Comments on: employee’s weird email about a coworker, job wants people who enjoy jokes made at their expense, and more Sat, 24 Jul 2021 21:04:23 +0000 hourly 1 By: Mandycake Sat, 24 Jul 2021 21:04:23 +0000 In reply to Slow Gin Lizz.

I left a toxic long term contract temp job for a permanent position on the first work day after the new job was a sure thing. I told the manager I was leaving that day (leaving out the new job and that I was taking two desperately-needed weeks off in between) and she nearly choked. The director called me in and grilled me about the reason for leaving. I just kept repeating that I was leaving and it was my last day. She even asked me what it would take to make me stay. She was desperate since they thought I was covering for the dept. over the holidays. I did tell the contractor company that no paid time off in more than a year made the decision very easy.

By: Deborah Thu, 22 Jul 2021 21:51:01 +0000 I find myself curious if anyone would find it objectionable for one employee to contact a boss on behalf of another who is suddenly ill? I got a migraine suddenly at work just before lunch time one day during the pandemic – I was on a meeting remotely with my teammate and I went from normal to basically unable to communicate because I couldn’t think. Our direct manager was out and I was so new I didn’t know where to find his boss. My remote team member (who is not my boss) told me I should go home for lunch and she would call our grand boss and if I didn’t feel better I should take the afternoon off. I was very grateful (and honestly she was expressing company culture and helping me navigate brain fog more than telling me what to do).

By: Alison2 Thu, 22 Jul 2021 20:55:48 +0000 In reply to Cat Lover.

These comments are so strange. I’ve been in this exact situation and the humility of being a language learner helped me bond with people a lot.

By: anonny Thu, 22 Jul 2021 20:50:08 +0000 In reply to Alexander Graham Yell.

Seconding the IM-ing or other text messaging as a nice in-between step to practice a language you feel shy about speaking/trying – on top of giving a little more time to think, it can also start to set a practice of communicating in [Dothraki] with that person if you’re feeling shy about just jumping in and making the switch. (Signed, a person just beginning to work in a language I began learning 2 years ago!)

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 12:28:54 +0000 In reply to Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US).

Ouch… I would’ve felt uncomfortable too.

By: The Hon. Catherine Bingley Thu, 22 Jul 2021 12:27:07 +0000 In reply to LW3.

Yeah, it’s really weird the way some folks are interpreting that. I was recently in France (I’m from the US and a native English speaker), and have an elementary grasp on the language. Every conversation I had in French while there was practice for me. Many people switched to English when they realized I was an American, and one waitress actually excitedly said “oh! Americans! It’s been so long since I could practice with Americans!” I wasn’t tutoring her, she wasn’t tutoring me — we were just conversing. Did she correct my pronunciation a time or two? Sure (and I was grateful!). Did I teach her some American colloquialisms? Yup! But still, we were both practicing and neither tutoring.

By: TeapotNinja Thu, 22 Jul 2021 12:22:07 +0000 LW3: As a foreign language speaking person, if someone took the effort to learn and speak my native language to me at work, I’d be thrilled and impressed, even if everything didn’t come out just right. Sprinkle that stuff in whenever you can!

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 06:26:35 +0000 In reply to Alianora.

I’m Finnish, and both Finnish and Swedish are fairly collaborative languages and interruptions are considered impolite at best and rude at worst. French is a language where you indicate engagement by frequently interrupting the speaker. I was pretty fluent when I went to France for 6 months (2 trimesters) as a college student, but only felt that I was genuinely accepted to be truly fluent to the point that some people asked me if I was Belgian because they couldn’t place my accent when I started interrupting others in conversations in the French style. Language skills aren’t just a matter of pronunciation, grammar, and syntax, but also about communication patterns.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 06:18:01 +0000 In reply to Allonge.

Yes, this. Welcoming intermediate learners to participate in a conversation is a whole different ball game from helping those who have barely any vocabularly at all.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 06:15:15 +0000 In reply to anonymath.

Yeah, absolutely agreed. That said, I do think that most people would be happy to give a heads-up, if the language learner accidentally said something offensive. I think it would be cruel not to.

