our boss told us where we can and can’t grocery shop, unfriending someone I have to fire, and more

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

1. Can our employer tell us where to grocery shop during Covid?

In January, our public school principal instructed staff that if we habitually shop at a particular grocery chain, we should shop at a particular location in our area on the basis that it was in our state.

We are a tiny rural area on a state line. Location #1 of Big Fancy Grocery (BFG) is 40 minutes north in another state; location #2 is an hour south in our own state. The principal instructed us that we must shop at BFG #2 because of Covid, and “It’s safer because it’s in our state.”

BFG#2 is in our red, mask-defying state. BFG#1 is in the other state, which is a blue, left-leaning state. I don’t think I’ve seen a person in BFG#1 without a mask. The Covid rates in each area have been, with fluctuations, about the same.

When I heard him say this, I scoffed and thought (and might have mentioned to sympathetic coworkers) that the virus doesn’t respect state lines, that rates are about the same, and that frankly BFG#1 is closer, safer, and actually the more pleasant of the two.

Is this legal? Not for him to suggest it (I would assume it is) but to mandate it? Thank heavens he didn’t order people to swear a pledge or sign anything, but some people did change their habits out of fear that … somehow he would know? Their shopping habits would get around? What could he be thinking with this? This is so strange and misguided to me. What’s your take?

That’s bizarre, and I have no idea what he’s thinking. That parents would complain if you were seen shopping in the blue state? (Who would see you and report it who wasn’t there themselves?) And even if they did … so what? As a society we like to exercise a lot of unreasonable control over teachers, but to the point of dictating where they can shop for food? No. If that were really the issue, the answer would be for your principal to get a backbone, not to issue decrees about where you can and can’t buy cereal.

As for the legality: If this were a private employer, it would be legal in most states (other than in states with laws protecting employees’ off-duty behavior, such as California). But you’re a public employee and probably unionized, so the rules are different. I wouldn’t even worry about that, though; I’d just treat this as a suggestion, not a requirement, and then ignore it. If you’re ever spotted in the “wrong” store, you can say you were in a hurry and didn’t have time to drive an hour south.

2. How to unfriend someone I have to fire

A few years back, I started at a new company in a mid-level role. During that time, I accepted Facebook friend requests from a few coworkers, all at my level. Generally speaking, I’m fine being friends with coworkers on Facebook as I don’t share anything I wouldn’t want the entire world to see. However, since then I was promoted to the director of our department. I am still friends with coworkers, because I’m comfortable with the content I share being appropriate for the workplace.

However, I am in the process of terminating an employee on my team, who I am still friends with on Facebook. While the termination is warranted, as this employee is not capable of doing the job as required, I do understand that they most likely won’t want to remain social media friends with a boss who just let them go. I may be overthinking this, because many years ago I was unfairly terminated from a position and had a lengthy legal battle with the company, which I eventually won. A few years later, my old boss and grandboss both attempted to friend md on social media, which I obviously didn’t allow. I was shocked and a little angry that they would even want to do that! I don’t want to put this employee in any more of an uncomfortable position, knowing how stressful and upsetting losing a job already is. Do I unfriend them prior to letting them go, unfriend them when we finalize the termination, or just see what happens and let them decide if they want to disconnect?

Definitely don’t unfriend the person right before letting them go; if they notice, it’ll look ominous and awful cold. Frankly, doing it right afterwards will look pretty cold too! You’re better off leaving it in their hands; they can unfriend you if they want, block your posts, or whatever they’re comfortable with.

For what it’s worth, ideally you would have disconnected from anyone you managed on Facebook when you became the director, because this is only the first of a bunch of awkward situations that could come up. It’s not enough that you’re not concerned about what you might post; being connected to them means you might see things they’d rather their boss not see or think about (their politics, health, family, whatever it might be) — and it’s less fraught for you to take the lead on fixing that than it is for them. (See this post.) And if you disconnect from everyone at once, it’s easy to explain it’s not personal and you just don’t want them to feel like you’re watching what they post.

3. Should I email questions to my interviewer after our meeting?

I just had an interview that went very well for a job that I am very interested in. Because it was only a half-hour time slot, there were only about three minutes left at the end for me to ask questions, so I could only ask one. I have sooo many more questions, but I am not sure how or when to ask them. The job is competitive, and I do not want to waste the interviewers’ time by emailing them a list of questions if I am not one of the top two or three candidates for the job. I would be fine with waiting until I got an offer, or a second interview, and then having a discussion that addressed my questions.

However, I know that asking good questions can demonstrate agile thinking and a sincere interest in the job. I emailed them a thank-you note a few hours after the interview. Should I send an additional email with two or three questions? Or should I just sit tight and see what happens?

Don’t send an email with questions, especially if you’d mainly be doing it to try to make a good impression! Ask your questions in the next stage if they move you forward, whether that’s an interview or an offer.

Answering questions by email takes a lot longer than answering them in a real-time conversation (especially since the question people normally ask in this context are generally open-ended queries rather than things with easy, one-sentence answers), and it can feel presumptuous to ask your interviewer to invest time in doing that before they’ve indicated they’d like to move you forward. That’s doubly true since most questions in this context come across as things that could definitely wait for the next stage (like about the office culture or workload) rather than things that are truly time-sensitive (like “I have another offer; can you give me an idea of your timeline?”) and thus come across as simply trying to impress … and asking your interviewer to spend time writing out answers to questions just so you can demonstrate interest does not come across well.

By the way, if you’re at the end of your interview time and you’ve only had a chance to ask one question, it’s okay to say, “Do we have time for a few more questions?” Often your interviewer will be fine going over the scheduled time a little. If they’re not, they’ll let you know — but it’s fine to ask when you haven’t yet been given much chance for questions of your own.

4. Donating to a memorial fund at a church I don’t support

Should I donate to the memorial fund for my coworker’s recently deceased relative if I have objections to where the money is going?

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the church the deceased was a member of. However, due to a number of personal reasons, I have a complicated relationship with the church as a whole and do not feel comfortable supporting them in any way. In the past I have donated when other coworkers’ relatives passed away, as they asked for donations to secular volunteer organizations.

For what it’s worth, I did sign the sympathy card from everyone in the office and expressed my condolences when I first heard about the death.

It’s okay not to donate. You never need to send support to an organization or cause you’re not comfortable with. You can show your support for your coworker in other ways, like signing the card, as you did.

5. Should I tell my manager I’ve had other offers that I turned down?

I have a few advanced degrees, over a decade of experience, and a title to match, but I’m exceptionally good at doing the work of somebody in entry-level positions.

I was frustrated over the summer that I was being forced to do that entry-level work for months and was being treated more like an assistant, so I started looking at some other jobs. I immediately got two job offers from great companies that were essentially lateral title moves or very small bumps up, with a bit of a salary increase. At the same time, my responsibilities at work grew almost overnight to the levels expected of somebody in my position and above. I was happy with the changes and I was doing really well with my new roles and felt like I was finally being treated beyond entry-level, so I turned down the two job offers and never said anything to my manager.

Now six months later, my manager is again trying to force me into that entry-level work. It really upset me, but he said I’m the best at doing that work and they needed me since nobody else could do it as well as I could, which didn’t feel like the compliment that it was supposed to be. Should I tell him about those job offers that I turned down even though it was months ago? The new changes are frustrating and make me want to look for jobs again and I have no doubt that I’d find something quickly.

I don’t think there’s a ton to be gained by telling your boss about job offers from six months ago. It’s not that there’s not value in him realizing you have other options … but he’s likely to focus on “six months ago” and “turned down.” Meanwhile, you have multiple advanced degrees and more than a decade of experience, and he has you doing entry-level work. I think you’re probably better off just pursuing work with a company that will let you do the job you’re hired for, rather than fighting this battle where you are now … and then maybe having to fight it again in the future, if his past pattern is any guide.

If you haven’t spelled out for your boss how dissatisfied with the work you’re doing now and how important it is to you to do work aligned with your title and qualifications, it’s worth trying that and seeing if it changes anything. But I suspect your energy will be better focused on simply moving on.

{ 337 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    OP #4: I’ve noticed lately at the end of obituaries there’s a link to plant a tree in memory of the deceased. I think it’s a lovely idea and good for the environment as well.

    1. MK*

      It is a lovely idea, but unless there is such a link in this person’s obituary, that’s not advice the OP can act upon. If you are suggesting that the OP do this anyway… I wouldn’t. The thing is, the family has already indicated how they want the death memorialized, possibly in accordance with the wishes of the deceased. If the OP doesn’t feel good about donating to this church, that’s valid, and they shouldn’t donate; I doubt the coworker will notice. But a grieving relative doesn’t need other people telling them they disagree with the dearly departed’s religious views, or, frankly, them doing random charitable acts. I can understand taking some initiative if you have a personal connection with the deceased (and presumably know what they would have liked), but when your only connection is the grieving relative, either do what they asked or let it go.

      1. Sue*

        Often two choices are given but I would never give to a cause or group I don’t support. I’ve also been more wary after giving to a national charity organization a few years ago in memory of a friend and then being literally bombarded with subsequent appeals.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, it’s annoying. I have a monthly direct debit deal with a charity, and I really love the fact that they only send an annual message to thank me once a year, in a newsletter format, with further info available on their website about what my donation has helped to pay for. Sure, they include options to donate more, but it’s not pushy at all. I stopped supporting another charity when they kept pushing and pushing for more donations. When I stopped, I told them that I still support their cause, but that their pushy marketing made me want to stop donating to them.

        2. metadata minion*

          Yeah, I donated long ago to a charity when a coworker’s partner died. And it was even a charity with a cause I strongly support, though I have other preferred organizations to donate to in that field, so I was genuinely happy to donate. And for that one $20 donation I’m pretty sure I’ve received way more than $20 worth of mail over the subsequent 10 years. :-/

          1. nfp org person*

            Please tell a non-profit when you don’t want to be bombarded with mail from them (also, if you don’t want them to share your info with other orgs).

            I work for an org like that, and we are happy to put codes in your record to prevent us from sending you unwanted mail/email. We have lots of codes so we can customize according to your preferences.

            Sometimes people wait until they are fed up, and then contact us to break all ties with the org — if they had reached out sooner to ask for what they wanted, they could have saved themselves some frustration! And the org could maybe have maintained the relationship. And our staff could have not gotten yelled at. It’s better for all if you make the request early and politely rather than waiting and then going ballistic.

            1. Liz*

              A big +1 to this! I also work in non-profit fundraising and trust me, as much as I personally hate that half my mail is fundraising appeals, we only send that many pieces of mail / email / text messages because it pays off. But you can always unsubscribe / contact the organization and ask to be taken off their mailing list.

            2. meyer lemon*

              Yes, I’ve learned to pre-emptively ask not for any physical mail whenever I donate somewhere that requires my mailing address. I’ve found the organizations always listen to a direct request. I don’t mind getting a lot of email spam, but the wasted paper bothers me.

            3. Jack Russell Terrier*

              I support the idea of an active opt in to receiving info from an org. In the end, it’s better all round than just automatically putting someone on your list. I had a bust up with Oxfam about this and the fact that they sold/gave away my info after I donated in lieu of flower for a family member.

              I think the onus should be on the charity to make sure folk want info – not on the person who might be making a small one time donation in lieu … .

            4. Metadata minion*

              I have significant phone anxiety and just chucking the mailers in the recycle bin is less stressful than looking up their contact info, calling, possibly being on hold, and having to tell them to take me off their mailing list only to get back on it anyway when someone sells them my contact info because I support other similar organizations. If you have contacted someone multiple times per year for 10 years with no success, maybe you can stop on your own?

    2. JSPA*

      Those are run by third parties, often associated with the online company hosting the obituary posting. They take the money (and may or may not plant the tree, or tell the family). Some do drop a seed in a hole, with no further care. whether that’s “planting a tree” is highly questionable. Better to plant a tree though a group you know and trust, and let the family know…or just sign the card. Or donate to some other cause you’d expect the person to have supported. (Food banks are broadly non-contentious, and particularly badly in need of support these days.)

  2. Kimmybear*

    #1- Based on your experience with your principal, is it more likely that it’s about perception (we don’t want parents in our red state thinking our teachers are blue state liberal indoctrinators) or that he thinks your state is safer (viruses don’t cross state lines you know)? As for legality, schools are pushing a lot of boundaries right now as to what they can mandate and no one seems to be stopping them. I would ignore your principal but I kinda like standing up to bullies.

    1. Lexie*

      It could also be about guidelines states have had in place saying anyone entering state needs to quarantine unless they pass straight through without stopping anywhere or are traveling there for specific reasons like work (such as they live in one state and work in another) or medical care.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Many of those restrictions, at least in my area, allow for travel to directly adjacent states, precisely because some people live near borders and they have to cross the border for shopping and other day-to-day needs. In my state’s case, it may also be that so many people cross borders so frequently for work and essential tasks that they felt like the rules would just get onerous and confusing unless they just allowed for travel to the adjacent state.

        For example, I’ve been pretty locked down this year, but I’ve done contactless pickup at the library in an adjacent jurisdiction, which is miles closer to me than many branches of my county library – should I have to give that up or quarantine after? Similar for some of the regular places I’d choose to walk the dog or go for a bike ride. The grocery store I go to is in my state, but only by about a quarter of a mile. Etc.

        But I live in the midatlantic and many if not most local employers have employees who live in three states (well, two states and a third jurisdiction that should be a state). The rules in other parts of the country may be different, just due to the geometry and geography of small versus large states.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This was my thinking too. I’ve been asked at recent medical appointments if I’ve traveled to another state in the last two weeks.

