pretending not to know my old boss, waiting for a ride after an interview, and more

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

1. Can I pretend not to know who my old boss is?

I come asking for permission to be insanely petty to my old boss. I want your blessing.

Last year, we had a new director on my team for about seven months. She started when we were all remote, so I’ve never met her in person. We also never did video calls, so we’ve not even e-met face to face. She didn’t even introduce herself or get to know us when she started. She sucked. She went on leave for a month last fall, and then ghosted us for two weeks when she came back and then the chief of staff announced she was moving into a different role. She literally never acknowledged it with us and just bounced without a word. She’s been gone about as long as she was our boss.

Next month we’re going to start returning to the office, and I want to act like I don’t know who she is if I run into her. Nothing mean! Just a serene “oh it’s nice to meet you” and give zero impression I know she was my boss. I don’t have any working relationship with her now, I will never ask her for a reference, and I’ll do nothing catty to her. I just want one really petty interaction to convey how much she sucked at her job.

Is this allowed? May I be this petty at work?

If it will bring you some satisfaction after a frustrating seven months, I give you my blessing. Frankly, it might go right over her head! But in your head, it’s a pretty precise hit on her lack of contact with you. Also it’s funny.

If anyone is wondering why this is different from last week’s letter from the manager who wanted to ice out her employee during the employee’s last two days: that was someone who wanted to be unkind to someone she had authority over. This, on the other hand, is not a misuse of authority. It’s also quite mild. It’s the difference between punching down and punching flicking up.

2. I’m being tortured by endless revisions

I work in a department with five others, including my manager and one subordinate. Our last project was huge and the schedule unreasonably tight. It included the production of over 100 videos in several courses, and the content is unbelievably detailed. (I’m the content producer.) We have realized we all needed to review all of the content ages ago to find and fix mistakes. My time is too tight to sit and review it. Despite my efforts to explain the importance of reviewing carefully and early, and the importance of proofing early and reducing revisions, the process hasn’t worked. Instead I’m getting slammed daily now with endless nitpicking.

With only two weeks until the deadline, I received a barrage of revisions on content that was “approved” over a year ago. I fix a set of notes for each module, and the next day I get another full set of new notes on the same material that they could have included the first several times. This happens over and over. There are now four people reviewing the work over and over again, making even more notes every time they look at it. Unfortunately, some of it does need to be fixed, spelling errors especially. But some is just nitpicking. The fact that they weren’t caught a long time ago is something we all regret but here we are and I’m the one being tortured by this.

My manager is well aware of this and removes most of the notes but still leaves many and hasn’t discouraged the reviews. I don’t know how to make this stop, and I don’t know what my attitude should be since a portion of these notes are things I didn’t catch either so I feel like I must allow them to repair what should and could be repaired. At the same time, we need to be able to finish. The material is so technical and complicated, there is no end to the details.

You need to issue a dictate that the only things that can be changed at this late date are errors. Explain that people were given lots of opportunities to submit changes earlier and there’s not enough time to make more changes now if they’re purely stylistic. You should also say that for the stuff that truly must be changed, those changes must be submitted all together in one round. You will then make those changes, they can check to ensure you implemented them correctly, and that will be it.

If you don’t have the authority to announce or enforce that, then you need to ask your manager to. If you can’t get your manager on board, you can do a slightly softer version: allow stylistic changes but explain there is only time for a single round of them. Anyone submitting changes needs to compile their final revisions in one document, you’ll make those, they’ll check the implementation, and that will be the end. You could note that any deviation from that will bump back the completion date by X days each time. If your manager won’t support even that, then at that point you’re stuck with a hellish next two weeks (and a bad manager) — but this is a really common rule to implement and shouldn’t shock anyone.

3. Waiting for your ride after an interview

In 2015, you recommended not waiting in an employer’s lobby for a ride. With Uber, Lyft and similar so popular nowadays, do you still recommend not waiting after the interview?

Yes. If it’s a huge company it may not matter, but otherwise wait outside or somewhere nearby. Otherwise you risk raising concerns about whether you’ll have reliable transportation to get to work, and it can just feel “off” to be hanging around the reception area after your interview is over. (There are of course exceptions to this, like if you flew in from out of town and are obviously waiting for a car to the airport, or so forth.)

4. What is retaliation exactly?

I applied for an internal role that would have been a promotion for me and did not make it to the interview phase. The hiring manager (who was also my current manager) spoke to me about why, and after speaking with him I also set up a meeting with HR to get further feedback (since I knew from my manager that my HR rep had been involved in the decision). The meeting with HR went fine, and I thought the actions I took to seek feedback were normal and expected.

My manager heard from HR that I had spoken with them and told me that indicated I was indeed not ready for the promotion because HR is only for legal/compliance concerns, so by going to them I had made it seem like I had a concern along those lines. I felt like he was implying this could hurt me in a future attempt at the same promotion. I was really taken aback.

After feeling uncomfortable about it for a while, I wrote an ombudsman complaint stating that I felt retaliated against and describing the situation. My complaint was investigated by the ombuds team, which ended up telliing me that because my manager never took a retaliative action against me (like writing a negative performance review or tanking my chance at a promotion), what he did was not retaliation.

Sure, it was verbal and not written but does that not make it an action? Also, I had reason to believe he might take action against me in the future. Certainly at minimum he was threatening the possibility of future retaliation. Am I completely off-base here, and not understanding what retaliation is? Maybe the situation was just not bad enough for an ombudsman to care about it?

I wonder if they were only talking about retaliation in the legal sense. Legally, retaliation is when  (a) an employer takes a “materially adverse action” against you (defined as something that could deter a reasonable person from engaging in the activity in the future) because (b) you engaged in legally protected activity (which relates to reporting or resisting discrimination or harassment, talking to coworkers about those issues, or participating in a related investigation).

Your situation doesn’t meet (b), because the conduct that provoked the retaliation (seeking interview feedback from HR) isn’t legally protected activity.

So it’s very possible that the ombudsman team simply meant there was no legal violation. But your company should still be concerned that your manager said what he said, because there was nothing wrong with you seeking feedback from HR and it was bizarre for him to tell you they’re only for legal/compliance concerns, and it’s terrible practice for a manager to discourage people from talking with HR. But at this point you’re likely better served by not continuing to pursue it.

5. Writing a cover letter when you don’t know what the company is

I work in publishing, and I recently saw a job ad for a sub-editor position at a publishing agency. It was posted by a recruitment agency and didn’t include the name of the agency. I understand sometimes companies use recruiters and keep their name hidden, but in this case, the disadvantages seemed to outweigh the advantages. If I don’t know what the agency is or what they publish, how do I know if they specialize in an area I have any knowledge of or interest in? Also, I couldn’t imagine writing a cover letter if I didn’t know what the company did — what am I supposed to say when I explain why I want to work for them? At the same time, I thought if other applicants were writing cover letters, I would be at too much of a disadvantage if I didn’t write one, so I decided not to bother applying. What would you suggest doing when you’re applying for a job when the employer’s name is withheld?

External recruiters often withhold the name of the company they’re hiring for because they don’t want candidates to go around them and apply directly (since then they’d lose out on a commission after doing the marketing work that drummed up those candidates).

Often you can write a cover letter without knowing the specific company because you’re focusing on the work of the role; it’s usually more important that you tailor what you write to the role than to the company anyway. In a case like yours where you truly don’t know if it’s a good match without that info, then you’re just stuck just writing a crappier cover letter than usual if you want to apply; there’s no real way around that.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

    1. Anonymouse*

      Why? What harm came to the OP? That she didn’t get a proper introduction? Who knows why Boss was on leave. There could be extenuating circumstances OP doesn’t know about. Let it go.

      1. Patty*

        Exactly. Why assume the worst in people? Most likely she wouldn’t “get” what OP was trying to do anyway. If OP likes that aftertaste from being petty, well, that’s on her/him. And don’t fool yourself; if OP does this, it’s purely to be petty. Why else do it? It says a whole lot about OP and not a thing about the former boss.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I got a new boss about a month before my contract expired at a former client. She was in the corporate HQ in another state and I spoke to her in person maybe twice. The following year I was at the company holiday party, everyone was in a festive mood, I was chatting with a former teammate, and someone I didn’t recognize swooped in to hug me. I stepped back in alarm because strange people invading my space is A Thing for me. Seriously, she charged over to hug me because she had imbibed herself into a more festive mood than others. Instead of hugging her, I said ‘Hi, I’m SheLooksFamiliar, nice to meet you,’ and held out my hand to shake.

          You guessed it, that was my former ‘new’ boss. She was insulted that I snubbed her and I heard she talked smack about me for several weeks. I’m still invited to those events so there’s that.

          OP, you don’t have to roll out the red carpet or be falsely cheerful if you need your former boss. Just be civil and pleasant. If she makes things more difficult, that’s on her and not you.

          1. TootsNYC*

            this highlights a risk–if that boss does get it, she has the opportunity to complain to people in the company.

      2. Andy*

        If the boss really sucked and knew it, she might prefer not to be reminded of that period. I think that I would. If you know you failed and you know everybody knows it, it is not so great to be reminded of it. The intention is petty, but the result might just be ok.

        1. Smithy*

          I’m inclined to believe this is a case where the act allows for both the rush of pettiness as well as some face saving.

          If we assume the best about the OP’s company, this woman has a solid professional background – but for whatever reasons, perhaps personal and/or COVID related, she failed at this job. The company identifies a better opportunity for her skills, and she’s given an opportunity to start with a fresh slate. For the former boss, it may be a relief to just be a Senior Llama Researcher as opposed to the Director of Llama Grooming.

          1. Wenike*

            I wonder if that 7 months directorship was also supposed to be temporary anyways. My company closed down a facility last year and someone who worked there was added to my team temporarily while they got a more suitable role set up for him in another department. It took them around 7 months to do so.

            1. Smithy*

              I think a lot of this comes down to whether or not the OP feels that their work place deserves the benefit of the doubt or not. If the workplace is generally speaking professional, equitable, and took COVID seriously and thoughtfully – but has 101 normal problems around internal coms or bureaucracy – then it’s very likely there are a number of reasonable explanations. Still wildly frustrating for the OP, but again, where a reaction that’s both face saving and petty makes a lot of sense. Let the OP voice that frustration, while allowing for grace on all sides. Grace that the OP was in a frustrating situation that was never transparently addressed or discussed, and the former boss the grace for their own involvement in the situation.

              However, if the workplace doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, particularly around hiring….then it’s very reasonable for the OP to be seeking these frustration valves to release. And this one, as others have stated, is very mild and largely professional.

      3. Been There*

        A manager who has absolutely no contact with the people who she is supposed to manage can do quite a bit of harm. I was in a very similar situation last year, and thankfully my (ex-)manager left.

        1. SharonC*

          As just one (mild) example, I used to work on a small team in a very large corporation. It was corporate practice to assign mid-level managers to groups apparently at random, and rotate them around every 12 – 18 months. These mid-level managers barely bothered to get to know the people under them as they knew they’d be shortly moving on. I assume the idea behind the practice was to give the managers experience with managing a wide range of different types of teams, but one actua result was that they never became invested in the success of the teams they managed. There was zero relationship building and they tended to only mingle amongst their peers which meant that most people below them had no way to develop career growth in the team/group/division.

          It was very much a cultural problem.

          1. Wintermute*

            great googley-moogly, they officially implemented “seagull bosses” (fly in, make a lot of noise, crap all over everything then fly away) as their management strategy.

      4. Triplestep*

        Agree, let it go. Remember in middle school when your friends planned out to the nth degree how their rivals would respond after being delivered some scathing, rehearsed burn? Or some overly dramatic cold shoulder? And it never turned out the way they thought it would? And your friends ended up more upset than they were at the start? This belongs in the same category. LW, be better than middle school friends and let this go.

      5. Lady Meyneth*

        I mean, OP is only going to say “nice to meet you” and such. And since she never got an introduction, it’s perfectly appropriate to do so, and I don’t honestly understand how it’s even flicking up. It might be a petty action in OP’s head, but it’s just what you do when you’re being introduced to someone.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Agree. This isn’t the burn OP seems to think it is. If you’ve never met someone in person, had any video calls, etc., “It’s nice to meet you” makes total sense. I’ve said it myself when I’ve gone to annual conferences for vendors and I’m meeting our account rep for the first time face-to-face, even though we may have emailed or talked on the phone. I’d take that to mean “It’s nice to meet you *in person*.”

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I think the idea is that the OP will pretend not to recognize the name, and act not like “It’s nice to finally meet you in person” but as a polite introduction to a total stranger. The OP is over-thinking this.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          It’s a burn that’s not an obvious burn. The OP doesn’t really know this person anyway.

      6. Observer*

        Why? What harm came to the OP? That she didn’t get a proper introduction? Who knows why Boss was on leave. There could be extenuating circumstances OP doesn’t know about

        The issue is not just the leave. From what the OP describes, the behavior was pretty disrespectful of the group and left them a bit leaderless for a while.

        On the other hand, if the OP thinks they are going to convey ANYTHING to their former manager-who-wasn’t I think they are going to be very disappointed.

      7. Mihaela*

        You guys take yourselves way too seriously. Lighten up a bit, nobody’s doing any harm here

    2. MissGirl*

      I think OP1 might be in for a disappointment when Boss doesn’t have any idea who the OP is or care about the OP at all. It’ll be one of those things where the OP is, “How dare you don’t know me; I don’t know you!”

      Don’t or do interact with this woman—not to punish her but to not give any head space to her at all.

      1. Willis*

        This is what I’m thinking. It doesn’t sound like the boss knew the team when she led them and OP doesn’t have any relationship with her now, so I doubt the snub will even register.

        1. Myrin*

          If that’s the case, why not do it, then? I agree that I find it pretty unlikely the former manager is going to catch on at all, but if it brings the OP some form of satisfaction, well, why not?

          1. Willis*

            I’m not arguing that she shouldn’t do it. I doubt it will “convey how much she sucked at her job” to OP’s ex-boss. But by all means, OP should go for it anyway if they like.

            1. Triplestep*

              It’s not likely to convey anything to anyone, so as long as LW has no expectations it will, then go for it. I don’t think that’s the case though.

          2. MissGirl*

            She can do it but be prepared it won’t matter to the boss or register at all. She had a crappy boss, time to move on.

