my ex-husband hired his new girlfriend, office freezer is packed with personal groceries, and more

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

1. My ex-husband has hired his new girlfriend

I’m in a pickle. My ex-husband left me out of the blue, a little over a year ago. After about six months, he started dating a contractor at his workplace. This didn’t really raise any red flags for me, because she was in an entirely different department. I told him to tell HR, but he didn’t want to, for fear that they wouldn’t extend her contract because of it.

Fast forward another six months, and she just got hired full-time. As his direct report. And this really concerns me, from an ethical perspective because (1) consent can get really icky and (2) there is a high probability that she was only hired because of this secret relationship.

I’m obviously really biased because all my brain wants to do is “report it! ruin his life! he dug this hole himself!” but I’m also quite far removed from the situation, as I have very little contact with him or his organization. I don’t want to be the “crazy ex” but I am also really uncomfortable about, you know, ethics. To report? Or to pick up the mantra “not my circus, not my monkeys”?

It’s not yours to worry about or report. You don’t work there! This would be like reporting the same thing to, say, your neighbor’s company if you learned your neighbor had hired his girlfriend. The neighbor would be solidly in the wrong, but it would be a very strange overstep for you to contact his company about it. It’s the same thing here. But you’re welcome to judge him from afar, which I will join you in doing.

2. My friend is in trouble for telling me I was going to get fired

My friend, who happens to be the COO of the company I work for, told me on Wednesday evening that my manager was going to sack me. I have been at the company for just shy of two years. Our HR manager told her this news from a meeting she missed on Monday. Everyone in the company knows that the COO and I are close friends.

She then went to a meeting about it with the exec team and they said it was a performance issue and irreversible, and that I would have about an hour to leave the building and hand my laptop back etc.

I am going through shock, as I have just bought a house and the way this has been handled is incredibly upsetting. I was given no written warnings or statements that my performance was not acceptable and feel I have done well there. Knowing this information, I made a call to resign before they could sack me, as I didn’t want it leaking into our small industry. They accepted my resignation, removed my access to all my accounts and emails, got a courier to come and pick up my work stuff from my flat, and told me not to come in. They told me work my notice as gardening leave.

I had a lot of friends and clients there who have reached out to me and asked what happened. I told a close friend at work that my COO friend had said that I might lose my job and so I decided to resign. My COO friend now says the whole building is saying that I have told everyone she told me very confidential info and that she may now lose her job. I feel terrible that I leaked this to a mutual friend, but management also knew how close we were when they told her this news.

Can my friend lose her job over this? She is deeply concerned and angry with me that I told someone what happened.

Yes, she could lose her job over it. As COO, she’s expected to be able to handle confidential information with discretion, regardless of any personal friendships. Sharing that info with you was a serious breach and a violation of the trust people at your company need to have in her. That’s true even though they knew you were close friends! There’s no friendship exception for duties of confidentiality at work. (And she couldn’t do her job if she felt entitled to that exception.)

The reality is, she messed up in a serious way. I can understand why she’s unhappy with you, but it’s the decision she made that caused this. (And really, even if you hadn’t told your other friend how it happened, it might have been obvious anyway — since presumably your resignation came out of the blue right after she was told they planned to fire you.)

3. Someone filled the office freezer with 30+ cuts of meat

I work in an office with some big personalities, people prone to behave in slightly odd ways. I’m the office admin, so it’s up to me to clean up after people and manage shared spaces. Someone has now filled the freezer in the break room with cuts of meat and now I’m both annoyed and a bit baffled.

Literally like, 30-odd individually wrapped cuts of meat. It’s taking up the whole freezer. If anyone else wanted to put anything in the freezer today, they wouldn’t be able to. There is no work event coming up that these could be for and there is no oven or barbecue at the office that you could use cook these, so I believe they’re for personal use and are simply being stored here.

I don’t know exactly who did this or what exactly their plan is, but I’m wondering what the best way for me to react to this is. I’m hoping they’ll be gone on Monday, but if they’re not should I take a deep breath and hold my tongue until it’s gone? Bring my concern to the employee, once I find out who it was? Send out an email to all staff with an ultimatum to take their groceries home? Go to my manager?

Ugh, office kitchens.

If there’s any chance this is for a work-related event, before you do anything else you should inquire with anyone who might be able to fill you in on that.

But assuming you don’t discover that’s the case, send out an email this morning saying that whoever packed the freezer with meat has made it unusable for anyone else and you will be tossing it all at the end of the day unless you hear from the person responsible. (And even if you do hear from them, you still may need to toss it — but it’s worth hearing what’s up first. If, for example, someone lost power at home and is desperately trying to avoid losing their 15-year meat supply … well, they still can’t take up the whole freezer, but you might be willing to give them a grace period rather than tossing it all immediately.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Employer is enforcing our PTO cap and I’m way over the limit

My employer has a paid time off policy where vacation time earned through the year is automatically rolled over to the next year and never expires (we earn three weeks/year, accrued in increments each pay period).

A new HR director was recently hired and it has come to light that vacation PTO is supposed to have been capped at 160 hours maximum (four weeks). This limit caught me by surprise, since this is the first time I had heard about it (I thought). We checked the employee handbook and it does set this limit, so I probably should have seen this problem coming.

The cap has never been enforced in the 10 years I’ve been with this company. I (and several others) have banked up PTO greatly exceeding the cap (in my case, over 450 hours). I’m concerned that if the cap starts to be enforced, I will lose the time off I have earned.

Do you have any recommendations for how I should handle this? Can the company retroactively enforce the limit and delete the vacation hours already earned? Should I just take Mondays off for the foreseeable future (only half joking)?

Unless you’re in a state that considers accrued vacation to be compensation that can’t be later revoked (e.g., California) the company could indeed retroactively enforce the limit and cap you at 160 hours. That said, since they haven’t been enforcing the policy up until now, you have a good case for asking them to give everyone a year’s grace period to use up their accrued time before the cap starts getting enforced.

5. What should I say is my reason for wanting to work from home one day a week?

My company has formal telecommuting agreements, and I’m considering submitting one to work from home one day a week. The first question on the agreement form is, “Please explain why you would like to telecommute.” To be totally honest, my reasons are not doing hair/makeup, easily putting together lunch, petting my cat while I’m working, avoiding a 30-minute bus commute, and not dealing with the drama of my colleagues. I don’t have kids, family to take care of, or any “real” reason to telecommute besides convenience. I also feel like if I reference the bus commute, it will create a bad precedent for others in my office who may want to do this but don’t have much of a commute and therefore don’t have a justification. Also, why should my employer have to care if my commute is longer or not? Given all that, what are the best ways to answer this question?

“Spending less time on my commute, and the ability to focus without interruptions.”

You’re not setting a bad precedent for people without similar commutes. They presumably can still cite the ability to focus as a reason. And not having to commute is a really common reason for telecommuting — you won’t be saying something no one had thought of previously!

{ 620 comments… read them below }

  1. Sometimes Anon*

    LW1 – This is so very much not you rodeo. You might also want to consider that if you are receiving any type of financial support from your ex, endangering his job is likely not in your best interest either.

    1. valentine*

      I would shut down the font of information, especially if it’s the ex. (And I really hope it isn’t, because leaving you suddenly and telling you about the milestones in his terrible secret relationship is weird and distasteful.)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agree. Why do you even know this? Mind your own beeswax, and if he’s now your ex, his carryings-on with his girlfriend, however inappropriate, are not your beeswax. At all. If you care about what he’s doing, then stop knowing what he’s doing until you feel indifferent about what he’s doing.

        It’s hard not to want to make this kind of moral-high-ground point when you still have capital-F Feelings about what went down at the end of your relationship, and so seeing him get punished would be very satisfying and feel like karmic revenge. I get it. But you need to gripe about this over margaritas with your friends, not try to get him in trouble at work.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yes–start prepping some popcorn and pick up a reality TV series (I recommend The Circle on Netflix) that will fulfill that same craving for juicy gossip and seeing people make their bed and then lie in it. It will fulfill that urge with harmless strangers so you don’t have to use your ex’s trainwreck life.

        2. Allison*

          I’m wondering if LW is getting this information from a 3rd party, like a mutual friend, or friend of a friend.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Yes. Your only “pickle” is that you know too much about your ex’s personal life and need to figure out how to shut down that flow of information.

        4. Ellen*

          You would not BELIEVE the crap that I know about my ex husbands personal life, solely because he has told me over various “family holiday” dinners shared with our daughter over the years. I even had to escort him out of a Thanksgi ring dinner that my (adult, married) daughter DIDNT come home for. And yes, I sometimes gloat strictly inside my head over his failures. In this case? Popping popcorn, but not telling anyone why.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I agree. If the information is coming from the ex, stop listening (cultivate a slightly bored tone of voice and change the subject so if he starts talking about his new relationship your response is a bored-sounding “OK,Anyway, about sorting out what stuff you want from the house / signing the last of the paperwork / little Emily’s soccer game / whatever you actually need to speak to him about”
        That way, you limit the conversation to the things you still need to maintain communications about and by coming across as uninterested, if any part of it is about him wanting to show you how great his life is since you split, you don’t reward him with a reaction.

        If you *don’t* need keep in contact, then cut it off and move on.

        If the confirmation is coming from third parties then a similar technique works – a fairly breezy tone and a response like “Well, we’re separated so that’s really nothing to do with me” or even “We’ve been separated for a year, I’m not sure why you would think it’s anything to do with me?” then change the subject . Or if they say something like “I thought you’d want to know” or “I thought you ought to know” then a breezy “No, we’re separated so it’s really none of my business”

        If you are finding out though other means, for instance because you are still facebook friends with him or are otherwise keeping an eye on what he is doing, for your own peace of mind, unfriend him and stop looking. Remind yourself that it is no longer your concern .

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        +100 Nothing good has ever come out from heart-to-heart chats with an ex about their personal life!

        I talk to one of mine (unsurprisingly, the one I have two children with), but keep it to work, his family (because my in-laws were amazing and I miss them), the kids of course, and college friends/mutual friends (we met in college, and had a large group of mutual friends where we live now – he kept most of those in the divorce). Only time we talked about our love life was when both our then-significant others had randomly broken up with us on the same day (New Years Eve four years ago) and even that was an awkward conversation.

        OP, this guy is now a stranger to you, unless you have kids or some kind of financial business together, you’re frankly better off making like he does not exist.

      4. Nom de Plume*

        This. Unless you share children, gleefully block him on all social media channels, block his phone number, and if friends bring him up, ask them to stop telling you about his life because it’s not your business anymore. Seriously, I’d give anything to be no contact/no knowledge of his life with my ex, but we have a kid together, so unfortunately, I have a front row seat to his drama.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I favor a particular style of approach to these things. “Please don’t tell me this type of stuff. This is an ethical/legal dilemma that you need to work through on your own and not involve me.”

      I have said a nicer version of that to people I consider to be good friends. I really don’t want any involvement in other people’s really poor choices. Sometimes I will say, “Be careful that one can end up biting you.”

      Push the situation back to the owner, OP. Refuse to carry their worry for them. I have a friend who will say, “Yeah, good luck with that.”, using a tone of voice that indicates, “I don’t think that will go well for you.”

      When I say something in the moment, I find it much easier to just let the whole thing go. I have done what I can, I am free to move on.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Definitely do not report this. It would be a really bad deposit into your karma account.

  2. BT*

    LW #1– wowww is all I can say. Don’t get involved and don’t worry about it. This will most definitely, eventually, spectacularly blow up in his face.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Very spectaculary. If he is the source of your information, subtly is not his strong suit. He’s going to blab to someone or even be incredibly obvious about it at work. Then alllllll the chickens will come home to roost.

      1. valentine*

        subtly is not his strong suit. He’s going to blab to someone or even be incredibly obvious about it at work.
        This is a great point. If he’s the source, even if the exes are somehow friends, his confession is so self-centered that he’s sure to keep at it. (The thread about how gross and floodlight-level people are with their workplace affairs while believing themselves discreet was a real eye-opener.)

      2. J.B.*

        Or blow up in the girlfriend’s face. As sometimes bad behavior still gets blamed on the younger lower status woman. Hopefully less so now but I have seen that too.

        1. Observer*

          Most likely, both unfortunately. Because it almost certainly will blow up in her face. But eventually this stuff does come back to bite people like the ex. If you are REALLY REALLY good a what you do it will take a bit longer. But it will happen.

        2. OP1*

          Ooooo. That’s a really (really) good point that I hadn’t considered. This on it’s own is enough to make me run screaming and dive back into my own pile of monkeys.

    2. LGC*

      Yeah, OP1. Give yourself the gift of not caring about your ex-husband and his terrible life choices. You get to be a bystander to the greatest goat rodeo on earth! You owe no one anything in this scenario!

    3. Lynn Marie*

      1. Yes, keep repeating to yourself not your circus etc.
      2. Be grateful he left you and realize it was actually a blessing.
      3. Why do you even know about this? Stop communicating with him about his personal/work life. Even if you have kids and have to be in touch, draw a hard line.

    4. selena81*

      It comes off as them acting like 2 teenagers who giggle about him ‘sneeking her in’ for some office frolicking: they will totally get discovered and OP can bask in the carnage

      1. OP#4*

        Formerly, cashing out was allowed subject to approval. That is no longer the case; the company is no longer allowing us to cash it out (without advanced warning) :(

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I would push back HARD OP #4. No warning about stopping cash out and removing roll over hours is reducing your compensation. See if you can get a few others with time over 160 hours and push back as a group – they need to give you something in exchange. Either a grace period to use the time, a cashout, a mix of both, something

          1. CJ*

            Does it matter that the hundred and sixty hour cap was always in place, it just hadn’t been in enforced? (As far as whether or not they are actually having something taken away from them).

            1. selena81*

              not sure about the USA but where i live the fact that nobody told you for years that you had accumulated too much hours would definitely be more important than ‘the company rulebook’

        2. Clever Name*

          If you get a year grace period, you could work four day weeks for a year and not use it all up. You have enough time to work 31 hours a week for a year! I’d push for the payout.

      1. MK*

        Given that she has been accruing over 2 months of leave over a period of 10 years, I am not sure she wants to take it. Actually I can’t imagine what the plan was.

        1. Kate*

          Maybe because I am an employee with that much leave in the bank, but I don’t think it’s that weird?

          It’s not that I don’t take vacation! I do! But once upon a time, I worked a TON of overtime, and we didn’t have the budget to pay it out in cash. I happily took it as comp time, and I have been working through it to the tune of about three-four weeks a year– basically the max my organization feels they can cover for me.

          Trouble is, three to four weeks a year is our standard vacation allotment. So basically I am slowing whittling down my comp time but my vacation leave balance just keeps going up and up.

          1. Huddled over tea*

            But you’re taking the holiday at a slower rate than you’re accruing it, so essentially you would never need the full 2 months you’ve got banked. The company cutting your accrued time down to 4 weeks wouldn’t affect you at all unless you were actually planning on using the extra amount you’ve got.

            1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

              From my perspective, I’d want that leave in the bank for when I *wasn’t* planning to use it, i.e. an Unexpected Life Event. At my job, we’d have to take unpaid leave if anything came up, if we’re beyond our annual allotment of PTO. And if we don’t go through a formal process of FMLA, we could lose our jobs, too. Having a big fat chunk of hours in the bank would give me quite a bit of peace of mind.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                Also, this is PTO, not vacation time. PTO is for any time off – including medical leave. I can see where the LW would want to keep it. When I was working as a contractor, the staffing agency I worked with gave 4 weeks of PTO, it accrued throughout the year and had to all be used January 31 of the following calendar year. I was always very frugal with it at the beginning of the year, because I was nervous about what would happen if I got sick.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            My dad had accrued something like six months of vacation over his career (not in the US). There was no plan. He worked at the same plant his whole career, managed a group of (iirc) 50 people, and always had to come in on weekends or to cut his vacations short and come back to work before his vacation was over. The leftover vacation kept rolling over until there was six months of it. He took it right before his retirement and, in effect, retired six months early.

            1. Mari*

              that’s handy but seemingly such an odd case nowadays. So few people stay at their place until retirement! It would make me really nervous about losing all that value if the company happened to fold over the next 10 years, or laid me off, etc.

              I honestly wonder if the company sees it as a case of “many of these days are realistically never going to get used so we don’t care that you’re hoarding them”

            2. selena81*

              It used to be very normal for older people (in the ’90 and ’00s) to accrue several months or even years of vacation-days: 6 weeks/year adds up if you stay with a company for decades. Which was then used for slightly earlier retirement.

              Doesn’t happen anymore because most people don’t stay with a company that long and most companies put caps on the amount of hours you can build up (It is unhealthy to never take a vacation. And it may point to fraud: a fraudster may be unable to hand over all their duties for a few days)

          3. Lauren*

            As long ass you are in a state that pays it out as compensation if you leave or are let go, then its fine. However, if they suddenly say you are going to “use it or lose it”. Cash it out or give notice before the deadline, because it is compensation. Honestly, you should try to get the number down as much as you can so cash out anything over 4 weeks to be safe from unexpected rules like ‘use it or lose it’, then being told ‘not isn’t the time for your 2 month vacation.

        2. Asenath*

          When I had a lot of leave accrued, it was because I was afraid that I or a close relative might have really major needs that went beyond the family leave time that was available. It was also really easy to accrue since I got time off in lieu of overtime regularly throughout the year. As it happens, when the higher levels of family responsibility happened, I didn’t need all the time I had built up, and made a point of gradually taking it when that period was over, since I didn’t want to get stuck with not taking it or not having it paid out – I had had a previous job that promised it would be treated as regular time off, and when I left, I had to fight to get them to pay out what was left.

        3. Beth Jacobs*

          I think it’s an emergency fund. I have an emergency fund with money for adversity. Similarly, a fund of PTO can be very useful if OP falls ills, burns out or needs to care for family.

        4. Alex*

          is 2 months of leave really considered that much?
          I might be biased, coming out of a culture where 6 weeks vacation + 11 public holidays + unlimited sick days are a thing, but I have 40 days (2 Months) in my bank right now, and I plan on taking all that THIS YEAR.
          (It is 30 days of 2020 vacation + 10 days rolled over from 2019, because I worked so much I could take those 10 days in 2019 as overtime reduction instead of vacation – vacation gets transferred to the new year, overtime does not (in my company).

          1. Natalie*

            Even if you’re not familiar with US leave standards, doesn’t the letter make it rather clear that this is a lot in the LW’s context? The employees at this place earn 3 weeks and year and are limited to accruing a total of 4. The OP has 3 times that.

            1. Snuck*

              I did some basic math on it… 450 hours at 40hours a week equals 11 weeks. That’s a lot. Even for a country with a 4 week/yr leave policy and reasonable sick leave policies

              1. Ann O'Nemity*

                Banking that much PTO would allow you to take a maternity leave with pay. Or other FMLA-qualifying life event.

                1. Working Mom*

                  I like the idea of approaching HR with the conundrum, that you’ve been banking this PTO as you thought you could (yes it’s in the handbook, but it was never enforced – and several EE’s have been doing the same, so it’s clearly a cultural thing at this office).

                  See if you can get HR to allow you to use a reasonable amount of the time. If you have 11 weeks banked… maybe they agree to let you use another 4 weeks of it over the course of 2020 (on top of your annual PTO allowance), and get paid out for the rest? If getting paid out for it is not going to happen – perhaps the idea of a PTO donation bank is feasible. Anyone who is over the allotted amount can take X weeks over 2020, anything remaining can be donated to the bank. Then, when a real need occurs (family member ill or injured and FMLA does not apply, or some other scenario) they can request (or be gifted) additional days from the PTO bank. Granted – in order to do this right, you need a committee to approve/deny use of that group PTO bank, but if there is that much PTO out there that you cannot use or be paid out – it would be worth it.

                2. Snuck*

                  Ann it’s hard to get my head around it. Culturally? Systemically? Australia has a very different system, with three months full pay maternity leave common, and six months full pay the norm in corporate/large business. Many offer the chance to spread this pay at half rate over 12 months. So the idea of saving years and years of annual leave for maternity leave is hard to get my head around.

                  (Above there’s comments about pool sharing of leave too – another curiosity for me! The idea that people donate their leave to support their colleagues is amazing, but surely a corporate entity can afford to support people a little too? Generally we don’t see this here in Australia – if you have a good employee and they have long term complex health needs you might just swing them something extra because that’s the decent thing to do, if you are in small to medium business you can generally do this, usually there’s a clause of “additional leave can be granted at management discretion” etc and no one is going to sue a company because Bob got extra leave when he was managing his cancer… but Fred got denied because he wanted three months extra leave when he broke his leg because he wouldn’t drive to work, but his job was a desk job he could do”. (On the spot examples ARGH… but you know…)

                  Can you bank PTO plus use your FMLA? I’m not sure how that all works… And is FMLA protection of that leave even if your company has a policy that states a different amount can be banked? (In Australia there’s a government funded maternity scheme if you work over a certain amount, but it’s 3mths I think at your last income (with a cap on it?) and cannot be taken in conjunction with employer leave (so this is a safety net for people who don’t have adequate maternity leave in their employment (part time, casual or recent hires, some very small businesses etc), or they were unemployed for a short while but previously held a job etc. (I could be wrong on the specifics of the Australian maternity government scheme, it came in after I had my kids… before that there was a ‘baby bonus’ of $x,000 for each child, but no maternity protections, this new scheme is better i think.)

            2. Anononon*

              Seriously. Also, the OP almost certainly isn’t including the standard government holidays, and who knows how their sick leave policy works.

        5. doreen*

          I’m sure there was a plan to take the leave in one way or another – it’s not unheard of for a policy to provide payment for accrued leave upon separation.

        6. Senor Montoya*

          I had no *plan* to do anything with my banked leave; I had a lot (leave given in lieu of raises, yeah, state government) and just did not use much, despite taking a nice vacation every summer. But then:

          I had a very large amount of leave banked up — I used it to get paid while I was on maternity leave.

          Then I banked up a bunch more — I used it to get paid for part of the time I was on FMLA taking care of my kid on chemo.

          Now I’m planning to cash out a nice chunk of banked leave when I retire or move on to another job. First time I have a plan for the banked-up leave, but that’s because retirement is reasonably close now.

          So, all sorts of reasons, most of them not planned.

      2. Smithy*

        The one time I did have a large chunk of PTO banked, my primary thought was really a financial windfall for when leaving the job. Either to have expenses to move, to take some time off between jobs, etc.

        However, it was also a job where the amount of vacation time I had also didn’t translate into the amount of money I had to take vacations. So while I was taking time off, I didn’t feel a compulsion to take off lots.

        My job now has an annual use it or lose it policy, and it’s been a real adjustment to try and use all my time (which for the US, is relatively generous at 25 days). Whether it’s taking off an extra day after a trip to get settled back into life or randomly planning long weekends – it’s been an adjustment. The first year on the job, I was working basically 4 day week for two months at the end of the year to use everything. Were it not a use it/lose it situation – I certainly would have had all that time roll over.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I maintain my maximum allowed rollover as a departure cushion as well. We used to be able to accrue unlimited leave that was paid out on departure, but some people were accruing months of it, and they changed the policy to encourage use rather than hoarding of vacation time. We can still roll over, but only a certain number of hours. It’s nice to know that, if I got canned, I’d still have about a month’s pay to tide us over before hitting the emergency savings.

