is it OK to fire someone over email, resigning over an ethical conflict, and more

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

1. Is it OK to fire someone over email?

Is firing someone over email acceptable? Someone I know was recently fired via email. They are not a remote employee. Their manager tested positive for covid about a week ago (mild symptoms) and is still in isolation per CDC guidelines. This person sent an email to their manager today with some work questions, and their manager replied to that email letting the person know that their last day would be tomorrow and they would get paid through the end of the month if there were no “challenges or complications.” (The manager has barely been communicating with person the last few weeks, ignoring emails and calls and avoiding speaking with person when in the office). The manager then told other employees that this person’s last day would be the next day before receiving any acknowledgement from said person (which person found out from a subordinate). Are the rules of firing a person in person (or at least over the phone) just out the window in pandemic times?

No, firing someone over email is still a crap move. Even when everyone is working remotely, you pick up the phone and call and have a real conversation. You don’t use email for so many reasons, including that it makes you look like an enormous coward and it’s tremendously jerky to put your own comfort ahead of the person who’s being fired, who deserves a real conversation (about logistics if nothing else). Plus, if you use email, you don’t know when the person will see the message — or even if they’ll see it. What if it gets accidentally deleted and they have no idea they’ve been fired? It’s BS. (I once worked for someone who fired someone in a voicemail — which the person didn’t hear, and so they showed up for work the next day. This isn’t any better than that.)

2. Should I tell my boss I’m thinking of resigning over an ethical conflict?

I work for a business where ethics are at the heart of everything we do. We’re for-profit, but our ethical stance is incredibly important to our reputation and our staff.

My boss wants to offer a new service which doesn’t match with our ethics at all. Think akin to an animal rights charity holding a hunting contest to raise money, except it’s for profit since we’re not a charity. I joined this business because it matched my ethics and I am firmly against offering this new service.

I’ve done everything I can think of from your playbook — I’ve spoken up, I’ve joined forces with coworkers, I’ve gathered outside opinions to support my stance. We’re going ahead with the service anyway.

I’m thinking of resigning due to this as I don’t feel I can be part of offering this service. My mom thinks I should tell my boss I’m thinking of quitting so they know how serious I am. I think that comes across like I’m threatening them, and I need to make this decision for myself. What do you think? Should I tell my boss before I quit, if I do come to the decision that I can’t continue working for the company while we offer this service? Or if I’m going to quit, should I just quit and explain why?

It depends on how much capital you have and how likely you think it is to change their mind. If you have a ton of capital there — if you’re incredibly valued and respected and key to their operations — and you think hearing they’ll lose you over this could have an impact … well, maybe. But based on everything you’ve already tried, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to change their minds. And even if they did, you’re working for a company whose values are very different than what you thought when you came onboard.

Given that, I’d just decide if you want to stay or not — and if you do decide to resign, explain why at that point.

3. I don’t want my home address sent to everyone in my company

We’ve all had a ton of adjusting to do during quarantine, and obviously a ton of that has to do with remote workplace. We have a managing director at my job who is big on having everyone’s addresses available in case she wants to send gifts or pick-me-up’s out. That’s nice, if not totally necessary.

The issue comes with my discomfort with my workplace (other than HR) having my address. I made my peace with giving it, especially because I knew I’d be leaving my apartment soon anyway. Now I have moved to a more permanent address. In the interim, the director has periodically asked for updated addresses given the nomadic nature of some people during COVID. This wouldn’t be the biggest deal except for that the assistant at work keeps sharing a full document of everyone’s addresses, from the boss to the assistants, with everyone in my division.

I specifically and politely asked that this not be done the first time it happened, but it just happened again. I raised the issue with the assistant again, and she said she didn’t want to send out 50 separate emails confirming addresses. I feel this is absolutely what she should have done, despite the inconvenience. The first time it happened, colleagues immediately started googling and Zillowing everyone’s addresses and commenting on the photos and prices, etc. This is exactly what I was afraid of, and so I am absolutely loath to share my new address for fear people will do the same thing to my now forever home.

Should I raise this as a privacy concern with her boss, to avoid this happening again? Am I overreacting? I feel like home is more important than ever in COVID, and I want to protect it from being gossiped over and dissected, as well as having colleagues have a knowledge of my income or spending power.

Yes, raise it with her boss. There’s no reason everyone there needs everyone else’s address, even if this weren’t a group that would immediately head to Zillow to check out people’s homes (WTF?) — but that certainly underscores the need not to do it.

Point out that it’s a privacy concern and say that if it’s not possible for the assistant to stop circulating the list, you’d like your info to be removed from it.

4. Rescheduling things when you get an unexpected week off

I work for a small nonprofit, but in my day-to-day work I am embedded within a larger, separate organization. Thus, my schedule and responsibilities often differ from those of my peers in our main office. The board chair of my nonprofit just gave the whole staff the entire week of Thanksgiving off, paid. This is amazing, except as part of my work within the larger org, I have things already scheduled for that week. Is it appropriate to just … reschedule them because I have been given the time off? If so, what language should I use?

Yes, unless doing that would cause major problems for people or projects. If what’s on your calendar is relatively non-urgent, go ahead and reschedule, saying something like, “I’ve just learned Org will be closed the week of Nov. 23 so I’ll be out. Could we move this to (date)?” Or if you want to be vaguer, you could say, “It turns out I’m going to be away from work that week. Can we move this to (date)?”

5. How long are references good for?

I’m a recent grad and my current short-term campaign position is about to wrap up, so I’ve been pretty aggressively job searching. I have a solid list of people who have agreed to be references in the past, but some of them agreed a while ago (at the end of my internship last summer, for example). I gave them a heads-up about two months ago that I’m job searching and confirmed that they are still willing to be references, but I’m not sure how often I have to check in now, if ever.

I’ve recently gotten a bunch of interviews and am there’s a decent chance my references will be contacted soon. Should I let them know that? Or is an agreement to be a reference just understood to be ongoing? Is it okay to list the same people over and over (what other choice do I have?) even if it means they might be contacted quite often?

If you know an employer is about to check references — or even if you’re just at the finalist stage — it’s smart to check in with your references if you haven’t talked to them in a couple of months, just to let them know they might get contacted soon. That way it’s on their radar and they might pay more attention to calls, etc.

It’s okay to list the same references for many different jobs. Most employers don’t check references until the very end of the process and often not until they’ve selected the person they want to hire, so your references are unlikely to be flooded with calls (i.e., they’re going to get a call for every job you apply for).

{ 420 comments… read them below }

        1. Hannah*

          If she put that attachment in a spreadsheet, she could have 1 field be the person’s email address for the mail merge and then a second field for the address. The email would look like

          Hello, I am reaching out to check your address. The address we have on file is

          Please update me if there has been any changes.

          Then she could still print out the spreadsheet if anybody needed the whole list but updates would only have the single, relevant address.

          1. Hannah*

            Oh, it took my fields and apparently actually did something with it :) Anyway, field 1 would be the email address and field 2 would be the physical address attached to that email address.

      1. oof*

        Maybe a bit of both? I had never heard of MailMerge prior to working in an office. This just isn’t the kind of tool that would pop up in an every day situation or in school. Thankfully, my manager at my first internship mentioned it to me and I did a quick google search, which saved me a whole afternoon of copy and pasting.

        1. Emma*

          Anyone who doesn’t know what mail merge is isn’t qualified to be an admin. If the employer wants to hire someone lacking those skills, then pretty much the first thing they should do is send them to a MS Office training course.

            1. JessaB*

              We had it in the late 80s too…we even had fillable online forms. But even in the days of having to type 50 address labels by hand on a manual typewriter (yes I’m that old, I still have a desk at home that has the drawer with the paper tray where it’s got slots for letterhead, carbon and onion skin that you draw a set out of when you need to.

              The issue is probably that in this share everything world the admin is just literally not thinking of the consequences. Mr B says when I set up the computers and other things in the house I set the security setting to “raging paranoia” there’s probably a line between my “tell nobody unless absolutely needed” and “Tell everyone everything,” that the admin needs to be aware of.
              Especially with home addresses. Because people are being cavalier about using the list for non business purposes.

          1. The Beignet Incident*

            I disagree with your contention. Each admin’s role is different and some do not know mail merge or have any need to know it. Yes, it’s good to be skilled in many areas, but lacking one skill does not an unqualified admin make.

        2. Popcorn Burner*

          I lucked out in learning Mail Merge at my first internship (volunteer program management). I agree with you—I don’t even remember learning about Mail Merge in business school, though it may have been included in our school’s optional MS Office seminars.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      My bosses assistant is like this in terms of technology. Doesn’t understand mailmerge so wastes so much time sometimes. When I ask for a list in Excel (so it’s sortable, etc), just pastes everything into one cell, etc. Has multiple documents about the same basic stuff for slightly different uses instead of a single source of information turned into reports as needed. Uggh.

      And of course there is always drama about version control.

      They’re now asking me to clean up a Powerpoint with table etc and one page just has a screenshot of something produced in Excel pasted in, nice and blurry.

      It’s so tiresome. Basic stuff people.

      Back to the OP’s story: beyond the privacy issues here, this jumped out at me “The first time it happened, colleagues immediately started googling and Zillowing everyone’s addresses and commenting on the photos and prices, etc.”

      What a bunch of sad losers. I can see one person looking out of curiosity but a conversation about it? W T F.

      1. NYWeasel*

        My work pals still laugh at me bc I once googled our SVP’s address and found out that he lives three houses down from me. In my defense, I only googled his address bc I’d *literally* run into him at an event in town (facepalm) and just wanted to avoid additional mortification. As it turns out, although we are technically fairly close neighbors, because of how the street is laid out, we really aren’t truly neighbors and I’ve never once seen him in the area.

        Anyway, my coworkers enjoy teasing me for the ridiculousness of me trying to avoid bumping in to him again, but also they know that I didn’t dig any further (ie I made zero attempt to look up Zillow estimates or trying to find old listing details). I’m quite certain that if I’d gone any further, it wouldn’t have been an amusing tale of my folly, but rather a pretty creepy thing to do, and my coworkers would have rightfully shunned me for it. I can’t imagine us EVER going through a random list of coworkers’ homes and gossiping about the values or other private details.

      2. hbc*

        I worked with a person who had pretty impressive research skills, but she made it creepy by telling the new hire “So, you grew up in Springfield, huh?” or “I have three brothers too.” She didn’t have the good sense to know that you keep your snooping private.

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          I have flat out ended relationships (professional and personal) with people over things like this before. Some people think the power of the internet is awesome and as a result *they must use it*, but using it like this is a complete invasion of privacy. Just because you can, as the saying goes, doesn’t mean you should.

            1. Observer*

              You might want to rethink that. It’s actually quite arguable how much looking up is “normal”. But even if this level of snooping is “normal”, that doesn’t make it ok.

            2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

              There is quite a world of difference between looking people up (and how in depth you go towards doing that), and then actively talking about said information with a person. If personal details about a person’s life have not been provided to you, it is an incredible invasion of privacy to then talk about them with said person.

              Nobody likes to be spied on (regardless of how commonplace it might seem), and you have zero idea that people may have a traumatic background in which revealing you know even seemingly innocuous details about their personal life might wreck hell on them mentally. Once again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Having a legitimate reason for looking people up is one thing. Just because the information is there and you’re a snoopy person with zero respect for boundaries isn’t a good enough reason.

              1. Massmatt*

                This is reminding me of the LW whose new-ish report asked him about a traffic arrest the LW had on his record from many years prior. He phrased it that he was “confused about which state it was in”.

                It was none of his business, so his lapse was both spying (he could only have gotten this info by paying) AND the bad judgment of telling him he’d done it. It’s like reading a sibling’s diary and then making a point of arguing about what was written there. Either the person just lacks judgment or is making some sort of weird power play.

              2. boo bot*

                I think this is the key. I don’t really care if someone looks me up and knows the information that’s publicly available about me on the internet – it’s publicly available, after all. What’s weird is bringing too much of your research into conversation.

                I’m fine with “I saw we have mutual friend X on Facebook,” or “I checked out your Instagram, nice food photos!” where the person is clearly referencing things I chose to put on the internet for public viewing. I’m less fine discussing things that came from public records, looking up my address on Google street view, or linking my email address to a username linked to another email address that’s linked to an anonymous livejournal from the late 1990s.

                To me that’s the line: look at whatever you want, but only talk to me about the things you know I want people to see.

                1. myswtghst*

                  Agreed. It’s one thing to acknowledge something like a common alma mater clearly shared on LinkedIn. It’s something totally else to reference information that requires more than cursory glance at a public social media profile.

              3. Jean*

                THIS. We all know that people look each other up on the internet, but use some discretion in interpersonal interactions.

            3. Cat Tree*

              I really don’t think it’s as normal as you think it is. It’s very common for people to believe their own secretive behavior is widespread, but it often isn’t.

              1. Nanani*

                “Everyone does it!” is the defence of creeps. People who tell you they don’t do that shit, are NOT covering up or lying. We really don’t do that.

                1. Other girl*

                  I am not a creep, thank you Nanani and Cat Tree. I just Google people when I am curious. I dont have a report on them. If I know there is a New coworker, I am interested to see their public work history. If its a friend New hook up, we check their Instagram. Stop projecting and stop labeling people as weird just because they are not you

                2. Tiny Kong*

                  Other girl, people are responding to you because you posted in a thread about not just googling their public info/social media, but more personal information as well **and then bringing up that information in a conversation with them.** It’s pretty universally creepy to bring up information you learned from investigation, not conversation.

                  If you don’t do that and just google out of curiosity then that is totally different, and I wonder why you jumped in to defend that practice.

              2. pleaset cheap rolls*

                Certainly a lot of people do it because a lot of people say they do. It might be 10%, it might be 80%, but it’s certainly not a very rare thing.

            4. Chinook*

              I am curious – what would your response be if you found lottle or nothing about the person. Or only found old headlines about something they did in their 20’s but they are now 50? Would you ask questions about their lack of available information or demand to know if they changed? An how do you verify that the person you see on the jnterweb is the same person standing in front of you?

              1. Other girl*

                I would do nothing. I just Google them. If a candidate has a public Twitter with racist comments I would probably take action, but apart from that I would just Live with the info I guess?

            5. Reluctant Manager*

              (me too)

              (Not particularly ashamed. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone’s business, and we all lived)

              1. Chinook*

                At least with small town gossip, though, you knew some context, the personality/reliability of the gossiper and whether or not it is well known information or just a rumour. An internet search takes so much of the non-verbal details away.

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

                It’s not about whether people “lived” — that’s an incredibly low bar on ethics. IMO small towns where everyone knows everyone else’s business are toxic environments that can, and often do, destroy lives. People are entitled to privacy about health, family, romantic relationships, finances, religion, how they vote, etc.

                1. Reluctant Manager*

                  Of course “lived” was flippant. We had the expectation that your neighbors could see you, and behaved accordingly. Some people like small towns and some don’t, but I think it’s helpful to remember that our expectations of privacy depend on time and place. The expectation that no one knows anything about you is a modern and IMHO unrealistic one. Elsewhere in this thread I said that I don’t give out (or allow to give out) personal contact for anyone. But property records are online for a reason, and I don’t have moral qualms about finding out the value of houses on my block.

            6. Emma*

              If you’re considering dating them or otherwise becoming entangled with their life, sure. But for coworkers, it’s creepy.

