updates: the car alarm, the editing coworker, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, when I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Car alarm keeps disrupting our office (first update here)

After my neighbor’s father got involved (chief of police), the alarm stopped for a while. The person that owned the car in question ended up getting another car eventually but the issue resurfaced (I guess she has a thing for after market alarms). Luckily by this point I was friendly with the President of the company she worked at and was able to send a quick text about it and he asked her to move the car permanently (he never heard the alarms as he was on a higher floor, on the opposite side). We also were able to make the parking spots directly in front of our building available to our clients only, so she cant park there at all, which dramatically weakens the sound of the alarm. Since then that office has closed (not permanently) so it is a nonissue. So all is good!

Some more good news though! My neighbor who put us in touch with the police chief and his partner got pregnant! They welcomed a beautiful baby girl in January, and have since moved to a new home close by so she can have a yard to play in when she gets older. I have remained friends with them and we occasionally zoom for dinner or happy hour. I even did their baby shower cake and cupcakes. So this situation actually gave us a great friendship. His father was scheduled to retire in June, but due to Covid-19 and his immune system being compromised, he retired early in Mid-march and the new guy took over a little early. He and his wife are also doing well.

2. My employee keeps making a show of editing my work — and it’s obnoxious

You were right in your response to me, Alison. What was happening was part of a broader issues with her. But what it took me a while to realize is that those same issues were reflected in the company as a whole. She has been at the company much longer than I, and I came to see that part of why she was the way she was is that she had always been permitted to be that way, because the company was that way.

I’ve reflected a lot over what happened to me at that job. I learned that by ignoring my instincts, and allowing myself to be disrespected, I set myself up for failure. True, if I had stood up for myself in that place sooner than I did I would’ve lost my job sooner, but then I wouldn’t have gotten as sick and full of self doubt as I ended up getting there, either.

3. Are these LinkedIn tips crap? (#2 at the link)

I sent in a letter two years ago asking about the bad LinkedIn advice I was given as part of my internship, and I’m excited to share an update! I interned with the same group again last next summer, and they had drastically changed the LinkedIn seminar. (As part of the program, we’re required to attend a seminar series.) A different person presented on it, and it was a lot better – he didn’t mention the phrase “thought leader” once, and it was better tailored to its audience of interns who haven’t used the site before. And more exciting: I’ve just accepted a full time position at the lab! I start in July, and I’m so thankful to have a job in the current market – especially one as good as this. I’m still kind of in shock, honestly! I really liked the people and the research I was doing, and I’m excited to start. I’ve been reading your blog since I was a sophomore, and it’s been absolutely invaluable as I navigated my internships, job applications, and now my first full time job. Labs are a little different from office jobs, but I feel like I have a better sense of workplace norms than I otherwise would as I start my career. Thank you so much!

{ 86 comments… read them below }

  1. LondonBridges*

    I’m so happy #1 got a positive outcome, and a wonderful friendship! I admit I’m still insanely curious why she had those ridiculous alarms, but I suppose that will live on as a mystery of the world. Congrats!

    1. juliebulie*

      I once had a car with an alarm that was so sensitive, it would go off if a large truck sped by too close. I asked the dealer to adjust it. They did. Then it wasn’t a problem any more.

      But I had another car (at a different time, from a different dealer) whose alarm had a setting that I didn’t like and couldn’t change myself. (Setting had to do with arming the system automatically, not sensitivity.) That dealer insisted that nothing could be done.

      So it could be that the owner was an inconsiderate ass, and/or her dealer was an inconsiderate ass, but either way, super-assy. Not to mention that an alarm that goes off constantly is really defeating its own purpose.

      1. Timothy (TRiG)*

        She’s had unusually loud and sensitive alarms on at least three cars now, so I’m assuming she’s the problem.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Me too! It doesn’t sound like she’s going out to check to see why the alarm is going off, just turning it off, which means that it’s not going to be useful if something actually did happen. Some of those alarms allow you to unlock or start your car with your smartphone, which I find personally terrifying because that makes it so much easier to carjack, but that doesn’t seem to track with the hair-trigger and unusually loud alarm.

