updates: the wedding invite, the creepy candidate, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I don’t know if I’m still invited to my customer’s wedding after I came out of the closet

I wrote in with concern that my customer was going to rescind her wedding invite after I came out as a lesbian, and to add onto everything it was in the thick of COVID too. (Not that COVID’s over, but you get my point.)

Happy update! I was invited, and it did take place during COVID. My fiancee and I kept to ourselves and wore masks while trying to be as safe as possible. I’d prefer if we didn’t get into the safety factor of this, because I needed to go for work relationship building. It has brought us even closer, and now we’re actually friends as well as business associates. Both her and her husband have been fantastically warm and welcoming to me and my fiancee, which was a very pleasant surprise given the conservative nature of our work. All good things, and I really appreciate your advice and the commenters’ advice. Most of the commenters showed such grace, warmth, and love to a total stranger who was feeling adrift alone in my sea of stress. I really hope they understand how grateful I am for their kind words.

On the other hand, I wanted to write in to make a note of this as well: I received a few comments that made it seem like I was trying to make the situation about me, or attempting to claim I am experiencing homophobia when I was not. I’d like to ask anyone who has this viewpoint to show some grace and understanding to not only me, but any colleagues they may have who aren’t straight. While LGBTQ people are more accepted now than they were in the past, it is not at all an easy task to navigate the complicated nuances of working while gay, especially in a very conservative industry. (Not to mention our current political climate, which allows for people to feel they can be more openly hateful.) I, and I’m almost positive almost all other members of the LGBTQ community, could share tons of instances of negative interactions at work due to sexuality. I’ll get off my soapbox now and would like to end with this: I so appreciate everyone’s supportive comments, and your great advice Alison. Thank you!

2. Employee is vaping during video calls

After writing in for your advice, I spoke with the other supervisor in my office to see if he’d noticed the vaping. He hadn’t but started watching out for it and did notice it during several meetings he had with the individual. We both let our direct supervisor know about it and since then, we have not seen the individual vaping during any meetings.

3. I’m resigning — how do I tell direct reports who are on leave? (#5 at the link)

I have a mix of good news and an update. I wrote you when I was resigning my current position about how to notify employees on long-term leave that I was quitting.

I ended up not using the advice because I accepted a counteroffer to stay in my current role, which I know you don’t normally advise. When I discussed the counteroffer with my boss, I treated it as a new job negotiation, and we set check in points 3 and 6 months later to make sure we were both still happy with the new arrangement. I was also realistic with myself about what would change (my salary) and wouldn’t change (bureaucratic nature of my company).

In the wake of it, I got a raise higher than my other offers and about 1/3 of my job duties reassigned, meaning I’m working a lot less than I was and am more focused on what I am doing. I’m also more comfortable in setting boundaries to maintain my newfound work-life balance and know I can find a new job if the counteroffer agreement slips, since I had 3 long-distance offers in my last job search and am in an industry that is busier due to COVID 19.

4. When a creepy candidate asks for feedback after being rejected (#2 at the link)

I wrote to you about being a hiring manager and getting an odd vibe from a candidate.

I can’t reveal too much, but about 18 months after we rejected the candidate in question he was arrested for having A LOT of child pornography on his personal and work computers. Needless to say I’m grateful to have trusted my gut and not hired him.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey all. I’m asking for no further comments on letter #1 — there’s been extensive discussion below, it’s become a moderation problem, and so I’m asking people to respect my request to move on to the other letters for any further discussion. Thank you.

  2. ForReal*

    OP1: I’m so happy things worked out! And I definitely have experienced discrimination at work, so you are not alone or crazy. *hugs*

  3. DoctorateStrange*

    OP4: Oh, my god that is nerve-wracking. I’m glad you skipped out on that person. *shudders*

  4. Zolk*

    Really tired of people saying they “were really safe” when they went to a wedding during covid. If you went to the wedding (or dinner party or Christmas or whatever) you weren’t safe. Stop pretending like you were.

    1. MM*

      Well, OP1 said “trying to be as safe as possible,” not “really safe.” There’s no indication of pretending.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      The OP did not say that tho, she said,
      My fiancee and I kept to ourselves and wore masks while trying to be as safe as possible. I’d prefer if we didn’t get into the safety factor of this, because I needed to go for work relationship building.

      I also went to a wedding during COVID. It was not an easy decision but we went and also tried to be as safe as possible while knowing that it was not really possible. The OP asked us not to get into the safety side so let’s avoid that.

      1. Luna*

        I’ve gone to two. Didn’t get it at either one, but rather at a friend’s house with a very small gathering! Was extremely careful at the wedding, not so much at the friends’ house. :(

      2. Gayked and Afraid*

        We are certainly allowed to weigh in on the OP’s negligent behavior when it comes to public health, regardless of their preferences.

    3. Box of Kittens*

      She also said “I’d prefer if we didn’t get into the safety factor of this.” This event already happened; she’s not asking for advice on it. Maybe we could skip this conversation this time.

      1. Fae Kamen*

        People aren’t giving retroactive advice, just commenting. There are many reasons people would want to comment publicly on something and not let it slide under the radar unchallenged. In this case, it’s to resist normalizing rationalizations like that “work relationship building” is a “need” that trumps endangering human life.

    4. ChiefCatFeeder*

      Agree. I’ve struggled a lot during the pandemic, like countless many others. Not going to give thumbs up to behaviors that contribute to the pandemic’s continuation.

