the sick call with sound effects, the cheesecake, and other stories of triumphs over jerks at work

Last week we had the agony of mortification, and this week we have the ecstasy of triumph!

I asked you to share stories of times when you triumphed over a jerk at work, and here are 11 of my favorites. There were so many good stories that a part 2 is coming next week!

1. The sick call

“This happened when I was 24, and it’s probably the pettiest thing I’ve ever done.

I worked in a department where all the regular employees were micro-scheduled (to the minute) for their whole day to make sure everything got done at the times it was supposed to per agreements with the clients. We had a 1-2 person buffer each day in case people got sick, but their rule was basically ‘don’t call in sick unless you’re dying or in the hospital’ so people wouldn’t call in for’“little things.’ The buffer people would check the messages in the morning to fix the schedules, and the lady in charge of call-ins would also check the messages because she couldn’t give up control of it. She was a jerk and severe micromanager, and made the call-in rule (we called and left a message to a voicemail since no one wanted to monitor that phone at 5am) that when we called in we had to say our name, the date, and the very specific reason we were calling in. She wouldn’t accept just ‘sick’ or ‘have a cold/flu.’ She wanted ‘I’ve been vomiting for X hours and had diarrhea’ or something similar. I hated this. I also almost never got sick. The first time I got sick, I only said ‘had the flu’ or whatever vague thing it was, and she gave me a written warning for that. She said that I needed to be as specific as possible when I called in sick. She wrote several other people up for this as well, so most people didn’t like her.

Many months later, I got my revenge. I got SICK. Vomiting every 15 minutes like clockwork. I couldn’t keep anything down. And I knew I’d have to call in. So I chugged a bunch of gatorade shortly before the end of that 15 minutes, and called the line as soon as I could feel it coming. I said, ‘I’m (name), it’s (date), and I’m calling in because I’m sick. As far as details go,’ then I vomited. Loudly. Horrifically. And I’d kept the phone close enough that it definitely picked up the sounds. When I finished I said, ‘Sorry about that, I’m basically stuck next to my toilet’ and then hung up. I had the presence of mind to text the person who was the buffer that day who would listen to the message and tell him not to listen unless he could handle the noises.

I didn’t hear about the fallout until the next day, when I went back into work. The buffer guy told all our coworkers about my message, because he thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. They were all waiting for her to listen to it. Turns out the micromanager had a very weak stomach (I didn’t know this). She listened to my message on speakerphone in her office with the door open (another issue, but it just makes this story funnier), and as soon as she got to the ‘good part,’ she turned a shade of green and sprinted out of her office to the bathroom. And then had to call in sick.

The call in rule was changed to just needing to say you were sick, no details necessary. I became department legend.”

2. The circle jerk

“I worked with a horrid VP of Sales – arrogant, obnoxious, just a nightmare. We were in an internal meeting and he used the phrase ‘get in a circle jerk’ with them (and even used the hand motion). Then smirked at me, the only woman in the room and the youngest by far.

I’d had enough so (fake) innocently asked, loudly, ‘What’s a circle jerk?’ He tried to move on but I asked again, ‘Sorry I don’t understand, what is a circle jerk – if I’m negotiating the contract I need to know the terms.’ Everyone froze. The CEO walked in and asked, ‘So where are we?’ I loudly said, ‘Well, we are waiting for ____ to explain what a circle jerk is as he’s really worried about it being part of the contract.’ It was absolute gold and a career highlight that sadly can’t go on a resume!”

3. The post-it

“I took a job that was part-time, 24 hours a week, but the job description was never updated when it went from a full-time to a part-time position. I constantly faced questions from a manager who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t doing 40 hours of work in 24.

After I took a few (unpaid) days off, when I came back we had a meeting in which he handed me the job description and asked me to highlight the parts I did well, then demanded to know why I wasn’t doing the other pieces. When I pointed out that it hadn’t been updated from the full-time job description, he told me it didn’t matter, I needed to start doing all of them. (Never mind that many of those things were included in his job description, I was expected to do it all.) He also mentioned that I didn’t do a good job of staying on top of my email inbox.

I heard that he had complained to someone else about me not asking about taking the time off. I found the email where I had asked him if those dates were ok for me to be off (he’d asked me to send that information by email but never responded and when I asked for verbal confirmation, he said it was fine), and printed it to include with my written two-week notice, along with a post-it note on the printed email saying that he needed to stay on top of his inbox.

After I’d been out of the job for a few weeks, I submitted a few anonymous tips to corporate about some of the things he was doing that were unethical at best, illegal at its worst. He suddenly ‘resigned’ a few months later.”

4. The work thief

“A colleague kept stealing my work – copy-pasting stuff from documents I’d written, and claiming PowerPoint decks as her own.

So I embedded my name in everything I made – in the footer or the slide master, in a tiny white font. Then when she claimed the work was hers in a meeting I asked for the mouse to ‘point to something’ and ‘accidentally’ highlighted where it said ‘documents created by (my name) on date.’

Petty? Hell yeah!”

5. The sabotage

“I had a really toxic coworker who left for another department within the same organization, but then was pushed out (he fully deserved it). Unfortunately, with some major changes in management who didn’t remember him, he reapplied back to my department about 3 years later. I warned my boss about how terrible he was, and … boss hired him. Dude was 15 minutes late his first day – no explanation, no apology, just slowly sauntered in. It only went downhill from there. We’re salaried, so no clocking in or out, and he would always come in late, leave early, and take a long lunch. The ‘work’ he did was organizing his kids’ sports team, planning vacations, and talking a lot of trash (including about me). I know it’s petty, but I started tracking this, as it was egregious. Boss was ‘talking’ with him all the time, but dude was not interesting in changing his behavior.

Finally we had a big, formal, scary team meeting with the grandboss (also the CFO), boss, and members of the team. Dude is correctly called out by management, loses his cool, and *very* passively-aggressively shouts out, ‘Well, SOMEONE has been trying to sabotage me since day 1!’ I knew he was talking about me though I never, ever have sabotaged anything – he did that all by himself. I realized he was counting on me to respond … and I didn’t. If he couldn’t be bothered to say my name nor look at me, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of responding. So I just sat there, calm and cool. Oh, that moment was beautiful. No one responded at all, and this heavy, awkward silence just hung there for about 30 seconds. He then screams it again, ‘SOMEONE has been trying to sabotage me the whole time!’ Again, no one acknowledged it at all.

Grandboss found me afterwards and commended me for how I handled myself. Dude was forced to resign about 2 months later.”

6. The rule follower

“When I first started at my current job, we had one process that needed to be sent off to another department. About two weeks after I finished training, my boss had a sit-down meeting with me because the subject line in my emails to them was ‘not formatted correctly,’ and instead of telling me, the new employee, they asked my boss to discipline me.

Naturally I was NOT HAPPY since no one had even taught me that it mattered, and it’s not like the content of my emails was bad or even that there was missing information in the subject. Plus, they send emails to us that don’t follow those rules exactly! So, for the rest of the time I’ve worked here, whenever I respond to or forward emails involving that department I edit the subject line to make sure it fits their very important rules. It messes with the conversation views in Outlook when a subject line changes and I always cackle thinking about the mild annoyance I must be causing.

7. The victory

“I had a boss who was dynamic and incredibly forward-thinking. But she was also egomaniacal and completely intimidated by anyone else who was competent. So none of her ideas ever came to anything because she always sabotaged anyone who could actually get things done. Although I reported directly to her, everyone in the organization went to another of her direct reports for everything, thus isolating some of the true bananas.

Well, I was very competent in my job but because I was fat, she was not intimidated by me — she truly believed that I had no chance of a successful career because of my weight. So she decided she wanted to “develop” me so I would be more successful. She would say things like, ‘I know you can’t wear nice clothes because of your size but you have to wear X jewelry and Y shoes.’ She would assign me to a work trip and when I would arrive, it would be a makeover or a manicure. I checked with Other Direct Report, who said my appearance was fine — I was neat and professional and clean. Designer shoes were not in any way a job requirement.

Fast forward a few years to when she was fired by the board and replaced by Other Direct Report. She applied for a job at one of the top organizations in our industry (a BIG step up from our organization), confident that no one else in the world could possibly get the job. She left our organization bragging to everyone about how she was going to NewPlace and we were all stuck at Old Job. Well, I quietly applied for that job, used Other Direct Report as my reference, and have been successful and happy here at NewPlace for quite a few years while Old Boss is currently unemployed.”

8. The training

“I worked at a nonprofit org that primarily served a vulnerable community of color, and for some reason (pushover wimp of a CEO, mostly) we had a super racist and grouchy VP. He said derogatory things about other cultures, forbid his front-line employees from speaking their native language in the office (even though it was the primary language of our clients) and was a general horrible bully. I was one of the other VPs at the tabnle with this jerk, was the only white VP who was actively trying to learn our clients’ language, and tried really hard to be an ally for our marginalized staff – so we butted heads constantly, and he was incredible dismissive and demeaning of my efforts and me as a person.

A few years into the gig, the state decided they would make anti-racism training a priority for contracted agencies. I jumped at the opportunity and co-developed a day-long training with a colleague I adored – and we even offered the entire thing dual-language! I got amazing feedback from staff who attended and we were super proud of it, and folks from other agencies who came to hear it asked us to come to their agency to train. It was a big success! The racist VP, however, forbid any of his staff from attending, called me ‘a stupid bleeding heart liberal idiot’ in meetings in front of the CEO, and got extremely hostile with me.

So my colleague and I worked with our state regulatory agency, and eventually we got our curriculum certified to be the mandated anti-racism training for agencies like ours – which made us the statewide trainers. The state folks announced they would make the 8 hour training mandatory for 100% of staff in agencies like mine for the following year. When I hosted the next session that he was legally required to attend, I made a special seat just for him at the front of the room, with a little seating card and everything, and made him sit front and center for the whole 8 hours. Watching him chew his own face off during that training is one of my favorite memories of all time.”

9. “I know exactly who you are”

“This is a follow up to a question and update that has been previously been posted.

