manager buys me gifts, my rude email got forwarded, and more

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

1. A manager who wants to hire me keeps buying me gifts

A manager in a different department who I believe I have a great working relationship with can’t keep staff in her department. She wants me to leave my department and work in her department because she says that she trusts me and respects my work ethic. I am torn because no one in her department likes her and they are all leaving. What makes it worse is that the manager has started calling me to have personal conversation and buying me and my children things. I do not want to ruin the relationship but I am also trying to keep an open mind and not listen to the complaints of others. I believe it’s only fair to formulate my own opinion. I also think that I should pay attention to the turnover rate in the department. Any advice would be great.

There’s value in keeping an open mind in situations like this; sometimes you might be able to comfortably work with a manager who other people struggle with. But you should still put real weight on what other people’s experiences have been: Talk to them about the reasons they’re leaving, ask what they tried to resolve those issues, and ask what they think it takes to work with her successfully. But if she’s got multiple people fleeing, pay attention to that. A lot of attention.

The other really important piece of data you have is that while she’s trying to recruit you, she’s buying things for you and your kids. That’s weird and it’s manipulative, and it’s not the action of a good manager. If she were just, say, tough but fair and the people leaving were people whose work wasn’t great, that would be one thing (and you might be able to work happily with her if your work is better). But this is someone who thinks she should buy gifts to convince you to work for her — that’s a flag that something’s really off there, and it makes me think her high turnover is for good reason.

You said you don’t want to ruin your relationship, but “I appreciate the offer but I’ve decided I’m happy where I am and don’t want to make a change right now” shouldn’t do that. At least it won’t do that with a reasonable manager — and if she’s not someone who would accept that with grace, that’s all the more reason to turn her down anyway.

2. New job, mistaken identity?

My husband recently started a new job. Another person, Jon, started on the same day as him — similar education, similar experience, different roles.

My husband’s role requires an understanding of the tools used in Jon’s, so he wasn’t surprised when his training was focused on those tools. But the assignments he’s getting continue to be directly using those tools, as would be expected in Jon’s role. Meanwhile, Jon has mentioned being assigned the higher level problems my husband expected to work on. We’re beginning to think that his boss (the owner) forgot who was hired to do what.

The only reason my husband took this job was because he was assured throughout the interview process that he would be working on the higher level problems. But there’s a pandemic going on, and we can’t afford for him to be out of work. What if anything can/should he say to his boss to get this straightened out? My husband doesn’t have a great read on how reasonable the boss is, yet, other than that he is very sarcastic.

He can address it without saying “I think you mixed us up” since there might be another reason for it anyway. For example, he could say, “I wanted to talk with you about how things are going. When I was interviewing, we’d talked about the X job (use the specific job title here in case he did get them mixed up) focusing largely on problems like A and B. I see those have been getting assigned to Jon in his Y role, while my assignments have been more C and D. I’m eager to take on the type of work we discussed when I was being hired, and I wanted to talk with you about the timeline for that.”

3. I wrote a rude email and it got forwarded

I was having an issue with a department at my work. I wrote a venting email to a coworker (I know, dumb) and she forwarded it to a number of people to try to get me help with my problem. Unfortunately, it had all of my original email attached. I wasn’t outright rude and I didn’t call anyone out by name, but it wasn’t a great tone. I was frustrated and it showed.

Needless to say, I apologized to everyone who got the email and assured them that I was being helped. Do I need to do anything further? I’m super embarrassed and have learned my lesson.

If you apologized and addressed the issue you were venting about (by saying you’re now being helped), that’s all you can do. That second piece (addressing what you were venting about) is important, and something people often skip in this situation. They’ll apologize but leave the topic of the venting hanging out there, still an issue. It helps to close the loop on that in some way. (For example: “I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t received quicker responses from your team, but I should have talked to you about that directly rather than complaining to someone else, and if it comes up in the future I’ll come to you earlier.”)

But there’s not much more damage control you can really do after that (at least just going on the details in your letter). You’ll likely feel the embarrassment for a while, but that’s actually a pretty effective way of making sure you don’t do it again … so in that way it serves a purpose.

4. Taking a leave of absence at a tiny start-up

I work for a very small, early stage start-up (less than 10 employees) and have been with the company for a few years. I’m in my early thirties, and when I joined a few years ago, the fast-paced work and feeling of contributing to something exciting was exactly what I was looking for.

My dad has had stage 4 cancer for over a year and recently stopped chemotherapy due to very debilitating side effects. His personal care needs have become very great as he has lost most use of his body. My mother is doing an incredible job taking care of him, but I think she needs more support. I’m also completely preoccupied, exhausted, and grieving from a distance. I’m unable to visit due to quarantine restrictions in the state where they live (I live five hours away in another state) and due to the fact that I can’t work remotely due to the nature of my job. Without the pandemic, I’d be able to continue working and visiting my parents on weekends, with the odd day off as needed.

I’d like to ask for a leave of absence from work to support my parents and because I’m so preoccupied, exhausted, and stressed that my performance isn’t up my usual standard. This puts my company in a tough spot as the work I do is tough to cover in such a small company. They’d either have to push all deadlines or hire and train a replacement. I’m financially in a place where I could take an unpaid leave for several months, but I don’t want to lose my health insurance. I don’t qualify for FMLA due to the size of the company. Furthermore, I don’t know how long my leave would be and what is reasonable to do in this situation.

What are my rights here and what is reasonable to ask for? Am I better off leaving a job (that otherwise is a great fit) and finding something that I could do remotely?

In terms of legal rights, it’s really just FMLA. Even if you don’t qualify for that, check your state laws because sometimes states offer more benefits and at smaller employer sizes.

But if that’s not in play, your company still might be willing to work something out with you. Talk to them! Explain the situation and explain what you’d like to do, and ask if there’s any way to work something out. They might surprise you — employers sometimes come through in situations like this. Not always, of course, and it might turn out there’s just no way to make it work on their side, but you shouldn’t assume that until you have the conversation.

You might also think about middle ground options. Even if most of your job can’t be done remotely, are there parts that could be — enough parts that you could go part-time while you’re out-there (even very part-time)? Or, would you be up for paying for more/all of your health insurance during that time if that’s a sticking point for them?

How much time is reasonable to ask for is a harder question, and depends on details of your dad’s situation and your job that I don’t have. One month can almost certainly be accommodated (you could be out for that long if you got injured or very sick and they’d make it work). Two or even three months would work in a lot of cases too. Six months is probably asking more than they can accommodate in a small company. But the exact amount that’s reasonable is hard to say from the outside. I’d think about what you really want and what you’d be willing to settle for, and then talk to them and see what your options are.

I’m sorry about your dad.

5. Writing a resume when Covid has dramatically changed my job

I’ve been with my company for nine years and in my current job for two. I’m looking to change jobs and that means updating my resume. As I’m filling in new information, I find myself in the situation of my current position having changed dramatically without a title change.

Before COVID, I was spending 28 of 40 hours a week running local HR and training for between 90-140 employees at a national restaurant chain, and doing whatever was needed for the other 12. Now, though, corporate has severely limited our hours, and we are doing what is essentially hiring/damage control for 10 hours per week and covering unfilled positions for the other 30 hours. (Recently, 36-45 hours, to be frank. It’s a bit grim and exhausting, and burn-out is driving the decision to move on.)

I thought about making a separate, COVID-dated entry with the same title, but that looks…weird. Any advice?

You don’t need a separate entry for the Covid stuff. In fact, you don’t need to list the Covid stuff at all if you don’t feel it strengthens your resume. You can simply focus on what the job was before Covid hit. If you’re asked about this time period in interviews, you should of course answer honestly, but you don’t need to get into it on your resume if you don’t want to.

A resume doesn’t need to be a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve done at each job, just the highlights that you feel most strengthen your candidacy. You shouldn’t take that so far that the totality of what you list for a job gives an inaccurate idea of what the role was all about, but that’s not the case here.

This would be different if you’d just started this job in March and all you’d done was the Covid-era stuff. In that case, you couldn’t list the old duties that you’d never performed. But in your case, you’re fine focusing on what the job has been up until recently.

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. Renee*

    Oh my god do not go and work for that manager. She is love bombing you and it’s the first step in what will inevitably be a really bad relationship. Do you not think it odd that literally everyone else, with their variety of personalities and experiences are leaving?! DO NOT WORK FOR THIS PERSON!

      1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Also, starting with a negging: she wants OP to work for her because she “trusts me and respects my work ethic”? Translation: “Not primarily because OP brings valuable xyz skills, but because I don’t trust my staff or respect their work ethic.“. Wow, what a back-hander.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Or “I demand more work than is humanly possible– you look like you could take on a whole bunch before you burn out and I inevitably blame you for it!!”

        2. Lance*

          Yeah, that was… if not quite a red flag, definitely a yellow one. Between that, and her basically trying to court OP over to her department, it tells me that she has rather specific people or personality types she wants… which she isn’t going to get before she looks in at herself and her own management ability.

          The heavy turnover is a flag, the backhand commenting that she doesn’t trust any of her staff that have been brought in to her department is a flag, the heavy gifting (the hell?) is a flag… all signs so far point to ‘this is not a manager you want’.

          1. PeteAndRepeat*

            Yeah I don’t think that’s a red flag on its own, but I would find someone saying “I trust you” in this work context a little odd. Of course there is a level of trust that’s needed to work well with people, but coming from this person I’d be worried she has no boundaries and is way over-invested in OP. Combined with the high turnover and gifts…run away, OP.

        3. AKchic*

          because SHE trusts, not because everyone else trusts and she values what they have to say about her.

          How did she come to trust and respect OP’s work ethic all on her own without verifying it from other people (who she didn’t actually mention)? Yeah… no.

      2. LunaLena*

        This is exactly what I thought! Abusive people often use “gifts” like these as tokens later on – “I gave you an expensive sweater, so why won’t you do this (impossible) thing for me? I thought you’d be more appreciative after all I did for you! Boy was I wrong about you!” etc etc until you give in out of guilt or exhaustion.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It’s the perfect set up for a later conversation about how ungrateful staff are. “After all I’ve done for you (that you didn’t ask for or even want), you won’t even do this one (enormous and entirely unreasonable) thing for me?”

