the confetti, the playwright, and other stories of revenge on jerks at work

Recently I asked you to share stories of times when you triumphed over a jerk at work. Here are 11 more of my favorites (part 1 was last week).

1. The revenge

“I work in engineering, and I had a program manager Todd who had risen through the ranks on his ‘business savvy,’ which turned out to mean ‘bullying every young engineer on his team and relentlessly cutting corners on quality.’

He came by my desk on Tuesday and asked me to run a test by Friday. Not only would this have been a crazy workload, but it was logistically impossible – the required parts to run the test wouldn’t show up for a week. (Think like, running a test of how quickly a car can stop … without installing the brake pads.)

Todd sends me an email that says, ‘I think of you as someone who is committed to the success of our project, and I would hate to change that impression. Unfortunately, that is not a delay we can absorb. I have you penciled into this meeting with [Big Boss] on Monday to report the results of the completed test.’

So I’m like, okay, you know what? Fuck you, Todd. I confirm via email that he wants me to run the test without brake pads and he says yes. I bust ass to run the test without brake pads on Friday and of course it fails miserably. I send a picture of the literal debris to him on the same email chain and go immediately to happy hour.

Monday morning I come in to an angry ‘we need to get to the bottom of this failure’ email from Todd. I ignore it. Straight to the meeting with the big boss. I’m like ‘hey guys, I’m so sorry but I haven’t had time to pull together a slide deck since the test was just run on Friday afternoon. I do have some pictures and schedule updates to share, so Todd do you mind actually pulling up that email chain?’

I explain what happened in the most neutral way possible. Big boss is immediately like … ‘wait wtf why didn’t we wait for the brake pads and do this right?’ I respond that decision was direction from the program rather than a technical decision, so Todd would be better positioned to speak to it. Sweet revenge. He never asked me to cut corners again, and ended up leaving ‘for another opportunity’ like six weeks later.”

2. The outing

“Years ago I was working for a new group of attorneys – at the same time as my mom was undergoing chemo treatments. Suffice to say, I was super stressed all the time, which took its own toll on my immune system, so I ended up sick myself quite a bit. One of the attorneys actually suggested that I was sick ‘all the time’ because I was out ‘partying too much.’ None of the attorneys knew anything about my personal life, mostly because they never would ask, so he had no idea how insulting this was. Later that year I was fired.

Two years ago I ran into the ‘you party too much’ attorney who was out at a bar with his wife. I had DREAMED of this day for years. I walked up to him and was SUPER nice initially, said it was nice to see him, etc, and then said since I didn’t get to say goodbye to him when I left the firm abruptly, I had to address something he had said to me. He meekly asked, ‘Hope nothing bad?’ I said he had suggested that I was sick a lot because I ‘partied too much.’ His wife is now VERY interested why her husband had been talking to me about partying, I’m sure. I explained that in fact, I wasn’t partying, I was dealing with a stressful job with a bunch of assholes while my mom was undergoing chemo treatments. His face went WHITE at this point as he stammered that he had no idea. ‘And that is exactly the point,’ I explained, ‘you don’t know what is going on in someone’s life. You’re an asshole.’ I have never felt so vindicated in my entire life as I did in that moment, and in front of his wife no less. It was entirely worth the wait.”

3. The hidden scrubs

“OK this is SUPER petty, but I worked at a place that required (and provided) scrubs for us to wear at work. One of my coworkers always made a big deal about weight, fitness, diets, etc (both hers and others) in a way that was excruciatingly boring and also rather offensive, since she was always commenting on what other people ate and did. She loved to brag that she was the only who could fit in the smallest size of scrubs (XXS). So a few of us started to take the extra XXS scrubs and hiding them in the dirty laundry bins, just to make her think that other people were also wearing the tiny scrubs. It worked. She was paranoid and started cornering people to figure out who else could POSSIBLY be wearing that size, because clearly ONLY SHE could be thin enough for it. Everyone denied wearing the scrubs, which only made her more paranoid that someone was thinner than her and HIDING it from her.”

4. The reset button

“I worked at a small photomat in their digital department. One of the negative scanners went down on a regular basis. One day, I was (literally!) elbow deep in this thing, sitting on the floor trying to fix it from the inside and the owner came back and just started yelling about delays and how this was unacceptable and how we were all incompetent, and a bunch of other stuff that wasn’t even related to the negative scanner I was working on. He was bellowing at the top of his voice, turning red, spit flying and blocking the doorway to the glorified closet that I was in.

I kept working while he hollered. He finished with, ‘AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?!!’ and I took a deep breath and turned to look at him, arm still fully in this piece of equipment and said, ‘I’m sorry, could you repeat that?’

And he just… deflated. He sputtered a little and walked off without repeating himself.

Luckily/unfortunately, it didn’t cost me my job and I didn’t fix him. (I did fix the scanner.) He still yelled at people and once made the mistake of doing it in front of a high-volume customer who pulled his business on the spot but that was somehow also our fault. But it was really satisfying to find the reset button on him in that one moment.”

5. The confetti

“I worked with a lovely woman, Timid, who was a touch shy, introverted but an extremely hard worker who loved to dot her i’s, cross her t’s and follow the rules and processes, which was good and necessary for her job. She was actually very bright and fun to talk to once you got to know her.

Her immediate supervisor was, in comparison, a gregarious woman, Curly, who could veer into bullying and she used to get on Timid’s case. She once told Timid, a childhood cancer survivor who still suffered the effects of her recovery (migraines to start) to ‘get over your booboo’s’ when a friend of Curly’s got breast cancer and apparently was a model patient. She was just not very understanding of who Timid was and could not relate at all to Timid’s careful, measured work personality. It brought out the inner bully lurking in Curly that was not publicly visible with previous owners of that job.

Part of Timid’s job was to hole punch materials in order to file it in binders. She carefully saved all the confetti from the hole puncher, in envelopes, for months. I’m not sure what her initial plan was for the confetti but one day, she figured she had saved enough. Timid called me over to her desk and we brought out all the confetti-filled envelopes over to Curly’s desk, who was on lunch, and dumped the confetti all over Curly’s desk, in her desk drawers and in her shoes. It was everywhere.

Then we quietly returned to our desks.

Oi, Curly’s cries of outrage were delicious. And she never once suspected it was Timid.”

6. The proselytizer

“As a student worker, I had a fellow student who was obnoxious about their religious beliefs, or rather the lack thereof. This student was aggressive about their atheism, constantly being antagonistic towards our peers who were religious by trying to argue with them about why their religions were wrong and loudly going on rants about why people who are religious are unintelligent. I was never a target of their attacks, as I am also not religious, however I did not agree with their actions. Right before I left that job, I used their information to sign them up for every ‘contact me with more information about your religion’ service I could find. Catholicism, islam, even things like scientology – if there was a mailing list they were on it. I don’t know what ended up happening, but I like to imagine their fury as their inbox was filled with informational pamphlets and their phone inundated with spam calls.”

7. The name

“At an old job, a peer of mine (who happened to be a major jerk) and I had very similar names – let’s say his name was Dan and mine was Dana. He always mispronounced my name with a short A even though I told him over and over that my name was pronounced with the long A and sounded like Day-na instead of Dan-na.

After months and months of me and everyone else at work correcting him, and him ignoring us, I began mispronouncing his name on purpose, calling him ‘Dane’ instead of Dan. I haven’t worked there in a few years, but from what I hear from a friend who still works there, Dan is still known as Dane around the company.”

8. The perfect response

“I used to work at a university, and every year there would be budget crunches, and the faculty would have to decide where the cuts would come from.

Most of the faculty loved me. I provided their IT support and I knew all of my users well. Most of the time, I’d worked with them enough to know exactly what they needed to get back up and running.

However, one Professor in particular didn’t like me, and so every time budget constraints would come up, he’d say something to the effect of ‘The university offers central IT services, and they’re very good and very responsive. We don’t need to have our own IT person.’

Officially I wasn’t supposed to know this, but I was close with a number of the faculty, and they’d shared his rant with me. I never said anything about it, just kept doing my job though.

Finally, it was my last day at work. I was packing up all my stuff and moving to my new job. The professor who was always talking trash came running down the hall, stops in front of me and tells me he has a huge emergency.

He’s about to give a grant proposal in front of a bunch of House/Senate members, and none of his formulas were showing up! The entire presentation was worthless, as all the math to prove anything wasn’t displaying.

So I told him (his name was Richard, and he always wanted to be called Richard). I said, ‘Well Dick, I’ve heard that the University offers wonderful central IT services. I’m sure if you call them now they’ll be with your shortly. Have a nice day!’

He turned beet red, spun around on his heel and slammed his door shut.

The best (or worst) part of it was I knew exactly what was wrong. He’d used some random Japanese font that allowed him the characters he needed for his formulas. I had a copy of the font sitting on a flash drive in my office. I could have fixed his problem in 20 seconds, because I’d seen it before. I think the first time it took me days to figure out.

As far as I know, he had to cancel his grant proposal.”

9. The referee

“I referee soccer games on the weekends for extra cash and have been doing it for over 20 years since I was 14. I had been assigned a three-game set in which i was supposed to do one as the center official and two as the line official, which is typical and I can do with no issues. On that morning, the ref coordinator told me that one of the other refs was not going to show up and that I would have to two games. Ok, no problem i can handle that. Well, the third person never showed so I was stuck doing all three games by myself with no help. At the time I was 23. The ages for the games were 15, 16 and 17-year-old boys. Not exactly slow paced games and there is no time in between them for me to rest, go the bathroom, or eat so the last two games were late getting started with just me. Parents weren’t happy but not much I could do other than my best in the situation.

I managed to get through the 15 and 16 games with little to no controversy but the 17-year-old game started off with the coaches pissed at me that I was late and by myself. Again, not my fault or something I could control. We start the game and I was exhausted. It was a tough game and everyone on the field expected that I could see everything that normally other refs would be responsible for. The parents were horrendous in yelling at me, which in turn made the boys yell at me. I told the coaches at halftime to deal with the parents and they didn’t. There was a situation where the ball may have gone over the goal line but there was no way i could call a goal without my assistant ref in the situation so hell broke loose. I finally blew my whistle and called the coaches on the field and said either all the parents leave and go to their cars or I was leaving as I was not going to take the abuse anymore. I went to the sideline and sat down and drank water. Needless to say, the coaches kicked all the parents out and I restarted the game to a quieter field and managed to make it through the rest of the game. It felt soooo gooood to kick those parents out and showed the kids on the field that I wasn’t going to take their shit without repercussions. I called the ref coordinator to explain what happened before i wrote my report. The teams got a fine for their behavior and abuse.”

10. The playwright

“I was a fiction department buyer at a huge, posh bookstore where management decided to ‘centralize’ buying, despite the differences in markets between us and other stores in the chain, like airport outlets and small town booksellers. The quality and quantity of our stock declined rapidly, meanwhile my boss told me my new job role was to ‘dust and serve customers.’ Several of my customers were not happy with our range, and I did my best charm offensive to encourage them to complain directly to management — which is how my boss and the new buyer had to face up to Tom Stoppard telling them that the drama section was a disgrace.”

11. The correction

“This one wasn’t exactly a jerk, but in my first real career job, my manager had a rather pessimistic outlook on life. Most of the time, he was a supportive and great team member who added a touch of the amusingly dour to our group while respecting our more optimistic viewpoints. But every now and then, he would fall into a day-long sulk, including really pessimistic rants to others about how much everything stunk. It would end up casting a real Eeyore-like doom and gloom pall over our normally cheerful office for the entire day. Everyone knew, and everyone hated it. The rest of the team were all women, and it bothered me from a gender standpoint as well.

Anyway, one day he was going off on one of his ‘the world sucks and is awful’ rants and I looked him dead in the eye and responded, very matter-of-factly, ‘Well, we all just have to be adults and pleasantly deal with unpleasant things sometimes. Can’t make them other people’s problems.’ Then I walked off.

I was maybe a year into my first job, barely out of college, and he had at least 20 years’ worth of experience on me on top of being my manager … but it actually, somehow, worked. From then on, if he was in a bad mood, he would just excuse himself to go work on a solitary projects. If he found himself taking his bad mood out on others, he actually apologized for his mood and would refocus on the topic at hand (he really wasn’t a jerk.) It noticeably improved the workplace.”

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. Asper Usual*

    “which is how my boss and the new buyer had to face up to Tom Stoppard telling them that the drama section was a disgrace”


    1. AdAgencyChick*

      There are so many candidates for favorite here but I think I gotta give it to this one.

