my boss threatened to sue me when I quit, Netflix on work laptops, and more

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

1. My boss threatened to sue me when I resigned

I’ve been at my current company for about two years. It’s a small business where the owner is very involved in the day to day business, so I see him regularly. He’s very hot-headed and I’ve seen him get in screaming matches with other employees before, but for the most part I’ve gotten along with him fine. That is, until I put in my notice. His company is a small one that caters to individuals only, and I am moving to a similar but much bigger company that only serves commercial businesses. I gave my whole speech about how much I appreciated my time here and outlined all my plans to help the transition along smoothly, and when I was done he asked where I was going, and when I told him he informed me that I signed a “non-compete” agreement and that I would be breaking it if I left them for the new company. I asked if he was going to pursue that in court, and he said he hadn’t decided yet.

The thing is, I know that I never signed that agreement. I’m just an office staff member and they have never required any of us to sign them, only the sales force. I asked him to provide me a copy of the agreement he said I signed, and after a day of tearing apart the office looking, he realized it didn’t exist. He still is trying to claim he could sue me because of an “implied non-compete agreement” which I think is insane, but does it have any merit? The two companies don’t serve the same customer base at all, and I’m not in a position where I’d be able to steal customers even if i wanted to because I don’t interact with them at all. Also, do I have to finish out my two weeks notice with someone who’s threatening legal action against me for quitting?

This is not a thing! Even actual, signed non-competes are often thrown out by courts as unenforceable because they’re over-reaching. A fantasy “implied” non-compete does not exist. You should tell your boss that you’re holding him to your “implied pay-out agreement” where in your head you have a document that says he has to pay you a large of sum of money when you part.

You don’t need to finish out your two weeks if he’s being abusive (and if that’s the case, there’s advice on how to handle it here). If he’s just being annoying but not abusive, it might be in your interests to finish your notice period so he can’t tell future reference-checkers that you walked off the job … but if you’re confident that you’re not going to get a good reference from him regardless, that makes the decision easier.

2. Explaining to interviewers why I took the last few months off

I’m in a new city trying to apply for jobs after taking a few months off. I resigned from my previous job in June, had a wedding, moved across the country by car, and helped my partner settle in to his graduate program. After all that, I began seriously job hunting on August 2nd and have since applied to nearly 150 positions. My responses have been limited, but I recently revamped my resume with the help of some contacts with hiring experience, so I am hopeful that good interview opportunities will happen.

Now my problem is trying to spin my growing employment gap as a positive. In my most recent interview, my interviewer bluntly asked what I had been doing since my last job. Not wanting to get into the personal reasons too deeply, I said something like, “I had the opportunity to take off a few months while moving from [home state] to [new state]. Now, I’m ready to hit the ground running at a new position.” My interviewer did not seem impressed by this answer, which made me feel that I should be working on a certificate or something to justify my break further. Is there a better way to frame this?

This is such BS. You took a few months off from working — who cares? No sensible person would. God forbid you not spend every waking moment of your life contributing to the capitalist machine.

So the answer you gave would be fine for reasonable interviewers; don’t get too thrown off by one weird person. But if you want to tweak it, I’d word it this way: “I moved from [home state] to [new state] and have been dealing with the move and getting settled in, and now I’m excited to get back to work.” It’s a small change but it leaves out the “I had an opportunity to take some time off” and just frames it as dealing with normal life/move logistics.

There’s still a small contingent of interviewers out there who were trained years ago that job candidates should never express interest in money, benefits, time off, or any of the other reasons people work. That attitude used to be more prevalent but has really changed in the last 5-10 years — but some interviewers are still stuck in that mindset. I’d argue you’re better off avoiding working for them so if they want to screen you out over that stuff, good … but not everyone has the luxury of that option, and sometimes the person interviewing you wouldn’t be the person managing you, so you might choose to play their game anyway.

3. Am I wrong about meeting etiquette?

Recently, a person in another division asked to meet with me and my boss to help with a part of a project we are all working on. I have never met this person before, but was glad to help. She set the time and location (a conference room in her department) and sent out a meeting request after confirming with us. About an hour before the meeting, she had to cancel due to an emergency and emailed both of us. I told her it was no problem to reschedule, and went about my work. About an hour later, I get an email from my boss wanting to know if I was coming to the meeting. I told him he must not have received the email, but she cancelled the meeting. He replied that she cancelled the meeting, but he did not. I was his employee and he wanted to meet to discuss the project.

Did I do something wrong? It was such a focused meeting that she requested, and she told both of us she needed to reschedule. I could see if he sent an email saying that since we are both free, could we still meet, but I heard nothing from him.

No! Most people would have responded the same way you did. Person X called a meeting and then Person X canceled the meeting, so it’s reasonable to assume the meeting is canceled. If your boss still wanted to meet with you anyway, he should have proactively let you know.

Now you’ll know going forward that your boss has strange meeting practices, but you weren’t in the wrong originally.

4. Netflix on a work computer

I work for a smallish, creative-work company, so there has never been a ton of corporate oversight. I’ve been given a work laptop because I travel some for my job, and I also use it as my main work computer at home (since the pandemic I am now mostly WFH). While I’m traveling for work, is it weird to use that laptop to watch Netflix or another mainstream streaming service after work hours?

I’ll note that I don’t download anything to the computer—I know that years ago someone got in trouble for using company bandwidth/computers to torrent movies—and I’d never stream anything I’d be afraid to be known. Think Great British Bake-Off, not X-rated stuff. On one hand I see the wisdom in using a company computer for work only … but I don’t make enough to have a personal laptop, and when I travel I don’t get a per diem or anything. I pay for my own internet at home. Again the company culture is pretty relaxed and we have a very small IT department that doesn’t seem to sweat small stuff, but I don’t want to cross an egregious line. Thoughts?

You’re fine. It’s normal to do this! If for some reason your company has a problem with it, they’ll let you know but (a) I wouldn’t expect that to happen and (b) if for some reason it does, it won’t be a big deal that you didn’t know; they’ll just say “hey, don’t do this because X” and you’ll say “okay” and that will be that.

5. Should I keep escalating customer feedback about a peer?

I have a peer (let’s call him Tom) who I frequently receive critical feedback about from shared customers. The customers prefer to go to me as I’m more responsive, but truly based on role and duties should be going to Tom. I remind the customers frequently to contact him first as I don’t want to create a scenario where I’m overstepping boundaries. Tom and I report to the same director and in the past I have passed on the feedback from customers to my director and my director acknowledges he’s working with Tom to improve. I got more complaints today – should I continue to forward to my director or leave it alone as it’s already a development area for Tom?

Ask your director! “Do you want me to continue forwarding this kind of thing to you, or should I just handle it on my own?”

That signals you’re aware it might be getting to be overkill but lets your director decide if he wants to keep hearing the feedback or not. Frankly, I’d be a little concerned if his answer is no — I can’t imagine saying that no, I don’t want to know about customer complaints about one of my employees. But this way you won’t have to guess … and because you’ll have talked about it, you won’t need to worry that it seems like you’re just harping on Tom.

{ 365 comments… read them below }

  1. alienor*

    #4, I work for a company that is super-strict about equipment security–think multiple authentication methods and lots of features locked down or restricted–and even they explicitly state that it’s ok to use our work computers for Netflix, Hulu etc. I think you’re fine.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Even if you have your own laptop, having to carry two laptops plus accessories on a business trip is a pain in the neck.

      To improve personal security, be careful to not save login credentials for personal stuff, and deactivate the Netflix login in between trips. And if you have personal files you want during the trip, you can put them on a memory stick (password protected if there’s anything sensitive on it).

      That way, if you were suddenly laid off and had to hand in your laptop immediately, there wouldn’t be any personal information stored on it for your employer to access.

      1. Tam*

        “you can put them on a memory stick”

        So long as you got it from your IT department. Don’t just plug in your own memory stick – any IT dept with a shred of sense will not allow this.

        1. Nancy*

          And as long as the laptop USB ports allow memory devices. At OldJob, security was so strict that USB ports could not accommodate data transfer

        2. Koalafied*

          Eh, nowhere I’ve worked has ever banned the use of USB drives. I understand the security risk they pose, so I fully believe that a lot of corporations take this stance, but I don’t think it’s as universal of a policy as you’re suggesting. My current work machine is pretty locked down, requiring an administrator password to change any system settings or install anything, and our employee logins don’t have administrator permissions. We have to connect to a VPN to access any corporate resources from our laptops, and to get work email on our phones we have to install a Sophos security package that among other things gives them permission to remotely nuke our phones if needed. And there’s corporate-installed security software on our PCs that we can’t disable which runs nightly and alerts IT if any issues are detected. Which is to say they’re not cavalier about security across the board – they’ve just never sought to ban USB drives, possibly because it would be extremely hard to enforce?

          That said, USB drives are nearly obsolete technology. Between Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud (or whatever they call it), Dropbox, etc., if you don’t have your own computer it makes more sense to store your personal files in the cloud so you can access them from any device (like a phone, for instance) and not just one that accepts USB drives, and where you don’t have to keep track of a tiny physical object or worry about the data becoming corrupted.

          1. Queen of the World*

            My job disabled USB ports and locked down administrator settings. We can’t even change the computer backgrounds, how long it takes before it times out to sleep, the colors on our screen. It’s locked down more than Fort Knox.

          2. Sales Geek*

            You beat me to it. The one real advantage to the cloud services suggested is that you don’t have to worry about losing a physical device while on the road.

            If you put personal stuff on the USB drive and it falls out of your pocket, backpack etc. then some random stranger now has it.

          3. Delicious Friend*

            I worked a job similar to what Alienor describes and they would walk you out of the building if you plugged something unapproved into a USB socket.

            1. Nora*

              Same, if you put any kind of drive into a USB port on my work computer the whole computer locks down and you have to go to IT and take remedial security training before they will unlock it.

          4. FrivYeti*

            To be fair, USBs are mostly obsolete for simple documents, but for large sets of photos (or god forbid, video) they’re still pretty critical. My Google Drive and Dropbox are both at 20 GB, whereas my main personal USB holds 128 GB. I can schlep a lot more video and photos around rather than having to constantly upload, download, and then delete.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              It’s interesting to hear the different approaches to USB drives. Not to mention USB ports and cloud services – locking down my USB ports and access to cloud services would literally make my job impossible. Probably very secure, but in the same way being restricted to pen and paper would be. It’s not uncommon in my field to put data on an external hard disk and mail it to someone, because it’s faster than network transfer. I find cloud services useful for small or static data sets, but basically useless when working with terabytes of data with constant IO. I’ve also seen enough hotel wifis that can barely handle a Skype call to depend on network files while travelling.

          5. A Feast of Fools*

            My current company, and the two companies before them, locked down the USB ports on our laptops.

            Current company also restricts access to Google Drive, Dropbox, and other personal cloud storage sites.

            When I want to get my personal stuff off my laptop, I have to call IT and have them remote into my laptop to either unlock the USB ports or give me access to Google Drive while we’re on the call (and they’re watching what I’m uploading).

          6. Canadian Librarian #72*

            When I worked in corporate law, we were expressly forbidden to ever, EVER plug in a USB drive that hadn’t been provided by the firm. This was part of their information security regime, which was not even that stringent by some workplaces’ standards, but was pretty standard for law. We dealt with a lot of very sensitive documents and matters. If a leak occurred, it could have major business implications; imagine opposing counsel gaining access to our client’s evidence information during discovery, or insider trading being facilitated if the wrong person got access to certain information. I had to be added to lists of “allowed” persons sometimes in order to use the correct client/matter number to allocate and bill time; if I wasn’t added I wouldn’t be able to bill to that c/m number because the system would recognize I wasn’t supposed to know about it.

          7. Just Another Techie*

            A lot of companies block access to cloud document storage from work laptops (eg, I cannot access google drive, apple icloud, amazon photos, dropbox, or any of the rest from my work computer).

            Is data corruption a worry with modern flash drives? I don’t use them for long-term storage, but modern flash devices are pretty reliable on the weeks-to-months scale (and you really should be backing up your data in a systematic way, and not relying on any one physical device of any form factor).

          8. tamarack and fireweed*

            When I was first made team lead and sent to a management course, one of my classmates in the course (we were I think 8 or so) was a newly promoted engineering manager in charge of a team of highly qualified engineers (more than half with a PhD) in a chip manufacturing fabrication plant. One of his problems as a line manager was enforcing rigid rules that quite a few of the people he was working with were … let’s say interpreting with more flexibility than they were meant. One of the rules was absolutely no personal storage media beyond a cubby outside the plant – no USB sticks, phones, iPods/mp3 players (at the time…), etc. This had been part of the team’s training, and brought up several times. Now it came time to verify and he caught one of the engineers red-handed. He was troubled by the idea to fire a – in his opinion, very smart and hard-working – engineer over it.

