employee is taking free snacks, Parks and Rec vs. The Office, and more

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

1. Employee is taking free snacks and sodas

I own a small takeout restaurant. We have four employees, plus me and my business partner. Since we are so small, it’s hard to hire and when we find employees who show up every day and meet our minimum expectations, we try to keep them happy.

We’ve had one employee for about 2.5 years now. Slowly over the years, she has started taking more and more liberties in regards to the food and ignoring our requests for her to do a task. I’ve had direct conversations with her three times, and things always get better for a period and then she starts to slip again.

Recently, she’s started taking more than the $10 meal we provide per day (covers a sandwich, side, and drink). She’ll take an extra drink once or twice a month, or today she’d taken her free meal on her break and then I returned from an errand to find her eating a bag of chips while she was supposed to be working.

This all feels so petty. How do I have a conversation about $1.50? But, it makes me batty that I’ve had to talk to her about it more than once, and that it just keeps happening. When she’s taking more, it’s a couple dollars here or there. But over time it adds up. Our margins are tight, and our costs have skyrocketed this past year.

A part of me thinks if we’re too strict on these things, we’ll lose employees and hiring is one of the biggest challenges we face. But I also feel like she’s stealing from us and my ego just wants to scream. Should I address it again, or just find a way to let it go and accept that it is what it is?

We’re talking about a couple of sodas and a bag of chips over the course of a month? I’d let it go. In theory you have the right to say something, but I can’t imagine it would serve you well in the long run. It’s too close to chastising someone for taking a few pens home or for spending a few minutes on a personal call; looking that heavy-handed will cost you more than the behavior you’re trying to stop.

It’s got to be worth $5 or $10/month not to have to hire someone new in what’s currently an incredibly difficult environment for restaurants to hire in.

And I know that doesn’t address the principle of it. She’s taking food she’s not supposed to take! But unless you think taking pens home is an outrage too, I’d try to see this as more akin to that.

It does sound like you have some legitimate problems with this employee (ignoring assigned tasks, snacking instead of working) and you probably need to address those more head-on. In particular, I’d name the pattern itself: “We’ve talked before about XYZ and you’ll improve for a while but then it starts up again.” But I’d leave the few dollars worth of snacks out of it. (It also might be worth asking yourself if you’d be this bothered if an excellent employee who you loved was grabbing the occasional extra soda. If you wouldn’t, it’s not really about the food.)

2. Our Covid coordinator thinks Covid is a hoax

I work in an organization with about 40 employees. Some have been remote or hybrid due to Covid. Our HR manager, Tina, was assigned the responsibility of handling our COVID response: developing procedures for safe in-person working environments, contact tracing, etc. I recently learned from a peer who interacts with her that Tina believes Covid is a conspiracy and is staunchly anti-vaccine.

On multiple occasions I brought concerns to her only to be told they’d be addressed and to not worry, and I was starting to feel like I was overreacting. Learning this about Tina casts an entirely new light on our organization’s policy-making over the last year and is making me feel like I’ve been gaslit.

Is it moral for her to have those beliefs and be in charge of pandemic response? I’d like to think that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but what happens when those opinions directly contradict your duties?

Nooooo this is not okay. She has a direct conflict of interest with the job she’s been assigned to do. This is like assigning someone who doesn’t believe in birth control to counsel people on contraception.

Everyone in your office who cares about safety should push back on this hard.

3. Stop interrupting me

I don’t like being interrupted when I’m speaking, and it seems that EVERYONE interrupts me. I am a retail store manager and I have to keep my cool but I find it so incredibly rude. Currently, I have a brand new employee and she is constantly finishing my statements! In the past I’ve said things such as “what I was saying was…” or “hang on, I wasn’t quite done” and it works at that moment but not long term. I know my new employee is just trying to impress me and is excited about the job, but this is just my thing and it’s very annoying to me. How can I let people know that I don’t appreciate being interrupted without being mean or rude myself?

You’re in an excellent position to do it as their manager! The language you’ve used in the moment is good, as is “please let me finish.” But if it keeps happening, then after one of those interruptions you should say, “You’re probably not aware of this, but you interrupt me a lot, and I need you to hear all of what I’m saying! Can you make sure you’ve let me finish my thought before you jump in?” If it feels right for the situation, like with your new hire, you could add, “I appreciate that you’re enthusiastic about the job!”

4. Is this delay between interviews normal?

Is it normal to have 10 days between interview periods if the company is really interested in you? I recently interviewed for a company, and the first two interviews went amazingly well with me knowing I was going to next step before it ended. When it got to scheduling the last interview, it will be with multiple higher-ups. They asked my availability based on some times they had, and I gave it to them. They responded that not everyone was going to be available and gave me the first available date — 10 days from now. Typically in previous interviews there has always been a push to interview quickly if a company wanted me, I assume so another company doesn’t pick me up. Is it normal to have this long between interviews? I really want this job, but I’m scared to put my job searching on hold until then. For what it’s worth, I do have a job currently, I’m just ready to move on.

10 days between interviews isn’t weird at all! Often the waiting period is even longer. Don’t read anything into it.

But you definitely shouldn’t put your job search on hold until then! You should never stop an active job search just because an interview went well because no matter how enthusiastic about you they seem, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a job offer. A stronger candidate could come along, or the employer could freeze their hiring, or they could reconfigure the position, or all sorts of things. My mail is full of people upset that it seemed like they were on the verge of a job offer that never materialized. So proceed the same way you would if this job weren’t in the mix at all; don’t put anything on hold because of it.

5. Michael Scott vs. Leslie Knope

I’ve recently rewatched Parks and Rec and was in shock at how terrible Leslie Knope is as a boss. I remember thinking it would be so fun to work in her office back when the show first aired. But now I’m horrified — mandatory overnight camping with your office mates? Extreme personal meddling? No thank you! So my question to you, is who do you think would be worse to work for: Michael Scott from The Office, the OG terrible boss with his extreme incompetence, or Leslie Knope with her work-is-life attitude?

I know this is a terribly low stakes question, but I am so interested in your take!

I KNOW. I love Parks and Rec, but I wish someone could make a supercut with most of Leslie’s scenes removed because I get agitated about them presenting her as so competent and devoted to her job when in fact she is a terrible manager. Just give me Ron Swanson, Chris Traeger, and April so I can be happy.

So, Michael Scott vs. Leslie Knope. They’re both bad! But if you had to work for one … Leslie. You suggest she get some management training and she would go all-in on it, whereas Michael would crack offensive jokes the whole time and not take it seriously. On the other hand, Michael could be very easily manipulated into doing things differently. But I’m going with Leslie, begrudgingly.

One thing I loved about the Office, though, is that it slowly becomes clear that Michael is actually a good salesman. His tragedy (the whole office’s tragedy, really) is that he got promoted to a job he’s awful at, but he could have been happy and successful if he had stayed in sales. I hope he became a stay-at-home dad and raised a bunch of kids with Holly after they moved to Colorado. (And speaking of other people who are terrible at their jobs: Holly!)

{ 763 comments… read them below }

      1. CoconutLatte*

        Me too! And his name was Michael S- a short, one syllable name that started with S. The similarities were TOO REAL.

      2. Generic Name*

        Me too (well, he had a different name). I couldn’t even watch The Office when it aired, even though my husband at the time LOVED IT because it was just too close to home. I didn’t find it funny at all. :/

    1. nnn*

      The interesting thing about P&R is almost every character was a delight to watch (at least when it first aired – I’m not sure how well it would stand up to the test of time), and almost every character would be a nightmare to have to deal with IRL. It’s quite a feat of writing to assemble so many terrible people and elicit a positive emotional response in the audience!

        1. Washi*

          I actually weirdly think the Office has aged better in being a brutally honest (if exaggerated for comedic effect) snapshot of how rife sexism/racism/fatphobia/ableism are in the workplace, both in how people in more powerful groups feel comfortable or don’t even notice themselves perpetuating it, and how some people will just shrug it off as nbd, while others totally detatch to survive, like Stanley’s character. Watching the Office, I find myself reminded of times when I kind of went along with stuff I knew wasn’t ok or laughed uncomfortably at jokes that were wrong, and it’s a reminder about speaking up and not getting dragged down by your workplace culture!

          While I do enjoy some aspects of P&R, all the jokes about how Pawnee is so fat, plus all the Native American stuff just feels cruel but not in a social commentary way. Or at least, I didn’t get a larger message from it.

          1. anononon*

            I always ready the issue of weight as being about the politics of regulations; the people of Pawnee make terrible, self-destructive choices presented to them by private corporations capitalizing on their self-destructive choices to increase their profits. Leslie is desperately trying to put guard rails on things like the “child size” soda (approximately the size of one small child) to protect people, with the show taking the stance that libertarian beliefs like Ron’s are not in the public’s best interest?

          2. anononon*

            And (but please push back if you disagree! I’m very open to dialogue about this!) I saw the character of Ken Hotate as always being able to use people’s racism against them. Like in the Harvest Festival episodes when he “curses” then or “lifts the curse” by saying “I am saying nonsense words” in his language. And the history of Pawnee’s abuses of the Wamapoke tribe demonstrating how much America whitewashes its atrocities against indigenous peoples; a rosy version makes it into our history books, just like a cartoonish portrait is painted in a mural on City Hall’s walls, but no one recognizes the abuses it portrays.

              1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

                This is not relevant to the discussion but I have to share my favorite King of the Hill gag. At one point John Redcorn forms a band with Lucky and his buddy – voiced by Tom Petty and Trace Adkins, two of the best selling singers of this generation – but the only one who sings (and does so terribly) is John Redcorn! I love this joke and it’s so subtle and clever.

            1. Msnotmrs*

              I definitely feel that Ken Hotate is supposed to throw into relief how nervous a lot of even “woke” white people feel when interacting with people of color. As someone who grew up in an area with a moderate Native population, it definitely rang true for me in a lot of ways.

            2. cubone*

              I think this is right on the intent but I always felt like it didn’t quite get all the ….there. The Ken character is often brought in to show how desperately hard this nice white lady is trying to put her positive spin on the atrocious history, and there’s a bit of this joke in that that of course the extent of said atrocities is way too great for her little attempts to really be meaningful. Or just the jokes about him using manipulating white guilt/racism to his advantage, as you said.

              … but at the end of the day I do think these jokes are written for a white audience to gently rib themselves, but not really interrogate anything about these issues on a meaningful level. Also, Ken is the only Native American character. It’d be one thing to play up this irony/comedic commentary lens, but it’s also literally the only representation of a Native American person on that show, you know? That’s always where I landed on the side of finding it not the most cruel, but still kind of shortsighted.

              1. anononon*

                yeah, good point. Apparently Michael Schur has a new show about a descendent of a colonial settler who made a “treaty” with the local indigenous tribe to settle the town trying to reconcile his ancestor’s past? And it’s co-creator is a Navajo woman? I’m curious to see how it does.

                1. cubone*

                  Yeah, I haven’t seen this (Rutherford Falls) but when I heard about it, it struck me as potential a better “redo” of what they wanted to do with Ken x PnR, but with actually Indigenous people at the leadership level. I’ll definitely check it out, as I’m a big Egg Helms fan.

                2. Polly Sprocket*

                  Rutherford Falls is AMAZING, not at all like the one-dimensional Ken Hotate character – it’s hilarious and so smartly written, and the Native people in the story are all full, complex characters. At least half of the writing staff is Native, and it shows in the story.

                  Not to derail from the Parks & Rec convo, I just loved Rutherford Falls so much

                3. Fully Licensed Lama Groomer*

                  Chiming in to be another voice praising RUTHERFORD FALLS! Jana Schmideing, the Lakota actress, writer, and producer really did an amazing job with that show and I am so grateful that Mike Shur worked with her. I was resistant to another streaming service but I binged RF on a Peacock free week.

                4. Two Chairs, One to Go*

                  Rutherford Falls! It’s really funny. Not a single fat joke in sight. They’ve done a great job with making it funny, relatable, and not cringe. Michael Greyeyes has the most interesting character in the show and newcomer Jana Schmieding is hilarious.

                5. FrivYeti*

                  Joining the chorus saying that Rutherford Falls is a phenomenal show, and a big part of that is how many Indigenous voices are at the table at the development level. I think Michael Schur’s heart was in the right place for Parks & Rec, but Rutherford Falls has people who can do the story from their own perspective, and it makes a huge difference.

                6. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

                  Rutherford Falls is so good. And as a bonus, listen to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about it with a couple of Indigenous panelists, which just enhances the show itself.

                7. Bowserkitty*

                  Rutherford Falls is AWESOMEEEE. Furthering the recommendations for it. Very excited for season 2.

              2. Liz T*

                I agree that the Ken Hotate character makes me comfortable primarily because that’s ALL he does in the show. If he were more of a character, and/or there were more of a native presence, that would be one thing–but really he’s a plot device and a one-note joke. Fantastic actor! But, not proper representation.

                I LOVED Rutherford Falls. I wish it had been even more centered on Reagan and Terry (holly crap Michael Greyeyes is SO GOOD), and less on the white folk, but it’s still really great. Michael Schur still had to be pushed to make it as Native-centric as it wound up being! I STRONGLY recommend people watch it though.

              3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Unrelated to the workplace topic, although there are some tangentially relevant management issues especially around leadership, but check out Rutherford Falls on Peacock. It is by the guy who did P&R and the Good Place. They touch on a lot of the same issues but through a Native lens. It is hilarious.

            3. PuzzleObsession*

              I agree— I think it gives people a more realistic (albeit comedic) view of the way our towns and cities actually came to be. We are all living on native land, and I like how the show uses sarcasm and humor to poke fun at the very real ignorance and cultural fear people often have of indigenous groups in their area. I hope that makes sense.

          3. cubone*

            Meant to add: the fat stuff is super yikes. I can see what anonanon is saying about the politics of regulations and hadn’t thought of that before, but I feel like a looooot of the “Pawnee is so fat” jokes were just really reductive and lived in that “har har, fat people are gross” comedy land.

            1. anononon*

              yeah, I can fully see that I’m trying to read the most generous interpretation into the show’s treatment of weight so I don’t feel bad loving it… and the reductive joke is always going to land with more people than the political commentary, even if the latter is the intention

              1. cubone*

                Oh, please know that I am a huuuuuuuuge P&R fan and always will be. It’s like a comfort blanket I turn to in trying times, lol. And I think it’s okay to know something has faults but still love it (see also: all my comments in this thread about MASH, lol). I also feel like it’s relevant that my two responses to you are saying 1) that the Ken character is not the worst but not great but 2) the fat people stuff is definitely the worst…. and I am a white fat lady. So. Clearly my own biases affect my interpretation anyways.

            2. MissBaudelaire*

              I agree with you on a lot of “Let’s make fun of fat people!” stuff.

              I did appreciate that they tried to cast light (I felt) on the fact that sometimes corporations are behind a lot of ‘bad choices’ people make. I know it was played up for laughs and like “How could anyone fall for this!?!?” But that was kind of the point, maybe? That a lot of regular consumers ‘fall’ for it and don’t know better and are overly trusting of these corporations who care about a dollar, and not the health of their consumers?

              I maybe read waaaay too far into it, though.

            3. Mischa*

              I was diagnosed with an eating disorder earlier this year (I’m doing well!). Shortly after my diagnosis I started watching P&R again for what seemed like the millionth time. And OHHHH BOY, I did not realize how horrible and how pervasive the fat jokes are until rewatching post-ED. I still love P&R and The Office, but I definitely need to watch both in small bites (ha).

            4. middle name danger*

              Not only was Pawnee being so fat played for jokes…Pawnee wasn’t fat. No work given to fat actors, almost no representation in the show itself, to make up for the jokes. If some of the one-episode characters were still full characters who happened to be far, maybe I’d be a little more forgiving. Majority of the extras we saw were the same extras you’d see in any other show.

                1. Angela*

                  To be fair, there were two regular characters who were overweight (Jerry and Donna.) That’s not nothing.

        2. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

          Not for me, but through no fault of its own. Hillary Clinton was just such a large specter over Leslie and the show that it seemed to curdle for me as soon as she lost the election. I feel the same way about Broad City – both shows seemed so shot through with Clintonian neoliberal politics (and Hillary even appeared on BC!) that it became impossible for me to appreciate them the same way after the 2016 election.

      1. NerdyKris*

        That goes for a lot of sitcom characters. There’s a show on AMC called Kevin Can F* Himself that starts on the basis that without the laugh track most sitcom husbands would be monsters. Whenever Kevin is on screen it’s lit and shot as a three camera sitcom with a laugh track, and the second he’s off screen the lighting goes down, the colors get a little washed out, and it switches to a low angle steady cam. And when he’s on screen, the two women characters join in the punchlines despite being upset, which gets creepier as the season goes on. It’s really good, but obviously content warning for extreme emotional abuse.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          The more I watch sitcoms, the more I think “This is not the basis for a healthy marriage/healthy parenting/a good life.” I’ve read reviews of Kevin Can F*ck Himself and I’ve bee dying to watch it.

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I’ve been dying to watch that but can’t figure out how! Curse this newly distributed streaming economy.

      2. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

        I’m trying to figure out the best way to say this, but I think this is the difference between good characters vs people who are actually likeable to be around. I think the treatment of Jerry draws attention to this: Jerry is arguably the only character who would actually be fun to be around IRL and all of his behavior is really sweet and thoughtful and the sort of things that would make him a good coworker (apart from maybe a lack of tech skills in the early seasons) and they all make fun of him and it’s not super clear why other than they seem to have mutually decided upon it.

        1. HotSauce*

          To me it’s similar to the way Meg is treated on Family Guy. There is no reason except his coworkers are jerks. I have a coworker like Jerry, kind of a bumbling doofus, but harmless & some people in my office DO make fun of him behind his back, which makes me mad.

        2. AskJeeves*

          As Ron says in one episode, Jerry is both a schlemeil and a schlemazel. He’s easy to make fun of, because he’s goofy and accident-prone. In the context of the show, it makes sense. But I agree, he’s so sweet and would be a great coworker IRL, if maybe a little frustrating at times.

        3. The Rules are Made Up*

          It was EXACTLY that they just decided on it loll. In the episode where Jerry/Gary retires, someone (maybe Ron?) explains this. In his absence there had to be a new Jerry for the office to ridicule and Tom was trying to make it not be him. It had nothing to do with Jerry as a person and everything to do with them wanting a punching bag to take out frustrations on and make them feel better about themselves. The only people who realized he was cool were Ben and Ann. And in his off work life he was popular and had a hot wife and great kids lol.

      3. it's me*

        I found P&R kinda boring and twee but one reason I didn’t like it was that I’d worked with enough Ron Swansons (contrarian right wingers in tech in the South, that is) to just not find the shtick amusing. Nothing against the actor.

    2. goducks*

      I would take Leslie Knope over Michael Scott, but I’d take Michael Scott over David Brent every day of the week.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I think some of my early-career bosses got their management philosophy from watching TV sitcoms They were a lot like Mr. Spacely, Mr. Slate, Mr. Drysdale, and Mr. Mooney. And not in a good way.

    3. Sleeve McQueen*

      Ha I’ve just started rewatching P&R and someone needs to address Tom Haverford’s inappropriately touching women

      1. Breadline or picket line*

        Yep, so much sexual harrassment and assault played as jokes. There is definitely a tone shift in the later seasons. So much cringe though!

          1. Bowserkitty*

            No sexual assault, but there are multiple scenes of him failing to hit on women within the city hall offices. (I just rewatched the episode where he wears Ron’s fur hat.)

            1. PuzzleObsession*

              Yeah I rewatched recently and Tom bugs me. He’s like the stereotypical “nice guy” who thinks he deserves affection from women, but he’s actually sort of a predator. I think (hope?) that’s the point though.

      2. anone*

        I blocked that out I think but back when the #MeToo movement first kicked off, I remember a woman who came forward about Aziz Ansari described an encounter with him that made me unable to ever watch and enjoy something he’s in ever again without feeling physically ill and now I’m wondering how much he brought into the P&R role. (For the record, it wasn’t the most horrible story that came out at the time, but there was something about it, the entitlement and manipulation, that touched a very personal nerve with me. Anyway, all the trigger warnings if anyone goes to look it up.)

    4. Generic Elf*

      Honestly, out of the two of them, Ron was the worse manager, going as far as to actively undermine people whereas Leslie was just…irritating. And ultimately it was his job to lead anyway. And he didn’t because his character was ultimately trying to prove a political point.

      Ron was hands-off, which is fine, but in his case, it was quite literal.

      Leslie was hands-on, and intrusive, yes I agree. But requiring work trips for employees isn’t exactly unheard of, either. Her being nosy is a huge character flaw that seemed to lessen after a few seasons.

      1. Calliope*

        Remember the time he gave that kid a land mine and her mother came in and reacted the way a real world human would?

        1. ThatGirl*

          And it turned out to not be a real landmine at all, but the fact that he thought it was and that it was appropriate to give to a child…

      2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        One of the things that became clear as the show went on is that Leslie wasn’t ‘tolerated’ by the staff either. The staff genuinely enjoyed having Leslie as their manager because of her quirks and not in spite of them.

        Remember: Leslie Knope get as many favors as she needs. Because she’s the kind of person who uses favors to help other people.

      3. Willis*

        So true! Ron was Leslie’s boss so HE should have been the one suggesting she take a management training course. They both needed to be CTMTS-ed.

        Seriously though, I wouldn’t want to work in any successful work-based TV show because the characters are always too up in each other’s lives. But that’s also what makes the show interesting.

      4. JB*

        Leslie and Ron balance out each other’s excesses. Leslie is highly motivated to work for the benefit of the community even when the apathetic and agenda driven don’t like the change she’s pushing, being the poster woman for workaholic. Ron manages her by channeling her drive to where it’s needed, or can be used in a way that’s low impact. They meet at their love of breakfast food though.

    5. Generic Elf*

      In any case, Knope over Scott any day of the week. He was truly a cringe-worthy and tone deaf train wreck. I can’t even watch the Office.

      1. HotSauce*

        Same! I had a boss who was very similar to Michael so I don’t enjoy that show at all, too close to real life.

    6. TiredMama*

      I think Leslie grew so much over the course of the show. And I always loved how she threw Ron Swanson the birthday party that Ron Swanson would want. Her heart was generally in the right place.

      1. Calliope*

        I mean, ultimately, the thing about Lesley is that the people she worked with basically enjoyed working with her and respected her. Would they in real life? No, but real life offices are not actually funny, so who cares. The characters on the show inhabited the same larger than life she did so it’s fine.

        1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

          Agreed. I wouldn’t want to watch a show with a fully functioning office with no drama. Funny on TV, horrible in real life!

        2. Calliope*

          Oh but this reminds me that last time I watched the show, I decided Chris Traeger is technically a worse boss anyway. He’s constantly pressuring his employees to do annoying things (date someone, stop eating meat, etc.). And he won’t let Ben recuse himself from supervising parks and rec right to date Leslie but he reassigns Ann so he can knock her up. So there’s my hot take.

          1. anononon*

            And Ben’s whole role in their “partnership” is to do the hard, unpopular work that Chris can’t bring himself to do!

            1. James*

              To be fair, Chris does the work Ben can’t bring himself to do as well. They pointed out in one episode that when Chris worked alone nothing got done, while when Ben worked alone he got death threats. Together they build up each other’s strengths and stepped in where the other one was weak. It’s fantastic teamwork, and it takes real maturity to recognize one’s own weakness in such a way. Even with Chris’s….oddities, those two always did seem like the more grounded members of the cast once the city planner left.

              1. JB*

                It’s like Leslie and Ron, April and Andy. The partnerships, professional and personal, are tonally opposite but balance out the quirks so the unit is more functional as a whole. The whole Parks department operates like this, people contribute their strengths to the overall effectiveness while covering for individual weaknesses. It’s like the role of the straight man in comedy, a contrast to highlight aspects like how you need light to see shadow. People who are different interact in a more interesting way than people who are similar because of how their differences influence the interactions.

                The connection between Ben and Chris is such that when Ann and Chris leave Pawnee, the way Chris talks about Ben to Leslie (which is intercut with Ann telling Ben about Leslie) is like a mother talking about how to look after their child, their bond is close enough to be platonic soulmates.

      2. Ann Perkins*

        Agreed, of course. She’s an overbearing boss but generally kind to others (except Gerry/Larry).

    7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      What I never understood about The Office, and what ruined the show for me, was how many of the characters knew he was a terrible boss who treated people badly, but those characters were written to act like they loved him anyway. Nooooo! I think one reason real people have a hard time realizing their bosses are dreadful is that TV shows have a nasty track record of trying to sell the audience on the loveable ol’ abusive POS character – Louie De Palma from Taxi, anyone? He was horribly abusive and a revolting, misogynistic turd, which the characters ALL KNEW, but the minute he was shown having a bad day, they’d all pitch in to do things for him.

      1. redflagday701*

        I didn’t think they really loved Michael — for a lot of the secondary players (like Stanley, Oscar, Angela), it seemed more like they tolerated him because they were reasonably content to work at Dunder Mifflin and had decided it was worth it to put up with him; they also went back a ways with him and were more forgiving than they should have been because of that personal history, as well as Michael’s pathetic but more or less genuine desire to do the right thing, even if he failed most of the time.

        You also get the sense that Dunder Mifflin was (1) not hiring the cream of the crop (Creed, Kevin, Meredith — you even see it in Jan and David Wallace after he’s let go) and (2) was a pretty good place to work if you didn’t want to try too hard. Honestly, given the Ask a Manager refrain that working in a horrible office culture can inure you to how bad and abnormal it is, I feel like the show kind of got that exactly right. There are countless real-life people working for much more dreadful real-life bosses and shrugging it off!

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Spoiler: I didn’t watch either Office or Parks & Rec.

          It could also be a case where at least some of the staff have seen worse and realize, for all his faults, that Michael is at least somewhat tolerable. M*A*S*H played with that a few times; neither Sherman Potter nor Henry Blake (especially Blake) were perfect, but they were downright loved, faults and all, when the alternative was Frank Burns or Charles Winchester. (viz. Henry, Please Come Home; The Novocaine Mutiny; and Tell It to the Marines).

          Tangentially, I’m impressed how well Potter holds up on the whole as a supervisor given he was written mostly in the early 80’s and ostensibly set in the 50’s, and I’ll put Mike D’Angelo up against both Michael and Leslie in the “worst boss” competition.

          1. Msnotmrs*

            Col. Potter really strikes a wonderful balance between being regulation-driven and emotionally in-tune with his staff. I also loved that he loved his wife… a lot of the casual takes on infidelity throughout the course of that show were pretty icky.

            1. cubone*

              I have to defend BJ as well for this. I know there’s a whole episode where he cheats and debates coming clean to his wife, but I thought it was surprisingly sensitive and thoughtful about what led him to that point and the guilt about it, while everyone around him is cavalier about the whole thing. I feel like it’s one of the few sitcom depictions of infidelity that didn’t make one character (the cheater, the wife, the mistress) out to be some horrible, selfish jerk and was instead pretty sensitive to the pain of that experience.

          2. cubone*

            Omg yes, please more MASH assessments. I think what’s interesting talking about all these fake TV bosses is the extent to which they reflect the general pitfalls of lacking self-awareness in management. Like that MASH episode where the camp starts building a bonfire that Col. Potter completely loses it over, and then realizes shortly after that this is actually like one of the few exciting, community-building things that they’ve had and just lets them go for it. It’s kind of like the response about the chips letter: what else are you at risk of losing if you draw the rigid line here?

          3. Ama*

            My grandfather was a clerk (basically the Radar job although he wasn’t in a medical unit) during the Korean War and said M.A.S.H. was the best depiction of his time in the military he’d ever seen with one exception — they didn’t spend enough time talking about how cold and wet it got in the winters (I think there were one or two episodes but most of the episodes seemed to be set in the warm weather months). But he said the depiction of the military bureaucracy and how sometimes a leader was good because they’d look the other way while you broke the rules was extremely accurate.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              Two thoughts:

              1. My Mom joined the Army, specifically in medical administration, because of MASH… and verified its pretty accurate (I’ve served in the Air Force but haven’t watched MASH). Dad was also Army medical administration and still loves MASH.

              2. Best thing I was taught in the Air Force – We know our regs inside and out so we make educated choices when we bend or break them, AND ALL Notes, Cautions, and Warnings are written in spilled blood.

          4. Rural Transplant*

            Col. Blake (bless his fishing hat) seems like a poster child for why an employee who excels at their role may not be a great fit for management. If all he had to do was be a surgeon, he’d have been all right, but management was not his gift. It furthered the undercurrent of “doctors begrudgingly trying to figure out how to Army,” but also makes you wonder how anything got done. (Radar. It’s Radar. Radar and Margaret.) Col. Potter was certainly more adept at managing.

          5. beege*

            I thought Potter was actually a pretty good boss – he understood the need for both discipline and kindness and generally got the balance between the two right. And despite being a career military man he understood the mindset of the very non military people under his command – he was one of those rare people who could really empathise with viewpoints quite different from his own. He’s one of the few TV bosses I’d really want to work for in real life.

            He would lose it occasionally, but only at a normal level relative to the amount of stress everyone at the 4077 was under.

            Blake was one of those managers who didn’t manage at all, but got away with it because not managing also meant he wasn’t getting in the way of the competent people around him.

