coworkers hold daily prayer sessions, employee might be working a side gig during work hours, and more

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

1. My coworkers hold daily prayer sessions while we’re supposed to be working

I was recently lucky enough to be hired for a job in my field (special education teacher assistant) at an amazing public school that has a wonderful and supportive culture. Our district recently went back to full-time, in-person instruction. I am one of four teacher assistants in my program, and so far, my coworkers have all been incredibly welcoming and are genuinely nice people.

Except (there’s always an except) there’s an issue that is really beginning to bother me, and I am not sure how to deal with it. Our schedule has us clocking in 45 minutes before school starts/students arrive. This time is meant to talk about any issues we are seeing with students, check our email, check in with the teachers who we support, do paperwork that our boss, the special education teacher needs, etc. What is happening instead is that my three coworkers (who are all Catholic) use this time to hold what I can only call group prayer sessions. They all go to the same church, and they each have a book (at work) that holds daily affirmations, and they use this 45 minutes to discuss their feelings on the daily affirmation … and I just sit at my desk, excluded and deeply uncomfortable. (Our desks are literally butted up against each other, so it’s not like I can leave, I spend my time doing what I think I am supposed to be doing — checking in with teachers, checking up on student grades, and then faffing about on my phone and trying to ignore my coworkers’ religious talk, and the fact that I am being excluded.) For what it’s worth, I am religious, just not Catholic.

When I told my mother (who is a COO of a company ) that this was happening, she was horrified. Am I wrong to feel so uncomfortable? How should I handle this?

Yeah, this is inappropriate!

First, the law: If an employer allows other private non-work meetings on work premises (like a book group), they need to allow prayer groups, bible study, etc. (they couldn’t forbid only the religious meetings) — but they can require it to be confined to before or after work or on breaks. A group of employees using 45 minutes of work time every day is not protected under federal law, assuming the employer isn’t allowing others to use that time for other non-work meetings.

It sounds like you and your coworkers have specific instructions for how that time should be spent, and your coworkers are just … not doing that. Normally with a coworker problem, I’d suggest starting with your manager, but since this involves religion I’d go straight to HR. Frame it as, “I feel uncomfortable that a religious group is meeting in my workspace for 45 minutes every day, and while we have assignments we’re supposed to be working on.”

2. Employee might be doing a side gig during work

I started my job a couple months ago, and I am managing one person who was hired by my predecessor. He is pretty good at what he does, but he is super slow at producing finished work. He rarely meets deadlines and if I don’t micromanage him every step of the way on a project, it won’t get done.

At first I assumed he just had too much on his plate. I’ve taken over a decent chunk of his work and made sure that everyone else on staff keeps me in the loop when they need his help. So now I know exactly what’s on his plate and how long it should take to do it – and he takes WAY longer than he should.

I’ve been trying to figure out why he is so slow and lately I’ve started wondering if he is working on his side gig during office hours. We are working remotely so I can’t see what he is doing, but lately he has been sending me work first thing in the morning and then later in the evening. I won’t hear from him for hours on end during the 9-5, but the work he sends me in the evening is something that should take an hour or so to finish, not all day.

He does have an agency that he founded and works for on the side, so my theory is that he is working on that and then scrambling to get some of his actual work done before the end of the day. How can I have this conversation with him without accusing him and how can I make sure he is actually doing his work without micromanaging him?

I don’t want to say that it doesn’t matter if he’s working on his side gig during work hours — because it does matter — but ultimately, what matters the most is that you’re not getting what you need from him. Even if he had no side gig, you’d still need him to speed up his pace, get more done, and meet deadlines, right? So that’s where you should focus.

Meet with him and lay out that he needs to finish work more quickly (be specific about what that means), meet all deadlines (or alert you well in advance if he won’t be able to), and follow through on projects without you managing him so closely. You can tell him he needs to be accessible during normal business hours. You could say, “I’ve noticed I don’t hear from you for most of the workday, just first thing in the morning and later in the evening. Is there anything that’s getting in the way of your working during the day?” (You should ask because it’s possible that what’s getting in the way is something like a pandemic child care situation, not a second job.) Also, stop taking over his work — you need to see if he can do the job with a normal workload, not with a modified one that means you get stuck with the overflow.

But what you’re describing is a serious performance problem, and you should handle it as one. Be clear about what you need from him and how that differs from what he’s doing now, and be clear that the problems are serious ones and need to be resolved quickly. If you don’t see quick and sustained improvement, I’d consider that he might not be the person you need in the role.

3. Is it rude to cut an interview short if the candidate obviously isn’t the right fit?

I just had my first experience on the other side of the hiring table. It was a bit awkward because it was clear from his answer to the first question that he was not going to get the job, but I felt like it would be rude to indicate that so abruptly. So I wasted 20 more minutes of his time going through the motions and by the end we both knew it was not a fit but I didn’t know what to say. Is it ever okay to call the interview short?

It depends on the reason. If you realize early on that the person doesn’t have a clear, easy-to-explain, inflexible job requirement, that’s something you can be forthright about — as in, “I’m so sorry, we should have caught that before we brought you in. We actually do need someone with experience interpreting llamas’ dreams for this role. I apologize that that wasn’t clear from the earlier screening. But I’d be glad to keep your materials on file and contact you if a stronger match opens up.”

But if the reason isn’t something that’s easy to explain on the spot — for example, if the person has dreadful communication skills in a job that requires strong ones — you’re not obligated to find the words to diplomatically explain that on the fly. In that case it makes sense to continue on with the interview, but it’s okay to wrap up a little earlier than you otherwise might have (maybe 30-45 minutes instead of an hour if it’s in-person … if it’s a phone screen, can cut it even shorter). More here.

4. My coworker gets emails meant for me and refuses to do anything about it

I have virtually the same name as another person in our company. Although we’re in different positions in different departments of different offices in different states, the strict email conventions set by our corporate headquarters don’t allow for too much differentiation or using an outside email. As a result, we have and We’ve both tried to find workarounds, but apparently this is the way it must be. Consequently, I sometimes get her emails, and she gets mine.

I always respond to the sender with a polite message that they reached the wrong Joan, but Other Joan does not. She says that when people don’t hear back, they’ll figure it out and it’s not her responsibility to tell people they’ve reached the wrong person. While people probably do eventually figure it out, it does cause problems. I’ve mentioned this to my coworkers, and they seem divided on whether or not to respond. For the record, it’s a weekly, not a daily, thing. Do you have an opinion on this? And, short of legally changing my name to something more unique like “Prunella T. Cornbubble,” do you have any suggestions for workarounds? I always mention it and have even added a message in my signature. Also, along the same lines, I always write back to let people know if they forgot an attachment, but several of my coworkers say that this is unnecessary. What do you think?

So Joan sees that someone thinks they have reached you and just … doesn’t do anything about it? Leaving them to wonder why you’re not answering them and maybe to conclude that you’re unresponsive / not on the ball? It would take her three seconds to just hit forward and send the message on to you; she doesn’t even need to write anything back, as long as she forwards the email. Joan is a crappy colleague, both to you and to those emailers.

As for workarounds … you’re doing everything you can (mentioning it and putting a note in your email signature). You could ask her again to just forward things to you, or you could go over her head, but that’s about it.

As for forgotten attachments, why don’t your coworkers let people know when they spot it? Assuming they need the attachment, it’s odd not to say anything.

5. Resigning when my boss is dealing with a family death

I recently decided to make a slight career change. I accepted a position with a new company and signed my offer letter. Unfortunately, the same day, my manager had a sudden family loss and will be out of the office indefinitely. I negotiated a start date a month from now, but I’m now caught between potentially needing to interrupt their family leave or waiting and giving less than a week’s notice (assuming my best guess at their return date is right). This manager has been really good to me; this is a case of wanting a change of pace with my job. I want to be able to handle this as gracefully as possible, and ideally had wanted to have the discussion over video (we have always worked remotely from one another). Is this a case of needing to give notice in person to a higher up, or sending an email? A combination? I’m a little lost on how to handle.

In a situation like this, you should give your notice to a higher-up (presumably your boss’s boss — or you can sub in HR if on one else is available). Explain the situation and ask about the best way to handle it. They might tell you your boss would want to be contacted, or they might tell you they’ll step in and handle things. But definitely talk to someone who’s not on leave; giving a reasonable amount of notice trumps waiting until your boss is back.

{ 499 comments… read them below }

  1. Joe*

    My coworker frequently copies me on messages meant for a different Joe outside the company.

    I used to let her know, but she does it so often that I’ve stopped. I’ve seen her “multitask,” sending emails during meetings, while driving, etc. If she doesn’t care to concentrate on one thing at a time, it’s not my problem.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Please at lease reply to it, even if you say nothing. This is business, not Aunt Betty.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        The thing about the OP’s coworking not helping is that it doesn’t just harm the OP/OP’s reputation – it also harms the sender and the OP/coworker’s organization (particularly if it’s an outsider sending the email). It’s frankly unacceptable.

        And in Joe’s case, if it happens enough to be a problem, it’s worth escalating to a manager. Joe might not think it’s his problem, but it’s a problem for the company as a whole because the right person is not getting the messages.

      2. Infrequent_Commenter*

        Yeah. You might think you’re just being very unhelpful to a coworker (and who wants to be that guy?), if it could affect the clients/company, you have an obligation to be helpful, not act as a roadblock to productivity.

        If someone comes up to you in person thinking you’re someone else (or to the wrong cube), do you ignore them and turn your back to them? That’s what’s happening here.

        1. Rachel Greep*

          If you know who the wrong email was intended for, it takes two seconds to forward it to that person. If you don’t know, it takes a few seconds longer to respond with “Sorry, I don’t think this was meant for me!” It’s simple common courtesy.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Shoot, I even just reply “wrong Clever!” Two seconds. The resistance to this is so puzzling.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      I think the slight differences in your situation do make giving up a little bit more reasonable: the fact that it is just one person who always does it (I would consider if you haven’t already trying one final conversation though where you let her know you are going to start ignoring those like “hey you do this a lot, please make sure you double-check the email as I’m not going to keep notifying you about this mistake going forward”), the fact that it sounds like you are copied on the email and not the main recipient so if it is important someone else can notice the mistake and get it forwarded, and the fact that Joe is not your coworker.

      Though obviously it’s hard to say for sure without knowing what the emails are about. Assuming they aren’t super important you’re probably fine.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. You have already let her know that this is happening and she refuses to change. Also, being copied vs. being the only one on the email makes a difference.

    3. Anononon*

      I have the same first name as someone else in our department, so every now and then I get an email for her or vice versa because of auto fill. I LOVE getting emails for her, lol, because it’s one I email I get to forward to her and then not have to deal with at all.

      1. JB*

        Exactly! I share a (relatively rare!) first name with someone else at my workplace and it’s amazing to see an email come in and go ‘ah, this is someone else’s headache’ and forward it on to the correct party. I can’t imagine choosing to just not say anything, especially because that means it’ll keep being my headache if the sender tries to follow up by emailing me again!

        1. Jg291*

          I go by a nickname that is uncommon (but still somewhat prevalent) for women. There is another spelling of this nickname that is about equally as common. Another woman with my exact nickname (it was her legal name) joined my department and ended up as my assistant. We were the only two people with that name in our 1000 person company. We got used to it and would frequently forward emails! It’s not that hard!

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I have a super common first name; I go by a very uncommon nickname for it (though a common name on its own). My boss, born around the time I was, has the same super common name that I do (apparently SimonThe was common in the early 80s lol). She uses the more common nickname (Sim, let’s say). People forget I’m not Simmy in the email list and will select the first Sim that pops up. Luckily that’s my boss because there’s about 6 other people also named SimonThe at our institution. It isn’t hard to bounce things back and to remind students which address to use. I get that if you have a LOT of email it may feel silly, but what is better – a moment to redirect lost communication, or lost income and time for the business?

    4. Snow Globe*

      This situation used to happen to me a lot. There was another employee in the company with my name, but the last name was spelled slightly differently. Her name was apparently the more expected spelling, because she got my emails all the time, while I rarely got hers. Early on she forwarded everything, then must have decided it was too much work. I would sometimes get texts from my boss asking “why aren’t you on this call right now?” and I’d realize she hadn’t forwarded a meeting invite. I basically just had to tell every person I worked with about the situation to remind them to check their spelling, and several co-workers helped by checking my name in distribution lists and forwarding things to me, but there wasn’t much else I could do.

      1. Snow Globe*

        One thing I’d add – when the other Snow Gloab did forward an email to me, I replied to the original sender to let them know they had sent it to the wrong person and to please keep that in mind in the future. I don’t think it is the responsibility of the person who received the email incorrectly to do that; just forward on the message.

      2. starsaphire*

        Twinsies! :) Except I was the minion and StarsofFire was pretty high up.

        I actually made work-friends with her over this – it started because she got a “bagels in the breakroom” message that was meant for me, and she was in a different building – and craved bagels all day long.

        We eventually had coffee and exchanged private contact info (the emails she got were often urgent and confidential) and the lost bagels became a running joke between us. She was one of the few bright spots in that awful place.

        And, yeah, it took me half a second to forward her an email or even a voicemail. No problem at all. Never occurred to me that someone in a similar situation might not do that!

        1. Windchime*

          I also used to have a name twin. Except the issue was that our names sounded very similar on the phone (not so much in writing). So if my name was Laura Sned, her name was Lora Smed. We worked at a medical center and older folks would call in their anti-coagulation numbers if they were out of range, so I couldn’t really just ignore the calls (even though I was a non-clinical person). I always forwarded the calls; not doing so would have been insanely irresponsible and could have endangered someone’s health.

    5. MassMatt*

      I wonder if it’s an autocomplete thing. Once you send one email to the email program may fill “” even if you are intending to email It’s no excuse for repeatedly emailing the wrong person but if the coworker ordinarily emails the other Joe more than you maybe intervening with the autocomplete would cut down on it.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Mr. Aitch Arr and one of the C-level executives I support have the same first name.

        I have to be very careful when I send Mr. Aitch Arr anything from my work account. ;)

        1. just a random teacher*

          The parent of one of my students has the same first and last name as my father. Determining *which* Firstname Lastname called and would like a call back when the office gives me a message can involve some guessing. (With luck, they also wrote down a phone number.)

          Luckily, they’re both well aware of how common their name combination is (there are more than 10 of them in our metro area) and used to the occasional mix-up.

    6. JSPA*

      Make a (one time) tally of how often this happens in a month (or per week, or per day, if it’s a constant thing). Let other Joe know, and cc the sender. Let them both know that the ball’s now in their court, as far as getting it worked out, and that you cannot be responsible for forwarding other people’s correspondence in a timely manner.

      Could be that other Joe doesn’t want to be on the emails in the first place–which is a very different fight for him to fight, than if he’s missing critical information. It should be “Joe the forgotten” who’s escalating it, if he cares to; not you. However, he needs to know the scope and scale of the problem, to know if he cares.

    7. SleeplessKj*

      I hope you at least forward it to the person it’s meant for. As someone else said, it’s business. Please don’t be a jerk.

    8. Kes*

      Does your coworker also send you actual relevant emails for you? If not I’d be tempted to set up a rule to file and autoreply to her if possible “I think you meant this to be for a different Joe”

    9. Momma Bear*

      We are listed in the address book by first name. For the first several months, I received emails intended for another coworker with the same name, and vice versa. It is not hard to respond to the email and cc the intended party so they can move forward. The other Joan seems weirdly unable (or unwilling) to be a team player. These kinds of email errors affect the company. Why not correct them?

    10. M. Albertine*

      My office phone at one job was one number off from the gastrointestinal clinic of the local hospital. I got so many calls for them (like, one a month, so not SO many), I had a post-it note with the actual number on it and redirected the calls with the correct information.

      I do wonder at the people who left detailed voicemails on their gastrointestinal problems with the person who announced they had reached Treasury, though.

      1. Charlotte*

        I used to have a number similar to the local paratransit service (providing transit for disabled people who can’t use the bus/subway). Lots of voicemails asking for rides even though my name was on the message. I hope they figured it out!

  2. Felis alwayshungryis*

    #1 – I’d be super uncomfortable with that. If nothing else, it’s rude. And they shouldn’t be using time designated for work for what, in this case, boils down to personal interest. If they were all in a band it wouldn’t be okay for them to use the time to work on lyrics, and it’s not okay for them to have a prayer meeting. Do it at lunchtime!

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. For me, personal faith or the lack of same is a very private matter, and I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of holding religious rituals on the clock, when they last as long as this and work isn’t getting done. The enforced participation of employees who either don’t share the faith, or would prefer to work during working hours even if they do, is especially egregious.

    2. Phil*

      I’m a Christian and would love to find coworkers who share my faith who would be keen on a prayer meeting… But 45 minutes on the clock in front of other coworkers? Yeah nah.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        I’m nonreligious and was ready to say that a quick prayer with no pressure to join wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, but 45 minutes in my workspace would be way excessive for anything that isn’t work.

        1. Not Karen*

          About anything, right? If it was a knitting group. A fantasy football league. A video game they all played. A devotion to Harry Potter fan fiction. Whatever. Day One would be fine, but then it would get old fast.

          What’s tricky about the religion, I would tell the knitters/gamers/etc. to cut it out. But it would make me uncomfortable to have to tell the prayer group to cut it out – bc I would worry they would think it’s their right and/or respond really emotionally/personally/defensive.

          I don’t know what I’d do if I were the LW. Tough spot. If discuss with supervisors, I would worry that prayer group would put together that it was me. But also, I couldn’t just ignore.

          1. myswtghst*

            Agreed. Any group taking over a common space and spending 30-45 minutes in group discussion around a non-work topic during working hours would be frustrating and worth calling out. But the fact that it’s a religious group makes it feel extra-sticky – both because it seems almost obvious that they shouldn’t be doing this at work, but also because I’d be a bit anxious about being accused of (imaginary) discrimination against them based on their religion if I did call it out directly.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I have a couple of really niche interests that I could talk about for literal hours, but I know that doing it for 45 minutes of work time when I have other work to do is really not good optics and also could be super distracting to others. It being religion may make it seem “more ok” to a higher up who is also religious, but it’s equally not ok as me explaining my ideas on gender nonbinary in Steampunk for that amount of time.

      2. yala*

        Yeah, I thought it was like, a quick morning prayer, maybe five minutes or so. Forty-five minutes?!? While one single person is sitting right there all uncomfortable-like?

        That’s a bit over the pale.

        It sounds like they’re almost having a bookclub more than a prayer meeting.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’m an atheist/escapee from the Church of Christ, and have no problem respecting some shows faith at work. Prayer before a team meal? Discussions of faith or prayer meetings during a break? Casual mentions of church activity, sharing pictures of your kid’s confirmation, brief talk about an uplifting sermon on a topic we previously discussed? I’ve no objection to that.

        But take over a scheduled work meeting for discussions of your personal faith and hold everyone captive, and you lost my support. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t be okay if an atheist salon sprang up during a scheduled work meeting, either.

        1. Anomalous*

          For me, prayer before a team meal would be WAY over the line.

          If folks want to casually talk about their beliefs/faith/hobbies, that’s fine. But anything that has an element of forced participation is too much.

          1. Shad*

            A significant number of religious people would consider it necessary pray before a meal, if only as a one on one with god. I think it would make a difference whether that prayer before a group meal was an “everyone bow your heads” or the religious person/people just bowing their heads and taking a silent prayer minute before they pick up their forks. The latter might get a little peer pressury if it’s a large proportion of the group, but it feels less intended to pressure me even then.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I wasn’t very articulate about this, was I? I was referring to individuals quietly praying before a group meal, not ‘Let’s all bow our heads while So-and-so leads us in prayer.’

              If I had to deal with the latter at every event that involved food I would speak up – and there was a time when I did. This wasn’t solely because I’m atheist, but because it was always a Christian prayer ending with ‘In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.’ Our team included people of Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and Rastafarian faith, and those prayers were anything but inclusive.

      4. Drago Cucina*

        Yeah, I’m Catholic and would find this annoying. Even when I worked in a Catholic school. Our weekly school Masses were usually less than an hour. 45 minutes is over the top.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          If nothing else, I’d be uncomfortable holding prayer and reflection meetings with a fourth person in the room wasn’t participating! I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. They definitely should start getting to work early to do this and do it before clock-in time, preferably in a different room. They can’t just decide to use that time for something else when it’s clear what it’s supposed to be for.

          1. Littorally*

            Yeah, agreed. Like, praying in a group when everyone else is at least nominally participating is one thing, but doing it in front of non-participants would be very weird to me.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            If it was a minute or two, let’s join hands and pray for the day kind of thing just before classes start….well, I grew up Catholic and while I’m not now and wouldn’t take part, that would bother me a lot less. I think it is the length of time AND the fact that they’re doing it without regards to OP’s needs that makes this feel egregious.

      5. INFJedi*

        I’m a catholic, I would also love it if I were to find coworkers who share the same faith… but having a prayer meeting (during work hours, no less), every day, for 45 minutes, and in front of other coworkers? Nope!

        Having a meeting, outside of work, once every month? No problem. But even I would feel very uncomfortable like the LW in #1

    3. Lacey*

      Yes, absolutely! I used to work at a place where religion was very much a part of the work culture, but the employee prayer group met *after* work. Because, you know, work time was for work.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, as a Christian myself, I feel like they’re being hypocrites by using work time for non-work stuff.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. The prayer around the flagpole, meet before work for bible study, after work for prayer — fine and dandy. but if I am compelled to be at work at 8, I don’t expect to sit there in a prayer meeting for most of an hour.

        I’d probably ask once if they could schedule their prayer meeting before work; if that didn’t happen, I’d go to HR about having worship during the workday especially when it is in the space you are expected to work.

        There will be social costs and perhaps career costs. You may want to think about your next career moves with either a transfer in this company or looking for something new.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Also keep your boss in the loop with HR, unless you don’t think your boss will be supportive.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Yes, the fact that this is a prayer group is a side issue. It could be a book club, fantasy football, or politics. They need to find a time to do it off the clock.

    5. JSPA*

      I’m curious whether this is something long-standing, or specifically Covid-inspired. I can’t fathom what it’d be like to be forcibly that close to other people and interacting with a bunch of teachers and special needs kids (who may not be able to execute masking and distancing)…all day…under Covid.

      I’m that one atheist in the foxhole, myself. But at this point, whatever gets people through that sort of daily exposure without breaking down, I’d tend to cut extra slack for, in the same way we’re cutting everyone some slack for things that are not professional, but are not done “at” others. People are doing hour-long emotional check-ins on Zoom, people are sobbing in the bathroom–and the general tack is to be understanding and push back gently (if at all) even when we find it more offputting than helpful.

      I’d probably take the tack, “I assume this may have started or extended as a way to mentally regroup and deal with Covid stress, and burdens in our personal life. I’m sympathetic to that. But we have vaccines now. It’s time for this meeting to shift back to a time when we’re not on the clock, and a space where only the people who want to be involved, are involved.”

    6. Momma Bear*

      Can they use lunch instead? Does it ever affect the teachers they are supposed to be supporting? That would be another angle. “Ms. Smith did not receive her copies until class had already started. This happens frequently because Janet is participating in this study instead of …” You are there that early for a reason.

  3. Unfettered scientist*

    Wow the other Joan is kind of terrible. She really needs to be forwarding the messages to you. What would happen if you asked her to do so? If not, I’d consider asking your manager for help, explaining that this affects your reputation to clients/colleagues and creates inefficiencies. Maybe they can step in.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, other Joans lack of action on this is weird. It takes no time to forward an email…she doesn’t even need to write anything! And she must have already looked at it enough to determine it wasn’t meant for her, so it’s not like you’re asking her to spend time reading something she’d normally delete.