        2. Emily S*

          I try to maintain at least 2 weeks of banked PTO at all times for exactly the reason that if I ever change jobs again, I’d like to be able to take some time off in between without losing income. I mentally subtract 10 days from whatever I have banked to figure out how much I can use. So for me, having 4 weeks banked means, “I’ve earned enough to take a 2-week vacation, hooray!” I earn 4 weeks a year and roughly try to take a 2-week vacation where I go somewhere, a 1-week staycation, and use the other 5-7 days (vacations usually overlap with holidays so I don’t use the full 5/10 days) for long weekends/personal days as needed here and there.

          11 weeks banked is still 9 weeks left to use! I’d feel slightly envious, but to have 11 surplus weeks banked after 10 years, assuming he got 4 weeks from the first year he was hired, means OP has only taken 3 weeks of vacation a year most years which feels really skint to me. I scrimped my first two years, taking only 2 of the 3 weeks I accrued, to build up my 2-week cushion. My third year I got promoted into a role with an extra week and have used my full 4 weeks every year and still feel like it isn’t really enough!

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      That’s great that you have so much leave accrued. But would you ever actually be allowed to take that much leave within a year? Definitely try and see how you can move forward without having to give any of your previously accrued leave up- maybe you’d be able to take a certain number of extra days per year until you’ve used it all.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        When I worked for a company that changed their cap, they did what I thought was fairly reasonable at the time: anyone already over the new cap would not accrue any more until they’d used enough to get below the cap. But there was no time limit for using up the extra. I recall someone had 8 extra weeks banked for maybe 2 years after the cap change. Then had a family medical emergency that had them out with their kid for most of it. After that they were back on the normal accrual schedule.

        1. Witty Nickname*

          My company was bought out by another one several years ago, and when we switched to the new company’s PTO plan I ended up being about 50 hours over the accrual limit (the total amount of time off was almost the same, but they way they categorize it is different and I ended up with a much lower accrual limit). I live in CA, so they couldn’t just take the time away, but I thought they came up with a good solution. That overage went into a separate bucket, and it’s just sitting there until I decide to use it or it’s paid out when I leave.

          I generally keep my balance around the accrual limit, but because I started at the limit, that means I take still my full annual PTO every year (usually a couple full weeks off and several 1-2 day blocks when I just need a day to recharge).

        2. Natalie*

          I worked at a company that set up a similar scheme, although after a few years almost none of those people had used that banked leave! Some of it was technological (the time card system didn’t make it easy to use the grandfathered hours) but some of it was definitely cultural. Right around the time I left they gave people three additional years to use their grandfathered leave before it would vanish forever.

      2. Philo Pharynx*

        One way to use lots of leave is to take three-day weekends. This limits the impact on the company because you are only taking off one day at a time. It’s also easier on the employee, as they don’t have so much backlog to catch up on. Having three-day weekends every month or so means that you always have a little something to look forward to. Especially in the long stretch between New Years and Memorial Day.

  3. Sami*

    OP #1: I will join you and Alison in judging your ex.
    But, please, don’t do anything about this.

    1. Not really a waitress*

      Exactly. LW #1 NOt your circus, not your monkeys. But don’t worry, we are ALL judging him.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        I think between all of us we have enough judgement to make the Paws of Destiny move faster. OP, just sit and wait.

  4. 867-5309*

    OP #2 – I was a few years into my career as an internal communications manager for a global company, when there were layoffs of 15% of the entire company. As internal comms lead, part of my job was creating scripts, counseling senior executives and planning the communications before, during and after the layoffs. I was taken into confidence that two of my closest friends were being let go. I made the decisions not to say anything because it was my job. It was difficult and painful to have this information for weeks and be unable to share it, and further to have to be honest with them once the information was disclosed. Fortunately, after the news settled, we were able to move forward.

    Different positions within a company and at a certain point when someone becomes a leader, they accept it means having access to information they can’t share with others, not even friends. The COO overstepped by telling you the information.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Yes, absolutely. The friend was in the wrong to disclose that info. No guilt LW. Let the chips fall where they may, it’s not your problem (really).

      1. Observer*

        I don’t agree. The OP’s friend was flat out wrong. That doesn’t make what the OP did ok. The OP benefitted from the information that was given to them. The least they could do was to keep their mouth shut.

        1. AnonyLawyer*

          Observer, I agree. Also, didn’t the OP just completely undermine her reason for resigning? Like, if she didn’t want word to get around in her industry that she was fired, well, she just told people that she knew she was about to get fired.

        2. Anon.*

          I agree with you. The COO put her job on the line to warn the OP so the OP could manage the fallout of being fired. OP repaid the COO by telling a work friend and putting the COO’s job at risk. You had to have known this was going to be the outcome once you repeated what was shared with you.
          The COO should never have shared confidential information with you. But I don’t understand why you felt the need to throw the COO under the bus by disclosing it to another person in the company.

          1. Senor Montoya*

            I think that’s being hard on the OP, who should have thought it through but was, you know, upset about losing her job just when she’d bought a house.

            I don’t think OP *threw* the COO under the bus — she didn’t do it deliberately.

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                She was running away from a speeding train and realized after she’d gotten to safety that there was also a bus there and the COO was under it?

          2. PW*

            This is exactly my train of thought. COO picked sides by telling friend – and that’s fine. Depending on how close a friend it is, I would much rather risk my job than a friendship.

            But, LW should have just kept their mouth shut. COO took a calculated risk, but LW made it a lot worse. Maybe COO should have said not to say anything, but that would seem like basic courtesy/professionalism.

          3. Is butter a carb?*

            Agree. People tell me things all the time and I appreciate the info, so I don’t reveal that I know it OR who told me. Because I don’t want them in trouble (unless it was like people’s personal medical info that is ethically confidential or something of course). I also appreciate getting info.

          4. Working Mom*

            The COO was absolutely wrong. No question – and she is going to be held responsible for her lapse in judgement, because that’s what it was. No amount of justifying changes this.

            To the OP who took in this confidential information – you didn’t do your friend any favors, and it would have been wise (or maybe kind is a better term) to not share that the COO let you know you may be fired soon. At the end of the day; this falls on the COO, no question. If she had not broken confidentiality, none of this would have happened. To the OP, I would chalk this up as a tough lesson learned. It is not your fault – but could you have managed this information better than phrasing it the way you did to a peer? Yes, absolutely. You could have made up nearly anything else that would have been plausible. It is NOT your fault if COO loses her job – it was her choice, she knew the consequences. But, if ever placed in a situation like this in the future… know the damage words/gossip can do.

            1. Arial*

              I don’t know about your first hypothesis.

              Business doesn’t actually mean anything, you know. It doesn’t! Nobody worth their salt as a human being would actually consider that to be anything other than understandable.

              A firing offense, sure. But that’s because we live in hell.

          5. Richard Hershberger*

            It seems like the COO did not have an explicit conversation with the LW about the importance of LW keeping her mouth shut, assuming that the LW would understand this without being told. This proved optimistic. Or in the alternative, that conversation did take place but didn’t sink in, making it still optimistic. Either way, the COO showed poor judgment on several levels.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          This is the problem with breaking the rules/protocol. A person is totally dependent on the recipient to play along and play nicely. That does not always go well.
          Matter of fact, it goes haywire so often, that I adopted a new stance, “Don’t tell me things that I am not supposed to know. Don’t put YOUR burden on ME, even if it impacts me later on. I have been through enough to see that I will muddle through whatever-it-is. I can and will hold my own.”

          People have to eat and have a roof over their heads. Any thing that comes in the way of that basic survival (in any manner) is going to create some sort of backlash. Things can get out of hand quickly. Friend blurred the lines badly and had an unreasonable expectation that OP would play along. OP, gossip vines are a thing, even when we think there aren’t any major gossip vines going on, there are plenty of them. What we say gets repeated and we can carve that sentence in stone. Somebody will repeat just about anything we say.

          1. Is butter a carb?*

            Right, because the OP themself originally shared the info even though it was confidential. So why wouldn’t someone else just tell one other person…etc etc?

            1. MK*

              This sentiment is being repeated in the comments and frankly it’s pretty obnoxious. If person A breaches confidentiality that doesn’t absolve the person who got the information from any further obligation to be discreet. As for “why wouldn’t you tell one other person”, well, why on earth would you? I agree the COO messed up, but at least she did so for a valid reason, she wanted to save her friend potential financial hardship. The OP had no reason and no need to confide these details to anyone else, though I understand she might have done so in a state of schock. The “good friend” was just plain goissiping.

              1. Is butter a carb?*

                I don’t understand to your response to my comment. I am saying that why would the OP NOT think that someone else would tell since she herself would tell someone else a secret. She herself is being a gossip with her own information. The assumption that other people are actually going to keep it a secret is a large leap, so “if you can’t keep a secret, why wouldn’t some one else ALSO tell your secret”. The friend OP told was wrong to share as well, but the OP should not have expected confidentiality.

                1. DCompliance*

                  Because many people would assume the COO only told to the OP to give her a heads up not just to share it because secrets are fun to share.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I remember the Martha Stewart insider-trading thing.
            Martha didn’t ask to be called and told about the company owner’s actions in selling his stock.

            What she did next was on her. I think she tried to mitigate it by reverting to an earlier decision (“earlier we said if it’s below $x, we’d sell; is it? yes? OK, so sell”), but the only legal and ethical thing would have been to do nothing until whatever actions became public knowledge.

            In a way, her broker did a really dirty deed to her.

            In our OP’s case, her resignation was a reasonable response, actually–but talking about it was really wrong.

            But her friend put her in an awful place, giving her info she felt compelled to act on, and ALSO giving her the burden of having to field the questions about why she quit.

      2. Jennifer*

        The friend was wrong but I disagree that the LW is guilt-free. Her friend did her a favor and put her job on the line to help her out and in return she betrayed her confidence. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      3. RAM*

        The COO was putting the friendship above the work relationship. As repayment, the LW put the COO in jeopardy for no reason. That’s pretty cold-hearted (or just naive/ignorant).

    2. valentine*

      While OP2 seems to think everyone should’ve both assumed COO would tell them and not have a problem with that, I wonder if COO assumed OP2 would not act on the information in a way that reveals the source. Was there some middle ground, like the firing wasn’t going to be the next day and the idea was for OP2 to shore up their finances as best they could?

      1. 867-5309*

        valentine, I also felt like this was a lesson for OP – that friends who work together must still maintain appropriate professional boundaries, even when it feels crappy.

        1. valentine*

          I also felt like this was a lesson for OP

          If the COO didn’t say, I’d be asking (HR?) what the performance issues were, lest resigning not be quite the intended balm.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            Sometimes performance issues are legit and it’s good to get feedback on how you can do better in the future. But other times “performance issues” are manufactured as a way to avoid working full termination, etc.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        It’s a pretty naive assumption – if you tell someone they’re about to be fired, you can expect them to do what they can to protect themselves. In this case, resigning before being fired, and giving an accurate reason for why she abruptly left a job.

        The COO does sound pretty naive, though. She’s one of the top management of a company, leaked confidential information because of friendship, and is shocked that it came back to hurt her. This reminds me of an earlier letter, with the person who leaked embargoed information to a friend (who happened to be a reporter), confided this to a coworker, and was angry when the coworker reported it, causing her to be fired. In both cases, there was the lack of understanding that there isn’t a friendship exception to confidentiality, and that what they did was a pretty big deal, and a potentially fireable offense.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yes, this one’s entirely on the COO; you can’t leak information and then blame someone for acting on it – that’s simply trying to shift the responsibility for your action onto someone else, which in itself is a pretty juvenile. She should have kept her mouth shut, but she didn’t; therefore, the consequences are hers to deal with, not the OP’s. OP’s loyalty to the firm (very rightly) should have ended the moment she knew she was going to get fired, and IMHO any loyalty to the COO/friend the moment said friend tried blaming her for the friend’s actions. You can’t just dump people in the sh*t and expect to walk away smelling of roses.

          1. valentine*

            you can’t leak information and then blame someone for acting on it
            You can expect confidentiality from a friend so close, they expect your employer to understand your first loyalty is to the friend.

            1. babblemouth*

              What was the point of warning the about the firing then? It seems exceedingly cruel to tell someone they’re about to get fired and then expect them to do nothing about it.

              1. valentine*

                expect them to do nothing about it.
                There’s a lot of room between nothing and resigning immediately without notice. If the firing was meant to happen the next morning, they could cry it out, get past the first wave of anger, go in the next morning, ask about the performance issues, and possibly ask to resign instead. If it were just a plan that had been agreed to, they might have some time to make and save as much money as possible, and job search. Maybe they’d give notice before TPTB got around to the firing, of ever.

                1. WellRed*

                  I’m baffled as to why she resigned immediately if this was so out if the blue. I’d want to ask to resign and also learn what these supposed performance issues are.

                2. Senor Montoya*

                  Why? If it’s in the OP’s best interests to resign immediately, then why wouldn’t she?

                3. PVR*

                  She didn’t resign without notice, the company paid out her notice and asked her not to work her notice.

              2. MK*

                As far as I can tell, the problems were caused not because the OP resigned, but because they confided that they quit because they were told by the COO that they were about to be fired to a “good friend”, who then apparently spread it around. If the OP had simply resigned and didn’t tell anyone about the COO’s breach of confidentiality (they could have given vague reason, or say it wasn’t working out, heck, even that they thought they were about to get fired because their boss looked at them oddly), it was unlikely to blow up this way for the COO. I mean, it’s possible that the company would suspect something from the OP quitting abruptly, also maybe not; in any case, the whole building wouldn’t be talking about how the COO told their pal the OP confidential information.

            2. Mary*

              Not if you don’t even *tell* them it’s supposed to be confidential.

              COO is the more senior and powerful person here, and she’s made two massive errors: firstly, she broke work confidentiality, and secondly she doesn’t even seem to have told OP that that’s what she was doing and that it was a big deal.

              I think there’s an ethical argument for breaking company rules if you decide that your loyalty to a friend triumphed that to the organisation, but if you make that decision, you’ve got to accept the consequences. For a start, you should assume that your friend is going to use the information to protect themselves, and if you are hoping they will maintain a certain level of discretion, you’ve got to actually *tell* them that. COO seems to have assumed OP would just magically know that, which is unfair.

              1. Lynn Whitehat*

                I thought everyone knew that. If I were in the COO’s position, I would not have realized it needed to be said. So I guess this is a lesson for me. If I ever thought disclosing confidential information to a friend might be a good idea, this question has shown me how it can really blow up in a person’s face.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              You can expect confidentiality from a friend, UNLESS it involves their paycheck or the lack of a paycheck.
              Take away people’s ability to procure food and shelter and it become a whole new game.

              This isn’t a huge leap in logic. All anyone has to do is picture themselves being told, “Oh sorry, no more paycheck for you!” and feel the panic set in.

              1. MK*

                I think the issue is that the breach of confidentiality had nothing to do with the OP having a paycheck or not; she quit and then spilled the whole story to a friend (who proved massively indiscreet), that didn’t help them in any way (as regards the paycheck, I suppose talking helped them psychologically) and caused actual harm to the COO.

              2. Never Been There, Never Done That*

                I think panic is a key word here. I can’t imagine going through all the work and stress of buying a house and then being told, “Sorry, but buh-bye.” Unless you meditate a lot your brain would be going into full survival oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit mode.

              3. SimplyTheBest*

                I mean, she resigned without waiting to be let go and be able to negotiate a longer transition date/any kind of severance, so OP kind of stopped their own paycheck.

            4. Marthooh*

              If you can’t keep a secret, don’t expect your friends to keep it for you. The COO screwed up twice over, first by breaking confidence with the company, then by not explicitly telling the OP to be discreet about it. Maybe the OP should have figured that out without being told, but the COO shouldn’t be surprised that secrecy was not OP’s main concern.

            5. no name for this one*

              Gotta say I disagree here. I’m on a project right now that I can’t talk about unless it’s with someone who’s also signed that NDA. The NDA says I have to go back to the project manager if someone asks me anything about it unless I know they’re in the loop. My boyfriend is on a couple confidential projects. We both know the other’s doing confidential projects, but neither of us knows what the projects are, and we won’t until/unless they become public. Our friends don’t and won’t know about them.

              Part of handling confidential information is understanding your audience. You can’t expect anyone to treat information carefully. The COO really messed up here.

          2. Mia*

            It’s possible the COO didn’t expect the LW to take such drastic action and then tell everyone why. Most companies will give some sort of severance package when an employee gets fired or laid off. Maybe the LW has enough savings that she didn’t need to worry about that. But it could also be the case that the LW panicked and made a rash decision to immediately quit, then on top of it all shared all the details with her former colleagues. Both LW and COO handled this whole situation very badly.

            1. Is butter a carb?*

              Yes. She probably figured the OP would use the time to calm down, get her affairs in order before being escorted out.

          3. SimplyTheBest*

            I don’t think acting on it is the issue. The resignation is fine. The thing OP shouldn’t have done was tell someone else about what her friend did.

        2. Observer*

          In this case, resigning before being fired, and giving an accurate reason for why she abruptly left a job.

          This is the thing – I cannot see any reason why the OP needed to tell anyone why they quit. After all, they didn’t want it leaking out that they had been fired. Is it really any better to say “I quite because they were going to fire me”? For anyone who cares if you’ve ever been fired, this is much the same.

          That’s the key here. Quitting before getting fired is a reasonable and expect-able reaction to finding out you’re about to be fired and the COO would not have had any reason to expect anything else. But, she is apparently in trouble because someone is telling everyone that the OP shared this information, which is not something that the COO should have seen as being inevitable.

          Not that I’m defending the COO – she should never have shared that information.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            The OP abruptly quit a job that she liked, thought she was doing well at, and had a good future with. Those who know her well are going to be startled and concerned. People generally don’t abruptly quit jobs with nothing lined up without a good reason, and if the response is “I can’t tell you” or “none of your business” they’re often going to make up something worse than what actually happened.

            I’m trying to think of a credible lie for leaving that would work well on close friends, and having a hard time coming up with something. I suppose she could just say “I heard that I was about to be fired” and not give the source, but the list of people who knew about the upcoming firing was pretty small, and it wouldn’t take much effort to connect the dots and blame the COO.

            1. Observer*

              Or, knowing that they obviously had missed the signs that SOMEONE was very, very unhappy with them, they could have just said something like “I realized that this was not working as well as I though, and decided to just rip the bandage off.”

              Adding “It’s a bit of a sore topic right now” would sound VERY normal, and would keep people from prying. And, I can’t imagine that it’s NOT a sore topic for the OP, regardless of who was right or wrong.

              1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

                obviously missed the signs that SOMEONE was very, very unhappy with them
                If the reason for the firing was cited as “performance issues” – with NO formal written warnings given, and that’s just euphemistic for “unhappy with them”, this company has bigger communication problems than a COO talking to her friend oit of concern for her finances.

                1. Ariaflame*

                  This is of course assuming that the OP knows their friend well enough to know that they were telling the truth about the firing. Given that the OP resigned, there’s also the remote possibility that they weren’t actually in the firing line. Or even that the COO had been misinformed.

              2. TechWorker*

                Honestly? I agree with you that LW did not ‘need’ to pass on the information that the COO friend told her they would be fired – but from the entire tone of the letter, clearly LW is naive enough to think that it wasn’t a big deal that her friend did that. Which then falls back on the COO – if they are such close friends then maybe COO should have known her well enough to impress on her that she needed to make sure the link back to COO was not mentioned.

            2. andy*

              I would not lie about reason for leaving and would see someone not telling me truth about this as sign you are not trust worthy. All if that are important signals about how management function – whether they were right to fire her or not (fired peraon is not always objective judge of that).

              You should not leave burning bridges, but that does not mean you have duty to put up smokescreens and lie about why you left.

              1. MK*

                I don’t understand what your point is. The OP quit because she wanted to be able to truthfully tell people she wasn’t fired because of performance issues. Then turning and admiting that she quit because she was about to get fired pretty much undermines the point of quitting in the first place.

                1. embrace the season*

                  Then turning and admiting that she quit because she was about to get fired pretty much undermines the point of quitting in the first place.

                  I think there’s a difference between talking to a good friend and admitting what’s going on, and telling a professional contact or hiring manager somewhere else.

                2. MK*

                  Sure, but in that case you probably need to stress to the good friend not to tell everyone in your former workplace. Not to mention that the friend must have had some connection to their work life if the news got around there so fast.

              2. Natalie*

                How on earth would you ever know? Do you think the HR department is going to send out an email detailing the LW’s performance problems?

              3. Antilles*

                I would not lie about reason for leaving and would see someone not telling me truth about this as sign you are not trust worthy.
                See, I actually have the exact opposite view – OP telling people that she left because she was about to be fired is both (a) violating a confidence by betraying a confidence and (b) a poor way to repay a friend who took a risk to give OP a heads up. That’d make me FAR more worried about someone’s discretion and ability to be trusted with information than if OP had given some vague generality about “change of pace” or “culture fit” or whatever.

              4. Observer*

                What I suggested was NOT to lie – that’s a really bad idea. But saying “I realized it wasn’t working out” is true. It’s not the WHOLE story, of course, because they aren’t sharing what caused them to realize, but no one is entitled the “rest of the story”.

            3. Avasarala*

              It doesn’t take a detective for anyone else in that meeting with the COO to see the connection between OP’s firing announced as a done deal, and OP quitting out of the blue, even before you factor in that COO and OP are known to be close friends.

              COO is just mad because when her loyalty was questioned, between her career and OP, she chose OP. But then OP chose her career and left COO out to dry. Maybe OP could have chosen her friendship instead, but she had a lot more to lose in that situation than the COO did. It’s not fair for OP to bear all that blame and risk when COO started this by thinking she could choose OP and keep her career too.

              1. MK*

                That doesn’t actually make sense. To begin with, there really was no reason why anyone should do detective work about the OP quitting: most managers in that position would be glad to not have to fire someone, and the company not having to pay unemployment benefits. Also, most other people wouldn’t spent time trying to solve the mystery of Why the OP left a job she liked; she could have told everyone she needed a change, or that it wasn’t working out as well as she thought at first, or nothing at all really.

                I don’t think COO is mad because the OP quit, but because she told someone that she was about to be fired and that she had found out because the COO told her and now everyone knows. In a way, it’s pretty frustrating: the COO did her friend a good turn, to the point of putting her before her duty to her employer. The OP quits before she can get fired (so far as good) and then proceeds to tell people that she was about to get fired (which pretty much cancels out any good the quitting might have done). The result is that now the COO is known to have shared confidential information and the OP is known to be a subpar performer (according to the company). From the COO’s point of view, the OP screwed them both over, not for her career, but because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

                The COO messed up with her employer, but I think the OP messed up with their friendship: when a friend put themselves in a dubious position to help you, you owe them more consideration. Also, pretty much everyone behaved without discretion: the COO should have realised and been clear with the OP that she couldn’t reveal this, the OP shouldn’t have told people and the friend had no bussiness spreading the information to apparently everyone.

                1. Observer*

                  rom the COO’s point of view, the OP screwed them both over, not for her career, but because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

                  This is EXACTLY what I’ve been trying get at here.

                  The COO messed up with her employer, but I think the OP messed up with their friendship: when a friend put themselves in a dubious position to help you, you owe them more consideration.


                  the friend had no bussiness spreading the information to apparently everyone.

                  Yeah, the friend is a bit of a gossip. But why is it surprising. They are the person with the least obligation here, and also probably the least signal that this really needs to be kept confidential. And for anyone who thinks that COO should have explicitly told OP to keep it confidential, that certainly applies several times over to the friend.