            1. Anonapots*

              I don’t think she cares if it will register. Y’all are missing the point here. It’s not that she’s making a point to the former boss; it’s that she wants a moment of silly pettiness and wants to just…be petty, for her own amusement. There really isn’t a debate here.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            Well, OP says that the point is to “convey how much she sucked at her job”. But I really don’t think it’s going to do that. So if the OP wants to continue planning how she’s going to make an entirely oblique and pointless remark that conveys pretty much nothing for her own satisfaction then she absolutely can! But I think she would be better served by, I don’t know, going for a walk or something and letting it go. It just seems a bit silly.

      2. MK*

        That was my thought, this is unlikely to even register with someone who didn’t interact with the OP. Or if it does, she is much more likely to think the OP has a bad memory than to be stung by a random former employee she never bothered to introduce herself to not remembering her.

        I…don’t see why this would be funny in any case.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I would be surprised if it registers at all. And if the ex-manager registeres that OP was part of her team, they are more likely to assume that OP forgot / didn’t recognise their name, that that she is deliberately making a point.

          1. Sparrow*

            If ex-boss recognizes OP’s name as a member of that team, I think she’d be likely to interpret it as “nice to meet you in person.” I think this would only be about satisfaction in OP’s own mind – I doubt it’d register as weird to ex-boss unless OP says it in a deliberately rude tone or adds other comments/actions to hammer in her meaning, which she should definitely NOT do.

        2. TWW*

          Yes, if I meet someone who should know who I am but does not, my first thought is: “that person has a bad memory or doesn’t pay attention.”

          I can’t imagine any situation where I would feel personally burned by someone else’s ignorance.

      3. MCMonkeybean*

        I agree; I don’t think there’s any harm in doing this especially since in the situation as described it honestly sounds pretty plausible that a person might not recognize their ex-boss… but if they were the boss of more than just a couple of people it honestly seems just as plausible that the boss might genuinely not know who OP is in which case this will be a pretty disappointing exchange.

        Or even possible that the boss might think they know who the OP is, but then when OP acts like they don’t know each other then the boss might just take that as like “oops, I guess I had this person mixed up with someone else.”

        So again, I think as far as petty revenge goes this is indeed extremely mild and delivered politely there is no harm. But be prepared also that there may be no satisfaction.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I don’t think it really even constitutes flicking, it’s just a bit weird and pointless. It seems like OP has allowed this person to take up far more space in their head than they ever did in hers. I doubt that she’s writing to an advice columnist about the ideal petty remark for their next meeting, you know?

      It seems fairly harmless but, idk, I don’t think it really conveys the message OP is going for.

      1. Not sure of what to call myself*

        Reminds me of a an old coworker who used some unusual phrases which people just wrote off as translation slips as the person did not have English as their first language. I actually knew a bit about her first language and realised she was intending to be dismissive. But literally noone else realised, and I just wrote her off in my head as rude and ignored it.

        Years later after coworker had had a few drinks started boasting to me how she was powerful enough to diss people to their faces and get away with it. Well, I knew I was leaving very soon and so happily informed coworker that although that may be what she though she was doing, but that noone realised and they just thought her grasp of grammar in English was poor. Then I shrugged and walked away. And then I told the rest of the team her unusual grammar was actually her being shady at them. I’m told that once people started asking her exactly what she meant by some of her comments, her grammar slips stopped in weeks.

        1. Julia*

          Would you mind telling us how someone can diss their coworkers through grammar slips, perhaps in the next open thread? I cannot come up with an answer myself but I need to know!

          1. Caterpie*

            My former coworker (who also had English as a second language) would sometimes accidentally switch words like “bored” with “boring”, so instead of saying “Alex is really bored”, would say “Alex is really boring”. The coworker was a very nice person though, and definitely didn’t mean it, so we could all laugh about it together.

            I’m wondering if it’s something like that; other words like annoying, tiring, etc. have similar structures.

          2. Venus*

            I’m thinking of the comments from last week about the jerk that is leaving and comments to her such as “Your presence will be missed” or “You fill a much-needed gap in this company”. Also the “Your suggestions will be given due consideration”. They are more obviously insulting if spoken by someone native to the language.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              This reminds me of the “translation” I saw of Amy Klobuchar’s remarks to Pete Buttigeig in his hearing — stuff like “I’m sure you know how happy I am to see you” = “not at all happy, because you know we don’t like each other.”

          3. Liane*

            @Julia,
            From the way the story reads, the woman wasn’t intentionally using grammar slips to disrespect her coworkers. She thought she was disrespecting them in clear, plain, proper English. But the targets assumed her remarks were innocent grammar errors because they knew English wasn’t her first language.
            (Come to think of it, I’d also like to know how to deliberately weaponize grammar slips.)

            1. Mimi*

              “I knew a bit about her first language” makes me think that it’s something that’s important in the first language but English speakers don’t/barely register. I’m not coming up with any good examples in languages I actually speak, but Aliette de Bodard has talked some about how very small changes in formality/intimacy/mode in Vietnamese can be EXTREMELY cutting, and I’d guess it’s something like that that doesn’t really come across in translation.

              Imagine trying to directly translate “Bless your heart” (in the colloquial, weaponized way) in Argentina. It’s polite-rude, but your coworkers would just think it was a verbal quirk.

              1. Julia*

                That’s what I was thinking, too, although I find it hard to come up with an example that isn’t super rude. (Like, I had an awful Japanese co-worker who used impolite German with me because in Japan, being older would have allowed her to use more informal language, but T-V-languages like German and French don’t usually have adult relationships where one person uses polite language and the other doesn’t – although I’m pretty sure she knew what she was doing and was just rude.)

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yes, I was imagining something along the lines of addressing someone formally/informally in languages that have such a distinction. But I’m very curious!

        2. TWW*

          Reminds me of a story I heard about a French woman who had been informed by some jokester about the most polite way to bid adieu in English, and always wished people a warm “good by and good riddance”

        3. Lizzo*

          This is right up there with the folks who will switch to their first (non-English) language to have conversations about people *in the room*, thinking that nobody will understand them…

  1. voyager1*

    LW1: I don’t see how saying “nice to meet you” is acting like you don’t know her. You never met her via Zoom or in person. Honestly that is what I would say to her if I was in your situation. You seem to be taking this strangely personally. I would be careful how petty you want to be, you’re assuming she will not know you.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, this line doesn’t really seem pretty in the slightest to me. I also got a new boss in the last year who I’ve never met in person, but even with tons of video calls I’ll still probably say “Nice to finally meet you!” when we meet in person for the first time.

      1. Liz*

        I agree. I get where LW is coming from but I’m not really sure how they picture it playing out. Presumably this manager knows she worked those entire seven months without meeting face to face or on video. Surely any pretense at an “introduction” will either be read as a “nice to meet in person” or a genuine misunderstanding. If this is a subtle jab to get her to rethink her management practices, I think LW is in for a disappointment. If it’s just for sheer satisfaction, well by all means go for it, because nobody on the outside should be any the wiser.

        1. Helene*

          I agree. I also think be different, confident, rise above it and say, “Nice to put a face to a name,” to the ex-manager and overall be happy and excited to meet people from the office, whoever they are. If they don’t respond or their response is lacklustre, who cares, move forward.

      2. Not sure of what to call myself*

        It’s not petty, it’s the correct thing to say in the situation where you physically meet someone for the first time. It doesn’t matter of you have spoken before or not, if its the first time you have met then its the proper thing to say.

      3. Forrest*

        I keep joking about saying, “Nice to finally find out how tall you are!”

        (I’m lightly obsessed with the fact that my new boss comes across as tall– like, at least 6′ 2″ tall. And I have no idea what this is based on. If I meet him and he’s only 5’8″ I’m going to be SO confused.)

        1. KRM*

          Haha, that happened to us! We hired a very lovely director who we only saw over Zoom for like 5 months. Then the first time she visited the lab I was so confused to find she’s only 5′! I just thought she’d be taller! I blame her Zoom background of a lake house for giving me an unrealistic idea of scale.

        2. Stevie*

          This is exactly how I feel! I started a new job last year and haven’t met anyone in person yet. It’s throwing me off not knowing how tall anyone is!

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have a coworker that I’ve worked (remotely) with for almost seven years, we’re Facebook friends, and somehow in my head she’s a short busty blonde with short curly hair so every time we see each other in person I’m momentarily surprised that she’s a tall slender brunette with long stick-straight hair. (She knows this and finds it hilarious; she regularly greets me on these once-a-year-ish occasions with “Still not blonde!”)

        4. Lizzo*

          Fun fact that will also confuse you: John Stewart is 5′ 7″. Stephen Colbert is 5′ 11″.

    2. anony*

      There’s a difference between a friendly “glad to (finally) meet you face to face” with someone you’ve talked to before and what you might be with someone you didn’t know existed until now. It sounds like LW is planning the second. It’s because it’s not over the top that it works and can just be a satisfying little dig in LW’s own head.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Same! Maybe they aren’t thinking about how much meaning tone can convey, and how you can definitely say “Nice to meet you” in a way that conveys that you had no idea who the person you’re meeting is

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        I think some of these people are saying though that there is literally *not* a difference to them–that in a similar situation they would also just politely say “nice to meet you” and the “finally face to face” part would just be implied. So OP’s boss may very well assume that is what is happening.

        If OP just wanted to know on their end privately what they meant and get secret satisfaction then that’s fine! It does seem though from the letter that they are kind of hoping the boss leaves the interaction feeling like they must have done a bad job if their report didn’t recognize them, so I think the commenters just want to point out that may not be how it goes down.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yup. And part of why it’s satisfying is because it will likely go completely unnoticed by the former boss, plus if anyone knows OP used to work under former boss they will assume it’s just OP saying it as you would to someone you only knew in email.

    3. Seasonal part time employee*

      I had a boss who never introduced himself to all the seasonal part timers at my side job over 20 years ago. The campus cops let us know who he was (they provided security for us). That boss didn’t last long. I would just take behavior like that as a sign that there will be a turnover in management soon. If they can’t even get to know their employees, think of all the other stuff they can’t figure out. Let the boss be weird, it just means you will have a story to laugh about with your friends.

    4. John Smith*

      I think the sarcasm is, or would be, lost. The whole point being that the manager didn’t even bother introducing herself to the team. That’s pretty demoralising. On saying that, we once had a new manager who the grand boss didn’t have the courtesy to introduce to us (or even inform us of his existence or that we were even getting a new manager). We only met each other in a team meeting and the new manager was obviously embarrassed that this was the first encounter and the we were unaware of him (and for that matter, he hadn’t been made aware of us). He soon saw how toxic grand boss is and left.

      1. Varthema*

        Yeah, I don’t think this interaction will be as satisfying for the LW as s/he thinks it’ll be.

        Either it’ll sound like just a slightly awkwardly phrased “Nice to meet you (in person)!” or, worse, it’ll sound like you don’t remember your manager of 6 months’ name which could come off as unprofessional or weirdly forgetful. Also when/if she says, “Oh yes, we’ve met, I was your manager for 7 months,” I’m … not sure what you could say after that without having to roll back the initial jab or doubling down on the snark to underline it, which doesn’t sound like something you wanted?

        Also agree with others that it might be better to give this manager some grace during a pandemic where lots are dealing with serious mental health issues and sometimes a death or multiple deaths in the family, especially given the leave of absence at the end. If you’re snarky and then found out later crappy extenuating circumstances, all that satisfaction will vaporize.

        1. ceiswyn*

          I’d probably go for, “Oh, were you? Well, anyway, how ’bout that local sports team”, which conveys that the snark is intentional and why, but then moves away from it.

          1. MK*

            Eh, this doesn’t convey that the snark was intentional, it shows the OP in a bad light. If I witnessed this interactive without any context, I would think the employee was so disengaged they couldn’t be bothered about who their boss was. And the manager is much more likely to feel glad they escaped their previous role in a not-good team than be mortified about not getting to know them.

            Look, I get what the OP is going for, but these exchanges rarely go the way you plan in your head.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Really? I’d assume the boss was terrible, because no matter how ‘disengaged’ an employee may be, the only way they can not know who their boss is is if the boss isn’t doing their job at all.

              1. MK*

                Employees know who their boss is, even when the boss is terrible and/or not doing their job. Perhaps especially then.

              2. Grace*

                No matter how terrible a boss is, you know their name. You know who you report to and who has to approve your PTO and such. I agree that without knowing the context, the above conversation could make OP look odd at best and like a bad employee at worst to someone overhearing.

            2. Anonapots*

              I would assume nothing about either one of them because literally nobody will notice or care that much.

              Some of y’all don’t understand doing things just for yourself and it shows.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Done. OP says they won’t be catty so I imagine something like this:
          OP: “Nice to meet you.”
          Her: “I was your manager…”
          OP: “And it’s nice to meet you in person.”
          I’ve had an absentee grandboss. His lack of attention even to rote approvals caused real problems. (2week delay on a product release because he failed to approve or forward software renewals despite direct calls.) In my mind ‘nice to meet you’ would be an attempt to give him a second chance.

        3. Daisy*

          Given that OP’s main complaint is that the boss wasn’t very invested in the role, I think the chances are high that the boss genuinely won’t know who OP is.

    5. Not sure of what to call myself*

      They were a director and above you in the hierarchy. Some directors are hands on and get involved with the troops whilst others use intermediaries to send out their instructions. The department/business unit obviously continued to function under this persons different leadership style. Although it can be hard adjusting to a change in big boss style, its best not to take these things personally.

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

      “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met… I’m Jane, I work with the llama grooming guys as a quality checker” (or whatever).

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        This is what I was expecting, not just a nice to meet you but also a general intro including role.

    7. BRR*

      I think it’s a 30 rock reference (or if not deliberately from 30 Rock, it is basically the same thing that happened on 30 Rock once).

    8. Esmeralda*

      Yes, agree that it comes off as petty and I’m surprised at Alison’s answer. It costs you nothing to be polite and it may cost you to be rude — your former boss may in fact remember you perfectly well. And while you are not going to ask for a reference, you never know who other people know.

