I reported my boss to HR on my first day, an AWOL manager, and more

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

1. I reported my boss to HR on my first day

Last week, I started at a new job that relocated me across the country. I took this job because the manager I was supposed to work for has great experience in our niche industry and anyone I asked said I would learn a lot from him. We got along great at the interview and in subsequent communications, so I took the job.I’m a man in my 30’s and he’s a man in his 40’s.

On my first day, he gave me a tour around the office and was making disgusting comments about women’s bodies. For example, he said the receptionist is dumb but is put in front because she has large breasts and is eye candy, he said another woman only got a promotion because she must have had sex with a higher up, etc. I ignored it at first and then we went to lunch. At lunch he was taking about the list of woman he would “bang” at the office and which ones were “sluts.” I told him this was really not appropriate for us to discuss and could we please focus on the job. He said I shouldn’t be so uptight but changed the subject.

Back at the office, he resumed being disgusting again, I tried to change the subject as much as I could and ignored it. I told him I had to step out for a minute to make a personal call and called his boss (who works in another state) and explained everything to her. She was horrified and conferenced in local HR. They told me it would be taken care of, and when I walked back into the office HR was walking over to speak to him.

He hasn’t been back since and it sounds like he’s on paid leave while they figure things out. A lot of people in the office are asking me what happened and I just keep saying I have no idea. He keeps calling and texting me so that we can discuss our “misunderstanding.” Should I talk to him or let HR handle it? Do I need to explain what happened to my coworkers? Some seem to be getting suspicious that I had something to do with him not being around.

Good for you for reporting it immediately, on your first day no less. He sounds like a blight on your office culture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else working there just thought they had to put up with it.

Don’t respond to his calls or texts. Let HR know about those, and ask how they want you to handle them. (My guess is they’re going to be additionally concerned that he’s contacting you. If he’s been suspended during an investigation — which is what it sounds like — he’s probably been told not to contact any colleagues.) Let them know, too, that you’re getting questions from coworkers and ask what they’d like you to say. But if they don’t give you useful guidance on that, it’s fine to simply respond with “I’m not sure what’s going on” (which is true, to some extent). You’re not obligated to share the whole story.

Also, if your boss returns to work at some point, ask HR for guidance on that too! They have a legal obligation to ensure he doesn’t retaliate against you for reporting him, but retaliation can be subtle and you’ll want them watching out for it.

2. My boss is being awful after my daughter’s death

My 25-year-old daughter, my oldest of four, recently passed. I work for a small, family-owned business within walking distance from my house. Although my boss (and owner) said I could take as much time as needed, she would come by often to try and talk me into going back to work just weeks after. I admit I went back too soon but I limited my hours.

Since I’ve been back, she’s been relentlessly insensitive in the things she says. I’ve told her every single time and it never stops. Recently I brought up that May 6 would’ve been my oldest’s 26th birthday and that weekend is Mother’s Day (our busiest day at work). I told her I can’t work, I’ve been pushing myself too much as it is, and I can’t push myself anymore. It’s my first year without her. My boss tried telling me I’d be so proud of myself if I work that week and it would be good for, it’s what I need. Then she told me I need to get over this and move on, etc. … and ended the conversation by saying her son’s 27th birthday is in May and we need to celebrate him because he’s alive. If I weren’t in shock and crying, I would’ve walked out.

I had planned to tell her I was leaving at the end of March and wrote pages of things to say, explaining how her pressure to move on and other insensitive comments have added tremendous stress and pain. I love my job and was hoping that she would change and see I needed more time … and eventually I’d come back. Well, the next day she told my coworkers not to allow me to talk about my daughter anymore because she doesn’t think it’s helping me. Then she told me to stop too. I quit that night. But what more could I have done for her to understand? I even offered her links to articles about things not to say or do to a grieving mother.

I’m so sorry, both for the loss of your daughter and for the way your boss has added to your pain since then.

It is not your job to find a way to make your boss into a reasonably compassionate human. It is her job to act with decency and kindness. She sounds so insensitive and out-of-touch that I doubt there was anything you could have said, any wording you could have found, any article you could have showed her that would change her behavior. She was well beyond the bounds of decency.

There are lots of people who don’t know what to say when someone is grieving. But you gave her clear instructions — “stop” — and she ignored you. She’s awful, and that’s not your fault.

3. Am I overdressing for video interviews?

I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I’ve believed in dressing appropriately for an interview. In my case, that means shirt and tie. It’s how I’ve gone to work in my field (automotive sales training) every day for the last 10 years.

I’ve noticed that in every video interview I’ve had since January, not one person has dressed anything more than business casual, and many are not even managing that. Am I missing something? Is my appearance ruling me out of a job before I even open my mouth? How do I guess at what the appropriate dress code is?

I doubt you’re being rejected for wearing a tie on a video interview. But in most fields these days, business casual is pretty normal for video interviews. (Not in-person interviews! But video interviews.) Dress code norms have really shifted for most people who are working at home because of the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether it will stay that way post-pandemic or not.

4. Do I have to put up with an AWOL boss?

I work as a property manager at a small but busy property that is split into two sections. Technically, my manager oversees both, but everyone knows I run the show on my side.

Unfortunately, in my five months working here, she has been frequently absent from work without warning for days at a time, once for three weeks. We get no information on when she will return or what tasks of hers we should be responsible for covering, and then she magically reappears with no discussion, no thank you for covering, nothing.

When I reached out to her manager who oversees our region, she told me to have “compassion.” Where is the compassion for the rest of the team that has to cover for her? I sent an email to the management team asking for guidance when this happens again. They have still not responded.

Do I continue to just put up with an absentee boss? This is really affecting the whole team and disrupting our daily operations, and no one seems to care.

Yep, it sounds like you might have to put up with an absentee boss if you choose to stay there. You’ve escalated it to her manager, who didn’t do anything about it, and you’ve tried alerting the management team without getting a response. There’s a pretty strong message here that you’re not going to get any help from above. I don’t know why that is … but it is. (The “compassion” remark implies she’s dealing with something difficult, but that shouldn’t mean you can’t get some guidance on what to do when she’s out.)

That said, I didn’t see any mention that you’ve tried talking to your manager about it directly. If you haven’t, try that! Ideally your whole team would explain to her that you need to know when she’ll be out and what needs to be covered while she’s gone. That’s perfectly reasonable to expect. If you ask for it directly and still don’t get it, then yes — assume this is what it’ll be like as long as she works there and figure out if you want the job under those conditions.

5. My spouse wrote personal checks to a high-level coworker

I would like to know what my rights are if I found two personal checks written by my spouse to a female high-level management coworker of his. Am I allowed to call the coworker and ask? I do not work at his company, but my name is on the bank account. The checks were for $1440 and $323 written several months apart.

You shouldn’t call his coworker; you should ask your husband directly. Calling his coworker would be overstepping into his professional life in a way that would likely reflect oddly on you both.

{ 713 comments… read them below }

    1. Myrin*

      Absolutely. My deepest condolences for your loss, OP – you sound like such a strong person who did the right thing by quitting which could not have been easy.

      I think you have to let go of the mindset of “But what more could I have done for her to understand?”. When facing someone as perplexingly inhumane as your old boss, many people think that they just need to find the right combination of words or behaviours to make the other person understand their point of view, but it doesn’t happen. It just never happens. People like that are so fixated on their own mind and views and thoughts that no magic string of sentences is ever going to make them change and I don’t think it will do you any good to further ponder that point. Please try to move on from her as best you can.

      All the best to you, OP!

      1. Old Admin*

        “People like that are so fixated on their own mind and views and thoughts that no magic string of sentences is ever going to make them change and I don’t think it will do you any good to further ponder that point. Please try to move on from her as best you can.”

        I agree! You need to move on from your BOSS, not ever from your daughter.
        I’m so sorry for your loss.

      2. Toocold*

        Indeed, there are no magic words to get people to behave as they should, to understand another pov, or to get what we want. There is no key, no door to open, no sign post to a path. We just need to accept that this person will not see or do or hear what we want and move on.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Exactly; if there was any information that could’ve led her not to be horrible to a grieving person, your boss would’ve encountered it already by virtue of being an adult who’s presumably been alive in the world for several years at this point. If general life experience hasn’t taught her not to be this way, there was nothing you could’ve done.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Seconding – I worked for a woman who was so horrible I can see her behaving like this. She was around 60 when I started working for her, and hadn’t learned even the basics of how to treat people.
          I never figured out exactly what was the matter with her. (Not that I was trying to get involved with or change her, just as a matter of interest.) All I managed to understand was she was extremely selfish, went out of her way to hurt people, and had a strong pattern of self-sabotage.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            P.S. – I think selfishness may be a factor with your boss too. It sounds like she was uncomfortable with what happened and didn’t want to hear about it, so she tried to make you stop referring to it. I’m sorry you had to deal with this, and wish you the best!

      4. Littorally*

        Very well put. You cannot reason an unreasonable person into being reasonable. It just doesn’t work.

      5. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        I’m sorry for your loss OP1. You handled this awful situation with a great deal of patience and good boundaries.
        Your boss was a complete wang rod and nothing you could have done or said could have changed that.
        Quitting was absolutely the right choice.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      OP2, I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

      Your boss behaved shamefully. You are not responsible for her lack of humanity, empathy, or basic decency. There is nothing you could or should have done differently – she sounds like an undercover sociopath, and I glad you are no longer in that awful environment.

      I hope you find another job that you love, when you feel ready.

    3. Slinky*

      Yes. The line about her son’s birthday made me gasp audibly. There was nothing you could have done to change her mind. She’s just a monster.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Not necessarily need for attention, more like need to squeeze every last drop of work out of all workers.

          1. Rose*

            Then why force all the attention to her own son of the same age? Celebrating her sons life isnt squeezing out productivity.

            1. Amaranth*

              The most generous interpretation I could come up with is a fear response so that boss doesn’t want to hear it, doesn’t want to think it, and wants to curl up in how her own kid is fine. That still makes her a selfish, insensitive, horrible human being to OP. She needs to go home, hug her kid, and show OP some compassion. Sadly, OP won’t get that here, so needs to know that NO, there is no failure on her own part here. There is no way to make her boss be less awful and she made the right choice in just closing the door on continuing to deal with it.

              1. Self Employed*

                Yeah, I follow Caitlin Doherty and this is what she would say. American culture is just so fearful of death that people will freak out when people are grieving and expect them to suck it up so the bereaved person’s grief won’t trigger their fear.

    4. Sara without an H*

      +100 to all previous comments. OP, your boss is impervious to reason. I know you liked your job, and it would have been nice to stay if you could have persuaded your boss to behave like a decent human being. But that’s not what she is.

      You’ve heard the saying, when someone shows you who they really are, believe them? Your old boss has shown you what she really is. There was never anything you could have done to fix what she was.

      My deepest sympathy for your loss. Please take care of yourself.

    5. Message in a Bottle*

      About LW2. So sorry you lost her and that you had to quit a job you liked at such a difficult time.

      From your letter, I get the sense that it wasn’t really about coming back weeks after your daughter’s death that was the issue. You mention pushing yourself really hard at work. I think it’s really about the shape you were in when you got back and the pressure you felt from your boss to perform exactly as you did before your daughter passed. I don’t know from your letter how long it’s been but you say it’s the first year without her so each birthday, Mother’s day, any milestone day will hit hard.

      The thing is, it’s not about your company’s leave policy. You had some time and you limited your hours. It’s just how insensitive and unkind your workplace has been with you trying so hard to bounce back when you were there. And you couldn’t work under those conditions.

      Everyone is different and everyone’s grieving process is different. How supportive a workplace is, not necessarily in policies, but in words and gestures, could have gone a long way to you being able to stay there.

      Hope you find the right place for yourself when you’re ready.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Completely agree. What an awful person – I cannot imagine being so terribly insensitive to someone’s loss. I think that some people are very uncomfortable with others’ grief, but that discomfort does not give them a right to be cruel.

      OP#2, I’m so sorry for the loss of your daughter and that you had to endure such meanness on top of it.

    7. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      OP I am so sorry for your loss. The ex boss was completely and totally in the wrong for pressuring you into to coming back to soon and for the things she said to you about your grief. 100% One of my dear friends lost an adult child 4 years ago suddenly. She is still grieving. There is no right or wrong way or length of time to grieve. Somethings you never get over, you just adjust to them.

    8. Momma Bear*

      LW 2, I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope you get the time you need to regroup and extra support in May. Your old boss is horrid.

    9. EngineerMom*

      This.

      I experienced a miscarriage between my two living children, and a woman I had previously held in high regard and saw regularly brushed it off with “well, it probably had problems and your body just knew it and got rid of it.” And had zero clue why that was a horrible thing to say to someone who is literally days out from an unexpected sudden miscarriage.

      Some people are so uncomfortable with other people’s pain that they turn into huge jerks when confronted with pain that isn’t their own. I’m so sorry you had to discover you worked for someone like that in such a painful manner. I hope you find some peace and ways to celebrate your daughter’s life while acknowledging the grief of losing her.

      1. Batgirl*

        What the everloving….
        I’ve had similar experiences though: generally warm person suddenly rips off their human mask.

      2. Paulina*

        Ugh. Sadly it is not-so-uncommon for some people to treat the difficulties of those around them as targets for their own simplistic solutions, which just happen to align with what would make you “better” for their own aims. But WTF, your pain is not something for them to solve because they’re uncomfortable or want more work out of you.

    10. Cassidy*

      “she told me I need to get over this and move on, etc. … and ended the conversation by saying her son’s 27th birthday is in May and we need to celebrate him because he’s alive.”

      Hm…my jaw is on the floor around here somewhere…

      I’m so sorry, LW, for your daughter’s passing. Sending endless virtual hugs.

      And your boss is truly horrible.

      1. Long Time Reader*

        So much this- I gasped so loud reading this that my second grader muted his virtual school to ask what happened. I am so sorry for your loss, and that your ex-boss added so much more awfulness

    11. HR Survivor*

      So many employers think the an employee should just quickly move on after a loss and instead it makes them seem uncaring. I was so lucky to have a compassionate boss and colleagues and understanding employer during my husband’s illness and after his death. This made it possible for me to work as effectively as possible during a very hard time. Months later, I put a leave request to take off the day of my birthday which also happened to be our wedding anniversary. My boss denied it and said she didn’t want me to sit home alone and be sad (my plan). Instead she made sure that I had something interesting to do. The she and the 4 others in our department treated me to lunch. They made my hard day so much easier.

      LW2, I wish that you had my old boss instead of the loser you were stuck with.

    12. FrenchCusser*

      Yeah, I don’t get the ‘some people don’t know what to say’ to someone who’s grieving.

      Here’s what you say – ‘I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?’

      That’s it. That’s all you need to say.

  1. Mid*

    Can we get a round of applause for LW1? I think it’s really great that they reported their boss so quickly, and it was clearly something that needed to be done. If he was that gross so early into knowing you, I’m sure it only got worse from there.

      1. fish*

        Agreed. I missed that LW said he was male, and assumed he was female, because I actually couldn’t imagine a man being moved to do this. Depressing.

    1. MEH*

      Yes, that took a lot of courage on a first day especially when the LW moved across country to work with the new boss. I’m shaking my head that the boss was that blatant in this day and age, but not really surprised at the sentiment.

      1. MissGirl*

        I was thinking that he figured he had a guy coworker and could finally let it rip. I’m really curious if he’s been this blatant all along or managed to keep it more on the down low. Which, if so, means he knows what he’s doing is wrong and he can control it. What matters most though is that there are big time consequences.

        1. Jessica*

          MissGirl, I think you put your finger on it. And that’s part of the reason why people who are not in the target group are such crucial allies. I’m a woman but I have experienced parallel things, like the person who somehow thinks “Hey great, looks like it’s just us white folks in the room now, so I know you’ll all enjoy hearing this gross racist joke!”

          LW1, you are the change I want to see in the world. Many thanks, and I hope there are no adverse consequences for you.

          1. MissGirl*

            Yes, I’m insanely curious about what the women think of him. If he is held in high regard, it feels even more insidious. If he positions himself as someone well renowned in the field while harboring such toxic beliefs makes me even more uncomfortable than if he’s just that creep in accounting everyone avoids.

          2. Blackcat*

            ““Hey great, looks like it’s just us white folks in the room now, so I know you’ll all enjoy hearing this gross racist joke!””

            Yeah. In certain settings, I’ve been really shocked by some things other white people say to me. They just assume I’ll agree.

            I’m sure it’s a similar phenomenon here. The boss saw that LW1 looked similar to him, and assumed he thought the same.

            Definitely look out for retaliation, though. I’ve had that happen quite severely in the workplace for attempting to address racism. While racism is substantially different from sexism, the way people dig in to defend themselves can be similar.

            1. Bluesboy*

              Yes, it’s like people are desperate to get these things out of their system sometimes, and…the second they think someone might be on their side, or at least isn’t obviously not on their side, out it comes!

              I’m obviously an immigrant because I have a strong foreign accent. But I’m white. The number of times people have said things about immigrants in front of me never ceases to amaze me. I tell them “Err…you do understand that I’m an immigrant too?” the answer is obviously along the lines of me being one of the ok ones…

              1. LunaLena*

                Ha, that reminds me of the time my (white Midwestern) husband worked in a call center and talked to a customer who went on a huge rant about the Chinese and how all Asians are liars and cheats and you can’t trust any of them. He finished his tirade with “don’t you agree?” and my husband said “well, my wife is Asian.”

                He said the guy got real quiet after that, finished his business quickly and hung up.

            2. Quill*

              Oooh, my favorite when I was still uh, allegedly catholic, and the first bigot to ask me about gay rights in er, 2008? after he knew I was catholic? He just let it LOOSE like verbal diarrhea, and my response was basically to tell him to flush himself.

          3. Ash*

            This is also something that people who “pass” (for cisgender male, for white, for straight, etc.) experience all the time and it’s horrifying. The LW1 should be commended for shutting that shit down STAT. This is the kind of male allyship that we need. However I also worry about wherever the boss lands next, if he is fired from this place. I am cynical about him actually changing his behavior.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Agreed – if he’s made it to his 40’s and not had the fact that those behaviors/ideas are wrong knocked out of him yet, he is probably unlikely to take the correct lesson from this episode.

          4. saassy*

            Agreed! I ‘pass’ for white, generally, and it’s awful what people will say when they think they can get away with it – and the responses when they realize that no, I’m not white and have ‘tricked’ them and no, I don’t agree can be disturbingly violent.

            I hope there are no consequences, but in my experience retaliation may fall harder on OP because he broke some ‘bro code’ in this guy’s head.

          5. char*

            Yes, this. I’m a transgender man, and after I transitioned, I was shocked to hear the sort of blatantly sexist comments some men will make when there are only other men around. I never heard men speaking that way around me when I was perceived as a woman.

            I think there are a lot of men out there who keep their sexism subtle around women to maintain plausible deniability – but they spell out their true feelings once they’re around men who they think will agree with them.

        2. Bilateralrope*

          My guess is that he’s got something that’s preventing the other coworkers from complaining. I’m guessing some combination of them not knowing their rights, being scared of retaliation and/or blackmail. Then the letter writer walks in, sees what the boss is like without knowing anything about how the boss is silencing everyone and does the right thing.

          1. Myrin*

            Yes, sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes who hasn’t yet been steeped in the dysfunction. Which is astounding, really, because when you’re in the thick of it, you can feel totally helpless and like there’s no way out and then BAM, in comes the new person who doesn’t yet know to be afraid and just solves the thing. (Although of course it remains to be seen if this situation is actually “solved” or just momentarily stalling but I think it’s looking quite good with how things have been going so far.)

            1. RVA Cat*

              I immediately thought of Harvey Weinstein and how he made the whole company complicit in his abuse.
              Bravo to OP1 for shutting this down!

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yup, and I think it bears keeping in mind that “first day in a new job” also can come with a number of privileges of the kind we all want employees to use for the greater good. Sure, LW1 should absolutely be commended for reporting on his first day – and his manager no less. That took some fast thinking to get out of the mindset making a good first impression to taking action – an ability that probably contributes to making the LW a valued employee!

            But on the other hand, in the moment when a company that just invested a lot of money and time to recruit you, and you haven’t had time to accumulate your own baggage that may be weighed against a report you make, you are in a strong position to do such a thing. (Admittedly, a dysfunctional place might just spring in action to get rid of the troublemaker as fast as possible.)

        3. MEH*

          I was wondering that as well given how many people told the LW that he (LW) could learn from him (boss). Very curious as to the boss’s reputation in general and what the LW’s new coworkers would say about the boss if there were no repercussions.

          1. LW1*

            LW1 here
            He has a great reputation in our niche industry, which is compliance with a certain set of regulations. It’s a very a small department within the company.

            At this office it seems like people loved him as well, including women, he must have not been saying any of this stuff.

            1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

              What a bizarre situation! You were brave to take action on your first day, and I hope there are no repercussions for you.

              If this is new and out-of-character behaviour for him, perhaps there is a health issue involved.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Or he might just have successfully internalized “We don’t say this sort of thing around the Ladies, because they are Frail and Sensitive and will kick up a Fuss,” but hasn’t moved on to grasp, “We don’t say this sort of thing AT ALL, because it is horrible.”

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  This unfortunately is what my thought is. I had a few (now deceased) relatives who were incredibly anti certain groups of people, who just learned the you don’t say this out loud part of the lesson. I was always embarrassed when they would slip around my friends who were part of one of those groups but didn’t look it.

                  (And yes, I would let my friends see I was embarrassed, and yes I would try and talk to those relatives, but the only thing that ever changed was them getting better at hiding their prejudices- I never was able to change their ideas.)

                2. Ace in the Hole*

                  That wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

                  I’m a woman working in a very male-dominated field (the national average is literally 99% men). I’ve been told several times that some guys are uncomfortable having me on their crew because “they have to be careful what they say… you know, they can’t talk the same way when there’s a woman around.” The people telling me this seem to realize saying certain things AROUND A WOMAN is bad, but haven’t quite realized that saying it AT ALL is bad – or at least inappropriate for a workplace.

