updates: my coworker told everyone we’re married (we’re not) and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager, where all month I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker told everyone we’re married … we’re not even dating

I didn’t expect my question would even be published, let alone receive so many supportive comments from the AAM community!

I only wish my bosses and coworkers could have been that understanding. About a month after the break room scene, I still felt like I was walking on eggshells to avoid my “husband” and I noticed the attitudes from my manager and coworkers changing for the worse. I ended up leaving for a similar job that pays better, and is just a healthier environment overall. I hate how we call everything and everyone “toxic” nowadays, but that truly was a toxic environment in retrospect, and the lack of support from management and HR was finally the big red flag that sent me packing.

Some of the commenters mentioned stalking and safety, because the man seemed a bit obsessed. While I’ve seen the guy a few times around town, there hasn’t been any interaction between us and I don’t think he or any of my former coworkers know where I work now. Nobody’s attempted to contact me, and I can breathe easier. I wish everyone at my old job well; I hope they can learn from this situation, and I thank everyone who commented for their encouragement.

2. I resent coworkers coming back from furlough (#2 at the link)

I had written to you about feeling bad that I resented my coworkers returning from furlough.

It has a happy ending. I got a promotion in recognition of the extra work i had done, my positive attitude (I hid my resentment well) and my value to the company.

When I wrote to you, I was in what I now recognize as a state of burnout. 2020 was tough year and towards the end of it I was wrongly jealous of my furloughed coworkers who got a long break and extra unemployment money. I know that their situation caused a lot of anxiety for them, but in my burnout I fell into some self-pity.

One commenter hit the nail on the head regarding a big piece of my resentment. Those on furlough continued to accrue vacation time so came back to lots of time that carried over into 2021 and additional time that had to be used by end of year. So I ended up working through the holidays while my recently returned coworkers had to take that time off or lose it.

But I’m in a better place now and enjoying my job and being able to spend time with these coworkers who are actually really cool people.

3. Applying to jobs at home while waiting to travel abroad for a different one (#5 at the link)

Unfortunately, due to the ever changing travel restrictions my flights to work abroad were cancelled then delayed then cancelled again, on top of changing visa requirements. The delay meant I had to withdraw from the position as I couldn’t afford to be indefinitely out of work and I needed to start a real job search (unfortunately the part-time work I’d hoped for did not materialise either). It was heartbreaking and I hated letting them down but it’s a messy situation all round.

I sent a few speculative emails to companies I wanted to work for (who are open to that sort of thing) and applied to two really great opportunities, again with companies I would be excited to work for. I had a good look at your cover letter advice and the examples you’ve shared, and completely reworked my approach to them.

I got a great response to one of my speculative emails and an offer for one of my applications! I had the first interview at the beginning of April, the second a week later, the offer the week after that and a start date the week after that. It was fast.

So here I am. Still in the country with an exciting new job in a great company and in my preferred industry!

Your advice has really been invaluable and not just with my cover letter; I feel like my whole approach to work and employment is healthier because of it.

4. Can I ask that an underperforming coworker not be placed on important work? (#4 at the link)

Some very unexpected good news: the co-worker, after more than 10 years of mediocre-to-poor performance and incredibly unprofessional behavior…changed.

She dropped her silent treatment, started engaging in group meetings with good suggestions and questions, improved her attitude towards customers, and started actually doing work to resolve cases.

I don’t know what precipitated this change — maybe her manager reached his breaking point the same time I did (I was very much returning problem to sender, and we were receiving external complaints) — or maybe working from home *really* agrees with her.

She’s been doing so much better that she received her first (small) promotion in years after 10 months of this new attitude and skill.

I hope the improvement sticks! It’s been such a relief.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

    1. Myrin*

      It’s completely incomprehensible. Like, what reason could apparently literally everyone at OP’s place of work have to have an attitude towards her? I could understand feeling awkward about the whole situation, maybe even bad for having been deceived by the coworker, but that wouldn’t lead to my being nasty towards OP! Did they think she somehow lied to them and just wanted to hide her marriage to coworker for some bizarre reason? But even if so, why did that lead to the treatment she received?
      It’s all very strange and I’m super glad she’s out of there!

      1. Aggretsuko*

        It’s easier to side with a bad guy/bully than end up being the target of one, is why.

        1. EPLawyer*

          but how much power did this guy have that they were afraid of him? It didn’t sound like an Oh that’s just Fergus we are careful around him thing. It sounded like the guy just got really … weird … all of a sudden and everyone ignored it until they couldn’t. Maybe that’s it, they all liked the fantasy and she burst their bubble.

        2. Blinded By the Gaslight*

          @Aggretsuko – 100%. I worked in a place that proclaimed its social justice principles and public service, but tolerated multiple verbally abusive racists on staff. Oh sure, people privately complained about them amongst themselves and wrung their hands, but when I lodged formal complaints with leadership and expected them to be disciplined for their (repeated, with witnesses, egregious) incidents of racist harassment and verbal abuse (like, actual screaming and yelling in open offices, name-calling, etc.), I was fired for “creating drama.” The racists still work there. People were so afraid to stand up to them and had endless excuses and patience for their behavior, but they were super eager to drop the hammer on me.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            That’s how it goes. It’s easier to get rid of the victim than the bully. I have NEVER understood why since the victims usually outnumber the bully….I guess people just love assholes in power.