At my new job after toxic job, my boss was really wonderful and super supportive as I worked through the after-effects of my toxic job. About 3 or 4 months in, New Boss and I attended a local industry event, where we promptly ran into Old Toxic Boss. They’d never met, and Old Toxic Boss started introducing himself. New Boss just looked him straight in the eye and said in a knowing tone, ‘Oh, I know EXACTLY who you are’ and then walked away. Old Boss looked utterly stunned. It was so marvelous and petty and yet perfectly polite.”

10. The confused coworker

“I was working as a teacher at a public high school in a former life, mid-20s. It was in a major city in a pretty liberal and diverse area, but in a conservative state. At the time that this story occurred, my now wife and I (we’re both women) were newly engaged. I’m a pretty private person, but I wasn’t at all the only non-straight teacher on staff; our principal was not Out, but it was an open secret that she and her ‘roommate’ were not just roommates. Basically, it was a gay-friendly environment for the most part. Other teachers were open with their students, and I generally had a policy of not broadcasting my queerness, but if a student asked I would answer honestly. After I got engaged, most of my students and the rest of the staff knew I wasn’t straight. But there were a couple of older, traditional staff members who were not at all okay with the gay.

One such person was a support teacher I’ll call Dolores. She was older, from a very Christian and conservative country, and she was a talker; the sort of person who will not stop harping on negatively to anyone who will listen about EVERYTHING, and does not understand most social cues that the person is no longer interested. Most times, you have to just abruptly walk away and close the door to get her to stop talking. It was intense. And she was really homophobic. At one point, she started talking non-stop to another teacher about how 2 male students shouldn’t be seated next to each other in classes because they weren’t masculine enough and they would probably ‘spread their homosexual energy’ too much. The teacher she kept trying to convince of this was openly gay, and she would say homophobic things in front of him just to make him crazy.

One day, not long after my partner and I got engaged, she corners me in my classroom to talk about something else completely, and somehow ends up discussing the gender roles in my relationship. For context, my partner and I are both very feminine presenting; it is often surprising to people that we’re gay. It went something like this:

Dolores: In your picture, you both look like such nice girls. Who is the man and who is the woman?
Me: Ummm. Well there isn’t a man in our relationship, that’s kind of the point. Anyway, about this spreadsheet…
Dolores, refusing to drop it: No, but who wears pants?
Me, pretending to be clueless: I mean, I’m wearing pants today. I haven’t seen her outfit today, so I’m not sure what she’s wearing. Does this have something to do with the spreadsheet?
Dolores, more and more frustrated: But one of you must be the man. Who makes the decisions?
Me: We make decisions together, because we’re partners. What does a man have to do with that?
Me: Ummm do you understand the concept of homosexuality? I’m not sure work is the best place to get into this.
Dolores: YES I DO DO YOU THINK I’M STUPID?! I’m just trying to understand who the man is!

She was utterly offended and thought I was making fun of her (okay, I was). BUT. She never initiated contact with me ever again, which was the best revenge I could have asked for. For a couple of years after that, other staff members would ask me how I managed to keep from being cornered by her, and I would just say, ‘I told her about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and she was terribly offended.'”

11. The cheesecake

“So this is a story of both triumph and reconciliation. This was while I worked part-time as a server at a restaurant. A coworker of mine, Katie, lived in a fourfold with a really great apartment becoming available in the building. Another coworker, Vanessa, was first interested in the apartment as well as I. Vanessa spoke with the landlord about it. I spoke to him after and told him in the event Vanessa was not interested in the apartment, I would take it. Vanessa went MIA on him. I called her and left a voicemail that I needed to find a new place ASAP and if she still wanted the apartment I would back off and look for something else. I never heard from her and the landlord never heard from her, so he called me and told me it was mine if I wanted it. I met him, signed the lease, gave him the deposit, etc.

Once that happened, Vanessa was furious with both Katie and I and told another coworker she wouldn’t speak to either of us anymore. She was popular at work so a lot of people took her side and ostracized me over it. Work for a month or so was pretty miserable, so I decided to make Vanessa a cheesecake. I brought it in on a day I knew we’d both be there and asked if I could talk to her for a moment, and told her I made her a cheesecake and then left as that was the end of my shift. I found out later that Vanessa had cried over it and felt awful about what happened and that she was just embarrassed about it. She made things right at work and told people that it was a mistake on her part, and my work life got better instantly, and we’re still friends to this day. So moral of this story, if your coworker acts like a jerk to you, make them a cheesecake. Oh and that apartment was one of the BEST I’ve ever lived in.”

{ 320 comments… read them below }

    1. FD*

      Also, if we could spread our homosexual energy, we wouldn’t end up with so many unrequited crushes on straight people!

          1. LabTechNoMore*

            And through biological magnification, we would end up with bedazzled apex predators in a few years time.

                1. DrunkAtAWedding*

                  I like the Twilight explanation of “evolved to be great predators”. It makes more sense than “we are evil and sunlight is holy so it burns, (moonlight is fine)”. Though, it does imply that the Twilight vampire-infection agent is alien, since those features clearly evolved to hunt something harder to catch than humans.

            1. Pipe Organ Guy*

              And keep it out of the organ console. I imagine it could play havoc with electrical contacts or mechanical systems.

        1. Wendy*

          Right? I think a lot of women would be – especially since men are the #1 hazard to our health :-\

    2. ThatGirl*

      I missed that one the first time and I love it, I nearly burst out laughing in the middle of my office…

  1. jrg*

    omg, “JESUS IS THE MAN. JESUS IS THE ONLY MAN IN OUR RELATIONSHIP, OKAY?!” has me in TEARS. that is incredible.

    1. FrenchCusser*

      I’m sure God told her to say that. It was inspired!
      And now my face muscles hurt from laughing so hard.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This killed me because one of my friends had a similar situation. Her response was, “We flip a coin each morning”

      1. The Original K.*

        At a previous job I mentioned that I was going to be out on a Friday because I was going to be in a wedding to which I had to travel, and it came out that it was a same-sex wedding (two women). One of my coworkers asked the same “who’s the man and who’s the woman” question and I really wish I’d used one of these responses – I think I just said “They’re both women” pretty deadpan and that shut it down.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I am marrying a man. Neither of us understand this question at all. Like… I guess, in this situation neither of us would be the man? What does it mean?

        2. Anonny*

          If someone asked me who was the ‘woman’ in my relationship (I’m a gay man) I’d just say “the dog is.”

          I mean… we call her a girl.

          (Option B, for the particularly irritating: “we call that being a bottom now.”)

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I’m lucky being ace, I guess, because no one asks who the man is in my relationship. Which is good, since I’m agender (AFAB) and my spouse is a little fluid.

      2. fish*

        I’m butch and my wife is femme, so we don’t get asked this question so much as have it smirked at us.

        I like to say, quite deadpan, that no, actually, my wife is the man. The confusion! The sputtering!

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          not anymore!! From now on, JESUS is the man. Jesus and Jesus only.

          I look forward to thinking about this a lot more, it’s too funny!

          1. Clisby*

            +100. I remember when I married my husband and didn’t change my last name, I got a couple of comments that some men wouldn’t like that. Now I know I should have said JESUS IS THE ONLY MAN WHO COUNTS AND HE HASN’T OFFERED AN OPINION!

    3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      And to top THAT off, the LW’s sweetly innocent line to colleagues wondering how she got Ms. Obnoxious Homophobe off her case – “I told her about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and she was terribly offended” – is PERFECT! Now the colleagues are going to be looking askance at Ms. Homophobe and wondering if she really isn’t the perfect Christian she makes herself out to be (which she isn’t, of course, but that’s another story.)

    4. Macaroni Penguin*

      I’m wearing pants today. But I haven’t checked her outfit.

      *falls over laughing*

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Of course, she COULD always have said “Why, neither of us ever wears pants – we always go commando!” But perhaps she didn’t want to have to deal with deciding whether or not to call an ambulance when Ms. Homophobe had a heart attack and turned purple…

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          That’s hilarious! It would probably confuse Ms. Homophobe, though. In the US, “pants” is generally used as a synonym for “trousers.” When you’re talking about undergarments, the unisex term is more apt to be “underpants” or “underwear.” (Or “panties” when a female undergarment is meant, and “shorts” or “briefs for the male corollary.)

          I guess we yanks like to make things complicated! LOL

      1. ShowTunesOnMyMind*

        I love your presence of mind and am awed by your snappy retorts! Thank you for your service. I’ll be giggling about this for days.

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

      I’m the OP, and I’m still proud of myself for this one. The post script to this is that I’m the daughter of a Presbyterian minister (those are the hella liberal Christians). He had 4 daughters, 2 of us are gay, and he officiated over both of our weddings and has baptized my sister’s off-spring. There was a previous incident with Dolores when she heard I came from such a background and assumed that I was estranged from my Christian family. Her realization that my father didn’t disown me coupled with the fact that I’m highly involved in leadership in my church was a thing of beauty. Just open-mouthed staring. It was great.

      1. Pipe Organ Guy*

        Beyond simply wonderful! And so perfect in addressing the rigid soul!
        Episcopalian here; my husband has been part of our parish, well, for nearly all his life. The previous rector of our parish practically begged us to have a commitment service (this was back in 2005), and so we did. It had to be handled carefully because the bishop at the time was a stickler for following official Episcopalian rules, so we couldn’t call it a wedding. We all knew darned well what it was, though, and we threw it open to the parish. Well over a hundred people showed up for the service and the simple reception afterwards in the parish hall. We had already been together twenty years, so we called it a service of recommitment.

      2. Former Young Lady*

        Another Episcopalian here. I know of at least one priest who would applaud your Jesus-based response.

        Come to think of it, her wife would applaud it too.

      3. allathian*

        Oh wow, that’s absolutely amazing.

        People like Dolores give Christians a bad name, undeservedly so.

      4. DrunkAtAWedding*

        Considering that a pro-LGBTQ reading of the Bible is very possible (and, I truly believe, more accurate to the intent) but a pro-adultery reading is not, Jesus absolutely should be the only man in your marriage, you are entirely aligned with several of the points He made.*

        Nb. I am an atheist Catholic. I’m still not sure what that means, I might be the only one. Please take my comment with a big pinch of “if God exists” and “if my reading is accurate”. I believe it is, but, ofc, your coworker probably thinks hers is too.