      1. Dan*

        Not everybody pays close attention to their email, and even if they do, they sometimes miss stuff. I intentionally skip over things, especially if I don’t recognize the sender. Then some stuff gets overlooked by accident.

        Other Jane may not win any coworker of the year awards, but I don’t really see this as her problem to solve either. I have a thing about blaming the average working stiff when the root cause of a problem is a bad process.

        1. Observer*

          But that’s not what she’s saying. She is simply refusing to deal with the problem. She doesn’t even have to respond to the email, just forward it.

          It’s true that the issue is not of her doing. But when the workaround is so simple, it’s a bit obnoxious to refuse to do this. But, OP, have you actually just asked her to forward the emails to you? That takes literally seconds and resolves the immediate problem of getting your emails.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And really, all someone need do is reply “Misdirected email; please check address.”
            (And to a co-worker who does it too often you can stop saying anything.)
            This is standard working practice for those of us with names similar to another person’s name.

            1. JJ2*

              Yes. This is what I do. I have a common name. It is generally best not to try and guess who it was intended for. Even if there is a likely intended recipient, I reply to the sender.

            2. Observer*

              Either one would work. It doesn’t need to be a long email, and if she’s using a decent email client she could easily use a shortcut.

        2. Willis*

          Sure, she might not catch every instance but that’s different than a policy of not bothering to forward an email when she does notice.

          1. Mongrel*

            Depending how many other e-mails the two Joans both should be receiving is it worth suggesting Bad Joan just set up a Filter to auto-forward anything that has OP in the ‘To:’ field.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Maybe I’m misunderstanding you – but if the email had the OP in the “To” field then why would Bad Jane need to forward it, ok account of it would have gone to the OP?

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Email addressed to Yogi Bear.
                First line says “Hi Mr. Berra, this is a baseball question…”

                1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  Yeah, but if the email is [To: Yogi Bear] and shouldn’t be, then how does a filter based on the To: field redirect it to Yogi Berra without also forwarding all the emails that are [To: Yogi Bear] and SHOULD be?

                  Our address list at work is global, so generally the way I’d see this issue is that someone types “Yogi” and then just grabs the first email address that pops up without checking to make sure it’s right, and I don’t really see how an automated rule on the receiver’s end could reliably correct for that, hence the confusion.

                  I’ve been sort of in the OP’s shoes – I was “rreader2” at a previous job, and the guy who was “rreader” got REALLY grumpy when people let autofill take over and sent him emails meant for me by accident, and he yelled at ME about it every time, like somehow I had told people to send stuff to him because it gave me the giggles :P But on the rare occasions I got his stuff, there was no way for me to know without opening it up and reading it that it wasn’t mine.

              2. EvilQueenRegina*

                Maybe if there’s persistent repeat offenders, a filter to auto forward anything from those people (assuming those people have no legit reason to actually email Other Joan)?

              3. Myrin*

                Yeah, I think Mongrel might’ve misunderstood the original setup because, like you say, if the “To:” field had OP’s real email address in it, it wouldn’t even have arrived in Other!Joan’s inbox to begin with.

            2. PersephoneUnderground*

              Maybe an auto filter with the OP’s department name in the body of the email or something- I think the OP could offer to take five minutes to set it up for her and try to figure out what’s the simplest way to differentiate most emails. Like, if A is in accounting and B is in IT, emails with words like “invoice” should auto-forward to A.

        3. Allonge*

          It’s also a question of work culture – in my company, if someone would consistently not be reading their email / responding to it, they would get fired.

          Once you read / scan the text and see it’s not for you, the forwarding takes one additional second. Annoying? Sure, but is it really better to have to listen to a colleague ask you again and again to do it?

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Especially since you can have a form response! There is another person at my organization who has my same first and last name. I have a saved email signature in Outlook that says “It doesn’t look like this was meant for me, you want OtherMarillenbaum@email.address — Thanks!” So I just hit Reply, add the “Doppelganger” signature, and call it a day. Less than 10 seconds.

          2. Maddy*

            Oooof I have so many issues with people not reading emails/responding to them that would be well, not a dream but better than it is now.

          3. Anononon*

            Yeah, email is key to most of our processes, and it would be a BIG DEAL if someone just didn’t look at al of theirs.

            1. JSPA*

              If one person is in events, and the other in research, each can reasonably mistake being included on stuff intended for the other as, “I’m getting this as part of a large list / purely informational not actional” not “I’m being mistaken for Other Joan.”

              Joan #1 may be entirely justified in not opening anything that says, “Alpaca party planning” or “dates for the Llama grooming conference” while for Joan #2, that’s a core function of her job.

              And it’s not necessarily the same issue in both directions.

              If Joan #2 gets, “update on guanaco fodder requirements,” she might perhaps think it’s general and informational, but if much of it is, “urgent purchase order request, Guanaco shears” or “diagnosis, Vicuna balding,” it’s clearly not general / informational.

              “I can’t open all my near-spam that I’d never otherwise have to open, to check if any of it is an action item meant for you” actually is a pretty reasonable stance.

              1. Kella*

                That’s not what other Joan said though. Other Joan said she wouldn’t do it because it’s not her responsibility to tell people they’ve reached the wrong person, not that it was difficult or inconvenient to figure out if a given email wasn’t intended for her.

        4. Chriama*

          > when the root cause of a problem is a bad process

          But is it really a bad process? 2 people who happen to have the same name just seems like a fact of life. For 1 email a week, it really doesn’t cost Joan more to forward the message to OP than to just ignore or delete it, and refusing to do something very minorly inconvenient to avoid causing major inconvenience to 1 or more other people is not really being a good coworker.

          1. mreasy*

            Yeah, I have the same first name as another colleague, and because she’s been with the company longer she has the email address. I’m more public-facing so she sometimes gets an email intended for me. She is very busy and so am I! And yet she forwards them to me like a civilized colleague.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            It is a bad process because the company has a rule that creates the problem, and this rule apparently is carved in stone.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              What process would help? Nearly identical names are going to result in problems.

              1. MCMonkeybean*

                Yes, and with many email clients if they are in the address book I would imagine most of the time coworkers aren’t actually having to type out the full email address. I usually just type part of a coworkers first or last name and then pick from a dropdown. More unique email addresses wouldn’t help in that situation.

              2. Tired of Covid-and People*

                No necessarily. John Smith could be jsmith, or johnsmith, or smithjohn,and people could be differentiated that way. OP’s company will not be flexible with the naming syntax. I’ve seen middle names or initials added in my company to avoid this type of confusion.

                1. Amethystmoon*

                  I have a common first name and last name irl. I have always used my middle initial, but also forwarded emails or informed callers they had the wrong person. There was another person with my first name at a company we do business with for years, & we would get each other’s email at least once a month. So it does happen.

                2. Myrin*

                  Your last point is exactly what OP’s company has been doing, though – they have OP and Not!OP as “” and “” respectively.
                  I feel like the only thing that would really improve the situation would be what some other commenters suggested, to put their respective roles or departments somewhere in the address, but I also honestly think that that won’t completely eliminate the problem, either.

                3. Observer*

                  John Smith could be jsmith, or johnsmith, or smithjohn,and people could be differentiated that way.

                  Sure, IT shouldn’t be so rigid. but, in my experience it’s not likely to make much of a difference as long as names are the basis of email addresses.

                4. SimplyTheBest*

                  At my organization we do first name at We have two people with the same first name (Sarah). The first one is sarah at The other is accounting at And we still deal with this issue of people emailing the wrong Sarah constantly. Whatever the company decides to do, this will still be an issue.

                5. Momma Bear*

                  But that’s what they have done – these Joans have different middle initials. And for some orgs (think federal or state government) you canNOT change the naming convention.

            2. doreen*

              The rule does in a sense create the problem – but I cannot think of a way where email addresses are based on names that won’t cause the same problem. You are either going to distinguish between two Joan Smiths by their initials or full middle name or by adding a number. Even if the rule wasn’t carved in stone, that might not solve the problem – having Joseph Smith and Joe Smith might help , but it wouldn’t completely solve the problem and depends on there being a variant that one of the people actually uses. Even using the first initial and middle name has problems – my employer has given a couple of people emails based on their preferred name of J. Antonio or H.Linda Lastname. The problem is that those names are how they sign documents and such – people actually call them Tony” or “Linda” and don’t even know to look in the email directory under “J” or “H”. And that’s fine if the last name is Throckmorton or it’s a same organization – it’s not so fine if you have a common surname like “Brown” or “Smith” at a large org.

            3. twocents*

              I don’t even think this is a bad company setup. It’s not like assigning random letter/number combinations would fix it. Because even if the underlying email was wildly different, assuming this is Outlook, people would still just start typing “Joan” and could misclick the correct one.

              1. serenity*

                Exactly. Having two employees with nearly identical names is not a bad anything, it’s a fact of life. The other Joan is being cavalier and rude about dealing with this.

              2. starsaphire*

                But flexibility could allow “AccountingBobSmith” and “MarketingBobSmith” instead of “guess Bob’s middle initial and hope you don’t get it wrong.”

                1. Dan*

                  OP indicates this is a relatively frequent thing. Which tells me that the people emailing aren’t paying that much attention, or IT hasn’t configured their email to show more identifying information in the search.

                  If I have to talk to “Bob Smith” in marketing, I start typing in Bob Smith, and then outlook will pop up a long list of Bob Smiths to pick from… including department and location.

            4. EPLawyer*

              Just because its a bad process doesn’t give Other Joan the right to ignore work emails. It can be two problems. One is within the ability of Other Joan to solve, one is not. Other Joan should solve the problem of the misdirected emails that COME TO HER by simply forwarding to the right Joan. It literally takes half a second. Otherwise, she is simply not doing her job. Part of one’s job is NOT to gum up the works for everyone else.

              The process is a problem that is above both Joans’ paygrade to solve. Since the company REFUSES to resolve it, they have to do the workarounds. Because its part of their job — let me say this again — NOT to gum up the works for everyone else.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                And in Outlook, at least, it’s super easy to set up a quick-step that can forward an email to someone else and delete it all in one click. I just checked – I can take two minutes to link up the actions “forward message as attachment to (whoever)” (including a canned “the attached email was sent to me erroneously, please advise sender” or whatever), “mark as read” and “delete”, and then it’s right there at the top center of my Outlook screen as a one-click option going forth. (You can also forward it in-line, but my thought on forward-as-attachment was that that way, the correct recipient can open the attachment and reply to it directly, rather than risk replying back to me or otherwise getting their own misdirection in somehow, and since it’s the same amount of one-button effort to me either way…)

                1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  You could even, if you wanted, include an action in the quick-step that would also automatically reply to the original sender something like “Your misdirected email has been forwarded to its intended recipient.” Still all one click!

              2. Dan*

                See… this is where I disagree with you. When “the company” *refuses* to resolve a problem, I don’t think it’s on the rank and file to come up with solutions to problems the company doesn’t want to. Corporate doesn’t want to fix the problem? Other Jane isn’t the bad guy.

                1. SimplyTheBest*

                  What do you want the company to do? Because as long as there are two Joans, people are going to email the wrong one. It doesn’t matter if their email addresses are close together or not.

            5. Guacamole Bob*

              Eh, this is just part of life. It’s good to create systems that reduce the risk of this happening, but it happens with mail, it happens with phone numbers (doesn’t every town have a story about that family whose number was one digit off from the pizza place?), people tag the wrong person on twitter all the time, and it happens with email addresses. There are a lot of people in the world, and a lot of contact methods, and there’s often no foolproof way to distinguish when names are similar.

              My company has at 10,000 employees and at least one instance where three people share the same name, and lots where there are two people with the same or very similar names. Outlook does list titles and departments if you bring up the full directory, but aside from that there’s only so much that can be done to make it so that no one ever contacts the wrong one.

              Part of being a human being in society is dealing with these kinds of things reasonably politely. I drop off my neighbor’s mail, I redirected callers who were looking for the university down the street when they called our (similar) number at an old job, and I wrote back to the email earlier this week from a regular correspondent that seemed totally out of context and said I thought he had the wrong person (he did). It’s totally weird that Joan just ignores these emails.

              1. Tired of Covid-and People*

                Well said. Misdirected mail is a thing around here, and if it is within a one block radius I take it over. Otherwise, it goes back in the mail with a note about the misdelivery. I would never just ignore it (ok, junk mail flyers and such I discard). Mistakes happen and it’s a golden rule moment for me.

              2. Retired Prof*

                Yesterday as the Congressman Matt Gaetz scandal broke, journalist Matt Gertz posted on Twitter: “Oh, f**k”. Then spent the day responding “Wrong guy” to hundreds of angry tweets.

                1. Doc in a Box*

                  Reminds me of Twitterer John Lewis (@johnlewis). “Computer science educator, father of four, social liberal, atheist, and not a retail store.”

              3. Dan*

                I have a suspicion that one of two things is true. Either the company isn’t populated the outlook directory correctly, if at all (which makes this an IT problem they can fix) or people are lazy.

                OP says this happens relatively frequently, which tells me the issue is more systemic than Other Jane not being a team players.

            6. Anononon*

              Nah, it’s just something that happens. Our emails are first initial, last name, but just having the same first name as someone means mistyped emails now and then due to auto fill.

            7. JB*

              Honestly I’m not sure how much a different process would help. Even if LW were able to get a more differentiated email address or use an external email address, if everyone is used to emailing they may well still end up emailing the wrong Joan – especially if she’s now the only Joan coming up in the employee address book with the format of email address they’re expecting.

          3. Mockingjay*

            Agree, close or same names is a frequent happenstance. My husband and I have a fairly unusual last name and we support the same huge government agency. We both have government email accounts. We’ve received many of each other’s emails, simply because Outlook autofills a name from the entire agency roster when you start typing in the To bar. Heck, I’ve sent stuff to the wrong John.Q.Public myself because there’s five of them: John.Q.Public@email, John.Q.Public1@email, John.Q.Public2@email…

            Joan just needs to forward the damn email. OP should loop in her manager because 1) it’s affecting work and 2) it’s ridiculous.

          4. JSPA*

            Two problems:

            1. Numerator without denominator. We don’t know how much crud she has to wade through to spot that one email, nor how much of her job involves reading and responding to emails.

            2. extrapolated numerator; OP knows how many she gets for Other Joan. She does not know (unless Joan is perfect in her forwarding–which we know is not so!) how many emails Other Joan gets, for her. If OP gets one a week, and Joan gets 10 a week, that’s going to feel like an unequal burden.

            Also add, relative time pressure and perceived essential nature of the emails. Some emails–some entire processes–make a company run much better, yet a delay or a lost link in the communication will not have much impact. Other emails are crucial.

        5. Julia*

          “I intentionally skip over things, especially if I don’t recognize the sender. Then some stuff gets overlooked by accident.”

          If you’re regularly missing emails in your inbox that require action from you, that system isn’t working and might be annoying people you work with.

          I’m not saying people’s email habits need to be perfect – but intentionally skipping over and overlooking emails is actually not as common as you’re implying. It’s not an “eh, lots of people ignore their email, not her problem” situation.

        6. MassMatt*

          I don’t think it’s a failure of process! People have similar names. In large organizations especially there are bound to be some or even several people with very similar or identical names. An email address can be assigned with numbers or letters to differentiate among them but since people don’t use those in real life they are bound to be missed or forgotten. John really needs to forward the emails intended for John1 and so on.

          The coworker is really unhelpful and the LW is likely to be blamed for lack of responsiveness. Even if they didn’t ignore my email, they have a colleague at the company who did, which reflects poorly on them.

    2. The other Mary*

      I have the same name as a colleague. We get each other’s email, phone calls, mail. It’sa rare thing though and it’s easy for us to reply and add the right person / put things back in snail mail etc.

      However, if this was a regular thing I would very quickly get sick of that. I’d be really reactive to start with – but then that enthusiasm and effort would wane. This happens when I move house. For a while all wrong mail is quickly dealt with. Fast forward a bit and I’ll get to it whenever.

      If the other Joan had an email account that is overwhelming and they struggle to get to the stuff that is for them. Or they get a lot of emails that are irrelevant to their role, they may screen VERY heavily. And so stuff that is obviously not for them just gets ignored.

      They may also be trying to train people to stop it by not sorting out the error for them.

      Honestly it’s easy to think they should be fixing this up, but it’s happening all the time. Your colleagues need to learn to set up an alias so they aren’t repetitively emailing the wrong persons. Especially if it is the same people getting your email wrong time and time again.

      1. Allonge*

        Wanting to train colleagues might be a fair point, but in this case I would suggest setting up a signature that says “Wrong Joan, please contact Other!Joan” and replying with that instead of just ignoring.

        1. Forrest*

          Yes, if your goal is to deal with this quickly, then forwarding it to LW Joan is the simpler option.

          Scenario A: Wrong Joan forwards email to Right Joan; Right Joan answers with a note saying, “Hi, this originally went to Wrong Joan, please update your address book or check you’ve got Right Joan.” Fifty percent of the time, it works and Wrong Joan never doesn’t get any more emails from that person.

          Scenario B: Wrong Joan ignores email, gets follow up email two weeks, which she ignores, and another one a week after that, which she ignores, and then maybe a phone call finding out why she never dealt with that email…

          “I want this problem to go away so I’m going to ignore it” is just a weird tack to take.

          1. Anonys*

            Yes this is what I was thinking as well. I think rather than people figuring out they emailed the wrong person when they get no response, it’s far more likley they’ll continue to send follow ups to the wrong Joan.

            I think this company has a slightly weird culture because so many of LWs colleagues seem to think this behaviour is ok and they also would not follow up if someone doesnt send an attachment. I mean, if someone sends an email saying: “Please find x attached”, they will think I received x from them. Chances they will notice the mistake are slim, so ofc I will follow up and make them aware of their mistake? This is such a weird professional attitude to basically say: If someone else makes a mistake it’s not my problem and doesn’t concern me even if it directly affects my work.

            1. WellRed*

              I agree the company culture seems a bit off. If I need an attachment, it slows my work down to just…sit around not asking for it. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, IT, but seriously, the company could let some flexibility in in the email address conventions. In fact, they’d have to if they hired two John Paul Smiths.

              1. LifeBeforeCorona*

                Yeah, I wonder how they deal with name changes through marriages, transitions and other legitimate needs. That must have happened at some point and they can’t just ignore it.

              2. Rara Avis*

                I have two coworkers with the same name and their email addresses appear as Aryas (llama herding) and Aryas (fundraising). So IT was able to add a descriptor as part of the name. (On the other hand, our naming convention is firstnamelastinitial, and I wasn’t the first raraa hired, so I’m raraav. Clients just assume I’m raraa (the first one isn’t client-facing) and she gets a lot of email meant for me. She doesn’t have a desk job, so, although she does forward stuff, there can be a long delay.

      2. Weegie*

        You’re totally right that you’d get sick of it if it became a regular thing! After I’d been in a job (very large organisation) for a year someone joined with the exact same name as me. Totally different departments, but almost immediately I began getting her emails. For quite a long time I sent a quick note to the sender explaining the mistake, I contacted IT to see if we could differentiate by adding our department names to our email addresses (answer: no; me: why on earth not?), considered changing my name, and *constantly* pointed out to colleagues who worked with both of us that there were two of us with the same name now and please be careful to email the right one.
        Funnily enough, it never occurred to me to just forward the emails, but even if it had it wouldn’t have made a difference. We both clearly dealt with hundreds of people inside and outside the organisation, I was extremely busy and working stupid hours, and after a few months the sheer onslaught of misdirected emails became too much, so I just stopped correcting and redirecting. No idea if she ever got email meant for me, but if so she certainly didn’t forward any.
        The only thing that solved the problem was me leaving the organisation. Thankfully, I have a fairly uncommon name, so it has never happened again.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          At my old job, I had this one coworker, let’s say he was Bob Smith. The year after he started, a Bob Smith was hired in HR for a year’s temporary contract. While he was set up in our internal address book to display as Smith, Bob (HR), the other Bob appeared above him and people were always emailing him by mistake.

          The first time it happened, our Bob didn’t make the connection with the HR guy and said something like “Why is this guy emailing me about So and so’s sick leave?” I know on that occasion he went back to the guy and said he thought that wasn’t meant for him, I’m not sure whether he used to keep going back to the senders or forward them on to HR Bob once he did know what was happening, but I think he always used to do something.

          In the end, HR Bob Smith asked if our Bob could have his job title added in brackets to the address book to make it easier for people to tell – this meant that HR Bob now displayed first in the book anyway which helped. But IT had no problem in adding department names when it came up, so I have no idea why that company couldn’t!

          1. Aitch Arr*

            This is what happened in a former job of mine as well.

            I was Firstname Lastname (Human Resources) and she was Firstname Lastname.

            However, she’d still get my emails and vice versa (she was a clinician). I wish they had made her Firstname Lastname (Clinical Department).

        2. curly sue*

          One of the managers in facilities / physical plant on campus had the same name – and almost identical email address – as one of the gynecologists in the medical school. He’d periodically get mis-sent emails with some fairly disconcerting content, and often photo attachments. He turned off every ‘preview’ option on his outlook *very* quickly once that started happening.

        3. Chinook*

          I worked in a large company where bith a partner and a new accountant had the exact same names. Thebpartner, who was swamped with work, thought it was no big deal to forward wringky addressed stuff to the right guy because it was a simple short task. The new accountant was more concerned about sending work directly to a partner (because that would usually go through multiple man) but the partner brought him a coffee, explained it was the correct thing to do for this particular issue (and to ignore any content be he suddenly becamebprivy to big issues)and it became a major part of both their days.

          That is the attitude that us healthy and useful. Sorry that OP doesn’t get that with her colleague.

      3. Rob aka Mediancat*

        We have a case at my workplace of not-quite identical names — Lauren Burrows vs., say, Layla Burrows — where nonetheless our email system would often autocomplete one name for the other.

        This wasn’t nearly as big an annoyance as it seems to have been for other folks, because in our employee list of thousands of people, these were the only two folks named Burrows, and when we worked in the office, they worked literally 12 feet away from each other.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      I have a nearly identical street address as a guy I will call Larry, because that is his name. It is an “E” vs. a “W” in the street name, about a block or so apart. Had the developer thought this through, he would have set it up so that the houses on the east side and the houses on the west side didn’t share numbers, but he didn’t, and that was fifty years ago and there is nothing for it now. So Larry and I are postal buddies, periodically dropping by with misdelivered mail. Just a week ago this included his tax refund check. He was unamused. He talked about complaining to the postmaster, since this is really a sloppiness problem on that end.

      1. Generic Name*

        Ha! I grew up in a neighborhood with numbered streets. The streets would alternate with street and Avenue. So one block would be 2nd street, the next 2nd Avenue. Kind of dumb. My parents constantly got mail for a house the block behind us, and they did the same thing.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        That honestly does sound like it should be brought to the postmaster’s attention if it hasn’t been before! Might not fix anything, but I think that’s a pretty reasonable response personally.

      3. how long till i can retire?*

        good luck with the postmaster. We constantly get mail for other people on our streets, other streets, no idea where they are. Everyone in the neighborhood complains about it. Checks go missing, Packages show online delivered and don’t show up till the next day (they outright lie on the delivery page) .. Lots of complaints filed but basically everyone knows don’t send anything of any value thru our local post office – go to the one across town instead.

