my friend got me a job and now I’m being used to push her out, team lead tried to sell us MLM products, and more

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

1. My friend got me a job — and now I’m being assigned work that will push her out

Six months ago, my friend recruited me for a job opening, working with her on a really interesting project at a great company. She and I have similar skill sets, and I was led to understand that there was a lot of our type of work to be done going forward. When recruiting me, she disclosed issues she was having with Grandboss. It was both performance-related and personal, HR was involved, so needless to say, they didn’t have a good relationship. But her (and what would be my) immediate boss was great, and the work was exciting, so I decided that I could deal with/avoid these problems, and I took the job.

However, since I’ve started, it’s become increasingly clear that Grandboss thinks of me as a replacement for my friend rather than someone to work with her. Two months in, he reorganized the group to put me directly under him (essentially promoting me to a level above my friend, although she doesn’t report to me) and has slowly been reassigning me the tasks my friend was doing before I joined. He has also been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with her performance. My friend is understandably upset.

I’m stuck in this situation where if I take over a task and do it well, I make my friend look bad. She is also very reluctant to help me learn these tasks, which makes it hard for me to do the job I’ve been assigned. I have no idea how to get the information I need, because if I mention that I’m not getting what I need from her to others on the team, I worry it will get back to Grandboss and make her look worse. I want to both do my job well, and not lose my friend. Any advice for how to navigate this situation?

Talk to your friend. Tell her you know she got you the job in the first place, you feel awful about what’s happening, and you don’t want to do anything to make things harder on her, but that you also need to do your job. Tell her you feel like you’re in a tough spot when she won’t give you info you need — that normally you’d talk to your boss for help with that but don’t want to do that since it could make things harder for her, but it’s at the point where there’s not much else you can do without putting your own job in jeopardy.

If she’s a good friend, she won’t expect you to jeopardize your own job. But the reality is that she might feel bitter that she got you the job and now you’re part of the process that might be pushing her out. It’s going to take some maturity for her not to resent that.

Honestly, the friendship may not survive this, and that sucks; neither of you caused this, but here you are.

2. Our team leader tried to sell us MLM products on a Zoom call

I’m currently work from home with heavy Zoom usage, like many people. Recently, at the end of our weekly team zoom meeting, our team leader started to try and sell us on her new multi-level-marketing products. It was a hard sell, too — she did a product demo on camera, and told specific people what products they would like. (“Hey, Suzie, you have a scar, you should try this!” “Hey, Ted, this will help with your acne!”)

Obviously, this is wrong in so many ways. Our boss would hit the roof if he knew she was selling on company time. We’re publicly funded, and our Zoom accounts are paid for with tax money. We really can’t use Zoom for things that aren’t strictly work-related. Also, on top of everything else, that was super rude.

I faked a call to get out of the meeting early this time. What in the world do I do if it happens again?

Wow. This would be problematic enough even if she weren’t singling out people’s physical “flaws,” but that takes it to a new level of wow.

Tell your boss. I wouldn’t even wait for it to happen again! It was so out of line (and an abuse of authority) that it’s worth telling your boss now. Plus, even if she doesn’t do it on another group Zoom call, she could be doing it to people individually, and maybe to people who will feel more pressured to buy from her, like interns or others with substantially less power or comfort speaking up.

If I were your boss, I’d want to know right away.

3. Company wants us to thank them for masks to win a contest

My brain has kept gravitating to this email I received late last week from the head of HR at my company. About two weeks ago, our company sent out complimentary N95 masks to our homes, which was very nice of them.

Our HR head emailed to notify us of fun virtual competitions to help heighten morale for a few minutes during this craziness. The first two contests seemed light-hearted and included being the first to send a picture with your mask on or taking a creative pic with your mask. But the last one rubbed me the wrong way. She said the final prize will to someone who submits a photo using the mask while incorporating a “heartfelt thank-you” to the executive team, since they mailed them to our home at no cost and didn’t sell them.

I am not overly fond of the idea of selling masks because I don’t think you should capitalize on a crisis. I disagree that my company deserves a pat on the back for not selling them to us. They do deserve praise for thinking about our health, but sending an email asking for thanks that these masks weren’t sold to us just seems … tacky? It seems like they want the recognition and are forcing it upon us which makes me very uncomfortable.

Ick, yes. A contest to encourage you to genuflect to management is tone-deaf, particularly one that celebrates them for not charging their employees money for safety equipment. I’d sit the contests out.

If you’re in the U.S., there’s another problem here, which is that there’s a serious shortage of N95 masks for health care workers, who need them far more than people who are working from home (as opposed to the more common fabric masks), and the public has been encouraged to donate them to medical workers rather than hoard them for themselves. The surgeon general has urged the public to stop buying N95 masks so that health care workers can get the protection they need, and the CDC recommends that only health care workers wear N95s.

4. Connection requests from recruiters

I’ve been job-searching on and off the last two years (to move on from a very stressful previous job, and now to find new gigs when my current contract expires). From time to time, recruiters reach out to me via LinkedIn. I’m fine with that — my profile is marked “open to new opportunities.”

However, they often want to connect to me, and I’m not okay with that. I don’t know these people or necessarily want my own LinkedIn connections and network to become part of theirs. I’ve just been quietly ignoring their requests. But should I be either more receptive (on the grounds that, as recruiters, they obviously have lots of connections to jobs) or less receptive, and tell them up front I don’t connect to recruiters unless we have an ongoing business relationship (or some other substantial reason)?

Some people are sticklers about only connecting on LinkedIn to people they know or have worked with. And that’s fine! But other people connect to anyone who seems like it might be useful to have in their networks, and most recruiters work like that. If you don’t want to receive leads from recruiters on LinkedIn, I’d just ignore the connection request rather than telling them you won’t connect without a better reason, as the latter is likely to come across as a little prickly and out of touch with how they operate.

But if you’re actively searching, I’d err on the side of connecting; there’s not really a downside and it could help.

5. If a job is listed in multiple sites, where’s the best place to apply?

If a company lists a job in multiple places (their website, LinkedIn, and Indeed, for example), which is best to send your resume/cover letter to?

If it’s on the company’s website, apply there. Applying on LinkedIn doesn’t let you customize your materials in the way you ideally should, and applications sent through their Easy Apply option and some of the other platforms can be clunky on the recipient’s end.

{ 378 comments… read them below }

  1. LGC*

    Two points for LW1:

    First, you yourself are not actively pushing your friend out. It feels like it, but you didn’t ask for this or want this.

    Second, I’m not wild about your (current) boss having the person he’s trying to fire training their replacement. Even if you weren’t friends, he put her in an awful position. Also, he’s discussing her performance with you! That’s a red flag there, too.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s an awful situation. I feel like the current boss is also in an awkward situation stuck between their direct report and the grandboss, but id likely too afraid for their own job to make a stand for their direct report.

      I don’t know what the underlying issues are with the person and the grandboss, but it’s unlikely the friend will come out of this. All OP can do is to talk to the friend about what’s happening, and let them know it’s not originating from their quarter. I’d also loop in the direct manager, because maybe the three of them can find a workaround to grandboss. I feel truly sorry for your friend, especially if it’s not warranted. Because this sounds like a personal vendetta from the grandboss unless you know of a real issue with your friend.

      1. LGC*

        I feel like the current boss is also in an awkward situation stuck between their direct report and the grandboss, but id likely too afraid for their own job to make a stand for their direct report.

        Yeah, there’s some of that going on, too – I’ll admit, there have been a couple of times where I’ve worried about my job when I take a stand for an employee (or wondered if I’ll even make a difference – my boss has a tendency to make up her mind about employees and filter everything through that lens).

        I’m really on the fence as to whether the original boss should be looped in for a workaround, though! Like, yeah, I do think the grandboss is acting terribly, and – to be honest – I really do think the grandboss is in the wrong here. All that said, I wouldn’t suggest insubordination unless in extreme cases, and “boss being a gigantic jerk” doesn’t quite rise there – what might end up happening is that everyone gets fired.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Maybe I misread the situation, but I thought the friends immediate manager was “great” and maybe not so much in agreement with the grandboss?

          Because it does happen where managers are perfectly happy with their reports and their work, but a grandboss takes a disliking to one for whatever reason, rightfully or wrongly.

          So, hard to tell here if the performance issues are true or just grandboss’s way of firing someone they don’t like.

          1. LGC*

            Sorry – when I said “boss,” I meant the grandboss! (“Grandboss” is a word that…I just really don’t like, personally.) Plus, LW1 is actually reporting to the “grandboss,” thus making him her…boss.

            Anyway, it does happen, and it has happened to me to an extent. But in that case…you’re asking the original boss to make an end run around their boss, which is a huge risk to ask them to take. Especially with a grandboss that’s…likely vindictive and has definitely shown tendencies towards bad behavior.

            1. CAH*

              Yeah I also prefer to use something like skiplevel. I don’t really need my work to feel like family, I have enough problems there

              1. Swiftly Tilting Planet*

                I don’t really care for terms like grandboss/greatgrandboss myself, but it’s less confusing than endless iterations of “my boss’s boss’s boss” and let’s anyone who is reading get general understanding the hierarchy and chain of command regardless of how any individual business structures or titles it.

                But skiplevel? I wouldn’t haven’t the foggiest idea what anyone was talking about.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I’ve been that intermediate manager. I handled it poorly; it’s one of the mistakes of my early career that I still cringe over. I could have supported by direct report better in how I spoke with him about it–I couldn’t change their perception, but I could have been more honest and more supportive of him in speaking directly to him. Even if the message was, “I’m never going to change their mind; we’ve got to get you out of here. How can I help?”

            I just kind of went along with them.

            1. LGC*

              BTDT too, except I actually did try to end run a bit.

              Miraculously I’m still there. I’ve gotten better but it really did burn my credibility.

      2. Rachel Greep*

        Grandboss is now OP’s direct supervisor. OP doesn’t report to her friend’s boss anymore.

      3. SomebodyElse*

        friend/coworker = f/c in this post

        I’d be careful with this. “I’d also loop in the direct manager, because maybe the three of them can find a workaround to grandboss. ” I’m inferring from the LW that there’s enough issues between Grandboss and f/c including performance that it could be possible the direct boss shouldn’t be ‘standing up’ for the f/c (it’s a little hard to tell, but if HR is involved already then I lean towards things being above board and being handled professionally)

        I don’t know if we have enough information to advise this as a course of action. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the LW needs to really stay as far away from this mess as is possible.

        The only thing they can do is remain neutral and factual. So if the f/c is not providing the information that the LW needs, then I’d advise them to escalate to the f/c’s direct boss which would be normal to do for any other coworker. If that doesn’t work then the LW needs to escalate to GrandBoss. I agree there is likely to be fallout from f/c but I’m not sure that can be helped. It is worth a discussion with the f/c along the lines

      4. TootsNYC*

        I agree, I don’t think the friend is going to come out of this well.
        I think in addition to being honest with their friend, the LW should be encouraging the friend to job hunt. Personally, I’d be tapping into my own network to see if there were openings anywhere, etc., just as I’d do if we didn’t work together.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Yeah not wild about the grand boss being vocal about his dissatisfaction with friend. Who else is being this open with? This might be a case of, if he does it with you, he will do it to you. If you get crosswise with grandboss, he might also push you out.

      Friend really should not be surprised. She told you she was having problems with grand boss, some of them performance based. She has to know its only a matter of time before she is pushed out. She needs to start job searching now. If she had been the one to write in, that would be my advice. Since LW1 is not her, my advice is be open with your friend, acknowledge the situation sucks, and then hope you can be friends again when some time has passed for your friend to get some perspective on the situation.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        “If he does it with you, he’ll do it to you” is also where my mind went.

        1. leapingLemur*

          I think the LW needs to look for a new job, too. The grandboss sounds like the kind of person who will eventually turn on her.

        2. LW1*

          This is definitely something that’s on my mind and makes the situation all the harder. I feel like I can’t defend my friend’s work because I don’t want to end up with him viewing me the same way.

          1. Qwerty*

            Would you be defending their work if this coworker was a stranger when you joined the company? If a different colleague was deliberately withholding information you needed to do your job, would you also protect them at the cost of your own reputation?

            You are worried about making your friend look bad, but she doesn’t seem to have any problem with making you look bad. If she doesn’t give the info you need to a complete a task, then you can’t do it well, which will affect how competent your boss sees you. This in itself is a performance issue. She’s basically sabotaging you in an attempt to save herself.

            As to her previous performance issues – you should probably stop digging into this. It could be that your boss wrote off your friend a long time ago – probably before HR got involved. After a certain point with a low performing employee, the managers learn to just work around it. You mention below that you’ve been asking around to find out what instructions your friend was giving, but that’s getting overly involved into her performance. You are emotionally involved in this dispute and that only adds to the situation, it doesn’t resolve it.

            Your best bet is to be neutral – when your boss says something negative, just keep the conversation focused on the work aspect and how it affects you. Do the same with your friend.

            1. A. S.*

              Yes, judging from the friend undermining you at work , it is possible that the grandkids dislike of her has valid merits. OP needs to have that frank discussion with her friend, if friend continues to withhold what is needed to do her work, will then need to report that to her own boss (grandboss) or she could also get let go in this mess. Needs to distance herself in the eyes of her own boss and remain very professional.

            2. Amaranth*

              This. It sounds like friend had performance and personality issues before LW started. And since she is behaving unprofessionally regarding training, I’d tend to believe the PIP may be warranted. Does grandboss even know they are friends rather than professional acquaintances? If he dislikes friend I can’t imagine her as the best reference for hiring LW in the first place. I simply wouldn’t consider him expressing his frustration as an indication he turns on employees. It makes sense to me he’d make it clear what he wants LW to do differently.

          2. Observer*

            Here is an important question – is her work really good, or are the performance complaints valid?

            I agree with the others that he shouldn’t be sharing his complaints with you. That’s true regardless of whether he has a valid issue or not. But it DOES affect your response.

            If his complaints are valid, you need to keep your head down. Don’t complain about her work to him or bring up anything that would make her look bad (unless she forces the issue by refusing to share information with you.) But, don’t defend her either. And realize that he’s a lot less likely to do this kind of thing to you if your work is good.

            If his complaints are not valid, then firstly start looking for a new job. Because the others are right – you could be in the same boat once he pushes her out. Secondly, decide if you think he’s TOTALLY unreasonable or just mistaken here. If the latter, perhaps you can speak up on behalf of your friend.

          3. Smithy*

            Reading this, the one situation that leapt to my mind was my own “very toxic” workplace situation, and your instinct is correct that that there likely really isn’t anything you can do to protect your friend here.

            In my own case, it created a situation where I felt like people who “should” be in my corner, left me to hang. People who did defend me, would then also get run over and it’s unclear how much it ever benefited me. And people who I didn’t enjoy working with, when I’d hear their own stories of being railroaded – I entirely believed them regardless of how I regarded their work.

            With all that in mind, I just want to send my sympathies for the situation you find yourself with your friend. These types of workplaces can really do a number on your head and perceptions, and sentiments like “I’m not doing this at my friend – I’m just trying to do my job”, it’s hard to know how much they can reach a friend’s heart/head.

          4. LGC*

            LW1, I’m sure you’re an amazing person, but…you are way too concerned about saving your friend’s job. And it’s not that you should want her to lose her job, it’s that it is literally out of your hands.

        3. Mama Bear*

          Yup. In another post I mentioned bosses talking about employees. I was eventually the target of that behavior, and knowing how they treated others, I noped out of there as soon as I could.

      2. RecoveringSWO*

        Yeah, I think LW needs to be honest and nudge her friend into a job search. One positive about this situation is that LW could serve as a reference. Maybe by tactfully offering to serve as a reference their working relationship can improve for the end of her tenure.

      3. LGC*

        It doesn’t sound like the friend is surprised she’s being forced out – it’s more that the friend is hurt that it’s LW1 that’s her replacement. In that case, that’s…just inherently awkward.

        I think LW1 should give her as much space as needed for both of them, and also…maybe offer some help if possible.

      4. SomebodyElse*

        I think it would be easier to gauge this if the LW gave examples of Grandboss’ comments on dissatisfaction.

