do I need to tell my employer I’ve been vaccinated, interviews that don’t include higher-ups, and more

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

1. Is there any good reason to tell HR I’ve been vaccinated?

I’m lucky enough to have been able to work from home since shortly after the start of the pandemic last year. I work for an old-school conservative employer that won’t consider flexible scheduling or alternate work schedules, and prior to the pandemic never ever would have considered working from home as an option for employees.

I’ve asked a few times if this change might be permanent or if they’d be willing to let me work from home part of the time once Covid risk has passed and the answer has always been the same — we don’t know and can’t give you any information.

Our HR department recently sent out a couple of company-wide emails asking us to voluntarily let them know if/when we’ve been vaccinated. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I tell them I’ve been vaccinated, they’ll make me start coming back into the office to work — which I very much don’t want to do. My manager has had no complaints about my productivity at home as far as I know. Is there any good reason for me to volunteer this information?

Nope. Unless your employer is requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of employment, you’re under no obligation to share your personal medical information with them. Feel free to just ignore the emails.

I suspect you’re right about their intention — they’re either going to start calling vaccinated people back to the office, or they’re trying to get a sense of how soon they can call everyone back. This sounds like a company that is going to make people come back eventually, so prepare for that!

My guess is we’re going to see a lot of companies bringing most people back by Labor Day-ish. Not all companies. But a lot. You’ll see exceptions for people with medical conditions that mean they can’t get vaccinated, and you’ll see exceptions for people who negotiate separate arrangements for themselves. But it’s coming.

2. I wrote a recommendation that I’m now doubting

I recently wrote a recommendation for someone for grad school that I am now doubting. I’m not sure what I should do about it. I felt confident in my recommendation until I saw her write a problematic post on her personal social media. She is currently a university professor and posted, “When my students call me PROFESSOR, I get a hard-on.” I was horrified. Judging by the comments in her post, I am in the minority. Only one commenter politely stated their discomfort with the statement. The professor’s response was defensive and over the top, and all the other commenters piled on as well, calling the uncomfortable one hateful names. I had recommended the professor for a mental health degree, and her post and response to the commenter makes me doubt she will be successful. I imagine she’ll be weeded out quickly if she can’t adjust her response to feedback. Am I making a bigger deal of this than what it is? If a doctor posted the same thing about their patients, I wouldn’t let them near me. What are your thoughts?

I’m guessing she didn’t mean being called “professor” sexually arouses her, but rather she was trying to to express excitement at being recognized as a professor. There’s been a (small?) trend of women using the term to mean “excited in a non-sexual way,” not “turned on.” But it’s gross language when you’re talking about students (!) or any other relationship with unequal power dynamics … and professors really, really need to be thoughtful about and sensitive to power dynamics with students, as well as issues around sexual harassment. If she had responded differently when someone expressed discomfort, I could figure it was maybe a one-time misjudgment … but getting defensive and letting others attack the person who pointed it out makes it a lot more concerning.

As for what to do … it depends on exactly what her response was and how aggressive she was toward the person who spoke up. But if you’re considering pulling the recommendation, I’d say it’s worth first talking to her, telling her your concerns, and seeing how she responds.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I was told I could try out a new job — but now they’re filling my old job

I’ve been in my current position for just over a year. It’s my first professional job since graduating and my first job in this industry. When I joined, I was told that I would start assisting my manager, Jane, with her clients, and if I did well then I would have the chance to manage my own projects for my own clients.

I did well and have been managing my own clients since January. Jane’s boss, Tom, told me that I could try this new position for six months, and if I struggled or if I didn’t enjoy it, then they would have no problem returning me to my old role of supporting Jane. They said they weren’t planning on filling the position I left until late 2022. There is no difference in salary between the two positions, but I felt taking a step up would give me some good experience to help advance my career in the long-term, so I happily accepted.

Over the last few months, I’ve received praise for my work and I’ve done well in the position. Last week I was on our company website when I saw an ad for my old role. I checked with Jane and Tom, who both confirmed that I was doing so well in my new role they had decided it wouldn’t make sense for me to go back to supporting Jane.

I was hurt that they had gone back on their word and decided to fill my position, especially since I had to find out through the company website instead of them telling me they had changed their minds . If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have been told until much later. The hiring process for my company is quick, and it’s likely someone new will be joining in the next couple of weeks.

But here is my problem: I really hate my new role. I’m doing well at it, but this kind of work just isn’t for me. Because I was under the impression I would have six months to decide, I was keen to persevere a little bit longer to be 100% certain I was making the right decision. I also believed the decision would at least be partly mine to make. It turns out both of these assumptions were incorrect. Now I’m unsure what to do and whether I should speak up. And if so, how should I do it?

Yes, talk to them! Jane and Tom probably figured that since you’re doing well in the new job, you’d want to stay in it. And yes, they should have talked to you before moving forward, but I’d bet they didn’t realize you’d object. (And that is on them; they should have talked to you to be sure. But I doubt they realized they were doing something that would upset you.)

Talk to them immediately (today!) since they’re moving quickly. Say this: “’I’d been relying what we discussed in January, when we’d agreed that I could try out the role for six months and move back to my old job if I decided this wasn’t for me. It sounds like that timeline is moving up, so I want to let you know that I would indeed like to go back to the X role. I appreciate the praise you’ve given me, but I’ve realized this kind of work isn’t for me because ____. If the plan is to fill my old role now, I’d like to take you up on your earlier offer to return to it.”

4. I don’t want to help my toxic ex-boss

I left a good job working for a toxic boss a couple of years ago. The company is in the travel industry, which of course has been hit hard by the pandemic. Several former coworkers and friends reached out to me after a big round of layoffs, and I was happy to help them with resumes, referrals to my current company, pep talks, etc. My current company actually hired five of my former coworkers!

My former toxic boss also reached out to me with a general “how are you? would love to connect,” and I’m not sure how to handle it. I have a feeling she is going to ask me for a referral or advice about changing industries, applying for jobs, etc. I don’t even want to respond, but that seems rude. Even if I do, how would I gracefully say, “I would never, ever refer you for a position at my company and I don’t want to help you in any way”?

Your best option is to pretend you didn’t see it and just ignore it. I know that seems rude, but you’re not obligated to engage with her, and not responding prevents you from a far more awkward situation where you have to explain that you’re not going to help her. And not responding leaves you with some plausible deniability that you didn’t see the message, meant to respond but got caught up in something else, etc.

The exception to this is if you’re relying on her for a good reference in the future. In that case, you probably should respond, but you can keep your involvement to a minimum, like vague “I’ll let you know if I hear of anything that seems like the right fit” statements. If she directly asks for a referral to your current company, you can stay vague there too (“I’m not sure how much sway I’d have but let me see what I can do,” etc.).

5. Is it a red flag when an interview process doesn’t include higher-ups?

Is it an automatic red flag when you’re interviewing for a higher level role, and the entire interview process (over multiple days/rounds) does not include any meetings with higher-ups that would be at least one or two levels above the role … or for that matter, doesn’t include any meetings with people who could talk to you in-depth about the organization’s vision, how success and advancement would be defined for your role, and how the role could positively impact the organization’s goals?

I had an interview like this recently. Not sure whether to chalk it up to a disorganized hiring process, a lack of enthusiasm about my candidacy, and/or the department in which I was applying for a role not being well-positioned to influence the organization’s senior leadership. Usually interviews in my field for someone at my level entail one-on-one meetings with people who’d be the peers, the boss, the grandboss, and often the great-grandboss of the successful candidate. For this role, I was only given the opportunity to meet with a few departmental peers (including an unofficial boss in the peer group) and half a dozen similar level or lower level people in different departments that the successful candidate wouldn’t interface with much. Frustratingly, no one I interviewed with could adequately answer my questions about the role’s performance metrics, growth potential, interface with organizational leadership, etc.

There were (many) other red flags about this role, so I’ve scratched it off my list. But if I were to encounter this situation again, would it be presumptuous to ask for meetings with higher-ups myself? What would be the ideal stage in the hiring process to do so — after being sent the final round interview itinerary and realizing I won’t be interviewing with key higher-ups? After completing the final round interview, if I still have lingering questions? Only after getting an offer?

In most fields, it’s not necessarily a red flag not to meet with people above the person who’d be managing you, but it’s definitely a red flag not to meet with the manager. It’s also a red flag if no one you meet with can talk about what success would look like in the role and how it fits into the organization’s broader vision and goals.

It’s very reasonable to ask for those conversations if they’re not already part of the process! I’d wait until you have an offer, or at least until you’re at the finalist stage and they’ve indicated they’re considering an offer — because you’re asking them to add additional steps to their process and they’ll be more open to that once they’ve decided that want to hire you (or are close to that). At that point, I’d also be curious about how they came to design a hiring process that didn’t originally include those conversations. Are they disorganized? Bad at hiring? Does no one there have a clear idea about what success would look like for the job? Is there some possibly understandable explanation for it, like that a bunch of decision-makers who you’d normally be meeting with all won the lottery and quit or are on extended medical leaves or so forth? It’s odd enough that I’d want to figure out what it might indicate about how they operate before accepting an offer.

{ 413 comments… read them below }

  1. PlantPerson*

    OP #2, I think that is a hilarious post. Maybe it is because I’m also a woman in graduate school so I kind of feel where she is coming from. Was it a professional? No. But inappropriate? I don’t think so either.

    1. Casper Lives*

      Yes it’s inappropriate. I don’t want to think about my TAs in college having “hard-ons” when I addressed them. Ew. Sexually erect penis? Because I called them by their title? Get out of here.

      That reminds me of the professor (not grad student) that was sexual harassing us freshmen in his first year seminar and got fired for sleeping with a student. Take the sex out of that power dynamic.

      1. PinaColada*

        Fully inappropriate!! And to me it shows extremely poor judgment to post it in any type of public forum. I think it’s helpful to imagine what the response would be if a man did it: “When my students call me Professor, I get so wet.” …just, ew. So being sexually inappropriate about ones profession is okay if it’s a woman doing so?

        And to not even care that her professional contacts would see? I am honestly shocked that AAM didn’t come down harder on this.

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, I think it’s an issue both of content and audience. I’m willing to accept that the phrase can be used figuratively in non-sexual scenarios. But, using it in reference to teaching students is a terrible application of it and, like Alison said, gross. And it comes off really ignorant of issues around sexual harassment, boundaries, and a bunch of other stuff between students and professors/teachers. But on top of all that, this person didn’t say it amonst some group of friends that also use the phrase. She posted it publicly in a forum where professional contacts (and possibly students, if she’s friended them too) can see it. Each part of this is stupid and would make me question her judgement. I don’t know that I’d pull the recommendation letter but a conversation with her seems like it could be helpful. Also, if she’s actively job searching and has that posted publicly, ugh, she should remove it. If I brought these points up the her and she doubled (tripled, at this point) down on the post, I would REALLY question her judgement.

          1. PinaColada*

            Yes, 100%! This is exactly what I am thinking. I understand the alternate meaning (I think in my 20s I had a few girlfriends who used a similar phrase, except the word started with “b”). But she didn’t say it over drinks with a few friends, she posted it in a place where at least one professional contact saw it (and a mentor, no less! Horrible to think if she has friended students through the social account.)

            I agree she should delete it, if this post was screenshot it could hurt her even if she’s not job-seeking.

          2. Sacred Ground*

            The telling thing here isn’t just that she made the comment in a public forum, an obvious error that many young people make, it’s that her response to people calling her on it indicates she can’t admit to an error, she doesn’t recognize it as an error, or she just doesn’t care about how her words affect others.

            None of this recommends her to be a responsible and thoughtful professional seeking a position with authority over others. OP would be justified in calling her out, politely and privately, to let her know that this response to her critics is worse than her original offense, that the critics were right to be offended in the first place, and that she needs to seriously recalibrate her attitude and expectations if she expects to keep OP’s recommendation for a professional position.

            I think OP would also be justified in simply and quietly withdrawing her recommendation without comment and let her figure out for herself why, but that’s probably my own passive aggression talking.

        2. Sami*

          Pina Colada— completely agree with you. Totally inappropriate (unless amongst others who would be okay with this language). And even though she wrote on her on social, that’s never completely private. All it takes is one screenshot.

        3. Just a me*

          That was basically my thought as well. I’m a mid-30’s gal, and honestly don’t usually hear this phrased this way and used non-innuendo (and even when it’s clear that it’s not, it still makes me a little uncomfortable). I’d’ve probably joined in with the person who said they were uncomfortable, regardless that it was a lady saying it, but if it’d been a man saying it, I feel the reaction would’ve been different from many involved?
          I’ve experienced a mental health professional of my own gender saying something that while I’m sure she didn’t mean it in a weird way, if she’d found some other way to express it, it could legitimately have better enabled her to help me – at the time I was so depressed that I didn’t really think of that as logically as I was able to later, looking back, so just vague feelings and impressions can be really important at times like that. I recall strongly feeling that because of specifically what she’d said, I didn’t think she would understand or take seriously something I was already having trouble figuring out how to explain, but needed to talk about. So I ended up not getting much help until I eventually talked to a different counselor.

          1. Anon for this*

            I agree with that. I remember one time talking with a mental health professional at the age of 19 and mentioning casually that because of religious reasons (she had stated that she was the same religion as me), I was planning not to have sex until after I got married. She got weirdly defensive & said something along the lines of, “I [taught my kids something completely different about sexuality]; did that make me a bad parent?” It was so weird. I mean, it’s possible it came out sounding judgmental from me, but I was 19 and she was… 40s or 50s, if I remember correctly. Why did it matter what I thought about her parenting decisions? And the rules I was taught in this area were not always helpful, but it was pretty unconnected to what I was there to talk about. (For that matter, it was incredibly important to me that I make it through college without risking a baby, so I was comfortable with my decision even outside of my faith.)

            This is different from the email today, but I bring this up because her comment was a one-off, and yet it seriously colored the rest of our interactions together, and I was never able to trust her again. Judgment slips like that can have consequences for the mental health professional’s ability to do his or her job, and something to take more seriously in that constellation of professions than in some others.

      2. Xenia*

        Agreed. Sex talk plus workplace power dynamics is awkward at best. Sex talk plus higher education power dynamics, with a large group of very young adults learning to navigate the professional world? Solid nope. Not only is that massively inappropriate and places students in a very awkward spot, they also get a skewed view of professional norms. Imagine someone in a workplace saying “When my employees call me Boss I get a hard on”. Ugh.

        1. JM60*

          I’m sure they didn’t did see it as sex talk. Usually, when someone says, “X gives me a hard on”, I understand it as “I have general excitement about X”, not “I’m sexually excited by X.”

          That being said, it’s a bad idea for a professor/teacher to to use that phrasing when posting identifiably on a public forum. Even though they don’t interpret it as sex talk, and I think it’s usually a little unreasonable to interpret it as sex talk in most contexts, there’s too much potential that someone who sees it will interpret it as sex talk. When it comes to work, it’s best to avoid phrasing that could be interpreted as sexual.

          1. Mary Connell*

            Unreasonable to interpret it to mean what it means?

            No. It isn’t even “a little unreasonable.” It’s 100% unprofessional.

            1. JM60*

              Unreasonable to interpret it to mean what it means?

              Very often, “X gives me a hard-on” does not mean that it gives the speaker a literal hardon in their pants. For instance, I’ve hard some people say that hearing the phrase, “ex-president Trump” gives them a hardon, which obviously doesn’t mean it sexually turns them on.

              That being said, the person who expressed discomfort in #2 (Cary) reported that the professor said, “women get to own their sexuality-this is normal. We don’t need to be censored by anyone-from men or other women. If it makes you uncomfortable-you can unfriend me.” Plus, she was thumbing-up all replies that were calling Cary a “Feminazi”. So it is much worse than what my initial impression here was.

            2. SD*

              While 3% of the country may think “gives me a hard on” is just ordinary speech, the other 97% thinks “erect penis due to sexual excitement,” which is gross in the context. The in-crowd can say whatever they want, just don’t expect the rest of the country to go along.

              1. JM60*

                I think it’s way more than 3% who sometimes interprets “gives me a hard on” as non-sexual, albeit crass, depending on context.

              2. Daffy Duck*

                I agree with SD. The phrase “gives me a hard on” has sexual implications and to say it doesn’t is very naive. I definitely think any male professor that said it in a public forum would likely be fired, or at minimum have to sit thru a lengthy, detailed explanation of all the ways this is not OK. This really doesn’t have anything to do with “women owning their sexuality” it has to do with showing poor judgment in public when you are in a position of power.

              3. Junior Dev*

                Yes, this sounds like the sort of thing that starts as an edgy in-joke on Twitter and starts getting used frequently within the circles of people familiar with the joke, and whether someone plays along with the joke vs. acting confused or upset is a way of identifying them as being “in the loop” or not. I’ve had people on social media poke fun at me when I criticize the way some meme is used to harass or insult people for “not getting the joke,” even though I understand the joke perfectly well, I just don’t agree with how it’s being used to hurt people.

                This sort of thing is a big part of why I’m not on Twitter anymore and why I’m dismayed that it’s such a part of some professional fields’ networking. There’s all this edgy inside joke banter stuff that’s really about playing insider status games, and if you get it slightly wrong it’s really easy to inadvertently say really hurtful stuff, or get in a lot of trouble because someone who’s not in on the joke complained.

              4. Coyote Tango*

                I would encourage all people to listen to language within context, which is vital to the understanding of most human communications. For the average person, if a woman announced that something gave her a “hard-on” they would likely think “Hmm, how odd, women do not have penises to become erect” and then conclude it must be a somewhat vulgar euphemism for excitement. Much as if they announced “Man, I’d kill for a good burrito” then likewise they are not eating dinner next to a serial killer.

                1. Roci*

                  But word choice is equally important to context. “Turns me on” is less explicitly sexual than “hard on” and more commonly used metaphorically, in my experience. The more explicit the phrase, the more it stands out and the less likely we understand it as hyperbole. And either way comparing “excited” to “sexually excited” is really not OK in a lot of contexts, like having power over students.

                  This is like if you and two friends are chatting and Friend A says “Man, I’d kill for a good burrito” and Friend B says “Yeah I would straight up murder for some food” and then you say “I would tear someone limb from limb with my bare hands for a good burrito”. And then wonder why they look at you funny.

                2. Jackalope*

                  I’m going to be honest here. I’ve never heard this expression used in a non-sexual way before reading this very post, and had NO idea that it could mean anything outside of the literal phrase referring to male sexuality and arousal. If I had heard a woman use this before today, my thought would not have been to conclude that it was a “somewhat vulgar euphemism for excitement”. I would have asked myself questions like, “Is she saying she’s a trans woman? Or intersex? Maybe this is her way of coming out to me??” or things like that. Not in a million years would I have guessed that it was meant to be nonsexual excitement. I mean, obviously I’ve learned something today, but I don’t think it’s safe to assume that everyone is going to jump to a nonsexual meaning, which is why it’s important to be careful when using language that is sexually charged (especially, as others have said, in the context of a hierarchical position where you have power over others).