        2. Bob's Your Uncle*

          I also feel like some of the characters liked Michael ’cause his heart was somewhat in the right place. That episode when he buys some of Pam’s paintings to hang in the office is actually really sweet, so even though he’s a terrible boss, he also cares for his employees.

        3. The Rules are Made Up*

          Yeahhh it was for sure a place where people who didn’t really have any goals or ambition or dreams or other options ended up. The only people who actually wanted to be there were Dwight and Michael. Everyone else was basically there due to having ended up there by accident or because they didn’t have anywhere better to work. Dwight loved him only because of his outsized respect/obsession with authority (clear when he switched loyalty to Idris Elba’s character when Michael quit). I think everyone else pitied him rather than loved him. The only person who actually loved him was Holly. And maybe Erin.

      2. Karou*

        On my last Office rewatch, after reading Ask a Manager for so long, I realized that in the first couple of seasons the worst bosses were Corporate because they KNEW about Michael’s horrible behavior around race, women and outing Oscar but they never fired him.

      3. TeaCoziesRUs*

        And yet, atrocious womanizer that he is, I’d go work for Col Hogan any day. I’m too old for him to hit on, anyway. ;)

    8. Tali*

      I think actually working at any of those workplace shows–toss in Brooklyn 99 and so on–is that their level of drama, fishbowl-obsession with their coworkers, and extremely little time spent, you know, actually working, would make them very annoying places to actually work! They’ll have weddings in which none of their friends or family are present, just coworkers, because it’s a TV show. But our actual worklives would make very boring TV.

      1. redflagday701*

        Right. It’s important to remember that *snooty voice* art isn’t actually about accurately depicting reality — it’s about creating a sense of verisimilitude that serves to help us see bigger truths. And this is why Neil deGrass Tyson is so annoying when he fact-checks Star Trek.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Yes. This. We lived overseas when Star Trek TNG was on, and whenever one of us got a videotape in the mail, it was HOMEMADE pizza and group bingewatch 6 hours (including commercials! Woohoo!!)
          Having Neil DeGrasse Tyson later let the air out was a serious brush with disappointing reality.

          Hey, you just helped me realize who my current boss reminds me of-
          Jean Luc Picard. There was a familiarity a few of us old timers noted, but couldn’t put a finger on.
          I work for Captain Picard.
          And a former upper level director was “Q”….

      2. Anonys*

        Yes, this is so true. There cannot ever be such a thing as a “good boss” on a workplace tv show. A truly functional workplace is generally not entertaining. And if the main cast of a show are all coworkers, obviously there will be personal entanglements between everybody.

        Also, in a comedy show every character needs to be a little over the top and have funny flaws. But I think its very clear that Leslie was meant to be good at her job and getting things done. I personallly choose to seperate the personal from the job part of workplace comedies. So when Leslie is being pushy about her coworkers and their personal life I see that as how she is a pushy friend not a terrible manager. Yes, she is also their boss but you know – fictional comedy show where work is everyone’s only social outlet. And Leslie usually ends up improving the lives of her friends and coworkers so i can see why she is perceived and portrayed as competent – she is all that within the P&R universe. Yes, in real life her methods would alienate people and lead to terrible outcomes and obviously someone who spends THAT MUCH time creating elaborate binders would never actually get any real work done. But Michael Scott is incompetent even within the world of the office and meant to be a terrible manager.

        Also, even non-comedy shows such as “the good wife” which imo show a more realistic albeit heavily dramaticed and political workplace will at least have some inappropiate manager/employee relationships.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It’s a comedy. You have to have wacky hijinks or the show wouldn’t work. In real life an office constantly full of wacky hijinks would be annoying. On tv, managers can’t really manage or there would be no show.

          So let’s be thankful, that if we are stuck in a real life Office or P & R, we can job search. On the show no one job searches (for more than dramatic storyline purposes ) because then its means you are off the show.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Intrestingly, Michael Schuur was involved in all three of those shows — maybe he has a very unhealthy relationship to work?? /s

        But yeah, it’s the impact of TV. You couldn’t introduce full and vibrant lives for all the characters and fit in a 20-minute episode.

        1. Jackalope*

          I remember an interview about the B99 heist episodes where the writers were just like “look, it’s a comedy, we just assume the audience will follow us along on the premise that no crime is occurring during the Halloween heist.” Obviously none of this tracks to real life, although with B99 I do think I remember them articulating some internal ethic around never showing that people were outright bad at their jobs, because of how loaded and problematic it would be to do that with police.

          But anyway, workplace realism aside, one of the things I love about all those shows is they have so much heart within them, and I will say that over time I’ve noticed that it seems to flow from the top. People really seem to love working for Schur.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Yeah. A friend and I have also observed that the 99 cops never seem to run in with really distressing crimes (eg, there are elaborate robberies or cinematic murders, but no child pornography busts, for example) which maybe isn’t realistic, but we’re fine with because it wouldn’t be possible to discuss those crimes and maintain the right tone for a comedy show.

      4. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        Brooklyn 99 was created/run by the same folks as the Office and Parks & Rec. I like how Dan Goor/Mike Shur use the work setting to develop the important relationships in the characters lives b/c it’s NOT like real life. But the relationships feel real and activate the nice feels in your own heart.

      5. Michaela T*

        I found this so depressing when The Mindy Project decided to focus on being a workplace comedy and all her friend characters just…disappeared.

    9. Batty Twerp*

      I’m curious to know if anyone has a take on David Brent who was even more “original” than Michael Scott as the bad boss – UK Office is sooooo different to US Office (I could watch the US Office and appreciate its humour – UK Office hit waaaaay to close to home!)

      1. The Unusual Suspect*

        First time watching the UK Office I had to double check it wasn’t a documentary!

      2. redflagday701*

        One of those clear cases where you feel like art from outside the U.S. is so much more willing to show the ugly truth. I remember watching the first season of the American Office and thinking how, well, American it was that they made a point of showing Jim more than holding his own against Roy in the basketball game episode. Tim from the UK version would have been too pathetic for American audiences to accept on NBC, even though most viewers are probably actually closer to Tim than to Jim in their real lives.

        And the same went for David. Michael, at least, had been a good salesman and wanted to be a good person, and was bizarrely successful with attractive women. David Brent was…not any of those things. He was just obnoxious and deluded and contemptible, and very likely a much more accurate reflection of the average terrible boss in either the U.S. or the UK. So much harder to watch, like you say.

        1. Windchime*

          I agree, David Brent makes me actively cringe for real. Michael Scott is more of an eye-rolling type of cringe. The show where, during an harassment education meeting, David starts playing the guitar and singing (joined by Gareth harmonizing) is truly the most embarrassed I have ever been for a TV character. It was almost painful to watch, it was so funny and cringey.

        2. Lucy*

          “Can I ask you summat? [pause] Who does your tampons?”

          At least he’s not afraid to ask the question ;)

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I did try to watch the UK version, as they’re almost always better, but (a) Tim was too pathetic for me to enjoy him, and (b) Ricky Gervais is intolerable even when he’s not playing David Brent, but even more so when he is.

        4. Tessie Mae*

          On Michael being “bizarrely successful with attractive women:”

          Not just Michael. Pretty much most male leads of TV shows or movies, regardless of their attractiveness in looks and/or personality. The wives/girlfriends/partners are nearly always very attractive. But that’s the entertainment industry.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes it makes me laugh. Everyone in US television shows is impossibly good looking. It’s why I like Scandinavian crime dramas, everyone looks so normal and free of make up. Mind you the current trend in the UK appears to be not lighting things sufficiently well so everything looks dingier than normal in my opinion.

        5. Claritine*

          Maybe, but in my experience there is a relentless negativity to British culture that is every bit as extreme as the relentless positivity in American culture. Moreover, in American media, people are allowed to express vulnerability, sincere excitement or enjoyment without everyone in a forty-mile radius immediately squirming and making jokes to shut it down. The one exception I can think of is Mike Leigh.

      3. Liz*

        Somewhere, some years ago, I read an article comparing the two. Apparently they had to change the tone somewhat for the American audience because the “we all hate our jobs” humour doesn’t go down so well over there. I get the impression from speaking to American friends that there is a tad more enthusiasm expected from the American work ethic. Not sure if anyone else can wade in on that?

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Yes, I’ve heard this too. I heard a professional comedy writer talk about this once and he said that every sitcom has a tension or uncomfortable truth at the bottom of it that isn’t stated out loud but the comedy derives from it. The Office’s is that work is supposed to be fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives on an existential level, but it doesn’t. I think Brits are both less focused on work and more okay with existential angst than Americans (hi, Protestant work ethic), so the American version is warmer overall. Most American stories about work are working off the basic assumption that work should be fulfilling, even ones where the workplace is miserable.

          Also, just generally, all the British/American sitcoms with their own versions that I know of have more cheerful and warm American versions. Friends vs Coupling is an old example (though Brits love Friends possibly more than Americans, fwiw!)

          1. Please*

            Ah, yes, no Protestants in Great Britain, and the Catholics here in the U.S. are notorious layabouts. That must be it.

        2. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

          American here, and agree. The first thing that jumped to mind was lack of annual leave. Many of my former workplaces gave two weeks per year. Two. Weeks. And you had to earn it- so you didn’t start out with two weeks, you had to accrue it. So when I was in a car accident, I was faced with: using my annual leave to recover, taking FMLA at half wage… which first necessitated me using my annual leave, taking unpaid leave, or just showing up before medically advisable. Guess which one I did? And that’s only one example of me having to pretend I loved my job so much that I eschewed medical advice to show up.

          We’re not given a lot of options to be away from our jobs for an extended period, between lack of paid leave, highly competitive markets, and y’know, health insurance. We spend much more time at work than not. We are expected to be grateful because so many people are one paycheck away from losing housing, insurance, and food. So we *have* to love it.


          1. Msnotmrs*

            Don’t forget the lack of workplace protections in a lot of places. Michael Scott has his vindictive side (comes out more often in romantic situations than workplace ones, but it definitely exists) and if I worked for him, I’d be perpetually worried about getting on his bad side and getting fired.

        3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

          Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais also made sure the American Office leaned way harder into Jim and Pam. The will they/won’t they/I root for them trope is STRONG in American sitcoms, it’s the dang lifeblood. Ross and Rachel. Sam and Diane. Sam and Rebecca. Leslie and Ben. Dwight and Angela.

          1. PT*

            Dwight and Angela were a better couple than Pam and Jim!

            Jim and Pam were boring and predictable I was much more invested in the Dwight/Angela storyline.

        4. Lucy*

          There’s also a general tendency in British comedy to be more cynical and to have central characters that are completely unlikeable. David Mitchell talked about this recently in relation to Peep Show. I remember reading that Ross is the least popular Friends character according to a US poll, and thinking that it might be different in the UK (he’s the closest thing Friends has to an ‘unlikeable’ but hilarious main character, I think).

          1. londonedit*

            Yes – as someone said on the question about thank-you notes the other day, in Britain in general we tend to be quite suspicious of enthusiasm. So our comedies can often be much more dry – there are exceptions, of course, but most of the British comedy that’s considered ‘cool’ definitely has that self-deprecating, isn’t everything crap, don’t get ideas above your station or we’ll slap you down sort of vibe. Happy endings and people being jolly and enthusiastic and wacky generally don’t feature as much!

          2. Liz*

            This is a good point. As a Brit who grew up on Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, and Ab Fab, I remember having trouble adjusting to Friends. I had never watched a sitcom where the characters were largely likeable. Our sitcoms are way more hyperbolic and the wit more scathing.

        5. JessicaTate*

          I’m an American, and I love The Office (US), and I’ve thought about this quite a bit. I CANNOT watch Season 1 — which, I gather, was much closer in tone to the original British version. But it didn’t have to do with work ethic and “hating your job.” It’s that there’s not a shred of anything redeeming in Michael Scott. Nothing. Ever. (And I gather that is true of David Brent from these comments.)

          In Season 2 and beyond, they do a much better job of showing his humanity under a LOT of flaws – and there are a lot. You see that he means well or that it’s coming from a deep-seeded need to be liked and lack of friends, and that humanizes him so much more. I realized I cannot watch a show with a lead character that I just find to be 100% unlikeable and unredeemable. (Don Draper almost hit that point with me, the self-indulgent man-child. But I could never leave Joan and Peggy.)

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            To me, the redeeming feature of Don Draper was that he wanted to be a good father. He actively resists using corporal punishment (unusual for the time) with Bobby, he goes to some effort to remain in Gene’s life even though it would be easier to let Henry Francis be the only father Gene ever knows, and over the course of the show tries to open up and be honest with Sally. I mean, he surely doesn’t always succeed at being a good dad. But he puts in some effort on it.

      4. londonedit*

        Definitely – the point of the UK Office was that it was groundbreaking as a ‘mockumentary’ and it relied on that British sense of ‘cringe’ humour. It’s not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny all the time, it’s more darkly comic because everyone can relate to that ‘OMG these are absolutely the worst people ever, I’ve totally met people like that’ sort of feeling, and there’s schadenfreude in watching all the awful things that they do. The US Office is much more like a classic sitcom.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, I can’t watch The Office (UK version) because it makes me cringe way too hard. I just squirm in my seat with second hand embarrassment on his behalf. Some of the supporting cast are really good (and I think Mackenzie Crook is really clever) but I can’t sit through David Brent doing anything.

          1. Grace Poole*

            I could never happily watch Office (UK) for the same reason. People I know and trust were raving about it, but I was watching it through my fingers like a horror movie. Second-hand embarrassment makes me *so* uncomfortable.

          2. Nessun*

            It’s so fascinating to me to hear people say they’d cringe at the UK Office but not the US Office. I cringe at the US version! I generally can’t watch sitcoms because every situation is cringeworthy and embarrassing and I just cannot handle seeing people act that way. People have referred to US sitcoms as warm upthread, and I can’t for the life of me feel that (I understand how other people feel that way, just can’t get there myself). My sense of humour tends to skew more British, though I still find the sitcoms somewhat cringe-y; but I’m still not going to watch the Office UK version because I’ve seen enough to know that Gervais’ character was gonna be a total utter jerk on purpose to drive the series. I can’t fathom anyone working for any of these characters…any time I watch, my heart just hurts for all those who are enabling, allowing, or bowing under the management of these people. I guess it’s a position of privilege to be able to see it and not experience it.

        2. Jam Today*

          Fun fact: The Office was exported not just to the US but to other countries in Europe including France, Italy, and Germany, and in each country it was tweaked slightly (or broadly in one case of people having s-e-x on a desk in the background!) to align with those countries’ senses of humor.

        3. meyer lemon*

          Yeah, the UK Office read to me mostly as a bunch of impressions of the worst people you’ve ever had to work with. They kind of hit in the same “I recognize this” zone a good impression does, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. I haven’t seen the US Office, but I understand it’s a much gentler version.

          1. meyer lemon*

            It probably helps that I watched it around the same time I had my run of worst bosses ever, so there was something a bit cathartic about it.

      5. ellex42*

        In all honesty I couldn’t watch either the US or the UK Office…because they were both a little too on the nose! And I didn’t even try watching Parks and Rec because too many people told me “you’ll love it if you love The Office”!

      6. Spotted Kitty*

        The Office Ladies podcast is really good if you’re into The Office. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (who are IRL best friends) go through each episode and talk to the people involved about it. They talked with Stephen Merchant who co-created the British Office and he was talking about how the British version was basically 10 episodes and a Christmas special, so David Brent could be a monster, but because the US Office was going to be long-haul, they had to figure out how to make Michael Scott somewhat likeable – hence his heart often being in the right place but he rarely gets it right, the fact that he’s actually a very good salesman, etc.

      7. Ardis Paramount*

        1. I love “The Office” (UK) a lot, and postponed watching the US version for as long as I could.
        As in so many US imports of UK shows, it seems as if Brits have a concise vision of story arc and character development, whereas Americans look into expanding everything, like Starbucks. More romances, more characters, more seasons, more cliffhangers, more subplots.
        (See “House of Cards” for another example of concise Brits versus expansive US – also, the incomparably icy villainy of Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhardt.) After the US Office pilot episode (which adhered closely to the British) it became clear that the shows really would be different, reflected in the writing and direction.

        2. Ricky Gervais’ marvelous performance of David Brent is a tour de force in undeserved narcissism. A mediocre white man? He should be so lucky.
        “I don’t look upon this like it’s the end, I look upon it like it’s moving on you know. It’s almost like my work here’s done. I can’t imagine Jesus going ‘Oh, I’ve told a few people in Bethlehem I’m the son of God, can I just stay here with Mum and Dad now?’ No. You gotta move on. You gotta spread the word. You gotta go to Nazareth, please. And that’s, very much like… me.”

        3. The UK version wraps up the Tim ‘n’ Dawn thing by eventually succumbing to a US-style TV romance happy ending…but bit that got to me was in Tim’s interview with the documentary people, when his heart’s been broken:

        “And so, obviously, when someone comes in who you have a connection with – yeah, and Dawn was a ray of sunshine in my life – it can mean a lot. But if I’m really being honest, I never really thought it would have a happy ending. I don’t know what a happy ending is. Life isn’t about endings, is it? It’s a series of moments. And um, if you turn the camera off, it’s not an ending is it? I’m still here. My life is not over. Come back here in ten years. See how I’m doing then. ‘Cause I could be married with children, you don’t know. Life just goes on.”

        Absolutely brilliant and poignant.

        1. EatingDoesntTeachYouToCook*

          A BBC show is basically public television—that’s why it looks so cheap compared to American network TV. It’s not about “being bigger”, it’s an entirely different model.

    10. M / P*

      I like Leslie Knope quite a lot jut what makes her a bad manager in my eyes is how she treats Jerry and how she allows everyone to bully him.
      Failing to set work – life boundaries is a distant second.

        1. redflagday701*

          It’s nice (and funny) that they temper that by having him be incredibly emotionally well-adjusted and married to Christie Brinkley, though.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Jerry is probably my favorite. He is totally the guy who works his job to fund the life he loves outside. Nothing bugs him because, while he tries to be conscientious, 0% of his ego is wrapped up in that office. I want to be more like that. That said, yeah, sometimes it is really uncomfortable to watch.

          2. Lucy*

            And an amazing artist, with a loving family and nice home! I like that recurring gag, it redeems the bullying storyline a bit.

            1. redflagday701*

              Right! I feel so bad whenever I watch the mural episode when they don’t even glance at his beautiful, beautiful picture composed of all the photos. But a key part of the joke is that Leslie and Tom and everyone else are the stupid ones who miss all of Jerry’s greatness, and that he’s such a mensch that the abuse mostly rolls off his back.

              1. cubone*

                I also always felt like Leslie’s piling on Jerry/Larry/Garry/Terry rounded out her character a bit more. Like a lot of her faults are “works too hard!” and “overbearing but because she cares!!!” and then her just absolutely joining in the vicious bullying of him kind of made me feel like, oh yeah, Leslie is also a bit of a jerk too.

        2. Exhausted Trope*

          Yup. That’s the main thing I dislike about P&R. That and Tom Haverford. I found him strangely annoying. Love Donna though. She’s the ultimate cool coworker.

      1. Gem*

        Thank you! The haha bullying of Jerry is one of the reasons I can’t stand PR. That and I find Leslie and Tom incredibly grating and obnoxious.

      2. JB*

        Jerry gets it better than Toby, at least people stick up for him and he has the best home life of the main cast (happily married and strong positive relationship with his daughters the whole show), as well as his ending being well deserved. Toby on the other hand is the buttmonkey, always the one trying to be the Only Sane Man when dealing with Michael but treated as lower than low for being the fun police. And viewers find this workplace bullying funny. Seriously, when Michael learns Toby is back he acts like a fan who’s been told the show has been cancelled and strives to get him fired. And he’s never punished for it. Michael’s bullying of Toby doing HR stuff as the HR representative (such as questioning why Michael submits a Hooters bill as a work expense) is appalling, yet celebrated by the fanbase. Toby is the one person Michael will consistently disparage, and Michael is the ultimate people pleaser.

    11. MMB*

      Since this is the day for controversial comments… April is a terrible person. She is whiny, mean and has a terrible attitude without even being very smart. She is a bully towards Jerry, Ann and so many people ! I never understood why people like her character.

      1. Well...*

        I liked her in the early seasons when those traits were meant to be associated with her age and general disconnect from the rest of the office. Then as she grew up, she became a caricature of moody teenager as an adult, which was p grating.

        1. Librarian1*

          Right, when she was the bored, immature, uninvested college student, she was great. I still liked her later on, but not as much.

      2. Liz*

        I think I like her unlikeability. I would be terrified of her in real life, but nasty sitcom characters have been a staple of culture for decades. I think I prefer a nasty character to cringe humour because I hate the feeling of second hand embarrassment!

      3. MissBaudelaire*

        She Mean Girl’d Ann because she liked Andy.

        Her relationship with Andy felt really weird, too.

      4. AskJeeves*

        Yes! In the early seasons, when she’s a disgruntled intern, it’s more bearable. but I haaaaate the plotlines from later seasons where Ann is desperate to be April’s friend for some reason, and April treats her terribly. Or when Andy and Ben go around trying to get April a job – she treats Ben badly too, why would he invest so much in helping her? Hate it.

      5. The Rules are Made Up*

        I never liked April either loll. She was incredibly unpleasant and we were supposed to feel endeared to her as a girl who was acting like that as a defense mechanism but had all this potential and its like sure when she’s a teen but when she’s in her twenties and she still has a dismissive attitude toward all the people who do nothing but try to help her it gets realllll old.

    12. Larry Gossamer*

      > One thing I loved about the Office, though, is that it slowly becomes clear that Michael is actually a good salesman.

      The scene in the Chili’s where Michael Scott drives Jan mad by just goofing around and not getting to the point and then clinches the sale in a single minute is absolute gold.

      1. Allie*

        Michael: Here’s the thing. Chili’s is the new golf course. It’s where business happens. Small Business Man Magazine.
        Jan: It said that?
        Michael: It will. I sent it in. Letter to the editor.

    13. Bowserkitty*

      Oh man, you won’t find a government employee more dedicated than Leslie. I’m currently going through a rewatch for the umpteenth time thanks to the DVD set my mom got me for Christmas the other year and watching it with commentary too.

      That said, when I think about it yeah, she is not the best boss…

      Side note but I also changed my opinion on Jim/Pam v. Ben/Leslie in recent years too – I love Ben/Leslie so much more!!!!!

    14. Well...*

      The camping trip doesn’t seem terrible to me. It only happens once, and a work retreat once in 7 seasons isn’t unheard of.

      She does strike me as one of those super-achievers in the arts more than in government. Her personality fits a job where you have bouts of extreme, obsessive work on one big project and then a lot of downtime. Nobody could get 3hrs of sleep every night without a break. When she’s running for office and campaigning she comes off as more realistically a good fit for the job, given the baseline unrealistic qualities of a found family at work TV show.

      1. Ama*

        I actually thought the National Parks Job she moves into at the end is a better fit for her as she struck me as the kind of person who was better at big picture strategic planning than day to day local office stuff.

        I have a colleague who runs a professional association my employer belongs to who reminds me of Leslie at times because she always assumes everyone’s going to be as excited about her latest plans for the association as she is. (Not that they aren’t good plans most of the time, but she seems to forget that the rest of us participate in association activities in addition to our regular paying jobs so we have other priorities.)

    15. ThisGuy*

      Kudos Alison for truly grasping the Michael Scott character, and really one of the strong themes of the show. Dunder Mifflin is a bad company with bad leadership that make bad decisions, not the least of which is moving Michael out of sales and into management.

    16. Arkady English*

      Where does the comment section think David Brent (UK The Office, and the character Michael Scott was based on) fit into this? He was a terrible boss but was far too hands off in his style to interfere with people doing their jobs despite him.

      1. londonedit*

        David Brent was a terrible boss in general but I think half his problem was that he was so desperate for fame and so desperate for something to get him out of his crappy job and crappy life that he was trying to play up to the camera the whole time, and that made him even worse!

        1. Jenny*

          Yes! Listened to an interview with Ricky Gervais recently where he talked about how the UK office was a response to British docs in that time period that focused on “normal” people and how people were desperate for their fifteen mins. David Brent made so much more sense to me in that lens. The British show was always made to be be a strict mockumentary where as the American version just used that format to do a sitcom.

    17. Varthema*

      Just watched P&R for the first time and totally agree!! Leslie does so many things that would drive me up the wall, professionally and personally, that it’s only thanks to Amy Poehler’s brilliant performance and charisma that we love her anyway.

      All the characters did highly questionable things, but overall I think Chris Traeger was the one who modeled the best management techniques and approaches the most frequently (once he got better at not confusing people with his good bad news). I can’t remember specifically when, but I remember at the time thinking, “wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of thing on TV!” Ron Swanson as well was a terrible employee and civil servant but a good manager.

      But if I had to staff my office, it’d have to be Gary, Donna, and Ben from P&R and Stanley, Oscar, Phyllis, Darryl, and Pam from the Office. Rashida Jones can come to as either Ann or Karen! And I suppose Jim too as I think Dwight brought out the worst in him, but I’d definitely have to keep an eye on him.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Donna, Darryl, Ben and Oscar all gave the impression of being very competent.

        I think Jim would have thrived under a good manager.

        1. Willis*

          The thing about Jim is when he’s excited about something, like the Office Olympics, he gets really into it and he does a really great job. But the problem with Jim is that he works here, so that hardly ever happens.

    18. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Sitcoms are basically entirely populated by people who are charming on camera but would be insufferable IRL.

      I like Office and P&R, but Scrubs is my favourite workplace comedy — and so much of their workplace banter would be just plain *cruel* in real life! But maybe the intense over-involvement in each other’s lives is more realisitic in a hospital setting? After all, they do work intense hours. It’s harder to buy from a bunch of paper salesmen.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Scrubs tends to get cited by healthcare workers as one of the more realistic-leaning medical TV shows, especially compared to stuff like Grey’s Anatomy and the like. (I actually did not watch it so I can’t offer personal input.)

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yeah, one of my friends who became a doctor said that was true. He said the two main factors were the hierarchies described (like nurses vs doctors) and also the fact that most of the patients have pretty standard illnesses as opposed to dramatic and unusual ones.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          Agreed. A lot of the run of the mill patient care stuff is kinda boring, all things considered. Not every day there’s some massive medical mystery/drama to solve. Horses vs zebras type stuff. Doesn’t mean doctors don’t care or ignore it, or course. That’s why Scrubs focuses on the relationships of the doctors. I like the earlier seasons of Scrubs, but in the later seasons I just found JD kinda whiny.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Not just whiny; he also seemed to get (for lack of a better word) dumber? I mean, he was goofy in the beginning, but you could tell he was an intelligent guy.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              You know what? You’re right. They played up more of the laughs, which I kinda get. But they lost a lot of the other parts of his personality in doing that. I think that happens a lot with sitcoms when they go on for a long time, though.

      2. UKDancer*

        Not just sitcoms. I stopped watching NCIS because the behaviour of some of the people was just appalling and unprofessional (Gibbs hitting people on the head, people making completely inappropriate comments). I’m willing to suspend disbelief to an extent but Gibbs comes across as a workplace bully on occasion. And we’re supposed to like the main protagonists. I like the adventure and the supporting cast but I just stopped watching after a few seasons.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I absolutely love the “team as family” dynamic on television shows but would hate it in real life. It’s such a weird juxtaposition. (Best TV Team = Leverage)

          1. UKDancer*

            Yeah I don’t mind it in some settings, e.g. Criminal Minds where you felt there was a genuine level of affection between the people. Just the way Gibbs ran things in NCIS felt really uncomfortable and put me off the series.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              Isn’t it weird how sometimes the unnrealism or innappropriateness of a TV setting goes under your skin and other times it doesn’t?

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes definitely. Some things I can’t watch because they’re too realistic so it’s no break from reality. Other things are too unrealistic / have people being inappropriate and it puts me off.

                I am quite difficult to please with television programmes as a result.

          2. Nicotena*

            I agree about Leverage! Love that crew. Although they’re not even trying to have a workplace dynamic for much of the show, it does sort of get there. Although Nate is canonically not a great boss, that’s what Sophie is there for.

          3. Applesauced*

            I read ….somewhere…. that the office/workplace setting is so popular because it mimics the family dynamic (boss : mom or dad, coworkers : siblings) so it’s an easy entry point for everyone even if they don’t relate to the actual work.

          4. Naomi*

            Leverage is an interesting case because the team being career criminals changes the “workplace” dynamic so much. They don’t have a lot of other family ties, and what they do is as much a lifestyle as a job; it makes sense that their “coworkers” are the most important people in their lives, more so than on shows about more conventional jobs. Also, since they’re criminals, they don’t have legal recourse for workplace issues… but on the other hand, they could always choose to leave and go back to “freelance” crime, or take their ill-gotten wealth and retire to an island.

            1. Nicotena*

              Yeah I feel like the arc of Leverage is that they start off sort of *trying* to be coworkers because they’re all professional criminals – but it ends up in more of a family, which is what these people need. It’s probably not a good metaphor for the average American workplace (like most “team as family” shows, some of which are supposed to be set in real offices, as we’re discussing).

          5. GothicBee*

            Agree on Leverage! (Side note: I loved the reboot episodes!!!) But I feel like it works because they’re criminals and not a standard workplace and it ends up falling into the found family trope (a personal favorite) instead of the workplace family dynamic.