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Let me offer you something that you didn’t ask for, that’s easy for me to give.

      All I’d like in return is everything I ask for, no matter how difficult it is for you to give.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        ^ Shooting Star Award! This comment sums up so beautifully the mindset of people who behave like this boss.

      2. Roy G. Biv*

        I have started a collection of useful, pithy quotes from the comments on this site. Things that remind me it’s just work, and I deserve to be treated humanely. This definitely makes the cut. So insightful!

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I’m so flattered that I made that cut! And what a smart idea to collect insights from the commentors.

      3. OrigCassandra*

        The original Guardians of the Galaxy was on last night, and I tuned in.

        Remember that thing where Yondu is always reminding Star-Lord that the crew wanted to eat him and Yondu stopped them? As justification for whatever ridiculous or horrible thing Yondu wants just then?

        This manager is Yondu. Do not work for Yondu. Remind yourself what he does to half his crew in the second movie!

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Watch out for what people give you, OP, they only want your SOUL in return.
        This is the courtship, then comes the honeymoon… and then comes the REAL personality.
        Every one of her employees wants to leave? OP, there is a reason they all agree with each other.

        If you take this job you will find new levels of misery as the presents, respect and trust just all vanish into thin air.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yeah, the fact that everyone is quitting, in a pandemic, no less, unless this letter is old, tells me all I need to know. Many people are toughing it out right now because they are afraid they won’t find another job quickly. If that many people are like “screw it, I’m getting up out of here” that’s enough for me.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      The main argument for going to work for her seems to be that the LW has had a great working relationship with her in the past. The question that springs to mind is whether the LW has ever had to tell her “no.” It is one thing, after all, to have a great working relationship with someone in a different department. The interactions are limited. But go work for her and the day will come when she asks for something the LW is unable or unwilling to do. I suspect that this will be the day when that working relationship goes south.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This is a really important thing to consider, and it’s one of the reasons I agree with Alison’s suggestion that OP speak with people who are leaving this manager if at all possible.

        I had a manager like this one. Before I was transferred to her department, I had heard minor things from people who had worked for her previously, but I never followed up on those comments or asked those people for an unvarnished description of what working for this person would be like. And I really, really wish I had.

        Do ALL your research, OP.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is not much different than the parent who is so very well liked in the community and at work, but at home that parent is the stuff nightmares are made of. Later people say, “But they were always nice to me…”.

        A good boss knows they have enough skills as a manager to attract and retain good help. They do not need to buy people things to get them to do work for them.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          This would be my “she’s such a giving, god-fearing woman” mother. Who once held my little brother up against the wall by his neck because he buttoned his shirt wrong.

      3. AKchic*

        Well sure they have a great working relationship right now. They aren’t in the same department. Abusers aren’t abusive to people who aren’t their victims. Consider the department the abuser’s “home”. The employee’s the abuser’s partner/children. The abuse all stays within the “home” and within the “family unit”. To anyone on the outside (other departments, other agencies), the abuser is a charming, amazing worker (great parent, great spouse, wonderful provider, blah blah blah).

        With everyone leaving right now (like a divorce), some stories/rumors are somewhat getting around, but HR and the abuser are also working to quell them (and probably a few people are taking the high road and just not commenting, maybe they have NDAs or are consulting with attorneys). So, abuser is looking for new workers/victims/family to move in, just like any romantic abuser would.

        And I’m sorry to analogize like that, but it really is easy to compare the two.

    4. cmcinnyc*

      Came here to same thing. This is the wooing stage. Then comes the honeymoon when she gets what she wants. And then…

    5. Batgirl*

      It’s gift-sharking; start turning them down if you feel obligated. If she shows up with a huge, hollow wooden horse you should definitely turn it down.

    6. Nanani*

      My thoughts exactly. You’re this manager’s shiny new crush, when reality sets in and you aren’t a shiny new person anymore you will experience the same things that made everyone else leave, and they will go chase the next shiny.

  2. PollyQ*

    OP#1: “keep an open mind” and “don’t listen to the complaints of others” are not opposites. You can hear people out about their experiences and then decide for yourself how much weight to give them.

    I’d be very concerned about working for her, though. Her “wooing” behavior of pushing boundaries and coming on really strong (like, REALLY strong) combined with a stream of people who can’t wait to get away from her sounds terrible, almost like an abusive romantic partner.

    1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      If it was something like a little box chocolates because OP helped her out with a favour, or for a birthday etc, ok fine. But regular gifts, and for OP’s kids too? I’d find that presumptuous, and creepy.

      What concerns me about this boundary-pushing behaviour too is that OP has the power now because manager wants OP to work for her. What happens when the dynamic flips? What other boundaries and professional norms is this manager hazy on? To what extent would she expect OP to go above and beyond in the role? Is this just the beginning of a whole lot of intrusion into OP’s personal life? And why isn’t she just wooing OP with talk about the role and progression, what is she hiding with this gift-giving deflection..?

      Just because they get on well enough now, that isn’t a reliable indicator of the future manager/employee relationship. And all signs point this manager being a season 8 Daenerys.

        1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          Yes, that’s what pulls me up short too.

          A gift from my manager, depends on the manager and our relationship. Probably fine, thanks Wakeen.
          A gift from the manager of a different department, I make the confused Labrador face
          A gift for my kid from the manager of a different department, I’m setting that down and backing away carefully, because that is a boundary that is being crossed, and using my kid to do it makes me deeply itchy.

    2. jenkins the first*

      Yeah, the buying gifts sent my shoulders right up to my ears. This is not evidence of normal, healthy boundaries in the workplace. If it was *just* that her current employees complain about her I’d be more inclined to keep an open mind, but that in addition to this weirdness just screams noooooo don’t work for this person.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This was my reaction as well. I had a manager in the past that I got along with really well because our work styles meshed whereas a lot of my teammates had issues with him. So my initial thought when I started reading the letter was “it may just be a mismatch and maybe you’ll work well with this person” and then I kept reading and started shaking my head. The gift thing is just incredibly disturbing.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      If one person said something negative, that is one thing. If almost everyone says something negative – then wake up and smell the coffee. There is a problem and if your idea is to “take the job and see for myself” you WILL find yourself burned. Others have warned you, beware.

  3. Amaranth*

    Should LW#1 curtail the gift-giving regardless? Even though not LW’s manager, she is a manager at the company (and not a personal friend) and the optics here are a bit strange aside from creating a feeling of obligation.

      1. PollyQ*

        Yes, but LW#1 can (and should IMO) stop accepting them, and explain that they’re making her feel uncomfortable.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Yes, LW should tell the manager to stop sending gifts. It’s manipulative and totally inappropriate.

      1. PeteAndRepeat*

        Return what’s been given and refuse any more. Donate them to charity if she won’t stop, and then go to HR. This is so inappropriate. The manager’s behavior could very easily damage OP’s reputation if others find out that she’s been giving personal gifts to OP and her kids, and OP didn’t shut it down.

      1. Pennyworth*

        They also could be seen an conferring an obligation on OP: ‘Because I gave you stuff, you owe me.’

        1. londonedit*

          That’s exactly how I assumed this would go. ‘You’re turning down my offer? After everything I’ve done for you? After all the gifts I’ve bought for your children??’ It doesn’t matter that OP1 didn’t ask for any of those gifts; the manager is likely to use them as emotional blackmail anyway.

        2. Venus*

          For this reason I would suggest returning as many gifts as possible and refusing more, but then again I would have not accepted them in the first place because I grew up with a few people who gave gifts to later ask for favours.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Hard agree.
          My friend works for a person who buys them groceries, clothes and gives them random cash.
          In return my friend works long hours, works on things that are not in his job description (think– an accountant tarring a roof) and friend works off the clock a lot. 70-80 hour weeks are the norm.

    2. old curmudgeon*

      Aside from the power dynamic and all the red flags that scream “BEWARE ABUSIVE MANAGER,” in some work settings, gift-giving can be a violation of the employer’s code of ethics. This is particularly true if the employer is a governmental entity, and especially if the manager is using the employer’s funds to purchase the gifts.

      While I don’t know that I’d necessarily advocate going straight to HR about this, I do think the OP might want to peruse the company handbook or whatever guidance the company has about ethics. Depending on what is found there, this could be something to bring to the attention of either HR or senior leadership.

      As far as dealing directly with the manager is concerned, in that situation, I would probably send her an email with a BCC to my personal email with a polite request to please stop the gift-giving. I’d probably take the approach of “I appreciate your generosity but am concerned that it may give the wrong impression. I value our professional relationship and would like to keep it purely professional in nature.” Or something like that.

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah, this would be a huge ethical and regulatory issue at my workplace. It may not be a regulatory problem for OP (or I think they’d have mentioned it) but it is still ethically shady.

    3. Phony Genius*

      I would say that they have an ethical obligation to not accept these gifts. If I was #1’s manager, I would be very upset to hear that another manager within the company is “bribing” one of my employees to leave my team. In that position, I would probably report this to my own higher-level manager and/or HR. And if I was the manager at the level that manages both parties’ teams, I’d probably fire the gift-giver for potentially causing internal conflict within the company.

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      A business appropriate gift from a perspective manager is fine, like “Sandra, you mentioned you wanted to promote and I saw this book on leadership ….” But the OP said the other manager is buying her “things.” So I’m assuming those things are not work related. That is enough of a red flag for me. And then the other manager is also buying things for the OP’s kids–that totally crosses the line.

      1. Jojo*

        Actually in company gifts to your kids is covered. It is a strict no no and bribery attempt. As per ethics training.

  4. many bells down*

    I don’t know if it helps #5, but I’m focusing that part of my resume on more on what I accomplished because COVID changed my job.
    For example, video editing and hosting online events aren’t in my job description, but I can list as accomplishments things like “developed [organization] security protocols for large Zoom events”

    1. Lance*

      I think that’s the best way to look at anything COVID-related to put on a resume: what more have you done, learned, accomplished? So many people are being forced to do things differently; while you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) state it was because of the pandemic, I think there’s definitely value in showing those accomplishments and adaptations since.