    4. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I wonder if the other Joan came from someplace with a strong culture of refusing to do anything that isn’t in your formal job description. I’m picturing some kind of unionized civil-service workplace like a driver’s license center. Definitely not a good look in most office workplaces.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Now, now, let’s be kind. I was at the DMV last Friday and the staff were extraordinarily helpful and gracious. They reorganized to an appointment basis due to COVID and added more online services. It’s made a massive improvement in service times.

      2. Forrest*

        I mean by the sound of the attachment thing, *this* is the culture of not doing anything outside your job description. OP sounds like she’s the outlier.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Came here to say this. Everyone in the office seem to act like nothing any of them do in their jobs matters. I can’t think of how else to explain everyone refusing to forward an email to the right person, or ask for a missing attachment, out of some kind of principle. Don’t they *need* the attachment?

          1. Julia*

            It may be the types of emails that are the issue: maybe people in this office frequently receive “FYI emails” with informational content they don’t need to act on. Or maybe this office just misuses email by sending a ton of unnecessary emails, so that now there’s a culture of treating them like they aren’t that important.

      3. Cat Tree*

        Can we please stop with the DMV stereotype? I’ve never actually been to a bad one, and I would much rather go to a standard DMV than a department store around Christmas or my mismanaged nearby grocery store on any day.

        I’m sure there are some bad DMVs, but it’s not universal.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ll go ahead and second this. I’ve never been in and out of a DMV or auto title bureau in longer than a half-hour.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            The last time I had to get my license renewed I had to go to the DMV three different times because wait times were so long. The last time, I took the entire day off of work and was at the DMV for 4 hours so. In my experience, the jokes about how slow the DMV is are spot on.

    5. Cj*

      I would definately go the forwarding route, for both the OP and Other Joan rather than replying to the sender. I’d leave it up to the intended person to notify the sender that their e-mail had gone to the wrong person, and give them the correct info for future e-mails. Since the intended recipient would be the one replying, the sender would then have the correct Joan in their contact list.

  4. Kevin Sours*

    A government agency allowing prayer meetings on the clock raises *all* *kinds* of legal issues.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I was wondering what happened to the separation of church and state?

      Granted, I’m in Finland where we have two official state churches, the Lutheran and Orthodox. Because they’re state churches, members pay their tithes through our IRS. In practice this means that HR/accounts payable knows who is and who isn’t a church member, because the tax rate for members is a percentage point higher than it is for non-members with the same income, and we have mandatory withholding of taxes by the employer (it’s probably the reason why most don’t complain much about our relatively high income tax, we never see the money). But in general, religion is much less visible here than it seems to be in the US, in spite of having state churches…

      1. Book rabbit*

        I commented elsewhere. But this isn’t what separation of church and state means.

        There’s actually been quite a number of lawsuits in the U.S. about the right to religious activity and participation in different settings. In schools there are two sides to this staff and students.

        My reading of tidbits I’ve seen (not an expert or even well informed) is that the law specifically allows school employees to pray, have prayer groups, and hold religious discussion provided it is not in the presence of students. This matches to what AAM has said.

        They can however have an issue with people not doing their job, or in excluding coworkers, or activities not being suitable for specific locations (eg where others are working) just as they would if the group were have a 45min discussion each morning about sports. They can also take action on someone trying to make you join their religion (or leave your religion) if that were happening.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Thanks for this – I was thinking that from what I understood, the issue wasn’t the prayer per se but the prayer while other duties were supposed to be taking place, and in front of the LW.

          1. CowWhisperer*

            Except when you read carefully, the letter writer admits that her work doesn’t take the entire time and she spends most of that time messing around on her phone. As a former teacher, I really doubt an entire special ed department has enough work to be done by aides to fill 4 (45 minute) slots before school each day.

            So….this means the aide is complaining that her coworkers are talking about a topic she finds boring – but they are not demeaning her religion or forcing her to join. Talking about something from their church – be it an affirmation or a church fair or the internecine warfare that occurs in the congregation – is allowed under general gossiping rules. It’s literally the same thing as the four male teachers I shared a plan period with who loved to discuss football during down time. Not my favorite thing – but there were no kids around and they aren’t being paid to entertain me.

            It would be different if the staff was not getting their work done – but if that was the case, that would be something to take up with the teachers affected, not HR.

            I worry that following Alison’s advice is going to create real problems for the aide. Not because HR or the principal will care – but because it makes them seem very out of touch with how to deal with minor issues between staff members.

            1. JM60*

              It’s not the same as people talking about fantasy football. If your co-workers were discussing fantasy football on the other side of the room, it would be socially acceptable to also make some noise yourself (perhaps talking to another coworker in a normal volume). With prayer, there’s an implicit demand for silence, and talking at a normal tone of voice in the same room would be viewed as socially unacceptable. Since most people would feel pressured to remain silent/quite, that is a form of passive participation.

        2. JM60*

          the law specifically allows school employees to pray, have prayer groups, and hold religious discussion provided it is not in the presence of students

          Employees may be able to pray, but they can’t force others (including other employees) to be involved. Group prayer when and where an employee is forced to be present is forcing them to be involved.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        People talk about “separation of church and state” but the actual language in the constitution is about “establishing” a church. What you describe, with the government being the funding conduit for the church, is the core concept of a church being established, though yours is a reduced version in that it is voluntary. The concept goes further than that, taking “establish” to mean various non-financial aspects as well, but the financing is the heart of the matter.

      3. Quickbeam*

        I spent a lot of time in Finland and I once took a tour of Helsinki where the tour guide was pointing out churches. Someone behind me asked a question about attendance and the guide said “oh no one really goes to church here”. I thought the couple behind me was going to choke to death. I thought it was more a translation error….the guide spoke about 20 languages.

      4. it's me*

        Reminds me of when I first heard of the German “church tax,” which kind of blew my mind.

    2. Noncompliance Officer*

      As a government employer, a school has to allow religious gatherings of employees (under certain conditions), otherwise the school is violating the 1st amendment.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        But the government does not need to allow religious gatherings on the clock unless they also allow other non-work gatherings on the clock. For example, if the government employer allowed groups of employees to play bridge for 45 minutes each morning during work hours while on the clock, right next to other employees in a way that may be disruptive, and during a time when it is expected that they would be doing other tasks, then that government employer also must allow religious gatherings on the same terms. I think that the issue here is really that several employees aren’t working when they should be.

      2. JM60*

        Employees must be allowed to voluntarily pray, but they can’t force others (including other employees) to be involved. Group prayer when and where an employee is forced to be present is forcing the other employee to be involved.

    3. canary*

      Kind of depends on the government. I’ve been to meetings of state representatives on capitol grounds that have started with an overtly Christian blessing. Which is why my advice to the LW would be to politely ask the teachers to move their prayer meeting elsewhere because it’s distracting, not because it’s religious. I wouldn’t want to run the risk that these teachers turn out to be a bunch of Karens screaming “religious oppression” and discovering that the administration is of the same bent (or doesn’t want to risk setting off the surrounding community of Karens).

      1. Self Employed*

        Even in lefty land where I live, government meetings start with at least a short blessing. (Though I’ve seen some by other non-Christian religions here.) I have made my peace with it being a ceremonial way to transition into the meeting with a reminder of moral responsibility, at least based on the content of what I’ve heard when I’m there on time.

        And it doesn’t take 45 minutes of everyone’s time, either.

  5. TPS reporter*

    My company has a similar issue with email overlap in the many thousands of employee workforce. Although the email address itself can’t change our IT has been able to add a description in the display name in Outlook (i.e. Sara Lee, Llama grooming dept and Sara Lee, Llama wrangling dept).

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      Even at a small company, our IT department has been able to do this for folks with very similar names (we’ve got, say, Sarah Lee, Llama Grooming and Sara Leigh, Llama Wrangling).

  6. Double A*

    The dilemma in letter 1 is interesting, because classroom aides need to take direction from the teacher, but the teacher is not the aides’ supervisor. As a Special Ed teacher, my recommendation would be to talk to the teacher, because the best path would be for the teacher to bring it to the attention of the aides’ supervisor. If the teacher doesn’t want to raise the issue, you can try to problem solve with the teacher about next steps, and you can indeed go to your supervisor to discuss it (because I’d assume the aides all have the same supervisor). I would guess this is a pattern that has developed that the teacher feels somewhat helpless to address, but now that someone else is affected by it, it might motivate them to actually raise the issue. So I’d start there.

    My experience is that HR is quite hands off in public schools (they’re centralized at the district level), and it would be dealt with through the school’s own organizational structure. But because it deals with religion and public money, maybe it does need to be escalated to HR immediately. In thinking more about it, I do think it’s a good idea to consult with HR.

    I feel like this is one of those letters where this is actually just the tip of the iceberg of the dysfunction…I’d be very interested to hear a follow up. And if it turns out this workplace is toxic, the good news is that people who are enthusiastic about being Special Education aides are worth their weight in gold and you will not likely have trouble finding a different position.

    1. Kimmybear*

      All of this. HR will probably tell you to talk to the principal since the school is their domain. Also the flipside of special education aides being worth their weight in gold is that schools are hesitant to get rid of any for things like this. They are hard positions to fill and schools have to have them filled to adhere to IEPs.

      1. Ms Frizzle*

        I was thinking that, at least in the districts I’m familiar with, it makes the most sense to go to the principal (or maybe AP, depending on relationships) before HR. Maybe that’s a public school quirk, but it’s hard for me to imagine going right to HR with an issue before talking to the principal.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Well, I don’t think it would be a cause to fire them. Just sit them down and tell them they are free to engage in these activities on breaks or free time, but they are supposed to be engaging in work activities during work time, and they need to be performing their assigned duties at that time. No need to even say it harshly. HR or a manager could point out that it has the potential to make others feel excluded, but that might single out OP. Still, while I don’t think this situation is appropriate or professional, I don’t think it is a reason to get rid of anyone at this point.

    2. Book rabbit*

      I wonder if work is not being completed, or of they faffing around with affirmations while the OP faffs around on their phone? OP doesn’t really mention stuff not being done. It is possible OP is filling this time with busy work rather than productive work (has a job where we’d repetitively wipe down the bench if we had to look busy and there was no work to do – I preferred the job that just let us read when there was nothing to do)

      I mean, if staff are sitting around for 45min at the start of their shift that’s a definite concern if they’re on the clock. If they choose to arrive early to do their thing then it’s a different matter.

      I think there are two separate issues here.
      1. Do they really need to be there 45min early if there’s no work (although if they’re hourly they wouldn’t be happy with OP taking 3-4 hours income from their pockets each week)? Is there work that they should be doing that is not getting done? What are they meant to be doing during that time (OP doesn’t seem to know, and is guessing at what would be helpful).

      2. OPs coworkers are engaging in discussions in the workplace that bother OP and leave OP feeling excluded. More, the nature of these discussions are ones that exclude OP even if/though the other 3 would welcome her participation. The fact that they are religious in nature doesn’t actually matter – it is that they exclude OP.

      I’ve worked for a lot of bigger companies and there’s been choirs, book clubs, food clubs, yoga, martial arts, exercise classes etc all done on work premises and at times during work hours. However, it’s entirely reasonable to say these meetups need to happen outside of where OP has their desk. This would be equally true of they were discussing certain political topics, or any number of topics that would exclude an individual in a small team.

      1. Julia*

        I kinda assumed that OP did what she could do on her own and then basically had to sit around and wait for the other three to be done so they could talk through things/use their entire work space.

      2. Forrest*

        OP says this is time to check in on any issues with students. So there’s potentially lots of general information sharing and general team communication that *could* be happening and could benefit their students but which isn’t because they aren’t engaging in that conversation. You can probably manage to do your job without having a general chat about how Danny is doing well at the moment but Ciara seems to be struggling with the hot weather, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be easier and better for the kids if you have had that discussion.

      3. Blaise*

        Teacher here- there are never any rules about how prep time needs to be spent, because it varies so widely from teacher to teacher and day to day. Frankly, if OP were to ask this, she would look weirdly clueless, because she should know what work she has to get done (although I guess for an aide this could be a little different).

        Totally agree that 45 minutes before school starts is insane, though. I know colleagues who come in that early, but it’s by choice because they either can’t or don’t want to stay after school. I would never take a job where I was forced to come in 45 minutes early every day! OP called their school a public school, but I’m even wondering if it might be a charter school… they would totally pull something like this, whereas I’ve never heard of a public school being this crazy with their hours (it could definitely happen though).

          1. Generic Name*

            Charter schools are public schools, so it’s still accurate to say “public school” if it’s more specifically a “public charter school”.

        1. Lexie*

          Teachers at my kids’ public school are there 45 minutes to an hour before school starts. The principal gets there about two hours before school starts. The kids can enter the building up to 25 minutes before school starts if they are eating breakfast there and busses can start arriving even earlier. The staff needs to be there.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I would never take a job where I was forced to come in 45 minutes early every day!

          Not sure what you mean by that. They’re on the clock. They’re not “early,” they’re just scheduled to be there before school starts, so they can do things before classes begin.

          1. Disco Janet*

            This is generally a salaried job, not an hourly one. But requiring teachers to be in the building 45 minutes before classes start is certainly outside the norm in my area.

            1. The Bean*

              When I taught HS, I had to be at my school at 6:45 am when the first period bell rang at 7:30. The kids could start entering the building at 6:55, and would go to breakfast and trickle into the classrooms. You used the time to make copies, set things up for the day, etc.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              I assumed that “clocking in” meant they were on the clock, but I probably shouldn’t assume that.

            3. New Jack Karyn*

              They aren’t teachers, they’re teachers’ assistants. Sometimes called ‘paras’ or ‘paraeducators’. It is definitely an hourly positon.

        3. PT*

          A lot of schools are hiring staff through contract agencies now, though. So LW may not technically be a district employee- they may be an hourly employee of School Staffing Solutions, Inc., who says they must be in 45 minutes before school starts.

        4. CowWhisperer*

          Yeah, I think jumping to HR before talking to the other aides, the supervising teacher(s), the supervising manager and the principal (in that order) is going to not go well for a new, very junior person. The letter writer added a ton of excess detail – but the complaint is “My coworkers are talking about a church thing in their free time and I want them to stop because I’m not in that church – and I expect them to read my mind.”

          As a former teacher, here’s how I’d recommend an aide deal with it.

          1) Use your words to tell the other aides that you are not into morning prayer time. Nothing in the letter says that the aide has said anything after sitting through it – and using your words is the first step to changing something.

          2) Keep track of exactly what needs to be done and if it is getting done. When I co-taught, we rarely had to sit-down and discuss as a group why so-and-so was doing a little worse and what we as a group would do. That happened twice in four years, actually. We mostly did adaptations on the fly and I’d ask the SPED teacher for tips on adaptations – but this rarely included our aide more than “Hey can you do ____ with so and so?” Emails take like 5 minutes as a teacher and far less as an aide. Prepping for the day is pretty easy and we often did it the evening before. If everything is getting done and your complaint is “I don’t want my equally finished coworkers to talk about religion” – that’s not going to get traction from anyone. That’s like complaining that your coworkers are talking about soccer and you don’t like soccer so can the principal make them talk about rugby with you?

          If you can list an actual duty that is being missed, by all means loop in the teacher followed by your manager etc. – but I would strongly NOT recommend going to HR because your colleagues are using unassigned free time to do something that you personally dislike but is not unethical or immoral. The best outcome for that is HR does nothing. The worst case scenario is that HR does crack down on this – and your pissed off fellow aides make sure HR knows about all the time you spend faffing on your phone. That – after all – is likely equally wrong as chatting with colleagues about affirmations during down time because most districts have extremely outdated policies on personal phones.

          The district might want to keep you because aides are hard to come by – but coworkers can make a job quite unpleasant too.

          1. JM60*

            your colleagues are using unassigned free time to do something that you personally dislike but is not unethical or immoral

            Forcing coworkers to be involved with religious activity, including prayer, is unethical. Group prayer when and where an employee is forced to be present is forcing them to be involved.

            This isn’t the same thing as coworkers merely discussing religion (which employees should probably refrain from unless all nearby are okay with the topic). If your co-workers were discussing religion (or any other topic) on the other side of the room, it would be socially acceptable to also make noise yourself (perhaps talking to another coworker in a normal volume). With prayer, there’s an implicit demand for silence, and talking at a normal tone of voice in the same room would be viewed as socially unacceptable. Since most people would feel pressured to remain silent/quite, that is a form of passive participation.

            1. Book rabbit*

              I’d want to know a lot more about what these affirmation discussions are before id characterised it as forcing op to participate in something religious.

              I’ve seen a lot of these books and they can vary from being very prayer focused to very not. They can be as general as your stock standard motivational posters with a discussion about how you’d put that into practice in your life. If these affirmations are along the lines of being patient, seeing good, being more thoughtful of others etc – it’s hard to argue that that’s a bad thing. I can also think of plenty of examples that would be wrong in a workplace. It’s just, I don’t know the details here.

              With children I understand the line of ensuring they remain unaware of things. With adults, I feel like it isn’t so simple to say if it occurs in their hearing they are a forced participant. The group that has loud services near my house is no more forcing me to take part in their religion than the martial arts group is forcing me to participate in violence by doing that in my hearing.

              Having seen the most extreme reactions to everyday things, I’m just not convinced that OPs description matches to workplace inappropriate in a general sense (forced to take part in religious practices is a massive claim – although I not that is not OPs description). I’ve seen people flip out over an end of year party because they didn’t acknowledge the local calendar. Arguing that as their culture doesn’t recognise birthdays nobody else should be allowed to either. that professional qualifications be stripped because someone of “that” religion couldn’t be capable of achieving that qualification.

              To reiterate I think there are two grounds for OP to address this. 1. The work not being completed or being unable to do their job because colleagues are doing other things (if that is true, but given they play in their phones I’m not sure it is). 2. That they are left uncomfortable and feeling excluded in their workplace.

              I’d want to be very sure in my claim before moving to “my colleagues forced me to participate in a daily prayer session”.

              So far, it does not appear that OP has told anyone that the conversations make them uncomfortable. It probably should be obvious to coworkers that it could. The coworkers should stop. But I think a conversation will be needed for them to realise this.

      4. WellRed*

        Op specifically says they clock in and here’s the list of things they are expected to do with that time. I don’t understand your gymnastics here.

        1. Andy*

          OP also specifically characterize some of that time as “is faffing about on my phone”. The things that they are supposed to do are not things that would take all that much time in normal circumstances or are things that can be done at any time. Most likely, the issue is a big issue precisely because OP must be say, but after she done what she needed she sats there bored excluded from discussion for too long time.

          If they ignored their mails or paperwork entirely, it is safe to say OP would say so.

          1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

            Or they can’t do part of it i.e. discuss things with their co-workers because their co-workers are having a prayer meeting.

          2. Disco Janet*

            “The things they are supposed to do are not things that would take all that much time in normal circumstances or are things that can be done at any time.”

            This is not true for teachers. Time to work in your classroom without students there you are teaching/assisted is limited and precious. And the tasks OP described can take much longer than you seem to think. Problem is she can’t get all the tasks done because many of them require coordination with the coworkers who are busy with prayer group.

          3. Rebecca Stewart*

            From growing up with a lot of teachers in the family, I know that the amount of “prep to be done in the morning before the kids get there” can vary widely in quantity. Some mornings Mom got to walk down to the teachers lounge and get a coffee and leisurely set her desk in order and do little touch-ups to her classroom. Some days she didn’t have time to pee before the kids got there.

            I’m not side-eyeing either the OP faffing around on her phone or the ladies doing something-that-is-not-prep. I’m side-eyeing the aspect of it.
            Before going to HR, I would just ask them nicely if they could move the discussion to another room so I wasn’t bothering them while I was working at my desk.

            They might just be clueless, since the OP is a new hire, and not have realized, “OH! We should be doing this down in the teacher’s lounge not here” and there’s no problem. (Of course, if they’re not doing their prep, that’s a problem, but it’s their problem, not OP’s.)

            Or they may get all defensive, because they know they’re doing wrong. And then you need HR.

          4. fhqwhgads*

            It read to me like the “faffing” was only happening because they had to sit there waiting out the prayer group to ask them stuff, rather than interrupting the prayer group to ask them stuff.

    3. Flower necklace*

      As a teacher in the public school system, HR is hands off, in my experience. I usually go to the assistant principal with my problems, unless I know exactly who to contact in HR. I think the aide should talk to either a teacher or the assistant principal first, or send an email to the assistant principal and copy HR. Going straight to HR without looping in someone at the school might be taken badly.

    4. Stacy*

      In the four districts I’ve worked in, I haven’t seen HR actually deal with any employee issues in a meaningful way. I agree OP that you should talk to the teacher. I’ve worked as a special ed teacher and aide, and this is what I would recommend. Instead of focusing on what the other employees are doing, however, I would focus on your workload and responsibilities during that planning period.

      a) ask if you can meet with the teacher weekly or daily, whichever works, to get a list of things to work on during the planning period. That way you can independently work on progress reports, data collection, etc without relying on her for direction
      b) use this opportunity to complete professional development. You likely have annual hours you need to complete for your job. Your supervisor should be able to direct you to some good resources for online PD.
      c) being a spec ed aid can be very stressful and emotionally taxing. Don’t feel guilty about taking a few (not 45 though!) minutes to practice some self-care. Take a short walk, meditate, whatever helps.

  7. Dan*


    Talk to your boss, and don’t make this a “the other Jane isn’t playing nice”. I have a similar “email is off by one letter” issue with another coworker in a different department that I’ve never met. I miss emails, I go on vacation, etc. While I actually don’t get that many for the other guy, the problem is better solved by resolving the ambiguity instead of blaming someone else who actually didn’t create the problem.

    Besides… if the other Jane is so far removed from your department, would your boss have any real sway anyway? I mean, your boss could ask her boss to forward emails, but what’s actually going to happen when she doesn’t? The other Jane’s boss would have to care enough to do something about it beyond a polite request. If the bosses don’t know each other, I can’t imagine her boss would care enough to follow up with anything more than polite request.

    1. Happy*

      Why wouldn’t other Joan’s boss care about it? This can’t be good for the company.

      I would certainly care if my employee was being so willfully intransigent when they had a simple opportunity to make other people’s lives much easier.

      1. Dan*

        It’s not that he wouldn’t care at all, it’s that he’d have to care enough to take disciplinary action against the other Jane. Because that’s essentially what the situation has come to… “just asking” isn’t working. And we have no way of knowing anything about the other Jane, her role, her performance, or any of that. If other Jane is a rock star or buried with work, her boss may choose to just say, “I’ll ask nicely, but that’s about it.”

        And if it’s *really* not good for the company, then the company really needs to find an IT solution to an IT problem. The problem isn’t other Jane, the problem is internal processes that make it really confusing to get the right emails to the right person.

        Rereading OP’s letter, she does say that Other Jane has tried to find a work around, and OP herself has tried to find a work around. But OP doesn’t say what she’s tried, it’s not clear that she’s elevated this to management as an IT problem that needs an IT solution. It seems the two managers should work with the IT shop to fix this.

        And… I work for a big org where email confusion can be an issue. I just wouldn’t blame the rank and file who have to deal with a crappy system.

        1. Observer*

          It’s not that he wouldn’t care at all, it’s that he’d have to care enough to take disciplinary action against the other Jane. Because that’s essentially what the situation has come to… “just asking” isn’t working.

