession of 2008. We didn’t build much because money had dried up, but the population kept increasing, which increases demand. But now we’re starting to build lots of new housing units, and that means that demand will go down, bringing rents down along with it. So I’m not sure I’d spend much money on a big renovation right now – rents will not be increasing, at least not due to the kind of overwhelming demand we saw from 2008 to the present.

        Lastly, something makes me think your employee is underpaid. I would give some careful consideration to what your employee’s salary should be, and I would check what other’s are getting paid for similar jobs locally, as a matter of basic fairness, as a matter of employee retention, and because of the chance that your employee could misinterpret the apartment issues as “My boss doesn’t like me.”

      2. Becky*

        Frankly, I would give even more than 3 months notice if possible. Housing markets in a lot of places are tight. Last year I was informed in August that the unit I was renting was going to be sold so I could not renew the lease when it ended in January. That gave me time to save, look and prepare for moving. Even then it was immensely stressful because there are so few affordable rentals (I make too much to qualify for housing assistance but still not enough to be able to afford the rents on most places).

        Fun fact: the owner ended up deciding not to sell and so offered to extend the lease again–two days after I signed a contract for a new place.

        1. MonteCristo85*

          I agree about giving more time if necessary, but I personally wouldn’t leave it open ended. I’d set a time frame, and then check in with the tenant 30 before then, and make sure that they had everything squared away, and give more time then if needed. Simply because in my experience if you make it too open ended they may not even try to find another place (especially if they are in a particularly cheap place, which I bet they are since the landlord is expecting to raise the rent).

          Of course this is all separate from being the boss and the landlord, which I don’t think should have ever happened in the first place (I would NEVER rent to someone I knew and interacted with outside of just the landlord/tenant relationship). This needs to be super open and above board. No ambiguity at all.

    2. Jimming*

      Yeah I agree. I think the conflict of interest is the best reason to cite. The employee may even feel awkward renting from her boss so giving her time to move out to preserve the working relationship is a good strategy.

      1. a1*

        This was my thought as well. It’s not a good idea to be the landlord to someone you also manage. It *is* a conflict of interest. I’ve been so confused as to the outrage at the thought of not renewing the lease with employee. I don’t get the vitriol to the OP here. This is a clear conflict of interest and something needs to change.

    3. Bree*

      Just clarifying because I’ve seen this suggestion a lot – in some jurisdictions, when a lease ends it automatically converts to month-to-month, and there are still restrictions about when and how a landlord can legally ask the tenant to leave. Obviously I don’t know if this applies to the LW.

      1. MonteCristo85*

        Obviously I can’t speak to every single jurisdiction, but in my experience, when it transfers to month-to-month, you just need to give 30 days notice to end it. But what you can legally “get away with” and what is right are not necessarily the same thing.

  35. Luna*

    #1 — I want to know how this new boss reacts upon realizing that firing the LW was not the solution for whatever problem was, apparently, going on.

  36. Lime green Pacer*

    LW4, it’s been many ears now since Jean Chrétien’s was the prime minister of Canada, but his facial paralysis was a very minor issue. At one point, his own political ads addressed it, saying: “Strange-looking face, but think about what’s on the inside.” When his Bell’s Palsy became part of a political attack, his response became legendary: “It’s true that I speak on one side of my mouth. I’m not a Tory, I don’t speak on both sides of my mouth.” Link below.

    1. Wintermute*

      That’s a comeback right up there with Lincoln’s “If I had two faces do you think I’d use this one?” as far as turning an ugly personal attack on your appearance into a devastating retort.

  37. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP #3: I would be very interested in knowing a bit more about the actual lease, whether the resident is, say, smack in the middle of it or towards the end, the length of the lease that they signed, etc. Because if they have upheld their end of the lease, sure, you can still non-renew them (but give lots of notice so they know it is coming well in advance and you aren’t being a jerk), but kicking them out before the lease is over with no cause is 1) not okay, 2) possibly something they can contest. In short, non-renewal (with plenty of notice because that’s what good landlords/people do), yes. Kicking them out before the lease is over when they have upheld their end of the lease, nooooooooooooo.

    1. Joielle*

      This! If the boss/landlord scrupulously follows the established legal procedure for this situation, then I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Does it suck for the tenant? Yep. I rented for many years before buying a house and had my lease non-renewed once, and it was a bummer (moving sucks!), but something you know can happen when you rent.

      I’d give even more notice than required, if possible, as a good-faith effort to minimize the impact, and take this as a lesson not to rent to (or from) anyone you work with in the future.

      MAYBE, one possible wrinkle, is if the boss knows that the employee makes minimum wage, or is really hurting for money for whatever reason, and moving will be a serious hardship. In that case, the boss could do more to help – like giving back the deposit early, possibly helping find or hire a mover, sourcing free moving boxes, etc.

