manager sent ex-employee a bunch of complaints, someone anonymously left me a self-help book, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Manager sent former employee a litany of complaints about her work

What is the proper way for an employer to handle a sudden resignation given with no notice or very short notice?

My friend, who we’ll call Jane, works as a medical secretary in small practice with 15 doctors. She is supervised by an office manager, Mary. Jane and Mary have never gotten along. They had tolerated each other for four years until it came to a breaking point. In the heat of the moment, Jane verbally resigned and handed back all property belonging to the practice, including keys and alarm codes. Jane walked out and never went back.

Seven days later, Mary sent a three-page letter to Jane by registered mail. In the letter, Mary acknowledged Jane’s resignation and informed her that she will be paid a severance as outlined in her contract. However, out of 20 paragraphs, 15 of them dealt with what Mary perceived to be issues. Mary went on to reprimand Jane on several aspects of her work, as well as what Mary perceived to be flaws in Jane’s character. Not a single word regarding the abrupt resignation, just a long rant on what Mary found unpleasant in Jane’s personality.

I think those 15 paragraphs were totally inappropriate. I think Mary should have simply restricted herself to accepting the resignation and explaining the rest of the separation process. There was no need to reprimand Jane ex post facto. Am I crazy to think that Mary’s letter was unprofessional? How do employers usually handle a sudden and unannounced resignation?

Yes, Mary was unprofessional. If she had concerns with Jane’s work, the time to give her that feedback was while she was still employed there. Dumping it on her after she has resigned serves no purpose other than to give herself the satisfaction of feeling like she had the last word. Moreover, since Jane was no longer working there at that point, it’s not even work feedback — it’s just taking the opportunity to insult someone. It’s obnoxious, and it reflects badly on Mary, both as a jerk and as a manager who apparently didn’t deal with issues while it was her job to deal with them.

The proper way to handle it would have been to stay focused on logistics and leave it at that.


2. My company just hired back the person I replaced

At a recent staff meeting, my boss announced that our organization is rehiring the woman who I was hired to replace. From my boss’s remarks, it seems that this was not her decision, but that the former employee went directly to the CEO, with whom she is on good terms. Although my boss assured us this was not going to have any effect on our positions (they are giving her the promotion that she turned down last summer), I’m still nervous about how this is going to affect my job.

My first instinct is to begin looking for another job, but I’ve only been here for five months and most of my previous professional experience has been temp work with gaps in my employment history. When I was hired for this position, I was given the impression that the organization was interested in nurturing my professional development. Is there a way for me to bring my concerns up with my boss? And if it does seem like I should start looking for a new job, how do I explain why I was here for such a short time?

They’re hired her back, but not to replace you — she’s not being hired back into her old role/your current role but into a different one. Unless you have reason to believe that she’s going to meddle in your work, I don’t see any cause for alarm and job-searching isn’t warranted. Hiring former employees into higher level roles isn’t unusual or bad practice; in fact, it’s actually often a good sign that former employees want to return.

That said, if you’re concerned, you can certainly ask your boss about it. I’d say something like this: “Will Jane’s return impact my role in any way? Do you expect her to become involved again in the projects that used to be hers but have since moved to me?”


3. Someone anonymously left a self-help book on my desk

I got into work this morning to find a self-help book sitting on my desk (the “organize your life” kind). I asked my manager if she left a book on desk for me and she told me she didn’t leave it. I didn’t elaborate at all about what kind of book and she didn’t ask. The coworker who sits in the cube next to me didn’t notice anyone dropping it off, and I had a vacation day yesterday, which was visible on my Outlook calendar, so anyone could have known I’d be gone and dropped it off.

How should I handle this? I know my manager is happy with my performance and organization level (and I’ve actually done a lot of the organizing for our shared team materials and started our brand book). For now, I just set the book aside and am planning to ignore it (or leave it in the break room if someone else wants it?), but I’m also worried I missed something, because someone obviously must be concerned about my work or work ethic.

I wouldn’t assume that’s what it means! There are so many other possibilities here, like that the person who left it didn’t even intend to leave it there but put it down while doing something else and forgot to pick it back up … or that people know you’ve done a lot of organizing for your team and thought you’d enjoy the book … or someone came into possession of it thought “Jane does a lot of this kind of work so maybe she would find this useful” … or who knows what else.

Leaving you a book on organizing as a way to say “hey, you suck at being organized” would be so incredibly rude that I’d put that possibility pretty low down on the list of explanations — and especially since you aren’t someone with glaring problems being organized.

(For anyone wondering why this answer has a different tenor than my answer to the letter earlier from someone who anonymously received breath mints, in that case the letter-writer thought it was likely that she did indeed have bad breath.)


4. Is porn ever okay on a work computer?

Is porn ever okay on a work computer? Background: I’ll be traveling for an extended period of time and my only mobile internet devices are my company computer and company phone. It will be off the clock and not on the company internet, but I’m not sure if it would be considered using company resources still or not.

Thoughts? Is this something that would get flagged even if not on company network?