        1. sacados*

          I do wonder though, if that would be different when you’re living somewhere right on a state line, like the OP.
          I can’t imagine that’s something people monitor in Kansas City, for example.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Yeah, I live in SW PA and we have people who routinely commute from WV and Ohio so I have no idea how that works for them.

          2. PeanutButter*

            As someone who lives in KC, my doctor asks about travel greater than 100 miles in a non-personal vehicle.

        2. JSPA*

          Not every question with a “yes” answer is a problem. If the answer is, “yes, right over the border in [other state],” that’s not going to cause consternation or get flagged.

          If it’s a long trip, that an intro to a whole suite of questions about flying, driving but being in shared airspace with large groups of people from all over (think, travel plazas); and exposure to variants that are booming in one or another geographic location.

          Principal may have been instructed, per statewide guidelines, to discourage “interstate travel,” and have applied it in the most literal and detailed way possible. I’d ignore it.

          1. Disco Janet*

            Exactly. I had a dentist appointment yesterday in Ohio, but literally ten minutes from Michigan. When the asked the out of state question I just said “Well I live in Michigan, so technically yes. But no large distances.” It was fine.

      3. Angelinha*

        Yeah, I’m a state employee and when there were travel restrictions on neighboring states, we were told that we needed to notify our supervisors if we went to one of them. We were working remotely so it didn’t really matter but I think they were probably being extra cautious about the optics of a state employee “breaking the rules.” That’s what I assumed here, that the boss is saying it’s “safer” in that it “looks better” for teachers (who are presumably partly in person?) not to be seen in a state with travel restrictions.

        1. Tryinghard*

          County employee here and we are in the same boat as you. I’m thankful we live in a big state with lots of things to do but still sucks when we have to ask pemission to leave and then quarantine upon return. Thankfully I can work from home but it sucks for those that can’t and have to use vacation or sick time to cover.

      4. sb51*

        Yeah, most states do have exceptions for border residents but a 40 minute drive seems unlikely to qualify. Though I also live in the Northeast, where states are tiny and 40 minutes freeway driving is a long way.

    2. English, not American*

      Viruses can only cross state lines if they’re carried by infected hosts, so turning state or county lines into arbitrary barriers is a legitimate way to reduce spread. It’s not about believing the virus cares about the boundary, it’s about keeping the same people only mixing with each other.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        There is an added risk for driving 50% longer distances too. Personally I am on the road as little as possible, because emergencies happen.

      2. Bree*

        Yes, but those boundaries should be up to government officials to decide and enforce, not random individual employers.

      3. hbc*

        I get what you’re saying, but there was just no chance of state lines being an effective barrier. I can’t even imagine the number of critical workers in the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area who would have had to quit work rather than cross state lines.

        I think it’s fine as a general way to say, “On average, interstate trips are longer than intrastate trips and you should be considering whether you have a better option,” but treating the NY/NJ border like it’s the Great Wall was never going to happen, and you’re probably doing less independent spread there than if you do NYC to Albany.

        1. Guacamole Bob*


          I also live in the DC metro area, and it would be totally futile to try to use the state (er, state, commonwealth or district) lines as barriers to virus spread. Government officials have recognized that and have set the rules accordingly. My kid doesn’t have to quarantine for two weeks from school because we picked up takeout at a restaurant a couple miles from us across the state line.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Yeah, it’s easy to cross lines across states or counties along the East Coast and the DC area is basically a metropolitan blob not worth enforcing. I think it would depend on the travel. If, say OP worked in DC and crossed into MD or VA that could easily be 40 mins with traffic and not really be that far. I would just not advertise where I shopped and make choices that made good financial and safety sense.

        2. English, not American*

          The entire point is that it’s not about distance travelled, it’s about separating populations. If no one crossed the arbitrary line there would be no spread beyond that area. Of course some people have to, which complicates things, but a trickle is less damaging than a flood. If the rule were “stay within X miles of your home” every household’s bubble would overlap in a chain spreading across the country, so there would be no boundaries and no point.

          1. Kimmybear*

            You are right that it would be ideal to separate populations, but that is not practical in many areas where state lines can fall between two neighboring houses or on opposite sides of the street. To your point about trickle care flood, one principal telling a handful of teachers to not cross state lines will not change the behavior of everyone else in the area that crosses the state line regularly.

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            Separating populations is beyond the purview of a manager of a department in some company in some place. We have no indication at all that I can see that the manager’s dictum is related to infection control.

      4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        It’s not like one state is Covid free. It would make sense if you were trying to keep Covid out, but it’s about a year too late for that.

        My coworker has crossed state lines at least 5 times a week since this whole thing started. 10, if you count “and back” as a separate crossing.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          However, the OP described one state as more mask-compliant than the other, so there’s a good possibility it’s closer to Covid-free.

      5. Allonge*

        Of course that is right, but that cannot depend on individual employers making it a rule not to cross the state lines – and especially not with a reference to a specific store.

        1. English, not American*

          I’m not saying it should, I just take issue with the stance that since viruses don’t care about arbitrary boundaries it’s somehow silly for humans to.

          1. Allonge*

            If there are infections on both side of the arbitrary boundary, it is fairly silly for humans to travel further (whihc is it’s own risk) for what is the same risk of getting infected. Sure, if Other State had infections but My State did not, I would get what the point is – don’t bring the virus to My State. That does not seem to be the case here though.

            1. English, not American*

              Even if there’s virus on both sides, the separation will kill it quicker on either side. Especially when you take into account that there’s generally more than one border. If that weren’t true there wouldn’t be any travel bans between nations anymore.

      6. NotAnotherManager!*

        I just realized that I’ve lived nearly my entire life on a near-the-state-line situation (as has my spouse), so limiting travel over state lines is just weird to me, especially if it’s going to double your travel time. I’m currently in the DC metro – a densely-populated area where crossing DC/MD/VA lines for work, medical care, shopping, etc. is routine. I work in one jurisdiction, my spouse works in another, and we live in the third. There are so many people here that sticking just with DCites or Virginians or Marylanders isn’t really that limiting.

        Both my hometown and my spouse’s border on (different) red states with far fewer restrictions, too. My BIL told us recently that a a lot of people where he and my ILs live are going over the line for shopping and dining because it’s very close and completely open, but there has not been a spike in cases in that area on either side of the border. I’m pretty sure my FIL’s regular doctor is over the state line. Where I grew up, if you crossed the border on a minor road, the only way to know sometimes that you’d crossed the state line was that the color of the street signs changed.

      7. Temperance*

        I live about 15 minutes from the next state over. I could theoretically drive there and back in less time than it would take me to get to the next county in my own state.

      8. JSPA*

        I’m going to question this on biological first principles.

        With all of the coast-to-coast trucking still happening, and all the essential travel, there’s no way this is having the meaningful effect that people wish it had.

        It’s analogous to thinking you can prevent genetic mixing by separating populations, despite letting one or two individuals pass between the populations, every generation…whereas, in fact, even a single individual per generation, moving from one population to the other, is enough to counteract genetic drift (and thus eventual speciation).

        The issue to address is the total number of contacts per person (i.e. the need to isolate insofar as practical, and to distance, where isolation is impractical, and to mask / double mask, shield and clean, where neither isolation nor distancing can be maintained).

    3. Artemesia*

      It could also just be this principal’s own political position. It is frankly outrageous to push this especially in a red state where you take your life in your hands going to the grocery store. I recently shopped in a red portion of my own state and was shocked by the number of people wearing masks below their nose and otherwise spewing their breath into the commons; in my local grocery store I don’t think I have seen a nose or someone without a mask in the last 6 months. It is sad that a basic public health measure has been made a mark a tribal identity.

      1. Firecat*

        Yeah. I live in a red state.

        I’ve been cussed out for sitting in my car in a mask. I’ve seen people walking into a crowd and pull down their mask to cough (legitimate coughing) and their masks were filthy so I assume has been worn since day one with no washing.

        My friend lives in DC and apparently she gets glares if she walks outside on a sidewalk without a mask. Cometely different experiences.

      2. OP31*

        Hi, I’m OP#1. The principal is actually very pro-mask, to the point where he’ll pop into classrooms and shame a chin-wearing-masked teacher (I’m OK with this). He’s also pretty liberal. I think it’s mostly the crossing state lines thing – yes, we were asked to quarentine if we traveled out of state. But we have dozens of people who live over the line who are certainly not quitting their jobs. It just seems like he didn’t think it through and had to say *something* at the direction of the state.

        Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and for Alison for answering my letter! And for the wise advice to safety *roll eyes and ignore*.

        1. Disco Janet*

          As a teacher, this reads to me as one of the things the principal says just because someone told him to….but he doesn’t really care and has zero intention of monitoring it in any way.

  3. medium-sized glass of water*

    FYI Alison- for question #4, the funeral is for the coworker’s relative, not for the coworker! I doubt the LW has any fond memories of the coworker’s relative unless this is a pretty unconventional office environment.

  4. Derivative Poster*

    Alison, you answered #4 as though the deceased person was the OP’s coworker, but I think the OP said it was a coworker’s relative. That might change your advice slightly (although I definitely agree OP shouldn’t feel obligated to donate to a church in memory of, say, the receptionist’s mom).

    1. lyonite*

      Or anyone’s relative, regardless of level. It would be a nice gesture, if you’re so inclined, but I think this is a situation where it is fine to be quietly supportive of your coworker, without contributing financially to an organization you don’t support.

      1. PollyQ*

        Agreed, and there are two things I doubt:
        1) I doubt OP#4 will be the only one not to donate.
        2) I doubt the co-worker will even take note of who did or didn’t donate.

        1. one more scientist*

          Do people really donate for coworkers’ family members? I understand for the funeral of a coworker, especially if you were friendly, but a family member? Someone you didn’t even know?

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. I’d sign a condolence card, but that’s it. I might donate to the memorial fund of a close coworker if it was for a cause that I actively support or at least don’t actively oppose. At my job, if an employee dies while they’re still employed by us, it’s customary for the employee’s manager and close coworkers to attend the funeral service if it’s open to the public, but not if it’s a private event. In the latter case, there’s either no death notice at all, or it’s published after the funeral. Obituaries in the papers are rare, except for public figures or celebrities. During my years at my current job, we’ve had a number of obituaries published on our intranet for coworkers who’ve died while they were employed or fairly recently retired, and in a few cases, at work.

          2. Chocolate Teapot*

            I worked with somebody whose mother passed away and there was a collection for flowers, but I don’t think I donated.

            1. Keen Oat*

              A co-worker’s mother died after a lingering awful bout with cancer. The mother lived in a neighboring country and their country’s cancer organization provided a lot of support services as well as money for cancer research. Many of us in the department pitched in and donated money to the cancer organization in the mother’s name. We all signed a physical card and had an electronic acknowledgment of the donation that didn’t have any of our names. The coworker was really touched.

              1. Jay*

                After my father died, my colleagues were kind enough to ask one of my closest friends at work for advice and made a lovely donation to our synagogue. I was amazed and deeply touched. I certainly never expected it.

            2. Allonge*

              So my boss’ mother is very ill and I fully expect our team to send _boss_ flowers when she passes away because we do that for birthdays and other large life events in the team.

              Individual donations to whatever cause for the mother would be… really weird in this context. So yeah, no, that is a bit too much unless you personally knew the family member, or of course the cause is someting you personally would want to donate to anyway.

          3. Language Lover*

            I think it depends on the family member. When a co-worker’s husband passed away, we did a collection for her. But other than that, I don’t think most family members would make the cut.

            1. Bagpuss*

              But in that instance weren’t you doing something for your co-worker, not directly for/in memory of the deceased family member?

            2. Mimi*

              Yeah, I would probably consider doing something like this for a spouse or child; parents, grandparents, or siblings would really depend on the coworker and how close the relationship seemed to be. I guess I gave to a collection for an animal shelter when a coworker’s cat died; it was about $5 and I was like, “sure, I’ll support an animal shelter,” and another coworker was collecting the money so I knew I wouldn’t get hit up for donations by the shelter later.

          4. Bagpuss*

            This struck me, too.
            I wouldn’t expect co-workers to donate or send flowers for a relative of an employee.
            A condolence card which is something you are doing directly for your colleague makes sense, but unless you were friendly with their relation as well, or were very close to the co-worker so had a friendship outside work, I wouldn’t expect anything more.

            But in any case, even if you have a close relationship with the person who died, there is no obligation to donate to a cause you don’t approve of. I think the difference is that if you were close to the person who died, you might chose to do something else in their memory

          5. Person from the Resume*

            Yes. I think it’s very common to send a card and flowers to an employee’s immediate family member’s funeral. Someone the employee suffered a loss so you let the employee know that people at work are thinking of them during their difficult time. And in this case, there’s an “in lieu of flowers” request. The funeral is not for the deceased, but the deceased’s loved ones.

          6. JB*

            At my job, many people do; but we’re very ‘community focused’ and volunteering and donating is a big part of the culture. We just all chipped in for a donation to a charity started by one of the VP’s mothers, in honor of her passing.

            It’s never a large donation on an individual level, we’ll usually chuck in maybe $5 each and make a group donation as a department.

          7. kittymommy*

            I have. Quite often in fact. Many times it’s going in on a donation or flower arrangement with others, but a few times I’ve done the tree thing for coworkers family members (parents/spouse/child).

          8. MK*

            Traditionally, people sent a flower arrangement to the funeral, usually as a group, to honor the dead (a pretty ancient custom) and show support for the family. Now many families prefer a charitable donation in the memory of the deceased, as flowers have lost their symbolism. It’s quite different from the collection of money as a help for the famil, since a death comes with considerable costs. I do think it is fairly common for close family members, like spouse, parents and children; I doubt it comes up with grandparents or aunts etc.

