my coworker is a Covid denier, we have to critique the work of other job candidates, and more

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

1. My coworker is a Covid denier

I work for a large company (500,000+ employees) in an office job that can be done entirely remotely, and often has full-time remote positions. Our company went exclusively to remote work when Covid-19 hit, and they expect to let us continue to work from home through the end of 2020, for which I’m supremely grateful. In an effort to encourage team bonding, my managers stood up an optional daily Zoom call explicitly without a work-related agenda, so we can chat and continue to connect as a team. This has been especially helpful to help me get to know people because I have changed teams within my company since we went to remote work, so I have not met many of my team members in person, and I enjoy the chit chat.

I have one coworker who is very outspoken about his view that the Covid-19 crisis is overblown, that the virus isn’t as deadly as everyone is saying, and the numbers don’t support the hospitals being out of beds so the hospitals must be lying. I don’t agree, and it makes me angry. My spouse works in the ER of our local hospital, and they are getting absolutely slammed because we are in a part of the country whose Covid rates are highest right now. This coworker is very outspoken about other views on these calls (that I also don’t agree with – think politics and social issues), and I mostly stay silent and ignore him when he goes on these tangents.

Now that the conversation is repeatedly turning to Covid, I don’t know how to handle it. I only reply to him calmly (I can stay on mute and yell if I’m angry), but now twice this week I was reduced to tears and had to leave the call because I just couldn’t listen to him anymore. I understand that my stress about things outside of work are hindering my ability to ignore this guy, but I just can’t sit there and listen to him tell me Covid isn’t real, when after work, I’m looking for somewhere else for my husband to live so he doesn’t get me or my toddler son sick after his 12th day in a row of treating Covid patients. My new coping mechanism is just to leave the call as soon as Covid comes up, but I’m really missing the connection to my other coworkers. I don’t know many of them well enough yet to just call and chat, and this was my main outlet to do so. Do you have any suggestions for how I can get these calls back?

Good lord, why is your manager allowing this? Aside from your coworker’s claims being so wrong, what he’s doing is also disruptive and inflammatory and not in aligned with the purpose of the calls.

Two options: One is to talk to your manager and say, “I’m finding Cecil’s proselytizing about Covid-19 really disruptive and upsetting, especially considering my husband works in the ER, where they’re absolutely slammed with Covid cases. It’s making me drop off the calls when he starts, even though I’d been finding them so helpful and enjoyable before this started. Could we ask people to keep the calls free of this kind of thing? Maybe keep politics out of them entirely?” (I’m incredibly annoyed not to have a better categorization than politics here; this shouldn’t be seen as politics any more than flat-earther’ism should be seen as a legit political stance, but here we are.) Also, if you can get any coworkers to add their voices to yours, all the better.

The second is to speak up in the moment. You might be hesitant to do this because you’re new to the team, but I bet some of your coworkers would be thankful if you spoke up during one of Cecil’s rants and said, “Could we keep politics off these calls?  It’s adding a lot of stress to an already stressful time.” Or even, “My husband works in an ER that’s slammed with Covid cases, and this doesn’t line up at all with what he’s seeing. Can we stick to less divisive topics on these calls?”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. We have to critique the work of other job candidates

I have been a teacher for 15+ years and I’m looking to move up into administration. Within my own district, the process is very simple and streamlined. However, a job I would be a good fit for appeared in a nearby district and I applied before COVID struck. I made it through the first round, which consisted of some tasks to complete and then deliver by a deadline. Yesterday, I got a call from a director interested in me from Other District and he explained that the second round would consist of me and the other candidates (who made the cut) being given a prompt, and then we would present our solution to the issue to … the other candidates! In addition, we were expected to critique the work of the other candidates while a group of “observers” made notes on us. He stated normally he would have us do this in-person but given the COVID situation, we will be doing this Zoom.

I know education (especially K-12) is a odd duck in the world of work, but have you heard from any other educators about something like this?

I can’t speak to whether it’s more common in education, but it’s a terrible practice. Asking you to do present to a group of current staff who then critique you is fine. Asking you to critique a staff member’s presentation is fine. (Assuming both of these relate to the work you’d be doing on the job.) But having you do these things with other candidates is bad for the same reasons that candidate group activities are generally bad: It’s demeaning and the dynamics can get really weird, with people jockeying to stand out, quieter people getting marked down or fearing they’ll be marked down, and the competitive element in general throwing people off — and that’s before we get into how race and gender can play out in this context. And they’re not good simulations of real on-the-job activities anyway. Groups of strangers competing with each other for a job just don’t have the same dynamics as you would with real colleagues.

Unless there’s a specific job-related reason to use other candidates in these exercises rather than existing staff (which I strongly doubt — and “we don’t want to use our staff’s time that way” doesn’t qualify), it’s bad hiring.

3. Should I ask for more vacation time or more money?

Which do you think is the better ask during salary/new job negotiations — more vacation or more money?

I’m anticipating a job offer in the next week or so and know that the salary midrange is within dollars of what I’m making now. At the job I’m leaving, I have 19 days off a year (sick and personal are all in the same bucket), and rarely carry any over.

I mentioned to my partner that I was going to ask for additional vacation time beyond the two standard weeks as part of the new job negotiations. He was taken aback (putting it mildly) and asked why I wouldn’t, instead, ask for more money. His reasoning is that additional vacation is a guaranteed, scheduled increase, but raises are not. i.e. I’ll get an extra week of vacation regardless of performance or the state of the company’s finances, but I”m not guaranteed to get a raise.

Am I looking at this all wrong? Is the better play to ask for more money and wait a year (or three) for more vacation time?

It depends on the amount of money and the amount of vacation time you’re being offered. If one is generous and the other isn’t, it makes sense to want more of the other one. It also depends on which you value more — some people care more about leisure time than they do about earning more money, especially after they’ve hit a certain income level.

I see your partner’s point that in a system where you get X weeks of vacation per year, you can rely on those increases more solidly than you might be able to rely on future raises, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still might value the time off more.

All that said, if you’re in a strong position, I’d think about negotiating for both.

Read an update to this letter here

4. Form letter rejections for internal applications

I’ve been with my current organization for close to a decade. Two years ago, I was a manager at Office A, which is a 10-minute drive from my home. I realized I’m not well suited to management and asked if I could be transferred to a non-supervisory position. I was reassigned to Office B, which is a 40-minute commute when there’s no traffic, closer to an hour when traffic is heavy.

There is now an opening for my same position in Office A and I would love to go back to having a short commute, so I applied. I knew it might be awkward for the current manager to have me there so I was fully prepared not to be chosen, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try.

Today I got a form letter rejection telling me I had not been selected to be interviewed. As I said, I think it’s completely reasonable for the current manager to decide it would be too weird to manage his predecessor. But as a long-time employee of the organization who is otherwise perfectly qualified for the position, I feel really upset that I was rejected with a form email. I’m not mad that I didn’t get the job, but I am angry about the completely impersonal manner of the rejection. Am I being unreasonable? All I expected was a phone call, or even an email that was personalized, acknowledging the unusualness of the situation.

You’re not being unreasonable. Current employees should not be rejected with form letters. That’s especially true of current employees applying to work in the same office they used to work in. It’s weirdly impersonal and the kind of thing that makes people feel bitter and like their company doesn’t really care about them.

That said, it can happen for all kinds of reasons — someone meant to contact you personally and then got sick/went on vacation and someone else handled the rejections, or the person just made a mistake, or they just haven’t had occasion to think through why this rankles. Or they have a badly designed system or, yes, have crappy practices.

To the extent that you can not take it personally, I’d try not to take it personally. It’s annoying but there’s probably much less of a message in there than it feels like.

Read an update to this letter here

5. References who can no longer be contacted

I’ve been casually job hunting and today as I was doing the online application, I was asked to list my current/former manager for the positions on my resume. Current job? No problem. Last two jobs before that? Problem. One boss has died and the other is no longer with that organization. I was asked to list a phone number and email, so for both, I just gave the main switchboard numbers. I doubt calls will be made, but in the future, how do you recommend handling this?

Giving the main switchboard numbers is fine. If a reference checker contacts them, they’ll presumably hear an explanation at that point. But it’s also useful to write “(deceased)” after the name of your manager who died, so they have that info going in.

With the person who’s no longer with the organization where you worked with them, ideally you’d track them down (LinkedIn is often good for this). References don’t stop being usable just because they’ve moved to a new job, and it’s very normal to provide reference-checkers with people’s new contact info after they leave the company where you worked with them. If you don’t have it and can’t find it, then so be it. But definitely try, if they would give you a good reference.

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. Diahann Carroll*

    OP #3 – ask for both. When I was offered my current positions last year, their starting base salary was only $4k more a year than I was already making and vacation time was 10 days to start. I asked for an increase in both, and I received $11k more than the initial base offered and five extra days of vacation, giving me 15 days of vacation leave (that rolls over if unused) in addition to 10 sick days (which also roll over if unused with no accrual cap), 2 paid personal days, and 10 paid holidays.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      The no cap on those rollovers is pretty nice. That will make for a nice payout if/when you leave your current company. Also gotta love getting federal holidays off, you can squeeze in a couple extra 4 day weekends!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The no cap for accruals only applies to sick leave, which, sadly, does not get paid out by my company if unused when you leave. Unused vacation time does get paid out, and while you can roll over any unused time to the next year, there is an accrual cap of, like, 15 days. You have to spend down some of that time if you’re at the limit in order to begin accruing more time the following month.

        But yes, I regularly schedule vacation time around paid holidays so I can save my actual vacation days for the following year. That’s how by the end of the year, I will have taken three weeks of vacation and will still have a week of vacation time left come January 1.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          You are correct that most places don’t pay out accrued unused sick leave in any form, but I am fortunate enough to work for an employer who sort of does.

          One of the very few benefit perqs that state employees still have in our state is a sick-leave conversion option that allows retirees to convert the cash value of their accrued unused sick leave into a fund to cover health insurance premiums during retirement, as long as they’ve worked for the state for at least 15 years. My elder kid’s father-in-law retired after 40-plus years working for the state, and he now has a nest egg equivalent to over $80K to cover his health insurance premiums for the rest of his life.

          For folks who are over about 50 or so, that is a HUGE incentive to stay onboard until retirement. Younger folks don’t get quite as enthused, but for those of us who are “of a certain age,” that is a powerful convincer to keep us in our jobs long enough to earn that benefit.

          1. Quickbeam*

            I have that too! I never called in sick in my 15 years with my state and I have a 10 year full benefit coverage account for both my spouse and myself. They credited it at my highest wage rate.

          2. doreen*

            I ave somehting similar- except that the cash value is converted to a monthly amount using my life expectancy, and it will never run out even if I live longer.

      2. Ana Gram*

        Depends on the state, though. We cap leave payouts at $10,000 (no state law, just the company’s policy) but my brother works in a state where leave must be paid out and got a very nice check when he recently changed jobs.

    2. Beehoppy*

      Did you negotiate for both together, or one and then the other? Would you be comfortable sharing the language you used?

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I negotiated for both at the offer stage. I told the HR rep who contacted me with the offer that the salary was too low since I was about to get a raise from my then-current job that would have been almost at the same number they were giving me – I was going to be doing more work in this position, so that wasn’t acceptable. She said she’d have to get with the hiring manager to find out if she could do that, and then she asked me what base number I could live with, and I told her X + $11k. I then asked if there was a way I could get more vacation time as I had more than 10 days vacation at every other job I’d held for the past five or so years, and she enthusiastically told me that shouldn’t be a problem – they negotiate that all the time for people at my level.

        An hour or so later she sent me the written confirmation that the hiring manager approved my requests and copied him on the email.

        1. Artemesia*

          You don’t get it if you don’t ask and asking for both may also increase the odds of getting at least one of them. ‘We can’t give more money but we can offer you and extra week of vacation’ is better than just accepting the job as is. And if you are lucky and a good negotiator you may do as well as this person who got both.

          1. Clisby*

            Sure. As I’ve told both of my children about applying for jobs, internships, and the like: “They aren’t going to take you out back and shoot you. The worst they can do is say no. And if you don’t ask, the answer is already no.”

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Yup, I learned that lesson the hard way at my last job. I spent so much time going back and forth with these people on salary negotiations that I think I just forgot to ask about increasing my vacation time. Other people I spoke to just assumed the vacation time was set in stone. We got a shock when one of our new hires told us she managed to get five additional days of vacation when they wouldn’t budge on her salary request.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              They won’t shoot you but they can revoke the offer all together. There’s plenty of stories about that. Everyone should be prepared to walk away completely.

              1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

                In my last job search I tried to negotiate both. Not only did they refuse to increase either, but the hiring manager said that asking for more time off and about the work from home policy made it seem like I was more interested in not working there than working there. However, they didn’t revoke the offer, and it was a big jump from my previous salary, so I accepted it as-is. And I still work there five years later. The lack of vacation time continues to be an issue.

    3. TootsNYC*

      vacation days can be easy to ask for.

      I discovered, when hiring someone, that my HR person had already set aside $5,000 and 5 days of vacation to sweeten the pot.

    4. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      I agree. I’ve asked for more money, vacation, and a better title in negotiations and they came close on all three!

  2. many bells down*

    Oof. #4 happened to me too, and it’s so, so hurtful. I felt like my work was really not valued and I had to step back from the organization for a couple months (I was in a volunteer position).

    1. Rake*

      I’ve actually also gotten a really insulting “personalized” rejection as an internal candidate as well. It came months after I had applied and long since forgotten about it and it was so gushy and effusive about how she appreciates all the work my current department does and there were many sting candidates and blah blah blah from a person I hadn’t met before and didn’t interview with.

      Same company different department, I came in on my day off to interview in person with the director and months later after hearing nothing and following up twice I got a form rejection.

      I understand people argue that there’s no good way to reject a candidate but good Lord were these both especially painful.

  3. Not A Manager*

    LW3 – If you can only ask for one, consider asking for the money to start. If raises are calculated as a percent of your existing salary, you want your beginning salary to be as high as possible.

    1. Ping*

      It will also affect:
      Your social security benefits
      The company match on a 401k
      Pension (for those rare places they still exist)

      Make sure you’re calculating the true benefits correctly. Especially when compound interest across 20+ years is entered in.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Ask for what you want most! Yes take into account all the implications of each, but think about what *you’d* actually gain from the raise (finally getting out of debt or more luxuries or having more to save each month?) v the holiday (2 weeks vacation instead of 1 or being able to see more of your family or having a few days each year to relax or do life admin at leisure?). But don’t underestimate the joy of a random day off to relax and do your local touristy things when everyone else is at work :)

    3. JSPA*

      I’d ask for what you could most comfortably live both on and with, if times get tough (sickness, suddenly single, caring for sick relative but none of them at the level of taking family leave), projecting forward for a few years. There’s no point optimizing the theoretical long term payout if you’re going to be burnt out in 18 months. Also little point getting sucked into a job where you don’t make enough to stay, but the vacation and benefits are so good that you can’t bear to leave. For me, that would likely be a modest bump to pay and a bigger bump to vacation, but others would need and want to split it differently.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’ve never seen an office job that let people take unpaid days off just because – only in unique or emergency circumstances – but maybe they exist.

        Me, I’d probably ask for both, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to 10 days of PTO when I’d previously had 18.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I’ve never seen an office job that let people take unpaid days off just because – only in unique or emergency circumstances – but maybe they exist.

          I haven’t seen it either, and equity reasons were usually given for why those types of requests weren’t allowed. If you say yes to letting one person take unpaid vacation, then you’d have to do it for everyone who asks, which gets tricky for a number of reasons.

          1. somanyquestions*

            My government job gives us all 160 hours of unpaid time off every year, and encourages us to use it as a cost saving method. It’s actually pretty nice. I don’t think most people ever use any of it, but I like the option.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Yeah, I would not be in the financial position to ever use something like that, but for the people who are, that’s a nice perk.

          2. Not the Doctor*

            It would make staffing an nightmare, too. We factor days off into our hiring for coverage, and if people take a bunch of extra days, coverage gets thin (and morale gets bad when people think other people are taking more time off than they are allowed to).

        2. le beef*

          Mine does, but we are hourly employees. I can see that being harder to do for salary employees from a timekeeping perspective.