I’m a Swedish-speaking Finn, and at one time I and a coworker had an agreement where we’d go for coffee or lunch so that she could speak Swedish with me. It’s one of my native languages, she took it in school and worked in Sweden as a young adult, but her skills were fairly rusty. She asked if I’d be willing to do Swedish lunches or coffee breaks with her, and we went about once a week. About once a month or so she’d buy me a coffee at our favorite coffee shop as a thank you, and both of us were happy with the arrangement until she retired two years ago. For context, Swedish is an official minority language that had a high status in the past when it was the language of the educated classes and government, but this is no longer the case. I’ve had dirty looks on public transit for speaking Swedish with my son, but it’s never gone any further than that.

By: Observer Thu, 22 Jul 2021 06:00:52 +0000 In reply to Julia.

Imagine if this happened in person – someone says to the boss “hey, Jane seems like she wants to go out with me tonight but she’s supposed to be closing – would you talk to her?” Not really weird

On what planet is that NOT weird? Again, it’s just a massive overstep for Phyllis to decide that Pam “seems to want to” do this and the make the request for her without ever checking with her. And that’s before you look at the language that makes Pam look like a frightened child who can’t manage her life.

By they same token, if someone asked “would you talk to her?” I would be floored. Hopefully I would have enough presence of mind to ask “Why would you think that’s remotely appropriate?” In actuality? I’d probably sputter. Because it IS weird. VERY weird. And utterly inappropriate and not good for the person being spoken about.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:58:02 +0000 In reply to JustaTech.

My former boss used to have two coffee mugs at the office, “Keep Calm & Carry On” and “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps”. I never could figure out if she used them at random or if she picked them according to her mood that day. She was always very to extremely stressed out, though…

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:53:57 +0000 In reply to Mannequin.

Yup. I can take jokes at my expense, as long as they’re verbal. And provided I can make jokes at the jokester right back. I won’t sit back and take it quietly if I’m the butt of jokes but I’m not allowed to take my revenge.

Pranks though are a different matter. I detest pranks and have nothing but contempt for pranksters.

By: Observer Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:52:47 +0000 In reply to Tara R..

I agree that Pam might actually have wanted to go. But, the issue here is not just about professionalism, although that’s the only thing the OP has standing to address.

By: Observer Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:50:36 +0000 In reply to LW1.

but Pam did *not* see the email, nor did about a dozen others read about how lonely and pathetic she apparently is. (I of course don’t think this, it just seemed like the tone of the email.)

Yes, then Pam needs to know about this.

I think you are totally correct about the tone of the email. It is totally condescending and really makes Pam look like a charity case.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:49:49 +0000 In reply to LW3.

I’m Finnish. There are approx 6 million Finnish-speakers in the world, if you count minorities in other countries, 5.5 million live in Finland. Most Finns would be flattered by a foreigner attempting to learn our language and would be willing to help, if only in social chats around the breakroom table during a coffee break (it’s an institution here). Since about 1960, English has been more or less a compulsory subject in our schools. Most people with a high-school diploma speak at least some, and the younger and more educated someone is, the more likely they are to be fluent in English. But if you move to Finland and want to understand the culture and people, some Finnish is absolutely necessary.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:34:03 +0000 In reply to quill.

Franco was in Spain, but I guess you meant Mussolini?

Broadcast radio has been around for more than 100 years, I’m betting that’s what started the unification.

By: allathian Thu, 22 Jul 2021 05:32:17 +0000 In reply to dealing with dragons.

They aren’t just dialects of the same language, there are significant differences in vocabulary and spelling. Both languages have gendered nouns, and opposite genders for the same noun, that’s recognizably the same word, can trip you up. For reference, I’m a Swedish-speaking Finn. Spoken Norwegian is a lot easier to understand for me than Danish, although I can read both languages about equally well.

By: Anonymous Today Thu, 22 Jul 2021 03:50:09 +0000 In reply to Aack tthpt.

Very often Alison has information beyond what is included in what shows up in print.

I am guessing that the LW provided details that made it clear the boss is male.

By: Anonymous Today Thu, 22 Jul 2021 02:56:06 +0000 In reply to Kne.

It’s run by lions. They like to make jokes at the hyenas’ expense. Except lions’ jokes generally aren’t funny to hyenas, what with the power imbalance and all.

By: Aack tthpt Thu, 22 Jul 2021 02:41:12 +0000 Why is LW4’s boss “he” in Alison’s answer? LW very carefully nongenders them in their letter. I thought all bosses defaulted to female here. I guess only bad bosses are assumed to be male?

By: Stormfeather Thu, 22 Jul 2021 02:15:25 +0000 In reply to Observer.