    2. MJ*

      I’m sure the “in lieu of flowers” was a blanket request, not just for co-workers. It does not carry any obligation on the receiver of the request.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes – it’s a fairly common line to see in public obituaries here, and it just means ‘if you were thinking of sending flowers, we’d rather you donated the money to X charity instead’. It doesn’t mean ‘we want everyone who reads this to donate to X charity’.

        1. Clisby*

          Right – it’s more of a “please don’t make us deal with a bunch of flowers on top of everything else.”

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. We had it in the obits for all my grandparents. Flowers just feel a bit wasteful when there’s something more people could do for others with the money, if they’re minded to do something (and I’ve never felt it was an obligation when you put that in the obit).

            The wording for 2 of my grandparents was “family flowers only, donations kindly requested to Marie Curie.” It was a charity they liked and which most people wouldn’t object to.

            For my other grandfather we knew he didn’t think much of medical charities but did like education and helping people from lower socio economic backgrounds (like himself). So we asked for donations to a charity which provided scholarships to people from lower socio economic groups studying engineering. We thought he’d approve and it felt right.

            1. Artemesia*

              If there is a wide diverse community that might have an interest in the death of the individual, families really should choose at least an alternate charity that is non-controversial politically — a scholarship fund, a food bank etc rather than just PP or a church or an anti-abortion organization.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes I think that’s why most people of my acquaintance use Marie Curie because it’s hard to object to what they do. The local hospice gets a few donations and so do the big cancer charities. One of my friends asked for donations to Terrence Higgins (AIDS support) when his husband died which was something they both supported actively. I guess that might be considered controversial by some but all their friends thought it was a great idea.

                I don’t know anyone who has asked for donations to their church or an anti-abortion organisation. I mean I’m assuming people do that but I’ve never seen it in my social circles in the UK. Even my godnother who was a Methodist preacher didn’t want donations for the church and asked in her will and instructions for donations to a charity supporting education for girls in Somalia. She thought that the church could look after itself but poor girls needed all the help they could get.

              2. SimplyTheBest*

                I disagree with this. They get to choose whatever charity they want or their loved one wanted. Their loved one just died and they don’t need to take the time to find a palatable charity for you to donate to. If you don’t like the one they chose, don’t donate. Simple as that.

                1. UKDancer*

                  I think you’re right that they get to choose their charity. On the other hand if you choose a controversial charity then you may expect that some people won’t want to support it.

                  I think it depends what the family wants. If they want the maximum possible donation to the charity they need to pick one that is acceptable to the greatest number of possible donors. If they’d rather favour a more controversial one that’s their choice but people may not want to donate to it so the overall volume of money given may be less. Every choice has a consequence.,

      2. Sara without an H*

        Yes, this is pretty common. When my mother died, we included a line in the obituary asking people to donate to the local homeless shelter instead of sending flowers. And a few of my coworkers did contribute, but I didn’t make a specific request that they do so.

      3. Drago Cucina*

        Yes, there are only so many flower arrangements needed. When my MIL and FIL died requests were made that instead of flowers donations be sent to a children’s hospital. Sometimes families are at a loss and pick the first thing that comes to mind.

        I suggested that the development director of public library reach out to local funeral homes. A large number of people come in and don’t want the flowers but don’t have an idea of where to direct donations. We would place books in memory of the person, on a topic or genre of interest, with a book plate. I remember one gentleman who was an avid camper and his family had the money go to buy books on everything camping: How-to to where-to. They liked that it supported his personal interests and kept his memory in the community at large.

    3. jojo*

      Hmmm… I usually just make a check out to the dead person. Like 20 dollars or so. That way it has to be deposited into the dead persons bank account. And becomes part of the dead persons estate from which the deceased persons funeral is paid. Also the deceased outstanding legal debts. If they have money I make a donation to Gidoen Bible or the local soup kitchen in their name.

  5. JR*

    For #1, was it about grocery stores in particular or crossing the state line in general? The large state university in my town is requiring people to quarantine for two weeks before coming on campus if they’ve left the state and re-entered. My state has a recommended but not required quarantine upon entry, but it’s a requirement before going on campus (for work, schools, etc – they aren’t screening people going for a walk). We’re two hours from the state line, so I think this is more about discouraging travel and would be much less practical in your case. But maybe it’s not about the grocery store? If it was about the store, though, and that wasn’t just an example, that’s bizarre!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      A two hour drive to the state line makes a bit more sense of discouraging cross state travel. When you are literally on the border, well half the staff may cross the border to get to work. I think in this case it’s about know your audience, and take the option that works best for you.

      1. BethDH*

        I work on a school campus that is very close to two state lines. We were also asked to follow the no-interstate-travel rules as above, with some examples given of things that were and weren’t okay. If your doctor is across the line, that’s okay; grocery stores were specifically mentioned as not a good reason and, for example, we would be expected to go to the IKEA that is 3 hours away rather than the one 1 hour away but across the line.
        People who live across the border had individual discussions with the covid workplace team and for those who can’t work from home, extra effort was made to limit their exposure to others.
        I generally think this was handled well. I suspect what OP heard was a mangled explanation of a common suggestion being put out at the state level.

        1. WorkingGirl*

          You would be expected to go to the IKEA that’s 3 hrs away vs 1 hr away?????? That’s…….. bizarre

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Agreed. I live very close to a state line and while there have been some new restrictions (my kids’ summer camp last summer could only take in-state kids), no one is isolating employees at the office or dictating where people can shop based on residency. All state restrictions in the local area allow for day-to-day travel to directly adjacent states.

            1. BethDH*

              So I think this is partly that we’re more in the “summer camp” kind of field than the normal company would be. There is a core of actual reason to do it, but there’s also the optics part where we’re convincing parents that it is safe for their kids to be resident here, and convincing the regional community of the same thing.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                I’m glad there’s something employer-specific that makes this make more sense for your situation. I can totally see how optics might impact things or a specific industry might have reasons to handle it differently.

                But in general? No.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Agree, this makes no sense. The odds of having to stop for gas, food, a pit stop are far higher on a 3-hour drive than on a 1-hour, and my understanding is that any additional stop increases the chances of spreading.

            1. BethDH*

              Definitely. I have small kids and there is no way we’re making it three hours without a stop.

          3. BethDH*

            We would not be fired for it or anything — not even reprimanded. It’s been presented as a “best practices and community responsibility “ thing. But yeah, the state lines are being used as an arbitrary dividing line where possible.
            I think someone above noted that it doesn’t matter so much what the line is but you need one that can be communicated easily so the state line is a logical choice. With any border there are going to be people near the edge who are more inconvenienced than the people at the center.
            I will say that I mind less because they’ve also been providing a lot of extra resources on their dime so they’re not just passing all the extra effort on to us.

          4. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Going to IKEA isn’t a critical mission in nearly any case anyways, which is where I imagine this is coming from.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              This is one of those cases where things that were totally nonessential for a 2-week lockdown at the start are kind of essential over the long run. I’ve had to run to Ikea to get something I needed for a more ergonomic home office setup. People move, babies grow out of cribs into toddler beds, furniture breaks, etc.

              Clothes are like this, too. They’re nonessential shopping trips for the short run, but at some point people need clothing.

    2. Nicotene*

      That was my exact thought. In our state, we had to quarantine (and commit to telling our bosses etc) if we crossed state lines; it came from the top. Luckily in our area (a tristate where you could easily skip between states in a thirty minute drive) the surrounding states were considered part of our state “bubble” but I could imagine situations where that wasn’t the case. However, I think OP would have mentioned that if it was a factor; I’d assume the boss was either concerned it *would* become the case, or was trying to adapt this rule from somewhere else.

    3. OP31*

      OP#1 here. It was about the “traveling to another state” thing. The grocery store thing is weird, because these two locations are VERY popular to shop at, and people (like me) will go into the other state only to grocery shop. So I guess he was trying to encourage us to go to the other, further location because then it would be in our own state — even though our state has more Covid, more bad attitudes, less masking, etc.

      No such restrictions were made on the dozens of school employees who actually live in the bordering state and travel to work every day.

      1. Kit*

        I wonder if it’s occurred to your principal that the only parents who would notice you shopping across state lines are… the ones shopping across state lines themselves? Unless you’re taking grocery store selfies, I guess, but that’s a level of commitment to the ‘gram that I’ve never seen in a teacher.

  6. Language Lover*


    I’m seeing a lot of focus on red state vs. blue state in the responses but I am not sure it’s necessarily politically motivated.

    You know him better than I do but it sounds like he may have heard of companies requiring quarantines from employees who travel across state lines and decided that all crossing of state lines is dangerous. Therefore, you should use the state’s grocery store.

    He might be thinking in terms of “letter of the law” of those policies without really thinking about the spirit of them. The policies are about avoiding unnecessary and risky travel to COVID hot spots and getting on planes with a bunch of people; they’re not about never crossing state lines if crossing state lines is a reasonable part of one’s every day life.

    I just think it might be a staggering lack of critical thinking. If you are “caught,” I’d just make an excuse you had to be in that town to run some other errands and didn’t have time to go in the other direction for food. But if you mask up and wear sunglasses, it’s unlikely people will recognize you if you’re worried about it.

    1. Mellow Yellow*

      I was thinking this, too. I used to work right on a state line and there was a nearly 50/50 residency split among the staff. The first question people asked new employees was, “Do you live in State X or State Y?”. I don’t work there anymore but I highly doubt they’re forbidding half the staff from coming to work right now because they have to cross state lines.

    2. Old and Don't Care*

      I agree. Either that or someone’s brother-in-law manages Grocery Store 2. But probably the former.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Or maybe he’s seen the push to support local businesses and didn’t realize that means small family-owned places, not the branch of a corporate chain that happens to be in your county.

    4. Allie*

      I live in the DC area (where three jurisdiction ls meet) and there have always been exceptions to the state line rules for local travel. It should apply for going to the grocery store too.

      1. doreen*

        I live in NY, and the quarantine requirements here for the most part have excluded the adjacent states and also people who left the state for less than 24 hours. So if I lived in the right part of NYS, I could cross over Vermont and go shopping in New Hampshire as long as I returned within 24 hours of leaving.

        But there’s no sensible reason for this principal to tell you to shop in one store rather than the other – even the brother-in-law managing store 2 doesn’t make sense. It has to be that something is being misunderstood by somebody – it might be something like “support in-state businesses (locally owned or not) because they pay in-state taxes (that pay us)” being misunderstood as a reason to “instruct” employees to shop there. It might be that what was meant by the principal as a personal suggestion came across as a mandate – the wording the OP uses like “should shop” and “instructed” sounds a little indirect for a government agency mandate to me.

        1. sb51*

          However—Vermont and NH are being stricter and might not allow that trip — neither has a 24-hour exception. VT might allow pass-thru, I don’t remember. NH is allowing the rest of New England but not NY. Connecticut is allowing NJ but not MA, because parts of it are really an NYC suburb. It’s a lot and none are consistent.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        I live in the same area, Allie, and I cosign on this. I’m about to have it out with my dentist because they’re about to ignore this.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          That seems confusing. Do you mean your dentist is not going to take people from 5 miles away if it’s a cross a boundary?

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            My dentist only asks if we’ve traveled outside of Virginia anytime within the last 14 days. DC and Maryland are outside Virginia, and they don’t make exceptions for local travel.

    5. James*

      “You know him better than I do but it sounds like he may have heard of companies requiring quarantines from employees who travel across state lines and decided that all crossing of state lines is dangerous. Therefore, you should use the state’s grocery store.”

      That was my thought as well.

      I’m in a mandatory 2-week quarantine before my son’s surgery: no contact with out-of-state people. All the states around me are red, so it’s not a political thing; it’s a way to at least marginally minimize potential exposure, without overly restricting necessary activities. Obviously the virus doesn’t care about political boundaries, but humans do, and humans are the carriers.

      My other thought was that this whole situation reminds me of the small town (<2,000 people) I grew up in. Catholics shopped at one grocery store, Methodists in another, and the handful of other religions shopped out of town. My family caused a bit of a scandal by ignoring that. Of course, now the town has NO grocery stores, which shows how sustainable such nonsense is.

    6. OP31*

      OP#1 here – Language Lover, I think you & Alison hit it on the head. I replied in a few spots here and I mentioned that he is pretty liberal and a bear about mask-wearing.

      I think he was ordered to make some kind of nebulous travel prohibition and came up with that one. He’s not the brightest bulb.

    7. Jennifer Thneed*

      The real problem with guidance about state lines is that states vary SO much in size. I live 3+ hours from my nearest border, but there are folks in New England who can cross two states in that same time.

  7. Finland*

    What could he be thinking with this? This is so strange and misguided to me.

    I’ve learned over the years that bosses are not superheroes and their words aren’t magic. Sometimes, it’s just better to pretend like you didn’t hear and let them do the work of explaining themselves. If you “get caught“ at your preferred grocery store, say hello if you choose and go about your business. Whoever “catches” you is pointing three fingers back at themselves.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes! It’s an incredibly weird thing for a boss to say, but, well – whoever sees you there will be there themselves, so…

      Also, this is one occasion where if I was ever asked, I would go with ‘oh, you said not to go there, huh, totally don’t recall that, what was the context again? Was there a discount for us at the other place or something?’ All puzzled and clueless.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That was my first thought – only way to catch OP and OP’s coworkers “in the act” of shopping at BFC#1 is if the person who caught them was shopping at BFC#1 themselves.

    3. Smithy*

      Exactly – and just to add, maybe don’t post on social media about where you grocery shop? Again, not in the sense of being worried of being caught, but if this is going to be an optics reason – then don’t give them any optics to use. No matter how exciting the selection of new Oreo flavors may be.