        “Coworker wasn’t able to complete this task and made x, y, and z mistakes. I’ll need you to do it this month, please get the background data”
        is different than
        “Coworker is a moron who can’t figure out how to sort paperclips properly, I’m surprised they are able to get to work with two matching shoes”

        Both are dissatisfaction but one is appropriate information and the other is not appropriate. SWIM?

        1. Saberise*

          Yeah this is more what I was thinking. That is explaining what he needs to have done and why he’s having her do it instead his dissatisfaction with the co-worker is coming through.

        2. LW1*

          Thanks so much for pointing this out. It’s more the first than second. But a version of the first where I’m not entirely sure that the mistakes he points out were ever communicated as issues. It’s not unreasonable on the surface, but his tone suggests some of the second coming into play.

          1. Observer*

            In that case, stay out of it. There could really be a point where anything she does wrong is a confirmation of her incompetence. And from what you say, it’s hard to say that it’s entirely unreasonable. This issue has been going on for a while, so even if he wasn’t explicit in his critiques, she should have figured out some of this along with her “great” boss.

          2. Amaranth*

            His complaints would be communicated to her direct manager and hopefully included in the PIP…but it’s not your job to give her a rundown and unless your friend is painfully and honestly detailed on all her corrections and reprimands, you won’t have a clear picture whether items were clearly addressed.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, friend’s problems are, at least in part, performance-related. She is responding to this situation by refusing to perform her job. Frankly, it sounds like grand-boss has a point.

      1. LGC*

        I mean, yeah, she’s handling this wrong, but…I’m a judgy guy on the Internet, and even I can see that “I’m gearing up to fire you because of Reasons, and by the way I want you to train your replacement to do your job” is not going to end well. The friend is acting poorly, but the grandboss should have never asked her to crosstrain LW1 in the first place.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          You aren’t wrong, but I can’t help but notice that the LW gives us no reason to question there being performance issues. If she were in fact a perfectly fine performer, that seems like the sort of thing that would be included.

        2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          If Friend has performance issues, I wonder about management deeming her expert and knowledgeable enough to train LW1 at all. Maybe that’s a reach, but it smacks a little bit of them not only pushing friend out, but also rubbing her nose in it.

    4. Tired*

      I feel so bad for both the LW and the friend. What an awkward situation. The LW has done nothing wrong to her friend, but I would understand if the friend had some complicated feelings toward LW and the situation (though I’d hope she can manage those feeling maturely). Best-case scenario, the friend will find a good new job and the friendship can be preserved.

      1. LGC*

        Yeah, that’s my hope – I think the best thing that LW1 can do is provide support and maybe a reference.

    5. Kate H*

      I’d be curious to know what Friend’s Boss thinks about this. OP said they’re great–how are they reacting to their employee’s work being handed off to someone else?

      1. LW1*

        From the outside, it seems like my friend’s boss has been trying to navigate and advocate for my friend, but it seems like it’s either fallen on deaf ears, or they didn’t do a good job of it, because the shift of responsibilities has kept on going. It’s not really my business to know more than that.

    6. Mama Bear*

      I have worked in offices where the bosses had us keep tabs on each other to document performance problems. I knew their job was in jeopardy before they did. I think this boss should not be venting to LW1, and I think LW can say “I’d rather not discuss my coworkers. What about x?” and get back to the topic at hand. Gossip about another employee is toxic.

      I’ve also been in the situation where I had a roommate I helped get a job, and then they ended up being a subpar performer. At one point I was PT doing both our jobs and the client they worked with requested me to replace my roommate. I turned it down due to disliking the job/location, but the client didn’t want the roommate back, so the company hired a third person and reassigned my roommate. I felt very stuck b/c if my roommate lost their job, I couldn’t afford the rent on my own. I ended up both leaving that job and finding new housing.

      Something LW1 might consider talking to the friend about is a job change, either internally or elsewhere, where they would be better appreciated. It’s not you, it’s your place. Boss would have hired someone else if you weren’t available and Friend would be in a similar boat.

    7. Tenebrae*

      I’m kind of curious what is meant by discussing her performance, honestly. “Jane is totally incompetent” is way different than “Can you redo the Teapots report, the chocolate data is incorrectly formatted” even if it still feels like an attack on your friend.

    8. charo*

      True, boss is not a nice guy.
      BUT, I once coached a coworker, helped her proof her work after owner gave her an ultimatum, because I hated watching them conflict. Her work improved, but still, when they had a talk, he ended up firing her. And I KNOW she pushed him to it.

      They were a mad match and her work wasn’t good, even w/help. It wasn’t worth bothering with.
      People are better off working at what they’re GOOD AT.

  2. fhqwhgads*

    Another problem with #3’s company’s request is those masks are not generally intended for multiple uses. Healthcare workers are being forced to reuse them due to the shortage, but they’re meant to be used once (at which point they are contaminated) and then disposed of. You’re also not supposed to keep touching it. Put it on. Go do whatever you’re doing that necessitates putting it on. Then get rid of it. So all these contests encouraging putting it on first or taking photos with it and all that crap are encouraging misuse of these masks. It’s tone deaf and stupid on every possible level. “We gave use this safety equipment, now use it improperly to entertain us!” Ugh.

    1. Walter*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I’m not aware of a single N95 mask meant for re-use. Sure I’ve got some canister based respirators, but even in crisis time I feel like I’d turn heads wearing those to the grocery store, so I doubt that’s what the company sent them. Simple cloth masks would’ve been better.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I see lots of half face respirators being worn around town. Nobody really flinchs over them. Of course you can’t talk with them on but plenty of folks still use them while grocery shopping.

        Unless you mean full hooded respirators then that’d be a bit more shocking to the system. But I’ve seen people with wrapping their heads to the point nothing really turns heads in the age of Rona!

        1. Jessen*

          The bigger concern is how many half face respirators have the valve on them. I know mine is like that – it has a one-way valve so the air you’re breathing in is filtered but the air you’re breathing out isn’t. Which is, you know, not at all useful for keeping the mask wearer for potentially spreading things to others.

          1. ..Kat..*

            Just the fact that you are wearing the mask when you sneeze, cough, etc means that you are trapping a portion of your potentially contagious spray inside your mask.

            1. JSPA*

              Not really; they breathe super easy on the out-breath, intentionally. You can still wrap a scarf around, or put a couple of layers of gauze inside, but honestly, you sort of need to be clearing them on the outbreath.

          2. Lora*

            You can cover the valve with fabric, though at that point you’re well into the realm of “this is getting ridiculous”…

          1. What’s with Today, today?*

            My best friend has one. She wore it for a photo shoot a few years back. She has bright pink hair and the mask looks creepily fantastic.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I saw a craft page online for making one, but it was beyond my capabilities (it might have been posted here; I forget). I’ve just been using the shop towel ones, and I started making pleated cloth masks with a filter pocket for family. The more I make, the better I get at it. I can bang one out in an hour now.

            1. James*

              My wife is using these to teach my boys how to use a sewing machine. Maybe they help, maybe they don’t–but sewing has been a useful skill for both my wife and me, so it’s a win regardless.

      2. GrumpyGnome*

        A local hospital has been working with the Mayo Clinic on the re-usability issue for N95 masks. They can be heated to be disinfected up to 10 times, then after that must be discarded. I apologize for not having a source I can link, this is a relatively new thing that’s being done and I don’t know how many other hospitals are involved. I agree that the cloth masks would have been better for the company to send employees, particularly due to the shortage of N95 masks for healthcare workers, as Alison has pointed out that.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          Battelle makes sterilizing machine for N95 masks.
          There’s one near Mass General in Boston.

        2. JSPA*

          You can reuse if you set them aside for a few days, to out-wait covid contamination issues, and dry thoroughly so you’re not setting up a mold farm. They’re certainly not sterile, but they’re not being used for sterility.

          Part of the single use idea is for hazardous dusts and particles that persist long term, and can slowly filter through, with the hazard unreduced. So: Paint dust? Cement dust? Single use.

        3. chickaletta*

          They can be decontaminated if they’re not visibly dirty. Our local hospital has that set up but the decontaminated N95s are being placed in an emergency stockpile (in case of surge) and not being redistributed to hospital workers at this time because we have enough masks if we remain steady. There’s a very specific process though and the idea of a lay person trying to “decontaminate” their N95 at home is really questionable. However, given that the whole point of asking the asymptomatic public to wear masks is to keep the mask wearer from accidentally spreading COVID if they don’t know they have it, not to keep that individual from getting it. Masks help prevent airborne particles from spreading widely in a room when a person is talking, breathing, and especially coughing and sneezing. So, if your mask is “dirty”, that’s no different than going to the store with a dirty shirt on. Once you’ve worn a N95, wearing it again is only a problem if you’ve been around someone with COVID because now you’re exposing the virus to your hands and face by re-doning the mask (and if you’re in public, the fact is that you have no way of knowing, hence, making your N95 no better than a cloth mask if you’re rewearing it in public). So, that’s why re-wearing N95s in public doesn’t make any sense.

      3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        ” Sure I’ve got some canister based respirators, but even in crisis time I feel like I’d turn heads wearing those to the grocery store”

        They’d be jealous….

      4. Glitsy Gus*

        They’re out there. I have one that I wear during fire season so I don’t end up getting asthma attacks every day. It does have filters I need to replace every week to 10 days, depending on how often I wear it and how bad the air quality is.

        I’m not using it now because, a) filters aren’t cheap and b) it has a one-way air valve, so it isn’t so useful for keeping germies in, just crap out.

    2. ..Kat..*

      As a bedside nurse in a critical care unit in a hospital that has better supplies than some of the horror stories I am reading, I consider myself lucky to be able to use 3 to 4 masks in a 12 to 13 hour shift. By the time I change out my mask, it is damp and tearing (i.e., holes are starting to form). Many healthcare providers are not lucky enough to be able to change out their masks after 3 to 4 hours. These are masks that have been designed for a single use. I am reading stories in my newspaper about bedside workers having to use one mask for an entire 12 hour shift. This pales in the face of bedside workers having to use one mask FOR AN ENTIRE 40 HOUR WEEK OR LONGER (unless they buy their own, if they can find them).

      Imagine the rage I am feeling knowing that I am exposing myself to potentially deadly diseases while your company has sent them to you and your coworkers masks so that you can compete in cutesy contests THAT WASTE MASKS THAT COULD SAVE MY OR MY FELLOW FRONTLINE HOSPITALS FROM A DISEASE THAT CAN KILL US.

      My fellow frontline bedside care providers are risking our lives, trying to save the lives of our patients, because we care. Because this is what we do. And your company has the GALL, the TEMERITY, to waste precious masks (masks that could save our lives, our patients lives) on a CUTESY CONTEST. How F**king dare they? Shame on them.

      Please quote me to your HR and the top executives at your company. I would really like to hear who thought that this was a good idea and why.

      1. ..Kat..*

        And now I need to calm down and go to sleep. I have to get up in 5 hours and go back to work.

        1. just me*

          ..Kat.., thanks for your post. I hope you have some more rest coming on the horizon.

          Does anyone know why it’s all voluntary? Are there not enough resources to enforce prohibiting sales to the public?

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            It’s capitalism. Sell it to the place where you can make the most profit.

            And people don’t get it when I say capitalism kills. Starving people and we’re destroying crops.

            1. Anon for this*

              Yep. The Defense Production Act might help with this, but clearly that’s not happening.

                1. JSPA*

                  Hey, that’s not fair. The mafia has accountability. And organization. And supply chains.

      2. FRMRVM*

        Yup. A girl I grew up with is a critical care nurse at a hospital in a major city. They were required to wear their masks for a full work week. Surprise…..she got the virus.
        (I really, really want to yell out which hospital and where it’s located and the other national tragedies they’ve dealt with there.)

      3. AnonymousNurse*

        I am a ED nurse and I am frequently exposed to Covid. I am forced to wear the same N95 for all 12 hours. I am one of the lucky ones. Many friends at other hospitals must wear them for 1 week or longer. This virus can kill. This virus is not a joke.
        It saddens me that there are still companies out there that are taking N95 masks away from healthcare workers no matter how much they meant well. And then encouraging their employees to “thank them?” That’s the ickiest thing ever.

        1. allathian*

          I’m so sorry for your predicament. I hope the situation improves soon and you’ll get the equipment you need to keep yourself and your patients safe.

      4. anon24*

        I’m EMS and we have 5 n95 masks issued to us that we cycle through on a 5 day rotation, because the virus is only supposed to live on the surface of the masks for 5 days. So I wear a mask repeatedly all day, then store it in a paper bag in my car for 5 days and then reuse it. Being able to have a new mask every shift or several new masks in a shift seems like such a luxury. :)

        You have to be fit tested for an n95 and do a seal test each time you put one on for it to be effective. I’ve yet to see a member of the general public actually wearing one correctly or effectively. A surgical mask works just as well as an incorrectly worn n95.

        1. Molly*

          The fitting is so key to these masks! They must be fit to the individual, and it is not particularly quick or easy.
          In addition, N95’s are far from comfortable. This means those not trained in their use will be constantly touching, moving, adjusting, etc. Pretty much makes them useless.

        2. chickaletta*

          This! Even our hospital workers and EMS folks aren’t bothering to get themselves fit tested. And you have to fit test to every brand, which means when we get new stock from a different company, every health worker in our company has to be refitted.

          I’m sorry to hear they’re making you reuse N95s. Has your company looked into reuseable N100’s to help mitigate the N95 supply?

      5. Doc in a Box*

        COSIGN! I’m a physician and do not have access to an n95, period, only surgical masks. Although my area has luckily not had a surge, we are at a steady state of ~25 hospital admissions and ~6 deaths per day. I know personally know several health care workers who have become ill, and a few in my extended network have died from lack of PPE. They are not “war heroes;” they are men and women, sometimes parents of young kids, who are treated as cannon fodder.

        I would really really like to know what company is doing this so that I can publicly shame them.

        1. not infected yet*

          Could you tell us more about what the medical community is doing to get N95 masks and other necessary PPE? And what response you’ve gotten?

          I understand your anger but don’t think singling out one misguided company is the most effective approach to this problem.

          1. Prairie*

            Doc in a box is not suggesting that “singling out one misguided company is the most effective approach to this problem.”
            If you don’t know the lengths hospitals and govt agencies are going to to get PPE I suggest you google it. It’s terrible and interesting. In Illinois the governor even arranged a secret order and flight from China just so IL could get supplies without the federal government swooping in and taking it.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              This. The federal government has been taking medical supplies to hand out as favors to states where the governors properly kiss the ass of the monstrous egomaniac in the White House. Which are mostly not the states worst affected.

              1. Anon for this*

                The federal govt has literally been STEALING shipments of PPE that have already been bought and paid for. If anyone is reading these comments and doesn’t know a healthcare worker, I highly recommend they find one who is willing to talk to them. Every nurse and doctor I know is absolutely furious about this issue.

            2. Lora*

              It reminds me a bit of Pablo Escobar antics – Massachusetts had to get shipments by borrowing private planes, in particular the Patriots airplane from Robert Kraft, dividing them into sublots and then trucking them by different routes so if one of the trucks was seized by the feds, at least the others might get through. Eventually the state offered grants to apparel and plastics manufacturing companies within the state to start making PPE instead of sneakers and expensive yoga pants, so things have gotten better now that we have in-state supplies. Gavin Newsom had PPE shipped through private ports and privately owned shipping companies for the West Coast – he also subtly threatened to secede from the Union if the feds were intent on acting like a bunch of a-holes, and the feds blinked.

              You shouldn’t need the state governor to threaten to secede from the dang country in order to get basic PPE to people working on the front lines to save lives. This is not even a political decision, the correct decision is for the politician of any variety to get a photo op standing in front of crates full of PPE and smiling and waving on a stage with the head of the local hospital, then saying something generic about Our Heroes On The Front Lines. Even Mike Pence knows this, bless his heart.