      Maybe it’s a particular demographic’s version of being a sound bully, like the dudes who take out their car mufflers? (a solid 50% of the reason I want to learn how to weld is to weld mufflers back onto the cars of those people)

      1. mrs__peel*

        I absolutely love the idea of a vigilante who goes around at night secretly making people’s vehicles less loud. You have my full support!

        (PS- Please do my neighbor’s motorcycles, too. I will leave cookies out for you).

        1. KoiFeeder*

          From my limited knowledge about motorcycles, if your neighbor actually removed the mufflers on his bikes, that’s a serious hazard because now the bike’s unbalanced, and that’s citation-worthy depending on where you live. The last thing anyone wants is a bike that does a flip into someone’s window!

          1. Cordoba*

            Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Motorcycles aren’t *that* sensitive to weight distribution, otherwise they wouldn’t work with riders of various sizes, or be operable with passengers/cargo.

            However, most loud exhausts are implemented so poorly that they actually make the bike they’re on less efficient and less responsive. Motorcycle manufacturers know what they’re doing, and it’s hard to improve on their powertrain tuning with some random eBay muffler.

            Source: engineer and 20-year motorcycle rider (of quiet bikes)

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Thank you for correcting me! So, then, I can weld mufflers onto motorcycles? (Assuming that I know what I’m doing, obviously)

              1. Cordoba*

                Sure can. The owner might not like it, but it won’t make the bike unstable.

                Some of them just bolt on, no welding required.

              2. Jennifer Thneed*

                I’m totes picturing a motocycle with several mufflers welded to random places. Like metal warts, I guess.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  But if you chrome the extra mufflers they will look cool, and then you can get paid to put them on.

    3. Anonys*

      I’m still so so so confused how the car owner got away with leaving her desk so often to turn off the car alarm. Did no-one in the her company notice or care? OP described in the original post how it would go off 7 times in 49 minutes, with the owner having to walk to her car and turn it off every time. IMO there is absolutely no way she could have been decently productive both in terms of number of disruptions and total time spend away from her desk.

      It’s a great update though! Glad that absolute insanity was resolved and that you are doing well, OP!

      1. OP*

        I’ve gotten to know some people from over there better since I first wrote in. From what I’ve heard shes a little cuckoo. So i think they might tip toe around her. I get the sense that everyone keeps to themselves there too, so maybe just decided to stay out of it? The president told me he had never heard anything at all, and all the higher ups are located in the same section of building.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        I was going to say that it was probably linked to her phone, but I re-read to be sure, and nope- she was manually turning that thing off. That’s… Wow.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It is a positive outcome for OP1 no doubt, as they no longer have to hear the alarm, but rather than really resolving the problem it’s just been displaced elsewhere — OP says:

      > We also were able to make the parking spots directly in front of our building available to our clients only, so she cant park there at all, which dramatically weakens the sound of the alarm. Since then that office has closed (not permanently) so it is a nonissue. So all is good!

      Yeah, I guess “all is good” if it can become someone else’s problem. Out of sight, out of mind!

      Right now there’s someone else in the mental place where you were when you wrote the letter, and maybe they don’t have a neighbor’s father who is Chief of Police or whatever, but are about to be subjected to a life of misery now.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, no. I mentioned in the original letter that her car was being triggered by passing cars on the street making too much noise. Her parking in the lot would remove the noise and keep her car from going off. Prior to the company shutting down for the virus, the alarm never went off once moved to the lot. You sound judgey but anyone in my position would have done the same and those now miserable people can get it handled like I did, albeit in a different way.