          2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

            Same thing happened where I worked, manager was told by their boss not to look into a claim of sexual assault. the manager then was angry that the victim refused to work with the perv, and didn’t believe her anyways. and the victim was pressured into quitting.
            The perv had a mental health break down which is the reason he’s not there anymore. (thought he should be allowed to refuse to talk to anyone and only work the shifts he wanted to, and in general not do his job well. Then he beat up a shop lifter. Wasn’t allowed back until he got mental health treatment. I’m excluding a lot of stuff I’ve mentioned here before)

        3. Nanani*

          Especially when you have sexism and maybe other power dynamics in play. The programming of privilege is insidious and we are all soaked in it.

        4. Despachito*

          “It’s easier to side with a bad guy/bully than end up being the target of one.”

          So very much true, sadly. :-((

      2. Lilo*

        That doesn’t make any sense. It’s also exactly hard to prove you are married to someone. I have about a thousand images of my husband in my phone.

        How can you possibly keep someone on staff who shows they don’t respect boundaries and make up huge lies? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near this guy. What will he make up about a coworker next.

          1. Great Grey Owl*

            I think that I would be just as angry at the company that protected him and I would not feel safe working there.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m thinking broken stair–applied to the office social group rather than its usual friend group. The problem isn’t Bob–we all know that’s just How Bob Is. The problem is anyone who fails to land a double backflip pirouette while tiptoeing around Bob and The Way Bob Is. LW made it awkward by not tip-toeing.

        1. Van Wilder*

          This makes sense but I still can’t wrap my head around this happening at an actual workplace. Must be a whole lot of dysfunction warping everyone’s norms.

        2. Nic*

          Yup. And I wonder if there was also a tinge of the classic “Well, Bob’s just socially awkward and he really likes you, so you really ought to give him a chance” narrative…

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I’m soooooo sick of “socially awkward.” Socially awkward is you tripped and spilled on a person or accidentally ran into them in the hallway or didn’t quite know what to say when someone asked how you were doing after someone died. Socially awkward isn’t THIS.

            1. Lily of the field*

              Um, do you think you could maybe rethink that? My son is autistic, and his social awkwardness can go rather farther than tripping and spilling accidentally on someone, or not knowing what to say after someone died. I am not being ugly here or anything, but social awkwardness can be much more severe than that. However, that does NOT excuse what Bob did nor how all of the other colleagues acted about it. Thank you for hearing me out.

              1. Self Employed*

                I’m Autistic myself and I don’t like people using “social awkwardness” as a euphemism for Autistic and an excuse for people (often but not always men) to be creepy sexual harassers. There are definitely differences between Autistic and Neurotypical social skills/standards–the level of candor expected, the level of detail about interests, etc. But even other Autistic people are going to be put off and possibly frightened by someone who doesn’t respect boundaries. And that’s a good reason to reject a stereotype of the “socially awkward creeper” who doesn’t know his expressions of unrequited affection are inappropriate at the office so we should just let him do it.

                I had a neighbor like that at my last apartment building. Management’s decision that they have to let him get away with it because his therapist wrote a letter saying he doesn’t know better was one of the major factors in my decision to move out.

              2. Sigh*

                You do your son and other autistic people no favors by continuing the idea that autism = social awkwardness = free pass on sexual harassment. (and this never seems to apply to autistic women…)

            2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              I have social anxiety, and am socially awkward, because I never know what to say. (in part because no one I know offline likes reading as much as I do, or the computer games I like.)
              Some people have said that I come off I as less flattering ways.

          2. Paulina*

            Or “at least you should be nicer to the poor guy.” (Admittedly OP’s coworkers have earned zero benefit of doubt, but hopefully even they wouldn’t be wanting OP to ditch her actual husband to give creepy coworker “a chance”, assuming that they now know she has one.) But I agree that this is blaming OP for objecting (as if that’s what made it awkward), with a massive dose of sexist expectation that the woman should be kinder to the man about his crush, rather than acknowledging how creepy he had been.

        3. Simply the best*

          I don’t even think it has to be a broken stair. If someone tells me they’re married to somebody else, that’s not creepy. That’s just a factual piece of information (even though in this case it turns out to be false).

          And then if I’m in a break room with OP and they start screaming at this person and I don’t really have any context for it, that’s really off-putting.

          OP said she didn’t want to cause a scene so she told her boss what was happening, but did she tell her co-workers? Is this blow up the first time they heard the truth?

          Obviously I don’t have all the information, but I can definitely see a situation where OP’s co-workers don’t have the full context and just see this as two people engaged in some kind of weird drama and choosing to think not “my circus not my monkeys” and distancing themselves.

