a rogue admin, a silent snacker, and more

I’m on vacation this week. Here are some letters from the archives.

1. Our rogue admin has published her own strict rule book for new hires, without any authority to do that

Our organization has an employee at a satellite office, Jane, whose job description clearly states she that supervises no one; she is administrative support staff. At least weekly a supervisor travels to this office to check on one of the other four staff located at this office.

However, I recently found out Jane has published an unauthorized and very misrepresenting 7-page document she has been giving to new hires. This document is very misrepresenting; it reads as though employees are to answer to her. Although we hold a very organized orientation prior to any employee beginning work, with clear policies and procedures, she has taken it upon herself to not only publish her own “rules, policies and procedures,” and has written them so they read as if they have been authorized by organizational management. An example of one item is “if you are calling in sick, you must call Jane. Voicemail and text messages are not acceptable. Your supervisor may require you to call them also.”

She goes as far as to state in the document that you are to sign your acknowledgement and receipt for this document. This is absolutely outside the scope of her authority and her duties. The copy I got my hands on says “updated 7/02/2014,” so this has been going on for some time without management knowledge.

I have had staff refer to her as a “bully” during exit interviews and now I understand why. They travel 110 miles to our administrative offices for orientation and when they arrive at the satellite office to begin work, she is presenting them with this document. I can very well understand an employee being conflicted about who they answer to.

I am definitely traveling to discipline her for going beyond the limits of her authority and exercising power that has not been granted to her. Is this a terminable offense?

As in legally, can you fire her for this? You could. But why not first talk to her and find out what her thinking is, and tell her clearly that this kind of thing isn’t acceptable? You should also have a broader conversation about the nature of her role, the boundaries between her and other staff members, and how you expect her to treat (and not treat) people in that office. Let her know that your concerns are serious, you need to see immediate changes in how she’s behaving with other people, and her job is in jeopardy if you don’t. (And then you’ll need to watch her closely for a while, as well as soliciting feedback from the people who work with her, so you’re confident that you know whether or not she’s operating the way you need her to.)

You could move straight to firing her, and if she’s toxic enough to colleagues, that might be warranted — but in general it’s much better practice to warn people before firing them, so that they have a chance to hear your concerns and improve. Often people do! Not always, of course, but unless something is truly egregious, it generally makes more sense to talk with the person about where they’re falling short and give them the opportunity to fix things. You also want everyone in your office to know that if you’re unhappy with their work, they’ll hear about it and be able to try to fix it rather than just being fired out of the blue one day.

Read an update to this letter here.


2. Should I contact my boyfriend’s boss?

I have been planning a surprise trip to New York for my boyfriend of five year’s birthday in November. I had him ask for a total of three days off work. He is fairly new at his job, having only been there for four months, but he is given so many vacation days that he is to use by year’s end. When he mentioned the vacation days to his boss, they stated, “It should be fine, it’s your vacation days.” My boyfriend was specific about the dates I told him, but still told them that he’d confirm the days via email.

I am now only a month away, so since they told him that he should be okay to take off, I purchased flight, hotel, and tickets for a Broadway show (about $1700) without insurance. And of course, a few days afterwards, the bosses told my boyfriend that those dates are not good dates. Once he told me, I explained (without telling him where the trip was) that I have already made the purchases and to try to see if he can do anything else about it. He mentioned it right away to his boss, who then stated that we should not have jumped the gun but that he would ask anther manager for their opinion. It’s been a week and they have not brought it back up yet and since my boyfriend is still so new, he does not want to bring it up himself.

This situation needs to be figured out soon so that I can figure out what I need to do to try to get some money back. Would it be unprofessional for me to email his boss and explain the situation and that it was my fault for making purchases and whatnot?

Whoa, definitely do not contact his manager yourself. This is his to handle and you risk making him look bad by interjecting yourself into his work situation. If they had given him approval (real approval, not tentative “email us the dates and we’ll see” approval), then he should talk to them and point out that nonrefundable tickets were purchased based on their okay. But if there’s any chance that their okaying the dates was tentative, he may need to let it go. Either way, though, you’ve got to leave this to his judgment to handle, since it’s his job and his relationship with his boss, and he’s the one who can best judge how to approach this.


3. My manager doesn’t want me to tell my new coworker that I resigned and this is my last week

Last week, I gave my two weeks’ notice to my company. At the same time as I gave my resignation, they were preparing to bring a new hire into our department. I realize that my resignation might be badly timed for them, but I’ve held firm even when presented with a counter-offer.

The new guy started today, and my boss has told me to speak to him as if I wasn’t leaving. My last day is Friday, and apparently they haven’t told him I won’t be there next week! What makes this worse is that the company was planning for the two of us to work fairly closely. I feel bad for this guy, because this company has a fairly consistent pattern of dishonesty. Apparently he was told he’d be working closely with me and they chose to let him keep believing it even when they knew I was out the door. Now I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut while they “get their story right.”

I’m not willing to lie to a coworker, and I’m sure not going to lie for this company, but I’m not sure it’s my place to tell him I won’t be around next week. Any thoughts?

Not only is your manager wrong to ask you to lie by omission, but they’re not doing themselves any favors with the new guy either — come Monday, he’s going to figure out what happened and he’s going to be pretty damn unnerved to discover that your manager hid this from him. (Unless your manager’s “story” is going to involve you leaving without notice, either voluntarily or involuntarily — which is another thing I’d be worried about.)

How about saying to your manager, “I don’t feel comfortable misleading Bob about the fact that I won’t be here after this week. I realize you don’t want to freak him out so we can coordinate on messaging if you’d like, but I do want to tell him today.”


4. The silent snacker

I work on a small team of five people within a larger institution. Four of us are super friendly, chatty, funny, hard workers. The fifth team member, who I’ll call “Silent Bob,” joined our team a year ago, is good at his job, and never (and honestly, I mean NEVER) engages in conversation with us (or anyone else here at our institution). At first, we just thought he was super introverted, which is totally fine–he does his job and goes home.

But our small team holds a regularly scheduled weekly snack break for when volunteers are helping us. The other four of us, in addition to our volunteers, have taken turns bringing in snacks or treats. Silent Bob still joins us and partakes heartily of these snacks/foods but has never once brought in anything for the group or even said “thank you.” It has been like this for a year now, and I am now beyond annoyed. Silent Bob is no longer coming off as shy, but rude. We write down who is bringing the weekly snack on a calendar, and I’ve tried holding up the calendar and saying “Okay, you can feel free to sign up too, Silent Bob!” but to no avail. I would even be appeased a little if he said “thanks.” Any other suggestions on how to talk to him about doing his share, or at least, that it would be only polite to acknowledge the treats that others are providing?

Stop hinting and tell him directly that he needs to sign up to contribute snacks if he wants to partake of them. The next time you’re doing the weekly calendar, say directly to him, “Bob, which week do you want me to put you down for?” or “Bob, it’s time we got you in this rotation. Which week do you want to bring in the snacks?”


5. My boss does my coworker’s laundry

I recently learned that my boss has been doing one of our coworker’s laundry. I was a bit taken aback by this because my coworker had moved to new housing closer to our workplace about six months ago. I had heard them make comments before about my boss doing his laundry, but I thought she was just joking around. I am also a manager and could understand offering to help one of my staff for a short time after a move, especially if they live close to me, but my boss and coworker live an hour apart. This would mean she is picking up his laundry, taking it home to do it for him and bringing it back to him (and as I said, this had been going on for at least six months). The only reason I can think of for this is that he does not have a washer or dryer at his house, so my boss views it as “teamwork” and just helping him out.

I personally felt like this is crossing a professional boundary line, especially when I consider how this could be viewed by other staff if they knew this was going on. Am I wrong to think this way? What would be the best way to approach my boss with these feelings?

Wha…? Noooooooo, this is super strange and inappropriate. I mean, maybe she’s not actually driving to his house to pick up the laundry and then driving back to deliver it — maybe they’re making the switch-off at the office. But it doesn’t really matter; it’s still super, super weird and inappropriate. And yeah, if people hear about it, they’re going to assume all sorts of concerning things about that relationship, as well as about each of them individually. At best, the boss will look like she’s inappropriately mothering him and he will look like he’s too immature to be wash his own clothes. At worst, it will look like something really icky is going on between them. Either way, it will look like she has zero clue about boundaries with the people she’s supposed to manage.

If you happen to have a very good and close relationship with your boss and she takes candor well, then you could say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve realized what this looks like to the rest of the team and I’m concerned people are going to draw pretty alarming conclusions if they hear about it.” Or if you see signs of favoritism toward this employee (aside from the laundry), that’s something you could raise. But otherwise, I’d just file this away as Something Very Weird Is Happening.


{ 251 comments… read them below }

  1. allathian*

    Oh, wow. The silent snacker really takes the biscuit, literally.

    I hope he’s changed his behavior for the better since the letter originally ran. At the very least, he should thank whoever brought the snacks, bring in snacks himself when it’s his turn to do so, and acknowledge whoever else is in the room with a nod, if saying hi is too much to ask.

    I hope this rude person is at least good at the technical side of his job, even if his people skills are non-existent.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      AAM fan fiction from a years-later perspective: Silent Snacker Bob at his next job becomes Guacamole Bob.

    2. DrunkAtAWedding*

      Tbh, my interpretation is that it’s an honest misunderstanding. The LW doesn’t mention ever talking to Bob about this, and seems to have expected him to be proactive in signing up to volunteer for snacks. But maybe he had no idea that was the system? That would tie in with not saying “thank you” either, if he was under the impression that the snacks were provided by the workplace, not by individual people. If I’d gone into a new workplace like that, I can see myself just assuming that the snacks were provided by the workplace and then not taking any further steps to find out where they came from or if I needed to do anything without any prompting.

      1. Washi*

        I mean, she literally held up the sign up sheet for him to see, presumably with other coworkers’ names visible, and said he can sign up too. I realize that on a bluntness scale of 0 – 10, that’s maybe an 8 and she apparently needs to go up to a 10. But I don’t think it’s fair to make this all OP’s fault for not being clear enough when I think 99% of people would have understood the situation by now, at least enough to say thank you!

        OP would be doing him a favor (and I say favor because it’s really uncomfortable to have to use what feels like rudeness; it’s not cost-free for the deliverer of this message) by being more explicit, but he also hasn’t done anything to cultivate the type of relationship where his coworkers are going to feels super comfortable saying something like that. So OP can certainly try a different approach, but I also don’t want to lose sight of the fact that Bob is not a bad person or anything, but nevertheless this awkward situation is on Bob, not on OP.

