my coworker slept with my boyfriend, feedback for an excellent employee, and more

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

1. My coworker had an affair with my boyfriend

I became very close friends with a coworker. We work extremely closely, every single day, and that moved into a friendship outside of work too. In the spring, I found out that she had been seeing my long-term boyfriend behind my back (and the back of her fiance). Needless to say, working with her has been difficult, but I’ve done my best to remain professional and be as nice as possible, despite how hard it’s been. However, now my coworker’s work ethic is declining. Most people don’t know the full story and just think she’s going through a hard time because her wedding got called off. But now I’m picking up the slack and I’m not sure how to bring this up to our boss without it sounding like a personal vendetta.

The lowest-key option is just to set boundaries on picking up her slack in the same way you would do without the personal history if you didn’t have room to take on her work. But if you can’t feasibly do that — because your manager knows you have time to help, or because she’ll tell you to reprioritize to make room for it, or so forth — then it might indeed make sense to have a discreet conversation with your boss about the situation. It’s not about having a personal vendetta; it’s about giving her context so she understands a highly relevant dynamic on her team right now.

I’d say it this way: “I feel incredibly awkward sharing this with you and it’s not something I’d normally bring up, but asking me to help Jane with her work is putting me in an uncomfortable spot. I learned earlier this year that she was having an affair with my partner behind my back. I’ve made a point of staying professional at work, but I’d strongly prefer not to be asked to help with her projects if we can avoid that.”

2. Is it a problem to provide only positive feedback to my employee?

I’m new to managing and have a non-problem problem. I have a truly excellent employee on my team, “Dave.” He is bright, diligent, always volunteers for extra tasks and responsibility, and his work product is very high quality. I’m going to need to provide an annual review of Dave soon and I feel like I owe him more than “you’re doing everything perfectly, keep up the good work.”

I worry that 1) endless praise may seem disingenuous, 2) it might appear to Dave that I‘m not invested in coming up with ways to meaningfully coach him/help him improve, and 3) it could come off to my bosses that, as a new manager, I am naive about Dave’s abilities and am not evaluating critically enough. I’ll add that Dave and I were also coworkers/casual friends before I got promoted (though I think we’ve very successfully navigated into a manger/employee relationship and I don’t think this is coloring my view of his objectively excellent work). Dave really is an exceptional team member; am I overthinking? Is it ever a bad thing to only provide positive feedback?

Well, you want your feedback to accurately reflect Dave’s work, which sounds excellent. You can certainly bounce this off your boss and ask if jibes with her assessment as well (if she knows his work well enough to comment), but some people are just excellent at what they do! It’s not going to seem disingenuous as long as you’re nuanced and specific about why his work is so good.

However, feedback shouldn’t just be positive or negative; it should also be developmental, meaning feedback on how the person can go from good to even better. If Dave asked you for something he could work on to do an even better job in his role, what would you say? That’s worth reflecting on. Because you’re new to managing him, you might not have that perspective on his work yet, and that’s okay — but try to develop it as time goes on. Also, ask Dave where he wants to develop! What are his professional goals and how can you help him meet them?

You should also think about where you want to see Dave take the areas he’s responsible for in the future. Don’t just raise the bar for him because he’s so good, while not raising expectations for others doing similar work; you shouldn’t reward good work with a bigger pile of work. But in a lot of jobs, work goals always evolve year to year, and if this is one of those roles there are probably some really substantive conversations to have with him around what goals for his work should look like next year.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Family member died right before I started a new job

I just started a new job this week, after being unemployed since quarantine started. It’s a work from home position that pays very well, and I love the work. The only issue is that my grandmother died the day before I started. I’ve been trying to just act like nothing is happening, but it’s truly weighing on me. I’m not focused and am often having to turn off my microphone due to emotional moments. I feel like I should say something to my management team. I also don’t want to seem like I’m trying to cause problems or get sympathy when I’ve just barely started, and I don’t want pity from my coworkers either. I’m unsure how to proceed, or if I should say anything at all.

Let your boss know what’s going on! It’s not about asking for pity, just about providing helpful context. I’d want to know if my brand new employee was dealing with that on top of starting a new job! And if they do notice you seeming off in some way, it’s going to help for them to understand what might be happening.

It doesn’t have to be a big conversation, just something like, “I want to mention that I had a death in my family the day before I started, and I feel like I’m not as on my game as I ideally would be at a new job. I’m trying not to let it affect my focus, but I wanted to mention it just in case you noticed anything.”

(A good manager will likely ask if you need some time off, so think about whether you’d want that.)

I’m sorry about your grandma!

4. Should my resume include a part-time job outside my field?

My husband and I moved abroad from the states for his teaching career and plan to be here for a couple of years. I am looking forward to travel, so I am considering a part-time position vs a full-time position.

If I work part-time here, would I need to put that position on my resume once I go back stateside in a few years? I have a background in corporate banking and am not sure how a part-time position (entry level, non-industry related) would look to a potential future employer as the first thing on my resume. Do you advise leaving off part-time work?

You never need to put any particular position on your resume. You can leave things off if they don’t strengthen your candidacy overall.

But in general there’s no reason to exclude a job just because it was part-time. Part-time jobs warrant resume space just as much as full-time jobs! In this case, though, you might decide it doesn’t make sense to include it because it’s entry level (which I’m assuming you aren’t) and outside of your field. Or you might decide to briefly mention it so it’s clear what you’ve been doing during that time. Resume gaps aren’t the avoid-at-all-costs calamity that people sometimes worry they will be, but there can be value in showing you’ve stayed in the workforce. it’s really up to you though, and it depends on the specific factors you’re weighing with your specific resume.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Can I ask for detailed benefit info if I get a job offer?

I’m in final round interviews for a new job. I’m currently employed, but excited about the prospect of this new opportunity. However, I have really great benefits now (health insurance, 401k). If I’m offered the position, can I ask to see their benefit package in detail? Basically I want to compare it to what I have now, line by line. If I’m offered the job and choose not to accept because of the benefits or salary, is it appropriate to tell them that?

Absolutely, on both counts. It’s very normal to ask for details of the benefits package if an employer doesn’t offer it up on their own (although they often will). In fact, I’d recommend always asking to see it once you get an offer so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises once you start. And it’s perfectly fine to explain that you’re declining the job because of the salary or benefits, if that becomes the case. (It’s also genuinely useful feedback for them to hear — and can sometimes result in them sweetening the offer — so don’t be at all hesitant to say it.)

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Also, my original headline for this post was “my coworker slept with my boyfriend, providing only positive feedback, and more.” Which sounds like it’s describing a very different situation for #1.

    1. PollyQ*

      LOL!

      WRT to the cheating co-worker, would you recommend that OP explicitly ask boss to keep the info confidential (if she decides to tell boss)? Ideally, boss would keep it to herself regardless, but I think many, many people would have trouble not sharing such juicy gossip.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      LMAO! I had to read that twice to understand why you changed it, and now I’m sad you did. That would have been taking performance reviews to a whole new level.

      1. Stormfeather*

        Obviously they should share some developmental feedback. “Have you considered trying to branch out and try the Kama Sutra?”

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I needed like five tries with different intonations in my head to understand what Alison was getting at! :’D

    3. Dan*

      Maybe you could do some A/B testing, randomize the headline that people get, and see if one gets more clicks than the others? Then you’d just have to dodge the “clickbait” accusations.

    4. Morning reader*

      Going forward,, I suggest semi-colons rather than commas to separate subjects; I love a good reason to use a semi.

      1. Gumby*

        That’s what my alma mater did after an unfortunate email subject line suggested that a well known person in industry was an alum (he wasn’t), had died (he hadn’t), and mistreated birds (I assume he didn’t).

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      “my coworker slept with my boyfriend, providing only positive feedback, and more.”

      Why have WTF Wednesday when we can have WTF Everyday?!

      I approve of the revised title 364 days out of the year.

