my boss is having an affair, client pushes religion on me, and more

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

1. My manager is having an affair, and it’s affecting my workload

I work in a small company without HR, in a department of only three people — our manager, my colleague, and me. While my manager and colleague have always been closer, it’s never really caused any problems up until now and I’ve had a good relationship with both of them. However, a couple of months ago, it became clear they’re having an affair.

My approach has been to mind my own business, but it’s gotten to a point where it’s affecting my workload. Our work used to be balanced, but now everything goes to my colleague. I’m going to run out of work soon and she’s going to be overloaded. I know it isn’t a problem with my work quality — I frequently get praised and had to bail out both of them recently when they were overwhelmed by the unbalanced workload. The cause seems twofold: all their time together outside of work means she hears about new projects first, and if she works on the projects then he gets to spend lots of time with her during work.

How can I talk to my manager about having our work go back to being distributed more evenly? It would be better for everyone’s workloads and the client experience, but I can’t say, “Hey, you’re too close to my colleague and it’s affecting your judgment.” I don’t want to comment on the affair, I just want to do the work I was hired for again.

You can try bringing it up without mentioning your suspicions about their relationship at all; just focus on the impact on you. You could say, “Our workload used to be divided fairly evenly, but lately most new projects have been going to Jane and I have very little on my plate right now. Can we revisit how work is being assigned? I’d really like to do more, and I know she’s close to being overloaded.”

It’s possible your manager has deluded himself into not thinking this is a problem. You speaking up should make it harder for him to do that, and this might be the nudge he needs to fix it.

If that doesn’t work, at some point you may need to say, “I know you and Jane are close and spend time together outside of work. I’m concerned that as a result, she is inadvertently getting first dibs on projects. How can we make sure the workload is more evenly distributed between the two of us?” This is getting closer to naming the outside-of-work relationship, which could be a useful nudge.

But also — while I know you don’t have HR, which complicates this, it’s Very Bad if your manager is sleeping with an employee. It’s bad for you, and frankly it’s bad for them too. It’s definitely bad for your company. Is there anyone you can report it to?

2. Client is pushing religion on me

I work for a government agency that (among many, many other tasks) provides assistance to Americans in need. My job normally is normally very different (writing reports, etc.) but due to the number of people out due to COVID, I’m now on the front line helping.

I’m honestly very fulfilled by this change of pace, though I’m glad it’s temporary, but one problem I’m running into: one of the members of the public who I’m assisting asks me in every single conversation if I’ve “accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” She’s getting increasingly pushy about it, and my attempts to change the subject and avoid the question are getting more difficult. Any advice on how to shut down such questions? I can’t pass her off to someone else less annoyed by it nor can I not help her (nor would I want to not help her–she needs our help!)

Ugh, that’s incredibly rude and none of her business, and it’s obnoxious to use a transaction where you’re mostly a captive audience to try to proselytize to you.

I’d give up on trying to change the subject and just tell her directly, “I consider religion very personal and don’t discuss it at work.” If she still pushes: “That’s not something I will discuss at work. Please don’t bring it up again. Now, about this form…”

3. Should I not send job rejections right now?

Our company currently has open positions for which we’ve paused active hiring and recruitment, though we expect to pick back up again in early May. (We are a software solution that supports remote work, so we don’t anticipate layoffs.) We have some candidates who weren’t right for the jobs and who we need to reject. Given the stress people are under, would it be kinder to wait a few weeks to send rejection emails?

Go ahead and send them now. People aren’t likely to be less stressed out a few weeks from now. If anything, they may be more stressed.

Plus, there’s never a universally right timing for rejections. Whenever you send them, someone will wish you sent them earlier/later/on a different day of the week/etc. (I’ve had candidates complain I sent a rejection on Friday, saying it ruined their weekend, and I’ve had candidates complain I sent a rejection on Monday, saying it ruined their week. People just don’t like rejections.)

It’s true that receiving a rejection right now could feel like more of a blow to some people than it normally would. But other people who will appreciate having the information sooner rather than later and wouldn’t want you to try to manage their feelings for them (while you’re possibly making wrong assumptions about what their feelings will be).

Err on the side of being pro-transparency — and inform people once you’ve made a decision.

4. Will my boss’s loan affect my ability to collect unemployment?

I work for a small two person operation — just myself and my boss. I am an hourly employee.

My boss is applying for the new Small Business Administration disaster loan to help with expenses. He has also said that if there is no work, he will not pay me anything.

If he does receive a SBA disaster loan, is he supposed to use that money to pay furloughed/laid-off employees such as myself? Or do I need to just file for unemployment even though he is getting money from the federal government as well? I’m concerned I will be denied unemployment if he gets this loan but then doesn’t pay me.

Some of the new SBA loans are intended to help keep employees on the payroll, but they’re also offering loans for other expenses as well (rent, utilities, other bills, and general loss of revenue). Either way, any loan he applies for won’t affect your unemployment eligibility; if you’re furloughed or laid off, you’ll be eligible regardless of what he’s doing.

5. Listing online classes on my resume

I have been working been working from home and looking for ways to keep me occupied. Since I am unable to do a lot of my duties as a librarian because most of my work is done in-person, I have started some online courses through FutureLearn and other online sites. Some of these courses are are in my field and have helped me gain new skills that I could use in my career in the future. Are these courses legitimate enough to put on a resume?

This can vary by field, but generally one-off online courses (as opposed to an entire online degree) aren’t going to be all that helpful. The skills you gain from the courses can of course be useful — but generally it’ll be more compelling to list your real-world application of those skills. The courses on their own aren’t hugely impressive.

That said, there’s no harm in including them, as long as (a) your Education section isn’t already very long and (b) you’re only listing a few, and only the very relevant. (A lengthy list of courses usually ends up watering down any impact they otherwise might have had.)

But again, some fields can be exceptions to this, so it’s worth talking to people who hire in your field.

{ 288 comments… read them below }

  1. Please Don't*

    #3 Yes, send out the rejections. And for those still under consideration let them know your timeline if you have one. At least let them know that things are delayed and you will get back to them. My daughter has gotten both rejections and we’re on hold due to cover-19. What they want is to know something.

    1. OP3*

      Thanks for the suggestion to let me know things are delayed. While we likely won’t send that to everyone, we will to those whose resumes are especially strong.

      1. PollyQ*

        What’s the argument against sending one to everyone who’s still in the running? Or why not reject people outright if they’re not among your strongest candidates?

        1. OP3*

          I do not want to give people false hope, but if our stronger candidates start to move in another process, we want to know that.

          1. Betty*

            How is it false hope to say “You applied for a job with our company. Because of coronavirus our hiring timeline has been delayed/paused. I am not sure when we will continue with the process but I will let you know when we have more information about when you can expect to hear a decision about your application.” Be transparent! Be honest! Communicate!

          2. Gingerblue*

            I’m not quite following the logic here? If you’re definitely rejecting people, you might as well let them know that, and if you’re possibly still interested in them, just tell them things are delayed. The kindest thing you can do is to give them accurate information, whatever that might be. When it comes to wanting stronger candidates to let you know about other searches, I’m not sure what the connection is to updating people who don’t fall into that group.

            1. OP3*

              We do not have a recruiting team and I have to individually respond to each person – there is no automated process. I am a hiring manager and my day-to-day job has exploded. I can’t spend hours on this. We’ve turned off the advertising for the roles so we shouldn’t see the same influx of candidates but there are many who applied before we did that.

              1. Betty*

                If you’re sending a generic email to people who aren’t strong candidates that you want to send something personal to but aren’t definite rejects, just send one email to yourself and BCC everyone still in the hiring process. All you’re saying is that things will take longer than normal – which you can say to everyone. Honestly, you’ll probably save yourself time because you won’t have them emailing you a thousand times asking for an update which you’ll have to deal with individually. (Or if they do you can ignore them with a clear conscience.) And you’ll engender an awful lot of good will towards you and your company if you are proactive about this communication.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Yes, for something like this one form email saying that they have put the hiring process on hold and currently expect to proceed in may sent to everyone at once is sufficient. No one needs a personalized response or anything, but they definitely need to know.

                  To be honest if I had applied somewhere and they didn’t tell me how they were handling hiring right now, whether pausing or proceeding, I would probably consider withdrawing my application. I’m leaving a job right now over consistently poor communication so that’s really high on my list of of things that I look for in a company.

              2. TechWorker*

                Let’s not pretend that all of us make this kind of judgement call all the time, if OP is swamped and doesn’t have time then pls don’t feel like you have to justify to the internet hoards why you don’t have time :p

                Lots of things would be done differently in a perfect world with perfectly easy admin and well set up mail merges, but that may not be the world we’re in…

                1. OP3*

                  Thank you for this… I have 400 applicants who need a response and since they applied through LinkedIn, it is not a simply mail merge. It requires opening each profile, grabbing the resume, copying the email address and responding individually, as this is what we do for candidates with whom we’re still interested. We will send rejection notes through LinkedIn.

                  Yes the emails would be the same but I am averaging 3-5 hours of sleep a night just to keep up with an increased workload, hiring aside.

              3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

                Are these people who have only submitted applications? If so, it’s not necessary to respond at all if you’re not interested, especially if you’re overwhelmed with work right now. I know some may disagree, but I don’t expect to hear from anyone when all I’ve done is submit an application, unless they’re interested in moving forward.

                If it’s a candidate who has gotten a phone interview or more, then yes, a rejection ASAP is the best way to go. And for those who you may still be considering, an explanation that things are on hold right now, and you’ll reach out if anything changes.

              4. Lime Lehmer*

                OP3, would it be possible to send out a bcc email to all the applicants, with the suggested language?

              5. Alisu*

                Would it be out of the realm of possibility to put a notice to your earlier recruiting page /your homepage / your LinkedIn profile or some such about the delay. It could be very generic just relaying the skeletal timeframe. But it would be one information for you to do and it would reach those who are proactive for looking. Middle way, short of.

            2. OP3*

              As for my initial question… The logic was we wanted to be as thoughtful as possible during the rejection process, so I posed the question to Alison to get some advice because we were a bit stuck.

              1. 'Tis Me*

                Two short templated emails. Two lists of candidates (reject/accept). It shouldn’t take hours unless you have hundreds of recipients, in which case use mail merge.

                1) Thank you for applying to position. A number of excellent candidates have applied and as a result we will not be able to offer you an interview this time around, however we wish you the best of luck with your job search.

                2) Thank you for applying to position. Due to the pandemic we have had to pause the hiring process, but we hope to continue with your candidacy down the line. If you receive/accept an offer from another company in this time, please can you let us know?

                1. Bonky*

                  Quite: this will take you a matter of minutes (probably less time than you’re spending answering questions in the comments here!)

                2. Spero*

                  ^^^ Exactly this! Just make absolutely certain you put their addresses in the BCC field not regular CC

                3. OP3*

                  Just a note that I was up until 3:00 AM working and that’s why I was able to respond at that time. I don’t like to send any kind of email when I’m working late like that and I was swamped with client work.

          3. Good Question*

            You aren’t giving false hope, you are just being factual.

            And I think most candidates expect there to be delays. But, it’s very helpful to have a general time frame and/or to know if you plan on continuing on with the hiring process. Especially, as I suspect that over the next few weeks there will be many companies that will be reassessing their bottom line and will cancel some searches. It will be helpful for many candidates to know if the search is continuing or not, so that they can focus their time and efforts in the appropriate places.

      2. Fried Eggs*

        From someone looking for a job right now: this is the right approach. Please, please write to at least to the candidates you’re considering. If you have time to write to those you’re rejecting sooner rather than later, that would be a kindness.

        I quit my toxic job just before this all started and have been getting very little response to my applications (one video interview; otherwise nothing). I’m going crazy trying to figure out if a) people are just postponing hiring b) I need to change something in my resume or cover letter or c) need to aim lower. I’d usually gauge that by the types of jobs I’m getting invited to interviews for vs. flat-out rejected from. Many of the data points job-seekers usually rely on have disappeared in the situation right now.

