coworker loves to abuse robocallers, boss uses Facebook photos without permission, and more

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

1. My coworker loves to abuse robocallers

I work in a county government building that is constantly under construction. A few weeks ago, my desk was moved to accommodate some new renovations. My new space is a cubicle within an unrelated department. The person who occupies the cubicle in front of mine, Fergus, loves robocalls. He will wait out the recorded message and then pretend to want whatever service or product the live caller is pitching. He’ll draw them in for a while and then when the caller thinks they’re about to close the deal, Fergus will call them all kinds of vile names and tell them how ashamed their family would be of them. One time I heard him tell a caller they would burn in hell. Just this morning he put a curse on a caller’s house. He’s loud and animated on these calls. Recently, he started representing his son who is being contacted by debt collectors. So now the debt collectors are also calling Fergus. Fergus is a lawyer and will cite state statutes to the debt collectors and inform them that their violations will result in them personally owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state. He’ll threaten to get them fired and also berate them for their choice of professions.

These calls happen about three or four times a day. Some people in the office chuckle when they hear him, but it gets kind of distracting. I’m no fan of robocallers or debt collectors, but is there a way to ask him to tone it down or go outside? We work in different departments and I don’t know who his supervisor is.

Of course it’s distracting! Having to hear someone spew vitriol three or four times a day while you’re trying to work must be really unpleasant, too. If Fergus wants to handle calls outside the office that way, that’s his prerogative (although regularly going out of one’s way to be awful to someone rather than just hanging up is a crappy way to go through life), but it’s bizarre that he’s spending work time on this multiple times a day.

Would you be comfortable saying, “If you’re not willing to just hang up on robocallers, would you mind taking those calls somewhere else? It’s really jarring to hear that kind of abusive language when I’m trying to work, especially several times a day.”

Read an update to this letter here

2. My boss uses Facebook photos without permission

I started a new job earlier this year. My new boss added me as a Facebook friend shortly after. Normally I wouldn’t accept a friend request from a boss, but I noticed she was friends with my coworkers and they all were active on the company’s Facebook page.

After a few months, I’ve realized she can be volatile, and I don’t want to get on her bad side. Today, she tagged me in a post on the company’s Facebook page, which featured a personal photo from my account. The photo isn’t inappropriate, but I’m uncomfortable that she used it. It’s nearly 10 years old, which means that she had to go through a LOT of old photos to get there.

Apparently this is par for the course. I’ve learned that she finds personal photos of employees online and uses them to make digital birthday cards, etc. to share with the office.

I have a professional photo that is on the company website. In an ideal world, I would tell her that I would not like my personal photos to be used in any capacity, but that my professional photo would be acceptable. But I’m worried that she will get hostile and retaliate if I voice this.

I’ve changed my privacy settings so that she is on my restricted list (so that she can only access my profile information that is public), while still staying Facebook friends. Knowing her tendencies and personality, I feel like it’s safer to just try to strengthen my security settings, rather than confront her. What would you do in my shoes?

Normally it should be completely fine and not controversial to say, “If you need a photo of me for something, please use my company headshot or check with me if you need something different. I’m not comfortable having photos from my Facebook account used without my permission.” That’s not confronting her, it’s just passing along a reasonable request. But if your knowledge of her tells you she’d take that badly, then just keeping her access highly restricted is a good way to go. (For what it’s worth, even people who are volatile would often be perfectly fine with that request, but it’s also understandable not to want to risk finding out.)

If you wanted to, you could disconnect from her on Facebook altogether and say something like, “A mentor who I really respect told me I should never connect to managers until we’re no longer working together” or “I’m barely using Facebook these days so I’ve pared it down to family” or so forth. But if you think she’d take that badly, just keep her highly restricted.

3. My boss’s wife was so rude to me that I walked off the job

I recently walked out of my job due to what I feel was harassment by my boss’s wife. She recently dubbed herself the “office manager” after retiring from 33 years of teaching last June. We started off great and got along surprisingly well. I went out for two weeks in March for surgery and when I returned, her whole demeanor towards me had changed. She was short, rude, and found a way to nitpick and find fault with me daily. I am a nurse and have been for 25 years and she insisted on trying to tell me how to do my job.

The tension between us was mounting everyday until finally about two weeks ago it came to a head. She was very rude when I arrived one morning, and I let it go. That afternoon she was rude again and yelled at me loudly enough that a patient in the waiting room heard her and made a joke about it when I brought him back to a room. I decided then that I’d had enough and after I got him situated, I walked out. Is this considered harassment? A hostile workplace? Can I report her?

Assuming she’s just a jerk and not targeting you because of your race, sex, religion, disability, or other legally protected class, it’s not considered harassment or hostile workplace in the legal sense.

In a legal sense, a “hostile workplace” isn’t what it sounds like: It’s not about your boss or coworkers creating a hostile environment for you by being jerks. The term refers to conduct that’s based on race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. The conduct must be based on those categories and “must be severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.” (This whole paragraph is also true for workplace harassment.)

So a lot of jerkiness isn’t actually illegal and isn’t reportable outside of your company.

4. How many resume bullet points are too many?

I’ve been helping my mom update her resume while she looks for a new job. It needs a lot of work, mostly in changing her work experience to be accomplishments instead of job duties (but at least they’re bulleted lists, not paragraphs!)

She listed 3 jobs going back about 11 years, but underneath each job, she lists between 10-15 bullet points. One one hand, she worked at one of those jobs for 8 years, so it makes sense to have a lot under it. But more than 10 still seems like a lot. I usually aim to have 3-4 per job when I’m doing my resume, but my longest tenure was only 3 years.

This all left me wondering what to tell her to do. Should I tell her to shorten it, or is 10+ bullet points okay, as long as they’re accomplishments?

It’s depends on the individual resume. As a general rule, 10-15 bullet points for a single job is a lot, and 10-15 bullet points for each of three jobs is really a lot. But if each bullet point is truly compelling and impressive, I wouldn’t remove some just to adhere to an arbitrary number. Be rigorous, though, about making sure that they all really meet that bar … and bring an even higher bar to the oldest job.

For all of them, maybe ask her which ones she’d keep if she could only have six or so bullet points per job and then see if you each feel like anything really important is being lost.

5. Should I tell my boss if I have an easily treatable cancer?

I recently found out that I have a concerning nodule on my thyroid that I have to get biopsied to see if it’s cancerous. It’s taking forever (or it feels like it) to get an appointment to have the procedure done, and I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything to anyone at work at this point because I have no idea if there’s an actual issue.

Thyroid cancer is generally very treatable, usually just with surgery. Chemo/radiation are rarely used if everything is contained in the thyroid. So, in the case that the nodule I have is cancerous, I’d likely just have to have surgery. (The surgery, to be fair, would have some life-altering effects. I don’t want to downplay it; it’s just not as intense as many other cancer treatments.)

What I’m wondering is, if this ends up being the case, do I tell my boss what’s going on or just say that I’m having surgery? I know I don’t technically have to say anything and my boss wouldn’t push for details if I remained vague, but … the idea just feels weird. On the one hand, cancer is cancer and can be scary regardless of the treatment; on the other hand, I know it conjures up images of chemo and radiation, and I’m always concerned about seeming dramatic or blowing things out of proportion. So, what do I say if I end up having to deal with cancer?

It’s completely up to you! You can share as much or as little if you want to. If you’re more comfortable just saying you’re having surgery, that’s absolutely fine. (And you don’t need to say more than that but if you did want to give a little more context, you could say something like, “Nothing to worry about too much, just something my doctor wants me to take care of soon.”) But if you have the kind of relationship with your boss where you’d be more comfortable explaining more about the situation, that’s fine too. Doing that wouldn’t be dramatic; explaining you have cancer when you do in fact have cancer is not dramatic, and you could be clear that your doctor doesn’t expect you to need chemo or radiation. It’s really entirely up to you.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 567 comments… read them below }

  1. Heffalump*

    #1: You’d like the Carl Hiaasen novel Nature Girl. The protagonist takes her revenge on robocallers, but in a much cleverer, less abusive way.

    1. MK*

      Is there really reason to take revenge on people who took a badly paid and unpleasant job, presumably because they had no other alternatives?

      1. Tirv*

        Exactly my thoughts too. We’re not talking about Nigerian scammers here, but people who have taken telemarketing jobs. It costs nothing to politely state you’re not interested. Fergus sounds like a mean spirited bully.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          Indeed he does. By extension, he sounds like someone who I would be leery of accompanying to a restaurant. The vitriol and haughtiness against call center workers raises red flags to me in terms of how he feels it appropriate to treat those with less percieved power as a general rule.

          “May I interest you in a dessert?”

          Okay this scenario may be a silly extrapolation, but I DO feel that abusing call center workers is a particularly cowardly form of bullying- abuse of someone not physically there to look in the eye. They are not consistently paid nor treated well by their employers, and suffer extreme burn out and other mental health impacts from dealing with the Ferguses of the world, who they are often not allowed to hang up on or otherwise disengage.

          Fergus should be ashamed of himself. There are other ways to go about handling debt collections. Fergus, as an attorney, should know better.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘…abusing call center workers is a particularly cowardly form of bullying- abuse of someone not physically there to look in the eye.’

            This is the issue, isn’t it? People can be insulting and ‘clever’ when they don’t have to look at the person directly. If they did, they’d realize what their word choices do to people.

            Fergus is bullying and abusing people who take jobs to keep a roof over their heads, not embarking on a personal vendetta against him. Nice work, Mr. Brave Man. /s

            1. Temperance*

              FWIW, I’m not friendly to people who come to my door trying to sell stuff, either. Although I don’t waste my time abusing them.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                The closest I get is a curt “we’ve already told your company multiple times we are not interested in your service. Stop knocking on our door.”

                (Deployed for the companies that come
                Back more than once. I will admit to once stating I don’t purchase from companies I know aren’t telling the truth – but that was only once, and I knew they were lying about who had invited them to the neighborhood to talk – I’d helped that neighbor move out the week before!)

                1. Anastasia*

                  I’ve done door to door sales; I had precisely zero power to prevent the company from sending out more sales reps to specific houses, nor did I have a choice of which houses to visit (or any information on which had previously expressed disinterest).

                  I get why people are annoyed with door-knockers, but they usually have very little power, and are extremely overworked and underpaid.

                2. Lego Leia*

                  We had people calling asking if we wanted to donate to some sketchy charity because donated last year. We reported them as scammers, instead.

              2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                FWIW, I’m not either. My point was, and still is, there is no need to heap abusive rhetoric on uninvited salespeople, even the scammers. Just say ‘No, thank you, not interested. Have a good day,’ and hang up or close the door.

                Because I have a choice in the matter, I’d rather be pleasant to the scammers than abusive to the people just trying to earn a living.

                1. SD*

                  Better to just hang up. Saying, ‘No, thank you, not interested….” just invites a jump to another script designed to get you to listen a little longer so they can get to the main pitch. You end up just having to hang up anyway.

              3. Observer*

                I’m not friendly to such people either. Nor am I *friendly* to telemarketers. But I don’t abuse them. I just cut in and say something like “I don’t have time for this. Good day” and hang up.

                Which is to say that Fergus has a LOT of choices in how to handle these folks that do not include abusing the caller but ALSO do not include wasting time and energy on being friendly to them.

                1. londonedit*

                  Exactly, there’s a huge difference between not putting up with scam/sales calls and being actively abusive to the people making them.

                  For the real ‘robo-call’ ones, where there’s always a couple of seconds of silence before you’re connected to the recorded ‘Have YOU been in an accident?’ spiel, I just hang up as soon as I get no answer to my ‘Hello?’. For the ones where there is an immediate human being on the line, the ‘We’re calling about your Microsoft computer’ or ‘Hello I’m from BT [no you’re not] and we’ve noticed suspicious activity on your modem’ I just say ‘No thank you’ and hang up. Same with genuine sales calls – I don’t get many of those, but in previous jobs I’ve received the ‘Hello we’d like to speak to you about your printer cartridges’ (I have nothing to do with printer cartridges in my job) and you just need to say ‘Sorry but no thank you’ or ‘Not my department, sorry, goodbye’ and hang up and that’s it. Takes two seconds and doesn’t require being abusive to anyone, even if they are a scammer.

              4. Nanani*

                I just say “no thanks” and firmly close the door before they can answer.
                My building has a no-soliciting rule but ever so often one gets through. Or perhaps, is a resident.

                1. RunShaker*

                  OP 1, that’s a lot of time spent. These calls are not always short calls & doing it 3-4 times a day, that’s crazy. The most I did when I wanted to prank a scam caller would be to answer the call as “Name of County Sherriff Department, Fraud Division, how many I direct your call!” Another favorite was “Hairy Balls Billiards, Cooter here!” in the voice of a heavy, chain smoker. Say it twice & scam caller always hung up. I would do it once in a while & I got bored. I also noticed the robo/scam calls started increasing & I have work to do so I don’t answer them any more.

                2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  @RunShaker — my dad uses “City Morgue, you stab ’em, we slab ’em.”

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  @RunShaker– I am SO stealing Hairy Balls Billiards. :’D

                  @SimonTheGreyWarden– We used that one and also, “Kelly’s Mule Barn, which ass do you want to speak to?”

                  But not at work, haha. And if someone knocks on the door and I’m not expecting anyone, if I don’t recognize them, I don’t open it.

              5. Anastasia*

                As someone who’s done door-to-door sales: don’t be mean to salespeople. For the most part, they also don’t really want to be there, and are even more exploited than the call-center workers (my job was straight commission, not even minimum wage, which I knew full well was illegal but I was very desperate).

                They’re usually trained – and required – to follow the ‘three-no-go’ rule; just be polite, firm, and repetitive.

          2. Sacred Ground*

            The two scenarios are nothing alike. You have gone into a restaurant, you have already expressed your interest in buying food, you have already eaten food, the server asks if you want more food.

            The only equivalent would be if that server came knocking on your door at home and at work several times a day, such that most knocks on your door at your home are servers offering dessert. It’s incredibly intrusive and invasive and the people doing it are making a choice to be invasive and intrusive. The hostility of people towards them doing their jobs is because their jobs are inherently hostile to the people whose lives and minds they invade and intrude upon.

            There are other jobs. I’ve been desperate, hell I’m desperate now. I would NEVER take a telemarketing gig because of my personal ethical standard. And the desire to neither intrude on others nor to be berated for intruding.

            1. IndustriousLabRat*

              I readily admitted in the post it was a silly extrapolation. And really, I feel like it is irrelevant to the question at hand whether call center employees are acting ethically. However, I said it for a reason-It IS relevant how the Ferguses of the world choose to treat those they see as “lesser”, and how publicly they do it. I gave the server example because I have worked in restaurants, and I have been in professional lunch situations with a colleague who was ATROCIOUS to servers, and been thoroughly disgusted and mortified. There was also a letter on here previously about someone whose colleague was an absolute BEAST to their Uber driver. So while the SCENARIOS are only distantly similar, the worry that a colleague’s treatment of others is a constant- that’s what I’m getting at here. Fergus has issues. Namely; he’s a jerk.

            2. Spero*

              I will 100% agree it is not an honest job. But, the fact that someone else has made a moral transgression does not give you a freebie moral transgression of your own by excusing a choice to be verbally abusive to them. A person who is abusive to someone on the phone who has not done anything personally harmful to them is wrong. It doesn’t matter whether the person they’re screaming at is also acting unethically in other ways. Your actions are your responsibility, and screaming at a stranger is a deliberate choice to be abusive.

              1. IndustriousLabRat*

                Your last sentence is a good summary of the underlying issue here. And if you combine that sentiment with “and choosing to do so in a space that exposes others, without their consent”… we come to the root of the OPs workplace problem.

            3. IndustriousLabRat*

              Just noticed your final statement. I respect your ethical choice. It is interesting that you cite “intruding on others” as one reason, when that is what has prompted the letter writer to seek advice. Intrusions upon /inclusion of others in poor behavior is something that I think both of us are considering here, but from slightly different angles.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Well, the people who are trying to convince me to renew the warranty on my 12 year old car may not be Nigerian scammers, but they certainly are scammers of some nationality.

          The people who call at work trying to sell us a service we already have are also annoying, but most probably not scammers.

          1. Aqua409*

            For some reason the car warranty company will not give me a quote for my husband’s, very legit, 79’ International Scout. *shrugs shoulders*

            1. SeanT*

              Even if he waves any coverage for body panels? Seeing as I am sure it has gained rust in the time it took me to type this.
              I kid, my goal is to track down a not awful 76-79 myself, family had one when I was growing up.

            2. IndustriousLabRat*

              They also strangely haven’t pursued me further my beloved 2007 Craigslist xterra. And when I gave them my make/model/condition (“I mean, I paid three grand for it off a Craigslist ad? What do you mean by condition? It’s yellow with orange spots and most of the dents have been bondo-ed?”) the calls for that particular line of sales pitch kinda dried up. Now I’m just fighting off solar panel salesfolk.

              Arguably, a vintage IH truck is eminently far more valuable to insure. I’m a wee bit jealous!

          2. Filosofickle*

            OMG the warranty calls. Both my home and mobile numbers have been plagued with those for the past few months. Grrrr.

          3. Sacred Ground*

            I am stupefied that anyone would defend this.

            If your business relies on spoofed telephone numbers then it’s not a legit business, it’s a criminal enterprise.

          4. CocoB*

            After the dozens of car warranty calls, I have to admit to waiting for the agent to come on the line and engaging them in conversation about whether they wanted to warranty my scooter. He hung up on me… imagine that. But to engage daily with that level of vitriol is an excessive level of anger in front of coworkers is beyond acceptable.

        3. Lecturer*

          But saying no doesn’t work, they keep calling and calling. You block their number and they will just use a different one.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Exactly. Try calling back on any of them. You get the not-in-service response. They are scammers, running a criminal enterprise. The poor downtrodden call center employees of these scammers are ALSO scammers. Just poorly-paid (and likely duped themselves) scammers.

            It is not an honest job, and I refuse to treat it as one. People who do it deserve whatever treatment they get until they wise up and get out. Those that actually make a good living at it do so because they are good at fraud. If the worst that happens to them is getting abuse from the public who are seriously sick of their sh*t then they are getting off too easy.

            1. Nanani*

              What the hell? NO. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment. Abusing people over the phone is never okay.
              Hang up. Don’t answer unknown members, get a spam-filter app, etc. But you are not and will never be justified in verbally abusing strangers.

              1. ceiswyn*

                It is not justified for strangers to try and steal money, either, and yet they keep trying.

                Given that there is no real way to stop the calls coming or get these people convicted for attempted fraud or theft, I can understand the desire to ‘punish’ them in the one way available.

                1. ceiswyn*

                  (Though obviously, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the behaviour in principle, one should still not be doing it in such a way as to disturb colleagues and expose them to abusive language. It’s distressing to hear even when aimed at someone else.)

              2. Lecturer*

                Con artists ruin lives. They are scum. A bit of verbal abuse is no different to squaring off with a piece of shit who is trying to take advance of an elderly relative.

            2. Lecturer*

              The thing is if I am going to block your number 5 times what makes you think you can dupe me? There are always other jobs. If people are desperate they could take the job and then start applying madly for others. But most scams won’t even originate in the same country we live in.

          2. SchuylerSeestra*

            Why answer the call though? I do not answer calls from unknown phone numbers. If it’s important it can go to voicemail.

            1. Lecturer*

              My workplace uses blocked numbers. My Dr calls off a private number. I just ignored calls the other day and then the receptionist was like ‘policy is to call 3 times’ errrm what? After 3 times (when I wasn’t expecting the call) what are you going to do, leave me to wither away and die?

          3. PoppySeeds*

            But really should you be using your personal phone at work to be doing this? I am certain they are not calling his business phone.
            There are also phone services that screen for these types of calls and take care of them I know because I have this service and it works very well. When you are at work you should be answering your work phone and pursuing your “hobby” of screaming at personal calls for your time off.

        4. Ada*

          There are still legitimate telemarketers out there? All I ever get are the scams, so that’s what I assumed the LW was talking about. I have no problem stringing those people along for a while, since every minute they’re on the phone with you is a minute they’re not scamming some poor elderly person out of their pension. That said, I wouldn’t burn work time on that and would 100% find out annoying if my coworkers did, loudly, several times a day.

          1. Anastasia*

            The thing is, even just answering the phone will encourage them to call back – because now they know the number is good, and their calls will be answered. That’s WAY better odds, from their perspective, than a number that always goes unanswered.

          2. TardyTardis*

            My husband enjoys playing with them, especially the ones who say they’re from Microsoft. We had them confused into thinking we had an Apple–and then we would get calls from someone from ‘Apple’. Then we switched to having a Commodore, and that really threw them.

        5. Lego Leia*

          It is also a waste of company time. You want to play with robocallers at home? You do you. You want to do it on work time? You had better be on top of everything that is on your plate, and not hesitate for even 1 second if there is another call.

      2. Well...*

        I have more empathy for being aggressive towards debt collectors. It’s sad that the workers at the bottom of the chain have to deal with it, but the companies themselves to profit off of scare tactics. I like the idea of that whole game being less of an easy profit because people know their rights and are consistently pushing back.

        I’d rather support industry regulation than fighting off rank and file employees though.

        1. Sharrbe*

          My roommate had a debt collector threaten to come to the apartment. It was truly messed up.

        2. Observer*

          I like the idea of that whole game being less of an easy profit because people know their rights and are consistently pushing back.

          Except that abusing the people making the calls generally doesn’t make the game less profitable at all. Pushing back can be different and may actually have some utility. But not simple aggression or abuse.

          1. Littorally*

            The people making the calls are not the people who are going to change the company’s behavior, end of story.

            1. Observer*

              That’s true. There are two reasons why pushing back *might* help, in the case of genuine debt collection.

              1. Sometimes the caller is authorized to come to an agreement other than full and immediate payment, so going for that can sometimes be helpful.

              2. If the person pushes back and really knows their stuff, the employer may shift that person to a different list. Not because they are “nice” but because they are not going to get any payback for going after this person.

              2b. If someone pushes back with a credible threat to the employer, the employer might decide to make a business decision that lowers the risk to the business.

              1. Lecturer*

                I’ve used 2 and 3 to win cases. Won every single one I’ve done for myself and others (apart from one, but it turned out the company was in the right).