        1. Batgirl*

          Can I just say how resourceful and friendly you seem to be? On multiple occasions you’ve had to research, wrangle and hunt somebody down to help you sort this and it’s a credit to your persistence and people skills. I cannot believe this nut didn’t stop forever after your company approached her, or after the police did! You got it done even after your company told you they couldn’t help, you managed it without ‘personal connections’ (I mean. What. It was a stranger who had just moved in not your sugar daddy). I would have lost my mind, stayed home and began interminable rocking before succeeding at this.
          I’m not surprised you made friends during this.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Oh and in addition: both of OP1s resolutions involve “pulling strings”, first off it was the neigbour’s father who was the chief of police. Then OP was friendly with the President of the company she worked at!

        I missed the “double pulling strings” aspect when I first posted.

        Now I just want to ask, OP – what would you have done if you didn’t have access to those “shortcuts”?

        (I come from a belief system of “not everyone has that privilege”, e.g. as I’ve posted here before taking a combination of a night bus and walking 15 miles when I got stranded when I could easily have paid out for an “Uber”, because the other people stranded with me didn’t have that option.)

        1. Observer*

          It’s utterly unreasonable to expect people to not use their position of privilege when what they are looking for does not harm others and is not otherwise unethical.

          Being consistent give you some brownie points, I suppose. But expecting someone to suffer because not everyone has access to the tools they have is not a highly moral position.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            But it does harm others, and is unethical.. because it just moves the problem elsewhere and doesn’t actually resolve it.

            Why do you think it is “unreasonable” to expect people to not [ab]use their position of privilege?

              1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

                It’s a late apology, I know, but I’m sorry for getting too emotionally involved in this subject. I have strong beliefs about “using one’s privilege” that go back years, but I realize this is probably a diversion here and also, perhaps more importantly … I don’t want to shit on the OPs success, which is what this update was ultimately about.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I appreciate it. I’m removing the other comments you left after this apology though, because I meant it when I asked you to move on.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Ah but she said when the car isn’t on the street the alarm does not go off. NOT pushing the problem along!

        2. Perpal*

          When EVERYONE hears the car alarm, why is OP the only one who can perm solve it? OP did their best, even involving the police. What exactly are you suggesting? Why does the OP need to tell you how else it might have been solved? How would you solve this problem?

          Also, I’m not sure what you hope to prove by saying you’d rather walk 15 miles than hire an uber when you can, because some people can’t. Just about anything you pick out, someone, somewhere, doesn’t have access to it/can’t do it.

          1. Perpal*

            Sorry, misread; you were stranded with others. I get it; though I personally would have just hired the uber for everyone.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              UberXL exists, and I’m pretty sure there’s an option to give someone else a ride, too, if there were a bunch of people involved and multiple cars would’ve been needed. Sharing a resource seems a lot more sensible than ignoring it because not everyone can use it. Just because I can’t eat salads doesn’t mean that I want everyone to stop eating salads.

          2. CaliUKExpat*

            I’m baffled by that ‘flex’ as well – I can’t walk 15 miles (I can barely even manage 2 on a very good day), should PP have ordered the Uber because not everyone has the privilege of walking long distances? Reminds me of that LW who dragged sound equipment for 5 miles in the hot sun instead of hiring a cab in the name of ‘saving the company’. Unnecessary, just because you have a privilege other’s don’t, doesn’t mean you can’t use it and must suffer for it.

        3. Tenebrae*

          I dont get the anger here? Yeah, OP pulled some strings to get a problem fixed. But it was a problem that was affecting multiple people. Seems to me that using your privilege to help others who dont have that level of access is a good use of privilege!

        4. Neon*

          I’m surprised you are here talking with us on the internet, using a computer or similar device.

          Did you know that many, many people don’t have the privileged of reliable internet and technology access?

        5. Myrin*

          Now I just want to ask, OP – what would you have done if you didn’t have access to those “shortcuts”?
          Why should OP even contemplate this? She had the connections, so she used them, end of story. She can ponder about what to do about not having access to shortcuts when she’s in a situation where that’s the case.