                  Basically, if you have to change how you talk when someone from a minority group is around…. you need to change how you talk all the time, period. Having to change your language because a woman is a pretty clear sign that either you’re saying sexist things, or that you’re sexist in how you think of women in general (for example thinking you have to dumb things down for them or be extra flattering).

                1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                  This. I hear this kind of excuse a lot when someone gets caught saying something bad. No health issue or drug can put thoughts in your head that you didn’t already have.

                2. saassy*

                  It kind of comes across as “boys will be boys” but for letting older men off the hook. Nonsense.

                3. Indigo a la mode*

                  Miss Pantalones: Ah yes, like that high school basketball commentator a few days back who blamed diabetes for his racist diatribe.

                4. Librarian1*

                  Also, he’s in his 40s. It’s very unlikely he has dementia (not impossible, but unlikely).

            2. MissGirl*

              This just makes my skin crawl. I much prefer the jerk who makes the occasional off color joke than this person in power harboring such deeply toxic beliefs in secret. Thank you so much for outing him.

            3. restingbutchface*

              LW1- thank you for speaking up. In the UK, overdue conversations about male violence and the everyday experience of being a woman are taking place right now. What’s clear is that so many men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman in this world and what we have to do to just exist, from putting up with your boss’s disgusting comments to walking home with keys in our hand, just in case. These conversations are vital but so traumatic – seeing your letter here brought me to tears, genuinely. When men are asking, what can I do? It’s this.

              Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                So much this – many men don’t know what it’s like to be a woman in the world, partly because we’re so strongly socialized not to let them see it. I’ve seen the phenomenon of men, at the exact same time, believing that it’s a woman’s responsibility to protect herself AND being upset/insulted if a woman does something that indicates she’s protecting herself from him. “But I’m a good guy, doesn’t she know that?!” No…no, she doesn’t.

                1. Buni*

                  To paraphrase something I saw online:

                  “If you don’t know about this, it’s because the women in your life aren’t telling you. And that doesn’t mean it’s not happening to them, it just means that they don’t trust YOU enough to tell you…”

              2. Quinalla*

                Yes, far too many men just have no clue because no one felt it was worth their safety, etc. to tell them. I’ve had conversations with several men at my workplace when all the #metoo and campus sexual assault stories making a lot of men confront stuff they never had even realized before. One in particular was like, “I can’t believe how unsafe college campuses are for women nowadays!” and I was like woah dude, take 10 steps back. College campuses have ALWAYS been unsafe for women and are probably more safe now than they were in the past – not safe enough of course. I told him the same stuff was happening when I was in college and my Mom was in college, we all had whisper networks and “rules” we followed to try to stay safe. And also, it isn’t just in college that women aren’t safe actually. He really listened which was good, but it wasn’t something he’d ever confronted. Ooof, that was rough because frankly I didn’t realize just how many “good” men are really oblivious to this crap and it helped me and still helps me to check myself around racism, etc. that I don’t always notice as fully as I should.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  That’s one of the things I love about my husband – when I talk with him about these things, he never minimizes it or acts like it can’t happen as much as I say. And I’ve had male friends who are on my Facebook thank me for being open about these things, because it’s not part of their experience and it helped them understand and be more aware. I think for a lot of men, it’s just so much not their experience that it’s an unpleasant revelation for them. Whereas for us, it’s [insert day of week here].

            4. AnonEMoose*

              Thank you so much for acting on this, especially on your first day! That took a lot of courage.

            5. Nanani*

              Or the women had to put on the facade of not minding to keep their jobs. Or didn’t know he was this much of a creep about ALL women. Or a lot of things.

              It’s impossible someone who was this noxious to a near stranger wasn’t acting on his sexism. The women in the office may well have been being held back professionally without realizing it was because bossman would never pass on opportunities for someone he believes isn’t qualified due to owning breasts, for example.

            6. SheLooksFamiliar*

              ‘At this office it seems like people loved him as well, including women, he must have not been saying any of this stuff.’

              Yep. It’s interesting how racists, bigots, and misogynists are usually cunning enough to know how and when to keep their mouths shut.

              OP, thank you for reporting this man. Maybe we can’t stop someone from having those vile thoughts and beliefs, but we can do everything possible to stop them from spewing those thoughts in the workplace.

            7. MEH*

              Thanks for the added details, LW1, here and further down. It seems like he either is really good at hiding his feelings except when he sees someone who he thinks is like him (which in not a good look for the other white dudes around him) or as other commentators have stated, the women around him don’t feel safe speaking the truth about him. Either way, I commend you for speaking up unhesitatingly on your first day at the new job. That takes guts.

          2. Lifeandlimb*

            I have to say that my first boss may have been the boss I learned the most from, due to her expertise and high standards in the industry. However, she was also a toxic manager, and everyone knew she was a nightmare to work for. People will often say things like “I learned a lot” because they don’t have anything nice to say about their management style.

            1. Alice Ulf*

              Ha, yes, I wondered if the subtext to those comments was “I learned a lot (about what to never, ever do).”

            2. Dust Bunny*

              “I learned a lot . . . including that I never, ever, want to work for someone like this again.”

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                My default line is “I learned a lot about the kind of boss I hope to be someday,” with the subtext of, never ever like this boss was to me.

        4. Richard Hershberger*

          I get this all the time. I am a middle-aged white hetero cis male living in a decidedly red county. Other white hetero cis males often make racist and/or sexist remarks to me, and are surprised when I don’t high-five them.

          1. LW1*

            Exactly! It’s women too though. I’ve had white women making fun of black co-worker with me in private, my go to is telling them my wife is black (she’s not) and seeing the look on their face

            1. No Name Yet*

              I’m sure the look on their face is great – but this approach can actually backfire because it makes it seem like it’s not okay to make racist jokes because you’re married to a Black woman when it’s actually just not okay to make racist jokes period. Glad you’re pushing back though!

              1. WellRed*

                Yes, I’d maybe switch to the “I hope you don’t think I agree with you!” Response.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  I go with “why do you think I would agree with that?”

                  It for me at least pushes the onus to think back on the jerk (and almost always gets me the same puzzled/confused/shocked facial expression).

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I’ve used ‘I hope you don’t think I agree with you!’ or ‘I don’t understand what you mean…’ through the years and marvel at how well it works. Shining a light on someone’s vile words at the moment they say them is a great tactic.

                3. Ryn*

                  I love doing a “I’m sorry, I don’t think I get the joke. Can you explain it to me?” until they essentially have to admit the “punchline” is just bigotry.

              2. Just Jess*

                Thank you No Name Yet.

                LW 1, you’re awesome. Just a little note on an opportunity for improvement there…

              3. Caroline Bowman*

                My response is ”what do you mean? I don’t understand”. This makes them think I am humourless and dumb and achieves the goal of making them go away and leave me alone, which I consider a big win.

                1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

                  I use this too! I love it because it forces them to put into words the real meaning of their joke, while I stare at them with a deadpan expression.

                  Turns out it’s hard to explain why your sexist/racist/homophobic etc. joke is funny while keeping up the pretense that you yourself are not racist/sexist/homophobic etc.!

                2. Ramona Q*

                  This is a weird goal if you’re white. I would hope you would want the racism to stop so that any coworkers of color wouldn’t have to hear it and be harmed by it!

                3. Dust Bunny*

                  I’ve done this. One, the joke falls immediately flat. Two, you’ve cornered the person into having to explain something that they know reveals something not-good about themselves, which really makes them squirm.

              4. JB*

                Agreed.

                My sister had a similar situation at work recently, where someone started telling her a very transphobic ‘joke’. I’m trans, and several of her friends and our mutual friends are trans. She didn’t bring up her own personal connections to the community, though; she just interrupted the guy and said ‘you do NOT want to finish that sentence’ and walked away from him to do another task.

                It seems to have had an effect on him since he emailed her a genuine apology the next day. Or maybe he was concerned she was going to involve HR, but either way, he might think twice before spouting bigotry at people he assumes are ‘with him’ in the future.

            2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Years ago, a coworker (“Michael”) told an off-colour joke about a certain nationality (say, Martians). Another coworker (“Waken”) objected the joke was offensive to Martians. After letting Wakeen go on for a while, “Michael” pulled out his Martian passport, causing embarrassment all around.
              Now, Wakeen was frequently offended on others behalf but I found setting him up for ridicule like this was not the right way to deal with that.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                To add a bit of clarity: Wakeen was claiming being horrified when someone offended inanimate objects like “Why are you jammed again, misbegotten bastard of a typewriter and a steam engine!?” or something like that. It was not the (moderate) swearing as such, he did that himself more than the office average.

              2. jess*

                Not sure if I understand what you are suggesting. So is it OK for Michael to tell that joke about Martians because it doesn’t offend him? How does that account for other Martians who might be offended?
                I’ve been in Wakeen’s shoes– I’m not Asian, but married to someone who is part Asian, and also just generally don’t like witnessing racism at work or elsewhere. If Asian people at my work are making jokes denigrating Asians, do you think I need to stay quiet because I’m not Asian? Does it change if I don’t know the ethnicity of the person making the offensive joke?

                1. Myrin*

                  I don’t think Kuddel is suggesting anything – she says “but I found setting [Wakeen] up for ridicule like this was not the right way to deal with that”, so it sounds like you guys are actually in agreement.

                2. Jess*

                  I’m not clear on why the “but” in “but I found setting him up for ridicule was not the right way”. It makes it sound like you’re saying Michael was right to shut down Wakeen, but went a little too far by embarrassing him. If that’s not what you’re saying, then I am curious what you are saying.
                  I can see someone being uncomfortable at hearing someone calling the printer a “misbegotten bastard”, it’s unpleasant because it’s unnecessarily sexualized. Similarly I don’t like when coworkers refer to someone else’s complaining as “bitching”. It’s not the worst slur, and I know some people use it without ill intent, just as a synonym for complaining, so it’s not the same as directly calling a person a slur, but it’s unpleasant.

              3. Roci*

                Ugh that’s kind of gross of Michael. It’s like baiting Wakeen into “getting offended” (even though it’s perfectly normal to not want to hear off-color jokes about different nationalities) and then be like ha! it was a joke at the expense of a group to which I belong! And since I said it, that group approves!

                There is a niche of every minority group, often comedians, that protect themselves by denigrating their group to the minority. “It’s OK to make jokes about my group (when I do it).” But the majority misses that context, and now out-group members are making jokes without that in-group context. So what started as a relationship builder for in-group members ends up as fodder for mocking from out-group members.

              4. Sacred Ground*

                This description of someone who speaks against such humor as “frequently offended on others behalf” really rubs me the wrong way. I speak against such all the time. I don’t tolerate it around me and when people tell me those nasty jokes because they think I’ll enjoy them, I am offended and tell them so.

                But here’s the thing: When I, a straight white middle-aged white man, get offended by racist/sexist/homophobe/ethnic/nationalistic jokes, I’m not “offended on others behalf,” I’m just offended. Because bigotry is, all on its own, inherently offensive to non-bigots. Bigots never seem to understand this.

                Usually it’s the situation described above, where “it’s ok, it’s just us white folks in here, you can speak freely bro” which I find especially offensive to me, personally, because the entire encounter is based on the assumption that I am just as racist as the person telling the joke because I’m white.

                That’s personally offensive to ME, I take it as a straight-up insult and tell them so. I get offended on MY OWN behalf, not others.

        5. Lacey*

          Some people just can’t wait to let people know how gross they are. My husband had a new coworker come in and immediately start sharing stories of how he’d had a sexual relationship with a subordinate at his last job, during work hours.

          1. Evan Þ.*

            …Was he sharing it during work hours, or had he had that relationship during work hours?

            I’m not sure I want to know.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            To me it sounds like people who do this are in desperate need of someone to share their grossness… they don’t have any friends or relatives to do that with and are lonely for a companion in vileness…

          3. Paulina*

            Some people deliberately let loose with their gross views early because they’re trying to set the tone immediately, when people may be less likely to push back. It’s unusual to show people the door right away, or leave right away, and everything thereafter can be written off as “oh he’s just like that.” They’re trying to ensure that those who might go along with them will go along, and once you’ve laughed along due to initial pressure you may feel you can’t object later. Kudos to LW1 for pushing back anyway.

        6. NerdyKris*

          In my experience as the type of person every terrible person feels comfortable being way too open with, it’s probably that. He saw someone that he figured would agree with him and just let loose.

        7. Nanani*

          It’s also possible other men at the workplace have the same mentality, or at least allowed gross boss to assume they did.

          LW1 did exactly the right thing – this is exactly how people with privilege can help.

    2. raincoaster*

      I will buy that man a beer if he ever comes to Ottawa. I’m sure his actions saved a lot of women a lot of sexist abuse later on.

    3. Pennyworth*

      A standing ovation, and an update in due course please! I cannot express how much I admire LW1, he gives me hope.

    4. allathian*

      I really do hope that the horrible boss gets fired. Kudos to LW for involving HR, and on his first day! But sometimes it takes an outsider who’s shocked enough by bad behavior to complain about it for change to happen.

      1. TechWorker*

        Me too! Honestly if I knew my boss was saying things like this it would totally ruin any chance of me believing I was going to be treated fairly at work. Regardless of what HR got him to say afterwards. Good work LW for reporting immediately.

        1. Amaranth*

          Is it sad that I immediately assumed they took the report more seriously because it was by a male? The fact that he was so blatant makes me wonder if he let loose because he believes in a grotesque form of ‘male bonding’ or if he’s always that out front but this is the first time HR took action.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Also, the fact that it was reported on the very first day is really helpful as it means that gross boss can’t pull any crap like suggesting OP is acting out of sour grapes for being reprimanded / missing a promotion or anything similar.

        It’s good that HR are taking it seriously.

        I would love an update on this one

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – I also want to know how this all works out in the end. Update please!

    5. Xavier Desmond*

      Absolutely. I would like to think I would have the courage to do the same thing in similar circumstances

    6. tinybutfierce*

      SERIOUSLY. As a woman who’s been stuck at a job with a boss like this before, THANK YOU, OP1.

    7. Slinky*

      Yes, no kidding! As a woman in the workforce, you always worry about running into a jerk like the boss in letter 1, and since they’re usually canny enough not to say this TO you, you always have to worry. Thank you for speaking up, OP1.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      *joins in round of applause* I loved it how the boss just assumed LW1 would support him in his being gross, for no reason other than that LW1 is a man. Surprise.

    9. INFJedi*

      Yes! What he did was heroic-like.

      It’s sad that in this day and age he had to do that, but I am really glad that he did it.

    10. AuntAmy*

      Totally agree! As a woman, this is what I want to see when it comes to men stepping up and saying something.

    11. Observer*

      Can we get a round of applause for LW1? I think it’s really great that they reported their boss so quickly, and it was clearly something that needed to be done. If he was that gross so early into knowing you, I’m sure it only got worse from there.

      Yes. To all of this.

      Thank you #1 for taking such quick action.

    12. Lifeandlimb*

      Chiming in to say thanks to writer 1. That kind of blatantly unprofessional, disrespectful behavior keeps being normalized until brave people who live by their ethics say something. Mad respect for you, LW 1.

    13. yala*

      Seriously tho. LW1 did the right thing in a way that is all too rare. I hope things work out well, and I’m glad his grandboss and HR seem to be taking things very seriously. That sounds like a horribly uncomfortable situation to be in, and he made excellent choices.

    14. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Absolutely, you did the right thing in sticking up for your coworkers who may have just become numb or otherwise didn’t feel they could complain about the horrendous boss OP1.

      You tried redirecting him, he just wouldn’t listen, this is all on him. Thank you for believing him when he showed you what he was – a disgusting mess.

    15. LMDH84*

      Echoing everyone else’s thanks. That took guts, was likely stressful, and the worry of retaliation is real.
      Please be comforted knowing you are the change women in the workforce want to see.
      I hope that upper management and HR continues to be supportive of you, and this issue gets nipped in the bud.

    16. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Agreed. My friends and I were talking about how nice it is (and how rare!) to find a man that actually gets it, let alone one that speaks up. Thank you for speaking up.

    17. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yup, the boss sounded disgusting, and it’s great when men complain about sexism towards their female colleagues.

    18. DJ Abbott*

      Absolutely! :) Thank you OP1, for standing up for decency! *applause* *cheers* *standing ovation*!

    19. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      LW1 you are a fantastic ally. I tip my hat sir.
      You mentioned your boss is skilled in a niche field, which I believe, and that everyone at the company loves him, which I don’t believe.
      I doubt he has kept his disgusting attitude to himself, given that he totally unloaded it on the new guy on his first day. I bet most of the women and non-binary people and some of the men hate this guy. For some reason (I’m sure valid) they haven’t felt like they could stand up to him.
      Now that you have, I bet your coworkers will have your back.

      1. Observer*

        I think it’s very simple. He’s good at what he does so has status. And each person comes in thinking that he’s “beloved” so they don’t feel like they can rock the boat and complain about the “beloved” and irreplaceable guy.

        Which makes the OP’s immediate recognition of the problem and quick action so much more admirable.

        1. LW1*

          That’s exactly it, he’s pretty high up in the company and his opinion is respected by most of the leadership, so people just assume he’s a smart person and look up to him. None of the women report to him and just chat with him in the hallways, office parties, etc so maybe they don’t suspect he’s disgusting. It’s sad because he has a wife and daughter and I can’t believe he’d want them treated like that.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Oh no, that sort of conduct is not okay for his precious family. He sounds like the sort of person to whom women aren’t real people unless they are his family.

            Yeah, I’ve met and dealt with quite a few of this species of gross caveman. They all just baffle and creep me out.

  2. Alex Beamish*

    OP #1: Wow. I’ve been reading this blog for what seems like ten years, and this post stunned me.
    Good for you for reporting your boss to HR right away .. I am shaking my head, trying to understand how this type of dinosaur from the 50’s and 60’s still exists today. Wowsers.

    1. Mid*

      If he’s in his 40s, he was born in the 80s, so he can’t even blame the era he was born in for the Mad-Men-esque misogyny.

      1. Cranky Lady*

        If he’s in his 40s, he was most likely born in the 70s and Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 was during his formative years. Not justifying his actions in any way but this type of blatant harassment and sexism is not so far in our past.

        1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

          Oh, excellent point. I can see that gross miscarriage of justice having an influence on a person born in the seventies.

          1. Liane*

            The seventies is when my mother-in-law, a federal employee, was dealing with a jerk in charge of the motor pool. MIL’s job required her to use one of those cars to go out to properties, and this misogynist didn’t think women should be allowed to use them, so he gave her trouble every time she signed one out.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          ” is not so far in our past.”

          Oh, it’s happening now. We hear it from some of the most powerful people on the planet.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. Quite frankly in the UK today it feels like harassment and sexism is still a a feature of our present.

            Earlier this month ago a woman in London was murdered while minding her own business and walking home one evening through a well lit part of London. The police response immediately was to advise women not to go out alone at night in the area. At what point do we stop telling women not to go out and do something about the problem of harassment?

            The person arrested for the murder was a serving police officer. At a vigil for her on Saturday the police intervened fairly actively arresting fairly actively a number of women standing vigil for breach of Covid regulations. The visuals, given the occupation of the suspect, were not exactly inclined to make women feel safe and empowered.

            Sometimes it feels like too little has changed.

        3. Dancing Otter*

          Yes, and the way Anita Hill was mistreated and her testimony ignored was also part of his formative experiences.
          These attitudes definitely still exist, but most of the dinosaurs at least have a trifle more discretion in where/when/to whom they display their misogyny.

        4. Quill*

          If he’s in his 40’s, my late 50’s is just SLIGHTLY too old to have stuffed him in lockers for being a jerkwad back in school…

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        “It was how things were at the time” is not a great excuse, even for those who come to it honestly. If you look more closely, you will find that there was a range, back in the day. At one end was a small group committed to dealing with all people as actual human being. At the other end was a larger group enthusiastic about punching down. In the middle is an even larger group trying to get through their day. The “how things were” is arguable for the middle group, but is routinely granted to the second, punching-down, group. feh.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          And the only changes since then are the relative sizes of the groups. We’ve still got all three; they vary somewhat in proportion.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          And people were arguing and fighting against it during those times too.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        I’m 43 and I was born in 77. Not that this is what’s important. What’s important is that this person thinks it’s fine to endlessly go around saying disgusting personal things about his brand new employee’s new colleagues.

        Even if what he was saying wasn’t sexist, but just generally personal and mean, what horrendous impression to give to a new employee!! I mean, try and keep a lid on the crazy and rude till they’ve been there a week or so, am I right?

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

      He sounds like my coworkers at my first job in my field. Two commented on the ‘bangability” of the women at office, one recorded them while eating, my “mentor” followed me to the toilet and my team leader acted like it was no big deal.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      You’ve been reading this blog for years, presumably reading some other things about life in this century, and you manage to be stunned by this? That’s a pretty impressive set of blinders you’ve been wearing.

      Yes, it’s unusual for the sexists to be that blatant, that immediately. But note that Alison pointed out that it would be illegal for LW’s boss, or the company, to retaliate against him for having reported this crap. Because not only is the initial behavior common enough for companies to have policies on what to do, so is retaliation against people who report blatant sexism.

    4. Nanani*

      *Laughs in Woman*

      Dinosaur, sure. I worked with a lot of dinosaurs before going freelance.
      Who knew so many offices were Jurassic Park affiliates

    5. Jam Today*

      I walked into work one day in 2010 and my boss informed me that he’d been picturing me in the shower, because I had earlier made a comment about having a towel on my head. He was in his early 40s. I don’t know where this idea that this stuff only happened mid-century, its literally happening all around you, all day, every day.

  3. Mid*

    LW4: with the comment about “have some compassion” it sounds like your manager might be dealing with some sort of health or family issue. This doesn’t excuse the lack of communication, but it might be why upper management isn’t stepping in more. Can you talk directly to your manager about what’s going on? They don’t need to give you specific details, but maybe figuring out if there are more sustainable work arounds your office can implement? If your manager is using FMLA, Can a temp be brought in to help with work?

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Yeah, “compassion” is such a specific word that I wonder if something is going on, and management has wrongly assumed that you’re aware of the situation.