  38. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

    At least the rabbi or pastor or other spiritual leader can articulate a line of reasoning! Getting advice from a spiritual leader makes sense because they can explain how the decision aligns with their ethos and approach to the world. Tarot cards cannot do that. I would think that a manager is hired, in part, based on their good judgement, and using tarot cards does not seem like the same thing as using judgement.

    1. Lady Jay*

      Yeaahhhhh, as a religious person myself, I wouldn’t consider tarot cards to be in the same vein as seeking advice from a pastor / rabbi / imam / etc.

      This is not to say that OP should challenge the firing, though Allison gives a few good reasons why should could effectively do so. But there seems to be something different about reaching out to a human spiritual leader for a mutual conversation, and using tarot cards in a one-sided, mystical interaction.

      1. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

        I agree! I have seen some folks in this thread say that the tarot cards were probably only used to confirm what the manager already wanted to do. But, using the cards implies that there was some card that could have been pulled that would have *saved* the LW’s job, right? I could be totally mistaken about that, since I don’t know the details of how these cards work. However, it sounds like a decision was made, at least in part, on this reading – and the LW’s future in some sense was down to chance. Even more concerning is the gossip is that this manager is making decisions based on the cards in other aspects of the business. I know that’s hearsay, and the LW should ignore it in this particular case. But it’s still iffy, and if I knew of a colleague regularly making decisions based on tarot cards, I would be uncomfortable with the potential implications of that.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Not necessarily! A lot of times, when people read the tarot, they really just use it to confirm what they were already thinking. So if the boss already wanted to fire the LW, they might interpret a negative card as what would happen if they kept LW, and a positive card as what would happen if they fired OP, so it didn’t really change their mind at all.

          1. Augusta Hawkins Elton*

            Thank you, I’m learning a lot today about tarot cards! The general consensus seems to be that they simply reinforce a decision that the user already wants to make. I’m not sure I actually see the point of using tarot cards that way, since I thought they were supposed to influence decisions based on their ability to provide knowledge of the future… live and learn, I guess. I suppose if someone couldn’t decide what to do and flipped a coin, it would be a similar approach to firing. Not my favorite approach, but I suppose sometimes people just need to be jogged into making a decision.

            1. Avasarala*

              It’s kind of like asking your best friend for advice. “Should I break up with Kevin??” Maybe your best friend will say “Well does he make you happy?” And you conclude yes/no. Maybe your friend will say “OMG NO” or “Yeah he sucks” and you feel relieved/weird and conclude to do it/not do it.

              You can do this same process with tarot cards by yourself, or with a reader, or with a friend, or with a series of journal prompts, or a shower/walk…. common misconception (enforced by scam artists) is that the cards themselves know about the future. But really they’re intended to draw on the collective subconscious wealth of knowledge that is human experience, and frame that in symbols.

              And think of it this way: if people do decide purely based on what the cards say, they’re just as likely to decide based on what someone said on the TV in the waiting room that afternoon, or what they overheard at a bar, or any other random event. That’s pretty uncommon I think.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            Exactly. I don’t read tarot, but I flip a lot of coin. It’s not about following what the coins say, it’s about the gut check. If it lands heads and I’m upset by that, then I know the decision I should make is tails. Reading tarot is similar.

      2. lilsheba*

        I would feel just the opposite. I wouldn’t take an advice from any kind of religious “leader” and would rely on tarot cards first. It’s just as valid to me, if not more so.

  39. Quill*

    LW4: One of my best friends growing up had left hemisphere facial paralysis. Because she’d had it since infancy she’d had a lot of time to adjust her movement, expressions, and mannerisms, so unlike you she didn’t exactly have an adjustment period, but she was *NOTORIOUS* for charming nearly everyone around us, from the make a wish coordinators, who made her an ambassador for the program by the time she was thirteen, to random business owners, to people walking their dogs.

    People will be somewhat surprised, but anyone behaving professionally or generally in line with human decency will give you the same shot as anyone else.

  40. Jennifer*

    #1 I have prayed before making a decision about leaving a job or taking a new one. To me, that’s very different than a tarot card reading, but to someone that is non-religious, it may seem similar. I am sorry for your troubles and have been through similar battles with depression that led to me being written up at work for poor performance, though I barely managed to hang on to my job, so I can relate to what you’re going through.

    The bottom line though is you admit you had some performance issues, so the termination sounds valid, as it would have been if I’d been let go back then. It sounds like your boss just wanted some spiritual guidance before making the decision. It sucks that he wasn’t willing to work with you like your old boss did, but it’s how things go sometimes. I hope things are going well at your new job. If you are working with a therapist for your depression, I encourage you to raise this issue to get some help letting it go.

    1. Quill*

      I think the line for me is between communicating with your inner thoughts / laying things out in front of your deity in the hopes that you will better be able to find the right decision, and trusting the judgement of another human being to interpret things based on a feedback loop of cold reading and leading questions.

