bringing pet spiders to work, manager is following people to the bathroom, and more

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

1. Employee is bringing pet spiders and roaches to work

For most of the year, my organization has been running partial operations with lighter staff. During that time, one of our supervisors learned that her small dog needed surgery and post-operative medical care. The supervisor started bringing her dog to work, where it has been a quiet, generally welcome presence.

I’ve just learned that, before the dog started coming to the office, another staff member started bringing various bugs in small terrariums and keeping them in her mailbox/cubby; she likes them and wants to show off her collection. They’re not particularly noticeable, but another employee in the building told me that she shudders every time she walks past the mailbox because of the black widows, giant cockroaches, and other bugs that appear there.

Is it a double standard for us to allow the dog but ask the staff member to take the bugs home? We haven’t had complaints about the dog, but I’ve heard a couple now about the bugs.

The dog is there because he needs care and the bugs don’t, right? That alone makes it not a double standard. But even aside from that, if people were afraid of the dog and complaining about him, you’d presumably respond to that … but that hasn’t been the case. It is with the bugs.

Explain to the staff member with the bugs that the dog is there because he needs care and that you’ve had requests for the bugs to be removed.

Also, black widow spiders?! It’s beyond reasonable to say people can’t bring venomous animals into the office, period.

I say all of this as someone who likes bugs! But a ton of people are squicked out by them, and people’s need to move freely through your workplace without being jarred by a visceral “eeeek!” reaction trumps your employee’s interest in showing them off.

2. Manager is following people to make sure people are really heading to the bathroom

One of the managers in another department, Fred, has started to follow employees to verify whether or not they are going to the restroom when they say they are. He’s not actually entering the bathroom with them, but he’s checking to see if they are actually going there or if they’re doing something else, like going to the break room to get food or coffee or check their cell phones or heading outside.

The problem is that it sounds like he’s only doing this for one employee: Jared. Fred claims to have caught him at least once or twice not actually heading to the bathroom, but I’m unsure if he’s actually called him out for this. Jared seems to have caught on to this scheme though and he’s now asking around to see if anyone has noticed Fred following him to verify restroom usage.

I’m at a bit of a loss here. I don’t like the idea of following my own employees around and I certainly don’t want to be asked to follow someone into the restroom if it comes down to that. Plus, it’s led to Jared questioning anyone who happens to be in the break room or restroom at the same time as he thinks Fred is sending other people to check on his whereabouts. Am I wrong to think this is wrong? Or could this be viewed as a form of harassment (especially from Jared’s perspective)?

Why on earth is Fred so concerned about whether people are using the bathroom versus grabbing food or coffee? That’s a bizarre level of control and oversight to try to exercise over adults. His boss should be shutting this down — and taking it a sign to look much more closely at how Fred manages in general, because someone who’s so concerned with the exact specifics of why people are leaving their desks is someone who is managing badly in other areas too.

If Fred is concerned that Jared is away from his desk too often, he should just address that with him. He doesn’t need to trail him or do a stake-out. He can just talk to him about whatever problems it’s causing. (And if it’s not causing problems, there’s nothing to address.)

What Fred is doing isn’t harassment in the legal sense as long as he’s not targeting Jared based on his race, religion, disability, or other protected characteristic. But it’s awful management that makes Fred look terrible.

As for Jared … he needs to lay off the questioning of colleagues about whether Fred has sent them to monitor him. But he’s not the main problem here.

3. Can I make friends at the companies I audit?

My job involves auditing suppliers to my company. I work 100% remote in a different state from my company doing this niche task, kind of like a contractor, and therefore don’t have much of an opportunity to socialize with my coworkers.

However, a lot of my job involves going to audit suppliers who are local to me, and occasionally I meet people who work at them who I think are great. I’d really like to get to know them, both from a networking/professional standpoint and because making new friends when you move to a new state at 28 is … hard (even in the Before Times).

But the power dynamics are tough. The interaction when I show up to audit them more closely resembles a deposition of the opposing side. Anything negative I uncover could result in them losing us as a customer, or even getting in trouble with the government if it’s bad enough. So if we were to meet in a more informal setting, neither of us can really chat casually about our jobs.

Can I still ask if they want to meet up (virtually)? Or are the power dynamics such that they’d feel too compelled to say yes?

So far I’ve held off because of this. But recently one person I thought was great suddenly and mysteriously left the company I met her through. My suspicion is that this particular dumpster fire of a supplier fired her, which in my professional opinion was a huge mistake, as she was one of the last vestiges of competence there. Does this change things? Can I reach out to her now? Honestly I’d even offer to be a reference for her, since I know a lot about her performance during audits from “the other side” and her ability to do 10 people’s worth of work.

As an auditor, you shouldn’t make social overtures to people who work at the companies you’re auditing because it has the potential to become (or be perceived as) a conflict of interest.

I’d be wary about offering that reference too, unfortunately. There’s too much you might not know about the person’s work/conduct (for example, you probably wouldn’t know if she had, say, harassed someone or terrorized her staff). And if the company has valid reasons for firing her and then finds out their auditor gave her a reference, it risks making things really odd between your company and hers, when you’re being paid to prioritize the professional relationship.

It sounds like you’re lonely and I’m sympathetic to that! But as an auditor it’s not a good idea to go looking for friendships at the companies you’re auditing. It’s just one of those jobs where you can’t.

4. Email etiquette when someone mentions a family crisis

I never reflected on this question before I started a new job where I have to email thousands of people a week. Most don’t reply directly to me, but instead do the task in the email — for example, “click here for the employee benefits survey” or “be sure to update your address before x date” and the like.

Most people don’t reply, or just have a question about the email itself. But a handful of times I’ve gotten a message back saying something like, “So sorry I didn’t do this by the deadline. My mother was in the hospital but I’ll do it now.” I’m not sure what the best way to respond is. I try to start with something saying I hope she’s doing better and then dive into business, but it seems so cold. It’s especially hard because most of my emails are signed “Tax Team,” which makes it more impersonal. I guess I’m looking for a way to say that I’m so sorry about your situation, but then go into the business portion smoothly. I really do need them to complete the action in the email!

You’re right to acknowledge the bad news they shared with you; it would be cold not to! But it’s not cold to then say whatever business-y thing you need to say. These are work emails and work relationships; the other person is expecting it and it won’t be weird.

The exception to that would be if they shared that they’re in the midst of an ongoing crisis. You don’t want to reply to “I just lost everything in a fire and am urgently searching for somewhere my family can stay” with “be sure to vote in the pie contest by tomorrow.” And even in less immediately dire situations, you want to use some judgment — if someone is very ill or has an sick family member, some things won’t be important enough to bother them with once you know what’s going on (benefits enrollment deadlines, yes; pie contests, no).

But otherwise, people typically just say something like, “I’m so sorry to hear that! I hope she’s doing better now” … and then move into the business at hand. You can also add something like, “If you end up needing more time on this, let me know and I’ll see what we can do” if it seems appropriate.

Also, can you add your own name above the Tax Team sign-off when you have exchanges like these? That’ll make it feel less Faceless Corporation too.

5. Is this an exception to the “don’t gift up” rule?

I know the consensus is to never gift upwards in the workplace, but do I have an actionable exception in front of me? My current boss of 2.25 years, who has been one of the best bosses to me in at least a decade, is transferring back to a different department in a different building as of January 1. Before he became my boss, when I was in a different adjacent department, I considered him at least an ally and mentor, if not work friend. My longevity and experience in this department is such that he often deferred to me on matters such as safety and equipment, despite his PhD compared to my MS.

Since he is leaving anyway and the relationship has always been much more of equals or peers, would a small gift as a token of my appreciation under these circumstances be appropriate? It would be as much of a going away / “thank you for being my boss during a difficult time” gift as a holiday gift (which I don’t celebrate anyway).

It’s fine. You shouldn’t feel pressured to do it and you shouldn’t do anything that will create pressure on others to gift upwards, but it’s not a major faux pas if you do it in circumstances like this. That said, I’d still only do it if you come up with a gift that will have personal meaning. If the gift would be fairly generic, you’re better off writing a personal note about what you’ve appreciated about working with him; that will have way more meaning (and longevity) than a mug or a gift card.

{ 464 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessica*

    LW5, the mug would be valued mostly as a symbol of your esteem. How much more valuable would it be to directly articulate that esteem?
    Almost everyone wants to feel that they’re well regarded by the people they know, that they have been a positive influence on the people they’ve known and the organizations they’ve been a part of, that they’ve made a difference in the world, and that they’re remembered and valued. A letter telling someone that these things are true of them, and how and why–that would be, as they say in the Visa commercials, priceless.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Coming to say this. Whatever token you give would be fine, but the letter you could write likely would be much more meaningful. I would sit down for an hour and write them a letter describing what they have meant to you as a mentor and boss, and then whatever trinket you include is incidental.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I also came here to say this. The written word is powerful and a letter like Jessica describes really is priceless. I’ve written letters like that myself, and the recipients told me it was one of the greatest gifts they ever received.

      1. BadWolf*

        And it doesn’t have to be a Great Work of Literature. I think some people get hung up on writing something profound. Just write that you appreciate them and an example. “Dear Manager, thank you for being the best boss. It meant a lot to me that you deferred to me on matters such as safety and equipment. I consider you a mentor and an ally.”

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      I agree the letter is more important than the token, although the token is fine. The other day I came across a really amazing note a coworker had written me when I left my last job, detailing out in bullet points all the ways I’d made a lasting difference to the team.
      Man, someone must have been cutting onions in the next room because there was a slight eye watering situation going on.

    4. Shelix*

      LW5 here. I was thinking something related to his beloved Newfoundland dogs, which is why i’ve been pondering this over a month in advance, so i have time to think about it properly. Also likely: exotic food from the tropical location where my parents live, that is a treat for people who live on the mainland, which also allows his wife to partake.

      A letter or email isn’t strictly speaking useful, because i’ll still see him a couple times a year and be able to email him anytime. In fact, i plan to send him weekly-ish emails with a State of the Department style rundown of our “favourite” coworkers’ shenanigans. Semi-immature, but that’s the nature of our relationship – two people who try to do the right thing in a sea of complacency.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I want to disagree with your last paragraph. A note is valuable because writing down your appreciation, in specifics, is different than just seeing someone regularly. People save notes like that for years. They pull them out when they’re having bad days. They tend to be incredibly meaningful. It doesn’t change just because you’ll still stay in contact! (A note, though, not an email.)

      2. Artemesia*

        oh no — don’t underestimate the power of the letter. I can remember the letters I got from students, from parents of students etc over 50 years and from subordinates when I was managing programs — A letter will be treasured and remembered and it also builds enormous social capital and good will. I laughingly remember this ancient woman in my workplace who was such a pain to work with and yet when I was new and had a small accomplishment and recognition she wrote me a lovely note about how wonderful I was to have done that — AND for the decades I had to interact with her, there was this sort of social grease of good will that meant I found her quaint and sometimes wise rather than out of touch and annoying as most people did. Don’t underestimate the power of a little written praise.

        I have carried that forward and always wrote all the staff little personal notes at the end of the year along with a small token and do it when I give the high rise building staff their tips at the end of the year where I live now. People love to hear they are doing well as much (well maybe not quite as much) as the money.

        1. GreenDoor*

          Seriously – never underestimate the power of a handwritten note! I had a government job where I took complaints from the public Maybe once every two years, someone would write me a letter and say, “thanks, you’re the only one that listened and did anything” or even “well, the drug house is still there, but I know you tried your darndest to help and I appreciate it.” Notes like that were once in a blue moon events and I saved them all – they kept me going on days when it felt like I was taking non-stop beatings from the citizenry.

        2. TardyTardis*

          My husband had a letter from one of his student *laminated* because it was such a wonderful letter and he never wants it to die (upon his retirement due to health reasons). And it really means so much to him.

      3. PeanutButter*

        Another voice in the chorus – I save particularly heartfelt cards and notes forever. I have a whole shoebox of them, and when I’m feeling down in the dumps nothing picks me up like picking a few out and reading them, even from people who I see all the time anyways.

      4. bikes*

        A former direct report of mine gathered quotes from 20+ people I had positively impacted throughout my tenure. She printed them, laminated them on neon paper, and tied them together with a bright ribbon. It is still a very treasured send off present and the only one I actually remember well, despite there being others that I’ve accumulated across the years.

    5. Prof. Murph*

      I am occasionally in the position where folks are leaving and want to thank me for mentorship/ally-ship. I can honestly tell you that receiving a personal note is so much more meaningful than any sort of gift. I treasure those cards and sometimes go back to them when needing a boost. It means so much to me and I’m sure your boss will feel so too.

  2. CatCat*

    I feel like most workplaces would not welcome giant cockroaches for employees to show off. For many reasons. Not everything kept as a pet has to be welcome in the workplace even if dogs in particular are occasionally welcome.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I bet the dog is beside the owner for the better part of the day. If the dog were left in the mail room alone all day that would be a problem. So not only are these bugs not having health issues, as Alison pointed out, they are also left unsupervised most of the time.

      I keep my pets next to me when ever we go anywhere. I feel it’s up to me to supervise/protect my pet. (It also makes for some very funny stories later on.)

      Just a random thought, how does this work out with a comp claim when someone puts in for a worker’s comp on a spider bite, when the spider was deliberately brought into the building?

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Liability nightmare! A dog can reasonably be expected to behave around people, and can be trained with a modicum of effort.
        Not a spider.

    2. can'tremembermyusername*

      I’m a cat lover, as are many people. Cats are simply not office friendly the way dogs are. A well trained dog will sit next to its human and not escape. A cat will just wander off (office cats are a thing in rare cases but usually the environment is set up for them) so people shouldn’t be allowed to bring cats to work just because someone brought their dog.

      I would argue the bugs are slightly more office friendly than cats as they are at least contained. I would find it cool if a coworker brought in black widows and cockroaches but I am aware some people would be freaked out.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Spiders are notoriously good escape artists. My dad’s best man is an eccentric (that’s putting it mildly…at one point he had over 1,000 tropical and fresh water fish/water creatures, tranchulas, lizards, snakes, etc…and currently has 17 cats) pet person and my parents finally stopped overnights at their house because everytime they showed up one of the spiders had gotten out. Needless to say, mom was none too happy when she “found” one of the spiders at her 3am bathroom stop.

          1. snack queen*

            There’s a fun sci-fi series about intelligent/sentient spiders and octopi by Adrian Tchaikovsky for those interested in how this could pan out… :)

      2. BadWolf*

        I’d be up for bugs and arachnids as well, but I’d be concerned that some other clueless or malicious coworker would accidentally or intentionally do something to them (either by letting them out or worse).

        1. LunaLena*

          Not just that, I’d be concerned that it would get out/someone would let it out as a joke, and another coworker would freak out and kill it. I had a coworker many years ago who was extremely scared of spiders; our team used to go out for walks when it was nice out and one day a spider got on his shirt. When someone pointed it out, his response was to run his hands wildly over his shirt to get it off, then literally jump up and down on it several times while screaming the whole time. It was so over-the-top that I thought he was joking around by exaggerating his reaction until he started stomping on it. At that point it was clear he was having a panic attack and wasn’t thinking at all. He certainly wouldn’t have noticed if it was someone’s pet, not until he was able to calm down (at which point the spider was completely flattened and smashed into the ground; another coworker and I noted it on our walks for a few days after that).

          1. Autistic Farm Girl*

            I laughed reading your comment, but I’m the same as your coworker. Spiders terrify me, i will scream the house down, run out the room, throw stuff at it to flatten it (i once threw a dictionnary at a spider, t’was the biggest thing I could grab), and I have been known to pass out. I could not deal with someone bringing a spider to work, even if it’s their beloved pet, I would freak.

            The rule in my house is that spiders are displaced (small ones) or killed (big ones) by my boyfriend, must then be thrown in the toilet, peed on, and flushed. Just in case. Yes it’s ridiculous, yes I know spiders are great creatures, I just can’t help it.

          2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Yes. This. I have a completely irrational arachnophobia. I’m fine with contained spiders or spiders at a distance from me safely in their own webs. I even find them kind of neat (if nauseating–it’s taken me a while to get there). But spring a loose spider on me and I will act literally insane from panic. I found a spider in my car once while I was driving and very nearly caused a car crash. I would feel terrible if I killed a coworker’s pet, and could legitimately see it happening if a pet spider got loose.

            1. whingedrinking*

              When I was in high school, I did lights for the school musical, and the tech “booth” was a table set up at the back of the gym. I had to sit next to the stage manager, who we discovered was profoundly arachnophobic one day when the lead actress stopped to pick something off the scenery. The director got on the headset and said, “What’s that?”
              “Just a spider,” said the actress.
              Bear in mind, the spider was so small the director couldn’t even see it from the orchestra pit, let alone we techies all the way at the back of the gym.
              The stage manager SCREAMED, not only into her headset but directly into my left ear, and fled. We had to get the sound guy to track her down so we could continue with rehearsal.

      3. Quill*

        Cats do best if they know all the people they’re sharing a space with.

        Also I’d recommend mantises or stickbugs as office terrarium pets instead of spiders. Camoflage bugs will hold still for longer if they get out, spiders will leg it into the tiniest crack they can find.

    3. Nuke*

      As someone who owns multiple exotic pets… I’m very extra sensitive to what my coworkers may not want to see. It’s normal in our office to show off pictures of our pets – people always ask for pics of ALL of mine – but I have a couple of geckos, and up until earlier this year I kept a mouse. Whenever we got new team members I’d shoot out an email asking if anyone had any particular issues with animals. Some people were afraid of my mouse, for example, so I tried to leave out pics of him when sending them out.

      I totally understand being excited about having pets like spiders, cockroaches, etc. They make wonderful, unique companions! …But you need to be sensitive about other people. My grandmother doesn’t even like to see pictures of my geckos, because they remind her too much of snakes, which she’s deathly afraid of.

      My office isn’t pet friendly though, so despite begging from my coworkers, I was never able to bring in my hedgehog for everyone to meet! But at least they can see him on webcam now :)

      1. Nuke*

        And I wanted to add onto this– just because the spiders and roaches are little things without facial expressions, doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing stress. Carting an animal back and forth to and from the office constantly can be very stressful for them if they’re something that’s used to sitting in a terrarium all day. Hence why I’d never bring my geckos pretty much anywhere. They’re nocturnal and used to my quiet house all day!