    6. WTF*

      Alison, I’m really confused and disappointed that my (perfectly reasonable) comment about people being insensitive about the letter writer’s situation has seemingly been deleted. If someone is struggling enough to write in for help, they’re not going to want to see comments like “should I ask a different coworker to sleep with my boyfriend?” I’m really surprised that tactless comments like that are allowed to stay up, especially as the LW is likely to visit and read the comments.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It was removed because it was a reply in a thread that was removed (if a comment goes, the replies to it generally go too). I agreed with your initial comment, which is why I removed that subthread.

      2. Waverly Wilson*

        As the OP, I appreciate this :) While there was certainly some levity, it was tough to see some of those comments for sure. But overall, I appreciate so much the support I’ve seen here. Makes a huge difference during a time where I’m trying to figure out how to navigate this appropriately and often feel like I’m completely left out of the narrative. Thank you!

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Good luck – you are in an awful situation that is totally not your fault. I’m impressed you are able to behave professionally, this is so tough.

        2. PJ*

          I am so impressed by you OP. That would be an awful situation to be in and you’re demonstrating a lot of grace and strength. Hats off to you and I’m sure that your boss will be impressed also as they reflect on how you’ve dealt with your coworker in light of the history there. The idea that you haven’t exploded all over everyone at work is pretty amazing. I don’t know if I could hold it together that well.

  2. Dan*

    #2

    AAM comes up with the question titles, but as framed, I’d say “yes.” That said, the “areas for improvement” section doesn’t need to be, nor should it be, manufactured *criticism* for the sake of having a non-field on a performance eval. That’s just a morale killer, and a quick way to turn a high performing employee into an apathetic one that just doesn’t care.

    What you very much can (and should) do is turn this into a professional development conversation. This can be a two-way street — you and Dave discuss some areas where he can grow, and by putting it in writing, you in some ways are are acknowledging these goals and perhaps even committing to supporting him in achieving them. If you leave this section blank, I think you’re doing him (and you) a huge disservice.

    In my field, I’m on-net a strong performer. But I do work in tech, and there’s always something new to learn, be it a new programming language, skill, or whatever. So “areas for improvement” can actually be a way for me to let my boss know where my deficiencies are and what we can (together) work to improve.

    When I had my first self-assessment in my first professional job, TBH I was terrified of that “areas for improvement” section. I thought it was the “you have a job now” version of the interview question “what is your biggest weakness?” So I took a stab at “harmless” things I thought I could improve, and my boss’s feedback was, “Dan captured his areas for improvement well.” After a decade of that, I’m no longer terrified of said question.

    BTW, this doesn’t always have to be tech stuff. Maybe you or he would like him to get more client interaction or whatever. If so, no shame in putting that down. Another way to tackle this is if promotions are a thing for his role, what are the things he would need to do to get promoted?

    Whatever you do, just don’t leave that question blank.

    1. LDF*

      I second all this. My work rebranded “areas for improvement” as “growth opportunities”, at least in our peer feedback forms. I thought it was great because it can reasonably encompass both things you need to improve at to meet basics, and things you are meeting standards at but could become even better at. My annual reviews have definitely felt better when I know that just because the manager suggests focusing on X doesn’t automatically mean I’m having issues with X.

      1. Solana*

        Definitely good to ask workers if they have their own improvement goals. I had a situation as the worker, where my supervisor didn’t have anything specific for me to work on. My own goal was to get better at spotting a medical condition in my lab animals that can be fatal. I studied a guidebook I have and spoke to a coworker that had this happen to their animals much more frequently for tips. A year later for the next review, I had spotted this several times in animals where it could be treated.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I had a situation as the worker, where my supervisor didn’t have anything specific for me to work on.

          This was me during my review in January, so I decided that I wanted to start doing more design work (I develop content for a software company’s proposals, but I was primarily focused on the writing piece while farming out the design stuff to our in-house designers). I’m now in a professional technical writing certificate program at a major university learning to improve my visual design skills, and I’m starting the very fun task of designing all my team’s infographics. My management team seems pleased with the direction my role is taking, and having me design a lot of our infographics (and possibly other graphics) will save us time going back and forth with the company’s design team (who may or may not get to our requests in a timely fashion due to being pulled in multiple directions for several different groups).

          1. Filosofickle*

            Speaking as a former designer who’s now a strategist/writer, this skill set will serve you very well! Being able to integrate content & visuals, like in infographics, is invaluable. And while design isn’t something I sell as a service anymore, all of my presentations and reports look great and have visualizations built in. It saves so much time not to have to pass things off to a creative team — you just do it while you work! Plus, it’s fun.

    2. LPUK*

      I remember my boss saying that he and his leadership team had had a full day’s training on running useful PDPs… this from a guy who wa always short on feedback. I panicked a little at the fact that my next appraisal would be much more thorough and took a lot of time to document areas where I thought I could develop… only to find on the day that he obviously slept through the training, cos the discussion was exactly the same as usual. Except that when I raised areas I could develop further on, each point got the comments ‘ oh no, I’ve never noticed an issue on that, I think you’re good at that, so no worry’ etc etc.

    3. Ali G*

      Yeah Dave sounds like a guy that could really benefit from a growth plan: what are his goals and how do they align with the company’s? How can you support him in getting there, etc? This will involve higher up buy in, as you are essentially putting him on a promotion path, but it sounds like he would be a good investment for the company.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It could be as simple as he wants to go to this one HUGE conference in our field but we never let him go because his work is too important for him to be away. So you send him to the conference and figure out how to cope without him for a few days.

        Where does DAVE want to improve? The evaluation should be an interactive process. You’ve been providing feedback all along, but have you been working on developing career paths during 1:1? All this should be happening throughout the year so you are set when eval time comes.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I will say, this year, I asked my excellent team members if they have areas they want to grow into, but ALSO said explicitly, “Look, if doing your current job very well is all you have the brainspace for in a pandemic, that is also 100% fine. Please feel free to just keep going as you are!”

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Thank you for this. My manager is having the same grace seemingly with us (health care adjacent field). They asked for goals, but have also said if de-stressing and keeping your head above water is your limit, that is fine too.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, this! Identifying areas where you can grow helps your manager to support that growth and help you become a better employee. When one of my reports tells me they want to learn more about something, I tend to keep an eye out for educational opportunities on that subject that I can pass along to them, or projects where they’d get to develop that skillset.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I agree. That’s what my dept has done. If there is a professional certificate available, even if the job doesn’t require it, we might add that too. Software is ALWAYS updating so even non-IT people need to keep up. With a lot of downtime during COVID, we’ve been taking a lot of online training and the courses where I’m learning a “not really necessary” skill end up teaching me a mind-blowing shortcut in a program I thought I knew very well.

    6. Firecat*

      Agree!

      “Development” doesn’t have to be something to improve. If you’re an excellent emoyee sometimes there isn’t anything to “improve’. Maybe the “improve” is even checking in on their work-life balance if this excellent work and volunteering is coming with lots of OT. A danger with these staff is they can burn out fast.

      Alison is also correct that the positive feedback needs to be specific to be meaningful.

      I remember one miserable and soul crushing performance review where I got a an excellent on paper, but they spent the entire hour on things to improve and at the very end went – “but you know you are great”.

      Absolute moral killer. I also don’t remember anything they though I should i.prove because after about 10 minutes of none stop “and yeah this annoys us about you” without examples or suggestions to approach it better I stopped absorbing and more or less kept repeating “agree to disagree. Remember squeeze your but to keep fr crying. Smile and nod this will end soon.”

    7. Yorick*

      Remember that there are more ways Dave can become better at his job than by improving his weaknesses. Maybe it’d be ideal for someone in that role to learn a certain skill, or something like that.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        Agree with all the comments in this thread. Managing isn’t just about getting the best performance you can out of people in their current jobs; it’s about helping them grow and develop. Find out what your staff member is interested in — team leadership, project leadership? Process improvement? There are lots of ways to give him opportunities to grow and develop new skills that he hasn’t had a chance to flex in his current role.

