I don’t want coworkers to call my cell phone, managing a boyfriend, and more

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

1. I don’t want coworkers to contact me on my personal cell

I manage a small team in a global organization. All of my direct reports are in the same physical location. I have given my cell phone number to my team, as well as to my boss. A couple of other work friends have my number for social reasons.

For whatever reason, people have seen fit to give out my cell number to others without my permission, and now several people in other time zones who don’t respect working hours have my personal information. Some are using it as a general contact for me, either because they prefer to text or because they can’t get me at my desk since I’m frequently in meetings. Some people are using it after hours if they send an email after I’ve left for the day and they just want an answer before they leave. Urgency varies, but it is rarely something that they shouldn’t have been able to take care of earlier in the day, given that they know what hours my team works, which are not particularly different from the rest of the people at my location.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with this, especially during my off hours? Usually I try to just ignore it, but I almost always have my phone on me so this becomes difficult at times, especially when I get texts.

I also need to know how to address it with those who share my personal information (especially those above me). I’ve told off a couple of people at my level or below for giving out the number, but I’m not really sure what to do about my grandboss (who coincidentally I did not actually give my number to).

Try this: “Would you mind removing this number as a contact for me? This is my personal cell and I try not to use it for work.” You could add, “It’s really easy for me to miss messages sent here. Please email me or call my work extension instead, where I will definitely see it.” If someone uses your cell for something non-urgent after you’ve said that, feel free to ignore it (unless doing so would truly cause a problem); you’ve given them fair warning that you may not see it.

Or for texts after work hours: “I’ve left for the day, but if you email this to me, I’ll see it in the morning and handle it then. Also, would you remove this as a contact for me, since this isn’t my work number? Thank you!”

But I wouldn’t tell anyone off for giving out the number! It’s really common for people to share their cell number with colleagues — because many people do use it as a communication method at work — and the people you gave it to probably didn’t realize it wasn’t to be shared. By all means, let them know you don’t want them to — but don’t lay into them for it!

2. My friend will be managing his boyfriend at our non LGBTQ-friendly company

I work at the same company as one of my close friends, Mark, albeit not in the same department. About two months ago, he entered a relationship with one of his peers, James. I am very happy for them and Mark is very invested in this relationship. However, in a few weeks, Mark is going to be promoted to a manager role, where he will be supervising James. At our company, managers and direct reports cannot enter a new relationship and pre-existing relationships must be reported to HR.

This situation is complicated by the fact that neither Mark and James are out, and our company is not particularly LGBTQ-friendly (it pays lip service but the company policies do not reflect that). Mark has told me he is planning on continuing the relationship without informing HR, and I am concerned about the potential repercussions. While I don’t think Mark would blatantly favor his partner through promotions or anything, they do eat lunch together and I worry about the optics of that once Mark is promoted, or any unintentional biases. Additionally I worry about what would happen if they went through a messy breakup or if they become very serious and the relationship somehow gets leaked anyway.

My internal opinion is that it would be best for one of them to switch jobs but I don’t know if that is the best course of action or if I even have a right to weigh in on this since I would essentially be advocating for Mark to fire his boyfriend.

Ooooh nooo. Mark cannot manage his boyfriend. That can lead to huge abuses of power and conflicts of interest (even if he doesn’t intend it to), or the appearance of them, and it will be terrible for their relationship! You can’t have a healthy relationship where one person has power over the other. Nor can you manage effectively when you’re dating an employee — it generally means that the employee’s performance isn’t assessed appropriately, they’re not given adequate feedback, and favoritism affects others on the team. It also can open up your company to charges of harassment down the road (“I wanted to break up with him, but he implied it would affect my standing at work”). Most companies have a no-dating-subordinates policy, and if it ever comes out that they’re dating, Mark is at high risk of being fired (and rightly so).

Ideally Mark would disclose his relationship with James to the company, but if that’s not a safe option, then yes, one of them does need to leave (or move to a different team internally). That doesn’t mean advocating that Mark fire James though (that too would be an abuse of power) — this should be something they do voluntarily.

3. Should I write employee evaluations in the first person?

It’s review season at my company and I’m currently working on reviews for my team and trying to be as personal and specific as I can be. As I re-read a few, I noticed that I started writing them with First Person + Third Person pronouns. For example, a statement in the written review may be phrased like: “I believe that Fred has made improvements in his accuracy identifying bird songs.”

There’s a few other ways I could imagine writing this same statement with different pronouns/names:
– “This reviewer believes that Fred…”
– “I believe that you…”
– “This reviewer believes that you…”
– “Steve believes that Fred…”

Do you have any advice for what version of these might help to make sure the feedback is written in a way that my employee is most likely to read it as objectively as possible? My feeling that I’m second-guessing is that by using “I” for my pronoun, it communicates that I’m owning the feedback and using “Fred” allows the employee to externalize the feedback by making it less personal. But I’m not sure — maybe it’s too impersonal! Maybe this isn’t important and it’s all about the content! Thoughts?!

I’m a fan of just writing like you’re writing directly to the person, like it’s a conversation — so first person for you and second person for them: “I was impressed with the approach you took to bird songs this year.”

A lot of people do write them in first person/third person though (“I was impressed with Fred’s lobbying of the bluebirds”). That’s always struck me as artificially impersonal — the main audience for the review is the person being reviewed, and there’s no reason to add artificial formality to it. I mean, yes, evaluations will also be part of company records and other people may read them, but ultimately they’re a management tool between you and the employee and it’s okay to speak directly to them.

4. Can I bring in my own desk chair?

I work in a nonprofit. The budget for furniture is nonexistent and relies primarily on in-kind donations. When I say nonexistent, I mean our furniture is broken and the newest couch we own is from the mid-1980s and the support bar is broken so you basically sit on the floor. This means my back and hips are in pain from crappy, lumpy half-broken desk chairs. I bought a fancy pillow for my butt and one for my head, but it’s not enough. My workplace should accommodate and buy an adequate desk chair, but they just offered me a series of equally terrible chairs and said they don’t have a budget for furniture. I had a non-broken desk chair for about 10 days once and then someone else in the office took it. Their argument was they are here every day and I travel between several sites so I don’t need it.

Can I just bring my own dang desk chair? I’m pretty much willing to do anything to relieve this pain that makes it difficult to sleep and work comfortably. I know that isn’t ideal. I know the place I work for is not doing the right thing and should budget for some stupid chairs. If I brought my own chairs, I would label them, I’d consider bike-locking/chaining them to my dedicated desk spaces (kidding, maybe). Would the optics of this be really bad? Especially as other people don’t have nice comfortable desk chairs and if I’m gonna do this, I’m going to bring my quite obviously nice one from my home office and buy an extra equally nice one.

You can bring in your own desk chair. If anyone asks about it, say it’s for medical reasons (which is true). I’d probably give your boss a heads-up — something like, “Since our chairs have been causing me back pain and the organization can’t afford different ones, I’m bringing in one I can sit in more comfortably. I’m going to label it so it stays at my desk and just wanted you to know.” You’re not doing that to ask permission; you’re just giving her a heads-up since she’ll probably notice it at some point.

Just don’t bring in a chair you’d be upset to lose. Even if labeled, once it’s in the office it’s out of your complete control, especially since you’re not always at that site, and who knows what could happen to it. Plus, if you ever leave the job unexpectedly — are laid off, quit in a huff, etc. — it might be easier to leave without the chair. So pick one you’re willing to give up if you have to.

(And here is a PSA to say that plenty of nonprofits buy their employees decent office furniture, particularly chairs! I don’t want anyone’s takeaway to be that this is an unavoidable fact of life at nonprofit organizations.)

5. Taking time off to travel before a move

I’m early in my career (still at my first job) with a little more than two and a half years of experience. I’m planning to move cities sometime between May and July. However, I don’t know for sure where I’m moving to — it’s dependent on my partner’s grad school. This has obviously made it a bit more difficult to job search, and so while I would have likely started looking by now otherwise, I won’t know for sure where I’m going until May. The other complicating factor is that I didn’t have the opportunity to travel after college, but now I’m very fortunate to have some money saved up and the ability to do so. I would love to take a month or two to travel and explore. If we traveled for a month, we’d wrap up in our current city, put everything in storage, and then move to our new city immediately on returning. I would start job searching (unemployed) in the new city.

Can I do that? Is it going to look weird to employers to see that gap on my resume? Will it make it more difficult for me to get hired?

It can be easier to get hired while you’re currently employed, but it’s also significantly easier to get hired when you’re local than when you’re long distance … so kind of a wash in that regard. My biggest question would be whether you have enough money saved to support yourself if your job search takes longer than you think. You don’t want to be in a position where you haven’t found a job X months into the move and are regretting spending the money on travel.

But I wouldn’t worry at all about a gap of a few months. If anyone asks about it, you can easily explain it by the move and getting settled in your new city anyway — though really, that kind of gap isn’t a big deal at all.

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. Kevin Sours*

    I’ll be honest. I would *never* share a personal cell number a coworker gave me without asking. And if you share mine without asking that’s the last piece of personal contact information you get from me. There are certain people I trust to use that information in case of emergencies and expect it to be treated with responsibility and discretion.

    1. MK*

      Yes, I have never had a person give out my cell number without asking first, even if I had said it’s OK in the past. I am afraid that the OP might find it difficult to put the horse back in the stable with this one.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Short of going nuclear by changing numbers and then not telling coworkers about the new one (if you absolutely must have a personal contact number there are ways to set up a separate number that forwards to your phone — and can be turned off).

        OP could also follow up on the “please use my work number” by blocking people who don’t get the hint.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          A teacher at the school my oldest child attended set up a Google number for their phone for this exact purpose. That way they could give out a cell phone number, it still went to their personal phone, but it could be turned off when they were off the clock and didn’t want to be disturbed by work stuff. When they turned the google number back on the next day, everything from the night before was there and waiting to be addressed – just like a work landline.

          Some smart phones also have privacy and do not disturb setting that with help may alleviate some of the distractions and enable you to stop short of the nuclear “change the phone number.”

          1. Fikly*


            This is exactly what google numbers are for. I set one up when I was apartment searching to save myself from all the inevitable scammers who I needed to give contact info out to.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I set my first GV number up in 2008 when I was selling a car (back in the Dark Ages, when print classified ads were actually an effective channel), and then I started giving it out to everyone.

              But I also can’t imagine coworkers giving out my cell number to anyone and everyone, or people messaging me off-hours about anything that wasn’t on fire! My closest peer, direct report, and boss all have it, as do many of my other coworkers, and nobody uses it unless something is blowing up. If an emergency request came in that I would be the best person to address, they’d most likely text me themselves and ask me if I could check email right away, because X happened.

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                I need to change industries then, because in mine, it is perfectly normal for personal cell numbers to get passed around and if I were to protest, I’d be the one who gets looked at like I have three heads.

                OP1, if it turns out you’re expected to be okay with it, I’d simply not answer texts that come in after hours. This mostly works for me — people still do it, but if they don’t get the answer they want right away, they usually find some other means of doing so or else wait until the morning.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Yes, it definitely depends on your industry, and your corporate culture. I’ve got both working in my favor; my industry can have some weekends and evening work, but it’s usually both rare and predictable. And my company is good about work-life balance, and my work in particular is usually not that time-sensitive.

          2. Google#*

            That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. I have a google number that I use for that exact purpose. You can even create groups inside that get different messages (and, as sharp poster above pointed out, have it ring or not at certain times).

        2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          I actually think it might be best to change your personal cell number (and don’t give it to anyone at work) and either get a Google number or second cell for work (see if your company would pay for the second cell phone). That way, you could silence the Google number or second cell phone after hours or keep the second cell silenced and in your bag (or wherever) after hours.

          I think people often don’t realize what time it is when they contact people in other time zones. I try to be considerate of that- if I contact a colleague in a much later/earlier time zone and its after hours there, I don’t expect a reply until the next business day. But I usually do that via email. If they are texting you, it sounds like they’re expecting an immediate reply. The best thing you can do is train these people to expect a reply from you the next business day, which is entirely reasonable, unless it’s a true emergency.

          1. Nanani*

            The time zone issue is an excellent reason -not to phone people- without a prior arrangement.
            This can be as simple as a text asking if they have time for a call. No reply means “no”, possibly because they are asleep/driving/got the phone on silent because it’s nowhere near work hours where they are.

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            I think it depends on how long the LW intends to stay at that job. To me, the benefits of keeping my original phone number would outweigh <2ish years of having to use do not disturb mode after work and blocking numbers in some instances. YMMV.

    2. Nessun*

      My standard for coworkers is that if they have their cell listed as a contact number in their e-sig then and only then is their cell something I can share – since we share clients. Even if I saw someone give their cell number out, I’d assume that’s their decision for that contact alone. Otherwise I’d worry too much about overstepping. But that’s just me.

      1. MoopySwarpet*

        My take on that is that if they are sending it in emails the person trying to contact them should already have it. My boss and some co-workers (sales types) put their cell phones on their signature and card, but I still don’t give it to people over the phone unless I know they are someone the person is waiting to hear from. Easy enough for anyone legit to find it themselves.

    3. Gatomon*

      I actually did have a VP give out my work cell to a customer after hours instead of directing them through the normal support process (or even asking that I contact them, which is fine!) and I threw a big fit about it. Thankfully my boss/company culture had my back, but some people really just don’t think about this stuff, I guess.

      I have a work cell that my company foots the bill for and a semi-secret personal cell now. Absolutely worth the cost, especially now that you can get basic smartphone plans for $30-$50.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      It’s very much a “know your culture” thing, I think. I’ve worked at a company where no one shared personal cells for work, and also a company (with a lot of remote employees) where personal cells made the rounds pretty often, with a lot of people preferring them over work phones.

      If you want to keep your cell private (reasonable! I’m in that camp.) I think best to specify when you’re sharing with people so they can save accordingly.

      1. SarahKay*

        Agreed. Our company will give out cell phones to people that need them; my job doesn’t require it so I don’t have one.
        When I go on holiday/vacation I leave my personal cell phone number with my manager and a couple of co-workers that I can trust not to abuse it, in case of any serious and urgent questions, and every time I do this I specify that this is my *personal* cell, not a work one, and not to share the number without my permission.
        My trust has been justified; I’ve had one call in four years, and no sharing that I’m aware of.

    5. Asenath*

      I strictly limited who I gave my cell phone number to at work. It was quite common for my coworkers to send and receive work texts on their personal phones, and I didn’t want to partly to make it easier to track my work in one place and partly because I didn’t want texts on my personal time. It wasn’t required by my employer. Nothing I did was that time sensitive. Most of the time, no one had my cell number. I did eventually give it to a coworker when a certain situation made it useful, but she was asked not to pass it around, and didn’t. My personal email address unfortunately got out. I dealt with this by initially sending requests to use my work email, sometimes waiting hours or longer to do so, then blocking all work numbers and sending automated responses saying they had to resend it to my work email.

      Polite persistence works in most cases. That and never ever actually answering the question! Tell them to resend it to the right place first. But scolding offenders after the cat is out of the bag is unlikely to be useful. I n many cases, they’re just doing what is normal in that office.

    6. Washi*

      Same. A couple years ago, I had a coworker who was driving out to meet a client at a somewhat far away site. After my coworker had already left to meet the client, the client called the office to cancel the meeting. We don’t have work cell phones, but we did manage to find someone in my coworker’s previous department who had her personal phone number. One of us called to tell her the meeting was cancelled, and she was FURIOUS that anyone had given her number out, even in this circumstance, and was chilly for weeks afterward.

      My coworker was a little extreme, but it was a lesson for me about how seriously some people take privacy and made me highly cautious about giving out information.

      1. Captain Kirk*

        Isn’t “privacy” more of a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket rule? Like, would this coworker have been upset if she’d been called on her cell phone if there was an emergency? It seems that this would be one of those things you’d want to be notified about if you’re the employee so you don’t have to make the trip, but evidently some people disagree. :shrug:

      2. Western Rover*

        In a situation like this, my first thought would be to ask the person who had the co-worker’s number relay the message to her rather than give up the number.

    7. Veronica Mars*

      Same – never, ever, ever would I give out a cell number without permission. And I’d be furious if someone did it to me.

      I’ve run into this problem a few times at work because many of my colleagues have work cell phones and just assume the cell number I’ve given them is a work number. But since I started specifying that its not while giving it out, people have been incredibly respectful of the privacy of the number.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Same here. In my industry everyone has a work cell, and assumes that if you gave a number, it’s a work number. That being said, unless you have a flip phone and no access to internet tutorials, you have no excuse for not putting all your work contacts on DND status.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      I was just getting on here to say this. I have all my department mates’ numbers but only because they have given them to me directly. I would never, ever, give their numbers to anyone else unless they gave me direct permission. I wouldn’t give out *anyone’s* number, coworker or not, without their direct permission, actually.

    9. Bunny Girl*

      This is how I am. My direct supervisor and one close coworker have my cell phone and I would be very, very upset if they gave it out without permission. Nothing I do is urgent enough that someone needs to contact me outside of work hours. I would never give out their cell numbers either. I honestly think it’s rude to give out other people’s personal contact information without their express permission or unless it’s publicly available anyway.

    10. cmcinnyc*

      Yes, HARD disagree with Alison here. But at my company, people have work phones, and you can email, IM, text, whatever to *that* number. I get incredibly irritated when the two people who have my personal cell use it, even when it’s to send dog pictures. And I would never give my team’s personal cells out. I would indeed get chewed out and rightly so. Can we have *one* tiny boundary between work and life, please?

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I’m sure there are industries where this wouldn’t be weird at all and it would be considered inappropriate to have A Word with someone for handing out your number, but there are many, many industries and organizations where it’s NOT normal and most people wouldn’t blame you for being cranky about it. I’m with you – Alison’s advice there should’ve had a caveat about knowing your industry.

        1. Another name*

          I agree too – gotta know the culture. In my organization, people who are expected to answer calls when they are not in the office are issued company cell phones. Personal cell numbers are on a list used for emergencies or if someone needs to be reached for an urgent matter while on work travel. I had a job a while back where colleagues who were Supposed to be covering my workload while I was on leave would give my personal cell to people for non urgent things because they simply couldn’t be bothered to do their job. I kindly explained to callers it was my personal phone and I was on leave and they needed to contact the office, but my colleagues most certainly deserved the harsh words I had for them on my return. I don’t work with that group anymore.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah I was surprised at her answer. I think I fall somewhere between Alison and the OP. I definitely think it’s not okay to share someone’s cell number without their permission, but I wouldn’t say they should “tell off” their direct reports for it. I would definitely tell them it’s not okay and not to do it anymore (and be internally pretty angry about it).

        I think it’s important that direct team members have cell numbers for emergencies–like to let someone know you won’t be making it in to work today or you’ll be late because you have to run your SO to urgent care or something, or to reach out after hours if something *SUPER IMPORTANT* for work came up. But it should not be used lightly!

        1. LW1*

          The person I told off (which may have been a harsh way of phrasing it) was not my direct report. It was someone who got my cell from someone else and then gave it to another person.

    11. Chronic Overthinker*

      In my line of work cell numbers are sacred and only given out with explicit permission from the owner. They are mostly used for inter-staff communication or for a few trusted clients. Even if it is a work cell, if all of our clients had access to those numbers, no one would get any work done.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      Yes. To me this isn’t even a question of a work thing or a social thing. It’d be different if her personal cell were in the company directory and any coworker could’ve accessed it that way anyway, but if we’re talking a number someone gave me directly, that is not my information to share with anyone else without that person’s permission. I know people do this all the time, but I think it’s wrong.

    13. rageismycaffeine*

      My boss conducts a ton of business via texts and calls on his personal cell phone, which I think he views as basically indistinguishable from his work-provided laptop and iPad. As a result, he is incredibly cavalier about distributing other people’s cell phone numbers, and I’ve more than once been included on a text chain with a student worker as a “hey, here’s rage’s number, contact her anytime.” I HATE it and I’ve had to call him on it more than once. Fortunately he seems to have slowed down on it.

      Maybe I’m old school (I’m not even 40!!) but I absolutely hate conducting business via text messages. It just seems weird and inappropriate to me. Just use the dang email app I know is on your phone! Leave my personal line out of this!

    14. New AO*

      Does your phone have a “Do Not Disturb” feature? If so set it, and then only the people on a certain list can get through, everyone else will get your voicemail, or their texts will go unanswered until it’s time for the feature to shut off. At my last agency, the only people on my work phone that could get through from 9 pm to 7 am were my division director, deputy director, regional director and the emergency notification system, everyone else had to wait. On my personal phone I have the same set up since I have friends and family that are up at odd hours, only those on my favorites list can get through after 10 pm and before 7 am.

    15. Jadelyn*

      Yeah, I have cell #s for a lot of people – but that’s because they’ve entrusted me with that info, because they trust I’ll behave appropriately with it. Likewise I’ve shared my cell # with a small number of people, chosen specifically because I trust them not to abuse that avenue of contact. I will almost never share someone’s personal cell # unless they’ve specifically told me it’s okay to do so.

    16. Punctually Tardy*

      I used to work at a place and had a coworker who would give out my personal cell phone number because he was mad that pushy clients would call him at all hours of the day and night and not me. He was an exempt employee responsible for client relations; I was an hourly receptionist the clients had no reason to talk to unless I was transferring their call from the main line to an extension. I didn’t know about google voice at the time and eventually had to get a new cell phone number that I most certainly did not let him have. I told him I couldn’t trust him to use it responsibly, so he couldn’t have it. From then on, when I did lunch runs, he’d have to have someone else in the office call me with his order.

    17. Bubbles*

      I hate to be the one to bring this up, but is this a generational thing? I know in some industries it is standard, but working with younger people, I have noticed the generational trend. I am Gen X and can’t imagine giving out my personal number. But my younger colleagues and clients share their number like candy. I wouldn’t dare to give out a cell phone number without first confirming it is okay, but others share no problem.

  2. nnn*

    For #3, is the “I believe…” part necessary?

    Maybe it is in your workplace culture, I can’t tell through the internet, but to me it seems implicit that the whole evaluation is what the manager writing the evaluation believes.

    The employee evaluations I’ve received and seen have been more likely to say simply “Fred has made improvements in his accuracy identifying bird songs.”

    1. Massmatt*

      I was going to say this. IMO the LW i# overthinking this. It’s already apparent that a job review consists of the supervisor reviewing the employee. There’s no need to describe one’s role or “voice” with language such as “in this reviewer’s opinion…” etc. , it adds nothing and it makes you sound unsure of yourself.

      Just about all the reviews I have seen (received, given, or read as a 3rd party) use straightforward language: “ Massmatt is good at this, he could improve at that”. There’s an occasional “I would like to see…” etc but mostly it’s laying out the facts.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Also agreeing with this. The assessments typically leave off the “I” but the coaching sections generally use it to soften the action items (“I would like Fred to further develop his birdsong identification accuracy, with an increased focus on tanagers,” sounds less severe than “Fred’s ability to accurately identify tanager birdsong is lacking and needs improvement” but maybe the situation calls for severity, I don’t know).

        I have personally never seen a review that was written to the subject of the review though. They’ve always addressed me by name rather than “you.” That might be down to office culture or manager preference but at more than one job it was because past managers had relied on copy/paste too heavily and several people lost their bonuses because the wrong feedback had been attributed to them. It was a lot easier to correct the issue when Agatha’s review had an entire paragraph explaining the improvements Fergus needed to make to his soft skills instead of it all being addressed to “you.”

