employee accidentally ruined his boss’s laptop, political bumper stickers at work, and more

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

1. Employee accidentally ruined his boss’s personal laptop — who should pay?

I have a sticky situation at work. I manage an employee who is a manager – let’s call him Joe – and he has several employees who report to him.

Last week during a meeting, one of Joe’s direct reports, Mike, spilled his coffee on the boardroom table. Some of the coffee got to Joe’s laptop before he could pick it up.

It was Joe’s personal laptop, and he took it to the repair store where they told him it’s fried. He’s going to have to spend either $900 to get it fixed, or $1,400 to replace it altogether.

Joe came to me with this information because he is torn on what to do. Should he ask Mike to pony up half of the repair cost? Or just eat it? It’s especially awkward because Mike is his direct report and makes $20k less than Joe.

If this were a work laptop, there should be no question of Mike paying for any of the repair. It would be a cost of doing business that the company should cover.

Mike shouldn’t be financially penalized because Joe happened to have his personal laptop at work. People spill coffee at meetings. It happens. I can’t see asking an employee to pay hundreds of dollars for his manager’s computer repair because of an accident.

Frankly, it would be ideal if the company covered the repair cost since Joe presumably had the laptop there for work purposes. Any chance you can make that happen?

2. Political bumper stickers at work

I am very liberal, living and working in a very conservative state. While my coworkers are really good about not talking about politics at work, many of them have made some comments that make it clear that they are definitely conservative and assume it’s the default state for everyone around them.

I’ve been considering getting some feminist/liberal bumper stickers to the effect of “Nevertheless she persisted” or “Legal abortion saves lives,” etc. (So, no curse words and nothing that I would consider crude.) This car would be parked in the company lot, but generally never in a place where clients would see it.

Is it a bad idea to get these bumper stickers? Every time I’m about to hit the purchase button, I remember the guy with the truck sticker from 2013 and reconsider. I know it’s not quite in the same league, but the basic tenants are the same — my personal vehicle, parked on company property, will have a sticker on it that some coworkers may find offensive.

I think you’re fine, but you’ve got to consider what you know about the culture of your company and the place where you live. It’s possible that advertising your politics will A Thing in a way that you don’t want.

But it’s not the same as that letter you referenced from the guy with the offensive sticker on his lifted truck proclaiming “fat girls can’t jump” — that was deliberately rude and insulting, plus immature and gross. Politely expressing a viewpoint on a social issue isn’t the same thing.

3. Interviewing for a job where my boss used to work

This week, I have my first interview with a nonprofit, for a role I am really excited about. What makes this tricky is that my current boss previously worked there for 12 years and is very well known in the field. She has been gone for about four years, but still has very close friends in the organization and keeps a pulse on what’s going on there. I am a little nervous she might get wind of me interviewing. I considered preemptively telling her I was going for the role since we have a pretty close relationship, but decided against it this early in the process because I didn’t know how she would respond, or even if I would be asked to interview in the first place.

When the HR person called to schedule the phone interview, I did let him know about the situation and reiterated I would appreciate this interview remaining confidential. Was that the right move? I’m hoping I didn’t taint my standing in his eyes or make things weird/complicated. If I continue to move forward in the interview process, when would you recommend letting my current boss know I am interviewing with her former company? What I want to avoid is her finding out under the table, which I think would rub her the wrong way.

You handled it correctly. This is a thing that comes up sometimes, and typically the candidate will flag their boss’s connection to the organization and explain that their search needs to be kept confidential. A decent employer will respect that. (Caveat: Not every employer is decent and some will mess this up, so know there’s that risk.)

During your interview, it’s okay to say, “You’ve probably noticed I work for Jane Warbleworth, who I know is still close with people here. She doesn’t know I’m interviewing here, and I need to keep my job search confidential for now. If you’ll want to contact her as a reference at some point, can you check with me before doing that? I’d like to be able to tell her myself at that point rather than having her hear it from anyone here before I’ve talked with her.”

4. How can I switch to a new name at a job where everyone already knows me?

I’m about to finish grad school, and this semester I’ve been in an internship related to my degree. My supervisor has encouraged me to apply for a full-time position that will be opening next month, and I really want to go for it.

I started here as a volunteer over a year ago, and by now everyone has come to know me by my first name. Then, six months ago I realized that I actually hate my first name. I never related to it as the person I am, and it comes with pop culture references and negative assumptions that I’ve internalized. I now use my middle name in my personal life (It’s my grandmother’s maiden name and just feels more “me.”)

As I get ready to graduate and look for work, I was hoping to “rebrand” as it were and start applying for new jobs using my middle name. But, with the possibility of being able to stay on in my current workplace, I’m not sure how to approach this. People change their names for more serious reasons, and I guess I’m worried that my reasoning will be seen as frivolous. I also realize I might not get offered the position, and the point will be moot. But mostly I feel so awkward about not having said something sooner. How do I ask my potential future coworkers to use my middle name when they’ve known me so long by my first name?

You’re fine! This is a thing people do, and their coworkers adjust. You don’t need to have a “good enough” reason to do it, although the fact that it’s already your middle name may make people question it even less. You can just say, “I’m going by Jane now. It’s my middle name, and I’ve preferred it for a long time so I’m officially making the switch.”

Hell, if you want, you could tie it to getting the full-time job and say something like, “Since I’m going to be around for longer, this is probably a good time to switch to going by Jane. It’s my middle name and I’ve been planning to make the switch for a while. Since I’m coming on full-time, this seems like the right time to do it.”

5. Applicant changed his LinkedIn company and job title to the one he’s applying for

This is not a question so much as what not to do: an applicant for a position I am hiring for changed his LinkedIn profile to the name of the position and my company, including a start date in the month he applied. (Last month). There is only one position of this type in the company, so it can’t be another department.

If I had been considering him, this would certainly put me off! And if another company looks into his history, it would be weird then too. I can’t see how this could do anything but harm his chances. People are so strange.

What on earth! People are so strange.

{ 810 comments… read them below }

  1. Nicknamed*

    #4 – It might be even better to focus on how you use it in your personal life. I have a nickname that I go by, and I think people like to use it even more than my name because it makes them feel like we’re closer/friends/warmer or something like that. It’s less formal, you know?

    EX: “Oh, so you know, all my friends call me , so I’ve finally decided to be less formal go by it at work. It’s my middle name and I love it!”

    1. SS Express*

      I was going to say the same thing. “Mindy is my legal first name, but I go by my middle name, Ellis, in my personal life. I’ve decided to start using it at work too!” Easy peasy.

      1. might be a Jamie after all*

        I may end up doing this in the future too! Any suggestions for scripts?
        Growing up I always went by a nickname version of my legal name (like “Jamie” instead of “James”), but after grad school I switched to the formal version at work because I was worried the nickname would seem childish. But I’ve continued introducing myself to new people in a social setting with the nickname because it just feels more like me…. and now I’m in a job where I might actually be friends with coworkers (unlike my last job!), so switching back to the nickname might be more comfortable.
        (the other problem is that I’ve now gotten in the habit of introducing myself in work settings with the formal version, and I’m awkward, so I know I’m going to stumble and forget sometimes if I switch back! And then have to explain that I literally just introduced myself with the wrong name…. gah!)
        A side question is why some childhood nicknames are less acceptable professionally than others — I wouldn’t think twice if I were a Katie or a Steph, but for some reason other names feel more nickname-y!

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          “Oh, you can call me ‘Jamie’ – I’ve always gone by that”. And if you stumble when introducing yourself, say something like “I’m James – but, I also answer to Jamie.” Personally I’d make it a joke and say something cheesy like “I’m easygoing, I’ll answer to either- just don’t call me late to the catered lunch!”

          I have a coworker who had a similar situation – he went by a shortened nickname all his life (similar to Jamie vs James), including at another job, and then when he started at this job, he decided it sounded childish and started introducing himself as his full name. But… everyone started calling him by his former nickname, so he decided that it fit him better anyway.

          A lot of people I know at work use nicknames/full names relatively interchangeably, and no one is particularly fazed by it. I think this somewhat stems from the fact that a lot of work email addresses will use the full name, so if you are going to email someone you would need to remember to type James instead of Jim, and if you’re emailing someone you’ve never met, you’d use their full name as it is in the email address. That would also be a good way to joke about switching – “If you’re emailing me, it’s james.afterall@company, but you can just call me Jamie”

          1. Quill*

            I’ve had the opposite problem most of my life: many people have assumed that my rare first name is actually a nickname for a slightly less rare other first name.

            One of the reasons I love working in an international department is that when people take a stab at saying my name phonetically, they get it right, and when I introduce myself, no one says “oh, Quillian? only met one of those before,” they just internally think “oh thank god a live pronunciation guide.”

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              In my baseball history world people frequently ask me about my last name, as it is fairly unusual (though not so unusual as many people think) and I share it with two former major league ballplayers. Things get a little weird because one of them has the claim to fame of being the only major leaguer to commit suicide during the season. So people wonder if I am related (I’m not) but feel awkward asking.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I would have guessed Don Wilson, but that’s too common a name for people to ask if you’re related… who was it?

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Willard Hershberger. Note that I use my real name on the internet. I made this decision many years ago. It helps me keep my worst impulses in check. Now that I have a book to flog, it turns out to be good for marketing as well.

            2. Fashionable Pumpkin*

              Oh my goodness, as a fellow rare first name person whose name is sometimes (but still rarely) a nickname for a slightly less rare first name, you are telling the story of my life right here. I’ve had friends/partners/teachers/acquaintances try to use the slightly less rare name for me when trying to talk down or admonish me. Something about *needing* a “full name” to hold over me, to give themselves some kind of authority over me they feel they don’t have by just using what they assume is a nickname.

              I’m actually looking for a way to get my name off social media that isn’t LinkedIn, because I discovered while working retail my name makes me easy to stalk. :/ (There is only one other person in the USA with my same first and last name.)

        2. Naomi*

          If the nickname is a common one for the more formal name, I wouldn’t worry about using the “wrong” one in introductions. I doubt anyone will think twice about it if the person they know as Michael or Abigail is called Mike or Abby in informal contexts. It’s trickier in a case like OP’s where it’s an entirely different name.

          1. Antilles*

            Absolutely. Even if you can’t change the address itself (either because it’s a long process to change James.Smith to Jamie.Smith OR because the addresses are just “JSmith” or whatever), changing it in the email signature is a really good idea because it’s a subtle way to indicate what you want to be called.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              This is what I do because I also go exclusively by a nickname but my company set up my email with my legal name before I had a chance to tell them not to and they won’t change it for some reason.

              I actually dislike my legal name (there’s nothing wrong with it, it just isn’t really my name in my opinion) and even with my actual name in the sig block and everyplace else I can manage to change it, I still get called Glitsy Gustavo about 50% of the time rather than Gus. I’m now starting the process of looking for a new job and just decided that I would put Glitsy Gus on my resume and everything else and when the time comes I’ll just tell whomever I’m applying with that the IRS and possibly my former company’s HR records know me as Gustavo and go from there.

          2. peachie*

            This is what I was going to say! Even if you have to/want to keep your ‘formal’ name in the actual signature block (at least at first), you could start ending your emails with “Thanks, – Jamie” above the block — I know I always try to check to see how the sender refers to themselves, especially if they have a commonly-nicknamed name.

        3. CB*

          I use a nickname socially and my full first name (similar to your example or Jamie vs James) professionally. It did take a bit of conditioning for my team when I started my current job, but they now know when to use which name. For example, my boss would introduce me to someone as “Jamie”, but on my business cards, email signature, and basically any organizational document where my name appears, I’m listed as “James Smith”.

          I see this as a test of whether a workplace is truly a sustainable place to work – respecting (and remembering!) your own preferences for YOUR name.

          1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

            Yes, I do the same thing–similar to Katie/Katherine. There are a few people at work who I also know socially who occasionally call me Katie, and that has led to one or two people I do not know socially calling me Katie. I usually cheerfully correct to Katherine once or twice and that takes care of it. I only had one instance of someone saying “I know you usually go by Katherine but I’m going to call you Katie because I worked with a Katherine I loathed once!” that I had to shut down more firmly.
            OP, you’re entitled to go by any version of your name that works for you; it should take most people at most a few days to adjust to your middle name.

          2. Simonthegreywarden*

            Similar. I have a very common first name. I go by a less-common but still well known name that, while it is a first name on its own and very similar to my name, it is NEVER used as a nickname for my name (I can’t think of a good allegory, so…Margaret and Margot might be close). When I used my full name at work, it inveriably got shortened to the nickname I hate (say Margie) and so I just made the switch to my nickname/name and when people say “Margie” now I just cheerfully say “Margot, actually. How can I help?” My email for work is the longer name but my signature is the version I use and no one has ever had an issue.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I have a friend from college that I call Kathy; her colleagues call her Kathleen.

          but I noticed that someone she has become good friends with at work calls her Kathy when I see her at social gatherings, and that apparently hasn’t bled over into work, because I do sometimes see her at her job, and they all use Kathleen.

          i think when it’s a really obvious nickname, you can just let it be, and most people who actually become close to you will start to call you by the name that fits the situation.

          If you keep using Kathleen at work, and someone who has become a friend calls you Kathy in front of them, other people will just figure that you go by both, or that this colleague has a more casual or a closer relationship.

        5. Nom de Plume*

          I go by an uncommon diminutive of my common first name. I’ve never gone by any other name, so when I’m doing onboarding with a new company, I say “my legal name is Maria Warbleworth, but I go by Molly”. My email signature simply says “Molly Warbleworth”. The company sets up official documents using my legal name. My bank accounts and credit cards, etc are in my legal name. When I’m interviewing, my resume says “Maria ‘Molly’ Warbleworth”. I haven’t had any problems, and no one calls me by the wrong name. I eventually decided to go this route after I met a man at a professional meeting who is in his 50s who goes by “Bobby”. If he can go by his childhood nickname, so can I.

      2. Working Mom*

        I don’t think you even need to express that you’re choosing to use your middle name predominately now – you could position it simply as you already go by your middle name, but in a temporary role it didn’t seem like a big deal – now that you’re accepting a FT Position, it makes sense to tell everyone, hey call me Jane, that’s what everyone calls me.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I had to do that at old job – I go by a less common nickname of my full name and in my interview I mentioned that I go by Ellie not Elizabeth (not my real name) to the hiring managers and the HR department. Well come my first day and everything is set up as Elizabeth- sign in, email address, nameplate, etc… I asked about changing it to Ellie but that was a no go so I set up my email signature to Ellie, introduce myself as Ellie, and answered the phone as Ellie EVERYONE called me Elizabeth except for a couple close members of my team. I battled IT and my bosses for years (finally a new boss came in and helped me get it changed).
      New company has a spot for preferred name right in the online application portal and from the minute I hit submit, they have used my preferred name.
      So OP…check with you company and hopefully they are like my new place and will adjust it immediately in the system. Retraining all of your coworkers will be a little harder but hopefully they are great people and willing to make the adjustment. If they comment on it, just say that since it was your first “real” job, you didn’t realize you had the option to use your preferred name since all of the paperwork requested your legal first name. (This specifically happened to my BIL – he’s always gone by his initials but in college they refused to use them so when he got his first job out of college he assumed he would forever have to use his legal first name. He eventually learned that wasn’t the case so after he left the company for a bit and then returned, he returned as his initials so the people who knew him from before call him First Name and the new people he’s met call him F.N.)

      1. Dragoning*

        Our company is in the middle of updating the office “branding” and got us new cubicles, etc, and they came with new name plates. All our old name plates were whatever name we used. But now “Ben” has turned into “Benjamin” and “Ken” has turned into “Kenneth” and “Judy” has turned into “Judith” etc, etc, etc…

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I am curious if they actually checked what is the “real” name or simply assumed that “Ken” must “really” be named “Kenneth.”

          1. Goldfinch*

            Yes, I worked with a Ben who was actually Bennett. The company owner Made Assumptions, and he got snippy with her right before he quit.

      2. CatPerson*

        Companies can get fined if they submit payroll taxes with a name that does not match your social security cards. That’s why most companies require your legal name on their system. Some companies have the ability to store a nickname, but it depends on the system.

        1. Valprehension*

          In my experience, the SSN is matched to the last name only? I could be wrong though, or misremembering what the IRS does vs. what the CRA does (used to work at a place that did cross-border tax stuff.)

        2. Max is my dog*

          I was working in an HR-related position when that law was implemented post 9-11. Companies were able to get a list of employees showing SS numbers and the name in the SS system. Our organization had a number of mis-matches. Several were people who used a nickname or middle names on our payroll records. A number were women who had were using married names with us but had never bothered to update with SS.
          Most of these folks took action to comply with the law but there was one woman who pushed back a lot. She had been married for more than 20 years and had used a married name on everything -work, banking, grad school, socially- the entire time but had never changed it with SS. She insisted that that she was not going to change as things been working fine since 1980. We pointed out that she was making life difficult for herself as everything else official would have to be changed to the old name. Since we were in Virginia (from where most of the 9-11 hijackers had the gotten the driver licenses they used to board the planes), the DMV was requiring everyone to re-submit documentation for license renewals and everything had to match exactly. All she needed to do was provide a marriage certificate to SS. She still refused past our deadline from the IRS. So she started getting her pay checks in her old name. Her bank noticed. I think it only took one or two bi-weekly pay periods for her to change her mind.

          1. Linsey*

            What exactly is the issue, beyond the need to actually go through the legal processes required for a name change? ie, Is it more of an issue for them than for anyone else?

      3. Joie*

        I have a work around for that – just put things under Ellie UNLESS they specifically ask for your Legal first name.
        I’ve gone by my middle name for many years and I used to put my legal name then try to get them to use my preferred name and ended up in the same weird does not compute / weird hold up on full names thinking and I absolutely hate my first name as it does not suit me at all – the only variation I never hated to my core was Kitty which doesn’t suit me at all. So I just kinda stopped putting my first name out there and just went with my middle name being my name and no one has ever said anything. My taxes are all filed under my SIN and I’ve never had any issues with it.

        1. teclatrans*

          This happens to me all the time — people assume it is a nickname for the longer (more common) name. And for some unknown reason, they take it upon themselves to call me by the more formal name, like they are doing me a favor not to use the diminutive? I tried to move to the longer version when I was in a new adult job, but found I just couldn’t train myself to recognize that name as belonging to me.

          1. Simonthegreywarden*

            Yep. My dad is the only person who uses Longname on me. Everyone else uses ChosenNickname. My boss now, and my college roommate before, were both also Longname, and when I hear it from anyone but my dad I automatically think it is one of them!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Same. I had to put my full legal name at the doctor’s office but could not get them to stop calling me by my first name until right before I left. Boo! I was going by the nickname for my middle name, but now I prefer the full thing, so that’s how I introduce myself.

      4. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

        “I see that changing my information to use my REAL name is such a nightmarish ordeal. But I have faith that with perseverance and gumption you will be able to fix this and the tales of your epic battles to put my information in correctly will be included in the after action reports in all of Valhalla!”

        I mean, who does this? It’s so absurdly disrespectful that I’d be tempted to inflict a series of stapler related felonies around the office.

      5. Not a Liz*

        As an Elizabeth who goes by Elizabeth, I’m a little jealous of your old job situation – and also super sympathetic! My signature, my name plate, my ID badge all say Elizabeth. I introduce myself as Elizabeth. I answer the phone as Elizabeth. And I get called Liz All. The. Time.

          1. Names are fun*

            My cousin is a James. To us, he’s always been Jamie. So imagine our confusion when he brings his gf to meet the family, and she’s telling a story about Jim. We were quite confused (who the heck is Jim?) until it finally clicked for one of us (oh, you call him Jim?). He hadn’t told any of us or her that we use different names for him. Apparently there was another Jamie at work, so he decided to go by Jim. That’s where they met. They’re married now. To her and her whole family and everyone he works with, he’s Jim. To us, he’s still Jamie.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          My best friend also is an Elizabeth and went through exactly this until finally throwing in the towel. It is a bit odd, given that “Elizabeth” is downright profligate with producing nicknames–right up there with Margaret. If you wanted to go by “Betty” I doubt anyone would blink, but trying to go by the full name seems to default to “Liz.”

          1. Betty (the other betty)*

            Sometimes they blink. I get called “Beth” on occasion.

            I remind people that Betty or Elizabeth is ok, but not the other 20+ official nicknames they might choose.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I too prefer Elizabeth. Part of the reason for switching was when I identified myself as Liz, people would call me Lisa. That is a fine name. It is not my name.

          You can call me Liz if you know me well, but stay far, far away from Beth. I used to have a creepy neighbor who insisted on calling me that no matter what I said. Eww. Ew. Ew. Ew.

          1. Don't Call me Liz*

            I’m Elizabeth too. Up until I interviewed for my first “real” job, I was Beth. The manager who interviewed me called me Elizabeth and I decided to go with it. So, my extended family and childhood friends still call me Beth, and my husband and adult friends call me Elizabeth. This led to some confusion when I was recovering from minor surgery (but still woozy from drugs) and my sister was referring to me as Beth. At some point a more current friend tentatively asked “Who is Beth?”. I groggily raised my hand from the hospital bed. Don’t ever ever call me Liz. I am so not a Liz.

            1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

              I have a potential nickname that is my Liz. I am a Barbara. You can call me Barbara, Barb and even Babs. None of those will bother me. You call me Barbie and I will factory reset you with one smack.

              The only person on this planet who can ever call me Barbie (and even at that it’s Barbie Gal) is my father. He named me after his favorite Beach Boys song, Barbara Ann, so he can call me whatever he wants. He’s my daddy.

        3. Sunflower Sea Star*

          LOL recently met a long time online professional contact in person and she seemed annoyed that I called her Elizabeth when I should have KNOWN she went by Liz.
          Everything online says Elizabeth. Other people refer to her by Elizabeth. There is zero indication that she goes by Liz.
          It bugged me a little that she was annoyed with me for sticking with her name as she presents it online…
          A simple “please, call me Liz” would have worked.
          But in the absence of that kind of comment, I am going to use the name you use in writing!

        4. Just Beth*

          I’m a just Beth. My parents were thinking about naming me Elizabeth, but my mom didn’t like Liz, and didn’t want people calling me that. So, they went with Beth. When I was younger, I was constantly asked if I was Elizabeth, Bethany, or Marybeth. None of the above, just Beth. Thankfully it doesn’t happen as much now.

      6. TootsNYC*

        We had PeopleSoft at my company, and it was linked into your email, and supposedly it was absolute hell to change the name from your legal name

    3. Ophelia*

      If switching “cold turkey” to the new name is not desired, a few weeks of using the first initial may help. My friend uses his middle name and when he switched over, he did it that way.

      William Robert Smith
      W. Robert Smith
      Robert Smith

      Barbie Jane Smith
      B. Jane Smith
      Jane Smith

      1. TootsNYC*

        this is how women were encouraged to switch to the use of their new last names, back in the day of formal stationery, etc.

