should I try to get my HR rep fired, new boss lives on my street, and more

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

1. Should I try to get my old HR rep fired?

I was terminated from my job back in August because I did not get along with my new boss. I never really did anything that warranted getting terminated. I was very upset with my HR representative for not doing more to help me keep my job.

Today I received an email from this HR rep regarding an annual bonus payment I was entitled to per my separation agreement. The email included an attachment. The attachment contained an explanation sheet with the payment calculation details, including salary and other employee information. It also had the sheets of four other employees who have left the company, including the former CFO and his senior VP. It certainly was a huge mistake oh her part.

Should I report this mistake to her manager? I really want to, but I’m wondering if I just want to do it for revenge. I was terminated for doing nothing as wrong as this. I feel that she deserves to be fired, but do I feel this way just because I want her to suffer like I have? Should I report this or just let it go?

Let it go. If you genuinely wanted to bring the mistake to her attention so she could ensure it doesn’t happen again, that would be one thing. But it sounds like you’re hoping she’d get fired for it. First, it’s very unlikely she’d get fired for this (unless this was the last straw in an already alarming pattern). Second, hoping to get someone fired because you think they didn’t help you enough is … not a great impulse. You’re talking about hoping someone loses their livelihood during a pandemic. And yes, it happened to you, and I’m sorry it did! But it’s not something to wish on other people.

(Also, for what it’s worth, if your manager wanted to fire you, there might have been little an HR rep could do, as long as the manager’s reasons weren’t illegal ones … and even then, HR often can only advise, not overrule individual managers, particularly if your manager was senior and/or influential.)

2. My new boss lives a few doors down from me

My company is going through some restructuring, which means a new reporting structure. As it stands now, the person who will likely be my new boss lives in my neighborhood, only a few houses down from me.

I may be overthinking it, but this makes me a bit uncomfortable. For instance, if I have to call off sick and go to the doctor, I wouldn’t want him to drive by and see my car not in my driveway and think I was out running errands and not really sick. I think it would also be a little awkward for him to see me in my bathing suit at the community pool or to be out walking my dog and run into him and have to make small talk.

Am I overthinking this, or is this a reason to be apprehensive? I am very much a “leave work at work” kind of person and I’m nervous about how this will turn out.

It probably won’t be as big of a deal than you’re fearing. You probably have a lot of neighbors who you rarely or never run into now, and he may end up being one of them. If you do run into him, you’ll smile, say hello, and keep moving — he’s likely to want to preserve boundaries and privacy just as much as you do! And unless he’s wildly unreasonable, he’ll know sick people go to the doctor and the drugstore and the grocery store (and if he doesn’t, that would be a sign of bigger problems anyway) — and truly, he’s unlikely to be paying that much attention. If you’re a generally conscientious employee, it just isn’t likely to come up.

All that said, it’s still understandable that you’re feeling uneasy about this! Few people would choose to have their boss live a few doors down. But it’s very likely that after a few months it’ll end up being no big deal.

Read an update to this letter here

3. Was it a faux pas to ask about benefits in an interview with the CEO?

My husband was recently interviewing for a technical sales position. He has years of sales and operations experience in this very industry and was referred to the position by a headhunter.

He had already had one interview with the person he would report to and was interviewing with that person again and the president of the company. During this second interview, which lasted over an hour, he asked a question about available benefits. He would be leaving a very large company with a pretty good benefits package and wanted some reasonable idea of what this company offered.

After the interview, he went days without hearing anything back. When he followed up with the headhunter, she said the president wasn’t thrilled with his benefits question. Was this an inappropriate time to ask? I felt like he needed to know the benefit structure so that he could make an informed decision just as they needed to know more about him to make a good decision.

Well, it’s true that it wasn’t the optimal time to ask about benefits — not because that’s not highly relevant information for your husband, but because it’s not the best use of his interview time with the president, who is (a) probably busy and doesn’t deal with those details and (b) better suited to speak to big picture strategy questions. Talking about benefits is almost certainly not what this particular meeting was for (ideally he would have asked the headhunter separately) and they might have expected him to realize that.

But the president’s reaction — or at least the headhunter’s interpretation of it — is overblown. Assuming this was a single question and not an attempt to get into a detailed, lengthy discussion of benefits that would take up a significant chunk of their meeting, this isn’t a major faux pas. Slightly off-key, sure, but not something should torpedo his candidacy. (And if the president is seriously bothered by it, that has a whiff of “I can’t be bothered with little things like how my employees are compensated,” which is not a great sign. But it’s also possible that the headhunter is putting too much weight on something the president said in passing.)

4. Can my company make us install apps on our personal cell phones?

My company has just been acquired by another (we were informed yesterday that surprise, we’re now employees of a company we’ve never heard of before, so that was awesome). In order to access the new company’s portal for things like benefits selection and onboarding, as well as ongoing business needs like access to email, we have to install two authentication apps on our personal phones. The new company apparently has *no* other options for accessing their portal. They never even considered that it might be a problem until I asked them for an alternative.

I am not at all comfortable installing these apps on my personal device. The company does not pay any portion of our phone bill (I still wouldn’t be comfortable installing the apps if they did, but I realize that might make a difference in your answer).

Can we be required to install apps on our personal devices to access resources necessary to do our jobs? How can I push back against this if they say there’s no alternative?

Yep, they can require it, and it’s becoming increasingly common.

If it’s just authentication apps (as in, a third party app that sends you an authentication code so you can log in from a computer, like Google Authenticator or similar), it’s probably not worth spending a lot of capital on. But if it’s more than that — like if it’s a company app that might do more than just authenticate you (like, say, wipe your phone when you leave the company) — it’s worth pushing back and asking what they do for people who don’t have smart phones or whose phones are too old to support the app. (In some cases, the answer will be that they’ll provide a company cell phone; in other cases, they’ll just tell you it’s a condition of your job and leave you to deal with it.)

5. Why do senior candidates apply to entry-level roles?

I graduated college in spring 2020, not the best time to be job searching. I was lucky to get a full-time position, but after seven months of working there, I know this is not something I want as a long-term career and I am beginning to start my job search again for something long-term.

I am obviously an entry-level applicant applying to all entry-level positions. It is beyond frustrating when I am on LinkedIn and see there are seven senior/manager level applicants for a very clearly stated entry-level role. Why do people apply for jobs beneath their level? And do these higher level applicants affect my chances of securing what should be an entry-level position? One benefit is that 99% of the time I am happy with the minimum salary and know that I will not need to negotiate it. Do employers want a manager-level applicant for an entry-level position? I am trying to get my foot in the door somewhere, but it is seeming almost impossible when there are so many applicants applying for positions far below their skill sets.

No, employers usually don’t want manager-level applicants for entry-level positions. They get those applicants anyway because (a) some people apply for everything they see that they’re remotely qualified for, (b) people who need a job are often willing to move backwards in order to get one, and (c) some people are specifically looking for less responsibility for reasons of their own.

Most commonly, employers will disregard applicants who are highly overqualified and don’t explain why they’re interested in the job anyway. Other times (much less often) it’ll turn out to be a good match. But most of the time when you’re applying for an entry-level job, the competition you need to worry about won’t be senior level candidates, even if they apply; it’s candidates with, say, five years of experience — who are close enough to the general ballpark not to seem like they’ll be instantly bored or dissatisfied, but who might not need as much training and guidance as someone brand new. (One way to stand out against them is to write a compelling, personalized cover letter.)

{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. Bob*

    LW4: I don’t know what permissions this app requires but its worth scrutinizing them. If its a spy app it will have many permissions, often rather innocuous sounding. So the best option is to either deny all but the most necessary permissions or better yet install it on an old device you no longer use and have done a factory reset on.
    Also some apps are intentionally designed to not work if you deny them permissions they don’t need but want for data mining.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Also take the time to read the EULA. Just in case the app developers put anything in there to cover themselves if anyone tries to go after them later. They know that most people don’t read them.

      1. anonny*

        With something like Google authenticator that’s not likely to be an issue. It literally just sends you a code to match up with wherever you’re logging in. The company couldn’t get any data from it.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          If it is a straight up authenticator, there are browser based alternatives. I’ve used a Chrome extension called Authenticator, when I fried my cellphone and needed access to two-factor authentication while travelling.

          1. Imprudence*

            Came here to say the same thing. Also, if, it is Microsoft 2FA, there is an option to have a text sent to a phone, which means that you don’t need any app on your phone.

            1. LW #4*

              Thank you all! Yes, data privacy is my major concern–not just what the company can see, but what the app’s creator can. I’ve had an app that was supposedly solely for authentication collect my contact list without any way to refuse that, so I’m concerned about my privacy and the privacy of everyone in my mobile.

              The new company’s IT team didn’t know Microsoft’s 2FA could call your work number instead of forcing you to install the app until we told them. That doesn’t inspire great confidence when they tell us the second app is harmless.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’m really worried after hearing that your IT team has a…shall we say lacklustre attitude to knowledge. From a professional point of view (20 years in IT) I’d say your lack of confidence in any app they approve is justified.

                Definitely check the permissions of it, if it’s one they’ve purchased from elsewhere check out on a web search for any known security concerns (we techies love to rant about errors and security holes online!). If it’s coded in house, that’s trickier.

                1. LW #4*

                  It’s pretty concerning.

                  The old company–the one that was acquired–consisted mainly of IT specialists, many of us from security backgrounds. When we brought our concerns to the new company, they patted us on the head and assured us the apps couldn’t take over our phones. We know. That’s not what we’re worried about. There’s plenty of information to be data-mined from the access those apps need to function according to spec.

                  Additionally, why does the company get to pass off the cost of a required business resource to the employees?

                2. Works in IT*

                  They might not think they’re passing off the cost to users. My place of employment has wifi for employees to connect to so their phones aren’t using data, company cell phones are an option for those who can’t use their personal phones, and we pay for licenses used by the authentication app so that all our employees have to worry about is download and use. Because it does cost money for the licenses. The end user just doesn’t see the cost.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @Works in IT, does your workplace provide company devices for people who don’t choose to compromise the privacy of their personal devices, or is it only for people who don’t own a compatible device?

                  Even if the app is free for the end user to download and the company provides wifi, apps still take up space on the user’s device. Employees shouldn’t be forced to give up megabytes on their personal devices because employers are unwilling to provide other options.

                4. DJ Abbott*

                  @LW#4, I would just use a separate phone. A shady app that’s trying to fool you probably will, so I just wouldn’t take the chance.
                  If you have an old phone that’s a model or two behind, use that. If not, maybe you have a friend or relative with one you can use?
                  If nothing else, buy a refurbished one for less. It sucks that you have to pay for even a refurbished one, but to me it would be worth the peace of mind.
                  Good luck!

              2. Quickbeam*

                I was required to allow the company apps on my phone or take a company phone. However we had employees who had religious objections to carrying a phone and they were given fobs for log in IDs.

                1. Case of the Mondays*

                  Interesting. What religion would prohibit mobile phone use? If it is a religion that shuns technology then they wouldn’t need 2FA anyway and the Fob is still technology.

              3. Observer*

                The new company’s IT team didn’t know Microsoft’s 2FA could call your work number instead of forcing you to install the app until we told them. That doesn’t inspire great confidence when they tell us the second app is harmless.

                If they are any good, they won’t enable that functionality – SMS based 2FA is not all that much better than no 2FA.

                Microsoft Authenticator is an app that widely used and its functionality has been under a microscope for years, so it’s highly unlikely that this covert functionality exists. Same for Google authenticator. If that’s what your IT is using, you are don’t need to worry about this.

                1. LW #4*

                  Thanks for your response. I’m aware *that specific* covert functionality probably doesn’t exist in MS Authenticator, even if it may in other authenticators. There’s still plenty of data MS (or other app creator) can collect simply from its specified, overt functionality. This is especially true when the same company can cross-reference the app data with the account you’re accessing with that authentication.

                  And then there’s that second app my company is requiring as well. Given they didn’t know about other MS Authenticator options–regardless of the inadvisability of activating those options, they should have known they existed–I don’t have a lot of confidence in their evaluation.

                2. Observer*

                  In theory you are right about Authenticator. As I said, that’s a pretty open book and a lot of companies who use it do NOT want MS pulling that kind of thing. So, regardless of IT’s competence, I don’t think you need to worry about that specifically.

                  Are you saying that your IT is requiring another separate app as well? What are they using that for?

                3. Quill*

                  I have training in R&D proprietary data protection and the rule for protecting company secrets, whether they are tech based or stuff I made in the lab is that all access must be restricted in the number of people who have access to it, fully owned by the company, and that security should never be compromised for convenience.

                  There’s no point in drawing lines in the sand over people’s personal information security being “too paranoid” when we’ve seen repeatedly over the last decade that everything can be hacked, and every scrap of data we generate can be sold or potentially compromise our privacy.

                  I learned back in cryptography class a dog’s age ago that the only real way to keep encrypted information secret is to limit how often the key or codebook is used, and on that principle pretty much all data used for two factor authentication (see: phone number, apps…) is actually making our overall data security weaker.

                  (Again, not in IT: just did a cryptography intensive as my required math class in college and have worked in highly secured R&D settings.)

              4. ALM2019*

                My company also recently introduced the Microsoft Authenticator. The first two weeks of rollout we could use any of the three options – a call to your work phone, a text to your cell phone, or the app. They quickly changed the rule that you could only use the app. I am not happy about this. I don’t want anything work related on my personal cell phone. I installed it but haven’t had to use it for over 2 months so I’m not sure why I even need it.

              5. Nicotene*

                I looooatthhee this trend. I don’t want it to be a work problem if I lose or break my phone. I don’t want to subsidize my workplace’s security with my own out-of-pocket expenses. Hate hate hate that this is now standard practice.

              6. Rachel in NYC*

                My office’s authentication program gives you the option of the app, a list of codes you can type in (then print a new list when you run out of codes), or a phone call. Sorta a something for everyone approach.

                Plus it eliminates the assumption that everyone has a smart phone. Which yes, most people do these days but not everyone.

              7. Librarian1*

                I think you can also have the Microsoft authenticator email you a code if you prefer. We use it at my office and I gave it my cell number so I can have it text me. I got a new phone back in May and didn’t download the app to my new phone until a few weeks ago, so that’s what I did.

    2. ....*

      It’s definitely worth reading the terms and conditions but it’s unlikely that it’s a “spy app” snd more likely it’s a run of the mill authentication app that just sends you a code

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Absolutely agree on always check the permissions that an app requires.