              2. hbc*

                I’ve had people quit as we were in the process of firing them. We did it with a few more previous conversations about how they needed to change things, but based on the way they quit*, they hadn’t really registered that they were on the chopping block. But with warning or without, it’s not unreasonable for the employee to also think that it’s not a good fit, or just coincidentally find something else.

                *The guy who wasn’t pulling his weight demanding that we pay for his (wrongly calculated) commuting costs stands out. He really thought we would want to keep him around and pay extra for the privilege. But I also had the guy who was expecting a counteroffer despite conversations about what he needed to improve.

              3. Observer*

                Not at all. The OP threw COO under the bus, with absolutely no benefit ti their career. They could have just as easily given an answer that didn’t mention what the COO said to them.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Yeah, this is where I’m at. COO took a big risk, OP failed to respect that risk.

                  Bad move in a small industry, both of their reputations are going to take a big hit.

            4. Jennifer*

              Sure people are going to make things up, but the OP still should have said “none of your business” or a more polite variation of that. People quit jobs abruptly for all kinds of reasons they may not want to disclose to everyone, health issues, family drama, etc.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Eh, maybe she did not see it as inevitable, but it happens often enough that it’s not totally unforeseeable.

            I think the higher up you go in management the better you have to be at forecasting. It’s a pretty common occurrence that people clue others of an upcoming termination and it blows up in a big way. We have seen this way too many times. The friend was being paid for her ability to have a longer term perspective and forecast outcomes of various choices. She dropped the ball here.

          3. Mari*

            I think it’s possible that the industry is small enough for it to be worrying when one is fired, while maybe being big enough that a single middle-level employee in the industry won’t be able to spread the word to *everyone* in it.

            Like, if there are 5 horse-buggy-engineer companies in the city, company 1 is going to be very aware of company 5, and they’ll have a lot of questions as to why company 5 couldn’t deal with you (so you’d prefer to resign and in the interview, say it was for some unrelated reason). But an employee at company 5 you blab to, isn’t necessarily going to be in touch with the headhunters at company 1 that you’ll apply to next.

        3. Fikly*

          Yes, the I did something wrong, got caught, and am now angry at the people who were involved in the chain of events that got me caught.

          Completely ignoring the part where they would not be in trouble had they not, you know, done the wrong thing.

          1. No Longer Working*

            Replying to the thread in general – Wouldn’t it be obvious to the powers that be that the COO had to be the source of the info to the LW? How would she have this knowledge otherwise? What did she say when she resigned? “I learned I was going to get sacked, so I’m resigning”? Or something completely different? I’d like to know what she told them was her reason for resigning.

            1. Kramerica Industries*

              “Resigning for personal reasons” was all that needed to be said. I don’t know what the COO expected from OP when the news was shared and I recognize that it’s really hard to think straight when you’re about to be fired. However, there are other ways this could’ve been handled. Maybe the COO was giving OP a head’s up to get her finances in order/don’t take any big trips since this was about to happen.

            2. MK*

              I really can’t imagine that anyone would say this; why on earth would they? The whole point of resigning before they fire you is to get out without having it acknowledged that you had performance issues. Why would you even let on you knew about the impending firing? Just say you have personal reasons or that you want to try something different or even that you don’t think the position is working out for you (I mean, clearly it isn’t).

              As for whether it would be obvious the COO was the source, not necessarily, probably there were other people that might have known and talked, possibly they might think the OP was more aware of their dissatisfaction with her work than she was and figured it out on her own. Even if they suspected, it’s a different thing than knowing for sure, and it’s an even worse problem that the whole company now knows. If it’s just suspicion, I can see a manager having a private conversation with the COO, asking whether they were the source, cautioning them about confidentiality. Now the situation has goten out of hand.

        4. Richard Hershberger*

          Yabbut, the proper move for the LW would have been to resign, giving as the reason “to pursue a new opportunity.” There is no need to specify that this opportunity is to not get fired.

      3. TootsNYC*

        also, was the risk of firing such a surprise to the OP?
        Did OP not realize that this was a possible/probable outcome?

        And so couldn’t OP have said, “I was struggling, and I didn’t think they’d be willing to acknowledge the progress I’ve made, so I figured I’d get out while it was all under my own control.”

        But if you’re worried about your rep, you don’t say that!!
        You say, “It was clear this company wasn’t a good fit for me, and I’m going to take some time to figure out a new plan.”
        Or “I decided I need to concentrate on a health issue and a family issue, so I’m taking a break.”

        I think the OP has gotten a little confused about the boundary between friends and work. A “work friend” is not the person to whom you confess all.

    3. Scarlet*

      I have to be honest. You were 100% in the “correct” by not telling your friends.

      But I have to say – I would have. Even though it’s “wrong”. If I were ever in this position (and as a member of the HR team, I might be someday), I would tell my friends. However, that is also the reason I don’t have “friends” as work.

    4. Human Form of the 100 Emoji*

      IMO, if LW 2 is a reliable narrator, I think her friend’s actions probably saved them both from a bad work environment. Letting someone go on “performance issues” with no written warning or previous discussion about these issues? Either LW did something truly heinous, or the company is being shady.

      What the COO did was probably not the “right” thing to do from the company’s standpoint, but I think it was the moral thing to do (barring new info about the LW). I’m surprised everyone is siding with the company, but I haven’t ever been in a situation like this, so.

  5. Get Your Lemonade On*

    LW#1 – eh, if the divorce is final, you don’t have kids together and his finances in no way impact/are tied up in yours – send a confidential email to all his higher ups! Who cares! Burn his life down! I’m going to be alone in saying this, but honestly, who cares if it’s the “right” thing to do? He hurt you and he’s doing the wrong thing and spilling the tea might make you feel a bit better. You don’t always have to be the biggest person. Will he suspect you as the source? Maybe, but again, who cares? The more pressing question is: why is he telling you all this to begin with?

      1. Get Your Lemonade On*

        I mean, is it the wrong thing to do? Sure. But it’s not wrong LEGALLY, only wrong because it’s petty and immature. I feel as though life grants us all so few opportunities to be unabashedly petty and immature once we become adults, but being left by your spouse is one such opportunity. This internet commenter grants you permission to act like a pissed off teen for exactly one (1) year.

        1. EPLawyer*

          it will not make the LW feel better. Being petty rarely does (the only exception is resigning in cod). It just makes you feel … petty.

          The best revenge is living well. the WORST thing you can do to an ex is never, ever, ever think of them again. Don’t let me affect your life in anyway — including having a hand in blowing up their life.

          Of course, enjoy it when it all does blow up — not at your hand.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Agree, though I think the resigning in cod turned the corner from petty to brilliant. :)

            I can’t recall when I’ve found rolling in the mud with someone behaving badly to improve my feelings about a bad situation. Time and distance do that much better.

        2. Observer*

          The reason there are few opportunities to be “petty and immature” is because that kind of behavior inevitably has negative consequences, even when it’s not legally and morally wrong. Having your husband leave you doesn’t change that.

        3. Lena Clare*

          It might make the LW feel good for a bit, but I’d bet it’d have long-reaching actions for her as well as her ex.

          1. Mahkara*

            Yeah. I mean, it’s possible (even likely) that she’d suffer no consequences for doing something like that other than maybe a pissed off ex.

            But it’s possible it would blow up on her in some way, too.

            Also, it seems like a potentially pissed off ex might not be (to a company higher up) a particularly reliable source, anyway. (I mean, if someone’s ex complained to me about a coworker, I’d be like, “yeah, sure, whatever crazy person”.) Meanwhile, things like this never stay secret for long, so my guess is his comeuppance is coming. :)

        4. Scarlet2*

          1. I don’t think the idea that you can do things that are morally wrong as long as they’re not illegal is a sound moral principle.
          2. Being left by your spouse is also not a valid excuse to willfully hurt other people, including said former spouse.
          3. The person who’s asking for divorce is not necessarily the “bad guy”. Sometimes relationships end without one party being at fault.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            I agree. I’m sorry OP’s husband left her. There is no doubt how awful that must be for her. But that doesn’t give OP the right to try to ruin his life. People with rejection issues seem to think they can do things like this just because their spouse or significant other ended their relationship, or someone they were interested in wasn’t interested back. But they don’t have this right. It’s kind of a psychotic thing to do.

        1. Lena Clare*

          I’m not talking in the religious sense, I’m talking in the colloquial sense of “good or bad luck, viewed as resulting from one’s actions”.

            1. Dyl*

              Thank you for trying to clarify, but I’m having trouble following. “Luck” and “consequences of one’s actions” are two opposite ideas. Yes?

              1. Sleve McDichael*

                I think by luck, Lena Clare means random consequences enabled by one’s actions. So if I win the lottery after buying a ticket, a lot of people would call that good ‘luck’ but it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t enable it. This is the negative version of that. You could view it as buying a ticket in the This Might Blow Up In My Face lottery.

              2. DyneinWalking*

                I agree, I’d put luck and consequences in different categories.

                I mean, ultimately, luck could also be a consequence as it usually requires some set of actions to happen before – but most of the time when I talk about consequence I’d talking about an outcome that would be very much expected.
                To build on Steve’s lottery example, “luck” is winning the lottery. Sure, it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t got a ticket… but it’s not an outcome you should necessarily expect. The more expected thing I’d refer to as “consequence” is losing the money you used to buy the ticket, because for the majority of people, that’s the only thing that happens when they buy the ticket, and is the consequence that happens to everyone.

                I’ve always considered this colloquial “karma” as a pretty random thing not directly tied to one’s actions; basically, the world getting back at someone instead of the people they wronged. E.g. stepping into dog shit after cutting the line.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                There is a junction point, I think.
                If we are responsible for our actions things tend to fall into place as we go along, hence, the whole idea of seeming to have good luck.

                If we neglect things, don’t double check our choices, etc, the road can get rough which *seems* to bring bad luck.

                A friend was just talking about another friend who is having so much difficulty. The second friend broke their leg. They slipped on ice getting firewood into the house. If they had stored the wood properly and/or if they had gotten salt on the path to the pile they probably would not have gotten injured. Now, because they are injured they are out of work and experiencing the domino effect from not being able to pay bills. The injury itself has more complications that make this story even longer.

                It seems like bad luck at first glance, but better plan could have helped to prevent issues. The tricky part here is not to delude ourselves into believing that we are safe because we would never make *this* mistake. Nooo, each one of us will make our own unique missteps and bring about consequences from those missteps. Just because I salt paths around my home after every storm does not mean I am sooo very savvy. nooooo. I am making my own unique set of mistakes on a regular basis, we all are.

                Unfortunately, OP and probably now ex-friend are both having huge learning experiences. And very expensive ones at that.

      2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        This. I completely disagree with this advice to email his company. That would be very bad karma. This guy will eventually do it to himself. You don’t have to do anything. If you do, it (or something else) will come back to bite you.

      3. Anonymous for this*

        OP can be the agent of karma.

        I’d be mighty tempted to do this, if I thought I could do it anonymously.

        1. Scarlet2*

          So losing your livelihood because you divorced is “karma”? Because let’s be honest, it’s not about the ethics of ex-husband’s new relationship, it’s about revenge.
          Is it also “karma” for the new GF, who the ex-husband apparently started dating 6 months after his divorce so she didn’t do anything to the LW?
          I’m amazed by the harm people feel they can do while still believing they hold the moral high ground.

          1. LlamaGoose*

            If someone chooses to do something immoral or unethical, then meets the logical consequences of their choice (in this case, getting fired or reprimanded), then they ruined their own life.

            Somebody is going to figure it out.

            Look, revenge is bad if the thing someone does to get the revenge is inherently destructive. Don’t vandalize someone’s car or post their nudes online.

            But the actual act proposed here isn’t a bad action. Just the motive is petty. The action of telling the truth is typically good or neutral. Worst case scenario it’s “tattling.”

            Likewise, if a manager chooses to fire someone, that’s not immoral in and of itself.

            Losing a job over unethical choices doesn’t ruin someone’s life. I’ve been fired once and had a contract not-renewed once for much smaller mistakes (one not even a matter of ethics but just a lack of a certain skill that I was unable to develop quickly enough to keep the job). It sucked, and for a while I wished a different descision was made.

            But firing was the right choice. It didn’t ruin my life, and it won’t ruin this guy’s either.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Worst advice ever.

      Maybe don’t do it because you are a better person, prefer to take the high road, like your ethics better than his, or simply have your own life be good for you. Anger, hate, bitterness and revenge will impact your future life much more than he ever can again. Don’t choose them unless you are truly sure you want them for yourself.

      1. Lionheart26*

        Agreed. When my husband/coworker left me in very dubious circumstances, he managed to tell more than a few people a version of the truth about our breakup that put him in a much better light. It was very tempting to correct people, but a good friend advised me that “integrity will win out”.
        So when people cast judgement on our relationship I just smiled and said “relationships are complicated and not something I want to discuss at work”. In the end, karma got him. He became so arrogant that people started to question his judgement. And then in a meeting he addressed the whole office and told us some details about his sex life as part of his formal presentation.
        He quit a few months later and nobody was sorry to see him go. He is now remembered as the guy who went off the rails, and my reputation remains spotless. Some people have forgotten I was ever even married to him.
        OP I know these are not your colleagues, but the world is small and you don’t want to be remembered as the bitter ex, when you can be remembered for being classy

        1. Not Australian*

          As another much-maligned ex-wife (long since happily married to someone else) I can 100% endorse this. Button lip, pin on smile, and let the chips fall where they may. The ex is showing such poor judgment that sooner or later he’ll trip and fall over his own ego, and all the OP needs to do is to rise above it. (And, if she can, spare some pity for the new girlfriend, who is almost certainly going to suffer in her turn.)

      2. Anonymous for this*

        Taking the high road is sometimes over-rated.

        Helping someone who was really shitty to you get a taste of shit can be really satisfying.

        1. hbc*

          To continue the analogy, helping someone get a taste of shit means you’re still in there handling shit. If that’s how you want to live your life, fine, but stop complaining about how stinky everything is, and don’t expect people who like to stay out of the muck to welcome you with open arms.

        2. Smithy*

          When I was working for a really toxic place that brought up a lot of anger in me – I found it helpful to quietly wish pink eye on people. Essentially something unpleasant, a bit embarrassing – but also relatively short term and curable.

          I entirely get how good it can feel to release that kind of angst – but to proactively seek genuine harm feels like a dangerous road to walk and assume you’re gonna escape unscathed. Would a significant financial setback to her ex-husband truly have no impact on the OP? Even if just to be drawn into the story of her ex’s life – it’s not exactly a path to have her own life separate from the ex.

          I also think that this story matches well with story #2. No matter the cause, the loss of a job can have really serious harm on anyone and may not lead them to wise or kind decisions. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to poke that hornet’s nest when the husband’s violation is unprofessional but not putting people into legal or physical harm’s way.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        If I were the LW, I’d write the whole revenge fantasy out as a short story with names, location, etc. changed. What she wants to do, what would be a satisfying outcome for her, the whole fantasy, up to and including maybe riding into the sunset, drinking champagne with her fantasy partner or partners. Then I’d either delete it, self publish under a pseudonym, or submit to NaNoWriMo. The fantasy outcome will always be more satisfying than the reality, so I’d play with the fantasy in the safe arena of fiction.

    2. Observer*

      That’s just bad advice. Smart HR ignores “anonymous” notes. And they are often not as anonymous as people think.

      The last thing the OP needs is to be tagged as the “crazy ex”. That kind of stuff can come back to haunt you in the most unexpected ways.

    3. Edwina*

      Because this kind of shit ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS comes back to bite you in the ass. Did I mention, ALWAYS? ALWAYS. Do you think a “confidential” email stays confidential? Especially if it has red-hot information in it? I mean the assistants will all see it and will immediately gossip like crazy. The executives will gossip. They’ll gossip to people in other companies. This would be A-One gossip, and it will spread like wildfire. Negative information is MUCH more prized than positive–it’s the way we’re hard wired. So EVERYONE WILL KNOW SHE DID IT, within a few days. It won’t even stay within the same company–people know people in related industries. She’ll be well known as a raging, insane, vengeful ex–and it will make her look terrible, not him or the gf. It would destroy her reputation, as well as any destroy any vestige of “higher moral ground” or even a cordial relationship with her ex. This is terrible, terrible advice.

      1. Dyl*

        I don’t think it does always come back to bite people! It can. Maybe it isn’t worth the risk, but I don’t think you can say so certainly that OP would experience negative consequences.

        1. MK*

          Many times you aren’t actually aware of the negative consequences, especially in cases where the harm happens to your reputation. You might never know that people are thinking of you as a nasty piece of work and avoiding you socially and professionally.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Yes this! I would also say, in my experience / watching the drama, it comes back to bite you 8 times out of 10, and that’s not a ratio I’d want to play around with.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I agree! I mean, we don’t need to look any further than letter #2 to see that spreading information can have unintended consequences. Even if no one in her wider circle ever finds out and things work out the way the OP seems to think they should, she may be stuck with an angry ex and ex’s girlfriend who may also know some ‘petty’ ways to make life uncomfortable. Heck, just the possibility that ex may come looking for comfort and sympathy if things fall apart is enough of a consequence for me to want to back away slowly.

      3. Anonymous for this*

        Snail mail letter to HR. Drop it in a mailbox away from home and away from work. No one is dusting that thing for fingerprints. Type the letter.

        I have not ever done anything like this. But it’s really easy to see how to do it anonymously.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          “Did you hear about the letter HR got about Wakeen and Gertrude dating? Whoever wrote it went weirdly overboard in trying to be anonymous, but who else could it be except his ex-wife – nobody else cares about his love life. Talk about bizarre.”

          I think the point is not that it’s hard to send some sort of contact anonymously, but more that — when you are the most obvious guess for who might’ve done it, people are going to assume horse and not zebra.

        2. Berkeleyfarm*

          I agree with other commenters that it is extremely likely that someone will be able to piece it together. E.g. “it’s not as anonymous as you think”.

          I am in the “it will come out eventually and blow up, so just judge from afar” camp. Truth will out.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yep. News travels fast. Mutual friends will find out and run for the hills. A really terrible idea. I am also really baffled as to why the OP wants to do this in the first place. What is the best-case-scenario end result?

    4. Snuck*

      How would I respond in this situation?

      I’d presume that neither party had a whit of professionalism about them, and act accordingly. I’d reconsider their professional behaviours and it would shadow my opinion of them for years until proven otherwise. This could then shade my view of them re promotions and extension opportunities, trust and professional judgement projects etc.

      It’s pretty basic human nature to feel this way I think. Not a great way to react, but if this sort of bonfire is landing spectacularly in my lap is going to leave an impression. A negative one.

      My personal recommendation is stay the hell out of it, buy some popcorn, and wait for the movie show to start. When approached by the inevitable gossip mongers circling like piranhas for further fuel on the smoking ashes of this sigh, say without rancour “there’s a reason he’s an ex” and saunter off.

      1. Snuck*

        And for clarity… neither party is the ex married couple, a third person (the insubordinate) probably also… so three people I dump to the bottom of my “acting team leader candidate” list or whatever else I am composing, and bump to the top of my “people to dump a burning bag of poop” on.

        If there was any HR process for in house relationships I”d follow it, but it’d be begrudgingly due to the source, and possibly with less intense ramifications because I’d never be certain how much this was fuel on a spite fire I don’t want in my workplace.

        Best to let it self combust.

    5. AP*

      The ex and his girlfriend may not have great ethics, but at least they aren’t purposefully trying to hurt anyone. Everyone thinks they’re the hero of their own story, but if LW1 takes your advice and sends an anonymous email just to harm him than in truth she has become the villain.

      Personally, I’ve had friends who divorced and I tried to maintain relationships with both sides. But I don’t think I could keep a friendship if I found out that one of them had tried to get the other fired from their job.

      1. anon for this*

        But you could if you knew that one was engaging in inappropriate workplace relationships, using his position for sexual power?

    6. Bagpuss*

      I think this is really bad advice.

      It’s highly likely that both he and his employer (and anyone either of them mentions it to, which could wind up being most of your friends, family, current and future colleagues) will correctly assume that you sent the anonymous tip off. He gets to play the victim and you put yourself squarely in frame for anything else that goes wrong.

      And it makes you look bitter and unprofessional. If I learned that a friend or acquaintance did something like this, (*particularly* one who had been separated for a year, so there isn’t really the ‘they’ve just found out their partner is cheating and are lashing out’ mitigation) I would take the view that, at best, they had terrible judgement – it would also suggest to me that they are spiteful and underhand, so it’s probably going to make me draw back from that friendship.

      And in an employment context, if I was the employer or a potential employer I would see it as, if not a red flag, at least an orange one.

      Also, it might give you a brief feeling of satisfaction at the time but assuming you are normally a decent person, that probably wouldn’t last, and you’d then have to live with the knowledge that you’d behaved in a vindictive manner, and what that says about your character. I don’t think it would be worth it.

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

      Nononononono! DON’T DO IT!
      Lashing out on someone like that is a recipe for disaster. Like, tarnishing your reputation for a long time kind of disaster. Do you want to be remembered as “John’s vindictive ex” at his job?

    8. hbc*

      So something not being the right thing to do (aka: the wrong thing to do) isn’t reason enough not to do it? I’m not sure how to argue against that.

      But how about this: If any of that gets back on her, this is the number one thing people will be thinking: “Ah, so that’s why he left her.” You want to make the guy who hired his girlfriend get sympathy, this is the number one way to do it, because people are wondering about what kind of stuff he must have put up with in his marriage.

    9. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      Actually, I kind of agree. All the people menioining karma or be the better person obviously don’t read how many people are screwed over by being the better person. The woman whose adult children hate her because the father constantly mistreated and badmouthed her and she didn’t correct the lies because she ‘was the better person’. Welp, kids believed the lies and no amount of truth telling helps now. The company that screws over its employees and the executives who do nothing because company loyalty and nothing bad happens to the executives but the company eons are let in the wind. People seem to think good and morals win over evil. They don’t. Ask anyone who was been screwed unjustly over. Think those people who abuse others will face punishment? Usually not. Company screwing over the public? Nope. (The banks that broke the world in 2007–most doing fine right now and back to their old practices). Executives who break a company–they take their money and walk away. Wells Fargo executives–I don’t think one spent a night in jail. Many abusers will live contently and never face jail. If you feel like dropping a line to the company, do it. It may very well save that company a sexual harassment suit/give you some peace.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Except LW isn’t harmed by the current situation and it’s really none of her business. And I don’t think injustice is solved by petty revenge.

        1. Lance*

          This is the key thing here, that Alison herself pointed out: this isn’t affecting the LW. They have no stake in this entire scenario; they’re already divorced from the ex, they don’t work in the same company, and the ex hiring his girlfriend is just something LW happens to know.

          There’s no point in LW even having it on their mind at that stage.

          1. Jennifer*

            That’s true but I think TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House was referring to all the comments stating to how taking the high road is always the right option because karma always catches up to people in the end. It doesn’t. People need to stop telling people that.

            Sure this may blow up in the OP’s ex’s face OR it may come out and his bosses just don’t care and he goes on to be very successful. OP needs to take care of herself, that may mean talking to her ex and telling him off one good time, or venting to friends, therapy, or a combination of those things or something I haven’t mentioned.

          2. 1234*

            Also as much as it TOTALLY SUCKS and is horrible, it’s not illegal to leave your wife with no notice. I can’t imagine how bad that would feel but he didn’t want to be in a relationship, he left, and then later on started a new relationship. So from the company’s eyes she could be the “crazy ex” and no one wants to be that.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Jennifer is correct. People here and everywhere need to stop saying “Karma will get them.” It doesn’t. And being the better person often gets you nothing–it may ever backfire. Let’s stop pretending good beats evil. It doesn’t, at least not often. Taking the high road doesn’t mean a person will benefit.