      1. OP 5*

        Man, I wish that was an option with this. Corporate didn’t so much “ask us to adapt” as “shut off our positions for 6 weeks and then barely turn the faucet back on”.

        It’s hard to talk about how drastic the shift was without sounding like I’m venting, because I really liked what I used to do. But I suppose I need to do a little digging for that silver lining in this.

        1. PeteAndRepeat*

          I don’t think the new duties necessarily belong on a resume, but this would be great to bring up in an interview if they ask about how you responded to a challenging situation or something like that. It can show that you’re adaptable, creative, organized, good under pressure, etc.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Right, and even if the new employer isn’t interested in that precise skill, they can still infer from that data point that you are trusted by your current employer to develop new procedures, that you can self-direct learning, etc.

    3. Uranus Wars*

      Because of the way COVID changed the way we’ve had to do business, some of my professional goals for 2020 are not longer relevant. My boss allowed me to go in a replace those with things I had already accomplished in light of the pandemic, so we would have a record of it. I thought it was generous and while I haven’t tweaked my resume I have included them in a recent cover letter since they seems to be one-off instead of continual (collaborating with 2 C-suites on developing our pandemic response plan, for example).

      I think this is a great idea and if you really sit down there are some things people just took for granted as part of the transition but they really ARE things that need to be recognized as achievements.

  5. Viette*

    #1 — there isn’t really any mention of why the LW would want to go work in that department. Is it just because the manager is telling you that she wants you to work in her department? That’s not a good reason to transfer departments (unless your current manager is awful to you or something). You have a “great working relationship” with her, but if you have a good working relationship with your current boss, I don’t think that’s enough to transfer to a department with so many problems. You need the role to be a better one, or the promotion options to be improved, or the salary to be higher.

    I agree completely with Alison that the “everyone’s quitting because they dislike her” and the “inappropriate gifts for employee and family” are reasons *not* to go work for that manager. If the only reason *to* go work for her is “she really wants me to” then it’s not much of a pros/cons list, is it?

    1. MK*

      Also, having great working relationship with someone from a different department is not the same as having one with a boss.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. I once had a boss that was “likable” (chatty, joke-y) to anyone on the outside, but working for him was tough because he was a micromanager and emotional manipulator.

    2. Important Moi*

      I also feel that LW is glossing over the gifts. There is no mention of returning them so I’m assuming she’s keeping them. Also there is no mention of whether or not these gifts are expensive or not. I think LW is looking for confirmation it’s OK to ignore all she has heard, keep accepting gifts and take the job.

    3. Washi*

      Yeah, I assume the LW left out some details in the letter (like that she hates her current job or that the other department pays better) because otherwise I don’t see what there is to be torn about. This other manager sounds like a nightmare to work with and I don’t get the handwringing about judging her because…. her staff hates her and leaves her department asap?

      Does she feel guilty about accepting the gifts and want to be told that it’s totally normal and she should keep them?

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Maybe she’s like me, raised in a very judgmental environment and culture that was always judging and criticizing.
        So if I dared to notice obvious problems or stand up for myself, I was being judgmental. If I put my needs before the needs of presumptuous strangers, I was being selfish. And so on.
        LW1, it’s absolutely fine to protect yourself from this manager who has strong indications of being manipulative and abusive. You don’t owe her anything, and you should do what’s best for you.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          P.S. – if possible, I would return the gifts to her. Then she can’t say you owe her for those.
          If it’s not possible, maybe buy new ones of the same items to give her, or pay her for them (unless she would be offended), or donate to charity in her name. Try to make it so she can’t say you owe her anything.

          1. MayLou*

            Just to be clear, you do NOT owe her for them. These suggestions are good if you feel you would be more comfortable doing one of those things, but there is no obligation conferred by someone with more power in the situation giving unwanted gifts to you.

  6. Dan*


    Ok… I was the kid who didn’t mind having the teachers/professors everybody hated. Usually, those folks were disliked because they made people work hard. So I’ve learned to keep an open mind when it comes to certain types of popularity contests. Many people talk themselves in to staying in a toxic work place. People will put up with *a lot* for a paycheck, especially now during COVID.

    So if literally everybody is leaving this other manager’s department? Don’t even think about it. Even if most people are leaving, don’t even think about it.

    In the work place, those gifts, especially for the kids, rise to a certain level of weird. And I… would be sorely tempted to report this behavior to HR. If this were a male boss giving these kinds of gifts, we would *all* be causing a ruckus telling the OP to report this creepy behavior. It’s no less creepy here.

    1. Helvetica*

      Oh yes, I was also that kid/person! I feel like a majority of people whom no one seems to “like” are objectively good at what they do and indeed, make others work hard and they can be quite straightforward in their communication, which I have no problem with.
      But even then, you do get opposite views from people who will admit that the person was hard on them but not a bad manager. If you don’t then that is a red flag. And the gifts are majorly weird and unprofessional on top of that so this manager doesn’t seem to fall under the category described on top.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But expecting people to work hard and being a bad manager are not the same thing. If there’s high turnover, that’s a huge red flag. The odds that they just happen to have a bunch of lazy people working for them who want to coast by are slim to none. OP needs to put a stop to the gifts and stay where they are.

      1. Important Moi*

        If a person wants to believe red flags don’t apply, because “everyone else is wrong” and things will be different for them…not my circus, not my monkeys.

    3. Third or Nothing!*

      Mmmhm, in college I’d actively seek out the professors who were a little tougher but not unreasonably so, because I wanted to actually learn the material. That manager doesn’t sound like a tough-but-fair manager, she sounds like the kind of manager who has unreasonable expectations and will make your life miserable.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The thing is, in college you pretty much know who is there to learn stuff and who is there to drink and get laid. You can easily filter the opinions of these two groups accordingly. There certainly are employees in the work force who will complain bitterly about having to do any work. If you know the individual well enough to judge this, you can run their opinions through the same filter. But if you don’t, you have to go by the numbers. Dropping a tough class in favor of an easy one is one thing. Leaving a paycheck behind is quite another. Such a large number of people that lazy would be remarkable, and would say bad things about her hiring practices.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, just based on personal experience, if a lot of people are complaining that someone is a jerk, they probably are a jerk. There isn’t some vast conspiracy to run them out of town. There are some people who don’t want to work for bosses that expect them to actually do their jobs, but I agree that’s a small percentage of workers.

          I actually think with teachers that are this way, and I know teachers have a tough job, but if your personality is so off-putting that only a few students click with you, that also may be a problem. If you’re direct way of communicating comes off as rude to people who aren’t used to that, maybe that’s something to adjust, at least when you’re working. Kids’ opinions matter too.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            My high school geometry teacher was so unclear that only one in a class of ~30 understood him or the subject. That person wasn’t me, and I felt like a failure.
            A few years later I discussed this with someone who pointed out the teacher had failed, not me, since only one out of 30 students understood the subject.
            I never did learn that geometry, either. I still don’t see the point of trig…

            1. selenejmr*

              Did you go to Waterford Kettering? Because my geometry class didn’t understand any of the stuff and I believe we only completed a couple of chapters during the whole year. (I still don’t know geometry, but at least I don’t need it for accounting.)

    4. SansaStark*

      This was me in school too, and it’s how I got sucked in to an awful work situation. There was a reason that their past 3 hires had all gotten fired within 6 months of being hired and it wasn’t because they were all terrible slackers as they had originally led me to believe. Since then I put a lot more weight on the actions of others in situations like this. I’m not saying that I don’t form my own opinions, but I use those data points as part of my opinion.

    5. Jennifer*

      Yeah, when I read the title I assumed, based on my own biases, that it was a creepy male boss sending gifts to a younger female coworker. I was a little less scared for the OP when I read the letter, but the bosss’s behavior is still creepy.

    6. Nassan*

      There’s one thing that’s different from school – students are given but this manager probably hired at least part of her staff. So even if she’s just “fair but tough” (though I doubt that’s the case) she’s terrible at hiring which would leave the OP with terrible co-workers. Good manager but bad co-workers don’t make a pleasant work environment.

  7. Ash*

    OP1 – Check your companies code of conduct on gift giving before anything else, they may have rules forbidding gifts for this very reason.

    1. JM in England*


      Appropriate types of gifts were covered in the anti bribery & corruption training at my current and previous employers.

        1. Anononon*

          It can also be in the finance realm – my law firm’s clients are banks, and we have courses about this. However, I’ve never seen anything about internal gift giving.

        2. Observer*

          That can be a very wide net. One of our vendors does business with entities that get government funding. They are required by one of their MAJOR suppliers to take ethics courses every year that covers things like gifts. etc.

  8. anonnonaanon*

    OP #1, I understand wanting to form your own opinions. But this manager is actively trying to influence your opinion with personal gifts, and you’re already worried about preserving the relationship. This will all get harder if you are working directly for her.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Right?! These kinds of people like the manager prey on empathic people, who may have difficulties establishing boundaries. Or even if the boundary setting is A OK, the manager will just steamroller over it, and make LW feel like their going mad.
      How awful is it going to be if LW goes to work for this manager, when she (LW) is tiptoeing around the manager’s behaviour now for fear if offending her? This is what the manager is expecting! Guilt trip the LW into accepting. It’s abusive.

      1. anonnonaanon*

        Exactly! And I’d want to ask the people leaving if they’d had a “honeymoon” period too — for all OP knows the people fleeing were wooed that way too.

      2. EPLawyer*

        HUGE RED FLAG. The manager plays favorites. You are the only one I trust. Until she doesn’t. If she says this about her staff to you, she will say it about you if you ever displease her. It’s great being the favorite, until you are not.

        Keeping an open mind does not mean ignoring all the facts right in front of you. This person has shown you quite clearly who she is, believe her.

        1. Sylvan*

          +1. Just highlighting this for OP and anyone whose manager complains about other staff to them:

          If she says this about her staff to you, she will say it about you

        2. cmcinnyc*

          My first meeting with a new manager (I got assigned, it was not my choice to work for this guy–he had the power to demand who he wanted), he proceeded to run down his VPs, people senior to me who I would be working for! It was an out of the office coffee meeting, his favorite. I managed to get the rest of our 1:1s scheduled in the office, which had an open plan so he couldn’t sit there openly trashing people. It took me 18 months to get a transfer out of his department. By which time he was trashing me, of course.

