updates: I’m worried my company is becoming too conservative, the equipment return, and more

Here are updates from three people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. I’m queer and worried our company is becoming too conservatively Christian to keep me (#2 at the link)

Thank you so much for answering the letter! I didn’t read or respond to any of the comments at the time because, well … honestly I was kind of scared I’d hear that I’m being too sensitive and it’s not a big deal for a company to think LGBTQ+ content is inappropriate.

I’m happy to report that since I wrote that letter, we’ve gotten a few new department heads and VPs who are APPALLED by that stance. So far they’ve been relatively unsuccessful in changing the C-level execs’ minds, but they’ve helped ensure we no longer pretend LGBTQ+ people don’t exist. It’s small growth, and we have had customer complaints (I think some of the commenters were spot-on when they said some people associate any sign of queerness with sex, unfortunately), which is part of why the C-levels haven’t totally backed off—but I’m a lot happier and I don’t worry that I’ll automatically be fired if I bring a date to an office party now.

I really like my job and my team, so while I was definitely considering quitting I’m incredibly grateful these people came on board!

Oh, and because a lot of commenters seemed to think the Slack responses were the main issue: I brought them up because in past jobs where my queerness has become a problem, little things that seemed to do with religious values were an early red flag (such as being told to say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays to customers) and I was already worried about being “too gay”. The fact that the overall swearing wasn’t addressed, but saying “god” was, is what had me worried. That part I think I was being paranoid about. The automatic responses went away after the first few times they were triggered—including once by the person who set them up!—and there have been no further religious red flags.

Thanks again for publishing the letter and moderating the comments—I have a lot to think about, and it’s reassuring to know other people agree with me on the company’s stance.

2. I’m being asked to return equipment during shelter-in-place (#4 at the link)

My employer responded with more information. My whole department has always had laptops due to the nature of our work. It hadn’t occurred to me that hundreds of employees at the corporate office never had laptops and didn’t transition to WFH as easily as we did. I see now that the return of the laptop actually is urgent.

And they did, albeit VERY reluctantly agree to allow me to drop it off. They instructed me to drop off my equipment in a sealed box. I wasn’t comfortable with that. Many emails were exchanged, but they finally agreed to inventory the contents of the box and provide a receipt. The drop off was made, receipt given, and problem solved.

3. How can I stop being so nervous in job interviews?

I finally accepted a new job, which in the midst of a global pandemic feels like a huge blessing! My interview skills improved dramatically over the past few months. I really credit your advice, as well as the input of some of your readers, for boosting my interview confidence!

I went from a shaking, shivering mess before interviews, to genuinely smiling and enjoying my conversations. I realized my PTSD was being triggered in interviews because of a specific memory, and simply identifying it made it possible for me to reel in the physiological response.

I feel that you and your readers truly helped me land a great job. Thank you!

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Xristiana*

    i love updates. they make me happy to see the story through. it’s like seeing the epilogue at the end of movies. Allison can we have more updates? they’re a treat

    1. Not Australian*

      Seconded. I know the year’s end is the usual update season, but this is a special case scenario and I’d *really* be glad to see more updates. Maybe people will have a bit more time to write in if they’re not spending hours every day commuting … or something!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My husband said the same thing — said I should do a special updates season now, given how crappy things are. Is there demand for this?

      1. BRR*

        There’s always time for updates! Add in that it’s nice to have a covid-19 break and we know you deserve some rest after working your tail off in general but especially since all of this really kicked up.

      2. Gingerblue*


        One thing that comes up in a lot of year-end updates is a sense from letter writers that their update has to be good, or has to be major, to be worth sending in. I think another update season would encourage people to send in more minor updates, which may be less dramatic but are often really interesting.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yeah, Alison answered a question of mine on here years ago and I remember feeling a little silly about asking it because I didn’t think it was “big enough.” I felt the same way about the update, which was basically “I took your advice and asked for the thing, and I got it.” (I did send it in though. I think it was included in a roundup like this.)