        3. Trina*

          Back in the 80s I joined an organization whose workforce was primarily in Europe but employed a lot of US. citizens there. Pay for U.S. citizens was tied to the GS scale for federal employees (not that good) but benefits were generous -free employee medical, a generous pension, service length severance on retirement, and European-style vacation time. I started the job in late October. The Monday after Thanksgiving , my boss called me in to her office and asked me to schedule my “shopping day”. Every year she gave herself, her secretary and me an off-the -books day in early December to shop; only rule was not to let on to others. (Best boss ever and this was only the start.) By that first Christmas I had accrued enough vacation to be able to visit family at Christmas for a couple of days! After only four years, I had six weeks of vacation which kept accruing and had a hard time using it up. (Spouse had far less!) At one point my unused vacation accrual attracted unwanted attention from above and I was told to take a week off. When I left to raise my child, I had almost twelve weeks of leave that was paid out over a few pay periods.

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      Yes, ideally I would ask for more pay but the ability to purchase additional vacation time. That way your base pay stays as high as possible for raise calculations, but you *can* have extra vacation in years you want it.

      All of that said, I’ve simply never worked at a place that is willing to negotiate time off. I’ve tried at every place I’ve worked, but they all have standard benefits packages that include PTO. They simply don’t have the ability in their systems to give varying vacation time by employee. And this goes for both startups and Fortune 50 companies.
      The only thing I’ve ever been able to negotiate is extra unpaid time off the first year to make up for accrual I’m missing out on by starting late in the year.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ve worked at places where they were really rigid about vacation days for new hires, even for higher-up people.

        I worked at a place that automatically started me at 3 weeks instead of 2 because they knew they’d never recruit someone with more experience for a higher-level position; if my “rank” had been higher, I’d have started at 5 weeks.

        and I’ve worked at a place that automatically set aside $5k and 5 vacay to use as a sweetener in case the new hire wanted to ask for more.

      2. Not the Doctor*

        I have also never worked anywhere that would negotiate PTO either. My current organization gives everyone, regardless of tenure or rank, 4 week/year plus about a dozen paid holidays and no one’s really asked for more. My last employer started everyone at two weeks each of vacation and sick/personal and vacation increased with tenure up to four or five weeks (the downside being that it was nearly impossible to take that amount of time off and meet your billables).

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I have never worked any place that would negotiate vacation either. The closest I came was a place that had a vacation buying program.

          I don’t really agree with lw3’s partner’s seeming assertion that it is a blanket rule that vacation will increase automatically. It really, really depends on the employer and their specific policies. And then it’s another layer on top of that how the negotiated extra vacation interacts with any such automatic increases.

    5. Risha*

      I get the logic, but as someone who is sick more often than the average person, for someone like me additional PTO days can be the difference between a comfortable life, and frequently going to work sick and/or never being able to take an actual vacation. The OP said that she rarely has any time left to roll over, so she’s currently using her full allotment of nearly a full month off. If she’s taking that much just because she has it, then good for her and your advice applies. If she gets sick a lot, halving her days off is a significant lifestyle hit, and potentially a financial one if she ends up having to take unpaid sick time off.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        This. I recently went from a workplace that has 3 weeks vacation but virtually unlimited sick time, to one that has a 4 week PTO bucket, and must be taken in 4 hour increments.

        As a migraine sufferer, its the pits. I can’t just take an hour off to go lay down in a dark room or sleep in a little later the next day (I could flex my time but honestly, the last thing I want to do the day after a bad migraine is work extra hours). And I have to basically save an entire week of ‘vacation’ to the very last second, just in case I get hit with a bad migraine episode late in the year.

        I don’t think I really ever went over a cumulative 5 days of sick time for my migraines, so in theory its equivalent, but the 4 hour chunk requirement burns through it much faster, and the uncertainty of it all is very stressful.

  4. Casper Lives*

    #1 I’m sorry. That sounds aggravating. I’d have trouble not telling him to shut it. Even if it wasn’t a pandemic, someone talking about the same thing every chat can wear on you.

    Do other colleagues say anything (agree or disagree), or is it just you? It sucks, but I’d try to read the room as the newcomer.

    1. Artemesia*

      Nothing would stop me from saying ‘My husband works in the ER and has to watch people die every day from this and we are having him live separately from us to protect me and the kids from COVID. Could we not discuss this during these calls.’

      1. RB*

        This is good too. Please, please say something. This kind of nonsense cannot be allowed to perpetuate, simply because people are being too nice. Someone has to be the first one to say something in a case like this, and you are well positioned to be that person, given your husband’s personal experience.

        1. Ping*

          It’s absolutely necessary to say something. Otherwise OP is at risk of an outburst at a not so good time.
          Don’t let the anger build up!

            1. OP#1*

              Yes I would love to speak up, I just didn’t have confidence I’d be able to keep my cool, so I avoided speaking up! Luckily another coworker came back at him, respectfully asking questions until he admitted he had no data that backed up what he was saying, and they had a decent conversation!

              And yes, the mute button is always a risk! I have a mute on my headphones too to help my chances :-)

      2. Np*

        My partner is a doctor, and is a specialist in an area directly hit by Covid. He wears a mask (and occasionally a full suit) on an extremely regular basis and for long hours. We don’t have children, but the concern for virus transmission is real.

        We’ve isolated ourselves from friendship groups and have limited how much we see our family. All of our interactions outside of each other are with face coverings.

        I work with a Covid denier too, and I find it bloody offensive. I totally get having to be diplomatic about it, but I actually do say “well, that’s not really what my partner’s seeing in his job every day — it’s been quite stressful and hectic”.

        I am SO sorry you’re going through this. Believe me, I have some inkling of what you’re going through. Hang in there and thank you to troopers like your husband who sacrifice so much of their personal life for public service.

        1. Np*

          I am *so* sorry — I should have said thank you to your spouse! I have no idea if it is a husband or not. Massive apologies.

          1. Bluesboy*

            I think you can stop worrying, since the Letter Writer wrote “I’m looking for somewhere else for my husband to live”!

          1. OP#1*

            EXACTLY!!! That’s part of what makes me SO ANGRY! But I’ve been slapped on the wrist before when I’ve been correct about something, but responded to a coworker in a way that came across as “antagonizing,” so I really try to avoid a conversation if I’m not confident I’ll keep my cool.

        2. OP#1*

          Ugh, I’m so sorry you’re going through this too, and thank you for the support! Thankfully, my husband didn’t end up moving out – we had a plan for him to move into a friend’s in-law suite where he could isolate, but decided to avoid that unless started having symptoms or tested positive (which luckily hasn’t happened yet!). Instead, he has a process to strip down and shower when he comes home from work, and so far that’s been ok, in addition to the things you mention – masks and social distance. We haven’t seen our families at all since January because we live a plane ride away, and haven’t thought it wise to get on a plane yet.

          I love that phrasing – “well, that’s not really what my partner’s seeing in his job every day” – and I think that’s very diplomatic! You’re effectively saying, my experience is different than your experience. That’s a big part of where I get tripped up – I often feel like I don’t choose the right words to express myself, and it gets worse when I get angry. I saw you said “I actually do say…” so I hope that has been getting people to lay off for you!

          And thanks again – thank you and your partner for all that you’ve both been putting up with! We’ll get through it sooner or later.

          1. Np*

            Hi! You seem like such a lovely person! So it does help people stop going on about it when I tell them things like that. Unfortunately I can’t say it actually *persuades* them that Covid exists, but at least they’re not subjecting me to a bunch of unscientific denials (which is the best one can hope for). Good luck!

      3. Ellie*

        I strongly agree, if you can hack it.

        I really *really* don’t agree with calling it politics because because that’s giving into reality denial and politicization of facts. Alison’s other scripts seem solid.

        If someone says “I’ll take my chances with COVID over missing time with my friends”, that’s an opinion, albeit one that could be upsetting.

        If someone says “people aren’t dying and hospitals are lying” it’s *wrong* and dangerously so, and OP has a direct witness to evidence supporting the facts (their spouse).

        If they were saying on these calls that “cancer isn’t all that bad” and “most people with cancer don’t even need treatment” would people put up with it?

        1. Ellie*

          To clarify, I don’t think you need to try to show him he’s wrong; just recommending against using the word politics.

          I’m a little stuck on alternatives to “divisive”, though I think that’s better than politics. Upsetting, stressful, fraught?

          1. Junger*

            Creating unnecessary tensions? Likely to sour relationships? Highly controversial?
            Or maybe throw it on work relevancy? They’re clearly soapboxing, and work calls are really not the time and place for that.

            1. Ellie*

              Ah, soap-boxing is the right phrase. Even if it were a low stakes topic like “everyone should take fish oil supplements!” it would be overdone.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Controversial is the best I reckon. Unless you want to go for “flat out wrong”, which would still be completely true.

          2. Ellie*

            Can’t stop thinking about this, apparently.

            I think even if he were talking in the *opposite* direction and over-sharing facts about what’s going (quoting death stats, talking about long term effects, or how stressful this is for hospitals), it would be reasonable to ask him to cool it. It’s an emotional topic that it can be overwhelming even when people are not evangelizing conspiracies.

            “It’s draining to talk about COVID the time”

            1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

              This is an excellent point. COVID is a stressor for everyone. In our case, both my husband and I are high risk. I am 110% informed and we are on the super cautious end of the scale. We’ve been essentially shut in since March and will be until a vaccine of some kind. I’ve crafted us a functional life and we are making the best of it. I don’t need or want a Zoom call that is full of COVID talk in either direction!!

              1. Uranus Wars*

                Oh my this is me. I lived it daily at work (not a healthcare worker, but connected) for the first 3 months it was COVID 10-12 hours a day in the office or via zoom. And then I’d be done with work and get on the phone/facetime/text with friends and they’d want to talk about it, or send me articles on it, and finally I had to put my foot down and say NO MORE ENDLESS COVID TALK AFTER 5pm. My brain was fried.

                I hope your and your husband stay well!

            2. OP#1*

              Draining, controversial, soap-boxing, all accurate! This is exactly the logic I needed!

              I think politics came up because I did mention in the original post that this particular coworker also talks politics in this meeting frequently with a few others. This ranges from tolerable to pretty annoying for me, but a few of them seem to really enjoy it so I didn’t really fight it. Plus it’s much more a combination of history and political theory with a side of current events, so it’s not my personal interest but not as “political” as it could be either.

          3. Quill*

            Yeah, “Divisive” plays into the both sides-ism. Because many of the things we term “divisive” are merely pitting a scientific fact against someone who is bought into a system that denies it, whether financially or emotionally. See: global warming. The earth being round. The fact that human rights belong to all humans, you know, the basics.

          4. paxfelis*

            I’d go with “antagonistic over a sensitive topic”, but I ‘m not sure whether that would be too strong.

        2. Mainely Professional*

          Yes! Alison is always so spot on, I think she must not have realized the implication of calling the coronavirus “politics.”

          1. Ellie Mayhem*

            The letter writer says that this coworker discusses other topics such as politics and social issues. Alison didn’t make the leap to politics – it’s in the letter.

            1. OP#1*

              Yes, politics came up because I did mention in the original post that this particular coworker also talks politics in this meeting frequently with a few others. This ranges from tolerable to pretty annoying for me, but a few of them seem to really enjoy it so I didn’t really fight it. Plus it’s much more a combination of history and political theory with a side of current events, so it’s not my personal interest but not as “political” as it could be either. Not on Alison :-)

        3. lilsheba*

          I wouldn’t be able to be cool about it. I’m sooooo tired of these deniers bleating the same crap all the time. There are some people at my partner’s work that are obviously not taking it seriously because they insist on having big family gatherings and such, and one person got infected. That caused a shut down in work, sending everyone home, and massive overtime for my partner because now 14 people are out because they were in close contact with the infected person. My partner is exhausted from working hard labor in a warehouse for 60 hour weeks, because of these yahoos!

          1. OP#1*

            I’m so sorry this happened to your partner, and to you by extension! I totally agree – this would calm down much faster if we listened to science and the most up to date recommendations for how to stop the spread of the virus. Then we could continue to open more things up intelligently, in a way that would reduce another wave of cases! tl;dr: I agree with your frustration, hang in there!

      4. Pineapple*

        I don’t think that the husband working in an ER is a great counterpoint to the covid-denier because it’s not OP’s direct experience. It’s not like OP is visiting him at work and seeing the patients first hand so it would be very easy for covid-denying co-worker to dismiss it. If OP’s husband (or other close relative) have been sick with covid and OP had cared for them, that would be a better argument, but probably still not convincing to someone like this. I think it’s best to just not engage with this person at all about covid.

        1. Liz*

          I agree with not engaging at all. On ANY subject, the more ammunition you give someone, i.e. trying to explain your point of view or experience, that allows the other person to keep going at it. But if you don’t say anything, they’ve got nothing to work with.

          That being said, i’d be incredibly frustrated and upset too if I had to listen to that every call. I have family members, one who lives in a hot spot, who think its no big deal at all, politically motivated, blah blah blah. Um ok, sure. you just keep thinking that. I live in an area that was hard hit, early on, and is now better. I just try and talk about something else when they bring it up.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I disagree, I think ‘My husband works at the local hospital and he’s overwhelmed with COVID patients’ would be highly effective.
          1) You don’t even have to say the ‘are you calling my husband a liar’ part.
          2) It’s a subtle call to authority on two levels (a male & a doctor) that often affects… certain demographics… on an subconscious level.

          I’ll bet $1000 that a woman stating her first person experience is less effective with this co-worker than her second person description of a male doctor’s experience. I just hope he’s not anyone’s supervisor.

          1. Pineapple*

            This person is already convinced that the hospitals are lying. I doubt that secondhand information from a person who works in a hospital is going to make any difference, regardless of gender.

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              There are other people listening, though. Sometimes the point of speaking up is not to convince a person with ridiculous views; it’s to demonstrate to all that such views are not universal or, indeed, okay.

              It’s not right that this obligation should fall on OP, who’s already dealing with a lot…but if she can handle it, I personally believe it’s worth doing.

              1. Quill*

                Considering that no one else has told Conspiracy Clive to shut it, my assumption is that there are a lot of people behaving similarly to OP, but with perhaps a few more degrees of separation.

              2. Artemesia*

                exactly — when people don’t stand up to evil those who are on the fence are. more likely to be swayed by it. I have a niece who is an ER doc. She goes to work like a Martian with hazmat and full helmet and she has watched a lot of people die of COVID or be sent to IU to be intubated where most die. She comes home to her young family and strips in the garage and showers before entering the main part of the house. People like the soapboxing co-worker are one of the reason this is not under control.

              3. OP#1*

                Thanks – you’re absolutely right, others are listening too! Turns out another coworker disagreed with him too, and one day (a few days after I submitted this question), she came back at him with some questions about why he believed the things he did. He didn’t have many good explanations, and a few of the rest of us supported by sending some CDC data and some news articles about local hospitals (which, at the time, were running out of hospital beds). I don’t know that we changed his mind necessarily, but he had a hard time continuing on his soap box when we kept contradicting him! :-)

            2. yala*

              Even if it doesn’t stop Awful Coworker from believing his conspiracy theory, it does kind of make it harder for him to keep going (not impossible, but harder), because if OP points out that her husband works at a hospital and has direct experience that contradicts Awful Coworker’s claims, well, he might not believe her, but now saying as much would implicitly be calling OP’s husband either a fool or a liar. Which, granted, might not stop him, but MIGHT give management even more incentive to step in, since it’s “personal.”

              Maybe. I don’t know. They have no logic.
              …I’m still in a foul mood b/c my mom and I got into an argument about it last night. Apparently, the CDC had to “admit” that “only 6000 people died from COVID” because anyone who had an underlying condition “doesn’t count.” Here, look at this article from two economists and a social scientist using Wacky Math to explain how the lockdown is more deadly than the virus in “Life Years” (a thing we calculated specifically to come to this conclusion, by quantifying the worth of a human life etc etc). Oh, you pointed out flaws in my conspiracies? Well, you go your way, believing ~doctors.~ I’m going to believe these trolling alt-right websites.

              I really feel for OP. It’s awful when it’s someone you have to be civil to. Fortunately, Coworker is not a parent, so she’s got a little more room to push back. But she definitely should mention it to management. Even if they don’t agree that it’s a Real Thing, they could at least acknowledge that talking about it in such detail is against the spirit of the chats, and probably painful to OP.

              1. Not the Doctor*

                I am blown away by the “underlying conditions don’t count” thing! Many, many 80s/90s AIDS deaths were directly caused by pneumonia, but AIDS was what made it deadly. There is a reason that death certificates have primary and secondary/contributing cause of death options.

                I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this; I cannot imagine how frustrating that is. I was terrified my mom would be the the same way, but she’s got pretty bad asthma and read one of the articles about what COVID does to the lungs and decided she was not willing to take the risk that it wasn’t a conspiracy.