      2. Valprehension*

        I did something similar when I changed my name! Because I made my given first name into my last name, I went:

        GivenName LastName > NewName GivenName LastName > NewName GivenName

        e.g.
        Leslie Puddles > Gina Leslie Puddles > Gina Leslie

  2. out and out*

    I have a “right to keep and bear arms” bumper sticker. It’s served as a good opener– a couple of people have mentioned it but are surprised to learn it’s actually MY car. I’m read as liberal (though identify as moderate) and am a young woman. The discovery has had a way of…. disarming…. my coworkers. Terrible pun— I’ll see myself out.

    1. Alan*

      It’s worth mentioning that with anything like this that when people say they’re surprised you would have a bumper sticker like this they don’t necessarily mean that positively. They may be appalled but are being polite about it.

      If you’re happy with that that’s fine but you have to bear in mind some people will think less of you after that.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        Veering further off-topic, I have to admit I do think less of the coworker with the bumper sticker reading “Don’t steal – the government hates competition!”

        We work at a government agency.

      2. Baja*

        It’s hilarious how shocking it is to readers of this site that there are entire swaths of the nation where the population “are definitely consetvative and assume it’s the default state for everyonr around them” — because that’s exactly what readers here do, only they assume everyone of course is liberal.

        You believe it is appalling to support a constitutional right. Keep in mind many people may be appalled by your position and think less of you because of it.

        1. pancakes*

          Where are you getting the idea that anyone is shocked by the existence of people who don’t share their politics? Where are you getting the idea the letter writer is surprised rather than mildly irritated their coworkers assume shared views?

        2. Alan*

          I’m sure many people would be
          appalled by many of my very left wing political positions but I don’t go to work with a Karl Marx bumper sticker.
          My point was that if you advertise a political view, especially a potentially controversial one, you should be aware there will be some people who will think less of you.

      3. out and out*

        The surprise was good, and the outcome was positive. I’m both well-guarded in the office and not a gun-toting cartoon stereotype (most gun owners aren’t internet memes… go figure), and yet I own guns and believe in the right to do so.

        Be a good person/employee/friend and be honest about who you are. That combo is a potent antidote for rigid and/acrimonious views of The Other.

        1. Alan*

          I definitely didn’t intend to apply that you are some hair trigger gun nut just because of your views differing to my own.
          I just think it’s dangerous ground to walk on to use your potentially controversial views as an opener. I’m aware that your views aren’t massively unusual but there is no doubt the gun debate is acrimonious and controversial

        2. berry*

          “Be a good person/employee/friend and be honest about who you are. That combo is a potent antidote for rigid and/acrimonious views of The Other.”

          I wish this were true — it ought to be — but I’ve been Black in the US for too many years to believe it anymore. There’s a big difference between someone reconsidering their condemnation of a whole group vs just deciding to make an exception for the ‘one good one’.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Anytime I see “right to bear arms” I reimagine it to mean “bare arms” and picture hordes of joyous people frolicking in tank tops, carefree of their wobbly arms bits.

      1. Lynca*

        Actually I always thing of “the right to arm bears” which I heard from a Robin Williams stand up comedy routine from ages ago, iirc.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have a five-foot teddy bear named Moose who sits in a chair in my living room with a (boffer) sword and a (Nerf) shotgun – he represents my right to keep and arm bears.

      2. DerJungerLudendorff*

        I always imagine bear arms. People running around with clawed furry bear-gloves on.

        And if I knew someone was walking around with guns and proudly advertised that fact, I’d certainly be more careful of them and lower my opinion.
        But in my country that’d be unheard of anyway.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          You can support people’s right to “walk around with guns” without doing it yourself. I’ve never owned a gun in my life, but I support people’s right to do it.

          But, I think we’re getting off-topic here.

      3. Jurassicgoddess*

        I always go back to a comic strip where a sorcerer ends up with a bear’s arms…..and is reluctant to give them back to the bear. :)

        Looking For Group is the comic. :)

    3. Faith*

      I purposely avoid putting anything on my car that might even remotely imply that there might be a gun kept there because I don’t want someone to break into looking for an expensive firearm in my glove compartment.

      1. Aeva*

        +100. But look into locking drawers, if your car can fit them. Got them for the Jeep for when we are running top off so our items are secure.

      2. GrumbleBunny*

        This happened not long ago in my neighborhood. Several cars were broken into, the only one that didn’t have a hunting or firearm related sticker was the one with an expensive purse left on the passenger seat.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This.

        I mean, I don’t have any guns to steal, but then I don’t want my windows broken for nothing, either. And I never leave any bags or luggage that might be interpreted as purses or computer cases (I don’t have a laptop to steal, either).

      4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yup. I live in a neighborhood where car breakins are a huge problem, and also a lot of people leave guns improperly tucked under their passenger seat and not stored properly in a locked compartment.

        It usually means that after smashing into a few cars, the perpetrators then go off to commit an armed robbery later.

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

        My former sister-in-law had her junky car she’d had since high school broken into several times (all in “nice” neighborhoods where you wouldn’t think about break-ins). Couldn’t really understand why, since there was nothing valuable about the car, let alone in the car. But she had Deadhead stickers all over it and other “hippyish” 60s and 70s counter-culture stuff so we always thought thieves were looking to see if she had a stash of marijuana or something.*

        *This was over a decade ago when marijuana was not legalized anywhere in the US

    4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I always wanted a Darwin fish for my car, but worked at a place where the owner was super vocally conservative and very vindictive, so I choose discretion. But at a new company now so I’m trying to get a feel for the place before I commit. I also worry that making any deceleration on your car makes it more likely that crazies on the highway will target their road rage on you.

      1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

        It’s so sad that it’s a remote but real possibility in this day and age.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          It’s always been that way. We just hear bout it more today.

          1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

            Good point. As an aside, my compliments to your name. Totally creepy and totally cool.

      2. Smithy*

        I used to live outside of the US where I worked for a nonprofit that supported a mission that not aligned with most of the views of the general public. And I think that it in situations like that, there can be ways to hint that “hey – I may actually not agree with you, but we’re at a wedding so let’s not go down this road.”

        In the OP’s example, I think that “Nevertheless she persisted” as a bumper sticker is far more along those lines where being more direct about abortion the second amendment, or a specific candidate may well open up more emotional conversations. I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t use XYZ 2020 bumper stickers, but depending on where you live and work – I think a lot of it is about the type of conversations you want to kick start.

        1. Sparrow*

          I agree. I think OP is totally in the clear to put on a “nevertheless she persisted”-type bumper sticker. It seems like a good compromise where she can signal where she stands without diving directly into the really divisive stuff, and if she wants to step it up a notch later by adding another one, she can.

        2. Evan Þ.*

          Huh. FWIW, I read “Nevertheless she persisted” as supporting women being self-assured and outspoken in general. Does it have more specific origins?

          1. EPD*

            It was said by Mitch McConnell about Elizabeth Warren when she was speaking against the nomination of Jeff Sessions at Attorney General and wouldn’t stop talking when he was telling her she was breaking the rules.

            It is very much a liberal rallying point.

        3. Greta*

          Agreed. However, the “Nevertheless, she persisted” quote was originally said about Elizabeth Warren. I’ve volunteered for her campaign and I can confirm that the quote is one of the slogans that her campaign uses.
          So, if you don’t want to have a sticker associated with a particular candidate, I’d pick a different one. Maybe the “Coexist” sticker with the symbols of different religions?

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Cosigned. I actually encountered a woman in a shopping center parking lot who demanded I move my car because seeing the Masonic decals on my car, she decided there was a danger of me doing something to hers. People are crazy.

        1. twig*

          My Grampa was a mason. I think his club mostly played pinochle while drinking cocktails

          So when I hear conspiracy theories about masons, I picture Grampa Bill in his Ben Davis work shirt and agate bolo tie (self made), drinking a cocktail, telling stories about diving headfirst into Lake Tahoe in an effort to impress his girl, not realizing that the water temp is just this side of freezing.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I lived next to a masonic cemetery for close to ten years in the 00s. Like, at the end of our backyard was a chain-link fence, and behind the fence was the cemetery. That close. No one in the family was jinxed that I know of. (Though the jury’s still out on the pet chinchilla, he became pretty unbalanced during his stay with us.) The cemetery looked like a park more than a cemetery, residents were welcome to take walks through it, it was always open. And on Memorial day there was a service with a cannon shot. TL;DR they seemed like a fairly laidback social organization.

            We got a good deal on that house, because apparently several people that had looked at it before us, turned it down due to being next to a cemetery. Their loss, our gain.

        2. Lissa*

          I feel like people who use “you are a danger to me due to X characteristic!” as a way to engage with them and demand they move is an indication they aren’t actually afraid but just want to start something. I mean – if I was legitimately nervous somebody might do something to me/my (fictional) car, I would just…move my car, not engage with the person I believe is a danger to me in an aggressive way!

      4. MtnLaurel*

        This. That’s why I never used political bumper stickers in the (very conservative) area where I worked. I worried less about co-workers and more about random nuts who might happen to live there. Not worth the risk to me. I put yard signs up in my yard in support of a friend who was running for office, but I didn’t put a sticker on my car.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            I mean, we’re talking about not putting a bumper sticker on your car. I don’t see how that’s as serious as you’re making it out to be.

            Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but many on the far right have guns. :) So I wouldn’t call it pandering, I would call it making a safe choice that doesn’t actually have any of the horrible consequences you’re implying it does.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t see how you justify taking the position that this isn’t serious while simultaneously saying that people who don’t play along will find themselves vulnerable to being terrorized by armed adversaries.

              I don’t think we are just talking about not putting a bumper sticker on a car, either, particularly since the letter mentions conversations at work. I think we’re talking about the visibility of political views, both in and out of work.

          2. Gee*

            I guess we can stop when people stop getting murdered for looking at someone wrong? Jeez, insensitive much?

          3. Kelly S.*

            I’m a conservative in a liberal area and I experience the exact opposite. It works both ways when you’re talking extreme left and right.
            I believe most people are closer to center but we’re not the ones causing problems.

            1. pancakes*

              How else would personal limits be decided? None of us can reach into someone else’s mind and make decisions for them.

          4. pancakes*

            Alison, I understand this became derailing, but how are the many comments from people talking about their support for gun ownership not political? It looks like my comment was removed because it upset some regulars, not because it was political. The question is political.

        1. AKchic*

          My city (okay, my whole state) is sufficiently dangerous enough that I avoid all political stickers on my vehicle(s). My current MIL thought she’d be cute and slapped a McCain/Palin sticker on our suburban because “you worked for her!” and I came unglued. No, I worked for the state years ago, well before she was governor. I knew Palin through other avenues. I supported her bid for governor at the time because she was a decent bipartisan candidate at the time. That’s it. I did *not* support her as VP, nor any of her antics after. And at that time, I wasn’t a state employee. It took hours to scrape that sticker off, and I still ended up losing some paint. I put a different sticker on over the damage.

          I am a political person. I have friends in politics, I volunteer, I am active. But no way am I going to put your stickers directly on my car. Give me a magnet or let me put your sticker onto one.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Yes, and that’s another consideration– those stickers cause damage to the vehicle that isn’t easily undone. Repainting costs way more money than it ought to.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. I don’t put stickers on my car that will become dated, because they’re so hard to get off once the election is over.

            1. AKchic*

              I did see someone local trying to see their 87 Ford Escort with a “Ross Perot for President” sticker on it and tried to say it was “classic with an ironic nostalgia and tried to sell it for like $5000. It was rusted out, bald tires, clearly a beater with a heater, the sticker was so faded you could barely make out the writing and needed a new engine and all new interior. I think it had been used as a teenager’s vehicle for a while. It should have gone to a scrap yard. The ad didn’t stay up long and I wish I’d gotten screenshots.

      5. Kathenus*

        I’ve got a great car magnet with a Darwin fish that says “We have the fossils, we win” I love it! I’ve had comments on it (I work in a field that skews liberal), so mostly positive from them, but have never heard any negative comments.

        The only time I ever did have a negative reaction to something on my car was for an NFL team when I lived in the city of its biggest rival. People took off anything I put on, and I stopped displaying things because I was truly worried in some areas that someone would damage my car due to it.

        1. DataGirl*

          I worked with someone who explained to me, very seriously, that fossils are planted by scientists in a big hoax to try and discredit the Bible.

          1. Former Employee*

            I assume they thought the fossils were lab created in the way that there are now lab created gemstones that are remarkable like the real thing.

            Of course, if there are real fossils then it doesn’t matter if scientists plant them in places because they are still real.

            It’s kind of scary to think about what some people believe because they so badly want to believe it.

          2. lilsheba*

            The bible can do that all by itself. On that note I believe in having anything I want on our vehicle, I don’t care what others think. I don’t have the car at my job, but I have political buttons on my backpack, and I don’t care who sees them or what they think.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Oh my god. I have never thought of that – and I’ve thought of getting a discworld tattoo before. It is perfect because either you get the discworld reference and therefore love discworld and are my people, or you don’t get it and don’t understand the message. I have a new dream now! Thank you!

          1. DataGirl*

            You’re welcome! There’s a UK site called Discworld Emporium that sells all kinds of cool stuff. I get my husband’s Christmas presents there every year. It makes me sad because there are no more books I can buy him :(

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Audio books? The readers are truly terrific.

              (I have also dropped lines about turtles who move into random places. And I got a pendant that was the famous hawaii turtle purely because of, you know, turtle movement.)

      6. Certaintroublemaker*

        A friend used to work at a place where a co-worker came up to her in tears. The co-worker was Christian and my friend’s Darwin fish sticker just *existing* in the employee parking lot was taken as a personal attack. It was so “hurtful,” yadda yadda. Yeah, no. Other people’s beliefs are … other people’s beliefs. That exist. In the world. And aren’t going to change to suit yours. You never know how people are going to take things.

      7. Artemesia*

        I’ve always wanted a Jesus fish with feet just to keep people confused. Have never found one.

      8. Greta*

        My favorite was the car I saw with both the Jesus fish AND the Darwin fish! Apparently the driver is a Christian who believes in evolution.

          1. Vicky Austin*

            No, it was in the Boston area, so unless you drove your car to Massachusetts, it wasn’t you. I don’t remember if the car had an Illinois plate.

          2. Greta*

            No, it was in the Boston area, so unless you drove your car to Massachusetts, it wasn’t you. I don’t remember if the car had an Illinois plate.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Depends on the bear. Pandas could certainly use all the help we could give, but would probably be too lazy to use one. Polar bears need some help, but if we arm them then penguins would need even more help.

    5. peachie*

      The responses to this thread are a pretty decent answer to the question — I think putting a bumper sticker like this on your car is fine, but, if you do, you should be prepared for the possibility that others may react to and have feelings about it. Up to you whether you’re okay with that!

      1. Happily Self Employed*

        A few elections ago, I needed some body work done on my car after a fender-bender. The rural area shop was very nice and guaranteed the trunk against leaks that I might not find until the rainy season.

        Well, when I brought the car back, it had a bumper sticker for John Conyers because I admired his protests against insecure voting machines… and they were very rude to me and refused to adjust the trunk.

        Darned car had a leaky trunk for 8 more years till the engine fell apart and I got rid of it.

    6. Anon for this*

      Honest confession, when I see a car with a pro-2A sticker on a freeway, I get out of its way and stay out of its way. I just assume that I don’t know how this person is going to react if they think I cut them off or passed them out of turn. If they are passionate enough about their right to bear arms to the point where they have a sticker about it on their car, they’ve got to be armed, and… not afraid to use it? Most likely not, but I stay away from them on the road just in case. So there’s that benefit to having this sticker too, I guess.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      This happens to my fellow middle aged white male lefties all the time. I particularly get it a lot because I live in a red county (of a blue state). I don’t think anything of it if it is a generic “I wish my taxes were lower” sort of thing, but often it is casually racist or sexist statement, with the clear assumption that I share the opinion so we can gave a nice giggle together.

    8. OhNo*

      It’s true that that sort of thing can be a conversation starter. I’m very liberal, but have bonded with a few of my coworkers over gun-talk and hunting-talk because I happened to notice a bumper sticker on their car on my way through the parking lot.

      It’s one of those things that could go either way. It will make some people uncomfortable, it will make some people more friendly, and some people won’t care. It’s all about knowing your coworkers and office, and what you’re willing to put up with if people react badly.

    9. Facepalm*

      I’m a liberal in the deep south and I don’t have any bumper stickers on my car. It’s a conscious choice not to make my car a target for keying by wackos in a parking lot, or being pulled over by a police officer with opposite political views. For instance, if I’m speeding, there’s a chance an officer might choose to let me go, but if they see a bumper sticker on a divisive issue, that could change. I would highly recommend not putting an abortion rights sticker on you car. There are fewer divisive issues in American politics, and the way anti-choice people feel about abortion is not the same way they feel for instance about student loan debt or school vouchers. A Bernie or Warren sticker or whatever–fine, but the last thing you want is your conservative coworkers (or police) to equate you in their minds as a baby murderer.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Please stop calling it pandering. If someone breaks my windows because they disagree with my bumper sticker, I cannot afford to replace them. There are areas where it is not wise to make yourself a target for vandalism (at best) and I think the people who live there are the best ones to decide whether they want to take that risk or not.

          Besides, many of us are using our votes, our wallets, and our voices to fight back against those who want to police our bodies. We are not pandering.

            1. voyager1*

              Another Thank You to Elizabeth. I had a car vandalized over a John Kerry sticker in 2004. I don’t put political stuff on my car now.

          1. Gee*

            Yes. Like I use my vote and my money to make a difference. A bumper sticker doesn’t mean anything. I think donating to PP makes a bigger difference in funding care for women than a bumper sticker. Although I wouldn’t care if someone had that bumper sticker lol. Or anyone other one for that matter

            1. pancakes*

              I think there’s some confusion here as to where I stand on this, which I should’ve been clearer about: I don’t think bumper stickers are a particularly important or meaningful form of political action. I think they’re mostly inconsequential. I think people being afraid of retribution from their neighbors, coworkers, or wider community is big-time consequential, and I don’t think the US would be quite as polarized as it is now if people who silently play along with those particular community values were more vocal about their own. I don’t think depending on national organizations to reason with these people is a realistic or workable idea, either.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                I am not made of money. I have had my car keyed in the past because of a Darwin fish. This is not a nebulous, consequence-free universe where if you declare your political beliefs on a public placard associated with your private property nothing will happen to you.

                People make the choices they do for real economic and personal reasons. Please stop dismissing that as cowardice. You don’t know what people are doing in their spare time to advance their cause of choice. My spouse and I volunteer to drive disadvantaged people to the polls, does that absolve us of not having bumper stickers?

                1. pancakes*

                  You appear to have skipped over the part of my comment where I said I don’t think bumper stickers are a particularly important or meaningful form of political action.

              2. Greta*

                No, you’re right, stickers don’t do much to convince people to vote for the candidates. However, most candidates will charge you for a sticker and the money goes to the campaign.

              3. Happily Self Employed*

                Well said. I don’t have bumper stickers on my car (it came with some mountain bike club stickers, but nothing political) after getting my auto body warranty revoked for merely supporting a Democrat in another state who was investigating election machine security problems. Not everyone in my relatively liberal city is liberal, and the potential for violence is so much higher now than there was a decade ago.

          2. pancakes*

            I do think it’s pandering. I understand that not everyone can afford not to, but I don’t think that changes the definition of what’s happening. Pandering under duress is still pandering. How is catering to someone’s politics out of fear of retribution something other than trying to gratify or indulge their desire to punish their political adversaries?

            1. Another Millenial*

              Just because someone isn’t loudly vocalizing their views doesn’t mean they don’t have those views. If they abandoned their views due to fear of retribution, that would be pandering. But merely staying quiet and keeping your thoughts to yourself IS NOT pandering. They are not indulging the opposite political view when they cast their vote.

              By this logic that not having a bumper sticker is somehow pandering, you’re suggesting that a person who decides not to carry on a debate with someone who they disagree with is pandering. I don’t have to debate someone every time I leave the house. I can choose not to have a gun but still vote in favor of the 2A.

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t think this is as clear-cut as the decision to continue or end debate with a particular person. If that was true the situation raised by the letter writer & by others in the comments wouldn’t exist in the first place — people wouldn’t assume that someone shares their politics just because they work in a red company or live in a blue city, etc. I’m not trying to say that people should loudly vocalize their politics at work, either, or when meeting someone new — I’m saying that in communities where people are quiet about their politics specifically due to fear of retribution, 1) no one can really get a handle on how prevalent their views are, and 2) those communities are encouraging brutish reactionaries to set the tone for everyone else.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  The intimidation is the fault of the brutish reactionaries, not the people they intimidate.

                  Considering stories downthread about genuinely terrifying behavior like being directly threatened with guns, and considering that you have stated you live in NYC (where your political views are unlikely to attract such acts): it’s *beyond* tone-deaf for you to preach at people whose neighbors are threatening to kill them that they should throw all caution to the wind or else they are bad cowardly traitors to their causes or whatever.

                  Getting targeted like this certainly seems likelier, too, if you are a person of color, a religious minority, a LGBTQ+ person, a woman, etc. I don’t know your demographic details, but maybe you should think about that too before you tell other people they are morally required to risk their safety.

                2. pancakes*

                  If I’m “preaching” by talking about my views so are you, no?

                  I get that you’re trying to be contemptuous by restating my opinion as being “or whatever,” but you’re just emphasizing that you can’t be bothered to try to understand what I’m saying vs. reacting to it emotionally.

                  I am a bi woman and understand that many people commenting on this seem to live in communities where being a minority in any way is dangerous. It’s not as if my city is some sort of post-political paradise where no one is ever attacked for their identity, though.

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Oh, I *understand* what you’re saying; I just think it’s unreasonable. There’s a difference.

            2. Facepalm*

              Whether it’s pandering by definition or not, I am personally quite happy not to broadcast myself in a way that could have severe financial (traffic tickets or negative law enforcement interaction, vandalism of my car or home, loss of job) or physical impacts to me or my family. There is no situation where my support for the legality of abortion trumps my desire for financial and physical safety. Support of liberal political principles does not require me or anyone else to advertise those beliefs on my car or person so as to fight back against those who would oppress or stifle those beliefs. I can do that through voting, activism, and monetary donations.

              If the OP feels strongly that she wants to have the sticker on her car, that’s wonderful for her. I was merely pointing out that there can be consequences on that front and particularly that issue, especially at her job where multiple coworkers will see the sticker and can freeze her out or she could be simply let go because of “funding issues” or something. Kudos to everyone fighting the good fight.