      2. Emily S*

        There’s a difference between standing up for yourself and taking vengeance. In your first example, the mom isn’t correcting lines told about her because she’s “taking the high road” – she’s being a doormat. Taking vengeance is telling your kids lies about their dad to punish him for telling lies about you. Taking the high road is setting the record straight calmly and matter-of-factly. You can protect yourself without going on the attack.

        It’s true that lots of people gets away with doing horrible stuff all the time. Karma is a religious justification for the Indian caste system that taught untouchables and lower-caste members that they deserved their poverty because of past life wrongdoing. Nobody is up there delivering godsmacks to the deserving. They do face consequences in their lives, but they often aren’t consequences that the wrongdoers care about, like trashing relationships or being seen as untrustworthy.

        But if you’re a person who does care about being seen as a trustworthy person with integrity, then stooping to revenge actively works against that perception of you.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        Revenge fantasies are all very well, but here’s a really practical reason for not outing the ex’s relationship with his subordinate – getting him fired may end up with the OP paying alimony to him. Or losing support payments or child support to her.

        It’s just not in the OP’s best interests to rat her ex out.

      4. Nom de Plume*

        The situation with children you are describing is called “parental alienation” and is considered a form of child abuse (at least in my state), and the parent who is maligning the other parent to their children can lose parenting time (physical custody) as a result. That is COMPLETELY different than being an ex-spouse who knows some unsavory info about their former partner and choosing to be the better person and not saying anything.

      5. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        Thank you for being honest, and it is the truth that most people seem to not want to admit: life is unfair and crappy and good does not always triumph. “Taking the high road” sometimes leads you over a cliff. “Being the better person” all too often leads to ulcers. “Following your passion, do what you love” = doesn’t usually pay the bills. Karma is an elusive fairy who rarely makes an appearance when you most need her. The greedy boss with all the power cares not one whit about the peon worker who thinks boss was an unethical ahole, they don’t even give their behavior a second thought. Look out for yourselves people, because no one else will.

    10. Snarflepants*

      But why would the Ex’s company pay attention to the report? The OP doesn’t work for the company. Answer, HR in the company wouldn’t and shouldn’t accept her outside information.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially in this situation. Like it or not OP, you are not an objective judge here. Even if you’re correct in all your suspicions about him abusing his position to get her hired, anything you say on the subject is so tainted by “…and his ex-wife says…” that it’s going to just draw eyerolls and not go anywhere.
        Alternatively, if you try going anonymous with a generic email address without a name attached or a typed letter with no return address, HR is going to write that off as unfounded gossip, if the message isn’t filtered out unread by your spam filter or the mail room.

        1. Smithy*

          Not to mention – it may be that where the OP’s ex works is simply a less professional place and stuff like this happens “all the time”.

          This is a situation where a good place of employment will likely catch this in the long run. And if not the OP has insight of what kind of workplace this is, and if a friend asks for advice down the road about applying there – the OP can share this insight about how their practices might work.

          It could also be a situation where the OP’s ex did abuse his position to get his girlfriend hired, but then plans to also use his position to get the girlfriend a full time job in another team/department. Does he win the professionalism Olympics – no. But it’s also a kind of unprofessional nepotism/cronyism that lots of people do with the full intention of it being temporary and may not even raise to the level of this HR’s attention.

    11. Jean*

      I have to agree with Alison on this one – while doing what you suggest might be very satisfying in the moment, it wouldn’t be the mature thing to do. Also, probably totally unnecessary, since the situation will very likely end up blowing up in ex-husband’s face one way or another anyway.

      LW#1, just pop some popcorn and sit back and watch. No need to spill any tea. It’s going to get spilled eventually by someone else.

    12. Jennifer*

      Your username made me crack up. I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a being a LITTLE petty and standing up for yourself sometimes. Taking the high road isn’t always the best option and not speaking up can actually be damaging to your mental health. However, in this instance, I don’t know if burning his life down is the right option. You can be assertive while at the same time not letting bitterness consume you.

      As far as karma – I see plenty of people who do terrible things and absolutely nothing happens to them. They just continue to be terrible. Stand up for yourself, get it out, and then move on instead of waiting for some mysterious karma to do what you have the power to do yourself.

    13. Jedi Squirrel*

      This attitude is a large part of what’s wrong with the world today. “I’ve got mine, and everyone else can piss off.” Ugh.

    14. tinybutfierce*

      This is terrible advice the OP should absolutely ignore. Is the ex in the wrong? Absolutely, and if he’s this unsubtle about it to the point his ex-wife knows through whatever means, they’ll get found out eventually. But why on earth would any company take an anonymous e-mail from someone who doesn’t work there, that’s clearly meant to be vindictive, seriously? Worst case scenario, ex finds out it was the OP (because… it’s pretty damn obvious), and then she gets to deal with whatever fallout from that, which probably wouldn’t be in their best interest if she’s in any way relying on financial support from the ex.

    15. Emily S*

      I think there’s way too much risk of it blowing back on her. There are a lot of reasons to care about doing the right thing, including the very self-interested reason of reputation management. You really don’t want to be known/remembered by people as the vindictive ex-wife who meddled in her ex-husband’s means of making a living. It makes you look petty and vengeful, which aren’t attractive qualities.

      It’s true what they say: Living well is the best revenge.

    16. Risha*

      This is such bullshit from a moral perspective that at first I thought you were being sarcastic. Ugh. Just… do better. Don’t be a crap person.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I did too! Read the comment and was “haha that’s funny… oh wait, they’re being serious.”

    17. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Eh, I’m pretty petty so I get the impulse to burn his world down, but also, if he’s this much of a shit, he’ll show his ass eventually. People like this are messy and will burn themselves, which is 1000% more satisfying than lighting the match yourself. Living well is the best revenge and the OP should spend her time moving on from this marriage, which will be made easier by going no-contact with this dirtbag.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        he’ll show his ass eventually

        This. Unless there’s imminent danger to myself or my loved ones, my preferred method of dealing with terrible people is “get popcorn, sit back, and wait for them to show everyone else who they really are.” (The popcorn is optional. Most of the time, I just stop caring and forget about the person, then years later find out about all the consequences they’d eventually got themselves into.)

    18. Peridot*

      Chidi and the rest of the gang would be so disappointed in you. You’re clearly not ready for the Good Place.

    19. SimplyTheBest*

      This is truly disgusting advice. He didn’t cheat on the OP. He didn’t abuse her. He fell out of love with her and broke up with her. He is not obligated to stay in a relationship he doesn’t want to be in. You want to burn someone’s life down for that?

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Er, who says it’ll burn down his life? He’s choosing to sleep with his direct report. My point is simply people need to stop stating Karma will get them and being a better person will pay off. No, it often doesn’t. I’m not saying be evil and torture people. I’m noying OP should report her ex. I’m saying being good doesn’t mean good things will come to you anymore than hard work always pays off. Plenty of hard working, good people end up being screwed over by their employers. Does that mean they should stop being hard working, honest people? No but they needn’t believe the evil doers will get theirs either. Often the evil doers, bullies, etc. succeed and do just fine.

  6. Jessica Fletcher*

    I hope we get an update on the meat situation! I’m thinking someone in the office may have signed up for a delivery box, like Omaha Steaks or Butcher Box, and had it delivered to the office, or joined a local CSA-type deal where you can buy literally up to a whole cow’s worth of meat, and picked it up somewhere near the office.

    Any other ideas where it came from?

    1. 867-5309*

      File this under things we never thought would make sense in a workplace blog. “I hope we get an update on the meat situation.” :)

      1. valentine*

        Is the beef really a beef? Unless people are sure to need the freezer, why not wait until someone does?

        1. Massmatt*

          IMO someone completely monopolizing a common appliance is weird and rude. Lots of people bring frozen foods to defrost and cook at work, mr meat is making that impossible.

              1. Ms.Vader*

                How’s it going, Jenny?

                I third this. It’s a passive aggressive way to assert some kind of ownership. I suspect it’s someone doing meal planning and doesn’t want to bring it each day. I think the email Alison suggested is a good idea.

                1. valentine*

                  Lots of people bring frozen foods to defrost and cook at work
                  If OP3 had said this, stopping it soon as would make sense. Why does unknown potential outweigh the current need?

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I think the person plain and simple does not have enough freezer space at home, and had a brilliant idea! “oooh, the office fridge has a freezer! I’m in the office most days. That basically makes it my personal overflow freezer” except it doesn’t.

                  I don’t know how the beef person has even gotten away with it for this long. I see my coworkers eating frozen meals for lunch every day. There’d be a revolt if they all tried to put their lunches in the freezer one day and found that they couldn’t.

                3. Allison*

                  Yep, people do bring in frozen food for work lunches, but they’re usually frozen meals and leftovers that you can just pop in the microwave, but even then, a single person can’t just fill the freezer with lunches, it’s super rude. I’d never bring in more than 2 or 3 lunches at a time, maybe 4 if I was *sure* there’d be room in the shared fridge, and they’d be gone by the end of the week.

                4. EPLawyer*

                  OP said there is no oven or place to cook the meat. This is not someone planning to have steak for lunch every day at work.

                  It is RUDE to monopolize the freezer. Lots of people bring in things for lunch that need to be frozen. Now they can’t store them properly because 1 person (presumably 1 person) has decided that the office freezer is their personal meat locker.

        2. Willis*

          Besides the fact that its rude to take up all the space in a communal area, if the OP deals with it now then the person whose meat it is has a chance to take it out and bring it home. If they wait until someone else needs freezer space, it may just get thrown out immediately at that point.

        3. Snuck*

          “Is the beef really a beef” … I feel similar Valentine, with some caveats. How long has the meat been there, and how utilised is the freezer usually (some freezers have some freezer burnt random bread and half a tray of ice cubes in them), and has anyone actually asked about the meat yet, or has anyone actually complained?

          I’m imagining scenarios where someone ordered and collected a butcher order, stuffed it in hte freezer which is often empty, and plans to get it home within a day or so.

          I’d put a note on the meat in the freezer (Meat is expensive! Don’t want to encourage theft with an “all stations” email, but instead presume someone is checking their stash every day or so) “Dear Meat Hoarder, we need this freezer emptied quickly, please contact me to set up a way to get this empty.” And wait. If nothing changes in 48hrs (and there’s no complaints about it, otherwise if you get complaints act at that time)… then do the all staff “Folks, cleaning out the fridge AND freezer, please remove all items or they will be thrown, by 3pm on Thursday” and then… act accordingly.

          The places that I worked which had a regular deep toss of fridges always had better respect of fridge space than places that a junior staff member casually ignored until forced. Containers and all tossed, otherwise people leave their gross stuff for someone else to wash out and no one deserves that!

          1. Senor Montoya*

            It’s the OP’s job to keep things clean. Sounds to me like OP is just getting ahead on this situation so that when Bob comes in with his lean cuisines for the week, there’s room for them in the freezer.

            Why wait for complaints? Then you’ve got people mad at each other. Makes sense to prevent complaints about the kitchen.

            1. CL Cox*

              And if someone’s standing there with their frozen lunch meal, they have an immediate need, and there’s not really time to do anything other than throw out some of the meat.

          2. Dragoning*

            If you’re leaving that much meat in the work fridge, you almost deserve to have some ribs stolen.

            1. Snuck*

              I’m sitting here imagining someone smelling cooking steak from the kitchen and storming in to find the freezer raided and steak cooking in the sand which press (works!)… and yelling “Are you stealing MY meat”… that’d flush them out :P

              “Oh no, I thought it was group meat given it’s been in the freezer for over a week and it’s individually wrapped… sorry!” And walk away.

              But yes. Rib stealing is a given … meat is the most stolen item (along with razors and batteries) from supermarkets… assume this meat’s days are numbered.

        4. SarahTheEntwife*

          If the freezer is normally unused, that’s a different situation, but I’m going to trust the LW that this really is a problem. In my office it definitely would be; tons of people bring frozen meals or waffles or things like that.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Prepacked freezer meals can be a lifesaver for people on restricted diets — I’ve seen everything from Weight Watchers to gluten-free in the office freezer, because you can’t predict what’s available at the company cafeteria. Anyone who bought freezer meals on Sunday to bring 5 in on Monday was out of luck if it was filled up with someone’s groceries on Friday!

        6. Karo*

          I disagree. It’s reasonable to expect that each person in the company take up as much space as they need for a week’s worth of food at the absolute max, and it’s reasonable to assume that someone else in the building will need to put something in the freezer today. Both those things being true, OP is smart for wanting to get ahead of it.

    2. Gatomon*

      It definitely sounds like someone picked up a good chunk of a cow and decided to stash it at work. Hopefully it is just temporary. Otherwise I’m all behind tossing it after a pointed warning – just make sure it’s garbage day if it comes to that. You won’t want that festering in the bin for long.

      I used to work in an office that was about 2 blocks from a grocery store. People would do shopping on their breaks and cram the fridge full. (On top of the salad lovers who all felt they needed to store lettuce heads and all the fixings at work instead of making a salad at home.) It was insanity. We would find things from people who hadn’t worked there in years. The smell was unholy.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        Wait wait wait. Entire lettuce heads for salad making supplies? How do they… sanitize it?
        Why do people think they are too cool to do food prep at home? Why aren’t people grossed out by communal kitchens? I just don’t get it.

        That being said, honestly, I totally feel for the meat-hoarder if they just wanted to get a Butcher Box (or similar) delivered to work instead of home, and planned to take it home at the end of the day. To me that doesn’t seem that unreasonable, since presumably no one else was using the freezer space if there was room to add the meat at 10am, or whenever it came.

        Side note: Ahhhh this post takes me back to the post about the fight over the tubs of butter, one of my favorites.

        1. Birch*

          I share your confusion. Just the idea of “cooking” at work squicks me out… how much time does that take, plus you’ve got a million more chances for people to be annoyed or judgy about your food, and do you bring in your own tools and then lug them back home?

          Anyway, I also agree that this was probably some kind of special order situation, BUT I think in that case it’s Beefy’s responsibility to 1. have everything packed up together in a way that’s easy to store, not just lying around the freezer in individual packages, and 2. label it with name, date and a little note about why it’s there and when it’ll be removed. Aaaaand to be honest I don’t think it’s appropriate to receive personal deliveries at work. That being said, tossing it all after one day is a little bit of an overreaction.

          1. Jean*

            “I share your confusion. Just the idea of “cooking” at work squicks me out… how much time does that take, plus you’ve got a million more chances for people to be annoyed or judgy about your food, and do you bring in your own tools and then lug them back home?”

            THIS. I’m picturing some guy grilling burgers or butter-basting a steak on the break room hot plate. Super weird. I would never cook anything beyond toast or a microwaved bowl of soup in my communal work kitchen, which is used by dozens of people daily and isn’t horribly filthy or anything, but still… grody.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Before our holiday party this past December, I brought in a rice cooker and cooked the brown rice that I served with chana masala in our breakroom. (I didn’t want dry, reheated rice – yuck!) I threw in a cinnamon stick, some cloves, and some fresh ginger. Normally, brown rice can be a hard sell, but if you add spices and make people smell it all morning, they will inhale it!

          2. tom*

            It is all confusing, because salad lowers got lost in thread and cooking took precedence. They likely cut vegetables and cheese into bowl and then eat it. At least, that is what fresh salad lowers in my work do. To answer other questions:

            > how much time does that take

            5-10 minutes based on whether they chat with someone or whether they are alone. Not much more then I usually wait for lunch in restaurant.

            > plus you’ve got a million more chances for people to be annoyed or judgy about your food

            May depend on local culture and personal insecurities, but generally no one seem to care and they dont seem to care about judgmental people. But, if you worry about people judging your salad, then from my point of view you work in a place with a pretty bad culture.

            > do you bring in your own tools and then lug them back home?

            All my colleges who do this use company knifes and company kitchen equipment. Company pays for cleaners every day, so kitchen is clean. The fridge is emptied every Friday and unmarked items are thrown away.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Half my (large) office used to do that! They would bring in a full week worth of salad supplies on Monday in a giant reusable grocery bag and it would clog up the (huge) refrigerators so there was no room for one small lunch at 8am on Tuesday. Drove me nuts.

        3. Allison*

          Yikes, a head of lettuce is a bad idea. I would bring in salad supplies but I’d bring in a bag of mixed greens, a container of chopped peppers, some feta cheese, and leftover meat to toss on top. I really did try to minimize the amount of space I took up, and I had a sense of how much room I usually had. But yeah, this is a thing, fresh salads taste way better.

          1. EmKay*

            It’s fine to do that with the separate ingredients needed to make one salad for that day’s lunch (if maybe a little cumbersome with all the extra packaging). But to bring in all your stuff Monday to make lunches every day until Friday? Nah.

        4. KayDeeAye*

          I can’t help but think about last summer when my house was without power for several days due to a tornado that missed our house….just barely! We had no major damage aside from the electrical riser, but because the riser and the breaker box had to be replaced, we were without power for several days longer than most of our neighbors. We lost a LOT of food. Fortunately, the rental house next door happened to be empty and the owner of the rental let us use the freezer in that house, which saved us a lot of meat and an enormous amount of inconvenience.

          The memory of that situation is what prompts me to say: Of course the Mystery Meat Man needs to take his meat elsewhere. But do give him a chance to find a new home for it before throwing it out. Sure, he’s being rude, but it’s possible that he doesn’t realize how rude he’s being, and it’s also possible that he’s doing this because he’s been placed in an awkward position for some cause or other (though presumably not a tornado!)

      2. pretzelgirl*

        Don’t toss it, if no one takes it. That’s a lot of expensive meat to waste. Leave a note that says “Meat up for grabs in the freezer!” or take it to a place that preps meals for those in need. 30 cuts of meat is TON. Depending on what it is, it could feed a small family for a month. Maybe more.

        1. WellRed*

          Seriously! So much food waste. And Alison, I think the OP should give it a few days before they get rid of it however they choose, not at the end of that day.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Except… what if Fergus brought it in because his freezer died? And it turns out that he really didn’t find it soon enough and it’s all gone bad?

        3. Burned Out Supervisor*

          I would never take unmarked uncooked frozen meat that has an unknown origin. You have no way to know if the cold chain was unbroken (was it always 100% frozen? was it always kept at a refrigerated temp that inhibited bacterial growth? who handled the meat before it was frozen? where and when did this meat come from?). I’ve had e-coli before (and so have relatives) and it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            I can’t get over my uneasiness about the origin of said meat long enough to even worry about E. coli. Like that scene in the first season of Sherlock when Mrs. Hudson looks in the refrigerator and says, “Oh dear, thumbs!”

      3. Amy Sly*

        One of my friends in law school lived on a ranch that raised roping cows for rodeos and such, not meat. Well, cows aren’t smart enough to know not to stand under trees in thunderstorms, so after a summer storm, Bryan’s family went from having some fifteen cows to having fifteen flash-seared roasts. Now, a butcher is supposed to do the slaughter himself, not process an already deceased cow, but he can process it if he stamps all the wrappers “Not fit for human consumption.” They ended up with tons of meat.

        They sent quite a bit with Bryan to undergrad, where he had an epic party. But these weren’t standard beef cows that had been fattened in a feed lot, so they tasted a bit funny. When a couple cheerleaders found the wrappers stamped “Not fit for human consumption,” apparently the beef made a second appearance.

        1. Dragoning*

          One of my friends in university lived on a dairy farm, so, not for meat, but lots of cows. But you can’t send a cow to slaughter if anything is wrong with it. No leg injuries, nothing (it’s considered inhumane), but leg injuries on cows don’t tend to…heal.

          So anyway, my friend had a lot of semi-legal beef in the freezers in his basement.

          1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

            Probably better for you overall than bathtub butchered roadkill, which is a thing near where I live and also a risk factor because some of the deer have chronic wasting disease…

          1. valentine*

            How big is this freezer!?
            This is a great question. I am pro-beef storage if it’s the smaller part of your standard fridge model provided in an apartment (because no one was using it, anyway,) but if it’s separate and/or massive and we are talking pieces as large as whole turkeys, then it is over-the-top and worth stopping now.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I’m embarrassed to admit that’s where my mind went, too! I was going to ask if Jeffrey Dahmer works for the office!

    3. Cat*

      Yeah it’s probably a cowshare. 1/4 – maybe even 1/8 – of a cow could overload an office freezer easily. Mine always has a weird erratic pickup where the rancher emails us and is like “I’m driving through town at noon on Thursday! Come get your cow at this random location!” I could easily see it ending up in the office fridge for the day.

      1. Anon today*

        I bought 1/2 of a hog last year, and the seller (a former colleague) delivered it to me at work. It filled the freezer — and went home with me that evening. The LW indicates the meat just showed up the day s/he wrote — it may well have been gone before Alison even read the email.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        We have some farm egg exchange going on at my work. Some people have chickens, and some people buy their eggs. I could see the next step where a few people split a cow and figured it wasn’t a big deal to bring the meat to work to distribute for one day.

        I don’t think I would be miffed about this when finding meat one day. If it’s there all week, sure.

        Also – my office moved to a new building with 2 commercial fridges and 2 commercial freezers on each floor. It’s very nice. These fridges also don’t have in-door condiment storage, so they don’t seem to be getting cluttered with 20 different salad dressings. Something to think about if you’re ever the person who buys the office appliances.

    4. Viette*

      We used to have somebody who did a similar thing when it was hunting season — he’d stash like 4 geese in the (large) freezer of the staff refrigerator, which didn’t occupy the entire space but also, buddy, take them to your home. You can’t do anything with 4 whole raw frozen geese in the break-room.

      I suspect this meat-collector has paid to butcher an entire cow (or close to it) and decided that keeping it at the office is… the thing to do? Anyway, I agree: tell them to take it home, and if they don’t, throw it out. Whoever’s storing it there isn’t about to cook their fifty cuts of meat at the office and then eat them there, which makes it inappropriate use of the office storage space.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Have people clubbed together to buy a large chunk of cow? If so, then presumably there are several employees who need to take their steaks/joints home.

        1. WS*

          Yes, I’m in a rural area and this happened at my workplace, but they were all labelled appropriately. The longest there was any meat at work was two days, because of someone who worked part-time and wasn’t coming into town before that. But that was checked ahead of time and was fine!

          1. Viette*

            Yeah, what surprises me is not that someone (hopefully very temporarily) stashed their part of a cow share in the office freezer, but that they didn’t label it or tell anyone. Where I live, 1/8 of a cow is approaching $500, and as “big” a personality as anyone might be, most people label $500 worth of their property that they leave in a communal space.

        2. PeanutButter*

          It might also be hunting season where the letter writer is – during elk season here it’s not uncommon to get emails about elk meat or jerky being available for purchase from someone. I could easily see someone selling part of their kill to a co-worker and being like, “I’ll just bring it to work for you!” and not having thought through the logistics of meat transfer.

          1. PeanutButter*

            Here’s another office surprise!meat story. I worked in an ER in a rural critical access hospital on the coast. The parking lot was bordered by a jetty, and one of the perks of working there was that you could fish off of it during breaks or before/after work.

            The ER was old enough that it didn’t have room for an actual ice machine for filling ice packs or storing samples on before they were taken to the lab so part of my job was to keep a large camping cooler in the med room filled with ice from a machine in the med/surg unit.