    2. Friday Nuggets*

      Sorry would someone mind explaining this one a bit? What’s a buyer? Why was the centralization so harmful? Was this like a small franchise bookstore and they couldn’t select their own books any more, so a famous person in the neighborhood like Tom Stoppard complained, and that’s what makes this bad for management? Really not getting this.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        A buyer is the person who picks what books a store will carry, and centralized buying means all stores in the chain get the same books. There’s a different shopper demographic at OP’s bookstore than other locations (like at airports) and they therefore got a lot of complaints about their book selection – and OP made sure that all those complaints went to management so they got a flood of complaints that otherwise would have been handled in the store and not escalated.

        1. anonymath*

          Yep, exactly, and in response to Friday Nuggets, centralization isn’t necessarily bad if they take into account customer segmentation (different audiences at different stores). Treating the university neighborhood the same as the airport will not succeed.

          1. Red 5*

            And almost every Borders employee kept telling home office EXACTLY this for years as they circled the drain… did they listen? Well, when is the last time you bought something at Borders?

            I really miss that place, but corporate had nobody to blame but themselves.

        2. A New CV*

          Having worked at an actual airport bookstore where every month we had to call and remind the centralized buyer that yes, we do need many more travel books than the mall stores…. It only works when it’s done sensibly.

      2. Mstr*

        The buyer is the person who selects/curates the items to stock the store. Presumably in this case they care a lot about books/publishing & would recognize Tom Stoppard as an arbiter of taste & be embarrassed.

      3. WellRed*

        When Borders was acquired by a birminggam, Ala. chain, there were definitely some hiccups. My northern New England location was stocking copies of magazines like (made up) Alabama Monthly, not a big seller for us.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          When the locally grown big box hardware and building supply company (Eagle) was bought out by the North Carolina spawned Lowe’s, one group they eliminated was the local buyers. All the sudden we were seeing plants that would be perfectly happy growing in the midwest and south showing up in the stores here near Seattle. Things like bermuda grass and kentucky bluegrass, heirloom tomatoes, and the like.

          It took years for them to get it sorted, I only go there for work (we have a card there and it’s literally a block away) or if what I want in out of stock at Home Depot.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Shakespeare in Love? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead? I wish I didn’t know what those were so I could see them again for the first time. You’re really in for a treat.

          1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

            Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow? I guess Im not completely unfamiliar with some of his work, just not really my cup of tea I guess.

            1. MM*

              His screenwriting is very different from his playwriting, for what it’s worth. He’s done some very big commercial films (he worked uncredited on Indiana Jones and I forget what else–something in my memory is saying Pirates of the Caribbean?!), some cult classics like Brazil, and then all his plays are postmodern meditations on literary history and math and the problem of ever really knowing another person (also death).

              When you know he had a hand in a film you can often discern his influence underneath, so to speak–not necessarily in the language or dialogue, but in some of the story architecture–but actually one of the things I appreciate about him is he seems remarkably unsnobbish for someone who writes the kind of things he writes. I dunno if he just loves a big Hollywood spectacle or if he likes doing a job of work for someone else without having to live up to his own legend or what.

            1. Kit*

              You don’t, but it might have been clarified by saying that the LW’s job*s* were to dust and to serve customers. The comma would be another way to remove ambiguity and confirm that the customers are not being dusted, merely served.

        1. TheMisreader*

          Of course. Why did I assume it was a colloquial way of saying “get what they need and get them out quickly”?

          1. AJoftheInternet*

            Because that would be awesome? “Cersei, can you dust this customer for me? He always jaws about his grandkids. Mattias, you need to get your customers dusted. You’re the slowest rep here!”

            It might be a colloquial term for murdering people though, so be careful where you deploy that.

      1. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

        I’m picturing a little poof of powdered sugar on customers’ heads as they walk in, and maybe pixie dust for the lucky few.

      2. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

        If they’ve been there too long, you passive-aggressively knock the dust off them.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Hahah, wow I read it the same way as you and honestly I just like didn’t even question it. Reading them as two separate things makes a lot more sense lol

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The next time we have a letter about a bad boss, a co-worker promoted over the letter writer’s head, and bumbling decisions, I plan to refer to them as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

    4. Katherine*

      See, if I were to walk into a room and hear that, I’d have to tell them to back up and tell me the whole story.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    Big boss is immediately like … ‘wait wtf why didn’t we wait for the brake pads and do this right?’ I respond that decision was direction from the program rather than a technical decision, so Todd would be better positioned to speak to it.

    I think I love you.

      1. knxvil*

        I heard it in Gilda Radner’s exaggerated Midwestern twang, saying it to Bill Murray (as their high school sweetheart characters, Lisa and Todd). The glory days of SNL.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      I have been in this position before. LW1 is my personal hero for getting Todd pushed out

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I so wish that could have happened here (bad decision-maker pushed out) a few years ago when technical decisions were managed by business people, with unfortunate results. Total envy!

    2. Elenna*

      The scrupulously polite phrasing while everyone knows that they’re (rightfully) screwing Todd over is the best part.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      Rats have nothing on engineers pushed into a corner by project management. Malicious compliance is second nature. As is *very* precise documentation when the need arises.

    4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I once worked technician installing software components. I had a boss who insisted on having me ignore the vendor’s instructions and just used the procedures that the previous version installer used.

      NOTE = software vendors often change procedures between versions.

      And so, our installs often failed, and had to be re-done. I wrote up an instruction sheet that began “do not discard the vendor’s instructions” and ended with “when this fails, refer to (vendor’s) instructions and begin the install over again, the CORRECT way.”

      Years later I was at a trade show and one vendor recognized my name — and asked where I had worked in the past. When I said the name of the place I had worked with the failed installs – the vendor called all the guys aside and said “HEY here’s a guy who worked for …..”…that vendor put out a huge cover page “DISCARD ALL PRIOR INSTALL SOFTWARE AND FOLLOW THIS…” because of that place.

    5. “Fuck You, Todd”*

      LW1 here – at the time, I was mostly really upset that the test had failed. Being a young engineer in an aggressive, male-dominated industry made me feel so backed into a corner, and this was one of the few “wins” I pulled off. So seeing all the support makes me feel like a badass. Thank you :)

      1. Littorally*

        You are such a badass. I’m in awe of how perfectly you handled that. You were scrupulously professional and just let him grab up enough rope to do the trick!

      2. AJoftheInternet*

        I think my favorite part is how you threw the problem at him and bounced. “Your problem, loser, I’m getting sauced.” Even if you were “tactically retreating,” power move.

      3. Luke G*

        I remember those days, of being more upset that “I had failed” rather than being upset that I’d been set up to fail. You figured out the absolute best way to turn it around :)

    6. Katherine*

      Todd was prepared to throw the OP under the bus, but the bus was missing brake pads and hit Todd before he could do it. I loved the OP leaving Todd to twist in the wind there. It’s classic.

    7. Good Vibes Steve*

      That’s savage.

      The spoken version of “per my last email” with all the bosses CCed.


  3. quill*

    Regarding the font, I do have to wonder how that specific piece of work had never looked at their presentation on another computer before!

    1. Esmeralda*

      Oh, not surprising at all. Especially in higher ed.

      My darling husband, a university professor and a very smart person, has no trouble whatsoever MacGyver-ing our various home devices and the connections between them, just last week freaked out the day before the first day of fall classes. He’s at the office and cannot get his course webpage to appear (if he’d use the university’s LMS there’d be no problem, but what do I know about making course webpages?). In desperation he calls me on the off chance that maybe I know someone or something.

      Me. “What browser are you using?”
      Him. “What difference does that make?”
      Patiently. “Are you using Chrome?”
      “Of course not, I hate Chrome”
      Excruciatingly patiently. “Well, that’s the only browser the university supports. You remember when they made that change ten years ago?”
      Quiet. “I’ll see if that helps”

      It helped.

      1. Caliente*

        Omg if I had a dollar for every time my husband is having some kind of internet issue and I say Are you using google chrome? Or every time I have to say Well try turning it off and on again. And I love to be met with I know! Well then why didn’t you do it instead of asking me?

      2. quill*

        Look I expected basic field competence from higher ed because I did my degree with a cohort that did a lot of lab work and also fieldwork, meaning we needed to be able to negotiate between smartphones (and professors genuinely surprised to get cell service out in the woods) and also lab equipment (my prof was NOT pleased when I announced that of course I could run the GCMS, the computer system it ran on had been in my kindergarten classroom.)

      3. Ama*

        Yup, last summer when a bunch of cloud programs stopped supporting IE including a couple we use for registration forms for our events for academics, we found out a surprisingly large number of brilliant researchers who do cutting edge scientific research were still using IE as their default.

        When we run events where academic researchers are presenting their research, we always offer speakers the opportunity to schedule a time to check their slides on our technical setup, to make sure everything works the way they expect it to (we did this for in person and now for virtual events). Maybe 1% of researchers take us up on it and it is always someone who doesn’t who has a video not play or fonts completely change.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Haha, that is because they either did not read your email OR because they put it off and put it off and put it off and now here they are, bereft, slide-less.

          More important things to do, which, sure, teaching and researching and writing are top priority but you’re not actually doing those things 24-7, take 20 minutes dude (excuse me, Dr. Duuuude) and just let the nice people running the program HELP you.

      4. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

        I work with faculty who absolutely refuse to use the LMS, even when bribed with stipends for workshops and assigned entire IT departments to serve them.
        But no. They wait until the day classes start, then vomit all their needs onto classified staff like me, thinking the robot monkeys will just transform all the procrastination and laziness into a masterpiece. In an instant. For 1/2 the pay.

        1. Rock Prof*

          I gained so much more respect for our instructional IT support and instructional designers (especially their patience) when covid hit and we went remote. In order to spread the load, I was designated as one of the faculty members to help other faculty get online (because I’m competent at our LMS and have taught online for years; also, I got a stipend). The questions and ridiculousness I had to deal with! Particularly the ridiculousness around people not using the right software, browser, format that was SO WELL DOCUMENTED!

        2. Fierce Jindo*

          There are good reasons not to use the LMS. The LMS allows the university to take over classes in the event of a strike or work stoppage (I’ve seen this happen at two different universities) and also means the university controls course content.

          When I first started teaching, senior colleagues added me to their restricted class websites so I could see how they did things and learn for my own classes. I then did the same for some grad students preparing to teach. Our current LMS doesn’t allow this—only enrolled students.

          1. Fierce Jindo*

            I meant to say controls access to the course content, not the content itself

            (although frankly, I don’t love how easy the LMS makes surveillance, either)

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I once had a professor who would type “Google” into the search bar at the top of the browser page, and then click on in the results. (It was always the top one.)

      Once on, she would then type in “Gmail” to go to Gmail.

      She would log into her gmail account to get the presentation files she had emailed to herself before class, so she could show them to us.

      The presentation files that she had created—and saved—on the very laptop she was using.

      Now, I loved this professor, and she was very intelligent and really knew her subject matter well and when the chance came for me to take more of her classes, I did so, and eagerly. But “technologically proficient” or “technologically savvy” was not how I would have described her. (Although, she definitely had technological proficiency of a different sort to figure out that particular workflow!)

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I had a professor who would type the “https://” in as well. It pained me to watch.

        1. Anonomatopoeia*

          So, I mean, I’m going to date myself here but… you did used to have to (before the s was a thing, so it’s been a minute), and also sometimes sites fail to load without that because of certificate-ing issues; I have had that problem as recently as maybe 3 months ago where just typing or whatever failed because it was https:// and the browser found an instance that was http:// and whose certificate was broken, instead. I feel like I’m about 1 more time of this problem away from just making my life easier by typing the https:// part.

      2. Caboose*

        I once watched a professor struggle to select a page of text, and was amazed when someone told him to use CTRL+A to select everything. And this would’ve been fine, seeing as shortcuts like that might be lesser-known, except that he was selecting a code sample from his own website, because it was A COMPUTER SCIENCE CLASS.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Oh you have no idea. I’m an MIT grad, in CS, and the overwhelming majority of my professors did not know how to use computers. Brilliant at designing algorithms, or building compilers, or whatnot. But sit them down in front of a pretty basic Red Hat or even Windows box, and they flailed.

      3. SimplytheBest*

        I had a previous ED who could only login to Facebook by clicking the link someone had once sent her in an email. No matter how many times I tried to show her how to just type in the web address, she insisted on searching her email for the link. Oh, and by search I mean literally searching. Like scrolling through all her saved emails. No using the search bar for her.