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  As an analyst I understand why they did this analysis. We’re learning about covid and one of the things we need to know is how deadly it is to people who *don’t* have underlying conditions.
                  Assigning $ value to a human life, though… that’s just wrong.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  This is so frustrating on so many levels. My husband is a Type II diabetic and I have some heart issues. On our own, we’re likely to boot along for several more years if we pay attention to things like our weight, activity levels, and diet.

                  One of us gets COVID and our chances of mortality go way, way up due to aforementioned diabetes/heart issues.


                  People twisting themselves up to believe the most bollocks nonsense conspiracy theories because they’d prefer to flush their brains down the toilet and believe any old made-up statistic that bolsters their need for life to return to normal and them not be inconvenienced any more.

                  I don’t like this either. I’m cool with WFH on a more limited basis, like maybe Tuesdays and Thursdays…not the “seven days a week because I essentially live at work like everyone else and what else am I going to do but work” half-life I’ve been in since March.

                  I’m sick of not being able to get all dressed up and go to a fancy expensive dinner and people watch like I did in The Before Times. I’m sick of wearing a mask in public, I’m sick of hand sanitizing the daylights out of myself every time I touch something in public, I’m sick of tensing up when I hear someone have a coughing fit in public, I’m sick of being fearful when someone gets within six feet or less of me in public. I’m sick of not being able to put on my nice business clothes and my pretty lipstick and drive my cool car to work (even with my garbage 3ish hour RT commute in The Before Times®)…then engage with other adults in a fulfilling, enjoyable job.

                  Being sick of all those things doesn’t mean that I’m watching a few videos of dubious provenance on YouTube and then hailing myself an epidemiologist/virologist/infectious disease expert and giving people bad, stupid information so I can pretend like the pandemic isn’t happening and probably will continue happening due to jackwagons doing JUST THAT.

                  Sorry for the rant. I don’t know where I’m going with it. All I know is there’s a hella nasty virus going around that can and does kill people in large swathes, particularly people that have pre-existing conditions that – in a non-COVID world – might shorten our lives in the long run but not as drastically as it can shorten them should we get it.

                  I’m just tired of all this, and I’m truly tired of truly stupid people who are just dragging the whole situation out interminably because they’ve decided they’re done with it all. (Don’t get me started on the Muh Rights and Muh Freedumbs Crowd, good lordt.)

            3. Tidewater 4-1009*

              OP1, if you do address this with the colleague, be prepared for him to try to fight it. He might get personal or yell, or try to manipulate you.
              If he gets antagonistic it might lead to the boss finally shutting him down, though.
              I would look for a way to address him that doesn’t give him an opening for debate. Maybe something like, “My husband works in an ER and we know it’s real and people are dying.” Then keep quiet no matter what he does, and let him show what a jerk he is.

                1. OP#1*

                  This was a good call! We probably should have given our boss a heads up, although a coworker started back at him with questions on why he believed what he did, and he was surprisingly reasonable. (I didn’t know she was going to start it but I supported the conversation where I could) I don’t know that we changed his mind, but he had a hard time coming up with more arguments when we kept contradicting him with data and news articles about local hospitals.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            If he persisted after being told this, I’d make the “you are calling my husband a liar” explicit.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I don’t think it’s a great counterpoint because I’ve yet to see it make a dent in COVID deniers’ logic. I have friends who work in healthcare and are seeing it up close and, so far, no accounts from them have done much to change the minds of any of the determined deniers among their family and acquaintances.

          So, I appreciate the impulse to try, but I suspect it will just add up to more frustration on the part of the OP.

          1. MarsJenkar*

            Maybe, but as others have noted, the soapboxing coworker is not the only one that might need convincing here. And if one person stands up to the coworker, others may follow. It may not convince the coworker, but it may get him to stop talking about it, which I would consider an acceptable outcome.

      5. kt*

        I have said more or less this, as my spouse also is a doctor who works with some COVID patients. We are not living separately because of our life circumstances (not least that I’m pretty sure I already had it), but it’s one of the primary reasons I’m not returning to my office in person — I don’t want to be the link in a chain of infection and I know I’m more exposed than many.

        I don’t see a problem saying, “My spouse is working in the ER and is completely slammed; we have significant worries about our family and safety. I cannot listen to this on work calls. Please change the subject.” Take out the please the second time. Lose your sh&* the third time. Stop worrying quite so much about staying professional — this guy sure isn’t! I’m not saying “be unprofessional” and I’m definitely not saying it’s worth even 15 seconds of trying to change his mind — but if you need to bring out some emotional force to get him to shut up, DO IT without shame. Others on the call will thank you and support you.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          “Stop worrying quite so much about staying professional – this guy sure isn’t!”

          YES. He’s the one who created this situation, not you.

          I am 100% done being nice to people like this.

          1. OP#1*

            Yes, thank you!! I so agree, and I’d love to just tell him off, because you’re right – he’s the one that made things uncomfortable. I was worried though, I’ve been slapped on the wrist before when I’ve been correct about something work-related, but responded to a coworker in a way that came across as “antagonizing,” so I really try to avoid a conversation if I’m not confident I’ll keep my cool. Thankfully another coworker spoke up with questions about why he thought the way he did, and I provided her some back up!

      6. TootsNYC*

        I actually might ask my husband to join me on one of those calls to talk about whatever it is he CAN talk about. He can’t name names, but he can talk about the affect on the body, on the hospital, on his colleagues. He can talk about why it seems so invisible to people outside (HIPAA, closed doors, private fights).

        Having the situation in your own town humanized like that might shut Carl up.
        Also know that there are other people who just don’t want to listen to him but they also don’t want the drama. Speaking up about “not wanting to listen to this again” or “not wanting to discuss such highly charged topics” might actually get people to murmur behind you.

        (don’t frame it as politics; it’s a highly charged topic. I wouldn’t want to hear from someone who was constantly talking about how COVID-19 was a danger. )

      7. Gazebo Slayer*

        YES. Say something blunt and direct.

        Your boss should fire this shitbag. Someone who is that out of touch with reality is going to have terrible judgment in other ways. There are millions of better people out of work.

        1. OP#1*

          Yes, that would be lovely! He’s… not the most competent employee in my opinion, but usually he’s not quite so aggravating.

          After my coworker started to go back at him with questions, he wasn’t able to defend his position (unsurprisingly), which was very satisfying! :-) After that day, someone went to our bosses to say that they were upset by all the covid denial talk, so the bosses established some ground rules that they sent out to the team soon after. The basically amounted to 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus.

          Now we talk mostly about gardening, movies, and our kids, and it’s glorious!

          1. Mama Bear*

            So you know you have at least one person who agrees with you. If he brings it up again, remind him that he abused the freedom to speak, so he can’t talk about that anymore. I’m glad it got better.

    2. Delta of Venus*

      In a world where the only thing all countries and peoples agree on is the size of batteries, I can’t see how a global conspiracy could ever get off the ground.

      It’s unfortunate that OP #1’s coworker, in being blinded by their own death anxieties, has lost concern and compassion for others – for those who are ill, for those who have lost loved ones, and for colleagues who do not agree with them or be upset by their rantings.

      I’m appalled that no one is shutting them down.

      1. Courtney*

        Honestly such a great quote, ‘In a world where the only thing all countries and peoples agree on is the size of batteries, I can’t see how a global conspiracy could ever get off the ground. ‘
        I am using this for myself, if you’re ok with that

          1. Quill*

            I need it in the movie announcer voice today, please.

            In a WORLD where the ONLY THING all countries and peoples agree on is the size of batteries, I can’t see how a GLOBAL CONSPIRACY could ever get off the ground.

      2. Junger*

        Well that’s obviously because THEY run all the governments! And THEY are obviously an Evil Hivemind bent on destroying me/us/the world/*insert random powerful group you identify with*

        1. Important Moi*

          And yet I have no answers. I am friends with someone who has FINALLY conceded Covid is a big deal. The only thing I have been able to do contact them because I talking to them is so upsetting. I will be watching the comments for suggestions today

        2. Not the Doctor*

          I feel like anyone who buys into conspiracy theories has not worked on enough group projects. The level of coordination and secrecy required for a well-coordinated and substantially-sized conspiracy is beyond the grasp of most large groups.

      3. JB*

        aaandnd now there’s coffee all over me, the desk, and the monitor. I did really need the laugh, so I guess it’s ok.

        and +1000 to all of it!

    3. Mrs Pteranodon*

      LW1, my husband is also an ER physician who has spent the majority of the last five months sleeping in our guest bedroom to keep us away from germ sharing and I also have a coworker who believes “they” are making the numbers up in order to control us. You are not alone! If you can, please speak up. I assure you, your coworkers who do not agree with him will be very grateful for your honesty on the situation. Good luck.

    4. OP#1*

      Thank you! I agree – I would so like to tell him to shut it, but I have trouble doing so in a professional way, especially when something is personal like this. I’ve been slapped on the wrist before when I’ve been correct about something, but responded to a coworker in a way that came across as “antagonizing,” so I really try to avoid a conversation if I’m not confident I’ll keep my cool.

      I knew some of my other coworkers didn’t agree but also don’t typically engage him; to my knowledge, I was the one most personally affected at the time. Luckily, a few days after I submitted this question, another coworker lost patience with him and started asking questions about why he thinks the way he does. She kept everything very respectful, but basically slowly helped him pick apart his lack of understanding of what was happening. (I did not tell her I wrote to Alison, or even that I was bothered by what he was saying, but she and I had talked about covid and the state of the world so she knew what I thought about that). She started replying to him right as he started off that day, so I didn’t drop off the call, and it was hilarious to hear him try to explain why he didn’t have data for the opinions he was spouting, and the data we did find conflicted with what he was saying. At one point, she explicitly brought me into the conversation by literally asking, “isn’t your husband a doctor? What is he seeing?” So I told him, and sent the links to the CDC data and local articles about the hospitals in town. He was willing to have a conversation about it, and backed down after a while, so I’ll take that as a win!

    5. Mama Bear*

      OP 1, please speak up. You have as much right as he does. I’d keep it direct and simple. Your spouse works in the ER and COVID is a genuine concern. Blowhards get to keep talking because people are too polite to speak up, but they aren’t polite enough to shut up. Also, you might want some understanding when you need to be flying solo with your kid. Let your team know your situation – my spouse works long shifts in the ER, they are getting slammed with COVID cases, you are handling the home by yourself b/c he doesn’t want to infect the family. You don’t mention if other coworkers agree with him, so it may be a relief to all of them that you spoke up and you may find more support than you realized.

  5. Went back into classroom to escape this*

    Letter writer #2: I have been subjected to similarly awful interviews in my attempt to move up into administration – not the exact same, but similar enough for me to immediately think “Run!” Kooky interviews liked this end up taking a toll on YOU, and if you get hired here, you’ll be stuck right in the midst of poor administrators.

    Did I mention you should run?

    1. Cody's Dad*

      This is insane! As a school admistrtaror at the building level in several different districts I’ve NEVER had to perform such a task! At best, if it’s during the school year you may be asked to observe a class and provide feedback to an administrator on what you saw in terms of strengths and weaknesses, provide an entry plan, or write a family friendly letter to highlight your beliefs and philosophy (that is not shared unless hired).

      Interviewing is supposed to be confidential so word doesn’t leak you are looking to make a change, not parade you around amongst the competition. I’ve interviewed in some districts where you enter one door and exit another so you can’t even see who the next candidate is coming in after you.

      Best advice, proceed with caution. Can you find out if this is just a wildly bizarre requirement or are there other red flags at this school/district? See what you can learn about the principal/superintendent. Good luck!

      1. OP#2*

        Hello there! Thank you for answering my question!

        So, I ended up doing the “immersive and dynamic interview” (as the Director called it) and it was very odd. I did not feel it at all grasped the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. It started out with an “icebreaker” question–everyone received a different one. Then, we had to present our solution to the problem that was emailed to us ahead of time. Then, we critiqued each other’s presentations. Then, one of the observers asked each of us a question (very generic), and finally, we were given a “brain teaser” to solve as a group.

        It was weird and not genuine at all. I mean, I don’t know how anyone was able to get a grasp of a candidate’s knowledge and skill sets from this…but hey. I feel like I had an interesting experience.

        The update is…I made it into the final round after this one but did not get the offer. And honestly, I’m good with that.

        I’m glad this was seen as “not normal” because I’ve been a part of hiring teachers and administrators in my district and we do not do anything remotely like this!

    2. Hats Are Great*

      I managed administrator hiring at a school district for 5 years, we did nothing like this, ever, and honestly I don’t know if our legal counsel would have let something like that fly.

  6. Casper Lives*

    #5 I had this problem! I worked for a small local business in high school. Then the business was sold to new owners who didn’t know anything about me. I had my old boss’s cell phone, but didn’t feel comfortable giving it out. I’m thinking my college student jobs didn’t do any reference calls.

    1. JJ*

      Former companies are not references, your former manager (or someone who can speak to your work with some authority) are the references.

      1. AP*

        The LW doesn’t actually mention references. She says “I was asked to list my current/former manager for the positions on my resume.”

        Most job application forms I’ve seen have a place to list all your old jobs and their relevant attributes: name of company, start and end date, address, manager, reason for leaving, etc.

        In my experience the list of companies on the application is different than one’s references. The former is often filled out before the first interview while the latter is requested at a later stage in the process.

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, I feel this is a situation where you give them exactly what they’re asking for, not what you guess they want. Maybe they want references, but what they actually asked for was the manager for each position.

          It’s possible they’ll get mad if “your reference” isn’t taking calls, but the kind of people/company who will get mad about that will also be mad if you don’t follow instructions when you fill in someone who wasn’t your manager.

        2. Partly Cloudy*

          Yep, and I’ve put former managers’ names knowing they’ve since left, because 1) they were my manager, it’s factual info and 2) what if I didn’t know they had left? The application is asking for facts and I’m completing it to the best of my knowledge. References are totally different and free-form.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You did yourself a disservice by not just asking the former manager permission to give their personal number.

      Others reading this, don’t repeat this mistake.

      Everyone I’ve managed has my cell and everyone should be giving it out for references even 10 years from now if they need it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        yeah, whenever I’ve asked someone to be a reference I’ve tried to get a personal e-mail or phone number because … folks leave.

  7. Ms Frizzle*

    OP2: In my district, it’s pretty common for admin or coaching candidates to do school walkthroughs and share glows and next steps from the classrooms they visited. And I was in an interview for a leadership cohort where we were given a dilemma and worked as a pair to present a solution to the people running the program (but we weren’t in direct competition, there weren’t a limited number of spots). I’ve never heard of critiquing other candidates.

    Very early on I had to do group activities at an interview. I wish I’d seen it then as the red flag it turned out to be!

  8. Anxious cat servant*

    For LW 1, one option is to just look straight at him and ask, in a scary calm voice, “are you calling my husband a liar?” That gives you a moment to breath and then, in the same scary-calm voice, tell him the facts you deal with every day. End with something like, “so I’d thank you to stop denigrating the work my husband does and the reality he faces on a daily basis.” Considering his other beliefs, it’s an easy bet that he’s a chauvinist so use that to your advantage and frame it as him attacking the honor of another man. It’s stupid but effective. And it will be awkward as hell for a bit but no where near as uncomfortable as he’s making it.

    I did that nearly verbatim (though substitute friend for husband) and while it didn’t immediately shut the jerk up, that line about calling my friend a liar was the death stroke. The aftermath was just rising up.

    Or go to your manager and keep your hands clean. If you do that then you’ve got a lot more restraint than me at this point.

    1. Jane*

      I like this. Turn those frames on him :). I imagine it would burn the relationship, however – having his honor directly challenged by a woman in a work context won’t sit well.

      If it were me I’m not sure I’d care, though.

      1. RollerGirl09*

        But why should women care about hurting a man’s fee fees? If their masculinity is so fragile that they can’t handle a dressing down by a female colleague, this is a teammate not a superior, then that is their problem. Women stay quiet too often to avoid upsetting men.

      2. Quill*

        I mean, as long as he’s not a supervisor… she’s showing leadership! :)

        (Better that than gumption.)

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I LOVE this!

      LW1, I heartily second Anxious cat servant’s suggestion. If you decide to do this, please let us know what happens!

    3. BRR*

      I get what you’re saying but I don’t like this approach. I don’t agree with arguing a global pandemic from primarily a personal perspective.

