coworker is giving underwear for Secret Santa, manager wants me to report on my coworkers’ arrival times, and more

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

1. My coworker is giving a colleague underwear in our Secret Santa

My office organizes a Secret Santa. The guy who has the desk next to mine told me today that he got the name of a colleague of ours with whom we eat often, and that as he heard her say once during lunch that it is a tradition in Spain (she is Spanish) to wear red underwear for the new year, he bought her red lingerie. He is quite friendly with her, but I still think it is a terrible idea. He is in his late 40 and married, and she is in her early 30 and single. They are at the same level and they don’t work together, so he really sees her as a peer and doesn’t agree with me when I tell him that this kind of present is entirely inappropriate. She will have to open it in front of the whole office. Even from a close friend I would not like it, so in a work context I believe it has the potential to become a huge problem. It could damage both of their reputations. I told him what I think and he disagrees with me. What else should I do ? I don’t really want to let my colleague get this kind of present at work.

Yeeesh. That’s really inappropriate. Even if they have the kind of friendship where she wouldn’t be bothered by the gift, she’s going to be opening in front of all her coworkers — and I doubt she wants that, or that they want that.

Since he’s not interested in hearing from you, tell the person organizing the Secret Santa and suggest they intervene. They’d probably be interested in clarifying the guidelines of a work gift exchange with him. (And warn your coworker, as well. She should know too.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My manager wants me to alert her when each coworker arrives for the day

I just started a new position about three months ago, and it’s going pretty well. My manager has taking a liking to me and already given me extra responsibilities.

One of them kind of irks me. She tends to work remotely most days and has begun to ask me to Skype her when my coworkers arrive for the day. I feel pretty awkward about it, because being 5-10 minutes late does not matter at all in our positions and I like my peers, so I feel like I’m throwing them under the bus because I know she brings up their tardiness in 1:1’s. Do I have any recourse with my manager, or should I just suck it up?

Ick. If she’s that hung up on time of arrival (which it doesn’t sound like she should be), she should … get a time clock or something. Or ask people to report in to her individually rather than putting it all on you, although I suspect she’s not doing it that way because she knows she’d look ridiculously micromanagey if she did.

You could say this to her: “I feel awkward reporting each person’s time of arrival to you, and I worry it’s going to make it hard for me to have good relationships with them. Would it be okay for me to stop doing that?”

If you don’t think she’d be receptive to that, another option is to just stop and see what happens. Or just continually forget and only do it once people have been there for a while (“I forgot to Skype you earlier, but everyone is here”). If her “solution” isn’t working, she may back off of it. That’s not the way you should normally handle things — ideally you’d have a direct conversation with her where you explain your objections — but it’s an option if you know she’s not going to be receptive to reasoned push-back.

3. Employer rejected me after the salary I named was 10% too high

I currently work at a job that pays well and provides a good suite of benefits, am comfortable at my job, and am only looking to leave for something that’s right.

I recently applied for a job that I was interested in. It would be a lateral move career-wise, and also a move from a low cost of living area to a high cost of living area. For context, think something like moving from Missoula, MT to Seattle, WA. After a week, I got a call from their HR for a pre-screening interview, which I set up later that day. Most of the questions seemed standard, and I felt like I answered them all pretty well.

Until the last question: what are your salary expectations? I tried to get her to give a number first, but was unsuccessful. After putting out a guess with a range, it turns out I was about 10% too high. I stated that although the salary on offer would not excite me per se, it was still within a range that I would consider and I felt it would not stop me from considering the job. We ended the call with me feeling like I would be getting a call back for a second interview.

The next day, I did get a call back, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was told that because of my salary expectations, the hiring manager felt a second interview would not be worthwhile. I pushed back a little, asking they not hold my lack of knowledge of the local job market against me, and saying I felt the salary range would work for me. We ended the conversation with HR saying they would go back to the hiring manager, but I have a feeling it won’t go anywhere.

Well … “it wouldn’t excite me” would sound to a lot of employers like “I wouldn’t be enthused about the job at that salary.” And they want candidates who are enthused! Plus, you’d be moving to a more expensive area, which means they already might have been worried about you having sticker shock.

That said, 10% is not the sort of significant difference that normally halts interviews, so I’m guessing it was the “wouldn’t excited me” that did you in.

4. Should I take my SAT scores off my resume?

When is it appropriate to take my SAT scores off of my resume? I’m a senior in college and my scores were very good. (I’m a national merit scholar, which is also on there.) I think it’s silly for an adult to put on her resume, especially because I have work and internship experience, but I’ve received conflicting advice. I am a scientist: does it make a difference if I’m applying to academic jobs or industry jobs?

Take them off your resume now; the vast majority of employers don’t care and will think it’s odd to have them listed. The exception to this is if you’re applying in certain segments of the finance or consulting fields, where some employers do expect students or recent grads to list them. But outside of that context, it’s going to look out of place. (Similarly, I’d remove the National Merit mention once you graduate; at that point anything from high school just isn’t going to be seen as relevant.)

For what it’s worth, SAT scores are basically a (not entirely accurate) predictor of how well you might do in college. Once you’re in college, your GPA takes over as a (very imperfect) predictor of well you might do post-college, at least for employers who are looking for that kind of numerical proxy. But a GPA also becomes irrelevant pretty soon after you graduate, once you have a track record of actual work. The sooner you can focus your resume on concrete work accomplishments, the stronger it will be!

5. How should I handle the holidays with freelance clients?

I’m a freelancer and I work remotely 100% of the time. I’m hired by solo clients, not companies, to perform a service for them. Most of my clients I’ve never met, and the few I have met have just been random situations where we happen to find ourselves at the same conference.

How should I handle the holidays with these clients? I usually just drop “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Holidays” into an email if we happen to be working on business at the appropriate time, but that means I’m only hitting a few of them. Do I need to do anything more? I could … mail a card out to them all? It’s about 15-20 people, depending on the year.

Honestly, I don’t particularly want to do anything. I’m not a big holiday person. Do I have to? Am I shooting myself in the foot by not doing something?

You’re probably fine continuing on the way you’ve been doing. Most people don’t expect freelancers they hire to send cards or gifts. (In fact, if anything, it’s more often the other way around — as a freelancer, I often receive cards and gifts from clients but don’t usually send them. Those are companies, which makes it different from the individual people you’re working with, but the you-don’t-need-to-do-more principle stands.)

{ 535 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Since I think there will be a ton of responses to #1 (the underwear), let’s consolidate them as replies to this comment so they don’t take over the whole page. (I’m gathering up the existing ones and moving them under it.)

    1. Lord Ye old*

      OP 1 – I’d agree. It’s even worst that red lingerie is pretty much “sexy underwear” – even if the design has no frills whatsoever. Feels like a HR sexual harassment complain in the making. Like think MAYBE you can get away with it, if it was joke pyjamas or socks, but underwear is too intimate for a coworker that you are not going out with.

          1. FormerFirstTimer*

            If I was the recipient, I would throw the whole dang can of bees at whoever thought it was a good idea in the first place.

            1. Quill*

              There was a high school “prank” that involved passing an unsuspecting person a (wrapped, no one was quite that awful) condom to make them freak out and I did exactly what you describe when that happened to me.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Yeah, I could see this working if it were the kind of costumey/novelty union suit or thermal pajamas. Unisex, full-coverage, preferably printed with a cute/funny theme like snowflakes, Santa trim, etc.

          Anything like real underwear is right out.

        2. Kyrius*

          You know when men complain that they can’t ask women to smile anymore? I can just just see the man in this letter going, “You can’t even give women underwear anymore. She asked for it.” The inability of some men to see their own creepiness is just astounding. Does he really believe anyone is going to be fooled? Like the intent of gifting underwear to someone your not super close with (and even then gifting this at the office would never be appropiate) was ever suppose to fool us into thinking hes concerned about if she has enough clothes. Please!

        3. Emily*

          Even with joke underwear, it still carries an icky undertone of, “I spent time thinking about how you’d like to wear red underwear, and I settled on this as a work-appropriate version of that.”

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s important to know that another woman (or man) watching could consider it sexual harassment. It doesn’t have to be the target. This would be especially true if bystanders don’t know about the red on new year tradition.

        Frankly, I’d have a hard time controlling my temper if something like that showed up. I’m afraid I’d make an incredibly snarky comment.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yes oh god, can you imagine the reactions of people who don’t even have the flimsy context of “she mentioned this was a tradition once”… and just see this married guy giving a younger female colleague lingerie? Didn’t this happen in The Office?

          I would go nuclear with this. Warn the woman, tell HR, tell his manager. This is a textbook sexual harassment situation and this guy needs remedial training (if not worse).

          1. Laura Stilwell*

            I believe if it’s something that happened on The Office that’s an automatic NO in a real office.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, the fact that they open their Secret Santa presents in front of the entire office means that this present could completely tank this man’s reputation with most of his coworkers. He’s not going to be Todd who’s great at the TPS reports and always helps unjam the copy machine anymore. He’s going to be Todd, that creeper who gave a woman underwear at Secret Santa.

          1. Mama Bear*

            This. I’d inform the organizer that he has a bad idea for the gift and I’d tell him straight up it’s inappropriate, creepy, and will likely get him in trouble with HR. If I were his wife, I wouldn’t find that funny, either.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              If I were his wife, I wouldn’t find that funny, either.

              Same. This is disrespectful as hell on so many levels.

        3. Dagny*

          Exactly right.

          If another co-worker has problems with sexual harassment or discrimination, this is exactly the kind of thing that makes its way into a discrimination lawsuit to demonstrate that the company condones bad behaviour towards women. “Five other men got promoted ahead of me and the other women. Oh, and this is the kind of office wherein married 40-something men give younger, single women red lingerie in the office Secret Santa. We just aren’t treated as professionals and equals here.”

        4. Dysfunctional Deb*

          I’m not a big fan of Secret Santa.

          Some people has enough more discretionary cash on hand than others and some have poor taste.

          A man giving a woman sexy red underwear is in poor taste.

        5. Allypopx*

          I would absolutely lose my sh*t and if I worked somewhere that would laugh it off I would just be the fuming buzzkill in marketing for the rest of my life I don’t care.

      2. Diamond*

        Plus presumably most people won’t have heard her comment about Spanish traditions, so it’ll be completely random surprise lingerie. That comment definitely doesn’t make it any better but at least it gives a *tiny* bit of context!

        1. Works in IT*

          Even the context is icky! So in all the conversations he’s had with her, the ONE THING that stands out as “something she likes” is…. red underwear, that isn’t even something about HER, it’s something about her CULTURE?

          I’m of Scottish/Irish descent. Buy me alcohol or plaid things and I will stare at you blankly, “culturally appropriate” to my heritage or not. And I live in a town that’s all about the flip flops, if you buy me flip flops, I will stare at you blankly. Even ignoring the (gross) sexuality of buying a coworker underwear, he still has no idea if this is a tradition she likes participating in, or if this is a tradition she doesn’t much like, but it came up in conversation because coworkers wanted to know What Is Different About Where You Come From.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. The red underwear is a gross trifecta of sexual harassment and sexist/racist stereotypes about Latinas.

            1. Federico Garcia Lorca*

              I am not saying that he should give the underwear because of this, but in Spain, part of the “wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve” tradition is that the underwear needs to be given to you by someone else. And LW said that the co-worker was Spanish specifically, not Latina.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                Waaaiiit a minute, this is some super necessary context that wasn’t in the letter (maybe because LW didn’t know): The red underwear has to be gifted to you as part of the tradition?!

                That moves coworker’s decision from weird and creepy to potentially just bizarre and out of touch. Still not okay, still shouldn’t happen, but slightly more understandable. Maybe.

                (Is part of the tradition that the red underwear can’t be gifted privately? Anything to explain why he’d choose to do it at the Secret Santa?)

            2. Anonapots*

              This has nothing to do with the “sexy Latina” stereotype. It is actually a tradition in Spain and is about it being for good luck. The OP specifically mentioned that the guy thought that since it was a tradition in Spain, it would be fun to do.

              PS Spaniards are not Latinx.

              1. Observer*

                Please. This is almost certainly about that gross stereotype.

                Sure, the TRADITION has nothing to do with that. But this guy’s behavior is most definitely NOT about celebrating Spanish traditions. For one things, as others have pointed out, this tradition is NOT for coworkers to gift. Also, it’s one thing to think of it. But once the surrounding issues were pointed out, he would have backed off. Instead he’s doubling down.

                1. Anonapots*

                  It’s bad enough without adding other assumed motivations. Like, it stands on its own as gross. He’s using the tradition to buy red underwear for a coworker. That is bad enough. Outside of that, who actually cares what his internal monologue is? His external conversation is gross enough.

      3. Tyche*

        The “red underwear” as a lucky charm for the New Year is a tradition in Italy too. BUT the sexual undertones of the tradition are quite clear: you wear them if you’d like to be lucky in bed…
        Usually red underwear is something one buy for themselves or as a gift for a romantic / sexual partner.
        So it’s very very icky.

        1. Observer*

          I figured that this is what that tradition is about. It’s the kind of thing that I would expect more than one person to either know or guess. Which makes it a REALLY, REALLY bad idea. It’s going to be very hard to argue that he didn’t realize that this is a really sexual gift.

          And I don’t believe that he doesn’t know that.

          1. Paperdill*

            I first learnt about the red underwear in Italy for a lucky New Year in a children’s book, so, no, “luck in bed” is not the original tradition, but what pop culture has turned it into.

            1. JSPA*

              That’s like saying that a maypole has no sexual connotation historically because children dance around it. The line between “sexual connotation” and “children are also involved, in more or less age – appropriate ways” was drawn in different ways, historically.

            2. Tyche*

              Well, maybe it’s not in the original tradition, but I can assure you that’s how is viewed nowadays.
              The sexual connotations are too blatant to ignore!

            3. Observer*

              It’s quite possible that it is in the original tradition – lots of children’s books contain material that is made child friendly.

              And, it doesn’t really matter what the tradition was generations ago – based on what others are saying it DEFINITELY is part of the current tradition. And even if it weren’t, let’s get real – that is exactly what most people will assume. The specific tie to underwear as opposed to “something red” definitely leads in that direction.

            4. Flicka_Cla*

              I am Italian and I can assure that, whilst nowadays you can hop into an underwear shop (they are quite a common thing here, rarely people buy underwear at the super or at fashion retail shop. You go for Intimissimi, or a similar brand.) by this time of the year and find red underwear for all ages, genders and tastes -and, yes, it is a thing to buy red underwear for the whole family for the festivities (like basic ones, not overly sexy ones)- it is still very much a ‘gonna get lucky’ think. We even have an old saying that goes together with the red underwear going like ‘If you get lucky Eve of New Year, you get lucky the whole year’.

              And yes, it is one of those ‘adults open secrets’ where the red/festivities thing mixes with the sexy part and you let the kids have them because it’s red and they love it and it’s the color of Santa, while not telling them what it means for the grownups. And it is strange, and I can certainly imagine how this would not happen in American families, but we have a strong culture of double-entendre and ‘sexy open secrets’ and metaphors to hide the inappropriate parts for the little ones without leaving out the sexy parts of the holidays. It has a lot to do with the mixture of Ancient Rome pagan mixture of sex and festival mixing and the whole ‘covering up’ and ‘sex is taboo’ of the Catholic religion.

              This to say, it is nuanced but accepted, in the family and friends context.

              But you do not buy red underwear for an office Secret Santa, you just do not do it, here. Especially here, in Italy, where the red underwear is a huge ‘normalized’ thing. You still do not buy underwear for colleagues, not even ‘grotesque’, not-meant-to-be-worn underwear, especially to a female colleague from a married older male colleague!

        2. Quoth the Raven*

          In Mexico too. Granted it’s supposed to be for good luck in love in general, but the getting lucky in bed part tends to come as an implication as well.

          Yellow underwear is for good luck in money affairs (just figured I’d mention it!)

          1. Quill*

            For good luck getting a new job, should I wear underwear with Ask a Manager columns printed on it?

              1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                Extremely glad that I was not drinking anything when I read this because I’d be cleaning it off the keyboard right about now.

      4. MassMatt*

        He is a creep, and he is doubling down on it when being told it’s inappropriate, which makes him a jerk as well.

        I hope we get an update on this one!

        1. EPLawyer*

          This is it in a nutshell. A decent person would say “Oh right, I didn’t think about that” and DO SOMETHING ELSE. That he is insisting shows he knows exactly what he is doing. This is not some guy who happened to get a friend for Secret Santa so is planning on getting a more thoughtful gift than usual. This is a creeper who found an outlet to be creepy.

          His being married does not mean he is not a creeper. Shut this down immediately.

          1. Farrah Sahara*

            Exactly! Shut this down now. Is this creep hoping to get “lucky” with the colleague?

            Euuw. Far too sexy a gift for a co-worker, even though he’s insisting that it’s innocent. It certainly won’t look like that to the rest of the team.

            1. yala*

              “Is this creep hoping to get “lucky” with the colleague?”

              I don’t even think that’s a factor. Some guys just really enjoy reminding women (especially younger or attractive women) that they’re seen as a sexual object. They don’t necessarily have to get anything out of it other than the rush of power that they were able to make someone uncomfortable.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          A super creep. I would have asked him if his wife knew what he was doing. I bet he knows it is inappropriate enough to not tell his wife about it.

          1. No more games*

            I would be tempted to wait a few weeks and then send the underwear to his home addressed to his wife. I would also be tempted to include some note about the husband asking me to return the underwear once I had worn it but obviously this is taking it to another level. Going to Secret Santa organizer, manager, and HR are the best options. As a manager I would ban this guy from ever participating again or at least check his gift in advance.

        3. Sparrow*

          My most generous reading of this is that he thought something connected to her culture would be fun and doubled down because he was feeling defensive that he hadn’t thought it through. If OP hasn’t generally known him to be creepy/finds this whole thing out of character, it’s possible that their conversation encouraged him to reconsider. But, uh, I’m not trusting that to happen.