      I work in IT. There’s apps I have on my phone for work but the only permissions I’ll grant them are the ones I deem necessary. Online portal? Yes you can access my internet connection. But they tried to rollout one that claimed to be an online time logging system but also asked for permissions to access:

      My phone calls
      My photos
      My location

      That one I went straight back to my boss and said ‘nope, not unless you can give me a valid business reason for any of these’. It turned out to be a shoddy bit of application that they’d purchased cheap and hadn’t bothered checking the security of any of it.

      Btw, helpful tip for those new to the workplace: if you want to learn an astonishing number of synonyms for human bodily functions go tell the IT manager that you didn’t test a piece of software you want installed on all devices.

      1. Bob*


        Also i don’t like that apps need permissions that can also be used for data mining, full network access and USB storage make sense in many cases but i don’t know if its accessing only its own data on the USB storage or anything else. I recall hearing Google was going to start restricting apps to only accessing data the app created but i have a phone still on Pie.

        In the end an old unused device for work is probably the best bet, if slightly annoying.

        Oh and anything that wants my location can go to hell. Except maps which i use in incognito mode. Of course that mode won’t run off offline maps because i have so little data (argh).

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, I switch my location off most of the time after I found I had an app installed (that came with the phone!) that was merrily accessing all that data despite having no conceivable reason for doing so. Took ages to get that bit of bloatware off too (think trying to uninstall Skype permanently on a Windows pc. That thing is like a herpesvirus).

          Also, a healthy level of paranoia around the data on your phone and who can access it is a very, very good thing.

          1. Bob*

            There is a permission page buried in Android that shows every app with a specific permission, i had 2 or 3 that had location access that i didn’t grant (OS apps) that i disabled.

            I don’t think of it as paranoia, its vigilance.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              IT work was one of the few careers where my sometimes paranoid schizophrenia actually works FOR me.

              1. HM MM*

                This is incredibly offensive and dismissive of those suffering with this illness. My family member has schizophrenia with paranoid delusions, and no, it did not help his career in IT. He’s homeless and incarcerated now. Please don’t make light of such a serious mental health issue.

                1. Queer Earthling*

                  Yeah Keymaster has been pretty open about having schizophrenia as well. People are allowed to make light of their own diagnoses.

                2. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  I genuinely HAVE schizophrenia with occassional paranoid delusions (nowhere near as many thank you medications) and believe me I am painfully aware how much it can mess up one’s life. I tend toward joking about my various mental and physical health issues because for me, it helps me live with them.

                  I’m sorry to hear that your family member has had such a horrible time of it.

          2. Quill*

            Oh god, Skype and Securom. Two different computers, two different headaches.

            I preferred the time I had to manually remove malware from a work computer. At least I was pretty sure the wall of genitals that greeted me when I opened the internet was actually gone, unlike skype and securom…

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              My old manager used to say the only way to remove securom required rituals involving rubber chickens and server rooms.

        2. Wintermute*

          Google’s sandboxing built into android limits apps in terms of cross-app memory access. Any given app literally cannot see what else is installed on your device, it just knows it’s there and it can call the google API to engage functions that it may need to (E.g. it can use the “calling” API to make a phone call, but it does not know what dialer you are using just that “this is sending data to whatever calling function is set as the default caller).

              1. Bob*

                Considering Google had mentioned they were going to modify permissions to only allow apps to access data they themselves created in a recent Android version i do not believe this is true.

                1. Wintermute*

                  It’s a little more complicated on a technical level than this, but my understanding is that apps have never been able to “look inside” each other’s memory areas, “breaking into the sandbox” so to speak. What they were referring to was the ability to modify data in bulk storage, not part of an app’s sandbox. For instance, if you download a mp3 file onto your phone, could an app then take it and edit it to make a ringtone, and then put that ringtone file in the ringtones folder? or would all that have to be done through some kind of Android OS interface that is agnostic to the files in question, through the “intents” system.

    4. Mockingjay*

      My company implemented Microsoft’s Authenticator three weeks ago. I hate it. I didn’t have to install the app (although that was highly encouraged), but we did have to select two forms of authentication from a limited set of choices, one of which ended up being my personal cell (the other is my office phone which is forwarded to my cell). You can either get a text or a call. I chose the text because I have many conference calls which can’t be disrupted.

      It’s damned annoying. Each verification code is supposed to keep me signed into Office 365 for a week or two. In reality, if VPN drops, if I log into a federal database, or for no reason at all, I have to wait for the damn prompt so I can continue working. Plus I have to keep clearing my messages. I average authentication 3 or 4 times a day. (No, it’s not my home network. Everything was fine before this “marve-louse” system was added.) I can’t use any Office products until that damn code is verified.

      Personal Cell phone encroachment is a really bad trend which needs to stop NOW. I pushed back at my company, but they are in IT and comms and LOOOVE this kind of stuff (even if our systems were perfectly secure before MS sold them the Next Big Thing).

      OP4, wish I had advice to offer instead of commiseration.

      1. LW #4*

        Oh, friend, how I feel your pain. I’m so sorry.

        My colleagues and I now each have three work-related O365 accounts. The amount of information Microsoft has about me because my employers and clients handed it to them to set up these accounts makes me angry, and also managing these damned things is a PITA.

        1. Works in IT*

          Very much this. How do you know if someone’s logging in with your credentials without your knowledge without MFA?

          1. Colette*

            I don’t care if someone is using my Office license without my knowledge – that is Microsoft’s problem. (I guess I might care if I had sensitive stuff stored in the Microsoft cloud, but there are other solutions to that problem.)

            But also, these app-based plans are made by men who have pockets big enough to fit a cell phone. Women don’t.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t care if someone is using my Office license without my knowledge – that is Microsoft’s problem

              That’s only true until it does become your problem or that of your company. The issue is not someone using a license that they don’t have legal right to. The issues are things like someone using your login + a “privilege escalation” hack to get access to stuff that they shouldn’t have access to. Or someone getting information out of your account which doesn’t look sensitive, but can be used for phishing or combined with other information to cause trouble. Or to use your account to engage in problematic behavior. etc.

            2. JustaTech*

              “But also, these app-based plans are made by men who have pockets big enough to fit a cell phone. Women don’t.”

              My old iPhone SE is starting to die, so in order to be able to keep a new phone in my front pocket of my pants (because back pocket = phone in toilet), I am going to have to modify the pockets of half of my pants. (The pockets on my BetaBrand pants are big enough for most any phone, so they’ll move into heavier rotation.)

              At least I don’t need to use the two-factor authentication app when I’m in the office, but when I’m WFH I have to use it several times a day. (We use Duo, which seems to have kept out of the rest of my phone.)

              1. Freya*

                This is a big factor in my love of my Betabrand pants – POCKETS! That fit my phone! I’ve basically retired all of my suits because suit jackets don’t have pockets that fit phones and suit pants don’t have pockets and none of them fit without tailoring anyway because I’m short, and my Betabrands come in enough different lengths that I don’t even have to think about taking them up!

          2. Mockingjay*

            Because before we moved to Office 365 and the cloud, we had a closed system. We already had MFA, just not Microsoft’s. We work on a government contract and our IT systems have to meet very robust cyber requirements. The government agency got MS 2FA, so now we have to match.

            Microsoft makes okay products, not great. There are far more secure systems out there for data processing and storage (which we were using). But those companies didn’t tie up a government customer with an ever-expanding business model tied to an enterprise license. The people who sign off on those purchases don’t use anything other than Outlook and Excel. They really don’t understand what they are buying.

            *counts down to retirement when I can leave all this behind…go off the grid!

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I’m old enough to remember when Microsoft first came and got companies to buy licenses for all their PCs… thousands of them.
              It continues to amaze me that companies will not only pay for bug-ridden, glitchy products that require an army of techs to keep them going, but also buy new products from this company with no questions asked!
              Another chapter in corporate cluelessness and incompetence…

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’m old enough to be the one who had to keep track of those licenses at one firm. To be fair to the company they literally didn’t have the infrastructure for anything other than Microsoft stuff (and still don’t)

      2. Brett*

        Something is configured wrong (likely the certificate on your laptop). I also use Office365 with authenticator, and I typically have to authenticate once a week, if that.

      3. miss chevious*

        Yeah, I maintain a separate work phone for exactly this reason. Of course, the company only covers a small amount a month for the bill, the assumption being that no one will buy an entirely separate phone, but I’m a lawyer, and I read the policy and understand that, even though the app itself is supposedly locked down, the company still has rights over my phone in the event of certain conditions. So, no. Absolutely not. My work phone has nothing on it but work stuff, and my personal phone has no work information on it whatsoever. No one at work even has my personal phone number to avoid them potentially clouding the issue. It’s not okay that I have to do this, though, and it’s not okay that I have to shell out my own money to do it.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          Absolutely. My onboarding information at a non-small non-IT based company included something to the effect of “they can retain possession of any BYOD for varying time periods depending upon what corporate things are retained on it, and they retain the ability to manually verify that corporate stuff is removed upon your leaving”.

          No idea, didn’t care to look into it. You’re offering me a BYOD credit with this pile, or you’re offering me a company cell? Guess what. I’ll carry two devices.

      4. Observer*

        I pushed back at my company, but they are in IT and comms and LOOOVE this kind of stuff (even if our systems were perfectly secure before MS sold them the Next Big Thing).

        If you were not using 2FA, then your systems were NOT “perfectly secure”. Systems with only one method of authentication cannot be “perfectly” secure, and passwords are a particularly bad form of authentication.

        That said, I’d push your IT folks to look at why the authentication seems to be dropping all the time.

    5. Firecat*

      If it’s something like Ping then it won’t be a big deal. Frankly I prefer it to the rsaid keys you use to have to keep on your keys.

    6. Seashells*

      Our company started using Paycom about 2 years ago. They really, really pushed the phone app. I told the HR director that I was not comfortable using that, so they ended up installing a kisok (it’s just an iPad you log in/out on) and I was told I could use the desktop app. When we shut down last year for shelter in place orders and went to WFH, they again pushed the phone app (I’m hourly so I had to log in/out) and also wanted to give me access to my work email on my phone, but I again declined both. Our MIS department would have to download something to my phone (or rather, they would tell me how to do it and I was like nope, not gonna possibly mess up my phone) and them I told them that we had enough laptops and if I was expected to WFH, I needed the correct equipment.

      I don’t think companies should expect employees to shoulder the burden of proper equipment to do our jobs. I know that more companies are doing this and for some people it’s great, but unless they are providing the phone and helping to pay the bill, that’s always gonna be a big nope from me.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        It’s another example of companies cheaping out and making other people pay. Like making customers or job candidates enter all their data instead of having staff do it. Making customers spend large chunks of time going in circles on an automated system instead of having a person answer the phone.
        They shift their time burdens to others, and they do that with $$ at every opportunity.

      2. Paycom? I am so sorry.*

        I am so sorry you’re stuck with that. Those commercials are crazymaking, “Why would you put HR in the way of your employees getting work done?” and stuff. Like, maybe if you take a step back and realize HR isn’t getting in the way, it’s making the system work?

        Also, it’s really hard to shake the feeling that businesses love Paycom because removing HR expertise gives employees one less place to go to solve systemic problems (forgive the pessimism, U.S. is gonna U.S.) while also giving an app more access than it should have (it should have 0 access) to the tiny computer that we’ve literally socially mandated you use to track everything about you.

        All of that doesn’t even get into the legal implications of the EULA’s and ToS’s and stuff that maybe you weren’t otherwise going to agree to to get in the App Store where you have to go to get these apps, which is a whole other mess. Making people pay to bring devices, the headache that makes when you de-standardize company hardware, the privacy implications, basically everything about the BYOD trend needs to stop yesterday.

    7. fish*

      I highly recommend that everyone in this situation who is able just get a separate work phone. No amount of fiddling with settings will keep your personal phone totally sandboxed.

      You can get a used phone from your corner independent cellphone store for $20, and a pay-as-you-go plan for $10/month for infrequent texts and calls. If you need just data, you can probably connect to your work’s wifi for free.

      1. TW*

        Agreed. Setting up a wifi-only burner phone can cost as little as $0 if you happen to have an old phone in your junk drawer.

      2. Mongrel*

        How long can you be without your phone?
        What happens, hypothetically, if you “broke” it and had to send it away for repair? What’s their alternative to be able to log you in?

        Otherwise I’m with fish, get a cheap phone that’ll do the job and carry that with you.

    8. Greg*

      LW#4, do you have an old phone lying around? I work in an office with very strict cybersecurity, to the point where we were previously not allowed to access our email outside of the office. When Covid hit and that became untenable, they required us to install special software on our phones in order to set up email access, and said that if at any point they needed to wipe the phones they would “make every effort” to not erase any of our personal data. Needless to say, that wasn’t very reassuring, and they weren’t willing to provide us company phones either. So instead what most of us did was install the apps on older phones since we didn’t care if those got wiped.

    9. The BYOP app thing needs to stop.*

      Setting aside the privilege involved in assuming people have compatible old devices (if you can’t afford a new second device, your cycling main phones, if you’re not trading them in for value, are probably cheaper and therefore don’t get the necessary customized updates the manufacturer and/or carrier have to do for special drivers and whatever), can we just talk about the legal implications of this trend?

      You’re forced to agree to various Terms and Conditions and a bunch of legalese when you set up an account to be able to sign into either of the (effectively only) 2 app stores. That legalese is written on the assumption that you personally handle your own data, and since you agreed to do the app downloading and stuff, the legalese ultimately says you willfully consent to all the privacy-invading drama that ensues.

      Something needs to happen to stop the trend overall as it makes lots of poor assumptions, but given businesses keep making the assumption that people have these devices, maybe we also need to find a way to mandate that Apple and Google make (and in Google’s case, enforce upon manufacturers and carriers) an easy way for users to put up a divide here. You really shouldn’t have to tie your personal everything to your work life, and your workplace shouldn’t have the grounds to get to force you (yes, “force”, jobs are mandatory to most people for income, so if workplaces normalize this then you lose the option to say “No.” because you can’t just go find another job if they all go this way) to make legal agreements for personal contracts with others so you can do workplace tasks.

      I gotta say, while I’ve nothing to challenge the conclusion that right now, “Yep, they can require it”, it does feel a little disappointing that the wordage isn’t harsher. There are layers here where this lays the groundwork for tons of anti-employee abuses (privacy violations, blurring work/home lines to effectively get unpaid labor, company rights to manipulate personal devices). Anything that helps spread the sentiment, counteracting that we don’t have good computer education (not to mention, the computers haven’t been there long enough to get an education for a healthy chunk of the workforce), would be preferable to just a matter-of-fact that the laws haven’t caught up yet.

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for LW4 that it is just an authenticator (some do wonky things, but many use a standard where you can just pick your favorite well-behaved open alternative and it’ll mostly just work, just find where the button moves), but products like Paycom existing and LW4 referencing an “portal” make me fear this was actually an example of one of the worse situations, not one of the simple ones.