    2. Mockingjay*

      And what benefit does this relationship currently provide? If it’s only that you and she have cordial interactions, well, that’s expected of any work relationship. If your department needs something from her department as part of the work process, again, you shouldn’t have to manage her emotions to get the things you need.

      Has she described what moving to her team offers your career? A step up? New skills? More money?

      OP 1, she wants you to solve her problem for her. She’s a manager who isn’t managing.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This. I find it interesting that OP#1 quotes the manager, “Miranda Priestly,” as saying flattering things to her about her work ethic — but nothing about what advantages she could offer the OP if she did transfer to her department. If I were trying to persuade somebody to come and work for me, I’d be talking about things like salary improvement and opportunities for growth, not buying stuff for her kids.

        It’s nice to be courted, but it sounds as though “Miranda” is offering nothing but flattery, with no substantial advantages for OP. In her position, I’d brief my own manager stat and start rebuilding boundaries.

        1. anonnonaanon*

          Yes. I have learned the very hard way that if your manager only has “flattery” in her management toolkit, things are going to go downhill quickly. Things like “I like your work ethic” are too subjective and can change on a dime — there’s nothing substantive there, and if they suddenly decide that your work ethic has “changed” and is no longer likeable, you can’t prove otherwise. This much flattery with nothing, before she’s your actual manager? Run.

  9. Jessica Fletcher*

    #4 – If you would end up losing your health insurance, ask your company if you would have a COBRA option. It’s usually very expensive, but knowing the options is good. Also consider that you might be living out of network for that health plan when you’re at your parents’.

    If things change and you end up staying longer or basically moving to your parents’ state and need health insurance, do look into options on the Marketplace (“Obamacare”). You can go to, enter the state, and it tells you whether to use or if the state has its own site.

    Sorry about your dad.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      This is very good advice!
      Related, I was a bit confused by Alison’s advice about paying more for insurance if the company balked, but re-reading and reading this, I think it was meant to suggest that if they otherwise couldn’t keep you on the plan for an extended leave of absence, that they might be able to if you offered to cover the part of the premium they normally would have covered. I don’t think it’s that common to lose insurance while on leave, though, only if you’re no longer an employee.

      You should definitely check into Cobra and the healthcare marketplace if you have to quit, as well as any subsidies you might qualify for if you’re not working or making a lot less while you care for your dad. Plenty of states have expanded that sort of program over the last few years, and subsidies based on income have always been part of the ACA (Obamacare). There might be other ways you could get assistance generally too- I’d reach out to support groups for caregivers in your dad’s area, too. They may have advice on navigating a lot of this since they’ve been in your shoes.

      1. doreen*

        It’s not common to lose insurance when you are on paid leave or even for a day or two here and there of unpaid leave – but I do think it’s usual to lose employer -paid health insurance when you are on unpaid , non-FMLA leave for a significant period of time. What’s not so common is to allow unpaid, non-FMLA leaves for a significant period of time. But the last couple of jobs I’ve had did – and employees could only continue health insurance under those circumstances by paying the full cost.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        My employer will cover your insurance at the normal rate for a certain number of weeks of unpaid leave (I can’t remember the specific number off the top of my head, but I want to say maybe 4), and if your unpaid leave extends beyond that time you have to switch to a COBRA plan, which is significantly more expensive.

      1. A Social Worker*

        Given that the OP states they have enough money in the bank to cover unpaid leave they are likely overresourced for Medicaid, although it would depend on their state regulations. Ask me about how the resource limits for things like Medicaid, SNAP, etc. keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty! I could be on a soapbox all day!

        1. Emi.*

          OP3, you want to be open-minded. Please open your mind to the evidence of all these people telling you this person is bad to work for.

        2. Jojo*

          Yes. Those government programs are based on how much you made in the last year, not how much you are making this week.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I took a month of FMLA last year and I asked how to keep my insurance going. HR talked to Finance, who proposed deducting two pay periods worth of premiums from my last paycheck. Much cheaper solution than COBRA and no interruption to coverage.

    3. RG2*

      To clarify a common point of confusion: COBRA and taking on the cost of the premium the employer pays are the same thing! COBRA is the legal framework that requires your employer to offer you the option of staying on their plan, but where you cover all the costs. The difference between your premium and COBRA is the amount that your employer has been paying this whole time. That said, working out an informal arrangement with your employer might be easier from a bureaucratic standpoint.

      (I also believe if people understood that very high COBRA premiums were just normal premiums, unsubsidized by the employer, we might have more outrage on health insurance costs. I can’t speak for every employer, but for us this comes out of our general compensation budget, so it’s money we’d otherwise spend on salaries!).

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Just to add, COBRA premiums may include up to a 2% administrative fee on top of the premium your employer pays.

        1. RG2*

          This is a good point. In my experience, these are equal to the fees our HR/benefits provider/payroll system charge us per employee, so it’s wrapped up in the cost of keeping you on the plan when you otherwise wouldn’t be covered, but you’re absolutely right that it’s technically a separate charge.

  10. Karia*

    Do not ignore your gut instinct on this manager. It’s almost always a mistake to do so. And turnover is usually a good indicator – be glad you can see it!

  11. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW5: Alison often talks about tailoring a resume for a specific application. This could mean including/leaving off entire positions and also including only relevant duties within those positions. For example, though I was contracted out through a language school to teach at both elementary schools and adult education centers, if I am applying for a job at a trade school, I’m only going to list relevant experience with adults. It may be relevant later in an interview to share my other duties with younger students, but my resume needs to make the point that I have what they are looking for.

    Just be sure you have enough experience to be able to leave parts out, of course.

    1. OP 5*

      Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, I am an atypical millenial – my years in the workforce involved 9 military years and 9 years at current position, so I have to talk about what I did in those jobs, even with some tailoring to account for changing fields.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Atypical? You’ve got the consistent experience we all wish we had! Fellow millennial here, then absolutely emphasize how you’ve stepped up as well during Covid. :)

  12. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW1: I HAD THAT BOSS!! Gifts were her way of making me feel obligated to her, and it was a nightmare. She tried to smooth over the fact that I was paid poorly for my experience, that she tried to have me on-call 24/7, and she NEVER let me forget her “generosity”. My boss went on to cross more boundaries.

    When I pushed back against doing some work that was clearly unethical, she would then find more personal/in appropriate ways to turn up the pain: “Such a shame, I thought you were a good Christian, because they are supposed to be willing to help out!” or “After all I’ve done for you?! I invited your visiting family to dinner and you can’t do this one little thing for me?”

    I was young and so naive. Everything she did she counted on a list of “favors”. So, if I asked to go to the doctor when I had a 102 fever and was terribly sick, she said, “Aren’t you so grateful you have a boss who supports you?”

    I finally realized that gifts were the only social tool she had, as they were easier than actually trying to manage employees and were a tangible currency for her to use. In her mind, her investment of X number of boxes of chocolate or bottles of perfume = X amount of requests I should unconditionally accept. Gifts were very clear proof of her version of kindness because how could people on the outside doubt how good she was when she was always doling out presents.

    Also- not sure how relevant this is, but the gifts were never rewards for accomplishment or gratitude, only ever given before she wanted something.

    1. Courtney*

      This is really good and relevant experience to the LW’s question I think (not that your experience was good, I mean to say ‘meaningful’)

      I’m sorry you went through this, thank goodness you got out of it.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I did learn so much from the experience, and how to push back and stand up for myself. When I arrived in the department, everyone else assumed her behavior was normal, or had been ground down to feeling so indebted to her, they did not consider they should be anything but grateful for their job and her condescension. I got a call shortly after I left that her longest running employee finally felt like she deserved more and left. Worth it!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          In fairness, Don Corleone was a pretty square guy, in his way. The only dissembling was, if you were his enemy, whether he realized that as well: Was he keeping you close because you were his friend, or closer because you were his enemy? But his enemies knew that they were his enemies. They brought this on themselves.

    3. Ama*

      I’m not saying the person the OP is dealing with is as ethically questionable as my former boss, but I have reason to suspect any boss that tries to woo someone with over the top gifts or perks others aren’t getting.

      Many years ago, I had a long promised promotion scuttled supposedly because of some odd union rule (we’ll get to that in a second), and to “make it up to me” my then-boss told me I could book a flight home to see my parents and charge it to the university we worked for. I thought that sounded weird so I looked into our financial policies and discovered there was no way that would be allowed, but it wasn’t unusual for more academically oriented bosses (he was considered faculty, not staff) to not understand our financial policies so I thought that was all it was.

      Six months later, he was fired after an audit discovered he had been embezzling funds from the university for over a decade (largely by charging expenses that shouldn’t have been allowed and then lying to his previous admin that they were allowed). Looking back on it, it was very clear the flight offer was a test to see if I would be as willing as his former admin to overlook questionable expenses just on his word. I also now suspect he either was directly responsible for my denied promotion or didn’t try to fight when it was denied because the promotion would have given me access to our budget tool and I would have been able to see him charging expenses I didn’t recognize.

      Like I said, the OP’s potential boss may not be up to something quite as nefarious, but it definitely reads to me as testing to see how much she can manipulate you with gifts, which is extremely concerning.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        THIS! My boss was never turned in for holding passports of employees ransom. As an ex-pat employee myself (and then at the ripe old age of 21) I didn’t realize till years later how absolutely vile that was. “I’m keeping your important documents secure for you”. And “Why would you want to work for someone else? Would they give you a bubble bath set when you’re feeling homesick?”

    4. hbc*

      “…her investment of X number of boxes of chocolate or bottles of perfume = X amount of requests I should unconditionally.”

      In my experience, people who do this never actually deduct from their side of the equation, so they *always* feel like you’re in their debt. Like, they did A, B, and C so of course the least you could do is D. And later they did ABC so you should do E. Eventually, they’ve taken the whole alphabet from you.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      “I said/did nice things for you X number of times…now you owe me a relationship” – a very creepy incel type I worked with once. I’ll not trust anyone who front loads any kind of relationship, business or personal, with gifts.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Wooo! We have coined a useful term! “Frontloading relationships”.!!!