          If I were OP and knew him to be not entirely unreasonable, I might make one more attempt to set him straight – perhaps send him a link about sexual harassment in the workplace and tell him that if he insists on continuing with his current plan, I’m obligated to give HR a preemptive heads up. If I didn’t expect that to make any impact or already thought him to be kinda creepy, I’d go straight to the organizer and start cautioning the appropriate people, because yikes.

        4. ampersand*

          We definitely need an update! Hope we get one.

          Everything is wrong with this: it’s coming from a colleague, he’s married (dear god, what would his wife think?!), the woman being gifted red underwear is single, COLLEAGUES!!!, presents are being opened in front of everyone, and overall it looks very, very, extremely bad. There’s literally nothing that is redeeming about this situation.

      5. Nancy Pelosi*

        OP#1 please please for all that is good and holy, follow up after the secret Santa exchange. I have to know if your coworker would actually follow through with that gift.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Same. I kind of want OP to not say anything to HR just to see what everyone would do when this fool whipped out this highly inappropriate gift, but, alas, I think reporting is the best option – OP’s coworker especially needs to know what this creeper is planning so she’s not humiliated in front of the entire office.

          1. Greta*

            “I kind of want OP to not say anything to HR just to see what everyone would do when this fool whipped out this highly inappropriate gift”

            Bad idea. It’s bound to make the Spanish coworker uncomfortable when she opens it. Shut it down before it happens.

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          Jokes/pranks about sexual harassment are, by definition, not funny. It’s like joking about having a bomb during airport screening: it can and should be taken with deadly seriousness.

          1. Salymander*

            Yeah, how many times has a person said something disgusting to me, and weaseled out of any repercussions by saying “I was just kidding! Jeez, don’t you have a sense of humor?”

            Like, he told me my breasts looked good in my work uniform, and *I* made things uncomfortable.

              1. Salymander*

                Ha! It was the late 1980s, so no. I got in trouble for telling the Pig Guy he was disgusting. Because I should have been thankful for his appreciation of my good looks, and because nice girls should be nice. At least according to my boss, who was an asshole.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In what world does overhearing a comment about seasons and underwear color make it ok to buy a professional colleague red lingerie?

      If the guy’s judgment weren’t bad enough, the fact that he’s doubling down makes me suspect he knows exactly how inappropriate this is. #MeToo articles and lawsuits are written with much less than what he’s decided is a great idea.

      I’m going to say something problematic: Assuming you are not a dude of the same age or older, OP, I think you should enlist one to tell this guy to knock it off. It’s fine for the Secret Santa organizer to also intervene, but in no world should this guy be allowed to complete this “transaction.”

      1. SAS*

        Also, I would tell the recipient about his plans as soon as possible for her to be able prepare her reaction or approach him if she wishes, especially if your workplace isn’t motivated or successful in shutting down his awful idea.

        1. Diamond*

          Yep, if no-one can put the kibosh on this at least warn the poor woman. I know if I’m taken by surprise my default reaction is to just smile and be agreeable even when I shouldn’t be. I’d rather prepare my words! (Or possibly be off sick that day…)

          1. rain rain go away*

            If I got surprised by something like this, I’d burst into tears, rush out of the room, and then for years later, blame myself for “ruining” something “fun” with my “over-emotional reaction”.

            (It’s okay. I’m in therapy now. But how about we just… avoid people getting sexually harassed in the name of “fun”.)

            1. Marmaduke*

              If I experienced this, I would quit immediately, because there’s no way I could feel safe working there again. OP, you’ve got to shut this down!

            2. tangerineRose*

              “If I got surprised by something like this, I’d burst into tears, rush out of the room” In some ways, this is probably one of the best ways to handle it.

          2. Wintermute*

            I think warning HR and management is important to, if they’re any good. If I found out this was in the offing as a manager I’d be horrified and resolve to put a firm stop to it without burdening the would-be victim at all. Change up how we do the handoff to enable me to sneak a peek at what he was bringing and if I found anything red and/or lacy it would quietly disappear into a desk drawer while the santa creeper and I quietly disappeared over to the HR department, who I would have briefed (no pun intended).

            A good manager would want the opportunity to save her the mortification and save the public drama that would steal all the attention.

        2. Pomona Sprout*

          Yes, absolutely tell her, OP. Don’t take a chance on letting her get blindsided by this.

          Also, if no one is able to stop him from doing this, encourage her to file a sexual harassment complaint against him. He’s already been warned by you, and presumably will be warned by others as well. There should absolutely be repercussions for this.

          Seriously, what a skeevy, creepy thing to do!

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Regardless, it doesn’t negate Totally a good call—please do tell her ahead of time if there’s no other intervention happening. She shouldn’t have to feel like a spectacle because of his completely inappropriate behavior.

          1. Sunny-D*

            On top of all the other issues that have already been pointed out, this guy’s poor wife! Imagine if you found out your husband was buying another woman underwear in a Secret Santa? No matter the colour, but red especially! Ick. I bet he’s not telling her anything about it.

            1. Anonymous Celebrity*

              Or, if she knows for certain that what’s inside the box/package is red lingerie, she can simply state – in front of everyone – that she knows what the gift is, that it’s outrageously inappropriate, and that she has no intention of opening it. Then she can hand it right back to the creep who got it for her.

              That is what I would do if I were forewarned of such a stupid, creepy “gift.” I would do everything in my power to embarrass the hell out of the jackass who thought this was a good idea. People like that need to be shut down with EXTREME prejudice.

              1. VictorianCowgirl*

                This is an excellent, professional response that would shine a good light on the receiver for me if I witnessed this.

                That gift giver is a total jerk.

            2. AKchic*

              “I think you mixed my gift up with your wife’s. Maybe you should take this back home.”
              She doesn’t even have to pull it out of the box. She’s unwrapped it. She’s given a negative reaction (perhaps, cold, detached, obviously repulsed), and still given him an “out”.

              However, she (and hopefully the organizer and HR) will already know that he’d been warned ahead of time not to give that gift, so they can finalize their official complaint while not letting the rest of the holiday partygoers on to the dirty laundry being wafted out in the open (sorry, couldn’t help the pun being waved right in my face).

          2. yala*

            Honestly, tell her whether or not there’s an intervention. She needs to know that this guy is Like That–that he’ll go out of his way to sexualize her in public unless somebody with authority over him actively prevents him from doing so.

        4. Crivens!*

          If I were the coworker I’d use the opportunity to practice berating him when I opened it. It’d be like that scene with Apu berating Principal Skinner. Just solid minutes of “what on Earth were you thinking?!”

          1. Kat*

            You may be comfortable with that but it shouldn’t have to be left to the recipient to have to tell the creep why he’s a creep in front of everyone. Besides, at that point it’s too late. You may be comfortable yelling at the guy but everyone who watched you open the gift can now file a claim of sexual harassment because it made them deeply uncomfortable and now how can they work with this creep knowing what a creep he is? That’s why I think the OP needs to take this straight to management/HR because for EVERYONE’s sake, not just the recipient, this needs to be shut down.

            1. Observer*

              On the other hand there is an advantage to letting him do this – but ONLY if she’s up for it.

              What do you want to bet that if the OP goes to HR he’s going to claim that he didn’t mean it, that the OP is “over-reacting” (especially if the OP is female!), the OP “can’t take a joke” and everyone is just too hypersensitive. Whereas if he actually DOES it the plausible deniability he’s going for goes out the window. That’s not a bad thing.

              And, while I do feel bad for his wife, I think that the intended victim (and all potential victims in the workplace) take precedence here. Also, this might be information that she needs for herself…

              1. Kat*

                Hard disagree. There is no world in which allowing sexual harassment to happen is the better option. Doesn’t matter what the guy claims. If mgmt tells him it’s inappropriate and not to do it they should be clear what the consequences will be. THEN if the guy does it they can fire him or discipline him whatever way they see fit. But it’s not ok to let the guy make all the staff uncomfortable because only then will he “get it”.
                Besides if he doesn’t get it now, he’ll probably also claim everyone watching was too sensitive. Which is why letting this happen puts all the other staff at risk of feeling uncomfortable just so a point can be made to a creep who probably won’t get the point anyhow? No, no, no.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m with Kat on this one. Plus, OP is going to have to report this to HR or up the chain, anyway, so the contemplated sexual harassment doesn’t have to happen for the guy to be flagged.

                2. Observer*

                  I’m not worried that he won’t get it. I’m worried that HR will take the easy way out and claim that they believe the CReep Coworker really WAS “joking” about the gift and he really was not planning to do that.

              2. Wintermute*

                A good HR department has a ready set of rejoinders for all of those. “WE do not care what your intent was, this is harassing material. ” “It is not her reaction, it is mine, as a manager, and in my judgement, this was grossly inappropriate.” “Your poor sense of humor is not a license to break the law.” “We are not being sensitive you are being insensitive.”

                Let him try all the time-worn excuses for bad behavior, at the end of the day he doesn’t have to see the light in order to be fired.

                1. Observer*

                  Yes, if HR is good this should not be an issue. If they are not so good, they might be willing to go along with his claim that he was “only joking” and didn’t plan to actually buy the undies. Never mind that it would STILL be inappropriate. But even an HR group looking for reasons to ignore stuff is going to have a harder time ignoring actual lingerie at the party.

                  The reason I am concerned here is that it’s often the case that people like this get to where they are because folks like HR find reasons to look the other way either about their behavior or the behavior of others. So, I would not be surprised if this jerk is reacting to the signals he’s gotten so far. And in a case like that, forcing the hand of HR is the lesser of two evils.

                2. Marthooh*

                  Observer, no. If HR insists on weaseling, it will weasel. You can’t force their hand by letting this idiot behave badly. They’ll just slap his wrist is all.

        5. Rainy*

          This was my first thought too–tell his manager, tell HR, but for the love of god, tell the coworker so she can refuse to open the gift.

      2. Is It Performance Art*

        I doubt this guy is going to eventually see reason and recognize that this is a terrible idea. Someone might be able to get through to him that this could lead to him getting fired and if he gets fired over a stunt like this, a lot of employers are not going to want to hire someone who’s gotten fired for this. Even if he does keep his job, there’s a good chance that HR is going to take disciptlinary action. He may complain about it, but he may decide to knock it off because he doesn’t want to risk his job.

        1. Observer*

          You know, it doesn’t really matter all the much if he sees reason. The main thing is that he actually DOES knock it off.

      3. Observer*

        I totally agree with you – with one exception. I don’t agree that your practical advice is problematic at all. Sure, it should not be necessary. But it’s a perfectly legitimate way to stop some entitled jerk from trying to mistreat a colleague.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agree. It sucks that it might come to this, and of course this dude should listen to any colleague of any age or gender who is giving good advice … but it’s worth taking advantage of bro culture if it is what will put a stop to the red-underwear plan.

        2. Allypopx*

          Yep. It would be great if dynamics didn’t work that way but given that they realistically do, there’s nothing wrong with using them to your advantage or using them to navigate a tricky situation. Patriarchy makes the problem, patriarchy solves the problem.

      4. Myrin*

        Yeah, that’s some pretty impressive mental gymnastics on this guy’s part and, in my humble opinion, a sure indicator that he’s thinking of her in some kind of sexual manner. Doesn’t even mean he has the intention of hitting on her via the underwear but at the very least, he’s thought about her in red lingerie and I’m betting that as soon as she becomes aware of that, she’ll feel extremely weirded out and awkward, maybe even violated. Gross.

        (I’m also impressed that he’s actually doubling down on this. I will admit that I’ve had my fair share of terrible ideas in the moment because my brain works in mysterious ways but I usually come to my senses once I think about things calmly. And in this case, the guy doesn’t even have to think about it calmly, OP directly told him that this is a colossally bad idea but it’s apparently So Important to him that he can’t be swayed, which is actually the more problematic aspect of this whole mess to me.)

        1. Alicia*

          He might be one of those people who has to be right, and won’t back down from a statement no matter what.

        2. Clarey*

          Yes, it definitely implies he’s thinking of her in a sexual manner in her underwear. It also implies he’s spent time thinking about her breasts so he can choose the right size bra! It’s all so so gross!

      5. Lynca*

        I don’t think that’s a problematic suggestion as much as I have my doubts that will work with this dude. The fact he’s doubling down on such a colossally bad idea makes me think it’s going to take some direct discussion of the consequences of this idea from someone with the ability to enact some consequences to potentially get through to him.

        Even then I don’t think that is a sure thing given this spectacular failure of judgment.

        1. Observer*

          Well, if someone who he “respects” (ie sees are taking part in the same caricature of dude-bro culture) tells him “You are being a colossal idiot and you’re going to get yourself into trouble” that might convince him that he really could get in trouble over this and MAYBE it’s not QUITE as “funny” and safe for him as he had thought.

          The point here is not to turn him into a decent person – I doubt that there is anything anyone can say in this context that would do this. The idea is to get him to NOT do this, and to plant the seed that this is not considered acceptable “anymore, unfortunately” (Obviously *I* don’t think it’s unfortunate, but he WOULD.)

    3. Paralegal Part Deux*

      I can’t wrap my brain around the logic of thinking it’s *ever* okay to give your co-worker red underwear.

          1. Katieinthemountains*

            My dad led a big project and his team described the roles with Winnie the Pooh characters. “First, Owl surveyed the site from the air” etc., etc. At the end of the project, a younger female coworker gave him a pair of boxers with all the characters. Mom was not thrilled about it. So it’s a thing that happens, but can confirm, it’s weird. This was pre-Internet, so I think we assumed it was either an impulse buy or she couldn’t find a tie.

            1. Observer*

              Either this young woman was totally socially clueless or she was engaging in a bit of guerilla education – kind of making it clear to all what’s wrong with the kind of “attention” many women get.

              And the Winnie the Pooh characters does make it a BIT better. But still…

            2. sometimeswhy*

              I recently had to convince (ie: repeat a la broken record IT IS NEVER APPROPRIATE TO GIVE A COLLEAGUE UNDERWEAR) an executive where I work to not buy boxers as a going away gift for a colleague. I’m still not certain that I was successful; colleague is not gone yet. The idea was objectively funny and thematically appropriate and the recipient would’ve found it hilarious but the recipient is not the only person who will be there and even if he does find it funny it is still intensely inappropriate so do not effing do it, dude.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I work with my husband. Giving my husband sexy underwear would be entirely appropriate. Giving my husband underwear *at a work function* would be highly inappropriate.

        1. Stephanie*

          I worked in a remote location with a bunch of men, and we were not allowed to be physical with anyone (it would get us fired) nor was I interested in any of them. My one female colleague went home earlier than I (she started earlier) and sent me lingerie as a joke gift. I laughed really hard when I opened her gift, because it was so useless and the whole place was surreal. It was a great gift, as my female room-mate and I had a much needed laugh and I still laugh when I think about it, but it was important that this was given to me by another woman and it was meant to support solidarity.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’ve been playing Secret Santa with a group of women friends (not coworkers) for years, and I’ve never given or received underwear. Nor have I ever received a wish list with “underwear” or “lingerie” on it. I always thought this is strictly limited to romantic partners. But a coworker! and going on something he overheard/eavesdropped on?! How did this guy make it all the way into 2019 with this mindset intact?! My brain is also about to explode.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I have given a person red underwear exactly one time in my life, and it was my best friend at her bachelorette party. I would be inclined to say that a thing that is common or expected at a bachelor/bachelorette party is something you should definitely not do at work with colleagues.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I went to a bridal shower/bachelorette party where it was *specifically* a lingerie party. I was a bridesmaid and the bride is one of my best and closest friends. It still felt really gross and strange that I was asked to buy her underwear.

          I ended up buying her a slip in her favorite color and she got everything at her shower from skimpy thongs (*shudder*) to sweat pants. So weird.

          And I know this wasn’t specified, but did the coworker get her a bra, too? I so, that’s kind of worse because that means he needed to think good and hard about her breasts to approximate her cup size.

          1. Greta*

            By “lingerie party” I hope you mean that you were supposed to gift lingerie, NOT a party where everyone shows up in lingerie!

    4. pcake*

      OP 1 – the underwear is an extremely bad idea, and I’d not only mention it to HR but suggest that underwear be added to the list of “don’t get these” items for each year’s Secret Santa. If they don’t already have such a list, this would be a great time to start one.

      I also agree with Princess Consuela Banana Hammock that the guy probably knows it’s inappropriate.

      1. valentine*

        suggest that underwear be added to the list of “don’t get these” items for each year’s Secret Santa.
        Playing Whac-A-Mole with the odd offender will be better than pouring a lot of time into a list and fighting rules-lawyering louses.

        1. Quill*

          Sounds like the rules for school dance clothes.

          “Dresses must reach below the knee, have straps wider than three fingers, and cover everything between the armpits and the knees. No cutouts are allowed. Sheer panels do not count. Lace with a flesh toned backing does not count. Slits may not ascend above the knee. No open backs. No strapless dresses. There must be a strap on EACH side of the neck. Spaghetti strap or sheer panel shouldered dresses may only be worn if there is a wrap to cover your shoulders…”

          Actually, scratch that, my high school’s policy on “no visible undergarments ever” applies here.

          1. MassMatt*

            Not to derail, but it’s interesting that school dress codes are overwhelmingly about policing girls’ attire, that they not be too sexy, show too much skin (even a knee?) etc. The only thing I ever recall mentioned about guy’s clothing is wearing their pants too low and showing underwear, which is not intended as a sexy look.

            I suppose a line must be drawn somewhere lest people show up for school wearing bikinis but IMO there is a huge double standard at work in many of these dress code policies.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, school dress codes are always 100% about sexism and in many cases race and class (a specific brand popular among black girls, ‘baby phat’ was banned for a year, allegedly because it tended to come with holes or off the shoulder tops, but… they could have just banned off the shoulder tops, and holes were already covered.)

              Dress codes for boys tend to only enforce gender roles and make sure they don’t wear “inappropriate” logos on their t-shirts, or go after alleged “gang symbols” (By the time a school hears that “wearing a red hat” is a gang symbol they’ve quit that one anyhow…)

              The knee thing was actually an improvement over the general dress code, because at least it didn’t involve measuring how far above the knee the hem was.

              1. Salymander*

                Yeah, I am in total agreement with you about dress codes. They are sexist and racist as hell.