Don’t do it. If you’re using any company device (phone, computer, tablet), even if you’re not on your company’s network, there’s too much of a risk that what you’re doing could be tracked and spotted by them. And if they do spot it, you really don’t want to have the “but the porn was off the clock” conversation. They’re entitled not to want to have business resources mixed with porn.

Instead, consider getting a small tablet to take with you so that you have some privacy.


Read an update to this letter here.

5. Bringing an on-again, off-again boyfriend to the holiday party

I am wondering what your opinion is on inviting an off and on boyfriend to a staff holiday party. My boyfriend and I have been together about three years total over four years with two break-ups in this period. I started a new job about six months ago and I’m just wondering if I should bring him to the holiday party or not. I 10000% do not see myself marrying this man and honestly, doubt we’ll be together by this time next year. Is it “wrong” to bring to a staff holiday party knowing this?

It’s not wrong to bring a date who you’re not serious about! Just be aware that if you do, you  might have coworkers asking about him in the future. If you’re willing to field questions like “how’s Cecil doing?” and “so is it serious with Cecil?” and so forth, then feel free to bring him! If you’d rather not deal with that, you might instead prefer to come alone.


Read an update to this letter here.

{ 192 comments… read them below }

  1. Loulou*

    It stood out to me that LW #2’s first instinct was to leave. I’m not sure that would occur to me in that situation and I don’t really follow the train of thought — so worth considering of something ELSE about this job is actually the source of this unease.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, that’s a fair point. Sounds like the LW isn’t convinced they want to stay at this job long term, and are only staying now to avoid looking like a job hopper. It would be interesting to get an update on this one.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think I can understand it. Professional development / upwards movement is clearly important to the OP and this was one of the things they said that convinced her it was a good fit. Now it seems that the company doesn’t prioritise it (either for her or for others) because they’ve rehired the other person rather than give a path to.promotion for someone internally. It does make the “opportunities ” talk seem a bit worthless.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        But that LW has only been at the job 5 months. If they need a higher level position filled it seems quite valid that LW isn’t yet qualified to fill it. That doesn’t mean they won’t be offered any future advancement opportunities.

        1. allathian*

          That’s a very fair point I hadn’t considered. With all the employers I’ve ever worked for, you were unlikely to get a promotion during the first year, unless you count passing probation and getting hired indefinitely as a promotion.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Yeah, I don’t necessarily agree with the OP, but I said that because she clearly linked them in the letter: when I was hired they talked about development opportunities. How should I raise my concerns with the boss?

          As an aside I have seen the requirement for a year’s service before an internal move/promotion quite a few times. What’s the real reasoning for that? There must be cases (not just “exceptions” either) where the person who’s been there 5 months, if they were an external candidate, would easily be the number 1 choice for the role. And surely that benefits the company as a whole!

          1. ferrina*

            For a promotion, a year is used because it’s roughly the time when 1) the employee has been able to not only learn but master their current responsibilities and 2) they have a proved track record. In many roles, the first 3-6 months are onboarding and a scaling up of responsibilities. After that, it usually takes a minimum of 6 months (usually a lot more) for the employee to gain the experience needed to increase their skills for the next role. If the employee is ready for a promotion before that, then usually that’s not due to the role requirements being misaligned to the employee’s experience before they joined the company (caveat: one exception can be extremely junior positions, where the junior role is essentially a training time into another role).

            For a transfer, the concern is ROI on a new hire. Onboarding is an investment, and you’d like to get a minimum return out of that. (If you haven’t had the joy of being responsible for onboarding/training, trust me, it can be a lot of work. Again, onboarding is often 3-6 months, and you’d like to get at least that same amount of time from someone in their role. You also want to be wary of job-hopping–some people will try to bounce from role to role (either title hopping to a promotion, seeking a perfect fit, or hiding from a trail of mistakes). Yes, there are exceptions to the transfer rule, but those are few and far between (and it should acknowledge that it sucks for the original hiring manager, who now has to go through the process all over again).

      2. socks*

        I mean, the woman they rehired was initially offered a promotion while she was still at the company — she was the one who turned it down. To me, it looks more like a sign the company doesn’t hold grudges when someone resigns rather than a sign that they don’t support their employees’ development.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, we’ve had several employees who left (voluntarily; not fired), did other things, and then came back. Some of them even came back to the same departments. As long as they left on good terms the first time, my employer will rehire with no hard feelings. We’re not that big and sometimes there just won’t be a higher-level position open for years because the person who holds it isn’t planning to go anywhere, but I would say that professional development is supported as much as it can be given that limitation–they definitely try to help people learn new skills, etc.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      It’s hard to say without knowing more details about why the person left and got rehired, but if that is true they went to the CEO I can see how it would’ve been concerning. Still, best not to make rash decisions. I wonder if it all worked out fine in the end?

      1. ferrina*

        Agree. I was wondering about the workload- do they have enough for LW’s role and the Rehired Person’s role? I’m always wary when the CEO overrides a hiring decision- usually the CEO doesn’t have the appropriate context and it becomes political drama.