      1. Double A*

        When facts don’t matter because a certain group chooses “alternate” (ie fake) facts, then emotional appeals are the ONLY thing that might work. And they frankly won’t work, but they might get his attention and hopefully embarrass him enough to shut him up.

    4. Treebeardette*

      That’s not a good response though I I’m sure everyone would like to say it. It’s weirdly aggressive and can make things worse. A simple, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And change of subject will be good.

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      Yes, just interject at a suitable moment and say ”I realise I’m a newbie, but I do have a husband who works in the ER and his daily reality is very different from what you are suggesting. In the interests of not implying he and his colleagues are liars, can we have less of the Covid talk? Each to their own, but I’m really not enjoying this often-repeated line of conversation, thanks so much for understanding!”.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Along similar lines, start with the general ‘you’ – “My husband’s experience is _____ . When people say they don’t believe it’s a big deal, that they don’t believe the numbers my husband and his coworkers are seeing up close right now, it sounds like they’re calling my husband and other front line medical workers liars. I find it unbelievable and, frankly, callous that people would be so distrusting of the very people who would work tirelessly to save their lives if they unfortunately got sick enough to require hospital care.”

        And move to the specific ‘you’ if needed. Maybe repeat specific phrases he’s said along with “I’m sure you can understand why that’s hard for me to hear, and anyone who has lost a loved one to covid would find it hard to hear too, especially at work. I’d appreciate it if we could turn the discussion to something else.”

        1. OP#1*

          I love this phrasing – “I’m sure you can understand why that’s hard for me to hear.” Part of why I didn’t want to speak up was that I couldn’t find the words to shut down the conversation, but respectfully!

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      This was my first instinct, but… it’s a nuclear bomb. I think trying a warning shot first would be helpful, like the above mentioned “My husband is a doctor at X and is overwhelmed with COVID patients” with a “I have to deal with COVID all the time at home, can we not talk about it here?”

      The “are you calling my husband / me liars?” is clearly implied but you give him a chance to save face. I’m assuming (heteronormatively, sorry!) that OP’s female; the nuclear option could backfire on her pretty hard.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        We don’t know that the husband is a doctor. He might be a nurse, respiratory tech, porter, radiographer, security guard or admin etc. Doctors are not the only staff in ER.

    7. OP#1*

      Oh my goodness I wish I had the self-control/self-assuredness to pull that off, and I wish I could have witnessed you do it!! Thankfully, another coworker started asking questions that he had no answers to, so she and I piped up with some data and news articles to help him understand. She has a lot more restraint than I do -which was exactly why I didn’t want to speak up – once I would get going, I would have told him EXACTLY what I thought! I don’t know that we changed his mind, but we got him to stop talking about it. A few days later, the managers sent out new ground rules for this call, that basically amounted to 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus. So far it’s working!

      Also, you’re not wrong about his chauvinist tendencies, but thankfully, I’m able to show him up more calmly about work topics (less personal and anger-inducing for me). I’m a level more senior than him within the same job class, and I’ve been doing our work much longer than he has, so I’m right, often. He’ll argue with my suggestions but not typically with anyone else’s. It would be irritating except I’m almost always right in this context, and so he backs down when the other guys* back me up. :-)

      *Yes, guys, I’m on a male-dominated team in a male-dominated field. You get used to it.

  9. Ghosted Internal Applicant*

    LW 4,

    I’ve applied for two internal roles at my company. Both of which I was told I was highly qualified for and one I got an interview for. They never followed up on the first role (total radio silence) and they completed ghosted me after the interview on the second. And I’m still getting mass emails from HR that they want more internal applicants for the job I interviewed for.

    Yes, I may not have fit the role for whatever reason, and it may not be your solution, but I’m looking for a new company. I shouldn’t be ghosted twice after being encouraged to apply and interviewed.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Slightly different circumstances as I was on a fixed term contract, but I applied for an acting supervisor role at my last company. I interviewed and went through an assessment exercise and was repeatedly promised feedback after I didn’t get the role. That never happened and then my contract ended. That same company is now desperate for staff but I won’t be applying to work for them anytime soon.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Twice? That’s some messed-up HR, where the right hand doesn’t bother finding out what the left hand is doing.

    2. Cheesehead*

      I’d like you to respond to one of those mass emails from HR, asking them to please take you off the list for these emails, or tell them that if they really want to encourage workers to keep applying for internal roles, then maybe they shouldn’t ghost internal applicants and should treat them like valuable employees and actually give them some feedback if they’re not selected. Word gets around, and if people know it’s likely that the company is just going to leave them hanging, then why bother?

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        OTOH, why do HR’s job for them? If OP gives them feedback they might go through the motions, but may not fix the real problems.

  10. Folks*

    Alison, I don’t know if you’ve done editing of the first letter but I just want to throw out there that LW #1 mentions their “spouse” and refers to them as “they” in their letter, but your response jumps to “husband” and “he.” I know we’re not supposed to nitpick words and I know you often write your responses as if the LWs and their bosses are female, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a male partner, especially if the LW may have used gender neutral language for a reason other than just trying to make their letter generic. (That may not be the case here, or if it’s a situation of inconsistent editing, my bad, but I thought it worth pointing out.)

    1. Millicent*

      In the last paragraph of the OP’s letter, the OP does say “I’m looking for somewhere else for my husband to live” and continues to refer to the spouse as he.

      It’s a little confusing because like you noticed, earlier in the letter the OP uses spouse and they.

  11. Ghosted*

    LW4, I’m so sorry. A couple of years ago, I also applied for an internal position on a team that I worked semi-closely with. I never heard anything further until I was in a meeting three months later and met a new gentleman in a meeting. When he introduced himself, I realized he had be hired for that same role a couple of weeks prior.

    I can’t even remember what the meeting was about. I was just so upset that nobody had the decency to tell me I wasn’t selected.

    It worked out for me, though— I got promoted within my department with a higher salary than that position.

  12. Tommie Hagen*

    LW 4 – You’re lucky you received any notice at all. It’s no big deal to receive a form letter albeit internally. Don’t take it personally.

    1. MK*

      Also, it might be awkwardness on the hiring manager’s part. Especially if they were promoted from within the team the OP used to manage; imagine having to reject your former boss for a position they already hold in another office. Alternatively, if they came onboard after the OP left, is it possible they didn’t realise the connection?

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, my guess would be supreme awkwardness on the hiring manager’s part. I wouldn’t be surprised if they talked with someone about it who said, just send the same letter you send to everyone else, it’s not a big deal.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        It might not be awkwardness; whenever I’ve applied for internal positions, all applicants received the same form rejection from the ADP applicant tracking system. Sometimes it’s just the way things are set up.

    2. JustKnope*

      For an internal position, “you’re lucky you received any notice at all” isn’t true. Internal applicants should never be ghosted and that’s way more rare than for outside candidates.

      1. Allonge*

        It should not happen, but it will for all kinds of reasons – as Alison says.

        I really don’t see any of these being personal to the applicant though – it’s either the sysstem, the hiring manager being awkward or sonethign like that.

        And of course there is the perennial issue that practically nobody is ever happy with the rejection, and the methhod for rejection is usually an easy target. I can easily see someone else saying “oh, but did they have to call me to rub it in? Why not just send the automatic form?”

        1. doreen*

          Yes, no matter what method is used, someone will be unhappy. I would have preferred a letter/email, even if it was a form letter, to the phone calls I actually got to tell me someone else was chosen for a promotion. Not because of any sort of “rubbing it in” factor, but just because 1) it was so awkward 2) I had to mange emotions in real time.

  13. Bubbles*

    LW 2:

    Don’t continue. That district is a mess. If this is how they hire, you don’t want to be a product of what comes out of those types of interviews. My district is next to impossible to get into as an administrator unless you were a teacher in the district, and it’s next to impossible to be hired on as a teacher if you weren’t a student-teacher here. We would never do this type of interview process. And we are known in my state for being ultra-competitive as a group. Our founding superintendent believed that competition fires improvement and passion, so literally everything is a competition here (even our graduation ceremonies get graded by the district and admin can get future jobs based on how well their site pulls off some of those types of events). But when it comes down to it, we are a single district and we do not put down other competitors. Winning with grace, losing with dignity.

  14. dgs*

    LW 1:
    The “advice” you were given is quite bananas. DO NOT say that insane line about what your husband seeing in the ER doesn’t match your coworker’s statements. All that will do is encourage him. People like that are worse than a dog with a bone.

    Also, you are a grown-up and you need to use your words. “Cecil, stop talking about this topic, please. It’s not appropriate for this chat.” If he insists, tell him that you will continue the conversation only with an HR representative present, then change the subject. Who cares if he likes you afterwards? This man is an actual, literal murderer. Don’t be shy.

    Also, your manager is terrible.

    1. Random IT person on the internet*

      I don`t know – the attack on his ‘masculinity’ (questioning the honor of another man) might work.
      But then, if this is the type of person who refuses a mask as it is ‘the work of satan’ 0r goes to starbucks with a virtual armory because ‘it`s his right’ – nothing short of a formal warning by HR may help :(

      1. Leila*

        I’m gonna guess that if OP is female-identified, which seems to be the case, he may actually be less likely to comply- and for me, that’s what I’d aim for. Push him into showing his whole entire ass and then point.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, but that’s where borrowing the husband’s authority is so effective. Sucks, but it works.

      2. Forrest*

        Anything that involves “an attack on his masculinity” is getting into confrontation that has no place in the workplace, and which is very likely to make the working environment unpleasant and stressful for OP.

        Escalating obnoxious stuff like this is such a high risk tactic: yeah, you might get a super satisfying smackdown that shuts up the bully forever, but it’s at least equally likely that you’ll inadvertently give them the platform to grandstand and spread even more of it, or get drawn into an ongoing conflict that is brutally energy-sapping and stressful. It is much better to set the expectation that this isn’t an appropriate topic for the workplace chat, and to ask your manager to support you in that if necessary.

        1. Leila*

          You’re right; I meant it more in the “give him enough rope to hang himself” sense than in the “goad him into exploding sense,” my bad.

          1. Forrest*

            sorry, re-reading that sounds a bit firmer than I’d meant it! It was partly a response to you but also more generally informed by the “have a massive confrontation and banish him forever” advice upthread.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Poking the bees nest as it were. There’s a few times where it is possible to get a ‘I am man hear me’ person to back down but it’s best to trust your own instincts as to whether you’re just going to end up ‘covered in bees!’ if you encounter a wild WellActually

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Someone who refers to masks as “the mark of Satan” and goes to Starbucks heavily armed is probably an entirely lost cause. Fire, ostracize, cut out of decent society.

    2. WS*

      Some people like that are worse than a dog with a bone. Others genuinely think that everyone agrees with them. LW1 will have a better idea of which kind Cecil might be – if he’s the kind to fight to the end, talk to the manager. If he’s the kind who just never gets challenged and makes assumptions, address him directly.

    3. Batgirl*

      I agree that you shouldn’t get down into this as a debate (rhetorical questions etc) more than necrssary; it isn’t a debate. Also OP, a newcomer, doesn’t need to be the voice of reason or enlightenment. She should just ask for the topic to stop.

    4. BRR*

      Yeah you really can’t argue with this type of person. I’d go with stronger language than “it’s not appropriate for work chat” though. Maybe something like “we’re not going to debate facts” and then change the subject. I would imagine the lw likely has going for them that there are probably a good number of people who don’t want to discuss Covid during a social call.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I don’t think anything controversial is ever good for work chat. Doesn’t matter if it’s political. Could be other things too.

        1. Double A*

          I think you don’t even need to lean on the fact that it’s controversial — it’s just a difficult topic! Death isn’t controversial, and yet talking about it incessantly in a work setting isn’t appropriate. Any “heavy” topic isn’t really appropriate to dwell on in this kind of setting.

      2. LQ*

        The problem is that if you go with “we’re not going to debate facts” you’re throwing out a position (they literally don’t believe in facts at all, or in the factual facts if they believe it is possible for facts to exist). It’s painful but really the only way to shut this person up in my experience is “This is not appropriate for work.” Over and over and over.
        (In my – very gross – experience, it helps if a Man does this.)

    5. Ellie*

      Like the direct “not appropriate for this chat”; my husband often uses this similar phrasing to great effect. Medical discussions and long discussions of stressful current events should really be limited to co-workers you are close to and know are comfortable with that topic.

      Can be hard if the LW is new or junior though.

      I think “my husband works in an ER and this is an upsetting topic” might be an OK balance between giving him something to argue against and making a reasonable personal appeal, but it still might be better reserved for the organizer rather than this guy.

      1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        I wouldn’t use ‘upsetting’ because that can cause people with toxic attitudes to label you in a sticky manner, perhaps something like ‘stressful,’ e.g. “my husband works in an ER and this topic is very stressful for me.” Other than that, I like this approach a lot.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          or ‘and I deal with this all the time at home.’ It is important to follow up with
          1) Call to action
          2) Example of the action
          ie: ‘Can we not talk about COVID here? How about your gardens?’

        2. Ellie*

          Yeah, I agree — i was trying to come up with another term, but leaving it off altogether might be better

    6. JSPA*

      That has not been my experience. I’m temporarily (and for far longer than expected) in a much redder state than usual, and one where the virus hit late. Some level of Covid minimizing has been the social average here. Plenty of people have pulled up short and gone quiet when I say, “my brother was in that part of New York. They had to sleep with the windows closed for weeks, because the ambulence sirens never stopped, day or night.” It matters that it’s first person testimony, not “I read it in my media, which is real, and yours is fake.”

      Are there some out and out loons? Of course–on every topic. But given OP’s situation, which seems more in line, geographically, with my own, there are still people on the “been loudly wrong for a while, but not unable to hear first person testimony” side of the divide.

      Also, what’s the worst that can happen? OP is already reduced to tears. If OP politely states a fact, and coworker goes off on her, coworker, not OP, is that much closer to firing.

      Manager has nothing to manage, definitively and forcefully, until manager is aware of the situation (and if manager is minimizing themselves or absenting themselves to allow peer bonding, may legitimately not be fully aware of the situation, without being a crap manager). OP is doing a good deed, by giving manager something to work with.

      1. kt*

        This is a good comment. Many people are ignorant. Many people are kind-of jerks. Fewer will get in your face in a work call and directly call you a liar, and it will not go down well with the crowd.

        I agree that LW #1 should try just stating her experience — “My husband works in the ER. He’s slammed, and the toll of seeing such sick people is rippling through our family. I don’t want to talk about this topic here. Please stop it.” She can mention it to manager as well, and also reach out to a colleague who might be able to back her up: “Hi Jasper — I know we don’t know each other very well yet, but I was hoping you might be able to help me out. Blowhard keeps talking about COVID in our calls. My husband is an ER doc and is dealing with very sick COVID patients; we’re looking for another place for him to live so that I and our kid won’t be at such high risk. I’m going to ask Blowhard to stop discussing the topic in work calls. I don’t need him to empathize, understand, or agree, but I need these calls to stop being so upsetting. When I ask him to stop, could you back me up by just saying, ‘Hey, Blowhard. Mary asked you to stop — thanks,’ if he brings it up again?”

        1. I Love Llamas*

          I think that kt has a great strategy — I was going to suggest something similiar. Enlist another coworker if possible so you have an ally in this. Confrontation isn’t easy, but if he is making you so upset you are in tears, than he needs to stop. This isn’t appropriate and I am sure you are not alone in wishing he would shut up. Good luck!

      1. JSPA*

        If this is about mental health, and the easy use of “bananas” and “insane,”

        a) a lot of people won’t even make the connection (specifically, if they live in places and strata of society where it’s been decades since those words would ever be used to refer to actual mental illness). This is not to say, “it’s fine.” Just, “it’s potentially opaque.”

        b) as fashions in talking about mental illness vary by region, class, culture, ethnicity etc etc, it’s hard to land on a wording that means “this is so far outside the norm of acceptable discourse that I question your judgement at a core level” without landing on words that someone, somewhere, in the past or present, has used or is using to describe mental illness.

        c) mental function, like all other physical traits, lies on not only “a” continuum, but multiple continua–at the level of genetic and epigenetic risk factors, as well as precipitating external triggers. At some point, we’re going to have to come to terms with the idea that some people are usually controllably “a little OCD” for the exact same reasons that other people are medically, diagnosably OCD; some people are usually controllably “a little paranoid” for the exact same reasons that other people are medically, diagnosably suffering from Paranoid Personality Disorder, and so forth. I’m not 100% convinced it serves any of us well to insist that people on one side of a line have a disease, and people on the other side are…A-holes, and 100% responsible for being A-holes. There’s a lot to be said for dealing with people as they are, not based on the box they’re currently assigned to.