          2. Well...*

            Agreed. I empathize, but I’m not endorsing this specific behavior. I do think the impulse to push back isn’t terrible, though the way this guy is doing it is awful.

        3. Selena*

          I see that the other way around: pay your debts already.
          If Fergus has a nice government job than i don’t think the problem is that his son *can’t* pay back: the family just hopes that if they are agressive they can get away with borrowing and never paying back.
          (Keep in mind that a lot of time debt-collectors work for small businesses who trusted their customers. Or even for friends and families who need the 5k back that they borrowed you when you told them you needed a new car)

          Robocallers on the other hand call unprovoked. Ignoring them is best, ‘wasting their time’ is understandably. Calling them names is a bit much, but they do make a good living seeking out confused older ladies and pressuring them to buy stuff.

          And when we are talking about callcenters there is the helpdesk variety. Those guys are overworked and underpaid and i can’t imagine any good reason to be rude to them. If they are unhelpfull than it’s because their boss refuses to pay for their education and instead makes them go through a stupid script.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            I have no qualms about urging anyone to tell “debt” collectors “do not call here again”–I put “debt” in quotes because they will call people who never owed the debt in the first place, or who already paid it in full.

            Insulting the underpaid call center staff won’t help, though.

            1. Artemesia*

              This. Debt collectors often have no evidence of a debt and simply call people with the same name endlessly. My husband has a name shared by thousands in the US and we get hounded for hospital bills from hospitals we never had business with, car dealerships we never had business with etc etc. One medical bill got passed around to different collectors and so we would go through the cycle of call after call for a couple of years, there would be a break and then it would start over again. Add that they often threaten arrest or foreclosure on your house, many people who are gullible or frightened end up paying on debts they don’t even owe. Bill collectors will also demand SS number, birthdate and other personal information while not sharing the information they have on the debtor — yeah I am handing my husband SS# over to some yutz on the phone.

              1. PT*

                Sometimes it’s debt that it’s not even legal to collect! There are all sorts of laws regarding which debts can legally be collected and which must be written off, and there’s a cottage industry of debt collectors taking up zombie debt and trying to trick people into paying debts they’re not legally obligated to pay.

                1. IndustriousLabRat*

                  Yes, this is a great point. There was a fabulous John Oliver talk on the subject of Debt Buyers. Really the first place to start trying to change the entire scummy industry is through better industry regulation and enforcement as part of a push for robust consumer protections, starting with those that protect the already -vulnerable.

            2. IdahoSmith82*

              You are clearly blessed or disciplined enough to never be in the position of being scammed by these a-holes. I went through the credit rebuilding process in the last 12 months. I’ve paid all my debts, yet still get calls from a group of abusive scamming debt collectors.

              They’ve made several threats to me, my spouse, and will search out other family members (I wish I was kidding) like my estranged sister in law, mother in law and my own parents to threaten them over a debt that never existed.

              I have no respect for these people. ZERO. Even my credit advisor/attorney has told them he will sue them personally if they tried calling again. I actually love that Fergus is giving them a taste of their own medicine- but he shouldn’t be doing it at work. People like the ones I’ve dealt with are basically criminals.

              1. Lecturer*

                In England even debt collectors can’t touch you unless it is meets the requirements of a court order

                1. Katrianah UK*

                  Doesn’t stop some scum trying. One nearly torpedoed my relationship with my mother (I’d gotten into bad debt due in part to untreated bipolar and my parents helped me get straight again on the understanding it was a one time thing) when they came to HER door chasing a paid debt they’d “bought”.

                  Thankfully I could prove I was solvent and debt free, and we reported the scam, but it still happened and it was awful. My details had been sold on to some seriously sketchy places and I was having issues for years.

              2. Broadway Duchess*

                This is a pretty gross take. You think it’s okay to berate these people because you don’t like what the the minimum wage guy on the other end does? I had to rebuild when I was younger and the tactics these agencies employ are awful. That doesn’t mean Fergus should go toe-to-toe with them. Just hang up the phone, note/block the number, and don’t answer it again. It won’t stop all of the calls, but a big portion will.

                But that’s not what this is about for Fergus or anyone else who does this. The guy isn’t Batman and I am really disturbed by the hero-worship here.

                1. Lecturer*

                  We’ve extended the conversation beyond Fergus and onto fraud. Happens on every single thread, we talk about the issues and add more points in conversation with others. No one is worshipping Fergus, he needs to learn what a workplace is.

                  But at the same time I have no problem saying fraudsters are absolute scum.

          2. Mophie*

            This is a bad take. There are tons of documented cases of debt collectors being abusive and underhanded. So maybe it’s best not to judge people because they happen to owe money.
            And even if you owe money to the proverbial “small business,” it doesn’t excuse the behavior of a lot of these companies.

          3. Observer*

            If Fergus has a nice government job than i don’t think the problem is that his son *can’t* pay back

            You are jumping to a LOT of unwarranted conclusions here. You don’t know Fergus’ financial situation, and in any case, these are not his debts, they are his son’s. And Fergus has no responsibility to pay them.

            (Keep in mind that a lot of time debt-collectors work for small businesses who trusted their customers. Or even for friends and families who need the 5k back that they borrowed you when you told them you needed a new car)

            That’s generally the typical situation. There is a very good reason that there are laws about what debt collectors are allowed to do- there is a LOT of abusive stuff out there.

            Not that I agree with Fergus – he’s being a jerk. But let’s not glorify some really bad practices.

            1. Pickled Limes*

              As a government worker, I’m laughing at the idea that a government salary must automatically be high enough that people could easily afford to pay off their family members’ debts. Government workers are not rolling in extra money.

              1. Anastasia*

                It does also say he’s a lawyer, so, probably earning a bit higher than your average public servant.

          4. pleaset cheap rolls*

            My wife got utterly false debt collection calls for years. A company screwed up and tried to charge her, and they sold the debt. The company had no case nor did the debt collectors.

            1. Orora*

              I had a debt collector call me about my neighbor’s debt. He said she used my name as a co-signer. I knew this wasn’t possible because I barely knew her. I played along a little to get the company’s name. When I got it, I calmly told the collector that what they were trying was unethical and illegal and they’d better not call me again. They didn’t. (I also left a note for my neighbor telling her what happened so she’d know what was up.)

              But I didn’t raise my voice or yell epithets at the caller. What would that have accomplished?

              1. Lecturer*

                I find it unbelievably stressful but I’ve never backed down over one case. I’ve also helped other people. It is amusing when they realise they simply cannot handle someone knowledgeable who will not back down (mania guarantees that)! In spite of me telling all of them to take me to court none have had the balls to!

          5. Seacalliope*

            Pay your debts already? I hope you aren’t American and have literally no knowledge of the American healthcare system.

      3. Daisy*

        I did it for 2 days once (and then quit, it was pretty grim) and the rule was that we weren’t allowed to hang up first. I always found it really weird how many people would waste 5, 10 minutes screaming at me to go away. Presumably YOU can hang up? Do you not understand how phones work?

        1. Selena*

          I presume they want to be put on the do-not-call-list
          (Does your country have those?)

          Still sounds a bit surreal though. Lol.

          1. Littorally*

            Then the answer is to ask to be put on a do-not-call list. Being verbally abusive doesn’t get you put on the list, asking to be put on the list gets you put on the list.

          2. Daisy*

            There was no call list or do-not-call list, it was an automatic dialler. It just tries every possible phone number in certain area codes. They didn’t seem to understand, even when I explained.

            1. Observer*

              In the US, that’s actually not legal – the automatic dialer is must be set to avoid numbers on the Do Not Call List.

              1. Daisy*

                No, probably wasn’t in the UK either. I imagine they could’ve set the number to avoid it if they’d invoked the law somehow. But I remember everyone asked ‘Where did you get this number?’, which wasn’t really the right question. They didn’t ‘get’ them anywhere.

                1. ceiswyn*

                  If they were listed with the Telephone Preference Service, then they had already invoked the law and your automatic dialler was breaking it by calling them.

                2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  @ceiswyn, but telling that to Daisy (who already said they quit after 2 days) doesn’t do any good.

                3. ceiswyn*

                  And Daisy’s telling people that they need to ask ‘the right question’ in the hope that the automatic dialler gets programed to do what it already ought to have been doing – that does some good, does it?

              2. IdahoSmith82*

                and the robo callers really don’t care. I’ve been on the DNC list since it came out. Still get the calls. Trust me- the list doesn’t work.

                1. Observer*

                  The RoboCaller do not CARE. But @Daisy is wrong in saying that the call COULD not have been prevented. It could have been – easily. The people making the calls just did not WANT to.

                2. nonegiven*

                  It doesn’t work to stop all calls. It works to tell me the caller is a scammer or they wouldn’t be calling me.

        2. Momma Bear*

          Fergus may be thinking if he keeps the telemarketer on the line, that’s x less time they have to scam someone else. I have little sympathy for telemarketers and robocallers. A friend’s father was scammed out of thousands of dollars he could not afford to lose.

          1. Artemesia*

            We have had them threaten jail if we don’t pay something on the bill we don’t owe. Gullible people fall for that and pay on debts they don’t owe.

          2. Anastasia*

            Telemarketers and scammers are different, though. Someone who is legitimately trying to sell him a product doesn’t deserve to be abused in this way.

            And even with the scammers – you’re at work, Fergus. Cool it with the personal calls.

      4. ceiswyn*

        Well, when they’re lying to you in order to steal your money, yes…?

        In the last year I’ve had a lot of robocalls, and absolutely all of them have been scams.

          1. ceiswyn*

            Not now, though there was a period of time during lockdown where I was getting one or two daily. All scams.

            1. PeanutButter*

              There are people who only get 1 or 2???

              I get easily 20+. I do not answer my phone unless I am expecting a call/know who it is. Thankfully my cellphone provider upped my voicemail limit so it’s not constantly full of Robocall messages.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            The distinction is not always clear. Even if they are claiming to offer a legitimate service, are they really? Only one way to tell for sure, and that isn’t going to happen. For a while I was getting daily calls from an outfit that claimed to be a credit card processor. We don’t take credit cards. For the first week I politely explained this and asked them to take us off their list, and I would get a polite apology in return. After a week or so I just hung up. So is this a legitimate credit card processor with a very bad marketing plan, or an outright scam? I don’t know.

            Also, even telemarketers that are selling a real service routinely lie. There are, in the legal business, various client referral services. They advertise, typically on late night, for people who had been in car accidents to call in, then farm the calls out to attorneys paying for the service. This is legitimate, but in our experience not worth the cost and the time for all the calls that aren’t actual cases. So I get a call from the marketer, trying to get past me to my boss. My job here is to filter these calls out. The result is a little dance, where the marketer pretends that this is some other type of call entirely. This runs up to and including my directly asking if this is a client referral service. Usually they admit it at that point, but I have had occasions where they flat out lie. Is this a scam? It certainly is, so far as the conversation with me goes.

          3. doreen*

            I get at least three a day – although not all on one phone line. Those are what gets through the various filters- if not for the filters, there would be more. And they are all scams- they refer to student loans I’ve never had, credit cards from banks I’ve never dealt with, hospitals I don’t owe money to , etc. I have some sympathy for telemarketers but none for scammers. Although I don’t waste enough time on the phone to see if a real person ever comes on the line.

          4. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I keep getting robocalls in Chinese. I have no idea what they think they are going to sell me/ or scam me on as I do not speak Chinese. I just wish I knew what their angle was. Maybe I should take this as a sign I should eat less takeout… but I probably won’t.

            1. desdemona*

              For a while there was a scam targeting Chinese immigrants (in Chinese) claiming there was something wrong with their immigration paperwork/forms/etc and threatening ICE if they didn’t get money. Might be that?

            2. Aitch Arr*

              I get those too, mostly on my mobile. The iPhone tries really hard to convert to text.

            3. Lora*

              I get so many of those on the work iPhone specifically that I now literally never answer my work phone. I have not received a legitimate work call or text message on that phone in two and a half years, only telemarketers, and nearly all in Chinese. Apparently the previous owner of the phone number got on various marketing lists and now gets a lot of messages about Kardashians and erectile dysfunction pills, in a combination of Chinese and English. The only way to block these calls on the iPhone interface is individually, as opposed to Google which has an auto-screening system set up.

              I finally learned enough Mandarin to say “this is not her phone number, you have the wrong number” to the humans who are occasionally calling, but there doesn’t seem to be a blocking feature that crosses the different VOIP apps between China and the US. I can’t be put on a Do Not Call list or be taken off a telemarketing list in China.

              My personal phone is the only one people really can use to reach me. I think soon phone calls generally will become so polluted by this type of activity that nobody will use the phone anymore at all, regardless of people who prefer that method.

          5. Flower*

            It’s in spurts, but I’ll certainly have stretches of a couple weeks with 3/day, almost all of which are either a “vehicle extended warranty” (on my 10 year old car I bought second hand?) or “we suspended your SSN due to suspicious activity” (spoiler: they didn’t, and that’s not how SSA would notify you anyway).

            Also many texts either about accounts with banks I don’t have or randomly chosen “Amazon” rewards.

            It’s been really bad in the past year. And for a while I was answering all calls because job searching.

            1. Artemesia*

              This is when it really sucks. I never answer the phone to unknown numbers (and it helps that my area code is from a state I haven’t lived in for 10 years) but if you are trying to get a job or an appliance repaired etc and have to answer every call just in case, it gets numbing.

            2. Ursula*

              Gotta love the “suspend your SSN” calls. I guess lots of people don’t realize that the only time your SSN is inactivated is if you’re dead. Freezing all credit inquiries associated with a SSN is possible, but your SSN is still active as credit is not actually what SSNs are for.

          6. Weekend Please*

            Unfortunately, at least in my experience the scam calls far out number telemarketer calls. They say that they are from social security or the IRS or are calling about a credit card that I do not have or a car that I do not own.

          7. Lecturer*

            There are countless scams out there. Currently, I have blocked the same scammers five times – they just keep changing their number (around 3 months so far). Everywhere there is money there is a scam, even if you can’t logically ‘see’ the money. Another one at the moment in the Royal Mail scam in England. They send you multiple text messages a week.

            The sheer amount is difficult to establish as I always press block and then in 1 day you will see 5 blocked calls or texts. For that reason alone I am not interested in any sale. When I want something I look it up myself.

          8. HereKittyKitty*

            I literally never get telemarketers, it is ALWAYS scammers. I know this because they are often calling from numbers that look similar to either my own, or a family members. They love calling from my hometown area code too thinking I’ll pick up because it’s family. At worst I would get 10 a day.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I have gotten way more scam calls in the last year. Being asked to be taken off their list often involves me waiting through their garbage to talk to a person. It’s really frustrating. No, “Rachel from Cardholder Services” I do not want to talk to you.

          I’ve also had debt collectors call me about people I knew back when and threaten *me* about *their* bills. They can be really aggressive, so I have no qualms about being snarky back.

      5. Cat Tree*

        Yes, much better to just politely decline, or even hang up before someone comes in the line.

        But, Fergus surely gets some kind of thrill from berating people. 3 – 4 times a day is a lot. He really should put his number on the do not call list. But I suspect he’s purposely giving that number in places where it’s likely to be sold, precisely because he enjoys doing this. Fergus is an ass and I feel bad for his family.

        1. ceiswyn*

          What makes you think his number isn’t on the do not call list?

          I’m in the UK, so it’s different, but both my landline and mobile numbers are registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Scam callers don’t care about do not call lists any more than they care about the law, and in the past I’ve had a few non-scam cold callers ignore it too.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            My grandad was registered with Telephone Preference service, and then suddenly got lots of scammers and cold callers calling him. He thought he had fallen off the TPS list and tried to register again but they said his number was already registered. Eventually there was something on TV about Sky selling people’s numbers, and my uncle had arranged a Sky package for Grandad not long before the calls started back up, so we thought it may be that.

          2. Daisy*

            I said this upthread, but in my very brief stint as a telemarketer in the UK ten years ago, it was an automatic dialer. I don’t know if the laws on those have changed in the last decade. We definitely weren’t diligently looking up the randomly-generated numbers to see if they wanted phone calls or not. (And this wasn’t a scam – apparently some people do, astonishingly, buy double glazing off cold callers.)

            1. ceiswyn*

              So if your company was breaking the law by not respecting the official listing or in any way checking whether people had opted out, why do you keep telling people that they should just ask to opt out?

              Why tell people to do something you have repeatedly said doesn’t actually work?

        2. MK*

          I have to say it’s pretty odd that he is getting so many calls. I get a couple per month, and sure, maybe it’s more common where they live, but 3 daily is way too much.

          1. Perfectly Particular*

            You have done a really good job of keeping your number private I think! I get at least 3/day, and so do my kids.

            1. Snow Globe*

              I’ve started to get scam text messages, at least 2 a day, and those are even more annoying.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                Yes, SO MANY scam texts! A lot of the ones I get are coming from email addresses and sometimes it’s a *group* scam text.

                1. londonedit*

                  Yep, loads of scam texts here. The latest doing the rounds in the UK is the ‘Royal Mail: you have a fee to pay on a delivery. Please visit [website that has Royal Mail in it but is not the Royal Mail website] to pay the fee’ one. In the UK you can forward scam texts to 7226 and the mobile operator will investigate, but recently the ones I’ve received haven’t had a number attached to them that I can report.

                2. fposte*

                  I recently got lots of angry messages from people who had been group scam texted from my spoofed number. That was fun.

            2. KayDeeAye*

              I never used to get them, but I sure do now. I got at least two yesterday. They claimed to be from Amazon talking about some troublesome charges to my account.

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                I get calls about that on a number that I’ve never given to Amazon. The day I was waiting to be contacted by the NHS about my vaccine and all I was getting was Amazon scams I was not happy.

                1. KayDeeAye*

                  Yes, they were calling a number I had never given to Amazon as well. That was my first clue. My second was when I checked the credit card that I use for Amazon purchases and noticed that no, I was not being charged for a $700 iPhone or a $200 gift card. But still…annoying!

            3. AA*

              Keeping your number private doesn’t even help, because a lot of the time they are robodialling numbers at random and seeing what sticks.

            4. an infinite number of monkeys*

              My husband and I both have agency-issued cell phones from our (mutual) employer. Mine gets a robocall/spam call maybe once or twice a week. His gets at least ten a day.

          2. NotRealAnonForThis*

            USA here, and can vouch for 3-4 a day in spurts. Generally I spend a week blocking the nonsense, and then its quiet for about a month….and it’ll kick back up again, so I spend another week or so blocking all the nonsense.

            I’m on the “National Do Not Call Registry”, which seems to only prohibit cold telemarketing calls. It still permits charitable orgs, political campaigns, surveys, debt collectors, etc. And it doesn’t apply to business owned lines (I receive another 4-6 calls a day on my business cellphone), nor does it do anything about scammers/robocallers.

            1. Artemesia*

              blocking numbers on the car warranty scam doesn’t work because they shift to other numbers.

          3. Queen Anon*

            That sounds about average to me – and I’m on the Do Not Call list. Scammers and spammers don’t care about the list and use multiple phone numbers to place their outgoing calls. Because I’m on the list, if I get a call from unknown number, I reject it immediately. If it’s legitimate, they’ll leave voice mail. (Although recently spammers and scammers have taken to leaving VM as well.)

            1. Queen Anon*

              I’m commenting on my own comment to state that within 6 hours of posting, I received 3 calls, all of which I rejected. I suspect 2 of them are scammers/spammers and I know the 3rd one was because they actually left voice mail. One had a restricted number and two were from two different states where I’ve never lived.

          4. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Yup, in the US and 3-4 calls a day happens in spurts (though mostly on my work cell since I don’t screen those calls to the same degree as I screen on my personal cell).

          5. Le Sigh*

            There was a period in 2017 where I was getting 10-30 spoof calls a day. So many that I just left my phone on silent. Nothing worked to stop it — Do Not Call has been a joke for years and you can’t block spoof numbers because they just use new ones.

            Now it’s more like 2-3 a day, but it is what it is. I just don’t pick up unless I know the number or know someone (like food delivery) might be calling.

            1. PeanutButter*

              I’m at your level (10-30 a day) and have been for several years. I’ve had the same cell phone number since the late 90s, and I reaaaaally don’t want to change it, so I just do like you do, and keep my phone on silent unless I’m specifically expecting a call. And most of my friends/family know they’ll get a faster response to text or email anyways.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Oh, I’ve had my phone number since the early 2000s and like hell if I’m giving it up. Besides, if I got another one, I’m sure I’d wind up on a list again anyway and get fresh rounds of spam calls.

          6. Ali G*

            It’s normal. Between my work line and personal one I get 4-5 a day. Also, these outfits sell numbers to each other all the time. Since Fergus picks up his number is flagged as “active” and he will get more calls.
            Two tips I have heard: 1) don’t pick up and 2) don’t start your VM greeting with “Hi” or Hello or any typical greeting. Those words trip the recording and will flag you as active. My VM Is something along the lines of “you have reached…” and I don’t say hello when I answer, unless I know who it is. I’ll say “This is Ali”

          7. Clisby*

            Three a day is a slow day on our landline (and yes, it’s on the no-call list). I’m thinking of turning off the ringer, letting everything go to voicemail, and checking it a couple of times a week just in case there was a call I wanted to hear. We have cellphones, so it’s not like people couldn’t get in touch with us if they want. I could just drop it, but since I live where half the year is hurricane season, I kind of want to have a backup for phone service.

            1. Nanani*

              Do that. Seriously. If everyone with a legitimate need can reach you another way, there is no reason to let the ringing interrupt you even if you have no intention of answering.
              Take this persmission from an internet stranger and be free.

          8. GothicBee*

            It may be my imagination, but in my personal experience, the number of scam/telemarketing calls I get goes up when I answer them and seems to go down when I ignore them. Normally I never answer my personal phone unless I know the number, and when I do that the number of scam calls I get goes way down. But if I’m applying to jobs or something and start answering every call, the number increases.

            Ironically, the absolute worst experience I had with unsolicited calls was from the red cross. I think I somehow got into their system twice and my blood type was in demand, but I was getting calls multiple times a day from them for months.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yup. I find picking up just seems to make it worse, like they’re fishing for live numbers they can hit up repeatedly and increase their odds. I mentioned this up thread by leaving my phone on silent and screening my calls has been the most effective method to get it to die down.