        I’d love an update on this letter.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          It just occurred to me (your reply prompted me to re-read it) to wonder what had gone on between her turning down the promotion the first time, and her being hired back? Was the higher level position on the “org chart” (but vacant) or was it just created out of thin air? I wonder if she had an offer before (from the company she subsequently worked at, presumably, before rejoining OPs company) and the offered promotion had actually been a counter offer?

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      At an OldJob the son of the owner gave everyone a copy of his self-published book about how to make it on your own. The irony was that he was the owner’s son and had worked at the company his whole life, the father financed his similar side-business that got contracts from all the vendors the company dealt with. You too can succeed with these easy steps! My copy was “forgotten” in my locker when I left.

    2. münchner kindl*

      Married with children had a similar thing as plot for one episode: Jeff, the neighbour, found a newspaper clipping on his desk at work and showed it to Al – Al “great savings on yoghurt!”
      Jeff “No, the other side – it’s about hair loss, somebody is sending me a message!
      After much handwringing and shenangians, at end of episode Darcy said
      “Yes, I left the clipping: great savings on yoghurt, you should pick up some for the household”

      Sometimes it’s innocent.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      I started a new job with a woman as my supervisor. I had just finished what I thought was a good book about women in management, and decided to share it with her. My reasoning was to provide information and encouragement. Her reaction was I was after her job.

      I was job hunting when they laid me off. Possibly decent product, but owned by the wrong people. Think a company where a small batch is 10,000 lbs running one where a large batch is 20 units.

    4. lost academic*

      My first thought was “someone is lending this book to someone else and put it on the wrong desk” because that really does happen all the time at … every place I’ve ever worked. But it’s easy to get the wrong message!

    5. Sylvan*


      Source: I’m a disorganized coworker! My desk is always spotless, but I have organization issues at home and I would be VERY interested in a self-help book about them. And I would lose the book. :x

  2. Pam Adams*

    On-again, off-again, brand new relationship or married for 20 years- please don’t make me come to your office holiday party.

    1. Loulou*

      I assume OP is just planning to invite their BF, not kidnap him and bring him to the party against his will…

    2. MK*

      I doubt you reach 20 years of marriage by acting like spending a couple of hours once a year with the people your spouse spends half their life with is a fate worse than death…

      1. allathian*

        Nah, it really depends. I’ve never worked for an employer that would invite spouses to work events. The only work event I’ve attended as my husband’s +1 was when he got invited to the Queen’s Birthday garden party at our local British Embassy a few years ago. He’d worked with a branch of the British civil service.

        1. MK*

          Eh, not being invited makes it a non issue. And maybe a lot of people wouldn’t care if their partner came or not. It’s the attitude I find baffling.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Yeah, I find this attitude baffling. Like, sure, maybe you’d rather spend the night on the couch with Netflix, but the “OMG NEVER” reaction that the idea gets every time it comes up here is kind of strange, and if it’s important to your spouse then you just go and try to have a nice time?

            Of course, my spouse’s company holiday party is fun enough that I once took our kids to it on my own when she was out of town on a business trip. They always have a magic show and gifts for the kids and my kids would have been super disappointed to miss it.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This. The idea that you never, ever spend 2 hours doing something you’re eh about to support your beloved spouse is so weird to me. (And yes, like roughly a third of the population I’m an introvert.)

            2. alienor*

              Depending on the job, I see it more as moral support for the spouse than anything else. If they love their job and their coworkers and will have a great time with or without you, then staying home is no big deal. If they fall anywhere on the scale from “meh, I guess I have to go” to “this is going to be torture,” then you go with them out of solidarity.

            3. sunglass*

              My husband’s company’s parties are great fun. There’s good food, good music, open bar, and his coworkers are lovely people. I’ve become sort-of friends with a couple of them, and now (well, Covid permitting) get coffee regularly with one of the coworker’s wives because we found we have a lot in common. My work doesn’t invite +1s every time, but when they do my husband comes along and has a pleasant evening with the people I spend hours of my life with. Then, I like my coworkers a lot and I enjoy meeting their partners and getting to know them as people, and I find it makes work a lot more pleasant when you know people outside of their work role.

              But AAM skews towards people who would prefer to never do anything socially, and the idea of having a pleasant time even if it’s not your absolute top choice of activities for an evening is complete anathema. There’s often useful things in the comment section, but this particular topic is always like this.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                In some ways I find it a little strange that my spouse has never met the vast majority of my colleagues, despite hearing about them all the time and them being a very large part of my day-to-day life. I think an event once or twice a year that lets you picture the person in your head when your spouse tells a work story is kind of nice.

                My spouse and I both like our jobs, like most of our colleagues, and intend to stay at these jobs for a while. If those things weren’t the case it might feel different.

                1. sunglass*

                  You’re right, I definitely find it easier to talk about work with my husband once we’d met one another’s colleagues! Whether he’s complaining about Brian or telling me that Janet really helped him out, it makes for a much better conversation if I know who those people are. And when I told him this week that Rachel-from-work has Covid it was weirdly nice that he could say, “Oh no! I hope she’s okay. She really made me laugh with that story about the penguin” or whatever – it’s just so much more personal.

                  But we are both in jobs that we intend to stay in with colleagues that we like (and, for my husband, a very small industry where even if he moved on he’d likely end up working with some of the same people again), so it makes a big difference.