        It kinda goes in line with people and their “Emotional support animals” that are just their untrained, often exotic pets they just want to bring everywhere. They don’t consider the effect on the animal itself… which is so sad.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Exactly! I cannot say across the board, but every aquarium or terrarium animal I’ve ever had was a species that did not ‘travel’ well and you were supposed to leave fully alone for X amount of time whenever you moved them anywhere. It sounds like her desire for attention over having cool pets is trumping her actually care about the pets welfare.

        2. Coenobita*

          I am literally writing this while in sight of my pet roaches’ terrarium (in my living room, not my workplace!!) and I completely agree. Just from a logical perspective, why would I go through the hassle of bringing an animal to work when sharing a (solicited!) photo would be a better experience for literally everyone involved?

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Thank you for this. I know several people who provide good homes to spiders, snakes, lizards, piranhas, and other exotic animals. They’ve all said their pets can get stressed from too many new sensations. People, places, movement, scents, light, sounds – any and all of them can be bad for the animal.

          One guy told me his tarantula was a real homebody and didn’t like to move unless she chose to. Even if I had wanted to hold her – spiders terrify me – he wouldn’t have let me. Another friend who used to own boa constrictors loved their unique personalities and darned if I didn’t learn to, well, appreciate the differences.

          So yeah, some exotic pets scare me, but they’re living creatures made dependent on their owner. I don’t want a captive one to get stressed or worse, just because its owner wants to make a statement or something.

          1. pope suburban*

            I follow the blog of someone who works in natural science education and they say the same thing about animals. Their workplace functions occasionally as a rescue for exotic reptiles and insects, and there are some that are not used in the interactive areas because they can’t handle the stress. Some tarantulas are okay with being held, while others never come around to it and may bite or eject their abdominal bristles at their handler. Sure, skilled handlers might be able to modify an animal’s behavior, but we’re talking “people who handle and study animals for a living,” and even they have whatever limits the animal sets. I wouldn’t assume that a hobbyist has that level of skill, especially not if they’re carting the animals around like they’re new shoes or handbags.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I actually assumed that this stunt was some kind of protest/statement about dogs being allowed in the office, because anyone who has unusual pets like this HAS to know that there are going to be some very negative reactions to them. I used to keep rats and I knew better than to bring them to the office, let along a black widow spider (??)

        That said, I did joke about bringing in the rats a few times and how they’d be better behaved than my two colleagues dogs who would chase each other around the office, terrifying another coworker who had a dog phobia. That office could have done with a total ban on bringing pets.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I have a snake – and I have been continually surprised at how many people are freaked out by snakes. I kinda thought it would be 50/50, but I think only about 20% of people who find out I have one are cool with him, and 80% are freaked out. Spiders and cockroaches have to have a smaller percent of ‘wow cool!’ reactions than snakes.

          1. NoWay!*

            Cockroaches can escape and cause an infestation!!! Hell no! I work in a retail furniture, it would be awful. we’d have to close down for fumigation, we have a million dollars worth of display furniture in the store that would be ruined. The employee would loose their job.

        2. Observer*

          Yeah, it definitely sounds like that place could have used a ban on pets.

          OP, unless your dog owner allows this kind of nonsense, you have plenty of reason to treat these different pets differently.

        3. OP 1*

          That’s a decent insight, but I don’t THINK the bug owner dislikes the dog. She interacts with it when it ventures out into public spaces. I think she just really loves her bugs, and she probably even likes the surprise reaction when she tells people about her pet preference. We’re a department full of pet lovers, so we’re always sharing pictures and asking after birds, turtles, etc. With videoconferencing becoming more common, a lot of us have gotten to show off our friends more often. She may just feel like she’s participating in that culture.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I had a coworker with a serious phobia of spiders, to the point where I couldn’t put up an obviously fake oversized one as a Halloween decoration because she had to come by my desk occasionally. A real one might have literally had her run screaming from the building.

    4. kittymommy*

      I am trying not to hyperventilate right now at the thought of a coworker having these at their desk. I am utterly terrified of them (I cannot even type the name) and even the sight or thought of them starts making my skin tingle and I feel them crawling on me and I start clawing at my skin till I bleed.

      1. Persephone Mongoose*

        I’m not a fan of bugs either, but this feels extreme. If this isn’t hyperbole, I genuinely hope you’re getting help for that — it seems miserable!

        1. kittymommy*

          It’s not hyperbole. And it’s just with roaches. I’m fine with other bugs (spiders, etc.). I spend a good amount of money on preventative pest control but having them deliberately brought into the office would be a hard no for me.

            1. ampersand*

              Same. I’m impressed and surprised by the number of people who keep roaches as pets (I didn’t know that was a thing!).

              1. nonegiven*

                To be fair, I don’t think they are the normal house variety of roaches. Some of them can be 6 or 7 inches long.

        2. CupcakeCounter*

          Not hyperbole and so far nothing has helped with my phobia (snakes, ophidiophobia). Exposure therapy (one of the more common treatments) can actually make some cases, like mine, worse. Seeing one on tv will give me nightmares for days and an actual sighting will induce panic attacks and epic crying and screaming to the point of inability to function. Nothing like breaking down in the middle of a hiking trail with hundreds of witnesses to the point that park rangers have to be called to deal with the hysterical woman freaking out over a 6 inch garter snake.

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          Not hyperbole. And all attempts at therapy have only intensified the issue.
          So I just spray insecticides religiously around the perimeter of my home, bug bombed the crap out of the place before we moved in, and let my ever so caring husband dispatch any that get too close.

        4. KoiFeeder*

          Formication (feeling of bugs on the skin) is a common reaction to bug-related anxieties. I get it thinking about lice, and I don’t even have a particular phobia of them, just a really unpleasant year. It’s really, really hard not to scratch when it happens.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree. I gagged reading the letter.

        I would not be in the office until I could be certain these exotic pets had gone home (and were all accounted for).

        And if I were already vaguely thinking about looking for another job, this would be enough to escalate that search.

        1. Ellie*

          I’m the same, a picture, or even the name, is enough to freak me out. Other insects are fine, spiders are not. I’m trying really hard not to pass my phobias on to my children, and have discovered that I can sort -of control my reaction if there’s one in the room or on the car, enough to let us all pass by it anyway (then I go back and kill it later, unsupervised, or preferably get my husband to kill it). But if there’s one really close to me, or moving, I just panic. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if someone had a terrarium at work, my mind would be constantly going back to it. If I couldn’t actually see the spider, it would be worse – I would be constantly checking that it hadn’t escaped somewhere. Halloween decorations upset me too, but the more cartoonish the spider, the easier it is. Not many Halloween spiders are realistic enough to provoke that kind of fear. But I don’t like them.

          I love dogs, but I’d never bring my dog to work if there was someone there with a phobia – there are plenty of people afraid of dogs as well, particularly from certain cultures. I don’t see an issue with saying that pets are allowed, unless someone complains. The venomous thing just makes it easier.

    5. Anon Admin*

      I work in a museum. In the before times, the zoo would come once a year and bring various animals. There was always a snake. Like a big snake that takes 2 or 3 people to hold. I am terrified of snakes- like ophidiophobia level terrified. I always took the day of the event off. If I was accidentally walking somewhere and saw them toting that snake, or saw it on 1 of the video screens… and if they lost control and it got away, I would not be able to come back. Too many places to hide in a building this big. I’m not as terrified of spiders and bugs but that’s still a hard no for me.

    6. AnonForThis*

      Yeah, I feel like this is how the airlines ended up with emotional support peacocks, etc., in the cabin during flights.

      Even though it might seem “unfair,” I think at some point the community needs to acknowledge that different animals have different capabilities as far as providing a service/support to their owner, responding to commands, etc. Not all animals are equal in that respect, and at some point we need to draw a line. Just because one animal is allowed in a public place does not mean that all should be.

      As for what you keep as a pet in your personal home – go for it.

    7. Mama Llama Ding Dong*

      This reminds me of one my former workplace’s where a coworker would routinely bring in his tarantula and let it run up and down his arms and sit on his shoulder or head while he worked. At first I was really creeped out, but I learned that tarantulas were common in that region of the country, that they’re fairly calm, they don’t bite unless really provoked, and they apparently make great pets because they bond with their human companions. And to be fair to the coworker, he didn’t bring the tarantula in very often — maybe once every six months.

      Ah, work! Where else would you meet such characters?

    8. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      “another staff member started bringing various bugs in small terrariums and keeping them in her mailbox/cubby; she likes them and wants to show off her collection. They’re not particularly noticeable, but another employee in the building told me that she shudders every time she walks past the mailbox because of the black widows, giant cockroaches, and other bugs that appear there.”

      Ok the terrarium next to the plant on your desk I can see. But the mailbox? And a black widow? Sounds like the bug loving employee is trying to get a rise out of the other employees. Before WFH when we were all stuck in Cubicle Land I like many others had a beta in a bowl on my desk. Coworker came around the corner and caught movement from Sushi The Beta out of the corner of her eye. It startled her so bad she almost fell down. I laughed for like 5 minutes straight. “my fish scared her” is something coworker will never live down.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        My one nitpick is that no one can actually identify spiders so unless the employee was saying that it was a black widow (which, irregardless as to whether it actually was or just a red-knee tarantula, would be inappropriate for the same reason that I can’t bring in a corgi if I claim it’s a full-grown grizzly bear) I would be suspicious as to whether this actually was a black widow or not.

        Black widows are homebodies, too. I had one in my locker for a year in high school (my fault, I had a habit of losing lunches in there) and she just hung out. I put her in an empty water bottle and released her outside at the end of the year so the folks who clean out the lockers and change out the combinations didn’t get an unpleasant surprise. If this actually is a black widow, the employee really, really should not be traveling with it, the poor thing is going to be severely stressed.

        1. Ermintrude*

          I slept in a garage for a while that had a redback spider in a web the corner opposite my bed. I ignored her, she ignored me. I’ve got a rather high tolerance for that sort of thing though. I feel sympathy for anyone with a phobia; it sounds extremely horrible to go through being triggered.

          1. anon for this*

            I have seriously hurt myself getting away from spiders. It’s not rational or fun. So yeah it is really horrible.

        2. OP 1*

          There’s really not any doubt about the variety of spider. She’s a big one, and when I went to see whether it was actually a real spider in the mailbox, she was hanging upside down and showing off that red hourglass belly with pride.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Honestly? Your coworker sounds obnoxious. Why is she leaving the terrarium in her cubby? That makes no sense.

            I have an insect phobia (weirdly, not spiders – I’m fine with them, but other insects, especially roaches and centipedes) and this just sounds like something a douchey high schooler would do to try to provoke other people. I hope someone tells her to knock it off.

        3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          They are endemic to where I used to live, and I have even found them hiding in the gap behind furniture in my childhood bedroom. I was never bitten, or if I was it wasn’t a memorable experience. They are generally not aggressive creatures.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The major difference for me is that if a dog gets out, it’s unlikely to take up residence in the walls and potentially reproduce. Insects and rodents would be RIGHT OUT for that reason, even if there were no phobias involved.
      Family history: before my memories begin, my brother got gerbils for Christmas. They got out. Luckily for the pet store they really did sell us 2 females. Luckily for my brother, mom thought it was kind of funny to “have gerbils” instead of having mice in the house. Luckily for everyone, they didn’t have a taste for electrical wiring.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes, and that’s also a way to make a distinction between different pets: what’s the plan if it gets out of its owner’s control? Is it able to get into the building’s structure? Depending on the physical workplace, there could also be significant liabilities for damages to the building owner and other businesses in the building if an infestation or injury resulted from an animal deliberately brought in.

        1. Girasol*

          That’s a good point. The company is not at risk from an infestation of lap dogs that are breeding in the heating ducts.

      2. Weird Pet Owner*

        This is actually unlikely with the most common species of roaches kept as pets, which need tropical temperatures and humidity to reproduce in quantity. I’m not arguing they are appropriate for work, but wanted to point out that many of the problems people are raising can be solved, so I would approach the conversation as a firm no without trying to provide a long list of reasons for the no — unless our first letter writer wants to open a discussion where keeping a terrarium is a possibility.

      3. Chinchilla Mum*

        I wouldn’t take my chinchillas to work for their health and wellbeing, but they aren’t going to be reproducing in the walls either… both definitely male.

    10. Alice's Rabbit*

      I would be unable to enter the building once I knew those spiders were in there. Serious phobia stemming from childhood trauma. Diagnosed and everything, and no amount of therapy or treatment has done anything but make it worse. This would be an ADA issue for me.
      Most folks with arachniphobia aren’t that badly off. But it’s a common enough concern that no one should think it’s okay to bring even non-venomous spiders to the office.
      That these are black widows just adds a whole other level of wrong. This shows a serious lack of judgement on this employee’s part.
      Part of me has to wonder if they brought their collection to work because no one else wanted it in their house either.

    11. Rock Prof*

      Sometimes they can be a bit much even in a fitting workplace. One of my colleagues (and ecologist and entomologist) has Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which are HUGE and kind of fun to watch in small amounts, in her lab. But she’s been sharing them with others because they breed rapidly, so now I never know when I’m going to encounter more of these guys in others’ labs. They’re fine when I know they’re going to be there, but when I just want to find some sieves or something, I don’t really need to be startled by them scuttling and hissing in their cage that I didn’t see when I entered the room.

    12. Artemesia*

      If the giant cockroach is in a cage on her desk -well maybe. But not poison snakes or spiders and NOT in the mail box location where people must be confronted with it.

    13. Mid*

      Yup. I have a bunch of “unique” pets (tarantulas, snakes) as well as a cat. The cat sometimes comes into the office with me, but I’d never think of bringing the others in, because they’re such a common fear/phobia. It’s not a double standard, and my tank dwelling pets don’t need the same kind of care my cat does.

    14. HoHumDrum*

      My workplace won’t let us bring bugs in… but that’s because they supply their own. We have cockroaches, and spiders, and lizards, etc. Different rules when you work at a science center lol

      But yeah, unless you work at a place where creepy crawlies are part of the job it’s not appropriate to bring your own in. Also- probably stressful for the bugs?? As a pet owner you shouldn’t be causing disruptions to their lives just to entertain yourself.

    15. TardyTardis*

      This reminds me of the time the library patron brought his tarantula to the counter in a clear plastic box (I don’t think “Oh, how cute! Can I pet it?” was the reaction he was looking for, but he never brought it again).

      But for work? No.

  3. Jessica*

    LW1, if I worked there, I would be
    — seething with incandescent rage at the bug-bringer and at every level of management that’s complicit in enabling the bug-bringing;
    — avoiding the mailboxes and that whole area as much as possible;
    — distracted from my work by paranoid thoughts about what she might bring next and whether something might escape;
    — possibly keeping a can of Raid under my desk;
    — utterly creeped out and disgusted;
    — at least fantasizing constantly about quitting my job.
    Maybe nobody in your office feels quite that strongly, but if they did, would they really feel like they could tell whoever is in charge? I would certainly feel like anyone who could ever think this was okay probably would not be moved by my complaints. I mean, has it really not occurred to them that the office could just be a pleasant, neutral, vermin-free place where we got work done?

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Adding – it’s normal to have fears that are not entirely rational. We all do. And it’s normal to be upset at people not recognizing and respecting your fears – particularly if they are doing something outside the norm.

        But I hope you would also put some effort into controlling those fears. You seem pretty self-aware about your fears, which is cool, but this believing this with certainty is a step too far “I would certainly feel like anyone who could ever think this was okay probably would not be moved by my complaints. ”

        Maybe they simply don’t realize how creepy some people find bugs. That’s a much simpler explanation. Perhaps you’re right, but don’t assume it. We have bugs in terrariums in schools with little kids! Not everyone is as freaked out as you (which is cool – different strokes for different folks) and also not everyone realizes how freaky some people find this stuff. So tell them – don’t assume they’d never listen.

        1. Jessica*

          Oh, I would tell them! If I worked at LW1’s office I would most definitely complain and attempt to bring about change. But at the same time I would definitely have Opinions about whoever allowed it to happen in the first place. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Think about how many letters Alison answers here where her answer combines the threads of “here’s how you might try to deal with this workplace problem” and “the existence of this situation in your workplace is a red flag about the judgment of the management who let it happen.”

          Also, sure, different strokes, one person’s revolting vermin is another person’s beloved pet, and I can certainly understand someone who likes Creature X not fully realizing HOW strongly someone else might fear or dislike it, but I think everyone (American here, so restricting my comments to the US) is aware that many people have negative feelings about snakes, rodents, and insects. Random coworker has a phobic dread of kittens? I wouldn’t expect you to see that coming. But if someone tries to tell me that they had absolutely no idea that anyone could possibly have an issue with their tarantula, and the negative reaction was just a complete surprise, frankly, I’m unlikely to believe them, and my further conclusions won’t be good either.

        2. Ellie*

          It should be obvious by their demeanor though, surely? You can tell when someone is afraid of your pet. I have the friendliest little dog you can imagine, and I live in dog-friendly Australia, but it was obvious when I moved into an area that was a bit more multi-cultural, that walking him in populated areas was going to be a problem. I’d round the corner and many, many people, would get a look of fear on their faces and leap out of the way. I learnt pretty quick to keep to open areas only, to keep him on a very short leash, and to cross the road if I saw someone waiting for a bus or outside their house who was staring at my dog in fear. I did this because I’m not a horrible person who likes scaring people. It’s just the decent thing to do.

        1. Coenobita*

          Yep, actual bug-pet-having-person here (also once some coworkers and I maintained a small freshwater aquarium – with frogs!! – at our office) and agree 10000% that the coworkers’ comfort is the only thing that matters here. If anyone needs to get a grip, it’s the person displaying their invertebrate collection at work.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Thank you for being a reasonable and caring pet owner. I hope your creatures are happy and healthy, and far away from me!

      2. Lance*

        The bug terrariums are being placed in the mailboxes — a very public area — and bug phobias are far from uncommon.

        ‘Get a grip’ is not a remotely helpful response here, for anyone.

        1. Arsonay*

          I’ve found that many people’s emotional responses expand to the severity alloted. Get a grip is quite often appropriate instruction. We’re all adults, let’s all act like adults at work.

          1. Lunar Caustic*

            “Get a grip” is literally never an appropriate response to a person with a phobia. It is a visceral and uncontrollable reaction and shaming someone for it is the worst possible thing you could do. Acting like an adult in this situation is removing triggering objects, providing a safe space for the person to calm down, and behaving with compassion and basic human decency. Anything else is abjectly failing to act like an adult.