        2. EPLawyer*

          When Hubby broke his leg a couple years ago, he did a binge watch of NCIS. One point was made though about Gibbs (who I agree in general is a terrible boss), he ENCOURAGED people to take leave. They might work really long hours on a case, but then they all took leave as needed. There was one scene where Tony is complaining about his hours and Ziva says she is taking the next day off because Gibbs believes in mental health breaks. McGee is also taking his time off too. Tony is all what huh, we AREN’T supposed to be workaholics to impress the boss?

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          I read where after several seasons, the writers stopped the “Gibbs whacks DiNozzo on the head with a file folder” gag because in real life, people were going up to the actor (Michael Weatherly) and whacking him on the head.

          1. Jen in Oregon*

            I believe it. Mila Kunis says that people yell “shut up Meg” at her all the time. The same sort of thing happens to Wil Wheaton too and he’s been vocal about not liking it. And the folks that own the house from Breaking Bad were getting pizzas thrown on their roof on the regular for awhile. People are weird.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve been watching MASH a lot lately oh, and man was that a dysfunctional workplace. Everybody loved Henry, but he really was awful in some ways–allowing doctors to mock Radar for his height & youth burns me up.

        1. cubone*

          Henry Blake was such a dolt. He’s obviously way more enjoyable and less of a heel than say, Frank Burns, but I think he’s way more of a bumbling idiot in practice. Henry is so passive and ineffective. Though his farewell scene with Radar where he goes back to hug him always makes me lose it.

          1. Liz*

            Henry’s complete indecisiveness and lack of authority has lead to an in joke in our house where if we find ourselves pontificating over a simple choice for ages, whoever finally makes the call will be congratulated with the words “nice work, Henry, you made a decision!”

            1. cubone*

              I was trying to remember the episode, but I vividly recall a scene where Hawkeye says “Henry, the commanding officer should really do something about this” and he responds like “oh yeah….. so uh, what do I do?” (this is probably multiple scenes). C’mon Henry!

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Henry Blake was such a dolt.

            That’s unfair and wrong. The point of Blake is that he’s promoted beyond his abilities–he’s a doctor and every time we see him practicing medicine, he’s very good at it. He’s reasonably good as a hospital administrator–again, in his skills, background and training. But it’s painfully obvious he was promoted by General Clayton to Lt. Colonel and put in command of the 4077 out of nepotism (friendship) and it’s a job he neither wants nor is up to.

            Blake is anything but a dolt. He’s an everyman with leadership put upon him.

            1. Okay, great!*

              That’s a good assessment, I’ve not thought about it that way before. He was good at medicine, and made references to how he had to get the 4077 going on his own (administrative). My mother watched a lot more of the Potter episodes, so when I got a little older and watched Henry the difference was very apparent.

      4. AnonMD*

        I haven’t rewatched Scrubs in over a decade, but from what I remember it was initially set during JD’s residency (medical training) and that kind of over-involvement was 1000% accurate for my residency. It was a bunch of late 20-somethings, working 80+ hours a week in the same location, a lot of whom moved for the job and didn’t know anyone else. All my friends were co-workers, gossip and hookups were incredibly common (not in the hospital!), and when it’s 2 am and you’re on a 30 hour shift inappropriate jokes are rampant. Drastically different boundaries and work/life balance than anything else I’ve experienced.

        1. cubone*

          I’ve heard again and again that Scrubs is the medical show medical people say is most accurate for the actual lifestyle.

    19. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      I think it depends on the work. If it’s a team effort to complete a project, say, a harvest event, Leslie Knope. If your work is pretty siloed and you just have to sit through a cpr class and be boring enough for him to wander off, Michael Scott.
      Always hated the bullying though. Everyone pretty much liked Toby despite Michael’s loathing. Everyone picking on Jerry always landed wrong, even within the show.

      1. Well...*

        Yes, and great username! Sometimes the show accidentally landed in some reality, like when Tom was desperate to avoid becoming the target and so doubled down on his bullying of other people. That’s a toxic workplace! But the show’s insistence that bullying is widespread, natural, understandable, and unavoidable is not true and sends a bad message.

        I’ve worked with some pretty absurd and “quirky” personalities that have fueled a lot epic vent sessions with my friends, but I’ve never been so annoyed at someone that I need to treat them the way Jerry was treated.

    20. IrishEm*

      I think Leslie and Michael are both too invested in being BFFs with their staff to be effective managers, but I think Leslie would actually more readily take on constructive criticism (after defensively doubling down for a while on reflex) than Michael would at all. I’ve never been able to watch The Office the whole way through but I can watch P&R endlessly, it’s one of my comfort shows. I don’t make friends easily and I’m a total introvert and so relate HARD to April and I love April and Leslie’s relationship as the show goes on, mostly because most of my friendships are extroverts taking me under their wing just like Leslie did with April :)

      1. Gem*

        I always thought the main workplace joke in 30 Rock was what an idiot jack is, despite being so successful in business and having attended such prestigious schools etc.

        Generally I don’t think Liz is a terrible manager. Certainly not as nosy or overbearing as Leslie or as incompetent as Michael – she gets the job done. I guess you could argue that Lutz is a fall man similar to Jerry, but Lutz is a much less sympathetic character than Jerry

        1. redflagday701*

          Oh, I think Jack is legitimately supposed to be very smart. It’s just that one of the main themes of the show is that no matter how smart (or good-looking or rich or famous or whatever) you are, you are also sometimes an idiot and a jerk.

          1. CTT*

            I mean, I don’t want to be stuck in an elevator with Jack, but I’d definitely buy that clear dishwasher he came up with in the finale…

        2. what am I, a farmer?*

          To take this way too seriously, I think if TGS were portrayed as a good/great/award-winning show, Liz would actually be a pretty good representation of what it can look like to be a good boss in a creative industry — she’s weird, sure, but she goes to bat for her people, she seems reasonably focused on getting the job done, and if she got results, people would overlook the worst stuff. Which is maybe a problem in its own right (I think the humor about race/racism on 30 Rock is extremely sharp and well-done, but holy cow a manager saying/doing some of the stuff Liz is doing would end up in an HR training video about microaggressions) but that’s how creative industries work.

          Unfortunately it seems like 30 Rock is not a great show. Which is why managing in these fields are so hard. You gotta have the artistic chops AND be a good boss. It’s hard enough to find someone who’s one, let alone both.

          1. what am I, a farmer?*

            d’oh I meant TGS (the in-show show) is canonically not a great show, not 30 Rock, which is amazing.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’d say Liz is a better boss than Leslie (and I never watched The Office), but Liz is a disaster as a human being (which I can relate to).

    21. Liz*

      It’s funny, I never really thought we were supposed to view Leslie as a good boss in any realistic sense. She’s a caricature, a hyperbolic representation of someone who wouldn’t last five minutes in the actual job. She’s ridiculous and kind of obnoxious, but ultimately has the best of intentions, which is enough to have me rooting for her. For me, part of the joy of the show is seeing how she manages to pull a good result out of the bag despite the overall chaos, but her approach and actual functionality seems to be portrayed as being pretty dire. That’s the root of the humour for me.

      1. JB*

        Leslie is genuinely altruistic even if she’s bullheaded enough that some of her initiative rub groups and individuals up the wrong way (especially when she’s pushing for change or against local businesses like Sweetums). When she needs some of the police to help with the Harvest Festival she gets their support because the favors she asks for are for the benefit of the community and not herself. She does face consequences though, when she’s on the city council her actions and initiatives annoy sufficient number of people to call for a recall vote that elects her out of the position.

    22. OP 5. Scott V. Knope*

      Thanks so much for answering my Scott V. Knope question Alison! Perhaps because I’ve worked somewhere that was extremely similar to The Office I’d rather work for Michael Scott. ( I do mean extremely similar, we had a pretzel day, with almost exactly the same queuing and resulting loss of an afternoon) As long as you kept your head down and did the minimum amount of work you were fine! You got to enjoy all the silly work parties on work time, take your paycheck and go home. My Micheal was also easily manipulated so you could get little things you wanted/needed.

      While I appreciate the point that Leslie would be willing to be trained, I would definitely not want to work for her as she is in the show. She’s so cruel to Gerry for no reason! She shows a TON of favoritism which kind of makes my skin crawl. And the episode that she comes into work deathly ill with the Flu doesn’t age well.

      That being said, she does Get Sh*t Done!

      1. Liz*

        I was somewhat puzzled by the Jerry jokes in P&R. But early on I had a theory that Jerry had done something absolutely TERRIBLE many years ago and had become entrenched in his reputation as a screwup.

        I did like the stuff they started to do in later seasons where everyone else started to realise that they were missing out on nice things like Jerry’s Christmas party.

        But I also think it worked better when Jerry was actually the one doing his job the best, because that way the comments were just so utterly bizarre rather than just cruel, as if the joke is that the only competent employee is regarded as a walking disaster.

        1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

          I feel like Jerry is repeatedly shown screwing things up in really baffling ways – deleting files, stuffing thousands of envelopes wrong, etc.. And it’s funny – IRL I am someone who is far too easily frustrated by incompetence but I’m one of the many people who really hates the way everyone bullies Jerry. It’s slightly redeemed by the fact that his personal life is so wonderful but every time I watch an episode* where they’re mean to him it rubs me the wrong way.

          *which is pretty much every day. if left to his own devices, my husband will watch P&R over and over and over again. Every day, several episodes a day, over and over and over again. He is probably on rewatch 15 or something by now.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        This is where I landed too. Michael is the terrible boss you learn to ignore/work around/roll your eyes about. Leslie is the terrible boss you can’t escape because she will show up at your house and be confused when you don’t appreciate it!

      3. Mischa*

        At the start of my employment law class, my professor said one thing I will never forget: Michael Scott is not a fictional character. Leslies and Michaels are everywhere. Both of those shows made great examples when studying employment discrimination.

        But I agree with your comment about Leslie–I have a boundary-crossing parent and the thought of a boundary-crossing boss like Leslie makes me shudder. I don’t need my BOSS enmeshed in my personal life to Leslie’s degree. But working with Leslie on a project? Hell yeah. Working for her? Absolutely not.

        1. Nicotene*

          Yeah I’d like to be working in a neighboring city department and need Leslie’s help to complete something. I’d be a dayplayer in the show. Not an employee haha.

    23. James*

      I think one thing to remember about Parks and Rec is that it’s supposed to be a small town. It’s about 50 times bigger than the small town I grew up in (we didn’t have a Parks and Rec department, we had the school playground and an old pool built in the Depression as a make-work project), but that’s TV–teens are all in their 20s/30s, the ugly people are supermodels, and “small towns” are the size of cities.

      Back to my point: In a small town it’s really, really hard to not be overly-involved in your employee’s lives. You see them constantly, and with a shallow labor pool you’re almost certainly going to be pulling from people you have pre-existing relationships with. Even the part (early on) where she admits she got in via nepotism makes sense; I’ve seen exactly that happen. (Of course, my home town also elected the drunk mayor, intentionally; weird things happen in small towns.)

      That said, I’d probably hate working for her. She made the department about HER, not the work. The season where she ran for office made that clear. That crossed the line from normal small town behavior and became downright belittling to the rest of the staff. I detest the attitude “L’estate, c’est moi”. The work is important, not someone’s petty political ambitions.

      1. Rural Transplant*

        This is so true about small towns. I moved to a small town and work for its largest employer. I’ve made nearly all my local friends through work because the population of people completely unaffiliated with this employer is so small. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without running into colleagues and frankly, small towns are gossip mills. You hear things about other people just going about your business, even if you have no desire to know those things. I do my best to maintain appropriate boundaries, but it can be an uphill climb.

    24. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Okay, a little off topic, but I’ve read all the comments here so far, and I gotta say that Donna does NOT get enough love! She was fabulous and I wish they would have done more with her character. She actually did her work, and was a decent employee. She had her flaws, but she was one of the most interesting to me, because it seemed like there was so much more to her than she’d let you see right away, so it was just fun to watch her over time. I loved her so much! (Told you it was off topic! But also – because my temperment is to kind of just go with the flow, I could probably adapt to either Leslie or Michael, but yeah – both would be awful real-life bosses!)

      1. Ama*

        I loved the running thread on Donna where it was clear she had a full life outside of work with all kinds of hobbies and interests that didn’t involve any of her coworkers, and which we only caught glimpses of here and there. She was probably the closest figure on any workplace sitcom to how people really interact with their coworkers.

      2. Willis*

        If I could pick a spinoff for any character in a recent TV show – Donna, hands down. I need to know more about her family, her real estate empire, her travels, her life in Seattle!!

      3. Mischa*

        Totally agree. Donna also was the best at keeping her personal life fairly private until the Joe storyline with Keegan-Michael Key.

    25. HailRobonia*

      I’ve been watching a lot of P&R lately too… and in light of the events of January 6, Ron Swanson’s anti-government sentiments seem a lot darker than originally intended.

      1. James*

        I disagree. Ron is a “Live and let live” Libertarian. I can’t see him being interested enough in a politician to storm a parking lot to keep one in office. I can see him being absolutely convinced Trump was a conman and doing everything he could to oppose Trump. Leslie would simply refuse to follow Federal directives, and Ron would jump on it as a way to limit the power of government.

      2. Well...*

        Yyyyupppp hardcore libertarianism went from a possibly cute fringe ideology (similar to an extreme nihilist or utilitarian on a show, except for the fact that those are real philosophies) to a fully realized and terrifying hard right movement real quick.

    26. Still Sold Out*

      I’d love to see the AAM take on fictional workplaces! (I wonder what Alison would make of Steele’s Pots & Pans??)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Back when Sex in the City was on, a lot of newspaper columnists had FEELINGS about Carrie supporting herself in NYC (even in a rent-controlled apartment) on one weekly column.

      2. Toffee Apple Chew*

        Oh man, I think Steele’s is just rife with HR violations, but the travel perks might make it all worth it!

      3. Caboose*

        I would love to see what Alison would make of the Magnus Institute. (On the one hand, hooray, your boss is really proactive about getting people the supplies they need and even reminds you to expense things properly! On the other hand…OH GOD OH NO)

    27. Chairman of the Bored*

      Some of the best years I’ve had working were when I had a truly incompetent manager.

      I kind of like working for dummies. They’re easy to buffalo, very easy to distract, and regard the technical stuff I do as essentially magic.

      I’d go for Scott, hands-down.

      1. Nicotena*

        Yeah, I think the reason I’d pick Michael over Leslie is that I could mostly do what I wanted under him and get things done, while Leslie would probably not let me go rogue.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          One of the many meanings of ‘buffalo’ in American English is the (not common) use of “bully or harass”.
          For a linguistic mind bender, look up the sentence “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            It also means “outwit, confuse, or baffle” etc.

            I was thinking more along these lines than bully/harass.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yeah, I’d take Michael Scott, too, because I think I could manage him and get what I want.

    28. Jennifer Strange*

      I mean if we’re comparing Michael Schur workplace shows, you’ve got to throw Captain Raymond Holt into the mix. Though I guess that would be unfair considering he’s clearly the most competent manager of the three.

      In regards to the actual question, I’d definitely rather work for Leslie. Yes, she’s constantly at 11 when sometimes you need her to be at 5, but you at least see some growth from her over the years (and in general I prefer P&R to The Office). Plus, I’d probably get a Galentine’s Day invite.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Yes! I’d work for Raymond Holt in the earlier seasons. One of the reasons I dislike the later seasons of B99 is that they start to make Holt go off the rails and seem a little bit nuts, which just didn’t feel like it was true to the character. Maybe to many people’s points that decent managers just don’t seem funny enough.

    29. Justin*

      You know what’s funny? Michael and Holly played divorced parents of a meth-addicted Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy, and it’s hard not to see it as a sad future.

    30. Save the Hellbender*

      I’d love to hear your take on the coaches and managers in Ted Lasso, Alison :)

    31. Nicotena*

      Just throwing out there that Liz Lemon is also both a terrible boss and a terrible employee, although sometimes it’s implied she’s pretty good at managing the show itself, offscreen.

    32. Falling Diphthong*

      Leslie did give Ron a button to use to close his door automatically. She was in tune with the needs of her employees, and truly cared about them.

      Sure, she cared way too much, but I’m with Alison on “Hey Leslie, did you hear about this great training? It would involve binders” and she’d be on it.

    33. glebers*

      The Office is rather famously loved by today’s youth who found and binged it on Netflix. The cast talk about how popular they are among 15-year-olds.

      I wonder if it’ll skew their expectations of office work. They know it’s not real, but it’s tough to understand how far it is from real life without further context

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I doubt it. The Office aired when I was 15 and it was the most popular show among my high school friends, to the extent that everyone watched it on Thursday nights to talk about on Friday. I’m 30 and most (well, some) of my generation seem to be adapting to the workplace just fine.

    34. Pam Poovey*

      I have a dog spot for Parks and Rec because it got me through a serious anxiety/depression episode, but o can’t rewatch it because WHEW there is just so much fatphobia.

    35. Coffee Owlccountant*

      Can I just go on record saying how DELIGHTFUL that question was and how much I was glad to see it after 18 months of .

    36. Eleven*

      I work in a sales-heavy industry where the only way to make it into management is to be excellent at sales. Therefore the entire leadership of our organization are salespeople with no management experience. Needless to say, the skills that make you excellent at sales are not always the same as the skills that make you excellent at management…so I feel for Michael Scott and all the poor people who work under him.

      Having said that, The Office is SO cringe that I can barely even watch it, and I would choose an overbearing Leslie to an offensively incompetent Michael ANY DAY!

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This is unfortunately very true in many trades. In some industries it works well, but in many it really, really does not. Engineering and IT both immediately come to mind.

        The flipside to this (and essentially the same problem), is that most workplaces don’t have a well-defined individual contributor track. Meaning, the only way for someone who is really technically proficient at their job to be promoted beyond a certain level so people take these roles that they hate and are not suited for.

        1. Galadriel's Garden*

          My husband is an engineer, and has absolutely experienced this with one of his managers – terrible at delegating tasks, a notorious over-explainer (“Where do I bill all of these hours of explaining to, Lucius?”), a veritable black hole of company information so one never felt like they had any idea of what was happening around them, and was incapable of meeting or enforcing deadlines. The guy has been with the company for almost 30 years, so they promoted him to head of a division because they more or less *had* to for lack of something else to do with him…and it went so poorly that I believe they slowly scaled back his management role because he just…cannot manage people. It’s tough because with his experience and knowledge (of which he has a lot!) they want to be able to pay him well, but since they’re consulting engineering his being an individual contributor at that billing rate is not great. It’s an unfortunate situation all around.

    37. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Alison, I know you’re already busy, but I think there’s a market for a podcast where you critique the management styles of TV characters.

    38. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Speaking of terrible bosses that are funny unless you work for them, anyone watch Corporate? Kate, John, and ultimately Christian? And Matt and Jake trying to navigate being both working level trying to become middle managers? It’s so campy it’s hilarious.

    39. calonkat*

      I now want a post (whenever you feel like it/have binged something) where you react to specific fictional bosses. House MD, was Dr. Cuddy a good manager, did Foreman do better? M*A*S*H, Henry Blake vs Sherman Potter as managing their staff. It would be a nice break every so often to read about and comment on management that isn’t affecting real people right now.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        To be fair, Potter was a career officer and Blake was drafted and basically dropped in with not a lot of training.

        1. calonkat*

          Henry Blake did have his own practice, so may have had management experience. And he wasn’t that bad at his job (and got better as the show pivoted away from being straight comedy). He managed an exceptionally wacky group of people in a war torn country pretty well overall (I’m sure Frank and Margaret would disagree).

          But I think so many shows are based around a workplace, if Alison were interested, this could be a fun series when she wanted. She could put a Saturday request for “specific episodes of Firefly showing Mal’s management” or “specific episodes of the Dick van Dyke show” or whatever to avoid having to focus on too many shows.

        2. James*

          The tone of the show had also shifted. The Blake Era was more “Yankee Doodle Doctor”; the Potter Era was more Regular Army. The show always had a dark tone at times, but the antics of Hawkeye and Trapper were the focus. With Potter the antics were still there, but they were shown as exceptional, something people did to cope.

          Agreed that Potter was the better manager. He could immediately assess a situation, delegate authority, and make hard calls to get the job done. He also had a sense of the bigger picture, both in terms of the war itself and in terms of who was who, and how to apply proper pressure. Blake always seemed more like….well, SOMEONE had to sit in the chair, and he drew the short straw. Other people ran the camp, Blake was just there to sign on the dotted line and to take the blame. Either way can work–I’ve seen places run both ways–it just depends on how the team functions. And remember, the camp DID function under both–a 95% survival rate is not the sign of a failing organization.

      2. what am I, a farmer?*

        My fiancé went on a House rewatching binge at some point during the pandemic and I think I screamed WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU ARE HIS BOSS at Cuddy multiple times.

    40. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      I would take post-season one Leslie Knope over Michael Scott in a HEARTBEAT. Yes, she was a nightmare boss, but like Alison said, one management training suggestions and she and her binders would be ALL IN. Also, everyone who worked for her went on to do stuff that they loved and have ridiculously amazing lives. I could roll with that. Plus, then you’d have all sorts of connections due to your coworkers all going off and doing all of the things, sans having to network or whatever.

    41. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Parks and Rec gave me panic attacks when I first watched it. I confess I was today years old when I learned that the authors had meant to portray Leslie as a good manager. She was, to me, so blatantly bad at being a boss, that all these years I’d been sure that this was the idea behind her character.

      I still(!) haven’t seen the US Office. I did see the British version twice. I would not work for David Brent. But neither could I work for Leslie, she is too intense for me and I’d just snap at her one day and get myself fired. If I had a choice between working for any of them, I’d have to retire or change careers or something!

    42. Maewin the Lascerator*

      The real villain of The Office is Toby. So much of this problematic stuff happens right in front of him and he does NOTHING!

      1. Pikachu*

        I tried to talk to Toby and be his friend, but that is like trying to be friends with an evil snail.

    43. Pikachu*

      My dad has been in HR in the manufacturing industry his whole life. The Safety episode of The Office is his living nightmare.

      I’ve never seen P&R, but if I could live the Creed Bratton life I think I could handle working under a boss like Michael. So long as I get my three chairs.

    44. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Honestly the sales and fundraising worlds are full of managers who were excellent at the work itself but TERRIBLE managers. They are completely different skillsets! But there often isn’t much of a career path as an individual contributor – eventually you hit the salary cap and/or commission max, so they only way up is to move into management, much to the detriment of the team and usually the new manager.

    45. Aiani*

      After reading through all the comments and thinking it over I know I would rather work for a Leslie Knope type of boss. My real life boss is pretty incompetent which has led to me having to do more and more of his job for him but without the managerial pay and title. Also he allows bad employees to bring our whole department down. At least working with Leslie you know she will always pull her own weight and then some.

    46. Nom*

      Leslie is not only a terrible manager but she’s also pretty bad at her job – she’s constantly making mistakes (usually because she is overly optimistic) and then it becomes the whole office’s problem to fix it. I like the show and the character but I wish they had taken the tone more like the office – recognizing she’s kind but terrible at her job.

    47. MCMonkeyBean*

      I would say that Leslie is competent and devoted to her job AND a bad manager! As we discuss here so often that being a manager is a separate skill that lots of people aren’t suited for. And for her I think she is *so* devoted to the job that it is a detriment to her management because she wants all of her employees to be the same way which is not a reasonable expectation.

    48. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      OMG HOLLY MADE ME CRINGE. Michael liked her *because* she was bad at HR!

      Honestly, the only reason Toby was bad (and I wouldn’t even say bad, just ineffective) is because he was not assertive enough!

      (Chris Traeger is also one of my favorite characters from Parks and Rec. But speaking of an office that was in DESPERATE need of a real, full time HR person!)

    49. Man of Bats*

      Leslie is clearly better. Because it’s a sitcom, nobody ever says no to her. (“I don’t know how to say no” is the most common sitcom plot and the most common Dear Abby letter. Discuss. 444-4444.). In real life, people would push back on some of her lunacy so (1) it wouldn’t affect employees as much; (2) she’d potentially actually learn lessons from that and change her attitude (especially the Leslie from the last few seasons).

      Michael Scott has no redeeming characteristics.

      1. Claritine*

        OMG! Michael is extremely soft-hearted, and he’s an excellent salesman. He’d also be a breeze to work for because he’s so easy to manipulate.

    50. Keleven*

      I definitely found the Michael-Scott-boss much easier to deal with than the Leslie-Knope-boss at the job I just left. They were both great at the non-management aspects of their jobs and both expected employees to spend a lot of time on uncomfortable non-work activities. The difference was that Scott-boss was self-centered enough to be fine with/indifferent to someone who wasn’t emotionally invested in the workplace, which also made her rude comments more awkward and less hurtful. Knope-boss expected more emotional investment from us and learned more about us, which made her capable of both really kind gestures and really mean, personal comments.

      Scott-boss also provided me with more “can you believe this?!” stories.

      Weird side note: I really disliked The Office (and Office Space) until I started working in one. I just kind of felt like “why is everyone complaining so much? They have health insurance and get to sit down.” Within two weeks of starting my first office job, I understood everything.

    51. Well...*

      I would for sure pick Leslie. She’s going places and she takes her people with her. The extreme personality is worth it for the doors she opens up for everyone she takes under her wing.

      Also this may be dysfunction from academia talking, but the people who have super difficult advisors/mentors that fight for them always go further than people with chill advisors who don’t really care to show you off. People with incompetent advisors go nowhere.

      Michael as your boss could literally end your career. Even if you extrapolate him to like a big bang theory character who loves the science but hates talking to people and makes an ass of himself whenever he networks, that person would still tank your career. You gain so much from an advisor who knows how to play the game.

      1. Well...*

        Addendum: you gain so much from an advisor who knows how ***and cares enough*** to play the game. Leslie cares at least.

    52. Andrea*

      Ugggghhhhh I am late to this, but I have OPINIONS.

      I am Leslie Knope, 100%, and I can confirm that I’d be tough to work for. I am a lot.

      But my mentor was a Michael Scott. I actually won a “do you know a real-life Michael Scott” contest on an Office fan site by telling stories about him. (I won the 4th season of the show on DVD, which was pretty cool.) My workplace was weird and dysfunctional and layoffs were always imminent, just like at Dunder Mifflin at the beginning of the series. He was frustrating to work for — but, he taught me literally everything I know about my job. He was the guy people went to if they were sick and needed permission to go home (we were not allowed to call off sick; he actually had some compassion for his employees so he broke that rule a lot). When I went through a horrific divorce, he and his wife had me over to their house for pizza with their family on Friday nights.

      The longer it’s been since the show has been off the air, the more I hear people say what a POS Michael Scott was, how it’s not funny at all, they’d have quit, etc. And he was legitimately a terrible boss. But I have a soft spot for him.

      I gave notice at that job the day after they aired Steve Carrell’s last episode, where Pam takes off her shoes and chases him through the airport, and I WEPT. I could barely handle myself. And he ended up following me to my new employer a few months later, where he became a technical adviser who got to mentor people without managing them, and he has thrived there.

    53. beege*

      I would much rather work for Leslie than Michael, because if you approached Leslie with a polite explanation of why you found her hard to work with she’d *probably* listen and take it on board.

      Michael . . . would not.

    54. JB*

      Michael Scott is a perfect example of the Peter Principle, someone promoted beyond their field of competence.

      What’s frustrating is that the show never calls him out on when he crosses lines, either making someone else the bad guy, usually Toby, or ignores it altogether. People will say “but it’s satire, it’s meant to be like that”, but even Steve Carell has admitted a Michael Scott type character would never be done today. We’re meant to cheer to this guy who lets Kelly get away with professional sabotage (mispresenting customer reviews and costing them their well-earned bonus) motivated by Jim and Dwight missing a party because he gets to vent about his own host failures, or making a much anticipated beach day all about secretly testing for a possible successor and making it not fun for anyone. For all her faults Leslie does listen and change, and even though she goes all in, does genuinely want to help the people she manages fulfil their full potential.

    55. Jessica Fletcher*

      I’m always baffled when people say things like this about fictional characters. …Their over-the-top personality is…a joke? It’s supposed to be funny, not an actual documentary about a real person who you should want to be.

      This is like people who complain when you like the villain. Um, Dexter is not a real person and I don’t think murder is ok! I just think he’s an interesting character!

  1. Heidi*

    For Letter 3, I’d be cautious about my frustration over EVERYONE interrupting spill out disproportionately onto the one employee who was mentioned. At the same time, if it is the one employee that is doing most of the interrupting, I wouldn’t want to get into the mindset that everyone was doing it equally. I hesitate less about interrupting back now, but it used to bug me way more.

    1. Artemesia*

      If it is THIS employee then you need to speak to this person. But if everyone is doing it look in the mirror. I had a boss who spoke so slowly and his sentences would stop and start so it was hard to figure out when he was done that lots of people either finished his sentences of went slightly nuts meeting with him. Is your speaking style one which gets to the point AND is it clear when you have stopped a comment?

      1. Rachel*

        I had the same reaction when I read this! Aside from women in male-dominated environments, the people who I know that feel they are interrupted a lot and get mad about it…are the people that you need to interrupt! The ones that talk very slowly, over explain things, or want to monologue rather than having a conversation.

        1. Lismo*

          Yes, I came here to say the same! I find there are people who I have worked with who never give an opportunity for other people to jump in. They just keep going and going and before you know it, you have to interrupt to get your point in.