              2. WantonSeedStitch*

                I am an extrovert, but I’ve always enjoyed being able to go to my husband’s work things. Any occasion to eat, drink, dance, chat, and dress up is usually pleasant for me, even if I don’t have a ton in common with the people. Often, there will at least be one or two people with whom I do have more in common, and we can spend the evening geeking out about Marvel films or Doctor Who or something.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          40 years ago, work events that included spouses or significant others were more common than they seem to be now. I went to a lot of holiday parties and company events as the +1 for friends and boyfriends, and then with my ex, and vice versa. I didn’t think it was odd to be included and wouldn’t think so now.

          It’s true that these events were often boring for me. But I could make dinner conversation, laugh at the right jokes, and be pleasant for a few hours.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        16 years of marriage count? I’ve never gone to any of the husband unit’s gatherings. Don’t want to. I really hate being in rooms full of strangers ;)

        1. Doug Judy*

          17 years here. I think my husband has come to maybe 2-3 work events of mine ever. The last was in January 2020 where my company went all out. He only went because dress code was casual, and there were tons of really nice prizes. He maybe said 2 sentences the entire time. He’s a Ron Swanson level introvert. I always invite him but he knows he can decline with no hard feelings, so it’s a shock when he says yes. I don’t mind he doesn’t attend. He hates it and I spend the whole time making sure he’s not super miserable.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The distinction that matters to me is whether the other person asked that you come, because they would like you there. Things that happen once a year, or even once every few months, I don’t get the appalled reaction.

          In an earlier discussion of plus ones I appreciated the woman who brought her brother-in-law, because he was excited about the prime rib buffet.

        3. ThatGirl*

          Which is fair, but not universal – it’s very dependent on the company and the coworkers. Neither my husband nor I are huge extroverts, he’s got a decent amount of anxiety, but I’ve been to a couple functions at his job, and over the summer he came with me to a free company-sponsored day at the zoo – where the only obligation was to sit and each lunch in an outside pavilion and make small talk for 30 minutes. He did fine.

      3. I take tea*

        Why on earth would it be a deal-breaker not to come to your spouse’s work parties? It’s not really a thing where I live, work parties are for the people that work there, but even if they weren’t, I would never force my partner to attend, because it would be hell for them.

        1. Anononon*

          As other people are saying, it’s about the attitude and outright refusal to what is only a hypothetical. It’s great that it’s not a relevant scenario for you, but there are companies where it may be important to bring a partner.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        My spouse’s employer has parties with families invited, while mine would never. I think people don’t always account for the fact that the vibe is pretty different at a party where spouses are encouraged to attend.

        And I tend to agree with MK – if your spouse works for a company where it’s part of the culture for spouses to show up to stuff now and then, it’s really not that big a deal in most cases. I go to holiday parties most years for my spouse’s workplace, plus the occasional other event, and it’s a perfectly pleasant way to spend an evening. Good food, idle chit chat with some pleasant people who I’ve gotten to know a bit over the years, plus getting a glimpse into my spouse’s work life. I find it at least as enjoyable as some of the afternoons I spend on the sidelines with other soccer team parents or being at a table full of people I don’t really know at a cousin’s wedding or any number of other social obligations.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          This is similar to my spouse’s view about holiday parties where spouses are invited-slash-expected. Mr. Glomarization dusts off a tie and jacket, then we sit at a table where I’ve tried to find another couple who’ll be pleasant company for a couple of hours. Free food! Hopefully a couple of free beers! And just one night out of the entire year.

      5. anonymous73*

        “a fate worse than death”? That’s a bit over the top based on the initial comment. And it works both ways. If my spouse knows that going to their holiday party would be torture for me (for a multitude of reasons), I would expect that he not put his wants above mine and guilt me into going with him.

      6. Chris*

        LOL. Or in my case, I just reached 20 years, maybe it helps that I don’t ask my husband to come to parties that will make him miserable. Pick the battles.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am always surprised that anyone would be ‘miserable’ at a holiday party of a spouse. I mean the room is full of other people who don’t work there either and SOME of them will be interesting. And if not — how hard is it to have a drink and chat small talk for a couple of hours. Exciting? Maybe not. Favorite thing? Probably not. But miserable? I’d hate to think I was married to someone who couldn’t manage this for one evening a year without pouting.

          1. quill*

            It really depends on the tenor of the party. If I was expected to stand and watch a concert up close, I’d probably be miserable because it would both be too loud and bad for my feet and knees. If I was expected to sit in the break room and make small talk with a bunch of coworkers and their plus ones, I would probably do OK.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I am here for this sentiment.

      (although, I run a 1-person business currently and am meeting friends for drinks later. I joked with them that they are coming to my “office Christmas party.”)

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Who said anything about being made to come to the office holiday party? The question is “if we’re allowed to bring a plus-one, is it OK to bring a significant other who isn’t an actual spouse?”

      My experience tracks Alison’s answer, in any event. About half the places I’ve worked, when they had a holiday party and welcomed plus-ones, it was A-OK to bring a non-spouse.