                My kid’s middle school is not super adamant about enforcing dress codes, but they are on the books for the whole district. I think her school staff finds the dress codes to be really sexist and declines to enforce most of them. Unfortunately, with the rules still on the books, you always have the lurking potential for sexist and racist discrimination being exercised through dress code enforcement. We had one yard duty go rogue and start “dress coding” students at lunch, once sending 25+ kids to the office in a 30 minute period. To my knowledge, in her months long reign of terror, all the kids she dress coded were girls. I don’t know what the racial component of this ridiculousness was. Knowing the offender, a racial component would not surprise me.
                Thankfully, the school stopped letting her work there. I don’t think any of the girls faced any sort of official school discipline, but being pulled out of lunch and sent to the office for inappropriate attire is really crappy and embarrassing, even if you are released by office staff immediately. Scrutinizing a girl’s attire to be sure it is not too sexy just sexualizes that girl. Which kind of defeats the stated purpose of the dress code, no? Dress codes police girls in a way that is really damaging to everyone.

                And as for the red underwear question? Even if this guy is genuinely clueless (doubtful), he is refusing to change his plan even when given very good reasons for why it is a terrible idea. So he clearly thinks that his desire to publicly give underwear to women at work is the most important thing here. That seems a lot less clueless and a whole lot more like a sexist, entitled asshole trying to fly under the radar and be gross under the cover of Christmas Cheer. Even if he started out clueless, he is totally doubling down. So maybe less “clueless” and more “so entitled and sexist that he doesn’t have to even try to be gross anymore, he just is gross.”

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Dress codes also tend to over-police girls who aren’t small and thin. If you have two girls wearing the same style of top, the one who’s more likely to get sent to the office is the one who’s a little larger.

          2. Rebecca1*

            I have taught at several schools with very good, non-sexist and non-racist dress codes. Diversity at the administrative level was key to these!

        2. Allypopx*

          True, but I’ve definitely worked places that have had “We shouldn’t have to say this, BUT….” rules for certain parties. For something like this a list might include not gifting food if you don’t know someone’s allergies. Some things are good reminders.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Of course he knows. “But she said…blah, blah, blah…” so he can claim yanno that it’s somehow her fault that he chose to do this, even after being told not to. Plausible deniability and all.

        1. Observer*

          Good point on the “plausible deniability”. But I do think that it’s a wee bit too transparent.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          If I mention in passing that a lot of people smoked pot in high school that does not mean I want pot for Christmas.
          He is an adult. As adults we filter through conversations. We don’t attach meanings that aren’t there, especially in a ridiculous manner such as this example here.
          She should have said, “In Spain everyone drives BMWs” then that way he would be stuck getting her a BMW for Christmas.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            She should have said, “In Spain everyone drives BMWs” then that way he would be stuck getting her a BMW for Christmas.

            hehehe, I like this.

            1. Stephanie*

              On the list of inappropriate gifts for a holiday exchange…
              When discussing gift ideas for the company meal, I was reminded recently by my boss that cannabis is legal here.

              He said it jokingly, but I did remind him that it might be problematic – although would it be any better or worse than a bottle of wine?

              1. curly sue*

                Maybe worse for the next couple of years while everyone gets used to the new status quo? (Canadian here) On the other hand, I was in the post office yesterday and saw card-sized ‘scent-proof’ bubble mailers designed for shipping cannabis, so maybe it’s a more common gift than I thought.

              2. KoiFeeder*

                Assuming that the cannabis in question is edibles that are not intended to be consumed at the meal itself, and not cannabis intended for consumption on the premises, or any cannabis smoking or vaping (can you even vape cannabis?), it’s probably about on par with wine? The caveat with edibles is that they’re more likely to fall afoul of dietary restrictions, more difficult to regift, and cannabis shares certain allergens that mean you’d wanna know food allergies before hand even beyond “are you allergic to brownies” or the like.

                1. Ego Chamber*

                  Yes, you can 100% vape cannabis. You can even vape it at the movies if you get a cartridge that smells/tastes like not-cannabis and sit in the back row. Or so I’ve heard…

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  @Ego Chamber
                  Suddenly my inconsistent allergic reactions to vapes (allergic to both cannabis and tobacco but more severely to the former) make sense…

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, it feels very much like underwear giver took a passing comment and used it as his excuse to do something creepy. She said it’s a tradition but that doesn’t mean she participates in it, any more than I as a Canadian would be delighted to receive hockey-themed stuff at a gift exchange.

        1. rain rain go away*


          There’s traditions that you do with strangers. Then there’s traditions you do with loved ones. This is not the first category.

          1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Exactly! My mother is the only person left who can give me socks for Christmas. From anyone else, it’s just a lazy gift.

              1. Sock guy*

                My sisters-in-law often buy me locally-themed socks when they go overseas for business trips. I love it.

            1. Rosemary*

              There’s a (pricy) brand of wool socks that I really love getting for Christmas, because they’re juust too expensive to justify getting for myself on an average shopping trip… so I’m jumping on the ‘socks are great’ bandwagon, although with the caveat that the socks I’m talking about are Quality.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. We had an underwear giver at one place I worked. Without going into too much detail, he grew up in a very dysfunctional family. I am pretty sure he ended up buying underwear for sibs because no one else did. Anyway, someone told him, no-no-no and he was HUGELY embarrassed and stopped immediately. (We believed him because it was consistent with other things he said/did. And he accepted help learning norms.)

        This guy here is dense. I think I would consider telling him that I was reporting it because I did not want to see the company get slapped with a lawsuit over it.

        1. rain rain go away*

          One big question (although ofc not the only one) is if he’s doing it for men as well. It sounds like your guy was probably also doing it for men?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Never got that far into the discussion, honestly. He did it to one woman and that was enough for us. I am not sure and I don’t know if anyone else knew if he did it in the past. If he did, no one had told him not to do it. I think you are right though, he would have done it for men also, it was normal to him growing up. The item he bought was practical underwear not sexy underwear, think something like a Playtex bra. Yeah, a package of tidy whiteys would be in the same practical vein.

        2. Observer*

          Your guy was a bit dense. It’s understandable from what you say and he reacted appropriately when it was pointed out to him.

          THIS guy is not being dense at all. He’s being a jerk.

    5. Bow Tie*

      About 15 years ago, the second in charge at my work gave a junior colleague red underwear for Secret Santa. He was most definitely hitting on her as he did with many others. He didn’t get in trouble for it which he should have. I can’t remember if everybody knew it was him because he said it was or whether people figured it out. No colleague should open a Secret Santa gift in front of the entire office and have the gift be underwear even if the giver thinks it’s harmless. It’s not. Everybody was uncomfortable.

      1. vito*

        Back in 1988 in my first job out of college I worked in an office where I was the ONLY male who was not a manager. For the first Christmas, one of the female coworkers (an older woman with a teenage son ) gave me a pair of Christmas themed BIKINI BREIFS. Of course she had me open them in front of a room full of women, most of them 20 years older than me. The scary thing is that they were the right size.

        1. Batgirl*

          I’ve known some older women pull the gag gift of boxers on a younger male and it’s a very odd power play mindset to witness.

          1. vito*

            I don’t think boxers would have bothered me. This is something I remember for 30+years. It was a very dysfunctional (family owned) company.

        2. Bow Tie*

          That’s just so creepy – both the gift and the size being correct. I do wonder how those people feel about those gifts now. Do they still think it’s okay?

    6. Aphrodite*

      OP #1, I’d tell the co-worker immediately in addition to the organizer. I would hope the organizer would intervene immediately but unless you are positive that would dissuade him from giving this godawful gift I would want the recipient to know about it ahead of time. This guy doesn’t sound like he wants to take advice from anyone.

    7. it's-a-me*

      OP1 in the off chance that no one manages to convince this guy not to do this, please please warn your coworker who is to receive the gift.

    8. Don’t get salty*

      #1: Ask him what his spouse thinks of him buying lingerie for a coworker. I’m sure he, given your description of him, must be ever so open and honest with everyone about his intentions, and so concerned with how his actions might affect others (barf!).

      1. Observer*

        Please don’t go there. Also, please don’t give him an excuse to triple down by claiming that his wife would be JUST FINE with this because this is TOTALLY appropriate.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Also, what his spouse/partner thinks has NOTHING to do with how wildly inappropriate this is, and reinforces the idea that women should be reining in bad male behaviour rather than him realizing that you don’t give LINGERIE to a coworker!

          1. Kat*

            I agree with Observer and Harper the Other One. Bringing the creep’s spouse into the conversation is wholly irrelevant and takes the conversation off course. The point is it’s a totally inappropriate gift for the workplace. Period. End of story.

      2. Beth*

        I get the spirit here, but OP isn’t going to be able to convince this guy that this is inappropriate, and they shouldn’t waste their time and energy trying. He’s been told and has chosen to disregard that information. Either he’s oblivious to the point of throwing his career off a cliff lemming-style, or he’s fully aware that it’s inappropriate and is choosing to do it in spite of (or worse, because of) its inappropriateness. None of those are good.

      3. Batgirl*

        Someone who is trying to gaslight their coworker (“It’s fine! What’s your problem?!”) and the person they are attracted to at work (“What? This is the kind of relationship we have dontcha know! You SAID you wanted red underwear when you were only two desks away and I am pretty sure you kinda winked at me too.”) is going to have no problem gaslighting their spouse.

        They have A LOT more opportunity with a spouse to make them feel like this is the normal! way! to! behave! and only jealous people object to fun and games…. Ask me how I know.

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This feels like a good time to share that for my 21st birthday, my boss at the time — a man nearly twice my age — gave me a four-pack of wine coolers and a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret. It was … unsettling. Don’t give colleagues underwear.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I literally physically shuddered from the second-hand preda-creep vibes. I’m so sorry, Alison. This sounds disturbing (it would have made me feel dirty / unsettled).

      2. Tau*

        OK, after reading that my skin is now trying to crawl off my body. Aaaaagh, what a creepy thing to do!

        Don’t give colleagues underwear.

        One would think it would go without saying, and yet.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        ohh… don’t stop the story there. What did you do? Twenty one year old me probably would have just thrown in the garbage on the way home and wondered if life was always going to be this awkward.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Completely irrelevant but how much was the certificate for? I’m curious how much this guy thought a 21st birthday was worth?

          The VS giftcard is the most inappropriate gift, but I think the wine coolers are inappropriate as well.

          Where I work we have an occasional after work happy hour at the office, but when we have had under 21 college interns we explicitly prohibit them from drinking and will make sure to provide a non-alcoholic alternative. I don’t think any of the non-drinking age interns ever mentioned having any alcoholic drinks.

          I’m curious if the boss just assumed AAM liked wine coolers, what it she was more a whiskey and/or beer person, or didn’t drink at all.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I assumed it was like the time my coworkers gave me lottery tickets for my birthday. You’ve passed the threshold to be legally allowed to use this, so I will give it to you as a present. That doesn’t make it a good idea, but it may have been the motivation.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I *think* it was that — like “here you go, now you can drink.” But no idea what the VS certificate was supposed to communicate other than that he had no boundaries.

              1. AKchic*

                I have received some random gift cards/certificates that I can only imagine were regifted to me, but a VS gift card seems like an odd thing to regift to a 21 year old woman from a man in his 40s. Souvenir shops, pet stores (when I had no pets), custom boutiques, a car dealership ($25), and many restaurants (which, as a young parent to way too many kids, a $20 gift card to an expensive restaurant really wasn’t going to be used, y’know?)… but VS is just… oof.

                1. JustaTech*

                  I had a coworker bring a baby present in a VS bag and he 100% did not get why this was not a great look.
                  He had some … perception issues. He wouldn’t make a whole book, but stories about that guy would be a funny pamphlet.

      4. Sled dog mama*

        So this is when your gift for understatement developed. Unsettling seems like such an understatement in this situation.

      5. Allypopx*

        I definitely had a boss at that age who would have done that. Luckily I’m not sure he ever knew my birthday. I’m a little surprised he didn’t get me something for my honeymoon – he’s certainly asked me about my sex life since I stopped working for him (“This is a normal thing adults talk about and I don’t pay you anymore it’s fiiiiiiine”)

      6. Jaydee*

        Four pack of wine coolers, by itself, is maybe skirting the line of appropriateness. If it wasn’t your boss but a coworker, I think it would be okay. From the boss it’s a little weird, but maybe okay in some workplaces or for some boss/employee dynamics.

        But add in the VS gift card, and he just took a running leap over that line and stuck the landing.

        1. Rainy*

          For whatever reason, “bottle of wine” registers like “random party/housewarming gift” to me but “pack of wine coolers” feels just a step better than roofies.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            That’s because a pack of wine coolers are one bag of McDonalds and some condoms away from being literally every episode of To Catch a Predator. (These are all terrible gifts—unless you give me all of them and then I’ll think it’s hilarious, but not at the office Secret Santa please.)

            1. Sock guy*

              Me, I associate wine coolers with a great canoe trip I took with my father and my best friend a few decades ago. Which means I would never be tempted to give it as a gift at work, because I’ve never wanted to spend a vacation with my coworkers. (Seriously, if a gift is required, I usually give a good CD of Chopin piano music. Good stuff, not overpriced, and even rap fans don’t hate listening to it.)

          2. Rosemary*

            ‘Four pack of wine coolers’ reads to me like “Here is a large quantity of shitty alcohol” = “I’m hoping you get super drunk so I can take advantage” whereas ‘single bottle of pricier alcohol’ = “Here is a reasonable quantity of quality alcohol that you are intended to savor, ie, not get shitfaced on.”

            Any 21 year old can go out and buy large quanitities of cheap alcohol. But they may not have the knowledge or money to enjoy / find the actually GOOD alcohol, and therefore a single bottle of something nice is more of a “Here is an introduction to the wonderful world of good spirits” rather that something creepy.

      7. Le Sigh*

        Good lord. I feel like your boss watched the “To Catch a Predator” episode where the guy showed up with Smirnoff Ice and cheap lingerie to the sting and thought, “Huh, what a great idea!”

      8. theelephantintheroom*

        OK, the four-pack of wine coolers cracked me up. (But still totally inappropriate.)

      9. emmelemm*

        In one of my first instances of being sexually harrassed: I was a “security guard” (person who sits at the front desk) in the dorms at my college. The guy who was the “head”/coordinator of the security guards was not that much older than most of the students – probably 27 or 28; he had been a student at the college and kind of did the “never left” thing.

        Anyway, he called me on the desk phone and said he wanted to get a gift for his ‘girlfriend’ and what did I think about lingerie and what was my opinion of fishnet stockings and what color did I think was best and etc. etc. describing lingerie to me for a while…

    10. WS*

      One place where I worked some years ago, the boss’s son (who would have been in his early 30s and married) gave most of the female temp and secretarial staff lingerie for Christmas. He did not give this gift to any of the women in sales or management, and when asked why he only gave it to *some* of the temp and secretarial staff, he said “I only wanted to buy it up to size 8 (=about size 4 US).”

      Fortunately, his dad did actually step in, told him why this was inappropriate, and made him write a letter of apology to all staff and buy everyone a generic gift card. But it was extremely uncomfortable and (even as one of the non-lingerie receivers, since I definitely was not size 8!) I was glad that my contract there finished with the New Year.

      1. Marmaduke*

        This is horrible in so many directions simultaneously that it’s almost a work of art. Terrible, disturbing art.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          May I cosign this comment, because I have no words of my own and it describes my feelings about this guy perfectly?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I truly do not know how someone can make it into their 30s and think this scheme is ok (or that the body shaming is ok!). Especially since his dad sounds like he has some sense. My mind totally boggles.

        1. WS*

          Well, it was a waste management company, so the dad obviously had some idea about how to handle rubbish!

      3. Quill*

        Everything about this is the worst. Each new line of this dude’s attempt at gifting is the worst.

        “Only up to a size 8” tells me soooo much about his thought process that I don’t even want to know.

        1. Rainy*

          “God forbid anyone see me buying lingerie for fatties” seems to be the thought process.

          Yet no one else in his life had a problem buying presents for a fathead

    11. 867-5309*

      I am thinking of the people I know who live and work IN Spain, and there is not one instance I can think of where they would do this. What is the coworker thinking?

      Further, if his sense of boundaries is this far out of proportion, is there a chance hes harassing the coworker in other ways? It’s definitely worth sharing with the appropriate person, and the gift recipient herself.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        This is also a good point. That she is familiar with the tradition does not mean it is appropriate for the coworker to give her lingerie. It does not give them a pass, and neither does the fact she mentioned it in the first place.

        Living in a country where red underwear is a tradition too, I would still not welcome anyone short of my boyfriend giving me lingerie, let alone in a work context.

      2. Observer*

        I think it’s pretty obvious what this guy is thinking.

        I know that you were being rhetorical, but I think it’s worth emphasizing just how clear it is that this guy is trampling boundaries and should most definitely NOT be given ANY benefit of the doubt.

        OP, please seriously consider reporting this to HR. They need to know that not only is he crossing boundaries, but that he is doing this even when he’s being explicitly told that it is not appropriate.

    12. Beth*

      OP1: Oh NOOO I think we’ve hit on the worst possible Secret Santa gift…

      In addition to telling the Secret Santa organizer what he’s planning, you really need to tell your coworker. If this guy told you his plan, he’s not treating it as a massive secret; odds are he’s mentioned it to other people too. And he’s resistant to getting shut down, clearly, so there’s a real chance this pair of underwear will actually show up. Imagine being in her shoes and having to deal with this as a surprise when the people watching all knew it was coming! She deserves the chance to be prepared.

      Heck, even if the swap organizer does manage to stop this, she deserves to know that this guy is thinking of her in a way that puts “sexy lingerie gift” on the map! I would be so creeped out to learn a work colleague was thinking of me that way. I’d be even more upset to learn that others knew about it and no one told me; that would leave me feeling both sketched on and isolated/powerless, which is a terrible combo. Tell her so she can decide what kind of relationship she wants with him going forward. If she doesn’t mind or thinks it’s funny, great, the only harm done is that you spoiled a terrible secret santa gift. If she does mind (which I think is the likely outcome here), she’ll likely appreciate the chance to make fully informed choices.