              1. Sabina*

                Thank you! Expressions that need to be yeeted from common use: “just cheer up” to the depressed, “calm down” to the anxious, “just get over it” to the phobic.

          2. Artemesia*

            Adults don’t display spiders in a public space people can’t avoid if they have any sense or consideration for others. And I say that as someone who would enjoy having caged bugs around and find them interesting.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I think a good number of pet owners are aware that not everyone likes their pet. IF the pet owner fails to provide proper supervision, crap can happen. I remember one story from a friend whose neighbor made NO effort to contain their horse. The horse ended up on my friend’s lawn so. many. times. Finally, after numerous calls to police, animal control etc, my friend called up the neighbor and said, “The next time your horse is on my lawn bring your skidder.” While I do not agree with this type of approach and it is definitely not the animal’s fault, UNFORTANTELY, it was the only thing the owner actually understood. Once the threat was made, the owner finally contained the horse on their property.

        Again, I do not agree with this approach to problems. But realistically, there are people who will take matters into their own hands and that is a fact. A good pet owner knows this and acts accordingly.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I wonder if the friend would have actually hurt the horse though? I am hoping the threat was a last-ditch “PLEASE stop your horse from getting on my lawn”. Horses can be scary to a lot of people – and they should be, I’ve seen them buck, do backflips, and be generally unaware of their size and strength when spooked.

            I know a few horse owners and every once in awhile one will escape a broken fence, etc. and they will fix it in the middle of the night if that is what it takes to make sure the horse (or cow in one instance) stays in the pasture properly.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            If my pets end up on someone else’s property any harm that comes to them is my fault for not keeping them contained. If you let your pets become nuisances–and multiple calls to the owner, police, and animal control is a crystal-clear message that this was a nuisance–then it’s entirely unreasonable to expect other people to just keep tolerating it. Which is why my cats are indoor-only and my dogs have always been kept scrupulously fenced or leashed.

            (I am also skeptical that the friend would actually have harmed the horse but the owner wouldn’t freaking listen to anything else.)

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I once worked with a girl whose neighbor shot her dog (non-fatally, but the recovery was long). But she had a habit of turning it loose, unsupervised, and letting it harass his cattle. And then she’d come to work and complain to us that he was griping about her dog being on his property. She apparently expected him to just let this go on because she didn’t feel like doing anything about it.

              That was entirely her fault. If the dog had been in the yard where it belonged, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

              1. A non for this*

                I’m sorry for the dog, but that’s what happens if you let your dog worry livestock! Sounds like dog owner was warned many times. And continued to be negligent.

                Signs saying dogs caught worrying livestock will be shot on sight are common in my country (not the US, not a country where it’s particularly common to hunt or own guns). That’s just what it’s like if you live in the countryside.

              2. Anax*

                Oof, yeah, that happened with a relative. Coyotes harassing cattle are common, and apparently shooting at them is the usual solution; my relative felt awful about shooting someone’s dog, but gosh if it didn’t look like a coyote trying to hunt calves.

          3. Lora*

            Previous owner of my house kept a LOT of animals he couldn’t manage to fence in. Animal Control fined him frequently, but the fines from Animal Control are nothing compared to the cost of keeping a horse and an entire herd of cows, so he’d put up like, one measly strand of electric fence tape, not bother to make sure it wasn’t broken or grounded out somewhere, and then go back to letting them wander around.

            Only thing that worked was Animal Control telling him, next time this horse is in the road, we will impound it and auction it where it will go to the gelatin factory. If people can see you are trying to do your best – like, you put up a fence but a tree came down on it in a storm, or you have a solid fence and the neighbor brat is constantly opening the gate to cause mischief – they’ll be pretty forgiving. When you’re obviously not trying, don’t expect people to be nice.

            And honestly, certain animals, people are going to be extra-jerkish about. Spiders, insects, snakes and rodents, people are going to be terrified of them and it goes with the territory. Large animals too, because everyone thinks your yard is a free-of-charge petting zoo: horses are the absolute pits because everyone wants to pet them, feed the buttercups, try to put their kids on the horse, they’re considered an Attractive Nuisance and you have to carry extra insurance. Every responsible horse owner I know has a wealth of stories about the dribbling idiots who climbed over any number of No Trespassing signs and fences, tried to pose their five-year-old on a Thoroughbred stallion for a cute picture, got bitten / kicked for their troubles, then threatened to sue.

            1. Delta Delta*

              Thoroughbred owner here. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the track and random people have wandered to where they shouldn’t be and started petting race horses they don’t know or own. A woman got very upset with me one day when I asked her if she owned the beautiful chestnut filly she was petting. She said no. I told her I wanted her to stop touching my horse. She said it wasn’t hurting anything. Then the horse bit her. I love that horse.

              1. Lora*

                Holy crap you have a patient racehorse. I’ve seen those things do their best to murder vet techs, jockeys, other horses…

            2. Dancing Otter*

              There’s reason urban police forces still use horses for crowd control. They’re big; they’re strong; and they don’t put up with a lot of BS.
              I remember seeing news footage of an idiot who punched a police horse. They hauled him off in an ambulance. When he was released, he was charged with assaulting an officer, but it really seemed the horse had come out ahead in the encounter.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I love horses. I ride. They are potentially dangerous. My husband got kicked in the chest by the family horse and was knocked out cold for 20 minutes. He lived rural — and the ambulance was there by the time he started waking up.
            They can also cause automobile accidents just like deer.
            Keep them corralled.

          5. Alice's Rabbit*

            I lived in farm country. Feral livestock is dangerous! A roaming horse can do a lot of damage, both to persons and property.
            If the owner won’t contain their animal properly, then anything that happens is the owner’s fault.

          6. Not So NewReader*

            @Sylvan, rural America. If you do not control your animal after repeated requests there are a few people (not a lot, but a few) that will handle the matter themselves. This problem went on for a couple years before my friend reached his breaking point. Friend and neighbor lived along a rural highway, although the speed limit was 55, people routinely do 70 or more. If the horse went out into the road… omg. We have an added layer here with sloppy hunters. These are people who shoot first then try to figure out if they have hit a deer… or a cow… or a horse… or a dog. During hunting season I am sitting here reading AAM and I can hear shoots outside my window. That’s normal here.

            @UW, right. I would fall over in total shock if my friend hurt the animal. He’d be more apt to get a bunch of friends together to make scary noises at the animal or something like that and try to scare the animal from ever returning. Additionally, my friend is a talented guy who would have HAPPILY helped fix a proper fence, probably at NO charge. At first he tried asking nicely and directly and was hit by a string of FUs and other stuff. This is how law enforcement got involved.

            @Dust Bunny. Way to go! I watch my dog like a hawk, too. It’s to the point that neighbors comment about how closely I keep track of my dog. When I had cats, they also stayed inside with me. My boss lets me bring my dog to work. I am alone in the office except for my boss and she looooves my dog. I have brought him to work once or twice in eight years. I have too much work to do, it’s too difficult to supervise Mr. CleverBoy and do my job. (He opens locked doors, climbs up on window sills, etc. He’s not mean, he’s just constantly active.)

            @Lora, bingo, it’s a good rule to never approach or (worse) pet someone else’s animal without permission. And when people say no, they don’t grant permission, there are usually reasons for that.

            1. Artemesia*

              When I was about 12 I approached the neighbors horse, in a field behind our house, that kids sometimes rode (with permission and supervision of owner) and I carried a big stump of wood so I could climb on him. It was very heavy and I could barely hold it and dropped it kind of behind and to the side of him. He kicked out with both feet and his hooves brushed my bangs but didn’t connect with my head. Scared straight about ever trying anything so stupid again. Horses are death waiting to happen to the unwary.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I mean, I would be pretty thrilled to find a horse in my backyard, because I was a big horse girl as a kid, but I 100% understand why someone would be furious. That dude did not sign up to clean up horse poop, and no one who didn’t sign up for it should have to do that much shovel work.

      4. CupcakeCounter*

        Some people can’t “get a grip”. I have a completely irrational fear of snakes. Seeing one on TV will give me nightmares for a week. Mom thought exposure therapy would help so signed me up to work at a zoo as a young teen but they called her to come get me within the hour because after being assigned to the snake house and inside for 2 minutes I had a full on panic attack followed by the shakes and uncontrollable crying. They refuse to assign me there again and the therapist mom talked to who initially recommended exposure said that I probably had a crippling case of Ophidophobia and exposure wouldn’t help and could possibly make it worse. I’m 40 now and it is just as bad as it always was. I live on a wooded lot and have an 11 year old son and I would love to be able to plant flowers in my yard but I tried that twice and found a snake twice so nope, nope, nope. No joke here…I called a realtor about selling the house. Hubs shut that down real quick.

      5. Third or Nothing!*

        That’s unnecessarily harsh. I am totally freaked out by crickets & palmetto bugs. It developed over many years of having my classmates throw bugs in my face. My father used to tell me to grow up and get a grip. Surprisingly, at age 31, I still cry and shake any time one of those gets into the house and I’m the only one around to address the issue. This level of visceral reaction just doesn’t go away by willing it away.

      6. A Teacher*

        A lot of people have very strong phobias of these kinds of creatures. I’m a lover of bugs and spiders and have had pet spiders but I totally get what Jessica is saying. ‘Get a grip’ is very unkind.

        Also there’s no indication Jessica would actually act on these, they are simply saying their (probably very common) feelings.

      7. Observer*

        It’s an extreme reaction, sure. But to be honest, it’s still on the person who is bringing their pets in.

        A person with phobias does have an obligation to manage their fears. But it’s not as simple as “getting a grip.” *AND* it’s unreasonable to expect them to “manage” their issues by abstaining from normal activities that have absolutely NO relationship to the thing they are afraid of. Especially when the only reason is that someone “wants to show off” (and insists on doing it in the most public way to boot.)

        If Jessica freaked out that the local zoo or science museum had a prominent display of spiders, I’d also say “get a grip” because she doesn’t need to go to the zoo or museum. But at work? I mean, sure she can’t expect to take a job at the zoo or science museum, but where else is it reasonable to encounter black widow spiders at work?!

        If anyone needs to “get a grip” in this situation, it’s the person who is bringing their pets to work.

      1. Eleanor*

        As someone who lived in an apartment with an awful roach infestation, I can assure you it’s not. All I’d be thinking about is what would happen if one got out? I still have nightmares about that time in my life and it’s been 3 years. Makes me wonder if Jessica has had a similar experience.

        I understand why it might seem over the top, but with bugs that are known to cause infestations, I think it’s more than reasonable.

        1. Sylvan*

          I used to work in a filthy building, and I’m not happy when I see roaches (or mold or roof damage etc.) either. It’s just kind of overblown and doesn’t particularly help the OP, who already knows the insects and spiders are making at least one person uncomfortable. They’re also a risk for an infestation, like you said.

          1. Observer*

            Actually it does help the OP. Because it highlights that this is not just “discomfort” but could be “quit-worthy distress.”

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            Where are we getting this “at risk for an infestation” thing that keeps coming up? Roaches and spiders don’t reproduce asexually, as far as I know, and if there’s something they can mate with in the walls there’s already an infestation?

    1. Nope-ity, nope, nope*

      I am very afraid of spiders. If someone brought a black widow spider to work, I would go home seriously. Too many what ifs would cross my mind. What if someone knocked the container over and it escaped? NOPE.

      1. Rayray*

        Same. I’ve experienced physics reactions when seeing spiders, such as shaking and feeling ill. I can’t deal with it.

        I have experienced frightening encounters with dogs it this was only when the dog was aggressive, badly behaved, or not being watched by an owner. If a dog is well trained and well behaved and the owner is with it. I’m not bothered at all. Bugs can’t exactly be trained and can easily get out of their cages and infest the office.

      2. Paris Geller*

        For me it would be the roaches. It’s never been diagnosed, but I have what I can only describe as a phobia of roaches. The sight of one can drive me to tears. I know it’s illogical! That’s why it’s a phobia. I would definitely do everything in my power to avoid that area and honestly even if I could avoid the area, I would be s stressed out THINKING about the bugs I would not be able to get anything done. I have no problem with other people loving bugs and having them as pets, but please keep them far away from me.

    2. BethDH*

      I am going to push back against the second half of what you said about not telling anyone. After all, we have an example in this letter from someone who is not particularly bothered by the animals themselves but is writing in to ask about banning them. Alison seems to be in the same category.
      As with many other areas of workplace interaction, assuming something is so obvious that it’s not worth bringing it up in actual words is a recipe for unnecessary stress.

    3. Joielle*

      I’m no great fan of spiders myself, but these aren’t vermin, they’re pets. Unusual pets, to be sure! They shouldn’t be coming to the office, but it would definitely not help the situation to suggest that you would poison someone’s pet because you’re afraid of it.

      1. Jessica*

        Thanks for this perspective, Joielle. I don’t think I agree with you exactly, but you raise an interesting point.

        I think people have a lot of varied and not entirely rational attitudes toward other life forms. For instance, in some cultures it’s fine to eat dogs and horses, but people from cultures where that’s not done may be revolted and horrified at the idea. Rats and mice are both cherished as pets and exterminated as vermin–not the exact same rats and mice, and maybe not by the exact same people, but certainly in the same society. I recognize that my own reactions are illogical–for instance, suppose an insect got on my hand, and it was a
        — butterfly: charming, I might take a photo if I got a chance
        — ant: I’d be mildly annoyed and flick it off
        — cockroach: I’d be EXTREMELY revolted, wildly doing anything I can to get it off me, there’d be extreme handwashing afterward, and I’d struggle to not think about the memory.

        But I don’t believe that anyone feels equal respect toward all life. Even the people who keep the type of insects we’re discussing here as pets might not look fondly at fleas that were biting them. Or maybe they’d draw the line at maggots. Or if you want to live in peace with the entire insect kingdom, what about bacteria or molds or viruses? They’re all alive. Maybe this seems ridiculous, like there’s been quite the discursive slippage from someone’s pet tarantula to a virus, but my point is that I think everyone has a line somewhere, with regard to their attitude toward other life forms, where they cross from “respect them” to “kill them.” I wouldn’t poison someone’s dog no matter what it or they did, and if I worked in this office I wouldn’t steal the terrarium out of the mailbox and kill this person’s insect, but if any kind of cockroach got loose and entered my vicinity I would 100% remorselessly try to kill it.

        1. Yorick*

          Agreed. I’d kill it for sure if it wasn’t in the terrarium. I’d probably be too freaked out to even remember it was someone’s pet.

    4. OkapiFeels*

      I would be very similar. People who have never experienced a true phobia don’t really understand how severe it can be! I get nauseous when my player character touches bugs in Animal Crossing. I have warned my husband multiple times that

      OP #1 is struggling with the difference between logical truth and the empathetic truth, as I think of it. Logically, these things are the same, but that ignores the reality for, not only people like us, but for many people. The reality is that a fear of bugs is really, really common and most people, especially people who like bugs, understand that they need to be sensitive about how and where they show their bugs. To make a timely dog analogy, I have a mixed-breed rescue dog who most people assume is a pitbull. I know my girl’s a sweetie, but when I take her out in public, I’m aware of how others might perceive her and I make sure to keep control of her and to keep her by me, so people can avoid her if they’re uncomfortable or approach her if they’re not. If I had to bring her to work with me, I’d probably go so far as to check in with all of my coworkers, making sure they were comfortable with having her there, and if any admitted to discomfort, making sure to accommodate that.

      What bug coworker is doing isn’t very sensitive to the reality of other people. They’ve put their bugs on display somewhere people are obligated to go, they’ve brought venomous animals into work, and the bugs aren’t supervised for long periods. This wouldn’t be okay to do with snakes, or rats, or creepy clown dolls, or with a TV playing horror movies. Someone needs to have the tough discussion with bug coworker about how bugs are perceived by other people, and how he needs to moderate his bugs in the workplace.

      1. Observer*

        Logically, these things are the same, but that ignores the reality for, not only people like us, but for many people.

        This is not ENTIRELY true. In fact, bugs and black widow spiders ARE objectively different than a well trained dog. A well trained dog with a responsible owner is not going to be a problem in most offices if there is no one with a phobia. However, you cannot say that about these other creatures.

        There is no such thing as a “well trained” spider, roach etc. Which means that if any of these escape, the present an objective problem to people. Black widow spiders are actually venomous and can actually kill people. Yes, that’s rare, and most cases a bite will “only” make you sick, but it’s a ridiculous risk to take when there is no reason whatsoever for it, other than that someone wants to show off. And most of these creatures hide and breed in ways that mean that if they escape, you’ve got an infestation in the building.

        All that said, I do agree, very much, with your main point.

        1. Scale Baby*

          I have a corn snake who is super chill – he is friendly and has never bitten anyone. Even if he did, he’s nor venomous and he wouldn’t be able to seriously hurt a person – he rattles if he thinks you’re going to steal his food but it’s so small it’s cute! If he escapes he’s going for a warm, dark place to hide, but he also lives in an escape-proof tank.

          I’ve had houseguests who weren’t able to be on the same level of the house he’s on, though, and I respect that – he’s still a snake. Would I bring him to work? No, he doesn’t have the social needs a dog has. That doesn’t mean he’s any more likely to be a problem in a non-phobic office, though.

      2. Thursdaysgeek*

        Yes. I describe below my office black widow, which I had because spiders came with the office, and I wanted it contained. But I also had a tarantula at home for awhile, and I would let people know before they entered my house that I had it. I’d let them know where to not look, if they were freaked out, but still wanted to come in. And if they were interested, we could go get her out of the cage. I didn’t want to make anyone’s fear worse.

    1. RG*

      Or retail where coverage is constantly required? When I used to work in a supermarket checkout we’d have employees ask to use the bathroom (not a problem) but you need to either shut down a register (tricky when it’s busy) or arrange for someone else to stop what they’re doing and cover the register while the person is gone. Occasionally we’d discover employees who would actually be wandering around the store to chat with their friends in other departments, or who would be standing in the restroom or back room playing games on their phone. But the approach to the issue was never to have someone tail them to the bathroom (?!).

    2. Bostonian*

      I used to work in a lab for a company that consistently makes Best Place to Work lists in their headquarters state where the kind of stuff OP describes absolutely happened on a regular basis. Retail, food service, and call centers don’t have a monopoly on bad management!