          2. Asenath*

            She might not have originally meant or seen it as sex talk (although I certainly would have, which means that the extended meaning is not universally familiar), but I would be a bit concerned at her very defensive response to criticism. I don’t think I’d pull a recommendation over this alone. I’m divided over whether I’d speak to her about my concerns privately – I tend to think no, and then I think that if I know her well enough to recommend her, I owe it to her to let her know that this sort of language is inadvisable in a public setting because it could be misinterpreted – and social media posts are public and available to potential students and colleagues.

          3. Liz*

            This is kind of a complex thing in linguistics. Usage can change over time, granted, but there will be broad portions of the population who have NOT encountered a particular usage, and in matters relating to work it is prudent not to assume that all (or even most) people would share one’s own perspective, especially in relation to phrases referring to sex. (And I say this as someone who occasionally makes meme references in real life conversations and periodically has to explain when I am met with a sea of blank stares.)

            1. JM60*

              and in matters relating to work it is prudent not to assume that all (or even most) people would share one’s own perspective, especially in relation to phrases referring to sex.

              Yup. That’s why using that phrasing about one’s student in a public forum was a bad idea.

          4. cat lady*

            Even if she didn’t mean it sexually, she was saying “when students identify my power over them it makes me excited,” which demonstrates a super problematic joy being in a position of power, and having the student recognize their position in the dynamic. Add the sexual language (even if it wasn’t meant literally) and the problem is compounded.

            1. KitKat*

              I don’t think that’s fair. It seems possible (and more likely to me) that she is excited by the recognition of her years of graduate education finally paying off with an accomplishment she dreamed of, not excited specifically about now having power over students.

              That does not excuse the phrasing. But your reading of the underlying sentiment seems unlikely.

              1. LunaLena*

                Depends on what kind of person the person in question is, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if cat lady is right. My dad was a professor with a PhD and he insisted on being called “Doctor” or “Professor” all the time because it was an ego trip for him to have his position of authority reinforced. When my brother and I visited his workplace, even we had to call him “doctor” and not “dad.” I know this is what it was because he carried that tendency over into his home life as well, and… let’s just say our family has been broken up for a long time now because of it.

                Her defensive response makes me lean more towards cat lady’s interpretation too. Part of my dad’s demand for respect comes from being very narcissistic, and he definitely doesn’t take criticism well either. I mean, yeah, you might be right and it’s just the rush of accomplishment and she’ll be more chill about it when she gets used to it, but if she has narcissistic tendencies like my dad and/or simply enjoys power it will be supremely problematic.

            2. boop the first*

              I agree with this take, and I DO think it’s fair… how many people have to go through their day fending off microaggressions, latent racism, and “socially acceptable” sexual harassment? We’re finding out it’s a lot.

              We’re also finding out that when someone tells you they are offended by something or felt dehumanized by language, we are supposed to believe them, and we are supposed to do better. And we are finding out what happens when people defend bad positions for such incredibly weak “reasons”. No, we don’t have to use “hard on” in passing. No, we don’t have to feel superior over others. These are bad defenses.

              1. JM60*

                We’re also finding out that when someone tells you they are offended by something or felt dehumanized by language, we are supposed to believe them

                Believing that someone is sincere when they tell you they felt dehumanized by language does not necessarily entail believing that their interpretation of what was said is correct. Often genuine hurt is felt after a misunderstanding. It’s best for the speaker to avoid language that could be interpreted in a way that causes dehumanization, but just because someone felt dehumanized when reading it doesn’t mean their interpretation was correct.

                This depends on the particulars of the situation of course. There certainly are some contexts in which certain phrases can only be reasonably interpreted as -ist against a certain class (racist/sexist/etc) or dehumanizing to certain individuals.

          5. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘…it’s a bad idea for a professor/teacher to to use that phrasing when posting identifiably on a public forum.’

            This, right here. I have several friends who teach at high schools and universities. In private, they can be hilariously profane and crude, the way old friends can be with each other. None of them have much of an online presence, mostly they have a page on their school website.

            No matter where they post, they cultivate a professional persona that is sincere and genuine, and they are hypervigilant about their word choices. It takes just one irate parent with a screenshot of a ‘joke’ comment made by their kid’s teacher or professor, and the comments defending the comment, to learn the lesson of appropriate comments in the workplace. Here’s hoping it’s not learned from the unemployment line.

            1. Anne*

              Right. Even in a business job without students. This would be inappropriate. I also swear sometimes but usually with my boss and not people to report to me. With my friends, I swear all the time. Work is a very different context than personal life.

          6. StripesAndPolkaDots*

            When people say “hard-on@ isn’t sexual… imagine a 5 year old saying it. How would you feel if your 5 year old told you “I have a hard-on for Daniel Tiger.” It’d be weird, right? Because it refers to an erection. It’s sexual.

            1. GothicBee*

              That’s not really a great example because there are tons of phrases that wouldn’t really be appropriate for a 5-year-old to say but that would be fine for an adult to say and that aren’t inherently sexual. A 5-year-old’s vocabulary isn’t a good metric for what is/isn’t professional (or sexual).

            2. JM60*

              I don’t think that’s a good benchmark. It would be weird for a 5 year old to drop f-bombs, but that doesn’t mean every use of the word f*ck is referencing f*cking. Much like the word f*ck, the phrase “gives me a hard on” originates from sexual language, but I think that context dictates whether or not it’s sexual.

          7. Any mouse*

            It is literal sex talk. The person using the reference knows what it means and purposely invoked the sexual connotations. There do not exist any non-sexual references to hard penises. There’s no reading between the lines happening here – we’re all just reading the plain text.

            Why are you keen to defend this stranger’s use of sex talk to discuss how much she enjoys the power dynamic she holds over her students?

            1. JM60*

              It is literal sex talk.

              It’s literal sex talk… when meant literally. But language isn’t always literal.

              Take for instance f-bombs. The word f*ck originates from sexual language, but not every use of the word f*ck refers to literal f*cking. (To be clear, f-bombs should still generally be avoided in the workplace, partly because they might be interpreted as sexual.)

              Why are you keen to defend this stranger’s use of sex talk to discuss how much she enjoys the power dynamic she holds over her students?

              I think this is misleading. I’ve been explicitly stating that she shouldn’t be identifiably saying it about her students because people might interpret it sexually. I’ve been only “defending” her use of language to the extent that it’s not necessarily sexual.

              1. Just no*

                But in this case, it was actually sexual. If you look at the comments below, the OP has written in to explain that.

                1. JM60*

                  Yeah, in this case, additional context confirms that it was in fact sexual. However, before that extra context was revealed, I think the non-sexual interpretation was the most likely meaning based on the available data.

    2. phira*

      Eh, I was a woman in grad school, and am currently a university instructor, and I find it really unprofessional and very inappropriate, even on her personal social media. There are ways to talk about how it feels when you’re addressed as professor for the first time without making it weird or gross, or risk losing the support of a mentor.

      1. PinaColada*

        Agreed, also I feel like if we are to accept this as okay, then do we have to decide a sliding scale of what’s a “sexual but appropriate” way to publicly speak about one’ work, and what’s a “sexual but inappropriate” way to speak about one’s work? How about we all just decide that using sexual terms to publicly reference our work is not acceptable? (And yes, I am aware that the LW describes the social media account as a private one, but I just don’t agree that any social media is really private these days. Also her “private social media” is connected to a professional mentor, so what other professional contacts could see the post?)

        Honestly it’s sexual harassment as far as I’m concerned, creating a hostile workplace (school-place?).

        1. JM60*

          It’s unprofessional and a red flag, but I don’t think what’s described in the letter is sexual harassment just because the phrasing originates from sexual language. The meaning was almost certainly non-sexual IMO, and the fact that she was talking generally is certainly better that talking specifically (e.g., “I get a hardon when Aaron calls me professor”).

          That being said, just because something isn’t sexual harassment doesn’t mean it’s A-okay either. Phrasing that could be interpreted as sexual should still be avoided in the workplace (or workplace adjacent, as in this case), even if it’s not meant to be sexual. Being in the “not okay for work” category doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harassment.

          1. JM60*

            Further below, the person who expressed discomfort in #2 (Cary) reported that the professor said, “women get to own their sexuality-this is normal. We don’t need to be censored by anyone-from men or other women. If it makes you uncomfortable-you can unfriend me.” Plus, she was thumbing-up all replies that were calling Cary a “Feminazi”. So it is much worse than what my initial impression here was.

            1. Annony*

              That is where it really crosses the line in my eyes. I can see someone making a bad judgement call and posting something inappropriate because they didn’t really think it through. That type of mistake is easy to learn from and not do again and pulling a recommendation over one isolated incident of bad judgement seems overkill. But attacking people who call her on it means that she isn’t learning from it and doesn’t want to learn from it. That casts doubt on her character, not just her judgement.

          2. Through the looking glass*

            And there’s the rub (oh dear… no pun intended) Sexual harassment isn’t decided by the person using the phrase, it’s decided by the person hearing (or in this case reading) it.

            Add to this a reasonable person could interpret this as a sexual phrase I don’t know that I’d want to be the one trying defend this to my boss or HR.

            1. JM60*

              Sexual harassment isn’t decided by the person using the phrase, it’s decided by the person hearing (or in this case reading) it.

              When deciding if something was harassment, I think the actual meaning needs to be factored into consideration in addition to how it was interpreted. Otherwise, absolutely anything spoken is theoretically harassment if harassment is 100% in the eye of the beholder.

              1. Roci*

                What? I think you are doing some mental gymnastics here.
                Words have a commonly understood meaning. That is how we communicate.
                Of course harassment is decided by the audience. “I didn’t mean to make you feel harassed, technically the word means–” is not a viable defense for harassers.

                1. JM60*

                  What? I think you are doing some mental gymnastics here.
                  Words have a commonly understood meaning. That is how we communicate.

                  I think this comment section shows that some word/phrases are often understood very differently by different people.

                  Of course harassment is decided by the audience.

                  That’s not 100% true. Otherwise, any random sentence on this website would be harassment if a reader felt harassed by it. Instead, it needs to be weighed against factors such as “How reasonable is this interpretation?”, “should the writer have known it would be interpreted this way?”, and “if someone does misinterpret it, how likely is it to make them feel?”

                  Only factoring the listener’s interpretation without other anchors leads to absurd conclusions. More weight should be given to the listener’s interpretation in situations where power dynamics are at play or people can’t opt out (like at work), but even then, it’s unreasonable to only consider one side’s interpretation.

                  “I didn’t mean to make you feel harassed, technically the word means–” is not a viable defense for harassers.

                  If their purported meaning was the most likely meaning, and the potentially harassing meaning is very unlikely, then that may be a valid defense and that single instance probably doesn’t make them a harasser. For instance, if you overhear me say, “this shit sucks” in frustration, it would be unreasonable for you to interpret that as what it literally means (a pile of fecal matter giving oral sex). If you sincerely thought my frustrated utterance was sexual harassment, my defense of “that’s not what it meant” is valid.

          3. PinaColada*

            If she has any students or colleagues connected to her account—which I’m not putting past her—then I think it absolutely does become the academic equivalent of “creating a hostile workplace”, which is indeed a form of sexual harassment.

        2. Littorally*

          Right. My private social media doesn’t feature my real name or employer name anywhere on it, and is locked so that only people I’ve connected with on that platform can see it, which emphatically does not include anyone I have any professional contact with. This person’s? That’s not private. It may be personal – ie, not LinkedIn or explicitly connected to the university – but that’s a different thing.

    3. You can only save people as much as they want to be saved*

      I’ve used the phrase to describe a person’s weirdly inappropriate (IMO, obviously) reaction to things. Not sexual, just bizarre or questionable. If I’m using it, it comes with a heavy dose of scorn and skepticism about their judgement or motives…like “people who have a hard-on for gory car accidents [ie: in their excitement to be in the know about a tense, challenging situation, it seems like they forget there are life-changing injuries involved].”

      I (cis-het female) would never use the phrase to describe my own, genuine excitement about something. I think some language doesn’t need re-purposing! With that said, I probably wouldn’t try to retract my recommendation (though her response might affect my willingness to write them in the future). If this casually coarse language is common for her, it will either come back to haunt her all on its own or it won’t…I’m not her keeper.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        The reason why someone retracts a recommendation isn’t just for the person themselves, but because your reputation is also on the line. I pulled a recommendation from someone last year for bullying. She got hired anyways, but now HR can’t come back to question me. I’m not in control over her actions, but I do try to keep my judgement sound when I recommend people.

        1. You can only save people as much as they want to be saved*

          Fair point about one’s own reputation. But if the comment was posted after the recommendations were written, I feel like it would be unreasonable for an HR department to expect me to have predicted the future. (Given the nature of social-media-display algorithms, it’s also plausible that I might not have seen the comment anyway. But we know that’s not true in this case, even though it would be a believable scenario.)

          1. MK*

            Eh, the dissatisfied employer is unlikely to conduct an investigation about whether the recommendation came before the post or not; for that matter, it might not be about this specific post. If this woman gives a really bad impression in grad school or becomes a problem, all people are going to remember is that the OP recommended her, so they either agree with her behaviour or have very bad judgment, or at best that they aren’t diligent about who they recommend.

          1. On Fire*

            Different situation, but I had introduced a political candidate to some local VIPs, giving my tacit endorsement. Then I learned some … disturbing things about the candidate and withdrew from any involvement with the campaign. I immediately went to those VIPs and privately told them that I was no longer involved with or supporting the candidate, and apologized for introducing them and wasting their time. I imagine withdrawing a recommendation would follow similar lines: “Dear Committee Member, I withdraw my recommendation for Person due to…”

          2. Esmeralda*

            Call up the head of the search committee (for an academic search) and tell them you need to pull the recommendation.

            That’s a strong message even if you don’t say why. In this case I would say why — not for the initial statement, thats a stupid mistake— but for the doubling down and for allowing the feminazi remarks (and liking them!!).

            That’s the kind of poor judgment that an academic dept does NOT want to get anywhere near.

      2. Chas*

        I’ve also only ever heard the non-sexual version of ‘hard-on’ being used to disparage others (and even in that case the implication is still vaguely sexual). And even if I had heard it used like this, I still wouldn’t use the phrase on Facebook because most people I see on Facebook aren’t up to speed with slang terms and cultural trends. (I might use it somewhere like Tumblr if other people I follow were, but even there I’ve not seen this trend, so…) This seems like she’s had a major failing in her ability to read her audience/account for who’s she’s added on social media, at the very least, and the doubling down on it just makes it so much worse.

        1. doreen*

          I’ve only heard the “non-sexual” version in phrases like ” Bill’s got a hard-on for Joe” , where it basically means Bill is “out to get” Joe or maybe Bill is out to beat Joe in some sort of competition. And I put non-sexual in quotes because in at least some circumstances another way of saying it is “Bill’s trying to f— Joe”

          1. On Fire*

            This. Back in my reporter days, I was digging up some info on a corrupt person. People in that person’s orbit joked that I had a hard-on for the person, meaning that I was, as you said, out to get them.

            1. Any mouse*

              That is never what I have understood such references to mean. Perhaps things have shifted, but I think you may be misinterpreting it yourself. The fact that you hear this primarily from “people in orbit” in particular makes me think you are misreading the interaction.

              I’ve always understood references like what you’ve said to really mean, “On Fire is deeply fixated on my friend, a person I do not think On Fire should be fixated on. If I imply or directly state that I think On Fire is actually attracted to this person, instead of investigating them for a legitimate reason, then I can reassure myself that my friend has done nothing I need examine, and perhaps I can embarrass or shame On Fire away from further pursuit.” There’s often an implication that the person targeted by the comment (On Fire, in this case) may be gay or experiencing sexual feeling assigned to the opposite gender, to try to invoke common anti-LGBTQ biases and fears, and to encourage further ridicule from by-standards.

              It’s still pretty sexual – but it’s intended to shame someone away from a certain behavior by invoking sexual taboos (in the view of the glassbowl making the comment).

              1. doreen*

                I’m not going to opine on what it’s meant when you heard it – but On Fire didn’t say that people “in orbit” were making the jokes. She said people in “that person’s orbit” made the jokes. In other words , it would be like my deputy/assistant/counterpart joked ” On Fire’s really got a hard-on for you, Doreen” as OnFire was investigating whether I paid off the building inspector.

              2. Lana Kane*

                On Fire’s example is absolutely a variant on “having a hard on” for someone. I’ve heard it used in that context…probably too many times to count.

          2. JSPA*

            I’d use it for someone who couldn’t stop talking, to a bizarre degree, about … I dunno… Warren Buffett, or Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs. Or Etherium. Or BMW motorcycles. Basically, when you’re past the point of having said, multiple times, yes, very impressive, but can we talk about something else for a few minutes, and they can’t or won’t, it’s how you describe their level of interest to someone else. It may or may not be unhealthy, it may or may not be obsessive in any clinical sense. But it’s a) way outside their norm (I wouldn’t use it for someone who regularly fixates on any of many topics) and b) eye-rollingly outside conversational norms.

            To be fair… I’d understand “a big turn on” as not intrinsically sexual (though if you asked me the derivation, I’d say it was a melange of general attraction and sexual arousal).

            I once described the possibility of working in a certain field and getting paid decent wages for normal hours as “a real turn-on, career-wise.” And got a strange, “that’s nasty / don’t sexualize it” response. I was completely nonplussed–and shocked by what felt like them injecting sex into a conversation. I said something like, “what decade are we in?” or “only if you have a dirty mind.” I’m pretty sure we use turn-ons and turn-offs here as synonymous with “pluses” and “minuses,” but there are still people who hear that as, boner vs boner killer. And on the other hand, there are now people who unselfconsciously use “boner-killer” for, “they were out of your favorite ice cream flavor” or “we have six zoom meetings tomorrow.” (Including some who are not English mother tongue, and may not even know what a “boner” is.)

            In the context of the rest of the thread, it’s not OK! But I’d suspect that in a decade, people may look back at this and wonder what the issue was.

            1. MK*

              I don’t think turn-on is used casually in the way you suggest, and yes, to me it has a distinctly sexual undertone. “Turn-off” I would agree is commonly used to mean something that is a con about a situation.

              As for what will happen in a decade, it doesn’t really matter here and now, and I hope it won’t happen. Is casuak references to genitalia the kind of progress we should e looking forward in casual speech?

            2. biobotb*

              It seems like you live in a community that uses sexually charged language a lot more frequently than most. I’ve never heard someone use “turn on” without it suggesting some sexual component to their response. I also don’t think “boner-killer” would be appropriate professionally, either.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      I feel the post is inappropriate, but I can see where some would find it borderline (or even fine.)

      But even if you feel the original post is fine, getting defensive – and then watching your friends pile on with name-calling without addressing it or deleting the post – is definitely not fine, especially for a sensitive field like mental health.

      Personally, I wouldn’t have pulled the recommendation over the original post (although I would probably have contacted her and said “hey, this language is not great”) but seeing the response to someone expressing their discomfort would absolutely have changed my opinion of whether this person was suited to work in mental health fields.