    5. Nancy*

      No one is making you go. The question was whether it is ok to invite a boyfriend, not how to force him to attend.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, thank you. Individuals’ personal feelings about whether they would or wouldn’t like to go aren’t relevant to the question. (For the record though: plenty of people enjoy this kind of thing. People are different!)

    6. Bananas*

      Good grief. It’s one evening of casual socializing with people your significant other is around constantly, not a month of waterboarding!

  3. Summer Day*

    For OP 3- honestly not a work context but my MIL once sent me a diet book!!!! When I rung her up and thanked her in the most neutral and friendly tone I could manage she lit up and was so exuberant about how much she enjoyed the book… I’m convinced she had no concept that it could be misconstrued at all!!! If nothing’s ringing a bell I’d assume the most innocent of explanations!

    1. tamarack & fireweed*

      I followed the link to the poster who asked about what to do after receiving anonymous breath mints (for an OP who suspected they may actually have bad breath), and that one, too, turned out to be a well-meant gift of “candy”. (I personally DO consider Spearmint Tic-Tacs candy, but am aware enough to know what it looks like if I hand them out to someone!)

      The only time a Christmas gift from my father & stepmother fell flat was when they gave both my sibling and me fancy bathroom scales. It was one of the last Christmases when we had regular gift-giving as we were growing out of it – mid-20s or so – and were both out of the house. I understood that they had been heavily into dieting that year (and not really before or after very much). But yeah.

      1. Wisteria*

        Main difference between Self Help Book OP and Tic Tac OP is that Tic Tac OP had an anxiety condition that impacted how hard she took the assumed message in the gift. Lesson here: if you have anxiety, you are more likely to jump to the worst possible conclusion and you really need to take that time to put some distance between you and the event to able to consider the possibility that the gesture either meant nothing at all or was meant kindly.

        Coaches will frequently asses whether their client might have depression or anxiety and if they suspect that is the case, they will suggest (or sometimes insist) that the client should address their mental health before taking them on. Given how many LWs have anxiety (either brought up in the letter or in an update), I think it would be beneficial to take a similar approach here.

      2. quill*

        My grandmother once gave all the other female grandkids jewelry and me a relatively embarrassing personal hygeine product, heavily implying that I was doing a bad job at being a girl. She assumed (I think?) that it would be useful but it took me a long time to get over watching my cousins unwrap pretty little necklaces and then going last to find that grandma had decided to give me something to try and make me pretty enough in front of the whole dang family.

        It did not help that I was seventeen and therefore far more susceptible to humiliation. But we did have to institute a gifting rule that excluded anything you’d keep in the shower.

          1. allathian*

            Some people are truly just oblivious. It’s not like everyone’s always sending a message with a gift that lands wrong.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              A boyfriend once gave me ‘How to Avoid Love And Marriage’, a tongue-in-cheek book by a married couple. He thought it was a funny and ironic gift because *clearly* we didn’t do the things they made fun of, so the book didn’t really apply to us.

              I might have appreciated the humor if we hadn’t been talking about getting married at the time.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            TIL, my first thought likely would have been along the lines of “if it’s a good recipe, that’s easy/straightforward to scale up.”

              1. Rainy*

                You could say that again and still only be half right. Especially anything with eggs. Recipes for 8 people with 5 eggs are a nightmare.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I got a book on pregnancy and childcare once from a relative shortly after they got my wedding invite. It’s like….no. I fumed, ranted, donated the book to charity and said nothing to her.

      (My entire family knows I don’t want kids)

      1. Rainy*

        Mr Rainy’s horrible aunt and uncle sent us as an engagement present a Catholic book called something like “Love in Marriage” that was all different pope’s writings about how to have a good marriage (and how would they know, I ask you). Mr Rainy is a (very) lapsed Catholic and I am not even remotely religious. I threw it in the trash.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I picture someone trying to clean out their bookshelves and thinking “Organizing. Who do I know who’s very organized? OP!!!”

      But have to give the most-likely nod to the theory that someone bought the book to become better organized themselves and it hasn’t worked yet.

    4. anonymous73*

      Whether intentional or not, unless you and your MIL had a conversation about dieting, what she did was very rude. Not assuming the self help book was left intentionally for OP, but if it was, again it’s rude. It’s similar to unsolicited advice. It’s all about the message it sends, regardless of intentions.

      1. Jaybee*

        It’s not, actually, ‘all about the message it sends’. During personal, one-on-one interactions, true intentions generally do matter to most people (and I say ‘true’ here as opposed to people obviously making excuses for their poor behavior by saying their intentions were good).

        Have you really never, in your entire life, been accidentally rude? Did people not show you grace at that time? I’m really sorry if they didn’t. But you do have the power to react to other people’s mistakes with grace.

        And if you choose instead to react to errors as if they were intentional attacks, you may struggle to keep people in your life.

        1. pancakes*

          Sure, but keeping people who frequently make thoughtless or, worse, cruel errors in one’s life isn’t always necessary or desirable. Privately thinking a gift is weird, tacky, laughable, or rude doesn’t necessarily involve reacting badly to it, either.