        Remember also that feedback doesn’t have to be merely “positive” or “negative” — there is also coaching. If your staff member nails everything you toss at him, maybe it’s time to find more challenges for him to take on. If you give him a kind of project he hasn’t done before, or an opportunity to work on something with broader impact than his usual work, or an opportunity to come in contact with higher-up people or people in other departments, then your feedback conversations can be about coaching him as he works through these new tasks.

        My company also uses “Development Areas” phrasing in our annual reviews rather than “Areas for Improvement.” A few of my staff members have objectives that are like “get better at project management” or “work on attention to detail and develop your processes for catching errors.” But most also have objectives like “develop team leadership skills” that encourage them to coach more junior employees, run team meetings, prioritize team backlog, etc.; or “develop project leadership skills,” or other growth-oriented objectives that aren’t just about getting better at all the work they are already doing. And then my job is to find them opportunities to actually do those things, and give them coaching as they learn to do it.

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        Definitely this. Everyone has weaknesses, even if relatively speaking, they’re quite strong. And an important part of job satisfaction is growth.

        At LastJob, coworker and I were far and away strong performers. Our boss never had any real feedback about any of our work, either at performance reviews or just general work reviews…. and it frustrated us to no end. Because, sure the work was good, but to get to the next level we knew we needed to be better. Finally it occurred to us that our boss just couldn’t provide any feedback because he wasn’t good enough as a manager. So, we both left for jobs where we felt we had better growth potential.

        And that’s another point. If an employee truly is super exceptional, maybe its time to promote them to a better challenge (assuming they want that). Even if you’re paid well ,stagnating can be really… boring.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      As an overall strong performer, I can say that my best bosses have been the ones that challenged me to grow professionally and solicited my input on those goals, not those that felt they had to come up with some really nitpicky negatives so that my review wasn’t glowing. I think it also helps if you can talk to a strong performer about career advancement and opportunities for promotion within the organization, if any exist or can be created for them.

      I know self-evaluations aren’t popular, but my organization uses a very short one that includes a question about goals for growth in the coming year or opportunities/projects they’d like to work on as well as an optional question about any training that someone would like to see offered. We get a lot of great ideas this way, and development goals are a mix of any needed improvements, skills I would like to see someone develop, and skills that they are interested in developing.

  3. Anonymous1*

    LW5 – I was just like you! When I was offered my current position, I sat down with a pay stub from my previous job and then calculated out exactly what the pay stub would look like at the new job. I included changes in the cost of insurance, additional parking cost, difference in taxes, etc. to make sure I understood how much the pay change would impact me. You’re being diligent!

    1. Kvothe*

      Seconding this, I also negotiated to start at a higher pay band than they initially offered me because of the difference in costs of benefits (and it was only like $25 a paycheck). Any decent employer will definitely understand you wanting to check all this stuff out!

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        You can only not need to see it if it’s worth $0. I would have to assume it’s garbage if they won’t share ahead of time – though fair enough not to share exact numbers before a formal offer.

    2. Cadmium*

      Agreed! For my current job, I did a benefit by benefit comparison, and even quantified the increased commute by using the standard mileage reimbursement and converting the offered salary into an hourly rate for the extra time it would take to drive there. I had two offers, and the one with the short commute and higher salary lost because their employee health insurance premiums were ridiculously high.

  4. JC*

    Resume gaps don’t matter if you frame them well. I would list the dates on the resume and a generic one line explanation- taking time for a health issue, or personal family matter, pursuing further education, spouses job.

    Time out of the country can be a great interview talking point if you have learned a new language, cuisine, culture, or volunteered. This will be a great asset on your resume when you return to corporate.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I have no idea why I never considered writing explantations with dates before, but it makes perfect sense!

    2. OP - #4 Part-Time*

      Thank you so much for this suggestion! I truly never thought of adding an explanation to my resume, but this makes perfect sense. I guess I’m worried to have a resume gap for a few years, but from what you and Alison have posted, it may not be that large of an issue after all when finding a new position when I return stateside.

      With COVID, travel plans are paused temporarily, but once again this is great feedback. Thank you.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Also, you don’t know what the actual part time work will be. Even if it is out of your field, you might have some great achievement that strengthens your candidacy for a full time job once you are back. So don’t assume that a) it’s part time and b) not in your field it won’t be relevant later.

    3. pancakes*

      This is an interesting idea I’d never considered, but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable or do well to include a line about health issues, which in my case was cancer and a recurrence. Those issues definitely slowed my career progress and ambitions, but in the US healthcare and sick time are mostly inadequate and fraught, and it might come across as a “don’t hire me” flag. Then again, I have a feeling my resume is being tossed in the discard pile due to my relatively minor progress compared to peers I came out of grad school with.

      1. Wehaf*

        I had a similar situation (not cancer, though), and I just listed the time off as “family health situation (now resolved)”. It made it clear that there was a good reason for a gap, but also that it’s not a worry going forward.

    4. Mockingjay*

      I absolutely did this on my resume. I had been a SAHM while we lived overseas due to my husband’s job. We’re in government/contracting so work gaps like this are not unexpected. (I did have a little bit of relevant freelance work so I could show that my skills weren’t completely rusty.)

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I recently had a nearly 2 year gap in my CV and agonised a lot over what to put (no volunteer or additional work possible, I wasn’t mentally or physically able) and ended up explaining it as ‘temporary health issue, now resolved’

      Kind of true. I mean I can’t guarantee it won’t return but I’m never giving them more ammo to shoot me down with.

    6. Malarkey01*

      Even part time or entry level, working abroad presents all kinds of skills in navigating cultures, flexibility, and adaptability. I’ve felt they have strengthened candidates even when not relevant- we hired a lot of military spouses that would have unusual jobs overseas.

  5. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW1: well, you are the strongest person I think I’ve ever heard of.
    LW5: For me, benefits are often the MOST decisive part of a package, moreso than salary. You couldn’t pay me enough to give up a chance at a flex schedule or good PTO.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree. Flexible scheduling is one of the best things to ever happen to the professional world. I had it at my job during the last part of college and for my first job after. Then I went to a job that had me on a strict 9-5 with lunch at noon even though there truly was no necessary or logical reason for it. It was just an old business stuck in the last. I hated it. The job was awful anyway, but having to discuss with my boss that I’d come on early or skip lunch to accommodate appointments was annoying and frankly I felt infantilized. Being able to say “Just letting you know I need to leave a little early today” or being able to schedule work around your personal life makes such an astronomical difference in my life that I don’t know if I ever want to work without flexible scheduling ever again.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        This! I was also thinking of how in a previous position, I asked my manager why they didn’t allow remote work as a benefit, when physical meetings within the building were VERY rare. We literally came, sat in an office on a laptop, and left. The answers I got were amusing: “Well, we pay a lot for the building” (??), “If I ever decide we should have meetings, I want you here”, and my trainer tried to make it clearer when he said, “They don’t want to offer that perk because she just doesn’t trust anyone to work at home because she doesn’t really trust anyone to work while here”. I got going while the going was good. I wish I had asked about benefit BEFORE I joined the company.

      2. WorkingGirl*

        For real! My boss is in a band that plays shows a few times a year, all of my coworkers have some kind of outside hobby, side hustle, freelance gig work that means we need to leave early, take random days off, etc. And my boss is SO supportive of that. I don’t think I’d give that up.

    2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

      One of the deciding factors upon taking my current position over one that paid moderately better was that there were different blocks of time throughout the year in which the office was considered closed, but we would still get paid and it wouldn’t count against our PTO. This easily pushed the benefits package well above the other position and made taking the position an easy decision.

  6. Ginger ale for all*

    I admire letter writer 1’s ability to boil that problem so concisely without unnecessary details or emotion. I envy people who can do that.