          1. AK*

            Sure, unexpected yelling can be really off-putting and has no place in a professional setting. But it pales in comparison to lying about legal and sexual arrangements with a coworker. I’d be alarmed if someone started yelling in the break room, but if the yelling made it clear that someone was lying about them being married….yeah…the yelling isn’t the alarming thing anymore. I think you might be right though that her coworkers were just punishing her for creating “drama”, but damn is that messed up (and a depressingly common response to victims of abuse etc.).

          2. Maleficent List*

            Uh, but if the person yelling is saying “Stop telling everyone we’re married, Fergus! We only work together! I have a boyfriend!” I would definitely consider Fergus to be the problem, not the OP for yelling. That’s more than enough context.

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

        He could have acted devastated that they are “divorcing” or getting an “annulment” and now OP is “pretending they were never married at all.”

        But what behaviors does that mean though? “I noticed the attitudes from my manager and coworkers changing for the worse,” — they avoided talking to the OP at all, insisted on calling her “Mrs. Fergus,” or they wouldn’t reassign work that would bring OP in proximity to him, or change her department? Some of these are awful and some might just be normal business (for instance, there is no other department that does OPs work and they can’t just assign her tasks to someone else). I’m happy that the OP is removed from this bad situation, but before I think HR or the coworkers were Bafflingly Awful Bad People, it would help to know.

        1. Lilo*

          But this isn’t hard to verify, especially since LW is married to someone else. In about ten seconds using my phone I could show you videos my husband pushing our son on the swing last week and pictures of our wedding 10 years ago, plus everything in between.

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

            OP indicated in her original post that she was a very private person and no one even knew she was married…to someone else. I doubt she suddenly went around showing videos and photos, let alone a certified marriage certificate. She probably continued to be intensely private about her real husband.

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

                from whom? him or the OP? if they asked for proof from the OP that she isn’t married to the guy, I think that’s pretty horrible and impossible to prove a negative. If they asked for proof from the guy that he is married, what’s to stop him from claiming the OP has all the evidence or destroyed photos/certificate in a fit of anger. Right?

                1. Self Employed*

                  You have it backwards. If Fergus claims he’s married to OP and OP says “No, I am NOT married to Fergus! Why is he saying this?” then it should be easy for Fergus to produce pictures of them as a couple if he’s telling the truth. If OP has photos with her actual husband on her phone that she’s not displaying at work, then that would support OP’s claim that she’s not married to Fergus.

              2. Despachito*

                I think that in real life, few people would care so much as to verify who is speaking the truth.

          2. MassMatt*

            It’s easy to show supporting evidence that you are married to someone, but how do you prove a negative—that you AREN’T married? Lots of people don’t have pics or videos of their spouses on their phone, and lots of people who are not married do.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              You could prove that you were married to someone else, given that the US doesn’t recognize multiple marriages. But otherwise this ​is basically impossible, particularly internationally. At best, in a country that has a national marriage registry, you could prove that someone hadn’t been married in that country.

              I had to have a notarized, translated affidavit from my embassy declaring my single status in order to get married. There’s a national marriage registry where I live, but I’m not a citizen, and I come from a country that doesn’t have an equivalent. So about six layers of bureaucracy to pinkie swear that I wasn’t married to someone else.

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

              HR records are only what you provide to HR though. If you don’t list a spouse, they aren’t going to track that info down, and then share it with coworkers. At least, they better not. Spouses can have different addresses or can choose to file taxes separately. For HR you don’t really need to prove you’re legally married if you list a spouse, or prove you aren’t married if you don’t.

      5. Forrest*

        The possibility that makes the most sense to me is if Bob’s claims to be married to Sarah were actually limited to quite a few specific people, and the people who saw/heard about OP’s outburst weren’t aware of it at all. I can quite easily see if that if Bob mentioned it to one or two people, or only told people in [Y] group, it seemed like “everyone” to OP, but actually it was much less widespread than she realised.

        If you’ve heard Bob say he’s married to Sarah, and then you hear Sarah say she’s definitely NOT married to Bob, OK, something really weird is going on here. Is Sarah lying about not being married to Bob? Is Bob lying about being married to Sarah? Like, the whole thing raises lots of questions, but your neutral starting point would be to assume that one person is telling the truth and one isn’t, and to probably try and figure out which is which.

        But if you’d NEVER heard Bob claim he was married to Sarah, no word of this has ever reached you, but suddenly Sarah is shouting, “We’re not married, stop telling people we’re married!” and Bob’s all, “I don’t know man, what the heck?” then Sarah definitely looks like the weirdo.

        I mean, this is clearly the point where the management massively failed by not imposing a more severe discipline on Bob and really having OP’s back, but if OP getting angry was the first many people had heard of the “Bob married to OP” thing, I can see why their natural assumption was that something was Up with Sarah.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          My first thought was that the coworkers were ignoring the substance of what was being said and responding strictly to tone and volume. Like, sure Bob is being ridiculous and Sarah is being reasonable, but Bob is saying his ridiculous things calmly while Sarah is yelling her reasonable things in front of other people in the break room. This also makes sense and is probably closest to the truth – people who get away with abusing others typically do so because they pick their targets carefully and manage to convince most bystanders that they’re normal and harmless.

