I don’t want to be friends with my coworker, attendance contest, and more

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

1. I don’t want to be friends with my coworker

I work in a bookshop. It’s the sort of place that hires pretty much only graduates, and an obsessive interest in reading is an absolute must — for a retail job, it’s much more of a career than is typical. Their hiring practices mean that generally the shop ends up staffed by a group of very like-minded people with a lot of common interests, and as with a lot of retail jobs, there’s a lot of fraternizing outside of work. We live in a pretty cool, artsy city with a lot going on, so it’s not uncommon for us to get drinks or see gigs or art shows together as a group.

I have one coworker who is making quite insistent offers of us spending one-on-one time together outside of work, such as inviting me over to his house. He’s also over-familiar in a way that makes me uncomfortable — for example, he’s met my husband once at drinks and now continually asks me about him, what he’s doing and how he is, to the point that it feels a bit bizarre and intrusive. I don’t want to be closer friends with this guy. I enjoy the dynamic of a casual group of my coworkers, but I don’t want to get into anything this intense. Additionally, this coworker is pretty dramatic, and although it sounds heartless, I just don’t want to get caught up in another person’s mess! I want to keep my head down, enjoy my job, treat everyone professionally, and stick with the group of friends I have outside of work.

How do I rebuff his continuous offers to hang out without seeming rude? I’ve been laughing them off, but he just brings it up more and more. For what it’s worth, there’s definitely no romantic assignations going on here — I’m a straight gal and he’s a gay guy.

It is hard to say to someone, essentially, “I do not want to be friends with you.” In some ways, it’s almost harder because it’s not a romantic rejection! If he were expressing romantic interest, we have established norms for turning down would-be suitors … which can come with their own issues, certainly, but our culture has very few templates for “I don’t want to be your friend.”

Sometimes in this situation, the easiest approach is to blame your schedule. The fact that he sees you at the group activities makes it a little harder, but you could still say, “I don’t have much time for much socializing other than the group stuff we do with people from the store.” Or, “My schedule is so awful these days that outside of these group hangs, I’m usually just collapsing on the couch with my husband.”

But if you think he’s someone who won’t get the hint, you could go straight to, “You’re so nice to ask, but I try to stick to group stuff with people from work — it’s been drilled into me to keep boundaries with anyone I work with!” Feel free to say this in a “it’s just my own weird thing” tone if it makes it easier. If he pushes after that, then he’s officially A Problem and you’d need to move into a different mode entirely, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

(Based on all these activities, I’m assuming you live in an area that hasn’t needed continued Covid protections — in which case, kudos to you and your government — or are writing to me from a time machine.)

2. My two weeks notice only counts as one week?

I’m currently a secretary at a hospital. I had been searching for a new job for over a year, and my current supervisor knew that. I had kept them informed of the promising interviews I had and that one organization expected to make their decision last week, while I was on my honeymoon vacation. The organization did offer me the position and I accepted and emailed my supervisor my formal resignation and two weeks notice. They texted me “congratulations.” Today, I’m back from vacation and they emailed me that since I was on vacation, my two week’s notice is only one week’s notice, and that I need to ask my new employer to move back my start date.

My new job is in line with my master’s degree, and is pretty much a dream job for where I am in life right now. I feel sick to my stomach at my supervisor’s request, especially with how the hospital treats employees who are not doctors or nurses. It’s a very toxic work environment. How can I say no, I’m not starting my new job off on a negative note, without burning any bridges at the hospital?

If they’re committed to being unreasonable, you might not be able to prevent the bridge from being burned. All you can do is be professional and reasonable, and from there it’s up to them.

What they’re asking for is not reasonable; there isn’t some general rule that the clock only starts ticking on your notice period once you’re back at work. And if they really thought there was, presumably they would have spoken up last week.

I’d say this: “Unfortunately there’s no way for me to move my start date, so I do need to stick with the last day of (date) that I gave you when I gave you my two weeks notice on (date). I’m sorry I don’t have any flexibility to extend it beyond those two weeks, but I’m of course ready to do anything I can to help with the transition between now and my last day.” That’s you being pleasantly helpful, while also repeating “two weeks” twice to reinforce that that they did in fact get two weeks. If you want, you could also say, “I wasn’t aware of an expectation that my two weeks notice wouldn’t start until I returned from my honeymoon; I’ve always understood it to start from the date it is given and didn’t see anything different in the employee manual. Unfortunately I’m not able to move it.”

3. Attendance contest

I work for an answering service, and they have just announced an attendance contest. One wins points for working one’s full shift, filling in/picking up extra shifts, and the like. Points are docked for being late for shifts or late back from lunch/breaks, leaving early, and calling off sick. There are cash/gift card prizes. Am I overreacting, or is this as icky as it feels to me? Is there a professional way to say “polite pass, attendance contests are for fifth graders, not professionals?” This is just one more thing in a long list of things that feel juvenile, but it’s the only one that I feel is really walking a fine line.

Yeah, it’s not great. They’re no doubt looking for ways to incentivize reliability and I’m glad they’re doing it with rewards rather than with something punitive, but they’re incentivizing people to come in when they’re sick — which is bad at any time, but especially bad in a pandemic.

Whether or not to formally opt out depends on how much capital you have and feel like spending, but the lower-key option is to just ignore the whole thing.

4. Applying for a job in another state when I don’t want to move

My job, and the two industries it straddled, was hit extremely hard by COVID and my type of role no longer exists. Although it was fairly prestigious and carried a lot of responsibility, I have skills in a pretty narrow sector and am struggling to find remote jobs that I am even 75% qualified for.

I am receiving some well-meaning but pushy advice from acquaintances, none of whom have worked in either of my industries, that I should be applying to some adjacent jobs with some major national companies. The problem is that every single one of these companies (and these jobs) are located in other states, and I am not interested in relocating.

Their response to me saying “but these jobs aren’t in my area” is “every job is remote right now! Just apply! Get your name in the system!” But it feels disingenuous to me to apply to a job in another state, not knowing how long that state will have remote work restrictions, and expect to work remotely indefinitely. I’m not willing to lie about my location, and I can’t imagine that any interviewer would green-light a candidate who is unwilling to continue the role once it becomes an in-person one. I consider these job postings (which clearly state the location, and do not explicitly state remote work) as roles that I am not qualified for, simply because I am not in the area.

Am I wrong? Should I be applying to these roles regardless, and hoping that the shift to remote work will buoy me into good standing despite my distant location?

There seems to be a category of job-searching advice that’s basically “doing something is better than doing nothing.” And I mean … maybe? But it makes for weird advice when there are other things you can do that work much more often.

Applying for a job in another state when you don’t want to relocate and have no indication they’re open to remote work is not usually a good way to “get your name in the system.” It’s a good way to annoy whoever’s doing the hiring. Yes, lots of jobs are remote for now, but for most of them that’s temporary, not a permanent plan.

That’s not to say that there’s no room to apply if you’re really interested in and really well qualified, and ask up-front if they’d be open to someone remote. Sometimes they are! And some companies are becoming more open to it than they used to be, simply because they’re seeing remote work go well for some jobs. So it’s better advice than it would have been a year ago. But it’s still something of a long shot.

That said, your chances go up when you’re very well matched to what they’re looking for, in which case they might be more willing to compromise on their original vision. But if your match for the job isn’t really strong, it’s not going to be a great use of your time.

5. Answering questions about family when you’re estranged from them

I’ve been estranged from my family since high school due to a particularly painful set of circumstances, and I was homeless as a result of it. More than a decade has passed and it is no longer something that affects me in my daily life. I’ve made peace with it and am happy to have moved on.

However, I don’t know what to say when someone asks me about my family. This is usually innocent small talk in the contexts of the workplace, university, networking events, etc. It also comes up with people I am friends with, but still within a professional relationship. I find that it becomes a harder thing for me to respond to when the holidays approach. (“What will you and your family do? Are you going home for the holidays?” etc.)

I obviously don’t want to spill too much personal information or cause an emotional burden. But I also want to answer honestly. What would your script be for these situations?

One option is to sidestep the question about your family entirely and just reply with what you are doing for the holidays: “Oh, I’m staying in town and celebrating with friends. What about you?” (Ending by asking about them will help move the conversation on, too.)

But if someone asks more directly — like “What’s your family doing this year?” — it’s okay to say, “We’re not close — it’s a long story. What’s your family up to?” Again, ending by asking about them will help — and to people paying attention, it will signal that your family isn’t something you want to get into.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Coder von Frankenstein*

    I am endlessly bemused by employers who think they can dictate terms to employees who have already turned in their resignations.

    I mean, they do have *some* leverage if you need a reference later, but not nearly as much as they seem to think.

    1. BetsCounts*

      I finished the letter and laughed so hard I woke up my cat. LW#2, congratulations on your new position and if you feel the need, Allison has dozens of columns in the ‘resigning’ category if you want to look for more language to soften your response. But you 100% did the right thing and they are the ones being difficult, not you. Also, even if you have extra time between the your last day at the hospital and your negotiated start date with the new job, don’t let the hospital eat into that! You gave your two weeks (and your supervisor had much more notice that you were looking). Congratulations again!!

      1. TwoWeeksNotice*

        Thank you! It was definitely a shock to get the email, and if it really was an issue, why did they wait until 7 days had passed to say anything! It felt like they were trying to bully me into staying longer.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Yes, their behavior is one more reason to get out of there ASAP and into the better job that’s awaiting you! Congratulations on your new position!

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Ridiculous! It’s not unusual for organizations to not let employees take vacation during their notice period, but that’s generally for vacation time people try to schedule right before or right after they give notice, not for something like a honeymoon that (I presume) you scheduled way in advance.

        3. EngineerMom*

          My guess is they haven’t been able to find a replacement, and are looking to cover their butts by trying to force you to stay longer.

          You gave 2 weeks, which is more than they actually deserve. Soften the response if you like, but get the heck out of Dodge!

          1. TwoWeeksNotice*

            The office gossip is that they are not hiring a replacement, as the powers that be feel that 3 secretaries for this whole division was too many. Personally I disagree; this division is not small.

        4. Momma Bear*

          This. If it was such a problem, they should have said so immediately, not when you had one week left.

    2. Beatrice*

      Note: They may have more leverage in states where paying out vacation time and/or sick time is not legally required.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Yeah. I thought it was a bit odd when one job refused my attempt to resign by email, and instead insisted I hand it in in-person. So I printed out the email, drove to the office, then handed it to the HR person. Who then accepted it without issue.

      But now I keep hearing about employers who are much worse at it.

      For reference, this job was one with a lot of work at client sites around my city. One where you could easily go months without stepping foot inside the employers office.

      1. Policy Wonk*

        This makes me wonder if they had an employee whose spouse or parent tried to resign for them. (We’ve seen enough letters about interfering relatives on this site.) They want to be sure it’s really coming from you!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Our is the reverse – if you swing by to resign in person, I need you to send me some sort of written notice (a one sentence email is fine) advising of your last day so that HR can process your paperwork and vacation payout.

        I would think Zoom would be fine for this sort of thing. A trip to the office is a bit much.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yeah, everywhere I’ve worked before just wanted something in writing, whether you hand them a piece of paper or email them, so that they could include that in your file. Also makes sure everyone’s on the same page of when your last day is.

          But refusing to allow an email, and insisting someone drive in… that’s weird. If you’re that concerned about verifying that it’s the employee, there’s so many other ways to do this. Like video calls. Or phone calls. Not to mention anything about perceived work email/device security if you think someone is emailing from someone else’s work account.

          1. JadedSlayer*

            Companies want something in writing, so when silly people try to claim unemployment, the company is not dinged.

          2. Bilateralrope*

            There were no work devices. We were using personal devices and email accounts to communicate with work. That’s just the norm in this industry here.

            Which means that my employer knows that I’ve got copies of everything kept where they can’t delete them.

    4. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      Me too. Like when I quit one job with 6 days notice, they waited until day 5 to try and tell me that I had to give them 2 weeks notice.

      Or how the manager acted when I handed my resignation it while on leave at my last job “given your reasons I’ll accept your resignation” like, noooo you don’t have a choice in this. You are lucky I stopped by to drop off the shirts and hand my resignation in in person (given I’d never met her. I could have just phoned in and tossed the shirts out).

      1. Amethyst*

        A former job did a similar thing when I turned in my notice. They waited until my actual last day to try to keep me, asking me what it’d take for them to get me to stay. ON MY LAST DAY THERE.

        I told them there wasn’t anything, unless they could find it in their budget to give me 40 hours/week guaranteed, no weekends or holidays, and a higher rate of pay, all of which was being provided to me by my new job. (They were a grocery store chain. I was a parttimer who left because they kept cutting back hours to the point where I couldn’t afford anything on our union-guaranteed minumum of 15 hours/week.)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Hah! I had a manager at an organization I’d been with for 5 years try to sit down and have a conversation on my last day about what feedback I had – after ignoring any and all ‘feedback’ for 5 years. Not sure why she thought asking me as I was literally packing up my office was going to make a difference.

          1. nonegiven*

            Should have had a printed out file of stuff, waiting, that you had fedback over the 5 years and just handed it over.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Same for me! Except it was my second to last day, I had told them flat out I was moving to a different state, we had already sold our house…. “Anything we can do to keep you?” “As an employee? No. Literally the only way you could keep me on a payroll is to have me become a temporary consultant, and here’s my terms.”

          They actually agreed to them and I had them as a client at 4x my hourly salary for about 6 months, so that was nice to give some extra safety net padding. But still – the time to ask this is within the first couple days of notice, not waiting 2+ weeks.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I once gave two weeks’ notice but was taken off the schedule after a week because that was when they pay period ended. That part was fine and seemed very reasonable, really. But during the second week they were short-staffed and called me to see if I’d come in after all.

        Um, no.

        1. Empress Matilda (formerly Matilda Jefferies)*

          Did you laugh? Please tell me you laughed long and hard into their ear before hanging up the phone!

      3. WorkingGirl*

        Right? It’s not a conversation. It’s like breaking up a relationship… one person can make the choice

        1. LITJess*

          Yes, one person can make the choice. The problem is with the system; at least in the US the employer often holds the keys to some things you want – references, leave payouts, etc. So you can totally resign with no notice, if you don’t cafe about those things. But if you do, unfortunately you have to play by their rules.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Or when you feel you’ve got nothing to lose. Admittedly, the only job I resigned from with no notice at all wasn’t in the US, but it was a part-time job, the owner paid me in cash, there were no benefits, and I knew the owner enough by that point to know that, if I gave my 2-week notice, he’d probably make me stay for another week or two, work me to death during that time, and most importantly, I’d never see my pay for the notice period. Oh, and I knew I’d never need or want a reference from him, too. Nor did I have to worry about anything he’d say about me to other employers coming back to bite me. He’d already built himself a reputation in our small town, and it was not a good one by far. No one was going to take him seriously. So I quit on pay day. Literally got paid, put the cash in my pocket, and told him “by the way, today’s my last day”.

            1. Meghan*

              When I was around 19 I took a part-time retail job after leaving a full-time job, so I could focus on school. I was very specific about this but 2 or 3 weeks in they had me scheduled for 35 hours and the manager was pressuring me to go into the manager-in-training program. Other employees wanted the hours I was given, and I was miserable so I just left a note one night “sorry I won’t be back.” They tried to withhold my last paycheck because I had thrown away the employee handbook. The manager acted like they contained the nuclear codes, not what color pants to wear. It was insane but I finally got my last paycheck and never looked back.

            2. Formerly Ella Vader*

              The summer I was 17 I was having a terrible time at my summer job, and struggled along because I knew my parents thought that responsible people sucked it up. Eventually I decided it was okay to quit, so I told my boss one afternoon at 5 pm that I was leaving after today. He said “But you’re staying til 6, right?” and then let me continue handling cash for another hour.

              The spring I turned 18 I tried so hard to get a different job, but nowhere else was offering more than 35 hours a week. So I went back to the awful boss, and it turned out that he’d just had some male workers quit since as soon as they turned 18 they’d gotten taken on by the primary-industry factories. I got one of their jobs, which was a status promotion, and then I pointed out to him that now I was 18 and entitled to the adult minimum wage, and got that too. He was still awful, but I had a much better summer.