              1. Other girl*

                Why is it creepy? Is it creepy to check co workers linkedin page or seeing articles they published?

            7. Red Boxes and Arrows*

              I have looked up co-workers’ and managers’ addresses and, if the house was recently for sale, looked through the pictures on Zillow. I love looking inside other homes (virtually), checking out layouts, types of tile, if the bathrooms are Mamie Pink or have been updated, etc. (Before I cut cable, I loved watching HGTV; and my friends and I routinely post links to homes for sale across the globe just so everyone can “tour” them).

              BUT… I have never ever *once* told anyone that I looked up their house. I have never gossiped with anyone except my S.O. about the houses I’ve looked up. And, because I love looking at houses in general, I tend to forget whose house looked like what within minutes of checking them out.

              1. bluephone*

                “And, because I love looking at houses in general, I tend to forget whose house looked like what within minutes of checking them out.”
                Yes, you’ve nailed it on the head for me :)

          1. A*

            Have you ever been involved in online dating, especially app based platforms? Cause I absolutely will look someone up online prior to meeting them in person, as I should because there are real safety concerns to be taken into consideration. It’s saved me a few times.

            At least in that arena, it is very much the norm and expected.

        2. Generic Name*

          Ha! I’ve got pretty decent research skills as well, but I only use it for good, I swear. Such as when a shady contractor had been telling me he filed for bankruptcy and I told him that no, he hadn’t filed a thing because there was no case number in the court system. I also found that he wasn’t divorced like he said he was and he and his wife have a tax lien. Ahh, research

        3. Cat Tree*

          At my last job, I had a manager who was super intrusive AND oblivious to how uncomfortable he made everyone feel. I had a long commute, about an hour and 15 minutes with traffic, so I decided to move closer to the main highway to reduce that to 45 minutes. I also decided to finally buy a house since I was moving anyway. Naturally, this topic came up in normal polite conversation and I had no issue there. When I officially made an offer that was accepted, my boss practically interrogated me. He actually pulled up a map of the town on his computer. One of my coworkers also lived in this town, and boss pointed to his exact location on the map, which I did not want to know and immediately forgot. Then I pretended I was unfamiliar with the town and gave vague descriptions of my house’s location. He pointed at a big area somewhat north of the house, and I just said he was right.

          Within 2 months my address was public record after closing so he might have looked it up. As far as I know, he never did anything weird with the knowledge, but it was creepy enough that he was obsessed with knowing.

        4. SomebodyElse*

          The funny thing is, I vividly remember a comment section full of people who saw nothing wrong with googling their coworkers as a regular habit.

          IIRC, I was the odd man out on that topic because I thought it was a horrible practice.

          1. Yvette*

            I think there is a difference between doing a quick Google of a person you are thinking about hiring (or maybe dating) for your own knowledge and digging up as much personal information as you can for the purpose of sharing/gossiping about it with the rest of the workplace, or then grilling the object of your search about what you discovered.

          2. Massmatt*

            Googling someone and searching for their home address are different things. How many headlines have we seen of prominent people or government employees that are members of hate groups? There’s generally an undercurrent of “it was right on Facebook, didn’t their employer bother to check?”.

          3. hbc*

            I think snooping is much, much more prevalent than most people admit. I would bet something close to a majority have done the casual google of random coworkers or old college classmates or whatnot. Somewhat fewer have done the deep-dive style, but I’d bet at least 10% have justified a “I wonder what their house looks like” search or poked through a medicine cabinet or gone to a website that advertises about learning secrets of your friends and neighbors.

            It’s kind of like nose-picking–many people do it, but very few admit it, and even those who do it will look at you in disgust if you do it in the open.

            1. CircleBack*

              I’ve done the google deep-dive with big-time executives before (whose lives are often kind of public, like politicians) but never “coworkers” or anyone below the C-suite. I’ve done it with customers – I used to work for a company selling luxury goods, and we’d research potential customers to see if they were worth spending time on or were just kicking tires. I’m still amazed at how much I would find… but it never even occurred to me to try the same research/snooping on people I actually had to work with.

          4. tink*

            The most I do is maybe a quick search to see if a coworker has social media I’m willing to link to them on unless they specifically mention something google-worthy. If you tell me you’ve been on Jeopardy or something similar, you better believe I’m going to try and find your episode.

          5. A*

            It’s never occurred to me to do it repeatedly/regularly but I often will google my colleagues/suppliers etc. when I start at a new place. I’m curious, and don’t think there is anything wrong with quickly browsing public information. I also assume any information available online about me is fair game to anyone, nor would I care.

            That being said, I would never ever speak of it. I keep my obnoxious curiosities to myself :)

        5. TootsNYC*

          that’s the etiquette thing with eavesdropping. Of course people listen. The rude part is ever letting on that you did (no laughing at jokes you overhear, referencing it later, etc.).

      3. Artemesia*

        Sounds like the person doing this needs to be sent to some kind of formal training with a clear set of target learning outcomes needed for her work. Sell it as employee development and an ‘opportunity’ for her.

      4. GreenDoor*

        Real estate is nothing. I live in an area where our County court system puts public records in a database. You don’t get the full proceeding record. But you can enter a name and get the gist of the issue and a file number for reference. I had a co-worker that took sadistic glee in being able to say stuff like “How did Jane get a job in Accounting when she’s been taken to court twelve times for unpaid bills and she’ been to eviction court four times in the last six years?? And did you know one of those debts was to the Our Town’s Disability Counselor – I had no idea her kid had that disability!!!”

        Pretty apalling behavior. I am with the OP – one less way for people to snoop on and report private matters to those who don’t need to know.

    2. Elliott*

      That would probably be the best solution if the assistant just needs people to confirm if the address on file is still accurate or not. If you have a spreadsheet with people’s names and addresses, it probably wouldn’t be hard to do a mail merge where everyone gets an email with their own address displayed but no one else’s. At least, it’s not hard with Gmail and Google Drive.

        1. Massmatt*

          It’s easy once you know how; has anyone ever trained this person to do this? Rolling our eyes about someone’s lack of skills is not training, it’s rather the opposite.

          1. Chinook*

            As someone who does train people on mail merge, it is only easy if a) you know it exists and b) you know how to get started. Unfortunately, most assistants get zero training on thrse programs, so a and b are often lacking.

            OP, if you offered to show the assistant how to do it or sent a quick, step-by-step instruction sheet to her, you may get more traction.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            There are tons of online tutorials in using mail merge. I had to use it with no experience a few years ago, and I found dozens of YouTube videos and step-by-step how-tos online. Not everything requires formal training, just a little intellectual curiosity and the internet. I wouldn’t be rolling my eyes about a lack of skill but that someone felt it was fine to circulate everyone’s personal information because it was easier for them and didn’t bother to look for a simple alternative.

            1. MarsJenkar*

              It assumes the assistant knows the alternative exists. Sure, *we* know about mail merge and what it can do, but I can see how the assistant might not know about it, and wouldn’t know what to search for if they even thought that sort of feature might exist. And if they didn’t know such a feature could exist at all, I can see why they wouldn’t look for it.

              I’d at least start with the assumption that they really didn’t know anything about this, and point them in the direction of one of the tutorials you mentioned–it might be an eye-opener for them. After that, see how it develops, and if it’s still a problem, then proceed accordingly.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I guess I just expect better problem-solving skills out of my junior folks, certainly out my department admin, and have interview questions that directly speak to this skill. The entry-level folks may not know mail merge (though I’d certainly expect an administrative assistant to be aware of if); however, they know enough to figure out that what they’re doing isn’t acceptable to someone and that sending out 50 emails is too time consuming to be a solution, which, I’d hope, would lead most people to, “Well, there’s got to be a better way to do this, let me ask around and do some research.” Even if you don’t know “mail merge” specifically, searching for how to mass email or how to bulk email different info turns up how-to info on email/mail merge. It’s the beauty of natural language searching on the internet.

                I think the admin refusing to respect someone’s privacy re their personal info because it’s too much work for them is not okay. I get OP#3’s frustration entirely.

              2. Tiny Kong*

                Uhhhh if they don’t know the existence of mail merge then they could have each person fill out a blank excel/word document, and copy paste that data into a master document. Or copy paste each bit of info from the master to individual emails.

                Not knowing the most efficient way to do this is not an excuse for circulating everyone’s private information! This would be a huge issue in places with personal data protection laws.

      1. shannanigans*

        They could also spin up a Google Form feeds into a private Google Sheet in about 5 minutes and just email everyone the link. Way easier than a mail merge.

      1. Just a Cog in the Machine*

        You have to pay for a P.O. box, though. (And then, if mail is coming to it, you have to actually go out of your way to check it.) They should not have to do that.

  1. Crivens!*

    Unless it was in a neighborhood I was hoping to move to or was known to be a super unique home I cannot even imagine ever having the urge to go look up all my co-workers addresses to gossip about their real estate. WTH?!

    1. Raine*

      People will gossip about anything and everything, and some people are more vicious about it than you’d expect.

      1. starsaphire*

        I have lost count of the sheer number of times I’ve read/watched a murder mystery in which someone mentions a suspect “living beyond their means” and going into detail about their house, car, pool, servants, whatever. Sure, they’re supposed to be small towns/small English villages, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but still.

        1. Quill*

          The only time I trawl the internet for the interior of a house is when someone else has come on the internet going “look at this wild house, you won’t believe the real estate photos.”

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I live in a town with a small historical district and if I saw a coworker with an address there, I would be impressed but I wouldn’t go and price it or check to see which exact house it was.

    3. Ron Swanson*

      Hi! Letter writer 3 here. Yes, this is a strange habit of my coworkers. Having seen them take apart our boss’s home with a fine tooth comb, as well as comment freely on his income, I am more skittish than I would be in a nontoxic environment, lol. I suppose everyone is bored in COVID times and this is the new watercooler gossip.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        As someone who has been stalked, it shows really really really shitty judgement on your employer’s part that they’re cool with everyone having access to everyone else’s address.

        1. Massmatt*

          I was going to say this, there’s no good reason for everyone at work to know your residential address, if they collect it then it should be kept confidential, not broadcast to everyone in the company. There are stalkers, crazy coworkers, people that get fired and go on a rampage, etc. I’m skeptical the boss is sending out so many gifts this needs frequent updating. If they are so hung ho on demanding an address, give them a P.O. Box. Your HR person is really unprofessional.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          I know the exact address of three of my coworkers: one is my next door neighbour (we found out after she moved in and we met on her driveway – neither of us knew before hand); one I used to give a regular lift home after his wife took ill and could no longer collect him from work (he didnt drive for medical reasons either); and the third willingly shared his address because he was new to the area and wanted recommendations for take-out/deliveries (he only gave his street address, but in a separate conversation mentioned his was the corner house – there is only one corner house, so it didnt take Street View to know which one was his. Important to note I’ve done nothing, and intend to do nothing with this information, just how I came to know it.)
          There are zero other reasons I can think of why I would need or want to know where my coworkers live. It’s literally none of my business.

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            I know general areas of town for the 10 or so people I work most closely with, but exact addresses? nah. 1 lives within walking distance of work and I ended up giving her a ride when the weather went from sunny and mild to near blizzard one afternoon. One used to go home the exact same route as I do and I’d often see him pull into his driveway. Oh and 3 of them were late to work when there was a major accident that closed the road they use… I deduce they all live in the subdivision served by that one main drag. But yeah.

        3. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Every January at an OldJob, the admin person would circulate people’s addresses and phone numbers on a master list to everyone in order to update it. This was before cellphones were available. Invariably some of the women would receive hang-up calls or in one case have someone repeatedly drive by their house at night. As far as I know, it still happens.

        4. JC*

          Same. I had similar experience where a list with cell phone numbers and addresses, plus emergency contacts was being shared (as supposedly the most efficient way to get updates). I replied to my big boss and said he could have the details privately, but they were not going on the centralised sheet for everyone to see, or they could reach out to HR if it was a genuinely urgent situation. A lot of people don’t think through the safety element of this, I’m hyper aware of sharing personal details because of bad past experience.

        5. Snow Globe*

          If you do bring up this issue with your boss, I think you should mention that your coworkers were looking up addresses and commenting on people’s income (don’t necessarily mention they did that to your boss specifically). Because a lot of people will initially think, what’s the problem with coworkers knowing your address? We’re all professionals here. An actual example of people behaving unprofessionally may get some action.

        6. Quinalla*

          Seriously, I have thankfully not been stalked personally, but know that circulating addresses is a huge problem because of this. Our HR won’t even give out any of that information. If someone has needed to contact a person urgently, she will call/text them and ask them to call/text us. She recognized that the information was not hers to give out if the person hadn’t already given the info themselves.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I haven’t been stalked either, thankfully, but one guy came close enough to make me uncomfortable (I actually had to block a number for the first time ever and he found me on Facebook which I ignored). I moved soon after our first and only date, but since I bought my house the address is public record. For years I would not set one foot out my door without my phone in case he showed up. I actually called a lawyer to see if there was any way I could hide my address (there isn’t, and apparently it’s super easy to find anyone’s address even if they rent). My only comfort was that Google maps always gets the directions wrong, right development but wrong street. It makes pizza delivery a pain but it slightly confuses creepers so there’s that.

            1. Anongineer*

              This is why a ton of people set up trusts to purchase homes – I’m not sure of the exact procedure but my parents did it in the 2000s and I have friends that have also done this. It’s a way to ensure that people can’t look up who owns what on the County’s tax assessor website (which was part of my job starting out for roadway exhibits).

        7. NotAnotherManager!*

          This. Even if it’s not stalking, I don’t want people at work that I’ve had tough disciplinary conversations with (or fired) to have easy access to my address. Most would not do anything with it, but I’m not willing to take the risk with the few who would.

          My employer no longer has this sort of list, but I had my contact information used improperly twice when there was one. One former employee who took the list with them when they left repeatedly called me while I was on my honeymoon, leaving progressively aggressive message complaining that I wouldn’t call them back to refer them for a job; the second sold everyone’s contact info to a marketing service.

      2. nonegiven*

        The first time I showed my sister how to google street view, she ‘drove’ around looking at everyone houses that she knew.

        1. SyFyGeek*

          I looked up my aunts house after she passed away for some reason. The house was pretty close to the street, and the google street photo people got a picture of my aunt standing in her doorway.

          It was both creepy and cool. I emailed all my relatives to go look.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            A relative of mine is at the doorway in the Google street view of their house. I told my sibling but we agreed not to tell Relative because it would freak them out.

            Google blurred their face, and the only way you could find the screenshot is if you knew the address and looked it up. But this person is an internet-phobe and they would still be freaked.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Two family members were in their front yard when the Google car drove by. The faces are blurred but it was them.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It would still be completely inappropriate to share employees’ home addresses as widely as they have been doing. I would absolutely be opting out.

    4. TiffIf*

      I work with software that requires me to input addresses multiple times per day and part of my job is verifying our API connection with street view is functioning properly and that we are properly able to receive and expire MLS interior imagery for homes. I mean, just imagine that I work for Redfin or Zillow (I don’t but the comparison isn’t far off for how often I interact with real addresses and need to verify the data we get for them) and yet I have never had the urge to input a coworkers address to see what the property is like.

    5. Greyscale*

      At my last job this was pretty common practice. We all lived and worked in an area with lots of historic homes, beautiful old Victorians and the like. My coworkers loved to look up and compare the different houses and see who had remodeled what. Nobody really gossiped about the price of the houses but more about the architecture of the homes themselves.