            1. pancakes*

              I was responding more to the gift of the diet book a commenter received (and to Jaybee’s comment about intentionality) than the self-help book in the letter.

      2. socks*

        Sure it was rude, but there’s a big difference between someone being thoughtlessly rude vs maliciously rude. Intentions aren’t a get out of jail free card, but I don’t think they’re totally irrelevant either.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          I like this statement a lot. I come from a VERY awkward family. And I’m hardly exempt from it! My parents have, over the years, gifted assorted diet and vegetarian cook books (I’m a shameless omnivore comparable to a trash panda), light exercise bands (which is extra laughable due to the fact that a large part of my job includes trundling around 55gal drums of chemicals on a HAND TRUCK), and some odd tomes on ADHD, organization, and the like… It really used to get to me and make me feel like crap, but at least knowing that none of it has ever been intended to be malicious… at this point I just write it off as another example of Awkwardly Misguided and try not to get grumpy about it.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m usually big on how actual effects trump intentions, but I don’t think that matters here.

        Sometimes people who love you miss on the gift, or the compliment, or the other thing they meant to land differently. One time. This happens. Offer some grace and hope it’s offered to you in return.

        Like the woman who accidentally added her boss to the email field for the rambly plans for the drunken weekend, and her boss told her “Oh. It was an odd headline so I didn’t even open it.”

      4. Summer Day*

        It was 100% innocent! To put it in context we lived in different cities at the time and it was not unusual for us to send each other books we had just finished reading and enjoyed. We also have a different cultural background and different first language which I think comes into it. She’s been my MIL for 25 years now and I love her to pieces- however… as you may imagine this is not the only incident of this kind and on girls weekends when we compare MIL stories I usually have the worst stories AND simultaneously the best MIL!!!

    5. Hosta*

      My asshole boss gave me Oprah’s diet book for Christmas. She tried to pass it off as a kind gift, but she also once looked at a picture of my then-boyfriend and commented, “I know you like young and attractive men, so why are you dating him?” so…

      1. Candi*

        That always bugged me. To me, you’re not on a break (or in an open relationship or…) unless you both (all) explicitly agree. And apparently Rachel hadn’t agreed.

        It reminds me of those dysfunctional boss/worker arguments where they can’t agree whether someone was fired/quit or not.

  4. zaracat*

    #3 I think the best way to respond to an anonymously left self-help book is to anonymously move it into a garbage bin

    1. Hannah Lee*

      Turn it into the company’s Lost and Found. It’s not yours, you found it … must belong to someone.

      Or put it where random stuff tends to collect … menus, dropped gloves, etc … if your workplace doesn’t have one.

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        I was just going to say put it on the lunchroom table/counter etc with a post it note that says, “Free.”

  5. JM in England*

    Re #1

    At a couple of previous jobs, the working environment was so toxic that my bosses wouldn’t tell me about shortcomings in my work until annual review time. This completely blindsided me and was a major factor in me leaving said jobs.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Well at least you can do something with that knowledge. Jane didn’t even work there anymore. Like what was she supposed to do? Contact Mary and say Oh you were so right, I am a horrible person? More likely Jane went Yep right decision to get out of that hellhole. Then burnt the pieces of the letter she didn’t need anymore.

      1. Candi*

        I wouldn’t burn the letter before scanning it for storage. I wouldn’t put it past someone that toxic to claim “I told you X in the letter I sent you” when they didn’t.

        Besides, after that, whenever you’re feeling crappy, you can print off a copy of the letter and burn it, again and again.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is one of my major management pet peeves, and something every manager on my team gets very specific instructions on. The point of feedback is to help people do their jobs better, not to punish them at year-end. Feedback needs to be quick, constructive, and direct – no one should hear anything on their annual review that thee manager’s not already told them.

      But Mary really took this to 11 with the post-resignation diatribe and wins the crappy prize.

  6. Xenia*

    OP #4: 99.999% of the time the answer is no. But a forensic auditing teacher I had in college had a spectacular tale of the time the answer was yes, and I was so gobsmacked when she told it that I have to share with the AAM commentariat.

    Many years back, when media streaming sites were first becoming large and widespread, my teacher was doing a financial audit for one such site that primarily dealt in videos. For those who are unfamiliar, financial audits often also include examination of the key controls a company has over its processes. This might be controls over the financials themselves (how do you know the AP clerk isn’t embezzling) or controls related to non-financial regulations (HIPAA, union regs, etc). Whatever a company might want to pay for.

    This company, among its other needs, needed a certification that it was complying with protocols against CP and human trafficking by not allowing transmission of videos with such. One of their controls over this was that they would pull a random sample of videos and have someone watch them. It was my teacher’s job to sign off on the audit and say that this control was actually happening. And the way they came up with was to have her sit in on a monitoring session. With one of the site employees. Scanning a random sample of porn videos with enough detail to make sure it wasn’t something illegal.

    My teacher came out of this with two takeaways. 1. Auditing throws stories just as wild as anywhere else, and 2. It is entirely acceptable to tell a partner that no, you won’t take this client again, and maybe their file needs more documentation.