      Finally, just…be kind! Good policy in general, and in this case there may even be a good reason for it. The former boss was on leave for a month in the middle of a new-to-her job–do you know why? like, she could have been jetting off to the Riviera, but in the middle of a pandemic, I’d look for a “good” reason. Ghosted you for two weeks after that — not great, but again maybe there’s a charitable take on it. Didn’t intro self — may have thought she already did it. And really, that’s a minor complaint, not snub worthy. Didn’t try to get to know the staff — well, she wasn’t there long, she was out for a month, she may have been focusing on other work — I agree, not the best course of action, but again, does not = sucks and deserves to be treated rudely.

      TLDR: be nice, and if you can’t be nice, be self-interested

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Saying “nice to meet you” when introduced to someone is polite, though. And even if the former boss does remember OP and say “I was your boss for 7 months,” OP can pivot seamlessly into “yes, and it’s nice to finally put a face with the name.” This is a really standard (and polite) social interaction. The only way someone could read pettiness into OP’s words is if they read this blog and are the one to introduce former boss to OP…which is exactly why it can help OP release her annoyance at former boss at zero professional risk to OP.

    9. Anon for this*

      What about “Welcome to the company!” said all heartily. There’s at least a chance that someone (even the target!) might jump in with “Oh, Bad Manager’s been with us a while now!” and the OP can smile and say “Oh really! I didn’t know!” and carry it on for as long as they find satisfying/feel they can get away with it.

  2. voyager1*

    LW4: I went up for a promotion years ago and didn’t get it. I talked to the HR rep and the person who would have been promoting me. That is pretty normal. I wonder if someone in HR said something to your manager to make it sound like you had an issue with not getting the promotion. That might explain what he meant. Personally I would focus on what feedback they gave you to improve for applying next time.

    1. Anonymouse*

      I wonder exactly what OP said to HR to get Manager’s hackles up so? I think escalating further just made it worse. I think there is more going on in this letter than meets the eye.

      1. Andy*

        It might just really have been out of place? For example, our would HR and pretty much any HR I interacted with would be not be capable to tell you why you was not hired for technical position. Mostly because they dont understand the really understand requirements for the position nor the work itself. They cant explain you why you was seen as bad match or good match, because they are not sure themselves.

        If it is about position like ours, asking HR about why you was not hired when you are not having legal/compliance issues, would suggest you dont know what HR does.

        1. Virginia Plain*

          OP says that an HR rep was involved in the decision so her decision to ask them for feedback seems logical to me. Also, HR isn’t just for legal and compliance issues. Recruitment is part of HR – where I work (government so not an outlier) you’d go to them to seek feedback even if they weren’t involved in a decision because they would direct your request to the interview or sift panel.

        2. MassMatt*

          The LW says HR was involved in the decision, though. You can’t have someone involved in the decision and then scold them for asking them for feedback by saying they’re only for legal and compliance issues. This begs for the question “what legal and compliance issues did you envision with hiring that you had to involve HR?”

          The boss sounds kind of paranoid and nasty, but the fact that LW went to a company ombudsman about it makes me think there is more going on here.

          1. andy*

            Technically, hr is involved in decisions here too. They are present and even have inputs. Practically, they don’t really understand the requirements for the position nor the work itself. They cant explain you why you was seen as bad match or good match, because they are not sure themselves.

            So they say what they think and then other people make decision.

            They are smart on individual level. But they don’t have necessary background to understand our work. Nor inclination. There is communication gap there and a lot of information simply don’t crosses it despite them being present during the discussion.

      2. OP#4*

        The main reason I went to HR at all was because manager also discouraged me from speaking to senior management (the two managers above him, who were also involved in interview decision), and I mentioned that to HR. HR had a strong reaction to that and repeatedly insisted I should absolutely feel free to speak to anyone I want to get feedback. My guess is she immediately went back to manager after our conversation and reprimanded him for that. So that could have gotten his hackles up. Though I never did reach out to Sr Mgmt after realizing my boss would definitely flip if I did.

        1. kt*

          You have a boss problem. I don’t know what it is, but this is weird and creepy. Even if well-meant, poorly managed.

        2. Observer*

          That’s a crucial bit of context. Did you tell your ombudsman this? I still don’t think that this constitutes retaliation (certainly not in the legal sense), but it’s a lot closer. And generally MUCH more concerning, to be honest. Because it’s generally not a good sign when a boss tries to keep you from ever talking to others about what is going on.

          1. OP#4*

            I did include that detail in the ombuds complaint (was simplifying to shorten the story in my letter to Alison), and in the close out discussion they said that though my manager did discourage me from speaking to Sr Mgmt, he didn’t prevent me. I’m not sure what prevention would have looked like, perhaps coming to my house and cutting my internet cable (I work remotely).

            I am thinking ombuds was maybe the wrong place to take the complaint since they focus on the legal aspect and maybe what I’m describing is more of a culture issue. But having been told not to go to Sr Mgmt and then the bad reaction after having been to HR I guess I felt like I didn’t know who else to tell. Maybe should have just not done anything or gone to Sr Mgmt anyway regardless of the consequences if I felt strongly enough about it.

            1. Observer*

              “prevention” would have been a direct order or threat, I suppose.

              I do think that perhaps the Ombudsman may not have been the right place for this. I hope they do keep a record of it, though, because this would be relevant to some situations where a legal / compliance issue DID come up.

              Your boss’ behavior IS a problem, though. If you can get out from under him, that would be ideal. And it would be really nice if at that point you told both HR *and* Senior management what he’s doing.

            2. Andy*

              I think that you should stop informing everyone around about who you plan to talk to and about what. The relationships in your job sound like political minefield and that includes hr who just made situation worst. This whole situation is about navigating politics and reading relationships. But the higher you go, the more it is like that.

      3. In my shell*

        Totally agree @Anonymouse. Something here doesn’t make sense and it feels like we’re missing part of the story. I wonder if manager and OP have history and that resulted in the manager being defensive and in OP filing a formal complaint (I still don’t understand what OP’s complaint actually is that the ombudsman was supposed to investigate – does OP have a history of escalating minor concerns?).

        OP wrote, “My manager heard from HR that I had spoken with them and told me that indicated I was indeed not ready for the promotion because HR is only for legal/compliance concerns, so by going to them I had made it seem like I had a concern along those lines. I felt like he was implying this could hurt me in a future attempt at the same promotion. I was really taken aback.” and I believe OP sees it this way, but it seems likely that there was a miscommunication between OP and manager (and maybe HR too?), and that manager would have a totally different take on what happened (again, not an unbiased perspective /not at all saying manager is right here, but a totally different perspective and that gap is the problem).

    2. I can never decide on a lasting name*

      The manager reacting the way he did is weird – but to me, it is even stranger to raise a complaint with the ombudsman. That’s a very serious move.

      1. OP#4*

        Yea, I agree it sounds extreme. I work in a field where safety culture is very important, so any situation where someone is told not to speak up (even if it’s not about a technical issue) is taken pretty seriously because it could indicate a chilled environment. We are encouraged to report situations like that so in my field the ombuds thing is not so drastic.

        1. In my shell*

          Hey OP, so the basis of the formal complaint was that your manager said you shouldn’t have asked HR for interview feedback? Is there another part of it? It’s odd that the manager said that, but I don’t understand how that resulted in a formal complaint – a difference in perspective about HR’s role?

          1. OP#4*

            That he said I shouldn’t have asked HR for feedback, and that the fact that I did so was evidence I was not ready for the promotion. It’s that specific link tying the HR visit to my readiness for the promotion that bothers me, because it implies he won’t support me next time I go for the promotion, as a direct result of me having a conversation with HR, which is something I should be able to do freely.

            I think though after Alison answered my question, I’m willing to accept it’s not retaliation, because speaking with HR about feedback is not a protected activity. It’s something else uncomfy but not retaliation in the official sense.

            1. Qwerty*

              It sounds like you and your manager don’t communicate in the same way. I’m not sure where your relationship stands after talking with HR and filing an ombudsman complaint, but the two of you really need more open communication on both sides. Ideally your manager would have explained his reasons for discouraging you from talking to the senior managers (perhaps he knew they wouldn’t react well or had cushioned the feedback or it was really just that they had been set on the other candidate from the beginning and weren’t going to give any useful info). Failing that, it would have been better if you two had a relationship where you were able to ask more detailed questions about why not and give answers, or given him a heads up that you’d be seeking some career advice from HR.

              It is important to realize that being stuck purely on years of experience is not a good look. Job postings use years of experience as an estimate for how many years they think it takes to get the skill level they desire. Sometimes they put 3yrs of experience when they are really hoping for 5yrs. Someone with the minimum years may be expected to meet more of the other bullet points to be interviewed compared to a candidate with more experience. It’s also possible that experience was a related to something non-technical (maturity, workplace norms, office social skills) that your manager was confident would resolve itself with more time in the job.

              HR likely talked to not only your current manager but also the other senior managers involved. So from their outside perspective, a more experienced candidate was chosen and you lodged an HR complaint (since they see HR for legal/compliance issues). Next time a promotion comes up, rather than thinking “OP4 has worked really hard on getting more experience, let’s interview her to learn if she’s ready” they’ll be remembering “OP4 didn’t take feedback/rejection well and insisted that her lesser experience wasn’t relevant last time around”. And that’s before we even bring the ombudsman complaint into the mix.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I think in theory saying “yes, you should be able to have conversations with HR freely” sounds like a good thing, but it does not mean you can’t be judged for it. If you were going to HR right away to complain about frequent coworker issues, for things that should/could be settled by talking to your coworkers first, it would be appropriate for your manager to question your judgment.

              Based on what HR told you it seems your supervisor is wrong about it, but the supervisor thinking HR is only for legal/compliance issues is necessarily wrong. I wonder if you misconstrued HR’s role in the hiring process, and that is also part of what is behind the judgment from your supervisor?

              Do you know if HR had an active role in deciding if you were right for the job and selected for an interview? Or if HR was involved but more in an administrative capacity such as pulling your employee file for the hiring committee, confirming if you were eligible for promotion, and/or just sitting in on the process to ensure nothing illegal is discussed, but other than that HR did not really have a say in who was hired/interviewed? If that is the case I could see your supervisor thinking, “Why did they go ask HR for feed back about their candidacy, HR has no say in who is hired, I don’t think OP#4 understands how things work at this company, this makes me second guess their judgment.”

              The combo of going to HR on top of mentioning that you wanted to consult with your supervisors boss about your candidacy and why you were not interviewed could have raised concerns about your judgment to your supervisor.

              This could all be true and you also have a bad supervisor, or you could just have a bad supervisor.

  3. Anonymouse*

    Why not just let petty office grievances in this weird time of pandemic go? It doesn’t seem healthy to hang onto this stuff let alone want to somehow act on it.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Sometimes taking control over something small like this can help one’s morale. OP knows it’s petty, she knows it’s not her best self talking. But when we’ve all had to choke on so much wrongness in the last year, saying something–anything–can feel like retaking a small scrap of power.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I agree. People keep saying this won’t have an effect so there’s no point, but sometimes that’s why you do them. It still makes you feel better (I don’t know why, it just does), and the other person doesn’t even notice, so there’s no harm. Why isn’t that a win for the OP? They feel better, and there’s no harm to anybody.

          For the commenters saying there’s no point to doing it because the boss probably won’t even notice, I can’t tell if those commenters are people who always take the high ground or who only take action if it’s meaningful. But I for one have made these kinds of outwardly polite yet petty comments knowing that absolutely nobody but me would get the point, and it still managed to make me feel better. Not because it was getting some kind of revenge, but because it was funny to me and it was taking some control over the situation, albeit a tiny, inconsequential amount. If there’s really no harm here, then why care if the OP does it, even if you yourself wouldn’t?

          1. Joielle*

            Same! Sometimes a tiny little passive-aggressive remark, whether or not the other person notices or cares, makes me feel better. It doesn’t usually come up at work because I’m overall very happy with my job and coworkers, but definitely with a more irritating relative or two! I guess I’m just an irredeemably petty person. Shrug.

          2. Smithy*

            I’m in a role where I deal with a lot of internal departments over which I have no control, and external partners where I have to be deferential. I mention this in a comment below, but over the years I have developed an entirely personal code of what different email sign-offs mean.

            Kind Regards, Many Thanks, Sincerely, Warmly, Best, etc. etc. In my brain, different ones are accompanied by different tones. It gives me the quiet joy of expressing my genuine emotions, while on the surface doing nothing of the sort.

            As New Jack mentions, it’s a way to identify where I can control things and simultaneously let it go.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        And it’s the wrongness of the past year that makes this feel even more petty and unnecessary to me.

        The LW doesn’t even know this person, doesn’t know why this position worked out for them as it did during the pandemic (and if the pronouns used are accurate vs. the site default, we can have a whole discussion about how womens’ careers went off the rails more than mens’ during the pandemic).

        We’ve seen reams of stories here about you don’t know another person’s issues and the hardships people have experienced during this time but suddenly it’s OK to be petty and nasty just for your own satisfaction because the person won’t notice but you get a thrill out of it?

        It just feels wrong.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I think it’s precisely the fact that the person won’t be harmed that makes it okay. It’s venting the steam.

        2. Well...*

          Eh I think the power dynamics tilt this away from “why can’t everyone be nice to each other” to “why are the people in power not doing the bare minimum to hold up their end of the social contract.” In that light, petty away!

          1. Observer*

            “why are the people in power not doing the bare minimum to hold up their end of the social contract.”

            This is where it’s important to note that neither we nor the OP knows the backstory. It’s possible that the manager WAS doing her best to do the minimum, but it wasn’t good enough. Maybe not, but who knows?

        3. Smithy*

          A few months ago there was an article in the NY Times about parents having secret private moments where they intentionally excluded their kids. It was things like eating grocery store sushi in the car or buying a treat they knew kids liked, but would eat them alone, in secret and not tell anyone.

          On some level you could say these parents were taking really normal breaks to revive and refresh themselves, but my take was also that these parents really wanted to do something naughty or salacious – but since they weren’t going to do shots while dancing on a bar, sushi in the grocery store parking lot was going to scratch that itch. This is such a mild mild form of pettiness that let’s the OP release that frustration – even if only to their knowledge.

          Personally, there are certain valedictions in emails I will use to show I’m unhappy or frustrated. Essentially if I sign off saying “Kind Regards”, I’m in a great mood – but “Many Thanks” means I’m infuriated. It doesn’t matter that no one else knows or that it’s not really petty, but it lets me acknowledge that feeling to myself and move on.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I do something similar with my email. All of them are professional, the recipient can’t possibly know that I’m saying “f off” when I type a particular one, and it makes me feel better and allows me to move on with my day.