    4. UKDancer*

      Yes just don’t mention it and do what you want and if someone finds you at the other shop just act nonchalant.

  8. nnn*

    #4: From my POV as a recently bereaved person, we’re not paying any attention whatsoever to who donates in our deceased loved-one’s memory, and I don’t know if we even have a way to find out. (I certainly don’t immediately know how to find out.)

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      This depends. My sibling was very upset about who did and did not donate. Some places are used to getting such donations and are set up to handle it correctly. They will keep track of who donates and will let the family of the deceased know. Other places seem befuddled, and expect you to tell the family yourself that you donated.

      1. Laure001*

        But… They should NOT tell the family who donated, right? That’s just… wrong somehow? Or at least, like crowd funding, you should have an option to keep your donation anonymous?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s pretty common when you donate in memory of someone – the family of the deceased is told who donated so they can send a thank-you note if they want. The *amount* isn’t disclosed, however.

          If you want it to be anonymous, you’d simply donate without adding the “in memory of” part, and they’d never find out.

        2. Barbara Eyiuche*

          But when someone is making a donation in memory of a deceased person, usually they would want the family to know. If you don’t want the family to know, you can let the charity know that.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          I work in fundraising and we definitely let the family know when someone has made a gift in memory of their deceased family member (we don’t tell them how much, of course).

        4. JB*

          You can definitely make an anonymous donation and not indicate that it’s in the memory of anyone.

          If you make an anonymous donation but mark it in memory of the deceased, it’s pretty good chances that the family will be made aware that an anonymous donation was made. If you donate and use your name and indicate in memory of, they will likely write a letter of thanks and give it to the family to pass on to you, or send a copy to the family.

          (My extended family lives in one of the ‘cancer capitols’ of the USA due to chemical dumping. We’ve had a lot of deaths. My dad tends to be the go-to for organizing the funerals.)

          Keep in mind that the ‘service’ the non-profit is offering in exchange for these donations is basically bereavement comfort. The whole point is that the family will get some peace out of seeing the good that came out of the donations solicited on their loved one’s behalf.

        5. Sparkles McFadden*

          The family members want to know so they can write a thank you note to acknowledge the gift.

        6. SimplyTheBest*

          Usually the point of donating in someone’s name is so that the family knows that the donation was made.

        7. biobotb*

          Why would you donate in someone’s memory, to a charity specified by their family, but not want the family to know?

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, in some cases the charity or organisation will keep track and provide a list or card afterwards . That said, it’s easy for people to slip through, if they don’t tick the right box or mention that it is in memory of a specific person at the right time.

    3. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      Some charities have an option- you can note who it’s in memory of, and how they can be notified. So if it’s in memory of a coworker’s sister, the parents and spouse may never know, but the coworker would get an email or card that a donation has been made.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        My sister died in December, and I donated to a community agency she had participated in (an arts org for people with mental health issues). They sent me a lovely note about what an important part of the community she was, but didn’t tell me who else donated. So even if SOME of the coworkers family members got notified about who donated, peripheral members wouldn’t necessarily. (I don’t know if they provided that info to her husband). My perspective is always that if someone suggests a charity, do it if you feel like it or like the organization, but don’t get too torqued out about whether your movements will get tracked. IF there are people who notice and track, chalk that up to grief, and it is unlikely to have any repercussions on your relationship with your coworker.

        Also, I have Feelings about people who suggest organizations like churches or political organizations for this purpose, even though I’m highly political myself — I think offering options as a bereaved person for memorials is a kind thing to do for people who want to do a kind thing in response.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Man, I need more caffeine. I read this as “as a recently deceased person” and got very confused.

      My sympathies for your recent loss.

    5. The Original K.*

      Ditto. I’m keeping track of sympathy cards and gifts but not of the charitable donations, and I doubt my sibling is keeping track of those either.

    6. ThatGirl*

      If you donate in memory of someone they will generally tell the family, by sending a card or something, but not necessarily how much. But it can also just be a general donation or anonymous.

  9. PspspspspspsKitty*

    #5 – Depending on how open you can be to your boss, I think it’s okay to say “Entry level work does not interest me at all. I have the skill set to do more complicated/higher level work.”
    I’m currently working at an entry level job fighting fires. It’s boring to me because I have more experience than this. My company likes to have career discussions so I finally told them that if I’ve been here for a year, then something probably will change. So they know there is a high chance that I’ll be moving to another department or a different site.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I agree. Be very blunt with your manager about it, tell them your qualifications are not suited to the entry level job and you don’t want to do it.

      Then start looking for something new. Unfortunately you’ve probably been pigeon holed by this manager because you are ‘so good’ at the easy stuff already, why waste his time training someone else? It’s very short sighted on his part, but it happens all the time.

    2. TardyTardis*

      Unless she leaves, she’ll always be stuck doing entry level work because she’s good at it. I know that one from experience. When you can knock down over a thousand invoices a day with decent accuracy, they don’t want you to move from there. Believe me on this one.

  10. Hurrah*

    You’ve done higher-level work for a couple of months. You can list those accomplishments on your resume when you apply to other jobs!

    1. Mockingjay*

      OP5 could also say something like: “Boss, does it make sense for someone at my level to be doing these things?” And have a plan ready for those entry-level tasks when you do: someone else better suited to do these things, a system or tool or spreadsheet that could automate a task. It’s not that you are refusing to do something, it’s about allocating appropriate resources for each task.

      I actually used this phrase successfully with a former manager at my current job.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is my thought as well. You were getting interviews and offers last time, you have more accomplishments for your resume now than you did six months ago.

      Also, you now know that your boss will not sustain keeping you off the entry stuff, because he sees you as his go to for that area. I would look and leave knowing that this is what I need to do to be doing the career building.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would think you will never get your due at the present place — they see yu as a minion to get the grunt work done; there may be some misogyny here as well. Too bad you didn’t move when you had the chance, but if you got offers before, now with more experience and at a higher level, you probably can again. You need a new environment with new expectations; you will always be ‘entry level’ to your current bosses.

        1. pope suburban*

          Bingo. This is exactly why I am looking to leave my current position. I am, like OP, doing entry-level work despite being more qualified, and, like OP, I have covered higher-level tasks that are appropriate to my education and experience for months. But the thing is, management *likes* the current arrangement where I clear all my entry-level work and still do these other tasks as needed. They don’t give a damn that I am stagnating or unhappy or underutilized. They give a damn that they get what they want, the agency looks good, and they don’t have to pay me for the work I am actually doing. So I’m out; it’s their problem, not mine, and all I need to do is find a workplace that will treat me well and assign me work that is appropriate.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          I wonder if OP5 could check back with the companies that made her offers? They might still have openings.
          Not sure about the approach or what to say, but I’m sure it could be done.

          1. No Longer Looking*

            OP5 would definitely want to make that approach hat-in-hand, I’d think. It would be delicate – “I like to think the best of people, and I let that optimism talk me into staying where I was. As it turns out, I should have listened to my first instincts, and I’m now back in the job market. As we had such a positive set of conversations last year, I wanted to reach out to you and give your company first opportunity if it made sense for us to restart those conversations…”

            I’m sure there is a less rambling way to present that.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Yep. You could even try something a bit more vague about it was not a good time to change due to outside factors which have been resolved, that kind of thing. As long as you were prompt and professional when you turned the jobs down I don’t think it’ll count against you too hard. These things happen! People have to make choices and sometimes things change after those choices are made.

  11. smaires*

    #5 yeah just look for another job imo. If you tell your boss that you’ve turned down jobs a few months ago, it won’t really accomplish what you think it will and if the job they get need done is entry level then they’re better of hiring in that level. It might be a win-win for everyone.

  12. The Daily Register*

    #5: The employer didn’t value you a year ago and doesn’t value you now. Mentioning a couple of job offers 6 months ago isn’t going to change that. Back when computers and satellites were fairly new and exciting, I heard one female engineer tell a newly employed female engineer to never tell any of the male employees – not even her boss – that she could type (learned for college). If she did, she would forever be known as a typist, not an engineer. Although this isn’t about gender, you are seen as that ‘typist’, aka entry-level worker. You do it, and do it well, so that’s what you are/do. Brush off the old resume.

    #1: “As for the legality: If this were a private employer, it would be legal in most states (other than in states with laws protecting employees’ off-duty behavior, such as California)…” WTELF?

    1. tg*

      I’ve heard of advice for women marrying into farms along the lines of, don’t learn to milk a cow, or you’ll be doing it forever.

      1. Liz case*

        We raised chickens and rabbits for food. I asked my mom once why she always plucked and cleaned the chickens but my dad did the rabbits. She told me she’d made the mistake of learning how to deal with the chickens and got stuck with that job. She refused to learn how to skin a rabbit.

    2. Clisby*

      I was once at a conference for female journalists, where a panel was offering advice for career advancement. One guy looked out at the audience and said, “I would tell you not to learn to type, but I don’t think that’ll work for you.”

    3. fish*

      And on a related note, at the new job, maybe don’t say how exceptional you are at the entry-level stuff

      1. JJ*

        I thought this as well, it was an odd comment like…you have 10 years of experience, obviously you’d be exceptional at entry level work?

        Definitely get a new gig and focus solely on the higher-level work you’ve been doing in those interviews and never hear bUt YoU’rE tHe BeSt At FiLiNg again. Your boss is a jerk.

        1. Filosofickle*

          I don’t that’s true in all fields. Sometimes the farther you go, the more out of touch you are with the lower level stuff. Especially where it requires attention to detail, repetition and software skills. Visual design is a good example — not every art director can still push pixels well.

          1. sacados*

            Haha, yeah I’ll admit my first thought after reading that was “uhh… I should hope so?”
            But then I sat and thought about it for a minute and realized how that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agree with the advice for OP5. Unfortunately you have been pigeon-holed in your current bosses mind as the person who does this role. Brush off the resume and move on – that’s unfortunately probably the best way to grow your career the way you want it to.

  13. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP1 – the abbreviation BFG made me smile (It’s the title of a well-known childrens’ book in the UK).

    1. Jaid*

      To this reader of TV Tropes, it means something else altogether…say about 50 caliber, LOL

  14. Sarah*

    If someone reported you for going to the “wrong” store, they’d have to be at the “wrong” store too!! So I highly doubt someone would want to report you and risk exposing themselves.

    1. LH in SD*

      yeah, but how many times have people reported others for being in or working at a strip club, etc. Folks are strange.

    2. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      I’m sure it would be filed under “It’s OK if I do it but bad if someone else does it” mind-set.

    3. 'Tis Me*

      With the shopping thing, as I understand it, people working at (and presumably attending/with children attending) School live in School!State and Neighbour!State. People living in School!State “should” be shopping in School!State, people living in Neighbour!State “should” be shopping in Neighbour!State. So people “allowed” to shop in the Neighbour!State shop could report people for shopping in Neighbour!State. (If they know that the teacher in question definitely lives in School!State, at any rate… And in practice a solid subsection of people don’t tend to let a lack of solid facts interfere with their vitriol…)

      “Should” and “allowed” in quotes as I’m not sure if this is a strong recommendation or a potentially unenforceable stated condition of employment, but it sounds like it’s probably not a requirement made of everybody under local laws?

      But in the UK late last year, when we were in local tiers, I had a friend living in a Tier 3 area, working in an adjacent Tier 1 area. She was allowed to go to work but that was one of a very small set of reasons for which people were permitted to leave her area. She wasn’t legally allowed to go to the petrol station or supermarket that were closest to her as they were in Tier 1, even when she was passing them on her way to/from work.

  15. sequined histories*

    I’m a public school teacher who grew up in a red state and now teaches in a blue state. I’m in a union, but the teachers in my home state are not. I would not assume this person is in a union. My first thought is that the principal probably believes in some insane conspiracy theory like “masks cause COVID.” I agree with Alison that ignoring this directive in a low-key, non-confrontational way is probably your best move.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Yea….I’ve seen someone I worked with at a grocery store..once. ( We don’t work for the same company, but we see each other in meetings and stuff). It’s not likely that anyone will notice this

    2. PT*

      I was wondering if this was part of the Publix-Trump-antimask brouhaha.

      (TL;DR: Publix decided it won’t follow/enforce any COVID safety rules because they’re a personal choice; Publix heir donated to Capitol insurgency.)

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Or if someone asks why they never see you at a grocery store, “spouse’s job has hours that let them shop during the less crowded middle of the day.”

    4. OP31*

      OP#1 here – I commented in a few spots on this thread, but this isn’t the case. This particular principal is in a red state and did come out with this silly advice, but he is a liberal and a ferocious mask-wearer. We run in the same circle outside of work (although I don’t think he realizes this, lol). He’s not a conspiracy theorist.

    5. Faith*

      Yeah, I really wish people would stop assuming that all teachers are part of a union. Especially in red states (especially in the south, here there’s very little unionization at all, no matter the field). It’s insanely frustrating when you’re looking for advice and you WISH you had a union to back you up, but it’s never going to be an option because everyone around you thinks unions are evil.

  16. Groove Bat*

    Nobody knows when you unfriend them and less they actually go and look to see if you’re still on their friends list. It’s not like Facebook sends a big announcement when you unfriend someone. You can also use your settings to control who does and does not see your posts posts you see.

    1. Antilles*

      Facebook doesn’t send notifications about friends adding/deleting you, though if they know the number of friends they have, they might notice going from 425 down to 424 and look into that…though I doubt most people pay this much attention to the number though.
      That said, I agree with the idea of just changing settings so the posts are hidden. Avoids the whole issue of looking ominous/cold. At least for now; you could wait a few months and it’d just be like you’re cleaning up your friends list in general.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, but they do. FB conveniently shows the person who has just unfriended you under “people you may know”. But I agree about changing the settings to restricted to limit what the person sees on your wall.