      I never really thought about how odd it would seem to other people to do this. But I’m the kind of person who tours open houses for fun and always has HGTV on in the background so maybe that’s why it didn’t register as weird to me.

      1. LDF*

        Yeah I don’t think looking up homes is odd, especially since photos are gonna be from the last listing anyway, not like you’re spying on someone’s current life.

    6. Moeg*

      I can’t imagine not being curious to see where people live if you have the information! Not that I’d be interested in gossiping about it with others, but I would definitely look for my own “private” fun. I didn’t realise that could be seen as so strange.

      That said, it’s appalling that the list is being shared with everyone out of sheer laziness. How do so many people in administrative roles not understand mailmerges!? That’s a sore point from my own workplace. Grumblegrumble.

      1. mreasy*

        Yeah, I would definitely look out of my nosiness, but I would consider that my own personal shame hobby and never share the info with anyone.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, this. I probably wouldn’t go down the list and search out everyone, but I’ve looked up Redfin listings when people shared info about their house purchases before, especially close to the time I was looking or bought my own house and real estate listings were a big part of my life. But I would never gossip about it or make reference to it in any way.

        2. Paris Geller*

          Yup. I will say I am definitely nosy enough that I would probably look up houses out of curiosity (not saying it’s a good trait or that I’m proud of it, but I would almost certainly do it), but I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else and I definitely wouldn’t freely comment on any aspect of it with anyone else!

      2. Lora*

        Really? Huh. I mean just about everyone lives in either a boring apartment building or in a McMansion type of place. I live in an area that has a lot of historic houses, but whenever I’ve been friends with colleagues outside of work to know where they live, they all live in like…condos and regular suburban houses or McMansions. Nothing very remarkable about them. On occasions when I have seen the great high muckety-mucks’ houses, they’re like something out of McMansionHell dot com. Not worth looking at, nobody lives in Fallingwater, Bell Beach House, Farnsworth House, Miller House etc.

          1. Lora*

            Ha! I have a dear friend who adores modern architecture and we occasionally take a Sunday brunch in the city and do a walking architecture tour – the local universities and various government and nonprofits offer (well, offered, pre-Covid) tours of their Saarinen, IM Pei, Gehry etc. buildings. I prefer Gaudi and Calatrava myself, all the curved lines and arches, but there’s nothing like that where I live. We got boxes.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          This is highly dependent on geography. In my agency, we’re all pretty well paid for government, but it’s still government, and we’re in a very high cost of living area. A couple of people in my department live in historic row house type neighborhoods, several of us live in inner suburbs that were originally developed in the 1920’s – 1960’s, and I doubt anyone below a director lives in a single-family house built after 1980, and you either have to spend a lot or head pretty far into the suburbs to get that. There’s more variation in the condo and apartment buildings, ranging from older early 1900’s styles to brand new.

          When everyone is making hard tradeoffs among location, square footage, condition, etc., it becomes more interesting to see what choices other people are making. When people on my team buy houses, there’s often some talk (with the person! not gossip!) about whether they’ll need to do any work right away (and often they do).

        2. Moeg*

          I’d be less interested in the houses than the location. Like seeing how far they commute and whether it’s urban, suburban, or more countryside-ish. Or if they have a funny house name, or a “nice” number or a themed road name. Or if I reckon I’d like living there, I suppose. I don’t know, it’s just fun to me.

        3. tiny cactus*

          Yeah, this is where I fall too. I find it kind of surprising how many people want to know this information, just because it seems pretty boring to me. Unless my coworkers are living in the Winchester Mystery House, I can’t see why looking them up would be rewarding.

      3. bluephone*

        Same, I frequently look up addresses in zillow/google earth for funsies. I don’t gossip about it with the whole world and even if I do gossip about it with like-minded family or friends, it’s more in the vein of “oh that’s where so-and-so lives, near the [local landmark or whatever]” and less “ugh So and SO is soooooo tacky, eww!”

        The admin constantly sharing the addresses is annoying and OP is definitely allowed to ask that her info be left off this list, especially if the admin is going to insist on spamming everyone’s inboxes with an excel spreadsheet 20 times a month (seriously, what’s up with that)

    7. Emi*

      Oh I would totally look people’s houses up, because I am a nosy parker, but I would never in a million years discuss my findings with anyone at work.

      1. Littorally*

        Same. I occasionally have to look up clients’ addresses for my job (if the address flags as non-residential, for example, or if it doesn’t come back verified) and as you said — I don’t discuss them.

      2. NancyPKitten*

        I do too, but that’s because I’m obsessed with real estate and just love looking at houses, period. I also know it’s NOT something to share with other people though!

    8. anonaccountant*

      I live in a rural midwestern area and work in small town about a half hour away. It’s very common to have people ask which house you live in, even if you live in town (I have always found this invasive and strange, personally). I recently moved to a house in the country that happens to be somewhat visible from a county blacktop that goes from the small town to a larger city (so everyone I work with has likely driven it, often regularly). People are constantly asking me to verify where exactly my house is because they think they saw it on their way to the city over the weekend. I asked a coworker if she lived in town or commuted, just in the course of small talk, and she told me the intersection and exact house. I find it strange, but it’s the norm here.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yes, this is similar to my experience as well. I thought I was safely out of it, because I worked several towns over from my office and most coworkers lived in that town. But one day a coworker announced that I lived in the same apartment complex as his parents and it felt like the biggest invasion of privacy.

        I suppose it’s normal to run into coworkers about town, I just normally have such a barrier between work and home life that I feel entitled to it now!

    9. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Zillow pro-tip: You can make an account, claim your house, and take down all of the interior shots from the listing. You can also take down most of the details for your house.

      For Redfin you can make an account, claim your house, and take down the interior shots from the listing, but the details of the home are lifted from MLS when the agent lists it and are static.

      Plus both sites will send you a monthly email about similar houses that sold near you and how much they roughly guesstimate your house is now worth. So that’s nice.

    10. Flower necklace*

      Doing this would never even occur to me. I know generally where most of my coworkers live because it affects commute time and where I live (DC area) commute time is a topic of conversation fairly frequently. But that’s about it. I could have everyone’s address right in front of me, and I wouldn’t care enough to put them into a search engine.

      I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, either. And I’m a teacher. There’s chit chat and gossip, but not about that.

  2. Jessica*

    LW5, when a former employee lets me know that I might be getting reference calls for them, I sometimes use the opportunity to refresh my memory about exactly when and how long they worked for me and how it was–whether that’s actually checking records or just taking a minute to think about the past and sort of gather my thoughts about them. I think that probably results in a more informed and coherent reference for them.

    (And maybe I sound clueless, but if it’s been a while and/or the person’s a manager in a high-turnover environment, their recollections about you might not be front of mind. I have student employees who are naturally transient.)

    1. Hazel*

      It’s also a good idea to send a copy of your resume when you ask for a reference. That helps former managers remember you and your work before they talk to the hiring manager.

      1. Loosey Goosey*

        Yes, that’s what I’ve done. Even if they don’t end up looking at it, I think it’s considerate to provide a memory refresher. And if they do look at it, you’ve presented your strongest achievements at the job, which they might not have thought of on their own.

        1. Artemesia*

          IN the email giving them the heads up I’d also remind them of a couple of things you hope they will mention that are appropriate to that job. I have written tons of references and I really appreciate the ‘they are really interested in someone to manage in a re-org and so our work after the merger when I reconciled our procedures with the other company and created the guides for our managers would be helpful to mention.’ Make their work easy.

  3. Casey*

    Re: #5, I’m applying for entry level jobs right now and a surprising number of them have asked for references before interviewing! I applied for 7 different locations with Organization A (they all handle hiring independently) have interviewed/scheduled interviews with 4 of them, and 2 of those asked me for a list of references before offering me an interview. And they definitely did call!
    Organization B scheduled interviews for 3 different positions for me (different departments, some overlap in people) and asked that I send reference information before those interviews. And again, they called my references before they even spoke to me!
    I’d be curious to know if this is a government thing, since A is a federal agency and B is a state agency. I feel like I’m imposing on my references, since all of these calls would have come in in the last week or so.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Academia sometimes does it too, but it’s definitely an exception to the rule. (It’s not uncommon to *ask* for references before interviewing; it’s the calling them early on that’s unusual.)

      1. Massmatt*

        Alison, any idea why academia would call references before even speaking to the candidate? It seems as though this would add a lot more work. Is that the point, do people doing the candidate searches this way not have enough actual work to do?

        I have hired, both solely and as part of a committee, and if I’d ever suggested calling candidate references before even winnowing down the pile talking to the candidates themselves I’d have been laughed out of the office.

        1. Eliza*

          Interviews in academia can be big multi-day affairs involving a lot of staff and often requiring you to bring in the interviewee from interstate or even internationally, so I can see how it might save time overall to check references on a shortlist of candidates before committing to that.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I could see that – you’ve got a list of 10 candidates who all look very good on paper, you talk to their references before narrowing it down to the three you’ll fly in for the multi day interview process. More commonly, I can see people using informal references, particularly in a small field, to narrow things down to the short list.

            It’s also worth noting that academic application packages are considerably more complex than a two page resume and cover letter – there’s a multi page comprehensive CV, which includes a list of invited talks given, awards, committees you’ve served on, public outreach, teaching experience, research experience, supervision experience. Plus a 2-4 page research plan, a several page statement of teaching philosophy, a diversity initiative statement, a complete list of publications, and the cover letter. So you’ve got a lot more information to start with.

            1. BethDH*

              And it’s not uncommon for the references, at least initially, to be a letter submitted as part of that package. Part of being in academia is asking for and also writing a ton of reference letters — you need them for grants too. It’s stopped me from applying to things that I learned about with plenty of time for me to turn around an application because I couldn’t feasibly get the reference letters in time.

          2. Anon Anon*

            There is also typically a hiring season in academia, especially for tenure track positions. And, the hiring process can easily take 6-8 months from the time the post is advertised to when a hire is made for the next academic year. Academic hiring is just a different beast than other types of hiring. Depending on your field you may have to go to your field’s major academic conference for a first round screen, and then for an interview, it’s a multi-day affair, typically with a teaching demo, meeting with research staff, dinner with other faculty, etc. Academia I feel has so many hoops because often when you hire someone it’s for a minimum of 7-10 years, and sometimes if that person is granted tenure then they are on faculty until they retire. I think it’s more complicated because the stakes are higher.

          3. honeygrim*

            I’ve been a part of several search committees in higher ed. We have, in the past, checked references after a phone/Skype interview but before the in-person interview for the reasons you mentioned. Under our current dean we’ve moved to only checking references after the in-person interviews.

            However, I applied to a job a couple of years ago at another university, and they checked my references before even calling to ask for an interview, and without letting me know they were going to do so! I had no idea until one of my references told me they’d been contacted. I didn’t even get a chance to reach out to my references beforehand to give them a heads up. That is the only time that has ever happened to me, and as far as I know that does not happen; even if we were to check references before phone interviews, we would typically let the candidate know.

        2. Nesprin*

          Because academia is a weird fishbowl of a world and the previous mentors of a trainee are often more useful in interviewing than the trainee herself. I.e. everyone in academia specializes to a ridiculous extent and I am not well equipped to judge whether candidate X’s work on frog egg laying behavior in outer Borneo is outstanding or so-so- candidate X would be leading an independent research program which dept chairs do not really oversee. OTOH, candidate X’s PhD advisor is undoubtedly a frog person and can put their work in context.

    2. Lioness*

      Some nurse residencies do this too. Had a hospital ask for 5 references, and the emails were sent for references before an interview.

    3. Me*

      It’s not a government thing. While some may do this as clearly was your experience, it’s much more typical in my experience with government for it to follow the standard practice of being one of the last steps in the hiring process.

    4. I Coulda Been a Lawyer*

      I work for a state government, and our applications ask for references but the ones listed are never called to my knowledge. We get the list of qualified candidates who must be interviewed but all we get is basic contact info. We ask the candidates to bring resumes and references to the interview. After calling references and selecting the candidate we send all documents on the top 3 to HR and they let us know if we can hire them. Never had it happen to me, but I’ve heard stories of not being allowed to hire the top choice but don’t know why it happened.

  4. Courtney*

    LW#3, this upsets me just to think about. I would hate people looking up my home online, it feels so invasive. I wont pretend I wouldn’t have been tempted to do the same with the information but I would have definitely restrained myself! I’m sorry this happened, it sounds so uncomfortable.

    1. Anon For This*

      Agreed. I live in a social housing project, and while I love my home and my neighbours, I’m well aware that people have prejudices, and that the building where I live looks like a dump. My office is filled with people from very disparate backgrounds (although we are all on the same low-ish salary, manager a little higher but not much) so while our individual incomes don’t dictate how we live, there are still differences that become apparent when people discuss their home lives. On the odd occasion when I’ve had to ask a colleague to drop something at my place (because WFH) I cringe because I know how it looks to others. People who don’t know where I live tell jokes about my neighbourhood when they have to visit the office branch near my home. While I would generally trust people not to go snooping on Google, I don’t like having to disclose where I live, and the behaviour of LWs colleagues escalates a generic “hey, don’t share this information” issue into “the assistant is throwing fuel onto a raging gossip fire”.

      1. Asenath*

        Sometimes people really put their feet in their mouth over this sort of thing. I remember when I told someone at work that yes, I’d finally actually found an affordable place to rent and (in response to a question) it was on Y street. To be fair to my co-worker, it was kind of a rough part of town, not that I had any problems there, and my parents were particularly unimpressed when they found out the adjoining building was a cheap boarding house often frequented by people like accused arsonists waiting for their court date, being cheap and near the courthouse. My co-worker was shocked. “You can’t live there! You might as well live on Z street!” And another co-worker spoke up and said “My husband grew up on Z street, and his family still lives there.” There were no more comments about my unsuitable abode.

        But there is absolutely no need for everyone in the OP’s business to have everyone else’s’ home addresses. As others have mentioned, there are simple ways to collect that information for those who need it without sending individual emails one by one to each person involved AND without sending everyone all the information!

    2. RagingADHD*

      This is one of those instances where, if you can’t refrain from snooping, you need to refrain from talking about it. A lot of us have done a bit of online “research” while bored at work. But if you go blabbing to the extent that the coworker knows about it, that’s just rude.

  5. Raine*

    #3 – that admin assistant does not understand what “keeping addresses private” means, likely because no one has explained to her that sharing it with everyone is a problem or they don’t see it as one. Someone needs to explain to them why sharing that kind of info is Not Good, in terms they’ll understand. I know it might seem obvious and common sense, but it’s on the list of things I’ve had to explain to admin assistants I’ve trained. There’s a perception that “if everyone shared theirs, no one should have a problem sharing theirs!” that I’ve found to be pervasive.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this attitude is odd, to say the least. To be fair, I’m old enough that when I started working, pretty much everyone’s address was available in our local phonebook. But at the time, it was much harder to find pictures of homes if you just knew the address.

      1. Ron Swanson*

        Not just (detailed!) pictures of the home, but its sales history too! I came into an inheritance and I don’t need people questioning how can she afford that, etc. (this is writer #3 here.)

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Zillow’s Zestimates are so far off around here (always way too high) that it’s a running joke.