            (And in most cases, it would be quite excessive. But IC fabs are their own world – IP and its protection is taken extremely seriously. And no one could say they didn’t know.)

          9. MCMonkeyBean*

            Nowhere I’ve worked has ever *allowed* USB drives! And my current company has now blocked all the cloud things pretty well too, which is very annoying. The only way I have found to transfer files from my work computer to my personal computer is just emailing it to myself from my work email to my gmail account. (And then one time I got a nastygram for emailing myself my own tax forms because the system could tell it had social security numbers in it! My own SS number!)

          10. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think how obsolete USB drives are really depends on what you do and with whom you work. We use them a lot for people who cannot or will not take electronic transfers, and our security restrictions prohibit the use of personal Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, etc. for corporate documents. There a web-based corporate document storage platform accessible only to internal parties as well as a network share. If you’re caught uploading things to any sort of personal platform, account, or device, it is a terminable offense.

            We are required to comply with security requirements set forth by our clients, and many of them are simply not okay with cloud storage. Physical media can be encrypted (hardware or software encryption or both). We also send things to various government entities, and electronic transfer platforms are like kryptonite to them. We try every once in a while but always end up sending them a PIN drive with a passworded wrapper file on it (and even that is too much sometimes). We still have one department whose agency requires CDs or DVDs. In 2021. IT calls me all the time to tell me optical media are “obsolete”, but if that’s what your most profitable project requires, they’re *not* obsolete for you.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Or your IT department could have security/antivirus that automatically scans anything plugged into or downloaded to the machine. If IT had to handle every removable media or transfer that came into our organization, we’d have to start hiring a 24/7 staff to do nothing but process it in order to meet turnaround times.

          Several of our departments deal with government entities that have disabled USB and refuse to accept electronic transfers. The easier to deal with will at least send you government-furnished equipment to send things to them; the more difficult will simply shoot down everything you offer until some poor admin is burning 12 CDs/DVDs for them.

      2. Artemesia*

        Often you can access your Netflix account on the TV in your room at the hotel. We have done this many times when on long family related trips. Of course you are careful to delete your log in from the hotel system before you check out so the next person in the room etc etc is not able to use your sign in. but it is very common for hotel TV systems to let you access your own streaming service like this.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Alternately, many hotel rooms now have a TV with a USB, so I know folks who just bring their Roku or FireTV stick with them – then they can access any streaming service they already have set up and they don’t have to worry about clearing their login info afterward.

          1. ophelia*

            out of curiosity, does this work (either the login or the stick) if you’re accessing US accounts from another country?

            1. Marni*

              It varies. I can log into my Netflix account in another country, and it works, but interestingly the available shows are what’s available in that country, not what would be available in my home account. All their originals are there, but a different set of licensed movies. Ive used my Hulu account in Canada, and I think Disney+ as well…

    2. Klio*

      For us that is as long as it’s not on the company network or via the company VPN. That bandwidth is for business not for fun.

      1. Fizzy water*

        Agreed! One unnecessary, but potentially helpful tip: if you use a different internet browser for work and personal stuff, it’s a lot easier to keep things separate. Say you’re required to use Chrome for work – download Firefox for everything personal and never mix log ins. It’s nice to not worry about getting targeted ads or opening something you didn’t mean to during work hours.

        1. Sz*

          I would like to add here that Chrome makes it possible to create separate user profiles associated with each email address you use (if they all use Google mail), each with their own browsing history etc. My employer’s uses Google for their email accounts (don’t know the technical name for this), so I can easily keep my person and professional profiles separate on Chrome at work.

          1. Loz*

            Admittedly this is the other way around but for occasional use of my personal laptop for work I go one further. I set up a specific “work user” profile on my personal computer and that has separate username, password, VPN, browser saved passwords, no install of company required software, etc. etc. That gives you an even bigger gap between work & personal. Perhaps your IT can set up a profile that can be used for Netflix or whatever on the basis that nothing will be shared, browser or anything else. It’s literally the next step down from a separate device.

    3. Jules the First*

      On the other hand, my work IT dept is adorably relaxed about actual security stuff…but has a very strict no-Netflix policy, so it’s always worth checking.

      1. Anon for this*

        We’ve acquired a no spotify/netflix/other streaming service policy as a result of people using the service which was allowed… for private use… to entertain customers, which turns it into commercial use. The people who worked in a private office setting and had no customer interaction are sad, but the customer facing people ruined it for everyone.

      2. LQ*

        If it’s in the office or passing over VPN that they host then it can just be a bandwidth issue.

      3. twocents*

        Yep, this is not a guess and hope you’re right situation. It could be anything from security concerns to bandwidth issues to productivity trackers, which would track the fact that you were logged onto the computer for, say, 10 hours and you spent three of those hours watching Netflix. (Which is reasonable when you consider lunch/breaks, but looks bad when 30% of your time appears to be goofing off.)

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Ours aren’t, but we do have multiple warnings to staff that you must never, ever, download software onto your computer. It all has to come from IT.

      However, someone accessing it via the web and not on our bandwidth and not on company time? Heck, go right ahead! I’ve been known to watch QI….

    5. Amethystmoon*

      If they didn’t want you using it, it would be blocked. Ours blocks things even when you’re not signed in on the work VPN. However, if you ever had to sign anything stating you wouldn’t use the computers for personal use, or had to watch a training video on appropriate computer use or some such thing, I’d be careful there. My work laptop even blocks us from using memory sticks and doesn’t have a CD drive. But they are really strict. I’d just bring my iPad along instead of a personal laptop for entertainment.

    6. Nina Bee*

      #4 The issue at your previous work may have been the legality of downloading/torrenting films (even if your actions were legal, torrenting just has a negative connotation) rather than simply watching films on a work laptop? Netflix is a legal service so that would be different – unless you’re hacking into someone’s account which doesn’t sound like you are ;)

    7. AthenaC*

      When I’m doing certain types of non-verbal work in the office during work hours, I’ll stream Netflix content that I’ve watched dozens of times (read: background conversation noise that won’t tempt me to lose focus). So far I haven’t been called by IT, but if I do, and my explanation isn’t sufficient, I’ll just find something else.

      1. KaciHall*

        I have episodes of Great British Baking Show downloaded on my phone. I can ‘watch’ it without using data, and if I open a game while watching, I can turn the screen off. Works wonderfully

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’ve started using my phone for that, and I’ve found it *really* helps me focus because I can’t mindlessly reach for my phone to open facebook or reddit since it is otherwise engaged.

    8. lilsheba*

      My last job would never have allowed it and they blocked it anyway. My current job doesn’t care and I run different things through out the day from Netflix to Hulu to Youtube to Spotify. I’m always listening to something.

    9. redflagday701*

      There’s a simple way to avoid this whole issue, and also to ensure that everyone hates you, and that’s to become one of those people who doesn’t watch TV and tells everybody about it.

      1. redflagday701*

        Sure, you could just stop watching TV and *not* tell everybody, but where would be the fun in that?

      2. TimesChange*

        Or my ex who used to tell people that he didn’t watch TV, but spent hours upon hours watching TV shows on DVD/streaming and movies. I kept reminding him that he didn’t watch broadcast TV.

    10. Mr. Shark*

      They used to allow us to stream on our work computers, which was nice because a lot of the people in my group travel a lot, so it was easy to just kick back at the hotel and watch Netflix rather than what limited stuff they had on TV.
      But then they blocked that. Now they are blocking any USB or storage devices as well. I’m sure they’ve had some problems with it, but it seems like that would be pretty limited such that it is not that big of a security risk to allow it. From what I understand, you won’t even be able to plug in your phone to charge it, because it’s considered a storage device. Anything you want to transfer will be through the cloud.

    11. NotAnotherManager!*

      Our acceptable use policy for technology expressly prohibits using work device/service for non-work-related activities, including watching streaming services for entertainment or logging into personal cloud accounts. (Want to have your account locked immediately? Access Google Drive or similar and start uploading from a work device.) I am not sure that there’s a single standard for whether or not this is okay and think the right course would be for OP#4 to either look at their organization’s policy or ask someone familiar with it. If there’s no policy against it, then it’s probably fine.

  2. Observer*

    #1, you have my sympathy.

    This is the kind of story that convinces me that unless you know your employer is a reasonable person, you shouldn’t tell them where they are going. It’s a good thing you are out of there shortly.

    It’s also a good thing that Allison is correct. There is no such thing as an “implied non-compete”. I would not worry about it, because no lawyer worth anything is going to take that case. A good lawyer WILL talk your (soon to be ex) boss down if he is still in temper tantrum mode.

    Unless your boss is abusive, just don’t bring it up with him, try to stay out of his way, and do your best with the handover till you get out of there. But take all your stuff home tomorrow, so that if you need to you can walk out on a moment’s notice.

    1. PollyQ*

      Agreed with all of this. Boss is probably not dumb enough to even bring the “implied non-compete” fiction to a lawyer, but I’d pay good money to be a fly on the wall if he ever did.

      1. Meri*

        I was gonna say… I’ve taken exactly 1 semester of Business Law, and the “implied non-compete” had me giggling. I wanna see how a real lawyer reacts.

        1. London Calling*

          It’s like those ‘unwritten rules’ about relationships that everyones’s supposed to know. How, if they’re unwritten?

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          How a real lawyer reacts: Are they being paid by the hour, and has the owner put down a retainer?

          1. Delta Delta*

            Real lawyer here: we lawyer-people tell our clients when there isn’t a case to be filed, and then end the relationship if the client insists on pursuing unfounded legal action.

            1. MK*

              Lawyers do tell their clients when there isn’t a case. But if the client insists, whether they end the relationship depends on many things. Not all lawyers are conscientious, some cannot afford to turn down business, and many crazy clients bring a lot of legitimate cases along with the occasional dud.

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              It is a fair point that it depends on the lawyer, but it is an objectively true observation that genuinely ridiculous lawsuits get filed, with a lawyer representing the plaintiff. In some cases the lawyer seems to simply be incompetent, but this does not explain all of them.

              1. Coder von Frankenstein*

                IANAL, but the entire country got a front-row seat to such lawsuits over the course of last November and December, and the consequences have been playing out since. The takeaways seem to be:

                – Serious, competent lawyers do not touch this kind of thing with a ten-foot pole.
                – There are always unserious, incompetent lawyers who will file what you pay them to file.
                – Judges and bar associations take a very dim view of such behavior.
                – That last item can end a lawyer’s career.

              2. Worldwalker*

                Remember that (until he finally got disbarred) the infamous Jack Thompson was a lawyer. If you don’t recognize the name, look him up. The video game stuff was what got him the press, but that guy was a whack job in all sorts of ways. This included filing paperwork with the courts that included literal porn, harassing other attorneys, their clients, and their families, faxing so much to one target (a judge, I believe) that he broke the guy’s fax machine, and a whole list of other examples of what not to do, how not to do it, and other paths to legal disaster.

                1. pancakes*

                  I’m not sure why anyone needs to remember one “whack job.” One person is not a trend, or a tendency, or proof of much of anything.

        3. L.H. Puttgrass*

          This real lawyer’s reaction to “implied non-compete agreement” is also giggling.

          Could stupid boss get a lawyer to file a lawsuit? Probably. There are plenty of lawyers out there who will file any stupid thing for a fee, Rule 11 be damned. And a lawsuit, even a frivolous one that should be dismissed in one reply before discovery, can cost money to defend. But it also costs money to file, and I suspect that hot-headed boss will lose interest fast when told what it would cost to file a lawsuit that will go absolutely nowhere.

        1. PollyQ*

          My bet is that once LW isn’t around to yell threats at anymore, he’ll stop caring pretty quickly. This sounds like angry bluster to me, rather than a true belief that he has any legal claim.

          1. Worldwalker*

            Yeah, it sounds much more like he’s trying to intimidate the OP.

            What I’d be concerned about, were I the OP, would be that the boss would contact my new employer and tell them I’m breaking a non-compete (he is, after all, so convinced that one exists that he spent the day tearing the office apart looking for it) and he will sue them, as well, if they hire me. That wouldn’t get an offer rescinded from a sane and reasonable company … but not all of them are.

            1. OhNo*

              I agree that this sounds like an attempt to intimidate more than anything else. I can’t help but wonder what the boss’ endgame is with it, though. Is he just trying to make the LW stay on against their will? Or scare them into leaving early so he has an excuse for a bad reference?

              Obviously it’s impossible for anyone aside from the boss to say for sure, but this reads to me as a case that calls for strict professionalism until the last possible moment, just in case. And, you know… maybe doing some preliminary searches for a lawyer for yourself, LW, just in case. Better to have a number on speed dial and not need it, then to need it and not have it.