          (And FWIW, you got a lot of pushback when you talked about that “having been stranded” story before so you must know that you’re a bit of an outlier here, so I don’t get why you’re coming at this OP all accusingly.)

          1. Bee*

            Also…getting to know the people who work in the same building as you and asking for their help with this is CLASSIC community problem-solving, not an issue of power or privilege at all. This is exactly how things should work in situations like this!

        6. Bella*

          you’re being sanctimonious. It doesn’t make your co-workers feet hurt less if you don’t Uber.

    5. KimberlyR*

      I was genuinely mad about the car alarm situation and I’m glad OP doesn’t have to hear it anymore.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Me too! I’m very happy that the car alarm terror has stopped. Thanks for telling us!

  2. MarMar*

    Rereading the crappy LinkedIn tips reminded me of an endorsements “prank war” that ended in one friend endorsing another for Animal Husbandry. We’re engineers. Ah, college.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Twenty years ago I was one of the first people working at Teapots Unlimited, in the small teapot division. Since then it’s become much better known for industrial-sized tea servers. So I’d get lots of recruiters raving about how much I must know about servers, which I flat out don’t.

      So I took ‘teapots’ off my LinkedIn and while I was complaining about how useless those recs were to a bunch of former coworkers on slack, one of my other former coworkers re-added ‘teapots’.

      No, he wasn’t pulling my leg; he wasn’t on the Slack and just happened to notice that I didn’t have teapots, and he knew I used to work at Teapots, so…

      1. SweetestCin*

        After being endorsed by someone I do not know personally and isn’t involved in the local market for specialized coffee snorkel equipment, for a task having to do with cocoa propagation, of which I have the square root of absolutely ZERO knowledge…

        Coworkers and I spent probably a good week on an endorsement prank war. It.Was.Ridiculous! And SO much amusement!

  3. PJH*


    I’ve reflected a lot over what happened to me at that job

    if I had stood up for myself in that place sooner than I did I would’ve lost my job sooner, but then I wouldn’t have gotten as sick and full of self doubt as I ended up getting there, either.

    The tone of that update sounds like the LW left the job, and that particular situation didn’t actually get resolved.


    1. Puggles*

      Agreed. I wanted to know if the LW had a talk with the person and if the unwanted editing stopped.

    2. Lana Kane*

      I read into it that LW eventually lost that job – “I would’ve lost my job sooner”. I hope that I’m wrong.

    3. tehanu*

      I read through the original post and it seemed like it was getting better for LW (“laurely”) but I guess not. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and do what’s best for you.

      1. Laurely*

        Hello – I’m the original poster. I am no longer with that company. I did attempt to address the situation. It is only one example of many things like this that she did. Something that I think it’s important to know – she had been with the company longer than I and had applied for the position I held at least three times when the position has been open in the past. She was absolutely horrible to work with. In fact in my new job, I sometimes have nightmares that I walk into a meeting and she is there. She should have been fired, but HR would not support me in fire her. I’m glad I got out when I did. The whole company is on a downward spiral.

        1. Them Boots*

          Yeah!! And sounds like you got out before you normalized the ridiculousness! Good story!!

    4. NeonFireworks*

      #2 reminds me of when I had to write a letter to my mentor explaining in as neutral a tone as possible that I did not get the big promotion she recommended me for. I rewrote my note to her about 6 times trying to make it sound nonchalant, and later I reread it and thought, ‘ouch, I was really hurting and trying so hard not to show it’. :(

      1. Laurely*

        Thank you. I’m the OP. I’m actually doing great. In fact perhaps the emotion you read was a sense of deep gratitude that I am now in a place that I love, and I don’t take it for granted. I’m very glad to not have to work alongside of such a toxic person, within a toxic organization. No place is perfect, but boy, when you get to work in a place that’s fundamentally healthy, doesn’t that make all the difference.