          2. Kathlynn (canada)*

            yeah, at my last job the only reason I quite without notice was because I was on indeterminate medical leave. Because I still have no idea when I will be able to buy the masks I’d need to be able to work at a physical workplace (vs wfh). Though honestly given the way the job was going, and how burned out I was when I went on leave, if I hadn’t gone on leave at that time, I don’t know if I would have given them 2 weeks notice. (over worked, with about 12 hours of work assigned as must be completed each day, but only on the schedule for 8. And they added more work to that while I was on leave)

    5. squirrel!*

      Right?! This happened to me with an $8/hr retail job. The kind of place where most people just stopped showing up if they wanted to quit. (Which I’d usually side-eye, but the owner/manager was a nightmare demon … a local legend, but not in the good way.) I *wrote a letter* and handed it to him in person to give 2 weeks notice. He told me I was going to stay for 4. I stood my ground, as I’d already set my first day with my new job, which paid almost twice as much and had benefits and wasn’t going to end up with my physically sore and crying every evening. So… he fired me on the spot. I’m not sure if that counts as being fired or not, actually. And I guess I don’t care. “You can’t break up with me, because I’m breaking up with you! nyeh!” Definitely not a manager I’d have used as a reference, both because of who/how he was and because of the nature of the job, which was just a filler way to help pay the rent in a slow job market.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Actually I think it at least qualifies you for unemployment for those two weeks if you have chosen to apply.

        For describing the situation, I would not say fired, but that you were “let go on the day I handed in my resignation.”

        1. squirrel!*

          Oh interesting! I hadn’t even thought about the unemployment aspect, because my new job was able to move up my start date, and I didn’t end up with any gap in employment. While the event was kind of traumatic in the moment (he actually berated me and was super nasty), it was a total win-win for me. I got out of a job that made me miserable, and got to start making a lot more money in a much better environment immediately.

      2. Generic Name*

        Something similar happened to me. I gave my 2 weeks notice and then 3 days later my boss pulled me into his office saying they were accepting my resignation “effective immediately” and then he handed be his phone so I could listen to a long spiel from HR about COBRA benefits, which was strange because I got my insurance through my spouse’s employer. Maybe in my (awful) boss’s mind he fired me, but I absolutely resigned.

        1. squirrel!*

          Yeah, I’d call that a resignation!

          In the job I described above, I didn’t even have benefits. I don’t think anyone there got health insurance, and he kept me *just* below his cutoff for earning PTO at all. I worked 35 hours a week consistently, and you had to work 36 to earn vacation time.

    6. LITJess*

      At least in my employers case, it says in the employee handbook that you can’t take leave during your resignation period and that two-weeks notice is required for references. As others have pointed out, some states allow them to block payouts of leave if you don’t meet the terms you agreed to when you started.

      I agree it’s gross that they can have you gone within an hour and your required to give two weeks notice, but it’s kind of where we are at the moment. It sounds to me like OP’s employer probably had a similar statement in their employee handbook, that neither OP nor her boss remembered. And when HR got wind of the resignation, they tried to enforce it. So it’s up to OP if she wants to blow up the “reference”.

      It sounds like her reference from her boss is fine. If a future employer talks to HR to confirm employment they’ll probably ask “would you rehire OP?” and they could say she isn’t eligible for rehire but wouldn’t explain why. Still OP could work around it by explaining the situation, but dollars to donuts new employer has a similar clause about no vacation use during the resignation period.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want someone to give notice and actually be working during that notice – but they should have told her that right away, not a week later.

        1. LITJess*

          I agree! I wonder if they sent the email the same day, but either way she was on vacation and probably not checking it. Someone, like her boss, should have called her ASAP to reminder her of the policy if that was the issue.

          1. TwoWeeksNotice*

            Yes, I sent in my resignation notice only 2-3 hours after accepting the new job. the supervisor only replied with a text that said “congratulations.” The fact that they waited 7 full days to say this to me is weird.

            Also, all I can find in our HR policies regarding resignation is the following:
            • Resignation: Normally, employees are expected to provide at least two weeks’ advance written notice to their manager when they intend to separate employment.

            1. LITJess*

              Welp, if it doesn’t call out that you cannot take vacation during the 2-weeks period, I got nothing. They’re just being crappy. Good luck at your new job!

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              They said “congratulations”, but forgot to add the minor part about wanting one more week!

              Either way, whenever my past employers tried to get funny about me leaving, I just kept repeating like a broken record, “I have a signed offer, they need me to start on X day, my hands are tied, there’s nothing I can do.” adding “sorry” because I’m nothing if not polite!

            3. LCH*

              sounds like you are good to go using Alison’s script. make sure you get a copy/screenshot/whatever of the policy now in case they get sneaky and try to update it.

              1. Colette*

                Why? This isn’t going to be a court case; worst case scenario is that it is a perception problem (i.e. 5 years down the road, the OP applies for a job with someone who knows the story who says “hmm, she didn’t give 2 weeks notice, let’s pass”.)

                1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                  It’s prudent if the LW is concerned that “not giving two weeks” could be used as the reason to not pay out her vacation or something like that.

          2. Hazel*

            My first reaction was along the same lines as LITJess, but since your boss knew you were job searching and probably had an offer coming soon, and you were already on vacation, they really don’t have a leg to stand on.

      2. clarice*

        +1 – this kind of clause has been pretty standard in most, if not all, employment contracts I’ve had in my career. I’m not in the US though so the rules/conventions may well be different.

      3. Not A Girl Boss*

        I quit while we were furloughed one day a week because COVID.
        So, I couldn’t give my resignation when I accepted the job on Friday, I gave it on Monday but said my last day would be the Friday. They tried to argue that I had to stay until 2 weeks + Tuesday/Wednesday, because the Fridays we were furloughed so that didn’t count toward my 2 weeks notice.

        They said a bunch of stuff about withholding my vacation payout if I didn’t stick to the notice period, but ended up paying it 2 months later. They did not, however, pay me for the last Friday of my notice period, grr. (We are salaried, so they furloughed us Fridays but the salary was just an even cut off the top every day).

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ours just canceled vacation payouts. And we can no longer take vacation after we’ve submitted our resignation. So lovely of them to make it easier for people to leave on short notice, heh heh.

        2. JKP*

          Two weeks notice =/= ten business days. By that logic a part-time employee who worked 1 day each week would have to give 10 weeks notice!

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Right? I told them I’d be happy to work furlough days (if they paid me) but obviously that was outlandish.

    7. anon73*

      Exactly. They can’t force you to stay. You may lose out on vacation payout depending on state laws, but if this new job is in line with what you really want to do in your career, it’s probably worth it to lose that payout.

      And quite honestly, most places (at least IME) don’t capitalize on those last 2 weeks with you anyway and it’s a waste of your time.

      1. Momma Bear*

        My last job my manager (who was in another city) utterly refused to meet with me during my last 2 weeks. They wanted to make it really clear that I was dead weight to them, so I wrapped up my last report, clocked out and told my team good luck. The lack of transition fallout was not my problem.

    8. Anon for the drama*

      Yup. I resigned from a job months ago (so while in lockdown) and gave three weeks’ notice. Normally I give at least a month but the job was so toxic it was affecting my health. More than one person in the job before me quit without notice.

      (I thought of writing to AAM to get an outside take on the dumpster fire, but a) co-workers read here b) I knew the advice would be to find a new job.)

      The furious CEO told me that the date was *probably* acceptable “so long as all your projects are *completely* done.” Clearly he was trying to sabotage my new job offer.

      Getting all projects completely done never happens in my field and we all know it. I said “No, my date is final. I am taking time off between jobs because of the toll this job has taken on my health.” Vacation payout is mandated by law in my location so I knew he couldn’t screw me over that way.

      He was furious. I didn’t care. His next move was to “joke” on Zoom that “Maybe I won’t LET you resign; maybe I’ll just chain you to your desk and MAKE you work until ALL your projects are COMPLETELY DONE. That should be in about oh, four months.”

      Even if it hadn’t been a pandemic remote work situation where it was impossible for him to prevent me from quitting, I wasn’t going to let that pass. I’ve read my Gavin de Becker about watching people’s humor. Plus he had been behaving so badly that I figured the worst would be a “You’re fired/Yeah right, I already quit and I’m moving up my resignation date to RIGHT NOW” exchange.

      I laughed in his face, said “Yeah no, not happening,” and then moved on to the next item on the agenda.

      He almost choked and I was not a bit sorry. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    9. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. OP#2, I gather that the secretarial position you’re leaving was kind of a filler job, and that the new position is more in line with the career you’re trying to build? If so, the value of a reference from this organization is probably limited and will decline rapidly as you move forward in your new career path. In hiring, I’ve always paid most attention to current references — references from anything older than the last couple of jobs aren’t usually helpful, even if you can locate the reference.

      If you check the AAM archives, Alison has offered advice in the past for dealing with biased or malicious references. Just hang on to all emails and, by all means, download and keep a copy of your organization’s employee handbook.

      Congratulations and good luck!

    10. Kiki*

      Right! I think it’s so interesting how many letters have come through Ask A Manager where employers seem to think they can just require employees to keep working after they resign. Two weeks’ notice is a courtesy, not a mandate! I also think it’d be interesting to know how many of these employers would be okay with a potential employee moving back their start date to appease their soon-to-be former employer. I suspect most of these employers think it’s a one way street.

    11. jomola*

      I had the exact same thing happen to me. When I returned from vacation and my crazy supervisor hit me up with that demand, I politely informed her that I was done at 5pm Friday, end of discussion. Of course she argued but I stuck to my guns. She tried to say she would not provide a reference and I reminded her that the only reference the company provided was a confirmation of dates employed and positions held (we were the HR team, so I knew this to be true). I left and never looked back. So hold your head high – finish out your week and close the door behind you!

    12. Luke G*

      It reminds me of when I gave 10 days’ notice that I was leaving my post-college job at a bar. My manager said they’d prefer 2 weeks, I said that wouldn’t be an option with the start date of my new job, and he shrugged and said “That’s fair. Most people quit this place by just not showing up any more.” At least he KNEW he had no leverage other than asking nicely…

    13. pleaset cheap rolls*

      It’s a very toxic work environment. How can I say no”
      The toxicity makes it easy: “Sorry, I can’t.”

  2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    I was under the impression that a company needed to be registered for business operations in a state in order for it to employ people there, even remotely. I know things are flexible right now because of Covid (lots of NJ residents are doing remote work for NYC employers) but it sounds like this LW is surrounded by a lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

    1. NYWeasel*

      When I was laid off in 2011, they paid for this high priced “corporate coach” to advise us on our job search. It was clear that he normally worked with executives, as his advice was mind boggling out of touch for the rank and file employees. I only went to one session with him before I realized it was a waste of time, but he wanted me to apply to jobs everywhere and then negotiate that I could work remotely after they offered me a position. His reasoning? Steve the VP of sales was able to negotiate that he only had to be in the office one week a month! (Uh, sales people often are remote…) And Jane, the director of design with a very particular and in high demand skill, negotiated working remotely 100% of the time when SmallCo wanted to lure her away from Big Agency LTD! I point blank asked him for examples closer to my role (ie mid-level general management) and instead of acknowledging that it was highly unlikely that companies would be as flexible with positions that are much easier to fill, he doubled down and scolded me that if I didn’t ask, I’d never get the opportunity. This was someone who was supposed to be an expert in helping people get employed, and he was completely oblivious to the realities of the job market, so I’m absolutely unsurprised that friends and family would have even less understanding about the logistics involved.

    2. Attack Cat*

      I know their are tax implications to doing so that are being waved due to covid, as well as an extended period to submit proof of the employees work authorization, but I don’t think you have to register. There are some, granted small business, where you just register at the federal level, and give the state a heads up in regards to your estimated tax payments. Unless you mean registering with the state tax office, which is just filling out paperwork, not something where you can be denied approval.

      1. doreen*

        Even the most simple registration in order to withhold state taxes is going to be a different issue for an employer who suddenly has people working in a few different states than it is for a company near a border which has always had commuters from one or two other states. And it not clear to me at all how labor and sales tax laws will apply to remote workers – will an employer based in Kansas have to pay daily overtime to their remote employee in California ? Will an retail store based in New Hampshire have to collect NY sales tax on online orders because they have a remote worker in NY? I suspect that states will at least attempt to treat a single remote employee as if the business had set up a branch office, and California will require that remote worker to get time and a half after eight hours in a single day.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, my large employer is in the DC area and has employees who work in DC, MD, and VA and live in DC, MD, VA, a few in West Virginia, and I think a few who commute in from Delaware. When a colleague wanted to start working remotely (pre-pandemic) from a state halfway across the country, HR/payroll said no. They go through the hassle of employing people in multiple states, but that doesn’t mean adding another is only a trivial amount of effort or that they’re willing to go through that hassle.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I’m also in DC, and I think that states generally have some sort of commuting/reciprocity agreements in areas like this. I live and work in different jurisdictions, but I only pay local taxes in my home state. (And, hence the 10% DC food tax, in absence of an ability to levy a commuter tax on those of us who don’t live there.)

            1. doreen*

              That very much depends on the states involved* – but that’s not the hassle were talking about. It’s one thing for a DC employer to set things up to withhold state taxes for employees living in MD or Virginia or for a NY employer to set things up for employees in NJ or PA – the states within commuting distance of an employer are somewhat limited. It’s something very different for them to potentially have to make arrangements to withhold in 20 or 30 states because if I’m going to be 100% remote it doesn’t matter if I live in NJ or Wyoming.

              * Just because DC can’t tax commuters doesn’t mean NY, NJ and MA don’t.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Yep, I have been having this exactly conversation with my payroll department, I just wrote my comment very vaguely- I meant that the DC metro area states (mostly VA and MD, unsure about WV) have such agreements, not all of them, which is not at all clear from the way I phrased it.

                Reciprocity agreements are generally local, and we have been having a terrible time getting permission to open up hard-to-fill positions to full remote because of the challenges with hiring someone in a state outside the local, multi-jurisdiction metro area.

              2. nonegiven*

                There was this thing on Reddit the other day. The guy’s mother had run a business in CA, where he still lives. Then she retired and moved back to the Phillipines. 10 years later, or w/e she visits and opens a bank account in CA. CA suddenly pops up, after she had returned to the Phillipines, wanting to charge her 10 years of income tax, penalty, and interest.

                People were advising, if you plan to leave the country, first establish residence in a state with no income tax.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          My employer is in CA, but I am in a different state. ADP advised that payroll would be based on the laws of the home state. So while my coworkers in CA get overtime for anything over eight hours in a day, I only get overtime if I go over 40 hours in a week.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that an employer is going to be denied approval. But having an employee there can create nexus for the company in that state, which can require them to charge sales tax to customers there, as well as pay taxes to that state. They’d also need to get set up to pay workers comp insurance in the new state, plus figure out and comply with that state’s employment laws, which could be more restrictive than the ones they’re subject to currently.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        It also depends on how your company is structured, in addition to how large it is. I was chatting with a former colleague who works in a law firm (LLP/partnership), and they do not allow employees in certain states because it would entail *all* of the shareholders to file tax returns in that state. For her mid-sized firm, that’s over 100 partners, and it’d be more for a larger firm. That is a no-go unless you are an impossible-to-replace, mission-critical employee raking in some serious cash.

        I would also imagine that NY/NJ/CT/DE/PA may also have some sort of reciprocity agreement where residents near the borders get some sort of grace on working, same as DC/MD/VA.

    3. HCBatman*

      LW#5- It’s also totally OK to define your family as people not related to you at all! Making a family that loves and supports you when those related to you biologically are… not nice people… means that you can just insert them into any family discussion. Who is to know that X person isn’t your father or uncle? If that feels weird just drop any defining titles and say I’m going to Xavier’s house and we’re making (insert apropriate food).

      The idea of a nuclear family isn’t ubiquitous anymore so as long as you know who your family is who cares about anything else?

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I love this. Many of us are privileged to have great families and also people who are our family-of-choice. My best friend is the aunt to my kids and was a second daughter to my mother. She also has her own very lovely parents. When my mom died, she was devastated and bereft and involved in the clearing of mom’s flat and so forth, and took time off work as the result of the death of a close family member. Of course the opportunity for people taking liberties is there, but the point still holds. Family are the people you have bonds with and who you’d call when the chips are down. Adopt that view as your response when people say ”so what’s your family doing for Christmas”.