        2. Delta Delta*

          People do all sorts of dumb things. The question is whether, after all the bloviating, the boss has the fortitude to sit down and actually draft a complaint and file it (and pay a filing fee). Seems unlikely.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’m reminded of the hilarity of when someone tried that against the YouTube channel Jimquisition. The case was quite obviously prepared by someone who *wasn’t* a lawyer – and the YouTube channel’s *actual* lawyer went back to them with ‘here’s how, exactly, badly this is going to go for you if you continue’.

          They persisted, the judge basically dismissed the case with prejudice.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I just looked up the Jimquisition case, and wow…that was quite an interesting ride!

          2. Bilateralrope*

            I was watching that case as it happened, all the way from Digital Homicide’s “reviewing the reviewer” tantrum.

            Though the stupidest move Digital Homicide pulled in all that was that they wanted to go after more people who were giving them bad reviews. So they sued Valve to try and get the identities of those users. Valve didn’t like that and kicked them off Steam. Turns out that angering the people running the largest store willing to sell your game is really bad for your business.

            If anyone is curious, here’s Jim Sterling summarizing how that lawsuit went:

          3. retrowaveRecluse (they/them)*

            If this wonderful person and their channel has never been brought up on AAM before (I’m sorry I don’t have time to check.), you’ve done us a service once again, Keymaster. And that’s the end of me veering off topic again.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Absolutely love that channel. Advance warning to others though – contains a lot, and I mean a lot, of swearing.

          4. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Though I write contracts for my company, I am not a lawyer and have to bring in one of our attorneys in certain situations. It is my greatest delight at work when a contractor is being stupid and I get to sit on the call listening while our attorney explains exactly how stupid they are being!

        4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Even if a lawyer refused to represent him, he could still file in small claims court (where there aren’t lawyers and the filing fee is pretty minimal). The low statutory max is still enough to make most employees nervous — I wouldn’t want a $5,000 judgement against me.

          1. pancakes*

            You can certainly bring a lawyer to small claims court if you want to. It’s not mandatory to have one but it’s not forbidden, either. You seem to be speaking as if anyone sued in small claims court is risking having a default judgment entered against them, but that’s only likely to be a problem for someone who doesn’t show up at all.

            1. pancakes*

              I double-checked: In California, Nebraska, and Michigan, you have to appear in small claims court on your own. My state allows lawyers so I wasn’t familiar with this and thought it sounded a little off.

          2. Observer*

            It’s still a cost and effort for the employer. Which makes it unlikely that the employer would do that, once they heard the helpless laughter from their actual lawyer. Or at least a clear explanation that “implied non-compete” is NOT a thing that will fly in any court.

            You simply cannot spend your life worrying that someone somewhere is going to act like they live in an alternate universe.

          3. Someone Has to Stand Up for Small Claims Court*

            Even in small claims court you have to demonstrate *HARM*. I cannot go to small claims court and ask for a $5000.00 judgement and get it automatically if the other person doesn’t show up. If that were the case, literally everyone would be doing it. I have to demonstrate that I have been damaged in some way. Having previously employed a person who now has another job is not damage. I would have to show how she damaged me. I’d have to have pictures of office supplies that she stole or proof in writing that she took a client worth $5000.00 to me. I know we tend to think of the legal system as cloud cuckooland. It’s not. It has rules. Even small claims court has rules. The issue that a lot of laymen have is that lawyers spend a certain period of time learning the rules and we make it hard for other people to learn them from time to time.

            1. Curious*

              Moreover, small claims courts generally can’t grant injunctive relief (i.e., an order by the court prohibiting something, here, prohibiting the employee from working for the new employer).

          4. no name today*

            File for what, though? As an employee I’d be gleeful, thinking of the hell I’d unleash on that boss with the help of an actual lawyer.

      2. CanWeHaveSinglePayerNowPlease*

        My bet is on, “Implied non-competes are not a thing. That’ll be $500, thanks.” Leaving the controlling boss sputtering.

    2. CoGo*

      Perhaps the “implied non-compete” clause came into play because the OP was on “double secret probation” at the time. (‘_’)┏oo┓(‘_’)

    3. Duke Flapjack*

      Yep, my first “real” job was like that. The owner of the company was a southern “good-old-boy” who seriously wouldn’t let us shop at Home Depot because he didn’t like their Nascar driver. I went through something similar when I finally got disgusted with starting the job at $10 an hour and still making the same two years later and changed jobs. Rather than show any kind of appreciation or whatever for my time he threatened to sue me for…something. Glad I left that job. It didn’t deserve me.

      On a side note, later he ended up getting arrested for having a camera in the company’s women’s toilet and the company itself got sold to a national fire-alarm company out of Indianapolis. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. He ran that business like an idiot.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Dime a dozen, that story in contracting and associated industry, sadly. My first job story ends with the company going belly up though, not sold out. Partly with costs due to petty and stupid litigation.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        Whaaaat the heck? That’s amazing and bizarre and I love it.

        What happened if he found out you went to Home Depot?

        I also love the law suit threats. What are you gonna sue for? I made you sad when I quit? You’re angry you lost your servant? Go hire someone else, dude.

        1. Duke Flapjack*

          I’m pretty sure he got mad he lost his other good troubleshooter…the one he was underpaying.

          As far as Home Depot, he just would never reimburse you from there. When he eventually ran up his credit at the local electrical supply shop it got a bit difficult anyway. If I knew then what I knew now, he would have gotten into serious trouble with the state of Tennessee (we did work there despite not having a license to do so).

          I do give him credit for getting me into a career I hadn’t at all planned for but discovered I liked it and was good at. It should have raised some red flags though that he was willing to hire a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver sight unseen.

          1. anonBecauseMaybeIdentifying*

            I used to work at a company where one of my co-workers (who was very good at his job) was hired away from a Toys’R’Us company because the founder and president was impressed by his customer service. That was a good company to work for.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Agreed. Never tell employers where you’re going unless it’s to a different internal team. Where I work, HR will at least make you inform your boss of an internal move. If it’s an external company, they don’t have to know.

    5. LTR/FTP*

      Re: #1 — My old boss sent me a registered letter with a cease and desist order from his attorney (and sent a copy to my boss at my new job) because one of my former coworkers quit his company to come work at mine. The letter accused me of violating a non-compete agreement and threatened all sorts of legal action. The kicker? I never signed any such thing. I wrote back and asked for a copy of the signed agreement, saying that I’d respond appropriately to his demands after reviewing it, and of course nobody ever responded, since it did not exist. So glad I don’t work for that guy anymore!!!

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        That’s beautiful. I love that.

        Was the implication that you were stealing coworkers? Were you even in hiring? Like, did you even have the power to make it happen?

        1. LTR/FTP*

          Yes, that was the implication… full disclosure, I stayed in touch with the guy and when we had an opening I mentioned his name to the hiring manager… but I didn’t have anything to do with the actual hiring process. Old boss was BIG MAD about the guy leaving! My take was, keep your employees happy and they won’t be susceptible to poaching. Not my problem, buddy!

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Right? Why do people act like it’s a big betrayal when someone quits a job? If you want people to stay in positions, make it worth their while with rising wages and benefits and stuff. If you decide that you can’t possibly do that, then you can’t possibly expect people to be married to their job!

            And even if you did all those things, people switch jobs for so many reasons. Schedules, moving, changing needs, health. If a person gets laid off, so often they’re told “Not personal, just business.” Same goes for quitting!

          2. Generic Name*

            Right? One of the new managers at my company totally poached 2 employees to start a new division at my company. The company they all left was pretty passed at losing 3 people, but as my coworker said about his old company: do better.

      2. aebhel*

        My spouse’s former job threatened to sue his current job if they didn’t fire him because of a (very over-reaching) non-compete. We ended up having to get a lawyer to deal with it, which was an expensive headache, but he eventually backed off.

      3. Berkeleyfarm*

        The #1 question and certainly this comment (show me the papers!!) reminded me of what happened at a previous job.

        I work in IT infrastructure operations. I worked for a local government where we had a grandboss who … was maliciously bad. Threw his extremely talented employees under the bus, belittled them, etc. Any regular AAM reader would basically be saying “get out”.

        The networking engineers had over 100% turnover in their group. Most of them had certs from Famous Networking Company (one had a very advanced one). FNC was local and very much hiring. Almost everyone who left got a position there. Some are still there many years later.

        After one departure, the management decided to deal with the problem … not by transferring Grandboss or actually supervising him, but by siccing the lawyers on FNC. There was a massive conference call with FNC CEO and a lot of people from the county. County claimed that FNC was poaching “intellectual property” and demanded a no-hire agreement. FNC agreed to this despite, hey, no IP involved because _a public agency_.

        I was NOT surprised to hear years later that a number of Silicon Valley companies had no-hire “gentlemen’s agreements” that amounted to “no poaching from XYZ companies” – they may not have been in the same exact businesses but felt they were competing for talent. I suspect some people at the county had heard about these and decided to social-engineer it through.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      OP, make sure you read some of Alison’s posts about normalizing yourself after leaving a toxic workplace. This is textbook toxic.

    7. The Smiling Pug*

      #1- This is a crazy story. I don’t think I’ve ever been threatened to be sued by my former employer simply because I was leaving, and I’ve been in some strange places.

    8. Matt*

      Absolutely agree with what’s been said here. OP’s boss is full of it and I would have had no problem telling him “After further consideration, I’ve decided to make today my last day,”

    1. Canadian Valkyrie*

      RIGHT?! I kind of want to know if there were any other signs that this person was THAT insane before this happened. I know the OP mentioned it, but I really want to know if he’s generally just a “bit” of a jerk and this is a new level… or if this is just a new piece of his usually insanity.

  3. FlyingAce*

    #3 – seems to me that the organizer canceled the meeting about an hour before it was scheduled, then LW’s boss reached out to them an hour after that – so around the time the original meeting was supposed to start (not an hour after the original meeting). Still, I don’t think it was reasonable for the boss to assume that LW knew he still wanted to hold the meeting.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d probably have replied all to the cancellation; that way the boss could have contacted her to say the meeting was still on. But the OP did nothing at all wrong. She should probably close the loop by mentioning to him that she will check with him next time a meeting is cancelled to make sure he doesn’t want to meet.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, this. In OP#3’s situation, I’d add this to my mental list of Silly Boss Quirks and make a point of following up in the future with something like, “Anastasia was bitten by a velociraptor and called out sick. Do you still want to meet?”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Lol – love the reason Anastasia is out sick!

          In all seriousness though – that is the kindest way to look at this (and finding a kinder/more generous reason) is probably the lowest stress way to survive most non-dysfunctional workplaces.

        2. cassielfsw*

          Poor Anastasia, she was hiding in the kitchen but she forgot they know how to open doors.

        3. Former Employee*

          Was it one of those cute little guys from “Jurassic Park”? At least they were cute until they turned into a pack of killers.

          And the OP’s boss sounds like a weirdebeast. The person who scheduled the meeting cancelled it. Why would the OP even think that their boss would want to meet to discuss something without the main person on that part of the project?

          1. Kevin Sours*

            The cute little guys in Jurassic Park are Deinonychus. Velociraptors are considerably smaller. But the name is cooler so they used it for the movie.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yup. If, as the boss, I still wanted to meet, I’d have definitely reached out to my team member and asked if they could still meet, not assumed that they’d show up when the organizer cancelled. I mean, my folks have stuff going on too, they’re not just sitting around waiting with bated breath to have a meeting with me. Or a meeting at all.

          (My boss is also notoriously hard to schedule with because she’s constantly in meetings, so when one gets cancelled, I often hop on that train to see if she can pencil me in for the newly created opening.)

    2. AthenaC*

      Just chiming in that the boss’s expectations and specific phrasing (you are my employee and I still want to meet) is really strange. What would be more normal in that situation would be the boss reaching out and saying, “Hi OP3, I saw that Person X canceled the meeting, but since we have the time reserved, would you be able to meet just with me? I have some items on the project I’d still like to connect with you about.”

      But – yeah, now that you know your boss is strange in this specific way, it makes sense for you to proactively reach out to him next time that happens. But for future bosses and future workplaces, you shouldn’t have to.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yeah I noticed that too. It sounds like the boss is getting territorial- “Jane doesn’t tell you if you go to meetings, only *I* tell you if you go to meetings! She’s not your boss, I am!” Except… Jane presumably DOES decide who goes to the meeting that Jane requested and scheduled.

        OP, I’d keep your eyes open for any other signs that your boss is territorial about you or seems to be acting hostile when it seems like you’re “taking orders from someone else.” Hopefully this is just a weird quirk, but that kind of behavior can get really obnoxious really fast.

      2. TimesChange*

        In the several bosses I’ve had, if they wanted to keep the meeting, they would have contacted me, not been huffy that I didn’t show up at a canceled meeting.

      3. Librarian1*

        Yeah, I agree with this. The “you are my employee” phrasing is kind of patronizing and I’d be annoyed if I had a manager that did that.