    1. Anonys*

      So true. Though I encourage OP to also feel her emotions and remember her feelings/anger is justified. If she brings it up with the boss it does NOT portray her as vindictive or in any way less professional. Any interpersonal conflicts from this result from Jane’s actions – If your judgment is bad enough to sleep with a coworker’s boyfriend you cannot expect to be treated with anything more than the bare minimum, cold professional curtesy going forward.

      Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to continue working (closely) with Jane in the LWs shoes, especially not on a daily basis. Too painful. So much respect for LW for remaining professional. Also, if everyone in the office is pitying Jane because she is having a “hard time” with her wedding being called off, that would make me so mad and I would totally want everyone to know the real story. It’s so unfair that everyone sees Jane as having a “valid” reason for being upset and therefore cutting her slack for being less productive, whereas LW has just as much (more) reason to be upset, but is suffering privately and therefore expected to take on even more work.

      1. SweetestCin*

        This is absolutely a time that the the boss needs to know “relevant context”.

        OP is indeed exceeding the level of professionalism that I’d be able to muster. It certainly is NOT fair that Jane is receiving pity and giving her room due to the wedding being called off, while the OP gets to deal with her own pain on the daily.

      2. Waverly Wilson*

        Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. It has certainly been difficult to feel like I’m just an invisible part of this story, but my integrity is more important to me than anything, so I’m just trying to take the high road as often as possible. Some days are tougher than others, but I get through the days with this kind of reassurance. Thank you for sharing that you don’t think this would be seen as vindictive.

        1. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

          I have to go all Dan Savage #DTMFA — and I have been there only it was my *boss* who made a play for my BF [and in retrospect I should have run away laughing and crying for joy at unloading that jerk, if only I had known then what became abundantly clear in the fullness of time…]. Anyway, I know this is a *work* advice column not a *relationship* advice column, but your boyfriend sucks for cheating on you with someone you have to work with every day.

      3. Paulina*

        If others at work knew that the OP and Jane were close, then they may expect the OP would be happy to help Jane out, and may look down on the OP for being reluctant to help her friend out in her time of need. Not that the coworkers should be told, of course, but it would be beneficial if the boss could structure things so that the OP isn’t being looked to as the likely help for Jane.

        Amazing professionalism from the OP, and hopefully the boss will respect that by not requiring even more from her.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I assume it took a bit to get to this point of concisely stating the problem. But to reach this point at all is remarkable and says a lot about OP. When our boats capsize we can sink or swim. OP is a swimmer. Rock on, OP. Your inner strength will carry you through many things.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        +1. It’s clear that OP has put in a lot of work – hats off to you. Hoping your boss is supportive and you find a good way forward.

    3. Waverly Wilson*

      Thank you – it’s taken a lot of practice to get to that point over the last several months, for sure.

  7. Hot mess at my first job!*

    #2. Ultimately the goal is to make sure you understand where he wants to go professionally and how he wants to grow and to help to facilitate that. I was fortunate to be Dave for most of my career so I had a lot of those conversations with my managers prior to becoming a manager. As in if you want to move up let’s get you projects with visibility or suggesting things like training in areas of manufacturing process so I could better understand areas I could negotiate with suppliers on time or money. So it doesn’t have to be criticism so much, but it’s important to also understand his objectives and to help him develop. Even people who don’t necessarily want to move up but are high performers likely have something they want to be encouraged to learn or to improve and the key is the dialogue to figure out what that is.

    #3. OMG immediately after I started my very first job out of college my grandpa died. I’m not an overly demonstrative person or anything and was completely shocked that I couldn’t stop crying. At work. Like a flipping faucet. So embarrassing. Also, for added fun, I was carpooling with the president of the small company I was working at. So I literally could not go to my car and cry or even leave. Finally he gave his car to one of the guys in the shop and had him drive me home. How embarrassing. But also everyone was on with it. I did very well at that company and several years later I am actually pretty successful. I was terribly anxious they would think I was a total wreck and fire me. I stayed there for 6 years and moved up. It’s probably better to share what is going on so they don’t think you’re just a hot mess. I was a hot mess, btw. I was terribly shocked by my inability of o control my emotions. Looking back, I was young, just moved back from college, my grandpa died suddenly when I was out car shopping of all things (because fun fact my car died in the parking lot at my job interview and I had to ask the reception to use the phone – pre cell phone – and sit in the lobby waiting for my dad to come get me so I was like oh good one more reason for them to think I am insane). It was A LOT. It wasn’t really indicative of who I was. And being transparent about my grandpa’s death was important because at least they had the context for being off my game.

    1. Hot mess at my first job!**

      Also ugh typos. Just to be clear it doesn’t sound d like you are presenting as a hit mess OP #3. Just that it helps to let some context explain if you think you’re off your game. And if I can recover from blubbering like an idiot at work and having my car towed from the parking lot on literally my first day you’ll probably be fine.

    2. snoopythedog*

      LW3- My condolences. My grandma also died the week before I got the offer for my current job. I started three weeks later and left in the second week to attend her funeral. I also didn’t want to say anything to my new team, but I’m glad I did. I said something similar to Alison’s script around having a recent death in the family in case I seem a bit off and I’m trying my best to focus. For me, I was able to do it in the context of needing a half day on a Friday off to fly to the funeral, so it fit in seamlessly with that conversation. If you are worried about people you don’t know well asking too many questions, stick to Alison’s common suggestion of telling and then providing an avenue to switch the conversation.
      I think of this situation by putting myself in my manager’s spot. If I were managing a new a employee, I would want to know these things so that I could offer accommodations and support my new employee. I wouldn’t think they were asking for sympathy or caused problems. I always take the approach that employees (clients, competitors…whoever) are humans, with lives outside of work and complex emotions, and to treat them as such.

  8. AnNina*

    LW2: (Different culture, keep in mind)
    Somewhere in the beginning of the conversation, could you ask him, what are his priorities and goals? I mean, it seems like at the moment, you (or your org) don’t have any specific goal for his role, but maybe he has an idea. If he wants to for example forward to X position, you should be able to help him by telling what that position requires. (It might be easier to describe something concrete than just trying to come up more generic “ways to improve”) Or if he would like to see his role expand, and you are up for that, you can find ways together to get to that. It would sill be improving, just not his skills, but the role. And if he tells you that he is fine where he is, maybe you could feel a bit more comfortable just telling him that what he does is excellent for that position.

    1. AnNina*

      Aaand just like that, I missed “Hot mess at my first job!”‘s comment above. :,D But second to that!

      1. Hot mess as my first job*

        100% (haha of course I agree with you agreeing me)! I think the key is making sure he feels supported and has a manager who is willing to support him with his development. or honestly, like you said, if he’s fine that’s ok. I have an employee who has been at the company for 40 years and is not looking to move up, just working then retiring. But she is doing an amazing job while she there. But also she doesn’t care about moving up so the feedback I give her is more based on trying to make sure she imparts some of that tribal knowledge before she leaves. But I do my best to give everyone honest constructive feedback based on where they want to go. I appreciate the LW’s question and being concerned because I was always a little frustrated with managers who had zero to say to me than keep up the great work because sometimes I wanted to know how to get to the next level. And being told you are doing great but also not not being promoted or given any advice to get to the next step is actually really frustrating if that’s what you want. Like that’s great you think I am doing well for level X, but what do I need to do well to get to level Z since I don’t seem to be there.

        I also agree that if someone is very good at their role it’s a good opportunity to hear where they think that role should go and how they could see it developing and changing.

  9. Dennis Feinstein*

    If you’re working with decent human beings, it won’t matter if your loved one died the day before your first day or in the 10th year of your job. You’re upset and need time to grieve and this will probably affect your performance for a while. Unless your boss is a monster or running for “AAM worst boss 2020” s/he’ll be sympathetic. Until we’re eventually all replaced by robots, human bosses need to accept that bad stuff can happen to their fellow human beings anywhere, anytime and that the wenus might just need to wait.