            3. Facepalm*

              Whether it’s pandering by definition or not, I am personally quite happy not to broadcast myself in a way that could have severe financial (traffic tickets or negative law enforcement interaction, vandalism of my car or home, loss of job) or physical impacts to me or my family. There is no situation where my support for the legality of abortion trumps my desire for financial and physical safety. Support of liberal political principles does not require me or anyone else to advertise those beliefs on my car or person so as to fight back against those who would oppress or stifle those beliefs. I can do that through voting, activism, and monetary donations.

              If the OP feels strongly that she wants to have the sticker on her car, that’s wonderful for her. I was merely pointing out that there can be consequences on that front and particularly that issue, especially at her job where multiple coworkers will see the sticker and can freeze her out or she could be simply let go because of “funding issues” or something.

            4. Smithy*

              Where I think you’re getting a lot of pushback around calling this ‘pandering’ is that a lot of people are explaining a choice made out of fear of vandalism or a property crime. Now the desire to not have a broken car windshield might not have the same emotional resonance as an LGBTQIA person remaining closeted for safety reasons – but lots of people don’t equate either to considering the tabloid industry pandering a public interest in gossip.

              Forget about having your car keyed – if you have your car stolen or broken into, most police departments won’t do very much and negotiating insurance around either isn’t pleasant either.

              I also think that for as many people here who wouldn’t use XYZ bumper sticker out of concerns of vandalism – there’s a greater feeling of comfort in wearing clothing connected to those issues/politics.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Judging from some comments downthread, it appears to be a fear of violent crime too, for some.

            5. Greta*

              Pandering would be if a liberal lived in a conservative area put a MAGA sticker on her car to gain the approval of her conservative neighbors and co-workers.
              Not putting a sticker on your car at all is not pandering.

        2. Sunflower Sea Star*

          Love how you call those who are afraid of becoming targets for their views “pandering”
          That’s quite the leap.
          I don’t need any more graffiti written on my car. Or paint balls to my windshield. I’ll happily have a face to face talk about my views with just about anyone. I’ll wear T shirts. I’ll go to marches.
          But I will also keep bumper stickers off my car.
          And that is NOT “pandering”

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Yes. It’s coming across as victim-blaming when addressed to people who have had stuff done to their vehicle.

            1. Happily Self Employed*

              The car can’t do much to protect itself while parked except honk annoyingly. If someone gets belligerent with me about a T-shirt, I can retreat or get help.

        3. Gee*

          The thing is I know that already and I’m comfortable knowing it and discussing it with whom I choose. Choosing not to project it to everyone who sees me is not “craven eagerness to pander”. Sorry but get over yourself.

      1. Kiki*

        I live in a very conservative area. I put a Warren sticker on my car and my husband put a Bernie sticker on his. Both cars were keyed with the word “Libtards”. You never know what will set people off.

        1. pancakes*

          It sounds like a lot of people in these comments have a pretty good grasp of what will set their neighbors off, actually.

  3. phira*

    OP1: I really think it does depend on why Joe was using his personal laptop; I agree very much with Alison’s advice here. I work as an adjunct instructor, which means that I am not issued any work devices and have to do all of my work on my personal devices. It’s not a strict requirement that I bring my personal laptop with me to work every day, but in reality my job would be so difficult without it that it wouldn’t be worth it. If I brought my laptop to a meeting and someone spilled coffee on it, it would feel absolutely awful if I had to pony up hundreds or thousands of dollars for repair/replacement/data recovery.

    So honestly, it really depends. If it’s not part of the company culture for people to use personal laptops and it was an unusual occurrence, it might be hard to justify having anyone but Joe cover the costs. But if Joe’s expected to use his personal laptop at work, then work should pay for it.

    Either way, Mike spilling the coffee was an accident, and penalizing him hundreds of dollars like that feels really awful. And although there’s no information beyond seniority here, I assume Joe makes more money than Mike does; this would be a much more financially substantial loss for an employee than a boss.

      1. Threeve*

        If I was a bystander to this, and Joe asked Mike to even partially cover the cost of the laptop, and the company backed him up, I would be really disappointed in both of them.

        1. Quill*

          Also… over a thousand dollars for a laptop???

          Can’t help but think Joe was ripped off to begin with, unless they’re counting re-purchase of software or some attached audio or video equipment.

          1. Lance*

            It depends what type/power of laptop it was. For a simple laptop, it’d easily be in the realm of $300-$500, but he might be going for something higher-end, or be adding in the costs of extra software/etc., as you suggest… really, who knows.

          2. Two Dog Night*

            If you want a laptop with a fast processor and a graphics card that can support gaming, it’s likely to be over $1000–possibly closer to $2K.

          3. Dragoning*

            If they have a Mac, that’s not even surprising. If they have a high-end laptop, it’s not a surprise. Heck, if they have a good mid-range computer, that’s not pushing it too much.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I was just about to say, my undergraduate-required Mac with the specs they required ended up at a little under 2k. Which is a nasty thing to do to undergraduates.

            1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

              Pretty much all of mine (they don’t exactly run high end games but I have done photoshop work on them) have run me $600 or less.

            2. Nephron*

              Mid to top range gaming laptop that is back a model or two, if you have the time to wait you can get a really good one on sale.

              1. pancakes*

                Why are so many of these comments focused on gaming? Is that the only thing you think people use laptops for?

                1. anonymous 5*

                  No, but a “gaming” laptop will have processing power/video card/sound card that punch above their weight for whatever the other features of the laptop would ordinarily be. I haven’t priced laptops lately, but I’ll admit I wouldn’t be surprised if you might be able to come off better with the price for a “gaming” machine than if you’d ordered a standard laptop and had to add features.

                2. pancakes*

                  The question isn’t about how to get a good deal on a laptop, though, and the letter has nothing whatsoever to do with gaming.

                3. Dragoning*

                  No, but it was about a personal laptop, and the comment this is a response to is questioning the price…and people are mentioning they would pay a lot for a personal, gaming pc.

                4. SimplyTheBest*

                  This is literally the first comment I’ve read with the word gaming in it. Can you chill?

          4. Observer*

            Not true at all. Sure, you can get a laptop for $300- 500. But if you are getting a desktop replacement, or you want something reasonably powerful and very lightweight you are going to be paying a LOT more. There are other features that can add to the cost as well. (I just ordered some laptops that are even more expensive than this for work. It was well worth the cost for our use case.)

          5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            There’s huge range. Our CEO replaced his work laptop and given what we do, it’s a $1400 option. He’s cheap AF so if another one would do the job just as well, he would have gotten a less expensive version.

          6. ap*

            Quill, not all laptops are created equal. Laptops that cost thousands of dollars cost that because of the tech inside. They aren’t ripoffs. Graphics cards, processing speeds, storage, display types…high end versions are needed for many many jobs.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              +1

              Mine is the bare minimum processing power and memory I need to do my job and it cost me $1300.

            2. Happily Self Employed*

              If all someone does is edit text documents and send email, they could use the cheapest laptop. If they are an engineer trying to run SolidWorks, AutoCad, etc. then they need all the speed, storage, and graphics they can get. Likewise if they are doing Photoshop or other Adobe graphics stuff.

            3. Surly*

              Exactly. My personal laptop was $2700, not because I’m an idiot, but because that’s what I need for the work I do.

          7. Autumnheart*

            I’ve got a gaming laptop as my personal laptop, and it was $1800 new. Not a particularly souped-up model either. And then you have Macbooks, which are basically the same technology for twice the price.

          8. Rui*

            Putting gaming rig aside, plenty of work laptops easily pass the $1,000 mark. My firm issues every employee at the consulting lines a £1,200 plus HP ultrabook. Please note it’s £ not $.

          9. DataSci*

            I wouldn’t expect a manager to be using one, but a decent Mac development laptop will be well over $1K.

          10. designbot*

            This is SO dependent on field. I was startled by how low it was, but I’m a designer and I’m pretty sure both my work and home laptop are double that.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, I would expect someone who works with graphics to have a laptop that could handle them easily.

          11. Jason Funderburker*

            I used to source laptops for our clients at my old job. Most of them, especially for managers, were over a thousand. We liked Lenovos, their T-series is about that price with pretty standard specs. They look nice, run well, and are reliable. Also I remember their tech support/warranty support was not a huge pain like some other companies. I recall trying to source things that were cheaper and usually needing to compromise on some specs like HDD instead of SSD or weight. (This was 6mos ago so our average computer was an i5, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM for reference, but I did just look it up and the model I’d be sourcing now, if I still worked there, is the same price i7, 512 SSD, 16GB RAM). Lenovo aside it would be hard to find a Dell (which we also sourced) with those specs for significantly less. Also my example is a business computer running Windows Pro (which anyone can purchase) so Joe may or may not have one (it was not uncommon)
            Or a Mac, actually my first thought was that it was a Mac.

          12. Gee*

            A regular macbook is about $1300-$1500. So I would guess its probably a MacBook and those are really popular too.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I think the direct report part is important too, as well as the pay disparity. I don’t think you can ethically demand cash from someone you manage – Mike doesn’t really have the ability to refuse without risking his job. To use your job as a comparison – if a student accidentally bumped into your laptop and it was damaged, you really couldn’t demand that they pay for the repairs.

      1. Anna*

        Agreed! I have a similar context. As a part-time professor, if a student dropped coffee on my personal laptop (that I would only be using for university work), I would be out of luck. I would never ask a student for cash following an accidental coffee spill. I would be very unimpressed if my work couldn’t support the financial costs of repair and restoration, but it wouldn’t be a wild surprise. There are good chances that I would in deed be out of luck and have to cover the expenses on my own. Personally, I don’t expect much from university employers as a part-timer, but YMMV…

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          You wouldn’t ask or you wouldn’t accept? Personally even though it was a mistake I think the employee or the student should offer to pay to fix it or at least offer some money towards it if they can’t afford to cover it all. I know that is what I would do if I had been the one to make that mistake. I have not had that happen but I have made other mistakes where I ruined someone’s property and it ended up costing my 300/400 to make it right or as close to right as I could.

            1. Mia 52*

              What if it wasn’t a work tool at all? What if they accidentally ruined someones $1100 coat by spilling? Or hit their boss’s car? Would they not have to pay to fix that?

        2. Rui*

          In that context, it would be perfectly reasonable to demand a work-issued laptop following the incident.

      2. Bye Academia*

        Yes.

        When I was a grad student, a student in a class I was TAing knocked over my laptop and cracked the screen. I didn’t see it, so I never knew who did it. (Someone else who had witnessed it asked if I wanted to know, and I said no. I’m human, and I didn’t want to risk bias against that student.)

        Luckily, I had an accidental damage warranty on the computer. I ended up getting a new one for free when the screen couldn’t be repaired. But it would have been on me if not. The thought of the university buying a grad student a laptop is laughable, and I never would have asked the student for money, even if I knew who it was.

      3. Gee*

        I’m conflicted because I’m generally of the mind that if you damage someone’s property- you pay to fix it. If you hit someones car- you pay to fix it, you don’t ask each other one anothers’ salaries and then if yours is less you get out of paying. It being a direct report makes it really tough though. However if I spilled coffee and broke my boss’s personal laptop I would absolutely volunteer to pay for the repair or replacement. I broke something- I fix the situation.

        1. Hedgehug*

          Yeah but you have car insurance for that. Workplaces are supposed to have money in their budget to cover things like accidents, tech replacement, etc. Things happen.

    2. JM in England*

      Many home contents insurance policies cover personal laptops being used outside of the home. Could Joe claim on his policy, assuming he has one?

      1. Clementine*

        Assuming, for Joe, that the home insurance would be worth claiming after the deductible, the insurer might decide to sue Mike if Joe makes a claim, which is the insurer’s right. Mike’s insurance would be sure to go up in that case, so Mike would likely prefer to just pay without involving insurance.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Totally agree. My husband was an adjuster decades ago. He always said, “Insurance is just a loan. What ever they pay you, you are going to return in higher premiums later.”

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              And that is why I will never change from my current insurance provider. My dad worked for the company many, many years ago and I inherited this policy when I got married and I was no longer on a “group” policy with my parents. Ended up adding my husband’s vehicle and our home onto the policy. We always paid on time but my husband had a few very expensive accidents in a relatively short time frame – 2 totaled vehicles and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and our medical insurance specifically noted that the auto policy was primary medical in case of a car accident. In addition, my vehicle got hit with some bad luck (hit by a snow plow in a parking lot, hail damage, attacked by a truck tire on the highway, etc…which all cost several thousand per incident to fix.

              The only time our insurance ever went up is when we upgraded our vehicles and house. Apparently we still have a note on our account that it is a legacy policy from a former employee. Funnily enough, my dad ended up leaving that insurer and his rates have gone up and up and up over the years.

              1. Lynn*

                Off topic: We also have an auto insurance policy that originally belonged to my husband’s parents (his dad retired as an executive for the company). The auto policy is older than either of us as it originated in the early 50s. My sister in law actually still works for the same company, and my husband did as well before he decided that teaching teenagers was less stressful than insurance claims.

                On topic: I would not make a claim for a laptop on my homeowner’s insurance, most likely. Mostly because there would not be much actual coverage once my deductible was met and I would not want my rates to go up in order to collect the small difference between the deductible and the repair/replace cost.

          2. Never Been There, Never Done That*

            Exactly right, PEACE. Looking past all of the entertaining or heartwarming commercials they spend millions to produce it is crystal clear it is a business. They are there to make money, not help people.

            1. Yorick*

              But your insurance doesn’t really protect you. You pay a (usually high) premium to have it and then it doesn’t even cover anything until you pay an astronomical out-of-pocket deductible. It’s all a scam.

              1. Artemesia*

                I think it is best to think of it as useful for catastrophe. e.g. my friends who came home after a weekend away to discover that on a Friday the city had put a pulse of air or water through the water system in her neighborhood for some reason and it had broken a toilet valve on her third floor. Water then ran all weekend down three levels of her home causing 70K in damage. THAT is the sort of thing that makes you happy to have insurance. The nickel dime stuff doesn’t really get covered.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I guarantee you I have paid my various insurers exponentially more than I have cost them. Even if they had to buy me a new car I wouldn’t be getting free money.

            3. Automated*

              Its not protection if you pay even more for that the next year. Its also not how insurance originally worked. Insurance today is VERY shammy, but legally mandated to buy in so your stuck shelling out.

              1. Automated*

                Heres a numerical example for you.

                Ive been using auto insurance for 14 years at a premium of $100 a month. So Ive paid $16,800 into the protection pot.

                Never had an accident, ticket or anything. Recently I scratched a car. 1″ on the bumper in a tight parking garage super tiny. Cost $900 to fix. And that was in part because insurance mandated who would fix it mind you.

                Just got my new bill for next years premiums – wanna guess how much they upped my insurance rates?

                If you guessed $900 or less you are wrong!

                Try $1,200 per year for at least 5 years. Its going to cost me way more then if i just covered it out of pocket (which i will do from now on!).

                Its a total legal racket.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  True but if you were in a serious accident in which they paid out $100,000 of medical expenses, your premiums would not go up $100,000. Heck, even if it had been an accident with $15,000 worth of damage, it would not go up $15,000. It’s the smaller amounts that screw you because there’s a certain point at which a claim, any claim, or an accident, any accident has a certain minimum effect on your rate.

                2. Mr. Tyzik*

                  YMMV. I ran into a car in front of me a few years ago at an intersection and insurance handled the claim. The other driver had a little Kia against my RAV4 so she had car damage and medical bills. My insurance paid for the three lawyers who handled the other driver’s case when her insurance sued me, paid for the car damage to her, and paid for her medical bills for $18K.

                  Took a few years to settle in which my insurance rates were flat, then the rates went down with the most recent renewal.

                  They also took care of my car when it was broken into and paid for $1500 worth of damage (About what I pay for a year). No rate hike.

                  I assume my rates will go up dramatically when I add a teenage driver later this year. In my case, insurance has been worth the cost.

                3. WellRed*

                  Please, call them and ask them to re-quote you. That’s insane. My insurance kept inching up until I found out how much more I was paying then other folks and it was, “oh yeah, we can make the lower.”

                4. Phlox*

                  Connected comment to the “$100k serious accident” – I had a 4 broken ribs, a briefly punctured lung and a rolled ankle from being right hooked by a car driver (basically a minor scratch in the realm of what can happen when a car hits a human) and the demand package from my lawyer to the driver was for $100k. Humans are super expensive to fix and something to keep in mind for coverage.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            It really isn’t. The lesson here is not that coverage is illusory, but that you might be better off paying out of pocket for small stuff and save the insurance for the big stuff. Also, if the discussion is about auto insurance, there are various types of coverage. The various states legally require liability coverage up to a given minimum, typically in the $25,000-ish range. This isn’t coverage that pays out to you, but to the guy you hit, if you are in an accident and it was your fault.

        1. Mary*

          Would an insurance company really go after someone for a cost that tiny? For tens of thousands of dollars of medical expenses, I can see, but for a few hundred for a new laptop?

          1. Pretzelgirl*

            You’d be surprised. We had some neighborhood kids over to play at our house once (with our kids). All the kids on our street constantly run between 3 houses to play. So its not uncommon for everyone to be at our house for an hour, then the neighbors etc. The neighbor girl fell off a swing and hit her chin and needed stitches. Her parents took her to the ER and she only needed like 5 stitches. Their health insurance sent them forms to fill out. They wanted our info so they could sue us for the hospital bills. My neighbor wrote a scathing letter back and basically refused to fill out the forms. It was 5 stitches for Goodness Sake!!

            1. Elizabeth Proctor*

              Oh gosh. My daughter plays on our neighbor’s swing set. I would hate for my insurance company to go after them if she got hurt.

            2. ThatGirl*

              Just to clarify, the “suing you” isn’t really suing YOU – it’s a legal formality to get your homeowners insurance to cover it. Of course it’s up to your neighbor whether to pursue that or not, but it’s not going after you personally.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                It can end up out of your neighbor’s hands too. Their health insurance can refuse to cover the care if you don’t cooperate and can also refuse to pay future claims until they get their money back. The concept is subrogation if anyone is interested. It’s how they figure which insurance company should be paying for something between health, home and auto.

                1. Mr. Tyzik*

                  If I’m not mistaken, subrogation was the reason why a woman received news coverage a few years ago after suing her nephew for a rigorous hug that led to a broken arm. She didn’t want to sue the nephew, but it was required for insurance purposes. She got a lot of nasty comments online as a result.

                2. Texan In Exile*

                  My husband’s mother fell and broke her wrist while she was visiting my husband’s father in the hospital. Medicare paid the bills, but FIL decided they needed to sue the hospital for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

                  Hospital paid and Medicare said, “We’ll take most of that money, thank you.”

                  FIL was furious. I thought, “You are the Smartest Man In The World! Have you really never heard of subrogation?”

                3. TootsNYC*

                  Yep, if I don’t fill out the forms they send me, they will refuse to cover the bill in any way.

                  And I get them almost every time one of us goes to the emergency room.

                4. Artemesia*

                  My DIL was hit by a driver who circled around a stopped car at a crosswalk that had paused to let her cross and threw her 20 feet with very serious injuries some of which are permanent. They had minimal insurance and every dime they did have was sucked up by her health insurance company so that she gets no compensation at all for these permanent injuries.

              2. doreen*

                Yes, it may not be “going after you personally” in the sense that they might not want you to pay the bills out of your own pocket , and it may be that the neighbor’s health insurance is actually filing the suit – but regardless, the lawsuit is saying that you ( or someone in your household ) did something wrong. That aunt who sued her nephew claimed in the suit that the nephew was negligent and should have known that a forceful greeting could have led to her injuries. Homeowner’s insurance is not some sort of no-fault coverage that covers all injuries on your property – it only covers incidents where you could be sued and held liable

              3. Richard Hershberger*

                It’s not even really suing. It is an implied threat to sue. Really it is asking who is your homeowner’s insurance carrier, so they can make a claim there. These things usually end up being worked out without any lawsuit.

                The next question is whether you are liable when a neighbor kid falls off your swing. This can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so you might be. But this is not universally so. Contrary to popular myth, the property owner is not liable for any bad thing that happens on his property. Fell off a swing? Did you negligently fail to maintain it, so that the chain broke? Probably liable. Did you negligently place it on a dangerous surface, so that someone falling off it is peculiarly likely to be injured? Probably liable. But a normal swing placed in a reasonable spot, but bad things happen? Probably not liable.

                Not that the insurance company had gotten that far. That would have been part of the discussion with your homeowner’s carrier, who likely would have told them to take a hike and that would have been the end of it.

            3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              Yeah, this has happened every time we’ve been to the ER. You get a form asking where you were hurt, and the health insurance company will sue the property insurance company of the place you were injured, to recoup the costs of what they covered. I had to fill out this form even the time I had an ER visit that was clearly related to illness and not injury.

              If you don’t return the form, they reserve the right to not cover your hospital expenses.

          2. Automated*

            Probably wont sue but i can guarantee you they will send demand letters and potentially auto dial.

            Thanks to new tech its easier then ever to harrass someone for money.

      2. DoomCarrot*

        I don’t know about the US, but here, this would be a standard case for liability insurance – either the employee’s personal liability insurance or the employer’s, depending on the exact circumstances. Making it a non-issue, really.

        But the US seems to tend toward litigation instead of liability claims – it’s a different system.

        That’s one of the reasons I find this site fascinating; you see just how different standards are in different parts of the world. For example, the US seems to deal with many forms of discrimination and harrassment better, but I’m aghast at all the stuff about non-existent maternity leave, being fired for being gay being legal, and people having to work while in chemo.

        1. Antilles*

          Personal liability insurance isn’t really a common thing in the US, at least not for small losses like this.
          Home insurance policies do often include a personal liability component but since it’s really intended to protect your home and lifestyle, deductibles are typically high enough that filing a claim over a $1400 laptop probably wouldn’t be worth it.
          There are also separate “umbrella” insurance policies which cover generic claims for liability that can be purchased, but such policies are fairly rare, mostly purchased by the upper class (no actual stats here, but I’d guess it’s like 20% of the population, probably less). And again, you run into the fact that these policies are intended to cover huge catastrophic losses rather than a $1400 laptop.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Had to comment on this… Umbrella policies aren’t necessarily upper class things… for the amount of coverage they are dead cheap and a good idea for most people not just rich ones.

            That being said, I wouldn’t make a claim for something like this. I would pay out of pocket. Now the real question would be if a claim could be made against the company since it was an employee of the company who did the damage.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I am FAR from upper class, and I have a million dollar umbrella policy. It allowed me to drop some of my auto liability and basically paid for itself.

          3. Coverage Associate*

            Umbrella policies are hard to get if you don’t own your home. We have talked to several agents and experts, and it’s just not offered over a renter’s policy.

          4. TootsNYC*

            Most home insurance policies (and renter’s insurance policies–if you rent, YOU SHOULD HAVE ONE) have a liability clause.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          “But the US seems to tend toward litigation instead of liability claims”

          This is more myth than reality. I work in personal injury law. The default assumption is that the claim will be settled without litigation. If a lawsuit is filed, the default assumption is still that it will be settled before trial. Actual trials occur in only a tiny fraction of cases, typically when the two sides disagree about who is liable, or if the plaintiff is claiming far more serous injuries than the liability insurance carrier thinks plausible (which skepticism in turn might or might not be well founded).