  4. WS*

    Oh, I’ve heard of an “implied non-compete” before! I was admin staff and the most knowledgeable and long-serving admin person (who was often taken advantage of, asked to stay late or come in early, took on tons of extra work on their behalf etc.) gave notice to go work for the opposition. The boss threw a temper tantrum when he found out she was leaving, and another one when he found out where she was going and pulled exactly the same nonsense as LW #1’s boss. The *sales* staff signed non-compete agreements, the *admin* staff never had. He then swung around and tried to offer her more money to stay but she was done with the whole thing, and rightly so.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Yeah. If you want me to stay, start with sweetening the pot, not, you know–trying to sue me.

    1. Observer*

      It’s notable that the only time you’ve heard of it are under the same type of circumstances as this letter – and with about as much credibility.

    2. Anon and on and on*

      You’d think he’d start with the good cop, then switch to bad cop. Guess he was like, screw it, going full blown crazy person.

      1. aebhel*

        My experience with bosses like that is that they genuinely believe they own their employees, even if they’d never articulate that out loud. When a valuable employee quits, they treat them like a malfunctioning piece of expensive equipment instead of like… a human being who is allowed to make choices.

    3. Stitching Away*

      I’m going to make a wild guess that this is the type of manager who wants you to read his mind to know what he wants you to do, and gets angry when you do not have this superpower.

  5. Who the eff is Hank?*

    “Implied non-compete” has me rolling. Cool, then I’ll just take my implied raise, then, along with my implied PTO.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’m also going to get a really awesome new job with my implied job history as the implied CEO.

  6. Life Pro Tip*

    As LW discovered, anyone who treats others badly will almost certainly treat you badly when you come to their attention and you don’t do exactly what they want.

    1. KHB*

      As I’ve heard this phrased somewhere else (I wish I could give credit, but I forget where): If someone who’s a jerk to everyone else is nice to you, you’re not special, you’re next.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Or, they’re using you in some ugly way as a weapon against the others, and you don’t want to be part of that, either. I have that going on in my personal life and I refuse to feed it by accepting the niceness of the perpetrator.

      2. Butterfly Counter*


        All of my neighbors but us are having problems with one particular neighbor. I know it’s not because we’re doing things “right” but that we just haven’t been bumped up on the list yet. It’s just a matter of time.

      3. anonymouse*

        I’ve been in this situation, and too see it so succinctly, I realized keeping the peace with someone who just wants to watch the world burn was taking too much out of me and threw fate to the wind.
        I realized that I was her audience, not her friend.
        A captive one at that.

  7. Generic Elf*

    Knowing my assertive mannerisms, if I ever get questioned why I didn’t do X when I was not actively employed, it will now be *impossible* for me to say anything else but “God forbid I [you] not spend every waking moment of my [your] life contributing to the capitalist machine.”

    Thanks Alison. Genius line. Haha.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I did get asked what on earth I’d done when out of work for 2 years when I started applying for jobs again (mid 2020). They…didn’t get a nice roll of volunteer work, online courses or seminars I’d attended in response!

      Although I didn’t get *too* much pushback on ‘medical emergency, now resolved’.

      (Survived a near fatal crash, then 2020 happened and blew my sanity to tiny little pieces)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Anyone who would push back on “medical emergency” is a loathsome wretch and deserves none of your valuable time.

  8. Bilateralrope*

    #1. Sure, your former boss has no grounds for a lawsuit. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try and, if he does, he will cause you trouble. Especially if he lies when he files the lawsuit.

    So document everything just in case.

    1. Sue*

      The chances of this ending up as a lawsuit are virtually nil. Even signed noncompetes are rarely valid. In my state (WA) they have been made illegal for most employees. I wouldn’t sweat this at all. The only issue is how unpleasant this boss is being and whether OP wants to put up with it or not.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        I remember when a fast food joint made me sign a non-compete. All I could think was “Well, what’re you gonna do if I break this? Fire me? Okay, I already have another job then… Sue me? You pay me seven forty an hour, can you even afford a lawyer?”

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        “Even signed noncompetes are rarely valid.” I have often seen people saying this in the comments here, and phrased that broadly, it’s just not true. It very much depends on where you live. In my state, they are specifically allowed by statute. If the one you signed is more broad than it needs to be (e.g., you only do business in a small region but the noncompete is effective nationwide), a court can reform it to make it more narrow, but they are very much enforceable.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          It’s not that the platonic ideal of a non-compete is unenforceable, it’s that they are often not enforceable as written. There are very narrow circumstances in which non-competes are applicable, and as you say, they often are written too broadly (and don’t give sufficient consideration to the employee), even if they will stand in some form.

          Many companies will write them way more broadly than they know they can enforce, to dissuade people from doing what they don’t want them to do.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            But I don’t think Sue was referring to “the platonic ideal of a non-compete,” and if they were, I don’t know that a non-lawyer reader would pick up on that. And in my state, in any case, they often *are* enforceable as written, or modified so slightly as to not make much of a difference for the person it’s being enforced against. And people on these comments who tend to say that noncompetes aren’t enforceable aren’t usually saying “it might not be enforceable exactly as it’s written, but your employer might still sue you, you’ll have to pay for an attorney and endure a lawsuit against you, and you’ll probably still lose and have the agreement enforced against you, but a court might reform it to make it slightly less bad for you.” No, an implied noncompete is not a thing. But it concerns me that commenters here may have given readers the impression that even if they sign a noncompete, they most likely have no need to worry about its enforcement. That may be a true statement in Sue’s state. It’s not in mine.

            1. pancakes*

              I see what you mean, but 1) the Robert Garcia v. USA Industries, Inc. case suggests that even Texas is looking more closely at enforcing these, and 2) more importantly, it’s always going to be problematic for people to try to apply generalized legal guidance they’ve seen on the internet to their own potential legal issues. People who are under the impression that very general guidance from random strangers on the internet is an effective substitute for hiring a lawyer are people who have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of what they’re reading.

    2. Stitch*

      I can’t discount the possibility that the guy will lie, but someone arguing an “implied non-compete” won’t survive a very simple Motion to Dismiss. You won’t even have to file an Answer.

      It’s important not to panic if you are sued.

      1. rudster*

        But wouldn’t the motion to dismiss still have to come from you or your lawyer? It’s my understanding that any lawsuit can get filed, no matter how absurd – that there’s no “ridiculousness” test done by the court itself – so someone still has to respond and file the appropriate motion or motions.
        I’d like to think that no lawyer would take such a ridiculous case, but my experience being sued as a *victim* of a car accident in which we were T-boned at speed by a driver running a red light tells me otherwise. Fortunately my insurance company told the other party to pound sand and that was the last we heard of it.

        1. MK*

          Yes, but by that logic anyone can get sued at any time for anythin, or be accused of a crime. I don’t think it’s helpful to bring up remote possibilities of lawsuits that won’t succeed, anymore that it would be to bring up the possibility of your boss falsely accusing you of theft on your last day.

          1. Bilateralrope*

            Normally, yes. But when you get someone crazy enough to say that an “implied non-compete” is a thing, you can’t rely on sensible behavior from the former boss.

        2. Stitch*

          There are actually some screening factors done at the clerk’s office and in chambers. Before any initial hearing we would always check for proper service and that is one instance in which the court will dismiss all on Chambers.

          There’s also a big difference between suing over a question of fact and a guy just trying to make up a legal provision that doesn’t exist.

          If you do end up sued and you can’t afford a lawyer, reach out to local law schools who have clinics and legal aid programs.

        3. Artemesia*

          I know someone sued because a pedestrian walked into the side of their car in a parking lot and sued the for ‘hitting them’. The insurance company actually settked with this dick. But auto insurance is used to suits and settlements and your insurance covers it. Odds are low a guy like this will sue because it will cost him money and his lawyer will tell him there is no chance. If he does, you get a lawyer to file the motion, it costs a little money and sometime life is like that.

          1. MK*

            You mean someone whose car was damaged, however slightly, because some jerk wasn’t watching where they were going, had the impudence to ask for compensation? How dare they?

            Look, I don’t want to derail, but all these stories about people getting sued when the other party was clearly in the wrong should be taken with a grain of salt. It happens, sure, but usually when someone with zero legal knowledge is telling you, also without legal knowledge, their tale of woe, you are getting their uninformed side of the story. Pedestrians are subject to traffic laws, they can and do cause accidents by violating them or from negligent behaviour.

              1. MK*

                Maybe, but the same applies. Don’t assume the person telling the story is telling all of it. Even people who aren’t deliberately lying rarely volunteer information that shows them in a bad light.

                1. STAT!*

                  Boy you are so right about this! Major derail here, but especially it happens in my jurisdiction with family law. One couple in my wider acquaintance has recently split after a 20 plus year “traditional” marriage (him working full time, her working part time and being primary carer for many children). I’m getting stories of “And do you know what? She took the house! He got nothing!” (reports from “his side”). When I ask “How much of his superannuation did she get?”, it’s crickets – so I assume, she got nothing. Fair division of ALL the assets of the relationship peeps! But “his side” aren’t seeing the full picture.

            1. AnonPi*

              omg that reminds me of those crazy videos in Russia of cars being stopped in traffic and a person will just walk up to the car and casually roll themselves across the hood and then sue saying the car hit them. Hence why almost everyone with a car has a dash cam there.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  There was an amazing compilation of them a few years ago on (I think?) The Daily Show, and they were AMAZING. We must have watched that supercut of Russian dash cam videos at least 20 times.

            2. Artemesia*

              And yet this pedestrian who was running in the rain and not paying attention and RAN INTO the SIDE of my SIL’s car nevertheless got a settlement from the insurance company because they didn’t want to mess with it. Was infuriating.

        4. Richard Hershberger*

          The likely scenario for that car accident suit is that the other driver lied to their lawyer. Personal injury lawyers nearly always work on a contingency fee basis, and so have no incentive to take on a case like this. Quite the opposite. But they take the case based on what the potential client tells them. It may be quite late in the process before they realize they were lied to, and firing a client is non-trivial.

          1. MK*

            Or maybe they weren’t lying, at least not completely. Where I am from, insurance companies don’t fork out settlement money just because someone files a claim; they have whole legal departments to contest unfounded ones. If the issue is more debatable, they will settle to avoid litigation, which makes me think it likely that there was some merit to the claim.

      2. Bilateralrope*

        How long will that take ?
        How much will the letter writer have to pay in lawyer/court fees ?

        My experience is what happened with a friend of mine. Right out of university he gets hired into a job that requires more skill than he has. He gets fired for not being able to do the job and thinks that’s the end of it. A few years later, his ex-employer sued him to get him to pay back all his wages. So that was a cause of stress for most of a year until it was dismissed.

        Sure, the outcome is what everyone except the ex-employer expected. But the process of getting there was still stressful.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Thing is, it’s not like OP can actually control whether her boss is ridiculous enough to try to sue? She might try pointing out that no judge would entertain the boss’s suit but it doesn’t sound like he’s open to reason right now.

          1. Bilateralrope*

            That’s why I advised the letter writer to document everything. If all goes well that documentation won’t be required. But if the former boss is that stupid, the documentation will be useful.

            1. LQ*

              But I think saying “document everything” as a standalone phrase isn’t useful. What should the OP document? Give some examples of things that would be useful? I just see this “document everything” thrown around but I almost never see examples of what “document everything” actually looks like.

              1. Stitch*

                If OP can get him to admit in an email that there is no non-compete that would be pretty amazing.

                But the reality is it’s almost certainly bravado and he’s not actually going to sue.

                But if he does, don’t immediately bow to his demands. You can often get free consultations from an attorney where they’ll estimate costs or you can reach out to legal aid organizers for help (it depends in income).

                1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  That’s pretty much the only thing.

                  Since there is no non-compete, nothing that happens from here on, except the boss acknowledging that fact himself, has any bearing on the question.

                  Obviously if anything verges into harrassment document that, but that’s a separate issue.

                  In the end, this is most likely bravado on the boss’s part, and nothing is needed except to not escalate. If he does sue, LW can hopefully get it thrown out at the start. As you say, get a consultation from a lawyer. It might be a matter of a single letter, which an attorney may do for free or charge for one hour.

        2. Observer*

          As others have noted, you simply CANNOT protect yourself from every possible idiot and lunatic out there. Try to do so is going to be stressful and possibly costly, and it’s just not going to work.

          There is nothing for the OP to do here. There is no such beast as an “implied noncompete.” That will be the basis of the OP’s defense if they ever get sued.

          The only thing I would do is document the fact that the boss admitted that there is no signed non-compete (eg in email), in case the boss tried to forge one.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d get a copy of any written policy that says sales team must sign non-compete. Or email. Right now policy says nothing about admin staff, but if this guy really is extreme enough to try a lawsuit I’d like to hedge my bets in case he is extreme enough to rewrite the non-compete policy now.