    6. Jojo*

      Christian duty huh. I guess she, and most people, forget the part where it says “render unto ceasar that which is ceasars”. On other words, the part of your life you collect a paycheck on, and the part which you are not paid for.

  13. Corinne*

    LW 1- Have you tried buying the manager presents? If you keep buying them better ones then eventually they have to give you their job. That’s the law.
    LW 2- Jon has killed your real husband and is wearing his skin! Get out while you can!!!!

    1. mreasy*

      An important possibility for LW2 to consider! Surprised Alison didn’t mention it, usually she’s so thorough…

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I get that you’re trying to be funny, but this is not helpful at all nor is it funny. If you’re going to joke about the letters, at least follow it up with some actual advice.

      1. Anononon*

        I thought it was funny? People are allowed to make on topic jokes on this site. (Look at all of the times the duck club gets brought up.)

      2. Corinne*

        I have some advice, but I’m not sure you’d care to hear it… :)

        Regardless, I hardly think one joke- whether you personally like it or not- is going to ruin the LW’s experience. Go get some fresh air and try to have a better day!

    3. Observer*

      Given the manager’s ACTUAL behavior, and the thought process that generally goes into that, I think that a /sarc tag or something like that would be appropriate for #1.

  14. Ron McDon*

    LW1 – many years ago, in my first job, I had a similar situation.

    One of the Directors of the company had a lovely woman working as his assistant, but she always seemed to be making mistakes. He’d come into the office that we all shared to talk to her, and I’d overhear him saying that she’d got this wrong and that wrong. I fully believed that she was a bit rubbish at her job.

    She eventually said she wanted to leave and couldn’t work with this Director anymore, so I was offered a promotion to work with him instead. We’d always got on really well, I was very organised and received great feedback so thought we’d be a better fit.

    I ended up having a nervous breakdown and leaving that job – he was extremely clever at twisting things around to make one appear incompetent; he’d tell the other Directors lies about things he’d asked me to do when he hadn’t, or things I’d messed up when it was his mistake, and my reputation at the company tanked.

    I didn’t know what he was saying to other people about me, I just knew that all of a sudden my abilities seemed to have hit the floor and I was getting everything wrong.

    He was very very clever in the way that he was able to undermine people and knock their confidence.

    After a few months I went to management and said I couldn’t work for him any more. They initially intimated that they wouldn’t be told what to do by an admin, but eventually gave the Director to the most senior assistant in the company, and I got the Director she was working for instead.

    A few months later she came and apologised to me (as I had apologised to my predecessor) – she’d thought I was incompetent at my job and everything that had happened was down to me, but she now realised that the Director was the problem.

    The way the Director was protected whilst the admins were sacrificed (because he brought in money whilst we didn’t) meant that I couldn’t bear working there any more, and after having a breakdown and ending up on anti-depressants I finally left.

    If there’s a high turnover in her department I’d be very wary – my problem boss was as nice as pie to me until I worked with him. Don’t assume that because you get on together now it’ll be all sweetness and light when you work for her.

    1. babblemouth*

      I have seen this happen in multiple workplaces, and have learned to be wary of “brilliant” managers whose assistants don’t stick around. There is usually way more to the story.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I once worked for a manager who was highly respected for her track record of delivering on important and high profile projects. She was absolutely awful to work for, and a few years after I left the company, I realised that I’d probably had some kind of breakdown while working for her.

        Anyway, a while before I left, I heard that she’d been called into a meeting with HR. They wanted to know why the turnover in her team was so high. I don’t know whether the story was true or if any action was taken, but she did leave the company not long afterwards.

    2. JobHunter*

      This comment summarized my experience with a short-lived position. I realized very quickly what was going on when a few people outside my department reached out to make sure I was OK. I got out as graciously as I could, told the department head why, and gave him as much actionable feedback as possible.

  15. valentine*

    OP3: I’m wondering if Coworker forwarded the email because they’re afraid to ask you to stop venting to them.

    1. I'm LW#3*

      Oh gosh, maybe? I don’t even talk to her much in the normal course of the day. She had been having similar issues with the same folks and we had commiserated together but maybe this was too much for her. It’s something to think about for sure.

    2. Birdie*

      I’d be surprised if that were the case, though I could imagine them reading it and agreeing with the message/tone but not wanting to be the one actually responsible for the words. Or reading it, thinking the tone is fine to forward on, but having a skewed perspective because they’re also annoyed.

      But ultimately, I think it’s most likely that she’s just one of those people inclined to forward emails exactly as they received them. A former coworker was like that, and I just had to assume that literally anything I put in an email could end up in someone else’s inbox, even if it was an obviously informal email with no greeting/sign off. As a matter of course now, I only send emails I would be fine with someone other than the intended audience reading. That’s the only way to truly avoid this!

      1. sb51*

        Yeah. Recently, my boss was asked to give feedback on a thing. He has standing to criticize it; I don’t, really, but do have insight into the topic, so he sent it along to me and asked for my feedback. I sent over some candid — not rude at all, but blunter than I would normally be in writing — feedback, including a few comments about some of the issues I had with it being repeats of ongoing ones we’ve seen in this other department’s work. All of which are things I would stand by my opinions on, but if I was sending them directly to the other department I would word them more constructively, rather than letting a bit of exasperation show through (also less focus on the possible fallout to our department if they went through with the as-is plan, because that’s not the feedback they were asking for, but it was something I thought my boss should know).

        Like the difference between “those new teapot lid designs sure are pretty, boss, and actually use less of the expensive glaze, but they’ll take us at least three times as long to paint and the lid department has a habit of sending stuff over late as it is, so I’m worried it’s going to be a repeat of the double-glazed spout debacle of 2011.” and “I like the floral design and the glaze-reduction initiative, but have some concerns about the additional labor estimates. Has a full timeline been set for each stage of production? Also, if you look at the numbers from the double-glazed spout project, with a project of this complexity we should expect an increase the number of pieces that fail QC by at least 10% for two to three months and I don’t see that accounted for.”

        I was, uh, not expecting my boss to forward it directly on. Eep.

  16. Anon fer this*

    LW2, I have been in your husband’s position. I spent the first four months on the job under a similarly sarcastic but also very conflict-avoidant manager who, to be honest, was woefully ignorant about and untrained in the basic functions of my role and that of my doppelgänger to the extent that he literally couldn’t have managed us if he’d tried. (Did he also have a doppelgänger somewhere?) Also, my doppelgänger didn’t even report to him. Her manager was just equally in over his own head and under his thumb and chaotic-but-lazy influence of mine. (Is this just doppelgängers all the way down? Was the management work being assigned by lottery?) Such a shitshow.

    Anyway, neither of us had any clue we were being mixed up until we both faced our own disciplinary meeting; almost every aspect of our working lives had been misconstrued as incompetence or belligerence (think: we worked different shifts, so were subsequently marked, without any notification to us, as habitually late or absent—though that never affected our pay??) There was no paper trail to support claims we’d been repeatedly warned and few substantiated errors we were shown to be directly responsible for. Nevertheless. Even after it cleared up, we both booked it. The whole thing just tainted the company for us.

    My message for your husband is this: check in with your manager about this at once, document that with an email noting your concerns and acknowledging he is aware of the potential problem here and the consequences for everybody should it continue. Manager should express maximum concern that assignments are being given to someone neither qualified nor hired to execute. He should understand that making you and Jon play telephone with these tasks will create a headache for everyone down the line. He should express an interest in his own job.

    1. Myrin*

      Wait, am I inferring correctly from the shifts thing that they literally thought you were your doppelgänger and vice versa? Like, they saw your conterpart walk through the door and thought “oh, there’s Anon fer this”? WTF?

      1. Anon fer this*

        Both these men were so detached from the tasks at hand, from any semblance of “management” or what that entailed, that they’d spend their working days wandering in and out of different units, gossiping with other men they got along with and dragging productivity down in the meanwhile, ignoring safety and sanitation guidelines while doing so, taking long lunches, etc., and occasionally dispensed with actual work-like action by randomly disciplining a non-favored employee over some perceived wrong which rarely followed through because they didn’t know everyone’s name, who reported to whom, or what we did in our respective roles. When not being lordly or shambolic, they behaved as though they were being persecuted by a cabal of workshy employees; it was always everyone else who was lazy, not them. Again, the other manager was more egged on by mine, but both were very useless.

        So mixing people up and false, but vague accusations were something of a habit of theirs, but never to this extent. They just decided she was me and I was her, kept these beliefs to themselves until they decided they wanted to escalate further, and would not hear or behave otherwise. When we were able to prove (to higher ups) our identities quite easily and, with slightly more difficulty, demonstrate that our time cards were accurate and they couldn’t possibly have been filing warnings or issuing reprimands as they said they’d been, they pouted and acted like they’d been gamed. Everyone was pretty blase about it, like, “yep, that sounds like something [Ben] and [Sal] would get up to, heh.” No one cared what a waste of time this was and how utterly useless, truly counterproductive in fact, their presence was. It was clear they were going to carry on being malicious, chauvinist doofuses, and probably, almost twenty years later, are still doing so, at least until covid-19. Their poor families.

    2. LW2*

      Thank you! I think my husband’s imposter syndrome is coming through here. He and Jon have very similar backgrounds in an area that is related to, but not exactly, what this company does. His argument was that Jon is just as qualified, at least on paper. I’ve been pushing him to talk to his manager, anyway. If nothing else, Jon didn’t interview for that position! Sounds like having that conversation is the consensus here, too.

      1. valentine*

        If he hasn’t already, hubs would do well to ensure his pay stubs correct. If there’s any kind of job coding, that’s something he could discuss independently with payroll.

        1. LW2*

          Thanks for the tip! The salary is correct. It doesn’t look like there’s a job code on there, though (it’s a very small company).

    3. tangerineRose*

      “Even after it cleared up, we both booked it. The whole thing just tainted the company for us.” Good for you! They sound awful.

  17. AnNina*

    I’m facing something kind of similar. I have been in my current role a little over a year, so COVID is about half of my stay here.