            It was not uncommon to open the cooler to check the ice level to find someone’s pre- or mid-shift catch staring back at me.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, my first guess was hunting or cow share. Deer season just ended in my area, and my husband didn’t want to get a chest freezer unless he got a deer. He did get one this year, but it was ready to be picked up from the butcher shop before the freezer could he delivered – so we have had to scramble to find family members that can loan us freezer space. We didn’t completely fill any freezers, but we have 4 or more family freezers that are half filled with venison cuts.

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        We once had someone abandon a large quantity of venison sausage in the staff refrigerator during hunting season (if I remember correctly, they stuck it in the veggie crisper drawer). I assume it was given to someone as a gift and they then forgot about it.

        The smell was…immense. It took over a month before anyone felt they could seek out and destroy the source of the stench, and every time anyone opened the fridge the entire breakroom would acquire a distinct odor. I still associate the smell of fennel with the smell of rotting sausage a decade later. (This fridge got very little use, and was mostly otherwise used by the office admin to store her coffee creamer. I think most people brought their lunches in insulated bags and kept them at their desks. Whether this was the case before the fridge started smelling like rotting death with subtle fennel notes I am unsure because I was hired shortly before hunting season.)

        So…at least it was in the freezer?

    5. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Years ago a co-worker came to work with about 20 gallons of ice cream. His local grocery store freezer failed and they were selling the ice cream at a loss to get rid of it. People gave him a dollar and got to take home premium ice cream.

    6. Lynca*

      Hunting. I have known people to share meat when they end up with more than they need. Generally though the meat only stays in the work freezer like a day. Maybe longer if they’re like me and just forget. The email should help clear it up.

      1. Goldfinch*

        Yup, I’m a hillbilly, so this was my first guess. But I can’t tell from the letter if there are store packaging labels, or if it’s wrapped in butcher paper like game would be.

    7. winter frog*

      In my area, sometimes “meat boxes” are used as part of fundraisers for kids’ athletic teams. The meat box comes from a local meat company and contains frozen packages of various cuts of meat. If this happened in my area, I could see someone bringing several boxes to work one day to distribute to the coworkers who participated in the fundraiser.

    8. BeckySuz*

      Every year we order a whole cow from a local farm(delish). It takes up a whole separate upright freezer in our basement. It would never occur to me to try and take it to work and jam it in the freezer there. Also if someone did do that, well it’s kinda weird to not leave a note. Good beef isn’t cheap !

    9. Fluffybunnyfeet*

      Here’s a reason no one mentioned: this could have been part of a celebration for Eid. A coworker of mine did this last year. They sacrificed a cow (well, paid a professional to do it) and then offered the meat to friends/family/coworkers. It’s part of the way they celebrate Eid, at least in their particular culture. They brought it all in at one time for everyone who accepted the offer but in that case I would think if it 30 coworkers all using the freezer at the same time, not one person overusing it.

    10. Jennifer*

      I think someone is planning on bringing in a crockpot or toaster oven and cooking this up for themselves everyday for the next month.

    11. Oxford Comma*

      Is it possible that someone went out on their lunch hour and bought a whole bunch of meat and then not having time to take them home, put them in the freezer temporarily?

      If the freezer gets used regularly, this is inconsiderate. If the meat stays there over a day, it’s blatantly rude.

    12. Scarlet*

      Perhaps the person found a FANTASTIC deal at the grocery store and couldn’t pass it up, just needs to store it for the day.

      Still though, sending an email to your coworkers would be nice.

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      (Because I can’t resist… I throw the idea to the authors in the commentariat: Did Fergus REALLY quit abruptly after being put on a PIP for bullying&harassment? Cue the “EYEWWWWWW!”)

    14. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Ugh, fridge hoarders are the worst. I got a visceral reaction to this and my first thought would be to leave it for a week then toss it all with no email, though maybe loop in your manager just in case (I mean, it’s possible your boss knows who’s meat it is – possibly a higher up).

    15. Bears Beets Battlestar*

      My colleague bought a half cow and had it butchered. She had too many steaks and asked if I wanted to buy some. So I gave her some money and she put them in the freezer at work for me. I took them home that day. I don’t think most people even noticed. It also didn’t take up the whole freezer. This is also the country so people exchanging beef or venison at work isn’t uncommon.

    16. RecoveringSWO*

      I’m just picturing a married couple arguing over whether to buy a chest freezer for their cow-share and then coworker has the “brilliant” idea to save $$ by using the office fridge instead…

    17. The Cleaner*

      The first thing I thought of was a meat raffle, which is a very common kind of fundraiser in my area, but I have learned that it sounds very unusual if you’re not familiar with them. I could imagine someone buying a few raffle tickets from a coworker, not because they particularly want the prizes, but to support the coworker’s kid’s little league or church camp or whatever the fundraiser is for, and then they forget about it … until someone shows up at work to deliver a prize of a whole bunch of meat. (And isn’t that always the way — you never win when it’s a prize you want, but your odds of winning go up dramatically if you’re buying tickets only to be supportive.)

    18. Gumby*

      Maybe the local 4H recently auctioned off cows? (It’s a thing. I know a couple of families that split a cow every year – huge up front cost, but much less expensive per pound in the end. While also supporting local kids.)

  7. Massmatt*

    #2 you and your COO friend both showed very poor judgment, the COO in blabbing confidential work info to a friend and you for outing the COO as the source. What was the purpose of telling someone this? And clearly your judgment was doubly faulty because the person you told has spread it all over the company. Yes, people lose their jobs for this. I have to wonder if there were other instances of bad judgment on your part that led to the company’s decision to fire you.

    Something told to you in confidence should remain secret, not shared with “my really good friend”. This is how gossips rationalize their behavior.

    1. valentine*

      What was the purpose of telling someone this?
      Given OP2 believes the friendship is an exception to confidentiality (like people who vow silence then unilaterally decide to tell their spouses or whoever they think doesn’t count), it makes sense to get ahead of the message and explain their sudden resignation.

      1. Massmatt*

        It was all water under the bridge at that point. She certainly didn’t need to out the COO as the source.

        Not sure how unemployment works where she is, but here resigning a job generally disqualifies someone from being able to collect.

        Not sure an abrupt resignation is better/easier to explain to new employers than being fired either, but what’s done is done.

        1. Not Australian*

          I wondered about that. In her situation I think I’d have hung on waiting to be fired and then launched some kind of appeal – depending on what processes are in place where she works. The COO didn’t do her any favours at all and would have been far better keeping her mouth shut. (But then, some folk are just terrified of being fired and will do whatever they can to avoid it; I totally respect that.)

          1. valentine*

            Not sure an abrupt resignation is better/easier to explain to new employers
            I took it as not wanting to have a firing on record.

        2. MK*

          A future employer would not know it’s an “abrupt” resignation, they would just ask you to explain why you left, which you could then spin as “I realise over time it wasn’t a good fit and prefered to pull the plug”. Getting fired for poor performance has no other explanation than “the company thought I was bad at the job”

        3. Madame X*

          It’s not really abrupt if the OP had been working there for 2 years.

          I think in this case the OP should have considered the pros & cons of being fired vs quitting.
          A firing would allow them to qualify for unemployment assistance but it would be a negative mark on their professional record.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Most resignations come with no warning, as the job hunt tends to be discreet. She gave the standard notice after a couple of years, it’s not abrupt. Except to us, who know the back story.

    2. JamieS*

      I’m a little hung up on this. Yes the COO told OP confidential information but she shared information about OP with OP not with other people not directly involved. Even if the company wanted to keep it under wraps, as an outside observer with no stake either way, I can’t consider that to be in the same vein as sharing other confidential information. Just going by the book OP’s friend was in the wrong but we aren’t robots capable of always going strictly by the book.

      There’s also a human factor of wanting to look out for people we care about. Due to this, OP’s friend went out on a limb for them which IMO comes with an implicit trust that OP won’t respond to her good turn by going around telling people about it.

      Professionally OP’s friend was wrong which I guess is what’s most important on a work blog. However, looking at it from a personal perspective, I don’t think OP was being very thoughtful or considerate of their actions and don’t really blame their friend for being upset. Although I’m also questioning the intelligence of becoming such good friends with a junior (I’m assuming) coworker in the first place.

      1. WS*

        Yes the COO told OP confidential information but she shared information about OP with OP not with other people not directly involved.

        Which is a security breach – and OP obviously works in an industry where that’s considered important, considering the way they immediately removed OP’s access once she resigned and even sent a courier to pick up work stuff she had at home. On a personal level I can understand it, but it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do.

        1. JamieS*

          How is it a security breach to tell someone information about their own employment that’s already been finalized?

          1. WS*

            Because the employee hasn’t been given that information yet and still has access to the business’s systems. The business is conscious of their information security (see: the actions they took when the employee resigned) so the employee knowing before they’re supposed to gives them an opportunity to damage the company in whatever way the security is meant to prevent: anything from copying clients’ details to wiping information to copying keys.

      2. Avasarala*

        Yes, it’s the kind of thing that is simple when you see it in black-and-white from an outsider’s perspective. But when it’s you, and you see it in shades of gray, the decision is harder to make.

        This kind of thing is a plot point in stories like Game of Thrones for a reason. “I told you secret information as my friend and then you ratted me out?” OP was clumsy with the secret and COO gets the axe. That’s how these things go. A more deft solution would be to use that information as leverage on COO or be “owed a favor”, or loyally keep the secret to the grave. Or use the info to climb over COO into a position of power. COO still was unprofessional, she made a mistake in trusting OP and got burned. We don’t all have to be good at this game, but now you know what happens when you play it badly.

        1. Marthooh*

          “Your friend tried to help you, so now you can use that information for blackmail or a power grab!” Is this meant to be a joke?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            No, a reference to Game of Thrones, where that was how it usually played out. GoT is not (hopefully) much like real world corporate life.

            But had I been OP, my reaction would have been much more discreet, being thoughtful about gratitude and maintaining that industry connection for the future.

          2. Jean*

            I think it’s meant to illustrate the commenter’s point about this type of situation being like a Game of Thrones plot point.

      3. hbc*

        I agree with this. I think a lot of us would act as the COO did (or be very, very tempted to do so), where it’s a good friend and you’re trying to give them a heads up to, you know, start looking for other work and avoid making any big splurges. Most of us would also would be happy to get this kind of heads up.

        Where the COO really erred, I think, is in misjudging the OP’s knowledge of how much she was going out on that limb, and what OP should or shouldn’t do with the information. If you haven’t been in management, you might not know how big a deal it was to share that info.

  8. Mike*

    Re #4. The company I work for also had no cap (or no enforced cap) and people had many year’s worth of vacation accrued. Since we are in CA you can’t lose it but you can stop gaining more. What the ended up doing was giving people notice of the change, then capping it at 4 years for the first year it was in affect, then 3 years the next year, and then two years after that (and going forward).

    Felt it was fair as it gave people time to actually use it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is what I’ve often seen when caps are put in place. Usually you don’t just take it away, even when you can. That feels like a punishment. But you stop accruing and then when you dip down below the cap, you start earning time again.

    2. MK*

      I am not sure what “no enforced cap” actually means. Were people able to take 2 months of accrued vacation previously? Or is it just a case of not telling you that your accrual stopped because you capped?

      1. Mike*

        It happened awhile ago so I don’t remember if there was suppose to be a cap or not. What I do remember is that people had many years worth of vacation saved up and were over the two year limit.

        1. MK*

          What I meant was, would it have been obvious to both the employee and the company that these people had lots of PTO “saved up”? If there was a notation in your HR file or your payslip or something “you have X time saved up”, it would be an asshole move to enforce a cap without warning, even if the employee handbook set a limit. But if it was just a case of people privately keeping tally of their saved PTO, they should be making sure they are computing it correctly based on the handbook.

          1. Natalie*

            I would assume the issue was in their timekeeping system – if the company had a written policy about a cap, and loaded that cap into their system, I can’t see why anyone would privately tally the leave they “really” had, or why the company would care. I imagine the issue is that they did not put the cap into their system, so people’s paychecks and payroll records are showing hundreds of hours that they shouldn’t have been allowed to accrue in the first place.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      My office had a similar situation as OP and they ended up negotiating to pay out half of what people accrued and then gave them some extra time to use up the rest. Not a bad deal! Of course people still found reasons to complain even though they weren’t supposed to roll over more than 10 days a year (they all talked their managers into making exceptions every year, which is no longer allowed).

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Years (!) of vacation accrued? Wow.

      Could they cash it out without retiring / leaving the job?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I took this to mean vacation accrued over the course of years, not the accrual of years of vacation time.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My company just did the reverse — we were use it or lose it with a year-end reset. ie we got assigned the full 56 hours (oh so generous) on January 1, just in time for cold&flu season.
      This year they decided it accrues on an hourly accumulation, so people who get sick in January are having to take vacation time or come in sick.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      We recently had something similar as our parent company decided to get all 4 affiliated companies on the same PTO plan. It was announced mid-year and went into effect at year-end. Previously we could roll over the equivalent of 1 year’s earned PTO (so if you earned 3 weeks/year you could roll over 3 weeks) and the new policy capped the rollover at 80 hours. That December 31, anything you had over 80 hours would be paid out. Starting the following year, anything you had over 80 hours would be lost.
      Reviews were mixed. A few people actually cancelled some random PTO burn days they had scheduled to stay under their rollover cap in order to get a higher payout right after the holidays and others were upset because they had plans for that extra PTO early in the new year and in one case upcoming FMLA leave to care for an elderly parent undergoing extensive medical treatment. The following year an email went out reminding people about the rollover cap and according to my boss, she was inundated with about 100 time off requests of people who realized they were at risk of losing some of their PTO. A couple of us were also putting in requests because another change that came through was when you moved up to the next PTO accrual rate. Previously it increased in your anniversary date and a bunch of us started around the same time late in the year. Well one of the changes was that you now move up on Jan 1 of your anniversary year so we had 10+ months of a higher accrual rate than what we had been planning for. I took most of December off.

  9. Massmatt*

    #4 start taking your vacation time. 450 hours is an enormous amount to store, and having someone out for long periods of time while they take large amounts accumulated over years is disruptive.

    Really at this point you don’t seem to value the time off so it’s not outrageous for the company to enforce a policy that’s been in place for years.

    1. valentine*

      start taking your vacation time.
      Should I just take Mondays off for the foreseeable future (only half joking)?
      Yes & yes.

      Check if they’re going to freeze accrual until the bank’s below 160.

      1. Little Bird in the Big Apple*

        Yes, I second the suggestion of seeing if a day off per week would work to reduce the accumulated leave.

        We had a situation where a long term employee had accumulated an astronomical amount of leave and there was no way he was going to be able to take it all in one large block. The solution was for him to take every Monday off for about six months (it might have been longer), only coming in if there was a hard deadline or emergency. It became common knowledge around the office and the rest of us took it into account when scheduling meetings or working out job assignments.

    2. Snuck*

      450hrs at 40hrs a week is nearly 3mths leave. I’m not sure what hte employer has as their general leave policy, but if it’s 160hrs accrued I presume that’s more than one years worth? 160 hrs is four weeks (standard in Australia, but I’m not sure in the US?) … Many places in Australia cap leave, or can force you to take it.

      In the past I have managed staff with leave balances like this and it’s usually complicated – generally many of these staff are the kind to declare themselves indispensable, are defensive and difficult about taking leave, and frequently declare they have too much work to be able to take a break. Often they are very very stressed and unhappy employees too. Not always, but more than 70% of my ‘excessive leave’ staff would fall into this sort of thinking (a few would save for long holidays, to link to planned long service leave, or similar, but anything over six weeks I’d look at). When getting a new team to work with (I was a bit of a trouble shooting Team Lead/ Technical Rebuild sort of person – is the hat I’m sort of thinking of when I talk on this, a role I might take for a few months to trouble shoot poor performing teams between projects)… one of the first things I’d look at was leave balances – excessive, insufficient, leave patterns, length of service in the company, use of sick and other leave etc. Anyone who was massively outlier on it I’d want to understand why – often it was a chronic illness, or a family event, or similar, but for those who had excessive leave it was overwhelmingly a symptom of over importance on work/ not enough balance in life and usually was a bottle neck of a staff member who would hold process control at their desk and create massive over loaded work loads. Not always, but more often than not. Unclog those bottle necks, get the work flowing again, and no one has to work stupid hours, everyone can take their breaks.

      1. Sara without an H*

        …a bottle neck of a staff member who would hold process control at their desk and create massive over loaded work loads. Not always, but more often than not. Unclog those bottle necks, get the work flowing again, and no one has to work stupid hours, everyone can take their breaks.

        Bingo. I’ve had a couple of people who never took leave because they had no life outside of work and relied on work for their identities. Trouble was, their work performance wasn’t outstanding, either.

        1. Massmatt*

          Poor work/life balance can be a factor, also insecurity—if I can take off for a week then the company will realize they don’t need me and I’ll be fired. And sometimes it’s more sinister—the employee is cutting corners or otherwise not adhering to standards, and doesn’t want anyone to know. It’s a warning sign for embezzlement, among other things.

          Cross training people on multiple jobs is a good thing, it reduces the bottlenecks mentioned above.

          Unless someone had some REALLY unusual skills, I would give major side eye to an organization that had someone so “indispensable “ they couldn’t take time off and were always working. Even more so if it were multiple people. IMO it’s a sign of bad management.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        In the US, 2 – 3 weeks is the standard for new employees. Long-term employees (10 – 20 years) might get up to 6 weeks.

    3. SarahTheEntwife*

      Plenty of people save vacation time to use in case a loved one gets sick or something like that, especially if they don’t have a bunch of specifically sick leave saved up.

      1. PJH*

        > “Plenty of people save vacation time to use in case a loved one gets sick or something like that”

        3 months worth of it? In a country where the typical worker only takes 16 days a year off work?

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          In a country without paid maternity leave, yes, saving up 3 months of 3 sick leave is a way to cover that if you can swing it.

          I’m currently at about 6 weeks of banked sick leave (which will accrue indefinitely in my job, and is a separate allocation from vacation days), which I will use if I manage to have a baby or if I have a major illness/injury.

          I have a job where it’s rarely worth it to call in sick rather than work remotely when sick, because most of my work will just pile up if I take a sick day and I’ll just end up doing it on evenings/weekends to get caught up. If I take a major, contiguous chunk like a maternity leave someone would be hired to cover for me, but taking a single sick day basically just puts me a day behind so is only worth it if I’m too sick to even get on a computer at home and work at 75% capacity that day (so at least I’ll have less to do during evenings/weekends later). This means I use maybe 1-3 sick days a year, but get a generous allotment of sick days each year that mostly just get banked.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      Accrued time may pay out at retirement or separation. Nice chunk of change there, 450 hours.

      It’s not surprising that it happens. I earn 24 days of vacation and 12 days of sick leave each year, they roll over, and they pay out (up to a point, and the point is high) on separation or retirement. That’s a lot of work weeks. Plus the office is closed for a week at the end of the year. I do take about two weeks in the summer and some long weekends, half days, and the like, but I can’t use it all up every year.

      If I do that for ten years because I don’t have any other reason to use the leave, that’s a lot of hours. I’ve used up all my leave (and had to take unpaid leave) in the past for maternity and FMLA, but I’ve earned it back and then some each time.

      1. Marzipan Dragon*

        If you take your time off around holidays you gain a day here or there that add up. On July 1 I was given 240 hours of vacation time. I’ve had 240 hours of time off in the 7 months since. Because of holidays I’ve only used 150 hours of vacation time. I can’t say that I feel like my work/life balance is off having taken 6 weeks of vacation in 7 months with over two weeks available to use in the next five months before I gain more hours. I’m pretty unlikely to get them all used up, which is how I end up rolling some over every year

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Personally I would value a buildup of paid sick time quite a bit — that’s a wonderful thing to fall back on if you fall and land wrong.

    6. OP#4*

      > Really at this point you don’t seem to value the time off so it’s not outrageous for the company to enforce a policy that’s been in place for years.

      How much I do or don’t value the time personally, I view it as an earned benefit, and it doesn’t seem right or fair that the company to take it away, at least not without an appropriate notice period. People have made decisions about this based on the “de-facto policy as enforced”, not based on the letter of the law.

      Also, in recent years I have taken more vacation. A lot of this is from building it up earlier in my career. Also, I don’t particularly enjoy taking vacation, which has also contributed.

    7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      >> Really at this point you don’t seem to value the time off so it’s not outrageous for the company to enforce a policy that’s been in place for years.

      Not only is this comment rude and unhelpful, you have no way of knowing if it is true. The US has fostered many a work place that make taking PTO very difficult. Environments were you are subtly punished if you take vacation time, or where they refuse to have coverage, so you have a giant workload upon your return, make taking PTO more trouble than it is worth. The OP very well may want to take more PTO but is in an environment that doesn’t really foster it.

      OP#4, I would see if you can do a mix of a grace period to use some of it + a cashout (I’d push for full value, but I’d personally likely take 1/2 value at this point so it isn’t a total loss)

  10. staceyizme*

    LW1- no, it’s not a situation in which you have to involve yourself. In that sense, you’re not “in a pickle”. That said- he left you out of the blue, didn’t want to disclose for fear of losing access and is now dating his direct report. While you have no ethical obligation to intervene, a reasonable case can be made for “he’s a bit on the shady side and I think I’ll just mention this issue to his employer”. You can call it karma. You can call it trying to keep the situation from devolving into a scandal. You can call it “hand me the popcorn, the show is about to begin”. Just be honest with yourself. It’s not an ethical breach for you to stay out of it. It’s also not, strictly speaking, entirely necessary for you to stay out of it if you choose not to.

  11. Ludo*

    #4 I know it can be easier said than done but this is why people should actually use their PTO

    At my last job people were upset when the company went from accrued PTO to “unlimited” PTO because they felt like they were losing their saved up PTO but PTO never got paid out at that company either way so they weren’t really losing anything

    1. Kiki*

      I am a bit curious as to how LW #4 intended to used their PTO. It sounds like they have ~11 weeks accrued, which is a lot. I guess I just wonder if they have a specific reason they wanted to save so much up or if it was hard to take time away from their job for the last decade or something. Maybe there are other factors I’m not including (e.g. comp time), but only taking 2/3 of your allotted vacation per year with no goal to eventually use it seems a bit confusing to me.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        It just happens if you earn a decent amount of PTO (more than can be reasonably used in a year, barring things like maternity leave and FMLA) and work at a place for a long time. Over ten years, not that hard to accrue that many hours.

        I just checked my leave balances: I’ve got about 150 rolled over and earned for January, and about 180 forecasted for the rest of the year. I’m going to use 80 or so for a summer vacation, plus another 40 – 50 here and there. That’s a good chunk of hours — but barring some unexpected disaster, I’m going to have a lot of hours rolling over into next year.

        1. Kiki*

          It sounds like LW #4 only gets 3 weeks/ year, though. Maybe I am out of sync with a lot of norms, but that doesn’t seem like very much to me! If they got 4-6 weeks a year and were having difficulty using it all and ended up accruing this much, I would get it, but only being able to use 2 weeks/ year when you’re allotted 3 seems like something else is up to me. But I don’t actually know the details!

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          My dad was a government employee who had a two step retirement. He stopped going to work in April and started using his PTO. He formally retired in January, when his PTO ran out.

          He’d been with the city for 35 years or so, he banked the leave for medical emergencies and such.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I had a friend who banked her PTO because they were trying to start a family in the next 3 years. Our parental leave was unpaid, so it was a way to get some $$ while out. She ended up using a bunch over the next 6 years because she had 3 kids.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Did they not pay it out when the people left, or just not pay it out while still employed?