        1. yala*

          “At some point, we’re going to have to come to terms with the idea that some people are usually controllably “a little OCD” …etc”

          Also, no. We “came to terms” with people casually calling themselves OCD when they weren’t ages ago. Turns out…not actually helpful and it, in fact, does NOT serve disabled people at all. Having your actual ADHD taken seriously is pretty hard when “everyone can be a little ADHD sometimes.” Same with OCD. Same with Depression, Anxiety, etc etc. And it certainly doesn’t help that it creates a colloquial understanding of what those things are that doesn’t match up with the actual condition, but makes it seem like Not A Big Deal (see all the “Good time to be OCD” type memes at the beginning of the covid crisis, re: hand washing).

          At some point, we need to STOP using actual medical diagnosis of non-neurotypicality as shorthand for “I’m kind of wacky sometimes.” And it’s not unreasonable to express that expectation either.

          Not sure where anyone would get the idea that someone without OCD who just Likes Things A Certain Way is an A-hole.

          Dealing with people as they are is great, but you listen to most neurodiverse folks, and we’re like…please ACKNOWLEDGE the “box we’re currently assigned to.” We had to fight really hard to get that box, which comes with helpful methods and accommodations, and we keep having to deal with people who think it’s empowering for them to pretend we DON’T have a box. “Dealing with people as they are” includes that box.

          And anyway, nothing about Allison’s advice was “so far outside the norm of acceptable discourse.”

    7. Jennifer Thneed*

      > This man is an actual, literal murderer.

      Exaggeration is a useful rhetorical technique, and is also useful in comedy. But he is not actually a murderer. Cops who shoot people are actually murderers. This guy is a just a big-time jackass.

    8. OP#1*

      You’re absolutely right, I needed to speak up, and ideally focusing on getting the conversation to stop, not on changing his mind. I was hesitant to speak up because I’ve been slapped on the wrist before when I’ve been correct about something, but responded to a coworker in a way that came across as “antagonizing,” so I really try to avoid a conversation if I’m not confident I’ll keep my cool. And this is WAY personal for me, so I was not at all confident I wouldn’t just unleash EXACTLY how I felt, which I wouldn’t have wanted to do in front of HR.

      Thankfully another coworker respectfully spoke up with questions about why he thought the way he did, and I provided her some back up! I don’t think we changed his mind, but he backed down when we kept contradicting him with actual data and news articles about local hospitals.

      Our manager is usually pretty good, and she and the other manager often have conflicts during this call, so I’m not sure whether they were even aware to what extent this was happening or were on the calls when it happened. However, someone must have said something after that conversations, since they sent out some ground rules for that call a few days after my coworker engaged with him. The basically amounted to 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus. So far, so good!

  15. Ethel Mertz*

    Re #4:
    I not only got a “form” rejection letter (on my birthday, no less) but it was sent by the person who got the position. She and the person supervising the new position were people I considered friends. Not only that, her workstation and his office were literally a dozen steps away from mine. He could have given me a verbal head’s up that I didn’t get it, and certainly could have had someone else he managed send the letter. This was a government job and according to the civil service rules, he should have told me in person anyway.

    1. Artemesia*

      That suggests he was a bad choice for the job IMHO. I once interviewed for an internal position and the peer who was chosen called me to let me know she was accepting it — never did hear from the actual hiring manager. I had actually not really wanted the job but felt I should step up and apply since so many other people thought I should do it (stupid, but there it was) so I was not upset, relieved really, at not getting it. But I really appreciated my peer and it left no bad feelings between us at all. Alas the job itself to head a new initiative turned out to be covered with bees as I had feared and she was unable to accomplish anything and so I was even happier to have avoided that mess. But yeah — the peer should have told you in person.

  16. Rexish*

    #4 We had similar happen. 3 of us had applied for a different position in the same department. We were all sent a form letter. I got the job but 2 colleagues didn’t. The boss called all of us after hours to apologise. She had wanted to reject/offer the job face to face and then send the form letters. Unfortunately, she was unaware that once you click “selection has been made” it automatically sends the letters.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That’s a horrible system! Offer the option “send form to all” sure, but let people know it’s going to happen!
      Just a checklist even, something like “…if you have contacted some applicants personally, check those names here.”

    2. LizardOfOdds*

      Yes, this!! As a hiring manager, sometimes I don’t know when “the system” has a rule set up to take a particular action, because HR/recruiting software is notoriously bad. Because I’ve been burned so many times, I know to handle most of the hiring discussions outside of the system I’m supposed to be using, but a lot of managers (especially new managers) don’t know that until a candidate says, “umm, wtf?” either to me or the recruiter.

  17. Np*

    My partner is a doctor, and is a specialist in an area directly hit by Covid. He wears a mask (and occasionally a full suit) on an extremely regular basis and for long hours. We don’t have children, but the concern for virus transmission is real.

    We’ve isolated ourselves from friendship groups and have limited how much we see our family. All of our interactions outside of each other are with face coverings.

    I work with a Covid denier too, and I find it bloody offensive. I totally get having to be diplomatic about it, but I actually do say “well, that’s not really what my partner’s seeing in his job every day — it’s been quite stressful and hectic”.

    I am SO sorry you’re going through this. Believe me, I have some inkling of what you’re going through. Hang in there and thank you to troopers like your husband who sacrifice so much of their personal life for public service.

  18. cncx*

    RE OP5, i have a job for a branch office of a major law firm that has since closed. For my references and also for people who could think i’m lying (because it isn’t google-able any more) i put something like
    Llama Groomer, Llamas and More LLC, Tashkent: referees now located in Kansas City and Dusseldorf

  19. Beth Jacobs*

    # 3 You’ll know better once you see the offer, but I’d add that while salary can be negotiated anywhere but in government, PTO can sometimes be set in stone at large orgs.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Which is why you ask for both – if PTO is set in stone with this particular company, they’d tell you that. No one should just assume a company isn’t going to budge on that because you could be leaving vacation days on the table if they, like my current and former company, do in fact negotiate time off.

  20. Leila*


    NOT normal.

    NOT standard.

    NOT necessary.

    NOT a good sign, run like hell!

    10 years in education

  21. Green great dragon*

    #1 – have you said outright that it’s true in your husband’s ER? What does he say?? I can understand, to some extent, people thinking it’s somewhat exaggerated (I don’t *agree*, and there’s no excuse for not taking basic precautions). But it’s a whole new level to disbelieve someone who knows the facts directly from their spouse.

    1. OP#1*

      I hadn’t wanted to bring it up because I wasn’t confident I’d keep my cool and be respectful. Thankfully, a few days after I sent this letter, another coworker respectfully spoke up with questions about why he thought the way he did, and I provided her some back up! I don’t think we changed his mind, but he backed down when we kept contradicting him with actual data and news articles about local hospitals.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer*

    My eternal love and support to LW1. I’ve lost loved ones to this virus and the one time someone told me to my face that it was all fake, that it’s not dangerous, that nobody old had died from it I lost it. Breakdown level lost it.

    While we can’t (sadly) stop this kind of ridiculous denial in the general outside world, there’s no place for it at work. It’s the height of revolting behaviour to say to someone who is suffering that they’re wrong, that their experiences are false.

    I’d be tempted to use the tone of voice and commands I use on my cat when he’s knocking lego Star Wars sets onto the floor:


    Followed by “seriously, stop this. You know better than then to say/do that here”

    (Squirting with water pistol optional. If someone can figure out how to do that over IP they’ll make a fortune…).

    Definitely look to others to help make this stop. I’m willing to bet there may be others on the calls who have had loved ones affected by this virus and are silently grinding their teeth every time this guy talks.
    Look after yourself and your family, and tell yourself frequently that you’re much, much wiser than that tosser at work.

    1. Bing Bang Bong*

      I’m sorry for your loss. I am so angry about the whole thing. Went to a medical appt yesterday and ran into a group of people refusing to wear masks and yelling about how COVID is fake, and I wanted to throttle them. I lost a friend to it (he was only in his late thirties) and get so upset when people say it’s fake. I wish it was fake, because then I’d have my friend back.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Love and hugs to you too mate, I wish this was all a lie and my friends were still alive too :(

        (Both were in their early 40s, really healthy, ate well, exercised, all that. God this hurts)

        1. OP#1*

          I’m so so sorry to both of you – I’m thinking of you and your friends, and sending virtual hugs! And thank you for the support – this is all so tough.

          (silver lining: maybe I can get work to buy us webcams with water pistols attached? I’d probably have to invent it first…)

  23. Jennifer*

    RE: Covid denier

    I’d just stop joining the call since it’s optional. If someone asked, I’d explain why. It’s just not worth the stress right now and it’s not your job to educate him. You can always reach out to the coworkers you like throughout the day without being on the call.

    1. Important Moi*

      She wants to get to know her other coworkers. This seems to be the only method that has been offered by her job. Do you have any other suggestions for her? I’m not trying to be aggressive. I wouldn’t get on the call and be OK with it. What if she feels differently?

      1. Important Moi*

        I didn’t see the entirety of your comment. I am looking at this on my phone. The screen is way too small.

        How about some Scripts for the letter writer to use with the other coworkers?

      2. Jennifer*

        I offered a suggestion in my comment. Reaching out to coworkers outside of the meeting. If they have slack or some other way to message each other throughout the day, she can just send quick messages, “How was your weekend?” “Did you finish watching that tv show?”

        It sounds like she’s not really getting to know her coworkers because this guy is dominating the call. He seems like the type to double down and talk about his freedoms if someone tries to challenge him, so why bother? Management seems to feel the same since they aren’t doing anything. She doesn’t need the added stress. It sounds like the calls are really upsetting.

        I think if she stops joining, others may follow her lead, which may actually prompt change. I also think sometimes we have to focus less on how things should be and more on how they actually are and work within those parameters. Yes, she should be able to join this call without listening to ignorant nonsense, but that’s not her situation right now.

      3. Mockingjay*

        I’m not sure the situation warrants a daily call, though. In addition to the scripts offered here to deal with Obnoxious Co-irker, perhaps OP #1 could opt out of some of the calls. Or suggest to her manager that weekly instead of daily might suffice, especially since it’s not work-related.

        “Hey, guys, I won’t be dialing into tomorrow; got to get the Teapot production report finished. I’ll catch you later in the week!”

    2. yala*

      “You can always reach out to the coworkers you like throughout the day without being on the call.”

      I mean. You *can* but that feels kind of awkward and weird. There’s already a designated “social mixer” as it were. OP’s the newbie. Just texting individual people (she doesn’t know well) to chat? That seems…uncomfortable. Possibly on both ends. Could make her seem a little out of step with the culture, if this is how folks are doing it.

      She doesn’t have to educate him to just say, to him or to the higher ups “hey, can we not have covid (conspiracy) talk on our fun social call please?”

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t mean texting personal cell phones. I meant instant messaging, assuming the company uses slack or some other program they can use to do that. I say hello and make chit chat with people using instant messaging all the time and don’t see how it’s awkward and weird at all. It’s more weird in my opinion to declare that all social chit chat can only take place during this designated zoom call.

        I just think if the higher ups cared they would have done something about this already, since this person’s behavior is s outrageous. A lot of people were suggesting comebacks she can use with this guy which I don’t think would be very productive.

        1. yala*

          I guess if it doesn’t seem awkward to you, I can’t make you understand how that sounds just *muscle clenchingly* awkward to me. I don’t really see how instant messaging near strangers, even if they are coworkers, to chat sounds at all comfortable. I’d never do it, and I’d be pretty weirded out, potentially even annoyed, if a coworker started doing it to me out of nowhere.

          You say this person’s behavior is outrageous, and yes, it is, but we’re at frog-in-a-boiler state now, and as outrageous as their behavior is, it’s also kind of accepted as the norm to the point that management might just figure so long as no one says anything, they don’t need to step in.

          There’s definitely a mischaracterization in framing these as “comebacks.” Some of them are, but most are simple requests that this conversation NOT go in a certain direction. The longer no one says anything, the more accepted and normalized it gets.

          To me, it seems much more reasonable to FIRST reach out to her boss and say “I’m uncomfortable with this conversation topic for these reasons. Do you think we could try to shut that down and keep things light in our social chats” before “Hey, individual person (who is probably working right now because it’s not designated social time), how’s it going!”

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I get really annoyed by IM’s throughout the day to “chit-chat” even with people I like. Its so distracting and we have time set aside for it. I am a little less clenchy during COVID and WFH because I know people are struggling for connection.

            I also agree with your point that it can’t just go on to the point where it either 1) divides the team because people start opting out and forming sub groups or 2) OP becomes the only one that hops off and then becomes the annoying new co-worker who can’t be bothered with the daily stand up but can bother everyone while they are trying to do other work or 3) guy just goes on and on and on and everyone is annoyed but no one bothers because they think silence=agreement/acceptance

            1. yala*

              Man, I didn’t even think about that, but you’re right. If it starts involving sub groups, etc, then it kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing, and sort of lends itself towards cliques.

              But yeah, I’ve got a couple friends, one in particular, who will IM me every now and again to say hi.
              If I respond at all, I can look forward to messages at random intervals for the next hour+

              Unlike being physically around someone, there’s no way to be like “whups, I gotta go do the thing.” Because hey, you can just respond when you get a chance, right? Isn’t this great?

          2. Jennifer*

            I don’t mean annoying people with 50 messages a day. I don’t see how a “good morning, hope you had a nice weekend?” is awkward. The point of the social zoom is to get people more comfortable with each other.

          3. Jennifer*

            Also – do we really need a designated time to say good morning to people? I mean besides morning, lol

            This is reminding me of the “good morning wars” that happen every time someone writes in about being annoyed by having to say good morning to their coworkers.

            1. yala*

              If that’s all you’re doing then it doesn’t seem like it really fills the space that would be left for OP by not participating in the actual chat. Our team shot each other a collective “good morning” each day we were WFH. It…really didn’t do much.

              If it’s just a quick “good morning, hope you had a nice weekend” then it’s not really going to do much for chatting. Unless it turns INTO a chat, which then goes back to my initial problem.

              Doing this over distance isn’t the same as doing it in the office where you see people, say good morning, if you want to chat you do, etc etc. You don’t have those cues over IMs. So the result I’m familiar with is generally…people keep IMing throughout the day, unless you straight up stop responding, which is rude.

              1. Jennifer*

                I always just say I’m slammed right now but I’ll catch up with you later. You don’t have to just ignore them.

                1. yala*

                  Well, see, the Good Thing About Texting is…oh, you can’t reply right away? Cool, reply to this when you get to it. And this. (ten minutes later) This too.

                  And, I mean, at the end of the day, your “solution” still doesn’t solve OP’s problem. She wants to be a part of the group chat, which is a wildly different animal than one-on-one texting .

                  It’s really weird, to me, that your FIRST step in solving the problem of “this one specific dude keeps Going Off in our group and it’s uncomfortable” would be “then leave the group” and now “ask if we can Keep Things Light” even if you don’t want to get into COVID arguments.
                  Leaving the group hurts OP. She’s new enough that randomly (to others) switching to one-on-one IMs could seem like she’s out of touch with the norms. And again, whether or not you’re comfortable with them, they are very different methods of communicating/socializing, and it’s not unreasonable or “insane” for OP to maybe try a solution that lets her still have that without having to deal with conspiracy theories.

  24. Bluesboy*

    #3 Can you give us more information about what you mean by “His reasoning is that additional vacation is a guaranteed, scheduled increase, but raises are not. i.e. I’ll get an extra week of vacation regardless of performance or the state of the company’s finances, but I”m not guaranteed to get a raise.”?

    I mean, say you have ten days holiday a year, but after two years it becomes twenty and that’s it (just hypothetical).

    I think there’s a strong chance that if you negotiate, say, an extra 5 days of holiday a year, that after two years there they will just move you to 20 days like everyone else. After all, it’s still an increase, and you can’t really negotiate that you have to have more days than all your other colleagues!

    The same could apply to your salary if you were already close to the top of the range – we’ve heard stories of people negotiating higher salaries only to find out that by being at the top of the range, they can’t ever get a raise.