        1. HalloweenCat*

          Bob is obviously being rude but I’d say OP’s approach is more of a 5 on the scale. She’s not telling him he HAS to sign up, she’s asking if he’d LIKE to sign up, which makes it seem voluntary instead of mandatory.

          1. Yorick*

            It still makes it obvious that people are volunteering to bring in these snacks, which makes it obvious that he’s eating things brought by coworkers without ever bringing in any himself.

            1. DrunkAtAWedding*

              I’m not sure it does, depending on exactly what was said. But, I actually missed that part when I first commented, so I might have some WYSIATI going on.

            2. JB*

              I don’t think it necessarily does make it clear. I’m someone who tends to socialize less at work (I get focused on my work and tune people out naturally – it’s not because I don’t like them) and I have, on several occassions, had coworkers wave things at me and asked if I wanted to ‘sign up’ while apparently assuming I knew what it was about.

              Obviously, I have resolved these situations by asking ‘sign up for what?’ but based on how Silent Bob is described, I’d guess he’s not doing that.

            3. tamarack and fireweed*

              Well, yes, you and I would see that, but some people can be incredibly wrapped up in their own world and not notice. Doesn’t make it less rude! But it means that if you want this to change you need to get it on the offender’s radar screen.

              “Stop hinting” is one of the recurring key phrases in AAM advice for good reasons.

              1. Kal*

                “Stop hinting” is common advice on basically every advice column for the same reason. Some people are socialised to think that outright saying the thing is rude and must be avoided, but other people will often not have the context or awareness to understand without being directly told. There’s always going to be context when those two types meet, but the easiest solution is for the hinter to just say the thing, since the other person is typically oblivious that there is even a conflict to be resolved.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree. I also think that unless he is like really hoarding or eating an unreasonable amount I’d try to at least outwardly let it go and just be privately annoyed at Bob not contributing.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Could I ask why? Genuine question!

              I find being annoyed soooo uncomfortable, and if the price of stopping it likely is a single friendly-but-direct sentence then I always go for bringing it up. It’s really not clear to me what the thinking is of people who don’t, and I’d like to understand their perspective better.

              1. banoffee pie*

                Probably too late for you to see this but I’ll try to answer. I know a lot of people who could not manage your friendly but direct sentence (I’m with you, by the way. I would go for the direct sentence!). They find confrontation just too awkward or even scary and will put up with annoying things for years rather than mention them. I think sometimes it could be because in their families, confrontation led to arguments or maybe even worse. Then others aren’t afraid of anything in particular and just find it too embarrassing to be direct with people

          3. Cj*

            IMO, nothing that costs you money should every be mandatory in the workplace.

            OP mentions volunteers, which means it is likely to be a non-profit, and they are notoriously underpaid. Maybe he can’t afford to bring in snack for a whole bunch of people. And maybe he takes a bunch of snacks because he is poor enough to be food insecure and hungry.

            He sounds rude in other ways, but there can be reasons for that also, like he’s socially awkward, doesn’t recognize or understand social cues, etc.

            1. Llama Llama*

              Agree – he should probably at least say thank you but he shouldn’t be required to contribute to the snacks, even if he is eating them. Presumably employees bring in snacks because they want to contribute them not because they have to. If they have to as part of the jobs the org should be paying for them. I work at a non-profit and various people will make or bring in treats/snacks but plenty of people never do because it isn’t a requirement and if I bring something to share with my coworkers it’s because I want to share it with people (generally, I have baked too much of something). Snacks for work functions though (events, volunteers, etc) are always purchased by the org.

              1. Artemesia*

                And this is why we can’t have nice things because some people abuse the process. Pretty soon there is no coffee because no one contributes. Pretty soon the office no longer provides snacks because another ‘Bob’ is taking them home by the case. What could be more basic in a social group than that you don’t abuse the hospitality of others.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Yeah, and even if you don’t have the money to contribute you can make up for it with showing gratitude, praising John for his home-made flapjacks and asking Mary about her cookie recipe. Wielding zero social skills plus abusing the goodwill of others is easily stretching it.

              2. BabyElephantWalk*

                If employees are paying for the snacks, employees who don’t contribute absolutely should not be eating them. Especially if they have been given the opportunity to sign up and refused.

                Could the poster have handled herself more clearly? Sure! But Silent Bob is being a real jerk.

                1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  That’s not responsive to what Llama Llama said, though.

                  It may need to be clarified to Bob that this is a semi-formalized system, rather than free and clear volunteerism.

                  At my workplace, there is exactly one (1) person who brings in baked goods, because she enjoys it. Since no one else contributes, should no one eat them? Obviously not. Now, OP’s system is clearly not that kind of system, and not done just to share, but the reason it’s clear is that OP has explained it to us.

                  It’s entirely possible that someone as socially different as Silent Bob is not able to intuit this from his perspective as a new person (he also could be new to the working world, OP doesn’t say). OP has talked around it. They just need to tell Bob, “Hey, we don’t do this because just for fun, but to encourage volunteers. If you’re going to partake, you need to get in the rota. And please thank whoever did bring the snacks.”

                  I would also give Bob an out if he can’t afford it, and just encourage him to express gratitude in that case, or ask him to limit his consumption.

                2. Llama Llama*

                  So just checking. If I make a baked good with ingredients that I have purchased and bring it in to work and tell my coworkers I have brought it for them, they should only eat it if they have also brought in food to share before? Even though I am bringing it in and saying it’s for everyone? Because I do this all the time (precovid) and I don’t expect other people to compensate me by also bringing in snacks. I just do it because I like to bake and I like my co-workers.

                  Look – we don’t know if bringing snacks in rotation is actually a part of their job description or if it’s something someone at one point thought would “be nice” if everyone “pitched in” and got/made snacks for the volunteers. But frankly, if it isn’t part of the job and people are just bringing in snacks and they say are for everyone then they are SAYING they are for EVERYONE not like oh let me check my list and make sure that you have also put in your own money for these snacks. Oh no, you haven’t? No snacks for you then sorry I know I said I was bringing these in out of the goodness of my heart to share with all of the employees and volunteers but actually I only meant the ones that have entered into an unspoken social contract where you have to pay to play even though it isn’t a part of your job.

                  The premise here is the problem, not Bob’s actions IMO. If they are required to have snack time as part of the job, the job needs to pay for the snacks. Full stop. If people want to bring things from home because they want to then that is a choice they are making and it doesn’t require the other employees to “pay” for it by reciprocating.

                3. Boof*

                  Agree, not sure why there seems to be a contingent that thinks op and coworkers should continue to subsidize bob’s snacks (that are meant for volunteers, not really coworkers) is… a bit much. No one is entitled to their coworkers stuff, and it IS their coworkers’s stuff if they are paying for it and he is not!

              3. Willis*

                I agree! If it’s part of the staff’s job to bring in treats for these meetings, tell Bob and assign him some days. If it’s some informal snack club where only people that bring snacks should be eating them, tell him to sign up or stop eating the snacks. If it’s people voluntarily bringing snacks because they think its fun and want to contribute them openly to the group, then let Bob snack and who cares if he doesn’t sign up to bring them.

            2. Not a cat*

              This. I worked with a guy that was having a problem feeding his family. If it wasn’t nailed down, he ate it or took it home for them (snacks, leftover company lunches, other people’s lunches). I once watched him take and eat 10 donuts (out of 12) from the Donut Friday box. We found out about his financial situation because enough people complained that HR talked to him. This was a software company so they had a free lunch every day, so they just gave him the leftovers.

        2. anonymous73*

          If OP never said to him specifically that they all take turns buying snacks, he shouldn’t be expected to read her mind. Most may ask questions, but if he’s silent he may be socially awkward or have any number of anxieties that could prevent him from approaching one of them to figure it out. Her approach of showing him the calendar is passive aggressive – she still isn’t explaining what the protocol is, she’s just hinting at what needs to be done. It’s completely possible that he thought the snacks were being purchased by the company – even if the rest of the team was buying them maybe he thought they were being reimbursed. Regardless, it seems OP is expecting him to just KNOW what to do, without actually explaining to him how it works.

        3. Anonomatopoeia*

          For people of a particularly literal bent, this is definitely not an 8 on the bluntness scale. Maybe a 6. It sounds like, “This is where we sign up, and you could do it too!” That’s not the same thing as letting him know that signing up is expected. A more clear statement would be, “This is where we sign up for weeks when we trade off buying snacks. Each of us takes a turn about every (however many) weeks. Do you want your first week to be October 12, or would the 19th be better for you next month?”

          Granted, this uses forced choice, which some people will bristle against. Nonetheless, it eliminates any ambiguity. Otherwise, there’s a possibility that everyone else is mad, but Bob is clueless.

      2. somanyquestions*

        She has shown him the calendar and asked him to sign up. He understands the situation; he just likes free food.

        1. Rachel in NYC*

          Or is this a social cues issue? If I say to most people “Here’s the sign up sheet if you’d like to sign up”- they’d understand that to mean that you are expected to sign up. But that is a hidden social cue- just say, everyone who isn’t a volunteer and joins in for snacks is expected to bring in snacks at least once every X months.

          1. Llama Llama*

            Um if you tell me there is a sign up sheet if I’d like to sign up and I don’t want to sign up I am not going to assume I have to sign up unless that’s already been stated somewhere else. I would never see a sign up sheet to join a club or get a newsletter and assume I *have* to sign up just because someone pointed it out to me. So unless someone had already said “we take turns bringing in the snacks and you have to pick your week. Here is the sign up sheet for when you’re ready to sign up” I wouldn’t assume it’s mandatory. (And TBH as stated above I don’t think it should be mandatory anyway).

          2. Boof*

            Well i agree for op sake a blunt “sign up or stop partaking’ is in order; there is no update so we may never truly understand if bob is tremendously entitled or tremendously oblivious.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I dunno, if I’d been noshing on the snacks without contributing, being shown the schedule, I’d be asking “oh it’s the employees contributing? I hadn’t realised! Let me sign up for every other week over the next few months to make up for all the snacks I’ve been hogging”
            Or supposing I wasn’t financially comfortable I’d be asking whether cheap ass rolls would be OK until I got my pay rise… but I’d still be apologising like mad.