      4. AJoftheInternet*

        The worst I ever had was a man who searched for websites by typing the url…. INTO THE GORRAM PC SEARCH ON HIS START MENU. He had me there to consult a website design for him and…. man. I got a crash course in pitching a website to someone who was literally clueless about websites. Not sure I did a good job, but I finally “accidentally” got the mockup in front of him and he went, “Ohhhhh…. that’s real nice…”

        When in doubt, show them pictures.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      It’s surprisingly easy to have things fail at the last minute, even for the technical competent. Most conferences I’ve been to in recent years have people upload presentation files in advance for testing purposes.

      There’s fonts, drivers or extensions that aren’t installed on the destination machine, incompatibilities in versions of the presentation software, or not having the software you use on the destination machine at all. And if you don’t have the chance to check things on the destination machine in advance, you won’t find out until the presentation.

      The belt and suspenders approach is to embed fonts in the presentation file, make sure to export and check the presentation in Powerpoint (along with Keynote, Google or whatever other software you use), have a useable PDF backup of the presentation, and have separate backup files (in multiple formats) for all video. Which is a lot. For students, there’s also the issue that Powerpoint costs money, which means they might be making their presentation with free software like LibreOffice and exporting it to Powerpoint at the last minute, without the ability to check it.

      1. noncommital pseudonym*

        On this point, a friend failed to check his PowerPoint file on the system he was presenting in at a conference. He’d made the slides on a Mac, and the University was running Windows.

        Everything came through beautifully *EXCEPT* that it turned all of his bullet points into smiley faces. Much to his annoyance, he got called “Dr. Smiley” for the rest of the conference.

      2. someone*

        There’s a free browser version of PowerPoint that allows you to create presentations. I think it has all the basic PowerPoint features. I’ve used it to update slides in a shared presentation before.

        1. someone*

          Hit submit too early. If you’re using something like LibreOffice but need to present in PowerPoint, switching to PowerPoint online should give you a more compatible file.

    4. princessxena*

      This happened so frequently at the business college I attended that in our introductory communications class they taught all the students a tip on how to prevent this: if you are doing anything remotely fancy where you really don’t want the formatting screwed up, convert your powerpoint into a PDF. You can convert it back if necessary, and the end result is that your slides get locked into an image format. Your font won’t break, your formatting will freeze, and you don’t have to worry about font dependencies, which is especially good if you have something with a lot of complex symbols. The only thing it doesn’t work well for is embedded videos.

    5. WS*

      Entirely unsurprising, especially if different alphabets were involved. I worked in the international publishing section of a university, and while I was 100% the most junior person I was also great at fixing problems like that because I studied a language that uses a different script and had therefore been wrangling with this on every computer I used since 1994. And yet almost all the professors ran around screaming as soon as something didn’t display exactly how it had looked on their computer.

    6. Beth*

      I’m having flashbacks to dealing with my idiot ex-boss, back around 2005, who wanted to start doing client meetings with computer presentations. He ignored my hints that it would be a good idea to practice first. I don’t actually know how many client meetings he screwed up before he got the hang of it.

      (He had many other special moments, including scoffing at my concerns about cybersecurity when he was using the Starbucks wifi. There was also the day when he wanted me to order him a new laptop. When I asked for parameters and budget, he got irritated and snapped, “How much could a laptop cost?” So I priced out a high-end gaming laptop at well over $10k.)

      (I didn’t actually order it for him.)

  4. Gerry Keay*

    OP 11, I actually wonder if your youth and relative inexperience is part of what made him listen! Sort of a “from the mouth of babes” vibe.

  5. dogmom*

    I’m sure someone else has already suggested it, but can we have petty work revenge stories every week? They are just so satisfying! And Nos. 1, 2, 8 and 10 are just amazing!

  6. TiredMama*

    I’m sure XXS co-worker was obnoxious but I do think that was a fun way to handle it. She may have had real disordered eating issues that were made worse, and, in turn, if her discussing her weight made someone else’s disordered eating issues worse, well, then, they both lose. I think this is one of those times that a frank conversation would have been better.

    1. Person of Interest*

      I worked with a #3 once, she used to “complain” that a size petite double zero was too big for her and so her pants never looked right. Which, sure, but none of the size 10+ people in this office have any sympathy for you.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I had a roommate who was like XXS. So other roommate and I started taking in the seat of his pants when they were in the laundry. Just a bit every week.

        1. DivineMissL*

          I had once read a story that on a movie set, George Clooney talked a wardrobe mistress into gradually taking in all of Matt Damon’s costumes, a little each day, so he would think he was gaining weight; and then gradually letting them out again, over and over. I so want this to be true.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Hawkeye and BJ did this to Charles in an episode of M*A*S*H. They switched his uniforms to make him think he was gaining and losing weight.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Like The Twits! Mr Twit makes Mrs Twit believe she has The Shrinks.

          Deliciously repulsive characters. Roald Dahl. Highly recommend.

        3. New Job So Much Better*

          That’s where I thought this was going, she was shrinking the scrubs little by little.

      2. Not Thin*

        I was never size 0 but used to be fairly small but I only saw fat. I couldn’t help from thinking about weight, food, etc.. and though I tried to suppress it, those thoughts often bubbled to the surface and out my mouth. Others tried to point out that I was the thinnest person there but I was certain they were wrong. This continued until I met another woman much like me and we’d go on and on, “no I’m fat you’re thin” over and over. Finally, an exasperated colleague literally threw a tape measure at us and walked away.
        We ran to the ladies room and carefully measured everything and turned out we were exactly the same size.

    2. Littorally*

      Won’t someone think of the obnoxious thin people who judge everyone around them for not being as thin as they are???

      1. Not Thin*

        Most of the time those obnoxious thin people are really judging themselves. Agreed that it’s not fair to others and having been there, done that, it was my own perceived body issues I was dealing with and I truly didn’t want to think or talk about it at all. It’s complicated. I try to never talk about weight or size or bodies and I avoid the mirror and cameras. I’m glad that people now recognize that humans have bodies and they are all different and that’s ok. It helps.

        1. Littorally*

          As a not-thin person, I really don’t give a flying fuck if the thin person harassing me about my health is “really judging themselves.” They are openly harassing me, and they need to stop, and I have no obligation to be more solicitous of their precious fee-fees than they are toward me.

          1. Unkempt Flatware*

            I call this suffering by default and I refuse to do it anymore. I can have empathy for a person whilst also not tolerating their shit.

          2. feral fairy*

            Yeah, this is in the same vein as when there are discussions of fat positivity and someone always has to show up and say “it’s just as hard to be thin.” I wish that commenting on other people’s bodies and diets was off-limits overall and I understand that it is harmful to everyone. But if XXS was so egregious in their borderline harassment about their coworkers’ weights that multiple people banded together to do this prank, it must have been pretty serious. The OP acknowledges it was petty, but it also really sounds like XXS was a bully and also not someone who would have responded well to being told that their incessant weight talk is inappropriate and disrespectful. Many people struggle with body image and EDs but projecting it onto colleagues is not excusable.

            1. TiredMama*

              Agree but did their prank stop her? It sounds like it just made her more vocal and more obsessed. The prank made them feel better I guess?

              1. nothing rhymes with purple*

                And as we all know the only appropriate emotion for women who don’t wear XXS to feel is utter self-loathing at all times.

        2. AnonAnonAnon!!!*

          I’ve been that person. I have body dysmorphia and have been thin, fat, “average”, and now thin again. It’s absolutely wild how my perception of my body can change in response to what I ate yesterday, a number on the scale, how humid it is, what stresses I’m undergoing at work, and whether I’ve pooped recently.

          And absolutely none of this is anyone else’s problem, so I do everything I can not to make it their problem. My disordered eating and body image issues are mine to deal with, and I don’t need to be inflicting them on others. Full stop.

          So I don’t care whether they’re “really judging themselves”. Too fucking bad. Deal with it and get therapy like the rest of us.

    3. Angela*

      For real- That co-worker was mean, but there were better ways to handle it. As a short/petite person, finding any work clothing that doesn’t make me look like a kid playing dress up can be a real challenge. Especially if you want to have a professional look in the workplace. Nothing like trying to get people to take you seriously when the only clothes they have left are 3 sizes too big, and you feel ridiculous.

        1. what am I, a farmer?*

          Yeah, I thought this was going to go in to a a more borderline place (altering her clothes to make her think she was gaining weight or something) but “making her believe that she isn’t the only super-tiny person at the office” is pretty benign, imo

          1. Littorally*

            Right, yeah. And I’d condemn something like that. But it’s actually a very good kind of vengeance, because nothing at all was taken from her except her preening presumption that she was the smallest and therefore (in her mind) best person there. A rational person would not even have noticed that there were some XXS clothes in the laundry!

            1. MarsJenkar*

              Or if they did notice (say, they went to toss theirs and saw an “XXS” tag displayed prominently), the reaction would be more like “Oh, we’ve got more XXS scrubs in the laundry than usual. Good to see that someone else is using them.”

        2. Today*

          And scrubs don’t look professional, no matter how well they fit!! If people turned up to any other business place wearing clothing that was designed the way scrubs are, they would be under dressed everywhere that I can think of, including fast food outlets!!
          Scrubs only look professional, because we are used to seeing health professionals wearing them.

    4. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah I agree. Having an eating disorder isn’t an excuse to be fatphobic, which is exactly what coworker was doing, AND the proper response to someone being fatphobic isn’t to try and trigger their body dysmorphia — which is essentially what the LW did.

      1. mlem*

        How is making the coworker think they’re not the only super-special one “triggering their body dysmorphia”?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s nothing indicating the coworker has body dysmorphia or an eating disorder or any other condition. What we do know is that she was a jerk to others about body sizes.

      3. Caboose*

        I’m really exhausted with the assumption to every single fatphobic person has body dysmorphia.

        1. AntsOnMyTable*

          Seriously. I have even been in FB greats that are suppose to be a safe haven for fat people where the knee jerk reaction for so many is to defend the thin person by saying they have body dysmorphia.

        2. SimplytheBest*

          Yep, it’s no different than the old “that guy only bullies you because he’s secretly gay” chestnut.

          1. AGD*

            I had this exact same thought! Why is it so difficult to envision the alternative possibility that he isn’t gay but did grow up in a society that taught him to be extremely contemptuous of anyone he thinks is?

      4. NeutralJanet*

        Not only is there no evidence that the coworker had an eating disorder at all, there is certainly no evidence that she had such a serious eating disorder that even the possibility of other thin people existing around her was enough to trigger her.

    5. Paris Geller*

      I am so, so tired of commenters here bending over backward to excuse bad behavior because someone might be anxious/in therapy/having a bad day/ autistic/ put on the wrong pair of shoes that morning / the youngest child / any litany of reasons. Those things might be explanations, but they’re not excuses. You can be kind to people without justifying their bad, obnoxious, annoying behavior.

      1. Nanani*

        This. People with eating disorders manage to not be jerks to their colleagues every dang day.

      2. A Person*

        > Those things might be explanations, but they’re not excuses.

        This is a really important distinction that more people need to learn exists. Explanations *are* useful. But nothing excuses bad behavior toward others.

      3. nothing rhymes with purple*

        So true. And it’s always certain groups of people who get this defense. Well this XXS woman might be having X or Y issue so how dare larger people mind the fat-shaming she kept spewing? Well this guy who harasses women might be autistic! (that one infuriates me on behalf of some autistic people I know and love, but I digress). “How dare the people with less privilege not shut up and take it from those with more?”, is the basic underlying idea.

    6. Dahlia*

      No one was discussing her weight but her.

      Other people exist who may wear XXS. Their existence is not an attack on her.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Well said Dahlia. She wanted to be the only size XXS in the workplace. I thought body dysmophia was about not seeing your body correctly, rather than thinking you’re the only thin person in the world?

      2. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

        I know it sounds absolutely insane, but when I was at my tiniest I felt like an absolute failure whenever I met someone my size or smaller.

        I mostly beat myself up about it in private, though, and couldn’t give less of a shit about anyone else’s diet.

        1. banoffee pie*

          It doesn’t sound insane at all, too young to die. I understand that. I really hope you feel better about yourself now :) In this woman’s case, it’s hard to know if she was beating herself up about her weight or just being cruel to heavier people.

    7. Miss V*

      I’m sorry, but this is like the ‘oh, but they might have autism’ excuse that always gets trotted out whenever someone’s behaving like a jerk.

      Yes, maybe she did have an eating disorder. As someone who’s struggled with disordered eating myself I’m sympathetic- but that’s not an excuse to behave like that. Maybe there’s was a reason behind it, maybe she was just a fat phobic jerk. It doesn’t matter. Either way her behavior is on her, and it’s unreasonable to expect everyone around her to just put up with it.