        1. pamplemousse*

          This is how I write mine — not consciously; I picked it up from my boss — and I think it works well.

        2. Emily S*

          I always use my direct report’s name in her review because at my company, the review is not just my feedback to her – it’s also the case I’m making to the big wigs upstairs that she deserves a raise or promotion. The way things work is that several management levels above me, someone reviews all of my team’s reviews and then gives our department VP a bucket of money for merit raises, based on some opaque way on the content and scores of reviews for the whole department, and then the department VP divvies up the bucket of money between the department employees, based on some opaque method relating to the content of each individual review.

          I give my employee regular feedback on an ongoing basis all year long. Nothing in the review is a surprise for her, and there are things I purposefully won’t include or will make a point of including specifically because I know it’s going to be read by C-suite execs that I never interact with directly and who wouldn’ty know me or my report if they fell over us in the street, and this document is my one annual chance to make a case for my report’s advancement. So in my mind I definitely consider my primary audience for annual reviews to be those executives and our VP.

          I’d also say that secondary audiences for her reviews in my mind are future potential employers who might ask for these kind of documents (different fields have different norms) and mental health professionals (who often ask patients for documents like this to get a more objective assessment of how their mental health is affecting their daily functioning).

          I think of it more like I’m writing her a letter of recommendation and then giving her a copy of it so she knows what I said about her.

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Honestly, when I wrote evaluations, I always referred to the employee in the third person because that’s how I’d always been evaluated up until that point. I’m convinced this is a holdover from childhood report cards, where the teacher is writing to your parent, not you.

        1. Lance*

          To be honest, that’s how I was taught in school that I was supposed to write a lot of things, by avoiding the first person at all costs. I hated it because it felt really awkward to read and write, but there we are.

          1. Massmatt*

            I remember having a teacher like that many years ago and inwardly cringing at all the awkward constructs she required. Fortunately, subsequent teachers did not follow the same model at all, and I was happy to drop it. I do remember some students had a lot of trouble making the change, maybe they felt like all the extra verbiage made them sound sophisticated? To me it reeked of someone with little to say trying to stretch their word count.

        2. Half-Caf Latte*

          This commenter serves as a peer-reviewer for a few scholarly journals, and she is always astounded at the prevalence of reviews written in this manner. This commenter has wondered if others have a fear of being perceived as having an unpleasant disposition or similar, and use this style as a distancing measure. When used in combination with language distancing the authors from the manuscipt, such as: “the manuscript suggests” or “In the introduction section it is stated,” the whole thing becomes downright unbearable.

      2. KHB*

        Also agree. I just got my annual review – my boss refers to me in the third person throughout, and himself not at all, except for one sentence like this: “KHB completed 15 rice sculptures in 2019, which matches my highest annual total when I held her position from 20xx-20yy.”

    2. Diamond*

      Agreed. “Fred has made improvements” is by far the best option. It’s unnecessary to qualify that it is your belief or opinion – that’s obvious and it makes the feedback sounds strange and tentative.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. Every review I’ve received has been along the lines of, “Dawn did a great job with X this year. She should continue to work on making improvements to this process.” And that’s how I write reviews, too. I don’t think I’ve even seen statements using the first person, or “I feel,” “I believe,” etc.

        1. Emily S*

          The reviews I write are in first person, but I agree that they shouldn’t be diluted with “I feel/think/believe” statements. Where it enters for me is that I often will give examples of good work my employee did or a situation she handled very well, and I’m often a character in those stories. “Of all the magicians on the team, Kady is the most skilled spell-caster, and I’ve come to rely on her as my primary backup when I can’t be there. This year, I deputized Kady to handle all battle magic and warding spells when I’m unavailable, and she rose to the challenge with her decisive victory against Library’s unexpected attack while I was on vacation in August.”

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, all my reviews are written in that manner. There’s never any “I” from the reviewer or “you” about me. They’re also generally not written in a tone that suggests it’s from the reviewer to me as an audience. It’s usually structured more like the reviewer is providing this info to the higher ups at the company – and of course go over it all with me first – but in terms of audience it’s not actually written in a voice suggesting the audience is me.
        That said, it may partially be I’ve had bosses who do this intentionally,working at companies that only officially allow confirmation of employment. I’ve been told flat out I can use these reviews as a de facto reference in the future. That may factor into it.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is how we write ours as well, but final reviews are an aggregate of feedback from multiple sources and not just me. If there is important feedback that only came from one or two reviewers or if reviewers have differing opinions about an aspect of performance, I might note that with direction/suggestions for either improving consistency of performance or for addressing both camps of concern.

        I do a lot of editing on reviews to keep the spirit and content of feedback without some of the amazing things that tend to come with it. I think/feel/believe statements are removed, along with all of the other crazy stuff, including comparisons that include negative commentary about coworkers, comments about people being “too good” for a job, notes about people being “better than I expected” or “surprisingly good at this”, feedback phrased in ways that keep HR up at night (BTW, if you give a written review that speculates on whether or not a pregnant employee will “mommy track” herself after giving birth, prepare to spend some quality time with the VP of HR for some retraining in basic management principles), etc.

    3. AKchic*

      Coming from a behavioral health standpoint, the whole “this reviewer believes” or “this writer’s opinion” stuff comes from a clinical standpoint, where if the assessment were challenged, then the metrics and how they came to be would be judged based on the assessor’s judgement as well as whatever actual qualifying metrics (i.e., scale of 1-5 for proficiency; 1 being 50 words out of 100 misspelled; 5 being 0 words out of 100 misspelled; as an example).
      However, annual reviews aren’t clinical reviews, and with very rare exception, they won’t be seen by any court or even a clinician or anyone outside of the company in general. Unless it is the company’s policy to write it that way, why bother?

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, I think one factor worth bringing up to Mark, in addition to Alison’s ideas, is that at some point someone from the company is going to see them on a date. Word will spread and if the professional relationship is already superior/subordinate it will spread even faster. (I think they’re having lunch together often is already a giveaway but it’s really only a matter of time until the relationship is fully revealed.) And if it comes out that way rather than by being up front with HR, then the results won’t be good.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah, I know the culture there is not great for these guys if they are not public at work, but they really, really need to go to HR and get in front of this before it becomes a professional landmine for one or both of their careers. By keeping it secret all they end up doing is tiptoeing around the mine until one day they forget, somebody sees them out and about, someone else is the company figures it out somehow and then, well, “Kaboom.”

      1. Shane*

        As a gay person I really don’t recommend coming forward, as the company doesn’t have LQGBTQ+ friendly policies and depending on the state, we don’t have that many rights at work.

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          What’s wrong with coming forward as close/best friends? Like Queer Nose says below, people are very likely to accept that explanation and not pry any further into it. But you still can’t manage your best friend.

          1. MayLou*

            This would be my approach, I think. I’d say “we’re close friends and I don’t feel that I can be an objective manager of someone I’m close to socially” or whatever.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              This is exactly what I came here to say. You shouldn’t manage your romantic partner, but you shouldn’t manage a close friend, either – or, for that matter, someone you actively dislike. Romantic feelings aren’t the only feelings one should not have about a subordinate!

              1. Annony*

                I agree. If they can get James transferred to another team there is no longer a problem (well, other than the company culture).

                1. It's a New Day!*

                  I am thinking as well of the other side. The teacher’s children often get a much rougher ride than the rest of the class. The relationship could sour, and James may have examples of where he was evaluated/treated more severely than his peers to share with a lawyer.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, that would be my advice, though given how many times Allison has to answer some variation on “There’s problems because someone is managing a friend” I’m not certain HR will necessarily take it as seriously.

            But doing it should be better than waiting for the gossip to get around.

          3. JSPA*

            That only works if the company treats it that way. Some will, some won’t.

            If the company says “same sex friend, NBD. That’s not against policy. Why don’t you try it, and if we see a problem, we’ll let you know”…then what do you do? If the “relationship” part of the “relationship” post-dates the promotion, you’re not allowed to just disclose that the “friend” relationship became a “relationship-relationship” later. A company that presumes/expects cis-het as the default may very well treat being close bro’s as a normal thing, and treat you as weird for reporting it. Then you end up fielding most of the weird, and none of the required disclosure.

          4. Yep s'me*

            When I was in a similar situation, the official conflict-of-interest policy required disclosing potential COI that included family members, romantic partners, close personal friends, and … and I forget what else. So when my partner had money to hire someone for a short-term piece of work, they disclosed that I was a close personal friend, suggested someone else who could manage the short term worker, and gave that manager my resume in the pile.

            1. RecoveringSWO*

              Speaking of family being included on a conflict of interest policy, how funny would it be if LW disclosed his bf as a family conflict because “there’s a good chance he’ll become my sister’s brother-in-law” :) Totally absurd, but I’ve got the afternoon funnies going on here…

              1. valentine*

                “there’s a good chance he’ll become my sister’s brother-in-law”
                This could work. They’ll assume he’s marrying her sister-in-law.

        2. ProdMgr*

          As a gay person, I think coming forward is the least worst option here. “I got fired for being gay” is a much less damaging story than “I got fired when HR found out I was having an undisclosed relationship with a member of my team.”

          It’s a bad spot, but Mark put himself in this position by choosing to work for an LBGTQ-unfriendly employer, by choosing to date a colleague, and then by choosing to pursue a promotion that would have him managing his boyfriend.

          1. (insert name here)*

            In fairness to Mark, they may be in an area where choosing an LGBTQ friendly employer isn’t an option. Many people date colleagues without issue.

            The big issue is him choosing to pursue a promotion that would have him managing his boyfriend. That’s not ok.

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Agreed. I’ll buy that Mark put himself in this position by pursuing a promotion that would put him in charge of his boyfriend, but queer-friendly companies are still far from the norm in a lot of areas and people don’t have total discretion over where they work.

              1. Quill*

                Not to mention that many companies might be friendly on paper but not in practice, and many are changing their in practice or on paper policies in light of, you know, current politics.

        3. JSPA*

          I wonder if OP 2’s friend can temporarily refuse or defer the promotion??? That’s a big deal, but less of a big deal than a job search. If the relationship is still going strong in a few months, the argument for disclosing is much stronger. If it has withered (as many do), there’s nothing to disclose.

          More generally, I’m going to push back at least mildly on Alison’s presumption that everyone must follow the disclosure rules not only because those are the rules, but because nobody can be scrupulously professional and unbiased in that circumstance.

          Closeted people have, for decades and centuries, gritted their teeth and been scrupulously professional (at the cost of considerable psychological pain, to the point of actual damage). I’m willing to bet that for every “they’re fooling themselves if they think nobody knows” situations, there are a dozen “nobody ever had an inkling” relationships. (And a lot more than that, if you include hookups.) Think how many people, 50 years ago, were quite sure they’d never met a gay person! Think how effective the threat of blackmail was, because people (ok, mostly men) up and down the chain of command were fully closeted.

          “We’ve become too close outside of work to be in a chain of command” may be work. But if the two are not on the same page, or even if they are bad liars, when asked, point-blank, “is this or is this not a ‘relationship?’,” they’re going to blow both the relationship and their work reputations out of the water.

          Problem is, if they’re allowed to grandfather in an existing relationship by disclosing, but not develop one after becoming boss/report, waiting to disclose is going to be a problem. Waiting to take a promotion–while it make land as odd–could well be the least damaging option. “I would prefer to complete X training before taking on the role” or “I may have a minor medical procedure that probably can’t be scheduled until May, and would actually prefer not to receive the promotion until June at the earliest” lets the relationship develop further (or not), and it also lets the BF explore the possibility of a sideways move in the company.

          If there are a number of single people on the team, it may even work to say to HR, “I am hugely appreciative of the promotion, but it comes at an awkward time. I have had a few dates with a coworker. I feel that we’re at the start of an important relationship, but it’s far too early to formalize and disclose. We’ve been scrupulously private about it. Is there a way to either defer the promotion for X months or have all of my reports be assessed by someone above me or lateral to me for the next X months, rather than disclosing?”

          1. Artemesia*

            If they are often having lunch at work they are already not being discreet in the circumstances. They MUST figure out a way to move one of them to another team or job or arrange to not supervise their partner. No way this doesn’t blow up otherwise. I’d try the ‘close friend’ bit but be prepared to have the lesser ranked person move jobs.

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              If they are often having lunch at work they are already not being discreet in the circumstances.

              I disagree. Coworker-friends regularly have lunch together all the time. When Mark gets promoted, that’s a logical/reasonable time for them to stop having lunch together.

              “Yeah, we decided to pause our friendship while I’m his manager.”

              I agree that, ideally, one of them would find a new job. On the other hand, I hate that their sexuality makes it so they have to do so *and* recognize that they may not have many options.

              1. JSPA*

                This! Even with opposite sex friendships, getting lunch at work with a coworker on your team means…getting lunch at work with a coworker on your team. Add same-sex invisibility, a dash of “nobody knows we’re gay,” and…even if they’re vibe-y, even if people do talk, it’s likely only going to be someone gay-friendly doing some off the record ship-ing, like, “I wonder if James and Mark will ever realize that they’re kind of into each other, and would make a cute couple.”

          2. Annony*

            I think that the last suggesting of trying to be vague and say that you have been of a few dates with someone on the team is too much of a risk, even if there are a large number of single people. They are going to try to figure out who it is. Also, there is a large chance that they will insist on knowing who to avoid the hassle of having the entire team essentially managed by someone else.

          3. Avasarala*

            Let’s not forget that work could have a negative impact on their relationship, and the relationship could impact their future careers too. Can James get a reference from Mark? Can Mark put James on a PIP or scold him for missing a deadline? This isn’t just “can they do it and keep it a secret from the office”… it’s negative for the individuals involved as well.

        4. Observer*

          Then one of the needs to move. And they need to stop the lunches, because the reality is that gossip WILL spread.

          And regardless of the genders involved, someone supervising their romantic partner is a hard no in the most minimally functional organizations. If it really is too dangerous for Mark to talk to HR (and I’ll take the OP’s word for it), then Mark either needs to not take the promotion or ONE of them needs to move. Those are the only other ethical options. They are also the only options that will protect their professional reputations.

          Unless the industry they are in is pretty unusual, it coming out that they are gay would not harm them in their industry in general, even if it harmed them in their current company. But the reporting / supervising piece WILL harm their reputations more broadly if it comes out. (And it will provide cover for anything that the company decides to do, when it comes out. And, given their current behavior, it is WHEN, not if.)

          1. LabTechNoMore*

            Unless the industry they are in is pretty unusual, it coming out that they are gay would not harm them in their industry in general, even if it harmed them in their current company.

            Please don’t minimize the high prevalence and very real impact of homophobia on one’s career. And as far as “unusual” industries go, you don’t have to look very hard. Pretty much any high-paying or high-status, male-dominated one.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              Oh, also education and anything involving work with children, and lots of roles whole professional scope even tangentially touches on faith or politics. And plenty others I haven’t considered.

            2. Observer*

              I’ll take your word for it.

              But that just makes my point stronger. No matter what industry they are in, getting fired for being in an undisclosed relation is going to be a major problem no matter what industry they are in. And if they are in an industry where the genders matter, that damage is going to be magnified by the unethical behavior, and the unethical behavior will provide a cover for other discriminations.

        5. Jadelyn*

          Agreed – also queer, and also don’t recommend involving their HR if it’s not a safe place to do so. It does need to be handled, y’all aren’t wrong about that, but HR isn’t the place for it in this environment (and I say that as someone in HR).

        6. BeeNice*

          Agree. I think OP should stay completely out of it unless it directly and negatively affects them. And not discuss it with others. Homophobia is out there big.

      2. Massmatt*

        I agree with Alison that managing a significant other is bad news. But trying to get out of it could potentially expose both parties to discrimination.

        I would look carefully at the company policies and how they are worded. If they use language such as “opposite sex” or “married” etc then there has been no official violation.

        It’s not ideal, but it could provide enough cover to last while one (or hopefully both) of them find jobs with a less intolerant employer.

        1. Naomi*

          The problem isn’t whether they’re violating the letter of company policy; it’s a bad idea for one of them to be managing the other regardless. I think Alison’s right that the best option is for one of them to find a new job as soon as possible.

          1. Massmatt*

            I agree but there is the complicating issue I alluded to in my first paragraph. It could be that jobs in their field or location are not plentiful and they have reasons for working there despite the company’s poor atmosphere re LGBTQ employees.

            Knowing what the policies are and how they are worded could well be a very valuable thing if, say, someone wants to try to reprimand them for fraternizing (when actually their motivation is anti LGBTQ bias) and the policy itself specifies parties of the opposite sex. Those victimized by non-inclusive language and policies shouldn’t be faulted if on occasion the same non-inclusion works in their favor.

        2. Observer*

          There is no way that the policies explicitly call out “opposite sex” relationships, even if that’s what the policy makers had in mind.

          And, to be honest, I’m taken aback at the idea treating a homosexual relationship as “not really” a serious relationship as being the “tolerant” view.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Honestly, I would not be surprised (I mean, I’d be horrified, but not surprised) if the letter of the policy was such that it /actually/ prohibited relationships between men and their female subordinates.

      3. Jack Be Nimble*

        Mark and James are in a really difficult position — I agree that it’s absolutely untenable to manage a significant other, and one or both of them should seek employment elsewhere. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to disclose the relationship to HR. Mark, James, and the LW are in the best position to figure out if it’s safe to come out at this particular workplace, and if they say it isn’t, then I believe them.

        It’s also worth reminding everyone that there are no federal protections for members of the LGBTQ community. In many states, it would be legal for Mark and/or James to be fired, harassed, or pushed out of their roles for coming out.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        It’s really not fair for any solution to suggest they out themselves. Even if they’re wrong about the safety level of doing so (as in it’s safer than it seems), that’s just never an OK suggestion. Sure the potential kaboom if they get outed otherwise – both as gay and in a relationship – is probably worse, but they’re dealing with a much larger issue here than just this particular relationship.

        1. BeeNice*

          It’s never fair or right to force anyone to out themselves before they are ready. This situation calls for minding one’s own business. Unless it negatively impacts them. Just go to work and do your job. Stay out of office romances or outing people.

    2. Shane*

      That is good advice for straight people, who could just disclose their relationship and someone would transfer to another team or whatever.

      But in this case, disclosing the relationship means coming out in an environment that may not be safe to come out in, especially given the sorry state of employment protections for us gays. People have reasons for staying in the closet.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        Aphrodite isn’t giving any advice. Aphrodite simply said they might get seen on a date, which is true. Straight or not, if a colleague sees them PDA that’s a gonna be a problem, so they need to keep that in mind if they go with the ‘let’s not mention it and hope nobody notices’ approach.

      2. Fulana del Tal*

        No one is saying they have to out themselves just that they can’t realistically work together. James should definitely start looking for a job elsewhere.

        We seen countless letters about how problematic it is when a manager has a platonic BFF with subordinate, all it takes is one complaint about favoritism to HR to expose them.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        Ultimately, the choices come down to

        1) one or both of them gets a new job. They stay in the closet at the current employer, and don’t risk being fired.
        2) they go to HR and disclose the relationship, and risk discrimination due to their sexual orientation.
        3) they try to hide the relationship, knowing that if they’re caught they could both be fired and that Mark’s professional relationship seriously damaged, and for good reason. You cannot ethically manage your romantic partner, no matter what the reason for hiding the relationship.

        Keep in mind that hiding a relationship with a coworker can be harder than you might think. I’ve guessed that coworkers were a couple based on subtle changes in their body language at the office, and by seeing people regularly arrive at work together (office romance is really common in my field). When my husband and I were first dating, we were discreet at work until it was serious, but we did have a coworker see us on a date. We live in a city of 7 million people, so it’s not like we’re in a small town.

        1. Queer Nose*

          Meanwhile my girlfriend and I worked for the same company for eight years and no one knew we were an item. They just thought we were really good friends. People are so determinedly straight in their thinking sometimes. We lived together, went on vacations together, called each other “love” in front of colleagues – we were NOT hiding it particularly. And yet it was always “your friend”or “your roommate” when they mentioned her. People were SHOCKED when we announced our engagement.

          Just gal bein’ pals, y’all.

          1. Facepalm*

            That’s not quite the same for guys though. I’ve checked into a hotel with my wife, asked for a king sized bed and had the guy behind the counter drawl, “Y’all sisters?” even though we are visibly different ethnicities and look nothing alike. (This has happened in multiple scenarios) Women are much more able to show affection/emotion and have it written off as gal pals, but gay men don’t usually have that luxury. I knew a straight man who insisted on sitting with at least 3 seats between him and a friend when they went to a movie. I think any repeated signs of closeness will make everyone super suspicious.

            1. JSPA*

              Eh, that can be said as, “If it’s a secret, your secret is safe with me / I won’t make you disclose if you don’t want to / you’re welcome to disclose if you do.”

              And/or, “I’m not even thinking about a threesome / will not wink at you.”

              And/or, “Sisters is what we called it, where I come from.”

              Also, we all know and accept and celebrate that adoption is a thing, right??? So’s growing up poor enough to have more than one kid per bed. It’s not intrinsically “facepalm” because two people are not genetic siblings.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Sure, it *could* be any of those things. Potentially. But Occam’s Razor, when sharing a bed is almost inherently seen as an indicator of a romantic/sexual relationship – and you *know* that would be the assumption for any mixed-gender couple – and suddenly someone assumes otherwise because they’re faced with two people of the same sex, the simplest explanation is good old heteronormativity.

            2. Jadelyn*

              Just gals being pals, amirite? (Last time I was dating a woman, I just about went feral on someone for referring to my girlfriend as my roommate. It’s a special kind of infuriating. My sympathies.)

          2. Quill*

            Lol, though from my observations people are a lot less likely to jump to “in a relationship” if both parties are (or are assumed to be) women.

          3. JSPA*

            Entirely this. If you don’t fit people’s mental boxes, they shove you into them randomly, or leave you out of them, entirely.

            I can be enthusiastically effusive and huggy with friends or lovers (male or female) or…just as completely not.

            Coworkers and other people who decided to make my life their business have randomly decided I’m romantically involved with any number of people (including, uh, my mom and my cousin; a random stranger who accepted a, “would a hug help?” offer when they were standing on a street corner in tears; at least one coworker I pretty near hated, but made an effort to be nice to; in-laws; my ex BF’s BF; my ex GF’s BF; a random faculty member who did theater in another life, and enjoyed effusively theatrical greetings; the list goes on). On the other hand, all but a few very close friends were shocked, both times I got married.

            The question, though, isn’t whether being less “boxable” or adequately circumspect will let OP’s friend get away with breaking the rules. (The answer to that question is, “quite possibly, albeit at huge risk.”)

            The question is whether OP’s friend should do it. That integrates, “is it legally a dereliction of duty to an employer that I don’t feel much personal loyalty towards” (Yes); “how about morally?” (Also yes, in that two wrongs don’t make a right); “is it worth the risk” (No, almost certainly not, but internet strangers are not able to assess your company, specific job, and local job prospects); “is there a way around the situation” (Maybe…but “don’t mention it” isn’t the route); “is it fair to the other reports” (Not really, even if you lean over backwards to not favor the S.O.); “is it fair to the S.O. report” (No, because attempting to be fair will require leaning over backwards not to favor them, and because any success they achieve under that trying circumstance will be suspect if the situation is exposed).