              1. Anastasia*

                That’s *exactly* what they’re doing. If it’s a live number, they’ll keep calling.

          9. Archaeopteryx*

            Mine seems to go through cycles where for a couple weeks I’ll get two or more per day. I never pick up, obviously, but you can tell that they’re scams from the voicemail. And I hear it only increases when you approach retirement age.

          10. JJ*

            Protip: live in a different part of the country than what your phone number is…spammers nearly always use fake numbers local to your phone’s area code, so if you live far away from that area code, you have no reason to believe the call might be legit and you can just hit that decline without worrying about it.

            1. Artemesia*

              This works for us — we live in Chicago in retirement but our phones have Tennessee numbers so we just never answer any 615 numbers.

            2. Calpurrnia*

              Can confirm. Anyone with a legitimate reason to call me from the area code where I grew up, that I moved away from in 2013, is a person who’s already in my contacts. I live in a big urban area on the other side of the country now, and pizza delivery people etc. are extremely unlikely to be from my tiny hometown state clear across the US. Any call I get from that area code that isn’t in my contacts is definitely a spam caller with a spoof number and can be safely ignored.

            3. Le Sigh*

              Yeah, I get a lot of these based on my area code. But I get a chunk based on where I live currently. I just decline almost all of them unless I’m expecting a call. If their legit they’ll usually leave a voicemail and I can follow up.

            4. EvilQueenRegina*

              Mobile phones don’t have area codes in the UK sadly, what they’ve started doing with me is calling me from a number which is identical to my own apart from the last three digits. So anything looking like that is usually a robocall.

            5. Littorally*

              Yep. The scam calls always call from where I lived during high school. I don’t know anyone who still lives there! That area code is an instant ignore from me.

          11. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            I get three to five a day on business days and a couple over the weekend most weekends.

          12. Myrin*

            I’m pretty sure that’s a geographical thing.
            We talked about this here a few months ago and while I knew theoretically that the US has many such callers, I realised in that thread that I had previously imagined way too few – people said they were getting several calls daily.
            Meanwhile, I’ve gotten about five or so such calls in my life. They’re basically not a thing at all here.

        3. Tara*

          I think it’s better he’s taking up their time, so they can’t go and target more vulnerable people. Doesn’t mean he needs to do it in the middle of the office.

          1. WellRed*

            I can assure you he’s not protecting vulnerable people. He’s getting his rocks off on this and the vulnerable people will still get taken advantage of.

            1. pancakes*

              +1. The idea that he’s making any sort of meaningful dent in the number of people the callers reach by verbally abusing the ones who reach him is silly.

            2. Free Meerkats*

              He’s an ass. If his goal was to keep them on the line, just do what I do when I get ones NoMoRobo doesn’t catch, answer, figure out it’s a scam call, then set the phone down until it gives me the off hook noise. That keeps them from making another call on that line.

              It’s not much, but it amuses me and slows down the scam, however minutely.

          2. Observer*

            Please. If he just kept them on the phone for 10-15 minutes at a time, I might buy that. But the abuse and threats say that this not about protecting anyone -it is TOTALLY about finding and “acceptable” way to abuse people.

          3. Momma Bear*

            I think the issue here is just that he’s disruptive and I think that OP and coworkers can legitimately ask him to take the calls somewhere else as he is bothering other people. Same as if he was arguing with his spouse 3 times a day or something.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Yes, I agree with that. Whatever one’s opinions on being nasty to scammers, regularly disturbing your co-workers is not on, and that should be the OP’s angle.

        4. Selena*

          ….But I suspect he’s purposely giving that number in places where it’s likely to be sold, precisely because he enjoys doing this…

          It does sound like that to me: like he loves getting harassed by ‘bad guys’ so he can feel justified scolding them.
          I imagine that the first time he did that in public it was an impressive scold and his colleagues applauded him, and he’s been chasing that high ever since.

      6. AA*

        I don’t think it’s right to abuse them but I also don’t think they’re the victims here. Some of these robocalls are absolutely straight up scams that prey on vulnerable people.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Yeah, I have to admit I’m wondering what exactly these calls are, how many of them are straight up scams as you say and how many are legit but just not offering anything that’s any use or interest to Fergus. (I realise that if OP is only hearing Fergus’s end of the conversation, it may not be that easy to tell).

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, I don’t have sympathy anymore for what the poor scammers are doing for a living, after two of them called my 70+ yo father about a “Windows virus” and he believed them! Only thing that saved him from getting hacked was that, one, he had dial-up and wasn’t online at the time, and two, he said he wanted to talk to me first, and to have me with him on the next call when they would actually fix his “virus-infested” computer, because his English wasn’t great. (They were happy to hear that last one! “Have your daughter bring her computer too! We’ll fix her Windows too!”) Took me a while to convince him that no, he did not have a virus, and even if he had, random people on the phone wouldn’t have been able to detect it when his computer was not even online. Granted, this was many years ago, but I don’t think the general premise of the business has changed – it’s still preying on vulnerable people, and I have no patience for that. I don’t have the time to yell at them though. I tell them “you *really* have the wrong number” and hang up.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Adding to my own comment after I’ve given it more thought – while my knee-jerk reaction was to disapprove of Fergus screwing about with the scammers, I now realize that every minute they spend on the phone with Fergus is a minute they are not spending scamming some confused old lady out of her savings. So I’m really conflicted now on how to feel about what Fergus is doing.

            1. Selena*

              There are smarter ways to screw over scammers.
              F.i. pretend to be hard of hearing so they have to repeat everything 3 times, pretend to be religious and watch them play into that, pretend that any information they want is veeeery difficult for you to find (when you give out fake information it should be f.i. the adress of a government building, don’t make up stuff on the fly because that telephone-number or that street-adress might actually exist)

              Pretending to be gullible makes them waste a lot more time than just screaming at them

              1. Vito*

                Another thing NOT to do is say the word YES (as in yes I can hear you) they can use the yes to say that you agree with what they are selling… better to say “I can hear you”

                does anyone besides me get the door to door automobile WINDSHIELD salesmen??? the people calling to ask if you are interested in selling your house?

            2. KayDeeAye*

              My mother – a very smart and non-gullible person – was a victim of this scam just a couple of years ago. They were masterful in their technique – the way they picked up a tiny bit of real info here and another tiny bit there and wove it into a very convincing story that gradually pulled her in is really kind of impressive. Despicable, of course, but impressive. Anyway, it’s still alive and well, or at least it was two years ago.

              But I still don’t think it’s right to scream abuse at them – particularly not when you’re bothering other people. Just hang up the dang phone.

              1. KayDeeAye*

                Yeah, this could be considered a campaign, but it sounds more like a hobby to me, and in either case, it shouldn’t be done on company time and the OP shouldn’t have to cope with a coworker screaming abuse, no matter who he is screaming at.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                That is a really good point. And he’s distracting his coworkers, so they cannot do any work either while he’s screaming.

            3. Le Sigh*

              Honestly with the volume of calls scammers can make these days, I suspect distracting someone for a few minutes doesn’t really do much to prevent someone from getting scammed.

          2. Windchime*

            My mom is in her early 80’s and she likes to lecture the scammers. She got the “Windows virus” call once and every time the guy would tell her to turn on her computer, she would say, “It’s on”. (Mom doesn’t even have a computer or laptop of any kind). After a few minutes, she would hang up.

            She recently got this scam call: “Hey Grandma, it’s me! I’m in jail and I need money!”. She says, “Is this you, Peter?” (she does not have a grandson named Peter). “Yes, yes, it’s me, Peter!”. Poor “Peter” then got a long lecture on how he should be ashamed of his job, does his grandmother know what he does for a living, etc, until “Peter” finally hung up.

            Back in the day, we used to raise Arabian horses. That was fun; when scammers would call to sell her something, she would say she wasn’t interested but then would proceed to tell them about the horses she had for sale, their bloodlines, blah blah blah until again, they would finally just hang up.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I once got a call where the caller called me by my ex-husband’s last name, that I’d changed back five years earlier, and stated that they were standing on the side of a road with Mr. (my ex-husband’s last name), there’d been a car accident, Mr. (ex’s last name) was at fault and had asked them to call me to come there with the cash to (bail him out?) I said omg my husband??? yes. In a car accident??? yes. “Are you sure it’s him? what’s he look like” he described my nonexistent husband… tall, Slavic guy (how did he know??? what kind of sorcery is that?) I did not intentionally want to screw with them, I was honestly curious to know what they would come up with if asked for details. I then said that I hadn’t had a husband in eight years, and hung up. Good times.

            2. Vito*

              I’ve gotten the “grandpa” call a couple times, to me it is kind of funny since I have no children (that I know of) and therefore no grandkids.

          3. Lecturer*

            There was once a time where you would see people in the town centre, trying to get people to sign up to a charity. Over the years these people became younger and were clearly chosen because they are attractive. Even charities ‘play the game’ now.

            1. Mags*

              Chuggers. My old boss used to scream at them in French or Italian, which I thought was unnecessary when you could just ignore them. Then one night when I was heading to the metro late a girl ran up to me, her hoodie clutched closed with one hand, and grabbed my arm. ‘Can you help me please?’ She sounded terrified and was actually teary, so I was all, ‘oh my god, sure, are you OK?’. And she produced a clipboard from under her hoodie and went, ‘I am, but do you know who isn’t? The whales!’. I was so angry, I told her to F off and was shaking the whole train ride home. So now while I don’t yell at chuggers, even the ones in Paris that were apparently probably pickpockets, I don’t have much sympathy either.

        3. Momma Bear*

          The scripts and voice acting have gotten better over the years to the point where I tell my parents about every new one I hear so they don’t get sucked in. It’s hard sometimes because they do get legitimate messages about their services, too. When in doubt, they give me the call back number and I check it out. I have no sympathy for companies who are preying on people.

      7. Nightengale*

        I had sort of the reverse of this once.

        I got a call on my work phone from a recording. It was a boat horn, followed by a voice saying “this is your captain speaking.” I had gotten the same recording multiple times at home. It wasn’t a person, although supposedly you could press a number to get connected to a person to get your free boarding passes to wherever. I hate travel and never want free boarding passes to wherever so I had never pressed any numbers.

        So I started telling this recording that they had called a hospital, I didn’t want the boarding passes, please stop calling. I used a reasonably loud voice. Then I hung up.

        A coworker across the hall heard me and thought I had been using that tone and language with a person and started telling me how shocked and surprised she was, how telemarketers are poorly paid, etc. It took a little time for me to convince her I had not at any time been talking to a real person. It was more like yelling at the photocopier.

        (now I get calls most days on my work cell phone about my car warranty expiring. I have had this job and telephone for 18 months. I have not had a car for 6 years. Sometimes I try to get a human and tell them the phone number belongs to a hospital, and to take the number off their list.)

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I answer my personal mobile with the same greeting as I do any work calls. It’s amazing how many people trying to “consolidate my loans”, or help me claim compensation after “an accident that wasn’t my fault” will immediately give up if they think they’ve called a business.

          There have been a few who’ve persisted though, until I mention putting them through to my manager. And suddenly I get a dial tone…

          I suppose I’m fortunate – my office number isn’t available externally, and hasn’t been available at all during the last 14-15 months (all calls go to a central voicemail advising callers to email instead, and providing a central inbox that one of our poor admins monitors), so any calls I get have to be personal by default.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Not that long ago I had a spate of odd looking numbers calling and hanging up when they got my work greeting. I joked at the time that maybe I should answer one of those numbers with “Hello?” to see what they said if they didn’t realise they’d called a work number, but it died off after that without me ending up doing it.

            Having said that, one fool claiming to be BT was quite persistent saying they were calling about the phone line, and abruptly hung up after I said “This is an office number, who did you need to speak to?”

      8. Heffalump*

        On second thought, it would be more accurate to say the protagonist in Nature Girl tries to enlighten robocallers.

      9. Nanani*

        Hard agree. Just hang up on the bot, dude. It’s almost like this guy enjoys having a target to berate that probably isn’t allowed to hang up on him.

    2. Eden*

      I am pretty confused by the letter and comments… I always assumed “robocallers” were, well, “robots”, as in automatic dialer + pre-recorded messages. Is it common to refer to actual telemarketing human being as “robocallers”?

      1. TechWorker*

        I think from the letter they mean ‘calls that start off automated but then turn into a live call’, Eg if you respond and/or stay on the line you get transferred to a real person.

        I’ve never made it that far.. but I would guess that’s the case. Some of them absolutely are scams and not valid telemarketing, I’ve had one multiple times claiming to be from HMRC and threatening all sorts if I don’t pay the tax I owe. My partner got one from ‘your bank’ where they didn’t even know what the bank was. I don’t think that makes it ok to be extremely rude to the person on the other end I guess, but I also wouldn’t ‘politely tell them I wasn’t interested’.

        1. UKDancer*

          I get the HMRC one a lot and always hang up before they get on with threatening me. Also someone trying to sell me a conservatory (I’m in an upstairs flat).

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            I’ve started getting one where they say that my National insurance number has been compromised and to press 1 to speak to someone urgently. I’ve never done so and just hang up. They come from numbers very similar to my own.

            1. pancakes*

              I’m a bit surprised so many people here are answering these calls. I let anything from an unknown number go to voicemail. I think answering them encourages the caller – whether human or bot – to keep your number on an active / try again list.

              1. UKDancer*

                Unfortunately they come through mainly on my work mobile which I have to answer. I don’t know everyone who rings me as my contact details are fairly widely available professionally. If it were my personal number I’d not answer but I can’t ignore unknown numbers as they may be people I need to do business with.

              2. TechWorker*

                It’s not that uncommon for me to be expecting a call from a medical appt, or restaurant/plumber/handyman I’ve given my phone number to, and none of those numbers are in my address book either (also are fairly likely to be mobiles nowadays). So I do tend to answer if it rings cos it’s more annoying to miss those sort of calls than it is to hang up on a scam.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Exactly!! True story: I was moving last month and, in the middle of the drive from my old place to the new following the movers truck, I got a call from an unknown number. Normally I’d let it go to voice mail, but since it was in the middle of a move and of selling a house, I thought I’d pick up. It was a guy working for my new internet provider, telling me he was in the area, and would I like for him to come install my internet on that same day instead of the next day as scheduled? and that’s the story of how I got working internet 20 minutes after my movers left!

              3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I am my mom’s emergency contact and she is 84. An unknown number could be anyone, from her social worker or caseworker, to, god forbid, a hospital. I block the ones that have proven to be spam and I assume it keeps the volume down somewhat, because I get spam calls very rarely.

              4. Flower*

                I was getting them most frequently while job searching, when I felt obligated to pick up every call because it could be a potential employer.

              5. Stitchwort*

                I quite often answer through my headphones so I don’t see caller ID. My phone is usually in an inner pocket and, especially in winter, there may be many layers between me and it (I work outdoors). Luckily I get very few unwanted calls though.

                1. pancakes*

                  I didn’t mean to suggest that everyone should ignore any and all calls from unknown number regardless of context. I answer them myself if I’m waiting on a delivery, for example, but the amount of time I’m waiting on a delivery is a very small portion of my time. I would think it can go without saying that people who are caretakers, or selling a car or house, etc., have reasons to answer unknown calls that don’t always apply to the rest of us.

              6. Minerva*

                During lockdown everyone from public health to banks were calling from residential numbers. We are right out of a stay at home order. I can’t ignore calls and get the benefit of owning a phone.

                1. Lecturer*

                  Exactly, I’ve been reading about fraud increasing during lockdown. Scammers are very good at preying on the vulnerable

              7. Spero*

                I have a young daughter, and her daycare providers sometimes call me from different numbers when she’s feeling ill. So the ones from my specific zip code I generally do answer just in case it’s something related to kiddo.

        2. Observer*

          I think from the letter they mean ‘calls that start off automated but then turn into a live call’, Eg if you respond and/or stay on the line you get transferred to a real person.

          That’s how I read it too – the OP says that Fergus waits to get a live person.

      2. hbc*

        I have the same definition you do. Robocall means no human involved except to set it up, like Homer Simpson and his autodialer. Telemarketing (legitimate or il-) is a broader category that can involve live humans who might have assistance from a computer that does the calling but not the speaking. The headline had me wondering how you could abuse an automated recording.

      3. anonymath*

        The way they work is that they have an automated service to dial through numbers, and then they connect to a human if someone picks up (or picks up and stays on). The initial tech is the same for fully automated messages and these that switch to a human if someone picks up.

      4. Person from the Resume*

        I presume that the LW was a bit inaccurate, but I would (when I had a land line for my office which I had to pick up during business hours) pick up and say hello and then there would be a bit of a lag until went into his telemarketing spiel. So it does start off as a robocall where a system just rang through a bunch of number until they got an answer and then the human came on. If it’s an actual robot i.e. recording, I don’t know what the fuming colleague is getting out of yelling. I’m betting he’s yelling at humans.

        Yes, they are humans probably stuck in a shitty job they hate, but they are perpetuating the system and assisting the scam or just annoying the heck out of me when the same charity keeps calling every few weeks when I say no each and every time and ask to be taken off their call list.

        1. pancakes*

          The lag is a good cue to hang up. If it’s an actual person temporarily unprepared or unable to talk they can call back when they’re ready.

      5. MCMonkeybean*

        I was very confused as well, I thought at first it was a situation where they were yelling at robots thinking they were not causing any harm but are actually bothering their coworkers.

        Robocalls are calls with recorded messages, not live people, and if they are trying to sell you something they are almost always illegal:

      6. Thursdaysgeek*

        And there is another option – voices that sound and respond like humans but are just recordings. He might still be abusing a robot and not realize it.

        Them: I’m calling about your Automated Squirrel Rotation warranty.
        Me: For which squirrel?
        Them: (pause) I’m calling about your Automated Squirrel Rotation warranty.
        Me: Are you a robot?
        Them: (pause, slight laugh) I am not a robot, do I sound like a robot?
        Me: You sound like a robot.
        Them: (pause, slight laugh) No, I am not a robot, do I sound like a robot?

        They are often programmed well enough that it is hard to tell. The pause before replying, when I say something off script – that seems to be a clue. And they usually don’t say exactly the same words twice. Real people will be able to respond to me about where they live, what the weather is like – without that telltale pause before each response.

    3. JJ*

      I’m with MK, I’d bet nearly 100% of the people actually doing the robocalls are just people who need work so badly they’re willing to take an awful job like telemarketing, who personally have nothing to do with the scam, they’re just trying to do a job. It’s not cute to abuse them, no matter how clever you are about it.

      1. Lecturer*

        Many of them will gladly sell you down the river for their bonus. I worked for call centres when I was at university. Good thing too, it made me focus on my studies because I never wanted to be in a job like that. I never lasted beyond the training because I wasn’t willing to ‘sell no matter what’.

    4. JonBob*

      There are cold-callers, and there are scammers. Against the former, yes, they are doing something that can be annoying, but they need to earn money so you should reasonable deterrents (take the number off, do not call again, etc).

      Against scammers, it depends on how you view vigilantism. By taking the time away from the scammer, that’s fewer victims. By taking peace of mind from scammers, you might make them less effective against others. They are operating outside the law, so any punishment is “deserved”. So, good or bad of abusing scammers depends on how you feel about Fergus taking matters into his own hands.

      1. Lecturer*

        Cold callers: it doesn’t work. They simply change the number to get around it. Nothing works, saying no, being rude, asking them to remove your number.

        They shouldn’t have your number in the first place so why will they care if you tell them that?

    5. Here we go again*

      I have a friend who gives them fake credit card numbers or pretends like they’re going to give him whatever the cost of the merchandise is. So if the cars extended warranty is $200 he says thank you and asks when should he get his check. It’s actually pretty funny. He never swears at them though.

  2. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: If Fergus works for the government then his actions reflect on his employer. They might not like that he doses this on the the taxpayer’s dime or using the taxpayers resources.
    That said whose job would it be to report this, yours, someone else’s, does his boss already know?

    1. EPLawyer*

      This is my thought. Also since he is acting as a lawyer for his nephew that might be a conflict of interest.

      Given his volatility I would not speak to him directly. I can see him weaponizing a polite request for less cursing against OP. I can see him getting even LOUDER just to annoy OP. If you don’t know who his boss is, talk to HR. Because cursing loudly in a government agency is usually a no-no.

      1. pancakes*

        +1. It seems likely he wouldn’t think twice about being verbally abusive to the letter writer. I would contact both his boss and HR by email requesting a meeting about frequently being subjected to his loud and disturbingly angry, abusive phone calls. Since it’s government, there’s probably some information about the reporting structure online.

        Whether or not there’s a conflict of interest in him representing his nephew seems beside the point to me, and not the letter writer’s problem to solve. The most pressing problem for everyone with the misfortune to be within hearing range is that he’s an insufferable, irate bully.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          Since he’s a lawyer, you may or may not want to record him but I’d want to to so HR would know what I was complaining about — to see the LENGTH and VOLUME of the calls as well as the tone of the content, which are disruptive in the office.

          If his temper is this bullying he may treat others this way too if he thinks he can get away with it. Doesn’t he have work to do?

        2. Pickled Limes*

          Also, if any of these calls are coming in on his work line rather than his personal cell phone, HR should know about that. Every government agency I’ve ever worked with has required employees to sign a policy regarding personal use of office resources, and there are penalties for breaking those policies. I imagine tying up a business phone to yell at debt collectors would merit some sort of consequences.

      2. elle*

        In something unrelated a few weeks ago (not here) I asked about lawyers representing family members and a bunch of lawyers jumped down my throat telling me that absolutely was not a conflict of interest and that lawyers represent their family members all the time (in the US). Now, since your username says lawyer, I’m wondering how correct they were?

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          I’m not the commenter you’re responding to, but no it’s not a conflict of interest to represent family members. I’m guessing the commenter meant a conflict of interest between him acting as a lawyer for someone while also doing his current job.

      3. SuperDiva*

        Agreed. And government lawyers usually have rules restricting their practice outside of work. I wonder if Fergus is even permitted to represent clients privately. (Not that this is something for LW to flag, since it’s not really part of the problem. I’m just curious how far Fergus’s bad behavior extends!)