        1. Beth*

          Agh, okay, that’s just as bad. I probably shouldn’t frame it as an absolute anyways…too much temptation for the worst of human nature!

        2. suburbanbeatnik*

          I just read that entire thread. Boy, it makes me realize that 2013 was a long time ago… MeToo changed a lot of things, I think. Not only did the manager claim to be powerless, but the OP actually tried to laugh it off and say “boys would be boys” because the men who were giving their female co-workers sexually themed Secret Santa gifts weren’t over the age of 25!? Even her own husband was telling her it was No Big Deal and she shouldn’t make an issue of it! UGH.

          At my workplace recently we all had to watch a 2 hour sexual harassment presentation and we were told over and over again that sexual harassment and bullying were two issues HR took VERY VERY seriously and none of it was acceptable. So it makes me wonder what happened at the company to make them finally address the issue.

          It really makes me wonder what happened to the OP who wrote in about the sex toy, and what happened to her later in the office.

          Anyway, hi everyone! Long time lurker, first time poster. I love this site, and all the comments too!

          1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

            “Anyway, hi everyone! Long time lurker, first time poster. I love this site, and all the comments too!”

            Welcome. You will never leave! ;-)

          2. Allypopx*

            2013 me: Quietly tells my supervisor about something a grandboss did that made me uncomfortable because I want them to have a discreet conversation but I don’t want to make it A Thing. HR still hears about it and tells me, “woman to woman”, that I’m right but I’m probably going to need to get a thicker skin.

            2019 me: THE F*CK DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME KEVIN????

            Maybe more professionally than that. Probably a firm “Excuse me?”. But really it depends on the day.

      1. Rosalind Franklin*

        There’s also the possibility she’s getting bad vibes from him, but nothing she can put her finger on – “he stares just a second too long at me during meetings” is realistically not actionable. “He bought me lingerie and intends to give it to me at a public event” is very much actionable.

    13. Anonymouse grinch*

      I’d be tempted to give the recipient a headsup that this might be the present he gets you, and if she’s ok with it, let it play out in full view of the office. Coworker clearly believes he’s doing nothing wrong and believes you’re being a grinch so let him deal with the aftermath of his little holiday stunt.

      1. JSPA*

        She may be willing to suck it up, though, and the effect on others present could still be harassment. Heck, even if he’s pulling OP’s chain, and the actual gift isn’t lingeree, he’s arguably harassing OP by saying it’s what he’s going to do (and setting up OP as a harasser- by-proxy?).

      2. CL Cox*

        Nope, not even if she says she’s OK with it. She may be saying it’s OK in order to not make waves. Or she may not realize that it will negatively affect her work reputation as much as (if not more than) the giver’s.

        1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

          I think “let it play out” means let the gift-ee read him the riot act in front of everyone, rather than having some put the kibosh on him behind the scenes (but only if the gift-ee wants to, and not if she’d rather the manager or organizer intervene).

          1. Salymander*

            She might feel pressured to go along with this idea, and could feel even more harassed.

            And would telling him off publicly change everyone’s perception of her at work? There is a non-zero chance that other people at the party will see this and just remember (and gossip about later) that she “got overly emotional” about a Christmas present. I would not like to be thought of by my coworkers and supervisor as the Red Underwear Woman Who Yells.

            OP should warn her of his creepy intentions, and tell management right away so they can stop it.

      3. Anonymouse grinch*

        Gosh – no, in no way was I suggesting she suck it up or play along – quite the opposite.

        By “play it out” I meant let the giftee be forewarned and able to react as she chooses – not involuntarily because she’s so skeeved out by coworker’s gift. Not necessarily by reading the riot act but acting calmly and dumbfounded. eg “I think you got your gifts confused because you can’t need HR to tell you it’s inappropriate to buy a coworker underwear”.

        If she and LW are friends then I would hope she would not feel pressured to do anything she didn’t want to do.

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

      Coming from a Latino country, the tradition here mandates the underwear must come from an elder woman in the family. When I was little my grandmother and her sisters were in charge.
      So, this person is using tradition to justify his creepy side.

    15. Anony Miss*

      My workplace recently added mandated Sexual Harassment Prevention training for all employees. This might vary by state/workplace, but one of the things HR said is that you don’t have to be the target of sexual harassment to be a victim of it.

      The example HR used was a group of guys are talking and a woman walks by and overhears one of them making a dirty joke, etc. That woman can claim sexual harassment. So in this situation, anyone who witnesses the lingerie being opened and is made uncomfortable by it (and who wouldn’t be?!) can file a sexual harassment claim with HR.

      I’m just completely flabbergasted that this guy took a comment his female co-worker made about lucky underwear as an excuse to get her lingerie and sees nothing wrong with it.

    16. fogharty*

      This reminded me of a gift our female office admin gave to another woman at the latter’s farewell lunch held at a local chicken restaurant. It was a pair of sexy thong underwear, and it made for some awkward looks when the gift was opened in front of everyone…. especially since the recipient was Mormon so there was a lot going on there.

    17. UbiCaritas*

      For Pete’s sake – out of ALL the possible presents, this guy decides to give underwear? Along with all the other comments, I’d worry about his judgment, period.

      1. Crivens!*

        Oh he knows exactly what he’s doing. Dude is a creep, not a total idiot. I mean he might be both but he’s a creep above all.

    18. Doug Judy*

      And this is how Secret Santa will cease to exist OP’s work.

      How, in 2019, does anyone think this is remotely appropriate. This guy isn’t nearly as clever as he thinks he is. He’s gross. Tell him to drop it, tell HR, and I’d still probably let this woman know, just in case there are are other instances of subtle inappropriateness that have been going on. I’d want to know of some creep was planning on giving me lingerie and only didn’t because HR shut it down.

      1. Calo*

        Like I said in the earlier thread I hate all these secret Santa exchanges and really wish they’d stop.

    19. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Eons ago before sexual harassment was taken seriously, one of the younger admin assistants got a pair of sheer black stockings as her secret Santa gift. She balled them up into a ball and we spent the rest of the day tossing them around the office. We had no idea who gave them to her but hopefully, they learned something.

    20. Mannheim Steamroller*

      My wife’s office has a great approach to “Secret Santa”:

      (1) The spending cap is $10.

      (2) All participants submit “like” and “don’t want” lists. When my wife gave one guy a selection of hot sauces, it was because he had put hot sauce on his “like” list.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        But you shouldn’t have to write you don’t want underwear or any other inappropriate gift :)

        1. Mannheim Steamroller*

          True. It’s more a sense of, “I’d rather you choose from one of these categories. If you can’t find one of those, then choose something appropriate that IS NOT one of these Forbidden Items.”

          Plus, the $10 spending limit helps to exclude a lot of inappropriate stuff.

    21. Lime green Pacer*

      Any thoughts on a script to warn the intended recipient? This seems like the kind of thing that could go wrong all by itself.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        “Hey I just wanted to give you a heads up that I was talking to John and he is planning on getting you red underwear for your SS gift.”
        See how they respond and I would even offer to go with her to our manager, jointly, to make a complaint.

        1. Kat*

          If it were me I honestly wouldn’t want to dump this in the recipient’s lap. It’s not fair for her to now have to figure out if she can navigate this, does she talk to the creep beforehand, or does she now have to file a complaint based on second hand information someone told her?

          Maybe the Secret Santa organizer convinces the guy not to give the underwear at the gift exchange cuz it will be awkward for everyone. But this guy seems like the type to privately give the underwear to the recipient.

          If I walk by John and Steve and hear them making a sexual joke about Jane, I don’t go tell Jane what I heard the guys saying. I tell John and Steve to shut their mouths and then I go to management/HR and tell them I need to report an incident of sexual harassment.

          Let management make the call whether to tell the recipient after they’ve been told about this and have a come to Jesus talk with the creep about how if he ever puts a toe out of line like this he’s being walked out the door.
          I’d take it straight to management for them to deal with. Even if the Secret Santa organizer manages to convince this guy that it’s not ok to give this gift in the exchange, who’s to say he won’t privately give the recipient this gift at some other time? Management needs to know this guy thinks it’s ok to give underwear to a coworker. Period. Context or function doesn’t matter.

          1. PB*

            If it were me I honestly wouldn’t want to dump this in the recipient’s lap. It’s not fair for her to now have to figure out if she can navigate this, does she talk to the creep beforehand, or does she now have to file a complaint based on second hand information someone told her?

            I hear you, but I think it’s worth saying something, regardless. If someone were preparing to give me underwear in public and at least one other person knew about it in advance, I would want to know before I rip that box open.

            1. Kat*

              Ok I will slightly change my position. Telling the coworker wouldn’t be the first thing I’d do. When speaking to mgmt/HR I’d express my concerns that coworker needs to know if there is any chance at all she’ll get undies so she can opt out of opening her gift in front of everyone. Ideally good HR/mgmt would have a way to ensure it won’t happen. But if I walked out of the meeting and felt like mgmt/HR wasn’t going to handle it effectively, THEN I would tell coworker because she should have all the info that I tried to have her back but hit a wall.

            2. tangerineRose*

              Also if this guy is generally creepy, shouldn’t she be told about this so she can deal with it?

          2. Half-Caf Latte*

            It’s also unfair for her to have to navigate this in the moment, and if my friend knew I was about to be embarrassed publicly by the actions of a third friend and didn’t tell me about it, I’d have problems with both friends.

          3. Tupac Coachella*

            This is what I keep going back and forth on-how can OP tell her without making it an unfair burden on her? I would be raging mad if I received underwear from a coworker in front of everyone, and another coworker said after the fact, “yeah, I told him that was a terrible idea.”

            I like 8Days approach in a neutral tone, carefully avoiding any implication whatsover of the face saving “it’s kinda funny tho” that people sometimes do to mask discomfort, followed by “Since he said he plans to proceed anyway, I’ve notified Manager. I’m sorry if that’s overstepping, but I felt uncomfortable not doing anything about it, and felt like since I heard it firsthand it would be helpful if the report came from me.”

          4. SophieJ*

            This assumes that management is good and will actually do something about it. Even in 2019, I think that’s a bold assumption. This forum shows us that bad managers, HR folks, and employees exist everywhere.

            Even a “good” management team may take the “he technically hasn’t done anything yet. For all we know he could change his mind/this could be OP trying to get him into trouble.” approach.

            Normally I’d agree to only report to management/HR in similar scenarios (like overhearing lewd comments about a peer,) but I do think telling the recipient is a good idea here because of how public the reveal is going to be. It’s not just a couple of people seeing this, or arguably a case of “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her” (to be clear, I don’t think lewd comments made by some guys about a co-worker who is a woman is “not hurtful” either, but chances are good that those guys are doing other things to display their crapitude, so belaboring the point by telling the subject of such comments what exactly was said doesn’t accomplish a great deal.) She should have the opportunity to prepare for and consider her best response if management/HR fails her on this, especially since her response, being in front of most of, if not all of, the employees (and, I assume, her managers) could have lasting consequences for her career (her managers shouldn’t hold it against her if she becomes visibly upset, of course, but they may still hold her to outdated grace-under-fire/it’s too scary to see women actually angry expectations if she lets loose an expletive-filled rant about the inappropriateness of the gift, rather than a poised, thoughtful response.)

        2. Anon Here*

          But don’t use that abbreviation (“SS gift”). This is getting wronger and wronger as I scroll.

          (Not aimed at 8Days, who probably didn’t think of this, and whose post I agree with overall.)

          1. Observer*

            Yes, that one kind of jumped at me. Especially as Amazon was selling Auschwitz themed Tree Decorations. Which is not 8Days’ problem, but it’s just an addition layer of ick at this point.

              1. Observer*

                Was, fortunately. When the Poles tell you that it’s offensive, you really need to listen.

                Links to follow.

    22. Anonimis*

      At my work we used to specify up to 3 things we’d like for our Secret Santa gift. There was one guy who liked to dress in women’s clothes, which I didn’t have an issue with, however I heard that on his Secret Santa wish list he asked for women’s underwear. Ick. Also, someone, as a joke, gave this girl a box of piles cream, condoms, and other similar stuff along with her main secret santa gift. She took it in good humour but that could have gone down badly with some people!

      1. Anonimis*

        Just to clarify my comment above, I would have disapproved of anyone asking for underwear for their secret santa, regardless of gender/type of underwear requested!

    23. Kat*

      I’m going to disagree with Allison’s answer in one regard. I don’t think the OP should tell the Secret Santa organizer. I think the OP should take this information straight to the creep’s manager or their own manager, or HR.
      Based on my own work experience, work functions have tended to be organized by women who are usually in administrative roles or at the peer level (i.e. not managers or senior level staff).
      If I were the Secret Santa organizer I wouldn’t be thrilled with having to deal with explaining sexual harassment to some glassbowl, especially if I had no real authority in my job to do anything about it. Besides, the OP already tried to handle it directly. I don’t think having another employee talk to the guy is the right step. It needs to be escalated to higher authority so they are aware that this guy totally does not understand the concept of sexual harassment and for everyone’s sake, not just the recipient, this needs to be shut down immediately.
      If someone came to me and told me that one of my direct reports was planning to do this, I’d seriously be wanting to fire them. Doesn’t matter if they didn’t carry through with it. Just the act of planning to do it and discussing it in the office with another coworker is wholly inappropriate. To me there is no difference between committing sexual harassment and TALKING about doing something that would be sexual harassment. Both make other employees uncomfortable and both end up poisoning the workplace.

      I really hope OP sends us an update!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I agree with this. As other people have mentioned in this thread, you don’t have to be the target of the sexual harassment in order to report it.

        This letter reminds me of the one where the LW’s coworker got fired for repeatedly flirting/asking out/trying to hug a female coworker. The LW told the dude to knock it off and he didn’t, but he didn’t go to HR about it. LW, don’t be like that guy. You’re aware that one of your colleagues is inappropriately sexualizing another colleague, and HR is the department who handles that, so take it straight to them.

      2. Allypopx*

        “Just the act of planning to do it and discussing it in the office with another coworker is wholly inappropriate. To me there is no difference between committing sexual harassment and TALKING about doing something that would be sexual harassment. ”

        I think this is why it’s important the gift-receiver knows. I’d be really uncomfortable if I were a sexual harassment victim and I was out of the loop on that fact. It could really shape how she acts around this coworker and how aware she needs to be – hell it could be a safety issue. I think her knowing is super important.

        However yes the manager should ALSO be looped in.

        1. Kat*

          After reading your comment…..I’m now convinced the coworker does need to be told. I didn’t think it through as far as you did but you’re right. I’d want to know if this had happened because I’d want the right to then go to mgmt and say I need to not be working with the creep again because I shouldn’t have to be subjected to sexual harassment whether I’m aware it’s happening to me or not.

          If HR is good at their job then I think they should tell the coworker because they can use this incident to ask some questions like has the creep ever been creepy to you before? Have you ever felt uncomfortable but not said anything etc? That way they’re also not dumping it on the employee but making it clear they want to know if bad stuff is going on and work with her to find a solution that she is most comfortable with to ensure her safety (assuming the guy wouldn’t be fired).

          If the OP doesn’t have confidence in HR after reporting it to them then yes, they should be the ones to tell their coworker. Then they can at least say something along the lines of “hey I tried to deal with this but I don’t feel mgmt is gonna do right by you so I hate to tell you this but thought you had to know cuz I couldn’t let you open a gift when I knew this could happen”.

    24. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

      At my last workplace, we had a secret Santa exchange. You brought a gift and it was randomly chosen by someone else. The weirdest gift was a black lace thong and a flashlight, the kind with an elastic strap that you wear on the top of your head. We were a small group and fairly close but I had no clue who brought that. The underwear seemed weird adding the flashlight was just puzzling. Looking forward to the update on this after the gift exchange.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        The flashlight is a sexual innuendo to the hundredth degree. I won’t elaborate. This is truly gross and insulting for someone to do at Secret Santa. Yuck.

      2. Oh so anonymous*

        Context matters so much… the last straw before one successful sexual harassment charge was brought? A simple plastic light saber as a gift. Well not so much the expandable light saber…. but the innuendo & suggestions that accompanied it. Plenty, on top of documented issues preceeding.

    25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Inappropriate gifts like underwear is literally why places cancel Secret Santa and other gift exchanges.

      I don’t even like the traditional bridal shower gifts of lingerie nor the idea of my partner purchasing it for me. That’s so ick.

      I would give the organizer heads up. And then my colleague if it wasn’t squashed fast enough.

      1. Kat*

        A couple of my gf’s gave me lingerie at my bridal shower but only after my Mom had left the “parent portion” of the shower.
        Getting lingerie from my friends actually wasn’t awkward for me which surprised me. What also surprised me was my Mom asking me later if anyone bought me lingerie because she was actually disappointed no one had given me any during the part of the shower she was there for. THAT was awkward.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I don’t like anything sexualized outside of my intimate relationship. That’s sacred to me. It’s my only “secret”, I’m an open book otherwise.

          I respect others are less squicked out when it’s a best girlfriend but still not my thing. Thankfully my best friends are also extra sensitive about it given our different sexual orientations and identities.

          1. Guessing my size is unsettling and triggering to my eating disorder.
          2. Guessing my style of under garments is too personal.
          3. Guessing what excites my partner is where I draw a thick bold line. That’s none of your business ever!

          1. Kat*

            Your feelings are perfectly reasonable and I respect not everyone will feel the same. And even if one is ok with the gift under one set of circumstances also doesn’t mean they’d be ok with it under another set of circumstances.

    26. Database Developer Dude*

      Alison, back in December 2003, you gave an answer related to this that was spot on: you asked why someone would give a gift like that to someone they weren’t intimate with, at the workplace. That is still relevant today.

      This is so far beyond the pale, that LW1 should report it, because it’s a red flag that this creep, whoever they are, might be doing it to others. It should be common sense that you don’t gift lingerie or sex toys or anything regarding sex to colleagues, regardless of the power dynamics in the work relationship.

      1. Kat*

        +100. Also the worry that he might not give inappropriate gifts in front of others but what if he gives the underwear to the recipient after the work function? This creep needs to be reported cuz it’s the stuff he’s NOT talking about to coworkers I’d be worried about the most.