        1. Massmatt*

          Snooping home values is not the half of it. There are bad and/or crazy people in the world, everyone assumes THEIR coworkers could not possibly include a criminal, stalker, or other type of nutcase but millions of people are proven wrong every year. If something is shared among 50-100 coworkers and acquaintances it’s pretty much public.

          I worked somewhere that was required to have home addresses by regulation, but this was treated as confidential info, pretty much as someone’s SSN or health info would be.

          1. Self Employed*

            My department manager at a job in the 1980s ended up on the news in the 2000s (with a Wikipedia entry) for a rape/murder of his teenage neighbor.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          A long-ago boss – VP of HR – would ask our Accounting manager to run a credit check on finalist candidates for director-level and above roles. I was floored when I found out, this was not our policy at all, and there was nothing on our application that stated credit checks were part of a background verification process.

          Turns out he wanted to find out what their monthly mortgage payments were, wondering if people were living outside their means and, therefore, reliant on their job. He was actually disappointed to find out a couple of people lived in wealthy suburbs because they inherited their homes: he couldn’t hold them hostage to our pay and bonus program, because they didn’t need us to live well.

          1. Massmatt*

            Wow, what a weird take on how to use credit checks! He is basically doing the OPPOSITE of what a lender or security clearance employer would do and looking to hire people most likely to have financial pressure to do unethical things, etc.

            This is how spy agencies recruit their sources. Aldrich Ames and Steve Hanssen were targeted and turned by the KGB due to their debts and/or profligate spending.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yes, that is incredibly bizarre. We run credit checks for financial and access to sensitive info but not for run of the mill positions or to game salary/bonus amounts. I had a peer once who like to recommend that we hire people who went to fancy schools because they likely had loads of student loan debt and needed the job more, but to actually run a credit check to try to game someone’s budget/financials is weird. (And my former peer was wrong because a lot of the people who went to fancy schools in our area come from wealthy or upper-middle class families and had their schooling paid for by parents or grandparents and had no debt.)

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      I actually thought there was some kind of law or clear liability issue with sharing staff’s personal contact info without their consent outside, say, the people who work have access to their employee file in HR. As such, even though we’re a WFH company and have a phone stipend, I don’t give my employees’ contact info to each other

        1. Lady Heather*

          In the EU it’s a major GDPR violation, and if OP3 is in the EU, they can absolutely report this to their country’s GDPR enforcement agency.

          A while ago a small local non-profit put all their email addresses of newsletter recipients in “To:” rather than “Bcc:” and they emailed before the end of the day to apologize for the privacy violation and to say they’d self-reported this data breach to the authorities. And that was just email addresses.

        2. Michaela*

          I’m not in the US, but when I was working on GDPR for my company, also not in Europe, I would often point out the one co-worker who was a Swedish dual citizen on why we had to comply.

          It was coincidentally a US company with a European presence, so there was a small, but unlikely possibility that if the one co-worker were to complain, the company could have faced European fines for being non compliant. It is most likely a stretch though.

          1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

            I wonder that as well. I was told that as a EU dual-citizen I had grounds to request GPDR compliance even outside the EU. For example, a hotel could be in hot water if they don’t respect the guidelines.

            1. MK*

              If it’s a hotel chain , or any other business, operating in part in the EU, probably. But I cannot see how EU law could apply to a business that has no connection to the EU, just because a customer has EU citizenship.

              1. WhatAMaroon*

                I’ve been doing GDPR work for the better part of the last 5 years there’s been a little back forth on this and the working papers offered a little clarity. But generally speaking vast majority of companies and countries have taken the approach that the regulations are applicable to companies that are doing business in the EU or targeting their product/offering to people in the EU. So while yes you may have employees who are dual citizens if you have an exclusively US based operations that only targets US based consumers the risk is probably at the low end of the spectrum where the cost of putting the controls in place is not worth it for the very low chance the interpretation shifts again. While more complete than most other privacy regulations, GDPR is still sufficiently vague. I believe the Brazilian LPGD actually does have a different take on applicability than GDPR which is fascinating

    3. SomehowIManage*

      Since home addresses are Personally Identifiable Information, the assistant is putting the company at risk by sharing it unnecessarily.

      1. Risha*

        Eh, somewhat grey. It is PII, but that makes it sensitive information, not confidential unless combined with another piece of PII. My job works with a lot of data like that, which is why we’re very strict about access and disclosure of either of those things and are retrained on it yearly (which is also why I happen to have a pdf sitting on my desktop today about this very topic), but you’re not necessarily violating any laws by exposing addresses in this way. I’d be allowed to send a customer address on record to said customer for confirmation purposes in an unsecured email, for instance.

        1. Risha*

          For what it’s worth and for the sake of clarity, I absolutely agree that this is highly iffy and the thought of doing it gives me hives and I’d be super pissed if my employer did this. I just don’t think the company is going to get into any sort of legal issue because of it.

        1. SomehowIManage*

          My company has policies on how PII is managed. Allowing an employee to violate policies can create problems for them. But that presumed that LW’s company has such policies.

    4. Ina Lummick*

      One thing I was thinking of depending where OP is GDPR (I believe California has a similar data protection law.) What that admin assistant is doing sounds a lot like an information breach and least her (UK) there can be hefty fines for the organisation….

    5. Chinook*

      This is why I like that, in Canada, we have Information Privacy laws. I would be giving the assistant a heads up that she probably doesn’t know she is breaking the law and send her a link to the law as well as one on how to do mail merges for email.

    6. Nanani*

      That’s such an appalling and clueless view.
      Some people are far more at risk of stalking and harassment than others, and that basic safety consideration ALONE should outweigh everything else.

  6. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, get a mailbox at the local UPS store. It will look like an apartment address. I doubt it matters that HR has your real address and the admin assistant has this (real but not in the same way) one.

    1. short'n'stout*

      This is what I came in to say. If the stated purpose for having the employee’s address on file is to send you gifts, it doesn’t have to be the address of their residence.

        1. Nanani*

          Never deliver something time sensitive (like a meal) without prior arrangements though.
          Unless “Surprise, cold/spoiled food” is what you’re going for.

    2. Them Boots*

      Came here to say this! You shouldn’t have to, your address should be kept private, but if your boss can’t be bothered to sit on her assistant, then that’s relatively inexpensive peace of mind that you can cancel in a year, whereas your coworkers knowing too much about your personal life is for as long as yoy work there…this is such a huge invasion of privacy!

    3. EPLawyer*

      Why should the LW have to go to the expense of getting a separate address when the Admin can just … not distribute everyone’s address.

      This is on the company, not LW to fix.

      1. Cathym*

        Because do you think,at this point, if the LW causes the admin to lectured by her boss to keep addresses private, that she won’t a)look up LWs address and b)gossip about it? (Worse than they already are doing) smh

        I’d do what I could to keep it private. You also get 12 months of mail forwarding. Don’t update it with the admin .

    4. Annon for this*

      I also wanted to say the same thing. Back when I was a young thing (and the franchise went by a different name) I had one of these post boxes. It was a huge peace of mind for me. Especially when creepy co worker (who didn’t have a car and lived 15 miles away) came strolling out of the store next to my mail box provider later one night.
      Backstory: creepy coworker told me not to leave my old magazines around because people would see my address. I laughed knowing it was a mailservice box. Lo and behold they were warning me about themselves!

  7. CatCat*

    #3, I’d be tempted to get a post office box or private mailbox (like at the UPS Store) until I was certain my address was no longer going to be circulated. The assistant ignoring your initial request and the fact that homes are somehow hot gossip does not give me confidence. I’d get the PO box then see if that address ended up getting circulated.

    1. Ron Swanson*

      This is a great idea. I was thinking of giving my parents’ address, but this is better. Thank you!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some reasons to go to admin’s boss about company privacy policy instead:
        –it may just defer the issue until LazAdmin is asked to send food parcels in lieu of holiday parties…you’ll be asked again as soon as FruitOnAStick says they can’t deliver to PO boxes.
        –you’re increasing your covid exposure –you’re otherwise complicating your life and spending money bc that administration is lazy or busy or technically unaware
        –it’s your chance to do something proactive for anyone who may be stalked or harassed in the future (including yourself honestly bc you feel strongly about this)

          1. Wehaf*

            I think Seeking Second Childhood is referring to Edible Arrangements, so you can, indeed, go shopping for fruit on a stick. :)

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Now I want a dark chocolate-dipped pineapple flower and a melon medley skewer…

              (When our local Edible Arrangements opened, they ran some great coupons, so we used to get them whenever a good one came out. One of my kids would live on fruit if they could, so we made short work of them.)

        1. Mockingjay*

          Admin needs training, immediately. This is the same type of person who cheerfully gives out private cell numbers of employees: “oh Fred won’t mind you calling him after hours.” Fred DOES mind, I assure you.

          I recently got a new supervisor and she emailed each team member separately, asking whether she could have certain items of personal information (address, birthday, etc.) to help keep in touch during remote work, such as sending birthday cards. I don’t celebrate my birthday (it’s not important to me) and she respected my answer to not acknowledge that event.

    2. Jennifer*

      I don’t think they should have to pay for a PO Box. I’d just refuse to give it out period. They clearly can’t be trusted.

    3. Sue*

      For the period your mail forwarding is in effect at the post office, I don’t think you need to do anything. Not sure how many months that lasts but it should be sufficient until it expires.

  8. L. Lemon*

    Letter 3 resonated with me. OP, I absolutely understand your dread of having your personal information shared. At my previous company, everyone’s home address was printed and distributed for “emergency contact purposes” as we were about to begin working from home. I was absolutely horrified at having my home address distributed, especially considering I told the director of the company that I had safety concerns due to an incident in my hometown where I almost had to file a restraining order against someone and didn’t want my name or profile picture published as a staff member of the company. At a meeting held the same day, the managing director made several remarks about all the single women in our office who lived alone and indicating extra attention and precautions should be paid to them during the pandemic in case “anything were to happen to them and they needed help.” I still don’t know how I was able to manage not quitting every day while fielding comments from my manager during regular check in meetings asking me how often my partner was visiting me and if I was “getting by okay living alone.” Same manager constantly made remarks to colleague who was recovering from illness that she could deliver food/medicine “since you live alone and have no one to help you.” There are so many ways information can be harmful in the hands of narrow-minded individuals.

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      I really appreciate how easy people like this make it to look like a stellar boss for not being a glass bowl.

    2. Ron Swanson*

      YES. This. I can’t tell you how many times any personal information is discussed in open Zoom meetings—like commenting that a colleague is home alone (“how are you doing all alone in the apartment, Erica?) or where the person is choosing to pandemic from (“Jamie is coming to us from sunny Texas!) or even using an offhand comment I said once about taking up running to say “well, I know [Ron] isn’t gaining weight in quarantine!” Maybe there’s another letter in this somewhere :D

      1. TiffIf*

        Wow, your coworkers are way overly invested in each other’s lives.

        I would put them on an information diet and only tell them the most innocuous, trivial things.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        The weight thing is appalling, but what’s the issue with referring to what state someone is in? A number of people on my team have spent time in other states during the pandemic, and it’s a subject of low-key idle chitchat – weather variations and the different pets that appear on screen, mostly, but also references to having grandparents around for child care or whatnot. It’s never seemed odd to me.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Safety. You don’t broadcast people’s location. Maybe everyone on the call is not going to stalk Adorabelle in New Orleans, but you never know who they talk to. Sacarrisa mentions to William that Adorabelle is in NO, he casually mentions it to a friend that can you believe it “Adorabell is riding out Covid in New Orleans, lucky thing.” And it turns out the friend is an ex of Adorabelle who has been trying to find her since she cut off all contact over his stalking.

          1. londonedit*

            Also, people have been burgled after broadcasting on social media that they’re off on holiday for the next two weeks. Premier League footballers have been burgled while playing in a big match – because the criminals know they’ll be away from their house while the game’s on. It’s not a great idea to tell the whole company that Tangerina will be spending the next three months somewhere other than her main residence – because it implies that her usual home will be empty and vulnerable, and you never know who could use that information.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              I mean, I get that, but it still seems like a bit much. Maybe it’s context – this most often happens in my life on team meetings with ~6 people, or maybe department meetings with 15-20. I guess it would be a more serious concern if it were a company-wide type thing, or a public meeting.

              And your coworkers know where you are every day when you’re actually at work. I know some people have safety issues around people knowing their location, but for a scenario like EPLawyer describes, wouldn’t Adorabelle need to have given colleagues a heads up to not disclose location all along, not just in these remote work circumstances?

          2. doreen*

            There are plenty of reasons not to mention someone’s location on a Zoom call – but I think this one goes a little far. Sure , all of that could happen , assuming the William somehow identifies Adorabell to the stalker-ex specifically enough that the stalker recognizes his target. ( It certainly won’t matter if William mentions Linda NoLastname). But with that sort of identification , mentioning that “Adorabell is now working for our company ( which only has locations in the Boston area) gives out similar information.

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              It does seem a bit much, because when work is in person it’s assumed we live nearby. So if Adorabell is present in a meeting every day, it is assumed she lives within commuting distance of (workplace.)

              I don’t see how “Everyone knows Adorabell takes the train into our San Francisco office every day” is less specific than “Adorabell is in New Orleans this month.”

              1. Self Employed*

                If Adorabelle is taking Caltrain to SF every day, a thief would have to be more careful about breaking into her house than if they knew she was in New Orleans for a whole month. She could be at home waiting for the plumber and is probably home in the evenings. If someone’s gone for a month, you can even park a UHaul truck in front of their house and say you’re the movers in broad daylight.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            Love the names. I mighta once gone to D*C as Stanley one year, and mighta talked Mr. Jules into a Golden Suit….

        2. Ron Swanson*

          Mentioning the state she was in was a passive aggressive way of making it seem like she was on vacation and having a grand old time instead of just… working remotely like we all are. It gave the impression to the division that she wasn’t really working.

    3. tra la la*

      I once had a manager tell me, after a major storm with power outages and trees down/falling on houses etc., that they’d checked on a married colleague because colleague’s partner was out of town and colleague wasn’t used to being alone. However, since I, on the other hand, lived alone and “was used to being alone,” they’d felt there was no need to check on me. All of this was said out loud to me, and I really would have preferred to have been spared the whole line of thought.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Living alone means you don’t need help with utility issues and property damage? I’m insulted for you, tra la la. I also am ‘used to being alone’ and usually have everything handled, but always appreciate a friendly check-in.

        1. tra la la*

          Exactly! Like, “the big tree isn’t going to fall onto my roof because, oh, I live alone, it’ll go fall on a family home, sorry!” ?

      2. anon for now*

        What a weird line of thought. My coworkers used to be *more* concerned about me because I lived alone (well, I had a roommate, but I don’t think they quite realized that).

        1. londonedit*

          I found it mildly hilarious when after a few weeks of our first lockdown, people started getting in touch with me to check whether I was OK because I live on my own. It was very sweet of them and I appreciated the sentiment, but it also made me feel like I was about 96 years old!

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

        Exactly. It’s sexism couched as concern. “You poor, poor girl, you didn’t find a man to take care of you and you can’t possibly be intelligent or independent enough to do it yourself.”

