my boss set up a secret email with my name, coworker keeps gushing over her married crush, and more

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

1. My manager set up a secret email address using my name

I work at a community college. All regular employees at the college are assigned email addresses that begin with our last name. My email, for example, is LastName_FirstName_MiddleInitial@collegename.edu.

In Outlook, if someone sends an email to a non-existent address, they will receive an “undeliverable” auto-reply. Several people have tried to email me using an incorrect email format (FirstNameLastName@collegename.edu). The incorrect email format doesn’t conform with the college email, so I assumed it had to be nonexistent. I emailed IT to ask them to set up that undeliverable message. They looked into my request and then discovered that the email address did exist and that the owner was my supervisor!

IT revealed that my supervisor had set up a private Teams group with her as the sole member, and the group email was my FirstNameLastName@collegename.edu. Any emails going to that email were being forwarded to her work email address.

It alarms me that she set up this email using my name — an email that I was not aware of and that only she had access to. I don’t know how to find out what she has been using that email for. She’s extremely passive-aggressive and acts like Kevin Spacey’s character in “The Usual Suspects” as she always plays dumb. She is also constantly gaslighting us. I can’t outright ask her why she created that email, because she’ll either lie to me or play the innocent and act confused, which are her two go-to moves. Is this something I can approach HR with? How should I proceed?

I’m trying to think of an innocent explanation for this and I’m pretty sure there isn’t one. It just sounds extremely nefarious.

And also extremely weird. She wants to be the one who receives any misdirected emails intended for you and doesn’t want you to know about it? Why? There can’t be that many, and they can’t be that interesting. It’s not even like she’s monitoring all your email — just the occasional misaddressed message. What could the motivation possibly be?

It sounds like we’ll never know, unfortunately, because it doesn’t sound like she’ll tell you. You could talk to HR about it, but I don’t know that they’ll do anything about it; it’s troubling but doesn’t fall in any obvious category of things they typically take on, like harassment or discrimination. You could try! But I wouldn’t count on much coming from it.

It sounds like this is just one of many problems with your boss. I’d add it to the list but I’m not sure you’ll get much benefit from putting a ton of energy into trying to unravel it.

2. If the caterer mentions my mom at my dad’s wedding, all hell will break loose

My dad is getting remarried very soon. My parents divorced 15 years ago.

He and his fiancee hired the same caterer I had at my wedding, who also catered my mom’s remarriage (that was six months after the divorce). This catering company is tiny, and the people who run it are amazing.

My dad has forbidden us from talking about my mom anywhere near his fiancee. I’m sure the caterers will see me and my sibling and mention my mom. If it happens in front of the bride, I’m sure it will not go well for us (or them, for that matter). We want to head it off at the pass, so to speak. How do I do this when I’m not the one who hired them, but I was their customer in the past?

Anyone who does work for weddings is used to dealing with problematic family dynamics, from “keep Uncle Paul out of the photos with Aunt Liz” to “don’t serve Grandma more than two drinks” to “under no circumstances can you let Cousin Cecil anywhere near the bridesmaids’ table.” Compared to some of those requests, this one is pretty easy!

You could contact them as a happy past customer, explain the situation, and ask that they not mention your mom during the event. You could say “I know this is strange to ask” … but they’ll probably be unfazed.

(Alternately, there’s also the option of deciding it’s not going to be your problem if the bride has a meltdown over the existence of your mother … although it might be worth doing to protect the caterers from that. But are you supposed to pretend your mom doesn’t exist when you’re around your stepmom for the next several decades, and does your dad think this bodes well for the marriage?)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Was I too curt in turning down a second interview?

I had a weird phone interview the other day. It was my first interview with this company and the interviewer said they had a few technical questions. This is not unusual since I’m in a technical role. However, these questions seemed taken from a college textbook. They were focused on the theory behind a specific language/software X, and on some esoteric knowledge that I studied 10 years ago and never used in my day-to-day job. Almost all the questions in the 30-40-minute interview were about X, but X is only used maybe 10% of the time in my role. I should have cut the interview short when I realized I wasn’t interested in the job any more, but I was frazzled by all the questions that I didn’t know how to answer.

A couple of days later, they called with positive feedback and said they’d like to set up a second interview. I thanked them but said I had done some thinking since the interview and the role seemed very focused on X, while I was looking for something that would let me do more work on Y and Z. The caller (a different person than my interviewer) sounded very surprised and told me that I had misunderstood, that they had to ask those questions but they weren’t relevant for the role, and that they would explain better in the next interview. I just repeated that I wasn’t interested and the caller sounded put out and insisted a bit more, but in the end he said something like “I guess you have your own reasons” and that was that.

I’m sure I made the right decision and this job wasn’t right for me. But was there a way I could have phrased my refusal better? My answer about wanting to focus on Y and Z was truthful, but also the most obvious thing I could point to without saying it was a bad interview. The type of questions they asked might have made sense for a recent graduate with no job experience but not when interviewing for a position that required 5+ years working in this field. To me, it was a red flag that the interviewer (who had a title like “senior technical specialist”) might not know what my role does or what software it uses most. If the interviewer had to ask those questions as part of some internal interview policy, I would have expected them to say so and then go through the list quickly. Instead they spent all the interview time on those questions and didn’t ask anything about my previous projects or why I’m looking for a new job, and didn’t even tell me anything about the role, the team, the company, or the salary range.

Maybe this company is horrible at interviews and otherwise great, but there were too many red flags. However, do you think my answer was too curt? Was there a graceful way to give them feedback, without making a list of all my grievances with their interview style?

Your answer sounds fine to me! It’s peculiar that the second caller told you those questions weren’t relevant for the role (thanks for wasting your time then, I guess?) and that he said they’d explain in the next step rather than offering more of an explanation right then and there, since it had clearly given you serious pause.

And I think you did succeed in giving them feedback — the feedback is that the way they conducted the first interview is giving candidates the impression that the role is about X, and if it’s not, they need to do a better job of (a) conveying that and (b) explaining why they’re asking so much about it anyway.

4. My boss told me not to say “my team”

Two days ago, my boss reprimanded me for saying “my team” when referring to my direct reports. I explained to her that I was trying to use simple language to denote that I was talking about them rather than, say, other people on that project or other people in our geographic area. Her response was that the term was inappropriate, that I should only ever say “our team” because we all work for the same company and then explain who exactly I mean as necessary. She said that by calling them “my team,” leadership was concerned I was trying to separate myself too much from the rest of the company.

I suppose her point of view might make sense, given the greater context, but it just seems silly to constantly call them “our team” and then have to explain who exactly I mean. Am I off-base?

People say “my team” like they say “my sister” or “my neighbor” or “my boss.” It doesn’t connote ownership, just the existence of a relationship. The most junior person on your team could say “my team” — it’s not about lording your authority over anyone.

That said, it’s worth thinking about whether there might be other stuff going on that made your boss give you that feedback. If she already has a concern that you see yourself as too separate from your team or the rest of the company or that you’re overbearing about authority, it could sound more problematic through that lens. (In fact, I think this is one of those things where if people are already annoyed by a manager, this can annoy them further … but if the manager is great at her job and highly supportive of her team, it’ll sound fine.)

5. My coworker keeps gushing over her married work crush

My coworker, Jackie, has a crush on another coworker, Frida, who is happily married with two kids. Jackie and I are friends, and she revealed her crush to me recently. She overshares details about why she likes Frida, though she says she won’t let it ruin their friendship or interfere with work.

But the details she shares with me, like “how pretty her eyes are,” make me uncomfortable, as it’s another coworker she’s discussing and not a random online dating find. How can I ask her to stop sharing these details without hurting our relationship?

“Hey, I know what it’s like to have a crush, but I feel uncomfortable talking this way about a colleague. I would rather not — thanks for understanding.”

{ 562 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta Sky*

    LW #1: That sounds suspiciously like identity theft. If the university isn’t interested in investigating, perhaps the police will be.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, it may not be an HR issue, but I bet it’s a data security one. And the risk is not just that boss is receiving emails at that address, it’s that she’s sending them out with it.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        That’s what I’d be worried about. I’d probably go to the university ombudsperson first, and explain the situation – your boss set up an email using your name, that you didn’t know about, and you’re worried about what has been sent from it in your name.

        I wouldn’t be particularly concerned about financial identity theft, rather than she could sour your relationship with colleagues by sending fake messages in your name.

        1. Tuckerman*

          The ombudsperson is a really good idea. I might also try to talk to someone higher up in IT. At our university, much of IT is staffed by student employees, who wouldn’t necessarily be thinking about this the same way an IT dept. manager would. I would frame my concern as wanting to know if this account’s existence means I need to do something differently to comply with our University’s appropriate use policy.

          1. Pickled Limes*

            I wondered while I was reading the letter why IT wouldn’t have immediately taken action when they found out, so thanks for adding this context! It makes sense that a student worker may not know what to do with this information, so taking it further up the chain makes a lot of sense.

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            I agree. I would pursue this through IT, not HR.

            A (US) community college is likely to be a public institution subject to more transparency than private orgs would be, so I’d play ignorant about all the second-guessing of motives and just state that *of course* an account with your name on it would need to be associated with you (or at least another person you share the name with, if that were the case). This *must* be an error, or at least not a regular way of doing things. You’re concerned that email to this account might get lost, and it would either have to be rerouted to you or bounced with instructions about the correct address. IT / the identity management team is responsible for rule setting and compliance as well as implementation in that area. So they should be making this happen.

            It could take a while (~months), but I would not be surprised if the episode might end in some new rules about who can create new accounts and how “extra” accounts are run.

            (And if the supervisor is actually doing something outright nefarious – identity theft, impersonation, copyright violations… – with the account rather than passive-aggressive trolling of the LW and possibly other subordinates, then IT should be able to find that out.)

          3. Ellie*

            I agree, IT is the place to go to with this, they’ll likely be the only ones concerned about the security implications, and they should have the means to shut it down as well. I’d also ask them to check out if there are any more of these accounts… it’s possible she has the entire team’s alternate email addresses set up like this, which at least would let you know if you personally were being targeted, or if its just some general paranoia. Do you have a head of IT? If you do, that’s the place to start.

            I can actually think of a couple of “innocent” explanations for this, she could have created the account to keep track of any lost emails (in which case, they’d be more of them), or as a test account for an alternate email format which she has since forgotten about. But whatever the reason, its extremely unsettling that she hasn’t let you know about any misdirected emails, and the fact that you know she’s dodgy means its less likely to be innocent. Either way, its a security issue, and it needs to be fixed.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not that this makes it any better, but I don’t think the boss can send messages from that email. It’s a Teams group that forwards to the boss’s address.

        1. Uh oh*

          But she could still use that email address to open and use various online accounts, from social media to financial.

          1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            Yeah, that’s my immediate thought about why someone might do this as well.

            As Alison said in the letter, there is no innocent reason for having done this and especially not for having done it in a way that hid her actions from everyone.

          2. twocents*

            You need a lot more data than someone’s name to open a financial account. The existence of an email doesn’t mean she has LW’s SSN or fake IDs.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              She’s LW’s boss, I bet she could find LW’s SSN pretty easily. It’ll be on insurance paperwork for sure, and they may have done a credit check.

              I strongly recommend LW checks her credit report and talks to both the ombudsman and IT.

              1. twocents*

                How small is this university that boss would have been responsible for running all these checks and have all that data on hand?

                1. DeweyDecibal*

                  I would have had a SSN and copy of their license from the hiring process for all my direct reports when I was working at a university

                2. Blazer205*

                  Financial affairs typically has access to personal information on all employees, past and present, as well. I’m not sure what dept OP is in but with a university, it’s not just HR with access or personal info.

                3. Esmeralda*

                  My office has a locked file cabinet with actual personnel paperwork in it….
                  Our supervisors have a key.

              2. I'm just here for the cats*

                Even if the boss can get the SSN easily, why would they have set up a work email address for identity theft purposes. That can be tracked way more easily than if the boss set up a gmail account.

                I don’t think the boss is up to any ID theft for financial reasons, but it is still really weird.

                1. twocents*

                  Agreed! It IS weird but identity theft is a felony, and it’s a really extreme leap to assume that someone doing something weird (maybe, we don’t even know how this happened) means this boss has stolen their employee’s entire identity.

                2. LTL*

                  @twocents The entire situation is so weird already that identity theft isn’t a huge jump.

                3. twocents*

                  Really? “Something weird happened with an email address so obviously, my boss must actually be a felon”? I really don’t think the police are going to make that same leap.

          3. L.H. Puttgrass*

            That’s not really how identity theft (or opening accounts) works. It’s easy to get an e-mail of the form FirstnameLastname@somedomain.com—and it’s also hard to get FirstnameLastname (just try it at gmail these days!). And, of course, randomstringofletters@domainname.com is also a valid e-mail. All of that means that having access to FirstnameLastname@collegename.edu won’t let people open any accounts they couldn’t have opened with any other address. Could the boss open a social media account under the LW’s name? Sure, but she could do that anyway. Having that address doesn’t make that (or opening any other account) any less (or more) difficult.

          1. Jack Straw*

            IMO this is worth repeating. I know that my Teams messages are much more casual than my emails. If someone is messaging my boss on teams, thinking it is me…. that’s pretty concerning. Not that I talk about my boss on teams (I don’t), but if my boss was pretending to be me to get info… YIKES.

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

            How it works at my company (and I think it’s standard) is a team in Teams ‘has’ an address, typically something like LlamaTeam at company dot com, and it acts as the identity of the team. Any emails sent to the “group” go to the individual members. In this case, the supervisor is the only member of that team. So what happens is someone sends an email to the intended JaneSmith and it goes through the email system to the list of members, which in this case is just Supervisor.

            The Teams part is just a way of organizing what used to be done in normal distribution lists.

            1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              I used a distribution list when I was Wonder Admin — my email address there was basically alunatic@, but everyone knew me as A. J. Lunatic, so people would occasionally email ajlunatic@ — and not get a bounce. There was either an email security policy that prohibited sending bounces about unknown addresses, or a catchall address in place. So I requested the distribution list for myself so I would not miss those emails.

              Someone else having control of what is basically your email address within the organization, and that person is your boss (and not, for example, the guy one building over named Auburn L. Junatic who you have become friends with due to email mixups) — that is WEIRD.

        2. Infrequent Commenter*

          Regardless of how the school’s email is set up, you can use 3rd party email apps to send emails from that/any address. Gmail has a setting that let’s you type in any return address you want; “send message as”. The school IT would never even see those emails unless they are replied to and the reply goes to the school.

        3. Christina*

          I wonder if the manager tried to set up a MS Team with LW1 and entered the email in incorrectly, generating a new email address somehow. Depending on how it’s been configured for the college, it might be possible and is totally innocent.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I wondered this, too, or if someone in IT simply set it up wrong. Certainly worth following up on the account’s existence no matter what, but that’s a possible non-nefarious explanation for it.

          2. Autistic AF*

            I can’t see how setting up a group in Teams would create a new email address – IT would need to do so.

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          So it can receive confirmation messages for sign-up to certain services…

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        It’s really weird to me that IT discovered this and then…did nothing? My department’s IT would have been all over that – and if they escalated it to the university’s IT, there would have been a smoking crater left when they were done dealing with it.

        1. tra la la*

          Yes, this was what I was thinking, why didn’t IT do anything? Why didn’t it get escalated to university IT?

        2. Yvette*

          But how do we (and OP) know that IT didn’t do anything? Alison has often pointed out that investigations, disciplinary actions etc may take place behind the scenes.

            1. Glitter Belle*

              But they’d be in a position to approach those higher up who could discipline the boss, and they have the data on what’s happening.

              1. tra la la*

                Right, but they’ve already told OP what they’ve found, it’s not like that’s confidential at this point. They should also be able to say “here’s how we’ll handle this” even if that’s just “we’ll take this up the ladder and let you know what happens next.”

                1. restingbutchface*

                  I’m surprised they have shared this amount of information for a ticket the OP didn’t request.

                  IT aren’t disciplinary but they are there to enforce process. The naming convention was disregarded which says either a) IT agent made a mistake and IT need to resolve it or b) they don’t have a naming convention. If it’s b then IT aren’t going to be overly concerned that a user with the right permissions requested an email address and they fufilled it. If it’s a then I’d instruct the help desk to contact the requester, apologise and advise it will be scrubbed then run a check on how many other profiles have been created in error.

                  IT aren’t able to identify if this was done through malice but they are responsible for enforcing their own conventions.

            2. Anon for this*

              IT has disciplinary people, you just have to get to us : )

              My first response to finding this account would be to shut it down because it was not created through proper channels, and my second response would be to identify who set this up without going through the proper channels. Even in addition to all of the murky concerns about pretending to be the OP, this exact scenario (one person in charge of a secret Teams Team) is described on Microsoft’s list of how not to set up a Team, because if the owner leaves, the team is now orphaned and any important documents are now lost, never to be found.

              1. Anon for this*

                And eurgh if it was created in secret and the boss leaves before the OP, when they go to remove boss’s access they’ll miss the account in OP’s name, leaving a completely unmonitored mailbox to possibly get compromised and used to send phishing attacks in OP’s name. And if this is really important for the boss, and OP leaves, the account will likely be removed because it’s in OP’s name!

                My department would come down on this boss so hard. She is literally a liability at this point because she is creating an unsafe (in terms of having to pay for more cybersecurity insurance) environment.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Full IT investigations into someone’s dodgy computer activity can take a long while and a lot of resource, not to excuse this department of course.

            We don’t have the authority to do anything with the proof to a person, unless it’s really horrific and then they get accounts disabled/hard drives seized/police called so majority of the time we write it up in understandable language (not 40 pages of Exchange server logs) and pass it to HR and management.

            If I got a call asking me to investigate why a manager had set up an email address under another person’s name I’d likely put a flag on that account to watch it a bit closer for further dodgy dealings and if the account was on OUR servers I’d delete it. But if it’s hosted elsewhere there’s not much I have the authority or resources to do aside from send a ‘please don’t’ email to that manager.

            1. Cj*

              Is Alison correct above where she says that she doesn’t think the boss could send e-mails from this address? I get that it is a Teams group, but would there still be a legit .edu e-mail that is attached to it? Because that was my first thought also – that the boss was sending stuff as OP.

              Tons of people have the same name, and you could easily set up a g-mail account in another person’s name or variation of, using dots, initials or whatever that isn’t already taken. But seeing an .edu e-mail from college where the person works would make it seem way more legit to me.

              1. Anon for this*

                It depends on how it’s set up. The answer is sometimes, and without being able to specifically check how it’s set up and look in exchange to see who has access, assuming a greater catastrophe than is actually occurring and then gradually dialing the risk level down as it’s confirmed it’s not as bad as thought is significantly better than going hey guys when we said there’s nothing to worry about we were wrong.

              2. Infrequent_Commenter*

                >Is Alison correct above where she says that she doesn’t think the boss could send e-mails from this address?

                No, that’s not correct. An email can be sent with any return address you want. The return address is not tied to the account. For example, Gmail has a setting “send mail as” and you can type in whatever you want.

                1. cryptid*

                  You do have to own the accounts you are using with “send mail as” though – I have it set up with my primary and professional emails, where the ones sent to firstnamelast at gmail appear in my inbox at funnymeme at gmail, and I can send emails from either address through that same login. I did have to authorize it from both addresses, though! The east you’re talking about it makes it sound much less secure than it is – I can’t set it up to send as ANY address, it has to be one I have admin access to.

                2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                  (out of nesting; replying to cryptid)

                  Gmail has that constraint, but email in general has that as a weakness. A lot of mail servers do not verify that you have permission to send as. There are measures these days that monitor for certain signs that you may be using an email address without permission (as that is a sign of spam) but sometimes it’s just a sign that you are using Outlook from a home computer and your internet service provider requires that you use their mail servers so they can satisfy themselves that you are not sending spam.

                  I worked in tech support for several years; I may not be up to date but I vividly remember this portion.

              3. DataSci*

                This is not directly to your point, but gmail actually ignores dots. So if your name is John Smith and your gmail is jsmith@gmail.com, j.smith will also reach you (as for that matter would jsmi.th or j.s.m.i.t.h or any other variation), so nobody could set one of those up. Middle initials would still work (jqsmith@gmail) but it’s not quite as vulnerable as you make it seem.

                1. Annadotsmith*

                  I don’t think so. I have a dot between my first and last name and there is someone across the country from me with the very same first and last name with no dot.
                  So my email is Anna.Smith@gmail.com and hers is AnnaSmith@gmail.com. Long story on how I know this but to my knowledge, we have never had an issue. Unless I misunderstood entirely what you mean.

                2. Essess*

                  Agreed. I read that somewhere and was surprised so I tested it by putting a dot in the middle of my gmail address when I sent a sample message from my work email and it did reach me even with the dot.

                3. Essess*

                  Adding that I did a lookup about whether the periods matter since someone else said they did make a difference for them … even google themselves say the dots are ignored. I’m not sure how the other commenter has their addresses route differently https://support.google.com/mail/answer/7436150?hl=en

              4. I'm just here for the cats*

                I don’t think you can send emails from teams. I know each Team and channel can have their own individual email address where people can email to. We use that in my work for sharing events and workshops.

            2. EPLawyer*

              Seriously wonder how many OTHER emails this person has set up. It just seems an … odd … thing to do even once.

              1. Smilingswan*

                I was wondering that too! Does she do it with all of her reports, or just this one?

              2. Snuck*

                This is my question.

                I’m torn between suggesting kicking off a major stink about it (putting a formal query in to someone who is in IT security, not just hte IT helpdesk, or a complaint in to HR or someone senior and sympathetic and who understands the implications of this)… and suggesting keeping it low and pleasant – raising a docket at the IT helpdesk for this to be transferred to you as an alternate account, acting all innocent and confused when it’s refused, asking why there’s accounts in your name you aren’t expected to monitor and keeping it all a confused happy mess that hopefully disappears quietly.

                The first is likely to get you a cruddy response from your supervisor if she’s less than awesome – if it’s accidental she’ll still get in trouble for not fixing it and not doing it right in the first place and won’t appreciate the hit. If it’s not accidental then she could lose her job, but any investigation she will probably get wind of one way or another and this could be problematic. The second is a chance for her to save face and protect herself (if it was error or intentional it doesn’t matter then), and you call carry on, you with new information about the incompetence or insidious ness of your boss.