      That said, I don’t think it’s legally actionable, just a sign for the people still around that the person making those decisions that they might not agree with their methods.

  41. Jennifer*

    #5 I HATE when companies ask you to fill out lengthy forms when they already have the information on your resume!!! It’s such a waste of time and so backwards that unless I really want to work for that company, I’ll just stop the process then and there. They are stuck in the 80’s.

    1. OP #5*

      Agreed, Jennifer. There was more to it that I left out of my letter, to save space: at first when HR sent me the forms I assumed they were online, as most companies do. When I realized I would literally need to print everything, fill it out by hand, scan it and send it back, I sent an email to HR pushing back very gently, like “Oh, I didn’t realize these weren’t online forms, not sure I’ll have time to print and scan everything, is there another option, do you have an online form?” and got a flat no back, just “No, sorry, this is the only way.” SO frustrating. Tracking down the phone numbers of all my references, addresses of all the companies I’ve worked for etc takes TIME! Ridiculous!

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        I once got transferred from one job into another and they also made me fill out umpteen forms in longhand/writing, and this was just a few years ago. They also were still using 30-yr old *VHS TAPES* for our training videos, talk about stuck in the past. Not surprisingly, their mgmt techniques were also antiquated and toxic. I got out of there as quick as I could and into another job. Beware of workplaces that insist on old and wasteful techniques.

  42. Lily in NYC*

    I cannot believe people are defending the boss who made a decision with tarot cards. What the hell.

    1. Lance*

      The point is, though, there were issues (as OP themselves admits), and while it’s an understandably upsetting thing to hear, it’s also only being heard second-hand. Most of all, though, there’s not a whole lot OP can or should do about it beyond moving onward and looking for a new job.

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      There is way too much gray area here to believe she was fired because of tarot cards. Her letter said ‘low productivity and negative attitude’ – I’m sure the tarot card story is coincidence.

    3. MonteCristo85*

      They weren’t fired for tarot cards. First off, we don’t even know that’s true. Second, the LW admits there were performance issues. Finally, people don’t turn towards their religion/beliefs/etc to change their mind, but to confirm it, so the firing was almost definitely already settled when the alleged tarot reading occured.

    4. Jennifer*

      If she was a good or at least average employee and he came in out of the blue one day and said his psychic told him to fire her – I’d agree that it was outrageous. But that’s not what happened. He had a valid reason to fire her. She admits her performance has been substandard for a while.

      The person the OP should really be annoyed with is the one who told her the tarot card story. We don’t even know if it’s true, plus the OP has a new job now. This ex-coworker just dragged her back into an unhappy time in her life.

      1. Blueberry*

        “The person the OP should really be annoyed with is the one who told her” is the truth indeed. I was going to write a comment to that effect but you said it better.

    5. Anon Because Cowardice*

      Say I’m having a personnel problem at work. I take a walk to clear my head and see two plants in competition: a small plant is hindering root growth on a larger one, and is also wilting in the larger plant’s shade. This strikes a symbolic chord with me, and I realize that my employee staying in their current role would have an outcome similar to these plants: bad for the person and bad for the department. I at last make the decision to move my employee out of their role.

      While it would be technically true, how many people would say “That person was fired because of plants!”? For a lot of people (not all, certainly), that’s the function of things like tarot: a symbol system that helps cut through the BS in your own mind.

      That said, the boss shouldn’t have mentioned using it to anyone in the office (assuming they did so).

    6. Jedi Squirrel*

      I agree. I hire people who show good judgment. Relying on tarot cards does not reflect good judgment to me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You risk running afoul of religious discrimination laws with that stance. (It’s legally not much different than “I don’t hire people who pray because I don’t think that shows good judgement.”)

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Is tarot actually a religion, though? I don’t think most people would see it as a religion, any more than they would a ouija board.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It can be. For example, many Wiccans include tarot cards in their religious practice. But even beyond that, I’d argue it’s certainly a form of spiritual belief

    7. Alton*

      The thing is that we (and the OP) don’t know for sure how the supervisor approached it. There can be an assumption that people who do Tarot believe that the cards can tell them what to do or accurately predict the future, but as demonstrated in this post, a lot of people use them as a meditative tool.

      To me, it’s like the difference between someone privately praying for encouragement when going through a rough period at work and the letter a while back where a co-worker kept saying things like “If Jesus wills it” in response to questions about projects. I would find it unacceptable for someone to fire someone solely because “God said to,” too, because religious belief shouldn’t be the primary basis for management decisions. But whether or not the manager in this case treated the cards as an authority or decision maker in this instance is all speculation. I think it was unprofessional for them to (presumably) tell people about the tarot reading, though.