          1. periwinkle*

            I love small updates! Those “I took your advice and it helped me get what I needed” updates are reassuring.

            Most of them revolve around day-to-day problems we could realistically experience as well, as opposed to some of the memorably dramatic letters + updates. It’s likely that I’ll need to deal with an inattentive manager or procrastinating colleague. Chances are much lower that I’ll be tenaciously pursued by a cult of dieticians.

      3. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Always down for updates. But I do know you use update season as a chance to take a break in December, so don’t want to take away your opportunity for that!

      4. MassMatt*

        Yes! Updates are great. Even if the news is bad, it’s really good to know how things turned out vs: having to wonder.

      5. The Original K.*

        100%. The update to #3 here made me say “aw, that’s great” out loud. I would love to read more happy endings!

      6. LunaLena*

        Updates are welcome any time of year, in my opinion! Aside from just wanting to know how a crazy situation turned out, I think an important component is knowing if the advice worked. Or if they chose not to take the advice, what happened instead.

      7. Zombeyonce*

        Such a huge majority of the letters in the last weeks have been COVID-19 related or adjacent that having updates about completely unrelated things from the past would be a welcome change. (I’d also be happy to have updates on more recent letters, of course, but I’d expect those to come less often.)

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

    OP1, I’m glad there’s people pushing against this, but I’d job search in the meantime. Just in case C-Levels insist with their position.

    1. GilaMonster*

      Same here. It sounds like a toxic and ignorant space and being exposed to that day in and day out can be hurtful in a really quiet, insidious way. I’d be livid if someone on my work channel was allowed to create a slack bot that corrected wording based loosely on “Christian” aspects of control, let alone the underlying tones of bigotry against LGBTQ+. Yuck.

    2. MassMatt*

      Thanks for the update, OP!

      I would check what protections your city or state offers against discrimination in employment. It may not help to counteract management’s hostility, but can allow legal redress if it comes down to them trying to fire you for being gay.

      I mentioned this in another thread, many people are under the impression LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination at the federal level–they are not. Discriminating against people based on sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation, is legal in 29 states. This means we have a patchwork of partial protections in some cities or states and not others. If the LW is from Texas or Ohio (outside of some cities) he is SOL.

      There is far too little knowledge of, or outrage about, this issue. Many people assume this struggle has already been won. On the contrary, there is a concerted and well-funded effort to undermine and roll back protections that DO exist under the guise of “religious freedom”.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        Massmatt, +1000. Way too many straight people are stunned when I tell them we gays aren’t protected federally.

  3. CupcakeCounter*

    I recently left a job where everyone except the sales force had desktop computers. It was an issue as I had a critical role in the finance department so things blew up every time I or my kid was sick and I couldn’t come in. Needless to say this caused MASSIVE issues when the pandemic hit. The shit really hit the fan when the parent company found out they would have to order and set up over 200 laptops in order to keep the business running while the shelter in place orders were in place. Less than 2 years who a bunch of us in the more critical roles were due for new machines and we fought and fought to get laptops like the people in similar roles at our other companies were getting but our leadership team vetoed it and we got new desktops. So they had recently replaced over 75 desktops and then had to turn around and make another huge expenditure for the laptops.
    And yes, that inflexibility was a huge part of the reason I left.

    1. Elizabeth West*


      Best solution IMO: laptops with docks and desktop monitors. This was how Exjob did it. Yes, it was a tech company, but still, forward-thinking companies will have these from now on, if they don’t already.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        That’s what my company did the last time our machines were due for replacements. Everyone got a laptop with docks and monitors where needed and it saved their bacon when coronavirus hit and suddenly 500 IT workers had to work from home exclusively.

      2. The IT Plebe*

        This is what we are working on. I work at a school and all the teachers have laptops and all the students have iPads. Most of the staff work on desktops. It was quite the adventure scrambling to set up desktop workers with laptops (thankfully we have a small collection of spares we give out as loaners whenever a teacher’s laptop goes on the fritz), and while we had been talking about transitioning staff members to laptops with docking stations so they can keep their current monitor setup well before all this happened, it’s really highlighted the need for us to push that through more than ever.