      1. Bob*

        No one has a monopoly on bad employment practices.

        But until you work in a cutthroat call center you won’t understand how anal they are about uptime. Some demand 98% or higher uptime, going to the washroom more than once per shift could mean escalating disciplinary action. And when you do go to the washroom you don’t have long because the travel time from the computer to washroom and back eats into the time you have to relieve yourself. And if you have to go number two you better hope that does not happen more than one or twice a month.

        Never mind actual problems that took you off the phone.
        Killing the messenger is SOP as is physics and math defying requirements.

    3. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

      The restaurant I work in just installed cameras through the entire kitchen to make sure no employees ever take a break or sit down. Now they don’t have to follow us. The district manager thinks it’s hilarious. Mind you he sits all day when he isn’t roaming around the different locations stuffing food in his face. (we are short staffed and all of us are overworked and exhausted due to the pandemic, so this was especially morale killing)

  4. On a pale mouse*

    #1: Does she have a private office or cube where she can keep the (non-venomous) bugs? That could be a compromise if you aren’t wanting to totally kick them out. But 10 bucks says that, on some level, she likes the fact that some people are creeped out and that’s why she has them where people have to walk by them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I originally had a bit in the answer suggesting that but took it out because I think it’s going to make some people avoid going in her office when they need to. (I’d be more inclined to suggest if it was something like “Phil the spider is sick and needs medication every three hours for two weeks* so I have to keep him with me during that time” … but not as an ongoing thing just because she feels like it.)

      * I’m aware this is probably not a thing.

      1. Sylvan*


        I’d also be concerned about insects or spiders allowed in the building eventually escaping their cages. Could become a pest problem.

      2. On a pale mouse*

        Personally, I’d be okay with a blanket office pet ban, but I tend to look for compromise.

        The second half of my comment is maybe a bit uncharitable. I wasn’t suggesting malice, as someone else said, just the enjoyment of making a sensation. Which I think is a pretty common human thing, and fine up to a point. But it would be easy to tip over from liking people’s positive reactions to liking negative ones. Also, a person could enjoy mildly creeping people out in the way you’d enjoy coming up with a good zombie costume for Halloween, and not realize it goes way beyond that for some people.

        This has gotten long. I just wanted to clarify I wasn’t imagining her at her desk cackling like a movie villain at the thought of terrifying her co-workers. There may be people who would do that but I don’t want to assume it about someone without more evidence.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’d be okay with a blanket office pet ban

          That’s what I’d want. I’ll never understand why people love dogs for pets for the life of me, but at home, go for it.

          If I have to be in the office, I’d strongly prefer one with no pets.

        2. AnonForThis*

          Also would be okay with a blanket office pet ban.

          My issue as a co-worker would be the appearance of suddenly changing our workplace norms to be welcoming to animals. If it was always a pet-friendly establishment, I assume I would have been informed about that from the start. Opening our doors to pets without some sort of announcement/request for input/ground rules, etc, would make me feel uncomfortable.

          I would approach the dog vs. bugs situation as the employer being accommodating to the dog-owner during an extenuating circumstance. The employee presumably *needs* to be on-site and the dog *can not* be left unattended AND there have been no objections by fellow employees. The employer has not otherwise changed their policy on pets in the workplace and therefore you’ll need express permission if you *need* to bring yours.

          1. UKDancer*

            Me too. I’m allergic to cats and most types of dog. If the company decided to change into a pet friendly office I would expect them to consult / inform people and agree ground rules.

            If I wanted to work in a pet-friendly office I would have chosen to do so. As I actually like breathing I work in an office that doesn’t allow animals other than service animals. I have one colleague with a guide dog and we’ve worked out procedures that minimise my exposure to the dog.

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          I think you have a point. My cousin lived getting reactions with his pet snake. But if someone was legitimately afraid, he apologized profusely and put her away.
          Could be something similar here. The coworker might appreciate the attention he’s getting from bringing in his pets, both positive and mildly negative. But if he knew his pets were truly causing problems, hopefully he’d be a decent enough human being to take them out of the office.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        * I’m aware this is probably not a thing.

        Not a spider, but I have nursed guinea pigs through illnesses on that kind of schedule. Not for weeks, but a singular week.

        1. Thursdaysgeek*

          When Christa was stung by a wasp that was put in her jar, I was wishing it was a thing. Where do I find a vet for a black widow? She survived, but it was a close call for a few days.

    2. Jackalope*

      It’s possible that she is wanting to creep people out, but it’s also possible that she’s just excited about them and wanting to share. I know my old workplace was a bit unusual in this regard since it was a (literal) zoo, so people tended to be fond of anything in the animal kingdom, but I’ve totally had excited “oh my gosh it’s so CUTE!!” moments with people I know about millipedes, tarantulas, and sea anemones. I have since left that job and try to remember that not everyone reacts to scorpions with “SO COOL!!!” (and I don’t actually have any weird critters as pets; my pets are all mammals), but I can see it as totally a thing that the co-worker would see as normal. Not to say that it’s inappropriate to say she can’t bring them to work anymore, since her co-workers should feel safe at work, but just saying there’s not necessarily a negative motivation on her part.

      1. allathian*

        I think exotic pets that many people consider creepy are very cool (I loved the bug pet photos posted here a while back), but that doesn’t mean I’d welcome them in the office. Without knowing the person who’s brought them to the office, it’s hard to say whether it’s just pure excitement about these pets on the owner’s part or whether there’s some sort of malice involved. That said, I think it’s weird she keeps them in her mailroom cubby where she surely only spends a few minutes a day at most and where other people, who may be afraid of or grossed out by them, have to walk past them.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          And I’ll add that lady bugs are often considered cute and mantises beautiful. Dogs often slobber and smell. Compare to a mantis in a terrarium.

          I’m not saying that insects are appropriate in an office, but stuff like the following is whack: ” I would certainly feel like anyone who could ever think this was okay probably would not be moved by my complaints. I mean, has it really not occurred to them that the office could just be a pleasant, neutral, vermin-free place where we got work done?”

          1. Scarlet2*

            Lots of people have phobias re. spiders and bugs and they’re not “whack”. And many non-phobic people would certainly be creeped out or uncomfortable around giant venomous spiders. I love snakes, but 1) I certainly wouldn’t bring one to the office and 2) I wouldn’t tell anyone who’s complaining about the presence of snakes in an office that they need to “get a grip”, as you told another commenter upthread.

            1. Boof*

              Being phobic can happen, projecting that phobia as meaning the person who posesses [whatever the source of phobia is] is incompetent etc is wrong, yes.
              People can be phobic of dogs too, or had prior trauma from dogs.

              1. Scarlet2*

                1) I think the original comment was referring to bringing those pets to the office, not necessarily owning them. 2) I think it’s wrong to use the term “whack” in relationship to phobic people…
                (I don’t think anyone is denying that people can be scared of dogs, btw).

                1. Jessica*

                  Absolutely, Scarlet2, my reference to “thinking this was okay” was entirely in reference to the behavior of bringing them and displaying them at the office. I stand by my opinion that anyone who does this without even considering it could be a problem is lacking in good professional judgment.
                  I don’t have any such opinions just about people keeping such things as pets. There’s nothing wrong with having unusual pets (barring something like an actual tiger that’s probably illegal because it might kill someone). If you’ve got Madagascar hissing insects I’m not coming to your house, but I have no ill will toward you and I hope you enjoy their company.

              2. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Yes, people can be phobic or have prior trauma from dogs and on this very site in more than one letter Alison has said that People trump Dogs when someone is phobic of dogs. That, however, is not the question in this letter. LW has had multiple complaints about the bugs and zero complaints about the dog — therefor, bugs go, dog stays.

              3. Insert Clever Name Here*

                On this very site, there have been more than one letter along the lines of “my coworker brings their dog and I’m afraid of dogs” and in all of those letters Alison’s response is that the dog should not be in the workplace. No one is saying that people aren’t afraid of dogs. LW has had multiple complaints about the pet bugs and zero complaints about the pet dog — true to her previous advice, Alison advises removing the pet that has received complaints.

            2. Kaiko*

              I have a spider phobia and have PTSD from a cockroach infestation. If this person worked in my office, I’d be leaving and not coming back. That’s the grip I’d get.

          2. Mongrel*

            And you can’t tell everyone else what their feelings should be about anything, I’ve known people who are terrified of the concept of kittens, especially when one of the animals is a common pest.
            Also, when you’re talking about groups of animals that are known engender involuntary reactions & phobias you have even less standing to tell people to get over it.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I know people who are terrified of dogs. I put my dog in a closed room when they come over. Putting beings together who do not want to be together is a recipe for disaster.

      2. Weird Pet Owner*

        I agree that this may have been a lapse in judgment by someone wanting to brighten their workday with something they perceive as similar to a houseplant or betta fish, and we need to consider that if some of the comments here were verbalized to their face it might really damage the relationship! People expressing disgust with something important to you hurts, even if it’s as irrational as a phobia. The best way to get respect & empathy for the uncomfortable coworkers is to model it by approaching the bug owner with respect & empathy.

        1. Scarlet2*

          Hum, sure, but if you don’t want to hear people say your pet cockroaches are disgusting, maybe don’t bring them to the office unless all your colleagues explicitly ask you to? I’m seriously arachnophobic and while I understand some people love them as pets, if I came across a colleague’s pet tarantula on my way to the printer, I don’t think I’d have much “empathy and respect” for the person who wanted to “brighten their workday” by bringing a *humongous spider* to the office. You’re quite free to enjoy your pet in your own home, thankyouverymuch.

        2. Roci*

          On the one hand, yes, I can distantly understand that something I think vile can be important to others. But much more immediate are the feelings of fear, revulsion, anger, stress, panic etc.

          If this were an email chain of “hey WPO wants to bring their [pet] to work”, I imagine others with phobias like me could respond calmly and kindly, “actually I have a phobia, please don’t.”
          But actually seeing the pet already at work? The phobia short-circuits the brain and I am not capable of respect and empathy at that point.

          Any pet owner must be aware of people who have phobias or are uncomfortable around their type of pet. But even you acknowledge that your pet is “weird” so you must know that some kinds of animals are commonly culturally understood to be unpleasant or scary. Certain creatures are “bad guys” in fiction and fairytales and that encourages these feelings to be widespread. So you must know that you have a higher chance of people being uncomfortable with your pet snake than a pet fish. It’s part of respect for other human beings to be prepared for that and not disregard common phobias just because you don’t like the way it was verbalized in a stressful situation.

    3. Batgirl*

      Honestly I would still be creeped out; out of sight isn’t always out of mind. I also wouldn’t trust the judgement of this person (who brings poisonous insects to work?), so I wouldn’t trust them to be kept secure. I also just think it’s really unnecessary. Show them off on Facebook, geez.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, I’ve seen enough news reports about exotic animals escaping, mostly through owner negligence, that I’d have a hard time focusing at work.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Same. I doubt I would even be able to enter the building, knowing they were there, let alone concentrate on my job.

      2. Mel_05*

        Yes. I have a friend who is terrified of spiders and snakes. Even seeing an obviously fake spider freaks her out (Halloween is a rough time). She knows that level of fear isn’t rational, but she also would not be able to work in a building with a black widow kept in a cage.

      3. Washi*

        As someone who has had pets that many consider vermin, yes to this. It is really not good judgement to bring them in, let alone let them sit unsupervised in the mail room. I would never have let my rats be left somewhere without me because aside from freaking other people out, I’d be afraid that someone would harm them, and I wouldn’t be able to tell if they were getting stressed. That’s why I think this person is probably not motivated by pure love of their pets and this is some kind of Statement about bringing pets in.

        1. Quill*

          I adore rats because several friends have had them, but even so I would not be cool with keeping them in the mail room even if the whole office adored them too. You can smell them pretty fast.

          Also in my experience it’s fairly easy for a workplace pet (such as a class / school pet) to suffer from neglect because there are too many people with too little training attempting to care for them and falling through.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          Agreed. I love rats as pets, but I wouldn’t bring one to the office unless unanimously requested to do so, and he would stay at my desk. Not out of sight, and especially not somewhere I couldn’t see him.

      4. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Yes – exactly. I would just not be comfortable in a office with a spider who’s bite could send me to the hospital, even if I personally didn’t have to see the spider. I would be especially freaked out whenever I saw any other kind of spider, automatically assuming the black widow had staged an escape.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I once worked in a poison control center and we had a 3-legged Gila monster named Lukas. He ended up in our office because one of the MDs had removed him from a patient’s hand** and Lukas’s leg was damaged in the process. We also had tarantulas and scorpions. In some offices it isn’t completely ridiculous, but in many it would be no go.

        **Said patient apparently was very, very drunk and tormented poor Lukas when he found him camping. You seriously have to work to get a Gila monster to bite

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Is there a Gila monster parallel to the cat tax? The Gila tax? I have a burning need to see precious Lukas.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      If these are in her mailbox, there is presumably someone at this office whose job involves putting mail in that mailbox. Gee, I sure hope they’re excited to have these things shown off to them! Oh, you’re not? You just want to deliver the mail in peace? Well, that’s too bad because someone’s got a new cockroach terrarium she’s DYING to share!

    5. Nia*

      It is 100% malicious. No one’s judgement is so poor that they think bringing cockroaches and spiders to work is something their coworkers want to see.

      1. BadWolf*

        My coworker brought baby corn snakes to work to show them off. I 100% guarantee you that he was not malicious, but honestly excited about sharing the little guys. Was it the best judgement, perhaps not. But not malicious.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          One of my co-workers brought in her hissing cockroaches, Bert and Ernie, and they were so cool. However we asked her to bring them and she only showed them to those who had asked to see them.

    1. Beth*

      Apologies! My intent was less a joke and more, I would be pretty freaked out by being forced to hang out around creatures like these–venemous spiders freak me out, I’ve lived in enough cheap roach-infested apartments to have them put me on edge–and I wouldn’t be able to focus at all around them without some way of handling it if one escaped and came my way. But I understand that my wording was in bad taste.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No worries — and I think that perspective is one a lot of people share, and it really does mean the bugs have to be a no-go for the office. You can’t have people walking around on edge just so someone can do something so completely optional.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Adding – I don’t like most bugs. And lived somewhere where tarantulas were in my apartment – ugghs freaked me out. I could barely sleep for a few days.

      That said, in our home we don’t kill spiders because they get rid of other bugs.

      Would not want them in my office and I can’t say I like them in our home, but if we see them we avoid them.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        We have an agreement with the spiders in our house: if we don’t see them, they are welcome. If we see them, and they hide fast, they continue to be welcome. Because you’re right: they kill bugs in the house, and if there weren’t bugs to be eaten, there wouldn’t be spiders eating them. (And when they flout the rule and crawl across the top of the wall up by the ceiling, they entertain the cats, so that works too.)

        (I hope Georgia doesn’t mind auditing these links: and more recently, a story arc starting with: )

  5. Diahann Carroll*

    And even in less immediately dire situations, you want to use some judgment — if someone is very ill or has an sick family member, some things won’t be important enough to bother them with once you know what’s going on (benefits enrollment deadlines, yes; pie contests, no).

    This reminds me of the time when a long-standing member of one of my former company’s Toastmasters group was out for months on leave after having double bypass surgery and our treasurer sent him a card reminding him to pay his dues by X date.

    The only reason we found out about this is because he sent a scathing email out to the group leaders saying how disappointed he was that no one from our group reached out to him (we did – we sent him a nice card and had flowers delivered to the hospital) except to demand payment when he could have died. The treasurer rightfully ended up feeling like an ass, and she was promptly voted out of her position shortly thereafter.

      1. Liane*

        @ Batgirl: I think there were 2 separate cards. A get well card with the flowers & later the very ill-timed dues reminder. But either the gift didn’t get to the member or he was so upset over the dues notice he forgot about the gift.
        But I could be wrong.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          You are correct – there were two cards. One from the group, which we all signed, and one the treasurer sent that none of us knew about. We speculated that it’s possible he forgot about the flowers and card the group as a whole sent because he was on pain meds, but it’s also possible that he was so (rightfully) incensed by the second card that that’s all he remembered, lol.

          1. WellRed*

            I’m curious as to whether this was the first time the treasurer showed signs of being an ass. It’s such poor judgment.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              It wasn’t – it was just the most egregious example of the off-putting and downright tone-deaf things she’d done while in our group. Why they voted her in as treasurer, I’ll never know (she was in the role when I joined).

          2. Annony*

            Are you sure he actually received the flowers and other card? Sometimes deliveries to places like hospitals do not actually get to their intended recipient. Or the person in charge of sending it could drop the ball.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Our group’s president said his wife personally thanked her for the card and flowers, so they got them.

    1. calonkat*

      Not having all the information, if it was just part of the treasurer’s job to send reminders to everyone, I’m failing to see where she’s at fault. Seems to me it’s the sort of thing you respond to with “I’m recovering from surgery and can’t afford my dues right now” or just ignore. I’ve never been treasurer for Toastmasters, but I’ve been treasurer for multiple non-profit groups, and while I’ve had to send reminders about money, I’ve never had anyone get ANGRY about an ill timed reminder. Now if she KNEW he was out for surgery, knew he couldn’t afford the dues right now, and deliberately sent a cruel note to the hospital, then yes, she’s at fault. If it was a standard “hey, dues are due” letter, I’m at a loss as to the anger.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        She knew he was out on leave recovering from surgery (she was in the room the day he told us about it), and the card she sent was not one sent to everyone reminding us about dues – it was specific to him when she knew he would be home convalescing.

  6. Diahann Carroll*

    OP #3 – I agree 100% with Alison here. I was thisclose to being an auditor for a bank’s mortgage vendor unit about five years ago, and this would have been totally against the rules. Like Alison said, you don’t want to give anyone the impression that you can’t be objective in your work – you’ll lose all credibility as an auditor, and your company will lose credibility as well. You’ll have to wait until you leave this particular part of your industry to try to strike up friendships with anyone you meet at these companies, unfortunately.

    1. Harvey 6'3.5"*

      While I agree that it would be inappropriate to be social with current employees of companies that OP3 audits, and the reference is probably a bad idea, it sounds like this is really a request to either date or have a social relationship with a former employee who OP3 no longer interacts with at work. Why is that a problem? There is no longer a work relationship in any way.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        OP said nothing about wanting to date (!) this person. Even still, a personal relationship with this employee is a problem for all of the reasons Alison already stated. There is an objectivity and perception issue that the letter writer needs to take into consideration right now. When the OP leaves this particular auditing firm herself, if she wants to reach out to the fired employee, then cool.