              1. Sally*

                I live in MA, so I was aware of the lengths we had to go through to get masks that were less likely to be stolen by the federal govt, but it’s so much worse than I knew. The news I’ve been seeing makes it seem like the shortages are over nationwide, and that healthcare workers are getting the PPE they need. It’s heartbreaking and enraging that the situation is so, so terrible in the U.S. And worldwide, of course, but this pandemic could have been handled SO much more humanely and competently here, and it just wasn’t/isn’t.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                Gavin is great. The fact that he’s willing to threaten to pull the 5th largest economy out of the union was awesome. The top of the federal pyramid may hate California, but we aren’t powerless.

                Early in this I drove to a nearby city to donate the three unopened boxed of N95 masks I had left over from the fires. The fact that they needed this was cringeworthy.

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  I’m so worried about fire season this year and the extra harm that will come due to the lack of masks for fire season. There’s a reason so many people and companies had stockpiles of n95s to donate back in March, and I see no signs that we’ll have normal supply again as fire season gets going.

          2. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I’m going to be very kind and assume that the company is working from either the wrong information about the masks or are just very uninformed about the effectiveness. If the OP has enough capital they could send links to their boss or whomever explaining why the masks are completely unnecessary for staff. Also, giving people a piece of potentially life saving equipment and then expecting a heartfelt thank you is very….not good.

          3. JSPA*

            The government has diverted and mysteriously redirected supplies that were ordered and paid for by the medical community. Links to follow, if anyone missed that salient detail.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I don’t think people should be allowed to buy N95 masks at this point unless they’re in health care or other work that is necessary and involves exposure to a lot of people.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            They were requisitioned here in France, although somehow you still see people wearing them in the street.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Our university just sent out its first set of principles for allowing non-covid research to be conducted, and it said that people who needed to work in close proximity to others, or for long periods of time, should wear N95s. Um, or we could prohibit nonessential research that requires workers to use N95s? My mind was boggled.

      6. MusicWithRocksIn*

        My husband is an essential medical worker, but not on the frontline in hospitals. His work has issued everyone one N95 mask, and 4 surgical masks with the expectation that you wear one for a day, then let them dry out for a week and then wear them once more the next week.

      7. Lurker*

        Been lurking here at AAM for a while but I just wanted to take a moment to thank Kat (and all Frontline workers) for all that you do.

      8. A. S.*

        My outpatient medical office received 20 (TWENTY!) N95 masks for 35 employees to last 3 MONTHS. Yep, you read that right, our medical supplier says we won’t qualify for another shipment until then. It makes me crazy to see these being worn by regular non medical folks in a low risk situation when I’m wearing a surgical mask to examine febrile children. Ugh. If you have extra masks, please donate to your county medical society and specify they should go to small practices, because unlike big hospitals, we don’t have the buying power to obtain them.

    3. Mazzy*

      Another thing is that some of the pro masks videos I’m seeing are people wearing masks in situations you don’t need one in. I know it would make for worse footage, but they should be showing people in mundane actual situations in groups of people and not alone in a beautiful sunny park, just because the lighting is better

      1. pancakes*

        Amateur-produced videos are not a good source of news or healthcare information.

    4. kittymommy*

      Thank you. These are not toys to be used to take selfies and win prizes they are actual medical equipment. I mean, I get the need for levity and yeah, realistically N95’s shouldn’t be reused, at this time they might need to be reused (I have used my N95 twice, and then I put it in a plastic bag). But the company shouldn’t be encouraging frivolous use of them.

      1. Moi*

        I’m an hospital rn. I get one surgical mask per shift. I’m allowed to take an N95 in specific aerosol generating procedures.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          My sister is a neo-natal NP. She has been told to wear her N95 for a week straight, including any time she is in the delivery room when a covid-positive woman is delivering a baby.

          I am volunteering with a Makerspace project (#MMSPPE) that is donating face shields to medical workers, so I was at least able to send her a few face shields, which help protect her N95 and her eyes, but the idea that my sister, who takes care of preemie babies, could be exposed to and die of covid, possibly because of a lack of PPE, is terrifying.

    5. memyselfandi*

      I am troubled by the level of insensitivity I see to the impact of the pandemic. This is just one example. When the stay at home order was lifted in my significantly impacted city, people set off fireworks and had loud parties. One neighbor parked a car on their front lawn and blasted music. I live in a very dense neighborhood. I wondered if anyone thought of someone sick with COVID-19 in a neighboring house, or a health care professional who has been working long stressful shifts trying to get some rest, or someone grieving a death. Not to mention children and veterans with PTSD who might react badly to loud blasts. Pets, too, but I didn’t want to put them in the same sentence as children and vets. It’s Memorial Day on Monday. Let’s celebrate those we have lost with reverence.

  3. AnonyNurse*

    N95s aren’t one size fits all. And in most situations getting fitted (fit-tested) for them involves a mask plus a hood in which they spray bitter tasting aerosols and then make you move around and talk to make sure you have a good seal. It is very claustrophobia inducing and frankly, just tossing one on without having to go through the fit process to be sure it is even doing the job is particularly egregious and rage-inducing.

    Send an entry that you hope the executive team will donate future mask acquisitions to the local health department or EMS team, nursing home, hospital, etc.

    1. allathian*

      I agree on this. Enter the contest with a request to give the masks to a local healthcare provider.
      The whole thing is so tone deaf that it astounds me.

    2. Viette*

      Agreed! Giving out unfitted, uncomfortable, one-use masks that could be well used by healthcare providers is a huge waste. I don’t know what the workers at this company think they’re getting, but it’s not some super-protection from coronavirus! N95s are supposed to be single use, and they’re only fully effective when fit-tested, correctly sized, etc — and they’re also super uncomfortable to wear even when they do fit. I personally deeply dislike wearing them (obvs I do when I should), because they’re a giant hassle to get into and out of safely and they feel like breathing with your face smashed into a pillow.

      This is not “very nice of them”; this is stupid, and it perpetuates the idea that if you just lay your hands on medical equipment you can make yourself extra extra safe. Tell them to give the masks to people who can actually make good use of them.

    3. ..Kat..*

      Take your unused N95 masks. Put them in a ziplock bag (please don’t fold them, this can cause an area of weakness). Stand outside an area nursing home at shift change. As staff enter, ask to talk with a CNA (certified nursing assistant). Give them your masks. Ask to have your picture taken with them. I hope you win the contest. Even if you don’t win the contest, you still win.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I hope OP3 sees this comment…and I hope OP3’s management sees this column.

      2. WDCZombie*

        That is an EXCELLENT way to win this contest. Please do it and please encourage your coworkers to jump on this bandwagon!

    4. Terrapin Therapy*

      The masks aren’t being given out as safety gear. They’re trophies. The company is bragging to its employees that it’s wealthy and well-connected, able to source scarce and precious goods. This is a deeply weird but not uncommon practice for corporations.

      I can’t even describe the sensation of rage I get when I see someone out walking their dog in an unnecessary N95, let alone the thought of thousands of wasted masks. I’m trying very hard not to think of my colleagues managing airways with reused or extended masks on right now. It’s tough to say what OP should do, though. A company that has so little sense of community responsibility isn’t going to be shamed by a single underling, so I feel like the OP pushing back is only going to hurt them and help nobody. I don’t know. Maybe they could send an email back asking when fit testing is?

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        I fully agree with all of the rage towards OP’s company and all of the horrific ways that masks are being wasted and people’s lives are being put at risk. That said, unless you know that someone out in public is wearing a brand new N95 that could have been donated, I would try to assume the best and avoid raging out. N95 masks are used in various home/car improvement projects. I and many others had a used N95 mask with my tools lying around for use. Since I don’t work on projects with fumes often and ventilate the area, it didn’t make since to repurchase a mask for every project like it would for a healthcare worker. As someone who doesn’t go out very often, recycling the N95 (understanding that it’s protection level is much lower) just seems like a more logical/green choice instead of buying or making a cloth mask.

        1. Double A*

          Yeah, early in the pandemic the only masks we had were a couple of dusty N95s that had been kicking around my husband’s shop for awhile. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable donating them because it seems like they were already contaminated. I’ve since made us cloth masks, but there are a lot of reasons people have N95s that they might wear in public.

      2. Breast Solidarity*

        Careful about assuming who is wearing it unecessarily though! I am still getting chemo, am fit-tested because I work in health care, and am wearing N95s (that I bought when I started chemo well before the pandemic) when in public.

      3. Show Me the Money*

        I hate to see waste of any kind of mask. A forum I frequented had a photo of a surgical mask on a plastic santa, and I made it clear I didn’t think it was funny, since I know someone who works in a healthcare who had to use the same surgical mask for a week! Folks actually downvoted me, which is when I said f@#k that forum.

      4. Eukomos*

        In my area no one will take donations of N95s that aren’t still in the original packaging. My roommate had a few around and tried to donate, but since the bag they were in was open he couldn’t. I think he ended up giving them to some neighbors who were in high risk categories, and I certainly hope no one would yell at one of them for walking their dog in one of the masks.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Yes – My BIL is a hospital worker and was one of those given training to be able to fit masks correctly and train colleagues to wear them, as of course a lot of medical workers who don’t normally require them are having to wear them now.
      He needed to shave off his beard to get a proper fit (And, since he is a monster, and had a day or two off, he did in stages, so at one point we all got photos of the deeply regrettable ’70s pornstar’ facial hair stage …)

      If you can, push back and suggest that they provide cloth or disposable paper masks and donate any further N95 ones to a local hospital. Perhaps flag it with your boss or with whoever deals with publicity for your firm as a ‘this could make the company look really bad, and very tone deaf, if it becomes public’ as well as suggesting that a donation could be good publicity.

      You could frame it as “It’s great that [company] wants to ensure that we are safe, but i am worried about the way this will look – given that so many healthcare workers don’t have adequate PPE, and the advice that non-medical staff should not be buying up N95 masks, I am concerned that this could make the company look very bad, especially if we are seen to be trivialising the situation by running competitions and wasting the masks, as they are not designed to be worn more than once”

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        You can also suggest that your company make contacts in the community with people making homemade masks, buy some and distribute them to the staff and donate the N95. There is a small but thriving market in handmade masks now. I bought several to support local charities, your company could do the same.

        1. UKDancer*

          This is a really good idea. I’ve a friend who is a theatrical costumier and is currently obviously not able to do the day job so she is now making surgical scrubs for hospitals and cloth masks for the general public. I have bought several from her. Hers are obviously not medical grade but they are very comfortable and provide enough protection for my intermittent trips to the supermarket. They are washable and so can be reused as often as needed.

          It would be a much better service for the company to support local mask making enterprises of this sort. It helps keep people like tailors going and these masks are quite good enough for non medical or care personnel.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, or make a video where you read out one of the messages here from incensed health workers

      1. N95 Fail*

        LW #3 could make an amazing video where they read out all the angry and astonished raging replies of offended health care workers. I totally agree with Rebel. OPs contest entry would be a 40 minute video.

        Unimpressed ER nurse who got COVID, thankfully didn’t die, and is back to work with NO N95 mask unless a patient dies and they must respond to a code blue.

    7. blackcat*

      Yeah, I’ve seen *joggers* wearing them *around their neck* and pulling them up when they pass people… WTF?!

      I did lab work in undergrad where I was trained to properly wear N95s. I’ve worn them when out and about during wildfire season and bad smoke due to some lung issues I have.
      They are really unpleasant to wear right! It is hard to breathe! It is uncomfortable! But they are very effective *if needed*. I can only tolerate it for a few minutes (related to the lung issues).

      It really bothers me to see so many people wasting them now. I handed over my personal supply (a box of 20) to a nurse when all of this began, and I’m someone who has occasional need and knows how to wear them. It drives me bonkers to see people wasting things that could *save the lives* of frontline workers.

      (Plus, some n95s–like the ones I had!–have valves to make exhaling easier. This means that they don’t serve the same purpose as cloth masks–they only filter air one way.)

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Plus, some n95s–like the ones I had!–have valves to make exhaling easier. This means that they don’t serve the same purpose as cloth masks–they only filter air one way.

        This. For social virus abatement, you’re actually better off to wear a fabric mask without a valve that is more breathable but has better outgoing filtration.

        Having read various studies on filtration efficiencies of various fabrics, it’s pretty easy to make a 50% filtration mask from readily available fabrics. If you can filter 50% or more of the virus the person exhales, a distance of 6 feet plus the other person’s mask cut the risk way down.

      2. chickaletta*

        LOL on the joggers! I wonder if it’s just to help with “optics” so that people don’t get upset with them not wearing masks. Although, there have been some recent studies that it’s not necessary to wear a mask at all when jogging because the actual number of people contracting COVID from a passing jogger is basically zero.

  4. Heidi*

    How do these MLM companies convince people that selling beauty products on a work call for an unrelated business is a great idea? I can’t convince my nephews to wear a hat when it’s snowing.

    1. Tilly*

      I think it might be something to do with the type of people who are attracted to join MLMs? (Not all obviously)

      I have bad skin, which I’m really self conscious about. I’m always trying to hide it with my hair. A few months ago I was waiting on a table of older ladies, and one of them pressed an MLM skincare catalogue on me and said super loudly “Every time I come here, I think I’ve GOT to remember to give you this. I think you could really use it. You know it’s always such a shame to see a pretty girl with spots”. Her friends just stared at me.

      I was so embarrassed. I literally wanted the ground to open up and swallow her.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        How does she live with herself?
        And yes earth swallowing HER is perfect phrase.

          1. Tilly*

            I think she thought she was helping me. Like not realising how it actually feels to be on the receiving end.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, I had someone walk up to me on the street while I was on a first date to tell me that their MLM product would fix my terrible skin. People are weird.

          1. Sleepless*

            I came out of the changing room at a department store and was looking myself in the mirror. Sales clerk asked me how I liked it, and I was telling her I wasn’t quite sure about the color. I could see a lady out of the corner of my eye shaking her head at me. After the clerk left, the lady walked up and handed me a Mary Kay card and said quietly, “That’s really not your color. Give me a call and I can set up a time to analyze your color palette.” Um, thanks, random stranger, bye.

          2. NoPackNo*

            I had a guy at the gym hand me a business card for MLM weight loss shakes after my HIIT workout. I told him no thanks and reported him to management for solicitation. The craziest part was that his business card didn’t have the company name spelled right!

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        That’s horrible. And she’s taking advantage of the fact that you are counting on a tip from her, and that she could likely get you in trouble by complaining to your manager if you object to her cruel comment or don’t sufficiently perform gratitude for her slimy sales pitch.

        1. Tilly*

          I’m Australian so tipping is different here. It’s more a ‘never expected, always appreciated’ kind of thing.

          But you’re right that I still need to smile and do my job if I want to keep my job. So I didn’t really feel like I could do anything except say thank you and take the catalogue. (Which I promptly recycled in the back)

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        That is a very backhanded compliment. You are a “pretty girl” BUT I can fix what’s wrong with you. Opening up a hole in the ground to swallow people would be my superpower.

      4. TimeTravlR*

        OMG! I am recoiling just reading this comment. Why would anyone think they need to point out someone else’s (perceived) flaws??????

        1. Tilly*

          Yes and as if most people don’t already have a good idea of their own flaws when they stare at their own face in the mirror every day! Like I already feel like it’s the first thing people notice when they look at my face. Like everyone’s staring and thinking it’s super gross, even though I know that they’re obviously not… but then someone confirms in front of multiple people that they actually are.

          1. Paulina*

            I have occasionally unleashed a completely over-the-top “OMG, I never thought of that!” complete with ultra-effusive thanks on some busybody who has pointed out an extremely obvious issue and pushed a simplistic solution that, if they stopped to think about it, they should realize both does not work and is something I would have done ages ago if it did.

            Somehow they find this reaction disconcerting, even though surely it should be what they expect for their priceless dilettante wisdom, right?

        2. LunaLena*

          Probably because people think they’re “helping” or shaming others into better behavior. I find it fascinating how a lot of people assume that 1) they are the first person to notice something because they happened to notice it for the first time, and 2) other people give a damn about their opinion. In their head they think the other person is going to think “OMG they’re right, I must fix this immediately!” instead of “what a weirdo” or “how rude” because, in their own minds, they are important and therefore everyone should want to do whatever it takes to be accepted by them. I suspect this is the root cause of people saying things like “why does everyone like [celebrity], they’re ugly/fat” or “smile!” or “[hairstyle/fashion/makeup trend] is ugly, no one should do that,” or one I particularly loathe and have seen a lot on the Internet, “homosexuality should be illegal but lesbians are okay cuz it’s hot.”