                1. Snuck*

                  I often (unless faced with blatant evidence to the contrary) go the path of ‘charitable interpretation’ (google Principle of Charity) and assume that it’s not evil being done, but incompetence or misunderstanding.

                  As soon as you declare it outright as ‘wrong’ you are then forcing the other party to defend, and if you are effective at painting them into a corner they’ll feel they have to fight out. But if you can give them a gentler interpretation they can often fix it, you look professional, or if they lock and load and dig in and hunt you over it then you look more professional (because you asked a reasonable request in the first place) and they look more nefarious (which works in your favour).

                  This is the approach I think I’d take with this issue. Because it’s highly likely it was incompetence rather than outright malice. But if it was malice you don’t want to go in guns blazing because she could a) gaslight you and say it was incompetence and you are over reacting and don’t know business norms/priorities or b) she could make life Very Hard for you and still get away with it. Better to give her a polite out, and if she’s done it for a lot of people, or if she’s done it in an underhand way via back doors, and used it for things she shouldn’t have then it’s probable it will get uncovered and dealt with – if you raise it with the right people (not generic IT helpdesk which she can probably shut down because the dockets all go to her as well).

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            Fair point. I was assuming that if they’d done anything besides say, “oh, someone else is using that email,” it would have been in the letter. Not a fair assumption for exactly the reason you say, though!

        3. John Smith*

          #1, Is there any option for you to put in a request for your data held by the organisation under some type of right to access personal data/freedom of information legislation? That may be a way in without going heavy handed (a colleague in my workplace has done this and found all sorts of juicy stuff that senior management have been up to- some of it illegal like barring her for a position due to pregnancy)

          I’d be tempted to side with Alison and not expend energy in this, but I’d be so intrigued as to what’s going on. It sounds very Machiavellian!

          1. BeckyinDuluth*

            At least at my University, you are responsible for going through emails for a freedom of information act request (not sure if that holds in a criminal investigation, but this wouldn’t be). So there would be no way to do that without the boss knowing you did. I would only do this if I was about to leave and didn’t need a reference.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            That wouldn’t work at our firm. You can’t demand access to an email account and all the data in it just because it happens to be under your name. Basically because we’d have issues with John smith getting access to John a smith’s stuff and we’d break so many data policies.

        4. Asenath*

          I’d have expected IT to deal with it, and if they didn’t I’d have opened a ticket about “extra and unneeded email account in my name causing problems with misdirected emails”. They don’t do discipline, but they do solve email problems, and it’s up to them to tell the person who opened the account in someone else’s name that it’s going to be deleted, so what does she want done for her Teams group?

          1. Mockingjay*

            Came to suggest something similar. Submit a ticket: “I have two nearly identical emails assigned to me. One is my normal account. The other, which is incorrect, seems to be linked to a new Teams group. Please delete the new/duplicate account.”

            Let IT deal with Boss if needed.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              If nothing else, IT needs to forward any emails going to the fake account to the OP’s real email account.

            2. Llama Wrangler*

              That was going to be my suggestion as well. IT doesn’t need to get into the politics with the boss to resolve the issue with an incorrect email account.

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              This is what I would do as well. If the boss is so passive-aggressive and gaslighty that they’d deny doing this, play dumb yet factual right back. “Oh, IT found that there was a duplicative account under my name, and, since I wasn’t use it, they shut it down/aliased it to my regular account.” Then, the bad boss has to either admit that she set it up and face questions about why or she has to let it go and OP’s name isn’t out there on the fake account anymore. Win-win.

          2. Jack Straw*

            And creates a paper trail/record of what is going on. Conversations are easy to ignore, a ticket sitting in a queue is going to get eyes on it.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Here too. Name-generated email addresses are strictly controlled & linked to one specific person.

        6. kittymommy*

          Heck, I don’t even understand how the boss even set up the email at all. At my work (government) all emails are set up by IT, they’re the only ones who can. No one else has the ability to do it.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            That’s what I don’t understand. IT would have had to set this address up in the first place.

          2. Not Merely No...*

            If Boss goes to IT and says “look, we have this problem with an easily confused name and I want to set up an account to catch those messages”, IT will accept that. I’ve had duplicate accounts at employers who use full first names in email because my first name is a very uncommon variant spelling.

            Hell, I had a problem the last time I was working at a college where my dad, brother, and myself have the same initials, and I had students emailing me at what turned out to be an address set up for my dad when he’d been a student there 10 years prior. IT deleted the address on my say-so (they could see he wasn’t using it).

            It isn’t incompetent to assume that someone known to you with a plausible story is plausible, so the email address was likely set up through entirely legitimate channels.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Ours would, too, except they would set the account up as an alias to OP’s existing account. My email address is something like jsmith@company.org, but I can also receive emails sent to janesmith@company.org, jane.smith@company.org, and all of those usernames for the domain oldcompanyname.com as well. They’re not separate accounts, they just route mail sent to those variants to my one organizational mailbox.

              IT has rules they follow on setting up email addresses. If I Guacamole Bob was my employee and was reached via guacamole.bob@avocados.com and I asked them to set up an entirely separate account/mailbox for guac.bob@avocados.com, it would raise eyebrows and questions.

            2. abcd*

              I was thinking this too. Its possibly the manager has had a few complaints about nonresponse to other email address so she asked IT to set it up to insure nothing is missed and sends anything that comes in to the appropriate party. Or she had it set up and IT forwarded it to her and not the LW.
              Without talking to the manager, I’m not sure jumping to the worst reason is the best idea.

          3. Nesprin*

            At universities that’s not always the case. My ugrad university allowed you to make any @univ.edu account that wasn’t in existence already if you had a yourname@univ.edu. This was a huge research university.

        7. Noncompliance Officer*

          This was my thought. I handle account creation and maintenance for our local government agency. It’s a big no-no to give someone credentials that aren’t theirs. If I had found out that existed I would have shut it down ASAP.

          1. Cas*

            Same. I work at a large organisation in IT and this would’ve been escalated as soon as the request was made. We get audited to high heaven on user account creation each year and this type of thing is what they are looking for; it would’ve been shut down at my work straight away.

        8. Observer*

          It’s really weird to me that IT discovered this and then…did nothing? My department’s IT would have been all over that

          Yes. I was thinking much the same. And I would hope that HR would recognize that there could potentially be real problems for the school as well.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            It might not be with the right team yet. The LW could find out who’s in charge of identity management (usually that’s attached pretty high up) and write to them directly.

      4. Snailing*

        And frankly, not all HR departments would see it this way, but a GOOD HR department would realize that data security is absolutely an HR issue, as well – ultimately, it reflects back on employee engagement, employee safety, and company integrity, all of which are a part of HR’s domain.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        That was the first thing that occurred to me–she’s sending emails pretending to be LW. Surely not for a *good* reason–LW seems set up to take the fall for something.

        For what it’s worth, what leaps to mind is those “Look at the ridiculous messages from this ridiculous person” threads, where it’s normal to digitally white-out the user id precisely because it is so easy to set up an account with a name very similar to your ex and try to frame them. I picture the boss hanging out on conspiracy theory websites and posting some real doozies, but recognizing any identifying information might blow back on her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I would think that the school would have a policy about false identities in communication and it would be a huge no-no.
          People might think they are talking to OP, and the boss just says any outlandish thing she wants.

      6. Momma Bear*

        Why can’t IT remove the address? It’s not her name. There’s no valid reason for her to have it. Why did they set it up in the first place? I’d tell whoever is in charge of IT that this other email address is causing confusion and you want it removed. Your boss is weird for creating it and using it, but if it’s affecting your job, it needs to go. That is your name and your identity. Your boss shouldn’t be masquerading as you. I’d also be worried about what else she is doing under your name. Whether or not she reacts well to being called on it is kind of irrelevant because there are already problems with this.

      7. Admin __ Miller*

        I really would be afraid of the identity theft idea. Supervisors have access to a lot of private information, address, emergency contact, and sometimes social security number. I would be leery of her purchasing under the OP’s name. I think the OP should have a credit check run from all 3 agencies to be on the safe side.

        Go to the upper management in IT. This shouldn’t fly and they need to investigate what type of activity is taking place. This person could be using the OP’s name & info on dating sites, porn, amazon, ebay, etc. I would really be afraid that she is doing some type of shady business in the OP’s name.

        1. Admin __ Miller*

          Another thought, OP should do a search on the internet using the fake email address the boss is using and see what pops up. If some unsavory or financial dealings are going on a screen shot would support the complaint with IT & HR.

    2. CarCarJabar*

      Agreed. I’d press IT to access that account and give you copies of everything sent and received.

      1. Amaranth*

        I’d want to ask IT to please take a look and see if that account is being used in a way that it appears to be me. Because its incredibly strange the manager isn’t simply using a version of their own name if they wanted an extra account. Maybe they can add the ‘not in use’ autoreply anyway as if they never looked, or just change the manager’s Teams account to her own name as they ‘just noticed’ it was wrong.

        1. restingbutchface*

          If IT do this then they’d be in serious trouble. If someone joined with the same name, they wouldn’t be allowed to access the other profile’s archive. If anyone apart from the profiled person needs to access the emails, there should be a process in place with named individuals.

          I would be horrified if IT released this to the OP on the back of a simple request. So far we know that IT don’t enforce a naming convention or an agent screwed up once, both aren’t great but this would be a whole new level of incompetence and depending on what country the OP is in, potentially illegal.

          1. Amaranth*

            I wouldn’t want them to release the emails to me, but I’d want someone in IT to take a *look* at how something under my name is being used, because they have more authority to look into it. It could be the account was made for the department with the wrong name and manager felt it wasnt worth fixing…which is fine if its just a login, but not if its actually a sockpuppet.

      2. Not Australian*

        This would be my approach. I’d want to know what was going on in an account registered in my name.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Speaking from the IT department: I couldn’t authorise that at all. WE can look through them but I can’t forward them to someone else without a hell of a lot of paperwork being signed.

        1. Anon E. Moose*

          ^^^This

          I’m in charge of the IT department. I can look at things, and I can give copies/access of things to those with authority, but the request will be in writing and it will come with a Exec’s signature as well.

          The only person in my company I will release something to with no Executive signature is the head of HR.

          This is COMPANY data, even if it affects the OP.

        2. Cas*

          Same here. Our service desk would not and cannot forward emails to another user without HR approval and it wouldn’t be given for someone still currently employed. If the user still works for our company, they are responsible for setting up their own forwarding rules. If they have left HR approval is required and we get audited internally and externally on all this stuff. I don’t work for a university but the processes here seem lax.

    3. BRR*

      I guess it’s possible but I really really don’t think a work email address is the boss committing identify theft and wouldn’t suggest the LW goes to the police over this. It’s not like email addresses are hard to get.

      1. Whoa Nelly*

        Agreed…it’s creepy, but it’s not identity theft in the eyes of the law.

      2. twocents*

        Exactly. It’s a pretty extreme leap to go from “an email address exists that I don’t want” to “so this person must be opening credit cards in my name.”

      3. Colette*

        Exactly. And you can generally create an email account in any name you want. It’s only a crime if you use that account to commit some sort of fraud.

        1. Paulina*

          Anybody can create an email account in any name, but not an institutional email account. There’s something more authoritative about a company or institution domain in an email address, versus it being gmail or a custom domain. This is an .edu domain so there’s a greater level of trust that email from it is legitimate, even if names aren’t necessarily unique so it still shouldn’t be relied on for personal identity.

          For example, at my university, we require that all academic references (for employment or to graduate school) be from institutional email addresses, and the application systems often confirm that the address given is valid. And if the boss is applying for a job elsewhere, she could fake a reference from a direct report. Also, at my institution all emails from external addresses are flagged so that users can more readily detect phishing attempts, so an email exchange with this nonstandard email address could look like it’s with the OP because it’s internal. People won’t necessarily jump from “nonstandard format” to “potentially fraudulent communication” when the domain is correct; they’ll just think OP has an unusual address for some reason.

      4. LDF*

        It’s like a trope at this point, for people on AAM to suggest calling the cops for the smallest things. Like this is a big deal to OP and rightly so because it’s shady AF but calling the police! Wild. What do people think police do?

          1. John Smith*

            It may be because the laws, norms and customs in one country are very different to those in another. In my country, there are all sorts of laws that cover the OPs scenario. Regardless of any intention, the simple act carried out by the OPs manager would probably get her fired where I’m from as it’s a huge no-no over here, and depending on the law breached, would be reported to the police and regulators if for nothing else than to protect the employer.

            But what may be bizarre in one country may be very normal elsewhere. I do however hope that people (like myself) who have suggested action like calling police or whatever are suggesting this after other solutions have been exhausted and not as some kind of knee jerk reaction.

      5. Jennifer*

        Exactly. Anybody can create an email account in someone else’s name. It’s weird but not criminal. She should go back to IT and request that this be shut down or redirected to her.

        The only legit reason I can think of would be if the boss has all email variants for all of her direct reports sent to her. Still weird but maybe she is planning on following up on them herself? A bit of a stretch.

      6. Admin __ Miller*

        It could be identity theft depending on the activity associated with the email. If store accounts are opened up with this email address, dating services, etc., it could be identity theft.

        The boss may want an alias for some activity their spouse is unaware of, etc., and they are not a creative person so I they latched onto the insubordinate’s name so it would be easy to remember.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. My first thought is that she is communicating to others using that alias and that she will buy things, say things, sign up for things, criticize others professionally, publish on twitter etc etc using this name. There is no innocent reason for doing this and lots of ways she could damage your reputation by acting in your name.

    5. Terrysg*

      Is it possible to approach your boss fro the point of view that this issue has come to light, no one knows what caused it, but of course the emails will now be directed to you from that account?

    6. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I kinda thought that she was catfishing someone pretending to be the OP.

    7. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t see how this really can fall under identity theft, however it is inappropriate. I’m surprised the university’s IT department allows managers to set up random email addresses in the name of other employees. I would follow up with IT and ask them if they have any rules about creating fake email accounts in other employees names. Could the LW set up a fake email address in her manager’s name? In the Dean’s name?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I assume the request could have looked legitimate – it wouldn’t be weird for my manager to arrange for something in my name. It would be more difficult, honestly, to explain why they needed the different version that doesn’t follow their typical naming conventions that it would be to explain why my manager was requesting it on my behalf.

        1. NotGoneGirl*

          I was thinking that the boss might have some creative story that to provide better service, she wants to catch people sending to email address that seem right, but will bounce. But she doesn’t want to bother OP with that extra work so she’s just “handling” it.

      2. Loredena*

        It’s not a standard email request. What likely happened is that Teams can be created by anyone (default) and the naming convention for the email is based on the name of the Team (also default). Manager created a Team named for her direct report (maybe to store her copies of supervisory docs). Strange but far from unheard of, especially with ill trained users. Result is a team only she has access to and an email with her reports name. Would not surprise me to learn the same thing had been done with all her direct reports! The weird part is forwarding the emails TBH. She might not know she can see all the associated Group emails in outlook. This strikes me as a don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to cluelessness

    8. Ann Perkins*

      Yeah, I’m very surprised at how soft so many of the answers are here. I work in email review for my job and 100% something like this needs to be investigated by higher ups.

    9. Muddlethru*

      Yeah, I’m afraid it’s more about sending OUT emails as LW, instead of receiving them….

    10. Tricksie*

      We really, really, really need an update to this one! This is incredibly bizarre and worrisome.

    11. BuildMeUp*

      I would be incredibly surprised if the police would be interested in investigating this. It’s just not a police matter at this point. I’m always confused by the urge to jump straight to such an aggressive response.

      1. Admin __ Miller*

        I think she / OP should ask IT to investigate this & do an internet search for the email address. Do this first before getting the police involved. The employer would want to see that the OP tried to handle this in-house before going to the police.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          There is no need to get the police involved at all… There is no actual evidence of identity theft here. I’m so confused by this jump to the nuclear option of involving the police.

          Honestly, in most places in the US, the police would not even look into this without a whole bunch of evidence, which does not exist here.

    12. A Good Jess*

      Agree with this. I recommend finding the people in the IT department who are responsible for security and reporting this to them. Additionally, the university probably has a privacy officer or something similar– they may be mostly focused on student privacy due to FERPA, but if this can be done to you then surely someone could do it to a student too.

      The cybersecurity and privacy people will likely be very alarmed based on their applicable laws/regulations. HR should probably be the next stop after reporting to cybersecurity and privacy– you can talk to them about how you have filed a report about your supervisor and want protection from retaliation.

      1. Don'tDisstheLibrarian*

        A few administrations ago, it was common for high ranking officials to have an official email under their name and also a fake email using a made up name for internal communications. Supposedly, it was to separate the busy public one from a more targeted one for high level business. But, it also effectively circumvented public records requests (likely also on purpose). This, of course, is illegal. OP #1 you need to create a paper trail about this unproved account to your records manager, solicitor’s office, or whoever handles sunshine law requests. Otherwise you could end up inadvertently blamed for not fulfilling a request, which can include significant penalties. Your RM person may be able to shut it down.

    13. Des*

      I came here to say this. OP#1: check your credit record and make sure that your bank info is password protected. There is absolutely no good reason she’s doing this so protect yourself.

  2. PollyQ*

    #2 — Although I understand the impulse to try to help avoid a big scene, I’d like to offer you the option of not giving a f***. It’s not your wedding, you wouldn’t be the one bringing up your mother, and it’s not you that’s going to look bad if your future stepmom loses it. Your dad was ridiculous to forbid you from even mentioning your mother in the first place, and you shouldn’t have to run around like one of Stalin’s minions making sure no one else refers to the “unperson” either.

    Or you could follow Alison’s advice, which is solid.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, it’s utterly ridiculous. I’m going to add in a note about that too. How is this going to work for the next several decades — she’s supposed to pretend her mom doesn’t exist when she’s around the stepmom? And how does the dad not see this as a massive red flag?

      1. John Smith*

        If they weren’t people so close to me, I’d be tempted to sell popcorn and deckchairs at this wedding and ensure I had a camera on me.

        Your dad/future wife may despise your mother, but that’s their issue, not yours. If a grown adult cannot allow another person to mention a loved one, they should not get in a situation where that would happen, learn how to be diplomatic on it and grow a spine.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          I think it’s a bad precedent for OP to intervene w/caterer. The one to intervene with is her dad! Tell him that he can talk to the caterers himself if he wants. Let him be embarrassed, if he has the good sense to be. Tell him this is his new job for the rest of his life, but it’s not yours!

          Then let the chips fall where they may.

        2. Great Company you should trust*

          Especially when the OP is the mother’s child!

          Looks like the dad and the future stepmom are not caring at all how it affects his progeny. They seem like great folks.

        3. Ellie*

          Yes, I reckon the easiest way out of this is to tell the father that those caterers did the other weddings as well, and that he needs to warn them not to mention the mother on the day. Maybe he’s already taken care of it?

          I assumed though that this is a special effort for the wedding only, as she is likely to be stressed out and not react well. Its also possible there is a real grievance there, but you can’t expect to never hear about your husband’s ex, under any circumstances whatsoever. But on your wedding day? Maybe.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I assume it’s something along the lines of “this is HER DAY, don’t sully it with reminders of my previous marriage,” not that he expects his children to never mention their mother at all. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong!

        1. OP2*

          I’m OP2 and no, this edict has been around for about 3 years now, not just wedding related. Future step-mom is obsessed with being my parent, too. Honestly I’m worried about repurcussions to the caterer AND to my sibling and I. Because apparently spite is a long-lived thing.

          1. laowai_gaijin*

            Definitely warn the caterers, then. As tempting as it might be to sit back and watch the sparks fly, this could cause real problems for them. Just a discreet “Heads up, this is something you need to know” like Alison advised would be perfect.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Oh, yikes. Good luck. (Also, you might want to visit motherinlawstories dot com… there are lots of people who have experience with toxic family members, not limited to mothers in law!)

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              Or r/JustNoMIL which is for venting/getting support with stepmothers, grandmothers, and mothers, as well as MILs!

          3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Why do step-parents do this? You have a mom. You have a mother/child relationship with your mom. You do not need to have one, nor is it necessary to have one, with a step-parent, especially since you are an adult already. Can you talk to your dad and explain that no matter what happened in the past, you have a mother, she is a part of your life, and he knew when you guys were born that he would always and forever be linked to her in some way, so it is ridiculous to have to pretend you do not have a mother to appease him and his delusional soon-to-be wife? (ok, probably not, but I am really sorry you and your sibling feel the need to play this stupid game of theirs, and I would be tempted to stop playing it after the wedding, and let them get a reality check).

            As for the caterers, definitely give them the heads up! They are used to weird family dynamics, but this request is a bit extreme.

          4. EPLawyer*

            Okay, ignore what I said below. Just ugh.

            After the wedding I would look at her and say “I don’t need you to be my Mom, I have a perfectly good one.” Stepparents acting like the other parent doesn’t exist are the WORST.

          5. Elizabeth Bennet*

            Alison’s advice is spot on. Since you’re likely going to be the recipient of any spite if someone mentions your mother at the caterer’s, do everyone a favor, say, “She’s fine. Did you confirm that The Bride is getting the bay scallops sauted in garlic with the asparagus?” Reply politely, but redirect the conversation quickly.

            And sorry you have to live with this. Know that this edict reflects on them, not you.

          6. Nanani*

            Warning the caterers could be doing them a kindness.

            As for you and your sibling, nopeing out of contact with MiL sounds like a good plan. I assume you’re adults given the numbers of years mentioned. You don’t have to visit your dad’s new wife.
            You can invite dad on outings that are just him and you +/- sibling; you can decline invitations to his house; you can do holidays with your mom or even with neither parent!
            Resetting expectations might be painful at first but it will probably help you in the long run.

            Check Captain Awkward’s archives for assorted tips on dealing with family drama, if you haven’t already!

          7. N*

            Your dad wants to create drama, that is why he chose the same caterer as your mom did and you did. If I were you I would sit down with your dad and have a chat about behaving like an adult.