  2. Why?*

    #2 – Husband and I both worked for the same company. One of the partners lived on the cross street and the head of a department lived down the street. We just said we lived in Company North. There were 3 other employees who lived in Company South. Two of them actually lived in the same row of town houses. Never an issue.
    It was always fun to drive by the partner’s house and see his car parked in the driveway. Unless he had a meeting first thing he always came in 15 minutes late. Even when they moved the official start time by 30 minutes he was still 15 minutes late

    1. Been There*

      I live down the street from my boss. In those 2 years we’ve run into each other less than 5 times and it’s been fine. Just say hello and move on.

      1. Seal*

        One of my employees lives a block away from me. We didn’t realize that was the case until a year and a half after I bought my house. Over the past 3 years I think I’ve run into them once or twice at the grocery store but that’s it. During our 1:1 meetings we will occasionally chat about what’s going on in the neighborhood, but its mostly about some of the stranger things we’ve seen since we’re both mostly working from home these days (some of our neighbors are WEIRD). So it’s really not that big a deal. I ran into many more coworkers outside of work when I lived in a college town, but that’s kind of the nature of such places.

    2. Lionheart26*

      I lived in an apartment directly underneath my boss. Rarely saw or heard him except for 2 notable exceptions:
      -once when a snow day was called, and I found out before everyone else cos I heard his landline phone ring and then a minute later I heard him cheering loudly.
      -once when a co-worker was coming over to my house but knocked on his door by mistake and he answered the door wearing a towel

    3. pretzelgirl*

      Think of how often you see your actual neighbors now. My next door neighbors who are literally about 100 feet from my door, i have not seen since probably November. Even though we are home and live next door, our paths rarely cross. Now we do see each other more in the summer, when we are working on our yards, or my kids out playing. But sometimes thats few and far between.

      1. Queer Earthling*

        Yeah I live in a single-level apartment complex in a rural area (where supposedly everyone knows their neighbors) with a bit of turnover, and the only thing I know about my neighbors on one side is that they have a labradoodle and an orange cat who occasionally escapes, and on the other side, that they sometimes watch TV kinda loud. I couldn’t pick any of them out of a lineup.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      I was the boss that unknowingly moved a couple of blocks from an employee. He was the one that had the potential for boundary issues so we just had a chat one day and I essentially said “Yup, I just bought the house 3 blocks down the street. Oh good you’ve already been in it. Yes there’s the potential for awkward, but I’ll respect your privacy and you’ll respect mine and we’ll be ok”

      It had the potential to be a disaster and I didn’t really relish the fact that at any given point my employee could see me in the back yard (corner lot) wearing my pink fuzzy bathrobe while I wrangled the dog inside. But honestly there hasn’t even been a whiff of an issue or awkwardness. It probably helped that I took over a different role and team not too long after I bought my house, so from there we became coworkers.

    5. PT*

      I worked at a community org in my town. I lived in the town, I worked in the town, most of my coworkers lived in town and most of my members/customers/participants/students also lived in town.

      I rarely ran into people in public considering how tightly entwined I was with the town. It was surprising.

    6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I would say at most places living near a boss is not an issue. That having been said: its a whole different ball park at a dysfunctional job. Once worked at a very small family owned dysfunctional workplace. Direct supervisor lived 3 doors down from me. (I was friends with her room mate) Direct supervisor showed up on my door multiple times demanding to borrow things. Not asking. Demanding. Did not like when I told her no I would not lend out my lawn mower, etc. Very pushy and argumentative on my front door step each time. Harassed her room mate over me saying no. Harassed my kids in the yard. Retaliated at work. I very quickly NOPED out of there to a new job. She had a very barky pup that they would throw out into the yard in the early morning hours. Multiple neighbors repeatedly called her landlord over this (and animal control) and eventually she was no longer my boss or neighbor.

    7. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      This isn’t going to be a big deal OP2, unless your boss is absolutely bonkers like I Escaped Cubicle Land’s old boss.
      I totally get how it feels weird though, I also really like to separate”church” and “state”.

  3. JJ*

    LW5 – I would take the seniority levels listed on Linkedin job applicant summaries with a grain of salt. Linkedin uses an algorithm to create these levels so they may or may not be accurate. Very well could be entry level applicants with job titles Linkedin thinks sound senior. They also use algorithms to determine how strong a candidate you are…I’ve clicked on adverts for old postions of mine and been shown as a weak candidate. So keep that in mind in addition to what Alison shared.

    1. Analog*


      I was job hunting using LinkedIn and tried out the free month of the Premium subscription plan (which I found to be totally not worth paying for, in my opinion), where LinkedIn was supposedly comparing my profile to other candidates’ profiles who had applied for positions via LinkedIn to tell me how competitive I was. For one position I saw, LinkedIn claimed that only 50% of applicants had a credential that’s essential for the job and clearly stated in the description, which I find hard to believe (and this isn’t the kind of position where people without those credentials would mistakenly apply for). LinkedIn also kept saying I would be a “top applicant” for positions for which I have the wrong training and experience altogether.

      I’m sure that there are *some* people applying for entry level jobs who aren’t entry level in terms of experience in that field, but I think the LinkedIn algorithm is pretty error-prone. For instance, it’s very possible that your competitors for certain roles are transitioning into your field (and are thus applying for entry level roles) after getting experience in other fields, but LinkedIn’s algorithm classifies them as mid- or senior level because of their non-relevant experience.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        If their suggestions for jobs to apply for are anything to go by then I wouldn’t read much into it. Every time I look at that section I get really bizarre mismatches, both in terms of job roles and location.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t doubt that LinkedIn’s algorithms produce some weird results, but in every early-career level hiring search I’ve ever done, I’ve had at least a handful of highly overqualified, manager-level applicants. It’s pretty normal in hiring. (Few of them explain why they’re applying to the job, so I think it’s mostly resume-bombing.)

      1. MassMatt*

        I think resume bombing is part of it, but another part is desperation, especially in times where many people are out of work, such as now. We’ve seen many letters here where people are looking fruitlessly for a long time and then express frustration that they’re not even getting responses to entry-level jobs.

        I was on a hiring committee for a few jobs during the Great Recession, and we had many overqualified applicants. The jobs were not entry-level but required customer interaction and sales, people that have not been in that sort of role for years would probably have grown quite rusty. They really were not a good fit, even beyond the fact that they would not have been happy with the compensation or responsibilities for long and would no doubt have bolted as soon as possible, after we had invested considerable training.

        I was unaware that Linked In was evaluating job submissions/matches, but it looks like it’s not doing that good a job at it.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think this is a big part of it. Also height of the Great Resession, I applied for a job (in central-ish Michigan) at a IT boot camp, I’d have been teaching basic computing skills and classes on end user stuff for common applications (think Microsoft Office suite, even Internet Explorer and Firefox), in time I might have been teaching some CS101 type programming stuff maybe entry-level networking.

          In my cattle call interview were a former computer science professors from Lansing Community College and a lecturer/adjunct professor from MSU, a laid off VP of global network infrastructure for General Motors, a laid off lead automation programmer from some insurance company– a LOT of people who would, in a good economy, either be teaching at colleges on tenure track positions or employed in six-figure-income jobs. All in a cattle call interview for a job that paid 12 bucks an hour. All excited to be there because they had six whole openings and that meant a much better chance.

          Now obviously the elephant in the room is that once 6-figure jobs exist again they will leave, but the economics of that work out for a small computer boot camp that wants to talk up the years of IT experience and industry clout of their teaching staff.

    3. Mantis Toboggan, MD*

      That’s true. My first job out of grad school had the word “senior” in the title for some reason, but it was an entry level role.

    4. pretzelgirl*

      Another to keep in mind is that sometimes companies say entry level, then want 2-5 years of experience. Which is another problem for another day.

      Also I had many years of experience and found myself applying to entry level jobs about 3 years ago. I was in a very toxic job, with a company that was going under. We literally didn’t get paid for a month. I was very desperate to get out. Now with the pandemic, people maybe in situations that don’t want to be in. Possible heavy workloads, because of lay offs, being forced to come into an office without PPE etc. Who knows. Desperation makes people do crazy things.

      1. kbrew*

        So, the thing is, entry-level, depending on industry, is usually up to 5 years of experience (but I’ve seen up to 10 in some cases, but it’s far less common) before a person is considered mid-level. Mid-level and senior-level can depend on both length of experience and role level. It’s a bad naming convention that confuses people.

        1. PrgrmMngr*

          I was on the job market this summer; I definitely applied for some “entry level” jobs that required quite a bit of expertise – they were entry into that career path but probably weren’t considering anyone with less than 5 years of relevant experience.

          I was also burnt out on the path I’d been in the non-profit sector; I was looking to pivot into something new, which I assumed would mean a step back in seniority. I assume I’m not the only one in that situation, especially with nearly complete industries unable to operate for large portions of time last year and their employees needing to look at other industries to move forward.

          1. Wintermute*

            This is a good point, “entry level” is relative to the career path. for instance in IT, “entry level” security jobs as in “hire out of college with an internship” really don’t exist in many cases. an “entry level” security center job is going to be 0-1 years of security experience but still want 3-5 years operations center experience and a few years experience with some of the big general monitoring tools as well as potentially some industry certification.

      2. Smithy*

        The 2-3 or 2-5 years experience category and the near elimination of true ‘entry level’ jobs in many industries I think has really muddied the waters.

        In some cases those 2-3 years can reasonably be a combination of student employment, summer work, internships, and/or temp placements. In other cases, those 2-3 years are actually looking for someone who’s had 2-3 years doing very similar work – leading to someone with more like 5-6 years of full time professional work experience applying. And in my industry, those job postings are made even more fuzzy by the potential for the salaries of both of those jobs having vastly different salaries.

    5. Another British poster*

      Plenty of experienced people apply for entry level jobs because they are desperate for work.

      If you can’t feed your family, you’re not going to be snobbish about applying for jobs that are beneath you.

      I have a PhD in a science subject and am currently applying for supermarket jobs.

      1. bubbleon*

        +1, don’t forget the incredibly high levels of unemployment we’re still dealing with due to the pandemic. I’m a midlevel manager with ~10 years of experience so I’m not focusing on entry level positions, but the ones I’ve applied for in the past year have gotten 600+ applications according to LinkedIn/Indeed, etc. I can’t imagine how many applications a more junior position is getting now

        1. Liane*

          Speaking of unemployment, that is a fourth reason very overqualified people apply to jobs. In the USA, states often require X job applications* each week to receive unemployment benefits. If there’s few openings in your field and your level (or few jobs period) you may have to apply to jobs you’re very over/under qualified for or that have nothing to do with your education/experience, just to not lose A week of benefits.
          *sometimes it’s “job contacts,” which is easier since that covers related things like interviews

        2. voluptuousfire*

          I wonder if that algorithm is off as well on LinkedIn. I’ve seen jobs that were posted for 2 hours and had 200 “applications.” I’d gather the click-through rate (as in those who click on the apply button to be taken to the job description but don’t actually apply)=the number of “applications.”

          1. SchuylerSeestra*

            Correct, though the actual completed application numbers are probably very high. I’m a recruiter. I’ve received hundreds of applications in a day from one posting alone. It happens, especially if it’s a popular company or role.

          2. PrgrmMngr*

            The LinkedIn algorithms are pretty bad; my spouse and I enjoyed looking at jobs they felt I was highly qualified for (ones that I could rule out by reading the first sentence, which was often something like “we are looking for an experienced scientist”, I was leaving an anti-poverty, social service type organization.) Jobs that I was interviewed for were often ones LinkedIn thought I was poorly qualified for.

      2. Recession*

        Agreed. For many that graduated into the recession, there is a disconnect between what they might be doing vs. what they are actually qualified to do. People need to eat. If the applicant is ok with that, why not at least talk to them? New grads bring their own perspective and knowledge, too. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

      3. Ms. Yvonne*

        Hi, Another British poster,
        My commiserations. I didn’t finish my PhD (honestly, I think the “regular” job market doesn’t know what to do with you regardless of if you’ve finished or just done x years in a program without the degree at the end of it), got sick so was out of the job market a while, couldn’t explain the gap suitably, am middle aged, couldn’t find full-time work to save my life, and ended up working full-time for 1.5y as a cashier at a major national Canadian chain for not much over minimum wage (now thankfully have moved on to a job that’s 100x better).
        Good luck – in finding a living wage in the short term, in moving into something more suitable.

      4. Beth*

        Yeah, we saw this after the 2008 recession as well. When this many people are desperate for income, it gets really hard to get your foot in the door. It’s awful for everyone involved–both for people who are new to the job market and just trying to get started, and for people who have spent years building their career and are suddenly back at square one.

  4. Beth*

    LW1: It sounds like you’re still feeling really bitter about your experience at this company. That’s understandable! But it’s not something that will serve you well to hold onto. As Alison points out, this HR rep was likely significantly less influential in your termination than you’re assuming. But even if they had had the power to stop you from being terminated, trying to get them fired won’t help you. It won’t change your reference, it won’t get you your old job back, and it won’t help you succeed going forward. Instead of seeking vengeance on the people involved, you’ll be better off devoting your energy to moving on from this whole situation.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Not merely significantly less. The complaint was that the HR rep didn’t do enough to save the LW’s job. Is that an HR rep’s job? That’s not my understanding. This sounds like the HR rep tried to help the LW and failed, and the LW is blaming them for this.

      1. MK*

        I agree. I could understand the hostility towards the HR rep if, say, the OP had reported sexual harassment, racism, etc., and HR had handled it badly. But it’s not HR’s job to make sure an employee keeps their job.

      2. BRR*

        That was one of my takeaways as well (about the HR rep’s role).

        LW, reporting this to the rep’s manager won’t make you feel better. I’m familiar with involuntary leaving a job and I 100% understand being angry towards your former employer. It’s not the HR rep’s fault your manager sucked.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Given the LW’s complete misunderstanding of how HR vs. managers work and the fact that they wrote in to ask if they should see vengeance, I rather suspect the manager wasn’t the only problem here.

          1. onco fonco*

            There’s definitely something in the wording where LW admits they didn’t get on with their new manager but says they didn’t *really* do anything termination-worthy. Coupled with this revenge plot, I admit I’m wondering just what they did do? Because I don’t think any of my jobs have offered much leeway for ‘not getting on’ with the person directly above me. Not that you can’t ever do anything about a really terrible manager, but…

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Not only that but there seems to be an element of some sort of “revealing the hypocrisy” going on? Like OP said whatever they did was less fire-worthy than this example of what the HR person did. We don’t know what they were fired for, but there’s a whiff of “you fired me for Minor Thing but didn’t fire HR Rep for This Other Thing I Deem Major By Comparison”. That’s not a good way to approach this.