      1. iliketoknit*

        This was exactly what I came here to say. I’m sure it’s frustrating as all get out, but I did wonder if another round of information-gathering would make sense before coming to a final conclusion about the situation.

      2. JB*

        TBH from the way the letter is written, I understood the LW to mean that they DO know what’s going on and just don’t care. Why else would they say ‘where’s the compassion for the rest of us’?

        1. Beany*

          I assumed that LW has *deduced* that there’s something up — just as we have here — but that was the first LW had heard about it, and is still mostly in the dark.

        2. twocents*

          I took that sentence to mean that LW has been completely brushed off and is frustrated that management is bending over backwards for this woman with no help for everyone else that is floundering.

          You can be compassionate that someone is going through something and still want the big boss to give you some support too. Peacing out for weeks on end with no notice has to be difficult for the people who may be expected to cover those tasks, and I say “may” specifically because no one is telling LW what they’re actually expected to do.

        3. FrivYeti*

          It’s tricky to assume that people are getting the same implications and undertones that you are. For me, “have some compassion” is a huge flag warning me that something very big is going on, but if you don’t know that context, it can sound the same as “just be nice”, which would be a very frustrating response if I was warning management that my boss was flaking completely.

          1. Self Employed*

            I don’t think twocents is implying that the LW expects their boss to chin up and come back to work. Even if the boss is dealing with bereavement of multiple family members and hurricanes/wildfires/snowpocalypses while having periodic chemotherapy and is completely disconnected from their job during FMLA leave, SOMEONE at the company needs to fill in the information that the LW needs to do their job (and presumably their boss’s too).

    2. EPLawyer*

      I was thinking that too. There is some sort of accomodation and management thinks they can’t tell anyone what is going on, so they just …. don’t address the issue.

      Management needs to sort out the work issue — who covers what when the boss is out and how the long the boss may be out. This can be done without revealing the reason why. A simple “Boss will be gone for 3 weeks, Susan you cover the TPS reports, Bob you cover the accounting and make sure no one charges extra guacamole.”

      1. Jackalope*

        Glad you got to the heart of the most important issues. Many jobs can surely wait, but the extra guacamole would be far too expensive and scandalous!

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “Bob you cover the accounting and make sure no one charges extra guacamole.”

        Bwahahahaha! I see what you did there!

      3. TechWorker*

        Or if, say, the boss is dealing with some chronic health condition and actually has no idea how long they’ll be out, it’s still useful to talk about what can be dropped, what can’t be and what can be ignored for 3 weeks but will then need looking at, what should be punted to boss’ boss, etc. I do wonder if it’s something like this, because it might explain the lack of communication, but then boss’ boss would need to be more involved and make sure that when boss is out they’re vaguely ontop of what’s going on.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – my read from OP4 was that they really didn’t care “WHY” boss was out – they just needed some support and direction on getting tasks redistributed when boss wasn’t there. And then they got seemingly blown off/no answer from higher ups and are now getting burned out.

          (Sounds like the boss is now gone – so Uber private disciplinary process happened – but still I can read the frustration pouring from that letter.)

      4. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Its too early for the whole painful coffee through the nose sensation! Bahahahahahah!

    3. Sue*

      Because this has been handled so poorly, OP sounds pretty angry about it. If the boss is suffering from health problems or a family crisis, I hope the OP can approach her with concern rather than ire.

      1. OP4*

        Yes, the communication, or lack there of, has been very frustrating. I expressed all of this to higher management, no convo with new boss (afraid of retaliation becuz they immediately tried to get a wonderful co-worker fired, for being late ironically). I have worked there for years, never been so dismissed on valid concern. I also was confused by lack of action and the use of word “compassion”, as our property has history of deep empathy and camaraderie through major business and personal challenges. Something was off, and it wasn’t the o.g. crew. Lo and behold: Boss was led out of office last week, with no explanation. We are relieved, and vindicated. Always trust your instincts, and keep receipts.

        1. Chas*

          Well, I’m glad to hear that the issue has been sorted. I hope her replacement is a lot better!

    4. OP4*

      Did not trust manager enough… in short time they had been there, already tried to fire a long time employee for -get this- being late! How ironic and hypocritical.

      It was clear something was going on, but they were fired last week. Management told me they didn’t respond to my email because they already were aware of the issues.

      1. misspiggy*

        But they still should have given you guidance on handling the work issues – as they should now you’re between managers.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        It such a huge pet peeve of mine when people decide they won’t respond rather than saying something, anything, to show acknowledgement of communication. They could have at least said something like they’re checking into it or whatever. A friend of mine is like this. Rather than saying “no” or “I don’t want to,” she’ll just not answer. I know in her mind that lack of an answer IS an answer, which I guess is true, but man it’s really annoying.

      3. hlyssande*

        WTF, they could have just responded and said they were working on it, or would take it under advisement, or some sort of response. Some reply is better than none, jeez.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Or you knonw said “We are aware of the issues, in the meantime, here’s what needs to be covered.”
          See my answer above for suggestions*

          I try to give good actionable solutions — my most popular comment — a reference to Guacamole Bob.

        2. Dave*

          It is still super frustrating when you know your boss is working on it but you have no timetable and in the meantime you are drowning because you are still trying to hold everything together. The longer the working on it drags out the worse it gets. When managers are ‘working on it’ they still need to give you some tools to cope.

        1. OP4*

          Awol boss is gone now, thankfully! No boss is better than part-time unreliable manager that isn’t doing their job. Hopefully the next one is awesome!

          To others wondering why upper management didn’t respond… It really makes no sense. It was not the first time I had expressed my frustration and disappointment in how it was being handled. After they fired my manager, I was told that they didn’t reply to my email since they were already aware of those things and “working on it”. I would have appreciated a simple Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. I do think my bomb dropping email (detailing what was not getting done, questionable behavior, weeks of no shows or communication) sped up their pace.

      4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        What a relief for you! I’m glad this worked outer you and your team!

  4. Snuck*

    No. 5 … Ask your husband. He signed the cheque, so ask him. If it was to a random other person not in his employment building, you should still ask him. Doubly so because when it involves his work it’s his job to manage the relationships there.

    And before you jump to an affair, have a little think. Did she maybe order something online for him and he is paying her back for part of a group buy… there could be legitimate reasons for him to write a cheque too.

    1. EPLawyer*

      The fact that OP wants to ask co-worker rather than husband tells me she STRONGLY suspects what the money was for. She knows if she asks her husband he will lie. She thinks going to the co-worker will get her the proof she needs.

      OP talk to your husband. Leave the co-worker out of it. This is a marital problem, not a work problem.

      1. Snuck*

        Oh yeah. Totally agree. Marital issue, not work.

        And if you can’t get honesty out of your husband you have to work out whether you can live with that, or want to solve it, or want to not live with it. But none of those options ever involve a work mate either. Not even if it turns out he’s bonking the workmate. It’s still your marriage you are working through.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, indeed. It would only put the husband’s coworker in an awkward situation if they’re not having an affair, and even if they are, it’s not the coworker’s marriage.

          1. Here we go again*

            What if your husband backed his into her car at work and that is for the repair? And he didn’t tell you. You’d look crazy accusing her of an affair when she’s not attracted to your husband in the least.

            1. Detritus*

              If my husband spent that much in a mutual account without telling me, what does he expect?

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          I’ll add, since it’s a joint account. OP, even if you know it’s a simple reinbursement and not in any way an affair: if your husband spent a large sum of money from your joint assets without your knowledge, that’s still not his coworker’s problem. You’d need to figure out if you can live with that or fix it, which might mean anything from having separate accounts to going your separate way.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. This.

            It’s a problem regardless of whether it’s an affair or not – this kind of check shouldn’t be going out without your knowledge.

            1. Joan Rivers*

              Agree, it’s on their joint account — and also, how does he not mention it when she can SEE it on the account? That’s insulting of one’s intelligence.

              I can’t think of any plausible excuse but also can’t think why he’d use a joint account. Also can’t think why LW would WANT to go to a stranger and ask her w/o asking him first.

              1. Not Australian*

                But doesn’t the mere fact of it being clearly visible on a joint account suggest there’s probably an innocent explanation? Although OP should certainly not be guessing and should as always take the direct route.

                1. Observer*

                  No, it’s not. People do stupid things all the time.

                  And given the way the OP framed the question, I suspect that Husband thought he could keep her from asking any questions.

              2. Marillenbaum*

                I will say, since this is a join account, it might be possible to get a scanned copy of the check–my bank posts scanned copies of the checks I write on my online account. Doesn’t guarantee he wrote anything on the memo line, but if he did (and OP for some reason does not think her husband will tell her the truth, which–bigger issue!) it’s one way to see what’s up.

          2. Anhaga*

            So much this!! That was my first thought. Even though I’m in charge of the money in our house (I have no idea when my husband last logged into our online banking accounts or checked the balances on any of them), I tell my husband if I’ve got an expense of more than $100 just because full disclosure honesty is important in pretty much all areas of our marriage, not just the finances. Spending more than $1K without making sure he knew about it is unthinkable.

        3. Observer*

          Agreed that this is a marital issue and that this doesn’t belong at work. Because even if it’s an affair (which is the most likely scenario, to be honest), it’s still a marital issue.

          1. TWW*

            “most likely scenario”

            I can think of a several plausible reasons why a person might write a check to a coworker. We have no data to determine which is “most likely.”

            1. Antilles*

              Do you have some suggestions of those plausible reasons? Because I’m struggling to think of scenarios myself.
              -Could it be a legitimate business expense, like buying a new computer? Sure. But that would likely be from a corporate account and tracked through something corporately, not from his personal joint account. Also worth noting that OP is caught off guard by this expense, so it’s clearly not something that’s just common practice.
              -$1,440 is likely too high to be something trivial like he forgot his wallet when they went out for lunch or repaying his share of co-worker’s birthday gift or something.
              -The scenario people suggested below of he backed into her car and they’re handling it without insurance…well, “got into a car accident and tried to cover it up from his spouse” strikes me as a martial issue too.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                If it would have been once, I could imagine “surprise gift for OP that coworker ordered online for him”, but twice… not so much.
                Maybe travel expenses reimbursed by the company via paycheck? I had that once with a coworker whose credit card was declined when we checked out of our respective hotel rooms so I covered his bill on mine (but expensed it directly to the company, no personal checks involved).
                Gripping at straws here.

              2. TWW*

                Maybe he bought something from his coworker and forgot to mention it to OP? Or maybe he did mention the purchase but didn’t say specifically who he bought from?

                I once bought a guitar from a coworker. I had previously discussed it with my wife so she knew I was looking for one, but didn’t know I had purchased that specific instrument until after I came home with it, and I don’t think I ever told her who I bought it from. She probably assumed I got it from a store or a stranger on Craigslist.

                Had she later discovered a canceled check to my coworker, she would have had no idea what it was for without asking me.

                1. (insert name here)*

                  totally legit. That’s probably what it is. Who doesn’t need 300 boxes of thin mints.

                2. Marillenbaum*

                  I do this with coworkers! We live overseas but with US mailing addresses (APO), and since it’s a minimum of $20 to get a shipping order, anyone who just wants a box or two sends their order to me and I place it as a single transaction. Plus, I buy through Troop #6000, which consists of girls in the NYC shelters. We get cookies, a great organization gets funding, everyone wins!

              3. Not a Blossom*

                Maybe he lent her money because she’s in a difficult situation (unexpected bills she can’t cover, trying to leave an abusive partner) and he felt bad for her.

              4. MCMonkeybean*

                But what would the checks before even if it they were having an affair? Maybe I’m just not well-versed in this area but nothing comes immediately to my mind as to why a person would write a check for $1,440 and $323 to a person they were sleeping with. And maybe it’s giving him too much credit but if that were somehow part of it, why would he use a joint checking account?

                I think there is literally no way to know what the checks are for other than asking and trying to guess isn’t going to help anything.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Pretty sure that most guys banging a colleague will be careful not to use the joint account to give said colleague any money.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Some people with a history of bad relationships sincerely believe that good relationships don’t exist so they don’t expect them. So in those cases, going into it with the assumption that husbands are inherently untrustworthy, it makes a weird sort of sense to redirect everything to the suspected other woman. I know that’s a lot to read into one paragraph, but I suspect that’s happening here. It’s a problem with this specific marriage definitely, but possibly also a problem with OP5’s approach to relationships in general. Still not a work problem though.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I don’t know. I’d be concerned too, though I’d not think of asking the coworker. I’d ask my husband, not on the assumption that he’s cheating. But those are large sums coming from a joint account that he never discussed with me. That is the major issue here. The lack o communication over our joint financials would be the real issue.

    2. Sue*

      Maybe, but that may be more money than this spouse should be spending without the OP’s knowledge. Op, if you aren’t able to get a reasonable/believable answer or if you actually know the answer but just want confirmation, it may be time to consult an attorney to protect your assets. One spouse can do a lot of harm to community finances.

    3. Caroline Bowman*

      I’d go with asking him directly and with no preamble.

      Watch his face very closely when he responds. If it was for some totally legit thing, he’ll be like ”remember when my car died on my way to work back in October? Yeah, Mindy covered the towing cost and I reimbursed her” and that will be that.

      But I’d strongly suspect something deception-related, most likely an affair or something of that nature.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think affair partners are in the habit of writing checks to each other for random sums.

        1. onco fonco*

          I’m also struggling to picture how these cheques fit into an affair. Those are really specific amounts of money, and they don’t look like hotel/dinner amounts. Maaaybe she’s buying herself gifts from him and he’s paying her back (which isn’t exactly romantic – I mean, this is how my spouse of 12 years likes to handle my birthday presents because I’m the best judge of what I like, but it’s not how he wooed me…!). But it could also be reimbursement for any number of other things.

          1. Tilly*

            Divorce attorney here. You would be surprised what people write checks for – and sometimes even memorialize in memo line! Never underestimate stupidity.

            But, regardless, not a work issue, and shouldn’t approach coworker.

          2. Observer*

            It still doesn’t really matter. SOMETHING is rotten here – there is no way this kind of money should be spent without full disclosure to a spouse and joint account holder.

          3. Joan Rivers*

            I went right to a medical procedure and rent or security deposit for those two figures.
            None of the suggestions so far have sounded plausible.

          1. Happy Camper*

            The amount is curiously close to our stimulus payments, maybe he got an advance he needed to pay back?

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          money is very often part of infidelity. Financial infidelity is so often part of the betrayal.

          Spouse is spending time and money they could have been spending on their primary relationship / family on their new fxckbuddy. So often it’s the financial trail that trips them up in the end.

          It may 100% not be that in this case, but at least a couple of scenarios spring to mind; they went somewhere and she paid and he is reimbursing her for his share, she has financial difficulties of whatever kind, so he’s ”helping her out”, knight in shining armour style.

          The only solution is to ask straight out immediately. His reaction will tell her all she needs to know and if it’s for some very legit reason, then she’ll know what that is. I would be very taken aback to find my spouse had spent that kind of our joint money on another woman without discussing it either before or at the time (if it was for an emergency).

          1. MK*

            Sure, I see how it can happen, but it’s still not particularly common, I think. Usually spending money on an affair partner doesn’t involve actually writing them checks; I could understand jumping to that conclusion if the checks were to a hotel or a lingerie shop, but it wouldbe my first thought for a check to a coworker.

            1. Batgirl*

              It’s immensely common for affair partners to lend or borrow sums to each other to help each other out. It doesn’t have anything to do with activities or spending usually, which they would use cash for. It’s surprising to most people who hear about it because it’s such a risky thing to do with marital funds. But it’s still common.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Excellent point about financial infidelity. It could be that there is no affair, but hubs is not responsible with money and has a long history. For some people financial infidelity is more of a deal than sexual infidelity. OP, if this rings true for you, there is much on the net about financial infidelity.

            Younger me thought I might be a jerk, because I believed if my SO screwed with the finances we would be D-O-N-E, done. Decades later, I saw it is the bfd I thought it was.

        3. Batgirl*

          That absolutely happened in the affair that ended my marriage. At first I just assumed it *must* be something innocent cause otherwise it’s just too stupid. I was even more surprised to find out it was a common thing in affairs. That doesn’t mean that’s what’s happening here since there’s lots of reasons people write cheques.

    4. Kit*

      Unless the female coworker moonlights as a divorce lawyer, OP definitely shouldn’t phone her.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      The mind automatically jumps to “having an affair,” but this would be an odd way for it to manifest. What are those checks for? His share of the hotel room for nooners? And more to the point, if it is something he is trying to keep hidden, checks in a joint account would be a peculiar way to go about it. Also, how excessive are these amounts, given the family finances? I wouldn’t write a four-figure check without discussing it with my wife, but I might do that for a couple hundred dollars. What is excessive depends entirely on circumstances. Of course it is possible that he is an idiot, but I am guessing it was something innocent, and his crime is being clueless about communications.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Right? Even *if* the husband is having an affair and even *if* he is paying his half of their hotel room bill or something, would he do it out of a bank account the wife has access to?

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          People in the midst of affairs are surprisingly stupid and clueless and because they are entitled, it doesn’t really occur to them that they might get caught.

          It’s the nature of the beast.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Yeah, this line of thinking that it can’t be an affair because nobody do something so risky which might get them caught reminds me of a group in a college ethics course that claimed anti-cheating measures (for schoolwork) aren’t necessary because cheating is too risky so nobody would actually do it. But the reality is that people take all kinds of risks that seem ridiculous to outsiders.

            But in any case even if there is no affair, one partner should not be taking large sums out of a joint account without so much as notifying the other person, let alone discussing it with them first. What if OP went to pay the rent only to find the account overdrawn? There are lots of ways that a relationship can have problems, with an affair being only one of them. But something is going on here and it’s not a work problem.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              There’s a forger who was caught because he wrote a $2 check to the engraver who printed one of his fake documents (google “Mark Hoffmann forger”), so yeah, even people who are incredibly smart and good at hiding things make really stupid mistakes sometimes.

            2. MCMonkeybean*

              I don’t think many people are saying it *can’t* be an affair, just that far too many people are assuming that is the most likely scenario. It is certainly possible but I don’t think there is any reason to argue that is definitely what is happening.

      2. Observer*

        I wouldn’t write a four-figure check without discussing it with my wife, but I might do that for a couple hundred dollars.

        But would continue to keep quiet about it and hope she doesn’t see the bank statements?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I might keep quiet in the sense of not thinking to mention it, but she is the one who tracks the account. At some point she would ask me what it was for and I would have to pause and think about it. In the case of the LW, there is no evidence regarding the husband’s motives.

          How big a deal this is depends entirely on the financial situation. The amounts might be a huge deal, or hardly worth mentioning. The LW did not express concern about how this affects their finances, suggesting it is more on the “hardly worth mentioning” side.

        2. Not Australian*

          There’s no indication he hoped she wouldn’t see the bank statement. Isn’t it more likely that he was indifferent to whether she did or not, i.e. that it was no big deal?

          1. Observer*

            The way the OP puts the question, it’s pretty reasonable to think that he’s expecting her to not say anything because she thinks she can’t.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      This is a personal question. It’s a red herring that the person who got the check is a female coworker.

      What do you do when you discover your husband wrote two large checks out of your joint checking account to someone? You ask your husband. He’s the one you need to talk to.

      That said this is not the sign of a hidden affair or hidden anything because this isn’t hidden. It’s either innocent or an attempt to get caught.

    7. Observer*

      And before you jump to an affair, have a little think. Did she maybe order something online for him and he is paying her back for part of a group buy… there could be legitimate reasons for him to write a cheque too.

      Are you serious?

      The OP writes that “ The checks were for $1440 and $323 written several months apart.” That is a LOT of money. It may not be an affair. But it reasons you are suggesting make no sense. It’s hard to think of any legitimate expense of that size coming from a joint account that could be legitimate when not discussed with or known to the other account holder.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        And the checks were to HER, not to an apartment bldg. and not to a clinic. For very specific amounts. So if it’s legit, they’re still close enough for her to be fronting him large amounts of money. Which shows intimacy in its own way. How many of us women are giving a married male coworker almost $1,500 for anything?

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I disagree with your disagree – the $323, maybe, for us, but for nearly $1500? Absolutely not.

          Every couple is going to have their own “benchmark” for “I need to tell Significant Other that I am going to spend or have spent This Amount”. A couple hundred dollars isn’t absurd to put as that benchmark.

          It’s not even that I’d be pissed at Spouse spending $1500. It’s that he would be spending about the same as our mortgage of our *shared money* without saying anything to me what it is or giving me a heads-up. This is a marital trust issue, not a work issue, and shouldn’t involve the coworker at all; but it’s still reasonable for the OP to seriously question what in the world Spouse spent that money on. Even a group purchase at work – for $1440(!!!) – what in the heck was purchased that $1440 is Spouse’s share of the group purchase? Perhaps Spouse lent money to the coworker – it’s not unreasonable for OP to want to know that *prior* to handing over $1700 or so.

          The coworker/work angle is irrelevant to the base issue of a lapse in marital trust & communication.

          1. Observer*

            . It’s that he would be spending about the same as our mortgage of our *shared money* without saying anything to me what it is or giving me a heads-up

            Exactly.

            ven a group purchase at work – for $1440(!!!) – what in the heck was purchased that $1440 is Spouse’s share of the group purchase?

            Yeah. That was one of the more bizarre suggestions being made.

        2. biobotb*

          You regularly pay those amounts for services/products/etc. that your spouse doesn’t know about?

          1. PJ*

            My husband might use a joint account to buy something and then transfer money in from his account without telling me – but he tells me what he’s doing either as he’s transferring or if I see it later. If it was for a product purchase of that size, it seems like the purchase would show up somewhere!

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Your household is clearly at a level of affluence that doesn’t represent much of the population. The $1400 plus payment is a month’s rent for me.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Y’all, there’s no point in debating whether it’s a large amount of money to you personally. It is for many people, it’s not for others, and incomes vary. I don’t think we gain anything from debating this point.