    27. Princesa Zelda*

      There are only 3 circumstances in which it is appropriate to buy and give another person underwear (of any color, but especially red):
      1) they are your spouse or intimate partner;
      2) they are your child (and in the case of red, themed with Elmo or Princess Elena or something);
      3) you are invited to a bachelorette party of the raunchy variety.
      That’s it. “Coworker at work” isn’t even in the same solar system. I hope OP is able to shut this down.

      1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

        If you’re invited to a raunch bachelorette party for a coworker, you’re morally obligated to be washing your hair that day.

    28. yala*

      “I told him what I think and he disagrees with me.”

      Dude sounds like a creep who doesn’t believe he’s a creep because he always feels fine with his own behavior, and anyone who complains just “isn’t fun.”

      But yeah. Definitely let the organizer and the intended giftee know what’s up.

    29. tink*

      The only appropriate undergarments to get a coworker in most industries are funny socks. (We have a coworker super into fun socks, so if I draw them for secret santa that’s definitely what they’re getting.)

    30. Anon Here*

      The thing is that if you go directly to management, the guy could deny it when confronted. It would be hard to proove, and then OP would also be at risk of retaliation.

      Management could circumvent this by waiting until Secret Santa day and then surprise-inspecting the guy’s gift. But do they want this creep working in their office, thinking everything is ok, until that day comes?

      I mean, yes, there should be guidelines. But there should also be consequences for obviously harmful behavior even when there aren’t guidelines.

      There are too many ways for the guy to get away with this. I want him to be held responsible in some way. Because this is a judgment issue, so he’s probably doing other creepy things too and I want people to be protected from him.

      Side note: Someone mentioned the potential for it to damage both of their careers. I can relate to that. What do you do when you’re on the receiving end of that equation? When some random acquaintance or co-worker does something to imply that you’re in a relationship in front of a group of people? If you respond with shock and ask them not to say/do Thing, it only seems to make things worse. Such an awful situation to be in.

      1. Kat*

        Any decent company’s policy on sexual harassment should make clear that anyone who makes a report that is found to have been made in error will NEVER suffer any kind of retaliation. To do so ensures no one will come forward when harassment is so clear a blind person could see it.
        If I were investigating it and the guy said he never said that, I’d still put the screws to him to ask why would someone claim that? Did you say anything that could’ve been misinterpreted? What DID you say you bought?
        And after all the denials I’d still very very firmly remind the person gifting underwear is inappropriate and will result in immediate termination.
        Dude can deny all he wants but I’d still make sure he left my office knowing what is and isn’t considered ok and that I don’t buy the load of bs he’s selling.

    31. Yikes*

      Fresh out of college I worked with a handful of others, some of whom became very close friends. There was also the boss, a man in his 40s I’d guess, a manager in her 30s, & a few tenants who sublet from us of the adult male variety from 40s-50s. At a work event one woman gave her bestie a birthday gift & insisted she open it there. You guessed it, it was lingerie. Recipient was thrilled & then scarlet as the giver insisted she show off the gift & the men ranged from oh, no, please don’t to yeah! It. Was. Awful.
      Giver looked around, realized what was happening & apologized, first to her bestie & then to everyone. The closest it came to being mentioned again was that the boss or manager would remind everyone near gift giving seasons that any gifts given at work should be work related.

    32. DiscoCat*

      Maybe he’s so clueless, lost in his world and so convinced of his allure that he’s banking on some reaction from his colleague. Maybe he hopes to implant some sense of frisson and oooh lala in her mind and who knows, maybe she’ll crave some more of this type of attention from him. *Eyeroll*

    33. theelephantintheroom*

      If the organizer of the Secret Santa doesn’t intervene or doesn’t get any results from intervening, I would warn the recipient and say something like, “I hate to ruin your surprise, but this is something I would want to know about” and then just give her the option bow out of the Secret Santa, if possible, call in sick, or brace for impact.

    34. SunriseRuby*

      I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a place where I can vent about something that happened about 15-20 years ago. My ex-husband has worked in long-term care for his entire 30+ year career, and most of those years at the same care facility. One year, his Secret Santa gave him a pair of boxer shorts with Christmas ornaments (round ones… you can see where this is going…) and the words “Jingle these!” printed across them. He thought they were hilarious, and so did all of his co-workers – nurses and nursing assistants, administrators, dietary and environmental services staff, most of them women. I, his wife of 10+ years, did not find this bit of boundary crossing funny in the least. Only a few years prior to this, we’d been through marriage counseling because of his affair with a co-worker at the first nursing home he worked at. I couldn’t take my complaint to anyone in human resources because HE WAS THE HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR AT THE TIME. Did I mention he was my ex-husband? He’s now living with the infection control nurse from the same facility.

      1. Batgirl*

        Yup, in some workplaces this is the culture and you’re the weird one if you don’t laugh along…
        I’ve never come across a situation where it didn’t signify a deeply toxic, harass-y, boundary-less and overly enmeshed culture where work was the last thing on anyone’s mind though.

    35. SophieJ*

      Also, I’m desperately curious what creep’s wife thinks about this “gift.”

      I suspect that she doesn’t know (perhaps because of… the optics? Which means this guy knows on some level that what he’s doing is hinky as heck.)

      If she does know, then she’s either already told him this is a terrible idea (in which case, no one will convince him, and sadly, the only thing to happen is he digs his own grave while embarrassing innocent people) or she’s actually okay with it, which is it’s own level of “wth?” (Like, even if they have some sort of marital agreement, the fact that she cannot put herself in the recipient’s shoes to consider the implications and consequences of such a gift is staggering.)

      I guess there a third option, but that involves so much wild speculation that it’s not worth mentioning.

    36. Evil Annie Edison*

      I once received a “stripper outfit” from a coworker, a very, very tiny bikini-style top and g-string. He handed the wrapped present to me, blushing and stammering and saying, “My wife makes these, I didn’t want you to feel out, ask the boss to explain, I don’t want you to think it’s sexual harassment!” and then ran off before I opened it.

      Apparently, our (then) boss (a woman) had asked his wife what she did for a living at the company party. When she said she was a seamstress that made outfits for exotic dancers, the boss said she wanted one. So the coworker and his wife together plotted to give her one for Christmas–and as I was the only other female employee, they wanted to be inclusive.

      Once my boss explained the backstory, I had a good laugh. However, if there had been no backstory and his wife not been 100% in on the plan, I would have been horrified.

    37. Batgirl*

      An update on HR response is so key to this one because it’s either a guy who’s so clueless and out of step that the collective gasps take all the oxygen out of the building …or he knows he’s in a culture where he gets a free pass. It’s sad my instinct is to suspect the latter when I hear of someone being outrageously gross under the thinnest deniability veil ever.

    38. fogharty*

      (This story off-topic, except it has to do with Christmas and work and underwear.)

      An ex-boss’s adult son had moved back into town and started a new job. He and his family were staying with her until they could move into their rental.

      His first day at work, where he would be introduced at a board meeting, he was frantically running around the house; all his underwear was in the laundry. He found some novelty boxers that his mother had given him the previous X-mas. He dressed and went off to work.

      While sitting there with his new bosses and their bosses and everyone, he kept wondering why someone wouldn’t turn off their cell phone, cause he could hear this faint little melody playing.

      It took a while before he realized that the song was coming from him, or more specifically, his shorts which were happily playing a little X-mas tune when he shifted his weight just right.

      It was a good ice-breaker, and of course gave rise to his new nickname “Jingle Balls.”

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I totally agree with Alison that you should take your SATs off your resume. You can put it back in for employers who require you to provide it. Here’s additional context for why it should come off:

    The SAT provides others with two pieces of information: (1) That you are very good at taking the SAT; and (2) that you are highly likely to come from a high-SES family. Neither of those speaks to your skills, competency, or potential to succeed in a professional setting. It has a much lower likelihood of accurately reflecting whether someone is a good worker than GPA, and GPA is also not a great measure (but still categorically more predictive of success, after the first 2 years of college, than the SAT).

    1. Np*

      I’m not sure I agree with the GPA being useless after a few years — at least within the field of law, and the common-law jurisdictions (in Europe) I’ve worked in. Many, many law firms will still list your degree grade on their website. But perhaps this is limited to the areas I have mentioned!

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It’s not a good correlation though. My GPA stank because I was working 32 hours a week while taking classes. Yes you mention it in your cover letter but some HR people don’t care. So that means they bias for people who had a full ride. Most of those would be higher income homes where mom & pop paid for it.
        In fact, I and several of my managers used to joke that HR would refuse to hire us for our own jobs. It’s why one of my job search strategies is to avoid HR as much as possible and use connections instead.

        1. Np*

          I completely agree with you — it *shouldn’t* be used, for all the reasons you have mentioned and more. The point I was trying to make is that it *is* used in certain fields.

        2. BasicWitch*

          As a college dropout who has, on occasion, outperformed people with multiple degrees… I do not think GPAs matter much outside of college. Work experience and demonstrable skills will always count for more (as they should, in my biased opinion).

          1. 8DaysAWeek*

            Totally agree. I review resumes and GPAs don’t matter at all for the roles we hire for. In fact, they are off-putting if you have been in the working world for a long time. I need to see you have background in the the role we are filling.

            One of the best managers I ever had at my company didn’t have a college degree.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I always assumed people included college GPA because they lacked significant work experience and wanted to show something that demonstrated work ethic. But I agree that it’s often unhelpful for the employer, it should not be left on one’s resume for more than 1-2 years (it’s slightly ok if it’s on your CV as part of an application to grad school), and there are many positions for which certain degrees or performance within that degree is not as useful as field-specific work experience.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                This is how we use it for entry-level positions for people with no work experience. It’s not great, but I also work in legal, which is notoriously weird about academics far after it matters. I will hire people who don’t meet the minimum GPA requirement but have relevant experience. We just don’t tell the attorneys.

        3. Oof*

          On the flip side, hiring managers can also bias towards those who did work through college. It’s something I always look for, and a decent GPA combined with full time work would be impressive.

      2. Nonny*

        There’s a big cultural difference at work here, too. The degree grades in the UK are prized/shared in a very different way to GPAs in the US, which after a few years, most people don’t even remember.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          A lot of the reason for SATs in the US was to provide a second piece of data to the GPA, since a B at one school might correlate to a higher level than an A+ at another.

          1. Allypopx*

            A lot of people have no idea what my SAT score means because I took it after the scoring changed, and I’m not super familiar with how the scale worked beforehand (though I can figure it out if I have to, but just hearing the number doesn’t do much for me) – so I think this is still an issue with SAT scores.

            1. Rainy*

              This happened to me with the GRE. The percentages always changed year to year, but they’ve changed the entire scale since I took it.

            2. ian*

              I believe they’ve since changed it back, so there’s a 10-year window or so where your SAT score is incomprehensible to most people. I’m just hoping I never get asked for it again…

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yup. Oldest did the essay; youngest decided the schools he was applying to didn’t ask for it so he wouldn’t bother.

        2. Tau*

          Yeah, I still put the degree grade on my CV last job search as to me it’s is a fundamental part of the qualification.

          On which note, this may be another cultural difference or a graduate scheme thing, but after religiously reading AAM in preparation I was really shocked when I started applying to (non-academic) jobs after my PhD and would invariably get responses asking for my UCAS points, A-Levels or (in one case) even GCSEs. Like… I have three degrees and you’re saying how well I did in high school is something you need to know in order to decide whether you want to interview me? Seriously?

          1. Tau*

            Which is to say, OP, that there are some places where this might go on a CV, but since you talk about SATs you are probably not in one! If you are, you most likely need to add a footnote or something explaining the conversion to the local grading system.

          2. londonedit*

            I think maybe it’s because GCSEs and A levels are technically qualifications in their own right, whereas (correct me if I’m wrong) the SAT is more like a college entrance exam. I still have my GCSEs and A levels on my CV, as well as my degree with its classification (because as you say it feels like it’s part of the qualification itself) but I’ve condensed the GCSEs and A levels down to a line each, like ’10 GCSEs at A*-B grade’ and ‘A level History, English Literature and Physics: AAA’. I don’t feel like anyone needs any more information than that seeing as it’s coming up to 20 years since I actually sat my A levels.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              You are correct that the SAT is used as a college entrance exam in the US. I don’t believe we have GSCE equivalents here, just grade-point average (overall and in-major), unless your industry require professional certification exams like the bar exam to practice law.

            2. Tau*

              This does make sense, same logic as for First/Upper Second/etc. class honours in your Bachelor’s. I still think they could have made an exception for someone with a PhD coming from a clearly foreign high school system (the GCSE question was a headache and a half, as I didn’t even have a graded qualification at a similar level – I ended up tossing the contents of my report card after year 10 at them with a grade explanation and calling it a day), but I guess some people are married to their process.

              And to be fair, I’ve since learned that in Germany you need to have your Abitur grade on your CV in perpetuity, but Germany can be a little weird about qualifications sometimes.

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            This is something that has confused me in the past as well.

            I have never put my GPA on my resume. I have included the academic merit awards & scholarships I have won, but never ACT/SAT scores or GPA. I never really was asked for them either – some places wanted transcripts, and it’d be on there, but I never had a box to fill out with it.

            I had one job that I started applying for (all online, blech) that seemed interesting until they wanted my high school transcripts & a reference from that time. Uh, that was a decade ago, I have two college degrees, and how exactly is high school relevant to this non-teaching or in any way related to school job? And a reference….to tell you what? I was a weird teenager, like many other teenagers? I backed out of that application.

        3. Gastropubs are my kryptonite*

          It would be appropriate in the US to say that you have an AB summa cum laude from Darmouth, for example. That is the equivalent of saying you have a First from Oxford in jurisprudence.

        4. Ophelia*

          Yeah – I’ve seen CVs that keep “cum laude” or whatever on them, but seeing a GPA for anything other than someone’s first job out of college is unusual in my industry.

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yes, but 1.) there’s no educational event after law school, and 2.) lawyers are weird. SATs just exist to get you into college. Once you’re in college, even if anyone *does* care about your grades, they’ll want your college grades, not what you did before college.

      4. J*

        Yeah, lawyers seem to be one of the exceptions. The law school’s reputation and your class placement become a lifelong mark of status in the legal community. This can be true of other professions (doctors and military come to mind) but I don’t think either of those places the same emphasis on schooling as the law.
        The weird thing is that law schools almost exclusively rely on ‘issue spotting’ essays for their exams, so they are banking entirely on the premise that this type of exam has predictive validity for actual legal practice. Whether this is actually true or not, I’ll leave for the lawyers to debate.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Lawyers are weird, but it’s not common to put your GPA on your resume even as a new law grad. Class rank is more common (especially for “lower ranked” schools that are not the lead institution for their region/metro area), but even then it usually drops off your resume after your first 5 years of employment as a practicing attorney.

          With respect to student evaluation, I want to be clear that law schools do not think that issue-spotting essay exams have strong predictive value re: success in legal practice. Most folks—including the ABA and Association of American Law Schools—realize that experiential education is much more important for ensuring students are “practice-ready” at graduation. Law schools have made small progress on that front by requiring students to take several experiential units in order to graduate.

          Law schools teach issue spotting because: (1) issue-spotting essay exams parallel the essay questions for most state bar exams; and (2) legal academia is notoriously backward in its teaching methods. Academics (including law profs) have written all sorts of empirical articles about why issue-spotting essays and the bar exam itself have little to no predictive value when determining likelihood of success in law practice.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry, I should qualify and make clear that I’m referring to norms in the U.S. I realize the UK and other countries have a completely different form of law education, law student evaluation, admission to practice, etc.

      5. Goldfinch*

        Your GPA is permanently relevant in education. Every teaching job my husband has ever applied for requires his GPA, and most schools in our area won’t even accept your application if your score is under a 3.0.

        My husband is an excellent teacher because of his learning disability. His GPA was a 2.89, because he struggled in college for two years before being diagnosed. He is in his 40s, with a master’s degree and several service awards, and will never be eligible for hire at many local districts due solely to his GPA.

    2. Heidi*

      I can see where the LW is coming from a bit. You work hard to prep for the SAT only to have it become totally irrelevant after a couple years; I can understand wanting to get a little bit more mileage out of it. But unless you’re applying for a job writing SAT questions (it has to be someone’s job, hasn’t it?), it’s not going to increase your chance of getting gainful employment elsewhere. I’d actually be worried that it would make it looked like I’d peaked in high school.

      1. Naomi*

        In college I had a summer job at a tutoring center and wrote test prep questions, though mostly for the NYC specialized high schools test. And I wrote vocabulary examples for an SAT flash card app once. So for those specific sorts of job SAT scores would be relevant, but I agree that in general employers won’t care.

      2. Fikly*

        This. The only time a standardized test score is relevant for job searching is if you’re applying for a job tutoring the test. My sister put her GRE score on her application for GRE tutoring, for example.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Niece got a perfect score on her SATs, and tutored for a while when she was in undergrad. I imagine her SAT scores went on her application for that job.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        “Peaked in high school” is exactly what I would take from it. For, say, an on-campus research job, your grades in relevant recent courses would swamp any value in doing well at analogy questions on the SATs.

      4. J*

        Worst case scenario, you put your SAT score on your resume and the reader assumes you are a total prick. If I saw someone write “SAT Score 1575” at the top of their page, I’d assume the applicant was a socially inept snob like Sheldon Cooper.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        But you work hard to prep for the SAT to put it on your college application. That’s what it is for, so once you get in to college it *should* be irrelevant because it has fulfilled it’s purpose.

        Then when you are in college, your GPA is now the random number that badly summarizes you.

        Then when you are out of college you put all that behind you and hopefully use concrete examples of things you have accomplished to show what you are capable of.

        1. Heidi*

          But the SAT holds such an exaggerated place of importance during those years, I can see how some people would have a hard time keeping it in perspective afterwards. In the college admissions scandal, the parents were paying $75,000 for someone to take their kid’s SAT. I guess that’s another job where the “employer” would care about your SAT score. :)

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          I laughed out loud at “your GPA is now the random number that badly summarizes you.”