      1. JSPA*

        Presumably that’s why we were specifically asked not to give thumbs (or any other digit) whether that be up, down, or sideways. It means that silence ≠ approval.

        Boundaries, right?

        Besides, if you’re not giving side-eye to the shelf-stockers, the cashiers, or anyone else who’s doing something not-perfectly-safe as a condition of their job…note that OP sees this as an unofficial part of their job description.

        Furthermore, if you cut some slack for people who are (say) protesting the other (also lethal, also in some sense virally-spread) pandemic of racism, consider that building an LGBT friendly network inside a conservative field is also part of the greater struggle against de-humanization and discrimination.

        Nothing about OP’s letter says, “we went because we felt entitled, wanted to relax, booze it up, kick off our shoes, partaaay, and pretend Covid doesn’t exist.”

        There’s some sort of cultural agreement that certain choices which, by the numbers, have been a massive source of Covid spread are a “reasonable risk,” while others are “self indulgent.” Look in detail at what any one state defines as essential work, or essential work travel, and there’s no consistency, no rhyme or reason.

        If you have not put pressure on your state legislature to keep your state schools remote (with a small carve out for the students who are otherwise homeless or not safe at home)…if you have not let your city council know what you think of eat-in dining, bars and theaters being open, in-person classroom time for students who have the technology to work remotely (in the name of “social development”), newspapers continuing to use pictures of people who have pulled their masks down or taken them off, because it “makes a better picture”–maybe start there, where registering an opinion can change actual policy? Armchair quarterbacking a decision already taken is not an effective substitute for action.

    5. Ryn*

      The flippant nature that OP used to address the pandemic throughout the letter when there are thousands of people dying every day is genuinely offensive to me. I don’t care if they don’t want us to address the safety issue; in the wise words of Kourtney Kardashian, “There are people that are dying, Kim.”

    6. APL*

      Hi, I’m OP1

      As I pointed out, and as the below comment also states, I mentioned I tried to be as safe as possible. In my industry, being invited to an event this important to a customer means it’s mandatory you go, so I did not have a choice unless I wanted to risk fallout at work and destroying my relationship with a very successful customer. Note, I did not encourage the wedding taking place, I just followed up with an update about what happened.

      I don’t have the luxury of working from home during this and also can’t do much to jeopardize my paycheck during this time, so I had to go. Hope that clears it up.

      1. Bluephone*

        You did what you could with the circumstances you had, APL. Frankly, the majority of the blame for American COVID deaths lies at the feet of our elected “leadership,” the rampant cost cutting among scientific education since like, the 1960s, the blatant destruction of our social safety nets (forcing more people to choose between a paycheck and health insurance), leaders refusing to release emergency funds for PPE or ventilators, leaders using their dislike of various state governments to determine which states get which supplies and funding, wishy-washy restrictions, etc. You weren’t happy about the wedding, you like being employed (and not homeless), you took mitigating steps, the end. If people want to act like you’re personally making COVID stick around, that’s on them and their 0 Xanax refills (I myself have had to refill my Ativan so many times during this pandemic that I think my doctor might cut me off next time. Thanks, Trump).

        1. Pippa K*

          I have some sympathy with the OP’s feeling that the decision would be problematic either way, but “you weren’t happy about the wedding” isn’t really something that matters. Epidemiologically, the virus doesn’t care whether someone was happy to be there or attended reluctantly.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        If it is equal to mandatory work attendance, OP, then there wasn’t much you could do to sit this one out.

        I think none of us have the moral high ground.

        Even if I could say that I haven’t left my home since March and had all my groceries and my food delivered and all my purchases delivered (which I haven’t – I’ve gone out hiking and shopping and met with immediate family), multiple people still had to physically come into work to have all those things delivered to my front door.

      3. Mr. Rogers*

        OP1, you prioritized your job/income security, which I think we can all relate to. But I still say it was a choice to attend rather than “risk” or “jeopardize” that. Imagine those of us reading this who have lost loved ones to COVID thanks to some stranger deciding to prioritize their personal interests over community safety.

        I would just ask, OP1, that you at least own up to having made this choice for those reasons, rather than imply it was out of your hands and/or you should get a pass from safety protocols literally the whole world should follow.

        I think Allison’s “drunk driving” comparison is apt. How many people do you think have driven drunk so they wouldn’t risk looking like “not a team player” or “not willing to schmooze with important clients?” Who knows how many people they have killed?

        1. Observer*

          There is simply no comparison here. For one thing the risk is FAR more straightforward with the drunk driving. Secondly, there is no direct connection between “shmoozing with important clients” and driving drink – you can shmooze people up all you want without getting drink. If being a “team player” includes driving vs taking a car service / taxi / uber / lyft or whatever, then again, DO NOT GET DRINK. It is always possible to drink something other than alcohol – even in a bar.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Look, I agree it’s not safe and I’m incredibly dismayed by the justifications people use for activities that we know are literally killing people (even when it’s “just this one time” — it’s like “I’m going to drive drunk just this once”), but this isn’t the place to litigate that. Please leave it here.

        1. Pippa K*

          Thanks, Alison. I understand the OP felt she was in a thorny spot, but it’s a position others have been finding themselves in, too, so I’m interested to hear how people see it.