          4. singlemaltgirl*

            if it was a social cues issue, he would understand the need to express a ‘thank you’. that is a basic social cue that many people learn early on in their lives, especially when modelled by others around him. and please don’t blame this on neurodivergence. people with autism get this cue early and know it as do others for whom social cues are less easily picked up than others.

            bob is freeloading without saying thank you. you can be shy and introverted and choose to email your thank you to your co workers or to the organizer who’s talked about the calendar if saying it in a group makes him feel anxious. he’s not doing any of that. but he’s ‘heartily’ partaking in the snack break. so wtf?!?!?

            if you’re food insecure and can’t contribute, it costs you nothing to say or email a thank you. i hope we get an update to this one if the lw decides to go the direct route!

        2. The Starsong Princess*

          Yes, Bob is a freeloader and nobody likes a freeloader. I think OP should be eve more direct with Bob like “Bob, I notice that you haven’t contributed to the snacks but are eating them. You need to contribute once a month (or whatever) if you are to participate because this is a reciprocal group.” In the original thread, there were a lot of excuses of why Bob isn’t reciprocating but the group is set up as reciprocal so Bob needs to contribute or exit the group.

          1. DrunkAtAWedding*

            I agree that he needs to contribute, but I also think it will be kinder and easier if the Op started the conversation by thinking of this as a genuine misunderstanding, rather than assuming Bob is hostile or unwilling. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think anyone was making excuses for Bob or blaming Op. I know I didn’t intend to. If we can get an idea of what might be happening, we can have more ideas of how to change it.

    3. Okay*

      I get a feeling of déjà vu reading this. Wasn’t there an update where OP had talked with him and he explained that he was on the spectrum, had been accused of inappropriate behaviour in the past and didn’t understand that he needed to sign up? Once it was all explained clearly to him, he signed up, started joining in etc. Maybe that’s another story.

      1. gracack*

        That was my assumption, that he was on the spectrum and needs sign up to be both explicitly stated and very bluntly so.

  2. Budgie Buddy*

    I hope OP 4 told Bob “The expectation is that those who eat the snacks also bring take turns bringing snacks and also say thank you after eating them.” And then Bob is like “oh all righty then” and proceeds to bring snacks in rotation while saying nothing besides a weekly Thank-you. This seems like a classic situation where hinting does not cut it but being explicit might.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        He might well genuinely wonder why, if the others thought he should bring snacks and say thank you, no one ever said so before?

        1. Texas*

          … why would he need to be explicitly instructed to say thank you? He’s an adult in the world. If he thinks that someone should instruct him in basic manners, that is an unreasonable expectation that hopefully he’s gotten a handle on since.

          1. gracack*

            Some people on the spectrum, as Bob might be, don’t understand social rules well, or pick up on them. So when hinting isn’t creating the understanding you want, explicitly stating it should be the next step instead of assuming rudeness.

        2. somanyquestions*

          She showed him the sign up calendar and told him he should sign up to bring snacks too. And who doesn’t say thank you, when a co-worker feeds you? Suggesting an adult should need to be told is really infantilizing. Or just such a low bar that I’m a little horrified.

          1. kittymommy*

            Ehh, I am never surprised at how obtuse grown adults can be at things that seem like common sense. It sounds like the calendar thing was more of a suggestion/request (“You can sign up Bob. (implied…if you want to…) as opposed to a “Bob here is the sign up sheet. You need to pick a date and indicate what you will be bringing.”

            1. Formerly Ella Vader*

              Yeah. When I’ve gotten into situations of not contributing my “share”, it’s partly due to some awkwardness like “It looks like everyone who provides the snacks has a kitchen and knows how to bake – I wonder if it would be okay if I got a supermarket cheese tray and some Ritz crackers”, “I always heard that you shouldn’t cook/bake for a group unless you had a commercial kitchen” “My household is gluten-free/no nuts, so although I don’t have allergies myself I don’t know if anyone would like the stuff I bring from home” “You talk trash afterwards about the quality of snacks different people bring and I don’t want to subject myself to that” “I have a long bike commute, and I can’t figure out how I could get a cake here and where to put it once I arrive” – all problems that could easily be solved by a short conversation with a kind person, but a conversation I’d be reluctant to start myself. Given that nobody explained the routine to him directly when he started, I think someone should now. As well, it might be valuable for LW4 and colleagues to think about whether there’s anything else unspoken about this office culture that Bob maybe isn’t picking up on or isn’t included in.

              1. Cat Hat Lady*

                There is definite snack shaming out there. An organization that I belong to has a post race “social” where we have a few snacks and talk about the days events, it started out as chips and dip, and at one point morphed into table side cooking. Everyone was trying to out do the next person. That made people hesitant to sign up. One woman cooked hamburgers, which got someone else upset. My response was “this person volunteered and is cooking burgers”. Get over it, if you don’t like it, sign up to put one together. I was once told that a fruit salad was not appropriate for an event. I said screw it, made it anyway and people LOVED it.

                1. Berkeleyfarm*

                  Oh wow. Yeah, if you’re already in “utensils and a plate” territory, fruit salad is usually popular.

                  As long as people who didn’t pull out all the stops and just went with something simple didn’t get complained at/”teased”, it’s fine. I used to run coffee hour for a church where there were a lot of creative cooks. However, it got to the point where if the free breakfast buffet wasn’t up to someone’s exacting standards, the hosts or I would HEAR about it. And then there were the events where people would show up with unprepped/still frozen items and expect the kitchen staff to do their prep. (I am not at that church any more.) People who don’t cook can “sponsor” someone who does or contribute paper plates/bread and bev.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  I guess I was always taught it was good manners to assume good intentions from others rather than malice, and to make sure you make every attempt to be clear and direct about your expectations before writing someone off as a jerk ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

                  But perhaps you are more confident in your own social skills. I personally can be a bit clueless so the above is how I wish to be treated by others, and thus it is how I treat others.

              2. myswtghst*

                Agreed. While I think it’s a bit much to expect OP to explain to Silent Bob that he should say thank you, it’s entirely possible Silent Bob has good reasons for not volunteering, and doesn’t feel compelled to explain them to coworkers he isn’t super friendly with (especially if he doesn’t realize the unspoken expectation that he contribute exists).

          2. Sea Anemone*

            She held up the calendar and told him he should feel free to sign up. That leaves him an out.

            What amazes me at the divide in people who think hinting is not explicit and people who think hinting is explicit is just how resistant the former group is to understanding the latter group. There will be many readers here who believe that the hint (“Feel free to sign up!”) was an explicit direction on what to do. There will be a greater probability of changing the behavior of the Bob’s of the world if you allow for the possibility that direction needs to be more explicit and just get more explicit.

            Next up, letter from Bob:

            I took a new job about a year ago. The work is going ok, but there are some odd interpersonal dynmaics that I’d like your thoughts on. Sometimes people bring in snacks to share, which is nice. I don’t know how to bake myself, so I don’t bring anything in. Nobody ever told me that bringing in snacks in mandatory, but now one of teammates (not my boss) is getting all passive aggressive about wanting me to bring something in. She keeps holding up a sign up sheet and telling me to feel free to sign up. I haven’t signed up, so I would expect her to get the hint that I’m not interested, but she keeps doing it. Like I said, nobody ever told me it’s mandatory, and I’m not interested in learning to bake. How I can I get her to stop trying to get me to do this optional activity? If it helps, I’m pretty introverted and don’t socialize at work.

            1. Sea Anemone*

              And if Bob did write this letter, he could get some good advice about understanding indirect communicators and how to participate in office culture. But he didn’t write in. So all we can do is advise LW to be more direct.

            2. Llama Llama*

              I find the inherent differences between people who hint vs. people who just say what they want to be utterly fascinating. I am a direct person myself and find hinting to be beyond annoying. If you want something just say that, don’t make me guess what your real motivations are! Passive aggressiveness is so childish and basically only works on other passive aggressive people. It really shows itself in the work place though, especially when you have someone who has only ever hinted and been hinted at who suddenly has to deal with someone who just says what they want/need. I had this problem as a manager. My new employee (first real office job) always thought I was mad and/or rude because I would say things like, “John, I need you to get me the report by the end of the day.” instead of “Hey John, if you have time today I was hoping that you could finish up the report and give it to me by the end of the day.” It was absolutely wild to me that, as a manager, asking my direct report to do aspects of his job in a direct way was “rude” or “annoyed”. And yes if you are wondering he is from the mid-west and we were working in the north east…..

              1. Cdn Acct*

                If you haven’t read about ‘ask’ vs ‘guess’ culture, it’s exactly this. While you understandably feel like ‘your’ way is better, please read more and try to understand that either one can be fine and quite functional, there are benefits to both. And just realizing the differences and recognizing when someone is in the other camp is super helpful in understanding how to communicate and work with them.

                1. Llama Llama*

                  I have read about it. This is a coworker/instance that was more than two years ago. It took us a very long time to get on the same page. And he didn’t just have this problem with me, but basically everyone in the office because we were all too “brusk” for him.

                  I still find passive aggressive “hinting” to be annoying, even if I understand why people do it.

                2. Effective Immediately*

                  This was exactly my thought when I saw this letter! This is a classic ask vs guess situation.

                  I do have to say, as an Asker from a long line of Askers, I don’t see the benefits of Guess Culture, at all. I would definitely be interested in perspectives on that, though. To me, there is zero benefit to constantly having to play this weird game of ‘read the subtext and WOE BETIDE YOU if you get it wrong’. I’ve had a lot of partners who came from guess cultures who would get so mad at me for not correctly guessing their needs, and I just find it confusing and exhausting.

              2. LunaLena*

                “I am a direct person myself and find hinting to be beyond annoying. If you want something just say that, don’t make me guess what your real motivations are!”

                The flip side to that is that being direct can come off as aggressive and rude. In fact in some cultures it’s *extremely* rude to be direct, as if you think you’re better than other people and have the right to order them around and demand things of them. I come from one of those cultures myself, and while I too sometimes get impatient at extreme hinting and secret social etiquette around every little interaction, it doesn’t hurt to try to understand both sides and realize that people aren’t being direct or indirect to be annoying. It’s simply one of the many joys of living in a multicultural society.

                1. Not a cat*

                  No. Your boss has every right to ask/tell/order you to run the report (or some other task.) It’s nice if they “ask” but you don’t get to decide that, the boss does.

                2. HoHumDrum*

                  I don’t think directness and demanding go together necessarily though. Is “Hey, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before but usually people sign up to bring snacks if they eat some. If that’s not possible for you let me know! Otherwise, is there a date coming up that would work for you to bring something?” a particularly demanding statement? Genuinely asking, because I struggle with this too.