            2. Archaeopteryx*

              Yes OP, I would take how off-base your reaction is to the HR rep as a sign that maybe you should do some reflection on what the company told you you were getting terminated for when they fired you. You say it was nothing termination worthy, but they have to have given you some explanation, and maybe it’s worth really calmly reflecting on whether there’s any merit to it.

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          Actually, I don’t mean to be unkind, but I really hope the LW takes some time to think about her role on all of this and wether her manager really sucked.

          Often, when we’re stuck in a less than ideal situation, we go into BEC mode and fail to see how our own actions contribute to our unhappiness. And sure, that manager may well have been the problem, but I’ve had times in my life when I wanted to be Right, and for people to acknowledge that I was Right, more than was wise to my carreer or working relationships (much like a tantrum-ing toddler, in my mind at least).

          It seems to me the LW’s bitterness is largely because HR rep didn’t make everyone else see how Right she was, and that’s not a good attitude to have at work, before or after a firing.

          1. California Ltd.*

            I’m tying to figure out what “BEC mode” is. I went an acronyms site and my best guess is Big Evil Corporation. Is that right? It’s probably not Bacon, Egg, and Cheese, I’m guessing.

            1. Aquawoman*

              B–ch Eating Crackers–> shorthand for how if you dislike someone, you start to see everything through the lens of that dislike so that even innocuous activities (like eating crackers) take on a nefarious aura in your mind.

            2. Boof*

              it stands for “[female dog] eating crackers” and is supposed to mean when you are so annoyed at someone overall that you think hateful things about them for doing perfectly normal activities.

          2. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

            Yes, this is my read as well.

            Anecdotally, I have a former coworker who was (and probably is) very good at the hard skills part of her job. I could go on for a while about how competent she was in the measurable things, but the point is that in her eyes, that made her Very Good and Very Correct. We had a boss who wasn’t great (not the worst, but I would turn down a job if it was under her), and there was some bad chemistry between the two. Ultimately, regardless of who was right in whatever situation, Former Coworker did not do herself any favors in terms of how she reacted and the actions she took to try and get everyone she feels who wronged her in trouble. I wish she had learned a little more grace or was more tactical in her approach to rectify issues, because it’s a small industry and her attempts at scorched earth have followed her since.

            OP 1, I’m glad you wrote in here instead of writing to your former org. I hope you can find a better situation and better chemistry with a supervisor in the future. And as the others have been saying, HR isn’t there to make sure you don’t get fired.

            1. Observer*

              I wish she had learned a little more grace or was more tactical in her approach to rectify issues, because it’s a small industry and her attempts at scorched earth have followed her since

              OP, please take note of this.

              If you try to get the HR rep in trouble, you will probably fail. What IS certain is that you are going to make yourself look very bad. And there is a real probability that this will follow you in ways that will NOT benefit you. I realize that YOU don’t think this will make you look bad, but take this discussion as a sign that others won’t see it that way. And that’s true even if the your former boss was 100% wrong and you behavior on the job had been 100% perfect.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I was the OP once. I got fired from a job and I was angry, angry enough to want to make every HR, management and a few other people pay dearly for what they’d done. The anger distracted me nicely from the panic and grief of having suddenly lost a job (and I’m in the UK where sudden firings are rarer).

            Not proud to say I still hate that firm for what they did. But it’s faded over time to a ‘that was effing horrible, but I can’t change what happened, so I moved on’ feeling.

      3. EPLawyer*

        It sounds like they are confused about what an HR Rep is. It’s not like a union rep. The HR rep’s role is to explain benefits and things to you. At a termination proceeding its to make sure the paperwork is done right and you are aware of your rights and responsibilities. They are not there to defend you. Their job is to protect the company.

        1. Grits McGee*

          That’s the impression I got as well- HR may incidentally act as an advocate for staff in cases where a manager’s actions could result in legal liability for the company (harassment, discrimination) or raising cost (losing high performers, massive turnover), but that’s not their primary function. If it were, you wouldn’t need unions.

        2. Bernice Clifton*

          They are also a witness to termination conversation which can be crucial if the terminated employee wants to file for Unemployment and the company wants to contest it.

        3. Sparkles McFadden*

          Sadly, this is a common misunderstanding. HR is there to make sure the company doesn’t get sued. That’s it. That’s all. Sometimes that is a position that helps an employee, but mostly not.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not true, any more than it’s true that HR is there to make employees happy.

            What is true is that HR’s primary responsibility is to the company, and that it’s generally not their job to keep employees from losing their jobs.

      4. Emi*

        That combined with the “my HR rep” language makes me think the LW thinks an HR rep is something like a union rep.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes, this seemed like such a weird assumption on the OP’s part. I’ve had two really awful HR managers in the past, but neither of them had any sway on my keeping my job or not.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Yeah, I don’t even know the HR manager in my company, that’s how much influence they have on my job. I know exactly 2 reps, the one who onboarded me 2 years ago, and the one who handles insurance benefits and whom I spoke with once. Unless the LW was in HR (and even then), I don’t get what she thinks a HR rep could/should have done for her.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I am wondering if the OP is confusing the role of an HR rep with something more like a Union rep. In my experience, my HR rep’s responsibility to me is basically to answer questions I have about my 401(k) or how my PTO was prorated when I started a job in the middle of the year. It is not part of their job to help you keep yours.

    4. MassMatt*

      It’s not even about whether HR had the power to keep the LW employed, it’s really misunderstanding HR’s role. HR is there to make sure procedures are followed correctly, not to ensure someone keeps their job. OP is understandably angry about being fired but I hope they are able to cool off, assess where they went wrong, resolve to do better, and move on.

      Maybe write a really nasty and vindictive letter laying out all the ways your boss and HR were terrible–but then tear it up and throw it away!

    5. TW*

      Also, accidentally emailing the wrong attachment isn’t usually a firing offence.

      OP1 seems to have a strange idea of what gets people fired: outraged at being fired “for doing nothing as wrong”, but simultaneously assumes the HR rep will be fired for a small mistake.

    6. yala*

      Yeah, I’m…kinda baffled my own self.

      Like, I haven’t really made any secret here that my supervisor and I do not get along as well as I wish we did. And HR has been involved at some point. And very little was done, because their job isn’t to be the teacher on duty at the playground, it’s to make sure your employer is covering all the legal bases, etc.

      Would I have *liked* an HR person to step in and say “Oh wow, that’s not cool” about some things, and magically fixed them? Sure, who wouldn’t. But, like. I’m not going to get MAD about them not doing that, because I’m grown, and that’s not their job.

      I get being upset. But Plotting Revenge just…ugh, why.

      I hope OP drops it, moves on, and finds a better job.

  5. Jennifer C*

    Suggestion for #4: get a cheap prepaid “burner” phone to use for work. I did that last year when we started working from home; I make a lot of calls to people who I don’t want to have my personal cell phone number. Put the apps on that phone.

    I think I paid $10 for the phone (it’s crappy but it works) and pay $15 per month for calls & texts. And it’s handy to have a second phone.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I was going to suggest that. Although it must be said that I really don’t like the way many businesses are requiring their employees to use their personal devices for work. Requiring employees to install software on personal devices is also an issue. Not to mention that I don’t think it’s fair to pass on the costs of doing business to employees. At the very least, they should let you expense the $15/month…

      1. allathian*

        I’m actually very happy that my employer explicitly forbids the use of personal devices for actual work. It ensures that my employer provides me with the equipment I need to do my work, namely a portable computer including a mouse, and cellphone. I’m not even allowed to connect our network printer to my work computer, all print jobs go to the secure printing queue at the office. We’re also, at least in theory, a paperless office, so printing in general is strongly discouraged. Other peripherals, such as keyboards and monitors, are allowed as long as they work with either generic drivers or drivers that are available through the Windows Software Center.

        I do have my closest coworker’s and my manager’s work and personal phone numbers in my personal phone for emergencies.

      2. John Smith*

        Agreed. My boss (local government) wanted everyone without a corporate mobile phone to hand their personal mobiles to the IT dept to have some software installed and had the cheek to tell us to back up the phone prior as any and all data would be wiped. I and many others who preferred using our own mobiles for work instead of carrying two opted for corporate mobiles instead. Many of those mobiles have never seen the light of day which makes me wonder how much time and money my organisation wastes elsewhere….

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          They wanted people to hand over their personal devices to IT, and told them their personal devices would be wiped?

          I’m sorry. I can’t brain anymore today. That is, without any doubt, the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of in IT.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              The lesser ones sure :) The real ‘omg what’ top 3 in my career can’t be shared without completely outing myself.

      3. Tamer of Dragonflies*

        An employer that wants it’s employees to foot the bill for devices solely for the employers benefit seems suspect from the get go. Right or wrong, I won’t give my personal number to an employer, and in some cases, won’t admit to having a cell phone. I’ve seen them used as a “leash” on too many others at old toxic job to give that info away.
        O.P. 2, look hard at this app. The fact that it seems they have no alternative to installing this app on an employees personal device looks like they have a “take it or leave it” attitude for employees, and could be foreshadowing how they will deal with issues in the future.

        1. LW #4*

          Yes, unfortunately, this was/is foreshadowing. It’s proved to be indicative of their attitude towards employees in general, and just one example of their obliviousness to accessibility concerns (screen readers don’t play well with many authenticators).

        2. Retail Not Retail*

          Surely you used a phone number when you applied for the job and they have one on file, right? I mean they have to communicate with you somehow.

      4. LW #4*

        Thank you all so much. Yes, it’s starting to look like this is going to be the only solution, but why should the company get to pass the cost of doing business on to the employees? How is this different than saying you must have X equipment to do your job and then making you buy X out of pocket (and if anyone can explain how it is different, I would be genuinely grateful so that I can explain it to my colleagues in the same situation)?

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          It’s not. Your employer needs to be paying for this. I would suggest discussing this assuming that *of course* they are going to be covering these costs. Go to whoever is in charge of this and say “So I’ve looked into the options for a work phone, and it looks like the cheapest phone is $10 with a monthly cost of $15. How does reimbursement work?” Obviously this will go better if you and all your colleagues request the same info.

          1. BRR*

            I see this suggestion a lot and I think it works in some situations but in this case I think it would make the LW seem fairly out of touch. There seems to be a well established expectation that all employees provide their own devices for an authenticator app and it would be better to address it head on than to take a passive approach.

            And so it’s clear I’m not defending this policy – it total bs. All companies should be paying for anything work related.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              This! I came here to say exactly this. We are just expected to have certain things now-a-days. Refusing to accept a text message for 2FA would seem really really bizarre.

        2. Ashley*

          I would check the specs to see if you can use a cheap tablet that is wi-fi based. At least that way it is one time only cost, and while you may have to get nicer then you want it at least gives you knowledge that if they do spy they don’t get anything. Just make sure not to link accounts on it when you set it up.

        3. Elenna*

          I suspect their thought process is that “of course” everyone has a smartphone, and so they’re not making you pay for anything you don’t already have… Which is a crappy assumption, but not a terribly unusual one.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Agreed – Husband at one point had a job where they expected people to get an authenticator app on their phone so that they could get email on their cell phone, yadda yadda, whatever. Hubs cackled with glee while the rest of his team was rather angry (as I would have been).

            Hubs had/has a flip phone. He brought that in and happily handed it over to their IT tech. IT tech was incredibly confused that a (at the time) 25 year old guy would not have a smart phone. Apparently this broke the IT tech’s brain, much to Hub’s entertainment.

            Happily as well, his dept’s Director was pissed off enough by IT demanding personal phones that they crawled up the chain and got everyone that needed additional access company smart phones.

        4. fhqwhgads*

          If you’re in California, I’m pretty sure they can’t pass on the cost of doing business to the employees.

          1. Observer*

            Given that the app works on Wifi, it’s going to be very hard to make the argument that there is actually a cost to the user. Now, if they required something like email on personal phones out in the field that would be different. That is a real cost to people AND creates potential privacy issues for users as well.

            1. LW #4*

              If there are no options other than the app, then you’re required to have a device on which to install the app. I know many people see this as “Well, I already have a mobile/tablet,” but that is a business requirement that comes with an associated cost that the company is offloading.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      When they tried to make me install an authenticator app at work, I explained that I still have a flip phone and eventually they located an old work-owned tablet they could issue me instead (I was actually expecting them to find an authentication token or dongle to issue me, as was done before we all had smartphones if you needed 2FA in the 90s, but I decided that I didn’t care how they spent their own resources/money to solve the problem as long as it didn’t cost me money). If whatever app they want you to install will work on a tablet over wifi (and you’ll have wifi access when you need to use it), that may be even cheaper than a second phone over time. I haven’t priced Android tablets in the last 5 years or so, but it used to be possible to get a barely-works tablet for well under $1o0. I needed something to deal with a Google Account for a non-profit I volunteered with about 5 or 6 years ago that I wanted to silo to a dedicated device and keep separate, and I watched sales and got one for about $50 or $60 back then.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        It’s too bad those dongles are a bit of a rarity. A separate device like that seems to have a lot of advantages for some circumstances.

        1. Snow Globe*

          My company offers the option of either a dongle or using an app – most employees seem to prefer the app, as it’s one less thing to try to keep track of.

        2. Wintermute*

          They’re not rare in my industry, every IT department has a few in drawers, right now I have FIVE of them zip tied to the edge of the workstation I’m at (mostly for service/utility accounts or our AWS account).

          The real problem is they’re a royal pain to issue to end users because people always lose the bloody things and unlike a phone system there’s usually not a good backup method other than the pregenned key which no one ever writes down, or is in a .txt file or outlook note which is tied to the account they can no longer log in to.

        3. JustaTech*

          My spouse works in BigTech and has this tiny USB thing in their computer that generates a long random code for logging in to some specific functions.

          Back in the mid-aughts my lab manager had a pager that displayed a 12 digit number than changed every two minutes that she used for logging in to the major purchases website.

      2. GothicBee*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if the LW really needs a phone with service or if they could just use any mobile device that connects via wifi. If so, I’d try using an old phone or tablet, if you have one lying around. Or try getting a used/cheap device.

        1. Observer*

          That’s what I was going to suggest. And skip the tablets – you can get a cheap phone more cheaply than even an out of date tablet.

    3. TechWorker*

      Most (all?) $10 dollar phones won’t support installing apps though, so this doesn’t really solve their specific problem. Or am I behind the times for how cheap smartphones have gotten?