      2. Antilles*

        100% agreed.
        I could understand if it was a small amount. $30 or something would be something simple like the group going to lunch and he forgot his wallet or maybe the team bought a nice gift for someone’s retirement and he’s repaying it. But not at this level of expense.
        There are certainly jobs where writing this kind of a check wouldn’t raise eyebrows…but then again, if he was CEO of his own business or some other role where it made sense, presumably OP wouldn’t need to ask the question because she’d already know what’s happening.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yes, I once went to lunch with colleagues after court one day, and we usually use the corporate card. But the place only took Amex, cash, or check. We found out after we ate. I was the only one who carried personal checks and I paid. The others reimbursed me. But no one owed me more than $20. I can’t think what I’d cover for $1400!

          1. Self Employed*

            If the company is picky about what qualifies as business expenses, that could be dinner + drinks + tip for a group of 20-25 people. Or a table or two for a charity gala.

            But it does look more like rent, which would be fishy.

            Still, don’t cross the streams at work by approaching a spouse’s coworker.

    8. Gina*

      I always wonder why the go to is to ask the coworker/employer? Your spouse is right there! Ask them!

  5. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP1. Thank you for standing up for women. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I once got fired for objecting to off colour remarks made by my boss, about women coworkers, to male clients, in front of those same women. I also got fired for rejecting my boss’s sexual advances when he asked me to come in to the office on a Saturday. Thank you.

    OP2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your boss is awful.

    OP5. Definitely don’t ask the coworker. Ask your husband. Sounds like you don’t trust him since you haven’t already asked him though. In my office, it could be that someone fronted a gift on a personal credit card and someone else collected the money. It could be someone paid for everyone’s dinner and someone else collected the money to reimburse them. Give us an update though!

    1. SyFyGeek*

      Tagging onto this comment to add my kudos to OP1. I’m hoping it was a test- you know, see what the new guy will do when confronted with these issues. And OP1 passed with flying colors. Because, jeez louise, that can’t be the first time Boss has mouthed off like that, I really hope it was staged.

      1. aett*

        I would 100% notify HR even if it was some kind of test. It would take a LOT of proof to make me believe that calling it a “test” was anything other than a lie covering the fact that he got called out on that behavior. Even then, who would want to work for someone who tries to test their employees in that way? (Or at all?)

      2. pnw dweller*

        unless the niche industry is workplace ethics, I cannot fathom any HR allowing women to be objectified in this manner to see if new employee passes a test of that nature.

        Letter Writer 1 is who we all hope our new employees to be. Moving for a job only to find out your boss is a horrible person, feels so risky to test the HR waters at a new org- way to put what’s right above what does this mean to my future.

      3. Paulina*

        Given that the sexist boss has been away ever since, that’s taking a “test” scenario rather far. This isn’t Punk’d.

  6. Dragon_Dreamer*

    OP #5, I’m concerned as to why your first thought *wasn’t* to talk to your husband. If he refuses to tell you, tries to rugsweep or even worse, gaslight that it didn’t happen, those are all red flags for financial abuse. If you’re worried about any of those things happening at *all,* and that’s why you don’t want to talk to him, then again, red flags.

    Unless you get a clear and honest answer, I’d take a step back and re-examine the relationship. (It was hopefully just a donation or something, but he SHOULD have talked to you first. Those amounts are not chump change!) Please be careful, OP. It may be time to two-card him. Honest answers/therapy, or a divorce.

    1. Jessica*

      I just learned this expression right now (thanks google), so for anyone else who didn’t know: to two-card a spouse is to offer them two business cards and tell them they need to choose one. One of the cards belongs to a marriage counselor, the other to a divorce lawyer, and they need to pick one or the other because you’re saying things can’t continue how they are.

      1. 'Tis Me*

        Aah, I assumed it was referring to red and yellow football (soccer) cards and was trying to remember if 2 yellow cards added up to a red, or if you need 3 to be sent off! The actual explanation makes more sense!

        1. Batty Twerp*

          (Tangent) Two yellows make a red, but you can get A straight red for particularly egregious transgressions.

      2. Snuck*

        I’ve never heard this expression either… I gave my husband two cards when he was going to propose to me… from jewellers with the details of rings i like. I wrote on one “Made by child labour in Asia” and the other “local gold, local craftsman, no pixies involved”. He bought the ‘right’ one :P

        1. JM in England*

          This is certainly food for thought. I will be popping the question shortly to my partner and I’ll make sure the ring is made locally.

          1. CoffeeforLife*

            Oh so many lovely jewelers in the UK doing custom work. Check instagram – signed a jewelry maker

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Thank you on behalf of my daughter who is just setting up a craft jewellery business.
            I think the words “child labour” may have helped your husband choose the right one. I really wouldn’t mind a ring made by real pixies!

          3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            We had a good friend (who is a master goldsmith) make us custom rings. Not outrageously fancy, but individually made works of art. Absolutely worth it.

          4. Snuck*

            JM in England… we did local wine, local produce, local outfits…. all local. It was intentional as a reflection of our values, but I imagine right now, it could be an equally solid thing just to support local artisans at a time they are doing it tough, without it being any bigger than that.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I assume it means it’s not magic, and is therefore lower risk. I think they mean pixie as in a kind of fairy / magical entity, and doing business with magical entities is quite risky.

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              Now I’m hearing Rumplestiltskin from Once Upon A Time saying “All magic comes with a price, dearie!”

            1. Snuck*

              Bwahahah. No…. there’s two kids…. ours… this was eleven years ago.

              The no children was a direct reference to the fact that many supply chains in south east Asia and Africa involve child labour in the production line somewhere, and it’s REALLY hard to prove there isn’t any in a particular item.

              Using local Australian gold, local Australian diamonds and local Australian artisans ensured there was no children involved in the production of our wedding jewellery (or wine, food, clothes and decorations).

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Yeah. I’m going through possible explanations in my head. There are a few that say dodgy things about the workplace. A few more that say nothing about the workplace, but say dodgy things about the husband. Then some that are innocent except for the question “Why didn’t the husband say anything at the time ?”

      Even if the truth is due to something dodgy about the workplace, if the husband refuses to explain, then his refusal should be more of a worry than whatever the workplace is doing.

    3. Lucy P*

      Aren’t we jumping to conclusions? I realize that a lot of people have been burned by cheating SO’s, but we shouldn’t automatically assume the worse. Yeah, it’s seem bad, especially since he didn’t tell his spouse about it. On the other hand, they’re not even amounts (not nice, round numbers), which makes seem more like a reimbursement type of thing. Maybe he hit said coworker’s car in the parking lot and reimbursed coworker for the damages. The first check may have been based on the estimate and the second check was for the cost of the repair bill that exceeded the estimate.

      1. Observer*

        The problem here is that even if it is a reimbursement, it’s not something he should be doing without letting his wife know.

        People keep bringing up the example of backing into the coworker’s car. Well, why would there be two payments several months apart for that? More importantly, why is he hiding both the accident and the reimbursement from his wife?

        In other words, the odds of this being legitimate are extremely low, regardless of whether there is an affair happening.

        1. Lucy P*

          I admit it is weird, but I also see that we’re missing context. Does OP have access to the bank account information and access it on a regular basis? If so (as other people have said), spouse would have to be really dumb to think they were hiding something.
          I offered a suggestion in my original comment as to why there would be two payments: 1st payment is for the amount of the estimate, 2nd payment is for the final bill (maybe more damage was found while doing the repairs). Or, it could be the 2nd payment was for the cost of car rental and coworker didn’t know the final price till their credit card bill came in. Either way, it’s just speculative.
          For all we know, OP’s spouse told them about it, and OP completely forgot about the conversation.

          1. Observer*

            OK, so you explained two payments. But that still does not explain why he did not tell her. The idea that the OP managed to “forget” about this is classic gas lighting. Please don’t do that.

            1. Lucy P*

              Sorry, I work with several people who can be extremely forgetful. I can have very detailed conversations with them on a particular subject. When the subject comes up again, there is no recollection of the first conversation even after a refresher.

              1. Observer*

                The fact that you work with people who are outlandishly forgetful at work does not make it likely that the OP forgot that her husband told her about a very large payment that he was going to make to one of his coworkers.

      2. Nicotene*

        I’m a little puzzled. These amounts aren’t that much, and several months apart? I don’t automatically assume it’s an affair or something. I agree it’s odd, but they could be things like staff retreats/parties, hotel rooms for business travel (I used to have to pay personally for upgrades, also any kind of mix-up or mistake on billing came from my personal account).

        1. marymoocow*

          I would love to be in a position where I can spend $1400 without batting an eye, but to me that is a staggering amount of money.

          1. Someone On-Line*

            Yeah, that’s about half my monthly take home pay. I am genuinely happy that some people are secure enough to drop $1400 without second thought, but that is obviously not the position OP is in, so she is valid in her concerns.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              We are able to drop that much money with minimal thought, and I’d still be pissed at my spouse if he forgot to tell me – or attempted to hide it.

              However, it still comes back to “go ask the Spouse, do not harass the coworker”.

              1. Joielle*

                Yeah, we’re also in a place where that’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s still enough that you would say something if you were writing a check that size. At least as an FYI, or idk, just something interesting to mention about your day.

                And clearly the LW noticed it and thought it remarkable enough to write to an advice columnist about, so I don’t think it’s just a drop in the bucket to them.

          2. Lucy P*

            A few years back, I spent about $500 on a digital die-cutting machine and software. To me it was a a large purchase. I’ve seen other people make similar purchases and not blink.

        2. Joan Rivers*

          “not that much”? Depends how you look at it. It’s a lot more than picking up the tab when you have coffee w/a coworker.

          It could easily be covering part of a “love nest” and then, procedure at a clinic. Is female coworker married too? Or moved recently? These expenses are more believable than other suggestions. The amounts just fit that pattern.

          But it could be some odd reason, too. Like, she loaned him money when they went gambling. That he might want to cover up.

          My mind keeps going back to how “close” they are for them to be exchanging this amount of money. Not usual. If his reply is sketchy I’d demand to speak to them both together.

        3. Observer*

          Are you aware that for more than 50% of US households, $1,400 is at least a weeks gross pay – and for substantial portion of them it’s a lot more than that? And that for these same households this is anywhere from a half a month to a month’s take home pay?

        4. biobotb*

          But why would those expenses be paid by personal check to a specific coworker, and not the business? And I still don’t understand why the husband wouldn’t let his wife know he had to pay for any of that. Clearly, if the LW and her husband had your lifestyle, and those amounts were considered negligible, she probably wouldn’t have written in.

      3. Roci*

        To me, the amount of money, and even the female coworker, are almost irrelevant. If your spouse spends any amount of money, especially from a joint account, you should be able to ask them about it. “Hey, what’s this $2.89 charge about?” “Oh I bought a coworker a coffee.” That’s it. You shouldn’t need to ask about every little thing, but you should be able to.

        To me, the biggest issue is OP’s husband gave someone money and OP can’t or won’t ask their husband about it. That is a huge sign that OP doesn’t trust their husband!

    4. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      My bank allows me and my husband to view (online) all cheques written from our joint bank account. This could be helpful if you have access to this feature. You could see if “for the dirt bike” is written in the comment field or whatever.

      1. Clisby*

        It seems to me, though, that the LW must have seen the checks (whether a hardcopy or online.) How else would she know that he wrote it to a higher-level co-worker? If her bank statements are l like mine, they don’t show who a check was written to – just the amount and the check #.

  7. Kathryn*

    #3 – Yes, your appearance IS probably ruling you out of a job. Ageism is a real challenge, at least in the US, and clearly not understanding the work culture exacerbates the issue. I know it’s hard, but do your best to calibrate how you dress to better fit in with those with whom you are interviewing. You should be a “little better“ dressed than them, since it is a job interview, but clean and well pressed business casual will definitely resonate better than a dress shirt and tie. Best wishes in your search!

    1. Beth*

      This seems like a misthread, but more importantly, I don’t know where the idea of ageism comes in here! OP doesn’t say their age. They call themselves ‘old fashioned,’ but it sounds like that’s in reference to their preference to dress formally for interviews, which I don’t think is a particular sign that they’re old enough that ageism is a likely issue. I’m 30, and when I graduated college the common advice was to go business formal for interviews; I could see plenty of people my age continuing to follow that advice, especially if it’s been a bit since they were last interviewing.

      1. Bizlikeit*

        I know many industries still expect that. I work in the financial sector and even though we are very business casual we expect anyone we interview to show up to an interview in business formal. Its not just some weird powerplay, we want to make sure that one you are taking it seriously and two can put yourself together to make a formal pitch etc.

        1. Z*

          Yeah, I am in engineering (finished school in 2017) and did all my interviews in suits or suit separates, but when we did go to the office most everyone wore the casual side of business casual.
          I did have friends applying for more high-tech “cool” companies where they were asked to wear “smart casual” for interviews. If we weren’t told to wear something specific like that we all assumed business formal.

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I’m a lawyer. We are expected to take the bar exam in court appropriate attire in my state (a bit absurd, but we wear suits to a two day long exam). We are expected to wear suits to interviews, even at my workplace, where we dress pretty casually day to day.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I don’t think this is an ageism thing. I’m 31 and I would always err on the side of over-dressing for interviews. I think it’s highly unlikely many people would hold that against you, since they should understand that during the interview process you don’t have a sense of their culture and dress code yet. If they are really casual then they would let you know that as part of the onboarding process after you are hired.

    2. iliketoknit*

      This is really really field/job specific. Plus, interviewers get a lot of slack; they can wear what they like. But interviewers dressing casually on Zoom doesn’t mean the interviewee isn’t expected to dress more formally. One of my colleagues interviews people wearing a fleece or warm weather equivalent. But applicants are still expected to wear a suit to the interview b/c of the field we’re in. A blanket recommendation to wear business casual for every job interview isn’t accurate.

      1. anony*

        Video interviews, not all interviews. We expected suits at interviews before covid-19. We don’t expect them on video interviews.

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          my husband has literally just had this exact situation for a video interview. In the end he elected to (obviously) be nicely shaved and wear a smart-ish collared, button-down shirt, but no tie. He desperately wanted to wear a tie, because ”you have to for interviews”, but is glad he didn’t in the end.

          Saying that, had he worn one, he’d have been a little overdressed but it would not have affected his chances and seeing that a candidate has made a big effort can never really be a ”bad” thing. It’s quite endearing, not a red flag, even if it’s a bit OTT for whatever the job is.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            This. I’m pretty sure no tie is the way to go in almost every possible interview if obviously calling in from home. If the candidate is on the older side, for sure no tie. If the candidate is on the younger side, it might be nice.

            I’ve worn sports coats and nice shirts in important video meetings, but have only put on a tie once since the pandemic started, and that was for a wedding where a bunch of people in the wedding party would be very dressed up as sell.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, I’m pretty sure being overdressed for an interview is not going to be a tie-breaker, unless you’re in tech where it’s considered an absolute no (I think).

              1. Qwerty*

                Tech does not make it an absolute no, at least not at a decent company. I do a lot of tech interviews and being overdressed is still common, especially if your company doesn’t have a reputation related to their dress code. Plenty of candidates feel more like they are in “interveiew mode” if they dress up, so its an odd thing to penalize someone for.

                For OP3, what your interviewers wear is more of an indication of what the office dress code will be.

        2. iliketoknit*

          My industry still expects suits for video interviews. Of course, we frequently have to wear them in the course of our work, so it should be expected and not a burden (anyone we interview will be used to wearing them). And really when I say “suit” for video interview in practice that means jacket & tie for men/jacket and blouse for women and whatever you like on the bottom, as long as you’ve checked what shows on zoom.

      2. Felis alwayshungryis*

        The rule of thumb I was always taught was to dress a step more formal than your interviewer. Then again, I’m an older millennial, so I was taught a lot of things that might not be true any more ;-)

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Sure, but what does that mean.

          In an office, the interviewer might be in business casual with a sport coat and dress shirt but no tie. So the interviewee goes in a suit and tie. And there are limits too – if the interviewer is in suit and tie, the interviewee does the same – not a tuxedo to go one level up.

          Nowadays, it’s likely the interviewer will be in a polo shirt/informal shirt, so the interviewer goes in a dress shirt and sport coat, but no tie.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              You can’t for sure. But you can try – either by asking the person setting up the meeting or through other means – to figure out what is roughly typical at the workplace. And then go one level up.

            2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

              I’ve always wondered this.

              I’ve worked in one basic industry for 20 years, with four jobs spanning, and the office dress codes ran the entire gamut from business formal through “jeans with no holes are okay M-F, polo/collared shirts/no tee shirts”. They weren’t different niches either, three of the four directly compete with each other!

            3. AnalystintheUK*

              The last interview I had (via MS Teams), part of the instructions were to join said to wear business casual. I’m not sure why more companies don’t do this – it removed one thing to be stressed about which led to a better interview for all involved.

            4. RecoveringSWO*

              A zoom meeting might just allow for that. Husband starts the call with his camera off with a blazer in reaching distance and a tie loosely around his neck. Based on a quick look, he can either tighten his tie up or take it off and grab the jacket. His video would come in after for a quick gap of time that I think no one would think about, it would just seem like the video was loading. Now, all that said, that’s probably too distracting to do before an interview and being slightly more formal shouldn’t really matter that much. I’m just intrigued by the possibly.

              1. RecoveringSWO*

                Sorry OP, I’m tired this morning and somehow thought it was your spouse writing in, whoops!

              2. Qwerty*

                I had someone do this for an in-person interview once! The candidate had his suit jacket over his arm when he walked in since it was a blazing hot day outside, then looked around the room at the very casual interview panel (polos and t-shirts) and said something “I’m relieved to see that I’m overdressed, do you mind if I remove my tie so I can fit in?” The guys loved it, it was a good icebreaker that led into talking about our office culture and environment.

        2. Allonge*

          The version I heard was one level up from what you expect to be wearing in the job yourself, which is not necessarily a lot easier to know, but it will not require mind-reading in most cases. If it’s strictly business, you do the same.

          As an interviewer, in most office type jobs I would accept a business or nice business casual outfit without any issue – yes, there are super informal offices, but showing up at an interview in a t-shirt and torn jeans and flipflops is a risk and I am not willing to penalise people who are not taking that risk.

      3. Rachel*

        I don’t do my hair or plan my outfit on a day where one of my 7 meetings is an interview (virtual or in person); I am just at work, wearing my standard lazy work clothes because my role doesn’t need it and my company doesn’t care. I sort of expect the interviewee to be more dressed up than me, but I wouldn’t hold it against them

        1. Malarkey01*

          There are days at work where I am more casual than normal and that may or may not be an interview day. However I don’t think the way your panel or interviewer is dressed sets the standard for those being interviewed. I would never hold it against any applicant for being overdressed as long as it was work appropriate (no tuxedo or fancy dress).
          I’ve done several zoom interviews and usually see people in suits and/or button up with ties even though some on the panel are in sweaters or casual shirts.

      4. Oxford Comma*

        Even before the pandemic, the people at the interviews who were not the candidate wore what they like. The candidate is expected to be at their best. We’re not. I know that’s not fair but that’s how it is.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I have interviewed multiple people during the pandemic as video interviews and while I wouldn’t be annoyed if someone wasn’t wearing a tie, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. I don’t know where ageism comes into this, generally my observation has been younger candidates have tended to dress up more for video calls than older ones.

    4. Vaguely sauntering*

      Interesting. I’m in Australia, doing my first formal interview in 13 years tomorrow, via video.
      Advice from 2 recruiters and a friend who’s a trainer is: for 2021 corporate roles, still wear same clothes you would to an in-person interview.
      Maybe we’re more conservative over here than I’d realised?

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I think it’s more that you cannot be ”wrong” to be dressed smartly, especially for corporate-type roles. Sure, you may be slightly overdressed for a video interview but it wouldn’t be as bad as showing up in a tracksuit, unshaven and in a stained t-shirt for such a role.

        It shows effort and taking the thing seriously.

      2. Jane*

        I have a global team and my colleagues in Australia are much less impacted by the pandemic at the moment than colleagues in Europe / US. My Sydney team still go into the office for a day or so a week and still have social lives and reasons to get dressed….whereas in the UK and NY we’ve been working from home for a solid year without stepping foot into the office once (and lockdown fatigue has definitely set in). I’d guess that professional norms for video interviews in the UK are lower than Australia currently just because everyone knows we’re at home, have all been in casual clothes for a year, and just pulling out the business casual clothes is making a gigantic effort when we’re now used to seeing colleagues on zoom calls daily in hoodies with unwashed hair and kids / pets running round.

    5. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      There’s nothing to suggest the OP is older / would be subject to ageism? He said old-fashioned, which is not the same thing.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      10 years in their career puts them in early 30s. Not likely an ageism issue.

      1. Rain*

        That’s assuming they didn’t do any graduate work, or had no difficulties immediately entering their chosen field You can’t assume that.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Or they could be in their late 20s if they didn’t go to college. It works both ways.

      2. The OP*

        Both of you have made fair assumptions based upon what I wrote, but the reality is I’m close to a freaking antique at this point, 10 years in this industry only after I re-careered after economy cratered in the later oughts. Retirement is on the not so distant horizon – perhaps five years out. As I said elsewhere, ageism may be a factor in some cases, but I’m not certain it is in all cases.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Thanks for clarifying that. Ageism is real. I would lean to dressing more casual because of it. Neatness and cleanliness would matter more than anything to me, it would seem.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            I’m in my mid 50s and worried ageism too. I’d urge looking sharp but not stuffy. No tie if I was interviewing at most places that are business casual day-to-day. I’ve been in a nice sports coat or possibly suit jacket, dress shirt, but no tie.

            “I would lean to dressing more casual because of it.”

            Yup.

            1. Carol*

              Or maybe…not even necessarily more casual, but maybe making sure the clothing looks somewhat on-trend (not trendy, exactly, just current)? Maybe OP has already done this. I’ve definitely interviewed people (younger and older) who dress TOO casually and that’s not great, either. Usually you want to be a step or two above what the interviewers are wearing. They’re going to wear their everyday work clothing but would probably expect the candidate to be a bit dressier. Maybe this is relaxed somewhat with video interviewing.