      1. Baby Fish Mouth*

        Even if true, it doesn’t even make sense as a defense. I have an eating disorder, and I have never once called people names or harassed others about their size. Never. Not once. It’s a jerk thing, not an eating disorder thing.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Exactly. I’m a fat person, and I am not willing to coddle the feelings of straight-sized people whose biggest fear is looking like me. I don’t care how sincere that fear is. I don’t care about the pain it causes them. I am not the audience for it, and I will tell anyone who tries it with me to take a long walk off a short pier.

    8. a seyssel*

      I’m not a fan of it either, but I’m not a fan of any version of socially acceptable bullying. She sounds genuinely irritating, but their response was to exploit her insecurity by screwing with her head.

      I also can’t really enjoy the confetti one without knowing who had to clean up the mess.

      1. Becca*

        This. Honestly I laughed, because she was being really toxic, but at the same time I was uncomfortable with it. Clearly, without armchair diagnosing specifics, it triggered some sort of insecurity in her if she was harassing people trying to figure out who might be smaller than her. It’s certainly not unknown for people with insecurities or traumas to lash out at people over related things (that is, in this case she feels fat so she lashes out by calling others fat and insisting she’s the thinnest or whatever related thing might have been going on); I know of at least two cases personally.
        That isn’t to say the fat shaming coworker was in any way right or justified. I don’t even really blame OP and colleagues for reacting the way they did. When dealing with a toxic person sometimes it’s a matter of holding onto sanity however you can. But I’m not a huge fan of the “they were terrible so we can be terrible to them” argument either.

        1. Littorally*

          I’m really not here for this equivocation. Tossing a couple extra, unneeded scrubs in the laundry is in no way equivalent to directly harassing other people (who may themselves have eating disorders or body dysmorphia, yanno!).

          Even if someone is acting out due to mental illness, it does not make their behavior okay, and no one acting badly toward others should expect to be treated with kid gloves for it.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Giving someone the impression that they might not be the only XXS staff member is not bullying. Would it also have been bullying if another XXS staff member had actually been hired (which clearly would have had the same effect)?

    9. old biddy*

      This immediately took me back to junior high swim class, where we had to wear the swimsuits the school provided and they were color coded by weight. Swim class was the very first PE unit of 7th grade, so we had a crash course in changing clothes/being nude in the locker room and most of us were mortified to have people know what size we were, with the exception of a few teeny tiny popular girls who made a big show of looking for the smallest swimsuits.
      The ironic thing is that the swimsuits were that indestructible type of polyester which fits pretty tight anyway, so the itty bitty girls could easily wear the larger ones but not vice versa.

      1. Paris Geller*

        Oh man. Who came up with that genius idea??? Let’s take a bunch of seventh graders, so probably 12 & 13 year-olds right in the midst of puberty while they’re at their most insecure and give them color-coded swimsuits based on weight?? Yikes.

  7. Elle Woods*

    OMG, I love #9. Having attended dozens of sporting events over the years to watch my nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids play, I never cease to be astonished at how poorly some parents–and grandparents–behave.

    1. Wilbur*

      Probably doesn’t help that there’s always a small group that look at the situation and say, “One ref? SWEEP THE LEG KID”.

    2. Ama*

      My brother was a soccer ref from a pretty young age (in the youth league in our area they would let you take linesman training at 10 and start working centers in the younger age matches at 14), and he also was a late bloomer so looked very young right through high school. Before he could drive himself, my dad would sometimes go and sit in the stands to watch since the soccer fields were too far away to drop him off, drive all the way home, and come back. He always got a kick out of watching these parents take a look at my five foot tall, 90 pound brother show up to be the main referee and think they could push him around (my brother is the most obstinate person you have ever met, and the more you push the more he will dig in his heels — as a teenager this trait was at its most pronounced). But if he thought there was going to be trouble he’d introduce himself to a couple of the other parents as “the referee’s dad” which kept them on better behavior.

      I will say though, in our youth league if a ref was missing they would just draft parents (or siblings if they were old enough and played soccer) to do the lines and prioritize having the trained refs do the field duty. I did it a couple times for my brother’s games (the ones he played in, not the ones he reffed).

      1. Irish girl*

        LW 9 here, sometime the parents as linesman are worse than doing it yourself. They can only call in and out of bounds, not goals or offsides.

        1. The Dude Abides*

          The only thing that could make a parent worse is one who used to be involved at higher levels, and adopts the “holier-than-thou” attitude.

          Overall, the sport that gets it right the best with regard to respecting officials (and coming down hard on those who cross the line) is rugby. Rugby players on the whole understand that referees are often on an island trying to manage thirty people trying to beat the piss out of each other.

          Two years ago, a long-time referee who was accosted in the parking lot after a contentious high school playoff game. Luckily, CC footage from the school captured the whole thing. The player received a six-month suspension from rugby at all levels, and also lost a scholarship to a D1 program at a time where I can use my fingers to count the number of schools in the US that offer scholarships for rugby.

    3. Kevin Sours*

      I’m actually perplexed. In the leagues I refereed for coaches were absolutely responsible for policing their sidelines. Usually flashing a yellow got sideline problems cleared up *really* damn quick. (I can’t remember if I ever ejected a coach but I came close at least once).

    4. A Feast of Fools*

      Every time I see / read a “parents behaving badly at child’s sport event” story, my mind boggles anew.

      I played soccer from age 6 to age 15. So did my brother. Literally zero parents actually paid any real attention to the games. They were all socializing with each other. They’d stop every now and then when the players seemed to be moving more in one direction than the other (perhaps indicating that a goal was about to happen) and yell something like, “You’ve got this, Child!” Then go back to chatting and gossiping with the other adults.

      And it’s not just that we were the younger kids and the parents of 17- and 18-year olds were terrible. We played at locations that had 4 to 8 soccer pitches laid out like dominoes, so games were being played by kids of all ages all around us.

      This was in the early 1970’s. Somewhere between then and the late-1990’s, a generation of entitled people birthed a bunch of children.

      OR… I lived in some kind of one-off, super-polite community back then. I’d love to hear from other 50-somethings if their parents were over-invested in the sports they (the kids) played. At least to the point that the parents acted out in public. I know that there was often a lot of unhealthy pressure applied at home behind closed doors.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I did rec leagues and, for the most part the parents were chill. I’d say they paid attention to games but generally to cheer people on. Sometimes you’d get somebody a little too enthusiastic. Occasionally there would be problems, but I generally found that waving my little yellow piece of plastic got those sorted pretty quickly.

      2. Lady Oscar*

        I was born around 1970 and my parents certainly did not care about my sports in any way, and I don’t remember anyone else’s doing so, either. However, I also sucked at sports and was a girl and thus not playing the all-important Football. (Well, technically I was playing football, but, you know, the sort you play with your feet).

      3. Expelliarmus*

        I don’t think this is just a time period thing; my brother played baseball as a kid (ages 6-11) in the early-to-mid 2010s, and the parents there were also like this. Socializing for the most part but also cheering on their kids specifically.

    5. ZenApologized*

      I referee rugby, and (more so in the States than UK) sidelines can be a problem.

      I was doing a relatively high level College game in my area, and the abuse was gertting to the not fun stage. Ive been refereeing a long time, have a thick skin, so if I’m about to detonate the nuclear device, it’s bad.

      I called over the Director of Rugby of the home side, and told him that if I copped one more piece of abuse, I would stop the match and one of two things would happen: Either every single of the crows was going to be waiting in the car parkl, or I’d get my bag and go home.
      His not very smart reply was that he didn’t think I’d do that. “You’ve known me ten years. When was the last time I bluffed.”
      Silence, glorious silence for the rest of the game.

    6. MaybeMaybe*

      My nephew was playing little league/teeball at the age of 5. My heart was broken at his first game.

      After the game, as we were heading for the parking lot, we saw a little boy that was on the opposing team (he had gorgeous flaming red hair, so it was hard to miss him) leaving with his mom. Mom was screaming at the kid, loud enough for us to hear 5 or 6 rows of cars away. He didn’t hit every ball, basically wasn’t a perfect player at 5. Poor baby was bawling as he was dragged to their car.

      This was maybe 25 years ago. I was in my 20s and very quiet. If it happened in front of me today, I would’ve given her an EARFUL about how to treat your kid! I have to doubt the kid ever enjoyed the game after that.

    7. allathian*

      Yeah. At some school soccer games the ref has three cards. In addition to the normal yellow and red ones, they also have an orange card to flash at obnoxious members of the audience, who are then expected to leave the stands. The game won’t restart until they do.

    8. londonedit*

      I loved number 9 too! I used to referee football matches on a local Sunday league – grown men, this was, rather than children. So I at least didn’t have to deal with obnoxious parents on the sidelines (hardly anyone would actually turn up to watch these matches apart from the odd long-suffering girlfriend) but the teams themselves were often just as bad! Firstly actually getting enough players to be able to kick off was often a challenge, as people would be late/hungover/not bothered about turning up. It was extra fun when the late/hungover/not bothered chap was the one who’d been left in charge of bringing the kit. According to league rules, teams were responsible for providing the assistant referees – they didn’t have to be qualified but they needed to have some knowledge of running the line. Well, as you can imagine, that rarely happened. We couldn’t play with only one assistant, so if one team didn’t have enough people to provide a lino, or if neither team had provided an assistant, then I’d have to get the teams together before kick-off and have them agree that we’d play without assistants, that I’d do my best but that I couldn’t be expected to get every offside call right and I’d give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. Of course the teams would readily agree to all of this – until approximately five seconds after kick-off, when the shouts of ‘OFFSIDE! Ref! He was OFFSIDE! How can you NOT call that??’ would begin. I once had to get the teams together again at half-time and tell them that if they didn’t start behaving themselves I’d abandon the match. And that wasn’t even the time when I needed to be escorted back to the changing rooms by two other referees after I’d given a (clear) penalty in the 88th minute of a cup match. Can’t think why I gave it up…

    9. HotSauce*

      This summer I went to several of my 4-y.o. nephew’s t-ball games. The kids were aged 3 & 4, they’re not professional athletes by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the parents behaved like absolute savages though. I was lucky to be present when a pair of drunk parents were ceremoniously ejected from the game for screaming at the kids from the stands. This was one time where I actually experienced “and everyone clapped” and it was triumphant.

    10. KimberlyR*

      As a former pre-teen ref/teen ref, I loved it too! I usually had mostly decent parents but I had one game where they were acting like this. I hate confrontation and my voice may have wobbled but I sure did red card a parent and keep the game stopped until he got to the parking lot. (He kept moving about 10 yards away at a time, and then turning to look at me like “this is far enough”. I just patiently stared each time until he started moving again.) I hated it and it triggered my anxiety but I did it! And they were way less rowdy for the rest of that game. I just couldn’t let them harass my teen self and abuse me. Its a freaking rec game!

    11. EchoGirl*

      My dad has a story of watching one of my brother’s soccer games (his team was pretty supportive and non-cutthroat) and hearing a parent from the opposing team shouting something at their kid in Spanish that sounded pretty mean. He thought for a second that he must have misunderstood until another kid’s mom — a native Spanish speaker (she was an immigrant from Central America) — looked at him with wide eyes and said, “Did you hear that?”

    1. Squidhead*

      I met a real-life Dane (that was his name, not a nationality) many years ago and he was the creepiest creep that ever creeped. No connection, of course, but I laughed!

  8. many bells down*

    #3 is delighting me NO END because I worked with someone like that, and she got really weird anytime she thought I might be thinner than her (I wasn’t on a diet or anything, I just had a hormone issue that was making me underweight).

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I (a Person of Size) once fielded a complaint from a colleague who was DEVASTATED that she no longer fit in her size 0s and had to wear size 2. I just looked at her and said “Are you sure you’re talking to the right person about this?”

      1. SimplytheBest*

        I have definitely said that before (though not about size)! A senior person at my office made a crack about his salary to me, the lowest paid person on staff at the time.

        1. lailaaaaah*

          I once had a guy complain to me about how his salary wasn’t enough for him to get an e-bike, and could I look into completely restructuring the company bike loan scheme to help him cover his costs?

          He was the CEO and made £120000 a year, which I knew because I was the HR admin struggling to make it paycheck to paycheck on £19k.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          She was confused. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, that one.

  9. Keyboard Cowboy*

    My favorite part about #8 is that it’s standard to use LaTeX for that stuff, not random fonts that happen to work, so Rude Professor has doubly goofed. ahahahaha.

    1. Stephanie*

      #8 is definitely my favorite this round – everything lined up so perfectly (getting to throw the jerk’s words back in his face, it being the last day, knowing exactly what the issue is and how to fix it).