  4. Wing Leader*

    I’m glad to hear that #1 worked out so well, but does the woman literally test every car on the lot until she finds the loudest, most obnoxious alarm before she buys a new car?!

    1. PJH*

      but does the woman literally test every car on the lot

      Nah. She just gets lucky.

      And if she doesn’t, she replaces it with a different one it – maybe – seems. From the post:

      (I guess she has a thing for after market alarms)

      1. Threeve*

        Yeah, she is getting these installed. Which means she is deliberately selecting the enormously obnoxious volume and sensitivity.

        1. starsaphire*

          I wonder if she believes that the insurance break for having a car alarm is boosted if the alarm is louder… :D

          1. mrs__peel*

            Having one of those alarms must increase your chances of getting vandalized/ broken into by like a 1000x.

    2. OP*

      She was installing them after purchase! The second car she had was quiet for about 2 weeks before it got loud again, it started after a long weekend. She has a thing for like mid level sports cars (Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, the basic models) so I think she convinced herself everyone wanted them enough to steal.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Let’s be real. If you saw someone stealing Car Alarm Car one day, would you really call the police, or instead silently celebrate and pretend not to see? I know which I would do.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I am genuinely not moral enough to stop them from stealing the HellCar. I’d just my tea and mind my own business.

          1. mrs__peel*

            (puts on philosopher hat) A utilitarian argument can be made that letting the car be stolen *is* the most moral choice that maximizes happiness for society at large…

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I have bitten way too many people and it’s now illegal for me to argue morality unless I’m using rattlesnake philosophy (always provide warning before you bite).

        2. Jackalope*

          I lived in a city for awhile that was FULL of cars like this. Super sensitive to just about anything (including things like dog barks, and ever touching them even the tiniest bit) and would go off until the owner turned them off. And because the city was full of constant alarms, no one paid attention when they did go off, rendering them useless for anything but annoying people. I frequently wanted to request that the mayor make car alarms illegal within city limits.

  5. hamsterpants*

    Once there was a car parked on my street whose alarm got set off by something or other. It blared and blared with no stop. And then the police came and towed it. There was MUCH rejoicing.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      The police don’t just magically appear, of course: someone put their neck on the line and called them.

      1. Malty*

        They didn’t put their neck on the line by calling in a blaring car alarm. The point of these updates threads is to uplift everyone at the moment. Please chill.

      2. Penny*

        Filing a noise complaint with the police for a genuine issue is hardly putting one’s neck on the line. A car alarm going off for 28/49 minutes is a genuine hazard to those stuck within hearing range and could be a genuine safety hazard. Other drivers could easily become distracted or they might miss a horn. If an accident occurred someone could have been hurt. The car owner could have found out who filed the complaint, but if the OP had needed to file a noise complaint and not called 911 or something.

        Anyway, it reminds me of the British woman who was jailed for playing Ed Sheeran at high volume for hours https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/woman-jailed-ed-sheeran-shape-of-you-repeat-high-volume-lyrics-tour-dates-a7653396.html

    2. Emma the Strange*

      Car alarms with no automatic time out should be banned by the Geneva Conventions

    3. SweetestCin*

      Had one of “those HELL cars with high sensitivity alarms” that used to park across from the dormitory I lived in. Raindrops set it off. Raindrops. The dorm council wound up leaving a laminating, neon yellow request for them to please find another place to park, or fix the alarm, as they were receiving upwards of 50 complaints every single time the alarm went off (campus security felt it was not in their scope to handle so complaints started going to the dorm council, which was supposed to be for social activities and not policing this type of crap…) with car make, model, license plate, and date and time of alarm occurrence, and they would be bringing it up with what we’ll call the likely employer of the car based on where they were parked. And in this case, it was the only non-dormitory building in that corner of campus, and there were a lot of employees who parked on the streets near the dorms.