              3. gracack*

                It can be cultural. In the midwest, even a very soft hint can be seen as aggressive. It’s exhausting. I err on the side of being too direct but clearly understandable, and letting the southern ladies faint on their couches if they need to.

                There is a way to be direct with a kind voice and inviting tone that Alison is really great at modeling. But for a lot of people anything direct feels almost like yelling. I’ve had a roommate accusing me of “screaming at her” for saying “Could you do your dishes?” instead of “Hey, if you wouldn’t mind, I’m sorry to even ask, but do you think it would be possible for you to get to your dishes sometime when you’re not busy?”

            3. CommanderBanana*

              You don’t…have to learn to bake? Bakeries and grocery stores are still a thing last time I checked.

            4. myswtghst*

              Completely agreed. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on AAM is to think more about what is likely to get me the outcome I want, and less about the things that people “should” do. It can be fun to get all riled up complaining about how someone is “doing it wrong”, but it’s a lot more productive to consider their way might be valid but different, and to ask myself what I can do to get what I need out of the situation instead of just being frustrated.

              1. Kali*

                Yeah, in a work setting the ultimate goal is to get the work done. I try to remember that and tailor my communication approach to what I know about the person I am communicating with.

                The indirect approach gets complicated though, when you don’t know what level of indirect is considered polite. How gentle a tone do I need to use in order to endure I don’t offend someone? It can be tough to gage if you don’t know how sensitive someone is to direct communication. Honestly it can be exhausting to tip toe around other people this way. I’ll do it, but it’s an extra step I need to take and I consider those people to be difficult

          3. Budgie Buddy*

            To me, showing him the snack sheet and saying he should feel free to sign up feels counter productive. It’s like OP just skipped over blunt and went straight to rude. If Bob is an ass, the blatant sarcasm from OP gives him an excuse to be offended. If Bob’s clueless, the sudden flood of resentment coming at him will trigger confusion or shame.

            Passive aggressive HINT hints do work sometimes, but I think you generally get the behavior change quicker by skipping ahead to replacing hints with instructions. To me it seems kinder too.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I worked one place where theee were a line of buffet tables, but before the plates and plasticware, you had to stop at a huuuge desk calendar and sign up for the next “Eating Meeting”.
        Names were pre-printed on the calendar, and if you’ve been a frequent provider, your name was left off, but you could still contribute. Moochers’ names were at the very top. The first ones to sign got to choose, and the day before was used as a reminder in an email w/ attached photo of the calendar.
        It worked beautifully.

  3. Limdood*

    I know this has already long passed, but for LW#3, my first instinct in this situation is that the company is seeing up the LW to be the “fall guy”.

    The company has a history of dishonesty (and presumably the employee retention issues that would go along with such a reputation) and is telling the LW that they can’t tell the coworker they’re leaving AND not telling the coworker what’s going on?

    My money is that on Monday, when LW doesn’t show up, the bosses will come in and badmouth the LW to the coworker, saying they left without notice or maybe was super unreasonable. That way the company can paint LW as problematic or unreliable and possibly even gain goodwill with the coworker if the coworker feels that the LW “wronged” the company somehow (in the badmouthed story).

    If your employer shows they’re untrustworthy… Then don’t trust them.

    1. Artemesia*

      I hope the LW took newguy aside and said ‘I think you need to know that I gave notice last week and this is my final week; I want to be sure that we maximize our time in training since I won’t be available after Friday.’ Sure let the boss know, but do it.

      1. Czhorat*

        The great thing about leaving is that you needn’t worry overmuch about unreasonable requests from your boss.

    2. RJ*

      I seriously don’t understand when companies think they have the right to tell people that they can’t tell coworkers they are leaving. I get if they need a day to get their ducks in a row, but if they aren’t sending out an announcement, it is unreasonable to tell someone they aren’t allowed to tell anyone. Not only is it completely irrational since people need time to ask final questions and make sure things transition smoothly, it’s also just bonkers to expect someone to not share their news.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think there are circumstances where it can be reasonable to tell someone *when* to tell others (within reason)
        – sometimes it makes sense for there to be information circulated by the employer which can include setting out who will be taking on what, which can take a few days to get sorted out , or to allow time to talk to people who are likely to be directly affected by the change so they are not blind-sided, so I think a “can you not mention to anyone that you are leaving until next week” is potentially reasonable, telling people not to say anything at all isn’t.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I seriously don’t understand when companies think they have the right to tell people that they can’t tell coworkers they are leaving.

        I understand keeping a lid on things until any counter-offers play out, but after that… coworkers will notice when their coworker ceases to show up, answer the phone, return emails, etc…

      3. Czhorat*

        Yeah, it’s just a step beyond telling people that they CAN’T leave (which we’ve seen here as well).

        If you do tell others that you’re leaving, what are they going to do to you? Fire you? That ship has sailed.

        I DO understand to an extent them wanting you to wait a day or two to give them a chance to plan what’s next, especially if you’re fairly senior.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          I’d rephrase the sentence about managers leaving right after I came on board; I would say,
          “Unfortunately, with some jobs I’ve stepped into, the manager had given notice before I started, so he could only work with me a few days. Sometimes, they didn’t tell me about it until the day he didn’t show up for work! That was incredibly unnerving; here’s how I managed it.”

  4. Nodramalama*

    Huh number 5 is weird! Maybe the boss has some kind of laundry side hustle or hookup and is actually outsourcing it. A lot of people I know send out their laundry. Maybe it’s that.

    Also LW4 reminds me of this ongoing drama in my office where someone from another floor always comes to eat food from our team’s morning teas/celebratory meals/cakes. He would always wander around and appear in our kitchen to see if we had had a morning tea. Once he had a piece of cake nobody had eaten yet! Eventually someone confronted him! It was all we talked about for months.

    1. WS*

      #5 My friend’s house had part of the roof blow off during a storm and two bedrooms fully soaked with water. During the clean-up, one of her co-workers came over and started collecting all the soaked bed linens, offering to wash and dry them. My friend said no, she couldn’t possibly ask her to do that…and it turned out her co-worker owned the laundromat in the next town! We had no idea! But unless there’s something like that going on with the boss, I agree it’s weird.

      1. Lizzie*

        Really weird. BEYOND weird that the boss is taking and doing the co-workers laundry. I dogsit regulary for a friend from work. As part of it, i bring my laundry and do it as I don’t have my own washer and dryer. A few times, the same friend has said bring your laundry over and do it, if we get together or just to make it easier for me. I always decline but if my BOSS suggested it? i’d be totally creeped out.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          A friend does her laundry at my place sometimes for the same reason, but she’s never asked ME to do it! That would be so weird! She brings a bottle of wine and snacks as “payment” and then we watch a movie while the laundry is going. I would feel kind of weird even if she asked me to transfer any of it from the washer to the dryer…unless it was towels or something totally not personal. I don’t need to touch any of her unmentionables, even if they’re fresh out of the wash! We’re not THAT close!

          1. Boop*

            That’s where my mind went first – the employee is ok with his BOSS handling his underpants?! I would not be ok with that!

          2. lcsa99*

            Ha, I thought this was weird but I didn’t even think of the unmentionables! That would just skeeve me out unless the manager is his mother or Aunt or…no, only his mother. If she’s his mother and they didn’t bother telling anyone then this MIGHT be ok.

      2. kittymommy*

        Something similar happened to me as well (hurricane). I was out oof my house for a month due to no electric. My bosses and co-workers were really concerned, offering places to stay, laundry help, heck, even coming out and working on the house and property (one of them loaned me a dumpster for a couple of weeks). 6 months seems like a long time though.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I mean, I once did laundry for a coworker who got . . . let’s just say working for a veterinarian is extremely messy. Anyway, both her first set of scrubs and her backup set were soiled beyond wearability in the same morning. I lived a mile and a half from work and was going home for lunch, anyway, so she came with me and I washed her scrubs. (We had backup scrubs at work but sizing was hit-or-miss.)

        But that was a sorta-emergency, not a normal thing.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      I did this on accident once. It was during employee appreciation week and I had no idea that the meals were by team. When I ran across a hot dog lunch I helped myself and sat and ate with them.

      I had no idea why people were giving me the cold shoulder until I left lunch and went back to my team. They then announced they were starting their lunch at 1pm.

      There was nothing on our calendar and no one said anything to me. I sat through my teams lunch and nibbled on a sandwhich. It was awkward. I wish anyone would have spoken up at any point to politely say:

      “Oh this is actually for the Receipts team.”

      1. Nodramalama*

        Oh I think by mistake is fine! In this case he appears every week, and followed us when we changed floors in the building! Our team suspects he goes up and down the building trolling for morning tea

  5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: A good hard and fast answer to the ‘should I/could I contact my partner’s employer?’ question is “only if your partner is incapacitated and you’re reporting that they won’t be at work”

    All other situations are No.

    1. CountryLass*

      I did it once, I was arranging a surprise trip for his 30th birthday, and I wanted to confirm that the dates were available to book off. Usually I would not do this, however I had worked for the same company, in the same department when we first met, and in a different department after we got married, so his boss and I knew each other quite well.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Personal managerial perspective: I’d feel really uncomfortable with someone else asking me to book leave for a member of staff and probably wouldn’t agree to it. They have to request it themselves.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I didn’t read this as CountryLass booking the leave, I thought she was just checking that the dates were available for him to book? I do agree people shouldn’t book leave on their partner’s behalf

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Oh, in that case I don’t actually know what I’d do. It’d still feel weird to me but I do have a history of having a stalker so I’m likely on the paranoid side of really not wanting to give out any information about my staff.

            1. KateM*

              I agree that it would still feel weird. And the argument of being an ex-employee there just reminds me of those ex-boyfriends who think you should still sleep with him because you did it sometime in the past.

              1. JG Obscura*

                I think mentioning that OP is a former employee is less of a “This gives me a right to do this” but rather “I know these people so I’m not a total stranger” which (imo) makes it less weird

            2. marvin the paranoid android*

              I would really hope that most managers would err on the side of not divulging information about their employees’ schedules, no matter what the situation is. It’s really common for abusive partners or family members to keep tabs by calling the office and saying “I’m Employee X’s mother, I’m just organizing a surprise party and need to know what time they get off work” or whatnot. Much better to have a blanket policy not to give out information for any reason unless the employee consents to it.