            1. Green Pea*

              I completely agree with this. This is deliberate and the cynic in me wonders about all the other ways he is manipulating, undermining and setting up your step mum as a jealous drama llama bad guy. Maybe, just maybe your step mum is so hell bent on denying your mums existance and your complete acceptance because she has your dad whispering poison in her ear. And you are resenting her for over the potential catering explosion without wondering why he would even do that to her. This guy is a very good manipulator.

              1. Green Pea*

                Just adding if I am right, having an “adult chat” will play right into his hands. He will be the innocent victim and you the ungrateful child. I second other suggestions to read up on Captain Awkwards advice for dealing with this type of person.

          8. JB*

            I’ve seen enough Am I The Asshole threads on Reddit to know that forcing a relationship with a step child never ends well, especially when the step child is an adult and hasn’t gotten any parenting from the step parent (you’ve not given your age but the fact you have somewhat of an organising role in the wedding indicates you’re an adult rather than a teenager). Relationships are two way, both parties need to want to have the relationship for it to work.

            The blanket ban on anything to do with your mother complicates this because if she is that insecure about her predecessor then that puts you in a much harder position. Family events and celebrations like birthdays or graduations must be a field of eggshells.

          9. Esmerelda*

            Ooof. I’m sorry, OP. This sounds awful and as someone with divorced parents (it’s been about 15 years for my parents, too) I feel for you. I hope it turns out ok.

        2. Joan Rivers*

          Dad can do what he wants but when he ropes in kids it’s too much. It’s HIS job to micromanage everyone within shouting distance — if that’s the job he wants to have for the rest of his life.
          Let him own the shame of telling the caterers they can’t speak his ex’s name.

          Kids should not be pressured to protect Dad or his bride’s feelings in this way.
          Caterers are paid workers and it’s good free advertising if someone says they also did mom’s wedding months ago. Preventing that is unfair.

          1. LDF*

            And they get bad advertising if OP’s dad trashes them. OP wouldn’t be instituting a gag order, just informing them of the situation so they can decide how to proceed.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I agree. It’s not necessarily OP’s job to warn the caterers about this, but it would be a kindness to them. They have a history and a personal connection, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being kind to the people you would like to be kind to.

      3. Clorinda*

        “These are my children, sprung motherless from my footsteps in the fertile earth.”

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            Here I was, innocently eating fried rice and broccoli for my WFH desklunch, and now I have something stuck up the back of my nose. And a bit of broccoli on my monitor. I NEVER do that!
            Thank you for the best laugh of the long, draining week–
            As for Wedded Blitz, my ex-brother-in-law does this. He went into a fit when one of his coworkers named her baby daughter the same name as my sister. Think “Jessica”.

            And he works for a Soft Drink Company That We all Know, so when the wedding car had Sworn Enemy Soft Drink cans among the dozens of noisemakers dragging from the back of the Second Wedding car, he went and stomped every Sworn Enemy Soft Drink can completely flat. And took white shoe polish and wrote her approximate weight on the rear windshield. As in “Jessica says she weighs 135 lbs, but she’s really over 150.”

            I feel your pain. It’s hard when the one who left causes grief for the one who moved on, or when they can’t just do a Miss Manners and say, “I’m so thrilled that Jason found someone to love him!” (Said gushily, so people wonder….)

            Be a doll and let the caterer know. If they’re that good, this won’t be their first Gladiator game in the Colosseum, but you always want to know that Spartacus and Demetrius are probably going to have it out.

      4. OP2*

        Yes, we’ve been wondering that. I normally find it ridiculous (how can you not?), and one of multiple flags. But right now I just really want to protect this wonderful caterer because they are a tiny family business that I adore (and certain people at the wedding are gossips).

        1. Pickled Limes*

          I think it’s totally reasonable that you want to protect people you like and respect from being the target of your future stepmother’s ire. You can absolutely call them and give them a heads up on this.

          I will never understand why people who have children willingly choose to marry people who never want to acknowledge that their partner had a life prior to their relationship, but life is strange and the heart wants what it wants I guess. Good luck to you and your sibling!

          1. Self Employed*

            A friend of mine is a widow who remarried. One of the big things she noticed very favorably about the friend she married as her second husband is that he was so absolutely comfortable with talking about her late husband. (I think they may all have been internet friends while her late husband was still alive.) Granted, it’s obvious she’s not going to get back together with Husband #1, but he could still be jealous of what a good relationship they had. But he is a wonderful human being and a great match for her.

        2. sofar*

          I agree, giving the caterer a heads-up would be great. It’s possible they might already grasp that mentioning a former partner at a wedding wouldn’t go over well, but if I were the caterer, I would indeed appreciate the heads-up. My husband owned a small business for a while, and I know this would have been the sort of thing he’d appreciate.

          Our officiant and wedding photographer both proactively asked if there were any “weird” family things to be mindful of (ie, not posing people next to each other or in the same photo). But a caterer might not be primed to think along these lines.

          I agree with others saying let adults be adults as well. I remember being SUPER worried about rivalries coming out at my wedding, but at the end of the day, most people behaved like adults and only one person moved their chair to another table for the dinner as their table was “too close” to someone they didn’t like (which I didn’t even learn about until later). But, since this appears to be an “extreme meltdown” situation that might get taken out on a small family businesses, I think a heads-up is in order.

        3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Agreed, give the caterers a heads up to protect the *catering staff*, not your dad’s new wife.

          In the future, this should be your dad’s job to micromanage.

        4. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          The heads-up might look like:

          “Hi, I’m OP2, I remember you fondly from when you catered my mom’s second wedding and my own wedding. I see that you’re going to be catering my dad’s second wedding and I wanted to give you a heads-up about an Awkward Family Situation.
          [details phrased as boringly as possible, such as: Stepmom-to-be has had a lot of emotions around mentions of Mom, so Dad has been not mentioning Mom.]
          Anyway so if you’d like to catch up about Mom I’d love to, just not at/around Dad’s wedding, Mom’s doing great!”

          If it’s a phone call you can be less restrained in how you describe the situation but if you’re emailing you probably do not want to put in writing any words that might get accidentally forwarded to your dad.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I’d be inclined to play along for the wedding, more for the sake of the guests and the caterer than the couple. Watching the bride and/or groom melt down during the wedding is really awkward for everyone, and the caterer doesn’t deserve to get blasted with that. And the actual issue is annoying and petty but not damaging – it’s not like they’re asking you to lie about someone’s sexual orientation, for example, which would be worth causing a scene.

      After the wedding – if Mom gets mentioned in the course of conversation, it’s their problem to deal with. I’m picturing having to say something like “We’re spending Christmas Eve with She Who Shall Not Be Named, but we can come over Christmas day.” I’m not clear, though, if it’s the bride or groom who will melt down on hearing the name.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Bride or groom, or both? It is ridiculous and doesn’t bode well for the success of the marriage if they can’t tolerate being reminded of a simple truth – that he has an ex-wife. If they are so touchy about it, why on earth have they used the same catering firm that will invite comparisons with the first marriage?

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Or inviting the adult children who are proof he had an ex! This is bananas. Yes, the catering staff don’t deserve it, but people this cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs are just inherently volatile in ways OP can’t do anything about. Slip some money in the tip jar, have some wine, and make plans for a speedy escape if Stalina goes into meltdown mode.

        2. BigGlasses*

          The catering firm didn’t cater the original marriage, they catered the ex-wife’s remarriage, so I’d imagine the couple don’t know that at all (I doubt people who are on such bad terms that they don’t mention each other are exchanging details about wedding vendors).

          Not that it really matters to the substance of the comment that it’s ridiculous.

        3. EPLawyer*

          We don’t even now if the BRIDE is the problem. All we know is that DAD has banned the adult children from mentioning Mom around the fiancee. We don’t know if this is even her request or Dad just don’t want to hear her mentioned and is using the fiancee as an excuse to not hear about Mom. Which still doesn’t bode well for the marriage because that means Dad is throwing new wife under the bus rather than be open about the issue.

          Either way, the caterers didn’t sign up to be in the family drama. A polite heads up would be nice.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Also I love how we are assuming its the BRIDE will flip out — because you know those emotional wimmin, just can’t handle anything they don’t like. Plus the whole Bridezilla concept.

            I maintain that its Dad controlling this situation. We don’t know if the fiancee really feels any way at all about the ex.

          2. OP2*

            Bride requested it through Dad. But he doesn’t want me to mention Mom either, from conversation. *eyeroll*

            1. curiousLemur*

              Thanks for the update. I was wondering which of them was the source of the problem. Sounds like both of them. Sorry you have to deal with this.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve probably read too much creepy news lately… bride does know dad’s ex-wife is still alive, right? And that they were married & divorced, didn’t just have the child together?

        1. JB*

          This is an extremely good question and you may have gotten to the heart of it.

          Just from personal experience – I have a friend who’s divorced. Her ex wanted minimal visitation with the kids and often skipped the once per month he was supposed to have them.

          Then he got a new serious girlfriend. My friend was informed she wasn’t permitted to speak to the new girlfriend because it would ‘upset her’. Well, they ended up speaking one day anyway (she was the only one home when friend dropped off the kids for their weekend with dad) and was surprised to be informed that she had, in fact, never been married to her ex, and also had manipulated the courts to ‘steal’ their children from him, and he’d spent all his money trying to fight for full custody (not on booze), etc, etc.

        2. OP2*

          Oh, yes. They knew each other at my church. For years. Bride mentored my younger sibling.

      3. pancakes*

        I’m not in favor of a wedding day showdown, but I disagree that this isn’t damaging. My father—who was never married to my mother—married a woman like this not once but twice (!), and it was hugely damaging. He was separated from her for most of my childhood and I was never very close to him, so I didn’t grasp the extent of how bad it was until I was older. It was pathetic to see, and destroyed any and all interest I had in getting to know him better or even simply respecting him as a person. He arranged his life around someone monstrously jealous. She was so upset with my existence that she intercepted and destroyed a letter I sent him when I was graduating college, and when he died she kept my name out of his obituary. Her daughter (my half-sister) naturally feels terrible about all this, and her efforts to work out her troubled relationship with her own mother by building one with me have been . . . not fun or rewarding, from my end.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          My husband has two stepdaughters from his first marriage. We flew them to our wedding.

          They told me that they have friends whose mothers divorced the stepdads. The stepdads remarried and the new wives forbade the stepdads to see the stepkids.

          I laughed and said that even if I had wanted to, there is no way I could have kept Mr T from seeing them. He loves them. I love them.

          1. pancakes*

            People are wild about this stuff! I’ve always had an easier time getting along with my stepdad than with my mother—they married when I was a kindergartener—and would have words for anyone who tried to pull that nonsense with me. I’m sure he would too.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              Yes! My ex and I are getting near the point where we’ve been divorced longer than we were married, and I’m still closer to his parents than I am to my own. My own parents are lovely, but his parents are actual saints – I have always adored them, and I always will.

              1. KaciHall*

                My grandma absolutely refused to acknowledge that my mother got remarried. She referred to my dad as her son in law until the day she died and never once called my step dad that. It was incredibly petty. Granted, I would’ve liked to ignore my step dad too, but I lived with them and their four kids. Thinking back, I don’t know that my dad was ever mentioned around my step dad – he referred to me as ‘Terry’s girl’ when asked how many kids he had, and I was asked not to brag about my summer vacations at my dad’s house (which meant not talk about them because being in Florida was bragging. )

    3. Ginger ale for all*

      It may be a ‘just for one day, can this happen’ kind of thing. I am getting married soon and if I could get my family to stop talking about their serious health problems for that day, I would ask for it. This might be that couple’s just for one day wish.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Hmm, do you mean you don’t want them to talk to YOU about their health issues, or not talk to anyone about it all day? Even if it’s out-of-town relatives who might not get to see each other again?

        1. Ginger ale for all*

          My father is terminally ill. I want a day of pretending that he is simply the father of the bride and ready to celebrate the occasion. Other relatives have serious issues as well. I want a happy day if possible. I know I can’t ask that of people but I am tempted.

          1. allathian*

            I’m sorry your father is terminally ill and I hope you have a lovely wedding!

            I guess I’m just happy that my parents are AFAIK happily married after 53 years, and that my MIL and FIL can get along well enough that things don’t get awkward during the holidays. They divorced about 30 years ago and both have remarried. My MIL’s husband and FIL get along well enough, but my MIL and FIL’s wife aren’t on speaking terms, and it’s all his wife’s fault. She has kids and grandkids from a previous marriage but seems to still be jealous of the fact that her husband has kids and a grandkid as well.

            These things aren’t always easy, but really, if LW’s dad and his fiancee can’t deal with the fact that he has kids from a previous marriage and that his ex is still alive and involved in his kids’ lives, they should just elope.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            Maybe a word to the bridesmaids and groomsmen not to mention it in your hearing? You won’t be able to stop Aunt Gladys and Aunt Maureen discussing the latter’s gallstone surgery during the photos, but you might be able to limit hearing/discussing your dad’s illness.
            There’s also a world of difference between pretending for one day that your dad is 100% healthy (which may also be a kindness to him as well) while being very aware of the truth and attempting to completely deny your new spouse’s former life from ALL and sundry, especially with proof of it attending the wedding (unless step-monster is going to pretend OP and her siblings are… cousins of their father?!)

            I’m sorry about your dad.

          3. Caroline Bowman*

            that is completely and 100% fair and I feel like your close family also wants that, just for one short period, ie the duration of your wedding, can we just leave the subject?

            It’s not a selfish ask at all.

            1. Self Employed*

              I had such a terrible birthday party one year, because all the guests just wanted to complain about what was wrong in their lives. I think I didn’t even bother having a party the next year, and then it was 2020. I had a few people on a Zoom chat and in the invitation I specifically said I wanted to focus on good news because I want to feel like I’m at a party–not group therapy. We had a nice time.

      2. Scarlet2*

        It still doesn’t bode well for their relationship to be that insecure about the mere existence of an ex-wife (who’s also the mother of his children and who divorced *15* years ago). At least, the children seem to be grown ups so they won’t have to be subjected to this person more than they want to.

        The wording “If it happens in front of the bride, I’m sure it will not go well for us (or them, for that matter).” makes it sound like anything but a “reasonable ask for just one day”.

    4. Amaranth*

      Just looking at the kids is a reminder of their mother. Bodes well for a good relationship, right?

    5. Artemesia*

      Dad is marrying a classic missing stair that everyone scurries around trying to ‘protect’ and accommodate. I am envisioning curlers with their brooms furiously polishing the ice ahead of the stone.

      Absolutely let this not be your problem; and our sympathy that your father is marrying a doink.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Or the dad is the missing stair himself.
        For all we know the bride could be just fine talking about her husbands ex.

        1. OP2*

          Ohhhh, she’s not. I just had lunch with her and felt like I had to hide a ring from Mom’s side so she wouldn’t stop talking to me.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Is it a problem if she stops talking to you? She really sounds like the kind of person who’s worth not talking to.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I just realized something. OP1 doesn’t say who is expected to have the meltdown if someone mentions mom in front of new bride. Lots of us have commented assuming the new bride would melt down. But maybe she’s fine, and it’s OP’s dad who has issues.

      1. WellRed*

        The most logical answer is the bride is the one who will have a meltdown. Because they don’t want it mentioned in front of the bride.

        1. Gray Lady*

          But it’s the dad who is demanding the silence on this topic, so it’s at least possible that it’s his issue *about* her hearing it mentioned, not her issue about hearing it. She may even be unaware of his “thing” about this subject.

        2. JB*

          Or that the dad has told his new bride some lies about ex-wife that he doesn’t want coming to light.

      2. James*

        This could easily happen. If the mother hurt the father he may still not be over it. 15 years isn’t a long time for some things (trust me on this), and a LOT of older men do not like to show weakness in front of their spouses. He could be the one to get emotional and simply not want his new wife to know how badly his old wife hurt him.

        1. Nanani*

          “Spend the rest of your life pretending your mother doesn’t exist because Fragile Old Man ego”?
          No. Dad can grow up and learn to deal with his own emotions, if this read is anywhere near accurate.

    7. LifeBeforeCorona*

      The parents have been divorced for 15 years, the mother has been remarried for almost as long, and the kids are all adults. The new bride needs to save her energy for the epic battle over the title of Grandma.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        How would it even be a battle?! She’s coming into the picture with her stepchildren already adults, and their mother is alive and apparently in full contact with them. Of course mom will be the grandma. OP and their sibling might or might not grant her “second grandma” status, but there’s nothing epic about that…

        And FYI, OP doesn’t mention wether it’s the stepmother or the dad who’d meltdown hearing mention of mom.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          Oh, you would not believe the stories on boards dealing with difficult parents and in-laws. Sometimes brand new dating partners demand the grandpa/grandma title.

        2. OP2*

          I fully forsee a battle over “grandma” which is completely ridiculous. And… I think both could melt down, but at the time I was only thinking of the bride.

          1. Nanani*

            OP2, please, extricate your adult life from these people before it gets anywhere near that point.
            You don’t owe them a relationship. You’re an adult.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      And also if LW can think of it, Dad should have too and could have prevented the problem by using another caterer.

      This is not LW’s problem to solve or smooth over.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think the caterer is the issue here. It sounds like everyone is pleased with their work.

        1. Self Employed*

          Everyone loves their work, but if he picked the second best caterer in town who hasn’t done the rest of the family’s weddings, the new caterer wouldn’t be asking about people they met at the last wedding they catered for this family.

          1. pancakes*

            There’s no reason whatsoever to believe the caterer is going to be weird in that very specific way.

    9. James*

      First, I think it’s a question of what will happen. There may be a reason the father and future-step-mother don’t like the former wife. Imagine for a moment that the roles were reversed–that it was the mother asking that her former husband not be mentioned. I think most of us would be at least sympathetic to this, and assume there was a cause. Divorce can be very bitter, after all, and some causes for divorce can be VERY painful. Everyone immediately thinks of infidelity, but I can think of far worse from my own family. And painful events don’t stop after the divorce. Ex-spouses do reach out to their former spouses, even after the former spouse left them after years of flagrant abuse (in fact, I’ve seen it more often with abusers, as the abuser simply can’t accept that they no longer have control over their victim). Again, if genders were reversed folks would be more sympathetic to that view, if they didn’t assume it was the case to begin with.

      Further, we don’t know what the reaction will be. The assumption appears to be that the future step-mother will throw a temper tantrum Jerry Springer-style out of jealousy, but nothing in the letter suggests that other than the gender of the father’s future spouse. The flip-out could be something as minor as a calm “Your services are no longer required” (seen that happen). Drama, sure, but not the titillating outburst folks are drooling over.

      Second, as the child of the person getting married, what is your goal here? Is your goal to celebrate your father’s happiness? Is it to slog through this event and get it over with? Or is it to get some cheap amusement at the expense of your relationship with your father? Even if you think the woman is wrong for your father, what kind of child takes pleasure in hurting their parent? What kind of person intentionally hurts a couple on their wedding day? There are far, FAR better way to handle these situations. If you’re the kind of person who would intentionally cause your father harm on his wedding day, you deserve to be cut out of his life as well.

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        “If you’re the kind of person who would intentionally cause your father harm on his wedding day, you deserve to be cut out of his life as well.”

        That’s quite an escalation!

        1. James*

          I disagree. A wedding is an important event, and someone who intentionally causes distress to the couple getting married clearly has no regard for that couple. It shows a profound lack of respect, a profound lack of empathy, and clearly demonstrates that they are willing to hurt you for the most petty of benefits. Why keep someone like that in your life?

          1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

            No no, your comment was the escalation to which I was referring…to start from a letter that asked “how can I prevent a blow-up at my dad’s wedding?” and land on “the OP is seeking ‘cheap amusement’ at her father’s expense and should be cut out of his life” seemed like quite a leap.

      2. Sondheim Geek*

        Why do you think people would be more sympathetic if the genders were reversed?

        1. James*

          If a woman asked her kids not to mention her ex-husband to her current husband, folks would assume that there was abuse or some other issue involved. In my experience this commentariat has a tendency to assume that based on very sparse evidence. The fact that it’s a man in question not a woman does not make abuse impossible, but culturally we’re conditioned to not expect it.

          At the very least I think those commenting would give the parent the benefit of the doubt, especially for one day. Comments about sitting back and watching the show would be seen as extremely hurtful.

      3. Data Diva*

        This seems like a really unkind comment to the OP. Parents have no business making their divorce issues their children’s business, even if the children are adults. I’m not really sure what the gender reversal has to do with anything either. I think this would be just as reprehensible if their mother was asking them to never mention their father. Barring abuse, it’s never okay to push your relationship issues and insecurities onto your children. My parents divorced when I was in college- my mom was terrible at my wedding, insisting that she not be seated anywhere she could see my father, that I not invite my father’s partner, that I tell my father not to talk to her, etc. The OP sounds like they really care about both of their parents- having to pretend they don’t exist is ridiculous and 100% should not be their problem.

        1. PT*

          We had the same nonsense with my MIL at my wedding. Divorced when we were in college, my MIL was on the brink of a meltdown having to be in the same room as my FIL. Luckily he didn’t have a long-term plus one to invite.

        2. James*

          I never intended this to be directed at the OP. I intended it to be directed at folks like PollyQ, who advised the OP to destroy their relationship with their father.

          For my money, I think that in a relationship you should care for the other person. If something is so painful that the other person asked you not to bring it up, I would say you shouldn’t bring it up without good reason. And if you’re helping in a situation where it may be brought up, you should step in to stop it if you can (how much effort you spend will depend on the nature of the relationship). Intentionally causing pain is sort of a deal breaker for me. Please note that I’m not limiting this to parent/child relationships. Further, if you must bring up that painful subject, there is a time and place for it. Painful topics should be avoided at weddings, funerals, birthday parties, births, religious ceremonies, and the like. It’s not the time or place for such things.

          Honestly, I find the lack of empathy for the father on display here extremely disheartening. It’s depressing to know that so many people view caring about their father’s feelings sufficiently to comply with a fairly simple request as a tremendous burden. I hope I teach my children better.

          1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

            No one but you is talking about “intentionally causing pain.” I would argue that demanding that an adult child censor even the most passing of references to their other parent–no matter how egregious the behavior of that other parent may have been–is the action that is causing pain here. It’s certainly not the simple request you make it out to be.