          Not really. It’s one thing if a colleague in a different department asks. It’s another when your supervisor or grandboss asks.

          And if it’s *really* not good for the company, then the company really needs to find an IT solution to an IT problem.

          True. And if the OP does talk to their supervisor, it would be smart to point out that they are not particularly wedded to the idea that Other Joan forward mis-directed emails. On the contrary, it seems that it would make more sense to have IT change one of their email addresses / aliases. But IT says that it cannot be done. So, if Boss can get IT to budge they would be very happy with that solution.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            Yeah, I don’t think this would likely call for disciplinary action–just a boss saying “Jane, this may not be spelled out in your job description but it actually is your responsibility so please continue to forward those emails to the correct Jane” would probably do the trick.

        2. Cj*

          Other Joan is not a rock star if she intentionally allows e-mails to go answered. Her boss may think she is, but she is not. And once he finds out about this, he shouldn’t think she is anymore, either.

        3. serenity*

          The problem isn’t other Jane, the problem is internal processes that make it really confusing to get the right emails to the right person.

          You’ve said this elsewhere and got the rebuttal that, in fact, this isn’t an IT or “process” issue and there aren’t 100% foolproof ways to mitigate this. Taking OP at her word, if there is a one letter difference in their email address, what IT solution do you think would solve this? If their addresses were changed to (for example) and, to differentiate them more, do you think people mistakenly writing to the other Joan would look more carefully at who they’re sending to if they haven’t up until now? Do you not think other Joan is handling this in a rude and evasive manner? And if not, why not? If clients or external stakeholders are finding their messages aren’t being responded to and they’re not happy about it, would you as a manager just wave that away?

          You may not have an issue with this situation as is but OP does and has written in to hear a solution.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        This would bother me as a manager, too. It makes our team and department look unhelpful, which is the opposite of the impression we want to create, and just shows an unwillingness to chip in and help others that’s actually pretty concerning.

        If it were that Joan missed some of these emails, wasn’t consistent about it, had busy days and sometimes forwarded messages days late, etc., that would be one thing. But a personal policy of just never acting on messages sent to you but intended for someone else would be a weird and unprofessional attitude in our organization.

    2. Joni*

      I have this situation at work and have had it for the past 8 years. If my name is for example Hannah Smith and my email is my coworker is So one tiny little dot is the whole difference. I just forward it to her or ad her to the groupemail and she does the same. Like the letterwriter, it’s not often so a few times a month at most. It doesn’t take much time, not more than 10 minutes a month and while it doesn’t effect me if she gets left out, it does affect the company in general. So LW’s boss or grandboss or what ever should care. It makes the LW and the company look bad. So taking it up the chain should work.

  8. Kate R*

    What is up with #4’s coworkers? I can understand getting frustrated at all the wrong emails if it were frequent and taking a lot of time out of the day to respond or forward them, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. And not telling someone they forgot to attach what they said they were going to attach is just weird. When someone sends me an email, I’m generally supposed to respond in someway, and not getting the email or the attachments doesn’t mean the work doesn’t have to get done. I don’t understand this, “meh, they’ll figure it out” attitude instead of taking a quick second to correct the situation.

    1. PeanutButter*

      I agree. If it were just other Joan or one co-worker who vocally doesn’t want to let someone know they forgot an attachment (but honestly I’m having trouble figuring out how that even became a topic of conversation) I’d put it down to individual weirdness. The fact that it’s more than one and all at the same company makes me wonder if something else is going on.

      At the very least, it should be easy to create a rule at the domain level where if there are certain key words or phrases that could somewhat reliably distinguish between mail meant for the different Joans, and it’s going to the other one, a flag is set off and an automatic response asks the sender to make sure they used the correct email address.

    2. Forrest*

      Yeah, this sounds like a fairly obstructionist and uncollaborative environment. One person refusing to do something simple to help others seems like a them-problem, but lots of people thinking that’s normal and reasonable sounds like a company-problem. I wonder whether they are generally understaffed and everyone’s adopting a defensive “must save self, can’t help anyone else” position to survive.

      1. mreasy*

        The attachment thing seems to make that clear. Why not just mention it in the interest of getting the work done and being collaborative? I’m mystified.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Ditto. A simple reply (to the original sender only) of “the attachment didn’t come through” is SO much less work than waiting for the sender to realize they left it off.

          The other thing that’s puzzling to me is doesn’t this make the receivers look bad, too? If someone waits 2 weeks for you to respond and sends a follow up, it is not a good look to say “you didn’t send the attachment.” That tells the original sender you either 1) didn’t look at the original until the follow-up or 2) you noticed but didn’t say anything!

    3. NinaBee*

      The coworkers and Joan seem strangely petty and childish. Wonder if the company is so rigid that it creates that type of rebelling environment, or if that’s just what they’re like as people.

    4. Anonys*

      I really think LW should stop making the effort to reply to these people and forward directly to Joan (ccing the person who originally send the email). Maybe Joan isnt really aware that LW gets just as many misdirected emails as her. Because OP correctly the sender directly (without ccing Joan) this might have led to her mistaken assumption that everyone figures it out eventually – all these emails do reach her eventually, but only because OP intervenes.

      Also, forwarding just seems more direct and easy – it means Joan is informed immediately without the original sender having to write a whole new email.

    5. Anonys*

      Also whats doubly weird is that these coworkers all think that people will follow up and figure out they emailed the wrong person when they don’t get a response – yet at the same time they themselves wouldn’t even follow up if someone didn’t send them an attachment they need. Do they not see the irony?

      1. boo bot*

        Seriously! I don’t know why they would think someone will “figure it out” anyway – more likely they’ll wait to hear back and email again (and email the wrong person, since no one has corrected their mistake) and then that second email will also get ignored…

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. And I absolutely don’t understand the Other Janes of the working world. I don’t know how Other Jane’s boss feels about it, or if they even know about it, but I’d be pretty annoyed to find out a direct report was handling misdirected emails and missing attachments that way. Or I guess I should say NOT handling them.

    7. Cat Tree*

      I kind of suspect that the the attachment thing is a way to get out of doing work. They just don’t do the work related to the attachment, and if they’re called out on it it’s easy enough to blame the sender for not attaching it. And then if they get that attachment eventually, they can start doing that work and use it as an excuse to not be assigned additional things at that time.

      I’ve worked in some places where the mental energy to get out of doing work was more than would be required to just do the work.

    8. asgard*

      I thought the attachment thing was in the emails OP was getting that should go to other Joan. I.e. she replies to them 1) saying “I’m the wrong Joan” and 2) tells then when they missed an attachment. Which, yeah, that would be weird.

      Regardless, I agree with others that OP should just forward the emails to other Joan and not reply only to the senders. Other Joan should do the same, too, so there is still that issue.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree, sounds like a workplace I’d be miserable in.

      I really wonder what the (apparently large) company does, that a missed email or attachment have never caused a work disaster, as this seems to be happening regularly.

    10. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Actually, ignoring the emails makes perfect sense to me. If I forward the email on, the sender will become reliant upon me to fix their addressing mistakes… permanently. If I ignore it, they’ll have to contact the intended recipient to troubleshoot and update their digital address book.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        That makes no sense. If you ignore it and they don’t know they have emailed the wrong person they would just email you again.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          This is the only reliable way I’ve found to handle clients bypassing Customer Service.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I would handle an internal customer differently than an external one.

            To external clients, my email is a black hole. They’ll never get one reply from me; if I catch wind that my email address has been exposed externally (usually by our almost-decent Sales team), I’ll preemptively block the entire domain. I will not become a link in a communication chain where I do not belong and that’s a hill I’m enthusiastic to die upon.

            For an internal client, I’ll definitely point out the mistake once. I’ll probably point it out a second time if I can figure out who the mistake-maker’s supervisor is so I can cc them. But after that, it’s back to being a black hole.

          2. Your Local Password Resetter*

            People bypassing your Customer Service department is a very different situation from people who got the wrong email adress by mistake.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Not really. Both scenarios are just sending the email to whomever is convenient and expecting the recipient to forward it to the proper party.

      2. Observer*

        If I ignore it, they’ll have to contact the intended recipient to troubleshoot and update their digital address book.

        That’s a highly unlikely scenario. The fact is that they don’t KNOW that they’ve sent the email to the wrong place. So if they DO follow up, the follow up is going to come to you, and continue to go to you, until that person either goes elsewhere or they find the other person’s supervisor and complain to them. Which creates a major problem for your colleague.

        On the other hand, if you forward the email and the intended recipient responds, the emailer now has the correct address in their address book. If you instead choose to respond and let them know that they have mis-sent their email, then at least they know that they need to find the correct address.

        Your method insures that the emailer does NOT have the information they need to correct the problem AND creates problems for others.

        If it’s a customer – they will almost certainly take their business elsewhere. And they may very well complain about your company in the bargain.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Your method insures that the emailer does NOT have the information they need to correct the problem AND creates problems for others.

          It also ensures they have no false positive to abuse. The key here is consistency; your email address has to look like it doesn’t exist to the person who’s sending it to the wrong person. It has to be like talking to the water cooler.

          We’ve never lost a customer this way, and it’s never even been close. All that ever happens is that the customer goes back to using the right addressee, where they get timely responses.

          1. Observer*

            If it really is true that you have never lost a customer over this, then your company is utterly unique.

  9. Rich*

    OP#4, your coworkers behavior is bizarre. When they don’t hear back, they can’t figure out that they’ve contacted the wrong person, because there’s no feedback. They are vastly more likely to think they are being consistently ignored — because they are! They’ll attribute it to you, not “other Joan”.

    She’s right that it’s (arguably) not her job to contact them to correct it, but how on earth is it not her job to tell YOU?! This is like when you get mail addressed to your next door neighbor — as a human being who lives in the world with other humans, you put the mail in their mailbox, or under their door, or in their hands. You don’t build a bonfire out of it, secure in the knowledge that they can pay their bills on their second or third billing statement.

    Ask her to forward the messages. Personally, I’d ask in a way that’s a little surprised that it never occurred to her to do so.

    And make sure your boss knows about this right away. People are being ignored, and they think you’re the one doing it. That can come back to bite you — depending on your job, it can do so in a big way. If your boss finds out later rather than sooner, an explanation of “Oh, Other Joan just throws those messages away and I never get them” when you didn’t raise the issue before will sound very out of touch with communication norms. “La-de-da, important communication goes in the trash,” is not how you want to be seen in this. I know that’s not how you think about it, but if you don’t escalate now, you may be setting yourself up to give that impression later.

    1. Emily*

      Yeah, I second letting LW #4’s boss know in a heads up/how do we solve this problem? type way. If LW’s boss is even halfway decent they would want to know about this.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      +1 to the lack of feedback being a barrier to figuring things out. We’ve had issues on and off over the years with external senders having emails eaten by our firewalls – at least once the internal recipient had accidentally blocked someone, but I’ve also had specific external correspondents where some emails (but only some!) would just not arrive. No notice, not in my spam folder, nothing.

      And it could take a long time for us to realize the problem – someone outside the agency sends me somethings, waits 3 days to hear back, sends a follow up, etc. And only on the next project call do we realize I just never got the email. We had to start having one sender reroute everything through a colleague and I would confirm receipt each time he sent me something to review.

      It’s easy to lose a week or more, especially if the follow up messages are also not arriving with the intended recipient. It’s deeply frustrating from both sides.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, I would make one more effort to approach her directly about it. After that, I would write an email and cc my own manager and her manager, with the explanation that she needs to forward you the emails meant for you, as this affects the company reputation when they are not answered.

      It’s amazing how people who don’t feel like cooperating start cooperating when their own managers become aware of their behaviour and how it will affect the organization.

  10. Jen*

    #1- just a reassurance to you that your colleagues definitely could be much more kind and appropriate. I work in a public school where more of my colleagues are churchgoing Christians than are not. (I am not.) Several of my colleagues meet for prayer, once a week, BEFORE our pretty durned early start time. I like to come in early just for the quiet work time, and it took me some time to figure out what the meeting across the hall even was. I’ve never been invited, much less pressured, and I’ve never heard a word of it. I mean, it would be annoying if you had to work while they spent forty five minutes holding a public meeting about anything that wasn’t work related, much less something as personal as religion!

    1. Brooklyn*

      Yeah, I was just thinking, this sounds like a great reason for OP to show up 45 minutes later every day, or whatever part of it they don’t need to do their prep work. In fact, I would have probably just assumed that those 45 minutes were non-work time. If the other aides can spend it having a prayer group, I can spend it at the gym, or eating pancakes, or sleeping, because those are equally related to work.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        LW still does the work she’s supposed to be doing during those 45 minutes. She just does this with her coworkers having a positive-affirmation discussion meeting right next to her. I’d have made so many work mistakes by now if I were LW, this is maddening.

      2. Lexie*

        OP states they have to clock in 45 minutes before school starts. It’s going to be noticed if OP starts clocking in 45 minutes late. The people having the prayer meeting would also be clocking in on time so there’s no immediate red flag that they aren’t working. It’s entirely possible that no one in administration has noticed they spend that time on non work activities because it’s a time where everyone is preparing for the day and getting ready for the students to arrive.

      3. Annie Moose*

        Teacher’s aides absolutely cannot show up to work 45 minutes late! LW1 is almost certainly an hourly employee who is expected to be there on time whether she has assigned work or not. If her assigned start time is 45 minutes before the start of the school day, then her assigned start time is 45 minutes before the start of the school day. There is not flexibility.

        1. Disco Janet*

          She’s probably salaried, not hourly. But the point still stands that if your contract says your day starts 45 minutes before school, that’s when you need to be there. I think that’s ridiculously early, but it’s not really negotiable at an individual level.

          1. Annie Moose*

            Paraprofessionals are not typically salaried in my experience–but I’m really just familiar with Michigan schools so perhaps things are different in another state?

            1. just a random teacher*

              Aides are also hourly here, and I’m baffled by the idea of them having this much free time! Here, either their hours would have been cut (part time employees don’t get as good of benefits, after all, so you save not just some wages but also additional money) or they’d be assigned things to do during that time once it became clear they didn’t need that time for their existing duties. (Often, aides will be doing something like supervising the bus dropoff area before school here, or waiting for a specific student to arrive to escort them where they need to go if that student has a 1:1 aide or needs extra supervision to get from the bus to their classroom.)

              I’m not sure what the OP should do because school politics around this kind of thing can be really weird and toxic, particularly if it’s a school with low turnover and everyone has been doing it this way for years. (In the mid-2000s, I taught for a year at a school where a long time teacher was FURIOUS with the brand-new principal for putting a stop to her “around the world potluck” tradition that involved students bringing in homemade food from various cultures for a class party. Health code in our state has prohibited homemade food at school parties since at least the 1980s, but in their particular small town she’d just kept getting her way on it as an entrenched personality for an additional 20 years or so apparently. A few years later, when I was long gone, I looked on their website and she was still working there and he was not, so for all I know she kept potlucking with students until retirement.)

              If you’re new and they’re not, the most I would do is ask if you can do your morning tasks somewhere quieter than your desk. If they then follow up with questions about why it’s not quiet at your desk, you can explain that your co-workers use it for their 45 minute morning prayer meeting, so it’s kind of hard for you to focus on your work there. If they don’t hit the roof and exclaim something like “WHAT 45 minute prayer meeting?” then it’s a known issue and hopefully they’ll let you move and ignore it since it’s something they have no intention of fixing.

  11. Phil*

    A religious meeting on public school time? Whiskey tango foxtrot! I’d go right to the top and report it.

    1. Book rabbit*

      I know a lot of non-religious people don’t get this. But I’m not aware of many places where having a religious discussion is against policy or procedure or is illegal. At least not in countries with freedom of religion.

      I’m not in America, but a country with separation of church and state. Many people think this means religion is illegal in public (government) places. It’s simply not true. What is illegal is a religious test for a position. It’s very different.

      My understanding is that in the US teachers are indeed allowed to participate in religious activities and expression provided it is not in the presence of students (quick googling supports this).

      The real issue here is that coworkers are running an extended, daily activity in the general office that isolates and offends/annoys/bothers/disrupts OP.

      I’d recommend only mentioning the religious part to provide the detail. They are having a book club discussion for 45 min each morning on a topic that OP is not comfortable discussing or being around while discussed. It’s not illegal for a bunch of teachers to have a book club discussion on school grounds – even if the book is religious. (Also not illegal for them to have a prayer meeting, it’s just not clear whether they are holding a prayer meeting, a book discussion, or both – my guess would be both).

      Basically, my recommendation is not to turn this into a legal right to discuss religion on the grounds argument. Because it’s unlikely the courts will agree (there’s been quite a few cases it seems). Instead, focus on the workplace issue because there the employer is on solid grounds to take action.

      I think that if you turn it into a constitutional rights argument a pretty simple situation becomes super complicated and can garner a lot of unwanted attention.

      Although naturally, the OP, in their own time, May wish to advocate politically on the legal side of things. Just not advised to do so at work.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I read Phil’s comment about being on public school *time* not *premises* being the problem

        1. WellRed*

          It is about time, in which case, yeah, pretty sure if they are clocked in, they should be working. As to the optics of calling a prayer meeting a book club? Oy.

          1. Colette*

            It sounds like they are discussing daily affirmations from a book. The OP says it’s a prayer meeting, but she doesn’t mention any actual praying – just a discussion about affirmations. It’s inappropriate, of course, but book club seems somewhat accurate.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              +1, I saw it as a reference to the book they discuss, not as a dig at any religion’s holy writings.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I was once emailing somebody at a large company to get some important information and didn’t receive an immediate response. I left it for a couple of days, then phoned them.

    The response? Oh yes, I received your email, but I don’t work on that anymore.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That’s one I can understand. Once you leave a job, it’s your former employer’s responsibility to re-direct mail to whomever is taking over your tasks (and to have a policy where you don’t use personal email to correspond on behalf of the employer). Unlike Jane in the OP, they weren’t an employee anymore, and not being paid to sort their correspondence.

      Jane, however, is an employee and forwarding mis-directed emails to colleagues is a very reasonable job task, even if it’s annoying.

      1. Ponytail*

        I think Chocolate Teapot’s instance wasn’t that the person had left the organisation, more that it was a project they were no longer working on. Think – how would Chocolate Teapot have called them, if the person wasn’t still working at the same employer ?

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It sounds as though they still worked there, just on a different project. Who doesn’t forward or reply in such circumstances?

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Yes, it was a large company where employees were moved around departments, but I had no idea this was happening until Unhelpful Employee told me.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Because the company was idiotic and didn’t have a system to hand off things. And UE was all “not my job to correct someone who would have NO CLUE that things changed.” Honestly I do not get this attitude or the attitude of the employees in the LW’s company. Why NOT say an attachment was missing? How would you get it otherwise?

            1. Colette*

              Even if they had a system to hand off work when someone changed jobs, Chocolate Teapot contacted the employee directly. There’s no system that will fix that (unless there’s a small group of people who are the only people who will contact the person in that role).

              1. MCMonkeybean*

                Yeah, my company has a lot of people move around between teams and there are a lot of reports that we only need once a year so we usually look at last year’s files and see who provided the support and reach back out to them. It’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be at least one response of “I have actually moved to a different team now, you should reach out to my old manager Bob.” I can’t imagine anyone just… totally ignoring the request!

                It’s highly likely that at some point earlier in the year there was an announcement of the move and sometimes we remember about that and know in advance to ask the team’s manager who would provide our support now, but there’s no way we would remember every move for people that we talk two like twice a year.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                The system is that the person who gets those emails finds out who they need to go to, and forwards it to them. People keep acting like you need some kind of formal system, or something built into the email, but this IS a system.

                1. Colette*

                  The comment I was replying to was Because the company was idiotic and didn’t have a system to hand off things. And UE was all “not my job to correct someone who would have NO CLUE that things changed.” – which seems to imply that the company was wrong to not have a formal system, but that’s often just not how things work.

    2. pbnj*

      Ugh I hate that. People not responding b/c they’re not over that area or they don’t have the requested info. Just say you don’t have that information, or you’re not the right person, it’s not that hard.

    3. Cj*

      Did they forward it to the person who is handling it, and that person hadn’t gotten back to you yet? If so, they still should have let you know who is taking care of it now, but at least they didn’t just ignore it.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Or at least the response should have been, “I don’t work on that anymore but I passed it along to X who does, would you like their contact information?”

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        No. Unhelpful Employee told me I needed to contact somebody else. Why they didn’t do that in the first place I have no idea.

  13. Dan*


    First things first, if you’re absolutely certain the answer to the first question can be a deal breaker, you really should be working those into your phone screens.

    The more I think about this (which also means, the more experience I get), the more I side with, “once you know it’s not a fit, go ahead and end it.”

    I get that it feels disrespectful to not give somebody a “fair chance”, but if I were to find out that the interviewer knew within the first five minutes that they wouldn’t hire me, and wasted the rest of my day (my interviews tend to be half-day to full-day affairs) on a fake interview, I’d feel patronized. And I’d be more pissed about being patronized than I would about having the interview cut short.

    And… the interviews I’ve had where I knew they weren’t going anywhere all tended to be out of town interviews where my travel expenses were paid, so just getting up and leaving feels awkward too! Some interviews were bad because the interviewers didn’t know how to interview. For my first job out of school, I interviewed for an analytic role in an office setting. They had all of these canned “tell me about a time” questions that assumed the applicant had prior office experience in a salaried position (loooottttsss of questions focused on last minute rush assignments and task prioritization.) Those questions were just pointless for me, whose experience to that point was all hourly non-exempt work. I was always happy to stay late at the last minute, because staying late meant paid over time. And in California where I worked, staying really late = double time. And I could only do one thing at a time, so I didn’t have to worry about multitasking and conflicting priorities, my line supervisor told me what to do and I did it. Which was funny in retrospect, because trust me when I tell you that company knew *exactly* what my work history was and there was no way to misinterpret it. (The analytic role was directly related to the hourly work experience I had. It’s just that most people on the office side don’t ever spend time in the field, so the interviews aren’t set up to work that in.)

    Sitting through a half day of that was just stupid. And they never did ask me questions intended to assess my actual ability to do the analytic work they needed done, and how my *directly relevant, clearly outline on my resume* experience could benefit the department.

    And some interviewers were just downright hostile. I would have been *relieved* if the dude just cut the interview short. Dealing with his rude ass for an hour was pushing me to my limits… that interview was definitely not a courtesy.

    So all this is to say, if you really truly know it’s not going to happen, be kind and say so. I’d rather spend time at the airport reading my e-book than having to continue with the charade.

    1. Ponytail*

      My one major experience where I think the interviewer should have cut the interview short is where I gave such a bad answer, *I* wanted to leave (think, such a bad answer that if I’d actually done this on the job, I would have opened up the organisation to legal problems!). As I’d travelled to the other side of the country, I felt I couldn’t walk out, and they carried on the conversation, while all the time I was thinking “If I left now, I could get a decent lunch before getting on the coach home”. It was excruciating.
      On the flip side, I was also in an interview where the panel had messed me around so much before the actual meeting that I was already tense, and when they tried to tell me how to answer the questions (they wanted me to answer as if I knew their internal workings, which I didn’t, of course), I got progressively more and more fed up. It’s one of my biggest work regrets, definitely top 3, that I didn’t say something and finish the interview early.

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      I honestly hate those ‘Tell me about a time…’ questions. I feel like most of the time they’re a trap.

