I don’t know if I’m still invited to my customer’s wedding, my husband is borderline rude at work, and more

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

1. I don’t know if I’m still invited to my customer’s wedding after I came out of the closet

I’m a woman working in agriculture, which is an incredibly male-dominated and conservative industry. One of my customers is a woman who’s right around my age (mid 20s) and we really hit it off! My team also does a lot of business with her and her team.

She’s currently engaged, and we chat about wedding planning pretty often during our work lunches. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was thrilled back in February when she sent me a Save the Date for her summer wedding! I was the only member of my company invited. I texted her to thank her and tell her I was so excited, and she responded that I’m welcome to bring a date.

Well as it turns out, my wonderful girlfriend proposed to me in April and now we’re engaged! I used my engagement as the way of me coming out at work — I wear my ring, and I posted an announcement of our engagement on my Facebook, where I am friends with my customer. She texted me a very sincere congratulations and made a comment that we would have to talk wedding planning together. I was very relieved.

Obviously with the pandemic, I haven’t been able to see my customer in months. It’s busy season, and we aren’t talking much because of that. I also haven’t received the invitation to her wedding, which I think I should have gotten by now. It’s incredibly tacky to ask if I’m still invited, but I’m also in the process of moving, so I’m worried it could get lost in the mail since she doesn’t have my new address. Should I give her my new address? Should I speak to her about the wedding and mention I won’t bring my fiancé if she doesn’t want, because I don’t want to “steal the spotlight”? (While my fiancé and I are both feminine and don’t “look gay,” fiancé’s preferred formalwear is a suit and two women together would definitely be something to talk about here.) How do I go about handling this situation tactfully? I’m at a total loss.

Please don’t offer not to bring your fiancé when you were specifically offered a plus-one! You’d be assuming your customer is a bigot or someone who caters to bigotry when it doesn’t sound like she’s given you reason to think that. (And if she is a bigot or catering to bigotry, it’s not on you to facilitate that.)

A lot of people with summer weddings have their planning on hold right now because they can’t confidently move forward while COVID-19 cases are still increasing. It’s very possible that’s your customer’s situation too. But it would be fine to email her with your new address; that’s not presumptuous, since you received a Save the Date. And it might prompt her to tell you more about what’s be going on.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’ve discovered my husband is borderline rude at work

I’m writing to ask about my husband’s work style and whether you think I should address it with him. He works in a different industry than I do and has been with the same company for over a decade. He’s done quite well for himself and by all measures seems to be great at his job.

Now that we’re home all the time (we both WFH full-time currently), I’ve heard him on his calls and he can be extremely terse and short with his colleagues and manager, to the point of being rude. Sentences like, “let me stop you there,” “that’s not what I said,” “no, you’re not listening to me,” “let me finish speaking,” etc. but in a tone of voice that I wouldn’t appreciate being addressed in. I recognize his tone/attitude because he has used it with me occasionally when we’re having an argument. He’s truly a great person and husband but if he spoke to me like he sometimes speaks to his colleagues I would have a major problem with it.

This is complicated by the fact that he had a stroke last year which did affect some parts of his personality, although he’s recovered well otherwise. Being a woman at work is so different than being a man so I’m not sure if for a man, this type of workplace behavior is okay, or if I should gently mention something to him?

It’s possible he works in an office where that kind of combativeness is more acceptable, but in most places that would mark him as difficult to work with, and possibly worse. It’s worth bringing up with him, framing it as, “This seems out of character for you and I didn’t know if you realized how it’s coming across.”

I also wouldn’t discount the possibility that the stroke is playing a role here — and in fact you could frame your concern around that if it makes it easier to raise.

3. My coworker emailed the staff list to say COVID-19 is a hoax

I am wondering if I am overreacting or if this is really as bad as I think it is. I have a coworker (she’s an admin assistant) who has frequently sent what I feel to be politically charged emails to the entire staff. Yesterday, we all got one saying that COVID-19 is a hoax, and that if we’re smart, we’ll abandon our state’s continuing stay-at-home order and start going about our lives as normal. This seems highly inappropriate to me, and like a liability to my employer. She also wears t-shirts with political slogans to work, shirts which are clearly against our dress code. Should I speak up, or just hope management is dealing with this behind the scenes?

Speak up. You’re not overreacting; her message is offensive and a wildly inappropriate use of your staff email list. I’m surprised that your management hasn’t already shut this down — if nothing else, because they presumably don’t want others to start flooding your staff email list with their own political messages.

If you have a fair amount of seniority and capital, one option is to reply directly to the coworker and cc her manager saying, “Please do not use the staff list for this kind of message. It’s for work communications, not political agendas, and I doubt we want the list to be flooded with political debates.” Otherwise — or if you think that will just inflame this loon — go straight to either her boss or whoever in your company has the authority to shut this down and ask them to do so. (And really, why hasn’t her boss already done that? Any chance your boss share the same whackjob views?)

4. Is it unethical to start a business competing with a former employer?

A colleague and I are having a debate about the ethics of starting a business that would be a direct competitor of a former employer.

Colleague and I worked for the same small business, which was bought out by a slightly larger company several years into our employment. The transition did not go smoothly, and we, along with several other coworkers, half-jokingly entertained dreams of breaking off to do our own thing – we all loved the work, but all felt that the new management was a problem. Colleague and I both stuck it out for a few years after the merger, but things never appreciably improved, and we’ve both since moved on to other opportunities.

Since then, though, we still occasionally get asked about whether we’ve considered going into business for ourselves. Obviously starting a business comes with a plethora of issues and considerations, but one of the big ones for me is about ethics. Our hypothetical new business would take on some work that our former company doesn’t do, but much of the work would be in the same niche as former company, such that we’d become direct competitors of our former employer. Colleague doesn’t see this as an issue at all; his viewpoint is something to the effect of, competition is a fact of life in the business world, and if we can do the work better, why shouldn’t we?

For me, however, using skills I learned from former employer to directly compete with them feels a little shady. There are certainly other companies in this industry, all competing for the same work, and I tend to have a somewhat overblown sense of loyalty, so that probably factors in … but the idea still just feels a little icky.

So, I’m curious to hear what you think. Is this a case where one could go forth and prosper guilt-free? Or are there ethical issues to consider?

This is a very normal thing that happens all the time, and it’s not generally considered unethical or icky. It can become that if you’re using proprietary information about your former employer’s products or strategy or you’ve taken client lists with you or that sort of thing — but you’ve usually signed something agreeing not to do that anyway. The fact that you’d be using skills that you learned while working for them doesn’t complicate this — they don’t own those skills for the rest of your life. They paid you to use them while you worked there, and you get to keep (and use) your skills once you move on, whether it’s for someone else’s company or your own.

This is your line of work! It makes sense that you might want to start a business in the area you specialize in. Assuming you’re not violating a legitimate non-compete or other legal agreement, you should be fine.

5. Should I reply to an email updating me on a hiring timeline?

I recently applied to a job that could be the first step to a dream career! I received an automatic acknowledgement when I submitted the application, but received another one nine days later. The second acknowledgement was sent from an employee, thanked me for my interest, and explained the communication timeline regarding next steps. I was wondering if it’s wise to send a short acknowledgement of my own or risk appearing over-eager. Just something short like, “Thank you for providing this information. I look forward to hearing from (organization) over the next couple of months.” Too much or just enough?

Neither — just unnecessary. It just won’t make an impression either way. It’s sort of the equivalent of the “thanks!” emails you sometimes get back when you send out routine info; just as you delete those and don’t pay attention to them, it’s the same thing here. It’s fine to send a thanks if you want to, but it’s not something you need to think much about either way.

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: The things you’ve heard your husband saying are things I might say if other people were routinely cutting me off or misunderstanding what I was trying to communicate. I don’t think they’re rude. You can’t always maintain a kind tone of voice when you’ve been interrupted in the middle of a sentence that needs to be finished if work tasks have to be done in a certain way. You can’t always let people get away with finishing your sentences for you, especially if they’re not finishing your sentences correctly.

    1. WS*

      +1, I agree – without knowing the other side of the conversation, it’s hard to say if your husband is being curt or if he’s used to dealing with people who have verbal diarrhea. It does no harm to talk to him about it, but there might be more to the conversation than the side you can hear.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Second this. I’ve said the same things to certain peers and direct reports who interrupt, misinform, derail, or hijack my meetings. I tried to keep my tone polite but firm, but with some people I had to sound annoyed or they wouldn’t ‘hear’ me.

    2. Rollergirl09*

      That’s so true. I work in an operations capacity where I have to deal with sales non-stop and I often have to tell them no. Most sales people don’t take to kindly to that and they fight me on it and interrupt and cut me off constantly. I tried to be as polite as possible but I’m not going to get steamrolled by sales when I’m just doing my job.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’ve been on both sides of sales – I was a salesperson for some years and then moved over to work for a former customer, now I’m the one doing the purchasing. It drives me crazy when salespeople are so pushy! Especially if they cut you off when you’re trying to tell them you’re not interested. I had a lot more success with my former customers when I went with the flow and let them tell me what they needed. Luckily the former company I worked for didn’t push us to sell sell sell, because they recognized we shouldn’t drive our customers nuts. It made me realize it’s not necessary to be so pushy, and made me more assertive when I want to tell salespeople I don’t need what they’re pushing. It was especially helpful when I was buying a car :)

    3. TechWorker*

      Yeah I do think it’s really hard to judge from the one side of the conversation so its worth not assuming he’s in the wrong as a starting point.

      (Also wfh is hard enough without feeling like you’re being overheard and judged – which I debated about writing because I’m not trying to pile on at OP! But when you only know half the story it might be good to give him the benefit of doubt).

    4. Avasarala*

      But OP also mentions that he says it in the tone he uses when they’re having an argument. This is important information. If someone repeatedly says those phrases in a tone that sounds frustrated, argumentative, forceful–whatever OP means–that is pretty bristly for a normal call. I’m also wondering why OP’s husband has to consistently fight for his time to speak and struggles to be understood.

      Especially saying those things to one’s manager! Certainly you need to advocate for yourself but he seems very pushy to me.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes, OP makes it clear that the tone is unacceptably rude. I’m not sure I agree that a pleasant tone means one can use curt language, but one certainly shouldn’t combine harsh language with harsh tone and expect to be considered professional – unless maybe as a drill sergeant?

        1. Roscoe*

          “unacceptably rude” is, I’d argue, a subjective term. I’ve had bosses that some people considered rude who I just considered blunt and telling it like it is. He was one of my favorite managers, and I’m sure others didn’t necessarily agree.

            1. Roscoe*

              But she isn’t his boss. This is a workplace issue. If his boss has a problem with the way he talks, the boss can say something.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                No one is suggesting she take him to task for it; the suggestion is that she talk to him about how it sounds from her end and learn more.

              2. JSPA*


                If it’s how he’s been prospering for a decade, then like it or not, it’s acceptable under his work culture.

                If it’s new, and related to COVID stress, or to a stroke, or to difficulties dealing with a flood of info via Zoom, post-stroke, it’s very much on work to deal with it. (Or not.) He may have talked it out with colleagues, and they may have decided that this is an accommodation of sorts, just as they might if someone getting deafer were getting louder over time, or someone with a degenerative eye condition took to standing much closer than the US norm.

                It’s also possible that he’s slotted in with a bunch of garrulous, distracted coworkers, and they’ve come to rely on him being the sheepdog in every conversation. Not all happy, functional workplaces (or friend groups) function because everyone sticks to a happy medium. Some are a collection of 10 extreme introverts and the one extrovert, or 10 happy-go-lucky types and one rules/time-enforcer. If he’s “Kumar who keeps us all in line” or “Lachlan the timekeeper” (and it’s said with respect and fondness) that’s…a valid way of functioning, and a reason he’d be valued.

                Now, if the curtness it bleeds over into their private life (that is, if he’s using the tone more at home, or using it at home shortly after using it at work) then asking about his frustration level, and what else he could do, besides cutting people off, testily, or saying, “they may value you for this at work–or not, I don’t know–but this is not welcome with me” are all totally reasonable. Ditto if it’s extreme enough that it’s making OP cringe, having to overhear it, ever.

                1. Delphine*

                  If it’s how he’s been prospering for a decade, then like it or not, it’s acceptable under his work culture.

                  What a workplace will accommodate, particularly from men, and what’s acceptable in a professional setting, are two different things.

                2. JM60*

                  “If it’s how he’s been prospering for a decade, then like it or not, it’s acceptable under his work culture.”

                  We don’t know if it’s been how he’s been operating for a decade. While it is on his workplace to deal with it if it’s a new issue, that doesn’t mean the OP shouldn’t bring it up! It may be hurting the husband’s working relationship. For all we know, this is not acceptable in the OP’s workplace, and the husband may unknowingly be skating on thin ice in spite of his manager not addressing the issue.

              3. Avasarala*

                I don’t think it’s out of line to say, “Hon, you sound frustrated on your calls, is everything OK?” That’s certainly something I could say to my husband. He can explain that it’s OK in his company’s culture, or take it into consideration that his tone might come off rude. Start a conversation.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I agree. One person’s “rude” is another’s “blunt.” I, too, have had managers that others considered to be rude or even combative, whereas I considered them to be blunt. I appreciated always knowing where I stood and I never felt they were being rude or condescending to me. I’ve also had managers, as well as peers, that were definitely rude and condescending, and I used the phrases OP mentions in order to try and get my point across.

            The only phrase OP mentions that I would *maybe* consider rude is “no, you’re not listening to me.” But it would be dependent on the context, tone, and volume. OP is only hearing one side of the conversation, so perhaps those phrases are justified. Maybe they’re not. I think OP can mention it to her husband if his tone is similar to when they’re arguing and it seems connected to the stroke, but beyond that it’s up to his manager to speak to him if it’s a problem.

            1. Kathlynn (canada)*

              yeah. I have a hard time modulating my tone when standing firm on stuff because of people growing up not understanding the concept of boundaries. So my “no” can come off as rude. When to me it’s blunt and following the rules. But then again, I also think people are too used to the smiling no, or people just doing what they want even if they aren’t supposed to (customer is always right).

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If someone says “you’re not listening to me” to me, I wouldn’t consider it rude. I’d be stopping to check whether I had been rude!

            3. Indigo a la mode*

              As another perspective, I almost never consider “blunt” to be polite. Direct communication is one (very good) thing, but in my experience, people who self-identify as speaking bluntly are, at best, juuust on this side of rude.

              1. Avasarala*

                Same. In my experience getting heated in a business meeting is an indication something else is wrong.

                “I’m just a blunt/honest person/I tell it like it is” is a huge red flag for me.

      2. Hermione Granger*

        I agree with this…..the same sentence can be really rude and abrasive or not upsetting or rude at all depending on manner in which is is delivered. Tone really matters with things like this.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t know–it reminds me of the only time I usually hear my husband using short harsh orders, which isn’t work but a team sport. And clearly within the context of other people in this team sport his tone is unremarkable and they go out socially when the competition wraps up and no one’s feelings are hurt by the brusqueness.

        1. Roscoe*

          Yes, context matters in these things. Hell, even among coworkers, I’d argue that the level of closeness makes a huge difference. People I get along well with at work have a lot more leeway than others to talk to me in certain ways before I’m upset

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Towards the end of my marriage, I made a switch from our usual yelling, screaming, and “oh, whatEVER” followed by silent treatment, to using my work tone in our arguments; calmly and rationally reasoning with the spouse, even when I found him utterly unreasonable (like I would with difficult users or coworkers that were also being unreasonable). It did help make the last couple of years together a bit more peaceful. Didn’t save the marriage, but nothing could at that point. So technically, during that time, the tone I used at work was the same tone that I used when my husband and I were having an argument. Maybe OP’s husband has been doing the same; using his work tone for arguments at home – and she’s just now finding out. But I guess his workplace requires more pushback than mine ever did, so he comes off as curt and hostile to OP.

    5. Tallulah in the Sky*

      This might be the case, but I don’t think it doesn’t mean OP can’t talk about this to her husband. As long as she doesn’t accuse him of anything, I think it’s ok to ask about it.

      If he tells her that he often talks to a certain colleague that interrupts him a lot or being this frank is how to get through to his boss, well then everything is ok. But there’s also the possibility that he doesn’t realize how aggressive or rude he’s being and doesn’t want to be, or is something he wants to work on… We can’t know, OP doesn’t know, and I don’t think there’s nothing harmful bringing this up and having a conversation about it.

    6. Tomalak*

      OP2, the tone is really important as you acknowledge, but I don’t think the comments themselves are unreasonable if he is being interrupted or misunderstood. If you hardly ever cut him off mid-sentence then of course he won’t use these words towards you, but that is to your credit rather than something he should be blamed for doing when he is interrupted by others.

      On the other hand, how long are the things he is saying before complaining of being interrupted? If he is prone to long, didactic explanations then I can see that being a problem in itself, especially if he can’t take a hint and gets irritable when interrupted.

      Likewise if he’s the kind of person who speaks in sentences or paragraphs, and if some poor person misses one word and asks specifically for that word proceeds to relaunch into the whole sentence or paragraph again from scratch (why do people do this?!)

      “Moving into the Summer we really will be looking to generate more revenue from a range of clients who get a new budget from 1 July and are all well disposed to our work, like Donaldsons, Rubins and Roberts…”
      “What was the second client you said, sorry?”
      “I said that moving into the Summer we really will be looking to generate …”

      At that point I am going to say “No, sure, I got you – I just didn’t hear the second client name” and I wouldn’t take kindly to him treating that as unreasonable.

      1. Koala dreams*

        There are of course a type of speaker who likes to monopolize the conversation, and gladly uses “Don’t interrupt me” as a way to do that, no matter if the other person was interrupting or not. I ended up at a social dinner once, at a table with six people, where two of them took turns speaking, and stopped all four of us from getting a word in, with this and other tactics. Also, some people just don’t keep track of who’s speaking. My mum is like that. I (or other family members) say something during the pause after she said something, and she will insist that she was speaking and I interrupted. Only after someone else agrees that she didn’t speak she will give in. I don’t understand it, but it’s a thing.

        Your description of a the type of speaker who only repeat the full paragraph reminds me of a math teacher I once had. No matter which step of the problem solving you asked about, the teacher would always start with step one. Very boring if you asked about step seven…

        So yes, it’s difficult to make a judgement from just one side of the conversation. It’s rude to interrupt, it’s rude to monopolize the conversation, it’s rude to ramble on when the question needs a short answer.

    7. Barney*

      I disagree. The phrases that OP included in her letter are all aggressive. That combined with what sounds like a terse tone is a pretty rude way to talk to your colleagues.