        3. old person*

          My aunt was a large size model years ago. She would get approached repeatedly by strangers about how she would be a real pretty girl if only she would lose some weight. JMO, she was already a beautiful woman and still is.

      5. JP*

        Yep. Got the same thing from a coworker trying to sell me Herbalife supplements to help with weight loss. He specifically singled me out.

        1. Saberise*

          Some people are clueless. Years ago we had a new post-doc working in the lab and he said he would have his wife bring me some green tea from China when she moved over since it’s supposed to be good for weight loss. To add insult to injury it didn’t even work. ;-)

      6. AKchic*

        I am so sorry you got publicly hassled. I *loathe* MLMs and their charlatan hawkers with a passion that some call “unholy”. I positively delight in publicly humiliating anyone who would attempt to offload their crap or try their sales pitch with me or mine. And I do not consider it a flaw of mine. The flaw is getting suckered into that garbage.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Years ago I applied for a job at a private college and was so jazzed when a woman called and said she was in their HR dept. She then said she wasn’t calling about the job and proceeded to pitch me some product she sold via MLM (I think it was vatamins or other supplements). I managed to politely say I wasn’t interested and rang off. I called the school and asked who her boss was, then called her boss and told them what happened. Don’t know the outcome on her end, but I never heard from them again.

    2. Karia*

      Combination of cult tactics and desperation. Their victims are thoroughly manipulated, have to spend money to keep their ‘status’ and are often several thousands in debt by the time they get out. If I had my way every single one would be banned and the founders would be imprisoned.

      (No juicy personal connection, just really, really, really hate MLMs).

      1. EinJungerLudendorff*

        MLM’s are straight up predatory, and target people who are vulnerable and desperate.

        1. Karia*

          Yep. A few acquaintances have been sucked in. A colleague with severe money trouble. A struggling single mother. Etc.

          I know a lot of people see this as ‘personal choice’ but so are the kind of loan sharks who break your legs, and we ban them.

            1. Karia*

              Not keen on payday loans either, for obvious reasons. Have also been forced to take one out, after my spouse was laid off, unlike most people who object to them on moral grounds. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would judge me.

              But I was earning £20k. As a result of that awful loan my family were fed and housed and thanks to me getting two pay rises and three bonuses in the space of two years I paid it off.

              Would like to see community funded credit unions. Am fully aware that they require a ton of emotional, vocational and hardass labour to get off the ground.

              1. Karia*

                Oops sorry to clarify – when I took the loan I was earning £14k. I paid it off by hustling hard and raising my salary by £6k within 18 months. My point was that people only use these horrendous services when the alternative is worse. And homelessness is worse than bad loans.

              2. Amaranth*

                I don’t agree, it sounds like LW was initially brought on as a peer and that means friend was the best choice for training. That she is on a PIP doesn’t negate her responsibilities and if she showed professionalism and met the goals as well as doing the training, maybe she’d successfully complete the plan. It’s on friend to prove she should keep her job, not the company’s responsibility to avoid hurting her feelings.

      2. CoffeeforLife*

        I did a MLM when I was 18/19 as a college student. I actually made money (not a lot, but i wasn’t in the hole) plus I still have my personal products-well, my mom does since she commandeered them. I avoid them now but I have a soft spot for that company.

        1. Karia*

          You’re in the 1% then, because according to the FTC 99% of MLM sellers lose money.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            I sold Avon for a few years on a very low key level. I left the books in the breakroom at work and if people ordered, it was good, if not fine. I didn’t make much money but everyone I knew received discounted Avon gifts for several years.

          2. MassMatt*

            Yes an economist who studied MLM’s said they are designed to attract/appeal to susceptible demographics, and when people fail they blame themselves and try to double down, ordering more products, and finally drop out. The companies mostly make money from the recruits having to buy their inventory up front, which is not refundable. Their failure is not a aberration, it’s the way the programs are designed.

            Most of the people that make money (and there aren’t many, % wise) don’t make it by selling the (usually overpriced and/or shoddy) product, but By recruiting others to sell it.

            Their pitch/seminars etc are short on product or sales instruction and big on “YOU CAN DO IT!” type cheerleading where critical thinking is shunned as “being negative”.

            If these companies had great products they would be marketed to consumers conventionally vs a MLM pyramid by amateur salespeople whose only qualification is shelling out the $ to buy the product.

            1. Paulina*

              Some MLM setups also make significant money from selling their “YOU CAN DO IT!!!11!” grow-your-business seminars to their sucked-in recruits.

        2. Tilly*

          I could see it working for a college student. If you’re living on campus with lots of people and the only (or one of the only) ones selling. But I feel like it’s harder In other environments, where you don’t have such a ‘right there’ network.

          1. Annony*

            I knew some people in college who did it. Most made money. However I am pretty sure the only reason they made money is because it was a way for their relatives and family friends to give them money without it being seen as charity and most only did it for a year or less before getting an actual job.

          2. Show Me the Money*

            I can’t. I was so broke in college, no way did I have money for MLM junk.

      3. Queer Earthling*

        I grew up in a poor family, and MLMs were considered a pretty normal side job to try to stretch every dollar, and I went to a lot of Pampered Chef/Mary Kay/whatever parties as a teen & young adult. My mom got mad at me for not pursuing Avon when I was struggling to find a job back in 2010 or so even though I’d have had no way to pay for the initial bunch of Stuff. There MUST be other folks who were raised like this (i.e. any opportunity to make money must be legit, it’s money!) and, uh…are basically easy pickins for MLMs.

        1. Salsa Your Face*

          Check out the podcast “The Dream,” which is about MLMs. They touch on exactly this in maybe the third or fourth episode. Most of these companies started out as direct sales, not MLMs, and they were genuinely beneficial, especially to poor women, in a time without online shopping. The business model has changed, but more established companies like Avon are still coasting on their good reputation.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think this is very true – a lot of people still think of Avon as a direct-sales organization rather than an MLM because they were direct sales when they had exposure to them. Until the early 2000s, Avon was not cut from the predatory model of modern-day MLMs (money made from sales, not recruiting; extremely low buy-in; no minimum purchases). You could be an Avon rep just to get a discount on your Skin So Soft and nothing more. (On the flip side, there are also people who believe that Avon and the former direct-sales organizations were *always* predatory MLMs, which is not accurate.)

            Many of us also have an older family member who sold and had a very different experience than the current organization and, for people who grew up in rural areas before internet sales, the Avon lady was how many people got their beauty products. In the 80s, the Avon lady could just leave catalogs with her contact info out or build a small network in the neighborhood or church and make decent side money. She did not have to recruit downstreams or keep thousands of dollars of product in her home.

            1. filosofickle*

              Count me in for that belief! I didn’t realize Avon had changed. They were more good than bad in my youth and sold by a few friends.

              Then again, I haven’t met an Avon person in years and avoid those damn sales parties like the devil. Got shanghaied into a Mary Kay party once under false pretenses, and refused to buy anything from her on principle. I liked the charcoal mask and bought it elsewhere just so she wouldn’t make a commission.

          2. Double A*

            This podcast is SO good. Anyone with opinions about MLMs should listen to it — it won’t change your mind about how terrible they are– if anything, it will confirm it, but you will understand the specific of WHY they are so terrible, and what kind of legal maneuvering they have done. Also, it will give you a lot more understanding of how and why people join them/get suck in.

            Season 2 about Wellness is even better.

          3. old person*

            Michael Moore had a tv show years and years ago called TV Nation and one episode had a bit on how Avon had a rep in the Amazon rain forest that would canoe out to women with the make up catalogs filled with photos of lily white women to try and sell the make up to the tribes. If you can find a clip of that online, I promise you that your eyebrows will hit your hairline when you watch.

          4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Way way back in the day a relative started selling Avon because their spouse lost their job. I don’t know how Avon works now, but back then it was a very trusted brand and Relative had a route in a nice area, and it kept the wolf from the door for a few years.

        2. BethDH*

          Yes, it’s easy to forget the class aspect of this. There are a lot of places and backgrounds where you see everyone else doing it and it’s considered not that different from any side job. My sister is an RN and at least half of her coworkers had an MLM side gig when she worked on a unit, but none now that she’s in a research clinic.
          When I read history I often think of it in the context of women doing piecework in the early factory days.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          MLM literally targets the vulnerable and easily manipulated. Struggling folks, young folks and impoverished folks. They promise stability and a path out of the weeds. Banking on people being desperate and eager to jump at opportunity.

          That’s why many of our moms and college friendsvfall into them.

          My mom went to plenty of parties but she was not ever interested in the game. She knew they weren’t money makers and required you to be aggressively looking for sales. Not our style at all. Our family are laborers not sales.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Spoke to Dad (who even in his late 60s still campaigns and volunteers to help prevent the exploitation or mistreatment of the ‘less fortunate’) and he says he’s noticed a big upswing in the number of his clients for dial-a-ride mentioning that they’ve been recently ‘encouraged’ to join some MLM scheme or another because people are losing jobs and money so fast now.

            He’s advising all of them not to do it, but I got a full half hour call with him lambasting these schemes who seem to be pressuring the more vulnerable of the population into joining at the moment. I learnt most of my bad language from Dad and got a comprehensive refresher from him on that call. He was furious.

    3. Vina*

      The specifically prey on women who have little to zero other economic options. There are tons of studies and well-researched newspaper articles on this.

      It’s about preying on women of a certain economic status. Typically, they are also married with kids or young w/o kids and not making enough.

      It’s evil. These people prey on a vulnerability on purpose.

    4. Come On Eileen*

      Captive audience, more than likely. It’s a terrible idea but I’m sure the fact that you’ve got a group of people pre-gathered is the incentive.

      1. boo bot*

        I think it’s also likely that by the time someone is targeting people in a work meeting, they’ve probably already exhausted other, more reasonable avenues – they’ve already tried their friends, families, Facebook groups, etc., and now they’re trying riskier, less socially acceptable tactics.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          It’s weird to me that it has become socially acceptable to treat friends and family as marks for a sales pitch. I mean, gods forbid there should be any part of your life that isn’t part of the commerce machine making richer people than you a little bit richer.

          It suggests both that the working class is desperate and that this is acceptable or even desirable.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      One of my husband’s coworkers tried it about 2 months ago, got about 2 sentences into their speal before the rest of the people on the call (all techies, this is IT) threatened to revoke their conferencing abilities permanently.

      According to husband unit, that coworker is based in the USA (we’re in the UK) and sent out an email later with what husband refers to as a ‘notpology’ stating that they needed to make more money but wouldn’t do it at work again.

      I think it’s just desperation. They know they need more money, here’s something they can sell to get it, and those companies do encourage selling to anybody. They must have felt seriously desperate to try to do it on an international call (the products in question don’t ship to the UK). I’m definitely not excusing the behaviour though. I hate people trying to sell me anything- and if they included comments about my appearance I’d likely go nuclear.

    6. some dude*

      It honestly baffles me that MLM’s are legal. My understanding is that over 95% of participants don’t make money, most end up owing the company money because they have to buy a bunch of product, and they make people turn personal relationships into sales relationships. I can see there being space for informal businesses, but the MLM model seems completely exploitative and frankly hogwash.

  5. Bibliovore*

    For LW1’s situation, would it be of any use to make sure HR is aware of this, as they were involved earlier in things between the friend and the grandboss?

    1. Trek*

      My only concern with this is that it may turn Grandboss against her if she paints him/her as part of the problem. I understand going to HR stating I am in an uncomfortable situation but if Grandboss doesn’t know they are friends and finds out through HR he may push them both out. I can see her friend that got her the job going to HR with this information but not LW.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Aware of what?

      HR would be involved with the reorg and they were involved with the performance and personal issue. A boss (in this case Grandboss) reassigning work is generally not something that HR would be involved in. The LW doesn’t mention anything that causes red flags about the reassigning of work, so I’m not sure what the LW would say to HR.

      LW: HR, I’m concerned that my coworker’s work is being reassigned to me by my direct boss who is also the coworkers grandboss.

      See what I mean?

      1. Saberise*

        Not to mention if the friend is treading water in regards to her job going to HR may be the worst thing that could happen. Remember it’s not just that the friend doesn’t get along with grandboss but also she has had performance issues and still does if she’s not doing her job and making OP’s job harder to do.

      2. Bibliovore*

        Fair points, and my “aware of this” was far too vague. I wasn’t clear from the letter whether whatever got HR involved in the first place had been resolved or was an ongoing issue, though I suspected HR had supported the friend because she was still there and in the same position, so my thought was that HR might want to be aware that this is the current situation and that the grandboss was badmouthing OP. I just reread that part of the post, though, and realized that “He has also been very vocal about his dissatisfaction with her performance. My friend is understandably upset” could just mean that the grandboss was expressing dissatisfaction to the friend, not necessarily to OP or anyone else. I agree with Trek that if there are any HR-would-want-to-know aspects here, it’d be better for the friend to bring those to HR than for OP to do so.

  6. Colin*

    LW4 – I may be mis-remembering, or perhaps the feature has changed, but I recall from a time when I went on a LinkedIn networking blitz many years ago that you basically had to ‘connect’ with someone in order to have a conversation with someone or see their contact information. Maybe it allowed an introduction message. I would say that perhaps they are trying to ‘connect’ so that they can see your email address and move the conversation to a more standard plantform.
    I typically accept any connection that seems like it might be useful. If nothing pans out over time and I don’t want to give the impression that I actually know these people, I remove them in an occasional purge (which is made easier by the fact that connections are listed in reverse chronology, so I only have to go back so far).

    1. Grey Coder*

      I have a similar memory (also from years ago so things may have changed) that recruiters have to pay for messages to people they aren’t connected with. So it may be a cost-saving measure for them to make connections to people, and if you’re actively looking for work it may be worth accepting those connections. I have a several recruiters in my list — a couple I know who specialise in my field and are good, and a few others left over from the last time I was job hunting and I was accepting connections freely. I have ignored many others but would start accepting if I were looking to change jobs.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      LW#4, good on you for shielding your connections.
      I am a manager with some recruiting responsibilities. When a recruiter tries to connect with me, I assume that they are doing it for access to my network. In most cases I decline because I do not want my connections to be contacted with random sales pitches claiming to be referred by me. There is a LI setting not to show your connections to anyone, but IMO this defeats the purpose of the platform.
      My LinkedIn rule is to connect only with people I have met personally or did business with. Sometimes I bend the rules for people that may be useful, when it’s clear they will not try to sell to me. On the whole though, it is better to be on the conservative side when it comes to adding connections.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        LinkedIn has a feature that allows you to make your network private so that even your 1st level connections can’t see who is in your network (I have my network setup the same way). For what it’s worth.

        1. filosofickle*

          Right…Khatul acknowledged that but said it defeats the purpose of the platform for them. I tend to agree!

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      LinkedIn has a feature now where you can send an InMail that allows you to write a more detailed message versus a brief note. You need to have LinkedIn Premium though to be able to send InMails. I use the InMail feature quite a bit when I’m recruiting as it allows me outline the position I’m recruiting for and allows the candidate to determine if they are interested.

      On a separate note while we’re discussing LinkedIn I’d like to include this. As a general rule of thumb for courtesy reasons, if you’re a candidate getting an InMail and you’re not interested in the position, it’s very helpful if you just click the ‘Not interested’ button. The reason for that is generally you have a finite amount of InMails on a monthly basis and they are allocated on a credit system. So if I pay for 50 InMails and I send you a message and you reply at all, I get that credit back versus if you don’t respond at all I have to wait a month to get a new InMail.

      1. OP4*

        Thanks for the tip about clicking the “Not Interested” button. I do try to reply to LinkedIn messages anyhow, just because I myself hate to be kept hanging… but this provides more motivation to reply to the irrelevant ones. (Sometimes, when they’re just a little off the mark, I will add a comment like, “I’m actually a llama pack trainer, not a llama groomer. So do let me know if you get any openings in the llama training field.”)