      I can accrue 12 weeks (currently at 450 hrs). After that, I have to use time or I won’t accrue any more. They will never pay it out while I work here, but I would get it paid out if I left. That’s over $30,000 for me. I can see why people would be mad.

      As far as taking it, I get 6 weeks per year. My job is fairly demanding. It’s hard to take it when you’re hopelessly behind on work all the time anyway, and once you get up around the limit, it’s kind of a snowball.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah. I have no backup. If I don’t do the work, it doesn’t happen. When I went out for 6 weeks maternity leave, we skipped some reports, and I caught up some others after (sometimes as easy to run 2 mo as 1), but I struggle to take more than 3 weeks off. The load even after just a couple of days is overwhelming.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      See my response above — you can be really good about using PTO, but you may be getting so much that you just can’t use it. There is no way I can use almost five weeks of vacation each year (that’s what I earn, it’s in lieu of a decent raise alas). None. I can’t be away from my job that much.

      1. Rockin Takin*

        My company gives about 5 weeks total between sick leave, vacation, and floating holidays. If you’ve been here 10 years it’s 6 weeks, and over 15 years its 7 weeks. But we have a use it or lose it policy. There’s no roll over to the next year, if you don’t use it then it’s gone. They don’t pay you for unused time. They also encourage management to let people have all their time off during the year. Sometimes this sucks for scheduling purposes, but it’s kind of nice that they want people to take vacation.

    4. OP#4*

      In retrospect I should have paid more attention to the official policy rather than the de-facto enforcement, and taken action to protect the benefit I had earned (either use it or cash out, in the years prior to now). Given that I can’t take (and don’t want to take) a huge amount of time off right now and that the cash out policy has ended, my options are much more limited.

    5. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Yeah, I’d be careful with depending on a payout when you leave. Companies not bound by paying out leave balances sometimes change their policies around it and you’d end up losing all that time. I’d just ask myself “would I be OK with losing this time if the company decided to not pay me out if I left” and act accordingly.

  12. Cat Whisperer*

    So, when I read the term “big personalities”, I think big assholes. Just my experience.

    1. Anonny*

      In this case I was thinking of a pack of wolves pretending they’re humans, like @sickofwolves on twitter.

      1. LGC*

        To be fair, storing 30 pounds of meat in the work freezer is totally something @sickofwolves would do. To get back at capitalism.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      Yep. My entire office is full of “big personalities” and they are indeed all a bunch of insufferable jackasses.

    3. SlenderFluid*

      Exactly. Like when someone is described as ‘a real character’, it’s almost always the type of character you love hearing about over a drink or two from a friend who has to deal with them, rather than encountering them on a daily basis yourself.

  13. nnn*

    Two more thoughts for #5:

    1. In addition to not having to commute and being able to focus, you might also look at whether any of your company’s current buzzwords can fit in there.

    For example, my employer has recently taken to talking about mental health, self-care, and work-life balance. So if I were trying to justify working from home, I’d include those in my justification.

    2. If this is an application (i.e. they might accept or reject you, you’re in competition with other employees for a limited number of work-from-home slots), it might be strategic to tie in “ability to focus” with your specific job. For example, “As an editor, I have to carefully read important documents in minute detail and catch even the smallest of errors, often on tight deadlines. It is difficult to maintain this level of focus when surrounded by office noise and conversations. Working from home would make it far easier to maintain this level of focus without distraction, and deliver better-quality documents in less time.”

    (Even if everyone else also needs to focus, work in why it’s important for *your* job.)

    1. OP #5*

      Good ideas – we’ve definitely been talking a lot more about burnout and work-life balance lately.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        At my job, your “reason for wanting to WFH” has to be a job-related reason, so ability to focus on XYZ would be it. (Of course, the reason you can focus is you don’t have to deal with your commute, getting ready, etc., but that part goes unsaid….)

    2. Hummus*

      You also don’t need to feel guilty for citing commute. 30 minutes each way is an hour of your day!

      I have a 4 minute commute. I didn’t apply for regular WFH because, for me, the commute is so short that it’s worth not setting up workspace in my house. I am happy to be present in the office, if it means someone else can have a better day. Your coworkers with short commutes may be thinking the same.

      My point is that you can let other people present their own cases. I have a feeling that the only precedent you’ll set is that you will be the ideal telecommuter, paving the way for others.

  14. Observer*

    #2 – I’m going to disagree a bit. Yes, your friend messed up in a big way. But so did you. You both made the same mistake – you repeated something that was told to you in confidence.

    Also, I think you should think about what warnings you actually had about your performance. You say that you were blind sided because you never got any *written* warnings. Verbal warnings are warnings, too, and need to be heeded. The fact that no one seemed surprised that you resigned and your friend only got in trouble after this other friend told everyone what you told her, says that they think that you HAD been given plenty of indication of trouble, even though it was not in writing.

    1. valentine*

      your friend only got in trouble after this other friend told everyone what you told her, says that they think that you HAD been given plenty of indication of trouble, even though it was not in writing.
      So you think management saw the resignation as serendipitous? That’s interesting.

      It’s worse if it’s the literal naming that tanks the COO.

      1. Observer*

        Not serendipitous. They probably figured that she knew she was on thin ice and decided to get ahead of it.

      2. LavaLamp*

        I dunno. I’ve been fired, and had people say they told me what was wrong when they didn’t. The unemployment office was not amused. It’s possible that OP should’ve known,but it’s equally possible they were blindsided.

        1. doreen*

          When people are very specific, it’s typically for a reason. If the OP had received no warnings, she most likely would have said just that. If she says she received no written warnings, that sort of implies that she received non-written ones. And if someone says ( as someone I supervised once did ) ” Nobody has ever sent a memo to the important people at headquarters” that probably means they did receive a written warning that wasn’t copied to their personnel file ( which is exactly what happened with the person I mentioned)

    2. Avasarala*

      I disagree about the warnings because 1) I trust that OP knows their situation and 2) this line indicates that others were surprised that OP left so suddenly: “I had a lot of friends and clients there who have reached out to me and asked what happened.” Doubt a client would reach out to a poor performer who suddenly left a company to ask what happened.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        You are absolutely correct. If many clients liked the OP and were surprised about the firing, someone higher up probably just did not like her/him. However, both the OP and the COO messed up.

        1. MK*

          Yeah, no. Clients liking is not a certain indication that you are doing a stellar job. Clients may like you because you are good at schmoozing, or because you bend the rules for them or because you went to school with their kid, or for other reasons that have nothing to do with perfromance.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Agreed. Several people at my first job who were “so great with clients” – and then the company instituted new policies that standardized discounts you could give. Suddenly their sales numbers dropped. It turns out that clients do indeed love you if you give deep discounts as your one and only sales tactic.

          2. Bagpuss*

            Yes, you can be popular with clients and still not very good at your job, or be great at your job but just average in the eyes of clients. It depends on why you are popular (or unpopular) and what the KPIs are for your role.

            We used to have an employee who was very popular with clients – he would spend lots of time with them which he would then write off, as the work was either fixed fee (based on a normal, efficient timescales) or where he had an unrealistically low cost estimate which we had to keep – either way it meant he spent a huge portion of his time doing work we could not bill the client for, so from a business perspective he was a disaster. (and his coworkers managed to keep clients happy while still working within the constraints of fixed fees and realistic estimates)

          3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yes, when I supervised a youth extracurricular program, there was an inverse relationship between the staff’s survey rating with parents and the staff’s internal performance evaluations.

            Parents liked classes where the teacher ran the class like an unstructured free play. We rated teachers how carefully the teacher followed the curriculum and safety rules.

        1. LGC*

          I think she means…since it sounds like a lot of people were surprised by your resignation, including clients, this WAS out of the blue.

          I do have to disagree that a client wouldn’t reach out to a poor performer, though! Theoretically, someone could be great at client interactions but bad enough at other parts of their job that they should be fired (what I call “being a good worker, but a bad employee”). This might not be you, but I’ve seen this happen.

        2. Susie Q*

          Um you threw your friend under the bus after she went out on a huge limb for you.

          That was rude as hell. How hard was it to say “I just decided it wasn’t a good fit and I decided to pursue other opportunities.” If I was your friend, the COO, I would end the friendship.

          You should feel bad.

          1. The Supreme Troll*

            Lov, I don’t want to pile on, but it showed poor judgement (even if it wasn’t deliberate or vindictive – which I have no reason to believe that it was). You know the old saying…”loose lips sink ships”, and I think you have to look inwards to see what you can do to become more trustworthy. Hopefully, this should come naturally and you won’t have to work hard at it.

    3. Anonymous Contribution*

      Although it could potentially reflect poorly on the employer if their methods of providing warning are so subtle that someone could miss them.

      I know someone who was fired out of the blue one Friday afternoon. How was it out of the blue, you might ask – because said employee had seen it coming and directly asked for feedback that Monday and been told everything was fine.

      1. Anonymous Contribution*

        Obviously that comes with the caveat that there were no obvious signs that the employee (either in my example or here) missed.

      2. LJay*

        If he just asked the Monday before it’s possible that the company’s mind was made up and the firing was in action at that point and they just felt that giving any sort of constructive feedback at that point wasn’t useful.

        (Though at any well-run company they would have been aware way before that Monday so it’s still definitely shitty).

    4. Enginear*

      In my experience, people with bad performances that know they’re getting axed quit before the company has a chance to follow through. They know they’re not performing.

      1. Massmatt*

        That happens, yes, I know of a couple instances where someone was brought into a meeting to be fired and they quit instead, real cases of the “You cant’t fire me—-I QUIT!”cliche. The company was relieved to accept the resignationS because it made it hard (If not impossible) for the employees to collect unemployment.

        It really seemed like a fit of pique on the employee’s part, I don’t think they helped themselves much in the resume department, they still have an abrupt departure to explain. Compared to being unable to collect unemployment? That’s the difference between getting maybe 1/2 Your prior income and NO income.

        1. Massmatt*

          …submitted too soon, I was going to say we also have many stories here about people acting surprised at their firing even after voluminous evidence of warnings, deadlines, PIPs, etc.

  15. April*

    LW #1 – there’s no way that people at his company don’t know she’s his GF. Come on, now. How do YOU know? Gossip like that will get out.

    LW #2 – you should have NEVER told anyone the COO told you, big mistake and life lesson learned. Sh*t like that you take to the grave.

    LW#3 – I’d also put a note on the freezer itself? “Where’s the Beef? It’s in this freezer but it needs to be gone by Tuesday, Feb. 4th at 6 pm”

  16. Julia*

    That reminds me of a past job, where someone would occasionally store a lot of fish in the fridge. Apparently he sometimes went fishing and caught too many fish, which he then brought to the office “since you people like fish”, but no one ever took any as far as I know, and they just stunk up the whole place. Actually, on the rare occasion he actually showed up to work, it was either his fish or his aftershave that stunk up the building…

    If possible, try not to throw the meat in the trash though. I don’t expect the whole world to go veggie, but killing an animal and then throwing away its meat after ONE day with no owner found, when people elsewhere are starving, doesn’t sit right with me. (I know I’m probably in the minority with this.) I get that people might want to use the freezer, but don’t feel like they can so say, but surely you don’t have to toss all of it to make some space, if the owner isn’t found immediately?

    Also, imagine you send an email, then toss the meat at the end of the day, and then the next day the party planner tells you they were out yesterday, but the meat was for a work event?

    1. Not Australian*

      Yes, in this case ‘throwing it out’ should really consist of donating it to a charity of some kind.

      1. valentine*

        throwing away its meat after ONE day with no owner found, when people elsewhere are starving
        The former doesn’t impact the latter. Even people starving nearby won’t be affected by this meat of unknown provenance, regardless of its end.

        Yes, in this case ‘throwing it out’ should really consist of donating it to a charity of some kind.
        I hope they wouldn’t take it because no one can vouch for it. Better to reject than to infect.

          1. Dahlia*

            We also don’t know how it was stored. The roast I left sitting on my living room floor while I was in the hospital was packed well, but it wasn’t particularly good when I got home.

      2. Fikly*

        Off topic, but I do appreciate that many agencies in the US that confiscate meat from animals hunted illegally donate it to local food pantries and the like, so the person who did illegal hunting doesn’t benefit, but people are still fed.

      3. Burned Out Supervisor*

        A lot of food banks will not accept donations of perishables with no date or provenance. They are just as liable for people getting sick from the food they provide as grocery stores.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      There’s a difference between threatening to throw it away and actually throwing it away though. I would definitely do the former to encourage action.

      I would also suggest that you don’t need to throw it away all at once. Just take out some of it to allow others to use the freezer. If the meat owner could fill the freezer in the first place, it probably isn’t heavily used.

      1. Colette*

        I’d disagree with this, unless the owner speaks up and explains their plan for the meat. If no one is willing to claim it, it could sit there until the end of time.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          A couple of weeks would seem reasonable. Keeping it until the end of time seems like a bit of a jump from my suggestion. I agree with the poster who thinks it’s immoral to waste so much food even if its owner isn’t behaving well.

    3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I really think OP needs to find out why it is there before any action or threats to throw it away or donate it. As said above there are many possible reasons why it is there, and they don’t want to run the risk of throwing away the boss’ dinner for the next three months, or the steaks purchased for a client event you don’t know about!

      And I agree with Cambridge Comma below – if there was enough room in the freezer for this much meat, it can’t have been that well used. It is a bit rude to use up all the space with no explanation, but I think patience and investigation are required first.

    4. pretzelgirl*

      Agree. I would personally give a few days. Send and email, tell management, put a note on the fridge. If no one claims it, take to a Ronald McDonald House, a Soup Kitchen or somewhere that preps meals for those in need.

      1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

        Call way the heck ahead if you’re going to donate something that needs so much preservation.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Depending on how it’s packaged, food pantries generally don’t take random frozen meat. There’s no way for them to know if you’ve stored it properly.

    5. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

      Donateability will depend a lot on what type of meat it is and whether it’s still in commercial packaging or not. But you should call a local charity and ask rather than dumping the whole fridge if nobody turns up to claim it.

      1. Lynn*

        Agreed. Definitely best to check before hauling stuff over.

        For several years (5 or 6 years ago), when our local grocery stores were all having the “turkey wars” and frozen turkeys were going for $5 each, we bought all the market would bear-and we weren’t the only ones. We kept a couple for our own use, and donated the rest to a soup kitchen.

        We had checked ahead of time, and the food bank couldn’t handle them-not enough freezer space to store what they were getting. On the other hand, the soup kitchen had set up a way to take all that people were bringing them. From what I was told from someone who volunteers there regularly, they got enough turkeys from those years to take care of them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and they were still making turkey and turkey soup well into March.

  17. Nee Attitude*

    #1, by the sound of things, your ex-husband might do tremendously more damage to himself, his career and his girlfriend than you could ever do in the situation. Your best bet is to stand way, way, way back, steeple your fingers and cackle like a hyena (at home, of course) when it happens!

    1. valentine*

      steeple your fingers and cackle like a hyena (at home, of course) when it happens!
      Sound advice here.

    2. AnonANon*

      Very good advice. Having been in a similar situation, the Karma bus will take care of allllll of this. Trust me. May not be today or tomorrow, but it is coming. It will make you look worse than him if you report this to his company. And to the company it will just look like the crazy ex-wife trying to sabotage the ex-husband.
      Taking the higher road will get you much further than you think. And I know it is so hard.

        1. AnonANon*

          I wish you all the strength in the world. I know this is not easy. And it takes time to heal. And remember there is no timeline for healing. Surround yourself with good people who support you.

  18. Observer*

    #1 – I know that you wrote about the employment portion of this. But, I’m going to make a personal comment. If you don’t have kids, cut him off. And if you do have kids, keep your conversations and interactions about the kids. Anything else is only to be discussed insofar as it relates to them.

    This guy is bad news. You owe him NOTHING. And I have no doubt that your mental health will be a lot better if you stay away from him. FAAAR away from him.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The letter says she has very little contact with him. So I wouldn’t worry too much there at least!

      1. Eng*

        OP has enough contact to know about this situation that doesn’t really affect them. I think they’d feel a lot better if they cut off the ex – can’t tie yourself up in knots about situations you aren’t aware of.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s an ex husband. She most likely has mutual friends and still cares about his family. That’s how you know these kinds of details after a divorce.

          1. Observer*

            Well, she says that she “told him to tell HR” which means that at least when this mess started, she was still talking to him.

            For her own mental health, she should stop this.

            1. OP1*

              We were talking (and doing really well, actually) up until the new girlfriend when my Feelings started coming out in force. I’ve been no-contact since, for exactly the reason you describe. I guess the next step is to try to shut down the 3rd party info, but the Feelings make that hard. If I’m getting anything from all the comments, though, it’s that that will probably be worth the struggle.

              1. Burned Out Supervisor*

                OP, I was in your place (but we weren’t married) and once I totally cut off contact with him, stopped asking friends how he was doing, and stopped reacting to any third party info, my life got a lot better. It was very difficult (and I still think about him from time to time – not charitable thoughts though), but very much worth it. It gets better with time and distance, I promise you. If it helps, at least you’re no longer legally tethered to someone with sketchy ethics – he did you a favor by dipping out, IMHO.

                1. OP1*

                  There were a lot of things that were unhealthy for me… in hindsight. Isn’t that always the way it works? XD

          2. lost academic*

            Also there will always be people in your mutual lives that just can’t resist giving you news about your ex.

  19. Whistler*

    Re OP#2, there may be an alternative explanation for the COO’s behavior: that “leaking” the termination was a calculated move. The company may have perceived a straight termination as legally risky or unduly costly (OP’s account indicates that were “no written warnings or statements” preceding the termination). But by exploiting the COO’s widely-known friendship with the OP, the company had a convenient side channel to “leak” the pending termination to the OP and induce her to resign on her own volition. For the cost of a short period of garden leave, everyone wins: the company avoids the risks and costs associated with a potentially protracted termination (particularly one that may be tenuous to start with), the employee avoids the stigma of a termination in her small industry, and the COO appears to be the “good guy” to her friend. After the OP disclosed the “leak” to another employee and rumors spread outward, it would have been reasonable for the COO to give the impression to OP and others that the she were in some form of trouble, but only for appearance’s sake.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Also quite uncertain that OP would indeed act the way they wanted. Depending on where this happened, resigning instead of being fired could have negative consequences when applying for unemployment benefits, so it’s possible that someone could prefer to be fired. So I don’t think this is what happened.

        My explanation for the COO’s behaviour is that she thinks the way this company fires people is unfair and doesn’t want her friend to be fired without hearing anything about it before. I understand that you can feel that doing the right thing is more important than following the rules, but I think if you face that choice a lot in your job then you should probably work somewhere else.

      2. MsSolo*

        I used to work for an organisation that liked to work this way. Very little by way of performance reviews, a lot of conversations about other people’s performance at the copier with the intention it would get back to them that way. When someone was suspended pending investigation and the rest of us weren’t told why, the manager made a big point of talking to HR about it in the corridor and explicitly said he wanted the rumour mill to take care of it.

        (after the suspendee was pressured into quitting, he and the manager had ‘anonymous’ arguments via the letters page of the local paper, which was left on the breakroom table for all of us to read)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*


          I am so glad you said “used to work for”.

    1. 867-5309*

      This seems… unlikely and the stuff made of a John Grisham novel. That just isn’t how things work at most companies.

  20. Fried Eggs*

    The reasons you list as “real” reasons to telecommute would actually raise more concern for me than the reasons you have. If an employee put down caring for family as a reason for working from home, I’d want to check that it wasn’t going to interfere with their work.

    1. Allonge*

      Exactly, especially for a regular thing.

      LW5, I was also thinking – you do not need to provide a whole essay here. Presumably if there is a form, there are further questions, this is just to weed out the misunderstandings about what telework is and what it is not (e.g. long-term childcare).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        And/or for higher level reporting – “75% of employees requesting to work remotely cited their commuting time as a reason for the request”.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Commute was the #1 reason my last company let us wfh up to 2 days a week – most people lived 30+ minutes away and my commute was anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes depending on weather and traffic. And focusing more intensely on tasks is definitely another good reason.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            Does it seem backward to anyone else that we have “workplaces”, but it’s easier to focus at home than the *place* set aside for *work*? I know that is indeed the case for many people. But it seems crazy to me. “Yeah, no one can focus with this open office space. But at least we have a *lot* of unfocused people in the space!”

        1. OP #5*

          This is an excellent fact! I think I’m thinking too much about being “fair” and I actually live the closest of anyone in my vicinity. Then again I also worked in a place where another employee who had a 90 minute commute got to count their commute as work (they were driving! they couldn’t do any work!) so they came in at 10am and left at 3pm O_o

    2. Liane*

      Yes, most companies that allow routine WFH don’t allow you to care for family at the same time, but OP says they don’t have family.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Yes, keep your reasons business-related. Basically, you want your boss to think of your telework location (home) as a branch office.
      – Address the day(s) you pick. For example, explain why Friday is an ideal day: no regular meetings are scheduled, leaving you free to concentrate on TPS reports so you can submit these on time.
      – Describe communications: set office hours, use of chat program, email response times.
      – Make sure your home internet is robust. Will you need extra equipment: printer, monitor, etc.? Who provides that – you or company?

      Good luck with the request!

  21. Palindrome Day*

    I’m wondering why LW2’s COO friend didn’t clue her in to the performance issues sooner – this may be an org chart thing where COO didn’t know about specific problems until they came up in the layoffs meeting, but you’d think a good friend would help you save your job somewhat sooner.

    Given that COO ultimately did LW2 a favour, it would have been better to use vaguer phrasing along the lines of “I found out that my job was at risk” than specifically naming COO as the source, even if it would be obvious.

    It does seem a bit tough to put someone on the chopping block based on verbal warnings (if LW misinterpreted those) or less (if LW was indeed blindsided). I mean, that’s what written warnings are *for*.

      1. Palindrome Day*

        It’s not COO’s place to clue her in on the upcoming firing either. I’m just wondering why a good friend wouldn’t have checked in sooner.

        I mean, something weird is going on there, clearly, but it’s odd to risk your job so late on, when you missed opportunities earlier.

        1. Colette*

          It’s entirely possible that the COO knew nothing about the OP’s performance until she found out about the planned firing.

    1. PW*

      Or just be more vague or self-reflective like “I don’t think this job is for me; I haven’t been performing to my own expectations”

  22. Mommy.MD*

    Why on earth would you jeopardize your ex-husband’s job at a company you don’t work for? He’s not doing anything illegal. It seems spiteful. Please don’t do it.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree. She would not feel better and she’d look like the crazy ex, even if his company did follow up and fire him.

    1. Colette*

      He may in fact be doing something illegal (sexual harassment), but I agree it’s not the OP’s issue to handle.

  23. misspiggy*

    OP#3 might want to let her manager know what she’s going to do re: chucking the meat out after an email and a grace period. That covers her in case the meat loser decides to kick up a fuss, which might be awkward if OP is relatively low in the hierarchy.

  24. ceiswyn*

    #2 – a lot of people have talked about the confidentiality aspect here, but I’m also going to raise another thought; are you sure the information the COO gave you was actually correct?

    This information is third-hand at best. It was decided at a meeting, one person who was at the meeting told your COO about it, your COO then told you. Even with the best will in the world, that’s a lot of room for misundersandings to creep in. Maybe the reason nobody had raised issues with your performance is that your performance wasn’t actually what was wrong here, and someone had misunderstood something.