  2. StaceyIzMe*

    For the OP whose manager is having an affair with the only other colleague- this sounds like an exceptionally challenging situation! I don’t think that you can ignore something that impacts your workflow so directly. Please find someone that you can report this to and gather any reasonable corroboration that you have and move forward. Alternately, you could simply look for a transfer within the company or a whole new job. I hope that you’re able to escape the gravity of this situation before it implodes because the affair may not last in a congenial state forever.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree. White it is annoying now, the affair is much more likely to affect you in more dramatic ways that simply producing an unbalanced workload. I’d start looking now for a new job.

    2. MK*

      Report what, the affair? I really think it’s a bad idea for the OP to involve herself in this situation, much less to the point of gathering evidence about her coworkers’ personal life. If you mean report the imbalance in the workflow, that would be a reasonable next step if a talk with the boss doesn’t resolve the issue. I agree that it’s a difficult situation and likely to become more difficult if they break up/their partners find out (I am assuming “affair” means there is infidelity of some sort), but I hardly think the OP proactively outing them to the company will do anything other than make things worse more quickly.

      1. Lance*

        This is already becoming a problem for the OP, though; less work means less accomplishments, and the boss being so close with the other coworker means there’s heavy bias on that side. I do agree with starting with the issue of the workload, but at some point, this is almost certainly going to have to come out, because it’s turning into an example of why bosses shouldn’t have such close relationships with their direct reports.

        1. Batgirl*

          Arguably too, leaving out the detail just makes it look like the boss simply values the work of co-worker more. It makes OP look incompetent.

      2. Batgirl*

        Sleeping with an employee is a serious breach of professional responsibility. Any personal relationship is, for that matter, like being BFFs. It’s not the fact that it’s an affair so much as the fact you either sleep with/socialise with the boss or get sidelined.
        A good boss would care that one of their managers was abusing work for personal gains.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Yes, absolutely. An inappropriate relationship between a supervisor/manager and a subordinate always justifies reporting IMO.

        2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          This. It doesn’t actually matter if there is infidelity going on; even if both parties are otherwise uncommitted, this is not an okay relationship and the letter is an excellent demonstration of how and why this stuff just doesn’t work.

      3. Yvette*

        Even if it doesn’t involve infidelity, a boss having a sexual relationship with a subordinate is not appropriate. Actually any kind of relationship which results in favoritism is not appropriate.

      4. Spero*

        OP would not be involving herself in the situation. OP’s manager and coworker involved her in it when their affair began influencing her work schedule. Just, right now they are shielded from the reality of that awkwardness by her silence. If she ends her silence by acknowledging the situation openly, it just puts the burden of the awkwardness from her back onto them, the ones who created the situation. It is not involving herself, it’s just declining to cover up the awkward situation they pulled her into without her consent.

        1. MK*

          I am sorry but that is completely unreallistic. Right now OP is not envolved in the affair, it only affects her as far as her workflow goes. This is not an assumption on my part, she says this. Going to a higher up about this will blow the situation up in her face. Can she prove this? Doubtful. Will tbe boss and the coworker just admit it with shame? Even more so. Will the company even care for what might spound like gossip? How will she work with this people afterwards?

          1. Smithy*

            Particularly in a small company…

            While it’s not immediately clear how much COVID-19 is/is not impacting this LW’s work place, it’s hard to imagine this reality and the large numbers of unemployment and challenges companies are facing isn’t potentially impacting the company’s leaders mood, forecasting, priorities, etc. To flag a romantic relationship to leadership now may just not register as an issue this company would desire to prioritize.

            Is the LW in the wrong for this situation. No. But it’s hard to imagine the LW benefiting from reporting this.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            If it’s impacting her workflow, they’ve involved her. Maybe not intentionally, but they have. If either one was instead involved with someone outside of the workplace, this wouldn’t be impacting her work, and therefore not involving her.

            Frankly, how is she working with these people now? It doesn’t sound like the current work situation is particularly functional!

          3. jamberoo*

            So OP should continue to allow the situation to affect her work and possible career growth? No, I think not.

            All your What-Ifs are what also stop people from reporting harassment. They are bad arguments.

            1. MK*

              Trying to compare this with sexual harrassment is what I would call a bad argument. Harrassment is illegal; this might not even be against company policy.

              1. Amanda*

                Sleeping with a subordinate is a serious issue with the potential to result in legal issues for the company. It can also easily turn into a rape/harassment by coercion issue. It’s almost certainly against company policy, and not that different from harassment.

              2. Mily*

                It’s sexual preferment, and it is a type of sexual harassment. OP’s co-worker is receiving career benefits because she is sleeping with her boss. OP is not sleeping with her boss and is having her career, well, ‘derailed’ may be a bit strong, but it is suffering.

          4. Lance*

            It feels like you’re focusing pretty heavily on the word ‘affair’, when really that’s just a red herring in this scenario. The pertinent facts are that boss and co-worker are having a close personal relationship that’s bleeding pretty heavily into the workplace, to OP’s clear detriment. Sure, OP may not have an HR department (if they did, then HR would very much like to know about something like this), but it wouldn’t be out of line to bring it up with someone else, nor would it be gossip.

            1. MK*

              No I am not, it makes no difference if these people are both single. (And I don’t even understand why you would say this, I only mentioned the “affair” part because the existence of significant others make it more likely that this will come out)

              It seems to me that commenters are focusing on the OP having the moral high ground and not thinking it through when they advise her to report this. To begin with, unprofessional and inappropriate though it is for a manager to have a relationship with an employee, not all companies have a clear policy against it, so there is even a chance the company won’t care. If they are small, they might not even have a clear policy about this. Then, the OP is supposed to go to a higher up and report this, bringing “corroboration”, whatever that might; maybe I am paranoid, but I think there is a good chance the higher up will find this really weird. But say they don’t, or they take it seriously anyway, what if the manager denies this? I am guessing that the OP doesn’t have photographic evidence. And whatever happens the OP has to walk in the next day in a small office with people who know she reported them to the company for having a relationship.

              This is not a situation that I would advice anyone to walk in. And, frankly, there is absolutely no reason for the OP to do this, when she clearly states that her problem is the uneven workflow between herself and her coworker. The simplest way to address this is to have a talk with her boss, and if it doesn’t work, to have a talk with a higher up about the workflow.

            2. Smithy*

              It may be that many people have worked at places that are very diligent to respond to these types of issues…but this sounds far more likely to backfire on the OP.

              One summer I worked for a high school enrichment program as part of the student life team. Myself and colleagues were all university students, the job didn’t pay great but did offer us some unique travel opportunities. The program itself was very expensive. In our staff guidelines there were all sorts of rules about when student life staff was on and off duty and therefore, what we could do to socialize, drink, etc.

              Over halfway through, the majority of my professional peers were breaking many of those rules. I reported the rule breaking and it was made very clear that what I was reporting would put the overall summer experience and “client satisfaction” in grave jeopardy. While against the rules and unprofessional, none of the behavior was flagrantly putting any minors or the reputation of the program in danger. In fact, I had largely generated more trouble for my superiors by making them have to proactively ignore my report.

              Lots of people date at work without it leading to irrecoverable blow-ups, break downs, or reputation ruin. While the LW is being impacted, I would advocate first trying softly to readdress work division, and second find a new job. Because I just do not see how this happens at a small place without it being nuclear and blowing back on the LW far more.

      5. Smithy*

        I agree with MK.

        While I’m happy to believe the OP that these two colleagues are in a romantic relationship, if they were just very good friends and the work load was becoming imbalanced – then the OP would need to similarly advocate for a different work division. And while it’s understood on AAM that being very close friends with a direct report can result in unprofessional behavior, it’s not exactly a slam dunk to report to senior leadership/organization heads.

        If this affair were a duck club situation and there was easily identifiable romantic/sexual activity in the office, then that’s one thing. But if this is a case of more regular lunches, coffee breaks, dinner after work and hanging out over the weekend – and the OP needs to go into more proactive snooping to “prove” sexual/romantic activity, I easily see that backfiring.

        Give the boss an opportunity to balance out the work load – but I just struggle to see the benefit of whistle blowing on a romantic relationship in a small company.

  3. Megan*

    For OP number 5, I would say if you have the space on your resume and they fill in some kind of skill gap not already indicated in other parts of your resume, then it can’t hurt to list them. Another good place to add those is on LinkedIn you can list specific coursework.

    1. J.B.*

      I’m trying to retool my resume, and some doing hiring want a list of software packages. Software I’ve learned in one off packages goes there, because I know I can back it up.

    2. On Fire*

      Also, if you have any kind of professional certification, check whether these courses can be used toward your continuing education requirements.

    3. Bookworm (also a librarian)*

      To me this is where Resume and Curriculum Vitae (CV) differ.
      I have found universities want the CV – the entire list of everything you have done. Pages and pages of it.
      But a corporate librarian job only wants the resume.
      I don’t know about public libraries, but suspect resume here as well.

      As a hiring manager at a corporate library I would not care about one off courses unless VERY related to a particularly valuable skill, and it should be from a reputable organization.

      1. public librarian in the comments*

        Speaking as a public librarian who lists some of the ecourses I’ve taken–if you have the room, list them! Many librarians I know listed some of the graduate coursework they took when it was relevant to the job they were applying for (children’s collection development or programming coursework is important to note if you don’t have years of library experience and want to prove you have a knowledge base). If you’re looking at public libraries, list the ecourses you’ve taken if they’re 1) relevant to the job you’re applying for 2) if they’re solid proof that you’re continuing professional development and are actively interested in/learning more about the field. I’ve taken courses on acquisitions, cataloging, etc. not because I plan to work in those departments but I believe it’s important to know how these areas of the library inform my own understanding of my role and responsibilities.

        1. Carolyn_the_Librarian*

          OP here! This is along the lines of what I was thinking. I’m trying to transition into archive/museum work, preferably in the fashion industry, so some of the classes I’m taking include Royal Fashion History, The Museum as a Site and Source of Learning, and other fashion history classes. It’s often hard to find legitimate experience in that field so was wondering if these courses could possibly give me a leg up when job hunting.

          1. becca*

            If you’re not already, make sure you keep your supervisor apprised of the courses you’re taking as well! It’s the sort of thing you can put in your annual performance review, and I think both your present and future supervisors will appreciate an employee who looked for ways to keep busy and stay current, rather than an employee who just sorta…takes a break. (Trying to say that without passing judgment on “taking a break,” as there’s many many very good reasons why an employee might not be filling every available hour right now.)

  4. A Silver Spork*

    I am honestly flabbergasted that anyone would respond to a rejection criticizing the manner it was delivered, short if it being full of profanity or insults or something! I cannot imagine doing that – certainly not if I planned on ever applying to the organization again.

        1. 1Potato2Potato2Potato4*

          I love this one as well. That theater troupe saw the big fat writing on the wall in neon colors and that person wrote it out themselves for all to see.

      1. A Silver Spork*

        I shouldn’t be surprised, and yet…

        At least next time I feel bad about angercising to deal with a job rejection, I can remind myself that I at least didn’t respond with a nasty email maligning 3/4 of the US population!

    1. Batgirl*

      I loved the comparison with dating rejections as I’d read both sections thinking ‘This is like turning down a guy online’, I loved the link to Olga and Dimitri especially “Believe it or not, I’m a complete catch”.
      I’m torn between that and “Southern rejections must involve light petting” as to what made me laugh hardest…

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I may have to apply to some Southern companies just to see what that rejection is like.

    2. Ana Gram*

      Psh. I rejected a candidate once and he sent an invoice for $200 for “wasting his time.” I did not pay…

      1. Amy Sly*

        Reminds me of the “I am rejecting your rejection” letter you can find in academic circles.

        Which, you know, I totally get wanting to do for the catharsis. It’s just a bad idea. :)

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Having dealt with bad reactions to rejections for many years, your response of being flabbergasted over it truly warms my heart!

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Some people just *really* do not have situational awareness. Or self-awareness. Or something. And lots of people are really bad at seeing their behavior “from the outside” so to speak. (I think it’s related to how lots of people can write well but can’t edit their own work.)

  5. Alternative Person*

    I loath people who try to push religion on me, you have my sympathies LW#2.