    8. Nico m*

      The simplest interpretation is that an incompetent new manager couldn’t deal with a long serving valued employees temporary dip due to personal crisis. They tried to cheer them along with some woo, and failed. And is indiscreet/arrogant enough to admit to their reports that they use Tarot for major decisions, and are disliked enough for this to be reported back to the OP.

  43. J.B.*

    OP2 – focus on a book about writing period, like “On Writing Well”. I have written in the business and academic settings. I find the biggest difference is less literature review. I don’t need to say what everyone in the world has said and done, I just need to make the point quickly and cite key references (textbooks are fine as references). I also know how to write QUICKLY more than most academics. If it’s scienc-y some variation of intro-methods-results-conclusion is still a good organizing principle, but you don’t need to be nearly so detailed.

      1. J.B.*

        It really is. And one of his main points is that by practicing you get better.

        Another thought relative to resumes – resume does not equal CV. Instead of listing publications and committees, can you group by area. Like
        Research – x number of publications, awards, networking, group/interdisciplinary projects
        Teaching – classes, interests, working with students, how that translates to business

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      According to OP #1:

      I was fired, at least in part, because of a tarot reading.

      We have to take letter writers at their word. Yes, she had issues, but she was let go because the tarot card reader said to let her go rather than try to work with her on her issues. Her boss had other choices.

      1. Jennifer*

        Her word is based a story she heard second or third hand and even Alison expressed some doubt that it’s true. Also, the OP admits that she had some major performance issues.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Yes, but she’s asking for advice about how to deal with the rumor she heard, not about being fired.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes, and I think the best advice is to let it go because 1. she doesn’t know if it’s true and 2. she has a new job.

  44. lilsheba*

    Until I read it I thought the OP was saying they were fired for reading Tarot at work! I was going to protest that but I see it’s not the case. I have my Tarot cards at work every single day, and while I’m not doing readings for others I do pull cards for myself.

      1. lilsheba*

        No it’s more of a general card of the day kind of thing, like how the day is going to shape up in general.

  45. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

    #1: It’s not clear from the letter how the former coworker found out about the tarot card reading, but I do think generally it’s disrespectful and unprofessional for a supervisor to discuss why they fired someone unless it’s necessary.

  46. Observer*

    #2 – From the examples you provide, I don’t think that the problem is your lack of buzzwords, but your lack of understanding of what business needs. Also, perhaps a bit of misunderstanding about good writing in general.

    For instance, you write “ I mean the type of writing that is to-the-point, puts things in terms of what adds value to the business, and uses phrases like “deliverables,” “relevant stakeholders,” “innovative approach,” “value-added,” etc.” The thing is that items 1 and two are diametrically opposed to item 3. The first two are good, the third is something to stay away from.

    To take your second example: “ I had a lot of trouble identifying and writing about my accomplishments in business terms. For example, I’d say, “presented reports about llama grooming” instead of “provided innovative llama grooming strategies to relevant stakeholders” or something like that.”

    You seem to be missing the point of presenting your accomplishments. The second item is no better – and in many ways far worse – from a business perspective. Why? Because neither tells me why I should care and what you ACTUALLY accomplished or added to the business. What I would have wanted to see was something like “made sure that grooming managers received accurate, timely and usable information about lama grooming.” That tells me what you did and how it helps the company.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Audience is key. What information does the recipient need? What will be useful to them? Can you quantify it? That is business writing.

      “Presented report on latest llama grooming technique. The new technique saves 1 hour per llama and reduces the number of groomers needed from 3 to 2. The third groomer will be retrained as a llama herder to fill a vacancy in the Herding department.”

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Think about business writing as an analog to academic writing. Sometimes it makes sense to use jargon to describe something that would otherwise take multiple words to convey. Like “stimulus masking” vs “creating a blank visual screen immediately preceeding (or following) the visual item of interest”. Similarly, “stakeholders” vs “people representing a variety of domains that have an interest in the project outcome.”

      Avoid jargon for jargon’s sake, which applies to both academic and business writing. Don’t use “utilize” when “use” is perfectly fine. Show, don’t tell – if people don’t know it’s an innovative approach or value added from the project description, telling them so without backing it up with actual plans and expected outcomes isn’t really going to convey much because it’s an empty promise, and the point of most jargon is to hide empty promises.

      Mockingjay’s example is great. But imagine if it were written in jargon: “This innovative approach reduced llama grooming overhead. It’s a value-added contribution to our process workflow. Also, it achieved synergy in the expansion of resources.”

  47. nnn*

    Another thought for #3:

    Do you have any apartments that you’ve already renovated? Can you offer your tenant-employee the opportunity to immediately move into one of them?

    The framing could be something like “We’re systematically renovating all our apartments, and yours is slated for sometime in the next year. We can offer you first dibs on one of the apartments that has already been renovated.”