            I’d suggest that OP’s friend make a concerted effort to look for sympathetic people within HR and within the power structure. They do often exist.

            It’s also human nature, when someone who shares a characteristic with us is let go or not promoted, to wonder if it’s primarily because of that characteristic (especially if there are a few loud voices that are rude or dismissive on topics regarding people sharing that characteristic). There still are far too many places where being gay = fired / not promoted / whispered about / managed out / given a bad reference to tank their career / outed in the reference with the intent of tanking their career, if they’re applying to another phobic workplace.

            There are also so, so many places where Josephus is not disciplined for weird, dated ‘no gay’ exclamations when he passes close to other guys. Annifer was let go after coming out (though they had also been on a PIP for something they argued was related to their identity…but coming in late isn’t part of an identity…except I can see how it would be, because of anxiety over gender presentation). And why on earth has Cornelius not been promoted if it’s not because of bias, he seems so competent and is full of good ideas? On the other hand, LGBTQ people have left the company for other good jobs, so there’s no concerted pattern of sinking their career / refusing a good reference. Basically, you know they’re not overtly welcoming, but you don’t know how deep the downside of coming out would be.

        2. Nicholas C Kiddle*

          I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of partial disclosure: say that they’re “close friends” or something so HR understands it would be inappropriate for Mark to manage James but they maintain privacy about the exact nature of their relationship.

          1. Zillah*

            this is what i’d go with – “we’re good friends and i’m concerned about the appearance of favoritism.

          2. DerJungerLudendorff*

            Throwing it on “good friends” would be my advice too.
            They don’t actually need to reveal that it’s a romantic relationship. Just being good friends is enough of a conflict of interest.

            1. Lady Heather*

              I don’t think that’s necessarily problematic.. it’s only been two months and if it’s an amicable, by-mutual-agreement parting of ways, there don’t have to be many feelings.

              However, if they were friends before they dated, or if they’d plan on being friends afterwards, that’d be different, I think.

              .. Never mind – I just realized that Mark thinks it’s appropriate for a manager to date a subordinate. I wouldn’t trust him to manage his ex.

          1. JSPA*

            That means one or the other has to transfer, if they want to get back together, though. If they’re closeted, and they’re really into each other, and they are not into hookups, that’s a lot to ask. (I mean, there isn’t one monolithic gay culture or attitude; some people are “twenty minute” people, some are “left reeling for a decade” people…and everything in between). The question comes with a presumption that the friend feels this is the start of something special / maybe long term. Not that he can’t be assed to swipe on a different picture, next week.

      4. Mystery Bookworm*

        I don’t think Aphrodite is suggesting they come out, necessarily, just suggesting that the mental risk assessment Mark is calcuating might not be as good as he thinks it is. If his goal is to stay closeted and stay employeed, he might want to consider alternatives to managing his boyfriend.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Exactly. I understand that they want to stay closeted, but this will put an additional layer of scrutiny on their relationship which may make that goal harder.

      It also brings to mind something I was thinking about with the “managing family resume” from a few days ago: right now, Mark’s personal relationships are not his company’s business. But as soon as he becomes a manager, his relationships with his subordinates are aboslutely his company’s business. So he may find himself subjected to judgement and questions and directives that haven’t previously come up.

    4. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Even if they weren’t romantically involved the lunches will have to stop. No one wants to see a peer getting extra facetime with the boss. I’m pretty sure AAM addressed this issue before and the optics don’t look good for the manager and the perceived favoritism towards one co-worker.

      1. It's a New Day!*

        I am thinking as well of the other side. The teacher’s children often get a much rougher ride than the rest of the class. The relationship could sour, and James may have examples of where he was evaluated/treated more severely than his peers to share with a lawyer.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      This has added difficulty because the relationship is very new. This calls for a discussion and the couple to make a decision on the way forward that is best for both of them, but 2 months is very early to do so. The best solution would be for one of them – probably James who didn’t just get a promotion – to leave the company. He’s not being fired; he would choose to do so for the sake of his boyfriend’s career. But that is a big change to make for a relationship when you’re only 2 months in. Because they’re 2 months in, James should start job hunting now, but agree that he’s not desperate and will only make a career move that is good for him individually and not just to get out of being managed by his boyfriend. If 6 months or longer down the road, James hasn’t found a new job, but is still in the relationship it may be easier for them to agree as a couple that they need to get out of the situation and he’s willing to make a move that’s the best for his relationship and not just him individually.

      The LGBT+ unfriendliness makes this extra hard. A heterosexual couple could disclose the relationship and HR could assist coming up with a resolution – probably the junior partner being moved or at least managed by someone else. But even then the junior partner might not want to make an internal move for a 2 month old relationship.

      LGBT+ unfriendly or not, the rules are clear. Both men are going to be violating them soon and if found out they could easily be fired for breaking company rules by not reporting the relationship without any hint of company’s homophobia (not that that would be illegal for them to fire people for being gay). They need to get out in front of this.

      1. JSPA*

        This assumes James is as emotionally invested. He may not be! This assumes James will easily find alternate employment. He may not. This assumes James is at much at risk, in his career, for being the subordinate in the relationship, under company policy (Possible, but unlikely; it’s the Manager who’s correctly at fault for the violation.)

        It’s way out of line to expect James to take the hit to his career. This is the classic, “lower ranked woman takes the hit so that higher ranked man isn’t in violation,” minus the gender dynamic. The person offered the promotion is already in a job that they apparently find acceptable, or they would not have taken it. The other person, ditto. There are, in most companies, worse things than asking to be passed over or deferred because “due to a personal issue, it turns out that the timing isn’t right.” Unless they then offer the job to the S.O. but at that point, you know that you’re both held in very high regard (and can both document that fact, as far as job searching)…and the choice to disclose may become easier.

        1. pamplemousse*

          Yeah, I strongly disagree that James should take the hit.

          This is just a really tough situation, so I hate to be too hard on Mark — it sounds like the relationship and the promotion are both new, and if a friend came to me and said “Hey, this guy I like at work asked me out, but I’m also in the process for a promotion that might make me his manager, do you think I should go?” there’s a good chance I’d tell him to go on the date! You don’t know if you’re getting the promotion, you don’t know if you’ll click, you don’t want to disclose internal stuff at work, etc. But ultimately, depending on the timeline, Mark either took a promotion knowing it meant managing someone he was dating, or started dating someone he knew he was likely to end up managing. He either needs to defer the promotion under a pretense or find another job. Or end the relationship.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s really farfetched.

      As a formerly closeted queer nobody knew or guessed. They’re not going on dates and snuggling or even holding hands in public. That’s not how it works.

      They’re behaving like buddies when anyone can see.

      I’ve had so many coupled gay people in my life that flew under the radar because we’re accustomed to living in the shadows and behind (closed aka closet) doors.

      1. T R*

        If I were one of the two people in this situation, I’d honestly only take advice from other queer people. Nobody else has the context to judge what the risks are.

        1. Fulana del Tal*

          Gay or straight he shouldn’t be managing a partner. Mark is being naive or disingenuous believing he can unbiased about James.

          1. T R*

            And most gay and queer people are going to agree that you can’t manage a partner. Doesn’t change the fact that if I were Mark, I A) wouldn’t have told a coworker about all this, and B) would only be asking for advice on how to get HR to shuffle teams from other people who have had to navigate being LGBTQ in the workplace.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              That’s a good point, at lease one other coworker already knows about the relationship, LW #2. That means there’s a much better chance that this is going to come out at some point. And agreed about the non-LGBT folk gravely underestimating the extent of homophobia (transphobia, biphobia, etc.).

        2. Stivee*

          I’m definitely noticing a divide in the type of advice being given by straight and queer people. I wouldn’t disclose. If he does and gets fired, it won’t be for “being gay.” It’ll be for whatever made up reason that could mar his reputation as much as being “unethical.” It’s a terrible position to be in.

    7. ynotlot*

      Unpopular opinion perhaps but if the org isn’t LGBT friendly, then its LGBT employees have absolutely zero obligation to disclose relationships. They don’t owe the company anything.

      1. Marmaduke*

        That’s absolutely true. I’m more worried about what Mark owes to James—dating the boss isn’t a healthy power dynamic, and I think they really need to find a way to change that situation without putting either partner at risk.

        1. Clisby*

          To me, the big problem isn’t that they aren’t planning to disclose to HR. The problem is that it sounds like they don’t realize they need to get out of the manager/subordinate relationship. Like NOW.

  4. AcademiaNut*

    Regarding the desk chair –

    I can sympathize. I got wrist problems in grad school in large part due to desks that pre-dated the use of personal computers.

    If you bring your own chair, I would definitely advise clearly labelling it (like, a big sticker on the back saying “Fergus’s Chair”), and telling your manager that you’ve brought in your own, personally purchased chair for health reasons. That way, when someone sees your shiny new chair and takes it, you’ll have an easier time seeking it out and taking it back.

    And yeah, after the first time or two someone “borrows” it and forgets to bring it back, I’d be prepared to bike lock it to your desk.

    1. Sue*

      I work in the courts and it isn’t uncommon for people to bring in their own chair. My last (provided) one wouldn’t stop sinking as I sat in court. Practically had my chin on the bench a few hours in.
      And my relative found out a coworker had been let go when their chair was missing from the desk in the morning. Guess they wheeled it out the door with the rest of their belongings.

      1. valentine*

        when someone sees your shiny new chair and takes it, you’ll have an easier time seeking it out and taking it back.
        Even with a lock, I would expect OP4 to find someone took over their whole desk to get the sweet, sweet lack of constant pain. Will others be resentful? Will OP4 fight for their property, which will pretty much be office property, since they’re not there often enough they didn’t fight for the employer-provided proper chair? Does their manager want to spend any time telling the Goldilockses to move?

        Perhaps a group effort would work here.

        And is the rest of the job really worth the negligence of the deteriorating furniture?

        1. CL Cox*

          I was thinking that as well. If they approach the managers as a group, whoever purchases their furniture might be able to work out a bulk purchase deal. It is a domino effect for sure – once I replaced one teacher’s (broken) chair, other teachers suddenly had “broken” chairs as well. Since I’d found a great deal on the first one, and had the budget for it, I reached out to the vendor and got a further discount and we did replace a number of them.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I know you find it suspicious that these teachers all suddenly had “broken” chairs once they saw their colleagues shiny new one, but it’s also possible that they really did have broken chairs, but assumed they wouldn’t be replaced, for whatever reason. And then they saw what was possible.

        2. OP #4*

          The deteriorating furniture is definitely a product of the “we don’t throw anything away” culture of this particular nonprofit. There’s still a belief there that we don’t need new things, that we can “make do”. There are many good positive things about the job, but I am frustrated with that mentality. I’ve worked across a variety of nonprofits who have had different cultures around this. The previous one was happy to buy you new furniture but was a MESS of other issues and had a culture of fear and lack of communication. There are other good benefits to this job, and I’m not the only one who thinks this weird culture around broken down furniture is frustrating. It’s become a little bit of a joke.

          I’m definitely putting a label on my chair though. Ha. My coworker who I shared this with suggested upholstering it in something really obnoxious like neon polka dots so everyone would know if they stole my chair.

          1. Alli525*

            I think the upholstery is a GREAT suggestion. Clearly your office does not value a professional look for its physical spaces (they expect their guests to sit on a broken couch???) so they would have no standing at all to get upset about a chair with a silly fabric.

          2. BadWolf*

            You could also buy some fun colored duct tape and add it to the legs/arms/etc if “oops, was this your special chair??” is going to be a problem.

            I would also keep the receipt with you at work so you can be all, “No, really, this is the chair I bought with my money. ” Both for management if you have to leave and if you need to convince a coworker, “Yes, I bought this chair, if you want the same one, this is how much it cost and the model number.”

          3. Free Meercats*

            You need to make sure the labeling is permanent!

            Not a sticker or tape, but engraved on a very visible, non-removable part of the chair. Then fill the engraving with neon paint, so no one can say, “I didn’t notice.” It will migrate to someone else’s desk the first day you’re not in the office. When you find that happened, immediately take it back from wherever it is, no matter who is sitting in it. The next time it migrates is when you bring in the lock and lock it to your desk.

        3. Observer*

          And is the rest of the job really worth the negligence of the deteriorating furniture?

          Good question. I’d go further and ask whether this is the only piece of negligence here.

          We’ve seen SOOO many letter where the presenting issues turned out to be the “molehill on top of the mountain of bad”.

    2. Lady Heather*

      Paranoid me would also label the underside of the seat. That way you can “prove” it’s yours even if someone takes off the sticker.

      Whether that’s necessary will depend on office culture, office size and adequate leadership – but I wouldn’t trust an employer that doesn’t take health seriously to take theft seriously.

      1. T3k*

        I was thinking the same thing (or etch your name into the chair somewhere). I’ve worked at places before where even labeling a ruler as mine didn’t help and I had to go hunt it down.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          I recently read a thread, and I’m 99% certain it was here, that thefts went down DRAMATICALLY when posters switched from “standard” office items to “lady” office items- ie pink measuring tape, scissors, etc.

          not sure if it was a recent post or if I was sucked into the vortex of the archives.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I actually would prefer the lady office items. Life is too short to not have pretty sparkly office supplies if that’s what brings you joy.

            Hmm, maybe I should bring in a purple pen to match my purple headphones!

          2. Amy Sly*

            When my aunt was a pastor, she dipped the handles of all the church’s hand tools in pink paint to stop them from wandering off. It worked.

            That being said, I’m not sure it worked because “ew, I won’t steal pink tools” or just “oh, this is clearly not mine, so let me get it back out of my tool box where I accidentally put it.”

            1. Faith*

              My parents own a construction company, and all the tools that belong to the company are spray painted pink for exactly this reason, and it works. Other colors of spray paint (green, orange) have been somewhat effective–maybe half of them were eventually stolen at some point. The pink ones have never, ever walked off the site.

            1. LavaLamp*

              I painted my thumb drive with holographic nail polish. It looks really neat and I can see the damn thing against other objects now.

          3. Nanani*

            If “lady” office items include not just colour but being sized for women’s hands… thefts should be going up tbh.

      2. Artemesia*

        My mother had a special chair made for my grandmother when she was in a home the last years of her life. When Grandma died, the chair disappeared. My Mom found it in another room and claimed it and it was ‘oh but that was ours, you can’t prove it is your mother’s’— My flipped over the chair where Grandma’s name was woodburned into the bottom of the base.

        Yeah if you are bringing in your own good chair make sure it is visibly marked like with the colored tape or whatever and ALSO make sure it is invisible marked with your name underneath and well hidden etc. If you want to be dramatic hide a tracking tile that will beep when you push the tracker.

      3. Recreational Moderation*

        I agree with the labeling, but suggest avoiding a label that’s removable.
        True story: A friend of mine whose business rents out larger tools (lawnmowers, post-hole diggers, etc.) found himself spending substantial revenue on replacing non-returned items. Renters were able to overcome every labeling method he devised.
        Tired of the “it’s not yours, it’s mine!” arguments and of the high replacement costs, my friend had his employees paint every single rental tool a bright purple, stem to stern. The tools were easily identified in drive-by searches, and the number of non-returned tools dropped to zero—literally.
        I guess a bright purple desk chair wouldn’t really be possible, though—would it?

    3. Suzy Q*

      I have another suggestion. See if there’s a Facebook Buy Nothing group in your area. (Yeah, Facebook, I KNOW). It’s a source of all kinds of free things, and if you can find a desk chair, which I have seen multiple of, you wouldn’t have to worry about leaving it behind. I’d still make sure people know it is yours, though, and skip telling them the provenance.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Similarly Freecycle dot org, which is a similarly oriented group through an independent website.
        Its groups tend to be larger & more chaotic, because BuyNothing specifically splits up groups geographically as membership gets too large. (People were aghast when our town split into 2 BuyNothing groups — until someone who had lived in a major city explained that it’s pure logistics, that where she’d been the BN group was a few blocks in size.)

        1. TardyTardis*

          Freecycle groups are also broken up geographically, at least they are in my town (but not perfect; the person giving away the huge bag of yarn really should have mentioned the ghastly smell).

      2. Salsa Your Face*

        Yes–also, I found a sweet desk chair at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The flat rate for office chairs, at least at my store, is $5.

      3. Happy Lurker*

        When I worked at a startup they purchased all the furniture at a couple used furniture warehouses. Both were a distance away, but deals were amazing and my setup was awesome.
        If you can find one in your area you might be able to see if the deals are good enough for your cheap office.
        I feel for you OP and your back – Good luck!

    4. Veronica Mars*

      I think the key is to make it abundantly clear to everyone that you bought the chair yourself. It helps your management avoid a gang of jealous chair-wanters, and it (hopefully) discourages coworkers from stealing it (if they’re decent people).
      I’ve seen people here label things “Veronica’s personal property” which makes things clearer.

      Also, 1000% support buying a new chair. Its completely ridiculous to suffer serious health consequences for a few hundred bucks. It’ll cost a lot more for back surgery later on… so its definitely worth whatever political capital you have to use.
      And its completely ridiculous that this isn’t a priority for this company. My company is decidedly not a nonprofit, but we have mandatory ergonomic evaluations with a PT every year – because the company got so sick of paying out workers comp claims for back pain etc.

    5. working be cray*

      Please google nonprofitaf and look at the posts about terrible office chairs and how nonprofits could benefit from being less “scrappy”. I work in nonprofit and this is really a topic that comes up a lot. I am sitting in a chair I brought in myself right now. Just buy chairs for your staff that don’t cause them pain.

    6. Lucy P*

      Years ago, I faced a very un-ergonomic desk setup–no keyboard tray (keyboard sat on top of the desk) and the chair was a very basic task chair that offered very little comfort (the only thing that adjusted was the height and there was very little cushion in the seat). After a doctor told me the back pain I was experiencing was due to work posture, I got the PTB to get me a foot stool and keyboard tray. That helped but not enough. Knowing that the only chairs ever bought in the office were usually the low-budget, big box store, clearance sale types, I decided to buy my own. I still have the chair and it’s still as wonderful as the day I bought it. The seat tilts, the back tilts, arms are adjustable, etc. Yes, I’m in love with my desk chair.

    7. Mill Miker*

      Don’t just label it as your chair, label it as explicitly not company property. Otherwise it could seem to be your’s until it’s “reassigned” to another person who feels they need it more because you’re not their as often.

    8. RecoveringSWO*

      If you want to go full petty and ensure your coworkers know it’s your chair, you could act like the bike riders who take their bike seats with them to prevent theft. Still label the chair, but also buy a chair where the seat portion can be removed easily and bring it with you when you arrive and leave work. It’s far too much effort to be practical, but you’d definitely make a statement!

    9. TardyTardis*

      I think bike-locking it from the very beginning is a good idea. because the first time the owner is gone, that chair will be, too, given that all the furniture is full of suck.

  5. Tau*

    #2: Oh man, this is a tricky situation.

    Is there some way Mark can say that he can’t manage James without outing anyone? Like, “we’ve become close friends and I don’t think I can manage him and remain unbiased”? Invent some backstory re: knowing each othe previously? Because they really need to avoid this happening, chances are it will not end well.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      This might work. Especially as they’ve been having lunches together, it would be easy to believe they’re close friends. I wouldn’t want to manage my best friend.

    2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

      If the company is genuinely unfriendly to LGBT this is probably the best approach to take.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      This was going to be my suggestion too, especially since they eat lunch together. It sucks that they can’t just be open about the nature of the relationship but since they can’t, Mark should just say that their friendship is close enough that the manager-employee relationship is going to be affected.

    4. Betty*

      Yes, this. If they met at work and are known to eat lunch together, just say that they’re friends and Mark is concerned that their social relationship might impact his management of James. Message communicated, no one outed.

      1. pamplemousse*

        No one is outed, but Mark could very well lose the promotion, depending on how easy it is to move James to another manager. Even if it’s technically doable, a brief friendship and a few friendly lunches don’t usually ring “serious conflict of interest, big business problem, must be avoided” bells for HR departments.

        I think it’s probably the best choice in a bad situation, since disclosing the real relationship at this stage could have the same “why didn’t you tell us BEFORE we promoted you” issue plus homophobic blowback. But ultimately, Mark really needs to decide if this promotion is more important to him than the relationship.

    5. TechWorker*

      I was going to suggest this too.

      I also think if they both want to stay at the company they need to do *something* sooner rather than later – a job hunt can take a while, as can moving teams. (It’s often mentioned on here like it’s always a quick transfer but my experience has been that it can be tricky to move people if they need replacing/it means others need shuffling around. Moreso if HR don’t see it as particularly urgent). Waiting til the promotion doesn’t feel like it will end well!

    6. Myrin*

      Yeah, additionally to the eating-lunch-together part, they might do other stuff that hints towards close(r than regular coworkers) relationship as well, like being physically close, touching, arriving or leaving together, etc. Not necessarily signs that they’re dating, especially to people who are so deep in their straight world that the thought that two people of the same gender could be dating doesn’t even cross their minds, but still things which would suggest being more than just friendly-but-distant coworkers.

    7. DerJungerLudendorff*

      Close friends seems like a good way to get around that. The problem is their close relationship after all, not that it’s a romantic one. So HR should still want to seperate them.

    8. Lynca*

      Honestly this was going to be my recommendation. I would definitely frame the relationship as “we’re extremely close friends (or roommates if they’re living together) and this would not be a situation where I could be unbiased in managing them.” I’ve known people that have done this at work for both actual friends. I’ve also known people to be separated by HR because their friendship was affecting the manager-employee relationship.

      It would not have to be a romantic relationship to make them biased in managing them.

    9. ynotlot*

      As a gay myself, I want to point out that pretending to be friends may feel really, really not-good to James and Mark. We have centuries of history of closeted gay life partners being described as friends to their nieces/nephews, having people assume they’re friends, being forced to pretend they’re friends. Sometimes it’s the safest solution, but it’s literally TRAGIC. My great-uncle died suddenly in his 50s and when his life partner of decades came to the funeral, my grandfather told him to ‘pound sand’ and they never saw him again. No one in the family remembers his last name. It feels like a gut punch whenever I think of it. For this reason, I would consider very extreme solutions before I would pretend that my girlfriend is my friend because that idea just puts me in a dark place. I get that no one means to say that when they suggest this approach. And I get that this may be the safest/only approach Mark and James feel is possible. But there is a very dark history here.

      1. JSPA*

        Apparently they’re already doing that, though.

        Being closeted absolutely has massive downsides! So does breaking up. So does being unemployed (especially if the economy may be contracting).

        It’s not likely that an LGBTQ adult in the english speaking western world has not encountered the idea of coming out, and encouragement to do so. We can volunteer ourselves to disclose, for our own emotional health and the good of society. We can’t tell other people to do it. It’s right up there with suggesting to a heavy friend that they might want to drop some weight, or asking a friend who smokes whether they’ve considered the health risks of smoking.

        “X worked well for me / for a close family member” and “Y was harmful to me / harmful for a loved one” only goes so far; you have to know a lot more than, “we are both chunky / we are both something other than cis-het / I know at least two people who smoke(d) and you’re one of them.”

      2. Tau*

        I do get you – I’m queer myself, and although I’m fairly out the idea of that pretense does put a pit in my stomach. The problem is really that there are zero good choices here, they’re already not-out at work, and this may be the one way both people can keep their jobs and remain not-out. So, y’know, one more bad option to pick from.