    5. Kaiko*

      It’s an appropriate sentiment – I’m excited about my new role with students! – expressed in an inappropriate way – I’m (sexually) excited about my new role (of authority) with students!

      Also, it’s one thing to say it at the pub, and another to say it with an audience you might not always be aware of, including potential students, colleagues, and mentors. The new prof was out of line, and doubly so because she got defensive about it.

      (It reminds me of a class I took at university, where the prof would NOT stop swearing in class, like f-bombs multiple times a session. I asked him to stop, and his response was basically a shrug and “this is how I operate.” I dropped the class and still think about what a jerk he was.)

      1. JustaTech*

        At my college (two years before I started, so I heard the story from many people who were there) a much-loved professor was describing discussing physics concepts at a cocktail party, and said “but now you’ve talked about everything you know! You’ve blown your wad, now what are you going to talk about?”

        This caused some giggling, and then one student who caught on a bit late said (loud enough to be heard in the lobby) “He said what?!”

        The professor (who has since passed away, a really lovely guy) had no idea that “blow your wad” had a sexual connotation. (I didn’t either, I thought it was about spending money, but I was 18 when I heard the story.)

        So what did he do? He apologized profoundly and profusely, and talked to the Deans and the college president and sent a formal apology. And since he wasn’t a sleeze, everyone believed him, and it never happened again. That’s how you deal with this stuff. You don’t double-down.

    6. Cat Tree*

      I mildly disagree. It’s not the most egregious sin she could ever commit, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I would not want any professor to say things like that about me. I don’t think she should get a pass because she used it ironically.

      Also, Alison made the point that the pile-on for the commenter who disagreed is more problematic then the original comment.

    7. Lacey*

      It’s gross because it involves students, power dynamics, etc. but I think it’s much more concerning because of her response to someone who was uncomfortable with it. The response to someone being uncomfortable with sexual language (even if it wasn’t meant sexually) can’t be to attack them.

    8. AGD*

      Professor here, and I’d call it inappropriate. Even if we decide it doesn’t mean thinking of students sexually (which is a stretch with language like that!), it suggests a distinct attitude of “what can my students do for me?”, which is the opposite of what the job is about. It means their students stand a good chance of having an entitled, pushy, self-centered TA.

    9. Rock Prof*

      I think it’s gross and inappropriate. The sentiment might be joking but that doesn’t really matter.
      On my academic twitter, it always seems like there are discussions of titles and power dynamics going on, particularly with intersections of real and perceived academic power, gender, and race. But her post isn’t that, and it just reads as icky.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        It definitely is gross and inappropriate, and no one here would be saying differently if it was a man who posted the same thing. I think everyone would be freaking out about it, and there wouldn’t have been people defending him and saying it was non-sexual.
        I agree with some people above that saying something like that among a close group of friends who understand your humor and probably have heard you say worse would not be an issue, but in any professional setting it’s absolutely indefensible, and yeah, I’m surprised Alison was sort of non-chalant about it.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      I’m guessing she didn’t mean being called “professor” sexually arouses her, but rather she was trying to to express excitement at being recognized as a professor. There’s been a (small?) trend of women using the term to mean “excited in a non-sexual way,” not “turned on.”

      This is inappropriate and unprofessional. I oppose the idea of using it to mean “excited in a non-sexual way” because a hard-on inherently means sexually aroused. You really can’t remove sexual turn on from that word. Maybe it’s okay to say that among her friends, but she used it on social media not limited to friends AND used it in relation to her job. That makes it both unprofessional and inappropriate. And then dismissing the feedback that it was inappropriate and participating in a pile on someone who gave her feedback she didn’t want to hear is digging the hole deeper.

      I’m not sure what the LW can do to retract a written recommendation. LW can ask for it back from the woman. LW can contact any schools that she knows where it was submitted and say they retract. But that still leaves open room for the hopeful graduate student to ignore the request and continue to use it.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        You really can’t remove sexual turn on from that word.

        I mean, people also use “sexy” to mean something is extremely cool/desirable in a non-sexual way. People can say they got a sexy new car, but it doesn’t typically mean they wish to have sexual intercourse with that car. Heck, people frequently say “Hey, [this object/person/concept] sucks” but don’t usually mean, “This object performs fellatio.”

        Maybe it wasn’t the best wording, if professional people could see it, but I think the biggest problem is that when people stated that it made them uncomfortable, this person then started arguing that they shouldn’t feel uncomfortable and also that they suck, as people, and not in a recreational way.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          People can say they got a sexy new car, but it doesn’t typically mean they wish to have sexual intercourse with that car.

          I always figured that meant that vehicle would lead to having more sex, the same way a fancy tie or dress might.

          And then Disney made a Cars trilogy… and I’m going to need another shot of brain bleach.

          1. Heather*

            I mean, that’s just not what the word means in context, though. We often see people refer to “sexy” industries on here. That clearly doesn’t mean “working in AI will lead to me having more sex”, it means “this is seen as an exciting and interesting career path”.

            1. Rachel*

              +1. Certain topics in academic science are often referred to as “sexy” by students, professors, post-docs, etc.

              I don’t know that “hard on” has gotten quite that decoupled from actual sex, but saying sex-related words HAVE to relate back to sex is not accurate.

      2. LTL*

        > You really can’t remove sexual turn on from that word.

        Well, yes you can. Language evolves in a lot of ways. I didn’t realize so many people would interpret a statement like the one in OP to be sexual. But now I know.

        I really think LW should reach out directly to the woman about their concerns.

        1. serenity*

          This is not a case of language evolving or terms meaning something different to different generations, or something along those lines. It is a sexual term and its use by the professor was specifically tied to its meaning of arousal.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Eh. I’ve always heard that phrase as “it makes me happy/excited” but not in a sexual way. Also heard it in a “out to get someone” way. It’s crude, annoying “Like lady boner” but red flag or anything? Not in my view. I think OP should talk to her privately just to say “Yes, this was just to your social group but others may see it so it may come back to haunt you. You may want to delete it. Also, arguments on the internet never look good.”

          2. Rachel*

            “This is not a case of language evolving or terms meaning something different to different generations”

            But that’s literally what Allison said: it IS a case of language evolving. I would have no problem saying in front of my boss “this company has a real hard-on for pointless metrics”.

            1. PinaColada*

              Wow. Well it’s fine that you know that would be okay with your boss, but if I did that with any professional colleague, they would be like, “Excuse me???”

    11. LTL*

      I wonder if it’s a generational thing. “x gives me a hard-on” is such a common expression, it wouldn’t even occur to me that it was referring to being sexually aroused unless there was context to indicate otherwise (like if a man said it about a common fetish or something). It’s just a figure of speech.

      So I don’t think using the expression was really a big deal at all and I also found it funny. That being said, I think Alison has a point that someone who’s a professor needs to be extra mindful of these things and should be open to that feedback. I’m kind of wondering what the specifics of the comment section were.

      1. ceiswyn*

        The specifics of the comment section are described in a post below. It’s worse than the LW made it seem.

      2. MissGirl*

        Interesting. I have never once heard this outside a sexual framing. Any use of it in a professional setting would bring the conversation to a screeching halt. I’m high thirties.

        1. JustaTech*

          Same here. I’ve never heard “hard on” in anything but a sexual or semi-sexual context.

      3. Maeve*

        Hmm. I’m familiar with the phrase, but it always just comes off as trying very hard to be edgy to me, and my brain is always going to go to “erect penis” even if the context has nothing to do with that…because that’s what a hard-on is. I’m 33, so I might just be too old. But it seems like bad judgment to use when talking about your students and being in a position of power.

      4. DarnTheMan*

        Millennial here and I don’t know if I agree with this; I’ve heard “Wakeen has a hard on for [X]” in the past but “x gives me a hard on” reads as both sexual and inappropriate for work-related conversations to me.

      5. TWW*

        By contrast, if someone said, “I get aroused when a student calls me Professor,” that would be equally inappropriate, even though the word “aroused” is not inherently sexual.

        The really issue here is how she reacted to OP’s reasonable criticism. Instead of digging in her heals, she could have said, “I didn’t mean it like that, but I understand where you’re coming from. That particular phrase isn’t important to the crux of what I’m expressing, so I’ll edit my post to prevent further confusion.”

        Or she could have changed the privacy setting to hide the post from OP and the general public while keeping it visible to her potty-mouthed friends.

      6. PollyQ*

        I think it’s very much generational. I’m in my mid-50’s, and even though I spend many hours on the internet and have young adult relatives, I’ve never heard “it gives me a hard-on” used by a woman at all, or by anyone in a non-sexual meaning.

    12. TWW*

      We have other phrases (e.g. “that really sucks”) that people use without thinking about the sexual connotation. Is “hard on” destined for similar usage?

      1. PollyQ*

        It may eventually be, and in an abstract linguistic sense, it’ll be interesting to see if that use sticks around or is just a passing fad. I don’t think we’re there yet, though.

      2. JB*

        Certainly not.

        The difference is that ‘sucks’ in that context is incredibly far removed from the original sexual meaning, because you’re generally talking about something that can’t literally engage in a sex act. The vast majority of humans can, on the other hand, physically experience hard-ons. (A penis is not required.)

    13. Anne*

      For my friends it might funny. For a public forum with coworkers, students, etc etc, it is not.

    14. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I do think it was inappropriate, but I would probably not worry too much about it if I was in OP’s place if it was just the comment. It was the reaction to someone pointing out that it made them uncomfortable that really sets off red flags. A mental health professional needs to be someone who stays calm and does not invalidate the experience of their clients. Sometimes clients will not like you and will even tell you things you do that are uncomfortable for them. And the therapist cannot act or react like this person did. I can certainly understand OP’s reasons for thinking this person is unprofessional, inappropriate, unsympathetic to issues relating to power dynamics, and just a poor overall fit for the mental health field based on this incident.

    15. Generic Name*

      The idea that one gets an ego boost from being called an important title is not inappropriate. What is inappropriate is the sexual reference used to describe the feeling. Alison explained this one well. You are free to laugh at the imagery, but it’s still inappropriate and makes people feel uncomfortable, whether you agree with them or not.

    16. JB*

      It’s wild to me that some people think this would ever be appropriate.

      If it were a man saying this, would you still think it was alright?

      It’s one thing to make a comment like that in private company where you know everyone understands the joke and (most importantly) none of your students are present, but posting it publically is a totally different matter.

  2. Aggretsuko*

    I had to tell my work I’m getting vaccinated so I could get out of work to get the shot in the first place, as they are only giving them out during working hours and I had to explain what I was doing (plus why I had to schedule two appointments a month apart….you get the drift). Also, to be fair, they are giving us a paid hour off per shot to get the shot, so that’s nice.
    So if #1 is getting the shot, they need to ah, come up with some kind of lie about why they’re out, I guess.

    But that said, I think most places are going to bring people back, regardless of vaccination status. My work (by which I mean high upper management) said they were going to let almost everyone work from home and now they are making noises about reneging on that, which doesn’t surprise me. Also, while my work said they can’t require anyone to get vaccinated as long as all vaccines are under Emergency Use Only status, I’m assuming private employers can/will require it if they can get away with that.

    1. MK*

      Not all appointments are during working hours and not all employers demand specific explanations about why you need time off. It’s not a given that the OP will have to lie.

      1. HotSauce*

        Absolutely! I almost never tell my employer what kind of appointment I need to step away for, it’s none of their business. I just say “appointment”, it’s up to them to speculate what kind it is, which they don’t because my boss has more important things to worry about. As long as I either take vacation or make up the time they typically never say anything unless there are a lot of them coming through in a short period of time, in which case I have looped my boss in for courtesy sake.

    2. Lobsterp0t*

      Wow, this is so alien to me! I could definitely duck out for an hour and get my jab without explaining to anyone at my job. Saying that… I probably would, because I have a pretty close knit team and a couple of us have been really waiting on the ability to get vaccinated for personal or health reasons. So it’s been something to celebrate.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        It’s not just about the nature of your team but also the nature of your job itself.

        1. Lobsterp0t*

          Oh yes of course, but I think many office jobs that are uptight about time and butt in seat don’t need to be.

      2. jenny20*

        Especially while we’re working from home. In many jobs, I think schedules have become very flexible (except for that letter writer who is watched all day on zoom by her boss…)

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, I didn’t have to ask permission or put in for time off, but I mentioned to my boss that I would be out because I got “the call.”

        I realize that not all jobs are flexible, but I also don’t think the LW has to tell any more of a lie than she would in any other medical situation: “I have a medical appointment,” is enough. Need more than that (not that you should, but people can be weird)? Blood draw or mammogram.

      4. Lacey*

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t need to tell anyone, but I absolutely will, because I’m SO excited about it (and so is everyone else).

        But, it totally depends on the job. I probably couldn’t have done that at my last employer.

      5. Elenna*

        Yeah, I don’t know if I could duck out for an hour without any explanation at all (I probably could, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it) but I would be absolutely fine if I just said “I’ll be out for an appointment for an hour”.

        1. pbnj*

          I told my manager when I was going to be at a doctor’s appt (I kept it vague) since I didn’t want them to be calling me and wondering why I wasn’t answering. I probably could have gone and not have it be noticed. I felt that if you’re going to be out during core business hours (except for lunch), you should communicate that.

        2. Lobsterp0t*

          I definitely would at least put it in my diary but honestly, I’m coming to realise my work is so trusting and trust based – I feel pretty lucky.

          That sounds like a humble brag but I feel genuinely thankful that I’m trusted to be a grown up! I’m also in an office based, white collar role so that makes a big difference to how we are treated and what is expected or required.

      6. TootsNYC*

        you and I are fortunate that our jobs allow this. Many people cannot be away from their desks without taking official time off.

        Not all jobs work like yours

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “as they are only giving them out during working hours ”

      That’s terrible in terms of public health. I’m curious about what place this is.

      1. Antilles*

        Here in Georgia, everyone I know who has the vaccine got it during normal business hours on a weekday. I would assume that weekend or after-hours appointments *do* exist, but are just rare.

        1. middle name danger*

          I’m in Ohio and all three adults in my household got Saturday appointments. There’s just fewer hours in two weekend days than five weekdays, so, fewer appointments even if they vaccinate at the same rate.

          1. RegBarclay*

            Here in MI I got offered a Saturday spot (subject line mentioned Saturday) but when I went to actually schedule Sat & Sun were already full. I can take the time off to get the shot though* so I like to think the weekend appts went to ppl that really needed them.

            *I’ll have to burn PTO for it but at least I have the option and sufficient PTO and a manager who OK the time off.

      2. TootsNYC*

        NYC had nearly 24/7 coverage at the Javits Center. Of course, it’s hard to get appointments there.

      3. Black Horse Dancing*

        In the beginning, our small town only had week hours because the public health office is M-F, 8-5 as is our clinic. We have more open hours now as the pharmacies can now give shots and one is 7 days a week (walmart).

      4. Lobsterp0t*

        Here in the UK the main opposition party was advocating for 24-hour vaccinations and honestly, I would turn up at 3am for mine given the chance.

        But yeah I think a lot of sites here are normal working hours with maybe some evening or Saturdays? I’m not too sure. I’m under 55 and don’t have a qualifying condition so I’m a little oblivious till I get my “come in and get poked” text or letter.

      5. Aggretsuko*

        Walgreen’s in the nearest city to me was the only place I could get an appointment with at the time. They had some at 5:15, but I still would have had to leave during work hours to get there in rush hour.

        YMMV, I guess, but at the time I could get in, no after-hours appointments were available in my area.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I’m scheduled for an appointment and I’ll probably just say it’s a medical appointment, which is true but vague. Lots of companies request/demand details but they really shouldn’t. If I worked at a place where I got interrogated about it, I’d probably just lie and say it’s a dentist appointment. If I pretended to need a crown, it would also conveniently cover the second vaccine appointment a few weeks later.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I did have to tell my employer that I’d be off for a while after my vaccine (have autoimmune disease, cleared for vaccine but know I’m going to be immobile for days).

      However, I realised after that I probably shouldn’t have given that much info when I had to inform them recently that I’ll be off for X days recovering from a ‘routine medical exam’ (I’m not telling them it’s a smear test) and they got really paranoid given how little information I was willing to share. I actually feel I rather overshared the first one and it’s bitten me in the backside. Bugger.

      1. Lacey*

        That’s so frustrating! I had surgery years ago and while I had to explain that I needed a minor surgery so that I could take the time off I needed and arrange to work from home during part of the recovery period, everyone rushed to tell me that I didn’t need to share the details (because they probably assumed it was something awkward!)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, I just had to send an email to the boss with points like ‘it’s nothing contagious’, ‘it’s nothing fatal’ (okay, as long as the test finds nothing abnormal), ‘yes I know how much recovery time I need because I’ve had it before’, ‘it’s not the kind of recovery where I can pop a couple painkillers and work from home’. Which is exhausting to compile.

          Because there’s no way I’m ever using the phrase ‘I need to recover from the mental trauma after’ to my boss/HR/corporation.

    6. VaccinatedAtHome*

      Luckily, my work doesn’t require that level of detail for any sort of medical appointment that we need to go to during work hours. I got my first shot on a weekend day, though, and hope to do the same with the second shot in case I experience side effects.

    7. Lynn*

      If my company asks about getting the shot, I will answer. But that is because getting it (or not doing so) will likely impact on potential business travel plans and because I don’t have any reason to believe that my company will use it against us in any way.

      If my company was going to use it to push people to come back into the office (they aren’t-I was WFH long before the pandemic), I wouldn’t answer unless they made it mandatory.

      My first shot did come up in a conversation with some folks, including my manager and her boss, about the shootings in Boulder. I got it on Monday and was exceedingly lucky that I picked the appointment available at the OTHER King Soopers in Boulder rather than the appointment available at Table Mesa (which would have put me in the pharmacy at the time of the attack).

      But I would not have given them information about my vaccination status if I felt it was going to be used to my detriment-at least not until/unless they made it mandatory.

      1. Rocket Woman*

        As a fellow Boulder resident, I am so thankful that you are safe. I’ve had several friends who had near misses of not being in that store at the time of the shooting. I hope you are doing ok.

        My company isn’t requiring vaccines, but they are strongly encouraging them and even sending out links to vaccination events (we are essential workers and eligible now under state guidelines). My immediate team knows I got vaccinated Sunday, but since I’ve been in the office part time the entire pandemic, it doesn’t change my status. IMO a good company wouldn’t use the information to anyone’s detriment, so I’d encourage the LW to avoid the question until they have a better idea of their company’s plan forward.

        1. Lynn*

          Doing very well, thanks. I hope you can say the same. Somehow, my slightly bruised shoulder and very slight reaction (felt a little icky yesterday) seems like really small potatoes at this point.

          I agree on the avoiding the question. If I had concerns about how my company would use the info, I would have kept it much closer to the vest. And I would recommend the OP do so, insofar as it is possible. Since I had no such concerns about my company, I didn’t feel the need to worry about letting folks know.

    8. theletter*

      My workplace has been pushing hard against asking/forcing people to justify time off for medical needs. I find it difficult to do as an employee, but I get why it’s so important! Medical issues are private, and at a certain point people are not interested in hearing about spleens and teeth.