      I had one lady ask me at one interview if I ever sped when I drove. The job had nothing at all to do with driving. Or cars. Or anything like that all. I blinked and responded in the negative. She smirked and said “Reeeeally? Neeeeveeer?” And I reiterated that no, I did not. When she asked how I could be sure, I simply responded; “I don’t have a license.”

      I didn’t get that job.

      1. Garlic Knot*

        This is incredible! From what I gather, this is one of those questions intended to check if the person is prone to lying.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Yeah, I’m sure. But it feels like a no win question. Either I admit that I speed and you feel like I take too many risks, or I say no, and you feel like I lie. Because everyone speeds!

          And then of course there was my answer. The lady really didn’t like my answer. Not sure why. I can’t speed if I don’t drive. I guess she could have asked me if I ever jaywalked or something.

        2. PeanutButter*

          I hate those sorts of questions, because newsflash, some of us DON’T INTENTIONALLY SPEED. It’s a habit from when I drove government vehicles and also as a paramedic I saw enough terrible accidents that I’ve determined I’m just not going to go over the speed limit in my private life unless there’s a REALLY compelling reason to. And I haven’t encountered one yet. But I’ve encountered that question in interviews before and I’m sure it’s cost me a call back or two.

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        That seems more like a gotcha question, which is a terrible idea for an interview.
        Most of the “Tell me about a time” questions I’ve had just want you to give concrete examples of how you handle common situations.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        I worked for a company that asked in the phone screen what we would do if our primary mode of transporation to work was unavailable. My co-worker said, “That wouldn’t be a problem, I have 2 vehicles.” The recruiter pressed for a different answer and my co-worker then said, “Well if both vehicles aren’t working, my sister lives around the corner and she also has 2 vehicles. I would borrow one of hers.” And then the recruiter said, “But would you call in to tell them you would be late?” And she was like, “If somehow everything possible went wrong, then yes, I would call in.” Thankfully, she still got the job.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          What even is the purpose of prodding like that? How many back ups did they want someone to have? Was it just to ensure she’d call in to say she’d be late? This is bizarre.

    3. Lady Meyneth*

      Dan, about your rude intreviewer, I just want to point out you can end the interview too. You probably know it by now, since that was your 1st post-school job, but you too can say you believe the job won’t be a good fit for you and end the torture.

      Also, this post reminds me of the record-breakingly short interview I led just a couple months ago. I was the technical lead on a project and responsible for hiring a couple more people for my team; we called in a dude that seemed very promissing for interview with myself, my boss and HR. In comes my HS crush who became my HS bully when I was diagnosed with my disability.

      I honestly didn’t remember him (common name, and HS was a long time ago), but as soon as the introductions were done, he started insisting I HAD to remember him and going on and on about it (how we had all the same classes, how I used to help him with his homework, how he thought I’d had a crush on him). This was before even the first interview question and ignoring the other 2 people in the room; I honestly don’t know what advantage he expected to gain from it.

      But it did make me remember, so I got to say this beautiful phrase: “Oh yes, I remember now. You’re the one who started yelling [ableist slur] and moving away when I walked by. Thank you for reminding me, it does save us some time!” Cue surprised picachu face that his interview was cut short.

      OP#3, this is obviously an extreme case, but if you ever have a candidate behave truly outrageously (and some do, like making obvious racist/sexist remarks), please do cut the interview short. You don’t have to tolerate it, and the more people who get that bad behavior isn’t toleratad, the better off we’ll all be. But if it’s just subjective stuff, specially soft skills stuff, I do lean toward completing most of the interview. You never know if something in there will really wow you and change your mind.

      1. Carlie*

        I would like to give you a standing ovation now. That ranks in the annals of the highest ranks of the consequences of people’s actions coming back to them when they least expect it. And the fact that he was the one to force the memory and association on you is the icing on the cake.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Welp, he certainly saved you some time there. I’m curious how he responded at that point. Did he apologize, or flail, or try to pretend he’d mixed you up with someone else from another state?

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          He went with the “I was really young” excuse, but there was no apology to be found, and he clearly didn’t think it was a big deal. Boys will be boys kind of thing, until he understood “saves us time” meant his interview was over.

          HR actually had to escort him out over his objections that we had to give him a chance, he was a great candidate, it was all in the past, etc. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t really satisfying.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            I love that. “Have” to give him a chance. The chance was coming in here, dude. Would you have been more open to it if he had apologized?

            Reminds me of that one letter from the woman who didn’t get a job because a rockstar employee was someone she was nasty to in high school.

          2. EmmaPoet*

            It sounds very satisfying indeed. And like you dodged a bullet- if he’d kept his trap shut you might have hired him and then found out who he was.

    4. Overeducated*

      I think those very specific “tell me about a time” questions stem from issues they’ve had in the workplace before, either with someone who wasn’t great at that kind of prioritization, or with challenges the hiring manager or interview panel has faced themselves. So they may not be tailored for your work history, but they’re trying to screen for “how will this person handle the annoying or difficult parts of our work?” And “tell me about a time” often gets you better answers than a vaguer “how will you approach” because a lot of people are more idealistic in the abstract.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Yeah, I’m a fan of them from an interviewee side because it tells me what sort of challenges I can expect or may hint at workplace culture issues.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sometimes, but mostly they’re because they’re a strongly recommended interview technique because the idea is to get candidates talking about how they have actually operated in the past, not just how they think they would operate in some hypothetical situation. They’re actually super helpful from the interviewer side.

        1. Dan*

          Yeah, and the point I was trying to make is that questions that make sense when you have a salaried “9-5” exempt job may make no sense at all when considered in the context of an outdoors, hourly, non exempt job. Let me tell you… my willingness to forgo my after work plans increases greatly when I get paid time and a half to do it. I’m less excited about the proposition when I get no extra money at all :D

          With this particular interview, I was floored, because these guys understood what my background was, and knew that the dynamics for that type of work are completely different then crunching numbers at the last minute.

          And one thing *I* get out of these types of questions is information I will use in my salary negotiations. You better bet if staying late and going the extra mile at the last minute is a core part of the job function, it’s going to cost you.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        I work in libraries, and a common question in interviews is how you have handled a rude or disruptive patron in the past. In once incident, I had someone start swearing at me while I was helping her, so I called my supervisor in. The patron eventually ended up being trespassed from our branch for a year when she screamed obscenities at security (they were called after she swore at the supervisor) and then at a police officer who had just walked in (we hadn’t called him, he came to return a book.) What they wanted to know was how I handled it (calling in the supervisor is standard at that point in our system) and how I reacted afterwards.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As an interviewee, I’d love for my interviews to end the moment it’s clear I’m not a fit. If I’ve taken off work for this interview, or if the interview going on longer would result in me being stuck in rush-hour traffic on my way back (or both!), I would not appreciate getting held up another hour or two just to spare my feelings.

      I had one interview that lasted five minutes (and shouldn’t have happened at all – the recruiter who’d set it up had goofed.) “Why are you looking?” – “I’m looking to get away from 24×7 llama maintenance.” – “Well then you came to the wrong place.” (he literally said that) “We do 24×7 maintenance on close to a thousand of llamas, compared to the 150 that you do.” Another two minutes of shop talk, thanks, bye, we can all go home. This was almost 20 years ago and I still think warmly about my interviewers, and would’ve given them positive references anytime, if I could remember their names.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Yeah, I’d rather the time be cut short than my feelings spared. I was waiting for one interview when I listened to them hire the person directly ahead of me. As in, “We’ll see you Monday at eight so you can fill out the onboarding paperwork!” There was only one opening. I walked in knowing I wasn’t going to get it, and I would have appreciated it if they told me the position was filled. I might have been miffed, but at least I could have salvaged that hour of my time and gone home instead of sitting there through their questions when they also looked like they didn’t wanna be there.

    6. Smithy*

      I had an interview end after about 5 or so minutes because they needed a candidate who spoke English and a second language that I did not know.

      As much as it certainly would have saved them time had they screened that requirement, they were really gracious and apologetic and I’ve always remembered the experience with a bit of a chuckle. I do think it helped that at the time I was a student, so not the same as asking for time off of work.

    7. Retired Prof*

      Interviews for a new professor are all-day (sometimes 2-day) affairs. They have to talk to several layers of administration, teach a class, give a research talk, go on a campus tour, as well as be interviewed by the hiring department. We once interviewed a candidate first thing in the morning. Last question: why do you want this job in this department? Answer: because there are great scientists I look forward to working with – at the more prestigious university down the road. And with that he was off to talk to the Dean while we all stared at each other. Finally someone said – “now we have to put up with this asshole all day?”

    8. Your Local Password Resetter*

      I think the time is a big factor in this. If it’s 10-20 minutes more, you might as well finish the interview just in case.
      If it’s going to take another five hours, then do everyone a favor and end it there.

    9. TCD*

      I would hope a vital question would be in the phone screening or phone interview, especially before an in-person interview. From my experience, I’d err on the side of extra-apologetic for wasting the interviewee’s time.

      One I had it was clear that the interviewer had not read my resume and had not been clear with the agency I was working through or her own phone screener what she was looking for (Account Manger vs Sales Support) but seemed furious with me, specifically, for not fitting the bill. Snapped her notebook shut, no apologies, no thank you’s, yelled for someone in the hallway to see me out.
      Same company called my agency a week or so later and requested me, specifically, to interview with a different team. Apparently they thought I would just come in to start working in three days, no interview. It was utterly awful watching the interviewers argue with each other and with a higher level staff interrupting the interview repeatedly and demanding to know who I was.
      I requested to leave. I’d worked with that agency for years doing short and long contracts, otherwise I likely would have turned down the second request. I’ve never seen so much rage in one small building that lacked consumers.

      A different point, I had another hour long interview that started fine and the interviewer got progressively more off-topic (couldn’t stop asking about my Service Dog). On being walked out, I was verbally told “don’t expect us to call you back, we already extended an offer to someone but we had to meet our interview quota.”

  14. Canadian girl*

    Lw3- when I was new to interviewing I used to go through the whole thing as practice for me. Now if they’re young or don’t look like they’ve interviewed for awhile I think of it as practice for them but I do cut the at least a little short.

    Lw4- my boss and I have the same name. What we usually do is respond to the email and include the other person and just let the sender know they screwed up. When we had 1 person doing it all the time I sent an email specifically to that person to ask them to make sure they watch who they’re sending things too. I would reccomend trying to let your colleagues know that if they don’t hear from you in a certain amount of time tk check the send address since your colleague doesn’t tell you about emails that were misdirected.

    1. Forrest*

      >> my boss and I have the same name

      I’ve heard of cultural fit but this is taking it WAY too far. ;-)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Back before my field started hiring globally/offshoring, and when everyone in my field was younger boomer/early GenX, I worked with a lot of the people with the same names. Pretty sure I once worked in a department that had six each of Daves, Marks, and Bills. It happens. To your point though, it would be hilarious if boss only hired people with their same name for cultural fit reasons!

        1. Fabulous*

          I once worked with someone in a small office with the same name, but I was there first so I had seniority. From the day she was brought on, to avoid confusion, we called her “Olga” instead of “Fabulous”. And yes, Olga was the actual name, LOL (and she even got to choose her nickname!)

          1. Anononon*

            I find that a little strange. I work in a department with several name pairs, and there’s rarely major confusion beyond wrong emails now and then. To have someone choose a nickname is odd, and something I know I wouldn’t like.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, very strange, to the point where we’ve had at least one letter about that here with a lot of outraged comments.
              It’s one thing for a new hire to come in, see that there’s someone else already with their same name, and say “Ah, I don’t want to cause any confusion and actually go by [nickname], so feel free to use that as well!”, but it’s quite another for a workplace to decide on their own, without any input from the new person, that they simply can’t handle having two people with the same name, and to then pressure the new person to go by another name.

              And for what it’s worth, I actually share my name with a computerised system at my place of work – say my name is “Sissi” and the thing is called “System in super sexy industry” and gets shortened to “Sissi” as well – and while it does cause some confusion maybe once a month, that’s usually because someone either spoke unclearly or someone else misheard and it’s cleared up with literally two clarifying sentences, so it’s not like we’re slaves to any and all words that sound the same.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I worked with someone who was told she had to use a different name because there was already someone with that name in her department. They didn’t tell her until after I spent a week training her in my separate branch of the department, so I was confused when I got a call from “Kay” who then had to explain that I knew her as “Kaycee.” (Not the actual name, but a similar derivation.) And no, she had never used Kay as a nickname, they just chose it for her.

          3. KittyCardigans*

            In college, I worked at a small bookstore with 5 Katherines (including myself). At work, each of us claimed a variation of the name (Katie, Kate, Kat, Katie +[middle name], and Katherine). There were times when one of us would respond to something meant for another because they sound similar and some of us only used the nickname at work, but it generally worked pretty well, partly because we thought the whole thing was funny :)

            I’m glad email wasn’t a factor, though.

          4. vlookup*

            Gotta be honest I’m not wild about this. I remember a coworker doing this when we hired someone else with the same (very common!) name. The first “Emily” forced the new “Emily” to go by a nickname that she didn’t seem to particularly like.

            At least as it played out in this situation, it seemed pretty mean and unwelcoming to the second Emily, who wasn’t allowed to go by her own name at work.

        2. Hillary*

          I worked at small-ish business once where 75% of the employees were named Mike, Matt, or Mark. Covering the switchboard was hilarious, we had to take customers through a decision tree with both department and role to find the right person.

        3. EmmaPoet*

          I once worked in an office where there were three Marys and me, a non-Mary. They went by Miss Mary, Little Mary, and Maria to avoid confusion. This was also pre-email.

        4. Canadian Girl*

          Oddly enough she started after me. I teased her about copying me once I got to know her. It’s been a running joke for years.

        5. TCD*

          I have an external dev team I work with almost daily. My contacts are Dave A and Mark B. The internal team I service is lead by a different Dave A and Mark B.

      2. Generic Name*

        My small (at the time about 50 people) company at one time had 3 Karens (spelled differently) and 4 Tims.

      3. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Half the people in our Buenos Aires office were named Maria, but each had a work nickname, so somebody would tell me to “ask Ariana about that” and there was no way of knowing who that was.

      4. Phony Genius*

        For father/son families with the same name, we often use suffixes Sr. and Jr. Somehow, I don’t think this would be a good way to identify a manager and their employee, even if their titles have the words “senior” and “junior” in them.

    2. Cj*

      I worked with a person whose name was my maiden name. People would meet me in my office, not really having remembered my last name when they came in, and see my maiden name on my CPA certificate. So when they would call for me, they would ask for the other person because they thought that was my name.

      1. Forrest*

        I had a job where my grandboss and my great-grandboss were both called Emma, and in a meeting once I said, “my understanding is that Emma— ExtraEmma, I mean, not our Emma—wants us to—“ Everyone in my team immediately knew what I meant and they were known as Emma and ExtraEmma from there on.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I share a first name with someone in my friend group, but she was part of the group before I was. So I have occasionally been called Other Samantha, but never in an insulting way. Also once in a group text for an event (pre-covid) one person mentioned that Samantha, who went to culinary school, would be making lasagna. But she included her last name, like otherwise I might get confused and suddenly think I’m on the hook to make lasagna for the group. Since these are my friends I just had a minor chuckle.

  15. Smol Book Wizard*

    #1 – as a past SPED TA (solidarity! It’s a rare and wonderful and exhausting and valuable task) I cannot for the life of me imagine how they find time to spend 45 minutes doing anything from when they walk into school until all the kids are gone. We were working from the moment we entered the building, getting ready, taking the chairs off the tables, setting up things, emptying the dishwasher, organizing who was going to pick up whom from the vans and buses, etc.. I’m not saying prayer didn’t happen on occasion, but it was mainly me silently begging Providence that we wouldn’t have anything terribly random happen today. Hah.
    In short, I would be very surprised if there wasn’t something else they could be doing in those minutes, and wondering a little how well the classroom was being run (although of course I’m not there, so perhaps it is very good).

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      My mom is a sped assistant (well now k/1 since the school mostly does that) and while they’re not there 45 minutes early, I can see the way that can be filled, depending on what “early” mean. Assistants and teachers help with buses and getting kids sorted for breakfast, back in the day when breakfast was in the cafeteria.

      Depending on where LW1 is, bringing up that it’s prayer may go badly for her. Be glad it’s not qanon or a pyramid scheme. This might just be something you don’t have in common with them. (My sister the sped teacher had coworkers who believed the antichrist was real and active in america politics.)

    2. Cj*

      The OP says she plays on her phone for part of that hour, so perhaps there really isn’t 45 minutes of work to be done. But they are still on the clock and should be able to fill at least some of that time with work. And in any case, they shouldn’t be holding any type of discussion, religious or not, in the space where the OP is trying to get work done.

      1. Disco Janet*

        Teacher here. There is ALWAYS 45 minutes of work to be done. But some of it requires discussion with coworker (or as we call it in the teaching world, your PLC.) So OP ends up having nothing else she can do because the coworkers are too busy with their prayer group.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          Also a teacher here. I usually had 45 minutes of work for me to do – but I did not have 45 minutes of work for my aide to do every day.

          I couldn’t give grading to my para because of FERPA. They couldn’t participate as a gen-ed teacher in an IEP. I needed to do the planning for my lessons including lab prep which my paras didn’t have experience in – and every time I got someone trained, they were sent to a different room. Those three baskets took up the vast majority of my plan periods. My aides were amazing at student support -including collecting missing work and making additional notes for students – but they worked out ways to do that during the school day because they were freaking amazing. They were critically important for student success – but every morning my dearest aide would ask me what she needed to do this morning and 95% of the time I’d think for a second and say “I’m set. Do you need anything from me?” She’s say “I’m good, thanks” and then she’d do something on her phone for the rest of the time.

          The LW admits that she spends most of the time on her phone anyway – which is fine to my way of thinking – but expecting someone to intervene because her equally finished coworkers are talking about church instead of a topic that the LW hasn’t brought up and expects her colleagues to read her mind about…that’s making a mountain out of a molehill.

  16. wbw*

    #3 – This is coming from the perspective of someone in TV production, where there’s a lot of staff turnover project-to-project and it’s relatively insular and over time you’re usually bound to interact with folks more than once at different companies or projects (never burn a bridge – today’s assistant could be the head of a studio before too long, basically). And interviews for the most part for roles I’m interviewing for aren’t particularly elaborate affairs, usually in-person for 30-60 minutes after a phone screen.

    With all that context, though, I tend to think that if I get a gut feeling at the beginning that someone’s not right for the job, that doesn’t mean they aren’t right for something else down the line. In my mind as the interviewer it switches subtly to more of a general interview at that point and it becomes more of a “hey, let me get a sense of this person and what to keep them in mind for down the road.” There are plenty of folks I talk to where my takeaway is “not quite right for this specific job, but I’m glad we met because I can keep them in mind for XYZ role next time we’re staffing that” and it never feels like a waste of time in either direction.

    Again, might be very much dependent on the industry I’m in and the kind of hiring I do, but I’m all for at least keeping the time you’ve arranged to meet with someone and having the discussion.

    1. Book rabbit*

      At a previous job we were taught that interviewees should leave happy, and that they were testing us as equally as were were testing them. Not necessarily thinking they’ve got the job, but happy with us and our process.

      I think this is similar. If they leave with a bad feeling about the interview process they leave with a bad feeling about the company. If they would be perfect for another role that comes up have we lost that chance with them? If they talk about their experience are we losing others who won’t even apply?

      It definitely depends on the nature of the interview and the mismatch. But learning about a potential employer who you thought was good enough to bring in for an interview is usually worth it.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        An additional factor nowadays would be the GlassDoor review, or old-fashioned word of mouth. You don’t want to be known (personally, or as a company) for bad interview experiences.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        If they talk about their experience are we losing others who won’t even apply?

        This is a very good point. I’ve only had a few really bad interviews in my life, but trust me that I spread the word far and wide. “Do not work for these guys. They called me in for an interview and here’s how it went.” I’m on my sixth job in my field in my location in 24 years, and so know a lot of people in my field. Hopefully I caused those companies (I can in fact only think of one I did this to) to miss out on a lot of candidates who would’ve been unhappy working there.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ohh this is interesting. Now that I think of it, we did once turn somebody down for a FT entry level position (just because there was only one opening and one other person was a far better fit), but then called them back to offer them an internship, which they accepted, and later used to get a FT job at another large company. I wish my employers had done this more often. Something to file in the back of my mind as someone who’s likely to interview people again in the future. Thank you!

    3. Smithy*

      I interviewed with a small local branch of an international nonprofit outside the US, and when I showed up it was only clear then that needed someone who spoke English and the local language, not just English.

      It was a very kind and gracious exchange, even if a situation that could have been easily avoided. As such, for people who either did know the local language or just generally, I often spoke of them in the sense of “did you know there’s a local branch of Large Org? Looks like they do really interesting work – and let me tell you a funny story.”

      All to say, depending on circumstances, I think that kindness and perhaps some humor can leave all parties in a good place and saving face.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Man, what a catch-22. Everyone wants you to have five years experience interpreting llama dreams before they’ll hire you as a llama dream interpreter! How can you get the experience? Not everyone can afford years of unpaid llama dream internships.

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        Do you think that experience interpreting alpaca or other camelid dreams would be relevant enough to translate across? How about other mammals? I mean, I’m pretty sure I can tell when my dog is dreaming about chasing rabbits, maybe that would be enough to get me an entry level interview?

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          In that case, it’s all about your cover letter! You should really play up how atuned you are to all the minute variations of your dog’s dreams. And be prepared, your close relationship with this particular dog will be questioned in interview.

  17. Dennis Feinstein*

    Re LW3 yes it can be difficult to continue with the interview when it’s clear from question 1 that they’re not getting the job.
    Many years ago I was a magazine editor. I advertised for a deputy. Now, it’s obvious to me that if you’re going for a job on a magazine you’d… look at a copy of the magazine, right? There was even a newsagent on the ground floor of our building, so they could’ve grabbed a copy & looked at it in the lift. So I was astonished when two of the interviewees gave me blank looks when I asked, “So are you familiar with the magazine?” It was clear from that point on that neither of them were getting the job! (And, frankly, I was more concerned about them wasting my time than me wasting theirs).
    Another interviewee stepped out of the lift looking like she’d been dragged backwards through a hedge. I was tempted to just go “Nope!” and press the down button straight away, but felt obliged to give her an interview.
    I’d love for Alison to do an open thread on disastrous interviews – worst answers, how to cut them short, etc.

    1. WellRed*

      If they can’t be bothered to look at the magazine, I d also be tempted to cut the interview short.

  18. Software Engineer*

    #3: At my company we’re almost never allowed to cut an interview short… the rule is basically only if it’s something egregious enough to put them on the ‘probably never hire for any position’ list (I had a candidate who just didn’t tell their current employer they were going to be off until 2 so they tried to rush through all the interviews and get out of there by 11… in my industry you have a lot of flexibility but just not showing up and hoping nobody notices?!? No.)

    Unless it’s a serious problem of being combative or swearing at us or admitting to a crime or something we’re supposed to finish the interview out and try to give them a positive experience. So I’ve had interviews where I had to scramble because somebody trying to slightly pivot field was obviously not going to work out and needed to find questions related to his field so we wouldn’t be spending twenty minutes in agony. In these situations I try to figure out how can we have a good conversation and make them comfortable so they don’t walk out and cry over bombing it but instead with a feeling of ‘ok probably not the job for me I’ll keep looking’

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The one time I’ve ever felt okay terminating an interview early (and ye gods that was scary to do) was when the candidate came for a role as DBA, but as soon as I started asking technical questions said that she’d ‘never done any of that, but you offer training right?’.