      3. HollyGen*

        Was coming here to mention the same thing. I’m also in the UK, working in insurance, and this is something that a lot of insurance policies could potentially cover (assuming the right cover sections were taken out).

        Re the insurance company trying to recover costs…well I cannot comment on practices in other countries, but in the UK, we would only consider pursuing a third party if there was intent to cause damage, or if Mike had his accident as a result of negligence (ie someone had failed in a task they were supposed to do that then led to Mike spilling his drink – trailing cables not tidied up, or worn floor tiles not taped down/replaced or things like that). Even then we’d ask whether it was worth pursuing – Would it cost us less than $1400 in man-hours etc to pursue $1400 of claim costs?

        Accidentally spilling a drink…well that would be considered of one of those things that happen, and we wouldn’t be chasing Mike for that

    3. Veronica Mars*

      I just don’t think you can go around demanding people repay you for accidental damage to your property. One of the risks of buying technology is that something might happen to it, and you might have to pay to replace it. We’ve all been the coffee spiller.

      It might help to put it in the perspective of if this happened at a Starbucks. Would you be the crazy guy demanding a total stranger immediately fork over hundreds of bucks to cover the damage??

      Also, I’m so confused about why someone had a personal computer at work… and like phira said, if its an effective requirement, then work should pay for it.

      1. Threeve*

        There was a woman who sued her country club after a waiter there spilled wine on a Birkin handbag with a pricetag that looks like a typo. At least she didn’t sue the waiter?

        1. Just J.*

          No, but if I remember the recent updates, the insurance company for the country club then sued the waiter.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I know nothing about this incident in particular, but in general I would expect to sue the club for sure, as it is legally liable for the actions of its employees (drop “respondeat superior” into casual conversation if you want people to think you are a lawyer). There are procedural advantages to suing the waiter as well, as co-defendant, but it is not critical.

            Club sue the waiter? Doubtful, even apart from any legal question. The expression “you can’t get blood from a turnip” very much applies to legal matters.

            1. TootsNYC*

              also, accidents are an expected part of doing business, and he is acting as an agent of his employer. Unless he was deliberate and malicious, I can’t imagine it succeeding.

        2. Sharkie*

          Ok but Birkins are crazy expensive and if it was a rare ” we are only making 5 and that’s it” bags I kinda get it, but that is why you insure the bag!

            1. Witchqueen*

              It’s a luxury item. It’s nice and some people like it. I’m very ‘eat the rich,’ but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize people like nice things.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Is it weirder than a car you have to insure before you can drive it? Or insuring expensive jewelry that you plan to wear outside of your house?

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I don’t drive, so correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but AFAIK in the US you have to insure any car before you drive it. You don’t have to insure any bag before you put items in it. But I’ll cede your point regardless. It’s not something /I personally/ would think of doing, because I’d rather have a utilitarian item I can use than a luxury item I’d be afraid to use (and because I am incredibly good at destroying my own property).

      2. Anonys*

        This attitude is so baffling to me! As a German, I come down strongly on the site of Mike being responsible for the broken Laptop, as he damaged it (accidental or not).

        But because taking that responsibility is part of the culture and law in Germany, literally everyone has personal liability insurance, and this would be an absolute classic case for that (as DoomCat pointed out above). I feel like it makes things so much easier when dealing with these kind of situations. I remember my parents using it when my brother was still a kid and damaged our neighbours property with a football.

        I haven’t used mine in the last few years, but it’s 50€ a year, and considering the peace of mind and the high likelihood that I will at some point damage someone’s property or lose the keys to my apartment building or whatnot, it’s definitely worth it. And yes, if I spilled my coffee over someone’s stuff at Starbucks, I would absolutely be responsible for that damage, give that person my contact info and let my insurance handle it.

        1. Kate 2*

          Unfortunately personal liability insurance isn’t a big thing here the way it sounds in Germany. As well, insurance in the US is basically a scam that for certain things, like cars, is required. I don’t know about health insurance and/or incomes in Germany. But the lower ranking in your job you are in the US, the less likely it is that you make a living wage, and even if you do make enough to survive, the less extra you have. The supervisor makes 20,000$ a year more than his underling does. I don’t know what he makes total but the laptop repairs would be less than 1/20th of what more he makes than the underling. Clearly he is much better able to pay for the laptop repair than the lower level guy. With income disparity in the US it would be obscene for someone who makes so much more to force someone with so much less to pay for a personal device.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          To me there’s a difference between the ‘polite thing to do’ and the ‘correct response’. If I broke a friend’s computer in their home, I would offer to pay out of politeness. But the polite thing for the owner to do would be to refuse to accept the offer.

          My general line of thinking goes like: I am responsible for not investing my money in things that would be crippling to replace if damaged/lost.
          And, on the flip side, I am not capable of controlling how expensive the things other things humans bring around me are. I can try to be careful, but, by definition, accidents happen. If someone wears a million dollar Rolex to play basketball with me, and I accidentally trip him and the Rolex breaks, what am I supposed to do? Go bankrupt paying it back?
          To me, a laptop is just a less extreme version of a Rolex. People shouldn’t have to make enormous financial sacrifices because other people put their expensive items in their vicinity and an accident happened.

          I like the idea of liability insurance – I mean, obviously we all have car insurance and home insurance because we know we could not absorb the cost of replacing those things if an accident did happen. But that’s not really a thing that exists here in the states (I think – its at least not common practice).

          1. Veronica Mars*

            One other thought – everyone has the option to buy insurance on their computer. This guy chose not to, so he assumed the risk that goes with it.

            Maybe it’s backwards that in the US we buy individual insurance on all of the things we care about instead of general ‘two way carelessness insurance’ but that’s what it is.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I have to disagree with your point: “I am responsible for not investing my money in things that would be crippling to replace if damaged/lost.” Just because you have to save up money to purchase something that you can’t easily afford does not mean other people should not be responsible for their actions. From that perspective it seems Person A has to take responsibility for other peoples actions, but other people do not have to be responsible for their own actions.

              The basketball example is not equivalent to the house or Starbucks example. In that a game of basketball has more inherent risk of falling, accidental elbows etc…. So if someone wears expensive sneakers, watch, tshirt and they get damaged I agree the person does that may have caused the accident is not responsible, the person knew what they were getting into.

              But at Starbucks people often go there to work, you go to just about any Starbucks and you will see tons of people on their laptops working/playing. Just because there is a risk that something could happen does not absolve a person of the responsibility to be careful. It is not like coffee spilling on laptops happen all the time. People get hit by cars all the time, that does not absolve a driver from being responsible for damage caused, just because someone walking put themselves in a situation where they knew there was a risk of them getting hit by walking outside. Extreme example I know but trying to make a point. If someone damaged my laptop at a Starbucks, I would absolutley expect someone to help pay for a repair or the adjusted depreciated value cost. If I did this to someone I would certainly expect to pay for a repair or a similar replacement. .

              The home example if a friend damaged/broke something I would expect them to offer to at least help pay for the repair. Now if I knew a friend was going through a tough time financially I would not demand they pay me back immediately or all in full, but if someone just happened to make less than me even $20k less but they were not in any danger financially I still think they should help. I mentioned this above but I have paid about $300/400 to repair/replace stuff that I accidentally damaged in someone else’s home, I could afford to do it without it putting me in any financial danger, but even if I was struggling I would have tried to pay as much as I could little by little. Did it suck yes, did I have a responsibility yes, was it the right thing to do yes.

              1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

                +1
                specifically to your last line,
                Did it suck yes, did I have a responsibility yes, was it the right thing to do yes.

              2. Sunflower*

                Hmm, to your point of ‘they knew what they were getting into’. Starbucks is an eatery that serves food and tons of liquid every day to thousands of people running in and and out of the store. It’s not an office or a work space. I find it hard to believe a person using the store for it’s primary purpose has more responsibility than the person who knowingly brought their laptop into a risky environment.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  Yes the primary purpose of Starbucks is to ingest food and drink into the human body, not to spill it on people or electronics. When people are handling food and drink they be extra careful not to spill it. If you are in a restaurant carrying hot soup/coffee I would argue that the person carrying the food does have a higher responsibility not to spill it on people than someone sitting at a table just eating or working on their laptop. Yes Starbucks was designed and is meant to sell food and drinks. But they have happily welcomed people using it as a work space (as long as they keep buying stuff) I have seen business meetings, interviews, graphic designers, journalists, writers, etc… all working at Starbucks.

        3. Automated*

          We do have a culture of personal responsibility in the US, but we view it differently.

          So in the starbucks example – its the owners responsibility to safe guard their equipment in public. If you choose to take an expensive laptop into a crowded shol with open liquid containers and it gets wrecked? Well thats on the owner.

          For the neighbor example, yes the parent is responsible for the kid damage to someone else property. However I would not shell out if a kid brought an expensive toy to school and it was broken through incidental play.

          1. Don P.*

            This seems like an example of “culture of personal responsibility” meaning whatever you want it to mean. You say it’s the owner’s responsibility;, someone else says it’s the spiller. You can both throw the catchphrase at each other but the claims seem equally plausible to me.

        4. LilyP*

          I think more people would read it that way if it was in a social context or maybe even between work peers, but the power dynamics and pay difference here really change the situation. I honestly think it’s a point against John’s professional judgement that he even brought it up.

        5. TootsNYC*

          lose the keys to my apartment building

          ooh, I hadn’t thought about that. Our small co-op has developed a rule that if you lose your highly expensive electronic keys, you have to pay for the rekeying of the lock and the replacing of everybody’s individual keys, no matter how many they have.

          That can be a lot (and as one board member pointed out, it sure gives people an incentive to NOT report that their key is missing until they absolutely have to).

          but if it happened, that’s an interesting thing to see if our liability insurance (part of our renter’s/homeowner’s insurance) would cover it.

      3. Just some internet rando*

        This was my exact thought. If a friend broke your computer in your own home with an accidental spill, would you ask them to pay for it? The Starbucks example is even better. Things break. The owner has to pay for it. And should ask for a work computer if its necessary for the job.

        1. Anonys*

          But legally, WOULDN’T you be responsible in both those situations? That just seems weird to me, but genuinely asking, I’m not familiar with the situation in the US.
          And ethically, I think you are responsible too. Why should I have to pay for having clumsy friends, and why should my friends pay for my clumsiness? Doesn’t really make sense.

          1. Tim K*

            Yeah, I’m with you here. I get that the optics wouldn’t be great here due to Mike being Joe’s report, but I’m surprised that so many people think that Mike isn’t responsible for it on account of it being an accident. If someone totals your car through their careless driving, they’re still responsible for it even though they didn’t do it maliciously.

            1. Observer*

              The assumption here is that Mike was careless AND that he had good reason to believe that his carelessness could cause this level of damage.

              We don’t know the first, and the second is highly unlikely.

              Also, from the sound of it, Joe (and possibly everyone sitting near the laptop) was equally careless. It doesn’t take that long to pick up a laptop, and it’s highly unlikely that just being touched by a few drops of coffee will fry it, so it must have had a fair amount of coffee get to it (which takes a fair amount of time in this context.)

              1. Veronica Mars*

                True story, my very first class my first day of college, I spilled an entire bottle of orange juice on my brand new Macbook Pro and the poor thing fried instantly.

                And trust me, I was much more motivated to not ruin that computer than any of the peers sharing the table with me. Hindsight is usually 20/20 on these things so there’s probably *something* he could have done more carefully, but honestly, who HASN’T spilled coffee in their life? Its just that, usually, there isn’t delicate technology immediately nearby.

                1. Observer*

                  Well, yes a whole bottle of juice or a whole cup of coffee ON the laptop will do that – but that’s not what was described here.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                We don’t know the situation, OP only said that Joe did not pick up the laptop in time not that Joe let the coffee get to it by taking forever picking it up. I have spilled many a liquids in my time and have seen widely varying dispersal rates. Depending on they type of liquid, the angle of the surface, type of surface, the coffee could have traveled very slowly where even a sloth would have been able to move the laptop in time or the coffee could have traveled so fast even The Flash would have been unable to move the laptop in time. Unless Joe sat there, took a poll to decide when a good time for a meeting was so everyone could brainstorm ideas on how to respond to the coffee spill, Mike spilled coffee it somehow got on a laptop and fried it Mike is responsible.

                I agree with Alison the company should try and cover the entire repair cost of the laptop, or do a 75% company, 25% Mike split on the repair.

                1. Observer*

                  We don’t know exactly what happened, sure. But the coffee was not spilled ON the laptop. And it’s highly unlikely that someone could not have picked up the laptop IMMEDIATELY unless the laptop was sitting at a distance from anyone else.

                  Mark should not be expected to pay anything here, based on what we know. There is no indication of real carelessness, nor is there are reason that Mark should have known that a coffee spill would be likely to cost $1K worth of damage.

                2. JM60*

                  @Observer

                  I find it very, very plausible that someone would not pick up the laptop immediately. People aren’t typically able to immediately react to surprise events very well.

                3. JM60*

                  @Observer

                  It most certainly is Mike’s fault for spilling coffee. If this happened in a setting outside of work, he’d be ethically (and probably legally) responsible for the damages.

                4. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @Observer Mike is the but for incident that causes a chain reaction. If I am driving my car A hits Car B, if then Car B hits Car C, car A will be the one that is ultimately responsible for all the damage. I can’t argue I only hit Car B, Car C should have gotten out of the way it’s not my fault that Car C didn’t get out of the way.

                  In some jurisdictions, Car B and C can both go directly after Car A, and in others Car C goes after Car B, then Car B goes after Car A for all the damage causes to both Cars B and C.

                5. Observer*

                  @JM60 Mike would almost certainly NOT be legally liable for this laptop outside of work. In most cases, also not ethically. In this case, given the whole CERTAINLY not ethically. Spills happen. And it’s not Marks ethical responsibility to take extra ordinary precautions at work (that would probably make his work day more difficult) to protect his boss’ essentially luxury item.

                6. Observer*

                  @CmdrShepard4ever The car analogy does not work for a number of reasons.

                  That would be true even if your description of the way liability in car accidents works is accurate. Which it’s not. But I’m not going to continue with this, because it’s totally derailing.

                7. JM60*

                  @Observer

                  “Spills happen.”

                  Car crashes also happen, but that doesn’t mean the at-fault party isn’t responsible because “it happens” is not a valid excuse for absolving responsibility. If you’re at fault for causing the damage, you’re ethically responsible for the damage (with only a few exceptions).

                  “And it’s not Marks ethical responsibility to take extra ordinary precautions at work”

                  Not spill coffee one someone’s property is not “extra ordinary precautions”. It’s ordinary precautions (at work or not).

              3. Librarian1*

                It depends. I think sugary drinks, for whatever reason, has a tendency to damage things in ways non-sugary drinks won’t. For example, I’ve spilled water and plain tea on my keyboard at work. When that’s happened, I just turn it upside down, shake out whatever I can, and dry off as much as possible with a paper towel.

                Once, I spilled a premade bottle of iced tea that had sugar on the keyboard. The keyboard stopped working within 20 minutes.

          2. Renata Ricotta*

            No, in the US, there is no cut-and-dried legal requirement for Mike to pay for the laptop. IF a jury found that the coffee spilled because he was being negligent or reckless with it, he would be liable. That requires them to decide whether he was doing something that “reasonably prudent people” don’t do, like balancing the coffee on his head or something. He’d have a solid argument that reasonably prudent people have uncovered mugs of coffee in conference rooms near electronics every damn day, and it’s not a sign of negligence that occasionally one of those cups get spilled. He has no legal liability if it was just a true accident that didn’t come from his negligence.

            Even then, you would have to get to the end of a trial for that to happen, and even then the court might split the cost between Joe and Mike if it found that JOE had been negligent too (depending on the particular states’ laws on comparative/contributory fault). If Joe’s insurance company sued Mike, it would be the same rigamarole, which is unlikely to be worth it for anybody for less than $1k in damages.

            I am firmly on the side that if it was being used for work, work should pay. If it wasn’t, Joe should pay. When you buy stuff you run the risk of it being broken, stolen, rained on, whatever. You get a warranty, insure against it, keep it in your house away from dangers, whatever. But you don’t ask other people to pay for it if an accident happens, ESPECIALLY if that person is your employee, makes less than you, and has no practical way to tell you to pound sand.

        2. Penny Parker*

          “If a friend broke your computer in your own home with an accidental spill, would you ask them to pay for it? ” — According to Miss Manners, if you are in someone’s private home and accidentally damage something of theirs you absolutely need to apologize AND replace the item. Of course, this country as a whole had gotten rather impolite as far as standard old-fashioned manners go, so I am not so surprised at your (impolite and rude to your friend) response. A work situation is different.

        3. Washi*

          If a friend was being obviously careless in my home and broke my computer, I would hope they would offer to pay/ask them myself to contribute to the cost. Like if I said “can you put your coffee cup on the table instead of using my computer as a coaster” and they ignored me and then spilled coffee on my computer. But if it was a basic accident that could happen to anyone, then I would not ask them to pay, though I think when you damage something in someone’s home, the polite thing to do is to offer to pay.

          BUT this is at work with a direct report which is a whole different kettle of fish.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          If a friend broke your computer in your own home with an accidental spill, would you ask them to pay for it?

          In this situation, I’d at least be understanding if you would, or if the friend offered to help cover the expenses. But Joe was at work, in a work meeting. If Mike chose to bring an expensive item of his own from home and put it where coffee can be spilled on it, that’s on Mike. So I agree with the rest of your comment completely. Geez, navigating the workplace is hard enough without having to worry if there are $$$$ personal belongings of my coworkers’ sitting around in places where I can accidentally damage them while trying to do my work.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Yeah, I actually think context matters, too. If my friend who barely makes a living wage accidentally broke my computer, I wouldn’t ask them to pay for it, nor would I accept their offer. I make more than they do and I don’t want to put them in the hole any further for a genuine accident. I also have a few friends who make a lot more than me and if they offered, I might or might not take them up on it, depending on circumstances.

            In this case, it’s the boss and his employee, and him asking his employee–who he has power over–for the money probably won’t come off well.

        5. JM60*

          If a friend breaks a computer in your home, they have an ethical (and probably also legal) responsibility to pay for it. The exception would be if the item was setup to be destroyed (such as the laptop owner leaving it on the middle of the floor where someone is likely to step on it).

            1. JM60*

              Legally, if you break something, you’re usually responsible for it, so long as you didn’t trigger a booby trap (e.g. a laptop being in the middle of the floor). In this case, the fact that it happened on the job makes things different.

      4. Antilles*

        One of the risks of buying technology is that something might happen to it, and you might have to pay to replace it.
        Wait, what?
        This…isn’t how it works. Like, at all. My laptop getting replaced at some vague point in the future once technology is outdated is not even remotely the same as “you spilled coffee and broke it today”. Both morally and legally, you’re responsible for your own actions here even if it’s an accident.
        It’s basically the same as vehicles – it sucks that there was ice on the road and couldn’t stop and skidded into rear-ending someone and it was completely just bad luck…but it’s YOUR vehicle that caused the accident and that’s that. Sure, cars get into accidents and it’s a known risk of purchasing a vehicle, but that is completely irrelevant; what matters is this particular case of “you caused an accident and damaged someone else’s property”.

      5. Mia 52*

        I would never demand it I guess but if I spilled coffee that ruined someones laptop at starbucks i would ABSOLUTELY offer to replace the item completely even if it impacted my financials for a while. I’m so confused by people saying you shouldn’t pay for accidental damage? Has anyone ever heard of a car accident?

      6. Happily Self Employed*

        If the laptop is relatively new, and the owner bought it on a credit card with purchase insurance, they should see if it’s covered. I dropped a new phone and found out why everyone else has a screen protector, but AmEx paid for the new screen ($125 on that model, yikes!).

    4. Washi*

      I agree. If Joe was using the laptop for company purposes, the company should definitely pay. If Joe was using the laptop for personal purposes (though idk why you would bring your laptop into a meeting to do personal stuff) then Joe should pay.

      If for some reason Mike was in Joe’s home and broke Joe’s laptop, then I think Mike should pay, but when you take expensive belongings out and about, you’re assuming some amount of risk for them being damaged.

    5. Observer*

      I’m sure you would feel awful, but there is not way you can ask that person to pay, unless they were egregiously careless. When it’s your employee- so it’s not an “ask” but a demand – and you make A full salary more than the employee? That’s a hard no.

      On the other hand if no one is giving you the equipment you need to work and therefore had to bring in your own personal equipment? Your employer should ABSOLUTELY pay for it. I know that most won’t, but that doesn’t make it right.

  4. Sami*

    OP#2– I completely understand your idea of bumper stickers. Personally, I’d skip the abortion one (even though I agree with it) and stick to the more subtle yet still powerful one. You ARE persisting.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree. Plus I always think of the resale value when I see bumper stickers on cars. Might be harder to get someone in a conservative area to buy one that’s more subtle.

      1. Feline*

        Bumper stickers don’t have o be eternal. Stick the in a thin, flexible magnet and put that on your car. Instant removal before sale.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          +1

          I stopped getting permanent bumper stickers after the 3rd time I got rear-ended and lost yet another rear bumper. 4th and 5th times, I peeled my magnetic stickers and re-applied.

          (None were my fault; I was in line at a bright red stop light for three of them, I just had a car magnet in my trunks or something for a few years.)

          1. Quill*

            I got hit twice (legally stopped at stop signs / red lights) within the first week of starting my Job From Hell. (I’d think it was a sign if I were superstitious but it was probably a sign of reckless driving all over that town…)

            But Five times? Yikes.

            And I thought my insurance was having heart attacks with two rear endings and the time I sardine canned the passenger side of my car on a tree.

            1. Happily Self Employed*

              I’ve had four cars rear ended while stopped at a light (and one backed into at a parking lot exit).

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I put decals on the back window, in the corners. Easy to scrape off and nothing happens to them if I have to replace the bumper.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I had a magnet on my old car, something like “I <3 my dog", I forget. After a few years of being out in the summer heat, it somehow fused to my bumper. Still removable, so no biggie. I traded that car in anyway. Never put anything on the bumpers of my current car though. It does have a window decal, will see how that goes when it's time to sell.

      2. Secret Identity*

        Ha! Conservative or liberal makes no difference to me – I hate freaking bumper stickers!! I wouldn’t buy a car with one on it no matter what it said.
        Interestingly, (or not), I do like some of those window decals. I’ve got one with the biohazard symbol that says Zombie Outbreak Response Team. Which I thought was hilarious when I bought it years ago.
        Yeah. I’m kind of weird and tend to jump on trendy bandwagons.