    To be extra classy about it, you could offer reduced rent for the first year on the newly renovated apartment (If you’re in a rental market where $200 a month is a big enough difference to consider evictions and renovations, you could probably do a 10%-20% discount while still pocketing most of that $200.)

    So this way, while you are introducing disruption into her life, you’re also offering to let her benefit from the renovations, and offering financial consideration for the disruption. It might also address any classist undertones. Kicking people out of their apartment so you can improve it and charge more can come across as “We want you out and a better class of person in!” Welcoming your displaced tenants into your newly-renovated apartments is more “YAY, better apartments for all!”

    (I know in this particular case it might be better if the tenant-employee wasn’t renting from the landlord-employer, but within the framework of a landlord-tenant relationship the best way to keep things amicable is to welcome the tenant as a tenant for as long as they choose.)

    1. Daisy*

      It doesn’t make sense in the limited context of that letter:
      Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activity. Retaliation can include any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment. But retaliation can also be more subtle.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think that the word the LW was looking for is “claim retaliation” or file a report claiming retaliation. Bringing a case against the OP for saying that the eviction was done for some reason that would be deemed retaliatory.

  48. Daisy*

    #3 – I feel there is a lot of information that we do not know.
    – Where is your employee in the lease? Did it just renew? Will it run out in 3 months? This changes the answer.
    – Was your employee intending on staying there indefinitely? I have lived in a lot of apartments and my longest stay so far was 24 months. And how long has she lived there?
    – How is your relationship manager to employee? Worrying about being accused of retaliation is a huge jump, so it makes me wonder if there is more to this relationship that wasn’t in the letter. Do you want to keep her as an employee? Have there been performance issues?
    – Is she a good tenant? Do you want to maintain the landlord-tenant relationship?
    – How is the rental market in your area? Will she be able to find something easily that is the same price as her current place that is a reasonable distance to work? How will this search process affect her ability to be a good employee?
    So all of our opinions are rather inconsequential because there is so much we don’t know.

  49. blink14*

    Op #1, I think your boss likely used the tarot card reading to back up what they were already thinking: firing you. It’s unclear how long this period of time when on, but if it was long enough for your former supervisor to help you cope, then they leave and then someone else is hired, your low performance probably went on too long.

    Many times, people turn to something like tarot cards because they need confirmation that about a decision they are weighing or how to deal with a situation in their life. Much like a good medium (real or not) can read into a person’s body language and use that to inform their response, a good tarot card reader will lean into their customer’s body language and attitude to interpret what they see in the cards.

    I would let this go – you’ve moved on.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Also, I think some of the people are making an assumption about the question Boss asked of the Tarot cards. It was not necessarily “Should I fire this employee?” It may have been “I have a problem employee, what should I do?” or “What would be best for the business where this employee was concerned?” It’s entirely possible to ask the Tarot an open-ended question.

      1. Nonners*

        Most of the advice I’ve read, also, is to not even phrase questions to request a definitive “should.” It’s often just to ask for more information, ask what you’re not seeing, understand what’s under your control in a situation and what’s not, etc.

    2. Shan*

      Yes, this makes me think of times when I’ve already known the answer but needed that final push, and taken really arbitrary things as confirmation. “Oh, two double yolks in a row! Clearly that’s a sign to just go for it and put an offer in on that condo.”

      Obviously I wouldn’t tell people if cracking open a double yolk egg is what I based a major life decision on, and this boss shouldn’t have shared the tarot story, but I think a lot of people do things like this.

      1. blink14*

        Agreed – its similar to seeking advice from a religious figure like a priest or a rabbi. Likely you already know the true answer, but you need that guidance to make the decision, and to “Ok” that the choice you are making is the right one.

  50. Lauren*

    OP Landlord – should only communicate this after hours in an email with a followup call. None of this conversation should be at work. That could muddy the waters if the email is sent during work hours too with the renter thinking its coming from her boss. So even if the renter tries to talk to her, they need to say that you’ll call her after work to discuss it further. If the landlord shouldn’t offer another apartment she owns either. Best to separate it now, give her a 6 month window with an exact move out date to encourage her to really look. Honestly, to sweeten the deal – say you’ll give her $500 if she moves out in 3 months cause you have a contractor that can start work earlier.

  51. LGC*

    Real talk to LW3: I feel like you’re asking if you can do something that’s inherently kind of mean without upsetting the target. And the answer to your last question is – well, of course it can cause problems! Regardless of what you say, you’re still causing a large amount of inconvenience to her, and you can’t really control her reaction to that.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t choose not to renew – but I think that Alison’s suggested course of action is almost more important for the audience. Even if the employee reacts poorly – and she might – it’s much easier to deal with if she has ample lead time to find a new apartment. (It’s a bit harder to get upset if someone has to find a new apartment in six months as opposed to 30 days.) I don’t know if you need to pay for her moving costs per se – it’d be nice, but I don’t know if it’s expected, especially with a lot of lead time – but you should definitely let her break her lease early if she finds an apartment sooner.