    3. Helvetica*

      I have had instances where I’ve expunged my friends list a bit and then the people request to friend me again after awhile – presumably because we have mutual friends and they might have seen me comment under their posts (at least in one case I think that’s how they noticed, so to speak).
      But yeah, generally I’d agree that most people don’t go through their friends lists to check if you’ve unfriended them. In this case, as Alison suggests, I’d also leave it to the person you’re letting go.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      There’s an Unfriend Finder app because of course, there is. Some of my FB friends with several hundred+ friends like to see who unfriended them.

      One of my Facebook friends gets really angry about getting unfriended by one of her hundreds of ‘close friends’ because she would’ve unfriended the person first if she’d known how they ‘truly felt’ about her.

    5. Artemesia*

      I would block access to your page without unfriending at first and then unfriend in a few weeks.

  17. Policy Wonk*

    #1 Most commenters are focused on the red vice blue states and COVID issues, but this could also be a tax issue. Tax revenues could be down in your state because of COVID, and if you shop in the other state the taxes paid on your purchases will be supporting that state’s government, not yours.

    1. metadata minion*

      Is that likely to actually be a reason a principal is telling teachers to shop at one store vs another? Sales tax on groceries is going to be such a piddling amount that if someone told me to shop in state for tax reasons I would probably give my $5.78 to the other state just to annoy them.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        If schools are partially funded from sales tax it might be something a principal would think about.

        I do have a feeling it has more to do with either a misunderstood guideline about quarantining after crossing state lines or general optics or something, but it isn’t totally out of line to think funding may not play in a little.

    2. BRR*

      While it’s possible, I think that’s very unlikely to be the reason and don’t think the LW should treat it that way.

    3. Antilles*

      Commenters focused on the COVID issues because per OP, the Principal specifically said: The principal instructed us that we must shop at BFG #2 because of Covid, and “It’s safer because it’s in our state.”
      If it’s really about tax revenues and supporting your own state government, then the principal should have said that.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      If there was some other factors involved, either taxes or heck, maybe one store chain supports schools or something, the principal should’ve explained that rationale.

      “We prefer you shop at Store 1 because they’re a school sports sponsor in our state and we would like you to patronize them.” Or whatever the case may be.

      1. OP1*

        OP#1 here – it has nothing to do with taxes, sponsorship, or the particular stores (again, they are the same chain). It’s about “going across state lines” is so VERY DANGEROUS and he implied that it’s safer in our state – although it is not.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I have a friend who lives on a state line and there were some questions where she lived too regarding crossing the line, which is literally a half mile from her office. It was mostly just folks panicking at the start of the whole thing and listening to the letter of the guidelines, rather that the spirit of “just don’t go further away from home than you need to.” We are int he western half of the country, where states are bigger and crossing doesn’t happen quite as often like in New England or something, so I think it may have been more of a “thing” out here than some places.

    5. Autumnheart*

      It would be frankly biz. arre. for an employer to be so concerned with keeping tax revenue in-state that they believed they could tell their employees where and how to spend their money. The whole “stay within state lines even if the store is twice as far away” is already pretty nuts.

  18. Retail Not Retail*

    LW1 – how is it legal for a private employer or any employer? Take away covid, my boss can really dictate what store I shop at? There’s a part of my little hourly brain that says, “wanna tell me what to do? Pay me!”

    Not that mine would – we have brand X in the machines on site and people drink brand Y at work (and so do guests judging by the trash.) And I when I worked at grocery store, well we didn’t sell clothes and wal-mart does…

    1. doreen*

      It’s legal because there isn’t any law prohibiting it – your employer can dictate where you shop, if you work for car company A, they can prohibit you from parking a Company B car in the lot , they can refuse to hire you because you like to go to Disney world. They can legally do pretty much anything they want unless there is a specific law against against it.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        and I can legally tell them to go reproduce themselves. No. It is not legal for someone to tell a grown adult where they can and cannot spend their own money just because they work for them.

        1. metadata minion*

          Can you give some sort of citation to that? It’s not ethical, and it’s ridiculous, but in the US unless you live in a state with a local law preventing it, it is legal.

          1. Queer Earthling*

            Yeah, “legal” does not mean “sensible” or “reasonable” or “ethical,” it just means “if someone does this, they won’t be arrested/fined/whatever.” Your employer can tell you not to shop somewhere. If you shop that place, they could probably fire you without repercussions; otoh, you could (if you have the resources) challenge it, which could theoretically lead to a law being made, couldn’t it? Until such a time as that happens, it’s legal.

            1. 'Tis Me*

              My understanding (IANAL) is that if you successfully make a case it would set a new precedent (case law) that would then be used to guide future interpretations in that jurisdiction. So if you argue (and win) the following maybe so?

              * The organisation can dictate your behaviour during your working hours but not your personal time when you are not acting as a representative of theirs or acting in a way that would cause a reasonable person to doubt your professional fitness.
              * A reasonable person in your area would not consider halving your journey to accees essential goods (FOOD!) as evidence of questionable judgement, given the level of adherence to correct mask wearing, the number of people commuting between your town and the one over state lines, and the legal guidance in place. (And in fact by going to a shop with more mask compliance you are arguably trying to reduce the likelihood of causing a schoolwide infection event.)
              * They would need to pay you at least minimum wage 24/7 to dictate that you can NEVER shop at X (if X is open 24/7). (This may cause overtime/maximum working hours legislation conflicts, incidentally, and problems in places with legally protected overtime.)
              * No reasonable person would agree to employment under those circumstances without very clear written guidance on exactly what is or isn’t permitted at various times. (Otherwise “you’re voting as an employee, not an individual. Vote for _______” would be an acceptable verbal command. Possibly? Unless that’s expressly illegal? Or e.g. Presumably you’re allowed to have conjugal relations with consenting people of your choosing off school premises and outside of teaching times, but you aren’t supposed to utilise the art cupboard for the same purposes on your lunch break, even if you don’t have supervisory duties that period. What if you live next door to the school and your partner is WFH and can take lunch when you have a free period? Are you allowed to go home for a quicky and a quiche? You’re not being kept in the school 24/7 so… Or what if you also write/make art in your spare time? Now your employment contract covers all of your time, is your output the intellectual property of your employer?)

              And I’m pretty certain that a contract that actually specified this sort of stuff would be unenforceable because of the level of intrusiveness and control, and the fact it would basically turn teachers into indentured servants.

          2. Autumnheart*

            It’s not that there’s a law that expressly gives this right to employers, it’s that there’s no law preventing employers from doing it. The general application of the law is that something is legal until there’s a law written against it.

        2. Antilles*

          The law would respond that both the grocery-store mandate and your response are fully legal. In fact, that’s the at-will employment working exactly as intended.
          The employer is free to set any working conditions they please as long as it doesn’t violate a specific law (and the grocery store mandate doesn’t); the employee is equally free to decide at any point that they do not want to continue in the job.

        3. BRR*

          It’s legal in the sense that they can fire you if you don’t do it. Not that it prohibits you from actually shopping there.

        4. Sylvan*

          It’s legal. Whether it should or shouldn’t be is another question. I was strongly warned against donating to political causes as a newspaper employee (not even a reporter), and so was everyone else who worked there. While that newspaper might have been an outlier, it doesn’t seem to have been an illegal one.

          (For anyone confused by this, the purpose of the rule was to reduce bias or the appearance of bias. For example: Imagine reading an impartial-seeming article about a politician from X Party, then finding out that the reporter has made many public donations to Y Party for years.)

        5. Sparkles McFadden*

          “Legal” in this sense means that you have no recourse if the boss fires you for shopping at the store across state lines. It doesn’t mean you are breaking the law by doing so.

        6. Cat Tree*

          Based on your username, I’m assuming that you have a job where it is relatively easy to turn down this kind of place and a find a job somewhere else that doesn’t try to dictate your grocery store. Good for you. You have leverage.

          Many (most?) workers don’t have the same ability to be so choosy about their workplace.

          None of this has anything to do with legality though. You’re probably used to companies treating you well and just take it for granted. But they’re not doing it because of legal requirements or out of kindness. They’re doing it because database devs are rare and they need to compete with other companies to get you to work for them. And since you’re used to it, it’s really easy to assume that your experience is the default and that those things are legal requirements rather than perks. But companies don’t have to treat employees well when there is less competition. We *should* have more legal protections for workers, but we don’t.

        7. Observer*

          and I can legally tell them to go reproduce themselves.

          If you want to lose your job, go ahead.

          No. It is not legal for someone to tell a grown adult where they can and cannot spend their own money just because they work for them.

          Maybe it SHOULD NO be legal – but it most definitely IS actually legal, at least in the private sector, in most of the country. Which means that your boss could most definitely fire you over this.

        8. biobotb*

          So because you think it’s stupid, that somehow changes the legality of it? Of course you can decide you’re not going to work for an employer that makes shopping at a certain store a condition of employment, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not legal for them to have that condition.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          Your comment is a little ironic/creepy because that is the grocery store!

          I was thinking of noncompete rules at my internship – one museum in town. Well okay, don’t partake in the “competition” except the other museum was my housing! My current job is one attraction of many and no one would be like you can’t go to big museum in the city OR say don’t visit the other version of us in another city.

    2. Antilles*

      It’s legal because of the way that employee protections in most of the US are written.
      In general, the way to think of US employment law is best described as “your employer is allowed to do anything *except* if there’s a law specifically banning it”. Most of the country isn’t covered by laws that prohibit employers from controlling your off-clock time (exception: California, a few individual cities), so employers are free to pass rules like this if they wish.

  19. agnes*

    LE #1 I wonder if this has something to do with keeping your tax revenues in your own state to help fund your school? If so, he should have explained that. And of course he can’t mandate where you shop.

    1. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      Most school tax is funded locally, right? A store 60 minutes away seems unlikely to be part of the local tax base.

      1. Allie*

        It depends but most schools are primarily funded by property tax, not primarily by sales tax.

        1. Snow Globe*

          Our schools are funded through the state lottery, tickets sold in grocery stores. Another reason to shop local! /s

      2. Queer Earthling*

        In a rural area it might be. Some rural school districts encompass several towns in the region, and KIDS are bussed in from an hour away (or more!); the grocery store an hour away probably does go to that school.

      3. James*

        It’s complicated.

        As Allie says, property tax pays for a chunk of it. How big a chunk depends on the school. In well-to-do areas private donations make up some of the budget (how much again depends on the location). In poor areas (Title 1 schools and the like) there are state and federal grants and other programs that help pay for the school.

        This leads to the absurd situation where the worst-funded schools are the ones in middle class communities, ones too wealthy to qualify for grants but not rich enough to donate new buildings.

        This could be a factor here. If the school gets a lot of private donations they may be afraid that seeing a teacher across state lines will impact future donations, for whatever reason. No private citizen is obliged to donate ten thousand dollars to a school, after all (and I’ve seen much larger donations); if I’m a donner, and I decide that you’re not taking the pandemic seriously enough and are putting my kid at risk, I may decide to contribute to cancer research or to a local food bank next year (donations at that level tend to be tax-related, so I’d donate somewhere). On the flip side, if the school is getting money from grants and state/federal programs, there are no doubt a lot of strings attached, which the teachers may not be made aware of immediately.

    2. Allie*

      The amount of tax revenue from an individual shopper is so miniscule then the fraction of that devoted to state education, it’s nonsensical.

    3. OP31*

      OP#1 here: No, it has nothing to do with that. It’s about travel across state lines, with him thinking it’s safer here because we’re “within our state”.

  20. Emilitron*

    #5, it’s not about telling him you did a search 6 months ago and got offers so he’d better shape up because you’ve got options, see look at this old offer letter. It’s about using the internal confidence that gave you to feel comfortable launching into a conversation with him, knowing there are no consequences worth being afraid of. Tell him how important it is to you to keep moving forward in your career, and that this entry level work isn’t what you’re looking for. I’m sure people can suggest a better script, but I’d suggest telling him that you’re willing to do this task for N months (maybe zero, you figure it out) but that if this is the tasking that he feels the job is about in the long term then that’s not compatible with your career plans. (and either way he’ll need to find someone else to do that task, it’s just whether you’ll be doing the job you want to do here or someplace else). Bringing up a job offer from 6 months ago doesn’t help you convince him, but it helps you convince yourself.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The phrasing I was thinking is very similar, but I would put it in the past tense.
      I was willing to do ABC administrative tasks when I first started here, because it gave me some time to learn the company and its products. But you moved me onto XYZ analysis* months ago, and …”

      (*or whatever it is)

    2. Artemesia*

      He will always see her as ‘the girl who does the scut work I don’t want to do’. Time to move on to a place that hires her at a higher level and sees her that way.

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

    LW5 (turned down offers) – I would tell the boss about those offers in the meeting where you are giving your notice because you’ve found somewhere better that will actually make use of your skills!

    And yes, start looking because I get the sense you’re going to keep getting pulled back into the unwanted entry-level work. It becomes not just about your own job satisfaction (which of course is a major factor) but also about (not) being able to build achievements to put on your resume, how you get perceived in the company as ‘junior’, etc.

    1. cncx*

      Yup, exactly this. OP5 needs to move on, when possibie in this economy. I’m dealing with something similar in that my department’s headcount was cut so lean i got stuck with the easy stuff because of some long-term deadlines/projects, and i didn’t have the bandwidth or the backup to learn anything new on the job for 2 years due to all the firefighting and low headcount. Im liteally leaving because i can’t build my resume here and also because my main team member is of the opinion i’m not teachable, so i’ve been pulled into these admin and lower level tasks, which doesn’t help me professionally at all.