        4. Persephone Mongoose*

          For heaven’s sake, she’s saying “nice to meet you”. That’s all. If you were in the room where this potentially happens and didn’t know the context, you wouldn’t think twice about it.

          They were never introduced in person or online. For all intents and purposes, they *haven’t* met. Let the OP have this.

        5. Observer*

          It just feels wrong.

          I think that this is a real over-reaction. Yes, it’s petty. Yes, the OP doesn’t know the whole backstory. True, it almost certainly won’t have the effect they are hoping.

          So?

          As Alison noted, actually punching up is not the same as punching down. And that is when someone is ACTUALLY “punching”. Here, in the absolute worst case, “flicking” really is a much better framing. And, in all likelihood, it won’t even be a flick. Really, no harm is being done.

          1. CaseyB*

            That actually can do harm, though.

            I had a mental breakdown a few months after taking a promotion. I was out of work for weeks between inpatient hospitalization, an intensive outpatient program, and FMLA leave. After I returned to the office, I asked my manager to let me take a demotion to my old position. She was wonderful and supportive, and helped me transition back to the old job.

            My work had suffered leading up to my hospitalization. I had memory issues, struggled to do simple tasks, and isolated myself. It was so difficult and humiliating going back into the office, thinking everyone thought I was stupid and sucked at my job. I imagined they were gossiping about my absence and demotion.

            I can’t imagine how I would have felt if someone I’d worked with before my break down acted like they didn’t know me. People are rather adept at reading subtle facial expressions and non-verbal cues. An involuntary smirk or a tone that sounds just a little too “innocent” is all it takes to make someone question your sincerity.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I think that allowing someone who isn’t even your boss any more to occupy your thoughts to the extent of writing to an advice columnist pre-planning your perfect petty remark in advance of seeing her again is… the opposite of reclaiming power. I don’t think it’ll do any harm, but it’s a bit silly to think of it in these terms IMO.

        1. Anonapots*

          I think if the OP is having a hard time evicting the boss and this will help them do that and offer a form of closure, it is exactly reclaiming power. We don’t know why people take up residence in our heads, but it’s not outrageous to determine how to get them out and this is the least disruptive and fairly inoffensive way to do it.

    2. Andy*

      I think that petty revenges is how many people get over these grievances. Human psychology does not have simple on/off switches. You can just decide to not be annoyed or to not have grievance. For many people taking control of it and doing something like that is what turns it off.

      Yes, it can turn into toxic. But, pandemic has nothing to do with anything here.

      1. MK*

        Ok, but it can backfire too. Considering that the OP’s frustration seems to stem from this manager’s ignoring their team, I have to wonder how she will feel if the manager not only doesn’t notice the dig, but makes it clear she has no idea who the OP is or that they worked on her team.

        1. andy*

          Then if backfires. As much as I understand motivation/psychology behind this, it is not like petty revenge would be god given entitlement or necessity.

          “They told me I sucks in implied way, how nice of them, I should improve my ways” – literally no one ever.

      2. MK*

        Pressed submit too soon. My point was, the OP can end up feeling even more disrespected after her petty revenge.

  4. Reluctant Manager*

    LW 2: I’m in a similar field. As the deadline approaches, we have an escalating standard for what needs to get changed. You’re at the point where I’d ask, “Would the company be embarrassed if this didn’t change?” Next steps are, “Would the customer be unable to follow the directions?” The last step (the really stop-the-presses one) is “Would we get sued?” It seems like a lot of your colleagues are at the “I think this would be better” phase. We used to have a limit–up to 10 prefers could be changed without charge; anything over that, we had to pay for. Perhaps asking the people submitting the changes which class this falls into, then giving them a strict allowance for other changes, would be reasonable… If they are reasonable people.

    1. Dan*

      I work in government contracting, so thankfully, all edits are charged to a contract. Deliverables tend to be at the end of a project, when project budgets are tight. The PL will say, “you have X hours to make edits, and Y hours to respond to changes.” At a certain point, it is what it is.

      I once had a project lead who was an editor from hell, and often, the edits weren’t substantive. And at my org, a deliverable has probably four management signatures approving it (the first reviewer is the true editor, subsequent reviews are mostly for the “FYI” and get a rubber stamp.) So with this particular PL, if I needed background that was covered in a prior deliverable, I’d lift it word for word. Then when she’d nitpick at it, I’d just say, “this is approved language from the last deliverable.” She even argued with me about *that* and tried telling me it was self plagiarism.

      I transferred out of that department shortly thereafter.

      1. onco fonco*

        Wait, self plagiarism? Was she pining for a role in academia or something? If you already have approved wording that works, reusing it is just…normal, surely. I work with text in various ways and every one of my clients does that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          And in a world with increasing requirements for localization, any change becomes something that increases translation cost because it won’t be in the database of previously translated text strings.
          Dan, I’d have looked to leave too.

          1. onco fonco*

            Yes! That’s one of the things I do, and agencies routinely expect me to use translation memory software. Everyone wants their approved terminology used consistently, and nobody wants to pay me to duplicate work. I mean, why would they?

    2. NYWeasel*

      We’re also in a creative field, and frankly trying to tell people that they must give all feedback as part of the first round is simply unenforceable. There’s always going to be last minute change requests, if only because the reviewers are human and occasionally miss really obvious errors, but just as often because a factor has changed since the feedback was given.

      Our first step is a form that we have them fill out. It sounds stupid, but just the tiny bit of friction of having to submit the request a certain way clears out a lot of the frivolous asks. It also frames the changes as a “new” request, not just an undefined component of the original brief. (It also documents the worst offenders if you do need to escalate)

      Once we have the form, we assess the impact of the ask in relation to the importance. If the change is a 5-10 minute fix, we just do it, but if it takes more than that we look at how business critical it is, how much bandwidth we have, and what tradeoffs are needed. We’ve gone back and said “In order to make this business critical change, we will need to delay delivery of X”, or we’ve said “We will implement that change at first opportunity but not on your requested date.”

      This process helps because we no longer spend lots of energy trying to be strict about a rule that our leaders will ignore when it suits them, and because the discussion quickly moves into “What needs to be true to make this change (without killing my team)?” And just framing the question that way opens us up to thinking of different ways to get the changes executed, such as asking the stakeholders to handle some of the tasks or asking them for budget to outsource the change.

      Ultimately if your team feels overwhelmed, your area of influence is how you accept the work that comes in, not in preventing the requests from being made. So that’s where I’d focus making changes.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Ohhh, I like the form idea. You should also have a check box (or a different form!) for if it spelling corrections, incorrect technical info, or artistic changes (or whatever minor category they are being nit-picky about). That way it will be easer to sort out the more important changes for first.

      2. BethDH*

        That phrase “what needs to be true to make this change?” is so useful as a mental frame that I’m going to use it on myself when I’m tempted to do one last round of changes.

      3. ten four*

        “Ultimately if your team feels overwhelmed, your area of influence is how you accept the work that comes in, not in preventing the requests from being made. So that’s where I’d focus making changes.”

        Oh my god I’ve never seen this idea so perfectly stated. I’m going to get this written on wall stickers in “Live, Laugh, Love” script.

        The suggestion about having people check what type of issue it is (typo, styling change, incorrect technical info) is also excellent; we do this with our clients and tell’em up front that we prioritize typos and incorrect information, and will incorporate as many stylistic changes as we can once those are done.

        That type of expectation setting helps a lot, because the reality is that in projects like this your goal can’t be that everyone is *happy* – you have to aim for “aligned on prioritized outcomes and clear on the process.”

        1. LilyP*

          Yes, this is actually exactly what I was trying to say say to the IT person last week who was overwhelmed with IM requests. You’re never going to be able to 100% stop people from IMing you — you have to change *your* process for how you see/are notified about those IMs instead.

    3. Artemesia*

      It seems strange that this is tolerated by management. Heck when you write a book and get the galleys, you don’t get to change the ‘way something sounds’ or whatever — the review is for errors and everyone hopes errors won’t change pagination. I once caught a horrific error in a diagram in galleys that would have been worth changing pagination for but mostly it is just typos at this point. Something has gone seriously awry at this place for stylistic changes to be made late in the game.

      I would have a talk with the manager about this making clear that late feedback needs to be for errors not style and have the manager make that point to the team — and if they don’t I would let such changes slip the deadline. i.e. we can change the dialogue here or we can meet the deadline.

    4. Momma Bear*

      Everyone wants their 2 cents, but sometimes you just have to call it so it gets done. Try things like cutting off all but the most egregious errors by x deadline, with the expectation that there will be more opportunities to revise once this one is met. In the event of too many reviewers in the kitchen, prioritize them. Sometimes we tend to defer to others when it’s really not necessary to make everyone happy. Make the most important one happy. I had a role where a reviewer was incredibly petty so I know how soul-crushing it can be. Talk to the manager about this process and how ineffective it is and offer suggestions for improvement. If there is no good reason to revise content that was approved (if it is semantics vs error), then I would stick with the approved copy. “Boss, the comment says x and y was approved last quarter. I did not change it because it was not an error, just a matter of personal writing preference.”

    5. TootsNYC*

      I work in publishing, and this is indeed the rising standard we apply when we’re dealing with changes late in the process.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, also…
        In the Olden Days, we had to pay the printer to make blueline changes. It was about $500 at some places I worked.
        So I have carried that along. Now it doesn’t actually cost anything monetary, but it does cost time, and it opens the door for new errors.

        I still say: Would you pay $500 to fix that? No? then we’re not fixing it.

    6. TWW*

      I take a similar approach. The first question is, what’s the ROI on this change?

      Delaying publication costs the company money. Would the proposed change increase profits by a greater amount? (Or would publishing without the change cost the company a greater amount?) If no, let it go.

      The other important thing is to make sure that your documented workflow has exactly one specific person who signs off on the final draft. Once that person has approved the document, it is frozen, and no more changes are solicited or accepted.

  5. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    Sympathy for the last LW, and those in a similar situation. I applied for my current position knowing nothing about it. Generic informationabout what skills they were looking for and benefits/wage. But not even what industry I’d be doing tech support for.

    1. TootsNYC*

      how important it the industry, though? Tech support is quite similar from industry to industry; knowing the specifics of accounting or publishing might give you an edge, but it’s not like you couldn’t switch from one to the other.

      I think the same thing is true of sub-editors. In the U.S., we call those “copyeditors,” and I absolutely would hire a copyeditor who had never, ever worked on text in my field. I would figure they can learn that very easily. I’m happy to teach them that, and if they are good copyeditors, they will pick it up. (I switched from women’s consumer magazines to a tech magazine, and in the first week, I could recognize that an RS600 server should have been RS6000.)
      But I don’t want to spend time teaching someone to recognize a dangling modifier, or how to treat a brand name (they can google the spelling themselves), or when to use quotes instead of hyphens in a modifying phrase.

      1. Hazel*

        It might matter to the person applying. There are some industries/fields I’m really not interested in working in.

  6. Beth*

    LW3: I feel like this might vary wildly depending on location. If you’re in a major city like LA or NYC, Uber/Lyft are as much a part of normal transportation as the buses and trains are. (Possibly more, in LA!) I don’t think you’d have any issue with waiting for a rideshare to arrive; it would probably only be five minutes. If you’re in a location where the main form of transit is driving and everyone is expected to have a car, though, I could see it coming off as both a little strange/awkward and as a potential concern for your future reliability (unless, as Alison said, they know you’ve flown in for the interview and wouldn’t be expected to be set up already locally).

    1. Willis*

      Agreed. Although assuming it’s not inhospitable weather, I’d probably just walk outside for the wait anyway, even if it was only like 5 minutes. Especially so if it’s a small lobby or would otherwise seem awkward to stay inside.

      1. MsClaw*

        Yeah, if there is some sort of general downstairs area in the building with 12 companies in it? Sure, it’s probably not a big deal to be in that area. If it’s a small office where you’re going to be waiting in an area where employees are passing through, chatting, where the person/people who just interviewed you may be walking past to get their coffee? Get out of there and go down the block.

        There are all sorts of ideas that may not be fair, but immediately after your job interview is probably not the time to try to make a point about America’s reliance on personal vehicles for transportation.

      2. Smithy*

        I think inevitably this question is going to be pretty sensitive to space and place, even in cities where having your own car isn’t an assumption.

        To me, the bigger issue is more or less when you’re interviewing somewhere where your presence as an “external guest” requires a level of supervision. Especially in offices that don’t have terribly busy lobbies with a number of people moving in/out of waiting.

        Different external guests to an office will inevitably receive different levels of hosting treatment, but I think this is partially where those interviewing encounter that power discrepancy. In a smaller office space, someone may feel inclined to “babysit” or chaperon you until you leave. And while 5-10 minutes isn’t a huge amount of time – during someone’s work day, that can mean they’re arriving fairly late to a meeting, missing out on a bathroom break, etc.

    2. Roci*

      My big-city experience is that often companies have some floors of office space in a large building, and you can easily wait in the neutral lobby for your ride. No one knows which company you visited so it would be strange to me to judge someone for waiting in that lobby.

      If it’s a smaller company that owns that building, and their lobby/reception opens directly onto the street, wouldn’t it be equally awkward to wait right outside? They can still see you standing there. Is the difference that the receptionist doesn’t have to make awkward small talk with you while you wait?

      I suppose it can’t hurt as a candidate to look your best, but I would really side-eye an employer for judging a candidate based on this. I don’t get how it looks more unreliable than waiting for a bus or other public transit.

      1. Dan*

        My org owns four buildings in a *huge* suburban office complex. “Reception” is staffed by contract security guards. They are totally not going to care if you sit in the lobby for 15 minutes waiting for Uber to show up.

        1. dana the 7th*

          The response says it isn’t talking about huge companies. If it’s a 40 person business with a small reception area, that’s when it is weird.

          1. Dan*

            Try reading the question and response again. The question was general, and so was the response.

              1. Dan*

                Yes. Your response covered both large companies and small companies, which makes it general.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  My response gives a different answer for each. (I don’t want to belabor this further here though since I think this is just a misreading.)

          2. Andy*

            I dont find it to be case and I dont work in corporation. Yes, if you are obstacle for someone, you should move away. But waiting for Uber, taxi, other pick up, going away by public transport says “normal person trying to get away”. It does not says “unreliable” at all. Especially since the weather is still cold.