        FYI, I get a couple of messages from recruiters every week, even during the pandemic. If I am interested in their position and we start conversing, I will give them my email address and/or phone number on request. I have occasionally connected with recruiters when I felt they were worth having a continuing relationship with and wouldn’t spam my network.

        I actually wasn’t aware I could shield my connections from view by anyone, and I’m glad LinkedIn offers that option. But I don’t plan to use it myself; as Khatul Madame noted, it seems to defeat the purpose of the platform. I am not a particularly skillful or persistent LinkedIn user, but at least my connections are people I do (or did at the time we met) have a genuine connection to.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      LinkedIn has special tools for recruiters that give them access to the whole network; they don’t need to connect with you to access yours.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        These tools are very expensive though – more expensive than Premium. Many companies, wisely or not, balk at paying $$$ for Recruiter accounts for their staff.

  7. slomo1212*

    I assume that #2 works in a public school environment. MLMs are rampant among teachers and other school-based professionals. It is so frustrating to hear my colleagues (who I otherwise respect!) refer to themselves as “small business owners” as they try to hawk their LulaRoe and 31 bags products. I’ve been in plenty of positions where co-workers have tried to sell to me. It’s easy for me to say no, since their products are absolutely not my taste and besides that, I’m opposed to supporting MLMs in any way. They’re still extremely persistent and will constantly leave catalogues and send email links even when I’ve said I’m categorically not interested. This has been across jobs, schools, and offices. I would be super annoyed if a team leader tried to do this, but I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever – that’s how widespread it is.

    I assume they get lured into it because we need extra money to survive! I’ve worked in education for 9 years and have always had a (legitimate) second job, both during the school year and in the summer – not for extra spending money, but because my salary alone is not enough to pay my modest expenses in my high cost of living area. :(

    1. Karia*

      The way they exploit people sickens me. John Oliver did a great episode about it. They deliberately target low income people, and will use whatever works – oh you’re a mum and want to stay home? Etc.

      1. Lady Heather*

        Or worse – you’re a mother and you work? Aren’t you worried about what that will do to your children? Don’t you want the best for them? Xyz.


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

        Even teenagers! I had a schoolmate who selled Avon. She was 15! She sneaked the Avon catalogue in the teachers room and no one said anything.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I grew up in the heart of Amway territory. One of our high school science teachers was constantly hawking Amway products to the *students.* There were other very ridiculous things about him. In hindsight, attempting to sell MLM products to 14 year olds seems like the least of his sins.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Such an abuse of his authority as a teacher. There’s no way the students didn’t feel pressured to buy from him for the sake of their grades.

      2. Your Weird Uncle*

        I babysat for a family who did this to me too. Just the memory of the dad handing me the catalogue when dropping me off at home for the night skeeves me out!

    3. Rock Prof*

      I had teachers in high school who sold Avon, including my lacrosse coach who was also a Spanish teacher. One year, the lacrosse team sold Avon through her as fundraising! I don’t even know how that worked to benefit us, though I think Avon had some sort of fundraising system set up. It just feels ethically icky now.

    4. Sacred Ground*

      My second exposure to MLM, after watching my mother’s failed attempt to sell MaryKay, was one high school teacher, a wrestling coach pressed into teaching Civics (despite apparently knowing nothing on the topic), who pushed students to buy and sell Amway products. This was in the mid-’80s.

  8. allathian*

    OP2: I agree with Alison, tell your boss. This is just so incredibly inappropriate that I can’t even…

  9. Anonymous for This*

    With OP #2: I just can’t right now.

    Here’s the thing…I’ve been a LONG time fan and reader of AskAManager.Org, have purchased her book for myself (in print and in ebook form), and consistently recommend it almost ad nauseam to any and everyone who ever mentions a management / HR issue. I’m saying this to say that I understand Alison’s and the commentariat’s general view on MLM or Direct Sales.

    I have been in Direct Sales for over 20 years. I joined a company when I needed a way to earn income and I wasn’t able to find a job. I’m still with that company. Over the years I’ve been rewarded with numerous international and domestic trips, gifts, special recognition, etc.

    I. HAVE. NEVER. EVER. *EVER*. taken to promoting my business at my “regular job.” Even before I was promoted to management 5 years ago. It’s been a “we can’t even discuss my direct sales business on company premises” kind of deal, as far as I was concerned. This has less to do with the fact that it is direct sales (because, let’s face it, everyone has seen Tupperware/Pampered Chef/Mary Kay/Avon catalogs in the break room or lunch room) and more to do with the fact that my direct sales company deals with “romance” items. That just put a cherry on top of that cake I wasn’t willing to mess with.

    But even if my business was completely 100% innocuous…I still wouldn’t actively promote it at my regular job.

    And once I joined management….yeah…I won’t even take questions about it on company property. I’m that hyper-focused on making sure there is no “cross-contamination.”

    It’s stupid. No sane person is going to ever think this is a good idea as a manager. If it was a team member, that would just be a conversation to explain why you can’t promote another business during the time you’re supposed to be doing work that I’m compensating you for. But as a manager…the basis of what you build job performance on is your authority over your team members…it’s not up to them to determine when that authority applies or what the consequences of you exercising that authority might be. It’s up to you.

    The number of ways this person has failed her organization and failed her team are numerous. It’s so short-sighted and so negligent that I would honestly be demoting this person, as opposed to just simply talking to them about why this was a (MASSIVE) error in judgment.

    Please share with upper boss as quickly as you can. If you had a great relationship with the manager, I would tell you to talk with her, but it doesn’t sound like that is the case, so yeah…upper management needs to know ASAP!

    1. Reba*

      Thanks for sharing this perspective. I think the firm firewall you have between your jobs is probably unusual across the MLM and direct sales sphere — because these organizations typically train people to do it the opposite way, to exploit all possible relationships, personal, community and professional.

      1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs*

        Exactly. It’s called “network marketing” for a reason! Everyone you come into contact with is a sales target.

    2. MuseumChick*

      The big problem for me, personally, is that I have a strong moral objection to MLMs. They are known to target vulerbale population (most notablely single monthers or women who haven’t had the privilage/oppurnity to pursue a career) and even the FTC has come out with a detailed report showing the average “income” for a person participating in them in negative $900 and that while a small buisness is profitable 40% of the time only 1% of people in MLM actually make money.

      Good for you for making it work for you! But that fact remains that, very literally, 99% of the time MLMs are preditory. I mean, at least this person is only trying to push some BS beauty products instead of some oil that
      “will cure all your health problems!” but the fact remains that at it’s core the MLM model is a scam.

    3. Human*

      Cool story and all but your “success”, such as it is, has been made on the backs of people you’ve conned.

      There are plenty of companies that make high quality sex toys (which MLMs don’t) who sell them in a non coercive and non scammy manner (which MLMs don’t).

    4. ...*

      So you sell pure romance? Lol. Just because you don’t promote it at work doesnt mean it isnt sketchy and scammy and some of those products are downright unhealthy.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Yeah, I’m in the sex toy industry and I cringed at this, but didn’t want to derail. Pure Romance is not an ethical company and many of their toys are not body safe.

  10. Irene*

    OP1. I wish I could reply more optimistically, but a few years ago, our company got a new owner. They intentionally created tension between myself & a coworker, who was then a good friend. I was given a contract. She was left as a freelancer. I tried to support her being treated as I was being, & was told by new boss they would fire me if I didn’t agree to this set up. Friend was furious of course, but with me as well as them, & our friendship didn’t survive. It was really miserable and awful. I hope that’s not what happens with you, but brace yourself, it might. And I fear there’s nothing you can do. Good luck though

    1. MK*

      Yes, I don’t see a happy ending in this scenario. The friend’s future in this company is likely very short in any case, when there is someone two levels up having both performance and personal issues with her and actively trying to push her out. The OP can do nothing to help with that; a new employee who is also her friend is not in a great position to advocate for her, nor is it really her place (heck, for all she knows the grandboss might be right that she should be let go). The friend would be better advised to try and get a new job before she is fired, but most people in that situation see this as giving in and dig their heels in.

      As for the friendship, the only thing the OP can do to save it is quit; I doubt it will make any difference about the friend’s being push out, but it might take the resentment away. Otherwise, it’s really up to the friend whether she will be able to not blame the OP foe something that is out of her control.

      1. Karia*

        Is it certain that there *are* actually performance issues? Sometimes when a higher up has a personal problem with someone they’ll start manufacturing problems, or acting as though the employee is sub par, because they don’t want to admit their inability to handle personal conflict. Doesn’t change the outcome, but something to consider.

        1. anonforthis*

          This. And staceyizme’s comment.

          I was in a similar situation where I was (unknowingly) groomed to replace someone. The person wasn’t a friend but we shared professional connections and she was an advocate for me…until it become clear that she was being pushed out. When it started, I thought she was the problem. Later, I realized that anyone who got on the wrong side, for any reason, of Grandboss was out. Now, it’s me.

          LW, I don’t know about your friendship but agree with others here that’s it’s unlikely to last. And that does suck. What I do know is you’re in a tough spot professionally, friend or not. I also know you should carefully observe what’s happening. Don’t be surprised if it happens to you at some point. It’s like gossip – someone who talks about other people to you is certainly talking about you to other people.

        2. MK*

          As certain as anything we read in letters sent to AAM. The friend didn’t say that the grandboss was being unfair, as far as the OP mentions. Sure it’s true that managers can manufacture problems to get rid of people for unrelated reasons, but it’s also true that workers with performance issues dismiss them as a manager not liking them. I have seen both, heck, sometimes at the same time.

          1. Karia*

            Oh, that’s certainly true. I mostly just dislike the shady way they are handling it, and this kind of tactic makes me question the company’s take on things.

            1. SweetestCin*

              Same. My somewhat limited experience in companies is that when one thing looks shady as all get out, there’s more if you actually look.

            2. Colette*

              I don’t see anything shady in the way they are handling it, necessarily? They hired the OP; she believed it was because there was more work than one person can do; she is now reporting to the grandboss and doing work that was originally assigned to her friend – this is all normal stuff. Is there enough work for 2 people? Could be. Is the OP’s friend going to be one of those two people? Maybe not. Getting along with management is part of the job that she doesn’t seem to be doing well. (Maybe it’s not her fault! We don’t know – but you rarely win when you fight with your boss’s boss.)

              1. Kiki*

                It seems to me like Grandboss from the outset knew he wanted LW’s friend out. He rearranged the hierarchy to move a new employee above an existing one after two months.
                If that’s the case (Grandboss knew his goal was to push LW’s friend out and replace her), it was kind of heartless (or at very least lacking forethought), to let LW’s friend recruit for them, then hire a close friend of hers, creating this awkward dynamic for everyone.
                And while I’m sure there are exceptions because life is a rich tapestry, in my experience, workplaces and managers that “push employees out” usually have other glaring issues and struggle with things I’d file under “immaturity.”

                1. Karia*

                  Indeed. A decent, non shady boss / company would put a poor performer on a PIP and / or fire them. Not manipulate them into hiring / training their replacement.

        3. Amy Sly*

          Her friend is the kind of employee who deliberately withholds information from her fellow employees. That says to me that there are probably other performance issues, and frankly, the part I find surprising is that LW1 was hired when the friend had such a sour relationship with the company already.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            OP said their immediate boss is great. Most likely, friend is doing a decent job but grandboss hates her and friend is now bitter and angry.

            1. Moi*

              I think a lot of people had N95 masks for work such a painting with a sprayer etc. I assume that these people are re-using their ‘painting” masks. The hospitals won’t accept donations of masks that have been used.

        4. LW1*

          I am not sure how much there are actual performance issues. There are a couple things where when I look back at my friend’s documentation, I can see some issues, but the majority seems to be personal conflict. But I haven’t been at the job that long, so I don’t know what was asked. I can only see what was delivered, and am not 100% clear on was actually asked for (I get different answers depending on who I ask…)

        5. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          You said it. At some places, if Boss writes up, “Jane is really DB Cooper and that adversely affects our operations, business relationships, and reputation,” it won’t matter if Jane produces a birth certificate proving she wasn’t even born when DB Cooper parachuted out of that jetliner. Boss said it and signed it, so that makes it true and Jane will be treated accordingly.

      2. Batgirl*

        I wouldn’t tell the OP to quit without a job lined up, but she should certainly be job hunting. The unprofessionalism of the grandboss is amazing. I’d tell the friend that I was looking to quit as well, and encourage her to do the same.

  11. staceyizme*

    For LW1- it sounds like your friend hasn’t been managed very well. Either she’s a problem and should have been on a PIP or she’s the victim of a grandboss who is determined to rework things in his/ her own way. Maybe both. In any case, in your shoes, I’d give serious consideration to restarting the search for a better job. Even if the work is very interesting, the drama sounds needlessly draining and not likely to resolve itself anytime soon.

    1. MK*

      She might be on a PIP; HR is apparently involved, so there is a decent chance the issues are actually being addressed somehow.

    2. leapingLemur*

      “I’d give serious consideration to restarting the search for a better job.” This! It sounds like grandboss may be the kind of jerk who will turn against the LW at some point. Getting a new job would avoid this and probably preserve the friendship.

  12. scmill*

    The only thing I am interested in buying from a co-worker is a box of Thin Mints.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And even student fundraisers don’t (shouldn’t) get this level of push. I’ve been known to say “$ChildsName asked me to bring the $Sweets sale sign up sheet in, so it’s at my desk.” BUT I’m no one’s manager.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I am people’s manager and do not bring the sign-up sheet to work. I still get people emailing me to ask if my daughter is still in Girl Scouts and when cookie sales start. I take orders by request only and word tends to get around that I can hook people up with Thin Mints and Samoas.

        One of the student activities group around us sells Chef Pierre pies as a fundraiser, which I absolutely love. I have networked myself into a contact who can get me a peachberry pie every Thanksgiving and has committed to passing my name along to another kid after hers graduates.

      2. filosofickle*

        My dad was a manager and did not — ever — take my GS cookie sheet to the office. He felt it was inappropriate and the guys who worked for him would feel obligated. (It was an industrial job, not great pay and very hard work. He respected his crew a great deal.) I asked him to do it passively, like post it in the break room, but he was having none of it. I respect that.

        So of course I always undersold relative to my troop-mates whose parents sold for them. The one with the orthopedic surgeon father sold so many! She never had to go door to door. Which does defeat a large part of the benefit of cookie sales, I agree with GigglyPuff.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I take a different view. As a former Girl Scout (or are you a Girl Scout forever, like a Marine? not sure) I know there’s value to the child with respect to the actual cookie sale that goes beyond the exchange of an Abe for a box of cookies. But that’s just my view.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        This, also a former Girl Scout, and honestly it bugs me. The entire point is to teach the sellers life values (yes and raise money), doesn’t seem to be happening anymore. Even the tables at the grocery stores, maybe 1/5 tables I see the kids are actually talking/handling the money.

        I was a horribly shy kid, like painfully shy, but having to go door to door (while my mom waited on the sidewalk), helped teach me how to talk to adults (and yes I recognize this isn’t an approach for everyone who is shy), handle money, balance the orders, etc. So the entire sign-up sheet or parent doing everything just defeats the entire enrichment purpose.

        1. Amy Sly*

          And it basically turns the Girl Scouts (and their moms) into unpaid sales staff. Which, you know, is rather brilliant for GSA — they can be a cookie company making $700 million dollars with a tiny fraction of the paid sales force a regular food manufacturer would have to have to bring in that kind of money.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Girl Scout cookies are not manufactured by Girl Scouts, they are made by two commercial bakeries (ABC and Little Brownie) that also produce other commercial cookies. GSUSA is a nonprofit organization that uses their slice funds to run the national organization. They are not running a for-profit cookie company on the backs of elementary schoolers.