          1. Sigh*

            Yeah, this + the common idea that men are rational and women are emotional and irrational = everyone blames Sarah for being an Irrational Emotional Woman rather than Bob for lying creepily about being married to her.

            I’m glad the OP is out of that place.

    2. Tehanu*

      I agree. Why were LW#1’s colleagues so hostile to her in this situation? She didn’t do anything wrong (except maybe snapping at the weirdo, but I feel that is justifiable), and I cannot figure out why she was pushed out.

      1. Tehanu*

        Now I wonder if he was saying something else about her? To justify his own lies? I need an explanation!!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Nasty divorce, she’s taking him to the cleaners after cheating on him. Gotta be it. I mean if they believed his declaration that they were married, they probably believe anything he says. Which is not a good look for an office of professional people.

          1. Krabby*

            I was thinking that as well (though maybe not that exact lie). OP was on leave for a long time while this guy has been there, making friends and spinning a whole tale for everyone. She’s only denied things to her coworkers once that we know of. If he was willing to lie the first time, of course he’d be willing to lie again. He could also have said that was why she was on leave… What a turd.

            The only person I can’t figure out is the manager. How could she be so callous? Either way though, I’m just glad OP is in a better place now working for reasonable people.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I don’t necessarily think that all the office workers are gullible but rather that is a weird thing to lie about that most people would believe them. If a coworker told me they were married (when they are actually single) I would not question it or ask for proof (show me pictures of the wedding, show me pictures of your spouse) and just take them at their word. In this case OP says they are a very private person so coworkers didn’t know much about their personal life, that could be supporting evidence that OP and Fergus the coworker actually are married, but due to working together they wanted to keep it really under wraps and that was the reason OP was private, but now that OP left Fergus was free to reveal they were married.

      1. Emily*

        It’s classic “blame the victim”. I’m so glad LW#1 got out of that work place and got a better job.

    3. quill*

      I’m just… going to have to assume some combination of Misogyny and a very STRANGE work culture. Because otherwise, I’m out of plausible explanations.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yes, and yes. This guy gives me the heebie jeebies – and the fact that not a single person in the office stood up for OP is really f*ing gross.

        OP, I’m so sorry that you were the one who had to leave – but I’m very glad you did.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The rest of the office didn’t want to become his next spouse. So long as OP is in that role, and they keep their heads down…

    4. Pony Puff*

      Who knows what that creep was saying about the LW and the situation behind her back.

      In my unfortunate experience, people tend to side with stalkerish/obsessed/strange men rather than the women in these kinds of conflicts.

      1. 10Isee*

        That has very much been my experience as well. When I was in my early 20s I asked a man from church who I hardly knew to please stop stroking/smelling my hair, rubbing my lower back, etc. while telling me how much I looked like his late wife, because he was making me uncomfortable.

        I ultimately had to leave that congregation because so many people refused to interact with me, telling me I should have been more sensitive to his loss and let him comfort himself by touching me.

        No thank you

        1. AK*

          AAAAAAHHHHHH. Holy F-ing shit.

          How sad that this happened in a group that was supposed to give you support and solace, and that was well placed to help him socialize himself better through his loss. The word “creepy” somehow doesn’t do this justice.

          1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

            … I…huh?? How…?? What…??

            When does a congregation ever get the idea that could possibly be healthy, appropriate, or useful?

        2. I take tea*

          Yikes! His behaviour was extremely creepy, but people reacting like you should put up with it is way worse. That’s not how you help grieving people either. To be sensitive is to not ostracize somebody for weeping or not being on top of their game, not letting them pawn on other people. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        For some reason, obsessed guys get a pass, and the woman who complains about that behavior is labeled as mean or uncaring. People will feel bad for the obsessed guy and think (and sometimes say) “Why would he say those things if they weren’t true? You must have done something? Said something? Following you around is a compliment! He seems so sweet!” Ugh.

        Plus LW was gone for a period of time and who knows what crazy stuff this guy said. There’s no way to know the whole wacky story. The entire situation is disturbing. I am so glad LW is out of there!

    5. Lilo*

      Just… why wasn’t he fired? How could you ever trust that employee with anything? That’s a huge huge lie.

    6. generic_username*

      Agree…. The only thing I can figure is that everyone felt awkward about the whole thing and thus projected their discomfort onto her.

    7. Nicki Name*

      The faux husband probably prepared everyone for LW to eventually dispute his story. Something like, “ever since LW’s parents died, she’s been a bit off… things have been awkward between us… she might claim we’re not even married.”

    8. Public Sector Manager*

      It boggles the mind the more and more I read it. Was the other coworker new to the office? Did anyone question why this wasn’t news before? Does the office not have a nepotism policy where spouses can’t have the same supervisor? Was there silence for 5 years on the subject and then the coworker just lies on Tuesday about being married to the OP and no one asks any questions? Or maybe this is the coworker’s thing that he does and he says he’s married to everyone? “Oh that Bob, he’s at it again! The little scamp!” It’s like if I said I was the love child of Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia and everyone here was just all “that’s cool” and didn’t ask a single question! Seriously!!!! I have so many questions about the OP’s coworkers.