      1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        My favorite part of #8 is that my jerkass phd advisor’s name was Richard, NO NICKNAMES, and one of my major regrets from that phase of my life was that I never called him Dick.
        OP8, I feel like on some cosmic level, you did it for me. Many thanks.

          1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            I just had to, seeing as I am actually in a workplace where it’s appropriate…

            I’m a minister.

        1. Still Queer, Still Here*

          I had a colleague named Richard (funnily enough, at the same school where Jesus is the man happened) who was a DICK. My friends and I all called him Dick behind his back. He would do really obnoxious things, like eating peanuts around my peanut allergy and give me a hard time when I would move away. He was also the sort of guy who would start saying something really loudly and slowly, wait for complete silence, and then mansplain in this annoying af way as slowly and loquaciously as possible just so he could constantly dominate the conversation.

          I never got to call him Dick to his face, and I have REGRETS.

          P.S. so glad you’re keeping my line as the screen name. Warms my heart every time I see it :)

  10. The brig resident*

    I didn’t have time to read the entire original thread, but #2 reminded me of something.

    Back in my youth, when I was an idiot, I spent some time in the Navy brig for being an idiot. One of the guards was a 2nd Class Petty Officer and was a Napoleonic martinet (i.e., he was a short, slight glasshole) to the inmates. Plus he spent much of his time complaining about his marital problems to anyone who had no choice but to listen to him.

    After I got out and was working temporary duty in the Commissary while awaiting reassignment, who should come in but PO Martinet with who appeared to be his wife – a good assumption because one needed military or dependent ID to get in the building. It looked like they weren’t having a good day, so I decided to help them along. As I walked by I “noticed” him and breezily greeted him with , “Oh, hi PO Martinet! Is this the wife you b5ed so much about? Nice to meet you Mrs. Martinet!” and went on my way. The way she was looking at him, and the look on his face foreshadowed a Really Bad Evening for him.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      You reminded me of a time when I was in the Navy. My new shipmate was a geo-bachelor. We were on shore duty. He would bring his lates squeeze to various events.
      One day his wife is visiting him, and he brings her to an event. When she is introduced, another sailor’s little kid says, “That’s not the wife that was with him last week!”

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I worked with a guy (nickname = Two Car Garage, and other names).

        Girlfriend / fiancee #1 was outside the office.
        Girlfriend #2 was INSIDE the office.

        He got caught – man, he didn’t know how to philander… he had ordered tickets for a dinner show for Valentine’s Day through the office entertainment/discount program. Where he got caught – the person who normally handled those tickets/discounts was out of the office for some reason that week – and Girlfriend #2 took over the task for the office. And hand-delivered the tickets.

        She thought “WOW! I’m going to the dinner show!” then learned, her illustrious beau had someone else, and she wasn’t going.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        And how many times did I wish I had a small child with me to say inconvenient truths when I was in the Navy. Woot!!!

      3. Foxgloves*

        This reminds me of the time I went into a small, lovely wine shop with my boyfriend one Saturday, and the following Saturday popped in with my male bestie. On both occasions, I was served by the same assistant, and when I mentioned the unusual wine I’d bought the weekend before, she went “Oh, yes!! You were in here last week with your… [she realises she might be in dangerous territory about here] … um… friend!”. My bestie, seeing an opportunity to mortify me and have a bit of fun at the expense of the assistant, immediately went “Wait, Foxgloves, who exactly were you here with last week?!” with a shocked/ angry face, and I had to explain that he was DEFINITELY JOKING to the poor assistant while she looked like she wanted to DIE.

        I bought three bottles of wine I didn’t need to make it up to her.

    2. Forrest*

      >> Back in my youth, when I was an idiot, I spent some time in the Navy brig for being an idiot.

      This would be a great opening line for a novel.

  11. Mianaai*

    Honestly I think 11 is my fav here; while it’s not as extreme an example as some of the others, I really like that it’s an example of how speaking up can concretely make a difference and change things for the better

  12. OP#2 (The Outing)*

    #2 (The Outing) OP here.

    Just want to add: I was fired after I discovered that someone in payroll had mistakenly entered the info from my W-4 incorrectly, resulting in me owing the IRS over 6k in taxes. I was 29, single and nearly broke to begin with. I completely panicked and flipped out on the firmwide, national director of HR, who literally asked me if I would talk to my father the way I was talking to him. THAT REALLY HAPPENED. I asked him if he’d talk to a man his same age the way he was talking to me. It really shouldn’t have surprised me that they found a reason to get rid of me a few months later. The whole experience left me with some serious PTSD but I still hope to run into the HR guy one of these days.

    1. Anon for now*

      Wow. I’ve had a somewhat similar experience. I didn’t get fired, but the HR guy messed up payroll and then flipped out at me for having the audacity to be slightly curt about it in front of the attractive bank representative. Apparently I embarrassed him by not being excited about potentially missing my bill payments.

      He screamed at me for several minutes, told me it would be a big black mark on my record and that I needed to watch my step. I’m not actually sure how it was resolved, but I got the impression that when my boss heard about it he told HR guy that he actually can’t resolve his own disputes. Then the HR guy emailed me to say he’d decided not to mark me down, but he hoped I would think about how I spoke to people in the future. From the man who screamed at me so loudly the entire office could hear – because he made a mistake.

      1. Jay*

        I finished residency and transitioned to a fellowship in the same institution, which meant I was now employed by the physician group instead of the hospital itself. I dutifully filled out all the paperwork I was given by the department. The day I was scheduled to start work the physician group admin called me and said “oh, the medical department secretary didn’t give you the right paperwork so you are not officially employed. It will take one pay period to fix that so you won’t get paid until the end of the next pay period – four weeks from now.” The medical department secretary said she’d given me all the paperwork the group admin had given *her,* at which point I realized I was in the middle of a turf battle (this was later confirmed by a friend who worked in the group admin’s office). Meanwhile I was on the call schedule for the department and the teaching schedule for the brand new residents. I requested a meeting with my department chair and said “Just wanted to let you know that I won’t be starting for another month.” I explained what had happened and politely said I was not going to work until I could be paid, and I could use the month off to study for my boards. He went pale. The group admin called me an hour later to say I’d be paid on schedule at the end of the first pay period.

        At the end of the year I moved out of state due to my husband’s job and took a part-time position in another department of the same organization for the year – whenever I wanted to visit, I’d schedule a few shifts to pay my airfare and pick up some extra cash. I then returned to my original department. Since I was already employed, I was told I didn’t need to fill out any additional paperwork. I did not receive a paycheck. I called the same admin who told me she’d never been informed of my hire and it would take a month to process the paperwork. I took the announcement sheet to her in person (this was pre-email days) and she shook it in my face while she screamed that I wasn’t on the list of new hires. I turned the page over to ” department transfers,” pointed to my name and politely said I’d be happy to discuss it with the department chair again if that would help. My paycheck cleared my bank the next day.

        1. Becca*

          My first job forgot to give me paperwork and couldn’t figure out why my paychecks weren’t coming until I quietly asked, wait shouldn’t I have done some sort of tax paperwork when I started? At least it was quickly taken care of once I figured it out and I got a nice first paycheck.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      It sounds like you being fired was a good thing. This whole place sounds horrid!

      1. Caboose*

        I mean, I don’t think I’d even get to the point of shouting, because my dad is a very reasonable person! So, no, I wouldn’t talk to my dad that way, because I would never NEED to.

        1. quill*

          Fair enough but I’m sure my dad wouldn’t be an asshole about a multithousand dollar finance mistake either…

        2. Nephron*

          Yeah, my dad would not fuck up my life to the tune of $6K, so no I would not speak to him that way.

      1. bluephone*

        I’ve stopped being surprised at how many people not only have no clue at all about their salary (gross amount, net amount, etc) on a routine basis but then fail to notice any discrepancies. I know Crazy Ex-Girlfriend played it for laughs on an episode but you damn well know one of the writers had either made that mistake themselves, or had someone in their life who was all, “fiscal details?? Oh the Paycheck Fairy takes care of all that! Then the mortgage fairy takes the money out! It’s a great system.”

    3. nnn*

      What’s super weird about that is the HR director apparently thinks people wouldn’t flip out at their fathers?

      If my father cost me an amount of money that hurts and didn’t instantly remedy the problem, I would totally yell at him! I’d probably yell at him more readily than I would yell at someone at work!

      (I mean, I also fully expect that if my father did something that cost me money or otherwise caused me harm, he’d fix the problem immediately. And I’m sure he’d also agree that a father who causes their child harm and doesn’t immediately fix the problem deserves to be yelled at.)

    4. Middle School Teacher*

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say you were fired for being unprofessional.

      1. RG2*

        Um, yes. I think I learned at 24 to check with the IRS’s calculator/worksheet that I was withholding properly. It’s your money! OP, a 29 year old is fully an adult and I don’t think your age makes this as understandable as you think it does.

        That said, I do understand how going through the traumatic experience of your parent being very sick impacted your ability to react professionally/appropriately at work. I have *been there.* But I’m not proud of it.

    1. mcfizzle*

      Another company I was working with shared a project planning document with me, and I’ll never forget line 174 (the final line): “Make Todd the fall guy”.
      And… F you, Todd!

  13. TimeTravlR*

    Oh, Todd. I hope you have learned your lesson, Todd.
    Can I just say that was one epic takedown?!

    Also, “Can you repeat that?” goes to the top of my list to say to people who yell at me. It hasn’t happened in a long time, but I’m keeping that in my back pocket!

    1. Bostonian*

      I just laughed out loud thinking about how awesome it would have been to use that on my dad as a child.

      It’s multi-purposed!

  14. Littorally*

    #3 – I love it. Her ability to wear her scrubs was not even a little impacted but the idea that someone else might be wearing her same size was so, so terrible! Who even freaking notices stuff like that?

    1. Lacey*

      Some people get all their self-worth from what size they are. A friend of mine roomed with a girl who judged other people for being shorter than her. It was bizzare.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Like we short people don’t have enough trouble sitting on chairs without looking like little kids…

        If I could be taller, I would have done it by now.

      2. Killer Queen*

        It’s true. I have cousin who is obsessed with body size, like fat shames babies obsessed. She is slightly overweight herself so she constantly brags about her tiny feet (size 5) and tiny fingers (size 4). Even when she isn’t part of the conversation her tiny feet and fingers come up all of the time. I love her, but it’s a weird thing she does.

          1. Nina*

            they so do.
            Funny story, I found out last month when we were getting wedding rings sized why drinks my fiancé mixes hit me so much harder than usual – I say I want ‘a finger’ of scotch in ginger ale. He swears that’s what he made.

            I’m a M in rings for the finger you measure scotch with. He’d take a W. (ring sizes are alphabetical small to large…)

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Who fat shames BABIES?! That is legitimately unhinged. I hope a baby pukes on her soon.

          1. Killer Queen*

            Yeah it’s a problem. It’s been awhile but my brother and SIL had a baby about a year after she did. Her baby had acid reflux problems and was just naturally thin. My niece was adorably chunky. And she was always like “Oh those (my last name) babies are sooo huge! My babies are tiny!” Like wtf who even notices that?

  15. Adriano*

    Enjoyed most, except #6 about the person subscribing someone else to religious pamphlets right before leaving the job.
    If someone is being an ass at work, say something, or do something.
    And if you don’t, and leave, don’t tell us how you were very brave in doing something that ass will resent, but will never know it was you. In all likelyhood, all you managed is to “prove them right”.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Eh. Student workers are notoriously difficult to get removed or disciplined. I don’t think OP said anything about being “brave”, most of these are petty and therefore inherently not brave. They just inconvenienced a jerk and feel good about it. *shrug*

    2. Friday Nuggets*

      Ditto, this wasn’t just petty, it was not particularly inspired, and probably did nothing to teach the original person any kind of lesson – it probably reinforced in them the idea that being aggressively atheist was ok because religious evangelists are much more irritating – which is more of the existing stereotype anyway. There might have been slightly more poetic justice if they were subscribed to a bunch of other aggressively atheistic propaganda (like I don’t know, with a Maxist bent) to let them see how annoying it is, even if you agree with the atheism part?

      1. Manhattan*

        Yeah, I don’t get how this even qualifies as revenge. Didn’t that whole stunt just play directly into the person’s ingrained biases?

        1. NeutralJanet*

          It’s revenge because it’s making something bad (or at least annoying) happen to someone who did something bad (or at least annoying). That’s…pretty much the definition of revenge.