    The last time religion came up at work, I ended up introducing my students to Cardinal Copia. We had a very thoughtful conversation about crosses.

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      yes, me too. It’s so unbelievably entitled ”you WILL listen to my thoughts on where you need to do things differently and I will continue to harass you about it because I know best”.

      Obviously the OP couldn’t and shouldn’t do this, but my immediate thought is ”then how come I’m the one offering assistance and you are the one accepting it if you already have a saviour? Shouldn’t he be stepping up about now?”. Of course one couldn’t do that, but it is super-tempting!

      The response is ”Mary, you ask me this question every time and I find it very offensive. I really want to get you the help and support you need, I love my job and I love to help, but any talk of religion needs to end immediately and with no further debate. Is that completely clear?” No need to sugar coat. No need to be rude or insulting (yes it’s tempting, so tempting), but no need to gently tiptoe either. She is behaving very badly and needs to stop immediately.

      1. Chinook*

        Exactly. I would use Caroline’s words if I was in this situation even though I am religious nd Christian. This line of questioning is always offensive, I find, regardless of the beliefs of those being questionrd, not just to non-religious.

        Now, if this person gave off signs of being reasonable and there was time (in the OP’s case, neither apply), I might engage them in theological discussions about how their version of Christianity is different from mine, but that is a better discussion over coffee or beer, not relief benefits.

      2. AKchic*

        Absolutely. There is no reason to tiptoe around this issue. The client is behaving rudely and is trying to proselytize when she is supposed to be there getting help. The LW should feel free to be direct (if firmly polite) about shutting it down.
        “I do not discuss my personal faith with clients” is a great start. Maybe even a “I have tried to ignore this topic and redirect you, but you keep bringing this up. This has nothing to do with your case, or any of us who may be working with you on your family’s case and you need to stop bringing it up”.
        I don’t know if the second bit will be helpful or not, though. A lot of people who try to forcefully insert their religious beliefs into things like that tend to do so as a power move (personal experiences here) and to try to re-establish their moral high ground even when they feel socially powerless. When you cut them off and outright tell them that the venue is inappropriate, some of them will twist that message into a freedom of religion battle. Literally translated as: I/we/our organization is barring you from freely expressing your religious beliefs/tenets/faith as you see fit and in order to receive services/benefits/items you must renounce your faith and act in an ungodly manner (like the rest of us heathens).
        loosely translated: when all you want is them to stop asking you about YOUR relationship with their version of gawd because they want to convert you, a few of them will twist it into meaning they have to stop having faith in order to even be in the building and receiving services. And they will be loud about it.

        So, I would recommend having back-up from a supervisor before telling this client that she needs to curtail her religious talk. Perhaps even having a witness to back you up, just in case.

      3. BluntBunny*

        Yes it is really rude and arrogant. It can’t imagine going up to a stranger and trying to tell them how to live their life. No one’s life if perfect even people who seem to have it all don’t. I would tell her it’s none of her business. Even if you were of the same religion it would be patronising to ask.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I grew up in a place where fundamentalists would come up to me in public almost all the time and do this. They’ve been taught/drilled their mission is to “save” everyone they see. It’s very common in certain areas of the US. And rude and disrespectful. And threatening. It’s one of the reasons I have PTS.

    2. Omega 4ever*

      I had to laugh, but Ghost’s music is fairly philosophical if you bother to listen to the lyrics and reserve judgment. Unfortunately, a lot of folks freak out at the delivery system and shut down.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Religion, politics, veganism, etc….don’t try to convert me to your side. If I’m interested in what you believe in and/or practice, I’ll ask questions. But if you try and convert me, I’m not going to be nice. Alison’s advice is spot on. OP needs to stop beating around the bush and be direct.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. I can’t stand proselytutes, regardless of what religion/lifestyle they’re pushing, whether it’s veganism, Christianity or chanting Buddhism.

        With Christianity, it’s particularly egregious here in the US, because we hear about it from cradle to grave, on billboards, television ads, magazine ads, tracts, flyers, and in half of all public speeches. I really doubt there is a single adult in this country who hasn’t heard the message, “good news”, blah, blah, blah. Preaching harder, longer, and more forcefully is not helping the “cause”. Just stop it.

    4. Bluesboy*

      I’m not saying that this is necessarily the best way to deal with it…but my brother named his pet snake Jesus Christ, just so that when people asked him “Do you know our Lord Jesus Christ?” he could answer “Yes. He lives in a small vivarium in my bedroom”.

      1. Chinook*

        My response would be along the lines of, “Yes and I miss having him for dinner every Sunday” since I did eat Him (in the form of the consecrated Eucharist) at mass every Sunday evening until things were cancelled for COVID.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        If I had to pick a snake to name Jesus, I’d go with a hognose- they play dead. But any snake is a good snake.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          They certainly don’t turn the other cheek though! Cranky little adorable bastards.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            There is nothing more charming than walking out on a bright morning and having the smallest hognose you’ve ever seen get up from sunning itself on the driveway and puff itself up like it thinks it can fight you.

            It’s incredibly illegal to take animals from the wild, and the eastern hognose isn’t really feasible to keep anyways, but I would fill my house with them in an instant if I could.

    5. MusicWithRocksIn*

      It is so out of line to push religion on someone, but doing it to someone who is trying to help you is just so crazy. It is just so rude. Maybe something like “I am trying to help a lot of people right now and have very limited time, we need to focus on X or there are other people I’m not going to get to today” and then privately think something like “What would your savior think about that eh?” But this is also why I couldn’t work with people like that.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        Just wanted to tell you I love your username – that’s one of my very favorite books!

    6. It's mce*

      OP: I would tell this person that you are here to provide assistance during this time and that giving public information is your priority; even politely point out that she is disrupting this service or taking time away from other people’s needs. If she keeps at it, ask her if she needs anything else and that you have to call on the next person. Also, if you haven’t already, let your supervisor know.

      1. WFH*

        OP2, you said you work at a government agency. Blame it on that! Tell this person politely, but firmly, that you’re prohibited from discussing religion with members of the public in your capacity as a public employee. In theory, she’d just respect your wishes not to discuss it, but she clearly hasn’t. Maybe if you tell her that continued religious discussions could put your job in jeopardy, she’d back off. This may not be entirely true, the nuances of public employees discussing religion are more complex than this simple answer, but it’s close enough to the truth and close enough to an “official” reason for shutting her down that it may be the easiest solution to your problem with this one individual.

        1. Me*

          I’m afraid you’d then get – well I wont tell anyone it is just between us.

          Best to just shut it down totally.

          1. Princesa Zelda*

            “That’s kind of you, but I’m a bit of a stickler for the rules! Now about this form…”
            In my experience, these kinds of folks are more easily won over by an appeal to authority, even if the authority is made up. Any response will get some kind of argument, but you want them to see The Rules as the thing making this conversation not happen, not You, Personally.

          2. Mama Bear*

            If someone followed up with “let’s keep a secret” I would be even more offended. “I find that suggestion offensive. I won’t talk about religion anymore” and then don’t.

          3. Snuck*

            Yup. Agree. This sort of person usually is well versed in carrying on no matter what.

            “Yes, I have, and I am a Christian” gets “Well, what sort of church do you go to?” And then a bunch of ‘correction’ of your philosophy.

            Or

            “No, and I am not interested” gets more and more “well you should be… because…”

            Or

            “I’m not allowed to talk about it at work” gets a “Well come to our small group on a Tuesday night at x location” (and then next Wednesday “I didn’t see you on Tuesday”)

            Or

            “I’m a different religion” is an invite to explore why your religion is wrong…

            Best to just shut it down. Deflect, and if that isn’t working (sounds like it isn’t) just say firmly “I am not interested in talking about this with you, now let’s get back to work”. If you use an ‘excuse’ then they try to refute the excuse and create a worm hole in.

        2. nonegiven*

          Maybe, “This department cannot appear to discriminate on religious grounds, there will be no discussion on the subject of employees personal beliefs.”

    7. calonkat*

      I’d be so inclined to say “I’m working for Caesar right now, and we need to get these forms completed for him.”
      (there’s a bit in the bible where Jesus says something about paying taxes as rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesars, because Caesar’s picture was on the coin)
      Which is why every time I spoke in meetings, my last boss always looked like she wanted a 5 second delay for me…

      1. Auntie Social*

        One of our Family Court judges, after being challenged by a dad who said that she had no right to make orders about his paying child support, said that “now you render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”, and asked the dad who said it!! She didn’t have any further trouble from him.

    8. MadStuart*

      “The last time religion came up at work, I ended up introducing my students to Cardinal Copia.” I just recently flung myself into a Ghost pit and have been listening to their albums on repeat, so this struck me as a little too hilarious. (Granted, I haven’t left the house in like two weeks, so many things that might not have been hilarious in the past are currently striking me as a little too hilarious.)

  6. MsRoboto*

    #5 I have had managers ask about things like what did you during the downtime. If there was a gap between jobs. It would be legit to include it as I spent some time learning X Y Z. I am not sure it’s a big big deal but it shows you are trying to improve yourself and not just watching Price is Right.

  7. FaintlyMacabre*

    For the religion one, maybe someone has a better way to say it, but something along the lines of “that’s outside the scope of our interaction” or “”I’m sorry, as a government official I find it is best to not discuss religion at work.” Finish with a cheery, “I’m sure you understand!” I think this is one case where playing up a certain amount of bureaucratic stiffness might help.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking to even say “I’m not allowed to discuss religion at work.” Cheerfully, briskly and with an immediate pivot back to the subject at hand.

      1. LW2*

        I’d asked my boss for advice after sending the email to AAM, and this was pretty much his exact answer.

        1. Em*

          I’ve always found“I’m sorry, I can’t discuss religion/politics at work” is effective with most people. The cheerful “of course you understand” attitude is key.

          Not going to lie, I’m fairly certain I know where you work because of some of your word choices and because I am a person who holds such a necessary credential as well. If April 15 holds meaning to you beyond Tax Day, I’m correct, if not the below might not help.

          If I’m right, try talking to your designated contact at the two letter office that is now your boss in helping Americans.

          I know a lot of folks are getting tapped to help that wouldn’t normally, but I hope the fact you seem to be on your own on the ground means your particular office is very small. If that’s the case, you might be lucky enough to have a relatively experienced person designated for giving advice on helping Americans situated regionally as well.

          If this person is a long-term contact of your office who helps out in assisting Americans, perhaps one of the long-term more locally connected members of your office could either give you tips or has the kind of relationship with the woman to tell her to knock it off.

          I’ve found there are actually large number of Mormons in our line of work (a boss at a previous office thought I was one for some reason and was shocked when I accepted a drink at a happy hour!) If you have a friendly relationship with someone else in your office, even not working on helping Americans, is a Mormon they might be able to give you tips or might be part of the same circles as this client.

          Tips also could be gotten via email from anyone you on-boarded with who does this work normally (though there might be some Mormons in there as well!).

          Good luck!!!

          1. LW2*

            You do know exactly the agency I work for. I’m going to try what my boss suggested if it comes up again, and then yeah, I’ll go to the field experts next. Thanks!

            1. Em*

              Thought so. Sorry I can’t be of more direct use; this isn’t the forum to suss out the client’s exact relationship with the office to put more nuance on the response. Thanks for stepping up and helping out though! Think of the stories we’ll be able to tell when this is all over . . .

              1. LW2*

                That’s why I kept it really general–I figured other people have had and will have this problem in other contexts besides this one!

                1. Fikly*

                  I am suddenly reminded of a time when I was working as a pre-election pollster and a guy in New Hamphire told me he was voting for Jesus as a write-in candidate.

                  “Ok, sir, have a nice night.”

                2. nonegiven*

                  >Pushy religious people would be a problem almost anywhere.

                  Pushy religious people are a problem almost everywhere.

                  FTFY

        2. Spero*

          Another option I’ve sometimes used is, we have so many clients and such limited time, I really like to keep the focus on _reason you are here_ in this time. I can focus on my own well being outside of work, but in the short time we have together I really want to make sure you have a handle on _complex paperwork needed for assistance_!