        2. kt*

          OP, you might be interested in some of what Laura Huang has written about ageism in hiring — she’s a business prof who has studied interviewing success and has some good tips on combatting bias on an individual-candidate level.

    7. Cat Tree*

      I don’t necessarily agree. It’s extremely common for the interviewee to be more dressed up than the interviewer, and that was the case even in the before times. In fact, it’s so common that I don’t understand why OP ever expected the interviewers to more dressed up. OP shouldn’t necessarily try to match the interviewer at this stage. The general advice is to be one more level dressed up, although in my industry (engineering) it’s standard to wear a full suit to an interview even though most workplaces never wear ties let alone blazers.

      I think it’s reading a lot into this to assume age discrimination. It’s a tough job market right now, and OP strikes me more as being well qualified and looking for some reason he’s not getting job offers besides “it’s a competitive economy and many other well qualified candidates also interviewed”. Blaming it on interview clothing is more appealing because it’s something he can change.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed. Even before everyone was working from home, it was common in tech for the interviewee to be wearing a suit and the interviewer to be wearing jeans. At my first post-university job, the joke was that everyone was dressed up in their badge pictures, even though they never dressed that way again.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Exactly. I was job-searching all of last year and every time I was “dressed up” while my interviewers were in very casual clothes. It never occurred to me that I might be ridiculed or ruled out for it, nor did it cross my mind that I should dress down for the interviews. I was offered and took one of those jobs and am apparently still the preferred candidate for another (long story) and now I wear leggings during work like the rest of my team.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            From what I understand of tech, smart casual would better than a suit and tie, unless the tech job perhaps was very client facing. Smart casual is dressing down from a suit and tie, but still can be dressy.

            1. Minerva*

              I’ve rarely seen a candidate not in a suit or business end of business casual in my career in tech. I also have been wearing a suit and makeup while talking to interviewers in button downs and jeans. Online has been more of a mixed bag but I’ve seen more ties than hoodies

            2. Allonge*

              I think one consideration here is that smart casual can look a lot more informal on a videocall, where only the top part is visible, than in life.

              Suit and tie are a lot more obvious up top (same for women – a really smart dress and an ok top look more or less the same when all you see is the collar part – a blazer or a suit top stand out more).

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                Put a blazer on with your smart casual – it’s pretty nice. I’m doing that in a meeting with the former head of a Global 1000 company in a few minutes.

                1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                  Note – a blazer is not a suit jacket. It’s the upper end of business casual or smart casual.

      2. twocents*

        Agreed. I don’t know that he should change. Assuming he’s not trying to jump industries, then wearing the suit and tie he knows will be expected in his industry (and has worn daily for a decade) seems like exactly the right thing to do.

    8. SomebodyElse*

      I did a round of interviews from home and I made sure to tell both our recruiter and all of the others involved with the interview that business casual was expected.

      I only had one that wore a coat/tie (Business formal) from the interview. I didn’t think anything of it other than noting it. And quietly giggling in my head because he was career military in a former life. My husband works for a paramilitary org and I know the fight I would have had on my hands if he was told business casual for an interview. It’s just not in his DNA not to dress business formal for interviews (down to ultra polished shoes).

    9. Esmeralda*

      OP states that coat and tie is how he dresses for work. So that’s not a misread on his part.

    10. The OP*

      The ageism thing is a real and not entirely separate thing. I had an interview this morning with a banking firm and thought – “Banks! Financial! Shirt and tie yes!” – and I was wrong again.

      The ageism issue has manifested itself in subtle ways. I had an interviewer who, just by comparing resumes, one can tell I’m much older than he or by looking at the face on the screen, ask the timeworn “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question. Frankly, I see myself as retired in five years, but although sorely tempted I didn’t say that. Instead I said the usual BS about succeeding enough to have his position so that he could move up the ladder. There was an awkward silence as he realized his error and we moved on, but I’m confident his discomfort probably eliminated any possibility of me getting a job.

      1. Qwerty*

        What about changing your answer on the career aspirations question to be something about doing well within the existing role? If you don’t want to be promoted, you could be hurting your chances by saying that you want a promotion. If you say that you want your interviewer’s job, and he has no plans to move on or already has a replacement in mind, then he is less likely to pick you. If the role you are interviewing for has no upward mobility, then you’ve just removed yourself from the running.

      2. AllTheBirds*

        I’m your age cohort, and I would rethink the line “usual BS about succeeding enough to have his position.” I just don’t think the flippant naked ambition reflects well on you, nor is it a thoughtful response.

        Also, my opinion only: anyone who asks that question needs to up their interviewing game. There are way more Qs I’d rather give/get answers to.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          “I just don’t think the flippant naked ambition reflects well on you, nor is it a thoughtful response.”

          +100

          I’m a couple decades *under* your age group, OP, and to me, it comes off as thoughtless. Especially when paired with the previous statement of “usual BS”. If that is the attitude that is coming through, that would be more likely the issue than being slightly overdressed.

      3. Budgie Buddy*

        OP, you may or may not be experiencing discrimination based on your clothing, but there is a strong sense of frustration that’s coming through your responses on this forum, and I wonder if it’s coming across during interviews as well. It’s incredibly frustrating to be job hunting and to feel you’re being passed over because of something about yourself that you can’t change.

        But if you self describe as “spouting BS” or making the interviewer realize his “error” then you seem to be setting up a hostile dynamic between you and an interviewer. More people are going to have reservations about hiring a candidate who comes off as weirdly confrontational right out of the gate (and in a situation where most people are putting on the best version of themselves) than about a candidate who is simply a bit older than the majority of the pool.

      4. Happy*

        Do you think that interviewers shouldn’t ask you that question? I’m not sure I understand.

        1. OP #3 (formerly The OP)*

          I think the interviewer should look up from their list of questions and think about who they are asking it of. If the resume in front of them shows 25+ years of experience (as mine does) it’s probably not a relevant question at that point.

          1. Carol*

            Well…isn’t it? You still want to work, so wouldn’t you still be able to describe some slightly longer-term goals (even if a secret one is retirement)? I’ve never answered that question with a version of “I’d like to have your job.” It’s always been more about the skills I’m trying to develop, opportunities in work I’d hope to have, etc.

  8. PinkiePieWorksHard*

    LW #1, First of all thank you! There are probably lots of women who work there who don’t feel comfortable acknowledging their relief and might even be too shell-shocked to recognize their relief, but you did what is right. However awkward things might be, you did the right thing. One observation I’d offer is that the folks asking you if you know what’s going on probably don’t think that you actually have information; it’s the general reaction when something has changed significantly and there’s no communication. They are probably asking the same thing in the same tone to everyone they encounter, but it reads differently to you because you do have information. Curiosity has the same strength and targeting ability as a heat-seeking missile.

  9. Jen*

    My AWOL boss turned out to have been in jail….so….at least it’s probably not that.

    Sounds like a health issue they are dealing with privately, but if that’s the case it would be considerate of the team for them to just let you know, even if they don’t go into detail. I think most employees are more apt to step up and help if they know someone is dealing with something and a “thank you for pitching in” goes a LONG way.

    1. Juli G.*

      I’m in HR and I cannot tell you how often this is the reason someone is AWOL. If you call me and ask what to do about your missing employee, I check the county jail before I do anything else.

      But for intermittent absences like the LW, it’s very likely health issues. It can be really difficult to deal with your own or a family member’s health issue and be the boss.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        I am SO curious as to your field now because I am picturing either half your employees are involved in mafia activity or a Mayberry situation where Uncle Andy Griffith has to let them sleep it off every Monday in the drunk tank?

          1. ChachiGambino*

            Our property manager at my first apartment disappeared a month after we moved in … turned out she’d faked being kidnapped in order to run off with some dude. What is up with this field??

            1. Liane*

              There was the open work thread saga a couple years ago from I Work On A Hellmouth about all the insane jerk moves their coworker and employer pulled. They worked in an apartment office.

            2. AnonToday*

              Going to echo: “what is up with this field?!?!”

              I’ve lived at my current place for just under 3 years and we’ve had 12 different managers/assistant managers during that time. One was fired in less than a week for smoking weed in the units, being inappropriate towards coworkers, and screaming abuse at their partner in the complex where residents could hear. It’s a surprise when someone lasts 6 months at our place.

          2. caps22*

            This is terrifying, since the property managers have keys to the residents’ homes. When I was young, the apartment maintenance worker used to use his key to come into my place without knocking, once when I was in the shower. I made sure all the places I lived in after that had inside-only locks as well, which although they can’t prevent someone from coming in with a key when you’re away, at least keeps them from sneaking up on you in the shower!

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think Food Service and Hotels are the only crazier industries that most people can have some experience with.

            I’ve heard theater/Hollywood is also crazy.

            1. OP4*

              Haha I used to work in the food industry, before prop management. Most of my co-workers are truly incredible, trustworthy, and conscientious. Many of us create years long bonds with residents, who see us a second family. That’s why it has really huge effect on team when one person is toxic. Mainly, the crazy shit we deal with is from renters and building maintenance problems.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                That’s what I meant – you will see the craziest things, at times so crazy you ask yourself if you are really seeing this…

                Signed,
                The person who worked at a hotel in the MardiGras zone after college, and who worked in the student game lounge during college……..

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          No, it’s more likely they are poor and people of color, and are easy marks for the police.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Heh. When I was in college, one member of my friend group was a Hispanic guy from a not-great neighborhood. He also was smart, funny, and the nicest guy in the world. But growing up he had developed defense strategies to fit into his not-great neighborhood, which made his appearance not fit in with “nice” middle class white neighborhoods. So one day he just disappeared. We all wondered what had happened to him? Maybe he had gone home for a few days and not told anyone. We call his mom (it was the sort of friend group where this was reasonable). Nope. She didn’t know anything about it. Finally one of the group, a white guy who turned out to have far more street smarts than I would have given him credit for, went down to the county jail. There he was. What had he been arrested for? Walking while Hispanic in a white neighborhood? Why was he still being held days later? My guess is that the cops had figured out he was a university student and didn’t know what to do with him, and worried he might make a fuss. So when this white showed up asking for him, the cops were eager to get rid of him.

        This story, by the way, was my lesson about white privilege. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to middle class white guys like me. Many think therefore it doesn’t happen at all.

    2. Willis*

      Yeah, it sound like the OP and her team just need to know what things they need to take over. I would just focus on the “what should we be covering when Manager is out?” and not the why/when around it. My guess would be that if someone was MIA for 3 weeks and their boss didn’t care, the boss probably knows what’s up. It’s weird nothing is being communicated to OP and her co-workers but maybe they didn’t realize you need more direction. I worked for someone who was out for a couple months for a family health emergency and (while I knew what the situation was) it was still sort of a “just do as best you can” without them type of situation.

    3. OP4*

      We really had no clue, but they seemed to be dealing with something. All we needed was some guidance for who is going to step in to do certain things. In such a small team, one person being out unplanned is a massive deal. When they returned unannounced, there was not one thank you for handling everything. Nor any kind of “catch me up on what I need to know”, which I would have expected being a manager myself. Just more like a sheer avoidance of doing any kind of work.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      Mine was on a multi day/week drunk. It was retail and he just stopped showing up. His sister finally stopped in a couple of weeks after he stopped coming in and clued me in to what was happening.

      1. OP4*

        Our guess was pills or booze. They were let go last week. We will probably never know. I just want a reliable manager. ::shrug::

  10. Viette*

    LW #5: “Am I allowed to call the coworker and ask?”

    I’m really curious what’s prompting the word “allowed”! Allowed by whom? By the law, or by common courtesy, or what? Did you ask your husband already and he won’t tell you, and forbade you from calling the coworker — did he say you’re not allowed?

    If your spouse writes $1750+ in personal cheques from a shared bank account to anyone, of any gender, with any relationship to them, with no explanation, then you’ve got a spouse problem. You are *allowed* to ask your husband, and you’re *entitled* to an explanation.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, that’s a lot of money. And if you think your spouse will lie to you… that’s a marriage issue. I would avoid involving your spouses coworker, as they might be totally innocent in all this, but I think the fact that you want to ask them and not your husband isn’t exactly a positive sign.

        1. Observer*

          That’s actually not true. It may not be life altering or anything like that. But, that’s one – two weeks *gross* salary for more than half of the US population. If someone is looking at net salary, that becomes 2-4 weeks payroll. In a moderate COL area, it’s a month’s rent. In a high COL area, that won’t come close to covering rent, but on the other hand it’s harder to have that kind of money come out of your account, even if you are making significantly more than the median income in the US.

            1. Observer*

              True. My point is that even for people for whom it’s not life altering it’s a significant amount of money.

              For anyone in the lowest 30% of income? Yes, life altering. And we ARE talking about a significant proportion of the population.

              1. Caramel*

                Yes sorry, my response was to the person who said it was a small amount (I must have pressed reply to you instead). I’m in a good situation financially and I consider approx. $1700 a lot of money. It’s not just about your earnings, it’s how you structure your finances.

                1. Self Employed*

                  It’s a significant amount for a partner to be spending out of a joint account without communicating about it. “I’m paying for Jane’s deductible and rental car after our fender bender in the parking lot.” “Turns out I can’t expense sending individual mini-cakes and ordering delivered lunches for Wakeen’s going-away party via Zoom.”

        2. Caramel*

          I’m a Dr and I consider that a lot of money. No wonder we’re in a mess when people think such a large chunk is ‘nothing’. The only thing I’ve spent 2k+ on is purchasing my house.

        3. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          If this amount was unimportant to the LW, we wouldn’t be reading this letter.

        4. Paulina*

          Irrespective of one’s own personal finances, it’s a lot of money in that it’s a lot more than the cost of anything that immediately comes to mind as something a coworker might cover for you and need repayment. It’s not small in terms of what it buys.

        5. Librarian1*

          Considering that at least half of all American adults couldn’t scrounge up $400 if they needed it for an emergency, you’re clearly in the minority here.

      1. Van Wilder*

        Even If the coworker isn’t “innocent” (if it’s an affair), OP’s issue is with her husband. OP, if you ask your husband, and he confesses to an affair (I’m not saying I think that’s the case, but if), you still don’t engage the coworker. You deal with your marriage; whatever that means to you: coming to an agreement with your husband on the rules of your relationship, or, divorce.

    2. MK*

      I assume in this case allowed means, is it a reasonable thing to do? Unless the husband sold the OP some bananas explanation that she would be violating privacy laws.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I was a little thrown by “what are my rights” as well. Not sure if they are just very formal in their writing style or if they are really thinking of this in terms of legality? It certainly wouldn’t be illegal to call up his coworker, but it would come across pretty oddly and might make things weird for your husband at work, especially if there turns out to be an innocuous reason for the checks.

  11. ele4phant*

    If I saw my husband was writing checks from our joint account to another woman, I wouldn’t immediately jump to “He’s up to something untoward.” Because I know he’s not a dummy. If he were up to shanigans, I know he’d hide it better (not that I have any reason to distrust my husband, but just saying…)

    Assumming your husband also isn’t a dummy, LW5, you should ask him for what those checks were for. I would assume if it was done so blatantly, there’s going to be a legitimate reason until I have more evidence to suggest otherwise.

    But maybe if your first impulse is to ask this stranger coworker, instead of him, maybe you do have legitamate reasons to be suspicious, beyond just the checks…

    1. Admin 4 life*

      I had an incident happen recently where a male employee had to write me (female) a personal check. I paid for a course and certificate on a company credit card and he failed it so he had to reimburse the company BUT because it was my company card, I had to pay it and he had to reimburse me so I could reimburse the company (it was a pita).

      So my first thought is this is a reimbursement for something work related but I’d definitely ask him about it.

      1. Willis*

        My first thought was he backed into her car or something and they agreed to take care of it w/out insurance. It seems like there are a lot of possibilities and OP needs to ask her husband. Like Ele4phant said, the fact that that wasn’t her first instinct is probably more telling than the checks are.

        1. Roeslein*

          My thoughts exactly! I’d probably assume my husband was hiding it because he was ashamed to have damaged the car *again*…

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I’ve had that happen–it was going to be less than my (crummy, very high) deductible at the time, so it was easier to just pay cash and leave insurance out of it. Still, if my husband were writing that kind of a check out of our join account and not telling me why–BIG mistake, and I would expect to be informed.

          1. Self Employed*

            My ex would “forget” to tell me about having to pay speeding tickets because he knew I’d be furious. I guess, in retrospect, it’s technically abusive to yell at him. But still, he wasn’t 25 any more and should have known better than to race random strangers on the freeway BECAUSE YOU CAN DIE IN A FIERY WRECK THAT WAY (and take innocent bystanders with you).

    2. Artemesia*

      Yes this should be a flashing red marriage light/flag that the first thought is an inappropriate relationship. If my husband wrote a big check that exceeded our rule of thumb about expenditures, I’d ask him — it would never occur to me that he was fooling around. Perhaps there are many other signs, subtle or not, previously recognized or not, that cause this reaction. But that is what I would be exploring individually and with my husband.

      1. Sue*

        If it was my husband, I’d be looking around for unfamiliar sporting equipment. He’s “forgotten” to tell me about a few of his previous purchases so I’m on to him by now.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          With mine, it’s airplane models suddenly popping up. And when asked, he usually tells me “but they’re not even that expensive”. They are. But that’d still be ok, if he didn’t buy 10 at a time… Now, and I’m eyerolling just writing this, we worked out he’ll only buy fun stuff in the last week of the month, and only with what’s left after he managed to save X% of his salary first.

          1. Allonge*

            Eh, not sure about the eyeroll – of course it would be best if everyone came with the internal control to spend reasonably, especially once there is a shared household to maintain, but honestly these ‘rules’ can help a lot to regulate things. Mine is no online shopping after 8 pm. It works surprisingly well. So, I think you guys did a good job if yours works too.

            Anyway, for LW5 – it really is ok to just ask your husband about this, and asking the coworker is less than ideal as a first solution – could she even give a satisfactory answer?

            For what it’s worth, I could spend these amounts without financial ruin and still would definitely expect (and give) an explanation on what this was for from a partner. It’s triple the amount of my first monthly take-home salary, for one.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Computer equipment here, though my partner buys all that with his saved money. (Our system is to pool most income but keep $x / mo for our own use.) I would not think ‘affair’ if I saw those checks, I would think ‘gaming system’.

          1. Observer*

            To hos coworker? I mean that’s possible, but that’s not where most people are buying this kind of stuff.

            Also, the OP seems to be unaware of an expensive hobby Husband has. So that makes it less likely, as well.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Well, my partner works for himself, but tons of my coworkers have $2Kish gaming machines. Higher level female exec? Hers, her child’s or spouse’s – yeah, absolutely. But we work in tech, in a tech hub city.

              It is odd that so many jump to affair – LW doesn’t imply that, unless you count ‘female’ in the exec description. And who the heck gives an affair partner straight money?

              My bet is something work-related, since as you say, LW doesn’t propose any guesses about it.

              1. Observer*

                Work expenses are a highly unlikely scenario. Work expenses are generally NOT covered by writing personal checks to other staff members. And the fact that the OP can’t think of a likely expense doesn’t make it more likely. It just makes it less likely that it’s a legitimate expense.

                Most people are not buying gaming rigs from their coworkers – they are going to places like Alienware or B&H. Similar for other specialized higher end gear. And like I said, if you have that kind of hobby, your spouse would normally know about it, too.

                The OP knows that something is wrong here. Please don’t try to convince her to ignore what she’s seeing in favor of highly improbable scenarios.

                1. MCMonkeybean*

                  No one is trying to convince her to ignore anything, especially since she didn’t even speak to anything in particular that she suspects. But trying to convince her that there is definitely an affair happening is certainly not helpful either. There is literally no way for any of us random commenters to know either way.

                  But for the record, someone above has already given an example of why a work reimbursement that may need to be made out to someone personally. We all just need to stop suggesting reasons. There are millions of things it could be, some far more plausible than others, but literally no one here knows what is happening.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I manage our house finances, and we use a budgeting app to categorize purchases and monitor spending. (He has access to all of this, but I handle the day-to-day stuff and bill payment.) When something shows up that I don’t recognize, I ask him what it is so I can at least categorize it correctly. Purchases that large, though, should be something we talked about in advance, even if it’s just, “Hey, I need to add more storage to the backup server and need to spend $200 for the drive/parts/whatever.”

        1. Observer*

          Purchases that large, though, should be something we talked about in advance, even if it’s just, “Hey, I need to add more storage to the backup server and need to spend $200 for the drive/parts/whatever.”

          Yes, this is what’s getting to me. SOMETHING is off, even if it’s not a romantic thing.

        2. Antilles*

          Bingo.
          Most couples (including me and my wife) set a limit of “if it’s less than $X, it’s not really an issue that needs asked about”. But even if you make enough money that $1,700 isn’t make-or-break, it’s still a sizable enough sum that it’s probably worth at least mentioning.

          1. JSPA*

            It might have been mentioned, but without a dollar amount or a name.

            Or if the OP was there during his side of a phone conversation, he may feel like she knows.

            “Hi, what’s up?….Oh, today’s the deadline?….ah dang, ah jeez, is there anything you can do? You can? Excellent!….Oh, totally, I’ll be back Tuesday, I’ll have it for you then.”

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yeah, sometimes I miss things – my spouse and I recently discussed on larger expense and what came through the bank account was not the what I was expecting to, I asked about it, and he was confused because we had talked about it and when I went back through the transactions, he was exactly right on the total. (I was looking for a total transaction, and it came through in parts, which was not my spouse’s fault.)

              I agree with OP#5 on needing to know what this is – $1700 is not chump change, and something like that pops up on the account with no notice, I’m going to have Questions – but I don’t get why they just won’t ask the person who wrote the checks rather than wanting to speak to the coworker.

      3. Observer*

        If my husband wrote a big check that exceeded our rule of thumb about expenditures, I’d ask him — it would never occur to me that he was fooling around. Perhaps there are many other signs, subtle or not, previously recognized or not, that cause this reaction.

        Well, this is a sign of a relationship problem right there. SOMETHING is wrong, because when someone writes large checks out of a joint account, they should be telling their SO about it. Not hoping that the SO will not notice it.