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Maybe not $10 but I was curious about this and spent 5 minutes looking at options for TracPhone. I could buy a refurbished Android (one of the generic brand name types) for $5, and their cheapest plan is $15 a month. You might be able to get a used phone from ebay or similar for cheap, and if it doesn’t actually need mobile service but can use WiFi then just use it that way.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          You can go cheaper than that for the plan! The $15/month has unlimited minutes, which you do NOT need for your backup phone. You want to go for the basic plans and get the cheapest one that lasts 90 days. It’s $18 with auto refill, so $6/month. Only 60 minutes included and a small amount of data, but you won’t use them so that doesn’t matter. Also, if you actually use them up for some reason, you can always buy more.

          I believe the other pay-as-you-go providers have a similar option, but its been a while since I priced them out.

      2. Wintermute*

        Smartphones are indeed that cheap now. It’s not hard to get one for under 50 bucks, and 15 isn’t unheard of for new hardware, depending how you go about it, if you’re okay with refurbished or new-old stock then 10 bucks is reasonable for a full-featured android phone.

        1. Name (Required)*

          I still get annoyed by this (not your suggestion – just the situation…)

          There has to be a world where people see the issue with “let us access your personal phone” or “go spend money on a second burner phone” but it clearly isn’t here on Earth 616.

          If phones are important, provide them to your employees. Otherwise stay off my phone.

          Again, not directed to any of the posters offering helpful suggestions here, just frustration to the system.

          1. Wintermute*

            A lot of people find it a real convenience, so pressure on IT comes from both directions, people with fewer privacy concerns don’t want to carry two devices, oftentimes. And in actuality authenticators typically are off-the-shelf software provided by a major company like Microsoft, which is different than asking employees to install custom software that gives the business control over your personal device.

            It’s also the lowest-friction way to get 2FA into every employee’s hands with minimum rollout, so when your industry standards suddenly demand this new capability and you should have been doing it for years but weren’t, it’s the easiest way to catch up quickly to where you ought to be and plug an existential security risk.

            1. Name (Required)*

              I have the experience with authenticators, thats the lesser of the evils, but the more complicated programs get me.

              But good point about two devices. I’ve done that, its a pain but keeps my phone clear. But yes, many don’t want to do that.

          2. PT*

            I have some of my old smartphones: they still work like a tablet if they’re not connected to a cell plan. So that’s also an option for employees who don’t want work crap on their phone.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Seconding this. I used my old iPhone 5 to listen to podcasts while I was at a temp job, and it worked fine as long as it had wifi. I could do everything except text or call.

          3. Quill*

            Not to mention that the increased reliance on up-to-date devices has huge problems in terms of pushing for back compatibility when new tech comes out, and increases the incentive on electronics companies (particularly phone manufacturers) to create more electronics waste by creating more electronics overall.

            Which places greater financial and recycling burdens on the global south, since the more chintzy we make our phones and less backwards compatible we make our programs, the less easily people in poorer countries can get a durable device that can still access the technology they need.

              1. Quill*

                I did a goddamn DEGREE in envisci and all I can use it for is telling people on the internet that everything comes with a waste and emissions cost. Because nobody will pay me to use it. Because sustained profit increases and the current state of capitalism run counter to the realities of our consumption.

  6. Magpie*

    LW2: This kind of depends on where you live, but it’s not that weird! I live in a very small town and work in another smallish (but bigger) town 20 mins away. I currently live within walking distance of my immediate manager and another coworker, which is unavoidable since everything here is ten minutes from everything else, and in the past when I lived in Bigger Small Town, I was down the block from the owner of my company. I say hi to Manager at the post office sometimes, I see him walking his dog since I’m next to the park, I’ve run into the owner at the lake in a bikini, it’s really no big deal. In fact, it’s come in handy this week since my car broke down, so I’ve been able to get a ride to and from work. Pretend you live in a tiny town where you can’t help but run into people all the time, and go about your day. He’s living his life, and if he’s a reasonable person he doesn’t think that much about you when you’re not both at work.

    1. WS*

      I live and work in a town of 800 people, so this happens all the time. It’s not a big deal – the real gossips are the retirement aged people who like to look at what you’re buying at the supermarket and interrogate you about your dinner plans!

    2. UKDancer*

      I live in the same part of London as one of the very senior bosses. The only reason I know about it is because I bumped into him in the queue at Waitrose once. We exchanged smalltalk and discovered we both lived in the same area. I’ve never seen him since which is fine. I know another colleague lives in this area as well because during the break between the first and second lockdowns we met up for socially distanced coffee one Friday afternoon.

      What was much more embarrassing was when I met a colleague from my previous company in Ann Summers in central London and we had an awkward moment where we noticed each other, tried not to acknowledge each other and walked in different directions. We never spoke of it.

    3. KimmyBear*

      I live in a metro area of about 7 million people. Before the pandemic, I would regularly run into coworkers at the grocery store, at the auto mechanic, and at the park. I grew up in a small town (25+ years ago) and still can’t go to the grocery store there without running into someone I know. Say hi, chitchat or not, and go on with your day.

  7. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 2 – My boss, the union president, and I all lived in the same building without knowing we all lived there. It was awkward for all to realize what happened. The best thing is to not make it awkward. Say hi and continue doing your thing. I saved my chitchat for at work, for things like “How was your weekend?” or “Did you hear that loud noise/party/alarm last night?” Everyone relaxed over time.

    As for your boss being feel awkward to see you in your swim suit – I wouldn’t worry about it. Guessing other’s feelings is a surefire way to create more anxiety.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      +1000 to “Guessing other’s feelings is a surefire way to create more anxiety.”

      And – the more you act as though it *isn’t* a big deal, the more likely it is to *not* be a big deal. A lot of awkwardness comes from assumed feelings/opinions that don’t actually exist.

      Let’s say I live in the same apartment complex as my boss. If I act really uncomfortable around the situation, they are going to pick that up and also feel uncomfortable… and then act uncomfortable as well, which starts the cycle of Awkward for Everyone. If I act like oh, nbd, of course we’re both people that have to live somewhere and look this place is convenient to both of us, imagine that, whatever – there’s minimal Awkward Tone that gets applied over the whole situation, and we can both feel free to move on from the newness of the situation.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think being as matter of fact as possible is the key. You are both allowed to live in the same area as your boss OP. The more you treat this as perfectly normal, the more the boss will pick up on it.

        Smile if you see the boss, wave nonchalantly and get on with life. If you chance to be somewhere together, e.g. at a town hall type meeting or the local cinema, make small talk if it’s appropriate and move on. Behave as you would with other slight acquaintances and that should be fine.

  8. Observer*

    #4 – I’m not a fan of requiring employees to use their personal phones for work. However, check what app your company is using for authentication.

    If they are using either the Microsoft or Google Authenticator apps (each one has an app), I really would not spend the capital on this. Both apps work completely on WiFi, if you have that, and even if you must use cell data, these apps REALLY sip data. So you should not run into a cost.

    The other big issue with having employer apps on your phone is the potential for them to get information that they have not reason to have or to gain the ability to do things to / with your phone. However, neither authenticator poses a risk in those areas. Your employer never gets to see ANYTHING from your phone, nor does the app have the ability to use your phone or affect it.

    1. Beth*

      Agreed. I think a third-party app that’s solely for dual authentication isn’t that big a deal, personally. That’s not to say I like it; the whole process of having to have your phone on you and easily accessible to pull out every time you need to log into a work thing is obnoxious, and there are obvious flaws (what if your phone is dead? what if it breaks? what if you forget it one day? does that mean you just can’t work?). But from a privacy perspective, it doesn’t mean your employer has access to your phone or the ability to wipe it or anything like that.

      I’d be much, much more reluctant to download company-controlled software onto my personal device.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        My boss at my last job is one of those people who always has his phone in his hand. His favorite way to communicate is text, he is never without his phone.
        One day I asked him if he saw my text, and he said he forgot his phone!
        If he can forget it, anyone can. Beth makes a good point, but corporate will probably ignore it…

    2. Emma*

      Any good authentication app won’t need data after the initial setup. There might be some convenience features that only work with internet access – like being able to talk a notification to authenticate instead of typing in a code – but the way that 2FA works specifically does not require the token (your phone, in this case) to be online.

      1. English, not American*

        TOTP codes don’t require any kind of connection, to be specific, other kinds of 2FA do (like the notification kind). But TOTP is the most common kind. Text or emailed codes are less secure, and notification apps generally allow TOTP as an alternative.

    3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I use Google authenticator for several other things so it wouldn’t be a big deal to add work to it if that’s all they are asking for.

    4. LW #4*

      I hope this doesn’t come across as a criticism of everyone who’s trying to reassure me that my employer can’t see data from these authenticator apps, but I work in IT, I know a bit about data privacy, and I am no more comfortable with Google or Microsoft having my data than I am with my employer having it. Even if the app collects nothing else, its company will have access to my full name (from the work account), my employer’s name, my IP, and my private mobile number. I understand many people are not concerned about that, but for me, that’s a lot of data-mining potential.

      And to make things more complicated, there are two apps involved.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Two apps? Can you explain to your firm that they’re not making pizza here where you throw on multiple ingredients and hope they work together?

        1. LW #4*

          We have attempted to explain that lasagne with marshmallow topping is problematical, but they insist that two delicious things cannot be undelicious when paired.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Is it bad that when I read your comment I immediately thought ‘that’s definitely someone who’s been in IT a while!’. Solidarity mate, I know exactly where you’re coming from.

          2. That_guy*

            I’m stealing that phrase “Two delicious things cannot be undelicious when paired”

            1. Quill*

              I’m adding it to my game modding encyclopedia, along with the “Highlander principle” and “Load Order Failure”

      2. Partly Cloudy*

        “…I am no more comfortable with Google or Microsoft having my data than I am with my employer having it.”

        Personally, I’m far LESS comfortable with Google or MS having my data than with my employer having it. But I digress….

        1. Quill*

          At the most naieve baseline: if there were a company following me around vaccuming up my hair clippings, and I found out they were turning around and selling those? I’d have concerns.

          I don’t see why anyone has fewer concerns about app and social media related data mining: we’re paying for a service and people are sneakily (or not, these days) using us as their product, using as their proof of our consent terms of service that are changeable or voidable at any time on their end, while if we say “I’m uninstalling it, get rid of all my data” they don’t.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        It doesn’t count as criticism because you are pretty much just stating facts.

      4. Observer*

        but I work in IT, I know a bit about data privacy, and I am no more comfortable with Google or Microsoft having my data than I am with my employer having it

        Except that MS doesn’t get your data either. You don’t even need to have you cell number connected to the account. And the authenitcators are not IP based.

        If your office is using MS authenticator with a dongle and / or Office365 they have all of the other information anyway.

        What is the other app that the company is asking for?

        1. LW #4*

          I think you and I are talking about different kinds of data in our various interactions, and clarifying what I mean would make the general commentariat’s eyes glaze over so I shall leave it at that as an act of mercy. LOL

  9. Accessible Authentication*

    LW4: Many standard authenticator apps are completely inaccessible to screen readers, so in addition to “What would you do for employees who don’t have smart phones?” it might be worth asking your employer, “What would you do for employees who are blind?” This ADA concern (which wasn’t a hypothetical, we had several blind employees) was what eventually got my employer to hastily backtrack on their “you must install this app on your personal device” dictate and hand out hard security tokens instead.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      If the workplace has blind employees, sure. Otherwise it’s purely concern trolling.

      1. LW #4*

        But not having accessible options means employees who need accomodations can’t be hired, too. I don’t see how it’s concern trolling to point out problems with accessibility for future employees as well as existing ones. Part of my job involves assessing IT accessibility because you don’t want to build inaccessibility into your systems in the first place.

        And blind employees aren’t the only people who might need accomodations for visual impairment. For days surrounding migraines, my partner has auras and screen readers are a blessing.

        1. Quill*

          Exactly. Universalizing access and design only benefits us if it’s applied broadly. And I’m a big fan of making the fuss that makes someone else’s life easier.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh man, migraines and digital device screens are so not a good combination. Lots of sympathy to your partner; I just started getting the auras too.

      2. Quill*

        Not really, it’s way easier to preemptively ask about accessibility than it is to fight for an accomodation when a new process is finalized.

        This is why curb cuts are mandatory on ALL sidewalk intersections, not just ones that we know people with wheelchairs currently use often.

      3. iglwif*

        Nope–it’s alerting the company to an issue that it should be thinking about already but probably isn’t.
        If you’re thinking about accessibility and inclusive design now, you won’t be flailing and freaking out about how to accommodate a new hire who’s blind or has low vision in 2 years’ time.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Analogy: a company decides to put in work to make their workplace more inclusive. They don’t currently have any staff from marginalised groups.

        But it creates a better atmosphere. The staff know they’re more accepted overall, and that if they do have an issue it’ll be listened to. Later, the firm gets a more diverse workforce and word goes around that hey, this is a great company to work for. They attract more talent. They create better products.

    2. LW #4*

      Thank you! That’s what we did. They had no answer, and that’s why we’re still waiting on a solution and unable to access the systems in the meanwhile.

      The company is generally unaware of the accessibility consequences of decisions and that is indicative of their attitude towards employees in general.

      1. CCSF*

        FWIW the authentication process my employer uses gives options to receive a phone call (mobile or landline) if you don’t want to install the app. You might ask about that as an option.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I don’t have a smart phone and mentioned this as plans were underway to require 2FA to connect to our network. I asked for a dongle but instead we started using a system that uses a text message or phone call which my old phone can receive. I believe one of these would work for almost all people.

    4. Nightengale*

      I am not blind but need an external bluetooth keyboard to use the smartphone screen.

      Not only will my work not give me a keychain whatz-it
      They won’t let me TYPE the numbers I see on the phone screen onto my computer

      I have to hook up the bluetooth, turn off the annoying sound and press a whole bunch of keystrokes to get to the “agree” spot

      The only other option they offered me is calling my phone. The smartphone. Which I am not able to answer because, touchscreen.

      It’s a work device, but it’s still an accessibility nightmare. I work for a huge hospital system and they have 1 person in charge of accessibility for the whole system.

  10. Batgirl*

    OP1 is making some real assumptions about how much power HR has, and I’ve seen the same mistake elsewhere. I’m not sure where this idea comes from about HR being a sheriff who can ride in and restore all injustices.

    1. Not Australian*

      Especially bearing in mind the oft-quoted maxim that HR works for the employer, not the employee. Yes, they’re great for managing the day to day stuff – but given a conflict between employer and employee they are most often going to be on the ‘side’ of the employer.

    2. MK*

      In this case, I don’t even know what the OP expected HR to do. If the issue really was that her manager didn’t like her and wanted her out.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        There could have been a possibility of being transferred to a new manager or new department. But if that was an option, I’m guessing the OP would have been applying for an internal transfer.