          2. curiousLemur*

            But since the OP has been responding, it would be easy for the OP to assume (as I did) that you were talking to the OP.

          3. Librarian of SHIELD*

            The lack of empathy for the father is coming from the outlandishness of the father’s request. The OP has been posting in the comments and says that the “don’t mention your mother” request isn’t just a one-time thing for the day of the wedding. It’s been THREE YEARS. OP and their sibling have been expected to act as if they do not have a mother while their father and his partner are in the room for THREE YEARS, and presumably will be expected to continue this farce indefinitely. That’s not a reasonable request.

          4. LTL*

            Based on both the letter and on LW’s posts in the comments section, bride and father are being unreasonable. We’re taking the LW at her word.

            From the letter:

            If it happens in front of the bride, I’m sure it will not go well for us (or them, for that matter).

            The idea that there will be consequences for caterers for bringing up OP’s mother is ludicrous! If I get remarried, sure maybe I would be upset if one of the staff brings up my abusive ex, but I definitely wouldn’t trash the company. At most, maybe I’d have someone to discreetly let the caterers know they shouldn’t bring him up again. The fact the OP is concerned tells us a lot about the kind of people OP’s dad and soon-to-be stepmom are.

          5. FrivYeti*

            Spending three years having to pretend that you don’t have a mother is not exactly a “fairly simple request”. How do you coordinate family gatherings, for one thing? Holidays? Birthdays, even?

            Also, I think a key aspect here is that, as I read it, the father won’t allow the mother to be brought up *around his new wife*. It’s not that this is a painful subject that he doesn’t want to talk about, it’s that the new wife doesn’t want to have to think about the old wife, and the father is bending over backwards to make that happen. That’s a pretty different situation than “I don’t want to talk about my ex”.

          6. biobotb*

            You wrote “Second, as the child of the person getting married, what is your goal here?” but didn’t intend to direct it at the child of the person getting married? What?

            Also, the LW never mentioned any plan of bringing up her mom’s name at the wedding, so why are you acting like they have some nefarious plan to ruin the wedding by mentioning her?

          7. PollyQ*

            First, my advice was specifically about the issue of warning the caterers. Nothing in my response suggested that OP should go ahead and mention her mother to either her father or her future stepmother on their wedding day.

            Second, the message as it was given was that mentioning the mother would be upsetting not to the father, but to the new bride. Even if we assume (without any evidence) that OP’s mother was abusive to her father, that’s no excuse for the 2nd wife to have a meltdown just because the fact of 1st wife’s existence is mentioned — and not even by OP, but by a random caterer.

            Third, OP has posted in comments that this is not a 1 day request, but a permanent ban, which I still believe is ridiculous. I very much hope that you do not teach your children that your feelings are so important that they need to pretend that they only have one parent.

      4. OP2*

        I don’t want to harm my father. I want to celebrate my dad’s happiness. I also don’t want to celebrate it and then him never speaking to me again because I didn’t mention the caterer catered Mom’s wedding. This happened once before over house buying, and over my wedding. Honestly, I don’t want the caterer to be fired, period. They’re good people. And honestly as much as I have trouble with my future stepmother, I do care for her in some way. She makes my dad happy. I just don’t want to see someone other than myself end up losing business because of a silly edict. And yeah, I try to honor the fact that my parents’ divoce was painful to both parties.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Honestly, if your dad would stop speaking you over the caterer, then there are much bigger issues than food and weddings. He is entitled to his feelings, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also have healthy boundaries. If he fires the caterer, that’s on him. If he loses his mind about the mere mention of your mother, that’s on him. Don’t bend yourself into a pretzel trying to mitigate his moods/poor behavior. He’s an adult. You don’t have to put up with this emotional manipulation.

          1. curiousLemur*

            And OP, you might want to start reading Captain Awkward, if you haven’t already. She has good advice for issues like this.

          2. LTL*

            This. The idea that you have to pretend that your own mother doesn’t exist or else your dad and/or his bride will stop speaking to you is ridiculous.

          3. Sacred Ground*

            Echoing that this sounds like a letter for Captain Awkward.

            “Don’t bend yourself into a pretzel trying to mitigate his moods/poor behavior.”

            This is great advice. I’ve also heard it put as, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.”

        2. DKMA*

          You seem like a lovely person. I think your instinct to protect the caterer is spot on.

          I’m not sure your instinct to protect yourself is strong enough. I recommend checking out Captain Awkward (she’s kind of like Alison but for intense personal dynamics), she has written a lot about navigating difficult relationships and setting boundaries.

          Probably therapy too, but that’s almost like a universal recommendation.

        3. biobotb*

          Don’t worry–no one but that one poster ever thought you had any plan to hurt your dad. I don’t know what their deal is, but you seem kind.

        4. generic employee*

          Don’t worry about this particular criticism from the one commenter who thinks you should forget your mother’s existence to placate your father and his new wife. And good luck with the wedding and the future. I send you strength.

      5. pancakes*

        “Imagine for a moment that the roles were reversed–that it was the mother asking that her former husband not be mentioned. I think most of us would be at least sympathetic to this . . .”

        Not me, and it’s both sexist and out-of-touch to claim that women are reliably treated sympathetically. Have you considered that many of us reading your comment are women and know that’s not on point? The idea that it’s cruel to not placate someone who is wildly jealous or insecure isn’t on point either.

      6. Reba*

        re: “nothing in the letter” — yes, we may only have the words in this short letter to go by, but it’s *OP’s life* on which they are the expert. We take letter writers at their word!

        This comment is unkind and wildly accusatory.

      7. hbc*

        The commenting rules have me typing and retyping here.

        Let’s start with: You’re fine with the caterer getting fired on the spot if she innocently says, “I’m so delighted be doing a third wedding for your family!” Or “OP, good to see you again, how is your mother doing?”

        And then to talk to OP like she’s the one risking the relationship? So yeah, they’re not going to have a giant tantrum, but if OP says the M word, she’s destroying them.

        No one is planning a speech about how great Wife 1 is/was. No one who knows about their request is planning on talking about her. No one is intentionally hurting this couple. But if OP or the caterer does slip up, there will be exactly zero harm done to Dad that isn’t directly connected to his choice to be a giant baby about his former marriage.

        1. curiousLemur*

          “But if OP or the caterer does slip up, there will be exactly zero harm done to Dad that isn’t directly connected to his choice to be a giant baby about his former marriage.” This!

      8. biobotb*

        WHERE are you getting “cheap amusement” and “takes pleasure in hurting their parent” from the LW? They literally wrote in asking if they should help HONOR their father’s (ridiculous) wishes by getting people outside the family to pretend his ex doesn’t exist.

        Plus, how would not reaching out to the caterer be “intentionally causing harm”? If the father wants people to know that he and his fiancee can’t stand the mention of his ex, it’s his responsibility to make that clear. LW not rushing to manage the interactions of an adult with anyone who comes near him is not a petty act that would intentionally cause him harm, for Pete’s sake!

    10. Anonymous Hippo*

      I had to have a discussion with both my mom and dad after there hideous divorce, that they are both in my life, and I’m not going to censor talking about my life and the people that are in it based on who I’m around and they would just have to deal. I can see them cringe a bit a times, but they learned to deal with it. I would be even less gracious with a new spouse…if you don’t want someone with a past, don’t marry someone with a past.

    11. Momma Bear*

      The one who will look bad is the father and/or his bride. I all but guarantee that someone will say something about his ex and that will not be OP’s fault. The caterers should get a head’s up, but OP should also just be ready for a meltdown from either the bride or the father. Maybe make a BINGO card or take bets. I attended a wedding where the MotB was livid about having to share space with her ex during their daughter’s wedding. The FotB and his fiancée just kept to themselves and didn’t cause drama. To this day all anyone remembers is how horrid the mother was. I’d stay far out of their drama. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Good luck at all family functions going forward. If OP has kids (now or future) I’d keep them out of events like graduations unless they can play nice.

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes. It would be kind to give the caterers a heads-up, just so none of their team is in the line of irrational fire for making a comment, but that’s a courtesy and not a responsibility.

      As someone with crazy/irrational family members, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” is my philosophy. I cannot be on the hook for someone else’s hangups.

  3. Zoe*

    OP #1 – can’t you just play dumb with IT and say the emails should be directed to you of course because it’s your name??

    1. Moo*

      I might also report concern to IT without implicating the manager – emails very similar to company emails are often used for phishing etc, so while you suspect your manager, you could simply express concern that such email anomalies have happened and that IT might need to address it as part of a bigger security problem. As it happens there’s currently a wave of attacks on education organisations, so most IT units are scrambling to make sure they are protected.

      I have worked in organisations where people with the same name and, as a result, similar email address have been given the opposing person’s rights to things like accounts, contracts etc. It is so easily done, even without any malicious intent, so it is in the interest of your organisation not to have this similar email exist. Because its an IT problem, I think you could get it removed without having to dance with your manager (on this issue).

    2. Old Admin*

      I have worked in system administration a long time, and this exactly what I would do – redirect the mail to OP#1, remove it from the Teams group, and neutrally inform boss of the action taken.
      That is the bare bones minimum that needs to be done!
      Any legal action is optional, but first get the mail address out of boss’s hands.

    3. Cedarthea*

      I like this approach. This is like when I worked in retail at a major outdoors chain that was very generous in their refund policy (you could Return Every Item).

      Often people would try to steal stuff by putting it into a backpack they were buying. We were trained to just open every part of a backpack and just scan what was in there and pack back into the backpack.

      We wouldn’t say anything but just assume that everything someone brought to the cash was for payment.

      We didn’t embarrass them or shame them, we just solved it. But if the customer kicked up a fuss they would admit to what they did and it was easily handled.

      Same with this, I would see if it could just be solved and then let the natural consequences of solving it create the mess, not you.

      1. curiousLemur*

        I’ve always been afraid when buying something like a purse or backpack that someone else might have put something in it. I usually remember to check it first before buying it, but…

    4. Chilipepper*

      I think the OP just needs the password to be able to log into the email. They should put in a ticket for a new password.

    5. Saberise*

      No, not based on the response from IT when she looked into it. The other person is the owner. IT is not going to give anyone else access without the owners okay.

      1. LTL*

        By this logic, it’s strange that IT has allowed someone to own an account in someone else’s name? Surely if they’re concerned about data security and wouldn’t allow changes without the owner’s permission, they’d also ensure that one of the owners is the name on the email?

        1. LTL*

          This came off more snarky than I intended. I’m not disagreeing per say, more pointing out something that feels like a contradiction.

        2. Loredena*

          It’s a function of how Teams works. The email is generated from the name of the Team, and the Team was probably created ‘on-demand’. Most likely directly in the Teams app, but possibly a Group was created first from Outlook, and then extended with a Team. Odds are IT was not involved at any point.

          Basically, let’s say that I as a manager want a place to store info related to my employees. The right approach, if IT actually set everything up up-front, is a department level site that everyone in the department belongs to and potentially a private channel specifically for the supervisor. But in an environment where that doesn’t exist and I don’t know what I’m doing, it would be easy to create a site that’s very very specific without understanding the impact. {I still shiver when I think about a 10k site migration I did over a decade ago. Sites were created for specific meetings. Sites were created individually for *each instance* of repeating meetings. People are clueless.}

          Honestly, while really really weird, I’d lay odds that supervisor created a Team for one or all of her direct reports named for them, w/o thinking about the email that’s automatically created. In other words, the Team is what was created, and the email a byproduct. I get OP being bothered by it (it’s strange! and disconcerting!) but I suspect less malice and more ineptitude on the part of the supervisor.

  4. One flew over*

    #4 I worked for a company where people wanted soooo much to be a team lead & would then say, “My Team,” as a power trip. All. The. Time. It was insufferable. So maybe the LW works in a place with these dynamics & the feedback was meant to be kind to the team.

    1. Long time listener, first time caller*

      I think most people react the same way even where the person using it is the team lead. Nobody liked it when Lebron James did this. He only got away with it in Cleveland. They didn’t let him say it in Miami and they don’t let him do it in LA.

      1. MrsFillmore*

        LOL, I also immediately thought of Lebron when reading this letter! I think it was usually “my guys” with him. I’m from Cleveland originally and my dad would bring this up all the time after watching post-game interviews.

    2. Well...*

      That’s so interesting, because I could easily imagine “my team” being a team you are a member of, not necessarily a leader of. It seems like the double meaning would make it less of a power trip than “my direct reports” but I guess these things take on a life of their own.

      1. LemonLyman*

        I think it works fine for talking to people outside the org. Like when people email AAM they’ll say “my team” and it’s not a big deal. But internally and in meetings as the team leader, it just sounds awkward to me.

      2. AstralDebris*

        Agreed. When I’ve worked on a team in the past I would refer to them as “my team,” because what else are you supposed to say? “The team to which I belong”?

        I think when people object to the term “my team,” they’re more objecting to the context it’s being used in. That or they have some odd ideas about language.

        1. Andy*

          Probably plural “in our team”. Thinking about it, that is how people where I work reference teams they work in – usually in plural. I cant recall anyone saying “my team” and dialogs I recall have all “our” reference in it. But I was not specifically watching for the difference.

          1. Jack Straw*

            This. This exactly.

            I am a member of a team and I say “our team” — I don’t think I’ve ever said “my team” even when I was a manager of a group. When I was a teacher it was always “our class” when I was talking to students and only “my 7th period class” when I was talking with other teachers, because they weren’t in the class.

            I do it as a way to encourage collective ownership, saying ours instead of mine matters.

          2. biobotb*

            But if you’re talking to someone outside the team, saying “our team” would sound strange, like you’re talking about a team to which you and the person you’re speaking to both belong. But if such a team doesn’t exist, why can’t you use “my team” to talk to someone outside your team about… your team?

        2. Gan Ainm*

          That’s interesting because if Im a member of the team I’ll say “the team” usually, perhaps “our team” but wouldn’t say “my team” unless there was some unusual context happening that needed the differentiation of “my” (ie, is that your team sitting over there? No, mine is on the left.)

          Even now as a manager of three teams I wouldn’t go to “my” too frequently, similar to @one flew over’s comment, I’ve worked with people (one new manager in particular stands out in my mind) on a power trip who lean really heavily on “my team” (even when it’s jut one direct report, hilariously) and it comes across as really trying to throw their weight around, heavy handed, and just not a good look. In a similar way, i give a little side eye to the people at my company who get really specific with the level details in their title, ie “manager I / II / III…” instead of just “manager, llama grooming” absolutely no one cares if you’re a II vs a III, and it’s just not done at our company so it comes across as really insecure in your authority.

          I think some of this is company culture, and some is based on context / the particular person and situation.

          1. alienor*

            I don’t even like it when other people say “your team” in reference to a group I’m leading. It just feels icky and not how I want to be. I also rarely use the “senior” in my own title and cringe a little when someone introduces me that way.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yes, and the context also determines what I would say instead. That is, what is the exact situation in which the LW would say “my team”? If it is a situation in which the LW might want to signal that they, too, are part of the team, they could say “our team”. If it’s about an accomplishment that was achieved as a team it might be “the team”. If the problem is that specific team members could expect to be recognized (rather than disappearing in a collective term that is attributed to the LW who says “my team”) it could be “the team did [X], and I want specifically to call out Calpurnia and Wakeen who spearheaded Y and Z”. If this is the manager standing up in a company-wide meeting to represent the team and report on its status, I would suggest the LW listens how the other managers refer to their teams [sic! *I* can write “their teams” even when they wouldn’t say “my team”] – maybe it should be something like “the teapot conversion planning, which I lead, achieved X, Y and Z. We recently hired a new junior conversion designer and are interviewing candidates for the role of senior tea ceremony architect, which will bring us to 15 team members. We …”

          My thinking on this has evolved quite a bit. While it is true, and should be said, that grammar is not reality, that is, that the use of a possessive pronoun doesn’t imply possession (cf. my dentist, my grandmother, my manager, my old high school principal… all of which are *fine*) there is a wrinkle when the manager speaks about the people who report to them. In my corner – academic research – this is usually not about “my team” (even though I am in fact part of a well-structured project team! but leadership is distributed between multiple c0-PIs, and most team members are associated with the project and do not report to any of the PIs, though I personally do). In our field it’s about “my student”, “my postdoc”, “my lab tech”. And my PI would never call me her postdoc when talking about my work – she would say “Tamarack, who is part of our team” or “… who works on X within the Y team” (*). If this is a bout a student we’d say “X who is a grad student in our program” or “… in our team” or if relevant “… who I advise”. The point is to de-center from the PI/boss if this is about one of the team members.

          I’m not sure how this is currently the case when the person is in fact directly in charge of assisting the boss person — but my feeling is that even “my secretary” and “my EA” or “my PA”, even though a little less clear cut, are starting to feel a little bit stuffy around the edges and that one might want at least by default use something that underlines the role, as a fully-fledged professional in their own right. I would for example not talk about “the provost’s secretary” but “X, who works in the provost’s office.

          (*) In fact, even though I call her “my PI” in the same way as someone else may be saying “my manager” (and indeed, she IS my line manager and signs off on my time sheets and travel funding requests) I would not say “my PI” when talking about her work as a researcher! I would say “X who works on [topic]” or “X, who is one of the co-PIs on the Z project, in charge of [topic]”.

      3. twocents*

        Right. I support a large team and represent them on projects. I tell the PMs “my team is about done with the teapot research request” or some such ALL the time. The PMs don’t need a list of the 20 employees working on it.

        It’s so weird to see people viewing it as something insufferable. Different company cultures, I guess.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          I think it somewhat comes down to the person and their mannerism. If your job is to report out on their status, and you’re not someone with a reputation for being insufferable more generally, for puffing yourself up or stealing credit for others work, etc, I would think it’s fine.

        2. Colette*

          “Oh, I can’t go for lunch today, I’m going for lunch with my team”, “My team usual uses conference room H”, “My team has a running joke about rubber ducks” … all of these are normal things to say.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          I guess I would go for “our team is done with X” that is framing it as “we” not “they, who are under me”.

          1. twocents*

            The reaction I would get is a very confused “our team?” where the PMs attempt to figure out where, in the org of 250k employees, we overlap to make this a thing “we” are doing together rather than what I, as the responsible person, am doing. (And the answer is, we don’t; the ceo is the only manager I share with PMs). Saying “my team” ensures I’m not taking full credit for delegated work, even though the PMs really dgaf who I’ve delegated the work to; I’m ultimately responsible for speaking to it.

      4. Sans $$*

        yeah, I admit I’m surprised that it seems to be so widely disliked! I wouldn’t think of it as in any way insidious and to me, is on the same level as “We” – “We are working on this” where you are not really doing much of the work, so you sub in “my team” sort of situation.

        Then again, I have a good and respectful relationship with my supervisor that would feasibly use this. Maybe I’d feel different if that weren’t the case.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “My” can be possessive. “Our” is more inclusive and way way better in most situations.

          1. Colette*

            “Our” can be confusing if you’re talking to someone who is not on the team.

          2. meyer lemon*

            It can be, but in a lot of cases it’s just shorthand for “I am a part of this.” If you say “my office,” I don’t think anyone will assume you are the owner of the building. I think it only sounds possessive in a context where you aren’t feeling very charitable about the speaker.

            1. alienor*

              Not totally related, but this is reminding me that at a previous job where we had traditional high-walled cubicles, I had a coworker who would refer to their cubicle as “my office.” Only directors and above had actual offices, and this person was like a Llama Groomer III or something similar, so it felt very weird (plus I think it confused people who came looking for them and tried to find them in one of the offices around the perimeter instead of where they actually sat, in the heart of the cube warren).

          3. Mango Is Not For You*

            It is possessive in some contexts. I’m not convinced that that’s a bad thing. I lead three teams and they are all MY TEAMS, in the sense that I am accountable for their deliverables and throughput and removing any blockers to their work and am responsible for fostering a respectful and positive culture on those teams.

            My counterparts are Jose, Tobias, and Maria. I am not responsible for their teams, although I do want to work well with them. My direct reports are Katie, Jim, and Andrea. They each have a team that they would refer to as “their team.” Jim is not responsible for making sure that Katie’s team completes their deliverables on time. Andrea is not responsible for managing Jim’s direct reports’ schedules.

            I can broadly say “our team” on a call, but then what team am I referring to? The team that Jose, Tobias, Maria and I are on? My direct reports? Their direct reports? I could say “The Indoor Llama Grooming Team and Hydroponic Maintenance and Teapot Storage Team,” but it’s way way way easier to say “Jim’s team” if everyone I’m speaking to is already familiar with the tasks that Jim’s team handles.

      5. Lora*

        If you’re going to say Our Team though, how do you distinguish “the team of which I am part, working on project ABC” from “we who are sitting in this meeting right now, but which Fergus, Jane and Wakeen are not part of”? Most meetings I have to go to, I am representing the department in which I work, and other representatives of other departments are also there, and we each have our own teams but also are working together on this project so…who is “we”?

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          By naming it “the design team” or the “staff from the Cleveland office.” Maybe right afterwords you can use “we” but be clear at the start.

          1. Violet*

            I work in a department with four managers, three seniors, and a dozen staff. We do project-based work. At any given time, a manager is the person ultimately responsible for a project, a senior is the person actually running it, and the staff could be assigned to multiple projects. Seniors can also be assigned to each other’s projects.

            When I’m talking to someone about what I need for the current project I’m working on, I say, “My team.” And it is completely understood that the composition of “my” team and what we’re working on will be completely different 6-8 weeks from now. But I say “my team” because that is infinitely easier than saying, “The team that is working on the Schnarfenberger project, of which I am the lead.” Especially when I am talking to representatives from Schnarfenberger.

            And saying “our team” would be completely meaningless. Is that the whole department? The people on the two projects I’m heading up plus the one I’m on where another senior is the lead?

            It’s weird to eliminate the wording “my team” from someone’s work vocabulary.

            Also, I talk about things happening at “my company” all the time when, in fact, it’s a large corporation and not a sole proprietorship owned by me. Ditto “my department”, “my VP”, “my managers”, “my CEO” etc. Up an down the chain, “my [whatever]” is absolutely OK.