  10. OP - #4 Part-Time*

    OP #4 here. I think my main concern is the potential challenge to obtain a position when I return stateside with a non-industry part time position as the first thing on my resume, or a large resume gap (a few years). But, as Alison mentioned, a resume gap may not be all that concerning in the grand scheme of things. This is my first resume gap, so any thoughts are welcomed! Travel is currently on hold due to COVID, but I’m hoping I will be able to travel when it is safe.

    1. WS*

      If you were travelling *to* the US for your husband’s job (or in quite a few other places), it’s quite likely that you would be on a spousal visa and not legally able to work at all. It’s really common for someone to not work (or to work less/out of their field) while accompanying their working spouse to another country, so I think you have a really good reason to have that gap there.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Yes, when my daughter worked in another country her husband wasn’t permitted to work in his field but he was able to volunteer in a similar one.

      2. OP - #4 Part-Time*

        Good thought – thanks! I know there are reasons for gaps and industry changes, so I think I need to worry less about the future job and just focus on my time here and volunteering or working part-time.

        1. Lizzo*

          Yes, just make the most of the time and do something that is interesting, fulfilling, and expands your life in some way. If it’s achieving those things, then it will be easy to talk about them in the context of a cover letter or interview because you’ll have some thoughtful reflections to offer re: the experience. Any good company/manager will appreciate that. If a potential employer looks down on you for having worked outside the field…do you really want to work for those folks?

    2. MJ*

      A common woe of the trailing spouse.

      Look into doing some project-based consulting work in your industry. Can be done anywhere and keeps you in the network.

      1. JetlaggedExpat*

        Be careful with that one–the lawyers we consulted when I tried to do that told me that even though the work was in the US, the fact that I was doing it in Ireland as an independent contractor arguably put me in the ‘running a business’ category, which was not allowed under my visa. It mattered less where my clients were than where I was.

        1. OP - #4 Part-Time*

          Agreed – we’ve been learning about potential tax implications with picking up any remote work.

    3. Ali G*

      The kind of gap you are looking at is really different than having a resume full of holes and short stints that make you look unreliable. You are making a decision for your family, and any employment you have during that time should reflect fairly well on you.
      When I was taking a break after leaving my former Hellhole Job, I volunteered and worked part-time for a year. Neither position was anywhere close to my industry, but I was able to express to potential employers the impact they had on me. Being a white person that grew up pretty privileged, working with immigrants and people with disabilities was a very eye opening experience for me, and it also solidified my interest in going back to non-profit work. I am now a senior exec at a non-profit tangentially related to my former career work.
      Seriously, embrace this and don’t worry about it. All your experiences you have abroad, working or not, will influence you in seeking your next position in ways you can’t imagine now.

    4. Marny*

      I had this issue recently where we lived out of the country for a year and got a job way outside my field (think career as a lawyer but a job as a barista). I don’t include that job on my resume, but I mention the “sabbatical/gap” in my cover letter and it’s made for some really great conversations in interviews about changing my perspective, learning a new language, etc. My husband couldn’t work during that time due to the slowness of getting a visa, and he explains the gap in his resume by mentioning the visa issue and talking about spending that time taking language classes, traveling, etc. I haven’t found it to be a problem for either of us.

    5. Some Lady*

      You could consider separating your experience section into “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience” – that way you can lead with what will be, you know, relevant to the jobs you’re seeking when you’re back, but still have your time accounted for in the whole resume. I do this sometimes (because I work in a few related areas of a field, so depending on context, different things are more important), and I’ll have fleshed out bullet points under the Relevant Experience session and either just the title/place/dates for Additional Experience or a single line rather than bullet points.

  11. Green great dragon*

    #1 That’s an incredibly impressive display of professionalism. Wish you could give lessons to many of the people featuring in letters on this site.

  12. Rayray*

    #4 reminds me of a post I saw on LinkedIn one time. It said something along the lines of “You know the hiring process is messed up when formerly salaried professionals are asking me if they should include their part-time grocery store job they needed to get by on their resume, or leave it off entirely”

    I personally think we should be able to talk about the jobs we had that weren’t necessarily related to the one we are applying to. Transferable skills are important, there’s a lot to learn at any job. On the flip side, candidates shouldn’t be judged so harshly for gaps. Employment gaps could happen for any reason, and it can be very personal.

    I definitely think it should be included and you can take that chance to list achievements and transferable skills.

    1. The Original K.*

      I have a friend who is a PR VP but worked retail for a year during the 2008-2010 recession, and he did include that job on his resume. He found that the job was a conversation starter in interviews, that he could talk about how the skills he used at that job applied to the ones he was applying for, and interviewers all knew there was a recession going on and understood the need for a survival job.

    2. OP - #4 Part-Time*

      Such a good thought. Transferable skills are always key and this helps me think of it from a skills point of view. Thanks!

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Also, being overseas, they shouldn’t expect that you would necessarily be able to go immediately into your same industry at the same level. Part time and entry level makes sense if there is a language difference, differences in credentialing, etc.. My friend is a lawyer and when she lived in Istanbul she was a tour guide because she didn’t speak Turkish and didn’t feel like jumping through the hoops to get credentialed as a foreign lawyer practicing in English. She had a blast and it ended up being an ice-breaker during so many interviews because people either had visited Istanbul or had heard something about the city and wanted to hear what it was like.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Another thought is that people who are adaptable and have a strong work ethic will work a job not in their field or at their level, when needed.

      This is something that has come up a couple of times in positions I’ve hired. In one situation, the fully qualified candidate told me they were holding out for the right role and weren’t willing to work a lesser job that would entail a pay cut. Okay, for a year maybe, but it was going on 3 years for the person, and the hiring manager took this to mean that the person thought he was “above” the line level employees he’d have to deal with on a daily basis in the role. Also, he thought the candidate would have lost skills that they could have kept up if they’d been working in a lower level role. The candidate didn’t get the job. It went to a step-up candidate who the hiring manager thought was more adaptable.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        ETA – this was during the last recession, and the candidate had been unemployed for 3 years, just in case that wasn’t clear.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Welp, according to this, I’m screwed even though the stopgap jobs wouldn’t hire me because they thought I’d leave. Nice to know my working life is over now.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Back in the late 90s, I ended up altering the two “survival jobs” that I’d had in Home Country, on my resume, to make them look like they were jobs in my field, because the economy was booming in the US at the time and the recruiters were just not understanding it. (“But why did you have to work Survival Job when you had a degree and several years experience in your field.” – “Because my family needed to eat?” – “But, but why?” and then they’d never call back.) Like, guys, our whole economy crashed. We had banks shutting down, people getting paid in whatever their employer produced instead of cash (a friend was paid in sewing machines…), hyperinflation, to name but a few. Yes people were losing their jobs, and yes, jobs were disappearing. Nope, I could not get that message across. I always felt bad about having done it, but at the time I felt backed into a corner and forced to hide the real work history that I had. I took the whole Home Country portion off my resume as soon as I could (which was after 8 or 9 years in the country). On some level, I am glad that we as a society came to an understanding of the fact that survival jobs exist and are valid. I just obviously wish it had been for a better reason than several recessions in a row.

      1. Rayray*

        I think there are many hiring managers and recruiters who get this, but it is still a problem sometimes. For example, I worked an exec assistant job for a while and I hated it very much. I put my resume out there and applied for different roles – relevant to my degree and previous experience paired with transferable skills from that job. I’d get many calls and emails asking me if I was interested in exec assistant roles and I’d politely turn them down and recruiters were often flabbergasted when I explained that it wasn’t a good fit for me and that I was trying to pursue different roles. It truly did not compute with some of them.