      1. Tomalak*

        Genuine question: if someone interrupts you and the rest of your sentence needed saying, what phrase would you use? Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to work with people who never interrupt you or cut you off inappropriately but many of us have. What do you think is the appropriate way to respond if not something like “let me finish”?

        I agree with you about tone.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Something along the lines of “I’m just getting to that” – or if it’s a presentation then “that’s on the next slide” or “can we hold that thought for the questions?” can be useful.

          I’ve had specific feedback before that one of my strengths is keeping other people on topic, and those are examples of how I do so pleasantly.

          1. tom*

            What if I am not getting to that and the interrupting person is not asking me question? Which is most common interruption in my experience – someone who jumps in with own points unwilling to let you finish sentence.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Oh, I see what you mean – when they’re just totally changing the subject regardless of your contribution? I don’t think I’ve ever encountered that professionally (LUCK) and in social situations I am not usually sufficiently invested to bother circling back beyond holding on for a casual “so the reason I brought up the trope of one-legged pirates before is that it’s illustrative of how inclusive privateers were for the period.”

              1. tom*

                No, that is not what I mean. What I mean is situation in which they are not interrupting me with a question.

                All your proposals were appropriate to situation in which person interrupts with a question. There are many other situations in which people interrupt each other: when they want to argue against you or previous speaker, when they want to add own details, when they dont want to hear your argument, when they think their argument is better, when they dont care about your points, when they are impatient.

                Completely changing topic is not what I said or implied.

                1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  I think that in those situations it isn’t so much the interruption that’s frustrating as the underlying motivations you list (being argumentative, being closed-minded, being thoughtless, being impatient) at which point it seems irrelevant whether you finished your point or not. They end up in a change of direction for the conversation even if the overall topic is the same.

                  Could this be the time for interrupting them right back with a “yes but” to bring the conversation back on track? Looking at your other examples:

                  tom: the problem could we solved if we moved teapots into office and used the space for …
                  Interrupter: I have idea, lets solve problem by …
                  tom: yes but we’re not talking about that at the moment, and when the teapots are in the office we can …

                  tom: framework failed when …
                  Interrupter: the framework has cool feature x!
                  tom: yes but we can’t make use of x while it’s still failing by catching fire / returning invalid data / writing over its own code.

                  tom: when it was that way, the customer complained about …
                  Interrupter: or we could move customers …
                  tom: yes but while we still have a contract with these customers we have to consider their complaints about …

                  I’m offering these from the perspective of trying to make it sound like you’re sympathising and all collaborating, even though you want to say “shut up, Fergus.”

              2. tom*

                To add example:

                Me: the problem could we solved if we moved teapots into office and used the space for …
                Interrupter: I have idea, lets solve problem by …

                Me: framework failed when …
                Interrupter: the framework has cool feature x!

                Me: when it was that way, the customer complained about …
                Interrupter: or we could move customers …

                I was interrupted, question was not asked.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  Two strategies I’ve seen that can work when someone interrupts you:

                  1. Wait till they’re finished with a blank look on your face, like you’re not quite engaging/tracking with what they’re saying but without appearing rude or frustrated about it, then calmly say “as I was saying, …” and go back to your topic without addressing the content of what they just said. Basically you are treating it like a blip on the radar that happened and can be ignored.

                  2. Jump in with a polite but firm and loud-enough to be heard over them “please let me finish speaking”. Then if they stop, you can maybe throw in a quick pleasant “thank you”, then continue on speaking in a normal tone (don’t sound as annoyed as you probably are, otherwise your emotions become a distraction from the point you’re trying to make). You don’t have to say thank you but it does subtly reinforce good behavior (yielding the floor back to the speaker they had interrupted), so it can help over time.

                  Strategy #2 won’t work with someone determined to interrupt. If they won’t stop talking, you can use strategy # 1 – and though you can’t prevent them from talking, you can at least withhold the positive reinforcement type of attention they are seeking by keeping an impassive countenance and not engaging with their content at all before returning to yours.

                  This option also allows you to give them the option to save face, especially if you throw in a quick smile or other verbalized acknowledgement (which communicates “hey! You just said some things and I acknowledge you, fellow human!”) before you launch into your subject again – meaning it’s often a better option to use for someone who has higher status/power than you OR for someone who is especially sensitive to losing face/feeling reprimanded.

                  Essentially it’s a neutral/blank response to the behavior you don’t want and a positive response when they let you speak.

              3. tom*

                > I think that in those situations it isn’t so much the interruption that’s frustrating as the underlying motivations you list (being argumentative, being closed-minded, being thoughtless, being impatient) at which point it seems irrelevant whether you finished your point or not. They end up in a change of direction for the conversation even if the overall topic is the same.

                No, the interruption itself prevents me to tell what I want to say. It prevents me to be heard. It is not just feeling of being annoyed over estimated interruption. It is actual ability to achieve something on the meeting. Also, regardless of motivation, people leaving meeting with “tom promised x or said y” when I did not is something actively harmful to my projects and positions.

                > Could this be the time for interrupting them right back with a “yes but” to bring the conversation back on track?

                It is possible, assuming I agree with their point. I can interrupt too. But for frequent interrupters, “you are interrupting me” does better job at setting the boundary. Especially when it is about someone trying to be dominant (whether to scare me or for fun or to push for own things).

                It works also better when that person is just impatient and jumping into it without realizing he/she is annoying interrupter.

                > tom: framework failed when …
                > Interrupter: the framework has cool feature x!
                > tom: yes but we can’t make use of x while it’s still failing by catching fire / returning invalid data / writing over its own code.

                The third sentence does not follow. Typical the framework failing in one situation does not lead to apparent instance fire and writing over itself issue. It typically “just” leads to more bugs or more time spent working around framework issues. Exaggerating those issues is wrong way to go about it. The proposed answer does not apply in most common situation where the framework is bad choice, but not company on fire bad choice and someone has preference for it.

                Especially since the actual problem is social. Someone might have solution for the framework failing, might tell it and thus we might use it after all.

                > I’m offering these from the perspective of trying to make it sound like you’re sympathising and all collaborating, even though you want to say “shut up, Fergus.”

                Really, learning to say these directly improved my work experience a lot. Trying to seen like good person by letting people walk over me made people like me. It also made me loose in politics and debates. Less able to achieve what needed to be achieved and less suitable for more leadership positions.

                I want to collaborate, but being seen as collaborating is not the only message I need to send. With some people, I also need to send the “stop using aggressive tactic on me” message.

                And the most important message is the original content of what I was talking about.

                1. Oatmeal*

                  Where are you from? These norms differ from place to place and obviously the commenter you are replying to isn’t giving you word for word scripts to use but is rather showing you strategies that work in the US where politeness is valued over directness, in many cases. There is no one way to respond to interrupters, and if your method is not getting you the results you want this thread has some ideas to other strategies to try. But you have to translate them to your own context.

        2. Erin Smith*

          I think the more telling phrase included by OP is the “let me stop you there”— I agree that sometimes in a professional setting it is necessary to speak up for yourself when interrupted, but it sounds like the OP’s husband is perfectly comfortable doing the interrupting as well. A non-confrontational conversation about it doesn’t seem out of line. I have more than one boss who probably thinks their communication style is fine and normal…because the employees would never speak up to tell them it is rude and aggressive.

      2. Vina*

        Perhaps they are aggressive. Where I might differ is the presumption that type of response is never warranted. If someone repeatedly steps on my broken foot – whether on purpose or not- at some point I’m warranted in pushing them off if they don’t respond to “please move.”

        We have no idea who is in the other end. Does LW?

        We don’t even know if H is speaking with one person, 3, or 300 different people when he says this.

        There is a huge difference between him saying this to the 3 blowhard repeated interruptors than saying it to everyone.

        Before LW offers counseling to H, she should do some fact gathering. Who is he doing this to? Only the jerk or everyone? Why does he think he’s doing it? Does she believe him? Is it really just the stroke causing it? If so, can it be fixed? If not, what then?

        Strokes can cause permanent personality change or worsen existing behaviors. But so can the trauma of an event like that.

        I honestly don’t feel I have enough to say what’s going on. If he is this way with everyone and it is the stroke, talking to him won’t help. No matter what she says. You can’t logic and soft talk your way around brain damage. In that case, They both need to talk to his doctors.

        1. Vina*

          PS I’m not a doctor, but I work with a subset of clients who are over 75. Anger is a common side effect of a stroke. Usually it wanes and behavior improved, but not always. A lot of the doctors I work with recommend individual and couples therapy after a stroke to help deal with the anger resulting from the brain damage.

          It may be that H can’t control feeling angry and sometimes pure rage. They question to me is whether he had control his reaction to it. I don’t know. That’s a question for his doctors.

          We also don’t know his age. It may be time to retire and reduce stress.

          1. Vina*

            PPS to LW there are groups to help support spouses after stroke in my area. There may be ones near you.

            Also, while I’m in the USA, I recommend the UK stroke association website. They have a great white paper in emotional changes after stroke.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          Your last paragraph touches on what I was wondering – does H talk that way only on work calls, or would he respond the same way to his relatives or friends?

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            OP mentions that he does it to her during arguments. I wonder whether his meetings are combative (bad culture or bad management?) or whether he’s misjudging them.

      3. tom*

        If someone misunderstood me or is intentionally twisted what I am saying or was not listening and is guesses what I said, what exactly am I supposed to say? Just sit there and let my words to be twisted? Likewise with someone who is not letting me to finish the point or is not reacting to the points I made.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I see your point here, it’s really not that helpful to tell a person not to do something without offering a substitute way of dealing with it.

          I’d add also that since it comes up often enough perhaps meetings need better moderation OR perhaps hubby can develop new ways of saying things so the situation doesn’t even start to unfold. There may be some overarching factors to consider.

          For OP. you could try something like, “You sounded a little sharp there when you were talking with Bob and Sue. Did you mean to?” Or, OP, maybe you could say, “Sometimes I hear a real edge in your voice when you are on the phone. Is everything okay?”

          I can say that when I have worked in fast paced environments things get said in a manner that would not be used otherwise. In an extreme example think of a fire suddenly breaking out. A person is not going to take the time to add polite features to their sentences, such as excuse me or please. And it would be reasonable to expect the person to sound like they are ordering people around or being pushy or bossy: “THIS WAY! USE THIS DOOR!” People aren’t offended by the tone.
          A similar thing can happen in work conversations. I have seen cohorts get really upset, fretting about a problem. I have said things such as “It will be okay, calm down” or “Give me a second, I have an idea I need to finish explaining.” I would not talk this way in ordinary conversation, I responding to their upset/panic.

          OP, one suggestion I have is to talk about watching agitation accelerate. If a person I am speaking to become agitated, I can feel my own agitation escalating. It’s really helpful at work to learn to watch for this cycle, one person has to remain calm. Or at least appear to remain calm. I found it helpful to ask myself, “Do I need to escalate just because this other person is escalating?” Many of the times I catch myself in this trap are the times when I am not sure about my own thinking either.

          1. Vina*

            I think this is a good approach.

            There is a man who DH and I know. He’d never admit he’s sexist, but when he’s around, women can’t get a word in edgewise and he never actually tries to engage them. We’ve taken to purposefully cutting in. He gets sour back. But it’s the only way we are ever going to be something more than a decorative part of the conversation.

            If I were to give you a script of how this goes without the context, you’d think the women were being jerks.

            Context is king.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          Honestly, I have found this could depend on who I was talking to. I can remember once trying to suggest an improvement to a task to Umbridge my ex-boss – for the context, we all had a list of particular people to make calls to, and Philomena from another team was also working on the same task, and quite a few times we would get to a name on our list only to find that Philomena had not long since called that person. So I’d asked whether it could work that Philomena had a set list of people to call, and the rest of us would split the rest, so we wouldn’t be working on the same lists. Umbridge wasn’t listening properly and thought I was suggesting just leaving the whole task to Philomena, and promptly bit my head off (the rest of the team knew what I was trying to say). With the way she spoke to me I didn’t feel comfortable trying to clarify my point and just dropped it (this was a typical exchange with Umbridge).

          With my current manager I would feel more comfortable trying to clarify my point if she had misunderstood me, although maybe not using husband’s wording.

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I agree– probably because my boss speaks to me like this, and it is absolutely aggressive. It’s not a kind, “Let me finish my thought,” it’s a harsh admonition and, I might add, usually an interruption by him. So I might be projecting. But if not for the stroke detail, I might have thought my boss’s wife had written in.

        Tone is so important. I’m inclined to think the LW was alarmed because she recognizes her husband’s “angry” voice and… that’s not often an appropriate way to speak to people.

      5. T2*

        I am not sure I agree at all. When I was younger, my company at the time hired a lot of freshly ex military. It always seemed to me that some of them, (for some reason particularly Marines commonly) were really really kind of rude.

        Over time, I realized that they were taught a means of delivering maximum information in a minimal amount of time. They were not trying to be rude they were just get to the facts, as quickly as possible with a minimum amount of unneeded discussion. In a job, where I need an immediate tactical situational awareness, that was really helpful.

        While they didn’t have a bedside manner, they were excellent and identifying objectives and accomplishing them. Over the years, I have come to value that efficiency in communication. However, to an outsider, I can see how that could be perceived as rude.

        The point is, never be in a hurry to take offense. Even then make sure it is really worth it. You can’t unmake a fuss if you make one over petty things. In this case, it is not her problem, she isn’t in the conversation so she should drop it. If someone has an issue who has standing, then they can deal with it.

        1. T2*

          One more thing to amend my comment:

          Now, for a critical task, give me 3 marines, and I can get most anything done. personality conflict or not. The tipping point was wen my boss told me years ago, “You don’t have to like them, or go for drinks, just get the job done.” After that, I stopped letting silly things bother me and focused on the mission (or task as appropriate.)

          1. Freeway*

            You don’t know that these issues are petty. Not every office can or will accept this behavior.

      6. A*

        You can’t speak for all work environments. I absolutely have worked in environments where these phrases wouldn’t be considered abnormal (although thankfully now work somewhere that they would be!).

        1. Tom Jonson*

          For sure! Although it’s interesting you recognize that the new workplace without that communication style is better. Sounds like the husband is in a position of power—someone who could be a part of a changing culture if only someone (like his wife$ communicated to him that the tone is coming off as rude and aggressive.

        2. Indigo a la mode*

          I would add that just because abrasiveness is accepted in some workplaces doesn’t mean it’s acceptable behavior.

      7. JSPA*

        They certainly can be.

        I appreciate that you’ve never been in a workplace where they can be used in a way that’s friendly and kind (albeit informal).

        Nor (perhaps) grown up in a big bunch of loving siblings who talk over each other (as that’s also becoming rarer, which means that fewer people have the experience of fighting to be heard in a situation of overall dearness / fondness).

        But when people tell you that they have been in workplaces (or other situations) where deployment of such phrases can and does happen without any aggression or rancor, why would you discount their lived experience?

        Furthermore, anyone who’s worked a jobsite where there are processes that do not stop while people jaw (whether they’re blue or white collar) has had to learn that time isn’t infinite, and that “stop, right now, and deal with X” is often an essential (and therefore by definition, a polite) message. If you’ve never worked with any sort of factory floor, lab, construction site, or other place where the process of work has a significant physical component that can’t be put on pause, it’s easy to lose track of that.

        1. Barney*

          Wow. Lots of assumptions about me based on one short comment. I’ve had plenty of jobs where people do talk to each other this way. That doesn’t mean it’s not rude. Also, I have 5 siblings, but I have no idea why that’s relevant… Conversing with your family is very different than conversing with colleagues. And I’m not discounting anyone’s “lived experience,” FFS. All I said was that talking to your colleagues in this way is rude.

          1. JSPA*

            Please substitute “if one” for “if you,” and read with that intent.

            The format of answers blurs the common use of generic “you” in place of the less common, third person singular impersonal.

            Default to “one,” and the comment gets treated as more precious or pedantic than it would otherwise be. Default to “you,” and risk that the person being replied to may (understandably) read it as weirdly personal and specific.

      8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        “let me stop you there,” is an interruption, OK that could be aggressive

        “that’s not what I said,” nothing aggressive there, just a contradiction. If someone’s trying to put words in his mouth, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that

        “no, you’re not listening to me,” again, nothing aggressive there, just an observation, indicating that the other person needs to let him explain again.

        “let me finish speaking,” again, it sounds like he’s being interrupted. He’s not the one being rude.

        1. Barney*

          The combination of those phrases with a tone that OP describes as “a tone of voice that I wouldn’t appreciate being addressed in” is what makes it rude.

        2. LJay*

          I’ve used “Let me stop you there” in a few cases where I don’t think it is aggressive.

          The first is when someone interrupts me to go off on a tangent that isn’t related to the issue I’m discussing.

          Or, when someone comes up with a suggestion on how to do my job, or making an assumption about my part of the task that just isn’t possible and it’s not worth discussing.

          “Well, if we can get the llamas to Singapore by noon today we could meet the high speed train and -”

          “Let me stop you there. We can’t get the llamas to Singapore by noon. It’s 2AM in Singapore right now. The llamas are still in New Jersey and not in their shipping stalls. And it’s a 18 hour flight from New Jersey to Singapore. If we wanted them there at noon they needed to be on a plane and taking off 8 hours ago.”

      9. Ace in the hole*

        I would agree that they’re rather aggressive, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily unwarranted. If someone is routinely/repeatedly cutting you off, interrupting you, ignoring you, or egregiously misrepresenting what you’ve said, then it’s important to stand up for yourself. That may include being rather aggressive and blunt to get the point across. This is especially true if the things you’re saying are critical… for example, I’d just let things go if it’s just a matter of convenience, but if it’s a safety issue I’ll be as blunt as I need to for getting the point across.

        It’s no different than any other form of communication… context matters. If someone occasionally misses a piece of information in an email I send them, I’ll reply with a polite/gentle correction or just smoothly answer their question. But if someone repeatedly sends responses that seem like they didn’t even read my email, they’re going to get increasingly blunt “As per my last email” and “Please re-read the message I sent Tuesday, all the details are included” and “Stop sending incorrect information to the group list. As I said yesterday, the correct info is…”

    8. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m not really sure how this is supposed to affect what OP does about it, though. Should she never bring it up at all just in case the people he’s snapping at deserve it? All Alison said was that OP should bring it up to her husband – maybe he’ll offer an explanation, or maybe he just has no idea that this is how he sounds.

      1. Tomalak*

        She should consider the possibility that he’s being interrupted a lot – in a way she would never do to people – and his response is appropriate, just as much as the possibility that he’s rude and difficult with colleagues.