    4. hbc*

      I think it’s the lack of practicality that gets me more than the condescension. What is the scenario where my coworker having my address actually saves me pain and suffering? If you’re on a vc with me and I start convulsing or something, you maybe save a couple of minutes by not having to call HR to find the right address to give to emergency services or having the 911 operator look up my info. (Assuming you’ve got all the addresses saved in a nice convenient spot.) The other scenarios where I need a home visit, I am either capable of requesting help and giving you my address, or you’ve worried because you noticed I’ve been unresponsive for hours and calling up HR is not a major factor in response time.

      And of course, that’s before you get into the fact that I live with my husband and I could be incapacitated for hours in my home office before he noticed (whether he’s at home or at work), so why don’t I need extra checking in?

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

        I agree. There is no “emergency” need for everyone in my office to have my address, or cell phone number either. If someone else has a personal or work emergency, I’m not the right one to call. One of our event managers used to give everyone a list of cell phone numbers of all the volunteers for an off-site event. I’m apparently the only one who didn’t want to share my cell phone number with the whole group, but it was too late. None of them should call ME if they were going to be late or fail to show up. Security issues aside, because it’s thankfully uncommon, what’s to stop someone from thinking it’s funny/harmless/helpful to send or sign me up for spam. One lady on campus who I was friendly acquaintance-level with decided I would enjoy her Tupperware sales, religious and political memes (this was in 2016) via text because she thought I was of the same mind…I wasn’t. She wasn’t malicious but that was an uncomfortable short conversation.

    5. Database Developer Dude*

      Extra precautions? You mean like not publishing their home addresses so everyone in the company knows who lives alone and who doesn’t?

  9. I Need That Pen*

    Me personally I would refuse to give my address out, unless I had a PO Box or mailbox at one of those stores. Can’t you just see that that would be the day I find out about the creepy stalker who remained anonymous until now. No way. You want to look at what my house looks like on the MLS site, fine, who cares. Suddenly there’s a dude on my porch who won’t leave, I don’t think so. Who runs these places anymore?

    1. AnonAnon*

      Agree. I had a work stalker who had access to my address. It was terrifying. I had a car sitting outside my house one night at 3 am. I never knew if it was them but I was on edge all the time. They were fired as a result (and I was not their only victim) but I still think about it and wonder if they would ever show up at my house.

    2. New gal*

      OP3 I worked at a college in Canada and was stalked by a student because of a list like this. He just snapped it off the secretaries desk one day during a routine academic advising meeting. I had to get a restraining order and he was expelled. It was a nightmare.

  10. Ophelia*

    3# – Depending on where you are in the world – this may be a breach of information privacy laws or regulations – e.g. GDPR in Europe. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent in the US.

        1. Calpurrnia*

          The new CA privacy law only applies to businesses that handle the data of more than 100k customers, if I remember correctly? And probably doesn’t go into effect until some date in the future.

  11. PlainJane*

    …am I the only one really curious about the service being offered in #2…? Okay…

    In general, if the company is at the point of offering a new service, it’s probably been through a lot of hands and evaluated in a lot of place, and if LW has been mentioning it routinely, then they already know the issues raised and have decided that it’s not actually a violation of their ethics, contrary to the LW’s opinion. I can see instances where this would be possible to see wildly differently, so that LW’s view and the company’s both make sense to them, and it’s hard to tell from the letter what the nature of the disagreement is. It’s doubtful that it’s on the level of a vegetarian company offering roast pig for luaus–though it may seem that way to LW. Chances are, it’s just a place where the ethics are being read differently by the two parties.

    That actually makes it more difficult, if LW’s position is in conflict with the company’s, and if he took the job in order to fit with the way he read it. In this market, it’s very hard to quit unless there’s some kind of safety net to fall into, so I’m guessing it’s something that’s deeply meaningful to LW.

    I would say, in the exit interview, something like “I’ve very much valued my time here, but I find that, due to my personal beliefs, I can’t justify supporting the new luau pig service.” If you’ve been vocal about it earlier, it will be clear that you think it’s outside the realm of the company, but phrased this way, it won’t come off as, “I know what your company is about better than you do!” and hopefully will lead to good references. I think if the exit interviewer asks for details, you can then explain–“Well, when I first came to work at VeggieLand, I understood the company’s mission to be promoting the vegetarian lifestyle, which was an important part of why I took the job. Since the company has decided to go in a different direction, I just don’t think it’s a good fit anymore.”

    1. LW #2*

      I’d rather not say exactly what it is since it’s very specific and identifiable, but it’s very close to a veggie company selling pig anuses (ani?) except in a more grey area. Maybe it would be more close to say the pig anuses are lab grown, so while no pigs are currently being killed to sell their anuses, pigs were killed and experimented on to make lab grown pig anuses possible.

      You make a good point that I think it’s unethical but the people with the power to make the decision don’t. Although since it’s in a sort of grey area, I’ve gathered a lot of other opinions and there are many others in the company (and outside) strongly against it. I think it comes down to me viewing this as inherently against the company’s ethics and not being worth any profit we could make, and the people for it considering it is a bit against our ethics, but worth it if we can make lots of money. I don’t actually benefit if the company makes more money so it doesn’t matter as much to me.

      When I wrote this question, it was 100% going ahead and I was at my last resort. But some stuff must have happened in the background that I don’t know about (maybe all my arguments took a while to sink in?) and now it seems to be off the table. It might come back up again later and then I’ll have to start the whole process all over again but it’s a relief to not have to think about it for a while at least.

      1. Phony Genius*

        And to answer the language question, according to Merriam-Webster, both anuses and ani are acceptable plurals of anus.

      2. CRM*

        So glad to hear that they decided not to go with it after all! I’m sure your efforts helped towards the decision, but even if not, it must be a relief that they are retaining their high level of ethical standards (at least for now).

    2. LW #2*

      Oh my god! I misread luaus as anuses and thought you were having a funny joke. But I’m just unable to read and went on about pig anuses for a paragraph. Time to leave forever

      1. Lady Heather*

        I think you can use pig anus as a cheap substitute for octopus rings, actually. There was one of those food scandals about that.

      2. BonzaSonza*

        I laughed out loud at this and it made my evening!

        It’s even better than the time I was talking about dinosaurs and my partner was talking about tomato sauce…. much confusion and merriment.

        I agree with PlainJane – you get to decide where your ethical boundaries lie, and you can always choose to leave if you don’t agree.

        However, you don’t have to leave right away without another job lined up. It takes time to implement new products or services, can you start with your employer while actively job hunting?

        1. LW #2*

          Thank you, I feel a lot better about my silliness now!

          You’re totally right, although things are on hold right now, I can still have something lined up before leaving. It would be hard to find another job that lines up with my ethics but not impossible, so if I do have to make the decision to leave I’ll do it in my own time rather than reactively

      3. Myrin*

        You replied so earnestly that I was fully convinced this was about a meat delicacy I simply hadn’t heard of before and I was fully prepared to go with it. We need people like you in the commenting section!

      4. Old Admin*

        Please don’t leave! It was a bizarrely wonderful metaphor that brought the point across perfectly! :-D

      5. londonedit*

        Please don’t leave! This is brilliant. I started my work day this morning with a Series of Annoying Emails and this made me literally laugh out loud, so thank you!

      6. Working Hypothesis*

        Pig anuses need to be one of our regular hypothetical products and services for sale around here, along with chocolate teapots and llama grooming.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Meh. As a one-shot, it was funny, given the context. If I were new to reading a management blog and their regular placeholder of choice included anuses of any sort, I would not continue reading said management blog, because absent the context, it’s gross and not work-appropriate. /two cents

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes. One-off please. This was kind of gross before I realized it was an accident.
            ( and I make sausage.)

      7. Ana Gram*

        Hahaha that was amazing! All I could think of was how vanilla flavoring is made from beaver butt secretions and what flavor pig anuses would make. Happy Thursday!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          PSA to any horrified non cooking vegans:
          – buy “pure vanilla extract” which is plant based, made from the beans of an orchid.
          – don’t rule out vanillin (artificial vanilla) because is generally synthesized from coal tar
          -do rule out castoreum and undisclosed “natural vanilla flavor” which might include it. (That’s the beaver-derived product)
          And for worried fans of vanilla coffee & soda, try adding your own pure vanilla extract. (New use for eyedroppers)

          1. Lora*

            If you are ambitious you can make your own vanilla extract with vanilla beans and vodka (bourbon also works nicely and adds a little more dimension).

            Vanillin is also synthesized from paper factory waste (lignins). It was a cute Organic Chem lab, made the chemistry department in college smell nice for a change.

            1. Grits McGee*

              I was told that vanillin is key component to the delicious “old book smell”, so that’s one point in its favor

            2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

              Yup. I’m not even sure it qualifies as “ambitious” but:

              12 oz regular non-flavored vodka (I’m of the opinion that you should not use a vodka you wouldn’t otherwise consume.
              2-3 vanilla beans, whole.

              Lay out vanilla beans, slit lengthwise with sharp knife.
              Drop into some sort of glass container (I use jam-jars that aren’t currently holding jam myself…but I make jams and such on the regular)
              Fill with vodka. Add about a Tbsp of bourbon if that kind of thing floats your boat. Tighten lid, put in the back of a cabinet, let it “think about it” for roughly a month before using.

              1. Collette*

                Added bonus to doing this it this way, it smells SO GOOD every time you open the jar to get some vanilla out.

              2. Hillary*

                Cheap vodka works well too if you filter it a couple times to make it more neutral. Those water pitchers with charcoal filters are surprisingly good for the task.

          2. Self Employed*

            Castoreum is really, really expensive. It’s much more popular as clickbait than as an actual food ingredient. Vanilla beans are somewhat difficult to grow but are still easier to raise than semi-aquatic mammals.

            Manufacturing vanilla from coal tar is very cheap, though it lacks the complexity of genuine vanilla.

      8. A.N. O'Nyme*

        LW, I think you may have just earned yourself a spot in the AAM Lorebooks along with the Duck Club and Wakeen.
        It was wonderfully bizarre and honestly we need more of this.

      9. paxfelis*

        Please don’t leave. You made an articulate argument out of something ridiculous, and that’s a talent/skill set we need more of.

      10. learnedthehardway*

        No – don’t leave. I needed that giggle this morning.

        In terms of your situation – Unless this new service would require you to personally perform actions that you find morally reprehensible, I wouldn’t quit over the situation immediately. I would, however, do an active job hunt and leave when you get an offer – and let them know why at that point.

        It’s clear that the company is moving forward with this new service over your ethical objections. It’s bad enough that you feel a need to leave, but don’t make your own life more difficult than you have to, particularly in this current economic climate.

        1. LW #2*

          Very true! I think I’ll go window shopping in case we do go ahead with the service after all, and I’ll be ready to leave rather than resigning and leaving myself in a bad spot

      11. Delta Delta*

        Don’t leave! Also, I’m guessing there will be a commenter with the name Pig Ani by the end of the day. ; – )

    3. Hillary*

      Sometimes my mind scares me. I can imagine a lot of financial service products that could fit the bill. Physical products could be different kinds of nutritional supplements, launching single-use plastics at a company previously dedicated to sustainability, backing out of child/forced labor agreements, all sorts of things.

      I choose my employers carefully for the same reason LW #2, but we also need to eat. Taking care of yourself now helps you fight the good fight for the long term.

  12. Dax*

    I was once fired via email in an open plan office. While everyone was in the office – including the person firing me. It was very strange.

    1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      Yikes. Did you get the message right away, or did they have to watch you, wondering when you were going to finally open your email?

    2. Trotwood*

      I’m here to commiserate about being fired over email…this happened in 2012 and I’m still salty about it. I was an undergrad working in a research lab (where I’d been working for 2+ years) and at the end of a semester the professor emailed me to tell me he didn’t want me back the next semester. He went on to say he thought I was lazy and that my laziness was having a negative impact on the lab group, and that was why he had to get rid of me. I’ll freely admit that I didn’t get a lot done in that lab, but it had a lot more to do with being 20 years old and way out of my depth than it had to do with laziness. In retrospect, he’d been dropping hints for months that he thought I should quit, but I didn’t realize it, and he never really had a conversation with me about what I should be doing differently. “Be better at chemistry” wasn’t really feedback I could act on.

      All’s well that ends well, though, I joined a new lab with a professor I liked better and had a much better experience there. I wouldn’t have quit the first lab on my own but it was clearly not a good fit and it was a blessing in disguise that he fired me.

      1. Wired Wolf*

        #1: My entire team at ExJob was fired over email in August (looong story short–furloughed in March which may have violated state law, screwed out of quite a bit of money due to shady doings with PPP and then strung along for 3 months). They did follow up with a phone call (I think only because somebody told them they had to), but that was also super-weird–it was clear that the call was being made from the conference room on speakerphone, I didn’t know who else was listening and serious questions that I had were dodged. I emailed my questions in order to have a paper trail, and never got a response.

        Luckily I landed more or less on my feet back at my previous (pre-ExJob) job–and we’re not only classed as essential during Covid but backed by a union. It’s under a new management team, but they were happy to get me back. I only wish I was able to jump ship a lot sooner.

      2. M*

        The horrifically toxic non-profit I worked for a few years back decided to end my contract a) by email, b) on a day I was out of the office and so wouldn’t see it until the next day, c) two days before they were sending me overseas for a three week project with timing such that the contract would end right as I returned.

        They worked in a pretty niche field, I’ve taken great delight in scaring off several dozen potential subsequent hires with that story.

    3. Paulina*

      I can sort-of see how firing by email might have seemed like the thing to do, if everyone is in the same open plan so there’s nowhere for a private discussion without alerting everyone else that there’s something major going on. But that’s not an argument for firing by email, it’s an argument against having the entire setup be open plan.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      When I was “laid off” via email, I had already broken my own rule about working for a staffing company. I had spoken with my corporate boss the day before, and he made no indication of anything… then their outsourced HR emailed me the next day telling me my services were no longer needed.

      To this day, I will talk trash to anyone who asks about Global Techpro, LLC.

  13. Jennifer*

    #3 This kind of happened to me when I sent my address for my laptop to be sent to me. I think someone accidentally forwarded the addresses of everyone getting laptops shipped to me.

    People are bored and nosy on good days so I’m not surprised people started googling addresses. They never should have had the opportunity to do that in the first place. Please don’t give them your new address. I don’t even give out my personal cell at work unless someone is an an actual friend.

    1. Ron Swanson*

      I can’t tell you how much I hate that so many work people have my cell phone. It is SUCH a boundary issue for me.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m so grateful for Google Voice. It’s cut way down on the amount of spam calls I get from job hunting and allows me to have an extra layer between me and anyone I don’t really know.

  14. Kimmybear*

    #3- my colleague recently had to collect current addresses for a bunch of staff to mail equipment to them. She used something similar to forms or survey monkey so everyone could enter responses without seeing other answers. There are easy ways to do this privately

  15. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2: Unless you have an offer from another company, don’t resign. In this job market, if you resign, you may end up working for a company with much, much worse ethics just to survive (unless your nonprofit is doing something truly heinous).

    OP3: Dust off your resume and get out ASAP. Your company is full of busybodies and gossips and sounds toxic AF.

    1. Ron Swanson*

      Oh believe me, I have been looking for another gig. But the covid economy in my industry is pretty tight right now.

  16. JM in England*

    Re #1
    Here is yet another parallel with the worlds of work and dating, as in it’s considered cowardly to break up with someone via email. Like firing, do it in person or at least over the phone…

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I was fired by email, but I give my former company a pass on that, because I asked to be. Not asked to be fired, which I still think I didn’t deserve (though I have long since moved on to a place where I’m very happy, so it doesn’t matter to me anymore), but the email part.