          1. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

            Knowing how and when to interrupt a monologue-er is an essential soft skill. It took me a long time to get to a place where I felt comfortable enough to be able to do it (obviously it’s much trickier when the person is above you in the heirarchy).

          2. Sparrow*

            Yeah, I met with a colleague earlier this week, and even though I was the one who asked for the meeting, I barely spoke for the first half hour. I always feel awkward about it, but if you want to respond or ask something, you literally have no choice but to interrupt her. I try to anticipate when she’s winding down a thought and interject before she can get into a new one, but she doesn’t naturally pause between them at all. (For the record, I always let her monologue for awhile because 1) I don’t meet with her often and 2) her rambling is work-related and she ends up sharing really valuable information relevant to my projects. It’s just not the thing I wanted to talk to her about at that time…)

          3. GraceRN*

            Yes – I have worked with people like that. I marvel at their ability to just keep going and going. I know musicians can use circular breathing as a technique to play wind instruments, which is amazing. But when some people use it for monologuing, it’s definitely not amazing.

        2. Ange*

          Some of us talk slowly for disability/neurodivergence-related reasons (or language-ability reasons). If someone asks me a difficult question I often do answer slowly, because I’m trying to work out the answer. Interrupting me isn’t going to get you an answer any faster; in fact it’s likely to make me contribute less to conversations with you, because I now know you have no patience for me. For some people it might be that speech is difficult for them, or they are mentally translating into a language they aren’t fluent in, or many other things.

          I agree about monologuing, and over-explaining, although you should also if possible explain to the person why you’re interrupting. Otherwise they are never going to stop, and they will just think that you’re rude rather than that you had a point.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            As someone with a speech impediment, I’ve noticed that over time people are less likely to jump in and finish my sentences or interrupt me. However, I will get a “good for you!” occasionally when I speak a sentence or sometimes a word flawlessly.

            1. Pool Lounger*

              I stutter, and when people interrupt to finish my sentence they are always, always wrong about what I was going to say. And thrn they’ve made it take longer for both of us, and been rude.

          2. Sasha Blause*

            And my ND means that, when I’m forced to listen to a slow talker, I forget the beginning of the sentence before they manage to reach the end. But I guess my ND is less valid?

            1. Ange*

              I’m not saying that, I was pointing out that there are reasons why people talk slowly that deserve accommodation. If you have to deal with a slow talking person, then the two of you might need to come to an agreement about how you communicate: maybe via email, or they try to summarise their thoughts in a way you can understand. But it’s not all on one person to change the way they communicate, it’s a two-way street.

              1. No Longer Looking*

                Your last line hits the nail on the head though – the problem with monologuing people who don’t tolerate “interruption” is that they seem to interpret conversation as them talking and you listening. Trying to have an actual two-way communication is seen as “interrupting” by these talkers. I have worked on being more accommodating of their bad habit, but it is frustrating in the extreme to put up with.

            2. Divergent*

              I’m the fast side of this dyad pretty often, and I manage it by keeping a notepad with me where I actually note the beginning of the sentence… and several thoughts about it in another column… and then when the speaker reaches the end of what they’re saying I can read the beginning back onto their statement, fix any incorrect assumptions I made partway through, and then respond to what they actually said. It’s not uncommon for me to fill half a page per sentence. The real trick is making sure I go back and put it all together when they’re done, before I respond. It’s been a game changer for me.

        3. Forrest*

          Interrupting / speaking over are also very cultural and regional — there are lots of places (and cultures within larger cultures) where finishing sentences, speaking over the end and overlapping are how you show you’re listening and engaged with the speaker. If LW3 has moved to another part of the country, or works with lots of people from a different cultural background, that might be why! That won’t change the irritation, but it might make it easier to realise this is just a variation in speech not a sign of disrespect.

          1. ecnaseener*

            In the same vein, cultures also vary in whether you’re supposed to interject the occasional “yeah” or “uh-huh” to show that you’re listening and understanding. I can’t tell from the letter whether that’s what’s happening to OP.

            1. Junior Assistant Peon*

              I hate people who don’t do this. I end up repeating myself because I think they didn’t hear me.

              1. Forrest*

                so frustrating to judge on phone conferences and video calls and things– either you have to be so much more deliberately with your “mm-hms” and “yeah- yeahs” because people can’t see you nodding or quiet ones don’t come through, or you do it too loudly and the whole screen switches to you because the software thinks you’re talking!

                1. R*

                  I’m a transcriber, and this has been the absolute worst part about dealing with Zoom stuff—when you have an interviewer going “UH HUH! YEAH! THATS SO INTERESTING!” every 30 seconds, cutting off half of what the subject is saying — in this context it comes off as the interviewer worried that we’re not paying enough attention to them and so they need to make noises so we don’t forget about them. In most cases you’re instructed to ignore the “yeah, ok” prompts from interviewers, so it’s super frustrating since I have to put a ton of inaudibles on the subject’s side of the conversation which just looks messy. I find this tends to be the case with less experienced interviewers — after you’ve listened to one of them, you should realize your “I’m listening” grunt is doing more harm than good.

              2. Zephy*

                I’m on the opposite side of this – I hate it when people do this constantly because it feels like they aren’t listening.

              3. Pool Lounger*

                I was taught NOT to do this in a class on listening skills for potential chaplins, bc you’re supposed to be just listening, not interrupting or making the words about you!

                1. ecnaseener*

                  For chaplains in particular (and other people like therapists whose job is partly to be a non-judgmental listener) it does make sense to err on that side…but at the same time, people who are used to “high-involvement” style conversation (the kind with lots of overlap and showing-I’m-listening interjections) will still probably be a little thrown off by total silence! There’s just no one-size-fits-all approach.

              4. Filosofickle*

                100%. I do have a tendency to repeat myself if I don’t get acknowledgement they heard / understood. Doesn’t have to be verbal; a little smile or a nod is enough. If I get a blank face, I will probably say it again! And if you don’t want that to happen, show you heard me!

                1. Queer Manager*

                  I’m ND & struggled with this a lot once I got into management. I have a very blank face and tend to walk away or do something mid-listening. Part of is how I raised as well. I had to learn to show I was listening and also stop walking away haha! My team also now knows if I walk away mid convo I’m still listening and 10/10 times grabbing something relevant to the conversation. For context I have very good hearing (to the point it has been remarked upon multiple times by my team) and the majority of them are monologuer’s,

          2. cubone*

            I don’t want to get into armchair diagnoses here, but I do think it’s worth adding that “finishing other people’s sentences before they’ve stopped talking” is literally one of the questions on the ADHD adult diagnosis scale. This one stood out to me of everything OP listened as maybe not being as universally rude or offensive as they receive it. Obviously I’m not saying they should assume everyone who does it has an ADHD diagnosis, but like you said, you can still be irritated while realizing this is a speech variation that can happen for many reasons. Tbh, I have a friend who does this and over time I’ve just found it pretty endearing, because it’s clear she wants to show engagement with the conversation.

            1. Adult with ADHD*

              Just came down to the comments to second this! I actually had to have this same conversation with my manager, I was annoying him too! It my brain’s way of taking notes on the conversation, I remember things better if I’m the one who said them. While I’m not always aware that I’m doing it, we have reached a compromise where I will try to mumble instead of speaking aloud if I catch my self speaking over him. It allows him to keep going and keeps my brain from grinding to a halt.

              1. cubone*

                I hope this is accurate, but this really sounds like you both trying to recognize and respect each other’s preferences, and I love it.

          3. Prairie*

            Absolutely. When I was dating my now-husband his constant interruptions really bugged me (a midwest gal). Then we spent time with his parents (Rhode Islanders) and sister and it was socially exhausting. I don’t know that any of them have ever gotten to the end of a sentence before someone else started talking.
            That context helps to recognize that it’s just a communication style (which can evolve), and not a sign that he doesn’t care what I think.
            Recognizing when something is a miscommunication vs an actual conflict has been a vital personal and professional skill.

            1. Forrest*

              I’m team interrupting and I’m so intimidated by the way my partner’s family all stops talking and waits for me to finish speaking. My sentences don’t have ends! I’ve never needed them before!

              1. Caboose*

                I thought I was the only one who does this! If someone doesn’t jump in and interrupt me, I will just flail around and ramble for all eternity. Please cut me off! AAAH.

            2. cubone*

              “Recognizing when something is a miscommunication vs an actual conflict has been a vital personal and professional skill.” I love, love the way you’ve said this.

          4. LQ*

            Yes! I think this is really important. Whenever interrupting comes up here there is a very strong feeling that all interruptions are signs of wild disrespect and the utmost rude and deviant behavior. Except that it’s not, it’s culturally different, but accepting that if someone is culturally different they may be showing engagement and understanding and demanding that they drop their culture for yours is what you are expecting of them.

            That’s not all interruptions, but it is absolutely some of them.

          5. SweetFancyPancakes*

            It can be cultural to that workplace, too. I worked at a library where the staff constantly interrupted each other and when I started, it drove me crazy. After a few months there I realized I was doing it too, because it was the only way to get a word in- it’s just the way the group had evolved their communication.

        4. ceiswyn*


          The people I know who get interrupted a lot tend to be the ones who feel the need to make the same point over and over again in slightly different ways, complete with explaining the bleedin’ obvious in gratuitous detail. When this is combined with a tendency to get the wrong end of the stick, it is a public service to literally everyone to interrupt them and correct them before they waste significant amounts of time on issues that don’t exist.

          If I interrupt someone, it’s because I’ve absorbed the gist of what they’re saying and have something relevant to contribute. It is noteworthy that approximately 100% of the time, those who refuse to accept the interruption are either people who themselves are slow to take information on board, or people who do not respect my competence (often, though not always, due to misogynistic assumptions)

          1. Nicotena*

            IMO, just as people who hate being interrupted generally feel that it’s disrespectful or distracting (they’re assigning a cultural / moral value to this interaction) to me it’s value-neutral; it’s not really about what they’re saying or how they’re saying it, it’s just a different way of communicating. So I wouldn’t use it in the reverse, either, and assume that the person being interrupted should feel that they’re being too slow or not getting to the point fast enough. Sometimes, yes, but it’s not universal.

          2. Caboose*

            Ugh, I was the new employee doing this in training a few weeks ago. My boss would just…explain things over and over and over again, even when I piped up to indicate that I understood the concept. I was *thiiiis* close to just like…gnawing through the cubicle wall to escape.

            1. ceiswyn*

              I had a boss once who… well, a typical interaction would go something like this:

              Boss: OK, about the teapot design task.
              Me: I’ve already…
              Boss: Let me finish!
              Boss: *Repeatedly explains how important this task is, often using exactly the same words again, until he finally seems to wind down*
              Me: I’ve already done it.
              Boss: I just want to make sure you realise how important this is.
              Me: I do, which is why I’ve already done it.
              Boss: Well, make sure you get to it soon.

              He would book a half hour meeting for a conversation that needed less than thirty seconds, AND IT WOULD OVERRUN.

              Do not be that boss.

                1. ceiswyn*

                  The third time he booked a half-hour meeting to tell me to follow a process that I’d been using for six months, I did get rather unprofessional at him.

                  He wanted me to use the process so that he had more visibility into my work. I told him very annoyedly that “I’ve put every one of my tasks into the process tracker, I’ve created you a dashboard to view them, and I’ve sent you the link to it, twice. What I can’t do is look at it for you.”

                  He never did actually use the tracker to see what I was doing, but at least he stopped calling meetings about it.

        5. quill*

          knowing when to interrupt and when to let someone wind their talking spring down is a skill that comes with practice.

          OP, a thing to think about: you’re in retail, is there a chance that the rest of your team is simply in a much greater rush than you? Or using all their patience with people getting to the point / processing verbally instead of already knowing what they’re going to say on your customers?

          1. GNG*

            Came here to say I’m thinking the same thing about team members being pressed for time. It’s also possible that you’re keeping there to say things they already know well. If you’re already a slow-speaker, the combo of any or all of these of can definitely lead your coworkers to to feel like they need to interrupt you to keep things moving along.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Coming to say this.

        If EVERYONE interrupts you, then … probably a lot of people likely think you are finished speaking, or you may tend to try to “hold the floor” longer than average or necessary or engaging.

        *Do you trail off into silence mid-sentence while you mentally organize the rest of what you want to say, and you expect people to wait, also in silence? Many of us assume more than a few seconds of silence with no other verbal or visual indicator means you are done.

        *Or, do you wander about conversationally while you try to finish your point, such that you are still talking but you seem to be done making real points?

        *Do you segue from story to story to story without a break? (My sister does this. She will segue from story to story, and generally at about the third related story, she has lost her audience, and has lost the thread of the original topic, but she’s on a roll. Heh, I tease her about this. Say that the group will be talking about fine dining. Fine. She will contribute a decently related story about apples, which will go on just a hair too long, and she should stop at the end and cede the floor, but … she segues into a semi-related story about bacon. This also goes on a smidge too long, and she’s lost most of the audience, and she REALLY should stop at the end and cede the floor … but then she she segues into a really gross semi-related story about hog slaughtering. Gahhhh.)

        *Do you monologue with no breaks for anyone else to get a word in?

        *Do you speak significantly slower than your peers, such that they are finishing your sentences to try to hurry you along, or such that you are accustomed to way longer conversational pauses or space between words and thoughts? Are you from, say, Baton Rouge, and you now live, in, say, Philadelphia?

        Any of those could make you feel interrupted, when others think you are done … or reasonably think you SHOULD BE done.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Also note, because I know and love my sister, I start eyeing and nudging her in the middle of story 2.

          As I see her winding up for story 3, I’m all like, “WAKEENA! How about we change the subject?”

          It seldom works.

          1. Nicotena*

            haha I heard someone use “Land the plane” for this, and that’s now what I tell MYSELF sometimes.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Your first point is my mum down to a tee. And she has the most amazing talent for pausing at the worst possible point in the sentence! (Her: “Your father’s really sick………………….” Me: “……….yes? What?? What’s the matter??” Her: “hmmm? Oh, he’s sick of lamb so we’ll have pork chops for dinner.” Etcetera.) You have to sort of prompt her to keep talking or else it all gets very stressful, but she’s convinced I’m interrupting her. Ah, family.

          1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            Interesting. My family has the same trailing off habit, but they think they’ve finished telling you the thought (and yes, you will be held responsible for not knowing what the rest of the statement was, why would you think otherwise?). My go to response has “You never finished what you were saying.”

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              My mother picked up this habit.

              “So did you get the baby ready? I’m leaving at….” When? Leaving when? “Oh, um… you know.” No, I don’t! I really don’t!

              She also refuses to agree to a conclusion to a discussion. Like; “What time should we go?” If I say I was thinking three, she’ll hem and haw and present reasons for leaving at two. Um, hmmm, weellllll. And then stop talking. “Do you want to leave at two??” Yes, why am I being so aggressive about it?

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              My sort-of-in-laws do this. “So Dad was in the hospital……………” (dots continue forever until someone jumps in). I usually say “And?” and it re-engages the conversation gears. I swear 1/2 the time they think we already know what is going on because they do!

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Long pauses drive me nuts. It didn’t used to – but my husband has started using more and more dramatic pauses when he talks as he gets older and hearing them all the time makes me less and less tolerant of them. And they are dramatic, he is not organizing his thoughts, he just likes to start a story and leave you dangling in the middle, weather you are engaged or not.

            1. A Feast of Fools*

              Ugh. That’s my ex. He gets an ego boost when people say, “And?” because it means they’re hanging on his every word.

              He would also just yell, “Ow!” or “Dammit!” really loud over the phone or out of direct line of sight, then get really, really mad when I didn’t ask him what was wrong.

              Near the end of the relationship, I quit responding to his conversational hooks. So our “conversations” went like this:

              Him: “OW!”
              Him: “OW! This really hurts!”
              Him: “Do you not even care what happens to me???”
              Me: “I can’t care about something if I don’t know what it is.”

              Also, he was/is a MAJOR interrupter, finishing sentences (and getting them wrong) and just talking over people because they said a key word that reminded him of a time when he was glorious and so everyone needed to hear about it NOW.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Ugh my husband used to do a little chuckle, and I would say, “What?” and it would always be some unflattering observation about what I was doing. So I quit responding to what I came to call the “derisive chuckle” and if he has something to say to me, he can say it. I’m not going to ASK him for his unflattering opinions.

              2. MissBaudelaire*

                My Mom will be reading a letter/text/something and go “OH NO!!!” loudly. And if you ask what’s wrong she’ll be silent. If you prod she’ll just keep repeating “I can’t believe it!”

                I finally quit responding. Come talk to me when you’re ready to tell me.

        3. cubone*

          +1 for this great list. I am a story segue-er for sure and have come to realize a fair amount of interruptions are people trying as gently as possible to take back the conversation.

          I had a friend too who once complained to me how she hates getting interrupted and it happens so much to her. Needless to say, she is a monologue-er, to the point that one time I had cleaned my entire kitchen, put my pajamas on, and brushed my teeth, hours after everyone else had left a party, just trying to get her to take the hint and finish THE. DARN. STORY.

          1. Forrest*

            I have a friend who I LOVE TO DEATH but I once literally shut the door in her face when she was staying with me, because she’d kept talking through me changing into my pyjamas, cleaning my teeth, filling a bottle of water, switching the overhead light off and putting the bedside light on, and I literally had run out of ways to signal, “OK, I’m going to bed now!” It felt like the rudest thing I’d ever done, but the last thing I saw as I shut the door was her just shrugging and walking off so I concluded she was used to it and I’d done the right thing.

            1. cubone*

              Yeah I’m not that usually all that conflict averse, but I felt like these signs were so obvious and generally understood that it just blew my mind it wasn’t landing. My partner did the “well, I think we’re both off to bed now, good bye”, which I appreciate, because I think I might’ve just laid down and closed my eyes JUST TO SEE if that did the trick! It was like a social experiment.

              1. londonedit*

                Years ago I had a friend like that too. If you didn’t find some opportunity to muscle in on the conversation at some point, she’d just talk and talk and talk and talk, and I and other people totally did the ‘guiding her towards the door, handing her her bag and coat, saying “yes…yes…well, lovely to see you, bye then, see you soon…” while ushering her out of the door’ thing on several occasions.

                1. Uranus Wars*

                  I have a friend like this too. And if you usher her out the door but don’t shut it she will stand at the doormat and continue to talk. It’s exhausting.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I really love the Captain Awkward method of asking someone to sum up what they are saying in three sentences. Gives them a chance to finish their thought, but also makes sure there is an end in sight. I use it a lot in baseball season.

          3. Artemesia*

            Decades ago I was holding court at my own party with an utterly fascinating story with people hanging on every word, and then I wound up to launch into another fascinating story and some people got up and one guy audibly groaned and that was when I learned some self discipline about monopolizing conversations. Sometimes on the way to a party I will initiate a pep talk with my husband about our need to shut up and let others talk. He gets really offended if I criticize him after a party but is on my team if we talk about strategies for not being doinks BEFORE we do it.

            If a person gets interrupted a lot, they need to reflect. If it is with one person then maybe the two of them need to work on how the two of them can communicate better.

        4. EchoGirl*

          I would add over-explaining to this list. My mom and my husband are both really bad about this, when they’re trying to explain something, they feel like they need to explain “the whole story”, even when a lot of the details are kind of irrelevant to what they’re getting at. For example, my husband was recently trying to tell me a story about someone being a jerk in traffic, but was actually starting to give a play-by-play of how he was sitting through multiple lights because he couldn’t get around this person before I gently cut him off and asked him to skip ahead to the actual meat of the story; my mom isn’t quite this bad when it comes to storytelling but while my husband mostly limits this to friends and family at least, she is more prone to do this with everyone, even if it’s a stranger she’s having a brief interaction with, and also has the “repeating herself” factor, where she says the same thing five times because she apparently thinks I didn’t understand the first time.

          Now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable responding to an employer or even a coworker the way I do to my mom and husband, as I have pretty bad social anxiety, but I’d sure as heck want to!

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            When watching shows with my husband, I intentionally don’t ask him things. Because if I do, I know I will be treated to “Okay! So!” with him pausing the show and going on a fifteen minute explanation about things I didn’t ask about and don’t care about.

            It’s cute when it’s something he’s super nerding out about, I love it. But there are times when I say “Is that guy’s name Paul?” and he does it. I don’t need this. Just tell me if his name is Paul or not.

            I also hate when you ask someone a question like “Hey, will you be late tomorrow from work?” and get a ten minute story that doesn’t have an answer to your question.

          2. SweetFancyPancakes*

            My mom does this too! You get a blow-by-blow description of what she was doing, and why, and what color hair the check-out lady had, etc etc. Sometimes I will interrupt her to ask if this has any bearing on the point of the story, which sometimes helps her focus and get back on track. She knows she does it, and when she actually relates something concisely, my sister will pat her hand and tell her “good job”, to which Mom will give a sarcastic “thank you for noticing”.
            The older I get, the more I catch myself doing it, too…

            1. Gammagirl1908*

              Ha, this reminded me of nothing so much as the episode of Golden Girls where Rose tells a VERY long-winded story about winning tickets to see Frank Sinatra. When she winds up to tell the story again, Blanche cuts her off.

              Rose Nylund: I got tickets, too! This is such a coincidence. I was driving down Biscayne Boulevard…

              Blanche Devereaux: [cuts Rose off] No, no, no, no! Please! I cannot bear that again! [to Dorothy] She was listening to her car radio. Big Band, not all talk. There was a contest. Something about a little voice, a lucky number, and a dime in a door handle, then bim-bam-boom, she won the tickets!

              Dorothy Zbornak: Take a lesson, Rose. That’s how you tell a story.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        This. More generally, don’t look for a local explanation for a global phenomenon. If everyone is interrupting you, this one employee isn’t the issue.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          More generally, don’t look for a local explanation for a global phenomenon.

          I really like that phrasing; may I lift it?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Go forth with my blessing. Even better, so far as I know, I came up with it myself. But having said that, it will probably turn out I read it somewhere decades back.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing with the idea of taking a look at what you are doing, OP. I found when I supervised I spent of lot of time examining my actions and words.
        The people who interrupt can:
        –Feel they are not being heard. You can repeat back parts of what they are saying to show you heard them.

        –Believe that their inputs do not matter. You can show them how to craft ideas that DO work. And encourage them when they come up with something clever.

        –Think that you are missing important pieces of the story that would influence what you are saying. In this type of situation you can ask more questions before making a final decision. One thing I found very effective was to physically go over and look at the problem with them, that action would convince them that I did see and understand the full story.

        I believe there are patterns in almost everything, so I would start looking to see if I noticed patterns when I got interrupted. I know one of my downfalls is that I can get rolling on something and sometimes miss a point. Some people can be fearful of showing “the boss” that the boss has a misconception or misunderstanding. I told my crew that it is okay to say, “Whoa, time out. Before you go too far, you need to know about x, y and z.” If you know yourself to be a person who just gets rolling along on a project, this might help you.

      5. Dust Bunny*


        My mother is someone who processes thoughts aloud and one of the results of this is that she talks repetitively and takes for bloody ever to get to the point. She’ll explain something five or six different ways in a single monologue. She also doesn’t tell you what the ultimate goal of the question is before she starts doing this so you have to sit through all of it to give her an answer. I love her but sometimes I just want to scream: “WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS, MOM?”

        So if different people do this to you on a regular basis, LW, you may need to get some constructive feedback on whether or not you’re a bit windy and need to put your thoughts together better before you start talking.

        1. quill*

          I have chronic words walk away from me midthought disease, and interruptions make it worse, so another fix, OP, is to either have a catchphrase indicating “I’m not done, my brain is just trying to load” or to relegate some conversations to the realm of taking notes. Especially if you’re trying to explain a long process and it’s made longer by the fact that something in your brain is trying to load a popup ad so the conversational webpage is not responding.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think this line of comments is somewhat unkind. My guess is that there is nothing wrong with how the LW communicates – but that the LW should be aware of conversational turn-taking styles. This went through the press a few months ago and is quite well-known in linguistics: There are different styles and preferences about what conversational partners do in order to cooperate. At one end are the “cooperative overlappers” (Google that if you want good materials on it), who talk along with the speaker to engage in positive feedback. At the other end are those whose style is silent attention. Some of this is personality, some is cultural. (I once had a housemate from Italy, and when she had her friends over literally everyone talked all the time simultaneously – obviously at considerable volume, to be heard. You’d think they were fighting, but they were just having a normal conversation. Extreme cooperative overlapping!) My guess is the LW is firmly at the “silent” end and experiences “cooperative overlapping” as an interruption.

        Myself, I have often been criticized for interrupting in conversation, and it mortifies me when it happens. I’m also aware that women get criticized for it more easily than men… So I reflected on what I’m doing. On the one hand I grew up in an environment where I had to be forceful and “sporty” (verbally) to ever get a word in edgewise. I had to work on training myself out of this competitive attitude. But reading up on the material I mentioned blew my mind, because I *do* like a fair amount of cooperative overlapping. I also *like* it if someone finishes my sentences, nodding enthusiastically and making my point richer while I’m still making it. But my spouse… will not tolerate it – will walk away from a conversation and point-blank told me they’re not competing for space in a conversation. So I am working on being more accommodating to a variety of styles.

        There are of course people who interrupt without a context of cooperation, who actually want to monopolize the discussion. Or thoughtless and badly trained ones – see my story. In this case politely but firmly putting your foot down is what you need to do.

        1. GNG*

          I think this line of comments is somewhat unkind.

          I see it differently.

          What I see in this subthread are comments asking OP3 to consider if they are a slow speaker, or if they speak for too long without pausing or input from others. Some people offered examples of these from their own experiences, but they aren’t saying OP is doing these things. The way I see it, these comments offer support to the OP in the form of providing viewpoints for OP to reflect on their approach to speaking.

          What I don’ see are: comment calling OP names, or saying they are a bad communicator, or incompetent in any way.

          OP wrote in to seek advice with an issue, so clearly something isn’t working for them. I don’t believe we have enough information from the post to know exactly how they are being interrupted and draw conclusions about exactly where the issues lie. However, as many things in real life, chances are, both the speaker and the listener contribute to the situation. Most likely, OP can think of some behaviors they can modify to help improve their situation. I don’t see commenters sugar coating things for OP, but offering points for OP to deliberate on is not unkind.

          I’ve gone on long enough. Your thoughts?

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            My thoughts are that that’s what I was doing, “offer support to the OP in the form of providing viewpoints for OP to reflect on their approach to speaking”. I see really no suggestion that the OP’s speech is in any way unusual – rather, I’m offering an alternative explanation that in my experience is rather common. Also, it is by no means certain that the OP *is* in fact being interrupted an unusual amount of times. That’s also not what they’re saying – what they’re saying is that “it seems that EVERYONE interrupts me” and that there is a problem with *one* particular person who definitely is doing that. My impression from this is, as I said, that the OP is on one end of a well defined, well described range of conversational preferences, and that of course the one person who is definitely not compatible with that end, be it by rudeness or by style, will generate a conflict.

            I have no idea why you drag in name-calling etc, which no one claims is happening.

      7. Tirv*

        Exactly. If EVERYONE is constantly interupting you, then it’s time to address the common denominator-you. I worked for someone who kept saying he hated being interupted or having people finish his sentences for him, but it was excuciating to have to listen to him hum and haw through a looooong conversation.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I have a sister who complains when people interrupt her, but the problem is that she turns every conversation into an endless monologue. If anyone tries to get a word in, she snaps “I’m talking!” and then starts a lecture about how rude other people are to her. So make sure you’re not doing that, LW3.

      1. Kara*

        Yep. If everyone interrupts you, there is potentially a reason other than everyone being rude.

        I had a colleague in my last job who, once she got a word in, would talk FOREVER. Would just go on, and on, and on. The only way to stop her was to interrupt her.

        OP, this of course may not be you. But it’s worth asking yourself what’s really happening and whether it’s something that’s partly down to you.

        1. WellRed*

          I had a coworker like thus. We called her the riptide. Making it worse: she was a low talker.

          1. Campfire Raccoon*

            Ha! I’m a super-fast talker. Give me coffee and I’m literally the worst. When answering the phone I have to consciously slow myself down. I used to have a boss that was a deep-South slow talker. She’d laugh at me and call me a squirrel, and I’d laugh at her and tell her I found her soothing. We mostly communicated via email, so it worked out ok.

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              Have you ever seen Hoodwinked? There is an animated squirrel in that movie I think you could relate to.

    3. Van Wilder*

      My husband has a habit of trying to finish my sentences, which I find irritating. But I also think that empathetic people tend to to this more. They’re just trying to meet you where you are.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Oh, gosh, I would find that crazymaking! I find that people who want to finish my sentences are often off base, so then I’m annoyed at both being talked over AND at their putting words in my mouth.

      2. A Feast of Fools*

        My ex did/does this. I eventually just stopped talking as soon as he interrupted me.

        Me: “While I’m gone for the weekend, please make sure the dog–”
        Him: “–gets her pill with dinner every day. Yes, I know.”
        Him: “What? Aren’t you going to finish?”
        Me: “Why would I, since you seem to already know what I’m thinking.”

        (Spoiler: I wasn’t going to say anything about the dog’s medication).

    4. Pool Lounger*

      I get interrupted a fair bit, seemingly because 1. I stutter, and 2. I’m a woman. Men interrupt me, try to finish my sentences, even when I’m not stuttering they’ll just start talking in the middle of my sentence. Women just don’t do this to me. I’ve gotten into the habit of saying, “I wasn’t finished,” to the interrupter.