        1. Rayray*

          Jus to add on to my comment though,

          There are intelligent and personable recruiters/hiring managers/talent acquisition that get this but it is still an issue for many. The idea is to really zero in on skills that are transferable and how they bring value to the job you’re applying for.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It was even wilder for my search, because I had already started working in my field again and was on my second job back in my field. I was moving up in my job, had the skills they wanted, the references, and they would still call and be like “But why did you take that job five years ago?” “Can we talk about what I am doing now?” – “Nope, I need to know why you did what you did five years ago,” like it was now a permanent stain on my work history that would never come out.

          1. Rayray*

            Ohh my goodness, I still occasionally get calls and emails for call center work even though my resume shows it was 10 years ago and I have since earned a college degree and worked other jobs.

            Actually, I don’t even mention the call center job on my resume. I worked as a project support at the same company after being promoted from the call center, so I only list that role but I do include the cal center job when applications ask for every detail of your work history.

            I think my profiles on LinkedIn, indeed etc show the call center job so that’s why.

    5. OP - #4 Part-Time*

      Thank you to everyone for the feedback! This community is absolutely awesome and everyone has provided ideas I hadn’t previously considered.

  13. Smithy*

    For #2, if Dave’s work is truly excellent – you can also see this as an opportunity to articulate why it’s good. It may be that you work in a sector where things are either right or wrong without much context – but if there is a qualitative aspect, forcing yourself to say why something is good will both be helpful for Dave but also for you as a manager going forward.

    If Dave’s quarterly reports are great because they’re accurate and designed in a way that’s easy to read – being mindful of both will help if your next direct report turns in accurate but poorly laid out reports.

    While looking at larger growth goals is good too – being able to tell Dave exactly why he’s doing well also helps in thinking about if he wants to bulk up on strengths or address un-used professional muscles.

    1. linger*

      If Dave is truly excellent, then one possible direction to take might be to have Dave document how he gets to his end product, to see what is teachable or transferrable to raise other workers to Dave’s level. You want to encourage development, but you also don’t want to have one worker become uniquely indispensable or irreplaceable.
      N.B. Perfectionist workers often struggle with performing the delegation necessary to give others learning opportunities, when it’s demonstrably quicker and easier and more effective for them to do the job themselves. So this might be something that Dave needs to develop, though again not for himself, but for your business.

      1. The Second Poster*

        Excellent suggestion! I’m the original poster of question #2 and while I appreciate everyone saying “focus on his goals” it’s hard to do so without 1) “rewarding” his hard work with an surplus of more work (as Allison mentioned above), or 2) offering him responsibilities that he may want but are unattainable due to company dynamics. I love the idea of challenging him to teach and share best practices – gives more responsibility, more autonomy, but are achievable and practical.

        I’ll also mention that Dave is at a level where it would be inappropriate for him to solely run a project or delegate to others (even though he thrives at his position). I especially like that this suggestion navigates the difficulty of not giving Dave total managerial/team lead responsibility, while still giving him the chance to streamline things, take ownership, and share his skill set (that sharing being a professional development in itself).

        Thank you!

  14. The Other Dawn*

    #3: Yes, please mention something to your manager so they have context as to why you might be struggling or not as focused as you normally are.

    As a manager, it really helps when a team member tells me they have something going on that’s affecting their work. I don’t need the details, of course, but at least saying, “Hey, I’ve got Big Think going on in my personal life and it’s impacting my work” is helpful information to have. There have been a few cases over the years where someone had something going on at home, or a medical issue, or something else and they’re really struggling at work. Without knowing they’re having issues that are impacting work, all I see is someone missing deadlines, missing details, or being chronically absent or late to work. I once was about to put someone on a PIP for being very late (by hours) almost everyday, after telling her several times she needed to be on time and even changing her start time twice to make it easier (she was front desk and needed to be there by a certain time) when she finally told me there was something big going on in her life. Had she told me a lot sooner, it would have saved so much time and frustration on both ends.

    1. LCH*

      i also had my grandmother die right before i began a new job (actually the evening of the day of my interview for the job). around a year into my position, one of my coworkers (higher than me but not supervisor) mentioned that some of the staff weren’t sure about me at first because i was so morose. and i was like.. oh.. yeah, well this thing happened. and he said that explained so much! so it probably would have been better if i’d mentioned it earlier.

  15. Cordoba*

    Yes, always ask to see the details of the benefits package. They’re not standardized, and variations between them could add up to thousands of dollars or significant differences in quality of life.

    I’ve had HR people act like I was doing something unusual when I did this. Don’t care, I need to fully understand the benefits before accepting the job.

    Apparently there are many people who just accept a job and figure out the benefits situation later. Don’t be one of those people.

    1. DivineMissL*

      Yes, definitely check the benefits. I was offered a job that had significantly less time off, and the health insurance offered less benefits but I could pay more if I wanted a better tier. This would have meant that I was taking home less money than current job; so I passed. You need to assess the entire package, not just the salary.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      One time when we were hiring on our team someone asked whether a guy had accepted the offer and the manager was like “ugh not yet he asked to see the benefits first” like he was so annoyed the guy would stretch things out by asking for more information. It was so baffling to me! I think that was a rare time where I actually spoke up in the moment and said “good, he should absolutely do that.”

      It’s particularly odd to me because I think my company has pretty fantastic benefits! It’s an insurance company so the insurance is obviously good and I’ve never seen a better 401(k) program. I don’t know why they would want to be cagey about benefits; they should be shoving a leaflet into every applicants hand bragging about them!

      1. Mel_05*

        That is surprising! Most places I’ve worked have been super upfront about the benefits – often even before I had an offer I had a pamphlet explaining their benefits in detail.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If the benefits are good, the employer will probably want you to know about them.

          If the benefits are bad, the employer will probably try to “help” you forget about them.

    3. HR Bee*

      As an HR professional, it always boggles my mind when companies bristle about sending me the benefits package. When I came into my current position, the very first thing I did was create a benefit package overview to give to candidates.

      OP, definitely ask for it and major red flag if they refuse.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Agree. I’ve worked for larger professional services organizations a lot of my career but took a position with a smaller organization in a related industry for a few years to get a particular type of experience. Their benefits and PTO sucked, so even though they matched my salary, it was a net loss. They seemed surprised when I asked for the full package for comparison and even more surprised when I tried to negotiate based on the delta. Ultimately, it worked out – I ended up mostly even on comp/benefits based on a negotiated bonus and I got the experience I wanted, but they were definitely surprised that I asked, that I noticed/pointed out the delta, and that I negotiated based on it.

    5. Observer*

      HR making an issue gives you valuable information – either HR is BAD or the benefits package is BAD.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I ended up taking a slightly lower paying job ($2K) once because they employer covered 100% of insurance and any deductible costs over $500 and gave 2 days PTO per pay period (4/month) right out the gate. No regrets!

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I agree. Back in 2012, I got a tentative job offer through a county office that required mandatory insurance coverage (as in you couldn’t opt out of getting it if you weren’t already covered by a partner’s insurance). The cost of that together with taxes meant I would have had about $14 left over at the end of the month.

  16. Camellia*

    OP #1: Please have this conversation with your boss as soon as possible and come back and give us an update. You have remained so professional (and honestly I don’t know how you’ve done it) but I am curious as to what your boss’s response will be. We seen such a range here, from ‘suck it up’ to instant firing of the offending party, so I really want to know how your boss responds to this.

    1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

      Both reactions are bad! I hope OP’s manager handles it with as much grace as she has.

  17. Parenthetically*

    Alison, I’m wondering what you’d say in response to LW1 if she were your employee and came to you with that script! I’m just thinking of how this could potentially impact a manager’s perceptions and what a good manager would do with this information? (Besides going home and saying to their partner, “You would NOT BELIEVE what I had to address at work today.”)

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Not Alison, but have had a staff member in the past come up and inform me she felt I needed to know (before any drama) that she’d recently found out her sister (who also worked at the firm) was sleeping with her husband. While she thought she could remain professional she also knew once her sister found out the secret was out then there would be a huge meltdown.