    I work at health-care and see patients. But I am not essential, so basically all of my work dropped to 20% of what it used to be. I am also trying to be confident in writing out my duties and accomplishments (AS IF it wasn’t a life time ago…) I think Alison gave me a new perspective on focusing on the previous stuff on the resume and not worry too much about the explaining part until I have an interview coming up. So thanks Alison!

    But LW5, I can feel your pain, it’s really hard trying to write a strong resume when what you do now, does not reflect the best reality of your work. Good luck!

    1. OP 5*

      Good luck to you as well.
      I’ve been deemed essential due to my flexibility throughout my current workplace, so I actually didn’t see a drop in my hours, just a massive change in work assigned. I appreciate having someone else tell me that I don’t exactly have to worry about how much of a change that is – I saw it as weird, but I wasn’t sure how accurate that view was haha

  18. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    There are times when you should keep an open mind and figure things out for yourself, and there are times when you should pay attention to others. This is one of those times where you should pay attention to others. If a manager can’t keep anyone in her department, that’s a huge red flag. One or two people? Maybe it’s a bad fit. There have been managers others hated, but I got along with them just fine. A whole department? The problem isn’t the staff, it’s the manager. I worked for a manager who had 150% turnover in the 10 months I was there. The problem was not us, it was her. And then on top of that she’s buying gifts for you and your kids. Run, OP.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      This! Doesn’t “keeping an open mind” mean looking at *all* the information, including the fact that there appears to be a stream of rats abandoning ship? Sure, try to also gather direct information from the manager, but it’s not unfairly judging someone to consider the whole situation instead of just blindly taking her word that everything is fine.

  19. Important Moi*

    LW1: a manager who can’t keep people, makes personal calls to you and is buying you and your children gifts? Honestly, I don’t understand your question.

    1. Generic Name*

      I can understand why LW1 is torn. The manager is trying to manipulate them, after all. I also understand their perspective of keeping an open mind and not being swayed by the hordes of people leaving. I used to pride myself in being able to get along with people that other people disliked/didn’t get along with. I’d made me feel like I had some kind of special ability, when in reality I was just a doormat who let people treat me poorly. Don’t be like me. There a good reason people are leaving, and the gifts are inappropriate and even creepy. If your relationship sours because you said no, that’s on them, not you. Reasonable people can accept no for an answer.

      1. Important Moi*

        “I used to pride myself in being able to get along with people that other people disliked/didn’t get along with. I’d made me feel like I had some kind of special ability, when in reality I was just a doormat who let people treat me poorly. Don’t be like me.”

        BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. Say it louder for the people in the back!

        You said it perfectly. I couldn’t get the words together. My special ability was being a doormat. I stopped doing that. The only people who objected were the ones who wanted to continue to treat me badly. Go figure.

        1. school of hard knowcs*

          BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. Say it louder for the people in the back!
          I am totally keeping this line, for the hundreds of moments I need to use it.

      2. AKchic*

        One of my daughters tried to tell me she was known for being the “a-hole whisperer” at work (she works in customer service).
        I told her that the definition of an a-hole whisperer is someone who is so up close and personal with the a-hole that they are first in line to smell the fart, and the first to get crapped on when it isn’t just a fart. Being splattered with someone else’s crap isn’t a good thing. Especially in the business world. Being polite and friendly is one thing, being a doormat is another thing entirely.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Oh, I love this analogy. And once you get a reputation for being the a-hole whisperer, guess who you’re stuck dealing with all day? Everyone else’s a-holes that they send straight to you. Fun!

  20. agnes*

    #4 So sorry about your dad. That is a tough situation. Your employer might surprise you–sometimes smaller companies will work harder to support employees because they have more of a personal relationship with you. Think about whether there are components of other people’s jobs that you might be able to take on remotely to free them up to cover some of the “in-Person” needs that your job currently does.

    1. PeteAndRepeat*

      Agreed! I also work for a tiny, early-stage startup, and a coworker took a leave of absence when a family member was very ill, and then another leave when the family member unfortunately passed away. Each time was about 4-6 weeks. I don’t know the details of the financial/insurance situation, but the head of the company was clear that this was arranged with the company’s blessing and support.

    2. Sleepless*

      I was coming here to say this. Small companies and startups get a very bad rap on this site, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they often have much more flexibility than a larger company. You never know.

      And I’m so sorry about your dad.

  21. Jellyfish*

    LW #1 – I genuinely wonder if this manager is a former boss of mine because the MO is so very similar.
    Do not work for her. The turnover is a red flag, the gifts are a red flag, and the flattery is a red flag.

    My boss was very knowledgeable and technically skilled, and she could charm people quite well at a distance. She interviewed well and kept the home office happy, which is how she got and kept jobs. When anyone questioned her turnover rates, she always had some dramatic explanation of how she was the victim or good help was so hard to find.

    For people she needed or wanted something from, she turned to bribes and flattery, exactly like you describe. When she couldn’t directly control their paycheck, she played nice. She’d get in with people’s families and be over-the-top generous, especially with kids. Then, when the relationship started to sour because she was an emotional vampire with no boundaries, she’d lean on the “friendship” or how much she’d done for them to demand what she wanted.

    For those of us who worked directly for her, she was a complete monster. Everyone was afraid of being fired, being bad-mouthed in the industry, and having a terrible reference from her. It was not a good situation.

    1. Quill*

      I know it’s not my former boss (at pig lab from hell) because he owned that business and all it’s many safety violations.

  22. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    OP#3: I once wrote an email to my manager in exceptionally crass terms what I thought about the work being performed for us by an employee in a different department. I and the rest of my team were thoroughly burnt out as we were trying to close a project off and tensions were running high. Unfortunately I not only sent this email to my boss, but the person to whom I was referring. I immediately noticed what I had done, informed my manager, and asked them to please reach out to this person and express my horror in not only the fact that I had sent them this email, but that I had even thought that behaving in such a manner in the first place was acceptable behavior. I also asked my manager to convey my apologies, and my understanding that I understood if this person did not want to work or interact with me going forward.

    A few weeks later the project was finished, and I received a call from the person I sent the offending email to. She stated that while my email was “incredibly unprofessional” she appreciated the fact that I immediately understood what I had done was wrong, informed my own superiors as such, and that I had apologized to them in a way that limited my interaction and removed myself from the equation so she wasn’t pressured to just accept things. We ended up having an incredibly productive working relationship, and she consistently teased me about that email.

    As a funny post-script, that manager ended up using this episode as part of his master’s thesis on managing workplace relations. Specifically, “what happens when your employee goes so far off the reservation that immolation seems to be your only option.”

    1. I'm LW#3*

      Thanks for sharing your story! It’s heartening to know I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. All we can do is apologize, right? And I take full ownership – I was very frustrated but that’s no excuse.

      1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        Full, unreserved apologies usually go a long way in instances such as this. Ownership of behavior, regardless of the reasoning behind it, is crucial. We all make mistakes, and most people are willing to live and let live.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      Thank you for sharing your story showing how subsequent actions in this situation can be appreciated; it’s good to have this kind of example in mind to reduce anxiety about making future mistakes.

      But ooof, not liking the ‘reservation’ phrase- I hope that manager has learned some things and/or become more considerate with his language since then.

    3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Great way to handle it, and oooh I’d love to know what was in that email to warrant this level of response!

      Has AAM ever done a collection of email forward/reply all fails post..? If I could rein in my sympathetic cringe impulse long enough I reckon it’d make a great read.

      I was lucky to learn from someone else’s example early enough in my career to never put in writing what you wouldn’t say to someone’s face: big boss sent a wtf-are-we-going-to-do-with-this-incompetent-jerkwad email to me tearing strips off a coworker for the way he was dealing with a client… and of course, inadvertently copied in Incompetent Jerkwad. IJ piped up immediately assuming big boss was talking about the client and added in his own 2 cents about what a “completely useless unprofessional idiot” the client was. How he could possibly have made that inference from the email is something that could only be explained by his spectacularly clueless level of arrogance. It did make for a hilariously awkward series of side eye exchanges between big boss and I though.

    4. Saberise*

      I did something similar. My boss was the president of a professional organization that was having money problems and a board member who had already paid registration for the annual meeting agreed to be a speaker. He wanted me to forward the accepting email it to the VP saying that he was going to wait to see if the person requested a refund rather than offering one. I hit reply in error so sent the email to that person. I realized my error just as I hit send. Too late. Told my boss right away and he emailed the person and basically ate crow. The person didn’t even want the refund but it still looked bad. From that day on I have had a 2 minute delay with an overrider to send it out right away (my initials separated with / in the body of the email).

  23. Twisted Lion*

    LW #3: I literally did this myself two weeks ago. I wrote an email to someone giving them a heads up about a problem employee and my tone was less than charitable. My email got forwarded all over the office and back to the problem employee. Just take it as a moment to learn the lesson. I was wrong for writing it but I know now who I can vent to and who I cant. And you’ve already apologized so move on. I apologized to the person and wont send non-professional emails coworker again. It sucks but Im guessing like me you might stand by what you wrote in the first place, you just didn’t want it shared that way. Its a learning moment at least but unless your email was incredibly rude and inflammatory Im sure you are fine.

    Two weeks later no one has even mentioned it to me and we’ve moved on.

    1. I'm LW#3*

      Agree 100%. I do stand by my opinion but I definitely didn’t need to say “it’s like they don’t even care about us!” Really glad to hear that it seems like your folks moved on.

  24. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 run away, run far away. Generally you should keep an open mind in a situation like this, but there are MAJOR red flags that you shouldn’t ignore. The high turnover is a very big deal. I find it highly unlikely that the common reason people are leaving is something other than this manager and the way they treat their employees. And providing you with gifts is highly inappropriate, and any reasonable manager would know this. Tell them you’re not interested, and do not accept any more gifts from them.

  25. B Wayne*

    #4: I cannot understand how you could be torn between family and work. My immediate family has been touched by cancer three times, three individuals. One good outcome, two not so good and you can guess which side I was. You need to go to your parents and help with the last stages of your father’s life. The heck with work! Either that or in a year you can say you didn’t help your mother with her dying husband, your FATHER, but by golly, the company sure needed me and I put that above all else.