      That said, when I get the vaccine I will be letting everyone know about it. I think I would be fine with working in an office with people who are also vaccinated, provided that vaccination is a contigency of working in the office. I think it would be in everyone’s best interest for those who are not vaccinated to WFH indefinitely. (I’m speaking specifically to my industry/department/role, where 99% of the work can be done from home.)

    9. Seashells*

      We can take time off to take care of personal things without explanation. I definitely think they want to know who has been vaccinated so they can start calling people back.

      Our COO was so excited because our governor announced all residents of our state 16 & over are now eligible for the vaccine and she was practically gushing about it. However, for those of us who have underlying health conditions and can’t take the vaccine, it’s mixed news. Glad it’s available to more people, hope it’s safe and effective, but I still have to be extra careful. I wish more people understood that it doesn’t make you immune, it is supposed to be lessen the severity if you do catch it. You still need to wear a mask in public, social distance and wash/sanitize your hands.

      1. TootsNYC*

        you may have to be careful, but wider vaccination availability absolutely IS good news, because your only protection is herd immunity. You’re right, it’s not an immediate effect for you the way it can be for those who get vaccinated, but it absolutely is great news
        (unless the reason it’s open to everyone so early is that too many people are passing it up)

      2. Lynn*

        We may be in the same state ><

        Frankly I think people forget that eligibility for the vaccine doesn't guarantee being able to find and book an appointment. I am shocked because have heard a lot of 1B folks still struggling to get appointments.

        And I agree — I think there is a lot of magical thinking about how vaccines and masks work :( Wishing you all the best!

    10. doreen*

      I can see having to disclose the time off is for vaccination if your employer is giving you additional time off to get vaccinated. But I can’t imagine very many employers request details about pre-scheduled time off that isn’t sick leave. I get that it happens sometimes when leave is divided into separate buckets and you want to use sick leave , and I get that it happens when you call in “morning of” in some jobs – but does it really happen that people ask to leave an hour early a week from now (using something other than dedicated sick leave) for an “appointment” and are expected to specify whether the appointment is to close on a house, to have furniture delivered or for a parent-teacher conference?

      1. TootsNYC*

        there are bosses who insist on it; they think they’re some sort of parent, or something.
        But it would surprise me if most corporations would want to know.

    11. TootsNYC*

      If the employer demanded to know the details of a medical appointment before they’d approve the time away, that’s gross and out of line.

      If you volunteered the info, I encourage you to get used to saying simply, “I have an appointment. “At the MOST, “I have a medical appointment.”

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        yeah, they actually cannot require this information. However, they can require a note. Still, most practitioners write the notes to simply say they saw the person on that date for a medical appointment. They do not go into details.

    12. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I can see why you would need to disclose it for your paid hour off if they are offering that specifically to get the shot, but otherwise, your employer really is not entitled to know your medical info, so if you choose to use sick leave or pto and specify that it is for a medical appointment, that is all they need to know. At best, they might require a note, but I am guessing the person doing the injection can just jot down something to the effect of, “Please be advised that I saw X individual today for a scheduled medical appointment.” Employers are really limited on the information they can require, especially if no real accommodation is required under the ADA.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I agree, but there’s extenuating circumstances here. Also because at the time I could finally get appointments, my boss was out at the time and I had to explain to my boss’s boss why I wanted to be out. In detail.

        I do concur that given the public health nature of a pandemic, vaccination is most likely not something we can or probably should be keeping as a private choice matter, though.

    13. scmill*

      I just say I have personal business to attend to. On the rare occasion I get questioned, I just repeated the line. Frostily. Only once did I have to raise an eyebrow and respond “none of yours”, but I was known to be a bit of a witch.

  3. Heidi*

    I’d be interested to know what the process would be for withdrawing a recommendation for grad school. Do you have to contact every program they applied to and tell them to ignore what you wrote? Do you have to explain why? I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.

    1. MK*

      I would guess it depends how the recommendation was given. When you sister was applying for academic posts, she had letters or references from a number of people and included copies of them in her application when they were asked for, but some organizations asked for sealed letters and others contacted the references directly.

      I suppose this woman could insist on using the OP’s letter, even if the OP tells her she doesn’t want to recommend her, but that would be a huge risk, if someone decides to contact the OP.

    2. WellRed*

      I think recommendations are written for the specific school/program? At least, in many cases.

    3. pretzelgirl*

      OP2- did you write a letter? I guess theoretically, OP2 could contact the person they wrote the letter for, asking them not to use it anymore. But if she ignores what she says she could still distribute the letter anyway.

        1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

          IF you want to simply rescind the letter, reach out to whoever manages the application system itself — what email did the form come from, is there any contact info for tech help — and reach out to that office. In general, start with the Graduate Admissions or Graduate School office if you don’t have that email anymore.
          IF you want to alert the selection committee, the grad office should be able to get you in touch with the right people.
          BUT if you rescind your letter, the applicant will likely notice, especially if rescinding your letter means that the applicant no longer has the minimum letters of rec.

    4. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      It’s pretty rare, but it happens. You don’t have to explain why, unless you want the selection committee to know. At least at my institution, the application system itself is managed centrally, so depending on when the recommendation was yanked, it’s possible the program-level selection committee would never notice.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      I’m an admissions counselor. This isn’t as uncommon as you might think. The recommender should email the contact for the program— often it’s something like and explain why they are withdrawing their recommendation for X student. The email will get routed to the right person and someone may contact the recommender if they have further questions.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I wondered this as well–what are the logistics of withdrawing it?

      I only once wrote a recommendation for someone going to grad school, and I don’t remember now if I had a specific address to write to, or if it was “to whom it may concern” and I gave it to her.

      I guess if I had the address, I could write and say, “I withdraw my recommendation because of X reason.”

    7. Butterfly Counter*

      I’m currently writing letters of rec for law school. These tend to be solicited by the student and instead of going to the specific law school the student applies to, is listed on a website that all law schools can access to see the letter of rec. As the recommender, I can go through after posting my letter of rec and rescind the letter at any time.

      This is just one example.

    8. Eileen*

      I work in admissions at a graduate program and we’ve had people email us and ask to rescind the letter of recommendation. Its rare, but it happens. They usually provide a short explanation or just say they can no longer stand by the letter and ask us to take it out of the file.

  4. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 2 – Is this a trend? I’ve seen younger people use it as a joke, but they really do mean it in a sexual way. The reason why I would find the phrase concerning is because it’s been used often as a tactic for emotional abuse from male partners. If she is going to work with women or domestic abuse then she really needs to drop the phrase. I still think it’s worth having that convo over, especially since she didn’t do anything to stop the attacks.

    1. Mialana*

      Sorry I might be a bit dumb here but what exactly is being used as a tactic for emotional abuse?

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        I’m trying not to go on a tangent, but it’s the phrase “Hard-on”. Some males have used that as an excuse to tell their partner that they aren’t attractive because they can’t get a hard-on/hard/whatever word they want to use. I have also have heard it when I was being sexually harassed from a past manager. Really it doesn’t matter the gender, no one should be saying that when it comes to a professional setting.

        1. A.N.*

          It might be a triggering word for you personally but this does not sound within the normal range of responses to the word and isn’t connected to the issues in the letter.

          1. PspspspspspsKitty*

            I disagree. (It’s actually not triggering for me) Based on some work with women, domestic abuse, and sexual health, it’s a pretty common thing to have happen. In any case, a later commenter established that she would be working on mental health and women’s sexuality so she really should not use that phrase. I think it applies here.

              1. LTL*

                Yes, this. A lot of people use the word hard-on (“erection” sounds more scientific or formal so often people don’t opt for that). So if abusers use it…. it’s because everyone does? We all speak the same language.

              2. Van Wilder*

                Wow. You must be an expert on the domestic violence victim experience to conclude that there’s no connection.

                What I’m seeing here is a lot of:

                “But I use that phrase! But I’m a good person! So there must be nothing wrong with that phrase! Attack so I don’t have to examine my behavior!”

                1. LunaLena*

                  Totally agree with Van Wilder! I was in an emotionally abusive relationship many years ago that ended in two years of harassment and stalking. Even though it was almost 15 years ago now, imagining my ex saying “she gives me a hard-on” (he never said those actual words, but he did tell my friends he had an addiction and I was his drug, amongst other things) makes me feel sick and want to puke.

                  Like many other phrases, there’s nothing wrong with using “hard-on,” but it has its time and place, and work isn’t one of them. But as usual, it’s easier to insist that other people are wrong than to examine one’s own behavior…

        2. Black Horse Dancing*

          But then what about sucks or pain in the rump? And this wasn’t used in a professional setting. A professional SAW it (the LW) and I can see OP talking to the student but that’s it. I mean, seriously, this person busts her butt and you want to yank a reference because she used a crass term? Why not communicate?

          1. semiresponsive*


            The part that has me scratching my head is… she didn’t use/say this phrase in a professional context. She said something on her PERSONAL social media account. She wasn’t standing at a lectern ribbing her students face to face, she was talking to her friends. The fact that someone she was professionally connected to saw it (OP) and interpreted it as offensive is, in my mind, separate.

            It’s the old idea that we don’t (or, perhaps, shouldn’t) condemn people for what they think but rather what they do. We all have, for broader context, uncharitable thoughts or daydream about doing “bad” things… but the fact that we don’t *do* those things is what our morality is judged by. That’s the social construct – how we behave when around others.

            The unfortunate overlap, in my mind, is that typing a thought out on social media is in a liminal space between thinking something and doing something. The problem isn’t that she had the thought. Not to me anyway. The problem is that the lid she keeps on her personal social media isn’t tight enough. Clearly, OP is more a professional contact than a personal one. Perhaps OP should be relegated to LinkedIn.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I think there are two (well, three, reading the additional info below) important factors that make this different than your examples.

            First, time: Sucks was considered mildly crass and slightly risqué in the mid-nineties when it was hugely popular slang. It seems to have gotten less popular, but also less offensive since (I don’t usually use it when talking to my students, but I don’t sensor myself when talking to peers like I do with the f- bomb). Hard on (in a non sexual way) is pretty new and therefore is going provoke a wider range of offence (see this comments section).

            Second, and more important, the fact that it was used in relation to a person. If this person had said “Marking papers gives me a hard on” like one might say “marking papers sucks”, I would consider it crass, but wouldn’t really object. Heck, even the original comment with some modifications “Seeing my hard work pay off and people calling me professor after all these years gives me a hard on”. isn’t great, but not worth pulling a recommendation. This… wasn’t that.

    2. JM60*

      I’m in my early 30s, and I’ve usually interpreted that phrase non-sexually unless the context was about sex. If I came across someone’s Facebook post saying that being “When my students call me PROFESSOR, I get a hard-on”, I would interpret is as, “it stokes her ego,” not as, “it sexually arouses her.”

      BTW, I’m wondering if “stokes their ego” originated from sexual language, but over time became divorced enough from sexual meaning such that it’s no longer seen as innuendo.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        I think people are interrupting this too literally. I’m not saying that she is aroused by it, but she is joking that the same feeling is akin to being aroused. I’m in my early 30’s too, but this kind of joke is everywhere on Reddit and other social medias and they do mean it in a sexually way, even if joking.

        1. Pikachu*

          THANK YOU! Omg I have felt crazy thinking about this, because you are right. It is everywhere.

          A two second google search led me to a blog with 50 alternatives to the word “excited.”

          Why do we have to use sexual terms to describe happy feelings? Do we need to call pictures of something we really really like … porn? Do we really need landscaping porn? Does this newly redesigned toothbrush need to be sexy? What is this?

          I like to think I’m a forward thinking Millennial, but I am at my wits end. There is enough gross over-sexualization in our society, including regularly in the workplace, without having to invent new ways to inject even more sex into benign everyday conversations.

          1. Jaydee*

            I 100% agree. And I think a lot of the sexualization of language can have a more insidious effect too. Like if everything that’s vaguely pretty or nice to look at is “porn” we stop associating the word with a problematic industry built on the objectification of women and instead associate it with decorative planner spreads and towers of cupcakes and beautiful gardens.

            Or if we all start describing hunger as “being horny for food” then it gets harder to identify when sexual terms are harassment and when they’re just innocuous slang. (“No boss, when I told Jane her lemon bars were ‘sexy’ I meant they looked pretty and when I told her I was ‘horny for them’ I didn’t mean like sexually aroused, I meant they looked delicious and I wanted to eat them. It was a compliment. She’s an amazing baker! That’s what I was trying to convey when I smacked her butt too. Like, you know how in the locker room the coach will smack you on the butt and tell you to ‘get out there and give ‘em hell!’ It was like that. Like a motivational pep talk kinda thing. But about baked goods rather than sportsball.”)

            But even less overtly, when we use the word “sexy” as a catch-all term to describe something trendy or glamorous or popular or sleek or curvy or provocative or whatever, we solidify the connection between those ideas. So then when we’re actually thinking about sex our ideas of what it means to be sexually attractive is informed by these concepts of trendy, popular, glamorous, sleek, curvy, provocative, which ostracizes a large portion of the human population who don’t necessarily fit with those descriptors but are sexual beings and it also contributes to the objectification of people (especially women) who do fit those descriptors but might occasionally want to be seen as a full human and not just a sexual being.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          I have heard it like that but it’s one of those things you avoid because it’s so easily mixed up. My friends wouldn’t mix it up but who knows how coworkers and bosses take it?

        3. Littorally*

          Based on Cary’s comment below, when the person was called on it she doubled-down and made it explicitly sexual.

        4. kt*

          But I have been a professor, and regardless of whether she really is talking about a sexual feeling or not, I’d have doubts about how this person would perform as a professor. People who are professors who have that kind of outlook are in my experience prone to abuses of power. I don’t want those people in my profession and I would not recommend them for graduate study.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        There is no way to see a reference to hard-on and not think about sex, no matter how you interpret it. It’s sexual, full-stop, and the professor showed poor taste in using it. Professor could have jut said it stokes her ego if that’s what she meant. Or that it excited her. But hard-on? Just no.

        1. hbc*

          You can’t say there’s “no way” when this person said they don’t see it that way. Sometimes words and phrases get separated from their origin, and it can happen differently to different people.

          That said, just because some percentage of the population *doesn’t* read a sexual connection does not mean it is wise or acceptable to use it. I’d probably have the reaction, “Yokes, I know what you meant, but you should get in trouble for your choice of words there.”

          1. Rachel Greep*

            “Hard on” is a sexual term even if being used in a non-sexual way. I agree, even if you are fully aware that it is not being used in a sexual manner most of the time, part of the “fun” in using phrases like that is the hint of sex. You can’t separate it.

            1. JM60*

              I think you can separate it in the same way f-bombs are usually separated from the act of f*cking. F-bombs came to have some punch as a word partly because of it’s original sexual meaning, but most of the time f-bombs are divorced from sex. When someone says “f*ck this”, I (plus I’m guessing most people) aren’t thinking of them having sex with whatever “this” is.

              (That being said, f-bombs should usually also be avoided in the workplace, partly because of the sexual origin of the word.)

        2. kittymommy*

          I don’t have any dog in this fight, but I can tell you that as a 46 year old female, I did not think of this as sexual until I read Alison’s response. Didn’t even occur to me. It made sense after I read the response, but initially? Nope, not at all.

          1. GothicBee*

            Agreed. IMO it’s maybe less common, but similar to terms like “sexy”, “sucks”, “screwed” etc. that can all be used in non-sexual ways.

            I do think the professor/student context is weird, but it’s not hard for me to see how someone would say that without thinking. The more worrying part is how it sounds like she responded when someone pointed out the questionable context.

            1. ophelia*

              Yeah, to me the issue is more about the weirdly vehement defensiveness? I can see writing the post, not thinking through the implications, and then being like, “yikes, yeah, I should remove this.” But it’s the doubling-down that makes me question her judgment.

        3. JM60*

          <blockquoteThere is no way to see a reference to hard-on and not think about sex

          Maybe there’s no way for you to hear “hard on” and not think about sex, but the person you’re responding to (me) usually doesn’t think about sex when I hear “hard-on” in non-sexual contexts.

          Do you usually think about f*cking whenever you hear an f-bomb? I don’t, and I suspect most others don’t. To me, hearing “hard on” in a non-sexual way is often like hearing an f-bomb in a non-sexual context.

      3. Smithy*

        I’m in my late 30’s, and this was my take. While I would never use the term “hard-on” regarding work while on a platform that includes my references – I (and my colleagues) do use the word “sexy” a lot at work in a context that has nothing to do with sexual arousal. In this case it’s a substitute for trendy, but where you’re implying that the trend may be instantly gratifying (professionally!), we need to check that it aligns with our strategies.

        I do think a big difference when using the that language is that it’s rarely a case of assigning how we feel. So instead of “I find Zoom so sexy, but know we should probably compare it to other video conferencing platforms before purchase,” it’s used as “I know Zoom is the sexy brand, but we should probably…”

        1. Colette*

          The issue is that she’s talking about her relationship with her students, who are people, not a video-conferencing platform.

          If you said “Mary in HR is so sexy, she gets things done”, would that be OK?

          1. Smithy*

            I know my sentiments on the LW’s original letter are unclear above, so just to articulate that with the full context from the LW’s situation – the post was unprofessional and the poster’s subsequent behavior was deeply problematic and wrong.

            If anything, the thought exercise for myself was whether hard-on might ever enter the professional lexicon in either a less problematic or unproblematic way. I do think that why “sexy” works profewssionally is that it does retain an element of being titillating. When everyone if your sector is talking about/funding X, and it’s understandable that the impulse is to drop everything and chase it.

            That being said, what made the LW’s letter so problematic was the context – which applies to most language. Had this been an comment overheard in a bar, while I wouldn’t love it, it would be different. In the same way, “Mary in HR is so sexy, she gets things done” said by a leadership team is wildly problematic. One of Mary’s peer’s talking to her on their way out of the office saying “Mary in HR gets things done, so sexy!” – it’s also different.

            1. JM60*

              I also think there’s a big difference between talking about a group of people vs singling out a particular individual.

      4. JobHoppin*

        That’s how I (woman) read it too but I still consider it 100% awkward and unprofessional. I’d internally cringe if I saw someone in my work network say something like that and probably wouldn’t comment on it, but it would color any future interactions with them.

        FWIW I LOVE that kind of crude humor but only with non-work friends/topics, and definitely not in an online setting where people outside a given conversation could witness it.

      5. Salyan*

        “Stoke” means to ‘stir up, feed, poke the fire’, so ‘stoking the ego’ has the idea of feeding it like one does a fire. Probably no innuendo there.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I am more concerned about her reaction to the person letting her know the phrasing made them feel uncomfortable. No matter what kind of clients you treat, this type of reaction would be a big problem.

  5. PinaColada*

    I think on #5, you answered it as though he had met with his manager during the interview process, but I can’t see where he indicates that in his letter. He says he had a meeting with a peer who is the “unofficial boss” of the group, but that’s not the same as meeting whoever is your actual boss!