      1. Observer*

        It would not matter what the policy says. It matters if there is a signed agreement or not. Policies and “implied” agreements are not legally binding documents.

          1. Observer*

            Generally, these are considered binding on the EMPLOYER, not the employee. Exceptions are things like whether you can expect vacation payouts and the like.

            Policies that place requirements on departing employees are not legally binding absent a signed document by the employee.

    4. hbc*

      There’s really not much to document. Him saying over and over that you have a non-compete is not evidence for or against a non-compete agreement. Him being a jerk on the way out is not evidence for or against. Heck, him not finding a signed non-compete document yet isn’t really evidence against there being one somewhere.

      The most you could do is send an email with your personal email bcc’d saying, “Regarding our discussion, I can’t find any record of a non-compete agreement signed by me. If you find anything, please let me know, though my understanding is that this position wouldn’t be competitive under the law either way.” But none of this can prevent a lawsuit.

      1. aebhel*

        I don’t think it’s a good idea to even imply that she *MIGHT* have signed a non-compete agreement, especially since she knows she didn’t.

      1. Caliente*

        HA HA! If she doesn’t she should get some and spell it out for him!
        I just do not understand people. Reminded me of when I was working a temp job, got a permanent job and called the agency to let them know I wouldn’t be back next day. They had a real problem with it. I had to explain that they are a TEMP company and surely had another temp they could send the next day to answer phones and file? Yeesh

  9. Craig Middlebrooks*

    I kind of do think the meeting thing is egregiously weird! I guess I’m stuck a little on the advice, “now you know he has weird meeting practices” DOES she know this? Perhaps I’m projecting, but if this had happened to me, with a boss who would’ve said something like “She cancelled the meeting, but I did not, and you are my employee” (which, maybe is not exactly how it was phrased but this attitude feels like a flag on the yellow-red spectrum to me), it would’ve just been the power trip (or whatever the motivation was, who can say. If I were going to speculate, and why not, I can imagine my projection just sitting there getting upset that his time was wasted plus he feels embarrassed, with some kind of ugly stood-up feeling combined with the inability to manage that feeling and the power to make it someone else’s problem) of the day, not anything I could rely on to tell me how he operated.

    I mean, hopefully this doesn’t come up that much, but truly should LW just assume anytime a meeting is cancelled by someone not him, he’s still planning on attending it/hosting it anyway? Should the LW just confidently go to the conference room in another department? Should they email him and ask every time? I guess I’m asking because while that seems like the obvious answer, my dysfunctional workplace background is asserting itself – I’d be worried/guessing he might find that annoying, because to him it’s really quite obvious, one way or another, for reasons that are quite clear to him and utterly opaque to me. Because to me it seems quite obvious that if the host cancels, it’s cancelled, unless notified otherwise, I kind of think I might forget to ask about it, and/or now that it’s become a THING once, I’d feel like it’s a minefield, and I might get worse at it due to anxiety/trauma/avoidance (I know it’s not ideal but it’s who I am!)

    1. Allonge*

      So, in this particular case the next time I would call / email boss and ask, and go from there.

      There is no universal solution though: unreasonable bosses will be unreasonable, and there is a process of trial and error in figuring out what levels of unreasonable and whether anyone can deal with that.

      For you in particular, it might be a signal that boss is not someone you can work with, which is ok – the second time this comes up in any shape or form is the time you need to start looking for another job, for your own mental health. I suspect there are many people in the same situation as you, so this is a perfectly ok reaction – it sucks that you have to, but it’s the same as with every other job issue – it will be more of an issue for some than for others. For you it’s a dealbreaker, for someone without this trauma, it’s a weird quirk.

      1. John Smith*

        I know with my boss, his reaction would be that I should have known he wanted to have the meeting anyway and should have turned up (because I have psychic superpowers).

        However if I were to call him and asked if he still wanted to meet, he’d answer no, the meeting has been cancelled.

        With some people, you just can’t win.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Except that you can decide whether you want to go or not, and call him or not accordingly. Managing up, etc.

        2. Allonge*

          That is more or less my point though – if your boss is unreasonable, you need to decide if it’s something you can live with for the salary / benefits / job experience combo you are getting, or not.

          In some cases it might make sense to complain to HR, or to grandboss, or to have a convo with boss about what they think is a good approach. Use a coin. In a lot of other cases, this might not work – as you say, with some people there is no ‘win’.

          The only solution that works for all cases is something you decide to do for yourself, which is either to get a different job or to resign yourself to the situation. The only thing you can control is your own actions. If your highest priority is to not to report to an unreasonable person (which is a very reasonable priority by the way), you leave.

          1. Sleepless KJ*

            Well that escalated quickly. She didn’t imply that her boss was problematic in any other way. This seems to be a single instance and not something to leave over! This is just a “note to self” moment.

            1. Student*

              This specific instance is pretty far into “boss expects some level of mind-reading by employee and will get angry at employee when that doesn’t happen”. The OP cannot mind read. Ergo, the boss has unreasonable expectations.

              I’m no mind reader myself, but my Magic 8-Ball tells me this will not be the last or only time the boss expects OP to mind read. It’s not about the specific meeting incident described – it’s about the fact that the boss does not feel a need to communicate about what he expects or wants or needs to the OP. If the boss had just told the OP that he wants to continue to meet when meetings get cancelled by the organizer, that’d be a different problem. People who don’t communicate what they want have a pretty fundamental management flaw.

    2. Tam*

      It does sound like a power trip.

      This is one of those times when it would be really helpful to have some other context about your boss – it’s a shame Alison didn’t reply and ask for some!

      What is he like normally? Does he tend to be reasonable or passive aggressive? Do you have a good relationship? If yes, is it actually good or good because you tiptoe around him? All of this would be helpful to know.

      Because with a reasonable boss you could say: “X cancelled the meeting so it made sense not to go, especially as the room booking would also have been cancelled. I’m surprised you expected to still meet.” And then depending on your boss you could add: “If you’d like me to set up a new meeting in this situation, please let me know” or “I can ask in future if you’d like me to set up a new meeting, but in general it doesn’t make sense to assume cancelled meetings are going ahead”.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Just a reminder that for many of us, video calls are still more common than not. For those of us working across time zones they were a thing even before the pandemic. There is no room cancellation to be worrying about. It’s so easy to include boss in the reply saying you’ll keep your time slot free in case he wants a call with you only.

        1. Tam*

          From the letter: “She set the time and location (a conference room in her department)”

          I think it’s clear this was a meeting in person and not on video

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ah, that’s even more wild. So boss expected the two of them to just show up to a room in somebody else’s department for a 1:1?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            The letter doesn’t say that the room booking was cancelled, though, and not all organizations work that way.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          But even in that case, there’d be a virtual room and the person that canceled would’ve been the host. With my employer’s meeting software of choice, the attendees would have been greeted with a blank screen and a “please wait, you will be let into the meeting when your host joins” (or a similar message). Boss would’ve had to set up a whole new meeting or called OP directly. He really isn’t making a lot of sense to me here.

      2. hbc*

        I’m guessing it would still be open if the reservation was only cancelled an hour before the meeting started.

        1. anonymous73*

          Not necessarily. 2 jobs ago, trying to find meeting rooms was like a lottery. I constantly had to kick people out of rooms when they “assumed” one was open but didn’t book it.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think the boss may have been at the origin of the meeting anyway even if the other employee did the actual setting up. Like, the other employee asked him about the issue in hand, and the boss said “ah that’s a good question, we need to discuss that with OP, can you book a meeting on Monday?”. Then the other employee can’t make it, but the boss can get OP’s update on progress and make their decision and let the other employee know the outcome.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is the context in which it all makes sense. But all this would have been easier if the OP had replied all so the boss was looped in when the host cancelled. Or maybe she did and he didn’t look at his email.

        1. Lance*

          Why should the OP have to reply-all? If the meeting is canceled by the host, everyone would be notified anyway; not sure why the onus is being put on OP to have actively done something.

          1. Lacey*

            Yeah. Now that she knows her boss is bizarre about meetings she can reply all, but there was no reason for her to do that before.

            1. Grits McGee*

              Exactly- I had a boss that was super picky about word choices in emails going out to external stakeholders. After the first meeting where she told me I need to say “I recommend considering reaching out to X” instead of “You need to reach out to X”, I said OK, used that language going forward, and made a point to have her review emails before I sent them out.
              Was it annoying af? Yes
              Did it she appreciate it? Yes
              Was it one of the reasons why I left for another job after 12 months? Also yes.

              1. Tam*

                Going off-topic but actually that’s not just word choices. There’s a world of difference between vague suggestion and direct instruction – it’s not just semantics.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  The problem is that the boss WANTS the vague suggestion because apparently being direct is offensive. I hate making things less clear and would probably put that in my list of reasons to look elsewhere.

          2. Artemesia*

            Because SHE is the one whose boss is mad at her. If she had replied all then he would have known to notify her that the meeting was still on. You have to work with the boss you have, not the ideal boss you’d like to have.

            1. Lance*

              If this is advice for OP to use in the future, then sure. But your implication seems to be that the OP should’ve somehow known this would be expected, which isn’t fair to the OP when it’s very possible nothing like this has come up before.

          3. Librarian1*

            Right, the *boss* should have replied all or replied to OP to say the meeting was still on.

      2. Mockingjay*

        I think Boss wanted to have the meeting anyway. It’s more efficient.

        My project tends to cancel meetings if just one player can’t show up. It slows things to a screeching halt. I’d much, much rather have the meeting anyway, get status from those present, agree on action items/next steps, then someone forwards the notes or calls the missing player to let them know what happened in their absence. We may not cover everything in the agenda and the meeting may only be 10 minutes, but we could at least knock out a couple items. Nope, got to have everyone together for consensus and team spirit! Which rarely happens.

        Going forward, OP should just check with Boss as a courtesy if a meeting is cancelled.

      3. anonymous73*

        Regardless of the reasoning, boss can’t assume that OP is a mind reader. If someone schedules a meeting, then cancels it, it’s cancelled. Unless boss reached out to OP directly, they’re being ridiculous in thinking the OP would automatically know that the meeting was still happening.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, it’s wild. I would definitely go back to boss and clarify what he wants me to do in the future if a meeting we’re both at is cancelled, especially if that also means the room booking is also cancelled. I would hope it’s the kind of situation where the boss would realise they’re being ridiculous, but if they don’t, that’s important information!

    5. Workerbee*

      I was feeling the flag waving myself. Under malicious compliance, I would be tempted to email said boss about it every single time he and LW are in a meeting together with another host and the host cancels. After all, the meeting would have either disappeared from the calendar or showed up as Cancelled/Remove. And one wants to be a Good Employee, doesn’t one. *feral smile*

      But then I am beyond sick of both macro and micro aggressions by people in power.

      1. Rayray*

        I worked for a boss who was her own breed of absolutely insane micromanager. I had to perfect the art of malicious compliance, staying one step ahead, and perfecting my deadpan tone of voice and no fascia expression when talking to her. It was brutal hell and being laid off was the most glorious thing that could have ever happened to me.

    6. Original LW#3*

      This is the original LW for #3. I went back and checked the email because I hadn’t thought about replying all. I actually did reply all. The message said “I’m so sorry to hear about your emergency. Please reach out when you are ready to reschedule.” So my boss received that message too.

      For those commenting on a power trip move. It is a power trip move. I’m very much used to it with him. He does this with women and especially with me. My guess is he didn’t see the original message, was sitting in an empty conference room, and wanted to take his frustration out on someone.

      I also went back and he did say verbatim “You are my employee .” Is this a problem? Yes. However, this is a known problem. I am actually in a position where I make more money then him. (Think of the scenario in The Office when Michael finds out the sales department is paid more). I have a very niche job and structurally I had to be thrown somewhere, so they put me in his department. I do stand out because of this and it has caused some jealously with other people in the department. Often I am invited to senior meetings along side him. They had talked about separating me, but then I would be a department of one, so they never have. I pretty much just ignore his power trips. People have commented on it, but upper management seem very pleased with my work and I don’t think they would let him ever fire or discipline me. It’s just a weird company structure.

      1. Sara without an H*

        You have my sympathy, but it sounds as though you’re handling him well. You might want to be thinking, though, of your next move within this company or your industry. At some point, he may throw a tantrum you’d rather not put up with.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Sounds like it may almost be time for the anthropologist approach to him: he is a strange new society and you are just observing and learning.
        But I also agree with others it may be time to look at what your next moves are before “your boss” throws a tantrum that has consequences for you.

      3. Artemesia*

        you DID notify him — so screw him and the horse he road in on. No excuses at all for his behavior.

      4. AnonInCanada*

        My sympathies for you having to put up with this jerk. I smell an aura of jealousy mixed with misogyny with this guy. I’d start documenting these incidents if I were you. You may need them when you this passive-aggressiveness becomes a full-on conflict, and you’ll need some help from HR to either separate you or show him the door.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        He sounds lovely.