    Obviously, negotiate for what you value most. But do consider whether there is a cap on holidays that would annul the benefit you negotiated in time. Also consider, as someone mentioned above, consider that salary negotiations now also have an impact on future increases which come as percentages. (If you can push your salary up from $50k to $60k, even just a 2% raise means an extra $1000 a year in the first case, but an extra $1200 a year in the second, on top of the original negotiated increase). They can also have an impact if your next job is in a company which insists on basing their offer on your current salary…

    1. Mockingjay*

      I wish I had negotiated for more leave. My company is generous with salary, but I really need more time off. I’m at that stage of life when most of my leave is used for eldercare or spousal care. It would be nice to have an extra week for an actual vacation. My company offers PTO – sick and vacay lumped together. It’s a good but not great amount and increases by a day or so each year.

      All that is to say: consider what leave you need and what leave you want.

      1. Mockingjay*

        (As to why I didn’t ask for more leave: at the time what the company was offering seemed sufficient; then health issues cropped up among the family as soon as I started. I did negotiate for salary, which I received.)

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          As to why I didn’t ask for more leave: at the time what the company was offering seemed sufficient; then health issues cropped up among the family as soon as I started.

          This was almost identical to what happened to me at my last employer (only the health issues that suddenly cropped up were mine).

    2. ChinacatSun76*

      OP for letter #3 reporting in! My partner’s reasoning is exactly as you stated. e.g. years 1-3 are two weeks vacation, years 4-6 are three weeks, years 7+ are four weeks, etc. (Those are hypothetical numbers, but hopefully you get the idea.)

      I think you make a good point here: “…do consider whether there is a cap on holidays that would annul the benefit you negotiated in time.” as well as capping out on the negotiated benefit at some future point when I max out vacation time.

      My only problem is that I really DO use all 19 days I have right now. I like my time off. I had a medical scare last year and used everything I had plus borrowed a few days against what I’d get at my anniversary. I’m still in treatment and using 2-3 full days per year for appointments. Additionally, my extended family is close and enjoys trips each summer for 5-10 days, so, of the two weeks I am anticipating, at least half are already used up. I also have an adult child who lives in an other state. Maybe the vacation is more of a short term desire than a long term plan, but as someone said, it’s a quality of life thing.

  25. TimeTravl_R*

    My employer has a rule that all internal candidates for a position get an interview. I think it’s a very good rule. It builds goodwill, people feel valued, etc. It doesn’t take that much extra time to offer that. And providing only a form letter rejection??? Out of the question!!

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I agree that internal should get something more personalized than a form letter. Not sure about interviewing all internal applicants, though. I think this was in a thread a couple of weeks ago – if we did that for the last position we posted I would have conducted something like 25 interviews for people who did not meet the qualifications of the position. As it was we did interview 2 internal, the only 2 who met the qualifications (one qualification was a clinical degree)…as a large employer we have some employees who apply for every.single.posting.

  26. Sher-Bert*

    In one job on my husband’s resume, he had to put deceased for his supervisor. So then he added someone above the supervisor that people could contact. They THAT guy died. We just quit adding names for contacts on that job… it was kind of freaking us out!

  27. me*

    OP #1: I am in almost the same situation: moved to a new department (in a fortune 10 company), never met coworkers in person, we have 2-30 minute “social calls” per week, where everyone is anti mask – going on vacations (to florida!) not qurantineing when they come back. when I’ve tried to speak up about masks, social distancing, traveling im met with an argument or dead silence by the broader team. I asked and found out the meetings were “voluntary” (but actually expected to be there) – but since they are technically voluntary i stopped going. Sure it may look bad not going, but it’s worse if I go.

  28. Ethyl*

    Came here to say this! It sounds like this is something the online application system is asking for and that actual references who know your work are either provided later or in a different place in the online application.

    I’ve run into it a lot and just do what the LW did — general switchboard number and if they ask for an email, try to find a general mailbox one. I guess I can understand asking for a general number in case they want to spot check that you’re not lying on your resume, but it’s weird they ask for your manager’s email and phone. I have zero idea if my manager from three jobs ago is even still there, for pete’s sake!

  29. JSPA*

    #2; I can see one rationale being, “dropped into a group of candidates who may not respect standard social norms while in an interview setting is the closest we can get, to dropping you into a classroom of students.” I’m somewhat accepting of that; the level of composure and follow-through and professionalism and doggedness needed to teach a class are a different level and different sort from those of a normal interview.

    Another probably is, “we’re used to judging not what students try to show us, but students’ actual skills” (which, studies say, is pretty hit-or-miss and culturally biased and gender biased). That part, as Alison notes, is problematic from the get-go. In fact, it’s more, not less problematic when people believe they are better than average at doing so.

    If they’re looking for people to be collaborative, compassionate and helpful, it could still work (and if they recently let go of someone who failed completely at those things, while looking great on a standard interview, that’s a third motivation for this). If they’re looking for something very different–“command” or “dominance” or “zing” or “superstar quality” or whatever–you didn’t want that job, anyway.

  30. Workfromhome*

    #3 Its important to understand the company vacation policy before making your choice between looking for salary or vacation. Some companies (far to many in my experience) dole out increased vacation based on years with the company. You start out with 2 weeks get 3 weeks after 5 4 weeks after 10 and 5 weeks after 15. This is a huge issue for people who come into the company later in their career. If you are say 50 and don’t negotiate extra vacation coming in you are stuck with only 2 weeks until age 55 and likely never reach 15 because you retire.

    You can get a raise after one year or a promotion resulting in a raise. BUT many companies are very stingy with extra vacation time. Because its not the norm they need to jump through a bunch of hoops and get high level approval to circumvent the normal vacation process. Its much more normal to give raises so easier to get them either yearly or even off cycle.

    I went though this when they changed my position and bonus structure. I proved I would lose $ due to the changed bonus structure and that the amount I lost would be at least equivalent to a weeks vacation so just give me the extra weeks vacation. It was met with huge opposition since it would require VP approval etc etc. When I said fine just give me an off cycle raise to make up the difference it was approved within days because its something that didn’t need approvals. If it was in the budget and justified then they do it.

    Getting more vacation is usually (YMMV) much harder to come by once you start the job than before you start the job and much harder to come by than a raise.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I really wish I’d negotiated for more PTO when I took my current job. My previous company was bought so I needed another job ASAP and really didn’t have the time or savings to be super picky. While I ended up with a very slightly higher salary, I lose two weeks of PTO. But since I was thrilled to get the salary I got (last company paid very well compared to others within the industry and location), I didn’t push for more PTO. I now realize I should have since that’s what’s important to me nowadays. I now have to either get promoted to a higher pay grade (very likely won’t happen given my position as a manager already) or stay for at least five years to get another week.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Getting more vacation is usually (YMMV) much harder to come by once you start the job than before you start the job and much harder to come by than a raise.

      This bears repeating.

    3. ChinacatSun76*

      OP for #3 here–that is EXACTLY what I was thinking. A raise, while super nice, is almost a given (especially at this point in my career). In 20+ years of professional work, I’ve never NOT gotten at least a 3% and sometimes it’s been as high as 12%. I’ve never, ever been offered additional vacation.

      Being accustomed to both the 19 days I have now PLUS two weeks of company shut down, truly equals 29 days which is more than I’d have off at a company I’d been with for 10-15 years. I know my current time off is generous, and wouldn’t ask for the same at a new job, but going from 29 days to 10 will be rough. If I can avoid it, I’d like to.

  31. HB*

    OP 1: I am so incensed on your behalf I skipped the other questions/answers just to comment on yours.

    What your coworker is doing is BANANACRACKERS but it’s even more bananacrackers that it has been allowed to continue. I would be spending the entire call thinking of things to say to this asshole ranging from “My husband works for the ER and he says they’re slammed. Are you calling him a liar? I see him come home exhausted, worn out, and emotionally drained. Am I liar too?” to just a simple “Fuck you and the stupid willfully ignorant horse you rode in on.”

    Neither of which would be terribly productive so uhhh… best talk to your manager. I’ll be hoping you give us a pleasant update (both that your coworker was shut down and shut down hard, and that your family remains healthy).

    Also if when you speak to your manager they push back at all, I would remind him that the odds are good that someone on the call has a relative or friend who has, or will get sick from COVID and possibly die.

    1. OP#1*

      Thank you! I agree – I would so like to tell him to shut it, but I have trouble doing so in a professional way, especially when something is personal like this. I’ve been slapped on the wrist before when I’ve been correct about something, but responded to a coworker in a way that came across as “antagonizing,” so I really try to avoid a conversation if I’m not confident I’ll keep my cool. And I’m absolutely sure I would NOT be able to keep my cool, because those same things have been running through my head every time he opens his mouth.

      Except BANANACRACKERS – that’s all you and I love it!

      Update: Luckily, a few days after I submitted this question, another coworker lost patience with him and started asking questions about why he thinks the way he does. She kept everything very respectful, but basically slowly helped him pick apart his lack of understanding of what was happening. (I did not tell her I wrote to Alison, or even that I was bothered by what he was saying, but she and I had talked about covid and the state of the world so she knew what I thought about that). She started replying to him right as he started off that day, so I didn’t drop off the call, and it was hilarious to hear him try to explain why he didn’t have data for the opinions he was spouting, and the data we did find conflicted with what he was saying. At one point, she explicitly brought me into the conversation by literally asking, “isn’t your husband a doctor? What is he seeing?” So I told him, calmly, and sent the links to the CDC data and local articles about the hospitals in town. He was willing to have a conversation about it, and backed down after a while, so I’ll take that as a win!

  32. Hazel Eyes*

    OP1 – I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I have a VERY similar coworker. We have a hybrid working method right now and my coworker refuses to work remotely (when he does he thinks it should be counted as a day off, even though I mostly work remote and am always on the phone with him doing work???). When I go to his office with a mask on, he tells me his office is a “mask-free zone.” I just ignore it and ask whatever my question is.

    I’m 27 and he’s about 50. He tries to tell me a lot that “young people who do get Covid are fine,” which really pisses me off. At one point I told him that my boyfriend (who I live with) has extremely bad asthma to the point where if he gets it he’ll end up in a hospital. And then he stopped. It’s true, but also not the complete reason I wear a mask – I do it to protect ALL others around me.

    Oh, should I also mention that we WORK AT A HOSPITAL? Non-medical and not around patients, but still. I feel you, OP.

    1. RSD*

      I work at a hospital in allied health and nearly all of my coworkers that I spend enough time around to have to hear their opinions on it (medical & allied health) are essentially COVID-19 deniers. They won’t come out and say that they think it’s a conspiracy, but they will talk loudly about how they don’t think masking or social distancing is necessary/should be mandatory at work and they’re still going out for all the same social activities that they did before, so… The medical field is honestly full of people that don’t actually believe in science (I know more anti-vaxxers at work than anywhere else!), which has been a horrifying realization.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        I am now even more terrified for our work than I was when I woke up this morning. And I was plenty worried then.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        My specialist doctor saw me for an office appointment sans mask in April, as our whole state was melting down from COVID-19. He is in his mid 60s and works with a high COVID-19 risk patient population. I was so stunned, I didn’t ask why no mask.

        His front desk help had no masks, but were being a sliding glass window.

        Nor everyone in healthcare believes COVID-19 is real. Some think the hospitals are padding the bills by labeling everything COVID-19.

        As for OP, I wouldn’t bother telling Mr. Denier about you life. He doesn’t care. I have family members like this. Your explanation is a jumping off point for his next tirade.

        Ask for the topic not to be brought up, as it’s poor form in a office workplace setting. Death, dying, suffering and bodily functions aren’t casual coversation topics in my book. The goal is to have him shut up about it, not to make him a believer.

        1. Artemesia*

          Well that is depressing. We have avoided non essential medical appointments but my husband must have an eye appointment every six weeks to preserve what little vision he has left and that office not only had everyone masked and provided medical grade masks to the patient but only allowed you to arrive, alone, at precisely the time of your appointment whisked you immediately into an exam room so there is no waiting in the outer office (this is a place we have routinely sat for two hours between procedures in the past).

          My Internists office screens patients by phone the day ahead for symptoms, then allows you to only allow within 10 minutes of the appointment, provides medical grade masks and the doctor is gowned, masked and wears a face shield over the mask. I am stunned that there are medical facilities which allow people to be maskless and ‘don’t believe’ in science. Yikes.

      3. jlily*

        The CDC originally said do NOT wear masks, and there is no “science” that shows that staying 6 feet away from people prevents the spread of the virus. So many people who are calling out people that “don’t believe in science” seem to lack an understanding of how science works. There is no undisputed “science.” Science is a method of study. We only really determine scientific facts after amassing a large body of work, peer reviewed and disputed time and time again, with the same conclusive results. The problem with what we are doing now is that it is all in essence experimental. It’s possible that Public Health professionals are doing their best, and it’s also possible that we are effing up royally. It has to be ok to question the reaction to COVID19 without being labeled a trump-loving sociopath. It’s not that simple.

        1. virago*

          “We only really determine scientific facts after amassing a large body of work, peer reviewed and disputed time and time again, with the same conclusive results.”

          Please excuse me, because I’m going to do a little shouting.

          This disease is called the “novel coronavirus” for a reason, and the reason is that it’s been around only since JANUARY. Recommendations on how to prevent, respond to and treat it are being adjusted as we learn more about it.

          My state HAD (knock wood) been doing a pretty good job at flattening the curve until about a month ago.

          That’s when a newlywed couple held an indoor wedding reception that has since been linked to our state’s biggest COVID outbreak: 134 COVID infections and one death. The total of cases includes:

          66 cases 240 miles away, at a county jail where a wedding guest works.

          12 cases 110 miles away, at a nursing home where a staff member became infected by a close contact of a wedding guest.

          5 cases 230 miles away, at the church where the clergyman who performed the ceremony is pastor.

          State public health investigators determined that the wedding reception exceeded indoor gathering limits and none of the guests wore masks. (I have not heard whether or not the pastor was wearing a mask.)

          I’m not a scientist, but I don’t feel like I have to await the results of a longitudinal study to conclude that this outbreak might have been prevented if wedding guests had been wearing masks.

        2. RSD*

          First, my statement that the medical field if full of people that don’t believe in science is not based only on the reaction to COVID-19– there’s also the anti-vax element, the parties held for the sole purpose of peddling all the things essential oils can cure that have no scientific basis, the general refusal to accept “what They say” about how different disease processes work, the staunch belief in bogus cancer cures… At least at the level of allied health and nursing, it has honestly been my experience that medical professionals are just as likely as the average bear to believe in anti-science conspiracy.

          Second– sure, “6 feet is the magic number” is flimsy, but “reduced social contact reduces the transmission of diseases that are primarily spread from person-to-person” is not. If someone’s response to “we don’t know the distance that makes the most impact just yet, but avoiding unnecessary social contact decreases transmission rates based on basic established fundamentals about how diseases spread” is “well if we don’t know the exact number then I’m not going to change literally anything so I’m going to keep attending crowded parties every weekend,” then I have no qualms about saying that person doesn’t believe in science.

          Having questions and acknowledging that we don’t have all the facts is fine. Ignoring all preliminary evidence, evolutions in the situation, and basic fucking common sense when people’s lives are on the line, especially as health care professionals, is not.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          When it comes to protecting the lives of others, yes, it is that simple.

          Wear masks. Wash hands. Distance yourself. Every time you do that you’re protecting yourself and others from disease and death.

    2. Paris Geller*

      I have no patience for covid deniers. I’m young and I had covid. Am I fine? I don’t know how to answer that. No, I never ended up in the hospital and no, my case wasn’t severe, but even though I’ve been symptom free for over a month I’m still dealing with the after effects, both physical and mental. I was never in great shape, but now I get winded walking to my apartment door from the parking lot. My preferred method of exercise is swimming, and I use to be able to swim the width of the pool at my apartment complex in one breath. Now it takes me three. Stairs are out of the question. I’m tired all the time. I push myself through my work week and basically do hardly anything but work, eat, and sleep. I spend the majority of each weekend in bed recovering from a week of normal activities.

      1. Artemesia*

        My 60+ BIL had it in March and is still suffering symptoms and like you exhausted all the time. His wife in her 50s is an athlete and has only begun to train again and it has been slow for her too although she is in better shape than he is. We are in the age group where death is pretty likely although it seems clear there is a genetic component — no one knows till they get it if they are one of the ones most susceptible. My grandmother died at 25 in the 1918 pandemic so I have always had a fear of this sort of thing.

      2. virago*

        Similarly, Emily Regan is 32 years old and had a “mild/moderate” case of COVID in late March and wasn’t hospitalized but said it was debilitating. And she’s a US Olympic rower, 4-time world champion and 2016 Rio gold medalist!