    I’m also a little surprised that we’re not taking him at his word that: “ Usually interviews in my field for someone at my level entail one-on-one meetings with people who’d be the peers, the boss, the grandboss, and often the great-grandboss”. There are a lot of positions where this could be the case; so if he hasn’t even met his official boss I definitely think that is a red flag.

      1. OP #5*

        Thank you for answering my question, Alison!

        To give some more details, this interview was at an early stage organization that seems to still operate like a startup in many ways. The hiring process was quite disorganized. I was sent a list of people who I’d be meeting with during my (virtual) daylong final round interview a few days beforehand, with no titles/relevant information included, so I had to search on Google and LinkedIn to figure out what their roles were (since the organization’s website didn’t contain their profiles, which was a bit unusual in my field). From my research, I realized I wasn’t scheduled to meet with anyone on the executive team, which is who the person in this role would be reporting to, so that struck me as odd. The person in the same role as I was applying to who was the unofficial boss of the group didn’t even introduce themselves to me as the unofficial boss — I only pieced that together from talking with other people. It’s not that I’m fixated on hierarchies and org charts and titles — it’s just that it’s very important for me to know I’d have good rapport with the person formally managing me, and a clear vision of how my role fits into the organization’s success (especially since this role would have required a cross-country relocation) — and I got none of that from the interview process.

        1. Zephy*

          Did they have you meet with the person who would actually be making the hiring decision at any point?

          1. OP #5*

            It seemed like the group of people with the same job role the successful candidate would be joining would be recommending a hiring decision to higher-ups and HR, though this group doesn’t have formal authority to hire or fire.

        2. Kes*

          Are you sure you won’t be reporting into the unofficial boss?
          I agree with Alison, I don’t think it’s necessarily weird not to meet with people 2+ levels above you but it is weird not to meet with your potential manager and at that point I’d probably want to confirm my assumptions about the expected hierarchy and ask about meeting with the manager

          1. OP #5*

            I got the sense that the people in this role right now sort of self-organize each other with the unofficial boss being the unofficial leader of the group who reports to the member of the executive team on the group’s behalf (and then that member of the executive team reports to the CEO). But ultimately facetime with the executive team seems to be the crucial factor in determining someone’s success within the role and potential advancement within the organization.

            I questioned the people already in the role about how much facetime they get with the executive team and how their input is valued (or not), and the answers varied widely. That was also a red flag to me.

    1. Kimmybear*

      I was once offered a job by HR without having spoken to anyone else in the office. I replied that I was very interested but would like to speak to the person I would actually be reporting to. I don’t think anyone had ever done that!!! I ended up working there for several years and it was dysfunctional but they did start having managers actually meet with candidates.

  6. phira*

    LW 2: I’m a little confused here. It sounds like you recommended this person for graduate school, so the fact that she’s now a university professor seems to indicate that she graduated with her degree and now has a new job that’s separate from the program you recommended her for. If that’s the case, then there’s really nothing you can do with regards to pulling a recommendation, since she’s already finished the program.

    If I’m misunderstanding your post, and she’s either still in grad school and is a TA who was reacting to being called professor, or you also happened to recommend her for her current position, then that’s a different story. I would approach her and very clearly state that you found it inappropriate (and that it doesn’t matter if it was a joke or an expression), and directly tell her the consequences if she doesn’t delete the post and show some level of understanding that what she said wasn’t okay: that you will let her program/employer know that you’re rescinding your recommendation due to her judgment, and that you will not serve as a reference or letter writer for any future programs/positions.

    I know that some commenters are or will question if her post was really all that inappropriate. I’d say that it’s borderline enough that a lot of people (including the LW, people who commented on the post, and commenters here!) will not think it’s funny and will be concerned about it, and that’s reason enough not to say that sort of thing. And it’s really not a question of generational differences or changing social mores, especially since I know plenty of professors and TAs of all generations who pull stuff like this and toe the line in weird ways. And it IS weird! We’ve had students speak up about it!

    All in all, if this is a silly hill to die on, it’s silly if you’re going to die on the, “It’s not inappropriate for me to say ‘hard on’ in this context” hill.

      1. Language Lover*


        I don’t want to condemn IT programs in general but I wonder if she fell into a particularly toxic “boys club” graduate program that warped her sense of professional norms and doesn’t realize it.

        But still, the excitement over holding power is just ick. I don’t think that’s taught.

          1. Sandi*

            I am a woman in STEM. I have met hundreds or maybe even a thousand female colleagues, and know maybe a few hundred relatively well to feel confident about their personalities.

            Almost all of these women have experienced sexism. Most try to address it, or at the least acknowledge it and don’t perpetuate it.

            Only the assholes add to it.

        1. JM60*

          “When my students call me PROFESSOR, I get a hard-on” really gives me the impression of someone who has a huge head, and needs people to stroke their ego.

          1. Forrest*

            I don’t particularly like the “hard-on” bit, but to me it’s just, “I worked very hard for a very long time to get to this point and I’m proud of myself” and not remotely about wielding power.

            1. Sutemi*

              If it isn’t about wielding power, why is it just students calling her professor that excites her? Why not the department head, her colleagues?

            2. Elsajeni*

              And especially for a female professor in a male-dominated field, students addressing you as “professor” rather than, like, “miss” or using your first name or something is not necessarily a given, and it’s understandable to feel a thrill when students actually do approach you as an authority. (I haven’t seen whatever new details are downthread yet, but having seen other commenters’ reactions to them, it does sound like this specific person is behaving badly! But without that additional context, the original comment itself would strike me as mainly “a kinda inappropriate way of expressing the understandable and common experience of ‘wow it feels good when students treat me with the appropriate degree of respect'”; it’s the jumping all over someone who objected that I would be more concerned about.)

      2. phira*

        Ah, okay, then heck yeah. And it sounds like from more information in the comments, this is absolutely worth rescinding the recommendation over. That’s so upsetting, I’m so sorry.

    1. Analyst Editor*

      LW2, this letter is an example of why it’s a good idea to not have professional acquaintances in your personal social media, to connect the two at all, or to be too active on social media in general.
      For LW2 specifically, I think you are off-base. I don’t think you should try to walk back your recommendation. Perhaps you are blameless and have never said something you are not proud of, or behaved in less than stellar manner in your life, which you truly would not want your co-workers to know about, and which would in isolation make them question your judgment. I think that your belief that they “won’t be successful” is colored by your displeasure at how they interacted in that FB post.
      As it is, the person you recommended can probably understand context and know enough to behave professionally where appropriate, even if they can use uncouth terminology or be abrasive on social media, with (presumably) normal acquaintance, vs. in any more serious mental health or just general professional setting. Do them the credit of believing that they, like most reasonably intelligent people, have the ability to compartmentalize themselves in different contexts.
      (Not to mention, it seems, at least from a number in my acquaintance, that occasionally mental health professionals have enough problems in their personal lives that, if you judged them on that, you might be wary of their services – and nobody scrutinizes that. So.)

  7. Cary*

    OP#2 I was the one that expressed the discomfort of the post. To give context, I am a teacher and view things differently because of my profession. I responded to her post by saying that if it was a man that posted that, there would be a different reaction. I explicitly stated that it was the power dynamic of professor/student that made me uncomfortable. The professors response was ” women get to own their sexuality-this is normal. We don’t need to be censored by anyone-from men or other women. If it makes you uncomfortable-you can unfriend me.” Every person that name called (Feminazi),or disagreed (that hard-ons are natural biological reaction) with me she gave an encouraging “thumbs up” or “heart emojee” to encourage her followers in an attempt to silence my opinion. The professors reaction to disagreement and the encouragement of hate is what is really shocking and upsetting. Further she wants to go back to school and focus on mental health and female sexuality. Hope this context helps in formulating opinions.

    1. PinaColada*

      Wow! That is shocking. Ummmm, NO. “Own your sexuality”? Yes, own it—OUTSIDE of your work life!! This is fully not-okay with me. Also it seems that some of us took it like she tried to intend it in a non-sexual way, but she is saying it IS connected to her sexuality! Yikes yikes yikes. And yes if this was a man I think he would already be let go from his position.

      1. Willis*

        Yes, this is way worse than the way Alison and commenters interpreted it! Making public proclamations about how you’re turned on by being in power over students is NOT how you own your sexuality. Yuuuuuuck. I can see why the OP would want to rescind her recommendation.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I would rescind the recommendation for this, *and* make it clear why I was doing so, given that she’s planning on going into the mental health field.

        2. Roci*

          Ohhhh my god. This is way worse. This is intentionally invoking the sexual aspect.

          There is so much wrong with this, where to even begin.

          Revoke the recommendation, burn that bridge. That person should not be working in mental health. Or in any position of power.

      2. JM60*

        I would’ve interpreted it as non-sexual “it strokes my ego”, as that phrase is often used non-sexually, but the fact that she seems to be confirming that it is sexual is disturbing.

        1. miss chevious*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t have blinked at the original comment (although it’s not a great comment) as I would have interpreted it as an ego thing and a pleasure in her accomplishments.

          But the subsequent comments about sexuality and the defensiveness and the pile-on would be what led me to retract my recommendation. That’s not behavior I want to be seen as in support of. Had she said something like “I didn’t think of it that way, thanks for your thoughts” even if she didn’t take the original comment down, it wouldn’t feel so reflective of her professional behavior (or lack thereof).

      3. Kes*

        Yeah, you can own your sexuality but that doesn’t mean you get to bring others into it without their consent, especially in a work context and especially where you are in a position of power over the people you’re referencing. That’s really gross and inappropriate

    2. PspspspspspsKitty*

      I’m sorry that happened to you. Knowing this, I would just pull her recommendation. It’s up to the LW if she wants to chat to this professor, but that’s just not okay in my book.

    3. allathian*

      Oh no. This is gross, gross, gross. There’s absolutely no room for sexual power dynamics in a professional setting, none at all, unless you’re a sex worker.

      OP, pull that recommendation now and be explicit about why you’re doing it, and you’ll be doing students a huge favor.

    4. Fancy Owl*

      Ooooh yeah that’s bad. Sounds like she really does need to go back to school if that’s her understanding of feminism but I can see why you wouldn’t want your endorsement associated with her. For the record, empowerment doesn’t mean you can do and say whatever you want without consequence or considering other people. Once you’ve thrown off the unreasonable expectations there are still reasonable expectations left.

    5. LW#2*

      I am heartbroken at the treatment you received from the professor and her commenters. I’m so sorry. You did not deserve that. I will talk with her about how you were treated.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa. That is outrageous, and it’s really clear cut — it’s prohibitive and you should pull the recommendation.

      (And if she’s saying this is about sexuality, then is she saying she was using the term in a sexual way originally? As in, she was saying she’s sexually aroused by students calling her “professor”? If so, I need a stronger word than just “prohibitive.” And if that’s not how she was using the term originally, then her responses bringing sexuality into it afterward indicate some real problems with critical thinking, among other things.)

      1. Retired Prof*

        If OP works in the same institution, she should really bring the offending post to the attention of the offender’s chair. This has bearing on her current job, not just a recommendation for grad school. If a student should find it, there’s the potential for it blowing up. It’s not a matter of ratting on the IT instructor – it’s giving the chair a chance to head off a potentially nasty situation.

        1. PT*

          Yes, take screenshots of the entire post and all of the replies to it so she can’t delete it when called on the carpet about it.

          You could simply submit it to both your university as your complaint, and the university she applied to as evidence for why you are withdrawing your recommendation.

    7. Doc in a Box*

      Wow that’s awful.

      If I were thinking about accepting this person for mental health training, I would want to know this information, honestly. OP, could you write a very bland letter and end it with “I am happy to discuss this person’s candidacy over the phone and can be reached at 555-1234?” Or if the person has waived their right to view the letter (in the US) could you be honest about what you saw? I know the usual recommendation is to decline writing a letter if your comments would hurt the person’s candidacy, but this is so egregious that a potential admission committee ought to know.

    8. Delta Delta*

      Yikes. Just wow. My first thoughts were that 1) she was vague booking and throwing some gentle shade at someone who gets a weird charge out of being called “professor;” or that 2) she is a little too into being in the dominant role of professor and likes having people who she perceives as lessers call her by her title. What Cary describes here is FAR WORSE than all that and is so weird. I feel like if OP doesn’t retract her recommendation (which she may not, as she may stand by the things in her letter, notwithstanding the subsequent Facebook post), Cary could certainly write a letter to the admissions office and include the post and exchange. the school may do nothing with it, but at least they’re on notice.

    9. Smithy*

      That’s horrific, and your original letter afforded your colleague far too much grace. Truly feel inclined to pull the reference.

      I’ve commented above that in my industry – and I’m pretty sure others – there is a tendency to use sexy instead of trendy. By virtue of being sexual and therefore shocking, I think it’s stuck around as a way of cautioning that a trend might immediately seem like a gratifying choice, and because of that it’s extra important to check that it aligns with strategy, business purpose, etc.

      If I was ever asked about why this work choice, I could both explain why and without anything about sexuality, biology, and so on. But also to accept that now, in a year or ten this might be far less appropriate in the workplace. Your colleague’s response seemed to double down on the power imbalance while also being incredibly hostile.

    10. Queer Earthling*

      Yep yep yep this person is gross, I’m sorry this happened to you.

      Further she wants to go back to school and focus on mental health and female sexuality.

      I’m pretty active in the sex educator community and like……………consent! Consent is a thing! If she doesn’t recognize the issue with CONSENT then she should not be focusing on sexuality in an academic context!

    11. JobHoppin*

      Wow. Normal people don’t defining their sexuality in terms of their job on social media (unless they are a sex worker), and hope your “friend” really learns to separate the two.

    12. Annony*

      The new information changes things. Since she was addressing you directly I don’t think you even need to talk to her about it anymore. Just forward it to the school and tell them that in light of this post you no longer feel comfortable recommending her and are rescinding your recommendation.

    13. Butterfly Counter*

      I’m going first start this out by saying that I 100% believe that LW2 should rescind the letter of rec.

      I can see a situation where the professor originally didn’t think about the phrase and that “gives me a hard on” was meant in more as a synonym for “makes me excited.” But then, when called out, she realized that it really wasn’t professional and she did not have a good excuse for using that phrase in this context.

      However (and this is why I think the letter should be rescinded), rather than own up to that fact, the professor started grasping at straws and whatever encouragement other friends gave her that she was right and switched gears to “you can’t tell me how to own my sexuality!!!” which she sees as a more unimpeachable excuse for her wording, when, in fact, it makes it so much worse.

      I don’t know the professor’s heart, but it does read to me that she said something “edgy” to be interesting and funny to her friends, was embarrassed when called out on it, so she thought she found a better and bulletproof reason to post what she did that could end all arguments. I fully realize I might be wrong with this interpretation.

      I still think that LW2 should speak to the professor, explain rescinding the letter, and unless LW2 sees a complete and total change of heart and attitude right then and there, follow through.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Completely agree. Anyone can make a mistake – it’s how you react to being called on it that really counts. And this is where she really failed.

    14. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      wow, thank you for posting here! it’s exciting to hear from the OP, but from another party so directly connected to the situation … that is rare!

      You are completely right about the power dynamic issues involved here, and those are especially sensitive in mental health treatment relationships too (I actually prosecute mental healthcare professionals before their licensing boards, and a lot of my cases involve boundary issues, dual relationships, and exploitation of the client and the power dynamic in general). Her failure to recognize these issues at all, even after they are pointed out to her, and then her reaction to it, and her “liking” all the negative responses … I am now more convinced than ever that OP2 should see about pulling the letter of reference (especially if she responds to OP2 in a way that is anything other than heartily ashamed, providing you with a sincere apology, and made publicly on the social media she used to make the original comment).

    15. Jaydee*

      Two things, one on-topic and one off-topic.

      1) “Owning one’s sexuality” as a woman is not the same thing as saying “men have gotten away with crass, boorish, harassing, assaultive behavior for centuries so I, a woman, am entitled to do the same!” I feel like that’s the vibe I’m getting from this professor, and she might have a real rough road ahead of her if she does go back to school for mental health and female sexuality.

      2) I thought “feminazi” was a term invented by Rush Limbaugh to describe women he perceived as “hating men” because they wanted pesky things like equal rights and bodily autonomy and stuff. How, exactly, were you being a “feminazi” in this situation? Actually, maybe this point is more on-topic than I thought because it gives further support to the idea that what this professor really wants is equal opportunity boorishness.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, I found the feminazi part confusing too! Feminazi is a derogatory term that people use to refer to feminists when they think the feminist is belligerent, aggressive, extreme (and usually just used by misogynists who need to name call anyone who calls them out on it!). But it sounds like they called Cary a feminazi, while at the same time accusing her of blocking a woman’s right to own her own sexuality (which is confusing as well, cause is this a sexual thing or not? if not, and it is just a way of expressing her enjoyment, how is that owning sexuality?). I am really confused by it!

      2. Jackalope*

        A few others have commented that the professor was using the language of feminism to (badly) support her arguments, and in some ways that’s true, but for me the word “feminazi” is a strong red flag that the person is anti-feminism. As you point out, this word was coined by Rush Limbaugh to ridicule, insult, and discredit feminists so it would be harder for them to make headway against the patriarchy. Granted, the professor doesn’t seem to have used the word herself, but giving a thumbs up to everyone else who did is similarly out of line, and indicates to me that she is not in fact a feminist at all.

  8. Fancy Owl*

    Yeah, with #2 I pictured how I’d feel if I saw my female, recently promoted boss post on social media “It gives me such a hard-on when my employees refer to me as the Director in meetings”. Like, even if I was sure she was exaggerating and didn’t have an actual physical reaction, I would still be super creeped out that she referred to our relationship in sexual terms when there are so many other ways she could have put it. And if I talked to her about it and she doubled down? Yikes.

    1. Allonge*

      Oh yes. Actually, this is where just ignoring the gender part comes in handy: would we even have a discussion if this was a man tweeting this, from a similar position of power?

      It’s really icky, and has zero to do with anyone’s right to be comfortable with their sexuality.

  9. LW#2*

    Alison, thank you for your balanced response.

    I work in Special Education, which has colored my perspective. What I found so problematic about her post, was that I read it as celebrating power over her students. I can appreciate her being excited when she hears someone use the title she worked hard to achieve, but that’s not what she said.
    I do plan on trying to have a gentle conversation with her about her response to feedback and how to respond to someone who feels uncomfortable.
    I don’t plan on rescinding my recommendation. After further consideration, counseling school could hopefully allow her to grow in these areas. If she doesn’t, then she won’t succeed, and go back to IT.

    1. Knope Knope Knope*

      Hi OP, completely your choice but I worry that counseling school wouldn’t help her improve and would give her access to have influence and control over vulnerable groups. It might help her. It might not. There are plenty of unethical mental health professionals who are in a position to do real harm. Again, not saying that will definitely happen, but it definitely can. And hoping someone may be ale to get help isn’t the same as giving them your professional endorsement and helping to open the door for someone whose judgment you describe as “heartbreaking” in other comments. I think wishing her well isn’t the same as actively recommending and it sounds like you have well founded serious doubts in this case.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Second this! LW2, if it helps to hear it, I have a child with special needs who is very quick to latch onto what an adult tells her as absolute truth, and has trouble seeing nuance. This person would not have to be deliberately inappropriate to cause real problems for her; we’re still dealing with the aftermath of an offhand (innocent but inappropriate) comment from a teacher that she’d be better at something once she was medicated.