            Each year, troops receive a manual that includes a breakdown of the cost of each box, including who gets what piece of it – the bakeries, the national organization, the local council, the even more local service unit, and the troop. The money made by the local council, SU, and troop directly benefit the girls via funding for camps, volunteer training, activities, and a fund to pay fees and other expenses to ensure equitable access to Girl Scouting regardless of ability to pay. Our troop earned about $700 for the girls this year in the cookie sale, and our troop is pretty casual about participation. The girls decide how to use that money – in the past, we’ve done a sleepover event at a local attraction, a hands-on cooking course, camping with archery and canoeing, a ropes course, or laser tag – plus an annual donation to the local GS charitable fund and an animal shelter. (Every year we take nominations and vote; every year, the animal shelter wins. Their money; their choice.)

            I absolutely hate selling things – I quit Girl Scouts because I didn’t want to push cookies, and I hated fundraising for my activities and viewed it as a necessary evil of participation (but had to raise at least half of the cost of the activity per my agreement with my mom). Yet, I ended up as a troop leader, cookie mom, and other volunteer positions withing Girl Scouts and have a greater appreciation both for the cost and scale of fundraising and also for the skills these programs should teach if implemented correctly. Participation in sales is also voluntary. Your troop can choose to self-fund rather than sell cookies.

            Also, to GigglyPuff’s point, the girls are supposed to handle the money at cookie booths above the Daisy (K-1st) level. If the parents are doing it, that’s not by the book. We help if someone’s having trouble, but our girls take cash, make change, and can also run a Square reader for credit card payments. (Most of the booth squabbling is over who gets to run the cards through the reader.)

            1. filosofickle*

              The only year I didn’t hate selling was when we had a service goal to buy closed caption machines for the local school for the deaf and blind. Finally, I had something to say! It’s the only time in my life I’ve been successful selling anything. We ended up earning enough for 2 machines and 2 more were matched anonymously. (This was in the 80s when the technology was much harder to come by.)

            2. Show Me the Money*

              Former cookie mom here. It was the most unpaid work I have ever done in my life, the Girl Scouts have quite a bureaucracy. The amount my daughter’s actual troop received was miniscule. It was cool that I sold Thin Mints and so did my daughter, but it’s just not worth it. Her troop and its leaders were amazing and I wanted to support them, but one cookie mom year was enough.

              I normally would just give cash when compulsory fund raisers (band, etc.) came up. I hate soliciting. Part of the MLM problem is that breathing is the only criteria for recruitment, and actual sales interest or ability is a non-factor. It is BS, and in many if not most of these schemes, the persons recurited are the actual customer because reselling is de minimis. Despicable. The government picks and chooses which schemes to prosecute, but they should all be shut down.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                The process is almost entirely online now, including ordering, booth scheduling, and transfers. It’s still work, but I did it for two years while leading the troop and working full-time plus without much of an issue. (I did *love* the moms who volunteered the next two years, though!) Because I was already volunteering and working, I did not offer to do a lot of the extras that I see some cookie moms do. I sent a schedule and instructions and one reminder on key dates, but I was not willing to total and enter people’s orders or do a bunch of personal deliveries or send twelve reminders about when things were due. And someone else had to accept the delivery, sort, and store cookies for pickup – I was doing the rest and lived in 1K square feet with three other people and two cats that loved boxes. (And now we have one who likes to chew on boxes. My MIL’s cookies this year came with a, “Sorry about the fang marks.” note.

        2. Colette*

          I’m a Girl Guide leader, and from my perspective there are two benefits of cookie sales. One is learning how to handle money/ask people to support you – but the other is the money, which we use to run our programs!

          I have no issue with cookies going with parents to work, because I know that the girls are also selling cookies through other venues; we just don’t want cookie selling to be our only activity for 6 months of the year.

            1. Yvette*

              Meaning the actual troop level, not just how much profit is made for the GSA organization.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              This year, our troop got $1.02/box from cookie sales. The sales manual also includes a full breakdown of how the cost of a box is allocated. The most substantial portion is associated with the production and transport of the product, and another portion that goes to our council directly supports the girls via funding our local camps. A lot of councils have lost their camp property from decrease in membership; our cookie sale helps us keep and maintain the property and also provide financial assistance to girls who would not otherwise be able to participate/attend camp.

            3. Show Me the Money*

              It was very little when I was a cookie mom back in the 90s. I was surprised and disappointed, as prior to getting involved, I had no idea how the price broke down. Most profit went to the GS bureaucracy. I loved their programs, particularly the summer camps, but the girls should have received more than seventeen cents a box like they did back then.

          1. Paulina*

            Learning how to ask adults to support us — sure.
            That time the person who opened the door was my classmate, who mocked me off and on for months afterwards — that unfortunately is the main interaction I remember. I think he even liked the cookies, too, but that didn’t stop him.

            Now I buy the cookies because I like them, and anyone who supplies me is doing me a favour, not vice versa.

        3. RecoveringSWO*

          My troop was located in a pretty Stepford wives type community. The girls with the highest sales had their mothers selling at work. That competition, the community vibe, and elementary school immaturity meant that there was a weird tension about how, “of course Molly sold the most cookies, her Mom works!” Ick. Luckily, I don’t remember it being too pervasive, but yeah, definitely a yucky downside.

        4. TiffIf*

          Funny anecdote–when the Girl Scouts were out at the grocery stores a few months ago, I heard one girl (maybe 7 or 8?) proclaiming loudly and proudly to passersby “Give us money, Get Deliciousness!”
          If I hadn’t just gotten my order from the friends that I usually get them through I would have bought them then and there from that child.

        5. CircleBack*

          I wonder if it’s regional/troop-dependent – the booths I’ve stopped at recently (well, in the past few years) always had girls handling money, with parents supporting. Sometimes the parents answered my questions while shy kids handle the money, and sometimes the parents walked the kids through the money part… My was the time a girl corrected her dad on the correct amount of change to give me.
          Sales sheets can also depend on how the parent and daughter are handling it together – I know my cousin’s daughter “manages” the sign-up sheet even though her mother brings it into work (the daughter has a goal and monitors progress, and they work together on the final order totals).

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      I was always willing to buy Girl Scout cookies if the actual Girl Scout gave me her sales pitch. Sign up sheet from the parents? Absolutely not. I’m in sales damnit! I want to be sold!

      1. Yvette*

        My friend sold stuff for his son at work, (low key here is sign up sheet etc.) However, his deal with his son was the son had to come in to deliver the goods and thank everyone for buying. This was also right around the time when the kid selling school candy door to door was killed in NJ so I really respected that approach.

      2. juliebulie*

        I will buy Girl Scout Cookies from Girl Scouts or their parents. Frankly no Girl Scouts are going to sell door-to-door in my icky neighborhood, so buying from their parents at work is my only option. (pre-Rona)

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I get mine when the Scouts set up at subway stations (which I’ve only seen here in/around Boston), or outside the supermarket; there are both girls and parents at the booths, and I think I’ve been handing my money to the scouts themselves.

          1. LavaLamp*

            When I was a GS back in the day we weren’t allowed to go door to door because it was that era where everyone was afraid of stranger danger so it was discouraged by my troop leaders.We also weren’t allowed to go door to door by ourselves (reasonable) and my mom was disabled so that wasn’t happening. . I distinctly remember my dad taking my sheet to work and he kept having to get more because construction people LOVE their GS cookies.

            Things have changed for the better now. I see girls running their tables with moms there helping out but not taking things over. Some of the troops even advertise that they have those little card readers that attach to your phone. Crap. Now I need some Samoas.

  13. Karia*

    It’s going to take more than ‘some maturity’ for her not to resent this, and I agree the friendship is probably over. The company sucks for putting you in this position.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I disagree. OP was put in the middle of a very awkward situation through no fault of her own. The friend has no reason to hold this against OP, and if I were in her (the friend’s) shoes I wouldn’t be willing to end a friendship because my job was screwing me over and using my friend to do it. The friend has a right to be pissed, but maturity and reason would tell her that OP is not to blame.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        the vast majority of people, no matter their age, can’t control/compartmentalize like that. Resentment is bound to slop over–I mean, OP’s friend helped her get this job and OP ends up taking her place. I think most people willbe anfry at company and friend.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Then that “vast majority” is immature and unreasonable. If you resent a friend for something they had no control over, that’s on you.

          1. Karia*

            I’m sorry but I think you’re being unreasonable. Most people can – usually after the fact – recognise intellectually that their friend had nothing to do with it. The reptile brain will still be yelling that they did their friend a favour and lost out as a result.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              This. We can’t control how we feel People may intellectually be understanding but emotions are a whole new ball game.

      2. Karia*

        Couple of key points. Friend is unlikely – and completely understandably – to be engaging her ‘reason’ when she gets fired. Second, in these sorts of circumstances, I often feel things like ‘maturity’ and ‘reasonableness’ get weaponised by badly behaving companies and people to get other people to ‘not make a fuss’ when treated badly.

        It is, in fact, completely reasonable to resent the fact that a friend has been used to displace your role. It is also understandable if the completely reasonable and rational resentment at that fact misfires.

        I would also suggest that if you want reasonable or reasoned behaviour you should behave reasonably. Fire a bad employee; don’t mess with their head by sliding in a replacement ahead of time. Even if it’s more convenient for you.

  14. KatyO*

    On #1, it kind of sounds like the friend put herself in this position. She admitted she was already having issues with performance before the OP was hired. While she may be a good friend, it sounds like she may not be a good employee.

    1. MK*

      Maybe. When someone has both personal and professional issues with an employee, it could be that they are problematic in both ways, but it could also be that a personality incompatability is creating or magnifying the performance issue, or that the performance issue is making minor personal quirks intolerable. The grandboss may have legitimate performance complaints and is (unprofessionally) making it personal or he may have personal issues with the friend and is prejudiced about her work or even sabotaging it consciously ot not.

      1. Karia*

        This. I’ve seen this play out numerous times with coworkers and once it happened to me. I objectively did not have performance issues; I’d gotten employee of the month twice that year and was making 6 x more money than anyone else. New boss just hated me.

        She kept setting me more and more absurd targets, getting visibly frustrated when I met them, then proceeded to make my life miserable until I quit. Still wish I knew what I’d done to get on her bad side.

          1. Karia*

            Maybe? To clarify, my salary was the same as everyone else’s I was just bringing in more. I figure/d I’d said or done something to annoy her, or else she wanted to clean house; I was one of the few who had worked for a long time under Old Boss.

            1. College Career Counselor*

              That’s your answer. You belonged to a previous regime, and anything you do reflected on that person, not the New Boss. Cleaning house allows the new person to say, “I built this team; all its accomplishments are because of me.” I think it can be really stupid because often you lose a lot of institutional knowledge and experience for the sake of “shaking things up” and “starting from scratch.”

              Former employer that is on its 3rd VP of development in 8 years and 4th director of alumni relations in the same time frame? Yeah, looking at you.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Ugh. The “cleaning house” mentality is awful, unless the longtime employees being pushed out actually really are bad employees. It’s wrecking careers and lives AND destroying institutional knowledge (as you pointed out) for the sake of a manager’s ego.

                Anyone who does it shouldn’t be a manager at all.

                1. Karia*

                  I really hope I wasn’t? My results were good and I had good rapport with other departments. It is possible personality came into play; I was used to working in open, collaborative environments. She liked being in total control, with intense micromanagement. I chafed at that, and maybe it was obvious, but it was so unnecessary.

              2. Karia*

                You could well be right – she wanted a certain ‘Brand’ and action plan that had been unpopular with other departments. I probably fashioned a target for myself by being stupid enough to mention certain tasks we used to do for other departments that had helped them in the past. I meant it as helpful, (esp because my friends from those departments had snagged me in the kitchen to ask why they were no longer happening) but she obviously took it as criticism.

        1. Saberise*

          Except I would have thought the friend would have said that if it were the case. Just like you did here. But that doesn’t sound like that is the case.

      2. Kiki*

        Right, obviously letter writer is in a better place than any of us to assess how culpability should be divided, but I’ve seen situations where an employee who was actually doing fine (if not very well) was made out to others to seem like they’re doing poorly because someone didn’t like them. Likewise, doing good work when you know someone in charge has it out for you is really hard, especially if they start moving goalposts, blowing up what should be minor critiques into big ordeals, assigning wild goose chases, etc. It makes me happy to see people in those situations leave and flourish somewhere else, but I know the baggage that’s accumulated by being “the bad employee” for too long can linger in a really toxic way.

        1. Karia*

          Yep, honestly this conversation has been really cathartic for me because I’ve kept going over and over where I went wrong. The pay wasn’t great but I loved the company and location, and got on with my colleagues well (somewhat rare for me).

  15. Mystery Bookworm*

    OP #1 – Alison’s advice is good. I think sincerity and frankness with your friend are the best way to handle this. It’s true that the friendship might not survive, but be open to the possibility that it’s only taking a hit in the short term, and it’s not entirely over. She might struggle with some resentment or disappointment, but that’s normal and that doens’t necessarily mean the friendship is entirely over.

    On the other hand, if you push too hard and risk your job for her, that’s a big emotional weight to put on the friendship (especially since it sounds like this is a job she wasn’t likely to keep regardless of recruiting you).

    I think the friendship is more likely to survive long-term if you can be open with each other now. I’m sorry the company is putting you both in this position. Good luck.

    1. MK*

      Doesn’t sound to me as if the OP is in a position to push back. She is a new employee, she is a friend of this person and the one trying to get rid of the friend is two levels up. Taking the situation out of context, if a recent lower-level employee tried to push back about her friend’s tasks being reassigned to her, I would think “a) I don’t know you well enough to put much store in your judgement about who should do what and you possibly don’t know the company well enough to have en informed opinion, b) you are biased here and probably letting your friendship influence you in favor of this person and c) pushing back when a higher up assigns you tasks should be done for a valid reason and your pal being mad at you isn’t one”.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Exactly. And taking that kind of risk will definitely be harmful to the friendship as well, it’s not worth it.

  16. Mystery Bookworm*

    OP #2 – One thing to bear in mind is that whereever MLMs are concerned, there can be a temptation to delve into the “legtimacy” of the business. But no matter what her side business is, giving a hard sell to a captive audience of colleagues is inappropriate.

    It would be a kindness to your other co-workers to alert her manager (and perhaps a kindness to her, in the long run…if people are playing along to be polite she may not realise just how much she is damaging her reputation).

    Good luck.

  17. Lena Clare*

    Sooooo, can I ask – just how bad is it when a colleague comes in with a catalogue for an MLM scheme and leaves it in the office for people to purchase if they want?

    I ask because I used to be an AVON rep, (I hated it and was rubbish at it, and only did it for about 3 months) and I used to do that – bring the catalogue in and ask if people wanted to buy stuff.

    Is that bad? Did I put my colleagues in an awkward position? I must add that I never pressured them, and I wouldn’t have done a hard sell or any type of sell actually in a video call. It’s probably why I was rubbish at it.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Something like that doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen that at a couple companies. People leave Avon or Pampered Chef catalogs in the cafeteria or break room and there’s no pressure at all. But hard-selling MLM products to your direct reports on a team call is terrible and OP should mention it to their manager.

      1. UKDancer*

        Agreed. There’s a lady at my office does Avon. She has the catalogue on her desk and one at the tea point and you go to her if you want anything. She’s never approached people or tried to sell directly so I think it’s fine. As long as people aren’t trying to press me to buy things I’m happy for them to have the brochure around.

        It’s when people try and chase you down that it creeps me out. On my last visit to the USA I was in Sephora in Georgetown (where I go because the UK doesn’t have Sephora shops) and this woman came up and started admiring my shoes and talking to me. It turned out she was trying to recruit me for Mary Kay (which I’d not heard of before). The sales assistant in Sephora told her to go away and explained the situation. I thought it was most weird. I mean who approaches people in a shop to try and compete with the shop?

        1. Show Me the Money*

          MK ladies are the worst. Most of them are deeply in debt and desperate. They don’t understand that they are the customer, as MK corporate doesn’t care if one cent of the products purchased by “consultants” are resold, MK corporate doesn’t even track resales. All recognition, including those pink vehicles, are based on wholesale orders to the consultants. By the way, those cars are not a gift. See pink for the real deal about MK.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Assuming that brochure had your home contact info only, you’d have been fine at my employer. Unwritten rule was don’t directly solicit orders, take payment, or do Avon paperwork in the building. And co-workers had to pick up items at the rep’s car outside their regular hours.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Anywhere I worked what you describe would be acceptable, although it’s worth noting that you may have taken a hit to your reputation, depending on how your colleagues viewed MLM participation in general (I’m not commenting on whether there’s a right / wrong stance on that, just that MLMs are controversial).