I do think the OP should talk to Pam, because if nothing else Pam needs to know that Phyllis is doing this stuff. It’s also of course possible that Pam knew about the planned email and is fine with it, though I’d lean toward it more likely being all Phyllis. But at the very least the conversation would happen, even if it’s more a matter of giving the information that this happened and getting an idea of Pam’s take on it than anything else.

By: Anonymous Today Thu, 22 Jul 2021 02:08:44 +0000 In reply to quill.


By: BeenThere Thu, 22 Jul 2021 01:22:09 +0000 In reply to Dust Bunny.

I’m fluent in Italian Ice Cream Shop Order. Hooray for short periods of time in countries and being very driven by my stomach \:D/

People really appreciate it when you try and speak their native language, my spouse has an ear for languages and we always have such fun when traveling as a result. I’ll never forget the German student at the counter in the French baguette shop. She’d figured out fairly quickly that our French was terrible and switched to English saying she was German but her English was better than her French, cue a lovely bit of banter while we ordered. When we left we thanked her for the delicious food and wished her good luck in her studies in France, in full flight German, the look on her face was priceless.

By: tamarack and fireweed Thu, 22 Jul 2021 01:12:58 +0000 In reply to Teach.

I really don’t think that people think such a thing at all.

What I do see is people being aware of the context of this being an advice site. And advice lands at all people. I too have had tons of informal language exchanges with people of all walks of life. I enjoy it. They enjoyed it. But… a whole lot of people will take the answer they get at an advice site and then just apply it cookie cutter style.

So while *I* have had and continue to have a lot of harmless fun communicating, my actual written advice will not be “oh, it’s great, just go ahead” even though that’s how I go about it – because I’m writing in a place where maybe 10-25% of the readers can be expected to be formulaic thinkers, assholes or at least inexperienced! So instead of 20% on caveats and 80% on raving about how great it is (as I would be with trusted friends) I am very very conservative and spend 80% on caveats and 20% on singing the praise of language learning (to which I have devoted considerable time and effort!). I don’t want a single person barging into a culturally sensitive situation with a demanding attitude based on *my* advice! (Now *you* wouldn’t do that, nor would I and anyone experienced in these situations – but before you shake your head about what comes across as negativity, please consider that there might be thought and consideration behind it.)

We should all be very aware not just what we say but in which context. I think with social media being what they are, that’s just necessary.

By: I Thu, 22 Jul 2021 01:03:24 +0000 In reply to Alleira.

This! I’m really surprised people went straight to insults—I’d read that ad as saying they’re looking for someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously/is flexible enough to roll with whatever happens.

By: tamarack and fireweed Thu, 22 Jul 2021 00:56:47 +0000 In reply to Tau.

Yes! But on the other hand I find it an interesting ethical and cultural challenge to in fact build those bridges. Because ideally we want to find a way to build them! It doesn’t help the Sorbian or Arabic or Berber speaker that they’re not even included in the language exchange … but we need to find ways to do it that aren’t an extension of colonial attitudes or put burdens on them.

I’m in fact using Duolingo’s new Yiddish course (my spouse is Jewish and has in fact studied some German – my native language – since we got together, and we’ve both embarked on the Yiddish). That’s not super sensitive but a lot more than Finnish or French!

And I also work for an institution that serves a sizable percentage of indigenous students and have pondered enrolling in one of the language classes. One of the instructors is outstanding, and she serves everyone: youth and adults from her particular tribal background (language preservation – some are down to single-digit fluent speakers, and even some of the the stronger ones are in the hundreds only), Italian exchange students, non-indigenous community members… Me taking advantage of the language offer incrementally increases the reach of this threatened language and gives everyone one more person to practice on, but on the other hand I could easily be taking up too many resources that should rather go to this cultural community, which is already under a lot of stress. So treading lightly is the order of the day. (I’ve been asked “why would you like to learn [language]”? and my answer was along the lines of “I’ve moved around quite a bit in my life, and always thought it was the right thing to learn (at least one of) the language(s) attached to the place where I moved to.” That seemed to be a relatively ok approach.)

By: tamarack and fireweed Thu, 22 Jul 2021 00:44:03 +0000 In reply to LW3.

Yeah, that makes it *a lot* easier because there’s much less baggage than there could be. This doesn’t mean that one or two of your colleagues may not have any interest in including you – that’s just interpersonal stuff, status stuff, individual interests (just because someone speaks a foreign language in country X doesn’t mean they’re interested in languages and language learning).