      (There was, in the end. Original staff member was cool and composed. Her sister went full chewing the scenery drama overload and quit on the spot once I said I wasn’t about to fire the original woman for ‘being a lousy wife’. Brian Blessed would have blocked his ears that day)

      I was taken aback, but thanked her for the information, then later that evening went for a long drive on my own to think about how to handle this best. If nothing happened in the office? Business as usual. If one person refuses to work at all with another? Reprimands or suggest moving departments. By the time I got back I felt calm about the situation.

      (Generally ai don’t discuss personell issues with the husband. He’s not really able to process emotion or human issues)

      1. Funk*

        “quit on the spot once I said I wasn’t about to fire the original woman for ‘being a lousy wife’”
        Wow, gross! (not you; the person who at all ever thought that that was a thing)

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Oh whaaaaaat?? I’m reeling at the gumption it takes to suggest that your affair partner’s spouse be fired for “being a lousy wife”. I get that it’s pure deflection but my god, what a way to go.

      3. Ama*

        Yeek, that sister sounds like a trip — especially given the original employee already KNEW her sister was going to cause drama. I think you handled the whole thing quite well.

      4. Elenna*

        “quit on the spot once I said I wasn’t about to fire the original woman for ‘being a lousy wife’”

        wow
        woooow
        wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow

        Some people will just take any excuse they can get to avoid admitting that they/their partner were at fault, I guess… Even if she was the worst wife ever, there’s this thing called a “divorce”? Has she considered that? Apparently not.

      5. AKchic*

        And people wonder why I don’t talk to my youngest sister at all. She is much the same way. The majority of my family finally gets it (mostly because they’ve now dealt first-hand with her antics), but my mother is still very much a “happy families” image and refuses to hear or believe a negative word.

        I feel for the original woman. She is probably used to minimizing damages caused by her sister.

  18. employment lawyah*

    1. My coworker had an affair with my boyfriend
    That sucks.

    Look, this is tricky. On the one hand, I want to join AAM in advising you to treat this as 100% professional, and you seem to be doing a great job at that. OTOH, since we’re advising just you and not both of you… well, I would have a long thought about
    -whether conflict may arise in future
    -where it may arise
    -what the other party might do, and
    -what you can do, NOW, to make sure you come out ahead in all of this.

    IOW: If there is going to be a war, you want to win it. If someone is going go get fired you want it to be her. If someone has to leave in frustration, or get kicked off a good project, you want it to be her. Etc.

    That doesn’t mean you need to initiate a vendetta by any means. But it MAY mean you need to engage in some defensive offense, so to speak. Sad but true: If two people have equal complaints, many folks treat the first complainant as the “victim” and disregard the second one as “reactive,” so there is often a benefit in being the first.

    If you report her bad conduct AFTER she does something bad to you, it may not be believed.

    Your call, best of luck.

    1. AKchic*

      That’s how I look at it.

      Make it a private “head’s up” conflict of interest, rather than a complaint. LW1 cannot be the one to cover coworker’s slack because her “issues” are because of actions that have directly impacted LW1’s personal life too, and LW1’s work is not suffering, nor would it be fair for LW1 to be burdened with both personal and professional ramifications due to coworker’s poor judgement, calculated choices, actions, and now consequences for what she did in her personal life.

      LW1 did not specify whether or not her relationship ended, but based on the language, it sounded like it has not. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is continuing as it was before, that the trust is still there, that there isn’t work to be done to get back to any semblance of “normal”, etc. In any case, LW1 is still dealing with fall-out from coworker’s AND boyfriend’s choice to carry on an affair and is having to put in the work herself to heal from that. The only difference is that LW1 is not allowing her own emotional wounds to bleed into the workplace and affect her work. Unless she tells the boss something, she will get punished for it by being asked/told to handle one of the perpetrator’s slack.

      1. Waverly Wilson*

        Great points from you and the original commenter here. There is no relationship that exists at this point now – coworker and my ex are now together, so that’s made things even tougher honestly. I have considered going to my boss/HR just to have something on file to cover me just in case anything were to come up in the future, so it’s good to see that’s a recommendation here as well.

        1. AKchic*

          Oh. My. Chuck.

          So, this coworker is milking a broken engagement in order to slack off at work, when in all actuality, she is with a new man that most likely nobody knows about (but you, obviously), while you are *also* suffering from both a break-up, on top of a traumatic double betrayal.
          The difference here is: You aren’t letting ANY of it affect your work.

          Please talk to your boss immediately. You need to protect yourself. In fact, knowing these extra details makes me petty enough to say that while you should *say* you’ve wanted to keep it discrete, don’t actually outright ask for your boss to keep it discrete. It’s a subtle nuance. You are trying to avoid drama while YOU cope, keep your professionalism, and continue with your high workplace standards; however, the person who helped bring about this mess is milking the victim-ness and you aren’t willing to take on any additional burden brought on by their culpability. If the truth just happens to spread… that’s not on you. You will continue to be professional and not engage in the rumor-mill. You don’t have to wish her or your ex well. You just wish that they do not impact your life any further.

        2. allathian*

          Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. Thanks so much for coming back and adding further details. I can’t imagine how awful this has been and continues to be for you, but I really admire your professionalism. I agree with other commenters here in recommending that you talk to your boss and HR. At the very least, if you let your boss know that your coworker is currently dating your ex-boyfriend, it should put a stop to any sympathy to her about her canceled wedding and the expectations on her to do her job as before should be reinstated.

        3. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

          Oh ugh I am super-sorry about all of this. So they are already making you suffer emotionally because bereakup and happy new couple and now you have to pick up for her in your work life? Oh hell no.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, I agree. Also because OP is being so very professional… at some point she might crack and everyone would be like “OP is such a bitch, when her colleague is all upset at her wedding being called off too” so it’s best that someone at least knows the truth about that cancelled wedding.

  19. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW#3 – I am so sorry about your grandmother, and that you are having to deal with so much at once

    You definitely should tell your boss though. I think in general this is something a boss should probably nearly always know, but especially since you are new and they will be starting to form their opinions and impressions. It’s a tough but quick conversation to have and they will definitely understand. And if you don’t want sympathy from coworkers, tell them that too. At my office, sympathy cards when someone loses a loved one are standard (though I guess that will have changed somewhat now that we are all remote) and I did personally not want to deal with that.

    When my brother passed, I asked for a quick meeting with my boss and grandboss. I told them simply something along the lines of “I learned last night that my brother passed away. I don’t really want to talk about it and I don’t want sympathy cards or anything, but I wanted you to know in case you notice something off with me this week.”

    Though I guess in your case as a new employee, they wouldn’t notice something was “off” since they don’t yet know what to expect of you. I would tweak that part to something like “I just wanted you to know as I am not likely to be at my best this week.”

    They did ask if I wanted to go home and I think most people would be likely to offer you time to grieve unless they are super crunched and need you there right now. But it’s also very common for people to want to go to work during these times so you can politely decline with something like “thank you but work is helping to keep my mind off things for the most part.” (Unless you want to take them up on the offer!)

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I too am very sorry about your grandmother, and I hope you and your family are doing as best as you can. Please tell your boss. They are not going to look down at you. In fact, it will most likely look better for you since you are not working to the same standard that you normally would. The boss will most likely feel 1. sorry for your loss, 2. feel better about his hire if they aren’t working like they thought they would. They will understand. It isn’t asking for pity, you are just giving information.
      If you don’t already know, see what their leave policy is for family deaths. A few years ago my aunt died shortly after I started a new job. Although I hadn’t been there very long I was still able to take a day for her memorial.

  20. I'm just here for the cats*

    #5 You are doing everything correctly and I’m glad you are in a position where you can compare benefits from current job to a new job. Not everyone can do that because they just need a paycheck, regardless of benefits.

    I just hope that they give you the correct information and don’t turn around later with something else. This is just me being pessimistic because of an issue I’m having at work, which I plan to put in the open thread later.