          1. Myrin*

            I’d definitely find it interesting to hear people’s different viewpoints on this as well but I’m not really sure if this post is the right place for it, if that makes sense?
            Because what I’m primarily seeing right now is not thoughtful and polite general discussion – which most people on this site generally manage to do even with a serious and emotionally loaded topic such as this one – but rather accusations of OP’s acting irresponsibly and selfishly. And I don’t really see that kind of “discourse” as particularly fruitful – unless you count other people reading this and realising that this kind of behaviour might get them yelled at, which isn’t always a bad realisation to have, I’ll admit that – because it regards OP and OP alone and there’s not really much she can do here – she can either defend and justify or say “yes, I was acting irresponsibly and selfishly” but there’s not really much beyond that.

            1. Box of Kittens*

              I am with you here, Myrin. My husband and I just opted not to attend a Christmas wedding because of the risk, but this is an update from the past where this discussion is really not relevant at all. I’m pretty sure everyone here is aware of readers’ and Alison’s feelings on weddings during covid (and I’m including myself here) but when it’s not an actionable discussion it is really exhausting to rehash this over and over, esp to the OP I’m sure.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              I’m with both of you. It doesn’t matter how any of us feel about it–there’s nothing that can be done at this point. This is just an excuse to pile on and shame the OP for something that’s already in the past. This really should have been a standalone update and comments closed. There’s really no other outcome I can think of other than a pile-on, which is what is happening.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Okay, I don’t think this has ended up being terribly constructive so I’m closing comments on letter #1. I’m not sure this could have gone differently — I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a letter about risky behavior to stand without allowing discussion of that, but I also don’t think there’s a way to keep the discussion constructive, at least not without more moderation than I want to do while I’m on a once-a-year-vacation. So I’m closing further comments on letter #1.

    8. Georgina Fredrika*

      I’m pretty sure the rule here is to take the askers at their word; OP says above and below that this is relationship building in the sense that she would risk her job not to attend. There’s no reason to act like this is an after-work happy hour that would simply help her manager get to know her better.

      Not everyone has the privilege of turning down a paycheck, for various reasons; it’s enough to leave it at that if people do their due diligence to mitigate risk as much as possible.

      Snarkiness is saving no lives even if it feels good on your end

      1. Gayked and Afraid*

        Surely there is room here for more nuance than you’re allowing? OP attended a wedding “in the thick of COVID”, and was the only member of their workplace that was invited. I’m doubtful this event was as mandatory as you’re reading into it.

        This event likely provided professional advantages to OP at the cost of public health and safety. People are certainly allowed to weigh in on it. Even if you disagree, I’m sure you could at least understand why people would be critical of OP choosing individual advancement over collective welfare?

    1. AKchic*

      More than A bullet. An entire storm of bullets. The gut was cosplaying Neo in that Matrix bullet scene.

      1. pope suburban*

        Right? That was a source of strong, sustained internal screaming for me. It’s horrible that people would do that kind of thing.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          We had a Creepy Guy apply at my work years ago and I still wonder someday if there’s ever going to be a media story saying that he did something awful in the basement.

          1. pope suburban*

            We accepted our Creepy Guy applicant at my old job and while it didn’t end in a media story, he did end up missing a week of work because he was in jail for exposing himself to a minor. Turns out it was not the first time he’d been in that kind of trouble. The boss was nauseatingly reluctant to let Creepy Guy go, but the problem was the nature of Creepy Guy’s job meant he would be in people’s homes either unsupervised or with only one other employee, who couldn’t be reasonably expected to babysit Creepy Guy 100% of the time. I was revolted that I had to have multiple discussions about this with the boss, but in the end he did the right thing and he allowed me to start a background check program, which frankly we should have been doing well before that due to the nature of our business. Gut feelings, man, they’re often spot on.

    2. Myrin*

      For sure! I didn’t even realise that the original question was about one particular candidate – it read to me like OP’s was more of a general inquiry because this kind of thing happened at her work from time to time. Many yikeses on my end!

    3. JSPA*

      And looking over the original letter and responses, a heck of a lot of space was spent on, “is creepy a catch all term used mostly by women against men to mean, ‘he’s not socialized the way I’m used to, and that makes me anxious.’ ”

      The discussion that follwed was very, very, pre-me-too. It included the unfounded assertion that women don’t get called creepy (or, for that matter, a$$holes); the unfounded assumption that men and women are equally likely to be predatory; the unchallenged extrapolation that failing to detect predatory attitudes equally well in both sexes would be reason enough to give guys a pass, if you can’t nail down exactly what about them is extremely creepy; and the general presumption that if someone feels like they’re encountering creeps more often than once in a blue moon, their creep-sensor is probably in need of calibration.

      I’m hoping this is a cold dose of reality.

      In my experience,

      1. Women who are “socially off” or “awkward” get cut far less slack, hiring-wise, than equivalently awkward guys.

      2. The Venn diagram of “socially awkward guys” and “guys who get labeled creeps” is not deeply intersecting. (Nowhere near as much as socially awkward guys fear, yet just enough so that self-aware creeps can play on the fears of the socially awkward.)

      3. Predatory behavior is, sadly, common enough that we all encounter people who have, at some point, been predator, prey, or both, on a regular basis.

      1. Anon for this*

        To your last point: I’ve crossed boundaries in my workplace. My worst was in the 90s, when I worked at a pizza joint (I was in my mid-20s, not a teenager). I’ve read a lot, and learned a lot since then, and I don’t pull that crap anymore.

      2. Maggie*

        Great comment TBH. Sorry sometimes people’s senses are right and I will never stop trusting my gut in the name of fairness or something. When my creep radar goes off, I’m pretty much always right.