            3. Carol the happy elf*

              I’m sorry to hear about that. There seems to be a real boundary problem with someone who talks with HR or a manager about spouse time off. (The exception is when spouse can’t make it to work.
              Last year, my best friend’s husband fell off a very tall roof, onto a concrete deck. He broke ribs, put a hole in his lung, banged his head on the concrete, and sprained most of everything else. That was the only time in 15 years she had called HR about anything, and she’s related to one of them.
              People who do not recognize and respect boundaries are frightening.

              We had a very young coworker who didn’t tell anyone at work about her stalker; it was years ago when “stalking” was not yet named or legislated.
              He would come in, or even send someone else, and ask people not to tell her. He would leave flowers, or a gift, or a thick letter in an envelope. It seemed quirky, but sweet and loving.
              Reception would quietly put them in her office to find.
              Months later, she came infrom lunch, went in her office and screamed. The latest envelope had a marriage license, filled out with names and a date a few weeks in the future. There were condoms, and a note that said his birthday was coming up, and that he was giving himself a wife for his present.
              We had no idea that he was anything worse than an exuberant boyfriend she was too professional to mention, but this poor woman had been living in hell.

              The police were not concerned. They called it a weird proposal, but when our HR person came down, she called a women’s shelter for advice. They sent someone to teach us that this (legal) thing was emotional terrorism, and that was the first time I heard “stalking” as what a bad man does to isolate and control someone they’re obsessed with.
              The teacher said, “Do not call this behavior ‘Love’, because it’s not. It’s much more like a crocodile watching an antelope drink, or a cat playing with a bird”.
              After that, security took over package receipt, and all packages had to be opened with 2 people there. Thick envelopes were included if the recipient didn’t expect them.

              This was really progressive, in 1986. The shelter exec also advised our coworker on security, like a tiny piece of paper in the door about 6 inches up, locks for windows, phone in bathroom, alarm, and the name of one police officer they knew would listen and care.
              Coworker started photocopying any letters and notes, saved them, got them to the only police officer who took it seriously, and she got an answering machine. Replaced the tapes after every call he made. Alerted her neighbors, and the building manager, who changed her locks.
              Finally, she went to her grandmother’s house to stay for a few weeks, and the stalker broke in and got caught. Because he had threatened to kidnap her, (marriage license) and commit sexual assault (condoms, and all the letters that spoke to intent) he was sent to a mental hospital, and then had to serve time before being released.
              Stalking gives me the skin-crawlies,
              and people who do not live by boundaries need to be set firmly straight.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                My stalker luckily doesn’t know where I live or where I work anymore – he has been spotted hanging out at a place I used to work at 5 years ago, 80 miles away, asking people where I am.

                He’s a former coworker from a firm 10 years ago. He’s been convinced that I’m his ‘perfect woman’ and all he has to do is make me see that he’s a really nice guy who deserves a chance.

                The police were useless – I either got ‘well he hasn’t physically harmed you so it’s not a crime’ or ‘you must have flirted with him or given him some indication that you were interested’.

                Luckily my current firm has his name on file and absolutely will deny any knowledge of me if he calls.

                1. alienor*

                  I’ve never understood the “give him a chance” concept at all. I remember my mother telling me to do it when I was a teenager, and I couldn’t figure out why someone would want to be with a person who wasn’t into them. I mean, I do understand it with stalkers because they’re sick and believe their victim will fall in love with them (or is already secretly in love with them), but even ordinary non-stalker dudes seem perfectly fine with the concept of being given a chance. I’d be *mortified* if I found out that someone I was dating was just doing it out of a sense of pity or duty or whatever.

              2. Observer*

                Very progressive for the time! I’m so glad the HR person realized it was a problem. I wonder if she’d has some bad experiences herself?

        2. Artemesia*

          The boss doesn’t know if the employee would actually want this trip or time out — this goes double for a ‘boyfriend’ rather than a ‘husband’. I hope the LW got to take their trip but you don’t mess with someone else’s livelihood by meddling in their workspace.

      2. DrunkAtAWedding*

        Years ago, I worked in a call centre for credit cards and one of my coworker’s husbands came through on the customer service line. He told me she worked there, in the admin team, and I assumed she was just making conversation. He said he wanted to take her on a surprise holiday, and I was like, oh, are you letting me know because big transactions/transactions abroad can trigger a fraud check on the card? It took a few minutes to understand that he wanted to be put through to his wife’s manager to talk about booking her holiday for those dates, because it was such a surprising request. I did put him through, but I have no idea how that turned out.

      3. The OTHER other*

        IMO surprises should not involve someone’s work.

        LW jumped the gun buying non-refundable tickets for their BF without having the days off. Now either BF must use up capital as a new employee or they are going to be wasted. “Surprise!”

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Agreed. All in all, I think surprises are more trouble than they are worth when it involves too many logistics. Like LW totally could have said, “I’m taking you to New York!” in order to ensure BF would understand how major the trip was going to be. And then still surprise him with the Broadway tickets and a reservation to a restaurant that BF wanted to try.

          1. Gracely*

            This. My stepdad wanted to surprise my mom with a trip to NYC for her birthday one year, and was planning to give her zero warning until the night before they left (and only so she could pack her own suitcase). My mom’s bday happens to fall around a major holiday and she works for herself, so he knew she wouldn’t be working, BUT she also does most of the logistics/planning for said holiday, and they weren’t going to be back until the night before.

            My sibling and I were both “oh noooooooo, do not do that, YOU NEED TO TELL HER and give her at minimum a week’s notice before you leave.” I straight up told him that *I* would tell her if he didn’t, if only so she could delegate stuff to me and my sibling. He really, really did not understand how stressful a surprise like that would be, and pouted later about us making him “spoil the surprise,” even as my mom was like “you two did the right thing, do not ever let him surprise me the way he wanted.”

            1. Boof*

              A+++ yes i find travel a bit stressful even when i’m excited for it and would DEF not want any dramatic surprises

              1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                SAME. I would be down for “Hey, request these dates off, I want to take you on a trip – I won’t tell you where, but I’ll tell you roughly what kind of climate to pack for,” but not, “Guess what, I talked to your boss and tomorrow we’re leaving for a week!” Because how would I make sure that my workload is okay? And that I don’t have food that would rot? And that my cat would get fed?

          2. Salsa Verde*

            I have told most people I know to never surprise me. Surprises seem like something that is more about the surprise planner than the surprise receiver. It’s just a party to the surprise receiver after the initial surprise, but the surprise planner has weeks or even months of excitement and secret-keeping.

            For adults, just forget about surprises. Or do what others have suggested and don’t make the whole trip a surprise, but make the specifics a surprise.

        2. Carol the happy elf*

          An expensive lesson, but if this taught her not to presume, it’s cheaper than a few university classes, or getting boyfriend on a watch out list. Or fired.

    2. Midwestern Scientist*

      Please let adults mind their own business! Everytime I read one of these stories about contacting a friend/significant other/whoever’s employer for them it strikes me as very weird/controlling/unhealthy.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I can almost picture some sort of insurance situation where it’s reasonable for a spouse to contact the employer’s benefits department, maybe? Even that’s a stretch, but it wouldn’t be an alarming breach of boundaries the way these vacation request questions are.

      But yeah, basically the answer is always no, unless the partner is incapacitated.

      1. Shhh*

        My mom has talked to the benefits department at my dad’s workplace before about insurance – with my dad. The company was changing insurance providers, my parents had some questions, and they had a call with the benefits coordinator together. I feel like that’s about as far as that should go.

    4. londonedit*

      I know the boyfriend was new and didn’t want to make a fuss about the holiday, but I don’t know why the OP couldn’t have just put a bit more pressure on him to firm up the dates before they booked anything. OK, it sounds like the boss was a bit flaky with the approval, but it’s not the boss’s fault that the OP went ahead and spent a load of money on the trip before the boyfriend had confirmed the dates. I definitely don’t think this was a situation where the OP should have contacted the boyfriend’s boss – he should have sorted out the holiday himself! Even though the destination and itinerary was a surprise surely he must have known it was important and that the OP was putting a lot of effort into it.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I put this on the boyfriend. When the boss gave him a vague answer, why didn’t he follow up for actual confirmation right away? He presumably knew it was important. Instead he just told the girlfriend “yeah they said that should be fine” and like… “should” is doing a lot of work there.

        If he didn’t feel comfortable asking for the days off because he was new, that’s fine, but he should have told the girlfriend that instead of letting her spend all this money. He seems kind of conflict-averse and passive, which to me are not great qualities.

        1. kiki*

          I think one of the biggest reasons the LW should NOT contact boyfriend’s employer is that in situations like this, it’s really hard as an outsider to know for sure where this went wrong. Did the boyfriend actually send the request in writing through the proper channels when he was supposed to and his management bungled this? Or was the boyfriend less exact in his request than he’s leading LW to believe, or even less exact than he thought he was? Regardless, it puts LW in a really uncomfortable situation without any control over the matter and that sucks.

          1. Llama Llama*

            To me LW and the boyfriend sound very young and maybe don’t understand exactly how taking time off and booking a vacation should work.

  6. Teapot Repair Technician*


    It sounds like having a supervisor visit the remote office once a week wasn’t enough and the ultimate solution was to install a supervisor there full time.

    That was in 2015. I wonder if it would be as problematic today now that remote supervision is more common and routine.

    1. Cat Tree*

      What gets me is that multiple mentioned Jane’s bullying in exit interviews, but either it was never investigated or the investigation wasn’t thorough enough to discover this.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I was surprised by how little concern there seemed to be. The feeling seems to have been that the policy document was a quirk that could be corrected by telling her to cut it out, and that was about it. This after they had already learned that she was bullying other workers, and they learned this from the people getting out of there. Then we learn in the update that the people who had not yet found a new job were terrified of saying anything. The kicker is that the update also tells us that they reorganized how they run things so as to keep tabs on her to make sure she doesn’t go rogue again. To which I ask: How much benefit is she bringing to this organization that makes this worthwhile?

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          It’s true … there’s another full time person there and apparently mostly to keep an eye on Jane.

          Definitely a lot of laissez-faire organizational weirdness.

          On the one hand, Jane probably started out with some of the things in response to a supervision/management vacuum – but reading the whole story reminded me of the person who bullied me out of my church, who arrived and once she got comfortable and established, started *really* “correcting” everyone’s business/acting like she was The Boss of You. She did actually do some of “her own” work, but anyone complaining was told to shake it off. The one person who could have made her stop wasn’t interested in doing that.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Yeah, wouldn’t you want to take a peek into that if multiple people said “She’s a bully and it’s a problem.”?