        As an aside, I have been a long way from my large and loving family over holidays and was too proud to say I’d be alone and sometimes when people ask, they want to invite you somewhere to join in. Of course you will know the nature of the relationship, but I was nearly crying with gratitude when my flatmate who I only knew a bit just swept me up on Christmas morning and over-rode my weak bleats about ”oh I couldn’t impose” and I will never forget her kindness and being included.

      2. bonkerballs*

        Similarly, it’s also perfectly fine to deny people who are biologically related to you the right to the word family. If you are estranged from your parents, your siblings, whoever, and someone asks are you spending time with family… I see no need to explain the situation beyond saying I don’t have any family right now.

      3. beckley*

        +1 — I was going to say exactly this.

        It’s alright if you answer the question even if you’re thinking “family = me + cat” (or whatever).

    4. OP #4*

      Hi, that’s me! I suspect the companies are registered for business operations in most states – they have a wide network that gets pretty location-specific, think delivery/warehouse operations on the ground level. But that is a good point I hadn’t considered from the company’s perspective.

      and yes, these people don’t know what they’re talking about, haha, but that’s an issue bigger than this particular letter

  3. Can Can Cannot*

    Whenever I hear about contests at work, I think of a line in the play “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet:

    Blake: “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.”

    Hopefully OP3’s attendance contest isn’t as cut throat as this.

    1. theletter*

      oh yeah I was in a sales contest just like this!

      1st prize was an iphone.
      2nd prize was a hug.
      There were only three salespeople.

      my nice colleague got the iphone. I got the hug. Third guy just stopped showing up for work.

    2. Lauren*

      I’m a former teacher, and we had decent leave policies, as negotiated by our local union. But my principal at my last school decided she wanted to save money on subs by trying to incentivize not taking time off. So she would have a monthly “shoutout” to those teachers that hadn’t missed a day in the month or since the beginning of the year. She’d also draw names from a hat of those teachers and they’d get a prize ($10 gift card, usually). At the end of the year, the 2 or 3 teachers who hadn’t missed any day got a small gift bag with some office supplies. It was always the same people, who were always the ones that came to work sick and infected others multiple times. It was ridiculous and didn’t improve attendance

      1. JustaTech*

        I remember crying to my mom in 3rd grade when I got really sick the first week of school because I knew I couldn’t get perfect attendance. She said that all that “perfect attendance” meant was that some parents sent their kids to school sick.

        At my next school there was no award for perfect attendance and my classmates all still came to school.

      2. Saradactyl*

        Contests like these also unfairly penalise chronic illness/pain and disability. Not cool, not fair, especially since people with disabilities and chronic illness/pain already have to put forth so much extra effort to succeed at all compared to those who are able-bodied. Way to make hard lives even harder, management. Idiots.

    3. Lexie*

      I had a job where they gave prizes for attendance. The goal was to prevent frivolous call offs because we had people that just wouldn’t feel like coming in. What happened was the responsible people earned multiple prizes (I had at least 10 in under 3 years) and the irresponsible people didn’t change their ways over a prize.

  4. Drew*

    My response to “are you going home for the holidays?” is usually a cheery but clearly loaded “This is home for me.” I know I’m in the minority, so I don’t make a big deal about it, but I find the practice of assuming that adults’ parents houses are “home” infantilizing. Especially considering that typically isn’t said to married people/parents.

    1. Jackalope*

      I hate that too! I’ve lived in my current town for decades, since I left post-high school. I often have friends of my parents say things like, “Oh, you came home for the holidays!” I try really hard to avoid the snark, but what I want to say is something like, “I thought about staying home but decided to visit my parents instead.” Really, people!

      1. Liz*

        Same, especially after my parents moved out of state. IT was THEIR home, but not mine. Drove me crazy. Yes, I’m going to spend the holidays WITH my parents, in THEIR home. but i’m not going home.

      2. Coenobita*

        Yes! I don’t understand why we can’t (as a society) better distinguish between “home” and “hometown.” I do have a hometown (not everyone does, of course) and am quite attached to it. My parents and other relatives live there and I enjoy visiting! However, I have not lived there since 2004; where I live now is “home.”

        I feel like this ties into how we use “living at home,” e.g. for young adults who live with their parents. This really bugs me because guess what… most people live “at home”! That is literally what homes are for!!!!

        1. ThatGirl*

          Eh, I don’t really have a hometown. Not to pick on you specifically. But I spent my childhood in two different states, and then my parents moved again, got divorced, my mom and her husband live in a town I have a lot of family connections to but I never lived there, and my dad and stepmom live in her hometown. I don’t have a childhood bedroom to go back to or friends from elementary school (or even high school) I might run across at the grocery store.

          I’ve also moved around a lot as an adult; my 9 years in my current town makes this home, but it’s not like I have deep roots here.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think this is more common than people realize. I grew up in a very heavily military area, so having people who rotated in/out every few years was very common and many of them did not have what they considered a “hometown”, it was last station or favorite station or something.

            The closest thing I have to a “hometown” is a place that I never actually lived – one of my aunts still owns my grandparents home, and I spent a lot of holidays and vacations there. But it’s where my family is, not where I’m personally from. No one in my family lives where I spent most of my childhood, and, at this point, I only spent 1/4 of my life there anyway.

            My in-laws still live in the house my spouse was brought home from the hospital to, and they lived there until they left for college and then a short time after they graduated. That’s their hometown, but they also have lived where we are now a lot longer than they lived there.

          2. EngineerMom*

            I moved every 5 years as a kid, and every 2.5 years as a married adult (I managed to stay planted for 5 years in the years before getting married and the first 2.5 years after the wedding!).

            I laugh when people ask “where are you from?”. Literally. They ask, and I laugh, and then say “Do you want the long answer or the short answer?” If they opt for the short answer, I just say, “I grew up all over the US, but I’ve lived here for X years.”

            If they opt for the long answer, they get a short family history of how my siblings and I were born on 3 different coasts (as in, Alaska, New Jersey, and Ohio on the coast of Lake Erie) and spent parts of our childhood growing up in 3 different states, and my kids were born in 2 different states, and hubby and I have lived in 4 different states.

            Inevitable follow-up question: “Oh, was your dad in the military?”

            (No, and it’s a little sexist to assume it was my *dad’s* job that dragged us all over, though in our case it does happen to be true!)

        2. Amethystmoon*

          My original hometown is the suburb where I graduated from high school. I haven’t lived there in years. I consider my current apt home.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is the same exact thing that’s always bothered be about people saying “living at home” rather than “living with family.” And even then, some families live together longer than others, which is a thing that has been happening in the world for as long as there have been humans. I’m not sure why our culture has decided to be so weird about it.

      3. waffles*

        It’s right up there with “when are you going to start a family?”. I have a family, of course. It maybe just doesn’t look like your family, but that doesn’t make it any less a family.
        I am 42 years old. I have a home and a family. Thank you very much.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I am not originally from the US, and I moved out of my parents’ apartment when I graduated high school and never moved back, to their place or to the hometown. We don’t use the term “home” in the sense of “where your parents live” in Home Country. It baffled me for years here in the US. Like, my house is almost paid off and I’ve lived in it for ten years, but I’m not living at home, but if I moved into my mom’s Section 8 studio apartment, I would be? What the heck? I admit I came to a better understanding of the term after my grown kids started intermittently moving out and then “back home”. I’m okay with them seeing my house, where they spent their teenage years, as their home. I do want to move to a different neighborhood, but if they want to call my new future house their home too, that’s fine with me as well. So I suppose I am finally warming up to the term after all these years.

        Many years ago, a guy I’d started talking to on a dating app, ended our relationship before it started, by asking me “Do you like it here” (meaning US) “or do you want to move back home?” I was speechless. I was completely unprepared to being told that I am not at home and that I’d need to move out of the country that I’m a citizen of, and that my children lived their whole lives in, that my father’s grave is in etc, etc, if I ever want to be “home”. Did not do anything to endear me to the term “home” as it is used here.

    2. alienor*

      It always seems odd to me too, especially because I didn’t have the apparently common experience of growing up in one house that my parents still live in decades later. We moved around the country for years when I was a kid, then my parents divorced, then both of them moved individually to separate states, and I stayed behind in the last state we’d all lived in together. Home is my home, not my mother’s house that I’ve only visited a handful of times. (I never know how to answer inquiries about my hometown either, never mind those account security questions that are like “What was the name of the street you grew up on?” and “What color was your childhood bedroom?”)

      1. nope*

        I give answers like “nobody” (spouse/child name) or “nowhere” (location of wedding/first kiss). In your case I’ll be tempted to answer “rainbow” for room color!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I love the idea of listing “nowhere” as the location of my wedding. That’s glorious.

      2. Brightwanderer*

        I have a set of fictional answers to those questions, to reduce the chances of someone being able to guess.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. It actually drives me nuts that those questions are answerable by anyone who’s background checked you, if you answer them honestly. I also rotate the answers – one of my old, no longer in use standbys was for “What did you want to be when you grew up?” – “an adult”.

      3. Liz*

        This reminds me of trying to reset my debit card pin on the phone with my bank. They had security questions, which I’m fine with but they were SO obscure, i failed. MIssed 3 out of 5. Stuff like they name 5 people and said who do you know? Um excuse me? I’ve never heard of ANY of them. Next up with what YEAR did you open your account with us? Again, I have an idea of how long I’ve been with them, but not the exact year. and the last one I remember is they named 5 streets and said whcih is closest to you. I have no sense of direction and really don’t know street names. I can tell you how to get somewhere “turn left out of the complex, and at the stop sign, etc.” they were so ridiculous.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My internet provider told me that my security question was “What is your favorite restaurant?” I can count on my one hand the number of times I eat out in any given year. I do not have a favorite restaurant. I don’t know who set that question for my account, but I can swear on a stack of Bibles it wasn’t me. Not knowing the answer though, locked me out of my account for a while. We eventually worked our way around it, but it wasn’t easy. To this day I don’t know the answer. Asked my sons (who were the only other two people that ever lived in my house) and they have no idea either.

          1. Quill*

            My favorite was when I worked at a very small business and was instructed to deal with the internet… but all the security questions were very personal to my boss.

            So in the course of one afternoon I learned his favorite actor (misspelled) his favorite book (no longer current) and that he didn’t remember choosing first pet as a security question because he’d never had one, but there it was…

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I love the “which of these addresses have you lived at?” question, which always takes me a minute, because it’s never the house I grew up in or the place where I’ve lived for almost 20 years, it’s always the apartment I lived in for one semester during grad school. So I’ll be looking at the list of addresses and trying to figure out the cross streets, and go, oh yeah, I did live there for a couple of months.

          1. Paulina*

            I’ve had that one too, and I’d forgotten one place had been my address until it showed up on the list to choose from. I liked that, since there’s probably only a couple of other people who would know about it, so it’s quite obscure.

      4. NeonFireworks*

        I read that the average family in the U.S. and Canada moves once every 3 years, and that would mean the Pleasantville model of childhood is kind of ridiculous.

      5. Lynn Whitehat*

        Ha ha. We moved every year until I began high school and my mother put her foot down. I HATE those questions. “What street did you grow up on?” “What elementary school did you attend?” You’re assuming a very particular type of childhood, Security Question Writer.

        Anyway, someone finally explained to me that when people ask where you’re from, or whether you’re going “home” for the holidays, they’re just making small talk. You’re not under oath. Just say anything in an upbeat tone, and then ask them the same thing.

      6. HailRobonia*

        Same here. One of the downsides of moving so much when I was growing up is that I can’t create my drag name (the name of your first pet + the name of the street you grew up on).

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I did not know it was a thing. I just tried it in my head. It came out sounding like a Russian criminal’s jail nickname. It came out sounding male, because that’s what my childhood street name sounds like. I’ll have to find a good use for that name, thank you for this idea!

            1. Hillary*

              My childhood address was Rural Route 5 Box 58 (numbers changed to protect anonymity). They switched to street names a couple years after we moved.

        2. A CAD Monkey*

          I’d say that gives you an advantage, you have more choices to make a kickass name. Always gotta spin the positive view where you can.

      7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh lord, the US-centric security questions are killing me! “What was the name of your high school?” It was a number. “What was the name of your elementary/middle school?” It was the same school for ten years, with the same number. “What was your high school mascot?” CTFO with this nonsense, lol.

      8. bluephone*

        You use fake answers for those security questions. The banking website or whatever doesn’t care if you answered “123 Main Street” when you really lived on “456 South Street” when you were 10. It just cares that when you put “123 Main Street” as your answer to that security, that you always remember you used “123 Main Street.” You could put the White House’s address in those security questions–the Secret Service won’t show up to accuse you of squatting.
        FYI for anyone: it’s safer to *not* use true answers for those security questions because that is an easy way for someone who isn’t you to gain access to your bank/netflix/instacart/whatever website. Info like your date of birth, previous residences, etc aren’t hard to find out on the big bad web :-(

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I find it easier to keep track of the answers that are at least somewhat rooted in reality. (Eg, to my comment above, I was never able to remember what “the name of my favorite restaurant” was, and I never will. I admit, LastPass and similar apps are a great help, but sadly that question and answer were not in there – either I forgot to enter them, or someone else in my family set the q&a without me knowing.) I guess I am in a somewhat privileged position here though, because 1) I am old enough that no one remembers the street I lived on in the 70s or the name of my manager in 1989 (and no way in heck is any of that stuff on the internet), and 2) none of my answers are the typical “Pleasantville” ones. There’s really no way for someone to guess that stuff about me. For those that are not as lucky, there’s LastPass.

      9. AKchic*

        “What was the color of your childhood bedroom?” For a lot of people, the true answer is going to be some type of white. That’s not really a “unique” or hard-to-guess answer. Especially for people who grew up in rentals, or with low-income parents, or even parents who didn’t go all-out on decorating budgets.

    3. A Non-Mouse*

      For me, home is the community I grew up in, not my childhood homes specifically. My family has been there for generations, and I know that cousins who never lived there feel a connection. The question may not always have an infantilizing assumption behind it.

      1. anonintheuk*

        I had a peripatetic childhood and home, for me, is the village one of my uncles still lives in and where I lived part of my childhood. I have direct ancestors buried in the churchyard from the end of the fifteenth century – and those are the ones for whom records exist.

        My parents moved after I went to university and the only reason I ever go to their town is to see them. They went travelling for nine months when they retired and I did not visit that town once.

      2. Washi*

        Yes, I call the place I currently live home, but I also call my “hometown” home because my family has lived there for generations as well.

        That said, I’m in grad school right now and it does annoy me when people ask if I “live at home.” ….If you’re asking if I live with my parents, no. But I do live in a home with my husband!

      3. Paulina*

        My family has moved for work, for generations. Anywhere that my ancestors lived for multiple generations has no known relatives in it, and is also very different from when they lived there. This has left me somewhat out-of-step with my current location, where many are from families that wouldn’t consider moving, also for generations. Outside of the university, everyone who isn’t considered to be an immigrant (stereotyped by appearance and accent, ugh) is simply expected to have a wide extended family in the region.

        I usually navigate the “home” question by answering the question variant I prefer them to have asked, not the words actually used. Unless the person asking is extraordinarily nosy, they’ll go along with my answer that is at least conceptually in line with their question, and on target with how I see things. There is a single city where I mostly grew up, and I tend to use that; where my family is from is high-level and something else entirely; anything else gets “Here and there, mostly there.” Home for the holidays? “I’m visiting my parents.” (Hopefully nobody will ask this year, blasted pandemic.)

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        The issue is not having a home town or parents, it’s that the place that you, as an adult, are living is not “home” – that “home” is where you grew up or where your parents/family are and not where you are. It’s a weird way to ask what is essentially, “do you have any travel plans for the holidays?”. I’m sure people generally do not mean harm by it, but it’s kind of an odd thing to ask grownups.

    4. MJ*

      “Are you going home for the holidays?”

      “Maybe. But as I go home every night perhaps I’ll do something different for the holidays.”

    5. Roeslein*

      Really? I’m married and a parent – people absolutely refer to my hometown as “home”. (My husband’s parents died a long time ago and we don’t have any other close family.) I’ve been moving cities / countries every 2-3 years for most of my adult life so it makes sense to me – I haven’t really put down roots anywhere else. I don’t think it has to do with marital status (or parenthood), more with how “established” you are / seem to be in your current location, if that makes sense.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, it does. If your parents live in the town you grew up in, while you’re moving from one place to another, even internationally, every few years, it’s possibly natural to still consider your parental home as your home. Conversely, if you moved around a lot as a kid and have no particular fondness for any location from your childhood, other people referring to your parents’ home as your home is more likely to feel infantilizing, especially if your parents have continued to move around after you left home.