        Even in the possibly legitimate scenarios, this is something Husband should have told the OP about. In other scenarios, it’s a lot worse. Because even without an affair going on, most scenarios are not innocuous. The one where Husband backed his car into the coworker’s car, for instance, is not so innocuous ESPECIALLY if this is not the first time something like that happened.

        1. Joielle*

          I mean, people forget things, I get it. This is kind of a lot of money to just forget to mention, but it’s possible. But the fact that the LW jumped right to “can I call the coworker” instead of just asking the husband… that does not bode well for the relationship in general.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          My husband’s name is on my bank account because we had to add it so that I could use that account to pay off some student loans. But it’s still pretty much my bank account and I don’t discuss it with him when I spend money out of it unless it’s something I want his opinion on.

          Everyone manages finances differently and it is certainly possible that the fact that he didn’t discuss it with her first is a problem, but there is so little information in the letter and people are speculating far too much.

      4. JSPA*

        We don’t know if there’s already a divorce in progress, actual red lights, or some other reason not to ask him.

        But the likelihood that this is for something broadly inappropriate is basically zero, unless there’s something else that’s twigging the OP’s alarm bells. And even then, it’s not likely to be, “she charged him $323 for a quickie.”

        The first amount, yes, that’s roughly in line with a rent payment, a car repair, a medical procedure.

        It’s also in line with, “my share of the conference fees and the plane ticket,” “I killed the copier after being told repeatedly not to put my coffee cup on top of it,” “company mistakenly overpaid, and asked me to pay back,” “I mis-stated my withholding and had to make it good,” “hon, I didn’t check the box to add you on the health plan, and they let me fix it when I noticed, but I didn’t want to tell you and give you the retroactive anxiety about not having been covered.”

        If you have anxieties, and don’t feel he levels with you as a matter of course, then having separate accounts is a great idea. (It’s actually a pretty healthy idea in any case.)

        1. DJ Abbott*

          OP5, if you have doubts about the relationship, take steps now to protect yourself financially. Take some or all of your money and put it in a separate account he can’t access. It should be a few thousand or more if you have it – but still do it if it’s only a few hundred. Do it now, in case this or something else blows up in your face.
          Good luck!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My husband and I had separate accounts when we started out in the early 80s. People asked if we weren’t getting along because separate accounts was almost unheard of. Just as we each had our “own” space in the house, we had our own space in our finances. Not everyone does this, or wants to do this. But it worked well for us.

    3. Paperdill*

      I’m lolling at this because we have often laughed about the fact that my husband would NEVER get caught cheating – he’s too darn clever.
      OP, it is a very VERY blatant thing your husband has done. I highly doubt it is anything suspicious – likely just some money just moved around for something or other.
      Have you checked bank statements to see if any extra money has been RECEIVED somewhere along the line? I mean, as well as asking your husband. I really wish you the best – it sound like you’re in a rough spot, whatever the root cause may be.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’d be looking for a case of Girl Scout cookies.

          That’s where my mind went; did these women help him buy gifts for his wife, borrowing their finances for a discount or access to something he wouldn’t otherwise have (e.g. Costco membership) or to keep the details hidden from the wife to preserve the surprise?

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          LOL that’s up to 400 boxes. With 12 boxes in a carton, it’s a car full.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                +1 I am on my last sleeve of freezer Thin Mints, and cookie sales just ended this weekend. :(

        1. Esmeralda*

          That makes no sense. Stimulus payments are a deposit. These were checks –withdrawals– written to a specifi person.

          1. Self Employed*

            Loans to a specific person who needs their car fixed NOW to get to work, not after Congress finishes arguing about the relief bills?

      1. Caramel*

        It’s really not that difficult. Spying technology and trackers on phones are cheap and easy. You could even follow them a few times or hire a private detective. Before anyone thinks that is extreme he is the one who removed a lot of money without her consent.

        1. Bored Fed*

          Umm, if a husband did any of that vis-a-vis their spouse in the same circumstances, wouldn’t that be a broad red flag?

          To be sure, I would never spend that kin of $ without discussing it with my spouse — except the one time my friend helped me with the logistics of getting my spouse an expensive gift for our anniversary!

          1. Caramel*

            The person I was responding to claimed her husband is too clever to have an affair and be found out. I was pointing out it is very easy to look into it with easy software. Her husband removed joint money. Irrespective of the gender my advice is the same: investigate.

            1. Joielle*

              Idk, I think the advice should be: ask them. If you don’t trust them to give you an honest answer, the relationship is probably over anyways.

              1. Caramel*

                But the desire to know the truth when someone has lied is extremely strong. Especially when you can’t trust their answer. In normal circumstances I would never suggest it. But the OP’s money has been taken from a joint account and I have no idea how she could prevent him from taking more since they are married and it is a joint account. In cases like this my stance is investigate. If he is having an affair and spending joint money it needs to be resolved so she doesn’t end up in the situation loads of people find themselves in: no money, no security and in some instances homelessness.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  If you can’t trust someone to answer you about expenditure of money, that’s a relationship problem. First step is ask directly what this money was for. If not satisfied, second is to consult a lawyer who will hopefully greenlight a plan to withdraw half the joint funds and then tell them to take your name off the existing account and manage finances separately.

                2. Bored Fed*

                  If a friend of mine told me her husband had put tracking software on her device — because, he said, he doesn’t trust what she is drawing from a *joint account*, which he feels is nonetheless “his money” — I’d be offering her a safe refuge. That would especially be the case if his story is that he has an extremely strong desire to know the truth about her “lies.”

                  Look, if you really don’t trust your spouse, talk to a lawyer about how to protect yourself. But tracking software crosses red lines of control and abuse.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I suppose you could do all that if you want. But if you have to live that way, that’s really not living well.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m wondering if it was something like there was a business trip and something happened where the other coworker had to pay for his expenses and he’s paying her back. Or could he have bought something from her?

    5. James*

      Agreed. This is a bad sign, but not proof. For example: I’ve got a coworker getting into bourbon in a big way. $350 would buy me two bottles of what he considers mid-range. If I had $2k I could invest in a small-batch bourbon venture of his. I’ve also had people ask me to buy books for them, and some books can run $350 or more, depending on the field. I’ve seen the same thing happen with motorcycle part, boat motors, and guns (it’s the South–the gun didn’t trade hands on the job, but the money did), all at about that price range. Or as others say, it may be “Sorry I hit your car, don’t tell my insurance” money. Or it could be an affair.

      An affair is a possible option, but not the only one.

      As you say, the fact that the spouse’s first instinct is to ask someone other than their husband suggests other things are problematic in the relationship. In a healthy relationship finances would be a routine conversation, especially with the dollar amounts in question.

      1. Caramel*

        She wouldn’t need to ask if the money had not been removed from a joint account without her consent. If it is an affair, in a few states she could go for ‘alienation of affection’ because HER money has been handed over.

        1. James*

          “…because HER money has been handed over.”

          If there’s an affair as well, sure.

          However, it’s not HER money. It’s THEIR money. That makes a difference. $2k isn’t that much money, all thing considered; like I said, I’ve seen people spend that much on motorcycle parts, hunting and fishing supplies, and the like. If that’s what the guy did he’s a moron for not discussing it with his spouse, but the issue is communication, not “alienation of affection”. To be blunt, if my wife divorced me because I’d spent $2k I’d push her out of my life as fast and thoroughly as possible. (Again, this assumes it’s just about the money, not other considerations.)

          1. Caramel*

            My point was meant to say her money too but since he spent it without saying anything I said ‘her money’. The reason is because he took the money, not her. If she had taken the money my advice would be identical to what I’ve posted. To claim $2k is nothing is a joke. No wonder people end up in dire financial straits. In the Western world we moan when our income changes after spending decades pissing money away. If you end up unemployed (like millions are now due to COVID) what would 2k mean to you?

        2. Clisby*

          That depends on financial circumstances, and the LW didn’t enlighten us about that. I handle our family’s finances, and it wouldn’t occur to me that my husband needed my consent (or that I needed his) to spend that kind of money. If I was curious about what it was for, I’d ask him. I would definitely be curious if these were 2 personal checks to a co-worker, since I doubt my husband even knows where our checkbook is, but I occasionally have asked about a credit card charge. (Not because I’m suspicious of him, but because I want to make sure it’s not fraudulent.)

  12. Jo*

    LW1, well done on reporting your awful boss. I have to admit when I saw the title of the post I thought it might be a story about someone who’d overreacted over something minor, but in this case the report made to HR was fully justified. Hopefully they fire his ass, preferably out of a cannon.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I thought when I read the title, “What could a boss do on the first day to get reported to HR?” And then I read the letter and I was like, “Oh… good job, LW1!” My gosh, I can’t imagine how I would respond to something like that and on my first day… so good for you, LW1, for doing the right thing.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I assumed, from the title, that the boss made a pass on the LW. Getting far enough in to see that they are both male, and the boss was older, didn’t change that. I had to get deeper in.

    2. JM in England*

      What surprises me most is how readily HR believed the OP, given that he was the new guy.

      1. ChachiGambino*

        They may have just been waiting on a final straw… or maybe OP’s complaint was more helpful as prior complaints at had come from employees the boss tried to claim had personal agendas? Who knows?

      2. Bagpuss*

        Why wouldn’t they? At that point, he’s not had time to have a falling out with his new boss or to get caught up in office politics, and is still at a stage where he has not had time to gauge company culture – it would be very very weird for him to make that sort of claim if they weren’t true, and it’s obviously a risk for him of doing so even though they were, as he had no prior way to know whether the company would take it seriously or if he was painting a huge target on his own back.
        He’s got a lot to lose and nothing to gain by reporting it, so it’s reasonable to me that HR would believe him.

        It’s also possible that there have been other red flags but nothing as concrete as LW1s report.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This is kind of my thought. There were some signs that were “off” but in the realm of plausible deniability. Then OP1’s statement came in and removed the deniability.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        I’m wondering if this wasn’t the first complaint, or alternately and annoyingly, OP is a dude complaining about another dude, so they took it more seriously.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah they’d had several complaints from women, but they’d been wearing mini skirts…

    3. EmmaPoet*

      I thought, “Wow, what happened?” when I read the title. And then I read the second paragraph.

      One line in, and I knew why. By the end of the paragraph, I was weirdly grateful that he’d revealed his true colors that quickly, and that the company seems to be taking it seriously.

  13. Erin*

    BRAVO to the first letter writer!! Your company is lucky to have you, and I hope word gets out about what you did to shut down this misogynistic manager!

    1. Pennyworth*

      It is curious that several people seem to have recommended the manager to LW1 – the sort of overt misogyny he exhibited would surely be known in their niche industry.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think it depends on the industry and how people normally interact with him. Possibly he is more circumspect in public

      2. Chriama*

        I mean, it sounds like his own boss didn’t know either. So I suspect he’s perfectly capable of reigning it in when he needs to and for some reason saw OP as someone willing to participate in – or at least condone – his behaviour. Unfortunately this probably means he’s been like this in front of all sorts of men who didn’t feel the need to do anything about it. I can’t believe that someone willing to do this on an employee’s first day of work would avoid other men in the office.

        Or maybe he recently caught his SO cheating or got served with divorce papers and some repressed red pill / mra bs suddenly came out. It was likely always there but maybe not as blatant.

        1. HailRobonia*

          This yet another great example of how the burden of fighting sexism (or bigotry of any kind) should not be placed on the shoulders of those who are directly affected by it. It’s totally possible that this a-hole seemed legit and decent to women on the surface and only let his vileness leak out when he thought it was “safe.”

          1. Myrin*

            Which in turn would mean that all the men in OP’s industry who recommended and praised this guy are at worst sexists of the same cloth as boss and at best for some reason too cowardly to speak candidly about their sexist coworker/boss/acquaintance to an unrelated third party (OP himself), which is not a very good “best” at all. Yikes.

            1. Green great dragon*

              One can hope that he hid his true colours from colleagues he didn’t have power over, who were in a position to recommend him. But yes, concerning.

        2. You don't see me*

          I work in an industry with a well known, public figure who leads all sorts of initiatives to promote women in the industry. He also once asked one of my female colleagues if they’d like to ‘ride his face’ while they were at a conference together. She’s been very limited in who she’s told that story to, in part because he has cultivated such a friendly and woman-supportive public persona. Who are they going to believe? A woman or the man who has outwardly all these signs of ally-ship and has directly helped many people in the industry?

          Another man in the industry is moving on and the industry organization gave him a send off and a thanks for all the fish moment at their recent (virtual) conference. Myself and multiple other women, afterwards, discussed how we had all felt physically threatened by him at conferences in the past. He looms and gets too close and always seems on the edge of punching the person he’s talking to. I know I’ve reported it to the folks running the conference, that he made me afraid for my physical safety on multiple occasions. But he’s still highly regarded and even I wouldn’t mention the physical safety thing to most folks in the industry.

          Predators groom their not-victims as much or even more than their victims. They develop the networks so that when their victims do finally come forward they are disbelieved.

          1. Forrest*

            Absolutely. A close friend of mine in a senior position found out in the last couple of years that someone she was quite close to was behaving abusively to much more junior female colleagues. She doesn’t know whether this was an unconscious “obviously I’m nice to you because you’re Important, unlike them” or a conscious “I’m deliberately nice to you because who would believe that a supportive guy like me who is friendly with visible feminist women like you would be abusive.” It was a complete headwreck for her, because she was re-examining every friendly interaction they’d had and wondering how deliberate and self-serving the manipulation was. And then, of course, wondering about so many other relationships with straight male colleagues.

            (She was asked to write a letter of support for the colleague when the allegations came to light, and was very careful to frame it as, “In my dealings with X, which include spending time with him in these specific situations and with these specific people, I have not personally witnessed any untoward behaviour, but cannot speak for situations Y-Z” and not to include any, “why, this is absurd, X would never, this must be a misunderstanding!” At this point she knew there were “allegations” but not what they were, and afterwards she found out the full details and it was absolutely unmistakable, textbook, calculated predatory behaviour. It was SO vile knowing that there were almost certainly women way earlier in their careers thinking, well, I can’t speak up about this because look how well he gets on with Senior Woman, who’s going to believe *me*.”

            1. Bagpuss*

              I had a situation with a male colleague who behaved in ways which were inappropriate but always deniable – things like opening doors and holding them in such way that you were forced to brush against him to go through, for example.

              I (as a senior person)told him to stop. I didn’t immediately realise that while he immediately stopped doing it *to me* (and claimed *to me* that it was entirely unintentional, and was just being polite in opening doors etc ), he continued to do it to more junior women when I wasn’t around.

              I only found out because I overheard a comment made by a junior employee.

              We were not able to sack him but I made very sure that there was a formally recorded disciplinary and made clear to him that it was *his* responsibility to ensure that he didn’t do anything which anyone, could take issue with, (however “over-sensitive” they might, in his opinion, be) and that as he has been warned, we would assume that any further behavior of a similar nature was intentional harassment. He was not at all happy but he did keep his distance after that

              He did stop after that, at least at work, but sadly I have no doubt that he carried on outside of work, and once he changed jobs.

            2. MK*

              It is unfortunate that this kind of testimony is allowed to influence the outcome of cases. I have worked in the court system for 15 years now, and every single judge I know rails against the uselessness of character witnesses and the like, since it is perfectly possible to be both scrupulously honest at your job and a child molester, or a model spouse and parent and an embezzler.

              1. Forrest*

                It really is! This was only an internal process and it never went to court, but in both situations, what the hell? It feels like the only point is to reassure the defendant that they’re Not That Bad Really. I’ve no doubt they *do* influence juries and even judges or people wouldn’t keep using then and we wouldn’t see these appalling cases saying things like, “In view of the defendant’s sports career…” but it just seems so blatantly obvious that the literal *worst* offenders could probably find someone to write something nice about them, so what’s the point?

                1. Self Employed*

                  About 20 years ago, I turned on the news to see a bunch of my old coworkers assuring reporters that our ex-boss (from a decade before that) could never have hurt anyone and they had no idea why he was being accused of r***ing and murdering the girl next door. I was less surprised; ex-boss had snuck up behind me one day to touch my (permed) hair. When we all worked together it was nothing but griping about old Dave who made them work overtime while he never did, but I guess the men gotta stick together. (Spoiler: he was convicted and has a Wikipedia entry.)

                  I hadn’t reported him for creeping on me because my natural startle response scared an apology out of him and he never tried it again. I don’t think a complaint would’ve gone very far if I’d gone to HR because “He touched my hair but he promised not to do it again” is small potatoes.

              2. EmmaPoet*

                Dennis Rader was president of his church council and a cub scout leader. He also murdered ten people. Heck, Ted Bundy worked a suicide crisis line at one point.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yes, it’s like the neighbours of a serial killer who tell the TV reporters that “I can hardly believe it, he used to shovel snow for us and was always so very pleasant”. These people usually know how to behave and who to show their true colours to.
              With OP1, this guy seriously misread him as being like-minded when in fact, nope!

              1. Caramel*

                When I hear people saying that I stop them and say:

                In England, 1 in 3 women will be in abusive relationships. 8 women a month will be murdered by a partner/ex partner and 2 men a month will be murdered.

                1 in 14 children are sexually abused by paedophiles
                Millions of women are sexually assaulted or raped

                Then I say ‘obviously they are going to be in every job you imagine including medicine and judges ruling a case.’ It’s alarming how little people read about stuff. It’s even more alarming that they can’t reason. Why would a job stop someone from being abusive?

          2. Bagpuss*

            “Predators groom their not-victims as much or even more than their victims. They develop the networks so that when their victims do finally come forward they are disbelieved.”

            This is so (depressingly) true.

  14. WS*

    LW #4 – “Why is she out?” “When can we expect her back?” and “How long is this going on for?” are questions that they probably can’t answer, but they’re also things you don’t actually need to know. Better questions might be “What do I do about process X if Boss isn’t available to sign it off?” “What tasks should we be doing daily when Boss isn’t here?” and “Who can give me a timely answer when Boss isn’t available?”

    I’ve worked with a boss who went overseas for 9 months due to a family tragedy, and he was on the opposite time zone to here, so he generally wasn’t available in work hours. However, we had an after-hours (for us) meeting and worked out all the details and when we actually needed to contact him. Things went much better after that.

    1. Maggie*

      +1 to this. My coworker was put on administrative leave pending investigation. He left the job a changed version of himself and despite being my good friend to this day has never told me what on earth happened (I’m assuming out of some kind of nondisclosure agreement). At first all my questions were, is Coworker okay? Has the been an emergency? when I was first asked to cover him. As things dragged on, I only kept my sanity when I shifted my questions to what my employer COULD answer, namely: 1. Am I going to be paid extra for doing all his work? and 2. Are you prepared for when I refuse to continue to do his work if you don’t pay me? I never got answers, but I did get an exit plan/date when he’d be back (temporarily, he quit a few months later) and an additional supplemental paycheck.

    2. OP4*

      Thank you for confirming my exact feelings! I wasn’t sure if health issue, family stuff, or other, but that really didn’t matter. Your “better questions” are exactly what I sent to upper management. With no reply. Last week, boss was led out of office without explanation. I assume it is because of abscenses and not doing work. After such a tumultuous time, our team is relieved.

      1. caps22*

        Oh wow, it went from ‘compassion’ to ‘immediate dismissal’? Glad you and your team have found some resolution at least.

        1. Forrest*

          yeah, that really makes me wonder who and what the “compassion” was supposed to be for!

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Compassion for the poor managers having to deal with the shitstorm OP knew nothing of because they weren’t saying anything!

            1. OP4*

              Exactly what I was wondering… Compassion for upper management?… Like they were hoping the issue would just go away, and the rest of the team would carry the burden. But I wouldn’t keep quiet and it forced them to act.

        2. MK*

          I think the most likely possibilities are management found out the boss a) was lying about whatever the compassionate accommodations were for or b) was taking gross advantage of the accommodations.

          1. Liz*

            This was my thought too; that they asked for accomodations for something, and it was either false, or they took advantage of it, to the detriment of their job and team.

    3. Green great dragon*

      If the general questions aren’t working you can as them to guide you more when boss is out – ‘boss hasn’t be in since Monday, do we need to do x, y, z and shall we paint the windowboxes cerise or turquoise’?

      1. OP4*

        Lol! We painted all the windows coral, and told everyone rent was free the rest of the year. Back in reality, we all did our jobs, while our boss either didn’t show up for weeks or closed the door and ignored duties. They were let go last week, much to the team’s relief.

        1. Observer*

          Wow. What an ending. At least you have some clarity, though. On the other hand, I’m not all the impressed with management.

  15. Erin*

    I just read the second letter, and I’m in tears. How absolutely insensitive of your manager to treat you this way (we need to celebrate their living child’s upcoming birthday?? What??)

    I am so sorry. Know that this is in no way a reflection of you or your daughter. It is a reflection of your less than human manager. Please grieve your beloved daughter as you need to. I’m so very sorry for all of your pain and I wish I could hug you.

    1. allathian*

      +1000
      The former manager was beyond awful and I’m just hoping that the LW can find a better job.

      My condolences for your loss, LW.

    2. Willis*

      Every now and then I read letters on here and think that no one could be this bad without actively trying to be the worst possible. And that’s how I feel about OP#2’s boss. It’s beyond not knowing what to say to someone who’s grieving, beyond being oblivious, it’s like she was actively intending to do hurtful things. I’m sorry the OP had to deal with this. I hope she can take time off and then find a better position.

      1. Sue*

        Yes, so selfish and self-absorbed she can’t have any empathy or compassion. Her floral or whatever business is all she cares about, not an ounce of humanity in there. I’m glad you were able to leave OP, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

      2. Bluesboy*

        One of my employees a few years ago lost her father and took a few days of for the funeral. I met her for lunch one day and she received a phone call from my boss (the owner), and I heard every word. The owner literally said “So sorry for your loss. Right, now let’s talk about important things: when will you be back in the office?”

        I really thought only my old boss would be that bad about a bereavement, I’m so sorry to see from this letter that unfortunately that isn’t the case.