      I worked a four day week schedule, and had spoken up on a workplace email thread on a day when I wasn’t on the calendar, just to ask a question. It turned out, out of left field to me, to be a question which my manager didn’t want asked, because that might get the others asking similar questions of their own. That had never occurred to me. I just thought they’d explain what I was missing, and move on.

      So my boss sent me a rapid private email full of bitterness and accusations, demanding to know how I could possibly accuse our fine company of not having an answer to the problem, etc. I tried to explain that I had assumed they *did* have an answer; I just didn’t know what it was, so I asked in order to learn what I was missing. All that came back was an ominous directive to present myself in the boss’ office first thing after my arrival on my next day of work.

      I was pretty sure what that meant by this time, and deeply unhappy. I didn’t see a point to coming into the office just to be told I was fired and sent home again. So I apologized if I were taking the wrong impression about what was going on, but requested that, if that *were* the boss’ intention for when I arrived back to work the following day, could he please just tell me now?

      So he did, and I was thus terminated by email.

      It didn’t turn out to be my last day there, however. I was concerned for clients who had already scheduled to see me in particular, and with whom I was right in the middle of a course of treatment. So I asked whether I could stay on for a week or two, just to see the clients who had asked for me personally and who were already on my calendar, and to help them transition over to other therapists at the company. The boss allowed it, doubtless because he didn’t have anyone else to put on those appointments right away and didn’t want to annoy the clients by making them cancel and reschedule with someone else when they’d asked for me on purpose. So I got to say goodbye to my regulars, and see them successfully transitioned to new therapists who would be good for them, which made me feel a lot better about the whole situation. And I had a new job in hand before I had finished my last shift at the old place, and could say so to the colleagues who liked me and wanted to know where I was going.

      It worked out pretty well on the whole. And I was a lot happier finding out from home that I was being fired, *before* I had to go back to the office and face everybody. It made the whole situation vastly less miserable for me.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        I had to read your post three times to correctly absorb all the levels of awful around your old company’s management. I feel for the clients and the other regular employees who remained.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        They didn’t know the answer, that’s why they fired you for asking. Your ex-manager needs a size 12 up his fourth point of contact.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It was actually even worse than that he didn’t know the answer. He did, he just didn’t want *us* to know the answer. The question amounted to, “How do we fit that new policy you just announced together with the ethics requirements in our licensing law so that we don’t run into trouble over it?”

          I asked it assuming that OF COURSE he would have an answer and it would be fine, because it did not occur to me that the real answer was, “We’re going to hope that none of you notice that we’re expecting you to violate your profession’s code of ethics with this new policy, and count on the fact that if the state decides to make a fuss, *you’ll* be the ones who lose your licenses, not management.”

          He wasn’t happy that I had brought the discrepancy between the new policy and our professional ethics responsibilities to the attention of the other employees he was hoping wouldn’t spot it. I didn’t realize until he started yelling at me that there even *was* a real discrepancy; I just thought that I was missing whatever it was they’d figured out about how to make the two fit together without a problem.

  17. Becky S*

    Post #2, on resigning for ethical reasons – 35 years ago I worked for a very small family owned company. The owner bought a fax machine that he knew was stolen property, and he got a good price. I was very upset and thought about leaving, but needed the job. Turned out the machine didn’t work, so the problem took care of itself! He didn’t get his money back. If only life always worked out like that. ;)

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Ex-job computers are badly refurbished units running pirated software, I wonder how the owners managed to avoid an audit so far.

      1. Lyudie*

        Yiiiikes. All it takes is one disgrunted IT person (I have heard about a fired IT guy who reported the company to Microsoft for using one license of Windows for everyone…they ended up going bankrupt, likely there were other issues there but being smacked with a lot of fees suddenly must have hurt).

    2. LW #2*

      Wow I love it! Things are on hold at the moment so I’m holding out hope that the problem just… goes away. Maybe it’ll all work out for me too

    3. Cat Tree*

      I once considered leaving a company due to ethical issues. I wasn’t directly asked to falsify data, but I was pressured to ignore a known problem and not do the expensive testing required to fix it. Every morning I woke up and seriously considered quitting, and every evening I frantically searched for any other job. Thankfully I find something before I gave notice, but that’s how I ended up voluntarily leaving a full time permanent position after 8 months to take a contract job with no benefits. And I never regretted leaving that place.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      The problem didn’t take care of itself in time for me, but I was delighted to learn that one ex-employer ran afoul of the regulators over an issue where I had told them they weren’t following GAAP. (Any accountants out there remember the brouhaha about derivative accounting changes?) They weren’t supposed to be *doing* any speculative derivatives, let alone treating them as effective hedges.
      The mess expanded to include the President, the SVP of Treasury, the head of Internal Audit, the controller and the assistant controller, all replaced from outside, and a new VP of Risk Management brought in. What the regulators did or didn’t say to the external auditors wasn’t made public; maybe that’s who tipped them off. (I might have, if I’d thought of it, but it didn’t.)

  18. Lady Heather*

    LW3, I wonder if you can spin this in a liability way – not for a privacy violation if you’re somewhere that’s not illegal, but in a “if this causes a stalker to find an employee, the employee will sue”. (Disgruntled employee going after fellow employers/managers. Sexual harassment in the office becoming serenades on the doorstep.)
    Have all the recipients of this list been trained in the “If someone calls asking for y person’s home address claiming they want to sent them flowers, what do you do?” protocol, or will an intern/junior employee answer the call and be delighted this is a task they can complete without having to ask for directions (and for such a noble purpose!) and dig up the list without a second thought?

    Whether or not this is actually illegal/the company is liable isn’t what matters – many companies won’t want to risk the bad press or lawsuit and legal defense costs. If you’ve got the ear of someone who’s in charge of ‘avoiding lawsuits’ or whatever, you may be able to remind them of the potential ramifications.

    1. Ron Swanson*

      That’s a great point. It’s very very possible this list would be used for easy access. Luckily my assistant knows to never give any client or colleague address out, but I can’t say the same for the other youngins.

    2. I Coulda Been a Lawyer*

      I’m not even allowed to give out direct dial office numbers for coworkers. Not even to other coworkers. I can’t imagine giving out home addresses to everyone.

  19. Brusque*

    #3 I find it despicable to ignore reasonable Request due to small inconveninces.
    So you repeatetly have to write 50 mails with only slightly varying content? Just create a mail form and copy/paste the varying data in the appropriate place! How can it be more important to cut corners than protecting peoples personal data?

      1. Brusque*

        The sad thing is: we have so many opportunities now in the digital world to cut corners without harming peoples interests but while companies are all big with awateness workshops and telling people what to avoid, they forget telling them how to do better. In my company I’m the go-to person to create Excel sheets that generate scorecards or Excel Forms that can automatically generate several Mails with individual content to different people. You don’t even need fancy programs and expensive IT personnel. Just a tech-savvy intern/colleague with access to Google and an affinity for programs like Excel or Mail Software. Give them a week and they can save the company several hours a day just by creating and implementing templates for repetitive stuff making room for the important tasks. It makes me so tired when I get overgeneralized mails over and over I have to screen for my data knowing it could be done so much more neat and useful with just one day of basic work and then using the generated templates saving so much time and nerves. And it helps being muche more conscious of peoples needs.

  20. Lumio*

    Do not give them your forever address, they have shown that they give nothing about keeping private data safe. Even if they say they’ll keep your address out of the mass email. You can be sure that someone will slip up at least once or the assistant will give out your address when asked.
    Be prepared for someone to go to HR and get your address from there if you say no to handing it over yourself.

    Ask me how I know.

    1. Hydrangea McDuff*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you!

      I’m a public records officer and in my state public employees’ addresses, personal email and phone numbers are protected under most situations. I’m getting hives thinking of someone sharing all this info about employees!!!

  21. Starchy*

    Our admin sent out a spreadsheet with everyone’s salaries from President to Maintenance on it. She just hid the rows that weren’t pertinent to you and thought no one would notice.

    1. Firecat*

      This doesn’t bother nearly as much as the addresses TBH. Salaries being kept secrete is a major reason that so much discrimination based pay discrepancies continue.

      1. MistyMeanor*

        Yes…but there’s a big difference between sharing it voluntarily and it being pushed out to people who have even the slightest tech savvy above the AA.

        I know I make quite a bit more than my coworkers in my current situation because I’m also -vastly- more qualified and experienced than they are. It’s by no means a difficult or permanent job, but there’s something about knowing Wakeen and Arya getting paid the same as you while they sleep on the job, watch YouTube, and chat on the phone for 8 hours a day that bothers me.

        It’s security btw…lest those things not sound like a big deal…

        1. Firecat*

          See my view is that you’ve been empowered to argue for a raise since you know the pay of your slackers.

          Not that it’s somehow worse for you to know about the pay injustice then to live under it ignorantly.

          I do think it’s unfortunate that a lot of peoples reactions to having salary shared is to get mad at those doing better – but that’s also growing pains for getting use to having salary be something that can be justified and discussed.

    2. Filosofickle*

      Ooh, I received a spreadsheet once like that. I don’t remember clearly, but I think it was sent to only me for a project and I was sure it was accidental. Didn’t know what to do with it! Just pretend I hadn’t seen it? Advise the sender? And while I didn’t inspect the numbers — it was less than 10, so my eyes had taken in the list before I really processed it — one or two of the numbers jumped out as shockingly out of line, which raised a moral question. Did those women (yes, they were women) deserve a subtle heads up? But what if the data was wrong, and nothing I was seeing was even correct? Basket full of yikes. I think I just pretended I didn’t see it.

    3. Wired Wolf*

      ExJob did this last summer–sadly I wasn’t working that day or I would have taken a pic and quietly reported it. They actually posted it in the warehouse; a number of us called out our manager and it was explained away as “I was trying to get the schedule and that printed instead”…to which we all said BS. Scheduling and payroll data are completely separate sections of the software suite.

      They had done something similar once before–way back in early 2017, someone left a stack of papers with everyone’s salary info (IIRC that person was fired immediately).

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        I once saw a data admin walked out of work in handcuffs because he not only poked around in the payroll database to find out everyone else’s salaries, he gave himself a raise while he was in there. Probably would have gotten away with it too if he hadn’t started to COMPLAIN ABOUT IT IN MEETINGS:

        Boss: Fergus, where’s your TPS report?
        Fergus: Why does Joe make $65k when I only make $62k! Don’t you know I’m trying to buy a house!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I did this at OldExjob once, only it was the form with everyone’s cell numbers on it (including management). There were two sheets: one with extensions, which is the one I was supposed to send, and the one with the cell numbers, which I accidentally sent instead. >_<

      I was mortified but fortunately, there were no repercussions, just some frowning from my boss.

    5. just a random teacher*

      I 0nce went to a multi-district training on how to use Google products in your classroom. One of the sessions I went to was about using Google Sheets, and the presenter was using a spreadsheet with all of her students’ actual names in them in one column, and “secret” nicknames in another column, then “hiding” the real name column before sharing the spreadsheet publicly on the web to share scores with parents who would be able to look up their kid by nickname. She did not appreciate it when I pointed out that she didn’t disable copying the spreadsheet, so I was able to easily find out the real names by making my own copy and un-hiding that column in my copy…(this is still not a good practice even if you successfully redact that real names for a variety of reasons, but it was extra yikes since she didn’t even do that correctly).

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

    #3 would you be willing to get a post office box or ups box? Then you dont have to give your address and you can always say you’ve had issues with FedEx, etc delivering to your house

  23. SleepyKate*

    LW#2 – you may have done this as part of your actions so far, but is it worth looking at the potential impact on brand reputation for the company if they do something that could be perceived as unethical / against the company values? There’s obviously a difference of opinion internally, but what would customers think and could it affect their business with you? What if someone caused a stink on Twitter about it? You’d probably need to involve your marketing people and get outside opinions (on PR rather than the ethics of the situation).

  24. ObviouslyAnon*

    Somewhat re LW #2, how does one calibrate their own sense of ethics with sometimes that’s just the way the (work) world is? I’ve been having ethical qualms about my workplace recently. For context, I’m relatively new to leadership and finally seeing how the sausage is made has been illuminating and a bit disappointing. While it’s nothing that feels big enough to justify leaving over, it does leave a sour taste in my mouth. Part of me thinks I was/am being naive and part of thinks I should continue trying to push back but at the same time as a WOC, there’s only so much pushing back you can do before you get branded as problematic… Fortunately I’m not concerned about torpedoing my career as I have no desire to go up the ranks any farther than I already have and very fortunately, we’re DINKS so finances aren’t a huge factor in my decision. We can afford for me to leave without something else lined or to take a pay cut.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Hi, ObviouslyAnon — This is tricky. You obviously don’t want to recalibrate your ethics into total cynicism, and neither do you want to be naive. Do you have a trusted mentor in this organization who could explain to you not only how the sausage is made, but why it’s made that way? History and context won’t excuse everything, but it may give you a better perspective in deciding your future with this organization. (You’re in a very good position to do a leisurely job search and leave on your own terms.)

      Full disclosure: I work in higher education, where all the incentives are perverse.

      1. ObviouslyAnon*

        Sara – Unfortunately I don’t have a mentor. I’m not fully comfortable talking to my peers/other leaders because I see them as somewhat complicit. I try not to judge them for that because not everyone can afford (financially or otherwise) to make waves.

        I think the thing that irks me the most is that no one will just say this is how it is, deal with it. They keep parroting the company line and I’m sitting there thinking that what we’re doing is pretty much the opposite of what you’re claiming we do.

        As an example – the company says teapot design assignments (growing from teapot painting) are based on employee interest, performance and manager recommendation. In reality, people are chosen for the design assignments before the (supposed) sign up period is complete or manager recommendations have been submitted.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Hi, ObviouslyAnon — what you’ve added makes it much more clear. No, I don’t think you’re being naive, and please don’t tell yourself that. While it may not rise to the level of corruption, the kind of gap you describe between the “company line” and what’s actually done is the sort of bad management practice that eventually leads there. Your instincts are good. (There’s a lot of this doublespeak in higher education.)

          I suspect that you won’t be comfortable at this company longterm. If you don’t mind a suggestion, why not divide your time by building up your resume as much as they’ll let you and discreetly hunting for another job? Think carefully about interview questions that would help you surface this kind of duplicity in prospective new employers. There’s a lot of good stuff on this in the AAM archives.

          Good luck!

          1. ObviouslyAnon*

            Thanks Sara! The irony is that I’ve already been with this company long term (15+ years). Over the years when I heard people gripe that it didn’t matter what you did because you didn’t get a fair shake at teapot design, I took it as them being a jaded or cynical. Now I’m taking it as me being naive.

            As far as job hunting, I (only semi-jokingly) told my DH that I’m having a midlife crisis. If I do leave this company, I’m not sure what I want to do next. Part of me wants to do something completely new/different. Plus given the shift to WFH and increase in flexibility/free time due to COVID, my tolerance for full-time employment is fading.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          Well, in the short term, I’d tell my direct reports to sign up early, as soon as the sign-up sheets go up. And I’d do the same with my recommendations.
          But just to play Devil’s advocate for a moment, is it possible that TPTB just take the first ## of qualified people who sign up? And once they have enough, that’s it for this round? Still a communication problem, but not necessarily underhanded or deliberately excluding any person or group.