    I have no idea how that flew then. I’m sure it wouldn’t now.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I work in network security. At one point, it was literally part of my job to go to the shadiest corners of the internet and capture as much malware as possible for later analysis. A lot of the shady corners are porn.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We’ve got a couple of computers on a totally separate network that are kept solely for seeing what threats are out there. Those computers have seen some stuff.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I recall a tale of the company wanting to emulate the most popular sites on the internet to drive traffic, and thus sending their hapless employees to study the fonts of the porn sites.

    2. Stitch*

      This is tangential but as a prosecutor’s intern one of my tasks (and a common task for jnterns) was to listen to jail calls (they’re told they are recorded at the beginning if every call, you’d be shocked how often defendants tell people to destroy evidence or even order hits on recorded jail calls).

      But yeah it meant going through a lot of phone sex.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that would be! Did you feel like you needed to take a shower after?

      2. Candi*

        I’m not shocked, but then I’ve read Every Contact Leaves a Trace: Crime Scene Experts Talk About Their Work from Discovery Through Verdict by Connie Fletcher.

        In there, a detective talks about how they’ll question a suspect in a room. A landline phone with an outside line is also in the room.

        So the officer will question the suspect for a while, and then leave the room.

        Almost every time, the suspect will grab the phone and call someone to get rid of X, dispose of Y, tell Z not to talk…

        To make it legal, I suspect there’s signs all over the place that all calls are recorded and the detective just didn’t mention them. But really, they’re calling from a phone in the police station -what do they expect!

    3. pancakes*

      “I have no idea how that flew then. I’m sure it wouldn’t now.”

      Surely you don’t mean that companies that have to moderate that sort of content should be exempt from auditing?

      I worked on litigation against a company that moderated user-uploaded content, and because of the nature of the litigation it was clear that everyone working on it would be encountering the sort of things most people don’t encounter during the work day. Not video, just text. Everyone working on the project was informed of this, given the opportunity to opt out, and signed off on consenting. If your teacher’s employer sprung the work on their employees as a surprise, they handled it very badly.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think that last was the bit Xenia was referring to–getting the porn aspect of the job sprung on the auditor (so to speak).

      2. Curious*

        This thread reminds me of what I’ve read elsewhere about the horrifyingly stressful nature of the jobs of the moderators who do that as their full-time job.

        1. pancakes*

          It seems really terrible from what I’ve read, not simply because of the nature of the work itself but because of the lack of support, lack of training, lack of protection, etc. One example, in 2107 Facebook was found to be revealing the personal profiles of anti-terrorism moderators to groups they were moderating when they took action.

      3. Xenia*

        No, I agree that having an audit for regs like that is very valuable—I was referring to the fact that it did get sprung on my prof out of left field at the last minute, and presented as “just another routine audit”. That didn’t come through originally very well.

  7. Vee*

    LW#2, without more context it’s hard to get a read on this, but do you feel uneasy because you can sense there was trouble between your boss and this woman who has recently been re-hired?

  8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: Don’t. Ever.

    Love from the department that can not only see your access logs but invariably has to clean up the mess later.

        1. quill*

          I’m sure you’ve seen far worse than the time I inherited a laptop from a former employee, not knowing that it had a virus, and was greeted with a wall of. Uh. “Roosters.”

          I still have no idea if the previous owner was incompetent (though I ended up the IT person by accident because I got rid of the virus on my own, and we did NOT HAVE ANTIVIRUS) or if they did it on purpose. (With the benefit of hindsight, that boss could have pissed anyone off enough for them to mess with the computer on their way out…)

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Does this scale up with company size? Like, in a company of thousands of workers, are there a hundred or so who can go over the logs?

      I ask because in one job I had a legit reason to access explicit sites over their network (I’m an academic researcher with a focus on sex) and I asked the IT guy who came to help me with printer issues, and he said they weren’t looking. Of course, that may have been because they know students stream porn in the dorms, but…

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’ve always assumed that universities must treat their networks differently, since they’re essentially home internet service for thousands of young adults. “Never do anything online while you’re at college that you wouldn’t do on a work-issued device in a corporate job” is not a reasonable expectation.

      2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        The simple answer to your question is “it depends”. Auditing employee computers is a *huge* deal in some places, usually places with strong regulatory requirements, but almost never happens at others. Different types of computers are also harder to audit that others. A travel laptop, especially if it’s a Mac, is going to require a lot more effort to audit that a Windows Workstation computer that sits on the company network all of the time.

        If you’re traveling, hooked up to hotel wifi, not using the company VPN, and in Incognito mode in your browser, there’s virtually no chance that anyone ca see what you’ve done. If you have a work reason for viewing the materials, probably no one is going to care anyway. At a university I suspect that the only time they would audit you is if there were credible accusations of something that could create liability for the institution (hosting pirated media, child porn, that kind of thing)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Yep. We’re an incredibly locked down network (no social media sites, no YouTube, an extensive list of hate sites blocked) and we can see literally everything you try to do on your machine, even if it’s on someone else’s vpn (none of our users have the access levels to delete their logs).