    3. Purple Princess*

      Agreed – especially signing someone up to Scientology stuff. That can escalate in really nasty ways really really quickly.. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

  16. Angela*

    #3- Not to excuse the coworker’s obnoxious and judgmental behavior, but I just find that reaction petty and in poor taste. Maybe it’s because I’m short and petite and finding any work uniforms that fit can be a real challenge without looking like a little kid playing dress up. Dressing property can help a lot with confidence and projecting a professional image, and a lot of times employers won’t carry the less common sizes.

    This applies to small and petite people who might get stuck with something 3 sizes too big, or someone who’s XXL and can’t fit into anything their employer has, and has to navigate an awkward workaround that sets them apart from everyone else. I don’t think there should be double standards about people feeling confident in dressing for the job, especially if the employer provides the clothing.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      They aren’t keeping her from wearing the scrubs they’re just putting the extras in the laundry

    2. Elenna*

      They didn’t take away Thin Coworker’s clothes, though, as far as I can tell? They just took away extra ones of that size, thereby implying that other people in the workplace might be equally thin. I have very little sympathy for someone who flips out just because other people have the same body size as them.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, it’s the fact that coworker was obsessed with figuring out who else might be wearing scrubs in her size that tips her over the edge into jerkitude.

      2. Miss Muffet*

        someone who seems to be going so far as to go through the dirty laundry bins to see what sizes others are wearing! Her whole behavior was so bizarre, she deserved a harmless comeuppance

    3. Esmeralda*

      But do you go around commenting negatively on other people’s size and making a big deal of just how tiiiiiny you are?

      No, you don’t.

      This twit did. And they didn’t keep her from wearing her size, or say one mean word to her — they just made her think someone else was also tiny. Very clever.

    4. Dahlia*

      She was literally getting mad about the idea of OTHER PEOPLE wearing the same size as her.

      Nothing was taken from her.

  17. Not Petty, Just Tom*

    I have zero point zero sympathy for the size xxxs scrubs woman. I also have less than zero patience for those of you who immediately jump to the mental illness/eating disorder card in her favor. Anyone who makes that big a deal over scrub size is an ass. Periodt.

    1. Littorally*

      Agreed. Poor little thin person, she must be suffering so much — whaaa?

      Also, thin doesn’t automatically = eating disorder. Maybe y’all need better lessons in how not to be body-shamers yourselves.

      1. TiredAlltheTime*

        Let’s not bring others down for trying to give the benefit of the doubt to someone. Yes there are assholes all over but it doesn’t hurt to at least try to not think the worst of everyone.

        1. Littorally*

          Are you applying that logic to all the jerks in this post or only the one harassing others about their size?

          1. TiredAlltheTime*

            This comment thread is about putting down the commenters who pointed out an eating disorder may have been at play. The tones in these two comments were unkind to those who simply thought of an outside cause for the jerk behaviour that may at least give others pause if they’re in similar situations.

            I agree that she was a jerk regardless.

        2. comityoferrors*

          You can give the benefit of the doubt to all the antagonists in this post, like you can do with anybody in the world – weirdly, I’m only seeing the thin woman given that.

          1. Caboose*

            Aaaand there it is. Maybe the screaming boss was having a really hard day too! Maybe the atheist had serious religious trauma!
            But only the thin woman gets people jumping to her defense.
            Wonder what that could be about.

            1. Becca*

              Eh. The atheist one occurred to me as well. In my experience it’s more common for atheists who come out of the sorts of religions that lead to trauma to have an “evangelical phase” as it were than ones who came out of milder religions or were never religious in the first place.
              And at least some of the criticism is less “but what about how hard person has it” and more “that wasn’t a great way for you to handle the situation” with the thin woman one getting the sorts and amounts of benefit of the doubt responses it did because she was the one most obviously acting in the way somebody with something else going on would act (somebody who was just bullying for fun, if such a person even exists, would not get that invested in finding out who might be thinner). And the atheist one did get “you didn’t handle this the best way” sorts of responses, but they were of a different nature because the whole story was of a different nature.

              1. Pepper*

                “the thin woman one getting the sorts and amounts of benefit of the doubt responses it did because she was the one most obviously acting in the way somebody with something else going on would act ”

                No, she’s getting the benefit of the doubt because, by being thin, she automatically has virtue, goodness, and relatability assigned to her by our fatphobic society. It’s just a little tiring to see people here insisiting on carrying that on.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah. And having an eating disorder or whatever is no excuse for being a jerk. It can explain some jerk impulses, but that’s it. As proven by a number of people with a history of ED who have posted in reply saying that the XXS woman’s behavior was inexcusable.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Bingo! She lost nothing–her scrubs were still there, and she wasn’t impeded from dressing in the scrubs that fit during her shift. She just didn’t get to lord it over everyone that she was the tiniest (and therefore best) person there. Bitsy can stay mad.

  18. Aquawoman*

    “constantly being antagonistic towards our peers”
    I first read this as “constantly being agnostic towards our peers.”
    But I think she should have reported him to HR, that’s harassment.

  19. Web Crawler*

    The Dan/Dane one reminds me of how I got my dad to stop misgendering me. This was long after I’d come out as a trans man, and everyone in my family was on board except my dad. So my sisters and I started using she/her pronouns for my dad. As I recall, this lasted 3 days before my dad got the message and started using my pronouns.

    1. paxfelis*

      I think I’m going to suggest this to my youngest, an NB, when their father misgenders them. Thank you for the idea, Web Crawler!

  20. Judd*

    RE #1: Malicious compliance is great, and can actually be useful in a lot of work situations. Alison should do a series on it.

  21. Warlord*

    My favorite is number 7, because I’ve worked with that obnoxious twit. Although, you should have gone to HR, because harassing people about their religion is a hostile work environment.

  22. Caboose*

    I also love Timid. I’ve had a few friends like Timid in the past (I’m so bombastic and over-the-top that anxious people never need to fear attracting attention on their own, lol), and they’re always great fun– especially when someone underestimates them. The gleeful chaos that a good Timid can cause…oh, it’s a thing of beauty.

    1. Web Crawler*

      As somebody like Timid, I appreciate friends like you. It’s not surprising that my partner is also loud and comfortable with attention- she’s also helped me with the occasional petty revenge plan.

  23. John*

    I don’t know if I’m on board with #8. It doesn’t sound like the professor was actively being mean or unprofessional to OP, just suggesting them as a budget cut for legitimate-sounding business reasons in a budget meeting where somebody had to be cut! If anything, the person who comes off the worst in that example is the other professor who leaked what was supposed to be a private budget discussion to OP – that’s wildly inappropriate! I really don’t think OP looks too great either – it would be one thing if OP was more qualified than the central IT, but it sounds like they just happened to see this problem before.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Oh, if you knew the politics involved in this sort of thing… There’s a good chance he was doing it to protect money elsewhere. And his behavior proves that the OP was serving a useful purpose. Centralized services aren’t always the answer.

    2. Jackalope*

      The mean and unprofessional part is that the professor was apparently trying to get the OP fired bcs of disliking the OP, while also gladly taking advantage of the services that the OP provided. It would be one thing if he thought that the OP wasn’t helpful and so never used their services. Or if he used the OP’s services and supported them. But it’s the hypocrisy of trying to get them fired while also bringing emergency issues to them.

      (And my experience is that part of what makes tech support [or any other similar type of support] so helpful is when you have someone who’s seen a wide variety of issues so they know how to solve even the random stuff that doesn’t come up very often.)

    3. Kevin Sours*

      He’s not necessarily more qualified. But there was no way the central IT was going to have the response time the professor needed. But that’s always the way: you are totally unnecessary until *I* have an emergency at which point you need to drop everything and fix it. Then you go back to being unnecesary.

    4. Anhaga*

      The writer didn’t include the full context, but what’s to be gained by not assuming that the writer had good reason for assuming said professor disliked them? That’s usually made very clear to professional staff by faculty. The power and territorial games played by university faculty are one more reason I’m thrilled to be out of higher ed, personally.

    5. Former Young Lady*

      Have you ever worked in university administration?

      The faculty who consider us “bloat,” and who offer us up as budget-season sacrifices, always seem to be the same ones who need us most in “emergencies” of their own making. It is always on a moment’s notice, and always because they assumed something outside their academic field (be it Excel, federal grant budget restrictions, what-have-you) “couldn’t possibly be that complicated” and they’ve made a royal mess trying to wing it.

      It was OP 8’s last day with that department. What would the faculty member have done if the emergency hit one business day later?

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Well, if it had happened a week after the OP left, he’d probably have yelled at Central IT to come down there IMMEDIATELY and fix HIS Very Important Problem – only to have a double-barreled fit when they told him that he’d actually have to wait his turn because they were swamped with OTHER people’s Very Important Problems. Point is, he would have realized that (A) the OP’s position really WAS vital and that (B) he was in the process of cutting off his own nose to spite his face. Frankly, he sounds like a very spoiled individual (yes, you can be as spoiled at age 50 as you can be at age 5 – there’s just much less excuse for it!) and I’ve no doubt that the OP wasn’t the only one chuckling at his getting exactly what he deserved.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, this. It is very exhausting dealing with the idea on a university campus that everything except faculty can be cut, but them. It’s a real toxic part of budget discussions at most universities.

        1. len*

          I mean, isn’t faculty the core reason for being of a university? It does not seem unreasonable to think faculty should be prioritized, especially since most universities are becoming extremely bloated on the admin side.

          1. Temperance*

            They can’t do their jobs without other people to actually make the office -work-. Case in point, right here.

          2. Green Beans*

            Oh, strong disagree on the universities being bloated on the admin side. Universities are being asked to do a lot more than they were even just a decade or two ago (provide mental health support, ADA accommodations, diversity/equality/inclusivity work, vastly increased tech demands and offering, increased calls to share their work, increased financial support concerns and avenues, etc., etc., etc.,) All of that has to be programmed and managed and *paid for*, and other administrative efforts have to then grow to support all the personnel and budgeting it takes to manage these new programs.

            Faculty in general are…bad at understanding the logistics of how things actually run. It’s like a traditional 1950s family, where the husband works, comes home, hands his paycheck to his wife, and the wife does everything else. The lights always turn on, because the bills are always paid, so the husband (faculty) doesn’t think that paying bills is difficult or hard. The house is always clean, food is always in the kitchen, his work clothes are always clean and folded, kids are always taken care of, and it all happens invisibly to him. Then when money gets tight, the wife gets a job, and the husband doesn’t understand why things should not be done to the same standard as before/outsourced, because none of what the wife does is difficult, because it always just worked.
            Then, when the system breaks entirely, husband thinks it is because of wife’s incompetence, moves out/gets a divorce, lives on his own, realizes he can’t do even half of it, and rushes into a second marriage with someone who will take over all the life admin work he can’t manage on top of having a job.

            This kind of thing happens in universities a lot.

            1. Former Young Lady*

              Exactly. You run into the problem where someone is such an expert in their chosen field, they’ve developed myopia about whether any other kind of expertise has value. So, when they expense things that are light-years outside of institutional policy, or when they make up their own HR rules on the spot, or when they sign a contract on behalf of the entire school without having the legal authority to do so, it’s inevitably some staffer’s job to clean the whole thing up.

              Mapping one’s own blind spots is never easy, but siloed academics can have especially vast swaths of uncharted territory. Higher ed is a business; Internal Audit, General Counsel, and Research Administration may look like “needless bureaucracy” or a “bunch of glorified secretaries” to such faculty. Those faculty are demonstrating a gross lack of sophistication.

    6. Lurker*

      While I appreciated it, the fact that he might have had to cancel his grant proposal kind of bothers me. Does that me he missed the deadline to apply for a grant? That the department lost grant funding? If they lost funding that makes me sad — there might have been other people who were expecting that for their research or TA stipend or something.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        And this is why you always make sure everything is working well in advance of your presentation. The fact that the guy turned beet red when he was presented with his own words, coupled with the fact that he’s asking the person he wanted fired to help him as they are vacating their office shows me what an ass he is.

        Lesson learned: employ asses, lose assets.

        1. Lurker*

          I’m not disagreeing that the professor was a jerk or that his lack of planning isn.t OPs emergency, but potentially causing the university to lose funding over a simple fix seems a little off. (I come from the NFP world – maybe academia is more laid back about missed funding opportunities.)

            1. Lurker*

              There’s no guarantee he wouldn’t have received it, either. But if you don’t apply you certainly wouldn’t get it.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Then it was on him to check his materials in advance and make sure everything looks right rather than waiting until the last minute and then running to someone who no longer even works there.