    It may even be that someone along the line wasn’t the friend you thought they were. Any long-term reader of AAM knows that malice can hit out of the blue; what if someone in that chain of people was playing power games, lying in the meeting about your performance, oreven lying about the meeting outcome? What if you wouldn’t actually have been fired at all?

    1. londonedit*

      The letter says that the COO went to a meeting with the exec team about OP2’s firing – it sounds like that was after the COO mentioned it to OP2 but before OP2 resigned. So it seems likely that it was something that was definitely going to happen.

      Personally, I do think OP2 messed up here. Of course it’s easy to say that with the benefit of hindsight, but the COO put their neck on the line by giving OP2 a heads-up about the upcoming firing, and OP2 should have realised that was probably a pretty big deal, and shouldn’t have told anyone about it. I’m also finding it hard to reconcile ‘Didn’t want the news to get out in our small industry’ with ‘Clients and co-workers asked about it, so I told someone I resigned before I could be fired’.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Whoops, missed that! Still, I feel it’s always worth sounding a caution about making major life decisions based on unofficial information, especially if it only comes from one person…

      2. WellRed*

        There was a letter here from someone whose manager told the team they were all losing their job. Oopsies! no they weren’t after all but the damage had been done.

  25. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW1 IF you are aware of the relationship there is a good chance that others know about it as well. Someone else will inform his superiors and you can watch the trainwreck from a distance with clean hands.

  26. Traveling Teacher*

    As much as you might still be reeling from your ex leaving you, OP1, consider that if you out the relationship, this woman is going to end up hurt. If I understand the letter correctly, she wasn’t his mistress during your marriage, simply his girlfriend after you (even if the former were the case, it would still be his fault for cheating, though, not hers).

    So, if you don’t want to keep mum because of your ex-husband, consider that perhaps this woman may already want to break up with him! If you out the relationship, she no longer has the option to break things off quietly.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, I’m glad someone mentioned this. I think that even if it just impacted her husband, it would still be a petty, vindictive thing to do, but it’s made a lot worse by the fact that his GF would probably also lose her job (and get vilified and called nasty names in a way men rarely are) when she has done nothing to harm LW.

    2. OP1*

      This is a fantastic point that I hadn’t considered. On it’s own plenty of reason for me to back away slowly. Thanks for making it.

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

    Nononononono! DON’T DO IT!
    Lashing out on someone like that is a recipe for disaster. Like, tarnishing your reputation for a long time kind of disaster. Do you want to be remembered as “John’s vindictive ex” at his job? Or by HR? Don’t forget that HR are people and they change jobs like any other person, and you don’t know where and when this will come back to bite your butt.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Send out a notice and give the person a couple days to collect the meat, or at least find out what the story is. It feels incredibly wasteful to throw away an entire freezer full of food.

    #5 – “I don’t have kids, family to take care of, or any “real” reason to telecommute besides convenience.” What? Reducing commute time and working uninterrupted at home is a perfectly good reason. WFH isn’t meant to substitute for child care (although I’m sure there are times when people do WFH when kids also happen to be home), and most companies with WFH policies require that there be child care in place.

    1. TimeTravelR*

      Without offense intended to the OP, saying “I don’t have kids, family…” tells me that they don’t understand telework… like a lot of people. My kids are grown and on their own, my parents are gone. I telework for the work/life balance, full stop. What I do can be done anyplace I have access to the internet (and much of it can be done offline as long as I can connect later). My only “justification” is work/life balance.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Agree, you really cannot WFH with kids. Some places even make you sign paperwork saying you will have someone else watching your kids. I cannot imagine WFH with my kids around.

        1. OP #5*

          Our agreement does have a “I understand this cannot substitute for childcare” so I get that. So far, though, people that have been approved are either 1) high level managers who often have their employees stopping by throughout the day with questions and need a day to focus on projects (not me… I don’t supervise anyone), or 2) have some sort of family thing where the flexibility is helpful (think needing to take a family member to a weekly appointment where they live an hour away, so coming to/from work is not productive on that day). When I brought this up with colleagues there was some shade around “what reason would you have for this?” but, they’re not part of the approval process, so I guess that doesn’t matter… I just don’t want to create more drama/etc. of the sort that I’m trying to avoid by being physically present less!

          1. TimeTravelR*

            OK, in that case, I would maybe say it’s to allow you to focus on some tasks without interruption. Unless you in a full customer-facing position, I don’t understand the need to necessarily justify but if that’s their culture, then you may not have a choice.
            FWIW, I don’t see a reason to allow only people who need work flexibility around family obligations take advantage of telecommuting. It isn’t a good look… but they probably don’t care what I think! LOL

          2. Marny*

            To me, being solo (single/without local family) is as good a reason to need WFH as better work/life balance as anyone else’s reason. You don’t have other people to share day-to-day burdens with. So cutting down on commute time or having a bit more flexibility can make a big difference when there isn’t someone else local who can help handle some of your personal responsibilities. You don’t need to spell this out in your requests, but it’s a good way to shut up your coworkers who don’t seem to understand this.

            1. Paulina*

              Yes! There have been quite a few times in the last year when I’ve needed to have a professional tradesperson take care of something at home, or something delivered, and the windows of time in their schedule tend to be quite broad (eg. “It’ll take about half an hour, sometime between 1-4pm.”). Having a job that has at least some WFH and flexibility makes these things possible (without having to take PTO just to sit at home), since I’m on my own.

  29. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    About the PTO cap: Read the fine print in the guide. Does it say how it handles an overage? Talk to HR: have they announced how they will handle overages? Globally? Or grandfathering in people? Case by case?

    We had all of the above. After years of letting clerical staff roll over vacation, some to the tune of six months or more of “pre-retirement vacation,” during our last round of bargaining, the employer announced they would start enforcing the collective agreement.

    People. Freaked. Out.

    Because HR didn’t detail how they would enforce this. The collective agreement says that if you have anything over a week rolled over, they would cash out 25% of it. Any rollover would be allowed if you have your director’s permission. Hardly anyone had that. And to complicate matters, several people had vacation *denied* over the years (due to operational issues) leading to the accumulation.

    We grilled our stewards at the union meeting. No, there was no official plan. Get your director’s okay before rolling over. Overages were being handled on a case by case basis.

    Affected staff started taking two months in a row off to reduce the overage or even advising HR to pay out X number of days, or both! I have a friend who still had over 80 days of unused vacation after taking a decent amount and getting 15 days paid out. To make it more fun, she’ll get another 8 weeks in 2020 due to her many years of seniority.

    Then 2020 came around and all those who had unused PTO in 2019 had it paid out with NO warning. Older accumulated PTO (pre-2019) was not touched (grandfathered). A warning would have been nice as it could have allowed people to chase down their directors to get approval to roll over.

    And there’s still no official email, language or directive on how to handle hundreds of accumulated vacation days.

    Get it in writing, get the language and what they will do nailed down. Don’t wait. There’s a few grumpy people where I am.

    1. OP#4*

      > Does it say how it handles an overage? Talk to HR: have they announced how they will handle overages? Globally? Or grandfathering in people? Case by case?

      All good questions, and as far as I can tell there is no written policy for any of them.

      > Get it in writing, get the language and what they will do nailed down. Don’t wait. There’s a few grumpy people where I am.

      I will definitely try and get the policy written down, however I fear that I won’t like the policy. Also, I have discussed this with several other people with large PTO balances and none of them seems to care very much :(

  30. TimeTravelR*

    Many of us who work from home do it for the work/life balance. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that, IMHO.

    1. AnonANon*

      Agree. I only have a 5 mile commute but I have a formal work from home agreement for 1 day. It makes a huge difference. I can be online at least an hour earlier and because I am not racing home to get my kids off the bus I can work up until the minute they get home and even keep working past that if needed. So my company actually gets more hours out of me on that day.
      And like you mentioned, I can also pet my cat throughout the day :) Win-win.

    2. WellRed*

      yeah, work life balance can be as simple as, having time to go the gym after work without the commute and throwing in a load of laundry between calls.

  31. Precious Wentletrap*

    #4: Take days off. They’re yours. Use them. The simplest solution here is the correct one.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I work at a place where vacation is denied because “they can’t find someone to replace me.” What then?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        The LW didn’t mention that that was a problem here, though, and LWs generally are quick to say so if it is. S/he just seems miffed that s/he won’t be accruing endless PTO.

        1. OP#4*

          I’m not miffed that it’s not endless, I’m concerned about being treated fairly. I realize that “the rule” had a cap, but the de-facto policy was “no cap, it’s your to keep”.

      2. WellRed*

        Are you the only brain surgeon (fill in high level career of your choice) in the world that can perform the surgery? No? They just need you to (fill in whatever mundane task you do daily like the rest of us)? Then, reassess your employer’s stance. Plus, if they can’t replace you, they won’t fire you so…

      3. irene adler.*

        Then you have to ask management why they give you vacation time in the first place if you cannot use any of it.

        I’m at a small company where if someone is out, we do suffer. But management understands that people have to have time off. So we work together. Folks rarely take more than one week at a time. Only one person at a time is out on vacation (fairly easy to do when there’s less than 20 employees). Scheduling of certain work is planned ahead and set up to accommodate the vacation time. Sometimes the customer is given an extended due date for product because of scheduled vacation time. Some tasks have a designated back-up person to perform the task when the primary is out. The company shuts down over Christmas and New Year’s so everyone can take the time off (some days are paid holidays and other days are taken as vacation days).

      4. Colette*

        “It’s important to me to have time off. When I accepted this job, I was told that I’d have X days of vacation. What can we do so that I can take the time I need?”

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Find a new job.

        I’ve literally ran businesses and could take time off in chunks. Including 2 weeks for surgery that had me out cold got the first week unable to even sit up on my own.

        They’re liars.

    2. OP#4*

      That is the obvious take. Another thing I thought of since writing in is if my boss will let me spend some as half days. So maybe not “Mondays off” totally, but “Monday mornings off” (which might be just as restful, honestly!)

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        I love the idea that this new change means you are taking a paid sabbatical this year. That is kind of awesome! But yes, if your company (meanly, IMO, given that this was their decision) won’t let you take four or five weeks off this year, you can at least work half days every Friday for a year or heck, start working only four days a week.

        It’s a liability for a company to have huge vacation payouts on their books, so letting you take the days is actually probably their preference. Of course, crappy companies would just decide to take your banked leave instead, but they gotta know that’s not going to be popular.

      2. WellRed*

        I think this is a great idea. You still get some your time off, even if you don’t want to take a vacation. I do think your company should have grandfathered people like you in, or implemented some softer transition.

      3. Precious Wentletrap*

        My spouse did that, actually, with use it or lose it days last year–took Fridays off all Q4.

    3. Giraffes*

      I find this so condescending for some reason. Not all jobs are reasonable allowing you time off for things and if you live in America you are often one accident away from doomsday (sadly this includes pregnancy there is no mandated paid maternity leave). I think PTO caps are obscene and are just another way to screw employees out of their benefits. What is the difference if I take it now or when I’m inured in a wreck or take the cash out. It should be the employees choice what they do with their benefit.

  32. MAB*

    Please don’t waste all that meat- find who stored it and give them the chance to find a new place for it.

  33. Random commenter*

    I’ve always worked at companies where vacation doesn’t roll over (or it’s limited, and must be used within the first few months of the next year) and I don’t really understand how situations with a lot of saved up PTO are supposed to be resolved.

    When you aren’t using all of your PTO in a year, how do you expect to use up even more in the future? Is there a big vacation planned? An expectation that it will eventually be paid out?

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      Situations like this are why businesses sometimes limit vacations to two weeks. Or you’ll have people writing to Alison about coworkers without enough PTO to block out all the good long weekends before anyone else has built up the PTO to spend.

    2. Asenath*

      It could be different reasons in different places. We got warnings in the spring if we were over the caps – “use it or lose it”, which was motivation to keep it down to the cap by taking short breaks at intervals through the year – not disruptive to the employer to lose me a half day or a day here or there, and good for taking care of family or other personal responsibilities. Arranging a regular short work week for a while to bring the total down was a popular option in my workplace, and worked especially well since we built up overtime at specific times of year, and could take it when things were quieter – we weren’t working overtime all the time. If some was left when you quit or retired, it would be paid out, but the employer announced not long before I left that they were reducing this option. I’m sure by the time the new policies are enforced everyone will have used any rolled-over leave that they might still have by making arrangements as to when they’ll take it, mostly in a day or so at a time, but possibly for a longer vacation.

    3. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

      On the other hand I can easily see people intending to travel abroad trying to bank up a full two weeks that they can take in conjunction with all of the sick days / one day off to attend a cousin’s wedding / kids’ snow day when the company doesn’t allow to work from home / kids sick day / Weird single work day between the fourth of july and a weekend / easter break without paying out the ear for childcare the year they plan to do that.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had people hoard vacation due to worrying about needing it one day for the most part.

      Yet we don’t pay out. We started enforcing use it or lose it with a little rollover allowed. And every 4th qtr I’m reminding the same people to use their time if they don’t want to lose it and I can see the anxiety in their faces, they don’t want the forced timeoff but they don’t want to lose it either.

    5. OP#4*

      One additional former policy is that you could cash it out (subject to approval by the company). Someone tried to cash some out only to discover that they’re no longer doing it any more.

    6. Free Meercats*

      Here are some of the reasons I have 296 hours of vacation on the books right now:

      I’ve been here so long, I earn just under a day a pay period; it can be difficult to keep up. A while back when I hit my max allowable accumulation of 400 hours, I was taking a day off every two weeks.

      I’m planning a major, nearly month long, international trip later this year.

      I’m at the age when Stuff Happens; having the buffer in the bank on top of my 500 hours accumulated sick bank is a comfort.

      I’m on the downhill run to retirement (less than three years away). My employer will pay out up to 240 hours vacation on separation, I plan on having 240.0 hours on the books the day I unass this place. They’ll only pay out 15% of the sick leave, so anything that can be even remotely considered health related, I’m taking sick leave instead of vacation.

  34. Carlie*

    I assume for #op3 it was a cow share that needed picked up near work and being taken home that day. They should have left a note, though.

    But to be honest, I never thought a freezer was something needed at an office at all except maybe for ice cubes, and that they only exist there because all fridges have them. Why use a freezer? You are bringing in food you plan to eat that day. If you bring frozen food and put it in the fridge, it will still be mostly frozen when you get to it, and the fridge is keeping it a safe temp if not. It just takes a little less time to microwave. Even if you’re pulling a 24-hour shift, food doesn’t need a freezer if there is fridge space.

    1. LizArd*

      Frozen microwave meals are a thing. And they are NOT always good after being half thawed in the fridge.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I worked in a building for a while that had only one big fridge with no freezer section and I had to stop bringing in Lean Cuisines because they wouldn’t cook right. Was very glad when we moved to a building with a proper break room and a freezer so I could finally bring in microwave lunches again.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Sometimes people bring in frozen meals for lunch, and those typically have to stay frozen until you’re ready to cook them.

    3. Bagpuss*

      There are pre-prepared meals which are supposed to be cooked from frozen, plus not everyone is necessarily bringing food they propose to eat that day. For instance, someone who gets a ride to work once a week but has to take public transport on other days, might want to bring in a week’s worth of meals at a time, or people may want to bring in a couple of frozen meals to use if they forget to pick up their lunch one morning, or don’t have time to make something.

      We don’t have a freezer at work, but I have 2 or 3 shelf-stable meals in my desk drawer, for days when I just fancy something hot, or haven’t made sandwiches and don’t want to go out to buy something, or when I am working late and need to eat. . If we had a freezer I would probably bring something in and keep it there!

    4. WellRed*

      Aside from the frozen meals, some of us actually like our beverages cold. Where would you have us store the ice?

    5. Paulina*

      I’ve sometimes had an ice cream bar in the office freezer, in the summer, back when I had one of the hot offices.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        Our office usually has an ice cream social every summer and there’s always leftovers that get store in the freezer until they eventually get rediscovered a few weeks later (and promptly devoured). I would hate to think of them going to waste because someone decided to fill up the freezer with large cuts of meat for weeks on end.

  35. pretzelgirl*

    OP3- I wouldn’t be surprised if it was gone at the end of the day. They are likely storing it there for the day. That being said, the workplace freezer isn’t really the best place for that. I would send an email and put some kind of note on the fridge. I have been the person who has cleaned the fridge. I sent an email, and people complained they “didn’t know”. Cover your bases.

  36. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: If you want to lash out at your ex (we’ve all been there), be honest about the fact that you don’t truly care about the ethics of his business situation.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, a lot of hand wringing over “ethics.” Own your motives. But, like others, I shall judge your ex as well.

    2. Gaia*

      Yep. This isn’t about ethics, it is about revenge. And that will never reflect well on OP if/when anyone ever finds out.

    3. OP1*

      I see where you’re coming from, but I have a different brain phenotype than you which makes it really hard for me to understand the right and wrong of this situation (hence the Asking Of Manager). If this were about lashing out, I would have just done so quietly and anonymously.

      While I can appreciate that there is a huge Feelings component of this mess, I frankly find it a bit hurtful that you would make assumptions that my motivation is purely driven by spite. That might be true for you, but it isn’t for everyone.

  37. Rui*

    OP2, have to say your move wasn’t very smart. For a start your resignation is bluntly obvious that someone leaked the termination decision to you, and the natural place to look is your COO friend. I totally understand in a state of panic you were just trying to protect yourself; but your friend’s anger is also understandable, since you gave zero consideration for her position/circumstances.

    Secondly, if what you said about how the whole termination was handled by management is true, you shouldn’t get out so hastily, since there is a strong case of wrongful/unfair dismissal here. Not sure where you’re based but in Commonwealth countries, Employment Tribunals will rule 100% in favour of the employee in such circumstances. Performance related dismissal is not warranted unless sufficient warning/notice is given and the employee was provided opportunities to re-mediate/improve. There is a very high bar for the employer here.

    1. possum possum possum*

      In the US, unless an employee has union protection they can definitely be fired for “poor performance” even if they’ve never been given any notice that their performance was poor.

      1. Scion*

        In the US, in the absence of a union/employment contract, you can be fired for *any reason* that’s not specifically barred.

        So things like gender and race are protected, but there’s no protection for “I don’t like your shoes” or “I don’t like that there are 2 people with my name” or “I’m having a bad Monday, so I’m just going to fire the next person to walk by my office.”

        1. Rui*

          Gosh, that’s a seriously tough work environment…
          I am based in the UK and I sincerely hope Brexit doesn’t move this country towards the direction in the US, no offence intended.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        CBAs differ greatly. It’ll depend on your contract.

        There’s union for many grocery stores and they still fire regularly without much if any cause.

        Not all unions are like the government ones we talk about most here.

    1. Morning Glory*

      A lot of people on the precipice of a bad decision can be talked down from it, with the right advice at the right moment. Not everyone, but a lot.

  38. Amethystmoon*

    I have a very short commute, but work from home to avoid annoying co-workers at least once a week. Since they’re nice but annoying, I don’t want to cause problems by bringing up the issue at work.

    1. Angelinha*

      Not wanting to pay for what’s already been accrued is almost certainly why they’re starting to enforce it now. I think it would be a lot more palatable to ask to use up some or all of the overage now, rather than requesting that everyone get a cash payout.

    2. irene adler.*

      Certainly a good idea.

      There are some companies that are cash-poor and can’t afford to do this. My company is one of those. Management instituted a 200 hour vacation time cap. No cash out. Use it or lose it. So near the close of every quarter, folks take days off. It gets interesting when someone has to use the time yet they are needed to do a specific job.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s worth a shot but lots of places won’t cash out since that’s a lot of extra salary to absorb.

    4. ArtK*

      If there are many people in OP#4’s situation, having a lot of them choose to cash out in one year could destroy the company’s bottom line. That’s a charge that they haven’t budgeted for. They would be better off with some of the suggestions up-thread, to grandfather existing stuff and freeze accrual and possibly allowing people to cash out a small percentage each year.

    5. OP#4*

      This was also a former policy (subject to approval). That option is no longer available (recently someone tried and was informed that they’re no longer doing that).

  39. possum possum possum*

    Man, I struggle to even keep a balance of vacation time, let alone accruing three-digit hour counts without taking it… My vacation balance right now is -1.66 hours.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        I’ve been in jobs where I wasn’t allowed to take anything more than a day here or there. I appreciated that check when I left.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        The amount of work output from my job is the same most months, and I have no backup. If I don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done, and people get unhappy about not having visibility into operations. Overall, there’s about 40 hrs / week, 51 weeks / year’s worth of work in my job. If take vacation, then I have to work 50 hrs for a couple of weeks to catch up, or just let some stuff go and get dinged for it in my performance review.

        I enjoy time off, but I like eating more.

        1. Jennifer*

          In your case, it’s understandable. But I know of people who could take time off and don’t. That’s something I don’t get.

          1. Joielle*

            Yeah, I totally get not being able to take time off, which really sucks. I’ve left jobs because of that in the past. But I always think of an ex-boyfriend’s mom, who could have easily taken time off but was saving it all to take long vacations with her husband in her last few years before retirement… and then her husband passed away unexpectedly in his 50s and they never got to take those vacations. It was awful.

      3. OP#4*

        A decent portion of it was from early in my career when I didn’t vacation very much. However, generally speaking, I don’t enjoy taking vacation.

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        I was in this position once. One of the attractions of the job was the generous vacation policy. I had toddlers, but I thought, “when they get a little older, this is going to be terrific!” So I had several years of generous PTO, but no ability to go anywhere because of toddlers. And then I got laid off before they were old enough to travel reasonably. :-( The payout was nice, anyway.

      5. fhqwhgads*

        I used to have a job where I frequently took time off – and frequently got called on my time off to do something. Might be an hour one day, might be four hours another, but for the entire time I was in that job I never got through vacation uninterrupted. I’d always end up working on something remotely. (They could’ve not gone through me, but it was easier for them to have me to do it while I was supposed to be off than to try to make do or hold my backups accountable for not knowing what they were doing despite loads of training…but I digress.)
        The point is every time I took 3 days off, it ended up adding up to more like 2. So I was never using it up at the pace I’d tried to.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      Same. Every year my migraine days equal more than my sick days, so I end up nickel and diming my vacation days.

      1. lost academic*

        This. I don’t get that much in the first place. Vacation time is just a migraine slush fund.

    2. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

      This is very common in teaching because it’s very hard to even take a sick day what with all the work that putting in a proper sub plan or even having the right lesson plan out and available for the next day every day is. (Hence why there used to be so many sub days that were actually taught by Bill Nye.)

      I bet it’s similar in a lot of other coverage-based industries.

    3. interrobang*

      At my office, when they recently announced that we could get unused leave paid out at the end of the year if we wanted, there were two reactions: (1) hooray! that’s great! and (2) wait, people have unused leave??? I was definitely in the latter category. But my office is pretty good about telecommute/work from home/flex time, so it’s not like we have to take vacation just to pick up dry-cleaning or take a dog to the vet or something.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      It’s people like me who have been at their company 15 years, have 6 weeks/year earned, and have accumulated the max roll over (12 weeks). I now have to take 6 weeks every year just to avoid losing time off. Obviously, that’s a full week every other month, or a half day every single Friday, just to keep up, never mind the backlog of vacation time. I moved from 5 weeks to 6 weeks last July, and that saved me last year. I was a couple weeks from maxing out 10 wks when I hit my anniversary date and increased my limit 80 hrs. So, I probably took about 3 wks last year. Every day I wanted off, my backup person was going out of town or something. I get behind if I take a random day off, and it’s not worth working twice as much the next day to have a day off just to do nothing.