      1. Artemesia*

        yeah the men talking as if there are no women in the group is also a real think. WE have good friends who don’t seem sexist but I have noticed that the guys do tend to talk over the women and the women have to say something when it happens. It is a combination of male privilege and a tendency to monologue which is lethal.

    5. Former prof*

      I agree with lots of folks here that LW should be reflective about their contribution to being interrupted. But sometimes the issue isn’t what or how much you are saying, it’s how you say it. Nonverbals are important. If you need to finish a thought and stop an interruption, hold your hand up in a stop motion or a “one minute” gesture and keep talking. Using better nonverbals when you talk will also prevent people from interrupting – more expression, more gestures, leaning your body into a meeting or conversation.

      1. Sparrow*

        This is definitely a good thing to keep in mind if you’re the kind of person who pauses to think! Sometimes I’ll realize something partway through a sentence and will want to take a second to process whether/how that impacts what I was about to say, but I’m definitely not done with my thought. Giving signals that you’re actively thinking is helpful. Not letting the pause go on too long is also important, but I think people tend to be more patient if they know you’re still engaged. I have a friend who similarly pauses mid-sentence, but there’s no body language indicating she’s thinking about it, no “Sorry, I’m just thinking” when people start to shift awkwardly in the silence. I really wouldn’t fault someone unfamiliar with her speech patterns for assuming she was done after a few seconds. I’m used to her doing this, and there are still times I think she’s lost her train of thought and isn’t going to continue.

  2. The Unusual Suspect*

    I’m wondering why someone chose her to handle this particular responsibility. Was it ensure nothing gets done – or done appropriately?

    1. NeutralJanet*

      If she’s the head of HR, I can imagine TPTB just figuring that this is kinda-sorta-maybe her department, or at least more her department than anyone else’s, and not investigating her beliefs too hard. This is especially true if she isn’t incredibly open about them, which it seems like she’s not if OP wasn’t aware of them for a year.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I’m keen to know if OP has been able to verify what the peer told them about Tina? If it’s true, it’s absolutely not ok that she is leading the pandemic response. But I’d want to be reasonably certain that it’s more than just a throwaway comment that the peer has exaggerated for the sake of gossip entertainment before taking action. I’m not trying to minimise it, but this is one I think OP should CYA on.

      1. Lance*

        ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s being dealt with’ sort of hand-wavy responses to questioning that OP mentioned, if it’s prevalent, is an existing data point in favor of ‘she’s not doing this job as well as someone should’. I’d definitely look back over what the response has been so far and how it lines up with what someone might expect, at the very least.

      2. JMals*

        This was my first thought as well. There are plenty of people out there who take precautions and ensure safety but also disagree with a mandated vaccine. There’s lots of fear mongering taking place, from all angles.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Perfect platform for their views? We’ve seen enough people in positions of power do the ‘this whole thing is a scam’ over the past year or so.

      Or encountering an antivaxx, Covid denying nurse. Why do the job if you deny science? Et cetera. It could also be that they really just need a different job because they’re definitely not suited to this one.

      1. quill*

        I can easily see how being an antivaxxer was not a disqualifying criteria for being in HR prior to, uh, march 2021. No opportunity to screw anything up.

        But it’s also possible that she was a reasonable (ish) person in 2019, and then bought into conspiracy theories because they were more comforting than being faced with the facts of “we have to wait to know everything for sure, because that’s how reality works.” (That and there’s a hell of a lot of self-protective incentive for the ‘covid is a conspiracy’ crowd, because it’s built off centuries of just world fallacy and cultural calvinism about virtuousness, bootstraps, and not getting sick because you do the “right” things. The roots of conspiracy were already planted deep in public opinions on wellness before even this century.)

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      This. The thing is, Covid truthers aren’t shy about sharing their views. This is a special case of the general rule that crazies usually aren’t discreet about their craziness. This in turn is one of the many life lessons we learned from Star Trek. When Kirk found himself in the opposite universe he was able to pretend to be a barbarian, at least long enough to do what needed to be done. Barbarian Kirk? Spock had him figured out before he got out of the transporter room. So what I take away from this letter is that the head boss either knew or certainly should have known that this person is a truther. That this person nonetheless has Covid planning responsibility is a sign of rot higher up.

      1. Forrest*

        It’s also possible that she’s a recent convert. “Covid is a hoax”/antivax stuff is a radicalisation process: she could have been completely rational about it six months ago but slipped into the rabbit hole sometime in the last couple of months.

      2. Emily*

        I learn so much from you comments / analyses. Thank you for all you contribute to this forum.

  3. Annie J*

    Alison, you always manage to drill down to the heart of the issue.
    I don’t believe that the snacks are the main issue, the employee is bad in other, less tangible ways, and the OP has gravitated to the snack eating so they don’t have to consider other factors.

      1. twocents*

        Not really. BEC is someone whose very existence just annoys the crap out of you. There’s nothing wrong with them exactly, they just rub you the wrong way and you hate them.

        What Annie’s suggesting is that there is something (or several somethings) wrong with the employee, but it just feels easier to focus on the snack theft.

        1. katertot*

          Haha I think the joke is that they are truly- eating crackers :) they may not fit the definition of BEC but they are actually eating crackers which is pretty funny

          1. Mental Lentil*

            Exactly! Which is why willow said “literally”.

            Some people just love to be killjoys. Let people have their fun.

        2. Anoni*

          It’s not even that all the time. It doesn’t have to be that they rub you the wrong way for no good reason; it can be that you’ve have so many issues with this person that anything they do will set you off.

          Either way, the way it was used here was appropriate and funny.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Having a lot of friends and family who work in downtown restaurants, I’ll point out that OP may not really know the scale of the problem. The employee has been SEEN eating extra a few times. But yes there is a suspicion that it is the tip of an iceberg. A lot of small restaurants don’t have tight inventory management–they just reorder when supplies get low.
      If the profitability has tanked, it may OR MAY NOT be entirely on Covid.
      There was a Kitchen Nightmares I saw where and employee was going home with full bottles of wine. That’s an extreme example, but if this employee is actually taking an extra chip&soda every day and just not getting caught, that’s easily $60 in sales. And someone willing to fill for food is going to also encourage their co-workers to do the same.
      OP has a suspicion -but the immediate answer is it not fire somebody over two packets of chips. The immediate answer is to develop an inventory management package that can identify when supplies are disappearing without being paid for. Then they can start figuring out why. It may be happening AND not be the employees. Like customer shoplifting if there’s a ‘bring your items to the counter’ layout.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Taking wine home is a lot different than someone eating an extra bag of chips. I would bet that she is food insecure. Restaurant staff don’t get paid much, especially if they have to rely on tips.
        I would look at all the employees and not just this one when it comes to the extra snacks. I bet she’s not the only one but you notice it because she’s on your radar because of the other stuff.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Or she is just taking advantage. Just because someone is taking food does not mean they are food insecure. We don’t know. It also doesn’t matter. The issue is not just the food, its the eating WHILE supposed to be working. So the owner can address the not working part. If they need the job, they will straighten up until they find a better paying job.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My take tends to parallel this. The employee has learned she CAN get away with stuff. She can refuse to do tasks when asked. She can take whatever food she wants. The employee has forgotten that jobs are EARNED, and NOT gifts. Both actions (stealing and refusing to work) show the employee is taking the job for granted. I hate to say it but it sounds like the job over for her and it’s just a matter of time.

            If nothing else, OP, you have to think of the rest of your team. They are working their tails off so that she can ignore tasks and sit around and snack. If this goes on too long you will lose good people. I get that it’s hard to find new employees, so that means start sooner rather than later. Perhaps one of your current employees can recommend someone. I have worked with such people and the boss always had an excuse, a lot of the excuses start with, “It’s too hard….”. When I left I said, “It’s too hard to carry other people’s workloads.”

            1. AVP*

              Have you seen the restaurant hiring market right now? Unless OP is paying better than most right now, the ball is actually not in her court on this. Not that she shouldn’t focus on getting what she needs out of the employee, but I’d go easy on the “EARNED” messaging at this point…

            2. Anoni*

              Oh, you might need to adjust your thinking on this quite a bit. Jobs are exploitation and the tables might be turning, very slowly, the other way.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Actually, I do agree that many employers exploit their employees and I am over the moon happy to see the slow rebellion going on now.

                However, two wrongs do not make a right. If the employee feels exploited, then the employee should discuss the matter with OP or other appropriate person. OTH, the employee could resign; could refuse additional hours; or perhaps there are other options we do not see here.
                Stealing merchandise and wages is not acceptable. If the employee feels they lack say in what is happening to them, they need to consider that the stolen food/stolen time is not with the consent of the boss, either.

                I don’t think that fear based decisions are a good practice for managers.

            3. K. Tate*

              Thank you @NotsoNewReader! I came here to say this. Employees that you see taking more than you give them also show the other employees that it’s ok to steal. Chips are just the beginning. Speaking from personal experience.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            The LW states that she gets a meal. She’s fed at least for that working day.

            But if she needs to keep the job, then she needs to act like she needs to keep the job and not steal stuff or slack on tasks. She’ll be a lot hungrier if she gets fired.

          3. M2*

            Most restaurant staff are good insecure unless especially now due to Covid. They get paid $2. Something an hour and rely on tips to survive. This is why so many are not going back to the restaurant industry.

            Target and Walmart are offering employees paid college tuition as an incentive.

            1. Colette*

              If she’s not making enough in this job (and there is no indication that that’s the case), the solution is to find another job. Stealing from her employer will not help in the long run.

            2. NeutralJanet*

              OP weighed in lower in the comments–employees are being paid a base rate of either minimum wage or over minimum wage, I wasn’t too sure based on the comment, and are also getting around $2-3 in tips per hour. OP also clarified that shifts are at most 6 hours long with an hour long break and that the employee is mainly a cashier, so a $10 food allowance definitely seems like a reasonable amount.

              1. NeutralJanet*

                Just reread OP’s comment–base pay is over minimum wage, so it’s fair to assume that with tips added, the pay is over $10/hour, even if this is a state where the minimum wage is the federal minimum wage. Still not a ton of money, of course, but well more than $2/hour, and apparently OP offered to increase the chip-eater’s hours but she declined.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Or she’s just gotten comfortable.

          We had an intern who kept taking the bottled water we keep in the fridge for patrons. We have a water cooler for ourselves, and clean cups, but it’s hot here and she’d want water for the ride home. But instead of bringing a bottle of her own she’d just take one of ours. She had to be told multiple times to cut it out and as soon as she thought nobody was looking, she’d start again. I know for a fact that she didn’t need to do this; it was just low-grade laziness and entitlement.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            This sounds a lot like an employee I had to deal with many moons ago at my sales job. I wasn’t really his mananger…but our boss was pretty absent and it was left to me to deal this person who was in a support role. I was inside sales, so managed the showroom and he had to help move fixtures and whatnot. There was a mini fridge built into a kitchenette that I kept stocked with drinks for clients. I would use mini bottles of water and soda, even though they were more expensive, because I could fit more individual drinks in the fridge and not have to restock as often.

            This employee kept taking mini bottles of water every day and every now and then a soda. I told him multiple times those were for clients. If he wanted water, we had a water cooler in the warehouse that was for everyone. And yet, every single time I saw him, he would have a mini bottle of water in his hand. He once told me he was refilling it from the water cooler, but I told him it looked suspicious and like he was ignoring my instructions. It told him to use the cups at the water station or bring a reusable bottle from home. But STILL he always seemed to have one in his hand.

            One day I was working with a client in the showroom and offered them a drink. I opened the mini fridge and all that was in it was two diet cokes. They just looked in and said, “Oh, no thanks. I don’t drink soda, but a water would have been nice.” This fridge had been stocked at the start of the week and we hadn’t had enough clients to drain it that quickly. I was livid!

            I don’t know what was up with this employee. It may have been a tiny power grab, or maybe sexism, but he was blatantly ignoring my instructions and doing the opposite of what I asked. Plus, he was costing us money since those little bottles are considerably more expensive per ounce than the jugs in the water cooler. One of the warehouse employees did tell me the problem employee was calling me a b*tch and complaining about my “obsession” with the water bottles. It wasn’t about that! It was about his insubordination! I ended up quitting soon after because I was tired of my boss not managing people and things being a total madhouse. So glad I left!

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              I used to work with a guy who would go over to the executive side of the office and take all the coffee and pop and water we kept for customers – and eventually he was totally banned from going over there at all. He is also the guy who took an entire catering tray of fried chicken home with him that was leftover from a employee lunch – a tray that was put into the fridge so everyone could have some leftovers tomorrow. Some people loose their minds about ‘free’ food.

        3. NeutralJanet*

          I think it’s a big leap to say she’s food insecure just because she occasionally eats more chips than she’s supposed to, especially given that she also occasionally drinks more soda than she’s supposed to, which isn’t really something you would “need” to do if you were food insecure. It seems more likely that she either A) doesn’t realize that OP is strict about having only one bag of chips per shift or B) doesn’t really care.

      2. Ana*

        I saw that one on youtube. It was several bottles and meals. And him doing it without consequences made others copy him.

        At my job we have a speciel code to use for employees. Theoretically our boss would be able to see everything if he searched for that code to see the monthly cost. Not sure if possible in a restaurant.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          It would depend on their point of sale and inventory system, and how well it was integrated. And also on the restaurant owner’s technical capabilities, the honesty of the staff (ie, whether they actually entered the code when they took things), and the general managerial arrangement. On the technical level, it almost certainly should be possible if they’re using a modern point of sale system (if they’re using an older arrangement, like ringing things up from a cheat sheet, then all bets are off).

          Many people are enthusiastic about restaurants they own, but never actually got training on the business/management side of things (this is also true of shift managers and the like, who are often promoted from successful employees, rather than sought out for management expertise), and understanding why it is worth the time and pain to implement inventory control that is beyond the level of “oh, I see we’re almost out of that, better order more” is a lesson that a lot of them won’t learn until it is too late to save their business. I give the OP props for writing into a site asking for management advice, if they’re feeling overwhelmed

      3. Save the Hellbender*

        Guys, come on. This is a little fan fiction-y. We don’t have any evidence that this employee who sometimes takes $1.20 more than her allowed free meal is running a profit-ruining theft operation.

        1. High Score!*

          I have family in that business. If employees will take chips when you are looking, they take a lot more when you’re not. It does hurt the bottom line and often small business owners are not rich or even middle class, they pay their insurance/medical care, dental care, retirement, etc out of pocket just like their employees. It’s hard work and small business owners are usually working more than their employees.
          So theft is a huge deal for them.

          1. Observer*

            Theft is a big deal, sure. But what the OP is reporting simply does not support the idea that the employee is taking a TON of extra food. They have caught about $5 per month. Even if it happens a lot more often, you’re still talking about $15 per month.

            Now, if the OP has other reasons to think that it’s substantially more than that, that’s a different issues. But based on what their letter says, they don’t seem to think that that is what is going on.

            That being the case, they need to leave that aside for now, and focus on the performance issues. Those are real, and if not resolved should probably lead to firing.

              1. GothicBee*

                Sure, you could say “You’re fired because you stole chips” but that still means you end up having to hire and train a new employee all for $5 worth of chips each month. Doesn’t seem like a good deal on your end.

                Not to mention this is likely in the US. You can fire someone for pretty much whatever you want. Doesn’t make it a smart decision, especially if you’re struggling to get and keep staff.

              2. Observer*

                The OP can fire her for any reason that isn’t illegal discrimination. But this is the one kind of theft that doesn’t seem to be tightly tied to other forms of dishonesty that the OP needs to worry about. So on a pragmatic level, it just makes more sense for the OP to focus more on the behavior.

          2. Anoni*

            There is no link between yoinking a bag of chips and stealing from the till. The only thing that Alison didn’t touch on that you did that makes any sense and doesn’t make out employees to be sneaky thieves is that small restaurants run on a very tight budget, usually. It might not add a lot to the overhead, or it might. If it’s a big enough concern, then let the employee go.

            1. Wintermute*

              I agree there’s a huge moral line most people have between goods and cash, there’s more accountability (no pun intended) when it comes to cash and it has cultural and mental barriers around stealing it that don’t necessarily apply to petty inventory.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          I’m with you.

          I think the issue is less that the employee is drinking an extra soda and eating extra chips. I think the issue is that this is an overall entitled, snotty employee. If that’s the issue, that they’re being rude and ignoring directions on what to do, that’s what should be addressed.

          OP, sometimes it costs less to get rid of a crummy employee, even if it costs in finding one. They drag down morale and they give other employees that’s the kind of behavior that’s tolerable in that business. Because that’s what you’re tolerating! So don’t.

          “I asked you to do X, put down the potato chips and get it done.”

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m suggesting a check of inventory control as a first step to let OP check thir assumptions.
        I.e. have facts determine whether this is a pennies or pounds level of problem–not superficial observations of someone who might just be saving part of her lunch for her next break.

    2. Allie*

      I’ve held fast food jobs and I would have been fired for taking chips like that, for what it’s worth. I also agree that if that’s what you see her taking, she’s likely taking more. She gets a shift meal, and she’s pushing boundaries. I realize training and retention is a pain in food service but, eh, if she’s not doing what she’s told and pushing boundaries like this, is she really worth keeping?

    3. SpartanFan*

      I disagree with Alison’s take on this. You are comparing the theft to taking pens home. Pens are not a revenue generating item, they are a small cost that is expected to be replenished as it gets used. The opportunity cost of taking a couple pens is $0.25 that you would have spent later. The cost of reducing inventory by taking sodas/chips is the cost of the item plus the potential future sale that is not made because the inventory is depleted. Also, as others have mentioned, if someone is sneaking one thing, what else are they sneaking? Are they not ringing up their friends orders, are they taking this every day they work?

      Lastly, someone mentioned the $2 wage, this is a 4 person takeout restaurant, I would be surprised if the person in question is getting paid server wages + tips vs. standard hourly pay.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        I disagree with Alison as well, but for a different reason. People may take pens home but they don’t do it in front of their boss’s face. No one walks into the storeroom while their boss is present, grabs a couple file folders, cheerfully announces they’re for their kid’s school project, and then heads out the door. Flagrant low-stakes theft, when it is not challenged, telegraphs disrespect and sets a precedent for other employees. (“I guess having a second bag of chips is okay, because Jane Server did it and Boss didn’t say anything . . . .”) For me, the issue is not “breaking a minor rule” but “breaking a minor rule flagrantly and repeatedly, as if I do not have to follow the rules if I’d don’t want to.”

        If I saw the employee snacking on a second bag of chips when (1) we both know she’s entitled to one bag per day, and (2) we both know she’s already eaten that one, I would definitely say something, but rather than be accusing I would verbalize my assumption that she is doing the right thing: “Thanks for supporting the business by buying extra chips!” “Jane, I just want you to know you don’t have to ring up each personal purchase separately. If you’d going to have some chips and then later grab a soda, you can pay for them both together at the end of the day.” “Hey, Jane, I was reconciling the drawer and I don’t think you paid for those chips yesterday. Can you please be sure to do so today? Just drop it in the till. Thanks!” There’s a lot of value in coming at the issue from the perspective of “OF COURSE she’s doing the right thing.” It shames her (or should) without embarrassing her, and it reinforces for other employees what the boss’s expectations are and that stealing is not okay, no matter how small the thing you are stealing.

      2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        We really have no idea what state this person’s restaurant is in. If it’s in WA where there is no “server wage” only the minimum wage then that person is getting paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$15/hr. We can’t assume they’re only getting the server wage in FL.

      3. Drago Cucina*

        Agreed. This is the product inventory, not pens.

        We briefly owned a franchise sandwich shop. Our internal policy was that if a sandwich was made wrong we would remake it for free. If it was a to-go and still in it’s wrapper an employee could take it home. We discovered an employee purposely making sandwiches incorrectly and taking the other sandwich home. It was obvious at pick-up. Oh, you ordered the turkey and not the ham. Sorry. New sandwich for you and this one for me. He escalated to two or three a shift.

        We had to institute a new rule that the “wrong” sandwich had to be left in refrigerator in a container so we could include it in a special inventory. He ended up quitting because he wasn’t taking home supper for him and his girlfriend. The other employees actually thanked us for not letting him rip off the store.

      4. Yorick*

        Servers are paid $2 an hour by the restaurant because tips bring them up to minimum wage. If the tips don’t, the employer is required to pay the difference. They aren’t literally only making $2 per hour.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          It may be required but in all my days of doing food service, HS through grad schoo,l it never happened. Chain restaurant, independent, fancy schmancy, it didn’t matter. We never had employers pay the difference, although I did have one who taxed us based on an assumed tips of 15% for all tables. This resulted in me chasing a partly of 11 down the street who tipped me 10% and yelling at them, “I LOST MONEY SERVING YOU!!!!!”*

          *Not my finest moment but I was really angry

        2. Wren*

          Yeah but just because they’re supposed to make it up doesnt mean they do. My tips were not adding up to $7.25/hr and I brought the issue to management, who told me to be a better waitress. I worked very hard at my previous job, because they supported me and respected the work I did, but at this restaurant I absolutely would take an extra bag of chips or an extra smoke break, because why not?

        3. Yorick*

          OK, so restaurants don’t always follow the rules. If OP were one of those, should their employee report them to the appropriate agency for failure to pay wages, or steal from the restaurant?

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            In that scenario, which, to be clear, is not the LW’s scenario? Both, tbh. To get repaid for the theft their employer is committing (theft) and to get them to stop doing it (reporting it).

      5. NeutralJanet*

        OP confirmed lower in the comments that employees are being paid over minimum wage and also getting around $2-3 dollars an hour in tips.

      6. Anoni*

        And this is why the argument about X versus chips isn’t valid anyway. The government could potentially fire you for taking home pens. A government contractor could potentially fire you for taking home pens. If you’re willing to excuse pens, but not chips, for some nebulous reason, then your argument isn’t really sound.

    4. Artemesia*

      There is a bit of tone deafness in the answer though too. If there is a rule and SHE is allowed to snack as she wishes and others still have the rule, it can really breed resentment. I once worked retail as part of a ‘fashion board’ when I was in college — we were in the store ads, and modeled at fashion shows but mostly I had signed up to get a paid summer job full time at the store. A favored (read adorable, cute, tiny) member of the group was constantly being given free outfits which were not being given the rest of the group — someone finally complained and we all got some freebies too. (it was the 60s so gogo boots, mini skirts and truly hideous argyle body stockings) But if you have a bunch of employees you need to change the snack policy or enforce it — not just let the most brazen scofflaw do what they want. The drink restriction is probably not worth enforcing — fountain drinks are virtually free to produce — but don’t keep the rule and let her guzzle.

  4. Prefer my pets*

    Oh man, I know this reaction is just my personal past horror speaking but did #3 ever push my buttons! I feel like it could have been written by one of my past coworkers except we weren’t retail.

    The reason absolutely everyone in his life interrupted him was because he spoke. so. incredibly. slowly. No one had any idea when he had finished a thought or, if he did finally finish, what the first part of the sentence was. It was like the DMV sloths from that animated movie, only worse. I tried everything I could with that guy in meetings I was facilitating from suggesting he summarize to recommending he submit comments in writing. The only person who could think slowly enough to follow his verbal comments was his supervisor who spoke at a “normal” southern slowness. Every other person on the team of 30+ completely checked out when he talked after his supervisor reprimanded a few of them for interrupting him to try to summarize the point they guessed he might, eventually, get out. (No, he was not neurodivergent as far as any of us were aware, it was just a speech pattern from his family at best guess from when I met his parents at a bbq)

    Interrupting is rude, yes, but if it truly is EVERYONE then perhaps record yourself talking and listen to the cadence compared to even people on tv.

      1. Lusara*

        Exactly. The LW needs to look at her speaking style to see if she is doing something that is encouraging the interrupting.

    1. Paperdill*

      Or possibly not that it’s that they are speaking to slow, but maybe going on and on a bit?
      My son both has a stutter and also likes to give me every. single. detail. From any story he tells me. And we have to be dutiful parents who listen.
      We had an education session at work, recently, and my colleague complained the educator was excessively rambling – I hadn’t noticed! Because I am so used to my son’s similar speech patters.

      Anecdotes aside, OP, is it at all possible that you are rambling a bit or not assessing these other peeps for their pre-existing knowledge? I only ask this as a question for you to consider and am not suggesting that this is the case, just wondering if you think it’s possible.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      This is what I got out of this letter as well. When EVERYONE is pushing your buttons, for whatever reason, it’s time for a little introspection. It’s likely the problem is you.

      Maybe LW would benefit from asking a trusted colleague of they’ve noticed a pattern. “It seems like everyone interrupts me when I’m speaking. Am I a slow talker or am I repeating myself? Do I have a habit of explaining basic tasks over and over?”

      I can think of at least five people I interact with regularly who need to be interrupted for varying reasons. One’s a rambler, one has to start back at the beginning of they lose their place at all, one thinks conversations are more like bowling and less like tennis, one’s a mansplainer, and one is six years old.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Oh gosh, yeah.
      I was on a board where a person had to make a report each month. It was 1 hour every month to report something that should only took a few minutes. We asked that they send a summary before each meeting and we could just check-in where needed. Nope, could not do that.

      Basically this person serves to bottleneck projects that need to be completed. We hired them to oversee a project and the person discusses purchasing new screws for a gizmo. This person is in charge of a HUGE project and they are talking about finding screws for a little gizmo. We understand that the job is a struggle and they are paid to handle that struggle. They could hire more people. They could develop resources for materials or any number of other solutions. They won’t get themselves freed up to focus on the big picture, that they have a project totaling millions of dollars and they are talking about …. screws…..

      1. Decima Dewey*

        My manager, Pangloss, takes forever to get to whatever point he’s making. I try *not* to interrupt, because that just extends the time takes to get there. The funny thing is that he often interrupts staff, because he thinks he know what they’re going to say–and most of the time, he’s wrong about what he thinks they’re saying.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Hunh–I thought my dad was retired but apparently he’s managing you?

          There is a lot of extra talking in my family. My parents wonder why my siblings and I turned out so quiet.

    4. Actual Vampire*

      This is a good point. I’m training a new employee right now and I find myself interrupting her a lot because she is so talkative. I feel rude, but I literally don’t have time to listen to her ramble when I figured out the answer to her question five sentences ago. And I’m not really in a position to talk less, so I’m hoping the interruptions will help her get the hint (as they did for me when I was in her role!)

  5. wayward*

    Re #1, free soft drinks when you work serving food isn’t that unusual. Could the employee just be used to that? If the employee is genuinely hungry, does she have a way of getting a snack?

    1. ....*

      It says she gets a free sandwich, drink, and side every shift which honestly seems like plenty. If they have a soda fountain then yeah that should probably just be unlimited.

      1. Alex*

        Depends how long the shifts are. Not all shifts in food service fit neatly inside an 8 hour working day so one sandwich and a bag of chips may work in that case but it certainly isn’t enough for some the 15-16 hour shifts I’ve been known to do.

        1. Saberise*

          LW said below that the shifts are 3 hours long. There are two shifts with an hour between them. So at most she’s working 6 hours with an hour to eat her 9″ sandwich, bag of chips and bottle of pop. And in all likelihood it’s more than a few times a month. She’s just not getting caught every time.

    2. Working Single Mom*

      Right? I’ve worked at several different restaurants, at a wide range of price points, and soft drinks were free for employees at all of them.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Yes, but you know what else is common at all restaurants, regardless of type? Stealing product is a firing offense. I’m working now as a cook in an upscale restaurant. We’re fed on our shift. We’re paid well, above market. We taste what we make as necessary. We do NOT snack on the product or inventory. That’s unprofessional as well as theft. It’s just not done.

    3. Forrest*

      Yes, when I waitressed, certain foods and drinks were unlimited—anything off the soda fountain, fries, coffee, bread rolls. If I were you I would you look at the stuff that costs you pennies even if she ate or drank it every shift, and let that go.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Agreed; it’s very different if she’s taking an extra fountain soda vs. an extra bottled soda.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Yeah, if this is fountain soda, I’m definitely surprised OP is upset about it. A large fountain soda costs like, five cents.

          1. Yorick*

            It sounds to me like they’re cans or bottles of soda, not fountain. That seems to go along with a takeout restaurant that sells sandwiches and chips.

              1. Anoni*

                That’s what I was thinking. Usually restaurants don’t care about fountain drink refills because the overhead is so low on them. If they’re bottled, that is a higher cost and for a small restaurant, it can definitely impact them. I would still see what the cost of this employee actually is and address that directly, though. There may be a bit of the OP noticing it every time and it not being that often, or it may be that this isn’t the only employee doing it, which means it’s a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

      2. Allison*

        Yup, when I worked in a movie theater we could have free popcorn, sodas, and slushees, as long as we didn’t use the official bags or cups for them, because the popcorn and soda weren’t inventoried but the vessels were (we used the water cups, and cardboard trays for popcorn). Technically we were only allowed that stuff on our breaks but it was pretty common to have people discretely grazing and sipping whenever they need to, as long as the guests never saw it no one really cared.

    4. Nearly Grad*

      Might be worth having designated drinks for employees. Ours were water, squash, or anything from the “soda fountain” as it’s called in the US. Basically the super low cost stuff! Employees should have access to drinks and lots of them will want to sugar to keep them going.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Out curiosity what is squash? In the US its a vegetable, lol. Like pumpkin or butternut.