        1. Wendy*

          Even better, although the Bible kinda-sorta says not to be gay (if you read it that way), the only mention of lesbians is God punishing the men of a city by making their women all desire each other instead of the menfolk. So under that same strict reading of the Bible, lesbians are LITERALLY created by God.

      5. wittyrepartee*

        I was desperately hoping that you actually were Christian. I love it. It makes the story so much better.

      6. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

        That makes it 100% better, which I didn’t think was possible, considering the punchline.

    6. Buni*

      I am a Christian who works for a very LGBTQ+-friendly church – we’ve had gay clergy, still have out ‘n’ proud staff – and I will *absolutely* be shouting ‘JESUS IS THE MAN!’ at any given opportunity now.

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      JESUS IS THE MAN! Pure gold!

      When my daughter was in high school and was trying to figure out her sexuality and she said that she might be a lesbian (which it turns out now that she seems to be bi, but I digress), my MIL went on this monologue about how it’s so sad that lesbians can’t have sex (??). It made me mad on behalf of my daughter and women everywhere, so I snapped at her, “You think penis-in-vagina is the only way to have sex?!”

      1. Cercis*

        I’m going to have an ablation next week. No sex or swimming for 2 weeks. I said that the swimming would be harder to do without and a friend laughed about me having been married too long. I said “well, sex isn’t just penis in vagina and we can still have all the other fun” and she sputtered “well, you’ve also been married too long”. Nah, we have a fabulous and creative sex life.

  2. Fergus The Llama Juggler*

    These are all great, but I think the first one is my favorite. Malicious compliance FTW!

    1. Myrin*

      That one was so satisfying! And a very nice touch that it didn’t only solve the problem in the moment but actually got rid of the stupid policy altogether!)

      (Also makes me think of the fact that we must have some kind of “vomit gene” in my family which makes it so that my grandpa, mum, sister, and I also have the same kind of apparently really horrifying “throw up sound”. It sounds less gross (although that, too) and more downright terrifying – a friend of my sister’s once described it as “it sounds like you have a whole man scrambling up your throat” – and I would absolutely love to unleash it in a situation such a this one.)

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        “Disgust” is an evolutionary trait. It’s useful for keeping us away from poisonous or infectious stuff. And a just-so story about people vomiting in response to seeing vomit (because maybe the whole tribe just ate poison) does make sense.

        1. Anonny*

          I found out I had a very strong ‘sympathy vomit’ instinct when I was a teenager helping my poor disabled father by holding a bowl for him whilst he vomited. I had enough presence of mind to aim for the bowl when I threw up. Unfortunatley, he was also throwing up in the bowl at the time and I puked on his head. He was not happy.

          1. Susie*

            I have a phobia of vomiting and avoid anyone sick, so I didn’t realize that I also have a very strong sympathy vomit instinct until 2004. Eminem’s “Encore” album has a song called “Puke” and the audio is exactly what you would think it is.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              Weirdly, I did have it until I had my son, and somehow the sound of him vomiting has never triggered mine. Thank whatever lucky starts exist!

    2. Observer*

      Not my favorite, but nevertheless, awesome.

      And I also love that it actually had some good effects.

      As they say “Don’t ask questions you can’t handle the answers to” ;)

  3. Meep*

    LW1 – Where were you when I had to fight to take time off for emergency dental surgery? lol. I was sitting there on the phone with my awful manager crying because my wisdom teeth were impacted and she asked if I could do it at a time more convenient for her. -eye roll- I think all I could do was say “um no. The orthodontist says I need to do it now because I am in so much pain” and hung up.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        That was supposed to be LW 1. I didn’t realize it nested. And I’m sorry your boss is nitwit.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Your manager is an absolutely horrid person for this.

      Because my Doctor SAYS SO should be a reason for so many things. Heck, best manager I ever had took my doctor at my word that I need to get my BP down or he was putting me on bedrest for the duration of pregnancy. It wasn’t “well what about….?” it was “Okay, what can we do to make this work? How can I help? Get some suggestions from your doctor that we can try so that he’s happy and you and the baby are safer”

      (What I needed was the site safety officer to quit “fit testing” me. I could hike further than 9/10 of the tradesmen on the site. I didn’t need to be randomly pulled into his made up “fit test” that is certainly not required by any entity at that site that I was aware of. He was going outside of his bounds on so many things. When TPTB discovered he was making up safety violations outside of OSHA requirements and that I was randomly (hah!) being pulled into this fit test weekly along with a number of others for not reasons that could definitely NOT be discriminatory, he was gone.)

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      My boss also asked me to reschedule my wisdom tooth surgery to a time that was more convenient for her! I didn’t need it to be done then but I had planned carefully for it to be a Friday and when my own work would be easy to manage if I missed a day or two. I told her nope, this was the only time they could get me in

  4. The Original K.*

    I often rely on pretending not to understand an offensive joke when someone makes one because forcing them to say out loud “well, it’s funny because blondes are dumb” or whatever usually embarrasses people enough that they don’t make jokes like that around me after that. But #2 takes it to a new level. Excellent!

    1. Thursdaysgeek*

      I’m waiting for someone to explain #2, because I suspect it’s not something that I should google at work. (In other words, I could ask that same question, but in all ignorance.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ll say it because I suspect no one else will be sure they should (or maybe I underestimate — or overestimate? — people). A circle jerk is a bunch of men sitting in a circle masturbating. The way this guy was using it was figurative, probably to mean a bunch of people stroking each other’s egos and/or wasting time and not getting anything done.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I thought it also implied a cooperative, not parallel, effort. If anyone hasn’t seen it, I recommend the Pentagon Wars (which uses the metaphor in passing early on).

          1. Broccoli*

            Here’s a thing from a coworker when I was in academic research. It somehow became known that m fellow international student, who had studied in the US for some time, had been involved in multiple circle jerks. There were a lot of jokes about it, which he took well and laughed about along with the rest of us. He was pretty open about his sometimes wild sex life. We also all thought a circle jerk was a cooperative, not parallel effort.

            One day, curiosity got the better of me, and I inquired about the logistics of such an event. Hard to fathom how one would get enough people interested in such a feat into the same room without offending anyone along the way. It turns out, where he’d previously studied, there was a massive annual party with a famous circle jerk among the undergrads, and he had been a participant. He moved to the US to study there, so he assumed circle jerking was a common American pasttime for young men, and also pointed out that at least this particular circle jerking was a parallel effort. It also had a competitive element… I learned quite a lot about circle jerking, and my colleague, that day.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              That’s one version. Another version is erm…take the hand of the person to your right.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                So #2 may need clarification on which circle jerk is being included in or excluded from the contract…

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Lest I be misunderstood, may this VP marinate in the metaphor taken as literally as possible until he doesn’t dare use it again.

              2. banoffee pie*

                wow…really helping each other out, eh? ;) apparently i wasn’t cool enough to know what this phrase meant hahaha

            2. PhyllisB*

              Ugh, yeah I learned WAY more about that than I wanted to know when I was in college (early 70’s.) One of my guy friends had a bit too much Boone’s Farm and told me in explicit detail all about it. And told me who all participated.

            3. DrunkAtAWedding*

              I always thought it was parallel. I never had any real reason to, that’s just what popped into my head when I first learned about it and I never sought clarification.

              It actually sounds like a pretty good goal for a business contract – everyone benefits! – but you’d want to use a massage circle analogy to describe it professionally.

        2. Thursdaysgeek*

          I… uh… wow… that is worse than I imagined. And so, so much better, too. Yay for OP #2!

        3. old dad*

          One of my favorite bands is the SoCal punk band the Circle Jerks and my favorite album by them is called Group Sex. I first heard them when I was twelve (I am middle aged now) and while I knew what it meant, it just became a band name to me.

          Flash forward to last year when they reissued Group Sex and had merch and I was really, really close to buying a hoodie that said “Circle Jerks: Group Sex” and then suddenly realized that as a middle-aged dad, that was not a good idea. Anyways, that’s my story about that term. now I’m really hoping I never get called out for using the term “clusterf%%k.” I’ve been trying to use “logjam” instead.

          1. Le Sigh*

            Lol. I’m a big fan of the Mountain Goats and they have a line from a song that says “I’m pretty hardcore, but I’m not that hardcore.” I like the song a lot and I almost bought that t-shirt, but as a woman, decided against it because, well, people are gross and I didn’t need that.

          2. Wisteria*


            Does that have a meaning beyond the metaphorical? I never knew.

            I like the Texas term: Goat rodeo

            1. OyHiOh*

              Military phonetic code abbreviation: Charlie Foxtrot

              I use this one perhaps more than necessary, although rarely at work.

              1. Chauncy Gardener*

                I, ahem, have been known to use it at work on special occasions. But generally will call it a “Charlie Foxtrot.” And yes, I am a veteran

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I use that term when describing a traffic situation where a bunch of cars all clump together around you and you can’t change lanes or get out. When I see it start to happen ahead of me, I say “Charlie Foxtrot incoming!” and slow down so I don’t get stuck in the middle of it.

                .Also not a veteran; I just think the expression works for this particular situation.

            2. TexasTeacher*

              I was just discussing profanities with my teenage son, and he asked if that term was ever used literally. I told him I only used it metaphorically, usually for preventable chaos on an institutional level, but he’d have to poll his friends for the generational nuances. We old people just used “orgies.”

              1. Dust Bunny*

                I feel like a clusterf**k taken literally would be an orgy that went awry. I’ve never thought about it beyond that, though, because I’m not foolish enough to investigate just how badly awry orgies can go.

            3. old dad*

              I don’t know – but it seems like it is at least sexual in nature, and is profane so….

              It’s such a wonderful word to describe a mess because it’s both gross and harsh, but I am really trying to retire it.

            4. Andrea*

              Here’s what I’ve been told, but I will preface it by saying that this could very well be apocryphal, and also I know very little about the military.

              Apparently it is an old military term? The “cluster” part refers to the cluster of oak leaves on an officer’s insignia. So a clusterf*ck is when an officer who doesn’t actually know anything about the situation, but thinks he does, comes in and meddles and f*cks it all up.