        Some of the discussion here seems to assume that no one ever deserves the words “let me finish” or “that’s not what I said” from a colleague, which seems just as off base as assuming that the person using them cannot be at fault. We just don’t know which it is – definitely she should talk to him.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I mean, right, that’s what I said. She should bring it up and maybe he will offer an explanation, such as that he’s being interrupted a lot, or maybe he has no idea that’s how he sounds and the feedback could be helpful. I don’t think either OP or Alison suggested that she should order him to stop or whatever.

          The OP here specifically points out his tone of voice as the issue – there’s a big difference between “let me finish” in a polite, neutral tone and “LET ME FINISH!” in the same tone you use in the middle of arguments with your wife. Maybe I’m in the minority here but I don’t think that constantly, routinely doing the latter is really appropriate even if you find your colleagues annoying.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Actually, I agree with you. If I often found myself saying “let me finish”, I’d start looking for bigger picture stuff to see what could be done there to resolve this.

            Overcoming objections. This is a huge topic that starts when we notice a pattern of interruptions. Usually the objections also have patterns. If we can anticipate people’s objections we can explain the solution BEFORE they have a chance to even ask.

            Questions. There’s also patterns in questions people ask. Typically, people get concerned about certain things, such as safety, supplies, time frames, etc.

            I worked one place where safety was a huge and frequent topic. Knowing this, I made sure I addressed safety concerns as often as possible when I spoke on a matter. Another workplace funding or costs was a huge issue. So I had to be aware of this and make sure that I addressed the cost factors when I presented an idea. These recurring things can be addressed preemptively.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              oh I agree. It sounds like the husband could do with some communication classes to help get his point over without being interrupted.

          2. Tomalak*

            You don’t even seem to disagree with what people have said about him potentially – potentially! – being more sinned against than sinning. But you seem determined to believe that we’re also saying things like “she should never bring it up at all” or that we think “OP or Alison suggested that she should order him to stop”. No – the point is that how ok his behaviour is depends on how the people on the other end of the line are behaving.

            What’s more likely? That we are arguing for the reasonable view that you already agree with yourself or that we are secretly arguing for a really extreme and unreasonable position and need you to talk us down?

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Again, we appear to hold mostly the same view. Clearly I am not communicating my point so I’m going to leave it there. Stay safe! :)

            2. Freeway*

              Several people have opined that LW shouldn’t bring it up. What puzzles me is that you seem to be unaware of this. I agree with kt.

          3. JSPA*

            Hunh. I’d hope that people would use a kinder tone with the person they (claim to) love.

            People can choose to work with a boss they find irritating, or coworkers who have no filter, for all sorts of reasons. Changing jobs from time to time is now the expected norm. You don’t choose your coworkers.

            I’d hope most people aim for higher compatibility and mutual respect than that, in marriage.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              We aren’t all perfect 100% of the time. Me being snappish with my sweetheart doesn’t mean that I only ‘claim to’ love her.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I’m going to leave the “(claim to) love” thing alone because I think that’s a tremendously bad faith reading of what I said, but I am a little confused on this point:

              “ People can choose to work with… coworkers who have no filter”
              “You don’t choose your coworkers”


              1. JSPA*

                You choose to remain, as opposed to leaving.

                Beyond that, you generally don’t get to choose the people you work with, individually. Unless you have hiring and firing power, in which case, you’d probably call them your people / your reports / your subordinates, not simply coworkers.

                And even if you have firing power, you may still choose to suck it up, for the good of the group, even if an individual grates on your last nerve. I hope that’s not a description of too many marriages?

                As for “claim to,” that’s meant to include, formally, both cases: love (and claim to love); don’t love (but claim to love). In short, if you so much as claim to love someone, why are you considering it more OK to be rude to them, than to a coworker?

                I ask this quite seriously, as one of the classic red flags for problem relationships is, “the partner can successfully moderate their anger / their drinking / their unreliability / some other problem behavior at work, but does not do so at home.”

                I’m going to continue to call out the normalization of “so long as it’s honest, it doesn’t have to be kind, if I’m off the clock.” Your partner surely deserves your best self more than people who buy your loyalty with a paycheck–no?

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  I’m not going to continue to engage with this bad-faith word salad. Please spend some more time reading the comments you reply to. Have a great day.

        2. Sparrow*

          I agree that it’s best for OP to ask questions and get more information. There are times for all these phrases, in my opinion, but said with frequency and in an angry tone? Like OP, I’d find that alarming. It could definitely be a larger workplace culture issue where everyone speaks to each other like this (though I think she would’ve gotten a hint of that in work stories over the years), or maybe there’s one or two really obnoxious people that everyone agrees are best dealt with like that, but it very well could be him-specific – she won’t know without commenting on and asking about his tone.

        3. T2*

          Can I ask, why simply saying some variation of “You are interrupting me. Please stop it so we can get this done.” is so difficult?

          I mean if the problem is interrupting, then dancing around the issue passive aggressively with brusqueness would seem to be inefficient and possibly counter productive.

          1. Freeway*

            Passive aggression and brusqueness are opposites. If you’re brusque, you’re blunt and to the point.

          2. Avasarala*

            The issue is which variation used, and the tone used.
            “Hold that thought, I’ll take questions in a second” said gently but firmly, vs. “NO! You’re not LISTENING to me!” yelled are totally different things. OP’s husband seems closer to the latter to OP, and every office has its own threshold for what is rude.

      2. Washi*

        Yes, I agree. If I’m concerned or curious about something my husband is doing…I ask him! Not because I’m his boss but because I am his wife and I like understanding what’s going on in his life. My husband is pretty blunt and sometimes I’ve flagged his tone and he’s then explained why he reacted that way, and sometimes he’s had no idea that he was coming across as brusque. I don’t accuse him or anything, but I do ask.

        Either way, I would be curious if my husband’s colleagues were way more obnoxious and overbearing than I realized and he had to constantly fight to keep from being interrupted (because it sounds like he does this with multiple people) OR if he doesn’t realize how he sounds. Or both!

    9. Roscoe*

      Yep, this is what I was thinking. Especially if OP is only hearing 1 side of the conversation, its really hard to judge whether he is being rude or is understanbly frustrated.

      I’d personally just let it go. Ask yourself if you’d want him giving his opinion on how you work with people

      1. JSPA*

        Yep. If this were a guy writing in about his wife, I’m not sure the response would have been quite the same.

        I don’t like buying into “guy just doesn’t notice” “woman’s / femme spouse’s job to do a check-in” mindset, even a little. Letting people hash out their work persona / work tone with their actual work colleagues and actual work boss seems like a really good default.

        Exemption if it’s bad enough to disrupt your own work, while all WFH.

        Different exemption if they’ve said, “I never get this upset with anyone but you / nobody else interrupts me so I never needed to have a polite way to say, shut up,'” i.e. if you now have new insight into your home interactions, based on seeing their work interactions.

        Different exemption if their stress level seems to be going up, and you’re worried about another stroke. But all of that’s dealt with by, “hearing you at work, it seems like there’s a lot of interaction-based stress,” not, “you’re sounding rude, is there context.”

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I think the overall context of how women and men are viewed in the workplace, and the dynamics of a man believing a woman is being rude/aggressive vs a woman perceiving a man the same way, are so different that going “well what it it was the other way round” is overly simplistic.

          1. JSPA*

            That’s not the aspect of the turnaround I was talking about, though.

            We’re quick to make it the wife’s job to help the husband sort his tone. We’re not so quick to make it the husband’s job to help the wife sort her tone. This is yet another example of assigning secret extra work to the female partner, while dealing with the male partner as someone who can’t reasonably be expected to competently ask for, get, and integrate information about his communication style.

            In the example with a woman boss who might have been not only rude but downright abusive, Alison told the spouse they had to bring it up because they specified that it rose to the level of, “I can’t be attracted to her, thinking of her as abusive.” (At that point, the column became relationship advice, as much as work advice.)

            So I suppose I was looking for an answer that read, “there’s no reason you can’t, I suppose, if it actively bothers you to be around it; but frankly, if you’re worried about how he polices his tone at work, it ought to be his issue to sort out with his boss.”

            1. Avasarala*

              We literally had a letter about a male partner (boyfriend) concerned about his girlfriend’s tone. This is not about gendered work. It’s about the line where spousal support is inappropriate for work.

              I think flagging “hey you sound frustrated, is everything OK?” is perfectly acceptable in a world in which our spouses share our work spaces. OP says they are bothered by it (enough to write in), so seems OK from that perspective as well.

              “Hey you kinda snapped at your dad/friend/the store clerk back there,” is definitely OK for spouse talk, to me anyway.

    10. Bree*

      Why are so many comments here questioning the LW’s interpretation of her own husband? She’s spending 24 hours a day with him and knows him a lot better than we do – if she says he sounds rude, he does! And as Alison suggests, it’s fair to bring it up and ask for more context.

      1. Roscoe*

        Because while she may not like his tone, she also doesn’t have the full context on exactly what is happening. So I”d argue its really not her place to tell him he is speaking to his coworkers wrong. Just because she doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean that, for his workplace, its not ok. He may sound rude to her, but that may just be how its done in that workplace

        1. pancakes*

          It’s very odd to me to frame this as a question of “her place.” Why not simply ask if this is how things are done in his workplace? Out of concern and curiosity?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. I’m going to ask that we trust that the letter writer knows the tone she’s hearing and stop suggesting that a woman asking about a combative tone she’s regularly hearing in her own home is somehow “policing” her husband or “ordering him to stop” or that she needs to know her place (weird framings that keep coming up here).

        2. Washi*

          I don’t tell my husband what to do, but I do tell him about all my feelings, including my feelings about what he’s doing! It would be very weird to me if my husband thought I sounded rude on the phone, enough to write to an advice columnist, and never asked me about it. We have a relationship where we talk about everything, and I want us to just be able to say whatever’s on our minds. We also trust each other, so if I told him that I responded that way because of X and Y and that I felt confident that this was the best way to handle things, he would register any disagreement if that’s how he felt, but accept that this is my choice and not rehash it in future.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t think she or anyone else was suggesting that she should tell him what to do. She even said that if she did, she would bring it up gently. I’m not sure I would conceptualise that as her not knowing “her place”.

        4. home office from the couch*

          It’s so strange that people here seem to be acting like there’s still these literal miles between partners working when there’s now feet or inches. To me the question is not so much “how much authority do I have to control my husbands work behavior” as it is, “I’d bring this up if it happened in our personal life. Now that Venn Diagrams of professional lives and personal lives are a circle – is it okay to ask?”

          Case in point, last week my partner got called into an emergency meeting and despite there being a closed door between, I overheard him hear that 8 of his coworkers were being laid off. If we were both in our workplaces, there would obviously be a lot more time and distance between him knowing and processing this and telling me. As it was, he opened the door right after the meeting looking at me kind of wide-eyed and I said “Wow, that was intense. How are you feeling?” It wasn’t me trying to sit in on the meeting or tell him how to feel – just acknowledging what he has to already know – that I overheard something intense and recognize the potential impact. Same as OP, really. Just opening a door for dialogue.

          Like, yeah, in situations like this – overhearing ,etc. – we’re more directly involved in each other’s work lives right now than normal. How can we not be? Why should we act like we’re not?

        5. Smithy*

          I’m sure different marriages approach supporting a spouse at work differently – but I’d say that often family/friends can provide a great sounding board for workplace dynamics that maybe we have normalized but are actually problematic.

          I’ve certainly had toxic jobs in the past where all sorts of behavior was “normal” that wasn’t helping me in the long run in my personal or professional life. Between the recent stroke as well as shifting to more remote work, it seems wild to assume that family might not flag a behavior (i.e. tone of voice) that seems more aligned with an argument or fight than professional communication. Could be the husband’s workplace is really struggling with how meetings are conducted remotely. Could be a result of using the tech with stroke recovery. Maybe that is the workplace, but also maybe for the OP and her husband it’s worth a conversation how beneficial that kind of workplace is for the husband given other holistic things.

          When my dad and grandfather had cognitive struggles later in life connected to two different illnesses – anger was a significant feature during different periods of decline. Maybe at the end of the day this is just the workplace and it works well for the husband, the OP, and their future plans. But to entirely disregard this as a worry seems is wild to me.

        6. Dust Bunny*

          We don’t have the full context, either.

          And it may turn out that his manner of speaking is appropriate in context, but if it’s stern enough that she wouldn’t let him use it on her, I think it’s reasonable for her to ask him about it.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Even if she thinks he’s being rude, why is it her business? If it’s a problem at work, it should be addressed by his boss.

        1. pancakes*

          Why wouldn’t anyone routinely having argumentative calls in their shared space be her business? Even if it was a roommate or guest rather than a spouse it would be worth talking about. I think it would be strange not to talk about it, actually. You don’t think having to routinely listen to someone arguing on the phone in one’s own home is a little different than the temporary and unavoidable misfortune of passing by a stranger doing it in public?

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            She never said he was arguing – that would be a different story. She’s saying she thinks his tone is rude. She does say that he speaks the same way to her when they’re arguing, so yes I would bring it up in the context of our relationship, but it’s none of my business how he communicates with his colleagues, especially when I’m only hearing one side of the conversation. Now if they were arguing, he raised his voice, or something similar that was unusual, I’d ask if everything was okay. But I’m not getting involved in my husband’s work stuff unless he asks me to get involved or wants my opinion.

            1. Avasarala*

              “Now if they were arguing, he raised his voice, or something similar that was unusual, I’d ask if everything was okay.”

              He is using the tone he uses when they argue. It sounds (to OP) like he is arguing. Why can’t she ask if everything is OK? This is her husband. You never talk about work with your spouse?

              1. Jojo*

                You know how it is. When a man talks that way he is assertive. When a woman talks that way she is an a number one B.

    11. Lora*

      Yeah, I feel like this is extremely workplace-dependent. Lots and lots of places I’ve worked, and bosses I’ve worked for, have RADICALLY different notions about what constitutes “rude”. For a great many of my colleagues in CurrentJob, this is just…normal discussion in a meeting where many people are trying to get their $0.02 at once. Really, extremely normal, and OP would be looked askance at for being overly sensitive, considered too polite to state her expertise, lacking confidence, etc. The philosophy is, you are an educated professional who wants to do a quality job and your say-so counts for something and must be clear – if you have not made it clear, there is something wrong with you or you are not confident in either your work or the data. At PreviousJob, yeah, this would have been firing-offense rudeness, because their leadership placed a high value on deference to authority and maintaining the hierarchy above all, and the attitude was very different (“go back in your cave, lab monkey, and fetch me An Innovation! work all night and weekend if you must, idiot woman who doesn’t know how to address The Man!”). It’s just reeeeeaaaaally different in terms of workplace culture and in some places I’ve worked, they basically told people “you can’t say the f-word anymore, it’s rude, but you can say other things which are not cusses and that’s OK” and that was about all the civility you got. Spouse might be extremely polite relative to his workplace, we don’t know.

      1. JSPA*

        Yep, I’ve seen same; in my particular career arc, there was zero to negative correlation between “adherence to formal politeness” and “respect for everyone as a valued team member.”

        I’m sure it’s lovely to reliably have both at once, but given one or the other, I’ll take, “values and celebrates people intensely” over “values avoidance of specific tones and phrases.”

        If I’d been raised to feel attacked by “be quiet, I need to think” or “it’s time to shut up now,” as opposed to hearing those phrases said with love, my preferences might well be different. I don’t question the perceptions of people who feel happier in a workplace where I’d feel miserable. But when someone asserts that only the sort of workplace that makes them happy, can be experienced as warm, welcoming, kind and valid? Well, no.

    12. Nassan*

      True, but as she doesn’t know that, she should still talk to him.
      My partner said to me that I seem tough on the phone when I’m working and I explained it’s because people literally talk over me (start talking in the middle of my sentence, shifting the conversation). It’s a problem when you’re the customer making a request and someones is just taking over you. He agreed that it makes sense in that context and it made me more aware of it so I don’t do it too often (when someone frustrates you like that it’s easy to snap even at minor things where you could just let it go).
      So even if his communication is okay in that context it’s still good she talks to him. She’s his wife, she should be able to express concern.

    13. Environmental Compliance*

      This was my thought as well. They can seem rude if you can’t hear the other side of the conversation, but there’s been many, many a time where I’ve had to be short & cut people off over the phone because they just won’t stop pushing crap at me when I’ve already politely told them no. For example, after a consultant called me *for the 3rd time that morning* with a very aggressive sales pitch for a thing I didn’t need or want: “I need to stop you there. I said no. I meant no. No means no. I was not interested at the start, I am definitely not interested now, and at this point, I will be listing your name as a Do Not Use under our finance department’s consulting list.” Was my tone short? Yep. Probably not a good idea as a sales person to continuously call someone who has already stated they’re not interested and then call them sweetheart, like they just possibly can’t understand what you’re offering them.

      I’ve also pulled that tone with a handful of production staff who wanted to be very argumentative and spent more time trying to whine about a requirement than just do what they were told to do (for something like “you can’t store that chemical there, you need to drive the extra 25 ft and store it in the specific warehouse containment just for that chemical”). And again: “I’m going to stop you there. There are several federal agencies requiring this for a myriad of reasons. You have already been trained on what those reasons are. This is the requirement – full stop. This is what you will need to do going forward, and if not, that is a direct violation of our onsite policies and will lead to a violation of *federal regulations*.”

      HOWEVER – I do not need to do this on a regular basis. In fact, generally those that work with me know that this is the Time To Back Down when that tone does come out, because it means a line has been crossed. There is a time and a place. If this is something he is doing so often, it would be worth it in my opinion to ask about it – but I would err more on the “hey, you seem frustrated, is everything okay?” and hear his side of the story as well. Don’t jump straight to “wow, that was really rude” when you only get one side of the conversation. If he comes back with “huh, I don’t know what you’re talking about” then it’s time to put in some more discussion about how rude/frustrated/curt/short/whatever the phone conversations sound. From prior experience, that could be from the stroke, and it may legitimately not be intended.

    14. Rae*

      This is the OP. Thanks for all the comments and providing the different perspectives. I actually brought this up to him on Friday because it was bothering me so much and apparently the conversation I’d overheard had been preceded by a very tense conversation with his FM in a previous call. His FM is definitely on the more combative/aggressive side of things in the way he relates to his team at times so I think my husband is just mimicking that style of behavior. He’s been well rewarded financially and through promotion opportunities so I don’t think it’s affected his ability to be successful but I will definitely continue to bring things up as I heard them.

      1. Not A Squirrel*

        He gave an adequate explanation of the context of the conversation. If he’s successful and it’s not a problem for his career you need to mind your own business. He doesn’t need you policing his behavior.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Please stop this. The OP is hearing hostile conversations in her space (and it sounds like her husband confirmed that, not assuaged that concern). She is entitled to be bothered by that and to talk to her husband about it.