          1. ObviouslyAnon*

            Dancing – It’s not the first XX people to sign up. They’re actively picking and choosing and I’m like how are you choosing Sally over Joe when neither of their managers have weighed in with recommendations yet. Also note, the org is large enough that it’s not like the people making the decisions actually know all of the candidates. I don’t think they’re deliberately excluding particular people. I think it’s just a crappy way to do business especially when you keep pretending it’s actually based on facts/performance and not some nebulous criteria.

    2. LW #2*

      It’s true, when it comes down to it, the new service is about profit and that’s the reality of the world we live in! I wouldn’t have a job if the company didn’t survive, so I can see the difficulty in arguing against something that might be good for the company.

      I think where I draw the line is my company makes money from branding itself as ethical, and has a hardcore ethical following. It’s not an internal issue, it’s very public and customer facing. If we go ahead with the service it’s going to undermine that in a very big way.

      It’s kind of strange, if I worked in a company that didn’t care about ethics at all, it wouldn’t matter so much. But the conflict of making a name as an ethical brand and then making unethical choices is what’s messing with me

      1. ObviouslyAnon*

        LW #2 – I totally get that! While my situation is much more benign than yours, I think what most people take issue with is pretending to be one thing while doing another. Sorry I don’t have any advice for you but hang in there!

      2. RecoveringSWO*

        Is your company a B Corp or Public Benefit Corp? If so, maybe some of the requirements would incentivize the company to act within its stated ethics.

  25. SJJ*

    OP3 – I know that feeling.

    I once had a male coworker walk into my office (I was a woman in my 20s at the time) and tell me he knew where I lived and how much my house was worth. Turns out our PVA (local gov office in the US that handles property taxes and such) allowed online searches by name. He was going through all co workers and searching for them. I was a little scared for a bit and wrote a long letter to the PVA to get that changed (it was, for a while). Luckily – nothing came of it.

    Please stress that this is not only a privacy issue but also a SAFETY issue. You don’t want the office creeps knowing where you live or that list falling into someone’s hands that shouldn’t have it (someone’s SO/friend/family member/Creepy Uncle Dave, ,etc). I doubt the AA has any security policies in place (like an HR system would) to keep that from happening.

    Also – would be interesting to know how this plays with your local/national privacy laws and harm to reputation if this List ended up getting out.

    In any case, this has Stranger Danger written all over it.

    1. Firecat*

      Yeah. Our admins lists were forwarded to outside emails by some staff. .
      I will say I am dismayed how many admins do this crap.

        1. Boof*

          Yeah, semi-rhetorical question, but that is the first thing that comes to mind
          Thinking about it more, I think would be grounds for reporting to HR for hostile environment. And I am saying this not because I expect the SJJ or others in a similar position to have done this, if it happens it’s probably horribly confusing and I imagine folks would be unsure what to do at first (I would be if I was unprepared and it would take me a while to process and digest); but if anyone reading this has something like this done to them consider reporting for harassment!
          I dimly suppose someone could say it as some form of attempt at awkward social contact or a “warning” but in my experience this kind of thing is usually meant

    2. Ron Swanson*

      LW 3 here—I actually have been stalked before, too, so perhaps I’m more sensitive to this than my colleagues. None of them seem to have an issue with their addresses going wide. Maybe because they’re happy about the gossip fodder…lol.

      1. Boof*

        I hear ya – once burned twice shy, etc etc. Totally reasonable for you to be cautious with your info, or for anyone to be cautious. Best case scenario they don’t really care, worst case scenarios involve stalkers, identity theft, etc. I also had a scary stalker and even though it was years ago now I’ll never be as carefree as I was before. Kind of impossible to totally forget being afraid for your life / the lives of pretty much anyone around you you care about.

  26. Kasia*

    #3 – I experienced something similar. At my company its common practice for an admin to send every person in their department’s address to a large group of people (like 100+) so everyone can send everyone Christmas cards. Not only was this weird, but I didn’t know this happened until I started receiving Christmas cards from people I had never met. I thought I had a stalker until I figured it out.

    I mentioned this to the admin (who got the addresses from our HR files) and she was SHOCKED anyone would have a problem with this. They’d been doing it for years and no one had mentioned this could be an issue for someone’s privacy. She said she would ask next time but obviously unless I move it was too late.

  27. Firecat*

    #3 Do you work at my old company lol.

    The admin assistant would pull crap like this all the time. Then get defensive of you pointed out perfectly valid privacy concerns.

    Things she kept on an unsecured server and mailed to the entire group each 6 months for updates included:
    Drivers license number
    Insurance details
    Home address
    License plate number
    Vehicle make and model

    I pointed out repeatedly that HR had systems for that and if she needed to pull it for an audit she could pull it from there. I was painted as some sort of data privavcy freak by her and her bosses.

    Fun side fact: these same people were huge proponents of keeping our state non complaint with the US real ID iniative.

      1. Firecat*

        Nah. She just liked being in control. She does this about everything. Like if you asked her to schedule a meeting, even if you cc’d the boss and said it was approved, she would refuse to schedule it until you adequately justified it to her…. Which depending on the subject could be confidential, not exainable to a layman, etc.

        Any pushback was met with “well as a good admin it’s my job to protect bosses schedule”. And “You just don’t understand an admins role” (funny how I never had any issues like this with any other admins).

        She was also incompetent. I can’t tell you the number of times I found a time that worked for everyone, for her to find out and double book the room with something paultey, just so she could insot on rescheduling for me. I want to say 28 out of the 30 times this happened she mistakenly double booked key people who then couldn’t attend.

        Finally, and probably unsurprisingly she was a snoop. I don’t know how she wasn’t fired after she was caught logging in as the manager to their email, forwarding a complaint about them to themselves with a false email line like “I disagree. You address this” to herself so that it seemed like her ranty angry email responding to my friend was justified.

        Like I said. Former company thankfully.

  28. Nosy coworker*

    When I first started working in public service, a nosy coworker looked up my house on GIS and told everyone what he had paid for it.

  29. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    OP #2 – Never tell your supervisor you’re considering resigning. You open the door to being replaced out of fear you’ll leave.

    OP #3 – Ugh; that’s insane. You have my sympathies. We often joke about what dirt poor employees have on their employer, but with that assistant there’s no speculation necessary.

  30. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #2, I feel for you! I was almost in the same position very recently– my boss wanted to take on business that was completely outside our wheelhouse for an organization that I find absolutely abhorrent– and while I finally managed to convince him not to do it, the very conversation went straight to the top of reasons why I have to leave. That he would consider taking on that business made me seriously question his ethics, and the way the conversation went (he was extremely condescending, which isn’t new but was just icing on this particular crap cake), reminded me that this is not the place for me long-term.

    I almost told him that if he took the business on I would walk out. I didn’t because these days that is so, so risky. So after I stopped shaking from anger and frustration, I directed that energy straight into my job search. And on the day I resign, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, I will absolutely bring up that incident.

    It stinks. Try to take a bit of comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone– your co-workers sound like they’re with you.

    1. LW #2*

      Thanks so much for this, it really means a lot that you’ve been dealing with a similar problem.

      Everyone is saying similar things – keep quiet but job hunt, and don’t quit til you have something lined up. It’s good advice

  31. Boof*

    I was a little surprised at the vehemence of Allison’s response to #1 especially considering the manager has covid? If you’re a manager and feeling too lousy to do a live firing, should one just wait?
    (Now, lw hints that manager was avoidant even before covid dx but, if it’s just been a few weeks of this I’m not sure how much could be related to other things like the managers health or perceived exposure risk)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The manager has mild symptoms, which usually don’t prevent people from picking up the phone. But let’s say the manager was having trouble speaking without coughing or lost their voice or whatever– this was still handled badly. The manager could ask their manager to make a phone call or they could just say, “Unfortunately I can’t really speak these days so I’m sorry I have to do this over email, but” etc.

      1. Fried Eggs*

        Or just delay the firing! I’d hope anyone so sick they couldn’t pick up the phone wouldn’t be doing any work, let alone the especially taxing work of letting someone go.

    2. MistyMeanor*

      I’m constantly surprised at the extreme benefit of the doubt people in the comments give others…we have no reason to believe that’s the situation one way or another, so why do people assume the most extreme of circumstances? Sure, when I have a fever, I barely want to get out of bed, but it only furthers the point this was the wrong thing to do.

      1. Boof*

        And I’m a little sad at how nasty people will talk about people they don’t know!
        I just said I was surprised by the vehemence, not that it was good form. Looking again, I’m probably overreading “crap move”, it somehow came off stronger first thing in the am then it looks now.
        I suppose I was expecting “It’s true, that was not well done, it’s vastly preferred to do things in person especially so someone doesn’t accidentally miss the message” over things that are poor form but not, like, illegal / horribly bigoted / dangerous.
        I’m also probably conflating this too much with dating advice / “no perfect way to deliver bad news that will make someone agree with it” – (ie, there’s no right way to break up with someone except to get it over with and not say bad things while doing it, and no point in getting steamed over the delivery). Email / in writing seems an appropriate way to deliver some bad news especially when it’s difficult to talk about / people get flustered. But a professional environment is different.

        1. Batgirl*

          I think harshness is justified regarding a manager who would do this, but I agree it would be a nasty thing to say about a dating participant.
          Managers have a duty towards their staff to treat their livelihoods seriously and with respect and concern. They don’t owe you a living, but they owe you thoughtful interactions. Nobody owes you something for going on a date with them.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      If the manager is that ill, and the employee is going to be dismissed, then the grandboss or someone higher in the food chain should be doing the firing.

    4. EPLawyer*

      it wasn’t so much the email, although Alison has a valid point about you do some things in person. But there may be … reasons … why you need an email.

      But the email said your last day is tomorrow. If this person needed to be fired not immediately, which would not have given them overnight to do anything to the company, then you can give them more notice than a day.

      It also said if you don’t challenge it, you get paid for the month. Implying that if you try to challenge the firing in any way, you lose out on the severance.

      Just a poor way to handle this all the way around.

      1. Boats! Boats! Boats!*

        OP #1 here. The manager is not that ill at all — my understanding is that manager was tired for one day and that was it. In fact, manager wanted to come to a work event before manager’s isolation was over, and staff (including fired employee) objected. Manager was completely capable of picking up the phone. And yes, manager still wanted employee to complete tasks the next day. Also, the email was 100% not necessary — fired employee had been working all day the day this happened in the office, and sent a number of updates and questions to manager that day (all of which were benign, I’ve seen the email) — it was that email that manager responded to to fire employee. Manager didn’t even create a new thread. Overall, I used to respect manager as an individual, but I’ve completely lost all respect for manager.

    5. Boats! Boats! Boats!*

      OP #1 here. Manager was avoidant for months actually, not just weeks. Employee was not absent and did not avoid communicating with manager — it was manager avoiding. Overall, manager was avoiding having a tough conversation to make manager feel better, which I believe is pathetic for all the reasons Allison stated.

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

      At that point wouldn’t the manager be out on sick leave and entitled to just…be sick and not work? That’s when another manager (grand boss) or HR should step in if it absolutely can not wait.

  32. MistyMeanor*

    Tangently related to #1…I was once kicked out of a dance group via Facebook message. As someone who gets an enormous number of random creeps saying Hi (at best) I generally don’t read them. By coincidence, I had to miss our next practice, so imagine my general horror when I showed up ignorant 2 weeks later ready to go…

    They still occasionally send me emails asking me to sign up for classes even though I’ve unsubscribed 100 times and told them if they don’t want my free participation in their group them over my dead body will they get my money.

    Suffice to say, I don’t know why people think this is a good idea. Based on my experience, it’s 100% cowardly, and only fuels the argument that the reason wasn’t “legitimate” enough to justify the actions.

  33. Ally McBeal*

    LW2: A former boyfriend of mine (a very good egg) was in a similar position a few years ago – he was a supervisor at a factory and discovered that an essential element of how they make their product was being done in a very unethical manner because it was a shortcut and less of a hassle to do it that way. He tried raising it through all the usual avenues, but when none of it worked, he and another coworker resigned in protest. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I think the regional manager was surprised that he resigned, looked into why, and was horrified that the shortcut was being taken (I guess they’d successfully hidden it from the RM), cleaned house of the bad actors, and begged him to come back.

    I’m not saying it will play out as well for you as it did for him, but sometimes with enough political capital, an ethical approach can work out. You might consider going over your boss’s head before you resign, try raising it with higher-ups one more time. Good luck!

  34. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Total crap move no matter what. At my last position, they fired me over email. My heart sank when I saw the subject line.

    When I was managing remote staff, firing was always done via phone call.

    You just don’t do email or text, that’s horrible.

    1. Boats! Boats! Boats!*

      OP #1 here — so sorry you had to go through the same thing. And glad you know the importance of having these conversations face to face or at least over the phone with your staff.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I love your username (whenever I see a boat show billboard or similar, I say to myself “boats, boats, boats!”)

  35. Wine Not Whine*

    LW1, I really feel for your friend. Not only is it (as Alison mentioned) inefficient and ride with potential problems, the impersonality is salt in the wound.
    When I was laid off this summer, it was via a video call – sort of. At least, I was invited to a video call; and when I saw the other names invited (GrandBoss and HR), I knew it was going to be Very Good, or Very Bad, and nothing between. So I made sure I looked good, my background was professional, etc.
    I was the only one who turned on their video.
    And y’know, I felt fairly doggone insulted that neither of them were willing to face me when (by using the company-subscribed video app) they obviously had the capability.
    On the other hand, it made the layoff a bit easier to take, in that it seemed like an additional proof that GrandBoss was taking the company and its culture farther in a direction with which I was increasingly unhappy.
    I hope your acquaintance finds a new position quickly! And that they can take this as a sign that, like me, they’re better off moving out of a thoughtless organization.

    1. Boats! Boats! Boats!*

      OP #1 here — thanks for the kind words. Fired employee was already starting to look for new jobs, but yes, the salt in the wound was the worst part. And someone else I know was fired during a video call earlier this year — in my opinion, the best alternative to an in-person conversation in a remote work situation,

    2. Fried Eggs*

      Impersonal is right. They’re getting rid of a person like they’re cancelling an order of printer paper.

    3. Teapot Librarian*

      When I was fired last month, it wasn’t by video call, but it wasn’t my boss. It was JUST HR. So that kinda sucked. On the other hand, it meant that it was a quick conversation instead of an hour of my boss criticizing me by saying the same thing over and over again, until she contradicted herself, which is what I’d been dealing with for the year and a half since she became my boss.

  36. Wine Not Whine*

    Second sentence: “rife,” not “ride.”
    (Dangit, autocorrupt, if wanted to say “ducking” I’d type “ducking!”)

  37. Myrin*

    #1, apart from anything else, what I somehow find especially galling is that the news of the firing came in form of a reply to an email with work questions. Like. Maybe start a new email chain at least?

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        If the boss so offhandedly did that, I’d want to know whether he was normally socially clueless, or if this is different behavior. Because if it’s (b), then I’d bet he’s terribly distracted and/or worried by other things going on at work, and the whole place might come tumbling down.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      Oh wow, this is a great point. I can’t imagine what was going on in that boss’s head.

      Employee: Hey, do you want me to include the annual or quarterly numbers in that report?
      Boss: Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of the report since you don’t work here anymore.