    Vince Lombardi, a NFL football coach from the 50s and 60s said there are three things in life: God, Family and Football. In that order. Substitute “football” for “start up that needs me” and there you go.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Your advice is neither kind nor helpful. Realistically, most can’t just say “the heck with work” and be able to continue to support themselves and live their life.

      1. Venus*

        Agreed. It pushes guilt on the LW when they need support instead. It also sounds like it was written by someone who doesn’t understand that many people can’t just quit work.

        1. lawerj*

          Apparently you missed where the LW explicitly said they can do this.

          I’m financially in a place where I could take an unpaid leave for several months,

          1. Luke G*

            I’m financially in a place where I COULD take unpaid leave for several months- but it would also deplete my savings, leaving me vulnerable to any emergencies that came up going forward. I’d do it if it became necessary but that doesn’t mean it would be an easy call, even in dire circumstances.

            1. Artemesia*

              This — it is not the leave taking that is the issue but losing the job. Quitting many jobs especially in middle age means you are out of the groove and it is by no means clear that you could find a similar well paid job in the future. Getting a leave becomes crucial here. The OP is willing to take the short term financial hit.

              1. Luke G*

                That’s key too. Even if I was guaranteed my job back it would be a huge cost to take a months-long unpaid leave, let alone if there was even a chance I’d be job hunting at the end of it.

          2. biobotb*

            That doesn’t mean they can just quit work, it means they can forgo an income for a few months–those are TOTALLY different things.

      2. Whiskey on the rocks*

        Seriously. I think it’s clear that what LW wants to do, but surely they have bills to pay, besides that they mentioned the personal satisfaction they get from their work.

        When my mother was in a serious accident that hospitalized her several hours from our home, I took 3 weeks off to stay with her. But the key was, not only did my manager support me, but my job itself was able to support that. I love my mom but i cant honestly say I would definitely have quit my job altogether.

        LW, I am so sorry about your dad. I really hope you can find a way to be with him and your mom.

        1. Artemesia*

          I was able to take a month to assist my mother when she needed surgery — she was carrying for my disabled father at the time and couldn’t get her own care without him having someone there. But I didn’t quit my job and future income to do it.

    2. Important Moi*

      It sounds like it was written by someone who has already experienced the loss and offering their opinion from that perspective.

      Tone is subjective.

      1. sswj*

        Tone may be subjective, but content is not.

        “The heck with work! Either that or in a year you can say you didn’t help your mother with her dying husband, your FATHER, but by golly, the company sure needed me and I put that above all else.”

        That level of scorn may be grief-driven, but it’s still shaming and unhelpful, and totally tone deaf to the circumstances of others.

    3. sswj*

      I’m glad you were able to drop everything and go to your family, I’m also glad that you are lucky enough to have family that you want to help. Not everyone has those things. If she were to quit her job, who’s paying her bills? There’s always rent/mortgage, and no job means bigger insurance payments too. What if the help her parents need after this crisis is financial help? No job = no funds available for anyone. Think before you speak, and open your eyes to those around you. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and many are very, very difficult.
      (Also, Vince Lombardi as a life coach? Yeah … no thanks.)

      1. KateM*

        B Wayne never said they were able to do that. It may easily be that they did NOT do what they now suggest, and are guilt-stricken.

    4. Persephone Underground*

      Yeah, this isn’t that helpful- the LW isn’t torn on the decision, but on the logistics and finances of how to make this work. I think this could be read as supportive of the decision to put their family first though, so I hope the LW can take it that way.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. It’s perfectly understandable to be in a situation where you’re thinking ‘I need to keep my job in order to keep a roof over my head, but I also need to support my family several hours away – how do I square that circle?’

        ‘The heck with work’ is an admirable sentiment, and yes family is incredibly important, but especially with things in the world as they are at the moment, the vast majority of people simply can’t afford to just leave their jobs no matter how much they might want to.

    5. Not A Manager*

      Wow, oh my God. I’m sorry to pile on but wow.

      I actually quit my job, with one young child and pregnant with another, when my first husband got sick. I did exactly what you recommend and I’m not sorry about it. But oh my goodness unless you magically don’t eat food and don’t need shelter or medical care, it’s probably not mysterious why someone could be torn between family and work.

      For some people, if they quit their job then in a year they can say that they don’t have a HOME, but by golly they took the advice of some person on the internet.

    6. OP4*

      OP4 here: I appreciate this and am on board with the sentiment. Not a God or Football person, but definitely a Family person!

      One of my hang-ups is actually bad advice from other family members who are concerned I’ll do irreparable damage to my career by taking time off. I don’t necessarily agree with that and felt that I had my priorities in the right order, and I really appreciate the confirmation that I’m not the crazy one!

      Alison, thanks so much for your level-headed advice. It’s so helpful to see my options laid out by you and the amazing commenters here.

      1. OP4*

        I’ll add that I’m lucky to have a secondary stream of income that covers some bills (not all) and am super grateful that I am able to consider time off. The main financial issue for me is covering health insurance, and I’ll look into ACA and cobra coverage now (thanks for all the suggestions).

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think this is very rude and not helpful! The LW specifically states :”Without the pandemic, I’d be able to continue working and visiting my parents on weekends, with the odd day off as needed.” So she would like to help her parents and work but she cant work remotely so she would be putting her parents at risk.

      From my understanding the LW is not sure if she can take time off and still have a job. If it’s going tobe for a longer time than the company likes, then she could be at risk of losing her job. There is such a high unemployment rate now that who knows if she would get a job before she ran out of her savings.

      As much as family is important so is being able to make a living. If LW is unable to take care of herself how is she supposed to take care of her father.

    8. Documenter*

      I agree with the sentiment, as regret is a haunting ghost. OP4, if your personal economics allow, which you write you have 2-3 months of savings, then find a way to spend that time in support. Being able to do that will make closure of the inevitable easier. If your job is that awesome, good owner(s) will find a way to help make this work, and even in support you will need respite and distraction that working some could help with. Good luck with all this, wishing you peace.

      1. Chinook*

        I would also add that it is often easier for a company to bring in a temp to cover a job for a couple of months or longer than it is for just a few days. A good company will work with you and a bad company will show you their true colours in a situation like this.

  26. Middle Manager*

    #5- I would consider putting your work during COVID on your resume as an accomplishment under your current position. The ability to provide coverage to multiple positions could demonstrate things like quick learning ability, flexibility, or breadth of knowledge. I’m actually doing the same on my resume. Our office is split into two main functions. I typically work on A, but during COVID have gotten much more involved in B. I’m using it as a chance to highlight some experience/knowledge of B now.

    1. OP 5*

      I’ve already started this. With the limited job movement I’ve had over the last two decades, my resume has become more focused on skills and accomplishments rather than the actual positions and titles.

      It helps hearing that my initial reaction of ‘weird’ wasn’t that far off base.

  27. Grey*

    #3: I think I’d have some words for your coworker too. But unlike everyone else got, it wouldn’t be an apology.

    1. I'm LW#3*

      Some of my friends feel the same. I also take ownership for this too though. Generally, you know which coworkers you can safely vent to in confidence, and I don’t know this lady that well (obviously). I do wish she hadn’t done it but I appreciate that she was trying to help. I even thanked her for looking out for me in my apology email. Bottom line, if I hadn’t sent the email she wouldn’t have had anything to forward, so that’s on me. I’ll vent to the right folks next time and watch my back with this one.

      1. jojo*

        Personally, I keep the venting verbal-only, get the frustration out, then write the email with the pieces I need addressed.
        But also, these things happen. I once texted a complaint about someone to the person and not to my roommate. And the archives here have plenty of people on both sides of this situation. I applaud the attitude you seem to have

      2. Observer*

        I think you’re handling it well.

        The thing to keep in mind going forward is to not put anything in email that you don’t want someone else to see.

          1. Cheluzal*

            I sent an email to my team leader complaining because I was following our boss’ recent directions and I feel like nobody else on my team was. Nothing negative about the boss at all, just venting to someone I thought I could trust.
            A few days later I get an envelope in my mailbox and it’s from my boss who had printed out my email (team leader forwarded) and made notes in the margin addressing all my points! She thought that I was complaining about her!
            Honestly, it severed my relationship with my team leader and even though we still work together I have never trusted her since. I also don’t complain anymore because mostly I’ve grown up and realize it doesn’t help LOL

            Nowadays I would’ve went straight to boss to explain the issue but back then I just wrote a long note about it in our end-of-the-year evaluation sheet and it seems to smooth things over from boss, who promoted me a few years later.

      3. Luke G*

        Something to consider is whether it seems like she forwarded your e-mail accidentally, or because she didn’t think it would be a problem, or to cause a little workplace drama.

        I think you absolutely responded to this the right way, but it’s a useful data point if it seems like the forwarder either has very bad judgement (have to be extra-careful in your wording to her) or is a drama llama (use double-extra caution).

        1. I'm LW#3*

          Oh, that’s a good point. I assumed positive intent (another corp lesson I’ve had drilled into me) and figured that she either didn’t realize my tone, or wanted people to see how mad I was so she could get me help…? But yeah, no matter the intent she is off my true feeling sharing list.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I’ve found that it’s usually easier on me if I tend to assume good intent. I’ve noticed this especially a couple of times I didn’t assume that and eventually found that in 1 case the other person was joking and in another case, the person talked over everyone, even his male boss.

            1. Luke G*

              I agree :) It takes more than one warning sign for me to move away from assuming good intent… it just took me a few painful lessons to start watching for those signs. If things like this aren’t a regular occurrence it was an accident. If there’s a pattern of problems from one person… see the pattern.

  28. AAA assistant*

    #4- This may be slightly off topic, but you might encourage your parents to check out the local area agency on aging. They may qualify for free or low cost assistance with housekeeping and personal care for your father. Sometimes having someone else come in to handle the housework can help.

    1. Artemesia*

      And if there are siblings who cannot take time to come asking them for financial support to hire a house cleaner weekly or a couple of shifts of an in home caregiver a week might make all the difference. I have many friends dealing with a failing spouse or in two cases adult children who are terminal with cancer and especially when the healthy spouse or parents is elderly, it is physically nightmarish for the caregiver. Having in home health aids to handle the most difficult tasks like bathing can really make a difference as well as give the family caregiver a bit of respite. Same with a cleaning service. This is all complicated right now by COVID of course.