        2. BB*

          Holy crow. This is his WIFE. I don’t know how we landed on ‘OP needs to mind their own business’ but it seems like a really harsh and extreme response. Could not disagree more. Sounds like projection.

          OP you haven’t done anything wrong. Keep your spirits up!

          1. Washi*

            Yes, I’m confused too! My husband is my life partner. He sleeps in my bed and we chitchat while I’m on the toilet. I’m not going to tell him how to do his work, but as far as asking questions, MYOB doesn’t really apply to our relationship!

          2. UKDancer*

            I think as his wife and the other occupant of the space, she’s entirely right to bring things up which affect the ambiance withing the shared space while both of them are obviously working under lockdown. It’s not like she’s stopping random strangers on the street and telling them off about their phone calls. She’s sharing the same space so it’s appropriate to raise the issue, as long as she does so in an appropriate manner. It sounds like the OP handled this well and had a good resolution.

        3. Kelly L.*

          That seems unnecessary. OP’s husband answered her question in between when she asked Alison and when the letter ran. She can’t go back in time and unsubmit it.

      2. A*

        Hi OP! Good for you for speaking with him directly and nipping this in the bud! Sounds like he had good reason to take the stance/tone he did, which is a relief!

      3. emmelemm*

        Please ignore all these people telling you it’s “not your place” to be concerned about how your husband seems to be reacting to things.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed. Strong marriages stay strong because couples can talk WITH each other. SO’s are each others front line, because SO’s see more of the total picture than anyone else. If her advice is not appropriate for his setting he will explain why. I don’t think he needs us telling her not to talk about it.
          I was married for decades my husband and I often talked over work situations with each other. Some conversations started with, “Tell me if I am off base….” and other conversations started with, “I am so mad that I am spitting nails…”

    15. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      True, but if he’s having to say it THAT often, either there’s a bunch of assholes where he works, or it’s him. He’s saying that too much so something is wrong somewhere.

    16. Deanna Troi*

      I find OP#1 to be very interesting. There are several people with whom I work who come across as very rude and condescending (and I’m a super blunt person, so I don’t mind abruptness) and I always wonder how anyone could stand to be married to someone who talks like that. This letter made me realize that perhaps they don’t talk that way at home.

      Also, I’m pretty surprised by this thread. Aren’t we supposed to take the letter writers at their word? She is married to this man and presumably knows him better than anyone. If she thinks his tone is rude, then why are so many people arguing with that assessment?

      1. Remedial Chaos Theory*

        One of the red flags towards the end of my relationship with my ex spouse was realizing they’d started speaking to me like I was one of their staff — extremely blunt and condescending, like they had the authority to assign me work and review my performance. In my case, I came to the conclusion that I also wouldn’t want this kind of abruptness from a coworker or boss, let alone a partner.

    17. Jojo*

      Actually if you are worried about it being a hang over from the heart attack, if you know anyone he works with, ask them if he seems normal at work. Or if there is a change. And remember, not all work places are polite. Plus, a different norm is expected of men than of women.

  2. Observer*

    #4 – Your employer did not gift you with those skills. You learned them on the job to provide value to that employer. As long as you actually did deploy those skills to bring value to the employer while they were paying you, there is nothing wrong with using the skills you used for them in another context. Bringing value to your company is no different that bringing value to a different company.

    And, please please please do not even CONSIDER the idea that taking your skills to another company is somehow unethical. The reverse – companies that try to keep your from going to their competitors (other than by be great employers) are the ones who are generally unethical and often even breaking the law.

    1. Emily S*

      Yes, in fact, I’d put a caveat on the caveat Alison gave about non-compete agreements because it’s relatively common for companies to write overbroad and legally unenforceable non-compete clauses. If there is one in play and LW ever does worry they’re doing something that would violate it, I’d recommend consulting with a lawyer to determine exactly where the line is.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        In my state they are mostly unenforceable and possibly illegal.

    2. Gumby*

      I think OP is entirely in the clear.

      But while it is absolutely reasonable to take *skills* to a competitor, you still need to be quite careful about taking *intellectual property* on. The ability to use CAD to design a teapot? Fine. A particular handle design that old company researched and discovered was optimal for heat dissipation and balancing the weight properly while pouring? Very possibly not okay. Especially if the new handle design has not been released publicly. And using the handle design in marketing materials for New Company while it is still a trade secret for Old Company? Nope. Even if it is the most glorious design ever and it makes no sense to make any other handles now that you know the new design exists.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. But the OP is pretty clear that the issue at hand is *skills* NOT IP. IP, 100% belongs to your employer.

    3. M*

      OP here. Thanks for the reply. Those skills definitely brought value to the company while I was there, and it’s good to know/remember they can be used elsewhere.

      No non-compete agreement is in play, so no worries there.

  3. phira*

    OP1: I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s overwhelmed by the way that the pandemic is affecting her wedding plans! I know a lot of people who had spring or summer weddings who’ve had to wrangle with vendors to try to get money back, or try to rebook without any way to know if they’re just going to have to reschedule once again. A lot of people in this situation are going through a grieving process as well, since wedding days are often emphasized as THE most important day of your life, especially for a lot of women. I would guess that at the very least, she and her partner are trying to decide what to do and how to go about it–including how to contact guests about the situation–and she likely has no idea that you’re worried she’s upset about the sex of your partner.
    Which is not to say that there’s something wrong with you for worrying! If the pandemic weren’t happening and everything were normal, and you had not received an invitation, I’d wonder much more what was going on. In this case, I’d just touch base with her to offer your new address, and express some understanding and condolences for the kind of stress she must be under right now.

    1. allathian*

      OP1: I would definitely get in touch with your customer to tell them your new address, since you’re close enough to have received a save-the-date.
      You might ask her about her wedding plans, and you might also say something about how COVID has affected so many people’s weddings and that you understand if this means a smaller wedding. I mean, I would personally rather receive regrets that the guest list has been limited to immediate family members and close friends than be left hanging waiting for an invitation that never comes. The one thing I would not do in your shoes is ask if you were dropped off the guest list because you came out.
      Congrats on your engagement!
      Most people would start from their business contacts if they had to limit their guest list.

      1. Lizzo*

        +1 to this! Sending her an address update would be appropriate even if there wasn’t a pending wedding. And knowing that the bride is probably under a lot of pressure to figure out what’s going on with her plans, telling her that you understand if she needs to shrink the guest list and you don’t make the cut would be a very generous and gracious thing to do. You can certainly celebrate her marriage without being present at the actual wedding. In fact, I’d make the case that supporting her as a married woman in the long haul is much more important than “The Big Day”.

        Congrats on your own engagement, too! Best wishes for a life of adventure and love together!

        1. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

          I guarantee this is all about how a global pandemic has upended her plans and not who you are engaged to. So internet sympathy to her and a big congrats to you!

      2. Womanaroundtown*

        I’d wait a little while to ask though – depending how soon the wedding is. I had three weddings to go to this summer/fall season, and all three have been postponed, including the November one. I’m especially close with two of the brides, and was in (will eventually be in) both of their weddings. And they were so so stressed that having even family members ask them about their plans while they were deciding whether or not to hold off was adding to their anxieties. This is just to say that if she’s thinking about pushing back her wedding but hasn’t decided yet, asking about the invitation could be a pile up. Nothing you described sounded like there was a reason for her to disinvite you, but if you want to double check based on the new address, I’d suggest waiting until the wedding is two months away.

    2. many bells down*

      Yes, my sister sent save-the-dates for her August wedding but last week she told me they’re postponing it. They don’t have a new date yet and I’m sure it’s going to be difficult with everyone booked for 2020 rescheduling and the people who already booked for 2021!

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      Co-sign. You’re very likely to not have yet received an invitation because she’s having to make changes and isn’t quite sure when or where her wedding will be happening. I agree with the advice to get in touch with her to give her your new address, but after that, leave it alone. The fact is that changes in a lot of people’s wedding plans DO mean they might have different guest lists than they originally planned, but there’s so much up in the air that they might not know yet.

      Lack of invitation is likely due to planning uncertainty thanks to the pandemic, not the sex of your fiancée. It’s probably not about you.

      Congratulations on your engagement!

      1. Kate*

        I’d even say that if the sex of OP’s fiancée would be of any priority for the customer, OP would ALREADY have a “sorry, we decided to downsize/push it into unforeseeable future due to COVID” letter – I mean if she’d be looking for an excuse to not ask OP then she’d surely jump at this opportunity?

    4. 2020 bride*

      Yes– everyone getting this married is in wedding hell deciding whether they should reschedule, trying to reschedule, trying to do it smaller scale, telling everyone, money money money…

      I think you should reach out to her in the spirit of camaraderie, like “hello fellow 2020 bride, I’m sure your wedding plans are crazy right now too, how are you doing?”

      Signed, someone who rescheduled once and may have to reschedule again if people don’t frigging stay indoors

      1. allathian*

        You could get married as planned with just two witnesses, and have a reception and maybe a ceremony to renew your vows when it’s safe. Who knows how long this will go on…

        1. Temperance*

          This is super unhelpful advice. There are plenty of people who don’t want to do this, especially if the ceremony for loved ones is just considered a “vow renewal”.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I keep getting this suggestion from extended family and friends, as though the problem is me wanting to have a party and not that my fiancé is working overseas and cannot physically get here for even a tiny wedding (and we don’t live in a state that allows single-proxy weddings, AND we don’t qualify for a Montana double-proxy wedding because we aren’t in the military). It’s genuinely disheartening to get advice that not only doesn’t help, but also reflects how little the person in question has actually paid attention.

            1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

              You know, I’m fine with everybody else being optional, if necessary, at my wedding, but I would really, really, really want my actual spouse-to-be present.

        2. Koala dreams*

          Yes, in that case it’s not about choosing older friends over newer friends or anything like that, it’s choosing getting married now versus getting married at an uncertain date in the future. It’s perfectly fine to get married first and figure out the party later, if that’s what you want. It’s something to keep in mind if you wonder why you haven’t been invited to the wedding. Although I don’t think it matters for what you do as a (potential) guest.

        3. 2020 bride*

          We considered that… So what do we do with the contracts and deposits on the venue, photographer, catering, etc.? When will it be safe to have that reception and ceremony? What do we tell the guests who already RSVPd once? Can we still invite everyone or will there be restrictions and we have to scale down?

          Even if we got legally married (which isn’t an option as we don’t live where we want to marry), there is too much unknown to make good plans. This is what everyone is struggling with right now.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Oh, God, yes. I was supposed to be getting married in two weeks (basically an elopement, because we both work in different countries and we needed something quick), and even that is off the table because he’s now stuck in his country and can’t travel (and even if I could get to him, that country doesn’t perform weddings for two non-citizens). We haven’t bothered setting a new date yet; I’m just keeping my wedding dress in a suitcase in the event we can make something happen.

    5. Chili*

      I completely agree! People with weddings planned for this year are in a truly tough spot. There is no way of knowing when things will be safe again, so a lot of the standard rules and timeframes of weddings in pre-COVID times have radically shifted. I’d keep this in mind because there is a chance LW may not receive an invite, not because of anything LW is or has done, but because the wedding may be cancelled or may now be a very small family-only thing. Pre-COVID, it would have been considered unbelievably rude to be given a save the date then not be invited to the wedding, but now it is what it is.

    6. OhGee*

      All of this. I can almost guarantee she’s agonizing about canceling/delaying her wedding. My best friend is supposed to get married in September and she is most likely going to postpone now. It’s not you, OP!

      1. A*

        Ugh, yes. I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding currently scheduled for mid-October. When this all first started we figured we dodged a bullet since it wasn’t a summer wedding…. but now it’s looking more and more likely they drastically reduce the in-person attendance and live stream instead. It’s been chaotic and updates to the attendees haven’t been sent out yet because it’s changing day by day.

    7. APL*

      Hi, I’m the OP1! Thank you all so much for your helpful advice. This has really calmed my nerves, especially because I was feeling adrift in this situation. Unfortunately, my industry is so conservative I’ve not received only positive feedback, and I think I was letting that taint my view of this situation. I will definitely contact her about my new address. And thank you all for your well wishes!

      1. Susie Q*

        Even my brother was planning on getting married in October has decided to elope and have a celebration later because we think there is going to be a spike in cases when flu season starts again.

        I think everything is in flux right now with weddings and big events. My company has annual large conference in February. I’m part of the planning committee and for 2021 (for the first time) we are planning a potential virtual event as back up (because we are thinking that large gatherings won’t be advisable until there is a vaccine).

        Congratulations on your engagement!!

      2. Megan Marie Sullivan*

        I was, until this weekend, planning an October wedding, and would have sent out the save the dates six weeks ago – but now we’re rethinking the date, just so that we can include everyone comfortably. This is the last thing I wanted to do, and it’s already caused a lot of confusion!

        Have you been able to talk to your friend since the pandemic started? Maybe it’s time to set up a co-misery zoom call.

        1. A*

          I’m a bridesmaid in a wedding in mid-October… and if you can avoid having it then, I recommend it. It’s been complete chaos trying to keep this thing together, and I strongly suspect they will have vendors pull out closer to the date.

      3. Blueberry*

        Do you mean that some people in your industry have been homophobic at you? I am so sorry! I wish I could smite them for you. If that hasn’t happened may it continue to not happen!

        Either way, congratulations on your engagement, and I am beaming at you and your intended. :D

    8. TimeCat*

      My close friend tentatively rescheduled her April wedding for August and even that’s a big ol’ question mark. Given her future father in law is in his 70s, she’s debating just having their parents, if anything. I have another friend who just got married on Zoom. Your friend may be severely paring down her wedding. Don’t ascribe to homophobia what is almost certainly due to the pandemic.

      1. Flossie Bobbsey*

        I’m raising my eyebrow at the idea that being in his 70s (by itself) is a reason to hurry, unless he’s also ill. 70s is young.

        1. Koala dreams*

          Around here 70 years old (and older) are told to be very careful and avoid close contact with people. It makes perfect sense to cut down the guest list, or not have guests, if you want to celebrate with people over 70.

          1. Flossie Bobbsey*

            You’re right! I think I misunderstood the reason for mentioning his age. I thought it was being mentioned as a reason to have the wedding soon as originally planned, not as a reason to have it be small.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          Older folks are more susceptible to Covid, so probably it’s a move to limit his possible exposure.

        3. Dahlia*

          70 is not young when you’re talking about covid-19 and having a hundred or so people in one big room.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I came to say.

      I bet Customer does not know if her wedding is still on or not.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. And if the OP is uninvited, odds are that they are drastically cutting the guest list to comply with social distancing guidelines. Considering her initial reaction was sincere congratulations and wanting to compare notes on wedding planning, it really seems more likely that the pandemic is at play than homophobia.

    10. The Original K.*

      Yep, I immediately assumed the lull in communication was due to the couple trying to figure out if their wedding will go on as planned due to COVID-19, and if not, what they’ll do instead.

    11. Mama Bear*

      Even people whose weddings are in the fall are in limbo. A relative said that their venue is rescheduling weddings through June and they expect that theirs will be rescheduled…eventually. They aren’t sending out invites because they don’t know for sure when it will be. I would update the couple with the new contact info and see what happens. I bet it’s more about the pandemic than it is about you.

    12. tinyhipsterboy*

      Seconding this. It also depends on the kind of relationship you have with your customer, but I don’t think it’s inherently tacky to ask about the invite; there’s no info about the location of the wedding, but even if it’s somewhere you can drive to and don’t have to worry about hotels or transportation, you still might need to plan for it (ask for time off; arrange pet/babysitting; financially account for things surrounding it). Mail gets lost all the time, and with you about to move, that could cause further confusion (ESPECIALLY with the ridiculousness surrounding USPS lately).

      I could just be uneducated on typical wedding etiquette, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to message the customer and just say something like “Hey, I haven’t seen a wedding invite come in, and my address is going to be changing, so my new address is xxxxxxxxx. Just wanted to let you know in case you haven’t sent them out yet! I know wedding planning has got to be hectic with the uncertainty the pandemic is bringing–I hope you’re doing well.”

  4. Grbtw*

    Hi OP 1,

    Congratulations on your engagement! Keep in mind, a lot of weddings planned for this year have been canceled, it’s possible she hasn’t had a chance to notify everyone.

    1. Dot Warner*

      Came here to say this – I know of two couples who had planned big weddings for this year but were forced to drastically scale back or postpone their celebrations due to COVID-19. It’s very likely your customer is in the same boat and trying to figure out what to do about it. Send her your new address so she can update you on what she’s doing, and try not worry too much.

      And congrats on your engagement!

    2. Annony*

      With all the stress and craziness right now it is possible she put something on facebook about postponing and didn’t think to contact everyone who got a save the date. If she did not send out formal invitations she may not realize that it is necessary to contact everyone about the change in plans.

  5. Blaise*

    All I could think of while reading OP4’s letter was the Michael Scott Paper Company.

    1. Indy Dem*

      Me too! I literally said “If Pam, with her moral compass, can do it, you can too”, out loud.

  6. Katina*

    OP 1 – As someone who has a summer wedding scheduled, I can tell you that things are incredibly complicated. We are sending invitations much later than we otherwise would have and might need to cut the guest list or cancel altogether depending on state regulations and how covid is progressing in our area. It is very stressful. I wouldn’t think the worst of your customer, but lots of things have changed (likely meaning no big weddings anytime soon), so you might not ultimately get invited. Definitely reach out with your new address or just to check in in general, though.

    1. Yvette*

      +1 to all this. And if for some reason you don’t get an invite it will most assuredly have everything to do with her having to cut back due to the circumstances of Covid and that you fall into the new friend category and not the relative/lifelong friend category.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yes, it’s possible she has been uninvited but that it has nothing to do with anything she’s worrying about. It sounds like they are friendly over lunch at work but if the guest list has been cut to just close friends and family, she may not qualify.

      I understand the thought process because I’m a person that also assumes the worse when usually there’s a kinder explanation.

  7. Diamond*

    #1, she gave a sincere congratulations and said you could talk about wedding planning together, that is not the response of someone who has a problem with you being gay! I’m quite sure the lack of invite is to do with Covid, not you. It’s really impossible to forge ahead with any sort of event planning at the moment. It’s not really wise to lock in plans when you might have to cancel and lose deposits etc.

    You can definitely send her your new address.

    1. Koala dreams*

      Yes, if she ends up with a smaller guest list, or just close family, don’t take it personally if you aren’t invited. Lots of things has changed now. You can still send a nice card or other message to congratulate for the wedding.