    2. Paris Geller*

      Oh, I hadn’t even thought of that. Can you imagine?

      How do you want me to proceed on project X? Also, is project Y still happening and does Team B have the required documents from us to proceed with their part?

      Don’t worry about those things. You’re fired. Tomorrow’s your last day.

  38. Quickbeam*

    #3…hold your ground on this. I work for a similarly sharing company and it has led to work people “dropping by” which is one of my most anxiety producing triggers. I’ve had to be really aggressive with “no you are not coming into my house” with several people. I’ve gone to HR twice with this as a privacy concern.

    They also Zillow my house and my neighborhood. I’ve learned many people have too much time on their hands.

    I feel your pain. Stay strong.

  39. cosmicgorilla*

    Data privacy is big at my company, so # 3 horrifies me. There is no reason, zero, zilch for this list of addresses to be circulating. That nonsense about not wanting to send 50 emails is just that, nonsense. None of those 50 emails should be sent in the first place.

  40. MH*

    OP 3: Maybe bring up your experience of being stalked to HR or ask for an opting-out option? I haven’t had a work-related issue but in the past I’ve had an unstable ex look up my folks’ home address on Zillow and he told me that he was impressed with how much it’s worth.

    1. Ron Swanson*

      I would, but given their propensity for leaking personal information in various conversations, I don’t trust the manager not to somehow bring it up in a public forum or gossip about it with coworkers in the future.

  41. Flabbernabbit*

    #3 – Sharing home addresses at work would violate the privacy act in my jurisdiction and would open up regulatory risk to the company. Where I am, employee names, positions, office address and work contact information is not private. Personally identifiable information such as birth dates, home address, personal phone numbers, are protected. I would follow AAM advice given in similar situations where the organization is at legal risk and escalate it immediately to that assistant’s manager and beyond as needed. This is unacceptable, whether or not it is legal where you are.

  42. Cats on a Bench*

    Regarding #1, I saw today there is a post on Reddit in r/clevercomebacks where someone was fired by email with a suggested reply to such a firing. Something along the lines of a hacker must’ve hijacked your account because you just fired me by email and that would be such a cowardly, spineless thing to do. There was stronger language and more name calling though.

    1. Boats! Boats! Boats!*

      OP #1 here — Fired employee asked me how to respond. I told fired employee to not respond to the email (either by email or phone), but to do the next day / last actions that manager had requested. Particularly I didn’t want anything in writing that suggested fired employee agreed to the strange and completely vague “challenges or complications” language.

  43. Abe Froman*

    LW #3: If the issue is just the initial spreadsheet being sent out to everyone in order to be updated, this is an easy fix. Help them/tell them to create a google form, then they can send that to everyone to fill out. All those answers will drop into a spreadsheet that only they will have access to.

  44. But I'm Not Bitter*

    I was recently fired via email from a job I’ve held for over eight years. My response was curt “got it”, but I’m still debating writing a letter to let the guy know what a jerk move it was. I never heard from him again and I was the one who had to remove myself as an admin from the projects I was working on. Last I checked, I was still listed as an employee on the company website.

      1. But I'm not Bitter*

        Oh, it’s crappy, not going to lie, but it’s also good. I wasn’t happy for a long time. It was a lot more of a “do it yourself” remote job and the only time I heard from the boss was when he’d check in once or twice a year to tell me to do a better job. I had wanted to leave for a while, but the work was in someways mindless, so easy money (and in this economy, why rock the boat, eh?)

  45. Nethwen*

    OP 2: Here’s one possible solution if your company insists on potentially putting people in danger for their convenience.

    If you can afford it, can you give a PO Box or similar type of address instead? A nonchalant: “Oh, I get mail at this PO Box, not my physical address.”

    I’ve lived in multiple places in the US where mail was not delivered to physical addresses and almost everyone had a PO Box. It’s a pain making a special trip to the post office when you’re expecting something, but for day-to-day mail that isn’t urgent, it’s just one of the weekly errands. Where I live, the smallest PO Box is under $100 a year.

  46. Mama Llama Ding Dong*

    #3: I totally understand why you want to keep your address private.

    My dilemma is slightly different. I’m a mid-level manager in a very large organization (50K employees). I typically give holiday gifts to those who work with me in our department (about 30 employees) and send holiday cards and sometimes gifts to others in the larger organization who are work friends or who may have gone out of their way to help carry out a large project during the year.

    Now, thanks to COVID, almost everyone is working from home and if I send a card to or leave a gift at their office, it may not be until mid-2021 that they see it. And of course #3’s query shows why I don’t want to ask for home addresses. I know I could send emailed greetings and virtual gift cards to my colleagues, but that seems really impersonal and it doesn’t allow me to thank work colleagues with special presents I know they enjoy (e.g., a bottle of small-batch bourbon to a work friend who is a bourbon connoisseur or special wool yarn for a knitter).

    So, sorry to kind of hijack the thread, but advice anyone?

    1. Adultiest Adult*

      Why don’t you ask the employees? Tell them what you plan to do, and see if they’re on board. If they want to give you their address, they’re free to do so. If not, either ask them for an alternative or send them an e-gift card. But by asking, you leave the choice in the employee’s hands, and that creates a totally different dynamic.

  47. employment lawyah*

    1. Is it OK to fire someone over email?
    It’s not ideal but sometimes necessary. in the situation you describe it does not sound necessary; a phone call would have been preferable. if your boss actually had CV at the time, I’d cut them a bit of slack, though.

    2. Should I tell my boss I’m thinking of resigning over an ethical conflict?
    Sure, if you will otherwise quit then there isn’t much to lose.

    Principles vary. To use your example, some people think that pay-for-permit trophy hunting is OK if the funds get use to help preserve animals; other folks think it’s not OK under any circumstances. Otherwise-honest-and-ethical people seem to disagree. Very often, the kind of issue you describe is a debate between process and outcome ethics, i.e. “what is the long term effect and do the ends justify the means?”

    Do you want to live with that? You’ve made your argument, but if you’d like to stay you may also want to consider whether you should adopt their position (sometimes you’re wrong, as are we all; I’ve changed a lot of my views over my lifetime!), or whether you want to let this one go. After all, you seem to work with people who you generally think of as ethical, and that’s a hard gig to find, as a rule.

    But if you’re clear that it’s over your threshold and are sure you are going to leave, you can say so. It’s a fact, not a threat.

    3. I don’t want my home address sent to everyone in my company
    It seems unlikely that they’ll stop sending it, and you will may find that they will refuse to completely eliminate your address from their records. You may want to consider a PO Box or an “address” at one of those UPS-store-mailing type of place.

  48. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    #5: I received a reference check call yesterday for a college intern I supervised *five* years ago. And she was still using me as a reference but hadn’t notified me. I had to stop & search my memory for this one person because I’d supervised several interns for short periods of time back then. I didn’t mind providing a good reference once I remembered her, but it would’ve likely been better if she’d given me some advance notice!

  49. Meghan*

    I was “fired” via text message on April Fool’s day. I couldn’t access my email on the phone and a co-worker asked if I knew that my job was posted on Facebook (at a way lower wage). My direct boss wouldn’t respond to me, and finally her husband (co-owner with her) told me to just not come in for the rest of the week. I showed up the next day anyway and he was pissed.

    Sorry, dude. You’re not going to “fire” me through text. You’re going to look at me and explain what is happening.

  50. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    As someone who has had a stalker I would not be ok with my address being published in anything outside of HR and my bosses knowledge. I’d address this by either getting them to stop or getting a PO Box with an explanation that they do not get to have my street address because they couldn’t keep it private. I am old enough to have had to pay for a private phone listing (before cell phones) If I paid an extra $40 to not have people know my phone # and you shared it I promptly changed my # and you no longer got to have it. (I had one friend who was always upset about not having my # because she would share it with people I did not want having my #) Worked a part time 2nd job that printed a list of everyone’s phone #’s and gave it to all coworkers with out a heads up or anything. My cell phone was getting blown up all day at my full time job by teens wanting to get out of their shifts. I went straight to upper management on why this was not acceptable. At another 2 part time job I had a complete stranger call me 1 day. She was trying to get out of her shift and the store manager had given her my #. I had never even met this employee as she worked days and I worked nights. The store manager had all the information available in the system that I would 1) not be available for a day shift and 2) had asked for my info to be kept private due to stalker/harrassement. The conversation I had with the store manager was basically. Do not give out my # without my permission. If this happens again I will change my # and I will not give the company my new #.

  51. Thankful for AAM*

    re #3. In my state, the property appraiser’s office has every single address listed publicly and it is searchable by name.
    I can also look up almost everyone in the US in the Reference USA database at my local library. You can also look up everyone in the US in their local voter registration lists – not online but in most states you can just request the list and get many details, a few states even include ss#s in their lists. The 2002 help america vote act requires states to maintain a voter reg list but does not require that it is private and many states make it available to anyone. I’ll post a link in the reply.

    I am a privacy advocate but the ship has sailed on access to much of our private info.

    1. Esmeralda*

      There’s a difference between someone taking the time to look you up (even though it’s not that much time), and your employer passing your address around freely.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I guess. Its actually easier to look someone up in our property appraiser site than in the list my city keeps on our shared drive.

  52. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #1 has me thinking – how do companies handle firing remote workers? Lure them to HQ under some fake pretext? Fly a manager out to the employee’s location? Fire the person via phone or email?

    I’ve had a few remote coworkers who have been laid off, but I’m not sure how it went down logistically.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Well, it should at the very least involve a phone call with the employee and their manager BEFORE any email communications are sent.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They call you. This is als the era of video chat. So you can still say it to their face without a faceless phone call, let alone an email.

      The “you fire people face to face” is for people you regularly see face to face or have that kind of relationship during non-pandemic times. You fire someone on the phone if you are actually separated, there’s no luring to HQ involved, that’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources.

  53. MissDisplaced*

    1. Is it OK to fire someone over email?
    That manager SUCKS. I see no good reason for this, unless there is some mitigating COVID reason where they were sicker than expressed. But even so, it’s still a pretty crap move.

  54. Kevin Sours*

    It’s never wise to tell your boss that you are “thinking” about quitting. Granted there isn’t a bright line between that expressing strong dismay about things. But if you are going to make the possibility of quitting explicit you need to be 100% prepared to follow through. Because there is a strong possibility that even a vague threat will make you situation untenable.

    And, of course, you need to keep in mind whether it’s better to make a stand or to leave on your own terms and preferably with a new job lined up. If expressing strong displeasure didn’t change anything, chances are your leaving isn’t going to either. Nothing is stopping you from pointing out that issues that caused you to leave on your way out.

    That said, I think the resignation in protest is something of a lost art. If you decide it’s better to walk away then to get involved in {service} then by all means make that clear. There are various ways to do it but I wouldn’t be the least vague about it. Don’t threaten to leave, just resign. Make it clear that it’s strictly about the issues you mention and that you are otherwise happy with the company and the position. There is nothing stopping them from trying to fix the problems you mention to keep you on at that point — and if they would be inclined to listen to a threat to leave they almost certainly will. And it avoids the situation where they assume the threat is just venting and you won’t really do it. But absolutely approach this with the assumption that your resignation will be accepted — this is not a moment to try to bluff.

    The text would be something like:
    I really enjoy working for {company} and joined in part because of {company}’s support for {values}. {service} runs counter to those values and I can’t be a part of offering {service}. Since {company} has indicated they will move forward with {service} we need to discuss wrapping up my current tasks so I can move on.

  55. Esmeralda*

    #5. If you asked a year ago (or even 6 months ago), please give your references a heads-up. It will help them refresh their memories of your work, so that they can give good answers when called.

  56. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP3 (privacy of addresses): even if this weren’t a group that would immediately head to Zillow to check out people’s homes (WTF?)

    Y’all will hate me for this, and shame on me — I’m one of the ‘Zillow’ culprits, or more likely Streetview in my case, as I don’t care that much about actual values/purchase prices per se, but it is interesting to see what kind of places different people live in…

    I wouldn’t look them up in response to a spreadsheet of the type described in the OP being shared, as I have a sense of what information is private, and the work I do depends on discretion and integrity, but I think it’s fair game to do a discreet lookup if the person happens to say where they live for some other reason, like as part of general chat rather than part of official records.

    I say this as someone who lives in an area that (I don’t know how to put it tactfully) is significantly below my actual socio-economic status. Co-workers who Streetview etc my address are always surprised — “you live there?!” I am, not proud exactly, but comfortable with my choice of where I live. And we have much more diversity and interesting conversations with people of varying backgrounds who live here. As an outgoing person and something of a chameleon I can chat to pretty much anyone about anything, from investment strategies to food pantry opening hours and blend in!

    Always a bit afraid of it being used against me in negotiations at work though, like “how can you need a salary of X when you live in Y?!”

  57. Nats50001*

    In regards to #1, my family friend once found out he had been fired from a newspaper article featuring an interview with his former boss… Super tacky.

  58. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    #3: This is also a safety concern! I only give my home address to people I deliberately invite into my life and into my home; that most definitely does NOT include the entirety of the company I’m working for! Yikes!

    I don’t know if this is an option you’d be interested in OP, but would you possibly want to take out a PO box? I’ve been living in the same town for about 12 years, but given that I was in school, I knew I was going to be moving a ton (about 10 times since I’ve been here, what with moving in/out of the dorms every year), so I took out a PO box to have a steady address. I don’t know what they charge in other cities, but I think I pay about $74 a year right now, which has absolutely been worth it for the peace of mind/hassle of not having to update my address with companies that need it constantly :).

  59. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    #5: I’ve started to look pretty seriously into grad school (I’d be looking to start in 2022 most likely) and am realizing more and more how much I DON’T know about how this process works lol. I was filling out an application the other day to see what kinds of things I’d need to provide/questions they’d ask, and they were asking for 2-3 work references.

    In a situation like this, other than telling my references they may get a call from a grad school and not a potential employer, what kind of heads-up can I give them? Does anyone know what kinds of questions would be asked of them? Thank you!

  60. CW*

    #1 – Not okay. At least do it over the phone where talking is involved, but I am a bit biased towards that as well. In 2017, I was fired over the phone on a Friday night right after I got home. My boss didn’t have the nerve to say it to my face. He had such a childish tantrum about it before I left and it was very embarrassing.

    But this was obviously pre-COVID so I am not sure how much more acceptable it is. If employees are working from home, then probably. But what do think?

    But email, not acceptable no matter what. It is a cowardly move and will leave a bad taste in the employee’s mouth.

  61. Shelly*

    #3 – I personally wouldn’t like the list because it makes it too easy, but if you own your home, it’s easily findable in county tax/assessor/deed records. It is… very common… for people in my industry to look up people’s homes, since it’s related to our work. Also my state has very centralized, easy to search court records, and it’s a pretty common thing here to look up people you know’s divorce or criminal proceedings.

  62. anonforthis*

    Oh OP #1 – it’s really a cowardly thing to do to fire someone over email. I suppose in some world if the boss had horrible covid symptoms, and the termination had been decided, I could see why s/he didn’t do it over the phone/in person. But boss should have had someone from HR do it. I had to terminate my EA once and it was time sensitive. 30 minutes before the conversation I started miscarrying and had to leave the office to get medical attention. Our head of HR handled that termination for me. It remains the only time I’ve not done one in person, myself.

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