      But I’m happy to see a happy update.

      1. Self Employed*

        I had an art program classmate who has some kind of artistic schtick where she pairs up people she knows (or herself) with celebrities (or fictional characters) in photo collages. I seem to be one of the only people who’s uncomfortable with it, but I think the people who had been with her through the beginning of the program (she was 2-3 years ahead of me) knew it was a parody of celebrity gossip rags or something and were in on the joke. But this was artwork and “fair use” applied to it–not going around an allegedly professional office saying different people who worked there were paired up.

    1. LW #4*

      Right?! I was so pleasantly surprised! She’s not the only co-worker I’ve ever seen suddenly improve, but she seriously didn’t seen to care at all so I figured lost cause.

      My co-worker philosophy is: sometimes some people can change; don’t expect it or depend on it or try to make it happen, but be happy and accepting if it does.

      It’s been almost 10 months since the attitude change, so it’s more than a fluke.

      She’s the last of the ‘old guard’ where several other (much higher performing and more pleasant) employees of similar tenure retired or left, so maybe she either suddenly felt special or freed up or responsible or who knows.

      The folks who left were by all accounts kind, gentle, intelligent, and respectful, but I suppose there’s always a chance they were asshole to her or harassed her before I joined.

      Fingers crossed things continue well!

      1. LW #4*

        To clarify: don’t try to make it happen = don’t spend a ton of personal energy trying to force it.

        I do some subtle…peer managing i suppose?…and that can work great but I don’t spend hours doing it or get upset if it doesn’t work.

      2. Pep*

        I wonder if she really does love working from home? I know that I can’t stand being stuck in one building all day and am a mess but working from home is bliss.

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          I was thinking that or she finally started medication for depression, anxiety or ADHD,

        2. Ellie*

          Or maybe something that had been affecting her for a long time in her private life suddenly got better? I had the boss from hell at one point, she’d get into regular screaming matches on the floor, was terrible at her job, and whenever she was in charge of hiring we mysteriously ended up with exclusively attractive younger men (who were mostly competent but it was a terrible look). My opinion of her changed though when she brought her partner to a work dinner, who spent the whole evening undermining and criticizing her (in front of all the people she managed). She completely changed after her divorce, and became and excellent boss. It was like night and day.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Sometimes some people can change; don’t expect it or depend on it or try to make it happen, but be happy and accepting if it does.

        This is wise. Don’t rely on it, but don’t assume it’s impossible and refuse to believe any evidence of a change, either.

  1. Twats*

    1. I was wondering about you. It’s a shame you left and nothing happened to him. I believe fines (crippling ones) should be used much more extensively for what the law will do nothing about,

    1. Ellie*

      It’s so frustrating to see nothing happen to such a lying asshat and no consequences.

      LW1, I’m so sorry you didn’t get the support you deserve. You were wronged and it was upsetting and you deserved way better.

      I’m glad your new office is treating you well.

      1. allathian*

        I came here to say this.

        I really dislike the way those who are bullied have to get a new job or switch schools, rather than the bullies.

  2. Mayflower*

    I had a friend who was on medication for anxiety. They were almost fired from 5 different jobs due to poor performance. The only reason they didn’t get fired was because they were given the choice to quit, which they did.

    Eventually, they got a job working from home, and things immediately turned around – not only they were getting positive feedback from their manager for the first time ever, they no longer had to be medicated! It’s been several jobs since then, all from home, all successful.

    1. LW #4*

      Oh wow! I’m happy for your friend, and maybe that’s what happened here.

      My office is allowing requests for permanent or hybrid WFH, and given her promotion, I think she’d get it approved

    2. Medicine*

      It was medication that changed my life (the only thing that could). No matter what your illness is engage with the medical sphere.

      1. Ellie*

        Yeah, I’ve had medical issues impact my work too, and without proper care…yikes.

        If that’s what this was, I’m happy they figured it out.

  3. bananab*

    Aw man, #2–that business about accrued vacation time would frustrate the hell outta me too.

    1. Ellie*

      Agreed; I wish the company would have given some bonus days to those who stayed and maybe priority for high-demand time off.

      I’m glad LW #2 was able to work through such tough emotions despite that and get to a place where they could enjoying working the returning folks.

      Good for them; that’s not easy!

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      No kidding.
      I can see keeping seniority during a furlough, but accumulating vacation? That seems like a terrible business decision.

      1. Media Monkey*

        if LW is in the UK it was a legal right for furloughed employees to accrue holiday while on leave. we had the same thing (and the same resentments)

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t know, that’s a tough one honestly. I would also be very frustrated if I had to work through holidays because all the people who were furloughed had to use up their PTO. But at the same time, I acknowledge that being furloughed is *not* a vacation and they definitely deserve to keep their benefits! I suppose they maybe could have had some temporary rollover rule to minimize the “use it or lose it” impact? But overall I think I would just say this goes in the “this situation sucked for everyone and now it’s time to start moving on” bucket which OP seems to be on board with.