      2. LCH*

        i didn’t see the issue either if the person they want to connect with is already no longer with a company they audit. but i don’t do auditing. it seems like a lonely position if its going to cut out such a large portion of the population.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          But it doesn’t cut out a large portion of the population – only people who work for suppliers you personally audit.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Depends. In the case of the subject of OP’s letter, her firing was recent, so she’s a no for friendship. But someone who worked for that company 10 years ago and hasn’t been employed there for years would probably be okay.

          1. Auditor OP*

            Because of the collection of industry in the area, and the size of the company I work for, this eliminates a good 80% of people who I’d normally network with. Almost every nearby company is a supplier to my company, and while I’m not the auditor for all of them, I imagine it’s still a conflict of interest if I’m friends with suppliers to my company.

            Which, is what I signed up for I suppose. But it is a pretty big impact to my network.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Almost every nearby company is a supplier to my company

              Well, dang. Yeah, you’re going to need to branch out to surrounding areas/neighboring cities to find your friend group then.

    2. Lisa B*

      15+ year auditor here, and in management. This would be a very big concern for me if I found out my staff was overly social with her audit clients. Our profession’s core standards are independence and objectivity- if you are seen being chummy with your clients, you’ve brought those into question. Will you require the same rigor in their documentation? Will you maybe agree to call something a medium risk when it really is a high risk finding? Whether you would or not is completely irrelevant – you’ve altered things such that the *perception* is that you could, and that is a big problem. Once someone has left the firm and is no longer a client, sure. Once YOU’ve left and are no longer their auditor, sure. But not a current client while you’re their current auditor.

      Having moved to a new state myself recently, I do empathize with your need to rebuild your social network! Look into local fitness classes, see if facebook has a “newcomers” group for your city, make an effort to chat up the neighbors, join your community HOA, etc. All these are great options to give you connections that won’t jeopardize your professional reputation and standing. Good luck!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Your first paragraph is exactly what I tried to get across in comments down thread. Objectivity is so crucial when you’re an auditor; you shouldn’t take any actions that could be viewed negatively when you’re still in the role. Your reputation and professionalism has to be above reproach.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        As a prior state inspector and now an internal auditor…. yep. Also what I had to clean up when I took over someone’s inspection sites as the state – many, many facilities who then really were unhappy because I required them to fix something that should have been fixed years ago when the previous inspector let it go or didn’t actually do the appropriate checks in the audit, because “friends”.

      3. Auditor OP*

        Thanks, and I totally get it, hence holding off so far, but I guess I wrote in wishing the answer was different.

        I’m very new to auditing coming from a manufacturing background that was very “in the trenches” in a way that led to friendships with coworkers. Now, most of my work interactions are incredibly formal. I have always found that I “clicked” best with other engineers, so having a huge percentage of my most-likely-friends removed from consideration has been a tough blow.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Maybe you can join a professional organization for engineers and befriend people who don’t work for companies you audit that way.

          1. Lora*

            This – depending on who you’re auditing, there are other engineers who will work in industries that are far less regulated, who still participate in professional organizations.

            There was a book that came out a couple of years ago about the generic drug industry, _Bottle of Lies_ by Katherine Eban, and one of the things she wrote about was how one auditor in particular was very friendly with the people in the companies he was supposed to be auditing, and viewed it as a way to coach/teach them into getting better at quality as opposed to shutting down companies that have no business operating. The guy’s rationale was that someday with enough patient, kind, gentle support and guidance, they would get their act together and join the rest of the world in being marginally less corrupt and maybe learn to give a rat’s butt about human life. Eventually he was pushed out of the FDA and replaced with a serious auditor, and the companies never did get it together even when they received import restrictions.

            I have met many friendly, pleasant, nice enough folks to talk to, seem like reasonably intelligent people, very well educated – who give exactly zero fks that they are selling actual poison, relabeled as “toothpaste thickener” or whatever. You are doing your employer no favors by being nice and friendly to them. They will lose their contract? BUMMER, maybe they should have thought about that before they went and fked up. It’s not like they had a shortage of consultants, online classes, professional seminars, etc. available to them – these things are all provided in abundance by professional societies, grad schools and friggin LOADS, absolute HORDES of consultants. I have never seen any suppliers get their sh!t together because someone nicely explained things they already actually knew – I have only ever seen them get it together because someone handed them a Warning Letter and said “the doors will be padlocked if you do not come up with a complete remediation plan in X time period, have a nice day.”

  7. staceyizme*

    Following someone to the bathroom? Enough so that it is noticed not only by the person being followed but by others? There’s no way this ends well for the manager or for the company! It may not be harassment in the legal sense of the word, but can you imagine the Glass Door review? “Oh, I worked for three years at X Corp. Good benefits and average pay. But some of the managers are insane! One manager used to follow me to the bathroom and it always grossed me out. So invasive!”. The fact that Jared is bringing it up to other employees means that it’s gotten out of hand and HR-legal-negative posts on social media or in news media might be next. It’s not your circus or your monkeys, OP, unless you supervise one or both. But it IS bananas and very unwise.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I felt the same about Jared asking other employees. He’s probably trying to establish a frame of reference: is Fred following me specifically, or does he do this to everyone? The answer would determine Jared’s next steps.

      It’s just such bizarre behavior, to the point that the OP has noticed. OP2, while you are not in Jared’s reporting chain, as a manager I believe you still have an obligation to ensure a comfortable working environment for all employees. What’s Fred like as a manager or coworker (to you)? Does his team seem happy? Productive? Is there high turnover in personnel? Can you talk to him? “Hey, I’ve noticed you seem concerned about Jared. Is there something specific at issue? Something I can help with?”

      Poor Jared. Even if his work is at fault, an under-performing employee still warrants privacy for the bathroom.

    2. Ermintrude*

      Personally, I’m more creeped out by this manager than the idea of working in an office with creepy and venomous critters!

    3. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

      I responded to someone else about this subject, I work in a restaurant and our district manager literally put cameras in all our stores so he can make sure nobody ever sits down or takes a break. It’s increasingly common in the restaurant industry. When you go to a restaurant that has “security cameras” if they are all through the entire restaurant they aren’t for security. They are to make sure the overworked and underpaid employees never stop working.

  8. Brusque*

    When I left a highly toxic job as a teamlead, one of my direct reports gave me an old leathe bound Book with a nice the pages folded to show the siluette of a heart. I know she folds bookpages to make old books she gets from donations and flea markets into ornaments to pass the time at her quite boring job. For her it was a cheap gift, for me it was lovely. I still own it and I do appreciate it highly. I have it on my desk at my new workplace.
    Another one gave me a mug with my favourite Muppet and that I still use as well. As long as it’s something personal your boss will probably cherish it and like the memento of a great working relationship. And yes, even a mug can be a great memento as long as its personal.

  9. Squirrely*

    LW 4- I am on a volunteer committee for a professional org, and we take to signing off Larla (and Wakim) when Larla sends a quick email, and vice versa for Wakim. We’ll just list both our names on more official confirmation emails (Best, Larla and Wakim), and recently did “Larla, Wakim, and the rest of the llama grooming committee” as well. Doing it the first on quick emails makes us each more comfortable adding personal notes or our own style while checking the same inbox and composing joint replies.

    Could you do “Larla (and the Tax Team) on something similar and more personal?

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      We have several shared mailboxes at my company and it’s not unusual for the email signature that’s usually “Accounts Payable” to have someone’s name above it like so:

      Accounts Payable

      Not everyone who answers the AP mailbox does it, but definitely something you can consider.

  10. gsa*

    Letter writer number one:

    Personally, my biggest concern is about the black widow getting out. If I went by to see her and I couldn’t see her, yeah I would be concerned.

    I would feel the same way about a black Adler or any other venomous creature.

    Other than that, it does not concern me as long as they’re well behaved.

    1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

      IME, most critters want to be left alone and only get aggressive when they feel threatened. Of course, the critter is the one deciding if they feel threatened, so theres that.I encounter a lot of critters at work and none have been aggressive unless I disturbed them first.
      But yeah, anything that is venomous should be left at home.

        1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

          We dont have tarantulas around where I live. Biggest spider I have seen was a wolf spider with a leg span just a little larger diameter than a jumbo roll of toilet paper. Saw it on a wall maybe a foot higher than my head.It was dark there so we were using headlamps to see and the only reason I even noticed that it was there was because I saw its eyes glowing in the feeble light we had. But it never once made a move, even when I climbed up and got face to face with it.

            1. Lora*

              They can get sizeable, and their eyes glow in the dark. It’s a real barrel of fun when you move into a rental with a whole basement full of the things, let me tell you.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                I remember staying in a cabin as a kid once and insisting there was a spider in the room. My cousin kept calling me a scaredy-cat because it was dark…but when I finally made enough of a ruckus that they turned on the lights…there really was a wolf spider.

                Which freaked us both out, because I REALLY wished I was seeing things too!

              2. KoiFeeder*

                Their babies’ eyes glow too! It’s actually really quite beautiful to walk out at night with a flashlight and see the glowing eyes of mamas wandering around with all the little baby eyes peeping out at the world.

          1. Zephy*

            My husband used to go looking for spiders in his backyard as a kid. He’d grab a flashlight and go out at night, holding the flashlight beside his eyes and looking for little red and green glints in the grass. He showed me this trick while we were still dating.

            There are a lot more spiders in your yard than you think.

          2. Cat Tree*

            Ugh, I should probably abandon ship on this thread because it brings back terrible memories. I live in a townhouse, and there is a safety light on my (shared) front porch that is always on at night. The light moths and the moths attract wolf spiders (and the spiders attract birds but those don’t really bother me). This is right by my front door, and I’ve had them pop out of hiding when I opened my screen door, which presumably startled them. Once I had two or them in my house, even though they should be too big to sneak in unnoticed. I got bitten twice. Now I spray pesticides around both doors and I haven’t seen one in years. But this reminds me that I probably not to re-apply it.

    2. LTL*

      Venomous or not, I’d be scared of them getting out. Which is especially problematic when a lot of people have bug phobias. I have a phobia of ladybugs and if coworkers were bringing them in, you can bet I’d be freaking out at the idea of them escaping and building a colony in the office.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, even if they’re not venomous they can still be a nuisance. I’m allergic to most but bites (including spiders – I know this from experience) to the extent that it causes unbearable itching. Unfortunately bugs also seem to really love me. Fortunately for me it’s not life-threatening and an oral antihistamine helps enough to get through the day. But people can have allergies besides bee stings and for some people it could cause a more severe reaction.

  11. Tamer of Dragonflies*

    Op 1, theres no double standard here.There is a specific reason for the dog to be there. As far as we know, there isnt a reason for CW to bring in critters, venomous critters at that, into the workplace. Im sure my spouse would LOVE to have a dragonfly flitting about the cube farm, but the mass panic that would ensue because ” OMG…its a BUG!!!” would be more than a little distracting.;)

    1. Batgirl*

      I’m really confused by the idea that giving one animal a pass would allow the whole Noah’s ark in. It almost reminds me of a level of “fairness” you only find in geek social fallacies. These things are decided on a case by case! You can always change your mind with the original agreement too. I mean, if the dog started to affect someone with a phobia, or an allergy you’d reconsider, right? The human animals who do the actual jobs take precedence in the workplace.

      1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

        Giving one animal a pass shouldn’t be a pass for everything and I agree, it should be a case by case basis. If issues of phobias, allergies or whatever arise, then find a compromise that works for all involved. An example from a former job…One of my supervisors had a cappuchian (please forgive me if I misspelled that) monkey named Joey. Joey was young and needed more care than the other monkeys this lady had.( She was into exotic pets) So she would bring Joey to work and he would hang out in her office. Now for some reason, Joey did NOT like me, so when I would go into her office to get my next assignment, Joey raised 40 cane of heck. The work around we came up with was that she would bring my assignments out to me when I waved to her through the office window. Joey got the care he needed and I got my work done and all were happy.
        I understand one persons pet is another’s nightmare fuel, and there should never be a dangerous critter intentionally brought to work unless there is a work related reason.
        Sorry this got so dang long.Its 2:30 A.M. locally and Im a bored insomniac.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Goodness, talking about pets that would freak people out. But I’m glad Joey got the care he needed!

          1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

            Yeah, most of our coworkers thought it unusual to have a pet monkey, much less bring it to work. But he was just cute as could be and I really wanted to be friendly with him.For some reason though, he just didn’t like me from the start. Dont know if I did something he perceived as a threat, or maybe my smell, glasses, or hairstyle…who knows. Critters usually like me and it kinda bummed me out.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        And honestly, “dogs are okay under some circumstances, but that’s all” is a perfectly fine limit. Dogs can be trained to sit (or leashed/crated), taken outside to do their business, and are easily found if they get loose. Cats need a litterbox (and aren’t trained the way dogs are) and snakes, insects, spiders and rodents can disappear into stuff if they get loose.

        1. Tamer of Dragonflies*

          Oh yeah, what kind and if any pets are brought to work should be up to the company. Now,I will admit that my spouse has a shadowbox in their cubicle that has a (naturally) deceased dragonfly on display and some coworkers were kind of squicky about it, but (1) It is not live.It’s an actual exoskeleton, but very much dead. And (2) It can only be seen if you walk behind their desk. Morbid, maybe, but is the biologist’s butterfly display hanging on the wall in their office any better?

        2. Not playing your game anymore*

          It’s even OK to say some dogs are OK, but not all. Barb’s elderly toy poodle who sleeps in a basket in her office all day vs. Kay’s rambunctious 9 month old Irish Setter and Cindy Schnauzer who is “vocal”. The poodle? You wouldn’t know he was there. You can’t miss the Irish and she’ll knock you flying without even trying. The schnauzer is “vocal” and, well when she wants a cookie everyone hears about it.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        ” It almost reminds me of a level of “fairness” you only find in geek social fallacies.”

        This. Bugs freak a fair number of people out. Get them out.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          I had to Google “geek social fallacies”, but it’s the “fairness” you also get in Greek myths. And you generally don’t want to emulate those in a workplace!

      4. mreasy*

        Yeah this isn’t usually how it works! For a more run-of-the-mill example, dog-friendly offices don’t generally allow cats, for example, because cats aren’t usually socialized to be in public.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      My rules of sensible office pets:
      – No terrariums, aquariums or cages, since those are just not practical to move back and forth every day. (Exception for animals that reside permanently at the office, like a desk fish.)
      -No litterboxes, since those are small enough to fit under a desk.small enough to fit under a desk.nasty.
      -Must not get stressed out by strange places and people.
      -Must get along socially with all the other pets in the office. Maybe not friends, but at least not fleeing in terror.
      -Must not be larger than a human.
      -Must be housebroken.
      -Must not eat the office, or otherwise chew or scratch it up.

      That leaves: pretty much dogs. And not even all dogs, just well behaved dogs.

      1. Elenna*

        Are terrariums, etc really that hard to transport if the owner has a car? I used to own a pair of finches as a kid, and their cage was light enough to pick up with one hand. I could easily have put it in the car (securely), and driven off to the office. Of course, that would have been a bad idea for multiple reasons, but the difficulty of transporting them was not one of those reasons. And it sounds like the insects’ cages are small enough to fit in a mailbox, i.e. definitely transportable.

        That being said, I’d add a couple things to your list:
        – Must not have any chance of escaping and being hard to find.
        – Must not cause stress, fear, or allergic reactions in any coworkers.

        So insects would be okay IF they were securely contained and IF all the coworkers were fine with them. That second one is a big if and can change at any time. (Also I have no idea if insects get stressed by new places or not.) So, nope, bad idea.

        1. Elenna*

          Also, as mentioned by some people below, “no chance of escaping” has to include stuff like “what if the terrarium gets knocked over/falls on the ground” and “what if someone accidentally leaves the lid ajar”. I highly doubt the bug-loving coworker has any protection against scenarios like that.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      yeah, this.

      I’m not a big fan of creepy-crawlies but the real divide here is that one pet required medical attention and the others didn’t. It doesn’t sound like this is an office where bringing pets is an established thing–it sounds like a generally no-pets office where a temporary exception was made for the emergency needs of a specific animal.

  12. Ari*

    OP 1, I don’t think it’s a double standard to not have venomous arachnids or other insects in the office. If they get out, it may cause problems in terms of bites or infestations. Given that the dog owner is bringing in their dog for it’s post op medical care and the insect owner is not, I don’t think they’re comparable situations.

    Just curious, is she leaving them there at night or bringing them home?

    Personally, as someone who has severe phobias of dogs, spiders, and insects, I would avoid your coworker’s office the second I learned about her keeping them there. I may also ask for an accommodation, if the panic attacks got so bad that it interfered with my work. I would also avoid the dog owner’s office, but at least a dog is easier to contain or spot from a distance than a spider.

    1. lyonite*

      Another reason it’s not a double standard is that if your workplace had someone with a phobia of dogs, they would totally be within their rights to bring that up too. Pets aren’t a protected class, so it’s up to individual workplaces to decide what is and isn’t workable, based on the people who share the space.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes – it would be more complicated if it were a working service animal, but pets at work are an entirely discretionary perk.

    2. tiny cactus*

      I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about bringing animals into shared workplaces anyway, because I suspect most people think their pets are better behaved than they really are, but I think it’s pretty reasonable to draw the line at venomous animals and/or animals that are likely to escape into the walls. I don’t want to have to rely on my coworker’s attention to detail to keep me from getting bitten by a black widow.

  13. Jay*

    What kind of job does OP #2 work at?
    In terms of places like retail or call centers (and many, many others), all employee actions are often strictly controlled. It’s the whole “We dehumanize our employees and pass the savings on to YOU!!!” thing. I’ve worked for companies and managers who literally complained to me (making $5.00-6.00 in the early 2000’s, no sick, holiday, or vacation time, either didn’t get overtime pay, or would be fired for “incompetency” or something if I tried to claim any) that they were being “brutally oppressed” by the government because they were forced to let me use the bathroom once a 12 hour shift.
    Those places would have absolutely approved of a manager policing the bathroom habits of his employees to make sure they were not “taking advantage” of anything they were not legally entitled to.
    If his managers heard about it, they would probably have promoted him for his “initiative”.
    It wouldn’t save any money, but then again it isn’t supposed to. The idea is to condition people to view themselves, their time, and their efforts as having little to no monetary value. Keeps them from asking for things like raises, promotions, workplace health and safety concessions, expensive things like that.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Gee, people who don’t use the bathroom as needed end up with health issues. So the company is actually increasing it’s costs for health insurance. This does not mention, the increased cost in having TWO people go potty at the same time when only ONE person is necessary for the task.