      2. George*

        Yep. Especially in government (including contractors) there are typically rules about any appearance of favoring religions (in the US).
        “I’m sorry, but government officials aren’t allowed to discuss their religious beliefs at work.” Is probably a safe bet (not entirely true, but close enough). If that doesn’t work, “I know a nice Christian person such as yourself wouldn’t want me to risk my job…”

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Yes – I like the idea of “I could get in so much trouble for discussing religion at work, I know you wouldn’t want that to happen”.

      3. Talia*

        Every time I say that (although I’m dealing with the general public, not specific clients) I get a response along the lines of “Well clearly you are a (insert opposite of their political thing here)”.

        1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

          “Well clearly you are a……………”
          “I also do not discuss politics at work. Let’s focus on .”
          Boom. Done.

          1. Talia*

            No; generally they get pretty insistent. It’s like they take “I don’t discuss politics at work” as cue to try to pick a fight over it. The more I repeat it, the more they try to insist.

    2. Caroline Bowman*

      Sure, that’s a good deflection but I cannot understand why ” I find your constant demands to know my religious views and to convert me to the ones you have intrusive and offensive. Please stop immediately” is a problem.

      Oh there will be a wobbling lip and terribly injured feelings but that’s just too bad.

      1. Asenath*

        I think a brisk and neutral “I can’t/don’t discuss religion at work” and switch to the subject of the meeting is both more effective and less likely to make LW2’s job (assisting this person) more difficult if not impossible.

      2. WS*

        Because LW is working for an aid agency and being stern like that either entices the person to argue or plead, or drives them away from receiving help. I’m a lifelong atheist and work in healthcare, and this situation comes up quite a lot, often with elderly or mentally ill people. Appealing to higher authority (even if it’s fake) is far more effective in getting everyone on board.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          Bingo.

          Like, yes, it would be great to be able to get up on a soapbox and talk about how inappropriately pushing religion on people who are obligated to interact with you as a condition of their continuing paycheck is a crappy thing to do, but that won’t actually be serving the mission, nor will it make OP’s life any easier, nor will it be helpful for the client.

      3. AKchic*

        Also, some of these proselytizers are also baiters. They are hoping for a hard shut-down so they can twist your words and try to get a “gotcha”. Oh no! The gov’t wants to infringe on our religious freedoms! The heathens at X agency won’t let us freely and openly discuss our faith and we have to restrain our glory to gawd in order to receive our rightful aid! Is it a rogue employee or is this an agency rotting from the core?! (yep, conspiracy group will twist it like this)

    3. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      This is a good response, and I think adding the as a government official part is a great way to soften and redirect.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Some companies do have a policy about not discussing controversial subjects at work. Mine does, so luckily I could answer, we’re actually not allowed to talk about that.

      1. iantrovert (they/them)*

        Honestly, I wish mine did. We’re in one of the major presidential primary states and I started eating lunch in my car so I could get away from the months-on-end political talk in the breakroom. I’m (rather obviously) part of a minority that is sometimes targeted by the policies of one side and I decided that it was better not to socialize than to have to listen to my humanity be debated yet again.

    5. ian*

      I get the idea behind this, and it may well be helpful for the OP, but I have to be honest, as someone who already finds the current dialogue around “the government is unfairly restricting religious practices” in the USA to be pretty annoying and frequently overblown, I can’t help but feel like this plays into it. Again, it might still be the best option for the sake of “keeping the peace” but I’d wish for something that more squarely put the focus on “this is not an appropriate time for this conversation, period” rather than playing into a common persecution fantasy.

  8. Sara(h)*

    Since OP#2 said her agency helps people in need, it sounds like a it’s a social service agency, which I think calls for more grace and gentleness with the client, who is in a vulnerable position asking for help and probably has innocent intentions, despite the inappropriateness of the religious dialogue. From my experience working for many years in social services, this type of religious talk often comes off as a misguided attempt to be helpful or even show appreciation.
    Don’t get me wrong, it still needs to be shut down, but I respectfully disagree with Alison’s more blunt approach and would suggest something kinder to start with. Like, “I know you don’t mean any harm, but I’m not comfortable discussing religion at work and respectfully ask that you please stop asking me religious questions,” and if she does it again, “Again, please don’t ask me religious questions — it’s not appropriate in this setting and makes me uncomfortable.” And then if it still continues (which I doubt!), you can get more blunt and less gentle and use Alison’s script.

    1. LW2*

      We’re not normally a social service agency. Even the office I’m filling in for only occasionally helps American citizens as part of several other functions (and I usually work in an entirely different section, but I’m the only person in the area with the appropriate certification to do this , but with this crisis I’ve had to fill in. I’m definitely no social service worker. But, we are trained to be very diplomatic, so being blunt would be very hard for me regardless.

      That said, yes, the people I’m helping are exceptionally vulnerable and in deep need, so I think I will try your approach.

      1. Sara(h)*

        I also really like the suggestions from “Late to the game” below; the above suggestions from FaintlyMacabre are are also good. I think the point is to assume good intentions and to approach it in a way that won’t make the client feel ashamed or embarrassed. Good luck!

      2. Mme Defarge*

        I work in local government in the UK and have been redeployed to support our Assist programme for residents without money for gas/electricity/food due to the covid19 circumstances. After a 20 minute induction off we went.

        I have had 25 years experience on a charity phoneline, so have transferable skills that my employer doesn’t even know about. However, in our charity we had a lot of support, regular sessions with a supervisor mandated, the opportunity to talk things through, etc. I am thinking that, alongside all the other mental health repercussions of the current situation, there will be a lot of PTSD for people thrown into roles like this, especially as we are very isolated, working from home (some without another adult in the house).

        (Of course, this pales into insignificance to the repercussions for my colleagues who volunteered to work in the part of this effort where they go out and do shopping or deliver prescription medications for the very vulnerable, self-isolating people in the city.)

        In a more normal time, there would have likely been induction and updates on how to handle personal questions / comments and clear guidance on how you can protect yourself (eg put the phone down on certain types of abuse). LW2, please remember that it is considered good practice to look after yourself when you are supporting vulnerable people — that is how you can continue to support more of them and all of them more effectively.

        1. LW2*

          Thank you. I’m still dealing with people face to face much of the time (though a glass window, thankfully) as where I’m working internet is nearly non-existent. (I have it at home, but most people don’t.)

          My bosses are very understanding, but we’re horribly short-staffed and trying to make things work. Thank you for this.

      3. ddmm*

        I agree that a gentler approach could be more effective at first, even adding something like, “I can tell that this is very important to you,” or, “I appreciate that you are concerned for me,” may help this person realize that you hear what s/he’s saying but you need to focus on your work. As a lifelong Christian I admit that I was encouraged to approach people this way 20 years ago. Obviously someone out there still does this but from my perspective this is rarely, if ever, encouraged at churches any more.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I was encouraged to be this persistent, inappropriate, and obnoxious 40 years ago, and it was so offensive that it contributed to me leaving Christianity. Any belief that requires a hard sell is just like an MLM, and requires increased skepticism, IMO. YMMV, of course. Most Christians can manage to live their beliefs without the need to proselytize. I respect people who live their faith.

      4. JSPA*

        I’d go even lighter;

        First round: “oh, can’t talk about that.”
        Second round: “You’re sweet to care about me, but I love doing my job, and I don’t want to lose it by having personal conversations. Moving along…”
        Third round [with a smile on your face, which will come through in your voice): “Now, I know I told you I can’t talk about this! Helping people is important to me. I need you to make space in your heart for me to do that Good Work, without insisting I put a name on why.” (Why, yes, you can capitalize words in speaking them. And yes, your client will probably hear that as a reference to whatever religion they want to believe you have. And…that’s actually OK. You’re not misleading them. You’re making a tiny bit of wiggle room for their self delusion.)
        Fourth and subsequent: act as if the words were never spoken. Just keep on as if there had been a glitch in the line.

        The thing is, when you help people, it’s often a point of pride for them to try to “help back” in some way. Time was, it would have been a couple of eggs, or something from the garden. More recently, something from the dollar store or “I made you this dreamcatcher.” But when there’s really nothing physical, what they try to share is the love they feel from their version of the Deity.

        They may or may not also proselytize in other parts of their life, but it’s very different from having religion shoved at you by someone with status and power. This is literally THE thing of value in their life (possibly the one thing keeping them alive) and OF COURSE they want to share it back at the helpers in their life. Not to mention, hearing it back from others is part of what keeps them afloat.

        And, no, this isn’t sole territory of the dominant religion. It happens even in areas where the religion being promoted is strictly in the minority, or is persecuted. If you’re not from a background where sharing one’s faith is a thing (I’m not) or if you’re happily escaped from a problematic variant of that religion (by the numbers, this is true for many people) it’s easy to conflate every “do you have X in your heart and life” with every other, regardless of situation. But they’re NOT all sociologically equivalent.

    2. Avasarala*

      I am really really hopeful that this person means simply to seek connection with fellow Christians, and wants everyone to reap the rewards of being Christian now and in the afterlife.

      Personally, I have only ever heard the specific verbiage “have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior” in the context of an Us-or-Them test, with an aggressive, judgmental tone that implies there’s a right and wrong answer and consequences for both. The verbiage itself sounds like Jesus is a-knocking and you just won’t let him in.

      I have heard more gentle tones and genuine curiosity(/simple ignorance) used with phrases like, “What church do you go to?” “Do you believe in x?” “Are you a x?” “What religion are you?”
      I have also heard those asked more aggressively but I have also heard them asked by people with nothing more than curiosity in their hearts, and they are embarrassed by any miscommunications and quickly apologize.

      So I am very hopeful that this is just my experience with this phrase. But the frequency and pushiness of the questioner makes me doubtful.

      1. LW2*

        There are some big cultural and language differences at work here, so I’m giving the person in question a lot of leeway and assuming she means it in a more innocent way. (My experience with the phrase is more similar to yours.)

        1. JSPA*

          Older church (or mosque…) ladies who have been the backbone of their minority communities do, in my experience, use exactly this phrasing.

          Outside of a work context, I’ve used, “I have great and abiding love in my heart, and am very happy to hear that you also feel part of the greater love.”

          Or more simply, “Love goes by many names. I have it in my heart, as you do, in yours.”

          I would NOT find either of those work appropriate, and would not use them at work.

          I presume it makes some people think I agree with them, it warns others that they’re going to open a can of worms if they push…and for many, it answers their real question, that being, whether I’m in a state of spiritual need, and whether they can help with that, if so.

          I have also seen those same older church ladies kneel in the dirt and pray, at length, hands-in-hands, with someone who replies, “Momma, I’m so far off the path I can’t see my way to it, Pray for me Momma.” Track marks, stench, pests and all. I don’t look up to them for being religious, per se, but I look up to them for always reaching out. It makes me feel awkward; I’m pretty sure it also saves lives. I can gladly live with occasional awkward from that particular source.

      2. Whataboutit*

        I am really really hopeful that this person means simply to seek connection with fellow Christians, and wants everyone to reap the rewards of being Christian now and in the afterlife.

        But it’s still not an appropriate topic to raise with a stranger, particularly when that stranger is helping you in their professional capacity. I’m not Christian, and my religion is strongly against proselytizing. If someone approached me with this type of questioning to “help” or “save” me, I would not take it as a compliment. It’s presumptuous, rude, and intrusive. People can be much better proponents of their faith by practicing compassion and generosity than by questioning the beliefs of random strangers.

      3. Temperance*

        I was raised evangelical, and we were encouraged to use that phrasing to witness to people, whenever we could. It’s more of a “can i force you to follow my religion” than anything else.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100 (was converted by evangelicals when I was in college). They give you scripts of what to say when they send you “out into the world” to “save people”. This is one of the more popular scripts, along with “If you died today, do you know where you would go?”

          1. University Admin*

            I’m guessing the expected reply isn’t “into the ground”….?
            (I don’t want to be cremated, but that route could lead to a lot of interesting replies too.)

            1. iantrovert (they/them)*

              Ooh, I like that. I’d probably start talking about how I like that Ask a Mortician YouTube channel and water cremation…

          2. Princess Zelda*

            When I was 17 and naive, and a recovering scene kid wannabe, I answered that “if you died today” question with a very detailed lay-out of my Dream Funeral. The poor missionary girl was my same age and absolutely nonplussed. I still feel kind of bad for her!