          1. londonedit*

            It’s a concentrated fruit juice cordial – it comes in a big bottle, and is shelf-stable so doesn’t need to go in the fridge and lasts ages. You just add a little bit to a glass and top it up with water.

            1. Junior Assistant Peon*

              I love this stuff! It’s not common in the US, but there happens to be a store selling UK and Irish products in my area. I’ve saved a huge amount of money buying squash instead of juice.

            2. Artemesia*

              Even ‘cordial’ is meaningless in the US in this context — Cordial is an alcoholic after dinner drink. I know in the UK they have what I think of as ‘kool aid’ but not powdered — liquid flavorings they put in water for kids and call it ‘cordial.’

        1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

          (I’m in the US too, but my boyfriend is British so I know the answer to this)
          Squash is a super concentrated liquid drink that you add water to before consuming it. So think of like Welch’s grape juice, with the water mostly removed, so it’s thicker and SUPER SUPER INTENSELY FLAVORED which you add yourself later when you’re ready to drink it.

          1. azvlr*

            The best part is you can dilute it to your liking instead of someone else’s predetermined idea of sweet. I was once served a lemon squash in Japan with carbonated water and a little pitcher of syrup to add myself. It was so cool. I never saw it like that again.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That does remind me of the time we ran out of cola syrup and had to hook up a canister of cola slushie syrup (same thing; super intense flavor to offset the intended frozen serving)… If there were a soda fountain hooked up that way, I might have my first soda in 17 years.

      2. Me*

        Reminds me of the time Dh and I were bicycling in England on tandems with our two kids. We’d reached the top of a very long steep hill and a resident offered us some squash water when we paused in front of her stone wall. We had no idea what it was, and of course had water bottles full of plain water to drink so we passed on the offer.

        If only we’d known…

        1. londonedit*

          Squash is one of those things that’s integral to a British childhood. I suspect like many things of that ilk it has its real origins in the post-war years, when fresh fruit and fruit juice would have been hard to come by, so a bottle of squash that would make tons of ‘juice’ would have been an affordable alternative that also didn’t need refrigerating. It doesn’t taste like fruit juice, the resulting drink is more like fruit-flavoured water, but it would have been the best thing people could get, and now it’s baked into the British experience of being a child. It’s a staple of birthday parties, school sports days, any sort of event where you want to be able to easily and cheaply hand out a load of plastic cups full of some sort of child-friendly drink.

          1. Artemesia*

            In my US childhood it was KoolAid that served the same function — very cheap sugary junk drink.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Squash for me growing up in the UK, was a bottle of concentrated fruit-flavoured liquid that you watered down to drink. We only used still water, although you could turn into something like Fanta by adding fizzy water. Mostly colouring and calories, I doubt there was anything nutritious in there.

    5. Gem*

      Yeah good question. I’m curious how long her shift is and how substantial the sandwiches are. Waitressing is brutal. Long hours running around, taking bs from jerk customers, trying not to catch covid on top of that… back off on the sodas

      1. WellRed*

        It doesn’t say she’s a waitress. I got the impression it’s not an actual sit down restaurant.

    6. HoHumDrum*

      Yeah, free food is common, to the point that when I’ve worked at restaurants that were bean-counting about it I saw it as a very bad sign.

      Now there are certain things it makes sense for owners to restrict (used to work at a place that bought their desserts from a fancy bakery, I understood why they didn’t want us snacking on those), but generally waitstaff gets paid so little that free food is a key perk. Being able to get meals and snacks during my shift offset (a bit) the fact that I was only getting paid $2.65/hr to be there. It also helped me sell the food better, as I ate the menu regularly and could talk up my favorite items with genuine enthusiasm. Also, if you’re limiting fountain drinks that is outrageous- it costs the restaurant basically pennies, I worked at a place that tries to limit our fountain drinks and I left ASAP because they were so stingy.

      Now if they’re bottled drinks she’s taking I understand a bit more, but I still think you gotta consider overall whether you truly pay her enough to make it reasonable to fight over this.

      1. OP #1*

        We are takeout only, so this employee is a cashier, as well as helps with food prep as needed. We’re only open weekdays for lunch and an early dinner crowd, shifts are 3 hours and she works both shifts (6 hours with a 1 hour break between) 2-3 days, and then just lunch shift the other 2-3 days per week. We do pay above minimum wage, as well as tips bump pay $2-3/hour for all employees.
        Sandwiches are 9”, sides include chips or pasta dishes and drinks are bottled (hence the limit).
        I get it, it all feels petty thinking it and tracking it through! I think the root of the issue though is definitely other performance issues, as well as the feeling that there are other items missing that we’re just not catching in the act.
        Thanks everyone for the feedback, it’s definitely allowing me to see the bigger picture and not just feeling like I’m losing it over a bag of chips!

        1. No longer working*

          Maybe the chips you see her eat are from her lunch and she saved it for later?

        2. Annie J*

          Having a 10 dollar allowance for food per day seems pretty generous, congratulations for having such an inscentive, but I wonder, does the employee make use of it every day, or does she occasionally bring food from home.
          If the latter, I can see why she might think it’s ok to take an extra bag of chips every now and then.

          1. OP #1*

            Several people have made this point and I thought about it when I initially emailed too. However, she does take her allowance every day. In the time she’s work for us, she has maybe skipped 2-3 times, as she’s had to leave straight from work for an appointment or other matter.

            1. acmx*

              I disagree with Alison that it’s like taking pens. This is your revenue product. Not sure why so many people are finding excuses for her stealing. Your employee is given a generous daily food allowance. You provide a work meal to be consumed between shifts. She can chose to eat it or not. I don’t think it needs to rollover. My company offers benefits I may not use. That doesn’t not mean I take something else to compensate.

              It’s like when I travel for work. If I don’t claim my food expense for that day, I don’t get to claim it on a day I worked at the office.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Many places do periodic inventories for this reason. They match their sales up to the inventory that has been used. You will be able to see where your shrinkage is going.

          The more you say about this person, the more I believe she’s gotta go. You can say that you discussed her lack of focus on her work with her several times now and the next time it happens, you will have to let her go. She sounds like the type of employee that laughs at their employer behind their back. This situation is Not Good.

        4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Sandwiches are 9”

          This is intriguing me far more than I would expect; do you mean 9″x9″, 9″ tall, or 3″x3″ (9 square in)? Or a 9″ long hoagie/grinder/sub?

          1. Dust Bunny*

            It usually means a 9-inch long sandwich on baguette-type bread. Which, combined with chips and a drink, is two meals’ worth of sandwich for me (a medium-sized adult woman).

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Probably a regional dialect thing (mine, not OP’s). That’d be called a hoagie, grinder, or sub locally and almost never called a sandwich. I appreciate the patience with me.

              1. Yorick*

                Everywhere I’ve lived (multiple regions of US), you could call that a hoagie/grinder/sub, but those are all types of sandwiches so people will often just say sandwich.

        5. Mental Lentil*

          This is pretty generous, considering it’s only a six-hour shift!

          (Now I really want a sandwich!)

        6. LP Manager*

          As someone who works in loss prevention- this is stealing! You’ve walked in on her multiple times eating extra food, she probably does it a lot more when you’re not looking, and it probably started a long time ago. These behaviors don’t just start overnight. Imagine 3 bags of chips a week, plus 3 sodas, times the two+ years she’s worked for you. That’s a lot of money she’s taken from you. People usually start with taking snacks, then they move on to things like cash. She could easily find a way to give a customer a sandwich and drink and keep that $10 for herself- people are good at figuring out how to game the system.

          At the same time, if you’ve seen her eating the chips and haven’t called it out for what it is, she’s probably thinks it’s ok to do. So if you want to keep her as an employee you have to explain how she’s hurting your business when she does this and find out why she thinks it’s ok- though I think there’s an integrity issue here that can’t be overlooked.

          1. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Right – it’s also not fair on the other emplyees who are abiding by the quite generous rules.

          2. Rain Rain Rain*

            ‘At the same time, if you’ve seen her eating the chips and haven’t called it out for what it is, she’s probably thinks it’s ok to do. ‘

            Exactly. Yet you still spend the first half of your comment accusing her of being more likely to steal cash and give away food. Gross.

        7. Bostonian*

          This is more than enough. I probably wouldn’t even want/need to eat the free meal for the short shift. Just eat at home, do the 3 hours, and get out of there!

          That being said, my only food work experience was a chain coffee store (that you’ve definitely heard of if you live in NE) that only allowed 1 free donut for a 6-hour shift.

        8. Observer*

          I think the root of the issue though is definitely other performance issues, as well as the feeling that there are other items missing that we’re just not catching in the act.

          So, for now, in dealing with this employee focus on the performance issues.

          And in the meantime, get a better system in place for handling your inventory. “Shrinkage” is well known problem, and there is a good chance that someone smarter / less overt could be doing their share of “shrinking” your inventory. And that would continue to be a problem even if you fired her tomorrow for her performance issues alone. So, you need a better way of tracking your inventory that will, at minimum let you know if you are losing a significant amount of food above what you are selling and giving your staff as part of their compensation. Better, if it can give you time frames – like daily flow – that would be really helpful. But that level may not be practical or not for every type of item.

        9. Pepper*

          This is a pretty beneficent policy. Thank you for treating your employees well and I’m sorry that this one is taking advantage.

        10. meyer lemon*

          It does sound like you could probably use a more robust inventory system in general, so you have more information to base your response on. It’s hard to make a decision when you don’t know whether it’s really a bag of chips a month or more like a bag of chips every day.

      2. Here we go again*

        A lot of bars give free fountain pop to designated drivers so their group stays longer. It’s cheap and they make their money with the tab from the rest of the group.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          It is also greatly appreciated by the DD, and encourages them to suggest that bar when they go out next time.

          When I worked at a chicken fast food joint, the one free thing we got was fountain drinks. When I realized the mark up on fountain drinks, I nearly fell over.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      She can bring a snack, just like people do at every single job that’s not in food service. Or she can pay for one from the restaurant.

    8. Yorick*

      I don’t think these are fountain drinks though, which I can imagine would make a difference.

    9. EventPlannerGal*

      Staff meals and free/reduced drinks are pretty normal, but that’s not the same thing as helping yourself to bottled drinks off the shelf. I feel like people are perhaps reading this as a sit-in restaurant situation where OP’s employee is running around serving tables all night and occasionally pouring herself an extra coke, when really it’s a takeaway sandwich shop and she’s grabbing bottles right from the cooler.

      That said, given the hiring climate in the industry right now and OP’s pre-existing staffing issues – which I suspect are probably more to do with the shift pattern she’s described in the comments, and will put her at a disadvantage in hiring long-term staff anyway – she needs to be realistic about whether this is a firing issue. Keeping a close eye on stock to figure out exactly how much the employee is taking would probably be a good place to start.

  6. Tiger Snake*

    #1 – I wonder how often this employee skips having her chips and soda in a month as well.
    Its easy for us to spot when someone takes more, but we often overlook the opposite. I know I certainly would droughts where I don’t have chips for a couple of days or weeks in a row, and then take a few extra because I’m super hungry other days and it all evens out.

    1. Beth*

      This is how I feel about most small employee ‘infractions’. OP’s employee’s occasional bag of chips might be offset by her not eating lunch one day. In a different workplace, an employee leaving 5 minutes early one day may well be balanced by them having arrived 15 minutes early on a different day. People aren’t automatons; no one is going to run perfectly to plan, every moment of every day. But mostly our deviations balance out in the end. It’s not worth nickel-and-diming people into oblivion.

      If an employee is clearly operating in bad faith, that’s a different thing, of course. But then you really need to address the core problem, not focus in on a trivial “bag of chips” or “five minutes late” moment.

    2. alienor*

      I also wonder how closely the employer is tracking exactly what the employee is consuming when. If I were entitled to a meal consisting of a sandwich, a side and a drink, I can see myself eating the sandwich for my meal break and saving the side of chips for a break later (either an official 15-minute break or just a slow period). To someone walking through it might look like I was taking extra, but really I’d just be eating part of my standard daily allotment.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In NYS eating food while serving customers violates health code. Employees can only eat in a designated area while on break, that’s it. A lot of states are more relaxed about such things. OP, you would be familiar with the regs for your setting, but this might be something that needs to be tossed into the mix.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          That’s a good point. When I worked in restaurant there were only a couple of spots hidden away from customers’ view that we could take a break and grab a bite to eat. There was one “hiding spot” where the hosts could still see the front door (they weren’t near any food prep), but for servers we needed to go to spot near the storage in the back of kitchen away from food prep. We couldn’t see our sections from there, so we had to be careful about timing if we still had customers to take care of. If the owner is miffed about the employee eating the chips while they’re supposed to be working, it’s probably because they’re neglecting their duties during that time.

      2. Observer*

        I can see myself eating the sandwich for my meal break and saving the side of chips for a break later (either an official 15-minute break or just a slow period)

        Well, the OP says that the employee is eating when she should be working. So even if it really were just the snack from lunch, it would be a problem.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          That’s the real issue to me. I don’t get the feeling OP wants to begrudge someone an extra bag of chips or beverage, if they asked and didn’t make a habit of something. I really feel like the problem is that this employee isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing and has already been talked to a few times and changes aren’t being made.

          The easiest thing to point out is the chips, because it’s obvious and can be seen.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        That’s not how I read it. I read it as the OP allows for their employees to take $10 worth of food from the restaurant for their daily lunch break. Not that there is a $10 voucher, or even that its being formally processed at the till.

        Which means that, the employee is just taking food that is present from their place of work – and that comes back into what I’m saying above. Its easy for us to spot when someone takes an extra soda or chips one day. Its equally as easy and likely to overlook if they only grabbed a sandwich the day before and just drank water.

  7. staceyizme*

    LW1- your employee seems oppositional. But- the scale is small. Maybe see about bringing in someone else part time and then moving them into taking over. Sure, she is doing little stuff. But it’s more about the not listening than it is about a packet of chips now and then.
    You could try to talk to her about the work ethic and follow through. That would be worth addressing. And while margins might be small, is she paid fairly for the market in terms of total compensation and tips? If the answer to that in any is way “no”, then I think you’ve got to admit that you’ve got a potential source for her dissatisfaction and decide whether it’s better to deal with the devil that you know or go through the uncertainty of transition. If it really bugs you, it’s probably better to ty to hire a replacement or “manage her out” if you have sufficient coverage for her hours.

    1. Amy*

      This is a good point! OP1, even if your pay was market rate at this time last year, it seems like the restaurant field is undergoing an adjustment right now. If yours is low compared to what’s being offered to new hires at other restaurants in your area, you should look at raising wages across the board for all your employees. I know it sounds like a tough idea when you’re working on thin margins, but employee dissatisfaction and the risk of turnover could cost a lot more, in the long run.

    2. Gem*

      If you can’t afford for someone making BELOW minimum wage to have an extra soda here and there I’m not sure you can afford a waitstaff

      1. twocents*

        In the States, it is illegal to pay someone below minimum wage. Assuming she is paid the waitstaff wages, that plus tips has to at leeway equal minimum wage or else the business has to pay the difference.

        I don’t think it’s helpful to accuse LW of breaking the law.

          1. Saberise*

            All takeout places I have been to in the last few years have tip jars. LW says she gets minimum wage plus 2-3 more an hour in tips

        1. Who Am I*

          I don’t understand why people assume that restaurants actually make up the difference between tips and pay so their hourly rate is minimum wage. Of course they’re supposed to do it, but I’ve never heard of it actually happening. Granted, all my evidence is strictly anecdotal, mostly from my spouse who worked in restaurants for years and says it never happened but no one would ever report it for fear of losing their jobs.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            That sounds awful and I’m sorry your spouse dealt with that. The restaurant I worked at for many years had a computer-based point-of-sales system that kept track of our hours and charged tips. It calculated the difference at the end of the shift when we clocked out and ran our report. The only time I remembering the restaurant having to make up the difference to get to minimum wage was when it was a slow lunch shift. We never reported our cash tips (I know, that wasn’t legal), but the restaurant owners turned a blind eye to that since we rarely went below minimum wage on charge tips. Really, that just meant we weren’t paying enough in taxes (there was state income tax).

            Sounds like the restaurants you’ve heard about are taking advantage of a gap in their system or not using modern systems so they can get away with it. That’s pretty shady and unfortunate for employees. I don’t think the OP is gaming their employees in that way.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I said the same above. I worked as a server from HS through grad school and never had my wages topped up if tips didn’t bring me to minimum. Didn’t matter what type of restaurant – giant corporate chain, little local joint, super fancy high end – your tips came up short and that was that. You didn’t get topped up

          3. Aitch Arr*

            Not only did our tips not get topped up, management (the owner) took 10% off our credit card tips to offset the cost of the restaurant taking credit cards.

            I’m still angry about how he cheated his employees, 20+ years later.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        It doesn’t sound like this is a tipped employee scenario. It’s take out, and sounds probably like a deli. They are probably paying at least full minimum wage, and very probably more since they are able to keep their employees. I know even fast food is paying more than minimum wage around here.

      3. OP #1*

        She makes above minimum wage, we pay above for their base pay, as well as they receive an extra $2-3/hour in tips each week. Her main role is cashier. I did also recently offer her additional hours, which she declined. She lives at home with her parents and does not work a second job, isn’t in school and does not have any dependents. (I’m not sure this matters, other than I do not believe she is food insecure, however I definitely could be wrong.)
        For more context, we’ve had the same 4 employees for the past 3 years, and only recently needed to hire another employee as one (gave 6 months notice) left for school.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is getting worse by the minute. This person does not sound like they are motivated to work.

          1. Wisteria*

            OP1 didn’t say anything about her employee’s work ethic. There could be lots of reasons why the employee doesn’t want extra shifts. This is kind of a stretch interpretation of why the employee takes extra sodas, and it’s not very constructive, nor does it offer a path forward.

    3. HR & Cats*

      Please do not do this to the employee. If you’re going to terminate her, just do it so she can focus on getting another job. Don’t slowly transition her out while trying to bring someone new in, causing her several weeks of lower than usual wage without understanding why and probably causing an uncomfortable work environment for both her and the new person.

    4. cubone*

      Isn’t “managing someone out” pretty widely considered to be an unethical and bad practice? Just … manage them normally and fire them if they’re not doing the job.

      1. Wisteria*

        In the world outside this blog, managing someone out is petty, cruel, and cowardly. However, many commentors are strongly avoidant of direct conversations, and managing someone out tends to be a go-to path.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There are 2 definitions, which causes a lot of confusion. One definition is “manage someone in such a way that they choose to leave so you don’t have to fire them.” That is wrong and bad. The other definition is “do your job as a manager, knowing that it may result in parting ways — give clear feedback, be honest if the role isn’t a good fit, raise the question of whether it would make more sense to part ways, etc.” That’s the job and there’s nothing wrong with doing it.

        1. cubone*

          ahh, okay this makes more sense. I had only ever heard it in the context of the first definition (also, in Canada I’ve understood it exclusively as a negative thing because you risk running into our legal definition of ‘constructive dismissal’ and owing severance). I can see how “managing someone out” could also just mean doing your job as a manager effectively, which results in the person leaving (by choice or not), but it’s definitely not the primary understanding I had of the term.

  8. Cant remember my old name*

    For #4, in my experience, if hiring is happening during summer months, hiring managers have to plan around vacations often. It’s a hassle but not entirely avoidable. Don’t count yourself out!

    1. august*

      Yep and it’s easy to fill up a day with one hour meetings for this and that especially the higher the corporate ladder you go, 10 days is as good as it gets when it comes to settling on a common free time for the multiple people.

    2. Kara*

      And also generally it can be hard to get everyone in the same room because things are busy.

    3. Forrest*

      Ha yes, I’m in the same situation but at a different stage— was offered a job on 12 July, accepted verbally, and then my manager-to-be went on holiday on the 14th until this week. HR have taken up my references, and I’ve submitted my resignation, but everything else has gone completely silent and I’m DYING HERE. Come back and tell me I still have a new job, please!

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      My thoughts exactly. Just plain calendar friction could account for half of that time, and then you add in vacations and you’re lucky it’s only 10 days.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Shoot. I swear it takes 10 days to set up a freaking meeting with my team, given schedules, vacations, assorted leave, non-negotiable work crises, etc.. If we needed to grab, say, my boss, her boss, and a SME for an interview, it would be a minimum of 2 work weeks later, more likely 2.5 or 3. Adding a bigger boss in the mix, and I can’t imagine it happening earlier than 3 work weeks.

    6. AskJeeves*

      Agreed! 10 days seems short when you’re trying to arrange a meeting with multiple high-level people. Calendars fill up quickly, and I sometimes struggle to find 30 minutes when my C-level boss is free on a given day.

  9. bananab*

    I once had a coworker that was a chronic interrupter. Our boss’s approach didn’t change the habit much, but at least it sure was satisfying. He let them completely finish whatever they were saying and then just said “let me finish” and proceeded as though they said nothing at all.

  10. Cant remember my old name*

    Second comment since I don’t think I can edit my other one. I’m torn on #1 because it’s only a few dollars, but I think stealing extra food from a restaurant is more akin to taking home pens from an office supply store, which I feel like would not be permissible.

    I also think other staff will follow suit eventually if she’s able to do this unchecked. I mean…everyone loves chips! Maybe look at the numbers and decide if you can afford to be more generous with the lunch policy across the board? Not great advice, but I feel like your options are to accept it or confront it – both of which have consequences.

    1. Kara*

      Exactly. It’s not a helpful comparison as office supplies aren’t for sale in an office. The food in the restaurant IS for sale.

      1. Snailing*

        Which also brings the point – everything the staff eat should be accounted for and run through the POS. I worked a similar sounded food business – no sit down eating, just grab and go with fancy grocery stuff. We also had a ~$10 meal allowance every day with our standard food available (sandwiches, chicken salad, baked ziti, chips, drinks – we left the special stuff like beef bourguignon for the customers) and we had to run everything we ate through the POS with the staff discount code applied, which would make the bill $0. We did have some flexibility, like longer shifts gave you a $12-13 allowance to add an extra snack, but when you’re consuming the same thing you’re selling, it all needs to be accounted for.

        OP if you implement something similar, you’re not only adding a layer of accountability for your staff, but you’re better tracking how your inventory goes in and out. Sure, there are some dishonest people that will sneak extra food but they are few and far between. It count be that your employee is thinking it’s not a big deal, but if she sees she’s consistently going over the limit, that’s useful data for her and you.

    2. TechWorker*

      Yea honestly it feels closer to taking pocket change out of the register a couple of times a month than it does to taking a pen home… I see Alison’s view that it’s not the most important thing to focus on but it does seem more ‘slippery slope’ than pens. If this employee does it without consequence do all employees start thinking ‘oh I can just grab what I want when I want?’ That’s not something that’s ever likely to happen with pens (nobody needs that many pens :p and it’s not something other employees are likely to feel jealously over).

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        This is what I was trying to think of. If the employee was taking money from the till that was the same value of the extra foodstuffs, would it still be ok? Is they added the cost of the extra to a random customers bill without their consent, is it ok then, since it’s being paid for now? It’s essentially petty theft.
        I know waitstaff pay can be crap, and if the extra stuff they take is about the only meal they get because they’re poor and can’t afford it, then that needs to be addressed. If they take the extra because they just want it, thats not cool.
        If they were an otherwise excellent employee, then the extra taking could be ignored, but from the letter, it seems the employee has other issues besides the extra takings.
        All this is said based on what the O.P. has stated in the letter. Like many letters on this sight, we get the O.P.s side of the story. There are two other sides that we don’t get… The employees and the unbiased reality. Since the original letter is all we get, thats all we can go on.

    3. WS*

      Yeah, but working in pharmacy, I’ve only ever had one employer who didn’t keep a very well-stocked first aid drawer accessible to (appropriately trained) staff. He also wouldn’t let anyone bring over-the-counter medication onto the premises in case it was cover for shoplifting – if you needed medication you had to keep it in your car and go get it in your one break. And he had massive staff turnover and terrible long-term staff because anyone who could work elsewhere did. I think food service is more like this that taking money from the till – if there’s food there, people should be able to take small amounts like soda from the soda fountain or a packet of chips if they’re hungry.

      1. Yorick*

        At a pharmacy, the owner would likely knowingly purchase a certain amount of supplies for the first aid kit, rather than expecting people to take band-aids from the boxes that are for sale. OP is already giving the employees $10 allowances for food every day they work, so they’re factoring that into their inventory purchases. If employees regularly take extra, that adds up to money they’ve prevented OP from making, which isn’t that different from just stealing the money.

      2. acmx*

        You can take aspirin or bandage from a FAK when you need it, you shouldn’t expect to take a handful home.

        My company sometimes gives away things to customers (snacks are always offered). Employees shouldn’t be taking the giveaways or the snacks.

    4. mreasy*

      I disagree that it’s more like stealing pens from an office supply store but it’s not a direct comparison. LW, would you be able to keep some “take first” snacks in a specific location – maybe any packs of chips that are closer to expiration or similar? That might discourage snacking from the more saleable items and also make you look like you’re granting more freedom. I will say that I was always starving when I worked in my various foodservice roles so it would be hard for me to be somewhere with such a strict policy.

    5. Colette*

      It’s not clear to me that she’s stealing. She could be eating her allowed lunch in pieces, buying extra chips, bringing stuff from home, etc.

      But if she is stealing, that to me is a bigger deal than the price of the chips. If you can’t trust her with the small stuff, you can’t trust her with the big stuff (e.g. the cash).

    6. Saberise*

      But is it only a few dollars? Most people that help themselves to stuff are pretty good on doing it without being caught. So the owner may see her do it a few times a month but in truth it’s a few times a week. From what LW added to the comments the meal they are allowed is generous. 9″ sandwich, chips and pop for a 3 hour shift (6 if you work a double.) I am going to guess that Allison doesn’t have much experience with restaurants if she thinks this is okay. Most places I worked would have fired her over it if she continued to do it after being told it wasn’t allowed.

    7. londonedit*

      It’s a tough one, but on balance I agree. If someone’s taking the odd pen or two home from the office, it might be mildly annoying to the bosses, but it’s easy to chalk it up as a cost of doing business – people have got to have pens to write with. But if an employee is taking extra food, and that food is something that would otherwise be being sold to customers and therefore making money for the business, I think that is very different. The OP has budgeted for a (quite generous) employee meal every day, which they don’t have to do – and the employee is still helping themselves to extra food that could otherwise be sold. It’s definitely more like someone working at an office supplies shop taking boxes of pens off the shelves and taking them home – and I don’t think that would be acceptable beyond some sort of ‘each employee is allowed one box of pens per month’ scenario either.

    8. Yorick*

      Agreed – OP probably has pens at the restaurant. Taking those pens home is the equivalent of taking pens home from the office job.

  11. ade*

    The assigned personnel who facilitated our vaccination program won’t even have the vaccine and sends antivax propaganda albeit not in our group chat.

    While I do agree that some people just can’t be trusted to uphold themselves in a professional manner, as long as someone in a higher position keeps them in check and makes sure that rules are being implemented, some people still has to do their jobs right.

    In our case, the said personnel was under orders from one of the VPs and they could have had opted out if they insisted so it might differ in some instances.

  12. Beth*

    LW3: If you’re finding yourself frequently becoming upset due to interruptions, it might be helpful to remember that this kind of thing isn’t necessarily a sign that a person isn’t listening, or even that they’re trying to talk over you. Cooperative overlapping is a common speech pattern! It’s a polarizing thing–there’s a strong split between cultures that see it as a positive sign that the listener is engaged and paying attention, and cultures that see it as a rude interruption that shows a lack of attention and/or respect for the speaker. But both attitudes are pretty common, so while your frustration is legitimate here, it might be helpful to remember that a big chunk of the population isn’t bringing that intent to it. If your employee grew up in a culture that uses cooperative overlapping, they may not even realize how their approach is coming off to you.

    You’re the manager, so you can definitely set the standard for your team and tell your employees not to do this with you. But remembering that some cultures view this pattern as a sign of engaged, active listening might help you keep your cool in the moment.

    1. Forrest*

      Ahh, thank you for the proper term! I said a similar thing further up but couldn’t remember the technical term.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Yep, totally. I come from an interrupting culture (and perhaps even more challenging, the more excited/in agreement you are, the sooner you interrupt.) It was a bit of a lesson early in my career that not everyone does that.

    3. katertot*

      Yes! When I first started as an intern I did this a lot and I had a boss that it drove him CRAZY when I’d say “yes!!” or “exactly!” in agreeance as he was talking and he’d stop and say “please stop interrupting me” when all I was doing was agreeing and wasn’t trying to jump in or interrupt and truly was just trying to show I was engaged and actively listening when we were having a good conversation. After that I’d just sit quietly until I was 100% confident he was fully done with his monologue….

    4. Not So NewReader*

      If the interruptions cause the conversation to progress quicker, I find that the least objectionable.

      Me: When you are processing refunds….
      Them: Oh, you are talking about that mix up with the Smith account.
      Me: Yep. I want to review the standard process for refunds to find out what happened on that account.
      Them: They returned an item they bought a year ago because the big boss over-rode our standard procedures.
      Me: Okay, good to know. Just make a note on the account that it was approved by Big Wig.