      2. biobotb*

        Given that he tried multiple times to make the LW jobless, I don’t see how the LW had the obligation drop everything on their last day to see to the professor’s livelihood.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. I do have some sympathy for others who’re employed by the university who might have benefited from the grant, but none at all for the idiot professor.

      3. Former Young Lady*

        Unless the university was completely dysfunctional, it is almost certain there were internal deadlines to have proposal materials reviewed by the appropriate administrative staff.

        I’ve worked with faculty who have tremendous respect for those internal deadlines. Sometimes emergencies still happen; when they do, we staffers move heaven and earth for those faculty.

        I’ve also worked with faculty who repeatedly ignored internal deadlines and then wanted us to make silk purses out of sow’s ears at the eleventh hour. Typically, no amount of toiling on our part could save their proposals. The professor who pulls this kind of stunt is seldom the one who gets funded, because the proposal is usually riddled with problems you’d need a time machine to fix.

      4. Green Beans*

        Nobody should be expecting funding from a grant that hasn’t even been submitted yet. Even grants that are regularly renewed can be denied – or someone can miss a deadline.

        Also, I have no sympathy for the faculty here. He was the one advocating for only using central IT; he can use only central IT. I’m sure the OP has disrupted their work many times to deal with faculty ’emergencies’ that should have been avoided with proper preparation. Some people don’t learn until things break, and if you’re dealing with one of them, you let things break.

    7. Super Anonya*

      As someone who works in higher ed, I want to give #8 the highest of fives. If you’re a staff member, you’ve had it Up to Here with faculty who think they can treat you like crap, then turn around and ask you for the world.

      1. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

        Had this happen to me the day my dad died but I was stuck dealing with a needy, lazy, clueless prof who demanded to know who my supervisor was (tenured department director) because I had the temerity to suggest all the people who requested my services proactively and professionally had my attention first.
        It was also the day my stone age university went fully remote in one day.
        So glad my supervisor shut that down, but sadly the prof still darkens my virtual workspace on the regular.

        1. Lady Oscar*

          Ugh, that sucks. Why were you even having to work the day your dad died?! A place where I used to work had a story (that I can neither confirm nor deny, but the person who told me it was in a position to know) that a graduate student who had been taking care of his widowed mother with cancer, driving her to her doctor’s appointments, etc., was told by his advisor, “I think you need to re-examine your priorities, and, right now, science should be your priority.” He re-examined his priorities and switched advisors to someone who wasn’t a sociopath.

      2. Srsly*

        I’m sorry you’ve had those experiences, but that is by no means just a given or blanket rule about academia and academics.

      3. Lady Oscar*

        This should really be a cautionary tale about how to treat the people who provide you services. When I was in academia as a scientist, in all my jobs I ended up pressed into service doing IT stuff because the real IT people were not available. In Job #1, the lab manager was a misogynist glassbowl bully who was completely technologically illiterate. After I was “too busy” (doing my actual job) to fix his desperate problems for him enough times, he managed to treat me at least vaguely appropriately. I’d have loved to be be able to mic-drop him like story #8.

        In Job #2, my boss was lovely to work for. He was courteous and appreciative of help and eventually finagled my job description to get me a significant raise when he realized that my salary wasn’t keeping up with the cost of living. As a result, I didn’t mind patiently explaining to him any number of times that he needed that his email hadn’t vanished, he just needed to click on “inbox” to see it again. I kept his computer running and explained about phishing emails. I claimed that I didn’t check my email or phone messages on evenings/weekends/holidays, but of course I did, and if he really needed help, I would call him back at any time day or night and talk him through a fix. At meetings, I checked his slides and made sure everything would work, and did the same for visiting speakers he had invited. If you treat your employees decently, they will go the extra mile for you, and if you don’t, well….

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Yes … Submitting a research grant proposal is a team effort. Respect all the professionals on the team, along with staff, students, and everyone else. Professors who don’t give respect don’t seem to get respect in return. Although the consequences may not be immediately evident, they often do arrive …

    8. Iconic Bloomingdale*

      I don’t see a problem with what OP #8 did. Based on the “budget cuts” professor’s recommendation, the end result was OP losing his/her job. And it may have been unprofessional for the other professor to leak that info to the OP, but it happened.

      At the moment budget cuts professor asked for OP’s help, OP was under no obligation to provide assistance. Yes, the OP’s refusal to assist and snarky comment was petty, but so what? OP was literally out the door and unemployed, thanks to that professor. If I found myself in that circumstance, I doubt I would have been in a mood to assist either.

      1. Lurker*

        Where does the OP say the budget cuts to eliminate their position were approved and that was the reason they left? They wrote, “Finally it was my last day at work.”

    9. NeutralJanet*

      OP mentioned that the professor did not like them and also was constantly suggesting them as a budget cut–while OP didn’t elaborate on exactly how they knew that the professor didn’t like them, I definitely read that as two separate, though connected statements.

  24. Delphine*

    I find these so energizing!

    I also don’t know what y’all are doing coming in here to criticize these people over their petty revenge stories. We all know they’re petty and probably ineffective…

    1. Salsa Verde*

      Yes!! Life is so unfair, and sucks so much, let people enjoy things!!
      These stories are giving me life!!

      Especially #2, my heart sang when I read that one – that is a BEAUTIFUL outcome that normally only happens in the movies – amazing!!!

  25. FrenchCusser*

    Yay for ‘Timid’ – that was exquisite

    Boo for IT person – as someone who works in Finance for a community college, all I can think is ‘you cost the college money, you jerk!’

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        And we don’t know what the grant was even for. Not all university research is for the Greater Good.

    1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Well now, the professor COULD have gone to Central IT with his problem – he just wouldn’t have gotten it resolved in time. And he was more than a bit arrogant to assume that the OP could have fixed his issue in time anyway (they could’ve, but he didn’t know that.) Hopefully, he drew a deep breath, realized that his own attitude and behavior had led to this, and, when he re-submitted the grant proposal, did so after having learned to treat the IT specialist as a valuable professional instead of as a piece of dirt beneath his feet.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      How did the IT person cost the college money? The professor was the one who waited until the last minute to check their work. IT person was literally on their way out (as in they did not even work there anymore). The professor cost himself money.

    3. biobotb*

      No, the professor’s incompetence cost the university money (assuming he would even have gotten the grant, which certainly wasn’t guaranteed).

    4. Chaordic One*

      IT person no longer works for the college. When the college laid-off IT person (apparently with the support of Professor Dick) they shot themselves in the foot and cost themselves money (the jerks!). Penny wise, pound foolish.

    5. Your local password resetter*

      Heaven forbid they’re not cleaning up after every jerk who kicks down at them.

    6. NeutralJanet*

      Nah, the professor cost the college money (or if you want to put a positive spin on it, the professor gave money to some other grant applicant that now had one fewer competitor). The IT person didn’t even work for the school anymore, how could they possibly cost the school money?

    7. allathian*

      Nope, the professor’s incompetence may have cost the college money because he had to withdraw a grant application. There’s no guarantee that the professor would have received the grant.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Guys, gals — I always found handling situations easy – as long as I had the correct mindset and mental outlook.

    “It’s best – if your direction is followed, and it leads to success. But not all is lost if it’s ignored, and someone else’s plans lead to abject failure. In such cases you can say ‘I told you so’.”

    Satisfaction with pride on the former, satisfaction and ridicule chances on the latter.

  27. GotaPenny*

    A million years ago I was the front desk manager at a small hotel. I didn’t have authority over the staff, more as a role to handle complaints and other issues. We hired a supervisor who would work swing shift (also to handle complaints, etc). He was older, from England with a posh accent and people instantly liked him. Except I discovered that the two young women who worked with him weren’t very fond of him. He was very authoritarian with them. They would have to ask permission to use the restroom, etc. I complained to my boss but he wasn’t seeing anything that really needed to be corrected.
    One of the ladies on his shift was really sweet and timid and would never ever stand up to him in anyway. She wore a sweater that had a fabric belt. Due to the fabric it would always slip and untie and she was constantly retying it. Somehow that bothered him and he picked up scissors and cut off the tale end of the belt and said “there now it’s not a problem.” The other lady on the shift called me to report the incident to me immediately. I called my boss who told me that we need a statement from the one with the belt.
    The next day I sat with her and told her that I am not allowed to tell her what to write. But she should write down what happened and how it made her feel. Like did it make her uncomfortable that this older man, who is a supervisor was that close to her, that he held out scissors to her, that he cut her personal property. She looked at me, smiled with understanding, and wrote down exactly what happened (there was video footage as well). He was in a meeting with our manager and HR and he stormed out of that office and almost broke the glass on the door. I was more than willing to work extra to cover his shifts.

    1. nothing rhymes with purple*

      He cut off part of her clothing. WOW. I am so glad you backed the young women up and made certain something was done about that … man.

  28. Florida Fan 15*

    I continue to hope that I’ll run into my retired former boss at the Wal-Mart so I can call him an asshole to his face. I won’t get the satisfaction of saying it in front of his wife, though, as she had the good sense to kick him to the curb right before he left (and kept the house).

    LW #2, you are my hero!

    1. Caboose*

      I ran into an asshole former classmate at Target once, and it turned out that:
      1. He did not remember clearly that he had been an ass to me, and was actually the one who approached me(???)
      2. He was not playing professional football, which had always been his justification for being disruptive and unkind during the class we shared– he didn’t need to know this stuff, he was gonna be a pro sportsball player! He wasn’t even going to a college that *had* a football team.
      I didn’t even have to say anything.

      1. Your local password resetter*

        1 is weirdly common. Apparently bullies don’t care about their victims enough to actually remember all the bullying they did.

        1. MaybeMaybe*

          I was actually approached on FB back when it was new, by a former classmate (I went to high school in the 80s btw) who bullied me in school. He was a football player, I was a bookworm. I was shocked.

          He’s actually a really nice guy now. :)
          And he posts the funniest stuff of all my friends lol.

        2. Bowserkitty*

          At my 10 year reunion I made amends with one of my main bullies, who didn’t even remember putting me through hell.

          He also didn’t remember the other 5-6 people who continued to shout at him for making THEIR lives hell. It was a nice moment of realizing I hadn’t been alone, but also…the delusion.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      My former toxic boss moved to a different state so it’s unlikely I’d ever run into her.

      But if I *did*, I wouldn’t call her an asshole. I’d just tell her the truth, “With more than 30 years of work experience under my belt, I can say unequivocally that you were the worst manager I have had the bad fortune to work for. I still have nightmares about you.”

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I once had a toxic boss (example: starting my annual review with “Why are you still here?”). A few years after I extracted myself from that job, I found myself once more on the market, and one company decided to interview me over lunch at a restaurant near where ToxicBoy still worked.

        We were just sitting down to eat when in walked ToxicBoy with a couple of my former coworkers. “Thin Mints!” he called out joyfully, and came over and GAVE ME A BIG HUG. I was so traumatized that I totally blew the interview.

  29. Sometimes you have to try*

    Been meaning to post on that thread but might as well do it here. I was a preschool teacher with a really horrible lead teacher – she hated me, ordered me around, blamed me when anything went wrong, etc. One day I was set the task of cleaning the chairs while the children were at music time. She stomped down the hallway and snapped at me to clean the tables, too. Without thinking about it, I said “clean the tables, PLEASE” like I would to a rude toddler. She stopped, looked at me wife eyed, and said “please.” She even thanked me when I was done!

  30. Chaordic One*

    Number 8 was just sublime. So perfect. I do so wish that I could have come up with the same kind of of clever, witty, response from when I was let go from a toxic dysfunctional workplace that still haunts me.

    I was let go completely out-of-the-blue on the day before our profit-sharing bonuses were to be paid and told that I was “resistant to change,” and after that no one in the office would speak to me. So I cleared out my desk and left. On a certain (probably unhealthy) level I do still sort of hope that I’ll run into my former boss and be able to make some sort of clever, witty, but insulting comment to him.

    One weird thing was that week was my horoscope which read: “When he served as Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi denigrated the cuisine of Finland. “Finns don’t even know what prosciutto is,” he sneered. At best, he said, their food is to be “endured.” He mocked the “marinated reindeer” they eat. But Finland fought back against the insults. In an international pizza contest held in New York, their chefs won first Prize for their “Pizza Berlusconi,” a specialty pizza that featured marinated reindeer. The Italian entry finished second. I foresee you enjoying a comparable reversal in the coming months. And it all begins now.”

    Some time after being fired, that boss retired from his position and the silence surrounding his departure leaves me feeling suspicious that he may have been pushed out, if not actually fired himself. Usually alumni from the nonprofit where I worked will continue to promote it after they leave, and so far there hasn’t been a “peep” from him promoting it. And no mention of any retirement party. OTOH, he probably retired with a big party (that wasn’t publicized) and a generous pension.