      It sounds like you are friends, so it’s very nice to send your new address to her. I’m sure she’ll be happy hearing from you. You don’t need to be on each other’s weddings to share addresses. It’s enough to be holiday card aquintances, even.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, under normal circumstances sending someone a save the date and then not an invitation is considered pretty tacky, but I think right now there are a *lot* of people who may be deciding to cut their list from 100 down to 10 (if they move forward with the wedding at all)!

        I totally get why you would feel worried that coming out may have affected your relationship but I think you should trust that her kind messages were genuine and that anything that happens from this point forward with her wedding is 100% related to navigating this whole weird situation.

        1. tinyhipsterboy*

          Hell, it’s entirely possible that someone doing that overestimated the budget they’d have available! Personally, unless money was put into travel or something, I wouldn’t be too miffed in most situations about a lack of invite after save-the-date provided I’m informed and they’re not rude about it.

          I’m really glad it sounds like the OP isn’t facing homophobia from this customer (and that their partner proposed! that’s awesome!).

    2. White Peonies*

      This, my sister has all but had to cancel summer wedding plans, everyone from the caterer to preacher will not lock in a date. My mom and her have been getting so many irritated calls from family and friends demanding to know why they are being excluded. So tread lightly here, she is likely under a lot of stress and is most likely heartbroken for the loss of a day she dreamed about. Definitely send the new address.

      1. Observer*

        Um, have they hard about this little pandemic we’re having here? I mean even the states that are opening up waaaay too fast are still forbidding large gatherings…

      2. Blueberry*

        Ugh. I send you strength to pass on to your mom and sister. I’m so sorry so many people are being aggressively clueless.

      3. Coffee Bean*

        Your poor Mom and sister. . .I hop they get a respite from the grief people are giving them.

    3. CM*

      Agreed, my heart goes out to OP#1 because she’s clearly in a place where the default assumption is that people will not accept her. But by congratulating you and saying you need to talk wedding planning, your friend was (purposely, I bet) sending you a signal that she accepts and supports you. And she would probably hurt and disappointed if you responded by offering to disinvite your fiancee. Instead, send her a note saying, “Hey, I moved, here’s my new address,” and offer her some empathy about how planning a wedding is impossible right now and you hope her plans haven’t been too derailed.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I really like the commiseration approach here. Talking from bride to another is a great way to get the info you need, however she wants to present it to you, without seeming like you’re fishing.

  8. Lady Heather*

    OP4, one caveat to Alison’s advice: even if you did sign a noncompete that prevents you from joining or becoming a competitor, that might not hold up in court. Most noncompete agreements don’t – because they’re written overly broadly, which courts find unethical. I think that valid ones usually need to be limited in time (e.g 2 years), locality (e.g. the same city or state as your employer), scope (they can’t prevent you from having any job or starting any business at all), and there needs to be a defensible reason – sometimes you hear stories about baristas needing to sign noncompetes promising not to work for another cafe.. and a judge will laugh that right out of court.

    It depends on your jurisdiction’s laws and precedents, of course. But if you signed such an agreement, talk to a lawyer before giving up.

    1. CL Cox*

      The most common reasons for a non-compete are clients and proprietary information. The client ones should have a time period and a caveat about the type of business (it needs to actually compete with something the compadoes – a paint company can’t prevent you from contacting clients to offer cleaning services, for example), but the proprietary ones may be forever (basically). Think things like patents and copyrights, recipes for secret sauces and the like. Even if you were the one to develop the proprietary information, it belongs to the company, not you.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Very much co-signed.

        It feels counter-intuitive, and it’s quite difficult to un-think or un-know an innovation that happened in your own brain. But it’s the IP equivalent of selling your house, then continuing to visit occasionally to take apples from the trees you planted and swim in the pool you dug.

        That said, you can use the knowledge once it’s published, to precisely the same extent as any other third party – that’s a major aim of patent publication, to progress the state of the art to stimulate further innovation – and a patent attorney will explain precisely what activity counts as infringing and what counts as inventing.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      This. I had a non-compete with my old company but it is very narrow. Basically I agreed not to entice any of their current contracts away during or for 2 years after leaving except in the case that the contract is out for open bid in those 2 years. It also included that it had to be for work the same or similar to what I was doing for the company. To me that non compete was just agreeing to act ethically, it would not be ethical of me to get a company to break a contract. If the company is accepting open bids that’s fair game.
      I’m generally not a fan of non compete clauses because they are so broad but I’ve actually seen that company win on enforcing that one.

    3. Vina*

      Agreed. This is absolutely something AAM needs to state: Have a local a lawyer advise you on this.

      I’ve reviewed a few non/compete clauses in my day. I’ve yet to see one written to comport with out states laws. Why? Most are written by non lawyers who look up the statute, but not case law. They don’t even really understand the statute.

      My state courts have set some bright line rules on time, distance, etc.

      The last time this came up, a friend was worried bc her ex-husband wanted to prevent her from opening a competing business (let’s say they used to own a teapot glazing company together). She wanted to buy aN existing glazing practice in the next town over. Let’s say the actual address was 52 miles away. Too bad for him. State Supreme Court limited this to 50 miles. I wrote him a very blunt letter and attached the decision with the mileage highlighted plus google maps from the physical location of their old practice at the time of signing to her new office. He never uttered a peep further.

      This is why, in cases like this, the lawyer fees are worth it.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        I think it also depends on the field. When I was looking for my first job out of training, I met with an employment lawyer who specialized in healthcare, where non-competes are very common and usually upheld.

        His first piece of advice is to get everything in writing in the contract itself — don’t rely on the email or verbal promises of the interim department chair. So when they say “within 25 miles,” do they mean as the crow flies? as google maps directs? what if Route A is faster but longer (e.g. along a bypass) whereas Route B is more direct but takes longer (e.g. through town with stoplights)? do they mean just from their primary location? what if my primary work location would be different from the main hospital? what if they buy up smaller hospitals in other towns, do I draw a 25 mile radius around them too?

        His second was regarding my side hobby, writing fiction. I was in the planning stages of a novel about eugenics at the time, working in my own time on my own personal laptop, and he strongly advised that if I was serious about writing and publishing, even for a “lay” audience, that I mention work out a royalties plan up front, because the School of Medicine could easily make the argument that being a medical professor at the University of X would lend additional credence to the book and therefore they deserved a cut of the royalties.

        The interim department chair was pretty unwilling to do (1) so (2) never really came up, but I still found that lawyer’s advice eye-opening.

    4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes, talk to a lawyer so you can have peace of mind however you move forward. Some non-competes (and unfortunately, some people) would have you believe that you have to change careers completely if you ever have the audacity to get a new job or start a business. A lawyer can help you navigate what you actually can and can’t do in a situation like this.

      But it’s definitely not unethical to start a new business in your field. People do it all the time.

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t see any mention of a non compete in the letter so not sure what a lawyer is needed to review. It’s also been a few years since they left the company.

    5. Not This One*

      I agree with all of this. It doesn’t sound like the letter writer needs to consult a lawyer in this instance, but it’s good advice to tuck away for the future. I had a completely over-the-top non-compete at a former job (along the lines of “You worked part-time boxing and delivering pizza at Domino’s, and now you can never make any kind of food professionally in this state for 5 years”); luckily my boss told me he was going to be “nice” and not enforce it when I quit, but even at 24 I was like…yeah, no kidding you’re not going to enforce this, because in what universe is that reasonable?

    6. M*

      OP here. Fortunately there isn’t a non-compete agreement in play, so that simplifies things. I appreciate all of the knowledgeable replies here though; it’s good info to have!

  9. Kiitemso*

    OP4, I feel like this happens everywhere, but in my business it’s also very common. I do upkeep on a list of clients we report to and often will have to email people who have moved jobs, started their own businesses, to make sure we have the up-to-date information and don’t contact somebody about a thing they no longer have anything to do with. Sometimes it’s funny to see a group of individuals from Oatmeal Management Group move onto Sown Oats Management, a brand new company, or one former manager Mr Smythe from Porridge Limited start their own little one-man business Smythe Oats Ltd. Often customers want to work with one particular person so if Mr Smythe starts their own company, some of the business will move with them.

    (In managing this database I often can also see whether people in my field job-hop a lot or not. Somebody starting at a company in August only to move to another company in January, only to end up elsewhere by June.. I don’t judge but I’d personally be getting whiplash. Most people do stay put for years, though.)

    1. Laney Delaney*

      LW#4 If you worked as a chef at a restaurant, would you never professionally ever cook again because “much of the work would be in the same niche as former company, such that we’d become direct competitors of our former employer.”? You have no ethical issue here, and unless you signed a non-compete, there is no legal issue. People leave jobs all the time to work for competitors, to become competitors, to become consultants to original company, to become consultants to original company’s products (IT companies offer certifications to people who set up shop as consultants on their products). You own your skills and can freely offer them in the marketplace as you see fit.

  10. Ag Intern*

    OP1, I just wanted to tell you how excited and relieved to hear about another gay woman in agriculture!!! I know this wasn’t the point of your letter, but I admire your bravery in coming out in this field (ba-dum tssh) and you’ve given me hope that one day I’ll feel safe enough to do the same.

    Also, totally agree with Alison and the rest of the commenters, she’s probably looking forward to having you and your fiancee but has been caught up in the chaos! Maybe check in with her in general (not about wedding stuff) and then, if she’s friendly, you can mention that you’re moving and don’t want to miss the invite; if she seems stressed you can ask how the wedding has been affected; and if she’s… neither of those two (she probably won’t be!!!) you can use your discretion.
    Congratulations on your engagement!

    1. APL*

      Oh my gosh!! Hi I am OP1! Thank you so much for commenting and for your well-wishes, I honestly can’t believe there’s more than one of us gay women in Ag! What a helluva field to come out in, right? I’m not sure where you’re located but I’m in the Midwest in a very red state, so it’s been stressful at times. Honestly, most of my coworkers and customers just don’t say anything about it, which is fine. Better than open bigotry! I wish you the best of luck in your own coming out journey too—God knows it’s stressful. I really wish I could express how happy I am that you commented, it’s so great to know you’re not alone in this!! We must unite! Haha

      1. Keladry of Midelan*

        Hi APL, if it helps for even more solidarity, I work in agriculture in the northeast and quite a few of my wonderful colleagues are gay women and men. :)

    2. APL*

      Also, you wouldn’t happen to be the intern that wrote in a few weeks ago about the COVID pandemic and rural people not wearing masks, would you be?

      1. Ag Intern*

        Yes I am! I’m driving out to my work site (also Midwestern, also red) next week after I get my finals over with. Commenters on the original post have given me lots of hope and good advice, so I’m not as worried as I was.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As another queer woman in a male dominated industry, I find this an interesting twist. My experience is that everyone just assumes women in this industry are gay, which is a whole different kettle of fish.

      You’re rarely ever as alone as you feel in your heart, I’ll just say that.

      1. APL*

        Wow, that’s great! Unfortunately, the default assumption in ag is that all women are married and having children by 25–definitely not my cup of tea. Thank you for your kind words

  11. Casper Lives*

    For #3 – it’s too bad your work doesn’t seem to have addressed her behavior. The head of my office has talked to people about not getting too political / heated at work. In that case, he didn’t disagree with my colleagues politically, to my knowledge. It was causing some conflict in the office, and it’s not necessary.

    Also her ideas could be dangerous if everyone follows them. That’s an added dimension that the boss needs to stop her from telling coworkers to disobey the law and put themselves more at risk.

    1. Avasarala*

      Agreed. I would even like them to drop the word “political” and say “You can’t use this to spread hoaxes and lies.” It’s that dangerous and deranged. You wouldn’t permit someone encouraging people to shake their babies or do other dangerous things. To me it’s not political, it’s falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater.

      1. Batgirl*

        I am so, so boggled at OP3’s co-worker and it isn’t because they are very political. There’s a difference between being political and being unhinged, even though both are unprofessional. Where do you even find the time or inclination to be this untrusting, yet not bother to check your suspicions on the logic scale? What kind of political goal is served by tricking her out of being a consumer, day tripper, tourist or by being at work? Does she think she is so important that any kind of meaningless, pointless control over her is a triumph for the Illuminati? I can see people disagreeing with measures, or even underestimating risk, but this? I will find my jaw eventually.

        1. Allison*

          To answer the question what kind of political goal is served, (unhinged people like) my mother believe that COVID19 is a plot/hoax by Democrats to destroy the economy and “take down” Trump in November. It’s horrifying, but those people are out there and the number of them is scary.

      2. anonymouse for this*

        +1 – I’d keep any mention of politics out of it otherwise I could see her going into martyr complex and sending multiple emails about how the company is denying her rights to freedom of speech or whatever else her little tinfoil hat wearing self comes up with. This is spreading false information and endangering lives – plain and simple.

        1. Lifelong student*

          Just a note- many people think that freedom of speech is absolute. However, the prohibition against denying the right of freedom of speech only applies to government. Companies can, and do, limit the speech of employees- particularly when the employee is representing the company in some way!

          1. anonymouse for this*

            Yes – hopefully the company will finally crackdown and she’ll get a rude awakening on the realities of freedom of speech. At the very least they should give her an official warning and restrict her access to sending company wide emails of a non-business nature.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yes, plus this is even more egregious, because she is using the company’s infrastructure and resources to spread this message. Aside from the fact that she could damage the company’s reputation, and they have a right not to be associated with such deadly craziness, no one has a right to waste someone else’s resources on their own message. No website or blog is required to post your message, go create your own, or get a soapbox and find a convenient corner!

          3. kittymommy*

            This. Heck, I work in government and we can’t do this. Personal social media while on off hours? Fine, have at it. While at work (especially from your desk and/or using company product)? You’ll get spoken to once as a courtesy, after that you are fired.

          4. Yorick*

            You’re right, but OP and coworkers will still have to listen to rants about freedom of speech from this person. Might as well think of a way to get her to stop sending non-work-related emails with as little complaining as possible.

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

          Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. OP’s coworker can use and abuse the distribution lists, flooding with unrelated stuff, and OP’s employer can discipline them.

        3. Person of Interest*

          I would definitely agree that this person and her boss have a misguided understanding of “freedom of speech” and how that applies in a workplace. Her boss should shut this down.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think trying to argue that the email is “hoaxes and lies” would just open things up for further discussion.
        Even if it was all true, still not an appropriate use of the employee email list.

    2. Snuck*

      I have found sometimes replying to this stuff as though it’s a joke helps…

      “Hahahaha, Good one Jane, I love your sense of humour!” If she replies back that she’s deadly serious… then send that on to your manager (not hers) to deal with. (Why not hers? Because her’s clearly isn’t interested, but yours can have a chat with hers “Dear My Manager, Jane is serious about this, it concerns me about what she might bring in to the office!”)

      For the t-shirts… Look I used to ask for a redundancy every day and wear a T-shirt that said “Does not play well with others” in a very toxic workplace. I also dyed my hair Barbie pink. I didn’t wear political, pro/anti/ist or blatantly rude shirts. I did semi-subtle geek shirts (Dr Who Van Gogh art work for example). Anything more than that is an affront to the desire to work well with a group. You are saying “I don’t care what your political (or ethical or moral) compass is, I am going to make you look at mine all day” and that’s just like saying “I don’t care what you believe, my belief is more strident”. It’s kind of anti social. A manager can manage this often without even picking up the Dress Code, because a person with this sort of attitude often has other ‘attitude’ as well… and thus you manage the behaviour. Changing their shirt won’t change their behaviour ;)

      1. Batgirl*

        I dont see the point in checking if they are serious or joking. Someone who is doing spreading such a dangerous hoax message needs to be stopped regardless of whether they too have been hoaxed or if they are aware of what they are doing. I hardly know which is worse. As for the admission that its a serious message being indicative that they ‘might bring this into the office’ – that ship has sailed. They emailed the entire staff. How much more can they bring it?

        1. Ariaflame*

          I don’t think it’s a check if they’re serious but rather a reality check to them that what they are saying is so ludicrious that they will be mocked if they try to persuade people they are serious about it.

          1. Snuck*

            Yeah Ariaflame it’s not so much to see if they are serious, but it’s a way to give them a chance to backtrack if they didn’t realise how ludicrous they were being. Sometimes people send out random stuff without realising the implications. Making light of it gives them a chance to take it back. If they stick to the guns then it’s a Real Issue, but usually people will say “Oh yeah, that wasn’t serious”. The other effect of this is you are then a ‘voice’ in saying this isn’t ok, without resorting the rather heavy handed mallet of saying “Yo, this is NOT ok” which can really stress relations.

            They can bring it, if they are serious, they can bring COVID well and truely into the office, and spread it. If the area is one that is encouraging social distancing, and assuming only essential workers are in the office, and people are NOT out and about aside from that, then maybe this person will be abruptly deemed a health risk, and sent to work from home again.

            1. Batgirl*

              This makes it a lot clearer for me. You think someone might just be sharing whatever a bit thoughtlessly and you want to diagnose whether they are a fanatic or just a bit of a fool before tackling them.

            2. pancakes*

              “Sometimes people send out random stuff without realising the implications.” Not in my experience, no — I don’t work with or know anyone who sends out unhinged conspiracy theories without thinking about it. And to the extent the problem here is the person not realizing the implications, that in itself is a big problem! A person who doesn’t understand or couldn’t or wouldn’t consider the implications of sending a message like this to their coworkers either has troublingly insubstantial intellectual capacity and/or a serious lack of self-awareness and self-control. Any and all of these qualities are problematic. They’re not less problematic if noticed by a coworker rather than the person themselves, or if the person retroactively tries to depict their choice as “not serious.”

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yep. People need to be way more careful about what they’re willing to attach their good name to.

            3. Quill*

              This isn’t a facebook share where someone scrolled down, found one funny meme, and hit “like and share to wall.”

              Coworker had to make multiple decisions on their way to emailing this out to all staff, and to be honest forwarding this from an outside source is a potential problem related to a very different kind of virus.

    3. OhGee*

      In this case, the coworker’s views are dangerous, and I hope she’s given, at best, one final warning before being fired.

      1. UO*

        It’s not work-appropriate and management should shut it down. While I wouldn’t call this pandemic a hoax (it is real, people are sick, real people are dying) I would say that at this point, outside of NYC, we now have the data that shows the lockdowns, school closings, business shut downs, are no longer necessary. The data does not support continued lockdown. We’re not talking about a virus that’s fatal in every case, airborne, etc. Nationally, we’re seeing between a .03% – .1% fatality rate. (Note that deaths due to seasonal flu and pneumonia are largely being attributed to Covid, which is not scientifically accurate.)

        I say all of this to drive home the point that while I completely believe this… I would NEVER distribute this at work. Period. At work I strictly follow my employer’s rules and regulations, just like I would in any other scenario.