        In my case, when I was 0-13 years old, I lived in 5 different places, and then, as a teenager and young adult I lived in 3 more, but after my 27th birthday I’ve only moved twice, when I first established a joint household with my husband and then to the house we’re currently living in, while remaining in the same town I’ve lived in (off and on, with time spent abroad in between) since I was 13.

        We moved so often when I was a kid that as an adult, I have no desire to relocate permanently. A friend of mine, whose parents still live in the same apartment they lived in when we became friends in junior high 35 years ago, spent more than 15 years of her life as an expatriate because of her husband’s job. Even she has settled in one place to be closer to her parents and because she wants her kid to have some stability by staying in the same school system.

        1. doreen*

          While I can understand why it feels infantilizing to have someone refer to your parent’s home as your home if you don’t have any connection to it – I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone do this knowingly ( for example, ask if someone is going “home” when the speaker knows the parents retired to Florida a couple of years ago)

          And it probably has to do with my location and age- but I’ve seen/heard plenty of references to “going home for the holidays” referring to people who retired to Texas, Arizona, Florida etc. returning to the place they raised their families and where their children and grandchildren still live.

          1. Two Homes*

            My thoughts and experience are similar. I’m in my 40s and single, but when people ask if I’m going home for the holidays, I assume they’re asking if I’m traveling to see my family of origin. And when I’m with my family of origin and people ask when I’m flying home, I assume they want to know when I’m returning to my permanent residence. These questions have absolutely zero effect on my feelings.

            1. Anon Lawyer*

              Yeah, nobody is interrogating you about your childhood or family structure. It’s a pleasantry. Answer with what makes sense.

            2. Gumby*

              Ditto. It’s all context dependent.

              We’re at the store and my Mom says “where to next?” I will answer “home” meaning her home, because it is a useful shorthand. But if she asks “when are you going home?” I answer with whatever my current plans are for returning to my home. It helps that my home and my parents’ home are 5 or so hours of driving apart from each other so it is seldom confusing.

              It is the same word meaning two different things – which is a common phenomena in English. Referring to my parents’ house as “home” doesn’t mean I am not an adult with my own independent household. It doesn’t imply that my parents’ home is somehow more legitimate than mine. It’s using “home” in the sense of “place of origin” which is a legitimate, if secondary, definition of the word.

      2. Mel_05*

        Yeah, I’m married, haven’t lived with my parents in 15+ years, and they don’t live in the house I grew up in. But I still say, “Oh I’m going home for Christmas”

        But, I’ve rarely lived somewhere longer than a year or two as an adult and my parents still live in the general area I grew up in. Even though I’m closing in on the point where I’ll have lived as long in my adopted state as in my childhood state, I still think of myself as new here – and so do the people who have lived here all their lives.

        1. Mx*

          I think it’s just a way of speaking for many people. I live in a different country than where I grow up. People asks me all the time if I am going “home” for the holidays. I also say that I am going “home” even though I feel very well at home in my new country.

    6. Beth Jacobs*

      Amen. Even in my first year at university, I rolled my eyes at people who just had to make their schedule fit into three days a week so they could go home for Fri to Tue every week. I thought they’d get over it by the end of the semester. We’re in our late twenties and many still call their parents’ house “home”.

      1. Myrin*

        That seems pretty judgmental, honestly. If that’s what worked for your fellow students and what they wanted and enjoyed, then that’s a valid course of action and not something to “get over”.
        You are 100% allowed to not want to have others refer to your parents’ house as “home” (and I do understand why it can come across as infantilising, even though I don’t necessarily share that view depending on the circumstances) but by the same token, others are allowed to refer to their own living situation that way.

        1. AGD*

          Nothing wrong with being close to family if it doesn’t actively interfere with independence. I did go to undergrad on the East Coast with someone who flew home to Chicago every weekend, which seemed excessive. Other than that, I wouldn’t worry. I spent hours on the phone with my family in undergrad, and would have visited far more if it hadn’t involved a very long diagonal trip (planes, bus, train or second bus).

        2. merp*

          Agree with this. There are a lot of norms and expectations (either personal, cultural, or otherwise) that go into how much time people spend with family, no matter their age. If it’s not what you want to do, no problem, but no need to judge others for it!

      2. SarahKay*

        I’m in my late forties and sometimes still refer to the area I grew up as home – although I don’t head off there every weekend! I do also refer to my own house as home.
        It probably does make a difference how much one moved around as a child. My parents moved there when I was two, and although they’ve just recently sold the house I grew up in they only moved a few miles away, so the general location is still ‘home’ to me. Until about three years ago, the area I grew up in was also the place I’d spent the largest portion of my life, which I daresay also makes a difference.

        1. Deranged Owl*

          Yeah. I got 2 homes: my place & my parents’ place.

          First time I moved I was 18, parents and siblings moved to a city, and then around my 30’s I found a place for my own about 5-10 minutes from my parents’. I still consider it my home as well as my place.
          Granted, while I do consider it my home, we don’t say that in our language “are you going home for the holidays”. The country I live in is a lot smaller so people don’t have to make travel plans to go to family (it’s like a 4h drive, depending traffic, to go from the most north part of the country to the most south part) What co-workers or friends would be more likely to say/ask is in the likes of “What will you be doing for the holidays” or “Any plans for New Year’s eve” or a variation of one or both of those.

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            My Mom is 82. She still refers to the place she grew up, the place where some of her siblings still live, the place where her parents are buried as “home” as in “I’d love to go home for a visit.” But when I asked if she wanted to be buried there, eventually, she looked at me like I was nuts and informed me she wouldn’t be caught dead there if she could never leave…

          2. UKDancer*

            Me too. I still call my parents place home because it is although it’s been 18 years. My parents also call my place their second home because they are always welcome I like them to feel comfortable.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But… like… it’s ok to have ties to the place where you went to high school. One of my son met his SO in high school, they are now on their 8th year together. (Which to be honest is much longer than his father and I made it together before we started fighting every day, and secretly wishing we weren’t trapped in our marriage and could easily leave.) A lot of his closest friends are his high school friends. Heck, for the longest time two of *my* closest friends were my high school friends. (One died in a car accident and with the other, we grew too far apart over the years.)

    7. Super Admin*

      Yeah, I’m married and still get asked if we’re having family over, or going to family for Christmas. Maybe it’s cos we don’t have kids, but people seem a bit surprised when I say we’re just spending Christmas at home, me, hubby and the cats.

      (Our Christmas tradition involves him cooking, and me guarding him and the kitchen counters from three devious Bengals!)

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, but it’s different to say “Are you going home for the holidays?” while obviously meaning your parental home and “Are you spending the holidays with family?” In many cases, I expect that most people assume family means birth family or in-laws, but you can interpret it in whatever way you want. Of course, asking “Are you having family over or are you going to visit family?” means that it’s more difficult to dodge the question gracefully. I’m glad the surprised looks you get when you answer don’t seem to bother you.

        You and your husband are a family. It really annoys me when some people say that it only counts as a family if you have kids, as if being childfree by choice or having infertility issues somehow means you’re less-than (I know that some people genuinely think so, but most of those probably also think that the only reason to get married is to have kids). Heck, even your Bengals are a part of your family, even if they aren’t human.

        My sister and I used to refer to our parents’ cats as our kitty brothers as a joke.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I get the ‘but aren’t you seeing family?’ question every year too, and have to point out that spending Xmas day with husband and cat IS spending time with family.

        Although I’m generally getting beaten up by the cat for not giving him the tasty human noms the husband has cooked. Loves broccoli.

        1. Paulina*

          I still occasionally get “Oh you’re not going home/visiting family for Thanksgiving?”, for Canadian Thanksgiving (so, only a 3-day weekend), from people who know quite well that my family is a full day away by plane. They’re just making what they think is a standard pleasant inquiry without really thinking about it, and don’t understand those who don’t live the way they do. The only one I really had a problem with was the one who asserted that I wasn’t emotionally close to my family since they’re so far away.

      3. TPS reporter*

        Wow three bengals! I just had one and he was a nut. I caught him with a full chicken wing in his mouth on the kitchen counter during a super bowl party. We went vegetarian soon after which killed his spirit a bit.

    8. Policy Wonk*

      Might be a midwest thing, but I have owned my home here as long as I lived in the city I grew up in, my children are grown, and I still get asked if I am coming “home” for the holidays.

    9. Dawbs*

      I find saying words like “hosting” and “tradition” change the conversation

      “We’re hosting a few friends, the dogs love the company. How about you?”
      “My friend Jake is hosting, how about you?”
      “We have a scary movie and pop tart tradition for just us. Have a favorite Christmas horror film?”

      (FWIW, in non covid years, I sometimes ask because my family has a very open table. We’ve added friends and coworkers and students and folks my parents just met at church and distant relatives and my inlaws and my parents’ tenants -not all these people at the same time. And I know not everyone wants to come to our zoo and “doing nothing” is a valid choice! But if people would miss the family thing, we have room! Just not this year)

    10. Lora*

      Yeah…I am old enough that my father is dead, my mother is in an assisted living facility and my brother is retired and travels to see his grandkids. My house is as close to Home as anything ever has been, with the added bonus that I get to eat and drink whatever I want and sit on my butt watching movies instead of having to cook for 30+ people who will subsequently complain about it (but not lift a finger to help me).

      Thankfully I have many friends and colleagues whose family are on the other side of the world and don’t really celebrate Christmas – they go for ski or island vacations instead, something I highly recommend if you can afford it post-Covid. This year we’re all sitting on our butts watching James Bond movies and drinking hot chocolate though.

    11. Thankful for AAM*

      Now I am wondering how I talk about this with my adult son. He lives about 1 hour away in a shared place. He usually comes to our house to visit (in the before times) bc our house is better for visits and we have the dog. Do I say, “are you coming over Saturday” or do I say “are you coming home?”

      I never realized ppl say this to single ppl so much.

      1. Parcae*

        Just ask him if it bugs him. I’m the adult child in this scenario and either “are you coming over Saturday” or “are you coming home?” are fine by me. I go home to see my parents, and afterwards, I go home to my own home. Somehow, I always end up in the right place. :)

        1. merp*

          Echoing this, this is never a phrasing that has bothered me. Asking is the right move just in case it does bother him!

      2. Quill*

        My pre-pandemic answer to people asking why I still lived at home (aka with my parents) in my late 20’s was that the laundry machine ran for free and the pet policy was that my dog already lived there.

    12. Archaeopteryx*

      People do say that to married people and parents too. It’s just a context dependent phrase. “Home for the holidays“ is a preset phrase indicating wherever you go to spend time with family. Kind of like how depending on the context when I first moved to the city I would say “I’m going home” to meet either “I am leaving work and returning to my apartment” or “I am driving to visit my parents this weekend.” It’s not infantilizing to use the same phrase to mean different things in different contexts.

      And it doesn’t have to be that you’re insufficiently adult if you do still think of your hometown as home – unless you moved around as a kid, a young adult will have spent many more years in their hometown than in their current city. It doesn’t need to take getting married or anything to slowly change that, it could just be the passage of time.

    13. Funk*

      Interesting, I really haven’t encountered this phrasing; much prefer “are you traveling for the holidays?” type of chatter/phrasing. (in pre-covid era, anyway!)

    14. CommanderBanana*

      I don’t have a relationship with my parents, but when people ask I just say, “oh, my parents live here!” which is true, but doesn’t mean I’m going to go see them.

      I spend my holidays with the two most important beings in my life – my dogs. ;)

    15. Oxford Comma*

      This kind of question falls into the “how was your weekend?” camp for me. In my experience, no one really wants the details of your holiday plans. It’s usually meant as a general social question and you can get away with something super vague (e.g. “We’ll have a family dinner.). No one needs to know who comprises “we” and that usually shuts the conversation down.

      1. bluephone*

        Right, it’s a way to kill time before the weekly meeting or whatever. No one actually cares about what other people are up to.

    16. CanCan*

      “What will you and your family do?” is a lot simpler than it sounds. “Family” is who you consider to be family, depending on the question. I can include as my family:
      – my nuclear family – i.e. people I live with and see every day for dinner
      – all my relatives, alive or dead, from my nuclear family, to my relatives overseas (in the country I came from – which isn’t my “home” anymore), including those whom I’ve never met and those whose names I don’t know (e.g. my cousins’ spouses and children)
      – anything in between

      So you could just say: my family is all here (and you could mean just you by that) and my home is here.

      It’s weird people saying “home” when you haven’t mentioned home being elsewhere.

  5. pcake*

    LW4, some jobs were remote or willing to go remote before the pandemic. I’ve been working in my livingroom since 1996. It never hurts to ask.

    1. Beth*

      It doesn’t hurt to ask when it’s a job that LW4 is really interested in, but it also doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time and energy following up on job postings that are just an okay fit and that aren’t specifically listed as remote. There are definitely better uses for LW’s time than that.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        *If* it’s an exciting job for a respected company, I might send a cover letter *asking* to be considered if they decide to convert this to a permanently remote-work position. Attach baseline resume, and then forget it as quickly as dropping my name into a radio station free-car contest.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          It’s one thing to ask to remotely in the same state, though. The LW mentioned that a lot of the jobs were in a different state, not just a different area. It would be a lot more effort for that company to pay taxes and follow the rules of a state they’re not located in just to accommodate one employee who wants to work remotely. Not to say that would be a limitation for every one of those companies, but it could be :/

          1. OP #4*

            I suspect the companies are registered for business operations in most states – they have a wide network that gets pretty location-specific, think delivery/warehouse operations on the ground level. But that is a good point I hadn’t considered from the company’s perspective.

  6. many bells down*

    In my experience, men who obsessively ask about my spouse are hoping for an “in” if there’s a marital issue.

    1. up so floating*

      In the last sentence LW explains that she is not the coworker’s preferred gender for romantic involvement.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to ask that we trust the LW’s sense of her own situation and take the facts in her letter at face value. (It’s very frustrating for LWs to be sure a fact is true and then come here and find a lot of people disputing it.) Also, a reminder of the rule that if you’re speculating on facts not in the letter, please include how that would change your advice. Thank you.

      1. JC*

        Why is no one just taking it at face value? Maybe the guy is new in town, or doesn’t have many close friends. He met OP and found common interests, and maybe enjoyed hanging out with OP and spouse, and wants to make the friendship more active. He’s being a bit too aggressive (asking too many questions, being dramatic, or not taking no for an answer), but that may just be social anxiety, or desperation to make friends. I don’t see why that makes him a creep. Just let him down gently by stating you have boundaries with work/ home friendships

        1. Mel_05*

          It doesn’t necessarily make him a creep, but even without a romantic angle (which I agree, we have no evidence for) it can be kind of creepy when people push too hard to hang out. He probably just is desperate or socially awkward, but it’s so stressful to deal with that kind of thing.

          1. JC*

            Agree, but I don’t see why that makes someone “creepy”? And all the comments here are saying he’s creepy. He’s not hanging outside their apartment all night or sending love letters to the husband. He’s just trying too hard to build/ maintain a one sided friendship, and is taking an interest in the life of the OP. The OP just needs to end the friendship gently and state they have the work life boundary.

            1. Mel_05*

              I don’t think it’s automatically creepy, but I’ve known people where it was so intense that even without outlandish gestures it felt creepy. I think other people have to and they’re projecting that onto this. Which could be creepy… or it could just be awkward.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              “Not taking no for an answer”, to me, is inherently creepy. Or perhaps better phrased: even if it’s not inherently creepy initially, the ratio of the person turning out to be creepy later is so skewed in favor of “creep” that the distinction is pointless.

            3. Crivens!*

              I know some men really hate hearing this, but “creepy” depends on the perception and experience of the person being creeped out, not the intentions or perception of the person defying normal social boundaries.

              If someone feels creeped out by pushy behavior, they’re creeped out. The intent of the person creeping them out by not following those boundaries is irrelevant.

              1. Nanani*

                Intent is not magic. Effects are more important than intent. Its not that your intent doesn’t matter at all, but the actual impact of your actions always matters more.

              2. Mel_05*

                So true. If I’m creeped out, I’m creeped out. The possibility of good intentions or a misunderstanding does not change how it feels to experience the overstep.