            Now I’m quite happy motioning to my earbuds, smiling, and not breaking my stride.

          3. Pomona Sprout*

            I was raised evangelical, and this is spot on. They not only give you the scripts, they try to guilt you into using them, by telling you that you are personally responsible for sharing the “good news” with as many people as possible. The stakes are very high. I remember being told as a teenager that all the people who didn’t “accept Christ” were going to burn in hell for all eternity, and that it was my responsibility as a Christian to “witness” to as many people as possible and try to “lead them to the Lord” so they could escape this terrible fate.

            I realize all of that probably sounds pretty weird to some people, but that’s truly what these people are taught to believe. When you have been taught all your life to believe that hell as a very real place and going there is the most horrifying fate possible, it can be hard to ignore these admonitions.

            The words in quotes, above, are evangelical buzzwords, as is asking if you have “accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” The mindset described is exactly where that client is coming from, and shutting down this line on conversation in as polite but firm a manner as possible is a must.

            1. Avasarala*

              Yes, I absolutely feel for the poor people subjected to this upbringing–it must be so awful to “know” that people you love are going to suffer eternally and feel that weight of guilt that it is your personal responsibility to save them. What could be more Christlike, really, than to believe that you must save humankind from its sins? I don’t know how people reconcile this with normal social boundaries and behaviors without rejecting all the teachings entirely.

            2. JSPA*

              I’d agree that all (or at least, most) proselytizing / controlling / cult-adjacent evangelicals use this wording, and often, and intensely so. There were groups at my alma mater who got banned for cult-like behaviors, and this was exactly their spiel.

              That does not, however, imply that everyone who uses that language, comes from that background, or espouses those practices.

              By logic alone, “If A then B” ≠ “if B, then A”

              Sociologically, there are very, very, very many groups that have used / borrowed / recycled this simple “G-d in your heart / savior” language.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Eeeh… no. OP’s been trying nicely, and it’s just making the lady more pushy. Firm boundaries are needed. She doesn’t have to whack the lady on the nose with a clipboard every time she brings it up, but she does need a firm “stop.”

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’m a fan of simple but direct – a matter of fact “I’m sorry, but I don’t discuss religion at work.” The sorry softens it a bit, but it’s very clear, and doesn’t leave much up for debate.

        Like Avasarala, I associate the particular phrasing used with very specific motivations – either an attempt to suss out if you’re the right type of Christian, or an attempt at conversion. It’s not really an attempt at friendly chit-chat. Plus, this woman has already plowed through the OP’s repeated attempts at deflection and soft nos.

        1. LW2*

          To be fair, I have been not at all direct. I think most times I’ve just changed the subject or nodded my head without saying anything.

          1. Temperance*

            You could also just totally switch by saying something like “I have a lot of appointments and clients to work with, so we only have time to work on X with you”, and then follow up with “if you aren’t prepared to work on X, we need to meet again when you are ready, because I have many other clients to assist today”.

          2. cmcinnyc*

            Yeah, that simple sentence, “I don’t discuss religion at work,” said in an increasingly flat tone, is super useful. No leeway. No elaboration. Same sentence, every time.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          “the particular phrasing used with very specific motivations – either an attempt to suss out if you’re the right type of Christian, or an attempt at conversion.”
          Chiming in to say this was also my experience growing up in a fundamentalist area.

      2. Sara(h)*

        Ah, but OP has actually not been direct yet; she said she tried to change the subject and avoid the question, but she hasn’t actually addressed the issue head-on. So there is still room to be direct but kind. There is nothing in my suggestions that precludes her from giving a firm “stop” or providing firm boundaries.

    4. Caroline Bowman*

      Maybe, I agree with Alison though. Special dispensation doesn’t get given for religious hardliners. Ask nicely once, then tell her she is offending you and that she needs to stop immediately. It’s clear, it’s direct, the end. No chance for ”yes but” should be given. It’s not a debate.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I disagree with your disagreement. You can be direct without being mean. OP has tried to push her away from religious speak and into the point of the conversation and it’s not working. And generally intentions are irrelevant, and need to stop being used as an excuse to get away with bad behavior. It’s like unsolicited advice – you may think you’re being helpful (good intentions), but you usually just come across as judgmental.

    6. Observer*

      I disagree. I don’t think the OP should be rude. But they DO need to be very clear. And they need to TELL, not ask. It is of no help to anyone to pretend that this is a request and the compliance is optional.

    7. Free Meercats*

      I’ll give her the first ask may have been a “misguided attempt to be helpful or even show appreciation.” After that it’s a bald-faced power play to proselytize.

      I agree with being kind, but direct.

    8. Is It Performance Art*

      I’ve had this situation come up in previous jobs and have had luck with telling people “in my religion we believe that we shouldn’t discuss religion in situations like this”. Thus far I haven’t had anyone assume that means I’m part of a UFO cult.

  9. Observer*

    #1 – I agree that you should try to report this to someone if that’s possible. If not, and your mild questions don’t create immediate positive change, I’d start polishing my resume and looking for a transfer within the company or a job elsewhere. Because this is a situation where neither of the parties is coming within 10 miles of being “professional” or even reasonable at work. And that’s likely to have ongoing and increasingly negative repercussions for you at work, regardless of whether they continue on or break up.

    1. Batgirl*

      Unless OP can request a move to another team, I don’t see how her current department is tenable. An affair is a juggling act that will take their entire concentration. If OP just hints about equitable work they’ll keep sliding back into prioritising their affair. If she’s more blunt then she will bring all their fear and paranoia upon herself. If the affair lasts, co-worker continues getting preference. If it ends, she’s working in a war zone. I know I wouldn’t want to continue working under this person after showing such horrific judgement with an employee anyway.

      1. OP1*

        That’s pretty much what’s been going through my head too – reporting it seems like a nuclear option.

        I think they believe this behaviour is ok as I can normally be left to work pretty autonomously while they spend time together – the quality of my work isn’t a question so they can just focus on each other. But it becomes a problem if I don’t get any work to do!

        1. EPLawyer*

          They aren’t thinking you can do the work while they canoodle. They are thinking “We are being sooooo goood, no one suspects a thing.” You raising the workload issue will show them they aren’t being as subtle as they think they are.

          Be very prepared to report it up the chain. You don’t have to prove the affair, you just have to show there is favoritism due to a personal relationshp, which could be friendship. To your boss’ boss you say, the workload used to be evenly distributed, now Lucinda is getting all the work because she and the boss hang out together outside of work. If your grandboss is even halfway decent, they will take it from there. It is not your place to investigate. That is for the higher ups.

        2. Observer*

          Well, it’s either that, with a move out of your department, or get out of the company altogether.

          The don’t think it’s OK because you do such good work. They think it’s ok because you don’t count, they are not thinking, and they are convinced that NO ONE else has the faintest clue about what is going on. (To be clear, you DO count, they just have failed to recognize that.)

          All of these are very, very bad for you. You don’t have too many non-nuclear options.

        3. Smithy*

          Assuming they aren’t awful people – just perhaps naive and self-centered – then if there is a soft way to flag the workload, then I could see a situation where the boss comes up with a short term remedy to give more but there’s the risk of backsliding and longer term problems.

          I’m all for trying to get more work in the short-term while looking for new work/roles in the current company or job hunting.

          I had a job for 3.5 years and due to the overall toxic environment and certain decisions I made to report certain bad behavior – I don’t have the strongest references I could have. The issues I chose to report….nothing changed (see toxic environment) and I now I’d prefer to have those references than knowing I stood up for what was professional.

          If right now your work is good and your boss likes you, if you sour that relationship – do you have other references at this job? Are you ok with losing all references from this job? I’m not justifying this behavior, but without working in a place with more formal avenues to report concerns of this nature….I really struggle to see flagging the relationship as anything other than nuclear.

        4. RC Rascal*

          If you do anything that threatens the affair be prepared for them to collude against you. Affairs can last for some time, much longer than you want to tolerate being targeted.

          Also— when this starts to affect their work , which it will, be prepared for them to start blaming you.

      2. Observer*

        That’s why I think that they need to start polishing their resume and looking to get out. The ONLY maybe possible hope is if the first conversation snaps them back to enough of a reality to start TRYING to behave like reasonable adults.

    2. Grace*

      This is what I was coming to say. Use your time with less work to find a new position either within the company or outside, I would recommend outside because when this blows up its going to be horrible. Be careful taking on or helping with work they have, there is likely deadlines or gaps they have missed. I was in a similar situation years ago and when the work side started imploding the “Lovers” started blaming everyone they could for their work to keep the secret of their affair.

  10. Late to the game*

    I’m in social services, and am Jewish and live in a virtual Jewish desert (teveryone, from Orthodox to Reconstructionist and Renewal share the same shul). I’ve gotten very good at a variety of responses depending on my client’s needs. I range from “Thank you for sharing something so important to you, but I have my own faith and will not discuss this further” to “I’d love to talk to you more about something so important to you, but my professional code of ethics states that I can not discuss my religious beliefs with clients” to a crisp “this is an inappropriate topic and it will not be discussed further.” (the last one is usually with someone being antisemitic or with one of my young clients who is trying to find something to push me on).

    1. Sara(h)*

      I’m Jewish too, and I love your scripts, both of which preserve the dignity of the client and are respectful, while also setting clear boundaries. From my experience as a social service worker, I’ve only ever had to say something once, gently, and clients have understood.

  11. Former govt employee*

    To OP #2–I used to be a govt employee assisting the public as well, so I feel your pain. But since you’re a govt employee, this one is actually pretty easy! Say “I’m actually not permitted to talk about that at work!” and then move on. If they push, you can say, “I’m not able to discuss that!” and even move on to “I could get fired!” If she says “I’ve had conversations with so-and-so/others about it,” you can just say “I can’t comment on what other people have done, I just know what’s not permitted for me!” and hopefully leave it at that. At a certain point, especially in direct service/casework (which it sounds like you might be doing!) you just have to take the bad with the good and deflect on anything not relevant to what you’re helping them with. Frustrating, but it made my life way easier when I learned how to separate the annoying things people did from the work I did to help them.

    1. Heidi*

      I like to use the “We’ve been asked…” phrasing for situations like these. For instance, “We’ve been asked not to discuss religion in these meetings. Not everyone shares the same religion, and we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.” No one has ever asked me who the ambiguous authority figure is.

  12. Sharikacat*

    My immediate supervisor has pushed her religion at least a little bit on everyone in our department except for me, usually just an invitation to church but also a religious tract in at least one instance. The employees don’t much care for her and just consider this annoying and easy to ignore. Because she brings it up so rarely and with how easy it is to just dismiss, I’m not willing to bring up what is strictly hearsay on my end. However, I’ve told each and every one of them that if they wanted to express their concern to me officially (as opposed to just workplace banter), then I would absolutely set her straight in no uncertain terms regardless that she is one step above me.

    1. Observer*

      It’s not clear to me who supervises whom.

      But keep this in mind. What you describe is NOT “hearsay” and your company does NOT need an “official” complaint about what this woman is doing.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        This. Hearsay is a legal evidentiary standard. Your HR department is not a courtroom. This supervisor should be reported.

  13. LemonLyman*

    #5 – I think it would be okay to include if it’s more than one class, the classes collectively tie in together, and the skill or topics can be related to your job or responsibilities. For instance, as a librarian you took a couple of classes on instructional design. If these criteria are not met, then leave it off. Say, though, you took one instructional design class, leave it off the resume but talk about it in the interview. Of course, if the class(es) were totally unrelated (say you took history classes) then of course leave them off. But still be prepared to use it as evidence during the interview of how you’re always working to learn and develop yourself.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      An excellent answer. A thing I tell my students is “claim the skill, not how you learned it.” This is easiest with technical skills (I have a “tech skills and standards” section on my own résumé, but then, tech is kind of my thing), but it can be done with at least some other skill constellations as well.