    5. Joielle*

      Same! I have a ton of sick time saved up though, so I can see how you’d accumulate a lot if you were getting one larger chunk of time intended for both vacation and sick. I get about three weeks of vacation a year and I use it all.

  40. Jennifer*

    #1 I’m also joining you in judging him from afar. What a ridiculous thing to do. Be thankful this isn’t your problem to solve and take care of you.

  41. Oh No She Di'int*

    #3, I agree that the meat has to be taken out at some point. But I feel that “end of the day” is a bit of an extreme reaction. Although, the person perhaps should have left a note, I can imagine about a dozen non-crazy scenarios that might lead someone to store a freezer full of meat at work temporarily (a day or two or three) that would not do any long-term harm. Indeed I generally find that coworkers can be extraordinarily generous when their coworkers need a little extra allowance for a personal issue. (“Oh, your freezer broke down at home? Sure, I can avoid bringing in my frozen dinner for a day to help you out!”)

    Would you be willing to give the person a couple of days?

    1. Observer*

      If someone comes to the OP and says “Hey, I’m really sorry about this, but my freezer broke, but I’m expecting delivery of a new one tomorrow” or something similar, then I would hope the OP would give them a day or two. But without that happening, the stuff needs to go.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        Is OP really the person who would have the authority to say yes or no? Our facility crew clean out the fridges and freezer in our kitchen, but they’re not the people I would ask permission for any unusual usage of it. Before taking some kind of “end of the day” stand, I would be going to higher ups to make sure no staff person made an arrangement that just didn’t get mentioned to me.

  42. Rose*

    LW 5: I also work somewhere the recently expanded telework options and has a form. I concur with Alison. In fact, at east at my workplace, saying you’re staying home to tend to kids/family is expressly not allowed. If you don’t have childcare, telework is not allowed. Choosing to telework to avoid a commute and focus on work projects (a more polite way of say avoid co-worker drama) is an ideal reason to work from home. I do it once a week routinely, plus extra if I have doctors appointments, or yes, to attend school events and such. But those are always a combo of telework and leave.

  43. Jam Today*

    OP #1 needs to ask herself whether she would have written this letter if the two people in her story were complete strangers to her, like she overheard someone talking about the situation it in line at the grocery store. Would you consider contacting the employer, that you don’t work with or for, of a grocery-store stranger who hired his gf as a contractor? If the answer is “no” then this is not about “ethics”. Walk away.

    1. OP1*

      This is a super useful comparison, and I literally would be freaking out in the same way! This is part of why it’s been so useful to hear from everyone– I know my black and white thinking can really get in the way of “proper” adult behavior.

      Everyone seems to be pretty clear on what the social contract demands in this situation, and it’s been incredibly helpful for me, as I often struggle with figuring out the social contract on my own.

  44. Dust Bunny*

    LW4: Use your PTO. Ours caps at 240 hours and HR emails us when we get up around 200 or so to remind us to use some before it maxes out and we stop accruing. If you’re so far over the cap, you’re apparently not using it, anyway, so . . . use it.

    1. Tammy*

      My company caps our PTO at 160 hours (except for employees in California, which I understand get a higher cap because of some kind of guidance from the California Department of Labor). I moved from California to another state recently, and I was over the 160 hour limit when I moved. But I didn’t lose any of my PTO – the company just told me I’d stop accruing more until I’d used up enough to get below the new limit. LW4, if your company isn’t willing to delay enforcement of the rule, you might see if this is a solution they’d be amenable to. It’s not as great for them from a bookkeeping standpoint (as I understand it, accrued PTO shows up as an unfunded liability on the balance sheet), but it’s definitely fairer to employees.

  45. 2 Cents*

    #5–I’ve successfully used twice “allow me to focus on XYZ and be more productive in those areas” for jobs, one of which had no WFH arrangements before I asked. Writing and editing are a bit part of my day, so using “no distractions” made sense to my bosses. Then I just had to prove I was more productive (which was easy when I didn’t have a million informal interruptions).

  46. Lauren*

    Someone bagged a moose once in my distance family. A brother-in-law of my of my brother-in-law. Anyway, guess how many people had moose meat in their freezers for the next 3 years? 30+ people, and honestly, if they were giving it away fine, but they weren’t, you were just storing it until they could move it after eating their freezer full. Which sucked on its own. Its possible a freezer broke and they needed to move it or they just went hunting and needed the space (but it should not be indefinitely as they slowly eat whatever is in there.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Wow! So a BIL of a BIL somehow roped 30+ people into storing his moose meat for him and did not even share or sell any of it? And 30+ people just came to peace with not having freezer space for three years because a relative stranger needed to store their moose in there? What kind of saintly people are they?

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        And how did they track it? Was there a spreadsheet somewhere of ‘Cousin Edna, 2lbs tenderloin given 11/15 retrieved 6/1’ ?

        My family just gave it away to everyone, there was no expectation they’d return the same meat.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Hahaha I never thought of it but yes! “Hi Aunt Mabel, what’s a good time next week for us to come and get the 2lbs moose tenderloin we left with you on 11/15/2016? We’ve worked through 80% of the list and now it’s your turn to give us the meat back. But not all at once though, we’ll come back for the rest later!”

      2. Lauren*

        Every family BBQ and event had burgers and steaks and stews for a long time, but we barely saw them so it wasn’t like we got to share much. Only close relatives ending on the 3 year scale, but my mother in law hit a year and a half and said, come get it or i’m tossing it. I’m glad we were 2 states away and not worth the drive for them.

  47. Vicky Austin*

    1. The only reason I can see for the LW to speak up would be if she also works for the same company as her ex-husband and his girlfriend.

    1. Gaia*

      Even then, I would say OP should stay out. Way too much of a risk that it looks petty as hell and ends up reflecting poorly on OP.

  48. JBX*

    I used to have to justify my telework request as one of the few in the organization allowed to do so. Luckily, it’s now far more common. I divided my mine into two sections: the first was about me as an employee, proof of my productivity, how this would work for MY job. The second was more about organizational impact, benefits to the organization. Some of the items included:

    * My proven track record as an independent worker and the fact that productivity/efficiency was easily measurable with my very visible projects.
    * Mentions of time saved and higher productivity (for example, many meetings I attend are closer to my end of town. Like others have said, ability to focus.)
    * My environment met all technological, safety, security, and OSHA requirements (with specific mention of internet speed, virus protection, etc.)
    * There would be no additional equipment cost to my organization.
    * With current tools like Skype and Teams, immdiate access/group collaboration are not sacrificed.
    * References to reports published by my organization supporting telework to cut costs, provide better work/life balance for employees, organizational support of green initiatives in the community (e.g., cutting emmissions)
    * Telework as a documented employee benefit that improves employee retention, reduces absenteism.
    * Telework practies in place as an important part of the organization’s business continuity plan in the case of emergency, inclement weather, or pandemic situation by having employees already accustomed working in a virtual office environment.
    * Supports the organization’s role as an industry leader and desireable employer

    Best of luck!

  49. I'm A Little Teapot*

    LW 4 – By my calculations, you have at least 36 days of PTO to get you down to the cap of 160 hours. I would hit reply on that email, make sure it’s going to the HR person and your manager, state this, and say that you’ll of course need to take PTO as soon as possible in order in order to get your balance down to the policy cap. You would like to discuss the least disruptive option in order to do so.

    The sub text being, you’re not going to lose your time off, and you’ve got over a month of paid time available in excess of the cap. If this HR person didn’t think this through, they’re on notice that they need to do so, asap.

    More aggressively, just request the next month off.

  50. Oranges*

    #3- Nothing to add. I just wanted to say I feel your pain.

    Someone put a ~20lb frozen turkey in our freezer. It stayed there for a week. Then I placed it in the fridge because forget that. In hindsight that was a big mistake and I should have just tossed it because it thawed. Turkey water/juice all over that shelf. Fun times.

    Alison, it might be fun to have an open thread about fridge/freezer mayhem in office.

    1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

      Office freezer turkeys? I can get you one worse.
      Lab turkeys.

      Turkeys from the lab.

      Turkeys left in the lab BIOSAMPLE FREEZER BECAUSE APPARENTLY THIS WAS HOW PROFESSIONAL LAB ENVIRONMENTS RUN. (It’s super not. Why the heck did I work there?)

      Not gonna lie, I swaddled mine in a space blanket and left it in my car trunk, figuring that a work day where it wasn’t even going to break 21 degrees F would be better for it than, you know… Sharing a freezer with both pig and human biosamples.

      1. Oranges*

        That not okay. Wait, were these turkeys that you planned to eat actual lab subjects? Because that I can’t wrap my head around.

        1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

          No, this was a thanksgiving / christmas turkey in lieu of a holiday bonus from a boss who was both an enthusiastic carnivore and a human disaster in terms of lab safety. Butterball, from costco.

          The pig chunks were for lab testing, not for consumption. And that job did a LOT to turn me off pork.

          No live animals ever entered our lab except the time our neighbor, a real estate agent, had a client leave the door open and a french bulldog came in to meet us while we had the door open to move boxes in.

          I had to catch the dog because the other two lab techs were standing on chairs, thinking that she was growling at them, when that’s really just how bulldogs breathe. Fortunately, she weighed only as much as two frozen turkeys.

  51. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

    #1: you say you don’t speak much to your ex but… you know about his new relationship, and the hiring status of his girlfriend despite that. Turn off the tap of info before it drives you bannanna nut muffins.

    #3: What the heck.
    I mean. Whole cow? I know people do that but someone really needs to claim that meat!
    Also if you didn’t have a way to store and transport that much meat why did you buy it and presumably transport it to work?

    Do give a couple days’ grace in case the meatpacker was unexpectedly stricken ill halfway through moving their stash home though. But ONLY a couple.

  52. CoveredInBees*

    For anyone else who wasn’t familiar with the term garden/ gardening leave, it is the period between an employee giving notice and the end of that notice period (often coinciding with payroll schedules) when an employee is still technically employed but told to not come into work. According to the sites I looked at, this is a common British term. I find it positively delightful. I would love to be paid to tend my own garden. Right now it’s a mess.

  53. CoveredInBees*

    OP1, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Having your partner suddenly leave you is a shocking and painful thing to have happened only 6 months ago. I totally get your desire for revenge. That said, you’re right listen to the other voice telling you, “Not my circus.” It will steer you right as you move forward.

    I also join Allyson in judging him from afar. It seems like he’s making some bad choices and let those catch up to him. If you’re still annoyed and need to get it out of your system, write out a whole revenge story of you reporting him and all the bad things that could follow. Write it out in hardcopy. It will be more cathartic and then you can burn it or otherwise fully dispose of it when you’re done. I hope you’re able to complete your split from him as quickly and easily as possible.

  54. Esperanza*

    #2 – Oh man, you both really messed up.

    She took a big risk by giving you confidential information, most likely so that you could prepare yourself (emotionally) for the inevitable. Perhaps secretly pack up a few things in advance to minimize the duration of an awful scene, and be ready to react calmly and professionally when the moment comes. Otherwise you have to act like you don’t have the information.

    Even resigning put your friend in a really bad spot. Then you straight up told someone. Of course she’s angry with you — she trusted you, and now she might get fired too. (as she probably should, honestly — she showed very poor judgment in telling you)

    1. Timothy (TRiG)*

      She showed even worse judgment in not warning her friend that it was supposed to be confidential in the first place. Maybe that was obvious to her, because that’s the world she’s embedded in, but by no means should she have expected it to be obvious to anyone else. That’s on her.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        If it’s not obvious to you that an executive warning you you’re about to be fired is confidential, you are very naive.

      2. The Supreme Troll*

        I think the COO didn’t think she would have to spoonfeed this disclaimer to OP #2, however, which is very understandable.

  55. Nanani*

    #5- having kids or other dependents to take care of would not be a -reason to work from home-, it would, to any reasonable setup, be a reason to check you had accommodations like daycare in place before allowing it.
    Real working from home (as opposed to checking emails on a day that’s otherwise canceled, like a blizzard or something) is not compatible with caregiving and any employer who thinks they can get full time, high quality work from someone who is simultaneously doing full time caregiving is frankly wrong.

  56. OP1*

    OP1 here,

    Firstly, let me say that there is A LOT of good advice here, and I probably won’t have time to respond to all of it, but your thoughtful input is very appreciated.

    To clarify a few things: I’m neurodivergent and think in *very* black and white terms. To the point where Alison saying it’s the same thing as if your neighbor were doing it my thought was, “Oh! So you’re not supposed to report it there, either? I guess that makes sense.” Which is to say that I’m seriously not here for the drama, I legitimately needed an outside opinion on what was the “right” course of action.

    Those suggesting “do it, it’s okay to be petty” are actually really helpful as well, because… I’m not here to be petty, and this has helped clarify for me that “do it because consent” (the reason I’m hand-wringing) is not the important part of this equation. So thank you for that, too! Clarity is a wonderful gift. :)

    Those suggesting shutting down the font of information (which is a 3rd party, by the by) are probably pretty smart. I shall endeavor to try. It’s really hard to let go, though. Feeeeeelings. :(

    Minor points of clarification: they/them pronouns, no kids, no financial assistance.

    Thanks again, everyone! I will be reading all of the comments that come through, even if I can’t respond to all of them.

    1. Quill, CCO & Bee Queen*

      Hey OP! I’d advise you to head over to Captain Awkward’s site for advice on how to shut down the third party’s flow of information. It may be especially helpful considering that the 3rd party is probably a family member or mutual friend, so there’s even more Feeeeeeeelings, and possibly some But Faaaaaaaamiily.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Thirding Captain Awkward for useful scripts in personal life! Also, blocking is your friend.

        Getting to know the Geek Social Fallacies (which apply to a lot of non-geek social groups, I think, not that I’ve been in many non-geek social groups) and understanding them as fallacies is also a big help.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Thanks for the clarification! I did not pick up on your neurodivergence in the letter, and it does make a difference in how people will understand your question. Here’s how I would explain this part of consent to my neurodivergent kid:
      In general, consent between two sober adults has to be negotiated / understood between those two adults. People in current relationships (professional or personal) with those two adults have ‘standing’ to intervene / discuss consent issues. ‘Standing’ means that those people could be directly impacted by the situation. You can also get ‘standing’ if one of the people asks you for an opinion or for help.
      Yeah, your ex- is in a situation where consent is complicated by the power imbalance. You do not have standing to address the situation. She can, her co-workers or mgmt above him can. Her family could discuss it with *her*, but it would be outside their normal role if they took it to her employer. If he were abusive / openly coercive, they’d have more standing to act, but their path would probably involve lawyers and help getting away from the job, not calling their employer.

      Children, or non-sober adults, society accepts a much wider role for bystanders, people to protect someone who can not negotiate consent in any meaningful way. But once someone is an adult, we assume they can negotiate consent themselves, and bystander standing is much less.

      Good luck to you!

      1. OP1*

        I’d never heard the idea of standing before, and this is EXACTLY the piece that I was missing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          NPR for the win! The term comes up a lot in legal cases, and I’ve been hearing about it a ton over the last couple of years. It’s really helpful in the ‘should *I* do something?’ thought process.

          Twist: Because ‘standing’ is a social consensus, sometimes it’s ambiguous, and people will have different opinions on whether someone has standing. Start with the assumption that adults can take care of themselves until you have a reason to think otherwise (ie, you see your friend’s drunk, or someone asks you for help). Kids, pets – there’s less social consensus and tons of fights. I lean towards ‘gentle redirection / distraction’ if I’m able to interact in real life (IRL), and not-judging if it’s not IRL.

          1. OP1*

            This is such a good way to frame… most everything. I’ll definitely be “standing” to my social contract toolbox.

            Also: people are so complicated *swoon*. Thanks for taking the time to explain it to me in explicit detail. You’re marvelous.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yep! And in particular, you have less standing than the average person to address it. Because you’re the ex-spouse in this situation, there’s really no way you can present yourself as a neutral observer just looking out for everyone’s best interests.

          So, is it skeezy of him? Heck yeah. Is it skeeziness you’re in a position to handle? Unfortunately, no way.

    3. Observer*

      Just to add one piece of clarity. You have no standing to intervene at this point. But you most definitely can form opinions. And your opinion that there is a significant consent issue here is totally on point.

    4. CircleBack*

      OP1, you have been very gracious in responding to us strangers on the internet today!
      It’s tough sometimes when something is “wrong,” but the correct course of action on your side is “do nothing.” Since no one is facing imminent actual harm, this is one of those “people are making terrible decisions, but that’s a risk they’ve decided to take, and they have to face the consequences while I sit back and shake my head to myself.” Best of luck with your extraction from your relationship with this terrible-decision-maker!

  57. interrobang*

    My office has a blanket policy allowing one day of telework, with a second day as needed (though not for the support staff, only for the exempt employees, which is kinda lousy). Part of the reason they do that is because our office is very inconveniently located, and roughly 75% of the exempt employees live at least 45-50 minutes away. It’s a perk that helps make up for that, and it’s exclusively for purposes of (1) reducing commute and (2) letting us have days for very focused work, since our jobs are 100% writing and editing. Avoiding any commute, no matter how short, and being able to work uninterrupted are both totally legit reasons to telecommute.

    1. OP #5*

      I think the main reason why we can’t have this is that most people here have clients coming in for meetings making up the bulk of their days. I have clients but way fewer than the other people with a similar role as me, so they can be condensed to 4 days a week, and that’s the only reason this is feasible (whereas it might not be for my colleagues). If it was a blanket/no reason needed thing, that would be much easier!

      1. Free Meercats*

        If you live in a major metropolitan area, the local government may have a “Commute Reduction” policy or regulation. If they do, see if your proposal could help your employer meet the goals of it.

        Just another point in your favor if so.

        1. Hi there*

          That is so sensible! My esteemed employer claims to want to reduce the number of single-occupancy trips to campus and so is going to have us pay for parking. Hmm, allowing people to work from home 1 day a week would slash that number 20%. Somehow that is not on the table. It is really that they want to build on on the land where the parking lots are.

  58. Blarb*

    LW 5

    Considering all of the research on the positive effects on cats in the workplace, I’d say being able to pet your cat throughout the day is also a pretty legit reason along with commute and distractions.

  59. SomebodyElse*

    I feel like this is “Bad Idea Monday”

    Almost all of the letters could be categorized as such…

    #1: Bad idea to hire your girlfriend, work for your boyfriend, or try to get involved if not working for the same company.

    #2: Bad idea to share this confidence on the COOs part, bad idea to share this confidence on the OPs part

    #3: Bad idea (normally) to fill the freezer with personal meat stash. Bad idea to throw it out with only 1 day’s notice.

    #4: Usually a bad idea to let this much PTO accrue (but not necessarily, I once had a lot of vacation time, but I too had to burn it quick when they instituted a cap).

    #5: You are the winner of Bad Idea Monday… Nothing in your question or situation that sounds like a bad idea. Use the ‘commute & quiet work time’ as your reason and go from there.

    1. OP #5*

      I’m not sure if winning is a positive thing in this case or not… *insert tears of joy/crying and laughing simultaneously emoji here*

    2. OP#4*

      > #4: Usually a bad idea to let this much PTO accrue

      Yeah, as I said in another comment, in retrospect I should have paid more attention to the official policy rather than the de-facto enforcement :(

  60. TiffIf*

    My company instituted a work from home policy a few years ago–you can work from home regularly one day a week, though extenuating circumstances can give that more flexibility. We got a whole bunch of snow dumped on us overnight so most of my department is working remotely today.

    We got a corporate email last week saying, if you’ve recently been to China (for work or personal travel) to work from home for the next two weeks.

  61. Enginear*

    #2 Why would you quit?!? Now you miss out on the benefits you would’ve received if the company let you go. If anything, by you quitting you admitted guilt.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        A lot of times when you’re let go, you can negotiate that kind of thing. “We both agreed it was not a good fit.”

    1. BeeGee*

      Eh this may not be the case. In my state, you typically do not qualify for unemployment if you lost your job due to “no fault of your own”, i.e. if you were fired or if you quit.

      However, I still might rather be fired and try to fight for unemployment benefits (you can file appeal, although I am not sure how that process works, but I assume that if you can provide glowing performance documents and they can’t provide evidence refuting that, you would have a better chance of gaining unemployment benefits). But again, this depends a lot on OPs location.

    2. CM*

      I’m in Canada, so I don’t know how it is where the OP lives, but this was my question, too. Here, it’s always better to get fired than to resign. If they want you to leave, you make them say so.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Because if you resign, you don’t have to admit that you were fired in later job interviews, and in casual background checks, the company OP left will have their departure as a voluntary resignation instead of a firing for X cause. Plus, most companies don’t pay benefits if they fire you.

  62. CM*

    #2 — I don’t have enough information to know what it was morally right for the COO to do in this case, but there are lots of cases where “Tell your friend something bad is about to happen to them,” is 100% the right call. So, no judgement on the COO — it’s likely they were trying to do the right thing.

    What sucks is that it doesn’t sound like the OP recognized at the time that the COO was also making a very RISKY call by doing that, and didn’t understand why they needed to be discreet. I’m a very honest person, and I’m bad at keeping secrets, so I sympathize. No judgement on the OP, either — it’s just an awful position for everyone to be in.

  63. Interviewer*

    #4 – My dad’s company got bought out. His original company granted PTO with no cap, and he had built up quite a bit. The new company had much lower caps. But they took the overage and placed in a catastrophic leave bucket – one that could be tapped for FMLA, disability, or extended bereavement leave. He ended up needing that leave twice over the next two years, so he was very glad he didn’t lose it. While he grumbled at the time, it definitely made what could have been a difficult transition much easier.

    My own company rolled out a PTO cap for the first time several years ago, and everyone over the cap had 3 years to get under it. Anything leftover after 3 years was put into a separate bucket and used first, while they sat at the cap in the regular PTO bucket.

    I’d suggest asking them to work out a “use it up” timeframe, and a way to preserve it all fairly, without hard feelings. If the workload, backup coverage or general culture makes it difficult to take time off, maybe they can figure out ways to address that, too.

    1. Burned Out Supervisor*

      My company instituted the catastrophic leave policy for sick time accrued when we transitioned from a vacation/sick time model to a PTO in one bucket model. A lot of people grumbled, but it was better than losing it altogether. I got very ill a few months before the policy was announced and used up all my sick leave for a FMLA leave, so I didn’t have much to complain about.

  64. Dragon Toad*

    Oh, OP#2 – I sorta feel for your friend. Don’t get me wrong, THEY were in the wrong for telling you this confidential info, and company has every right and reason to be unhappy about it.

    But frankly your friend was in a bad position. I’ve been there myself – bosses decided to have a not-at-all-quiet conversation about how my coworker was going to be fired, someone who was my best friend in that office, within about…oh, say…LESS THAN THREE FEET FROM MY DESK. And it was no secret that we were good friends, even the guy delivering the milk each fortnight could tell you we were close. I knew I couldn’t tell her, they’d peg that someone blabbed and they could easily guess who would’ve given her a heads up. Someone floated the idea that they did it deliberately so I COULD reveal it to her on the sly, but frankly they’re not that devious – oblivious enough to have that conversation next to me and not thing twice, on the other hand…

    Point is, though the friend was completely in the wrong, I can say from experience that it sucks royally coming into work every day and seeing your friend, having that sort of information, and having to keep quiet.

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