    2. Mockingjay*

      Fergus’s coworkers seated nearby already know he does this and find it funny. While Fergus absolutely should not be entertaining himself on the public’s time and money, this is not OP 1’s fight. Fergus has a boss to monitor his performance. If boss isn’t doing his job or doesn’t care, that’s not anything OP 1 can fix. I concur with Alison’s recommendation to simply ask Fergus to tone it down. This is a temporary situation for OP 1, so hopefully she won’t have to tolerate him for long.

      1. pancakes*

        I disagree. The boss may not have any idea how outlandish Fergus’s behavior is if they’re not seated nearby. That the public is paying his salary is neither here nor there – behaving like this wouldn’t be any better in a privately owned company.

        1. Littorally*


          Plus, does the OP or anyone else who sits near Fergus ever have to be on the phone with others? That kind of thing can often be heard in the background of other calls.

          I had this happen early in my career. A coworker would blow off steam on calls by muting her line and cursing loudly. I sat facing her and my line would pick up her voice! She got fired after she repeatedly refused to stop doing that.

      2. EPLawyer*

        We don’t know the boss tolerates it. It may be a case of “well nobody has complained” and no one complains because they don’t want to put targets on their backs for Fergus to aim at. Or, he’s the missing stair “oh that’s just Fergus” so nobody notices it anymore. It takes someone from outside to come in and go “oh hey wait no this not okay.”

    3. kittymommy*

      I have worked for local (county) government for over ten years, and yes, telemarketers/robocalls are annoying and rather unavoidable, but this level of reaction is way over the top. This is 100% something I would report (and I say this working in a VERY high level admin position) as it reflects incredibly poorly on the office and the government entity as a whole. And truthfully, my entity takes good customer service seriously and would probably get Fergus fired.

    4. Abogado Avocado*

      If Fergus works for the government, then he shouldn’t be taking multiple personal calls for himself or his son on government equipment on government time, nor should he be “negotiating” (or whatever he calls it) with his son’s debt collectors on government time. That’s time theft, it’s a crime, and it’s not acceptable in public service.

      Please note: I’m not talking about the occasional call to or from the plumber who’s repairing your water leak or the call to your kids after school to ensure they haven’t set the house on fire. There’s plenty of case law saying that’s okay. What’s not okay is what Fergus has opted to do here: have his son’s debt collectors call him while he’s at work on the taxpayers’ dime so he can negotiate with those debt collectors. Nor does it matter that he’s a lawyer. I say this as a lawyer in public service: you can’t do personal legal work on government time. Period!

      LW #1, you can handle this by saying to Fergus: “Gee, Fergus, it seems like you’re transacting personal business on county time. You might want to take a break and step outside to do it.” If he blows you off or you think you’ll be drawn into the argument, report him to your county’s waste, fraud and abuse hotline. What he’s doing isn’t okay legally.

  3. I'm just here for the cats*

    I find it concerning that LW3 came back from surgery and the bosses wife’s attitude changed. That just feels really hinky to me.

    1. Kella*

      Yes, I’m curious about whether the boss’s wife’s attitude changed primarily toward OP or just overall. If it was just toward the OP, that might imply some sort of ableism or resentment toward them taking time off. If it was in general, perhaps she found being an assistant manager wasn’t all she thought it would be and became increasingly cranky and controlling upon discovering it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

      1. MangoTango*

        Yes or the wife found a mistake or two (or more) that made her attitude toward OP change. I’ve found some alarming stuff when I’ve covered for coworkers who were out and never acted like that but it could explain it. Or something’s happening in her personal life. Or she’s stressing from covering both jobs. Or she found a resume on OP’s computer while she was out. There are so many things, all speculation, that could be behind it.I would not assume it was retaliation for being out for surgery.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I suppose that’s possible. Although why would the coworker need access to the computer of the person they’re covering for? Surely access to a shared network drive or google docs or whatever would be enough?

          1. Observer*

            True. And if the OP had something on their shared drive? It happens. On the other hand, if stuff is not on shared drives, then there might be good reason for the office manager to access the OP’s computer anyway.

        2. Lexie*

          The LW is a nurse and the boss’s wife is a retired teacher/self proclaimed office manager so it seems highly unlikely she was covering for LW during her leave.

          1. Observer*

            self proclaimed office manager

            I think that this phrase here is part of the problem. It reminds me of the line in Pride and Prejudice where Mrs. Bennet says “Mr. Darcy, as he calls himself.” Like, that’s HIS NAME. And, “office manager: IS actually her role, whether the OP likes it or not. The fact that she probably got her role because she is married to the boss doesn’t change that.

            1. Jo*

              The letter leads us to believe she wasn’t assigned this role or applied and got this role, that she came in and decided this was her role. I wouldn’t respect anyone who did this.

              1. Observer*

                Please. The OP is utterly contemptuous of this person- but the simple fact is that it is highly common for the spouse of a business owner to be their office manager. That doesn’t change the legitimacy of the role. The owner of the business does not need to go through a charade of “appointing” their spouse to the “official” role of office manager for the staff to accept that she is actually the office manager.

                1. Sopranohannah*

                  It’s fairly reasonable to dislike someone who has neither your certifications nor professional experience telling you how to do your job.

                2. pancakes*

                  Of course, Sopranohannah, but the question of whether and how to express that dislike is another matter entirely. Storming out of the office, for example, isn’t necessarily advisable, and isn’t necessarily going to reflect well on the person who does it.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this. Even if the surgery didn’t affect the LW’s ability to do the job at all, it sounds like discrimination on health-related grounds to me. But I’m neither an employment lawyer nor in the US…

      1. MangoTango*

        Not all surgery is for ADA protected conditions. And as I commented above, there are many other possibilities that could explain it. The wife’s behavior also would need to qualify as severe or pervasive and what’s described might not do that. Which doesn’t mean OP can’t or shouldn’t talk to a lawyer if it WAS surgery for a condition that would be ADA protected but Alison is right that hostile workplace needs to be tied to something other than just the wife being mean.

            1. Ismonie*

              No, the condition does not have to be. Being discriminated against for having surgery may still be actionable even if the underlying condition does not constitute a disability, because the surgery itself may cause a temporary disability. That said, apparently the ADA only applies to employers with 15+ employees. Consulting with an employment attorney is recommended, because states may provide broader, or different, protections.

      2. MK*

        It really doesn’t work like that. It’s not enough to have a vague connection between a health issue and changed behaviour from the employer, the OP would have to be now disabled (and for all we know, she just hadbher appendix removed) and the manager treating her so badly it reaches hostile work environment levels because of it.

        1. metadata minion*

          I suspect that this still doesn’t meet that bar, but it’s worth noting that legal-definition harassment can also be based on a perceived quality. If someone is discriminating against or harassing you because they *think* you’re disabled, it doesn’t matter if you’re really not. (Or for a possibly more clear-cut example, if your coworkers keep yelling homophobic slurs at you because they’ve for some reason concluded that you’re gay, it doesn’t make it not harassment if you’re actually straight.)

        2. Observer*

          Well, if FMLA (or local analogues) were involved, it might not make a difference what the condition was. As long as it’s FMLA eligible, retaliation for taking leave, which something like might be considered, could be a problem.

          But there are a lot of other possibilities here.

    3. Certaintroublemaker*

      It seems so extreme that the first thing that came to my mind was that she somehow got it in her head that LW was either flirting with or having an affair with her husband. Obviously something misconstrued, but the level of venom is astonishing. Or maybe she found out this is the person who broke her baby sibling’s heart 20 years ago—something along those lines?

      Still, if she’s shouting loud enough to disturb the patients, it’s completely unprofessional and abusive, even though it’s not legally actionable. Has the boss not heard this shouting yet? He should get the opportunity to fix it, but be ready to job search.

      1. Sopranohannah*

        Doctors can be notoriously bad with money. My first thought was that now that wife has a closer look at the practice she can see that they aren’t as financially secure as she thought. Nursing staff can be a pretty big “cost” to a practice, and I can see the “trying to tell me how to do my job” as a way to get more for their money or make OP quit, so they can hire a cheaper option.

        1. Selena*

          That makes sense: she might have thought LW is just a busboy shoveling patients around and found out LW is actually an expensive proffesional.

    4. pcake*

      Some bad bosses seem to take time off for ANY reason as an affront. I once had a bad boss who considered my medical leave a personal affront, and treated me extremely poorly when I returned. He also called me at home despite my supplying a doctor’s note saying that I needed a month away from work or stress. I know two other people with similar experiences.

      1. CarolynM*

        The day I told my last boss that I needed 2 surgeries to fix my elbow after an accident was the last day she treated me like a human being. I could do no right in her eyes, she was just perma-angry at me.

        In a review (over the phone – she worked remotely) she gave me some criticism that baffled me, so I asked her if she could give me an example of what she was talking about, she said she would be coming up the next day and would show me examples then. Instead, I was called into a meeting with HR and she was laying out the case for firing me! My termination papers were on the desk. But I had been feeling uneasy for a while and had started keeping notes and saving things that I thought might come in handy and I was able to show that the reasons for firing me were fiction – I escaped that meeting with my job, but my boss spent the rest of the day until she left trying to murder me with her eyes.

        Up until the day I told her I needed surgery, we got along so well – we had a lot of weird niche interests in common and were close in age – this was so out of the blue! My coworker was stunned when I still had a job – she saw HR, knew how those meetings went and had already started gathering my personal things! I kept that box mostly packed though – even if she wasn’t going to keep coming for me … which I knew she was, there was no way I could work for her – my time there had an expiration date and the sooner the better.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah. I needed surgery for a life-threatening illness, and only scheduled it once my boss had hired another person with the same role as me, who could cover for me while I was out.
        (He had actually hired this other person thinking that he’d be able to fire me once I’d trained her. Then he found out that refusing to do unpaid overtime was not a fire-able offense and he could actually be ordered to back-pay me for the many hours of overtime I had put in, so he was stuck with both of us.)
        Then the surgery went wrong and I was prescribed the wrong post-surgery drugs, so I took that much longer to recover. The boss rang me up every time I sent in a sick note, asking why I wasn’t coming back to work. I told him the drugs made me drowsy to the point that I couldn’t even read, and found myself watching tacky afternoon TV because I couldn’t concentrate on anything interesting (this was a cultural low point for me!).

        Another time I had the flu and my doctor was away, so I ended up having a doctor come to my place. The boss called me to ask why I hadn’t yet sent in a sick note, and the doctor rang the doorbell just at that moment. She examined me and wrote a sick note for a week, since that’s how long flu takes. Then she remarked that I was very tense, and I explained about my boss. She ripped up the sick note and wrote out another for two weeks, so I could get some respite from the jerk.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is it a thing in teacher culture that you just don’t take sick leave for weeks at a time?

      I can see a whole lot of work norms being different between a school and a medical office. Like, nearly all of them.

      1. reject187*

        Oh yeah. As a teacher, I don’t take sick leave unless I’m throwing up or can’t get out of bed. The effort it takes to prepare for someone to sub for me is so much that I might as well just go in and try to take it as easy as possible, and leave early if I can.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        From watching my mom, teachers don’t take time off from school if they can help it. If she was actually sick (and contagious) she would, but never a vacation or appointment during school hours. A short-term sub is usually just a babysitter. The teacher has to prepare the work for the sub to give to the kids while she is out and the class falls behind while the teacher is out.

        If a surgery was elective or could be delayed a bit, it would be delayed until summer or at least long break.

        But I feel like if this was a planned procedure (and not emergency) then the wife would have been snarky and rude when the LW scheduled it and not waited until after. IDK which was the case, though. And even then a teacher should understand the a nurse can’t wait until school break to take time off for an elective surgery.

        1. Elenna*

          Yeah, my dad is a teacher and he basically never takes time off from school. (He also basically never gets obviously/contagiously sick). But he understands the concept of non-teachers taking time off, obviously, because he has common sense… Surely the boss’s wife has seen her husband take time off?

          1. Person from the Resume*

            I wonder if that’s a red herring and not the cause of the wife’s apparent anger. Something else could have happened in the 2 weeks while the LW was out.

    6. Ismonie*

      I agree. I think LW 3 should absolutely consult with a lawyer. If this is discrimination or harassment based on her recent medical procedure, it is actionable. The timing makes that suspect. (A lawyer, though not giving legal advice.)

    7. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Yeah, I was a little surprised AAM didn’t mention possible FMLA or ADA retaliation- depending on the circumstances and how bad it was, this seems like one case that could actually be not legal.

  4. MyDogIsCalledBradlyPooper*

    LW #2 – Feel free to change your privacy setting and if asked tell you manager that you have issues with a friend using items you have posted inappropriately. It’s 100% true and you have the right to control who has access to your photos. If your manager presses for more info just say that it is upsetting and disappointing, say you do not want to get into specifics and change the subject.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    LW#2 – I’d recommend setting all your posts and pictures to “Friends Except ToxicBoss”. She won’t be able to see anything, but you won’t have to address the landmine of Unfriending her.

    Also, this is a good example of why Friending people from work is often a bad idea. They’re not your Friends. They’re your Co-workers. If they want to connect, use LinkedIn.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, although that boundary can be hard to stick to if everyone else is friending the boss.

      But certainly it’s something to keep in mind when you’re interviewing for your next job, to ask about the company culture and expectations about being friends on social media.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, that would be a pretty odd thing to ask about in an interview, and this isn’t normally something you need to worry that much about ahead of time! Generally you can set boundaries or decline to connect and it’s fine.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, it’s easy enough to set filters on who you share photos and posts with that if you wound up at an office where you felt like you *had* to accept the friend request, they just get the very innocuous pictures of the flower in your backyard, the cool bug you saw on your walk, and darn wouldn’t you know, no actual pictures of you!

        2. SuperDiva*

          My boss friended me on Facebook and I just said, “Oh I don’t connect with anyone from work on there!” She uses FB mainly for work stuff so she’ll tag my colleagues in company posts, but I got no pushback when I declined.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I was going to suggest that solution. My daughter has her kids’ photos set on “look but can’t copy or send to someone else.”

        1. Well...*

          Eyeroll… This isn’t necessarily lack of tech savvy, it could just be that LifeBeforeConora wants there to be an extra layer so someone has to make an effort to copy, and doesn’t assume they have permission to repost based on easy tools provided by the platform.

        1. pancakes*

          Idk about printing, but it’s not going to disable anyone’s ability to take a screenshot.

            1. pancakes*

              That depends on the device, I’d think. Print screen isn’t quite as easy to get to on my iPhone as taking a screenshot is. I can do that by tapping the back of the phone 3x.

            2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              It depends on the Operating System. In Windows and Linux, it will copy the current frame buffer (what you see on the screen) to the clipboard to be pasted into a graphics program (Paint, GIMP, Photoshop, etc). Alt + Printscreen gets just the active window. I haven’t seen PrintScreen go directly to a printer since the early 1990’s.

              It’s been over a decade since I used OSX, so an Apple user would have to confirm its behavior there.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            The print screen button enables you to paste a screenshot into Paint or whatever image program. Then you can just crop it to get the photo you want.

            1. SoloKid*

              And I believe it is standard in Windows 10 to have Ctrl+Shift+S to be a screenshot tool where you can drag over the area to be copied.

    3. Cassidy*

      Echoing this.

      When I first started my current job, I found out that grandboss (who turned out to be a rage-filled, fragile mess who has so very fortunately retired recently) initiated FB friending with employees, which many of my co-workers followed through with, mostly because they were afraid not to, as I found out subsequently.

      As soon as I heard about that, I found her and blocked her so that she couldn’t find me, and did the same with co-workers who initiated friend requests. Work-life balance is our friend.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I would quietly unfriend her (she’s already Restricted) and then block her.

    4. JonBob*

      If you’re willing to go a little bigger, after setting your images to more private, you could put in a copyright claim against those photos of you.

    5. tangerineRose*

      Whatever you do, be careful with the name. Sometimes people can see the names of the groups, and you DON’T want the toxic boss to know how you feel.

  6. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP 1 – that does sound really unsettling. I hate robocalls as much as the next person, and will block numbers, remove myself from lists, etc… but there’s no need to spew vitriol. I am even amused by the people who carry on extended conversations but never actually give them any money (think the comedian James Veitch who responds to ridiculous spam emails)… I wonder if your coworker has maybe an elderly relative who has been preyed on by spam callers and they feel personally victimized by the predatory practices.

    1. Artemesia*

      Ultimately he is savaging low paid workers forced into one of the most unpleasant jobs there is in order to support themselves — being vile to these actual human beings is vile.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        That’s exactly where I stand. Can’t people just get satisfaction from hanging up?

        (That said, I did chuckle the day my husband got a call from someone purporting to be from Microsoft and, as he’s our network admin, started to ask a lot of extremely technical questions to ‘help’ them diagnose the issue, but it was mostly because of the Comic Book Guy-level geekery.)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Well … it depends on the call. If it’s actually a scam (“your computer has a virus and you need to transfer your life savings into this safe account!”) then I consider it a public service to keep them busy for as long as possible so they aren’t free to call someone more vulnerable who might fall for it.

          So I have some sympathy for Fergus wanting to set straight any caller whose practices are illegal – and it sounds like he’s a genuine expert. Yelling and swearing at an individual is gross, but pointing out that someone’s employer is scummy or scammy is defensible.

          But when it’s a legitimate but unwanted call … no. Cold calling wouldn’t be my choice of career but it pays the bills for employer and employee alike, so it shouldn’t shame anyone’s family (!!) or result in eternal damnation (!!!).

          1. MK*

            This person calls the callers vile names, tell them their family would be ashamed of them, they will burn in hell and puts curses on their house. Why exactly do you get “genuine expert who calls out illegal practices” If these practices are indeed violating city statutes, the company might get fined; there is no way it will result in low level employees owing large sums in any sane jurisdiction. This is not an expert using his knowledge to set them straight, this is someone who is using his legal background to spew legal sounding nonsense (that almost certainly have no basis in law) to terrorize low level workers.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Sure – he’s an ass. But it’s possible he’s doing an acceptable thing in a totally unacceptable way.

              1. WellRed*

                I don’t think there’s anything acceptable about doing work for his nephew in company time (and a real lawyer would be negotiating, not ranting). I also suspect a real lawyer wouldn’t be spreading “client” business about publicly.

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              The genuine expert part is regarding the debt collectors after his son. Possibly with vitriol too.

              The initial vitriol/family ashamed part is against robocallers.

          2. pancakes*

            It’s hard to understand why anyone would think it’s preferable to waste their own time chatting with would-be scammers in a futile effort to stop a single one of them from calling others on a single day rather than reporting the call (or pattern of calls) to the FTC and/or the state AG’s office or state consumer protection office. All of these generally make it very easy to report scams online. This is not a problem that can be solved by vigilantism.

            1. SnappinTerrapin*

              The robocallers buy the “do not call list” because they know those are active numbers.

              They use VOIP, with spoofed numbers on Caller ID. Reporting them is a waste of time.

              Either hang up, or get a little satisfaction out of wasting their time.

              I kept some on the line for over 20 minutes once, discussing their “suspension of my social security account.” I asked, among other things, whether that meant my employer would stop deducting payroll taxes. When they said the local sheriff and the US Marshal were listening in several times, I always greeted my local sheriff by first name. (No reply, obviously.)

              When they asked about my IRA contributions, I told them State, Justice and Treasury had cleared up that misunderstanding decades ago, when they discovered that all my relations in Ulster were Protestant.

              By the way, when dealing with scammers, it’s better to give totally worthless misinformation, including a false name and location, if you choose to engage.

              After passing me to a “supervisor,” that individual decided he needed to check something out and get back to me. I reckon he’s still studying on it. Haven’t heard back from them in several months.

          3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            No matter how you feel about abusing robocallers, the dude is doing this on his employer’s time, when he presumably has other duties to which he should be attending (quietly!).

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think that should be the main point rather than the fact that he’s loud and abusive. Many people, even lawyers, take a bit of time for personal calls throughout the day.

            2. Betteauroan*

              Like I said way down below, the guy has a few screws loose. He should not be harassing robocallers on company time unless he’s bored and has no work to do. His boss needs to put a stop to it, because I would be very uncomfortable and upset if I had to listen to him abuse people all day and that’s what he’s doing.

        2. anonymath*

          My spouse has a fairly benign response that gives him satisfaction. When the car warranty people call, he names his favorite 1950s model… and waits… and they actually do usually hang up on him.

          Not my style and I’m sure it’s annoying on the other end, but he’s polite and I like to think he’s imagining himself in this car every time it happens… which is a nice image :)

          1. LavaLamp*

            That’s what my bf does. But he actually owned cars that had non standard vin numbers. One of those places actually asked him if he had something from this decade.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I’m 100% certain that Fergus just gets a thrill from treating powerless people badly. He does nothing to stop the calls, and must be actively encouraging them if he’s getting several every day.

      1. Czhorat*

        Fergus is a bad person. Harming people with less power than you have simply because you’re annoyed is cruel – especially if these aren’t all scam calls but telemarketers cold-calling for legitimate businesses.

        Is cold-calling a good way to do business? No. Am I OK with never buying from them to not encourage it? Absolutely.

        Also, as has been said before, these are low-paid people in a thankless job. They are quite likely being paid based on metrics of how many calls they make and how many sales they close. He’s actively harming their livliehood as well as causing emotional pain.

        Fergus is, and I cannot stress this enough, a terrible human.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        That’s not 100% certain. There are the ‘robocallers’ that are more or less legitimate, and then there are the scammers. Social Security/IRS/cops warning you about something legal happening, the “won a free trip” (you never registered for), some company claiming that Biden signed you up to have your student loans forgiven, your Apple password was compromised, they go on and on.

        One day I got a dozen calls in about an hour where the message tells you about the (several hundred dollars) pending Amazon charge that you need to talk to them to deal with – which will result, if you follow their instructions, in your bank account being emptied, via a combination of social engineering and computer trickery. I unplugged the landline and waited a couple hours for it to pass finally.

          1. Broadway Duchess*

            Agreed. Fergus isn’t doing this as a public safety measure. He gets a perverse joy from berating these people. He’s not looking into legal ways to stop the companies who prey on vulnerable people, he’s going off on some low-level phone rep because it make him feel big.

            1. Lecturer*

              Please explain the legal avenue if they are in a different country? Good luck with that!

              1. Broadway Duchess*

                If Fergus is THIS COMMITTED to stopping phone scams worldwide answer, where is the advocacy? Is he on his elected officials to do something? Does he write letters? Is he trying to stop the activities of the companies who encourage the fraud? Why is there this push to believe this is about anything other than Fergua getting tickle in the belly from yelling at some dude in South Asia?