    3. generic_username*

      Agree. I’m not sure I would have been able to remain positive about it. I wouldn’t have directly resented my coworkers, but certainly I would have been upset with management for that decision. At my work, they gave us all a few “wellness days” at the end of 2020 because of how hard we all had to work during that difficult year and because our annual raises were all canceled. LW #2 should have been given something like that too. Hopefully her promotion came with a nice raise and title bump.

        1. Ellie*

          But furloughed workers weren’t working, so they weren’t using up any PTO like LW2 probably was during such a long period.

          Don’t get me wrong, furlough is stressful and not a vacation, so I’m not in favor of NO accrual for them, but management could have done better here.

        2. pbnj*

          It sounds like the furloughed employees got priority for taking PTO over the holidays since they had PTO that was expiring. I’d be pretty irritated at management.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, me too. The easiest way to solve that would be to change things so the PTO wouldn’t expire, even if it would be a temporary change.

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

          Probably, but the resentment of “I’ve worked to accrue my vacation, and they got the same time without working,” is valid. The furloughed employees shouldn’t have been penalized by losing anything they’d accrued previously (and in some places, like California, that might be illegal too because vacation time is considered earned compensation), but I don’t think they should have continued to accrue either.

          1. Wisteria*

            There is no COVID Suck Olympics. Being overworked bc half your coworkers were furloughed sucks. Being out a paycheck bc you were furloughed sucks. It all sucks. There is no need to resent coworkers who continue to accrue vacation anymore than there is need for the people who were furloughed to resent coworkers who continue to collect a paycheck. We all had challenges.

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

              It is valid to address inequities in any system. This is inequitable.

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

                  that’s why I said inequities and not inequalities — equitable does not mean equal.

            2. Clemgo3165*

              I can fully understand resenting having to work over the holidays when you’ve been juggling lots of extra work throughout the year, while your formerly furloughed colleagues get to take the whole enchilada due to a use or lose policy. Certainly the OP could have been given priority for leave at that time and PTO for those who were furloughed extended into 2021 to give them more time to use it.

            3. MarsJenkar*

              Which, I suspect, is one reason OP4 was feeling bad about feeling resentment. Intellectually they knew that things sucked for the furloughed employees, but that wasn’t dampening the resentment they felt over the situation.

    4. Nicotene*

      Plus this is one of those things the company could easily do something about: just lift the restriction for one year and allow vacation to roll over. It wouldn’t cost anything and would be a minor administrative thing. It’d be worth it rather than having overburdened employees suck it up to work over a holiday.

      1. Wisteria*

        Well, it does cost something, which is why companies don’t allow vacation to roll over in the first place, but that is what my company did. It doubled the amount of vacation that employees can roll over for 2020. We are back to the usual amount for 2021.

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

        I agree that they could do it, but it might not be so minor administrative — PTO owed could be similar to a financial debt/liability for the business — they would need to change their accounting and, if applicable, their public disclosure of financial information. It could affect the business significantly.

      3. Media Monkey*

        if your company pays out unused holiday when people leave (as is the law here in the UK) the company have to keep money on the books to cover all unused holiday for that year. our company allowed people to carry over holidays from last year but couldn’t keep the holiday being carried over for that reason.

  4. Aron*

    “Some of the commenters mentioned stalking and safety, because the man seemed a bit obsessed. While I’ve seen the guy a few times around town, there hasn’t been any interaction between us…”

    Not to be alarmist, but this jumped out at me. I live in Small Town, USA (under 8,000) and rarely see the same people around town. The only guy I’ve ever seen around town a few times was the one who WAS stalking me after I rebuked his advances, and he never interacted with me, either. He watched me from afar and by hiding behind shelves at the store. Be careful, OP, and I’m so sorry this happened. What an absolute crap response from your org, team, and coworkers.

    1. Myrin*

      I mean, that really depends on where and how you live. I live in my hometown of about 2,000 and walk/bike a lot and I see the same people all the time in all kinds of different places.
      By all means, OP should be alert and trust her gut should she ever end up feeling like he’s intentionally showing up where she is, but neither the original letter nor this update make it seem like that’s something she’s horribly concerned about.