        1. Boof*

          See, i’m curious as to the source of this because having interacted with lots of people, autism spectrum may cone across as different but not, like, predatory/dangerous (yes there are a few developmentally disabled who can be dangerous but that’s due to aggressive behaviors not the diagnostic autistic behaviors)

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Not a guy, but “creepy” is not the word people use when they subconsciously clock me as autistic. The usual word people use I can’t say on this forum because it’s a slur.

  5. Squeakrad*

    I am wondering what’s the difference between a poster saying “let’s not get into the Safety side of things” And a poster recently who said they didn’t really want advice on their particular situation they just wanted to comment. Yes it’s already happened and there’s nothing to do about it but I would urge OP number 1 to consider whether the job is so important that it’s worth risking your life. I have a personal connection to this as my brother recently recovered from a very serious bout of Covid where he was hospitalized for almost a month and almost died. He had the same position as OP number 1 – he felt had to go to work and make those connections for his job to advance. And now in his recovery he’s only able to work part time so his income is suffering more than might’ve if he taken more precautions.
    If a coworker really wouldn’t understand your inability to attend a wedding because of Covid I would not consider that person a friend. But then again I’ve been in lockdown in California since March so I say no to everything.

    1. Pippa K*

      Yeah, I understand the OP isn’t asking for feedback on that particular thing, but it’s basically saying ‘here’s a controversial work-related decision connected to the scenario I wrote in about, but please don’t address that.’ It’s just not possible to structure the discussion exactly to your own preferences in this comment section, especially when it’s something that’s a current major issue, like people’s concerns about COVID precautions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You know, you’re right about that. I’ll reopen the thread I closed. (Please know I will not be around to moderate as much as I normally would want to with this kind of conversation because I’m on vacation, so I am calling on anyone who participates to be respectful and constructive.)

      2. ThatGirl*

        I agree, but I also recognize that what has happened has happened, and sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse. Everyone has their own ideas of safety, and ultimately I think the biggest failures lie with the federal government and inconsistent state responses.

        1. Pippa K*

          I think people are still struggling with how to manage individual actions in an environment where – I agree – government has largely failed. The issue is not just this person’s decision, it’s how we all make these decisions, especially in the face of competing pressures.

        2. Blackcat*

          Yes. It’s more sensible to blame the government that allowed the wedding to take place *at all* than to blame the OP.
          Weddings have been incredibly deadly super spreading events, likely because of all of the hugging. They’re extremely high risk, and they really shouldn’t be allowed to be more than the couple + officiant + 1-2 witnesses for each. And receptions shouldn’t be allowed at all.

        3. Roja*

          That’s where I stand as well. This happened six(!) months ago. OP is already well aware of the risks they took. What good is a bunch of internet strangers arguing about those risks? That’s going to change… what, exactly? We all know COVID is a problem, and most of us make risk tradeoffs every day for work and other things. Let’s put our energy into something that’s going to make a difference in the future instead of berating OP for giving us an update.

          I see a lot of these discussions online and in person and it usually winds up as a lot of mud-slinging and “you’re a disgusting person if you have literally any other safety boundary than I do.” I don’t want to see that happen here too.

          OP, if you read this, I heartily recommend you take a hard pass on this comments section. Thank you for sending in the update!

          1. mediamaven*

            It’s not going to change anything but it does mean we have to give everyone who’s not adhering to the guidelines to get a hard pass. I’m frankly tired of being locked down and watching my business loss money because some people can’t seem to do the bare minimum.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, the information OP had in June was probably not sufficiently precautionary. Yes, workplaces were shut down or working from home, but the majority of our media and elected leadership hadn’t taken efficient steps and were already pushing for reopening.

            I would not have gone for love or money, but I don’t blame OP for not knowing what we all know now in the winter, or for not having the same education as me on viral spread.

            Even now there are plenty of people (sometimes turning up in these very threads) who think that their region is sufficiently “safe” or various other justifications. Those of us who want to blame the OP for following then-current guidelines about “it’s okay if you go to x because mask, distance, outdoors!” have probably also made some questionable safety decisions in regards to COVID at some time in the last 9 months, based on various pressures.

            I’d strongly advise everyone in the same situations to not attend any gatherings, never eat directly at a restaurant even outside, etc. etc, etc, but I also realize that we’re litigating via a time machine.

          3. APL*

            Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s very frustrating to be ripped to shreds over something that was both in the past and out of my control. As some of these commenters seem to think, I should have just quit my job versus going to this apparently. There’s no HR dept and no one I could discuss my discomfort with so I had to weigh the risks because it turns out I need a paycheck! Thank you.

        4. BRR*

          I agree the biggest failure is on the government level and the couple throwing the wedding is also at fault. But while it’s in the past, I don’t like the approach of it happened, it’s done with, nothing bad happened, let’s just move on. And that’s not limited to the pandemic. But for the pandemic, I don’t want to down play throwing big events (among other things). It not beating a dead horse because numbers are only going up.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, at this point I am viewing everything through the prism of “Is this literally worth my life to do this thing?” Like I do the bare minimum that I have to and that’s IT and I just turned down a request to get more tedious/petty medical problems looked at because the last thing I want to do is to go to the doctor a lot during Covid for a stuffy nose and teeth grinding.

      But we don’t know OP’s work and losing your job these days could be fatal too, just in a slow way. It just seems unlikely you’d be fired for not going to a wedding, though.