    Good luck, and hopefully everything goes well!

  52. Lucy Preston*

    #2 is timed perfectly for me. I had to rewrite my resume to be submitted with a company proposal. 1st it’s tough for me because I do so many different things, admin, hr, accounting, marketing, etc. Secondly, I needed to focus on certain areas, but the boss made me do several rewrites because it didn’t contain enough jargon.
    Something so simple as discussing an email became “internal analysis of external requisition of goods” or something like that. It feels silly.

  53. nnn*

    Also, long-term thinking for #3:

    If you haven’t done so already, make it googleable (both under your name and under the name of your property management company) that you own these apartments and that you work for this employer. Maybe make sure both are in the public part of your LinkedIn profile.

    That way, in the future, prospective employees and prospective tenants may be able to screen themselves out of the awkward situation of their landlord also being their boss.

  54. LilySparrow*

    LW 4: I might shorten it to “I have some nerve damage on the side of my face, etc…”

    When I hear “medical condition,” it sounds as if this is an ongoing, active thing that will progress or have flareups. Whereas it sounds like yours is a result.

    There are a lot of things that can cause nerve damage – accident, illness, even a botched wisdom tooth extraction. But especially for folks over 40 like me, I think asymmetric facial paralysis is going to suggest stroke or TBI. Of course, an interviewer shouldn’t hold that against you either, but they may subconsciously be wondering if you have any significant cognitive issues.

    So in your situation, I would want to use language that sounds more localized and finite.

    1. OP4*

      OP4 here. I really like this suggestion – framing it in terms of the impact rather than allowing it to sound ongoing.

  55. AnotherSarah*

    As for corporate-speak, thank you, Alison, for dissuading the LW! Where I work (a public university), administration is adopting more and more terms that need explaining. Programs switch names from year to year, adding costs and confusion, and meetings are spent unpacking (hm, is that corporate speak?) terminology rather than working on solutions to problems. Jargon isn’t just about fancy words–it can be a massive time-suck. If a word works better than any other word, and can catch on easily, go for it. If it will always need explanation, and you’ll spend more time discussing whether x is *really* an example of y jargon…avoid.

    A commenter above noted that “stakeholders” is helpful, and I tend to agree. But I’ve seen discussions about whether something is *really* “value-added” that could have been spent…doing actual work.

  56. BlueFeather*

    LW #4 – Before mentioning it in an interview, I would ask a trusted friend who will be honest, how noticeable it is. My husband had Ramsey Hunt at about age 6 (which I do understand has given him more time to recover and retrain his facial muscles to compensate for the nerve damage) but he will tell you that his smile is very lopsided – I would describe it as a slightly one sided grin, which I hadn’t noticed after years of dating until he pointed it out to me.

    If anyone he has ever worked with noticed, I would be incredibly surprised.

    Only you can judge this, but as we all know, we often read our “flaws” as much bigger than they are perceived by others.

    1. OP4*

      OP4 here.

      My partner tells me all the time that my partial facial paralysis don’t show very much, but I notice it easily because I’ve had my face my entire life! As a result, it’s difficult for me to truly know just how it comes across to others unless I ask. And those trusted friends of mine know I have the condition, so they may not “see” it. I think I’d need to ask people who don’t know I have the condition but otherwise know me.

      The tricky thing here for me is whether or not it’s truly noticeable. If it’s not, then I wouldn’t want to bring attention to it when interviewing. But if it is, then I’d rather address it quickly, up front, to dispel any possible worries that my interviewers may generate as a result.

      1. littleandsmall*

        I feel for you, OP! I had Bell’s palsy while I was pregnant (apparently pregnant people are like 30% more likely to get it?) and I was convinced it was way more noticeable than everyone told me it was. I brought it up with coworkers and friends to stave off any awkwardness and everyone was like “…I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t said anything!” I’m not sure how many of them were being nice but it seemed like a common refrain. It is really tricky because you know what your face used to look/feel like and it messes with your self-image.

  57. Vicky Austin*

    When I first read the headline for the first one, I thought that the OP had been fired for using tarot cards to make business decisions or reading tarot cards for her coworkers during office hours or something like that.

  58. OG Orange You Glad*

    Most of the time when people are using “business jargon” it’s to cover up the fact they are actually saying nothing.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Exactly. Blowhard syndrome. Bureaucracy bulls***. I hear people talking in “fancy” jargon and think “they love to hear themselves talk.” It’s very offputting.

  59. Pieska Boryska*

    I’m wondering why LW3 would be worried about retaliation. For what exactly? Something’s missing from this story.