        1. Quill*

          UO I hate to be an internet cliche, but… source?

          Because everything that I’ve been reading indicates that the low fatality, the school closings, and business shutdowns are what creates that low number and that reopening will spike cases again with more opportunity for spread.

          In my home state the death rate is still steadily climbing, I’d say that generalizing it to “everywhere but new york” is probably not a good metric.

          1. Casper Lives*

            Yes, thank you. The death rate, positive tests, and ICU admissions for Covid-19 are rising in my home state of Georgia. It’s rising in my area of Atlanta. The results are probably underreported because the official government count requires a positive test. We only got enough tests to start testing widely and added antibody testing on May 1!

          2. Snuck*

            I’m not in the US, but every reputable source outside the US is saying that a) the numbers are wildly under reported because most people are not getting tested, and b) the mortality rate is wildly inaccurate because people who die are not being tested (because they are dying in their home, or there aren’t enough kits etc).

            If you look at Wuhan the death rate was reported as one thing, and the number of funeral ashes jars and disconnections of phone services (ie people no longer using phones) was significantly higher than the reported deaths. Most countries are dramatically under reporting both cases and deaths due to lack of testing capability, and the US is in the thick of that… Assume you are more like Wuhan right now than Australia….

            1. Quill*

              Well, we’d be more like wuhan if we were more organized about opening and we had a better social support system so more people could stay at home… I’m predicting that the U.S. and UK will be some of the worst countries in terms of how long it takes to control the spread, just based on the fact that our timeline so far has been very patchy.

        2. Librarian1*

          UO – actually, it’s the exact opposite. Literally the only place in the country that is on the downward slope of new cases is New York. Every other state is still seeing an increase in new infections daily.

  12. mark132*

    LW2, sometimes you have to adopt a work persona to deal with work. And it may be more meek, it may be more combative. Some days at work work I feel like an actor. (Ok the CxO is now saying something very stupid that I disagree with, but offering my real opinion will piss her off, so I’ll smile and shut up again, after all I have a family to feed and bills to pay). Sometimes you have to hate the game not the player. And sometimes it’s the player as well.

    I also think this isn’t necessarily female vs male thing. I haven’t noticed my female coworkers being particularly more reticent about interrupting in a meeting vs my male coworkers.

    1. voyager1*

      Yeah this is where I fall too. I have had some really bad managers who were real jerks. Those same managers had pictures of beautiful families on their desks too. What we see in people at work is just that, it may not reflect who they are outside of that limited time that one is around them at work. Jerks at work can be good spouses and parents at home.

      1. tom*

        Through, you dont know what their relationship with their families was. You dont know what they spouses think about mutual communication nor what their kids think. Beautiful picture of the family does not imply happy family and even less family that is happy with the person showing the picture.

        I know there are people who are two completely different personalities at work and at home. And everyone acts a bit different at home – often worst because it is “safe”. But many times the jerk at work is jerk at home for pretty much the same reasons.

    2. Batgirl*

      I agree that all of the types of statement OP mentions can be useful at work, but only in very special situations, used occasionally. I was very surprised to hear it’s directed on a regular basis at his manager. All the expressions she lists translate into ‘I have the floor, I have the knowhow, you need to follow my lead; let’s get this done’.
      It’s pretty status dependent. (As a teacher I use these expressions all the time with students, not so much with peers. As a journalist I would use them if we were on deadline and about to defame someone unless I spoke up quickly).
      It can be done amongst peers if you’re really confident of your own area and need for urgency.
      I do think men do this a lot more often, though I’m not sure why they do, or why they’re not as concerned about overstating an objection. Particularly since it’s certainly not all men. Men seem to be forgiven this as ‘awkwardness’ more when it happens. As a woman, I’m fine interrupting in meetings but I would probably not use the language OP talks about unless I wanted to make a very strong point as well. I’d be more inclined to say ‘can I just add…’

    3. Mockingjay*

      We’re all discovering things about our spouses these days. Mine has the opposite problem; he’s very outgoing and gregarious. He’ll be on a call with his staff and after discussing business, he gossips and chats. All.Day.Long. He discusses his medical problems in detail, he vents about program management – he literally does everything Alison writes this column about. I have to bite my tongue constantly.

      But you know what? His team has been together for 8+ years and his program is on time and under budget. People have have turned down promotions in order to stay.

      I couldn’t work in a set-up like his, but it obviously works for him and his team.

      1. Avasarala*

        Same! My husband has hours-long meetings just to chat. I’m trying to work here dammit! Thank goodness for headphones, haha.

  13. Observer*

    #1 – I’m a bit baffled by your reaction. I mean, sure, send her your address. She did send you a save the date, so she might want to invite you. But I would have thought that it’s pretty obvious that things have changed a LOT since you got that save the date email. In fact, I would be quite surprised if you wound up getting an invitation because a lot of people are delaying their weddings and most of those who aren’t have to cut waaay back on the wedding list. Depending on date and (planned) venue, she may have to overhaul her wedding list due to limits on the size of a group and / or venue closure, or she may trying to figure out what things are going to look like at the time of her planned wedding.

    1. Kaittydidd*

      I think you’re underestimating how stressful it is to be newly out, particularly in a conservative field.

      OP1, I agree with many of the other commenters that it’s best to send your new address to your customer. Most likely they’re dealing with a lot of things behind the scenes. I’m also newly out at work. I’m an engineer. You know your area and your community best, but try not to let the worry about being out overcome simpler reasons for weird behavior, especially with covid going on. Congratulations on your engagement!!

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        I’m sure it’s hugely stressful to come out to coworkers (or anyone else). But given her friend’s response (“congratulations!!” “We’re both planning weddings!!”) there no reason to think the lack of an invitation has anything to do with being gay.
        A worldwide pandemic that‘s altering every aspect of daily life? Ya, that’s a whole lot more likely the reason for no invitation.
        In fact I’m going to suggest that it’s a teeny bit self centered for the OP to think this has anything to do with her, her fiancée, what they might wear etc.
        This almost certainly has to do with this friend not knowing if/when/how she’s even going to have a wedding!

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I mean, it is kind of self-centered, yes, but that’s how humans work, especially in environments where they have prior data of people being assholes about sexual orientation. That’s the advantage of things like online forums and advice columns — you can write in and go “is this about me?” and get an answer of “nah, it’s almost certainly not”.

        2. K*

          It’s also relatively common, in my experience, for somebody to be polite immediately when you’re coming out and then all of a sudden they disappear. I agree that covid is by far the most likely reason for the lack of information about the wedding, but, I also can absolutely see why the LW is nervous. She knows her field, her state, and perhaps she has had some of the same experiences of people having been polite in the moment and then never speaking to you again.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, there’s a lot of ‘friends’ who ghost on you, others who just pretend you never said anything (this is more often relatives, which I think makes the difference between that and ghosting… Aunt Susan can conveniently forget between one thanksgiving and the next but can’t simply pretend you’re not there when everyone and their dog is trying to remember how long the turkey has to rest.)

          2. Kaittydid*

            Yep! Mostly it’s been some of my extended family members that quietly vanished out of my life like that after I came out. They’re from the conservative, agriculturally-driven area where I grew up. I’m lucky to live in a very LGBTQ+ friendly city now, so all of my friends and a decent portion of my colleagues have been awesome.

        3. Just no*

          Are you, or have you ever been, in a same-sex relationship? I suspect not, given your response to the OP. I am a woman married to a woman, and I don’t find OP’s concern to be remotely self-centered. Yes, the pandemic is almost certainly the reason OP hasn’t heard anything, but OP’s concern is completely valid and completely part of the queer experience, especially for those of us in conservative industries in conservative areas.

          FYI, her client/friend’s enthusiastic response means virtually nothing about whether her friend is actually supportive and will continue to be her friend. People don’t want to look like or act like bigots even when they are. Most/all queer people have experienced the oh-so-mysterious disappearance of a self-proclaimed “supportive” (or worse, “tolerant”) friend after coming out.

          1. APL*

            I so, so appreciate your comment, Just no. While everyone has been mentioning her as my friend, she’s really more of an acquaintance and my customer first, which has led to a lot of worry about how to professionally handle this situation. Ive had some of that fun mysterious-disappearance that you’ve mentioned happen so I may be jaded but it’s a part of the queer experience, unfortunately.

        4. Blueberry*

          Self-centered? No. She’s working from the information her life (not least in a consevative industry in our homophobic society) has given her.

          You know the common saying, “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras?” Well, suppose we were in the Okovango Delta. There, that saying would be turned on its head, because zebras are far more common than horses. Being LGBTQ (or in another disprivileged group) can be like that — one accumulates many experiences of discrimination and bigotry that would shock or even seem unbelievable to people who aren’t subject to such experiences. With a background full of such experiences I can absolutely see how LW#1 might be worried she’s seeing another, and that has nothing at all to do with self-centeredness.

    2. Christy*

      Are you a member of the queer community? Coming out can be exhausting (and it never truly ends) and trying to gauge how people will react/are reacting is exhausting too.

      I’ve been out for a decade and when I travel to other states for work it’s a constant calculus of “do I correct this cabbie who assumes that my wedding ring implies a husband?”. Sometimes I do and it’s fine, sometimes I do and the cabbie tries to get to me explain how gay male sex works and I have to say “that’s why we have the internet” (true. freaking. story.), and sometimes I don’t correct them and just pretend I have a husband and I feel really icky about it. And this is all for a thirty-minute cab ride to/from the airport.

      It’s even worse when it’s with actual coworkers. With them, I’m always out. And so when I meet new people I usually have to/choose to come out at some point. And I’ve had a few people turn weird about it unexpectedly.

      (Reasons I am entirely out at work: (1) my *entire* leadership chain knows and is totally fine about it, (2) I have a fair amount of capital at work and so at this point I’m only coming out to/meeting people who are lower-ranked than I am, and (3) there’s an older senior leader who is almost totally closeted and like, I understand why that’s her choice but I don’t want that for myself.)

      Anyway, all of this is to say, I understand being semi-panicked about coming out to a work friend, even to the extent that it makes you forget the impact of the move coronavirus on upcoming weddings. (Also, an Internet hug to OP1 for the coming out stress and a congratulations for the engagement!)

      1. Observer*

        I hear what you are saying. But there is a difference between “semi-panicked” and so convinced that you don’t even consider alternative explanations.

        Now, under most circumstances it would make sense as there really is not likely to be another obvious explanation. But this pandemic is a big enough issue that I would have expected at least some recognition of the *possibility* that that’s the issue.

    3. Bree*

      I agree that this particular invitation delay is probably unrelated to the LW being queer. But But as a queer person, I’m not the slightest bit baffled by that concern, esp in a conservative field or area. It’s so often a legitimate worry that someone will react negatively, and considering that possibility in unfortunately a legitimate part of staying safe day-to-day.

      1. APL*

        I really appreciate the supportive comments in this thread. I’m OP1. While I definitely didn’t intend for this to sound self-centered, I hope you also get a glimpse that coming out in a conservative field is something that, like the other commenters have said, never truly ends. Often attending an event while out in a field like this will result in uncomfortable comments from other people, like the other commenters have said about getting asked about how our intimate sexual lives work, leering comments about us wanting a third, or just general open discomfort. All these things can be really distracting, and especially during the day where all attention should be entirely dedicated to my customer I want to make sure I’m not part of any distractions or that she has to field questions about her guests. I hope that makes sense.

        1. Annony*

          I don’t think it’s self-centered. When people have ghosted you or uninvited you to things before when you came out to them, it’s natural that that is the explanation your brain will jump to. The pandemic is still new and unfolding and depending on where you are may not be affecting every aspect of your life right now the way it is for others. And it isn’t like the pandemic wiped out homophobia. You may be right in your initial impression or it could be the pandemic and homophobia (they are not mutually exclusive). Given how many weddings are being postponed, cancelled or significantly downsized I do think that the pandemic is the most likely explanation.

          1. Indy Dem*

            If we could have a pandemic that didn’t kill people, just made them sick until they stopped being homophobic, I’d be okay with that. Like, I know a few people I’d be tempted to infect.

      2. pancakes*

        There are two issues here, though – the first is that the letter writer’s community, like too many communities, is palpably homophobic, and this makes coming out extra fraught. The second is that the letter writer’s impulse is to offer to get back in the closet if someone else is uncomfortable with her simply existing as a lesbian. That’s a troubling impulse and really needs to be examined, hopefully in therapy. I say this as a bi woman, fwiw. There are times and places where being out isn’t safe, but this particular scenario isn’t quite that, and wanting to accommodate someone’s homophobia when there hasn’t been any sign of it is not a lucid or sustainable way to get along with them, or with people generally.

      3. Observer*

        I’m not baffled that the OP is nervous. I’m baffled that it apparently didn’t occur to her that under the current circumstances there is a really good chance that there are other possible reasons for the sudden radio silence.

        1. Whatsit*

          OP already commented in this thread to explain further, and she is trying to be thoughtful and considerate of the bride’s feelings. I think she gets the point now, so further comments that she was being self-centered really aren’t necessary or helpful.

          1. Kaittydidd*

            Agreed. It’s also worth remembering that OP is not exempt from the stress of this pandemic, either. All these stressors add up, and I’m glad she asked rather than worry in circles about it endlessly.

            1. Observer*

              Oh, definitely a good thing the OP asked. She was obviously stressed about it, so getting some feedback was absolutely a good thing.

          2. Observer*

            Yes, I saw that. It doesn’t really answer my question, but I didn’t think it would be useful to restate that again in response to her comment after I said it her. Especially since she seems to have taken on board all of the people who are saying “probably nothing to do with you and everything to do with Covid.”

            I also never said that she was being self centered. Being nervous and wondering / worry about this issue is perfectly reasonable. (And I agree that the OP is kind and gracious in trying to be considerate of the bride.) If I had thought that the OP was being self centered, I really would not have been puzzled, because that’s just so common, to be honest.

        2. Blueberry*

          Isn’t that why she asked?

          I mean, your username is ‘Observer’ . Are you observing what the queer people in this thread are saying about our lives?

        3. APL*

          I would also like to point out that while I do not agree with this, the area I am in (Again, a republican state) is beginning to open up and a summer wedding—especially one in a rural area—is something that is not far-fetched. That’s the reason I didn’t include that in my original question. I don’t wish to discuss the implications of having a wedding still this summer because that’s a whole other issue but to provide some clarity since you seem to think I’m unaware of this pandemic that’s happening.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not what I said, and I’m not sure where you got that from.

            It may not be far fetched to think that she might have the wedding, but it’s also totally not far fetched to think that she’s possibly postponing, cutting down or trying to figure out what to do.

            What I was puzzled about, as I noted, was that since you obviously are aware of this why did that not even come up as a possibility? I’m not fishing for an answer – it’s not really my business.

            1. Freeway*

              Everyone else is getting exactly that from your posts, though, so maybe you can stop beating that horse now.

              1. Observer*

                When people tell me I said something I did not say, I see no reason to not push back.

                I’ll stop repeating that I didn’t say that when people stop telling me that I did.

        4. Dahlia*

          Sometimes anxiety is illogical and brains don’t always work perfectly logically.

      4. Quill*

        Yeah, especially when you’re a minority in your field twice over. (Being queer and a woman, for example.)

  14. Agroforester*

    LW 1 I want to be a woman in Agriculture! I studied it 20 years ago and went to a different industry where land use plays a role amongst many others. My heart still is in it though, I’d be so grateful for any tips and insights.

    Congratulations on your engagement!

    1. Janey-Jane*

      Our CSA farm is woman run, and she spent the first part of her career in education. There’s always a chance!

  15. ElenaA*

    OP 2, since it is out of character enaugh for you to get worried, I really would talk to your husband about it! I used to work with stroke-survivors, and this kind of behaviour and especially change in behaviour is a very common symptom.
    Sometimes the “patient” doesen’t recognize it themselves, but sometimes they do. And ofcoures, he might give you additional info about their work environment, which would explain his behaviour. But whatever he tells you, you will have a better understanding about whats goin on, and are able to act based on that. Good luck.

    1. CL Cox*

      This +1,000.

      I don’t work with stroke survivors, but I have been around enough to know that there can be radical personality changes and loss of any filters (hoo boy, can they EVER lose the filters!). But as far as I know those tend to happen fairly soon after the stroke. If it’s been a while, they should definitely bring it up to their husband and (especially if he denies it’s even happening) to his doctor.

    2. Vina*

      I work with them as an attorney. Anger is a side effect of a stroke.

      H has some form of brain damage.

      If that’s driving this, he can’t control feeling angry. Whether he can learn to manage the reaction is another matter .

      This is way out of Allison’s wheelhouse. LW needs to seek medical advice!!!

      1. Vina*

        PS anytime one seeks flashes of anger that are uncharacteristic, consider physical change or damage, trauma, or situational pressure. People who spend 60 years not being jerks rarely change on a dime without a cause.

  16. Ayanimea*


    He is your husband not your boss. You don’t need to tiptoe around him. I heard my husband being aggressive on the phone with his colleagues ; I waited for us to be out of work, then I told him kindly and directly. For the next calls, he was more relaxed and calm.
    Don’t fear talking to your husband, he needs to know if he’s being a jerk. Especially if it may be linked to his stroke. And also because his colleagues may not be able to speak up, because power dynamics.

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      I would say that as his wife it’s not her job to police his work behaviour. By all means she should have a nice compassionate conversation with him (particularly as it may be linked to his stroke) but I would be more hands off with this sort of stuff. Obviously YMMV on this sort of thing though.

      1. Ayanimea*

        That’s a good comment. I assume I am entitled to share my opinion with my spouse whatever the subject but it may not be how the LW feels.

      2. Batgirl*

        Usually it wouldn’t be her problem, but I imagine something that bugs her enough to have stamped it out of their personal life could still be annoying if she has to overhear it a bunch of times a day while in lockdown. Equally the stroke is going to put her a little more on watch than she normally would be.

      3. Allonge*

        I think I agree – I would probably say something, but more 1. out of worry that he is not well or not happy working this way or does not recognise what is going on and 2. because I don’t want to hear my (hypothetical) husband snapping at people on the phone all day.

        Both those are personal and not work-related reasons though. And as you say, YMMV.

      4. Roscoe*

        Yep, this is my thought.

        I somehow think if things were reversed, there wouldn’t be as many people telling a husband to police how his wife talks on work phone calls, especially if he is only hearing one side. In general though, I don’t think a spouse should be inserting themselves into how their partner is working unless they are specifically asked their opinion.

      5. Kim D.*

        I feel the same. If this is a problem, his manager should intervene, not his wife. This feels like another aspect of emotional labour on behalf of both her husband and whomever is on the other side of the call.