      1. Blackcat*

        Or “Is this literally worth the life of a stranger to do this thing?”
        My grandmother–age 94–initially had a “If I die, I die” attitude towards COVID. Which, fine, but *don’t take others out with you.* She lives in a retirement community/assisted living community, so it’s high risk if she gets it, but because of the level of care she has (one assistant popping in daily to do light cleaning/check on her), she’s totally free to leave and do her own thing. It was convincing her that she needed to not put others at risk that clicked.

        For what it’s worth on the medical stuff front, I’ve scheduled a crap ton of appointments for April. Dentist. Dermatologist. Optometrist. etc. I figure by April, all medical folks I’ll interact with will be vaccinated (I live in greater Boston, one of the most pro-vaccine parts of the country), and it’ll be SO much safer to do non-urgent medical stuff by then.

    3. Observer*

      The problem is that a lot of people really, really do not understand the real risks involved.

      The amount of dis / mis information floating out there is horrendous. And what makes it worse is that SOME of that bad stuff came from places that we SHOULD have been able to trust. In New York City, for instance, you really can’t trust that any decision coming either from the Governor’s or Mayor’s offices are actually science based or really calculated to truly mitigate risk vs optics (or panic reactions.) Yet they SAY it’s about safety. Is it any wonder that so many people don’t believe anything they say about safety?

    4. Jackalope*

      It’s something of a privileged stance to say, “Hey, just give up your job instead of doing this thing!” I mean, some people can afford it but many others can’t. I’ve personally been lucky enough to be able to work from home but I know many people (including at least one member of my household) who can’t. Yelling at someone for attending a wedding for work-related reasons because “is your job THAT important?” but not yelling at them for going into the office because their employer required them to is hypocritical in this situation. And I’ve seen one wedding (on video) that happened in person this year; it was outdoors, lots of space between people, etc. Honestly, if you go to an outdoors wedding wearing a mask, don’t hug people, and have space between you and people outside of your household, from my understanding that’s much lower risk than going into the office and sharing air with people all day. And if it was an indoors wedding with masks and the OP and fiancée didn’t hug and kept distance from others, that would be a risk similar to going into the office.

  6. Shenandoah*

    OP1, I’m glad your coming out didn’t impact work stuff! I sincerely hope we never find ourselves in another pandemic where you might have to make similar choices, but if we do, I would hope that a really nice wedding present and a lovely card would have a similar relationship building effect while allowing you to make a safer choice.

  7. Mr. Rogers*

    OP1 can request that we not talk about the safety issue, sure, but I don’t think that precludes us from politely and respectfully discussing it anyway.

    If you are doing something inherently risky to yourself and others with the intent of doing it “as safe as possible,” that’s still irresponsible because you are putting others in your community at risk. If you decide that your work’s “relationship building” priorities are more important than that, I think it’s fair to call it out as a selfish decision. Again, you are not just putting yourself at risk, you are putting others at risk. We are in a deadly, deadly time right now due to this exact behavior.

    Yes, this wedding is now in the past, but I think it’s worth discussing because so many people are facing a similar decision. I honestly don’t understand how some people can think the dire warnings from public health officials don’t apply to them, or that their personal priorities trump community safety (pun intended).

    So, OP1, I don’t think you’re a bad person; but as someone who lost a family member to COVID thanks to a grocery worker who attended what turned out to be a super-spreader wedding, I think you did something terribly irresponsible.

    1. Mr. Rogers*

      I posted this before I saw Allison’s request that we not “litigate” this here, so apologies for that. I have to say, though, I don’t think it’s consistent w AAM’s stance toward safety issues to limit discussion of this. It’s a safety issue stemming from a work relationship — we wouldn’t limit talking about a workplace/customer stalker (I hope). I respectfully suggest that the tendency to limit discussion stems from fatigue of this subject — which I get! But it’s no less important. I ask that we be allowed to drive this point home as much as we like.

    2. APL*

      Hi, as I pointed out in an above comment I did not wish to attend the wedding during Covid times but in my industry this is considered mandatory, I do not have the option to work from home, and I can’t do much to jeopardize my paycheck during this time. Unfortunately I was stuck between two hard decisions, and with the rest of my team egging me on to go (as I was the only one from our company invited and would then be the “designated company X person”) I had to attend. In my personal life I have been staying home as much as possible, respecting mandates, and not traveling. Unfortunately this was something I had little to no choice in, unless I wanted to jeopardize my career.

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your family member and hope you are healing from it as much as you can.

      1. Uldi*

        I’d like some clarity here. Did your boss order you to attend, or was it simply peer pressure from the rest of your team?

        And you having self-isolated is meaningless, to be blunt. You have no idea if the rest of the guests did so; and you wearing a mask is more about limiting what the wearer spreads by exhaling and talking instead of what they inhale.

        1. Observer*

          In the real world the fact that the boss didn’t explicitly order someone to do something does not mean that not doing that thing won’t jeopardize their job.

          You are also flat out wrong about masks – they work both to keep what you breath away from others, but they ALSO tend to keep what others are breathing away from you.

        2. Georgina Fredrika*

          A) You’re setting up a false binary – it’s very likely that the third option (no one will expressly forbid it, but the consequences are understood and probably have been observed when others failed to attend things) is closer to the truth.

          B) to be blunt? it’s not meaningless. If you have zero chance of bringing it TO the wedding, you only risk receiving it. You can’t even spread it yourself unless it’s a week-long wedding – people don’t become infectious the same day they’re exposed.