            1. PhyllisB*

              Clusterfudge is my version. I never really thought about the literal meaning, I just always realized it meant total mess or chaos. Have to ask my hubby about Charlie Foxtrot. He’s a vet.

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            now I’m really hoping I never get called out for using the term “clusterf%%k.”

            I should probably retire “fustercluck.” “Black box,” “Black list,” and “Code Monkey” have been my priorities… Programming has more than its fair share of bad phrases to purge.

            1. Meep*

              Blacklist has been renamed blocklist, AFAIK. The black box though, is not a bad thing per se, just non transparent. So not sure about the need to retire the concept, as it were.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I’ve started to use “sealed box” in place of “black box.” The concept is good (and since I’m surrounded by them, I need to call them *something*) but the old name makes my skin crawl these days.

                I hadn’t heard “Blocklist”; thank you. I intuited my way to “badlist” and “goodlist.”

                1. Clisby*

                  “Sealed box” doesn’t seem to mean quite the same as “black box,” though. The fact that it’s sealed doesn’t preclude its being transparent. Opaque box, maybe?

                2. Stitching Away*

                  Also, aren’t black boxes generally neon orange or other very bright colors, because the point is to make them easy to find after a crash? Or am I mixing up my terms?

                3. Astor*

                  Stitching Away: There are two different meanings for black box. One is a physical device like y0u mentioned, that’s associated with flight recorders and is commonly brightly coloured so that it can be found. But the one that others are referring to is a descriptive term that’s commonly used in computing or other kinds of science/engineering: it’s when you know what the inputs and outputs are but you don’t know exactly how the change is implemented. Since that implementation is “opaque” to you, it’s described as if the mechanism of the change is sealed within a black box.

                  An example of this is pressing down on the brakes on the car. That’s the input. The output is that the car slows down. From the driver’s perspective, you don’t necessarily know how it gets from your input to that output, so that middle part might be described as a black box. From the mechanic’s perspective, you probably know how it gets from the driver’s input to the output, so that middle part might be described as a white or clear box. Or, there may be specific aspects of the process that’s a black part to them.

                  There’s lots of ways this can be used! It might mean a physical device that’s sealed so that you can’t look inside, or a part of your software that’s handled by a a different tool, or an unknown chemical that provokes a certain reaction, or it might mean the way the body works. It might mean that you don’t (or don’t yet) know the process, that you can’t (yet) know the process, or that you don’t (yet) need to know the process. The important part is that currently you don’t know how the inputs are changed to the outputs.

                4. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

                  There’s also a blackbox theatre, which is the most common use in my industry!

                  Basically, a space that doesn’t have a set stage, seating, proscenium, etc — so it is just a big black box that can be turned into whatever kind of performance space it needs to be. Often with some sort of modular drapery, stage pieces, and seating options, so that you can configure the stage, audience, backstage, etc. wherever you want.

                  If you see three different plays in the same blackbox theatre, you can very well see three completely different layouts of the space and sit as an audience member in three different parts of the room.

          4. linger*

            I’ve used the expression “a flustercluck of headless-chicken-ship”,
            though I warn there’s no room for pronunciation error with that.

          5. Violet Rose*

            I like “fustercluck” as something a few notches lower on the profanity scale, but everyone knows *exactly* what it means :)

        4. Recruited Recruiter*

          Wow – I’ve never heard this term before, and I’m glad you explained. This is much worse than I was expecting.

        1. Mia the Lemon*

          Right when I’ve started to feel old and not “hip” in any way, I find this! Not sure we should use the phrase “come for the advice” considering the type of educating….

          I’m sorry, I’m having entirely too much fun with this one lol!!

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Yes, this is definitely something that could have happened for real. Either with someone innocent or someone who has a different native language and doesn’t know all the expressions. In that context you can’t really just ignore it and move on, because the expression you’re not familiar with could also be something really important.

      3. Sam Yao*

        When I was a teen, I was aware of the band and not much else. And we had quite narrow hallways in our school, so my friends and I used to call groups of other kids who would gather in circles around somebody’s locker and block the halls circle jerks. Which is how I came to put “circle jerks” in my high school yearbook under “dislikes.”
        With the benefit of hindsight, I am astonished they printed it.

        1. quill*

          They wouldn’t let the track team’s slogan at my HS be “we kick asphalt” so I’m amazed.

    2. Sara without an H*

      There’s an old Miss Manners column, in which a reader wrote in to ask “What does Miss Manners do when someone makes a lewd remark to her?”

      She responded to the effect that, if anyone dared make a lewd remark to Miss Manners, she would innocently ask what the remark meant. This would guarantee that the person would never, never make a second lewd remark.

      I salute OP#2. She is a class act.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I used this once when an intern made an obliquely racist remark. She avoided me for the rest of her internship, which was pretty much the ideal outcome (I was in no way responsible for her so it didn’t affect her school credit).

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Miss Manners is where I learned this one, and I can attest that it works. It does help that I look fairly young and can pull off naive quite well. Slightly widened eyes added to a small head tilt and the air of a genuinely confused and curious questioner means the person who said their creepy remark will end up stuttering and trying to back paddle at speed.

      3. Still Queer, Still Here (OP #10)*

        I’m OP #10 (Jesus is the man) and just stopping here to say that that Miss Manners column was actually the inspiration for my attitude at the beginning of my incident; force the homophobic co-worker to explain why she needs to know about the power differentials in our relationship. I gave up in the end and shouted about Jesus because she would not drop it.

        Miss Manners is classier than I am.

        1. allathian*

          Ugh, I’m sorry you had to deal with such a homophobic person. At least you got her to stop bothering you further. At some point it’s acceptable to knowingly offend someone who won’t stop offending you, and I’d say you’d passed that point long ago.

        2. Clisby*

          I still laugh at Miss Manners’ answer here (possibly paraphrased, but close):

          Q: How do you respond when introduced to a gay couple?
          A: How do you do? How do you do?

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I can’t say it won’t guarantee. I did this once, and got a thorough explanation of racist comment and backstory and why it was “correct”.

        It did guarantee that I did not talk to this person again though. Sort of the same?

      5. Elizabeth West*

        This is an excellent way to deal with bullies. I used to do it to BullyBoss; when he asked me a question in front of everyone that was clearly designed to get a rise out of me, I would act like he was completely serious and either answer it or sidestep it by referring it to something work-related. You could actually see the wind go out of his sails. >:)

  5. Foreign Octopus*

    ‘I told her about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and she was terribly offended.’”

    I can hear this and see this and I love this.

    1. Marzipants*

      Agree, I LOVE this response and I also love the fact that, even though it wasn’t true for OP, it speaks for the millions of people who are LGBTQ and Christian—or any other faith with bigoted fundamentalist factions. It’s good for fundamentalists of any stripe to be reminded that they’re not the primary stakeholders of a diverse faith. As a college professor of mine used to say, “Jesus is a friend of mine, and so is Dorothy.”

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

        So I’m the OP, and I actually am a church-going queer. I just tend to have a good sense of humor about my faith. I was also raised in a denomination that generally derides the idea of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I’m Presbyterian (USA), where we believe that one doesn’t necessarily have to choose God, They chose you before you were even born, so there’s no need to be saved or brag about your personal relationship.

        What can I say? I was raised by a sarcastic preacher. Not afraid to reject theology I find problematic!

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          You go! Not binding the conscience of others ALL DAY LONG! I love your answer.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          That makes it even better, in my opinion. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of pushing back against homophobia.

        3. Ana Gram*

          Oh this is very interesting! I was raised Catholic but have left and have been looking for an inclusive denomination. But I’m just a smidge too Catholic to get on board with declaring that I’m saved. I’ll have to check out my local Presbyterian churches.

          Thank you.

          1. JESUS IS THE MAN*

            Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor here! If you’re in the US, check us out. Look for a congregation/community that identifies as RIC (Reconciling in Christ) because that means they’ve adopted an official statement of welcome for people of all sexual orientations/ gender identities.

            1. Still Queer, Still Here (OP #10)*

              Yes! ELCA and Presbyterian (USA) are great high-ish church liberal denominations. Lots of Anglican/Episcopalian churches can be welcoming too, but not all, so just do your research. If you’re in the northeast, congregationalist churches are pretty welcoming as well. Just steer clear of the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). They’re the church equivalent of that conservative cousin who spouts racist and homophobic slurs at family gatherings.

              Happy to see the clergy appreciation here! I’m a church youth director on the side, so yay church peeps! *waves*

              1. Ana Gram*

                Ah, thanks for that info! I’m planning to attend a service on Sunday. Turns out my childhood Girl Scout troop met there so that seems like a neat coincidence.

              2. NotRealAnonForThis*

                Thank you for that note on the PCA. My sibling proclaims to be “Presbyterian” but never happens to bring up this little distinction. (My own experience through sibling is the whole “women should be seen wearing modest clothing, not heard, and definitely not have any opinion” on top of the racist and homophobic salad that is PCA.) It is, shall we say, concerning?

              3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

                Yay, church peeps! Do we ever get into sticky workplace situations or what?!
                You have to watch which kinds of Lutherans you go for, too. We ELCA types are the only ones who ever fly Pride flags, AFAIK. And even that varies by congregation. Mine’s not quite there yet, though I do plan to…how shall we put it, open up space for conversation?
                And I hope you don’t mind that I swiped your line for a username.

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

                  Um of course you should swipe my line for your username! Honestly, as a long-time lurker in the comments, it makes me feel like I have ARRIVED *jazz hands*.

              4. Ana Gram*

                Me again! I went to a service at the local Presbyterian USA church and I was blown away. The pastor was an older, grandfatherly type so I thought it would be a nice but bland sermon on how Jesus loved us. Nope! He talked about how of course we should support BLM and of course we should get vaccinated and of course climate change is real. And he did it in such a gentle, cheerful manner. A parishioner who runs a charity that runs clinics in Haiti spoke about the importance of sending money, not items, to Haiti so that the locals can make their own decisions about what’s best for the country instead of Americans doing that. Wow. They seem like an incredible bunch and I can’t wait to go back.