        1. WinStark*

          Stickers can be removed.

          I have 3 on my back window: an Elizabeth Warren one, and two from the Bitter Southerner “Abide No Hatred” and a rainbow “All Y’all”.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If you can’t personally remove it, the detail guys most certainly can. Dealerships don’t care, they buy cars will bumperstickers all the time. It’s really not a thing to worry about on a deep level.

    2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      What’s a little murky here for me is why OP wants the bumper sticker, exactly? When I read the letter I perceived a hint of annoyance at how presumptive her coworkers are, and this might be her way of pushing back. Am I alone on that or did anyone else also read it that way?

      I’d take a different view on it if her motivation was rooted in passive-aggression versus just generally wanting to express her views via bumper sticker (and considering its potential effect at work).

        1. Chickadee*

          I didn’t read as OP wishes to stir pot necessarily, but as a subtle way to say, “hey we’re not all in complete agreement in politics here, let’s not assume.” But also – sounds like OP has desired a bumper sticker like this for a while and its the office parking lot that’s got her second guessing.

          I say go for it – but something less pointed. Agree with an earlier commenter about maybe not the abortion topic, but may the ‘nevertheless she persisted’ one. It’s less of a political gut-punch and more of a commentary on your perspective in life.

          It’s funny for me to read this actually. I’m a conservative and I used to live in a largely liberal area. would never put anything on my car for the same (but opposite) reason. I think we need to not by shy/worried/concerned about these things – clearly we’re all thinking the same thing ;)

      1. Betty*

        This was exactly my thought. LW wants to get these bumper stickers so that……….??

        So that her coworkers know that not everyone’s on the planet is conservative? This seems weirdly passive-aggressive. And I’m sure they know! Most people won’t give the bumper stickers a second glance (probably assume they say “Would rather be fishing” or something from a distance) and those few that do will wonder whose car it is and why they don’t just use their words if they’re so bothered.

        To change their minds?! I would ask the LW to consider when HER mind was last changed on an issue by a bumper sticker, poster, pin badge…

        To express solidarity in her life generally? Yeah, OK, I guess.

        LW would be better served by either appreciating that her workplace is not a political hotbed (and that random comments are not directed at her personally) or by using her words if she wants to convey a message to a person or persons.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I got that LW would like people to stop assuming *they* are conservative. Or if people won’t know it’s their car, showing not everyone in the office is conservative.

          1. Betty*

            I just think bumper stickers are a really peculiar way of doing that. Most people won’t give them a second glance. And it sounds like their workplace is very professional so why not just use their words when something comes up? Why be “sneaky”?

            1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

              The bumper stickers strike me as a ‘workplace permissible’ um, vehicle (no pun intended) through which she can take an affirmative stance on her views. As opposed to just rising above which probably feels frustratingly neutral.

              But it’s hard to imagine that her expression, body language and lack of enthusiasm for the conversation wouldn’t already be communicating that she disagrees with the comments. And as you said, if those people keep pushing those views it’s Words-Time, not Bumper-Sticker-Time.

              1. EPLawyer*

                If she can’t express her views in the office, having bumper stickers won’t help the situation. She still won’t feel comfortable expressing her views out loud. With the added bonus of if things are that bad, she may face some subtle pushback at work. Yes that would discrimination but can you prove you aren’t getting exciting projects because of a bumper sticker?

                This is not worth the office capital to be spent on it.

                1. pancakes*

                  Do you suppose the letter writer’s coworkers who assume she shares their conservative views have questioned themselves about whether they’re using too much office capital? Or even whether they’re making anyone uncomfortable? I doubt it very much. I’m not sure how likely it is that seeing a bumper sticker they hate in the parking lot would inspire a bit of self-awareness, but it’s not inconceivable.

            2. Tera*

              I get where she’s coming from, to be honest. It’s a non-confrontational and indirect way of correcting people’s assumptions. People often have strong misconceptions about what ‘they’ are like – whether that’s a religious ‘them’, a political ‘them’ or something different. Being a normal, rational person in whatever group that is can do a lot to shift someone’s beliefs about that group. So if you’re in one of those groups you may well want to ‘out’ yourself, but straight up saying ‘I am X’ can be difficult as there needs to be the right conversational moment, and if everyone is already assuming you’re not that’s difficult to find without coming off as overly confrontational or direct. You might end up in an awkward or ‘passionate’ argument immediately, or having to defend your position from everyone around you. That’s especially bad because a) it’s at work, and b) people think you agree with them as it is.

              So this is a good way of outing yourself without having to deal with any of that. You’re not having a political argument at work, you’re not risking annoying people by publicly disagreeing with them, but you’re letting them know what you think.

              1. soon to be former fed really*

                How are people supposed to know which car is hers? I didn’t know what my coworkers drove to work.

                1. Random commenter*

                  Some people pay attention. It amazes me the way some co-workers know what everyone drives, down to the model year.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  I see my co-workers getting out of their cars regularly. I wouldn’t make a point of walking back to see their bumpers, but if I parked further out, saw them get out ahead of me, I’d probably check for stickers / vanity plates. But I am a compulsive reader (literally, it’s one of the Cs in my OCD), so I don’t know if this is something everyone does.

                3. Chickadee*

                  Eventually some people will figure it out – see each other coming & going, going out for lunch, etc. And yes, some people DO play close attention to that, oddly. In an old job I always noticed one vehicle that was a crazy expensive, super high end SUV. It was gorgeous. I knew it wasn’t the owners vehicle, but I always wondered whose it was. I never figured it out – not that I tried super hard, but when I’d see it in the lot I’d wonder who drove it.

                4. kt*

                  It doesn’t have to be attached to her — it may be enough from her point of view to let people know that at the company, there exists a person who is not conservative.

                5. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe one person will see the sticker and say “oh, huh, I guess every single person in this building doesn’t agree with my stance, the way I always assume they do.”

                  But probably not.

                  (Yeah, I work with those people too.)

                6. Donkey Hotey*

                  Oh believe me. I drive a little Fiat 500 and work at a manufacturing facility (with a parking lot full of trucks, SUVs, etc). Everyone knew me as “the guy who drives the Fiat” before they knew my name.

        2. JSPA*

          This is effectively a debate about why ANYONE has bumper stickers (or at least, bumper stickers that don’t express the local prevailing opinion). People questioning the OP’s motivation for doing a really normal thing–why on earth?

          1. Perbie*

            Because op is writing for advice on whether or not to do this; so people are asking what she hopes to accomplish. Examining that may be relevant to whether or not it makes sense to do it.

        3. Joielle*

          I mean, why does anyone anywhere have bumper stickers? Clearly you don’t think they make a difference (and I tend to agree) but a lot of people apparently do. That’s really not relevant to the question.

          1. Chickadee*

            I agree they don’t make a difference – I see one that I don’t agree with and roll my eyes, period. But if the intent is not to make a difference/change people’s minds but rather wear a “badge” to show where they stand? Then yes, it accomplishes that.

            Personally… I love the funny bumper stickers that just make you laugh. I once saw one of those magnetic ribbons that said “I support empty gestures.” and it CRACKED me up.

            1. Greta*

              They make a difference in the sense that you have to give money to their campaign in order to get one.

        4. Blueberry*

          Enh, I would say that random comments are often directed at us personally. If I overhear several of my coworkers talking about how queer people shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because they’re trying to find kids to molest, those coworkers are calling me a child molester, whether they know so or not. I think I’m not remiss in being upset. Whether it’s safe to show that upset is not the same as whether or not I’m allowed to feel it.

      2. Sick of it*

        I think that’s a pretty unkind characterisation.

        The OP wants to have these bumper stickers. Their concern is that they may offend their colleagues, which shows they are being thoughtful and considerate of those who are different from them. How is that being taken as a bad thing?

        Some commenters on this site really do love to assume the worst of people, to the point they’ll invent reasons to attack letter writers motives. It’s pretty pathetic!

      3. Mookie*

        I’d be interested in hearing from the LW on this because that is not how I read it. There are more direct indirect ways to achieve those ends: mugs, buttons/pins, discreet office decor.

        Also, yeah, that’s what bumperstickers are for, to inform strangers of a thing you think or a joke you like. There’s nothing provocative or wanton in using a mass-produced sticker… like loads of people do. Her “intent” towards her co-workers in particular doesn’t sully the question because her car goes everywhere, not just the carpark at work.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Maybe she wants the bumper stickers to let like-minded people in her area know that they’re not alone, or that she’s “one of them.”

          1. Stick to it*

            I live in a conservative area too and always like it when I see people with bumper stickers that aren’t of the MAGA variety. Also, abortion stigma is clearly alive and well judging by these comments. You may not change hearts and minds, but you may help people not feel stigmatized. I hear from people all the time who won’t support repro rights in any public way and that is a huge reason those rights are so eroded. However, if you fear vandalism or retaliation there are other ways to reduce stigma and support reproductive rights. It is something I know many people have to be careful with being vocal about their support, but those who can be more vocal or public really would make a huge difference in changing the narrative. A woman in my area was involved in a road rage incident where a man pulled on gun on her. He said he was mad about her “liberal bumper stickers” and that’s why he did it. None of hers were about abortion so it isn’t like one type of sticker is always safer than another.

          2. dawbs*

            It’s also helpful to be aware that it often puts you in the position of representing a group.
            Unfair as heck of me to get cut off in traffic, see a MAGA bumper sticker, and say “of course those people are assholes who take over the road” or see a church one and say something equally unflattering.
            Unfair as heck, but, man, you should drive like the kindest, most patient person on earth if you have the Jesus fish on your car and you don’t want it to earn you negative points and keep up your hopes of getting into the good place.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              There is a particular megachurch in my area that REALLY needs to ask its members to drive more considerately if they’re going to brand their cars. I don’t even mean “go out of your way to let people into traffic.” I mean “stop cutting people off and dumping your trash in parking lots and taking up two parking spaces.”

      5. OP2*

        Hey! OP2 here. I actually just want the bumper stickers because I see so many MAGA ones in the area, and when I see ones that express one of my viewpoints it gives me hope. The reason I wrote in is because my workplace is so good about keeping politics out of it, and I don’t want to start a debate there with my bumper stickers. I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with a bumper sticker, and I’m not trying to do so.

        1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

          I get you, OP2. I actually love bumper stickets because it gives you a chance to let the world know who you are and what you believe without shoving it in someone’s face. If some people find that passive aggressive then so be it. I would recommend that you don’t pick anything inflammatory and I put abortion in that category. Remember that cars can “accidentally” get keyed. As I have gotten older I have shifted away from politics and now pretty much stick to PETA and ASPCA stickers.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I live in a liberal bubble, so I don’t have the associated risk you do, but my view is do what makes you happy and comfortable. You are the best judge of whether *your* office will react to this, because it’s very much an office / company specific situation. Alison and the commentariat can only say what our experience has been, not what yours will be.

        3. MsM*

          Sounds like it’s not really about the people at work, then. In which case, an appropriate response to pushback might be “I’d rather save that for off-hours discussion” or “I’ve been polite when you’ve shared your views; I’d appreciate the same courtesy shown mine.”

          1. OP2*

            Yeah, after some of the comments I realized I missed a key paragraph when I wrote in. The part about my workplace was more to give context as to how a more liberal bumper sticker could be interpreted by my coworkers rather than to say “they’re wrong and I am going to prove them wrong with…a sticker!”

        4. Smithy*

          Totally get what you’re going for – and as you’re being so thoughtful, I just recommend being mindful that the Coexist and She Persisted bumper stickers as well as those more directly attached to specific policies and candidates. Because those may be interpreted differently.

          Or you could always start with 1, enjoy it so much and then feel like getting multiples – also good! It’s also that you know where you live and work, and if any of them give you pause that they could endanger you in any way – also feel free to listen to that voice!

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Back when I had a Coexist sticker on my old car, I was surprised to learn that it apparently gets pushback from *both* sides. I could see how the hardcore religious types might not like it, but one night, I was out at dinner with the meetup group that I’d joined when I left religion a year before (most of the group being Atheist with a handful of Agnostic thrown in), and overheard one of the group organizers telling the person she sat next to how angry Coexist stickers make her. Because “they imply religion is okay.” (Yes, it is?) I just sat there quietly, making a mental note to self not to walk to my car after the dinner at the same time she walked to hers.

        5. Annony*

          Do other coworkers have bumper stickers? If so, I think you are completely fine. If not and if you are concerned, you could do what someone else mentioned and get a magnetic bumper sticker that you can remove and replace as you like. That way you could have it on the weekends and remove it if you feel weird about it at work. You can also test the waters with a more mild sticker such as “nevertheless she persisted”.

        6. Dust Bunny*

          I commute between MAGA areas and non-MAGA areas and I intentionally do not have political bumper stickers. I have a ton of band stickers that hint at certain leanings, but you’d have to know the music. I am secure in my views but I also like not having my car keyed, thanks.

          1. pancakes*

            Is that a thing that happens where you live, people with political stickers on their cars get their cars keyed? I live in NYC and most of the people I know don’t have a car. It’s darkly humorous to me that people elsewhere in America like to think of *us* as being unfriendly & unneighborly while taking care to hide their politics from hot-tempered and vindictive neighbors and coworkers.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Yes, it happens. It might not be an everyday thing, but it’s common enough that anecdata aren’t rare: I have a biologist friend who works for a major university and her car has been vandalized multiple times because of her Darwin fish sticker: sticker ripped off and paint damaged, key marks, and the like. (I can’t remember but I think she finally gave up because fixing all that is expensive.) There’s even a movie from a while back – Fagbug – about a young woman from Upstate NY whose car was vandalized for its rainbow sticker and who then decided to drive it around the country with the slurs still on it.

        7. BridgeNerdess*

          Hey OP, I’m in a similar situation. I work in a conservative area and industry but I’m liberal. I have a “Nevertheless, She Persisted” card in my cubicle as well as an equality sticker. It’s never been an issue with my conservative office mates. I think there are benefits, too.

          I feel it also shows I am a “safe space” particularly for LGBTQ people here. That kind of stuff isn’t discussed and I know there IS anti-LGBTQ bias in my office, so I like that I can signal “Hey! I respect you!” since there are plenty of MAGA folks around. We recently had a teammate realize he was transgender and he asked me to help answer questions or address rumors that may come up since it’s a big group and he’s in a field office. I’m happy to help to make his transition easier. I’m even happier to report that there have been no issues, even in a conservative place. You may find other like-minded people in your company that appreciate knowing they aren’t alone in their views.

          1. Chickadee*

            I see the equality sticker a lot and appreciate it! I don’t see that and associate it with a specific candidate. I’m looking up the coexist one now … because I thought I knew what it meant and now I’m wondering if I’m wrong, ha!

            I’d also remind everyone that while we may vote one way or the other – very few people agree 100% with any given candidate. Most of us find one that we agree with 85% of the time or something. So don’t feel like just because someone has a MAGA sticker or a Hillary sticker – that those two individuals would never/could never agree on anything. Chances are – there is *something* they agree on. There is no such candidate that will ever appeal to the vast majority in 100% of their positions. Keep in that mind, that’s its not black & white – it’s all gray area! :)

            1. Yay*

              They may not agree 100% with their candidate, but as a queer person of color, I’d feel way less safe if a lot of my coworkers wore MAGA hats (and my workplace was almost racially homogenous with people who aren’t my race).

            2. berry*

              Not all agreement is equivalent, though, so I don’t think it boils down to math. For example, if someone voted for a politician who directs their administration to create rules allowing medical providers to refuse to treat someone whose sexual orientation they find abhorrent, it matters more to me that I have to worry if I might be refused treatment for being bisexual or my friend might be left to die if someone attacks her for being transgender than it does to me whether or not my former friend who chose that politician explicitly approved of that policy or just decided it didn’t matter that much.

        8. Daisy-dog*

          I get it! I felt the same here in Texas with all the Beto stickers in 2018. Even though he didn’t win, I still felt more hopeful.

      6. Smithy*

        I would push back on labeling this as passive aggressive.

        When living in a place where you are in the minority and especially one that is not visible – religion, orientation, political views – feeling visible can be very important. It’s not about changing anyone’s mind, but rather the feeling that “I can be in the space, I can be respected (and very key), and I don’t have to be afraid.”

        I would feel some fear having an abortion bumper sticker on my car. Maybe not for myself – but certainly for the safety of my car. Events like Slut Walks or Taking Back the Night are so much about visibility and a desire for safety in space and in a community. Being able to wear a necklace that has a cross or Jewish star – again – this notion that “I can be me, I can be seen, and I can be safe” is not one I’d label as passive aggressive.

      7. DAMitsDevon*

        I could also see it as OP was planning on buying the bumper stickers independent of anything at work, but then got self conscious when she realized that displaying them would mean that her coworkers would now know for sure that her views are different than their’s.

    3. Loubelou*

      Agreed, the best outcome from the abortion one is that no one notices, but if people do it could easily cause upset and arguments and certainly won’t change minds. Agree with above comments, perhaps LW could think about what it is they want to achieve with these stickers.

      1. Bree*

        Just want to say that an abortion number sticker can have real value in letting people who have had or are considering an abortion know they are not alone and people have their backs. Especially in a conservative area, it could mean a lot for someone to see.

        1. Betty*

          Not saying there’s never any point to bumper stickers, just that the LW needs to be really clear with themself about their real motivation and whether bumper stickers are a good way to achieve their goals.

    4. Boomerang Girl*

      I agree. An abortion one seems strange in a workplace but nevertheless she persisted is inspiring across all spheres of life and still does the job of conveying her position.

      1. pancakes*

        What is the position “Nevertheless she persisted” conveys? Centrism? Support for a candidate who isn’t running this year? Pop feminism? A blend of all three? Support for keeping abortion legal is a much clearer position to me.

        1. Avasarala*

          I think it’s just “I’m a liberal! You can assume I probably support most liberal policies!”

        2. Former Employee*

          “Support for a candidate who isn’t running this year?”

          Elizabeth Warren is definitely running this year.

    5. Lisa*

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Not that there is anything wrong with it. It is just that it has the potential to invite unwanted political debates at work if someone notices and gets all fired up, which could get weird for you. I agree with “subtle, yet powerful” like Sami said.

    6. Quill*

      Yes, also… your more conservative colleagues will probably not “get” it. (You’ll probably get some comments from anyone not active online beyond facebook to the effect of “girl power! nice.”)

        1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

          “Nevertheless, she persisted” doesn’t seem to be much of a slogan outside of internet-active left leaning circles though. Especially since it’s not connected to a current candidate – and plenty of left leaning people aren’t exactly active on the internet and wouldn’t necessarily make the connection.

          1. pancakes*

            There are a lot of left-leaning people active on the internet. It’s strange to me that you’re attributing a centrist slogan to the left while simultaneously making a point of saying you don’t often see the left online! Of course you don’t, if in your view there’s no one to the left of centrists.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Nobody says they are (not even CNN, last I checked.) It’s just that this phrase was momentarily in the news in early 2017 and most people have forgotten it by now.

    7. glitterdome*

      I mean I get the desire. I work in an environment that I definitely do not have the same political persuasion as almost everyone else, but while it is a government (read no official political view) I also work for elected officials directly so politics is always in play. I have a hard line of no political leaning bumper stickers. Sure it would be “allowed” but the unspoken damage it would do isn’t worth it. It gets VERY annoying when people start talking about current political topics and assume I’m of the same opinion, but I paste a (subtle) condescending smile and continue doing whatever I’m doing.

      1. Life is good*

        I’m with you, glitterdome. I used to work in an extremely “red” office. Every gathering, casual or organized, was filled with conservative talk and it was assumed everyone was in agreement. Many there listened to conservative talk radio, loudly. You just couldn’t get away from it. Liberals were routinely bashed. I am liberal and just didn’t feel safe expressing my views in that environment. It was stressful having to bite my tongue all the time, but would have been much harder to be labeled an oddball. Glad to have moved on from there.

        1. Lisa*

          Wow, that sounds awful. People shouldn’t be subjected to political talk at work for this very reason. Not everyone shares the same views and not everyone feels like they can shut it down, especially if it is higher-ups participating in these talks.

    8. Quinalla*

      I’ve occasionally considered getting a political bumper sticker, but I don’t for a few reasons:
      1. Clients do see my car and I’m very liberal and many of my clients are not. They would likely pretend they didn’t see it just like I don’t respond if they make a political comment I don’t agree with, but still, why add tension?
      2. I would worry about someone damaging my car, causing road rage, getting yelled at, etc.

      I ended up getting a wonder woman magnet as that was pretty darn neutral to most folks, but I know what it stands for for me. But I hear you, I also want to show support and show that “Hey, people don’t all believe X here” but I’ve decided for me a bumper sticker is not the best way for me to do that.

  5. Lena Clare*

    #4 I did this! I was known by my nickname and wanted to be known by my full name, so I told my manager and IT, they changed my email address, I got new ID and calling cards, and a badge, and then an announcement was made in our weekly bulletin (right at the bottom, no big deal).

    I told the people I worked with face to face, and they got used to it pretty quickly.

    It was all fine, and no one questioned it at all.
    Until someone calls you by your name, they do not really speak to you. All the best.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Many years ago, one of my colleagues changed his name from a very run of the mill name (think “Bob”) to something with strong religious overtones. Nobody thought much of it although it was probably several months before people internalised the change and stopped calling him Bob.

      I’ve read a lot of opinions on how people who continue to call you by your “old” name are just not trying hard enough, but from personal experience it does take some time to adjust, especially with people you don’t work closely with.

      Just something for the OP to consider if people don’t get it right away.

      1. Treats for Shelby*

        Agreed. My experience with co-workers doing this makes me far less optimistic than the way most people are representing it. Even the ones who eventually learn to call you by the new name are likely resenting and questioning why the person changed their name in the first place.

      2. Perpal*

        I am not great with names normally and it takes me a while to remember them. I get we try to be respectful but, someone who you only run into every few months at a busy office? Might forget and/or not realize they changed their name, especially if someone (like me) struggles to remember their name even without changing it (usually I will remember the name changed but forget what to)! OP do change your name just be prepared to say for a while “oh it’s X now!” if people forget, they probably aren’t doing it on purpose and appreciate the reminder!

      3. Snuck*

        When I need to call out a member of my family I run through every name including the dog’s….

        Names are in motor memory, it’s not an easy thing to swap it around, and you often just grab it on reflex… it’s not a lack of effort, it’s a ‘time to form new habits that are deeply ingrained’ thing around here.

        1. LizB*

          That’s why it can be really useful to practice talking out loud about someone with their new name, like even by yourself, in your car, etc. (I mostly encounter name changes in the context of gender transitions, and it’s especially important to me to switch over my habits as quickly as possible in those cases.) It helps a ton to just get your mouth saying, “Today I had a meeting with NewName. Tomorrow I will call NewName to discuss the teapot colors. Alex is NewName’s boss, and Sam is NewName’s direct report.” etc. etc. until you get more used to it.