      6. Lyudie*

        Exactly, in my role I work with lots of other teams…support, development, leadership, marketing, etc. If I’m talking to someone in development about who is responsible for creating a document, I’m probably going to say “my team will handle that” because yeah that’s part of our responsibility, and I’m not a team lead or manager or anything. “Our team” might be clear to some people I guess but it’s still my team because I am on it.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      To me, “my team” is no different from “my family.” It conveys membership/relationship, not ownership. It doesn’t mean I have power over them. (Trust me, I don’t.)

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        “My family” doesn’t imply any hierarchical relationship… the way it’s normally used.

        However, if for example a child protective services worker would refer to “my families” as the families they are following to ensure child welfare I would find it a little bit sub-optimal in terms of terminology.

        Similarly, “my team” can be 100% fine and unremarkable, or it can be slightly grating. Or, if it’s a particularly condescending and self-serving boss who uses it, it might come across as fitting the problem (“well, sure out of the various options to refer to us THIS is of course the one he would choose”).

    4. Saberise*

      Below she said (search for Op #4) that she had tried to get her team set up to be it’s own department and leadership finally said no and told her manage to stop asking. I think it’s part of that whole thing.

    5. Quickbeam*

      I really dislike it when anyone up the food chain refers to me as “my nurse”. You might be my boss and I might work for you in the hierarchy but I’m not yours.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think “my nurse” is different for a couple of reasons. One, because “my nurse” would typically be “the nurse who provides my care,” not “the nurse in my chain of command,” so this is just a weird thing to say. (Or is this a situation where you are assigned to work with one particular doctor, and that’s how the doctor refers to you? Kind of like saying “my admin” or “my IT person”?) And two, because “nurse” is singular – this person is clearly talking about *you*, and thus there’s no reason they couldn’t just use your name. But “my team” refers to a group of people.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yeah, in my longer screed above that’s the equivalent to “my lab tech” and “my postdoc”, which isn’t great. It’s centered on the boss in a way that exceeds what is strictly useful. (Unlike the other example above of someone who has several teams reporting into them and where it’s useful to refer to “Jim’s team” vs. “Mary’s team” when, say, planning project workflow.)

    6. MrsFillmore*

      For what it is worth, I very much prefer the use of “our Team” or “the project name Team” over “my Team.” Maybe it’s overly anecdotal, but I’ve seen a correlation between managers who say “my team” and “my staff” and worse, “my people” and managers who use an overly authoritative style. It’s not 1-1! My team is also the mildest of these variations, but I also think it depends on context.

    7. Napster*

      My ex (who was a mid-level manager) used to refer to “my employees” and I cringed every time. They are employees of the company, you dolt.

  5. nnn*

    I’m not sure that this would change any action LW might take, but I really want to know whether the manager in #1 has email addresses set up with their other employees’ names too, or if it’s just LW.

    1. Whoa Nelly*

      That was my thought, too! I feel like she’s GOT to have one for each member of the team

      1. Not Australian*

        If she doesn’t, it would seem very oddly targeted. OTOH if she does, she’s surely making a huge amount of work for herself and there must be something – in her mind at least – to justify the effort.

        1. Allypopx*

          I agree but I just can’t imagine what. Alison said upthread she can’t ANSWER from these emails so are these just misdirected emails going unanswered and uncorrected? That has to cause problems. And if the OP isn’t answering them it’s not like the boss is monitoring her communication or professionalism or whatever. I just can’t fathom what the reason for this is.

    2. Cat Tree*

      The whole thing is just so bizarre and I’m dying of curiosity. Too bad we’ll probably never get an answer to this mystery.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I thought that as well, and then I wondered who in IT is setting up fake email accounts? I don’t know any IT Department that will set up random email addresses just because someone asked. Especially one in someone else’s name.

      1. JanetM*

        At my university, when someone creates a Teams site, the email address is auto-created for the site; the address is not created by IT.

        1. Emma*

          Yeah, I wondered whether maybe she has Teams sites for each of her reports that she uses for notes about stuff they’re working on or whatever.

    4. Ambivalent*

      I think the way our system works, this could possibly be an accident. When you create a mailing list you can free-type the email, so it might have been entered wrong. The boss might have set it up, tested it, noticed it didn’t work, and forgot about it. Or not known how to delete it, etc. Yes it’s a stretch, but that still makes more sense to me than some very indirect spying.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      Since it’s through Teams I wonder if she is using it for a way to organize things for that employee. Such as time off requests, performance reviews, etc. But in that case she should use Onedrive or something not teams where anyone could accidently email that team thinking it was the OP.

  6. WS*

    LW1 – I’ve found the best way to deal with underhanded and conniving people is to be completely open and oblivious. Email your boss, say something like “I was getting IT to set up my undeliverable message to [email] and they said that account’s redirecting to you! What a weird glitch! I’m going to ask IT to have it redirected, so if they contact you, that’s why. Just thought I’d give you a heads up!” CC (not BCC) IT on the message.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I really, really like this! I hope LW1 sees this, because I think it’s just about perfect!

    2. Hazel*

      This made me think of the kindest excuse I was given today (not at all underhanded, but sneaky in a good way). Someone emailed me and asked if I could re-send an attachment because their firewall may have stripped it out. I sat there for about 30 seconds thinking about that, and then I realized that I never attached the file to the original email! I don’t mind being asked if I might have forgotten to attach a file, but I still thought this was very clever on their part.

      1. Julia*

        I love that too. Although it only works if the other person isn’t the type to then get mad at you and your “stupid firewall”…

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

        Ah the number of times I’ve blamed the software! “Outlook seems to have swallowed the attachment, sorry” or “yeah, I find sometimes the meeting doesn’t pop up either” etc…

    3. Boof*

      Yes exactly. “oop, looks like there was a duplicate account! I’m sure this was an accident when I was onboarding, I’m asking IT to take care of it and delete it”

    4. chersy*

      Yes, I’m inclined to agree with this solution so you both kind of “save face” here! Boss can either play the clueless card or get angry (at someone… IT, maybe), as they’re caught redhanded, but definitely can’t be on LW1. The email is also genius because it leaves a paper trail for any action.

    5. LemonLyman*

      I’m so in favor of this. Do it via email and cc IT, for sure. Sounds like your boss is passive aggressive so fight her fire by playing dumb. “So weird what happened!”

    6. restingbutchface*

      This is the only option. All other options are extremely dicey from an infosec point of view or assume extreme malicious intent when there is no proof.

      It’s how the manager responds to the email that will tell OP all she needs to know.

    7. TWB*

      +1 million on this one

      LW1 – make her squirm a bit! It would be interesting to know if her response was “What, that IS weird, absolutely tell IT to forward that mail/set up the undeliverable message/delete the account!” or “Oh….ummmmm…..errmmmmmm…..(insert some kind of BS ‘reason’)” she felt it necessary to create a Team under your name and against IT naming convention policies.

    8. meyer lemon*

      Maybe I’m a deeply suspicious person, but I don’t know that I’d want to give the boss the opportunity to cover her tracks, just in case she is up to something truly nefarious. My mind went to the possibility that she is using an email with the LW’s name for embezzlement or fraud so that she can shift blame if she’s caught. I’d see if there is a way to get it investigated without alerting her.

  7. KayEss*

    #4 made me realize that I actually never say “my team” for some reason, it’s always “the llama grooming team” (which I am a part of). Possibly this works only because we’re the only llama grooming team in the department/company. I think even my manager says “the team” in group/client contexts. Corporate communications grammar is weird.

    1. SAS*

      Yeah as soon as I read the letter I realised the same thing. “My team” would be totally strange where I work. We are grouped by location or position and everyone including our team leads would say either “(location) team, or (position) team” to reference.

      “My team” would sound very egotistical and I can imagine it rubbing other team leads (as well as subordinates like myself) the wrong way.

      1. SAS*

        Not a slight against the LW! I agree with Alison that it is a grammatically easy default, I just had to spend a second thinking about why the terminology didn’t sound right to my ears.

        Corporate cultural differences truly could be a university degree of its own.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, to me it’s similar to when I’m in a store and ask a salesperson about a product, and the salesperson says something like “I don’t carry that brand.” My guy (it’s always been a guy in my experience), unless you’re the buyer or store owner, *you* don’t carry any of the products. “My team” is fine in some contexts, but said in a certain context, or with a certain tone, or by a certain person with certain attributes, and it sounds like someone who is trying to puff himself up and sound important and in charge. Context matters.

          At the end of the day, OP, switching to saying “our team” or the name of the specific group you’re talking about is not that onerous, and it’s a relatively easy thing to do to make your boss happy. This could be a good opportunity to think about how you might be coming across to people, but if you’re confident you aren’t coming across as someone who just has to be perceived as a leader, then chalk it up to the culture of your workplace and don’t spend time worrying about it. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, then it’s unlikely anyone else will spend any more time thinking about it.

      2. Mockingjay*

        We say “my team” all the time, to differentiate among the various projects, groups, and subteams we’re assigned to. “My team implemented the new manufacturing process already. When will yours?” It’s just a convenient term for us.

        Chalk it up to Manager Quirk or Company Culture and refer to Our Team as she wishes.

    2. Pam*

      I was thinking that naming the team could help. That way, you can say “the llama grooming team” or “the alpaca trainers.”

    3. LemonLyman*

      For some reason it seems to work when it’s said by a regular team member but not by the team leader. I can’t quite put my finger on why, though. But it’s better than saying “my employees”!

    4. onco fonco*

      Yeah, I always refer to the team I’m on by its name – but I’ve only ever worked for smallish companies, where there wouldn’t be multiple teams handling teapot polishing, so I just say ‘over in teapot polishing’ or ‘the teapot polishers’ and everyone knows what I mean.

    5. Op #4*

      OP #4 here! Some additional context for this is that my direct reports (so many extra letters!) make up only a portion of the contract team we’re on. I was specifically referring to input I had received from my direct reports which I had not received from anyone else on the larger team or the even larger geographic office area.

      [Geographic Area {Contract (My Direct Reports)}] so I was referring to the smallest group and was trying to be specific because if I said “our team” it could have meant any of those 3.

      When I used the term I was trying to add clarity, not take ownership, but even so that would not occur to me to be a problem. Our head of design refers to her team and even calls them her designers, which I would think would be much more problematic if leadership really felt this way.

      What I found frustrating (and maybe I should have added this to the letter) is that I have been asking for additional responsibilities, to grow our contracts in this area, so we can grow this team and eventually create a department, which I would like to lead. I didn’t mean immediately, but I wanted to know that it was what we were all aiming for. My boss was initially on board and then, as far as I can tell, leadership told her no and told her to stop me asking. So this feels like it’s her pushing back extra hard and at the time it felt like salt on the wound.

      1. Saberise*

        Oh okay. I think that last paragraph is why you have been asked to not say my team.

        1. Carol*

          Yep! That’s why.

          OP, I’ve worked with a couple of people who were hungry for advancement and at any opportunity would create the appearance of a hierarchy where there wasn’t one (implying a senior or lead role that didn’t exist, creating the appearance that an assistant for everyone worked only for them, directing us to do more “menial” tasks) and it was offensive and exhausting. I’m not comparing what you’ve said to the above, but when someone wants that dynamic and it doesn’t exist, it’s often pretty obvious and it may be coming off more offensively to your coworkers than you think.

          Be glad you work for a place that is straightforward and at least gives you a clear “no.” My current place does not do this and it’s really demoralizing to see peers get away with this behavior. I would look elsewhere for leadership opportunities rather than attempting to create something here that probably isn’t going to materialize for you.

      2. Voodoo Priestess*

        OP, this seems super weird to me. I use and everyone in my company use “my team” for reasons similar to yours. I’ve never seen or interpreted this as a power grab or authority issue. When I talk about My Team, it is closer to pride than power. Like “I’m so proud of my team; we really knocked it out of the park on this one.” I guess I see it as the sports metaphor for team, not “people who serve me.” Honestly, the interpretation that it’s a power grab seems really weird to me. I use My Team in both cases where I’m leading the team or I’m staff on a team lead by someone else. It’s still My Team.

        Interesting conversation here, but my opinion is you’re totally fine using the term.

        1. not that kind of Doctor*

          Yeah we always use “my team” at my office. To me it’s because we’re responsible for them: their work output of course but also their well-being as employees. Though come to think of it, non-managers use it as well, as in the team that I am on is my team.

          I suppose if another member of the team were present in the conversation I’d say “our team.” Much like I’d typically say “my family,” but if my sister were right there I’d say “our family.”

      3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I find leadership’s rather extreme response to your wondering about the plan to grow the team into a department that you lead a bit concerning. I mean, you asked about it because you wanted to know if it was the idea. And it is good they let you know that it is not in the cards … disappointing of course, but better than leaving you unclear on the question. But why do they think you haven’t accepted their decision on it? I think the reference to your team is not a big deal, but their reaction suggests they think you are trying to power grab. Is there a way to talk to your boss about this again and explain that you understand and accept that the team will not be growing the way that you had wanted? Even if that is not a good option, I would recommend really keeping your head down for a while, because leadership’s reaction is strong enough to be a red flag!

    6. DKMA*

      I pretty much only use “my team” in contexts where I would otherwise need to substitute “I” and “we” wouldn’t be clear from context. Say I’m talking with a peer about a project, I might say “my team could take that on”. Sometimes I’m intentionally making a contrast with things where I mean “me personally” sometimes it’s just convenient shorthand. I’m particularly careful to use it when sharing out work that others on my team did, to make sure they are getting credit for it (and it would be too confusing to name particular people for whatever reason).

  8. Heidi*

    Does anyone else want to just let the caterer mention mom and see what happens? I’m really curious – all the weddings I’ve been to have been so orderly and nice.

    Seriously, though, the dad may be imagining that the tension over mom is just wedding stress and the fiancee will be cool once it’s all over.

    1. Ali*

      Ha!! If they appear orderly and nice that’s awesome and a success for the bride and groom AND guests :) – meanwhile behind orderly weddings, there’s usually been some kind of tornado of chaos happening somewhere behind the scenes, at least there has in every wedding I’ve been a part of.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Me! Is it bad? Probably. But I am messy as hell and it’s not my wedding, so I don’t care.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Yes, I’d be evil enough to want to sit back and watch the fireworks. I feel sometimes like if someone is being that petty (you can’t mention your mother? Isn’t your very presence proof that she exists?) they kind of deserve to have it all blow up on them.

      That said, it IS their wedding, and split families have all kinds of awkwardnesses and weirdnesses, so it’s probably just easier to play ball now. Malicious compliance can come later if it takes your fancy.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am totally projecting here, but I come from one of those, “Don’t talk to her about X, it will upset her!” families and I think it’s ridiculous and overblown. They walk on eggshells around me when it comes to a certain subject and it’s frustrating. Very possible that Dad is being overly… cautious, maybe? Or he and the fiancee are both jerks, hard to say.

      1. Jen*

        I would hope it’s just a “day of” request, because wouldn’t the OP know if mentioning mom upsets future step mom on a regular basis? I would imagine saying things like “I’ll be seeing my mom Christmas Eve and with you guys Christmas Day” or something like that aren’t going to cause a spiral so maybe it’s just for the wedding day? I hope?

        Also really just came here to say AMAZING name!

    5. Bubbles*

      As someone who has to work with strangers in potentially highly emotional circumstances and sometimes appear to be mentally ill, please don’t ever do that to a person if you can avoid it. I’ve had clients go off on me about things I couldn’t have any idea about or seemed entirely benign and it’s incredibly distressing. Plus these unstable people like to leave equally dramatic bad reviews that everyone can see.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Ooooh that’s a good point and good reinforcement for LW to talk to the catering company’s rep ahead of time. The last thing the caterer needs is an overheard “It was so great to work with your mom a while back!” turning into a professional scorched earth situation. An experienced caterer probably navigates things like the marriages of two formerly married people and knows not to bring things up like this, but if a quick phone call puts them on their guard, it could not hurt and could help.

    6. twocents*

      No. I think it might be entertaining if someone did, but I just feel bad for setting up staff to be verbally abused by someone they can’t respond back to.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I agree. The LW should warn the caterers.

        Guests are on their own. (Anyone who knows the LW and/or siblings could potentially mention their mother.)

    7. FD*

      I wouldn’t want to let the caterers be the one to get the blast; you never know who’s on hour 10 of a 12 hour shift and really doesn’t need this BS.

      That said, if, say, an older relative who is too old to give a crap about temper tantrums happened to bring it up…yes I would definitely watch those fireworks.

      (I’m just imagining Maggie Smith watching the chaos and sipping a drink, completely unimpressed, in the British drama theatre of my mind.)

    8. Dasein9*

      Much better to hire an actor who has been fully informed to be one’s plus-one and do it in the most dramatic way possible. Maybe the actor is playing a character who has the same name as Mom?

      I’d love such a scene in a movie, but living through it would probably still be unpleasant.

    9. Beth*

      NO. The caterers are professionals, hired to do a job and acting in good faith. Setting them up for ugly family drama is a-hole behaviour. If the LW had been treated badly by the caterers, it would still be a nasty move; she wasn’t, so it would be even nastier.

      Allison is right that everyone who’s been in the wedding business for more than five minutes knows that there are minefields, and will appreciate anyone who will provide a map of the mines’ locations. But I would blacklist anyone who knowingly set me up.

    10. NotGoneGirl*

      I haven’t had a wedding, but I think it’s customary to sometimes tip the caterer, photographer, etc? So money might be held back from the caterer if mom is mentioned. Not to lay a guilt trip on the OP — if things are really weird, the caterer could do something on accident/normal that would remind the bride/groom of Mom and OMG meltdown.

    11. Carol*

      You know…I think this would be different if it were about protecting the bride or groom from bad extended family behavior…but if the bride or groom is going to have a meltdown on the big day, they’re really the ones ruining their own wedding. So…yeah.

      1. Carol*

        Although I guess protecting the caterers makes sense, too. Maybe a quick tip but don’t feel obligated to run any interference on the day of. Either the dad or stepmom (or both) is being really ridiculous here.

    12. PT*

      Honestly if the bride is that unhinged, and they are a small local business like OP says, it’s entirely possible the bride will go scorched-earth with the online reviews. Weddingwire, Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, etc., and try to trash their business. The reviews will not be honest, either, they will be wildly exaggerated.

      I have worked at public facing businesses that don’t have many reviews (fewer than 30) where a bat poop customer is dissatisfied and posts a review with their warped side of the story and it always is a problem. It usually goes: Customer behaved like a lunatic, employee politely and patiently explained the policy to them, customer accuses employee of attacking them.

  9. PeterM*

    LW2 – Your parents have been divorced for 15 years, and your father’s fiancee can’t stand to be reminded of your mother’s existence? Okay. But if the catering company catered your mom’s wedding 14 1/2 years ago, and yours who knows how long ago, are you really sure they’re going to remember all of you? I don’t remember the names of patrons I see at the library every single week.

    In any case, this seems like a really simple problem. Tell the caterers not to mention your mom, problem solved.

    1. Antony J Crowley*

      Yes this was my thought. Even if your own wedding was last week, your mum’s was 14.5 years ago! And they are caterers – they are there to serve food, not stand around chatting. I’m thinking back to my wedding, I can’t honestly imagine the caterers asking about someone else who’s wedding they catered. That would have been incredibly bizarre!

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I’m getting a small town vibe off of this story. There are places where the caterers would be people you vaguely know and it would be considered normal and polite to make a little small talk here and there.

    2. Allonge*

      Also, even if they remember, I would expect caterers of at least 15 years’ experience to know to NOT bring up other weddings at any wedding, at least not to the couple or the guests! It’s common sense, really.

      But yes: be sure, tell them, share a moment of WTF and that should be it.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Quite. A business good enough to be around for 15+ years has probably seen more than one remarriage. I’d call and chat to them anyway but expect that they would be a bit nonplussed because they’d know better than to bring it up.

      2. pancakes*

        Is it? I don’t think it’s a faux pas to mention a wedding at another wedding, or should be. Saying something unkind or competitive about it, of course, but acknowledging it in a neutral or positive way seems fine to me.

        1. Allonge*

          Because it’s culturally one of those things that a lot of people don’t want to be compared to others’. In that it’s the ‘special day’ of the bride and groom of that day, and no matter how chill they are, they probably don’t want to hear how other!wedding was nicer/shabbier etc.

          At least not from the caterer or others they are paying to make it happen.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s precisely what I meant when I said that saying something unkind or competitive would of course be a faux pas, but saying something neutral or positive wouldn’t be. Maybe there is a discrepancy here in what you consider chill and I consider chill. I would not consider a person who thinks of their wedding as a special day on which no one else is referred to at all as a chill person!

      3. Metadata minion*

        Wait, why not? In this case mentioning one of the couples’ previous marriages seems like an obvious sensitive subject, but would it also be weird if it were, say, the caterer saying “it’s so great to see you again; we loved catering your brother’s wedding last year!”?

        1. Allonge*

          Honestly there is just too many ways for that to go wrong (the second part). Brother may or may not be on good terms with the person you address or a thousand others.

          Normally, if in the office or on the street, no problem. At a wedding almost everyone has higher!emotion!levels, if it’s a ‘miss’ instead of a ‘hit’, then it can go wrong so fast. Nice to see you again does it very well.

      4. Kevin Sours*

        There is a difference between “bringing up other weddings” and asking OP “how’s your mom doing these days”.

    3. KELLS*

      I’m also thinking that the servers aren’t going to be mingling and socializing with the family and guests… while the caterer may recognize the name, the caterer might not even be at the event! I was in a hall where my caterer ran her business and I didn’t see her once.

      The one thing that is worrying though is how the caterer may know the bride and how comfortable they’d be keeping this discreet… if the caterer then goes to the bride and comments or complains that OP is making requests relating to family drama, it could be explosive.

    4. BethDH*

      I can imagine this happening, especially if OP’s wedding was relatively recent and the last names of OP and their father (and maybe mother, who may have had her ex’s name, especially six months post-divorce) are all the same.
      Not that the caterer would necessarily recognize OP on the street, but in a work context where they likely see the last name many times as they work. They have LastName on calendars, order sheets, project info, etc., so they see that many times even if they only see the actual people a few times. So then they’re already primed to expect to see OP when they get there.
      Add in that their business relies on word of mouth and a sense of connection and you get a situation where normally it would be in their best interests to say hi to OP and ask about her family. It would be a kindness to the caterer to give them a heads up about this, and a discreet email is appropriate.