    1. allathian*

      Thanks for that post. The Berlusconi pizza is delicious. For once, a horoscope actually said something objectively truthful!

  31. Mr. Random Guy*

    I had a similar situation to #7 at work with two kids I supervise, Robert and Johnny, whose parents call him Jack. Robert started to call Johnny Jack, and I could tell it bothered him, so I yelled over “Hey Bobby, cut it out.” Robert got the point immediately and became so quiet, it was pretty satisfying.

  32. Still Queer, Still Here*

    I gotta say, I’m a little disturbed by how many people are looking to excuse fatphobic coworker. Last week, when I told my story about my homophobic ex-coworker (JESUS IS THE MAN), not one person tried to tell me that I should have been kinder because she a had a fervent religious conviction.

    What’s up with some of y’all having a double-standard on prejudiced people? I’m fat and I’m queer, and the fatphobia is way worse than the homophobia these days, mainly because even if you’re not aware of it, fat people are suffering from a culture that ostracizes them in a way thin and average people don’t see. I’ve been fat all my life. The only time I’ve lost noticeable weight was when I was so poor I couldn’t afford to eat regularly. The judgement I receive for being fat is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced for being gay. People pass us over for jobs because they subliminally think we’re lazy. We have to pay more for clothes because the only ones made for us cost 20- 30% more (and I usually have to alter them after purchase). Dating as a fat person is worse than you could probably imagine unless you’ve done it. I can’t describe how terrible it was at the intersection of fat and queer. The catcalling as a fat woman is AWFUL. Doctors consistently misdiagnose us when we have serious health issues because they can’t see beyond the fat. I’m a fat person with stellar blood pressure, blood sugar, great cardiac studies, amazingly healthy lungs, etc. But it took nearly 5 years for a doctor to see beyond the weight and diagnose a pretty serious problem.

    So seriously. Think about why you feel like this thin lady deserves some benefit of the doubt when homophobic Dolores didn’t. Cuz this is not a Good Look.

    1. BigIsntBad*

      Spot on. My sister was very heavy/fat in junior high. The doctor visits apparently all ended with “you need to lose weight!!” One day she responded back to the doc with “well when are YOU gonna lose weight??”

      He was very surprised she didn’t just meekly agree she was fat. 20 years later he’s still fat, and she slimmed down in high school; no thanks to him.

      1. Still Queer, Still Here*

        Yeah, I’m one of those that will never thin out without medical intervention. My siblings don’t have these genes, it’s just my dad and me. He runs iron man triathlons, burns huge amounts of calories training every day, and he’s still on the heavy end of average. When his joints can’t take it anymore, he won’t be able to keep the weight off. And it’s really just genes. We as a society usually believe that genetic predispositions aren’t a legitimate basis for discrimination. Except when it comes to fat. It’s so infuriating.

    2. D3*

      Seriously, all of this. We need to start calling out fatphobia and bias.
      (Concern trolls who claim they “just care about the health” of fat people can just keep your mouths shut, that’s fatphobia in disguise and has no place in this discussion.)

    3. Magenta*

      I had a gastric bypass 2 years ago, 18 months ago I started noticing people being nicer towards me, I couldn’t understand why as I wasn’t doing anything different. I felt awful when I realised that they weren’t being extra nice, they had just stopped treating me like a fat person.

      Very few people were actively nasty to me, but I would say they avoided seeing me, it was similar to the way some people ignore homeless people, they looked over, through or around me. Now people smile and hold the door.

      The difference in treatment is harder to deal with than the restricted diet or the dumping syndrome!

      1. Very Queer Very Here (OP for #10)*

        Ooof yeah. I’m actually scheduled to have bariatric surgery at the end of the year, and this is the piece that is keeping me up at night. I know people who have had the procedure and really struggled with realizing that people they thought liked them were actually only being polite, and now that they’re thin these people want to be their best friend. It’s the scariest part for me, and my therapist and I are spending a lot of time unpacking that. I’m also stressing about people at work thinking I’m sick or unwell or something once I start dropping the pounds. If you have any tips for how to handle any of that, they would be welcome!

        1. Magenta*

          To be fair it didn’t come up much with acquaintances because the pandemic hit not long after, in the first 4 months it wasn’t that noticeable, I lost about 50/60lbs but because I was 5’1” and 300lbs to start with it was less obvious than it would have been on someone built differently, plus I was still wearing the same clothes mostly. I then had a 3 week work trip to Asia which meant I ended up WFH for 2 weeks on my return, then a few weeks after that we all got sent to WFH a few weeks before the government announced the lockdown.

          Friends noticed and I told the close ones what was going on, I spent a lot of time working out, especially when the gyms reopened so a lot of people assumed that was the reason. I never would have thought I would like lifting weights, but I love it! I’m also pregnant now so “I lost weight because I wanted to be healthy for the baby” is a good answer.

          I will say though that the change in behaviour didn’t come from people I care about, the people whose opinions I value are nice people who don’t judge. It was more distant acquaintances or strangers who acted differently, I felt like I was being treated like a real person more often, it is hard to explain. Some of the people I have spoken with have suggested it is because I am happier and more confident, but I really don’t think it is that, I don’t feel like I am acting any different and they conceded that I haven’t really changed.

          The best way I found to frame it to myself is that some people are shallow, I don’t care what those people think. I give new people I meet and like the benefit of the doubt and assume they would have been nice to me before as well.

    4. FatRunner*

      YES! Thank you so much for pointing this out and sharing these very real examples of fatphobia

    5. AnonAnonAnon!!!*

      This. I used to be fat and I’m not any more, and I get treated differently (that is to say, better). It’s disgusting.

  33. RJ*

    LW#1 – As someone who has processed dozen of expenditures for guys like Todd in my years of engineering accounting, I salute you for getting him nailed in front of a big boss. Bravo!

    LO#10 – Tom Stoppard? DAMN!!

  34. MadisonB*

    These are great. On the flipside, I’d love advice for how to grieve and/or move on from a bad job break-up where the jerk definitively wins, there is no snappy comeback or mic drop moment where the good guy wins, and the jerk manages to purposefully and vindictively impact the good guy’s career and professional network for the foreseeable future.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Hold your head up as high as you can. (I’m not being snide–just recognizing that this will be easier on some days and harder on other days.) Tell yourself that life with integrity beats living without it, even if you’re presently unemployed. Reframe the story that you tell yourself and others. If you can find a copy of “When Smart People Fail” read it–not because you have Failed but because this book presents ways that people transcend that crummy, boxed-in-by-lousy-circumstances feeling. Orig. published 1987; revised edition 1993. Authors Carole Hyatt and Linda Gottlieb.
      Sending you good vibes and wishes for better days ahead.

  35. nnn*

    #3 is particularly delicious! It’s something that literally doesn’t affect her at all in any way, and yet is so perfectly targeted to take the parts of her psyche that inform her irritating actions and weaponize them against her. It’s like judo!

  36. MAB*

    Hate the one about the scrubs and think it was pretty insensitive to publish it, especially after the point made in the previous- “you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life.” Obviously that woman was suffering from extremely disordered body image issues- maybe some compassion could have been found, rather than mercilessly taunting her.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      Why is it obvious that she was suffering from extremely disordered body image issues? Why isn’t it possible that she was just a jerk? How is the suggestion that another thin person might exist a form of merciless taunting?

    2. Expelliarmus*

      Admittedly, I would not have advised someone do this if they were the victims of a bully like this person. However, they didn’t do anything wrong; all they did was INDIRECTLY make her think other people were her size. They didn’t make fun of her for not being the smallest one in the office anymore or anything like that. SHE’S the one who made herself the victim by being upset that she’s not the smallest person in the office.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      Bollocks. She was actively making the office a worse place to work, but apparently we need to have so much empathy for a fictional eating disorder instead of the real, demonstrable damage her anti-fat bias was having on her coworkers (not to mention clients).

  37. WS*

    9. Many sympathies to you dealing with the parents at junior sports! I had to quit playing (field) hockey after I broke my hand at age 15, so I took up umpiring instead. The kids (and teenagers) were fine, it was the parents who were awful…especially the ones who never volunteered or helped out in any way themselves. One mother was particularly bad. Eventually I was so mad with the interference and aggression that I turned around and said “If I hear one more complaint I am going to give a hit against your team.” She complained, I did what I said I would do, and she didn’t yell at me again!

  38. Beth*

    I’ve met fundamentalist atheists (including my estranged brother), and they are just as obnoxious as any other religious fundamentalist.

  39. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW2 (The Outing): Three points: First, I am so sorry you had to listen to “cute” cracks about going out partying while you were helping your mother through chemotherapy. That’s the last thing you needed to hear!
    Second: Realistically, your colleagues / supervisors will NOT know what you’re going through in your personal life unless you tell them about it. (Did you know what was going on in that attorney’s personal life at that time?) A very few supervisors will take you aside and ask, kindly, if there’s anything happening that could cause you to be less than your usual 100% self, but the operative phrase here is “a very few”.
    Third: I hope you never have to go through such a difficult period again, but if you do and you get a similar supervisory comment, please take that supervisor aside and quietly explain what’s going on that’s affecting you so. Being proactive is better than expecting others to read your mind – you CAN be proactive but they CAN’T read your mind!

    1. Expelliarmus*

      I don’t think OP expected them to read her mind; she expected them to not judge her based on random assumptions they make about her personal life. That’s perfectly reasonable.

    2. Blllllpt*

      I doubt they would have cared. Anyone who sees someone getting sick often and immediately jumps to “they must be partying too much” is not someone who will have any sympathy at all for what’s really going on, assuming they even believed the OP. It likely would be seen as a bad excuse. Lots of employers don’t care about you or what’s happening in your personal life, they care that you’re not performing as you should, but that’s it. They’re not invested in you beyond that.

      Before they clarified why they were let go I assumed it was due to all the sick days. That’s pretty common unfortunately.

    3. A Person*

      Realistically, that person worked in a law office and all the lawyers were assholes. Why on earth should LW2 make themselves vulnerable to assholes?

  40. Lady Pomona*

    LW2 (The Outing): Three points: First, I am so sorry you had to listen to “cute” cracks about going out partying while you were helping your mother through chemotherapy. That’s the last thing you needed to hear!
    Second: Realistically, your colleagues / supervisors will NOT know what you’re going through in your personal life unless you tell them about it. (Did you know what was going on in that attorney’s personal life at that time?) A very few supervisors will take you aside and ask, kindly, if there’s anything happening that could cause you to be less than your usual 100% self, but the operative phrase here is “a very few”.
    Third: I hope you never have to go through such a difficult period again, but if you do and you get a similar supervisory comment, please take that supervisor aside and quietly explain what’s going on that’s affecting you so. Being proactive is better than expecting others to read your mind – you CAN be proactive but they CAN’T read your mind!

  41. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

    Regarding #3 (I posted this in the nesting comments as well) I interviewed John Leguizamo for “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996 and he told me that when he was making “Carlito’s Way” (1993), Penelope Ann Miller was a real b*tch to him when no one was looking but as nice as pie in front of everyone else, and made him feel like a piece of gum on her shoe. So, as sweet revenge he said he conspired with the wardrobe department to have her costumes slightly taken in over the course of the film shoot and apparently she nearly lost her mind obsessing that she was somehow gaining weight.
    I thought it was malicious but genius! I didn’t realize it was such a common “prank…”

  42. cheeky*

    Not sure I can agree that #2 is a good one- I wouldn’t have let the idea that I was partying go unchecked. Not that the attorney’s comments were ok, but maybe you’d have had a different experience if you’d explained what was actually going on. I think it’s actually more weird than anything to later go up in a party and have the gotcha moment.

  43. Siege*

    I had a co-worker who was bad at their role, to the point that it was affecting other work for other team members. They would make up tasks that only they could accomplish, avoid actual requirements of their job (or pass them on to someone else), have to be told repeatedly the proper way to do something (which they would “yes, sure, thank you, got it” and turn around and do it wrong again, over and over), take credit for other peoples work, and our users thought co-worker was amazing at their job which only firmed up how amazing co-worker thought they were being, while the rest of us would sigh and go about our work.

    I happened to find a role at a new company that suited what I wanted out of my career better, put in my notice and was almost out the proverbial door when, on my second-to-last day, a user informed me that co-worker was sharing confidential information with them and other users, which was against their contract in a major way. On my last day, I sent evidence of this to our boss and walked away, thinking there would be a long investigation, and I would never hear of it again. Instead, the co-worker was let go within the month.

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