          1. TootsNYC*

            my DD has a friend who is transitioning to female, and she and her other friend sat around and practices talking about her using her new name and pronoun. For a whole weekend.

        2. Quill*

          This one’s terrible: my mom comes from a large extended family, (though her immediate family, three siblings, was not at all large by the standards of when she was growing up,) has one younger sister, and was an aunt by the time she was 16, and most of my cousins are girls. So whenever we visited any of them when I was a child, she’d run down the list of “Annie Mary Rachel James Emily Maggie QUILL!!! STOP THAT” in more or less birth order.

          Then my younger set of cousins was born, and they got the whole run down, plus me and my brother, plus my mom and their mom, from my uncles, who are significantly older than my mom. The first cousins once removed are almost all boys so for some reason people aren’t having as hard a time remembering them, but that could be because there isn’t a huge bunch of them at school age yet to yell DO NOT CLIMB GRANDMA’S BANNISTER at yet.

          Now my mom doesn’t mistake me for anyone in the family except her sister, probably because we’re #1 and #2 on her speed dial and we share a first syllable. (I have no idea which of us is #1 on the speed dial currently.)

          1. Atlantian*

            It was a running joke in my family growing up that my sister and my’s, who’s names are Rachel and Monica (not real names), names were actually Rachonica and Monachel. My mother almost never got it right on the first try. I still jokingly call my sister Monachel from time to time, just for laughs.

            1. Atlantian*

              I also work with someone who’s kid’s names are Kaylie and Kylie (they are NOT twins) and I legit don’t know how she keeps them straight. Like, why would you do that to yourself LOL.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I may or may not have called my family pets my kids’ names and vice versa. Mixing up the kids’ names is just standard procedure.

        3. Magenta*

          Quite often my mum shouts my brother’s name at the dog, the dog tends to respond to it so it is all fine, unless my brother is visiting her.

        4. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          My mother always did that with seven kids, two dogs, and sometimes a calf. It could be hilarious at times. Or we would be sitting outside with friends and she would call Chip, but Dale would get up and go inside, saying “she means me”. People would ask how we knew, but we couldn’t really answer that question.
          I used to say I named my kids Chip Dale and Dale Chip because I always said the wrong name first and had to add the correct name on like it was their middle name.

          1. Sled dog mana*

            I thought I had it bad occasionally calling my daughter by the dog’s name (or my husband by the other dog’s name).

            1. I'm just here for the comments*

              Growing up we use to do that with my younger brother and the dog (and their names were in no way similar!), maybe because they both equally caused trouble? Now my mom mixes up my kids’ names with her dog’s name, and I’m constantly calling them by each other’s names (and occasionally the cats’ names are thrown in). It seems to be a universal problem.

      4. Jack Be Nimble*

        I transitioned from female to male at my current job, and people were really great about using my new name and pronouns! It can definitely take a while for people to make the switch, but in my experience, it’s pretty easy to spot the difference between a person doing their best to remember and someone who doesn’t care and isn’t trying.

        I think there is a contingent of people who are forgetful and worried that they’ll encounter anger or hostility if they slip up and use the wrong name, but in all my experience with people who’ve changed their names for all kinds of reasons, most people are pretty laid back! I’m sure there’s someone out there who immediately flies off the handle if people mix up their name, but I’m also pretty sure that person is unreasonable in many aspects of their life.

        1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          I have always believed in calling people what they ask me to call them because it’s their name, and it matters. And I am old, so I didn’t grow up with gender fluidity being out in the open. The hardest thing has been with A. who uses they/them/queer. They are female presenting and didn’t tell me the correct pronouns until the fourth time I met them (possibly out of self protection). So my brain got stuck on she. I see this person once or twice a month. They are very good at correcting me in the moment and I repeat the sentence correctly. But I think this must be exhausting for them! I starting practicing with a couple people (who live thousands of miles away, will never meet this person, and who volunteered to help). I say things like “A. has their degree in engineering. They like chips and they make great brownies”. It has helped a lot, and I get it right with A.– until I get tired (physically, not tired of doing it), then I screw up. I wish it was easier to get the brain to say what the mind wants to express.

          1. Róisín*

            Things That Make Me, A Queer Femme Person, Exhausted:

            1) Correcting the same person more than once in the space of 5 seconds (as in, they clearly were not listening to the correction and made no effort to get it right immediately after that)

            2) Having to defend my choice of pronouns (I CAN trot out historical, linguistic, and practical reasons that “they” has, can be, and already is a singular, but I don’t WANT to)

            3) Being introduced with the wrong pronouns, forcing me to spend a long time retraining someone’s brain and making me look really picky.

            Things That Do Not Make Me, A Queer Femme Person, Exhausted:

            1) Small corrections over a period of time (saying “they!” after someone finishes a sentence misgendering me)

            2) Introducing myself with my pronouns, or retroactively informing someone who assumed the feminine for lack of other input. (If no one told you; I’m not mad!!)

            If you are doing your best, I and most of my gender-nonconforming friends are overwhelmingly grateful for the effort and not at all exhausted by your slip-ups. We’re only exhausted by people who aren’t even trying. And we generally know who those people are.

            1. So Not The Boss Of Me*

              Thanks for this info, Róisín. I do need educating, but I can’t expect the gender nonconforming people I meet to do that, so thank you, internet stranger.
              Using they as a singular* was really difficult for me. Then I read an article about its historic use and I realized I was just wrong to care.
              *I mean in general usage or cases where gender is unknown. I didn’t have a problem with non binary people using it because I get that the other available choices don’t feel right to some people and they just feels better. I’ve always been an outlier in many other ways, though I am cisgender, so I want to be inclusive to others.

              1. Róisín*

                I played the “cis friend who explains trans/GNC issues on behalf of very tired trans/GNC people” role for so long that I still happily wave the flag despite no longer being the cis friend! So, happy to help.

                I totally get having that frustration at first because I also had it. Thankfully my insufferable stage predated having friends for whom it really mattered. Good for you reading articles and learning the context! From your posts here you sound like an amazing ally.

  6. Lynn*

    Name changes are no big deal! I did a name change, and at first people were confused and asked questions, but what I learned is how many people out there wish they had changed their names but never had the guts to do it. It didn’t take long for my new name to be my normal name and I’ve never regretted it.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Yup. I hated my name. First, middle, and last names…they all sucked. I did a legal name change a million years ago and have never regretted it.

      I kept the last name I took when I married late husband because it’s “normal” (think Smith, Jones, Jonson…etc.) but changed my first and middle names.

      Even my family calls me by my legal name now. Well except my sister who introduces me as “this is my sister RUK. She used to be XRK but she changed it…blah, blah, blah.” Dude! If I wanted everyone to know my original name I would have not changed it! Stop telling my life story!

      Sorry…/rant. She’s been asking to come “visit” for a few weeks now (I don’t do “visit” which she knows) and I’m running out of nice ways to say “no.” She will not take a hint, and she’s like a dog with a bone when she wants something…so it’s on my mind.

  7. Waving not Drowning (no longer Drowning not Waving)*

    OP4 – we had a similar situation at my work, where someone changed from their first name to their middle name. She’d been working with us for several years at this point.

    There wasn’t a big announcement, the name tag was changed on her door, and she started signing off her emails with her now preferred name. Our email addresses are typically Firstname.Lastname, and that changed as well – but there was a redirect on her old email to go to the new address. A few people asked, and she said she didn’t like her first name being shortened, so decided to go by her middle name instead.

    It wasn’t a Big Deal in the workplace.

  8. Sleve McDichael*

    LW#4 I did the same thing! For pretty much the same reasons! It will be fine, nobody at your work will be bothered by it.

    Be prepared for some people accidentally calling you your old name and then catching themselves. You’ll want to have a script along the lines of ‘No stress, I appreciate the effort you’re making.’ Don’t say ‘It’s ok’ or ‘Don’t worry about it’ because they’ll take it as permission to lapse back into your old name.

    Also, you will get a bunch of stories from people about how their Grandma always went by her middle name, or their son changed his name to Sonic.

    Your reasoning is well and truly good enough and this is a surprisingly common thing to do. Enjoy having a name you can identify with! I do.

    1. JM in England*

      During induction at OldJob, even though all new starters were registered at the company under their legal names, the HR person asked us for our preferred names if they were different. For example, a female in my induction group was called Maria but preferred to be know as Ria…

  9. Turquoisecow*

    OP2, unless you work in a small company or with people who pay close attention to this, will people even know it’s your car? Aside from a couple of close coworkers or people whom I’ve happened to arrive or leave at the same time as, I don’t know what 99% of my coworkers drive.

    Or is your goal just to put the message out there without attaching it to your name? If so, you run the risk of them finding out if anyone sees you coming or going. Which isn’t terrible if you’re willing to be vocal about your beliefs, but a bumper sticker doesn’t seem that vocal.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree, it’s a good idea for OP to think about her goals in putting a political bumper sticker on her car. You don’t want it to be A Thing at work, but you are trying to spread this message to someone–to your coworkers? This also invites Things everywhere you drive and park your car.

      Personally the warm & fuzzy support I feel from seeing a message like that does not offset my fear of repercussions for it at work. I want to raise awareness on issues like There Are Holidays Besides Christmas and Non-White Non-Men Are Smart Too and We Are Worth More Than Our Work, but I don’t want to be That Person any more than I already am. So you’ve got to make that calculation for yourself.

    2. Felix*

      I would suggest vaguely liberal ones (like the “Nevertheless…” one mentioned) rather than stricter policy ones (particularly the abortion one mentioned) which are sure to inflame some people and WILL become A Thing.

      1. Mookie*

        There’s already A Thing at work, where her co-workers make their views known without fear of disapproval. Contradicting them in an adversarial way would be aggressive. This is not, even if it’s only purpose is to subtly push back against opinions, freely spoken, she privately disagrees with. Sauce for gander time, on her terms. I am amazed at the implication that she would be in the wrong if someone made a scene about this at work, where they apparently are happy to talk politics so long as no one disagrees with them.

        1. Mookie*

          Actually, I’m wrong there. I read her letter three times before I cottoned on that she says they’re GOOD at avoiding direct discussions. I thought it was the opposite.

      2. blackcat*

        Yeah, the abortion one would make me nervous. I’ve lived in mostly purple to deep blue places, and in most of them, I’ve seen pro-abortion/pro-choice bumper stickers vandalized/cars with them vandalized. It’s much more charged than a general liberal bumper sticker because people will see it and react as though you’re a murderer. And, frankly, as a woman sharing my views, I’ve had men get really up in my face in a threatening way (One dude screamed in my face AT THE FREAKING WOMEN’S MARCH because I had a “Hillary is my hero” sign. He had some bland anti-Trump sign himself, so he wasn’t a counter protestor or anything). So maybe I’m extra cautious.

    3. OP2*

      It is a relatively small company and everyone knows what everyone else drives, but at the same time I’m not ashamed of my beliefs and not trying to change anyone’s opinions on the matter – I just genuinely want the bumper stickers for driving around town and wasn’t sure if it would be an “issue” at work.

      1. BookishMiss*

        If you go with a subtle one, you should be fine at work. I personally would avoid anything like the abortion one for the sake of maintaining your within relationships. when I was in a similar spot at work, I stuck a Hillary campaign button and a Planned Parenthood sticker on my cube wall. I didn’t care about maintaining working relationships with my co-workers, so in the end it worked out as expected, but it’s not a route I’d advise.

        At my current job, I just have an “I don’t talk politics or tolerate it around me regardless of the views being expressed so please don’t” policy, which works well enough.

      2. LilyP*

        Man, the comments on this are bumming me out. I don’t think people are wrong that abortion is an intensely controversial issue and there could be relationship consequences to “outing” your views at work, but this conclusion that therefore you should just keep your head down and be quiet just….sucks! I have to wonder if we’d have the same consensus about a conservative guy in a liberal area putting a “gun ownership saves lives” sticker on his car, or whether there’s something particularly taboo about talking about abortion that’s in play here, or the expectation that women will be the ones to stay quiet and smooth things over. Anyway, only you get to weigh the trade-offs, but I think you should put whatever bumper stickers you want on your own damn car and if people give you crap about it they can suck a lemon!

        1. Avasarala*

          It’s not that you have to “keep quiet”, it’s that like it or not, abortion is a controversial issue that people have very strong feelings about, and work is not the place to discuss those feelings. If you don’t work at a doctor’s office or Planned Parenthood, there’s no reason to discuss abortion at work.

          How would you feel if you thought your office was mostly decent people who agreed with your beliefs, and suddenly found out your boss, or your coworker bestie, or your CEO had an anti-abortion bumper sticker? Would it change your opinion of them? Would you talk to them about it? Would it impact your relationship, or your feeling about your workplace?
          That’s why we don’t talk politics at work!

  10. Marie*

    It’s a shame the laptop couldn’t be saved. Anyone else reading this: pulling out the hard drive and battery right away can raise the chances of the machine being salvageable. I once spilled an entire water bottle on my work issued Lenovo (leakproof my ass, and in the same bag, because I was dumb). I was able to dry the components and put it back together. Wouldn’t work on a solid body machine like the newer Macs, but has a solid chance of working on other laptops.

    1. Marie*

      Power it down immediately, that can extend the time you have to dissemble the machine. Don’t power it up til all the components are bone dry, and run a diagnostic on startup.

      My boss never found out, and the machine ran for years afterwards.

      1. blackcat*

        I have done this successfully to a solid case MacBook Pro. If you have the right tool handy and know what you’re doing, popping the back off and disconnecting the battery from most important bits is quite quick in most models.
        (A pox on Apple for the models where you have to take out major pieces in order to fully disconnect the power supply. That makes it far more likely to damage the computer during a repair.)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I mean, that’s probably intentional. They put more and more effort every year into making repair more difficult than replacement.

          1. EJane*

            I work at a tech company, and I own (much to my bosses’ chagrin) all apple products.
            One of these is one of the 2015 unibody macbooks–the super slim ones that are impossible to upgrade.
            The other is a 2011 imac, in which I just upgraded (again) the hdd and ram.
            It’s 100% intentional. Apple are butts.

    2. Violet Fox*

      The batteries and drives aren’t really removeable on any newer laptops, including the Lenovo ones. Powering it off right away, and making sure things are completely dry before doing anything are the main things.

      Personally I would take it to whomever services that brand locally and not touch opening it up. One of the things about using work-laptops for work is that at least where I am we actually have service contracts for this sort of thing, as well as general “this is how the service provider bills us” procedures for when people are traveling.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Batteries and drives are still removable the business grade Dells and Lenovos. Those computers are made to repair, but they cost more initially. I am on the third battery for my Dell Latitude.

        1. Violet Fox*

          There is a huge difference though from the old a couple clicks and pop out the battery, and to have to disassemble it to get them out.

    3. Phil*

      So much this. Spilt Coke Zero on mine about six months ago. Immediately powered down and removed battery and hard drive. Couldn’t save the laptop but lost zero files. I also back up to an external drive every other month. I was doing that already, but it’s definitely important!

      In related news, the other night I was laying in bed with my new laptop and a Come Zero sitting on the bed right next to it. I definitely learn from my mistakes.

    4. MK*

      A lot depends on the liquid spilled. I spilled water and I just had to wait for it to dry, and with black coffee my technician was able to clean it up. But when it was milk with cover and sugar, it got ruined, mostly I think because of the sugar.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Milk has a lot of sugar in it too, as well as fats (depending on the milk), and that alone can cause problems when it dries.

        Where I work we’ve had, for the more interesting ones: Laptop dropped in a bath tub, laptop drank a large mocha, laptop had most of a bottle of wine, laptop taken into a sauna? (we never figured out what really happened there).

        Personally the worst I’ve done/had happen is have my cat knock milky, sugary iced coffee all over my keyboard. That keyboard turned out to be really durable though. I unplugged it, washed the coffee out in the kitchen sink, let the thing fully dry, and in the end it was no worse for wear. Neither was the cat even though she was startled at the time and grumpy since I had to clean the iced coffee off of her tail.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I would imagine that the person did not realize or just was not making the connection at the time steam=water. They were probably thinking “This is going to be great, I can sit in the sauna relax a bit AND be super productive by working on my laptop at the same time.” Or they forgot their lock and could not properly store the laptop and they were worried about someone stealing it so they thought they would bring it with them in the sauna so they could keep an eye on it.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Not an actual sauna I think, I hope? but it was a lot of steam and condensation damage. It was.. odd.

    5. Green great dragon*

      Yes, I think there’s a big difference between those two examples. Obviously up to LW what they do but I think the abortion one is definitely a level beyond Nevertheless or rainbow stickers.

    6. OP #1*

      It is a newer Mac laptop, and I’m sure he tried to salvage it best he could.
      For added context, people are not expected to use their personal laptops at work, but Joe prefers his over the company-issued laptop.
      We are a small, family-owned business with no HR department, so I value everyone’s input! I already told Joe that the company would pay for part of the repairs, and I also suggested he check with his home insurance to see if that’s worth pursuing.

      1. JustMyImagination*

        That was very generous of you to offer to pay for part of the repair. In case you don’t have one already, please be sure to put in place a policy about laptops and confidential information. If Joe is saving company and client confidential information on his personal laptop, you need a way to recover that and delete it from his personal property when he moves on to a new employer.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, this 100%.

          Seriously you need a policy on the use of personal devices for company use NOW. Not just because of the cost. The sensitive information issue is an even bigger issue.

      2. Lyudie*

        I would personally use this as an opportunity to revisit those policies to ban personal computers at work, not only for incidents like this but the data security/privacy issues JustMyImagination mentioned. Plus software licenses become much easier if employees don’t have to manage their own…the company can buy bulk licenses and if you have IT set up to push out updates, upgrades are simpler. If the company can afford to supply laptops for everyone, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require everyone to use them.

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        If anything this is a really good argument for not using/ not letting people use personal equipment at work. Maybe you should revisit making a policy about that?

        1. Washi*

          Agreed. Perhaps going forward there should be a policy that if you choose to use personal equipment rather than company-issued tech, you won’t be reimbursed for any damage or other costs? It seems silly for the company to shell out more money than the company-issued laptop was maybe even worth to repair an employee’s fancy personal computer.

      4. blackcat*

        Apple does now have an Apple Care upgrade that covers water damage. I have one. Joe should check with Apple if the computer is pretty new and see what they’ll cover under Apple Care.
        FWIW, if the computer is covered under one of those and the data is backed up, it is far better to let the machine die and hand it over to Apple than try to remove the battery and harddrive. Removing the back panel by yourself voids the Apple Care contract.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This wouldn’t go through HR… they don’t choose what accounting will reimburse you for. This is ownership level of what they want to cover.

        I think it’s fair to 50/50 with him since he opted to take the risk by using his own equipment. He needs proper insurance if he’s toting it around so much anyways.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I do think that Mike the employee has less responsibility for this since Joe choose to bring the laptop when he didn’t have to, but I still think Mike should own some of the responsibility. Maybe a 3 way split, 50% company, 25% Joe, 25% Mike?

      6. Mia 52*

        I think that’s fair and if he’s bringing it in just because he likes it, then I think it falls more on him to rectify. Unless the reason he likes it more is because the work provided ones are non functional dinosaur computers lol.

      7. EJane*

        ouuuuuuch.

        I work at an IT company that also does repairs, and I was going to say something about the $900 price tag being steep… but if he’s replacing it with a $1400 model, he’s got either one of the unibody macbooks or the smaller macbook pros and ooooff. Estimate sounds about accurate. My sympathies to Joe. Also, good call on the home insurance! A college roommate used her renters insurance to replace her laptop after she spilled an entire starbucks iced tea on it.
        It was 11:30pm at night. She was drunk. I have no idea where she got the starbucks.

      8. Bex*

        Please please institute a firm policy re personal v company devices, and what kind of data can be stored and accessed on each. I know as a small business it’s very tempting to ease your own technology budget (and not worry about downtime as employees switch from Mac to PC or whatevs), but this can cause immense problems.

        Even if none of your employees would ever consider quitting and not permitting you to remove confidential data, things like this can happen. You can easily add insurance coverage for business machines to your insurance policy (I’ve had to set these up before), which will help against theft, loss, damage, etc., but it’s much more nebulous (and frustrating for all!) when it’s personal equipment.

        Also. There’s a work life balance to consider here that might not spring out immediately at you. But employees who use personal devices for work often have a harder time unplugging and doing an effective recharge, which can lead to burnout. The clear division of “work item” v “personal item” can help ease that issue.

        I think it’s awesome you’re offering to help cover the cost of repair, but keep this in mind (including all of the awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings associated) as you consider your technology guidelines in the future.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I’m very careful with liquids around my laptops. But I often eat in front of the computer. When I changed out the keyboard on my Win 7 laptop, there were a surprising amount of cracker crumbs inside it.

  11. Maya Elena*

    Question about the laptop: how would the advice be different if Mike had spilled the coffee on an expensive piece of personal property that nonetheless makes sense in the office – e.g. a Coach-type handbag, which is that person’s daily handbag, or a vintage textbook that someone brought in from home as a reference?

    1. Aphrodite*

      I think the answer is that it is (really and truly) up to the owner to protect their property from accidents, and to realize that bringing expensive personal property outside of your home subjects them to risks that are nothing more than accidents. Let’s face it, accidents happen regardless of how careful you are. (It’s why I do not allow any food or drink near my personal laptop at home–where it stays.) So make decisions about using items with thought and care..

      That said, I do use my fragile beautiful glassware and dishware at home on a regular basis. I’d rather enjoy their use and risk broken items while building memories than having them sit in a box in storage and garner nothing in the memory line. It’s a conscious choice.

      1. Maya Elena*

        I agree that if Joe had way more money than Mike, Mike should only replace the item if he ruined it through grid malevolence or something. But if a lot of the discussion rides on “company property, company use, cost of doing business” I wondered how it would work if that wasn’t a factor.
        Also, the argument can apply to less expensive but not sure cheap items.

        1. Observer*

          Even if it’s not a company issue. If you put something on a table where people are in the habit of drinking, you need to realize that someone is likely to spill something at some point. Act accordingly.

      2. Washi*

        I agree with this, unless you’re bringing something from home because your company is too cheap to provide you with it, like a computer (which is not the case here, making me way less sympathetic to Joe.) Other than that, I wear my lovely handknit sweaters to work knowing that someone could spill coffee on me, and I would never ask for reimbursement or anything for damage.

      3. Mr. Tyzik*

        This reads like victim blaming – if the person didn’t bring the bag, it wouldn’t have been ruined. No. The truth is if someone hadn’t spilled coffee, it wouldn’t have been ruined.

        We can protect our belongings up to a point but we don’t have total control over them. Thinking one can guard against every accident and situation is folly.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          That’s kind of what I’m getting out of a lot of these comments. I’m pretty sure that if the situation were reversed… Boss spilled coffee on employee’s personal laptop that the overwhelming comments would be … OMG he should replace it.