            4. Keymaster of Gozer*

              It differs from person to person. For me, having someone refuse to accept my ‘no’, trying to argue about it, find ways around it, ignore it etc. fires off every creepy flag in my head. I’ve too much experience with people of all genders who’ve decided ‘no’ means ‘yes’ to b anything else.

              I tend to use ‘I don’t socialise with people I work with’ or ‘I’m not looking to make friends for outside work’. If the recipient of that wording gets offended or refuses to accept it….then the creepy metre goes up.

    3. Beth*

      Yeah, even if the coworker isn’t looking for a sexual or romantic relationship specifically, they’re definitely using the kind of tactics that creeps are known for, and they’re using those tactics to pressure OP into having some kind of relationship with them. (Friendship is a kind of relationship, especially the intimate kind where you regularly hang out one-on-one and are each other’s go-to company for social things!)

      LW, you’re doing everything right. Alison’s advice is also full of good, low-conflict ways to bow out of these invitations. But if you keep using those low-conflict answers and your coworker just isn’t taking the hint, it’s also okay to be more blunt. You aren’t the one being rude or introducing conflict here. At that point, either they don’t know how to read between the lines (this is the generous interpretation of their behavior), in which case you telling them outright that you don’t want to do things one-on-one is doing them a favor by clearly communicating your boundaries, or they’re actually a creep, and the lack of sexual/romantic intent behind their creepiness doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable or that you have to just deal with it forever.

      1. TPS reporter*

        Many of us are raised as women to be very polite and deferential. We wind up in these social traps because we try to be nice. I agree with bring blunt. Rip the band-aid off.

  7. Anon for this*

    LW1 did we work at the same bookstore? This sounds so familiar, and my coworker escalated really uncomfortably. The book industry is a little weird like you said—there’s a bit of an assumption that you’ll put up with anything because you Love Books So Much.

    1. allathian*

      Yikes. I’m glad that when I worked in a bookstore in college, there was none of this stuff. I mean, I was just the cashier and loved being able to check out new SF&F titles as soon as they came in, but it was just a job. My social life was certainly elsewhere (college!) and while I really liked my coworkers, we didn’t hang out much outside of work.

    2. Ellen Ripley*

      Another bookstore worker here and yep, it’s a bit like a dysfunctional family among my coworkers. They have group chat and a Discord together and I’ve never signed up for either, and opted out of the Secret Santa. One of my coworkers regularly babysits for one of the managers and is now good friends with another of my coworkers who helped them move a few months ago, and regularly hang out together. Generally the close relationships are a boon to morale but sometimes the vibe gets a little too … imagine a frat house but with all genders and a bunch of nerds, and the work sometimes gets pushed aside in favor of amusement.

      I am friendly and engage to the level I am comfortable, but I don’t hang out outside of work or do the chats. I think most people like me but I’m definitely seen as more of an adult and a ‘normal’ – it helps that I’m one of the older people to work at the store, so it’s not expected for me to be as enmeshed, I suppose. There are times when I find the lack of boundaries annoying, but I’m not going to change the whole culture of the store myself so for now I just put up with it.

      I feel like this happens in retail or food service fairly often, actually; the work is tedious and repetitive and you’re dealing with customers who can be stressful and you’re always short-staffed, so there’s a “in the trenches together” vibe that tends to develop.

  8. Fancy Owl*

    For number #1, I was all set to come down here and say he’s totally into you and is asking about your spouse to see if you have marital issues he could capitalize on… until the last sentence. Now I’m wondering if he might actually be interested in your husband, and he’s hoping a friendship with you will lead to getting to know your husband better. Or he could be super bad at making friends. Either way, the scripts are good.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Maybe he wants a male friendship and bonded with the husband. Who knows?

      Alison’s advice is good. It took me into my 40s to realize that just because someone wanted to be my friend did not mean I had to be there friend. As a socially awkward and rejection-fearing person I did not want to reject anyone else’s invites. But I realized that there were a couple of nice-enough people who I did not click with who seemed to think we did click. With one, I kept turning the invites down and they eventually stopped. With another, we had to have the talk (she finally forced it) where I said I was not interested in a one-on-one friendship.

      Now that I think about it both of these women had dramatic romantic relationships where they kept going back or stayed with someone who was always causing them unhappiness and drama. My tolerance for hearing about that cycle is low.

      1. It's all subjective*

        +1 Yep, I agree with you. I think he may be more interested in the husband in one sense or another. Maybe he thinks your husband is a cool guy and wants to be friends through you. Maybe he thinks your husband could be bi. Maybe this guy is bi too and hoping there could be a poly thing going on. Maybe he just liked the dynamic you and your husband share, and thought he’d make a fun 3rd wheel to you both.

        There are so many possibilities.

      2. Lorumipsum*

        I find that I agree. You become better about being protective of your time as you mature. I work on a team with several generations which is great and a kind of diversity that you need. However some of the younger ones who started this year were all about “let’s go out to dinner after work and just get to know each other better, my treat etc.” There are several issues with that but my major one is that I’m very protective of my precious time off the clock and I would rather be at home or doing something with my spouse and after working hard all day I don’t want to have forced fun with colleagues.

        1. allathian*

          I hear you. I was very keen on after work activities when I was in my late 20s and single. In before times, I enjoyed going for drinks very occasionally with my coworkers, usually no more than twice or three times a year. Now with WFH and COVID, I don’t miss it at all. I do usually join our Friday coffee break just for some random social chatting with my teammates, but that’s it.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, mine as well. I’ve ended one friendship with an explosion of frustration like “Dump him or don’t, but I can’t deal with your drama anymore.” Some people are drama magnets, and I avoid them like the plague.

        It helps that I’m an introvert and I don’t need much social contact. One phone call or Whatsapp session a month with my bestie is plenty! I also have another really good friend I talk to almost as often. I talk to my sister about once a week, my parents ditto, my MIL at least once a month…

    2. SomehowIManage*

      I think then he would have invited them over as a couple vs just LW1 alone. Actually, for me the strangest part is inviting a married woman without her husband. It’s common for same sex friends but I think somewhat unusual otherwise.

      1. Foxgloves*

        I disagree with this wholeheartedly. My (male) partner has a lot of female friends (some in relationships, some single) that he sees one-on-one, and I have a number of male friends I see one-on-one. Just because people are in a relationship doesn’t mean they come as a pair that can’t be separated!
        I do think though that this coworker is hoping for something…more from the LW though. Even if not romantic, is this guy new in town? Is there a specific shared interest going on here outside of the We Love Books thing that he really wants to capitalise on? I think Alison is right though that focusing just on the group hangs is the best way to do this…

    3. yokozbornak*

      My guess is that he pulls this with every employee there. He is likely going after OP #1 hard and heavy because he has burned bridges with other employees, and she is just a fresh soul that he can suck the life out of. I doubt if it is romantic. Emotional vampires often try to build intimate connections quickly (being extra chummy, doing favors, buying gifts) because they want to progress the frienship quickly. This then allows them to demand attention and favors and have an outlet for their drama.

  9. Anony-Mouse*

    #5 If you’re in a relationship, then you could refer to that as your family. “What are you and your family doing for the holidays?” “My partner and I are going skiing.” Or, same thing if you have kids, they are your family now. I think, as you get older, when people ask about your family they mean your partner/kids and not your parents/family. :)

    1. Malarkey01*

      I had a good friend in a very similar situation and when people asked about parents/siblings/extended family she replied with a cheery “oh, it’s just me”. Which was true because they weren’t her family anymore, but it put a point on the conversation and usually someone would say “oh” and move along with the conversation or an occasional “I’m sorry” (usually from someone envisioning some tragic situation). Only a few times did someone press and ask for specifics and she just said “oh it’s a bit hard to talk about” and that stopped them and people assumed sympathy instead of weirdness.

      If you have a ready, natural reply people will usually accept and move right through it without thinking anything of it.

    2. TT*

      Family can also mean chosen family, and, for conversations that are meant to be idle chat (that people don’t realize are uncomfortable), there’s nothing wrong with stretching that definition. If it’s more comfortable, count your roommates/close friends/pets as family when answering those questions.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I was going to say this. Sometimes you have to choose your family. but they are family nonetheless.

        Take the questions as polite chitchat, not an excuse to bare your soul. Are you visiting family for the holidays is code for I a human being am acknowledging to you another human being that there is some sort of socially observed event occuring, I am inquiring about to acknowledge that said event is occuring.

      2. comityoferrors*

        Yes! I’m estranged from almost my entire family. When I get questions about spending time with family, I will usually answer with a breezy, “Yeah, we’re doing [X]!” My coworkers do not know or care that my ‘family’ in that sentence is a group of friends and my cats. The few times that I’ve gotten follow-up questions, I just roll with it (“My friend Chris is bringing her famous brownies, and my friend John is barbequing!”) and no one has responded weirdly yet. They’re just making pleasant conversation.

        If letting the listener assume you are seeing your family feels iffy, you can instead say, “Yeah, my friends are coming over and we’re doing [X]!” Same thing. Just keep your own tone light and conversational and 9 times out of 10, nobody will bat an eye.

        1. awesome*

          I think that’s excellent advice, and it’s what the asker is looking for. They don’t mean to put you on the spot, even though that’s what they are accidentally doing. They want to know if they should debate sweet potato vs pumpkin, and to make some happy small talk.

    3. Joielle*

      Yeah – when someone asks about your family, just answer the question in relation to whoever you consider to be your family at this time. Spouse/partner, friends, pets, roommates, neighbors, guildmates, whoever.

      Or just say “we’re sticking close to home this year, how about you?” A nice, all-purpose way to deflect well-meaning holiday questions (made even more appropriate during a pandemic).

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Exactly! Two weeks notice is a professional courtesy, not some kind of law.

      If you’re worried about burning a bridge / not getting a good reference, but want to get out ASAP, I’ve worked with a few people who quit with one week notice. No one remembered that detail a few years later; the only memorable situations were the few people who said “I quit” and stormed out immediately.

    2. TwoWeeksNotice*

      After I received the email, I went looking through our HR policies and the only thing I could find about resignations was so vague:
      “Normally, employees are expected to provide at least two weeks’ advance written notice to their manager when they intend to separate employment.”

      1. Sara without an H*

        Use of the word “normally” suggests that there’s room for negotiation.

        My understanding is that, in the US, employee handbooks are not contracts and therefore not enforceable in court. (I gladly submit to correction from readers with more knowledge.)

        1. doreen*

          My understanding is that some employee handbooks have been found to be enforceable as contracts- and therefore employers are very careful in how they are written to ensure that they are not enforceable as contracts. For example, making sure to include disclaimers that “this is not a contract” and statements the employment relationship is at-will and that the employer reserves the right to make changes to polices at any time.

          But most of the time, the only way an employer can “enforce” a notice period is by not providing something optional. For example, in my state, an employer does not have to pay you for unused vacation time if they have informed you in writing of a policy not to pay you. My employer has a written policy that I will be paid for up to 30 days vacation as long as I provide 2 week’s notice- which is an incentive for me to provide that notice ( if i have unused vacation time)

      2. Observer*

        There you are – there is NOTHING there that indicates two weeks of work. NOTICE means that you let someone know. You did. You even got a response. Done.

  10. Phil*

    I too was estranged from my family. “We’re not close” and “I don’t see them much” worked just fine.

    1. Beatrice*

      I’m not completely estranged from mine, but things are complicated. “Oh, we’re not super close” followed by asking about them, sometimes with “it’s a long story” sandwiched in, just about everything. I had one situation where I worked with a wannabe mother figure and I had to be a little firmer, but everyone else has left it alone at that.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, I feel like “we’re not close” is practically a universal shorthand for “I’d rather not talk about it.”

  11. Ms. Enigma*

    #2: I once had a boss who called my future boss, at a new company, and try to negotiate my start date, without my knowledge or permission. It’s a small industry and everyone knows each other. The conversation went like this, apparently:

    Old Boss: Hey, Future Boss, I understand that Ms. Enigma is coming to work for you. Our employee handbook requires a month of notice. Can you move back their start date?
    Future Boss: Um, that’s really up to Ms. Enigma.

    FB then immediately called me and let me know what happened, and said that they would be willing to push back my start date if I wanted. I confronted OB, and they tried to pretend that calling someone’s new employer was a totally normal thing to do–again, I was leaving the company to work somewhere else, not transferring depts. I had given 3 weeks of notice but OB wanted me to stay for longer to finish up a (non-critical) project. It only confirmed that my decision to leave was the correct one.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      My old boss tried something similar although this was an internal transfer. We’d known for a while that layoffs were on the cards, (our funding was only guaranteed until 31st March 2011) and she’d been saying to people for ages that if there was an opportunity for a new job, to take it. Except in the new year when people actually started getting new jobs, and it was looking like we were going to be leaving her team before that date, suddenly she didn’t like it.

      A few of us were transferring internally to the same department and that department wanted us to start quickly but she had contacted their head of service and said she wanted to hold on to us for as long as possible. In the end there was a goof up over the start dates because we were contacted on Tuesday 22nd February and offered a start date of Monday 21st March, but this was one day short of the full four weeks notice. Old boss agreed initially but a few days later said she was enforcing the one day and we had to start on the Tuesday.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I can see internal transfers being subject to rules that can only be overruled by mutual consent or a very senior manager above everyone.

      1. Ms. Enigma*

        It said something to the effect of, “If you are in a senior leadership position you must give 30 days of notice in order to be eligible for rehire,” but did not define what “senior leadership” meant. HR agreed with my interpretation that I was not senior leadership.

    2. anon73*

      That would have caused me to walk out right then and there. That is beyond crossing a boundary. I realize it’s a small industry and you probably didn’t want to burn bridges, but I’m not sure I could have overlooked it.

      1. Ms. Enigma*

        Nope, not a mistake. Like I said, it’s a very small industry; it would have been very weird to refuse to say where I was going when everyone would have found out within a matter of days anyway.

  12. Saberise*

    5) To be honest I kind of think those questions are similar to “How are you?” or “How was your weekend?” In truth, they aren’t really too invested in the question. You can just be vague or consider yourself (and your pets if you have any) as a very small family.

    “What will you and your family do?” Oh you know the usual eat dinner and maybe watch a holiday movie and yourself?
    “Are you going home for the holidays?” Sure am. Do you have plans to go anywhere? (Home being where you live not your parents house)

    1. All the cats 4 me*

      Yes! I always find the asker is much more interested in telling me every detail of their arrangements, than listening to any of mine.

      Altho….it does seem to really upset people when they ask if I have my tree up yet (for Christmas) and I say no, I never put one up. Not sure why they care.

      1. nonegiven*

        >I have my tree up yet (for Christmas) and I say no, I never put one up. Not sure why they care.

        I have cats

    2. Rez123*

      I agree. I feel like there is a set of questions/comments that we as a society has been told to ask at certain times. That’s the set of questions you are suppose to ask around holidays. I don’t think most people really care about the answer.

    3. Shan*

      Absolutely! I often ask co-workers their holiday plans because we’re stuck together in a meeting room waiting for everyone to arrive, or in an elevator, or in the office kitchen waiting for the microwave to countdown the slowest two minutes in history. You could tell me “oh, the usual” and just lob the question back at me, or you could go into such detail I know you’re going to spend the break making tiny animals out of old spools while watching Golden Girls. I’m content with either.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. This is the sort of thing a lot of people use to fill in awkward silences / talk in lifts ex without meaning for it to be filled in great depth. In my experience it’s a starter and as long as you say something relatively conventional people don’t probe as a rule.

        So “my partner and I are having friends over” or “I’m visiting my cousin in Birmingham” or “I have ordered this amazing Christmas pudding to try” are all the sort of response to a question about holiday plans that fit within normal parameters. If you said “my uncle murdered my father, married my mother and I’m staging a play to trip him up” then you may get a funny look.

        As long as the answer is broadly congruent with the question then nine out of ten times that’s fine.

      2. Joielle*

        Yeah, I do the same. I think it’s a nice opening to share a bit about your families and holiday traditions if you feel so inclined, but I’m also not offended at all if someone answers vaguely. It’s not an interrogation, just small talk.

      3. BadWolf*

        Yes! When on the spot for small talk, I often reach for the nearest holiday if I don’t remember something better to chat about. How is back to school? Summer plans? Do you do Halloween costumes? Going anywhere over the holidays?