      It’s hard to deal with this much stupidity piled up in one place.

      1. Nephron*

        In the early 200os they would not have been offering insurance to the employees unable to go to the bathroom.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Few things infuriate me more than awful managers or business owners wailing that it’s ~government oppression~ to require them to treat their workers with basic decency.

      Especially since most US labor laws are poorly enforced and have laughably mild penalties. Like, it’s much cheaper for employers to pay the piddling fine than to actually operate legally. I’m proud that my state (Massachusetts) has one of the few exceptions: nonpayment of wages is a felony and you can go to prison for it.

  14. 10Isee*

    I used to work in an insect research lab. One of the neighboring labs was doing research on some sort of tropical cockroaches, and left a tank slightly ajar one night. I started working at the lab eight years later and the entire building was still infested with thousands of very large roaches. I still have nightmares about those things. A loose dog can be retrieved and removed much more simply than a lost insect.

    1. allathian*

      At the Natural History Museum in Helsinki there’s a colony of Chilean recluse spiders. They’re very venomous, a bite can kill. But they’ve been allowed to stay there since the 1960s or 70s because they don’t damage the exhibits or harm the public. They’re nocturnal so they stay hidden during the day, can survive for months without food and get rid of any insects that find their way into the museum and that could damage some exhibits…

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This! A secretary at a former workplace had one of those cool glow-in-the-dark ant farms. No one knew how it got knocked over, only that the extermination costs were not appreciated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a box of ladybugs, they are also invasive and can take over a building.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      My friend is doing her doctorate in entomology. One of the neighboring labs does bedbug research. Bedbugs+an overworked, slightly inattentive grad student with not enough sleep and they are still having issues to this day. Luckily she never brought them home, but has been bitten plenty in her lab by the neighbor’s bedbugs.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I actually gasped out loud when I read this! While I’d be a bit unsettled by the venomous critters, bedbugs inspire true terror in my heart.

  15. ATM*

    I wish I could have set up one of my tarantulas at my job. She was lovely to look at, and very calming for me – obviously I’m aware that this isn’t the case for everyone! The most I did was store some newly purchased Ts in my locker until I went home as it was too cold to leave them in my car.

    (This was pre-Covid and I’d taken some off at lunch to go to the expo, but I ran out of time to run them home before I had to be back at work – the next expo I just requested time off at the end of the day.) (They were in sealed tubes which were then in a paper bag, in a locked locker, and I told no one.)

    As much as I like spiders… you just don’t do that; not even just from a “be nice to your coworkers” POV, but from a “responsible pet ownership” POV. Is she taking them home on weekends? When are they getting fed? What if the power/heat goes out and she’s not there to get them to safety? What if someone intentionally kills them? What if something happens and they get accidentally killed? It’s just too risky.

    1. allathian*

      How often do tarantulas need food? I’m genuinely curious here, because many arachnids can go without food for a very long time, like months. This is also normal for them, they aren’t malnourished if they aren’t fed every day. But maybe tarantulas are different because of their size?

      Still, if you have a pet that you enjoy spending time with, why not make sure you can spend as much time as possible with them?

      1. ATM*

        I feed my Ts once a week, but it’s species+age+size-of-food dependant. You want to be careful because they get most of their moisture from food – I’ve seen my Ts drink from their water dish/from the side of the tank when I’ve sprayed it down, but still – and that moisture is actually what allows them to move around. They don’t have muscles, instead it’s more of a hydraulic system, so drying out from lack of food/moisture can be Very Bad for them.

        That being said, sometimes they just don’t eat, and you get to wonder if they’re in pre-molt, injured, sick, or Just Not Hungry Thank You.

        Right? If they were at least at her desk, that would make sense. It’d still not be okay, but it would make sense. Having them in her mailbox seems like a power move.

      2. Batgirl*

        I agree that it’s pretty weird to just go home and leave your pet at work though. I just assumed she was carting them back and forth. Even if the bugs don’t need food, they need someone looking out for them generally. Like, if they turn the heat off or do something else in the building when “no one is there”. They also need to be kept secure.

        1. ATM*

          Its totally possible! I’m admittedly projecting a bit; while mine could theoretically be toted back and forth every day, it would be annoying to do, just in terms of trying to juggle everything. It’s not that they’re heavy, but their tanks are bulky/unwieldy. And if she’s got multiple tanks at once… it just seems like it would be a pain in the ass to tote.

          1. Batgirl*

            It would be annoying, I agree and even if she is moving them back and forth she only has to forget them once. I think youre on to something.

          2. Elenna*

            I also assumed they were being carried back and forth every day (it sounds like the tanks are small enough to fit in a mailbox? Maybe they have big mailboxes.) If she’s just leaving them in the mailbox all day every day, then yeah, that would be super weird.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I was wondering how the bugs felt about going to work. I have had a few exotic pets in the past and none of them would have enjoyed traveling to work with me, never mind who’s taking care of them when I’m out of the office. They would have been happier to stay home.

      1. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

        I thought of this too. I’m much more familiar with reptiles, but since most spiders are potential prey in addition to predators, it seems likely that changes in environment and surroundings might be stressful and put them on the alert. Although I’m sure it varies. Some (not all) snakes seem to enjoy exploring new places, whereas I have some lizards who get upset if you even shift their cage furniture.
        Regardless, Alison’s point stands. Responsible keepers are aware of both the misconceptions and the true phobias and don’t force people into unexpected encounters.

        1. Quill*

          Yes, even mammals are a toss up about stress levels in unfamiliar places. Dogs (and not even all of them) are the major exception because we have leaned on them so hard about socializing for so many tens of thousands of years.

          Personally I could never have brought my dog into a place of business because he was the kind of attention hog who then became anxious from all the excitement and barked himself hoarse.

      2. ATM*

        I think it depends; is she putting them in new containers for work? Or just bringing their current containers to and from? If travel containers then yeah, but if she’s just bringing their “homes” to and from, I think the animals might be okay? For the animals wellbeing – not okay as okay to bring them to work. I know for mine, their habits are essentially their whole world, so they probably wouldn’t notice except in terms of new vibrations/new light heat, and that can happen at home.

        Still not okay, but less stressful for the animals IMO then with other exotics.

    3. BadWolf*

      I’d also be worried from the “responsible pet ownership” perspective and someone accidentally/intentionally doing something.

      All these comments also remind me of why I stopped telling people that I had pet rabbits (indoor, litter trained, pampered). People would thoughtlessly tell me what I called “dead rabbit” stories. Their dogs catching cottontails, the pet rabbit they got for Easter and let go outside, time for soup, etc, etc.

      1. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

        Solidarity! Didn’t realize people did that with rabbits too. After 35+ years of keeping reptiles, my theory is most pelikeople only have limited experience with unusual animals so they immediately think of their one “snake story” or “rabbit story.” Why they feel compelled to tell those stories I have never understood. Like you, my defense is to not talk about it much.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I don’t even keep reptiles (yet), I just like them, and people are still compelled to tell me all their horrible snake death stories. I don’t get it either.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          Absolutely! If you wouldn’t tell me about a dead cat, don’t tell me about a dead snake! Snakes are as precious to me as cats are! (And anyone who would tell me about a dead cat is a jerk. Double jerk points if they know my particular childhood trauma.)

      2. ATM*

        Yeah, when one of my coworkers found out I had tarantulas, he liked to tell me about how he’d like to set them on fire then flush them down the toilet.

        …I try to avoid talking to him.

      3. TTDH*

        OMG, so much. I used to have rabbits and folks were constantly telling me about hideous (and usually extremely preventable) things that had happened to their poor childhood buns….

    4. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, I’m in agreement with you. This is deeply irresponsible even before we get into the part where it’s also likely to be intentionally riling up the coworkers.

      …Can I see your calming tarantula?

      1. ATM*

        Sure! I’ll post a link in the next comment – I just wanted to let you know so that if it gets caught in moderation, I’m not ignoring you. ^_^

        Her name was Treacle; unfortunately she passed this last summer. :( She was my precious girl, and the one that I would take to show to kids for Science Engagement.

          1. ATM*

            She really was – some people overlook the G. porteris for being “bland” or mostly brown, but I loved her, and would 100% get another G. porteri, once it’s safe to have expos again.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      I’m laughing and cringing because one of my brothers somehow managed to catch one as a kid without getting bit because he thought it was harmless. Why would anyone bring a risky critter into work??

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My housemate did the same thing when he was a kid, also without realizing. (My basement is now home to a corn snake, a milk snake, a fancy ball python and a red tailed boa, and he’s planning for a tegu once the local reptile expos are a safe option again. We have agreed that anything venomous or with more than six legs is not acceptable at home, let alone at work.)

        1. Joielle*

          I’m so jealous of everyone in the comments who has snakes at home! I love snakes but my husband is terrified of them. So we just have more, uh, standard pets, and I live vicariously through other people’s exotic pets.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Housemate got (enthusiastic) clearance from his team first, then started regularly wearing his ball python (who is the most reasonably sized and tempered for casual around the house wearing*) for team meetings.

              *the red-tailed boa is about five and a half feet of solid muscle and heavy, plus he’s more inquisitive and requires much more strict attention when he’s out of his containment. The python is very laid back and basically just drapes himself on housemate like a four-foot scarf. The other two are still young and relatively small and dart-y, so they also need more focused attention when out.

              1. Tiny Soprano*

                A friend of mine used to work at a zoo where they had an office ball python. He was a rescue who was blind from a previous bad shed, and used to chill on my friend’s lap when she had to answer emails. Man I wish we could get ball pythons in Australia. Morelias get a bit big to be lap snakes and womas are hangry.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        My grand-boss caught a baby copperhead one day at work and brought it inside in a empty peanut butter jar. It was gorgeous.

        1. Clisby*

          I think snakes are beautiful, but it wouldn’t occur to me to keep one – especially a venomous one – at an office. Honestly, I’d be afraid someone who didn’t like snakes would sneak in when I wasn’t there and let it go outside.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            It didn’t stay. He just kept it for a few hours the day he caught it. I presume he returned it from whence it came, which in this case would indeed be outside. Or maybe he killed it. Dunno.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        I used to clean pools in Copperhead Country and I would just catch ’em with my bare hands. There’s a trick to it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible idea and it is a miracle that I did not die before highschool.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Taking the joke seriously here, copperheads have about a quarter mile of territory and they use the entirety of it. Not only are they dangerously venomous, but they are particularly ill-suited to captivity. Leave the copperheads in the wild.

      (They are absurdly gorgeous, though. If they were suited to captivity…)

  16. Venus*

    I feel like the only way that LW2’s situation makes any bit of sense is if the employees are working with the public (help desk, sales) and breaks can’t be taken randomly. Even then, it would be reasonable for the employees to get equal breaks of equal time, and it shouldn’t matter what they do. The boss is very controlling, and if this is a desk job with no need to be constantly available then there is something wrong.

  17. Observer*

    #2 – Fred is out of his mind. But why do you think you would have any reason to do the same thing to your staff? And if Fred is stupid enough to ask you to start following Jared, too, why would you even consider anything but a flat no?

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I don’t think that OP was saying that they want to do it too. They were saying I don’t follow my employees why would I do it for another manager.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, it’s clear that the OP doe NOT want to do it. But is seems like they think that they would be required to do it if they were asked to do so.

        If I’m reading that part correctly, it seems to me that this is the kind of situation where “No is a full sentence” applies in full force. But, at minimum, the OP should not feel like there is the least bit of obligation to agree to do it.

  18. MK*

    OP3, you don’t know a lot about her performance from any other side. You have glimpsed her performance through a stained glass window.

  19. Green great dragon*

    OP3 – I agree with everything Alison says (not surprisingly) but if possibly-fired person is no longer working at a company you audit, and you had a friendlyish relationship, a quick ‘love to keep in touch – coffee?’ seems fine to me.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Not even then – Alison correctly pointed out that because of the OP’s current employment, not the dismissed worker’s, she still needs to maintain professional distance from people who worked there because if anyone were to find out she’s friends with this person, OP’s audit findings would be called into question.

  20. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’d probably end up sending that person an email saying they can either have their pets in the building or me doing my work but not both. There’s no way I’m going into a building where someone has a pet boris and I can’t see a business or medical reason to have pet bugs in an office.

    (Severe arachnophobia is one of my phobias. As in terror response to a photo of one)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Way back in ancient times when I was in my 30s some joker at work, knowing of my phobia, changed my desktop wallpaper to a giant image of said thing. I found out that day that intense fear is another of my epilepsy triggers (other being loud repeating noises. Car alarms are especially bad).

        Goddess knows how I’d have reacted to a live one.

        I get that such an extreme phobia is unusual, as is having epilepsy triggered by it, but it’s of a thing I’d not normally expect to encounter in an office therefore it’s not something I’d ask about in interviews/of management etc.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            I really hope that joker learnt that phobias are not fodder for pranks?!

            All other things aside, it raises IT security issues. Why was he able to change your settings like that?

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          That’s just not funny.

          Shoot, I didn’t give much thought to my Halloween Day apparel one year when I was first working – and I do love Halloween. I’d accessorized with spider hairpins. I mean, at 10 foot they were realistic. Any closer than that and you could tell they were a dime store accessory. The speed with which those went into my purse was phenomenal after my boss saw me. She was severely frightened by all bugs/arachnids, and I just didn’t know. My hairpins caused her to toss her coffee when she threw her hands up in fright. I felt just awful. And yeah, I replaced her coffee.

          Someone pulling a prank based on a phobia? I have a name for that and it isn’t very nice. Pranks should be amusing to all parties.

  21. Jessie*

    Op 1, I have a severe fear of cockroaches. To the point of shaking and vomiting if I see one. I can’t imagine working in a place that has them on display.
    Op2: We had a boss in my old workplace who would follow people to the bathroom. One time one of her employees had a nosebleed in the middle of a meeting and she refused to let her go to the bathroom. When the bleeding became really bad, she only allowed her to go but only if she walked her there. Another time, an intern was so terrified of asking her if she can go to the bathroom, that she pretended that she has her period. So, the boss walked her all the way to the stall, and once there, she had to open her bag, get out a spare pad out and pretend to go inside to put it on. It’s insane and not a way to treat adults.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      What the? Did she think the staff would summon Cthulhu into the bogs if she didn’t keep an eye on them?

      Just..okay that is now officially in the top 10 weirdest situations I’ve heard of.

    2. 'Tis Me*

      So somebody was there with their face pouring blood and she was acting like she wanted to skive by going to *staunch the bleeding*?!! Beyond the whole “these are adults, please trust them” thing, what a horrible empathy fail!

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Power dynamics. The kind of boss who follows you into the bathroom is for sure the kind of boss who would make your work life living hell up to and including firing you if you disobeyed them. It takes a specific personality to push through those levels of power dynamics, and while I personally would have been “F it, I’m going to the bathroom to stop the blood pouring from my nose and Cordelia can get my blood on her if she tries to stop me” I can understand how another person would not feel like they could do that.

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

      This is super controlling and abusive…and it could be a hostile work environment because the menstrual bit is gender specific

  22. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1: Hell yes I have a double standard about not bringing COCKROACHES to WORK. Honestly I don’t care if it’s unfair or a double standard or whatever. They’re roaches. Absolutely not. No. Same goes for spiders or whatever other creatures she’s dug up. If most people’s first reaction to seeing one unexpectedly would be to call an exterminator, don’t bring them to work. How hard is that?

    Also, cubbies/mailboxes are usually in some kind of communal area, right? No matter how much this woman wants to show off her collection I think it’s *unbelievably* inconsiderate to put them somewhere where other people have to see them whenever they walk by. The number of people who think that these things are cute and adorable or whatever is vastly outweighed by the number of people who think that they are vermin. I truly cannot understand the thought process of anyone who thinks they have the right to “show off” their cockroach collection to a captive audience.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Also, I feel deeply, deeply sorry for whatever poor postman or receptionist or whoever that has to put mail in these mailboxes without knocking over Bug Lady’s daily display of her favourite maggots or whatever.

      1. Quill*

        I’m imagining my fifth grade teacher’s ambassador hissing cockroaches but not contained, and hissing at me as I try to sort mail…

        Being in such a public place as the mailboxes can’t be good for the critters either, unlike the dog, who post-surgery is probably zonked on a pillow next to somebody’s desk.

  23. Mookie*

    re LW 3

    The blanket rule Alison advises with respect to anyone you’re auditing or likely to audit is, to me anyway, incredibly firm and without exception.

    As for the one woman whose present whereabouts, workwise, are unknown, the notion of a reference is equally fraught and inadvisable, but if you genuinely think you had a mutual social connection when dealing with her professionally, I really don’t see the harm, error, or conflict in casually reaching out once as a purely social overture, and depending on where she’s ended up (like another company you audit but where’d the two of you would never interact professionally in future) shop talk should be off the table. And that’s provided only if you already have her private contact information, rather than using her old work number or email or cold-contacting her through social media she never explicitly shared with you. Trying to track her down by those means seems boundary-crossing to me.

    I may be wrong about the etiquette and ethics of this. I understand the need to find adult friends.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      It’s not just you; independence is codified in audit ethics standards. It’s the first thing you’d learn about auditing in any accounting or business program. The fact that this person is even asking the question is concerning.

      1. LizABit*

        As a CPA with many years of audit experience, I was coming here to say the same thing, especially your last sentence.

        OP, the need to remain independent (and, hence, sometimes lonely) to ensure the integrity and reliability of your audit findings is a crucial part of being an auditor. “Friendly, not friends” is definitely at play here. If you need more social interaction at work and have an audit-adjacent (such as accounting or finance) background, maybe auditing isn’t for you? I don’t intend this to sound harsh; it’s just the reality of being an auditor.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Adding, some jobs lead to isolation because of ethics. Judges have this problem, they have a whole list of people they cannot see/do things with. And they cannot go to certain types of gatherings. If they break these rules they can end up having a visit with an ethics committee.