      1. Aron*

        OP certainly knows her area and what is normal or not. I mentioned it, as it’s fairly well known in trauma-based mental health circles that abusers or abusive individuals, such as the ones who are so out of touch with reality and social norms as to make up a fake marriage with a coworker and let that coworker experience 100% of the professional fall-out instead of coming clean, will “coincidentally” end up in the same locations in town as their victim/target. That’s how my stalker rationalized (i.e., gaslit me and authorities) being in many places I was, while hiding behind shelves and cars in parking lots – “coincidence” and “it’s a small town, officer” and “I’m just shopping.” It’s incredibly hard for the victim/target to make a complaint about that, because it’s so “normal” to see the same person out and about, and it’s very common for women to be told they’re over-reacting or “reading into things.” In my experience, in a small town of eye contact and courtesy greetings, it’s really NOT common for me to see the same people or even people I know in stores, parks, festivals, etc. It’s something to be aware of and to not rationalize away IF it feels abnormal or weird, and that’s only something the OP can know. Since the OP specifically mentioned stalking and seeing this guy out and about in the update, I read that as something that may be a consideration for her, so much so that she mentioned her former coworkers probably don’t know where she’s working. OP sounds spooked to me. YMMV. :)

        1. Paulina*

          I see people I know around town a lot, in a town of about 60K. But that hasn’t really changed (other than a pandemic-induced decrease). I would certainly find it unusual to see someone I recognize quite a lot if I didn’t before, which sounds like what OP is describing. The change is concerning.

    2. OyHiOh*

      I live in a community of around 100,000 and have had the opposite experience: I run into the same people all the damn time and my various social circles create Venn diagrams far more often than expected.

      1. Pants*

        This. I went to high school in California. I now live in Texas. Met someone who went to my high school. Go to New York–wind up seeing someone I went to high school with and shared several classes. The Universe is weird,

        1. La Triviata*

          A number of years ago, on a day with bad weather, I ended up sharing a cab. The first person who got in was someone who’d worked as a consultant with my employer. The second person, overhearing us discussing the head of the office, turned around and said something about knowing him. This in a town of approximately 600,000 at the time.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          My mom used to run into people at Disneyland. I couldn’t find anyone in my entire high school class at Grad Night at Disneyland!

          1. Late Bloomer*

            My first husband and I liked to travel w/in the US during our summers (we were both teachers) and had a deal that when we ran across someone we knew, the one of us who was ID’ed had to buy the other a sumptuous dinner. It happened surprisingly often, in large part because of the kinds of people we knew and the fact that other teachers often took advantage of the summer to go on adventures. We lived in MN at the time and, aside from sightings in various Midwest locales, also had sightings in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Boston.

    3. Pennyworth*

      I live in a town of about 20,000 and am pretty antisocial and I am forever seeing people I know.

  5. TexasTeacher*

    I sure hope that’s not the case, as it was with you! How frightening.
    I must say, I live in a very large city, and I do tend to see some of the same people around and about. I suppose we all have our 20 or so places we go (work, church, store, park, etc.) so instead of encountering literally millions of different faces, it’s probably in the hundreds or low thousands.

    1. Krabby*

      I was just going to say the same thing. I also got the impression that OP was targeted because she went away and couldn’t dispute the issue. I think he would have picked any human woman who took an extended leave.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, it does sound like a version of “Oh yes, I am married but my wife lives in um…uh…Canada now.” He probably didn’t realize the LW was coming back.

        I once knew a guy at work who made up an entire family. I didn’t work with his department much so I rarely dealt with him. I believed him for years until he forgot the names of his fake daughters. This puzzled me and I mentioned it to someone who worked with the guy more often. The other person said “It’s all fake. He forgets the ages of the fake kids too. He has no family. So-and-so lives in the same building as him and there’s no wife, no daughters. I think it’s his way to seem normal because he creeps people out so much.”

        1. Despachito*

          I had a friend who did this – she invented an entire family – a husband, two kids , a job where she traveled a lot…
          In reality, she was never married and had no kids (those invented were a blend of my own two kids and another friends’ kid). My husband and I were very close with her and when she fell seriously ill, we cared for her for several years. She sadly passed, and when we announced it on a public site, we got an email from a complete stranger saying basically “she and her husband were our dear friends, how sad that a mother of two and a beloved wife had to go so soon, we will terribly miss her, please give our sympathies to X (her presumed husband) and her kids”.

          We were absolutely baffled but then started digging in the Internet and discovered the whole story. It appears she joined a group sharing a hobby and wrote articles (excellent and highly appreciated) to their webpages, both as herself and her presumed “husband”. She even met with them several times in person, and I assume she somehow camouflaged why the husband “could not come” with her.

          We were both thinking hard what to answer the person who wrote the compassionate mail, so as not to deceive them by revealing the truth but not to lie as well. I think we produced an answer meeting both these prerequisites, and did not spell the beans.

          But I think will continue to baffle me for the rest of my life, and I feel terribly sorry for her.

  6. AK*

    Sigh. A man was creepy towards a woman in a professional setting in an extremely boundary crossing manner that in no way could have been an “honest mistake”. There are no major repercussions for the man at work, coworkers blame the woman for reacting, and she has to change her job in order to get away from the whole situation. Depressingly unsurprising. LW, congrats on getting yourself out of there, even though fixing this shouldn’t have been on you.

    1. Despachito*

      I wish so very much that this changed.

      The other day a woman complained that a co-worker sent her a nude selfie. But she said she’d never report it for fear of it having repercussions for HIM, and possibly for fear of retaliation. And she even became aggressive against people who suggested that her hands were not as tied as she might probably think (basically saying “it was not so awful, and YOU are weird if you think I should report him).

      So many things wrong here!