                1. Lecturer*

                  Fergus is completely unprofessional and management need to tell him to get a grip. However, the conversation has expanded onto cold callers generally and scams. Even the police can’t do anything when it originates from another country. In my case I simply challenged any company who tried to screw me or people I cared about. They all lost. Funnily enough they were not willing to go to court…..

                  The fact of the matter is these places prey on fear and they have no idea what to do when I come along so they simply fold. Many have had to pay compensation to boot. This is the world we live in, scams include sales companies…..

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Even if that’s the case there is absolutely no reason for him to stay on the line and engage with these people in this manner other than, as Cat Tree says, getting a thrill out of it. None. Whether they’re scammers or legit-but-annoying, as soon as you realise you just hang up the phone.

        2. Lecturer*

          I’m being contacted by a robocaller claiming I have not paid tax and I would be arrested unless I contacted them to deal with the debt. I’ve blocked them over 5 times (they simply change their number) and it has been over 4 months. Meanwhile the Royal Mail scam is being advertised in the papers due to the sheer scale of it.

        3. Better be Anon for this one.*

          Seems like the only time I get those calls is when I’m working at an Amazon warehouse. Sometimes on the landline at the security desk.

          But they won’t answer my questions about the “charges” against my nonexistent account. I haven’t figured out the right questions to engage them yet.

      3. Just Another Manic Millie*

        “He does nothing to stop the calls, and must be actively encouraging them if he’s getting several every day.”

        My friends and I are senior citizens, and we get lots and lots of calls every day in which the caller says, “Grandma! I’ve been arrested! Wire me some money! And don’t tell my parents!” I have no idea what I should do to stop the calls (I don’t answer calls on my cell phone from unknown numbers, but my landline doesn’t have Caller ID), and I don’t know why you think that my friends and I are actively encouraging these calls.

        If Fergus is cursing people who call in and say, “Grandpa! I’m in jail!” that really doesn’t bother me.

        1. pancakes*

          Are you sure it wouldn’t bother you if you had to listen to him cursing callers 3 to 4 times a day? Either way, most people don’t want to be subjected to other people’s loud and abusive calls that frequently. It’s not reasonable to suggest they should take it in stride.

          1. Just Another Manic Millie*

            You’re correct that I wasn’t thinking about being present while Fergus was cursing at callers and having to listen to him. What I really objected to was the statement that anyone who received lots of scam calls isn’t doing anything to stop them (because I don’t know what I could do to stop them) and must be actively encouraging such calls (because I don’t know anyone who is actively encouraging “Grandma I’m in jail” calls. I have been on the Do Not Call list for years, not that it has done any good.

      4. Observer*

        and must be actively encouraging them if he’s getting several every day.

        I’m on Team Fergus Is A Jerk. But this is just not true.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      I don’t know James Veitch’s routine, but I have to admit I’ve played with some of those randoms on Facebook who’ve sent me spam messages about alleged offers of money from the government, and just responded to them with absolute nonsense to confuse them. That ended up with them snapping at me in some Nigerian language and ending the conversation.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          One of the many languages spoken there – possibly Yoruba but not certain

          1. Czhorat*

            That’s an odd detail to include, and one which invokes the stereotype of the Nigerian email scammer. That’s not a good thing to do, and it didn’t add anything to the content of your post.

            1. Observer*

              Uh, why is that a problem? That stereotype didn’t come from nowhere. No on is claiming that Nigerians are the only scammers. But Nigeria IS one of the “centers” of this “business”, although with the improvements in robocalling that means you don’t need a human to set up the call or even be the one starting the conversation, more of it is moving back “on shore”.

          2. Broadway Duchess*

            This is one of those times that your bias is showing. It’s unnecessary to include “some Nigerian language” and only provides context for how you think, not the story you wanted to tell.

        2. Lecturer*

          Nigeria is one of the countries who have extremely high rates of con artists. Google it. I’ve seen multiple documentaries stating Nigeria was number 1 for where the con originates from.

          1. Yelm*

            Nigeria doesn’t have “high rates of con artists”. Nigeria is part of the developing world, and has comparatively high tech capability. Some of these scams originated in Nigeria, they occur all over the world, including in the U.S. There is “con artistry” on a micro scale, such as a phone scheme, and then there is con artistry on a macro scale, such as Monsanto, or Nestle, or The School for the Americas.

    4. JJ*

      It’s gotta be so exhausting to be near him, I had a coworker who would get comically angry about small things, curse nonstop (not just using the words but spitting them out, like stubbed-your-toe-super-hard level), literally kick his desk when asked to do something he didn’t want to do, etc. It was truly horrible to be seated near nonstop toxicity (or the anticipation of toxicity in quiet times), OP has my sympathies.

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      No point in abusing the telemarketers.

      On the other hand, the only (marginally) effective deterrent to robocalling is to take up the time of an actual human employed by the telemarketer in a long, rambling conversation.

      Still, that is better done on one’s own time, rather than on the employer’s time.

  7. Np*

    LW5, I had this! I told my managers in a very straightforward manner: “Hi, I’ve got cancer on my thyroid. It’s got an excellent prognosis, so I’m not worried, but I thought I’d give you a heads-up as further treatment may be required.” They were super kind and not nosy at all (although obviously I can’t vouch for other workplaces).

    Also — good luck! I am sure all will go well :)

    1. Rena*

      I wasn’t working yet when I dealt with mine, but trying to tell people, “I’m dealing with cancer, but no really I don’t need that much sympathy it’s the good kind of cancer” was a really wacky experience.

      I really like Np’s wording and I wish I had it when I was going through this. More than a decade later and other than yearly blood draws and a daily pill, my lack of thyroid has barely slowed me down :)

      1. Not the "good" cancer*

        Please, please don’t ever call thyroid cancer the “good cancer” ever again. It downplays the seriousness of the medical issue. While it is generally a fairly easy surgery and treatment compared to other cancers, not everyone has such a great experience.

        Also to the OP, I hope your biopsies come back as negative, but if they don’t, if you have a good relationship with your boos and team, I would share what you are going through. Depending on the prognosis, you might need to take medical leave or just have some flexibility in your work hours. When trying to figure out your medication, you can have side effects that would impact your work, including a foggy brain. Generally you will look “normal” so people might assume you are fine, but internally you aren’t 100%.

        1. tc anon*

          I agree, I had thyroid cancer over 10 years ago, looking at it with the perspective of time it feels like an overall ok experience- I had surgery and radioactive iodine (twice), and since then just take my thyroid hormone every morning and get an ultrasound once a year and life is normal. But at the time I was very stressed and upset and ready to bite the head off of everyone who said it was the ‘good’ cancer. No cancer is good! My choice, personally, would be to not have any cancer, which the framing of having good cancer seems to ignore.

          I was in college at the time so I did end up telling some people (mainly because I needed to get off the meal plan to go on the low iodine diet and couldn’t sleep in my dorm when I was radioative) but I’m very private about my health and probably wouldn’t tell anyone at work now, except to tell my boss that I was taking a week or so off to have surgery. I agree that it feels weird to say you have cancer to people who will immediately jump to chemo etc in their minds when all you have to do is have surgery, I’d rather just not get into it.

        2. Jack Straw*

          No cancer is good cancer. It’s one thing to reframe the conversation to be, “This is the best bad news I could have gotten,” or “I’m incredibly lucky to have X diagnosis/type of cancer because it’s treatable/the survival rate is 97%,” but to call any type of cancer “good” makes me want to be sick.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Here for you #5! Mine wasn’t cancer, but the thyroid had to come out just the same. I’d give the boss a heads up about the neck scar as I got some odd questions about it. One individual (when I was teaching), asked if I had tried to cut my head off, which was highly entertaining because the scar was so tiny. Most people don’t know where the thyroid is or what it does. Silicone bandages are a godsend for healing, btw, and help prevent scarring! The whole process and recovery isn’t bad at all.

      1. SwiftSunrise*

        This is very good to know – my thyroid is going to be coming out in the near future, also not for cancer; my dad had his out in the 70s and his scar is GNARLY – that one really does look like an attempted decapitation!

        1. UKDancer*

          I think the scars have got a lot smaller over time as things like microsurgery have developed since the 70s. One of my exes had his thyroid out and the scar was fairly small. Usually they try and line it up with any creases in the neck to make it less obvious (or at least they did for my ex).

          Bio-Oil (not sure if this is available where you are) is also fantastic for fading scars.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Usually they try and line it up with any creases in the neck to make it less obvious (or at least they did for my ex).

            I have a second or third cousin who had neck surgery; that’s exactly how her scar ended up (intentionally) and it’s a challenge to see it even if you know exactly where to look.

        2. WS*

          I had mine out, half in 1999 and half in 2010, and the scar is long but close to invisible.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            This may need to happen for me someday in the distant future, but it may be the only time in my life I’m ever glad to have a lot of “neck creases.”

        3. metadata minion*

          I had mine out in 2007 and the scar was noticeable at first but now is really just a little white line that mostly hides in the natural folds of my neck. I was actually weirdly disappointed that I didn’t get questions about it, because I had so many joke explanations about dueling ;-)

        4. Coenobita*

          Before her thyroid surgery a couple years ago, my mom joked that she was going to have to pick out some Frankenstein’s monster-style bolts to go with her scar, LOL. But in reality you can’t see the scar at all unless you’re really looking.

        5. Jack Russell Terrier*

          My husband had to have his thyroid whipped out. The scar settled down quite quickly and you don’t see it at all now.

      2. SD*

        I hope the person asking about your potential decapitation was a middle schooler. It sounds like a middle school question, poorly thought out and genuinely curious. Other than that, I have a hard time coming up with who would say such a thing.

    3. Jack Straw*

      This is nearly identical to what I used, but I lead with “I need you to know that I’m okay, but…”

    4. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      You may end up needing flexibility at work if they need to replace hormones post surgery- feeling like you’re getting a cold/fatigue for quite a while your dosage is slowly adjusted-so you may want to say you’re having surgery, just so you can explain you’re experiencing aftereffects/recovery. But use the wording you’re comfortable with!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll reinforce this one. Thyroid replacement hormone requires monitoring to get the levels right over time. And dosage swings can affect your emotions & energy levels noticeably. I chose to disclose an autoimmune condition during early treatment because I was worried about perceptions. I just wanted to be sure my manager knew there were no unprescribed drugs involved.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Same, I told my boss very early on – not all the details, but that it was related to my thyroid and that I might not be feeling well for a bit. I’m glad I did, because the first couple of months were awful. Every day around 3pm I would get a huge headache and could hardly work.

          Turns out my boss’s wife had a similar autoimmune disorder and had gone through a transition period, not quite as bad as mine, but he was very understanding. He was also really understanding when I felt like I needed to switch doctors, so had to go through a whole round of appointments again. Turns out the doctor I had been referred to originally had me on a dosage of medication that was WAY too high, which was causing me to be more sick than I was before I had even gone to a specialist. I’m much better now!

        2. Vina*

          This this this.
          The surgery is fairly straightforward if it hasn’t metasticized, and the radiation is (for most of us) not like chemo, but OH MAN getting the dose right can be a rollercoaster!

          You have cancer, and that’s got a whole domino effect of impacts on your health (mental and physical). If you’re in a healthy working environment, letting them know that you may need more leeway on timelines and time off can be a boon. (My work team gave me a goody bag of silly DVD movies, Low-Iodine Diet treats, and funny magazines for my radiation isolation period).

      2. Chas*

        Yes, I agree that you might need some minor allowances at work. I had thyroid cancer in 2006 during my undergrad degree. My Uni had a very long summer holiday and my mother paid for private treatment, so we were able to get the diagnosis, surgery and recovery all done during the summer holiday, but I then had to have radiation therapy during the winter break, which meant I had to gradually reduce and stop taking my thyroxine during the term leading up to it, and that was exhausting. Fortunately I’d had the forethought to ask if I could change when I did my final year practical project to the term afterwards, and also to leave most of my stuff in my dorm room that year, because I would not have had the energy for it that term!

        Also someone else mentioned about reactions to the scar- I didn’t get a chance to pre-warn anyone at Uni about it, but I don’t think anyone was too shocked about it. It was still noticeable though, so I just made a habit of pointing and saying ‘I had a thyroid cancer removed over the holidays.’ whenever I saw someone I hadn’t seen yet. The only remotely memorable reaction I got to that was one girl whose response was ‘Oh, good! I was thinking you might have tried to kill yourself!’ (Of course, this was almost 15 years ago as well, so surgery techniques might have improved even more by now)

    5. Later Gator*

      Yes, this is a good script! My situation turned out to be cancer and I had my thyroid out completely. My bosses were very kind and sympathetic, especially after I returned to work because my vocal cords were a little damaged during the removal process, thanks to my tenacious tumor. My voice came back completely after a few weeks but I was raspy for a while. It was honestly helpful to me for people to know, and I learned many of my coworkers had thyroid stories, too. It was comforting.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        It’s amazing how many people I know who have had SOMETHING with their thyroid. I was very open with my friends and a few coworkers when I found out about my autoimmune disorder, then 3 more friends had theirs checked out and 2 were diagnosed with the same thing! Misery loves company, I guess… But, in all seriousness, talking about could potentially save someone else, so talk about it! (at your own comfort level)

    6. Hannahnannah*

      Hi OP5! I had my thyroid removed in 2014, along with some unhealthy lymphnodes, due to cancer. I talked to my boss at first, and let him know the prognosis was good but that I needed surgery and would have to play it by ear for treatments after the surgery. Since I had worked with my team for over 10 years and was reasonably close with them, I was open about the surgery and what to expect when I returned from leave. Also, since the scar was going to be in a very visible place, I decided that I was going to have the mindset of not being shy about talking about the surgery. Depending on who asked, I either was very open, or I had a short “oh it’s from neck surgery, but I’m all better now – nothing to worry about” script I used.

      Some tips for recovering:
      1. I did have to advocate for an appropriate-for-me amount of medical leave, by the way. The medical leave insurance company will offer you the tiniest amount of leave possible unless your doctor gives a specific return-to-work date. Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to contact your doctor (and have them update the medical leave paperwork, and confirm the return date with your employer) if you need more recovery time than is initially offered. Just make sure to communicate in advance of your initial return-to-work date.
      2. Also, I highly recommend doing some physical/occupational therapy after your initial healing. You are most likely going to notice that you hold your body/neck a bit differently after the surgery due to discomfort, and therapy will help restore posture and neck strength.
      3. It will take a while to get your artificial thyroid levels straightened out (Synthroid is the most common drug). It took my doctor and me a year to get to a good level, then every so often he has to adjust the dosage based on bloodwork results.

      Best wishes with your treatment! You are in good company with fellow thyroid cancer survivors — I found out it was way more common than I realized. For me, 7 years later, it’s a daily pill, quarterly check-ins with my endocrinologist, and work on my neck posture. Otherwise, “life as usual”.

      1. Hannahnannah*

        I should mention that all of what I shared transpired after 2 biopsies with strong indicators of cancer. If you haven’t had your biopsies yet, I’d treat it like a doctor appointment up until surgery is required.

      2. No thyroid, no problem!*

        I had some issues speaking for a bit afterwards, speech or another therapy would have been useful! I felt fine and could do most of my job without issue, although my voice would get tired fast and was noticeable to others for a while. A heads up that I recently had neck surgery and it was affecting my voice was necessary for some longer meetings. I worked remotely without issue during my radioactive iodine treatment.

        Good luck, OP! And glad you found a good GP, hopefully a good endo for future follow up!

        1. Np*

          I also worked remotely during the iodine treatment!

          Seconding the wishes to you, OP5! Best of luck!

    7. Neeeeewp.*

      I don’t think we should normalize sharing details. I had a male boss ask me point-blank what kind mine was (like, that’s the only thing he asked) and it was super awkward to try and decide whether to be evasive or start talking about my cervix AT WORK.

      1. Np*

        Hi, of course we shouldn’t normalise it! But as people have commented above, I personally (in addition to taking time off) had to spend a lot of time in a bit of a funk as I (a) had to be taken off thyroxine for tests and (b) had to have my dose adjusted. My bosses were amazing and even set up a sofa in a private area where I could nap if I wanted during the work day. I really appreciated that.

        I also don’t advocate calling it the “good cancer” (as some people have already said above), even though the prognosis for some thyroid cancer types is very good, because it does trivialise it. And it was scary, especially at the diagnosis stage!

    8. Violette*

      I had a positive cancer screening and made the mistake of telling my [ex]boss before I could get it biopsied. His kind and compassionate response was, “Please draft a plan for distributing your workload in the event you are out for more than a day, to decrease the impact to the business.”

      Soooo glad that boss and that [global, Fortune 1] company are in my rear-view mirror.

      P.S. I was one of the rare few false-positives. Biopsy turned up no cancer.

    9. A Me Gee*

      I agree with being straightforward with your boss if you have a good relationship. I had to have my thyroid removed last September due to cancer and my process actually moved pretty quickly; I saw the surgeon and then was scheduled the next week for surgery. I was able to tell my boss about the surgery and that I was uncertain how many days off I would need afterwards. I do have the benefit of working from home due to COVID and my tasks were fairly flexible at that time as well. My boss was very supportive, told me to take the time I needed, and even gave me a bonus day off after I said I could start working again. It may also help for your boss to know because chances are, you will need time off for follow up medical appointments.

  8. Duck You*

    OP1: Fergus should be fired for representing his son on the employer’s time. Make a complaint and get rid of him.

    1. Eden*

      That seems like the least of OP’s problems. I’d even say it’s not a problem at all, the abusive language is. Why do you think it warrants firing?

    2. TechWorker*

      This is bizarre. At most employers, taking personal calls is not a fireable offence. You might be asked to do it not in the open office, or off the clock if you’re hourly, or to restrict the number of calls if it gets very high… but answering some calls is just the nature of being a human and needing to interact with businesses or services that generally work the hours you do. I don’t think the fact he’s taking some calls on behalf of his son changes that.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m wondering here how much time he’s actually spending on these calls, I can’t judge from the letter.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Even if they’re very long calls, I’d hope for OP’s sake that their employer doesn’t just fire people for spending too long on the phone without warning them first!

    3. Observer*

      Make a complaint and get rid of him.

      Why is this the OP’s problem?

      In no circumstances would it be appropriate for the OP to try to “get rid of him” for this – it’s NOT their place. And it’s not even their place to “make a complaint”. The exception would be if this were a set up where Fergus’ manager and actual coworkers really had no way to know about this, but the OP did. But these calls are quite public, so it’s not like there is no one with standing to alert management, even if the manager is not around.

      The only thing the OP has standing to address – and they DO have that standing – is the disruption caused by the loud and vitriolic calls.

  9. Commonwealth of Virginia*

    LW #5 – I had thyroid cancer a couple of years ago (and a possible recurrence scare back in January that turned out benign). My suggestion from my experience is that if you did want to share something with your boss, especially at this stage where there’s no clear diagnosis, you could share that it’s a thyroid issue without mentioning cancer. I didn’t have any thyroid hormone issues and it sounds like it might the same for you; however, a lot of people do have thyroid trouble and so this might be something that your boss could easily understand at the correct level of severity — needs to be attended to and is a concerning medical issue, but not life-threatening. My fingers are crossed for you that everything goes well either with a clear biopsy, or with surgery if you do need it.

    1. Eliza*

      That’s what I was thinking as well: “I’m having surgery for a thyroid issue” gives the impression of something serious but not catastrophic, which seems about right.

    2. WS*

      You could say a “thyroid nodule” or a “thyroid issue” without saying cancer, because very likely it’s isn’t cancer. But it is something that needs to be attended to, because if it’s left untreated it can become cancerous, which is what happened to me. The surgery itself is quite draining and can end up with a few days in hospital because there’s a few things they have to watch closely, so don’t underestimate recovery time on that one.

    3. OP #5*

      I actually was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s nearly a decade ago (just had my first sonogram, though…my former endocrinologist has been less than great and my GP was the one who ended up ordering it), so thyroid issues have been a constant part of my life for awhile, and I am pretty open about that, though a lot of people don’t understand the full effects of a flare tbh. I’m dreading any more disruptions from surgery if it comes to it since I’ve heard varying reports of how people respond to the process of getting the right balance of medication after a thyroidectomy and I’m already so freaking exhausted right now. I’ve been having way more flares than is usual for me lately, so any changes make me nervous.

      But I do think just saying thyroid surgery makes sense. I think part of me is wanting people to understand how nervous *I* am, but that’s probably not workplace appropriate unless it’s affecting my performance (which, truthfully, waiting for this dang appointment to get the biopsy done totally is distracting, especially when combined with other stressors I have right now, so it probably is, but I really don’t want to disclose anything right now).

      1. dealing with dragons*

        Hello fellow Hashimoto’s sufferer. I also try to be open about my thyroid issues cause from what I can tell most people think it just makes you tired and gain weight but there’s so much more. There might be something in the water because I’ve been flaring a lot too.

        Maybe something similar, but I had growths on my hymen after giving birth and obviously I didn’t want to discuss that with my manager. So I just said I went to the doctor to get some skin tags biopsied which was close enough to the truth to get across what was happening but not saying I had a partial hymenectomy. So you could not even bring your thyroid into it – just that you need something biopsied but it’s not a serious thing.

      2. Stevesie*

        I had thyroid cancer and a thyroidectomy 2 years ago. While it’s very treatable, there are complications that can arise that you may need more time out for. Some people end up with a small incision with no complications, others, like me, have a large scar and multiple complications.

        I ended up needing further dissection up one side of my neck, so my scar goes all the way across my neck and up one side. What was supposed to be one night of observation ended up being 5 days in the hospital to get my calcium stabilized. And on top of that one of my vocal cords ended up paralyzed, so I sounded very hoarse for months, and I ended up having to switch jobs since I was previously a Trainer that needed to speak for hours at a time (which I could no longer do).

        I had told my work before hand that I would be out for a week, it ended up being longer. While they knew it was cancer, many were shocked by my voice and appearance. They were wonderful and supportive, which I am grateful for. I understand the urge to keep things private, and explaining thyroid cancer can be a chore, but personally it was worth it to me to disclose that so I had that support when I had complications. Good luck to you!