      Auditors are another group of people, who have to be super careful in their personal lives as well as at work.

      1. Grits McGee*

        I keep getting reminded of the case of Rita Crundwell, who embezzled over 50 million dollars from the town of Dixon, Illinois. In the investigation it came out that Crundwell had ingratiated herself with the firm contracted to audit Dixon’s books, and that opened the firm up to major criticism and legal liability (in addition to just doing such a bad job auditing that they didn’t find a 22 year-long embezzlement scheme).

  24. Coffee Cup*

    Honestly, if someone brought cockroaches *shudders* into my office, I would be at my doctor’s office within the hour getting a note on how phobic I am. This entire post is making me itch and twitch.

  25. Boof*

    OP2 – this situation sounds just weird enough that I’m not sure what is going on? If it’s clear that If Fred follows Jared around that is pretty weird!
    I was just a little confused on who is saying the manager (Fred) is following Jared, if it was based on a onetime comment from fred, or just jared asking around though.
    I know there are some weird way overbearing managers out there, but there are also way weird everyones out there, and unless you know firsthand that fred is indeed following jared, and/or it seems like the sort of thing Fred might do because Fred’s just that overbearing in many other ways, it seems possible any number of other things is going on (ie, fred was worried about some kind of thieving or other inappropriate activity so was keeping a close eye on jared, or fred is doing nothing and jared is reading way too much into some small coincidences). The situation is just odd enough I’d want some kind of verification of what is going on or else just not get directly involved.

    1. EPLawyer*

      When is Fred doing his job if he is following Jared all the time to make sure he is where he said he would be?

      If I were Jared I would suspect spies too. You get a boss following you everywhere — without talking to you about what the real problem is — you start to wonder if he has enlisted other people to watch you.

  26. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Re: OP2…

    I have two questions:

    Does Jared have a medical condition that sends him to the bathroom “unusually often”? If that is the case, AND if the company is aware of that, then the Americans with Disabilities Act might come into play.

    Doesn’t Fred have better things to do than micromanage one employee’s bathroom use? If Fred is following ONLY Jared (and nobody else), to the point of ignoring his own duties, then Fred’s boss might want to know about that.

  27. MN Auditor*

    #3 – so, I don’t know how you ended up doing auditing, as a fair number of auditors that are in the position you describe don’t have an accounting background, but for the last half year of undergrad and the totality of my masters, was focused on auditing. Now I bring that up because independence is something drilled into us during that time. Independence in fact and independence in appearance are both crucial to being considered an unbiased auditor who’s opinion and reputation is worth anything.

    I don’t know you, so you may be perfectly capable of maintaining independence in fact, which is all about how you think, when auditing your drinking buddies But I know, and so do you or you wouldn’t be writing in to an advice column about this, that maintaining friendships outside of work with those you currently audit would impair your independence in appearance, which is how others perceive your independence. At the very least you’re going to be limiting your opportunities for future advancement as people will question your judgement.

    This is not to say you can’t be friendly, because that is how you actually get support or information from auditees without pulling teeth, but there is a line.

    All in all, this reminds me of a case study I had to do in college about how an auditor found out an old friend at an audit client was committing fraud and had to turn him in. The name of the case study? “If you need love, get a puppy”.

    1. Auditor OP*

      Just to clarify, I am a quality auditor, not a finance auditor. It’s not something you go to school for but rather a cert you get later on, and the relationships are a little more friendly because a big part of the job is helping these suppliers improve their quality – kind of like a mentor.

      That said, message received. I wrote the question because I was very on the fence about it and it’s good to get to stop wondering if I was needlessly throwing away a friendship.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I’ve participated in quality audits on suppliers myself. I don’t know about your field, but in mine, they’re pretty informal, and mostly about finding opportunities for improvement rather than finding reasons to fire a supplier. I often already knew the people at the supplier through my other job duties, and we often had a friendly relationship. I’m a little bit surprised by all the comments treating this like a financial audit kind of situation where you really would need to keep a distance from people you might be involved in the firing or criminal prosecution of.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This quote is why:

          But the power dynamics are tough. The interaction when I show up to audit them more closely resembles a deposition of the opposing side. Anything negative I uncover could result in them losing us as a customer, or even getting in trouble with the government if it’s bad enough.

          No, OP isn’t a financial auditor, but her findings can have serious repercussions for her supplier, up to, I’m assuming, being fined by the government. If she becomes friends with the fired employee in her current capacity as an auditor and she uncovers mistakes (or something illegal) during her next audit that were caused by said employee, will she be okay to report it? Will she cover it up so as not to bring any additional blowback to her new friend? OP has to think about perceptions and how this might look to people higher up in her company.

      2. LizABit*

        When I was an internal auditor (I’m a CPA), I didn’t just audit financial segments of the business but also operational processes, vendor relationships, quality control, etc. The independence rules still applied.

      3. yams*

        I manage vendors and depend a lot on what the quality audits reveal so I can decide who I can do business and what kind of projects can be done by every vendor. If I found out that a quality auditor was friends with the staff over at a vendor they’d audited I’d definitely–at the very, very least–would have to audit the vendor myself to acertain their findinds, and I would without a doubt report it to both my boss and the quality director. It would get messy, very fast and may end up with you being fired or at least with a warning from HR. Even if my audit–and the subsequent audit from the quality staff–doesn’t reveal any impropiety, just the fact that it looked like there may be favoritism in play could have consequences.
        Don’t get me wrong, I understand the impulse to feel like people over at vendors can be your friends. They are always so friendly, but that’s because their job is literally not to piss you off by being rude. It royally sucks. But you really need to, as others have said, be friendly but not a friend. From your description it sounds like you spend more time talking to the vendors than any actual coworkers, and I truly do understand how sucky it is but because of the nature of the work we really can’t befriend vendors.

      4. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I just did an audit over the quality audit function of my company (yes, auditor auditing the auditor. it’s interesting.) I expect to see an awareness of independence concerns. Yeah, it’s less stringent than an external auditor’s independence and ethics guidelines, but it’s still a thing.

    1. Allonge*

      It’s an excellent word! I have recently read an analysis for this: it’s a good word because it expresses ‘I really find the thing Not Good for me’ without implying that anyone who likes ‘thing’ is wrong for liking it. Nuance!

  28. Amethystmoon*

    Lw 2: It is possible that someone might have social anxiety over eating in public and not want to tell the truth about it. I had a very fat-phobic mother even though I was average weight as a kid, and to this day do not like eating in public. Also had a job where I had an apparently fat-phobic coworker. Once when I took a break and said I was taking a break, and went deliberately to sit at the other end of the building to have a snack, he followed me there and said out loud “I am not following you.” Just so I knew he was there to judge me. Yeah right. I never said anything about him following me either. This was in an office, not retail.

  29. Smithy*

    LW5 I think taking the time to really think about the dynamics of your larger office here would matter. I’ve worked on small teams where gift giving up/down/sideways was almost entirely unnoticed by anyone else on other teams.

    In my last team however, the structure was such that there were lots of managers/direct reports of different levels of seniority in an open office plan. No one received gifts in a discrete way, and ahead of Christmas – while no one was told to give gifts, the assorted gift giving upwards and sideways showed very distinct markers of who was better connected. When my direct report gave me a gift, it really bummed me out because there was no genuine way to say it wasn’t necessary when she could clearly see all of her direct reports giving similar gifts.

  30. Apocalypse How*

    Before LW1 said the bug-owning employee was a woman, I thought the company had hired Dale Gribble to be their VP of Human Resources.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      Is there any chance that Letter 2 could include an element of sexual harassment? Coz if I was a guy needing to use the bathroom and noticed somebody repeatedly following me and watching me use the urinal I would probably feel at least a bit uncomfortable. And potentially go to a different location if this guy was yet again following me – I don’t know if this is because my perspective is that of a woman, but if somebody was following me into what should be a reasonably private space with locking doors and watching me perform a private act of self-care I would worry about escalation.

      The guy is evidently starting to feel targeted and a bit paranoid as a result, hence asking if this is just what the guy does. I think a bit more compassion than telling him to cut it out is appropriate here.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yep! Some of them are absolutely gorgeous. Many are dressed in bright colors, or iridescent shimmer, or striking patterns. Others are shaped in strange and wonderful ways. A lot of the spiders, in particular, have slim graceful clean lines like a well made sword or a suit of futuristic armor. (Google banana spider.) Others are fuzzy, chunky and adorable. (Google jumping spider.)

      It’s not so much that we are biologically programmed to not like them, as we are taught from babyhood which bugs are or aren’t ok. We are taught that butterflies are beautiful, caterpillars are cute, and ladybugs are sweet, but that pretty much every other insect and arachnid is frightening and/or gross. One of the little things that makes me really appreciate my upbringing is that my parents taught me to love and appreciate bugs.

      It’s not even logical. Ladybugs are pretty, but they are also deadly ferocious predators. Why should they be admired but assassin bugs, which are every bit as gorgeous but in a monochrome epic way, be “oooh scary kill it?” Or, if assassin bugs are too weird, what about preying mantises? Butterflies are absolutely 100% beautiful, but as caterpillars they do a lot of damage to gardens and crops. If my mother isn’t extremely careful, those cute fluttery little white cabbage moths will absolutely destroy her broccoli. Why should we hate perfectly harmless, even beneficial, insects, but love ones that ruin a lot of hard work?

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Also Google peacock spiders because they are freaking adorable.

        I am also the person who found a giant (invasive) mantis at work, caught it, brought it home and put it in a terrarium. And I want a jumping spood very badly.

        I was also raised to have respect for creepy critters, rather than fear. My uncle would bring home cool bugs (like a huge walking stick), or let me pet snakes he found, or lizards, etc….. much to the consternation of my grandmother, who I brought baby garter snakes to after I found them in the garden at the age of about 4.

        Nearly everything has a purpose in this ecosystem. You don’t have to *like* bugs, but at least appreciate the very, very important roles they play to keep us all going.

        1. Quill*

          My mom did an admirable job of preventing her fear of snakes from being passed on… so now my brother catches them for field study. So the last time I saw my family I was the snake handler while he photographed them and mom pretended she had never seen us before in her life.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            My uncle and grandpa once distracted my grandma at a zoo long enough to get me up front to get a picture holding the head of a giant anaconda (I think I was about 5 or 6). Grandma realized when she came back from snack-foraging and they weren’t in their seats.

            It really is a nurture thing as well. I have a family friend who inadvertently taught their kids to be terrified of dogs, simply because they freaked out at dogs. Took their kids a long time to unlearn that.

            (Not to say that any of the exotic pet keeping should be done at work, and especially not in a public space for the vast majority of offices! But there’s some value in knowing that no, evolutionarily, we are not built to immediately Fear All Creepy Crawlies, and a lot of it imo is due to learning a fear as children for a lot of people.)

          2. KoiFeeder*

            My dad began the work of ensuring that I didn’t end up with a snake phobia at age three, when he found a dekay’s in the woodpile that winter and brought me out to admire it.

            I promptly smuggled the little guy inside and put him in my dollhouse.

            1. Quill*

              We kept bugs and amphibians my entire childhood, but my mom drew the line at snakes, our only local reptile. Which is probably for the best given that she didn’t want to deal with freezer mice.

      2. Kaiko*

        I have a spider phobia and for me personally, I know I will often react before I know what I’m reacting to: the time I threw the newspaper across the room because of a headline about a spider colony; the time I threw my phone [!!] into traffic because of a tarantula video autoload. In both cases, I had to go back and figure out what had set me off, because my nervous system reacted before my consciousness did. This wasn’t a “taught” response, but something that has happened my whole life. Who knows!

        1. Reba*

          Responding to Kaiko and Elspeth, I mean, it’s definitely both nature AND nurture, right?

          Elspeth is not wrong that children’s books like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” are classics that make some insects cute and friendly. But on the other hand, insect and spider phobias are some of the most common phobias! Many kinds of phobias and disgust responses make some sense in evolutionary terms given, you know, venom.

          (As a contrasting example, many people also have a phobia of dogs. Some have a past trauma, but for some it’s a true phobia with no antecedent experience. I’m pretty sure parents and child-rearing culture are not teaching children to be afraid of or disgusted by dogs! Clifford, Blue’s clues, etc. etc.)

          I also think that many unusual critters are beautiful and wonderful, but one has to acknowledge that that perspective is kind of exceptional and lots of folks won’t feel that way — and it’s not merely that they are ignorant. (That’s not to say that ecological education is not badly needed!)

          I’d also note that there is a big difference between seeing an insect out in its ecosystem or in a zoo, and seeing it in my office.

          1. Jessica*

            We’re definitely not teaching kids to be afraid of dogs ENOUGH! that is, I don’t want them to be really afraid, just respectfully cautious. We should be teaching kids that dogs have different temperaments, they’re all capable of harm and some are more dangerous than others, every dog is not your beloved pet, having a blind “oh a doggie, I will run up and pet it!” reaction could put you in harm’s way, if the dog has a person you should consult them first, and if it’s on the loose you should be cautious.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I love bugs (or at least find them super interesting) and never kill them. Especially spiders! Never kill spiders they eat all the bugs. Fortunately mosquitoes mostly ignore me.
      Though I love them, I don’t think they belong at work for all the reasons everyone has already said.

    4. Quill*

      Evolutionary psychology is a mixed bag. Essentially: variations on automatic brain responses that don’t reliably kill you before reproduction, or give you such an advantage that people without them don’t stand a good chance at reproducing, will always persist in some portion of the population.

      And humans are a social species: it’s probably more useful to have some members of a group with a fear of spiders (more likely to avoid venomous bites) and some with no fear of spiders (they’re potential bug snacks) rather than putting all of the community’s eggs in one evolutionary basket.

      Personally, I’m fond of most bugs, but it definitely had to be trained into me for some of them. Mostly the ones that you see moving fast out of the corner of your eye.

    5. Tiny Soprano*

      I am absolutely that person who deliberately studies outdoors in order to have the maximum number of little arachnids and tiny garden skinks stop by for chats.
      I also name every huntsman spider that comes into my house and every praying mantis I meet.
      While arachnophobia and entomophobia are very common and do have an evolutionary basis, not everyone is squicked out by creepy-crawlies.

  31. I'm just here for the cats*

    Wow! Right off the bat with the first to letters being really weird and slightly disturbing.
    1. As someone who is really afraid of spiders and cockroaches please shut this down immediately! Can you imagine being a new employee and on your first day you walk into the mailroom and see tarantulas! Also, what happens if the roaches got out? Guess what, you’ve got to get an exterminator. Plus the employee started doing this before the dog. This is just not ok.
    2. What the actual? Following to make sure he goes into the bathroom. Not ok! What if Jared grabs a cup of coffee or a snack on the way back from the bathroom? Is that against the rules now. This shouldn’t be a problem. The only thing I could think of is if Jared is in a role where he has to be at desk (like answering phones) and has some sort of medical documentation that he needs extra time to be able to use the bathroom and Fred thinks he is misusing this.

  32. 'Tis Me*

    Hopefully as a new post now: Is there any chance that Letter 2 could include an element of sexual harassment? Coz if I was a guy needing to use the bathroom and noticed somebody repeatedly following me and watching me use the urinal I would probably feel at least a bit uncomfortable. And potentially go to a different location if this guy was yet again following me – I don’t know if this is because my perspective is that of a woman, but if somebody was following me into what should be a reasonably private space with locking doors and watching me perform a private act of self-care I would worry about escalation.

    The guy is evidently starting to feel targeted and a bit paranoid as a result, hence asking if this is just what the guy does. I think a bit more compassion than telling him to cut it out is appropriate here. (He shouldn’t be asking because he shouldn’t have any reason to ask.)

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      It doesn’t sound like the boss is following him into the bathroom. Just following him to the bathroom.

    2. Anax*

      That was my immediate thought too! Even if Fred isn’t entering the bathroom, this seems like a prurient level of interest in someone else’s genitals. Honestly, I’d be afraid Fred is, er… listening to the urination even from outside the bathroom, or just imagining it, and enjoying that in a prurient way.

      I think that’s particularly highlighted if we imagine Jared were a woman – a man following a woman to the restroom and lurking just outside the door while she does her business, and getting angry if she doesn’t actually relieve herself, sounds… real questionable, right? That’s not relieved by Jared being male, of course, but I think the sexual harassment potential might be less immediately obvious with two men.

  33. Phony Genius*

    On #1, I think that the dog situation is temporary until it has recovered should be part of the conversation.

    Also, should any of the bugs get out and be discovered by the dog, Alison may find herself having to write advice for what to do when one coworker’s pet eats another.

    1. Elenna*

      Honestly, if there’s a chance of any of the bugs getting out, that should be a reason to say no in itself, IMO. I personally am completely fine with bugs and would probably think the terrarium was interesting, but nobody wants roaches to get out and make hundreds of other roaches. At least spiders eat other bugs, but still. Unlike the dog, if insects leave where they’re put there’s basically no way of finding them again.

  34. StressedButOkay*

    OP #1, I have a lot of questions/concerns but the one is…where do they expect their mail to be put if their exotic pet is living(??) in their mailbox? Someone is straight up going to yeet their mail/papers at them instead of trying to deal with bugs in a terrarium…

  35. Veryanon*

    The bug letter: OMG. I am not a fan of pets in the workplace, even though I like dogs and have two of my own. But venomous spiders and cockroaches?!?!?! Oh no.
    I once had an employee who brought her pet bird (in a cage) to work. I think it was a parrot or some kind of larger bird that makes a lot of noise, and it was extremely distracting for everyone. Plus, frankly, birds pee and poo in their cages, and it doesn’t smell great. The employee was very offended when I told her she couldn’t bring the bird to work anymore, and ended up quitting.
    I used to work in HR for a large retailer (that is now out of business) and we received a report of one of our store employees bringing her cat to work (in the store!) and allowing it to roam free in the store. We shut that down pretty quickly, since it was against the mall rules and also a violation of the health code.
    People can be very weird about their pets.

    1. Mel_05*

      Oh birds. I used to think they’d make lovely pets and then I had a roommate with a pair of Cockatiels – dirty and noisy. Not something I’d want in the office.

  36. CatPerson*

    I am terrified of snakes. I can’t even look at a photo of one. My husband pre-screens nature publications such as Audubon and places post-its over any photos. If someone brought a snake in a terrarium into work, I would run screaming from the area and refuse to re-enter it. I know some people feel the same way about spiders. Case closed!