    1. Tired DC Temp*

      Provided it’s not a simple misuse of a common phrase-possibly for violating conflict of interest rules? I know a lot of places I work have a ban on or require prior approval for outside employment. Just another reason selling this building or quitting the job might be LW3’s better move!

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Many companies do require you to get approval for outside employment, but that is usually for someone moonlighting and being a W-2 employee of someone else. It would be rare for a company to prohibit someone from buying property to rent out.

        Now it might be a violation of company policy to have rented to the employee due the supervisory nature of the boss/employee relationship at the job, but that is different from being prohibited from renting out buildings.

  60. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    I don’t know what “file retaliation” means. I am not sure what kind of retaliation to be worried about from someone when you are both their boss and their landlord. You have enormous power over their life. They have a tremendous amount to lose if they even act cranky, let alone retaliate.

    It sounds like you are maybe saying that you’re worried that they will be upset. Well – yes. When you remove someone from their home, it is a horrifically stressful event and incredibly costly in terms of money and time. It can even be devastating.

    It’s akin to firing someone or laying them off. You might be justified; it might be the right decision; you might need to do it – but you’re going to feel bad about it, unless you or the other person is a monster. Being a good landlord is like being a good boss in some ways, and you will get the most of out of people if you treat them fairly, communicate clear expectations, set them up to succeed, and don’t try to squeeze so much out of them that you kill the goose.

    1. boop the first*

      It’s going to be even worse when they found out they were evicted so that the boss can earn a little extra money each month. OP was probably planning to come up with some reasonable excuse to evict, but down the line it’s going to slip out that they are still renting out the unit.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t think OP was going to or needs to give an “excuse” remodeling an apartment to get more rent is a very common option that many landlords take.

  61. boop the first*

    Eh I totally believe the tarot story… that’s the problem with getting vague answers to pressing questions, and why readers can do what they do. If someone comes in with a problem, giving them the death card and telling them they will experience “changes” will be 100% accurate in literally every situation, so they earn their money and clients walk away awed and motivated.

    I doubt that a card reader specifically said “fire your employee”, but boss definitely would have thought “hmmm what change is coming? Oh clearly that employee I’ve been thinking about replacing of COURSE!”

    1. Close Bracket*

      I doubt that a card reader specifically said “fire your employee”

      Yeah, OP is hearing this 3rd hand: tarot reader said something, boss filtered that through their own lens and said something to coworker, coworker heard that and filtered it through their lens before telling OP.

      This reminds me of people who say, “My girlfriend’s therapist told her to dump me.” Probably that is not what happened bc therapists don’t give concrete advice like that. Tarot readers don’t have quite the same ethical guidelines about not telling your clients what to go, though, so maybe they really did say, “Fire your employee!”

      1. Isabel Kunkle*

        I only read as an amateur, so I have no idea what the ethics involved in taking money are, but I admit that if someone asks whether or not they should dump their SO, I’m probably going to say they should. (“If you have to ask a third party, including the universe, whether you should stay with someone? The answer is no.”) But I’d be more hesitant about firing an employee, so maybe not?

  62. Slutty Toes*

    OP1, I’m very sorry you were let go. I don’t think it’s productive to focus on the fact that tarot cards were (assuming your coworker is correct!) tangentially involved in the decision. This isn’t an injustice or something to prevent from happening to anyone else; I think you’re viewing this as far more random than it actually is. Try to think about the tarot reading as the boss confirming something she already believed.

    I get that it feels like an injustice, but if you look at the situation honestly, was the boss satisfied with you regardless of the tarot reading? It doesn’t sound like it. There’s no recourse to ask about. If asked, you should answer honestly about being let go for performance reasons. It sucks, but I don’t think it’s correct to characterize this as “being fired because the cards.”

    Best to you. I hope your new position is satisfying and fulfilling.

  63. Tim*

    I also switched from academia to the business world, and completely agree with the advice given. The jargon you’re looking for is a hindrance to communication. And, if your workplace is good, your non-jargon-y voice will be a breath of fresh air to your coworkers.

    But, if you do want to toss in a few buzz words and phrases now and then, here’s a good place to start :-) https://www.atrixnet.com/bs-generator.html

  64. rudster*

    It is also a common side effect of surgery to remove certain cranial tumors, in particular nerve sheath tumors like Schwannomas. I now have the same exact same symptoms as OP, cannot move the left side of my mouth (though it no longer droops like it did after the surgery – it looks normal at rest, but just doesn’t move), and my left eyebrow and forehead don’t move or furrow. At the beginning my left eye wouldn’t close completely, but now it does if I concentrate, though I will probably need to constantly use prescription eye drops for life, or at least the indefinite future.
    Not sure what to tell the OP. I don’t usually encounter any issues with it because I am a freelancer and work from home. It may be less noticeable than she thinks. The total left-sided hearing loss caused by the tumor (it was the first symptom) is permanent and affects me a lot more than the facial paralysis. My wife tells me something, and if she is on the wrong side and/or not speaking loudly enough what I hear is COMPLETELY different. It makes for some interesting conversations!