    3. Reliquary*

      I’m in academia, and SAT scores have no business on a CV or resume for academic or academia-adjacent jobs. That information is not something one shares on a resume, except in very specific cases, as in the finance jobs Alison mentioned in her answer to the question.

      Similarly, GRE scores are not shared, except in the case of graduate school admissions, and even then, the score reporting is done through ETS, not directly from the applicant.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Even GPA becomes irrelevant very quickly. The last time someone cared about my grades was when I applied for a scholarship in grad school. Even when applying for jobs in academia straight out of my PhD, my GPA wasn’t asked for.

        It’s openly acknowledged in academia that SAT and GRE scores are not very useful in figuring out who will be particularly good even at academic work. SAT scores are mostly about background (ie, do you come from the sort of environment that can afford SAT prep), and GREs screen for ability to master coursework, but not research ability.

        1. Fikly*

          A lot of colleges/universities are struggling with this. I’m thinking about grad schools, and one of the schools I’m interested in only just started requiring the GRE a few years ago (it’s a science masters degree). But in the open house I just went to this fall, they were already changing their tune, talking about how while the GRE was still required, they weren’t weighing it heavily in evaluating applications.

          Frankly, I agree. I score top percentile in verbal on just about any standardized test, and it’s pretty much only because I have been reading like crazy since I was 2. That’s reflective of the fact that my parents could afford books and valued reading, and that I loved it myself, but I don’t think it has much to do with my ability to get through a science masters. Similarly, high school math (which is what GRE math is) has nothing to do with this degree either.

    4. triplehiccup*

      I do think you can keep National Merit on there if you have a line for academic honors. (I had it on mine during undergrad and the first couple years out.) That will signal high SAT scores to anyone who cares.

      1. Quill*

        National Merit got replaced by my Dean’s List stuff, then that section got axed because the only non work related thing I’ve done that shows any scientific dedication is cleaning dinosaur bones off and on for a couple years.

      2. Lilo*

        National merit is so weird. It’s a combo of a test you took as a junior plus your grades in high school. I kept it on way too long, for sure.

        1. Quill*

          No, a test you took as a SOPHOMORE. It’s off the PSAT – I had to pay to get my score “un archived” because it was two whole years old when I got accepted to colleges and they wanted proof of my national merit scholarship eligibility before dealing with loans and stuff.

    5. Thankful for AAM*

      Interestingly, if you read the GRE’s own materials about the GRE, you will see they are NOT intended to be used for grad school admissions as a cut off number which is how so many schools use them.

    6. Washi*

      Agreed! I think some of this confusion of whether to put them onto a resume is the misconception that everything impressive about you should be on your resume. But there are a lot of impressive things (great SAT scores, birthing five children vaginally with no anesthetic) that do not belong on resumes.

    7. BTDT*

      I had no idea any industry wanted to know an applicant’s SAT scores. That is so bizarre. It would be seen as Very Strange at my work (tech). and we just had an applicant who listed all of his favorite movies on his resume, so I feel like it’s really saying something if we’d consider something strange.

    8. Dagny*

      FWIW, my mother never finished college, my father finished but did not get an advanced degree, my family most definitely did not pay for SAT prep for me, and I got an almost-perfect SAT score (high 1500s).

      That said, I don’t list any of that on my resume (except for when I tutored for test prep companies and did the advanced test prep, which requires a 99th percentile score on the grad level tests) because everything I’ve done since high school shows that I have those kinds of chops.

      If the OP went to an outstanding university, people will infer from it that s/he had outstanding grades and SAT scores. If the OP got a large scholarship to a lesser-known school, the scholarship can go on the resume (e.g., “State School Presidential Scholar”). Presumably, if it’s the latter, the OP also did quite well in college, and should list things like Deans List or other academic accomplishments.

      The real issue is if s/he didn’t distinguish him/herself in college (by degree, institution, grades, awards, or scholarships) and had really high SAT scores. But in that case, the person just looks like they aren’t making use of talent, and that’s another problem entirely.

    9. Phoking*

      If you have high grades GPA can even be damaging as a woman. I’ll try to find the link but I read about a study where identical resumes were given to hiring managers. The onky differnce was name and GPA. Women with high GPAs were given Lowe scores, with comments like “see bossy” or “arrogant”. Men with high GPAs did not have a bonus or negative. And men woth middling GPAs were rates the highest, with women in that range just below them.

      1. lost academic*

        Right. GPA can be fairly and unfairly applied to exclude candidates that appear to be too focused on grades as opposed to other activities that may be more relevant to future success. But GPA can’t be used in a vacuum and shouldn’t be used to triage – though it is.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Wow, that’s frustrating! I worked very hard to get good grades in college, including not taking a big load of classes each semester, so that I’d have a good GPA that would look good to a future employee. Then again, I did get a good job after college, so maybe the employer didn’t discount high GPA’s. (I also worked part time while in college.)

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this, and I work in legal (a field notorious for academic snobbery and caring about numbers that don’t matter once you’ve got experience under your belt). Once you are accepted to college, your SAT score does not matter at all, unless you’re applying to an SAT tutoring job. I do roll my eyes a little when college grads put them on the resume, because it seems out of touch and like they are grasping for things to include.

      I’ll also add that the worst employee I ever had got a perfect score on one section of the SAT. Every issues-with-their-performance meeting with the attorneys for whom they worked started with the attorney being flabbergasted that someone who got a perfect score on one section of the SAT and such a high score overall could be so spectacularly bad at the job. It’s almost like the SAT was not a predictor of job performance or something…

    11. NewNameTemporarily*

      I will mention that I did not come from a high SES family (wrong side of the tracks, blue collar, but mom was a reader and I was read to from an early age). I aced the SAT and missed one question on the GRE. And my school – also on the wrong side of the tracks – had the old text books, and I sat in the corner and just read other stuff, because I finished the textbook the first night of the school year for reading.

      I’m grateful and still support the public library. Loved the librarians. It was my second home as a child.

      I will note that my GPA was not as great, but … I was working fulltime since I was 16 (part time since I was 13) and studying was not done at my house.

      Just… high scores don’t mean high SES…

  3. MissGirl*

    OP 3: I’m a little confused by your letter. You mention how great your current job is and that you’re not looking to leave no matter the cost but then you say you applied to a job that was a lateral position in another city. I think you need to get clear what you would leave for and why and make sure that enthusiasm comes through in your interviews.

    1. Fikly*

      I think they meant that they aren’t desperate to leave and thus are only willing to leave if the offer is right. But the wording was confusing.

      1. AllAlone*

        I totally agree but I still think her attitude may be coming across as less than enthused. I was in this position a few months ago where I was interviewing but knew it had to be a really great offer for me to leave. I had to be careful to still show excitement for the role balanced with this is what I’d need to leave.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      By “and am not looking to leave it no matter the cost,” I think the LW means “I’m not looking to leave for just anything; I’m being choosy.” I’ll edit her wording so people don’t get confused.

      1. OP 3*

        Yes, that’s it. I’m fine and settled where I am.

        I didn’t get into it in the letter, but one of the other questions asked was why I was looking for new job, which I feel I answered well, and I did try to show my excitement for this new job then. There are legitimate reasons both career-wise and personally why it could be a good move. I really was interested.

        Good points about trying to come across as enthusiastic. Sometimes conveying the right emotion over the phone is tricky and something I need to work on.

  4. MMD*

    You doomed yourself with the “doesn’t excite me”. It comes off as arrogant. So many other ways to get that across.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      But 1. Why would one slightly “off” statement doom someone (assuming it was one) and 2. What else should one say?

      When you are asked if x salary will work for you, are the only answers no or an unqualified yes?

      1. CM*

        IMO, when you’re negotiating salary, you should be able to be honest about whether what you’re being offered is a compromise for you or not — especially if you’re trying to negotiate for other stuff. It drives me crazy when there’s an expectation that you have to pretend whatever random thing you’re offered is amazing even when it’s not.

        However, in this case I guess they weren’t really at the offer stage, so it might have been better to be a bit cagey and hold off on judgement until a second interview that revealed more details of the job. I don’t think you need to sound batshit excited about it, but it might have been a better strategy not to say something negative right off the bat. (I don’t think it’s arrogant to say something negative — just strategically not the best move).

        1. boop the first*

          I’m just annoyed that the interviewer refused to give any information, and only after OP threw a number out there, suddenly the interviewer has all the information!

          How about pay what the position is worth, and not less just because the applicant is naive? Coworkers always find out about pay discrepancy, why turn it into a game.

        2. OP 3*

          Here was my desired outcome behind the words:

          If there is any wiggle room at all in their budget, I want them to offer me as much as possible.

          Keeping in mind at this point I had already stated:
          – a salary that was outside of their budget
          -I was generally comfortable at my current job and not looking to change jobs by any means necessary
          -It would be a move from a low-cost of living city to high-cost of living one.

          What would have been the best way to get that message across? Other than general enthusiasm for the job which I think has already been covered.

          For me, the lower end of their hiring range would have been equal to my current salary, and the higher end of their range would have still been a pay cut after factoring in changes in housing costs. A pay cut I was seriously considering because it seemed like an interesting opportunity.

          The part that threw me off the most was I had stated pretty clearly that I was still interested. In my mind (wrongly), I figured that any lifestyle adjustments that needed to be made were my problem to figure out. Thinking about it though, that thought process might work fine when there is a history between the two parties. In this case, we had spoken for all of 15 minutes and the level of trust required to take me at my word that I really was interested was just not there. Am I off base with that?

          1. Batgirl*

            I think you were honest, and that will serve you well. But be honest while knowing that sometimes honesty cuts you off their list. Like telling some music snob on a date that their music is a-ok with you as long as you still get to love your pop-tastic faves and then you never hear from them again!
            Just because the deal is workable to you doesn’t mean it goes both ways. A slight dip in enthusiasm on one end, can obliterate it all on the other.
            You said you were ‘still interested’ and they were probably in talks with someone who is “Wow, so interested!”. It may be that they wanted that more than they wanted your thoughtful candour.
            Ultimately it’s not a match and it’s good you uncovered that.

      2. Anononon*

        1. Because the statement was about a factor that very often is the deciding factor for job seekers. 2. No one is saying it has to be yes or no? One can easily say something like, “that number is outside of the range I gave. However, this job sounds like an exciting opportunity, and I’m interested in proceeding further.”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is what I say. I don’t want to lowball myself and I want to know what else they’re offering. At the end of the day, salary is most important, since I can’t pay bills and rent with perks, but that and their attitude when I ask about it also tells me a lot about what it would be like to work there.

          2. Construction Safety*

            Yep, with my last job change, I got better health insurance for $140/week less than what I had been paying.

          3. OP 3*

            In this case, the benefits between current and potential new job were very similar. They are both in the public/semi-public sector, where benefits are both known and non-negotiable, even down to hours worked and vacation time.

            I agree in lots of situations that wording sounds good, but it wouldn’t have worked here unfortunately.

        1. OP 3*

          At the end of the conversation I did explicitly state that I was interested in proceeding, but as you and Alison pointed out, I probably missed the mark on enthusiasm.

          I like your wording.

      3. Colette*

        If you were hiring for shift work and asked the candidate whether they’d be OK working shift work, you could decide that someone who said “It doesn’t excite me” will have issues adapting to working non-standard hours. Since it (like salary) is a fundamental part of the job, it would be better to hire someone who is truly OK with it and won’t leave after 3 months because they hate it.

        1. Bostonian*

          Or after 3 hours! (former night shifter)

          I think if OP really wasn’t “excited” by the salary, then it’s probably a good thing that this opportunity didn’t work out. Especially when leaving a good, comfortable job.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This would be my concern about being so far below a candidate’s salary range. I would much rather have someone bow out of an interview process because it’s not a good match than have someone come in and decide it’s a bad fit a few month later because then I’ve let my other candidates go and have to restart the process. I also would not hire someone who was reticent about overtime in positions that require a fair amount of it nor someone who was blah about a major job requirement.

      4. MsM*

        As Allison says, they’re already taking a risk with a non-local candidate. A non-local candidate who isn’t 100% enthusiastic? Might as well move on to someone who is.

      5. WorkIsADarkComedy*

        Listen to MMD. The tone of “doesn’t excite me” is extremely offputting. It suggests disrespect and a grudging kind of acceptance rather than an analysis of whether the offer is one the interviewee could live with. I would be leery of an interviewee who used that kind of language here.

      6. PVR*

        Maybe something along the lines of “Yes, I would consider an offer in that range as part of the total compensation package”? Health insurance, 401k matching, sign on bonuses or moving allowances could more than make up for that 10%. It seems silly to let a candidate go over that small difference when they have no idea what benefits look like all together.

      7. Washi*

        So to your first point, I think in interviews it’s almost expected that you’ll perform some amount of enthusiasm. So you say you enjoy organizing and filing and keeping things neat, even though the honest answer might be “I hate that kind of task less than other things, so I guess I wouldn’t be totally miserable in this job.”

        So I think when an employer hears “that doesn’t excite me” they don’t assume that’s a completely honest assessment, but might wonder if it means something more like “I guess I would take this job as a last resort” which is understandably off-putting.

        Some of the other commenters give great examples of scripts that are much more professional and positive responses that would land better with an employer.

      8. Leela*

        Regarding number one: if you’re in hiring and you hire this person and they leave soon for a higher salary (which is absolutely what they’re worried someone is going to do if they say the number doesn’t excite them), it looks really bad for you. ESPECIALLY if it comes out that you heard them say that and you hired them anyway. It can take tens of thousands of dollars to fill a role; your company and supervisors won’t be happy if you have to do a second bout of that because you ignored one of the biggest red flags you can get in hiring: that someone will take the job just to have one in their pocket and then bounce the second they can because they were still job searching when they start. Having a flight risk like that can also grind your business to a screeching halt when they leave depending on how critical their role is to your team; it’s massively not worth the risk

      9. Artemesia*

        When you are hiring someone you have very little evidence about what they will be like to work with so an ‘off comment’ can loom large. In my experience people who raise flags like that during hiring usually manifest whatever the issue is when hired e.g. people who won’t shut up during the interview, blather endlessly on the job; people who are arrogant or sarcastic during the interview, turn out to be arrogant and sarcastic on the job; anyone whose reference describes them as ‘very moral’ will turn out to be a prig and anyone whose references describe them as ‘abrasive’ will turn out to be rude and difficult to work with.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily arrogant, but it is telling. If I have two equally qualified candidates, one of whom seems happy with the offered salary range and one of whom “isn’t excited,” guess which one I’m going to move forward with first?

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          I don’t think it’s arrogant at all, but it would come across disappointingly.

        2. tape deck*

          Yes, I agree with this. If OP was far and away the standout this wouldn’t tank her, but if I had other strong applicants, I wouldn’t spend time on someone who was lukewarm. Especially if the company would have to pay to fly her in for an in-person interview, or if I knew there was limited room for pay increases in that position.

        3. OP 3*

          I think your assessment here is pretty spot on. In this case, I am qualified to do the job, but there are things missing in my work experience that make me not the ideal candidate.

      2. MistOrMister*

        I agree that I don’t think it’s arrogant. But I do think it was a very poor choice of words, unfortunately. And I can see why a potential employer might have decided they didn’t want to pursue OPs canidacy after that.

    2. Allypopx*

      I disagree that it comes off as arrogant. I might use that phrasing if it were an internal negotiation, context depending, and I’d probably couch it with “it doesn’t excite me, but if that’s the available range I understand and am still very eager to -“. But it does come off as, well, unexcited, which an employer will rightfully take as a red flag.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I disagree that is arrogant but the tone is still not what most hiring managers want to hear. It sounds like interest is there but it’s lukewarm.

    4. CM*

      I agree that the tone of “doesn’t excite me” is bad for an interview — and at the same time, it’s so unfair that this company forced OP#3 to name a number instead of just saying what their number was. Frustrating that an otherwise good interview would be ruined by a one-time choice of words.

    5. anonymoushippopotamous*

      That, and this: “I pushed back a little, asking they not hold my lack of knowledge of the local job market against me”

      While I think 10% isn’t that far off and would require a comparison of benefits / total comp, OP directly called attention to the fact they didn’t do the proper research with this statement. It’s not hard to figure out local job market.

      Never, ever be the first to name a number, even if they push you for one. Just say it’s too early for you to make that call without knowing additional details about the position and the total compensation package. And hold firm to that sentence.

      1. OP 3*

        In my defense, I did do some research, and was only 10% off. That’s pretty good no? It was more of an attempt to acknowledge that I am not local to the area and a little leeway would have been appreciated.

        Also, I felt the previous phone call went really well, and really wasn’t expecting it to be told they were no longer interested in me. What I’m trying to say is I was thrown off a little by the whole experience and my wording probably wasn’t great.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “It’s not hard to figure out local job market.”

        This is absolutely not true. I’ve never been able to find particularly accurate information about salary, cost of living, etc in a location except by moving there and getting a job. A lot of the time, it turned out the general information I had found was totally inaccurate because the average was based around specific industries that I didn’t work in and the only options besides that were fast food, retail or call center work. Same thing with rent and housing.

  5. alienor*

    5. Part of my job is hiring contractors and freelancers, and how they handle the holidays really varies–some people will just drop a “Happy holidays” into an email, while others will send a fruit arrangement or a tin of cookies or something for everyone to share. I think both are fine, and I don’t in any way give preferential treatment to freelancers who send gifts; it’s nice if they do, but I won’t notice or think twice about it if they don’t. (For what it’s worth, with my own freelance clients I go the happy-holidays-in-an-email route.) I would do whatever you’re comfortable with and not worry about it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I freelance, and while it’s vaguely possible I’ve gotten a couple of corporate cards in the mail, I think those just come from my insurance company. At most people toss a “Happy Holidays” into the end of an email.

    2. LQ*

      The thing I’ve seen folks who are solo contractors do is holiday schedules. Either as a signature below everything else from pre-Thanksgiving to post new years. Or as a single “Happy Holidays, here’s when I won’t be available…” message. These are kind of useful if you are going to be gone for a week or more or even if you’ll just have lighter availablity in what is a busy time for your clients. If end of calendar year is big and you’ll be out most of the last 2 weeks giving folks a heads up early is useful.