  22. Teacher or Keymaster?*

    OP#1: Your principal is a nut. If he was telling you to only shop there for district business (ie: they’re on the approved vendor list) that’s one thing. If he means that you need to do what he says on your off time, that’s control freak behavior. I know you said you’re in a small town, but how long has he been principal? Is he friends with people in power? If so, you probably want to look elsewhere (even another campus) for a job. I don’t say this lightly…

    I’ve had my share of insane administrators–one who tried to ban all his teachers from using social media in our personal lives, one who said he would not hire teachers who were not Southern Baptists, one who told all female teachers we had to wear skirts and if we didn’t she would send us home, and another who…broke into my house.

    (The first moved on quickly after teachers began to quietly rebel by refusing to do unpaid committee assignments and ignoring his directions, the second & third were reprimanded by HR and the superintendent came to apologize to the staff, and the fourth was arrested)

    Be careful, teacher friend. And if you’re in a state like mine where state laws limit teacher’s ability to organize, join a “professional organization” which has lawyers on staff and lobbyists. It’s almost a union…but something’s better than nothing.

    1. OP31*

      OP#1 here: Holy Cow. My sympathies to you. This guy is actually a pretty decent sort; this just seemed like a really dumb thing to even suggest, much less dictate. He’s a liberal in a red state and a militant mask-wearer.

  23. Workfromhome*

    #5 You may very well just need to get a new job. If you do like it there it might be worth it to give it one try. I think by doing the entry level work before and by doing stellar work after you have earned enough capital to say” I know I did this 6 months ago and was successful at the task. I was of course willing to do it as a temporary measure but having me do entry level work doesn’t seem to have solved the issue . I am now being asked to move away from the work I was hired to do and progressing my career 6 months later because we haven’t solved the entry level role issue. I would like to offer that instead of me stepping into this work that since I seem to have some skill at it to instead use that skill to train other to do this work. That way if this issue pops up in the future we will have a pool of people who can do it. Then if needed we would be able to have people rotate though the job instead of it always coming back to one person. Who would you like me to train first?”

    If they take you up on it great not only will you be saved from entry level duty you will have shown your ability to train people which can be something for the resume or to bring up in your next raise cycle.
    If they turn you down or say “well that’s great buy we need you to do this now maybe in 6 months you can start to have someone shadow you so maybe they could do it in the future” you have your answer. You will never get free of this in your company because you are the path of least resistance. You need to take another job because they have you pigeonholed as “person who is good at entry level task x”

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

      I think our OP would find that all the people who could potentially be trained on it as part of this pool of people – turn out to ‘mysteriously’ suck at it (can’t think why)! Remember they will have already witnessed this happen to OP…

      Worth a try though if she feels the situation can be salvaged.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Captain, I’m pretty sure that your hunch would turn out to be accurate. Others have seen what happened to OP, no way are they gonna let it happen to them. Unfortunately being pigeonholed by a boss/company is a thing and leaving is the only way to escape and grow.

  24. JH*

    If someone wants to tell me where to grocery shop, you are going to have to do it with a gift card to that store. This is way overstepping and no way I would comply. I would also take this to the school board for discussion, HR at minimum.

  25. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    #5 I am not sure that I am reading #5 correctly but something that stood out was the decades of experience and multiple advanced degrees (I am biased against people with multiple advanced degrees, it has never been a good experience for me) but you have only had 6 months of work that is not entry level. Was there an issue with the work for the 6 months? Was there any feedback on the 6 months? In the decade of work was it all entry level?

    If you got great feedback and the rest of your work for the decade was above entry level then go get a new job its your boss.

    If you got no feedback or bad feedback for the 6 months ask about what you did good or bad there. Then go get a new job.

    1. Chriama*

      Why the assumption that the OP only has 6 months of senior level work over decades of experience when they’re in high enough demand to get 2 job offers over the summer of COVID? I assume those 6 months were referring to this company or this role. This sounds like a typical case of the entry level work being more urgent and therefore going to the person who’s best at it, while the higher level work has a longer payoff cycle and so is constantly deprioritized.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        I think here it’s less “going to the person who’s best at it” and more “dumped on the newest person with the least standing or political capital to push back.”

    2. JustaTech*

      I read it that OP5 had a higher-level position, but that for a period of time they were told to do the entry-level work “because you are good at it”, instead of the work they were hired to do.

      Like if they were hired as a mid-level subject matter expert to do Advanced Llama Conditioner Development, but then their boss had them mopping the llama washing facility.

  26. Amethystmoon*

    1. That is bizarre and I work in the grocery industry, and we aren’t even told where to shop. We do get a discount at a particular chain, but that is the extent to which we are limited. There is nothing stopping us from shopping at a competitor, except for not getting the discount. They would be better off giving employees a discount where they want people to shop.

  27. Database Developer Dude*

    Just because there’s no specific law against something, doesn’t mean it’s okay for an employer to do it. Too many are glossing that over and saying “go the non-confrontational route”. And what happens when word gets back to the employer that the employee was shopping at the closer grocery store? They’re going to double-down on it, and there’s likely to be disciplinary action.

    A lot of excuses are made here for bad behavior on the part of the employer.

    1. Observer*

      Alison is right – it’s unlikely that the Principal is actually going to try to take disciplinary action.

      But here is the real question. If you are right that the boss is just a loon that he’ll actually try to discipline staff over where they shop, what is the is the alternative to the non-confrontational route? Have a fight with the boss and DEFINITELY get disciplined?

      What you are missing is that the advice to be non-confrontational has nothing to do with whether what the boss is doing is ok or not. In fact, Alison is pretty clear that it is NOT. But, the reality is that what the OP needs is a way to navigate the situation with the lowest risk of harm. And that’s what Alison is trying to help them find. If you have a suggestion that you think will be more useful, please do share it. People dealing unreasonable bosses need any and all good suggestions. But just complaining that someone is just trying to manage a ridiculous situation is NOT helpful.

      1. sequined histories*

        And, honestly, public school teachers use passive non-compliance to deal with nonsense that comes out of the principal’s mouth ALL THE TIME.

        If the principal is presenting you with a ridiculous, unenforceable mandate, you’re a lot more likely to get in trouble if you make a huge fuss. Quietly going about your business usually works just fine. This person will probably be in LESS trouble if “caught” shopping at the wrong store if she just acts like she forgot about the directive than she would be if “caught” after taking a bold stand.
        Also, forbidding something and really punishing someone for not complying with your mandate are two different things. It’s possible that the principal could get into some kind of trouble for punishing a teacher over this nonsense, but, on the other hand, standing up to him over nonsense can cause you trouble down the line even if you “win.”

        Really, public school teachers usually don’t directly challenge administrators unless it’s something more likely to actually affect instruction or quality life for students or teachers. Like, for example, advocating for disabled students to get the services they need. Or, like the LW who wrote in about the principal who declared zero money from the school budget would be spent on classroom supplies because it was customary for teachers at the school to buy everything themselves.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          This really doesn’t make me feel like teaching. I already knew it was often a thankless task, but if you have to deal with stuff like this… sigh.

    2. Antilles*

      What are you suggesting OP do?
      I don’t think anybody is saying that it’s morally acceptable or excusing the employer’s bad behavior…but this is an advice website; the practical question is “what OP can and should do”.
      -It’s legal, so OP can’t go to the Department of Labor or courts or anything.
      -Telling the principal to “tell them to reproduce themselves” like you suggested earlier isn’t going to get the policy changed.
      -Going way up the chain above the principal (school board? superintendent?) might get the principal a reprimand but will also irritate the principal which isn’t exactly a win.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I think this one falls under picking your battles. It’s a silly idea and the employer is being unrealistic.

        That said I don’t think it’s a worthwhile thing to challenge. I’d class this under “mandates to ignore quietly” and save my firepower for things that I can actively change and which seriously impact on my life. Making a fuss about this is more trouble than it’s worth and only likely to get the principal’s back up without yielding any major benefit to me.

        I would just go to whichever shop suited me and if anyone said anything I’d say that I’d forgotten we’d been told otherwise.

      2. OP31*

        OP#1 here – I intend to ignore, do absolutely nothing, and go on my merry daily way – like everyone else who has to deal with administration.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Of course it’s not okay! I thought my response made that clear, given that I called it bizarre and outlandish, and said the principal needs to get a backbone. Y’all are so odd sometimes.

    4. biobotb*

      Huh? I haven’t seen anyone give excuses for the employer. All the comments I’ve seen treat the request as ridiculous. But if you believe that the employee will be disciplined for shopping at the wrong store, how well do you think it would go if they explicitly refused to shop where the employer wants them to? What do you suggest the LW do, if you consider ignoring the directive the wrong move?

  28. BusyBee*

    We had something similar to the store thing at a recent townhall at work. I’m in PA, and the state guideline is that you should quarantine after crossing state lines. However, people definitely live and work in NJ, PA or DE and commute every day. The senior leader that was in charge of the townhall repeated the state advice, and when people asked about living and working in different states, he basically said “It’s the state rule. My rule is live in your house and then come to work, but I’m telling you what the state guideline is”. To me it was clear that the state means extensive travel and such, but I can see how the literal interpretation might have someone come up with a goofy idea like “Don’t shop in the other grocery store”.

  29. Brett*

    “the virus doesn’t respect state lines”

    You would think this to be true… but the reality is that the virus needs humans to travel and humans _do_ respect state lines (especially when those state lines are physical barriers like major rivers). There is an geospatial epidemiological phenomena know as partitioning, where isolating human populations from each other, even if those populations do not isolate at all within themselves, greatly limits spread. As it turns out, partitioning naturally occurred during COVID: humans avoided crossing state lines. (This was even more noticeable between countries, where travel is more easily restricted, and was noticeable between provinces with the more strict restrictions Canada could impose compared to the United Staets.)

    This partitioning led to covid trajectories mapping to state boundaries: the virus _did_ respect state lines.

    Your principal telling you not to cross state lines to grocery shape would not necessary protect you, but would be the right thing to do as far as protecting the general population (especially considering how strong a vector grocery shopping ended up being). It was imposing partitioning corresponding to the natural tendency we already have to not cross state lines.

    1. Bubble teacher*

      I suspect I’m from the part of Canada you’re referring to, Brett, which is why I’m struggling with this one. On the one hand, as a teacher I resent the idea that people have the right to dictate perfectly normal behaviour because of the children…somehow… On the other hand, and this is a big but, the heavy duty quarantine requirements if you travel out of province have worked amazingly well for my region. So far (knocking all the wood) we’ve avoided a second wave and outbreaks have been quickly brought under control without going over a positivity rate of 0.4%. I really hope that our example (as well as Australia and New Zealand) of severely limiting travel and locking down fast and hard at the first signs of trouble catches on. It’s allowed us to be close to normal (+ masks) throughout this long year and I’m forever grateful to public health for requiring it and my fellow citizens for respecting it.

      1. Chriama*

        Are you the OP? The Atlantic provinces locked down their borders pretty much immediately, and didn’t let up. I think grocery store restrictions would be a lot less effective if stricter border restrictions hadn’t existed in the first place and I would resent this overreach. If they have, then adding this one seems to be in the spirit of things and would probably improve containment measures. (And I’m biased too, as someone who lived through 2 months of “couvre-feu” in Quebec, which seems to have worked well enough to allow secondary students to go back to in-class learning).

        1. Bubble teacher*

          Nope, not the op but in the Atlantic Bubble so I’m sympathetic to travel restrictions and border closures from both sides. I think it does work, but as you said, it needs to be part of a wider strategy, not because one principal thinks it’s a good idea.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But in this case, the OP and her neighbors are probably more likely to shop at the closer store. Forcing them to start going to the in-state store instead would actually weaken any existing naturally occurring partitions.

      1. Brett*

        Only as it pertains to big fancy grocery chain (I am assuming something like whole foods). The rest of the community likely shops much closer to home at local grocery stores, and most of their mobility is still going to be on their side of the state line. This may be exacerbated by some states closing down farmers markets and farm markets, creating a temporary food desert that drove locals to the BFG stores who previously did not shop there. (Meaning that there were not already established patterns.)
        It might have made even more sense for the principal to ask people to stop going to BFG altogether, since likely both locations are in the nearest major metro areas.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          The rest of the community likely shops much closer to home at local grocery stores, and most of their mobility is still going to be on their side of the state line.

          I don’t see anything in the letter to support this assumption. The LW said it’s a tiny rural community. People in tiny rural communities tend to go to the closest large city for most of their shopping. My SIL, in fact, is one of these people – she lives right on the state line, but crosses the line for almost all of her shopping, simply because it’s closer.

          1. JustaTech*

            When I lived in a rural community on the East Coast almost everyone crossed into the next state for grocery shopping because 1) it was generally as close or closer, 2) there were more “budget” grocery stores, 3) the other state didn’t have sales tax on food where our state did.

            If we wanted any kind of fast food or takeout (pizza), we drove to the next state because it was *substantially* closer than any similar stores in our state. And that was still a 20 minute drive!

            Now my parents live in Portland, OR, and lots of people come across the river (and state line) from Vancouver, WA, to shop to avoid sales tax.

            The challenge is that metro areas (one way to structure where people live) often end up on state boundaries for reasons that have nothing to do with state lines and everything to do with geography.

          2. Brett*

            I figured that from the part about ‘if we habitually shop at a particular grocery chain”, implying that there are other grocery chains to shop at and the instructions were only for people shopping at that particular chain. BFGs (like Whole Foods or Trader Joes) are typically in the metro cities, while you will have regional groceries (like Hy-Vee and Aldis, even though Aldis is national) at the county seats and convenience hybrids (like Caseys) in the smaller towns.