    3. boo bot*

      I think that belief comes from a sense that there should be *someone* who can ride in and restore justice, and most people don’t have unions, so they’re looking for that someone within the company.

      Plus, HR is who you’re supposed to talk to about things like harassment and discrimination – it’s not a huge leap in logic to assume that they’re there to *help* with those things. I think it’s actually counter-intuitive, and pretty cynical, to assume the opposite – it’s just that in this case, the counter-intuitive and cynical answer happens to be correct.

      1. Sometime HM*

        I like boo bot’s reply. There should be someone like an employee advocate, but that is not HR unless you are being treated illegally. Not unfairly, just illegally.

    4. yala*

      “I’m not sure where this idea comes from about HR being a sheriff who can ride in and restore all injustices.”

      My guess? Feeling like surely there must be SOMEbody who can, and, well, they’re there.

      It’s a trap I’ve fallen before, and the whole desire to “Make things FAIR” can really make you bullheaded about a lot of things. Hopefully OP lets it go.

  11. Allonge*

    LW1 – will this HR rep getting fired help you in any way? Seriously, is there a concern that she will distribute your private info like this, or anything that will make it better for you if she no longer has a job at that company that fired you? It sounds like revenge because it’s not at all clear what you will get out of her getting fired, other than a sense of, well, now it s*cks for her too. That is revenge.

    If you have the energy, take the time to think about what went wrong between your boss and you instead. What should you look out for in your next job? Were there any warning signs, anything you can do differently?

    1. HD*

      I would start reflecting on your general relationships with people at work and how you treat them. The impulse to want other people to suffer like you have is alarming and really needs examining.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Don’t forget that in job interviews, you’re going to have to say something about the fact that you were terminated from your last position, and the interviewer is going to be looking for evidence of self reflection and honesty with yourself about what actually happened and what you would do differently next time. This isn’t just some abstract need for wisdom, this is a practical step to help get you back on the job searching track.

  12. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    I know what you mean about spending capital on authentication apps, however one office had a rule that mobile phones must always be switched off – if you forgot and it rang, or even pinged for a text, you were taken into a room and given a talking to, and e-mailed the phone policy to read. There would be exceptions made for emergencies, but you had to have a very good reason.

    Then, we needed to use authentication apps, and we had to have our phones switched on to receive the text. Seemed a bit cheeky.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Wow, that seems really weird. I mean, I think it’s polite to turn phones to silent so it’s less disruptive to coworkers, but why require a bunch of adults to turn off their phones completely? Were they suspicious that you would excessively handle personal business during work time?

    2. Elenna*

      …Wow. You’re grown adults, not high school kids! You’d think they could trust you to not excessively chat on your phone or whatever! Also, it’s not like emergencies are always expected in advance, that’s why they’re called emergencies. What if someone’s spouse was in a car accident? What if someone’s child fainted in gym class (especially if that employee was a single parent)? I’d be pretty unhappy with being forced to be uncontactable for 8+ hours a day.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        In a nutshell, no, we weren’t trusted not to be on the phone when we were at work.

  13. Dandy it is*

    LW2, I was hiring for a position and realized the candidate lived a street over from me adjacent to my dog walking route. We ended up hiring him as my direct report. I ran into him and his partner less than a handful of times in a multi-year period. Quick hello and everyone moved on.
    LW5 the candidate hired above was an entry level person and the other top candidate was a former director for whom the role would have been a step back. We had previously hired a person like the second candidate for prior open role who wanted to step back from responsibility and the fit was pretty good. For this open position, it was clear the former director needed a job…any job. He had been out of work for 8 plus months at that time. Ultimately, we determined the entry level candidate was the better long term fit. I’ve run into the more experienced candidate at industry events and he ultimately became a consultant which is very much inline with what he expressed in his interview and would absolutely not have been a fit for the open position. The hired candidate is still with our organization almost 10 years later. This would not have been the case for the more experienced candidate. Our slow to change organization would have been very trying for him.

  14. Amaranth*

    LW2, when you run into a manager or boss doing general Life Stuff, they rarely want to take time out for small talk, either. They have Life Stuff too! Smile and nod like you would with anyone you know, and keep moving. If you’re sick or at the pool, just assume everyone is an adult and behave accordingly.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Boss has a day off or part of a day off. is working from home, popped home to pick up something, went home for lunch…

        Those are reasons I’ve been home in the middle of the day.

  15. Myrin*

    Alison, regarding OP 3: If I’m reading correctly, the second interview was with the president, yes, but also again with the person OP’s husband would be reporting to, as in, they were both present.
    Despite having been reading this site for so long now I still never really know what exactly goes in which interview in the US (our system is quite different) but it seems to me that in that case, a question about benefits would be even less out of place? Or should that have been talked about in the initial interview already?

    1. Nikki*

      In my experience, benefits are usually discussed during the offer stage as part of the overall compensation package being offered. Like Alison said, LW’s husband should have contacted the headhunter after the interview if he was eager to get this information sooner.

      1. Townie*

        Yes, I think in the initial stages to see if you’re on the same page, or if you’re later in the process, it’s ok to ask the hiring manager or HR rep. Asking this of the President does seem a bit off to me but not deal-breakingly off. That said in my current role I’d just be sure to connect the candidate to someone who can answer accurately (I can’t).

    2. Rayray*

      For whatever reason, employers clutch their pearls and think it’s inappropriate for candidates to ask about compensation and benefits. I’ve seen many LinkedIn posts admonishing people for doing so because “they should be passionate about the job and pay shouldn’t matter” it’s a load of BS. The hiring system in the US is super messed up to say the least, it’s all a game of charades and following the script of saying the right things.

      1. Elenna*

        Somehow I don’t think the landlord will be impressed by the argument that they should be passionate about renting to me and my ability to pay rent shouldn’t matter! :P

    3. meyer lemon*

      While going to the recruiter directly probably would have been the best move, I can’t really fault the OP’s husband for not wanting to go through more than two interviews without knowing whether the compensation would be worth it to him. Particularly since the company sought him out in the first place, I’m feeling that the president’s silent treatment is both overblown and passive aggressive. Although as Alison mentions, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes.

  16. Introvert girl*

    4. I think this doesn’t apply to the EU due to the GDPR policy. But I guess you’re situated outside of that area :(

    1. LW #4*

      Unfortunately, yes. I live in an area where concerns about data privacy and data-mining are regarded as quaint and a sign one simply doesn’t understand technology.

      I work in IT. That’s precisely why I’m concerned. LOL

  17. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    LW1….yikes. I’m not sure why you think it was the HR rep’s job or obligation to keep you from getting fired. This letter is full of red flags that make me think the company may have had a legitimate reason for letting you go.

      1. Observer*

        I wouldn’t go quite that far. But, OP, I do think that even if you didn’t provide the subject line, your letter indicates that you were definitely part of the problem.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      I came here to say this. Folks who are combative by nature and searching for something to be upset about are not a good culture fit for many places.
      We recently let go during probation a hire who was excellent at tasks but argued basic standards, think printing the TPS reports on blue rather than green paper, with numerous coworkers using personal attacks. Team members dreaded interactions with her in an environment where support is highly valued. Getting along with coworkers and good soft skills IS part of the job in many companies.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I don’t want to pile on the OP, but I went through a situation where a manager didn’t like me and things spiraled out of control quickly. Part of it was that I was in my early 20’s and just couldn’t emotionally handle the situation maturely and I pretty much made the worst choices every time I had an opportunity to make a decision. I was an awesome employee, but those last months would not have looked good to an HR rep. I was being outright abused by my manager, and I became toxic in response. Any HR rep that stepped in at that point would not have considered a transfer, they would have chosen to let me go. (Mind you, it took 12 years before I was able to gain this hindsight.)
      HR should have done a better job, but the entire company was horrible and I shouldn’t expect one HR Rep that talked to me for 30 minutes to stand up against the mob and become a hero for me.

      1. Message in a Bottle*

        “the entire company was horrible and I shouldn’t expect one HR Rep that talked to me for 30 minutes to stand up against the mob and become a hero for me.”

        That’s true and completely realistic. But wouldn’t it be great if someone somewhere did? There have to be heroes somewhere.

        That all said, I wonder how and if these companies ever improve. Maybe no one can do anything about them but I understand wanting to have support in such situations but really the only true change is to be out of that place. And focus on one’s future. Gotta be your own superhero. It’s maddening, but true.

  18. Forrest*

    LW1, I totally understand why this would feel like a good idea, but bravo to you for having the self-awareness to run it by Alison first!

  19. Roscoe*

    #1. I really don’t understand your anger at the HR person. Getting fired sucks. But an HR rep can’t override your manager, which frankly they shouldn’t be able to. Also, as they say, HR is there to protect the company, not the individual. You seem to be directing all the anger to the wrong party. And using what was clearly a mistake to want to get her fired is overkill. She did nothing to you, and you want to be this malicious. I was laid off from a job a little ove a year ago, so I understand the feelings. But at least be mad at the right people.

    #2. It sounds like you already live near this person, not that they just moved in, correct? If so, how often did you see them before? Like, if you only saw them here and there, why do you think that magically with a new reporting structure you will see them more often. And even if you DID see them a fair amount, what exactly is your goal here? I mean, you can quit, you can move, or you can deal with it. Those are really your only options. But as Alison said, I have some friends who live in my neighborhood who I only see when I make plans with them. So not sure why you assume you will see him all the time.

    #3 I don’t get the anger here. This is a very valid question to ask. If the CEO thinks the 2 minutes it took out of the meeting for you to learn about benefits is a waste of his time, maybe he isn’t that great of a person to work for. Because in reality, without that question being answerd to your husbands desires, there may have been no more point in continuing in the process anyway. Interviewers need to really get over themselves. ESPECIALLY when someone was head hunted to the companny

    1. Gray Lady*

      Also, trying to leverage what could easily have been an honest if fairly serious administrative mistake into the basis for a revenge firing is not a good signal of LW’s state of mind in this.

    2. Lady Meyneth*

      That’s too harsh. LW certainly bears part of the blame, but attacking her without offering any advice doesn’t help.

    3. Bernice Clifton*

      I don’t think that’s fair. Clearly, the HR person *did* make a mistake here distributing that salary info and the OP had enough self-awareness to run it by Alison to see if her own experience was coloring how she should respond.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Wow, that’s really excessive. OP sounds like someone who doesn’t fully understand what HR does. Feeling vindictive — that’s not good, but I gotta say, I’ve *felt* that way, haven’t acted on it and knew I shouldn’t. OP is asking about that.

      Also, feeling angry and vengeful after getting let go is hardly a measure of how good an employee OP was previously.

  20. Erin*

    For the cell phone app look at state laws. In Illinois if we require an employee to use a personal cell phone we have to reimburse a portion of the cell phone bill. When we initiated an app for health screening due to covid we gave employees the option of installing on their phone for convenience but also have a tablet available for use so its not a requirement.

    1. LW #4*

      Thank you! Any idea which state’s laws apply if the company is based in one and the employees in another?

      I would not want to put these apps on my mobile even if the company paid part of the bill, but I’ll bet the company would back off the requirement pretty quickly if they had to pay for it.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        not a lawyer but I would think it would be whatever state the employee is working in.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Move on.

    #2 – Say hello and move on.

    #3 – It depends. Did Husband open the interview with, “so, CEO, how many vacation days do I get?” If so, not a good look. Sounds, though, like Husband may have dodged a bullet.

    #4 – If you have an old phone kicking around, use one of those. Or maybe get a cheap refurb specifically for this purpose.

    #5 – Another thought: unemployment. Maybe people applying for unemployment insurance benefits live in state with requirements to apply for X number of jobs per week. They’re overqualified but need to show the search.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Good point about unemployment. For high level positions in certain industries, you can exhaust all the relevant postings in a few weeks. In a slow economy, new postings don’t pop up often enough to meet the unemployment quota. The unemployment office’s goal is to get you off unemployment so they expect you to apply for everything. Considering the COVID economy, there are probably a lot of people in this position.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, the more specialized the field, the more likely you’re jumping through circus hoops and hoping that people will actually sort their candidates and throw out your Teapot hydraulics engineer resume that’s a candidate for “liquids taste tester” when you have to make a quota of unemployment-proveable applications, instead of making it to an offer for half of what you’re getting on unemployment and then being dinged for “refusing a work offer.” (Depends on your state / country employment system whether or not it’s better to wildly overshoot and be screened out than deal with a serious offer that is underpaid or has other significant drawbacks.)

        1. Cat Tree*

          When I was unemployed 10 years ago, there was a specific policy that I didn’t have to accept an offer below a certain amount based on my previous salary. But I still had to apply to jobs to prove I was trying, I guess.

          1. Quill*

            I’m about to hop right back on that merry-go-round. (Yay, contracts… Anyone hiring a science writer? I need to change fields or spontaneously manifest a pHD to get a living wage that doesn’t call me in for a meeting about whether or not I’m being booted every six months…)

  22. LW2*

    Thanks for the feedback everyone and Alison for answering my question.

    During our restructure, I *may* be able to push to stay with my old boss if I keep my same position. I was likely due a promotion which would be with the new boss who lives a few doors down. I was considering not accepting the promotion because the whole situation made me so uncomfortable, but some of the comments have definitely helped me feel more comfortable with things.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Noooo… don’t give up a promotion because of this! (and congrats on that by the way).

      Think of it this way… you never know what the future holds so you could turn down this promotion and later on find that you report to new guy anyway. Now you’re in the same spot with no promotion. (I have seen stranger things happen with reporting structures and reorgs.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Your boss also might be considering moving in a month or two! You never know! Don’t give up advancement prospects for this, it’s definitely not likely to be a huge deal.

  23. Salad Daisy*

    #4 My company tried to do something like this with a “Wellness” app. “I’m sorry, I really do not know how to use my phone other than making calls. I don’t know how to download apps.” I just kept saying that when asked and was very glad I did as one of the asks on the app was to take a photo of your bed to make sure you were sleeping properly. Also posting pictures of your meals to make sure you were eating properly. Or, “oops. sorry, my phone is broken and I cannot afford a new one.” If the company will not provide a phone, you could get one of those cheap ones and use it just for work.

    1. EPLawyer*

      No one sees my bed except my husband, thank you very much. There are other ways to determine if you are sleeping properly than seeing the bed. because your bed alone does not determine if you sleep properly.

      1. Observer*

        here are other ways to determine if you are sleeping properly than seeing the bed.

        That’s not really relevant. Since when is it the employer’s place to decide if someone is sleeping properly?

        This app is beyond inappropriate. Just the idea of requiring people to install a wellness app is waaaay over the top. Adding something like this?! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

    2. Mockingjay*

      *scrapes eyebrows off ceiling.