        I’m glad to hear that your upper management is reasonable.

    7. LQ*

      This is possibly weird, but I know when my boss was way busier than I was, I would always take a dropped meeting that he and I were both in to try to get some other things reviewed by him. I also know that running from meeting to meeting sometimes you don’t know a meeting has been dropped (if you’re physically going from room to room and don’t have a work phone, this happened to me frequently) (which is I think a way jerkier thing to do, no-notice cancel a meeting that’s in person and then leave someone to sit in a conference room, I got real quick to leave at some point, but it’s definitely it’s own kind of rude, especially if you know that that person is in back to back meetings all day). So it’s possible boss didn’t know and was like, well I already had this time scheduled and prepped to talk about Project, let’s do this anyway.

      Point being, if boss is otherwise reasonable, I wouldn’t think that this is a trauma event. If boss is otherwise unreasonable, then just yeah, message them every time a meeting is cancelled, “Anything you’d like to cover during this time boss?”

    8. Observer*

      “now you know he has weird meeting practices” DOES she know this?

      Absolutely. The boss has been CRYSTAL clear on the matter.

      it would’ve just been the power trip

      Sure, it’s a power trip. But that doesn’t negate the the boss has this really weird practice. “My boss is on a power trip” doesn’t mean that one should therefore ignore what the boss is saying. Rather, it means that perhaps you should consider everything else you know about your boss, the job in general and your overall circumstances, and decide if it’s time to job hunt.

      1. Threeve*

        The problem with power-trips is that there’s usually no consistency–the next cancelled meeting, if LW1 writes to double-check if he still wants to meet, his response could well be “of course not, I’m way too busy to respond to or attend cancelled meetings. Why are you interrupting me with this?”

    9. WFH with Cat*

      I believe Alison’s point is that the boss may have odd expectations — like sometimes still expecting to attend a meeting that the initiating party has cancelled — so the OP might want to follow up with boss when future meetings involving him are cancelled, changed, etc. It’s not to assume any particular action on his part, but simply to keep in mind that he might act in unexpected ways.

    10. Birdie*

      If I were OP, I would probably ask now how he wants me to handle similar situations in the future – should I always assume he still wants to meet anyway? Should I always check in with him to ask? If he didn’t give a solid response, then I don’t think you’d have much choice but to ask every time. Fortunately, other people cancelling last minute on a meeting they called probably isn’t a frequent occurrence (it hasn’t been at any of my jobs, anyway).

  10. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – While yes, there are recruiters who get uptight about unexplained time off, the reason is usually that they answer to hiring managers who want to know why the candidate has a gap in their resume.

    I would look at the question as more of a question about why you left your last company with no other role to go to. What the recruiter (and by extension, the hiring manager) is worried about was whether you were fired.

    It sounds like you left on good terms, so I would mention that, and then tell them that you were moving across the country. You took the opportunity to enjoy the summer off, and now are refreshed and ready to get back into your career and a new job. That should put any concerns to rest. (If it doesn’t, then the recruiter – or hiring manager – is strange and you probably don’t want to work for the company, anyway.)

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      #2 I would not say anything about having the opportunity to take a few months off. You moved across the country – that is enough reason for a job gap. If they want to know why, you could say you got married and moved across the country. Plus we are in the middle of a pandemic. A gap of a few months should not concern reasonable employers.

      1. OP2*

        Thank you for the tip! I’m just getting a little worried as the gap potentially gets longer. Fingers crossed!

        1. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

          If OP2 is a woman, I’d recommend NOT mentioning you recently got married. It’s unfortunate but you will get people who will discriminate and assume that means you’ll want to have a baby soon.
          Of course the standard advice says “well you don’t want to work for those people” but… it’s much easier to just avoid mentioning!

          1. Zelda*

            Or otherwise assume that her career will always come second to his– other moves or changes in schedule and availability, a general assumption that she is not in charge of her own life. Icky, but definitely happens.

            1. Zelda*

              (I mean, it may even be true that the family has made their own choice for their own reasons about whose career takes precedence at a given stage in their lives, but no employer enjoys hearing that they are not your top priority.)

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It does seem like OP gave a bit of a vague ‘non-answer’ doesn’t it? “What have you been doing since leaving your last job?” — “I had the opportunity to take a few months off” doesn’t convey much. I think as the interviewer I’d be wondering if they were likely to bounce again next time they got such an ‘opportunity’..

      1. OP2*

        I can see how it would come across that way. I moved for my husband’s education and we’re unlikely to move again for 4 – 10 years, but I got some good advice to rephrase so I don’t come off like I just had wanderlust and ditched my last job with no plan. Thank you for your perspective!

        1. Anon for This*

          OP, I’d like to share something that I saw happen at my workplace a few years ago, and also ask others if this is something to worry about. Several years ago, a group of us (myself, a few teammates, and our boss) were interviewing people for an open position. A really good candidate came in, who was a woman. When asked why she’d left the last job, candidate said that she’d had to relocate across several states for her husband’s work. We then proceeded with the rest of the interview, which candidate did very well at. Our boss’s first words as soon as the interview ended and the candidate left: “I find it concerning that she m0ved for her husband’s job. What if her husband has to move for a new job again? she’s going to leave us then.” Someone please tell me that what Boss had told us was not legal, or actionable, in the sense of being a reason to choose another candidate. (We did, though, choose another candidate.) If it was then you’ll need another wording for why you moved. I would certainly leave the 4 years part out.

      2. Simply the best*

        You had to leave out half of the quote to make it vague. The whole thing she said was “I had the opportunity to take some time off WHILE MOVING FROM ONE STATE TO ANOTHER.” That’s quite a big difference.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I had to do a cross country move on short notice once with a toddler. Yes, it took me several months to get everything settled and try looking for a job. My answer was that I had moved across country, and some of the logistics of that took more time to finish settling than expected. I never had anybody blink at that explanation.

  11. Cassie*

    Regarding OP #2 this is very industry dependent but there are several industries where having an employment gap will be a huge red flag (yes even during a pandemic). Usually because they would want to know why you left without a new job, and it’s so competitive that they can afford to be that fussy and particular.

    I’m actually starting a new job in a few weeks in a different industry precisely because I was sick to death of answering to hiring managers who were like this.

      1. katkat*

        But surely any decent and responsible person would have PLANNED ahead and made sure to have signed contract before making the transition./S

        Honestly, Im sorry that OP had to deal with this in an interview and I hope that was just single idiot. Good luck OP!

    1. Rayray*

      Hiring managers who get weird about job gaps suck. People have lives and gaps could be more a million reasons and we shouldn’t have to answer to some schmuck about why we had time off. So long as you are qualified, why should it matter if you had some time in between jobs? And why do recruiters and hiring managers have to pry into it so much?

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I would think there would be way more gaps in 2020 anyway due to COVID. It’s not the person’s fault they were laid off because of a worldwide pandemic and they weren’t in an essential job category.

        1. Rayray*

          I was laid off in March 2020 and had many job applications come up with errors about the job gap even though it was only a few months. I think many programs are written in such a way to flag any gaps. I also had to account for the few months when filling out my new hire paperwork at my job but they didn’t press me on being unemployed, I just mentioned I’d been laid off without prior warning and they didn’t press me on it. On the flip side, I’ve heard of people being interrogated about it til thy have to open up about caring for a dying family member, going through cancer treatments, raising kids, or whatever it was and I just don’t like that at all.

          1. PT*

            Yeah, I hate to say this, but I feel Alison didn’t catch how big of a deal this could be for OP. I’ve moved twice for my husband’s job, and once you hit the six month mark of being unemployed, you really risk programs tossing you automatically into the reject bin- even if you had a really good reason for being unemployed and still looking! Software doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t care about you, and you can’t appeal to its better nature: you’re still stuck in the reject bin no matter the reason.

            OP, I really recommend you take (or create) any job you can, just to get a currently working line on your resume. Volunteer at the animal shelter, work at Starbucks, freelance something, start an Etsy shop. You can make it the tiniest entry possible on your resume, but you really need to be able to check off the box of “This is my current job” in order to get past the filter or you risk falling out of the workforce altogether.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              If it comes to that, look through the stuff you want to toss or are tied off looking at and open an ebay store. (It’s free for the first 250 listings, but after that you pay per listing.) Or Poshmark, Mercari, etc. If you’re crafty, look into Etsy. That will give you SOME resume filler and hopefully income. (If you like to bargain hunt or go to garage and estate sales it gives you a reason to get out of the house, too. Just make an inventory budget, STICK TO IT, etc.) It’s also incredibly flexible for job hunting, interviews, etc. I have personally been doing this for the last 5 years because I am a stay-at-home mom. That way I don’t show a gap in jobs – just that I went from the military world to self employment for a while.

      2. Colette*

        Because sometimes the answer is you got fired, or you got angry, punched your boss, and quit.

        1. Rayray*

          But with those things most people know to make up an answer so the out admitting to that. And as for getting fired, that’s not always your fault and even if it was, people learn and grow from those things but hiring managers don’t see it that way so even still, you need to find a Workaround.

          1. Colette*

            I think you’d be surprised how many people don’t think up an answer. The potential employer is trying to get as much information as possible about whether you’d be a good fit, which is why they ask about anything unusual.

            That doesn’t mean a gap is disqualifying; it’s just a sign to ask more questions. And there are answers that will make the employer less concerned about it. “I was laid off during the pandemic”, “I was dealing with a medical issue that is now resolved”, “I had to quit my job because the schools were closed; now that they’re open, I’m ready to get back to work”, “The job wasn’t a good fit because it was focused on A, and I was fired. I’ve realized I need a job focused on B and C.”

            1. Xenia*

              This sums it up really well—most interviewers aren’t trying to be rude, they just want to know if the gap is from “medical issues” vs “I spent two months in jail for burglary”. “I moved across country and the logistics were complicated” is enough for any reasonable person.

    2. anonymous73*

      Regardless of industry, any REASONABLE person wouldn’t blink at a short gap in employment. And unless it’s something egregious, it’s none of their business. There are a ton of reasons someone may have to take a few months off from working, some of which could be personal and the details unimportant.

  12. LemonLyman*

    Re: Op 1

    “You should tell your boss that you’re holding him to your ‘implied pay-out agreement.’” I literally snorted aloud!

    Also, click the link Allison shared on how to handle abusive behavior. Not only is it great advice but it’s from 2010 and from the numbers of comments, you can really see how much she’s grown this platform! (I started reading right around then but only recently started occasionally commenting!) So proud!

  13. I should really pick a name*

    ‘You’re “my” employee’ raises my eyebrows. Does this weird possessiveness come up in other ways?

    1. Rayray*

      The power tripping in this story almost makes me wonder if the boss didn’t see the meeting was canceled and then one it was pointed out to them, they were too proud to admit their mistake so that’s when they went on about how the meeting was still on just for them and

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      That’s what stood out to me too. It’s one thing for the boss to want to go ahead and meet, but he acted like an ass IMO.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      OP3 has responded elsewhere that the boss is power-trippy towards women. Are any of us shocked?

  14. Bookworm*

    #1: No advice, just SO sorry you have to deal with that.

    #4: I’ll admit, I’m surprised at the answer and some of the responses. I’ve never used work laptops for stuff like Netflix but I suppose it depends on the culture and the organization (in a former job I had an uncomfortable but unconfirmed feeling the head wasn’t above checking what we use our work laptops for).

    1. Klio*

      It’s definitely best practice to check what company police says on the tech equip usage matter. Especially in light of the pandemic our IT said it’s okay if you use the common streaming services as long as it doesn’t disrupt work or uses company bandwidth.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        IT isn’t really enough, though. Even if IT doesn’t have a problem with it, this is a question for your direct supervisor.

    2. anonymous73*

      #4 – I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to stream movies while physically at work on the company equipment even if you’re on a break (bandwidth issues). I’ve also taken care of personal matters while working if I have the downtime. Most companies aren’t going to check your internet history unless you’re not getting your work done or they’re looking for a reason to fire you. The amount of time it would take to scan through what every single employee is doing on a regular basis would take multiple FTEs.

      If you’re home and using your own network though, I see no issues. I had more downtime than I knew what to do with at my last job, so I was binging all sorts of things. I just had to be available when needed, and I wasn’t needed all that much.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We weren’t allowed to stream anything except Pandora (ugh) at Exjob due to bandwidth. I loaded a zillion albums on my phone’s microSD card and just listened to music that way. Other than streaming and anything sketchy, they did not care what we did online at the office as long as our work got done. My coworker often had to wait through client software upgrades so she would do a deep dive into Pinterest.

        If I worked from home, I’d put on the TV as background noise and tune it to Kitchen Nightmares reruns. I’d seen them all so I didn’t have to pay attention and it kept me from falling asleep.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Yes, by all means, ask. Usually there’ll be some kind of “acceptable use” policy they make you take when you check out the equipment.