            Coming in late , whether because you had trouble to find parking or because you did not planned for actual commute time might. Waiting in lobby for drive would not.

            1. MK*

              I think the advice in such cases is prompted by wanting to appear your best in interviews and not take chances with insignificant things. It’s not that waiting in a lobby for your ride is bound to create a bad impression, it’s that, well, why take the chance someone might notice you and think it weird? When you can easily just wait nearby instead?

              1. andy*

                But it also sends a message that it is normal or desirable to judge candidates this way. It is neither.

                More over, it is red flag about company. If doing something practical, innocent, inoffensive like taking Uber away and not waiting in cold is suspect, working for them might turn into landfield of similar unstated expectations.

                If you are desperate for job, sure. If you are not however, it is red flag.

                1. Forrest*

                  I just find it odd advice because people could just as easily think it’s weird and antisocial that you decided to stand in the cold for twenty minutes rather than sit in reception and chat to the receptionist! I don’t think I’d want to work anywhere that would make that part of the hiring standards either way, though.

                2. MassMatt*

                  If a company looks askance at someone sitting in their waiting room they are unlikely to tell you, so in this sense there’d be no red flag to see. I really doubt it would be a make-or-break issue unless a candidate were really on the knife’s edge of being hired or not. You are not going to be screening out companies you don’t want to work for by sitting in their lobbies.

                3. Joan Rivers*

                  Get in and get out. I’m surprised you’d want to take the risk of encountering someone you said goodbye to. And if you have to use the restroom that’s even more awkward.

                  You show up to an interview dressed for the part and want to stage it the best you can and then split. Not hang around there. Nothing good can come of it. There’s something you’re not getting here.

                4. Forrest*

                  @Joan Rivers — none of that makes sense to me! I wouldn’t apply for a job anywhere where I felt super weird hanging around for twenty minutes or might meet people in the loos. I mean, the desired outcome is that these people are going to be my colleagues. Why should I be scared of making a couple of minutes small talk with them?

                5. andy*

                  @joan rivers

                  > I’m surprised you’d want to take the risk of encountering someone you said goodbye to. And if you have to use the restroom that’s even more awkward.

                  I don’t perceive it as risk. I would smile, say “hi” or “good evening” depending on how formal company is. And that is petty much it. Because the person I just said goodbye to is going somewhere and will simply continue going that way. If they don’t or act surprised over me waiting, I would say the truth: I am waiting for uber. If they will be inclined to have small talk, I will smile and oblige.

                  As for restroom, I say some salutation, smile, then wash hands and go my way.

                  I mean this 100% seriously: in mature adult environment neither of these is issue. If you are willing to take clues from other person and don’t get pushy, randomly meeting someone in the lobby won’t cause awkwardness not issue.

                6. Allonge*

                  @Forest
                  This is what I was thinking – in a small org it can come across jsut as weird.

                  Also: what’s wrong with asking, if you are not certain? Hi, I took an Uber here, is it ok to wait for my drive home at [place]? If in the answer they immediately bring up just having to have a car at this job, that is useful info (and I could still answer that on a normal day I am ok to drive, going for an interview I prefer to outsource that particular pain in the neck).

            2. Brooklyn*

              Agreed. Not to get on my personal soapbox, but it’s ridiculous to normalize car ownership to the point that you assume anyone who can’t or won’t drive to work is unreliable. I live in NYC, where traffic is much more erratic than public transit. Am I allowed to not hire anyone who doesn’t live walking distance to the subway because they might not be at work on time?

                1. Flyover Country Exists*

                  Yeah, this isn’t really something New Yorkers can comment on. In most of the country, public transportation is nonexistent, and where it does exist, it’s limited and unreliable. Most companies aren’t going to be thrilled about hiring someone who potentially going to be late often, can’t show up early, can’t stay late ever and won’t ever be able to work on a holiday. (These are all the limitations I dealt with when depending on public transportation outside of major cities. The buses didn’t run before 8am, after 5 pm or on holidays. They were frequently off schedule, as well.)

                2. BBG*

                  Yep, rural dweller here and my old job was located on an industrial complex surrounded by fields. When I was hiring candidates, we always allowed them to wait in the reception area or under the veranda outside for their transport home. In our eyes, it was safer for them to be within the realms of our building than to loiter outside somewhere where heavy industrial machinery was passing, or alternatively where they would be fairly exposed in a large open area (there weren’t safety concerns as such, but it was a huge estate in the middle of nowhere).

                  Most candidates came to us with their own transport but some lift-shared and others took taxis. I certainly didn’t see it as a prerequisite to the job that someone needed their own transport, just as long as they had some safe and viable way of making it to our location.

                  Whilst I agree that YMMV on this one, I also don’t think many companies however large or small will really red flag a candidate if they were to wait momentarily in the lobby for their transport (especially in the cases of weather: What if it’s raining? Winter? Dark out?). I think if a company were to do this it would say more about them and raise a red flag against an employee’s welfare than anything, IMHO.

                3. Brooklyn*

                  My point isn’t the experience is the same, just that it seems weird to make the assumption that someone else can’t get to work differently than you and still be reliably on time. Given that many can’t afford or can’t drive a car, for various reasons, it’s veering close to discrimination (and probably breaks ADA) to not hire people because they don’t drive to work. Assuming driving isn’t part of the job, of course.

              1. MassMatt*

                I’ve lived in a major city with pretty decent public transportation and I ran into many issues with being able to get to work, especially as my work transitioned to suburbs. Many jobs require having reliable transportation, and public transit/Uber/Lyft just won’t cut it, especially outside big cities.

              2. I'm just here for the cats*

                Yes, and remember that there are people with invisible disabilities where they can’t drive. I have a friend who can’t drive after dark, but a normal office job 9-5 is fine for him. I also know people who have epilepsy that don’t drive. Their seizures are very mild and/or.rare but don’t drive incase something happens.

              1. Joan Rivers*

                I’m sure her advice is based on people writing about embarrassing encounters in the bathroom after an interview or other awkwardness.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think it’s not as awkward to be standing outside their space as it would be to stand around in it.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Also, I’d say it depends on the office setup. My company is 1 floor of a ~30-floor skyscraper. The 1st-floor lobby area is set up as a general gathering/waiting place and is frequently filled with people waiting around before/after appointments in the building. If a candidate left our office and hung out in the lobby for 20 minutes, no one from my company would know and wouldn’t think it’s weird if we did notice.
      For a company that takes up the whole building and the lobby is their general reception area, then I would agree not to hang around.

    4. Aimlesd*

      This reminds me a little bit of a (somewhat heated) discussion years ago on AAM around email addresses. Alison suggested that having an aol/yahoo or similar addresses might clock a candidate as older or not technically savvy – and that all things being equal, it might be better to switch to Gmail.

      It was similar in the sense that a manager is probably not going to say “this was the perfect candidate, too bad about that email address!” It was more a suggestion that it might have a small, unconscious, slightly negative effect on the manager’s perception.

      The difference with the “waiting in the lobby” issue is that it is going to vary so wildly depending on your office setup and location, whether there is a dedicated lobby, how prevalent Uber/Lyft is in your area, even the weather (I guess I would think more negatively of a candidate who stood out in the rain for 10 minutes when our lobby was right there).

      It’s almost impossible to answer a question like that with any response other than “You should maybe try to avoid it if you can, but it probably doesn’t matter.”

      1. TWW*

        In my workplace, there would really be no good option for a candidate waiting for a ride. We’re a small manufacturing business, so not open to the public or set up to host visitors. Our “waiting area” is a chair next to the printer, where you will overhear office chatter, some of it proprietary.

        We’re also in a sprawling industrial area, so you can’t exactly walk to the nearest Starbucks to wait.

        If I were advising a job candidate, I would encourage them to have their ride wait while they interviewed. Failing that, walk down the street and wait for your Uber on the corner.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I think applicants to higher-paying jobs can get away with this more easily. An applicant to a high-paying job probably just has their car in the shop today, but an applicant to a low-paying job could be perceived as not having reliable transportation to work.

    6. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      My thoughts exactly. I do agree that you should leave the office suite itself (otherwise it could feel awkward and like everyone is waiting to talk about you after you leave, because they are) but if it’s a multi-company building (or just a hugely massive company with different physical offices) and you’re in the public lobby, you’re fine.

  7. Wintermute*

    #2– it sounds like you need a change management system other than “firehose your unfiltered comments at me”. I would talk to your boss about a formal or semi-formal system where people can submit a change request and justification and have it reviewed.

    Oftentimes even a very rudimentary process that adds a tiny bit of friction between “get a visit from the good idea fairy” and “request someone change their work” means trivial stuff and “bike shed problems”– where a trivial decision gets inordinate attention because people feel they MUST have some kind of input to validate they are contributing (AKA “speaking to be seen”) and it’s something they can easily weigh in on, like a committee approving a new power plant spending hours on what color to paint the bike shed because having input on energy economics and infrastructure is hard but everyone knows what a bike shed is– aren’t so easy to fire off, but truly important changes can get through.

    Ideally, you’d have a proper change management workflow where change requests are routed through their manager for approval, or before some kind of change gatekeeper, but if that’s beyond scope you can at least make an email template or form and see if you can get support from your boss in making it mandatory. The business case to take to your manager is that it would save you from endless cycles of pointless “I feel I must contribute” changes or rapidly moving whims, ensure that change requests reflect what more than one person thinks is a good idea, and ensure that important things are still brought to your attention, it also provides a record of how bad this problem is and quantifies your workload to help you in the future (when time comes to ask for a raise, or you need to ask for help, etc).

    It doesn’t need to be as advanced as a full ticketing system, which is probably beyond your scope and cost, it can be a folder in your email and a template you give to people, or something set up in Microsoft Forms fairly trivially if you use Sharepoint or Teams, or if you do have a ticketing system added into it.

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      Can I just say I am very familiar with the “I must contribute so let me nitpick this comma to death” scenario, and I am delighted to know that it has a name. Bike shed problems! Love it!

      1. Cat Tree*

        Ugh, yes! I write a lot of documents with technical content and always strict due dates. There are a few approvers who will nitpick the stylistic things to death, while not making any comments about the technical aspects. It makes me think they don’t actually understand the technical side of things, but still want to feel like they contributed. It’s very frustrating when I just spent 3 days working out a bug in the script, but now I have to go back through and change all the abbreviated chemical symbols to the full chemical names. It’s especially frustrating when we have to submit a document to a regulatory agency because the online forms have a character limit but one particular reviewer insists on overly flowery language.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I used to work for a creative director who would sometimes leave a small error in our comps so that the client could feel like they changed something without mucking the important stuff up. Personally I disliked it — it wounded my perfectionist heart to leave an intentional error in, plus it felt manipulative and the sign of a weird relationship — but it was rather effective.

        1. vlookup*

          I have done this to test whether a reviewer was reviewing documents at the level they were supposed to (and, if necessary, used it to train them to do so). I wouldn’t do it all the time, but it’s worked well for me when I needed it.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Ha, a decoy error! I kind of like the idea. I work in an industry where nearly every document gets approved by 2 to 8 other people besides the author. A few reviewers have reputations for being especially nitpicky. Years ago, I actually had a reviewer tell me, in a combination of amazement and annoyance, that she had reviewed my document numerous times and couldn’t find anything to correct. Maybe I should start making a typo on the first page for these people to find so they can feel good about themselves.

          I have noticed that the people who nitpick the most are the least likely to have any comments on the actual technical content.

  8. Not Australian*

    LW2: I’ve just emerged from twelve years in fiction publishing, and one thing I learned above all others was this – you never *finish* working on a book, you only *stop*. That means you need a hard deadline which is understood from an early stage – preferably from the start of each project – beyond which corrections absolutely cannot be considered.

    We’ve all said and written things in the past that I’m sure we’d like to have expressed better. We’ve all been embarrassed by typoes. That doesn’t always mean we have the opportunity to go back and fix them. Sometimes you can have a second edition, sometimes an erratum slip, and sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and put up with it and aim to do better next time.

    The process is flexible to a certain extent, but not infinitely so.

    1. Dan*

      I work in government contracting, mostly as a computer programmer and data analyst. All of our deliverables have contractual deadlines, and one of the first questions I asked when I first started was, “how firm are these contractual deadlines?” The answer: Very firm. While the can be moved, editing delays are never a valid excuse. They *can* get moved ahead of time, but realistically, only if two conditions are true: 1) There is remaining money to support the continued labor, and 2) There is proposed added work beyond the original scope.

      It helps having deadlines that are set in stone. It also helps having a budget, because when you bill by the hour, people tend to not like working when there is no budget to support that work. (And never mind that in government contracting, we are required by law to record all hours worked.)

      Side note… in college, I really, really liked math class. At the undergraduate levels, most coursework is cut and dried, and you either got the right answer, or you didn’t. Even better was when the prof assigned a text where the answers in the back of the book. In those cases, the process was just as important, and you were done when you got the book answer. Full stop.

      I hated lit classes because my papers never felt *finished* in the same ways my coursework did. As a result, grading always felt arbitrary in ways that math coursework never did.

      Further side note… I do far more writing professionally than I ever expected to do. At least I don’t get graded on it, and I *always* get a paycheck.

    2. Good Vibes Steve*

      “you never *finish* working on a book, you only *stop*.”

      I’m in a content production nightmare scenario myself right now, and this phrase is going to be SO useful! Thank you for this little nugget.

      1. Pennyworth*

        I have a relative who writes and self publishes books. He can’t stop tinkering even after they are published – his first one has several versions.

      2. londonedit*

        I also work in book publishing, and this is SO true! Getting authors to understand that at some point they will have to let go of the proofs and we will have to send them to press, and yes that means there may be the odd typo that’s slipped through our rounds of editing, is one of the more challenging parts of my job!

      3. MissDisplaced*

        I also work in content production.
        I often have to tell people this white paper, web site, brochure, ebook, etc., is DONE. We can review it next year if we want improvements or changes. Which we do, as generally we have a content review every 12-18 months.

        Sometimes, you just have to cut it off or it will never get done. I’ll only make exceptions if it’s something glaring or it’s a change that can’t be ignored (like a contact leaving, phone number change or the like).