      1. That'sNotHowYouSpellThat*

        I’m sorry for your loss, LW. And new subcategory category for worst boss: most heartless. When someone in power says horrible things like that, no one knows how to react or feels right saying “that was not ok to say that to me” (or a coworker overhearing speaking up on your behalf).
        A few years ago a former coworker of mine wrote a scathing resignation letter to the owner of the place where we worked. She included the line “nothing you say is uplifting.” This boss needs someone to write her a letter. Not that it will make any difference but she will lose many employees for her heartlessness.

      2. Leslie Hell Knope*

        100% Worst Boss of the Year. Pushing for LW to work as much as before is heartless; trying to convince LW and others that working will be healing and exactly “what the LW needs” is shameless and immoral.
        It takes a lot of audacity to prescribe someone a way out of their grief, but the fact that her “recipe” *just happens* to align perfectly with her own interests suggests she is a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE person.
        LW, I am very sorry for your loss, and for the fact that you encountered such vile behavior during this time (or ever).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Add me to the list of people extending sympathy to you, OP, for your loss and for your crappy treatment at work.

      Not really a consolation but something to consider- I stayed on after my boss’ jerk move when my father was dying. I was no longer capable of respecting this person. Okay, anger came out of every pore in my body. It was quite a while before I could even carry on a basic conversation. My point is that when these things happen, the job is pretty much over anyway. I mean, how can we go back once we see the boss’ true colors? We can’t. The level of distrust is too high and there is no real repair for it.

      I hope you are otherwise surrounded by caring and supportive people, OP. And I hope you lean on them a bit and feel their love and their gentleness as you process all this and reweave your life. I hope you let us know how you are doing.

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

      The office manager/HR/owners’ watchdog at my old job once questioned a coworker who take some days off to help his gf who had been in a car crash saying “I didn’t take a day off when my father was hospitalised”. How this person could he proud of that will forever be a mystery.

  16. rudster*

    LW2 should file for unemployment. If she gets denied, appeal. Then let the employer explain that she “quit” because she couldn’t face his constant reminders to “just get over” her daughter’s recent death.

    1. CCSF*

      Yes. I walked out on a job after 6 months where they were asking me to go fulllly outside the job description I was hired for. The company was going to fight it until I submitted the pages of notes from meeting with my boss asking for help, training, etc. I was willing to make the change but didn’t have the skills (technical writing) needed. I was awarded unemployment benefits.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Manager in #2 has my vote. Also for ‘worst person of the year’.

      My deepest sympathies to OP.

  17. Crowley*

    OP2, I had someone do the “I’m going to celebrate someone who’s ALIVE” thing to me too, and it hurt so very much. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m so sorry that you had to hear someone saying that :(

    1. WellRed*

      The best thing I can say about these fools is they’ve probably never lost anyone. Idiots.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Absolutely right — and they need to be taught. Death has been too hidden, for too long, in American society, which means many fewer opportunities to learn how best to react to things.

    2. sequined histories*

      Wow. Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined someone would say such a thing to a grieving person. I’m sorry someone said that to you, and for your loss.

      And Alison’s correct in her assessment that there’s no way to “communicate” with a person who says things like that, OP. There’s definitely something profoundly amiss with your boss that she said something like that to you. Even most people who are basically self-centered jerks have the sense not to say something like that. I’m so sorry you were treated in such a heartless fashion.

  18. JM in England*

    Re: #2

    About six weeks after my mam’s passing, the grief was a factor in me making a huge mistake at my then-job; I decided to throw myself into work as a way of coping and I might have returned too soon. I apologised profusely to my boss and said my grief probably caused me to drop the ball. His response was “Shouldn’t you be getting over it by now?”, to which I responded that grief doesn’t have a set timetable. It was from then on that I lost all respect for that boss. Fortunately (if you can call it that), a few weeks after this incident it was announced that my entire department was being made redundant – talk about a blessing in disguise!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      As you are unfortunately aware, grief never truly ends. It changes form, it changes in how it expresses, but it never ends. I have often thought that is because love never ends. We still love them long after they are gone.

      Your boss is in for a big shock when they experience a major loss. They carry a lot of misconceptions about what grief is and how it works. It can take years to pull ourselves back together to a point where we feel we are functioning normally- or have found a new normal. Am shaking my head.

      Belated, but I am sorry for your loss and I am sorry your boss was a jacka$$.

      1. RuralGrown*

        Agreed. My grandma, who helped raise me, died over ten years ago. And sometimes I still miss her so much it brings me to tears. Losing someone close is like having a jagged piece torn out of your soul. And over the years, the edges get less jagged, but the piece is still gone.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My Nana has been gone 50 years this January. I still blink back the tears. Yep, a piece of my heart went with her. She’s still got it.

          I am sorry for your loss.

    2. Batgirl*

      Teacher here. I once had a colleague suggest “Shouldn’t he be getting it over it by now?” when discussing an 11 year old boy who got upset about the loss of his mother on Mother’s Day, because it had been a year. I mean, sure. Why would he need his mother any more at the age of 11 when his friends are celebrating theirs? Sometimes I think a large portion of people are just faking human emotion.

      1. Observer*

        *gasp*

        What does this TEACHER have where their heart is supposed to be? I can’t imagine the damage someone like that could do to kids.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “an 11 year old boy who got upset about the loss of his mother on Mother’s Day” well, yeah, that seems totally reasonable and very normal for him to be upset. What was wrong with the colleague?

        1. Batgirl*

          She was otherwise fine and good at the job! I’ve never been able to decide if it was “Wow, people actually love their mothers? I don’t” or if it was the way people get weird about a grief they haven’t experienced and so they fear the scale being presented to them as in “I couldn’t sign up to feeling miserable for that long”; well guess what, you don’t get to choose.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I read an article that reported studies show that when our parents pass, we begin to exhibit the symptoms that will eventually cause our own demise. This is how powerful the loss of a parent is.
        One year? naaah, he’s only just begun.
        Poor little guy. Hopefully he was and is still surrounded by people who are the opposite of your colleague.

        1. Self Employed*

          My mother’s father died when she was 11. I don’t think she really got over it, and she passed on the anniversary of his death 58 years later.

  19. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 4 – I think a good way to look at this is that the boss isn’t doing this to spite you. Obviously it’s a frustrating circumstance. Take time to prep for the times she won’t be here. If possible, already have an action plan on how to assign tasks and who will cover what. It’s okay to go to your manager and ask if both of you can create a plan.

    1. OP4*

      It would be a lot easier to understand if there was any guidance on management side. Unfortunately that didn’t happen at any point. It was even stranger that they were trying to fire their right hand person in that office, who did all the work while boss avoided it. Now it is boss who was led out of office last week, presumably due to absence and lack performing duties. We are all relieved.

  20. Finland*

    LW5:

    I would like to know what my rights are if I found two personal checks written by my spouse to a female high-level management coworker of his. Am I allowed to call the coworker and ask? I do not work at his company, but my name is on the bank account. The checks were for $1440 and $323 written several months apart.

    I have so many questions…you mentioned rights, are you divorcing your husband? Wouldn’t you have to ask your husband for the coworker’s number? If he included the coworker’s name and title on the check, it was highly likely a reimbursement. Otherwise, how did you know the title of the person he wrote the check to? Your name is on the account; is your husband’s name on the account too or did he write the checks in your name?

    I sense hostility toward your husband in this letter, but he has all the information you seek. I also sense a bit of helplessness in your tone, and you have my sympathies. There is an untold story in your question.

    1. BubbleTea*

      This is really a minor thing but I’m intrigued – how would a cheque work if it didn’t have the coworker’s name on? Surely it has to, to be valid? I definitely agree there’s more to this question than just a puzzle about cheques.

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I think the issue was having the coworker’s work title on the cheque in addition to their name, which would definitely indicate “work expense”.
        It is possible that the husband had mentioned this coworker in standard talking about his day conversation (such as “Hey, Wakeen finally got that promotion to senior llama groomer they’ve been working toward!”), so when OP saw the name on the cheque they made the connection.
        I agree that there’s definitely something else going on, as asking her husband directly should be at the top of the list and it doesn’t even seem to be ON the list!

        OP, if it’s a shared account that the cheque was drawn from then that’s your money too, just ask your husband what it was for! Hopefully it is some completely banal reason and you can put your mind at ease.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        A check can be made payable to “cash” and then anyone who has it in-hand can cash or deposit it.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          A check can be made payable to “cash” and then anyone who has it in-hand can cash or deposit it.

          Banking may be ultimately logical, but that doesn’t mean all the rules are in plain sight or even intuitive. Years ago, there was a car I wanted about 1,000 miles away being sold by owner. After an inspection, I was convinced the vehicle was at least mechanically sound enough to get me home. The buyer wanted a deposit to hold the car during my flight, so he told me to make a cheque out to him, take it to a local branch of one of the national banks where he had an account and deposit it for him. I’m the eldest child of retired banker and had never heard of anything like that, even my personal banker had to call his bank to verify that was legit.*

          So back on point, cheques to “cash” would likely serve this hypothetical affair better, but better still (and simpler) are gift cards (“Honey, why is the grocery bill high this month? Remember those ribeyes, Darling…”), quid pro quo, or even simple cash.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yup. I’ve been a banker for 25 years and I’ve seen it done lots. Some banks will allow people to deposit to someone else’s account and others won’t. Depends on the bank’s policy. Same with checks payable to cash–some will cash it for anyone and some won’t even accept it.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Thank you for adding more context, The Other Dawn. I came out of it just thinking it was an arcane procedure thing; I never realized it varied from bank to bank.

              1. The Other Dawn*

                And sometimes it varies from branch to branch of the same bank, which can be really annoying. When I had tenants in my old house, they’d deposit their rent to my account each month (I trusted them) and the branch just didn’t give them a receipt, which was fine. A few times they had to go to a different branch of the same large bank and they wouldn’t accept the deposit at all, even though they had my name and account number. The bank I work for, which is a small community bank, will accept a deposit into an account that’s not theirs as long as they don’t see any warning flags, like the check looks fake or something like that.

            2. Bluesboy*

              That’s interesting. Here in Italy you can’t pay money directly into someone’s account with out their written permission and a copy of their identity card (unless it has changed recently).

              It was explained to me that the reason is to stop mafiosi paying money into someone’s account and then blackmailing them if they didn’t immediately realise and report it. If you didn’t report it straight away you could be accused of being corrupt (consider that this was pre-internet banking, so you could actually go for a month or two without realising the money had been paid in unless you happened to go by your branch to check your balance).

              1. MCMonkeybean*

                Interesting, I’ve never considered there might be ways that depositing money into someone else’s account might be abused but that does make sense!

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I also found the choice of words a little disconcerting (“what are my rights”, “am I allowed to”). OP sounds as though she feels a little powerless in this situation … OP, maybe you have a close friend or trusted family member you can speak to about this? A sense of reluctance to speak to your husband about money taken from YOUR account, is not a sign of a healthy dynamic.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think the cohort is going to be able to explain why the checks were kept a secret.
      It could be he forgot.
      It could be something nefarious.
      Either way, she probably won’t tell the OP, either because she does not know or because she refuses to implicate herself. Eh, it could be that he broke something at work and had to pay for it. Later, he was too embarrassed by his own klutziness to tell you, OP. And she won’t tell you because that’s her employee.

      I do think that the fact she accepted the check with your name on the account might indicate that the transaction was on the up and up. She had to notice your name on the check. What did she think would happen next?

      1. Chriama*

        > she probably won’t tell the OP, either because she does not know or because she refuses to implicate herself.

        Pretty sure it’s the latter option. I’m surprised that people are contorting themselves to find plausible excuses for husband and coworker. It’s almost definitely an affair. Anyone assuming it’s too “obvious” to be an affair should check out the archives at the Chump Lady blog. Some people hide their affairs, but many many *many* others drag their unwilling partners through the excruciating experience of trying to convince them that if they’re just better – more supportive, less nagging, more trusting – the affair will end.

        The cheques were also apparently a couple months old, so it sounds like OP isn’t necessarily always up to date on the family finances, and it’s possible she wouldn’t have noticed if not for some other irregular event that drew her attention.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Although I know it’s absolutely none of my business, I am extremely curious about what the cheques in # 5 were. I agree with you that it’s hard to find a work-related reason (the sum is too high to be for a work lunch or something like that), I can’t make sense of it being an affair either.
          Maybe it’s just my inexperience with infidelity, but why exactly would affair partners be writing each other cheques? What would they be for?

          1. Forrest*

            Oh gosh, it’s not that surprising to me at all. Not all relationships are about mutual sexual satisfaction between two economic equals! Plenty involve the exchange of sex for money or goods. It doesn’t have to be as obvious as “money for sex”: take me to a fancy spa hotel; oh no my car’s broken down AGAIN; I’m just really struggling with my rent, I’ll be able to pay you back next month… so many options!

            1. Beth Jacobs*

              The coworker is high-level management and wouldn’t be the recipient of funds intended for a spa hotel anyway (the spa would).

              1. Forrest*

                Oh, I’m not agreeing I think this is definitely beyond doubt an affair. I just think it’s one of several fairly plausible explanations.

                I don’t think the fact that someone is highly paid means it’s impossible that they’re trading sex for money/goods, either. Some people get off on that!

              2. Chriama*

                It could be money to pay credit card bills, etc. Just because she presumably out-earns him doesn’t mean she wouldn’t ask for money from him, or he wouldn’t willingly give it. I don’t understand why the idea of money changing hands in an affair relationship is so foreign!

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Yabbut, while a high earner certainly could tap out credit cards, the amounts in question are too low to matter in that scenario.

        2. Rain*

          I completely disagree. If the checks had been written to a male coworker, would you say “it’s almost definitely an affair”? What would you assume then? Why don’t you assume that now? I never understand people who immediately jump to the worst conclusions about their spouse, supposedly the person they love best in all the world.

          1. Forrest*

            Not all marriages are happy, not everyone is able to recognise when a marriage is unhappy, not everyone is able to leave an unhappy marriage.

          2. Chriama*

            Why the straw man argument? The cheques were *not* written to a male coworker. Going by statistical probability is not immediately jumping to conclusions, and if the OP is writing in here about asking the female coworker it’s because she feels she can’t trust her husband. Let’s assume she has valid reasons to feel that way instead of trying to convince her to doubt her own instincts. Giving away almost 2k is not something you innocently forget to tell your spouse about.

          3. Observer*

            If the checks had been written to a male coworker, would you say “it’s almost definitely an affair”? What would you assume then?

            I would *definitely* assume that there is something shady going on. And despite that homosexuality is definitely statistically unlike in a case like this, I would certainly not rule out an affair either.

            1. Self Employed*

              Bisexuality and pansexuality are a thing too. But “affair with woman at work” is a trope for a reason–it’s statistically more likely.

        3. Malarkey01*

          It seems so odd to me that people jump to affair. Affair would show up as lots of dinners or drinks on credit cards, maybe trips, stopping at gas stations not close to home/work, gifts for things you don’t receive.
          One of the last places I’d expect to see it were 1k+ checks directly to the partner. That’s so obvious and also an odd way to carry out an affair by giving large sums of cash.

          It real is way more likely to be buying something from coworker or paying for some sort of expense/accident.

          1. Caramel*

            So why not tell the wife? It is a joint account for a reason. The colleague is in a high level job, maybe she payed half or more for everything and the withdrawals were 2 gifts.

            1. Malarkey01*

              I assume he forget to tell her or didn’t think to. My husband and I don’t usually tell each other about purchases and have a pretty high threshold for needing to discuss high dollar amounts. Occasionally when looking at a statement I ask hey why’d you pay Brad $500 or how did you spend $200 at the speciality ice cream shop or whatever. It’s not that he’s hidden it from me, it just didn’t occur to him that I’d be curious.

              1. Caramel*

                Something like 1.700 dollars is not a small amount. I would think $100 is too much when you hand the money to someone else without your partner’s consent. It’s a joint account so effectively he is stealing money which belongs to her.

              2. Observer*

                It would not occur to either of you that a $1,400 payment needs to be discussed?

                Please, the OP has reason to be concerned here.

                1. Caramel*

                  Something needs to be discussed. Whether the response can be deemed trustworthy is another matter. If it is an affair it is possible he will crumble and admit it. It’s also possible he will deny it. So she will need to carefully scrutinise him face to face and decide how she proceeds from there.

                2. Observer*

                  @Caramel, I agree with you. Had he discussed it FIRST, I might have looked at it differently. As it stands, this definitely warrants scrutiny.

          2. TWW*

            Maybe I’m unusually forgetful, but I can easily imagine a scenario where I buy something from a coworker and forget to tell my wife. Especially if it’s something like a camera lens, graphics card, software license, etc, that would be unlikely to come up in conversation at home.

          3. Carol*

            A lot of affairs involve money changing hands–it happens frequently enough that it’s a huge point in divorce settlements (did one spouse take money from a joint account and give it to an affair partner, etc.)

            Lots of cheaters do it pretty openly. It definitely doesn’t seem logical from the outside but it happens a lot and it’s pretty blatant, to the point where that’s one of the first things I think when I read some letter or post saying “spouse paid a large sum to someone else and didn’t tell me about it.”

        4. Ginger Baker*

          As someone who *routinely* coordinates checks from various Partner [title] attorneys at work to the Partner [title] I support when he has paid for (to give only one example) the year-end gifts for a group of people at XYZ Client that the other Partners agreed to chip in on, I am equally shocked at how many people presume it’s an affair. I have written a dozen emails last year alone that said “Thanks for agreeing to split the cost of these gift baskets! The total was $5,672; your portion will be $1,418. Please send a check to [BossMan] interoffice or let me know if you prefer to Venmo to [BM Account]. Thanks!” Literally over a dozen and definitely several that have gone to the same folks more than once because there’s multiple client overlap or someone else at the client had a baby and we sent a baby gift etc.

          1. Observer*

            If the OP’s husband were in that kind of position, don’t you think that the OP would know about this? Like, you REALLY think she wouldn’t know that her husband is a partner in a law firm, and is netting a mid-5 figure income?

            This is NOT typical behavior in most workplaces, nor is it an insignificant amount for most people, even ones making nice salaries.

            1. Ginger Baker*

              :shrugs: I once supported an attorney who asked me to NOT answer his phone when his wife was the one calling (with the distinct undertone that she would think it was weird/inappropriate that I answer for him). That is super not the norm in BigLaw and is the only person that ever occurred with, but just because someone has a job where there are CLEAR NORMS around Standard Business Things does not actually mean every individual employee and their spouse recognize and adhere to those norms – there are always outliers (we just need to look to LW1 to see that things we all *clearly* understand are at MINIMUM Not Said are, in fact, Presumed Reasonable by some outliers!). Whether LW5 is an outlier who does not understand business norms or a perfectly reasonable spouse on the receiving end of shady behavior is not a call I can make, but tbh when someone asks “can I ask my spouse’s coworker about this thing my spouse did?”, I read that as not understanding a Business Norm and that personally leads me to suspect perhaps the questioners grip on other Business Norms is also not strong. Ymmv.

              1. Observer*

                So you had A SINGLE experience with a person whose spouse was wildly not on board with office norms. And that means that when a person acts in a suspicious way, the most likely scenario is that the person seeing the suspicious behavior is just not on board with professional norms.

                I find that an interesting conclusion.

                There is a difference between not knowing that attorneys generally have an assistant or receptionist who answers the phone and not being sure if one can approach a spouse’s coworker in a case where it looks like there are inappropriate transactions between them. The attempt to equate the two makes no sense.

                PS I also doubt that the situation with your former boss was quite as simple as an otherwise healthy relationship with a spouse who had a weird quirk and misunderstanding of office norms.

        5. Someone On-Line*

          I have unfortunately been forced in to the world of Chump Lady and it astonishes me how indiscrete so many cheaters are. And I didn’t recognize the signs at the time, but now I am a little hyperreactive. I think it’s a normal trauma response.

    4. Elliott*

      Maybe I missed something, but I don’t see that the coworker’s title was on the check. It’s possible the OP recognized the name, or Googled it.

      1. Curious*

        Or there have been previous mentions or interactions with this coworker that make LW5 feel like husband won’t be honest when asked about the cheques.

    5. Mikaela*

      I’m sorry, did you really ask “how did you know the title of the person he wrote the check to?”? Do you mean to tell us that you don’t know your spouse’s boss’s name? Even in passing, your spouse would’ve mentioned their manager’s name!

  21. Jude*

    LW2 – several years ago my mum died a few months after being diagnosed with cancer. I don’t have any other close family, I don’t have a partner and I’m what you would (generously) call ‘socially awkward’ – basically my mum was my best friend as well as my parent. When she died it destroyed me.

    I work for a huge bank, and we all know that banks don’t have the best reputation. But the way they handled things after my mum died; honestly they earned my undying loyalty.

    I was supported, I was given time off not just during her treatment, but when she passed. I was also given flexible starting and finishing times. Even when I came back full-time, I was a mess – but there was no pressure at all. I basically got paid for almost a year just to show up and cry in the toilets.

    Your boss should be ashamed of herself, you deserve so much better. I’m so so sorry for your loss.

    1. Former Employee*

      Thank you for that heartwarming story. After reading how odiously LW2 was treated, it made me feel so much better.

      I’m so sorry that you lost your mother/best friend.

      I agree that banks don’t have the reputation for being warm and welcoming places to work, but it always comes down to the people. Clearly, your branch got the best ones.

  22. Sled dog mama*

    LW#2 tomorrow I will be celebrating my younger daughter’s fifth birthday, 9 days later we will be having a special family day to commemorate her passing, do what gives you peace and ignore (as best you can) those who cannot understand.
    On going back to work, whenever you go back will be too soon. In Victorian times you would have been expected to mourn a child for a full year at a minimum. Give yourself permission to feel everything (because there will be moments of joy and although they feel wrong you deserve to feel them without guilt).
    Internet hugs.

    1. Shenandoah*

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your daughter.

      I’ve appreciated learning more about various mourning traditions, like the Victorian ones you mentioned. I feel like we don’t have some of the same structures any more – which in some ways is good, because grief is deeply personal. But in other ways, I think some of the societal expectations/structure were good and helpful to the grieving person.