      She’d lied. Had no computer experience beyond basic functions around the home and office and straight up admitted she’d ‘padded’ her CV to cover the years she’d spent out of work with kids. I felt so sorry for her that she felt she *had* to cheat and lie to get back into the workforce but also I didn’t see the point of continuing with any of my other questions. Long time ago but I think I said something like ‘we need someone who can hit the ground running on this job and don’t have the time or resources to train up a DBA from scratch’.

      (Now the guy who spent the whole interview staring at my holstered melons: THAT guy I should have ended the interview early on. Always kinda disappointed in myself that I didn’t)

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I had the opposite of your first example. I was interviewing an analyst and it was clear very early in the interview that the candidate was a DBA with way more experience than I needed. After about 5 min I asked him why he was interested in an Analyst role that would be focused on X, Y, and Z instead of the work he’s been doing of A, B, and C. Poor guy, the look on his face said it all. It turns out our HR had used the wrong job description for the posting.

        I basically told him it was totally our fault and if he didn’t want to continue we could end it there. I did ask him if he was interested in relocating to the site/state where our DBAs worked out of (he wasn’t), and to call me if he ever was interested.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        OH MY GOD. I can understand that if she were applying for an entry-level role, but a DBA can do SO.MUCH.DAMAGE if they don’t know what they’re doing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I practically require to trust you with my LIFE before I’ll give you administrator access to our databases. I hired the wrong person for the job once (turned out to be a drunken, homophobic mess) and it took months to repair the damage they caused. I fear that ever happening again.

      3. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Creeps always deserve to get cut short. Nobody wants to have people like that around.

    2. Lady Meyneth*

      I like to tell candidates a bit about company culture before we get to the actual interview. It helps spark new questions for them, helps me catch reactions before they fully go to poker-face questions mode, and usually puts them more at ease.

      When telling a (white, male) candidate about my company’s inclusion program, he immediately came back with “I don’t like that stuff, that’s all about making things harder for a different group of people. If you’re a white guy these days it can be really hard to get a good job you know. It’s all about minorities now.”

      Yeah, I can see how it’d be harder for *him* to get a job… his interview was very definetely cut short.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’d like to know who ended up hiring him, so I can avoid that place like the plague. Anyplace he’d be a fit sounds like a nightmare to work at.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Maybe a machine shop? They can probably use a massive tool like that.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        ‘If you’re a white guy these days it can be really hard to get a good job you know.’

        *me laughs in disabled, BIPOC, queer woman*

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          In his defense, I’m sure it *is* harder than it used to be. I mean, at one time, *all* the jobs were reserved for guys like him…

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          Wow, you won the minority bingo! It must be crazy easy for you to get jobs nowadays, right? Right?!

          *sharing your laugh in only disabled POC woman ;)

      3. it's me*

        I went on one date with a trust-fund libertarian in my friend group who said at one point that because I’m a woman with an ethnic last name, it must be easy for me to get a job. Thanks!

  19. Penelope Toodlesworth*

    LW1 – Regardless of the religion-in-the-workplace issue, I guarantee that the assistant principal in charge of special education would LOVE to know that staff aren’t doing the work they’re getting paid to do. I work in a school district, and pissing away the first 45 minutes – which here is supposed to be used for planning and professional development – for a personal matter would be grounds for disciplinary action.

    They’re cheating the students out of their full educational experience. Even though they’re not working with students during that time period, they’re being paid to work. Prayer groups are not work. Religion gets practiced on personal time.

    If they claim they don’t have anything to do, well, they’re still getting paid, so work can easily be found for them. Doorknobs can be wiped down, old files can be organized, online PD modules can be taken. Or heck, they can be temporarily detailed to help the cafeteria staff serve breakfast.

    That is ridiculous behavior and needs to be shut down immediately.

    1. WellRed*

      I’m surprised by how many comments are missing that point or not taking OP at her word.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s my view. I’ve got a lot of family in the teaching profession and one thing they always say it’s that there’s never enough time to get everything done.

      A quick religious reflection during the day in e.g. a prayer room is one thing – no problems with that. But 45 minutes with multiple people is taking a lot of man hours away.

    3. twocents*

      Right, the religion part makes it uncomfortable because of the way they do it right in her workspace, but even if they clocked in and then went outside for 45 minutes to play basketball, it’s still the kind of thing employers won’t be happy to be paying for and won’t be happy that the productive employees are picking up the slack.

    4. Disco Janet*

      The phrase “cheating the students out of their full educational experience” bothers me here, and I feel like it ignores the real issue. If the teachers were just socializing, it doesn’t sound like OP would mind. (And let’s be real – find me a school where teachers never socialize during their prep time. I’m skeptical you’d be able to. It’s the school equivalent of water cooler talk.) The issue is the religious talk is making OP uncomfortable (and possibly that she can’t discuss work-related/planning things with them then and has to cram it in later – though Op doesn’t actually say that’s a problem, I do wonder if it is though.)

      But teachers spending some time socializing just means that work has to get done later. Teachers often have to regularly work after hours/weekends to get everything done anyways. This comment reminds me of the often stated idea that teachers who aren’t on task for 100% of the day (and then some) are cheating their students is problematic. For all we know, they’re doing extra work the night before to have time for bible study in the morning. The teachers socializing is not the problem. The subject of the conversation is.

      1. JustaTech*

        I think part of the reason the OP would have less issue with their fellow TAs “just socalizing” is that it’s much easier to interrupt that to talk about the work stuff they need to discuss (who has which student, which student is on a new plan, or whatever).

        But this very structured prayer/book club/ devotional time makes it hard to just cut in with “Who’s taking Jesse to art therapy today?” or whatever.

        Socializing *happens*. This planned activity is intentionally not doing prep work.

        Here’s a question: if there were some kind of emergency (a window was broken in a classroom and schedules needed to be re-arranged), would these three stop their prayer time to get to work on that?

  20. Maddy*

    There used to be someone at my company that had the same first name as me but a completely different last name. But when people write emails the email address autofills when you start typing (and people don’t always notice) so I would get her emails and she would get mine. Not all the time. Maybe once a week.

    What did we do? Just forward them! It really takes no time at all. I don’t know what the big deal is.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had the same coworker in our department (same first name, different last name) and I got some of her email and meeting invites (that I would forward to her), but what happened most frequently was that I got tagged instead of her in comments and questions on tasks in our project-managing software. She was director level and oversaw a lot of what the department worked on. I would just click on the link to take me to the comment I was tagged in, tag her, and unfollow that task. Done! Honestly among other things, I didn’t want people coming to me later to follow up on those tasks. There was just enough overlap in what we worked on that some people could’ve decided that the question or task were really assigned to me. And I did not need that kind of hassle in my life!

      That said, if she ever got any of my email or was tagged in any of my tasks, I never found out, but I also never got in trouble for missing anything I hadn’t received, so it’s all good.

    2. JustaTech*

      I share an unusual first name with one of my TAs in grad school, and I would occasionally get emails intended for her from my classmates. There wasn’t an easy way to forward these emails in that weird system, so I would just reply “Hey, you sent this to the wrong FirstName”, and pretend that I hadn’t read the content of the message (which was almost always “this assignment is unclear, what do you actually want from me?”).

  21. Paul Pearson*

    LW1: Get ye to HR. apart from anything else, whether they’re praying or limbo dancing, they’re wasting the best part of 5 hours every week

    Number 4 sounds like a nightmare of a passive aggressive work place – people refuse to take tiny steps to correct tiny mistakes – “I need this attachment but I’m not going to tell you you forgot it” what do they do, just smugly stare until the other person realises the depths of their apparently unforgiveable failings?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I agree with you about #4. You might give them an hour or so to notice their own mistake (goodness knows how many times I’ve noticed errors WITHIN SECONDS OF SENDING, regardless of how much proof reading I did in advance) but once it’s obvious the attachment isn’t forthcoming, you send a cheerful nudge.

      For some years Outlook has prompted you to add attachments if it thinks you’ve missed something. For example, today I tried to send an email with “thanks for the attachment” or similar and when I hit Send I got a dialog box saying “did you mean to attach something to this email?” It isn’t clever enough to check you’ve sent the right number of attachments, or the right versions, or the right combinations, but it does catch the times you type “I am attaching March’s TPS report” and then forget to attach anything at all.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        (goodness knows how many times I’ve noticed errors WITHIN SECONDS OF SENDING, regardless of how much proof reading I did in advance)

        This is why my “delay before sending” is set to the maximum.

  22. Asenath*

    OP 1 – it sounds like your employer has you report earlier than is needed for work, since you, who do carry out what is scheduled for that period, also has time to be on your phone. It’s also possible your more experienced co-workers get their paperwork done, etc., at other times. In that case, I don’t see any problem with them carrying out personal conversations during that time, and I don’t think it matters if the book they’re discussing is religious. Sure, the close quarters mean you can’t help hearing them, which can disturb your concentration, but that happens a lot in the workplace, and it sounds like you don’t have much work going on then anyway.

    OP 4 – you probably can’t make your co-worker forward the emails, especially as it sounds like people in your workplace have a rather odd attitude towards email. I mean, who doesn’t follow up with the sender if they get an email that doesn’t have an attachment, but clearly should? You can respond the way you should when this happens to you. I never simply forwarded such emails, since I wanted to tackle the issue with both the sender and the correct recipient. I’d reply to the sender, copying the correct recipient. It didn’t take much more time than forwarding it since I had a prepared statement to put in it, something like “I think this was intended for Asenath2; I have copied it to the correct email address.” Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t, but I felt like I had done my part.

    1. WellRed*

      Perhaps OP could be having helpful work related discussions about students as she says they are supposed to be doing, but can’t because her colleagues are ignoring their duties, leaving her with no other options.

      1. Asenath*

        Or she wouldn’t be having those discussions with them, if, as seems likely, they all assist different teachers who work with different students. They should be discussing their own students with the teachers they assist, but I suspect that, as experienced assistants, they work in whatever discussions they need at other points during the day. They know the students and teachers better than the newcomer does, after all, and should need less discussion.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      She’s collaborating with the teachers she’s assisting during that morning hour, and they should too. I would imagine the teachers aren’t available for that work during other times. I’m guessing her “more experienced coworkers” think they’ll just skate by without talking to the teachers they support, because hey, they’ve been doing it for years and they still have their jobs, so how bad could it get?

      Either way, it is a massive distraction. Maybe OP wouldn’t be on her phone as much if she could hear herself think over all the positive affirmation talk.

      Either way #2 – they are on the clock. In a public school. That’s our tax dollars at work, financing a book club.

  23. Gritter*

    #1: Are those praying in any way pressurising you, or anyone else, to participate in said prayers?

    If not then I’d personally let it go. It may well be wasting their work time, but unless they report to you then it’s not your place to worry about that.

    1. Alex*

      Honestly, it’s more of an issue that you can’t have needed discussions with them about students. Especially as SpEd, regular communication with the teachers about potential issues before you have the lesson can be the difference between a meltdown or not.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      No, it is OP’s place. These people aren’t doing the work they are assigned to do. Stuff falls through the cracks that way, and OP will probably have to pick it up.

      Maybe you missed the part about how this is happening on work time. If it were before or after work hours, I would agree with you, but they are supposed to be working, not having a seance.

    3. Bagpuss*

      They are also wasting OPs time, since she is supposed to be working with them during that period. Which makes it her business.

      The fact that they are doing this on the clock so getting paid to do non-work related stuff is a different issue and is less her business, although also something it is reasonable for her to bring to her boss’s attention. In that instance, once she has raised it it is out of her hands how the PTB decide to deal with it.

    4. Dr. Rebecca*

      “Are those praying in any way pressurising you, or anyone else, to participate in said prayers?”

      That’s…really not the standard for acceptable vs. not acceptable religious behavior in federally funded workplaces.

  24. Audrey Puffins*

    At my previous job and current job, I had/have co-workers higher up the chain with alarmingly similar names and often receive emails not meant for me, even when I had to redirect an email to the terrifying head of HR, it still didn’t take me more than ten seconds max to construct a polite “Dear [same name], I received this in error and believe it is for you, many thanks” email and forward it along. It’s frustrating when it happens repeatedly, but I simply cannot imagine wilfully being that much of a bottleneck, because it probably *won’t* occur to people outside the company that there are two of you, and they *will* wonder why you’re ignoring them. You definitely need to talk to your manager about this aspect of it, you don’t want to look like you’re ignoring people when you don’t even know they’re trying to get in touch.

  25. Bookworm*

    #3: Agree with Alison. Unless it’s a dealbreaker, let them have a chance to explain?

    This is why I’m actually glad often that jobs go through multiple rounds of interviews. It’s tiring and it’s a lot of work (and it’s enraging when the organization doesn’t let you know and doesn’t respond to messages) but something like a phone screening might be most useful.

    #5: I’m so sorry you’re dealing with that but congratulations on your new position!

  26. Triplestep*

    No.3: When my daughter was in her last semester of college, she began interviewing for her first post-college job. One of her interviews ended after one question: “Can you start in two weeks? We need someone to start in two weeks.” She could not start in two weeks so the interview was over. Considering that many people need to give notice at a current job and are rarely accepting offers and giving notice the same day as they interview, this was obviously unrealistic. To make matters worse, the job was in a different city and required relocation. Imagine taking the time to prepare for an interview given by someone who could have clarified this important requirement before even scheduling it. Thankfully it was over Skype. (She had another interview she traveled home for and was later rejected with the explanation they needed someone to start a month before she would graduate, but I suspect that was an excuse because she wasn’t a good fit for that one.)

    1. pretzelgirl*

      I can’t tell you the number of crappy interviews I went on as a fresh grad. It was almost 13 years ago and I still remember some of them. One was mass interview for a financial company selling life insurance. It was a big meeting, with lots of flashy stuff, an annoying presenter etc. I actually got up and left. Another was a mass interview guised as a marketing job. It was really selling cable door to door. Yes door to door. I got up and left too. Another was management job in retail that paid $9.00 an hour. It was awful.

    2. Firecat*

      Then the company should cover that in the phone screen and not waste a candidates time/gas and nowadays safety.

    3. Firecat*

      #3 if there is a question or two that can determine if someone is going to be hired then please put those in a phone screen!

      You should not send a candidate home after the first question if you can help it. The few companies who have done this to me or my spouse years later if we are asked about them we share our bad experience. Candidates go through a lot to make it to an interview – time off work, practice, travelling, buying a suit to interview in, etc. If after all that you only ask one question and send them along … Well don’t be surprised to have a bad glassdoor interview review amongst other downstream consequences.

  27. Helvetica*

    LW#4 – if I got an e-mail which from the content was not meant for me but I didn’t know who it could be for, then I’d just reply to the sender “sorry, wrong addressee” and that takes 5 seconds. I don’t understand why Joan has to be so contentious about it.

    I don’t have a common full name but share my first name and the first initials with another person in my organisation. Sometimes, people will type in only those, then automatically hit enter and Outlook autofills it. I often understand from the content that that has happened, so I can forward it to the correct person as well. But in either case, this shouldn’t be such an issue for Joan.

  28. Nonprofit Lifer*

    RE LW #1 whose co-workers are discussing affirmations during their mutual prep time:
    Before you go to your teacher/AP/HR you might want to try addressing the issue with your coworkers. It could be they don’t realize that there are productive things they could be doing that are directly related to their jobs.

    You could try just interrupting at the beginning, as in “Hey before you begin, there are a few things about the students I wanted to talk with you about. Is anyone noticing that Charlie…” Especially if you start out with an issue that’s actually important you can probably shame them into talking about it. Then you continue with other work-related topics.

    One of two things will happen, either they’ll realize that there are work-related things they should be doing during that time, so they’ll cut it out or move it to a different time. OR they’ll push back at which point you can either take it up with them directly “could you find another time/location to do this?” or your concerns will be much stronger when you do take it up the ladder.

  29. Andy*

    #1 It seem to me that many people want OP to basically pretend she has issue with their performance or need to discuss something with them that she can not. But it seems to me that she does not have that problem. She has literally problem with feeling excluded while they chat those daily affirmations. If these discussions were not daily affirmations, but rather sport or whatever she could join, she would had less of a problem with that.

    It also sounds to me that OP does not have all that much to do during that time either, which of course make social problem only worst. The people in there are not overall excluding, they are welcoming and issue is with those 45 minutes.

    And very frankly, I have yet to see HR to be able to deal with interpersonal issues like this. HR is good if you want them to stop what they are doing, under threat, full stop. HR is not good in being intermediator between people who have social issues. They are likely to make your social issues worst. Also, there is difference between making workplace into more effective and productive and between wanting to be included. They are often in the opposite.

    And if you attack how hard peoples work or how much they slack in from of HR and your goal was more friendly inclusive workplace, I just dont see how it could happen.

    1. Beany*

      It’s both things.

      LW1 is expected to be at this work location at this time, performing their job. If the other people are also required to be there at the time, performing their jobs, then they shouldn’t be doing any other activity — especially if the task at hand is a shared activity that includes the LW.

      But besides the fact that they’re *not* doing their required work activity at that time, they’re *also* subjecting LW to unwanted religious activity, in a government job that explicitly precludes this. This is worse than discussing sports games, or making paper airplanes. LW shouldn’t have to hear/see this activity, and LW shouldn’t have to go elsewhere while it’s happening.

      1. Andy*

        That is the thing, is there actually work that is not being done, are the teachers they are supposed to supports missing that time? Is there impact on students? Because it really sounds to me like there is nothing to suggest so. The admin is not complaining about missing reports. Emails are not unanswered. Their teaches are not complaining.

        People here want there to be impact, because of the work surfers it is easier too complain.

        But the expectation to be there for 45 min before class is, afaik, not usual. Ans yes I do know educators. Op herself is mot finding enough work to do at that time. All that is supposed to be done at that time can be done wherever.

        If they stopped discussing those daily whatever, it just does not seem there would be additional work that would have to be done. Maybe they would stop doing reports in the aftermoon or evening, maved them to morning, maybe.

  30. Sawbonz, MD*

    Email naming conventions can sometimes be a real mess. The worst one I’ve known of personally was of a former coworker whose name was (made up name; same idea though) Samuel Hitter and our naming convention was the first initial of the first name plus the last name. I cringed every time I got an email from the poor guy.

  31. Celia*

    Re: #4, I have a coworker whose name in our company directory is “Bob Smith (Marketing),” which populates when his email address is entered in the “to:” field. I wonder if they could do something like this. The email addresses would stay the same. Regardless, yes, the other Joan should forward the emails!!

  32. Melewen*

    #1: You say that you’d like to use this time to talk about student issues, but do they know that? If you’ve tried interrupting or redirecting their meeting to bring up work-related topics, how have they responded? It’s possible that they developed this routine awhile ago and just haven’t thought about how it impacts new people.

    And yeah, they shouldn’t be having exclusionary club meetings during work-time, but I think I’d start by talking about what you’d like to use (at least some of) your group planning time for instead of starting off by addressing the religion part.

  33. Noncompliance Officer*

    LW#1: I don’t see any consideration of the fact that even if HR does do something, the 3 coworkers will know EXACTLY who did it, which is likely to make the working relationship bad. I’m not saying I approve of what the coworkers are doing, but there is no good way to deal with a situation like this.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Which is why you let HR handle it. They probably have ways to deal with this in a more general way that won’t make it clear that this is a complaint that originated with OP.

      1. Annie Moose*

        HR isn’t magic–especially not in schools, where HR intervening is… not really a thing. (typically you would expect the special education teacher, parapro supervisor, or principal to be responsible here) It will be obvious LW is the one reporting it.

        Which doesn’t mean LW can’t or shouldn’t say something about it–but come on. They’re going to know perfectly well who it was: the only other person present, the only other person who is likely to know the topic of their morning conversation.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t think that is very realistic. It sounds like this is happening in a room that is literally just the three of them and OP, I don’t think anyone would believe that OP isn’t the one who brought it to HR’s attention. I don’t think that should stop the OP from doing so, but it does make it tricky and I think it is important to acknowledge that it might affect their relationships.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          What I meant was that HR doesn’t just need to come down on these other three people and say they aren’t working. HR can build more accountability into this time slot. “Here’s what needs to be accomplished in this 45 minutes, and here is how you are going to show evidence that’s what you did.”

          1. Andy*

            HR typically can not do that, because HR are not supervisors and also because they have only very causal knowledge about the work that needs to be done. If they have done this, there is fair chance for major conflict (whether open or passive aggressive) with management to break up.

          2. Annie Moose*

            This isn’t how schools work. (and frankly, in my experience that’s not how HR works in other industries either) A school district’s central HR department has zero impact on what work is assigned and how it’s carried out, that’s the responsibility of the administrators at the specific school in question (aka the aides’ supervisor, the principal, and (if they’re assigned to a specific classroom rather than floating with a student) the relevant teacher).

      3. DJ Abbott*

        You would think grown adults could see it’s not a great idea to make it obvious who complained and why, but my former boss did this a couple of times and he was over 60 and normally very considerate.
        Scenes in which a teacher embarrasses a student by announcing a problem to the class the student wanted to keep quiet “Class, Julie doesn’t have a partner. Someone (take pity) on her and step up” are in every sitcom, and grownups still do this.
        Add that to the fact many HRs are less than competent, and I would never count on them having the awareness and subtlety to handle this well.
        OP, maybe the special education teacher, parapro supervisor, or principal, as mentioned below, are better options.

    2. PT*

      Teachers acting like children is hardly unusual. From a practical standpoint, I think the aide just has to put on headphones and dedicate the morning to doing her work, and let the rest of them suck at their job. If she reports them, she still has to spend all day in their classroom being iced out…she’s not going to get them to do the meetings she wants either way.

    3. Red 5*

      I am actually really shocked that I had to scroll this far down to see somebody bringing this up.

      There isn’t a good path out of this situation, there are just less bad ones. I don’t know what I would advise this person to do, honestly. What the co-workers are doing is deeply inappropriate and should be stopped.

      But how to do that without any risk of retaliation or alienation from coworkers in a new, much needed job? I don’t know. HR can’t help with that, even if they were actually good at their jobs. There are about 15 ways it could go badly, because people are people. They don’t behave rationally, and these coworkers clearly don’t care about following rules or regulations (or perhaps are content with being ignorant of those rules). You can have every rule and law you want about how people can’t retaliate against complaints, but what’s the reality of the actual working world that real people have experienced? Because I’ve never been at a job where there would be a way to do this that wouldn’t burn one relationship or another.

      The best case scenario I can come up with is that there’s a way for a third party to find out about this and complain. The main teacher, the principle, even a concerned parent who is wondering why their child isn’t getting the help they’re supposed to (if that’s happening). Those are all relationships with different power dynamics that could navigate it more efficiently.

      I’m not saying I think OP should do nothing, or that the coworkers are fine, or anything like that. This situation is wrong. Something should be done. Allison’s advice is the most logical and correct.

      But human nature is what it is and I don’t see a happy ending either.

  34. TotesMaGoats*

    #3-I recently sat through several interviews for a position. The third candidate just would not stop talking. Long and winding road answers to pretty straight forward questions about technical skills. When it came around to the questions I was asking I started with “Can you quickly explain….” and the candidate did not take the hint. I tried.