      1. Allonge*

        I kind of get the build connections thing in general, but is this not incredibly tacky to do at the wedding, especially in sight of the bride? OP’s family is getting married, right there, that is how they are doing.

        I would find the caterer going around and chatting up guests really weird in the first place.

        I totally agree though that it’s better to be safe and drop an email about this!

    5. Beth*

      Eh. Brides are stressed, grooms are stressed, parents are stressed, and stress makes people weird.

      It doesn’t help that the wedding-industrial complex sets people up to be overly high-strung about how Everything Must Be Perfect On the Day or You Failed. Plus, you’re paying through the nose for an event that will probably be nothing but a dull haze in the memory the next day — except for any moments of misery and trauma. Those will haunt you for the rest of your life.

      Bottom line — small preventative efforts to reduce the odds of high-drama meltdowns are one of the best wedding presents that anyone can give.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup. Weddings make people, even normally super chill people, weird. And then everyone is anticipating drama that would never come up in normal life. My best friend and I spent like two hours trying to figure out how to tell her soon-to-be in-laws how she knows the gal who was officiating the wedding. “I can’t say she’s my ex’s sister!” After a huge amount of trying to imagine how to beat around the bush I said “Oh, just say that she’s a friend who officiated my wedding” (completely true).

        Did her in-laws ever ask? No. But we worried because we had wedding brain.

    6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It sounds like a close knit community and like they actually all know each other rather well. OP added a lot of comments to a thread above.

  10. Fancy Owl*

    The weirdest thing to me about #1 is that IT must have approved the creation of the email in the first place for your boss. Unless your work lets non-IT employees create emails which would be very rare. Why did they approve it when it’s not her name or the name of a generic team? Does she have an IT accomplice?! Also, the fact that her secret email is last name first name and yours is last name first name middle initial implies that your email was created second after hers! Lastly, why didn’t IT tell you they were going to investigate it? I work in IT, and if I was made aware that there was a strange account like that I would be asking my colleagues and your boss about it to figure out what’s going on and what it was created/used for. So weird.

    1. Fancy Owl*

      Also, I don’t actually work with our email server so I’m not an expert on it but your college’s might be configured to allow monitoring and recovering of emails. So its possible that IT might be able to tell you what was sent and received from that account.

      1. restingbutchface*

        It is very unlikely that IT couldn’t retrieve all the emails associated with that account. It would be a scandal if they released them to the OP based on a simple request. Even the OP
        asking would be a red flag on my service desk.

        Fancy Owl has got straight to the issue – IT didn’t enforce a naming convention, which means either it doesn’t exist (unlikely, I’d hope) or an agent messed up. Both of these are problems for IT to resolve but not by releasing data to an individual in the company just due to the fact the email profiles have the same name.

    2. A Person*

      Is approval needed for creating a Teams team a common thing? I can create whatever named Team I want, as long as it’s not already taken. I guess IT may have Words with me and/or my manager if I use some inappropriate words or phrases.

      1. Fancy Owl*

        We don’t use Teams so I can’t say for sure, but generally companies set it up so users can create groups/teams/contact lists/whatever but you have to use an existing email to do it. You can’t just make a new email on your own, which is why I was assuming she asked for the email and then made the Team using it. But email isn’t my area, maybe someone more familiar with Outlook/Teams configuration can weigh in.

        1. BeckyinDuluth*

          We don’t use Teams, but my read on this is that it’s like a Google group. Basically just an email list. Normally you’d use those to contact a whole team at once, but they can have just one member (in this case the boss).

          Anyone at my U can set up a Google Group. I’m not sure if they’d flag it if it was someone’s name or not.

          1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

            It isn’t exactly like this, though if an organization allows it, you can have Teams receive messages by setting up an email address for it.

        2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          A teams group isn’t an actual email account, but rather an internal listing of users who have a shared file location, dedicated messaging service, etc. creating one in Office365 for education also creates a mailing list of the team members’ personal email addresses, which can be emailed by sending a message to (teamname)@(domain name). They can be emailed by outsiders, under the theory that this should streamline your actual number of user accounts and logins – if you put all of your admissions people into a admissions@identitytheftcollege.edu team, there’s no longer a department email that people have to remember to login to and check regularly.

          Any staff user on the tenant can make one, under the default settings for the an Office365 for education tenant – Microsoft’s sales pitch for the education version of 365 actually touts this as being a good thing, as it makes it very easy for teachers to set up working groups for students in their classes, or just all class email lists, in just a few minutes.

          So, making it probably would not have required any action by, or notification of IT.

        3. Loredena*

          From the perspective of the end user, the Team (or possibly the SharePoint Group site) is created first and the email comes along for the ride.

          If I as an end user am in the Teams app I can decide I want to create a new Team for a project, or my department, or whatever. I name it something sensible sounding (hopefully!) and I get:
          The Team, visible in the App, with a General Channel (chat/files/etc)
          A Group site, which is where all the files are actually stored. Accessed through the browser.
          A Mailbox – autogenerated, technically associated with the Group, owned by the site owner and shared with site members. Accessed in Outlook (browser or app)

          Deleting one removes the entire kit and caboodle. So IT can’t just delete the email, or change the email, or anything else without killing both the Group site and the associated Team at the same time.

      2. restingbutchface*

        You just need the profile permissions to create new Teams. The default is that all users can create new Teams but some companies, especially in academia need all new requests to go via IT for audit and control.

        If the OP can create a new Teams without IT input, it’s likely that her manager can too.

      3. Magenta*

        Our company has it set up so that all new teams or slack channels have to go through IT.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        I wonder if this points to a possibly innocent explanation? If I create a new Team in MS Teams, does it create an email address automatically? Could OP’s boss have created Teams for each of her direct reports, or just for OP, that she’s the sole member of and that she uses for notes and file storage? It’d be a really strange use of Teams and point to a certain kind of technological ineptness, but wouldn’t be nefarious.

        I can see a way to connect a channel with an auto-generated email address that can’t be confused with a person’s, but I don’t see that at the Team level. But I know a lot of Teams settings are configurable at the organization level.

        Regardless, in my org I’d be sending a message about this to the IT email account in the cybersecurity team where we’re supposed to send suspicious emails and such. They make us do cybersecurity training each year, and this raises all sorts of flags.

        1. Lollygagger*

          That’s what I was thinking too. Instead of creating One Drive folders perhaps the Boss just creates teams for each direct report to post notes, save relevant files, etc. The way my Outlook is set up, emails to MS Teams often just go to a folder I never open, so it’s possible the Boss never sees any of the emails to that address and so doesn’t even know they exist.

        2. Student*

          Nothing on Earth creates email addresses automatically or accidentally. They cost money to manage, and they create a bunch of liabilities for the company hosting them. Every person in your org who can create an email address is a person who can potentially cost your org a lot of money/infamy, so it’s usually a very closely held power with serious professional expectations around using that power responsibly and for the org’s benefit.

          I mean, there are exceptions – and those last until one of the people with email-creation power gets their IT security compromised, then creates a million addresses to send out spam, then gets the business org banned from most email servers for being a spammer. The whole IT email industry along with the government is well-organized around trying to combat email spam, because that also costs orgs money to deal with…

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          If you create a new team in Teams, it creates an email address, yes. If you create a Chocolate Glazing team for the teapots division, you’ll get chocolateglazing at meltingteapots.com as an email address. Creating a team for each of your direct reports is way, way overkill but I’ve also seen people set up Teams for really weird reasons, so I wouldn’t put this out of the realm of possibility that the boss set up a Letter Writer team and ended up with a letterwriter at whatever.com email.

          The other thing is that when you do this, emails sent to that email address don’t automatically show up in your inbox. There’s a setting where you can choose for them to appear there, but it’s may not be on by default. If the boss set up a Team like this, I think it’s also highly likely they don’t know where to even look for the emails that get sent to it. (This doesn’t negate all the other passive aggressive stuff the boss does; they can be passive aggressive and still be really bad at Teams!)

      5. I'm just here for the cats*

        I believe it has to be turned on by the IT and there may be certain features that they turn on or off. But if the option is available I don’t believe that IT would have to approve a specific team channel or anything

    3. Student*

      OP may have standing to ask IT to close this rogue email account down without going through their boss. That’s the approach I would take. Something like, “Hey, it’s come to my attention that exists. It does not go to me, there’s nobody else at with my name, and it’s confusing my business contacts. Could you please shut down so that misspelled emails intended for me get our organization’s normal undelivered-email notice? To the best of my knowledge, no one is monitoring it or using it for business communications; it seems to be some sort of mistake.”

  11. Dark Macadamia*

    #2, I think it’s kind of you to give the caterer a heads up, especially since you have a previous positive relationship with them. But your dad and stepmom are being ridiculous (that’s your MOM! they divorced 15 YEARS ago!) and I’d be sooo tempted the first time you see them after the wedding to make a big deal of how their appetizers reminded you of of the even tastier appetizers at your mom’s wedding, now wasn’t that a fun wedding, etc etc

    1. KateM*

      You are suggesting talking at a wedding how another wedding was better – really?? I wouldn’t fault bridal couple being mad in THAT case.

      1. Yorick*

        Dark Macademia said to do this the first time they see them AFTER the wedding. I still wouldn’t fault them for being kinda mad at that, though.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I said I’d be tempted AFTER the wedding because they’re being unreasonable and the letter writer shouldn’t have to pretend to have sprung fully fledged from their dad’s forehead, not that it would be a good course of action lol

  12. Boof*

    LW1 maybe IT will fix it? Maybe you can ask them to make it undeliverable again and that it was an “accidental” duplicate account. Feel free to ask your supervisor to confirm if you think she will just go along with that story!

  13. Boof*

    LW 2 – it’s totally not your problem to manage but I am sooooo curious! Is the problem that your dad never told his bride about his prior marriage? Or is the bride just insanely jealous even of partners long gone from his life? But then how does she cope with seeing his kids? inquiring minds want to know!

    (ok but seriously not your problem. Your dad can tell them himself if he wants – you don’t have to be the messenger there)

    1. Julia*

      Fiancée has to know about the previous relationship, because there are kids (OP). My guess is the mother’s early remarriage caused the father some anger.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Who knows… but I will offer this: my partner’s father gets straight up nasty when you mention any of his former wives even in passing. I guess it’s a reminder of past mistakes, sometimes it’s a reminder of past hurts. But I do find the “blowing up” reaction to be immature and unfair to people who are just making conversation.

      1. KateM*

        Well, it would not be polite to talk about groom’s previous marriages during his wedding, that’s for sure, but I’m imagining someone asking OP “so how is your mom doing?” (but even so, surely not on purpose in bridal couple’s earshot, how clueless has one to be to go “I saw your dad marrying so I at once thought of your mother”?).

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          People just chat at weddings and they tend to ask about family. I accidentally told my cousins their dad was married before at my grandfather’s funeral lunch! I had no idea their parents wouldn’t have mentioned it wasn’t his first marriage! The conversation was something like “oh so many of our family things have been at this church… oh right, but not your parents’ wedding because your dad didn’t have his annulment yet… they got married at that other chapel and then their marriage was solemnized by the Catholic Church at [oldest cousin’] baptism.” Just family lore chitchat became highly dramatic. It happens. LW I’m sorry you’re in this position — I think it’s okay to speak to the caterers but if one of many guests asks you about your mom just remember it’s your dad’s problem, not yours.

          1. curly sue*

            Hard same, speaking of drama… I found out at my stepsister’s wedding that my father and stepmother’s relationship began as an affair when the pastor’s daughter off-handedly mentioned how nice it was to see everyone getting along “considering how things started.” I was 29, married with a two year old, and for the previous 20 years had no idea that my stepmother and father were the ones who broke up each other’s marriages. It was unbelievably humiliating to learn it that way, and I haven’t had much of a relationship with anyone on that side since.

            Weddings bring out the weird and the worst in people. If there’s something small you can do to minimize the potential fallout, I’m sure it would be appreciated on all sides.

            1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

              curly sue – that sounds pretty awful, to be subjected to gossip in this way, on that day… but I don’t see why you should feel humiliated learning about something you didn’t know beforehand, especially since you were 9 (I think?) when your parents split…

              I mean, I’m saying it’s not a given that you would even have been privy to this backstory and IMHO it’s pretty tacky of that person to mention it to you so casually.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Sometimes people just aren’t rational. Or reasonable. Or are just hateful and unpleasant beings.

        My grandfather’s wife (I’m sorry, they married in my teens, she was unpleasant and unapologetically bigoted, and I knew and cherished my Gran; she does not get the honor of being referred to as anything other than her first name by me) more than once referred to my Gran as my Grandpa’s “ex-wife”. Um, no. They were still very happily married when my Gran died fairly quickly from an aggressive cancer. I believe it was my Gran’s siblings who “politely” straightened that out for her. “Politely” in that the arse chewing they delivered was done in church-speak and privately, I understand. And that understanding only comes from her complaining about the gall of the ex-wife’s siblings to anyone in their small town who would listen. ::eyeroll::

    3. Phony Genius*

      I know somebody with this same family dynamic. Except with the added complication that the second wife hates his first wife’s kid, too. From what I can tell, it seems her whole issue is that she wasn’t her husband’s “first,” which somehow means something to her. His ex-wife and first marriage kid remind her of having been “second-in-line” and this somehow bothers her.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      OP 2 commented a lot in another thread above. The new bride is well aware of the previous marriage and divorce, and she knew the mom and dad from the church, so it is not a case of her not knowing. But the new bride does not like the mom mentioned and asked that she not be mentioned at the wedding. She also tries to act like mother to OP and the younger sibling, even though they are adults. And the not mentioning the mom rule has been around about three years. New bride sounds a little unhinged about this issue, and clearly the divorce between the mom and dad was very bitter, and dad prefers mom not be mentioned either.

  14. bryeny*

    OP #1, is it possible your boss created the email account by mistake, thinking she was adding you to the group? Also, some organizations have rules about account ownership — only the employee can own accounts in their name, unless they’ve left — and many that don’t can be persuaded of the logic behind such rules. You could ask to have to have the account transferred to you on the grounds that it must have been created in error.

    Do send an update if anything comes to light about what your boss was thinking! I’m very curious.

    1. Asenath*

      I would find it really odd if an employee (other than in IT) could create a work email account. I’m not in IT, but in my experience you need to complete a form and get the desired new email account authorized before IT will even consider creating it – and then it comes with the name assigned according to the company’s rules.

      1. Chilipepper*

        Yes, since the email has the school name, it’s not something you can set up outside the school system. IT set the second email up for the boss.

        I agree with WS’s comment upthread suggesting the OP send a ticket to IT to get control over the email and a heads up email to boss that she was doing that. Say to the boss, somehow this email is attached to you, how odd, I need it to get mail sent to me in that email in error.

  15. alienor*

    LW 2 – Oh lawd, I would have zero patience for someone who couldn’t bear to hear their spouse’s ex-spouse from 15 YEARS AGO mentioned, even in passing. I’m assuming that your mother did not burn down the new fiancée’s house or have her framed for murder or something on that level, so Fiancée really, really needs to get over it. I agree it would be nice if people could avoid mentioning the dreaded name on the actual wedding day, but any ridiculousness after that would cause me to get a T-shirt with Mom’s photo silk-screened on the front and wear it to every family event going forward.

  16. Long time listener, first time caller*

    really surprised by the answer to op4. A lot of people on “your team” will definitely bristle at this. I don’t know anybody who isn’t a manager who likes it. It’s alienating to employees and makes them feel like they don’t have ownership of their own work. It’s especially bad where members of the team work independently. I don’t agree with Boss that it’s “never” okay — for example, it might be okay with a client who you are essentially the only person who has contact with them — but I 100% guarantee some people on your team bristle at this and it affects your professional relationship with them.

    1. Simply the best*

      But…why? That’s how language works. As Alison said you say “my mother” “my family” “my kids” “my community”. It’s a denotation of relationship. What is there to bristle about?

      1. LemonLyman*

        I totally understand that. But the other perspective is that “my” also implies possession, not just relationship. And when you’re the leader of the team, it can make others feel as though you’re reinforcing your place at the top of the team by referring to it as “my team.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I don’t see it that way. I frequently say “I’m on Fergus’s team”, instead of saying “I’m one of the Llama groomers who reports to Fergus”.

          1. londonedit*

            I think that’s it, though – I’m happy saying ‘I’m on Wakeen’s team’, where Wakeen is my boss and I report to him. But if I said ‘Fergus is on my team’, it would sound like I was claiming to be Fergus’s boss and the boss of the team as a whole. Which I am not. In that situation, I’d say ‘Fergus is also on the Llama team’ or ‘Fergus and I are on Wakeen’s team’. If I was talking about the team in general, I’d definitely use ‘our team’, I wouldn’t say ‘my team’ because it would make it sound as if I was in charge and I’m not.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I guess I should have said on the flip side, since I work for Fergus, I kind of expect him to say I’m on his team.
              OP was told they’re “all the same team” which now makes me wonder if it’s such a small or new company that they haven’t had subgroups before.
              Language is curious, and people more so.

          2. Momma Bear*

            I’m on team “not bothered by using my”. Perhaps I just haven’t been on a team where it’s been weaponized, but “my team” and “my company” don’t bother me at all. My child’s teacher says “my class”. “My” in this context can simply be a collective belonging vs possession.

        2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          So “my department” would also be bad? And ditto “your department” when talking to a peer?

          Seems like a lot of weird circumlocutions. “Hey Wakeen, can you get your department to do the TPS reports a little early this month? My department is short-handed and we’re going to need a couple extra days to process them.”

          1. Sylvan*

            You could use “our.”

            Anyway, I think context makes it clear enough when you’re implying ownership or leadership of a group and when you’re indicating you’re just part of the group.

            1. ThatGirl*

              “our” only makes sense if you’re talking to someone on the same team as you.

              I work in a big department, with a small team. I say “my team” and “our department” all the time. I am not the team lead/manager, but nobody thinks I am when I say that.

              1. Sylvan*

                No, you can use “our” when you’re talking to someone on another team. If I tell you that my family and I went on our annual beach trip, I’m not calling you part of the family.

                It sounds like context is making your intended meaning clear.

                1. Colette*

                  In that case, you’re defining who “our” is (i.e. “my family and I”), so it makes sense.

                2. Delphine*

                  That would be pretty confusing. “Our” suggests something shared between people. If it’s not qualified, the assumption will be that you’re talking about something you share with the person you’re speaking to. If I said to a client that I was going to talk to “our” team, they would probably find that odd. In your example “our” is you and your family. If you just said, “I went to our annual beach trip,” your conversation partner would rightfully have questions.

            2. MinotJ*

              This thing is so odd to me; it’s eye-opening to see how other workplaces behave. I work in microbiology. If I was talking to Jamie in chemistry and she asked who Amy was, I’d say “Oh, she’s the new person in my department.” I’m not in any kind of management position at all but my meaning would be clear. My lead and my manager could use the phrase “my department” and it would mean something different than it does when I say it – and that’s okay too. My boss is my boss – I am her subordinate.

        3. Student*

          This is an extremely regional thing, as far as I can tell. Maybe even person-to-person. Some people seem to take “my” as if the default is ownership-denotation. Some people take “my” as if the default is relationship-denotation.

          Most of my (hah!) industry in my (ha-hah!) current region treats it as relationship-denotation. It’s completely acceptable and normal for people on the lowest tier of the hierarchy to refer to members of “my team” and nobody assumes it’s about leadership.

          I’ve worked with folks like OP4’s boss, “Long time listener, first time caller”, and “LemonLyman” though.

          If I had to try to pick out the pattern I’ve experienced, I’d say that most people I’ve worked with treat it as relationship-denotation unless there’s clear context to indicate otherwise. I see the ownership-denotation approach come up in circumstances where leadership is unclear, leadership is actively being jockeyed for, where there’s a workers vs. boss workplace culture, and where the complainant wants to be either part of the team or the team lead, but was not selected for the desired role.

          As such, when someone comes to me with the ownership-denotation approach, I tend to assume they are either somewhat baseline disgruntled, or feel threatened by me specifically.

    2. Well...*

      Also “my class” more regularly means you’re a student rather than a teacher and “my sports team” also indicates being a player rather than a coach. “My team” seems to have a very specific ownership/leadership/credit meaning in some companies.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Hmm, I think ‘my class’ is really common when it’s a teacher speaking.

        I don’t find ‘my team’ at all weird and would definitely see it as denoting membership not ownership, and ‘our team’ can be confusing especialyl in a meeting with members of more than one team, but that said, if Boss has flagged it up then clearly it is seen differently in LW4’s workplace (or by her boss, at least) so it makes sense to change, and use ‘our team’ or ‘the llama grooming team’

        1. Jack Straw*

          Teacher reporting in to say it’s not. :)

          I always use “our class” — using “our” indicates who is doing the work, and it’s almost never going to be me by myself. I facilitate the work but using a collective term gives credit to the students. When I say “my class” it indicates I am running the ship by myself, which in my classroom at least, is decidedly UNtrue. It is a collaboration, always.

          1. twocents*

            Depends on the teacher. One of the people at my gym is a teacher and tells us stories saying “my class” all the time. I’d find it weird if she said “our class” given that it’s not “our” class, it’s her class.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        “My sports team” can even mean the team I am a fan of but in other way affiliated to!

    3. LemonLyman*

      I agree with this somewhat. I think context is really important. Are other team members in the room when she’s saying “my team”? Is she saying it but then not using specific names when calling out who is doing specific tasks/projects? I had a boss who used to use “my team” when he could have said “our team” or “the team”. Plenty of times we were in the room with upper leadership to present work I and one other colleague had done and he’d use “my team worked on…” which felt like an undermining way to remind upper leadership that he was the person in charge and to de-personalize me and my teammate. Rather than using our names “Lemon and Lime worked on this project…” I don’t think he did this consciously but it bothered me a lot because I worked hard on those projects and it would have been great to have leadership know that was my and Lime’s hard work. (not to mention the fact that boss is male and me and teammate are female, so there were those hierarchical dynamics).

    4. Antony J Crowley*

      Also confused by this. I’m not a team lead but I say “my team” ALL THE TIME.