        That is not to say that LW#2 should not speak with her husband if she is worried, but, like Allonge says, I would frame it in terms of work happiness.

      6. kt*

        I think it’s so weird that, “Should I bring it up with him?” turns into “policing” of behavior. Seems like a Rorschach test in action.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, absolutely. Nobody is saying she should tell her husband how to do his job or police his behaviour. On the other hand the lockdown means people are in much closer proximity than ever before, so she is seeing more than ever of his work behaviour so I don’t think there’s any harm politely raising the issue. After all it’s her husband and not a complete stranger.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          Thank you! It is so, so easy to not really know how we sound to others, and a spouse (or sometimes sibling or very close friend) has the standing to give a person that information where a co-worker would not.

  17. Random IT Guy*

    For #3 – using ‘all employee’ mail for this is abuse of resources.
    To use that for conspiracy theories (has it mentioned 5G yet?) should be stopped by the company or the company IT.

    Whether or not Covid 19 is a hoax – one is free to be delusional about that- but the law is the law.
    Encouraging others to break it should be either an immediate PIP, or termination of employment (endangering others either maliciously stupid or just stupid).

    I would ask management and/or IT management to put a stop to this – and quitly wonder why this hasn`t been done already. (maybe time to polish up the CV. I would not wish to work for people spreading these dangerous lies)

    1. Holey Moley*

      Exactly. She can speak about it on her own email/social media but her work email should be for work related items. Her manager needs to shut her down.

  18. LDN Layabout*

    #OP4 feels like an extension of the attitude that you’re somehow lucky simply for being employed/your employer is doing you a favour by employing you instead of a two way relationship where your labour is literally what keeps the business viable.

    The company certainly didn’t care that new management meant you staying was untenable, even though you enjoyed the work, right? You left because they didn’t keep up the implicit bargain to be a good workplace.

    1. M*

      OP here. That definitely hits home. They lost 5 of the 10 employees in my division in less than a year because of all the issues. We had many conversations about the problems and little changed, so no, it certainly doesn’t feel like the company cared that the situation was untenable. They also had a lot of conversations about people being committed, though, making it out as though the people who left just weren’t committed enough. Hard to break out of that mindset, as illogical as it is.

  19. LGC*

    1) …okay, so I do understand that it’s really stressful to come out as gay in an industry where that still might not be normalized. But I’m in agreement – I think that the biggest factor is the pandemic! Even if they did have anything against you for being a lesbian, I’d venture they could easily say that they couldn’t invite you because of the pandemic.

    But I don’t think that’s the reason. Writing from my perspective (US), it seems like…it’s ramping up everywhere else now. If you take out the New York/New Jersey stats, the case rate and the death rate are actually rising nationally. And although states are reopening, they could easily shut back down (or shut down, period) if things appear to get worse. Right now, a lot of experts are forecasting COVID-19 to be an issue until the fall and later, let alone the summer, so I’d be VERY surprised if your customer was able to go through with her original wedding plans.

    2) I went back and forth, but also…like, even if it is more accepted for men to be rude jerks (not that your husband is a rude jerk, but it sounds like he’s acting like one, if that makes sense), it’s still worth pushing back on. Women might get punished for it more, but men also undermine their effectiveness (as shown by the many, many “my boss is such a jerk, he does x, y, and z” posts here).

    I could definitely see the stroke affecting this in multiple ways (he might have impaired speech and be frustrated that people can’t understand him as well, for example), but without being in the situation I’m wildly unqualified to say for sure. But yeah, let him know and express concern.

    3) Speak up, because you can’t trust that management is dealing with this behind the scenes. And I don’t mean that your management is inept, although the fact that she openly wears clothing that violates dress code and has a history of being confrontational at work about her political beliefs doesn’t give me much hope. But even so, they might not be aware of – or realize – how serious of an issue this is.

    Also, please tell me that your coworker isn’t one from the Thursday short answers.

    4) Look at it like this: you probably already competed with them when you went to another company, unless you left the industry entirely and are just now returning to it. If you did leave and are just now returning, it’s been long enough for just normal competition to take place.

    5) Both of them were form emails, right? I wouldn’t reply, just because they are form emails.

  20. Wings*

    RE LW #3, what if it’s your management team that’s the one sending the conspiracy videos and links around? Wish I was joking! They just send it to each other and me vs. the whole company, but it still feels very inappropriate.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      I would ascertain whether it’s a shared view or just one member of the leadership team, but 99% this would be a sign to me to dust off my CV/cover letters and start a job search.

      1. Wings*

        Unfortunately it’s shared by at least half the team, and the other half thinks it’s okay for them to share what they want. But my real problem is this misinformation is being used to justify their response (as individuals AND an employer) to the pandemic – which, as you can imagine, is not great. I’m in a position where I can push for certain things (AKA the right things to do in this situation to protect our staff!) but have no real power to implement them. So yeah, I’m starting the process of getting out. :)

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Yup, that 1% ‘its just one idiot, the rest are sane’ goes out of the window.

          Thank you for advocating for your staff and get your own rescue plan in order.

    2. LGC*

      I hear diabolical buzzing coming from the direction of your office (that I presume they’re still asking you to come in to). I’d say get out as soon as possible for you – obviously, this may mean you have to stay for a little while longer – but that might be difficult.

      What level of management is sending these things? It’s one thing if you mean “my bosses, who have multiple layers of bosses above them” versus “my bosses, who are C-suite executives/own the company.” In the first case, I’d seriously consider escalating. In the second, the best solution I can think of is to create an folder for all COVID keywords titled “management trash” that all of their terrible videos go in. (This works in case 1 as well, but you can also go over their heads.) You can’t stop them from sending it, but you can stop yourself from seeing it.

      1. Wings*

        haha I am back today per their requirement and trying to keep my attitude in check. We have a pretty “ball-busting” (their words) culture, so I am leaning into that today (yes we obviously have other challenges), lol. It works in my favor for now because when people get too close I can laugh and say “whoa, you need to back it up!” and it’s funny but they also do it. But it’s exhausting to be the “police” when they don’t care. I am a bit nervous about being back, of course, but I am also trying to tow the line for other employees who I know are even more nervous.

        Oh and it’s the head of the company and his leadership team. So it’s pretty hopeless!

        1. LGC*

          …I’m sorry that your office is not only filled with evil bees, it’s run by murder hornets. (Possibly literal murder hornets, if you live in the Pacific Northwest.)

          But yeah, at this point, don’t be the police. Like, I saw someone I knew from HS reposted a conspiracy theory video. I just reported the post, unfollowed the person, and went on my merry way (until now, obviously). Obviously, you can’t stop your executive team from sending you email wholesale, but you can bin any CORONA FACTS THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Hey, be nice to the japanese giant hornets. They got their name from their habit of decimating bee hives. They murder no more humans than any other hornet does.

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Wow, it’s more than inappropriate. It can be borderline cruel. My friend just lost a family member to Covid, the virus is really hitting seniors particularly hard in long term care homes here. If they came to work and opened an email telling them that it’s all a hoax, they would be emotionally devastated.

      1. Wings*

        Yeah, it’s so bad they wouldn’t even blink if I told them they were being cruel. Seriously. I tried to say we should all wear masks to protect each other and they laughed. Laughed! So I just try to stick to business arguments – it’s required in our state and oh by the way the company would be in big trouble if half the staff got sick!

      2. pancakes*

        Yes, great point. It’s basically telling people who know someone who had the virus or, worse yet, died of the virus that they’re liars or being lied to. This isn’t something that should be downplayed as a messy joke that went wrong — this is someone announcing to their coworkers that they live in a parallel universe.

  21. Tomalak*

    OP2, the tone is really important as you acknowledge, but I don’t think the comments themselves are unreasonable if he is being interrupted or misunderstood. If you hardly ever cut him off mid-sentence then of course he won’t use these words towards you, but that is to your credit rather than something he should be blamed for doing when he is interrupted by others.

    On the other hand, how long are the things he is saying before complaining of being interrupted? If he is prone to long, didactic explanations then I can see that being a problem in itself, especially if he can’t take a hint and gets irritable when interrupted.

    Likewise if he’s the kind of person who speaks in sentences or paragraphs, and if some poor person misses one word and asks specifically for that word proceeds to relaunch into the whole sentence or paragraph again from scratch (why do people do this?!)

    “Moving into the Summer we really will be looking to generate more revenue from a range of clients who get a new budget from 1 July and are all well disposed to our work, like Donaldsons, Rubins and Roberts…”
    “What was the second client you said, sorry?”
    “I said that moving into the Summer we really will be looking to generate …”

    At that point I am going to say “No, sure, I got you – I just didn’t hear the second client name?” and I wouldn’t take kindly to him treating that as unreasonable.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      omg this is annoying to me! Not your behavior, but your hypothetical conversation partner’s. A related thing that really gets me is if I didn’t hear part of a sentence, and I say so directly, like “I didn’t catch the 2nd client name”, and the person *explains what they meant* instead of just repeating the words I missed. Or even worse, tries to convince me to agree with them (when I never expressed disagreement) instead of just repeating themselves.

  22. Nance*

    Whether or not Covid-19 is real is not a political issue, and I think you are automatically giving anti-science conspiracy theorists the upper hand by even acknowledging their paranoia as a political stance. If you go with the option to reply and ask her not to discuss things like that over work email, PLEASE don’t call it a political issue. That’s ridiculous.

    I mean, it is true that much of our government and country has been taken over by anti-science conspiracy theorists. That does not make it a legitimate political stance.

    1. Batgirl*

      That bemused me too. What kind of politics would you describe this as? Anti-realism? Joking aside, if my coworker had this kind of stance I’d be genuinely quite worried about them. They seem to either be deeply disaffected or rather unwell. I wouldn’t worry about someone’s politics.

      1. Quill*

        On the one hand: yes, scientific fact shouldn’t be political.

        On the other hand, having been present as an adult in america the last 10 years, the ability of politics to make anything at all partisan is astonishing.

        Still best to bring it up to the company as a serious liability and not mention politics.

        1. Amy Sly*

          The other part of that is that there’s scientific facts which should be apolitical, and then there’s policy decisions based on those facts.

          Take global warming. Temperatures are apolitical facts. What, if anything, we should do about those temperatures is a political question that needs to balance many conflicting demands.

          1. Quill*

            I mean, policy is a political question *but* it shouldn’t be driven by politics. You need to base your policy efforts on fact to start with to begin with.

    2. Amy Sly*

      I’m really trying to figure out what people mean when they say “Covid is a hoax.” The disease exists. People are dying.

      Now, I can understand people saying “the published Covid death rate is incorrect” — I’ve heard claims of both over- and under- counting. I can understand saying that the prescribed precautions are ineffective — the official word on masks has ranged from “civilians shouldn’t wear them at all” to “everyone needs to wear them” as just one example of the contradictions. (WHO even now says that you don’t need to wear a mask unless you are actively treating a Covid patient.) I can understand people noting that more people died during the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 – 1970, but yet the economy didn’t shut down, or that the states which shut down early and hard actually don’t have a much different infection curve from the ones that did so later. I can understand noting that the shutdowns were announced and got the populace to buy in on the grounds that they would be short to “level the curve” and ensure that hospitals were not overwhelmed, but now some politicians are moving the goalposts to the shutdowns must continue until we have a vaccine even if that takes months.

      Those are all facts, and because of those facts I can understand skepticism about the severity of the disease and appropriateness of the response. But what the heck does “it’s a hoax” mean?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think there’s heavy overlap with the people who claim various mass shootings never happen, it’s just actors with catsup. Mere dead bodies aren’t going to slow their role because they know everything that might disprove their view is faked by the people running the conspiracy. (Often, Oprah.)

        1. Amy Sly*

          I guess.

          It just really bugs me. There’s room for serious discussion and thoughtful disagreement on how best to weigh the risks of Covid against the dangers of food shortages, delayed non-Covid related medical treatments, increased suicides, drug overdoses, and domestic violence. There are no perfect solutions here; we’re just trading who is at risk of dying. Yet it feels like on the one hand, we have crazies saying “it’s all a hoax” and others pointing to those crazies and saying “everyone who disagrees with me one iota on how to weigh the factors just wants everyone to die!”

          1. Jennifer*

            “everyone who disagrees with me one iota on how to weigh the factors just wants everyone to die!”

            I wish we could talk about the other factors without people assuming you just want to throw caution to the wind and let people die. The truth is we’re doing a crappy job of containing the virus AND handling the fallout from the virus. People want to stay home but they need to eat also. There’s no easy answer.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, the real failing here is that a political debate exists, full stop, instead of actual disease experts advising the government on the healthiest policy.

              Not to get off topic or political here but the relevant thing is: so long as public health remains politicized America is going to have really shitty public health. And from a business perspective, we’re looking at long-term economic consequences of that on top of the deaths, resource shortages, etc.

            2. Amy Sly*

              Exactly. We’ve got farmers who desperately need to sell their livestock to make room for the new animals and grocery stores with empty meat racks, but with the many of the meat processing plants shut down, there’s no easy way to get the surplus food to the people who want to buy it. And that’s just one small example of what happens when you shut down an economy as complex as any rain forest ecosystem.

              It’s not about trading lives for stock options; it’s about trading lives lost to Covid with lives lost to starvation in the parts of the world that rely on US agriculture, or lives lost to non-elective cancer surgeries being delayed too long, or lives lost to depression and anxiety, or dozens of other problems. And then there are our political leaders making incredibly foolish decisions like sending Covid-infected patients back to nursing homes, which frankly was tantamount to reckless homicide.

              1. Temperance*

                The reason that those processing plants are closed is because COVID-19 famously blew through at least one.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  Absolutely. We have to weigh the risk of contaminated meat now against both people not having any meat now and farmers going out of business so that fewer people can afford meat later.

                  I don’t know what the proper balance should be. But again, it’s not just a matter of “there’s nothing to worry about” or “you want people to die.”

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                As someone going through cancer treatment during shutdown, in a support group for similar people: non-elective cancer surgery is not shut down.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  Sorry, thinking too many things at the same time. Non-elective cancer treatments are going forward. There are some elective treatments and biopsies in certain locales that were not. It depends on the state and the hospital system.

        2. Quill*

          The problem with conspiracy theories and other cult-mentalities is that they set themselves up to be impossible to refute within the in-group. Someone agrees with you? reinforcement. Someone disagrees with you with, for example, centuries of medical research and a slideshow? They’re lying and/or oppressing you.

          Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter if the cult leader believes this or just found something to keep you busy, they’ve got your attention. And the principles of the mentality spread well beyond a central figure’s influence by preying on social connections and group dynamics: hence why insular churches are hunting grounds for MLM’s, with exposure to ‘wellness’ themed MLM’s comes a greater susceptibility to fake medicine, antivaxxers, etc…

      2. Jennifer*

        There are people that really think the bodies we see on the news being loaded into trucks are faked and that the healthcare workers speaking out are “crisis actors.” It’s similar to the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          Utter insanity. These people are not well, and are hateful to boot.

    3. LGC*

      Yeah – like, I wouldn’t call it offensive, even. I’d call it dangerous. KarJane (the administrative assistant) is encouraging people to take actions that the vast majority of health authorities are strongly discouraging at best, quite possibly breaking the law, and at worst can result (and have resulted) in further unnecessary disease and death.

      (Apologies to any Janes in the audience. And any Karens, for that matter.)

    4. ANON*

      YES! Thank you so much for saying this (and very well put, too!). It’s dangerous and absolutely ridiculous to call it “political,” not only because it lends credence to absurd conspiracy theories but because it’s widening divisions across the country when that’s the last thing we need. It’s driving me nuts how frequently this language is being used!

  23. Jemima Bond*

    LW#1 – I can understand why someone not in a cis/hetero relationship would have their radar on for bigotry so I don’t intend to deny your fears but I think you can strip this right down to a few bare facts: I am moving house. Person who has my old address is intending to post something to me and I want to get it. Therefore I should tell this person my new address. Simple!

    An idea is, you could include your customer in your list of recipients for an email change-of-address announcement:

    We’re moving!
    [insert cute drawing of two smiling figures in a removal van, a snail with a house on its back etc]
    From 1st June, Larissa Warbleworth and Tangerina Ferguson will be living at 53 Acacia Avenue [etc, landline phone number etc]
    [Jaunty sign-off of choice.]

    This is a useful thing to do in any circs and you’re less likely to miss out on future holiday postcards etc. Plus it’s a bit of happy news so it’s good to share!
    When I did this I asked people to reply confirming their own address which enabled me to update my address book so my Xmas card sending would be less haphazard in future. The added advantage re your customer is that when she does get her wedding on track she can address your invitation to Tangerina as well which is nicer than Larissa and guest.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yes this is exactly the situation that change of address cards were invented for…

    2. Littorally*

      Yep, right here is the way to go about it. And if you send it snail mail rather than email, it’s a nice touch — feels classy, and a lot of people really like receiving physical mail that isn’t junk, especially right now.

  24. AnonNurse*

    #1 – until you have any further reason to think so, please don’t assume the worst in this situation. I work with a nurse that was to be married this summer and with the pandemic, she rescheduled her wedding after the save the dates went out but before the invitations were due to go out. There’s an excellent chance the situation is similar with your customer. Definitely reach out with your new address and good luck with your wedding planning!

    1. TimeCat*

      My friend had invitations and everything out and then had to cancel. It was rough. I am not part of the wedding party but close friends were on deck to make sure everyone knew. It was rough.

      1. AnonNurse*

        I’m sure that was so hard on your friend. :-( Hopefully they’re able to get things rescheduled and figured out.

  25. JM in England*

    Re #3

    This post brings back memories of a distant former co-worker who, shortly after 9/11, sent an all-staff email saying that doomsday was on the way. In their case, they were fired shortly after doing this. However, they were already on a PIP for performance related problems.

  26. JessaB*

    Normally I’d agree with Alison and not send a thank you or anything regarding the notice about the time limit on hiring, but given COVID and other issues, I think I’d do just one, to let them know that A: I’m still interested (things have changed sooooo much) and B: I did actually get their notice. It’s a crazy time and it’d be good to let them know you did actually see their note. I think if I’d sent it I’d want to know whether it was received by anyone, and given major changes I’d also want to know if the person still wanted to be in the running, or had taken another job or gods forbid was ill…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the comparison to the “thanks” email was apt–it functions to let someone know you got whatever it was so they don’t need to follow up.