      3. Commonwealth of Virginia*

        Maybe just me, but I think *any* surgery is a big, scary deal (but I know some people are used to it and don’t think so). Something else you could look for – the hospital where I had my surgery has support groups for different types of cancers and I ended up attending the support group for adults with lower-stage cancers for a few months. That could be a good way to connect with others who do understand how nervous you are! I didn’t find out about it until a couple of months after my surgery so I felt a little weird about attending while I didn’t have cancer, but it wasn’t weird at all. I bet there are more options available right now with virtual meetings, too.

      4. MCMonkeybean*

        If that’s something you want I think it’s certainly not *inappropriate* for the workplace. You spend a huge amount of your time there! If you want your boss or coworkers to be aware of something that’s taking up a lot of your mental energy I think that is absolutely okay, even if it isn’t affecting your performance.

  10. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I wonder if OP #3 talked to their boss before it got to the point of walking out. They say the boss’s wife “dubbed herself the ‘office manager’” …but surely the boss was involved in this dubbing. I know that having a conflict with the boss’s wife is a hard thing to bring to the boss, but even the worst case wouldn’t have burned the bridge more than walking out did.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Great point. If the boss was unconcerned then LW was right to leave, but if boss was unaware then maybe a step was skipped.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Especially if patient coverage was still needed. In a previous job, I skipped out of work a half-day early with a colleague* but we’d finished our clinic work for the day. Framing it as a patient complaint – especially if you had a sympathetic patient you could get to boost the signal for you – would go a long way to helping here.

      (*Everyone else in the office except for the small handful of us in a side office space were honored on Employee Appreciation Day; we were ignored and not even told about the festivities or given any of the gifts the other staff got. This is because our administrator was awful and loved setting groups against each other. The rest of them got to go home early so we just followed suit.)

  11. Jack Straw*

    LW4–if there are any bullets for awards, one way to keep them and maintain readability is to have a separate “Professional Awards” section or have “Accomplishments” and “Awards” under the job heading.

    1. No Longer Looking*

      Alternately, if you two agree to keep most or all of the bullets, perhaps see if you can create skill-based sub-headings? “Management – 3 bullets. Teapot QA/RA, 4 bullets. Teapot Engineering, 3 bullets” or the like. The real trouble with that many bullets is, someone who is glancing over the resume will completely glaze over almost everything in the list. If you cannot get a feel for what the resume is presenting in 2-3 seconds of skimming, it is probably too busy.

  12. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW2, you’re doing all the right things to protect your privacy, but the rest of your letter is alarming. You describe your boss boss as volatile to the point where you’re walking on eggshells. The question isn’t, “Am I crazy to think her hunting for old private photos to share is unsettling?” It’s, “Should I stay in a job where I’m afraid my boss will be hostile and retaliate when I try to draw a boundary between personal and professional?” Start looking.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Definitely start looking if you can. Your boss isn’t normal.

      Also, it’s intrusive for bosses to try to friend employees on Facebook or other social networks other than LinkedIn of you aren’t using them for work. In future jobs, you might want to preemptively block your boss (and any other colleagues) on FB. And if they get pushy and say they can’t find you, just say you aren’t on FB, or just say “really? That’s weird….” and hopefully they will forget about it, or that you limit FB to close friends and family and you don’t use it for work, or just direct them to your LinkedIn and say you connect with work colleagues there.

      If you really need the specific job you’re in and not connecting on FB would make you an oddball in your company or department, you could always create a new profile that you use just for your job. Use your work email. Only post work related stuff.

      I’m actually FB friends with a few former colleagues and bosses. But we no longer work together and are genuinely friends. Our friendships evolved over time. It wasn’t forced. But those friendships are the exception, not the rule.

      1. Radio Girl*

        Yes, please consider changing jobs. Your boss is not an honest person.

        Having spent most of my career in communications work, I am especially sensitive to photo attribution. I have a friend who lifts FB photos, posts and text from other people and places and never sources them.

        I’m not talking about ‘’sharing.’’

        I contend this is a clue to her overall integrity, which I know is lacking.

        Get out of there!

      2. Mental Lentil*

        Your boss isn’t normal.

        This is an understatement. I would be looking for a new job.

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

      Yes, and once you’re out or have an exit plan, if she continues to use your property (photos) without consent, especially in business, send a Cease and Desist to the business. It doesn’t have to be from a lawyer, you can make your own or use a template from online. Just because you posted a photo in public doesn’t mean it’s public property.

  13. Jack Straw*

    LW5, I have (what was originally) an easily treated form of cancer. Things to consider:

    Even when I was diagnosed in 2019, there were more ways my work was impacted than the time out for surgery. Follow up appointments, scans (so many scans!), mental health took a dive, exhaustion and distraction at work from juggling everything, etc. People at work knowing what was going on was a help to me vs. them thinking I was a bad employee, but I also trusted my boss and coworkers.

    Also, it ended up not being easily treated. I’m dealing with a recurrence now and missing half days of work 5-6 times a month plus two biopsies and two smaller surgeries all in the past three months. I would’ve felt awkward to tell them after the fact now that I have to tell them to get ADA accommodations.

    If you’re comfortable sharing even the most high level details, it may benefit you to do that. I found that my boss was more understanding and more willing to make (and has to under ADA if you’re in the US) workplace accommodations if they knew what I was dealing with.

    1. CarolynM*

      I agree. It’s not me with the supposedly easily treated cancer, but my partner of 10 years. This won’t kill him, but he has been in constant pain for more than a year. More than once I have had to rush him to the hospital in the middle of the night in the middle of a pandemic. Its going to be ugly for a while until its fine. And it will be fine! But we are stuck so deep in the ugly right now. I am exhausted, physically and mentally – care has been almost impossible to get during the pandemic (he is going to be fine after he gets care so care just keeps getting punted) and since he is sick (pain 24/7 – “easy” to treat but is sucks out loud to have!) all chores and errands fall on me. I wouldn’t have it any other way and it actually feels good, like I am doing something? Like I have some control and agency in this nightmare? I would be a complete mess if I had to just sit on my hands. But damn, I am so tired. And I am not even the one with the cancer!!!

      My boyfriend was furloughed but I was still working – I filled my boss in for my own peace of mind. I was worried about a thousand things, but one of those things was my performance slipping or me seeming “off” and it affecting the job I love and giving the boss I would walk through fire for a bad impression of me. I also wanted him to know so if I had to disconnect completely or work weird hours to get things done, he would know there was a good reason. By being able to say “cancer” when HQ wanted to call everyone back to the office when the numbers were still insane and I was playing pandemic on hard mode to avoid the virus because my boyfriend simply could NOT get it, gave him the card he needed to protect me and keep me working from home so I could protect my boyfriend.

      I don’t scream it from the rooftops or use it as a fun fact when I meet new people … but filling in the people around me has made it easier.

      Good luck – hope your treatments go well and this is all a distant unpleasant memory really soon. <3

  14. allecto*

    Without knowing more about where LW #3 is and the actual status of the boss’s wife (was the she actually an official employee, what were her duties) it’s hard to be sure, but it sounds like LW could have made a case they they were being bullied. The workplace bullying laws in Australia at least address issues such as demeaning behaviour, shouting, ‘cold shoulder’ behaviour etc. Of course, the laws aren’t always much help in practice but LW might have grounds for a bullying complaint (assuming that’s possible in their jurisdiction).

      1. Boop*

        Some states and jurisdictions might have anti-bullying laws, and many employers have anti-bullying policies. It would be a hard road to prove against the boss’s wife, though.

    1. MK*

      Bullying is an overused word, but most relevant laws demand more than someone being mean. The OP mostly characterizes the behaviour rude, which hardly qualifies.

    2. twocents*

      You can sue a workplace in Australia if someone gives you the cold shoulder? Seems a bit much.

      1. UKDancer*

        You can sue for almost anything in theory in most common law jurisdictions. Whether you will be successful of course is a different matter. If it’s anything like the constructive dismissal litigation in the UK, the standard of bullying and mistreatment needed to sue successfully is quite high. You have to be mistreating someone fairly badly for them to be able to win a lawsuit.

        Certainly in the UK most of the time you’d be expected to go through the official policies first. Most companies have a process for tackling bullying and harassment internally. One only tends to litigate if that process is not successful.

      2. pancakes*

        I’m not sure why you jump to suing the workplace – a quick search indicates that there’s a Fair Work Commission Australians can file an application with.

        “ The Fair Work Commission (the Commission) is the national workplace relations tribunal that deals with anti-bullying claims under the Fair Work Act. To find out whether you’re covered by the national anti-bullying laws, visit the Commission’s website [link].

        Not covered by these laws? Each state or territory has a workplace health and safety body that can provide advice and assistance about workplace bullying. For contact information, go to our list of workplace health and safety bodies.”

      3. BonzaSonza*

        We don’t sue so much here, we are more likely to appeal to the fair work ombudsman – an independent mediating with powers to investigate workplace matters and enforce its decision or impose fines.

        Free service, no lawyers, independent mediator. Win/win

      4. allecto*

        No, you don’t sue, but it is grounds for raising a concern and asking for support. You’d need to prove that it’s an ongoing pattern and is affecting your ability to do your job, but it can form part of a bullying complaint. I’m not sure why you jumped straight to “sue the workplace”.

        1. SAS*

          Or jumped to dismiss “cold shoulder” as bullying. We had two workplaces bullies who varied between screaming in your face and icing you out. The latter was by far the worst.

  15. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    Op 1- Oh man, I hate a telemarketer with the heat of a thousand suns, so I can relate to your cube nieghbor (CN). Have you tried getting to know CN a bit, in a friendly co-worker kind of way, and just asking them in a friendly co-worker kind of way to tone it down a bit? Commiserate on the dislike of the intrusive calls, but explain that the vitriol and loudness are distracting and sometimes, quieter tactics can work just as well…Yeah,this may take some time, and may not work, but you get more flies with honey and all that. Plus, it’s on a government/employer phone line and his actions could reflect poorly on him and his employer.
    On the general idea of robocalls and telemarketers, I know these folks are human and only doing a job, but on some level they have to realize that their job is to intrude on other folks lives to try and sell something the receiver didn’t ask for. Cursing, personal attacks and the like shouldn’t be used,as it’s demeaning. But wasting their time, maybe having a bit of fun with them? Yeah…that’s fair game. They waste mine and others time, so turnabout is fair. I’ve blocked numbers and asked to be taken off their call list, but Rachel from card services still calls me at least once a week. How many phone lines does this chick have?! So yeah, if they gonna keep calling after I asked them not to, Ima gonna have some fun at their expense. But cruel and demeaning words shouldn’t be used, because they are humans (maybe?) ont he other end and should get at least the minimum of respect.

    1. London Calling*

      OP1 might also want to point out to her colleague that by responding he’s probably on a sucker list as willing to engage – meaning he’s going to get more and more of these calls and waste more and more time replying to them. Their job is to sell something and they’ll reckon that a) there are more of them than him and b) at some point they’re going to catch him at a weak moment and reel him in. However personally satisfying he finds what he’s doing, at the end of the day to these people he’s a mark to exploit.

      1. Golden*

        This is a pretty good point. My amount of robocalls has gone down dramatically after I started picking up and letting the messages play through without saying anything until they hang up. I read somewhere that it causes the system to think your line is dead and take it off their list.

        1. AutolycusinExile*

          If anyone is interested, the call volume will probably go down even more if you just stop picking up altogether (don’t decline the call either – just let it ring out to your voicemail without interacting at all). What you’re currently doing probably puts you on a list of people who don’t fall for the scams, but picking up lets them know that you’re at least willing to take the call so they’ll keep sending you the automated kind (since they don’t really require any resources on their end – might as well try! /s). If you don’t pick up at all their system will sometimes interpret it as the phone number simply not being in service, which helps cut down on the number of calls even further. It’s not a perfect solution, obviously, but I’ve found that it helped me a fair bit!

          1. London Calling*

            Reverse psychology – doing exactly what they DON’T want you to do. I tried that with a colleague, pointing out that screaming at them to take her off the call list is likely to have precisely the result she’s not aiming for rather than the one she is.

            Had to conclude in the end that screaming down the phone was more satisfying to her than not getting the calls.

          2. Mockingjay*

            I get a lot of robocalls which spoof local numbers. I have to answer because it might be a legitimate business call. I support a large program and I’ll never have all of the numbers saved in my Contact list.

            I just hang up immediately when I get one of these calls. Annoying, but not much I can do about it.

      2. meyer lemon*

        I’d be careful framing it this way. One element of human psychology that scammers really thrive on is our unwillingness to see ourselves as the kind of person who falls for a scam. This sense of denial is part of what propels people deeper and deeper into the scam until the damages are great enough that they can’t deny it anymore.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I have always had the impression that if you answer and talk, you’re more likely to be called again, regardless of what you say.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yikes. Why would OP want to be friends (or fake friends?) with someone who is comfortable with bullying strangers?

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        To maybe get them to stop yelling and bullying the callers and let there be peace? They don’t have to be BFFs or anything.
        This is gonna sound bad, but sometimes telemarketers need to be spanked with a wet noodle. How many times do they call back when you tell them to stop calling? And some are just straight up scammers that’ll step on their own mother to swipe a dollar from an old lady. I don’t have much sympathy for them.

    4. Joan Rivers*

      Do you use the same rationale to scream and curse about your ex at work? You could rationalize wasting time and bothering coworkers at work complaining about your ex too, or any other person you’re upset with.

  16. Chloe*

    “The term refers to conduct that’s based on race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.”

    And also orientation & gender identity as of June 2020, no?

    1. Here we go again*

      I wish violence and threats of violence from employees and coworkers would qualify in the US as a hostile workplace.

      1. pancakes*

        Violence and threats of violence can qualify as assault depending on the circumstances, among other charges. It’s not as if we have no legal framework for dealing with violence or threats of violence.

  17. SheriffFatman*

    LW1: berating cold-callers rather than just hanging up is unnecessarily jerky, but this —

    > Recently, he started representing his son who is being contacted by debt collectors. So now the debt collectors are also calling Fergus. Fergus is a lawyer and will cite state statutes to the debt collectors and inform them that their violations will result in them personally owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state. He’ll threaten to get them fired and also berate them for their choice of professions.

    His choice of venue and volume aside, good for Fergus.

      1. SheriffFatman*

        Fair enough, I retract that part. Firmly pointing out the law is one thing, being an offensive jerk about it something else.

    1. MK*

      What exactly is good about about making (probably baseless) legal threats and being a bully?

      1. SheriffFatman*

        If they are baseless, nothing, but I’m hoping (perhaps naively) that a lawyer would know the law and wouldn’t deliberately misrepresent it.

        And you’re right, no need to be horrible about it.

        1. SheriffFatman*

          That is, no need for *Fergus* to be horrible about it; I wasn’t suggesting that you were being horrible in making your point.

        2. MK*

          I doubt someone who invokes magic against telemarketers would balk at misinterpreting or misrepresenting the law. I am a lawyer and, though I can’t say what the law is in their region, his threats sound baseless to me.

          1. Delta Delta*

            They sound baseless to me, too. It also struck me that depending on how threatening it gets it might teeter on the edge of unethical.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, in my jurisdiction, this type of behavior could potentially be seen as misconduct – specially if he is misrepresenting the law even to a third party who is not his client – there are general rules about behaving with integrity and about not misleading the court or others. Not to mention you can be disciplined if you act in ways likely to bring the profession into disrepute, which abusive behavior could do.

              If I were Fergus’s employer I’d also be concerned about whether his taking the calls at work, and holding himself out as representing his son – his behavior at the every least reflects badly on his employer and might potentially leave his employer liable if anything he does is actionable (local laws will vary, of course)

              OP, is there any kind of organisation structure you ca use to find out who Fergus’s boss is? Or could you flag it with HR?

            2. Yelm*

              It’s definitely unethical, because it’s unkind and unmerciful. The dialectical framing of applied ethics asks whether a particular action is kind or unkind, fair or unfair, honest or dishonest, just or unjust, and merciful or unmerciful. One one box need be checked.

          2. WellRed*

            Thank you! He sounds unprofessional and nasty, possibly unstable. Not sure why people are excusing and in some cases applauding this guy.

          3. SheriffFatman*

            I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll defer to your expertise, but I was under the impression that the US had strict federal laws on who debt collectors call and how often, and that there were harsh penalties for breaking those.

            But I guess there’s no evidence that these debt collectors weren’t sticking to those laws.

            1. pancakes*

              There are strict laws on who and how often debt collectors can contact, but it doesn’t follow that the best way to enforce those laws is to repeatedly holler at debt collectors about their personal liability or their afterlife.

                1. pancakes*

                  Fairness doesn’t really have anything to do with it! There’s no shortage of information on how to report scam calls to regulators. Quite a few commenters here would benefit from looking into it.

          4. nonegiven*

            If he is talking to a telemarketer from another culture, putting a curse on them might be about the same as calling a local an SOB.

            1. pancakes*

              Because people from cultures other than your own practice primitive forms of witchcraft? Good grief.

      2. Data Analyst*

        Right?! And the people he’s citing laws to most likely don’t know whether he’s right or wrong about them, and even if he’s right there’s still nothing they can do about it, they’re just doing their job for a possibly shady enterprise, and it’s probably a terrible job that they hate. So what’s the point?

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I disagree – to me Fergus sounds like an asshole with a remarkable talent for wasting his own time. He’s having three or four drawn-out vitriolic exchanges with these people A DAY? Just stop answering the damn phone! I sincerely doubt that anything he’s saying is any more than legal-sounding waffle (why would the schmuck on the phone be personally liable for tens of thousands of dollars?) so it’s really nothing more than some dude getting off on the opportunity to verbally abuse people who can’t do anything about it. Not admirable and not very clever.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Agreed. This is cutting of your nose to spite your face. If you have a problem with debt collection (I do) there are a number of productive ways to deal with that. This is not one of them. It takes up his time and offers nothing of value.

    3. KoolMan*

      Are you a bully in real life ? You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. Never hurts to be respectful of others.

      1. SheriffFatman*

        > Are you a bully in real life ? You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. Never hurts to be respectful of others.

        I hope not, and I take your point.

        I’ve heard a number of horrible stories of unethical debt collectors breaking regulations and hounding people, and that clouded my judgement. But (a) there is no evidence that these collectors were acting like that, and (b) even if they were, the correct response would be to cite the law and hang up, not gleefully harangue them, as Alison pointed out further up.

        Apologies to all on this thread.

    4. pcake*

      I just say in a very pleasant but firm tone “No, thank you” and hang up. The calls aren’t the fault of those poor, underpaid callers.

      1. Wisteria*

        Those poor underpaid callers are themselves bullies who break the laws of their own industry and make threats to intimidate the people they are calling.

  18. JM in England*

    Re #3

    In the UK, the OP could have a possible case for constructive dismissal ie the employer makes working conditions so intolerable that the target has no choice but to leave.

    1. Apples*

      I was about to comment this. Constructive dismissal is where you are “forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer’s conduct”, including when coworkers/bosses “harass or bully you” to the point where you have to leave. It blows my mind that the US doesn’t have this, meaning someone in a position of authority over you (your boss) can be as unpleasant as they like and you can’t do anything about it!

      1. JM in England*

        I completely agree.

        For one of the most powerful and developed nations on Earth, the US are amongst the worst regarding employment rights.

      2. metadata minion*

        I’m not a lawyer, but some looking at legal-aid sites seems to indicate that we do have constructive dismissal in the US as well. Was I misunderstanding what I saw?

        1. EPLawyer*

          We do but its not this. My boss’ wife was mean to me does not qualify.

          Constructive dismissal is we would put in the basement far away from everyone else and gave you no work to do but expected you to show up every day. AND we took your red swingline stapler.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Random question… (and may not be particularly relevant and I’m mostly musing out loud at this point) Would this be considered constructive dismissal?

            If all of your work was taken away, you were moved to the basement, and your stapler was removed. You could still do your job of showing up every day and doing nothing because well you have nothing to do.

            Now if all was true except that your work wasn’t taken away and your job was to staple things, then it would be constructive dismissal because they only way for you to perform that work has been withheld.

            The most common form we see is when a retail store doesn’t fire an employee but the no longer put them on the schedule, there is no way for the employee to actually perform any work.

            While I was writing this, I appeared to have answered my own question…

        2. doreen*

          Constructive dismissal basically means that a resignation is treated as if you were terminated. And what that means is “constructive dismissal” only matters in a few circumstances. For example, you are typically not entitled to unemployment if you resign – but you will be eligible if it was determined to be a result of constructive dismissal. It matters if the constructive dismissal violated an employment law- for example, if they treated you so badly that you quit in retaliation for filing a worker’s comp claim. But if they treated you badly just because the boss doesn’t like you and you aren’t applying for unemployment ( say because you got a new job quickly) , the fact that you quit in response to being treated poorly won’t matter.

    2. GingerHR*

      It’s a very high bar for constructive unfair dismissal. More CD cases fail than succeed. It’s not so much that you are forced to leave, it’s that your employer has behaved in such as way that they have effectively nullified the employment contract you and dismissed you by their actions.
      It’s still an unpleasant and unprofessional way to deal with someone.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Probably not – Constructive Dismissal is pretty hard to claim, successfully, and except in the most egregious cases you normally have to show that you have tried to address things using the employers grievance process etc first.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, you need to show that your employer made it impossible for you to do your job and beat you with a broom handle regularly. It’s not enough that your employer was a bit unpleasant. Also Bagpuss is right that you need to show you’ve used the proper processes to resolve the matter.

        1. A*

          True, a few instances of shouting would not win a claim, but it sounds like LW walked out once rather than fully quit – in which case it would be a good time to start logging evidence about the boss obstructing her work (in material terms rather than about rudeness, e.g. making it difficult for LW to work with patients by shouting at her in front of them) and finding out what the process forward is. But it seems like there is no point of doing so in the US.

  19. Holy Carp*

    #1 A few days ago I read that a scientific study done over the course of a year showed that whether or not you answered a robocall made NO difference in the likelihood of getting more robocalls. Phone numbers with non-answered robocalls continued to receive the same amount of robocalls as phone numbers where the calls were answered.
    That said, how is it that an attorney thinks it’s professional behavior to harangue robocallers at work ?