          Not isolating before means becoming a potential “patient zero” of the wedding and spreading it to multiple people – that would be worse, so the actions reduced risk and weren’t meaningless.

      2. BRR*

        I’m sorry you had to face this decision op and sorry the comments are a little harsh when the real issue is the people throwing the wedding. I would hope though anybody who you consider a friend would have been ok with you not attending (and I have to say it, I’d question being friends with anyone who would throw a wedding). I’d also hope this would be the one time it would be ok to not attend a wedding for work and I encourage others to try and push back if in a similar situation.

        And going back to your original letter, I’m happy all was ok with your fiancé. As a fellow member of the LGBTQ+ community, I completely understand the feeling of not knowing when somebody might start treating you differently.

      3. virago*

        The decentralized approach that the US has taken to COVID policy has placed a huge burden on workers to keep ourselves safe.

        In the UK, employers have been paid by the government to keep furloughed workers on the payroll at 80% of their salary. This applies to people whose workplaces have closed because of COVID or who have run short of work to do, along with people who are at risk because of their health or who have caring responsibilities because of the virus.

        In the US, it’s everyone for themselves, so people are taking risks that they shouldn’t have to take.

    3. Toothless*

      Comments like this bother me because they lump any careful, precaution-taking social interaction with willfully pretending that covid isn’t a problem at all. Risk isn’t an all-or-nothing thing; you’re trying to whittle at the percentage chance that you’ll get it or spread it by reducing the number of interactions with people, wearing a mask correctly and encouraging others to do the same, washing hands often, and so on while balancing your covid risk against other risks in your life, like the risk of losing your job or mental health. Shaming people who are doing their best to balance those things and keep covid risk low is a good way to make them throw up their hands and give up on any safety precautions at all.

      1. Agnes*

        I’ve said before that it’s interesting that people who think “just say no to drugs” and “abstinence before marriage prevents STDs” are simplistic and judgmental seem to be happy to shame people over efforts at harm reduction related to covid.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          The difference is that the risks associated with doing drugs or having sex most likely affects waaaaay fewer people than contracting COVID.

          1. Quill*

            Well, that and the amount of time in a person’s day things like abstinence take up, versus covid precautions… and the fact that the precautions apply to everyone instead of being heavily gendered…

        2. Pippa K*

          Harm reduction is a good comparison, but I’d point out that messaging about STDs, for example, includes ‘always use a condom,’ and not ‘use one whenever you feel able, given various circumstances,’ and a partner’s refusal to use one is widely considered a red flag. Reality, of course, is that lots of people probably don’t meet the ‘every time’ standard, but public health advice is pretty clear and consistent. So we need both clarity on guidelines (“avoid large indoor events”), so that everyone’s not just winging it, and the understanding that people may make suboptimal choices. (And we can still note and discuss the suboptimal choices.)

        3. Ryn*

          Except that’s why we now say “there is no safe sex, just safer sex.” There is no safe exposure to covid, just safer. Acknowledging the presence of a very real and deadly threat isn’t the same as fear mongering, and giving people a pass for extremely risky behavior doesn’t help anyone. Going to a wedding in a pandemic feels like going to an orgy without a condom.

        4. Seacalliope*

          We do need good harm reduction models, but we also need to acknowledge that again and again we are butting up against people feeling like the risk they are assuming is exclusively to themselves when it is actually to vulnerable populations who never chose to risk anything. That undercurrent is what drives a lot of harsh responses.

      2. Anooooooon*

        This, exactly. There is a great deal of risk management that everyone has to do for themselves and their communities.

        I’m also confused by the lack (as of now, just one comment) of discussion with the update on the boyfriend’s girlfriend. They “took precautions before it was cool, but risked an indoor birthday party”, giving it to all three. Thankfully mild! But that was generally ignored, even though that actually spread COVID that we know of; and as far as we know, this OP did not attend a spreader event. I can only guess that it’s about what updates attract which commentators.

        1. Mr. Rogers*

          “There is a great deal of risk management that everyone has to do for themselves and their communities.”

          And the first no-brainer step is to follow public health guidelines about (not) attending events.

          “as far as we know, this OP did not attend a spreader event”

          How exactly would we know whether anyone got sick as a result of this wedding? People who only think of the immediate, 1-to-1 transmission aren’t getting the science.

      3. Mr. Rogers*

        @Toothless: I’m not lumping those two things together at all. If it helps to clarify, yes, I agree willfully denying COVID is worse than this. But the action the OP took is contrary to all public safety guidelines and she knows it. It doesn’t have to be “as bad as XYZ” in order to still be bad.

        It’s worth emphasizing that those guidelines are there for a reason. They are there for exactly this type of situation. This isn’t an edge case. It’s nor up to you (or me) to decide when to “whittle at the percentage chance that you’ll get it,” as you put it. Just follow the guidelines. Yes, it sucks. Welcome to the planet.

      4. mediamaven*

        While I agree, weddings have proven time and time again to be significant super spreader events that have resulted in a lot of deaths.

  8. Stephen*

    Regarding #2–I was quite surprised earlier this month when someone on a video call with me lit a cigarette and started smoking on camera. No one else seemed to bat an eyelash. I thought it was pretty disgusting and would have preferred her not to do it, but I am the newest member of the team and so lacked standing…

    Makes me wonder now. She’s British and so are nearly all the team members except me (I’m in the US)…is there a cultural component to this?