      1. Lisa B*

        I’m with JessaB on the unusual side of disagreeing with Alison! If that last letter wasn’t auto generated but from a human being, I think a short reply like the OP suggested would be seen as “positively neutral.” Neutrally positive? It won’t hurt you for not sending it, but as the hiring manager when I get those it’s a minor feeling of “oh good, right e-mail address that they’re actively monitoring, and they seem engaged. Nice.” When I e-mail invitations for interviews, if I don’t hear back from this person I’ll think “that’s strange- they e-mailed me back right away last time. I’ll try calling too.” With someone else maybe I’ll think “well, I never heard back from them before, maybe they’re not looking anymore.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, I think it’s a brief closing of the loop. Brief is important. Closing is important–they don’t need to answer a question or otherwise reply. OP should be aiming for the maximum response to be a few seconds of “ah, OP gets it.”

          (All assuming it’s a brief note from a human, not a computer.)

    2. Senor Montoya*

      No, I beg of you OP #5, it’s an automated notice sent to the email address that you provided. Please, do not send such a message. I’m chairing a search committee: I have to read your message, I have to decide if I need to respond to it, I have to *keep* it. And it is not the only email of that type related to the job opening that I have received. Please, do not add to my work.

  27. Amethystmoon*

    #3 I’m surprised there isn’t an official “don’t talk about politics at work” policy from HR at your company. There is at mine. Perhaps there is and no one knows about it because it’s buried in the fine print in the employee handbook that no one reads? Can you talk to your manager? Surely the manager saw the e-mail also.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Having an official policy doesn’t mean it won’t still happen or be allowed to happen. Where I work we have a strict no political discussions or campaigning policy…and yet during one regular meeting, there’s always one person who openly campaigns for a certain national political candidate who’s up for reelection. It bugs all of us but no one ever says anything because we don’t want to take a chance of being retaliated against or losing our jobs in this recession/depression climate; and the big bosses never say anything against the offender so either they support what’s being said or they don’t care about policies being violated and ethics being thrown under the bus. It sucks but it seems to be a shrug-and-bear-it scenario for the time being.

    2. JB*

      I work in government, and political opinion needs to be handled very carefully for obvious reasons. Even recreational quiz questions that mention political figures need to be carefully worded so as not to show bias.

  28. jen hen*

    Hey OP1, I work at a wedding venue and I can 100% tell you upcoming weddings are in a hard spot right now. Do they hope for the best and go forward? Even if they’re able to have it, they may now be limited on capacity and having to revise their guest list. Do they wait and see? Do they reschedule for next year and hope all their vendors can move? Many vendors are being strict with rescheduling. Several of my renters have opted to cancel their wedding altogether and go with a virtual one.

  29. Fabulous*

    #1 – I wouldn’t worry, I’m sure it’s pandemic-related. I had two weddings to attend this summer and they have both been rescheduled, and I only JUST heard an update about the July wedding yesterday. And I probably only found out this soon because it’s my nephew’s wedding and I was talking to my mom who just happened to talk to my step-sister earlier in the day.

    That being said, definitely reach out with your new address! I remember wedding planning a couple years ago and it was so tough having to track down addresses for people I knew had moved!

  30. NerdyKris*

    LW4: Think of it this way. If you weren’t starting a new business but were just taking a job at a different company, you wouldn’t consider it shady if they were in the same industry.

  31. Jean*

    OP2, I know it’s hard to do when you’re there with him all the time, but I suggest doing your best to just ignore your husband’s work matters. You don’t work there and it’s not your problem. If his tone is bothering you or triggering you in some way, you may be more emotionally affected by his treatment of you than you realize. I know lots of therapists are doing telemed appointments right now, and it may be worth looking into if it’s having a significant effect on you. (As a survivor of a similar type of situation, you have my sympathy and I wish you the best.) Otherwise, just don’t worry about it. When he’s on a call, put your headphones on and focus on something else. Hugs.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I don’t think she needs therapy to have a conversation with her husband, no matter the topic.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    #1 – Since her initial reaction was positive, I would assume the lack of invite is COVID related and they have either delayed or are waiting as long as possible before sending invites. Send the updated address.

    #2 – I think you don’t have enough info to make a judgement. Working remotely can change how issues need to be addressed especially if time is short in order to work around people who have to deal with children and partner schedules. Honestly, I can think of dozens of reasons to say each of those phrases that are completely legitimate. If I remember correctly, some of those phrases are ones Alison recommends when dealing with interrupters. I get your point about tone but I also know that tone can sometimes be what causes us to tune in to a conversation so maybe you missed the 5 previous “please don’t interrupt me”, “Actually what I meant was…”, etc… I would keep an eye on it because of the stroke but at this point I wouldn’t worry that your husband is the office boar.

    #3 Report the email to both bosses and HR (if you have one). Next time you see her in one of the extra political/offensive shirts, bring that up as well. I wouldn’t say it daily but if one is really out there, bring it up to at least your boss “Hey boss – have you seen Jane’s shirt today? I’m really uncomfortable with the message it is sending and since we have X clients coming in I thought I would flag it for you since it is in direct contradiction to their organizations purpose.”

    #4 Unless you signed a non-compete clause you are free to start the business. You haven’t worked there in years and the company you were really loyal to is gone – replaced by Big Company.

    #5 I don’t see anything wrong with an acknowledgement email along the lines of “Thanks for this information” but it isn’t necessary. They are most likely simply trying to relay the information that a) the position hasn’t been eliminated/frozen, etc… and b) to avoid a bunch of calls/emails a couple weeks down the line from candidates asking those questions.

  33. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t see any ethical concerns about starting a business in the same area. Especially as it seems some time has passed since you’ve worked there, and there was also a change in the ownership of that business. If you see a niche that can be filled, fill it!

    Good luck!

  34. blink14*

    OP #1 – Send your customer your new address. I would assume that if she invited you to her wedding, you are close enough for you to include something like “Wanted to check in and see how things are going, since it’s my busy season we haven’t seen each other lately” or something like that.

    My cousin’s wedding, which was supposed to be at the end of May, was postponed, and she announced it at the end of April, by email to family and through social media, plus her wedding website. In her case, a lot of people would be traveling and the state she lives in and where the wedding would be is under one of the longest stay-at-home orders in the country, so she knew about 2 months in advance she would have to postpone. Depending on the situation where you live, your customer may be holding out until the last possible moment before making a decision.

    Also side note – I find the practice of sending out Save the Dates 6 months in advance or whatever and then the actual wedding invites just a few months before or less to be so bizarre.

  35. Generic Name*

    #2) I agree with Allison’s advice to bring it up with your husband, especially with the context of Ben g a stroke survivor. That said, I don’t think it’s terribly uncommon to have different “home” and “work” demeanors. My fiancé works in construction, and I’m positive he’s much different at home than he is at work. He’s very sweet and attentive to me, but at work he explains that he’s much different. They all yell instructions across the job site to one another, there’s a lot of “bro” humor, etc. On the other hand, my ex-husband complained about his job for about 10 years. Management was awful. Stupid decisions, etc. at one point after really thinking how his complaints to me sounded, I realized that my ex was probably not a very good employee, and was likely problematic for his managers. So it might be beneficial for your husband to know how sphe sounds to a 3rd party.

  36. TootsNYC*

    re: starting your own business that competes with your former employer

    It reminds me of the time I wanted to get bids on a plate-glass backsplash for my kitchen.

    I called three places and scheduled two of them for the same day, about an hour apart. One of them came early, and I hadn’t pegged to why that was a problem.

    Turns out the first guy had gone out on his own after working for the second company. There are these two guys–one saying, “I couldn’t bid against my former employer, they taught me everything,” and the second one saying, “No, really, you should bid! you’re entitled to start out on your own, and we all wish you well.”

    And me saying, “hey, what about me? How about if I get to decide which of you I want to work with?”

    I didn’t get a bid from either of them. And I still don’t have a plate-glass backsplash.

  37. blink14*

    OP #2 – I think it’s hard to know what’s going on when you are only hearing one side of the conversation and you don’t know the dynamics of someone’s work situation. Maybe a good route to take with your husband would be to casually ask him how work has been going, as you’ve heard what might be some tense conversations, and you want to check in with him.

    I can tell you from personal experience, the phrases he’s using I’ve heard in both conversations with managers who are being very negative and talking over someone, and with managers who are steamrolling someone and that person is trying to get their point across and be heard. Many work cultures and environments aren’t fair or balanced or calm, and depending on the industry, being stern and decisive is a real necessity. Think of your own parents, siblings, or friends – the “work” version of them may be very different than the relationship you have with them, and not necessarily in a negative way.

  38. Jennifer*

    #3 If this hasn’t been shut down, I wonder if it’s because leadership at this company agrees with her. There were multiple people in management at my last job who would have. I’m usually not a “go to HR” kind of person but in this instance I think you’d get better results going directly to them instead of upper management.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think though because it does say in their company handbook, that this is against policy, the OP can stick with that. Leave the politics out: stick to the violation of policy of using the corporate email for something she shouldn’t be using it for.

  39. Grbtw*

    OP 3,

    I think there’s a bigger issue here, I have a lot of people in my family who believe this. My biggest concern personally is working with one of these people. The world is starting to open back up, but the virus will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future. We have to work together to minimize spread. Offices are opening up, and these people aren’t taking precautions at all, and in many cases, not respecting the boundaries of those who are. A lot of times, I’ve seen these people take risks to prove to others they aren’t afraid. I don’t want to be in the same room with a person who spent the weekend hugging people at a protest, who comes into the office, rubs their eyes at some point, then touches everything!

  40. Quill*

    Re the “covid is a hoax” coworker: I’m honestly surprised that her internal political emails haven’t been noted and discouraged before. (Possibly they have been and you weren’t aware.)

    Either way, she’s gone so far beyond annoying and into the realm of potentially endangering coworkers that you really ought to mention it from that perspective, rather than “this is political.”

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think this should be addressed as a political issue. It should be addressed primarily as an attempt to encourage people to essentially break the law, and as an encouragement to behave in ways that endanger others.

      It doesn’t matter what her political leanings are in this context. Whether someone is suffering from Trump derangement syndrome or Trump is the messiah delusions is not really the issue. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if the overtly political stuff got shut down. But that’s not the prime issue in this case.

      It’s like anti-vaxxers who tend to lean either extreme “liberal” or “conservative” – it doesn’t matter. I still don’t want your kids in school with my (grand)kids.

    2. JB*

      It’s a straight up abuse of the staff mailing list and encouraging people to break the law. It also encourages conspiracy theories, which are very dangerous for organisations. That and the provocative dress code violations, she needs a serious talking to.

      Best not to start a mass email conversation. Regardless of intent those can snowball and at the very least get annoying if people respond or chime in.

  41. SLP here*

    OP #2, I wonder if your husband could benefit from a few visits to a speech language pathologist. Many people do not know this, but we also work on cognitive and social communication issues. If his stroke has indeed changed his communication style, it wouldn’t hurt and might help.

  42. nnn*

    An option for #1: if a personal email directly to your customer providing an address update for the express purpose of a wedding invitation feels wrong, another perfectly normal thing to do is send a general email to all your family and friends (with everyone in bcc) updating them on your new address.

    Even if your customer is the only person you need to send this information to, you can put her in bcc, phrase the email as something like “Hi everyone, here’s my new address” and she’ll never know that she’s the only one getting the email. It won’t read as hinting at all – worst case, it will just come across as being overzealous with your email address book.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a reasonable way to go. It’s polite, it’s information that the person essentially asked for (whether or not they still need it), and it totally takes the pressure off everyone.

  43. Ladylike*

    OP1: I would take the opportunity to reach out to your customer, ask her how she’s doing, and express concern about how the pandemic may have impacted her wedding plans. Something like, “I know you were SO excited about your upcoming wedding. I really hope coronavirus hasn’t ruined your plans.” That should be enough of an open door for her to tell you what’s going on with the wedding planning, and hopefully she’ll make a reference to you being invited. Then you can casually say, “Oh, before I forget! I did move, here’s my new address.”

  44. MJ*

    OP1 – Congrats on your engagement!

    Please do not lean in to the idea that you need to modify your life to accommodate others. Full stop. Consider it a bullet dodged if this woman has an issue – but she may not!

  45. Senor Montoya*

    OP #5. While there’s nothing wrong w sending such a message, from the perspective of the chair of a search committee: Please don’t. Even if I don’t respond to it, I still have to read it and decide if there’s anything in it that I have to respond to, and I have to keep it, too. It will not help me remember you or give you any sort of boost when we review your application, and it will be the tiniest bit annoying to me (because I had to waste time reading it, and several dozen others just like it)

    Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant…

  46. James*

    LW #2: My dad was like that. He was a lot more abrupt at work than he was at home (usually, and when he went into “work mode” at home Mom called him out on it). If he spoke to Mom the way he spoke to his coworkers she’d have left him!

    The reason wasn’t that Dad is a bad person, though. The reason is that, as Allyson said, the norms of the job included that sort of communication. Abruptness, bluntness, even power plays were the norm. He was in construction, and in relatively small and (let’s be honest here) backward companies for the most part. I had the opportunity to attend a few of his company events, and frankly no one took Dad’s behavior personally; they couldn’t, as they were all like that. When you routinely deal with issues like “How do I avoid blowing up this part of the state while digging next to this giant tank of explosive gas?” things like interrupting conversations and assertive pushback don’t really get noticed.

    Also, some people simply don’t listen to polite statements. I’ve had to use every one of those phrases to shut down hostile coworkers in the past. These folks took politeness as a sign of weakness and would steamroll me if I didn’t push back. I was able to work around most of them, but it’s tricky.

    It may be worth bringing up with your husband, but be prepared to hear that the company doesn’t consider it a big deal.

  47. Katie*

    OP 1 –

    As someone also planning a wedding during this trainwreck, I swear it’s not you. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason for all of this so everyone i’m talking to is pushing lots of things to the absolute last minute before decisions are made. Lots of people are holding out hope and at the moment “no news is good news”.

    I’d suggest looking on their wedding website (possibly on their Save The Date) or checking the big sites for any wedding website info (theknot, zola, minted) and see if anything has been posted there.

    1. So sleepy*

      This! She made a point of being really supportive of your engagement. There’s no way it’s about that – she would have been awkward THEN, if, say, she was panicking that her family might have an issue with it. The fact that she was clearly excited for you… it’s almost certainly a delay (or not knowing if they are going to hold the wedding on that date or not yet). I would give her the new address so she has it (just a general “I’m moving so I wanted to give you my updated mailing address!”). She’ll probably make the connection and give you an update. There’s also a small chance they’ve decided to dramatically scale back the wedding given current events, but even if that is the case, I would assume the change is more about limiting it to really close family and nothing to do with your relationship (and she probably feels terrible about it). I’m not saying this would be true for everyone, but all the information you have about her indicates that there’s no reason to believe she would act this way and I think you can respond accordingly.

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I have seen employees start their own businesses before, my bosses would even sell supplies to them often times or share equipment depending on the circumstances [in my case, they’re selling something completely unrelated but in the same vein]. That’s how ethical the practice is, there’s usually room for healthy competition!

    But! Never have partners. Ever. Like ever. Especially with just a bunch of people who you are colleagues with.

  49. k.b.*

    I want to push back on marking #3 as a political issue– that makes a very real health and safety issue seem like a matter of opinion, which it isn’t. There is nothing political about a virus.

  50. So sleepy*

    RE: abrupt husband, it’s very possible the stroke is affecting this part of his behaviour, but it’s just as important you let him know. I had a concussion a few years ago that had a similar impact for about 18 months (I had working memory issues which, among other things, would lead me to be much more direct because I simply couldn’t hold enough information in my head at once to remember what I wanted to say and the social aspects of saying it in a softer way). It was useful for me to know as I could at least give people a head up to expect this and why it was happening.

  51. Kimberly*

    #3 – Something I’ve done in the past in a similar situation. I reply to the sender while BCC both my principal and CITS (the person in charge of training teachers on tech.) I said something like “This is my work e-mail and it is illegal (public school you could say unethical) for me to use it for politicking. Please don’t send e-mails of this type to my work e-mail.” That way if Mr. Troublemaker who kept filing FOIA request for our e-mail got mine I was covered. I didn’t get pulled into a political argument. The principal and CITS could deal with the misuse of school equipment and systems. (In this case, your co-worker should be fired from being an idiot)

    That worked until I got a principal who sent e-mails of sermons from some book and ones that said True Christians TM should be the only people allowed to teach and that Jews, Catholics*, and Muslims should not be allowed to teach in public schools. Then the staff had to get FFRF involved and threatening a lawsuit. All his e-mails had to be approved by his boss after that. Except she was getting these e-mails and didn’t do anything. I can read a CC list.

    *I know Catholics are Christians but his guy lives in his own reality. They don’t believe what he does they aren’t Christians. He actually labels most mainstream Protestant branches as pretend. He also belives only the Abrahamic religions exist – the others are all made up. Head -> Brick wall.

  52. JB*

    #3 Best not to respond to the email. If you CC in everyone on the mailing list then it’s going to be an irritant at best and a snowball at worst, the last place you want a debate (which would get you into trouble too). The coworker in question is unlikely to have seen the error of her ways and won’t be persuaded by you. Deal with the problem at the head and go to her manager and HR about how she’s abusing work resources for non-work purposes and about her dress code violations. Keep as much as possible to official channels.

  53. DataQueen*

    Can I just say how interesting it is to get feedback on your work style from your significant other? My boyfriend decided that i’m a mean boss (i AM tough) and we’ve been arguing about it a lot. He’s become so invested in this that he is now defending one of my low performers! Literally tonight over dinner he argued with me about why she shouldn’t go on a PIP. *Sigh*

  54. Foxgloves*

    Re OP5, I actually disagree with Alison here. I would recommend responding- this is an individual employee, not a form/ auto acknowledgement, and to respond is basically like being polite to everyone you meet in person at the company on your way into the interview, in my opinion! I’d also say that it will confirm to them that your email address is correct, so if they need to get in touch with any further information, they will have the confidence that you will receive it.

  55. Megans1992*

    We always called this “dropping a verbal dump.” It feels good to vent, but I feel like it’s important to make sure that you are not doing it to get validation from the other person that you are correct. They may just be “letting you get it out.”

  56. Megaloo*

    I completely understand the need to talk about fears right now! I agree with the point that you need to avoid repeating yourself- I myself find it exhausting when I’m trying to help employees and they just keep going around in circles. I try to remind them that I’m there to help, but sometimes you have to resume the conversation later.

  57. LB*

    OP #3 here. I decided to go to HR. I’m afraid upper management is aware of the situation and not taking action; this has been going on for years. The most recent email that I wrote about was just my last straw. (There were at least 6 positive reply-alls to the offending email.) That’s good advice to not even bring politics into it. Although the politics of it is what bothers me the most, it’s not the most egregious policy violation, and not what I should be most concerned with.

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