But to go back to your OP, it’s definitely not too late. Just start small, build affinities, find the ones who think it’s fun to converse with you in “Dothraki” and who enjoy telling you about their language. You’ll sure get odd bits of information (“huh, now that you ask, I think the plural of that should be X, but in my family we always called it Y. I think this is because of my grandmother came from [region] where they have a dialect that has different words for these things. In writing I’d use X!”)

By: Tara R. Thu, 22 Jul 2021 00:23:23 +0000 In reply to Dark Macadamia.

It’s very possible that Pam likes Phyllis and wants to spend time with her! People can be kind and mostly pleasant and also have poor judgment and say things that come across as condescending. I can see several people who I love dearly making a similar mistake to this. I’m not excusing Phyllis– the email absolutely was undermining and I can’t believe she sent it to a whole group of people– but I think this is one of those situations where your perspective really affects how egregious you find it. To a more reserved audience that puts a lot of value on professionalism (a lot of the AAM crew), Phyllis sounds miserable, but someone with different values might not find it as noteworthy.

By: Rebecca Wed, 21 Jul 2021 23:32:51 +0000 #4. I just did this two after 1 week with a new VP. It was very clear, very quickly that he was a micromanaging, critical, control freak and I have to much self respect to be treated that way so I quit.
I have a verbal notice saying this isn’t going to work for me then I wrote in my letter, “the culture in the xxxx office has changed to the point that it no longer aligns with my values or career goals”
The way you treat people as a manager matters and treating them terribly your first day on the job will cost you talented, dedicated team members with deep institutional knowledge. His loss.

By: SimplytheBest Wed, 21 Jul 2021 23:13:41 +0000 In reply to Dark Macadamia.

I mean…other than asking for it off herself a few days later.

Phyllis is in the wrong for talking to the boss for sure, but the infantalization of Pam by the rest of this comment section (she’s being pressured! she’s being taken advantage of! she doesn’t know how to say no to big, scary Phyllis and needs protection!) isn’t much better.

By: Alleira Wed, 21 Jul 2021 22:15:45 +0000 In reply to Delta Delta.

Interestingly enough, the employer related to LW2 is a law firm (just google the sentence – the listing comes up). So I sincerely doubt that this is a place where racist or sexist jokes are made routinely, but I’m not going to say never because lawyers can be remarkably stupid sometimes.

Being a lawyer myself (but not at this firm), I am guessing this is someone’s attempt at humor falling flat. My perspective on this is that when you work the kind of long hours that lawyers work, you really need to be able to relate to your colleagues and a good sense of humor about yourself, and particularly your own mistakes, is invaluable. Don’t spend a million hours beating yourself up about your mistakes; learn from them, remember them, laugh at them, and move on. I don’t take the sentence to mean that you should be comfortable being mocked by others, but instead that they hope you take issues in stride.

THAT SAID … it is probably best not to put that in a job ad and to evaluate it on a case by case basis at the interview. I find that you can generally tell if someone has a decent sense of humor by the end of the interview. To me (a person who hires people), a sense of humor is basically required because I work in a high-stress environment. I agree, however, that the wording is highly subjective and somewhat problematic (as demonstrated by the question and the responses in here) and good candidates might opt not to apply (LOL: no, they’re 3Ls so they would apply to work in the pit of hell if it gave them experience. Ask me how I know!). Better to not try to stand out from the crowd and see what someone’s like in person.

By: Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii Wed, 21 Jul 2021 22:05:14 +0000 Acme: We stand behind our products (and employees). Usually from a safe distance.

By: ecnaseener Wed, 21 Jul 2021 22:05:08 +0000 In reply to Mannequin.

Lol exactly!

By: Tau Wed, 21 Jul 2021 22:02:25 +0000 In reply to Alianora.

Especially because… yeah yeah edge cases don’t fetishize be aware of power imbalances etc. etc. … but overall I would say it is a good thing to want to speak your coworkers’ native language with them instead of forcing them to speak yours? This is in fact a very respectful thing to offer and a lot of people will really appreciate it? Especially when you’re in a workplace where it’s spoken widely and your alternative is insisting a lot of conversations switch to English to accommodate you? The amount of pushback OP got for this is unreal. And she clarified a bunch of the assumptions didn’t apply pretty early on, too!

By: DrRat Wed, 21 Jul 2021 21:27:47 +0000 In reply to Tin Cormorant.