    5. Nicotena*

      Thank you for saying this. I have struggled in a specific friendship with a friend who HATES to be interrupted – he feels it is disrespectful and that I should never do it since he’s expressed this need. I do really try, but honest to God it is excruciating for me to *never* jump in; it’s something I’m working on, but to me it does feel collaborative and supportive, like I’m really engaged in the topic. Holding icy silence while he speaks feels a) cold and b) subordinate to me – like he’s holding the floor and I’m an attendee. It’s slightly complicated by the fact that sometimes I feel like he rambles on …. not sure we’ll ever be BFFs …

    6. Becca*

      On the other hand my dad drives me crazy by jumping in with something that’s only sort of related to what I was talking about and often is espousing the opposite of my point while acting like in full agreement and not letting me actually finish what I was saying or have the conversation I was trying to have. Sometimes not a big deal, but incredibly frustrating if I’m actually trying to talk about a difficult time I’m having in my life, for example. Or something I’m excited about for that matter. On balance overall doesn’t make me feel very valued.
      That said I do it too sometimes. Try to circle back and see if they had anything they still needed to add if I catch myself or they seem put out over it.
      Interrupting is also apparently common with ADHD.

  13. Beth*

    LW3: If you’re finding yourself frequently becoming upset due to interruptions, it might be helpful to remember that this kind of thing isn’t necessarily a sign that a person isn’t listening, or even that they’re trying to talk over you. Cooperative overlapping is a common speech pattern! It’s a polarizing thing–there’s a strong split between cultures that see it as a positive sign that the listener is engaged and paying attention, and cultures that see it as a rude interruption that shows a lack of attention and/or respect for the speaker. But both attitudes are pretty common, so while your frustration is legitimate here, it might be helpful to remember that a big chunk of the population isn’t bringing that intent to it. If your employee grew up in a culture that uses cooperative overlapping, they may not even realize how their approach is coming off to you.

    You’re the manager, so you can definitely set the standard for your team and tell your employees not to do this with you. But remembering that some cultures view this pattern as a sign of engaged, active listening might help you keep your cool in the moment.

  14. 30 Years in the Biz*

    In regard to the employee snacking and shirking work, I’d look carefully at all the shifty things this employee might be doing that have gone unnoticed. I had an employee (hourly) who shirked work. She was regularly conversing with others in the break room when she was supposed to be in the lab. I once saw her stroll out early after she thought I had left. Later on, on a business trip, she stole the duvet cover and decorative pillows from her hotel room. They caught her because we had left our luggage with the hotel the morning we were leaving – so we could pick it up later and not drag it into work. The housekeepers noticed the missing items when they cleaned her room. I didn’t find out until we were back at the office because the hotel was too afraid to inform me (our company was its biggest customer in the area and they didn’t want to make waves). I eventually had to fire her because, after giving her multiple chances to admit she’d made a bad decision and stolen the linens, she lied to me twice. When she was gone, all of a sudden the large packs of extra Starbucks hot cocoa used in our machine stopped going missing. I don’t think it was a coincidence. Long story short – Once a person shows you who they are believe them (Maya Angelou).

    1. Been There Seen That*

      We had a very similar situation to 30 Years. Employee was ok, not great. A couple times would disappear from work for 30-60 minutes. Reports from other employees discussed emptying of first aid supplies as soon as replenished. I assumed it was a little things like Tylenol, band-aids, pens or post it notes. Boy was I wrong. The following budget cycle our copy paper consumption plummeted by 50%, most other office supplies by 100% including toilet paper. We went through more cases of staples in this persons last year than we have in 5 years. I think it ended up being about $3 or $4,000 worth of budget difference when all was said and done.
      It was never about the office supplies. That was a symptom of the disease of lying. The third incidence of lying was the last. It just took that long to get wise to it.

  15. cncx*

    I’m in Europe so number 4 is a thing here – i had someone call me literally six weeks after the fact yesterday because the stakeholders had staggered their two and three week vacations.

  16. The Wall Of Creativity*

    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    The interrupting cow.
    The interrupting cow w…

    1. SJ*

      hands down my favorite knock knock joke

      Also great for playing with kids because you can infinitely vary the interrupting animal.

      A+ 10/10

      1. LizB*

        My personal favorite is the interrupting sloth, which tries to interrupt by poking the joke-receiver with two fingers… but it moves so slowly that even though it starts in the middle of them talking, the poke doesn’t actually reach them until well after they’ve finished the question.

    2. msgumby*

      Kids also love the interrupting octopus, where you cover the person you’re telling the joke to’s face with your open hand while they’re saying “the interrupting octopus who?” part.

  17. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1: I think Alison’s point about the hiring climate in hospitality is really important. Even if this is behaviour that would grind your gears in normal times, can you afford to make it a hill to die on right now? And I do literally mean afford – are the drinks and snacks going to cost you more than operating without her or rehiring and training a new person? If you were advertising this job right now, would you be able to offer your normal pay rates or would you need to raise them, as a lot of hospitality businesses are finding?

    Obviously the answers are going to vary depending on your location/particular business and maybe it’s more cost-effective for you to cut your losses with this employee, especially if she’s notably bad in other ways. But I think you should try to be pragmatic here, especially if once you look at the actual costs this turns out to be a Bitch Eating Crackers (Bitch Drinking Soda?) type situation rather than a big financial hit.

    1. TPS Reporter*

      so true, if someone is willing to be out there in a customer facing role at this time then they deserve a few more very small rewards.

  18. NerdyKris*

    I’m not a big fan of either show because I can’t stand the pseudo documentary style, but a contender for awful boss everyone thinks is great would also be Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. It’s a recurring bit that she’s overbearing and mean to her employees, she treats several of them like dirt, and as a person she’s a smidge racist (I can’t remember my exact examples for this) and treats her boyfriends almost as bad as Dennis treated her. Oh, and the time she brought Dennis into the office and joined him in making fun of the writers. I love 30 Rock, but the in universe production would have been the basis for a tell all documentary that destroys careers if it was real.

    1. PrairieEffingDawn*

      I looooove 30 Rock but with each of my re-watches I cringe a little bit more, particularly about the race bits that I can’t believe I excused when the show first aired.

  19. PrairieEffingDawn*

    1- Back in the mid-aughts I worked at a seafood restaurant and one of the perks is that we could eat as much clam chowder as we wanted. One summer a new waitress came in and single handedly ate so much clam chowder that we all got the privilege taken away. I was equally mad about my soup rights being revoked as I was impressed that anyone would be *capable* of eating that much chowder.

      1. PrairieEffingDawn*

        Enough to threaten the supply I guess, and openly enough that she was identified as the culprit!

        Also to clarify, it was New England clam chowder, so just the heaviest, thickest of soups.

      1. meyer lemon*

        Yeah, my clam chowder maximum is probably a small cup. I assume the policy was built around this premise, but they were not expecting clam chowder coworker to arrive in a blaze of glory.

    1. JustaTech*

      Something similar happened at one of our sites: they were going through a *huge* amount of coffee (Keurig cups) and it was decided that it must be that the staff were stealing the k-cups. So the entire site lost their coffee privileges and they installed a new machine that took giant sacks of grounds to make one cup at a time, and now they had to pay for the coffee (a quarter, but still).

      I always wondered, were people *really* stealing the coffee, or were they just drinking a ton of it because they worked the night shift? I mean, if you catch Max filling his car with K-cups, the solution is to deal with Max, not take away everyone’s coffee.

  20. Morning Reader*

    I used to be an interrupter in my first professional position with lots of meetings. One of my older colleagues pointed it out and offered to kick me under the table (a gentle tap, really) when I did it. It mostly cured me. I think it was a habit from more social situations, where I sometimes would interject a clever side comment into a conversation. Clever side comments are not particularly welcome in staff meetings.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Oh this is so me. I’m a talker and interrupter in general and those I have learned to tamp down professionally, but reining in the the clever side comments has been the hardest thing to fix! Video calls have helped with this since I can’t just turn to a neighbor.

  21. Ms. K*

    #1: Are you absolutely sure she’s not just save her chips that fine with the meal to eat later?

    1. a heather*

      I came here to say this. Is it possible that sometimes she’s not eating/drinking everything she’s “allowed” to and so is feeling like it all evens out? Even if it’s not the same day/shift. “Yesterday I didn’t have a soda, I drank tap water, but today I really wanted 2 so it’s fine.”

    2. Kesnit*

      I had the same thought. eat the sandwich and drink some of the drink on break. A few hours later, eat the chips and finish the drink.

  22. James*

    #3 reminds me of my early marriage. My wife tends to take long pauses when she speaks–long enough that a lot of people, not just me, thought she was done speaking. Whereas I come from a big family where you spoke over top of one another routinely, and where holding three conversations at once was the norm.

    We’ve both had to work on it. I’ve learned to give her the time she needs to complete her thoughts, and she’s learned not to stop talking for 30 seconds and expect others to wait for her. It’s a process–we still both screw up occasionally, childhood habits being hard to change. But at least we’re working on it.

    I guess my question for you would be, is there something in your speech that makes people think you’re done talking? If there is, that’s something you can change in addition to having the conversation Allyson recommended.

      1. Artemesia*

        mine too — it was hell in the zoom movie club I created because he always had a terrible time getting his thoughts in as the group is full of blurters.

      2. Well...*

        Mine too, but now we finish each other’s sandwiches so it’s all good, no miscommunication at all >.>

    1. A Genuine Scientician*

      I generally plan out what I’m going to say before I even open my mouth. I have learned the hard way that most people do not do this. Pretty much the moment sounds stop coming out of my mouth I have completed what I was planning to say, so pausing for 1-2 seconds feels like clearly more than enough time for someone to take a breath and continue with their thought. If it goes longer than that, my brain interprets this as “They have finished, I should respond to the question they asked”. I have to consciously override this with “Wait, no, maybe not yet, some people pause in the middle of a sentence even if it doesn’t seem like it’s the middle”. Before I learned to do this, I actually had several profs on my grad school committee state that they felt they couldn’t really complain because I answered the questions they had asked, but those were not the questions they were intending to ask. But what they said had been a question, they ended it with an upward intonation, and paused long enough that I legitimately thought they were done.

      But while I continue to work on this, I do ask people to be a little more careful in their word choice. A statement of “Let me finish” or “I wasn’t done yet” is perfectly OK; that’s valid and factual. I bristle a little at someone saying “Don’t interrupt”, because I’m NOT interrupting. No one else is speaking at the time I start.

      (Also, at least in my life, most of the people who complain the most about being interrupted — either by me or by others — are themselves the people who start speaking while someone else already is.)

      1. old biddy*

        It’s context specific, too- brainstorming sessions are different from interviews. I know it’s hard, but give your advisor and committee members more than a few seconds to finish their thoughts, especially in situations where you are being formally evaluated. Keep in mind that even though you are in a high adrenaline situation, they are not.
        We were interviewing a faculty candidate and the departmental nobel laureate asked a question. The candidate jumped in during a very short pause and the prof told him to “simmer down, young man’. Needless to say the candidate did not get a job offer.

    2. old biddy*

      Thank you for working on it. I’m a pauser too, especially if my thyroid meds are out of wack. A bit of compassion in both directions is very welcome.

  23. Blisskrieg*

    OP#1. With such a small staff, why not raise the ceiling a bit on what they’re allowed to have each day or each month? I know you said margins are tight, but I agree with Alison and some of the commenters above. The expense is very small compared to finding new people or keeping up morale, as well as the fact that the field is more competitive now in the employees favor. Could you not offer X number of sodas a day or X number of snacks a week. You could have them log to prevent creep. Again, with food services wages creeping up this might be a relatively inexpensive perk. Also it might help you feel better about the situation because it’s above-board.

    1. agnes*

      i had a food business, and I handled this by giving a certain amount of food free when you were working, and then people could purchase additional food at store cost even when they weren’t working. I had a lot of college students working for me and they appreciated the ability to buy food at cost. We did have a limit on that too–one entree a day…but it was a perk they valued and I had very little abuse of that system.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        I don’t disagree. Frankly if I were the employee, I’d be embarrassed to be taking unauthorized food.

        It’s not about what’s right/not right, it is about staying competitive in a rapidly changing market that favors employees not employers. Because OP mentions the tight budget and margins and not wanting turnover for such a small establishment, I am guessing they are not able to do some of the wage increases or bonuses that a lot of restaurants are doing. What worked a few years ago may not be the most competitive now.

        1. Yorick*

          If margins are tight, they can’t afford for an employee to eat their merchandise either. They can at least try harder to get her to stop. They don’t need to make sure she has all the food she could wish for.

  24. Ldb*

    OP1 –
    Are you sure she’s not saving her drink & snack from earlier for later? Or that she purchased them when you weren’t around? In both situations you said you came into her eating & drinking an additional snack, but weren’t there when she took them. I’d have to agree with thinking about is it worth the cost to replace them. I can imagine it’s fairly hard right to find someone willing to work just over part-time hours at a takeout only place.

    That said – I think it’s absolutely worth a discussion to discuss tasks not getting completed with her and addressing that issue.

    1. EPLawyer*

      From the letter: Today she’d taken her free meal on her break and then I returned from an errand to find her eating a bag of chips while she was supposed to be working.

      Because we take the OP’s at the word, we can presume that OP saw her take her full meal.

      Finding excuses for the employee doesn’t really help OP with the problem. Which is that the employee seems pretty cavalier about her job. One thing to consider OP is the effect this employee is having on the others. If she is not working, who is doing what she is supposed to be doing? Are the other employees going to be resentful that she seems to get away with not working AND taking extra stuff? Sure replacing her could be hard in this economy, but how hard would it be to replace EVERYONE ELSE because they are sick of her? You have to address the employee’s behavior of not working.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Which is that the employee seems pretty cavalier about her job.

        That’s what jumped out to me; this employee comes off as disengaged, and the extra consumption is only part of the picture. Maybe a week off or a new responsibility may give the role a new lease on life?

      2. Kesnit*

        OP saw the employee take the food, but did not see the employee eat it. So the question still stands – was this the bag of chips that came with employee’s meal?

  25. Jenna Webster*

    OP3, I agree that interrupting is a problem that needs to be stopped, politely and repeatedly – it is a great thing you can do for that person because it is a habit that really causes trouble through your career if you don’t defeat it. That said, I would also suggest you consider if you’re using 100 words when 10 would do. I thought I had my interrupting under control until I got a new boss who can’t seem to stop talking for several minutes no matter that she did just fine with her first 2 sentences – she just keeps going on and on, bringing in related (or unrelated) stories and harping on a point on which we both agree. I’m having to struggle all over again to not just jump in when she has to take a breath.

  26. agnes*

    #3 Can I share a different perspective? It might help you to think about if there is something you are doing that makes it hard for other people to talk or respond to you. I have a counterpart that I honestly cannot figure out how to have an interactive conversation with.

    He has some verbal habits that help him retain the floor way beyond what he needs to communicate whatever he is trying to say–the only way to respond is to interrupt. I feel terrible doing it, but I don’t know how to respectfully respond…… he makes the UHHHH noise after he’s said a few things,, and will quickly inhale and then keep right on going–repeating what he said earlier, thinking out loud…answering his own questions…… I am really trying to be respectful but I don’t know how to get a word in edgewise.

  27. LaDiDa*

    LW1 : Would it be helpful if you budgeted and purchased snacks just for the employees? Can you go to CostCo and buy big boxes of chips, trail mixes, drinks, etc and put them on a specific shelf. Explain to the employees “To be very careful with our budget we need to track all the expenses better. Everything on this shelf is what we can afford for employees for the month. Other than your one meal a shift, please only take from this area.”
    It might help them understand better the thin margins you are working with, and help them visualize how much they are all taking.
    Good luck.

    1. Colette*

      I’m not sure offering people more is the solution to people who take more than you’ve offered.

      1. Allie*

        Yeah this employer is already being unusually generous. Expecting them to just give more because of a misbehaving employee doesn’t seem right to me.

      2. Saberise*

        Especially since she would likely be paying more at Costco for those chips and other snacks than her normal vendor charges for the chips. So she would be out more money not less.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Or they won’t care. This person only works two 3 hour shifts with a one hour break in between. But she feels the need to eat extra and slack off.

      Occam’s Razor — she’s just a terrible employee.

      1. introverted af*

        Where is everybody getting that this person works 3 hour shifts? I didn’t see that in the original letter and that has not been my experience of working hospitality at all

    3. Yorick*

      This is silly. If the employees need more than lunch every day (which they get for free), they can bring their own drinks and snacks from home or purchase them from OP.

    4. Observer*

      I’m someone who came down on “If this is all she’s doing, don’t get bent out of shape.” But this is ridiculous. The OP is being perfectly reasonable (even based just on the letter without the updates.) There is no reason they need to get more snacks for staff.

  28. OHCFO*

    #3 – I’m an interrupter. I grew up in a house where the only way to get a word in edgewise was to interrupt. I’m also an enthusiastic participator—I want to be included! I never saw my interrupting as what it was—just me popping in with my contributions in the way that was native to me. But I’m also an executive level manager/leader now, and the habits of my youth do not serve me. About 15 years ago a person that I supervise confronted me. I had, as usual, jumped in to his verbal space and he stopped our conversation and told me how unpleasant it was for him to never be able to finish a thought. He was visibly frustrated and clearly it had bothered him for some time before he brought it up. In the moment, I had a “How rude” reaction, but I apologized and told him I appreciated his candor. But that interaction has stuck with me for 15 years!!! I think back to it all the time, and work consciously to stop myself from interrupting. I’ve not broken the habit completely, but I’m able to catch myself when I start to do it and be mindful of how I proceed. You have an opportunity to help this person profoundly. Please be super direct & help them!

  29. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    Regarding #3: “You’re probably not aware of this, but you interrupt me a lot, and I need you to hear all of what I’m saying! Can you make sure you’ve let me finish my thought before you jump in?” – I realize you wouldn’t want to go in guns blazing and scorch the earth right from the get go (how’s that for mixed metaphors?), but this feels too “softened” to me. Sort of “I’m sure you haven’t noticed, and you’re totally not doing it on purpose, please don’t be mad…”

    Is there a reason a simple, direct “You need to listen to what I’m saying until I’m finished speaking, and then respond.” wouldn’t work? Heck, throw in a “Please don’t interrupt me” if you really want to.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      With the caveat that obviously you couldn’t say this to someone higher up than you!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, it would work! But I try to give scripts I think most people will be comfortable using, and I personally wouldn’t be comfortable saying it like that when there’s a nicer way that still gets the point across (and still will likely be a little mortifying to the person she says it to).

    3. AskJeeves*

      That feels really scolding and harsh to me. If a manager said this to me, I would be annoyed. I’m not a toddler! A self-aware person will probably be embarrassed even by Alison’s gentle script, so there’s no reason to condescend and potentially sour a relationship with a new employee, when you can be equally as clear but also respectful and, yes, even a little bit conciliatory. It costs nothing but could gain you a lot.

    4. Mattieflap*

      Because for a lot of people “simple and direct” comes across as “rude and demeaning.” So if you soften the language you get your point across and it lands in a much more productive way.

      They’re called soft skills for a reason.

      1. Wisteria*

        “You need to” is way beyond simple and direct and verging on the border of rude and demeaning. Simple and direct is what my boss does when he says, “I’ll give you a chance to respond when I’m done.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I avoid using the word “you” as much as possible. It really seems to upset people as they feel it personalizes things. People recoiling in upset/horror typically miss the main message. I’d rather get to the main point.

    5. Wisteria*

      That script sounds really pompous to me. If you are ok with potentially alienating the person you are talking to, sure, but in the workplace, you have to be able to continue working with the person without building resentment. “Please don’t interrupt,” if said warmly in the moment, will still sting but is reasonable in tone. “You need to listen to what I’m saying until I’m finished speaking, and then respond,” is unnecessarily harsh in tone, even from a manager. One thing that is drilled into us at my workplace is building influence without authority. Your phrasing relies on authority, but it won’t build influence.

    6. Observer*

      but this feels too “softened” to me. Sort of “I’m sure you haven’t noticed, and you’re totally not doing it on purpose, please don’t be mad…”

      Not at all. This kind of extreme response does no one any good. Being straightforward doesn’t have to mean being rude. If your suggestion is the NOT “guns blazing” category for you, I shudder to think about how you talk to people who do need that.

      Allison’s scrip is going overboard on acknowledging probable good intent the way your caricature does. Nor is it at all apologetic. It’s merely polite while being perfectly direct and clear. Now, if that doesn’t work, sure, go for “I need you to let me finish talking before you respond.” Or your script. But it’s a terrible first round. It’s far too aggressive.

    7. Simply the best*

      If somebody said to me what you suggested, I cannot imagine having anything but a frosty relationship with that person going forward. Maybe tone would make it different, but to me, just reading it sounds unconscionably rude and condescending.

  30. Kylie*

    LW#2 – our Environmental, Health & Safety Manager is a Q-Anon believer and is anti-vaccine and anti-mask. Thank the gods, she isn’t in charge of our overall pandemic response, but she has inserted her wildly inappropriate opinions and misinformation a few times. A couple of weeks ago, she actively tried to discourage one of my at-risk employees from being vaccinated – and this is during a time that the company is actively working to get more employees vaccinated (offering bonuses and incentives, etc.). It’s appalling. I haven’t told our mutual boss or HR about her comments yet, but I’ve been tempted.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      Please tell your boss/HR asap. That manager is acting against the company’s efforts and endangering the lives of at-risk employees!

    2. Me*

      Do it. Report her.

      Your company is going to want to know they have an employee advocating against the companies principles.

    3. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Act on that temptation. Seriously. This is a major problem. She is in a position of authority and using it to push people to put their lives in danger.

    4. Observer*

      I haven’t told our mutual boss or HR about her comments yet, but I’ve been tempted.

      Why haven’t you told your manager yet? You seem to see proving them with this relevant as a problem. Why?

    5. Lana Kane*

      Why haven’t you escalated this? This person is interfering with someone’s medical decisions.

    6. Tali*

      Oh my god report her today!! The person in charge of your safety is a crazy person who doesn’t believe in science or safety!

  31. Fabulous*

    #2 – I know it’s a super icky feeling that your head of Covid response is a denier and a total conflict of interest, but on the flip side… did you feel unsafe at all with the policies she put in place before you found out?

    1. Colette*

      It sounds like the OP has had issues that this person has assured her would be dealt with – and knowing that she’s not living in reality would make me assume that “dealt with” means “ignored”.

  32. SaffyTaffy*

    The real question (and a much more realistic expression of Scranton) is: is it better to work for Dwight Schrute or Kevin Malone?

  33. Mental Lentil*

    #1. I see so many comments about actual food costs and whether or not the employee is food insecure, but that’s not really the issue.

    LW keeps employees who meet minimum expectations, and this employee isn’t even doing that. Not doing tasks when asked to do them, being asked to correct behaviors and then backsliding on that—these are the problems. I think LW has latched onto the money part of it because he doesn’t want to lose this employee (covid/restaurant/slim margins = I get that part), but it’s her overall performance that is an issue.

    It’s clear to me that this employee feels too comfortable at work. When it’s a small restaurant and a small crew, it’s all too easy to feel like family. Except you’re not: you’re an employee. There’s a much bigger picture here than a few bags of chips.

    1. WellRed*

      Thank you! I’m not sure why so many comments are twisting so much as to include every possible scenario. Food insecure. Didn’t eat yesterday. Buy special and for employees. Etc etc. let’s take OP at her word that she’s got a not so great employee but needs to decide the actual problem and solution.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        I have noticed that since COVID started, the amount of fan fiction going on here in the comments has gone through the roof. I mean, there are rules about not diagnosing, limiting speculation, taking LWs at their word, but nobody seems to notice those any more.

        People are bored, I guess. But it really is distracting.

        (FWIW, people with food insecurity generally don’t just grab a bag of chips and eat them right there. They grab a bag of chips and stash it somewhere for later. The “food insecure” crowd here are completely speculating.)

        1. Yorick*

          Honestly, if your employer has given you free lunch every work day for a couple of years, can you really be considered food insecure?

          1. A Genuine Scientician*

            Yes, you can. That’s one meal a day, a few times a week.

            I fully agree with the larger point that people seem to be trying very hard in recent months to excuse all sorts of behavior instead of taking the letter writer at their word and not speculating, but yes, you absolutely can be food insecure even while getting a meal each work day.

        2. Paris Geller*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed this increase. I’ve always found the comment section here to be one of the more reasonable places on the internet, but lately I feel like every time I read a letter with an issue with an employee or coworker, people contort themselves into pretzels to come up with every. possible. scenario. that paints the person behaving badly in the best possible light. This one and the food-stealing boss in particular are the ones where speculation has run really rampant and for some reason a lot of commenters want to defend the food stealers!

          1. Paris Geller*

            Coming back to add that I do appreciate that some of these responses come out of compassion and personal experience, but I also feel like a lot of people just want to speculate wildly and excuse away every bad behavior from the people who *didn’t* write in.

            1. Allie*

              There’s sometimes a default to defend an employee no matter what when an employer writes in as well.

  34. Essess*

    For letter #1, I agree with addressing the employee’s lack of following instructions for tasks. I would also suggest (if you don’t already do this) that you create a ‘sign out’ sheet for food so that you have accurate loss tracking. Any food that an employee takes as part of their meal should be logged onto a sheet, listing the specific items that they took. Then if you see an employee eating chips later, you can check the sheet if it was part of their meal. If you see them snacking, you can remind them that all food must be logged. This gives you an accurate idea of how much you are losing over the allowed meal allowance. By making it a documented requirement, you can have a more serious discussion about theft if they aren’t recording food that they are taking instead of it being just a casual snack that they don’t even think about.

  35. Daisy-dog*

    LW2 – I love your use of the name Tina. If it was intended as a SHRM joke, I noticed and love it. If it was a coincidence, then that is greatness.

  36. Erin*

    For the interrupted manager: it would be worth taking a deep dive into your personal & professional lives to discern if you are a slow talker or if you need to get to the point faster.

    While it is disrespectful to interrupt people, It can be pretty frustrating to be forced to frequently interact with a slow talker or someone who simply cannot get to the point without multiple examples or diatribes regarding simple things “aahhh yes. The restroom…..there are currently 12 restrooms in the building, floor one features 8 stalls and 6 sinks, floor 2 has 4 stalls and 4 sinks! Who knew symmetry would be so essential on floor 2?! And what a unique coincidence that 4 is divisible by 2!…..blah blah blah”

    If you realize that people close to you are frequently zoning out or hustling the conversation along, you might want to tweak your spoken communication to be more succinct.

    1. Essess*

      Agreed. I had a manager that drove me crazy. She would ask a question that was an easy yes/no answer, then immediately launch into the history of why she was asking, then launch into re-asking the question in another way then ramble about her thought process, etc… Meanwhile, I had the easy answer back 4 minutes earlier but couldn’t get a word in. This happened for EVERY SINGLE conversation with her. It was also very difficult for our employees who did not have English as a primary language because she spent so much time talking after the question that they got totally lost with what she was trying to ask.

    2. Perilous*

      Or if you’re someone who leaves no space for interaction. My sister is a very interesting person, but I have to interrupt very firmly in order to participate in a conversation with her. Monologues are great on stage, but very frustrating in normal human interactions.

  37. Froggy*

    LW 3, I do just want to call to your attention that interrupting is a very common dialectical phenomenon! For example, Jewish people tend to engage in cooperative overlapping, in which we finish each other’s sentences to show that we’re listening, we agree, we know what they’re talking about, etc.

    1. Froggy*

      Sorry, realized I didn’t finish my thought – wanted to add that of course that doesn’t necessarily mean they are or aren’t being rude and that you are totally valid in feeling offended! I also know that I would be really upset if I got called on it because it’s the way I communicate with everyone and for me, it shows that I’m listening and engaged.

      1. Wisteria*

        I’m not sure it’s useful to talk about whether feeling offended is valid. I would ask whether feeling offended is helpful, and ask whether letting go of the offense would be more helpful in determining whether conflicting conversational styles are at play. Rudeness is so highly situational. The LW thinks the interrupters are rude, but, assuming that differing conversational styles are at play, if the interrupters were told not to engage in their conversational style, they would find that highly rude and probably feel offended. That would just escalate the communication problems, not resolve them.

        So without devolving into a discussion about whether demographics are are perpetuating power imbalances, my input is to set aside labelling feelings of offensive as valid or invalid, set aside feelings of offense period, assume good intent until shown otherwise, and observe the interrupting with curiosity. If it seems like a difference in communication styles, then adapt and adjust.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      If you google “cooperative overlapping” the third hit is a pretty interesting article from jweekly dot com, which is exactly what you describe here.


    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      then there was the wife who filed for divorce. The judge asks her why, she says her husband hasn’t spoken to her for 30 years. The judge asks him if it’s true, he admits it. The judge asks him why, he says “I was taught not to interrupt, your honour”.

  38. CatPerson*

    My boss is a chronic interrupter. I honestly think that his mind races so quickly that he jumps ahead of where you’re going and is often incorrect about the direction. At times I have asked him to let me finish before he interrupts, especially when he does it more than once in the same conversation. He takes it pretty well. Once I did it in a meeting with others but where he was going after taking over my thought was completely incorrect and I had to say so.

  39. drpuma*

    OP3, I noticed that neither your nor Alison’s scripts use the word “interrupt” when you talk to someone in the moment. That is allowed! You can call it what it is when it’s happening, not just if you have to have a big-picture conversation with someone. Being clearer but still polite may save you from needing to have a big-picture conversation. It worked for me with an old roommate, I only had to bring it up a couple of times once I called it what it was: “You just interrupted me. I wasn’t done talking yet. Please let me finish.”