        I did think about using twisty wordplay to make it so that you’re not actually lying:

        “James and I started spending time with each other outside work and these days we’re really close. We eat lunch together most days and hang out at least a few times a week. It’s at the point where I know I shouldn’t be his manager.”

        This is the sort of “well *technically* I never said we weren’t dating, it was just your heteronormative assumptions” thing that makes me feel better about things, but I’m not sure if it’s that helpful for others.

      3. Sleve McDichael*

        Yeah but the choices are between; lie and say there’s no reason why Mark can’t manage James and accept the risk of discovery, frame the relationship as a friendship and accept the really, really not-good feelings, or come out and accept the risk of being chased out of a job by homophobia. All of the choices suck. Unless you have an alternative, which I would love to hear because I’m feeling really bad for Mark and James looking at the options here. It’s just a sucky situation all round.

    10. JSPA*

      But they’ll still be in violation, if they requirement is to disclose pre-existing romantic relationships / not start new ones, and the company declines to create a way for them to be on different teams.

    11. pamplemousse*

      The risk, though, is that the company doesn’t see it that way, and then they’re in an even tougher spot. Fairly or not, we treat friendships and romantic relationships very differently as a society, in part because “friend” means everything from “guy I chat with at the water cooler and go to lunch with occasionally” to “someone whose happiness and well-being I prioritize on a level with my own.” This is especially true since as far as I can tell, Mark and James met at work. Yes, it’s bad to be friends with your direct reports, and especially to let those friendships cloud your judgments, but it’s pretty normal to form friendships with people on your level, and when you get promoted, those friendships change or fall away.

      I have some colleagues-turned-friends-turned-direct-reports, and the friendships have had to fade, which is sad but part of life. And I have colleague-turned-friends who I would not manage because they’re too dear to me. But the onus would be on me to raise that issue before I accepted a promotion that would result in my friends reporting to me.

      Making clear that this is much more than that will involve either an elaborate cover story or tiptoe right up to the line of disclosure. I feel really bad for Mark and James! There just aren’t any great choices here.

  6. in a fog*

    LW5, I did the same thing when I quit my first job out of college to make a move to a new city. Quit the job in March, traveled in April, made the move and started looking for work in May, temp-ed and then got a job in June. It was the exact right time in my life to do it — just be prepared if you don’t find something perfect right away. You may feel like you have to jump into the first thing that comes along, so maybe leave yourself some wiggle room just in case.

    1. LW5*

      Thank you for letting me know — half of my stress is just not having spoken to anyone who has done it before, so it’s great to hear that you managed it! And I wasn’t even thinking about temping, which is a great option to keep in mind for after I move.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        I had a similar experience when my husband and I moved for his residency post med-school. I quit my job a few weeks before the move and started looking a few weeks after we arrived as I wanted some time to relax and get used to our new location. It was not an issue. Employers understand relocation, with or without a little travel beforehand, better than any other kind of employment gap. If you’re in an easily-employable field, it shouldn’t be an issue.

      2. Prairie*

        I’ve done it too. It’s not a big deal. Interviewers did ask about the gap but I just told them “I was in Asia for two months because I needed to do that before settling down in New City. I’m so excited about New City because…” and then I said some things so they’d know I was here to stay a while, and that I wasn’t just going to save up for another trip and disappear. That concern may have been unnecessary but that was my approach.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I did it with a little over a year gap, and nobody batted an eyelash. :) 8 years in one career-field job, left it, moved across the country, traveled a lot including six weeks traveling around Europe, now going on six years at the next career field job – and THEY came looking for ME, I didn’t even have to formally apply until after the interview so that they had all the paperwork to send an offer!

      4. Free Meercats*

        When I left my last job to take this one, the change coincided with a planned vacation for a family reunion. I requested to start the new job a month later than they wanted and they agreed. So I just left the old job, traveled for a few weeks, came back and started the new job on Monday.

        Bonus, when asked at the reunion where I was working, I said I was currently unemployed and the aunts and uncles took pity on me and bought my drinks.

  7. Ellie May*

    2. About 5 years back, I worked for a company delivering market and customer research to various constituents across the organization. There was one team I delivered insight to … James worked for Cassie. They worked well together and were great to work with – aligned objectives, clear on their needs, friendly to all and seemingly a professional team.
    And then to the entire company’s disappointment, James left the company for another opportunity. It happens, we wished James the best. I continued to work serving Cassie’s research needs.
    And then … 6 months later, Cassie was pregnant, and engaged to JAMES. I was thrilled for her, and him, Baby Girl arrived and they got married.
    They handled it so well and everyone wished them the very best.
    But they knew, one of them had to go when a personal relationship developed.

  8. Diamond*

    My old non-profit upgraded us all to sit-stand desks and I scored a new chair too! It was utterly bizarre in many other ways… but at least it was ergonomic!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      We just got sit-stand desks and they’re a huge hit. Had to get some fatigue mats too, though, because standing on the hard floor in flats was just too uncomfortable to really get the benefit of the sit-stand style.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We’re upgrading furniture and that’s what everyone wanted as well. I have an adapter on mine due to medical issues and everyone suddenly realized its a thing and they want it too!

  9. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP1, a phrase I had to use in a similar situation : “That’s not a company-issued phone, so it’s only for emergencies.” Also useful was “I mute my home phone during the day, so my work# is really the best.”
    I can imagine some industries & roles it would be appropriate to add “This isn’t a company phone, so I really shouldn’t be doing business on it.”
    Problem is, the number is now out. You MAY have to start setting your phone to do not disturb at night. If you do, consider changing your voice mail message to say “Hi you’ve reached me at home. If this is for work, please call me at the office.”

    1. PX*

      This. I adamantly refuse to give my personal mobile to anyone at work, regardless of whether we are friendly or socialize outside work. Not sure about OP but we get work mobiles anyway, so thats the only number coworkers and customers get. And given that nothing we do is life or death, I have no problems with not looking at it outside of office hours.

      In this case, I’d say you need to get happy with ignoring work calls/emails outside of working hours. Sometimes you just need to train people into understanding that you’re not reachable outside of working hours, and you do that by not answering calls or emails outside of working hours!

    2. Scrambled Gin*

      The letter and these comments have been eye opening to me. It honestly never occurred to me that people wouldn’t want coworkers to have their cell number. Maybe it’s because my team is small and close knit, or maybe it’s because we all work in client facing roles, but to refuse to give out your cell number to coworkers or have a problem with a coworker passing your number along to someone else would come across as deeply weird in my office. There have been countless times when I’ve been glad to have the option to simply text my boss for a quick response and vice versa.

      1. Hedgehug*

        Do your coworkers text or call you when you are not being paid to talk to them or deal with work? That’s why it’s a problem. My last job, it was so bad I was contemplating charging my coworkers and boss $5 a text if it was outside my work hours.

  10. Leonard Snart*

    #2 – This is a little off topic, and forgive me if it’s rude to ask, but I’m a little confused about what is meant by “it pays lip service but the company policies do not reflect that”. What with a lot of companies putting out optics of being LGBTQ-friendly (ie changing their logo for pride month) I’m just wondering what, internally, “company policies not reflecting” may involve?

    1. Beth*

      It could mean a lot of things. Maybe OP has seen discrimination happen and get swept under the rug, e.g. “Oh he didn’t get fired because he was gay! He got fired because he was 5 minutes late a few times over the last year, which we *just happened* to notice a week after he came out. Totally unrelated, we swear.” Maybe somehow, coincidentally, that lesbian coworker who’s a total rockstar never seems to get promoted. Maybe a lot of coworkers are vocally uncomfortable about LGBTQ+ folks, and while management hasn’t done anything blatantly discriminatory, they also haven’t shut down that commentary or insisted that people keep it out of the workplace. Maybe they’re outwardly positive but their actual policies don’t take LGBTQ+ realities into account in a way that suggests they haven’t put in the thought or research to really follow through and be supportive, e.g. maybe they offer parental leave to someone who gave birth but not to parents who are adopting, or maybe they have a process in place for women who change their names post marriage but threw their hands up and made a huge fuss when a transitioning employee wanted to register a name change.

      My personal experience is that corporations putting out e.g. pride logos is not a sign that they’re really committed to supporting us; it’s a sign that they think gesturing vaguely at supporting us will bring in more cash than they will lose from homophobes. You can’t necessarily tell from the outside which are lip service and nothing else, which are genuinely trying but also messing up/still learning, and which are actually supportive. If you need to know (for example, if you’re applying and wondering if it’ll be a safe place to work), asking LGBTQ+ employees is going to be the best way to go.

      1. Arielle*

        Having an insurance plan that explicitly excludes transition-related healthcare is another common one.

      2. Jack Be Nimble*

        All of the above, and it’s also worth repeating that many states do not have legal protections in place for gay and transgender employees. Courts often (but not always) rule in favor of LGBTQ individuals experiencing workplace discrimination, but in many places it’s not illegal or harass to fire someone for being gay.

        1. Massmatt*

          This. It bears mentioning that anti LGBTQ discrimination is largely or entirely legal IN THIRTY STATES. Many people are under the impression that this is a rare thing; it isn’t. A surprising number of people believe there is a federal anti-discrimination law, there isn’t.

          There is also a concerted and effective campaign to enshrine LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom”.

    2. Lynca*

      My experience has been that the company will tell employees that you won’t be discriminated against but policy doesn’t actually support that/HR does not clamp down on that specific kind of discrimination/ it’s not a state that has workplace protections for LGBT+ workers. Sometimes a mix of all three.

    3. LW #2*


      Generally, the vibe I get from the company is that while it wants to look socially progressive but it also kind of “gatekeeps” how employees use benefits and perks.

      For example, we have a generous sick leaves policy but managers and peers will be kind of resentful/mocking if they think you’re using it for mental health days. During orientations and team bonding activities with our other offices, we got name tags where we wrote our pronouns, but a lot of people were joking like “Isn’t this over the top?” Managers also aren’t very good at stopping this kind of behaviour. Additionally, I’m not sure exactly the circumstances since this happened before I worked here, but I think a woman brought her wife to an office party and people talked about them and eventually the woman left (but again, not sure if this was due to discrimination or something else since I didn’t know her).

      Our office has an oddly homogenous workforce so I think half the employees here fall into a “Is neutral or means well but isn’t well-informed about LGBTQ+ topics” camp while the other is more stereotypically conservative? I feel like the best response you could get from coming out here would be that everyone just pretends that part of you doesn’t exist, if that makes sense.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Okay – given all that I think your co-worker who is being promoted needs to go the really close/best friend route for disclosure then. Coming out may not be safe, but he needs to get something on record because doing nothing could potentially damage both their careers/reputations, not just new manager’s.

      2. JSPA*

        Pronouns tags require people to think about their own / treat their own as something other than an obvious default. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se.* But a meet-and-greet is not necessarily the best time to shoehorn in that sort of consciousness-raising, without, y’know, first having had that discussion.

        They’re super new in most places, too, outside of (select) college campuses, niche nonprofits, and certain geographical enclaves. It’s hugely bimodal.

        I would 100% not take people’s perplexity or laughter over being asked to state their own gender and pronoun preferences on a tag as a sign that the company would be anything other than fair and excellent to someone disclosing a same-sex relationship.

        *well, actually there is something wrong with it, in that it can be pretty excruciating for people who are not 100% thrilled with their AAB gender, but also not invested in making a change; for people who are highly invested in the issue, but in an early stage of some sort of transition; for anyone who politically feels that de-gendering language is the real step forward, and that forcing people to list pronouns is analogous to making women pick Miss or Mrs, in the years before Ms.

      3. JSPA*

        There are far worse things than, “not acknowledging or discussing orientation.”

        It can be lovely if your workplace affirms everyone equally.*

        But it’s equally reasonable for a workplace to not be in the business of affirmation for anyone’s sexuality, gender, or relationships.

        A buttoned-down workplace may not be someone’s cup of tea. It can make it harder to notice the other people on “team LGBTQ.” Especially so, if you’re used to campuses and urban areas where many people signal aspects of their identity very emphatically, in speech patterns, dress, hairstyle, etc. If you’re used to places where relationship and identity information can be integrated fairly seamlessly into (say) classroom analysis or predictions about how a product will land with one or another demographic, “we are all brains who happen to inhabit bodies” is a big switch. But a buttoned-down workplace is not intrinsically less accepting, merely by being less effusively affirming.

        I’m also frankly perplexed by the conflation of “mental health days” and “LGBTQ-related supportiveness.” If they got shirty with someone with time off due to gender-related anxiety, but not someone who’s needs stem from gender-unrelated anxiety, there might be an argument to be made. But, “like most companies, mine does not always recognize self-determined mental health days as sick days” is not an LGBTQ-specific issue.

        Finally, ask yourself if your friend is as well-informed on every ethnic issue, religious issue, national origin issue and health issue (and of course, all the most current terminology!) as your friend apparently expects their coworkers to be, on LGBTQ issues. Furthermore, do you think they’d agree that it’s the company’s job to train them, on day 1 (or all of week 1), on the nuances of each of those things, on the presumption that they might not be up to speed? It’s dead normal for companies to say, “don’t be discriminatory, here are 5 examples, you’re adults and can generalize” and then deal with problems as those problems are brought to their attention.

        * It can alternatively be strange and intrusive. I’ve had people come up and elaborately suggest how they would be delighted to address me as “they,” because they…found my presentation to be gender neutral? Because I say “spouse” and “partner,” and my partner does same? Because I use “singular they” for “placemarker person where gender is irrelevant”? It doesn’t offend me, but I don’t happen to use “they” for myself, and it’s awkward for people to suggest that I should want to.

        1. Stivee*

          Furthermore, do you think they’d agree that “it’s the company’s job to train them, on day 1 (or all of week 1), on the nuances of each of those things, on the presumption that they might not be up to speed?” I’ve worked for plenty of companies that do diversity or code of conduct training. Stop acting like inclusivity is impossible/inscruitable. It’s like the spouse who cant figure out laundry on the first try and throws up their hands, leaving the heavy lifting to everyone else or a pile of dirty clothes on the ground. It’s not that hard-plenty of us do it everyday despite your myriad objections.

          1. JSPA*

            My point is only that the degree of granularity we expect of others, addressing our issues, is often far, far, far greater than the degree of granularity we devote to processing the issues of other people.

            OP 2 (and some people posting here) are prepared to assume that a workplace is CLEARLY not going to be supportive of a plain old gay relationship (something that people have been coming to terms with for decades, if not centuries!) because some people are…not even mocking, but merely nonplussed by “my pronoun is” tags. That is super, way off base.

            If OP said, “my friend is trans, and the looks some people gave to the “my pronoun is” tags made them uncomfortable, that would be entirely reasonable.

            “My pronoun is” tags, in a business setting–relative not only to modern history, but the life experience of people in the current workforce–is something that is predictably brand new to a lot of people.

            It’s also not something that all trans, NB, and other gender variant people necessarily like and support. It’s not bad faith for the company to have brought in the tags. They may not have thought through that it’s frankly bad practice to force people to process their own gender concepts in the context of filling out a tag. None of my a workplaces have failed to support out LG people in…35+ years? But most of the people would have been at least temporarily nonplussed by having to state their pronouns, in the same way they’d be confused by having to state their middle initial, their place of birth, or some other fact that they’ve never before given much thought to.

            OP is projecting some very broad ill-will where stylistic and procedural novelty adequately explains the reaction.

        2. Richonk36*

          So, to be clear…I need to be 100% knowledge about every issue in the world before I can expect my workplace to respect who I am? Cool, cool.

          1. JSPA*

            Nope. note that there was no lack of respect of gay people cited.

            I was suggesting that OP put other people’s lack of up-to-the-minute knowledge in the context of their own presumed lack of knowledge of other people’s issues.

            Not knowing the “why” of name tags is like not connecting that “the troubles” are “The Troubles” or why your two Sri Lankan friends are not chummy (hint, one’s Tamil, one isn’t, there’s history) or any of the other complex things that we learn by living, not because everything can be fed to everyone as a direct brain dump.

        3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Almost every workplace is “in the business of affirmation for people’s relationships” — when those are the socially normative relationships like husband/wife and parent/child. Was my employer specifically affirming heterosexuality (or parenthood) when they gave me bereavement leave when my mother’s husband died?

  11. Ponytail*

    Once again, I’ve learned something new about workplace culture in the US by reading AAM. It would be considered a major faux-pas to give out someone else’s number in my experience. If anyone did that to me, they WOULD be getting a telling off, and quite frankly, I’d also be giving the side-eye to anyone ASKING for another colleague’s number. It’s really not done, not when we all have email, desk phones, instant messenger apps and Twitter. My workplace experience in the UK means that I would never expect to contact my colleagues out of hours. The only exception would be giving a heads up to the early starters that I’m running late/off sick, and I’d have to send an official email in that case, anyway.

    1. Rexish*

      I was thinking the same. Giving anyone otehr person personal number without a permission is a no. I actually made this mistake about a month ago. I have my managers personal phone number and she was off work. Another manager asked for it and it seemed like she really needed it (there was a situation with an employee resigning). I gave it to her and the minute I had given it I realized my mistake and sent an apology to my manager. Thankfully she was understanding.

    2. TechWorker*

      I don’t think this is necessarily UK vs US, it just varies between jobs.

      My managers + reports have always had my phone number, mostly for the purpose of messaging about being sick and not coming in (most folk don’t have work email on their phone). If there is something urgent out of hours I would far rather my manager (or their manager) have the responsibility for checking emails/the clients have *their* number, and then they text me if I need to look at it.

      On the other hand it would also be a big deal if someone gave my number to a client (and I would try to get them to delete it I think, as above), so I agree there’s not a general assumption that sharing is fine.

      1. Magenta*

        I’m in the UK, we all have each others personal mobiles and most teams have whatsapp groups as well.

      2. James*


        My company used to issue cell phones, and clients got our work number. Then they went to issuing a stipend to use your personal cell phone for work. I’m not sure what the official policy is now, because they’re in the process of re-working it; we still haven’t figured out how to handle the whole smart phone thing, since many of our projects require us to have smart phones or tablets (it’s needed for some programs we have to run in remote locations).

        Anyway, long story short: My cell number is everywhere. It’s on my daily sign-in sheets, it’s in my email signature, it’s easily found in the company phonebook. I’ve been called at all hours, to the point where I’ve had to have a few conversations about boundaries (and time zones), but that’s part of the business. Frankly, if someone asked me before giving out my cell number I’d consider it odd, and be mildly curious as to why.

        1. Shad*

          My mother works in home health, and they use tablets for charting. They recently changed what tablet they use and sent her a new one. She still gets to keep the old one as well.
          Any accessories like cases, secondary keyboards, etc. are up to her to buy though.

          1. James*

            I think we’re going to end up buying cases for tablets, honestly. We’re using them for environmental sampling, which involves things like hiking through the woods, working around construction equipment, and the like. A rugged case is pretty important if you want these things to have a shelf life measured in anything but minutes! That said, I guess we’ll see what the higher-ups decide.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      I work in the UK and have found this varies by role and company. Not sure it’s a major cultural difference.

    4. Beary*

      I’m American and I consider it a faux pas and I think a lot of other Americans would as well (including the letter writer, Alison, and other commenters in this thread). One letter is not representative of all of American workplace culture. 

    5. Yorick*

      I’m in the US and I think it’d be rude to give out someone’s personal number, unless they told me they were ok with it being shared widely.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Even in the US it is a major faux-pas to give out someone else’s number. I don’t even give out a friend’s free email address. (I offer to be the forwarder, leave them a message with the inquirer’s info, etc.)
      I suspect & hope the people who gave it out had assumed it was a company phone.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      American AF and my mom taught me that giving out contact numbers without permission is a huge “don’t”. We don’t even share Auntie Nelly’s number with Auntie Barbara unless Nelly signs off on it. My mom asks me before giving my new number to even my dad and they’ve happily married for 37 years.

      So it’s a thing everywhere it just depends on the crowd you’re within.

      My company now collects and posts contact info. Anyone just needs to pull up the info. But we’re not savages and only use it for actual emergencies or to let our crew know we’re out on short notice. I still just email though because it’s my preference.

    8. Faith*

      This is not a US vs. UK thing.

      No one at my work has my cell. No one at work is ever getting my cell. And while I have my boss’s cell #, I have never used it, nor would I ever give it out as said boss gave it to our department for emergencies only. The only time I contact coworkers outside of work hours is via work email, if I’m going to be out sick (and aside from our boss, no one checks work email outside of work hours unless there’s really bad inclement weather that might shut down our building).

    9. anonymas*

      And at my company, it would be so absurdly outside the norm to refuse to circulate your cell number, I’m not sure if it’s even ALLOWED to not share your personal phone number. I work on a global team – my teammates, my stakeholders, and my partners at work are all over the world. We keep regular work to our region’s general working hours and are respectful of knowing where we all live/work and when to call/text and when not to. (We all know that there are always going to be certain times when you have to do a 5am call if you’re in San Francisco and you’re working with someone in London and in Bangalore, and sometimes if you’re in Bangalore you have to talk to me in NY at midnight because we just can’t connect any other time.) If you’re at a certain level or working on a high priority project, you know you might get calls/texts for urgent things during non-working hours. If your coworker across the world texts you at 3am to tell you to have a good day and let him know when you have the report done that’s due in 2 days or ask your opinion about a deliverable, that’s when you can ignore it and respond in the morning “please remember my time zone and send that as an email so I can address it during work hours.” And if they text you at 3am to tell you that there are 300,000 customer complaints over a 1 hour period because people can’t access their accounts or the app is down… then you get up and you deal with it. (I mean, not me, I’m not the one they drag out of bed for that type of problem because I’m not in a role to fix that sort of thing. But I work with people who are.) It’s just the nature of the work, it isn’t just a culture thing. If you don’t work for a tech company on a global engineering/ops team, my experience probably doesn’t apply to you just like yours (only working during “work hours” and not sharing your number with 200 coworkers is foreign to me.

  12. Rez123*

    #2 This question is coming from a friendly place and trying to learn. What makes a work place LGBTQ+ friendly? I can understand unfriendly environment, but is there such a thing as neutral environment? I’m trying to think objectively (as much as possible for a straight person) if my workplace is lgbtq+ friendly.

    1. Beth*

      An LGBTQ+ friendly employer, to me, involves a couple levels.

      The absolute most basic is not actively discriminating, e.g. not firing us, not refusing to promote us, not paying us less, etc. This probably sounds obvious, but there are still many states where this isn’t actually illegal (and even in states where it is, we all know that it’s possible to get away with this shit as long as you cover your ass slightly, the same way that it’s ‘not legal’ to discriminate based on race or gender but we all know it happens).

      Another is culture. If there are a lot of homophobic comments flying around, or even if there aren’t many but they go unchallenged/without consequences when they happen, that’s not going to feel safe for us. If the way people talk broadly assumes heterosexuality as the norm, that’s going to be uncomfortable (straight people do this a LOT, I assume without realizing it–but if you pay attention to, for example, how often people joke about literal infants being “ladykillers” or having “boyfriends,” and actually think about the level of sexuality related assumptions built into those jokes, it’s kind of ridiculous). If a straight coworker announcing their engagement gets enthusiastic congratulations but a gay one gets a hesitant, underwhelming reaction, that’s going to be noticeable. If someone came out about their gender transition six months ago and people are *still* misgendering them, that’s a fairly hostile environment (meant in the common use of the term, not the legal one; I’m not qualified to comment on the legal use). Basically, we don’t need our employers to put up rainbow stickers all over or throw us an annual parade (we manage those just fine for ourselves!), but we do need a culture where we’re broadly treated as an expected part of the norm and not some weird exception that everyone has to tiptoe around or make extra allowances for.