      But truly, is the answer to company intrusiveness that we all have to buy or resurrect old flip phones and pay for ANOTHER cell phone plan?

    3. LW #4*

      That is unbelievably creepy of the app and of your company for pushing it. I’m so sorry, and I’m glad you’re able to keep it out of your personal life!

      (I probably couldn’t convince the new company that I don’t know how to install apps, given that my job title gives me away, but “I’m sorry, my memory is actually over capacity by a startling amount right now and I’m not able to install anything else” might work. Thank you for the idea! I’m hoping that they’ll care these apps aren’t usable by screen readers, but…)

    4. Observer*

      Even in the US, this app sounds like it’s opening the company to all sorts of liability.

      I would ask “what were they thinking”, but I suspect that the answer is that no one was actually thinking.

      1. JustaTech*

        Exactly. Clearly whoever wrote that “wellness” app didn’t do a very good job of testing it with the actual public, which would have reasonably responded with “what? no” to the bed photo and the food photo.

        It’s one thing if maybe your sleep specialist asks for a picture of your sleeping space, but they’re a professional that you have chosen to work with. An app? Nope.

        (My work got a “wellness” app/website this year that sent me *several* emails asking why I hadn’t signed up. Surprisingly, “you’re too pushy” wasn’t an option, nor was “this is not what I want from my employer”.)

    5. iglwif*

      wtf kind of “wellness” app is that?!

      we have one at my work but it just plays you music to help you focus and stuff like that, it doesn’t *ask for pictures of your private spaces*, holy doodle.

    6. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Oh God, that sounds awful. My bed is messy and I don’t want people to know how I live. Also diet stuff stresses me out so I can imagine snapping a picture of a meal that might not be the healthiest but is what I can make with my capabilities and feeling judged

    7. Environmental Compliance*

      That is….. appalling.

      Sounds like an opportunity to show off my horrendous photography skills out of pure stubbornness. It just asked for a picture, I’m not good at pictures, hence you get a picture of 2″ square of what may or may not be sheets.

  24. Anon4this*

    LW1 is interesting to me, because it sounds like they expected HR to act more like a union rep in this situation? I wonder if they come from a background where unions are more common? A union rep would have an obligation to try to help you keep your job, but HR doesn’t have that same obligation (and most likely doesn’t have the power to do that even if they wanted to). Either way, trying to get them fired is not the answer.

  25. hbc*

    OP5: If I were to job search again, I would be looking to make a major step back/down. I’m in a financial position where I don’t need to be maximizing my potential earnings, and I would be looking to reduce stress and only be responsible for my own work. Whether I could adequately explain that to a hiring manager, I’m not sure. My experience would certainly help me outperform any entry level person, but they wouldn’t know if I was too set in my ways or unable to adjust to taking orders rather than giving them.

    But really, there’s a lot of competition out there right now, and it sucks. Sorry.

    1. Sleepy*

      Yeah, try to explain as well as you can! Any indication that you understand the position you’re applying for and aren’t just spraying resumes every which way will be helpful.

      I’m managing hiring for a low-level, low-paid position (it’s what we can afford and we clearly stated the salary range in the ad) that attracted some…crazy qualified candidates, none of whom customized their cover letters at all. I felt it would be a waste of time even to interview them but others on the committee overruled me so we’ll see.

  26. Person of Interest*

    #5 – you may also have career-switchers in the pool who were managers or higher in their previous track and are now stepping back down a level to start a new path.

    1. CCSF*

      Exactly this. Especially if a career change is in play.

      Ex: After 10 years of success in management and sales, I became a teacher. Meaning, at 31 and with 10 years of proven leadership, excellent reviews, and work history, while I was applying for jobs alongside 21YO with only hourly jobs on their resume. I was overqualified in one area but at the same level in another.

      If it’s a career change, they may show senior on LI but in actuality they aren’t for the open position.

  27. spek*

    From what I have read, and there are probably people here more qualified to weigh in, is that you never install your work email account in your phone’s mail system. Use the Outlook App instead. The phone’s resident email system allows too much control, including the ability to wipe your phone remotely. The App doesn’t have that level of access.

  28. James*

    LW #4: This is one advantage of having a flip phone: I can’t do apps. I’ve gotten some pushback, but frankly I’m quirky enough to get away with it.

    1. JustaTech*

      One of my friends (who works in tech and I know from our tech school) finally got her parents to get cell phones (of any kind) specifically so they could install our state’s COVID notification app.

      She said it’s been wild teaching them how to use the phones, when they aren’t familiar with any kind of non-desktop device.

      If a flip phone works for you, awesome, keep rocking it!

  29. Dumbphone*

    LW4 My partner doesn’t have a smart phone (by choice, we’re both Millennials). It was actually a problem for a while because his job was requiring people to fill out a COVID symptoms questionnaire online and then present the cleared form to security. He couldn’t do that as he didn’t have a smart phone, so they had to print off a stack of paper versions of the questionnaire and hand them to him. It took far more work than it should have for them to provide that alternative.
    (He’s working from home now. The verification app his job is using works with his new tablet.)

  30. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW4 I would look at the apps that they are asking you to download. IF it is one that wipes the phone I would push back, especially if you do not do work on your personal phone. I can see a company that is taking over another not realizing that the new employees don’t have company phones or don’t access work stuff from their phones.

    However, if its just an authenticator app its not that big of a deal. I’ve had to use DUO in my last 2 jobs. This current one has the option of getting a little fob that it will send a code to, rather than text or push a notification to your phone. We even require students to download the app to their phones, or they can buy a fob. At my old job, we could either download the app or have the option to have the authenticator call our desk phones. Maybe ask if there are other options.

  31. Alex*

    I will say that at least in my field, the “required” experience that they advertise in job postings is well below what they will actually hire for. For example, they’ll say “Entry level, high school degree required” but there’s no way they’d hire someone without a few years of experience and at least a BA (and often a Master’s).

    They do this so that the job is graded at a low salary, and they know they will get a million “overqualified” applicants so it won’t be a problem.

    Yes, this is crappy.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My field is the exact opposite. The only way to be fully qualified for a senior-level position is through reincarnation, and you may well be retirement age before you’re qualified for an entry level programming job–if you start in middle school.

  32. Ray Gillette*

    LW2, you’d be surprised how infrequently you see the same people by chance, even when you’re close together. I used to live in the same neighborhood – not quite as close as you to your new boss, but only a couple of blocks apart – from one of my direct reports. I only ever ran into him out and about once in the almost three years we both lived in that neighborhood.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      My next-door-neighbor and I see each other more at the grocery store than we do at home. (Well, before the pandemic, that is.)

  33. Maude*

    LW1 – Just weighing in on the salary info that was included. In my state that information is required to be provided to employees over 40 I believe. When my husband was laid off from his job in 2020 similar age and salary info was provided, I assume to prove they were not discriminating based on age. Someone else may be more qualified to speak on this than me, but it may not have been sent in error.

    1. D3*

      Not even remotely the same. HR sent the LW her own information. That’s all good.
      But HR also sent her (remember. the LW is no longer an employee of the company) the salary information for several OTHER employees. It’s the other employees information that was a problem.

      There’s no requirement that a company send private salary information of other people to former company employees who don’t need it to do their job. The job they don’t even have any more.

      1. Maude*

        I researched it more. I believed he received the information as part of his severance package as part of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). I’m not saying what she did was right or wrong, but could have been another one of those misguided things an inexperienced HR person does.

        1. JustaTech*

          Depending on who you work for in the US, your salary information might be *required* to be public information. When I worked for a state university every single person who worked for the (giant) university had their salary information published (I think every two years), by law.

          The difference between the postdoc, our boss, and his boss was kind of horrifying.

          1. JelloStapler*

            Right?? Or if you see how LOW some salaries are in higher education. Makes you wonder where the tuition money is going.

  34. Jennifer Strange*

    OP #1 – In addition to what everyone else has said, I wanted to point out that not getting along with your boss can warrant termination depending on the situation. You don’t go into specifics, but if you’re pushing back on every new process they implement, fighting every project they give you, and/or being generally antagonistic toward them…yeah, that would be a reason to fire you. Not saying that was the case here (again, you don’t go into specifics), but one or more of those could have been what resulted in your termination. So I would reflect back on your relationship and whether there are things you could do better in a future position. And this isn’t a matter of who is “right” or “wrong” about something; it’s that this person is your boss and ultimately has the final say in things. If that is going to push you to behave a certain way it may mean that you and the position are not a mutually strong fit.

  35. Skippy*

    LW5: Here’s my perspective, as a senior-level person who has been looking for jobs for many months after being laid off. There are a lot fewer senior-level positions out there than there are lower level jobs, so sometimes I do apply for jobs that are a step or two below where I was before I was laid off. For the most part, I only apply if I’m genuinely interested in the work I’d be doing and/or the organization I’d be working for, but to be honest, meeting the unemployment work search quota is frequently a factor in my decision to apply for lower-level positions.

    If it makes you feel any better, I rarely get beyond the first interview for these jobs, if I even get a call at all: people are understandably wary of hiring someone who is overqualified. I have a much higher response rate for jobs that are at an appropriate level, and every job where I’ve been a finalist has been at least a lateral move, if not a step up. If it were up to me I would just focus on applying for these positions, but the unemployment office doesn’t really leave me with much choice.

    Good luck with your search!

  36. Grayling38*

    #1 – I agree with everyone who says that wanting someone to get fired for revenge is appalling, and also that it’s unlikely the HR rep had as much influence as the OP thinks in their firing. But the information the HR Rep sent was a serious breach of data protection and it needs to be reported. I would be beside myself if I realised someone else had erroneously received my salary, bonus details and other employee information in this way. It would certainly be at minimum a disciplinary issue anywhere I have worked, especially for an HR Rep who likely has access to a lot of sensitive data. The revenge and wanting the person to feel how they do might be horrible motivations and should never be reasons to report someone, but sensitive data breaches definitely are!

    1. Peachtree*

      Yes completely agree! Someone in HR once emailed a copy of all salary data to a family member to try and sort out an Excel formula gone wrong – and was fired! This is a disciplinary issue and in the EU would be a serious breach of GDPR. Perhaps the motives are wrong but you should let the HR team – or at least the person sending the email – that you have this information.

    2. kittymommy*

      Definitely depends on the employer. This would not be any sort of breach where I’m at. Everything (save SS#’s) is public record. There’s a handful of exemptions but that is only related to personal contact information. Salary and benefits are available to anyone who requests it.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, the LW actually should alert someone to this error so the company can do their best to make sure that everyone’s information is secure as possible, and that such a thing can’t happen again. Maybe the company can provide a year of credit monitoring or some such thing.

      How the company chooses to address the issue is up to them so the LW wouldn’t get the desired revenge-fantasy payback, but it would be a mitzvah for other people who might potentially have their data exposed.

    4. Observer*

      The OP should NOT inform anyone. Because it’s quite clear that the only reason they want to do this is to get the HR person in trouble. There is no way that this is going to wind up positively for the OP – whether they hear back from the employer or not.

      In the US this information is absolutely NOT protected. Unless there is additional information, like SS#’s or medical information, this information may actually even public.

  37. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP1, it’s interesting to me that you seem to be angrier with the HR rep than you are with your boss – the person who actually fired you. For all you know, the HR rep tried to coach your boss, or suggested putting you on a PIP, and was rebuffed. And maybe HR did nothing except to facilitate a decision already made, which is part of their job. As so many others have stated, HR can advise your manager, but won’t usually override the decision to fire someone unless it’s for an illegal or indefensible reason. HR is not there to be your specific advocate unless it benefits the company’s goals and initiatives, or you are being targeted for illegal/indefensible reasons.

    Anyway, please reconsider your plan. It’s been several months since you left, and your plan will only reassure the company your termination was warranted.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Good observation. Anecdotally, I’ve seen a lot of cases where the person who fails to prevent a problem, even if they tried to do so, ends up taking far more of the blame than the person who actually caused the problem in the first place.

  38. Miss Muffet*

    I worked for my next door neighbor for a couple of years. They were my neighbor first, and while I think it helped me get the job, it wasn’t a shoo-in. It was a bit tricky at first, because we were used to talking over the fence about stuff, to learn to keep the job talk at work and not talk about it at all at home. I’d say we had about a month of awkwardness before we managed to make the separation pretty consistent. That also meant not talking about my kids babysitting their kids at work. Just had to draw the line.
    For things like the pool, I’d say, it’s like a lot of things where it’s as awkward as you make it. Just say hi and move on.
    For things like them not seeing their car in your driveway if you’re out sick, I think you’re way overthinking it. Alison is right – if he’s doing that you have bigger problems with him. He likely is too busy with his own stuff to pay that level of attention to you.

  39. ITguy*

    Just so everybody knows, if you have your work’s Exchange or 0365 mail on your cell phone, it give the ability to factory reset the phone. There is no way around this last I checked. Keep that in mind.

    1. Rayray*

      This is good to know. I didn’t install the app but instead get text messages. I guess I should consider myself lucky that my fingerprint sensor was finicky and I couldn’t get the app to download while on the phone with the IT on boarding person.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      My recollection is this is a setting on the employer’s exchange server. They enable or disable it. An individual user cannot. You either OK it when you connect your account, or you don’t.

    3. Waffle Cone*

      Yikes – good to know. Thanks for this. I have separate phones and was considering installing O365 on my personal phone for convenience, but yeah.. probably not a great idea.

    4. hbc*

      I’m curious whether there are actual cases of this being deployed by companies on personal phones when there wasn’t up-front notification. No one needs to ignore their own risk assessment, but I personally prefer to know how *likely* something is versus whether it is possible.

      1. Observer*

        It depends on the company. There are employers I would absolutely NOT trust on this. Others would, I believe, be responsible.

        The only time I’ve ever wiped a personal phone is when the person told me that their phone was lost. This has only happened once or twice over a looong time. I might do this if there were an immediate “walk someone out the door” firing for cause. But also, everyone who puts our email on the phone KNOWS that this is a possibility and we do NOT require staff to do this. We allow it for their convenience. And some of our staff have chosen not to put email on their personal phones.

    5. Quill*

      Lovely, glad I still work in settings where the bosses are (rightfully) too concerned that using our own devices is too much of a security risk to THEM for them to try and offload the security and cost risk to us.

  40. RC Rascal*

    LW1: it’s important to understand that when an employee departs an employer, especially under any sort of controversial circumstance, any further communication from this employee is like to be disregarded as a “ disgruntled former employee “.

    Routine inquiries about benefits, references, etc. fall outside this. Anything else you say gets dismissed, even if it is valid.