        1. Jack Straw*

          It’s okay in that context because you aren’t a leader.

          When, as a member of a team, you say “my team” it indicates the collective team to which you belong.

          When, as a leader of a team, you say “my team” it indicates the team you are a leader of and shows possession, not collectivism. You (the leader) are taking ownership of the team and their successes/failures rather than including those on the team who are doing the work.

          1. Allonge*

            You know that is not a universal reading of this though, right? That the second a person is promoted from team member to manager the meaning just changes, like that?

            Managers do need to be aware, but honestly the terminology is the least of the issue here: if there is a problem, the wording will not fix it and if otherwise the relations between team and manager are good, the wording should not be taken that seriously.

            1. Violet*

              This, exactly.

              If an authoritarian @sshat of a manager gets schooled on their language by the higher-ups and consistently uses “our” going forward under threat of firing, they’re not going to be any less @sshole-ish.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I also say my team and am not a team lead but it sounds odd at my workplace. No one has ever said anything but when I say it, it sounds off. So I have had to train myself out of it. It seems perfectly normal to me but it does not fit the culture at all workplaces.

        Instead of saying, I don’t think the rest of my team knows about that new policy either (when talking to someone outside my team) I say, I don’t think the rest of (dept name) knows …

    5. Trennels*

      Really? I am not a manager and I refer to “my team” all the time to mean the team I am part of. I also use “my team” when preparing messages for my manager to send, to indicate that the team that she manages will take care of whatever it is (especially if we will deal with it independently and she doesn’t need to keep being involved!)

    6. The Other Dawn*

      “My team” is completely normal at my company, whether it’s someone saying they’re on a team or a manager referring to the department they manage. The only people I’ve ever come across who may bristle at the usage, which have been very few and far between, are the people who are unhappy with their manager, their department or just their job in general.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Wow. I can’t even fathom being annoyed if my boss said “my team”. It’s this really a thing that people get incensed about? I’ve never heard of such a thing. It certainly isn’t a universal or even common reaction.

    8. FD*

      I…just don’t think I agree with that.

      Thinking about the many years I spent in low level customer service jobs, I certainly said things like ‘my hotel’ and ‘my restaurant’ and I am very certain no one ever assumed I meant that I actually owed it. And I’ve definitely had coworkers say ‘my team’ and mean ‘the llama grooming team on which I work, and not all teams generally’, and that doesn’t imply that it belongs to them.

      I mean, sure, people can get mad about anything but I feel like this is a strange hill to die on, assuming the person in question isn’t acting inappropriately proprietary in ways that aren’t described here.

    9. Op #4*

      Op #4 here! Some additional context is that I was trying to speak to leadership about some feedback I had gotten on office reopenings, which I had gotten just from my direct reports. I was trying to anonymize the feedback, so I didn’t want to say who had told me and it was just easier to say “I’ve heard from my team” rather than talk around saying it was 2 people or 3 people and then potentially slip and add identifying information.

      But I was also trying to be clear that I had heard this only from a specific group, not the larger contract team or the even larger area office team. So if I’d said names it would have defeated the purpose, but I was trying to be clear that I wasn’t speaking for everyone who might be affected by the office openings.

      I have never gotten feedback that my direct reports or the contract team I lead don’t like me saying “my team” but that’s a fair point. I was receiving this feedback from my director and she had gotten it from the C-suite, so it was definitely flowing top down.

      1. Allypopx*

        I think this was a totally appropriate time to say “my team”! I think anyone who bristles at that would be really overthinking it.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Now it makes even less sense. It’s definitely not you. Your boss is seriously overthinking.

      3. Purple Cat*

        This whole thread has been fascinating. My boss hates being called “the boss” (so of course we do it to him all the time), but he says “my team” to refer to us, because it puts him as “part” of the group and not necessarily the “owner” of the group. I call my direct reports “my team”. It’s standard terminology in my company and no one bristles at all.

        1. Allypopx*

          Hahaha my boss also hates being called the boss. I tend to call her “our fearless leader” to rib her.

    10. pancakes*

      I’m nearly always working independently as part of a team and don’t / wouldn’t bristle at this unless someone was making a point of being weird about it. The phrase itself doesn’t bother me at all. I think it’s a mistake to give it as much weight as this.

    11. NotGoneGirl*

      My team, my department, etc are fine at my work.

      I’ve been thinking about it and I guess it’s usually because people are careful to use my team as inclusive rather than claiming work that isn’t they work. And individuals are definitely named when appropriate — so you aren’t missing out on credit.

    12. Mynona*

      I don’t understand the hostility toward “my team.” But, it seems like (reading the comments) the use of the possessive is a red herring. The actual issue seems to be the position of the speaker. A junior can say “my team”, but the team lead can’t because it implies ownership. What–people can’t handle that their boss is in charge? Weird.

      This pseudo-logic doesn’t convince me, but it’s helpful to know that some people are sensitive about it. Since I’m not a team lead, I can keep saying “my department” with impunity.

  17. LemonLyman*

    Re #4: I dunno… there’s something weirdly possessive about “my team” from the team leader speaking to upper leadership. Maybe I’m just having flashbacks to a former boss who would say that in meetings I was in and it felt oddly hierarchical. But I guess since I was present, the “my team” WAS more possessive since he could have said “our team” to include me in that.

    I would definitely suggest OP take some time to be observant of how she uses the term and maybe also try out “the team” or “our team” (when others from the team are present). It’s possible her boss brought it up because someone else mentioned it.

    1. LemonLyman*

      On a separate note, when my sister was much younger and became a manager for the first time, she had two direct reports — both young women. My sister would refer to them (to me and other family members) as “my girls” or “the girls” which was super cringe inducing. I hope she looks back on that and rolls her eyes as much as I did. I also hope she didn’t say that to them!

    2. Op #4*

      You’re right, I should be thinking about how people on the team itself feel. I wasn’t speaking with them in the room (on the zoom) and I was actually trying to be specific without being identifiable (I added a few replies above) but you’re right. Thank you for pointing this out!

      1. JimmyJab*

        Just FYI, that’s not universal. My peers and I are broken up into groups each with a “boss” that we report to, and our bosses always refer to their group of employees as “my (llamma groomers)” and as far as I’m aware no one even thinks anything about it, let alone gets upset about it.

    3. Let’s not name names*

      I once had a really high profile success on something I had worked months on. Then, my new boss went on social media to share the “good news” and thank “her team” for all their good work. It completely erased me and made it look like her achievement. It definitely raises the hackles 99% of the time for me; if it feels performative and hierarchical, it probably is.

  18. Maxie*

    #1 I am suspicious of your boss. He could be sending out emails pretending to be you. Or who knows what else. I recommend Googling “FirstNameLastName@collegename.edu” with the quote marks to see if it comes up anywhere. Can you go higher up in IT? The response you got was strange.

  19. Maxie*

    #2 maybe your father doesn’t want his fiancée to know this is the same caterer he used for his first wedding? He didn’t say nobody can mention your mom’s name at the wedding, he said nobody could mention it in front of the caterers.

    1. restingbutchface*

      Argh, apologies Maxie, I didn’t mean to post as a reply to your comment.

    2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      actually, in comments above, OP2 said that the rule is not to hear the mom mentioned at the wedding period (and OP2 and sibling have been under a rule not to mention their mom at all in dad and stepmom to be’s presence in past three years). OP2 is concerned the caterers, not knowing this rule, might mention the mom while talking to OP2 and sibling.

  20. restingbutchface*

    Re LW1 – the question to ask IT is WHEN the email account was created. If it was before you joined or in the first week, its an admin error. If it was created after that, it can’t be for a good reason.

    Reasoning – OP says the format is incorrect but IT must have created it on request (and without pushing back on the incorrect naming convention). If email accounts are created with the requester’s name as the owner then it could be the manager had an off day and got the name wrong, realised when she got the ticket response and instead of asking it to be changed, raised a request for a new one.

    OP – if you look up this email in Outlook, what do you see? Is your manager the owner, is it a member of the normal DL groups?

    I see a lot of queries about Teams – if the OP has the user permissions to create a Team, it’s likely her boss does too. So that’s something to try.

    1. restingbutchface*

      Actually, I’m going to correct myself here. I’m thinking of owner as in owner of a distribution list. There isn’t an owner role in individual email addresses as all changes have to go through admin.

      So I don’t know what IT mean by owner. If they mean requester, that makes sense and could apply to everyone in their team. After all, you can’t request an email address in your name until you’re in Outlook so all new starter requests have to come from HR or management. Owner doesn’t mean active user.

      OP, I wouldn’t panic just yet. It seems strange but it could be carelessness (on manager and IT’s) part over malice.

      I would hope IT wouldn’t share the details of the request but I bet they would tell you when it was created.

      Source – 15 years helpdesk management, including solving strange Outlook mysteries.

  21. Matthias*

    LW3, nice work walking out of that interview-process! Your response was much better than would be expected in that situation, and with so many red flags it is not that surprising that they reacted weirdly when you declined to continue.

    1. Ganymede*

      I agree. The interviewer’s response sounded very much like “oops, they’ve seen through us but I can’t give anything away”! If someone can’t be straightforward with you it’s never good.

      1. Cat Tree*

        To me, it sounds like the second interviewer was hinting that the first interviewer is a pompous blowhard who asked the wrong questions, but doesn’t realize that that in itself is a problem. Even if the job really is everything OP wants, she’d still have to deal with management that lets that first interviewer waste candidates’ time like that.

    2. Mairead*

      YES! I’m currently looking for a job in software and so many companies insist on the whiteboard coding and asking theoretical questions about algorithms. I really really wouldn’t want a job where whiteboard coding was a thing, but it’s apparently too difficult for them to conduct an interview based on topics relevant to the actual job and the candidate’s experience.

      So round of applause to LW3!! I have no idea why the person couldn’t seem to grasp that asking irrelevant questions might be off-putting to candidates, but that’s yet another red flag. The response was fine; fixing the deficiencies of their interview process is not LW3’s problem.

      1. Violet Fox*

        A lot of it just feels so weirdly aggressive too for an interview process.

    3. Lady Meyneth*

      Definitely dodged a bullet. This seems like a company who believes they’re doing you a favor by interviewing you, and so were put out a mere job supplicant was turning down their generosity.

      IME, these types of company keep being all kinds of messed up after you’re hired. At my brief tenure at Toxic Job, on raising the fact my overtime hours hadn’t been paid, I was told I should be grateful they’d given me work to do and any extra time I worked was extra experience for me (!), and that greedy lazy people could see themselves out. I sure as heck did.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I’ve had a couple of interviews where they asked college-type questions that are completely irrelevant in the modern age. EG: come up with an algorithm that uses the least amount of memory to invert an array.

      Memory is ridiculously cheap, labor is expensive, any decent language has a single command to do that job for you, and introduced errors due to ‘elegant’ coding cause way worse problems than what they are purportedly solving.

      If they run their business the way they do interviews, they’ll fail terribly.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        While I haven’t been in that particular scenario myself, I am senior enough that I would also feel comfortable opting out of the process if, during an interview, I’m asked to whiteboard, say, a binary search. I’d also probably ask what about their particular system requires creating this from scratch, rather than using an existing library.

        (Now granted, I do know one person who wasn’t able to do this. The language was MatLab, and he looked up an existing implementation in another language and translated it rather than reinvent the wheel.)

  22. Anonymity*

    I’d definitely let manager know about her use of my name on email. I’d say I was calling for tech help and found out. People embezzle, steal identities or sometimes like to hide under pseudonyms. She may play the dumb act but she will know you’re onto her.
    It’s your name. The only person it should be tied to is YOU.

  23. LongTimeReader*

    LW1 I would send a joint email to your boss and IT and play it like you’re just trying to problem solve. Maybe something like:

    “Hi all,

    I wanted the three of us to connect on an issue I recently discovered. It’s come to my attention and other colleagues have been trying to reach me through [wrong email address]. As you know, my email address is [right email address] so I have not been receiving that correspondence. However, it appears that [wrong address] is actually an account in our system but it’s not connected to me.

    [Boss], IT mentioned that this address might actually be going to your inbox. Do you know why that might be or recall why it was created back in [month of creation]?

    In terms of next steps, do you two think it would make more sense to have the address deactivated and marked as undeliverable or to have the address merged and forwarded to my existing account? Thoughts? “

    It’ll be harder for her to deny making the account if IT is Cc’d, plus this way you can work to have the address deactivated or under your control along with a paper trail.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      I like this a lot. I’d edit some of the softening, though, to e.g. “IT mentioned that emails sent to this address are actually being forwarded to your inbox.”

      I’d also add a line asking your boss to forward you all emails that were sent to that address so that you can follow up appropriately.

    2. StudentA*

      No, the LW should first figure out what’s going on without the boss knowing. The boss knowing early on encourages her to do her passive aggressive-lying schtick.

  24. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP3, this is a classic “inside-out” recruitment experience, where candidates are treated as passive recipients of whatever nonsense the hiring team has cooked up.

    “We need to ask these questions because they are part of the formal screener that was created 13 years ago. We use it for all technical roles, regardless of focus or seniority. We’ll do that first to get it out of the way. We won’t provide any context, because we are just following our process *points to process document*. It takes 40 minutes, which is a bit of a nuisance. We also don’t expect the candidate to form any opinions about the job or our company, based on this session. Their role is to answer questions. They’ll have the chance to ask questions another time, if we decide to move them forward. And we’ll be pretty annoyed if they decide they’re not interested, because we are the ones hiring, so we get to make the decisions.”

    And so on, and so on.

    Of course, no company or recruiter actually realises that they are doing this terrible thing, because they simply din’t think about the candidate experience.

    I could have written a whole screenplay, but frankly I’m too tired and I don’t think anyone would read it

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      At least for my memorable instance, the interviewer explained it at the time that they had a pre-set list of questions, but I’m still bewildered by one list that found a half-dozen slightly different ways to ask me what I did for fun, out of a list of about 20 interview questions. (Literally. “What do you do for relaxation, what do you do for enjoyment,” etc.) I have no idea why that was so relevant.

      1. caps22*

        Were they trying to trick you into admitting you are a meth head or rob banks for fun? Find corporate espionage relaxing? Enjoy a little union organizing in your off time?

  25. KoolMan*

    OP3 Welcome to the club. Normally a good interviewer starts with the project and some description. Next time someone doesn’t do that stop them and ask for it. I do that, but I am experienced so the other side don’t jump around.

  26. Richard Hershberger*

    LW4: People get weird about language. One way this manifests itself is when people claim to believe something about language that they know perfectly well is not true. Yes, “my” is in what in English is called the possessive case, but it does not necessarily imply possession. (Perhaps we should fall back on Latin and call it the genitive case.) We routinely talk about stuff like “my boss” or “my job” or “my home town” and so on. Everyone knows this, but some people intermittently decide to pretend that someone else using “my” is claiming ownership, and take offense at this presumption. I assume that the opportunity, however strained, to take offense is the real point.

    How to respond? The same way as any other idiosyncratic language peeve. If coming from a person with power over you, the path of wisdom might be to quietly roll your eyes and accommodate the peeve.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    LW5: Surely the most notable physical quality of a crush named Frida is her naturally curly hair. Though upon reflection, I just checked and her name is spelled Frieda.

    1. Catherine Tilney*

      Very true. Stick to crushing on her, though. She seems a bit too vain & high maintenance for a real relationship.

  28. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    I’m going to disagree with Alison on the response to LW1 – this is absolutely something that can and should be elevated to HR/your grandboss. It may be outside of something they are used to dealing with, but there are a lot of reasons why they and/or management needs to be informed of this situation, and investigate why it happened, if it has happened before, and put a stop to this manager doing it.

    If you’re working for a public university, they have responsibilities under your public records/freedom of information laws that they might sometime get called to comply with – and having an account like this, where people are sending things, could be a huge issue down the line.

    If you or your boss have any purchasing authority, this is an easy way to run around some of the checks and balances that are supposed to be present in those systems – Your boss can sign up for vendor accounts as you with that email address, and then make a bunch of purchases, and then approve them as your boss. Standard policy for most institutional accounting is that the person making a purchase should never be the person responsible for also approving that purchase, just because it creates too much potential for abuse.

    If your university bylaws (or any other regulations) mandate a certain level of responsiveness from someone in your position, your boss creating this account has interfered with the usual mailer daemon message that would tell someone that their email was not delivered – The college can end up with significant issues because of this. The most obvious would be an invoice that gets missed and ends up past due, because the invoicer emailed your address wrong, but there’s a bunch of other ways this could go wrong.

    Above all else, doing this is unethical on your bosses part, in the extreme. It subverts standard policy and practice, in a way which allows your boss to pretend to be a subordinate, while potentially creating very real issues for your college. It is not harmless, it highlights exceptionally poor professional judgement on your boss’ part, and their bosses and HR absolutely needs that information, to determine if your boss should still be employed at the institution, especially in any position where they have authority or trust.

    That is the tactic you should be taking when you report it, in my opinion – report it as ‘my supervisor is doing something that violates our standard procedures, policy, and practice, and I am reporting it to you as a responsible employee.’

    1. SAinthebooks*

      Yeah, I was surprised that Allison didn’t suggest taking this up the chain some. An email address that is opened 1) in someone else’s name, 2) that doesn’t following the email naming procedures, and 3) that the boss is being cagey about seems hella sketch.

      I’d want to think about other options beyond just “don’t spend energy on it” for my own protection, at the very least.

    2. mourning mammoths*

      Fully agree with this.

      If this were me, I would want proof that no emails were sent from that email, and that no financial, social media, or other accounts have been connected to it. I would want this on the record to absolve me of any repercussions of potential nefarious actions taken using that account.

  29. pleaset cheap rolls*

    On #3, this is so weak “they had to ask those questions but they weren’t relevant for the role”

  30. Vermicious Knid*

    LW2: I worked for a small catering company that did weddings and high-end private events. It was — by far — the strangest job I’ve ever worked (and I waited tables for 10 years). Asking them not to mention your mom won’t even register as weird, they will happily make sure it happens.

    Example: I bartended at a wedding where the bride rode a horse down the aisle and one of my fellow bartenders had to follow that horse around with a tray of carrots and celery for hours in 100+ degree heat to “keep it calm.” She was very newly pregnant and I was the only person who knew besides her husband because if the horse acted out and we had to call an ambulance, they needed to know. We were trained to do ANYTHING we’re asked. Not talking about someone we might have seen at a previous event is easy.

  31. Alexis Rose*

    LW5, I also find it really awkward when people gush about non-work-related crushes at work. I had a coworker who was actively dating and would go on and on about a guy she had matched/gone to coffee/had a date with, and the nature of dating these days is that a lot of these dates didn’t really go anywhere so there was always a new round eventually with a new match/coffee/date. I was always a little put off and would just politely excuse myself whenever she went off on it, but yeah, it was a big old bucket of yikes.

    1. Nanani*

      Same. I get that it’s exciting but your romantic comedy and/or drama is not as interesting to everyone else.
      I don’t like being treated as a background extra in your movie.

  32. lizw*

    L#2: Snorting over the names…and context…coincidence, obviously, but makes me wonder: Alison do you now my family?

  33. Allypopx*

    This is possibly a toxic work habit, but I started saying “my team” in my first management job when I was advocating for my direct reports to higher ups who…really didn’t see them as people or understand how qualified they were. I was respected to a certain extent, and it was a way of throwing my weight around and showing that how they were treated was very personal to me. I also have used it as a way to take responsibility for any outputs and have work reflect on me – this work was produced by my team so I’m responsible for it, that kind of thing.

    And the thing is in that case, OP’s boss would be right – it does create a little bit of a separation. But this was a very siloed organization and the dynamics weren’t great. I guess that’s to say, my initial response to the letter was a little defensive of the OP and I think how appropriate this is might depend on the culture. It sounds like OP is using it more for clarity and boss is saying that the language is not reflective of the culture they want to project, which is worth listening to.

    1. Chilipepper*

      On the separation, it sounds like when the OP said my team, they really did mean to suggest some separation, which was appropriate!

      As in your example, to highlight contributions by that specific group (a push back on that sounds like the OP’s team did a lot of work other teams will take credit for). Or if the OP was saying, I can have my team there at x time or work on x part, the OP is speaking only for their team and might have no idea if other people working on the project from other teams can do that.

  34. Something Fishy*

    Can IT give you backup of all emails sent/received to the email id – just so you can understand what’s going on??
    Or you could talk to the ombudsman, brief them on what’s going on and then ask for the ownership of that email id to my transferred to you first to see what the id has been used for.

  35. LW3*

    Thank you Alison for your answer, and for the commenters who chimed in!
    It might have been obvious from the outside that my refusal was okay and the company was being weird, but I was second-guessing myself and thinking what if I’m being rude, what if I think I’m acting normally but I’m actually Guacamole Bob?? Impostor’s syndrome is rough. :/

    But hey, at least I don’t have a boss that set up a secret email in my name, I’m glad my “problem” was so very trivial. That’s so bonkers.

    1. Allypopx*

      If they perceived you as rude, that’s a them problem. No one likes getting critical feedback (though I’d argue you didn’t even give that! You could have been way more direct and still been fine!) so it sounds like the person you were on the phone will reacted defensively. But hopefully once they decompress they’ll be thoughtful about what you said and make some adjustments accordingly.

  36. Knope Knope Knope*

    LW#3: I’m sure your situation is different than yours and your assessment was probably correct, but one thing to consider. I have 15+ years in my field am senior director level. The areas I oversee are expanding and I have identified a significant technical gap in our team. No one else in my org has quite the expertise I have to see what kind of hires need to be made to fill the gap. Everyone above me is C suite and too far removed from the day to day to see the solutions, only the problems. In the past, they have hired people without sufficient technical expertise to fill this gap. I have managed this process from a strategic level successfully before, but it’s been years since I was hands-on and the hands-on experience I did have taught me to go with an expert, not someone with tangential knowledge of the programs we need to use. I currently need to hire someone with around 5-8 years of experience who knows their stuff, can come in and start getting the job done, but will have the opportunity to be the expert in this field at my large multinational company and it would be a great opportunity to ultimately build and lead a team of their own. If nothing else your question helps me think of how to approach my interviews when we start hiring, because I could see asking some outdated or inadequate technical questions. That’s why we need this hire.