      Another is considering LGBTQ+ related issues in creating company policy, for example having a process for documenting name changes and pronouns even if a person’s legal name/sex has not yet changed (a big deal for trans folks); making sure any parental leave policies reflect that not everyone gets children through giving birth to them (also helpful for straight people who adopt!); offering an insurance plan that covers hormones and surgeries for transition, includes explicitly LGBTQ+ friendly providers in-network, and offers a range of options and providers for sexual health care; and having explicit anti-discrimination policies on the books, with clear documentation of who to report any issues to and what to expect from that process. It may also be helpful to offer official training in this area, for example including a section in training for new employees surrounding these issues; however, that alone not sufficient if the broader policy isn’t supportive.

      There isn’t such a thing as a ‘neutral environment,’ because the status quo in the world at large is actively hostile to us. To hit a point where we can be safely out and not fear repercussions, a company has to take active steps to dismantle that status quo. If your workplace is not taking easily visible, well publicized steps in basically all of these areas, it probably has a ways to go before it’s LGBTQ+ friendly in practice, even if the company talks a good game.

      1. Smithy*

        The point of a “neutral environment” being a status quo that’s problematic I think is really important to call out.

        I used to work somewhere where if you were to diagnose the root cause of a number of issues “cronyism” would be the most prevalent. However, because cronyism was such a key factor in how the leadership team was hired/promoted – the end result was one where nearly all directors/senior directors were white and all associate directors and managers expected to lead departments of equal or greater size were people of color. This system likely happened in a way that whenever the CEO had a friend/former colleague/etc. in mind to hire for a role – that role clearly needed to be at the director or higher level. When the CEO had to do a general search- that job only needed to be at the associate director or manager level.

        Regardless of how prejudice the CEO’s beliefs were was irrelevant – the end result was a pretty egregious discriminatory leadership structure. If you were working in that system for a few years, this was as clear as day to witness in practice regardless of whatever policies were in place around inclusion.

      2. JSPA*

        There are all kinds of gender and orientation assumptions that pervade every aspect of conversations.

        Remember when people would use “he” as a default, and one had to interject, “or she”? (Including, correcting oneself?) It’s like that.

        In daily life, do you say to a friend or coworker who’s talking about their high-school kid suddenly dressing better and showering more regularly, “He must have a girlfriend!” when you could equally well ask, “hm, maybe he’s interested in someone?” or even, “What a welcome change!” (and let them supply the suppositions / details).

        There’s also fuss level. A big fuss is not generally helpful, even if meant positively; shutting down negativity or redirecting “wow, how weird” talk is key.

        If someone relabels the single-stall restroom as “restroom,” do you make a fuss, or use the restroom like always?

        If someone puts a tampon dispenser in the men’s restroom, do you have loud conversations about whether someone must be transgender, or did the maintenance people make a mistake, or is this PC gone wild…or do you just accept that there could be a reason to have a tampon dispenser in the men’s room (or make discrete inquiries, if there isn’t one in the women’s, and you think a mistake may in fact have been made).

        If someone else is being audibly “ignorant” or mocking about something gender related, do you laugh along, while hoping the pained look on your face lets people know you think they’re kind of an ass / that’s just how they are…or do you say at least some small thing to redirect the conversation or register your lack of agreement or add actual information that clarifies the point they’re pretending to be so confused about?

        Something doesn’t have to be antagonistic to make people feel like their coworkers view them as zoo exhibits. “All these new sexes, it’s like learning about how hermaphrodite snails reproduce!” No,really, it’s not; and if you worked with snails, it would be equally rude to discuss their reproduction at work. Two women having a baby? Not like kangaroo gestation, or aliens. If you just can’t figure out “how two guys can…y’know…” that’s one to figure out on your own time, not in the mailroom, and yes, you will get written up if you don’t immediately apologize and knock it off. (Even if you didn’t say any actual bad words, even if you said you “support their rights to exist,” and even if you’re smiling as you make a “two fingers pointing towards each other and bumping” gesture.)

        We’ve had a whole thread on “remembering to use They for people who use singular They.” Let’s add, “don’t elaborately suggest your openness to using alternative pronouns to anyone who strikes you as a less-than-totally-feminine woman, a less-than-totally-masculine man, or someone whose gender you can’t quite place.

        Thought excercises: If you’re cis-female, imagine if you identified as male, but had the body you currently have: would you be able to, at minimum, as a client wearing neutral male dress (however you define that) walk in, be greeted with respect, pronoun ascertained without fireworks and drama, do business, use the toilet before leaving, and not feel like a wall of eyes were following you? (Invert for opposite gender.)

        If a same sex couple have a kid, are there people who get away with, “who’s the father” or “did you conceive the old-fashioned way” or “what if the birth parents want him back” or any of other intrusive questions that not even family and close friends actually are on a “need-to-know” basis?

        When did someone last check that your health insurance covers the full range of LGBTQ needs?

        Is your computer system set up so that someone can opt for “no honorific” or “nonstandard honorific”? For something other than M or F as gender options (and do you actually need to collect the gender at all?) For name changes, generally, including in email signatures, in a way that does not lock someone out of their old emails? For use names that don’t match legal names? For connecting people with more than one name, in (say) required certification, Soc. Sec., driver’s license, use name at work, name on diploma? Basically, is working there a constant struggle to fix details, one by one, in ways that distract from getting actual work done, is there a constant problem making sure mail shows up reliably in the right mailbox and payments show up reliably in the right bank account, even if Karen-in-accounting-who-knows-how-to-fix-it is out for the week?)

        If you mention that someday your granddaughter will bring home a boyfriend, and you then tack on “or girlfriend, or someone” [so far, so good] do you then launch into a long statement about how you’d love her even if she wasn’t straight (strongly implying that many people would not be accepting)? If someone else is doing that, or some equivalent version of the “not-a-homophobe-unlike-most-people” routine, will you swoop in with a “well of course” and lead the conversation elsewhere, just like you would for a, “No siree, I’m not prejudiced against your racial group, I never liked people who talk about [group-specific gross slur]” situation (and have a talk with oblivious missing stair person afterwards, about how that conversation is predictably awkward and painful and really must not happen at all)?

        Does anyone use slur words, even if they
        a) mean it “not as a slur, we just say F*ggot to mean idiot” or
        b) “that’s a line from a movie, it’s actually meant ironically, you just have to know the movie!” or even,
        c) “We called ourselves [now discarded term] in the 80s, how dare some young kid tell me I can’t use it now!”

        Some things are harder to gauge. If you ask the cis-het couples whether they “are trying for kids,” but don’t ask other couples…ugh, I think most people who post here would be just as happy if nobody asked anybody about plans for kids. But if you must, then something like, “any plans for pets, kids, or travel” is equal opportunity.

        I like “how are things at home” as opposed to asking about husband or wife; other people will prefer to have gender and relationships explicitly stated by way of confirmation / celebration / acceptance. (If a person’s wife is transgender, they may reasonably react to an endless string of “how are things at home” as a dodge to avoid referring to their wife as their wife.) Whatever you use, either do it consistently for everyone, or modify to meet personal preferences; don’t default to “at home” for people in relationships that strike you as nonstandard, reserving “how’s the wife” / “how’s the husband” for cis-het couples only.

        Anything gendered or cis-ified that doesn’t have to be? I worked someplace where Secret Santa was organized so that men were paired with women, and mostly vice versa, such that men didn’t have to give men gifts. Totally unnecessary. Baby showers at work, with only women invited. Spouse events at conferences that presume primarily male attendees with female tag along spouses. (All of these problematic for other reasons as well, of course, and most have come up here.) Athletic competitions at work picnics: cut throat physical competitions (in combination with beer) are a situation where all sorts of atavistic attitudes about gender surface, including otherwise reasonable people making demands that other people “compete as” one or another gender “for the good of the team.” Need two teams for tug of war? Draw straws, pick a number, flip a coin.

      3. baby stuff*

        Here’s one regarding healthcare:
        My company is massive – global, product is used by hundreds of millions of active customers, maybe 75k ishemployees. We rank perfectly on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard every year. Our CEO is awesome – not just about LGBTQ issues but just across the board. Leads with intelligence, reason, kindness, and fairness – and in doing all of that, he’s also made us a lot of money. So from the top down, our culture is excellent. Without writing paragraphs upon paragraphs, I’ll just summarize by saying they put their money where their mouth is, too – it’s not just “talk,” – it’s a great place to work.

        My wife and I (also a woman) decided to start trying for a baby 3 years ago. I’d researched our fertility benefits through UnitedHealth and they seemed fair enough, and we met with a doctor and started the process of choosing a donor and getting approved. Turns out, United wasn’t as friendly to lesbians as we thought – we were denied coverage because we weren’t infertile and we couldn’t be diagnosed as infertile without 12 consecutive months of proven “exposure to sperm without pregnancy.” Meaning, we had to pay out of pocket for 12 attempts to have a baby before anything would be covered, simply because we both have female bodies and not one female and one male body in our marriage.

        So here’s what I did. I went on slack and chatted the pride channel and said “anyone have experience with this?” and within minutes, I had a call from a company spokesperson on my cell and an Outlook invite to meet with some very high up people from HR & several special interest groups within the company. I took the calls/meetings, explained what United had said when they denied our coverage, and they said “don’t worry about a thing.”

        Within 3 days, I had an apology from United that they’d incorrectly assessed the benefit policy as it applies to same-sex couples and denied us inappropriately, a special account manager assigned to me from United to ensure the rest of our approval process was handled correctly, and our internal company website had a brand new Same-Sex Fertility Benefits overview page with policy clarifications and contact information for someone within my company who would personally handle any issues that could arise if something like this happened again.

        Again – I’m one of maybe 75,000 employees and I like to think I’m important but truth is, I’m not, not in the company heirarchy. But I’m human and I work there, so they made damn sure I knew that I mattered as much as their straight employees who wanted to take advantage of the benefit.

        That’s one personal anecdote about what it’s like to be gay and work for an LGBTQ friendly company. I have more but they aren’t as exciting!

          1. baby stuff*

            And now we have 2 babies. For the one I birthed, 16 weeks at 100% pay/benefits. For the one I didn’t birth, a 10 week bonding leave at 100% pay & benefits.

            Pretty good outcomes across the board. :)

        1. pamplemousse*

          This is exactly it. A lot of responses in this thread and the one above are about personal respect and individual treatment — handbook language, pronouns, language in emails, etc — and of course that’s important; it’s something every company can do right now for free, and should.

          But it’s not enough! Being truly LGBTQ-*friendly* means actually investing time and money into creating policies that work for all of your employees, setting up structures to make sure their voices can be heard so that you know if they aren’t working, and then listening to their voices and investing more time and money to fix them rather than shrugging and expecting social justice credit for trying. It means accepting the costs of health insurance that covers transition and fertility, and parental leaves that apply to all parties equally, as just part of the cost of doing business. And increasingly for our company it means seeking out and subsidizing benefits (health insurance negotiations, legal help) that can be useful for people in a variety of situations, but have obvious applications to the LGBTQ+ community specifically.

          I work for a company that also scores at the top of the HRC rankings, and this thread is a good reminder that places like ours are still really rare.

    2. Anonomoose*

      I think things like:
      Does homophobia/transphobia etc get shut down quickly if it happens, and is it treated as a serious disciplinary offense?

      Do health insurance/leave plans reflect what lgbtq+ people might need? (i.e, parental leave for adoption, coverage of GA surgeries or hormones)

      Are there gender neutral bathrooms that aren’t the disabled toilet?

      Does the company send out emails assuming everyone is cis/straight?

      Are co-workers good on pronouns, and does your boss correct them if they aren’t?

      This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but things like health insurance/leave/bathroom access are some more concrete examples

      1. Leonard Snart*

        Following on from that, forgive my lack of understanding, but could you please elaborate on “Does the company send out emails assuming everyone is cis/straight?”

        1. MayLou*

          In my office there are two men, and all the other staff are women. An example of a well-meaning but non-LGBT-friendly email might be “Hi colleagues, please see below for details of our staff party this year! Boyfriends and husbands are welcome (Andy and Stuart, you can bring your wives instead!). RSVP.”

          Meant to be light-hearted, but heteronormative and exclusionary of any women who might have female partners (e.g. me).

          In reality this wouldn’t happen in my office because a) staff parties aren’t open to plus ones, and b) I’m very openly out at work and all my colleagues know that I’m gay. But you can easily see how something might happen like that if people forget that not everyone is straight.

        2. DerJungerLudendorff*

          Not LGTBQ myself, but for example:

          – Someone outside your team emails your boss/coworkers and needs to refer to you. Based on your name they assume you must be male, and refer to you as “he” and “him”.

          – The company throws an event. You identify as female, so the organizer explains that you can bring your boyfriend/husband, if you have any.

          – The company is giving everyone a t-shirt with the company logo. Men and women have different sizes. The company doesn’t record people’s gender anywhere, so the organizers look at your picture, assume you must be male, and assign you a t-shirt for cis-male bodies.
          Alternatively: The company does record your gender, so the organizers assign you a t-shirt for cis-female bodies. You are trans-female.

          – The company management sends out congratulations for people’s birth-days/achievements/etc. Management decides your gender based on name/body, and refers to you as “she” and “her”.

          – Company management sends out notices for marriages and newborn babies. They always use the phrases “X and his wife” and “X and her husband”. The babies are always referred to as “he” and “she” based on their genitals.

          1. Artemesia*

            I’m on board with ‘spouses or SOs welcome’ or other inclusive ways of inviting plus ones and of course using pronouns people prefer and letting people choose their own T-shirt size (most women have spent their work lives getting stuck with clothing designed for men when there are polos or t-shirts handed out) But to suggest that if I have a baby I can’t announce the birth of a son or daughter isn’t being inclusive — it is hostile to the way most people live in the world.

            1. Arielle*

              Yeah, as a queer person who just had a baby I find that last one a little baffling. I’m not going to have a philosophical conversation about sex vs. gender with everyone who asks if I had a boy or a girl. For now I am making the assumption based on his chromosomes and genitalia that he’s my son, and if we were to find out he was actually our daughter or non-binary child, we would be supportive.

          2. Anneanon*

            Companies should definitely never send employees shirts without asking them to choose a size, but I have to ask….do you think they make different shirts for trans and cis people? Where do you think trans people shop?

            1. Close Bracket*

              I think trans people shop at the same stores that I shop at. At those shops, shirts designated as “men’s” or “women’s” are assuming body types and personal styles of gender-conforming cis-men and cis-women. That’s why people choosing clothing for other people need to ask not just size but cut. Assuming a woman wants a women’s cut shirt is assuming things about her body type and personal style that might not be true, and that leads to a non-LGBTQ friendly atmosphere.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*


                Gender identity aside, women’s cut t-shirts don’t *fit* me – never have. When people just assume “Oh, she looks female, but is fat, so we’ll get her the biggest lady tee we can find and hope it fits, or she can just lose weight.” it drives me straight up a tree.

                Sure, I’m AFAB, but I don’t dress fem, I’m 5’8″ and over 250 pounds, I’ve been fat since puberty, and I’m never seen in a women’s t-shirt – you’d think people might get the idea. But no, even when they want me to pick a size for a shirt, they give me only the women’s sizes, NONE OF WHICH FIT ME!!


            2. JSPA*

              Companies, events and conferences often offer a restricted range of sizes in each of two styles.

              The straight-sided, round neck, not body-conforming T-shirts (which we for whatever BS reason, refer to as Men’s) often come from a “men’s M” to “men’ XXL.” The more form-fitting, more skin-exposing, V-necked, small in the shoulders, tight in the waist, smaller-arm-opening female T shirt often comes only in size “women’s XS” to “women’s XL”.

              The women’s sizing is generally not even large enough to fit all the cis-females in the room! For people who transitioned years after puberty, and without benefit of hormone blockers during puberty, and may therefore be rather taller or shorter than the norm for their lived gender, the sizes can be even less accommodating. And while I’m just as happy to wear a baggy “male” T shirt (“it’s not a guy’s shirt, it’s my shirt”), someone who relies on clothing to visually signal their gender is much less likely to feel properly dressed in a Men’s XL if what would fit them correctly is a women’s XXXL. (Or a unisex XL with a color choice.)

              This is hardly unreasonable! What percentage of cis-het men are fine with wearing the women’s V-neck, tight fitting, shoulder-binding, boob-accentuating, narrow waist style, if that’s what’s in their conference bag?

          3. Arielle*

            I am a queer person who just had a baby and I’m struggling to understand what the problem is with saying “X and her husband had a son.” I did have a son (we are assuming until he is old enough to tell us differently) and the father of my son is my husband. I also have a coworker who recently had a baby with her wife. Are you saying identifying the gender of an employee’s spouse is not LGBT friendly?

            1. JSPA*

              “A baby” is also…just fine, though.

              When they’re small, squirmy, any hair may not last, eye color may change, and their primary expression is “gas,” male vs female genitalia is at least some sort of identifying feature. But nobody at work really needs to pick them out of a lineup or buy gender-coded gifts.

              Probably because “partner” and spouse” and “their” are apparently not an option?

              Also, (if you include the more minor, previously titularly “intersex” conditions like hypospadias) as much as 1.7% of babies can be classified “intersex” (though the number with ambiguous or significantly anomalous genitalia is more like 0.1%).

              Many people have been neutered, rendered sexually non-functional for life, lived in pain or been operatively assigned a gender that did not correspond to their eventual identity because doctors prioritized “growing up with genitals that look ‘normal’ from infancy” (and doing scar-free, pain-free, trauma-free, identity-conforming genital surgery on an infant makes adult reassignment surgery look like a total cake-walk).

              That’s no reason not to celebrate someone’s uncomplicated birth, or to pretend that, for most people, gender is a huge mystery. But, gender aside, “baby” is a WONDERFUL thing to be!

        3. Lizzy May*

          Higher ups where I work talk about clients who are partners as “husbands and wives.” I’ve attempted to make corrections suggesting using words like “spouses” or “partners” but it never seems to stick. At one point when we were changing to a new system, it was suggested, when making notes for couples, to use “the husband’s profile.” I asked what I should do for clients where there were two husbands or no husbands. They were flummoxed. So I don’t think my grandboss and several other leaders are great on LGBT+ issues.

        4. Quill*

          “Ladies of the Teapots department, if you’re bringing your husband or boyfriend to the holiday party, please make sure to tell Amanda by the tenth so she can put them on the reservation.”

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d also look for sexuality and gender presentation being explicitly included in any non-discrimination policies, even if the state doesn’t include it in statute.

    4. Lady Heather*

      I don’t think there is a ‘neutral option’. Well, there is, actually – the neutral option is to treat LGBTQ+ folks, LGBTQ+ relationships and LGBTQ+-specific needs the same as hetero/cis folks, relationships and needs, to be just as LGBTQ+-friendly as you are hetero/cis-friendly. In a lot of cases, this will require a little bit of extra effort: for example, in order to provide LGBTQ+ persons with an equally pleasant work environment as hetero-cis persons, you might have to actively stop harassment and homophobic/transphobic comment.
      That’s the neutral option.

      1. Lady Heather*

        I’m saying the above as a disabled person, by the way. It gets old very fast when people say ‘We didn’t really factor in accessibility!’ or ‘I treat everyone the same – everyone is welcome to climb the stairs!’ as a I’m not discriminating against disabled people, I’m neutral, I don’t give anyone special treatment thing as though inaccessibility is somehow the neutral option. That’s like saying ‘You can’t enter my shop in your wheelchair, but I’ll wave to you through the window because I don’t discriminate/I’m disability friendly!’ (Because in order to discriminate, you’d need to yell insults or throw stones? Or what, exactly?)

        Captain Awkward has written a few times on ‘not picking sides’, specifically when in a friend group, Alice assaults Jane, Jane tells their mutual friends, and the mutual friends are “Well, there isn’t any evidence” (actually, testimony is evidence..) or “I don’t know who to believe so I’m not picking a side” and act on as nothing happened. That’s picking a side – because if you invite a victim and an assailant to the same event, you’re excluding the victim from (at the very least) participating freely.
        (This one is complicated, and Captain Awkward describes it much better than I do.)

        1. Important Moi*

          I agree with you completely. Not picking a side is picking a side. Also, not doing is something is doing something.

          I love whenever Captain Awkward is mentioned. :)

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            As the great Neil Peart said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    5. tinybutfierce*

      My employer does a pretty good job of it. Our entire employee handbook is written in gender-neutral language, we have one parental leave policy that extends the same generous amount of leave time to a parent regardless of gender, and sexual orientation and gender identity/presentation are explicitly listed in our anti-discrimination policies (which is a big deal, as I don’t live in a state with many workplace protections for LGBTQ+ folks). In general, my job is great about promoting and educating about diversity; we have month-long acknowledgements for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc., where we have optional informational sessions by guest speakers or our own employees, weekly historical fact e-mail sent out, that sort of thing, and Pride Month is included in that. This past year, they even organized a volunteer group of employees to march in our local Pride parade wearing company merch and waving a banner, and shared photos in one of our weekly company-wide e-mails, which made my lil’ gay heart just about explode.

      In general, this is the only job I’ve ever had where not only have I not felt the need to hide my queer identity, I feel like my employer actually wants to see me as a queer person and let me know that I have their support.

    6. Senor Montoya*

      Not LGBTQ+ myself. Adding to the suggestions so far: does your employer make it easy for people to change their name and is the culture such that new/changed names are used without fanfare? Does your employer use people’s preferred name everywhere, or does it insist on using people’s legal name in directories for instance?

      My university essentially outs trans students to their instructors by using their legal name in class rolls and so on, even though students can use their preferred name in the public directory. On the first day of class, trans students can be outed to the whole class if the instructor calls the roll using legal names.

      1. JSPA*

        this is not good current practice. If they’re struggling to the point where they can’t upgrade the system, they can at absolute minimum make an absolute policy that the instructor must ask “if any student knows that the name listed for them contains an error, please tell me the correct name, and enough information to connect it to the mistaken entry, before I call roll.”