    1. London Calling*

      Interesting. I rarely or never answer robocalls (I let them go to VM) and I rarely or never get them.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Same here. Rarely answer, virtually never get them.

        I’m surprised to hear that this guy is getting them multiple times a day and his tendency to respond and rack up minutes isn’t impacting that.

        1. Lynn*

          I don’t answer unknown numbers on either my landline or on my cell phone, and I get at least 3 or 4 calls per day (it seems to come in waves-right now we are on the higher end and am getting 6-8 calls per day). My work line, which I do have to answer as it might be someone from a client’s office who I don’t know yet, gets very few for some reason. I might get 1 or 2 a week on that line. So it doesn’t seem to be tied to whether or not I answer the phone when I get a telemarketing/scam/robo call.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I doubt that makes a difference. If you end the call after one/a few rings, they know that’s an active phone line. If it goes to VM, it’s an active phone line.

        I don’t know that there’s a way to fake a disconnected phone line/inactive number which usually has an automated message “the number you have dialed is not in service.”

    2. Cat Tree*

      If you ask them to stop calling the number, they usually will (because they are legally required to). Fergus hasn’t done that because he doesn’t want them to stop calling. He likes treating people this way and/or likes eating up large chunks of his workday getting paid but not actually working.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        There are legit calls, and then there are scammers. The latter won’t care.

        I’m also pretty sure that business numbers do not have the same ability to request that a telemarketer go away (legitimate attempts to conduct business), so any legit telemarketers may be unaffected as well.

        1. Cat Tree*

          There are scammers, but not enough to call several times per day. Pointing out the scammers is a red herring. He might not be able to stop 100% of the calls using this method, but he could drastically reduce them by simply making this request.

          He gets off on yelling at powerless people and doesn’t want the calls to stop.

          1. Windchime*

            Plus, some people in the office seem to find it amusing and they chuckle along when he does it. I think he is a jerk who is doing it for the attention.

      2. university admin*

        I have asked multiple times to be taken off the list of numbers to call from some pharmacy (I don’t remember whether they call themselves U.S. Pharmacy or American Pharmacy; the call center is clearly located in India) that I have never used. They have never complied, nor can I ever get connected to a manager. (I inherited the number from someone who clearly did purchase from them, but that was years ago.) The numbers used are from the same area code as my no-longer-young mother, so I tend to pick up lest I miss a call about something dire. I can’t win.

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          This is my situation as well. Rachel from card services, a dire warning that the warranty is about to expire on my (non-existent) car, and one stating that I “may” be eligible to win a cruise that starts off with the sound of a foghorn are the top calls I get. All start off with a prerecorded message, and all state that “To be removed from our call list, please press 2.” So I press 2, plus block the number. A couple days later, guess what? Good ol Rachel is at it again wanting to help me out with my (non existant) credit card debt, only from a different number. They.will.not.stop. So now I press 1 to talk to a representative, and I string the along and waste as much time as I can. They don’t respect my request to not be bothered by them, so don’t respect their time doing their job. And don’t get me started on the dept collectors who call looking for someone with the same initials as me and/or my wife, and just can’t believe they have the wrong number/person…So they call at all hours, several times day and night. So no,those kinds of calls I do not and will not respect, and I will be as mean as I can untill they give up.

    3. AutolycusinExile*

      Fascinating! I have very contradictory anec-data, so I’d be curious to read the study and find out what the terms were! My parents and I have the same phone service and same area code, and the companies/jerks that sell your info that we give our numbers out to are nearly all the same, so while it’s hardly an exact science I’d assume that the three of us should get similar rates of calls if all else was equal. We don’t – my dad gets significantly more – and the only major difference between us all that I can think of is that he picks up to hang up on them while my mom and I just let it ring out. Hardly a statistically significant study, of course, but enough to make me curious! My assumption was that the improvement was probably gradual over the span of years (they’ll probably call for a good long while before deciding to stop bothering, given that it costs them virtually nothing to do an automated recording) so I would love to know more about the research being done to see what conditions it’s relevant in. If anyone has a link or a name of a study to look up, please let us know!

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Any chance you can link the study? That has not been my experience, though of course we all know experiences aren’t universal.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        Not Holy Carp, but I believe this is the study they were talking about. It’s called ““Who’s Calling? Characterizing Robocalls through Audio and Metadata Analysis”.

        Presented at USENIX Security Symposium by Sathvik Prasad, Elijah Bouma-Sims, Athishay Kiran Mylappan and Bradley Reaves, North Carolina State University.

        NC State news link to follow.

    5. pretzelgirl*

      This is interesting to me, bc it does not apply to me at all. I went through a period about 2 years ago where I was getting almost 10 calls a day. I never answered. Sometimes I would get a call from a number like 555-1234 and then immediately after 555-1235. It got to the point where I was considering changing my number. A number I have had since 2003.

      The only thing that has helped me is the block number feature on my iphone.

  20. DoomCarrot*

    You have my sympathy, #4!

    If she’s anything like my mother, she will be *very* resistant to actually taking advice from her offspring, especially on matters she once advised them on when they were looking for their first jobs.

    Mine complains about age discrimination when she doesn’t get hired but insists on putting her elementary school (!) on it so “people will know I’m local”.

    I’ve found it’s better to link her to other sources than to try to advise her myself.

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

    OP1: is there an equivalent law to the one we have in the UK about “malicious communications”? If he’s a lawyer he ought to know this… As I understand it it’s illegal to make these type of threats over the phone – and doing this on his own, and his son’s, behalf on government (= taxpayer) time!

    If you have an HR department that would probably be a way to get Fergus’ vitriol shut down sharpish.

  22. WS*

    #3 – depending what she was instructing you to do or not do, you may also be able to talk to the nurses’ union or nursing board for guidance, as she shouldn’t be interfering in your nursing practice or taking on the role of a nurse without appropriate qualifications.

  23. Meg*

    With regard to a hostile workplace is what the woman doing not considered a form of workplace bullying? Workplace bullying is illegal in my country (Australia) at a Federal level and is taken very seriously. That woman would find herself in some serious hot water here if she was reported to an outside agency.

    I did some research and it seems in America you don’t have that protection which I find quite sad. No one deserves to to be bullied or made to feel uncomfortable or have to work in a hostile workplace.

    1. Jane*

      I am also Australian and based on the details in the letter, it doesn’t sound like this would count as bullying. Being rude isn’t enough to qualify as bullying.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I don’t think we have enough info from the letter to tell one way or the other. Being rude and “short,” telling OP how to do their job, yelling once — this could be a bully, or it could someone who doesn’t say please and thank you enough, is genuinely trying to correct mistakes OP’s making, and yes, yelled once which isn’t good.

    3. Ismonie*

      Right now, nationwide, we don’t have it. I’m not entirely up to date, so some states may.

  24. JohannaCabal*

    Regarding LW#1, this reminds me of how 10-15 years ago it became a thing to abuse workers at Indian call centers (including a notorious case involving some radio hosts on-air).

    Not cool to abuse workers on the phone. It’s easier to hang up. As far as debt collectors, there are ways to deal with harassment while not abusing the person on the other line.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I hate robocalls too, but think of that poor person who just needs a job to survive. It’s not like they enjoy this crappy job and it’s not personal.

      Bill collectors CAN be a whole different story though! Some of them are indeed predatory and threatening, so Fergus might be justified depending on the situation.

      But either way, OP shouldn’t have to listen to this diatribe all day long. Speak up! Ask Fergus to take the personal calls elsewhere or more quietly.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I mean, the guy on that lastest Mark Rober glitterbomb video who told the little old lady that he would get fired for an “error” (that he did on purpose) and that his wife and kids would starve maybe actually had a wife and kids. But he was also trying to convince a credulous person to send him thousands of dollars in cash through the US mail. Makes my blood boil.

        Yes, there are real people on the other end of the line. Who are trying to cheat other totally genuine people out of large sums of money.

        I understand decent jobs are a bit thin on the ground in the countries where these scam centers get set up. That doesn’t excuse outright theft as a career.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, they shouldn’t be berated or abused, but it’s OK to not have much sympathy for people who willingly and knowingly take an unethical job praying on vulnerable people. That’s a choice that they are responsible for making. Telling them that they should be ashamed of themselves is the only thing that coworker is doing here that would seem to be just fine. He is correct, they should be ashamed of what they’re doing.

          1. Minerva*

            Yeah, I have got a torrent of profanity for playing dumb for a couple minutes then saying I know that Microsoft doesn’t call random people about their computer viruses, more than once. It’s a scam. It’s illegal. I would say it’s less ethical than pickpocketing to survive.

            Even debt collection calls illegally badger people to collect dubious debts all the time.

            Being poor doesn’t mean it’s not a bad thing to scam mostly other poor people out of their money.

        2. Distracted Librarian*

          Yeah, I’m having a hard time understanding the, “pity the poor, desperate scammer” argument. I agree Fergus shouldn’t be doing this at work (and for the record, I just hang up on robocallers), but I’m not going to judge someone who goes off on them. They are crooks who con innocent people.

  25. Delta Delta*

    “ Fergus is a lawyer and will cite state statutes to the debt collectors and inform them that their violations will result in them personally owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state.”

    As a lawyer, it stands out to me that this might run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct. If Fergus is actually a licensed lawyer, he’s subject to certain ethical rules, one of which includes not doing things like this. If polite requests to get him to stop fail, perhaps a complaint to his licensing authority will shut him up. He probably wouldn’t lose his law license over this but it may chill him out a little bit. But talk to him first.

  26. EvilQueenRegina*

    Fergus put a curse on someone’s house? How have we got this far down the thread without anyone suggesting introducing him to, or wondering if he knows, that woman who put curses on her coworkers?

  27. FashionablyEvil*

    I don’t quite understand the level of understanding/empathy for Fergus or #3. If I were Fergus’s boss I would want to know that he was spending a decent amount of time every day (on the clock!) verbally abusing telemarketers. Speaks to a pretty significant lack of judgement, IMO.
    Re #3: I don’t see anything to suggest that the LW attempted to address the situation? Just walked off the job? Again, I don’t think the other party is in the right, but this also isn’t a great way to deal with things.

    1. ecnaseener*

      #3 is a very short letter. I hope the LW can give us some more detail about whether they tried to address the situation before walking off, and also what exactly the rude and nitpicky behavior entailed.

    2. Ellen Ripley*

      I agree re 3. OP is a nurse and presumably responsible for patient care. Your boss’s wife, recently made office manager, was rude to you and you didn’t like it, so you walked out leaving the practice short handed without notice?! Use your words! Advocate for yourself when appropriate while focusing on your actual job. Maybe the situation would have turned out to be unsalvageable, or maybe there was just a miscommunication. Either way, walking out seems like an overreaction that reminds me of middle schoolers.

  28. London Calling*

    OP5 – just FYI, 20% of the population have nodules on their thyroid and they are benign, but biopsy will confirm one way or another. Once mine was established as benign I didn’t even have to have treatment. Fingers crossed for you.

    I have a cancer that is treated by oral chemo. I told my manager as I have to have regular check ups with the oncologist, so she’d know that every couple of months I’d be in late. Apart from that, I didn’t tell anyone but one colleague.

    1. OP #5*

      Oh, I know most nodules are benign. I have three nodules of note and only one that needs to be biopsied right now (one may need it if it grows, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it). My entire family is rife with thyroid issues and I’ve had Hashimoto’s for nearly a decade. But, in that time, my endocrinologist never ordered a sonogram despite what I now know were clear indications that he should have done so; it took a new GP to do it. So I have no idea how long these things have been there, how fast they’re growing, etc. Plus, my younger cousin who also has Hashimoto’s had thyroid cancer a couple of years ago, so I think it’s just in the back of my mind. It doesn’t help that, by the time I can actually get an FNA done, I’ll have been waiting for an appointment for like six weeks.

      My main concern with work is just communicating the appropriate level of concern. Whether or not cancer is an issue, I may still have to have surgery and it’s hard to communicate just how much thyroid disruptions affect people to someone who doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of them. Like, I don’t want people to worry but also would like a certain level of understanding, you know?

  29. NerdyKris*

    I think calling them robocallers in letter 1 is masking what’s actually happening. This is a coworker verbally abusing people in the office. It doesn’t matter what they did or whether they deserve it.

    This is no different than him abusing any other visitor to the office in terms of people overhearing it, even though it’s on the phone. People that hear him out of context, even though that context doesn’t really make it better, are going to be afraid of him yelling at them if they approach him. It’s going to affect his work relationships almost the same as if he’s screaming at coworkers, and should be treated the same.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Exactly. People used to cold call in office buildings or industrial parks – maybe they still do. They asked to speak to Whoever Is In Charge Of Buying What I’m Selling, and left a business card or brochure when that person was not available. The reception desks at my employers were instructed to never provide names or contact info, take the material offered, to always be polite but firm.

      Maybe it was a clumsy way to prospect, but the person was just trying to make a living. ‘No, thank you,’ is all you need to say, either in person or on an uninvited call.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The robocallers are usually scammers, for what that’s worth. Not legitimate telemarketers. (Still don’t abuse them ofc – the grunt workers aren’t happy about having to scam people for a living.)

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          No argument about that, but the discussion isn’t about the legitimacy of the call or solicitation.

          My point was that it’s not a good idea for actual people to get a bad dose of Fergus, whether it’s the caller or the people who have to hear his diatribes. I’ll argue that it’s best to be pleasant even with scammers, especially when people can hear your side of the call.

    2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*


      I’m legitimately shocked at how many people are trying to argue in favor of Fergus or are rules lawyering when or how his behavior would be acceptable–that kind of behavior is unacceptable in a professional environment, period. WTH, people?

  30. FindanewphonenumberTom*

    Oh I do love the calls I get on my desk phone at work… “Tom UnpronounceableLastName” likes to use my work number for things like loan application websites. About every two years I’ll start getting a slew of phone calls from lending companies about his loan application. Not unsurprisingly, I also get a fair number of debt collector calls for Tom.

    The lending companies and the debt collectors have always been pleasant and understanding when I explain they are calling a business phone #, Tom’s MO, and ask them to remove the phone number from their system. Even the debt collectors stop when I tell them it’s a dead end and their time will be better spent following up different leads. I do clue in the lending companies that I also get the debt collector calls, so they may not want to spend a lot of time tracking down Tom to lend him money, they usually laugh at that point.

    I have no problems with wasting scammers time, and once had 1/2 hour/45 min call (This was not on work time, but if I was having a slow day I probably wouldn’t feel too bad about spending the time with them, I’d just call it a lunch break) with some nice men who were very concerned about my computer virus. They were unfortunately not able to help me after the virus caused my computer to start on fire and didn’t have the phone number to the fire brigade to offer me.

    I have actually pulled out a “shame on you” to the guys who are collecting on behalf of my local police and fire union (Spoiler Alert: These unions do not in fact raise money by telephone calls) I’m going to start using my neighbor’s tactic with them… he just explains he already donated, but has a friend who would also like to donate if they could just give them a call they’d be happy to give money. He then proceeds to give them the administrative number to our local police department.

    1. NerdyKris*

      “Tom UnpronounceableLastName”

      Please don’t do that. Normalizing it as an insult when it’s someone that you think deserves it normalizes it as appropriate with everyone. People with names from different countries already have to deal with a lot of crap and people refusing to pronounce their names, and when they see people say things like that it tells them that you wouldn’t think twice of saying the same thing to them if they crossed you.

      1. FindanewphonenumberTom*

        No, it’s the fact that nobody who has called for him on my desk phone can pronounce his name (and this has been going on for 10 years or so). Which is very common with, what I’m assuming based on the attempts is, a regional ancestry population that unless you are very familiar with is hard for anyone to pronounce. In case you want more information this regional ancestry population is predominately white.

        And yes, I have actually told people face to face “I’m sorry, can I ask you how to pronounce your last name” when it has come up in person so that I can learn how to say it properly. Sometimes a mispronounced name is just that and not an institutional micro-aggression.

        1. NerdyKris*

          I don’t think “this person is part of a minority group” is the defense that you think it is.

          But also this is a perfect example of what I was talking about in my other comment. I assumed you were making fun of an Indian person’s name. If someone doesn’t know who Tom is, they might think you’re making a racist joke.

          1. Better be Anon for this one.*

            Well, that’s what happens when you make assumptions.

            We all fall prey to stereotypical thinking, at some point or another.

            For my part, several stereotypes came to mind when I read about Tom.

            The point is, someone with (or seeking) a business relationship with Tom called the wrong number, couldn’t get his name right, and would likely have offended him, if they had been able to reach him. The likelihood that Tom was a scammer is another point to the story.

            The nonexistent microagression in the comment above is beside either of those points.

  31. Thyroid-free Thelma*

    #5 OP, I went through the same situation! I didn’t tell anyone at work until I completed the biopsy and decided to go ahead with surgery (mine was benign but huge, so removal was still necessary). That was mostly because I needed a week off of work to recover and because the thyroidectomy incision is pretty darn noticeable (I wore a fashionable scarf to work to cover it up though).

    It took months to get an answer in my case, and I really feel for you. I was so worried that I couldn’t eat or sleep. Please remember to take care of yourself, spend time with family, get outside, and do the things you love. Positive distractions make a huge difference in your stress level. I’m rooting for you. <3

  32. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I’ve been reviewing resumes for stage two interviews and the ones that have gobs of bullet points all sound the same. I’d strongly recommend using 3 or 4 bullet points because it is difficult to make #5 and #6 sound like something unique and interesting. I’m sure those accomplishments seem different to the candidate, but to me, they read like the same thing over and over.
    If mom was a VP of Marketing for 10 years, then there would be many exciting accomplishments worth mentioning. But this experience had forced me to go back to my own resume and parse it down. What was once a thrilling project now sounds like “blah blah blah project, blah blah blah completed” next to my other accomplishments.
    I’ll also note that the longer resumes seem to have a more disorganized presentation. I can tell that the candidate has been stacking on the most recent jobs without reviewing the whole document to make sure there is consistency. The more there is to review, the less we want to review it, and the more chances there will be typos and errors.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      What I’ve done that seems to work well is to put together a “master resume” with all the things I think are notable about what I’ve done in my past jobs I don’t keep count and when I do another cool thing I add it in to the master template. Then, when I pick a job to apply for, I go through that master list and delete the ones that aren’t as applicable to the job I’m applying for and get it down to 3-5 that REALLY matter. That way I can cater the resume to things that are interesting and applicable to the person who will be reading it.

      Having the Master Copy that I edit just saves a lot of time and helps me not forget something that would apply in one place or another.

  33. Observer*

    #1 – Two things.

    Firstly I’ve seen a LOT of talk encouraging the kind of behavior that Fergus engages in (including in the comments here.) THANK YOU for pointing out how disruptive it can be. And thanks to Alison for noting that it seems like a pretty negative way to go through life.

    Secondly, and more pragmatically – Do NOT get into a discussion with Fergus. This is not a referendum on Fergus’ character, the ethics of telemarketing or anything like. This is a simple request to avoid the distraction of these loud conversations that also happen to be using a lot of very negative language. Just like you would ask him to move his very loud conversations with his plumber or doctor out of earshot if they were happening multiple times a day.

    1. GreenDoor*

      I agree tht there’s no point in starting a referendum on Fergus’s character – out loud with him. Focus on the work environment distractions it’s causing.

      But I do have to say I find it ironic that he likes to berate these callers for their choice of profession when he, himself is both a) a laywer and b) a public servant – two professions that are not often held in high esteem. Is he trying to prove something to himself here? On county taxpayer time? How sad….

  34. Anne Hedonia*

    OP#4: recommend that your mom keep the 10-12 bullet points in the draft resume and remove 1/2 of each of the bullet points (or down to a single page resume) for each job, leaving the ones that are most relevant to that job. Hooray for tailoring and concision!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I think this is the best approach.

      I also like the idea of force ranking the accomplishments (from a previous comment) and it’s even more effective if done for each position applied for. Not only will it help tailor the resume, it will help for the interviewing. The OP’s mum could then use that tailored resume along with the job description/information to prep right before the interview.

  35. MCMonkeybean*

    #5 — You definitely never need to share that kind of medical information, but I am generally a fan of sharing the basics with my boss in case something comes up suddenly so they already have the context if I need to unexpectedly call out or something. (And honestly for me it’s hard *not* to say something about major life things even if I’m not sure if I should.)

    If you did want to tell your boss I think you could pretty much say some of what you have said here: “This is my diagnosis, but it should be easily treatable with surgery so there’s no need to worry right now. I’ll need off X days for my procedure and I’ll let you know if anything else comes up” or something like that. But it’s definitely 100% up to you how much you decide to share.

    Good luck with everything!

  36. Ciela*

    #5 I had an ocular melanoma. Fairly easy treatment for cancer, but I did miss 2 weeks of work. For almost two years, I was asked every day about my cancer. Surgery and radiation went really well, thanks! That was tiring. But looking back now, I was a huge ball of stress for months, so giving my bosses and coworkers context was a good thing.

  37. Vox Experientia*

    my heart stopped when reading about the robocall person ha i thought it was about me. i too do this, and i too work for a county agency. kinda freaked me out, then i saw the person was a lawyer. fortunately i’m not. the rest matches though (and i do have lawyers next door, maybe they’re hearing me and thinking it’s them?). robocallers are the devil and must be stopped.

    1. Nicotene*

      Honestly, if you do this at work, 3-4 times a day, it’d be good to use this as a bit of a wake-up call.

      1. Vox Experientia*

        clearly. i’ve done it maybe twice in a month at work. but it’s definitely satisfying.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Yep. And maybe consider that if you’re doing this multiple times a day then you obviously aren’t stopping anything.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Do whatever you want on your own time, but please please please stop subjecting your coworkers to any angry outbursts or tirades.

    3. Observer*

      robocallers are the devil and must be stopped.

      Which has nothing to do with your behavior. You are not stopping robocallers. And you ARE making the life of everyone else in your department miserable.

    4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Please stop behaving like that at work. If you want to abuse people on your own time, no one can stop you and you clearly don’t have any issue with being unpleasant to people you will never have to see or interact with in person. However, you’re probably making your coworkers really uncomfortable and/or being super disruptive, and it’s also just wildly unprofessional behavior. I’ve worked in environments where I’ve had to deal with people regularly being loudly volatile and unpleasant right next to me in the office, and it is MISERABLE.