    3. anon translator*

      It’s like the old saw about how no piece of art is ever completed, it’s only abandoned. I’m an in-house translator and sometimes our legal department sends stuff to be translated, and then the original gets revised, and revised again. On the one hand, I like the fact that internal decisions or instructions are rarely graven in granite before they get to me, but on the other, I have enough work as it is, I don’t need to create more by doing constant updates to the draft. One or two are understandable, but when it gets to 10+, I can feel my blood pressure rising, especially when the assignment has a tight deadline.

      That said, I do appreciate the opportunities I get to clarify and simplify the original text if it’s unclear. Sometimes the ambiguity is intentional for political reasons, but luckily that doesn’t happen very often.

  9. PspspspspspsKitty*

    #1 – I would just do a normal interaction and let it go. I had a new boss start. She didn’t want to do anything. She went out on leave. There was no interaction with her and her desk was close to mine. She ended up leaving the company. I found out afterwards that it was medical leave. I found it frustrating to not have a boss, but she was obviously dealing with something to disappear for a long time after starting. Yeah, there’s a 1,000 things she could have done better, but since I don’t know what she was dealing with, I choose to side that people are trying their best. Mostly because I would personally hate it if I acted petty and she was dealing with a cancer diagnoses.

  10. G*

    #5 I’ve had some luck before by searching key phrases from the advert. Often external recruiters don’t make huge changes to the wording received from the company and you can find the same role posted by other external recruiters with more info or even on the companies own job board. Doesn’t work everything of course.

    1. Emma*

      I was going to suggest this, often you’ll find the same vacancy posted on the employer’s own website if you google some specific phrases

  11. Pennyworth*

    #3 – Would taking an Uber after an interview etc really be taken as a sign that a candidate might not have reliable transportation? I’d just assume they were sensibly making sure there weren’t any issues with parking etc on a day when arriving on time with no unforeseen dramas is important.

    1. Dan*

      … and heck, my office is accessible by the metro line. Except it’s at the bottom of a big hill, and perhaps a ten minute walk from the train platform to the main building (I timed it once). I’ll happily do that in my “business casual” attire (which, ahem, consists of athletic shoes and jeans.) But in my interview attire, in the summer when it can get hot and humid and you can show up all sweaty? Oh heck no.

    2. Liz*

      In my last job, taxis WERE the most reliable transportation! Hardly anybody in the organisation drove, so everyone was on buses and the metro. Cabs were the punctual luxury you splashed out for if the bus wasn’t running on time or the metro was closed for building work and you didn’t have a relative on hand to give you a lift.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My corporate offices are in suburbia, 5 miles from the nearest bus line. There are many coordinated van pools that start from commuter lots that new hires can join, but for an interview they need a car or a ride. Security is unhappy to have people without employee badges hanging around outside the secured door. Already admitted and waiting in lobby to leave us not someone they have to monitor.
      Personally I think it would be revealing to see if the interviewee stays calm & polite afterwards. Especially if another person (potential competition?) is badged in before their ride shows.
      And in extreme weather it would be downright weird to choose to stand outside in it.

    4. doreen*

      The fact that you mention parking issues makes me think you are envisioning an interview in the city. I’m not – I know a few people who do a reverse commute. They are traveling from the city to a work in a suburb, and parking isn’t a problem as all the businesses have parking lots. It’s those who commute by mass transit that have an issue – if your job is near the train station, no problem. If your job is close to the bus line, things should be okay. If the job is not within walking distance of a bus or train , those are the people who are taking Uber or Lyft. Whether those are reliable probably depends a great deal on specifics – at home, I never wait more than ten minutes for an Uber , but I’ve waited up to 30 minutes in other places.

      1. Brooklyn*

        I lived in two cities on the west coast doing a reverse commute and neither had parking. The first, I switched to transit, which was conveniently provided (university with a hospital shuttle) and the fifteen minute walk to the bus stop saved me a half hour of finding parking and walking to the office. The second, I mostly biked and knew that if I wanted parking, I needed to arrive before 8:30am, because that’s when it routinely filled up.

        Not saying you’re wrong for where you are, but if I was going to a new part of town by car, I would leave a lot earlier than I would by car – assuming there’s going to be convenient parking is not normal anywhere I’ve ever lived. Even reverse commute, even the small suburb I grew up in, etc. Yeah, sure, you drive to the mall, not a big deal if you circle the lot once or twice, but a job interview?

        In any case, if I arrive on time, that should be evidence that I can make it to your office on time. Everything else is some weird flex about assuming your life choices extend to other people.

    5. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Also, if you are in a place like central Europe with convenient high speed rail?

      Doing a day trip to a city at the other end of the country for an interview is common. And taking a taxi to/from the train station is way cheaper and easier than renting a car.

      And depending on the weather, waiting inside is very much preferable!

    6. BRR*

      It’s very dependent on where you are and the type of office building. For example, if it was a set up like The Office, I’d wait outside.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      It depends where you live. There are still places in the US that have practically zero Lyft/Uber presence. “Parking issues” are usually a city thing. In many suburbs and rural areas there’s rarely a parking problem.

      It is very variable (know your own town), but in places where public transit is just not convenient and taxis, Lyfts, and Ubers are a rarity, Alison’s advice makes sense.

      1. Brooklyn*

        That feels like we’re making the assumption that rural America is “real America.” I’m not trying to accuse, it is just a mindset that can lead to bad expectations. More Americans live in the NYC, LA or Chicago metro areas than live in rural settings. I think Alison is usually very good about qualifying her answers, but in this case, I think she dropped the ball and her answer doesn’t apply to a lot of people.

        1. doreen*

          I kind of think you might be doing the opposite , though. I live in NYC and while most employers within the five boroughs do not have parking lots , it has been my experience that most employers in the surrounding suburbs do.
          I don’t agree that any of this is really cause for concern – but I’m not going to wait 20 minutes for an Uber in the lobby of an office located in Nassau or Westchester County with a large parking lot. Just because I don’t think it’s cause for concern doesn’t mean all those people in that building who drive to work won’t.

      2. Librarian1*

        Right, but in those places people are much more likely to have cars than they are in cities.

    8. Mental Lentil*

      It’s not how you’re getting home. It’s the standing around and waiting that is an issue.

      1. Laura H.*

        Agreed. Another alternative is asking before your interview if there’s a cafe or something nearby that’s open. Finding a little nook like that within reasonable walking distance is a godsend. Gives you a little time to breathe and get your head on straight before and time to wind down after. Yes you want to likely buy something but it’s another option.

    9. pretzelgirl*

      It could. I live by 2 medium sized cities. Where public transport is not the norm at all. Many job listings will sauy “must have reliable transportation”. Yes, waiting for a ride in a reception type area would probably be seen as odd in my area. I personally would not care, but I cant speak to everyone.

  12. John Smith*

    #5, are you able to contact the agency and ask them more about the hiring organisation? General questions like size, what industry they’re in (medical? technical? religious? porn?) that wouldn’t necessarily reveal the identity of the organisation but would at least give you some idea of whether it would be suitable or not.

  13. Forrest*

    LW5, take a chunk out of the job advert / description and put it into google in “”. If the agency has been retained by the company to recruit for that position, it’ll just send you back to the agency. At which point it can be worth getting in touch with the agency directly to see if they can tell you more about the client. Howvever, if the recruitment agent is being opportunistic– they’ve scraped the job ad from somewhere else and are pretending it’s their — it’ll bring up the original job ad, usually on the company website or from a paid platform which will include the company name.

    1. Forrest*

      (the other possibility if it’s that generic is that there is no job, and they’re just trying to build a pool of candidates in that area.)

    2. Filosofickle*

      A related tip: Look for highly specific phrases about the company in the listing that sound like corporate messaging, and then search for the phrase. That often will reveal a specific organization. Unusual job titles often work this way as well.

      For example, I found a masked listing that said it was at an “American cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco”. Off the top of my head I was pretty sure that was Salesforce and searching that exact phrase confirmed it’s their boilerplate description.

  14. LifeBeforeCorona*

    #1 The Cut Direct. It’s an English expression. If the British Royal family were having a public funeral for Prince Phillip there would be lots of Cut Direct examples. Please use it with your old boss. She may never notice which makes it more satisfying.

    1. MK*

      Since the whole point of pointedly ignoring someone is to signal contempt, I doubt their not noticing would even make it more satisfying. The OP actually says she wants to convey how much the boss sucked by this gesture.

    2. Not sure of what to call myself*

      But if LW1 has never been introduced to the person before (in person, by video or over the phone) then nice to meet you is the proper way to greet them. It can have finally added to it, but its not going to read as a snub I its the correct polite greeting. snubs only really work if people actually see/feel them land.

    3. Minerva*

      This is the expression I was looking for. I used it on a former classmate for years when she dumped her fiance and married one of her professors. Eventually every one moved on and I was able to let go of my pettiness. It did give me small satisfaction for a while.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Historically, the cut direct is more insulting than ignoring — one makes eye contact and THEN turns away.
      This is catty, and our OP says they will not stoo to that.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, a proper cut direct means you are conspicuously and publicly refusing to acknowledge someone – so turning away when they speak to you, looking them in the eye and refusing to to shake their hand when they extend it to you, or making eye contact and then turning your back.

    5. Glomzarization, Esq.*

      Why should someone try a social insult from the early 19th century British Empire in their 21st century American workplace?

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        For fun and mild satisfaction? The Cut Direct is the British term for it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a foreign idea to Americans. Just think of the 30 Rock episode where Tracy advises Jenna that saying “nice to meet you”to someone you’ve met before is the easiest way to shake them up.

        1. Glomzarization, Esq.*

          I’ve never watched “30 Rock,” and if I did I don’t think I’d use a sitcom to inform how I act in the workplace, either.

  15. UShoe*

    #5 in my experience if you ring the agency advertising and have a chat to them about the role, if they think you’re a good fit and you let them get you “on their books” (e.g. have a phone interview and send them a CV) they will tell you who the company are so you can put in a proper application. I’ve never found it to bet the case that they keep you in the dark until you get an interview, it’s just not in their interest.

    1. Nonprofiteer*

      Same here. Publishing of course may have different norms, but I’ve never been asked to write a blind cover letter like this. If interested, I just send a CV and they tell me about the hiring org before the interview is set up.

  16. Andy*

    #3 I think this must depend on place. In my city, it would be perfectly normal to use uber or public transport to go to and from work. Consequently, them knowing you are taking a ride away and thus have to wait for user would not suggest you are incapable to get to/from work. Frankly, I find that negative assumption completely odd.

  17. Czhorat*

    In my field external recruiters are a thing and I even got one (terrible) job through one. They’ve always told me the company name, with the understanding that I’d not do stuff m around them. It seems weird not to, age certainly impacts whether I’d be interested in the position.

    There was an issue with this exactly once over many interactions. Two months after a recruiter gained to get me an interview (with a firm to which I’d reached out before) I directly contacted the directions discipline leader is be working for, attached an interview, got hired. The recruiter reached out first to me and then the company arguing that he owned my candidacy because he’d brought them to my attention. Hockey bought that, but there apparently are usually deals in place to avoid the shady act of bypassing the recruiter. I don’t think that either the candidate for hiring firm should want to sour that relationship and damage their reputation m

  18. Paperdill*

    OP1 – I am really feeling for you and don’t begrudge you your small flick up.
    I had been in my previous position for 13 years, but dropped to part-time after 7 years, when my kids were born. Despite the fact that I had been performing (and doing so quite well!) in the role for a few years, part time, Grandboss, out of the blue, decided she didn’t want people in my role working part-time anymore and I was forced to resign for the sake of my family.
    Now Grandboss didn’t actually know me from a bar of soap, but I knew her. She had no idea how much she had ruined my life, my confidence or my finances. Eighteen months later and I am still very much feeling the effects of it.
    I realise how petty and pointless it was, but it did give me some small sense of satisfaction, getting up and leaving every time she tried to come and schmooze with the group I was talking with at the Christmas party. Pathetic, I do realise, but sometimes these small actions protect us (and certainly protected me from telling her exactly who I was and the implications her decision had on my life).

  19. anon right now*

    #1 – Sometimes this is fine. I’m an attorney, and I represented a dad in a child-related case several years ago. There was a child services social worker involved who, for 14 months – and I am not making this up – refused to speak to the father or to me. One day we were at a court hearing about 12 months into this 14 month odyssey, and I made a big show of introducing her to the dad. She said hello, and had a look on her face like she smelled spoiled milk. This was a petty delight, as her supervisor was there and had heard several complaints that she generally treated dads very poorly, but couldn’t actually connect/confirm that. The matter was reassigned to a social worker who believes dads are humans, and things went much smoother after that.

  20. MissDisplaced*

    2. I’m being tortured by endless revisions
    As someone who deals with a lot of creative work and picky people, the only problem with announcing that you’re only going to “fix errors” from here on out is that people will say that it IS an ERROR because it isn’t what they wanted.

    So I actually wouldn’t go this route. Instead, announce a firm deadline. And then as Alison suggested, collect ALL comments into ONE document to be fixed and fix them. Then call this done until there is a new update/version/refresh. Sometimes you do need to let slightly imperfect things go or it will never get done.

    And reevaluate your review process, or pad in much more time for reviews moving forward with other projects.

  21. Grits McGee*

    Going off #4, does anyone have another word for “retaliation” one can use in this situation?

    I had a somewhat similar situation with a HR person when I worried about filing a formal complaint against a coworker who had a history of sabotaging other’s work and falsely accusing people of regulatory violations. I asked, since I was told there was no way they could keep things anonymous, if I had any protections from retaliation by this coworker. The response was “Well he can’t retaliate against you, because he’s not your supervisor,” and no amount of explaining could get the HR person to budge from that response.

    Granted, it was fairly clear that she just didn’t want me to file a complaint, but sometimes people just get stuck on the legalese that they can’t have a colloquial conversation about this kind of thing.

    1. Forrest*

      I mean, that’s kind of your answer– your HR has either no ability or no interest in trying to mitigate any negative repercussions that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation. :-/

      1. Grits McGee*

        Well, the answer I really want is another word to use for retaliation so that the conversation doesn’t get completely derailed by a discussion of the legal vs colloquial definition of retaliation. Sure, there was almost no chance that I was going to be able to safely file a compliant, but the conversation still could have been more productive.