    7. ynotlot*

      “What makes a work place LGBTQ+ friendly?”
      -explicitly listing sexual orientation as a category that cannot be discriminated against in the handbook
      -“they” instead of “he or she” in handbooks and internal documents (also grammatically correct and stylistically superior)
      -Ability of management to, when an employee reveals they have a same-sex partner, to not make a shocked facial expression
      -Not referring to a gay employee as “our gay best friend!” “the cute gay boy!” “our FABULOUS sales rep!”
      -If you have a trans or nonbinary employee, making sure there is someone (HR or high level manager) in charge of STRONGLY and CONFIDENTLY modeling for others how to use the correct pronouns
      -Individuals challenge their assumptions that same-sex attraction is inherently predatory (this is a big one)
      -If a homophobic comment is made, other employees, not the LGBT employee, jump in and say “Hey! We don’t talk like that here, that’s not cool” and/or if the LGBT employee is fully out and has made it clear they want misconceptions corrected, “Hey! You know Tanya is gay, right? That’s really rude”
      -In the right culture, an org celebration of Pride Month (not a corporate float in the parade, but saying “Happy Pride Month to those who celebrate!” in the staff newsletter or whatever)
      -Having on your website a disclaimer or sticker stating that you welcome gay customers

    8. pamplemousse*

      My company is recognized in our field/location as being particularly LGBTQ-friendly. A few things we do:

      -Our health insurance fully covers transition (as well as fertility treatments and mental health care, which of course helps everyone). We have an official process for transition, just as we would for anything else HR-adjacent.
      -We have a gender-neutral bathroom (with the other restrooms for privacy)
      -Language around families is inclusive and gender-neutral. No one ever says “husbands and wives,” it’s always spouses and partners. We recently changed our parental leave policy to have total parity, but even when it was uneven it was in terms of “primary” vs “secondary” caregiver. I don’t think pregnancy comes up much but we’d definitely say “pregnant people.”
      -The company periodically does training on LGBT+ issues for HR, management, and anyone who wants to join
      -Gender identity and sexual orientation are included in required anti-harassment trainings for management and staff
      -We have LGBTQ people in positions of leadership and throughout our HR departments, and there’s a general understanding that LGBTQ identity is intersectional, and that a company can be friendly to say, gay men and bi women without being a good place to work for everyone across the spectrum.

      If you’re interested in this stuff, ask about it and pressure your company to offer it. It’s easy to think “My company is respectful to the LGBTQ people on my team” and assume that means the company is LGBTQ-friendly. But most don’t! Policy is about putting really money where your mouth is. Training for HR people on handling issues important to LGBTQ people and families isn’t free. Nor is a leave policy that treats all parents equally, or a renovation to install a gender-neutral bathroom, or (particularly) changes to insurance policies. And in most industries, LGBTQ people aren’t going to be a large share of the workforce. It’s too common to see this as a “special need” and balk at incurring thousands of dollars of costs to help a handful of employees, rather than the baseline of ensuring that benefits serve their purpose of meeting employees’ medical and familial needs.

    9. Rez123*

      Thank you for interesting responses. I’m not sure I completely inderstand all of them (like why it is not ok to say X and wife had a baby, if the partner in question is a wife) but while some were things I was aware but there were some I hadn’t necessarily realized to pay attention to. I’m not from the states and therefore some of these are not valid here. Like, we don’t have gender pronouns in our language and things such as parental leaves are controlled by laws instead of company policies (same sex couples have the same parental leave rights). I tried to reflect my current office and I determined thta on institutional level we are doing okish, but there are a lot of work to do on individual employee level. I’m already a woke snowflake millenial (self determined after the weirdest convo at work) so I’ll do my best to bring up faults when I see them.

      Funnily enough we have gendered bathrooms that have always been used as unisex. There hasn’t been many men working in the department through it’s history so we use all bathrooms. I’ve been known to rip signs that I’m annoyed with so maybe my next project I’ll take of the male/female sign from bathrooms.

  13. CM*

    #3 — I found this answer interesting because, when I was writing performance evals for my team, I was always 100% directing the comments to the internal bureaucracy and not my team members themselves. But I was also in a situation where we all understood that the evaluation forms were horribly designed, and the only reason to fill them out was because someone at the Director level wanted them. So, it was always framed in my mind like, “Now, I have to tell the Director about Sansa,” rather than, “This is feedback for Sansa, herself.”

    1. Grey Coder*

      I’ve also written performance reviews in the third person, but looking back it was because the forms framed the questions that way: “Discuss the employee’s performance against objectives” etc. (These were also badly designed forms for the internal bureaucracy. Why is this such a common organizational pattern?)

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      I’m involved in redesigning our performance evals, and have viewed a ton over the years, as employees are required to submit them to a peer committee when applying for a promotion. This definitely means that the feedback is written with consideration for the fact that many people may see the feedback, so comments tend to be minimal and skew positive.

      Ours are also structured that there’s self evaluation, peer feedback, and manager eval. The self tends to be written in first person, the peer in second person, and so I’m betting the managers all default to third person because the other options are taken.

    3. Allonge*

      Our manager evals are also in the third person (the forms are improving) but the evaluation IS explicitly for the organisation – you discuss it in a 1:1 meeting with the manager but the written part is for the records and the (separate) promotion discussions that also involve others.

      Personally I don’t mind – reading the evals directed to ‘you’ would be a bit weirder than reading Allonge did great at this and could improve that.

      That said, I never actually thought about this as such (only thing I asked when I was first writing one as an assessment of a direct report was if we went by first name or last name).

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah at my last company I thought of the audience for reviews as sort of 50% for the person being reviewed and 50% for the higher ups who had to be convinced of what their manager suggested for their raise and bonus. I think 3rd person, makes sense but the 1st person “I believe” piece seems really unnecessary. I would just put “Fred has improved his accuracy at identifying bird songs.”

  14. LW1*

    Hi just popping in to clarify a few things from the comments I’ve already seen :)

    I really really really do not want a work cell. The expectation at my company has been laid out that if they provide you with a work cell phone you are expected to be available 24/7. That is not something necessary in my position, but I know several people who would take advantage because they’ve chosen to structure their work so that they communicate later in the day or outside of work hours entirely.

    I wrote my letter right after my number had been given out for the umpteenth time to someone I really thought would be using it. Thus far they haven’t been too bad and have respected my boundaries, so that’s good and hopefully it stays that way.

    I have tried the DND options in the past and I do turn it on if I really cannot deal with work things right at that moment and it does help. However I can still get badge notifications, so I know there is something waiting for me which gives me anxiety. Because my phones primary focus is to be my personal phone I don’t like to turn on full DND because I do want my friends and family to be able to reach me.

    1. PX*

      Honestly, I’m on team block liberally.

      But my personal feeling on this is its tough to have it both ways. Either you are fully committed to being unavailable outside work hours, in which case I would block any work number, turn off notifications from work related contacts/apps, tell those who need to know that you leave work at work, and make a point of only responding to things in the morning.

      Otherwise accept that boundaries are going to be blurred and you will get bothered by work things outside of work. Your work culture has already shown that they are happy to share your number freely and with no regard for your wishes, so either let that strategy fail by not responding, or accept it.

      Even though you say the culture if you get a phone is such that you would be expected to be available 24/7, I would still consider/prefer the separation of having 2 phones. The trick here is to STILL make a point of not looking at it regularly. But at least then if there is something urgent that you want to keep an eye on or might be expecting, you can check it on your terms.

    2. Mary*

      Would the idea to get a Google number and start transitioning people over to that be useful? That way it’s still a personal number, but you have more control over when it’s accessible.

      It does sound like part of the problem is the expectation one way or another that you’ll be available 24/7, and the phone is a symptom of that rather than the problem itself. Are there other ways you’d feel comfortable pushing back against that expectation? In academia, there’s starting to be a practice of having an email signature with something like, “I sometimes answer emails outside of standard working hours: this does not mean I expect a response in the same time period, please manage your own working hours as you see fit” or something like that to kind of strengthen the culture of switching off. Are there any similar practices or anything in your industry that you could lean on to emphasise that you prefer to stick to a standard working day and would help manage the pressure?

    3. Cheluzal*

      Can you turn off badge notifications!? Or get a Google Voice number and use that so the whole thing is completely hidden at night. I’m a teacher and that’s what I use for parents.

      I completely agree giving out another number is rude and unacceptable. I have 15 people in the department head text who keep replying with thumbs up and junking it up so I just silence that particular thread so I never have to see it.

      1. LW1*

        I can’t turn them off for some people without turning them off for everyone, and I really do need to be able to use my personal phone for personal use.

        A google number would have been good at the beginning, but the people who are a problem will just resort to calling the old number if they can’t get me on the google number.

        1. TechWorker*

          I don’t know what kind of phone you have but on iPhone you can set dnd to still let through calls from certain numbers. I set this after my mum couldn’t get hold of me in an emergency.

          1. Yorick*

            DND really isn’t a solution. LW1 wants every personal contact to be able to call during these hours. This isn’t the same as allowing calls from only your mother.

            1. Quill*

              My DND is set up so that I can only get calls from people in my contacts list. This works because I don’t have half my workplace in my contacts list!

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              I can’t speak for other phones, but on an iPhone, you can set up specific groups who are allowed past the DND barrier, or allow anyone in your favorites list, or anyone in your contacts list. You don’t have to pick and choose callers individually.

              1. Artemesia*

                That sounds perfect — to limit it to your ‘favorites’ list and then you can weed out anyone from work that is on that list and just have them on the larger contacts list.

            3. Quoth the Raven*

              And it’s not only calls. If I turn on DND on my cellphone, it silences WhatsApp for everyone and not for certain contacts, for example. I can mute contacts individually within the app, but that’s a whole other hassle to go through, and the notifications would still be silenced for everyone anyway. Same with Gmail, for example.

        2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          Would changing your personal cell number and then getting a Google number for work be an option? You could just tell people at work you have a new number when giving out the Google number and leave it at that- you don’t have to tell them it’s a separate Google number. (If they really pry about why you have a new number, which would be odd if they did, you could just say something like a breezy “yeah, I was getting a lot of spam calls so I changed my number”) Then you could turn off badge notifications, etc for the Google voice app.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            Oh, and if you can’t get a Google number in your area code or one nearby and someone questions you about that (which again would be odd of them) you could just shrug it off and say “I don’t know” and ply stupid on that. :)

            1. Quill*

              Eh, people’s area codes increasingly reflect where they lived in the early 2000’s, or the last time they changed a phone contract and weren’t allowed to carry the number over, not where they currently live. No one is going to notice.

        3. Joielle*

          You could tell people that you changed phone numbers, though, so they think the old one won’t work. And change the voicemail message – maybe just use the default computer-voice one, or have someone else record a generic one so it’s not in your voice. (And then ignore/block work messages with zero compunction.)

          Ideally, you could just tell people that you don’t always check your personal phone and might miss messages there, so they should use your work number… but it might be nice to be able to back that up by turning off the Google number notifications entirely, so you don’t even have to see them and pretend you didn’t. I completely empathize, it would be terrible for my anxiety to have nonessential work messages coming in after hours!

        4. Nope*

          If you have an iPhone, you can hide notifications from specific contacts. A bit easier than DND. I completely understand how you feel – I now don’t have any push notifications (overall) or badge icons other than for texts from certain people.

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      Honestly, if work cells are a thing at your company though, I feel like this is less people not respecting your privacy and more just not paying attention to details in the same way you do. “This is LWs cell number” not “this is LWs PERSONAL PRIVATE number”. Plenty of people use personal numbers as work phones even when work phones are a thing, for Reasons.

      Also, I think even if you don’t want a work cell/don’t think it’s needed at your level, but others think it *is* warranted, I think they’re more likely to assume that using personal like work is fair game, so I’d take a hard look at if that’s possibly what’s going on.

      Finally, you said you use it with some because you’re not at your desk/hard to reach/in meetings all day. If you really are hard to get a hold of, you might be training your team that the way to reach is is text on your personal phone, and it’s not really surprising that other people would be like – well when I try the desk I never get Fergus Anyway so I’m going to skip the fruitless step and go right to the thing that works.

      1. LW1*

        Just another clarification (I feel like I’ve explained myself terribly and left things out lol)

        I don’t mind the texts during working hours so much, and I never mind being contacted by my direct reporting group. My biggest issue is people in different parts of the organization who work different hours thinking its ok to text me at 7:00 at night because they’re still in the office and they’d just like an answer right then.

        My signature does not include my cell number (which is standard for all that have work cells here, which is not a high number of people, think director level in my location or people who need to interface with customers a lot which I do not) and it’s from a completely different area code than any of our facilities, so I think it would be pretty obvious that it’s not a work phone, but in fairness I did have someone junior to me tell me that they thought it was a work number. Incidentally this is one of the people I had a conversation with about not giving out my personal number after the fact, ironically because they were complaining to me about a person contacting them on their personal phone too much outside of work hours.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I would stop replying to work messages on my personal phone during work hours and possibly even all the time. If someone asks why you didn’t get back to them, tell them it is your personal phone and don’t check it very often during work and let them know that using work email, IM, phone, whatever are the best way to get in touch. It might take some time to wean them off of it, but eventually they will figure it out

        2. Asenath*

          I think you need to stop using your personal cell at all for work. If you’re going to respond to texts on that phone during your work hours, people in different time zone (and maybe in your own) are going to assume that it’s OK to text you at that number at any time they are working. Rather than try to correct everyone who now has your number, you should make the number less and less useful for them. Answer slowly, always with an explanation that this is the wrong number, and ideally from your preferred method, eg work email, because you really don’t want them to think they will get a response from your private number. Then start blocking their numbers. Consistently refusing to use your private number at work is key. It will take time, and there might be a couple who don’t get a message as clear as ‘I found you message on number xxxxxxx – I never use this for work. Please send all future messages to yyyyyyy. About your question….” Sent through your work channels! But you can certainly improve the situation a lot.

        3. Half-Caf Latte*

          This sounds like you’re at BEC with the texters, and it’s coloring how you see this.

          The area code thing- lots of people have non local area codes, so a *wrong* area code isn’t a useful signal to me anymore- it’s so common I don’t Think about it at all with work or personal contacts. You say these are global callers- I can’t list all the ACs in my metro region, I certainly would not be paying the level of attention to an area code from a non familiar city to see if it matched and wondering if there was a reason it was different – it literally just wouldn’t register for me.

          Also when I share contacts, I send the whole contact card via text, so the recipient just sees “Fergus warbelworth” as a new contact. As I’m thinking of it, if your team had you saved as “fergus- work cell”, and shared that, I’d definitely text that number and not ever consider whether it was a work number.

          I know none of this really presents a solution, but I think it will be easier to approach if you stop taking it quite so personally.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            And an aside- your comments make it sound like maybe the overall work culture is at odds with your personal preferences around cell phone use/texting. You had a junior coworker complain about too much outside texting, and those with work cells are expected to be available 24/7. I know you said having work cells is rare, but it still impacts the culture. There may also be different norms at these other offices that you’re not aware of – in my org, expectations around text availability vary between sites, even for similar job titles and levels.

            1. Ermmm*

              I thought the exact same thing – it seems the culture at this place is after-hours cellphone use for contacting others is 100% the norm.

              1. LW1*

                Just to clarify for most positions (including my own) that is not the expectation.

                This is not a company wide culture thing. The person who is junior to me gave out her number because she wanted to track an emergency situation while she was traveling. She failed to think through the potential ramifications.

        4. Be blunt, quit assumming*

          You cant have it both ways, either use the phone for work or not, you cant use it for work sometimes but not others. Sorry to be blunt but your confusing people and you have responded in the past and that has silently given them the green light that it is ok to do this. Immediately let your team know this is your personal cell and only to use it for emergencies and to please not give it out and not use it for anything but emergencies. Your management, you need to let them know that this is a personal cell not company funded, using it at work (letting them text you about work imparts that it is a company product). My husband uses his personal cell for his team and boss for emergencies and call ins etc., he has his direct reports and boss’s numbers in his phone and doesn’t answer calls that do not have a name in his directory.

        5. miss_chevious*

          I’m afraid you’re going to have to dump your current number and get a new one for personal use. Because you’ve given out the number and used it for business purposes, it’s never going to be “off” for those people — they will continue to circulate it, they will not respect work hours and they will not stop calling/texting it, regardless of ask.

          My recommendation is to dump the number altogether, get a new number, and share it with no one at work (which is what I do). Then you can tell people the old number is out of service, and be free, since it seems like it’s not required for your work for you to actually be available when people are trying to make you be available.

    5. Naomi*

      Frankly, it sounds like the problem is that people expect you to be available 24/7 already, when you’d actually prefer them not to be able to reach you in your off hours. Is this part of your company culture generally, where you’re expected to be on call all the time even if you’re not “officially” working?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I agree. This is why they’re using your personal phone this way. I have two phones so I can set those boundaries more clearly. I think this is a culture problem that won’t be solved if you ask people not to call you.

    6. Random commenter*

      I’d suggest just not responding after hours. You’ll still be interrupted, but they’ll eventually realize that it isn’t a reliable contact method.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Yes- people do what works. If they text you after hours and you reply right away, then that works for them. But if you don’t reply right away, then texting you after hours doesn’t work so they will start expecting a reply the next business day. They may whine about it at first, but they’ll get used to it and will be fine.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          Right, and when you reply, *don’t* reply from your personal phone. Email them or gchat or call from your workphone.

    7. blackcat*

      I would use Alison’s scripts for each person once, maybe twice, then simply never respond to them on your personal cell again. If they ask about it, say “Oh, it’s my personal cell, so please contact me at Work Number or Email.”
      People will stop using/giving out your number if it doesn’t get any response.

      You should also be able to put individual people on do not disturb, on either an iPhone or Android.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The more I think about this, the more I want to reiterate: get the work phone. You think the expectation is 24/7 availability with the work phone, but it really sounds like the expectation is 24/7 availability (or, at least, access) regardless of what phone you use.

      If you have a work phone, you can set it to DND. You can ignore it. You can, as I do, leave it in another room entirely for a whole weekend if you’d like (I check it occasionally but don’t carry it with me). You won’t have that little jolt that you got a text message and think it’s your friend getting back to you, only to learn it’s a work colleague with a question you can’t answer until the next morning. And if you travel or go to appointments outside of the office, you can still be or give the appearance of being connected.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Agreed. Get a protective case for it that’s a different color and texture from your personal phone (so when you’re carrying around both, it’s easy to pull out the correct one). Inform all and sundry that your work cell number is NNNNN, get it changed on the various lists and directories. People will still contact you on the personal number: do NOT respond from that number, and do NOT respond quickly. Respond from the work phone, with a message that “rcvd your message, please note that this is my new work number and the old number will no longer work.” Then anyone who was informed about your work cell number who contacts you on your personal number, don’t answer at all. If they come back to you on email or whatever and complain, just say, oh yes, that’s my old number and it doesn’t work any more! you’ll need to use NNNN. Say, is my number correct in Official List? Can we check that? Then follow up with the Keeper of the List if it;s still got your old number.

        It will take time, but eventually you’ll wean everyone off your personal number.

    9. blink14*

      I’m with you – I don’t want a work cell either. It’s not necessary for my position and frankly I don’t get paid enough to be tied to a work phone. I also would not want to use my personal phone and get a reimbursement, I need complete separation. I do not give out my cell number, it’s not in my email signature, and only a few people at work have it (obviously my manager and also a few closer co-workers). This goes along with my belief that opening access to your life, particularly after hours, inadvertently sets up the belief that you are accessible 24/7, and that’s a really hard cycle to break.

      There is a contractor my office works with that uses my cell phone sometimes – it’s aggravating, but it’s one person doing it, so I can deal with it. In your case, I would not respond and stick with that, unless it was a real emergency situation, especially after work hours. Perhaps it would help to email each person as they contact you on your cell and explain that it’s a personal number and please do not use it going forward.

      1. LW1*

        This is it exactly. There was never any discussion of this position being on call 24/7 and if there was I wouldn’t have gone for it.

        I truly understand in an emergency, but it’s almost always someone who chose to do their work on a different schedule and doesn’t want to wait until I’m on office time for a response, or someone who failed to properly take action on something earlier and now wants me to bail them out. Ie, they’ve known they needed file x for three weeks, my team sent file x 2 weeks ago, they failed to review it until today and realized they had a question about it and want an answer immediately.

    10. Observer*

      You can turn off badge notifications if you have a recent Android phone.

      Someone texting you occasionally, but not making a huge fuss if you don’t answer right away, is hardly boundary stomping. Of course if you ask people to not do that, they SHOULD respect that, but it’s still not that big of a deal. The anxiety because you know that someone sent you a text is really something that you are going to have to figure out how to manage though.

      And I agree with everyone who says to block anyone who really is boundary stomping.

      Also, set your phone to go into DND when you are in meetings – you shouldn’t be taking personal calls then either, so it’s not a big deal.

  15. CoffeeLover*

    #2 Mark is being really insensitive to the situation. Even if he doesn’t care about the potential repercussions to himself (getting fired, difficulty in managing someone, showing favoritism, etc.), he should think about the repercussions for James. James will be in a position where his livelihood is dependent on his personal relationship with Mark. What happens when they have a fight and need to go into the office the next day? What happens when James wants to leave Mark, but can’t afford to lose his job? What happens when he wants to move on to a new job and doesn’t have a good reference from his last job because his boss was his boyfriend?

    1. Mary*

      yup– stigmatised relationships can become abusive relationships for exactly this reason. When you’re forced to operate in secrecy, it’s that much easier for the power to be abused.

      1. valentine*

        Mark does not seem to care about saddling OP2 with this, either. I’m wondering if OP2 has an obligation to report the relationship and if they’re willing to lose their job for not doing so.

      2. Smithy*

        This is so true. Given what the OP has told us – I do wonder if this is the place where either turning down a promotion because you’d be managing your best friend or asking for a transfer because of that would not be taken well.

        For AAM readers, the challenges and perils of managing a close friend are certainly extensive – however, I’ve certainly worked places where I can see giving such a response a side-eye. Being given assorted “toughen up” feedback and that if you “really” need help you can work with HR on good management practice”. Particularly coming from men – I think being worried about assorted “man up” feedback might be warranted. Even as a woman, I’ve definitely worked at places where I would feel that saying I couldn’t manage a good friend would stamp me as soft.

        While this is playing with fire and again, truly hope one of them can switch teams with minimal professional impact – I’m sympathetic to not feeling comfortable disclosing anything to a workplace. Not to say this isn’t a problem, but more so that it’s emblematic of working for a non-inclusive place where people do get stigmatized.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you. It’s a bad idea to to agree to be the manager of your best friend, and even worse to manage your boyfriend. Mark needs to rethink this decision. One of them can transfer departments, if their company allows it, or Mark needs to look for another job. (Or they could both look for another job, I guess.)

      To the OP: As a friend, you could absolutely tell Mark that he is making a mistake and suggest some of the solutions people have been coming up with in the comments. You also need to think about what you will do if Mark disagrees with you, or won’t change his mind. Your influence is limited to that of a friend and a coworker, so you no matter what happens, you risk being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and you need to be mentally prepared.

    3. Close Bracket*

      Mark did not write in, and neither did James. You are making a lot of assumptions about what they have or have not talked about and also about James’ own autonomy in entering and remaining in this relationship.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the two things that we do know are problematic. The fact that he’s putting this on the OP is a bit problematic. The fact that he’s planning to supervise his new romantic partner is MAJORLY problematic.

      2. Batgirl*

        No, and I think anyone would be sympathetic to their predicament and even the choice they’ve made.

        The fact still remains that the situation puts James in a massive disadvantage with his current job role.

        Sure, he may have a trust fund or have the luck to discover his relationship maintains it’s basic integrity, but he is rolling a dice that others wouldn’t have to roll. Plus this job will suffer even if his career/finances don’t. At the very least he won’t be managed properly.

        The worst part is Mark won’t necessarily know if James feels pressured, powerless or unmanaged; power differentials silence you.

    4. Observer*

      Yes. And “Mark is very invested in this relationship”. What happens if John turns out to not be as invested? The OP doesn’t mention how John feels about it, but it’s quite possible that he’s not.