    2. Observer*

      Eh. I do desktops at work, and it’s not because I’m a grinch. It’s because for most of our staff it is more ergonomic and more cost effective. Sure, we had a bit of an issue when the pandemic hit (although we’ve been able to set most of our staff up), but we’re still ahead financially.

      It’s true that a lot of people are using their personal equipment, but these are people who would normally not be working from home, as their effectiveness is genuinely being constrained by this (people who work from home regularly get equipment at home – it’s safer than having them cart the laptop back and forth.) Also, a lot of these people do not WANT a computer from us – they are not really set up for WFH, and don’t really have space for yet another rig. The ones who are suddenly needing to share their equipment with are getting equipment.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        I don’t disagree that desktops make sense for a lot of roles. Mine wasn’t one of them and it was a major issue for my entire time there. Issues caused by unplanned absences (i.e. my FIL and grandfather’s funerals, sick me, sick kid, etc…) due to the critical nature of my role even came up in a performance review once. We were talking about 6 instances over 4 years so, as you can imagine, I lost my shit on him. That was removed from the official review but that was the end for me.

      2. ThatGirl*

        In my experience, the best option is a dockable laptop with real monitor(s), keyboard and mouse — that way you have the ergonomic option and bigger screens for a desk, but it’s still portable as needed. That’s what I’ve had at my last two companies and it’s really nice to have that flexibility.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a good set up for a lot of positions, but tends to be expensive. And, as I said, we don’t want people carting their work computer around unless there is a specific good reason for that.

          My point being that while sometimes these decisions get made for stupid reasons (eg “We’ve always done it that way”), sometimes there are actually good reasons for them.

          1. allathian*

            I assume your office is a cube farm rather than hotdesking hell?
            I also hope that your employer has a generous PTO/sick leave policy, so that in normal times people aren’t going to the office when they could WFH instead if only they had the equipment. I do hope some of these policies will change following COVID. The new normal isn’t going to be the same as the old.
            I guess I may be biased, because for me, using personal equipment for work is a huge no-no.
            I work for the government in one of the Nordics, and for us it’s actually prohibited by law to use our own equipment at work, at least when dealing with confidential personal data. This is because it’s very difficult to fire someone who works for the government and you can only fire someone effective immediately if they do something that’s actually against the law.

      3. Mike S*

        I get the impression that most business laptops that support USB3 can drive a dock that’ll support 2+ monitors. As I type this, I’m using a laptop that’s closed with 2 external monitors and a full sized keyboard + mouse. The USB cable doubles as the laptop’s power cable, so I can just unplug and go if I want to take the laptop somewhere.
        I also have a desktop computer in the office, mainly for disk space. Some apps I use require a lot of local disk.

      4. Rachel in NYC*

        We have good laptops for people who are often on the go- they need to carry their laptops with them. The rest of desktops in the office and most of us have always had hand-me-down laptops as WFH computers, even if our boss doesn’t want us to WFH. But it did make this an easier transition- everyone just needed to bring tech in for updates.

      5. Quill*

        My desk setup in cube was essentially a screen and keyboard hooked into a laptop docking port, and the laptop is essentially the modem of that quasi-desktop setup. It was definitely more ergonomic than my current setup.

        I miss my number pad from my keyboard something fierce. So much slower to enter numbers using the row above the main keyboard!

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. I have a spare keyboard just for that. I can barely remember my computer’s PIN on the laptop keyboard, but muscle memory’s automatic on the big keyboard. At home I have one external monitor in addition to the laptop. In the office I have two external monitors.

    3. Kate H*

      Everyone has a desktop at my current employer. Everyone. Most higher level employees also have laptops but I typically only see those in use during meetings. My boss only has one because it was the only way he would be allowed VPN access to a specific program.