                Truly, thank you.

                1. Still Queer, Still Here (OP #10)*

                  Oh my goodness, this is so heartwarming! Like I said, my dad is a PCUSA pastor (he serves a church in Maryland) and that sounds just like the sort of thing he wants everyone to experience in church! He’s really passionate about that, and raised me to appreciate those experiences. I’m totally telling him this story.

          2. Anon Supervisor*

            I was raised Lutheran in the ELCA and my lapsed Catholic husband converted. Some elements of our services are a bit similar to Catholicism because of Martin Luther (especially the early traditional services) if you’re looking to come over to the Protestant side. We just joined a RIC church and it is a very welcoming and supportive church. ELCA is very focused on forgiveness and freeing yourself from fear and doubt by nurturing relationships with others and growing in your faith in the way that Jesus taught. There are more conservative sects of Luthrerans, such as Missouri Synod and WELS, that aren’t known to be very inviting to LGBTQ+ folx. They’re not fire-and-brimstone about it, IME, but very judg-y and cold.

        4. Elizabeth Bennett*

          I am a PC (USA) pastor. I’m literally on AAM procrastinating on writing my sermon. I love this so much! It makes me so happy because it is not only a snappy, satisfying comeback to terribly hurtful behavior but also has the bonus of being theologically sound. Thank you so much for sharing it. I will be pondering the truth of it for some time.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      10 has always been my favorite number. You, OP have earned the number 10. And million internet points. And upvote 9000 and all the kittens.

  6. RJ*

    LW7 – I have dreamed of moments like that. Hilarious!

    LW10 – I am still laughing. OMG, what a perfect answer for that horrible woman.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      LW10: it really is. I meant think about what she is really asking! Can you imagine…”Oh, you have three children? That’s awesome. What your husband on top? Did you conceive doggy style? WHERE WAS THE MAN?”

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

        So my wife and I don’t have kids yet, but my gay sister and her wife have 4 kids. Especially when the kids were little, they were CONSTANTLY accosted by strangers demanding to know who is “the real mom.” I actually learned this play dumb when people are being offensive from their responses to that.

        We’re probably gonna have kids soon, and I am SO READY to go to town on people who ask these sorts of questions. “But like, who’s the dad?”
        “Oh, we’re not really sure… some rando in a catalogue. What was your dad’s sperm count?”

      2. Jackalope*

        That is a funny image, but I think Dolores was asking about the power differential in their relationship. Many conservative Christians don’t get the idea of egalitarianism and believe that every marriage must have a man who is in charge and a woman who submits to his authority. I heard multiple times growing up that you can try to talk things through and stuff but if push comes to shove the buck has to stop somewhere, and God’s plan is for it to stop with the husband. One of the (no kidding!) arguments I’ve heard against gay marriage is that How will you know who’s in charge and who has to submit if both people are the same sex?

        1. Still Queer, Still Here (OP #10)*

          So I’m the OP for #10, and you’re both kinda right. Because while a lot of people may not realize that when they ask “who’s the man?” There’s often not much of a leap for them to go from asking about power differentials in a non-sexual way to asking questions about your sex life. And given the more mainstreaming of “top” and “bottom” queer culture, I encounter a lot of straight people who will take dominance they witness in a queer relationship to mean that that partner is a top in all the ways.

          In the moment, when this incident was happening to my face, I think on the surface it was about her trying to figure out where the buck stopped; but she was struggling because she also had an antiquated understanding of sex, and subliminally, she couldn’t figure out who was on top. I generally find that most conservative people who struggle to understand how queer relationships work are thinking more about sex than they realize.

          1. Jackalope*

            Okay, that makes sense. I’ve had more conversations about this discussing the power dynamic, and I guess I was assuming that people would have the tact not to ask you directly about your sex life when they barely know you, but apparently I am wrong about this!

            1. CaliUKexpat*

              Interesting, I’d never thought about it this way. But actually… I got WAY more accepting about gay people when I realised that How They Do Sex was firmly None Of My Business. (I was raised a middle of the road PCUSA, but the extended family was all Nazarene so a fair amount of fundamentalist thought crept in round the sides).

              Fascinating, I’d not actually realised that about myself. But it sure does explain a lot about why some people struggle to understand.

          2. Anonny*

            Historically, a lot of cultures have referred to the bottom partner in an m/m relationship in feminine terms, either affectionately or derogatorily. Not that I expect conservative types to know anything about queer history, but yeah, it pretty much means “whose d*ck goes in whose bum?”

        2. banoffee pie*

          Can confirm some Christians will make this argument. I was told that it’s just ‘easier if someone is in charge’. I always argued maybe you could take it in turns to make decisions since it doesn’t seem fair to let the man have his way every time, but was looked at as if I was a particularly dopey child. Maddening

  7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Re: #1 – I have that weak stomach, too. I loathe micromanaging already, but I cannot image intentionally creating micromanagement of illnesses when that’s the chink in your armor.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      RIGHT? I Do Not Like hearing about health troubles (ironically, I work not only with medical records, but primarily with surgery and ED cases) so what kind of blazing stupid would I have to be to demand that people share them with me. Wow.

      1. Observer*

        Well, apparently some people ARE that stupid.

        I’m betting that she was getting some twisted enjoyment of hearing how miserable people are without thinking about the next step. Because it obviously never occurred to her that this could have have happened accidentally.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Yeah, I am not as bad as the OP’s boss, but I really struggle with bodily fluids. Intellectually I know it’s fine, it’s normal, but I get lightheaded or nauseated when people even discuss it. Like, yes, if someone needed my help, I will help because we’re human, but I do try to avoid it if it at all possible.

        So you know what I don’t do? Solicit that information from other people! It works really well other than my one friend who feels the need to tell me about her dog’s bathroom troubles and I think I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and ask her to stop because no amount of non-response from me seems to work.

        1. banoffee pie*

          yeah why did she ask for so many deets when she couldn’t handle it?! daft! Also, surely ‘I have flu’ is detailed enough. Did she want to know how amy tissues you went through, or what?

    1. Observer*

      I think a lot of people would have. #5 REALLY deserves credit. I see why GrandBoss complimented her.

    2. Le Sigh*

      I loved that one so much. I just imagined one of the Beastie Boys characters from “Sabotage” yelling to a quiet room, “IT’S A SABOTAGE!” …. and just crickets. OP didn’t even have to do anything, just let him hang himself.

    3. hbc*

      The weirdest thing about this is that you have a company with management that’s aggressive enough to take shots at individuals in group meetings, but passive enough that a guy shouting about his paranoia stays for another two months, and that after months of lower key bad behavior. I really don’t like firing people, but I had a guy go pull something maybe half as bad as this, and I had him gone in less than a week.

      1. Boof*

        yeah I really question why he eventually “Retired” instead of just… y’know… fired for cause…

  8. Don P.*

    I notice that in #4, the evildoer was not at all shy about claiming the work of someone who was IN THE SAME MEETING, which is an extra level of a-hole, with an implied “Whatcha gonna do about it?”

    1. hbc*

      I simply cannot conceive of having that level of brazenness. It’s like coming up to someone jimmying open your car door and have them saying, “Nope, I’m not breaking in.”

      I wonder if she was moving around a couple of bullet points or something and really believed that she was just making substantive changes.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, and the OP’s response was utter genius. I feel like doing that on all my work from now on just in case.

      1. jojo*

        One place I worked we had a guy that screwed up everything he did. I started putting my initials on everything I typed. The old IBM selectric typewritten. It was a long time ago.

  9. Monday Monday*

    I have soooo done #4. I had a manager that would take my very complex reports that they were not capable of doing (math, analytics, etc.) and take them to our VP and claim them as their own. They were not able to explain said reports and wouldn’t let me go to the meetings to answer questions. I got tired of it so I put a water mark on my work except it was visible. Said manager is no longer with us.

      1. Monday Monday*

        Really no other details other than when they left our group it was one of those emails that was worded to say they were pursuing other opportunities within the company. Clearly meaning they were being told they couldn’t do this job anymore and in order to save their job were being moved to another department with less responsibility. And it appeared they may have lied to their new group because they reached out to me in a panic asking me to train them on how to do these reports because they would need to do them in their new job. Glorious. That didn’t pan out and they never reached out to me again.

  10. CargoPants*

    #8 is a glorious example of playing the long game. And winning! Congratulations, OP! This one made me feel a little better about the future.

    1. Empress Ki*

      8 makes me sad. I don’t generally wish to people to be fired, but you can’t have a racist jerk as VP of an organisation serving a community of color!

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I would prefer not to have a racist anyone in any company! Most especially a senior manager

  11. Andy*

    #8 I remember overhearing one consultant our management insisted on basically boasting how he forbid employees to talk in their maternal language when he worked abroad. He was boasting about kicking another manager out of room after that one spoken in that language with them. It was in the context of him explaining leadership.

    I always wondered how those foreign people interpreted the situation. And whether he was only one doing that or whether it was norm and whether there was subtle retaliation.

    1. Essess*

      Depending on the state, forbidding employees to speak in their own language can be illegal.

      1. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

        One of the few good parts of Rod Blagojevich’s legacy…

  12. ShowTunesOnMyMind*

    LW #8 I am so pleased that others find joy in dragging their racist coworkers to equity trainings. Thank you for the good work and congratulations on the training being certified!

    I’m a woman of color and got to plan a racial equity training at work. I genuinely admire the thoughtfulness and vulnerability of most of my coworkers participating. At the same time, I am petty enough that seeing my racist boss struggle through the training was the highlight of my quarter.

  13. DarthVelma*

    #1 is wonderful. Wouldn’t it be nice if all work problems…heck, all of life’s problems could be solved with baked goods. :-)

  14. DrunkAtAWedding*

    When I was a toddler, my grandmother’s neighbours included a gay couple. We visited them once and I wanted to know who the wife was. I got my ideas from Disney, and I’d noticed that, in couples, one person was husband and one was wife, and the husband was taller and seemed more dominant in initiating the kiss at the end. In my innocent baby brain – I was 3 or 4 at most – I wanted to know how they knew who should be taller and be called ‘husband’ and who should be shorter and called ‘wife’.