      3. The OTHER other*

        I agree, it was a remarkable failure to manage on the company’s part, on several levels. They literally had no idea what was going on in this office, for years. Whose responsibility was it to manage this office admin? Who trained her? Who supervised the people working there? Who conducted these exit interviews? They all failed.

        1. Artemesia*

          The reason for virtually all workplace fails from interpersonal issues on the shop floor to failure to anticipate the market can be described as ‘a remarkable failure to manage on the company’s part.’

          I once taught an undergrad class in designing and delivering workplace training. Our opening exercise had them identify ‘disasters in the workplace’ they had observed in jobs they had had — it could be a failure of their own or something they saw others do. We then explored the issues to see if they were management or training problems. (training is often proposed to solve what are really management problems). Even where training was appropriate, virtually all the problems stemmed from failure to manage effectively. Training was not going to solve them unless it was management training and holding the managers accountable.

      4. Heffalump*


        I’d be curious to know what the admin’s thought process was, I was pleasantly surprised by the good outcome.

        1. Artemesia*

          The solution was so easy and the misbehaving admin so willing to behave differently that it is clear that this was a huge management failure. She clearly thought she had been left without support and was trying to make her worksite efficient and well run. Overstepped but the outcome suggests not maliciously so.

          1. PT*

            That was also my thought. What was her logic behind making these rules? Was there no supervisor on site and the place was a circus, so she tried to impose some level of order so everyone was able to do their jobs, and just did it poorly? Or was she being a micromanaging bully who had taken advantage of the lack of site supervisor to go on a power trip? (I’ve seen both happen, for what it’s worth.)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I went to the old comments….and yes down the rabbit hole of other letters on the same page and updates… and boy the 2015 discussions of telecommuting were a bit of nostalgia. Our amusement that pets were curious when we stayed home once, then bored when we stayed home longer…

      1. Stitch*

        It’s funny because I work for the government and they’re HUGE on telework and we’re that way before 2015. But we literally couldn’t fit all the people in my organization in our building and adding government buildings is always a headache. So it’s almost out of necessity.

    3. Librar**

      On one hand, I’d hope that many supervision issues like this have been worked out as more employers switch to remote work. But on the other (less optimistic) hand, I’m concerned that supervision issues like LW1 are going to become more common.
      If this letter were in 2021, Jane could easily have been contacting new hires in her division for a “get to know you” zoom session in which she laid out her personal rules, policies, and procedures and framed it as a standard part of the new hire process. Since a lot of companies transitioned to remote work suddenly and are still picking up the pieces, things like virtual orientation have been haphazard at best and it’s likely that nobody would think twice about a stray comment like “I met with Jane and she explained some of the details about operations in X division.”
      I know this can seem alarmist, but I’ve seen a lot of odd and confusing virtual orientation practices over the past year and a half since we went from 0% remote work to 100% remote work and now down to 25-50% remote work.

    4. kittymommy*

      Yeah,. that bothred me too. I can sort of get Jane’s reasoning for having one centralized person dealing with some of the onboarding/adjustment/admin aspect of the new hires, especially if they all had different supervisors so sick days/annual leave were going a million different places. And admin support tends to be the person asked “Where’s Dave? Why isn’t Jess answering her phone?” so having that person being the hub of that information makes sense (but it if that’s the case, administration needs to know that and okay it).

      The bullying aspect is the most concerning. A shame it seemed to get lost in the weeds.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, 2021 me agrees that there should’ve been a shared calendar to mark absences, so everyone on the team does know where Dave is. Jane’s policy is wild though. “Voicemail and text are not acceptable” and why is that? It seems to imply that a sick day request needs to be approved by Jane? and why is *that*? Evil me would be tempted to call Jane at home at 2 am, to make sure I get hold of her, per the rules. (Real me would not do that, no worries.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Marking a calendar doesn’t mean jack if people don’t actually do it (ask me how I know!). I do like the 2 am malicious compliance, however, hahahaha.

        2. Miss Muffet*

          Yeah, I thought that too – Voicemail isn’t acceptable? so if I’m sick I have to keep calling and calling until you answer personally? What if you’re out sick?

    5. ten four*

      Yeah I am genuinely astonished that the advice wasn’t “yes, this is immediately terminable and you guys need to do a better job supervising your satellite offices.”

      The document was pretty bonkers on its own – establishing herself as the primary point of communication for absence? Requiring a signature and date, as though it were an official element of the onboarding process?

      If Jane was beloved by all and the office ran like clockwork I could see treating it as a problem to be addressed rather than a fireable offense. But instead people were literally telling management she was a bully when they left, and they found that the people who stayed were afraid of her. Why keep her on?

      Feels like yet more laziness by management.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I think the laziness by management is the reason I would not see immediate termination as reasonable.

        They’ve been so hands off they didn’t know this was happening, they’ve failed to investigate previous allegations of bullying (and as far as I can see from the update, they dealt with the weird instructions but still don’t seem to have considered that side of things) .

        It sounds as though Jane was officiously taking things into her own hands but she may also have genuinely believed that her employers knew and were fine with it

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I was wondering if the OP was a new supervisor over this office and was trying to figure out what to do with Jane now that it was her problem (and before then she just had heard about rumors).

      2. Threeve*

        Agreed–I feel like correction/coaching could make sense if she was pushy and unpleasant OR she was falsely claiming way more authority than she actually had…but both? Gone.

    6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Also, did anyone at that company make it clear to ALL employees that Jane’s Personal Personnel Manual was and is null, void, to-be-ignored-and-shredded-ASAP? If they didn’t do this – and yes, their ignoring the bullying cited in exit interviews suggests that they’re very negligent re: staff morale – then there are STILL people working there who think that they MUST follow her rules.
      Just how good IS her work anyway – good enough to keep her on after she displays such stunningly bad judgment and presumptuousness?? Surely they could find SOMEONE who could do Jane’s work AND stay in her own lane AND not get her kicks from bullying her colleagues!

  7. Brain the Brian*

    The exception to number 4, of course, is if everyone else is bringing in *homemade* snacks / treats and the team wouldn’t allow Silent Bob to bring in store-bought ones instead — or Silent Bob tacitly thinks that’s the case. You can’t force a team member to upgrade their kitchen or learn to cook / bake for the simple sake of an office snack break, or imply that a store-bought option wouldn’t be welcome. You’d just want to make that clear — as Alison would say, in a warm, friendly tone.

    1. Green great dragon*

      It did cross my mind that Bob might not feel he can afford snacks. But in either case, there’s no reason for him not to say thank you occasionally.

      1. TimeTravlR*

        Oh! Thanks for mentioning there was an update. In these early mornings hours before I’ve finished my coffee, I totally overlooked it!

      2. Stitch*

        Maybe, but I suspect other people quit over her going forward. Multiple people called her a bully? I doubt ine conversation really changed that.

        I think the update was honestly too premature to know if she really changed.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I think the key point is that they added an on-site coordinator with explicit instructions to all about supervisory responsibilities. So they did more than just have a conversation.
          But I also wonder about the long term. I would be interested in a second update after all this time has passed.

          1. Stitch*

            I suspect she just got less blatant but I doubt she changed her ways. I mean people called her a bully and she wrote up a powr grabbing handbook? The mind boggles.

            It’s possible she quit on her own when she realized she couldn’t bully people as much any more. That’s likely the best outcome.

            1. EPLawyer*

              I think this is the likely outcome. When someone says claims they were just trying to be efficient when telling people over whom they had NO AUTHORITY what to do, its a power grab, nothing less. Telling people you MUST call if you are going to be out – oh and your supervisor MIGHT need to be notified made it darn clear where they thought the authority lay.

            2. Anonymous Hippo*

              I’m a little surprised at how everyone is jumping on the handbook as a “power-grab”. The only example provided is to let the admin know if you are out. I would assume the admin would need to know that, and that requirement is born out of the actual supervisor/managers not passing that information on to the Admin, so they just created a way to get the information directly.

              I personally feel that the admin stepped into power vacuum, rather than actually staging a coup.

              1. Susie Q*

                Yes, that’s my read on it, too. It seems strange that they would have 5 people in an office and no manager.

              2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                I e seen offices where the call out line was the Admin’s phone and they passed the info on to whoever needed it. So, I could in a chaotic office see an Admin putting a “policy” in place to make sure they knew who was or was not in today.

                But overall – it sounded like Jane may have justified it as “I’m just filling a void” to make things work smoother.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I think it depends a little on what the other details are and what else was in the document.

      I briefly worked out of a satellite office of a larger company, and it would have made total sense for there to be some rules and procedures specific to that office. Here’s how we handle break room stuff, order office supplies, resolve IT issues, manage paper files, put in facility requests, etc. And it would be very reasonable to have a guideline to please keep the local office aware of your whereabouts, in addition to your supervisor in the main office. I can easily picture someone whose job includes answering the phones getting really frustrated at people never keeping her in the loop about where they are. Or someone whose job includes reporting back to the main office on certain kinds of things who was never getting appropriate info from the other employees there.

      It sounds like Jane was really out of line and had the wrong attitude, but whether she was firing-offense bad is probably in the details of what kinds of rules she was laying down. The bullying allegations definitely needed investigation, though. It’s really unclear from just the info in the letter what was really going on at this branch office.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree, knowing more about the content of the handbook and the context of the bullying would be helpful.

        Also, according to the update Jane thrived with a supervisor on site and clearer boundaries. I wonder if she was trying to make order out of chaos the best way she could, and things got better with more direct oversight.

      2. Quickbeam*

        Yes, I can see that. The admin aspect of so many officees has gotten so lopsided. We now have one admin for 100 people. I tell him his job description must be a thousand pages long. The standing joke is that anyoen can leave the company “except Bob”. Maybe Jane is annoying but keeps so many balls in the air that they dread replacing her.

      3. doreen*

        The only parts described that sound really out of line to me is the part where Jane has them sign an acknowledgement and receipt and the part where voicemail and texts are not acceptable to notify Jane of an absence. If Jane isn’t approving absences in some way and just needs to know what to do with phone calls, then voicemail/text/email works for that purpose. Whether the rest of the handbook is acceptable depends on what the rule and procedures are – I have known admin staff at my employer who will not give someone a pen without a manager’s approval and that’s not our policy.

    2. anonymous73*

      If you’ve gotten reports of someone’s behavior and never done anything to correct it until now, firing is a bit extreme.