    2. Chriama*

      I don’t think mourning means not working, though. I think the boss was *absolutely* out of line with her treatment of OP. But I can’t imagine a lot of small businesses being able to give a staff member a several- month leave of absence with no expected return date without making plans to hire someone else. I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned that. Please note that I’m not excusing or even explaining the boss’s abhorrent behaviour. Just surprised at the idea that OP would expect to be able to take that long off, even unpaid, and not have to give some sort of timeline for coming back or just quitting.

      1. Chriama*

        I misremembered the letter. It was weeks, not months. Slightly less unusual but I would still expect some sort of return-to-work date or a formal resignation.

        1. Sled dog mama*

          I wasn’t trying to say that mourning means not working, just that for the LW there will not be enough time off work.
          Enough time off implies that LW will be able to come to grips and be back to a somewhat “normal” self and that will take years.
          I was on Maternity Leave when my daughter passed so I had another 7 weeks before I had to return. It still wasn’t enough time and no amount of time would have been enough. It was a solid 3 years before I could look at an infant and not break down in tears (and we won’t get into my nephew arriving and me nearly hyper ventilating when my brother unceremoniously plopped the three day old in my arms, the first infant I had held since my daughter’s death more than a year before).

          1. PJ*

            I think any employer should expect a bereaved employee to be “absent” at times, even when physically at work. Grief is work in itself and sometimes a job can be a good distraction, but your brain is just not physically capable of the same focus as pre-grieving…. at least for awhile and then there will always be those hard days….

      2. Observer*

        If it had just been pressuring the OP to come back to work after a few weeks, I would be with you. But the whole “get over it” bit is another level.

        And the “well since you lost a child you need to CELEBRATE that MY kid is alive” is beyond words.

    3. Maybe not*

      I took 6 weeks when my daughter died, and no time would have been enough. It’s been two and a half years, and I still have days where her death leaves me breathless. I’m open about it, I speak about her freely. If an employer ever told me I should not do that, I would leave. I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP.

  23. TimeTravlR*

    LW 2 – sending you big virtual hugs. The loss of a child is like no other and I am so very sorry you have experienced this. And that your former boss is an ass hat on top of it.

  24. Seeking Second Childhood*

    About LW2, I have to comment. First, that employer provided sufficient bereavement leave. Weeks makes sense to me. My US employer gives 3 days, you can stay out longer by using vacation time.
    That said, your individual manager was a jerk. It would have been so easy to say “I’m sorry, I wish the company provided more time off”… which is what my coworker heard when her family’s tragedy was how we learned the bereavement policy mentioned above.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      It’s a small family business, the owner and direct manager are all one person. I don’t think this really is about the specific length of leave (no amount of time in the world is enough if your child dies). It’s about the comments and mean-spirited approach.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I agree — boss was a jerk.
        I included the information about one big US corporations number of days off for the reference of overseas readers who often have a very different frame of reference for standard leave times.

      2. WellRed*

        Yes, there’s having ruled,, etc and business needs and then there’s compassion. Three days is adequate (barely) if it’s a distant relative, you don’t have to do any planning or travel or estate stuff. A child? Good god.

    2. Chilipepper*

      I wonder about the same thing, Seeking Second Childhood; I it posted below. If the boss had not been such an ass and had said, our policy is 3 days or 6 weeks, or whatever, I am so sympathetic and don’t want to push you, but thats all the time our company allows, what could or should the LW do? What would I do when deep in mourning and not thinking well? I have no idea what I could ask for or expect.

      1. Malarkey01*

        My company gives 3 days and with personal leave you have up to 5 more weeks you could give. It sounds horrible but usually when a spouse dies people are back in 2 weeks, and parents/siblings are normally a week. We’ve had two people with adult children take 1-2 weeks but no one with a young child at home.
        It seems horrible and we have incredible compassion for folks when they come back and try to lessen workload, make allowances for distraction and errors, but really I think the norm is a couple of weeks and then back to work, even through grieving takes much much longer

        1. Chriama*

          I mentioned the same thing above. I don’t think bereavement leave is intended to allow you to grieve. It’s to be able to deal with the *logistics* of someone’s death and allow you to attend the funeral. I do think 5 days makes a lot more sense than 3, because that’s at least a full business week, but it’s certainly not enough time to complete the grieving process (which, to be honest, doesn’t so much end as get absorbed into your daily reality).

          Even if the OP wasn’t getting paid for those several months, presumably the business needs someone to do the work. I don’t know a compassionate way to say “we need to know when you’re coming back to work or we’ll have to hire someone else for your job”, but it doesn’t look as if the boss even tried to express it as a business need rather than emotionally browbeating the OP.

          1. Chriama*

            Edit: several weeks, not several months. I can understand how “take all the time you need” might have seemed to the boss a few weeks while OP might have felt a couple months wasn’t out of line.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        When my mother died, I was entitled to one day. I was a wreck for a year.
        When my father died, the new boss said to take all the time I needed. I stayed off for three weeks, went back and worked not very productively for a week, then I had a two-week holiday that had already been planned before Dad passed. I wasn’t much fun on that holiday, but I was operational at work when I got back.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Oh and because I actually took two weeks for my mother, the boss told the accountant to deduct two weeks from my leave for the next year, forgetting that I was entitled to a day of bereavement, that there’d been a national holiday for Easter Monday during the time I was away, and that I was entitled to several days off in lieu of overtime.

          For my father, the boss paid me in full for those three weeks, which I hadn’t even understood would happen.

    3. BethDH*

      I feel like the OP is putting too much blame on herself for going back “early” too.
      I’m someone who likes to go back to a familiar schedule quickly after big events good and bad but going back didn’t mean I was over it. Grief doesn’t happen all at once, at least for me. I’d get to a point where I was functional 95% of the time and it would have been ridiculous not to work and I still needed compassion for when something unexpected put me back into the darkness or at certain times of year.
      This situation is not a problem with the (initial) leave allotted or the OP’s use of it, it’s all about the boss lacking empathy and failing to see employees as individual humans who don’t treat grief as a to-do list item that can be checked off.

      1. Caramel*

        ‘Grief doesn’t happen all at once’. Spot on. I only started to grieve properly (After the initial shock) nearly 1 year after my father passed. All of a sudden it hit me again and I fell apart.

  25. Jam Today*

    LW#1, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for being a man who speaks up immediately and without equivocation about harassment and sexism in the workplace. It has been my unfortunate experience that men ignore it, laugh it off, or make excuses for it and diminish or outright deny women’s experiences. Its grimly surprising whenever I see men take a vocal stance against it, when it counts (and not, like, after hours or maybe years later when their sympathy is just empty words and makes no difference at all).

  26. Chilipepper*

    LW2’s former boss is an ass. And I did not learn from this what someone should expect from a boss when a close family member dies – not being an ass is a low bar! I see people here talk about berevement leave of just a few days or weeks. Since appeals to humanity did not work with the LW’s boss, what should one do to push back on unreasonable expectations? And what is reasonable and unreasonable for a boss/company to do? Will LW2 need this info for the next job?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      A lot depends on the size of the company. My employer (fortune 500) gives US employees a week at full pay for a spouse or child, on top of 3 – 4 weeks paid vacation. If you need more, they ask you move to short-term disability, which is a different pool but I think still fully paid, up to six weeks. So a month or two of paid leave, in the US. I don’t know what happens after that or in other countries, but our long-term disability is 3/4 salary. To replace the labor, it’s either a temp or share it among different people.

      A smaller company would probably need to hire a temp earlier, and may not be able to do much paid. But a *good* company would find a way to help, either with short-term disability insurance or a furlough / layoff, something to make them eligible for unemployment.

      And NO company or person should expect the employee to ‘get over it’ or be cruel as this manager was. Even if there’s little the company can do financially, they can be kind in how they talk.

    2. Caramel*

      In England we only get a short period of bereavement leave. But people bypass that period by going to the Dr and being signed off for stress and depression. I think America is really limited with sick leave though?

      1. Maybe not*

        It’s similar in the US. Bereavement leave is usually enough to attend a funeral. If your employer is large enough to be covered by FMLA, you would qualify for a longer absence by getting a doctor to sign off on a need for leave to serve your mental health.

  27. Regrets*

    #5 Talk to your husband, if you don’t believe him go from there but talk to your husband.

    When my first marriage was ending my husband was cheating on me, there were no checks written to anyone (back in the 2002-2003). I had an affair soon after discovering the affair before our divorce, the man I had the affair with was ready to leave his marriage and used his shared credit card to pay for hotel rooms, expensive dates and Jewelry (the jewelry got him caught). Neither my ex or my affair used a check back in the early 2000’s I can’t imagine why someone having an affair would now.

    1. Clisby*

      The personal checks also struck me as odd (if you were trying to hide something.) I write maybe 10 checks a year – everything else is online banking. I don’t think my husband has written a personal check in the past 10 years. If he wanted to hide something, it’s hard for me to imagine it would be with a check – that would instantly get my notice (I handle all the finances in our family.)

    1. Esmeralda*

      Meaning…LW’s husband gave the stimulus money to a colleague? Not seeing how that makes a difference in who the money went to.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Yeah- if you earn over the limit for a full check but under the phase-out cutoff, you get basically the proportional amount. My parents got a really weird number for the first check, something like $2337 for the two of them.

  28. Anonymous for this*

    LW 5: Start by asking your husband. If the answer is not satisfactory, call the coworker (and do NOT tell your husband you’re going to do it). I’m sorry, Allison, but that’s the LW’s money too. And those are not tiny amounts.

    LW, I suggest you keep a closer eye on your joint account.

    Probably nothing nefarious is going on — your husband wasn’t hiding the payment — but it would be wise to look into it.

    1. Zephy*

      Don’t call the coworker, that’s way overstepping. This isn’t a coworker problem, it’s a husband problem.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Don’t call the coworker FIRST. But it’s reasonable to call the coworker later if the husband’s explanation is not up to snuff.

        People who haven’t had a cheating spouse have no idea. (And by cheating I mean financial not just emotional or sexual) “You can’t call the coworker because that’s intruding into the spouse’s professional life” — well, if the spouse is cheating in some way, he’s pulled the LW’s personal life into his professional life already. Why should the LW be at a disadvantage and follow the rules if their husband has not?

        Ask the husband first. Get a better look at your joint finances. Follow up with the coworker if things are hinky. Doesn’t have to be accusatory, can be blandly inquiring (I’m cleaning up our checkbook, husband doesn’t remember what the checks were for, so sorry to bother you, blah blah blah)

        Signed, someone who had to tell a spouse’s coworker to stay away from our house and child (at the point I didn’t give a rats ass any more about the coworker staying away from my spouse), or I’d be contacting the police and a lawyer. And I cc’d the coworker’s spouse too. It would have been easier to nip it back when it was “little gifts”, but live and learn.

        1. Joielle*

          Idk, if you’re at the point where you mistrust your spouse to this extent, I don’t think calling the coworker is going to do any good.

          Just as a hypothetical exercise, the LW should think about how they would feel if they did call the coworker and the coworker said it was for something work-related. Would they be happy with that explanation, or would they still be suspicious? Based on the language in the letter I’m inclined to think they would still be suspicious, and in that case I don’t know that the relationship with the husband is salvageable. I know I wouldn’t want to stay married to someone if I felt like I always had to double-check their stories and keep tabs on their relationships.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            Well, the thing is that when it was small stuff, I didn’t think “affair”. Given what my spouse’s coworker was like, I would likely would have gotten something to lead me to have a different kind of discussion with my spouse.

        2. Observer*

          Signed, someone who had to tell a spouse’s coworker to stay away from our house and child (at the point I didn’t give a rats ass any more about the coworker staying away from my spouse), or I’d be contacting the police and a lawyer. And I cc’d the coworker’s spouse too. It would have been easier to nip it back when it was “little gifts”, but live and learn.

          If the coworker is harassing the OP or the like, that’s one thing. As for nipping it in the bud, the way you do that is be dealing with the SPOUSE. Because going after the coworker and ignoring the spouse is not going make a whole lot of a difference. MAYBE it will stop THIS affair, but it won’t solve the fundamental problem.

        3. MCMonkeybean*

          No, I’m sorry but no matter what is happening calling up the coworker is not a reasonable step.

    2. JB*

      Yes, it’s her money and she deserves to know, but what is calling the coworker going to do for her?

      Personally, putting myself in the position of the coworker – if it’s not an affair and there’s some legitimate reasons for the checks (say, as other people have proposed, the guy damaged my car in the parking lot and he’s paying for the repair work) I’m certainly not going to answer any questions to a woman calling and claiming to be his wife and demanding answers. That’s between them.

      Similarly, if it WERE to be an affair, if I’m getting money out of the guy, I presumably am aware it’s an affair and I’m not about to talk to his wife about that either.

      So all I can see is that calling up the coworker will get LW no answers and possibly put her in a worse situation, since people might come to know her as the woman who calls up her husband’s work and harasses his female coworkers. We had one of those at a previous job; the wife would call every day asking if he was at work. (Sometimes he wasn’t.) Was he having an affair? Probably. Was it her right to end the relationship? Absolutely. Might it have been difficult for her to do that, financially or for other reasons? Of course.

      But I can tell you that in the three years I worked there, her checking up on him did not actually get her anywhere materially, except make her upset and make all of us uncomfortable.

      1. Caramel*

        You are so right. Why would you believe someone just because they claim to be someone? I would automatically assume it is fraud on the part of the OP. Even if I didn’t think it was fraud I’ve read enough about abuse to not risk getting involved.

    3. Observer*

      If the answer is not satisfactory, call the coworker (and do NOT tell your husband you’re going to do it). I’m sorry, Allison, but that’s the LW’s money too. And those are not tiny amounts.

      So? She STILL should not call the coworker.

      There are a lot of possible ways for the OP to deal with this that are appropriate (including visiting a lawyer.) But talking to the coworker is NOT one of them.

      Unless Husband somehow makes the case that this person managed to forge his signature on those checks AND has a good reason for not having gone after her for it. How likely does that sound?

      1. Caramel*

        Like it or not divorce courts still take infidelity into account when determining stuff.

        1. Observer*

          I’m not sure how that relates to the question or my comment.

          You don’t need to call the coworker to determine if infidelity happened. Also, once you get to the point of divorce court, that’s a different situation. But in that case, if the coworker gets called it will be by a lawyer.

  29. Zephy*

    Yikes on BIKES we’re off to a heck of a start this week.

    OP 1, you’re doing amazing and I hope we have a good update from you soon.

    OP 2, your former boss is a reprehensible excuse for a human being. It almost sounds like she FOUND one of those “lists of things not to say to grieving parents,” but missed the “NOT” in the article title.

    OP 3 and 4, thank you for the brief respite of sane questions with sane answers. OP 4, I hope you’re able to get some info from your boss.

    OP 5, this is not a work problem. This is a husband problem. Ask him.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    #3 I’ve been dressing up for my interviews, but not to the extent I would be if they were in person interviews. I’m putting on a nice top and blazer, doing my hair and wearing jewelry. But I’m not wearing full makeup or worrying about every hair on my head, I’m just going for an overall look.
    The difference is that the interview is the most important thing I have going on for me that week, but it is just another meeting for the person interviewing me. I don’t expect them to be dressed up, just that they take the interview seriously. I want to show that I take the interview seriously and also that I can get myself together for big meetings.
    But I did have a group interview where only 1 out of 4 people turned their cameras on, and I’m a bit miffed about that. I had to interview while talking to blank screens.

    1. OP #3 (formerly The OP)*

      You make an excellent point that “the interview is the most important thing I have going on for me that week, but it is just another meeting for the person interviewing me.” I’m not dictating their dress code, nor should I. The blank screen issue is real – and I recognize that some technical difficulties are going to occur, but it does make the interview process much more difficult for the interviewee. Your approach to dressing up is the same as mine. I don’t think I’m brave enough to try it without a tie on!

      This whole Bold! New! World Of Zoom workspace reminds me of something that was covered in Psych 101 about non-verbal communication, and how much of it there really is. Between that and wearing masks in public I often feel like I’m flying blind.

  31. AwesomePossum*

    It’s absolutely none of my business but I’m absolutely dying to know what those checks were for.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I’m liking the ‘case of Girl Scout cookies’ explanation above. $343 is about the cost of a chest freezer for the Thin Mints…

      1. Lizy*

        Nope. That’s not even 6 cases. My fat bum could eat that in a couple of months.

        Which is why I wrote the second check to my coworker. (Disclaimer – I’m not really involved in this story. I just REALLY like Thin Mints.)

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      This is like the Dyatlov pass mystery all over again :D ! I have a tendency to go down rabbit holes for incidents that have absolutely nothing to do with me!

  32. AmyL*

    1) So glad you reported to HR and they sacked him. He’s fired so block his number and forget about him. As for the colleague try a bit of acting and say ‘I don’t know, do you know’? Once they realise you don’t have the gossip they’ll back off.

  33. employment lawyah*

    1. I reported my boss to HR on my first day
    This is textbook. They had a reporting system; you used it; it worked. Well done.

    Do not talk to him, but DO report his contact attempts to HR.

    2. My boss is being awful after my daughter’s death
    Your boss is being a complete asshole; hopefully you realize that it is her, not you, who is the problem here.

    You may want to talk to a local employment lawyer and see if you can qualify for any intermittent psychological protected leave, which would both give you what you need and prevent retaliation. It may not exist if your company is that small, but it’s worth a call.

    3. Am I overdressing for video interviews?
    Am I the only one who reads “overdressing for video interviews” and instantly thinks “what, by wearing shoes?” because I am often barefoot in the office.

    Well, you should not dress TOO formally because it makes you look out of touch. Also, at least in my opinion, a shirt & tie without a jacket is a harder look on camera. If you don’t go for shirt, tie, and jacket then try a shirt (top button open,) and a blazer. You can sub a polo for the shirt, short sleeved is usually fine since they can’t see your sleeves.

    4. Do I have to put up with an AWOL boss?
    If you focus on your boss being absent, you will lose.

    if you focus on YOU or your JOB, you may win. try that!

    5. My spouse wrote personal checks to a high-level coworker
    Do. Not. Call Her.

    Ask your spouse! And if you’re really that worried about your spouse lying to you, talk to a divorce lawyer first.

  34. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW#1: On behalf of every woman who has had to put up with bosses like that, THANK YOU for what you did. It takes courage to stand up like that when you are new and the person who’s causing problems is your boss. Thank you for having that courage.

    LW#2: I am so very sorry. Your boss is a horrible person. My condolences on the loss of your daughter. I hope no one else makes you feel bad about talking about her, and celebrating her memory, and grieving her. All those things are so, so important.

  35. HungryLawyer*

    LW3, I interviewed someone last week and I wore a sweater that had been chilling in my closet for a year and black yoga pants. The interviewee was wearing a suit and tie, but honestly, I didn’t really care about his attire one way or the other. Unless you’re interviewing in high finance or law, I doubt your interviewer will care whether you wear a suit and tie or something a bit more casual. Good luck in your job search!

  36. yala*

    “He keeps calling and texting me so that we can discuss our “misunderstanding.””

    Oh! Haaaaa…that is… That is sure SOMETHING!

    I think Alison is right on the money that he absolutely should NOT be doing that, and HR would be VERY interested to see those texts and to know that he’s calling you.

    Like. Ugh. My skin just tried to crawl right off.

    1. juliebulie*

      I am morbidly curious as to how he thinks he could “clear up” their “misunderstanding.”

      1. JSPA*

        a) a bribe
        b) a threat
        c) “it was ironic”
        d) “it was a joke, I have a strange sense of humor”

        OP might want to get HR on the other line, then take the call?

      2. EmmaPoet*

        My equally morbid guesses are
        a. try to beg/plead/bully OP1 into recanting
        b. tell OP, “It’s not like I ever said any of that to the ladies!”
        c. accuse OP of being gay (saw this happen when a guy complained about “locker room talk” and one of the creeps in question said the complainent had to be gay or he’d have enjoyed it too) (so gross)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ughh, option C is making me feel like puking. Unfortunately that’s because I have heard that used as an excuse too many time – often with the “so grow a thicker skin” line for good measure.

      3. Observer*

        “Nice job you have there. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

        Seriously, I wonder if he would try to intimidate the OP into backtracking.

        Of course the other suggestions could work, too.

      4. yala*

        I think JSPA covered most of the bases.

        One thing I’ve noticed is when someone (who cannot take criticism) gets called out for bigotry of any kind, especially by a stranger or near-stranger, they tend to defend themselves with “You don’t know anything about who I am!” as if there’s some amazing secret life they have that somehow balances out being sexist/racist/homophobic/etc.

        So it would probably be a lot of that. A lot of “I’m sorry you took it that way” gaslighting. Probably some “We’re really a FAAAAMILY here so sometimes we express ourselves more casually” and depending on how bad a pickle the boss is in right now, a side of either “plausibly-deniably-subtle implication that you need to ‘fit in with the culture’ (not ever report him again)” or a plea to reconsider and alter his statement to HR.

        1. Caramel*

          When I pointed out to people that ethnic minorities can be racist they were shocked I would say such a thing. To me it seemed obvious, which group can claim no one in the group is racist? Bonkers….

          1. Nanani*

            …. No?
            Racism isn’t about bullying people about their skin colour, it’s about power dynamics. The group with less power cannot be racist because that’s not how it works.

            If a member of a minority says something mean about a member of the majority, that’s not racist because that person doesn’t have systematic power.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              That’s really toxic logic. All humans are capable of bigotry and have the potential to rise above it.

              1. JSPA*

                Racism has become shorthand for systemic racism, as distinct from individual bigotry. Both are problems, but approaches to fixing them are different.

          2. JSPA*

            Anyone can be biased, can stereotype others, or can treat people differently on account of race. As systemic as racism is–as pervasive as stereotypes are–people can also be racist against their own race.

            But there’s an additional layer of toxicity when racism pointed at someone from a group that already has the short end of the stick, historically.

            And an additional layer beyond that, when the person doing so is from a group that traditionally gets to get away with racist assumptions, without losing social power or employability.

            I do