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      I live in the DC area. Not crossing state lines is not an option for me, if I want to get any work done.

      1. Brett*

        Geospatial partitioning is far different in the mid-atlantic area than it is in the rest of the country. That’s part of why NJ tried to go so draconian with isolation efforts.

  30. Person from the Resume*

    LW#2, I disagree with Alison. Unfriend them (and every other work friend) now.

    “Unfriending someone” does not generate an alert that they have been unfriended. They won’t know. If you post lots maybe they’ll eventually wonder where your posts went and go looking and find out that they are no longer your FB friend, but probably not.

    OTOH the first time you do post something after the firing, it will show up on their feed and they’ll be reminded of you and their firing. I think it is much kinder to unfriend now and drop off their radar. It’s not your fault, but you’re going to be a reminder of a difficult and upsetting event for a while.

    ** Facebook friendship is not a measure of real friendship. You can be real friends with people who are also FB friends, but you can know nothing of and have no intimacy with people who are FB friends.

    1. JJ*

      For what it’s worth, there *are* plugins you can get to customize FB (such as to hide certain keywords) which DO notify you about unfriending.

      But more importantly, I think you’re really dismissing the very real social dynamics that are in play on social media. It may not “be a measure of real friendship” but many people will feel stung when someone they are close to in real life unfriends them with no explanation. In this situation, quietly unfriending all your reports after you just fired one of them is bound to create a wave of “omg we’re next” fear amongst the other employees. With the boss power dynamic, it’s better to just send a note acknowledging what’s happening like “hey nothing personal, I’m unfriending you now for reasons Allison mentioned.”

    2. Cassidy*

      I’m struggling to understand why people “friend” others in their workplace in the first place.

      Are there no boundaries anymore? Warm relationships at work, sure; but who actually wants their employees and coworkers in his or her life 24/7? What is up with that?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I only ever friended with a few that I was particularly close to, seeing them outside of work on a very regular basis (how I miss them now! but they’ve practically all moved to different countries). A few added me when they and then I left the firm, to keep in touch, but that’s it.

  31. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Unfortunately, even grocery stores have become “politicized” depending on the owners or parent company. Likely that was the real reason boss was telling you not to shop at the one.

    I also live on a “state line” area where it’s common and closer to shop in the other state. For a while both states had quarantine/travel restrictions for entering the state, but not for the people who live in that radius and regularly crossover. I mean, it would be pretty impossible! I cross that state line about 3 miles from my house and many people work in the adjacent state.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Same. It’s actually closer for my family to shop in the town over the state line. The bonus is that that state does not charge sales tax on groceries, so we actually save money by doing our shopping there. If my boss told me I needed to drive further and spend more money on my groceries because of added tax…just so I could be shopping at a specific location the deem to be “better” somehow…I would completely ignore that suggestion.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      #1 Unfortunately, even grocery stores have become “politicized” depending on the owners or parent company.

      But these are both branches of the same store.

    3. TiffIf*

      For a while both states had quarantine/travel restrictions for entering the state, but not for the people who live in that radius and regularly crossover. I mean, it would be pretty impossible!

      There are so many roads, small, neighborhood, country backroads etc that cross state boundaries its just unfathomable to try and enforce those borders. The only place I have ever seen road borders enforced is those California checkpoints where they make sure you’re not brining in prohibited plantlife or something.

  32. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 3, you said, ‘However, I know that asking good questions can demonstrate agile thinking and a sincere interest in the job.’ That is true if you ask them during your interview, or mention that you could have more questions as you wrap up that interview. If a candidate emailed me a thank you note but asked several questions that should or could have been asked during the interview – or waited till the next round – I wouldn’t think you were agile. I’d think you were angling, or posturing, or a bit manipulative, or maybe a little naive about interviewing.

    You did the right thing by emailing, and they know you’re interested. Hold on to your questions for the next round, and good luck!

  33. employment lawyah*

    1. Can our employer tell us where to grocery shop during Covid?
    Well, your employer can probably enforce whatever travel restrictions your state has (if any) even if they are dumb. (Laws are always general and therefore are sometimes dumb when specifically applied.)

    So yes, if you’re not supposed to travel “out of state” then they can tell you that you should not travel OOS even if THIS PARTICULAR TRAVEL is low risk, sensible, etc. (And of course, that is precisely why laws are general–no offense and you may well be right that this is fine, but everyone in the country tends to make “oh, this is fine” excuses to do what they want, and people are not always right, which is why there are general laws.)

    2. How to unfriend someone I have to fire
    First, put them in the super-restricted category on your side (so they can’t see your stuff) and also hide their feed (so you can’t see theirs unless you actively see it.)

    Then unfriend them after they leave the company.

    But FYI, there is no “unfriend notice” on FB, it just happens in the background.

    3. Should I email questions to my interviewer after our meeting?
    No. Wait for next round.

    4. Donating to a memorial fund at a church I don’t support
    You’re OK not donating. You can send flowers; you can sign a card.

  34. Chriama*

    #5 – I think you should just look for a new job. When they need someone to do the entry-level work, it falls on you. You turned down other job offers because you were getting the higher level work, but it doesn’t sound like that was in response to a request you made to your boss. It was just the business need at the time. Unless someone gets hired to take over the entry level work or another employee gets officially assigned that work, you will always be tossed back there when it needs to get done. And I wouldn’t be too sure about the second scenario either, since if there’s ever a crunch time where the responsible employee needs help, you could find yourself roped back in since you’re so good at it.

    I don’t think telling your boss about those job opportunities would do anything for you on it’s own, but what do people think about saying something like:

    “I took this job because I expected to do x work, but y keeps creeping back on my plate. To be honest, over the summer I was offered a job at another company doing x but turned it down because I started getting more opportunities to do that here. But if there isn’t a concrete plan to get y permanently assigned to someone else, it’s going to affect how long I see myself in this role.”

    I think OP could make the same case without bringing up the previous job offer, but I also think drawing the manager’s attention to *how close* OP was to leaving could give the manager a sense of urgency in addressing the problem now.

  35. Instructional Designer*

    #5. I was recently in a similar position as you. I’m an instructional designer that is pretty senior in my career and my last job had me doing things that o did 10-15 years ago. When I talked about growth with our director, he actually said to me that he saw no reason to help me grow my career or skills because there was too much to do at lower levels that I am too good at. It was all about him and not about me. That was when I decided to leave. I applied for 4 jobs. Got interviews for all of them within days. Went through and interview process and was hired within 2 weeks of my initial application. It was that easy. Sounds like you had a similar experience. If it’s that easy you’re definitely not doing a job that is worth what you are able to offer. Don’t short change yourself. Your manager is never truly going to get it. Even if they fix this situation, you’re going to continue to develop yourself and advance your career. It’s entry level this time but your manager could just as easily continue to pigeon hole you into doing tasks that shouldn’t be part of your job. Get out while you can. Don’t leverage them. There’s no point.

    1. Artemesia*

      oh tell us how your boss reacted when you gave notice two weeks later — it is so fun to read those.

      1. Instructional Designer*

        Oh, I’m so glad you asked.

        He acted like a big baby. He wrote me off as soon as I put in my two weeks. He called me and gave me a whole 8 minutes of conversation, 6 minutes of which were devoted to sending back my equipment (which he seemed concerned I was going to steal) and who I can transfer projects to. Then he rushed me off the phone. After asking me to keep it quiet for a bit they told all my coworkers that I was leaving in secret and didn’t tell me they told anyone. I found out days later they all know. He didn’t even do a farewell or anything with the broader part of my team to inform them and nobody from my team contacted me to wish me well. They dumped a project on my last minute that forced me to work over my last weekend with them. I know I could have just said no but I’m just not that person so I did it. But I insisted they comp me Thursday and Friday of my last week. Which they grumbled about. But I absolutely to work so they had no choice but to accept it. Director said nothing to me before I left but called me that Friday and left a message. I found out later that he asked my manager why I didn’t accept his call. Unbelievable.

        I have to add that on top of all of this, they have been completely exploiting their training team. I was at the point of wanting to quit without even having a job lined up because the amount of work they were piling on this was insane. As an instructional designer I always estimate how long a project will take based on the project requirements and I had more than 2 1/2 years of work on my plate that they wanted me to finish in 10 months time. I was already so stressed that my blood pressure had gone up to dangerous levels, I was/am multiple health issues from the stress, I’ve never been more strung out in my life, so much anxiety, crying on a daily basis at work. I just couldn’t stand it anymore. What I’m describing is only the tip of the iceberg. The place is so dysfunctional I have never experienced anything like it. My team was toxicly competitive and management was sexist, among other issues. I could go on and on and on.

        I’m thankful every day that I got another job so quickly.

        1. Instructional Designer*

          Sorry for the typos and dropped words. I have fibromyalgia and I’m having a high flare day. My hands are killing me so I’m using voice to text.

    2. Observer*

      I’d love to know how your boss reacted.

      I do think that you are right about this situation.

  36. LH in SD*

    LW5, I have had the happen to me.
    I was hired to do X, have a degree in X, have the title of X and, I’m dang good at X.
    When no one else on the team wanted to do entry level chores Y because we lost admin head count.
    I did them temporarily.
    Chores Y eventually went away.
    Then Y chores needed to be done again and boss wanted me to do them because I did it better then the others.
    I worked on a team of males and I’m a female.
    I also luckily have brothers and I saw that the same guy who could disassemble and reassemble an engine , couldn’t read the instructions on the side of a box of laundry soap or a child’s cookbook recipe as long as there was someone else who could do it.
    So I asked my boss the same thing I asked my parents.
    Did he think the others were too stupid to learn how to do it and get better at it with practice?
    Worked on Dad
    Dad was a bit of a motor head, so I added especially since I was expected to also know how to and help work on the cars, clean yard, load firewood, etc.? So the idea that since I learned how to do all the “guy” stuff, that it did look like he was saying that his son’s were too stupid to learn other things.

    In the office, I saw that because guys were so used to seeing female admins, receptionist and assistants, that they naturally assume the nearest female would be glad at to do that extra work, even if it wasn’t her job.
    I’m wondering if the same thing is going on here.

    1. Chriama*

      I do wonder about the dynamics of OP’s team, and why they were able to do the higher level stuff for a while but are now being saddled with entry level work again.

      Also: you mention that your question worked on your dad. Did it work on your boss too?

      1. LH in SD*

        It worked on my boss but, not on my bosses boss.
        I didn’t get a chance to say it to him, but I have a feeling that my boss did because Bosses boss felt he needed to explain.
        Bosses boss still wanted me to do Y work for the team to free the others to focus on X until he could hire someone to do Y.
        So I was always going to be the backup for Y chores.
        The guys started to hand back over the Y chores.
        I started looking for a job as soon as he explained his plan.

        1. Chriama*

          > So I was always going to be the backup for Y chores.

          That sucks. It sounds like OP is in the same situation. But yeah, your grandboss sucked. I hope you left before they were able to hire someone to do Y. It would be so karmically satisfying!

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ughhhh, yup bosses boss had you pigeonholed. I really wonder how many employees some of these people have to loose because of this attitude before they will learn (if they ever learn/notice the pattern that is).

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Lol – sounds like my grandpa would have gotten along great with your dad. He insisted that anyone who knew how to read and follow directions could teach themselves how to cook. He also insisted that both of his sons learn HOW to cook.

      He was and is awesome.

      1. Artemesia*

        My husband is the better cook and entirely self taught; taught himself when he lived with some other guys off base in the army.

  37. ?*

    How is it legal to mandate which grocery store employees can go to?! I get that because of the pandemic many things are being required that aren’t usually, but the way it was worded in the response it sounds as if you’re saying that regardless of the pandemic (and even then it’s so unreasonable, in my opinion, to tell people where they can shop) it is legal for an employer to tell their employees where they can shop.

    1. sequined histories*

      In the US, any employer mandates that are not explicitly forbidden by law or contract are by definition legal, no matter how absurd they are. Illegal and wrong are not synonyms.

  38. Abogado Avocado*

    Re: #1 Alison, I disagree that it is correct to say that any employer — whether public or private – can require you to spend your discretionary income in a particular locale. And, note, I’m speaking of discretionary income, not income for employer-provided insurance plans or the Affordable Care Act.

    While food purchases are vital for everyone, an employer who mandates where legal products can be purchased is risking violation of both the Commerce Clause and federal trade regulations. And to the extent that the principal, in telling employees to patronize one branch of a business, is telling those employees to boycott and essentially boycott another, that is illegal under Federal Trade Commission rules. That the boycott is organized by a public school administrator makes it no less illegal.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It doesn’t sound like the principal said they had to shop there. It sounds like the principal said if you’re shopping at a branch of BFG, you should shop at the one in our state. Presumably they had other options as well.

      1. James*

        Right. It’s not “You must shop here”, it’s “You can’t shop here”. And remember, this may not come from the boss; it likely comes from higher up the food chain, even the state government. This sort of mandate is happening right now (I’m under one, from a hospital not an employer).

        It’s a pandemic. Some of the rules would be absurd in normal times (wearing a mask to a bank comes to mind), and some of them are probably security theater, but they’re not coming out of nowhere.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        Yeah, the employer isn’t saying “you have to shop here”, they are just saying “you cannot cross state lines to shop there.” Which isn’t the same.

      3. OP31*

        OP#1 here: this is the correct interpretation. Also, both stores belong to the same chain, so “competition” is not really there in the way you are suggesting.

    2. Observer*

      Please. The boss is not risking anything of the sort.

      What the boss is doing is ridiculous. So is claiming that he’s violating Federal law.