    I have absolutely no idea what my grandmother thought I meant, but she told me they took it in turns.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      You were an astute child. The power differential was apparent even to a three-year-old.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I don’t know what toddler-you would have thought about me and my husband: we’re a straight couple but we’re pretty much the same height! Or maybe that’s why we both can initiate kissing…

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I was a toddler, I didn’t actually know how tall adults were. They were mostly walls with nostrils at the top.

        That said, I probably did notice that my uncle was over a foot taller than my mum since he used to give me shoulder rides. Maybe that factored into tiny-me’s understanding of height and gender.

        1. SarahKay*

          Your description of adults as

          They were mostly walls with nostrils at the top

          nearly made me sputter coffee over my keyboard I was laughing so much.

      2. allathian*

        Yup, I’m about an inch taller than my husband, and I’m 5 years older as well. I haven’t noted any particular power differential in our relationship either way, and I should know.

      3. CaliUKexpat*

        When I was about 6, we lived in a house that had a couple of apartments behind it. It threw me SO HARD when a couple moved into one of the apartments that had the wife taller than the husband. And I mean by about two feet (in hindsight, I think he may have been a Little Person) so not the difference in height I was used to seeing. But after a week or so, totally normal, they were just X and Y. Can’t remember if any of us kids said anything daft, but probably. They were lovely though, often chatted over the fence to us kids, so we quickly loved them and they got loads of tiny allies

    3. Observer*

      I got my ideas from Disney, and I’d noticed that, in couples, one person was husband and one was wife, and the husband was taller and seemed more dominant in initiating the kiss at the end. In my innocent baby brain – I was 3 or 4 at most – I wanted to know how they knew who should be taller and be called ‘husband’ and who should be shorter and called ‘wife’.

      That’s not just a Disney thing – a lot of toddlers notice the pattern of guys being taller than their female partners / wives and come to the same kind of conclusion you did.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I distinctly remember having an image of The Little Mermaid in my head, which is why I blamed Disney.

        Of course, this is a memory from nearly 30 years ago, so it may not be totally accurate to how it happened.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        So, my family is all about the same height (short). I remember my dad explaining to me that his father had stood a few steps up from his mother when they took their wedding questions. I was VERY confused and asked a lot of whys.

  15. Kathryn*

    Years ago, around 2002/2003, I was working as a waitress in a restaurant where I was typically the only waitress during the day shift. My boss, the head waitress, totally hated me. Her night shift overlapped my day shift by about an hour and every day she would scour the dining room and wait station looking for the slightest thing out of place or in less-than-ready condition. Some examples of things she bitched about: tables not being set perfectly (paper placemats ever-so-slightly askew, salt/pepper shakers not 100% full, sugar bowls not 100% full, table decorations a bit off-center, etc.), ice slightly melted in the salad dressing container in the wait station, back up condiments not fully stocked, coffee pot not 100% full of fresh coffee, just all kinds of small things! She complained about absolutely everything and I was starting to feel like I couldn’t do anything right and was actually starting to worry about my job.

    Enter my petty compliance!

    One day, I decided that I was done with all of her stupid complaints and I made a mental note of every single, tiny thing she had ever complained about (and all the new complaints) and then I made absolutely sure that she would never be able to complain about that particular thing ever again!

    It took a few weeks, but eventually she had nothing to complain about because I had done everything perfectly.

    And then she complained that I wasn’t pushing appetizers enough. At lunch. (For non-restaurant folks, people generally don’t order appetizers at lunch. And if they do, they’re probably going to get drinks and stay a while. But for the most part, appetizers are a dinner-only thing.)

    She actually started being nice to me after that and I went on to work with her again at another restaurant in the future and it went just fine!

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, maybe she learned a lesson. Or maybe she finally found a waitress who could do the work to her exacting standards.

      I guess you’re a better employee than I am, because that sort of feedback wouldn’t inspire me to want to do better, and if I got to the point of starting to worry about my job I’d try and find another one before she could fire me.

  16. Catgirl*

    A co-worker at our lab had a micromanager who called her frequently to check on her, which was completely unnecessary. Answering his calls didn’t only mean taking the time to talk to him, it meant having to set the equipment/experiment in a safe state, removing safety gear, and decontaminating before answering the phone, then putting on the safety gear after the call to resume work. She started keeping track of how much time she was spending on these calls. When her timesheet was due she showed her boss the total and innocently asked “how do I charge this time?” It was a real wake-up call for him (pun intended) and he called a lot less often after that.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Ha. I was working on a last-minute project for my boss once, and he kept calling me to ask how it was going and if I was almost done yet. After about the 5th call, I told him, “I’m working on it, and I’d get done faster if you’d quit calling me every one minute.” He laughed and left me alone, with no more interruptions, until I sent him the final version about half an hour later.

      1. Gumby*

        What did he think you were going to say? “Oh, I finished it two hours ago but I have decided to just not admit that until you ask ten times.”

      2. Rainy*

        When I was an undergrad working in my department office one of the faculty asked me to transcribe a taped interview that he’d done for his research and then never had transcribed. It was at least a decade old, on an old audiocassette, which had been in his by turns hot and cold attic for most of that time. The audio quality was INCREDIBLY degraded and the interview subject had a really difficult accent, as he’d emigrated from Germany to South Africa and then to New Jersey. With the volume all the way up, it was still so quiet I had to strain to hear it well enough to transcribe.

        I was 25 minutes into the first day transcribing it, and had spent those 25 minutes listening to the same 5 minutes or so of tape and trying to figure out what the interview subject was saying, when the professor, back in his office, called my desk phone and asked if I was done yet. The tape was 4 hours long, so no, I wasn’t.

        When I was about halfway done, a few weeks later, he came to the office to scold me for being so slow, and said, I shit you not “If I were doing this I’d be done already”, to which I said “Oh, great,” and scooped it all up and dumped it in his arms. He said “No, no!” in horror, and when I pointed out that so far I’d gotten it halfway done and only taken two weeks, whereas his attempt was at 10+ years with no results, he had no response.

        1. allathian*

          For my master’s thesis I did in-depth interviews at a company. I had decent equipment and the people I interviewed spoke clearly, yet I could count on 10 hours of transcription time for every hour of tape. I envy students today who can do digital recordings on their phone, run the recordings through transcription software, and at least get a decent rough draft.

          1. Rainy*

            Yeah, it just takes so long, and I think people just don’t realize it. At one point I ended up going to my boss (the dept admin) and saying “you’ve got to make him stop or I’m going to tell him I can’t work on this–his constant demands that I be done already are extremely disruptive to my actual work” and she sympathized and spoke to him. For the last 25% or so, he ended up leaving me alone about it for other reasons and it suddenly was so much less horrible to work on!

            I found his utter inability to understand how long things take to be pretty frustrating.

        2. Teapot, Groomer of Llamas*

          I had to do a transcription of a hour long conversation once. Stupid thing took me weeks to finish. I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to do.

  17. Nom*

    I connect deeply with the email one. I once had a boss that would ask me to include the name of the project in all of my email subject lines so she would know which project i was talking about. this was fair enough but she would always freak out if i would forget. That would have been more understandable if she didn’t send me multiple emails a day that amounted to “did you do the thing with the stuff” and then i’d have to go to her office to ask what she meant.

    1. MerelyMe*

      I had a boss in a previous lifetime for whom English wasn’t his first language. He would ask me “Did you type?” and then I’d have to ask him what he wanted me to have typed, because I spent all day typing various things.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Email I once got: “Is my understanding of the numbering convention correct?”

        My reply: “That’s an EXCELLENT question. What is your understanding of the numbering convention, so that I can tell you if it’s correct or not?”

    2. old dad*

      I find often that the behavior that freaks my bosses out the most is the behavior they are most guilty of.

  18. Sally Forth*

    #11. Love the cheesecake story. I once ordered the smallest arrangement that the florist could deliver to give an obligatory thanks to a horribly toxic coworker for a small favour she had done. She burst into tears. She had never received flowers in her life and that little rose bowl did her in. She had been married and had a child. It made me look at her in a different way.

    1. Sara without an H*

      That was generous of you. Sometimes people who act out at work are suffering from horrible personal lives. It’s worth trying to see if a small act of kindness or appreciation fixes the situation. If it doesn’t, no need to escalate, but trying a small dose of humanity first may be worth it.

      Note: Managers don’t have this option. If someone’s behavior is causing disruption, it needs to be dealt with upfront and unambiguously.

      1. Wisteria*

        Managers have the option to deal with disruptive behavior upfront with kindness and a small dose of humanity.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Sure. Always use kindness and humanity. But don’t ignore the behavior. That way serious toxicity lies.

    2. LW #11*

      As much satisfaction as you can get from “sticking it” to a jerk of a co-worker, it did feel even better to get a friend back. You also just don’t always know what they’re going through, or where their head is at.

    3. Alexander Graham Yell*

      My freshman year roommate and I did not get along at all – we were both stubborn and couldn’t really compromise. My mom made me buy her a Christmas gift and I (very grudgingly) did it – a necklace of some freshwater pearls, cost me maybe $10. She wore pearls all the time, so I figured why not.

      It is literally the thing that changed our relationship. She was really touched and wore them constantly, and with just that little bit of softening in our relationship we managed to be okay with each other for the rest of the year and were friendly (not friends, but friendly) the rest of college. It’s funny what a small thing can do with the right person.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Freshman year of college is so hard for so many kids. It was really hard for me. I’m glad your mom talked you into giving her the gift.

        A friend of mine gave me a necklace at the beginning of the pandemic that says “Keep fucking going” in morse code. I’ve barely taken it off for the past year.

  19. Coder von Frankenstein*

    “For a couple of years after that, other staff members would ask me how I managed to keep from being cornered by her, and I would just say, ‘I told her about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and she was terribly offended.'”

    I just about died reading this. It’s magnificent. The whole story is magnificent, but this is just the perfect finish.