      That said, a “service and professional development” résumé section is not unheard-of in librarianship. As Alison says, the prof-dev piece shouldn’t be gargantuan, but professional organizations you belong to (and certainly any officerships you hold) are absolutely fair game, and a line with the last few courses you took is reasonable enough.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I would have thought there’s very little that could be considered *totally* irrelevant to a librarian. Maybe she gets lots of queries about (say) ancient history and to date has been unable to offer more detailed direction than “top floor, near the stairs”, but after a short course she can say “ah have you read Dr Fergus’s primer on Ancient Greek navigation?”

      I agree with you that it’s a good interview point rather than necessarily needing space on a resume. Depending on application timing, it might squeeze into an application letter to explain how you’re spending isolation/furlough.

      1. ANSIISOMARCALCTSAACRL2*

        I’m a full-time librarian and provide zero reference services, so classes on that or on general subject matter like Ancient Greek history would be irrelevant to me outside of any personal interest.

        About 90% of what I do day-to-day would be resume clutter and acronym gibberish to many of my colleagues hiring in other departments despite our work intertwining indirectly to serve patrons better.

        Librarianship is a much wider field of work than most outsiders assume.

      2. Carolyn_the_Librarian*

        That’s a great idea to use these courses as an interview topic! I’m trying to transition to a new field within the library realm and am trying to gain more knowledge/experience about that field. So these classes are kind of introductory but would also exhibit my interest in that field.

    3. Naomi*

      Perhaps OP5 can work this into a cover letter? E.g., “I’ve been spending my time on furlough taking courses to sharpen my skills” or “I’m always trying to learn new skills to help me at my job; recently I took a course in XYZ.”

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Cover letter space is precious, so I might think about whether what I’d been boning up on is 1) relevant to the position, and 2) interesting/novel enough to be impressive.

        For example, an applicant to a cataloging position probably doesn’t want to proclaim proudly that they’ve been boning up on original cataloging — that’s a thing they should already be able to do (which is a tiny bit unfair, because many positions are copy-cataloging-only, but such is life). If they have been learning to automate batch edits with MARCEdit, or picking up some linked data, however, that’s excellent cover-letter fodder.

        1. Naomi*

          Highlighting specific skills learned from the classes is good when relevant, but I was thinking more of mentioning the classes broadly to show that OP5 is pursuing professional development and keeping their skills up to date.

        2. librarian*

          Imagine my lament when I got my first batchload file of quarantine and realized I forgot to transfer all my desktop MARCedit macros for automation onto my laptop…. womp womp womp.

          1. OrigCassandra*

            oh nooooooooooooo! all my sympathy. I hope you can remote into your work computer and retrieve them.

      2. Carolyn_the_Librarian*

        OP here! This is a great way to market/advertise these classes when job hunting. I’m trying to transition into archive/museum work, preferably in the fashion industry, so some of the classes I’m taking include Royal Fashion History, The Museum as a Site and Source of Learning, and other fashion history classes. It’s often hard to find legitimate experience in that field so was wondering if these courses could possibly give me a leg up when job hunting.

  14. LemonLyman*

    #1: I like AAM’s script and I also agree with the advice of not addressing the affair portion of this issue. I couldn’t tell if you used affair to mean that they two were hooking up or if one (or both) are married/in monogamous relationships. Either way, it’s not appropriate for a boss and a subordinate to be hooking up. However, unless you have firsthand knowledge of them hooking up, it’s best to keep it out of the convo with Boss for now. I’m a bit surprised that Boss isn’t more paranoid about giving all the projects to Coworker because it’s obviously going to look suspicious when he treats you two differently on a three person team. And yes, if there’s someone above Boss, it might be worthwhile to say something about the imbalance. But start with Boss.

    1. WellRed*

      When people have sex on the brain, when it’s all new and exciting and especially inappropriate, it often clouds their judgment.

      1. caps22*

        Indeed, especially the more senior person thinks the less senior person is the best thing since sliced bread. My boss was having an affair with her boss (my grandboss), and for years Grandboss heavily favoured Boss with all the best projects despite massive departmental pushback because he thought she could do everything single-handedly. She ended up hugely overworked and ticked off that she wasn’t getting promotions based on that work, but she couldn’t see how Grandboss was actually causing that dynamic.

      2. Amy Sly*

        I read once that CT scans of people in the crush stage of a relationship highly resemble those of cocaine addicts. Given the similar kinds of “obsessive to the point of self-destruction” behaviors that can result, I’m inclined to believe it.

    2. Nanani*

      Right. The point isn’t “sex scandal”, it’s “this relationship is messing up OPs work because of the favouritism that results from said relationship.”
      Keeping your suspicions about the sordid details to yourself helps keeps that real consequence as the focus.
      Even if they aren’t dating, the workload is still unbalanced and it’s still a problem.

  15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, the SBA is administering two COVID-related programs: the payroll protection program and the economic injury disaster loan. The latter has always existed and is a pure loan; it sounds like this may be what your boss is applying for. The payroll protection program is a forgivable loan. As Alison noted, importantly, neither will affect your ability to collect unemployment. I’m sorry you’re going through this right now :(

    1. Happily Self Employed*

      I am a small business owner, and although I didn’t pay as much attention to PPP because I don’t have employees as I did the economic injury part, the boss probably can’t get a loan to cover payroll if he’s just laying people off. He needs to keep folks on the payroll and use the loan to pay them.

      1. MNAccountant*

        Speaking as a CPA, from my understanding of the PPP loan, you can use it for whatever you want. The amount you’re eligible for is 2.5x your gross payroll costs, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend it on that (or other eligible expenses). The only caveat is that if you don’t spend it on approved costs the loan won’t be forgiven.

        Considering that the interest rate is only 1%, that’s not much of an incentive to only spend on approved costs. So they absolutely can lay you off, but that won’t affect your eligibility for unemployment.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          +1

          I have read through every word of this program’s literature from every source I can locate (including the guidelines sent to the banks by the congressional committee). I can confirm that this is exactly my understanding as well.

        2. Spero*

          I think the original text allowed flexibility in spending, but now regulations are saying 3/4 of the loan must be spent on payroll.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            75% must be spent on payroll *if the loan is to be forgiven*. You can spend it on any business related expense, but the loan will be *forgiven* if you can demonstrate that it was spent on payroll.

    2. Lucy P*

      Ok, the timing on this is great. Just had a phone call with the boss. Applying for a PPP loan, but boss seems to think that the ground rules for this require us to stay on unemployment until the stay at home order is over, then we get paid from PPP funds once we can go back to work.

      Can someone clarify please? Thanks

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think Alison has set up a link that includes explainers of the two programs. It’s called “Work and COVID 19” and is on the left-hand side of the screen, right below “search this site.”

        With the huge caveat that this is not my area of expertise, here’s my understanding:
        The primary purpose of the PPP is to keep employees at small businesses on the payroll. I’m fairly certain it does not require employees be on unemployment—that somewhat defeats the purpose of keeping you on payroll. There’s certainly a world in which both things happen: your hours are cut so you apply to the new unemployment benefits program, but you are still technically on payroll at a lower number of hours. But at bottom, the program is designed to blunt the economic devastation of widespread layoffs and reductions in hours.

        If an employer wants the PPP to be forgivable, they have to maintain payroll (and some other qualifying expenses like rent and utilities) during the 8 weeks after receiving the funds. If they want to treat it as a traditional loan, they can spend it on other costs.

        1. Lucy P*

          Thanks. Just for clarification, in case someone else has the same question…I called one of the local economic support organizations for clarification. Basically, the clock on when you can use the money, and still have full forgiveness, starts ticking as soon as the loan closes. Business owners must use the funds in the 8 weeks after the loan is made in order to have it fully forgiven.

  16. OP1*

    Thank you for answering my question!

    Your advice is very similar to what I ended up doing. A situation at work gave me an opening to highlight the workload disparity similar to your first script. My manager’s response was that I had possibilities coming up – all of which were long shots or belonged to another team. Unsurprisingly, none have materialised. I also tried directly asking to be on projects I heard were coming up. The response was yes, but then my colleague was put on them instead.

    The only person above my manager is the head of the company, so I tried letting him know I had capacity for extra projects. He has sent me a couple of opportunities directly since then. My manager has significantly more capital than me and it’s well acknowledged in the office how close he is to my colleague, so I doubt much further action will be taken and it’s why I was reluctant to report it.

    Post-coronavirus I would be willing to look for a new job but don’t really know how to explain why I’d be looking – if it wasn’t for this, I would’ve planned on staying at least a few years longer. If anyone has advice, that’d be great!

    1. Betty*

      “I didn’t find that my company/team had enough work for me to feel challenged, so I’m looking for something new that will let me stretch myself.”

    2. Lexi*

      Things I have said when a job was bad and I needed to leave:
      -I am looking for a position where I can grow and gain more experience in such and such, in my current company that is just not going to be an option due to the size and structure of the company. (this works well in large companies where they thrive on people moving to different departments when they feel they hit a ceiling)
      – I’m looking for a position with less travel. (at the time I was only traveling once every 6 months but I embellished it a bit)
      -I’m looking for a position where I can hone my skills in and become more of a SME in one area as opposed to having knowledge in many areas. (or the opposite depending on the job)
      -I feel like the company is going in a different direction and I don’t feel like my position is secure. (This has worked when I am in dire need of a job, but puts you at a disadvantage on negotiating salary. So I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are truly down and out)

      Keep in mind you need a back story on these in mind, I have always been asked in interviews about why I am leaving.

    3. Kes*

      Yeah… you could try asking what happened with the projects he’d told you you’d be on that were given to your coworker, and mention that you’re concerned your coworker will be overloaded while you’re running out of work. Or even try Alison’s second option that calls out their dynamic a bit more.
      That may or may not do anything. Longer term I agree you’ll need to start looking, saying you’re looking for new challenges.

    4. PX*

      I’ve absolutely used ‘looking for a new challenge’ to explain looking for a new job and its almost always plausible and vague enough that it can cover many scenarios.

      If you really want to make a go of it in your current place, I would continue going to the head of the company and saying that you have excess capacity…if you do this often enough, they may start wondering why you have all this extra capacity, and perhaps start looking into how your manager is…actually managing.

      Or if said head of company seems like a decent human being, given that there is no HR, I would approach them with this as a systematic issue about workload distribution, say that you’ve already talked to your manager about it and ask for help. Some people may see it as a bit confrontational (ie going over your managers head), so you could try and do this with both of them in the room and frame it as a ‘development/goals’ type topic or whatever sounds plausible in your work environment. But as Alison often says, sometimes you need to be a lot more direct with people than you would think is necessary (or feels comfortable to you) to actually get the point across. The key thing with such a meeting is to come out of it with concrete actions and timelines for how to proceed going forward.

      Otherwise yes, job search because this isnt going to end well for you as long as this status quo is maintained.

    5. ilc*

      For post-coronavirus job change, if you are asked depending on your industry/how constrained your company was by COVID you could try:
      1. OldJob was wonderful but due to COVID future opportunities are constrained for the next years (e.g. if OldJob was in tourism industry/relied on people having a lot of disposable income). I’m ready to develop xx skill/am interested in xx industry now which is why I was thrilled to see this chance with NewJob.
      2. All the changes COVID brought/opportunity for introspection due to being stuck at home made me consider my career path. I’ve been at OldJob for xx years but have always been fascinated by NewJob industry/NewJob role and decided to pursue it.

      It also depends what you want. Do you want a similar role at a similar size company? Or do you see this as a chance to change industries/company size etc. If you see it as a chance to change, then talk about that. No need to talk about why you first considered the change, just focus on the fact it’s something new you want experience in/something you worked in before and would like to return to after having broadened your skills elsewhere.

      1. Smithy*

        Playing off the COVID realities, particularly if you’ve been at the job for less than 2 years – you could also indicate that during the COVID-time, XYZ opportunities became less available and ABC New Job is exciting as an opportunity to do more of that.

        I think the period post-COVID will not only see a lot of people job hunting, but also a lot of jobs changing in nature that may decrease their appeal to current job holders. As a result, I find it hard to imagine questions around “why are you leaving your current job” to probe all that deeply.