      I worked in higher ed, where nobody cared, or had time, for monitoring stuff like Netflix usage. What the policy explicitly prohibited was using the university’s equipment or services to harass anyone. Binging Great British Bakeoff? No problem.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I mean, if you’re traveling for work and you’re in a hotel room on their wifi and not on the company VPN, I can see how it would be acceptable. Otherwise you’re just trapped in a hotel room with nothing to do, on a trip that is for your work and not a personal one.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Exactly. I can see banning it on the work VPN/network, but with a company who has a lot of people who travel, I think it’s not unreasonable to be able to stream something mainstream like Netflix, while obviously blocking any bad websites.

  15. Sooda Nym*

    I could be wrong, but I think most non-compete agreements don’t forbid you from working for a competitor, they just say you can’t take clients with you when you go. (i.e. the client relationship is something current employer paid you to develop, and you can’t use current employers “work product” to benefit future employer.) Because LW 1’s new company serves a different client base, it’s likely that an actual non-compete agreement, if one existed, would have limited impact here. But I guess that’s the “benefit” of an implied non-compete instead of a written one …boss can pretend it says whatever he wants it to say.

    1. Doing the best we can*

      Sorta, most take into account potential future clients, not just current ones. So if the businesses are going after the same type of client a non-compete agreement typically ends up meaning you can’t have a similar client facing job competing company.

      But if it is very restrictive the agreement is typically for a period of time and you get a payout that would cover your salary for a good chunk of that time.

    2. Lacey*

      Well, like Alison said, most non-competes are over-reaching. I had a pretty broad one at an old company. It was an over-reaction to a couple of employees who stole a ton of clients when they left.

      Once a manager there tried to tell me that technically I’d be in breach of the non-compete if I worked for another similar company anywhere in the world – because they had the potential to do business with anyone in the world. It was a hyper local company whose primary business was in a single county in our state – with a handful of clients in other counties.

      But, none of that would have been enforceable at all.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, most non-competes actually DO forbid working with a similar employer. Of course, even then, the different client bases would probably make the issue moot. If there were an actual non-compete, of course. There isn’t one, so it’s a totally theoretical discussion.

    4. doreen*

      That depends on the type of business you are talking about – some businesses that use non-competes don’t have “clients” that someone could take with them when they go. For example, my husband is a sales rep for a hardware distributor – his customers buy from his company and a few others so that his current customers are already buying from the competition. The non-compete is to keep the sales (not the customers) from following him – for example, if he moves to competitor A and the customers trust him more than whoever takes over at his current company, or the person who takes over at current company doesn’t speak their language, the customers might still buy from both companies but change the proportion of sales that goes to each.

    5. The Rural Juror*

      My ex boss tried to get me and other salespeople to sign an non-compete once, but all of us felt suspicious of it. He didn’t want any of us to go to competitors, but most of the salespeople that worked for him had left competitors to work for him. It seemed very hypocritical to hire employees that way and then tell them they couldn’t use the same process to ever go anywhere else. Luckily, he had his lawyer look at it and was told it wouldn’t hold up legally. He was advised to have us sign NDAs instead, which I was fine with. They just said we couldn’t share proprietary information or pricing models, which was fair. Most of us eventually left, with 4 people going to competitors and 2 of us, including me, going to work for clients. He was a horrible boss!


      Non-competes can apply to other employees other than sales or management. I once worked for a major consumer electronics seller company and my employee handbook had a non-complete clause against working for another company in the same industry (which had two or three country-wide companies) and against poaching fellow employees. Such non-competes had been held up in the past at that time due to the proprietary knowledge workers at one such company could take to another such company and without revealing that information disrupt the prior company’s business. To get out of the non-compete, employee had to go work for another company with a different business model. That was how the non-compete held up in court many years ago.

    7. Sleepless*

      What you’re referring to is a no-solicit agreement, not a noncompete. I signed a contract a year and a half ago that forbids each, separately, in defined circumstances. (I could probably contest either one of them, but I don’t want to work in these people’s neighborhood again, and I have zero interest in ever dealing with any of their clients again, so it really doesn’t matter.)

  16. Colin R.*

    #4 Don’t use the company laptop for anything potentially illegal, like torrenting movies, but your personal Netflix account while not on the company’s wifishould be fine. Just like it’s likely okay to browse amazon, but not pronhub.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Yes. The issue with torrents isn’t the movie itself. It’s the fact that a) you’re exposing the company to legal liability b) pirated content may contain malware. Neither of these problems exist with an above-the-board service like Netflix.

  17. Ganymede*

    OP 5

    I would be careful. If you give your boss the option of “should I just handle this on my own”, they will jump at it. Tom sounds like a bit of a problem and if your joint boss won’t sort him out, or hasn’t got the bandwidth, you will end up doing or re-doing Tom’s work. If your boss is busy or lax, or doesn’t really believe there is a problem, they won’t address it as long as the work is getting done by *somebody*.

    I think you need to be really clear that clients are avoiding going to him (and it sounds like your workload has increased as a result so I would say that too). Make it about the work not about the personalities. I get that you are maybe worried about coming off as whiny or too insistent, but if you centre the effect that it’s having on the work it will come over better.

    1. Tomspeer*

      Appreciate your input! There is a bit of gray area with our jobs so it’s not unheard of that I would be involved with Toms work, but we lead different pillars and so from an intake perspective the work should start with him. I am worried about coming off as a tattle-tale as you mention, and agree with your point about making it about the work not the person.

      1. anonymous73*

        I don’t like to “tattle” either, unless it’s affecting MY job. So here it sounds like it is affecting you. I think you just need to lay out the details and make sure your manager and you are on the same page with how to handle things moving forward. I’ve been in the position of people coming directly to me instead of following the proper protocols and have had to “re-train” them to do things correctly. It’s never fun, but a necessity, because if they come to you and you help them, they will continue to come to you and you can get overwhelmed with the extra work.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders. Can you maybe just forward the complaints you get straight to the manager? Or direct the complainers directly to that manager to remove yourself from the awkwardness?

  18. agnes*

    #2 . It’s perfectly normal to have an employment gap when you relocate. I had someone give a good answer during an interview “It was a planned gap to allow me time to do the work to relocate here and get settled in a new place, so that when I go back to work, I can focus 100% on my new job. “

    1. OP2*

      This was mine, thank you so much for the suggestion! I will definitely be using that if/when it comes up again.

  19. Person from the Resume*

    LW5, I’d just keep sending my boss any and all feedback about Tom. He needs to that whatever he’s doing to help Tom correct the problem is not working. He needs to know the scope of the Tom’s work problem.

    1. Tomspeer*

      Sometimes I know it takes time to coach/develop an employee and see results so I want to respect that and I’m wary of being a tattletale. I do understand your point though!

      1. Observer*

        “Tattletale” is not a useful framing here. Is this information affecting your work? Yes. Is this information something that is affecting the business? Yes. Is this something the boss needs to know? Yes. Which means that you SHOULD be sharing this information with your boss.

        If the answer to these questions were “No” that would be different. But making sure that the boss is aware that you are getting stuck dealing with the customers that he’s annoying and not serving well is *absolutely* NOT “tattling”.

      2. bamcheeks*

        The flipside of this is that it’s just not your job to absorb people’s bad feelings about Tom!

        I’d check in with your boss about how much detail they want (verbatim quotes reported immediately? Or just they check in with you every couple of weeks to see if the comments are still coming?) but if your boss doesn’t want to know in some format that these kind of comments are still happening, they’re a bad boss. There’s two reasons for this: firstly, they need to know whether the comments are getting more/less frequent, continuing about the same, or stopping all together. That’s important feedback for the organisation and something that should be taken into account in assessing Tom’s improvement.

        But secondly, they should just *care* that it’s pretty rubbish for you to be the receptor for all these negative opinions of Tom. It might not seem like a huge deal, but even just at the level of figuring what to do with them, that’s a source of stress that is not in your job description. And your boss should care you that you feel supported and have someone to speak to about these comments.

      3. Mockingjay*

        You’re not a tattletale for forwarding customer complaints or directing customers to contact your boss. That is standard business practice.

        The company needs to know that Tom has not yet shaped up, despite coaching or PIP requirements. It’s a data point to evaluate his progress.

    2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I don’t know what industry LW5 is in, but it strikes me as odd that multiple people are complaining to LW about their peer. Are they doing something to encourage or prompt the complaints?

      1. Tomspeer*

        Poster here. We manage similar pillars, one being development and the other operations. I’ve been at the company longer and the customers have a history with me so I guess they go to me by default which is when I redirect them over to Tom and remind them about the differences in our jobs. At that time is when I get the unsolicited feedback “we prefer to go to you because you answer us faster”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think you need to “train them” to keep reaching out to Tom, or to go to the manager. It may take a while, but should pay off in the end.

  20. FD*

    #1- Congrats, your boss moonlights as the Minnesota state bird.

    I would absolutely *not* finish my two weeks notice unless the missed pay was a dealbreaker. I don’t think this guy is going to give you a good reference no matter what you do, so why put up with his behavior for two more weeks.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      For those that are confused here, I’m fairly sure the Minnesota state bird is the Loon.

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I don’t understand what people like the boss in #1 are even going for when they make these kind of threats. Like, do they think OP is going to say “Oh, please don’t sue me, I’ll happily stay here and continue to work for you”.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yes. They literally cannot imagine that they cannot force someone to continue to work for them as long as the company wants them to. It’s about the boss’ convenience, not the employee’s health and wellbeing, or you know being a person with separate wants and desires.

    2. FD*

      People like the boss in #1 have learned that being unpleasant often gets them what they want. They’re just generalizing it to their employees too. What they don’t realize is that being unpleasant is an inefficient long-term strategy.

      (I mean, it also makes you a jerk. But in the abstract it’s also just plain a bad strategy a lot of the time.)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think this is their operating mantra: being a jerk generally gets me exactly what I want, so I’ll just be a jerk everywhere. It works until it doesn’t – but generally they become the “missing stair” that we all talk about here so much.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      My sister in law worked for a company in California, that was bought out by a company based in Tennessee. California pretty much throws out all non-competes…but the new company made her sign one anyway; and when she soon left to work for a competitor they threatened to sue. She was so intimidated, she quit her new job before it started and decided to change industries altogether… that’s what they’re hoping for. This wasn’t even a technical or secretive industry…it was auto parts…she was a store manager at an auto parts store.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Should have finished my thought…they are trying to starve the competition of skilled, experienced workers.

    4. Observer*

      Like, do they think

      I think that’s the problem with your premise – Do you really think this guy is THINKING? He’s throwing a tantrum.

  22. Essess*

    OP#3 – you would not have been able to have the meeting with your boss. The meeting was scheduled in a conference room by the original organizer. Once the meeting is cancelled, the room is no longer booked and therefore it would have been picked up and used by a different meeting.
    Your boss did not inform you of a new location, and the old location was no longer reserved for the two of you. If your boss still wanted to meet, then the boss had to send you a new meeting location. With no location specified, that meant there was no meeting.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      The meeting was scheduled in a conference room by the original organizer. Once the meeting is cancelled, the room is no longer booked and therefore it would have been picked up and used by a different meeting.

      That is definitely not the case at all organizations. Even in organizations where cancelling a meeting automatically unbooks a meeting space, there’s no guarantee that there is another group chomping at the bit to get in there for a meeting (especially one hour before that time since they likely would have found another meeting space).

      Not defending the boss here by any means, but this seems like some oddly aggressive fanfiction.

    2. Observer*

      You’re making a lot of totally unwarranted assumptions here. In fact, it’s a good bet that you are incorrect as it’s pretty clear that the boss did go to the conference room to wait for the OP.

      The boss is a jerk, but fiction is not useful here.

    3. ThatGirl*

      As others have noted, the likelihood of the meeting room being snapped up in an hour is pretty low at most companies. Especially right now.

  23. Brett*

    When you want to do something that is not standard business operations, it is always good to ask first. Depending on how your work laptops are configured, streaming could be an issue. More specifically, _everyone_ streaming could be an issue, but IT might be fine with allowing an exception for you while traveling. That might even do something as simple as suggesting giving you a different device configured differently to take with you while traveling. (For example, if all the laptops are on a shared VPN that would be impacted by streaming, they might provide you with a cheaper off-VPN wifi-only iPad that you could use for streaming but would not be allowed on the business network.)

    1. Lacey*

      I don’t see how being on the VPN would effect streaming at all – they’re not using the internet over the VPN, they’re accessing the companies servers. But if that was a problem they could just disconnect from the VPN while they’re doing that. My company prefers us to disconnect from the VPN when we’re not actively using it so there’s less threat of potential hackers.

      1. Andy*

        That depends on how VPN is configured. It can be configured so that everything goes through VPN or even that it is not possible to use the notebook without it.