  35. CatPerson*

    LW1, you repeated that you feel excluded a couple of times, but that’s not the problem, is it? I don’t think you want to be included because you should be working, but if the issue is exclusion you could ask to join them. I’d confine the complaint to the religious group is interfering with my work while they are praying and discussing their religion. Right?

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      Not wanting to be included doesn’t mean you can’t feel excluded. They are spending 45 minutes every morning on an activity that only includes 3 out of 4 people who are forced to share physical close quarters. That would be pretty inappropriate even if there wasn’t a religious component, which just makes it *extra* inappropriate.

    2. Andy*

      Is there a reason to doubt letter writers when she writes about own motivations? The letter sounded honest to me. Plus, that is how people work. Humans in fact do mind feeling excluded and feeling like outsider in this situation does not strike me as odd.

  36. not a jane doe*

    #4: my org is very large so, as you can imagine, we have lots of people with the same name. We solve this by letting people put things in parenthesis after their name, such as their location or title. So if I worked for Alphabetics Department and someone else worked for Combinatorics, we’d be:

    Jane Doe (Alphabetics)
    Jane Doe (Combinatorics)

    We could also be Jane Doe (Director) or Jane Doe (Los Angeles Division). This doesn’t fix all problems but it does cut down a lot on wrong emails. I still do have to redirect people every few months with a chirpy “I think you put the wrong Jane Doe on this email, I don’t work in the Los Angeles office”, but it’s not as frequent.

    1. not a jane doe*

      I forgot to mention! This is in Outlook as the display names. Our email addresses are still janedoe1, janedoe2, etc. But people email each other through Outlook (rather than guessing full email addresses) so it shows up there.

  37. Business Socks*

    LW4- I worked for the same company for 15 years and during that time received email for someone in a different office who shared my last name and first initial about once a month. Every single time, I forwarded it to the intended person and cc’d the sender so they’d know what happened. It took about 10 seconds and probably occupied about 15 minutes of time total over a 15 year period. It literally never occurred to me that this would be an annoyance or a burden, I just saw it as simple etiquette, like holding a door for someone.
    What I mean to say is that I can’t even get inside the head of someone who wouldn’t do that. I don’t know anything about your job or the nature of the email correspondence you receive, but if these are potentially time sensitive things, could you possibly say something to Joan like, “I apologize for the inconvenience, but some of these messages are time sensitive so on a professional level I would really appreciate it if you could forward these to me. I will absolutely try my best to make sure all of my contacts have my correct contact information.” Put it in an email so you have a paper trail in case you need to escalate it.

  38. Khsd615*

    LW1- As a teacher, I hate to say it, but I would be very cautious about how you speak up about this and to whom. Teachers and aides have long memories and often work in the same buildings for their whole careers, so if you hope to stay long term speaking up and getting them reprimanded could make you some enemies, especially if you’ve only been there a short time and this has been going on for a while. If I were you, I would find another place to be during that time- try checking in with teachers in person, going to your first classroom a bit early, sitting in the teacher’s lounge, etc. Many schools unfortunately have an us vs. them mentality when it comes to building administration and central HR will most likely not care about this.

  39. SMH*

    Do you have regular one on one check ins? If you are not schedule with your team immediately, biweekly is usually enough but use your best judgment based on your company and needs. At your next meeting state clearly I took over A and B so you could focus on C and D and those are not being completed timely. What’s going on? Ask him if he needs more training or if something is getting in the way of meeting the deadlines. Then set your expectations. He will meet all deadlines, he will provide regular updates and in a few weeks he will take back over the work you took from him.

    I would also start randomly reaching out to him during the day. Not every day but randomly call him when you would suspect him to be unavailable. Do you ever have an assignment that needs completed by EOD? Try passing it to him once in a while and see how he responds. Document all of this but if he’s working a side job it won’t take long for your to manage him out. If something else is going on maybe he will finally be forthcoming and you can address it together.

    1. Sunflower*

      It’s unclear from the post but how clear are the deadlines you’re giving him? If needed, start putting firm time deadlines on things vs EOD or COB deadlines. I think this discussion came up a few weeks ago- EOD to me means ‘on your desk by the morning’. COB means anywhere from 5-7pm. My productivity levels are all over the place and especially working remote, I get a surge around 7pm and it’s not uncommon for me to only respond to urgent requests from 2-5pm and then finish up projects at night. If you need something by 5pm, make sure you state 5pm. Make it clear 5pm is 5pm and not EOD if needed.

      1. SMH*

        It’s a lot easier to state EOD when you have an employee who finishes things on time. I agree that my EOD can be interpreted differently so for me EOD is prior to my leaving. For this employee very clear deadlines need to be spelled out. If the employee states he has issues concentrating but can do more work at night maybe OP could work with him. However OP having to take on his work and still not receive the rest on time is not acceptable.

    2. Nicotene*

      This was my thought. Schedule a mid-day, mid-week check in and see what’s happening with this employee. There is something kind of weird going on here.

      1. La Triviata*

        At a previous (horrible) job, a number of people had side businesses. One person selling real estate, one doing some kind of consulting, one running an office services company, another trying to establish herself as a writer. I’m not sure how much it interfered with their actual job, but they were using office time, computers, materials, etc., to do so. The one with the office services company – since she was a higher up – would pressure lower level staff to do some work for her private company. So, in addition to using organization resources for their private for-profit endeavors, the organization was a non-profit, which meant those endeavors could have caused the organization to lose its tax-exempt status. As far as I know, no one ever made an issue of it.

        1. Just Jane*

          You never know if that side business will succeed. When I applied for a position, I was told that the person currently in the job was moving on to something else and starting a business. After I started, the boss’s secretary (yeah, that long ago!) said that my predecessor and her husband were starting up a new concept and that she had been working on it on company time. The boss had pretty much said either stop working on your business on my time or move on, so she left, coming back a couple of days to train me. The first couple of months I was there, I got calls from suppliers, etc. for the new business and always referred them to predecessor’s contact number. Fast forward a couple of years, the concept took off and became the leader in a new field that grew exponentially. Predecessor and her husband became rich–really rich — and are now probably retired on a beach somewhere. Their company is now international and employs 32,000! I came into extended contact with the business a few years ago at one of their locations. I mentioned to a manager there that I became acquainted with the founder when I took the job she left and the manager practically bowed at my feet.

  40. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-I have one of the most common last names in the US. Married into it. At one job, I was routinely sent emails for the wrong person who was MUCH higher up the food chain than I. Things included hiring/firing of department chairs and contracts with the DOD that (while not horrible that I saw) were not public. Sometimes you couldn’t tell what it was without reading so I saw stuff that I probably shouldn’t. I always responded to the email person saying “wrong person, I’ve forwarded to the right person”. It doesn’t help that autofill will get you with that too. Your coworker is super weird to not forward the emails to you. It takes 2 seconds.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      A work friend once forwarded a dirty email joke (back when forwarding dirty jokes from work email was a thing), but Outlook autofilled the address and the email went to someone in HR who had the same first name (at least it was in a different division and in a different country). My friend was horrified. There were no consequences (whew!) but she certainly made sure to triple-check her To: email list after that.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      At my old place we had a handyman routinely get emails for the CEO because they had the same first name and similar last names and were next to each other in the Outlook directory – think Cecil Warbucks and Cecil Warburton. I can’t remember now what the handyman used to do with them.

  41. Sherri*

    I have a ‘forgotten attachment’ rule. When I get an email referencing an attachment with no actual attachment, I always wait 10 minutes before responding. I do it myself occasionally and I almost always notice it right away and follow up with the attachment. In the interim, I get five emails telling me I forgot the attachment, which I find annoying, but in an instant, I’m over it.

    After ten minutes (or obviously if the email is older) then I’ll follow up.

    I encourage you all to adopt this! Have a great day.

  42. Vox Experientia*

    hr needs to be engaged immediately by the individual forced to endure listening to their coworkers spending paid work time praying and having what amounts to a religious service on the clock. for one, it’s theft – those people are being paid to work, not discuss their imaginary friend. for another, it’s a violation of the principle of the separation of church and state – these people are government workers taking taxpayer money for religious rituals. it’s also incredibly rude to their peer trapped by their proximity into listening to their nonsense.

    1. Annie Moose*

      It is not illegal for people to have and discuss their religious beliefs at work, even if they work for a school. If they were actively discussing this with or attempting to convert students, it may bring it into a legal realm, but what they are doing is absolutely not illegal and is absolutely not a violation of separation of church and state.

      1. Vox Experientia*

        having a discussion isn’t illegal. having a daily religious meeting on the clock? the argument could be made either way. they’re been successful lawsuits about a 30 second prayer before football games after hours in public stadiums. are you saying that can be illegal, but an hour long bible study while on duty by public employees can’t? i’m pretty sure i’d get fired if i spent 1/8th of my paid time every day worshipping Zeus or Odin or other similarly nonsense. the same should apply to the benevolent bearded sky lord.

        1. Andy*

          > hey’re been successful lawsuits about a 30 second prayer before football games after hours in public stadiums

          Because there you are forcing everyone to participate in the prayer. And football games are not “after hours”, they are the hours. That is different then people doing the activity without requiring you to join.

        2. AutolycusinExile*

          I understand your frustration, but I’d like to ask you to try to make your point less dismissively of religious beliefs in general, please. This behavior would be equally unacceptable even if they were spending the 45 minutes with their clique trying to cure cancer – the real issue at hand is the wasted work time and the exclusion of a coworker. Just because some people are jerks doesn’t mean we get a free pass to be so dismissive of religious beliefs. We can think their behavior is unacceptable and infuriating without belittling the belief systems of enormous numbers of people!

          1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I agree completely. The part about “imaginary friend” was highly inflammatory and disrespectful.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        no, but 45 minutes of work time every day? It is not illegal, but it is a problem of using up a large chunk of time for which they are being paid to perform their jobs. And to do it as a group in a room with a person who also needs to be there, who needs to get work done in that space, and who does not feel comfortable with it or with participating in it … that’s inappropriate and could be seen as causing a hostile work environment in certain cases (probably not here, but in certain cases).

        That said, I cannot condone Vox’s comparing conversations about religion and prayer as “discuss[ing] their imaginary friend.” If someone in the workplace used that phrasing to describe what the coworkers were doing, that person would be the one creating a hostile work environment.

  43. Aquawoman*

    I have a name that is essentially the reverse of someone else’s name in my organization–think Michaela Rogers and Roger Michaels. I occasionally get his email (which I know because he is in some sort of IT infrastructure role and these emails are like something written in Greek to me) but I always respond. It’s not as often as weekly, but it takes literally 10 seconds.

    I was once managing someone who was dealing with an outside Bob Smith and we also have an inside Bob Smith, and inside Bob asked if anyone had worked with outside Bob. Can you see where this is going? Yep, outside Bob received an email full of criticism about him.

  44. SomebodyElse*

    I went back and reread #1. This really struck out at me:

    “This time is meant to talk about any issues we are seeing with students, check our email, check in with the teachers who we support, do paperwork that our boss, the special education teacher needs, etc.”

    Essentially the only thing that this group is preventing the OP from doing is the first one. Everything else in that list is independent work or with people not in the aid group.

    “(Our desks are literally butted up against each other, so it’s not like I can leave, I spend my time doing what I think I am supposed to be doing — checking in with teachers, checking up on student grades, and then faffing about on my phone and trying to ignore my coworkers’ religious talk, and the fact that I am being excluded.) ”

    I really suspect this has less to do with the religious theme or work not being done and more to do with the feeling excluded.

    OP, I would really look at your motives on this one.
    -Are you feeling excluded from an activity that is going on around you?
    -Do you object to the content?
    -Is it affecting your work in any way?
    -Have you been asked to join?
    -What would you say if asked to join?
    -What are you looking to gain from having this stop? *be really honest with yourself on this one, because I think it’s key.

    At any rate, I hope that this sorts itself out and you continue to enjoy what you describe as a good workplace and coworkers.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I think OP’s coworkers are also supposed to be doing paperwork, etc, instead of praying. It’d be bad enough if most of the team took 45 minutes every morning to all watch a tv show together instead of doing actual work. It’s egregious that they’re praying in a government environment.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        I mean, they’re allowed to pray, just not during “work time”, like any other non-work activity. Even in a government environment. E.g. I’m pretty sure it would be frowned upon for the school to prevent a Muslim teacher from saying their daily prayers at prescribed times even in “a government environment” if their personal practice required it. Though these discussion meetings sound more optional and therefore less protected.

    2. Ruth*

      Well it’s affecting her in that her coworkers have 45 minutes of paid leisure activities, while she does 45 minutes of work. That’s simply not fair.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes, this is exactly it. A lot of commenters here seem to be missing this point. And this issue crops up at a lot of workplaces, so everyone telling OP to keep her nose out of it are setting a terrible precedent for other readers who come here with the same or a similar issue.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Except A- the OP is not the manager of the employees
        B- by their own admission they are also doing non work activities and no indication they are being treated differently/held to a different standard regarding this
        C- there was no indication in the letter that this was affecting their work in any way

        The question from the OP was “Am I wrong to feel so uncomfortable? How should I handle this?”

        What I was asking the OP to examine is what is making them feel uncomfortable.

        FTR.. I’m pretty ambivalent about the 45 min of non work activity during the day. Everybody ‘wastes’ worktime from having chats with coworkers, making personal calls, taking the long way to the bathroom to stretch their legs, and all of those other activities that normally happen. I also find it pretty disingenuous for a commentator group that regularly rails against presenteeism to suddenly find this situation so awful that it must be stopped. If the work is getting done, then there you go. Without other evidence from the OP that this is affecting their work I can’t be all that bothered by it.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I’d normally agree with you, though in this case the OP did mention the exclusion and being of a similar religion. (Which is what led me to asking the questions I did.) But it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day what you or I think, it’s what the OP thinks and what the school thinks.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Hopefully the school will think that the teachers should be spending their paid time working on actual work, not unrelated religious discussion. Whether the OP feels personally excluded from the religious discussion is a red herring. It’s not appropriate activity on the clock.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I don’t necessarily agree. I mean, I do think the feeling of exclusion is an issue, but honestly, if I am trying to do independent tasks, I would want my surrounding workspace to be quiet and not have people praying and doing affirmations (or engaged in lively social chit chat, but I think the praying would bug me more). Regardless of feeling excluded, the prayer meetings are hindering everyone’s ability to get the work done that they ought to get done at that time (by distracting OP and by keeping the others focused on prayer instead of, you know, their jobs!).

  45. Salad Daisy*

    #3 Back when we were all working in the office, we had a new employee who was very unproductive. One day, one of my coworkers happened by their cube to discuss something and found they were logged into their old job and working at their old job while physically at work at their new job. They did not last too long after that.

  46. Econobiker*

    OP#4: I worked for several years at a global manufacturing company as an engineering contractor. The email address book scheme plainly said something like Edward.Dunkin(External) with the (External) as the usual reference for the 20% of people workinh who were contractors. In my last 10 months there a manufacturing line employee with a similar name was promoted to line supervisor and qualified for an email address. He started taking internal Introduction to Supervisor classes which was my introduction to him. This is how I found out about him. His classmates started sending me emails “Hey Eddie Dunkin great class we had. Nice to meet you!” Looking up the global address book showed no other Edward Dunkin. A bunch of Dunkin last named people but nothing obvious. I was flummoxed as to what to do without an apparent place to forward the emails. I just folders the emails. He progresses through several internal training sessions with similar emails after each. FINALLY one emails comes through from someone who’d known him for a long time and had a signatureline witha phone number listed.. “Hey Eddie, glad that we’re both supervisors now after starting on the teapot welding line 7 years ago and working through that line for 4 years with our old supervisor Donald Duck until they put in welding robots.” I called her up and politely explained I was trying to track down the OTHER Eddie Dunkin

  47. Econobiker*

    Turns out that the OTHER Eddie Dunkin was actually Paul Edward Dunkin using his middle name. So it was Paul Dunkin in the global address book.
    I then called Paul Dunkin and, yes, it was him. So I forwarded the flood of saved emails to him. Eventually I’d get an occasional HR email about someone on his work line’s FLMA which I’d forward along with cc: ing the sender. But it died down except for THAT one obe guy who send out monthly TPS Reports….

    1. Econobiker*

      The Monthly TPS Report Guy:
      For the last 10 months I worked as a contractor at big manufacturing company I received Monthly TPS Report intended for theibe supervisor “Eddie” Dunkin. It took two months to figure out that it was Paul “Eddie” Dunkin. After that or the next 7 months I respectfully forwarded the TPS Report and told TPS Guy in the email to change the distribution to Paul Dunkin not me Edward Dunkin(External). TPS Report Guy didn’t change it nor did he respond each. And. Every. Time. I. Sent. Him. The. Email.

      So- even when I put in my 2 weeks to leave for a permanent job, I received yet another TPS report from Guy. Okay, it’s on now, I thought!

      I also cc: copied the TPS Report Guy’s apparent department head and the intended recipient Paul “Eddie” Dunkin. I finally received a wishy-washy reply from the TPS Report Guy like “Thanks for letting me know. I’ve changed the address now.”

      Yeah after 7 months.

  48. Hell in a Handbasket*

    LW1, if you’re uncomfortable going to HR because you’re afraid of upsetting relationships with your coworkers, maybe instead you can go to your manager/principal (or whoever makes sense) and ask if there’s another location you can work from for that 45 minutes (and explain why). That might be enough to get it shut down without your having to complain directly — or if not, maybe you can find another spot so at least you don’t have to hear it.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      I get where you are coming from, but the prayer ladies are likely violating the law. It is imperative that the school shuts them down.

      1. Hell in a Handbasket*

        Ideally yes — but that’s the school’s responsibility, not LW’s. By taking this approach, she’ll be notifying them of what’s going on so they can deal with it. Based on what LW says about how they’re great coworkers generally, my guess is that she might not be willing to go with the full-on HR approach, so this gives her an alternative to doing nothing.

        1. awesome3*

          I think the alternative to going to HR would be going to someone on campus with authority, like an admin. Schools are a lot more centralized, going to HR may be seen as going over the top, whereas a good principal would be horrified to learn that this was happening at their school without their knowledge

        2. Spicy Tuna*

          Yes, I meant that she should alert someone that can shut them down. Sounds like she is not in a position to do so herself.

          1. Hell in a Handbasket*

            Agreed – I was just thinking it might be more palatable to her to go to the principal or whoever and say “Here’s what’s happening and it’s interfering with getting my work done — is there somewhere else I could sit?” vs. “Here’s what’s happening, can you shut it down?” But hopefully the end result would be the same.

            1. awesome3*

              Ideally yes, but asking for somewhere else to sit may result in getting somewhere else to sit, which will impede the team from doing the prep work during this time. Better to be direct.

  49. Dr. Rebecca*

    I’m finding it hilarious/ironic that so many comments are subbing in “Jane” for “Joan,” discussing LW4, like if we the commenters can’t even keep the name straight…

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Yes, I noticed that. Highlights how easy it is to do and how many people would not actually notice that they’ve done it.

  50. No Tribble At All*

    Re #4: a former coworker used to work in a place where he had the same first, last, and middle initial as one of the higher-ups. This was a government 3-letter agency, and sometimes when people sent emails to Jean L. Picard, data analyst, instead of Jean L. Picard, department chief, they’d reveal classified information above the level my coworker was cleared to view. So every. single. time. he got an email for the high-up, my friend had to call security, they’d take his laptop, wipe that email thread, and make him sign a paper swearing not to reveal the information he saw. All because their email addresses were too similar.

    What I’m saying is, your coworker is a butt and should forward things to you.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      Oh my goodness that would be so beyond frustrating! The head of our legal department has an email that’s like and I always wondered how many confidential emails meant for legal got accidentally sent to John Smiths 1 and 2–but man I can’t imagine having to deal with a situation as extreme as your coworker’s!

  51. Spicy Tuna*

    LW #1 – as a raging atheist (that has gotten me into trouble in the comment section here before!), I was fuming reading your letter! Go directly to HR. Do not pass go. Do not let up until they stop. This is 100% unacceptable!

    LW #4 – had the same situation but the guy in the other office across the country always forwarded the emails. Granted, this was in the ’90’s when there was not that much use of email in the office yet, so it was only once in a while (and usually personal emails, truth be told!) but it’s not that difficult for her to just hit forward. If she doesn’t comply, I don’t think you’d be out of line escalating it to her boss since it sounds like it’s slowing down your work flow.

  52. PersephoneUnderground*

    On LW #4- It appears from the letter that she’s asked Other Joan to reply to the sender, rather than forward the email. From my perspective that’s more work, so she might get more traction if she changes the request to “just forward to me” which requires one or two clicks. If she’s already clearly asked that, then I wouldn’t be shy about talking to LW’s boss about finding a solution either via IT (setting up the way your name appears when it’s populated to include your department is apparently a thing, described by other comments, for instance) or by talking to Other Joan’s boss- probably both.

    This is a pretty serious problem, honestly, around once a week a customer thinks you’re entirely ignoring them! That can only end badly- it only takes one important customer with an urgent issue getting ignored to have contracts pulled or company reputation effected, at least in many industries.

  53. MCMonkeybean*

    LW1 situation is so crappy, I’m sorry. I do think you should reach out to HR but unfortunately I think you have to be prepared that it may not go well. Even without the religious component, being the only person not participating is a crappy position to be in because it won’t exactly be a secret who complained and the coworkers may feel like OP “got them in trouble” (not true of course, but still a highly possible outcome for them to feel that way). Adding in the religious component of course makes it even more likely to cause tension.

    It’s totally possible they are reasonable people who were doing this because of their shared interest and honestly just hadn’t realized how inappropriate/exclusionary it is. I am crossing my fingers for that. But I think it’s also likely they might incorrectly try to claim their religious freedom is being taken away or whatever.

    But having to put up with this every single morning is still the worst outcome in my book, so again I do still think it is worth talking to someone about it. But do be prepared that the “welcoming and nice” coworkers may treat you differently after.

    1. Disco Janet*

      In the education sphere, you don’t go to HR for something like this – it’s skipping several levels and HR oversees the entire district. This isn’t the kind of thing they handle (in other fields, sure – in education, no way.) Other teachers have offered helpful insight already for the more logical next steps here.

  54. LawLady*

    I would guess that the daily affirmations are from Living Faith, which is a Catholic daily devotional. While I totally agree that it’s not appropriate at work, especially where the poster is forced to sit and work, it’s worth noting that for a lot of Catholics, these daily devotions are sortof more… faith-based self help? Like, the lesson today is on caring for the poor. While I think it’s inappropriate, I suspect the reason the coworkers haven’t realized it’s massively inappropriate is that for them, it feels like using the time to discuss a self-help book, which may help them be more productive in their jobs and lives.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      The thing of it is, though, that this isn’t a time to discuss a self-help book. They are on the clock and they are supposed to be working.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        Exactly – if they were taking 45 minutes to discuss Tony Robbins, it wouldn’t be any different.

  55. Prunella T. Cornbubble*

    LW4: I suggest you change your name legally so it’s a perfect match for the other Joan, giving your employer motivation to adjust their unnecessarily rigid email requirement for your specific situation.

  56. EngineerMom*

    My dad worked for a large company. We have a unique last name but common first names, so people were used to just starting to type the first few letters of the last name into the email “To” when sending him email.

    About 5 years after he started working there, I did an internship under the same parent company (totally different department, though it was the same physical site – we worked almost a mile away from each other!). Because my first name comes before his in the alphabet, when folks would just type a few letters of the last name, then hit return, they’d inevitably end up sending ME email meant for him. The first summer, it was kind of hilarious and not really a problem, and I would just forward it to him, copy the sender, and let them know they’d reached the wrong Uniquelastname.