  37. Anonynon*

    #4: I was 100% at BEC stage with my old manager and every time she said “My Team” it rubbed me the wrong way. Why? Because she is exactly like Alison described, overly invested in her “Authority” which, trust me, is not a thing at my company. Not to mention that she also does almost nothing for us, she’s too busy working on her side hustles…

  38. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    OP #1 – your manager may be underhanded, but are they particularly good at tech? Because this sounds much more like someone who’s not at all good at technology screwed up while configuring a Teams site and instead of adding your name (using your address) to the group, set up the Team’s email address using your name. It’s pretty standard in a lot of organizations for supervisors to be the ‘owners’ of a person’s email account — that way anything related to security goes to the supervisor. It’s not default, but it’s common. It’s even more common if the person in question also created the Teams site (they would then be the owner of that site and everything related to it).

    I’m not saying your supervisor is *innocent* — they sound like they’re an underhanded and gaslighting mess of a supervisor. But they may be those things *and* just really bad at tech.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like this theory–fits not blaming on malfeasance that which can be explained by incompetence.

  39. infopubs*

    #1: I think I would send an email to that account to see what kind of reply I get. Don’t use your regular address to send it; create something really generic and dull in gmail, as if it is confirming a dental appointment. If your boss is replying to these messages, that’s a huge red flag.

    I know several people have said that these team emails can’t send anything out, but I’d test that theory.

  40. Falling Diphthong*

    They had to ask those questions but they weren’t relevant for the role, and that they would explain better in the next interview.
    Okay, what are our scenarios for this being the opening to a great job you’d be thrilled to take?

    An eccentric billionaire wants to hire a taste tester to work with a team developing new (chocolate/wine/cheese/etc) but they insist that this person also be highly skilled in llama grooming and that the interviewer must focus on that, with specific questions regarding blow drying, in the initial interview.

  41. Cosmicgorilla*

    I have a hard time believing that the caterer will bring up the mom. They’re going to be BUSY, you know, actually catering.

    If the caterer does indeed have the audacity to ask a casual, “how’s your mom?”, LW is not at all responsible for her stepmom’s reaction.

  42. should i apply?*

    LW #3, I just had a similar experience, with a big well known tech company. I am 15 years into my mechanical engineering career and the interviewer was asking me about beam equations and stress strain curves. It really felt like these questions were appropriate for someone right out of college. In addition, they said that the company was secretive and didn’t like to share information. Lets just say there were plenty of red flags.

    I didn’t say anything in the interview itself, but when they emailed me the next day with a design exercise that would take a considerable amount of time. I emailed them back, thanked them for their time and said I didn’t think the role sounded like a good fit. No response, so I am assuming they don’t care.

  43. Elenia*

    I have to admit, I’m a manager and I never say “my team” – it feels too possessive. I’m glad to read all of this feedback. I usually just say “The llama training team” or at the most, “Our team”.

    1. elle*

      That’s interesting because I will say “my team” even though I don’t even manage the team — I think of it like saying “my family” or “my job” — it the job I do, the team I’m on, the family I’m part of.

  44. Beboots*

    Re: writer number 4 – I actually had one of my direct reports (same age and gender as me, if that matters) tell me that me saying “my team” or “my staff” was demoralizing to her. I was baffled, as was my boss. I usually do my best to refer to people the way they ask me to call them, but it’s such an ingrained part of language – in my head it doesn’t connotate ownership at all? I do my best to always give credit where credit is due in terms of ideas and accomplishments from my team. The only semi-natural solution I’ve found is to refer to the crew as “the [department name] team” but it seems strange to me as the head of the department to be referring to people that way?

    1. WFH with Cat*

      I believe the feeling comes from the inherent imbalance of power. If someone refers to “my car” (inanimate object), “my spouse” (an equal) or “my boss” (officially their superior), it doesn’t feel personal in the way it can when someone’s manager refers to them as “his” or “her” engineer, writer, or whatever. It is, indeed, a subtle distinction and some people would not be bothered by it. But many would … mostly, those on the lower end of that power balance, but I have also known bosses who would always use “our team,” “we,” “the department,” etc.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This letter and the responses have been one of those eye-opening AAM threads on “Wait, someone cares about this?…. Okay, a lot of people care deeply about this. Huh.”

    2. Let’s not name names*

      I like “the [department] team,” because that actually sounds like a team where multiple individuals contribute.

  45. elle*

    I’m remembering that time a new boss told me I wasn’t allowed to refer to my office as “my office” but only as the “group meeting room that I office out of” because it *did* have a few extra chairs and was used for team meetings every once in awhile. Note, I was the first woman to ever hold the role and the man who held the role before absolutely called it “his office”, as did the rest of the team. When I told them our manager was scolding me for calling it “my office” the rest of the team looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Good thing I got out of there in 6 months, it was not the only weird power-flex problem I had with that manager.

      1. elle*

        The grandboss was the one really pushing me to take the job and I distinctly remember getting a tour of the area and them saying, “This is Andy’s office, so it will be your office in this role,” and I made a comment like, “my own office, awesome, I’m sold now!” And I wish I could remember if Boss was there and what his reaction was. It ended up quickly devolving into a situation where I truly felt like I was losing me mind because my manager was straight-up lying to my face on an almost daily basis.

  46. Verbal Kint*

    Re: the secret email address

    Your boss is Keyser Soze. Might be kind of fun to weave in things from the environment around her in conversation. How you love mermaids (whilst glancing at her Starbucks cup) and how you watched the documentary “The Big Dance” last night, while glancing at a photo of her kid’s dance recital that is on her desk. And, oh yes, you spent 3 summers in Mexico in high school, while viewing the remnants of her taco salad from lunch, etc etc. Could turn into a fun game to play in your head.

    Overall, this seems too strange and ill intended to not pull a “and like that (pah!) I’m gone” and quit, but I definitely hope you find out what is behind the fake email address and update us!

  47. Tbubui*

    My advice for #2 is to please, please warn the catering company if you can.

    I’m shocked (and frankly disgusted) to see the lack of empathy for the caterer(s) in this comment section. For everyone commenting that it would be amusing to see what would happen: It’s not entertaining for the caterer, who may have to bear the brunt of the bride’s wrath. I’ve been in that position with someone from the public berating me. It isn’t amusing; it’s terrifying!

    And with all the crap front line people have faced during this pandemic, they frankly don’t need the additional stress if they can avoid it. My mental health has declined steadily during the pandemic and if I had some person going off on me for making an offhand, completely normal remark, it would make things even worse.

    1. TWB*

      Agreed. I don’t think anyone who comments that it would be entertaining to watch would feel the same if they were in the position of the caterer. Things are only “funny” when everyone is laughing. The catering company staff won’t be laughing if bride goes off on them. Life is stressful enough without adding unnecessary meltdown inciting into the mix.

      I’m sorry you had to experience something like that…

      1. Tbubui*

        Exactly. Even if the bride doesn’t direct her freak out at the caterer who mentions OP’s mom, they may still feel responsible for her freak out. And that’s also an awful position to be in as well. (Even though in reality it’s on the bride freaking out, not the caterer.)

    2. A New CV*

      This is like when people send around those super “exciting” videos of someone freaking out at a low paid service worker. Entertaining for the viewer but so stressful and awful for the target or for anyone who has been in that situation.
      Warn the caterer. Don’t be entertained at someone else’s expense. It’s dehumanizing.

      1. Tbubui*

        Ugh, yes. I never found those amusing because I’ve worked in customer service positions since I was 12 years old. It’s awful being the target of freak outs. I can’t imagine how people find it funny.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Mostly agree, please do warn the catering staff to protect the catering staff.

      I did see a few comments along these lines above, but they may have been buried and/or they may have come in after you posted your comment.

      1. Tbubui*

        There’s a whole thread from 12:43am of people wanting to stand back and “watch the fireworks”. It’s that kind of sentiment that really grosses me out.

        But you’re right; I’m absolutely not the only person to raise my concerns for the catering staff.

    4. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. The B&G sound like a piece of work, and the last thing the caterer needs, especially in this financial climate, is a bad review because the the not so happy couple blew up at them for innocently mentioning mom. Warn the caterers, roll your eyes, and enforce your personal boundaries, because this is likely to get worse before it gets better.

  48. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    In LW#1’s shoes I’d be tempted to subscribe to a hundred email newsletters from that address, preferably from the political party the boss dislikes.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Some people just want to watch the world burn.

        This is how you set it on fire. I love it.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Someone appears to have actually done that with our shared mailbox at work. We have somehow ended up on a mailing list for Citizens Party in Australia, despite the fact that it’s an obviously UK based business email address.

  49. OP2*

    Thank you, Alison.

    For those wondering, my family connections are pretty… interesting. My mom met my stepdad at my church, my dad met his bride to be at our church. So yes, everyone is aware of each other. The edict has been here three years. I think it’s ridiculous, but… the last time this happened, certain people stopped speaking to me for months. And then I was told it was *my* problem. Again, not my problem, I’m an adult.

    My biggest concern is I don’t want people to harm this caterer’s reputation if something does happen. They’re very good (beyond good), and a family-owned shop, so pretty tiny.

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I think giving the caterers a heads up to make their life easier is the right thing to do. As someone who comes from a deeply dysfunctional family the best advice I can give you going forward is to learn about boundaries and enforcing them. It’s her wedding. Let her have the day. At some future point you have a loving and kind conversation. “Of course you are a special part of our lives now, and we will never bring up Mom just to hurt your feeling, but at the same time I am a grown autonomous adult and I decide what I can an can’t talk about. Not you.” I’ve had this conversation in many forms, many times. Some will throw fits. That’s their problem. Some will give you the silent treatment. Enjoy the bliss. Most will eventually realize you aren’t falling for their BS and start acting like reasonable adults. She’ll probably try to pull Dad into the arguement. Great if matter of factly and with a of course attitude. “Of course we’d never say something deliberatly to hurt Stepmom. She’s part of the family. But I am not going to deny my mother existance either.” Good luck to you and your siblings in the future. And mad support. Cause I know in the beginning its an uphill battle.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Ack, I’m glad you recognize these aren’t your problems. Sorry you have to deal with this junk :/

    3. Heidi*

      You’re a good person, OP. If the caterer does a lot of weddings, they probably will not mention the ex-wife in front of the new bride, but I also don’t think that they’ll think it’s weird if you ask them not to as well. My family was in the restaurant/catering business for decades – they’re good at handling people and their weirdness.

      I’m not sure why people use the silent treatment as a punishment. Not having to deal with someone that immature is a gift.

    4. biobotb*

      I agree that warning the caterer is the right thing to do here. It would be a different calculation if this situation came up a lot, and somehow you were tasked with keeping all vendors that your dad and his fiancee interact with from mentioning your mom, but it’s a one-off, and it will help keep some innocent people sheltered from your family’s dynamics.

    5. J.B.*

      Oh goodness. Yes, please warn the caterer. If you have not left the church I would consider doing so, it seems like a drama laden environment.

  50. Free Meerkats*

    I see a few ways to approach #1. There’s the “This is an obvious mistake” that’s already been mentioned. Since this is at a public university, there are likely sunshine or public information laws that would allow someone to request information from that account. That’s one reason I’m more careful about what i put in my work email.

    Then there’s the more pugnacious approach. Subscribe the account to assorted email groups, most require confirmation, but just dealing with the confirmations is a pain – back when the Earth was young and AOL ruled the wires, someone who had problems with transposing letters did a great job of signing me up for lots of stuff thinking they were signing themselves up. Or, using a public computer, create a gmail account that uses that exact name, sign it up for things that you know your manager would hate, and set up an automatic forwarding rule.

  51. DJ Abbott*

    #1, this is very sneaky and there can’t be a good reason for it. Document everything you do at work, especially what your actual email address there is, and bring home printouts and keep them in a safe place.
    Keep electronic copies somewhere you can get them when you’re not at work.
    This is all to protect you in case your boss is using this fake email to set up a situation of trying to get you in trouble or fire you.
    If possible, let someone with authority who can be trusted know this is going on. You have to be completely sure you can trust them.
    Good luck!

  52. Skytext*

    I don’t get all the silly pettiness about “my team” vs “our team”. I’m only going to use “our” if the person I’m speaking to has the same relationship, otherwise I’m going to use “my”.

    Reminds me of a court tv show where the judge nastily scolded a mother for saying “my daughter” instead of “our daughter”. Excuse me? If I’m talking to my husband sure I’ll say “our daughter” but if I’m talking to anyone else who did not provide the sperm then hell yeah I’m going to say “my daughter”.

    And if I’m leading a team then I’m going to say “my team” to anyone not ON the team. If I’m co-leading a team then it’s “our” team when talking to my fellow lead OR to any of the reports on the team. If I’m talking to the lead of another team then it’s “your” team. Anything else is just confusing.

    1. Jack Straw*

      “If I’m talking to my husband sure I’ll say ‘our daughter’ but if I’m talking to anyone else who did not provide the sperm then hell yeah I’m going to say ‘my daughter’.”

      My boyfriend has a kid, and I have two kids. When I am talking about them to people outside of the family, I use the phrase “our kids” or “our son” or “our daughter” because I hate differentiating them as “my kids” and “his kids.” If I’m talking about them with family members, I say “the kids” or use their names.

    2. Llama face!*

      I agree with you but I think that may actually be what’s got the boss’ tail in a knot; boss doesn’t like OP talking about the team as though boss is an outsider and not part of the team.

  53. LabTechNoMore*

    For LW#1, could the manager have just absentmindedly gotten the naming conventions wrong when setting up your email, then realizing the mistake and not bothering to delete it? IT can figure that out easily enough by whether or not any (non-spam) email actually went through.

  54. imaginaryfriend*

    OP#4 Even if you’re not intending it, calling the team ‘my’ may be coming across as mildly intimidating or weirdly possessive. Maybe using ‘my’ is inadvertently coming off that your team is subtly signaling that the team wants to be not accountable to the organization? Or that you are an exclusive group that only the ‘cool’ staff are in? ‘My’ can definitely be a loaded word.

    As an example, I am experiencing this right now with someone I work with. She refers to other staff at her location as ‘my staff’ and it comes off that they are at her beck and call (they are actually not her direct reports but even if they were it would still come across that way). In her case it does comes off as a mini power-play.

    I don’t think it was ok that your boss reprimanded you. If this was the first time they spoke to you about this, it could have been a gentle conversation.

  55. awesome3*

    I think that “my team” sounds like you’re a member of the team, but “my staff” sounds like you’re taking ownership. At the same time I think of how when siblings are in a conversation with someone else and one of them slips and says “my mom” instead of “our mom.”

  56. it_guy*

    LW #1 – Since the bogus account is in your name, can you ask the IT team to just delete the account, and add your bosses email to the Teams group?

  57. BlueBelle*

    LW1, I would absolutely talk to my boss, HR, and IT about why this person is allowed to use my name for a fake email. My IT department would shut that down as soon as they found out about it and it would have been escalated without the employee doing anything. In my company, this would be a serious offense and likely result in firing.

  58. Mimmy*

    The whole “my team” topic is interesting! I don’t lead any teams but I do sometimes say “my” in relation to work, e.g., “my students” even though I’m not the only instructor in the program I work for (although I would never say “my students” during a staff meeting!)

    Language definitely has its gray areas!

  59. employment lawyah*

    1. My manager set up a secret email address using my name
    I would test it to see what happens.

    For example, have a friend “accidentally” email you “about the article we discussed, can you please call me back as it it time sensitive.”

    Have another friend email you a pic (doesn’t have to be them, you’re just curious if there’s a pic)

    Maybe some others with “personal” info.

    etc.

    If you have geeky friends, they can help you figure out things like “was the email opened and when.”

    Then, when I had info, I would take that info and act on it, either going through HR or to IT and then HR.

    But that’s just me, and there is always risk by doing such things.

  60. AK*

    L1: I would either talk HR about potential identity theft, framing it that way as suggested by other commentators. Or just skip over asking her for details and email her neutrally saying a lot of people are trying to contact you at that address, so you need to set up an undeliverable auto-reply, but you can’t because it’s already in use and to please contact IT and get that switched over asap. With a tone of “huh, weird mistake no doubt, but obviously that should be quickly fixed!”. Act like it’s no doubt a weird legacy holdover that she has nothing to do with and she can just play dumb and you can get this out of her creepy hands.

  61. agnes*

    Your stepmother needs to grow up. This is not your problem. It’s your dad’s problem. Don’t take it on.

  62. Cubular Belles*

    Send an email to the incorrect email address asking your boss to please stop with the secret email account and copy her boss, HR, heck do a “reply all” and include that email address, just kidding but all kidding aside, she needs to be shut down, that is almost identity theft and I would take that angle when I ask her directly to stop immediately, good luck!

  63. Arcya*

    LW1 – this sounds really like an attempt at monitoring your actual email where your boss messed up and used the wrong email address.

    1. league**

      Came here to say this. Can you find out whether emails to your REAL email are also being routed to your boss as well as you?

  64. Nonprofit Manager*

    OP #5
    I work in a female dominant industry and my org is probably 70%-80% women. On my team we’re all really friendly and chat about non-work stuff all the time. A few years ago a very good looking man, Wakeen, started working at one of our branches and I remember people would talk about it which I felt uncomfortable doing. I always made noncommittal sounds when people discussed his appearance, especially since many people move up and change teams at our organization and it just felt icky to do. One day one of my coworkers Sally was talking about how attractive Wakeen was and our other coworker Alice exclaimed, “Leave Wakeen alone.” Her tone was not angry. And then went back to what she was doing. Sally never brought Wakeen up again.

  65. StudentA*

    Two things regarding letter #1.

    1.) it does an excellent job of showing that organizations give too much power to “managers”, even to the detriment of their reports.

    2.) I’m thankful for AAM. If I were in the OPs shoes, I would have been extremely creeped out, but I wouldn’t have known some of the dangers discussed in this thread. I certainly wouldn’t have known how to make my case to IT or HR without being armed with all this info.

  66. DataGeek*

    Re #1 There’s a decent chance someone accidentally created this account when you were first being set up and it didn’t delete properly when they added your new one. I would ask IT for more info and cc your manager and HR directly. You may suspect something nefarious and could be right but incompetence is more likely.

  67. Loredena*

    I am a consultant focused on Microsoft O365 in general, and Teams in particular – how much info. would everyone like to provide some context for LW 1?

    I can say that while it *might* be nefarious, I wouldn’t assume so. The supervisor wouldn’t have needed to ask IT to create an email address; the email address was not directly created by her; she might not have understood how it all worked.

    She also likely isn’t thinking in terms of setting the email up to forward – if you belong to a Group (not just the site) which you do if you are in a Team, you can access that mailbox in Outlook. You can also ‘subscribe’ or ‘follow in inbox’ to it- in which case mail to the Group will be presented to your main Inbox not just the Group box, which some people greatly prefer.

    She might be able to reply to an email that was sent to the Group and have it look like it was replied to from there, but it’s not setup to email from the box outright. Assuming that this wasn’t an attempt to spoof the LW she’s probably not going to any effort to send-as using another email client.

  68. Des*

    OP#2 : how old are you that your dad can “forbid” you to talk about your mom?
    What.

  69. fleapot*

    I’m not sure if this is more or less egregious than the situation LW1 describes, but I had a supervisor a few years ago (also at a university) who sent an email from the main department address, instructed people to send replies to that address, signed my name, and didn’t tell me. I didn’t monitor that address, and had no idea he’d sent the email until a coworker mentioned it to me (innocently saying, “I see you’re getting those workshops up and running for the new semester!”)

    I had no idea what he’d been thinking; the email was encouraging faculty to set up those workshops, and it was my job to schedule and provide/delegate them. Why would he not want me to get those emails?

    He replaced me about six weeks after that. I found out later that he had a *long* record of termination or constructive dismissal of employees with basically no warning, and part of his MO was to slam people with spurious complaints about their performance.

    I realized later that he’d either 1) been planning to replace me long before he told me he was going to replace me and wanted to be sure that he retained access to those emails, and /or 2) was setting me up to miss requests from faculty and use those lapses as pretext for replacing me. He found other pretexts in the end. One of which, no joke? I left my jacket on the back of a chair. (It wasn’t a first offence, in fairness; apparently I’d also put it on the wrong coat rack a few months before. They didn’t even put me on a PIP! )

    All of which is to say: one of my concerns about this deceptive email address would be that your boss is trying something similar. Is there a way in which diverting emails intended for you could signal that she’s planning to change/reduce your responsibilities or terminate your position?

  70. George Sherman*

    Since it is a public organization, think about filing a public records request for all emails sent to/from that email address.

  71. Safely Retired*

    #1, I would be even more worried about email that might get SENT FROM that address than what happens to be received there. In fact I would be inclined to engage a lawyer to contact the college administration AT THE TOP requesting that the account be locked and ALL records of BOTH incoming and OUTGOING mail in the system be turned over intact. Pointing out that that this smells of fraud; if the institution’s system is being used for fraud it may leave the institution liable for damages. Perhaps the lawyer can get a court order. They might even suggest that a general audit of such accounts be made to see if this is a single case or abuse or a pattern of abuse. Are you the only one who works, or has worked, for your boss? Have friends (or your lawyer?) try sending email to variations on those other people’s names to see if they bounce. You might be able to gather information for a class action.

    That was my second th0ught. My first was to engage all your friends to signing up that email address with your name to every sort of mailing list and spam they can find.

    It also occurred to me that using the address format “snoopy boss name ” would be a way to make the boss aware that they had been found out without confrontation.

    And of course it opens up all sorts of possibilities for deceiving your boss about yourself.

  72. Essess*

    For letter #5, constant comments about the attractiveness and body traits of a coworker are sexual harassment. In the US, the recipient of the comments does not have to be the same person that’s being discussed for it to fall under the hostile work environment laws. It also counts if it makes others uncomfortable, which it is doing to the OP. OP says they don’t want to hurt their friendship, but they can point out to the coworker that making these comments out loud creates a legally hostile work environment for anyone that accidentally overhears them and that OP is “concerned that they don’t want coworker to end up putting their job in jeopardy if the overheard comments are reported to HR”.

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