        > My company prefers us to disconnect from the VPN when we’re not actively using it so there’s less threat of potential hackers.

        That is odd. I don’t see how disconnecting VPN makes you safer.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I don’t see how being on the VPN would effect streaming at all – they’re not using the internet over the VPN, they’re accessing the companies servers.

          It depends on how the VPN is set up; my company routes *everything* through the pipe, even DNS, so there’s almost no way to be connected to the VPN and have Netflix not route over the company’s servers and use their bandwidth.*

          > My company prefers us to disconnect from the VPN when we’re not actively using it so there’s less threat of potential hackers.

          That is odd. I don’t see how disconnecting VPN makes you safer.

          Most of the time, it would be easier for a malevolent agent to compromise a single computer and infiltrate the server corps via a trusted VPN connection than it is to attack a company’s firewall directly. Disconnecting from the VPN doesn’t make the client safer; it makes the host (employer) safer.

          *Almost. I’ve promised to only use my powers for good.

          1. Lacey*

            Wow, that sounds like a nightmare, but I guess it must make sense for the companies doing it.

            And yes, that’s exactly why we have to disconnect our vpn when we’re not using it. It’s to protect the servers, not to protect our computers.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              It’s actually not a nightmare; it makes Clifford’s guidelines of “use work thing for exclusively work purposes” easy to follow, and sidesteps a lot of policy complications that just aren’t worth the trouble to spell out.

      2. Brett*

        Many companies configure their laptops to go over VPN all the time every time. Or to route all traffic through company security proxies (man-in-the-middle). That’s going to make those security points be a bottleneck, and high bandwidth operations like streaming will end up affecting everyone in the company because of the shared bottleneck.
        See what Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est described below

  24. Claire*

    #2 – I just job searched and very few people asked about the couple month gap, so I don’t think it’s too common to ask. They didn’t really seem to care. I do agree that if you say anything be very positive about it

    #4 – I think especially if you’re traveling watching Netflix or reading the news or checking your personal email are completely fine on the work computer

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Especially if the look at the resume and it shows that all of their previous work was in X city in X state, it’s going to be more obvious that they took some time to move. Why they chose to move is no one’s business

  25. James*

    #4: I travel extensively for work and do this a lot. I also know people who watch YouTube videos at work–a bunch of us listen to music that way while we’re doing work that needs to be done, but doesn’t require 100% of your brain power, or when we want to be left alone. It’s considered a routine cost of doing business–if you send people out for weeks or months at a time, you have to expect them to do some personal stuff on the laptop. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and the like are relatively safe websites, so no one cares.

    I know someone who had a side business farming gold in World of Warcraft and used her company laptop for it. She got her hand slapped, but even that wasn’t too hard–just “Yeah, don’t do that anymore.”

    That said, if you feel really guilty get a tablet. They’re relatively cheap, especially if you don’t get the latest iPad.

  26. Generic Name*

    #1- your story reminds me of when I left my last job. I put in my 2 weeks to I leave for a competitor. I was field staff level and did not have clients of my own or anything. They didn’t let me work out my full 2 weeks for some reason and yet wanted me to sign an after-the -fact non compete. I declined to sign. The cherry on top was when I got into a back and forth argument with my boss over whether I would surrender my government-issued ID to him, which was against the terms of having the ID-it even said on the back who to surrender it to, and it didn’t include yayhoo civilian contractors who forget to pay their own bill or look at their own mail resulting in messes that I had to clean up.

  27. Worldwalker*

    “I don’t make enough to have a personal laptop”

    That depends on whether you want a brand-new, cutting-edge gaming laptop, or one that’s good enough to read email and watch Netflix on.

    I can’t afford one of the former, either, and I don’t want a Chromebook. But I have an excellent example of the latter, bought at a yard sale. Yard sales, estate sales, Craigslist, used computer stores (they’re thin on the ground now, but they’re still there), family members upgrading, and similar sources of second-hand computers are an excellent source for “good enough” laptops.

    I look at my “good enough” laptop and think about the fact that I wrote the first software that started my little company on a computer with a fraction of the power of my laptop. (not to mention hard drive space!) If someone had handed me that machine 25 years ago I would have been over the moon; that was high-end workstation level, not home computer level, and certainly not laptop level. My $200 yard-sale laptop.

    1. CCC*

      Yeah if all you need to do is watch Netflix, you can pick up a laptop at a pawn shop for a couple hundred bucks no problem.

      1. Arabella Flynn*

        You don’t even need to go to a pawn shop to get one that cheaply, provided you don’t want a Mac. I’m typing this reply on an Acer Aspire 5. It cost me $300 a year and a half ago, and is currently running HD streaming video on the big monitor while I’m browsing AAM on this one. I was using to to run a Twitch stream early in quarantine. The Aspires are the opposite of fancy, and if you try to do any gaming on them you’ll cry, but they’re geared towards video conferencing and distance learning.

    2. OyHiOh*

      The last laptop I bought was $89 at a pawn shop. The thing about pawn shops is, if the item doesn’t sell within 30 days, they start marking the price down. Mine had begun life on the shelf at around $200, three months earlier.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Or a small cheap tablet, bought on sale. I have a Kindle Fire I got on sale at Staples. I took it with me when I went to the hospital and watched one of my shows (hospitals are boring) on their wi-fi. It doesn’t have to be a fancy one with bells and whistles if all you want it for is streaming.

      You can also watch Netflix, Hulu, etc. on your phone, although I don’t because tiny screen is tiny.

  28. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #2, If it does become a problem to have Netflix on your work computer I would suggest getting a Roku. I took mine with me on vacation and had no problem connecting it to the hotel wifi. I think all hotels have TV’s with an HDMI port and usually have a plug in right near the TV. You can get Netflix, hulu and other streaming services. A cheap device costs about $20 and it seems they always go on sale around the holidays.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I love my Roku. I hardwire my internet into it and plug it into my TV. I have a smart TV but the Roku seems to work better. They have a stick now, but it’s about $50.

  29. Red*

    LW2 You’ve only been outta work since June! 3 months! Any resoba le employer is going to see that as a blip especially with a move!

    I was laid off in June 2018 and didn’t get reemployed until Sept 2019 and even that gap I was able to brush off with ‘I’m being picky’ (when in reality it was a combo of being picky and the jobs I really wanted not hiring me). Reasonable employers were like cool, now tell me about your strengths, only unreasonable employers harped on the gap (and funnily enough they were the ones who often would make an offer and I’d turn it down).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve had a much longer gap and I’m still getting interviews. So it’s not impossible.

      1. Red*

        Exactly! And this LW has an awesome excuse/reason: they moved! I mean is she were using I just moved 5 years after the fact she might want to tweak it a bit, but even 6 months after a move wouldn’t cause me to blink, personally.

  30. Muggers*

    Oh man, #3 sent a shiver down my spine. Hopefully it isn’t the case here, but I have worked for some terrible people, and this sounds like something they would do. It’s almost like they gaslight what normal is, if that’s a thing? For instance, ‘why didn’t you do X when charging the client?’. ‘We’ve never done that….’, ‘well you should have known!’

    You know, that classic ‘what the hell just happened here!!’ Feeling.

  31. Pikachu*

    Interviewers really need to get over this job gap thing. It is absurd. People have lives to live.

    Dear interviewers: GET. OVER. IT. We get to be alive and enjoy a little bit of our limited time on this planet without being at work. Stop punishing people for it.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Yeah, the correct reply would be, “None of your business.” But…that’s probably not the smartest thing to say to an interviewer…

      1. Sea Anemone*

        There was a great twitter thread on answering the question “Tell me a little about the gap on your resume…?” with answers such as, “That’s the time when I wasn’t working.”

  32. Miss Muffet*

    #5 – Alison’s advice to ask is def correct, but I’d add that I think they would want to keep that feedback coming *especially* if it’s a developmental area for that employee. It would show if he is or isn’t improving based on his performance plan/coaching/whatever.

  33. Sparkles McFadden*

    “Implied pay-out agreement” – Ha ha ha ha ha! LW1 – If you say this to your loony boss, please write back and tell us how it goes. In fact, update us anyway. I’m sure your boss is just having a temper tantrum and it will all blow over. Good luck in your new gig!

  34. Anya Last Nerve*

    I just find it interesting that people say they don’t want to do work on their personal computers because of the “wear and tear” but that’s not a concern with using a work computer for personal use. I would advise that OP to ask their manager – in writing – if they can use the work laptop for streaming services while on work trips. I am a big proponent of keeping personal stuff off of work computers and would rather be safe than sorry.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Eh, my personal computer is 6 years old and doesn’t have enough memory to run the programs I would need for work so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a work laptop for stuff like that. Using Netflix on a work laptop isn’t really causing any wear and tear on it like downloading and using software would on a personal laptop

    2. James*

      It’s not that much wear and tear. Some computer programs used for work, running locally, hog a LOT of resources. That’s one reason they issue computers–that way the company knows that what you’ve got can handle what they’re requiring of you.

      NetFlix works on the lowest-common-denominator equipment. Again, a second-hand iPad would run it just fine.

      Plus, you have to look at who pays the cost. If my personal computer fries, I’m out the cost of replacement. If my work computer does, the company is out that cost. No, I’m not advocating that sort of thinking. I’m just saying that’s a thought that inevitably will go through someone’s head.

    3. Student*

      It’s not about wear and tear. It’s spyware.

      Many companies are putting some level of spyware on your computer to keep track of business activity. The level of information they harvest (and store, and actually analyze) varies dramatically – but as an average employee, you will probably never know exactly what they are collecting, reviewing, or storing.

      Unless you have a good reason to believe otherwise, you should assume the worst. Assume your company can and may be logging every keystroke – capturing your user name and password for ever site you visit, every email and IM you send – and activating the camera and/or microphone at will.

      Most employers won’t be going to these lengths. They’ll be capturing business-focused information. However, some employers are going to be willing and able to deeply invade your privacy, and you’ll have no idea what they collected, who they shared it with, or whether it’s sitting in an archive for the next 10 years for someone unscrupulous to find later.

  35. Colorado*

    #1: Your boss is an ass, I’m glad you called his bluff!
    And Alison – this made my day.. “God forbid you not spend every waking moment of your life contributing to the capitalist machine.”
    signed, someone who spends most days doing this but doesn’t feel a moment of guilt when I don’t

  36. Ramona Rides A Bike*

    LW #1. In some government jobs, ethics rules could prevent you from working for a vendor for a period of time. (The rules are to prevent an unethical person from giving an overly generous contract to company X and then being rewarded with a cushy job at company X.)
    However, that’s not the case here. LW #1 is not a government employee and would have been formally notified in writing of the ethics rules.

  37. EngineerMom*

    #2: Employers worth working for will ask this question, but accept an answer like “for personal reasons”. Especially given everything that’s happened over the last 18 months, for this employer to seem “unimpressed” is wildly out of touch with the reality of the employment world right now!

  38. clifford*

    Corporate IT person here. I think this has been said in so many words already (and if I overlooked this comment, apologies to original commenter), but if you follow the principle of only using a company-owned device for company business, you’ll be fine. We’re restrictive for a reason – it’s a different world in cybersecurity these days.

    On the USB subject: any device that could have files placed onto it outside of a company device and then used on a company device is a security risk. Don’t do it, please. Data originating from cloud storage services can be governed or restricted and are much less of a risk.

  39. Amaranth*

    LW5 is a bit odd to me – wouldn’t a manager want to know *especially* if it is an area being worked on? Its a pretty big metric on whether the improvements are going anywhere.

    1. Tomspeer*

      Poster here – I’ve sent the feedback to my director multiple times prior and I’m concerned with coming off like I have a personal issue with Tom or I’m trying to throw him under the bus.

      1. Observer*

        Why? It’s not like you keep on dredging up stuff that’s been resolved. And you’re not blaming him for things you should be handling.

  40. CleverGirl*

    #3 sounds like the boss didn’t get the message that the meeting was canceled, went to the meeting, and then felt stupid when no one else showed up and he realized it was canceled. So he tried to play it off like “I was planning on meeting anyway! and you are MY employee so you do what I say!”

  41. STG*

    My employer would have a far bigger issue with connecting a work laptop to hotel wifi than anything having to do with Netflix.

  42. Kevin Sours*

    If you are threatened with a noncompete contact an attorney before just giving in. It’s the sort of thing that employers will aggressively wave around beyond what the law allows. For instance they are all but unenforceable in California even if you straight up signed one. (This varies widely by jurisdiction, check with an attorney not a rando on the interwebs and preferably before signing)

  43. dustycrown*

    #4 If you’re nervous about using a company laptop for Netflix, get a tablet you can use for personal stuff. Easier/lighter to carry than a second laptop.

  44. Variant of Concern*

    Small business owner here. I quite literally LOLed at “ implied non-compete agreement.” Bless his heart.

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