  8. rudster*

    Re. LW2, it’s not like insurance would likely have covered cancellation for “my BF’s boss won’t let him go”. There are some that travel insurances that let you cancel for any reason, but they are really expensive and usually don’t reimburse 100%. 1700 bucks is generally a low enough figure that most people would choose to self-insure anyway. If BF truly can’t go, then he should suggest you invite a friend or relative in his place so you’re only out the airfare and that you go and have fun, and you two can do something nice when you get back.

    1. EmbracesTrees*

      I disagree! It’s great that you can easily afford that kind of loss,, but to a LOT of people, $1700 is a huge amount that would require serious planning and saving.

      That still doesn’t mean she should ever get involved in bf’s job, but I’m sympathetic to her concerns.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah I’d consider myself relatively comfortable at this point in my life and I still don’t think I could eat a $1700 trip without feeling it for a couple of months.

        1. Artemesia*

          if you can afford 1700 for the trip you can afford to lose it. Not happily of course. but the money is spent. it may mean you cannot do the trip later. it sucks. but you can ‘afford’ to lose it. We self insured all our travel until recently and the savings on not buying trip insurance paid for a couple of European trips. Now I insure because at my age the need for being flown home by ambulance or whatever is much more likely.

          The OP learned a valuable lesson about not laying down big money without having the dates cleared and that ‘surprises’ can be a big mistake when big money is involved.

      2. The OTHER other*

        $1700 is a lot of money to an awful lot of people, but it was dumb of LW to put it at risk for this surprise trip when the dates weren’t approved. It was an expensive mistake.

        1. londonedit*

          Definitely – it’s a lot of money to me and there’s no way I’d have spent that sort of cash before getting absolutely everything confirmed.

      3. WellRed*

        I’m just an whole because the idea of spending $1700 on anyone’s birthday to me is silly. Maybe my spouse for their 50th, IF I’m also very well off.

        1. londonedit*

          It’s a lot of money but I suppose if it’s your big holiday for the year/two years/five years as well as being a birthday celebration then I can see people spending that much. Personally I couldn’t afford it, but it’s, what, £600 each which isn’t a huge amount for flights, three nights in a nice hotel, Broadway show, etc etc. I don’t really know how much things are in New York but all of that would add up in London if you were going for higher-end stuff for a celebration, and that’s without flights.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          I think it’s different to spend that kind of money on a trip or experience versus spending it on an item.

        3. Bagpuss*

          It is a lot of money, but it sounds as though it was a ‘I planned a vacation for us around his birthday’ rather than ‘I spent $1,700 on a birthday gift.

          And while I know it depends enormously on what your budget is , I don’t think $1,700 for a city break is an outrageous amount.

        4. Artemesia*

          they are not so much spending it on a ‘birthday’ as spending it on a trip together. That is not a cashmere coat (which by the way cost about $7000 as I discovered to my dismay at least at the gorgeous shop with the great coats in the window near me). It is a trip they will enjoy together. The birthday is the occasion but not the reason to want a great trip together.

  9. CountryLass*

    #5 I would also be super worried about the possible gender-role view here. Women have usually been viewed as the ones who deal with the washing and house-hold stuff, so I would not be surprised to find he treats her differently than a different manager, whether male or female, as she has subconsciously fallen into a ‘housewife’ role with him. I mean, I can see helping out for maybe a week, if he was waiting for a new washing amchine or something, or in between houses, but 6 months? Find a laundrette, or even ask her for written instructions on how to use the machine if you can’t find a manual online, but wash your own darn pants! (or underwear, depending on what you call it!)

      1. Atx*

        Also agreeing that manager is maybe his mom. Or perhaps a caretaker when he was younger, it’s the only thing that makes sense in a scenario like this.

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      The first thought that occurred to me was that maybe it was temporary until he got a washing machine, then I went back and reread the timeline and realised that, yes, 6 months is way too long for that.

    2. Artemesia*

      I found this situation unusually inappropriate and mildly horrific. A female boss doing the laundry for a male subordinate. (and not just after the big flood or whatever). It seems sexual or could be interpreted that way; it seems maternal and would certainly be interpreted that way. It is creepy. If HE were using her laundry room and doing his own laundry, still not appropriate, but her doing the laundry is way off the charts for icky.

      1. The Starsong Princess*

        It does depend. I went a few times to clean a subordinate’s house – scrubbing floors and bathrooms mostly – over a period of about five months but she was undergoing chemo. She mostly worked but was struggling and had no family nearby to help. Other colleagues arranged a meal train and did her laundry. I also know of someone who did a colleague’s laundry (at least some of it) for close to a year when he and his wife had triplets. In both cases, it was about helping someone going through a hard time. But an able bodied person? That is weird.

  10. TimeTravlR*

    LW1 – I get why you’re made at Jane but when people talked in exit interviews about her being a bully, did you investigate at all? That doesn’t make what she did any better, but if it’s clearly been going on for quite some time, it could be that you might have been able to nip it in the bud (or at least earlier), if you’d followed up on the bullying comments. (Perhaps you did, I’m sure the whole story can’t fit in a few paragraphs.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yes the update said they did, and the document turned up later. Unclear how much later, but the update was 90 days after the document discussion. Original page search for Knott. I didn’t see any letter-writer comments on the update page.

      1. Sleet Feet*

        It sounds like the spoke with the Admin only after finding the document. Where are you seeing that they investigated the bullying after the exit interviews and before the document.

  11. Lola Banks*

    Maybe I watch too much television… my immediate thought on LW5 was that they weren’t talking about actual laundry, but rather something more illicit. That seems less absurd than someone’s manager doing their laundry for them!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yah, the only way I am handling another adult’s underwear is if I’ve already seen it anyway! And “oh I was just picking up/dropping off the laundry” sounds like a convenient excuse to go to somebody’s home in the evening when you don’t have a reason to be there otherwise. I am normally the last person to jump to “there’s something going on between them”, but I cannot think of any other explanation for this. Either way, incredibly weird power dynamics.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Nobody knows how long they are there. If anyone does spot her going in or out, or her car in Bob’s driveway, then it’s “oh I just stopped by to drop off his laundry” and no one is going to hang around to find out how long the drop-off really took.

    2. lcsa99*

      LMAO I love that. I can turn anything into innuendo and can totally see her “doing his laundry” *eyebrow waggle*

      Doesn’t make it less inappropriate but less gross and more hilarious.

  12. That Finance Guy*

    Lw #1

    This one seems especially egregious. I did read the update (happy ending! Sorta). To me, at least, it should have been a firing offense. And while Jane did correct her behavior, how many people quit because of her? I see her behavior as insubordination and false representation, so at least to me, that would be fire-able.

    It also highlight’s the company’s inadequate management/supervisory functions. They had what amounts to a rogue employee bossing people around for X years, and NO ONE caught it or acted on it? That is just a systematic breakdown, and management as a whole should be examined.

    I’ve had to clean up after similar situations, and whether the employee in question leaves/stays, their legacy poisons the well. That kind of damage is not easily wrapped up into one rogue employee and easily dismissed :(

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      This right here. How much of her rogue bossing-around was fueled by complete chaos in the actual management of their satellite office, whether past or present?

    2. Mockingjay*

      Jane could have (and probably did) argued that she developed the document to “standardize” things since the office lacked an onsite supervisor. I was a bit surprised at Alison’s original advice: I’d have fired Jane immediately. A good share of the blame is also on LW1, who ignored multiple reports of Jane’s bullying from departing employees. Likely the traveling supervisor was only checking on employee tasks and not the overall ‘health’ or ‘culture’ of the satellite office.

      1. That Finance Guy*

        I wondered about that… but the other side of the coin is that she never really cleared it with anyone, and just did her own thing…

    3. ChaosBiscuits*

      I agree. And I can’t help but wonder, what did Jane’s “former reports” think about this after it all came out? I would have trouble working with (or even trusting) her again, especially if she was a bully on top of all of the lying.

      1. That Finance Guy*

        This is EXACTLY what I was referring to. If were one of the ones in her work site, I would never trust her on anything again. Full stop.

    4. Artemesia*

      I had the feeling that this was an unmanaged office where no one knew where anyone was and when they were coming back and so the AA decided someone needed to manage and she was the obvious one as AA to be office manager and it grew from there. Huge management fail — and a gap that she stepped up to fill with initiative and gumption and all that.

  13. Stitch*

    I’m really surprised at the advice in LW1 (and I don’t really think the update covers it). She clearly had gone rogue and people called her a bully in exit interviews? I don’t think someone changed their stripes that dramatically from one conversation, I suspect she just was more careful around management but continued to bully other employees. There’s some serious red flags there.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Idk, you’re thinking of this as her “stripes” – an intrinsic part of her identity – but Alison treated it like a problem behavior that arose from unclear ground rules. From the update it sounds like this woman genuinely thought she had this authority (and had the bad judgment to run wildly with that assumption and institute draconian rules) and just needed to be corrected.

      Granted, this assumes the accusations of bullying were all to do with the behaviors described in the letter. IF that is the case then I really can see her not as A Bully who’s mean for fun but as someone who thought she was in a supervisory position and was never taught how to manage people.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Me as well. It’s great that Jane was able to behave for a 90-day stretch while “under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap” (to quote an old workplace joke from the 90s), But prior to that, she did seem to enjoy her unlimited power, and did not mind it that multiple people were leaving because of her.

          My thinking when I read the first letter was that Jane saw an opportunity to grab power and went for it. Perhaps with the thinking that, once the management in the main office saw her initiative and leadership skills/s, they would promote her. I hope that she has changed for the good, but honestly am skeptical.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I think that’s reading some malicious intent that’s not indicated in the letter. We don’t know that Jane was ever made aware of the exit interview feedback, or that she was the only (or even strongly ranked) reason people left. Or even that she understood that she was crossing a line before this intervention. Jane certainly went rogue but that seems like a management failure to me more than an immediate indictment of Jane’s intentions.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              The requirement to call instead of email/voicemail and the fact that Jane had people sign the document are not encouraging, but I agree that we don’t really know Jane’s intent. I can see those things coming from frustration rather than malice, given the ways that admins are often asked to do things that require cooperation from others but without the power to make that happen. More support from an on-site coordinator could definitely help smooth out a lot of issues in a case like that.

              Or maybe she’s a power hungry bully with terrible judgment. Who knows? It’s really impossible to tell from the letter.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                That’s my feeling too. It could be a power grab, or it could be rage-fueled admin burnout. I have certainly seen both.