One thing to remember is that a boss this mean isn’t going to be a good reference for you, no matter what. You could work 100 weeks in your remaining time and polish his car with your shirt, and he’ll still be a terrible reference. So – you don’t have to give notice at all. You can take all your stuff when you leave one day, email an “I quit” email with the address to send your last check, and basically be done. Is there an HR you can speak to if you need to COBRA your benefits or anything?

Or, you know, you could just spell out your resignation in cod.

By: quill Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:52:17 +0000 In reply to Anononon.

It’s a nicer transition than pointing at Francisco Franco, for sure.

By: quill Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:47:14 +0000 In reply to PeanutButter.

And the in-jokes get very, very good as everyone not only adapts to the lingua franca, but starts picking up bits and pieces of other languages.

By: Gumby Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:25:06 +0000 In reply to Tau.

native speakers with zero foreign language teaching qualifications or experience are some of the worst people possible to explain things about their language since they work totally based on intuition/subconscious knowledge and translating that to explicit rules takes work, skill, and knowledge

Yep. I learned a number of things about *English* in my Spanish class. Like the subjunctive – we do have it in English, kind of, but it wasn’t taught in any of my English classes. There are things that you pick up when learning a language because you are immersed in it without necessarily understanding the grammar reason behind it. Which is fine and great, but means that merely being a native speaker doesn’t qualify you to *teach* a language.

Thus while I am happy to be an English conversation partner (an actual volunteer thing I have done through an organized program at a local university, mostly with international grad students / post docs / spouses), I am completely unqualified to be an English tutor or teacher.

By: rototiller Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:24:29 +0000 In reply to Andy.

You make a good point. There are some odd implications in these comments. People may mean well and have good points about sensitivity to power dynamics, but if the result comes across as pressure to just speak English all the time… I mean, whose agenda does that serve exactly?

What language to use in a multilingual setting is very situation-specific, but OP seems to understand their situation quite well already. There’s no reason for them to re-analyze all the social dynamics before acting if they can just ask people what they’re comfortable with.

(And FWIW, I find it a bit suspicious that some of these “sensitivity” arguments have included examples of virtuous behavior like “speaking English while travelling abroad” and “socializing less with my Spanish-speaking coworkers.”)

By: EventPlannerGal Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:04:04 +0000 In reply to Forrest.

You seem extremely focused on that one word to the point that you seem to be ignoring the rest of what Book Badger has actually been saying, which I’m not sure is especially constructive. The point is that there are a great number of comments which are making very uncharitable assumptions about the OP’s intentions, whether they’re stated outright or framed as “I’m not SAYING you’re [expecting your colleagues to tutor you/exploiting an oppressor-oppressed dynamic/rudely invading your colleagues’ linguistic safe space] BUT…” – which is not significantly better, especially not when the point has been made dozens and dozens of times over. And all of those assumptions can be proven inaccurate by simply reading what the OP has actually said. It’s silly and it’s rude.

By: azvlr Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:57:51 +0000 In reply to LW3.

There are defined levels of language proficiency, so it may be helpful to identify for yourself which level you feel you are at. It’s very normal and ok to only listen at first, and gradually move from responding to the new language in English (of course, don’t be creepy about this and avoid eavesdropping) to short phrases and responses when you are ready. Your pronunciation may be horrible, but often the only way to get past the embarrassment of that is to actually speak.
It sounds like you are in a good environment where your efforts will be interpreted favorably. Good luck!

By: generic_username Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:45:53 +0000 In reply to Dark Macadamia.

That was my first thought. Also, the AUDACITY of thinking you can choose when someone else uses PTO (or takes unpaid time off). I can’t even imagine what Phyllis is thinking….

By: Mannequin Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:40:35 +0000 In reply to ecnaseener.

I just would end up getting fired from the no-humor place for making jokes at my own expense.
I’ll take my chances at the other place- I have a thick skin & a quick wit and can dish it right back out if I have to, which they might not find as amusing, LOL.

By: RagingADHD Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:34:32 +0000 In reply to Mr and Mrs Kitty.


I’ve been in many different situations where there was a language difference, and I have never, ever encountered anything but a positive response when I try to bridge it. I have also encountered situations where I *didn’t* try to bridge the gap, and the other person was very annoyed at having to speak English to this ignorant American.

Now, sometimes that response is the equivalent of “Oh, bless your heart” and the person starts speaking English out of pity. But they were much less annoyed, and gave a warmer/more helpful response.

All this about how deeply offensive it would be to attempt another language sounds like it’s coming from another planet.