          Seems to me this is coming down to who makes the most money more than anything else.

          1. Mia 52*

            Yeah I’m so confused by that. Like who pays in say an auto accident isn’t determined by salaries. Its determined by who is at fault. Once a biker hit me, causing damage, and he was like this super young guy and it was barely a dent in my car so I said forget it I don’t care to pursue. So I guess it depends how much the person who’s lap top was ruined wants to “pursue” it if its not offered (which honestly I would offer! You ruined something of someones!) If we go by this logic you could just cause car accidents all the time and it would be fine.

        2. JM60*

          I very much agree. If you take cars as an analogy, if you crash into someone’s car, totalling it, you’re responsible for the damage. If that car happens to be an extremely expensive sports car, it doesn’t change the fact that you, not the owner of the car you hit, are responsible.

          I could understand the item was destroyed because a booby trap was setup (for instance, if they left the laptop in the middle of the floor where it’s likely to be stepped on). However, the owner doesn’t have any special responsibility to protect an item from others just because it’s valuable.

    2. Yvette*

      And would the advice be different if Mike was at Joe’s home and spilled the coffee? Or if Joe was at Mike’s home and Mike spilled his coffee? Under most other circumstances isn’t usually expected for someone to make reparations when they damage someone’s property? If you accidentally back your car into someone’s mailbox or car you are expected to pay for it. Not saying I disagree with the advice given, just wondering.

      1. Yvette*

        I realize my above scenarios were not taking into account that Joe may have been using his personal laptop for work. But the letter did not say that, it just said that he had it there. He could have had it there to check his personal emails (many companies will not allow you to access gmail/hotmail etc. from company computers on company networks. He could have had it there so he could work on a paper for a class, we don’t know why it was there.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yes, but Joe bringing his valuable personal item to work is what makes this murky.

          If either of them damaged Joe’s work laptop under any circumstances, the company would cover it and issue a new one.

          If Joe and Mike are friends and Mike ruins Joe’s laptop, they would sort that out between the two of them (though personally I would not take money from a friend for an accident like that).

          If Joe and Mike are at work and Mike spills coffee on Joe’s bag where the personal laptop is stored–or ruins Joe’s designer bag or expensive sneakers–I guess the situation is closer to the friend situation, but Joe still assumes a certain amount of risk taking his belongings out into the world (could’ve been ruined at Starbucks, on the train…) and is in an imbalanced power position. I think it would be good of Mike to offer to pay as an apology, and then Joe should refuse as an act of generosity and forgiveness.

          1. MistOrMister*

            I think the fact that this happened on the table in a work meeting matters a lot. If my personal cell is on said table and there’s a coffee spill, my feeling is no one but me is responsible for those costs. For the lapyop, if it was being used for work purposes, then it would be great if the office could absorb thoses costs. If it was just personal computer for personal things, then I would agrue the job doesn’t have to go that far, though it would be nice if they did. Either eay, I don’t feel the employee should be asked to cover any costs.
            However, if the boss was carrying their laptop on their way out, or it’s in a bag by their desk or something and the employee somehow makes a spill and ruins it, that to me is more questionable. In that case I think the employee should offer to pay for repairs, but honestly, that the boss should turn it down. It really doesn’t look good for a boss taking money from someone who makes significantly less than them for something that was an accident that happened in the workplace.

        2. Perpal*

          It depends a lot on the degree of expense; socially it’s kind to OFFER to pay for damages if one did something uniquely klutzy or badly thought out and ruined someone else’s stuff. I don’t know that it’s required though; fortunately I have not experienced this but if a friend accidentally spilled coffee on my computer at a social visit I can’t see myself asking them to pay for it. The only time I can see that is if something was intentional, be it a bad prank or with malace; but then we are possibly in civil lawsuit territory unless someone’s willing to settle privately.

          1. Mia 52*

            i can’t see myself asking either because I am absolutely and completely flummoxed/bowled over/shocked at the idea of ruining someones laptop and not INSISTING on paying for the replacement.

        3. OP #1*

          It’s a safe assumption that Joe was using the laptop to do work, not personal stuff, during the meeting, which is why I offered to pay for part of the repairs. I might even pay for everything – not sure yet. As I said in an earlier comment, we are a small, family-owned business and haven’t really considered privacy concerns until now. This incident has shed light on the need to re-visit our need for a policy to protect IP and customer data.

          1. Yvette*

            “This incident has shed light on the need to re-visit our need for a policy to protect IP and customer data.” Not a bad idea, laptops get lost, stolen, left behind at airports etc. At my last job putting company/client information or files on your personal laptop would not only be a violation of policy but could get you terminated. I worked from home with my own laptop but it was used to remote into my work desktop and VPN. The software would not even allow for the cut and paste from a work file to a word or notepad document on my laptop. Even at the office files were not on the desktop but on the company share drive. Workplace desktops did not even have USB ports that functioned for data transfer so you could not put files on a flash drive or external hard drive.

      2. Koala dreams*

        I think it’s different in a social situation like visiting someone’s home. It’s the power differential from the work relationship that makes this tricky.

        That being said, I think it can be quite difficult in today’s world where repairing something can be almost as expensive as actually buying the thing. If you spill coffee on a someone’s dress, you can just pay the cost of the dry-cleaning. With laptops, the repair cost can be just as expensive as buying the laptop in the first place.

        Hopefully, you’d have some kind of insurance to cover it (similar to the car issue). In that case, you would only pay the deductible. Similar to having a car insurance.

      3. Colette*

        I don’t think it matters. You owning something valuable does not obligate someone else to pay if they break it by accident. They might offer if they can, but it’s your responsibility as the owner to take care of your possessions.

        If Mike had borrowed the laptop (and thus was getting the benefit of using it) and then spilled his coffee, he would be responsible because he had taken over the role of maintaining the property.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I really disagree, if the owner of a possession is taking great care of it, and someone else happens to be careless and spills something on a dress/computer/phone the person that spilled is responsible. Someone else up thread brought up a really good point about saying don’t buy something nice if you don’t want it ruined sounds a lot like victim blaming, “its your fault you got robbed for being out at 2am.” Yes accidents do happen, but if you were the cause of that accident you are responsible for the consequences. By that same logic why doesn’t it apply “If you can’t afford to pay for things you break (accident or not), you should not be leaving the house.”

          1. Colette*

            Who determines who is being careless? If you put a laptop on a table so that it is partially hanging off and I walk by and bump into it, should I be expected to pay for it?

            If you bring a laptop to a public pool and leave it at the side of the room, do I have to pay for it if I drip on it while getting my towel?

            The difference between my position and the one you are proposing is that if I bring something expensive somewhere, I am making that choice knowing what it costs and what the risk is. Someone walking by who trips doesn’t get to make that choice (or consider the risks).

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              You are right, I will revise my statement to say that the details of an accident matter in assigning responsibility, and that usually no one is 100% responsible for accidents. But I still disagree that people who are the cause of the accident are never to blame/responsible for the damage they cause just because the owner choose to purchase something expensive. If someone is responsible for the damage to a $100 laptop and we take the same exact situation and replace it with a $1200 laptop that value/cost of the damage does not change the responsibility.

              In the desk example I agree if it is hanging off the owner bears some responsibility as well, but you still bear responsibility not to bump into it especially if it is in an area where it is plainly visible.

              The pool example people who bring stuff to the pool know that things can get wet. But that does not mean you can go around splashing/dripping water on anyone or anything.

              1. JM60*

                A good analogy is car accidents. Responsibility for the accidents are sometimes murky, and the behavior of one party may make the other party only partially responsible. However, the price of the car the was hit doesn’t affect how responsible someone is. If you’re 100% responsible, you owe them for 100% of the damages, regardless of whether you totaled their $500 day or their $150,000 sports car.

        2. JM60*

          “You owning something valuable does not obligate someone else to pay if they break it by accident.”

          It most certainly does, assuming you’re at fault for breaking it (rather than triggering a booby trap). If you’re at fault for a car accident that totals someone else’s car, you are ethically (and usually legally) responsible to compensate them for their loss. That’s the case whether they have a $500 beat up car or a $200,000 sports car.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t think this is the same situation as a car accident. For one thing, when you drive, you are accepting the responsibility for driving – and if you’re at fault in a car accident, you have made some sort of mistake that contributed to the accident. And you can purchase insurance to mitigate your risk.

            On the other hand, if I trip and spill my coffee, I have no control of what is in the path of that coffee, and I don’t agree that drinking coffee requires me to accept responsibility for the coffee damaging everything that could conceivably be in the room with me.

            Things get broken. The owner can take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks. No one else can (except in mutual activities like driving). Therefore, the owner bears the responsibility.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              But you can have control over tripping, I say this as someone who is a bit clumsy and has tripped many times. It is rare that I trip and I am not at fault for it. There was a crack on the floor, if I had looked at the floor I would have seen the crack, I missed a step and fell again I did not pay close enough attention. I walk backwards and bumped into someone, I should have turned around and looked before walking. I put my jacket on and smack someone in the face with my hand, I should have looked around or gone to a less crowded area.

              Most of the time we call accidents “accidents” because we didn’t intend to cause harm/damage, but most accidents can be avoided most of the time if people are careful enough. I think we have a fundamental difference of opinion on the cause of “accidents” and I think we can all take steps to mitigate risks of causing damage to others and their property. Damaging someone’s property does even if we didn’t mean it or could have predicted we were going to trip and spill coffee does not lessen the damage at all. It is like when you hurt someone’s feeling with a remark or joke, just because you didn’t mean to hurt that person does not mean you are any less responsible or lessen how hurt they are.

              1. Colette*

                Sometimes you can control it. Sometimes you step wrong and fall, or have medical concerns that make it much harder. I agree you should take care to mitigate the risks of causing damage. I just disagree that existing in the world makes you responsible for replacing stuff for someone else.

                If I’m walking down the street with $20 in my pocket to last until payday and brush hands with someone going the other way, I’m not responsible for replacing the stone in their ring that flies into the storm drain.

                1. JM60*

                  Spilling coffee on someone’s property isn’t simply “existing in the world”. Sitting there doing nothing but existing probably won’t cause you to destroy someone’s property. Absent having a seizure or something, you actually have to DO something to destroy someone’s property, and I think you should be responsible for what you do when you’re an adult, unless someone (such as an employer) accepted responsibility for your actions.

                  “If I’m walking down the street with $20 in my pocket to last until payday and brush hands with someone going the other way, I’m not responsible for replacing the stone in their ring that flies into the storm drain.”

                  You are morally responsible (and probably legally responsible) to undo the damage insofar as you are capable of. It’s just that your capabilities may not be 100%, which is very a different case than what we’re talking about here.

            2. JM60*

              You can have control over whether or not you trip over something much lol he you can have control over your car as you approach a patch of ice. In either case, you might fail to keep control, but you’re the one who ultimately caused the destruction, so you’re the one who should be responsible.

      4. Joielle*

        Well, presumably if they were at each other’s homes, it would be because they’re friends and seeing each other socially, in which case the rules are different. If you damage something with your car, you’d expect your car insurance to pay for it.

        There’s not really a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of who pays when a personal item is damaged, because it depends on the relationship between the people, the cost of the damage, and whether there’s insurance.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          But if you have the basic minimum insurance coverage of say $15k, but you cause $30k in damages, they other party can come after you personally for the remainder. Just because you had insurance does not mean you are not liable for any excess damages above your coverage.

          Yes usually at that point if the person has no assets, that is when uninsured/under-insured personal coverage would come in. But if someone only had minimum coverage, but they happened to have a high net-worth then they would certainly be liable for the remainder.

    3. Kiki*

      So I feel like if something could be construed as a work supply (even if it is technically a personal item), work should offer to cover the cost.

      For anything else that is not explicitly a work item (even if it is something that makes sense in an office), I feel like the owner is bringing it into a situation at their own risk for common workplace spills and accidents. This isn’t based in anything legal, it just seems like an etiquette thing? Like, if I invited someone into my home and they, in the course of normal houseguest activities, accidentally broke or ruined something of mine, it would be very rude of me to ask them to pay me back. It’s not the guest’s fault something I put in their path was very expensive and they shouldn’t have to assume responsibility for that cost, though it might be kind to offer.

      That being said, if there are unusual circumstances around the accident or the accident isn’t what most people would consider a common workplace mishap, there might be a higher expectation that the person responsible pays. Like, if I had put some expensive personal item in my desk drawer, a coworker was snooping, took it out, then broke it somehow, then they should pay. Or if someone took a coworker’s really expensive purse and covertly filled it with tons of chocolates that melt and ruin the bag, it would be on the chocolate bandit to pay because though the damage was accidental, it didn’t happen in the course of normal work activities, if that makes sense.

      That’s just my own take based on what I was taught growing up, but this could also be regionally influenced. And just a word to the wise: m if you have something very valuable, you should try to get comprehensive insurance on that item.

    4. Bagpuss*

      To me, the issue is whether it was Mike’s fault. If it was a normal accident – he bumped into the table, tripped as he was putting his coffee down, or something like that, then I’d take the view that it is an accident and it’s a risk you run if you take expensive stuff into public spaces.

      If however it was more his fault – for instance,he’d been gesticulating willy and had ben warned to be carful, or he was walking backwards talking to someone and not paying attention to where he was going, I would be more inclined to say he should pay.

      With the original scenario, I think that if Joe chooses to bring in his own laptop, then it’s bad luck but not reasonable for him to expect anyone else to pay, if he is required to provide his own kit then the business should be paying for insurance and covering any deductible, or paying for the repair. In either case, I think it’s unreasonable to expect Mike to pay if it was a genuine accident, but if he was doing something outsidethe realm of normal behaviour in a business meeting , which caused the accident, then I would see it a bit differently.

    5. blackcat*

      I’d say the company would have to do a good-faith effort to replace a reference text used for work if it was destroyed. Coach handbag? Out of luck.

    6. Morning reader*

      Mike’s assistant would speak to him about his “bull in a china shop” tendencies and how they influence perceptions of his professionalism.
      (Yes, I was confused by yesterday’s letter that didn’t seem to include clumsiness despite that “bullish” description.)

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think the OP was referring that the boss was clumsy socially speaking. Yes people usually mean someone is physically clumsy when using that description, but I still think the metaphor was apt.

    7. Ophelia*

      I think this brings out the fundamental issue: did work require or expect Joe to have his personal device at the office? Because if Joe is bringing in expensive personal property for their own personal use, then no, I wouldn’t expect either Mike or the employer to pay. Joe took that risk with his own property and can’t expect Mike to pay for Joe’s poor choice. But if the employer is expecting Joe to use personal property, they need to assume the risk.

  12. Juli G.*

    Slightly off topic but the truck sticker letter is what brought me to the site! I clicked on the link to revisit and I had completely forgotten he explained the “joke”.

    Thanks for the years of great advice and conversations Allison!

    1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I remembered the letter, but forgot how carefully he spelled that out, like he for real thought that someone would miss it. “Do you get it now? I’m making fun of fat girls! Funny, right?”. It must be so painful to have that guy as a coworker.

      1. RobotWithHumanHair*

        That whole thread was before my time here, I think, and wow…what a rabbit hole to go down!

      1. Blueberry*

        Why would he have to, though? in the US at least, society at large agrees with him. I remember that letter because I was pleasantly surprised he got in trouble at work and became a fan of Allison because she told him he was wrong.

  13. Maya Elena*

    I don’t see a problem with bumper stickers, especially unoffensive ones – but yeah, then people will know your views. So what? People are, on the one hand, not that dumb, but also not that hostile. And you are probably less subtle and crafty than you think. But, extremes aside, most people will just know that you’re left-wing and – OK, maybe they won’t go up to you and start sharing what they read on National Review this week, but you don’t want that! – continue maintaining respectful business relationships with you.

    As a counterpoint, I belong to a group in which most people are of very left-wing – and I’m not; and while I don’t advertise my views, I think people generally get it, if only by the fact that I don’t exhibit certain enthusiasms or join in certain conversations that they all might share. But I also noticed that others in the group are much more visibly right-wing than me (attending demonstrations; working for known institutions) and they are welcomed and treated fine, and politics not discussed; which suggests that people can manage to get along even when they disagree.

    1. Rich*

      “Not dumb and not hostile” is a really good thing to remember, and a great point. OP is already in an office where political talk is generally avoided. Knowing that it’s a place with good professional norms like that makes it much safer to “out” yourself as having a difference of opinion.

      However, if the general assumption is that people think one way and you start advertising a difference from that, you may end up with conversations. It sounds like it’s a healthy workplace and I don’t think they’d be _bad_ conversations or ones that affect your work or prospects (as they clearly should not). But some people may be curious because stuff that’s different provokes curiosity. I’d have a plan for how you want to handle that — casually engage, brush it off and change the subject, set up a pair of lecterns and a debate clock — because if it hits you in a moment of surprise, it’s less likely to go the way you want.

      I studiously avoid political talk at work. I literally turn around and walk away when I can, and ask questions when I can’t. That allows me to avoid expressing an opinion, which I’m not interested in sharing. That plan may not work for you, as your willingness to express an opinion is different, and that’s OK. But having the plan ready is useful to me more often than I wish was necessary.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Problem is one cannot assume that people won’t be hostile, especially if you are not of the dominant ethnic/religious group. I have had some pretty eye opening experiences when I was driving Mr. Gumption’s car with a “political” bumper sticker (MLK quote) in the conservative are a we live in. Car keyed in the work parking lot, nasty notes under the windshield wipers, drive-by curses and slurs etc..

  14. Make 7 Up Yours*

    OP1: Just have Payroll take the money out of Mike’s paycheck. Easy peasy. After all, you break it, you bought it.

    1. Diamond*

      Except this isn’t a shop and stuff like this is usually part of the cost of doing business. It’s slightly muddy because it was a personal laptop, but if it was being used for work then the simplest answer is to treat it like a work laptop and have work cover it (and try to avoid people having to use their personal equipment in future, I guess?).

    2. Rick Tq*

      I strongly disagree. Accidental damage is on the company. Mike didn’t pour his coffee into Joe’s laptop, and unless that is the formal policy Joe chose to Bring His Own Device when when the company would likely have provided a laptop.

      Joe using a personal device is a bad decision with today’s focus on data privacy. I bet Joe’s boss or the company Chief Information Security Officer doesn’t realize the company’s liability if Joe keeps any PHI on his personal laptop and it is lost or stolen.

      1. Rubyrose*

        No, if the company really has PHI, the boss and the CIO are fully aware of the potential civil and criminal penalties associated with loss of PHI. I, as a simple employee who works with PHI, have those penalties presented to me every year in my HIPAA training.
        It does not makes sense that this laptop was in a meeting for purely personal use. The company needs to review why they are not providing the equipment or software the person needs on a company computer. And they need to pony up the money to make this situation right.

        1. Captain Raymond Holt*

          At my company, having PHI on a personal machine outside our covered environment is a fireable offense. PHI can only be accessed from work devices. Keep it simple, people.

    3. Avasarala*

      Oh that would not be OK under the payroll rules where I work. We are not allowed to deduct things from employees’ payroll except for things previously agreed on (like taxes, insurance and so on). We couldn’t just shortchange Mike and then bump Joe’s salary; even if it’s functionally the same thing, I don’t think it looks good for the company to do that. If Mike must pay then he should pay Joe directly.

      But I disagree that Mike should pay at all. If Joe uses his PC for work, then either the company covers it as a cost of business/provides him with a new work laptop, or Joe pays because it’s his personal PC and that’s the risk you take carrying your PC around. I know it’s Mike’s fault but it was an accident and I don’t think it’s right to take money from someone who makes so much less than you and whom you have so much power over. Everyone has spilled something on their desk at least once and Mike shouldn’t be out hundreds of dollars because Joe chose to use his personal laptop at work.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah I guess my answer depends on why Joe had his personal laptop at a work meeting. If he’s regularly using it for work, then work should cover the cost of repairs/replacement, assuming that he doesn’t have a work laptop with the required programs or whatnot to do his job. (And if so, why not?)

        But if he has a work laptop and chooses to do his job on his personal laptop, I think this is more on him. The company provides him with a machine to do his job and that machine is (based on this story) working fine. (If he’s using the personal laptop temporarily while his work laptop is being repaired/upgraded/etc, then the company should cover it, because he presumably has no other choice but to use his personal machine.)

        TL;DR if it’s a work machine he has to use for work then the company should pay for it. If he’s just using it because he prefers it, then he’s on his own.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Also, in either case I think it would be nice for Mike to offer to help cover the cost, but I don’t think he should be required to by the company. If it’s a personal property issue, it should be worked out between Joe and Mike, without the company being involved, and if it’s a work property issue, the company should handle it without involving Mike.

          1. Avasarala*

            I agree. I can see the conversation going, “Oh Joe, I’m so sorry! Here, let me pay for the laptop.” “No no, these things happen. Don’t worry about the cost.”
            Then OP can chime in, “Joe, you don’t have to pay for it, this is your work computer and the company will cover it.”
            Happy ending.

    4. PollyQ*

      Either it’s not the company’s business at all and Mike should pay Joe directly, or the company should chip in on the grounds that the laptop was being used for work, or Joe should just eat the cost himself. But the company has no right to take money out of Mike’s paycheck for damaged property that they don’t own.

      And in California, the company wouldn’t have the right the charge Mike even if they did own the laptop.

      I’m inclined to think that Mike should chip in some amount, maybe 50%. After all, if he’d hit Joe’s car in the parking lot, he’d be liable for the expense of fixing, even if they were both there for business.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Wouldn’t the cost of a car accident come out of insurance? Mike’s insurance rates would go up, but that’s why people have insurance – so they won’t be bankrupted by a genuine accident.

        1. Maya Elena*

          That’s true, but if the damage somehow exceeded the covered limits ($15,000 limits vs. totaling a Maserati!), Joe could sue him.
          I guess this is what people buy umbrella personal liability policies for!

        2. PollyQ*

          Sure, but Mike’s still ultimately responsible. If he’d let his insurance lapse, or had a high deductible, or if he weren’t a driver, but somehow badly damaged Joe’s car, he’d have to pay out of his own pocket.

        3. Former Employee*

          Not if Mike were driving on company business at the time. Then the company’s Auto Insurance should pay.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      No. Where I live, nonpayment of wages is a felony. Someone could literally go to prison for doing that.

    6. Penny Parker*

      Speaking as a professional seller of fine antiques, while many shops carry this sign, “you break it, you bought it” it is actually not legal to enforce it although many customers can be intimidated to pony up the money. If someone breaks something in an antique shop and just walks out there is nothing legal any shop owner can do about that. The most a shop owner can do legally is to sue someone in small claims court — if the shop owner knows who they are and where to find them.

    7. Observer*

      For anyone reading this – 100% illegal in the US.