    1. Liane*

      The most you could probably do & not be seen as disgruntled or vindictive is to reply **to the HR rep only!** “I don’t think attachment was intended for me. Could you please make sure this was the correct document?” (No CCs, BCCs, or forwards, to anyone, either!)
      But you’re better off forgetting about it and leaving it to Karma, Judgment Day, etc. to sort out.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Yes, well said. This professionally lets the HR rep know it happened so they can be extra careful in the future (which SHOULD BE the whole point of pointing out the mistake if revenge is removed).

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Agree. OP1, whether your firing was justified or not, an aggressive response is not going to get HR fired as well, it’s just going to get you on some sort of watch list for the worksite. Take a deep breath, yell at an inanimate object, and move on. Move forward not back with this situation.

  41. MissDisplaced*

    I know you’re pissed. I totally get it. But please just let it go.
    If you live in the US, we have “at will” work, and basically companies or managers can fire you for… well anything (unless you’re a protected class). This includes even just “not liking you” or “attitude” or even for “fit.” It’s not always fair and it sucks because you probably didn’t actually DO anything. Unfortunately, this is just one of the things we all have to deal with in the working world.

  42. Quill*

    #4 Our covid tracker app was work-required, but we do have work-arounds for it. And I (vaguely) trust that this is a one-off due to the pandemic, since nothing else like it has ever come up. So it’s worth really looking into the permissions and possible work-arounds on this app, and sorting them into whether or not they’re phone security risks or not.

  43. Maintaining my amateur status for the privacy olympics*

    I disagree slightly with the answer to LW #1, although I agree in spirit with most of what Alison said. The HR rep did nothing wrong TO the letter writer, and doesn’t deserve to be “punished” for them losing their position. The difficulty in this situation is that the HR rep has inadvertently caused a data breach – she provided personal information re other former employees to a recipient who was not authorized to receive that information. The severity of this type of breach is going to depend a bit on where the company is located, the size of the company, what industry/sector, and whether the information on the forms qualifies as “sensitive,” (salary and other financial information generally is) but it is still a problem. This is very possibly something that the employer would be required to report to a regulator or a state AG (if in the US). The employer might also have internal policies that require notifying the individuals whose information was breached be notified as well, and that the HR rep receive some kind of additional privacy training.
    If I was the LW, I think the right thing to do would be to reply to the email letting the rep know that the attachment contained information not intended for me. I’d request a re-send with a corrected attachment, and let them know I will delete all copies once I’ve received the updated information.

    1. MollyPollyTutu*

      That was my first thought too – that is a privacy data breach and that needs to be addressed. I would absolutely let the organization know that it occurred, not because I want the HR person dealt with but because privacy needs to be a priority for every organization.

  44. Bernice Clifton*

    LW 1, I’m sorry that you got fired.

    As Alison and others explained, it wasn’t the HR Rep’s job to stop your termination even if she had the power to do so.

    The scary thing about being an adult human is that there’s always a possibility of something really, really crappy happening to us that either isn’t in our control or once we realize it WAS in our control, it’s too late to do anything about it.

    So Scenario 1: You didn’t do anything that warranted being fired; your old boss was just a jerk who was out to get you. This doesn’t change what the HR rep may have been able to do or should have done for you. If your boss was jerk who didn’t like you, the problem would not have magically disappeared by transferring to a different boss. Your old boss would still be there and your feud would have been known about.

    Scenario 2: You did something to warrant some of the responsibility of your poor relationship with your boss that led to the termination. If your boss hired you, what do you think changed after the interview? How have you handled it in the past when you didn’t get along teachers or neighbors or relatives? What worked for you and what didn’t? Getting fired is horrible in so many ways, but the good news is that now you can a re-set somewhere else where you don’t have this history.

  45. Barefoot Librarian*

    LW2 – I expect it’ll be a non-issue. I’m in a small college town. My director AND two of my immediate coworkers live in my neighborhood. Everyone passes my house on the way into work since I live on the main thoroughfare in and out. I’m habitually a 5-10 minute late person (yay ADHD lol) but no one has said a thing to me. I don’t think they even notice that my car is in the driveway still when they pass by. About the only times our living proximity has come up is if we are talking about something weird in that happened in the neighborhood (someone ranting on the neighborhood Facebook page or a bear raiding someone’s trash — yes, that happened), if someone needs a ride home because their car is in the shop, or if someone needs their plants watered while on vacation. Otherwise we just wave if we see each other. Don’t worry too much!

  46. JSPA*

    As this comment doesn’t seem to have posted to the thread, and as the thread may be removed, for a growing set of negative comments, I’m making it a stand-alone.

    LW1, the people here have your success and happiness and future at heart when we say,

    1. you have a deeply unusual (and factually incorrect) take on how HR works, and on what’s required for a firing to be appropriate. If you’re in the USA, not in Montana, and not protected by a written contract or union agreement, your boss can legally fire you for any reason (or for none at all), so long as those reasons are not because of your race (any race!), your gender (any), your religion (ditto), or some other protected class. “Doesn’t work well with you” is absolutely adequate. “Doesn’t like your choice of hats,” while ridiculous, is nevertheless legal.

    2. you know you’re feeling vindictive–OK, so self-knowledge is good, and it’s your ticket out of this situation. But

    a) you’re literally considering trying to get someone fired. That is, you’re taking a reasonably normal “still pissed at everyone involved” reaction that should hit you and then pass in a matter of a couple of seconds, and writing in to an advice column about it, because you might actually do that thing. Despite having enough self-knowledge to know you’re feeling vindictive. Pay attention to your self awareness, and Don’t Do That Thing.

    b) you’re considering doing it in a situation where it may make the HR person look bad (a moment of carelessness), but it will make you look much worse (both vindictive, and oddly / inappropriately invested in the people of your old company after being let go).

    c) you seem specifically unaware that unawareness itself is a big problem in an employee; that vindictiveness itself is a bigger problem than practically any unintentional passing mistake; that people who are valued for their attitude, perceptiveness, willingness to follow directions and skills are forgiven many more small slips than people who see any level of combativeness (or palpable mutual dislike) as an OK dynamic between an employee and their boss.

    Those are problems that will drag you down; they may already have dragged you down. (Can’t say more than that, as this is a time when many people are being fired for all kinds of reasons.)

    Except for special cases (someone on an assembly line who has minimal contact with other workers; someone doing accounting, minimal contact with anyone but computers; someone coding, minimal contact with anyone but computers) the way people avoid being fired is not, “never make a mistake.” Nor, “make fewer mistakes than other people get away with.”

    It’s, “be a valued and appreciated person at work by not only doing overall good work, but by making it clear that you value and appreciate the people around you.” If you know you and your boss are grinding on each other, that either needs to be fixed, or else one of you will likely be heading to the door–and by “one of you,” I mean, “you.”

    LW1, please take this to heart: If some past job (or second hand experience through family and friends) has formed your understanding of “how jobs work,” it’s not a good model for how most jobs work. If friends are giving you advice, they may be good friends, but they’re not good sources of information. If your inner sense of “how I think jobs should work” is the basis, then that’s also not serving you well. This is something you must retool.

    Alison has given examples in the past of how to write a non-snarky letter to an ex-boss (wherein you state that you’ve done some re-assessing, now realize your take on the situation was off, that in retrospect you appreciate their guidance and what they were trying to tell you) may eventually be in order. For now, letting go of the anger and any misplaced vindictiveness is the first order of business. Gaming through how to consistently feel and display appreciation for people in your workplace, even in those rare circumstances where you strongly-yet-respectfully disagree, would be a worthwhile next step.

  47. BigRedGum*

    #4: I really want to know what happens when an employee doesn’t have a smart phone. in my team of 13 people, 2 people don’t. one is a younger person who just refuses to pay for one, and one is an older person who doesn’t want one.
    some of the companies we work with do require app verification, and so far we’ve been able to have someone else log in or something, but i’ve just been wondering about it.

  48. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    OP #3, I think asking the CEO about benefits is possibly a bigger deal than Alison suggests. Depending on the type of sales you’re doing you’re probably expected to have a lot of social intelligence and understand when and with whom to focus on high-level big picture stuff, and when/with whom to get into the nitty gritty details. I can certainly see a situation where a perhaps graceless question about benefits could go over like a lead balloon and make the CEO question how you’d handle complicated negotiations and conversations with high level clients. I know in my role one big off-key question like that could certainly put a candidacy in jeopardy, especially if there are other strong candidates. I’m so sorry but this might be a lesson for your next job opportunity.

  49. engineerwhodoesnotlookatmyshoes*

    LW2: I am surprised that no one else commenting had an experience similar to mine. A former boss, before they were my boss, asked me about living in my neighborhood and in particular on my street just a few houses down. They bought the house and everything was fine and not weird at all. Then, they became my boss and the weirdness began. The casual meeting when out walking our dogs and a quick hello or chat turned into them appearing daily at the end of my driveway walking their dog when I left for work. They changed their walking route to make this happen.

    This made both my spouse and I very uncomfortable. Not to mention our dog who would bark at them. This went on for a year until they were promoted to a different position. They stopped the daily appearances at the end of my driveway and my chance encounters dramatically reduced. At this point since I was no longer working for them, I stopped friendly waving or saying hello and started ignoring them completely. They finally caught on and we now ignore each other like complete strangers.

  50. LMM*

    Adding another perspective for LW5: I’m job-hunting with several (15) years in one field, and a year in another – I made a good-for-me but ill-timed career switch about 6 months pre-pandemic, then got laid off.

    I can’t find work. Anywhere. In either of the industries where I have experience. In the one where I have more experience, there are few openings, poorly paid, and with terrible hours and benefits. I’m largely unwilling, at this point in my life, to take those jobs. In the field where I have less experience, there are more jobs, but most are lower-level than the one from which I was laid off. I’ve applied for some entry-level work because a steady paycheck would be really helpful right now. In this case, I’m actually hoping that having less experience in the field will help me, and that they can figure out later that I had a whole other career and now I’m in my 40s with a kid I’m trying to support once I’m hired. The disadvantage here is that there are SO many candidates for these roles that the hiring managers can afford to be extremely picky, and I’ve had my experience overlooked in some cases in favor of someone who had extremely specific industry experience or an extremely specific degree. (I’ve also been told in a few cases that I’m too expensive or I’ll be bored with the work, or both, which, you know, fair.)

    I would guess that I’m not your main competition here, but as Alison said, it’s those people with some experience that happens to be super specific to these roles that is, and that it pays to be picky and to write really specific, great cover letters.

    1. twocents*

      Yep. I know of people who lost their job, but ended up back at thr company in a different, lower paying job. I’m sure it’s frustrating for the job seekers who had to go up against a guy with 25 years experience, but I don’t blame him. The mortgage company wants their check.

    2. Argh!*

      The gutting of middle management due to “flattening the organizational chart” has left a lot of us in this situation. It’s discriminatory from both the old and potential employer. What are we supposed to do after losing our status, our income, and our retirement funds (which can be withdrawn for emergencies, such as a layoff)?

      And why is Alison describing this situation like it’s a good thing?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t express an opinion either way on whether it’s a good thing, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to there. I do think it’s a reasonable thing, though, to be wary about hiring very overqualified candidates unless they proactively explain why the job would be the right fit for them.

        1. Argh!*

          Why shouldn’t an overqualified candidate be considered on an equal basis with any other candidate?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Because when you’re overqualified, hiring managers will assume you’ll be bored or quick to take another job unless you explain why that’s not the case. I don’t make this system; I’m just telling you how it works.

  51. Des*

    >Why do people apply for jobs beneath their level?

    OP#5 imagine two years have passed and you are now a person with work experience. You lose your job. You still need to eat, right? That’s why people sometimes will apply for these entry-level jobs, especially in during a pandemic.

    I hope you can land a good job!

    1. Argh!*

      Seriously. Management jobs are being cut, and all those people who are being laid off are competing for an ever-shrinking job market. The management jobs I’ve applied for were filled by internal candidates. I have given up applying for management jobs completely due to that trend, and here I’m learning that I’m not supposed to apply for the crumbs that have been left by the gutting of middle management? Someone who is under 25 can stay on their parents’ health insurance. Someone who has been laid off before retirement age is just totally screwed. I would feel zero guilt taking a job that someone right out of college has applied for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No one has said you aren’t supposed to apply for those jobs. You just need to clearly explain why you’re interested in them despite having a different experience profile than they might expect, so they don’t assume you’ll be bored/still looking for something else/etc.

        1. Argh!*

          This seems ageist to me. When writing a cover letter, I always say what interests me about a job. Why should an older employee have to basically apologize for not fitting a pre-conceived notion when an under-qualified person wouldn’t have to apologize for taking a step up?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s not about age.

            When you’re overqualified, hiring managers will assume you’ll be bored or quick to take another job unless you explain why that’s not the case. Again, I don’t make this system; I’m just telling you how it works.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve applied for jobs I was massively over experienced for. But I made a point of explaining why.

        First was when I switched careers (virology to IT). I knew I had to start again at the bottom.

        Second was when I was just burnt out from my job, to the point of health issues and wanted something that I could work hard at but with fewer responsibilities on my shoulders.

        Fully expect if I’d sent in my CV with no explanation it would have been ignored.

  52. twocents*

    Re #2: I live across the street from a manager (not my manager, but a manager within my org structure). I see him maybe twice a year, even with us having similar work hours. Unless your boss is a creep, which you’d probably know already, nothing is going to change.

  53. Argh!*

    “Most commonly, employers will disregard applicants who are highly overqualified and don’t explain why they’re interested in the job anyway.”

    How is this not age discrimination?

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s not. And I’m saying this from the perspective of being over 40 and having had applied for lower level jobs. All you have to do is explain why.

  54. Can Man*

    It’s worth doing some research into whether the authentication apps use techniques compatible with other apps if your problem is trusting the app and not something like how much memory it eats up. I didn’t want Microsoft’s Authenticator to have access to my phone or even phone number, so I used the Tofu app, which is an open source app that uses the same TOTP technique most authentication apps use. I don’t know if that’ll solve your second app issue, but it’s worth a little research into whether its techniques can be replicated in a more trustworthy app.

  55. Jessica Fletcher*

    #5 – Few people work long term for the same company these days, like they did in the past. Consider reframing how you think about that.

  56. JelloStapler*

    LW1: While a feeling or temptation to “get back at someone” is human and a result of being upset about how the situation played out- acting on it is another issue. The letter makes me wonder a little what “didn’t get along with my manager” entailed. That said, it’s human to feel a bit resentful and I hope you are talking it out with friends or family to let those feeling run their course- if not, I would consider if you need more resources to move through this.

    LW4: We have a two-factor app on our phones in order to log in to a sensitive part of our organization’s record-keeping site for our students and employees. We also had the option to program our office phones to call us so we can press a key instead of the app signaling a response.

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