  16. tgirl*

    Is it part of the non-profits mission to cripple their workers? I know a lot of people will be able to manage OK, or with some grumbling to use the broken furniture, but surely that’s very unfair to the people working there? Are there places live freecycle or something else where furniture can be acquired? If the furniture is actually broken (like the couch) then surely it should be disposed of before someone is injured?

    1. Koala dreams*

      There are a lot of options between broken furniture that hurt people and buying new expensive chairs for everyone. Much office furniture can be bought used in decent condition (or at least not broken), and in some cases it might even be better with household furniture (kitchen chairs or such) compared to broken office furniture.

      I would suggest going together as a group and demand chairs that are not broken.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. Whatever money they’re saving with the broken chairs they lose in healthcare costs and turnover.
        Maybe get with local businesses to donate newer chairs every year or two?

        1. Quill*

          It’s entirely possible that not just any chair in decent repair will do for the OP, but the company really should get chairs that are, at minimum, not broken.

    2. OP #4*

      I think it’s a combination of things at play. #1 that there is a culture of “don’t throw anything away” that is usable, even if it isn’t really usable. We literally accept every crappy donation. #2 that prioritizing things like furniture for workers is just not what is on the top of the agenda, that we can all make do and somehow having crappy furniture and not ideal circumstances is a kind of “suffering” that is acceptable because it’s a nonprofit, and because our money should not go to things like that, but directly to programming. It’s a crappy mentality, yes, and unfortunately one that I’ve seen before. It doesn’t make it right or appropriate, but it’s there. There is grumbling around it but not a lot of pushback yet.

      Also in terms of acquiring “new” furniture, I think it’s a matter of who has time to deal with that. Who can pick it up, who can source it etc. etc. I wish I had more time in my day to work on this, and for the spaces I utilize for my meetings and occupy this has sort of snapped into focus a bit and I plan to try to work on it. Sometimes when you are in a situation or embedded in a culture, you forget what is actually normal. And it’s not normal or appropriate for broken furniture. I don’t make the major decisions around it, but I can probably make a good argument for our meeting spaces and my own personal comfort at the very least.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Thanks for responding.
        Have they thought about this from a risk perspective? What happens when the broken furniture injures an employee and they (rightfully) file for worker’s comp?
        The whole idea you should “suffer” – what’s next, they turn off the HVAC and get everyone sick?

        1. valentine*

          We literally accept every crappy donation.
          Has anyone pointed out that dealing with crap is a waste of the org’s money?

          Do clients visit the space? They’re not going to feel confident you can help them when you’re in a furniture graveyard.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Do you have the political capital to spend on pointing out that these attitudes are still costing money – someone needs to accept/process the donation, sort, figure out how to store/allocate/use, you’re less efficient using broken equipment, and on and on?

        Also, strongly suggest not mentioning “my own personal comfort” because it’s really about a health need. I suspect personal comfort will be at odds with the suffering culture, and be interpreted as “LW4 wants to be luxurious and wasteful” not “LW4 needs to be pain free to function and perform at her best for us”.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        Does your employer have at least 15 employees? If yes, they are subject to the ADA and must make reasonable accommodations — you will have to find out if your situation fits the definitions. (Your state may have laws that cover smaller employers)

        And please don’t call this your personal comfort. It is a health issue.

        And ugh, suffering. I’m guessing you’re already suffering with a below-market salary and probably more than 40 hours/ week. You don’t need to be physically injured as well.

        OSHA might have bearing here, as well. Take a look at this site: osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/

        1. Observer*

          I was just thinking about OSHA. Aside from the ADA, all organizations have a legal requirement to provide basic safety and that includes actually safe furniture.

          Calling something “usable” even though it’s broken and unsafe doesn’t make it safe.

      4. Observer*

        If your organization actually thinks that “suffering for the cause” is a remotely reasonable expectation, the I am certain that there are other issues here.

        You say above that this is a good place to work in other ways. I’d be willing to bet almost anything that this is actually not true, and that there are a lot of things wrong that you don’t notice because your expectations have been skewed.

  17. Carlie*

    If people ask me for a personal contact number for a colleague/friend and aren’t satisfied with their work number, I always say “If you’d like to give me your cell number, I’d be happy to give it to John and let him know you need him to contact you.” Either they really do need to reach him and are happy with that, or they balk at handing me their personal number and suddenly realize the problem. My friend John can then reply on his own time and from his preferred means of contact.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, I’ve done that before. “I can’t give out Jane’s number, but I’ll give her yours and let her know you need to talk to her.”

  18. Random commenter*

    I think Mark or James should try to transfer departments if possible (without explaining that it’s because of the relationship), though I only think this because of the effect it has on their relationship.

    My only concern is for Mark and James. I have no sympathy for the company if it claims to be LGBT-friendly but isn’t, and a part of me would love to see this turn out horribly for the company because of it (maybe Mark and James run off to start a new company that competes with them?).

  19. Retail not Retail*

    #4 – i work for a non profit that most people don’t realize is one (it counts for the pslf though!) and my manager has repeatedly told us not to bring our own supplies.

    I once laughed in his face when he told me do a certain task because it was like… you’re joking right? All our tools for that task are beyond broken! My supervisor cobbled together a working one out of 3 broken ones but then my boss bought all of us new tools. He did that again a couple weeks ago – no one. In this department should be buying their own tools!

    Now it took over a year to get new vehicles and one we still have isn’t street legal but.

  20. Bagpuss*

    #4 – I would go back to them with a formal, written request for a proper chair as an accommodation. I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the rules but I don’t think that ‘we don’t have a budget for furniture’ is an adequate reason to refuse – paying for 1 chair is a low-cost, reasonable accommodation even for a business with tight margins. Maybe explain that not providing chairs which are fit for purpose is a false economy, as paying out if you are injured as a result would likely be way more expensive, and I suspect (although IANAL in the US) that the fact that you have explicitly told them of the issue and requested accommodation would make it very hard fr them to deny liability if you do end up injured as a result of their decision not to provide adequate office basics.

    To be honest though, I think you should be looking for a new job. If they are so underfunded and/or poorly run that they are not providing the basic tools you need to do your job AND they have so little care for their employees that they are comfortable with expecting you to suck up ongoing physical pain they are terrible employers and the business is not in great shape and not a secure employer anyway.

    If you do take your own chair in, then I would make sure that your name is etched on it and that you put a big label on it stating that it is your personal property and not to be moved or used by other staff members.
    And do an e-mail round at the office where it will be to state explicitly that as you have paid for the chair and is it you personal property, to ensure that it lasts and meets your medical needs, it must not be borrowed or removed – otherwise you are going to end up having to track it down every time you get to the office, argue with however nicked it, and pay to replace it more quickly when it gets worn out.

    But I would also be speaking to colleagues about pushing back as a group – this isn’t about being sensible about using the business’s resources, it is about failing to provide basic necessities.

    1. OP #4*

      I worked in a previous nonprofit where they bought a lot of things new and always helped get supplies. My file cabinet had a dent in it which made it a little difficult to close sometimes, and one day I just had a new one. When I asked IT to come look at my “little bit slow” computer one time they replaced it the next day with a newer model, I wanted a different set-up for my work station and it was accommodated and I had a new desk within a week…I had a great comfortable chair and when I asked for a tablet to work in the field they provided one without even blinking. Everything was very shiny and beautiful looking and comfortable physically. But toward the end of my time things were so tense and awful with upper management and being under-appreciated, blamed for things not my fault, and abused that I cried most days after work and found myself so stressed I was having panic attacks in the office.

      Every place I’ve ever worked has their weirdness. And yes, this situation is very frustrating for me but I don’t know if this would be accommodation level yet. Yes, I do have regular back and neck pain and discomfort that is interruptive, but I haven’t sought out medical attention (yet, getting close though). I’m not defending this, it is a ridiculous and weird cultural hang-up and something that needs changing within the org. I mentioned in another comment that sometimes when you become part of a culture and entwined in it you stop recognizing what is “normal” and appropriate. And some of these comments, and even writing the letter itself has been a bit of a wake-up call.

      I know there is probably some magical nonprofit that appreciates their workers and has decent furniture. Maybe I’ll find that job someday. But I am dedicated to the work here, and your suggestion of pushing back as a group has given me some ideas of how I will approach others to fix some of this moving forward.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        You need to go to your medical provider and either get their diagnosis or have them refer you to a specialist. Pursue it asap. First of all, because back pain is nothing to mess around with — it can very quickly and unexpectedly become *incapacitating* (BTDT); Second, relieving back pain can take a long long time (BT Doing that); Third, getting the paperwork done for an ADA accommodation can take more time than you’d expect.

        Start now.

        Also, I’ll just say that, yes, every workplace has its quirks and foibles. But physically injuring employees (because that’s what your employer is doing by not taking action) is not just a weirdness. It’s completely unacceptable, it’s possibly illegal and it’s certainly *unethical*.

        1. Observer*

          Not possibly – definitely.

          And, OP, if you really care about the org and its work, you should point out that ONE OSHA investigation could put them out of business. And, on the one hand even with a well run org, things can happen that expose them to an investigation and on the other, their current practices exponentially increase their chances of that happening.

          Also, workers comp could be an issue for them. One of these days they are going to find their workers comp payments going through the roof (unless they are also illegally “doing without” that, too.)

      2. Observer*

        I’m sorry, your expectations are incredibly skewed here, and I feel terrible for the awful work experiences that have caused that. You don’t need to be crippled by pain for something to be at the level that it NEEDS to be dealt with.

        What you are describing is NOT just “weirdness”, although it’s that, too. This is – in the BEST case – neglectful disrespect of staff.

        This may not be “accommodation” level, but it is WELL past the point that your employer is almost certainly LEGALLY required to fix this. Because the law REQUIRES safe furniture. And furniture that is so broken that is causes regular back and neck pain IS NOT SAFE.

  21. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    It would be so good if some non-profits took the comfort and safety of the workers seriously. It can’t be against the mission statement to provide decent furniture and accommodations for the staff. A friend worked at a non-profit and eventually left for another job because at least 2 days a week the toilet was non-functioning. The management shrugged and said it was part of being a non-profit that money wasn’t earmarked for basics.

    1. OP #4*

      I mean, the broken furniture is really not awesome, but a not running toilet would definitely have me running for the hills.

      I’ve worked in other nonprofits where adequate furniture and facilities were provided. It’s a mentality that exists for certain, but it’s not something you see everywhere.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yep. I blame a fair bit of it in the way people are told to look at how much money a charity receives goes to the actual services they offer rather than to “overhead/administrative costs”. Yay, 98% of your donations go to feeding hungry people! Ok, but then you’re leaving the actual people doing this amazing work with only 2% of that total to use for working toilets and sturdy office furniture and making enough money to be able to pay their own grocery bills.

  22. Chili*

    #5 My friend did this and it worked out great! Every potential employer she told thought it was really cool. I want to do the same if possible when I look for my next job. I would definitely make sure you have savings to cover at least 3 months of living expenses post-trip and/or have some sort of plan to mitigate how much of your savings you eat into post-trip. My friend was able to find a job in just under a month, which is really fast. She had planned to pick up a PT seasonal retail gig if she didn’t find anything after a month. Also, remember to consider your medical insurance situation if you’re in the US— COBRA is often a lot pricier than one may think.

    1. LW5*

      Thanks for letting me know! It’s good to hear that potential employers were excited about it and it didn’t reflect badly on her. I think your friend’s plan of finding a PT seasonal retail gig is a good one too, and might adopt it myself. I’ve been so stressed about whether or not to do this (and how to do it, and where I’m going after I do it, and all the other unknowns), so hearing stories of times it worked is a relief.

    2. iambrian*

      People seem to think the person hiring you is doing that because it’s who they are, not what they do. It’s their job, and they get out of bed and do it everyday because they have to work, just like everyone else. When they come across someone who took a couple of months off to travel, they don’t think, “I guess they don’t take their career seriously,” they think, “I wish I could find the time/money to do that.”
      What LW5 if doing is a perfectly reasonable think to do, and the hiring person will think so.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Ditto. If you kept having <1 year positions (that weren't intentionally temporary) punctuated by travel that would probably raise a red flag, but most people who want that kind of life just do contract/freelance/temp stuff anyway.

    3. Southern Yankee*

      I have a coworker who took a severance package after a big layoff and traveled globally for a year. She was about 4 years into her career in a fairly conservative field and was worried that it would be seen as lacking dedication or ambition. Instead, our company big boss was impressed at her being willing to take the risk to do something she wanted when the opportunity presented itself. I’m not sure all hiring managers reacted the same, but I think for most it will be hardly a blip for a gap of just a few months.

  23. Datalie*

    LW #4 bring your own chair! I’ve brought the same one to two jobs and it’s been totally fine! It is a large green exercise ball with a base that has completely helped my neck, shoulders, and back stay comfortable all day. Occasionally people want to sit on it for a minute and then they leave. There’s been no question this is my chair I brought from home!

    1. Artemesia*

      Well that is because it isn’t a chair. But a nice office chair is going to need to be marked well, track chipped and probably chained to the desk.

  24. LGC*

    3: Your company might have a preferred style as well. I’m stuck writing in the third person passive because that’s what my boss prefers.

    I also think that – like so many letter writers – you’re overanalyzing this. In my experience, people react to the substance far more than the style, and bring their own pre-baked reactions. Write in a way that feels genuine for you.

    LW4: bring your own chair, but also: I work at a non-profit and I have had to say numerous times that just because we’re a non-profit doesn’t mean we can’t provide essentials. Like, for example, furniture that’s not broken.

    I don’t think you should quit just because they refuse to provide safe seating, but…just from the letter and your tone in it, I’d be very surprised if the furniture is the biggest issue at your organization.

  25. Workerbee*

    #4 I had a less horrid but still uncomfortable chair that was leading to back and shoulder problems when I changed jobs. I asked the person acting as our office manager about the optics of bringing in my own chair, and I was glad I did, for I learned that only people at certain levels get to have the “good” chairs. She suggested I try a seat cushion. It was at my own expense, but I found a lovely seat-and-back cushion combo on Amazon, and fortunately it’s worked well enough if I pay attention to my posture.

    I did experience a bit of an adjustment period, coming from an organization where one could order accommodations without having to worry that someone might think I was getting above myself. (I did switch from for-profit to non-profit, if that matters, and I have noted the lack of what I’d consider basic accommodations in other areas. Yet also some nice little touches that I didn’t have in any previous job.)

    1. OP #4*

      My previous job would give you all the shiny supplies and chairs you needed, but was genuinely awful in other ways. Every place I’ve ever worked has their weirdness. What’s funny is my salary and the benefits are actually very good. I really like the work itself. I have some additional pieces of this job that are genuinely very positive (they provide lunch, for example).

      This is a very frustrating piece and definitely something to keep in mind and I think if it were in combination with a lot of other issues would push me out the door. But I’m not near there yet, just trying to figure out if I can get my current basic need taken care of, then maybe work on making some systemic changes.

      1. Artemesia*

        The best advice so far is to go to a used furniture place or habitat or wherever and find a chair that will work for you but also not break the bank. We just bought an office chair for our home office for my husband and I was shocked at how much it cost — but a used real office chair, especially if they have several to choose from, is likely to be a real step up from where you are now.

  26. ImpossibleGirl*

    I would NEVER, repeat NEVER give out someone’s phone number without their permission. It’s not your information to give out; ESPECIALLY your manager’s phone number. That is rude and thoughtless.

    1. Morning Glory*

      It’s really workplace dependent. My org has a master spreadsheet that includes everyone’s cellphones that anyone on our team can access if something time-sensitive comes up. Most of us either have signed up for a monthly stipend to subsidize our personal cell phones or else have a separate org-paid-for cell phone. Some of us even include our cell numbers on our business cards along with our direct lines.

      So, I don’t think there’s any one universal truth that cell numbers are free to share or that they’re deeply guarded secrets.

      1. GlassAlwaysEmpty*

        But you mentioned defining parts here, one that there is master spread sheet for the team (both you expect the number to be more accessible, and there is a difference between team and randoms outside the company or more consistent interaction), and that the phones are either provided for by the company or are a separate cell phone.

        1. Morning Glory*

          But my point was that different workplaces have different norms around this and we don’t know what kind of culture OP’s workplace has. We know her colleagues didn’t think it was a big deal to share that info and that OP does think it’s a big deal – so maybe her colleagues were rude or maybe OP is an outlier.

          And I was responding to a reeeaalllyy definitive statement with multiple capitalized NEVERs so I think pointing out that different workplaces have different rules for this kind of thing was relevant.

    2. PB & Jelly*

      The LW said above they haven’t told people that its a personal cell, and that people think its a company cell and they haven’t corrected them.

      1. LW1*

        That is not what I said. I said that I have given some people the number (I haven’t mentioned it because no one asked, but I always tell people that I directly give it to that it is a personal number). I have said that others who got the number not from me have made assumptions it’s a work cell. If I know that they’ve made that assumption I promptly correct them, but frequently the damage is done.

  27. Lady Heather*

    LW2 – either way, one of them needs to move so they don’t end up in a hierarchical relationship. I see a lot of suggestions here that Mark should say that he can’t adequately supervise James. I think James should also be able to say he’d rather not risk his friendship by reporting to a friend.

    Depending on your culture, it might be more effective – e.g. if your company is very “We’re all friends here” and plays lip service to the fact that managers shouldn’t befriend subordinates, they might not take it seriously if Mark says “I’ll be biased” or “inappropriate” or “appearance of favouritism.” In that case, James’ “I don’t want my drinking buddy to scold me for showing up to work with a hangover” might be more fruitful.
    (Although I recommend he phrases it differently.)

    Also, I think Mark and James should remember the unfortunate reality that belonging to a marginalized group can magnify responses to transgressions. If the company were to find out about a heterosexual relationship between a supervisor and subordinate, possible responses might be ‘have one resign’ to ‘we’ll monitor very closely to make sure they keep it out of the office’. In case of a homosexual relationship, the choice can be ‘are we satisfied with firing them or should we also drag their names through the mud?’. When you’re perceived as ‘different’, you don’t receive as much allowances, discretionary benefits, wiggle room.
    That’s not the way it should be, and the health of your workplace will certainly influence how big a factor this is, but it’s something to consider.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      The other thing is, even if Mark is able to supervise James with fairness and James is able to be supervised by Mark, this situation gives the *appearance* of favoritism, which is bad for morale. And James’ reputation can take a hit: will he be up for internal transfers and promotions? will he be judged for the quality of his work? or will there be that whisper of suspicion? James has a lot to lose in this situation.

  28. I'm just here for the cats*

    In regards to the desk chair. Definitely label it. With a giant price of brightly colored paper. At a former workplace you could only get the “good” chairs if you had documentation from a doctor stating you needed the chair because of health reasons. Then the manager would.make a big sign saying not to move the chair from that station. All other chairs were broken because nobody cared about taking care of stuff.
    If you have any standing f I would ask your manager if they could budget for some new chairs. If they are a nonprofit they may even get tax exempt or discounts from local companies. If nothing else check Goodwill, habitat for humanity, or other thrift stores. I’ve seen lots of office furniture there that’s in good shape.
    I don’t know if all states have this but I work for University of Wisconsin system and all state agencies have to use this surplus website to sell this GS. There’s everything from tractors and police cars to office equipment, and it’s pretty darn cheap too. That maybe an option.

    Also, maybe mention to your manager that it could be a liability issue. What happens if someone sits in the chair and it collapses and they get injured. Especially if it’s a customer or someone who is visiting. They could be sued, which would cost more than a bunch of chairs.

    Good luck!

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      My new company makes a lot of donations like this. We make office furniture and if a large order is returned for whatever reason, instead of sending it all to the company store they will review the nonprofits who have applied for a donation and see if the order fits any of the requests.

  29. Jdc*

    Paying for travel, storage then a move when your about to be unemployed for a period of time you can’t predict sounds very risky. Even a well funded savings account will be dried up.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s not necessarily true. Storage is inexpensive in most cases. Travel without extravagance is doable. Hostels and similar places to stay are very affordable. I’ve seen people do it easily without depleting their savings. And I come from a low income family that always traveled without it crippling our finances.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Everything we do is risky to some degree; even if OP had accepted a new job, it would be impossible to predict how long that would last, either.

      OP sounds like she understands the need to cover living and travel expenses with her savings, and I doubt she’ll recklessly blow her budget. She’s planning her next steps job-wise, too, and I think she’ll do just fine.

    3. Clisby*

      Eh, LW must be pretty young (25-ish, maybe?) This is exactly the time of life to take this kind of risk – which, to me, doesn’t even sound like much of a risk. If LW were the sole support of 2 kids and had a mortgage to pay, I’d think differently.

  30. CupcakeCounter*

    Bring in the chair and label it. When I accepted an offer with a company several years back they made a comment along the lines of the chairs here suck and since we know you are leaving an office furniture manufacturing company we wanted to let you know in case you wanted to bring in your own chair. I had noticed the outdated furniture and terrible chairs during my interviews so I immediately went to the company store and found a good chair for a great price. Rolled in with it my first day. They knew the furniture was bad but they knew they were outgrowing the building and would need to move in the next year or two and made the decision to not spend the money to refurbish the old space but to wait and put it into the new, long term space. That ended up being a little over 2 years for me so I got my money’s worth and now that chair is in my home office.

  31. K*

    Re: #2, I think it’s really crucial here to specify that the “course of action” is for LW to raise these points directly with Mark as his “close friend.” By no means should they out him or James by going over their heads.

  32. GlassAlwaysEmpty*

    Hard disagree here about the OP1 issue and the cell phone. I hardly would even give out the direct phone number because some people even abuse that, but you definitely shouldn’t just give out someone’s personal number even if you’ve used it to contact them about work. There is a difference between you, their coworker/team member, having a personal number and other outside contacts.

    As for how to bring it up, just mostly say whats here; that you meant for the number to be just for the team and its becoming disruptive to your life outside of work

  33. Wordnerd*

    Alison’s comment about quitting in a huff with/out your chair reminds me of the very late episode of Friends where Rachel is fired from Ralph Lauren and Ross is trying to get her desk chair through a revolving door.

  34. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – I’ve always written evaluations in 3rd person “omniscient narrator” style. This is especially useful when there are multiple people contributing to the evaluation, as I think it tends to dampen out personal writing styles.

    “Fred has made excellent progress in llama grooming, and should be able to apply for the Groomer+ certification next quarter. His performance in llama feeding, however, is just at the ‘meets expectations’ level. He will not be able to meet his personal goal of being promoted to Llama Herder III unless he improves llama feeding to ‘exceeds expectations’.”

  35. WorkingGirl*

    I used to work in a volunteer/event staff coordinator type role; while my hours were part time in standard business hours, we had volunteers / event staff working events seven days a week, often late at night, plus travel that could be any hour. So “emergencies”- someone doesn’t have necessary supplies for an event, a flight gets cancelled, issues with a rental car – could happen at any time! I didn’t have a work cell so everyone contacted me on my personal cell. But outside my work hours, I would only answer texts/calls/emails if they were emergencies – and since I was hourly, any time I spent outside my “business hours” was on the clock. It mostly worked, people knew not to expect a response to a nonemergency issue until I was back in the office – but I was essentially “on call” pretty much 24/7, which sucked.