      1. Home Care Doc*

        I’m a physician who works with a lot of homebound patients requiring significant care. Hired caregivers are still available even in the time of COVID, generally they just wear a mask and wash their hands frequently. Of course, it’s still up to the LW whether this would be right for them, but it’s a very good option for many people, and I want to make sure LW knows it’s available.

      2. Jojo*

        And there is an organization called hospice. It is not just for the last week. They help up to 6 months. Ask at dads hospital.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I wonder if OP could sort of spin the experience a little in her cover letter. Something like, “with the recent pandemic I’ve discovered I have the capacity to be incredibly adaptable in my work, and I can use that in your position by….” The wording needs work but maybe something along those lines. That way she has mentioned it but it’s not taking up a lot of real estate on the resume.

    1. OP 5*

      After I sent the letter to Alison, I rearranged my resume to focus on skills rather than job history, and it’s looking a lot better (to me, anyway). It’s one of those things where asking the question got my brain moving in different directions than the track it was on.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Noooo, do not do that! Job history is the most important part of your resume. But I might be misunderstanding — will you say more about what you’ve done?

        1. OP 5*

          The job history is still included on the resume, but I moved the skills above it and moved some of the bullets from under the individual job markers to supplement the profile listed.

          Stepping inside my thought process for a sec… Most of the jobs I’m applying to are not related to the military or the restaurant field, so I figured most of the time I spent there as a server and cook won’t do much in an office environment. But I can show that while in those positions, I developed the sales skills, flexibility, and interpersonal communication that will help in an office environment.

          While it is still the largest part of the resume, it is on the top of the second page. I made my base resume to work as a single, two-sided sheet that would be easy to present in the event of a job fair or something similar, and I’m rearranging it for targeted submisisons.

        2. Rebeck*

          I know you really dislike skills-based/functional resumes, but when I was changing careers (from lawyer to librarian) it was really obvious how many more interviews I got once I’d changed to a functional resume. As in, I went from nothing to getting an interview for almost every application. Once I’d built up a work history in libraries I returned to using a chronological resume but going to a functional format for those first few years was absolutely the difference for me in being able to make that change.

  30. Yet another Alison*

    #3 – Try and think back to when others have done this.

    You know they have. Do you really even remember, if at all? You’ve got your own issues, right?

    I get that it’s totally embarassing for you but try to let the actual email go now. You can still address the core issue without making it about the original embarassing email. I’m sure they don’t think about it (they’ve got a lot more on their mind), don’t do anything to remind them.

    This is always so, so much worse for the original sender than for others.

    1. I'm LW#3*

      Thank you! It’s so true. I am already anxious anyway, and my stomach was in knots when I saw what she had done. My brain has filed it away for replay on the nights I can’t fall asleep haha. I will absolutely keep in mind that I need to not remind anyone of this.

  31. blackcatlady*

    Re LW#1: How is all the gift giving not an ethical violation of company policy????? I work for the federal government and gift giving is strictly controlled. I agree with all the comments above that this is a manipulation to make you feel obligated. If there is a company policy on gift giving you could get yourself in trouble by accepting them. STOP ACCEPTING THE DAMN GIFTS.

  32. johnsmithspumphandle*

    For letter 5, I’m in a similar situation, but the opposite. I’m in public health and during the pandemic was deployed to work on COVID. What’s the best was to list the separate job duties (that I’m really proud of and want to highlight) that were pandemic related?

    1. Me*

      I’m in emergency management so I can relate. Just list it with your accomplishments. Your job hasn’t changed this stuff is literally part of our jobs, just not one we usually have to do often. Remember a resume is less about listing job duties and more about listing accomplishments.

  33. SansaStark*

    For #1 – I’ve also been approached by another manager on a similar team and instead of the theatrics of venting about current employees or buying me gifts, she just called me into her office and asked what my long-term plans were. After I finished telling her, she just smiled and said that she’d welcome me on her team if I ever wanted to switch because my skills would align with her team’s mission and the job description was better in line with what I ultimately wanted to do. It took awhile, but I did eventually make my way to her team. She was a good boss and really helped me to achieve certain goals I had. In that first conversation, she showed me how it would be a mutually beneficial relationship, which was so much more effective than love-bombing me or manipulating me into thinking that I was the only one who could save her team.

  34. Jennifer*

    #3 Girl, I have been there. You’ve learned a valuable lesson. Only vent in person and in private. You’ve apologized and that’s all you can do.

    1. I'm LW#3*

      A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. – Mark Twain
      One of my fave quotes about learning harsh life lessons.

  35. Blue Eagle*

    #3 – This happened to me. I sent an email to my manager and it was forwarded intact (instead of deleting the parts that were most inflammatory). And then the manager forced me to apologize to the people the email was forwarded to.
    What did that episode teach me? It taught me to not ever trust that particular manager to keep things to themself and to not ever put anything negative about a third party in writing to that manager.
    Sorry that you are facing the same issue.

  36. Uranus Wars*

    I don’t know if this will help OP #3 or not, but I received an email string that included a long string of previous conversation. I was the target of another manager not-so-nice-comments over something that was misunderstanding. I called her, we talked, she apologized and I explained the situation. Until I read this message I hadn’t thought about it again. If anything it helped our relationship because I also realized I needed to be more clear in my initial requests.

    So, hopefully whatever department/manager will take your apology and move on. Bonus if they reflect on where the frustration was coming from and make a better effort next time.

  37. Chinook*

    OP #4, you know your boss best, but she may still surprise you. Family emergencies (when you don’t pull a Klinger from M*A*S*H and have 3 mothers die in 2 years) often lead to leeway from most bosses and coworkers.

    I was once the office manager for a small IT company for someone who turned out to be Awesome Boss (AB). DH’s grandfather had a stroke and was dying in a remote part of Newfoundland and wanted to see him before he died and support his mom when she went. I couldn’t see AB letting me go for a week after being there only a few months in my new full-time role, but I figured I had nothing to lose by asking.

    Turns out he was Awesome* because he believed in putting family first. He literally said “Go and we’ll figure out the paperwork later.” He paid me for the time, even though I offered to take it without pay, and was ok with the fact that I would have no cellphone or computer access for the week.

    Even the harshest, financially minded bosses do have a soft spot for family emergencies. I have seen bosses give unpaid leave for up to 3 months if someone had to travel out of the country to see a suddenly dying parent. Others have juggled someone down to part-time to help with a sick kid. One government boss even let an uncle accrue years’ worth of vacation time instead of applying the policy of not accruing more than a month at a time because the his child had a heart transplant and could need another one in the future (turns out it was never needed and said uncle is enjoying longer vacations now in order to burn it up).

    I have even seen worse case scenario of one coworker losing 3 family members, including a child, in a year. Rather than thinking she was abusing the system, everyone in the company felt extreme sympathy for a horrible year and tried to lighten her load without patronizing her.

  38. I'm just here for the cats*

    #3 thank you for appologizing. as someone who has been on the receiving end of something like that it can make the other person feel a lot better. In my case the others were bullies on a group I worked in. I was new on the team so did not have the full training in all aspects of the department. The others had been there for years, like 5+ years each of them. We were in charge of responding to incoming emails from clients. I could only work on the areas that I were trained in. In a meeting they said I wasn’t pulling my weight, but the manager reminded them that I was only trained in handling 3 areas instead of all 10. If emails were coming in that weren’t what I was trained in there was no way I could take those emails. The specifically mentioned how the day before I didn’t take any emails. I said that department boss had asked me to do a special project so I was focused on that work and that anytime i checked the email box there were no emails ( because they kept taking the ones I could do).

    Later that day there was an IM from one of the other people that was clearly complaining about me saying special project my ***! Then they were like oops that was for X employee we’ve been working with a client that is really frustrating.

    I should have took a screen shot and showed my boss, especially because of the bullying in the meeting. But I was new and just let it go. But I was very cautious around those coworkers. If they had owed up to their mistake andappologized I would have felt a lot better.

  39. boop the first*

    2. I would be really curious to know how someone like Jon, in this instance, is handling this behind the scenes. Would he just quietly panic?

  40. lb*

    Assume anything you put in an email will be accidentally forwarded to your most sensitive, hardest to deal with client. Then only write things you wouldn’t mind them reading. This rule has saved me a lot of heartache and trouble over the course of my career.

    1. Granger*

      and IM! people mindlessly use IM without thinking about the potential consequences! a lesson hard learned by the unlucky.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, I’ve generally been very careful with e-mail, but IM seems so much safer (but it really isn’t!)

  41. Granger*

    OP1 I agree with basically all of the comments here, but I would add that it feels like there is an additional layer of ulterior motive (by the potential boss). Would your changing departments allow her to one-up your current boss in some way – is there any competitiveness or bad blood between them? It feels like you’re a pawn in a game!

  42. Eether Eyether*

    Many years ago, I worked in a large law firm. It was “announced” by HR one day that I would be assigned an add’l atty. He was intensely disliked by many people, including his assistant. But he was not too thrilled with her either. Everyone said, oh this is going to awful, I’m so sorry. I told everyone that I would like to make up my own mind. I did and we worked very well together and became friends outside of work. I was invited to his wedding in California (I was living in Massachusetts at the time) and it was a blast. So, please keep an open mind. However…the gift giving is very weird I have to admit. And, some states require that you report the gifts and it can be considered income, on which you must pay tax. Good luck!

  43. I'm LW#3*

    Hi all, thanks for the comments, and of course thank you Alison! As an update, my forwarder has already reached out to me to see if my issue is resolved and is wanting to bring in even more people to make sure I get help. I appreciate her responsiveness and willing to help me, and she seems like the type who does what I call “carpet bombing” to get a solution – get as many people involved as you can until someone coughs up an answer. So I do think she was truly trying to help, didn’t realize that my email was not great, and is willing to go to bat for me. Which, really, what more can you ask for in a co-worker? I will just watch my language going forward. Appreciate you folks’ time today!

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