    4. Ubi Caritas*

      I spend a lot of time planning meals, so I usually bore people with descriptions of what I am thinking about cooking/recipe searches/contents of my cupboards, etc. Then I ask them a question, which they are happy to answer.
      I believe Miss Manners says something about “answer the question you wish they had asked” so people get long descriptions of various green bean casserole recipes (should I make the mushroom soup from scratch? Because I found this great recipe….)

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        Same! And then add to it a lengthy discussion of the proper way to transport said dish without spilling/getting too cold/the dog eating it on the way, Tupperware vs Gladware, the economics of using extra heavy commerical aluminum foil… Yawwwwwwwwwnnnnnn……. and you’ve got one bored question asker who will probably lay off the questions at least until Memorial Day!

        Like many here, I have a family dynamic and logistics that don’t lend themselves well to answering that question directly as asked, and would prefer not to discuss it with anyone but my very closest friends. I will be delighted, however, to talk about food- Holidays or not!

        Now I want green bean casserole!

      2. nonegiven*

        >I believe Miss Manners says something about “answer the question you wish they had asked”

        say, “I am home.”

    5. BRR*

      I’m also on team other people aren’t’ really invested. I find it sort of interesting when this type of question comes up how many people feel they need to disclose everything. This is very often just performative.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Exactly. Just as when I comment on the weather, I’m not expecting a meterological dissertation in response. It’s just social small talk.

      2. OP 5*

        I totally understand that and agree. My concern was being seen as a social pariah for not having family/holiday plans. But it seems the general consensus is to make stuff up or stretch the truth for social performance. Or talk at length about green bean casseroles :)

    6. Smithy*

      Absolutely, it’s part of the starter pack of “reasonable questions to ask in a work space” and ends up being chit chat no different than “did you have a good weekend?’

      That being said, OP – I think it’s also very important to be mindful of the fact that this question will hit you different emotionally and may make your impulsive brain go into a TMI dump or clam up. I recently started a new job and during a Zoom happy hour, someone asked if I had any pets. Instead of just going to “oh, not now – it’s never quite worked out for me, do you?” – my brain immediately went to a verbal dump on the many many reasons why I’ve never gotten dog. It mentally threw me in a way I was not expecting and led to a far more long winded and rambling answer.

      Therefore, even though most people at work aren’t looking for much – it may make you feel better and more emotionally prepared to have a few phrases you’ve prepared and feel like emotionally honest statements. You know this can trigger a lot emotionally, so having a few phrases that are coupled with deflection questions hopefully will help you feel prepared as opposed to anxious or surprised.

      1. OP 5*

        OP5 here—It’s amusing to me that many people here are assuming that I would have an emotional TMI response. Perhaps it’s their interpretation of my question? But really, I asked because I was more concerned about being seen as a social pariah for not having family plans. (no family, not married, no kids.) It felt weird to respond to someone’s innocent, polite small talk with a sad “oh I’ll be alone for the holidays.” It seems the general consensus is to just lie and stretch the definition of family to include my cat. Which doesn’t feel great, but that’s where our culture is at.

        1. MsClaw*

          You won’t be seen as a pariah or even especially odd for not having big family plans — and the assumption that you will is what people are responding to. You are giving an impression of being concerned you’ll come off as weird or awkward for not talking about your family or feeling you have to explain about your family, but that’s because *you* are so aware of your past with your family. Most coworkers won’t know or care and are just trying to fill the time while everyone logs on to the zoom call. You don’t have to lie or pretend your cat is your extended clan — you can just give an answer that does not include family. ‘I’m having dinner with some friends here in town’ or ‘I’m looking forward to the time off, what are you guys doing?’ or ‘How is it November already’ are perfectly fine ways to respond. You do not have to directly answer the question, you don’t have to lie, you also don’t have to tell them a bunch of stuff that isn’t their business.

          You should avoid flat out saying ‘I’m spending it alone’ only because that could come across as fishing for an invitation.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes unless you work with abnormally nosy people it’s not likely that a bland response will elicit any follow up. It’s not lying it’s fulfilling the social small talk requirement. Another good British option is to move the conversation onto the weather, how it compares to last year and whether it will be ok for the holiday. Admittedly this is harder if you have a predictable climate.

        2. NapkinThief*

          Also it may be helpful to reframe the situation for yourself – being alone for the holidays is only “sad” if you are sad about it, which is sounds like you’re actually not? People will usually reflect back what you give out – so if your tone is sad, they will respond with concern, out of an obligation to the social contract. If you are cheerful, 9 times out of 10 they will go along with it.

          You could try a big smile and something like, “Oh I’m sticking here with Cat for a nice, quiet holiday – just the way I like it!”

    7. MsClaw*

      Yes! Most of the time when people ask these questions they are just making conversation. They aren’t trying to interrogate you or make you feel guilty/lonely/attacked/etc. There are certainly office busybodies who might want details but generally if someone asks you ‘are you going home for the holidays’ they just mean ‘what are you up to for Thanksgiving?’ or even ‘I am uncomfortable waiting for the elevator in total silence so I’m trying for something I think is neutral’.

  13. Lady Heather*

    I’m not sure if I like Alison’s scripts to LW2. There’s a little too much of “I’m sorry”, “Unfortunately”, “I understood” for my liking.
    When in reality what you mean to imply is “Unfortunately YOU misunderstood the meaning of ‘two weeks’ and I’m sorry I am professional enough not to leave today, but I definitely will at the end of the week”.

    Use the softened language if it helps you – but don’t forget in the back of your mind that you have nothing to be sorry about, you understood correctly, and even if the start date could be pushed back you’d still have no obligation to.

    1. bonkerballs*

      The LW specifically asked how to do this without burning a bridge. That’s what the softening language is for.

  14. AnNina*

    LW5: You’ve got some great suggestions, and hopefully this wont be very big of an issue. But approach is a bit different, since I am usually very outspoken in a laid-back office, but I thought I’d still share it.

    I don’t have any connection with my parents. So when they seldom are mentioned, I usually give a very matter-of-fact-haven’t-thought-about-it answer like: “Oh, I actually don’t know where they are going to spend holidays. Or where they work, etc.” I sure get some strange looks sometimes, but usually nothing worse.

    I’ve been lucky and only once did someone question me in a very rude way. I was so annoyed and just wanted to get out of the situation, so what slipped out of my mouth was: Well, it is how it is. Now. I need to pee, where’s the loo?
    Nobody’s going to argue with that! And they never brought it up again. (But obv. not a good phrase for work!)

  15. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP3 – I’d be inclined to just work as you normally would, and politely decline any “prize” if you happen to “win” one,

    1. Jenna Webster*

      Contests like this seem to be more common in places where absenteeism is an ongoing problem. They may just figure it will give them a break for a couple of weeks while people actually show up. It sounds like you are definitely not part of the problem, but you might as well benefit from your work habits.

    2. SyFyGeek*

      I worked in a clothing factory way back in 81/82, and if you worked your full 40 hours, you got either 10 or 20 dollars added to your paycheck. It may not sound like much, but it was gas money for the week for some, and since it was production work, having everybody in place on time, really did make a difference.

    3. OP3*

      That is my plan, definitely. My letter was more of a “AITA” moment. Am I the jerk for thinking this is weird/icky? There has been a fair amount of infantilism going on at this job, and I’ve pushed back on some stuff that felt way beyond the pale, but I didn’t know if *this* was a normal and widespread practice. This is my first office-type job after years in manufacturing settings, so I remain confused (and sometimes painfully ignorant) about a lot of non-manufacturing norms.

  16. Keily*

    OP5 you can also just say “it’s just me – I’m doing …”.

    If they ask specifically about your family feel free to just speak about your friendship group as your family if you want to. Another option is to just repeat that it’s just you, and if they push just laugh it off and say no interesting story sorry – but I’m on my own.

    If you want to avoid invitations to join their family plans, just be sure to mention really looking forward to whatever your plans are.

    1. OP 5*

      This was great advice, thank you! I appreciate the validation that it’s okay to just say you’re alone for the holidays and have a way to avoid their pity invitations.

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Attendance challenges are also gross for children, fwiw, though for slightly different reasons.

    They may fall foul of disability legislation too.

    You improve attendance by building a mentally and physically healthy workplace (appropriate staffing and equipment, proactive health provision, good management and leadership, fair PTO, etc).

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      A former place of work liked to put a goal of ‘zero sick days’ on people’s objectives, regardless of any circumstances. They were of the belief that a ‘proper diet,exercise, vitamins and a positive energy’ would stop you being ill, therefore if you were ill you did something wrong.

      After they gave me a warning for having time off due to being in a bad road accident (that wasn’t my fault, I’m lucky to be alive) I quit. Apparently the place has got even more toxic since then.

      In comparison the firm I worked at the longest and would go back to in a second (left due to redundancy) wouldn’t punish anyone for being off ill/car breaking down/kids being sick etc. The staff there actually had better attendance than Toxic Firm.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. It should be obvious that treating people kindly and reasonably will make them more likely to show up for work.

        Being strict on attendance is such a false economy.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Was one of the hardest things I had to train myself out of as a manager, since I’m quite stubborn and autocratic but realised that ordering staff around and nitpicking them would quickly get me no work done at all.

          (Pause, load up ‘human interaction subroutine’, continue)

      2. Liz*

        Ricidulous. My state changed their sick leave laws a couple of years ago, and my company did too, to mirror the state. And one thing that’s now spelled out is that you CAN use sick time to go to a dr. appt, have a procedure, OR take a family member to an appt. Having an elderly mom who is healthy, but does have appts every now and again, its wonderful. So I’d get dinged by that company simply for taking my mom to a dr. appt under my policy if my company tried to do that!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          They had issues with the number of doctors appointments I had too (I was disabled before the car crash, unsurprisingly I’m a lot worse off now) but I am grateful I got out when I did. 4 months later they introduced a ‘no non-work conversations at any time’ rule and lost the rest of the tech team (I was the first to leave).

          1. Observer*

            a ‘no non-work conversations at any time’ rule

            OK, these guys are certifiably insane (and evil). How do they stay in business?

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Very large multinational purchased the company and pretty much left them to carry on unsupervised. That was also where I encountered the most toxic person I’ve ever met, who gave me much grief over my own wedding!

              (She found out it was a non traditional one, with no kids invited, and I didn’t have all the things she considered essential…and would. Not. Shut. Up. I didn’t invite any coworkers to it so lady knows how she found this out)

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Sounds like this company enjoyed “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

            Seriously, if you treat your employees respectfully and as humans that will occasionally have “life happens” type events you will get far more loyalty in return.

          3. JustaTech*

            ” ‘no non-work conversations at any time’ rule ”
            My company thought about instituting this rule in our clean suites because someone thought the associates were talking too much and it was causing contaminations.
            Yeah right, through their mask and the safety cabinet? No way.
            But someone suggested it in a meeting and it hit the grapevine 10 microseconds later and the whole company was like “that’s stupid and everyone will quit”.

            At one place I worked I spent many hours every day in the clean suite with two coworkers. One of them, a really irritating guy, didn’t like that the other gal and I were talking about her wedding (we were waiting for something to heat up, there was nothing else to do) so he went to our boss and demanded that we could only have “intellectual” conversations in the lab.

            So the next time we’re waiting for the thing to heat up I said “So, Bob, would you like to discuss Russian literature or astrophysics?” Not my finest moment, but he was such a jerk it was hard to resist.

      3. JohannaCabal*

        Funny thing I’ve noticed, when a workplace treats employees like unruly children, staff act like unruly children yet when staff are treated with respect, management is treated with respect.

      4. 2QS*

        Haha, my 5 chronic health issues and I would have been fired in about a month. Serves me right for having faulty internal organs. Why didn’t I just choose the working models?

        1. Quill*

          You were supposed to wait in line for them on black friday like the rest of us.

          I didn’t make it to joints on time to get an undamaged model because the lines were so long.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yeah, as an otherwise very enthusiastic student I always rolled my eyes at the attendance award. Even at that age I was like, so she gets a trophy for just happening to not get sick? Plus, even elementary school kids sometimes have funerals or something to attend.

      1. Observer*

        Well, don’t you know that children should not be allowed to attend funerals? They will be SCARRED FOR LIFE. Only bad and selfish parents inflict that on their kids. And what’s with taking your kids to a WEDDING? That’s not a graduation party, it’s serious business!

        Although, unfortunately I’ve been told both things. Seriously.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        At elementary level, it isn’t even the child’s choice whether they attend or not. If your parent/caregiver decides you aren’t going to school (whether that’s sickness, family funeral, illicit vacation, holiday shopping, whatever) then there isn’t much you can do about it.

        1. nonegiven*

          I got an unexcused tardy because my uncle took too long moving his car for me to get to school on time. I was pissed and my mom told me off for asking him to move his car so I wouldn’t be late for school.

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Exactly. Attendance awards, especially for elementary school students who can’t easily just cut class, aren’t about punishing truancy so much as they are about punishing kids for getting sick or having family circumstances that prevent them from *being taken to school*. When you think of it that way, the kinds of people who that attendance awards are a good idea are basically bad people, and we’d be much better off as a society if we started recognizing that. That might come across as harsh, but these people need to know what kinds of damage they cause to people whose lives don’t look like theirs.

    3. Clisby*

      My kids went to an elementary school that used to give out perfect-attendance awards at the end of each year. After YEARS of parents complaining about how this was just encouraging sick kids to come to school, they finally changed the award to no-tardies all year. That can have its problems too, but at least if a kid is tardy, he/she was going to come eventually. (Fortunately, I never had kids focused on getting attendance awards – they seemed to think staying home was a bigger reward.)

  18. Blaise*

    Just wanted to add for #3 that attendance contests are a horrible idea for 5th graders too! I’m a teacher and am so glad that attendance awards don’t seem to be much of a thing anymore!

    1. TexasTeacher*

      Seconded! Even worse for kids, I think, since they have no say in the matter. I used to work at a school that did this stuff and rewarded the whole class for 100% attendance. Kids would get frustrated at the classmate who got frequently sick, or didn’t have folks who were as invested at getting them to school every day.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        Plus, what about students who have to attend funerals? Or take time off for religious holidays? (I can only imagine how might feel to be the lone Jewish student that “holds the class back” from getting the perfect attendance award. My 5th grade class would have been cruel about that. Grr.)

      2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Yes, the whole-class rewards are especially bad practice i.m.o. It means a child with a chronic illness may have classmates grumpy at them for the “lost” reward, and/or be under pressure to disclose details of their condition which they otherwise might prefer to keep private.

    2. squirrel!*

      Exactly! This is how kids get sent to school sick. And of course it discriminates against kids who have chronic illness or other legitimate reasons for needing to occasionally miss school. And I just can’t imagine doing something like this in a freaking *pandemic* when we want to be encouraging people to stay away if they feel any symptoms, even those that might not otherwise keep a person home.

    3. Coenobita*

      Yeah, I was a freakishly healthy child and had perfect attendance in the 4th and 5th grades. I was SUPER invested in it and won… a certificate for a hamburger that I never used. I guess there was some sort of partnership with McDonalds? Eventually my parents put their foot down and resumed taking us kids out of school for religious holidays, the occasional family wedding, etc.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      The only time this is remotely defensible is if the targets are individualised. So Hattie has a 95% target (no known health issues, supportive parents) but Cordelia’s target is 80% (had a week in hospital and a new diabetes diagnosis, more appointments to follow).

      But still, ugh.

    5. Nana*

      I’m old…and I remember that the Jewish kids NEVER got perfect attendance because religious absences weren’t excused. [Even in 2nd grade, I suspected that Wasn’t Fair]

  19. Susan*

    Everything is not remote; I have worked straight through all year, in my job locations. Two states, multiple cities, many locations. No, everything is not remote.

    1. anon73*

      I’m pretty sure we’re aware that not everything is remote right now, but the majority of office jobs are temporarily remote, which is important to the OP’s question.

    2. OP #4*

      Hi, that’s my letter! I know that everything isn’t remote; I’ve pushed back against the advice-givers with that information, especially given that each state has its own guidelines right now, but they aren’t hearing it or don’t believe it’s an issue. It is what it is.

      I wish I were able to consider in-person roles, too — things would be much easier for me — but my household is immunocompromised so we are being fairly strict.

  20. Conspiracy-Industrial Complex*

    OP #2… You gave notice as soon as you got the offer from New Employer. You did your part and have no reason to worry or apologize.