    6. Kevin Sours*

      I think you could do worse than “I’m looking because I’m not getting enough challenging work in my current position and I’m looking to do more”.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I honestly don’t see why you can’t be pretty honest in why you’d be leaving. Say that it’s lack of work and you’re feeling under utilized in your current role.

      Nothing about that is “bad talking” your current employer! I would read it as you were afraid of being laid off or losing your job due to lack of work as a hiring manager. Which is a huge “yes you should be looking, absolutely yes.” to me. And not a flag of any kind against you.

      Don’t be vague about it. You’re literally not getting proper work assignments! I don’t want to rot somewhere either, most people don’t!

    8. valentine*

      gave me an opening to highlight the workload disparity
      Did you mention having to help them last-minute when that could’ve been avoided?

      it’s well acknowledged in the office how close he is to my colleague
      But do they think it’s just a mentor-mentee relationship because she’s a star, or do they know it’s sexual? It may be super obvious to you, but it’s worth reporting, if only to find this out. Workflow isn’t your only problem. When it comes to budgets and layoffs, he’ll choose her over you and reporting them then won’t save your job.

  17. Batgirl*

    I take your word for it that your grandboss would not side with you that needing to sleep with your boss to get their attention is a problem (another death knell for this company).
    I would just say that your position has developed as much as it can there and you really look forward to the opportunity of x and y in the new role (always take the conversation back to the new role).
    Or you could say you’re looking for a larger, more established company (one with HR!)

    1. OP1*

      Thank you! The larger company could be a good angle, I’m definitely wishing there was HR/another team I could move to.

      1. Hillary*

        Good luck! There are always ways to spin it that sound positive. For me it was important to practice interviewing, both with friends and at low-stakes agencies that I didn’t end up working with.

        Regardless why I’m interviewing, I pretty much always say it’s because I’m ready for new challenges. Then I transition into a joke about getting bored easily and how that led to my project-oriented career path.

        If I’m interviewing for a small company, I talk about how I want the flexibility of working for a smaller, more nimble org, then I usually go into a story about being able to get a design change done right away because my office was across the hall from the head of engineering.

        If I’m interviewing for a large company, I talk about wanting the resources and scale that a large company brings to my role. That leads into stories about big projects that just aren’t possible at small orgs.

  18. PB*

    OP #5: I am an academic librarian and do a good amount of hiring. If I were reviewing your resume and saw a long list of online courses, my reaction would be neutral. It wouldn’t harm your candidacy, but it also wouldn’t strengthen it. As Alison said, I’d care much more about the real-world application of any skills gained rather than the course itself. There’s a slight risk that it can make you look less experienced, like a candidate who lists every class they took for their MLIS, but that can be okay as long as it’s balanced with actual accomplishments.

    If you’re applying to academic jobs, which tend to require CVs rather than resumes, go ahead an include it. If you’re applying to positions where you need a two-page resume rather than a longer CV, maybe leave them off.

    1. Carolyn_the_Librarian*

      OP here! Thanks for the advice! I’m trying to transition into archive/museum work, preferably in the fashion industry, so some of the classes I’m taking include Royal Fashion History, The Museum as a Site and Source of Learning, and other fashion history classes. It’s often hard to find legitimate experience in that field so was wondering if these courses could possibly give me a leg up when job hunting. This would definitely be suited better for a CV.

    2. Lepidoptera*

      In light of having to stay home in this current situation, I would hope that candidates attempting to stay on top of professional development would be seen as a positive thing.
      I understand how in normal times this wouldn’t apply as much.
      Perhaps listing when they attended the course or why they’re including if there’s room on the resume/cover letter might help? “Oh I see that they did these courses during the COVID-19 lock down of all public libraries, that was a good use of their time”

  19. hbc*

    OP2: I’m curious about something that seems to come up often in these social services cases–the idea that the employee has to take more…grief from clients because they’re in need of support. But absent any relevant mental or psychological issues, shouldn’t it be all right to move from an initial kind rejection to something more firm to delay or even refusal of services? I know we don’t want to go too far into “kiss my ring, peasant” territory, but I’m pretty much okay if getting help is conditioned on understanding “no means no” and not harassing the staff in an area that’s mentioned in federal employment law.

    I’m obviously not in social services, so maybe that’s why I can’t see the logic of “She needs help and therefore I can’t be too forceful with her.”

    1. doreen*

      It’s not so much “she needs help so I can’t be too forceful to her” – it’s more than in a lot of social service situations, you can’t really ” delay or even refusal of services”. I mean , I don’t know exactly what the OP does, but you can’t really refuse to refer someone to a DV shelter because she asks you if you’ve “accepted Jesus” just like firefighters can’t really refuse to put out a fire for that reason. That doesn’t mean the OP has to just accept however the people who need help want to treat her , it just means that she has to handle it differently.

    2. LW2*

      I’m trying to be careful with putting too much information about my job in here (though one person has already sussed out what I’m doing). There is a concern about pushing such a person away, when the assistance we’re providing cannot be provided by anyone else and it’s of an extreme “their life could be utterly ruined if not helped and oh lord the amount of scrutiny of this in other locations is terrifying” variety, and I feel for people deeply in such a context.

    3. hbc*

      For both OP and doreen, I get that it’s an important service, I really do. And I’m not saying, “Sorry, you mentioned Jesus once, you are banned for life.” I mean, you’re having multiple conversations with this person, so it’s not a situation where it’s life or death this minute.

      Maybe this makes me a jerk, but if a person is told “If you [hit on me/call me racist names/try to convert me] again, I’m not helping you further today” and they *choose* to keep pushing it, I’m okay with their help coming a little slower, even if that has the potential to ruin their lives. Serving the needy does not mean that you have to put up with repetitive, abusive behavior that is completely in their ability to control.

      1. hbc*

        I also realize that this might be more philosophical than realistic if the expectations are that you’ll help everyone who comes through your door and doesn’t actually threaten you.

      2. lazuli*

        A great deal of the time it’s the client’s legal right to obtain the service, and people who do go into social-service fields generally (though, stunningly, not always) have a strong desire to connect people to help. And you generally can’t discriminate based on whether someone’s nice or “appropriate” (which is a culture-bound assumption, anyway).

        I do think it’s important to empower workers to extricate themselves from situations where a client’s being harassing, abusive, racist, etc., but even then it may be that the client needs to switch workers, not get banned, except in really egregious cases.

        Social services is just really not the same as private retail, is I guess what I’m saying.

    4. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Apart from what others have mentioned in their answers, it’s also been a general truth of any kind of client-facing role I’ve encountered that if you’re dealing with someone who’s in a distressing situation, they are going to be harder to deal with, and yes, you have to be prepared to accept more from them than you would otherwise.

      For example: we have specialist teams at work for dealing with divorce cases and with inheritance issues. Both of these teams put up with behavior from clients on a regular basis that other teams wouldn’t, and hire with an eye toward people who are resilient enough to handle those circumstances. Because when you’re dealing day-in, day-out, with people who are in the midst of divorce, or with people who are recently bereaved, those people will not be at their best and you need to be prepared to provide them with good, attentive service anyway.

      If the OP is providing necessary services — which it sounds like they are — then this becomes even more pressing. “You don’t get your food stamps* this month because you were rude on the phone” is really not an okay thing to do. It adds a level of power imbalance that mean that yes, the OP does need to extend more grace to their client than they might if we were talking about an entirely voluntary service.

      *No idea what service the OP is actually providing, using food stamps as an example.

      1. Talia*

        Also once you *start* permitting that it’s highly likely to skew towards racism and sexism and other isms in services, as people perceive the same behaviors differently depending on who’s giving them and are far more likely to cut slack to white clients or male clients, often without even realizing they’re doing it. Given how many people seeking such services are in minority groups you *really* want to make sure nobody’s doing that.

        1. LW2*

          Funny enough, in my line of work it’s far more common for those providing the services to be subjected to racist, sexist, etc. abuse and discrimination by those we’re serving.

          1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

            Honestly, that doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve got a couple friends who work for their state government in “safety net” type areas, and they hear a whole lot of awful stuff from the folks they’re serving.

            But on the other hand, the things Talia is referring to also tend to happen a lot — depending on the demographics of the area you’re in, and who it is that make up the majority of those asking for aid. There’s a whole stew of badness when it comes to these situations.

          2. Alexandra Lynch*

            When I was very poor and had to use social services for health and food assistance, I got looked at side-eyed because I spoke with a middle-class accent, instead of one of the lower-class ones. The system was broken in such a way that one had to go physically to the office and call up the application on one of their computers to push the final submission button…..and I got, “This is a mouse, it moves the pointer on the screen. Can you move the mouse, Alexandra? Good girl! You moved the mouse!” type of instruction in how to use it before I was permitted to call up my form, and make one mouse-click to submit. By the time I did a physical interview, I was furious at the entire system, which apparently assumed that I was simultaneously stupid enough to need to be spoken to like a four-year-old, and smart enough to be trying to scam the agency out of benefits. I already felt “othered” by the notice of “childcare ministries” “Outreach to those wrestling with their addiction” and such from local churches. The fact that the person interviewing me always preferred to wear a nice big cross or other fundie bling made me feel that these services weren’t for heathens like me. So it’s a good thing when aid organizations don’t allow discussion or display of religious preferences.

      2. lazuli*

        Yes, the power differential is such an important factor, too! Unlike in most service jobs, a social-service worker generally wields a lot of power over their clients. It’s a very different dynamic.

    5. Spero*

      I think the reason for extra care is twofold:
      First, social service agencies are often dealing with core needs. When people have insecure access to core needs it is completely reasonable that they are in a heightened emotional state and part of the role of the assister is to bring that down to a more baseline state of function not only by meeting the need but also by the nature of the interaction itself.
      Second, it is so incredibly common for those involved in social service agencies to experience institutional microaggressions. Workers just not wanting to pick up the phone, systems that are poorly designed and never fixed even though the issue is widely known, etc. So those of us who are conscientious often feel the need to ‘make up for’ the other flaws in the system by improving our own level of service to offset those flaws. It’s not a sustainable response and leads to a lot of burnout, but it’s very easy to feel like “I know they went through hell on our automated phone system to get to me, the least I can do is be nice to them.”

    6. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I agree that the power is wholly with the service/charity provider; which is why they are required to not use that power to decide who does and doesn’t get service except for legitimate criteria. This is the time to pick a neutral phrase and lather rinse repeat it to death, “religion/faith/salvation is not a service we provide. Please restrict your questions and requests to X subject so that I can get your application processed as efficiently and accurately as possible.”

  20. Bookworm*

    #3: Agree with the others: Send them rejections as soon as possible so they can move on. You’d still be faced with this even in nonpandemic times but there’s never a “right” time as has already been indicated.

  21. Grace*

    #3 Many of us are using this time to look for a new position, the pandemic has freed up the time after work and on weekends for non-essential people trying to stay home (the kids and husband are going to stage a revolt soon if I re-do our Pandemic cleaning/organizing to do list). So by all means send out the rejections, we would rather know and move on.

  22. MicroManagered*

    OP#5 I took online coursework at one point to build some of my skills related to my industry. In particular, I took a couple courses on Excel from a community college. For a while, I had it on my resume under “Education” like this:

    Education
    – University Name, Bachelor’s in subject, year I graduated
    – Community College Name, “Elective coursework in Excel and Accounting, year I did it (which was after I graduated)

    I receive feedback at least once that my resume was noticed because I’d listed the Excel courses. The interviewer (who became my boss) told me it stood out because so many people list Excel as a skill they have, and then they don’t *really* know Excel that well. Eventually I got to a point where my resume is over a page and I needed to look for things to trim, so it’s not there anymore.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      You know, it really is okay for your resume to be 2 pages long if you’ve been working for more than 10 years. I can’t tell what your actual dates are, so maybe you’re only at 3-5 years, but this is a misconception I see a lot. And if you’re keeping it to one page by shrinking the type and margins, stop that! Make your resume super-easy to skim quickly: use full-size type and 1-inch margins (which also gives the interviewer room to make notes).