        People in mental health fields need to be very aware of the potential impact of their words, and very quick to apologize and reconsider when they misstep. If this person can’t do that, they absolutely are not right for the field.

      2. LW#2*

        You make great points. I have had a difficult time processing all of this. I’m a gentle, sensitive person, and I have a really hard time with conflict. And, I’m still processing. You and the other commenters are really helping me sort through this. I’m very grateful to you all. We’ll see how she responds when I talk to her.

        1. Roci*

          LW, what is the nail in the coffin for me is that her response to criticism was “I am being censored, my identity shields me from criticism.” She has woke-logicked herself right around into attacking someone (and if this had happened in a workplace, it would have been sexual harassment).

          On top of being power-hungry, of inappropriately using sexual metaphors, of (arguably) bringing sexual attraction into an imbalanced power dynamic, she cannot accept even the most gentle criticism.

          I think she could seriously harm anyone in her power as a mental health worker. And it is important that anyone overseeing her study in this field be aware of her very serious flaws.

          1. arcticshimmer*

            While I understand wanting to give her a chance and having a hard time processing conflict, I have to agree with Roci’s comment. Even if the original comment wouldn’t be so bad, her reaction and allowing a pile-on to (from what I gather, appropriate) criticism makes her very non-recommendable. I wouldn’t want that on my reputation either, recommending someone who acts like this, to mental health field of all the fields.

            It might be misguided feminism thing and her intentions might be good, but this is such a huge NO. She needs to grow up before entering such a fragile field.

          2. Ray Gillette*

            Yeah, we’d be having a very different conversation if her response had been that it was intended to be a joke between friends, she never meant to make anyone uncomfortable, and of course she doesn’t actually get turned on by being called by her work title at work. It still wouldn’t be a workplace-appropriate joke by a long shot, but you know what, I make inappropriate jokes on private social media with friends all the time. Just not where any work colleagues can see, because I’m not a complete idiot (some pieces are missing). But no, she actually meant it in the worst possible way and doubled down in the face of some pretty mild criticism. Gross.

            I’m usually not a fan of “what if the genders were reversed” because I think it’s often used in very lazy and disingenuous ways, but this time it was right on the money. Nobody would be talking about “owning your sexuality” if a male professor made a post like that.

        2. Bagpuss*

          If you have screenshots of the conversation on facebook perhaps you could send an updating letter to the schools stating that in light of this conversation you have concerns about her suitability, and are no longer comfortable proceedings with your recommendation, as the comments are concerning in that they appear to show she has little understanding of appropriate boundaries and the impact of power on the dynamic and that you are worried about her aggressive and confrontation approach when concerns were raised.

          That way, the school can take into account her actions as well as the rest of her application and recommendations.

        3. anonymous 5*

          LW2, I’m pretty gentle and sensitive myself. In my personal life, I can be really nervous even to state my boundaries, let alone enforce them. Even in my professional life (I’m a professor), I’m not particularly interested in showing off the “power” I have, certainly not just for its own sake.

          BUT when I have a *responsibility* to use my power, the tiger comes out. And, in this case, I’d say that you have both power and responsibility: a grad program in a mental health field should, in principle, have multiple means of vetting candidates for admission and throughout the program. But really, that depends on all of the components functioning. Don’t assume that the program will change the person. Don’t assume that the person will wash out of the program. Don’t assume that she’ll be rejected for some “other” reason so that your reference wouldn’t matter. Assume that the program needs to know this information. They can make the call on what they do with the info.

          Supportive comments on someone’s social media page don’t necessarily mean you’re in the minority (as I hope you can see from the comments here). And even if you were: this is behavior that speaks to a person being *poorly* suited for work in a mental health field. If you’re the “only” person who’s willing to speak up against it, that makes it all the *more* important for you to do so.

        4. EPLawyer*

          I get it, you see this as a “conflict” because you think the “professor” is going to argue with you and try to talk you into not rescinding your recommendation. But there is no argument here. you are NOT going to convince the “professor” she did something wrong. She made clear in her Facebook response she sees herself in the right.

          You can’t reason with the unreasonable.

          Your talk with her is not a conversation. It is a polite professional statement of fact. I am withdrawing my recommendation because it is clear you lack the good judgment to provide mental health treatment to others. Your posting of that Facebook post in the first place which you clearly meant to be taken sexually was inappropriate. Your response when someone raised concerns was to refuse to consider it might be problematic and actively encourage others to attack the person who raise concerns. This is not what a mental health professional does.
          ANd that’s IT. You don’t wait to see how she responds (you already know), you don’t give her a chance to talk you out of it.

          I used professor in quotes because I have SERIOUS concerns about this person’s judgment — no matter the field. I don’t think this person should be teaching students at all, even in a field like IT that is a lot less touchy feely than other fields if you know what I mean.

          1. arcticshimmer*

            ^ This is a very good model for a reply, LW#2, I hope you see this! It doesn’t have to be a negotiation, it can be a statement of the facts.

        5. Lacey*

          I think that because you are gentle and sensitive person, you may be giving this problematic person too much credit. I see this happen a lot with people who are really kind themselves – or who are in an abusive dynamic – where they give someone who is doing something awful the credit of what their own feelings would be if they did something awful.

          But, if this person had those feelings, they most likely would not have compounded the problem by being nasty.

      3. LTL*

        Will also note on top of this, that more often than not, people learn from consequences. Kind intentions often lead to enabling behavior (and can send the message “its okay”).

      4. Kes*

        Yeah, counselling seems like giving someone who inappropriately enjoys her power over others, access to and power over people who may be more vulnerable. It’s a position of trust where it’s particularly important that the power dynamic is not abused. If that’s what she wants to go into I’d be more concerned, not less

    2. Language Lover*

      “After further consideration, counseling school could hopefully allow her to grow in these areas. If she doesn’t, then she won’t succeed, and go back to IT.”

      It’s not solely your responsibility to stop her from becoming a graduate in her new chosen field but I am not convinced she wouldn’t make it through the program even if she displays poor behavior.

      I work adjacent to the instruction of medical professionals and I’ve been privy to conversations in person and on ListServs surrounding issues of professionalism. From what I can tell from those conversations, there is a real hesitancy to not graduate someone due to a lack of this kind of professionalism. This is especially true if the student has already poured a lot of money and time into the coursework and those professionalism issues creep up towards the end of their programs when they hit clinic situations. Schools naturally try to correct behavior but sometimes a student will not listen or learn. Some do get prevented from graduating but the bar is high (or low?) and people make it through who likely shouldn’t.

      1. Language Lover*

        BTW, I should make it clear that the people I spoke with (professors) lament that they’re not able to do more to stop people from going into the field but it’s not always ultimately up to them this late in the game.

      2. GothicBee*

        Agreed. This depends on the institution, but, especially if she hasn’t started in the program, I would at least recommend withdrawing the recommendation even if you don’t get into why. I work at a university and I can tell you firsthand that we have had many people graduate who, quite frankly, shouldn’t have for various reasons. The time and money thing is a big part of it. Plus the stats are a big deal, and a lot of institutions are more concerned with showing that people who start the program finish and get a job after graduation, rather than whether they’re successful long term.

        Also, you’re talking about letting someone spend time and money on a program where you’re kind of hoping they’ll get weeded out. Not that she’s deserving of a ton of sympathy here, but it’s probably better to make your opinion know now so that it has less likelihood of happening. Even if withdrawing the recommendation doesn’t mean she’s not accepted into the program, you may at least be showing her that how she behaves professionally is a big deal.

    3. Lobsterp0t*

      Unfortunately there isn’t anything magical about counselling school that will teach someone not to be a creep or power trip.

    4. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Oh no! Rescind the recommendation! A gentle conversation will likely be completely missed by this person. And they could do a lot of harm before failing in the mental health field.

    5. Stacy*

      I also work in special education, and maybe it would help to think of her working with that population as a way to frame it. Do you think this is the type of judgement, attitude, and professionalism that should be extended to those vulnerable populations? Because that’s who she will be coming into contact with. OP, this goes way beyond how she responds to feedback. If anything, I hope you feel a responsibility to the people she would be working with and do everything in your power to stop her.

    6. BethDH*

      In my grad program, we started being TAs the first year, meaning we were teaching discussion/lab sessions on our own with undergraduate students the very first semester. How much growth do you think she would do before that?
      I hope that a good program would teach her why her speech and response to criticism is a problem, but I think it might just teach her to be more careful about social media and what to say around people in positions of power. I don’t think it would teach her the right lesson or soon enough.

    7. Need to Remain Anon for this one*

      As someone who works for a graduate program in counseling, I am begging you to contact the program and rescind the recommendation. Counseling programs can help students to do their own personal work and grow, but the truth is that they have to come into the program having already done a certain amount of personal development and be open to more development to be successful. A person who would make this statement is questionable, but to defend it and encourage a pile on of defenders at someone who raised a concern is absolutely not ready for this work. The counseling profession asks its members to be advocates for social justice, and this woman used the language of feminism to shield herself from a critique of her problematic behavior. This applicant is not ready for this field and if allowed to enter it, will have tremendous ability to harm vulnerable people.

      If we discovered this about a student already in the program, they would be put on probation with an eye towards dismissal. It is quite serious. Please do not let it go unremarked upon.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It is your choice, but I advise you withdraw the recommendation. School can only do so much for her. I prosecute mental health professionals who violate the laws and regulations governing their profession before their licensing boards in my state. I can honestly say that there are a lot of people who spend many years in school and in residency who still fail to understand the delicate issues surrounding the power dynamics and the importance of maintaining clear and firm boundaries and of not invalidating their clients’ experiences. Sure, I prosecute them with an eye to having their licenses suspended or revoked, or for getting them put under terms for professional supervision and required therapy, but by the time their cases reach my desk, they have caused someone, often many people, significant harm. And many of those individuals who were harmed tell me they will never seek professional mental health treatment again due to the experience. It’s really heartbreaking.

    9. Adultiest Adult*

      I need to join those saying not to assume that ‘counseling school’ will educate these problematic intentions and points of view out of her. Graduate school for mental health counseling is designed to help people who are already mature and professional learn specific skills that make them effective counselors. It is not designed to teach people how to be mature or professional, and I also reacted strongly to the implications that she received some kind of charge (whether sexual or otherwise) from being in a position of power over others. That’s extremely problematic going into a field where the power differential is inherent and it is the counselor’s responsibility to recognize that and be above reproach in that regard. “First, do no harm” isn’t just for doctors. Please contact the school and rescind that recommendation. This is not someone who has the maturity or wisdom to enter the counseling field.

  10. John Smith*

    #LW5, I’ve seen this situation before and it was almost always in organisations that have such a high rate of staff turnover that managers would be spending all their time interviewing. Call centre type environments spring to mind. Personally, I’d see it as a red flag in most situations. On saying that, my last interview panel involved managers exclusively and they weren’t able to answer questions either!

    1. OP #5*

      Early in my working life I had the same experience, which I didn’t perceive as a red flag then, but the interview I described above was for a highly specialized role making low/mid six figures and requiring a cross-country relocation!

  11. Hurrah*

    LW1, presume your employer, in a couple of weeks/months, makes vaccination mandatory and asks for proof of vaccination – will they respond reasonably when the date on the paperwork shows that you were vaccinated prior to HR requesting you volunteer your vaccination status?

    I mean, they should. But if your company has a habit of responding unreasonably to employees’ reasonable boundaries – withholding professional opportunities, snide remarks, being first in line for layoffs – consider whether it is more pragmatic to tell them right now.

    1. VaccinatedAtHome*

      This is something I hadn’t thought of or considered- thanks for bringing it up. I’m curious if it might be common practice that they would need to see and/or review my vaccination card down the line. I think it’s highly unlikely they’ll make being vaccinated mandatory, but it’s possible.

      1. doreen*

        The problem is we don’t know what will be common practice a few months from now. Just as an example, I have season tickets for a baseball team. I have been notified that attendance for at least the April games requires either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within a certain time frame. I would assume that at some point, they will have the same requirements for the stadium employees – and also that at some point, the negative test option will go away.

        I think in your situation I would assume that at some point vaccination will be mandatory and decide what to do based on what their reaction will be. It seems safer than assuming they will never find out that you were vaccinated and didn’t tell them and basing your decision on that assumption.

    2. Kes*

      I mean, it’s true they may react unfavourably later, but if they may also react unfavourably now, the impact to OP may still be greater from telling them now

  12. Tussy*

    LW My first impression was that you shouldn’t talk to them about it, they reacted badly to the other person calling them out then they will react badly to you as well, but because it will probably damage their chances rather than be a neutral thing I now think it’s probably better to do that so you know you aren’t going nuclear.

    But if you know you won’t be swayed I think you should do it. We don’t need anymore tone deaf assholes who don’t understand the impact of words to be working in mental health.

  13. Anon for this*

    #2, it’s not clear to me if the professor is friends with students on social media? That is very much frowned upon at the universities my friends and brother-in-law teach at. I see that the professor was using a private account, was the comment fully public?

    1. Forrest*

      My initial thought on reading this is that it’s very different on a public Twitter feed where you identify yourself as a professor, than in a private Facebook post that maybe 70-80 people can read. You’ve got a lot more latitude in the latter for “my friends know me and get this is a joke / tongue-in-cheek / an exaggeration. But having seen the comments further up about how she defended it as “women get to own our sexuality” (as distinct from, “OK, that was in bad taste but I didn’t mean *literally* turned on by my students, ew”), I don’t think that’s as relevant after all. Someone who’ll talk about being turned on by the power dynamic between her and her students as *literally* a turn-on shouldn’t be working with vulnerable people. It’s just way, way too open to abuse.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Absolutely agree that where the comment was said is irrelevant. Even if Colleague said it during a one-on-one conversation with LW#2, it is still problematic for all of the reasons that are being discussed.

    2. LW#2*

      I don’t believe it was public. She has hundreds of friends. How private can she expect a provocative statement to be, though? I don’t know.

  14. Mannheim Steamroller*


    If Jane and Tom push back, then make your point by simply applying for your former job.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Nooo, this is a terrible idea. One, it’s passive-aggressive (which I think is a poor choice in any context). Second, going directly against what your manager tells you to do (especially in such a big way) would destroy OP#3’s relationship with their boss.

      Maybe your comment was missing a sarcasm tag or it sarcasm was implied?

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        OP was trying to simply be reassigned back to her former job, and both Jane and Tom would rather keep her in a job that she hates.

        My suggestion was that OP should apply through the external process for the job she actually wants. There is no bridge burned, because both Jane and Tom have already lied to OP by denying her the promised opportunity to return to that job.

  15. Sammie*

    I just want to say thank you for the advice Alison! Sometimes I struggle to assert myself and be confident I’m doing the right think because I’m pretty new to this type of working environment. You’re right I don’t think either of my managers were intentionally doing something wrong, I just hope they’ll be receptive to what I have to say.

  16. anonanna*

    I feel like people are going soft on OP #2 because of gender dynamics. Making a sexual comment like that *about students* is gross, joking or not, female or not. If it was a man I think the commenters would be going for the throat. Personally, if I saw one of my female professors post something like that I’d be incredibly uncomfortable (as a woman with sexual trauma in her past).

    1. Cat Tree*

      I completely agree. I think she was also using the term ironically, but intent isn’t magic. If a male professor posted the same thing in the same way, we would all be cringing.

      I get it that as women we often use terms like this because it’s unexpected from us or in a certain context. (For example, I’ll say “put a ring on it” for some unexpected but pleasant trait in a man.) And we don’t usually mean it sexually. But it’s one thing to say among friends and a different thing to post it. And an even worse thing to get defensive when a commenter called her out. It wasn’t the worst thing ever to make the comment, but she should have realized her lapse in judgment when it was pointed out. The way she reacted definitely makes me question her judgment.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If it was a man I think the commenters would be going for the throat.

      I think you eventually get numb to that. If it were a man, the reaction would be different, but it’s not, so that’s moot.

      1. JustaTech*

        There was a male professor at my college who used a often-sexual phrase in class, to the whole freshman class. The professor didn’t realize that “blow your wad” has a sexual meaning (I didn’t either, I thought it meant “spend all your money”), but as soon as the students laughed he figured out something was wrong.

        So he apologized, profusely, to everyone, talked to the Deans and the college president, apologized again, and never said it again. And because he wasn’t a creep, and he didn’t ever say anything like it again, his apology was believed. (He was a really great guy.)

        That is how a good professor, a sensible professor, heck, a sensible person, deals with being called out for something like that.

  17. Glitterati*

    #2 I tell my four year old that there are things you say in your brain that you don’t say out of your mouth. Sounds like this advice applies to adults as well.
    I took her comment as sexual (and totally creepy) but maybe because it’s not commonly used in any other way in the country I live in (not the US). I work in a law enforcement training school and if I said “recruits calling me (title) gives me a hard-on” I’d almost certainly be fired. The disciplinary hearing would definitely focus on the power imbalance and perceived sexual nature of the comment no matter how I said I meant it. Mind you, if I said it about a peer I’d also be fired because it’s inappropriate and gross and makes other people uncomfortable.
    There’s normally a pattern to this sort of comment/behaviour and what appears to be a one off generally isn’t when you look into it. I doubt this situation is much different. Can’t help wanting to dig through the rest of her social media to see what other career limiting comments/arguments are hidden in there.
    In my workplace it’s also expected that employees report below the line comments or behaviour like this and it’s not looked upon favourably if you know something and don’t mention it. My gut says withdraw that recommendation as you don’t want to be associated with someone who behaves like this, esp if it turns out to be a regular occurrence. If someone asks you in the future if you saw any red flags you’ll likely feel horrible about it.
    Best of luck!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      It’s also a sexual based phrase in the US, but is also used in other ways.

      Just wanted to say really that your comment hits it out of the park. This is exactly why the comment was out of line and the doubling down made it even worse. In just about every workplace in the US this would have you answering to HR and disciplinary action.

  18. Colin R.*

    LW4: I’ve worked at companies where you can fake recommend someone because of this kind of situation. You submit them like any other recommendation, but with a flag that says, “don’t actually hire them”, and the company will officially reject them in the resume screening process.

  19. Glitterati*

    #2 I also wondered if the use of the phrase used was deliberately inflammatory. As in, is this a person who says things she knows will invoke a strong reaction, either positive or negative? There are so many other less provoking phrases available, why pick that one.

  20. Tuckerman*

    LW 2: I don’t think the phrase can be used to convey general excitement when it’s used to describe an experience with actual people. The reason it’s funny (to some) to use it in a general way is because they’re describing something inherently non-sexual (e.g., food). The second you add a person/relationship dynamic, it loses the disconnect that makes it funny.
    I work in higher ed and writing something like that could actually be a violation of a couple different policies. At minimum, it shows poor judgment.