        1. Myrin*

          “Turn on me”, maybe? “Behave negatively towards me”? Or maybe name the behaviour directly, if you’re able to guess at it, like “I fear he’s going to start falsely accusing me of X again should he realise that I was the one who filed the complaint”?

        2. Dwight Schrute*

          Hmm I feel like sabotage works ok in this situation since that’s what they were actually doing

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          How about sabotage or sabotaging? That’s a pretty clear description from your original question.

          And being truly pedantic – sabotage is technically not retaliation, but sometimes retaliation can take the form of sabotage.

        4. Observer*

          Well, the answer I really want is another word to use for retaliation so that the conversation doesn’t get completely derailed by a discussion of the legal vs colloquial definition of retaliation.

          As others noted, you could have used a word like sabotage or “trying to get back at me”. But let’s get real. It would not have made a difference. Because the conversation was actually NOT being derailed by the legal definition, but by an HR person who did not want to do her job.

          All the good phrasing in the world is not going to change that.

  22. Finland*

    My manager heard from HR that I had spoken with them and told me that indicated I was indeed not ready for the promotion

    Firstly, if I learned that HR discussed our conversation with my manager without my knowledge, I would never say another word to them about anything else problematic. This doesn’t seem like a normal HR response in my experience.

    Secondly, I think it is very weird for your current manager to be the interviewer. In my experience, it allows the manager to sabotage any chances at promotion, particularly if this promotion will take you away from your manager’s group (if you are an excellent employee), or if they hold a grudge against you, or are envious, etc.

    Nevertheless, LW#4, your manager having a negative opinion about you is not retaliation. If your manager withheld the promotion because of your conversation with HR, that might be different if you were reporting illegal activities, but you didn’t make it to the interview stage by that time, so perhaps that is unlikely. However, if I were you, I would be more careful about my communications to HR knowing that they get back to the manager.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      For your first point – HR is not a doctor or a lawyer. Yes, they sometimes deal with that type of information, but it doesn’t sound like HR in this case went to the manager to tell them private details about OP #4. OP did expand on what happened in a comment above. It was rather, “OP came by my office and mentioned that you said X which is incorrect.” But regardless, as long as HR did not share unneeded details of an ADA accommodation or FMLA leave (or something similar), it is fine to share the simple fact that they had a conversation about OP’s career and future at the company.

      On your second point, the manager should absolutely be included in some way in the recruitment process of an internal promotion. They may not always be an interviewer, but they should absolutely be a reference. Why would the senior level management believe that their direct report would intentionally sabotage a candidate’s chances at promotion? That is petty and immature – that person should not be a manager! (It may still be true as demonstrated by their interpretation of OP asking HR for feedback, but senior management shouldn’t think that.)

      1. MassMatt*

        “Why would the senior level management believe that their direct report would intentionally sabotage a candidate’s chances at promotion? That is petty and immature – that person should not be a manager!”

        I agree, it would be petty and immature, and such a person should not be a manager. But it happens so frequently that yes, it is something a good organization should be on the lookout for.

        Some managers regard their underlings being promoted as a threat or betrayal. Others care only about “losing” the underling and having to find/train a replacement. Others are just nasty or vindictive and sabotage their chances because they can, or it makes them feel powerful. Fortunately they are in the minority, but sadly it isn’t a small minority.

        The manager’s comment about the LW going to HR indicates he is likely a bad manager, IMO, especially as he told the LW not to talk to the upper managers.

        1. PT*

          Managers who aren’t on the up and up often don’t want their employees talking to HR because they’re paranoid the employee is going to spill the beans on them. So even if the employee says something completely benign, like, “Hey what’s the rule for using a sick day on your timesheet? I couldn’t get one to go through on my timesheet when I clicked on it,” and the answer is, “Oh your manager isn’t using the payroll software correctly, he has to (chain of five clicks) to approve it” the manager will then get completely paranoid that you “told” all their “secrets” to HR.

          1. Andy*

            This is not even HR issue, it is administrative issue. And your example dialog could happen in discussion with literally anyone in the whole company? In pretty much all companies I have been at, if you have a problem to go through timesheet you start with friend, then expand to teamleader, then expand to administrative department in your search of answer.

            It however does not happen as random dialog and does not happen with hr that much (for the same reason it does not happen with testers – it is just outside of issues they deal with normally).

        2. Daisy-dog*

          My last sentence agrees with you. My quoted statement is disagreeing with Finland. It absolutely happens, but is not something that senior management would tend to think is happening. We agree that the manager is at fault here. I was highlighting that HR is really a bystander here.

        3. doreen*

          But the current manager is also the hiring manager – so it’s not the case that if the OP is promoted the current manager is going to have to find/train a replacement – he or she is going to have to find/train a replacement either way, either the person who fills the jobs the OP wanted, or the OP . Usually, when a manager blocks a promotion , it’s a promotion out of that manager’s area

  23. James*

    #2: I used to work with someone like that, with the added bonus that every revision was proof that I was incompetent and moronic and incapable of basic writing. I kept a record of each round of revisions. When this person started revising their own revisions (again, with the insults added) I’d send an email with the versions attached saying, essentially, “It looks like we’re starting to loop back on ourselves on this project; let me know which you prefer and we’ll send it out.” The person didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much they could do at that point.

    The problem is your editors are editing with their egos, not with an eye towards value to the client. Sometimes that’s okay–in some cases the client is wrong, and it’s our job to inform them of that. That said, there are limits. Perpetual editing because you want to make it 2% better is a good way to prevent the product from going out the door. The editors need reminded of the fact that there are deadlines and budgets, and that the goal is supposed to be “Does this benefit the client?”

    1. irene adler*

      This is an excellent point all who review content should ask themselves. Who is the edits I’m making actually for?

  24. Not So Super-visor*

    For LW4 – I guess that I don’t understand why OP went to HR after the hiring manager already sat down and explained why they weren’t considered for the promotion. I can see how the manager might feel like OP was trying to go over their head and not be taking any feedback provided seriously. I suppose it depends on the feedback that the manager provided.

    1. OP#4*

      Yea thanks for your question, I didn’t provide that much detail in my letter, the backstory is probably enough for another letter! The only feedback my manager would tell me is that it was because I didn’t have enough years of experience. But I met the minimum in the job posting. He also said it wasn’t his decision, he wanted to interview me but Sr Mgmt (the two managers above him) wouldn’t allow. Because he told me it wasn’t his decision and the logic didn’t really make sense bc of the job posting, I wanted to get feedback directly from whoever had made the decision, but my manager also told me not to reach out to Sr Mgmt. So I went to HR to see what I could find out (since I knew they had also been involved). I never did find out anything else, maybe it honestly was years of experience and the min requirement they wrote on the job posting just wasn’t accurate.

      1. Myrin*

        Oh my, knowing that background, everything you did seems perfectly understandable to me. Your boss sounds like a real piece of work! :(

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think I can understand why the boss felt OP was weirdly pushing back on not getting an interview. It seems OP thinks because they met the minimum experience requirements they should have or were entitled to an interview. Maybe in OP’s position that is the case. But I think in most places the minimum requirements is the ticket to even be considered for an interview. If they have 25 candidates that all meet the minimum experience requirements of 4 years, but 5 candidates have 8 years of experience it makes sense to only interview the 5 candidates. Maybe that is what the boss felt that OP was not taking no for an answer. Granted OP was already working there, but if an external candidate spoke with the hiring manager why they were not interviewed, and mentioned trying to speak with two other upper management people that were part of the process it would seem weird.

          1. OP#4*

            Totally agree with you! In this case, the job was posted internally only, and only 2 people applied (one was me). They interviewed the other person (who did have more experience than me), and that person was offered the job. I would totally understand if I was just not competitive with a large pool of other applicants but that wasn’t the case here.

            1. Mia*

              Honestly, the more I’m reading your responses, the better the picture I get and the fact that they didn’t even bother interviewing you when it was internal between you and another candidate really is eye opening and messed up. It sounds almost like they were going to promote the other employee from the beginning and only opened up the position for appearances. I had a similar situation happen to me where the VP already had chosen his friend to promote instead of me but asked me to apply to the position anyway. Not sure what country you’re in but you’re probably going to want to make sure to keep notes and logs and possibly contact your own attorney if things get worse with your manager.

      2. ten four*

        Yikes! I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but can you get out of there? If there is one thing I’ve learned over the course of my career it’s that my promotion depends more on my manager rather than on me or my work. Your manager just made it crystal clear that they aren’t going to promote you. I know jobs don’t grow on trees, but perhaps you could transfer departments? Or just start looking and be prepared for it to take a while?

      3. vlookup*

        Something seems fishy about this situation. My instinct is that your boss is being dishonest, either about having recommended you for the role, or your lack of experience being the reason you weren’t considered, or both.

        If you met the minimum requirements but they had stronger candidates with more experience, he should just tell you that. If he has concerns about your judgment or performance or understanding of workplace norms, that might explain why he didn’t want you talking to senior management, but again, he should just tell you that.

        I agree with the commenter above that you’re probably not going to get promoted as long as you’re working for this manager. So if that’s what matters to you, you might have to transfer departments or companies.

    2. Observer*

      Even if going to HR was not the right or sensible move, the Boss’ reaction is still extremely odd. “Seeking more information that I deem fit to give you makes you unready for advancement” just makes no sense. If you are confident in the feedback you gave, then you should not be worried about someone going to HR for more feedback. If there really is an issue with the person going to HR, then the appropriate response is NOT “You’re not allowed to go to HR if you want to be taken seriously” but “I’d be interested to know why you felt the need to go to HR? What is it that I failed to convey?” (said in a genuinely curious rather than threatening tome).

      Given the additional information the OP provides, it’s clear that the boss IS a problem.

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        In the industry that I work for, following the chain of command is a huge deal. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule (when something is outright unethical or illegal, if the next link in the chain of command is absent, etc.), but if someone where to jump the chain completely, it would definitely cause people to question their judgement and ability to work at a higher level. In this situation, it wasn’t that OP went to HR because HR handles employee complaints but because that was the next in the chain of command for this hiring decision. I can easily imagine that if someone where to go from the hiring manager to the next level about a hiring decision that this would ruffle some feathers. I can imagine the the higher level would probably go back to the hiring manager and question why they didn’t explain the situation to OP. OP followed up here to say that the hiring manager’s comments weren’t very helpful, but that probably shone an uncomfortable light on the manager and their communication skills. Where I work, I could easily see a manager being bent-out of shape over the perceived jump in the line of command and then making it seem as though the hiring manager wasn’t handling the situation or communicating thoroughly.

        1. Observer*

          All this comes down to the fact that the manager actually was NOT doing his job properly, though. If they had given the OP a reasonable explanation to start with, they would not have spoken to HR.

          And, the OP also provided sufficient additional information to make it clear that they are not in an industry where rigid adherence to the chain of commend is the expectation for anyone to work at a “higher level”.

  25. Glomzarization, Esq.*

    LW#1 — I don’t agree with this “permission.” So many thoughts come to my mind. There’s really no reason not to be the better person here. You don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. There are other people who may see you “flicking up” and now you will have given them a poor impression of yourself.

    You don’t know what the future will hold for you and them. As for the “cut direct” comments, this is not a Jane Austen novel; this is a workplace. Be professional.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      “Nice to meet you” is a polite, socially acceptable response when introduced to someone. How is that not professional?

      1. Glomzarization, Esq.*

        LW framed her query as a “really petty interaction,” so they already know it’s not professional.

        1. comityoferrors*

          Yes, but the “other people who may see” won’t know that it’s meant as a diss. I doubt the boss would even know it’s meant as a diss. It’s just OP’s way of processing a situation she’s still angry about and feeling a sense of control.

          If I treat my boorish coworker cordially, but in my own head I’m framing all our interactions as a researcher observing a strange species (as is often recommended in the comments here) – is that unprofessional because I know it’s petty?

          1. Glomzarization, Esq.*

            Though I don’t want to belabor my point, LW states quite literally, “I just want one really petty interaction to convey how much she sucked at her job.” LW’s aim is to communicate to this person that “she sucked.” In my view, this is unprofessional.

  26. Myrin*

    OP #4, it’s possible that I’m missing something but I honestly don’t understand where “retaliation” comes to play in any form in this situation.
    Unless I’m really misreading this situation, what your manager told you was that you’re not fit for promotion under him (yet) because you went to HR for reasons that aren’t HR-worthy (to him). That’s a strange explanation and doesn’t make him sound very reasonable but in the end that’s not retaliation (for going to HR? Is that what you mean?) but simply pretty bad management using weird parametres.

    1. OP#4*

      Right, consensus seems to be it was not retaliation in the legal sense, so I guess I was mistaken. Happy to get my question answered though!

      1. doreen*

        It’s not just that it’s not retaliation in the legal sense, it’s that what you described doesn’t seem to be retaliation in any sense. Leaving aside the legal definition, even the ordinary definition doesn’t really cover what you describe – at the very least, you would have to suffer some kind of adverse impact even under the ordinary, everyday definition. If he had transferred you to a less desirable job or shift because you went to HR, that would be retaliation in the ordinary sense of the word- but he didn’t. If he had told you he would never promote you , that might be retaliation. But he didn’t actually according to your account take any action after you went to HR – he more or less told you that your complaint confirmed that the decision not to promote you was the right one. Whether that idea is correct or not, it wasn’t an action.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          It read to me sort of like, while he definitely has not retaliated yet, he basically said he planned to in the future? Which I would think would be a concern, even if it’s not actionable right now.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      I agree and am pretty confused. I mean the manager is clearly wrong to tell them that they should only go to HR for legal concerns and that is an issue; but I don’t see how just confirming something that already happened in the past could be retaliation for something that came after. And unless there is a lot left out in the letter it seems like a big stretch to me to say that it sounded like a threat about future applications for the same position which would presumably come way down the road. The boss was wrong but OPs judgment also seems off to me.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Completely agree. The manager sounds like a jerk, but I suspect the LW already knows that, since she’s applying to leave his team. But he’s not retaliating.