  20. Sabina*

    One of my favorite work moments happened years ago when I worked for a federal court as an intake clerk. I was working the counter when a woman approached who looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place her. She was an attorney with some appeal paperwork to file, very important stuff. We finally both recognized each other. We had been part of the same carpool years ago during college. I remembered her constantly and openly flirting with my boyfriend who was also in the carpool and being generally a stuck up diva. While I’m looking through her paperwork she comments “oh, so you never made it to law school and now you are working here?”. Yep, true. A moment or two pass with her getting more and more impatient. I checked a few more of her documents, looked at a calendar, and was able to announce “I’m sorry, based on what you’ve got here it looks like you missed the deadline to file this appeal…sorry!” Readers, I was not sorry…

    1. Eether, Either*

      Wow. I’m sorry, but that’s a horrible thing to do. Just reaffirms why I hate going to the clerk’s office.

      1. Jackalope*

        I don’t think the revenge part was refusing to take the paperwork. My understanding is that due to their procedures it was no longer possible to accept it. Especially with legal paperwork there are times when if you don’t have everything in by a certain date you don’t have any options to get around it. I think she just appreciated being able to point out that the person who had been a jerk to her had messed up the filing.

      2. HereKittyKitty*

        It’s the lawyer’s job to get the paperwork in on time, that’s all on her if she didn’t pay attention to the date.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        I’m assuming what she said was true: the lawyer-acquaintance had missed the deadline. It’s not something she said just to screw with the obnoxious lawyer. The satisfying part was telling the smug person she’d fucked up.

        1. Sabina*

          Yeah there was a strict deadline for filing and nothing I could have done about it either way. My unspoken response to her shading me for not going to law school and just being a court clerk was at least I’m competent at my job (and don’t flirt with other people’s boyfriends ).

      4. Sabina*

        She missed the deadline that was clearly stated in the rules of court. I couldn’t waive it even if I wanted to.

      5. Dara*

        Based on “I checked a few more of her documents, looked at a calendar, and was able to announce…,” it doesn’t look like Sabina did anything horrible. The lawyer missed the deadline and Sabina just got to have the satisfaction of informing her of the fact.

  21. hiptobesquared*

    Regarding #10 – I had a co-worker like that who used to invite everyone to lunchtime bible study and I was just not into it. I declined the emails and just moved past it… until one day he emailed me directly and about how he knows I am not very religious or something and blah blah. I told him I was not interested. The next initiation I got, I replied, cc’ing my boss and his boss, telling him I was not interested and to take me off his list or next time I would report his to HR.

    I never got another invitation and all my co-workers were jealous but didn’t want to be “mean” and tell him no. Thanks Alison for giving me the confidence to set boundaries!

  22. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    What an astute kid you were. Yes, the power diffefential is obvious to a three year old.

  23. old dad*

    #5: I’m a little shocked that Horrible Employee Who Did Nothing was forced to resign TWO MONTHS after being found to be horrible.
    #8 : this got me to thinking about a recent New York Times The Argument podcast about whether diversity training was effective. This was a good revenge, but did sitting through an 8 hour training make this guy less of a racist? and was his racism every called out or lead to any consequences for him?

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      It does set a tone for the organization. People may still be racist in their heart, but they can see being open about it isn’t going to be a successful strategy.

      1. old dad*

        I just listened to the whole podcast and that was the takeaway – you won’t win over the racists, but you can set up systems and processes that neutralize their ability to cause harm.

        1. Who is the asshole*

          I would also assume that people who just don’t know better in some regards will go forth and apply the new knowledge. I don’t think that such a training is intended to convert hardcore racists,that is just too much to ask.

        2. UKDancer*

          That’s always been my assumption. You can’t make people stop being sexist, racist etc unless they really want to change. All you can do is make it clear what your organisation expects of them and how they are to behave and sets out clearly that unacceptable behaviour won’t be tolerated.

          it may shed a light on things. When we did some training recently one of the most interesting discussions was around privilege and what we had and did not have. It made me think of the things that I (as a middle class person) took for granted as well as the privilege others had but I did not (as a woman). I don’t know I learnt new information but I did think about things differently.

          Also if there are things people want to get right but aren’t sure about (for example pronouns) diversity training can be a safe space to check on that.

    2. Your local password resetter*

      Lets be honest, that guy was never going to stop being racist. The real audience were the coworkers who genuinely wanted to improve.
      Having some karmic justice for that guy was just a bonus.

  24. carbonbasedlifeform*

    Katie “lived in a fourfold”? In the context of housing/buildings, what is a fourfold? my googling just keeps turning up results about heidegger, william blake, and covid spikes. i’m mystified.

      1. LW #11*

        This was actually the word I was thinking, lol so yes it was a fourplex. I’m not sure where I’ve heard it described as Fourfold.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I assume it’s either a four square or a building with 2 apartments per floor and 2 floors.

  25. Goldenrod*

    I am LOVING LOVING LOVING #7 (“the Victory).

    I think it should totally be made into a major motion picture starring Aidy Bryant.

  26. Keeping It Anon*

    These are so, so satisfying.

    Mine’s not epic, but it did feel good at the time. I once stuck out an internship from hell because I really, really needed a reference for graduate school. It was all free to them, as I had my own funding through a program. Despite the months of misery, the project we were working on was a success. After the official term was over, I even continued to do a little volunteering on the side for them just to keep on the radar. All in all, a few hundred hours of labor on my part.

    The time finally came to ask for a reference…..and the boss said they were going on vacation, so I should find someone else. The reference, as I remember, was essentially a work sheet with ratings to circle and a few short answers, and I had provided more than ample turnaround time. There wasn’t anyone else there to ask, either. It was absolutely a brush off.

    Several awful weeks pass, during which I have to scramble to figure out plan B, and then I notice something that stops me cold. Ex-Boss is advertising to recruit another (free) intern through my program, touting that they had hosted one before. Me. After everything, I was being used for advertising.

    After I stopped ranting to anyone within earshot, I decided on a plan. I e-mailed Ex-Boss that I noticed they were advertising, and if there were any promising applicants, “I’d be happy to talk to them about my experience.”

    Ex-Boss….actually gave me a name. As it turns out, it was an acquaintance in my wider circle, who then got to hear everything. They did not pursue that internship.

  27. feath*

    I thought number 8 would be my favorite, but 11 just took the (cheese)cake since it ended up really wholesome.

  28. Cat Lady*

    As a fat woman myself, I am experiencing levels of schadenfreude in response to #7 that I didn’t even know I was capable of until now. Sometimes the best revenge truly is being successful.

  29. Donkey Hotey*

    Somewhere in between the “but what’s a circle jerk” and “Jesus is the only man in our relationship”

    As background: My wife is happa (half-Anglo, half-Japanese). Shortly after we married, I brought our wedding album in to share with my co-workers. One co-worker stopped at the picture of my wife and her (Japanese-American) father and asked, “WHAT’S HER DAD?”
    Me: A… doctor?
    Her: But where’s he from?
    Me: (straight faced truth telling) Texas.
    Her: Where were his parents born?
    Me: (straight faced truth telling) Texas.
    Her: Where did his ancestors come from?
    Me: They came from Japan in 1890s… about twenty years before my great-grandfather emigrated from Germany. Do you ask me if I’m German?

  30. Just no*

    Alison, THANK YOU! These made my week.

    #7, that was just the chef’s kiss. Love this story.

    #10, this is one of those amazing stories that I will think about in the future when I’m sad or frustrated, and it will lift my spirits. Jesus indeed.

  31. banoffee pie*

    I loved #5 SOMEONE has been trying to sabotage me!! It makes you sound a bit paranoid and childish to start yelling about SOMEONE, I always think ;)

  32. Queen bee*

    These are the best stories I’ve read all year. They made me deliriously happy :) Thank for these, just what the doctor ordered for a year like this!!!!

  33. Danielle*

    These are awesome – I’ve been chuckling and cheering through the entire read!

    I have a story from about 6 years ago (Sorry for the long essay!) … At the time I was working in student programming at a local university. It essentially entailed mentoring students and helping them plan all the official campus student events. This necessarily meant odd hours – occasional early mornings and frequent late nights.

    My direct supervisor was awesome, but her boss (VP) was totally out of the loop. Despite our crazy hours, he demanded that we also keep regular office hours – which meant that often we were working 50-60 hours per week – including weekends. We’d work until midnight at an event, and then be expected to be in the office by 9am. And did I mention I was salaried and massively underpaid?

    About a year after I had my first child, I went to the VP to ask for assistance. I said that they either needed to hire someone to help, or I’d have to look for another job. I’d been required to work so much, that I’d only seen my baby about 4-5 days during the last month! The VP simply told me I needed to work on my time management skills. I left his office furious, and immediately started looking for a new job.

    Due to restructuring, they decided to move my awesome supervisor to another department, and hire her replacement. Because it was higher education, my experience didn’t matter because I didn’t have the degree required for the position (NVM that I was only 6 months away from getting that degree). We went through the interview process for my direct supervisor.

    They ended up choosing a candidate that was just awful. During the interview I had with him, he was arrogant, insulting of our programs and budget, and frankly looked rumpled and hungover. He didn’t have the experience needed, and was obviously not a culture fit. Despite mine and my coworkers strong objections, the VP called us into a meeting to say they were going to hire him.

    The rationale? The guy was a good friend of the VP, and since Danielle does such a great job, she can just teach him everything he needs to know about how to manage campus events and supervise me.

    It felt AMAZING to be able to speak up during that meeting, and say, “Actually, I’ve received another job offer. My two weeks notice will be on your desk in the morning.” The meeting absolutely fell apart.

    They didn’t hire the guy.