    1. Smithy*

      Really cleanly put. Had the post been about having a hard-on for tulip season, it feels far easier to contextualize it as being excited for the flowers rather than forcing it into a sexual context.

    2. Elenna*

      Yes! Especially a relationship dynamic that specifically involves having power over other people.

  21. Morning reader*

    Re LW2: I agree, especially given subsequent comments, that the Facebook post was inappropriate and even disqualifying for mental health work.

    Linguistically I’m curious about the phrase, though. The controversy brings to mind the pushback against “sucks” a few decades back when Bart Simpson made it popular among schoolchildren. Many teachers I knew banned the word, I’m sure due to the sexual connotation. It was a losing battle, getting them to stop saying it. Now, saying something sucks is innocuous and has little connection to the original sexual meaning.
    Will “hard-on” be an innocuous phrase in 30 years? Maybe. It’s clearly not now.

    1. Bostonian*

      I… am just realizing what “sucks” means. (Side note: I grew up when The Simpsons was on TV, and my mother did NOT let us watch it.) I’ve always just thought of it as referring to something being awful without thinking through what it would mean to be used as a transitive verb. And I’m cringing inside a bit because I definitely used it during a meeting this week.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think it’s an example of the fact that language does change, and that words can become more or less offensive over time, particularly when (as with that one) they become more distanced from their original meaning.

        I think saying something sucks is now a fairly mild expression and not on which would normally be seen as sexual (unless of course the context draws attention to its origins)

        1. Smithy*

          I do think that this really matters. There are so many examples of the divide just now in UK-US English where words can hit a range regarding how offensive. However, I think the more critical feature here is to be willing to listen to when language is more or less contextually inappropriate.

          Growing up, “sucks” and “blows” were hilarious to me because they pissed my mom off so much more than other “bad words”. If it was her secret mission to have me say those far more than the other options, then she succeeded. But that’s child-parent dynamics. If I started to hear about how at work we needed to stop saying those because they were really offensive to a vulnerable group of people – I do want to believe I’d hear that differently.

    2. Cj*

      I’ve been using the word “sucks” for decades – long before the Simpsons (which I’ve never watched) was on TV. I have never thought about it being sexual. I guess I can see if that is where you mind goes, it could be. There was actually an article on Slate that provided an alternative origin of the word, and phrase I don’t recall, that starts with sucks and means inferior, and has never had anything to do with sex.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My friend from Texas gave me an example of the kind of jokes he’d tell as a weather reporter on local radio: “it’s vampire weather today folks. Because this tornado really sucks”.

    3. anon4this*

      To me, what you’re describing is more like an insulting term that sounds innocent, like “spinner” for women. It sounds innocuous until you look up its meaning.
      “Sucks” or “suck” as the definition of the word doesn’t have sexual connotation. Saying something “sucks” is just slang for something inadequate. It doesn’t follow the connotation, as the connotation would indicate pleasure.

      1. Sue Wilson*

        i think the implication you’re missing is that being the person who sucks (or blows) was for a long time considered actively unpleasant. the connotation doesn’t indicate pleasure but servicing without a return service.

    4. TWW*

      The etymological history of a word or phrase doesn’t matter that much. It’s more important to consider how people will react to your words today.

      If I say, “that guy sucks,” no one will think I’m referring to sex, even if that was at one time what the phrase meant. I could say it at work and no one would care.

      On the other hand, if I said, “that guy is niggardly,” I would get a serious talking to.

    5. FlyingAce*

      Interesting. I get to see the surveys our customers fill out after interacting with our employees; the survey software censors the word “sucks”, which I always found weird as in my mind it was a harmless word. Then again, English is not my first language… (I did grow up watching the Simpsons, lol – but it was the Latin American dubbing)

  22. Cat Tree*

    Just a general PSA related to LW1: vaccines don’t work instantly because it takes time for your body to respond. I suspect that certain companies will push to have people return to in-person the day after vaccination. The CDC considers people to be fully vaccinated 2 weeks after the last dose. This info is on the CDC website for people who think it would be useful to push back against an employer like that.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Hmm, the CDC web page says 2 weeks even for the single dose vaccine (I’ll add the link in a comment). But everything is so new there could certainly be conflicting info even from reputable sources. Where did you get the guidance of 28 days? I’m not getting the J&J vaccine, but if I did I’d probably take the most cautious approach from a good source.

    1. VaccinatedAtHome*

      This is great to point out! It’s a line I would feel comfortable holding as an employee- not coming back until 2 weeks after my second Moderns shot.

    2. CheeryO*

      I’d be surprised if anyone had to push back on that. At least in my experience, it seems to be universally understood that there’s a lag between the second shot and immunity.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Based on what I’ve seen on this site, quite a few companies care less about safety and more about butts in seats. It’s not about general knowledge; it’s about certain companies not caring about safety and looking for any reason to get people back on site.

        Also, I’m not convinced that knowledge of the lag is universal. I’ve seen multiple posts about people getting the shot, and then being so glad that the can finally hug Grandma later that same day. I’ve also heard of people going to bars or parties the day after getting the vaccine, but they might have done that even before they were vaccinated.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “At least in my experience, it seems to be universally understood that there’s a lag between the second shot and immunity.”

        Oh, I don’t think so. Many people don’t know this.

  23. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: I hate the term “hard-on” in general and would never use it in any context, but . . .

    . . . I also have a lot of classmates who are now women in professorial positions and basically have to deal with constantly being called “Ms.” or by their first names by students and other faculty who don’t do this to male professors. So, as much as I don’t like it a) It was on her personal social media, not on a university page, and b) I can definitely understand the sentiment.

    (And, at least where I am, the meaning of it has definitely migrated to excitement over non-sexual things, so I would not hurry to interpret it as sexual excitement.)

    1. HailRobonia*

      I work at a university and default to “Professor LastName” unless I know them well. One time I got chided by the department head for addressing her so formally – she said it made her feel like she was in trouble (I worked doing administration and I think she was worried there was some overdue paperwork or something).

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Someone commented above with more details and it was definitely sexual, which makes it absolutely inappropriate

    3. Asenath*

      University faculty, male and female, are more and more informal these days, and are often called by their first names by students and certainly by colleagues and office staff – except, usually, when the staff etc are talking to someone outside the department or university. Then, it’s more formal. I generally start with “Dr. Jones”, wanting to be formal and professional, but am almost invariably told “Call me Jane” or “Call me John”, so from then on I do. That’s both as a worker and as a student. While I get that one’s first professorship (so much better than being a sessional lecturer!) is really a big deal and very exciting, I don’t quite get the apparent importance of the title itself. And in my corner of the world, the meaning of the phrase still has a very definitely sexual meaning, so I wouldn’t have thought the person who used it in that context meant it non sexually. Apparently she did mean it sexually, according to another comment.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever called university professors by their title when I was a student. I’d consider it a bit weird for them to insist on it. The approach was very much “we’re all colleagues working on learning together” rather than being hierarchical. All of ours at my university including the chair of the department went by first names. Come to think of it even the Chancellor (Sir Shridath Rhamphal) was known to everyone by his nickname of Sonny. So I don’t think British universities are very formal (although I can only speak for the one I attended).

        The only exception was the visiting German professor who insisted on being Professor Dr Dr Schmidt. I think German law professors are a bit more exacting.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          In grad school 10 years ago (a library school) one of my professors told me we should be calling our professors “professor X” or Ms/Mr X until we graduated. And I agree. This was not a particularly hierarchical place in other respects, but that little bit of formality seemed very appropriate to me.

      2. Elenna*

        Yes, but the issue that Dust Bunny is referring to that there is a pattern of students defaulting to “Professor LastName” for male professors but defaulting to first names without being invited for female professors. It’s a difference in how people treat different genders, unrelated to how informal the university is in general.

        1. Asenath*

          But I haven’t noticed such a pattern, maybe because the default now seems to be first names for everyone. I did say I start out with “Dr. “, but I’m definitely being more formal than is the current local practice. The fact that my experience is different than Dust Bunny’s may indicate that forms of address vary by location, and the thrill the person described in the letter felt over being a professor may or may not have any connection with whether she, as a female, wanted to be addressed as “Professor” or had trouble persuading students to do so.

          As an aside, in Canada, a “professor” is a pretty senior position, and isn’t often used as a form of address at all – even the most formal would say “Dr. Jones”, not “Professor Jones”. Someone with their first appointment as a university teacher would be an assistant or associate professor (depending perhaps on whether they had experience elsewhere) or even an adjunct.

          1. miss chevious*

            It’s a pretty widely-experienced phenomenon experienced by female professors in a number of different locations (witness the furor drummed up by the political right that Jill Biden shouldn’t be called “doctor” because she isn’t a medical doctor). The fact that you, personally, haven’t noticed it isn’t super relevant to Dust Bunny’s point.

            1. Asenath*

              Two data points, me and Dust Bunny. Three if you’ve experienced university education. Not evidence, but enough information for a casual discussion. I’ll add another one – in my part of the world, the only people who use “Dr.” in any kind of a social setting are doctors and dentists, and it’s becoming rarer with them. So a PhD would not use “Dr.” socially at all, and with workplaces becoming less and less hierarchical, it would be a little unusual for her to do so there. Now, I don’t follow American politics in any detail, so I don’t know if Jill Biden is or was working in an area in which her doctorate was relevant and the place was formal enough for titles to be used. But if the argument is that she should use her academic title in regular daily life, she can, of course, but it’s not only people on the political right who will find it odd.

              1. Slumber12*

                Just because you haven’t personally observed something doesn’t mean the trend stops existing. Instead of relying on individual anecdotes, I recommend you research the phenomenon. Many, many female professors have had this experience. Trust me, academia is not free from sexism. Far from it.

                Jill Biden is an educator with a doctorate in education.

                1. Asenath*

                  I did not say that I thought academia was free from sexism. I said that PhDs often avoid using their titles in social situations (and increasingly in work situations), and that can be a reason for negative reactions against those who do use academic titles socially.

              2. kt*

                For heaven’s sake, the original post was about a student-professor context. Why must we make this about all the other things?

                signed, “miss kt” who is your professor.

    4. Courageous cat*

      I think honestly *everyone* understands the sentiment. That’s really not what’s in question here, it’s her judgment regarding her phrasing.

      1. JB*

        Exactly. And her judgement in how she responded to someone who was uncomfortable with that phrasing.

        If she had said ‘I’ve worked hard to get here, but it’s all worth it when I hear someone call me ‘professor’!’ it wouldn’t be an issue.

        If she’d responded to the comment with ‘I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean it sexually, but I see how it could have been misunderstood!’ it wouldn’t be an issue either.

  24. anon4this*

    Regarding OP#2-
    Where does the line get drawn exactly? I’ve heard of reclaiming old words (b*tch, queer, etc.), or the suggestion of adopting patriarchal phrases (“I’ve got a bigger *blank* than you, pal”), but this is completely 100% inappropriate in a professional work setting.
    And what’s with the overwhelming positive comments for something said like this and pile ons to *one person* saying it made them uncomfortable? Like, are people okay?
    I’d rescind the recommendation immediately and not want my name in any way associated with this person. Especially one towards mental health.

      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Huh really? In close environments I’ve definitely self-identified as queer or talked about the queer community. Does that come off unprofessionally? I like it as an umbrella term.

            1. Unfettered scientist*

              I also totally missed the double negative too lol. Thanks for pointing that out!

  25. VaccinatedAtHome*

    Thanks for your advice, Alison! I’ve been hopeful that my company might re-think their lack of flexibility around working from home options post-pandemic (my job can be done entirely remotely), but it doesn’t seem likely.

    I had asked HR if they could give me any additional information about their plan for pulling folks back into the office prior to those e-mails going out. My wife is pregnant and we’re expecting a baby this summer- thus have been trying to plan for post-parental-leave childcare. I wasn’t surprised they declined to give additional information, but a bit disappointed.

    I’ve been mentally preparing for going back into the office full-time after my parental leave ends in the fall and it sounds like you think employers are on a similar timeline.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Hi OP1, have you straight-out told your company that you prefer working from home? You might be surprised if you do and they say, Hmmm, for OP1 we could maybe bend the rules. My current org is also a butt-in-seats kind of place and that always bothered me, especially given that my position really can be 100% remote. When we started WFH last year I realized how much more I enjoy life when I can be home so much and began looking for and found a new position that is WFH. When I told my current org I was leaving they asked what they could do to keep me and even though I knew the answer really is nothing because I’m ready to move on, I was curious what they would throw at me as a counter-offer. I told them #1 WFH and #2 more vacation. The counter-offer they sent is really quite excellent but I’m not going to accept it because I really am ready to move on (Alison’s advice here is really good about why you shouldn’t accept a counter!).

      My point, though, is that you might have a lot more negotiating power than you think and they might, just *might,* rethink the situation if they thought you were unhappy or would be willing to leave to find a fully remote position. I wouldn’t interview elsewhere just for the heck of it (again, read Alison’s advice about counter-offers) but you could certainly try to get what you want from your current firm without doing so.

      Of course, all this advice is moot if you absolutely know your company wouldn’t allow it. I have a friend who works for a place like that and I’m mad on her behalf that they are; she’s had a few really good employees who moved within state and wanted to WFH to save on a long commute but the company wouldn’t let them so they quit.

      1. VaccinatedAtHome*

        Hello! I’ve told my manager several times that I enjoy working from home, feel very productive from home, and am interested in working part-time or full-time from home moving forward if it’s an option. Your situation is really interesting- I’ve considered looking for another job in the next year partly because of my employer’s lack of flexibility, like you, but I would be curious to see if they’d reconsider their position in that situation or if I more strongly worded mg position. It’s a tough line to walk.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Sure is! And when you’re expecting a baby it’s a tough time to be looking for new work. I wish you all the best, OP!

    1. Cat Tree*

      Based on projected vaccine supply, I really hope it’s Labor Day. But that’s probably just wishful thinking.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think enough people will be vaccinated by Memorial Day – and I also don’t think making people start commuting at the beginning of summer would be very popular.

      1. ApplePie*

        I think it depends on location. I live in a state that’s opening up vaccine appointments to all adults starting March 29. So, in theory, it’s possible. Although I don’t think it’s realistic.

        1. Cat Tree*

          There’s a difference between being allowed to sign up and actually getting an appointment though. Most people in 1a have to stalk various websites at the correct time of day down to the minute just to catch a spot.

          I work in vaccine manufacturing and I know that production is ramping up but we just don’t have enough right now.

          (As a side note, I’m not a huge fan of opening up to the general public while the supply is still limited. It makes it even harder for people in 1a to get a vaccine, and because of the age cut-off many people in 1a aren’t as tech savvy. My elderly mom probably won’t be able to get a vaccine until September, after the general public has theirs with a bunch leftover.)

    3. miss chevious*

      My employer (a large U.S. corporation) made clear in January that work from home was extended through Labor Day. Leadership wants there to be enough time for vaccination to have an effect on cases before return to office is mandated.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      President Biden has said that all adult Americans will be able to get a vaccine by the end of May IIRC because of the rate at which vaccination programs are progressing and indeed accelerating (increasing numbers of arms per day). A lot of people will have had at least one dose by Labor Day even if they aren’t fully vaccinated or fully protected. Where mitigations can be put in place (improved ventilation, perspex barriers, masks, distancing) I can see employers thinking that’s sufficient.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I just fail to see where the advantage is of working in an office, masked, vs. from home if you have a decent setup to do so. It’s just butts-in-seats.

        That said, for once I’m jealous of you in the US. I’m in Finland and unlikely to get my first vaccine before June at the earliest. They’ve extended the period between vaccinations to 12 weeks for the Moderna, Pfizer-Biontech and AstraZeneca vaccines to ensure that more people get at least partial immunity sooner. The J&J vaccine isn’t in use here yet. Current vaccination coverage is around 15 percent of the population.

    5. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I’m guessing Labor Day. Even if we have an influx of supply in the next month (which is, well, not necessarily totally off the wall), kids under 16 are still not approved to be vaccinated by the FDA and summer camps and other summer childcare options for school-aged kids are going to be limited. It seems the goal across the board is to have in-person education resume on a wide scale in the fall, so Labor Day make sense.

      To OP1 – you’ve been/being vaccinated, but has your spouse? Pregnancy is considered a risk factor per the CDC and the jury is still out as to whether those vaccinated can still be carriers (looking like probably not, but not conclusive yet), so you would have a strong case to stay remote until the baby is born.

      1. VaccinatedAtHome*

        My spouse hasn’t been vaccinated yet but will be in the near future after our state expands eligibility a little more. Her pregnancy and high-risk status because of it is something I’ve emphasized to my manager when it comes to preferences on returning to work/not returning to work earlier (some on my team have elected to return to the office). Because of the risk I think I’ll be fine to work from home until after the baby is born and my parental leave is up.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          One thing I’ve seen quite a bit of over the last months is a LIMITED return to the office, say, a couple days a week *unless you are in a high risk category* (i.e., qualify for a reasonable accommodation), OR you have a household member in a high risk category (so, a not-RA accommodation of some sort), OR you have a childcare quandary (such as school aged kids who are remote learning and can’t be left home alone but are otherwise self-directed). They aren’t there yet (maybe are worried about trying to manage a staggered in/out schedule, or not in a position to handle the OSHA/building requirements around enhanced cleaning), so that’s probably why they are looking for volunteered information at this time.

  26. Miniature House*

    LW4: Don’t feel bad about ignoring the contact. I worked for a guy for years who said I stabbed him in the back when I finally escaped the toxic cesspool of that business. He would occasionally call and text the me and the other person who left at the same time. I completely ignored them like an awful ex and they stopped soon. If he didn’t treat me like an indentured servant who should be grateful to even get a paycheck it might have been different.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I saw Cary’s comment above, so I know the spirit with which the PROFESSOR meant her comment, and yuck.

    The other thing that stands out is that this is so gross about power, and that if this person is wired this way, it gives me some serious pause about them working in a mental health field. Is this person manipulative in other ways? Does this person take advantage of vulnerable people? Is there a serious possibility of harm to clients/patients if they rely on this person for services? It could be this comment was a one-off situation, but could also serve as a springboard for the OP to reexamine other interactions and whether or not their recommendation can continue to stand.

    Sidenote: I’m a part-time professor. I don’t like it. I ask the students to call me Delta. They never do.

    1. LW#2*

      I’m hoping this is not a pattern of behavior. It’s becoming clear to me, after reading everyone’s comments, that I have an ethical obligation to notify her program with my concerns. The whole situation makes me very sad and disturbed.

      1. anon for this*

        Way to go on this one, for real. It’s tough to come forward about something like this, but I was mistreated by a counselor years ago – not abused, but given such horribly bad advice by a self absorbed person in charge of children – that I spent more than a decade in terrified silence after that. I don’t understand how that counselor got their degree. If there is evidence that someone’s judgment is way off, a responsible program will want to know.

        1. LW#2*

          I’m so sorry for your experience with a bad counselor. Your story helps reinforce that I have to do the right thing and let the program know.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    What does rescinding a recommendation mean in this context? It sounds like the Prof has already used the rec.