      This is useful if you’re going to be out. If you’re not you’re fine to not do anything. (Or just throw a note in an email you’re already sending.)

    3. Amy Sly*

      Working for an appraisal management company, we *loved* all the appraisers who’d send us tins of cookies and fruit. (The Hawaiians who’d send chocolate macadamia nut clusters were awesome!)

      But yeah, the quality of the Christmas gift made no difference whatsoever in how we assigned work, except in the very loose sense of good appraisers get more business, so they made more money, so they could afford to send out gifts at Christmas.

  6. staceyizme*

    TWO odd submissions! Red lingerie Secret Santa and Skype Me When They Get Here Manager. Mind officially blown…

  7. Retired Prof*

    OP#2 – Any chance you can indicate that it’s distracting to you to have to track when coworkers arrive, and that you often don’t notice when you’re focused on getting your own work day started/getting work done? That can be paired with the “ooops, I didn’t tell you” strategy.

    Also, your boss is being ridiculous.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP2, Teach your manager how to use the feature to tag contacts when they’re available. Manager will be electronically notified when those people get into Skype.

      1. CL Cox*

        Unless they’re required to go into Skype immediately when they arrive, though, that’s not what the manager is looking for.

        1. BasicWitch*

          I think you can set it up to boot up automatically when you log on to your computer. That’s what my office does since people come in at different times, so we don’t need to wander around seeing who’s around. As soon as I log in to my work computer people see I’m “available” (or “busy”, depending on my meetings and such), automatically.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, and I’ve asked people working remotely to be sure they are as available (via Skype, phone, whatever) during working hours as they would be in the office, which is sort of the inverse of this situation. (I’ve only done that explicitly with people I was keeping an eye on for other reasons….)

        2. Sunny-D*

          Maybe boss should start requiring that, if they want to know when people arrive. That’s more transparent and honest, and people can then adjust accordingly, knowing what their boss requires of them. It’s not fair to have requirements that people don’t necessarily know about.

          Also, OP, have you thought about giving your colleagues a heads’ up that boss really cares about this? Given she’s mostly remote, maybe they assume it doesn’t matter and don’t realize they’re being monitored. It’s a way to “bond”, so to speak. Though don’t do it if it’ll get you in trouble with the boss.

          1. Bostonian*

            Oooh, that’s a good point. I would especially feel icky about tracking my coworkers’ arrival times if the manager hadn’t first had a conversation with them about her expectations. If she really wants people in at a certain time (which she has the right to enforce, even if it’s bad management in this case, as the OP suggests), she should be transparent about tracking it by requiring they sign into Skype right away so that she can get the notification.

      2. EPLawyer*

        It’s not OP’s job, as the newest person to teach her manager not to micromanage.

        OP got stuck with checking on her colleagues because she is the newest person. Manager figures she won’t push back on it because she doesn’t want to upset the boss while she is new. Manager knows having people check in individually as soon as they coe in is a possibility. But she knows the longer tenured folks have capital to push back against it.

        It’s not a job where coverage is required so start times can be flexible as long as everyone is getting their work done and their hours in. Boss is choosing to use OP to micromanage through. It’s not fair to OP or anyone else. It just needs to stop, not take another form.

        1. BasicWitch*

          Yup. My last boss had me spy on people. I think part of the reason she soured on me was my sudden, uncharacteristic memory lapses that seemed to afflict me whenever she asked me to narc on my colleague. “Oh, Cordelia? Yes, she’s here, didn’t I mention? Silly me. Oh, I don’t recall when she arrived, perhaps you could ask her?”

          That same boss made me create a fake LinkedIn for her so she could view other people’s profiles without them knowing it was her. She has issues.

    2. Avasarala*

      I would do this. I would delay reporting until everyone was here, or report one person and then forget to follow up with everyone else’s arrival times. Or even say I myself was running late (maybe not if it will come up in your 1:1). But I would definitely say I’m not comfortable playing Boss’s Eyes with colleagues who are also senior to you, whom you need to build good relationships with, etc. How are you supposed to gain people’s trust if they know you’re the security camera when Boss is out of the office?

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      I’d be hesitant to “forget” a task my boss had given me, but I *would* tell my boss that if s/he wants me to start reporting on my coworkers, they need to be my reports. I’ll be a supervisor, but not a snitch.

      1. BasicWitch*

        Ooh, I like this. It’s really bad management when an employee is pushed into an enforcement role when that is not actually their job or title, and this is a brilliant way to point out the absurdity.

    4. Shirley Keeldar*

      I think “I forgot to do that job you assigned me” isn’t a great look, but “I was so focused on Important Job Responsibility that I couldn’t track my coworkers’ whereabouts to the minute, but we’re all here now!” accomplishes the same thing.

      Or, you know, ask if she’d like to get all her employees microchipped so she can track their every movement.

    5. Ted Mosby*

      Strongly agree! I think if you start off saying you’re uncomfortable and asking not to do it any more, if your boss say “too bad, no” you have no recourse left and any “forgetting” etc will be very transparent. When you bring it up, I’d frame it first as “I don’t always notice if I’m really focused, in a meeting, getting coffee, etc” and then also add if you want to that it makes you uncomfortable, then you have the out to forget/not see people later. Then you could follow up by letting your boss know who is there right at nine then regularly giving information like “I’ve been working on the donkey presentation so I missed people coming in, but everyone’s here now!” “A and B came in some time when I was working on the ninja report, didn’t see them come in!” Or just never report on the late people so he has to ask and then time frame is totally lost because hey, you didn’t see them earlier but they are here now at 11, so they got in sometime between 8:30 and 10:59, who knows! Depending on the group size and office layout, if everyone but one person is there id prob just say “everyone is in!” Who’s to say you didn’t miss someone? Every once in a while have an early meeting that you go right to without having head count.

      My boss is time micromanagey (despite there being absolutely 0 reason to be in this role), and when I know she’s not in I’ll leave 10-15 min later to skip out on traffic (and stay later too). Can you subtly warn people that even when she’s out you’re reporting? You could frame it as so ridiculous that you’d be asked to SPY on coworkers you assumed they all knew.

    6. CM*

      My reaction was similar to Retired Prof, I’d “forget” and if asked say, “Oh, sorry, I was focused on getting you the data you asked for and wasn’t paying attention to monitoring people’s arrival times,” or “I didn’t notice, I was busy responding to an email from a client.” I think eventually your boss would give up, rather than be forced to acknowledge that they would rather have you play hall monitor than do your real job.

    7. SophieJ*

      It would be super hard for me not to reply with something like “I’m not sure. If you were in the office today, you’d be able to see for yourself.”

      I mean, I wouldn’t. But man would I want to.

      I get that there can sometimes be a “when the cat’s away” mentality when a boss works remotely. But that comes down to one of two things for me: either she doesn’t trust her team to get their work done when she’s not there, or, this is something she considers critical to her job function and she cannot do it while she is out of the office (meaning, it sounds like she should actually be in the office more than she currently is.) But either one equates to her being a bad boss on some level.

  8. RitaRelates*

    OP #1: Gross. Hard to believe that any adult person would be so clueless about what’s appropriate at work. So I have to believe he just doesn’t care, especially after you tried to explain to him why it’s inappropriate. I would suggest intervening immediately, by telling the would be receiver of the gift and the one who manages the secret Santa.

    OP#2: I’ve experienced the same thing from the president of my company. I work for a small <15 employee company and I've been emailed while the president is working from home, out at meetings etc. about when people arrived at work and what someone was wearing when they took a longer break than allowed (about 1 hr and 15 mins instead of the allowed 1 hr. My thinking is that the president was concerned that they may have been interviewing but I don't know that for sure). It makes me feel icky and like a "tattle tell" for my employer. I especially don't like it because I don't like being in a position to "rat out" my coworkers when we all have to write our time in and out on a sheet and I know that if my boss is asking me about others, my coworkers are probably being asked to keep tabs on me as well

    1. Blarg*

      Eww… combine your boss’s “what are they wearing?” with OP #1s awful Secret Santa and you have a bonanza of inappropriate.

    2. EPLawyer*

      “I know that if my boss is asking me about others, my coworkers are probably being asked to keep tabs on me as well” Doesn’t that just make for an office full of trust? The tension of worrying what others will say about you ust make working there a ton of fun.

  9. MassMatt*

    I agree that a manager asking subordinates to keep tabs on their colleagues arrival times is problematic but I don’t think “forgetting” to do it and hoping it goes away is the right approach. I think it’s better to talk to the boss and make the case that doing this will damage team morale.

    And—-Why in the world does she want to SKYPE about it? This is almost weirder than the request itself. Wouldn’t an email or text be faster? And more discrete? Odd.

    1. Jerusha*

      My workplace has Skype for Business. Although you *can* do voice chat and video calling, mostly we use it as an IM client, much like other workplaces might use Slack. I assumed that the boss wanted an IM; if they wanted something more elaborate (and audible!) than that, I agree that would be bizarre.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      This whole request feels icky to me – so manager is going to penalise Tom, Richard and Henrietta because OP took two minutes to type out the Skype message that Betty, Veronica and Horace had arrived, thus making it appear that Tom, Richard and Henrietta are tardy?
      OP – this needs push back to your manager. She may have a paranoia over her staff maybe taking liberties with start times, but this is *not* how you go about managing it.

      (also – is she having someone Skype her when *you* arrive? How does she know *you’re* not tardy?)

      1. valentine*

        is she having someone Skype her when *you* arrive?
        And what happens when you’re out?

        Apart from being a creepy timesuck, it’s not sustainable. Is there only one entrance, is OP certain to see everyone, and can OP take no breaks? Being unable to take a break would cause me to be desperate for one.

      2. MistOrMister*

        I would assume that if people came in while OP was doing something else, they’d notify the manager something along the lines of, oh and Betty and Veronica walked in at 9 while I was getting coffee or copying papers or whatever, so it’s clear they weren’t late.

        That being said, it is really stupid fot the manager to ask OP to do this. Unless everyone already knows the manager ia bonkers (in this respect at least) once someone finds out OP is doing this it’s going to put them on everyone’s crap list.

        The manager really needs to find an alternative way to track everyone’s time that doesn’t rely on one employee. I personally think I would choose to go the route of just forgetting to tell her and hoping that squashed it. And if it didn’t THEN I would say it wasn’t something I was comfortable doing. I hesitate to suggest talking it out first just because it’s such an ubreasonable thing to ask that it makes me think the mamager won’t react well. It feels like of like a teacher’s pet situation and, I could see the manager retaliating if their favorite is not thrilled to do everything they request.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      She thinks Skyping about it is fine because she also thinks that cohorts spying on each other is fine.

      I could make the forgetting work for me. “Gee, Boss, I have forgotten three days in a row now. I have an idea- why don’t they Skype you first thing when they come in?”

      If that doesn’t work then I’d go into, “I am really not comfy reporting the whereabouts of my peers. [etc]”

    4. Tau*

      Hmm. Thinking about the “pretend to forget” approach, I think what bothers me about it is that under no circumstances can you talk to the boss about this question beforehand. If you go “can I stop doing this?”, boss goes “sorry, no” and then you start “forgetting”… it’s going to be fairly obvious that’s intentional, and is likely to land you in serious hot water for insubordination. So if you want to do it, you can’t give the boss the benefit of the doubt first, which sucks.

      That said, if you think the team morale argument wouldn’t work with your boss, I think you might be able to make it work as follows:

      “Forget” a few times, then open the conversation with your boss. In this conversation, open with how trying to do this is a problem for you because it’s far too easy for you to get distracted by your (real, actual) work and not notice when people are coming in. You can also bring up the team morale as an additional point against, but it won’t be the main thrust of the argument. It still leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, but to my mind this (forgetting to do it) is actually a very real problem that will almost certainly crop up if you try to keep this up, just potentially not quite so soon.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      Skype chat would make sense in this case, if that’s a standard communications medium in that organization or between those two people.

    6. CRM*

      We use Skype for instant messaging- similar to Slack- so that’s probably (hopefully!) what she meant. That said, Skype for Business has a feature where you can tell which employees are logged-in and “active” and which ones aren’t. It’s not fullproof, but couldn’t the boss just use that as a proxy if she’s truly concerned? This whole thing is weird, and I feel bad for OP.

    7. walrusandsonscrochet*

      I definitely pictured the boss asking the LW to turn their camera on so the boss can watch the other employees file in, which is creepy.

  10. Observer*

    #2 annoys me. If you want a betts-in-seats and work-to-the clock regimen for your staff that’s a decision a manager generally gets to make (although I think it’s stupid if it’s not necessary.) But you really don’t get to do that if you are not willing to actually be in the office to make it work.

    Which is to say, OP, that I sympathize with you. You boss is not being reasonable.

  11. Anon for this*

    #2 – have you considered being transparent with your colleagues that your boss has asked you to do this? Especially if she’s never explicitly told you to keep this duty of yours ‘secret.’ If you loop them in they would be at least aware of her strange preoccupation with timekeeping and they could make their own choices as to what to do with this information. Just a thought.

  12. 867-5309*

    Op5, Ive never sent holiday gifts. I add a line to an email in the course of doing business, and don’t even reach out to people I’m not working with at the time of the holidays.

    Also, formerly worked for large companies to which vendors were always sending us holiday goodies… It was fun but we didn’t usually think about it again, once everything was gone, and it was never noticed when someone DIDNT send something.

  13. Pucci*

    College GPA – It actually can be important even in your 60’s if you are applying to certain US Government jobs. Those require a 3.0 GPA and official transcripts to prove it. But they should not be on your CV/resume.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I applied to a Cdn federal government job and they wanted physical proof of my high school diploma and at that point, it had been 25 years since I had graduated. Man, the hunt was on to find that document to apply for a job that I didn’t get!

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        One of my colleagues was planning a research trip to a specific archive in Berlin a while back and, along with the standard institutional letter of introduction, they also required a copy of her high-school diploma. This, despite her Ph.D. She ended up having to contact her former school and ask them to reissue a diploma, backdated approximately 30 years, which entertained them immensely.

    2. rain rain go away*

      I’ve been told to keep them on your (US) federal resume. But yeah, absolutely nix them from a non-federal.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        Very long-time US fed here, and I can tell you that a transcript is required for positions that require a degree, like contracting officer, but that is to document degree conferral. GPA is not relevant.

        1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          Seconded, both my husband and I had to provide a copy of our college transcripts as a part of our hiring processes (two completely separate federal agencies). Our GPA wasn’t what they were looking for, it was completion and major/minor in hubby’s case and completion only in mine.

    3. Quill*

      How do you *get* your GPA, because my college still wants me to pay for any copies of my transcripts… the twice I’ve actually been asked.

      1. Washi*

        You pay for it! I think most colleges charge to send sealed, official copies of transcripts. I also paid to send myself an official electronic transcript too, and that’s always been acceptable for the (non-government) job applications that asked for it.

        1. Quill*

          You know, in publishing, if you have to pay anything other than postage to send in an application, it’s considered a scam… maybe we should apply that to job applications requiring an official transcript too…

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          My graduate school will submit official PDF copies for free, which has worked out excellently. Most places that have needed them specifically asked for digital copies, and the rest were very much okay with getting a digital copy. Arrived in <48 hrs.

          My undergrad charges the same for both digital and paper, which is a bit annoying when it also takes them 3 flippin' weeks to get around to it.

          But I have also sent myself official copies of both to keep on hand just in case. Some places are fine with seeing a PDF to start the process ("unofficial" copies) and will request the direct-send official copies later.

      2. Ophelia*

        Yeah, you can usually see it online in an unofficial version, but the official one that gets sent out to, like, grad school applications may cost you. (Thankfully, I discovered when applying to grad school recently that my university will sent out a few free of charge before they ask you to pay, so that was nice!).

      3. J!*

        My college lets you create an alumni login and get an unofficial electronic copy (which would help if all you need to find is your GPA), but you have to pay for your official transcript.

  14. W*

    The SAT does not measure how well you will succeed in college.

    It measures how well you take the SAT.

    That’s it. That’s the goal.

    1. Quill*

      Unintentionally, it measures comfort with sitting and taking a test and being told that your future rides on it…

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        …while a large fidgety guy sitting behind you kicks the back of your chair and sniffles in the wettest, chunkiest manner possible for three straight hours. (Not that I’m bitter, or old enough to have taken the paper version in a too-hot highs chool classroom.)

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Yeah, the only thing my test scores really indicates about me is that I’m good at taking standardized tests.

      1. Quill*

        I was better at taking tests than at, you know, high school in general… Nobody can bother you during a standardized test! Best reading days of my life were after the PSAT or IOWA or whatever was turned in, and generally you got out of actually doing class for a bit…

        1. Allypopx*

          I had undiagnosed ADHD in high school and I could not. for the LIFE of me. show up to classes or do homework. If I did go to classes I slept through them. I still generally absorbed the material pretty easily so I knew stuff but there was little documentation to prove it.

          But I am actually a really excellent test taker. I get fidgety but I zoom through them because I conjure the answers quickly, and test taking was one of the things in school that showed I wasn’t stupid so I adapted to them being VERY important to my self image. So I probably graduated high school with a less than ideal GPA but all my standardized test scores were excellent.

          It drove my teachers nuts, and while I got into plenty of good colleges because of those scores – I don’t think I should have. I was not, as a student, at 18, ready for a college workload. I didn’t have the academic skills I didn’t have my brain worked out. I didn’t know how to study. Standardized tests just don’t give a full enough picture of a person and I hate how heavily we rely on them.


          1. Quill*

            I never learned how to study either… Hi, lack of funding for accellerated studies! The only thing I ever learned how to learn was languages, because that was the only challenge I was presented with and given the tools to solve prior to 18.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Nothing measures how good you’ll do at anything. But it’s a tool used to try to give a gauge to each person’s ability to memorize a bunch of stuff. Which when picking from a huge pile of people with a limited amount of seats, is a jumping off point.

      It’s like no preliminary tests for jobs tell you if you’ll succeed either. But I’m still not hiring someone who doesn’t do or botches the Excell knowledge test. It’s just a simple risk analysis method.