    1. Ron McDon*

      I’m British, and would say it’s definitely not a cultural thing – no-one I know would think it appropriate to smoke on a business video call.

      1. UKDancer*

        Also British and I would agree that nobody I know would consider it appropriate to smoke on a work call. You just don’t. I have one work colleague I have virtual coffee with from time to time over zoom who vapes while we chat but there’s no way he’d do it in a business meeting.

    2. English, not American*

      I’d guess that the lack of reaction is more likely to be due to a culture of quietly disapproving than one of accepting smoking in a meeting as being fine. It’s certainly not a widespread UK culture thing.

      1. BoredFed*

        But what is the problem? In a video, there is no issue of second-hand smoke— indeed, no issue of smelling smoke on the smoker’s clothing.

        1. English, not American*

          I can only speak for myself, but to me it feels about the same as if someone were really going to town picking their nose. Doesn’t affect me, no issue of being anywhere near any bogeys, but it’s a very casual, kind of gross activity that doesn’t belong in a business meeting.

          I’m probably a huge hypocrite on the topic, though, give how many (internal, one-on-one) video calls I’ve done in my dressing gown (fully clothed underneath, I hasten to add, but not that anyone would have known).

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      OMG! That’s horrible. That poor photog. And the bridal party blaming her for ruining the wedding!!

  9. HA2*

    #1 Glad there wasn’t any homophobia! But still sad that whatever industry/company that is is a toxic one that would pressure/require people to go to a wedding during COVID…

  10. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 4 – I’m so glad you listened to your ‘inner voice’ and declined that candidate! In 30+ years I’ve only had 2 candidates who unnerved me. I later read about them in the local news for similar reasons.

    We may not always be able to explain exactly why someone creeps us out, but we need to pay attention to those feelings.

    1. irene adler*

      Interesting. Never thought to look up a creepy candidate.

      One time, I got a “bad vibe” from a candidate. Could not articulate what bothered me about the candidate. He did meet all of the job requirements. So I forwarded his resume (plus two other finalists) to my boss for final interview. And kept my thoughts about the creepy candidate to myself. Figured that I shouldn’t judge based solely on a feeling.

      After my boss interviewed all three, he immediately handed me back the creepy candidate’s resume and said, “Don’t hire this candidate. I like the other two just fine. Hire the one you like best.” I asked him to articulate why he didn’t like the one candidate. He said he couldn’t say. It was just a feeling he had. Didn’t know how to explain it (that from the man who has an opinion on everything!).

      Go figure.

      My view now: trust that “inner voice”.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I didn’t have to look up either candidate, they were in the local papers. Very newsworthy incidents, unfortunately.

        It’s interesting that your boss picked up on those vibes, too. Yes, indeed, trust that inner voice.

  11. RagingADHD*

    OP#4, I’m really glad that your gut instincts worked as designed.

    I certainly hope the storm of rules-lawyering on your original letter, over whether using common sense and normal human relational skills was “discriminatory” against some hypothetical protected class, hasn’t caused you to question your innate early-warning system.

    It sounds very well calibrated.

    While it’s true that intuition is based on synthesizing information and behaviors, often those are fleeting microexpressions or subtle contradictions in speech that the conscious mind could not capture or analyze without some kind of fictional CSI slow-motion playback and voice analysis.

    The subconscious does all that work extremely well, if it’s operating properly.

    Trying to argue people out of their real gut instincts as “unfair” or “discriminatory” is exactly what creeps try to do all the time. Perceptions don’t need to be rational to be accurate.

    And a world in which every rejection must be accompanied by a specific list of behavioral justifications would be one in which predators, narcissists, and grifters would flourish totally unchecked, even worse than they already do.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      This is something that comes up a lot with dating, particularly on apps. I can’t always point out why exactly a person has made me initially uncomfortable – but to a one, I’ve eventually discovered that I was correct and should have trusted my gut. At the same time, I/people get chided for “not giving someone a chance.”

      Now, I do think it’s worthwhile to interrogate those gut feelings to some degree – yes, I can see how “different” can translate to “scary” even if perhaps it’s not warranted – but there’s no need to dismiss or ignore those feelings out of hand.

      1. daisies*

        Yeah this is tough…because with hindsight we can say “that guy turned out to have child pornography on his computer so my creepy feeling was real!” but when Aunt Catherine says “I just got a creepy feeling from that Black guy–he might have been in a gang!” we DEFINITELY do not want her to feel that her instincts (aka racist bias) are real or justified or trustworthy.

      2. Cat Tree*

        And here’s the thing – I have “given someone a chance” many times. I used to be a real people-pleaser. In every case where I went on a date with a guy I wasn’t interested just so he could “have a chance”, I never ended up liking him enough to go on a second date. But of course giving him a chance isn’t good enough to satisfy him. These guys have never once calmly evaluated the chance and realized I’m still into them, then went on their merry way. They always want another chance, and another, and another, and if I don’t give it to them I’m being shallow. The only way to satisfy these chance-beggars is to give in to all their demands with no regard for you own preference or even safety.

        I wish I had realized much younger that I’m not responsible for managing everyone else’s feelings. For anyone reading this as a cautionary tale, don’t bother with giving a chance to someone you don’t actually want to date. Even if he’s not outright scary, nobody is ever obligated to go on a date they don’t want to, for literally any reason.

        On the plus side, I have actually become quite good at articulating the creepy things guys do that set off bad vibes but are usually hard to describe.