  36. TooTiredToThink*

    OP#4 – I worked for a private organization and needed a new chair for my back – I got what is called a kneeling chair. I got it off Amazon and it was absolutely amazing – and was less than $150! It is also highly improbable other people would steal it -unless they too have back problems, google, you’ll understand why. I did sometimes have to switch back and forth between the chairs, but it took so much weight off my back that I was finally getting relief.

  37. Czhorat*

    For #1, I’m going to be an outlier here and say taht, at least in my industry, using a personal cell for business has become a norm as more firms have a “BYOD” policy (Bring Your Own Device, which we all know also means “Buy Your Own Device”. It’s a way for your employer to not have to buy a phone for you, yet for you to still be accessible.

    For better or worse, our personal phones often ARE now our work phones and it isn’t likely to go back.

    That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do; you can simply not answer out of hours, and return non-urgent messages promptly when business re-opens for the day. If you do find yourself on a call after hours, tell them you’re away from your desk and will send a response when you get there at 9AM your time zone.

    In other words, you can set boundaries even if “never use this phone” might not be one of them.

    1. miss_chevious*

      If you have the means, I cannot recommend strongly enough having a separate work phone. It annoys me that I a m subsidizing my employer in this way, since the reimbursement does not cover enough for a whole separate phone, but at least my personal device can be kept completely personal and isn’t subject to review by my employer.

    2. WorkingGirl*

      But that might not be the standard in LW1’s industry, is the thing. I would NEVER think to bring my own *laptop* to a job!

  38. bossynurse*

    If someone tried to claim a chair that I brought in, that would absolutely be a hill I’d die on. I guess that’s why I’m not AAM!

  39. cmcinnyc*

    Something to consider re OP 1/personal cells–if you work in government or any capacity with FOIA requests are a real thing, if you use your personal cell for work, it’s fair game. This is part of the reason my company keeps a pretty hard line between work phones and personal. Some people have indeed had the lawyers *all* through their business because of a routine FOIA.

  40. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Reading that some NP only use donated furniture hit me two fold.

    One is my outrage center because yikes ergonomics are a safety concern.

    The second is in my happy center because we’re updating furniture in a few months and we though about donating ours to a nonprofit. I wasn’t sure if that’s a thing. I’m already soured on trying to donate a large amount of material that should be perfect for public school children and got shot down because “no used stuff evaaaaa” was thrown at me by the poorest district in the area even. At least the furniture should have a better fate. Phew. Is there a centralized database of local NP kind of place to find these organizations around me?

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      There is probably not a centralized database, but if your state or region has an association of nonprofit organizations (like the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits or Maine Association of Nonprofits) you could give them a call and ask whether they know whether any of their members would be interested.

      I have to admit to being a little frustrated by your frustration that you can’t give away the material to the local school district. Nonprofits (and school districts) just can’t win. People are angry when we have nice things (wasteful spending!). People are angry when we don’t have nice things (abusing your employees!). People are angry when we don’t accept donations (you should be grateful!). It never ends.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Local school district does not accept furniture:
        Lack of resources (people, time, storage, cleaning, delivering, disposing of crappy donations — that one’s a people AND money cost) to deal with donated furniture.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s not furniture, it’s office supplies I’m trying to give schools. But they’re opened and were looked at at some point and it’s not “Fair to the children” to get used things…no liability just snobbery.

          1. Observer*

            For the supplies, find a teacher or two and give it to them directly.

            Some school districts HAVE tried to keep teachers from getting donations claiming that it’s for the protection of the kids, but even in those districts teachers generally buy a significant amount of their own supplies. So, if you can find a teacher or two, they will be more than happy to take good office supplies off your hands.

            If your furniture is in good condition, there are plenty of places that can use it. Reach put to any NP people you know, and if they can’t use it, tell them what you have and ask them to send out an email to their NFP contact lists.

    2. ynotlot*

      You should do it! I have worked at a nonprofit in the past where we were running super lean and got EVERYTHING from in-kind donations. When we failed, we donated everything along to another new nonprofit. I would look for new, growing, or teen-serving nonprofits (big groups of teens coming in and out can make furniture wear out quicker).
      My one caveat is to look for a nonprofit that specifically solicits in-kind donations. Not every nonprofit is set up to take in-kind donations and for some it can cause a bigger headache with figuring out the budget/tax/space/logistics. To reduce that risk, I would rec also avoiding attaching any strings to the donation like who you want it to be used by or for what – usually it’s best to allow them to use it in whatever way they feel is best.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if you can’t find one that uses the furniture themselves there are of course places that sell donations. We recently gave a bunch of furniture to a thrift store operation that uses its proceeds to fund a clinic for people living with AIDS. When we were moving from big southern city to big northern city we gave most of our furniture to an organization that outfits apartments for refugees and there was a huge need then as our city had lots of refugees. We donated most of our kitchen, most of our bedroom furniture, a couple dozen book cases and our living room furniture and they were thrilled.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The issue is that most people in our situation don’t have the time to devote to going through the trouble of finding specific ones that are soliciting donations. So that’s another wrench in the plan.

        Sadly with the feedback as it is, the stuff is going to become landfill because I don’t have the manpower to devote to it, which is what I was hoping wouldn’t be the case.

        It’s kind of like the recycling crisis in the end though. People do things when it’s easy enough to handle without much extra efforts attached. But when you need sorting and vetting, not so much. Darn it. Even Goodwill refuses most furniture now because they simply don’t have room.

        I had to dump personal furniture because their requirements were too high, despite it being in perfect condition otherwise. But no, it has to be delivered in this very little window and if it’s raining, no donations are accepted because it would get wet and is deemed unacceptable. Yikes.

    3. Blueberry*

      I’m already soured on trying to donate a large amount of material that should be perfect for public school children and got shot down because “no used stuff evaaaaa” was thrown at me by the poorest district in the area even.

      Used stuff needs to be evaluated for usability and the school district may not have the ability to afford the working hours, storage, disposal, etc. You personally know you are a trustworthy and sensible person who would never donate anything that wasn’t in good working order and safe for children, but my friend who used to work at the Salvation Army and has fished through menstruated-upon bedsheets and children’s books that reeked of urine (and that’s not the worst stuff she told me about) impressed upon me that not everyone’s common sense is so reliable.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s standard story for donation centers, so I do understand how disgusting those things are. I’ve heard stories of used adult toys being “donated” to those drop locations.

        I sent pictures and explained it, I’m also operating as a business while doing this, not as a general population. They literally only said no because “We refuse anything that’s not new. Because it’s unfair.” Okay, it’s more unfair that kids don’t have any school supplies and they suffer without food, but sure…

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          The grapevine may be your friend here. Ask around and find out if anyone knows any individual teachers, especially primary school teachers. Teachers will almost always take used random stationery and craft supplies, so long as they’re clean. My Mum took in all sorts of random stuff so long as it came in multiples of 30. Yoghurt tubs, egg cartons, stockings (for growing grass heads), old letterhead stationery and fliers, you name it!

      2. Observer*

        In theory, that’s true. And sometimes it’s a real issue. But from what @The Man, Becky Lynch says, that’s totally not the issue here.

        Keep in mind that these same districts have NO PROBLEM “allowing” (ie EXPECTING) teachers to use their own judgement when buying supplies with their own money. What’s really happening is that the district(s) don’t want to have what’s going on in the public eye.

        1. Blueberry*

          Yeah, I saw the further information provided and now agree with the two of you. I remember being a kid — I didn’t care if someone read a book before they gave it to me, I cared about getting a book! And I hear you on the awfulness of expecting teachers to buy supplies. The only adult friends of mine I buy rather than make gifts for are the teachers, as what little I can do about this ridiculous policy.

  41. Is butter a carb?*

    We do all of our reviews talking about the reviewee in the third person. I actually had an employee give me her first review with us and she referred to HERSELF in the third person because that’s what she had to do at her old employer. I had her redo that because it was totally weird. However, the review is actually for HR. The employee basically knows everything that is going to be in it and we meet and it’s kind of just a formality (although a long one) at this point. We use it to have performance measurements and to justify the pay raise.

  42. Hallowflame*

    Letter #1-So I disagree with Alison’s final assessment of the gravity of a third party giving out personal contact info. You DO NOT give out a person’s personal number without permission! It’s a huge breach of privacy and trust. If it were a work cell, that would be different. That’s what a work cell is for. But it should be up to you to decide on a case by case basis who gets your personal number.
    OP, speak to your company about getting a company cell phone and start blocking unwanted work contact from your personal phone.

  43. Is butter a carb?*

    To OP2, I don’t think the culture or beliefs of the office matter in this case at all. You can’t manage a romantic interest (or family, and even have to be careful with friends actually). That’s a full stop. And if found out also could cause the more senior person to be fired (if not both) and then have the reporting person’s performance be questioned and negated. With social media and things, I don’t know how this could be kept a secret either.
    Also, its just a terrible idea!

  44. Observer*

    #4 – Your organization is TERRIBLY managed, and is asking for trouble. There is no excuse for broken furniture. Also, given what you say about multiple sites, it’s almost certainly the case that your employer is covered by the ADA (and possibly by other workplace safety rules). Their refusal to insure that you actually have a safe and functioning chair is utterly unconscionable. The fact that they allowed another person to take your chair, and couldn’t manage to find you another is just another layer of ridiculousness.

    What other corners are they cutting? Are they expecting non-exempt staff to “volunteer” unpaid time? Are they allowing supervisors to mistreat staff? I ask because this kind of thing shows such a blatant disrespect for staff that I’d have to bet that there are other problems going on as well.

  45. ynotlot*

    It seems like because gay marriage is legal now, a lot of younger people have this idea that homophobia isn’t a thing anymore, that the historical implications are irrelevant, and that therefore there are considerations around when to come out other than “when that person, on their own time, is ready to come out.” But – nope. Any suggestion that anyone “should” come out, for any reason (other than MMAAAAAYYYBEEE the Harvey Milk ‘come out to your parents, come out to your pharmacist’ speech) is hurtful and really just comes off as straight nonsense.
    As others have pointed out elsewhere in comments, closeted gay people have often handled situations like this with scrupulous professionalism. Nothing – no phrase in a handbook, no relationship disclosure recommendation, no cultural change – ever outweighs people coming out at their own pace only IF and when they CHOOSE to. Those of us who are outed or pressured to come out before we’re ready never lose that sense of betrayal.
    I still think this is a complex issue and I’m not saying it’s not, but straight people won’t understand what is complicated about this and why. I vote for not disclosing the relationship (definitely not declining the promotion) and separately, between themselves, outside of the office, having a discussion about how they would handle various situations and making an agreement between the two of them to engage in a good faith effort to resolve any issues that arise.
    Then, if anyone tries to create a problem for them down the line, say “For reasons that I hope are clear and don’t require an explanation, we could not safely disclose this in the work environment. I think you’ll agree that we have handled this professionally and never caused any issues in the workplace, so let’s move on.”

    1. ynotlot*

      ETA – I forgot to say another thing. Pretending that you and your significant other are ‘friends’ or having to accept that people assume that isn’t like, a solution to homophobia. It’s an example of homophobia.

      1. Batgirl*

        I don’t think anyone’s disputing they are in a very risky and unfair homophobic situation are they?
        No one would suggest a friendship cover otherwise.

    2. Fulana del Tal*

      Your last paragraph is the problem. They don’t get to decide if this has been handled professionally. Again this site has had countless letters about the problems arising from supervisors managing partners/family members/best friends.

      This is against most companies policy for a reason.

      1. ynotlot*

        It’s against company policy for a reason, but Mark and James are also closeted for a reason. That reason *very* greatly outweighs the reason for the company policy in this situation.

        1. Clisby*

          It might well outweigh it from Mark’s and James’s viewpoints – but likely not from the company’s viewpoint.

          “I think you’ll agree that we have handled this professionally and never caused any issues in the workplace, so let’s move on.” Yeah, that’s likely to go over well.

          1. Blueberry*

            It’s not just from Mark and James’ point of view, though. It’s objectively true with regards to the real risks of coming out in an unsafe environment. And should a company that cannot be trusted to not be homophobic really be given an opportunity to harm its employees?

            1. Observer*

              I hear that. But why should they have the opportunity to harm others.

              You keep on saying that it’s a given that the two will handle this appropriately and professionally, but that’s actually extremely unlikely. Not because they are terrible people, but because that’s the nature of romantic and close family relationships. And because they have to stay closeted, they don’t even have the assistance of an outside pair of eyes to give them some course correction when it’s needed.

              1. Clisby*

                Exactly. There is no reason whatsoever to assume Mark and James will magically be the unicorns who handle this kind of relationship with perfect professionalism, all while being so discreet that there’s not even any perception of favoritism.

    3. Observer*

      “For reasons that I hope are clear and don’t require an explanation, we could not safely disclose this in the work environment. I think you’ll agree that we have handled this professionally and never caused any issues in the workplace, so let’s move on.”

      Not possible. I get why it’s a problem for them to disclose. But that does not make it ok for them to both stay in this position. One of them needs to find a way to move.

      For one thing, the assumption that they WILL handle things professionally is not tenable. And even if they think they are doing that others may not think that – and if people are being homophobic that’s going to be magnified. BUT – even if homophobia plays a role, they will not be able to defend it because no one looking from the outside in is going to say that it’s just not possible that there were real issues.

      1. Clisby*

        Plus, they clearly would *not* have handled it professionally – if they were being professional, they’d figure out some way not to have Mark manage James.

  46. foolofgrace*

    #4, I recently had a similar experience. Our governmental office chairs are from the ’80s. My chair was broken such that it bowed down on the right side of the seat, putting undue pressure on my right thigh. Eventually it got so bad I could hardly walk and I ended up in the emergency room. The doctor wrote a note saying that I needed a better chair, and I gave the note to my boss. He found me a better chair, it was a spare from his own office, and I haven’t had a problem since. As it turns out, our office is buying new chairs but it will take a while, I think as a governmental entity we have to do bids and such. So a doctor’s note is something to keep in mind given that everyone should be able to sit at their desk without excruciating pain. Your organization could buy surplus used chairs that are in better condition than what you have, they just don’t want to go to the trouble.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4 – Anyone else thinking of Maria Bamford? “She bought it with her own money!”

    Anyway. I hate the idea of setting a precedent by buying your own chair, and I want you to tell The Powers That Be “I agree with our mission to use everything as long as possible. And I’ve used this chair as long as possible. It is no longer possible to use this chair.” But I’m sure that will get you nowhere, so yes, bring your own chair and label it with “#4’s Personal Property” (try a paint marker or metallic Sharpie). Good luck to you.

  48. Close Bracket*

    Re: #2

    Alison’s advice would have been great if Mark had written in. But Mark did not write in. OP wrote in. OP gets to worry about whatever they want to worry about, but OP does not get to tell Mark how to run his relationship. The advice should have been that Mark and James are grown-ass men who get to take whatever risks being closeted at work entail, and OP gets to keep their thoughts to themselves about it.

    Now, if OP had asked, “Do I have any responsibility to disclose this relationship to HR given that Mark has said that he won’t?” that would be a fair question to ask (and the answer is no, the repercussions to the business are not large enough to out someone). But that’s not what they asked.

    1. Antilles*

      The advice should have been that Mark and James are grown-ass men who get to take whatever risks being closeted at work entail, and OP gets to keep their thoughts to themselves about it.
      100% Disagree.
      OP specifically says that they are close friends. And they almost certainly are close if Mark trusts OP enough to keep quiet about the fact he’s not-yet-out. Also, close enough that Mark and OP have already discussed the job-related ramifications (implying that at least on some level, he’s interested in getting OP’s thoughts). Part of being a close friend is the willingness to tell someone what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.
      Mark might respond with a “no, I don’t want to discuss it” or shrugging off the concern and that’s perfectly fine, but as close friends, OP certainly has the right to bring it up.

      1. Close Bracket*

        close enough that Mark and OP have already discussed the job-related ramifications

        Then they had the discussion, and now OP gets to bow out.

        1. Antilles*

          I do not believe a friend is obligated to mention “hey, I think this is an issue” only once. Especially since in this case, OP now has more information supplied by a knowledgeable objective third party about the potential issues, it’s perfectly fair to circle back about “so I know we discussed this a little, but I was really worried about you, so I did some research”.

        1. Antilles*

          The quoted sentence which I 100% disagreed with is the idea that OP needs to mind their own business and has no right to talk to Mark…which, if they’re really close friends, strikes me as a very odd stance to take. As I said, I think part of being a friend is willingness to tell someone “hey, this seems like a mistake”.
          Don’t really see where you got that I’m advocating outing Mark and James.

  49. Quinalla*

    #1 – I am 100% with you on personal cell phones – I do not want people calling me on them for work unless they can’t get a hold of me at my desk phone and not call/text me outside work hours. However, I am very clear when I give people my cell phone number my feelings about that and that it is a personal phone that I do end up using for work too. I refuse to put it on my business card or email signature and so far I’ve had good success with that, but I had to be clear because there are a lot of folks that use their phone for personal/work and see no issue with texts/calls outside of business hours, people that prefer I use their cell as first point of contact instead of their desk phone, etc.

    And yes, a google phone as others have said would help with this a lot. You may want to go that route!

  50. Sleepy Hollow Girl*

    #3 — I’m writing reviews now, and in many cases they are for the promotion committee (or for the manager to use to argue for a good rating), and for that I think the 3rd person makes sense.

    For the sections that are more for the reviewee, I sometimes use second person, eg “You are great at…”.

  51. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – This is a tough situation to get out of. I like other’s suggestions to get a google voice number and then control who has it. I would make it clear to your reports that your cell phone # should only be used in certain situations and should not be given out without your permission. Others have commented that someone should know not to share personal info, but I’m guess your employees were not aware of that so you need to be clear about your wishes when you share your number. At that point, if they still share your info, then you can explain why that wasn’t appropriate. For anyone above you, give your boss your number if necessary, but explain your preference not be contacted by others in the company using that number.
    After you’ve established this new contact number, ignore everyone that texts directly to your original personal number. If anyone says anything later just say you’ve changed your number and will not be sharing your personal number.

    1. LW1*

      I can honestly say that none of my direct reports have ever given it out it has only ever been from my boss (who’s done it accidentally, long story), Simone I gave the number to socially before I was in management, or the most frequent offenders, people who I didn’t give it to at all who received it from someone else.

  52. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

    #2 My organization recommends different voices for different types of documentation. So for example, if it’s a performance review that is written to/for the employee, then write everything in first person: “I believe that you did X thing excellently.” But if it’s a review to recommend certain action to management or HR, then write in purely factual third person: “Fred did X thing on Y date and it caused Z hardship. Leadership recommends termination based on policy 304b which states” etc. etc.

  53. LW #2*


    Thank you to everyone who has posted their comments regarding this situation; I’ve been reading them and they are all very thoughtful. (Also thank you to Alison for getting to my question so quickly).

    Just as a clarification, I have no intention of out Mark/James or going over their heads to HR. As it currently stands, Mark is planning on accepting the promotion and neither he nor James are planning on transferring I believe.

    Mark has told me that in the past trying to get someone transferred due to a conflict of interest has either resulted in “I’m sure it’ll be fine” from management or the employee getting transferred gets essentially “road blocked” at this company. I think it is a difficult situation so my follow up questions are:

    1) Should I attempt to persuade him to reconsider the transfer or should I consider this none of my business? I don’t want to overstep my standing, especially since he told me due to our personal friendship, not our professional one.

    2) If I should speak to Mark, any recommendations for the wording I could use?

    Ultimately though I recognize that his final decision is his own and I will respect it whatever it may be.

      1. T R*

        Agreed. OP, he asked you for advice, you gave your perspective, you got a sense check from here people generally agree that managing an SO is a bad idea. Convincing him to take a specific course of action is a little outside your wheelhouse.

    1. Blueberry*

      I think that both from a friendship and a business standpoint you have advised Mark to the extent that you can, and to the best of your ability and in a most conscientious manner. Now his decisions have to be his own.

    2. Batgirl*

      The fact that he’s considered and discovered the roadblocks of a transfer makes me feel a lot better about the situation tbh. It’s way better to go into this situation with ‘This is problematic and the usual solutions are blocked’ as opposed to ‘Whatever, it’ll be great and we’ll make it work’.

      Hopefully another reason/good opportunity to move on will crop up for them. If he keeps his current mindset that it’s the best move then hopefully eyes will remain peeled and this present situation won’t be permanent as I don’t think it’s feasible.

      I don’t think there’s anything you can personally do.

  54. Leela*

    OP #1 as someone with a former stalker I’m cringing so, so hard at people passing out your cell phone number. They are opening people up to extreme danger by doing this, and even if they weren’t, it’s just so bizarre to decide you’re making that call for another person without consulting them.

    I know Alison said don’t lay into them but I honestly might just enough to let them know the danger they’re exposing people to by doing this, and I might go as so far as to say something to HR, not necessarily even naming people, but requesting that they make sure everyone knows not to be giving out people’s private contact information.

  55. Ponytail*

    I got the distinct impression Alison DIDN’T think it was a faux pas, she seemed to think sharing phone numbers was OK and said not to tell off anyone who passed on your number. I’m basing my reaction on Alison’s reply, not the letter – I’d have the same reaction as LW1!

  56. Johanna*

    I would probably go ahead and lock it or at least mark it in a non-obvious way underneath the chair that can’t be removed. Even then you may not be able to go into the higher ups offices to check. Non- profits can be stingy. Years ago at an art museum, my boss got an ergonomic chair and gave me her old one. It was found out by someone and they literally kicked me out of my chair because it was too good for me. No one in particular was after it. Wasn’t fancy- it had arms was all. I was left scrounging for an armless chair with a rip in the fabric from a shared space. I had one of those lumbar support things strapped to it that I bought myself that they took as well because I couldn’t prove it was mine.

  57. Book of Iona*

    #1 – Consider getting a Google Voice number, which can be forwarded to your regular cell. It has all kinds of useful DND settings, has a voice mail system that is entirely separate from your real voice mail, and it’s free. I work at various sites with a lot of boundary-challenged people, so while it’s necessary and useful for them to have a mobile number for me, there’s no way I’m giving them my real cell number.

    #4 – I just want to express my solidarity as a fellow NP employee. At my last organization, “chair vulturing” when someone left was practically a blood sport. I highly recommend the hilarious blog NonprofitAF, which has more than one post about our tendency towards injurious furniture as a badge of non-profit legitimacy. I would absolutely support you in chaining your chair to the leg of your desk.

  58. Flora*

    I’d consider it a pretty significant privacy violation to give out someone’s number without that being an explicit part of the culture. Like, I have a colleague whose cell number is in their voicemail greeting, and still, if someone asks for it, I refer them to their office line (where they will get that information, but I will not have given it). I would be super ticked if, for example, my former spouse called the office looking for me (our relationship did not end because of harassment behavior, but they have undergone some political/personal changes since then which makes interaction less than pleasant and also I don’t necessarily discuss this truth with everyone who works with me? and also they might very well not say they were my former spouse?) and someone gave them my cell number to call. I would also not like to be added to the call lists of assorted feed vendors, brush salespeople, and general llama afficionados just because I wasn’t in the office when they called. In my office, therefore, the directive is that if it seems very time-sensitive, the phone answerer can take a message and call me themselves, but else to direct people to my dang voicemail as this is what it’s for. I can’t be the only person who thinks it would be a great idea to generally practice caution until otherwise instructed.

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