    1. LilyP*

      Yep! Plus, your boss knew about both your job search and your honeymoon in advance and had plenty of time to bring this up beforehand if they had expectations around it. Doing it after the fact feels like a power play, or at worst trying to get your offer pulled so you have to stay :/ Glad you’re getting out!

  21. Not So NewReader*

    OP#5. Perhaps not a workable idea this year but maybe next year you could find some where to volunteer on holidays. I’ve been on my own for a number of years now. For me, even volunteering on one holiday made a big difference in that question for me. You can work it around in a lot of ways, “I did X for the previous holiday so this next holiday I plan on just relaxing at home.”
    Happily when I say, “I spend the entire day working at X”, the conversation shifts, “Oh wow, that is so cool.” It works well to distract them from talking about other aspects of my life.
    Added bonus, I developed friendships with people at Volunteer Thing and I look forward to seeing them every year.
    My point is that there are ideas you might like to use and this does not have to be a recurring concern.
    I told myself that there are advantages to having no ties to have to consider. And I asked myself, “What would I like to do with that time, that I have not been able to do in the past?” Initially, these types of questions really sucked. But it got me to thinking and I got kind of happy over some of the things I was able to do with my time.

    1. TPS reporter*

      Agree, do something you want to do. That could be volunteering or something else. As an agnostic/pagan type with a Jewish partner, my tradition is to watch SNL reruns (i.e. Bag o Glass) and eat Chinese food on Christmas day. I do love my family but detest holidays so I love doing my own thing. I always tell people exactly what I’m doing. Sometimes they actually find it more interesting and a break from the regular holiday plan small talk.

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1. Alison’s advice is right on target. For the most part just being busy all the time should work well. But it might take a bit for it to sink in that you just don’t have space in your life right now to add more friends and more people. So keep working with this plan.
    I know I could count on my husband to back me if I fibbed and said something like, “Hubby has plans for the two of us.” Maybe your husband will help out here for you.

  23. Brusque*

    When I started my actual employment some years ago the company I applied at had some remote entry level jobs but all other jobs where on site. I applied anyways for a higher up position and was hones with me unable to move. They then asked me if I’d be willing to start in one of those entry level jobs to see if we where compatible and I agreed. Only three months later they decided I was a good fit and it was possible to do the advanced position remotely as well. Lots of my colleagues also welcomed the opportunity and the higher positions are now also mostly remote. It was a good thing that the transition happened more than a year before Covid hit the world. We are now 70% remote and one of only 3 companies in our brange who where able to work without any disruption during Covid.
    So for my opinion, if a company has already remote positions for whatever reason it is always worth a try to apply but just being upfront about not being able or willing to move if remote is (no longer) possible and let the company decide if they can do it or not. To be honest, that’s my approach on anything that could be a dealbreaker or maybe not. Just ask them up front and let them know what’s up with you. Honesty got me the best positions so far. If they deny me I wouldn’t been happy there anyway.

  24. Handwashing Hero*

    #4 not to be discouraging but I’ve been trying to do exactly this, parlay a remote position. So far most places even though fully remote with no issues since March are still pushing out tentative return to the office dates. I can’t count on my fingers how many interviews/chats I’ve done that go “you sound great for the position, management is targeting a return in the late summer/Fall/January 1st/Sometime in Q1 2021 etc etc” Many of these are job listings that state remote in the first place!

    Consider applying to positions that don’t mention remote flexibility a long shot and all others a crapshoot at best.

  25. Pink Basil*

    #3 can you push back on the sick day part? That’s the worst part of it IMO, at this time particularly but really at any time. No one should want people to push through symptoms and come to work right now.

  26. theletter*

    Hey #5,

    Professional spies usually operate by getting people to talk about themselves. Most of the time, when someone asks you a social question, they’re secretly hoping you’ll ask them the same question. A good old fashioned “I get to enjoy the holidays right here. How about you?” ought to switch things around.

    You don’t have to explain your situation with your family either. Lots of people use the holidays to go skiing, take extended travel, participate in local holiday events, perfect their baking skills, binge watch their guilty pleasure reality tv shows, finish their novel, or train their dogs to sit. Skip over the ‘with family’ part of the question and jump straight to describing the things that you are most excited about.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I live geographically very far from my family and my husband’s family is mostly dead. We always have A Plan for holidays. A few times we made a very complicated dinner because we were home together and had time and it was fun for us. Another time we painted the living room, again because we were home and had time, and then had chocolate pie and manhattans for dinner. Whenever I encountered a “why aren’t you seeing your faaaaaaaamily” I just explained my plans and made it sound like the best time ever.

    1. Joielle*

      We’re planning on doing a very complicated dinner at home this year and I could not be more excited! Wearing comfortable clothes, cooking all day in my own kitchen, not having to field questions about weird ingredients or make small talk with distant relatives… heaven.

  28. Person from the Resume*

    There is no law about two week’s notice. It is just US working convention that that’s fair.

    However starting from that common standard, the LW is sort of cheating the two week’s notice. The purpose of your two week’s to wrap up your work, pass on information, and answer questions. If there’s someone already assigned to take over your duties, you train them. You should not give two week’s notice and then put in for vacation because then you’re not around to wrap things up and pass on information.

    If asked in advance I would have recommended the LW tell her new company she could start in three weeks and give her two week’s notice the day she returned to work from her honeymoon so she could work out her full two weeks notice.

    Since the question is being asked now, Alison’s advice is the best, but yes, you may burn a bridge and they can legitimately say the LW didn’t **work** her full two week’s notice because she gave her notice while on vacation for another week.

    But all things considered the old job sounds not good and you don’t want appear flaky to your new job when you’re starting so you’ve got to stick with your original dates now. But there would have been nothing wrong with initially you can’t start in two weeks and need three weeks before you can start your new job.

    1. Gloria*

      I agree with this. I’ve always understood “2 weeks notice” to mean spending 2 weeks wrapping up and handing over your work. I can understand why they would annoyed that OP essentially only gave one week. A lot of employers actually don’t allow for vacation time to be used during the notice period. This should have been discussed before OP went on vacation.

    2. Annony*

      Yeah. I actually agree with the employer that she essentially gave 1 weeks notice instead of 2. I don’t think that they are being unreasonable in expecting 2 weeks of wrapping things up. Sometimes it is worth it to give shorter notice even if you burn a bridge and that may be the case here, but she did put them in a tough spot. It isn’t like they could take back approval for her vacation when she was already on her honeymoon.

    3. Observer*

      Cheating?! Really? That’s incredibly harsh and totally unwarranted. Notice is just that – notifying your employer that you will be quitting. Nothing more than that is actually required, and there is absolutely no ethical requirement of anything more, unless previous agreed.

      In this case, that’s especially true since the employer already knew that the OP was looking to leave, and should have been operating on that basis.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think you’re reading it a lot more harshly than it reads to me. It’s not a question of ethics, it’s a question of business expectations. It’s not like giving only one functional week of notice is some sort of moral failing, but it might have a negative impact on how her bosses view her and usually when you are leaving a job that’s the main thing you are trying to manage to keep any future references as happy as possible given the circumstances.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I was a little surprised by the response on this one! Since very few places are actually going to manage to replace you in two weeks, my understanding was that the convention was in place primarily for you to wrap up as much as you can and facilitate some transfer of duties, maybe prepare some last-minute process documentation or something. Obviously lots of jobs don’t really require wrapping things up. But if this job has things they would want you to finish up in those two weeks it does seem like including your vacation in the notice is cheating them out of that expected time.

      Obviously they can’t *make* you stay the two weeks. But if you wanted to leave your current job on a good note in a situation like this, I would have told the other company that you could start in three weeks as you would need to finish up your vacation and then wrap things up at your previous job. Most places would understand that.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Added note: I do think that in this specific case, since they waited so long to push back there is certainly no reason to try to accommodate them now and I would definitely move forward as originally planned. I’m just surprised that Alison’s take is that this is an expected/normal interpretation of two weeks notice.

  29. Anon Today*

    Or #1 could be like our area organizations and leaders, and not care one bit about COVID precautions. UGH. Sorry for the derail, I’m so tired of being called a sheep.

    1. JenB*

      Or they could be taking reasonable precautions and doing things that are allowed by their regions regulations. There is nothing in that letter to suggest that they aren’t, and honestly that aside seems really super snide and unnecessary to me.

  30. Agnes*

    Some employers won’t pay out your annual leave unless you follow the policy notice period requirements. ((yes this is legal in some states if the company has a written policy informing employees of this requirement). If all the OP is worried about is burning bridges, then I’d do just what Alison suggests. If you’re worried about money owed to you, check the policy/employee manual before you engage with your boss.

  31. Temperance*

    LW2: if you landed a position that will use your Master’s degree, it’s not likely that the administrative job you have right now will really matter, career-wise. I would worry more about getting your payout for vacation etc..

  32. AndersonDarling*

    The good part of #3 is that the company will be quantifying this aspect of performance instead of vaguely remembering who is stepping up and who is slacking. (Outside of using sick time-> I’m thinking more of picking up extra shifts vs being late frequently.) We hear so many instances of “Boss said I’m late all the time, but I was only late 2 times in 3 years and I always pick up extra shifts!” and “Boss thinks Fergus is perfect but he is late 4 out of 5 days a week and never covers when his co-workers are out!”
    This removes the bias. Now managers can look at the record and know that Jack has a -5 score but Jill has a 55 score. And I bet that this scoring is what the company is really going for and they are using the contest as a way to not make people paranoid about it.

    1. comityoferrors*

      If you just tracked those metrics behind-the-scenes and addressed it with below- and above-average employees, I don’t think people would become paranoid about it. Presumably at an answering service with shift work, the employees clock in and out for starting the day, taking lunch, and leaving. So…use that data without the carrot-dangling?

      If you make it clear to your employees that they are expected to be on time for each clock-in and lateness will impact their performance, it will only be a few people (who are probably the problem) who react negatively or with paranoia when they learn that their employer meant that.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      When I was reading the letter that is what jumped into my mind – somebody saw/heard about this being done elsewhere – and didn’t fully think thru adding it at their work. I totally get tracking for chronic tardiness in shift work, as well as keeping an eye on who steps up when understaffing happens for any reason. Just don’t insult people by adding the “carrots” to the tracking.

  33. Office Rat*

    5) I am in the same boat. I find most folks can be put off the topic with the advice you’ve been given, but in my professional life I have had two different bosses that were relentless in their pursuit of information about my personal life.

    I was young when I encountered the first one, and in my 20s. I panicked and told her my family died when I was young, hoping she’d drop it. It totally backfired because the type of person that digs into your home life like that will not back off if you bring up someone died.

    The more recent supervisor who did this is a gossipy busy body, and I tried every vague push off I could have come up with, and I just kept telling her I was spending it at home with my wife. The phrase “grey rocking” is a good tactic. Just be as boring and minimal in your responses as possible. Pointedly boring and minimal.

  34. HCBatman*

    LW#5- It’s also totally OK to define your family as people not related to you at all! Making a family that loves and supports you when those related to you biologically are… not nice people… means that you can just insert them into any family discussion. Who is to know that X person isn’t your father or uncle? If that feels weird just drop any defining titles and say I’m going to Xavier’s house and we’re making (insert apropriate food).

    The idea of a nuclear family isn’t ubiquitous anymore so as long as you know who your family is who cares about anything else?

  35. Nicole*

    LW#5, I’m not sure what your age is but I have noticed recently that there are a lot more of us (millennials) that have cut ties with family than I initially thought. It’s likely not as weird as you might think.

    Also, you make your family what you want it to be! My family consists of me, my husband, my cats, and my best friend along with her immediate family. Your family doesn’t have to share your blood, or even your species.

  36. Georgina Fredrika*

    # 5 “What will you and your family do? Are you going home for the holidays?”

    Hm that’s a tough one. I think they’re really just asking “what are your plans?” and saying family because it’s true for 99.5% of people that they’ll be with family (whether that’s the one they grew up with, the one they formed with a partner, the one they married into, whatever).

    But I get how saying “me and my partner are staying in” or “I’m spending it with my close friends” may seem to require an additional answer. I think most people will understand the “I’m not close with my family, but I’m doing X” without much prying though?

      1. Annony*

        Yep. Mentally switch “your family” to “you” and answer that question. Most people probably meant that anyway. And those who didn’t are unlikely to respond with “But what is your family doing?”

  37. CatLadyLawyerEsq*

    OP#1 your instinct is a good one. I had a (female) coworker try to force me to be friends with her and I didn’t set boundaries soon enough. The mention of “drama” especially rings alarm bells. This person is trouble, stay away. You’ll be glad you did when this person inevitably flames out of this job.

  38. Emi*

    I don’t understand how you get from “college graduates who are into books” to “very like-minded people with a lot of common interests” without some kind of implicit bias feeding in along the way, like the bookish version of a tech startup that hires the same fratty gamers all the time.

    1. bonkerballs*

      Agreed. I am a college graduate who is super into books. My brother-in-law is a college graduate who is super into books. We have zero common interests, including how, what, and why we read.

      1. Emi*

        Granted, the library’s been closed since March, but the last time I went there seemed to be, like, a lot of different kinds of books.

  39. Lizy*

    #3 – to be clear, attendance contests are dumb and shouldn’t be used even for 5th graders. I mean, seriously – punish someone (anyone) for not coming in because they’re sick??? Many schools have mandatory “you can’t come back until fever-free for 24-hours” and then they reward those who had a better immune system, or simply better luck than others?

    Dumb in grade school, dumb in high school, and dumb in adult-world.

    1. Allison*

      I will never forget, in my first “professional,” career-starting job out of college, someone sent around an email about a postal worker who recently retired having never taken a sick day, ever, and this colleague of mine said “we should all strive to be just like this person!” This company was weird about sick time, first of all they only gave 10 PTO days a year so many people would work sick so they’d be able to take the vacations they were planning. Working from home wasn’t encouraged across the board, but some managers would let you work from home if a) you were clearly sick and b) they really liked you, but people were constantly coming in sick, if only to prove they really were sick and get sent home. Viruses would sweep through the office like wildfire. I sincerely hope they’ve rectified this in recent years, or at least earlier this year!

      This is just one of the many reasons why I didn’t like that company. I grateful that they gave me my start and taught me how to do a job I’m still doing eight years later, but they were not a good place to work.

  40. Lizy*

    #5 – I second the whole “family is my friends” idea. I, too, am estranged from my family and haven’t spoken to many of them in … 10 years? I think? (With a slight exception to my sister’s wedding 4 years ago, which was a comical mix of some of them coming up for a big hug for appearance’s sake – awkward – and others literally ignoring me completely.)

    Anyhow – I have the benefit of Kids and so I’m spending holidays with the family I created (rather than the one I left), but even still, when it comes up I simply say I’m not in touch with them. Inevitably people will say “oh I’m sorry”, and I just shrug and say “I’m not.” :)

  41. Trek*

    #2 I understand that you gave notice as soon as you knew you were leaving and gave the standard two weeks. I don’t think you did anything wrong but I also think it was OK for your company to ask you to work a two weeks notice.

    I had an employee give notice and then take off so much time during her second week that I wish she had just finished the first week and left. She tried to come back and because of how she handled her two weeks notice (missing work, lots of attitude, etc.) she was not brought back. My circumstance and yours are not the same I just wanted to share a different experience with people not working their 2 weeks.

    1. Observer*

      What do you mean “working their two weeks”? If someone is supposed to be working, then they should work, notice or not. If they were on vacation, then they are on vacation, notice or not.

      No one has any obligation to extend notice just because they are on vacation. While ASKING about extending the notice period is ok, acting as though there is some obligation or rule is most definitely NOT.

      If a company tries to penalize an employee who doesn’t extend their notice period, you can be pretty sure that other employees are seeing that – and it won’t make them more loyal or more likely to extend their own leave, either.

    2. TwoWeeksNotice*

      I think what is really bothering me is that they waited a full 7 days after I submitted my resignation notice to “address” the issue with me. If they had said something the day of, or even the day after, I could have maybe renegotiated the start date.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You know, you could say that — “I wish you’d told me you wanted an additional week when I first gave you my notice because I might have been able to negotiate a later start date. But at this point with less time remaining, I won’t be able to.”