        1. MK*

          This is not one of those cases where dating is a good analogy to hiring. If you don’t like someone as a potential partner, a date is unlikely to change your mind, because its a matter of personal preference and no one is owed an opportunity; and, quite frankly, it’s more wasting their time and giving them false hope than giving them a chance.

          In hiring personal preference shouldn’t play a role, and I would argue that an ethical hirer does owe everyone a chance at a fair assessment. Giving them a chance in this context shouldn’t be “hire them and see what happens”, but “try to evaluate as impartially as possible, don’t ignore your instincts but also question your prejudices”.

        2. RagingADHD*

          “Giving them a chance” in this context would be following through with the interview, and discussing the candidate with colleagues. Which LW did.

          And the parallel is that the candidate didn’t accept the employer’s no, but demanded to know why (aka “feedback”).

    2. Observer*

      Yes, this is a real issue. I’m glad that the OP trusted their gut. It’s just worth remembering that we don’t always get the confirmation we’d like, but that doesn’t mean we should not listen to that voice.

    3. BRR*

      I think this over credits gut feeling a little bit. I’m not saying to not trust your gut (in fact I would say a lot of lw’s here should trust their gut more), but some people have better guts than others and people need to make sure it’s not implicit bias. But I agree that approach (implicit bias) has unfortunately been adopted by some creeps.

    4. Casper Lives*

      Yes. I think people (me included) can be uncomfortable balancing gut instincts with potential prejudice. Like you shouldn’t ignore your gut instincts- sometimes they’re warning you of danger! But you should be able to examine them to see if there might be something behind it that you want to discard.

      I’m not sure I explained it well.

      1. UKDancer*

        No you absolutely explained it well. If you have a gut instinct warming you it’s good to listen to it, especially if it’s something like “don’t go down this alley” or “don’t go on this date” but I think it’s also good to think why and what it is that is warning you and make sure it is sensible.

    5. MK*

      Being right once should not be taken as proof that anyone has an innate warning system that is “well calibrated”. And I certainly hope the OP will continue to question gut feelings that have no apparent basis in fact, and not take this one instance that she happened to be right as proof positive that her instincts are infallible. Don’t ignore them, sure, but don’t give them free reign either.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Did you bother reading the original letter? The LW was never in any doubt that their perception was accurate, from the start. They didn’t ask about the hiring decision at all.

        The question was about whether and how to respond to rejected candidates who wanted to know why, when the reason was that the candidate gave them the creeps.

        And the commentariat ran with a bunch of totally imaginary reasons why rejecting candidates for anything you can’t itemize on a checklist was unfair and wrong, including assiging imaginary ethicities and disabilities to the rejected candidate.

        This update just affirms that all that fanfiction was indeed fiction.

        Of course, it’s still possible that the LW is Schrodinger’s Racist. But at least they don’t have to scrub their company computers for child porn.

        1. Baron*

          Alison, I wonder if your circa-2014 advice to the OP stands, given how much more we know in 2020 about things like being “creepy” and “not being the right fit” being pretty much exclusively dogwhistles meant to attack people from protected classes?

          As a person with a disability who’s been rejected from many jobs for “looking creepy”, and as an HR consultant who’s seen hundreds of hiring managers want to reject some “creepy” or “not the right fit” person on a protected ground, I have strong feelings here which I’m struggling to express within the bounds of the commenting rules. I’m comforted, at least, by the comments on the original post, where a lot of people correctly recognize what’s going on in this letter.

          But per RagingADHD’s question, “Did you bother reading the original letter at all?”, my response is that I did, and here’s one discrepancy I noticed. The original letter refers to “creepy candidates”, plural, while the update refers to one candidate, singular. Why do you suspect that is? Could it be because of all the candidates the LW rejected for being “creepy”, all but one were “creepy” because they didn’t fit certain hegemonic norms?

    6. Heffalump*

      Having child pornography in any form is terrible, of course. But having it on your work computer is stupid.

  12. Popcorn Burner*

    Re #1: Chiming in to say I agree—it’s tough navigating the workplace when you’re part of the rainbow fam. My experience is with a very liberal industry notorious for poor boundaries and skewed workplace norms. It is not fun being sexually harassed by your fellow queer coworkers.

  13. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#3– I was struck by this part of your letter:

    When I discussed the counteroffer with my boss, I treated it as a new job negotiation, and we set check in points 3 and 6 months later to make sure we were both still happy with the new arrangement. I was also realistic with myself about what would change (my salary) and wouldn’t change (bureaucratic nature of my company).

    I know Alison usually warns against accepting counter-offers, but it sounds to me as though you took a very intelligent approach to yours, treating it as a completely new negotiation, seasoned with realism. I’m glad it worked out for you, and I hope other AAM readers will keep this approach in mind, if they’re tempted to do the same.

    Hope your new arrangement continues to work well for you and your manager.

  14. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP4, it is always worth listening to your gut instinct. I have had many situations personally and professionally when I didn’t listen and wish I had. Gut instinct is more subtle signals that your brain still notices, albeit it feels more like guesswork since the signals are subtle.

  15. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed the 50+ comments that ignored the explicit instructions at the top of this comment section and am closing comments on this post. Really disappointed in some of the regular commenters who for some reason decided to ignore that (particularly knowing that I was on vacation and wouldn’t see it for some time and then would have a mess to deal with when I finally did).

Comments are closed.