              2. Simply the best*

                The requirement to call instead of email / voicemail used to be fairly standard in a lot of work places. And definitely is still standard in places where coverage is needed. It’s not necessary in most non-coverage workplaces, but it’s far from an outlier.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Yeah – in defense of the times (I think this letter was five or six years old) back then I was also required to call my department supervisor to let them know I would be out sick.

                  Nowadays I can just leave a voicemail (texting doesn’t count). But I do leave that voicemail with the Office Admin.

  14. PrairieEffingDawn*

    I enjoyed this week of greatest hits and I really hope a bunch of the letter writers from this week submit updates soon!

    1. Green great dragon*

      Ooh, that would be great! If any of these original LWs are reading, we’d love to hear how you’re doing.

    2. heckofabecca*

      I enjoyed the posts too, PARTICULARLY because I am happy to see Alison on vacation *and* modeling good vacation behavior :D Taking time off and recycling? HECK YEAH! You rock, Alison! So happy for you and I hope your vacation is going/went great!

      1. No longer working*

        I hope when Alison returns there’s an update from the LW with the flouncing lecturer who was about to have a one-on-one with him. Dying to hear how that turned out!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I remember the comment section but for the life of me I can’t remember the content of that letter

    3. Mockingjay*

      The holidays will be here sooner than we think…Update time! (I never get any work done in December because I’m reading AAM.)

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      That would be amazing! So many that I want to know how things ended up X number of years later

  15. Meghan*

    Honestly your partner should only ever contact your boss on your behalf if you are majorly indisposed and cannot use the phone yourself. I’m trying to think of a situation where this wouldn’t be the case and can’t think of any.

  16. Dona Florinda*

    #5 just reminds of when Monica and Chandler were secretly dating and their cover was ‘doing laundry’.

    1. Save the Hellbender*

      It reminds me of when Dwight did Michael’s laundry on the Office to atone for an attempted coup.

  17. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW5: I’m betting your boss is having an affair with this guy and is using the laundry as a cover story.


    1. Hiring Mgr*

      It’s a pretty weird cover story… i’d almost rather hear they were having an affair -at least that makes some sense!

    2. Salsa Verde*

      That is what I thought immediately, and nothing in the letter led me to think otherwise. I didn’t even think mothering until I read the comments.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If anything their behavior would make me feel MORE inclined to tell him, while I still have some control of the narrative.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      My company did something similar, but was about a promotion. As in we were a team of two, I got promoted over the other person, and they forbid me to tell them. And yet they started treating me like the manager, IE they stopped talking to them directly, and filtered everything through me. FOR MONTHS. It was awkward as hell, the other person thought I was bossing them around for no reason, and that they were in danger of being fired because they overnight got shut out of all discussions with upper management. In the end I just went ahead and did it because it was making work unbearable (we had been friends before, and thankfully are again). I didn’t even get in trouble in fact my grandboss was like, “I’m sorry you had to do that, but good for you”. Two years later and I still have no idea what that was all about. It’s something I will NEVER agree to again that is for sure.

  18. The OTHER other*

    I would totally have told the coworker, both because it’s the right thing to do and because it protects me from being made the fall guy. The company is known to be dishonest, the most likely explanation for their behavior that they are going to say LW quit without giving notice. Maybe you will never cross paths with this coworker again, but why take the risk of your reputation being damaged?

    1. Artemesia*

      yup. That is why after a week of silence you tell the guy that you gave notice last week and had been asked no to say anything but that he needs to know so you can make the most of this week for training and transition.

  19. Anonymous Hippo*

    I know these are old, but on OP#1 I don’t understand why the multiple exit interviews referencing the admin as a “bully” didn’t trigger an investigation? In my experience, people don’t like to bad mouth their jobs, even in exit interviews, so I’d think negative there would carry weight. I think on top of talking to the admin, the actual administrative policies of the management team need to be reviewed.

  20. Spicy Tuna*

    Does Bob just eat and ignore everyone during snack time? I mean, I am introverted to the max and do not want any kind of chit chat or relationship with co-workers, so I studiously avoid any type of shared eating experience. If you go and take the cake or the chips or whatever, you have to talk! And if you are attending (and talking) you must also contribute!

  21. Sleepless*

    Bob reminds me of a time we had a student intern, and we got a cake for her last day. We had the cake sitting in the spot where shared food always went, plates and forks set out, and we handed her a card and told her to stay in touch, etc.

    She said, “Aw, thanks you guys! This is so nice!” and picked up the cake and walked out with it.

    We were all so surprised nobody said anything. One of my coworkers was actually angry, but I just chuckled.

    I imagine that in the intervening years she’s had a facepalm moment…

  22. Student*

    I’ve been in the new hire’s shoes in OP3. New job, introduced to a co-worker, told to work closely with him on a big project where he’d show me the ropes. Nobody mentioned he was leaving until he left. My understanding, post-incident, is that he provided at least 2 weeks notice, perhaps much longer, and it was common knowledge among the department that he was leaving at least a month or so earlier… to everyone except me.

    He started acting weird about 2 weeks prior to departure, avoiding me when I needed project information from him. I noticed it, but chalked it up to him being quirky or very busy with other projects. When it impacted my deadlines, I contacted my manager (via email; also a very inaccessible chap) when I couldn’t get the info I needed from the soon-to-depart employee in a timely manner. It was a short, business-focused email to explain the info block and ask for some help reaching the co-worker.

    Manager never said a word to me, but must’ve said something to the co-worker, who came by my desk to silently drop a huge set of hard drives on my desks. It was right before Christmas, so I said something along the lines of “Thanks for the files! Hope you enjoy your holidays!” and the departing co-worker started crying and dashed off. I was baffled and thought he was crying because I’d gone to the manager to say something about how he wasn’t responding. I felt awful that I must’ve gotten him in trouble right before the holidays, and really conflicted about whether escalating to the manager was the wrong way to handle it.

    We leave for the holidays, and he just… doesn’t come back. I think I found out because of his email’s away-message notification that he was no longer working there. I was horrified and for a little while worried my complaint had gotten him fired, which would’ve been a huge over-reaction. I asked around only to find out this was supposedly common knowledge; he was moving because his spouse got a job in a different state. In retrospect, I think he cried in front of me simply because he was sad about leaving his job and the project we were working on.

    My manager forever after got some very serious side-eye from me. Managers should just… handle employee transitions better. If I had known at all what was going on, I could’ve been more sensitive to my co-worker, I could’ve asked him questions to transfer more project knowledge before he left, etc. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have jumped to some pretty miserable conclusions based on what I did observe that I had personally ruined a fellow employee’s holidays, made him cry, or possibly gotten him fired. Until I figured out what really happened, that my manager and the co-worker kept me in the dark, I was very close to quitting!

  23. DrSalty*

    Wow the update to #1 is so great. A problem is solved by good communication and the person overstepping their job recognizes and corrects their behavior after intervention from management. That’s how it’s supposed to go!

      1. Artemesia*

        That letter is forever burned into my brain because I think those sweet Hawaiian rolls are basically inedible. Who puts sugar in bread?

        1. DrunkAtAWedding*

          Most Americans? Last time, it was a real struggle to find bread that wasn’t obnoxiously sweet to my taste buds.

  24. HRDpt1*

    I’m desperate for an update on #5! What the heck was happening there? The thought of doing a personal chore for your direct report regularly, not to mention handling your direct report’s underwear, seems like the biggest, reddest flag of poor workplace boundaries!

  25. Meep*

    I love reading letters like this because it really opens my eyes to how truly dysfunctional management is at my place of employment.

    LW#1 hits a little close to home because somehow I am unofficially Jane. Interns and contractors come to ME to tell me when they are taking days off (which is not a big deal they are hourly) or to ask me about policy (we still don’t have a proper policy guide – though it has been 99% done for the past three years. lol). I always tell them to run it by their manager first but I always find it really funny that they have made me the de facto “Den Mom”. It doesn’t help their manager often asks me when they will be in! lol. None of the authority or power, of course, though.

    As for LW#4 – We have a “Silent-Snacker” (who isn’t really silent). I host documentation or code review meetings with the caveat of if you are going to eat, you must contribute. Yesterday, she came downstairs “just for the party”, ate the sushi I had ordered for myself (I asked for advanced orders), and then left quite proud of herself. Her interns, of course, did the same and were the only ones who didn’t put in their orders. Thank goodness I ordered extra food because. I hope Bob hasn’t passed on his bad manners to anyone else at this point.

    1. Artemesia*

      time to label each box of food with the person who ordered and hand them out to those who ordered. It would have been a cold day in hell before I let someone walk off with the sushi I paid for and whats with not informing the interns that if they are going to eat they need to order and pay?

    2. Berkeleyfarm*

      Oh dear, I think I might run the “eat and run” person up my management chain … she is teaching her interns bad manners.

  26. bopper*

    Silent Snacker:

    It shouldn’t matter whether you are a bunch of Extraverts and Bob is an Introvert. Does he do his job well? Then quit putting him down for not chatting.

    But do say “Bob, if you want to eat the snacks, you have to take a turn in bringing in the snacks.”

  27. Panhandlerann*

    I wonder about the gender of the four folks who work with “Silent Bob.” Are they perchance all women? If so, maybe “Silent Bob” thinks it’s the women’s job to bring snacks. I’ve seen that sort of thing happen a lot. (Since this is an old letter, I guess we’ll never know, but I still wonder.)

    1. Artemesia*

      I have worked in offices where this is the case even for potlucks. Guys shovel down the food but don’t bring anything. At my last job, it was different. The higher status, higher paid people (mostly men) brought the high cost items e.g. a honey baked ham, or roast chickens etc leaving the cheaper salads and desserts for the lower status/lower paid staff. It worked out very well. We always had plenty of ‘main course’ type food and plenty of good sides and everyone felt good abut their contributions. You can bring a plate of brownies for about $3 or so or a salad. I don’t particularly like to cook for these things and brought a big bucket of KFC —

  28. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Why even hesitate for a moment to fire Jane? She is toxic, and she is misrepresenting the company and misleading other employees. Her behavior raises a lot of red flags.

  29. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    Letter #3: Definitely tell this fellow that you are leaving and that you have given notice. If you don’t, management might tell him, or let him think, that either you were fired or you quit without notice, neither of which will reflect well on you.
    Letter #1: I am appalled that the bullying wasn’t investigated and that it took this long to find out about Jane’s Nothing But a Power Grab. I would have fired her immediately.

Comments are closed.