  38. AwesomePossum*

    Re: #3 – I don’t know if you’re in the US, but I’d contact your union if you have one. Any chance your old job could report you to the nursing board for patient abandonment out of spite? While it likely wouldn’t go anywhere, dealing with the BON is stressful as hell.

  39. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP#5, I also had thyroid cancer. I told my boss that I had thyroid cancer and that it was generally easy to treat, but I wanted him to know up-front because I’d be out for a week with surgery, and then out for another week after radioactive iodine therapy. Radioactive iodine therapy is way more annoying than surgery. You have to eat a special diet for two weeks and then isolate for several days to a week afterwards, depending on the dose you need. But it’s so much easier than chemo or radiation so I have no complaints.

    I’d be as up-front as you’re comfortable being, and assure your boss that although you’ll need some time off, you’ll be just fine. You got this!

    1. Stevesie*

      The iodine free diet is the worst! I’ve had to do it twice now and mostly got by on fruit. FWIW, I got so desperate at one point that I reached out to Frito-Lay, who confirmed that their chips are made with non-iodinized salt! You still can’t have any with dairy, but I ate a lot of Fritos, haha.

  40. Mz.Communication*

    LW#2 For the photo your boss posted without permission- you can anonymously tell Facebook that the photo violates their policies. You can give the reason that the poster does not own the photo.

  41. Old Mountain Lady*

    Re LW #1, it’s quite likely the robocallers/telemarketers are breaking the law in the first place. Isn’t just about everyone on the DoNotCall list at this point? I just hang up on most of them, but will have a little fun with the guys from “Microsoft” who call telling me my computer is sending bad signals to the Internet, or the ones who are sending the police to arrest me for my fraudulent SSN or some such. It’s a challenge to see how long I can keep them on the phone without giggling. I’m retired though, so I’m not bothering anyone else. Every minute they spend talking to me is a minute they aren’t scamming a more vulnerable person.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I think most people have forgotten about that at this point, because it’s so ineffective. I mean, can you really track down somebody from a third-world call center and have them fined or arrested? Not really.

      Also, this is from their website:

      After you register, other types of organizations may still call you, such as charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys. To learn more, read our FAQs.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        I just checked and my mobile number was registered 11 years ago. I get at least five crap calls a day.

    2. Girasol*

      IIRC the “no call list” only applies to US companies that can be prosecuted. It’s technically illegal for overseas companies to robocall folks on the list but they know that the US won’t do anything about it.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I registered when it came out. It’s about as effective as thoughts and prayers. Blocking works better. There are phone apps that help detect and block spam callers, I had TrueCaller but they stopped supporting Android. Now have YouMail, I liked TrueCaller better, but YouMail works some of the time and is far better than nothing at all.

    4. fposte*

      It’s illegal even if you’re on the Do Not Call list. Straight from the FTC site: “If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. A robocall trying to sell you something is illegal unless the company trying to sell you something got written permission, directly from you, to call you that way.”

      1. fposte*

        Ahem, I mean it’s illegal even if you’re *not* on the Do Not Call list, of course.

  42. Cilantro & Lime*

    Re: LW1– I worked at a call center for my first (temp) job out of college, asking people if they were interested in hosting exchange students (not even cold calls — people who’d added their numbers to a list!). It was shocking and demoralizing how many people were rude and straight up abusive towards me and others making those calls. Ever since then I’ve gone out of my way to be polite– I’ll still say “no thank you” or “please remove me from this list” but seriously– those aren’t robocalls, those are humans. :-(

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I deal with some of the same, as one of the things my unit sometimes does – we call back people who have asked us for help finding an in-network optometrist or audiologist. And yeah – some people are still abusive to us when we call them back, even though they reached out to us in the first place.

  43. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW#1, this reminds me of my husband’s habit of yelling loudly at drivers who irritate him on the road by driving badly or unsafely. I keep reminding him, “Honey, they probably can’t hear you, but I can. Please knock it off.”

  44. CollegeSupervisor*

    #3: Since this rude behavior started after you had surgery, it maybe could fall under the protected category of disability. I’m pretty sure the ADA covers temporary disabilities while recovering from surgery, though I’m not a lawyer so I can’t say for sure. I think it would be worth asking one, though!

  45. R*

    I gotta be honest — I’m a recovering robocaller abuser myself. (Hey, there’s ways you dealt with 2020 that you’re probably not the proudest of either.) I can make some vague justifications in the direction of the people doing Medicaid scams and stuff like that — I am not losing sleep over the feelings of someone whose job involves screwing over old people — but that’s weak. It shouldn’t have to have come to this point, but ultimately one of the callers deviated from script and called me out on it, and it really was the brakes I needed.

    I’m not saying Fergus is a nice fellow or anything like that — you know him better than I do — but for me, picking on telemarketers was a sign of being in a dark place of angry pain and a way of avoiding some stuff I didn’t want to deal with. Fergus can’t be thrilled about the situation with his son. I’m not meaning this to make excuses or anything for him — but that might be some of the place this is coming from, and everyone’s just kind of letting it stew. The robocallers keep coming, his son’s debt situation is probably escalating, and the most reaction he’s getting is a bit of chuckling — so hey! At least he can get a laugh out of it and make some tangentially related to the situation feel as bad as he does for a moment! He might be trying to do the thing where he makes a crummy situation better by turning it into Comedy and hasn’t clicked to how utterly he’s failing.

    Honestly, the other half of why I knocked it off was discovering Kitboga ( who is the, like, actually funny version of this — and crucially, he does not abuse the callers. His schtick is he pretends to be different characters — most often an old lady — and he essentially yes-ands the scammers. He has an extremely elaborate setup — a virtual machine with some fake bank account information, he’ll fake store interactions with scammers who instruct him to buy gift cards, etc — and it’s really interesting to see the mechanics of these scams playing out and the various ways he frustrates them. You know, just comparatively, being mean to them for the 5 seconds it takes for them to hang up was, like, really pathetic child’s play. (It’s possible Fergus might not have the imposter syndrome necessary for this particular avenue — I’d be worried he’d get inspired, frankly.)

    And then there’s just the practical element where — and this might have been mentioned in another comment — there’s something going on where the more robocalls you take the more you get. If you answer and talk to them, they’re able to confirm that yes, this is an actual phone number with a live human at the end. There’s some possibly tinfoil-hatty theories in certain corners about whether doing stuff like answering and immediately hanging up fools the machine into thinking you’re a dead line or something; either way, Fergus confirms multiple times a day that yes, this is a phone number that someone will answer and talk. It’s a Hydra kind of situation.

    Anyway, being That Guy just feels physically awful. You don’t have to be the one to do it, and yes, as adults we absolutely should be able to control this kind of stuff before it happens, and maybe he simply is an irredeemable jerk, but the times in my life I’ve been at my most hot mess, I was so immersed in it I didn’t even realize it — I needed to have a “this is water” moment, so to speak. It’s not a super easy or comfortable thing to realize that “abusing telemarketers” is part of your personality, but, you know, it seems like everyone’s just ignoring it and letting him think it’s funny and innocuous.

    Like, if you do end up talking to him, feel free to tell him, from me, that he is not the first person to either wish a caller burn in hell or to put a curse on their house. (Frankly, I’m Italian, so I’m going to say my curses were better, more creative, and more effective, so he needs to step off or I wish him an eternity of calls where a recorded voice talks to you for a minute, promises an operator, and hangs up before he can talk to a live human, now how’s THAT for a curse?) He is not doing anything they haven’t heard before — not to downplay at all the effect it has on the telemarketers who are really just more victims of capitalism, but this is really hurting him more than it’s hurting them — it’s stewing him in being That Guy all day. All it’s doing is freaking out his coworkers and not making the debt collector situation any better and not actually addressing the issues with his son and just making him feel worse. This was a fun drug to do for a while, it’s cheaper than anything on the market, and we had a hell of a bender on it, but dude, that red-pink feeling that’s in your shoulder and back, the throbbing one, and do not lie to me because you know exactly the one I am talking about because I have it too? That is the thing that is going to kill you, and you know as well as I do that it doesn’t matter how good it feels, the telemarketer thing feeds it and makes it stronger and it is going to be absolutely horrible to die by its hands, so it’s okay, but it’s just time to put it away.

    That might be a little too much to tell him, obviously. He needs to talk to someone, but that’s on him; here’s hoping for the sake of all involved that “Hey, this isn’t cool in a work environment” is the nudge he needs to realize that.

    1. Interviewer*

      Thank you for your honesty here. Do you remember what the caller said to you, that woke you up?

    2. Happy Lurker*

      Wow R. Your thoughtful response is the kind of thing I love to read. I am so glad you are in a better place!

  46. Mergj*

    LW5: I also had a thyroid nodule removed- I like to refer to mine as notcancer (one word) because it was a type of tumor that used to be considered cancerous but is so ‘indolent’ that they no longer consider it a form of cancer. I was able to schedule surgery after my grad school semester ended but before my summer job started (with over a week for recovery time, which was helpful). I started work with a small but noticeable bandage/ scar on my neck that I didn’t bother hiding. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on which was definitely the right course of action for me- the medical stuff was stressful and it was a huge relief not to talk about it at school or work. Only one colleague asked about my surgical bandage and I just said it was from a minor surgery and changed the subject. It wasn’t a big deal at all. I’d recommend keeping the details to yourself so as not to worry your colleagues/ add the stress of explaining your prognosis. Good luck! I hope your thyroid nodule turns out to be as much of a nonissue as mine was!

  47. Team Two*

    Post #5: I was in a situation just like this several years ago; my boss was what I thought was my best friend, and this is the situation that made me realize that she wasn’t a friend at all, and not much of a boss, either. I explained that my doctor had told me it was likely I had thyroid cancer and I was in the process of setting up a second opinion but wanted to let her know that there was real possibility I would need to set up for FMLA going through the summer, etc. (We worked in HR and benefits/compensation.) Her response was that this sucked, not because it was possible cancer, but because she had travel plans and weddings to go to all summer and she didn’t want to cancel any of them just for my health reasons so I should try to work any surgeries, chemo, or radiation around her travel dates regardless of FMLA status. It ended up that I did not have cancer, which was great for me, but I guess it worked out well for her, too, since she got to do all of her travel and attend all of her weddings as well. She moved on shortly thereafter and I ended up with a series of terrific bosses after her departure as I moved departments, so it all worked out, but it was still a pretty crappy situation.

  48. WFH with Cat*

    LW #5 – Best of luck with your diagnosis!

    I’d like to give you a heads up that may impact your decision of whether or not to share your diagnosis, if it does turn out to be cancer: People can get very chatty when someone says “cancer” — especially people who have never had cancer but know someone who has, which is a LOT of people.

    When I shared my news with my manager, she was sympathetic, explained FMLA, and immediately launched into a complicated story about some relative’s cancer. I think she thought she was helping, but it was awful. I was stressed, teary-eyed, and couldn’t even respond except to thank her which was the *last* thing I wanted to say. That wasn’t the only time she told me about her relative, either … smh.

    As I went through tests, surgery, etc., I discovered that people love to share other people’s cancer stories. The worst was the nurse (!) who would not stop telling me an absolutely god-awful story about a relative who died horribly from a cancer very similar to my own until I told her pretty sharply, twice, to please stop.

    It’s unfortunate that many people who haven’t ever heard the words “you have cancer” think that all cancer patients share universal experience and feel the same way about their disease, treatment, etc. In my experience, being diagnosed with cancer sets each person on a unique path. For me, I was pretty focused on living my own cancer story, and had zero bandwidth for unsolicited stories about stranger’s experiences. I discussed my fears, etc. with the people closest to me — including two sisters who had been through it and were (not surprisingly) wonderfully helpful and hopeful — but that was my limit.

    How you feel about people sharing stories is going to be unique to you, of course, and you may find great value in it. We are all walking our own path. :)

    Again, wishing you all the best!

  49. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    With abusive Fergus, is there a chance that the co-workers really don’t like what they’re hearing, but laugh to keep Fergus from turning the abuse on them?

    Also, is it possible for you to talk to your boss and ask if there is somewhere else you can sit while renovations in the normal area are ongoing because of Fergus and his calls. I really wonder how many of the bosses/supervisors are aware of Fergus’ calls and just how angry and loud he is getting during them.
    (For the record this isn’t about taking a personal call occasionally on the clock – this is multiple calls that are angry, loud, and long every day. That’s way more of a distraction than your typical personal call at your work desk.)

  50. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

    #1, there are people on Youtube who convince scam callers that they’re getting a money drop and then having them pick up a package with A. a glitter bomb and B. a go-pro, so they can be identified and arrested. Tell Fergus to step up his game. He’ll actually be doing something about the scammers AND he’ll have a new career and be out of your hair.

  51. Trek*

    OP1 If you are in the US you can call and remove phone numbers from robo calls. Google it and a number comes up and you can register your company number and/or Fergus direct line and it may cut down on the calls he receives. Not sure if that will help but it should reduce the calls within 30 days.
    In lieu of that video one of his calls and post it on line under header -what government employees really do on the job. (Tempting but probably not a great idea.)

  52. Priya*

    As someone with thyroid cancer and major issues from it, I honestly object to people calling it “the good cancer”, “the easy cancer”, or “not a big deal”. Obviously, disclose what you feel comfortable with when you feel comfortable, but I would avoid generalizations about it not being a big deal

    1. Stevesie*

      Agreed! There is no good cancer! I myself called it that when I was diagnosed to try and minimize people’s concern. Feeling responsible for managing other people’s reaction was the most annoying part of cancer for me. A lot of people responded with “oh I know someone who had that, it was no big deal”, even other thyroid cancer survivors. And those people looked the most shocked when I can back to work barely able to speak with a huge neck scar.

    2. WFH with Cat*

      Thank you.

      I had a “good” cancer that could be resolved with surgery. Didn’t make me feel any better to hear that kind of generalization at the time, and I don’t recommend it. I’ve also lost people to “good” cancers. Statistics are just statistics. No one ever knows what will happen with a specific individual, so again … thank you for advising against generalizations.

    3. OP #5*

      I totally agree and have actually been working with my therapist to really hammer home in my own brain that I don’t have to experience the worst possible scenario for something to be upsetting and disruptive. I hope my word in the question wasn’t insensitive, because believe me, I feel the same way you do.

      My concern is mainly just with managing others’ expectations at work where there’s less chance to explore nuance, which is why I wrote in. Cancer is cancer and scary no matter what, but, while I’m not shy about talking about my thyroid issues in the right context, I tend to balk at extra attention — especially if that attention ends in me feeling a need to manage someone else’s anxiety about something.

      I also have this deep-rooted fear of being viewed as dramatic and attention-seeking, so it’s hard for me to even admit to myself that something is a big deal, much less to someone else.

      That being said, I totally agree. I don’t like the idea of being dismissive. I think I’d almost rather be vague than encourage frustrating misconceptions.

      1. Stevesie*

        I so relate here, I have an inate fear of appearing attention seeking in any way. I told a few coworkers in person who I am also close friends with, I told my boss in person because I knew I’d need some time off (he was supportive, if clumsy). For my team I wrote a straight forward email about a week before my surgery, explaining that I had thyroid cancer and was hoping to be back to 100% after surgery and radiation. I added that I was happy to answer questions, but I think it would be totally reasonable to be more vague and to ask that others to give you space.

  53. Wisteria*

    Fergus is a lawyer and will cite state statutes to the debt collectors and inform them that their violations will result in them personally owing tens of thousands of dollars to the state.

    Having been on the receiving end of debt collectors calling for the last possessor of my number, I am on board with this. People calling for debt collections are not just doing their job the best they can. They engage in the same tactics that Fergus does, that is, making threats that they can’t back up for the sake of instilling fear and rattling the listener, and they break the law as often as they believe they can get away with it. Team Fergus for this part. Nice to see them getting a taste of their own medicine.

    1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      Then Fergus needs to take these calls outside of his place of work, because the question here isn’t “Do debt collectors suck?” it is “I have a coworker in my place of business being a loud and disruptive ass and it is effecting my work.” That shizz is NOT professional behavior and does not belong in the office that he shares with multiple people who do not care about his child’s debt issues or his hatred of telemarketers.

  54. ManageCle*

    Ugh I can’t stand people who are mean to telemarketers– I was one for a few months. Everyone was a good person just trying to do their low-paying hourly job as best as they can. Deviating from the script resulted in money out of your pocket if that call was audited (and at least one call was audited every shift from every person), so it’s not like we could even apologize for calling or anything. Berating low-wage telemarketers is right up there with berating Taco Bell employees for not having fresher tomatoes or something. In my opinion, Fergus is a jerk (along with those like him). And more than that, this behavior is kind of predatory. He is purposely answering these calls just so he can get someone on the phone that he can be awful to without any consequences.

    As a tip, if you suspect it’s a US call center, just say “take me off your list” and they’ll stop calling you within 30 days. If you suspect it’s not (usually those starting with a recording aren’t), you should never answer– you’ll just get more calls.

    1. Observer*

      s. If you suspect it’s not (usually those starting with a recording aren’t)

      Not true. The technology is such that millions of these calls go out EACH day from US based companies.

      Yes, that many.

  55. learnedthehardway*

    For the OP with thyroid cancer – I would keep in mind that you can’t take any disclosure back, once you have made it.

    When I had a serious health issue, I kept it very quiet – only disclosed to 2 client people, who are under the impression they are the only ones ever told. I was super careful, because I’m self employed and I am VERY certain I would have lost business if it had been public knowledge that I was ill.

    Thankfully, I’m recovered, but my decision was confirmed when I won a project because the other person considered seemed to be “under the weather” to the client. (Ironically, I was MUCH more ill than that other person was.)

  56. Delphine*

    I have next to no sympathy for scam callers (not cold callers or telemarketers, but scam callers who make a living preying off of vulnerable and gulible people). I don’t care about their justification for doing the job they’re doing. But messing with them during work time and disrupting coworkers isn’t okay.

  57. Observer*

    #3- Before trying to get your former boss in trouble, you may want to think about your role here – and about how you look.

    To start with you say “. She recently dubbed herself the “office manager” after retiring from 33 years of teaching” That sounds really disrespectful. The fact that she was a teacher does not have anything to do with the matter. Worse is the implication that the title was phony and she was just doing what she wanted without the backing of your boss. She wasn’t play-acting a pretend role with no authority, she assumed and actual role with the authority of the boss. The fact that the boss is her husband does not change that reality.

    You also say that you “got along surprisingly well” which sounds nice. But why would this have been surprising? It would have made me wonder a bit about your attitude. Combined with the first thing I mentioned, it seems pretty clear that you never really respected her or expected her to do her job (or at least not reasonably well.)

    I admit that I could be reading to much into this.

    What is problematic and is definitely not just about my reading in to it is what you did about it. I get that if a boss’ behavior is bad enough, you might quit even without another job lined up. And I would not blink if you refused to give a day more notice than whatever is standard in your field. But you just walked out. You didn’t even tell your boss or the owner that you’d had enough and would not be coming in the next day. You just walked out in middle of the day. That’s EXTREME. So extreme that it’s really hard to justify, unless there is a LOT you left out (like that she made some threats to you that made you worried for your safety.)

    By the way, you say ” am a nurse and have been for 25 years and she insisted on trying to tell me how to do my job.” I can see that this could be galling. But the question I have is what was she trying to instruct you on? If she was trying to over-ride your professional judgement on how to take someone’s vitals, etc. that’s totally out of line. On the other hand, if she was trying to get you to start putting more or different information into the EMR system, that might not be out of line. That’s also something worth thinking about.

  58. Parasaurolophus*

    #5 – I went through something similar 10 years ago. I found a lump on my thyroid, biopsy came back negative but I ended up going through a complete thyroidectomy which revealed early stage papillary carcinoma. I never needed radiation or chemo, and now rely 100% on synthroid. My tip for the surgery – avoid using your neck muscles afterwards! If you have to sit up, put your hand behind your head to lift it. Your neck muscles will be really sore after cause they have to pull them out of the way to remove your thyroid. But I am healthy, happy and have had no issues in the 10 years since my surgery!

  59. Betteauroan*

    I think robocall guy has a few screws loose. I would not want to get on his bad side, but you can’t keep putting up with that kind of behavior at work. This guy is supposed to be working, not harassing salespeople. I would find out who his boss is and email them with a list of calls her participated in and let the boss deal with him. That is very disturbing behavior and he needs to stop it.

  60. A Person*

    It’s such a tiny thing, but: robocalls are recordings. Robots. There are no human beings involved. They might have clever programming so it *sounds* like there’s a person there at first, but it’s a recording.

    LW #1’s colleague is abusing telemarketers, who are people. They work for call centers. *People*. Not robocallers. (I honestly thought he was yelling at the recording, which is silly but his business. But no, he’s being abusive to people for his own amusement. If he wants to end telemarketing, he needs to talk to his elected representatives, not yell at working people.)

  61. Fellow ThyCa survivor*

    OP5: definitely up to you, but thyroid cancer IS real cancer and should be taken as seriously as any other. When I had it, I did tell my boss because usually after surgery you have to do an oral radiation (RAI) which necessitates up to two weeks quarantine from all other humans so you’d need to either be able to work remotely or take additional time off. Just some food for thought

  62. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP Alison’s advice is excellent. I would also look at the type of thing your mother has listed and see if she couldn’t scrunch several points into a single one by using umbrella terms. I doubt she’ll have had 15 wholly different tasks in any given job. I’m struggling to come up with examples because I don’t list accomplishments myself (and indeed I don’t have a CV but a “profile” since I’m self-employed), but I’m sure you see what I mean!

  63. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1 I would simply ask to be moved as far as possible from that jerk because he sounds like a very nasty piece of work, probably beyond redemption.

  64. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Does Fergus have an actual job to do? It sounds like he spends much of the day verbally attacking and threatening people who are doing their jobs, while annoying and distracting his coworkers.

  65. 0870GS*

    LW#3 – I’m loathe to go against the advice here but I think there is a fuller answer.

    Assuming you are in the US, there is no Federal protection against abuse or bullying, unless for a protected characteristic – that, I agree with.
    At a State level, the ground shifts a little. California, for example, has a very specific statute related to workplace bullying: “[C]onduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.”

    Obvioulsy, it’s ifficult to know if your treatment would qualify under this, even assuming you might be California based. But it is often worth looking at local laws as well as the more general Federal ones.

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