      Outside the US, I don’t know, but TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE idea.

  15. pcake*

    OP5 – I’d ask the candidate about putting your company on LinkedIn, but I’d be highly unlikely to hire him – I mean HIGHLY. He’s either dishonest or extremely careless when reading things and not very computer savvy. Neither reflects people I prefer to work with.

    1. Snuck*

      Yup. This is where one of those “What were you thinking” scripts comes into play.

      Odds on someone told him it would draw attention and show he has “Gumption”.

      Gumption is a popular scrubbing/cleaning product, not a job application trick ….

  16. Willis*

    #5 is pretty hilarious. Like, what’s this guy’s angle? It’s LinkedIn, not his vision board! Maybe he’ll just start showing up as if he’s been hired…the Pam Beasley “Office Manager” approach.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            “I just saw you started with us, congratulations! I’m sorry that means an end to your candidacy here….”

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Dress your profile for the job you want, not the job you have..?

    2. Allonge*

      I have an ex-boss who was fired from our then-company years ago. He still has his old job title and company association on LinkedIn. People are so weird. So, so, so weird.

      1. Snuck*

        I haven’t updated LinkedIn in over a decade… I stopped working for large corporates and moved into word of mouth and family business… it has been amazing, and LinkedIn is completely irrelevant to my line of work now. I assume it still shows I work for mega corporate in XYZ role…

    3. Vemasi*

      I’m wondering if this is a gimmick he read on a list article of “Ways To Impress Your Interviewer.” Bad advice from someone making it up. Like job advertisements for fastfood and retail jobs that list all the perks and put “you” as the future employee, but for job applicants. “Add the job you are applying for to your resume, to show your dedication to the employer.”

    4. Joielle*

      Haha I thought of the Pam Beasley office manager thing too. Just give yourself a promotion! (Or in this guy’s case, give yourself a new job!)

  17. Mainely Professional*

    I suggest we all take a page from the guy in #5 and change our job title and company on LinkedIn to whatever we like.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      CTO (Chief Tea Officer) and Head of Documentation Acquisition and Review (books division)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Chief Animal Snuggler; my son is Trainee Animal Snuggler.

      Though last night, he got both the cat and the dog, and I had none. The child becomes the master…

    3. LizB*

      That reminds me of the comic where the boss puts up a sign in the office that says “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have” – and the next panel shows the next day, where someone is dressed as batman, someone is dressed as an astronaut, etc. etc., and someone is dressed as the boss! (will try to find and link in reply)

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Yesterday in my Instagram feed it was a picture of the good fairy from the wizard of Oz under that caption.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      CSO – Chief Snark Officer

      At one job we could put a short description/tag on our business cards as long as it was clean and not claiming an incorrect title title. One guy had “Jedi Knight”. I had “Iconoclast”. Another person had “Computer Janitor”.

      1. Gumby*

        I once reported to someone with business cards that said “Senior Solid Gold Dancer” though I was far less creative about mine.

  18. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

    Joe should make sure his new laptop is covered by insurance against accidental liquid damage, away from home. That would significantly reduce the costs when this happens again.

    Is there any chance joe or the company has insurance Joe could claim on?

  19. Mommy.MD*

    I think it’s absurd to ask an employee to bear the cost of a laptop because coffee was accidentally spilled at a WORK meeting. Company should replace.

  20. Beth*

    Op1: This is really unfortunate for Joe, but it’s also part and parcel of bringing a personal device places. Accidental damage happens. People spill drinks, bump into other people, trip over a cord and yank it in the process, all that stuff. It really sucks when an accident damages something expensive like a laptop, but mostly you can’t reasonably expect them to pony up hundreds or thousands of dollars. It’s part of the risk of bringing things out in public. Joe being Mike’s manager, if anything, makes it less reasonable to hold Mike responsible for the bill. Mike makes a lot less than Joe, and everyone involved knows it. Also, due to their relationship, Mike has very little power to refuse if Joe insists, even if he can’t really afford it.

    If the laptop was there for work purposes, the company should pay for repairs as a cost of doing business. If not, I think Joe has to eat the cost (at least, that’s what I’d do in his shoes; it would suck, but I couldn’t put that cost on someone way less equipped to meet it just because of a spilled coffee, that wouldn’t be right). Unless this was intentional (e.g. he poured the coffee on the laptop in a moment of anger), Mike shouldn’t be held responsible.

    1. OP #1*

      I agree with you, and as Joe’s employer, I intend to cover at least half and possibly all of the cost. Either way- Mike will not be held financially responsible for anything.

      1. Mommy.MD*

        The idea that someone who accidentally spilled coffee at a work meeting is responsible to pay for incidental damage to a laptop someone decided to bring from home, should have never been entertained.

    2. BoredRecruiter*

      Even if intentional, I wonder if Mike shouldn’t be held responsible financially. Would that have any implication on his wage (dropping below minimum) or tax implications? Of course he can be held responsible through work disciplinary action, but I’d be nervous about any implications.

      1. Former Employee*

        I don’t get this at all (intentional) and as others have commented it would be illegal to take it out of his pay.

  21. Librarian Ish*

    I changed my first and last name at a workplace I’d been at for 5 years and it was no big deal to anyone except to me. I got a couple curious folks who wanted to know why and a few people who over-apologized when they slipped up. Also, very weirdly, I had a couple people who only knew about the first name change, and they congratulated me on getting married. YMMV.

    1. Not Australian*

      I formally changed my middle name (long story) at work and had one person scornfully tell me “But it doesn’t change who you are!”, as if that had been my intention. The simple fact is that I now no longer cringe every time I have to say or write my full name; worth every penny, IMHO.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        I had a letter drafted to Alison that was basically the same as OP4 as I’m hoping to change my first name this year as well. I dread the questions of “why did you give up such a long, regal, feminine name?” (because I’m short, plain and not feminine). But I look forward to not cringing every time a TV character has my (current) name and actually enunciating it when I tell people what it is!

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          If it’s as long as that sounds maybe something like “well, I’m not a princess, and I wanted something that wasn’t too long for a lot of computers.” Because whether or not someone likes the name Elizabeth-Martina, they probably don’t want to be either “Elizabet” or “Elizabeth-“

    2. Vemasi*

      I think we often really overestimate the degree to which people are interested in our business, or how nosy they will act. I’ve worked with a lot of people who changed their names and/or go by something partially or completely different from what their official name is in the system (in their work email, for instance). It can take a while to catch onto and you might have a Joaquin/Wakeen type confusion for a bit, but I generally assume it’s none of my business, especially since it can sometimes be a culturally/racially specific topic.

  22. The German Chick*

    #1
    Slightly off-topic, but why is none talking about insurance? In Germany, more than 80% of households would be covered by their liability insurance if such an accident were to happen. Is that not a thing in the US?

    1. Coverage Associate*

      In the United States, it’s probably less than 80% because renters often don’t carry insurance. The manager/laptop owner could inquire politely if the employee has insurance, but even if there’s insurance, there might be a deductible or the future higher premiums would mean the employee does end up paying.

      As for personal property insurance, it usually doesn’t cover electronics.

      1. Amerdale*

        This has nothing to do with renting/owning or owning property.
        What German Chick talks about is a private/personal liability insurance (I really don’t know how to translate it right) exactly for those kinds of accidents and things. It would be Mikes insurance who would cover the costs of repair/replacement, because he caused the accident.
        And they are relatively cheap, I pay around 50€/year for mine, if I remember correctly. It is actually the one insurance that according to recommendations every adult in Germany should get. Exactly because accidents can happen quickly and can easily become expensive.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Actually in the US home owner’s/renter’s insurance would be what most people would have to cover something like this. I suppose there is private/personal liability insurance available but I can’t say I have ever known anyone that has such a policy. Pretty much any property would be covered by home owners/renter’s/auto insurance, or a policy specifically to X item (like the one I have for my phones), or not at all.

        2. Kiki*

          I think Coverage Associate is referencing homeowner’s and renter’s insurance because:
          1) In the US, homeowner’s and renter’s insurance offers some coverage for certain personal items even when they are outside your home (not sure if this exact coffee-spill situation would be covered, but I know my renter’s insurance offers coverage if my personal laptop is stolen even if it’s not stolen from my home). So if Joe has homeowner’s and renter’s insurance, this *may* be covered by that and he wouldn’t need to ask anything of Mike.
          2) in the US it is not super common to have stand-alone personal liability insurance. There is often some personal liability insurance offered under homeowner’s and renters insurance, but I don’t think it’s a common stand-alone thing. I’m not sure if the type of personal liability insurance offered under most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance would cover this situation either, though.

          1. Perbie*

            I’m sure all kinds of services are out there but a lot of people in the US prob don’t have a PLUP or equivalent; and of they do those are usually geared towards higher earners (who might be targeted more for suits since there is more potential gain) and catastrophic costs; injuries, fires causing massive property damage to others, etc.

        3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          Wow. That sounds great. No, that is definitely not a thing in the States. Liability would be rolled into homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, but it doesn’t sound like it’s exactly the same.
          And the deductible is 5 hundred to a thousand dollars, or more. It wouldn’t help much and then your insurance premium would go up, plus you have a harder time if you want to switch companies because you actually used the coverage you paid for.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Sure it would. My renter’s insurance covers my possessions, whether they’re in the home or not. However, it would be a giant pain to submit the claim and my deductible would probably be less than the cost of the repair.

        2. Vemasi*

          I agree, if renters’ or homeowners’ insurance found out the laptop was damaged while carrying out work duties, at the workplace, they would probably try to push it onto the company even if it would be covered for damage outside the home. Similar to how your health insurance would throw the ball to your workplace if you were injured in the course of work (though not for the same reasons).

      2. Coverage Associate*

        Thanks, all. The consensus is correct. It is very unusual to have personal liability insurance in the US apart from a renters or homeowners policy. Even as an insurance coverage lawyer, as a renter, it is very hard to get good personal liability insurance (umbrella insurance or high primary limits).

        I don’t practice in personal lines, so I don’t know if a business pursuits or similar exclusion would apply to Mike’s liability. Or, for that matter, to Joe’s loss on his personal property or inland marine insurance, assuming no electronics exclusion. Typical personal property policies in the US do cover the property everywhere, or at least everywhere in the US, so the fact that the damage was out of the home would not be relevant, though the fact that it was at work, again, might be.

    2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      I’m also not in the US, and that kind of insurance is very common here too. But when you weigh the cost of the repair/replacement against the cost of the excess and the increase in premium for following years, it’s often not worth claiming (hence, I cancelled mine).
      Hummel hummel :)

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Oh, I was thinking personal property insurance, not liability insurance sorry! To claim on that I think the accident would have needed to take place at the insured household address (at least here). I wonder if, in theory, the company’s insurance would cover it though..?

    3. Beatrice*

      My personal homeowner’s insurance might cover it, except I have a $1,000 deductible, so it wouldn’t cover the cost of repairs at all and wouldn’t cover enough of the replacement cost to be worth submitting the claim.

    4. AeroEngineer*

      Being a US expat in Germany, the form of liability insurance that exists here in Germany definitely does not exist in the same form in the US.

      To the point that I have even have seperate personal liability insurance for exactly stuff like this and I would probably still freak out at first since I would expect to have to pay for it out of pocket (with no insurance). I have even had this insurance for the past 6 years, it follows me as a person, not where I live.

      I also have renters insurance too as they don’t cover exactly the same things.

    5. londonedit*

      That sort of liability insurance isn’t common in the UK (as in, insuring yourself in case you damage someone else’s property) but if it was my laptop, it would absolutely be covered under my home contents insurance (which I have even though I rent; there’s home contents insurance and buildings insurance, and you only have the latter if you own the property). I made sure that my policy covers items outside the home, so if I brought my laptop to work and it was lost or stolen, my insurance would cover a replacement.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, same here. (also UK bases) my home contents insurance covers things like my laptop and phone away from my house – there would be an excess to pay, and most policies have a cap on the amount covered – I don’t have a lot of fancy kit so I just have the basic which comes as standard, (I *think* mine covers up to £2,500 for items out of my home, but I would need to check the policy) but you can normally increase the amount covered when you buy the insurance, so f you have a lot of expensive kit you could pay a little extra and have a higher level of cover.

    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      I bought a three-year insurance plan that came as an option along with my laptop when I bought it. I think it was something like $100, and it has no deductible. I also have the option to renew it after three years.

      This is very much worth it since I shlep my laptop lots of places. For example, it conked out after it was in the back of my car driving on washboard backroads in Death Valley National Park. The insides shook apart. I called up the company when I got home and they fixed it for free.

    7. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Where I live (not US or Germany), insurance that covers portable electronics specifically includes out of home cover. It wouldn’t be useful to only have your mobile phone or laptop covered in a specific location. You need to specify the different items and they are listed individually on the policy.

    8. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Yeah, in the UK this sort of thing would be covered on my home contents insurance. It’s common to have to add ‘expensive’ items as individually-listed coverage (computers, bicycles, watches…) but if my bike gets nicked from the bike racks at the shopping centre or a guest in my home tips wine into my printer or my glasses break when I’m away on holiday I’m covered (subject to an Excess, of course)

  23. "Douglas"*

    #4 – We have a few folks in our large office who go by other names! Most reinforce it by changing up their email signature a bit and emphasizing their preferred name with quotes like this: Jim “Douglas” Jones. It helps if you can get your IT team to change how you appear in the systems as well.

    1. Mr. Tyzik*

      A friend of mine goes by her middle name and it is frequently used in quotes. It makes her feel as though she is working under an alias compared to her colleagues whose nicknames are not treated that way.

      One year, she got a tangible engraved gift from her team with her name on it – First “Middle” LastName. She hated it because of the quotes as it just othered her. She’s just Middle LastName.

      We used the gift for target practice later.

      If someone chooses the quotes, great! But they are not a short-hand solution for someone else to implement.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Amused by your Jim Jones example. At my Old Job, I had a VP who went by an odd nickname. I asked him about it one day and he said that his formal/driver license name was that of a famous Hollywood serial killer. Yeah, that would do it.

  24. StellaBella*

    #2: Bumper Stickers. You live in a very conservative state. “Nevertheless she persisted” will be less enraging than the abortion one. In the mid 2000’s, I lived for 3 months in a small town in the US South, while my mom was ill, to be with her. I drove my Volvo from the West Coast and I had stickers on my car. Things were polarised in. the USA then, but not nearly as they are now. Your colleagues may be tolerant, but the people in your town may not be. I was aggressed maybe 5-6 times in the months I was living in this small, conservative town. I would ask you if you can handle people in neighbouring cars at lights screaming at you, your car being keyed at the grocery, and drivers following you and being creepy. These things happened to me, and happen now to friends of mine with political stickers on their cars. It is the price to pay. I no longer own a car, but if I did it would have stickers and they would represent my liberal views too – but I would also be able to manage the creeps as I have even more strength even than I did back then.

    1. Lora*

      All of this. When I had any stickers that appeared even vaguely left-wing on my car in the ’80s-90s, driving in what was then a purple state with pockets of red and blue (cities blue, rural red – I lived in mostly rural areas then, going to college), my car was regularly vandalized (keyed, spray painted, once someone drew on it in soap which at least washed off), had nasty notes and Jack Chick tracts left on my car on a weekly basis, at stoplights people would get out of their cars to yell at me, random street preachers would scream at me that I was a whore going to hell because god hated me, etc. This happened at least weekly.

      I am an average height woman, and was then very skinny, driving a ragged little Ford Escort. When a huge hulking random dude with a gun walks up to your car and starts screaming at you at a stop light, and you know for a fact the nearest police station is over 20 miles away and you know your little car cannot race his monster truck to get there, and you’re not at ALL confident that the police will see things your way, “oh but not all (group) is like that! He might have been genuinely trying to engage you in a rational debate! You should have tried to have a direct conversation with him!” doesn’t go very far.

      I find that bumper stickers, like Facebook, show you exactly who the nasty jerks really are, and then you’re forced to decide if you want anything to do with them after that. Which is not fun. There are a lot of things I would just rather not know about people. I get the whole awareness thing, but the other side is that now you will be aware of who they really are, too.

      1. StellaBella*

        Glad you are ok from that. And yes, there are people who are this aggressive and now it is more frequent. Agree too on Facebook.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        OMG, that’s terrifying. Except maybe for the Jack Chick tracts, which are unintentionally hilarious. (Did anyone leave you Dark Dungeons? The one about Dungeons and Dragons, Satan’s Game?)

        1. Lora*

          Oh jeez, I don’t remember. They were all both hilariously awful and fell in the category of “I’d rather not know that people really believe this sh!t”.

          The fact is that people will absolutely harass, assault and downright murder you over this (a bumper sticker!) if they think they can get away with it, often they DO get away with it, and only you can judge what the risks are and whether you are willing to take your chances or not. In some regions there are no sane adults in the room who will put on the grown-up hat and say, “hold up, you’re fixing to shoot someone over a BUMPER STICKER, really?” Because they all go to the same wacky church or whatever. It just depends so much on tiny local issues and factors. It’s definitely, you gotta tread veeeeeery carefully.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            In some regions there are no sane adults in the room who will put on the grown-up hat and say, “hold up, you’re fixing to shoot someone over a BUMPER STICKER, really?”

            I once interviewed the county deputy medical examiner for a college paper and he told me that most of the murders he saw were over the dumbest things you could possibly imagine. So shooting someone over a bumper sticker is indeed a thing that could happen.

        2. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          My grandfather used to hand out tracts at family gatherings. The grandkids loved the comic ones and he felt like he was really getting the preaching across to us. We’d gather away from adults to read them and howl with laughter because the premises were so ridiculously overdone. And we’d had lots of bible learning, so we could easily see where the tracts were promoting a cultural construct, not scripture. Good times.
          Unfortunately, my parents saw one and my father told his dad that he was welcome at our house only if he didn’t bring the tracts, because most of the family had different beliefs and they wanted all to feel welcome.

    2. Information Goddess*

      I had a fairly innocuous sticker that said “Had enough? Vote (party) 2006” in a city where the opposite party was a big majority. Honestly, it wasn’t until much later (think 2010) that I started getting reactions. I had a guy scream at me in the grocery store parking lot after I told him to get away from my car (he was screaming AT my empty car) and he was spitting mad about communism (?). Another time I came out of my doctors office to find chewed gum on the sticker (which was on my hatchback window).
      I do think things have gotten worse and I’m not sure if I’d put anything like that on my car now.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I feel terrible for laughing at this, but he was screaming at your empty car..? Like, did he think your hatchback was a secret Soviet Megatron or something..?

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah that’s legitimately terrifying but also (hopefully in retrospect) kind of hilarious. It’s like Clint Eastwood talking to the chair at the 2012 RNC.

    3. StellaBella*

      Also came back to say I went to read the 2013 letter linked in OP’s post. YIKES. But spot on with the reply Alison, and so many comments were perfect, too.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is what I was thinking. I’d be concerned about making your car a target in general, not just having negative impact at work.

    5. Beehoppy*

      Hard agree. The potential consequences to the abortion sticker FAR outweigh the benefits. Your colleagues may believe in civil discourse but I doubt everyone in the community does. I would be nervous having that sticker on my car even in my purple trending blue state. This country is HOTLY divided right now and will only get more so. An abortion bumper sticker would be akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Show your support for liberal issues by voting, calling your representatives, donating to PP or similar if you can, volunteering, etc…

      1. Mommy.MD*

        Yes. No benefit to putting an abortion statement on your car. None whatsoever. Not for either side of the debate. Nothing positive will happen.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I tend to think less of drivers with pro-life and anti-gay stickers on their cars. But that’s as far as it goes.

    6. it's me*

      Yup. When I had an Obama sticker someone tried to run me off the road, in a dense suburban area of a major city.

    7. Blueberry*

      That sounds amazingly terrifying. I’m glad you’re ok.

      In my experience such violence is directed much more at liberal expressions than conservative ones, but my data may be skewed by where I’m gathering it, as it were.

      1. Former Employee*

        Given that no one ever said that if Obama lost an election that people were ready to take to the streets with their guns because that meant the election was rigged, I doubt very much that your data is skewed.

  25. cncx*

    OP 2 i wish i could say free speech and letting people live how they want was a thing but coworkers bug out about the weirdest things. I have a right wing coworker who got mad because i was reading a critical theory book on my lunch break by someone who also writes about lefty politics (like Noam Chomsky but not Noam Chomsky) and my coworker absolutely lost it on me and i was lowkey harassed for a few months. I’m not saying this will happen to you but i didn’t expect my coworker to go off like this and he did. It was horrible. I’m just saying, be prepared for people to act weird.

    1. cncx*

      to clarify, using the Noam Chomsky example, the book i was reading on my lunch break was akin to one of Chomsky’s linguistics books, not one of his political books, and i still got heat for it.

      1. JustaTech*

        That’s awful!

        I had a coworker who did the opposite: he would buy books by well-known political opinionists (Ann Coulter was one) that most of the office didn’t agree with/like and very pointedly read them on his lunch break. He flat-out said that he was doing it to upset us (mostly me, who was brand new and half his age).
        It was pathetic and sad (and a very weird thing to do when you know you’re going to be stuck in a room with someone for hours on end, but hey, his decision).

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          It wouldn’t “upset” me, I’d just think less of him, both for doing it and for his reason for doing it.

          When people tell you who they are, believe them.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: we have three precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either. – Mark Twain

  26. Asenath*

    Maybe bumper stickers are more common where OP lives than they are here – I don’t think I’ve seen many of them in years, and I think few of the ones I’ve seen are political. That may be why I just don’t see what’ s supposed to be accomplished by the bumper stickers – surely anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock already knows perfectly well that there are people who think differently than they do! I would also have been completely baffled by the “Nevertheless she persisted” one, which I had to google. Perhaps that’s because I’m not in the US, though, and in the US that, as well as the abortion one, would simply signal “There are people with these views (or who like these slogans”, which does seem rather obvious.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      In the US, there are areas of the country where politics/culture are so entrenched that people may have lived their entire lives without ever meeting, working with, or even knowing anyone who thinks differently. (For the record and to avoid stirring the pot, I’ve experienced this mindset from both red and blue cultures in my life.)
      So “coming out” at work as a conservative in a liberal area or a liberal in a conservative area, even in the mildest of ways, is not something to do lightly. Personally, I would not do bumper stickers at all, even relatively nonpartisan ones. It sounds like the company culture is not politically oriented; I would be grateful for that and let my differences be known in smaller, more personal ways, one-to-one as situations arise organically. I think this is more powerful than bumper stickers.

      1. Greta*

        Very true. I live in Massachusetts and attend a very liberal church, and I was surprised to learn that one of the other people at my church is a supporter of the current president.

    2. Bree*

      Some people live under rocks.

      Some people don’t live under rocks but pretend they do because they’re vulnerable, scared, or feel alone. Seeing someone else standing up for their rights can give those people comfort and strength.