      When management finally agreed to allow us to WFH, we took our whole set-ups home. PC, two monitors, mouse, keyboard and assorted cords all loaded into my car.

    4. JessB*

      This is so interesting- at my job, they were slowly rolling out laptops to everyone, which we use with docks at our desk, and most of us have extra monitors, keyboards, etc.
      Then, our building had an emergency in January and we all had to evacuate, for unknown length of time, with about 15 minutes notice… wow! We actually had space already hired in a building right behind, so we moved there, most of us with our laptops under our arms.
      However, our Sales team were next on the list to be changed over to laptops, and had to leave their desktops behind. Luckily our IT team could get back into the building and picked up all our spare laptops, and set them up for the team.
      It was an incredible test of our disaster plan, and ensured that nearly everyone in the company had a laptop to work from as COVID-19 hit. We started with advice to everyone to take their laptops home every night, and then after announcements about shut-downs from our government (I’m in Australia) on a Sunday, we were allowed to take home equipment from the office to help us work from home, starting Tuesday.
      As someone else said here, people drove into the office and loaded up their cars, with everything from monitors and keyboards to desk chairs! We had to tell our manager everything we took, to keep track of it all.
      I do think that my company do flexibility and agility really well, and it makes them really great to work for.

  4. Blueberry*

    LW #1, I am delighted that your update has at least some good news, and also that you were not daunted by the less… supportive comments to your original letter. Your fellow LGBTQ+ workers are cheering you on! All good fortune and may the C-suites see reason!

    1. Lance*

      Occasionally I wind up back at that letter skimming the archives, and several of the comments make me so sad. That said, OP, good to hear that some progress is being made; hopefully that’ll continue going forward!

    2. HoHumDrum*

      I went back to read that once since I didn’t remember it, and that whole section is just…wow. Jaw-droppingly infuriating. So many false equivalencies and people co-opting terms of oppression.

      I am very glad LW1 was able to mine the positive bits out of the convo, and is doing well!

  5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Congratulations, #3. I’m so happy to hear you were able to find work.

    I also hope that your story serves as hope for others who are job searching right now in the middle of this downturn.

  6. Observer*

    #1 –
    The automatic responses went away after the first few times they were triggered—including once by the person who set them up!

    I have to admit I got a good laugh out of that.

    and we have had customer complaints (I think some of the commenters were spot-on when they said some people associate any sign of queerness with sex, unfortunately

    I’m curious, where the complaints along the lines of “He mentioned his boyfriend! Think of the children!” or referring to something more overt? Something along the lines of everyone else’s pictures are along the lines of typical studio portrait or family picture and complaint was a bout a picture of a couple plastered all over each other. Because if it’s the latter, then it doesn’t belong at work regardless of the genders of the participants. But if it’s the former, then the company needs to treat it like any other unreasonable complaint. No, the customer is NOT always right.

    1. MayLou*

      People do genuinely complain just because they discover that gay people are existing in their vicinity. A blood donation nurse once compared me to a paedophilic sex offender when I happened to refer to my wife. (Yes, I reported her.)

      1. Observer*

        That’s gross. I’m sorry that happened to you.

        I know that crazy stuff happens. That why I asked, rather than making assumptions. I’ve seen both kinds of things go down.

    2. Alli525*

      Yeah – I spent most of my childhood in the Bible belt, and it did sometimes seem like people’s thought process jumped directly from “person states a preference for the same sex/gender” to “SODOMY!!!!!!!” and all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that entailed. Almost as if gay people had been depicted by influential people like Ronald Reagan as sex-crazed nymphomaniacs who ran around infecting everyone they could touch. (There’s probably a fair amount of HIV/AIDS history involved in that thought process.)

    3. AIM*

      As a queer person myself, I find it entirely believable that the complaints were generated simply by the acknowledgement that LGBTQ people exist, and I would trust the OP’s framing of that. I’ve been excused of “shoving my sexuality in people’s faces” and otherwise spoken to/about as if I were airing extremely private bedroom details simply for using the word “girlfriend” when talking about… my girlfriend.