      I wish more people would think along the line “if somebody sexually harasses/bullies you and you take action against them, it IS NOT YOU CREATING PROBLEMS FOR THEM, IT’S THEMSELVES WHO BROUGHT IT UPON THEM!”

      Lather, rinse, repeat.

      1. BelleMorte*

        Blame the victim mentality is always such a huge thing. If you follow Reddit’s Am I the A**hole channel, the distressingly common theme there is women will post asking if they are in the wrong for being upset or getting someone in trouble after someone treated them horribly, illegally or abusively.

        I.e. Am I in the wrong? I reported my male neighbour to the police after he broke into my house to steal my underwear and set up hidden cameras in my bedroom. My neighbours are mad at me because now he might be going to jail and he lost his job because of me.

        i.e. Am I in the wrong? I reported my ex-boyfriend to the bank for identity theft after he hacked my accounts and stole all my money and ran up my credit to several hundred thousand. My friends and family are mad at me because he is such a nice guy and was just broken-hearted that I broke up with him, now he’s lost his job and may go to jail and has to sell his house to pay back all the money.. .

        and so forth and so forth. Women have been trained since birth not to make waves, not to report, not to upset people and when they do, they are always told they are the ones in the wrong here. When women speak up for themselves they nearly always take the brunt of the repercussions and are nearly always seen as troublemakers. This tends to go for any marginalized community, POC, people with disabilities and so forth they all experience the training not to make waves and are always blamed when things need to be escalated.

        1. Tehanu*

          I had to stop reading AITA because it was infuriating me too much. And your post is exactly why.

        2. Despachito*

          “Women have been trained since birth not to make waves, not to report, not to upset people and when they do, they are always told they are the ones in the wrong here. When women speak up for themselves they nearly always take the brunt of the repercussions and are nearly always seen as troublemakers.”

          So very much true, and so sad.

          But I think it is hopefully starting to change, although there is still a lot of work to do, and it is such a relief to hear about each case when the repercussions fell where they belong (i.e. on the perpetrator).

          Kudos to everyone who is not afraid to “be a troublemaker” and push back, and kudos to those who have the strength to support them, as it still often means to paint a target on their own backs and to risk being bullied. But I think not perpetrating the victim-blaming stereotypes is really the only way forward.

  7. Blarg*

    Is #4 really about Clarence Thomas? He’s started speaking during oral arguments basically for the first time. And he’s written majority opinions that managed to get some unexpected co-signers. Maybe working from home also agrees with him?

    (I know they changed the format of oral arguments, but he still wouldn’t have to participate).

    (Also I disagree with almost every opinion, dissent, concurrence, and question he’s ever written/said. It’s just been interesting actually hearing from him).

    1. Not A Manager*

      “A few years ago I started a prestigious job at a very small workplace. My co-workers are all loons. They have the weirdest backgrounds and sometimes I really wonder how they managed to get hired at all…”

  8. New Bee*

    I heard a similar story to LW1 on a podcast recently (Hidden Brain’s The Fake Bride). So there’s more than one person out there faking marriages to strangers apparently.

  9. Despachito*

    I am so happy for you, LW, that things turned out for the better for you.

    You are definitely a very kind person, and you did absolutely nothing wrong by yelling at the guy (although I can see the perspective how this might have appeared weird if the witnesses were not in the know that he was claiming he was married to you), and I see the situation as a massive fail of your manager who should absolutely have had your back.

    And in the future, please be much kinder to yourself than to perpetrators who are trying to harm you.

  10. mazarin*

    LW1, I read your original post and laughed. Not to mock you, but because I had something very similar happen to me, and it was just so strange, and now its 15 years later and its just- funny. And sort of nice to know I’m not the only one it happened to. For all the people who don’t understand it- the guy was in love with me, and lonely, and unable to communicate, so instead of telling me, or asking me on a date, or anything like that, he just told other people we were married. He then sent me a break up letter, which is how I found out. ( And then some comments some other people had made suddenly made sense- he apparently had been telling other people about it for a couple years) I was scared when it first happened. I told some friends about it, and they kept notes for me so if anything really creepy happened they had records& contemporaneous witness. But he left me alone afterwards, and is now happily married himself, and it was all long ago so I get to giggle.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      Wow, though it’s weird to think this may be a common issue it’s good to hear from someone for whom it’s become an amusing long-ago memory. I was reading their update and thinking I’m glad they got out but that the whole thing is just so *weird* that I’d have trouble letting go of it if I were in their shoes. I hope it isn’t too long before the OP is able to move on from it mentally (unless maybe they already have!)

  11. Secretary*

    For LW4 I’ll bet it was the “returning to sender”. I had a similar problem here, and as soon as my coworker’s performance became my boss’s problem, everything changed. :)

  12. EssentialWorkSurvivor*

    #2 – I can’t say how much I relate to both the original letter and the update! It was really hard being part of a skeleton crew, and I felt that resentment too. So many complicated feelings!

    I am happy to say the work did not go unnoticed for me, either: an eye-popping Christmas bonus and just last week, a super generous raise.


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