  37. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #3 – I’m an auditor and have been one for 15ish years. It’s perfectly fine to be friendly with the people you’re auditing – say hi, ask how their weekend was, etc. Gifts, frequent lunches, social events outside of the work hours are going to quickly raise eyebrows and lead to questions about your integrity and work. In some environments, it could jeopardize your job.

    Make friends with people you don’t audit.

  38. Hell in a Handbasket*

    “…to verify whether or not they are going to the restroom when they say they are.”
    I feel like maybe the issues in this office extend beyond Fred. When someone stands up from their desk they’re expected to announce where they’re going? Do they have to get a hall pass or something?

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, that sounds like grade school. And even there, teachers don’t follow the kids to the bathroom.

  39. Becky S*

    To #5, what sort of gift…. The most treasured things I’ve been given, at work, or at home, have been notes telling me how I helped someone, what I meant to them, what a difference I made. By the time I retired I had a folder full of them. I considered myself an average to slightly above average employee but did my best. To hear that I made a difference….. that is priceless. As others here said, it doesn’t have to be great literature, just make it from your heart. They’ll keep that note for a long time!
    Good Luck!

  40. No SoCal*

    Lw3 – you can be friendly and kind, but these are not friendship relationships you can pursue. These are work relationships, and should be maintained as such. You just don’t know if you move into a different role at your organization or another, where creating a friendship could cause a huge issue. I get it – I’ve worked an audit most of my career, and there’s been tons of people I think are awesome. Note – this doesn’t prevent you from having a meal or a drink with someone when you’re at a conference where you’re all there or sitting with them at lunch – obviously in days after this pandemic ends.

  41. Pigeon*

    Regarding LW1, I’m going to be blunt… I don’t like dogs and I have a mild fear of them, and it’s never made a damn bit of difference to any dog owner or other pro-dog person. If I raised a concern that a dog in the office was making me uncomfortable, it would be immediately reframed as ME being the problem, not the dog, as if it’s more important for the dog to be present than myself, an employee. This has been true every single place I’ve worked. Dog people are not at home to the idea that anyone might not want to be around their beloved friend. So can we please not pretend that workplace reactions would be anywhere in the vicinity of neutral regarding dogs vs. any other kind of pet? Let alone with spiders and insects– try going to a dog-friendly workplace and asking to bring your cat.

    That said, bringing a venomous creature to the office is a clear liability and obvious bad judgment.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      Thanks for your comment, and very sorry to hear what you have experienced.

      As some who has loved and lived with dogs (and still misses her good boi Jack), I have to say: I would never and have never brought a dog to work, even during a very long convalescence, and do not understand why so many dog owners think having their dog at work is a good thing. Yes, I get pack dynamics, socialization, separation anxiety, etc. but far too many dog-loving humans don’t seem to realize that they are supposed to train their animals to stay where told, leave people alone, etc. And the lack of regular baths for most dogs ensures that they are gross, smelly creatures. Again, not the dogs’ fault. Sure, all mammals smell. But we shouldn’t have to put up with stinky and/or misbehaving animals in a workplace because a co-worker, boss, etc. thinks everyone should love the animals they love.

    2. Sleepy*

      Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of dogs, and while it doesn’t rise to the level of a phobia, I don’t enjoy being around them at work when they jump on me, bark, and pee on the carpet. A well-trained, calm dog wouldn’t bother much, but it feels like those aren’t the dogs people bring to my office are not the well-trained ones. I never said anything because I knew I would be seen as the unreasonable one.

    3. Sarah*

      Was scrolling through the comments feeling like I was way off-base for having similar thoughts. People are afraid of dogs for various reasons, are allergic to them, or just find them disruptive in the workplace. There is nothing inherently superior about a dog vs. bugs, one type of pet is just far more socially acceptable. Bug phobias being “common” doesn’t change my opinion here–if anything, since as you said it’s “weird” to be afraid of dogs, it’s arguably harder for the person with the dog phobia (since they very well may not want to tell others about it). Also, let’s be honest–the risk of a dog bite incident in the office is significantly higher than that of a spider bite (spider managing to get out of the enclosure and be aggravated enough to bite). Finally, poop.
      Basically, I think either is not OK unless there is a specific policy in place and employees have been made aware of what’s allowed and given the opportunity to express concerns. Basically, no one should assume it’s OK to bring any animal into the workplace, but that doesn’t occur to many dog owners. It’s an entitled attitude. Guess I’m a stick in the mud.
      (For the record, I own a dog and a cat–no bugs, but do generally find them interesting, after having a strong fear of spiders for years.)

      1. Observer*

        I think that dog free workplaces make sense, but there really *IS* a difference between a (well behaved) dog at work and bugs, especially venomous ones.

        That said, Allison has always been very clear that the needs of the actual humans who work in the workplace trump the desire to have a dog around. And that even in a dog friendly workplace, employers and managers need to be REALLY clear about what constitutes acceptable dog behavior and be willing to bring down the hammer on any dog that misbehaves.

        If a dog is well behaved, and the owner is around at all times, the chances of a bite incident are really, really low – well trained and behaved dogs do NOT bite easily and the owner should be able to stop the kind of abusive behavior that would normally prompt a bite before that happens.

        Also, why poop? A house broken dog is not pooping in the office.

        1. Researcher*

          Yep – you’re right about venomous vs. non-venomous, trained and non-trained animals carrying different risk.I think the spirit of Sarah’s comment was simply about the added risk to employees of having any animal on-site. Generally speaking, employers air on the side of mitigating unnecessary risks to employees.

          This may be an oversimplification, but I think pet-friendly workplaces have embraced a level of casual that just doesn’t exist at most workplaces yet. Animals (other than service animals) are still considered unnecessary and non-essential, and therefore any harm that may result from having them on-site is preventable.

          The workplaces are probably casual in other ways too, like with dress code. If I’m wearing my business formal or business casual, I don’t appreciate animals being around. I have a dog, and the first thing I do when I get home is change clothes.

          1. Sarah*

            I replied below, but in my case my company is incredibly casual and our core customer demographic is heavily weighted to dog owners. Even so, we never allowed dogs in our offices. We did have an on-campus dog daycare/dog run kind of setup available to employees (in the days we went to the office). So even really casual, “fun” companies can still be considerate of the needs of all employees. :-)

    4. Researcher*

      Echoing this and the comments above. I simply do not understand the bring-your-pet-to-work culture. I can appreciate that there’s a benefit to not having to find daytime care for the animal, but like the many workplaces that offer on-site child care, the children are not located in the same space that the work is occurring. There’s a separate child care space. I could support a separate dog run/pet care space, that would be cool. But in the same spaces where people are trying to work? I don’t get it.

      This strikes me as a cleanliness/infection control issue. Doesn’t matter the animal. I know how I care for my animal, but I don’t know how other owners tend to their pets.

      In fact, the employee that OP1 references whose dog is in the office due to an extenuating circumstance, is the only situation in which this makes sense to me. Because it’s an extenuating circumstance.

      1. Ari*

        To your point about day time pet care – do people not crate/pen train their dogs? Most dog owners I’ve known do this and the dogs respond well to it. No need for day time care. Is this not the norm? I have a phobia of dogs, so I’m not too familiar with proper dog care practices.

        1. Researcher*

          In my experience, this varies. The pet may be crate/pen trained, but how comfortable the owner is with leaving them in the crate/pen all day depends on how many hours the owner is away from home, the size of the dog (small dogs can move about in the pen whereas larger dogs may not be able to), the desire to clean up a pee pad if the dog needs to relieve themselves, etc.

          The options for owners who don’t like to leave their dogs crated range from coming home at lunch to let it out yourself, paying someone to come walk it, or dropping it off at a full-service care facility.

      2. Sarah*

        Yes. I work for a *very* casual company filled with dog owners, and when we were in the office the policy was still no dogs allowed, out of respect for the health and safety of all employees. That said, we did have an on-site dog daycare/run available. That’s the “right” way to do it, IMO.

  42. Quill*

    LW1: Alison is right in every particular but do NOT mention the venomous spider unless you can confirm that it is actually a venomous spider. People, overall, are not good at IDing bugs, and if you take the track of “we can’t have a black widow in the building because venom” you risk getting stuck in a loop of “actually this is a false widow, they’re not venomous but look very much like black widows” and other technicalities.

    It should be sufficient that the dog needs care and you have workers for whom the bugs present a problem in the workplace, presumably if the spiders needed care and you had a cynophobic coworker the situation would be reversed.

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      I think you may be my people. I didn’t know about false widows until a co-worker directed me to one in his office that looked like a black widow but didn’t look like a black widow either. The Burke Museum in Seattle helped me ID it. There aren’t a lot of people around, and certainly no good printed field guides for identifying most creepy crawlies.

      1. Quill*

        I’m a casual bug ID’er at best when it comes to anything but bees and butterflies, but I’m fond of the things.
        I really need to use iNaturalist more.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      Yes – don’t get stuck in the identification loop.

      Signed as someone who somehow gets looped into every “but what is THIS” insect/reptile/amphibian/bird conversation, and who has had to give the talk of “do not touch that ant, I don’t care if it’s fuzzy, it’s actually a flightless wasp and it’s called the cow killer for a reason, yes I know it looks like a teddy bear QUIT TRYING TO PICK IT UP.” And the “no, that’s not a kissing bug, those don’t even go this far north, that’s a western conifer seed bug, just like the last 12 times you’ve asked, I don’t care what you think you Google’d.” And the “no, that’s not a brown recluse, that’s a crane fly, spiders don’t have wings, yes, I’m sure, no, you aren’t going to die by looking at it.”

      1. KoiFeeder*

        You are far nicer than me, because my policy with picking up non-fatal insects is “fuck around and find out” and I would’ve let them touch the cow killer.

        Also, the cranefly story is too real. People really don’t know what anything is.

        1. Quill*

          I mean, I very nearly touched the cow killer last time I was out west, but it was an accident. And then I was like “wait, fuzzy means it’s basically a small porcupine”

  43. violet04*

    #4 – My dad passed away a couple of weeks ago. For me, it would have been fine if you acknowledged it at the start of the email and then went on to the business portion. Some things are going to slip on my end, but I understand that there are due dates and I’ll do my best to honor that. I’m not going to be mad at you for doing your job.

  44. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Given some of the violent and disturbing comments people posted here regarding their reaction towards insects…if your phobia is that bad, please get therapy to deal with it so you are not a hazard to yourself and others.

    1. Lunar Caustic*

      Phobias are a case where the therapy can be more traumatizing than the condition itself and can exacerbate the condition rather than curing it. Please do not assume you know how to handle a condition that you don’t have better than those who have it.

    2. Scarlet2*

      So people not liking giant cockroaches and spiders at the office are a “hazard to themselves and others”? How so? Amazingly enough, I’m going about my arachnophobic life just fine as long as someone doesn’t bring their pet tarantulas to work. Does that make me “abnormal” and “in need of therapy”?

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      No, but it did remind me I haven’t seen the resident tiny window spood in a while. Probably in a plant hiding.

    2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I freely admit that I am a weirdo who loves bugs, snakes, lizards, and other pets that are a little weird.

      Still not okay with insectoid pets at work though. That’s a no.

  45. Thursdaysgeek*

    For #1 – Years ago I accepted a job and was shown my office my first day. It was a large room, near a back door that didn’t quite close, and there was a black widow in the corner above my desk, and another in the upper corner opposite. Fine, I can do this – I’ve had black widows as pets when I was a kid.

    It wasn’t fine when the black widow above my desk disappeared. I got all itchy. As soon as it showed up again, I got a jar, and both spiders were contained. I was at that job for about 7 years, and had pet black widows the entire time, although never more than one for very long. Co-workers would bring me the bugs they found in their office (or ask me to come get them). I’d name the spiders after the person who provided them.

    I’m not sure everyone was happy about the bugs, especially when they shared an office with me. But we had them anyway, whether they were in a jar or not, and I much prefer them contained.

    Also, I’ve never had a black widow escape. They are not escape artists, if you know the right kind of jar to use.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, I had one living in my high school locker which she could easily have left, and she just stayed there. Black widows just want a little water, a little snack, and a nice corner and they’re happy.

  46. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    #5 – I had a wonderful boss and her favorite gift from me was when I gave her a 6 pack of the tuna she always ate for lunch and a bag of her favorite candy. She found it hilarious and loved it, especially when I told her the story of how our coworker caught me taking a photo of her trash to make sure I got the right brand of tuna.

      1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        Sadly former, she and many others were laid off this year. We still keep in touch though, best boss and mentor I ever had. She also got nice handwritten notes from me, usually sappy ones that made her cry. I once just wrote “thanks for putting up with my sh*t” though, and she might have liked that one more since it made her laugh.

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

      Roommates in college did something similar for me for my birthday one year — 6-pack of diet coke and a large pink frosted sugar cookie from the 7-11 next door, complete with a bow. It was an awesome b-day present because it was completely unexpected, and something they knew I would like; and it came without any side-helping of what they thought I SHOULD like or a clear indication that they were actually buying what they would like for themselves instead in the hopes I would just give it over eventually…

  47. Robin Ellacott*

    Re the spiders and roaches in the office… I have to assume this person wants to elicit some kind of reaction. Everyone knows that roaches and venomous spiders will upset a good percentage of people.

    I like bugs too, but in the workplace that just translates to people asking me to catch and remove insects and spiders (they know I’d refuse to kill them). I certainly wouldn’t inflict a critter I know frightens many people on my colleagues. I also wouldn’t inflict my colleagues on an animal I didn’t 100% know to be sociable and fine with being carried around.

  48. Silicon Valley Girl*

    There are folks who are terrified of dogs, & in a dog-friendly office, such an employee’s needs should be accommodated. Ditto arachnophobes like me. I refer to the AMA question “how much should we compromise for a dog-phobic coworker in a dog-friendly office?” where Alison said “The basic principle is that people’s ability to do their jobs trumps people’s desire to bring dogs to work” & “you need to be prepared to stop allowing dogs at whatever point someone is hired who can’t be around them.” Replace “dogs” with “spiders.”

    Also, please let me know what company this is so, if the spiders aren’t removed, I can never, ever, EVER go near there! *shudder*

  49. awaskyc*

    LW3 – I’m going to echo what other people have said. I’m a financial statement auditor, so the independence rules are set by the SEC, but we are explicitly prohibited from engaging in “close relationships” with people at the client. Close relationships include (and this is laid out in our company policy): visiting that person’s house, exchanging gifts, and going on vacation together. We are also explicitly required to report any close relationships we are aware of, of anyone else on the audit team with the client.

    It’s about independence in both fact and appearance. As others have said above, be friendly, be professional, but you cannot have an outside social relationship with people you are auditing, and you can’t get involved with their employment in any way. It’s not just about how awkward it would be to tattle on someone you’re friends with–it’s about the fact that if an outsider thinks you are friends with the people you’re auditing, they will not be able to trust your audit results. And at least for financial statement audit, this comes with removal of license and massive fines. (And sometimes, landing on the front page of the WSJ.)

  50. Lucifer McFluffypants*

    LW3 – The *real* advice given here is spot-on and you should absolutely follow it (I’m an attorney). However, as a Hallmark movie junkie, I can see this as the plot of an accountant romance movie. Maybe you will have a meet-cute at a financial conference in the future that will be the beginning of a completely appropriate relationship. (I know I’m assuming a lot about actual intentions.).

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      OMG….you’re right about the Hallmark movie plot! There have been several love matches over the years among employees at my organization. Different situation, but still cute… love stories indeed!

  51. LavaLamp*

    In Colorado, we have the Butterfly Pavilion. It’s essentially a bug zoo and actually quite neat, but I still skip the black widow case because too many of them have tried to bite me, and my Nana was bitten once and became very very sick. I just don’t like spiders. Tarantulas are meh, because they aren’t something that occurs on their own here, you gotta go seek one out.

    I would not be okay with something that can make me sick being around for no good reason. Dogs don’t run away, slide into a 2mm crack in the wall and reproduce in the thousands; although I would be much happier to find a puppy in my bathroom at 3am instead of a spider. Just saying.

  52. J3*

    I absolutely love weird animals, but I really don’t feel like there has to be any expectation at all of parity around what animals (if any) are allowed in the office, as long as there isn’t some (human) discriminatory aspect.

  53. Former Retail Manager*

    LW#3….fellow auditor here (10+ years), but the nature of my audits is very adversarial and the individuals I’m working with have “skin in the game” so to speak. All that said, there have been a handful of folks that I’ve met over the years that I really clicked with and they were awesome (and also very compliant in that their audit didn’t result in very many, if any, adjustments), but as Alison and the other commenters said, I simply could not pursue a friendship with any of them, even when my audit concluded. In my position, there is little chance that I will ever see the same person twice, but nonetheless, there is the potential of my audit findings being called into question later should someone find out that a personal relationship exists, even if it didn’t start until after I concluded by audit.

    So I sympathize with your situation, but I would encourage you to look into professional trade organizations, alumni organizations, local Facebook groups, Bumble BFF, or really anything other than your audit client’s employees. But as another commenter said, there is no reason not to be friendly during your audit and if they’re willing to eat lunch together (and not discuss the audit) that could be at least some social interaction, as long as you are able to draw that clear line. I know it’s tough to be in a new city….hang in there!

  54. James*

    Lesbian #2 would hate me. I pace when I think—I have always fidgeted, and I read too much Horacio Hornblower as a kid. Plus, I was a field worker for a long time, meaning I was alone in fairly remote areas and could indulge my habit. I have a favorite spot to pace in my office, near a window and long enough to really get a good rhythm.

    I am not unusual in this. Sometimes you get stuck, even in routine work. Sometimes you just need a good solid ten minutes of thinking to get through a roadblock. And sometimes that needs to be away from your desk. Carl Newport is a good resource here. I do not agree with everything he says, but he says what he says very well. And one of the things he says that I do agree with is that our constantly-available culture really had diminished our capacity to think deeply about problems.

  55. AlmostGone*

    I had a boss who felt compelled to have a meeting with me to discuss my bathroom usage while I was pregnant. He had apparently been keeping tabs not only on how often I went into the bathroom, but also how long I was in there. He noted that I seemed to spend a lot of time in there on occasion, surmised it was pregnancy-related constipation, and then gave me a lecture on curing constipation during pregnancy.

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