      Interestingly enough, the car found a new parking spot.

  6. slt*

    It feels very awkward to have so much personal information about the neighbor, who is really not part of #1 in any meaningful way!

    1. Mid*

      I thought it was sweet. Happy details about happy lives is what I like to hear right now.

    2. Malty*

      Alison asked for updates as a lot of people find them helpful during this difficult time, and it’s not like there’s any identifying information about those people that crosses a line. Them being neighbours was a key part of the original story, and I personally found it a lovely, uplifting detail. I’m not sure how criticising what the OP left in was helpful here, if you don’t like it don’t read?

    3. moql*

      I like it! Short cute happy stories are such a refreshing thing to read these days.

  7. Raising an otter villiage*

    Is “thought leader” an eye-roll inducing phrase? I felt so the first time I heard it, but my org is super into it and has genuinely earned the title, so I’ve adjusted. Seeing it in the third letter made me wonder about how others feel about it.

    1. PollyQ*

      +1 for eye-rolling, but I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise. When you say your org has “genuinely earned the title”, what does that mean? And is “thought leader” the best phrase to describe what your org has achieved? It’s a very buzzword-y thing to say, to my ears at least.

      1. Raising an otter villiage*

        We’re a human services non profit, and our mission is generally deeply misunderstood by the public. (Kind of similar to how addiction-recovery services do outreach on how addiction is a disease, the people affected aren’t inherently bad, etc.) We host trainings, speak at conferences, write widely published articles, etc., all of which have had measurable impact on how our community views our work and how other orgs conduct services. The model we created is the widely recognized gold standard and other orgs seek training to be like us. If this were all vaguely qualitative I’d still be skeptical (not that qualitative data isn’t valid) but we have hard quantitative data that shows we have shifted mindsets of community leaders since our founding.
        “Thought leader” is embedded into our strategic plan, so there’s no getting away from it for now. But I would be very open to other suggested terms if people have a knee-jerk reaction to it.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I work in communications and the terms “thought leader” or demonstrating “thought leadership” would be as you describe. I don’t find the term overused, just that many who claim it aren’t.

          Generally, it means that you (or the organization) are qualified experts in a particular subject matter or field, and as such, regularly speak, write and publish about the topic. If published, these would be peer or industry reviewed. As an organization, the org would do as you describe, move the needle on public opinion to educate and shift opinion about that field, or fundraise to conduct quantitative research to advance that field. As an org, you would also have the data to back up your claims, both for your donors and the general public.

          Now, the problem is what “qualifies” someone as an thought leader?
          Often it is demonstrated education + research in the sciences (doctors, scientists, engineers), but this is not always the case. For example, one could be a “thought leader” in the creative fields of art or fashion, though that should still be backed up by education, experience and accomplishment. Example: Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue = thought leader. Jane the Fashion Blogger = not a thought leader.
          Granted, some of these bloggers DO have the education or experience to back up such claims to being a thought leader, but so, so many don’t so you have to look at it with a skeptic’s eye.
          I do not consider Kim Kardashian a thought leader. Nor many other celebrities, though they might be thought leaders on how to become famous. LOL!

        2. PollyQ*

          It sounds like your org is genuinely doing good work, so kudos and thank you. I still don’t love the phrase “Thought Leader”. “Leader”, “Innovator”, and “Educator” (which, granted, can also be gimmicky and overstated) sound better to my ears.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            To me, “innovator” is another fluff word. What does it even mean an d how is it measured?

  8. Jonathan Kamens*

    Early on our marriage, my wife and I lived for a year in an apartment which had the misfortune of being across the street from the outdoor overnight parking spot of an independently operated limousine with a hairtrigger alarm that cycled through several different alarm sounds (you probably know the one I’m talking about) and went off in the middle of the night several times a week. By the end of that year if I had owned explosives I would have used them.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      That sounds utterly horrifying. Explosives would have been a good investment.

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