      Also, for the record, I personally don’t think that a hard sell is necessarily indicative of a good salesman! Some products might require that, but I’m not sure make-up is one of them….don’t be so hard on yourself. :)

      1. Amy Sly*

        After having been a salesperson for a long time, the harder the sell, the more I’m sure the product is faulty. Good products speak for themselves; you just have to show it working for the customer and they’ll buy.

        1. Pennyworth*

          +1. My hairdresser used to have brochures from a company that sold different books every month. They were good quality and great for gifts. I never heard her mention them, but I always searched out the brochure and quite often ordered books.

    4. Gloria*

      Leaving the catalogue sitting around is, in itself, fine. But if I saw it I would worry that that’s just the first step and that the person who left it there would escalate to pushier tactics and I’d probably try to avoid that person.

      1. Tilly*

        Yes, I think the line is when you approach people directly, as opposed to just leaving the catalogue and waiting for them to approach you.

        But, not gonna lie, I associate MLM sellers in general with pushiness because of numerous past experiences. So if I find out someone’s selling, I tend to want less to do with them after, whether that’s fair or not

      2. Senior Montoya*

        Right, especially if the order sheet is there too — everyone can see who ordered what and how much. Colleagues leave order sheets for Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and school fundraisers (the most ridiculously overpriced wrapping paper!)

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      As long as all you’re doing is leaving it in a break room/kitchen area and letting people come to you if they’re interested, I see no problem with it. I worked with a lady who would always try and push the sale of girl scout cookies on our team and it wasn’t even for her kid. Even though I LOVE GSC, I refused to buy them from her because she was damn pushy. Hell I’ve even started unfollowing people on social media who use their personal page to push their products – it’s obnoxious. If you have a side business, create a business page and let me choose if I want to follow it or not.

    6. LGC*

      Eh…I don’t think it’s great, but it’s not a huge sin. The most you probably would have done is broken the letter of any company rules, since you didn’t apply a ton of pressure.

      I mean, I had an Avon lady working for me, and I only found out when I saw her bring in a ton of bags! (She was a direct report. My co-supervisor bought some stuff from her.)

    7. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Honestly, I would start to question a colleague’s judgement for getting involved in the first place when there’s SO much information out there about how MLMs are basically like guaranteed financial loss.

      Better than pushy sales? Of course. Harmless in terms of how coworkers see you? Probably not.

    8. Lena Clare*

      Yes I think it did affect the way my colleagues saw me! I don’t work with them now, although I’m still in the same organisation, and I’ve learned more professional norms since then, so hopefully it hasn’t harmed me in the long-term.
      I appreciate your views, thank you.

    9. Asenath*

      Not where I worked. A low (actually no) pressure process that involves simply having the brochure available was quite common and didn’t take up work time at all – anyone who was interested could use the contact information on their own and on their own time. I can’t say how good a sales method it was; I never participated, but I know some people did.

      1. Lena Clare*

        that’s pretty much what I did, leave the catalogue in the office and collect the orders (If any) every 2 weeks.

    10. PhysicsTeacher*

      I think it has to be a break room or office you actually frequent. I teach in a large high school with several discrete “academies” which each have their own office and teacher workroom. A counselor for a different academy is always leaving her essential oil MLM brochures in our workroom, which annoys the crap out of me. And maybe this is a crappy thing for me to do, but every time I see her catalogue there, I throw it in the garbage.

    11. ...*

      I don’t think that’s as bad, but truthfully I would probably start avoiding you because I’d expect a hard sell coming up.

    12. Observer*

      Bringing in a catalogue and leaving it in the break room is ok if and ONLY IF you have no control over their jobs.

      For anyone in a supervisory position it’s a total no.

  18. Sam*

    Hi all,

    My job is in hospital administration, I spend a ton of my time procuring PPE for our frontline.

    Before the pile on starts on LW 3’s company: the overwhelming probability is they are KN95 which are in much more bountiful supply. These fit fewer frontline workers with a true seal (they are flimsier) but are safe for a large percentage of our team. My wife’s company also mailed them KN95 (no contest!)… I promise these aren’t hard to procure for hospitals

    And, with proper storage and usage, they’re safe to reuse (my parents ordered some and use to be extra safe at the grocery store). Does not sound like those instructions were shared with LW though. Silly to risk contaminating the mask for a contest

    1. James*

      “Does not sound like those instructions were shared with LW though.”

      I’ve been working on HAZMAT sites since I got out of college, and am a safety officer on many of them. This line is the thing that bugs me the most about the way the pandemic is being handled. The general public simply isn’t aware of the requirements for PPE handling. Everyone says “Wear a mask” but donning, doffing, getting a good seal, even the types of masks available are never discussed. I’ve seen people with two-foot beards wearing dust masks that don’t even cover their nose, and people wearing gloves eating out of a chip bag in the checkout line at a grocery store. It’s like people think PPE is a magic bullet that, if worn somewhere in the general area of the body, will keep them from any harm. All it really does is make them LESS safe, because they underestimate the risks and therefore take greater risks than they should.

      1. Amy Sly*

        people with two-foot beards wearing dust masks

        Reminds me of a line I saw about how dudes wearing a mask over a beard reminds one of 1970s underwear catalogs.

      2. anonymous 5*

        Good heavens yes. All of this. It *drives me up a wall* to see people mis-using PPE, and to hear people with zero lab/medical/hazmat/similar experience spewing incorrect reasoning as to what masks can/can’t do. (Bonus points to the people on a neighborhood FB group who extolled the virtues of *crocheted* face masks after posting multiple screeds about how dangerous joggers are…)

        1. Amy Sly*

          Yeah. If you’re not going to wear it properly, it’s just virtue signalling instead of actual virtue.

            1. James*

              If that was how people were using it, I might agree that you have a point. Often on HAZWOPER jobs PPE serves as a uniform as much as a protective measure–Level C is scary, so people stay away.

              But that’s not how I’ve seen people use it. They seem to genuinely think that the masks will protect them and therefore they do not need to take additional precautions. Obviously your experience may be different from mine, so I’m not trying to discount your experience by any means.

      3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        What is the situation in Asia in terms of understanding masks by the general public? Is it much better than in the US? I ask because the widespread wearing of masks there is supposed to have helped slow the spread of disease.

      4. Is It Performance Art*

        I started my career in infectious disease research and this is one of the things that drives me up the wall. PPE needs to be consistently worn correctly in order to be fully effective. And it’s hard even for people who are properly trained on wearing PPE. You need to be constantly vigilant. Last week I saw Dr. Fauci repeatedly touch his mask to adjust it. He’s been trained and he’s had a lot of practice and even he has trouble getting it right. I think this is something that the general public really doesn’t understand.
        The most sensible advice I saw was on Science Based Medicine: wear a mask but act as if it’s ineffective.

        1. Lucy*

          I agree with your last line, but isn’t the point that the general public is not being asked to wear actual PPE? I’m a little concerned that this discussion is making the perfect the enemy of the good. Wearing a mask is not about observing PPE as it’s practised in medical settings.

          There is good evidence that face coverings used at a population level (so not by medical experts who know how to put PPE on correctly) prevent transmission – so your mask protects me, mine protects you.And evidence doesn’t really show that at a population level, introducing masks increases risky behaviour.

          A good source on all this:

      5. Curmudgeon in California*


        In my previous career I handle hazmat, and was half of the safety department.

        I go to the grocery store and cringe. I’ve taught my roomies how to wear PPE, even if its just a fabric mask & gloves. It’s not hard, it just requires thinking, but most people don’t think.

    2. Anononon*

      Yes, just the other day, my dad was just talking to a family member who runs a nursing home. He was telling my dad how the market is now glutted with supply, but the problem is that most of it is low quality (with no real way of telling before purchase). He just had to get rid of a shipment of masks due to the low quality.

    3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      Yes, I’m on the supply side.

      KN95 are not scarce, actually they are reaching over supply, and the price is plummeting. (which is a good thing for everyone except the people who bought too high).

      I’ve stayed out of selling KN95 because I ain’t touching that hot potato, but I have multi offers a day for huge supplies at ever decreasing prices.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I am hoping the most likely scenario here is that perhaps OP just used the wrong terminology since most of us don’t really know the difference between all these mask types and “N95” is what we hear about the most. That seems entirely possible, even probable. Was a little surprised I didn’t see more comments suggesting that might be the case! I hope they are able to come back and clarify.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Maybe someone on this thread can answer something I’ve been wondering about regarding N95 masks. My husband works in emergency management and they had N95 masks left over from H1N1, so they are technically expired. My husbands workplace is assisting with statewide distribution of medical supplies to hospitals and donated the masks, but they wouldn’t take all of them. Why if they are in such short supply? The leftovers were distributed to employees, so I wear one because I’m pregnant and have an autoimmune disorder that has to be managed so I’m at A LOT of doctors appointments. I feel guilty, but they weren’t wanted?

        1. James*

          The fibers may have degraded, which would increase the hole space and allow larger particles/more particles through.

          All PPE has a shelf life. Of course, there are a lot of factors influencing this. For example, certain hard hats have a 5-year life span–from the In Service date, NOT the date of manufacture. If the hat’s stored in a cool, dry place and not exposed to UV light, it doesn’t degrade, so can be put in storage for a few years and be perfectly fine. Masks may have the same issues (I honestly don’t know, depends on the type of material they’re made of). I’m assuming natural fibers would degrade faster than synthetic in cool, dry environments (due to organisms that eat said natural fibers), while synthetic fibers would degrade faster pretty much anywhere else, but that’s a guess.

          The ultra-conservative route–the route most Health and Safety Officers will take–is to reject anything past its life span. Which makes sense. If you donated the masks to me I wouldn’t know how they’re stored, how they were handled, etc. My people’s lives are on the line, so I’m going to decline–better NO protection (and therefore no work) than people thinking they’re protected when they in fact are not. It’s nothing against you; it’s just that safety officers have to adopt a worst-first mentality due to the nature of the job. Anything not proven to be safe is assumed to be unsafe.

  19. nnn*

    The weird thing about #3 is if they had donated the masks to a hospital, they probably would have gotten a better thank-you than one coerced out of employees!

  20. DiscoCat*

    #1 sounds like a toxic workplace. If there are performance issues they need to be addressed directly and actively, not by pitching people against each other, slagging off low performers and being so passive aggressive. If I were LE in an ideal world, I’d get a job asap elsewhere and take my friend. I wouldn’t be surprised if the grandboss and his minions turned on LW….

    As for #3: how about entering the latest competition by donating the masks to a hospital, photographing the donation and writing a caption along the lines of “thanks to C-suite I can contribute to keeping front line workers safe”.

  21. Katie's Cryin'*

    If a recruiter asks to connect with you and you’re looking for a job – connect.

    Seriously, what harm can come from it? They likely have orders of magnitude more connections than you.

    And what good can come from it? You just me get a job from them… which is the whole point of using LinkedIn this way.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeah. This isn’t Facebook, connecting is *literally* the point of LinkedIn. You have something to gain and nothing at all to lose.

  22. straws*

    For OP2, leaving the meeting was the best thing to do in the moment, and I agree with notifying higher ups. If it happens again, leave sooner. What is the argument going to be? OP didn’t stay in a meeting unrelated to work where I was pressuring her to buy things? Especially if you’ve already reported her, this isn’t going to hold. A lot of companies have guidelines against selling in the office (which is extended to virtual meetings!), regardless of the product, and this needs to be shut down.

    Also, is it possible for someone to ask for help with an MLM seller without a bunch of posts disparaging MLMs? I agree with the negativity toward them, but the vast majority of people who write in here about them recognize that and are asking for help. The slew of comments and comments strings complaining about how awful they are aren’t helpful and are, honestly, kind of annoying to have to scroll through every single time. I’ve had to deal with this a few times and am interested in helpful strategies, but I usually give up on finding those responses.

    1. WorkIsADarkComedy*

      I am truly grateful for the “Collapse [number] replies” link. Especially with the posts that generate lots of comments, people go down long rabbit holes, and if it’s one I’m not interested in I click that link and it’s hidden. Most people stay in their lane, so if you want to ignore a thread of a particular kind it’s generally pretty easy to do so.

    2. Annony*

      I think it falls into the same category as microwaves and loud chewing. So many people have experienced the aggravation on both sides that it feels more personal than most of the letters and it is cathartic to let it out in the comments.

    3. Observer*

      In theory you are right about the team lead not having a leg to stand on. The problem is that they clearly have, at best, pretty poor judgement and can make their team’s life difficult.

      So, I think that the OP needs to tell their boss. Hopefully the boss will stop it and all will be well. At least, though, if Team Lead starts getting difficult with the people who are not willing to buy whatever it is, the boss will have the necessary context.

  23. James*

    Regarding N95 masks: N95 is a description of what the mask is capable of and its limitations, not a brand, a style, or anything like that. “N” means “not oil-resistant”; the mask will degrade if exposed to oils. This is important for work like mine (environmental remediation) because some of the stuff we work with is oil-based (BTEX, for example). There’s also “R” for “oil-resistant” and “P” for “oil-proof”. Environmental folks usually wear R or P masks.

    “95” means that it blocks 95% or more of 2.5 nm particles. This is the stuff that can get into your lungs and cause problems. OSHA recommends a 95 face mask or higher for dealing with wildfire smoke. There’s also 99 and 100 (which means it blocks 99.9% or so of particles in the 2.5 nm range).

    That’s why a cloth face mask works to protect the general public, but doctors need the N95 masks. The idea of face masks for the general public isn’t to stop the virus, it’s to stop the mucus from coughs, sneezes, and general breathing. Those mucus droplets are fairly large and don’t tend to get into the lungs, and if you’re wearing a cloth face mask it’ll stop those droplets from going from you to someone else. It won’t stop the virus if it’s airborn, but it stops the things the virus generally rides on to be transmitted from one place to another. Doctors need to stop the actual virus, and therefore need the N95 masks (or better).

    Some food for thought to take to your boss if you want to push back against the contest. All of this information is available via the CDC and OSHA. Those of us who take HAZWOPER routinely are made aware of it, because our lives depend on it. The general public, however, generally is not, because they don’t deal with these things.

    1. sswj*

      Thank you for this! It’s a really good clarification and prompts me to go do more research.

      I work in non-essential retail in a state that, IMO, is opening back up *way* too soon. We had a scant 3 weeks of bare minimum lockdown. Numbers are still rising in the state and my county and town, so I do worry. My store mandates masks (or at least a covered nose and mouth) for everyone and we are being as strict as we can be about distancing etc, but … ugh.

      There’s so much misinformation out there, and since we don’t know just how much we (meaning the scientific community dedicated to researching COVID-19) don’t know about this virus it seems that ‘facts’ change weekly. Scary stuff for sure.

    2. Lost academic*

      No, it is NOT nanometers. N95 masks, by design and if properly fitted and worn, block 99.5% of particles over 0.75 microns (that’s 750 nm).

      See an example study on the standard mask here.

      Average size of this virus particle is 0.12 microns.

      1. James*

        Thanks for the correction! Got microns and nm confused in my head. :) Generally we use full-face respirators with chemical-specific cartages, so I only dig into the details on this one with my 8-hour refresher.

        I will argue that the N95s don’t block 99.5% of the particles. It may be designed to do so, but look at hearing protection–you’ve got to factor in user error, fit, and the like. Actual protection is always less than the designed protection, because field work isn’t lab conditions.

        Regardless, thank you again for correcting my error!

        1. lost academic*

          Hence my caveat as written – they are designed to do so and it entirely depends on correct fit and wear.

          1. James*

            Okay, I got curious so I did some more digging.

            N95 masks are regulated by NIOSH and the FDA, depending on their use. I’m coming at this from the NIOSH side (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). N95 there means non-oil resistant masks that can block 95% of 0.3 micron (300 nm) particles, assuming proper fit and seal. I’m not familiar at all with the FDA regulations, which govern surgical use. If you have any information on those I’d appreciate you sharing. Obviously this is a more complicated issue than I previously though! It’s always lovely when multiple regulatory frameworks come into play.