        (She put up a July 7 Facebook post about it, “My COVID Experience,” because she wanted to debunk the idea that younger patients are barely affected and bounce back right away.)

        She had no appetite, found it painful to breathe, slept 12 hours a night, took naps during the day and had to lie down after climbing the stairs.

        During her recovery, Regan said, she felt like she was “running through water” when she was trying to work out. She couldn’t alternate jogging and walking for more than 30 minutes at a time. Her legs were shaky and her heart rate was really high, and her pace on the ergometer was about that of the average high school girl. “I always felt like I was carrying 50 extra pounds when I was working out.”

        It took Regan a month to feel like herself again when she was working out. And she has teammates who had COVID around the same time she did who dealt with complication for over two months.


      3. OP#1*

        I’m so sorry you are still dealing with this! I’ll be thinking of you and sending good vibes for a fast continued recovery!

  33. Watermelon lip gloss*

    #4 Unless I read this wrong or have just worked at bad companies from my interpretation it sounds like it was first a round (that there was no interview) denial. I’ve never gotten or given a personal call when denying an applicant at this level of the hiring process. A personal denial before the in-person or skype interview hasn’t been the norm anywhere I have worked. Honestly the norm in places I have interviewed it would be the final interview set when a phone call would happen to let the applicant know.

  34. Amethystmoon*

    I’m also going to have an issue with that in one job if I ever change. My former manager retired, and the one who was my manager in that position was only my manager for about 6 months. He didn’t really know me, and there were issues with negativity on the team, which was a major reason why I switched teams. I do have a reference outside my manager who still is with the company, but that person wasn’t my boss.

  35. Annony*

    #4: One thing to keep in mind is that you also approached this very impersonally. You applied the same way any external candidate would have. You could have reached out to the current manager to discuss the position and whether it would make sense to apply but you did not. If another position opens up, you may want to consider doing that. It would also give you a chance to reassure them about your career goals and why you stepped down from management.

  36. Quill*

    OP 1: Do you think your boss would go for shutting this guy down based on the scientific proof? Because it might be more effective than “politics.” And potentially less professionally unweildy than bringing up your partner or your increased stress.

    Another thing: do you have a team member that you have a particular rapport with? Because asking them if Conspiracy Clive is always like this and if anyone’s ever gotten him to quit might get you a better idea of how things work around here.

  37. TuffDecisions*

    Letter #1 brings up an underlying issue that I’ve been struggling with. How should be deal with conspiracy theories at work? These are people who show a massive lack of critical thinking and you need critical thinking to work, but we reached a point where we simply accept it. Declaring that doctors, nurses and 1/4 of the population are lying and can’t be trusted shouldn’t be on the same level as Jimmy talking about video games too much.
    I’m lucky enough that I haven’t work with anyone like this, so I’m talking like an outsider. But if my co worker was ranting about a conspiracy on this grand scale then I wouldn’t have them on my team. I can’t trust them as a person, or as someone that I need to problem solve and make ethical decisions on a regular basis.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      Such an interesting question! I was wondering about it myself a few days ago, when people were speculating that the interviewee’s spouse who photographed the interviewer might have been a QAnon believer.

      Personally, I’d find it hard to hire or work with a conspiracy theorist (QAnon, COVID-deiner, flat-earther) because I’d doubt their ability to use data to solve problems. And yet, people do compartmentalize….I once had a colleague who was big into JFK conspiracy theories. She was perfectly competent at her job.

      1. TuffDecisions*

        I’ve been pondering that aspect as well…which conspiracies are okay and which are not? The JFK theory is almost ingrained in our American culture and is commun bar talk. (I just watched 2 time traveling shows that centered around the JFK conspiracy.) But it only involved a small sect of “conspirators.” Same with many of the theories that pop up in conversations…it only involves a small number of government agents.
        My feeling is that when the conspiracy involves a substantial portion of the common population, then it crosses the line into loss-of-critical-thinking. Flat-Earthers believe that the entire scientific community would be in on the cover-up, along with every factory worker that makes cameras, airplanes, and maps, as well as all people who travel the globe. Covid requires every nurse, doctor, and healthcare worker to be in on the cover-up.
        It’s one thing to think the CIA, FBI, or politicians are lying, but it is something else to think that half the general population is lying.

        1. Artemesia*

          well we kinda know that the FBI and CIA lie — we have lots of examples of that. Governments cover things up all the time.

          1. Littorally*

            What’s the joke about American conspiracy theories — it comes in two flavors: veiled antisemitism or yeah, the CIA/FBI/NSA/etc actually did do that.

      2. Temperance*

        I see a certain amount of “woo” as it relates to hobbies / life as completely acceptable. I think the point where you think the entire world is lying to you and conspiring to steal an American election (lol) is the point where you show your lack of intelligence and ability to think critically.

        1. Shirley Keeldar*

          Both reasonable points! I was thinking about another distinction–does the conspiracy belief interfere at work? If the flat-earther posts a lot on flat-earth forums but doesn’t bring it up at work, I guess they can come and work at my hypothetical company. And if the COVID-denier complies with masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene at work because those are the rules, then, I guess they can work here too–although I admit I’m less comfortable with that one.

          You could say that it comes down to policing behavior rather than belief. Of course, part of good work behavior is not haranguing colleagues.

          1. Althea*

            I think the difference is that I can’t think of a way a flat-earther or JFK-conspiracy-monger can act on her beliefs in a way to endanger others. The new one of these seems to be the Epstein-was-murdered folks.

            A Covid-denier (or an anti-vaxxer) can do a lot to endanger others, in particular by doing risky things outside of work.

            So I wouldn’t necessarily draw the line at work behavior, but rather the potential risk.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              That’s potentially a good line to draw. COVID-deniers are more like Holocaust deniers than flat earthers.

      3. LQ*

        The thing I keep coming back to is the judgement. If you can compartmentalize but you still have poor enough judgement to repeatedly keep bringing up something like this at work that’s bad judgement. It’s not really the believing it (I mean it is but…) it’s the repeatedly talking about something like this at work, especially if they’ve been told to knock it off and continue.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Were I in a position to do so, I’d fire them. As I said upthread, there are millions of better people out of work right now. It’s long past time for the conspiracy-mongerers to reap what they’ve sown and suffer the brunt of the damage they’ve done to our entire society.

  38. Stormy Weather*

    I have never seen anyone successfully negotiate more vacation time. Is this something that ever happens below the C-Suite level?

    1. Colette*

      I think it depends on the company. I know of people who have done it, but I haven’t been able to do so. (My last 2 employers have been large organizations with inflexible vacation policies.)

    2. Beehoppy*

      I am a mid-level employee and I negotaited more vacation at the last non-profit I worked at so that it would match what I was coming in with. I did not think to negotiate it at the financial planning firm I worked at previously, but another colleague did so successfully. In much the same way you wouldn’t take a pay drop for a new job (except in exceptional circumstances) I don’t see why someone should have to agree to less vacation.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Some companies like healthcare will not budge on vacation time. If you are an expert in your field, but not a manager, you will only get 2 weeks vacation at any healthcare systems in my area. It doesn’t matter if you have been working in your field for 20 years and are leaving a job where you had 5 weeks vacation.
      But outside of healthcare and government, your background, experience and talent all can influence the amount of vacation you get.
      As an example, an analyst role could be filled with someone right out of school, or by someone that has 15 years experience. The experienced analyst won’t accept the standard package with 2 weeks vacation and would ask for 4 weeks.

    4. ThatGirl*

      It does! When I interviewed at my current company, the HR rep actually asked me what I’d had in vacation time before (18 days) and she said “oh, our baseline is 10, but that’s one of the easiest things to negotiate” so getting 15 (plus 2 floating holidays, 1 personal day and 5 sick days) was super easy.

    5. Diahann Carroll*

      It does. I’m not C-Suite by any means (nowhere close), and I managed to negotiate for five extra vacation days at my employer pretty easily. In fact, the HR rep I was speaking to said that they regularly negotiate vacation times much more easily than they do salary.

    6. fhgwhgads*

      I’m nowhere near C-Suite and I have. I was leaving a job I’d been at for ages. The negotiation went like this:
      Me: I noticed the (thing they sent me) indicated new staff start with X vacation days. In my current role I have Y, and have for several years. Is it possible to match that?
      Hiring Manager: I will check with HR.
      the next dayHiring Manager: Yes, we can accommodate your request about the vacation. You will start with Y.

    7. Sled Dog Mama*

      I negotiated for 1 extra day at my 2nd job.
      Company policy was start at 15 days PTO and get one extra for each year of service until you had 25 or 30 I can’t remember. I had worked for this company straight out of grad school for a year then my position was eliminated and after 6 months of searching I was higher by a different division. Since I already had a year of service and had not left by choice, I asked to start with that year of service intact and management approved it. Not really a huge negotiation but it did happen.

  39. 'nother prof*

    OP #2: This sounds similar to part of the final round of the (US) Foreign Service exam. I *hated* that round – so much that I gave up on the Foreign Service as a career option. I agree with Alison’s advice, but I’d add that whether or not it’s a terrible hiring practice, you can always decide that an organization’s operating practices just aren’t something you want to deal with 8+ hours out of the day.

    1. Pippa K*

      I had the same thought! I actually quite enjoyed that round, but a key difference is that it’s more an exam using actual work simulations, where you’re trying to do the tasks well and demonstrate skills, than a competition in which you’re literally trying to best these specific other candidates. Also in the Foreign Service setting you expect collaboration and cooperation to be valued, which probably affects candidate behavior.

      But it does sound awkward and undesirable for most work settings, and I’d have been put off in LW’s case too.

  40. Former Retail Lifer*

    How are people negotiating for more vacation? That blows my mind. At every company I’ve ever worked for, vacation was accrued based on length of service, period. It’s always been 100% non-negotiable. As I’m headed into my fifth yeat at my current company, I’ve finally hit the mark where I get an additional week and I am super jealous of people that were able to ask for this (and get it) up front.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. My organization has a generous separate PTO and sick leave (especially for long time employees) policy. But it is firmly set in stone, and I’m pretty sure the only thing that increases the benefit is time at the company. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do and if the initial offer is stingy on PTO, the LW should try but be prepared to be told that firm PTO policy can’t be waved.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Maybe it’s working for small to mid-size companies that helps? My last company was only about 3,500 employees, and people successfully negotiated for more vacation time in lieu of salary increases because the budgets for the latter were smaller than average, so in order to attract and retain talent, they had to give these people something. My current company is around the same size, and I was easily able to get five additional days. I’m also in software, so industry probably matters as well.

    3. mynameisasecret*

      I’ve seen it at small (<50) companies, but I found it was much less common than negotiating on pay. It messed with our HRIS system, and it also created a lot of resentment when others found out. They would negotiate on vacation time for people who they REALLY REALLY needed, so it was clear if someone had gotten extra days off, they were more appreciated for their work. I actually wish it was more common and that people felt more empowered to negotiate time off.

    4. fhgwhgads*

      In my experience it’s easier to do in the context of “I have X at my current role and I’d like you to match it”, rather than negotiating it instead of increased starting pay. Especially if you’re someone how has 10+ years of experience, and has been at the PTO rate one gets after that much time, the people hiring are more likely be like “yeah duh, of course good candidates don’t want to drop down to half the PTO they’ve had for years”. Some companies are super rigid and treat it as a “loyalty” thing, and will not budge at all, but I think that’s short-sighted of them.
      It also might be worth questioning the “100% non-negotiable” bit. There are definitely places like that, but just because it’s accrued based on length of service does not automatically mean you can’t talk them into starting you at a higher point. That said, if most people start with 2 weeks, and get 3 weeks after 3 years and 4 weeks after 6 years (or whatever), and you negotiate to start with 4, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d get 5 after 3 years. In my experience it usually means you just stay at the same amount for longer than the people who started with less.

      1. Heather*

        Seconding that “non-negotiable” doesn’t always really mean non-negotiable. At my current employer we officially don’t negotiate PTO and supposedly everyone is on the same schedule which is based solely on years of experience, but in reality we will budge on it to recruit mid- to senior level people. (By which I mean individual contributors with 10-15 years experience, definitely not only “rock stars” or C-level.) Otherwise it’s almost impossible to entice people away from a job where they’re finally at 4/5 /6 weeks of PTO and now they have to start over from 2 or 3. I was a little surprised to find out, but it makes a lot of sense and I’m guessing this is more common than most people think.

    5. ChinacatSun76*

      LW for #3 here. My idea is much like Heather states. I’m not C-suite level, but I do have a VERY unique skill set and background that make me an ideal and difficult to find candidate (so said the hiring manager in my interview) for the job.

      I like fhgwhgads’s idea of “I have X at my current role and I’d like you to match it.” That’s what we did with salary talk at my first interview. I’m currently furloughed with a 50/50 shot at being called back to work, so I don’t want to take a pay cut or a time off cut.

  41. Jenny Says*

    LW4 – Same. Though, I was applying for a job that would be a career change. I was fully aware that the department might not pick me and I was 100% ok with that. I had the support of my boss and the head of the department to apply. Then I applied and heard nothing for 2 months. I assumed I didn’t get it, which was confirmed when I got a form letter. Even better the form letter told me how to apply for other positions at the company, something I did know how to do as I have worked for them for over 5 years. It was disappointing. While the whole thing could have been handled better, I think it was just people making mistakes, rather than an indication of how they felt about me. Nonetheless, it did help me see what I might be up against in changing a career and whether or not I might need to consider leaving my current company if I want to do so.

  42. HR Bee*

    My very first manager (VP of HR) gave me a lot of advice that I stick to to this day. She told me to never be known as the “candy lady.” Told me never to fill in for the receptionist or clean after meetings when the men leave (and she literally wouldn’t let me. She, a VP, would clean and force me to go to my desk because she would not let the rest of the Exec team get used to me doing that and expect it from me. She said no every single time someone asked her to have me fill in for the receptionist and any other thing people saw as ‘woman’s work’ in the office).

    She also told me, always negotiate for more money and – if given the choice – take a base pay increase instead of a bonus. It’s served me well. The only thing I negotiated for beyond money was title in my most recent position. I got both. Have I turned a few people off throughout my career so far? Of course, but I’m glad I had the manager I had in the beginning. I feel my career would be much different if I hadn’t.

    1. ChinacatSun76*

      OP for # 3 here, this gives me the confidence to negotiate for both, for what I want and need to leav emy current job. TY. :)

  43. Frenchi Too*

    LW1, I am so sorry you have to deal with this tool of a coworker.
    I wish you could just tell him to STFU. But, you want to keep your job and not give him reason to come after you.
    But, maybe you can push back once and for all by saying:
    “Please stop. It’s hard enough to watch my husband come home from working at the hospital exhausted and stressed. You don’t have to believe that so many people are dying from this disease and its complications in some areas that cities are having to bring in refrigerated trailers to hold the bodies until they can be cremated or buried. You don’t have to believe that people are dying in isolation because not even their families can be with them in their final hours. Really, you don’t have to believe it. But I don’t want to hear your opinion. It is beside the point, and quite hostile to those of us directly affected. Please, stop.”

    1. mynameisasecret*

      I’m glad I’m not the one in this situation because I would probably say something like “You’re lying and insulting my family, which is unacceptable, and you’re embarrassing yourself. Please stop.”

  44. LogicalOne*

    1. There’s those people who seem to want to flaunt their knowledge about hot button subjects and really don’t have a filter or just don’t realize when and where an appropriate setting for such discussion to take place is. I too would ignore this person but when it starts to hinder and affect your ability to work effectively, then it’s time to take action. Hopefully this guy doesn’t sound off on everything he sees in the news and at any possible chance will start to rant to others his beliefs. Yes we are all allowed to speak our minds but we must also adhere to workplace rules and appropriate behavior. People like to align themselves with a specific view or stance to feel validated, superior, and to fit in and this guy seems to need that. It’s a black and white world for most of them. Best of luck to you and I would be curious to see an update from you and how this situation panned out.

  45. HR Parks Here*

    LW#1 If it helps any, your covid denying coworker would pretty much have derailed his career if he worked with me. Maybe your HR department should be looped in that you have a coworker who is unable to follow logic and facts and also not aligned with the company stance , underscoring all the steps they have taken to keep employees safe by spouting it’s a hoax on work calls. Yes, these calls are for networking but they are still work related and the fact that he does not have the social graces to know what is an appropriate convo with coworkers is also another reason to not select him for promotion along with his lack of logically thinking. For those who think this would be akin to not promoting someone with a different political view than your own, eh, no its not. If you counter science and data with your opinion and memes you saw on the internet, it says something about your ability to be a critical thinker and your susceptibility to false information that could be bad for business.