      1. W*

        But ‘memorizing a bunch of stuff’ ain’t a prereq for college or real life jobs. The SAT is entirely unhelpful by any measure (and that’s before we even get into the actual content of the tests).

  15. W*

    The SAT does not measure how well you will succeed in college.

    It measures how well you take the SAT.

    That’s it. That’s the goal.

  16. Colin R*

    OP#3 if they have a hard salary requirement, they should include it in the ad. Instead, they’re just hoping for people to low ball themselves.

    1. mcr-red*

      I agree 1000%. At least put a realistic range in. “Depending on experience, we expect the position to pay between $40-45,000. Does that work for you?”

      I am woefully underpaid. Anything would be a step up, but I’d like to get paid what I really should be for job duties/experience. And guessing might lead me to saying something smaller than that.

    2. UbiCaritas*

      It infuriates me when companies make people guess what the salary should be. I totally agree, they expect people to come in low.

    3. soon 2be former fed*

      Yes, I hate those salary games. It would save so much time for all parties for employers just to be honest and upfront about how much they pay.

    4. Colette*

      I’ve never worked anywhere where that was the case, even when we didn’t put the salary in the job ads. It can be because they’re flexible depending on who actually applies; sometimes it’s because they have the policy of not including the salary; sometimes it’s because they don’t want to set expectations too high.

      Let’s say they need to hire a teapot engineer. The entry level salary is $40,000; a high-performing, experienced teapot engineer can make $100,000. They’d like to hire at the top of their range, but are not sure they’ll be able to based on the market. Should they put their range of $40,000 – $100,000? An entry level engineer might think “Oh, I’ll probably get $60,000” while the experienced engineer thinks “they’re trying to lowball me, I’m not going to apply.”

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        So, why not create tiers and advertise the salary as “x amount of education and experience is in a salary range of y-z”?

        1. Allypopx*

          Or “entry level salary starts at 40k, higher compensation commensurate with experience”

          There are a lot of ways to do it.

        2. Colette*

          Because it’s not always a straightforward grid? People are not easily categorized; if you have 6 desired skills and 3 candidates have no experience in 1, extensive experience in 3, and some experience in 2, all 3 candidates may fall into different parts of the salary range depending on which experience they have solid experience and which they don’t.

      2. boop the first*

        Wait… shouldn’t the company know if they want an entry level engineer or an experienced engineer? They know their budget and their needs. If they can afford (and are willing) to hire the best of the best, why even open it up for lower range? If they can only afford the lower range, why would they post $100,000? They’re not going to care if the $100,000 engineer self-selects out, because it was never an option.

        Lol sorry, it’s just a weird hypothetical example that makes it look like the company has no idea what it’s doing.

        1. Colette*

          There may not be enough experienced engineers to go around, though; a less-experienced engineer may be all that is available.

      3. mcr-red*

        So when they get the resumes of people interested, and they are looking to conduct interviews, they would know which ones are entry level and which ones are experienced, and can tell them a range of salary according to what they see on the resume. “Hi entry level teapot engineer, we are interested in having you come in for an interview, the salary range is $40-42,000, are you interested?” “Hi experienced teapot engineer, we are interested in having you come in for an interview, the salary range is $80-100,000, are you interested?

    5. boop the first*

      I would absolutely 100% low-ball myself in a salary game situation. I’ve only ever worked minimum wage jobs, so if someone asked me what I needed, I have not much to go on other than “Well, at least the minimum.”

    6. OP 3*

      This one is a strange situation where they are quasi-government, so the the salary range for the position isn’t required to be public information, but they most definitely do have a budget… which I tried to get them to say first.

      I agree, this whole thing could have been avoided if they posted a range or provided me that information instead of making me play the guessing game. But that’s the world I’d like to live in, and not the world I do live in.

  17. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#3, you dodged a bullet. If they’re that shitty before you work for them, they’d be even worse after. Making a candidate guess the salary is complete bullshit that is designed to underpay people. Punishing candidates for guessing too high is complete garbage that shows how big of assholes these people would be to work for.

  18. Delta Delta*

    I know the scoring system for the SAT has changed since I took it. A person could tell me they scored a billion on the SAT and I wouldn’t really know if that’s good or not.

        1. Normally a Lurker*

          All tests have percentile rankings. Right now it means a composite score of about 1550-1600 (of a possible 1600 points). (For reference, national average is about 1050 – or 50th percentile.)

          Percentile rankings are nothing more than a statistically way to say how well you did versus every one else who took the test that day.

          But yes, *if* you are in a field that needs an SAT score, you need to say the date you took it as the scale has changed 3 times in the last 20ish years. (and if you are in a field that cares about such things, like private tutoring that I do and mentioned below, they’ll likely know what scale your on by the date you took it).

          1. Quill*

            They didn’t give us our percentile breakdown when I took the SAT and ACT, just the overall numbers.

            Honestly I think the massive changes to these tests are just part of the college board’s extensive moneymaking scheme. As is the “un archiving” fee for any test over two years old, when you generally take the test as early in your junior year as you can get away with so you know if you have to retake it…

            1. Normally a Lurker*

              … unless you took the test before 1996, I can assure you that they did you give you the percentile rankings. I suspect they did before then as well, but I can say for certain they did starting in 1996, because that’s when I started in the test prep field.

              I will 150% stand behind ETS* as a money making operation though. They are the worst. (In fact, when I talk about them, I def call them Evil Testing Services, not Educational Testing Service.)

              *ETS is the College Board. They also own the GRE, TOFEL and others. ACT is owned by ACT, a different test company. And they are all just as bad. Its all a racket.

              1. Quill*

                It’s entirely possible that I don’t remember the percentile rankings being there, tbh. Or that I’m mixing it up with the PSAT, where our scores were delivered to the school instead of us personally.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I took it in the 1980s, and even then I didn’t pay much attention other than to percentiles. That’s how I think of all standardized tests.

      2. Normally a Lurker*

        1540 would have been in the 99th percentile in the late 90s. The new scal has gone back closer to the old one from the 90s (after the re-center of 1995)

        It’s not a perfect analogy, but it works if you squint.

        The test from 2005-2016 is when you had the bizarre 2400 scale (thank you writing section) that makes the old 1600 scores look awful.

    1. Allypopx*

      Conversely, as someone who took the SATs in 2010 (I think? 2009?) I can’t tell if your score is good or not! Especially if I don’t know when you took the test.

      Also I was doing some googling to figure out when it changed and I guess they changed it back like last year???? So yeah it’s basically meaningless to me at this point.

  19. PseudoMona*

    Yep, take your SAT scores off your resume. I’m a research scientist in industry and none of the hiring committees I’ve been on have cared about candidates’ SAT scores. We were much more interested in what they had accomplished research wise.

  20. Thankful for AAM*

    OP#2 Maybe say to your coworkers, “boss has asked me to Skype them staff arrival times, can you please check in with me so I know you are here in case I am not at my desk when you arrive?”

    That removes some of the ick factor for me about reporting on coworkers; they are alerted you are doing it.

    Then say to boss, “Sally and Wakeen are here and I think David is but he has not checked in with me yet.” Now boss knows that staff knows that boss is tracking arrival times.

    1. WellRed*

      It may remove the ick factor for you, but it’s a great way to up it for the coworkers, as well as “separate” her from her coworkers and look like the boss’s spy.

    2. CRM*

      This approach might not be the best, but I agree that it would be a kindness for OP to let others know that the boss is so interested in their arrival times. It might also help OP feel less like they are “tattling” on their coworkers. Maybe OP can say something like “I want to give you a heads up that Boss has me tracking when people arrive every day. I don’t agree with it, and I hope that I can get her to see that this isn’t necessary. Until then, I figured you should know what’s going on”.

  21. Bopper*


    Does your company have something like Skype for Business or the like? That shows you if someone is online…suggest that the boss use that.

  22. Bopper*


    If you get repeat business from people, a holiday greeting may be a time to reach out to remind them you are still out there….a way to advertise.

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

      This is how most of the vendors I do business with use holiday greetings. Just remind them you are still in business and available especially if this is a client that you only do business with once or twice a year.

      “Thank you for your business this year. Please keep us in mind for all your anvil needs in the coming year. Have a happy holiday season. Best wishes, your sales team at Acme Anvils”

  23. gpa etc*

    Just weighing in on the GPA thing. This is a real annoyance for those of us with creative degrees. Yes, I have a kind of low GPA… in studio practice, which in no way relates to anything tangible in my current creative work or my job. Sometimes, there is room for comments in ATS , but sometimes not. It also rubs me the wrong way when I’m required to input this kind of info many years out of HS + college.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      Same here. I am in my mid 30s and have been out of college for nearly 12 years. If I see a job asking for GPA, I usually don’t apply. I wasn’t the best student, but I worked my butt off. My GPA wasn’t great. Its not an indicator of the kind of employee I am. I am older and more disciplined now.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, I’ve also gone to grad school in a couple of unrelated areas (one quarter of grad school was enough to firmly un-relate me from wanting to finish a grad program in Computer Science and Engineering, for example). If you’re hiring me to do something unrelated to CSE, I can’t imagine that my grades from that program are relevant, since all they’ll really tell you is “difficult thing unrelated to job duties is difficult enough that applicant doesn’t have a 4.0”. (If you are hiring me to do something related to CSE, one or both of us must be pretty desperate to fill this position so maybe you should stop being so picky if I made the “actually look at” end of the applicant pool…)

      My undergrad GPA says a lot more about my ability to game the GPA system to keep a scholarship with GPA requirements by carefully selecting a mixture of classes I’d be sure to get good grades in and classes I actually wanted to learn things from than it does about “overall scholarly-ness” or whatever people think they’re getting out of it, but it at least makes more sense than listing unrelated domain-specific grad coursework.

  24. Alex*

    As someone who hires freelancers as part of my work, you totally don’t need to do anything at all–some freelancers of mine send an e-card, but that’s it, and I certainly don’t expect a gift or anything at all (and if freelancers let the holidays pass unmentioned, I don’t even notice).

    However, what WOULD be helpful would be to let them know your holiday availability for projects. I hate sending freelancers work right before the holidays, but sometimes the schedule is what it is, and it would be super helpful if I knew their plans, even if their plans are “business as usual.” If I’ve received a note from them saying that they are available through the holidays, I feel less bad when I do have something to send out. On the other hand, if they plan on taking some time off, it’s helpful to know that ahead of time so I can plan around it as much as possible.

  25. Nela*

    OP #5: If you’re not excited about doing anything special for the holidays, keep it up the way you’ve been handling it so far. Don’t add another task to your to-do list.

    I take pleasure in designing a custom greeting card, writing each by hand and sending it out to all my clients (worldwide) in a fancy envelope. It’s exactly because people don’t expect it nowadays, and it’s not standard business etiquette, that I want to do it. But then, I do have a tendency to add a lot on my plate for “no good reason”.

  26. OP#5*

    I’m OP#5 and I appreciate the feedback. I’ll happily continue just doing the occasional “happy holidays” in emails and nothing more. Re: “append a note stating holiday availability” — yes, I can see that this would be super helpful in some instances, though it isn’t relevant in my case because of the way my projects are scheduled. Thank you, Ask A Manager & community!

    1. Laura*

      When I was freelancing, I took the holidays as an opportunity to thank larger and smaller clients for the project work via an online card. It was more an end-of-year vs. holiday thing, but is a great reason to touch base as they may be considering projects for the following year.

    2. drpuma*

      I’m thinking “Happy New Year” cards or e-greetings could also work as a blanket acknowledgement of the holiday season without singling out a particular holiday. As another commenter noted, that could also be useful for a “look at all the great stuff I did” de facto marketing year-end wrap up.

  27. Anise*

    Alison, could you do an Ask the Readers for worst office Secret Santa gifts? After the underwear and the sex toy, I really want to know what else is out there!

    1. fogharty*

      You could also have a best office Secret Santa gifts… not as much to snark at but maybe it will help people who are stuck having to come up with ideas.

      Don’t do what a previous boss did, though. Not Secret Santa, but he gave gifts to his employees… all the guys got money, the women got crappy perfume that his wife sold at MLM parties.

  28. Allypopx*

    Piggyback question off #4 – I have “Golden Key Honor Society” listed on my resume under my bachelor’s degree. It’s a small thing but it’s something I got a cord for at graduation and since I don’t list my GPA (feels like listing a report card to me idk) it shows academic achievement. I’m in grad school right now so I’m not too fussy about taking academic credentials off my resume but is that something I should remove after I’m fully out of school?

    1. MsM*

      I’d take it off now. It’s not like Phi Beta Kappa; all you really need is a certain GPA to get an invite.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Once you have professional experience under your belt, I would take it off unless you’re trying to fill resume space. I was a member of Golden Key and a couple other major-specific honor societies, and they haven’t been on my resume in about a decade because my qualifications are now my nearly 20 years of industry experience and career progression. Pretty much everything college (except that I graduated) is irrelevant now.

    3. Allypopx*

      Thanks! Yeah I probably have enough work experience to take it off, just still being in an academic setting LOOK I DID GOOD still feels like a bigger deal to me than it probably does to anyone else lol

  29. TootsNYC*

    what if our time-card-substitute OP tweaked her compliance?

    It’s sort of passive aggressive (in the classic psychological sense of not doing something something you don’t want to do, instead of confronting that fact and pushing back).

    If start time is 9am, then pick a time–maybe 9:35–and send a single email that says, “Everybody’s here.” And the excuse can be, “I’m getting my day in order, and I just never remember until then.”

    I think also I might just drag it out in the open with my colleagues. “Boss wants me to let her know what time you’re all in, but I don’t want to be the Time Card Police. I’m going to do a single email about 9:30, so if you know you’ll be late, or you have a sick day or something, please ping me before then and I’ll include that. This way nobody’s being nickel-and-dimed on time, and I’m not looking like I won’t obey orders.”

    I’m a fan of just dragging stuff like this out into the open.

    And maybe ask THEM if they would fire off an individual email as well.

    1. Allypopx*

      I do love this, especially the looping in the colleagues. I just worry about it reflecting poorly on the OP since they’re so new. I lean into “I am bad at this simple task” sometimes if a) I am bad at it or b) I have a reason to not prioritize it, because my employer knows I am generally good and reliable but also human. I’m not sure I’d do that so much at a new job.

  30. Lucette Kensack*

    For the freelancer: You’re under no obligation to send gifts or any other acknowledgment of the holidays, but in my experience a lot of freelancers take it as an opportunity for a “light touch” with their network (current and past clients, other contacts who could become clients, etc.). My financial advisor sends a card not because he cares that I have a happy New Year, but because he wants me to remember that he exists the next time I want to make changes to my portfolio.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I came to say something similar to this. While I agree that clients don’t tend to notice if a freelancer DOESN’T send anything, I think they very much do notice when a freelancer DOES do a little something special. So yes, I do think it’s ok to continue doing as you’ve been doing. However, it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.

      I think the hang-up is in thinking that you have to be “a big holiday person” in order to send a holiday greeting/gift of some kind. This is not like sending a gift to a friend or family member. No one is under the impression that you have some great personal affection for the recipient. Everyone will recognize it for exactly what it is: a marketing transaction. And that’s fine.

      No, your client isn’t going to say, “She sent me cookies; guess I’ll hire her now.” It doesn’t work that way. But assuming you have competitors (and who doesn’t), getting and keeping the mindshare of your client is very important. It’s very easy to be crowded out by someone with whom they had just a little bit more contact last year. One possible way to avoid that is a small token during the holidays.

      Source: 30 years on both sides of this equation.

  31. Brett*

    One other industry where you might include your test scores is educational measurement!

    I previously worked for ACT (writing questions and scoring essays) and NCS-Pearson (some essay scoring but mostly clerical work), and whether you are in test development or test scoring, standardized test scores are part of what they look for in a candidate. For some of the test writing contracts, I had to have a minimum score on a specific standardized test. For essay scoring, there were strict minimum degree requirements from the testing agency (e.g. the AAMC required all essay readers for the MCAT to have a BA or BS).

  32. Normally a Lurker*

    This might have been said already, but another caveat to LW #4 is any job in the tutoring world. As a relativity high paid private tutor, I can tell you those numbers *do* matter to tutoring companies.

    Beyond that though, I would listen to Allison’s advice.

  33. Anon Here*

    #2 – She’s asking you to step into a managerial role for part of the day even though it’s not in your job description. That, by itself, is ok, but there needs to be an appropriate amount of communication (and probably negotiation) to go with it. Your co-workers have the right to know that you’re acting as their supervisor, even if it’s only one supervisory task. Your title should be changed to reflect this. It’s not fair for one Llama Groomer to be Secret Supervisor of the other Llama Groomers. You should probably be given a raise. And you should have the option of saying no and letting her select someone else to supervise.

    It sounds like she wants to have a Supervisor in the office and she wants it to be you. Decide whether you want that or not and then bring it up with her accordingly. Tell her you’re not comfortable acting as supervisor while officially in a non-supervisory role. Then either suggest that she promote someone else or ask for that raise and promotion. She is being misguided, but this is an opportunity for advancement.

  34. CRM*

    OP 4 – I took the SATs about 10 years ago, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what my score was. That’s how unimportant the SAT is in after college.

    AAM has already covered why listing SATs on a resume is irrelevant and out of touch. I will add that if you are going to do anything to boost your chances at getting a good job, I would work on making sure your writing samples are excellent! When I was applying for jobs out of college, they asked for copies of papers I wrote and research I did to prove that I can write, think critically, and apply certain skills in certain situations. These are the things that most employers care about, so if you can prove that you do them well, your chances will be better!

  35. Lemons*

    Dear #3,
    I’ve got some bad news about COL in Missoula From our own hometown news: “Between 1990 and 2015, housing prices in Missoula rose 114 percent – even when adjusting for inflation. That means that housing prices in Missoula have grown faster than places like San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and New York.”

  36. Lynn Marie*

    #5: Christmas cards in business are mostly about marketing and networking. As a freelancer, if you appreciate your best clients and want to maintain those relationships, absolutely send them a card with a message that expresses your appreciation and references your particular business in some way. If you want to remind your less frequent clients that you’re available, send them a card. If you’re turning down business, can pick and choose your clients, and don’t have time to send cards, then don’t bother.

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