        I have never worked anywhere with an ombudsman, but I can’t imagine making a formal complaint about what the manager said. Maybe I vent too much to my co-workers, but, “Boss said this to me, so rude” would have been my first step.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          The OP mentioned above that due to the nature of their industry, they are encouraged to go to the ombudsman when someone’s told not to speak up, regardless of the issue. It seems OP interpreted “I don’t encourage you going to the sr managers about this” as being told not to speak up, so went to the ombudsman because of that.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, if the boss had to take a month leave just a few months into the role, I’d think that she was going through something pretty rough herself at the time. I’d just leave it be

      1. Sylvan*

        Don’t get me wrong, it sounds like she really sucked. But it also sounds like there might have been a reason she really sucked and you could move on.

  28. Cookies For Breakfast*

    LW5, I don’t work in publishing but am trying to move to a publishing job. I’ve dealt with a couple industry-specific recruiters in recent months.

    Sending a short intro addressed to the recruiter instead of a full cover letter (what role I’m applying for, where I found it, very brief summary of my skills and what I’m looking for) worked out just fine. They got back to me to schedule time to talk, so the CV must have met some requirements. I got all details about hiring companies when I spoke to the recruiters on the phone, and at that point they asked me to write a targeted cover letter so they could put me forward to their clients. Hope this helps!

  29. honeygrim*

    OP #1, I feel your pain. My boss of not-quite-2-years left abruptly a few months ago, with far less notice than is appropriate for our particular field. In addition, he didn’t talk to any of the people he supervised; we were informed by his boss. Since we were all working from home, this essentially meant we never saw him again, and he managed to avoid communicating directly with any of us during his notice period. Had we not been informed he had left to take another job, I would’ve assumed he was fired for some reason. His actions were those of someone sneaking away in the middle of the night, not someone who found a new role.

    It was especially frustrating to me, because my role meant I had to take on the bulk of his work until we are allowed to hire a new person for the role (we have a hiring freeze on because of the pandemic). So I had no notice whatsoever that my workload would more than double, and no opportunity to work with him on a smooth transition. It was unbelievably unprofessional.

    As we worked together for nearly 2 years, I don’t think I can get away with pretending we’ve never met if I run into him at a professional conference. But boy I wish I could.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      Now because of all of the trouble his ghosting caused me, the next time I saw him (particularly in front of other people) I’d ask “hey, did you get fired from old job? you were there one day then we never heard from you again so we all assumed you did something to get fired.”
      But maybe that is also too petty.

  30. Lacey*

    OP#2, what a nightmare! You do basically have to put your foot down and tell them you can only fix incorrect information and spelling errors and that’s all.

    I’ve had these kind of nightmares on print projects – it once took me a full 8 hours to get a set of 6 simple gift labels approved for in house use – but video makes it even worse. Every change takes so much time!

  31. Maybe not*

    I’m surprised at the advice for #1. People don’t generally take a month’s leave because everything is awesome in their personal life. Your manager sucked during a, presumably, tough time in her life. She’s no longer your manager. Maybe work on letting it go.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      I feel the same way. The last year has been so awful in so many ways, and there’s no telling what the manager was going thru. Also … we don’t know what (bad) advice the mgr may have been given when she took on the team, or if she was told to stay hands off, or what. There is a *lot* we don’t know.

      Also, to the LW … You don’t know when or how this person might show up again in your life or how she might impact your career in the future, so maybe don’t go burning bridges by making a petty gesture. If you’re sure she’s that awful a manager, all you will be doing is stooping to her level, anyway. Take the high road, be the better person. And maybe save yourself problems down the road.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Yes, I agree. I doubt that saying something like that will have any negative effects, but it’s not going to achieve anything and it’s just prolonging the amount of time the OP spends thinking about this woman. There are so many reasons, most of them not very happy ones, that someone could require that amount of leave and kind of suck at their job for a while right now. Just move on.

    3. un-pleased*

      I agree-why give “permission” to someone to “flick” a person who may have been having a wildly difficult time? Isn’t the best way to show someone they did a poor job to move on and continue doing a great one yourself?

  32. RebaD*

    #2 – I’m also a video editor and deal with similar on the regular. Allison’s advice is spot on. An excuse I like to use to prevent endless notes is to tell them that the export process is cumbersome, so I’m going to wait until I have notes from everyone before implementing. Even better if they can argue about grammar, stylistic choices, etc. among themselves before I spend time on it. I also like to set a deadline that any changes after X date can not be included or will push the final version back by Y days. Make them choose nitpicking or a late deliverable.

  33. Blue Eagle*

    #1 – I’d like to say something like “Your name sounds familiar, do I know you from {insert name of college, name of activity, name of bar}?
    But I guess that would be too petty and might backfire. But just saying it to myself when I saw the manager in person would make me feel better about the former manager’s incompetence.

  34. Observer*

    But your company should still be concerned that your manager said what he said, because there was nothing wrong with you seeking feedback from HR and it was bizarre for him to tell you they’re only for legal/compliance concerns, and it’s terrible practice for a manager to discourage people from talking with HR

    That may be true – and may not be true. In some companies that really is the whole role of HR.

    But, in any case, I think that there is a bigger issue here. The OP’s reaction here really does not make sense to me. There is no retaliation here – it’s not like the manager said (or implied) “You did thing that creates a problem for me so I’m going to punish you for it.” Sure, what the manager said is pretty bad judgement, even in a company where HR really is only expected to be used for legal / compliance rules. But bad judgement is NOT “retaliation”.

    1. MassMatt*

      “In some companies that really is the whole role of HR.”

      Maybe so, but in that case why are they involved in the decision about someone’s promotion? This was not a legal or compliance issue to begin with, it’s weird that the LW’s boss is trying to make this out to be HR’s sole role when it wasn’t this way in the first place. I doubt the LW requested HR have a part in making the promotion decision.

      1. Observer*

        Maybe so, but in that case why are they involved in the decision about someone’s promotion?

        To make sure all of the boxes got checked? To make sure no one said or did anything that could have legal or compliance related implications? Stuff like that happens all the time.

        I do agree that the Boss’ reaction is weird. And based on the OP’s comments above, I think that a smart company should be concerned. Because retaliation is not the only issue a smart company needs to worry about. The minute you have a boss that is trying to keep people from talking to anyone else you have a problem on your hands. And the potential for legal and compliance problems goes WAAAY up.

  35. IANAL*

    LW #4 – I’m not certain this wasn’t retaliation, or at least retaliation adjacent. It sounds like your boss told you he won’t consider you for a promotion (which would be a material adverse action) because he assumed you reported him to HR for “legal/compliance” issues. Maybe I’m misreading your letter, but if he is withholding promotion because he thinks you’ve reported him to HR for discrimination, I think that may be retaliation. If you have any reason to believe that the decision not to promote could have been discriminatory, I’d talk to a lawyer, not necessarily to sue, but to figure out how to re-approach HR/ombudsman.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      But her current manager is not the hiring manager for the “promotion”, which is a new role that would be considered a step up. It sounds like her current manager has, at best, nominal input into the hiring process. He was offering his opinion– you’re not ready because X– which was jerky, for sure, but not a clear-cut “I will not promote you.”

      1. OP#4*

        No, my manager was the hiring manager for the promotion. The job I applied to was a higher level role on my team. So my manager and the hiring manager were one and the same. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Based on your previous comment about what your manager said it seems that while they would have been the person the promotion/new position reports to they are not the one with the authority/power to decide who to hire into the position. If the 2 upper managers were the ones who decided who got an interview, it is likely that they are the ones who really get a say in who gets hired for the position, your managers opinion is probably taken into consideration. It is possible your manager lied to you about that, but it is not unheard of for the situation your manager outlined to be the case. In my job, my manager and their boss both interview candidates, while my managers opinion is heavily considered it is ultimately their boss who decides who gets hired. This is true even though their boss never interacts with the people that are hired into the position, it is my manager who deals with people hired on a day to day basis.

          It seems like you are pushing back on the simple explanation of not being interviewed for not having enough experience even though you met the minimum experience requirement. I can understand why to you it might not make sense, but I have seen it happen several times. Often times more candidates than there are interview slots will meet the minimum requirements, from those you then select the best candidates. So it seems very possible that they had a lot of good candidates several that met the experience requirement and the hiring committee decided to interview only the 5 with the most experience, that cut you out even though you had the minimum experience required.

          It is also possible your manager lied, but the reason you were not interviewed is still accurate. It was your manager who decided you were not going to get an interview because several other candidates already had more experience than you, but your manager did not want to tell you they were the ones who rejected you, so they blamed it on the upper level managers and knew that if you talked to them they would reveal the truth.

          Either way I think you should let this go. If you keep pushing it might make you seem like someone who refuses to take no for an answer.

          1. OP#4*

            In this case, I know that only 2 people applied to the job (one was me). They interviewed the other person (who did have more experience than me), and that person was offered the job. I would totally understand if I was just not competitive with a large pool of other applicants but that wasn’t the case here, so that contributed to why I was trying to find out more information.

            Totally agree with you, I can’t push further without looking like I can’t accept feedback. That is good advice.

            1. Happy*

              It sounds like they had already decided they wanted the other person and that’s why they didn’t interview you. That could be understandable.

              But your bosses bizarre “don’t talk to upper management about this” and subsequent reactions aren’t understandable. It makes it sound like he’s being dishonest with at least one person somewhere up or down the line.

      2. OP#4*

        No, my manager was the hiring manager for the promotion. The job I applied to was only current team just at a higher title/more responsibility.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue is that retaliation needs 2 prongs: a materially adverse action AND legally protected activity. Asking HR for interview feedback is not legally protected activity (as explained more in the answer).

  36. SummerBee*

    LW#2, In addition to recommending that you set a firm content deadline, I can also recommend a useful phrase for non-error feedback: “That’s a great suggestion! I’ll keep it on the list for when we do Revision 2.0.”

  37. Don’t hide my straightener*

    #1. I think you’ll be further disappointed. This likely won’t even register with the person you hope it will register with.

  38. boop the first*

    Oof, I cant even imagine getting caught in a feedback loop with zero deadline. One thing I’ve noticed since doing side work for strangers, and honestly, even relating to company-arranged health inspections, is that the more you learn and the better you get at something, the harder somebody will dig around to find something, ANYTHING to improve.

    It’s just exhausting because it makes you feel like you just can never do anything well. Especially when it goes on to the point where they’re just pulling ideas out of the air that can’t really be done, and then what do you do?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The deadline is your friend; when the insanity starts compromising the deadlines, people tend to sober up.

  39. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Arrrgggghh, this website is so damn bloated that Safari keeps running out of memory and reloading the page even though I just rebooted.

  40. Manana*

    LW1- you literally know nothing about this woman other than she got put in a management position for a team she’s never met during a global crisis and then had to take a month leave. You don’t think that there is a possibility that she had heavy stuff happening in her life? What was the leave for? A dying parent? A miscarriage? Did she get covid? I think pretending you don’t know her will have zero impact on her either way, but i think you’ll feel badly about yourself if you get to know this person and find out they were in crisis during this time. After every thing that’s happened, what would it take to give someone a little grace, even if only in your own mind?

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

    For #2, going forward make sure you have a rubric or checklist and style guide agreed upon for the editors and hold everyone to it. I feel your pain. One of my biggest pet peeves is the comma hokey-pokey — put the comma in, take the comma out, put the comma back in… and names/degrees/titles that need to be consistent — when you have multiple editors they are going to have OPINIONS on certain stylistic details and that needs to be worked out in the beginning not on a revision by revision basis.

    1. Fleapot*

      Absolutely agreed. Agree about a mainstream style guide (CMOS, AP, etc.), and supplement with a style sheet that covers specific terminology, ‘house style’ variations, etc.
      In addition to taking some of the headache out of the revision/editing process, establishing these guidelines helps to ensure consistency across company documents/materials, which is a good thing.

  42. Scott D*

    LW2: Alison is exactly right. I do videos also and make it VERY clear that NO production (other than B-roll shots of things like city streets, etc.) is done until the script is finalized and signed off. Then, I do an edit that is slightly long and we as a team decide what to remove. Of course, errors are fixed and there are still occasionally last minute things.

    It sounds like your co-workers don’t understand how LONG it takes to produce a video. I spent three months making a 20 minute promo video. It’s a lot of work. Maybe you could explain and/or have them sit alongside you so they can see how difficult it is to do endless edits on the same material. Also, endless edits can reduce the quality. For example, the a narrator’s voice will vary slightly from day to day depending on, for example, if they’re tired or have allergies or WHATEVER. If you do a lot of audio splicing it’s VERY noticeable, even if you use the exact same recording equipment–not to mention the problems that arise when you can’t because you have a different microphone or record in a different room that affects the sound.

    Good luck! Your job sounds VERY frustrating!!!

  43. J.B.*

    LW3 – if you’re reading, my advice for academia and government is a little different than those from the private sector. It takes a long time to train professors or those with similar educational backgrounds and interest in minutiae. You don’t have that time. So I would gather the comments you have gotten, pull them all together and go to your boss with this is what I am addressing and not addressing and why. That way they get the feeling that they contributed but your boss is really owning the final call. Then they might grump but probably not too long.

  44. post ghost with the most*

    For LW2 – I work in agency/client-facing video production and we have fairly strict revision schedules attached to budgets, with overages charged for any unscheduled rounds of revisions. This is especially important if we work with 3D animation, since if animation changes are made after lighting/compositing, you can end up doubling costs.

    Though your feedback is from an internal team, you might want to try something similar on future projects. Share a calendar with deadlines for each round of notes (and what type of notes if applicable), and outline how much extra time/money it will cost for additional revision cycles. “Stylistic revisions after X date will cost $Y extra each round to pay for freelance personnel needed to complete by deadline.” Nobody wants to be responsible for unnecessary overages, so making it clear what the costs will be can make everyone a bit more careful.

  45. Flabbernabbit*

    #5. I make it a policy to never work with a recruiter who doesn’t reveal the name of the company. What if I already applied at said company but a different role? When I talk with them, I tell them that in return, if I proceed, I will proceed through them in good faith unless there is a conflict, but that decision will always be no for now and for all future roles. I’ve been burned by shady and this is shady.

  46. Arts Akimbo*

    Wait, did *I* write letter #2?? LOL! Going through the same thing right now with one of my freelance projects. Sending you moral support from the trenches, LW2!

  47. L*

    On the cover letter – Often when working with recruiters, you can actually prepare and submit a cover letter at a later time, after having an initial conversation/screening with the external recruiter, who will subsequently help prepare your application for the hiring company. This can depend on how senior the role is though, and norms vary by industry.

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