    1. mynameisasecret*

      Agreed, plus I’m sure it’s incredibly hurtful and upsetting for many on the call, beyond just the LW. I feel like this is a situation where if one person speaks up, there’s probably ten people who will be glad because they wanted to say something.

    2. OP#1*

      This is so validating – thank you!! I’ve wondered that a lot recently about coworkers, family and friends, in the vein of, “if this person thinks this thing that has been scientifically proven false, how can I trust them?” So glad to hear that this is taken into account some places, truly!

      Thankfully another coworker spoke up with questions about why that guy thought the way he did, and I provided her some back up! For where I work, I don’t know that it will set him back in his career, but once the managers found out that there was some conflict, they set much stricter rules on that call. They basically amounted to 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus. So far, so good!

  46. onlyhappyatthebeach*

    #1 I feel for you. I have the same issue, except that its my manager. Sometimes I stand up and say something, but often they just think I’m a progressive nutjob who trusts the liberal media and has no idea what I’m talking about. Its exhausting. Its also upsetting when you find out something like this when you used to really respect the person.

    1. mynameisasecret*

      As someone whose mom is a journalist and sister is a hospital nurse working with COVID patients, this has been an extremely painful year. There are people I once cared about who have made statements so insulting to my family that I simply lose interest in ever speaking to them, ever again. If I was going to try to find some silver lining for myself, I guess it’s that people won’t be as offended when I invite ONLY my journalist mom and nurse sister to my tiny pandemic wedding.

      1. Aster*

        I am so sorry. It’s such a betrayal when one finds out that not only do people one cared about live in a different universe but that they’re vicious about it. The reaction to Hurricane Katrina showed me how racist many of my then-friends really were, and it felt like they had shredded my heart with blunt knives. You have all my sympathies and I hope you accumulate much better people to replace the twits.

    2. J.B.*

      Oh gosh, there was a manager where I used to work (government agency) who would trap junior people in the room with him and go on about the Deep State. I had enough seniority to walk out but unfortunately couldn’t get anyone to listen to me about not promoting him. All the sympathies.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        It’s weird and disturbing that someone who works for a government agency would believe in conspiracy theories about the Deep State. Like… would that make HIM part of the Deep State?

        1. LQ*

          I work with a couple of these people and I’ve occasionally asked questions like this. You can walk them step by step through a series of logical things. “How many people do you work with here are able to keep a secret?” “Do you think Other Agency hires smarter people?” “Other Agency is vastly incompetent at X, and people transfer from X to Y all the time so why would Y be full of people able to carry this out?” and on and on and you get them to the conclusion where the only possible thing is that it’s not true and then they just…loop right back to the same thing they said before without any pause at all. It’s wild.

  47. I Love Llamas*

    For LW #3, always, always, always ask for what you want (plus a little extra) because the worse case scenario is they say no and best case they say yes. Ask for both vacation and more $$ because at best you get both and at worse you get neither but perhaps you get at least one. In a negotiation, it works best if you have something you can give up to make the deal. When I took my current job, they couldn’t give me the $$, but they doubled my time off and gave me a small signing bonus to come up closer to the salary I wanted. Many people have a hard time advocating for themselves. Be strong and ask. If you go into it confidently and professionally, they will recognize you are a true professional. Good luck!! Give us an update!

    1. ChinacatSun76*

      OP #3 here–THANK YOU for the encouragement! I negotiated at the job I’m currently in and it took almost three full weeks, but I got close to what I wanted. There was absolutely a give and take, but I ended up happy with the result.

  48. Knitter*

    I’ve also never heard of a candidate critiquing the other candidate. I’ve been a department head at a school and have been on committees to hire school leaders. Like Ms. Frizzle, candidates have done walk throughs and teaching candidates have done sample lessons with feedback from the hiring committee at the end. I know of places with group interviews, but candidates aren’t put in a situation to give each other feedback

    This situation seems unnecessarily antagonistic so I have a lot of questions about the culture of the school and who made the decision for this interview situation.

  49. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, this is very situation- and company-dependent. Some companies will hand out extra vacation rather than give you more money because they’re pinching pennies. Some companies have a rigid structure where they won’t give out extra vacation because that’s a benefit that other coworkers can see and ask for, whereas theoretically at least they won’t know if you are making more $ than them. If you’re dealing with a company that is very rigid one way or the other, I’d definitely negotiate hard in the direction that they’re NOT as rigid — “ok, you can’t give me an extra week of vacation? In that case I’d need the salary to be $X.”

    And, as Alison said, it all depends on your situation. How much do you want the job and how much do they want you? If you got the sense that you’re one of a very strong pool of candidates and there’s someone they’d be 99% as happy with, negotiation might get you a “take it or leave it.” But certainly in my field, where talented people of a certain stripe are very hard to come by and even at COVID unemployment levels I don’t have great resumes crossing my desk every morning, I would absolutely not want to lose an excellent candidate over an extra week of vacation. (I have less control over the salary, but our in-house recruiters also screen very hard for that at the beginning to make sure I don’t even meet people whose expectations are too far from what the company wants to pay.)

  50. mynameisasecret*

    #1 is so upsetting. I hate this. My sister is a hospital nurse working ONLY with COVID patients and she still can’t get tested because they don’t have enough tests. Hospitals. Can’t. Test. Frontline. Covid. Staff. They still don’t have enough respirators and masks to use them as designed (they’re single use, but it’s now “here’s 3 N95s for the foreseeable future”). They are also now running out of gowns.
    And meanwhile, people without family in healthcare are running their mouths about how they think it’s all a lie. It was bad enough when the prez claimed PPE shortages are because the staff who don’t have the PPE, are stealing the PPE. That was a bad enough insult at the time. Now it’s just heartbreaking. I truly don’t know how we can come back from this.

    1. mynameisasecret*

      I’ve stopped being nice and I refuse to call this ‘politics.’ I’ll just state facts and ask questions until the person realizes how stupid they sound. “Which hospitals are subsidizing listing non-covid casualties as covid casualties? Who is subsidizing it? How much money? What does the money go to? Who do you know who works in a hospital? How many nurses do you know?” and I also highlight that nurses and other healthcare workers, unlike politicians, have to be trained and licensed, maintain their license, and have a professional reputation to protect.

      1. some dude*

        Total aside, but it is frustrating to me how much anger there is in conservative circles around “political correctness,” when many, many things that should not be political are politicized in those same circles -i.e. climate change, civil rights, access to clean air and water, taking a devastating virus seriously…..

    2. ...*

      Thats so frustrating. Not that she should have to buy her own, but I’ve noticed N95 back on amazon from several sellers now.

    3. OP#1*

      I’m so so sorry this is happening to your sister, and to you by extension! And I agree, it’s INFURIATING that we still don’t have enough tests and PPE and how terrible (non-existent) the coordinated response has been in the US. I’m grateful that numbers are going down in my part of the country (for now), but they’re still rationing PPE. I literally don’t understand.

      My heart goes out to you and your sister – hang in there!

  51. OP#2*

    Hello there! Thank you for answering my question! Reposting here because I answered accidentally in a thread!

    So, I ended up doing the “immersive and dynamic interview” (as the Director called it) and it was very odd. I did not feel it at all grasped the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. It started out with an “icebreaker” question–everyone received a different one. Then, we had to present our solution to the problem that was emailed to us ahead of time. Then, we critiqued each other’s presentations. Then, one of the observers asked each of us a question (very generic), and finally, we were given a “brain teaser” to solve as a group.

    It was weird and not genuine at all. I mean, I don’t know how anyone was able to get a grasp of a candidate’s knowledge and skill sets from this…but hey. I feel like I had an interesting experience.

    The update is…I made it into the final round after this one but did not get the offer. And honestly, I’m good with that.

    I’m glad this was seen as “not normal” because I’ve been a part of hiring teachers and administrators in my district and we do not do anything remotely like this!

  52. wee beastie*

    OP # 1, I would love an update. I’m interested to hear your manager’s perspective. It really matters for a leader to use their authority to help shut this tension down. Soap-boxing is low level bullying and colleagues having to shut each other down is achievable, but having someone with authority to put some oomph into it helps a lot!

  53. boop the first*

    The covid denial is so frustrating, especially with all of the passionate anger behind it. My best friend is a sweet, gullible person and will believe anything she sees, and even though our region of millions only has fewer than 2000 cases, she thinks it’s unreasonable that she doesn’t personally know anyone who is sick (how many people do you know, period?????) and therefore, it must be a conspiracy. Since she’s not being risky or obnoxious about it, I wish I could just lump it in with the aliens and the homeopathy, I don’t know why this particular disagreement between us hurts me so much.

  54. Over Analyst*

    OP3, I worked for a government contractor that lost the contract, so I had to transition to a new company. I ended up with a huge raise, but with the tradeoff with benefits (I had to pay more for insurance and retirement), it was a pretty meager raise, but better financially than I’d been at any point in my life up to that point.

    I ended up leaving the company less than 6 months later because there was such a dramatic decrease in time off. I ended up being one of the only people in the office over the Christmas-New Years week because I was the only one who hadn’t accrued enough time off, I couldn’t take days off I’d hoped to, etc. If you value your time off, definitely ask for more. Having a break during a slow time or being able to attend the trip your best friend or family member invited you on can be worth a lot more than the extra salary you could potentially get.

  55. Spicy Tuna*

    LW 3 – asking for more vacation time makes it look like you’re only focused on time off. Not a good look. I’d think twice about hiring someone that is overly invested in time off

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        In my experience of 25 years working at 4 different companies (two of which were multi-national) – public and private – time off is completely frowned upon. I’ve never been allowed to use all of my PTO.

        If that experience was limited to one job or manager, I would think it was a one-off, but the fact that it happened across different industries, different companies and different managers leads me to believe that PTO is a perk that is granted but not expected to be used outside of extreme emergency.

        1. Ellie*


          And also not what I’ve experiences or the majority of my friends, family, and co-workers have experienced.

          You say “not industry specific”, but this attitude seems very likely specific to a *set* of industries: physical labor, retail, restaurants, etc. where many employers treat their employees as disposable. Possibly also some high-pressure, status- focused places like law firms.

          It is a privileged position to be able to negotiate and fully take your PTO, but it’s not at ALL uncommon in office work.

          Since OP describes negotiating a salary, they are likely in an industry where PTO negotiation is not uncommon and actually taking your PTO is normal.

          (To be clear, I think it’s really messed up that the service industry gets away with this)

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            I work in finance, maybe that explains it? I was at my last job for nine years… in that entire time, my boss took off one week when his dad died – that’s it.

        2. ChinacatSun76*

          OP for #3 here. Without trying to copy Ellie, that’s so, so sad.

          I use my time off for my own medical appointments (CT and MRI scans 4x per year + follow up appointments, thanks cancer), to visit my adult child who lives 7 hours away, to attend events for my other child who is a senior in HS, and for a once a year vacation with my extended family (thanks mom and dad)… I also work my @SS off at work and plan in advance for my absences (even when I was diagnosed with cancer I was figuring out work stuff the next day).

  56. ggg*

    Re #4: Our candidate tracking system will send out a form letter to every candidate, internal or external, who is rejected for a position. When the tool was new, many managers didn’t realize these letters were being automatically sent out and were upset that they hadn’t had time to talk to the rejected candidates beforehand.
    Perhaps something similar is going on here.

  57. Althea*

    OP1 – There are 2 audiences on those calls that would hear you if you speak up. This Covid-denier is one, and everyone else on the call is the other. When you decide what to say in the moment, please consider both.

    For me, I would consider it necessary to speak up when someone in my network 1) lies/spreads lies; 2) stereotypes; 3) bullies; or 4) conspiracy-mongers in some circumstances. These are all things that harm others, and I feel an obligation to push back. I might later unfriend or drop contact with the person, if nothing changes, but the pushback is in the hope that they might hear it and change a little AND that other see the pushback and realize others hold a different view.

    In this case, I would probably start with a fairly firm pushback that others have stated and then pivot to shutting down the coversation. “I’m living these effects of the Covid-19 virus. You are spreading misinformation that will easily cause harm to me, my husband, and others. It’s both hurtful and dangerous. I say that to you not because I want to talk to you about it, but because it means these calls are far too stressful and hurtful if you continue to push the same topic. Because I trust that you do not intentionally mean to cause me stress and hurt, I also trust that you will refrain from pushing this discussion. Any time you bring it up, I will simply state that we need a subject-change. I’ll probably post a distractingly cute picture of my cat on the chat so others will join me in changing the subject. At this point – let’s talk about cute cats instead.”

  58. LifeBeforeCorona*

    A close family member spent a month in the hospital with COVID. It really hit home how serious it can be and how real it is. Fortunately, they are recovering but my patience with COVID deniers is at an end. It is very hard now to be tolerant of anyone who downplays the pandemic. My go to line now is “Based on personal experience, this is very serious and I don’t want to hear about misinformation.”

    1. OP#1*

      I’m so sorry your family member was sick but I’m glad they’re recovering now! I do love that phrasing though, thank you – “Based on personal experience, this is very serious and I don’t want to hear about misinformation.”

  59. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    Thank you for your reply to #2. A decade or more ago, I applied for a tutoring job with a national organization, and the final task was a five-minute presentation on anything… to be presented to a number of other candidates for the job, who were also giving their own presentations. Naturally, the other candidates quickly became the worst possible audience, nitpicking and interrupting and asking constant questions. At the end of it we all sat in the room together until the employers came in and told us who had passed. (I hadn’t.) I suppose it was meant to be a trial by fire and show how one would manage a class of unruly teens, but the humiliation of it has stayed with me for all these years, and I felt very insufficiently thick-skinned. It really does help to hear that this is bad practice and unkind, and that the problem wasn’t me.

  60. Rachel Morgan*

    I was an internal applicant who was rejected over the phone for a job I coveted, went to school for and was my dream job. To put salt in the wound, I was ALSO sent a rejection letter a week later. Just in case I didn’t get the memo that I didn’t get the job.

  61. Bob*

    The Covid denier by trying to convince you is really trying to convince himself.
    So when you stand up to him he will go crazy.
    Don’t let that stop you (which is his goal) and most certainly don’t acquiesce or engage in endless “good faith debate”. Work out a strategy with the boss and get it shut down. Ideally he is told that he is not permitted to spread Covid denial and if he continues to act this way then the company will consider disciplinary action. He is free to have any views he wishes, he is not free to use company resources to spread lies and trample on everyone else. And as a private company his free speech is not being impinged upon, as the government is not coming to arrest him for his lies.
    If he loses his mind then the company should deal with it as any other behavioural issue, if he quits of his own volition then the problem solves itself.
    There is no need to put up with bullies.

  62. Frustrated*

    Three jobs on my resume are no longer in business. So I put (no longer in business) next the place then list personal contact information for my manager in my references. I hope you have some co-workers you can use as a reference in that situation.

  63. OP#1, an update!*

    Thanks so much for taking my question Alison – I’ve learned so much from your column!

    I really like your advice, to focus on getting him to stop talking about it in the call, rather than trying to change his mind. Interestingly, a few days after I sent you this question, another coworker engaged him when he brought up his latest complaint about covid. She came back at him with some questions about why he believed the things he did. He didn’t have many good explanations, and a few of the rest of us supported by sending some CDC data and some news articles about local hospitals (which, at the time, were running out of hospital beds). I don’t know that we changed his mind necessarily, but he had a hard time continuing on his soap box when we kept contradicting him! :-)

    Our manager is usually pretty good, but she and the other manager often have meeting conflicts during this call, so I’m not sure whether they were even aware to what extent this was happening or if they were on the call when it was happening. However, someone must have said something after that conversation, since the managers sent out some ground rules for that call a few days after my coworker engaged with him. They basically amounted to 1. A hard ban on talking about politics or religion. 2. Be sensitive to everyone who is affected by covid and other current events. 3. Don’t be a doofus.

    So far, it’s working – thanks so much for taking the time to answer!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Well done to your other coworker for taking this guy down a notch! I hope he takes all this to heart and shuts up to inform himself correctly.

      Also hope you and your family stay safe.

  64. RWM*

    LW 1 — Maybe “misinformation” instead of “politics”? Because that is what this is, ultimately, and framing it as such might head off any “I’m ENTITLED to my OPINION” pushback. Or maybe something like “chronic negativity” — because it sounds like a lot of complaining that would be fairly exhausting/a huge downer on calls that are meant to be good for morale.

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