    Good luck!

  21. A Simple Narwhal*

    #3 I’m so sorry about your grandmother. I absolutely agree with Alison’s advice that you should say something at work. It’s not an excuse or a grab for pity, it’s keeping them apprised of your situation and giving them some context. If I could change one thing about how I handled my dad’s cancer diagnosis and treatment a few years ago, I would have been more open/honest with my boss and coworkers. I thought I could compartmentalize and carry on as normal, but the stress and worry and sadness creeped into my work in ways I really could only see in hindsight. I’d like to think that if I had told them that I was experiencing something rough in my personal life I would have been granted a little leeway or some understanding, and at the very least I would have been kinder to myself with my own expectations of how I was handling things.

  22. Zel*

    LW5 – I’m with Alison on this one! You should totally know the full benefits package and figure out the difference not only in benefits but in costs to you with any job offer. Anecdotally, I was emailed for an initial phone interview for a role I’m seeking and the internal recruiter attached the benefits package to the initial contact, before we had even talked about the role! I wish more recruiters and hiring managers would do this because it makes it so I can have a definitive range if they want to talk salary off the bat without having to shoot high hedging my bets against a poor benefits package.

  23. MissDisplaced*

    1. My coworker had an affair with my boyfriend
    I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. Your coworker sounds like a terrible person, or at best, a very deeply troubled person who needs help. Sadly, troubled people often escalate or compound their problems into many other areas of life, including work. If that should continue to be the case, I do think it should be brought to your manager’s attention.

    If I were your manager, I would want to know this dynamic is at play, and to be aware of how it may be influencing interactions among my reports. Of course, it depends on how your manager is though, and if they are trustworthy to be fair, nonjudgmental and confidential with that knowledge.

  24. starting soon!*

    For #5, I recently interviewed for a position and asked to see the benefits package before I scheduled a day-long series of interviews. If the benefits were not up to my expectations, or at least negotiable, then I didn’t want to use PTO and 8 hours of my time on interviewing. My HR contact sent the info right over, and since then I have accepted an offer from them, so I guess they didn’t mind too much. I don’t know if they were so responsive to my request because I had a lot of leverage (already employed, had certain in-demand experience and credentials) but perhaps it makes asking to see benefits with the offer look even more reasonable in comparison.

  25. Observer*

    #3- You should most definitely let your management team know. Anyone who thinks it’s just a grab for attention is not a good boss. Keep low key, but reasonable people WILL understand that you are going to be off your game for a bit because of something like this. I mean if you were doing ridiculous things like screaming at people for triggering you, that would be one thing. But you’re having a very normal reaction to a difficult situation, and it’s useful for people (especially people who don’t know you well yet) to have that context.

    Also, if they have performance concerns, this helps them to see that YOU understand that your performance is not where you want it to be, and you have good reason to expect that this will improve.

  26. FS Kenmare*

    LW #5 Definitely ask questions about benefits and get all the answers in writing. And if you’re negotiating for more benefits, that needs to be documented in your offer letter.

    I once received an offer that had a high salary, but the benefits were not so good. For example, I was emailed benefits that listed 16 PTO days, but that was broken down into 6 holidays (there are 10 national holidays in the US) and 10 personal days. When I directly asked what the sick time policy was (because I didn’t see sick days listed), I was given a response about making use of flex time. When I pressed on about the personal days, that’s when I found out the personal days were the total vacation AND sick time allotted. And you didn’t accumulate more vacation time with years of service.

    Even though PTO technically encompasses holidays, vacation, and sick days, I didn’t like how they lumped it all together to make it sound better than it was. I really took issue with how a lot of word-trickery was going on. They came back with 5 more personal days, but they weren’t going to put it in the offer letter. Apparently their offer letters only listed title, salary, and start date. I could have pushed to have it put in the letter, but I was just getting a bad feeling from them and declined the offer. They clearly take advantage of people who are young in their careers and don’t know what questions to ask.

  27. Davida*

    #2 – two thoughts.

    Is your organization’s review process such that you’d be able to access historical reviews (either by Dave’s prior manager or his own self evaluations)? It’s possible that Dave’s last manager might have flagged something you hadn’t thought about yet but that you would agree with having had it brought to your attention. But the exercise doesn’t have to necessarily be about searching for flaws — maybe in one of Dave’s self-evaluations he wrote about wanting to focus on X, and you’ve found that X has been a real strength for him this year. It would be good to note that he is cognizant of improvement areas and has really made an effort to improve that led to tangible results, strengthening the views you already had of him.

    On the flip side, I would caution that if you’re giving an exclusively glowing review, it’s worth keeping in mind the bigger picture of what that means at your organization (and understanding that some of it might be beyond your control). If you give Dave a review that reflects that he’s a top performer, will your company treat him that way, or will he be given the same 3% raise as his peer down the hall who is argumentative and turns in late, sloppy work product? It’s tough to tell someone they’re great if you’re not also going to show them they are valued that way. You may not have any say in his pay, etc. which makes it harder, but it can be difficult on morale if you’re telling someone how amazing they are but the organization isn’t doing anything to indicate that it matters.

  28. Sopranohannah*

    Does the answer for #1 change any if it it less the manager is asking LW to take on extra tasks and more the LW being responsible for a greater part of the shared responsibilities, where in general it wouldn’t matter who did it as long as it were getting done. If LW was getting extra tasks, I could see the posted conversation working. If LW is, for example, now consistently turning in 6/10 TPS reports when before it was 5/10, doesn’t the conversation need to be about how coworker is no longer doing her fair share of the work and her understood reasons have another layer that directly affects LW. Is the conversation then about having management holding them to the previous standards, or managing them out.

    1. Anne_Not_Carrot*

      I think either way, as a manager I’d want to know. That’s a big enough of a disruption in the dynamic that I’d want to make sure I wasn’t pushing it to a boiling point without ever knowing. #1 is being truly remarkable in her handling of all of this so I think it’s likely that she’ll be able to communicate it professionally while also maybe being able to relieve a little bit of the burden that any secret keeping creates.

  29. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    OP#3 – This happened to my brother last year. Our father died 3 days before he started a new job. He wasn’t able to come up at that time and struggled those first few weeks at work. But he let his new manager know what happened and they were super good about allowing him to take a week of bereavement to be with us for the funeral services. Let your manager know. As a manager, I’d want to know. These things happen. It’s not something you can plan for and you never know how it’s going to affect you. I’m sorry for your loss.

  30. Astro*

    #2- I had this same ‘problem’ with one of my staff. It’s a problem I love to have. It took me a while and then I started thinking about it this way – she is both directly underneath me and the next ‘step’ for their job would be my role. So I asked myself instead, “what would she need to learn/do/be better at before I was comfortable handing over my role to her if I were going on leave.” Obviously, this doesn’t mean them learning tasks that I have to do, but more the skills I’d want them to have. I did end up identifying hard skill suggestions. Maybe that will help!

    1. The Second Poster*

      Original poster to question #2 here. Excellent perspective, thank you! Reading this just blew my mind a little bit. I’ll absolutely utilize this – thank you!

  31. Kes*

    yeah I would put it on your resume and just have a point or two under it – “part time job while living abroad and travelling” and maybe one point briefly describing the job and any aspects of it that might actually be relevant/transferable skills, so they know what you were doing then and why. And then for your other in-field jobs you’ll have more points to put the focus there.

  32. Ladycrim*

    OP3, my deepest sympathies. I lost my grandma a couple of weeks ago, and have been struggling as well. (Particularly as pandemic restrictions prevented me from traveling to her funeral or engaging in traditional mourning rituals.) Let your managers know. Anyone who isn’t a complete ghoul will understand.

  33. Sophie1*

    Wow, OP1 – all the hats off to you for remaining professional! That’s a tough situation to be in and anyone would have trouble doing that. You are a very strong person.

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