  65. Anon Here*

    #4 – I have a parallel situation, and deciding what to say about it and when is the bane of my existence.

    In my case, it’s a minor muscle abnormality that I’ve had my whole life. It doesn’t cause many physical limitations. I can do most things mostly normally. But I look much younger to some people (depending on which features they focus on and how obvious the lines on my face are that day) and I often look weird because I have to flex my muscles more than most people. I look overly tense or indifferent and slouchy most of the time. Some people think I’m a nervous adolescent. Some people think the source is psychological or intellectual. Some people don’t seem to notice at all.

    So I’ve been experimenting with the messaging. And an approach like what Allison suggested seems to work well. Keep it short, but say something early on. “You may notice X. The cause is Y. The impact is Z. Please go ahead and ask questions should any arise.”

    Part of the weirdness for me is that people seem to notice it more as time goes on, maybe because it stands out more as a pattern. If someone looks tense when you first meet them, they could just be stressed or feeling shy. But it’s stranger if they always look that way. So there’s always this initial hope that maybe I won’t need to bring it up. But I’m learning that, to the contrary, it probably will come up eventually, and I should say something.

    Then, when I do say something, there are certain kinds of assumptions that people make. Educating people and distancing myself when they are negative and unlikely to change is an on-going effort.

    However, a lot of people seem to respond very warmly to my openness. It’s common for people to relate in some way and to thank me for talking about it. Sometimes the way they relate is unexpected. But it’s definitely a bridge-builder socially.

    I know your situation is different. But I empathize, and I hope it all goes well.

  66. squeakalicious*

    You spent HOURS filling out forms that requested incredibly personal information AND you provided references? That was your first mistake. I would have told that person to bite me. No one needs personal info until after your first–or even second–interview, and never, ever give anyone your references or permit a background check until you have a job offer in hand. You’re going to allow them to call your references (basically ratting yourself out about your job-hunting) and/or investigate your background (!!!) without a commitment to provide you a job? No way. No, no, no. You’re acting annoyed about their abuse when you were, frankly, asking for it. “I’m happy to provide my references once I’ve received a job offer. Until then, that’s confidential information.” And if they don’t like that, you do NOT want to work there.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks for the compassion. Sometimes when you’re the job candidate, you aren’t in a position to call the shots. And I’m still entitled to be annoyed about the situation, particularly *the way they treated me after the fact* even if it was my choice to go forward with the interview. Must be nice to be so comfortably employed that you can tell employers to bite you.

  67. CastIrony*

    I feel for OP#2 (business jargon). I entered retail for the first time, and it took me a while to understand what “recovery” means, and I’m still not sure what “zoning” means.

  68. alittlehelpplease*

    OP 2: the first two things she says she doesn’t do well are “writing that is to-the-point, puts things in terms of what adds value to the business.” These are critical skills in business and every other field, and it would have been good to improve those skills in an academic environment. OP2 should definitely take a business writing class if those are legit weaknesses. The rest of the answer is good, but it ignores that OP identifies critical skills as a weakness.

  69. chickaletta*

    #2 – While it is important to understand business phrases like the examples provided, in my experience, the only time people use them are when they’re writing formal business documents (think project tracking, milestone documents, meeting minutes, etc), and maybe people talk about them in meetings so that other people know what milestone or deliverable they’re referring to. Otherwise they’re rarely used in the course of normal conversation, emails, etc. Especially when you’re talking about yourself, even on your resume, they tend to come across pretentious. I’m a c-suite assistant, and I would never use phrases like “value-based” while talking to my boss about work. I’d sound like an arse. (Tip: you can tell when someone is putting on a show when they use SAT words and long phrases to communicate simple ideas.)

  70. Alice's Rabbit*

    3, you might be able to frame your needing her to move out as part of being a good boss. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t think about how it might come across to other employees to have you renting from me. It could really set you up for unfair accusations of favoritism from me, and neither of us want that. So I’m sorry, but I can’t renew your housing contract for next year. I’m sure you can understand why. If you find something before the contract is up, let me know. Of course, I will not penalize you for breaking lease early, or anything, so you can jump on a good place when you find one. And thank you for not letting this affect our business relationship.”

  71. Chris Hogg*

    Re: #5

    No job, no job, no job is worth responding to a job application like this … especially with an impossible turn-around time.

    Finding advertised jobs and applying to them in general is perhaps the worst (or at least the most ineffective) way to find a job above entry-level.

    Responding to a job application like this one is just plain nuts … although it may serve as a very valuable lesson learned (reality is a very effective, but often very harsh, teacher).

    No job, no job, no job is worth responding to a job application like this … but of course, as with most things in life, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

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