      1. MicroManagered*

        Like 8 years. I’m at the point where more than one page makes sense (and they’re all related positions, with progressing responsibility, etc.), but at the same time, I want everything on page 2 to be absolutely necessary. I’m not in a place in my career where I’m needing to prove Excel competence (recently promoted to management), so the second page isn’t the *only* reason it’s no longer there. :)

  23. Fellow Librarian Here*

    OP#5, the way I handle this on my resume/CV is to have a section for “Professional Development.” I’ve mostly worked in academic librarianship for 15 years and this is a very, very common way to list the trainings, workshops, online classes, etc. that many of us do.

    I would echo PB’s suggestion above to make sure to only include mention of this in a particular job application if it really adds to your candidacy. I have a “master” version of my CV that has *everything* I’ve ever done that could be relevant to any given application, but then I edit it down ruthlessly for each application to contain only the contents that reflect that specific job.

    1. Carolyn_the_Librarian*

      OP here! Thanks for the advice! That’s a great way to put that on a CV.

  24. Allison*

    #3 Definitely don’t wait weeks to send rejection emails! I mean, I do have a personal preference on when I like to receive rejections – I know it doesn’t matter and I can’t dictate when people reject me, but I do prefer sooner rather than later, even if it’s 10 minutes after I apply or within 24 hours of my interview. That said, I highly doubt anyone, even in the “I wish they’d waited a little longer” camp, want you to wait a few weeks to send rejections. Let them know when you know.

    I know that people are supposed to apply, move on, and keep applying as though that job isn’t gonna happen, but that’s easier said than done. I know for me, a rejection is a signal that I need to put more irons in the fire, and I’ll feel more motivated to hit the job boards and find more companies to apply to.

  25. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #2, someone as pushy as your client might not stop when you tell her to stop and that you don’t discuss religion.
    In that case, just pretend she didn’t say it. Ignore it and act like she hasn’t said anything at all. You may be able to train yourself to not notice it.

  26. LGC*

    LW2: “My soul can be saved later, but right now we need to fill out this form.”

    My first thought was that LW2 is likely in a place where not being especially Christian is looked down upon, so they need to tread carefully. And then I thought about it a bit more, and…honestly, that first thought didn’t matter too much, because I’ve seen similar dynamics in my (relatively non-religious) area, and with non-religious things. I don’t know if I’d shut it down with mentioning that’s rude or uncomfortable – I’m more a fan of just aggressively not acknowledging it and almost…grey rocking her proselytizing. (That’s not the best term to use, but it’s the one that came to mind.)

    The redirect is really the key part – because your job is to provide that assistance to her and others. Especially now, you can’t give her the time she wants for her purposes.

    Also, this is a bit unsympathetic of me, but if she doesn’t want to be helped until you accept The Lord Jesus Christ Our Savior into your life…it kind of sounds like she doesn’t really want to be helped, or at least not helped by you at that moment. You don’t say what kind of work you do, exactly – but if you can have her seen by a coworker who HAS accepted Jesus into their life, that might help cut down on things (because if their soul is already saved, she doesn’t “need” to save it).

    1. LW2*

      It’s not a matter of her not accepting help unless I have–it’s usually towards the end of the convo that it come sup. I also literally don’t have any coworkers I can push people off on here–I’m the only one who can do this work where we are. But I can be more assertive about not answering, and then redirect like you said.

      1. Tera*

        Just cheerily tell her you’re an atheist (or whatever) and thank her, then get her to leave. If she keeps doing it, tell her it’s an inappropriate topic for the place you’re in, but I think you should be blunt about your beliefs and lack thereof first. To be honest it would probably help her to realise that non-Christians are good and happy people too, and you helping her as a happy non-Christian could do just that.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          it would probably help her to realise that non-Christians are good and happy people too, and you helping her as a happy non-Christian could do just that

          Oh wow, if only that were true. The few times I’ve used this, the person on the other end has gone into full CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!! mode and then tried to go into deep discussions about intelligent design, why evolution simply can’t be true, etc. They were even harder to shut down after that.

        2. Observer*

          It doesn’t matter what the OP’s religious beliefs are. Telling this person that they are a happy atheist is a totally bad idea.

          For one thing, it is TOTALLY out of line for the OP to try to convince the person anything about atheists / Muslims / Christians etc. For another, and probably more important for the OP’s sanity, the problem here is not that the OP is not the client’s brand of Christian, but that this woman keeps on bringing the subject of religion up, in a context where it’s just not appropriate. Getting into their beliefs, regardless of what they are, just perpetuates this. Better to firmly and kindly make it clear that this topic is just off limits.

          1. LW2*

            Moreover, in my particular job, it would be HIGHLY inappropriate to show that kind of favoritism to any particular creed.

            1. nonegiven*

              Then that is what you say to her.

              “it would be HIGHLY inappropriate to show that kind of favoritism to any particular creed.”

        3. Princesa Zelda*

          In my experience, this will just make everything worse. The client already thinks that OP’s religion is her business — OP actually discussing her religion with the client means that this door is not only held open, it’s completely removed from the frame! The client will take every possible chance to proselytize and try to convert OP. It’s much better to dodge the question.
          “Mrs. Doe, you know I can’t discuss religion at work! Now about the form…” in a light tone with a smile will do it for a lot of folks. And if she pushes, you can blame the rules on the government.

      2. LGC*

        Okay, so I misread it – I thought it was like you guys got started and then she’d jump in with “BUT HAVE YOU ACCEPTED JEEEEEEEEEEEEESUS?!”

        That’s almost easier, especially since you’re the only one there. Just say you have other people you need to speak to or things to file, and you have to cut your appointment short. If you can schedule someone or something immediately after her, do it. Have a set time slot, if you don’t already.

    2. Amy Sly*

      I’ve seen similar dynamics in my (relatively non-religious) area, and with non-religious things.

      Caught a story on the Moth Radio Hour some years ago about a woman who struggled with her faith and the make-up pyramid marketing company she got enmeshed in. She decided she had to break with both when she was doing her cold approaches at Target and found herself debating whether a random shopper needed Jesus or Mary Kay. She ended up moving to Brooklyn. One of the first things her neighbors asked her about was whether she’d joined the Park Slope Food Coop, and her punchline of the story was “Sorry, I’ve given up on organized religion.”

      1. LGC*

        She decided she had to break with both when she was doing her cold approaches at Target and found herself debating whether a random shopper needed Jesus or Mary Kay.

        …I literally just yelled “GIRL, IT’S GOD FIRST, FAMILY SECOND, AND THEN MARY KAY THIRD” at my laptop. I probably should stop listening to The Dream and reading Pink Truth.

        (Also, it’s Mary Kay. Isn’t their deal that everyone needs both?)

        I also need to track down that episode immediately because that sounds right up my wheelhouse!

        But anyway – in my case, I saw it with one employee who had a vendetta against one of my coworkers (one of the counselors in our program)…and used to bring it up a lot with another counselor all the time, even in meetings where they were supposed to be doing paperwork for assistance. It was awkward, to say the least. The other counselor is a really nice person (so is the first counselor, as a matter of fact – I love both of them), and she was…probably too nice to her.

  27. Jedi Squirrel*

    One more vote for sending out rejections as soon as possible. People looking for a job are busy trying to make plans, so it helps them to know where they stand.

    That’s true in the best of times. It’s even more true now. And try to word that rejection letter as nicely and as softly as possible. Include light petting, if necessary. (See Alison’s link in her response to A Silver Spork, up above.)

    1. OP3*

      I spent a tremendous amount of time creating our rejection emails so they were kindly (but clearly) written.

        1. Free Meercats*

          Luckily, my cats have basically ignored my WFH setup. I think it helps that it’s also my sewing setup with machine removed and work setup in its place. They found the sewing table to be boring long ago.

        2. AKchic*

          Hello Wallace. My Izzi has decided that if I am on video chat, she now needs to snuggle on my chest and cuddle my shoulder. Foxy thinks everyone on screen needs to see her glorious hind end, tail up (of course), before she honors the camera with a head bonk and loud purrs. If she isn’t allowed to do this, she yowls as only a Siamese can yowl.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      This just made my day. Maybe the cats can weigh in more frequently just for giggles.

  28. Ash*

    LW1: I’m surprised the affair leads to *more* work for the colleague rather than less. That’s usually what happens when it comes to favoritism.

  29. Nacho*

    OP2: Since this person isn’t a college and not quite a customer either, you should have more leeway to push back without worrying about seeming rude. Just tell her you’re a satanist and happy with your religion at the moment.

  30. Lepidoptera*

    LW5
    Perhaps also concentrate your professional development on learning languages.
    I’m working on my ASL

  31. charo*

    Re: Religion. I’d be very direct and authoritative: “That is the kind of question you need to be not bringing up in a situation like this. We are not allowed to have a conversation about it and as a client you could be creating problems for yourself w/someone who is WORKING WITH YOU.” Emphasize that she’s asking for help, though keep it subtle. Refer back to whatever assistance she’s after. “I’d hate to see you have any problems getting [whatever].”
    Act like you’re playing by the rules. You are.
    If she got argumentative and irrational I’d be tempted to ask her if she’s asked her CHURCH for this assistance? To remind her she’s applying for help here.

    1. lazuli*

      Please don’t do this. It’s wielding power over a vulnerable person in an inappropriate way. Threatening to cut off someone’s help for not knowing all the “rules” is cruel.

      1. Observer*

        It is cruel, it’s inappropriate and it could legitimately get the OP in trouble.

        And really, maybe you should stop to think about your assumptions here. The problem here is not that the person is asking for help. Or do you think it would be OK for the OP to be asking the question – repeatedly? After they are providing the help, not asking for it!

        Also, we don’t do “deserving poor” these days. (Good thing, too!) Providers don’t get to decide that someone doesn’t get services because they are not nice. Or even because they are jerks. It would be one thing if the person were threatening the OP, or refusing to cooperate. As it is, yes, she is being rude and obnoxious. But that doesn’t disqualify her from getting services.

  32. notasecurityguard*

    OP#2 fwiw a quick way to get most of the evangelicals to back off is to tell them you’re Jewish (even if you’re not). Years ago a coworker was trying to proselytize to me and another coworker shut it down by telling them i was Jewish. apparently a lot of the evangelical christian sects consider proselytizing to Jews to be off limits (because we’re jesus’s people so we have our own relationship with god or so they tell me).

    it’s unfortunate that that’s what it takes but that often shuts them up

    1. RR*

      huh, interesting take. That hasn’t been my experience; I seem to get the evangelicals who are convinced they will get extra points for converting me.

    2. Observer*

      Other evangelicals are ESPECIALLY interested in Jews.

      Just refuse to discuss religion at all. It’s a topic that she should not be bringing up, so trying to find a response just feeds into it. A cheerful and matter of fact refusal to engage at all doesn’t open any doors.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        We need a “Just Say No” campaign but instead of drugs it’s discussing religion in the workplace (unless your job is explicitly religious).

  33. To OP #1*

    This is getting closer to naming the outside-of-work relationship, which could be a useful nudge.

    OP #1: As someone who has been in a similar situation as OP…do NOT say anything to your Manager that could possibly be interpreted to suggest that you know about the affair unless you are prepared mentally and financially to be fired (or to have your Manager make your job so bad that you feel the need to quit).

    Colleague and Manager are literally in bed together. Even if they’re not “in love,” that fact alone means that Colleague is 1000x more valuable than you to Manager right now. Further, as Alison notes in her answer, their relationship potentially places their jobs at risk. Thus, even if you don’t give a rat’s about the relationship, anything that smells to Manager like knowledge or disapproval is likely to trigger Manager’s threat alert to DEFCON 1 to avoid “getting in trouble.” And if this is an extramarital affair for either of them? Whew.

    The same goes, sadly, for reporting the affair to your Manager’s boss. There’s not a ton of information in here about how long Manager has been working at your company and the dynamics, but there’s a chance here that telling the overboss just results in a “knock it off” to your Manager, who then has a pretty good idea who told in a department with literally three people. You are then a verified threat to your Manager and the good thing they think they’ve got going on.

    Given that you don’t want to be searching for a job right now in this pandemic, I think the best way is to just deal with it as best you can and start job searching once the economy picks up. The situation sucks, but unless you’re independently wealthy, it’s not safe for you to speak up right now.

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