    1. BlackCatOwner*

      I really want to echo this because I was raised in a home where interrupting and talking over people was the norm. Most of the time I didn’t even know I was doing it, and it took coaching from friends (and patience!) for me to become aware.

      I’ve been working on not interrupting people for decades. I still do it sometimes, though I’m much better now at realizing immediately that I’ve done it and apologizing. Your employee needs to hear this is a problem, because they may not even know they are doing it!

  40. Empress Matilda*

    #4 – ten days is practically no time at all when you’re talking about coordinating work calendars – especially with senior management, and especially in the summer when lots of people are on vacation. I know it feels like forever to you when you’re the one job searching, though! But honestly, this is a pretty fast turnaround for most organizations to coordinate something like this. So you have nothing to worry about from that perspective.

    Good luck on your next interview!

  41. Observer*

    #1 – I haven’t had a chance to read the comments, so I hope I don’t inadvertently contribute to a pile on.

    I have 2 major thoughts.

    The first thing is the ego bot. I give you a ton of credit for recognizing this and realizing that you might need to let this go. But I really, really want to emphasize that Yes, you DO have to let that aspect go. It’s not just a less than great character trait. It is also just very bad and ineffective management. The good news is that you are ahead of the game because you actually recognize it.

    You sound like a good person and someone who tries to be a good boss. But you need to realize that you are in a business that is notoriously hard on employees. What are you paying? How long are the shifts? (8 – 10 – 12 hours?) How much standing / physical work is there? eg can she sit or stand and the register or does she need to stand here for hours at a time? How consistent are the schedules? How far in advance do people get their schedules? Do you have “clopens” (closing at night and opening the next morning with less than 10 hours between the 2)? How do you handle unscheduled absences? Can your staff actually schedule a vacation or day off (even unpaid)? Do they have to find their own coverage for that? These are all incredibly common issues, even in companies that have a relatively good reputation.

    Which is to say that unless you are a unicorn and none of these issues apply to your workplace, getting bent out of shape over a few snacks over the course of the month is the absolute worst way to handle this. I get that your costs have skyrocketed – this is a problem across the board. But you need to accept that this is one of your costs of doing business. If you really can’t absorb is (even if all 4 employees started doing that), then you probably need to rethink the viability of your business. I’m not being flippant. If $60 per month is your entire margin, then you probably cannot make it in the long term. I mean, what’s going to happen the next time you have an unexpected refrigerator failure, leak, or other item that needs to be fixed? Do you have the kind of cash reserve you need to deal with a surge in orders? What happens if you have an unexpected surge that causes you to need to make an emergency purchase at a slightly higher than normal price? Are you going to be in the red any time any of these things happen?

    All of which is to say that this IS a tough business. But it’s tough for your employee too, but she doesn’t get any of the potential upside. So, don’t try to ride this out by being petty with your employee.

    That said, the behavior / work issues are a different kettle of fish. If she’s eating a snack when there is actual work to be done rather than in a lull in the work, then you should definitely address it. Same for the not doing tasks. That’s not being petty – that’s expecting people to do their jobs. It is absolutely a legitimate part of meeting your minimum expectations.

    Lots of luck!

    1. NeutralJanet*

      OP did elaborate in the comments–shifts are at most 6 hours with an hour long break in between, and employees are paid a base rate of over minimum wage with an average of $2-3 in tips per hour. OP also offered to increase this particular employee’s hours, but she declined. Most of the employees have also been there for 3 years or so, so it’s presumably a reasonably good place to work, or at least better than most comparable options in the area.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        Sorry–I meant to say an hour long break halfway through, so employees would be working 3 hours, taking an hour long break, and then working another 3 hours.

      2. Meep*

        So restaurant minimum wage is different than retail minimum wage. Retail minimum wage is $7.25, nationally ($10-14 in very few states). The restaurant minimum wage is $2.15 with $2-3 in tips being paltry. So if they are making more than typical minimum wage and it is actually $7.25/hour with $2-3 extra/hour, I would say it is possible she refused simply because she has another job that actually pays her decently.

        1. Anonymous Esq*

          She doesn’t have another job, lives with her parents, all this info is in the comments so I don’t know why people wanna speculate wildly.

          1. Meep*

            Probably because I haven’t searched for? I don’t know why you want to speculate wildly, either, personally.

        2. NeutralJanet*

          OP confirmed that it’s normal minimum wage, not restaurant minimum wage, so her pay is presumably over $10/hour. I don’t know why you’ve decided that OP is mistreating her employees, but there’s no reason to think that that’s the case.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            To be fair, $10/hour isn’t much. From what OP has commented, OP’s employee doesn’t want more work. But OP doesn’t know if her employee is paying unusual bills, etc. unless worker has shared that she is.

            1. NeutralJanet*

              For sure, it’s still not a lot (though I’m just guesstimating here based on “more than minimum wage” and “$2-3 in tips”, $10 is really the minimum possible given that description), but a startling number of commenters seem to have decided that OP’s employee is making $2/hour, and she’s definitely getting several times that.

        3. Observer*

          So restaurant minimum wage is different than retail minimum wage

          Your description is not entirely accurate. There is no such thing as a “restaurant” minimum wage. There is a TIPPED minimum wage, and the employer is required to make make up any difference between the “tipped wage” + actual tips and the Federal minimum wage. Even without looking at the OP’s comments, there is no reason to believe that they are breaking the law on this, and a lot of reason to think that they are not. Some states don’t allow the tipped wage exemption at all, and others have a higher minimum wage.

          Which is all to say that your “guess” as to why the employee turned down the hours is wildly speculative. But also totally not relevant.

        4. A Person*

          I know it’s a day later, but: I have never heard of “retail minimum wage”. There’s just minimum wage, and then “tipped minimum wage”, which is supposed to apply to bars etc too. And while it’s legal at the federal level, lots of states don’t allow it.

      3. Observer*

        OP did elaborate in the comments

        Yes, I saw their comments later.

        I still think that the snacks per se are not the big problem, unless the OP really thinks that it’s a lot more than the occasional snack. Like if the OP thinks that they are taking home food or doing this every day level.

        On the other hand, the OP clearly has issues with this person’s performance. At this point those issues need to dealt with in any case. I think that Alison hit on something here – would the OP be so upset if this employee were otherwise excellent?

    2. Colette*

      The OP has already answered a lot of these questions, and a lot of them are irrelevant. Getting your schedule the day before you have to work or having to stand at work does not justify stealing

    3. Yorick*

      OP is giving them $10 lunches every day. They have already factored employees’ hunger into their cost of doing business. Employees have no need to take more without paying. Having your employees regularly taking your merchandise is not a cost of doing business. This is not like taking pens. This is like a grocery store employee eating food off the shelf without paying.

      1. Meep*

        This is a false comparison. Grocery stores have high-profit margins and are actually paid minimum wage or better. Restaurants rely on gouging their employees and making customers make up for the cost via tips.

        1. acmx*

          How is this a false comparison? Employees are taking product that is sold for revenue.

          Whether restaurants are “gouging their employees” does not mean theft is acceptable.

        2. NeutralJanet*

          Except that this particular OP is paying employees more than minimum wage. Why are you assuming that OP is gouging their employees when there’s no evidence suggesting such and in fact several pieces of evidence suggesting otherwise? Isn’t one of the commenting rules that we’re supposed to be kind and give letter writers the benefit of the doubt?

        3. Observer*

          You are just making stuff up. Yes, there are a lot of issues in the industry. The what you keep on claiming is simply not legal, and there is absolutely no reason to think (even without reading the OP’s comments) that the OP is breaking the law.

        4. A Person*

          Groceries stores have high profit margins? Meaning they make lots of profit? That’s absolutely NOT what I usually see stated about grocery stores.

      2. Observer*

        Employees have no need to take more without paying

        The OP didn’t complain about taking home food, but about the occasional snack on the job. It’s a very different thing. And the OP pretty much admits that if that’s all the food they are taking it really is a pretty paltry amount.

        In that case, it’s worth it for the OP to focus on the other issues first.

        1. Yorick*

          It doesn’t matter that she’s eating it there. She’s taking food that she wasn’t given even after being allowed to take $10 worth. That’s ridiculous.

          OP has seen her take a paltry amount of food. I think it’s possible (maybe even likely) that it’s been more than OP thinks and/or might increase.

          Sure, OP can focus on the other problems. But even if she were otherwise excellent, I think this would be worth doing something about.

  42. quill*

    1) It sounds like you’re in danger of reaching bitch eating (taking) crackers stage with your employee.

    2) Being an antivaxxer is a disqualifier for ANY health or public safety role, take your colleagues and send this conflict of interest up as high as you can.

  43. HeadphonesRequired*

    LW3: My husband also HATES being interrupted – there’s no faster way to get on his bad side. The challenge is he’s quite long winded, especially when talking about something he’s knowledgeable about or excited by. Through the grace of COVID I’ve been able to hear this happening in his work conversations as well. The worst part is that he also doesn’t take a breath between sentences — he takes his breaths in the MIDDLE of a sentence! So he never gives someone an opportunity to jump in and will just talk for 5+ minutes straight. It goes something like: “So if I click up here you can see that the app will **BREATH** display all of the information we wantThen if you click this dropdown it will **BREATH** filter down based on this criteriaAnd if you click this button instead it will **BREATH** remove everything.” I’ve mentioned this to him and he was completely surprised by it, but hasn’t made any adjustments and continues to get frustrated when people have to cut him off just to get a word in or ask a question. It’s worth thinking about your own verbal communication style and if you’re giving enough space for people to join the conversation with you. (Not saying this is the case, but he was genuinely shocked when I told him about how his breathing in the middle of sentences means people don’t have a natural entry point to the convo, thus requiring them to cut him off!)

  44. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Everyone’s pointed out the possible over-petty part of tracking chip costs.

    I’m concerned about the “look” of walking in on staff snacking away. I’m a snacker, but if customers can see (and definitely if I’m about to handle food or money with my ranch-flavored fingertips) then it’s a no go.

  45. North Wind*

    I had an aunt who, when I was a child, would constantly finish sentences in conversation. But she was SO warm-hearted and a conversation with her was the rare treat of an adult actually actively listening and engaging in conversation with me that I took this verbal tic as an indication of extreme respect and goodwill.

    I intentionally employed this technique when I wanted people to know I was interested in what they were saying, but I did manage to pick up early in my career that it’s mostly experienced as disrespectful and boundary-crossing. Live and learn! (But I still feel only warmth toward my aunt).

  46. Always Happy*

    For the first letter writer….you are really going to go there over more than one drink or a bag of chips?!?! First of all, how long are her shifts, 2ndly, what is the temperature in the restaurant? I’m sorry, when I was waiting tables, the only caveat was not to use to go cups to drink, as they cost us money. The upcharge that ALL restaurants charge on their drinks, not to mention the amount of waste that happens when a customer asks for a refill and doesn’t even take a sip is ridiculous. Lastly, how do you know that she doesn’t have some underlying medical condition, you know like diabetes that is causing her to have a low blood sugar episode???

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      All of these have been answered by the LW. The shifts are a maximum of 6 hours, with an hour-long break. The drinks are in bottles, not fountain drinks. And a bag of chips is not the cure for a low blood sugar episode.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      Sure, maybe she has an underlying medical condition that makes it necessary for her to eat an extra bag of chips (when she’s supposed to be working, nonetheless), but is that so far from saying that maybe she can’t eat sandwiches?

      1. Yorick*

        Anyway, if she required an extra bag of chips, she could negotiate that as an accommodation or additional perk, not just take them.

    3. Observer*

      how do you know that she doesn’t have some underlying medical condition, you know like diabetes that is causing her to have a low blood sugar episode???

      If that’s the case she should be having her own snacks. Even if that weren’t practical, the right approach would have been for her to tell the OP this the FIRST time it happened. Not just to say “yeah, yeah” and then wait a bit before starting up again, which is essentially what’s happening.

      I don’t think that this kind of fan-fic is really useful.

    4. Yorick*

      Come on. We have no reason to think any of this is true. Please stop speculating, it’s getting extreme.

      Anyway, even if she had diabetes, she could bring her own snack instead of stealing from her employer.

  47. Man of Bats*

    re: OP2, I don’t see how this is a conflict of interest. Is a lawyer not allowed to represent a company whose policies they disagree with? Can a doctor not treat a serial killer they believe should receive the death penalty? I don’t like anti-vaxers and covid deniers either, but saying this person can’t do the job is an ad hominem fallacy. Is she doing her job properly? That’s the only question.

    re OP3, in my experience, a slight majority of people who complain about interrupting really mean that they want to be able to monologue. In normal conversations, people can jump in to add or say things and monologuers are annoyed if you talk before they’ve made all 14 of the points in their 10 minute speech. If you’re a manager, you’re entitled to do that, I guess, but it’s not great management. I have no idea if OP3 is in that slighter majority or not (and I don’t think the examples in the letter are particularly conclusive, but I know I’ll get 400 replies about how I’m clearly wrong because of her examples), but it’s worth their considering this as a possibility.

    1. Tali*

      It’s not ad hominem, it’s that being an anti-vaxer or covid denier means you don’t understand or believe in science and reality, which disqualifies you from holding a role which requires an understanding of science and reality.

      A doctor cannot treat patients if they don’t believe in medicine.
      A lawyer cannot represent a company if they think laws are a government hoax.
      Someone who thinks covid is not a serious threat cannot be trusted to do their job properly if their job is to come up with policies to stop the spread of covid!

    2. CJ*

      I agree. Unless the person in #2 stands to benefit from giving people COVID, it’s probably not an actual conflict of interest. What they’ve uncovered is that the task she’s been asked to do conflicts with her personal beliefs, which is important, and something that might disqualify her from doing the task, if she isn’t able to separate her personal beliefs from her job, but we don’t know that she isn’t able to do that.

  48. SnowWhiteClaw*

    Regarding OP#1

    You never know what someone’s life is like. I was severely underweight in college because I couldn’t afford food. I worked in a grocery store and would eat out of the trash. Sometimes this was all the food I got for the day.

    I had health problems, the doctors told me to try to gain weight and I cried in the doctors office because I couldn’t afford to.

    I wasn’t supposed to take leftover food (that would have been thrown away) from the hot bar, or food from the trash at work, but I did much more frequently after that.

    1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      I’m so sorry you had to experience this. It’s unfortunate that you were eating out of the garbage considering that there are so many options in every state to help ensure you have access to healthy nutrition options.

    2. Colette*

      It’s possible the employee is dealing with issues. It’s also possible the employer is dealing with issues of their own.

      In my experience, employers who let some people get away with otherwise-unacceptable stuff drive away the good employees.

      Should the employer fire her over the occasional bag of chips? Maybe not. Should she make sure she’s got a solid inventory system that matches the cash register receipts and the cash in the drawer? Probably.

    3. Observer*

      In just reading the letter, it doesn’t sound like the OP’s setup is anything like what you describe. If nothing else, I can’t imagine them not allowing someone to take leftovers that would otherwise go in the trash, that’s for sure.

      And, as always, especially if the employer is reasonable (which the OP sounds like they are) the response to being called on taking extra food is to explain why you are doing this. While it’s pretty clear from the OP’s later comments, that what you are describing is unlikely to be the case, I’d be willing to bet that if the person said “You know, we really can’t make ends meet. Could I take home the leftover fillings that we won’t use tomorrow?” or the like, that the OP would say “Go ahead.”

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Do you understand how embarrassing it would be to have to say that to your boss? Especially if you work in a small company and others would find out. And I don’t feel like this boss would be very friendly to the worker, or she may not feel comfortable going to her boss.

        1. Observer*

          Do you understand how embarrassing it would be to have to say that to your boss?

          Of course it’s embarrassing. But right now the employee is taking food they are not entitled to. Is that ALSO not embarrassing? It’s simply unreasonable to expect an employer to guess when someone is in that level of need. And it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect an employer to overlook people doing that because someone MIGHT be in great need.

          The bottom line is that once you’ve reached the point where you are taking stuff you are not entitled ot – and are BEING CALLED ON IT, you either need to explain or stop doing it. Continuing to do it while refusing to explain is simply not a viable path and the negative consequences are totally their fault. Even if it’s embarrassing.

          And I don’t feel like this boss would be very friendly to the worker

          Because they aren’t acting on your wildly speculative excuse for misbehavior? The OP seems to be perfectly reasonable. You present nothing to counter that – Again, the fact that they didn’t dream up some heart rending scenario and act as though that is fact doesn’t make them unreasonable or unlikely to react reasonably to a reasonable request.

  49. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    OP1: I had a food service client that had a serious issue with staff abusing the concept of employee meal. Double/tripple servings, multiple meal sessions, and even taking food home for others.

    We tackled this with two primary focuses:

    1. Are they being paid appropriately? There’s reason to abuse this benefit if you otherwise can’t afford to eat.

    2. Rather than using a comp discount in the POS, or allowing staff to just take food, we set up an internal gift card. Staff were given a budget based on their scheduled shifts (reloaded at every schedule release). If they wanted to use the full budget in one go…awesome, but then it’s empty until the reload. If they want to save up, also awesome, it’s your benefit. – Check with your appropriate peeps to be sure this can be done in your area.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t see how #2 would help, because the employee in question is sneaking her extra snacks. She’d still sneak them even if she the $10/meal she gets per shift were put on a gift card.

      1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

        Places that experience this as a serious issue tend to use ticket comps or don’t bother with ticketing at all.

        Part of the process is making it clear that all food stuffs need to be entered into their ticketing system and failure to do so means corrective action. That eliminates the idea that something is too small to be noticed.

        In-house gift cards rather than ticket comps sets up the idea that the employee has a limit. Ticket comps are the boss’s problem; and if the boss comes to you about an excess amount…well you just comped other employees under your name ‘oops’. A gift card makes the limit the employees problem, now they have to stay within the limit of their card or the register will let them know how much they owe.

  50. Kyrielle*

    I want to note re OP #2, that people being entitled to their opinions doesn’t necessarily mean they’re entitled to their beliefs. And “covid is a hoax” is a belief. One that is not grounded in the facts and evidence; one that is, IMO, provably false.

    But whether it’s true or false, it’s not an opinion. An opinion would be “covid sucks” or “I’d rather have covid than get the shot”, not “covid is a hoax”. You can’t test an opinion for truth or falsity. You can test “covid is a hoax” and, unfortunately, a lot of people are doing so and finding the predictable answer the hard way. :/

    I think casting disbelief in vaccinations and covid as an opinion is framing it in a way that encourages it more than we should accept.

  51. MMB*

    OP 1 you are not overreacting or wrong here. I do agree, that some of your frustration stems from the fact that this particular employee has refused to listen, but that does not negate the fact that she is stealing. People can fuzz it around any way they want, but any time that you take something that doesn’t belong to you without paying for it that is stealing. A number of people have equated this situation to taking home office supplies. On the surface that seems like a great analogy, unfortunately that analogy overlooks some important distinctions that make this situation a bit different. Companies aren’t reselling office supplies in order to cover operating costs and profits. Office supplies are factored in as a cost of business the same way you factor in spoilage & waste. Food is a retail item. It is the basis of your entire business, without it there IS NO business. No inventory = no sales = no profits = no business. If you were a retail clothing store and an employee kept taking home small inexpensive accessories like costume jewelry and hair clips no one would would think twice about telling you to fire her. You’re not the bad guy in this scenario.

  52. Keyboard Cowboy*

    OP#3 – My first job out of college was on a team full of very boisterous individuals who liked to talk over each other in meetings (so it wasn’t just me that was being interrupted, which helped). One tactic I used – once I realized the interrupting would not stop – was to loudly say “EXCUSE ME” over their interruption, without pausing, and keep saying what I was saying. Then, when I was finished, I’d be sure to say “What were you going to say, Reginald?” (in part to keep them from being interrupted themselves!) This worked 99% of the time. Not the most polite, but in that environment it was no ruder than everyone else’s behavior, and it kept me from losing my train of thought.

  53. bopper*

    If EVERYONE is interrupting you…..maybe it is you.

    Are you taking to long to get to the point?
    Is the point obvious?
    Are you repeating yourself?
    Do you talk slowly?
    Do you talk patronizingly?

  54. Ted*

    Re “Taking Free Snacks”: When I was a teenager, I had a summer job working at a chain pizza restaurant (the one you only go to because it’s cheap). I had a lot of responsibility, and sometimes was the only one there both to make the pizzas and handle the customers. The rule was over the course of an 8-hour shift, I could make myself one small pizza to eat for lunch or dinner. Of course, while working there, the last thing I wanted was pizza. I usually would have one slice to satisfy my hunger, and either throw the rest out or take it home. One day, my not-so-great manager (who I thought of as an old lady but was probably 22 or so) came in, saw me packing up my meal, and angrily accused me of stealing a pizza. I explained what was going on, but she didn’t believe me. I quit the job soon after, and they lost a good employee.

    One thing I learned from that experience is that fast-food employers greatly overestimate the desirability of their crappy jobs (something that’s especially true now, when good workers are even harder to find) — and it doesn’t pay to treat employees with pettiness. (Also, inexperienced 22-year-olds with their first taste of power probably aren’t the best managers.) Maybe the sandwich-shop owner’s longtime employee eats some chips now and then and doesn’t always do her tasks because the tasks are tedious and she’s bored as hell. If she’s pretty good at her job otherwise, I doubt very much they’re going to find someone better.

    1. Observer*

      longtime employee eats some chips now and then and doesn’t always do her tasks because the tasks are tedious and she’s bored as hell. If she’s pretty good at her job otherwise, I doubt very much they’re going to find someone better.

      “Doesn’t do her job” and “pretty good at her job otherwise” are mutually exclusive.

      It doesn’t really matter why she’s not doing her job (assuming that it’s not because the tasks are illegal, impossible or they are actually doing something else that is required). It matters that’s she refusing to do her job. It is NOT petty to require someone to DO THEIR JOB.

      Requiring someone to do their job is not the same as making accusations and essentially calling someone a liar the first time you see something that looks like it might be out of line.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, “the tasks are tedious and she’s bored as hell” is why she gets paid to show up, not a reason for slacking. (Everyone’s job is boring some times, it’s the nature of getting stuff done.)

      2. Ted*

        My point is that these jobs aren’t exactly fun. This employer admits that “it’s hard to hire and… find employees who show up every day and meet our minimum expectations,” so maybe it’s worth trying to keep someone who’s stuck around for two and a half years happy.

        I see that most of the commenters here are looking at the situation from the owner’s perspective, but very few can see things from the worker’s point of view. (I’m guessing because they’ve never had to take one of these jobs themselves.) The fact that the owner sees a restaurant employee eating a few cents’ worth of extra food now and then as “stealing” suggests that her situation isn’t that different from the one I described.

          1. Ted*

            That attitude is exactly what I’m talking about. (And by the way, that bag of chips costs the restaurant about 30 cents.)

              1. Ted*

                From the comments on this topic, I have a feeling you can expect three ghosts to appear at Christmastime this year.

                1. Observer*

                  No. The idea that someone is “bored at their job” is an excuse for both slacking off and taking what is not theirs is pretty condescending.

                  I suggest that you actually re-read the story. Those ghosts didn’t show up because Scrooge paid a fair wage and helped people out, but just actually expected people to DO THEIR JOB without taking stuff that they are not actually entitled to. They showed up because he wouldn’t pay a fair wage, subjected his employee(s) to miserable working conditions and was just contemptuous of anyone in trouble or any human emotions.

                  None of that is in evidence from the OP or Yorick (or any of the other people saying that this employee is out of line.)

            1. Colette*

              But they sell it for $1.50. If they never run out, it’s not an issue, but they can’t sell it if she eats it.

              Maybe she’s a good enough employee that she’s worth keeping even though she’s eating more than she’s allowed to – but I wouldn’t bet on it.

          2. James*

            I worked at a place like that–free drinks, food was at cost. It was considered acceptable to take money out of the tip jar and buy food with it. Mostly pizza, but that’s a whole other thing (we were teenagers, there were some rivalries); if someone got $1.50 in tips and used it to buy fries that was their call.

            Every day would be a bit excessive. But once a month would be considered normal and appropriate.

            It also would have been considered acceptable to buy fries, but not make them during your lunch/dinner break. Food service ebbs and flows, and sometimes you have a minute to eat a quick snack (and sometimes you really do need it, either due to physical hunger or because you need the brain break after a big rush).

            If my boss got upset about me eating $1.50 worth of fries at an odd time, given the realities of that sort of work, I’d probably look for alternative places of employment.

        1. Observer*

          I see that most of the commenters here are looking at the situation from the owner’s perspective,

          The fact that you see that as a problem is a problem on its own. The fact that someone owns a business doesn’t make them some sort of rich fat cat not worthy of consideration.

          (I’m guessing because they’ve never had to take one of these jobs themselves.)

          You clearly don’t know much about the demographics of this site. You also clearly have not been reading the comments. Lots of the people who think the employee is out of line have mentioned their own experience in jobs like this.

          The fact that the owner sees a restaurant employee eating a few cents’ worth of extra food now and then as “stealing” suggests that her situation isn’t that different from the one I described.

          Actually, it’s a totally different situation and the fact that you can’t see the difference doesn’t lend your position any credibility. But it is part of a pattern of ignoring facts. Because, in fact, *your description* of what the OP says is totally NOT what the OP ACTUALLY says both in the original letter and in later comments.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I would really like to know what these tasks are. If its something critical, like ignoring customers, not cleaning stuff properly, or not answering the phone, that’s totally different than just giving her busy work tasks. I’d like to know if the OP has an “if you have time to lean you have time to clean” mentality. Because if that’s true you’re going to piss your employees off. Sometimes there just isn’t enough stuff to do if its too slow. And there’s only so much cleaning you can do.

      I also want to know how he knows that the chips were not part of her earlier meal, that she didn’t finish before. How often is this happening and when. How long is her shift. If she is working 12 hours, let’s say 7-7 and you only give her a break at 12 of course she is going to be hungry and needing something to eat later, especially if she’s been busting her but. And the soda thing is really nit-picky. When I worked in food service we were allowed as many drinks as we could drink.

      1. Paris Geller*

        OP has answered most of these in the comments — here longest shifts are six hours with hour break in between, & the drinks are bottled, not from a can.

        1. Paris Geller*

          Meant six hours as in three hours, break, then another three hours. Not a six hour shift, break, and another six hours.

  55. Lusara*

    For LW3, do talk on the slower side and/or pause quite a bit while you are speaking? If this many people interrupt you, it could be that your speech style suggests you have finished and are waiting for a response.

    The converse to this is someone who uses short pauses, so they get accused of not letting anyone else get a word in.

  56. Eileen*

    I have ADHD and interrupting/finishing sentences is a hallmark trait, especially if I’m not on the right dose of medication. After seeing a psychiatrist (not a luxury everyone has) I’m now able to filter myself enough to where it doesn’t happen, probably a great relief to coworkers like #3.

  57. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW1: Allison’s counsel is astute and you need to maintain perspective; however, it’s not petty to be concerned if an employee is eating the merchandise that you need to sell to keep the business profitable so your employees have jobs. And it’s not petty to be irritated if you have set clear rules and somebody keeps pushing against them. Like the one person in the bunch who gets away with *always* being 10 minutes late while everyone else is scrupulous about being prompt. A lot of people would say let it go, but it can nibble at morale.

  58. DiplomaJill*

    Once when my boss interpreted me YET AGAIN I re-interrupted, “Oh, I’m sorry, did the end of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?”

    And it was soooooo satisfying to just put it out there. I don’t remember what he said. Nevertheless, satisfying!

  59. Anonymous Today*

    OP #3: “I don’t like being interrupted when I’m speaking, and it seems that EVERYONE interrupts me. I am a retail store manager …”

    Maybe they monologue; speak way too slowly/pause for too long; or they are telling staff something they already know and it makes the listener impatient.

    I think the OP needs to listen to themselves or, even better, provide an example to a friend and have them critique it.

  60. lifesempossible*

    #2 question and answer are totally off-base!

    What is the evidence that Tina is mishandling policy, other than the OP’s feelings? Allowing remote and hybrid options is already a huge step. If management has an issue with how she’s handling things, it is management’s job to address it!

    At my previous job, the Covid coordinator (safety director) would barely address her personal views for this reason. She took extra steps for the sake of the company, beyond what she personally would do in her private life. At most, you could raise the question to management. I’m also confused at what else OP thinks needs to be addressed?! It is possible that OP has suggested things that are not feasible, or disrupt the work environment too much, or are unnecessary based on the CDC guidelines. That doesn’t make it Tina’s fault for not implementing it. Do we even know if she is the sole decision-maker?

    Alison is already making assumptions when she presents the parallel example of contraception counseling. I could absolutely counsel someone about birth control options, despite me being against hormonal birth control. The professional atmosphere is one in which people can separate personal views from professional standards, AND knowing that individuals are free to make choices that are different than what I would choose. So in what way is Tina being unprofessional?

  61. cleverleper*

    I am a chronic interrupter, and I have had to do a lot of work to overcome that. I’m not doing it because I don’t care about what you are saying or I think I know better, I do it because I have ADHD and literally cannot stop myself sometimes. I’m not saying the interrupting employee has ADHD, but they might, or there might be another reason they have that habit. Maybe that’s the norm in their personal life, how they grew up/were socialized, etc. I know it can be annoying, but I’m betting it’s not done with ill intent.

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