    4. Laney Boggs*

      Comment from Stop Sexualizing LGBT People at the original question :

      “I was raised Mormon which is a very conservative type of Christian.

      I’m not Mormon or Christian anymore but I’m still unlearning the intense homophobia that came along with my upbringing.

      Essentially (even now that I know better), when I think of straight couples, my first thought is: LOVE.

      Romance. Partnership. Creating a life of joyful memories together!

      But when I think about gay couples, my first thought is: SEX.

      The existence of LGBTQ people was intensely sexualized the first 20 years of my life. It’s why “gay = bad” where I’m from. Because gay sex.

      It’s an extremely toxic viewpoint that I’m unfortunately very familiar with so I get why “Christian values in the workplace” means not mentioning LGBTQ people exist.

      Because the only way I was taught to think about LGBTQ people was in an inappropriately sexualized-at-all-times way.

      So to say “gay people exist” was a sexual statement, not a neutral one.”

      I think they put it best.

    5. winter*

      I find your second hypothetical weird. Why would you assume (and posing that question is an assumption) that somebody who is scared of being discrimated against for being LGBT would have a picture like that?

  7. PLM*

    I’m not understanding why a company using Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays is anti LGBTQ specifically. It’s not inclusive of other faiths though. Granted the HR person’s flagging of perceived blasphemy is extremely odd and offputting and I’d probably not be able to stop myself from purposely using “Oh my god!” all the time just to get their goat. – Churches are full of LGBTQ people too .Christianity is not just practiced by straights.

    1. Kelly L.*

      But people who actively want to ban Happy Holidays overlap very closely with people who are also anti-LGBTQ. The Christians who are OK with gay folks are generally also OK with you saying Happy Holidays to them. Certain culture-war crusades tend to come bundled.

    2. Rainy*

      I don’t think that’s what anyone was saying. It’s not that “Merry Xmas” is homophobic, it’s that when a company starts mandating “Merry Xmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” it can be a symptom of the kind of Christianity that is explicitly homophobic and in other ways problematic to people who don’t subscribe to the standard conservative Christian belief set.

    3. Tiny Soprano*

      It’s correlation, not causation. Typically an indicator of conservative mindsets and behaviours that often include anti-LBGT+ sentiment. As a queer Christian myself I still find my shoulders go up around my ears when people do it.

  8. Quill*

    LW 1, I’m so glad you wrote back, I was worried about you! And I’m so glad that by skipping over the execs you were able to get a positive response.

  9. Violet Fox*

    #2 Laptops and other IT equipment are a bit hard to come by right now as well. Normally supply lines haven’t really been working great for IT equipment since January, and everyone and their cat that don’t already have laptops want *all the laptops* these days.

    Where I work the big in-demand thing has been iPads (the type that use the pencil), we ran through our entire pool of iPads for grading really quickly, and the few we ordered for some phd students and postdocs are currently stuck in a logistics black-hole. Apple laptops we can get fine, other laptops not so much, and iPads, we are getting stories from our supplier about shipments of 10,000 iPadPros coming into town and them disappearing before any manage to get shipped to us because we ordered around 4, not a bulk order.

    Webcams were hard to get, and were only obtainable because we were willing to buy the expensive ones. Small mercy that this happened early in the year and most of our IT budget hadn’t been spent yet, granted some of that is because we have been having trouble buying workstations due to motherboard production issues (we have some amazing disco-lit motherboards because that is the only thing our supplier could get his hands on — ordered in January, arrived in April…)

    Bluetooth headsets on the other hand, we haven’t been able to get ahold of at all.

  10. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: Thank goodness your office didn’t turn into The Handmaid’s Tale! I was worried about you.

  11. aett*

    OP1: The swearing part reminded me of my great-uncle who was a Catholic priest. He swore like a sailor (at least, when he wasn’t actually in mass) and once told me that there’s nothing wrong with swearing so long as you’re not using God’s name in vain or anything like that.

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