    3. Show Me the Money*

      Apparently,KN95 masks are equivalent to N95, per the following:

      “There are more than a few N95 equivalent masks available worldwide. As per a comparison study performed by 3M – it is reasonable to consider China KN95, AS/NZ P2, Korea 1st Class, and Japan DS FFRs as “equivalent” to US NIOSH N95 and European FFP2 respirators, for filtering non-oil-based particles such as those resulting from wildfires, PM 2.5 air pollution, volcanic eruptions, or bioaerosols (e.g. viruses).

      These masks have similar superior properties as N95, but they go by different names based on where they are certified.
      The WHO (World Health Organizations) considers N95 equivalent to KN95 and other similar masks. (WHO Article 1. WHO Article 2.)”

  24. PB*

    In addition to all the excellent points Alison and commenters have made re: N95 masks, I want to echo Alison’s point about the shortage of masks. My spouse works in healthcare (not specifically with COVID-19 patients, but he could be exposed). They do not have N95 masks, just donated handmade fabric masks from Joann’s. I find this crass use of N95s as a publicity stunt gross and tasteless.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – you’re a much better person than I am…I wouldn’t have made any excuses, I would have noped my way right off the call. “This is inappropriate, I’m signing off.” And ditto to speaking to the boss immediately.
    #3 – “They do deserve praise for thinking about our health” – I don’t agree with this. A company thinking about the safety and health of their employees should be status quo. They don’t deserve praise. A simple thank you if sufficient.

  26. LITJess*

    LW #5 I cannot speak lowly enough of the applications we receive at my company through Indeed. If at all possible, apply direct with the company don’t use a third party website to apply. The Indeed applications are always a mix of sparsely filled out forms, applicants that I’m not sure actually applied for our job (like the site auto-applied for them), and then RARELY someone who actually took the time to customize their application and attach a PDF of their resume worth calling in. Just go direct.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah I actually value cover letters in my hiring process and we’ve discovered that the way Indeed works, it won’t let you attach a cover letter even if the job posting specifies you should have one. If the resume is really strong I will sometimes email the candidate and ask them to submit a cover letter — that helps sort out the people who are actually interested in our job and the people who were just auto applying. But we get such a low percentage of good applicants directly through Indeed that I usually keep my job postings on our industry-specific job board unless we aren’t getting any strong candidates that way.

      1. Laura*

        Thanks for the response! (I’m the ‘asker’.) I’ve done some low-level hiring and one time the company owner set up 12 interviews for me to conduct from indeed. Zero out of twelve showed up… So, I had a feeling about applying through Indeed, though I haven’t actually seen the employers side of the platform.

    2. hiring manager, sometimes*

      I’ve been on the hiring team for a few roles at a couple of different companies and all applications come in to a single system sorted by source, and instead of “first in, first reviewed,” we usually review and schedule in this order:

      1. employee referrals
      2. direct website applications
      3. all of the “bulk apply to a bunch of roles with one click” type sources – Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn

      Ultimately it comes down to intent and qualification – someone who got a referral has already been screened once by an existing employee. Someone who applied directly on the website has at least visited the website and intentionally applied for a role at this specific company. Someone who applied through Glassdoor/etc might not even know what our business is, they could have just done a search and bulk-applied to all roles with a similar title. If I have 30 minutes every day to look at resumes, I’m more likely to prioritize looking through the generally-most-promising stack.

  27. Machiamellie*

    In 2017 when I was working as a recruiter, my direct boss was crabby about the market in general and took it out on me. He said he wanted to hire a 2nd recruiter. I reached out to friends I’d worked with previously and a friend applied. She interviewed but said she wasn’t ready to make a move at that time.

    Fast forward a few months and suddenly I’m fired – “the company just wants to move in a different direction.” My “friend” started the following Monday. Turns out she’d told Boss when she could start and he just let me work while knowing he’d be firing me soon. And she knew I’d be getting fired but never told me.

    Not the same situation as #1 but I wanted to complain about it anyway :P

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Wow, what a horrible situation! And to directly lie to your face about it, wow.

  28. Ancient Alien*

    AAM’s advice is great for the short term. For the longer term, though, you may want to start thinking about getting the experience you need from this job and then moving on. Regardless of who’s “fault” the poor relationship between friend and grandboss is (and it’s not clear from your letter, maybe it is your friend’s poor performance, maybe it is the grandboss’s poor leadership, maybe it is both), the grandboss should definitely not be discussing friend’s performance with you. This is BAD.
    Additionally, (and yes i realize that there may be various restrictions, policies, whatever around firing people), this is kind of one of those “sh!t or get off the pot” situations with the grandboss. If he is so displeased with the friend’s performance, then why doesn’t he just fire her? This business of “pushing people out” is about as low as you can go.
    One thing i keep in mind when i see poor behavior and unethical treatment of coworkers by management is, if they will do it to that person, then they will do it to me too.
    I’m not suggesting you quit your job today, but definitely start planning your next steps and actively working towards them.

    1. Kiki*

      Yeah, I agree. Right now with everything going on in the world I’m not going to cavalierly say, “Run out of there and find something new ASAP,” but the way your friend is being treated is a huge red flag. It’s possible your friend is Grandboss’s kryptonite and his immature handling their issues is really just limited to her, but honestly, I would be really worried once friend is out, issues between Grandboss and some other employee will start flaring up. That’s generally been my experience in the workplace– very rarely is this sort of behavior truly isolated.

  29. Aquawoman*

    I think the LW with the MLM team leader look at their ethical rules–they might actually be obligated to report that.

  30. Mary*

    I am LW #3. It is sadly not out of context for my company to suggest such a thing. They are definitely tone-deaf and all this has exposed that even more. My company has not been known for their professionalism within and outside the office. I am experienced in my field of project management but will get out as soon as I can. To send such an email, to me, actually does the opposite. It makes fellow employees not want to thank the exec team and harbor some resentment. It kind of leads people to say, “we didn’t ask for the masks.”

  31. Employment Lawyer*

    1. My friend got me a job — and now I’m being assigned work that will push her out
    It’s unlikely that you can save both the friend and the job.

    But that may not even be a choice; the real issue is what would happen if you left. If Friend would shine and stay on absent your participation, then you can rationally choose between Friend (leaving) and Job (staying.) if Friend would get fired / demoted no matter what happened, then your departure may not benefit Friend much anyway: this is a pity because the main cost is on you.

    The only real way to keep Friend and also Job would be if you could figure out some way to make Friend more productive / talk Friend up / help Friend get the right assignments / generally advance Friend’s career as a result of your management… AND ALSO have Friend view that as a good thing.

    Good luck.

    2. Our team leader tried to sell us MLM products on a Zoom call
    Don’t buy it; decline nicely; let it be someone else’s problem.

    This is certainly reportable conduct if you want. But it is by no means a “mandatory report” especially if it’s your supervisor. So if you aren’t at management level then you may not want to be the one who reports. There is always risk in reporting.

    3. Company wants us to thank them for masks to win a contest
    Just to address “I am not overly fond of the idea of selling masks because I don’t think you should capitalize on a crisis.”
    This is pretty much wrong and no economist would agree with you: The fact that you can sell things (and make a profit) is what leads people to produce masks in the first place, and/or to ramp up any production of extra masks.

    4. Connection requests from recruiters
    I would ignore it. They want to connect so that they can access your whole network, not to help you in particular.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      #4 — They can already access your whole network using LinkedIn’s tools for recruiters. They don’t need to connect with you for that.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        [headdesk] for some reason my mind turned off “recruiter” as I was typing my answer, sorry.

    2. logicbutton*

      3. They’re not talking about producers of masks being compensated for their production, they’re talking about companies buying masks from a producer and then reselling them to their employees at a markup (or, in this case, asking their employees to express gratitude at not having to do that).

      Also, I wouldn’t agree that profit is the only thing that would motivate someone to produce. You’ve probably heard about all the hobby sewers making masks to give away to their friends and neighbors.

    3. Observer*

      #2 – It most definitely IS reportable. ESPECIALLY because it’s a supervisor. He’s absolutely abusing his position.

      #3 – Not everything that is economically sensible is morally correct. Also, I’m not sure that every economist would agree that this kind of capitalizing on a pandemic is a good idea. Economists are perfectly capable of recognizing when markets lead to less than optimal results.

  32. Fluff*

    For MLM at work – I had this issue with a med student doing a rotation and found her MLM to staff. I did pull her aside and let her know more as advice than from a ‘threat’ situation. I tried to frame it that I was very concerned about how the MLM could impact her professionally.
    1. MLM work can very much damage your credibility as a future MD. I recommended against them for all med professionals, but if you must – keep a clear clear line else your hard worked reputation is in danger. An MD calling testimonials research very quickly degrades that MD – you run the risk of throwing that hard earned credential into the trash. Not sure if that applies to your co-worker – is it possible the MLM could hurt her credibility?
    2. As you progress in leadership you have to be very aware of pressure and perception of pressure. Thus, no MLMs if there is any chance of hierarchy or PERCIEVED hierarchy. Even to the point that a manager cannot leave the Avon catalogue in the break room. Think about it – how would you like it if it was the payroll person was leaving the MLM catalogue (they know how much everyone makes and who does not buy).
    3. Not allowed at some businesses, could be fired (the whole conflict of interest deal). I framed it as ‘worried about your future jobs’ because in some places there would be no warning – it would be fired.

    With this one since she does outrank you it may be very difficult to approach as a concerned friend “hey I worry you might put yourself at risk with conflict of interest, etc.” Probably best to go to HR.

    1. Fluff*

      And the best line I got after she tried to insert MLM into the conversation came from an older male attending (who looked like I imagine Mark Twain would). He said, looking over his glasses: “Ok, now, if you start talking to me about not feeling quite fresh, I’m going to run away real fast.” (remembering those weird let’s talk about feminine hygiene at the cafe douche commercials).

      That was my opening and I took it! She never did any MLM at the rotations again.

  33. yala*

    LW #3, can I just say I’m also aggravated with your company, not just for the tackiness of “Now tell us thank you!” thing, but because they gave y’all a very limited–and CONSUMABLE–resource, and then told y’all to take pictures with it? Unless it’s something you’d actually be wearing every day.

    Like. We had a few leftover N95 masks from my stepfather. My mom gave each of us ONE. We haven’t used them yet. We use cloth masks, and figure the N95, even with a cover, is for a time when we might *have* to go somewhere very public and crowded (we also tried to offer them to housemate’s gf, who works at a hospital, but she just gave us thorough instructions for prolonging use and said she felt better if we had them)

    It feels super frivolous, and like just general bad mask practice, to put on an N95 to take a picture.

    1. Mary*

      You bring up a good point that you were only given one. We were given two per household.

  34. nm*

    Oof. If someone tried to hawk products in a meeting I was in I would hop right in with “Which of our projects is this related to? Are we getting funding from [mlm name]? No? Well in that case I’d better get back to work. Byeee!”

  35. Sally*

    Alison, thank you for #4 & #5! I’m job searching, and this info is so helpful. Re:#4 – the advice I got many years ago was to only connect with people on LinkedIn if you actually knew them. I guess the idea was that your reputation might suffer if you were connected with someone questionable??? Anyway, if you’re saying it’s fine to do, then I’m glad because I’ve been connecting with recruiters lately.

  36. TootsNYC*

    My company sent us N95 masks that were in our “disaster preparedness kit.”

    They are NOT AT ALL SUITABLE for health care workers.
    They have a valve on the front.
    They aren’t even acceptable to wear in some cities (SanFran, I think is one), because the valve lets you breathe unfiltered air OUT.

    They are useful in a smoke condition, or a heavy dust condition (from construction or collapsing buildings…). (N95’s were first used in construction, and when they were adapted for the health-care field, those valves were eliminated.)

    So I have no qualms about holding onto mine.

    1. filosofickle*

      Yes, in most counties around the Bay Area you are not allowed to wear any mask with a valve right now.

  37. AKchic*

    Number 3 – Malicious Compliance Time!

    Record that video. Read out the directions of the email and openly muse about how wonderful it is that they didn’t act capitalistically and sell their hard-working employees masks and how great it is that they actually just gave you one, and how wonderful the company is for *reminding* you of that fact, because wow! you’d have forgotten that point otherwise. Of course they should be thanked! Management is so wonderful for employing so many lowly workers in this time of crisis. I mean, management really does need to hear how great they are for not profiting off of this mask you’re being asked to use as a propaganda / feel-good device, when, as they so kindly reminded you, they could have made a profit off of it. And I mean, it’s for a contest. All in good fun, right? Isn’t my company a fun place to work?

  38. BeSafetySmart*

    For LW#3, I want to preface my comment by saying I’m a safety professional and have experience with providing fit testing for the work place. That being said, unless you have been fit tested and/or had a physical for respiratory fitness, you should not be wearing an N95 respirator. No one should. There are numerous underlying health conditions that make wearing an N95 respirator more of a hazard to the wearer than a help. I also agree with you about the “ick factor” and gratuitous virtue signaling that a requested thank you implies for the employees at your company. Good luck and stay safe!

    1. James*

      Those rules don’t apply to voluntary use of dust-controlling respirators (N95 and the like; see Appendix D of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard). Basically you just need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. That’s why hardware stores get away with selling them to DIY folks.

  39. February Goshawk*

    I connect with recruiters on LinkedIn, then go through and prune my connections every 6 months or so. (Really, whenever it occurs to me.) It’s not hard to disconnect from people, and I’ve never heard boo about it later.

  40. ImmunologyMaven*

    I am currently sitting in a biosafety level 2+ wearing full PPE because I’m working with COVID-19 samples and I have a simple surgical mask because my large university doesn’t have available N95s for scientists.

    So… yeah LW3 your company kinda sucks right now.

    (side note the risk for me is pretty low because I’m working with materials that likely don’t transmit the virus and we have many protocols that avoid all aerosols, but still… if scientists can’t even get them it kind of sucks actually to have a company send them out)

  41. AliceLiddel*

    Alison and commentariat, I’ve been informed by a member of the deaf community that the term tone-deaf to indicate obliviousness or misreading a situation is ableist, and they’d rather people not use it. Do with that what you will.

  42. No Name*

    OP1 – sometimes getting fired and being forced to walk away is actually a huge favour. Ideally your friend would already be looking and walk on her own terms but I still remember an old toxic job where I was desperately trying to make it work instead of seeing the light that they were horrible people in a toxic bubble. They did such a number on my self esteem and had me questioning maybe I really wasn’t any good (nope, it was just them). Your friend will not appreciate being told this right now and saying so will probably go badly. But if you are close and you trust her, you can say what they are doing is really crappy and you are worried about the impact on the friendship. Unfortunately, you need to keep the job for at least the next 12 months for the experience but you are not happy about the position they have put you both in.

    There is a danger with this approach that she will tell boss that you agree he is a rubbish boss and you also think he is treating her badly. If you are not close and/or are not sure she will keep it to herself, stick to Alison’s script. But I actually would not consider this job as a long term option. You may not be their focus at the moment and perhaps you will stay favoured but your friend won’t be the first or last person they treat like this. Even if she is genuinely useless, they are handling it very badly and it does not inspire confidence or morale. That is not a positive environment to work in. It would be foolish to quit on the spot (unless you are fortunate enough to be in demand) but don’t fall into the trap that you have to make this work at all costs. Get the experience you need and then look for new opportunities.

  43. The Supreme Troll*

    I was just writing (I know its not properly placed in the right thread), but to Employment Lawyer above…the advice to OP#1 is absolutely correct. I was mentioning that there was nothing deceptive about the situation that she is in, and the advice is true – hopefully, OP#1 can convince her friend of this.

  44. Night Owl*

    LW#3, I wonder if your employer also requires you all to send video clips groveling and expressing gratitude for your jobs…

    I would make a video expressing gratitude that you work for an employer that cares so much about your health that they must have outbid all the doctors and nurses at hospitals to get masks to your homes and, in an effort to pay it forward, you will immediately donate it to your nearest hospital.

Comments are closed.