  34. Schmitt*

    The pettiest of petty, coming up:

    I worked for a smallish web agency run by a married couple. Highlights of my time there include:
    * They wanted to fire someone in a country where you must document warnings. They called him into a meeting, retroactively gave him three warnings (stuff like being late, when he called in advance and said he was snowed in) and fired him.
    * My direct report, in his first job, was on vacation with friends. His friend had accidentally booked the flights a day later than agreed on. He was out of vacation days, so they made him shell out upwards of €200 for the earlier return flight.
    * Of course they thought they had this amazing, eye-level culture. Everyone took lunch together and had a round of espresso after. It was voluntary (because otherwise it would have been illegal) but you got serious stinkeye if you didn’t attend. For us peons, there was silverware from Ikea, but the big bosses brought in separate, nicer silverware for themselves.
    * There was an incident where an unmarried employee had an affair with one of the married directors, he got fired, she did not; she stole a hard drive for him and then got fired. The big bosses pulled us all into the lunchroom to tell us, then they went around the circle and told each of us exactly what they thought of us.
    * I was due to have surgery two days after my quitting date and wanted to use my last vacation day on the day before the surgery. They insisted it was vital that I work out my notice fully.
    * My boss and I interviewed a promising candidate. They told us we couldn’t make the hire, because “we hired a fat person once before and it didn’t work out, they just sat on the stairs and cried all day”

    When I left, I put their special silverware in the back of a different drawer in the kitchen. I hope it took a long time to find. After writing this out, I wish I had burnt the place down.

    1. Beany*

      That place sounds awful, though I wouldn’t put all of those incidents on equal footing. The first and last sound completely unethical (and illegal, I’d assume?), but number 2 I’m not so sure about. What’s the correct procedure for dealing with the vacation overage for the new employee? Let him keep the original travel dates, but dock him a vacation day later? Did the office need him in place on the earlier date because there wasn’t cover?

      Not familiar with the term “eye-level culture” in this context. Pretending everyone’s a peer, regardless of job title and management role?

      1. Schmitt*

        I wanted to offer him an unpaid vacation day. There was no reason he had to be back in the office for coverage or urgent deadlines. But “nobody made that kind of exception for me when I was at BigCompany.”

        And yes – the slightly less awful version of “we’re just a big family”.

  35. German Girl*

    Can we please have a vote at the end of the year about the best triumph over jerks story?

    So far, my vote goes to #8.

  36. Not Allison*

    I’m so baffled by #1. If I had to guess about the motive behind requiring detailed explanations for sick calls, I would imagine it’s because they want to ensure the person isn’t lying? But 1) you could easily be lying, and 2) that’s not how you handle employees potentially playing hooky! The only other thing I can think of is that they’re deathly afraid of contagious illnesses so they want to see if it’s something they have to worry will spead around the office. But again—not how that is achieved!

  37. foolofgrace*

    > the very specific reason we were calling in

    Re: the sick call, I thought it was illegal to make a person say the reason they were sick. At least that’s how it was explained to me at my current job (in the U.S.) — they’re not allowed to ask.

    1. Not Allison*

      I believe this to be the case. This caused a bit of “drama” in my workplace when we started differentiating between sick days and taking a day off for a non-medical personal reason. People were complaining about the potential to be asked invasive questions when they used to just be able to say “I won’t be in today.” But since our state laws have a few legally covered reasons that count as “sick days,” no one in management actually questions anything. The only thing we asked for a while, pre-vaccine, is if the person calling in sick was going to be out pending a covid test.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not illegal in the US as long as you don’t inadvertently ask someone who’s covered by the ADA. And since you can’t know that, it’s a good reason not to ask.

  38. irene adler*

    Chair Wars
    I work in a lab. In a small manufacturing company.

    We informed management that there were not enough chairs for the lab employees to sit on to carry out their work. We asked if we could purchase a couple of chairs.

    Management response: No. There’s no money available to purchase chairs. Maybe ask again in 6 months.

    Okay, we’re talking task chairs with wheels and various adjustments for comfort (height and lumbar). Maybe $150 to $200 each. Nothing fancy, but comfortable as one has to sit in them for several hours at a time.

    Meanwhile, at crunch times, I have to rest on my knees on the lab floor to complete my experiments. No chairs available! Ouch!

    I go to management to point this out. I ask if we can stagger work times to accommodate the lack of chairs. Management goes into the lab, counts the chairs. They declare that there are enough lab chairs if we SHARE them (actually, we are already doing that!). So again, no lab chairs will be purchased. End of discussion!

    We’re all thinking: sharing chairs means a whole lot of adjusting of them just to sit. That’s inconvenient!

    Then I notice management has recently purchased new executive chairs for some of their offices. Those had to be well beyond the cost of two lab chairs.

    I’m on my knees at times in the lab but the execs get new chairs. Guess we know what the priorities are.

    I notice that two of the managers- the CFO and the VP of the lab- have the very same executive chair model. One has been adjusted to fit the VP’s diminutive stature and girth and the other the CFO’s almost 6 feet in height.

    So, at lunch one day I moved the CFO chair into the VP’s office and put the VP’s chair at the desk of the CFO. Let’s see how well they like sharing chairs.

    That afternoon I made every excuse to pass by their offices to see the results. I could barely contain my laughter. Every time I passed the CFO’s office she was hopping out of her chair, turning the various chair adjustments, yelling, “Who touched my chair? Who changed it? I’m never gonna get this back the way it was. Dammit, WHO DID THIS?”

    Throughout the afternoon, the VP of the lab sat at his chair, oblivious to what the yelling was about as his feet dangled from his seat, unable to touch the ground.

    It never occurred to either of them what had happened.

    (no, never did get new chairs. I went out and purchased a couple shortly thereafter-on my dime.)

    1. Jen in Oregon*

      That is awesome! I would have been tempted to do it again every few weeks to few months and would have gotten caught. I admire your restraint. (Unless you actually did that, in which case, *high five!*)

  39. SeekYou*

    All OPs – you are incredible. #2 – the Circle jerk comment brought me to tears! Thank you for sharing these stories.

  40. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I had a cashier job in high school. I fainted at work and hit my head on the corner of the register on the way down. (this was about the time my heart mummer got detected) The other cashier helped me to sit down in the back office and I’m just trying to get the room to stop spinning and the stars I can see to go away. I had a nice goose egg on my forehead. The pharmacist (who kind of had cranky old man syndrome anyway) looked at me and said “I suppose you want to go home now” I looked at him, grabbed his trash can, and the one time in my life, I threw up on command. “Do you really want me to stay?” I asked.

    1. Empress Ki*

      He was a pharmacist and it didn’t occur to him you should have seen a doctor after fainting ?
      And your parents too (assuming you were under 18 since you were in high school.

  41. Violet*

    #11 reminds me of my first post-graduate job. I worked in an office, and the receptionist was the only woman who was friendly to me. I was friends with several men, but none of the other women would give me time of day.

    I once opened the restroom door, and an icy woman barreled through before I had time to step out. She didn’t give so much as a thanks or a glance my way. She was never that rude again, but she was still frosty to me. I don’t remember being frosty back, but I definitely carried a grudge.

    After about a year, Ms. Frosty heard me talking to the receptionist, and she laughed and joined the conversation. We quickly became best best friends, and she told me that the women were cold to me because I only talked to the men. I said, “I’m shy! I talk to the men because they talk to me. And what about you, barging in like the Queen of England when I opened the bathroom door?” She said, “I ran in because I had to throw up!” (She didn’t give any details or sound effects.)

    We stayed best friends until I moved, and several other women befriended me as well. Gossip, misunderstandings, and a little goodwill all go a long way!

  42. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I was working at a local TV station, and things were not going well. They had canceled the newscast and laid off all the news staffers except for me. (I was reassigned to, among other things, the home shopping show.)

    It was coming up to Christmas, and the general manager had a brain wave. We were going to open up our dark, empty studio for a blowout party and invite lots of clients and prospects and try to drum up a bunch of business for the new year. Everyone on the staff had party-related tasks, from negotiating a deal with a band to sending out invitations to buying alcohol for the open bar. (The GM was very clear that he wanted Bombay Sapphire gin, don’t ask me why.)

    This was way back when digital cameras were an amazing new technology. My job was to take digital shots of the partygoers and create a rolling slideshow displayed on one of the walls during the event.

    Meanwhile, the GM, realizing that he was going to be on his feet for a long time, decided maybe he should take some of the Oxy left over from his back surgery. And then followed up with four or five Bombay Sapphire martinis. And THEN had a, um, digestive event and collapsed in front of the very people he was trying to impress.

    A couple of the guys picked him up to pilot him out the door, and the GM’s daughter (who had been working coat check) was drafted to drive Dad home. On his way out, he was on his feet, but unsteady, and he reached for something that looked solid and stable …

    … which was my right boob.

    My New Year’s resolution that year was to get a new job and I left in March for a much better place. And then, as the leaves turned to orange again, I got a phone call from the parent company’s HR department. They wanted to know about GM. And boy, did I have a story to tell them. One of the more satisfying phone calls of my life.

  43. Jack Russell Terrier*

    About the gay teacher.

    I entered kindergarten in about 1973. It was a small private school on Long Island, near Stony Brook University. There were two male teachers – both very good. In I think Fifth Grade, one of them became Principal and the two of them moved into the Principal’s apartment above the school. My parents had a number of gay friends – including The Two Bobs, but I didn’t really put it all together.

    As an adult, I asked mum if there was any concern/negativity etc about someone becoming Principal who was openly gay and would be living on school premises with his partner.

    Mum shrugged and said – I don’t really remember anything like that. He was obviously the best person for the job.

    Not sure this could have happened in some parts of the country in the late Seventies … .

  44. TardyTardis*

    This was in the Dark Ages, when punchcards ruled the earth. I was taught how to use the punchcard machine by a couple of the GS-2s who liked me, and didn’t mind if I stepped in during lunch to do a couple of emergency ones. I had a CO who didn’t like women being officers (having them enlisted was ok, just not officers. He made this extremely clear in my hearing how much he hated me being there). He knew I made emergency punchcards (sometimes at his direction). Close to my end of tour of duty, I mentioned to the guy at the front desk how it was possible to set up things to go bad six months after a line was put in. By coincidence, the CO was walking by but never said anything.

    I never actually did anything but what I was supposed to. But he was the kind of guy to go through transaction logs anyway, and I just know every time where there was an error message he had to track down, that he had to be thinking of me.

    Yum, yum.

  45. Miss Curmudgeonly*

    My eyes like saucers when I read this one.

    “She would assign me to a work trip and when I would arrive, it would be a makeover or a manicure.”

    Then I got to this and I have to go pick up my eyeballs as they popped out of their sockets and rolled across the floor.

    “… they weren’t masculine enough and they would probably ‘spread their homosexual energy’ too much.”

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