  42. 2 Cents*

    #5 Honestly, if it’s the holidays, I’m usually asking “will you be seeing family?” as a courtesy (like “How are you?” doesn’t mean I want the gory details of your tooth extraction). You can choose to answer however you want, but I’d honestly be happy with “I’m spending them here” or “My cat is my family” or whatever. I know YMMV with pushy people.

    1. Quill*

      Someone asked me when I had my wisdom teeth out how I was doing and I was stoned on codeine enough to explain how many pieces the teeth came out in.

      Nobody asked again after that, but that could have been because it was study hall and I worked for the librarian, who told me I had to check a book for recommendations, stuck me on a couch in the back room, and let me sleep there. (Yeah, I had my wisdom teeth out in high school.)

    2. Allison*

      I totally get that it’s a small-talk nicety like “how was your weekend?” but it might be better to just ask “do you have any plans for the holidays?” and let people answer with either “oh we’re driving down to Philadelphia to see family” or “we’re just having a nice, chill Christmas at home this year” or “we’ll be having dinner with my partner’s family since they’re local.”

      Sometimes when people ask me if I’ll be doing this or that, and I say no, they frown and go “aw” or “oh . . . okay” and then I feel bad that my answer was a let-down for them. If they ask a more open-ended question, I’m less worried about disappointing them.

      To reiterate, asking “will you be seeing family” isn’t bad or wrong, you’re not a jerk for asking that, but I am suggesting a more open-ended way to ask people’s plans without potentially touching a nerve.

  43. employment lawyah*

    2. My two weeks notice only counts as one week?
    I’m only partly on board with AAM here.

    Practically speaking, this is an area where sticking to convention doesn’t meet reality.

    In most situations, the 2 week notice is designed to let your old employer use you to wrap up things, finish projects, document your work, and generally make it so it isn’t an expensive mess when you’re gone. If you’re using vacation as your notice period, you’re functionally eliminating one of the main reasons behind notice.

    Sure, you CAN say “I gave 2 weeks, it just so happens that one of them was my vacation,” or even “I’m going on a 2 week vacation and here’s my 2 week notice.” That is a letter-of-the-law approach and you are meeting the letter of the law.

    Then again, businesses CAN say “hey, we gave you the required 4 day notice of an upcoming employment-termination hearing, it just so happens we gave notice the day before you left on your honeymoon.” And businesses CAN also fire you without warning, and change your job descriptions right after you’re hired, and do all sorts of things which are both legal and yet unpleasant.

    I think we would all recognize those business practices as unfair–or at least not ideal. Most folks recognize that the letter of the rule is not usually the goal of the rule. In my view, the letter-of-the-law approach to business is an overall detriment to how things work.

    If I were you *AND IF* I had more wrapping up than I could do in a week, I would probably at least ask new employer if they cared about a short delay in start date. They may be more than happy to do it. If they say no, then at least you can say “I asked.” If they say yes, then that’s that.

    Note: If Old Employer is just being a pain (you don’t have any wrapping up which will exceed a week; you’ll get everything done; they just want to make you stay) you can ignore it. And of course if Old Employer fires people who give more than 2 weeks they have eternally forfeited the right to extended notice.

    1. Lisa B*

      This was my take on it too. Those two weeks are so that you can wrap up anything urgent, clean up your files and hand them off, train someone to cover until the replacement is hired, etc. If you’re gone for half of that, I completely understand the company bristling a bit, because now they only have one week to get all that done.

      In a previous comment the OP noted that the business didn’t bring this up until a week after they’d given notice, so they lose their right to complain about this! But I do think that they had ground to be a little salty about it in the beginning.

  44. A Genunine Scientician*

    I know someone who could easily have written number 5. I’m glad they felt comfortable telling me their story, but it absolutely wasn’t required, and I can see how this would be a mental burden for them to have to figure out what to say, especially as I know they’ve recently switched companies. Something I think might help them is being conscious about who they consider family, and realizing it doesn’t have to always be family of origin. Saying that you’ll see your family and spend the holidays at home is not dishonest when you’re not leaving your house and just seeing the people you live with (particularly in their case, since they’re married and have a kid, but I suspect they still feel dishonest since the person asking likely intended to ask about family of origin).

  45. Allison*

    #4 In “normal” times, I’d discourage people from applying to jobs when they’re not local to the area, and there’s no mention of remote on the description, but these are weird times. When I was job hunting these past 7 months, I definitely applied to jobs that weren’t explicitly remote, but also weren’t explicitly *not* remote. In other words, I put the onus on the job descriptions to say “we want someone local who can work in the office when it’s safe to do so.” If it wasn’t on there, I went ahead and applied; in some cases I put it in the application that I was looking for job that can be done remotely indefinitely, or a contract gig where we can go our separate ways when the office opens and you want someone local. Ultimately, I did land a job that is a contract position for now, but there’s a possibility of being converted or extended, and no expectation that I move to be near one of the offices.

    Just make your intentions clear either on the application itself, or when scheduling the initial call with a recruiter, to avoid wasting people’s time and annoying them.

  46. dobradziewczynka*

    I had the same thing happen to me when I gave notice (except I was on holiday) and my immediate supervisor said the same thing… that I should push back my start date and extend my notice. That didn’t happened and I ended up leaving the next day when she became super hostile.

    Hopefully that is not the case with you LW, but be prepared for some pushback, so to speak.

    1. TwoWeeksNotice*

      I was discussing this with my husband last night and he had the same worry about my last few days being in a hostile environment. He also feels that they need me more these last few days than I need them, and that I don’t need to put up with such behavior it if it happens.

      1. dobradziewczynka*

        Exactly – the power is on your end….after all, what are you going to do? Fire you after resigning?

  47. blink14*

    LW #2 – congrats on the new job! It’s a great feeling to be able to walk away from a toxic environment and have a new job lined up right away.

    Your employer is being unreasonable, but I can also understand the frustration on some level. You’ve kept them up to date on your plans to find another job, which means it shouldn’t have been a total surprise, but giving notice while on vacation and then only having a week in the office could be really stressful for fellow coworkers and/or your supervisor. However, they should’ve told you that upfront. The way my mind works, I would’ve tried to push back my start date at the other job, because I would felt that I needed to give that two weeks in work time vs. vacation and work time. But things happen and ultimately turning down a new job to put in an extra week at a toxic job isn’t worth it.

    When I left my last job, the start date on my current job kept getting delayed because of paperwork (a red flag in many ways, but I was desperate and its a large university, so I figured it was a red flag of the specific person handling the HR end of things, and that turned out to be correct), so I ended up in a situation where I had to give exactly 2 weeks notice and start my new job the very next day after those two weeks. This was because of the health insurance policy at the time – if I didn’t start the first business day of the month, I wouldn’t be eligible until the following month, and I can’t have lapsed insurance, given my personal health situation.

    When I gave old toxic boss my 2 weeks – she said it was only 10 days, and I said yes, 10 business days, which is 2 business weeks. The dates fell actually across 3 weeks, as I started the new job midweek. She was SO annoyed. She insisted I start looking for my own replacement, so I did, and I wanted to tell every person to run. Looking back now, I should’ve just walked away same day, but I needed the money and didn’t want to burn a bridge.

    1. TwoWeeksNotice*

      Thanks! The office gossip is that they aren’t going to hire anyone to replace me – apparently 3 secretaries for the entire division was too many. And I only have one “project” that needs to be transitioned. Everything else I do at the hospital is basic secretary work, or one of my fellow secretaries already knows what needs to be done.

      1. virago*

        In response to this comment and to what blink14 said re: whether your co-workers are prepared to carry on with your responsibilities:

        It honestly sounds like your co-workers know what they’re doing, that the transition is going to be seamless and that if your taking a week’s vacation during your two weeks’ notice was going to be an issue, they had a golden opportunity to say something about it when you gave your notice. They didn’t, and now your boss is being a tool. Enjoy your new, non-toxic job!

  48. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#5, do you have a network of close friends where you live now? Got people in your life that are important to you? Then they are your family, and you can reference them when asked.

  49. Aeraen*

    For the guy who wants to be besties outside the workplace, if you are forced to spell it out: “I really enjoy working with you, but I have seen too many work friendships turn sour. I value this job, and you as a co-worker ,too much to risk our current great relationship.”

  50. Phony Genius*

    I think the part where Alison suggests saying “I try to stick to group stuff with people from work” is opposite of what she meant. I assume she meant “I try to stick to group stuff with people from outside work” or something like that.

    1. Emi*

      Meaning “with work people, I only do group hangouts,” not “I try not to hang out with non-work people.”

    2. fhqwhgads*

      No, I think she meant what she wrote. Because OP intends to keep going to the group-work-socializing, just doesn’t want to do anything 1-1 with this dude. So she’s not offering an explanation of “I don’t socialize with people from work” because that’ll be obviously not true at the next group thing. Hence saying only group stuff.

  51. The Rural Juror*

    Maybe this is a question for the open thread on Friday, but it’s related to the question from LW#4.

    I’m from a town on the border of two states where many people work in one, but drive a few miles across state lines to work in the other. It’s extremely common there for people to take advantage of low property taxes in one state and higher wages in the other. It’s about a 20 minute commute.

    Does anyone have any experience where your company is located in one state, and you would normally work on-site there, but you’re currently working from home in a different state? Does that company then have to pay different taxes for their employees that reside in the other state? Maybe no one has been hit with that yet because this is all temporary…or is currently presumed to be temporary. Just curious!

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Many states have laws covering how income taxes are handled in this situation but I don’t know that the laws cover WFH.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But the work is all happening in the state where the employer is, rather than employees teleworking from their homes in other states, so I don’t think there’s an issue here at all.

    3. Indy Dem*

      New Hampshire is currently suing Massachusetts because many interstate commuters are now WFH, and Massachusetts was pushing forward a questionable policy. I think the states are grappling with this, and with tax revenue down across the board, it’s a pretty big issue.

    4. Hillary*

      Companies close to borders tend to be prepared for it. My former employer was on the border with locations in both states. Our system was set up for lives in A and works in B, lives in B and works in A, or lives and works in the same state.

      Fun fact, you usually owe income tax to both your home state and the state where you made the money. How it works out varies depending on state regs. It can be important to understand your taxes for those situations. Some states have income tax reciprocity so you only have to file income taxes in your home state, but the most common scenario at my previous employer doesn’t anymore because one state stopped making even-up payments to the other.

  52. Sled dog mama*

    Why can’t we have a contest for who uses all their PTO/vacation in a year? That’s a contest I could get behind, maybe the reward could be an extra day of PTO the next year

  53. knitcrazybooknut*

    #5, I agree with most of the advice posted already. As Alison says, if you act matter-of-fact and cheery (or at least neutral) about it, people will take their cue from you. It’s tough to do sometimes, especially when there’s a reason you’ve cut contact: I was raised in a world where every question was an interrogation and a conviction all in one. I had to answer quickly and thoroughly and to their satisfaction. It’s a tough habit to break.

    I was nervous about this when I started a job six years ago, and I had my new name, my new life….and was still nervous about this new group of people and how they might react. I was finally asked by a coworker, and I just responded, “We’re not close.” To my surprise, she said that she wasn’t close with her family either, and we had a short quick conversation that really helped me that day.

    More people have been in this situation than you think. It’s not your fault, and you don’t have to justify your decision when someone asks you about your plans. Great job knowing your boundaries and taking care of yourself. All the best to you.

  54. Dagny*

    LW2 and LW5: this is easier than you think it is.

    LW2: “How can I say no, I’m not starting my new job off on a negative note, without burning any bridges at the hospital?” You say no. Part of the point of two weeks’ notice is to get time to transition your work over, and the other point is that they can start looking to replace you. They want this because it’s good for them, not because it’s good for you or you’re obligated to do it.

    LW5: I’m estranged from my family and I just say so, then move on with the conversation. Things become awkward when you feel the need to explain the estrangement or cannot provide another topic for chit-chat. “I’m actually estranged from my family. [Shrug] Christmas will be spent with the cat. I get the presents; he gets the wrapping paper.”

  55. Sleepytime Tea*

    LW #5 – I was estranged from my family for a number of years, and by the grace of whatever god you please, I didn’t end up homeless, but easily could have. Things are different now, but for years I dreaded the “what are you doing on Christmas/Thanksgiving/whatever” conversations, because if I said I wasn’t in touch with my family, I got looks of pity, inquiries of what happened, and many pity invites to holiday meals from well meaning people that would’ve been just too awkward for me to attend.

    So my best advice is to say things like “oh, I don’t have any family in the area” or “we’re having a Friends-giving this year!” or “I’m really looking forward to just using the time off to catch up on some reading during the day off” and things like that. I guess this falls in the area of partial truths. You’re giving some information, so they don’t continue to question you, but you’re not giving the whole picture, which you don’t have to because it’s personal.

    Congrats on moving on and being an awesome person.

    1. OP 5*

      OP 5 here—you addressed exactly what I dread: the looks of pity, the nosy inquiries, and pity invites from well-meaning people. It has happened even if all I said was, “I’m enjoying my holiday alone here in town.” No story or context or emotion, just the simple facts. (Maybe it’s because I’m a single woman without kids too? Can’t help thinking that might contribute to this…) While much of the advice on here is great and I appreciate everyone’s input, not many people have considered this common response like you have. Thanks for understanding and glad things are better for you now!

  56. Indy Dem*

    #2 – Good for you for not caving, it can at times be hard not to do so. Also, congratulations on getting married!

  57. Essess*

    For #3, they are setting themselves up for some legal challenges. If someone is out sick for FMLA the law says that they can’t be penalized for being out. So they are penalized in the contest for using their legally protected time off. Also, they are pressuring people to come in sick which violates laws regarding covid exposure. You should talk to HR and let them know that you are concerned about the risk the company is creating by insisting people come in sick.

  58. MinnieK*

    OP #2 – Was the email about extending your end date from your supervisor or HR? When I left a job two years ago, the policy at Old Job was that you had to give four weeks notice in my type of position. I actually called HR before I gave my notice, because I knew that in my case four weeks was not gonna be the same as one calendar month, because it was a long month. The person in HR was surprised I would ask such a question, because four weeks is four weeks, regardless of how it falls on the calendar. I remember them saying, “Do you really think your supervisor would make an issue of this?” And I said, “yes, and that is one reason I am leaving.” And when I did give my notice, my supervisor did, in fact, bring up that I hadn’t given a full month’s notice, but as soon as I mentioned that I had checked with HR to clarify before writing my letter, she dropped it.

    The point? Your supervisor may have told you this without going through HR. You may want to check with HR. I have worked in healthcare, non-profits, government agencies, large corporations, etc. I have never heard of HR requiring you to extend your end date because of vacation, unless it was SPECIFICALLY written in the handbook. In fact, almost everywhere I’ve worked people end up taking some of their PTO before their last day because it wouldn’t be paid out when they left. I’ve worked with several people in several different organizations who put in their notice, left for vacation for 1 week and 4 days and came in on the last day to clean their desk and say goodbye.

    Good luck on the new job!

  59. AnonNurse*

    2 – I also work in a hospital and I’ve found that often it’s not a policy but managers who have tried to pull a power trip or who have gone “rogue” when it comes to things like this. I once had to call HR to clarify a bereavement policy because my manager was deciding to interpret it a very odd way. I got them involved to make sure the policy was being followed correctly, not based on her odd interpretation. I was actually correct, got my bereavement leave, and the manager backed off.

    I would probably immediately go to HR, express that you put in her notice according to policy, and ask them to clarify where it states your notice doesn’t count if your on vacation. Hopefully that will encourage them to contact your manager and get them to back off. I know where I am, if employees do not give a proper notice according to the handbook, the company can withhold their earned PTO and basically black list them for 5 years. I wouldn’t take any chances and would simply say something like “according to my reading, I gave the proper 2-week notice. I don’t want to jeopardize my g0od standing with the organization and was hoping you could clarify this for me”. Good luck and I hope your new position is fabulous!

  60. ElleKay*

    For OP #2- depending on where your new job is and what you know about your current/old job you may also want to give your hiring department/coordinator a heads up. If you’re moving hospital-to-hospital in the same city and your current employer is really toxic I woudn’t be surprised if they reach out to your new employer to tell them you’re staying longer. (In a small community they might even know someone so it might be worthwhile to get ahead of that.)

    This doesn’t have to be a big thing but “Just so you know, my previous employer asked me to push back my end date by a week. I’ve let them know that this isn’t possible and my last day will still be X but I wanted to give you a heads up in case they reach out with contradictory information”

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