    1. F.M.*

      Probably involves contacting the place the rec was sent to, to say “Nope, I no longer want to recommend this person.” Which, if they haven’t been accepted yet, is probably still relevant information.

      The few times I’ve written a rec for a student applying to grad school, they gave my info to the place they were applying, and that place sent me a form, where I filled out/confirmed various details, uploaded the letter, and could see whether or not the student had opted into the ability to see what I wrote. I’m sure other places handle it differently. But I’ve always had those records to tell me which institutions I’ve recommended the students to, so it would probably be simple for me to find the admissions department and contact them about changing (or removing) my recommendation if I had reason.

  29. Antilles*

    “My guess is we’re going to see a lot of companies bringing most people back by Labor Day-ish. Not all companies. But a lot. You’ll see exceptions for people with medical conditions that mean they can’t get vaccinated, and you’ll see exceptions for people who negotiate separate arrangements for themselves. But it’s coming.”
    This is my expectation too.
    Right now, in a lot of places, vaccination is either not yet open to everyone and/or appointments are hard to get. But by mid summer, almost everybody who wants to be vaccinated will be, so I think companies will be figuring things are basically back to normal, let’s fully re-open. Individual workers might be able to get exceptions and there’ll probably be more overall flexibility on telework since a lot of old school “we can’t do this job remotely! totally impossible!” managers and companies have had their eyes opened…but by and large, people will be back to offices.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I live in a city that makes the vaccine, and I can’t get a shot yet. It’s nerve-wracking.

    2. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      I’m hearing July 1 as a back-in-office date from a lot of people, including my employer. It may not be full-time, but it sounds like we’ll need special permission to be 100% remote after that time.

    3. Lucious*

      I agree with Alison that most companies will run- not walk-back to in person operations as soon as able. It’s my thought the core driver for this isn’t necessarily hard numbers productivity, but the mental need to put this awful pandemic behind us.

      Getting employees together in person symbolizes ending a traumatic time for many people.

    4. Elsajeni*

      This would also be in line with what I’m seeing from my workplace and other colleges: we’re planning to still have our current policies and precautions in place for summer classes, but expecting the fall semester to be mostly in-person classes and closer to normal operations.

  30. Message in a Bottle*

    This is timely as my workplace just asked me if I was vaccinated this morning and I see conflicting information. Most employees here will voluntarily share this information. I am partially vaccinated but I do not wish to share this information. They have not said vaccination has been legally required. They know I have an vaccine appointment upcoming and now they want to know if it’s my first or second shot. It was enough for me to tell them I’m getting a shot. I am for the vaccine but also for my privacy about getting. It’s such a source of friction as I’m uncomfortable sharing any more information. I work at an office and am one of two at the office right now. We aren’t in contact with the public but other employees elsewhere are or will be shortly.

    I’m leaning toward ignoring this, but then I read this article in the Washington Post.

    It implied that legally they can ask. It doesn’t say if you’re required to answer but it is an uncomfortable situation in a small workplace to ignore a direct request.

    1. Heather*

      If you’re in person, I would think employers (or rather, colleagues who will be sharing the space with you) have a right to know, no? I realize no vaccine is 100% safe and that vaccinated people can conceivably still spread the virus etc, but I would still feel quite differently about going back to the office and sharing space if I knew that everyone was vaccinated.

      1. F.M.*

        I don’t think you do have that right to know, at least on an individual basis. You’re asking about private health information, which might be tied to other health information, like the types of medical issues that might make it unwise for someone to get the vaccine. It would be useful to know that, say, some high percentage of the people back in the office are vaccinated, and plan accordingly… but it makes the most sense to assume other people are potentially contagious–especially as there’s a tiny chance they could be EVEN WITH the vaccine–and manage your precautions accordingly.

  31. Workerbee*

    #1 I decided to tell my work people I was getting vaccinated because there have been very interestingly worded emails and chats going around: We aren’t required, but strongly encouraged to get the vaccine. I’ve been WFH due to being immunocompromised, and HR has delicately asked if I’m planning to get it. If it sounds boundary-crossing, it is.

    Alongside all this is the expectation that I’ll come back to the office after it’s all done. I also feel that they’d find a way to ease me out if I said I wasn’t getting vaccinated (of my own free will vs doctor says don’t). Yep, job-searching, but in the meantime I need this job, so am working on persuasive, factual arguments for continuing to work from home.

    1. Cj*

      I’m not sure how much job searching is going to help, because I think a lot of employers are going to feel the same way. The CDC actually recommends that employers encourage their employees to get vaccines, and even to give stickers to the ones who have. Many employers can require vaccines as a condition of employment.

      1. VaccinatedAtHome*

        If I search for a job that allows WFH, it doesn’t matter. I also don’t have a problem with disclosing- I just have a problem with the idea that even though I’ve been productive from home all year I can’t continue to be once Covid risk is reduced. You’ve got an odd bone to pick here- I’m not against vaccines and am not too concerned about it being “private medical information”. It’s a preference for working from home.

  32. dedicated1776*

    Letter #2 should serve as a reminder to all of us to know your audience. I only let about 50 people follow me on my personal social media so I don’t have to censor myself. I keep anything public very anodyne.

    Re: letter #5, that would not give me warm fuzzies either. In my entire career, I think the only time I have not interviewed with the person who would be my direct supervisor was when I was hired at a CPA firm (interviewed by two partners). I have usually interviewed with my DS and that person’s DS, or even three levels up.

  33. Penelope Toodlesworth*

    I had to tell my employer when I got vaccinated because I had an ADA accommodation. It was then deemed safe for me to return. Forget my family members who aren’t vaxxed yet, they don’t matter.

  34. Message in a Bottle*

    I wrote a comment here but it got eaten somehow and it won’t re-post because it says it’s a duplicate.

    But I was asked about vaccination status this very morning and feel a lot pressure to respond. Apparently, there is a meeting of higher ups and then need to know right now.

    It’s an odd situation because while they are requesting this information no one has said if it’s required or not.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Sounds like they want you to feel like it’s required but they know that they can’t actually require it. You know your employer better than I do, but I advise you to push back as much as is realistic at this place.

      1. Message in a Bottle*

        Thanks. I did, but I did tell them that it was my final shot. But I said that was all I’m going to say. I don’t want to get into which type of shot, dates, etc. If they aren’t requiring it, saying I got it should be enough.

        My sister works in food service at a hospital and they aren’t requiring it. I’ve strongly encouraged her to get it, but they simply keep e-mailing her about it.

        If hospital workers and frontline workers aren’t being required to get the vaccine (which I think they should be required to, honestly), it’s hard for me to understand an office requiring it. I think that workplaces are treading a line between safety and privacy. They have to find the middle ground of that line.

  35. twocents*

    Re #1: when I’ve been talking to my boss about the possibility of continuing work from home, I have been emphasizing why it’s not just my personal preference but a benefit to the company. For example some of the projects I’m on have PMs that love late afternoon meetings. In the office, I would have told them to send me the notes later because I can’t leave my dog alone that long. WFH, I have the ability to walk my dog between my normal stop time and the late meeting, so I can attend.

    My boss has been receptive, so I’m hoping we’ll at least get more flexible schedules. Especially since I literally don’t work with anyone on site anyway, so it’s not like the company has a good reason to want me in the office; all the meetings would still be virtual.

  36. Cj*

    I might be in the minority, but I don’t think giving your vaccination status is giving them any more medical information than having your temperature taken when you enter the office, or answering questions about if you have any COVID symptoms. If you don’t get the vaccines for medical reasons, that would fall under the ADA, and you would have to give them at least the limited medical info that you aren’t taking it for that reason if they are otherwise requiring it.

    I just don’t understand what all the secrecy is about. I will shout it from the rooftop when I’m able to get mine. It seems like in at least some cases people just don’t want to go back to the office for other reasons, and are using not being vaccinated as an excuse to be able to do continue working from home.

    1. Lynn*

      I agree and would not have any problem answering the question for my company. I have zero expectation that my company will hold my vaccination status against me or make decisions about my work location/type based on that status.

      However, the OP does not have the same expectation, so it is different in their case. It is reasonable to be more reticent about answering that type of question if the answer will be used against you.

      1. Cj*

        But if you are vaccinated, and it is 95% effective, I don’t know why you would be reluctant to go back to the office. The OP just says the very much don’t want to go back to the office, not that they are afraid of getting COVID if they do even after they are vaccinated.

        No matter how much people like working from home, if your employer doesn’t want to allow it once the pandemic is under control, they are under no obligation to. Which may mean you need to look for a job that does allow you to WFH.

        1. Lynn*

          I’m not arguing that the employer can’t force people back to the office. Or even that they would be wrong to do so. While my personal opinion is that more jobs can be done from home than employers tend to think (and probably fewer than employees tend to think), that is still their decision to make.

          There are plenty of things I don’t tell my employer because it isn’t in my best interests to do so. This is no different for the OP.

    2. VaccinatedAtHome*

      You’re definitely right in that I’d like to use their lack of knowledge for as long as possible to continue WFH. I don’t have to waste time commuting, I get to spend more time with my pups and spouse, and my job duties are not affected by the difference in location.

      I’m proud of being vaccinated and am very pro-vaccine, but have no desire to tell my employer so I have to return sooner.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        And with the price of gas going up, I want to increase the amount I am currently teleworking!!!

    3. Heather*

      I completely agree. I had assumed we would all breathe easier once we knew that people around us were vaccinated. Especially for colleagues where you spend a lot of time around each other, it seems very odd to not want to let them know that you’ve been vaccinated and so their risk is lower than before if you’re sharing a space.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        But they don’t have to worry about her vaccination status at all if she continues to work exclusively from home! Why would they need to know if she is not even there, sharing that space? Obviously it would be good to tell them when they do force her to return, but there is no point in telling them and having them use that knowledge to force her to return when she is able to do her job just as effectively from home.

        1. Cj*

          Because the business still gets to make the rules about whether or not to allow employees to work from home. People are trying to make this about “giving my employer my private medical information” when that isn’t really their concern. They just don’t want to go back to the office.

          If enough employees quit to take jobs where they can work from home, then maybe the business will reconsider their position. But don’t make it about “my private medical information” when it’s not.

    4. F.M.*

      I fully intend to cheer and proclaim when I get my vaccination. But I’m not going to pressure anyone else for that info unless it’s on a personal basis, for making safety decisions about interactions on that level. People can lie, people can not want to reveal private medical info that affects when or how or if they get it… It’s safest to just assume everyone is potentially infectious, and be glad when I can reduce my chances of passing it on, getting it, or getting it badly.

    5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      OP did not say that she would not give the information if required, and if they do require her to return, she should probably disclose at that time, so that they know. But I see no reason to provide it before then and have the company use that to try to get everyone back in the office sooner. As OP is able to do her job just as efficiently and effectively at home, why volunteer that info now? Better to just wait until they order her back to the office and she has no choice. But she is not obligated to speed the process of them forcing people back into the office.

      I also might add, they are only asking people to tell HR, not requiring it (my guess is that they are worried about legal repercussions that may or may not be valid concerns). So, OP is free to treat it like a request for now!

      1. VaccinatedAtHome*

        Thank you- it’s this exactly. I know my employer gets to set the rules and determine whether I can work from home. That’s a given. If they require folks to go back to the office, including me, I’ll gladly disclose to my team and anyone who wants to know to ease concerns (I’d feel better about coworkers being vaccinated too!). I’m puzzled by the somewhat combative/stringent advocating for my employer by CJ.

        1. Cj*

          I’m not against working from home, or people wanting to work from home. There are a lot of reasons to prefer this. I guess what I get upset about is that is that people seem to be hiding behind “not wanting to give out private medical information” when that isn’t the real issue. Like you said, you’d gladly give out the info if you are required to go back to the office.

          Advocate for being able to work from home based on your productivity, etc. and I’m all for it. And I think employers may have to change their position if people start leaving for jobs where they can WFH.

  37. Bookworm*

    #5: I’d say no, it’s not always (especially if you don’t work with or directly report to said higher ups). But given the red flags you already have seen, I’d say that adds to the picture you’ve got of the organization, which looks like might not be a good fit. Good luck!!

    1. OP #5*

      Happily I accepted another offer shortly after this interview! For the offer I did accept, I was able to meet with my direct manager and managers two levels up from them, and I felt confident from those interviews that I’d be able to work well with them and contribute to the organization’s vision.

  38. Gnizmo*

    LW#2 – Yikes! I was a little uncertain how to take everything with the details provided. It certainly made me uncomfortable. Mental health programs stress the ability to self reflect on your decisions. You have to be able to see how your intentions and your actions not lining up can cause a problem you need to fix. If you cannot see ways you need to grow then you just aren’t fit for the field. You likely won’t even do well in any program worth anything because you need to be able to take feedback really well from all sources. Ideally you will have kind professors and supervisors, but trust me when I say that is not guaranteed.

    The additional context offered in the comments here has pushed me firmly into thinking you should reach out to the program and let them know as soon as you can though. If this was meant to be expressing genuine sexual arousal from a power imbalance then it is heading down a really bad road. Most mental health professionals do not have sex with the clients. Most of the mental health professionals I have seen have their license revoked is because they did though. This causes real harm for obvious reasons. This is something that at a minimum must be known and addressed as quickly as possible. Frankly, I would argue that this should bar her from the field. At a minimum she needs to be able to show real growth around this problem very quickly.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I agree totally with this.
      LW#2 I’d like to add that you do need to alert the school of this post while retracting your recommendation. The thing with this type of narcissist is that they want to work in mental health because they have an agenda to pursue, rather than because they want to empower people by helping to improve their mental health.
      There are some people who might say inappropriate things before they’ve trained, and who will come to realise why they are inappropriate in the course of their training and thus change the way they speak and even the way they approach their patients, and will turn out to be a damn good therapist.
      Narcissists with their own agenda will simply learn to say what’s expected of them in order to pass their exams and get their certificate, and then just do their own thing and to hell with those annoying things like ethics that get in the way.
      If ever this person was not what I’m thinking, and is capable of becoming a competent, ethical therapists, the people assessing why you pulled your recommendation will be able to see past that post.
      If ever they don’t, well, it’s better to not train someone that could be a good therapist than to train someone who can’t possibly be a good therapist. There are plenty of other people who would blossom in that training course.

  39. AnonEmployee*

    OP 1 – I just had this same discussion with a coworker. While my company has not mandated that employees get the vaccine, they are asking those who do to contact HR. In fact, I know they are tracking vaccinations currently. I had to tell my manager that I was getting one because I’ll be take time out of work to do so. I really don’t know what they are going to do with that information because there are still so many unknowns. Herd immunity is still a long way off, and if I have to go back into the office just to sit at my desk with a mask on, what the heck would be the point? I know of one person in another department who has requested permanent wfh, but has not been given an answer if they can. My company is a mix of those who work in the office, and those who work outside the office. Some still seem to have this notion that people working from home aren’t actually working (based on an experience with one person), or it’s not fair to those who can’t. My company was always a butts in seats and the pandemic has shifted more than 90% to wfh and guess what, we have done really well! They keep pushing out any decisions for return to work (um, we’ve been working this whole time) because they don’t know the answer either. I honestly cannot imagine returning to my stressful commute, and not being able to focus on my work due to the constant interruptions I had in the office. I am also looking to relocate in the future, and would like to continue on as an employee in this company, not very confident about that though.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I had a job for a couple years that was entirely wfh, for everyone in the company except the billing department. This was long before the pandemic. It was a fully remote company with employees working all throughout the country and even one team member was an expat living in Prague. I can categorically say that the VAST majority of us worked a lot longer and harder than we would have done in the office (for example, I would be in my office at 10 pm some nights on a call with a west coast client). I actually had to work hard to achieve balance in that job.

      That said, we had one person join and then just disappear. She did not do any work, did not respond to emails. She basically ghosted the job while collecting a paycheck. What bothered us about it is just how long they let it go on without terminating her. Eventually, they did terminate her. Also, I know it was not extended medical leave. She just thought if she was working from home, no one would know she was not working. But it was a very interactive, client facing job. You genuinely could not hope to fly under the radar like she did. Still, she was one weird exception. Most of us worked really hard.

      1. AnonEmployee*

        I agree that there are exceptions, but that’s management’s fault if they don’t manage their staff. One of my team members will do the least amount of work he can get away with. He got away with a great deal and more since working from home. My *new* manager put him on the phones as the primary person, so now he is much more visible. It’s not perfect, and he will never be a stellar employee, but at least something changed for the better.

  40. Kat*

    I can relate to OP1. I was offered an opportunity to get vaccinated early (through my volunteering role at a health clinic that is related to my employer so they would definitely know) and actually considered turning it down because I worried I’d be forced back to the office full time. I’m still working from home 1-2 days a week but mostly just because I like it better. My employer has been really good and flexible with WFH during the pandemic but prior to that was very anti-remote-work. I’d wondered if they might soften their stance because everyone has shown that they can be successful working this way, but they just announced that we should expect to be fully back in person by Aug 1. I’m bummed but I guess should just be thankful for the time I had.

    1. AnonEmployee*

      It just blows my mind that some companies are dead set to have people back in the office when there are still too many unknowns. I would love to know what is driving that. If there were issues with some employees not working well from home, those situations should be addressed individually. Too often, management makes blanket decisions based off the few problem employees (who they will never discipline, never mind terminate).

      1. Kat*

        Our organization isn’t citing productivity concerns in its decisions. We are a university so they want us back to “support students” even those of us in non student facing roles. I understand that its a competitive industry and the appearance of a busy full “normal” campus is important for recruitment. But its still a bummer.

  41. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – For a senior level role, I would expect to be interviewed by the hiring manager and their manager (ie. the grandboss). I might also expect to interview with a peer to the hiring manager, if your role would have significant interaction with their department.

    Sometimes, it makes sense for an interview process to involve a great-grandboss (eg. if the role has a company-wide impact), but often it doesn’t. For one thing, the more interviewers in the mix, the more the process gets complicated, and the less decision-making the hiring manager gets to do. Also, people at too senior a level can knock out candidates who are perfectly great fits, simply because the higher ups don’t have the hands-on connection with what the role actually requires.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks! In my industry it’s pretty common for people at my level to interview with the CEO/head of the organization (who is usually either 2 or 3 levels removed from my position). In this organization, the CEO would have been 2 levels removed from my position (with a C-suite member in between), and I didn’t get to interview with anyone on the C-suite level or even executive leadership level whatsoever. I was interviewing for a highly specialized individual contributor (no direct reports) role with a low/mid six figure salary. Many of the people I was scheduled to meet with (different departments/several steps down) also had no clue what the role required or how my background fit it, so I kept getting asked all these generic behavioral questions, which was kind of off-putting.

  42. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW #1, one thing smart employers are thinking about is how flexibility over things like working from home impacts competition to attract and retain employees. I have a feeling if your employer takes a firm stand on everyone must work in the office, no exceptions, they will lose good employees and candidates to employers who are more flexible on that.

Comments are closed.