    The second summer, he’d moved positions into group that handled government military contracts. Then, it wasn’t funny – people were sending me material I had no business reading (classified stuff that I wasn’t cleared by the government to have access to). I still handled it the same way, and usually after one mis-sent email, the sender would never make the same mistake again. But the first time, it was scary – this was the kind of mistake that could get someone thrown in jail, not just fired.

    Now, I work in the same (large) company as my husband, with yet another unique last name (we’re the only two people in an employee base of tens of thousands with this last name, but we have first names that are very common), and get his email occasionally (so far, no one has sent anything to him meant for me!). At least now, it’s funny again, not classified information!

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I attended a university whose email convention was Lastname.NUMBER, and they would simply increment the number. Since I have a fairly unique last name, my email address was Lastname.1. (Names like Smith could have numbers well into the 4 digits.)

      Before I graduated, my younger brother started at the same university. Every now and then one of his friends/classmates would assume his last name was so unique that he must be the only one on campus, and I’d get his mail. These inevitably got a reply from me of “This is actually his older sister – you want Lastname.2” (I’m pretty sure I would forward the email to my brother as well.)

  57. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    #1 I want to advise you to first walk around in the morning and see what everyone else is doing (once you have finished your checklist) talk to some other people at the school and see what your hierarchy is and get a feel for the school. In my experience contacting HR for this in a public school system is going to get you blacklisted quickly. In our school system the special needs assistants desks are in the classrooms they work in, check in with your teacher and ask to help with something so you are not sitting and watching. Hold off turning in other co-workers until you have a feel for the school culture.

    1. Nicotene*

      Yeah, I hate to say it, but it’s really hard to be the only person in a certain group who wants a (totally reasonable and valid!) change when the other four people are clearly happy with the way things are. OP should still find a way to get this done, but HR may not even want to rock the boat if *all* the other employees are happy – though they should. HR may totally think, “man I don’t want to replace all four of them if this becomes an issue.” It’s the inverse of Alison’s suggestion that there’s safety in raising an issue with a group. OP may need to strategize solutions that work for *her* assuming these four don’t change. Could she work somewhere else, or put on headphones or something. It shouldn’t be that way, but consider it plan B.

  58. Mostly Sarcasm*

    OP 3, if you work in a smaller industry where people tend to talk, it could be a good idea to finish the interview in Alison’s scenario #2 because the candidate will mention to other people if they felt disrespected at your company.

  59. awesome3*

    Yeah, I think in a school you’d go to your Special Ed Chair, AP, or principal, in lieu of HR for this specific thing. Whichever would be the most appalled that this was happening is probably your best bet. If you dont think any of them would be reasonable than yeah, maybe HR, but in that case you have a lot more problems at that school than this…

  60. Oh No She Di'int*

    #2 I get it. I am where you are. I can’t agree more with Alison’s advice not to do your employee’s work for him, except perhaps in the occasional extreme circumstance. I’ve made that mistake and ended up with a second job. It turns out that the employee comes to regard that as normal and won’t go back to producing more unless and until you insist on it.

    I also totally get how hard it is to “see” what people are doing when working remotely. Yes, you can have all the check-ins and deadlines in the world. In my experience, none of that reproduces the kind of information gathering that just happens naturally by occupying the same space. Unpopular opinion, but that’s been my experience.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This was my thought as well – with the best of intentions you gave yourself a second job. It’s time to wean him back to doing the full requirements of his job, and probably also to have a few serious conversations about deadlines and requirements of the job. It could be he’s dealing with childcare or other dependent care issues that were normally handled by professionals before Covid, or it could be that he’s working a second job on the clock with you. But digging in, managing the employee, and being really clear about expectations of the role is the way to go here.

      (I will argue for some grace and maybe flexible scheduling if possible if it’s dependent care issues, but trying to work a second job while on the clock for the first is a total no go in my book.)

    2. GreenDoor*

      #2, I’m dealing with a similar situation as a manager. I’ve also suspected a possible second job and even wondered about drug/alcohol abuse brought on by COVID stress. But those are just suspicions and if you bring them up with the employee, they become baseless accusations. So, focus on what you know.

      Have a meeting – virtual or in person, but some kind of face-to-face and state what you know. “You are assigned A, B, and C and they should be getting done on X, Y, and Z timeline. That isn’t happening. What can you tell me? Or “our workplace expectation is This but you’ve been doing That instead. Can you tell me why?” And then you let them talk. Maybe you’ll see that they have been caught slacking….or maybe there’s a work-related roadblock you were unaware of…or maybe YOU as the manager haven’t been clear about expectations. But keeping it to the facts and then opening the door with “what can you tell me” language allows for a greater level of communication and candor than you’d get if you brought your suspicions/accusations into the mix.

  61. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I think that you owe a candidate the courtesy of interviewing them, if you’ve invited them in for an interview. Your screening process should have uncovered whether they did or did not have the required skills and experience in their background. The in-person interview is about evaluating those skills and experiences further, exploring the potential fit, and getting more in-depth on technical / functional skills. If the candidate doesn’t have the basics, it’s not their fault (unless they lied) if the screening didn’t identify that fact.

    That said, you don’t have to do the full interview – cut it down to a half hour, get a sense of whether you’d consider the candidate for other opportunities in your organization, and be up front that a mistake was made. Do make sure, though, that you’re giving the candidate a fair chance – perhaps their experience / company uses a totally different jargon (so use plain language to ask about experience), try phrasing questions in a couple of ways, etc.

    I’ve had interviews in which a first question would have made me think the person didn’t have the experience, but closer questioning revealed they did have it. I just recently had a candidate who told me they didn’t have X, but it turns out their organization calls X something completely different. If I hadn’t taken the time to explore the experience the person DOES have, I wouldn’t have uncovered the fact that they were actually qualified.

  62. OG Firstname*

    #4, my org has the email scheme of the first person with a name gets and all subsequent firstnames get

    As the OG Firstname, I get emails for other firstnames. It takes all of five seconds to forward it to the correct firstname. Meeting invites get a quick reply giving a heads up I’m not the firstname they were looking for. It helps that we all are different departments, though, so it’s obvious who gets what. My manager and his manager both have the same firstname, so any email to could very well be intended for the higher up one though it was meant for the lower one.

    This isn’t a hard problem to fix, especially as it’s only once a week or so. Perhaps let her manager know you aren’t getting forwards and it’ll take all of a second to do.

  63. Stumped*

    I cut an interview short once when the candidate asked me to remind her what company she was speaking with. I just couldn’t muster up the effort to continue on.

  64. Ms Marple*

    I had an interview cut short when I was searching for my first post-college job. We got through introductions then then hiring manager asked me to tell her a bit about myself. So, I did. She took a moment then said, “I’m so sorry, I don’t think you are right for this role.” She then explained what they were looking for (pretty much the opposite of what I was looking for- which hadn’t been clear based in the job posting) and apologized. After, we chatted for 20 or 30 minutes about the industry in general, my goals, etc. She gave me a lot of great advice and I never forgot her kindness in taking the the time to speak to me more broadly. I left feeling more optimistic about my career than I had been in months and to this day joke that it’s the best interview I ever had. So although it was probably a bit awkward for her to initially say I wasn’t right, I really appreciated her honesty and professionalism.

  65. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    OP#4 (or may I call you Prunella), the other Joan here is being ridiculous. She’s actively interfering with your workflow by not replying to people, or at lest forwarding their emails to you. She needs to understand that this situation is not just about her not wanting to reply.

  66. JR*

    Re #3: A friend who works in HR once told me that she would conduct 8-hour interviews, and she would generally know within the first 5 minutes whether the person would be good enough for the job. Both the 8-hour part and the 5-minute part seemed totally ridiculous to me, but I also had no doubt that she (a smart and talented person) was telling the truth and was usually accurate in her 5-minute assessments.

    1. q*

      One of our engineers once told that he knows whether he wants to work with someone within 2 minutes or not. But it had completely opposite effect on me – I trust him less and imo it explained some of the people we got hired. He is smart, but I dont trust his hiring skills.

      Did you worked with people who that person picked or without their collegues?

    2. vlookup*

      Sounds like your friend’s company needs to do phone screens before they bring people in for an 8-hour interview!

      I’ve often formed an opinion on a candidate within the first 5 minutes, but I try to then use the rest of the interview to allow them to prove or disprove my hypothesis. IMO if you make a judgment really quickly it makes it easier for unconscious bias to creep in — maybe you have that great gut feeling because the candidate has a similar background to you, or reminds you of yourself, or whatever.

  67. Mother of Komodo Dragons*

    LW #1: I am a practicing Catholic, with a child in Catholic school, and I work in a Catholic school.

    That would not fly here, where our faith is literally written into our school handbook. We recently stopped allowing a teacher to (voluntarily) play the organ at our (socially-distant) school Mass because she was so far behind in her grading.

    If you’re given 45 minutes before school starts (for our teachers, it’s more like 55) to plan/prep/get ready/grade, and you spend that time doing something else, you will be called to account for it.

  68. I edit everything*

    I think the exclusion is as much of an issue for LW#1 as the religious nature, and I worry that if she brings it up to a boss or HR, it might result in a mean-girls type situation, with possible retaliation and further exclusion. LW is the spoilsport, the party pooper.

    Also, the LW used “faffing about,” making me wonder if she’s in the UK, where “public school” has a different meaning…

  69. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I strongly disagree with the advice to LW#4. The other Joan is the only one trying to fix this broken process by not participating in it, and LW#4’s problem is with the coworkers who aren’t paying attention to whom they address their emails to, not with their victim.

    Put yourself in the other Joan’s seat for a day. Weren’t you hired to do a job? Was digital switchboard operator part of that job description? Are your responsibilities being scaled back to account for the time spent analyzing and forwarding emails needlessly? As noted by others, the other Joan may not have the same clearance or access to the same sensitive materials; who’s responsible for the other Joan knowing what she shouldn’t know?

    Who is going to cover this responsibility for the other Joan when she takes PTO? Or do projects stop just because LW#4’s coworkers can’t address an email properly?

    Magical thinking abounds; if people can reach LW#4 by addressing an email to instead of (or vice versa), they’ll continue to do so. It’s a losing game and not playing is the only winning move.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      …that’s a really needlessly aggressive stance for something that takes literal seconds to do. You spent more time typing this comment than Joan the Second would spend just forwarding the dang emails.

    2. Clorinda*

      Refusing to deal with the emails isn’t fixing the problem. Replying with “This was not meant for me” might do it.

    3. Snark No More!*

      I disagree. Yes, you are not hired to be an electronic switchboard operator, but I have found that if it’s handled respectfully, the sender will (usually) file that information away for the next time. It’s as simple as “Reply, I think this belongs to the other Joan, copying the other Joan and delete.” I think anything else is passive-aggressive game playing. This is coming from someone whose former company used initials only – because nobody would ever have the same initials, right? When email became a thing, they changed to first initial, middle initial, last name. I don’t get what’s up with the rigidity of the IT department though.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      What broken process? That’s human error. How on earth do you fix humans?

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Something that has very much avoided the mistaken-Joan problem where I work (team of 12 has six Chrises, for example): Outlook lets you have avatars. Doesn’t have to be your actual face, but it helps if at least one is. May not eliminate the autocomplete issue entirely, but if someone grabs the wrong Joan and suddenly sees the face of a different person, they may have that second to correct before sending. Or if they send it wrong once, they can get a reply from either Joan saying “I’m the purple rabbit, she’s the palm tree” or whatever it is. Then people have a visual indicator every time they’re sending AND they know there are two Joans and thus to be a littttttle more careful before hitting send. Not foolproof, but should make it more like a handful of times a year thing instead of a weekly thing.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        How on earth do you fix humans?

        You fix humans by not fixing output for them. You fix humans by ensuring the time that gets wasted fixing their errors is their own time.

    5. Observer*

      Magical thinking abounds; if people can reach LW#4 by addressing an email to instead of (or vice versa), they’ll continue to do so. It’s a losing game and not playing is the only winning move.

      To be honest this is far more “magical thinking” than reacting like a reasonable person to an honest mistake. It’s also aggressive and really imputes the worst motives and most incompetence to anyone who ever makes a mistake.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        To be honest this is far more “magical thinking” than reacting like a reasonable person to an honest mistake. It’s also aggressive and really imputes the worst motives and most incompetence to anyone who ever makes a mistake.

        You’re welcome to explain that to my colleagues who do moonlight as members of the Customer Service team (and for free, of course) because they don’t establish or enforce boundaries.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              They are aggressive, because my experience is that you cannot divest yourself of these responsibilities once you accept them–cf. the advice to women not to learn to type lest they be forced into secretarial roles.

              I also find the entitlement itself belligerent.

    6. Minerva*

      I have a similar issue with my Gmail, and have had the issue with work and student emails. I reply and forward the first couple times, then I stop making as much effort, because they know the email isn’t who they want. I might forward messages as a favour to the other me, but people repeatedly assuming the same wrong address for someone they correspond with regularly is a them problem they need to fix. I regularly get papers for someone in Australia’s real estate deals, I delete and eventually blocked because I twice asked the bank to update their address book and they said they did.

      I might forward to the right person, if it’s really 1-2 a week, but I check low priority (not from known contacts or team members) email less frequently and only skim. It might be uncertain – is this schedule for an unrelated component sent to all engineering, or did I get it by mistake? Is this large meeting invite just a fyi or is it highly relevant to other me? Messages even forwarded are likely to be missed and late. That Friday meeting invite for Monday 9 am? I didn’t check email after noon on Friday and came in at 10 on Monday, sorry you missed your meeting, but it is literally nothing to do with me. And if I take a 3 week vacation, I definitely won’t be forwarding. They will have got my out of office message and hopefully understood.

      I had the issue with a student account when I took a couple classes, and then they hired an admin with my same name. I didn’t take a class one or two terms, and came back to a full inbox of messages for admin me. Presumably they resolved those issues and I didn’t forward 4-8 months of messages.

      The OP can make sure all contacts have their correct email address and make sure to include it in their signature. If other OP leaves the company the email address may become a black hole (available for litigation holds but not monitored regularly) so forwarding won’t even be possible.

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

    #4 I’m surprised there isn’t a company email policy that would include this TBH, especially if it impacts business and is common because of the way email addresses are assigned: standard email signature, guidelines on response time, what to do with misdirected email (especially if it contains sensitive info), retention guidelines, etc. Instead of asking her coworkers for advice, OP needs to go to her manager and explain how this is causing a BUSINESS problem and ask if there is a policy, and she also needs to directly contact the chronic offenders so that they can be more aware — a passive note in her email signature isn’t going to do it, and my third suggestion is an auto reply that restates her name and department so senders immediately notice if they’ve got the wrong Joan: “You have reached Joan D. Smith in the Llama Department. I respond to emails within 72 hours. If you need immediate assistance, please call 123-456-7890”

    1. Agent Diane*

      Yep, the information governance around this raised a red flag for me. If Other Joan gets data intended for you and does nothing, there could be consequences for her for failing to notify.

      (Background, I used to handle confidential government tax cases, and a fellow Agent Diane dealt with confidential government legal cases. We always went back to the sender to say they’d got the wrong Diane because OMG you should not have shared that legal stuff with me!)

  71. Sarah*

    @ LW 4: I once worked at a huge company where our emails were first initial, last name. When people had the same names, the later hire got a number. After I was hired, someone got married and had the exact same name as me; we both even used our middle initial. Of course, her email remained her maiden name, but anyone who met her after she was wed started emailing me. I’d tell the sender, but some of it was incredibly personal, so I’d delete it right away and let my doppelganger know. I sincerely hope she was able to get my email address after I quit! It was maddening!

  72. Observer*

    #4 – I see that you’ve gotten a ton of responses about your company culture. Please take this on board a recognize that SOMETHING is off with the culture at your company.

    The conventions around email addresses are really the least of your problems. It’s really important to understand that the norms in this place are TOTALLY out of line with what happens in functional environments. In fact, this is SO odd, that I wonder if this is not the tip of an iceberg of problems.

    1. 1234*

      I really wonder what other communication is like at OP #4’s company…Some of these practices have me going WHAT???

      Also, most email programs say something like “Did you forget to attach something?” if you write the word “attachment” in the body of the email.

  73. Harvey JobGetter*

    OP2’s problem, it seems to me, is that her employee is NOT working his side gig during the day… because the job where he works for her is clearly the one that is the side gig.

  74. WritingIsHard*

    #5 Sometimes it’s necessary to pull a “not my problem” at work, but refusing to forward misdirected emails or send forgotten attachments is just lazy and weird.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        GAH That should say #4

        Luckily, we have numerous volunteers who will forward that feedback for you.

  75. AngryOwl*

    I would be so, so uncomfortable if I had to sit and listen to religious talk for 45 minutes every morning. Nope.

  76. Zudz*

    LW4: I work in IT and I’ve learned that if someone requests a different e-mail address the answer is always “No!”
    I’ve also learned that if I ask for an /alias/ to be set up for someone’s e-mail, the answer is almost always “Sure, whatever.”
    Maybe put a ticket in with your IT department and ask for an alias that’s more distinct from other Joan. Obviously I don’t know what your company’s requirements are, but you might have more luck that way.

  77. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW #1, that sounds really uncomfortable! I have worked in places where people were permitted to use work time for religious obligations, but it was something done in private by individuals, not in public by a group. Specifically in this case, a Muslim employee whose daily prayer obligations included some during the work day was permitted to close off an office for a few minutes at a time to pray in private while those who shared the office with him took a brief break to stretch their legs, get some water, use the restroom, chat with colleagues, etc. But this was also not 45 minutes at once! It was more like five minutes, 2-3 times a day. About the length of a bathroom break. It didn’t negatively impact anyone else at the office.

    (Upon reflection, the fact that the company president was very open-minded about this was one of the vanishingly few things I liked about the man.)

  78. Amy Dancepants*

    As a special education teacher in a public school, I am APPALLED by #1! This is so, so not okay. The religious aspect of this will be well-covered by commenters, I’m sure, so I’ll focus on things that people not in the field might not realize:
    1. Special education students all have legal documents (usually written by the special education teacher) mandating how many minutes of special ed instruction and support they get in each subject area, what accommodations they get, and the modifications made to the curriculum for them. The paraeducators’ time could be part of that document so these meetings could be putting the district, the school, and even the teacher in legal jeopardy. Parents have sued for much less and the district could be on the hook for compensatory services and financial support. If a lawsuit names the teacher specifically, they could lose their teaching license.
    2. Where is the special ed teacher? I can’t imagine they’re not aware of this. Assuming they are also the students’ case manager, part of their job is to manage the paras and how they are supporting students. If they’re not aware of the prayer meetings, they need to be informed immediately. Depending on the politics at the school, I might also report this to the principal. (I’ve worked with principals I would trust to manage this kind of thing and I’ve worked with others I avoided talking with as much as possible.) (And I’m not trying to criticize the teacher here. I found this site because I am terrible at managing my para and was looking for guidance. I’m still terrible at managing her but now at least I know specifically what I’m doing wrong.)
    3. If the OP is able to use most of that 45 minutes on the assigned work every day, when are the other three getting that stuff done? Are students not getting the accommodations and modifications they’re entitled to? Besides being entirely inappropriate, I feel like these daily meetings have to be having some kind of ramification on the work with the students.

    I hope HR and/or the school is able to do something about this. It’s really, really not okay.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      It sounds to me like this is all happening before students arrive. This 45 minutes is supposed to be for checking email, tracking student grades on whatever platform the school uses for that, maybe running copies and a little light filing. Maybe printing out the quarterly progress reports and mailing them out to families.
      The rest of the time is supposed to be a sort of daily-roundup of what’s going on with the kids. Joey is out all this week, Mary didn’t turn in the big assignment in history, Lee aced the math test, Pat has been agitated for a couple days about something but won’t say what, etc. The problem is that the discussion group isn’t engaging in that, and as the new person, OP doesn’t feel she can speak up and say, “Hey, can we do the round-up now?”
      It sounds like service minutes aren’t being affected, as it’s before school. It’s possible that the administrative tasks can be done in small chunks through the day, and nothing’s falling through the cracks. The issue is that (while on the clock) instead of doing the round-up, the other three are engaging in a book club that excludes OP.
      If OP can’t tough it out for the rest of the school year, she could talk to one of the case managers about it, or talk to the AP who oversees the paras. Going to HR at this moment is a bit of an overreach.

  79. Evil Annie Edison*

    LW#4, I have a very common name in the U.S. that is much less common in the Spanish-speaking country in which our corporate office is located. I knew of one person in that very large office with the same first name as me but never did get to meet her in person. She once forwarded me an email that had been misdirected, and I responded “Gracias, Tocaya!” (We normally corresponded in English, but there’s no good English equivalent of the word Tocayo/Tocaya, a person who shares your first name but isn’t necessarily a “namesake.”) She sent back a string of jajajaja’s.

    I can’t imagine refusing to pass on work-related messages. I would definitely mention her refusal to my boss, just in an offhand manner, like “So you know, Coworker has said she won’t forward these messages, so if a client should happen to complain to you that I’m unresponsive, this is probably the first step to solving the problem…”

  80. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW #1 – Do you end up on your phone because you’re supposed to be checking in with these co-workers but can’t because they’re doing the prayer session? Because the thing I’d be tempted to do (and you shouldn’t actually do) is to stop getting there so early.

    LW #4 – Could it be that your co-worker thinks that by doing nothing about it that it puts more pressure on IT to fix it? Or that since the company has decided it’s not a problem then they’ve accepted that sometimes email is just going to go missing? This might be more about her irritation with their refusal to fix the problem than her not wanting to help you.

    On the other hand, everyone’s general refusal to not let someone know an attachment is missing implies this is a weird company culture thing.

  81. Lily*

    LW #5 – I once had to give notice to a manager when she was hospitalized with health issues. I went to our shared boss and he handled it, but I felt horrible. I was 23 and didn’t know what to do. She and I didn’t have the best rapport, but I really regret not following up with her a few weeks or months later to wish her good health and express appreciation for the opportunity. Pretty sure I burned that reference as a result.

    Bottom line IMO: the timing here can’t be helped, just make sure not to ghost her like I did. You can also send a sympathy card or contribute to an office pool for flowers or something.

  82. L.T.*

    #5 – I had resigned my first post-undergrad job while my director was out on bereavement. I had worked for a small State agency for 7 years, and had developed a rapport with the director, who was my grandboss but also whom I had reported to for certain projects, and it just seemed awkward to not tell her.

    I definitely told my manager first, but with the director, what I did was send her an email acknowledging that the timing was horrible and that I was sorry for her loss, but I had something important I needed to share and asked her if she had the time for a phone call. I’m not really clear on why I didn’t go to *her* boss, but I think it was because the agency was structured in such a way that the higher ups felt a bit more distant (or intimidating to someone who was new-ish to the workforce). She handled it very gracefully, though, and I did attend the wake.

  83. TexasTeacher*

    LW1 – I’ve been in a similar situation, but our public school principal pushed the teachings of a local hate/white supremacist church. If HR doesn’t work – contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They will send a letter that usually sends the administration scurrying for cover, and they don’t reveal the person complaining. If that doesn’t work, they can help with litigation.

    I went straight to FFRF because several high-level administrators were part of the same church. They shut down the obvious stuff. Still working with TEA to get that cesspool cleaned out.

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