  39. Rusty Shackelford*

    Re #1: Back when the pandemic started, Mr. Shackelford’s employer decided that anyone who traveled (a) out of state or (b) outside of a 100-mile radius of their place of business, even if it was in-state travel, needed to quarantine (unpaid) for 2 weeks. This plan was particularly brilliant because (a) the business was located close to a state border, and Mr. Shackelford crossed that border multiple times a week as part of his work duties (but this didn’t count – apparently the virus knows if you’re traveling for work and will leave you alone) and (b) the business was in a Covid hot spot, so every other county in the state except one would have been safer than saying at home.

    1. JustaTech*

      Oh, so it’s not just my CEO who says that you don’t have to quarantine for work travel, as though the virus knows that you’re traveling just to annoy your employees and not for “fun”? Ugh.

      The 100 mile radius thing actually makes more sense than the state border, for metro areas that are right on a state border.

  40. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    #5–Back in the 70’s, my friend Susan used to say, “Of course I can type. I can also f**k. But I do neither for money.”

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      In 1982, I had a part-time file clerk and receptionist job during college at a ‘traditional’ office. The boss had a customer meeting but his secretary was out sick; she normally wrote down minutes of key meetings in shorthand. He came to me – the only female in the office at the moment – and said I needed to take notes in her place. I told him I never took minutes before and didn’t know shorthand, but I’d do my best in longhand.

      He was surprised and angry. I was a girl, didn’t they teach me that in high school? What was he going to do now, take his own notes? A guy on the team overheard this and happened to know shorthand. He offered to take notes, but the boss refused. This was a woman’s job.

      He brought me to the conference room to take notes. I was…not very good at it. Still don’t know shorthand.

      1. JustaTech*

        This is why I never volunteer to take the “official” notes in a meeting, even though I take notes in every meeting. The notes I take are for me, not for other people, and I can’t concentrate on the meeting if I’m taking “everyone” notes.

        The few times I’ve agreed to take notes it’s only been after more senior men took notes in prior meetings.

    2. Not a "female employee", just an employee*

      Female here. I was an awesome typist in high school (still am). Both of my parents emphatically told me not to feature my typing skills on any resume or in any interview if I wanted to advance in the workplace. I followed that advice to my benefit, back then, and throughout my career. I also don’t drink coffee, which is my built-in excuse for not knowing how to make it.

  41. Skippy*

    LW1: If a co-worker saw you shopping at the out-of-state grocery store, contrary to the boss’s preference…wouldn’t it mean they were probably shopping there as well? I would hope that no one is staking out the store to make sure everyone is complying, but then again, nothing would surprise me anymore.

    My advice: shop where you want to shop. Only a complete fool would make an issue of this.

  42. Parenthesis Dude*

    #5) If you have a few advanced degrees and over a decade of experience, you should be seen as too important to do solely entry-level work even if you’re great at it. Of course, every job has some entry-level tasks, but not inclusively entry level. This indicates to me that you’re not seen as very good at your actual job, and therefore can be used on entry level tasks also known as expendable. I think you need to have a discussion with your boss about what he thinks of your actual skill set and whether he thinks you add value to your team.

    And then try to find a different environment where you can contribute more.

    1. Artemesia*

      Not necessarily. Women are traditionally used for scut work to preserve the time of men to do important things whether the men are better at those things or not.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        It could be that they’re not very good on the merits. It could be that she’s a female and she’s not seen as able to do her job because of her gender. It could be because the boss is a bigot. There are a number of potential reasons.

        It would be good to figure out the actual reason. But ultimately, it doesn’t change the fact that this persons’ boss doesn’t think this person has invaluable skills at their actual mid-level work.

  43. LizzieB*

    Re Letter 1:

    I’m sorry, did Alison say that if it was a private employer it would be legal for them to tell you where you can and can’t shop? Or did I read that wrong?

    1. sequined histories*

      In the US, absurd employer mandates are entirely legal unless they violate a specific law or the terms of a specific contract.

      1. Susana*

        Employer mandates on out-of-office behavior are one thing (not moonlighting at the strip club if you are a Sunday School teacher, for example). But telling you WHERE you can spend your own money? I very much doubt that wold hold up in court. Can principal tell them which stocks they can invest in, what church to go to, whether they can patronize a restaurant that serves “ethnic” food?

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          What court? What law do you think they are breaking? Do you think you’re going to be able to sue them for wrongful termination because they fired you for crossing state lines to go to a different grocery store? If there is no law prohibiting the action, it is by definition legal.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          They’re not telling you where you have to shop. They’re saying that if you choose to go to this particular chain grocery store, they want you to go to the one in their state. So a more apt analogy would be “if you choose to buy Coca Cola stock, we want you to go through this broker, because the other broker is less safe for X reason” rather than telling you can’t buy Pepsi stock. I mean, it’s still ridiculous, but a different level of ridiculous.

        3. Observer*

          Actually, an employer would almost certainly win on all but the Church one.

          Ridiculous? Sure. Legally acceptable? Absolutely.

  44. Florida Fan 15*

    What I would like to do were I in situation #1:

    Boss: You are required to do your personal shopping on your personal time at ABC Store.
    Me: [pause to pick myself off the floor from my laughing fit] I had no idea you were such a comedian. Good one, Chad!

    What I would probably do in reality:

    Boss: You are required to do your personal shopping on your personal time at ABC Store.
    Me: [internal eye roll] Thank you for the information. [ignores Boss and shops where I damn well please because I’m not 5 and Boss isn’t my parent]

  45. AKchic*

    LW5 – you have the education and skillset to be doing higher-level work. Your current boss has made it clear that he isn’t going to move you from entry level work. That’s where he sees you staying because it’s convenient for him. That means that no matter how many offers of better employment you throw at him, he will never move you up permanently. He may give you better work to do for a few months to temporarily placate you, but he will always see you as his Gal Friday doing the entry level work quickly and efficiently because you are “so good at it” and someone he can hold in reserve in case he needs something more complicated done in a pinch. And he gets to keep your knowledge on tap for an entry level price because that’s the work he pays you to do.
    Your financial value isn’t going to grow much here. Your career is stagnating. It is time to go. Do not feel bad. You do not owe this guy any conversation so he can try to “fix” the problem, because to him, there is no problem. He’s got what he wants and he is actively benefiting from it.
    You are going to find a better job that aligns more with what you want. That pays better. That allows you to use more of your skills. Don’t even look back.

  46. LW #3*

    Thanks for answering my question about…questions. ;-) I think that the interviewers had a bunch of half-hour interviews back-to-back, which meant that I could not ask for extra time to ask my own questions. I think I did very well in the interview, so hopefully I’ll either get a 2nd interview or an offer that will allow me to ask what I need to ask.

  47. Susana*

    To the grocery shopper: did principal say you had to go to BF grocery specifically? Or say you can’t leave the state? I have a family member in NYS, a teacher, who is not allowed to leave the state until two weeks after vaccination. But that’s different. In this case, if it’s a maskless state, I doubt there are such rules for teachers. Sounds more like pressure to support in-state businesses even kid it means risking your life or health. Go to your closer, safer grocery and sue their asses if they try to punish you for it. I can’t imagine a mandate to support a commercial enterprise with your own money as a condition of employment would hold up in any court.

    1. OP31*

      OP#1 here: No, as I said in my letter, he suggested we go to the location in our own state, even though it’s further away and more mask-less, because going to the closer, safer location would be crossing state lines.

      Again, no one is telling us where to shop. It’s well-known around here that many people travel to one of these two locations of the SAME chain to grocery shop. Enough so he clearly thought it was worth mentioning.

      It’s still dumb, though.

  48. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP2 there’s a good chance that your underlings have actually unfollowed you so that you don’t see what they publish, rather than unfriending you completely. This is easily reversible once they are no longer your underling.

  49. OhNoYouDidn't*

    For LW #2, I think it might just be easier and neater to let your team know that you’re going to be unfriending all of them on social media as a matter of boundaries. You could say you recently became aware that some of the people you manage may feel awkward having their supervisor as a friend on social media, and you don’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable situation. You can apologizing for the oversight not having done this as soon as you started your supervisory role. That would avoid you having to connect it to the person you’re firing, and it would prevent further conflicts in the future.

    1. And they all rolled over*

      Yes, unfriending all your coworkers is something you can and should do today! Maybe the soon to be fired employee will connect it to their firing, and maybe they won’t. But they’re possibly going to feel burned by getting fired regardless, or maybe they won’t, and their FB friendship with their former boss isn’t going to change that either way.

  50. NuhUnh*

    Alison, in your response to #1, you said it would be legal for a private employer to mandate where an employee shops for groceries. How is that possible? Can you please elaborate?

    1. sequined histories*

      It’s called at-will employment. In the US, employers can fire most employees for anything or nothing. In most cases, the “reason” for firing someone doesn’t have to make sense or be something that most of us would consider fair or reasonable. The reason for firing does not have make any sense at all. The employee, likewise can quit for any reason or no reason or the world’s stupidest reason.

      There are a few exceptions to this. For example, if you have an actual employment contract (as union members usually do), the terms of that contract are legally enforceable. Also, certain types of discrimination are outlawed.

  51. Quill*

    #1. Laugh loudly, and say “oh, that’s a goood one!” and do what you want. People who make ridiculous demands don’t deserve to have them treated seriously. (Note: this is not a recommendation that you actually do the laughing part out loud. Depending on this principal, you may need to do it in your head if you want the rest of the year to go smoothly.)

  52. Lauren*

    #4 I have been in that situation before and opted to make a donation to a different organization that I knew was also meaningful to the deceased person (and myself).

  53. Employee 24601*

    #5 – what’s the overall situation at your company and the financial health?

    I have higher level employees doing entry level work right now because we had to furlough employees. We furloughed a lot of lower level employees because getting all the work done is a lot easier with some higher level people doing some lower lever work than the other way around.

  54. J.E.*

    #1 Could asking employees to shop in the second store also be a way to keep money in the state instead of spending money outside of the state? Also, how would they know, really? Demand you turn in all receipts for your groceries, but that also violates privacy as what you buy is none of their business. So really, how would they know? I don’t think I’ve ever or rarely run into a coworker at the grocery store, but I also live in a large-ish city with a lot of options. Just say ok and continue to shop where you want to shop.

    1. OP1*

      OP1 here: No, it has nothing to do with keeping money in-state and is no way connected to school funds or anything. It’s the “Well, we have employees crossing state lines for work every day but this voluntary choosing of stores is bothering us” – even though the store across state lines is safer.

  55. dustycrown*

    #1 Where you buy your groceries, on your time, with your money, is not your employer’s business. Ever.

    1. James*

      I’m curious: Would you say the same thing about wearing a mask? Both are coming from the same place–mitigation measures put in place to address the current pandemic. (Remember, this may be coming from higher up the company’s food chain, or from the state/local government.)

      Under normal conditions I would agree with you. But many people on this site are extremely hostile towards people who disagree on some Covid mitigation measures, and it seems inconsistent to be in favor of one but so adamantly opposed to others.

  56. Database Developer Dude*

    When you’re not willing to stand up to a bully, you’re tacitly endorsing the bullying.

    1. sequined histories*

      I agree in general, but I disagree with respect to this specific situation.

      Administrators in public schools who want to bully people have the means to do so. Methods include making teachers run from one end of the building to the other all day by assigning them to teach in widely dispersed classrooms, reassigning teachers to teach different classes/grade levels every year so that they’re constantly having to learn a new curriculum from scratch, and straight up misrepresenting what takes place in a teacher’s class during formal observations. I agree that teachers should band together to protect each other from such abuses. Red state teachers should unionize and teachers in existing unions need to strengthen those organizations.

      But what’s going on here is nonsense, not bullying. The LW confirms elsewhere that this principal seems decent and well-intentioned. It sounds like he was given some vague mandate to translate into specific terms for his individual school and this rather dumb dictate is what came out of his mouth. Getting in his face about this is NOT going to make that any less likely to happen in the future.

      It sounds as if perhaps you are not deluged with nonsense on a regular basis at your job. Every member of the public and every level of government consider themselves stakeholders in public education, and the stream of ridiculous (and often contradictory!) mandates, dictates, and admonishments is endless. Just letting most of that flow by you is an essential part of this job.

  57. SentientAmoeba*

    LW5: I got caught in this trap once. I was aiming to do higher level work that was more in line with what I expected the job t be like but I was repeatedly shoehorned into doing lower level work because “you do it so well”. I did everything I could to get rid of that stigma, but either the boss had to leave or I did. So I went elsewhere and “shock” the entry level work still got done to acceptable standards. Ironically when I left, it caused a bit of a backlog because I had knowledge and experience doing higher level work, they only gave me that higher level work when they were shorthanded or needed someone to help train.

  58. Analyst Editor*

    LW1, even if it were reversed and he said use the blue state grocery store, it would still not be his business, and also unenforceable. Ignore and do what works for you.

  59. Raida*

    #5 I’d mention it, but in a conversation about the work tasks being allocated to me. IE
    “I want to do this type of work, I dislike doing entry-level tasks. For the sake of transparency, I applied for other jobs last year. Didn’t see any need to mention the job offers because my work moved on from menial tasks to real, satisfying work.
    I genuinely enjoy X,Y,Z and want to continue growing in those areas. I am not in any way flattered by being ‘the best’ at A,B,C when it means I simply get all the work nobody wants to do – it’s completely unsatisfying. I know I can succeed in XYZ and I want to continue here, is this something that we can aim for? I’m happy to refresh process documentation for ABC so that other people can refer to it and pick up the tasks easily, and I’m happy to do a couple of training sessions with a new person to get them up to speed.”

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