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        If you have a legitimate business reason to access something that is blocked by default, there is usually a process for this. It’s not about organization size it’s about the fact that you’re using something for work. I worked somewhere that had a lot of social media blocked, but we had pretty widespread exceptions for people who were using said sites to monitor and research project information.

        In the 90s, I had a friend whose internship required her to look up 1-900 numbers called from military barracks to follow up on unpaid phone bills. Their boss ultimately had to make sure that relevant parties knew they weren’t looking at porn for fun, they were doing a research project.

        1. Candi*

          You know, I just realized that, when my dad was a drill sergeant in the 1980s, why some soldiers got assistance paying overdue phone bills, and others got stuck on latrine duty. I suspect the second group and your friend’s research group overlapped.

          He had a lot of stories. One that’s relevant is they had a great private, but he couldn’t hit a target to save his life. He got three extra tries at passing, but just couldn’t. He left the Army with a ton of great references and three interviews lined up.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Can I ask a question about monitoring? I know this varies from place to place but am I setting alarm bells off by some random googling of topics I hear about on podcasts? I will occasionally google something I hear about so I can see what it looks like- for example Japanese snowmen yesterday.

      1. IT Gal*

        I think it depends on the actual sites you’re visiting. They mostly show up in alerts if they’re actually compromised or malicious, or yes, categorized as porn, gambling, or time waster (depending on the policies your org has set). Though at my company we mostly only care about the security issues unless your manager/HR has told us they think you’re doing something suspicious… You can look up the categories different sites have if you know what FW your IT is using … Likely the same company as your VPN client…

        1. IT Gal*

          I.e.. if you’re looking up something weird on Wikipedia it’ll still be Wikipedia and not come across as super suspicious. We don’t alert on Google search terms. Except that clicking on images in image search can sometimes download malware

          1. Dwight Schrute*

            Thank you! I don’t typically click on images; just look at the search results as a whole or yes click on Wikipedia.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We don’t normally any attention to what you put into a search engine, no.

        It’s only the sites you actually access (or try to).

    3. Atalanta*

      I do the same and there have been times I’ve wanted to reach out to the user and tell them they’re damned lucky I’m the one who does the review and not some of my ummm… coworkers who are less educated in adult content.

  9. Snuck*

    OP5 I’m going to politely disagree with Alison…

    I feel that the office Christmas Party is still a work function, and the idea of ‘bring a date’ doesn’t apply – it’s not for dating, it’s for work socialising. If your partner is a long term prospect then for sure! Bring them! But Alison implies that it’s ok to bring a casual date, and I’m not sure that’s the same.

    A long term partner you’re building a future with has a stake in your work environment – it’s helpful and healthy for them to be on good terms with your colleagues and work. Work has the biggest part of your waking hours usually so having them meet some of your colleagues isn’t a bad idea.

    But a date? A casual date? Nah. It’s not a ‘plus one, there’s free food at the buffet’, it’s “meet your colleagues and get a feel for how your partner spends their days”. Dating isn’t a work thing. If your on/off relationship is one you plan to continue for a long time and can face questions about then that’s different – it’s not a casual relationship I presume, but an attempt at a long term one. Then it’s reasonable to have them come and get to know more about you, and how you spend your days.

  10. Snuck*

    OP 5… the work Christmas Party isn’t for dating (sorry Alison, I disagree), it’s for meeting and celebrating your year’s end with colleagues, and you can bring a date so that your significant other can spend a little time with the people who you spend the vast majority of your waking hours with. The idea is you can celebrate, get to know each other better and relax a little, but it’s not a date.

    If this on/off is your significant other, and it’s not casual, and likely lasting a while yet… then bring them and they can get to know your colleagues a little better and that’s great. But if they are likely off again, or not serious then I say that just like any other work function, work is not for casual dating.

    1. Lexie*

      As someone who went to many work events alone when staff was allowed a plus one or more, I disagree. Most of the staff would bring someone leaving the single people to be the odd ones out. We’d be the ones filling in the random empty seats at tables and sometimes have no one to talk to during the meal. Or the other people at the table would talk to us but you could tell they were making an effort to engage when they would have preferred to just interact with their guests.

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      I disagree, if you get a plus one you can bring whoever you want date wise. It’s not like they’re bringing their date to a work meeting, it’s a holiday party. If the workplace doesn’t want people to bring a casual date then they shouldn’t give out plus ones.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        Agreed, and we’ve seen some *very* specific rules around who can bring, or be, a plus one in various letters. I think one person was annoyed because you could only bring a spouse if you had kids? If the company wants to limit the plus one to spouses or something, they can do that, but if they say just “plus one” it can be anyone.

        1. Curious*

          I agree that it is an awfully bad idea for the employer to police the relationship with the+1. Whether it is good judgement for the employee to bring a casual date … is another question.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Enh, in my experience I’ve brought non-spouse plus-ones and I’ve been a non-spouse plus-one. If the company says that plus-ones are invited, then it’s probably OK to bring someone you’re not married to, even someone you’re dating only casually. I think you have to know your office but I wouldn’t say it’s a hard and fast rule to only bring a spouse or someone who is a Significant Other Capitalized.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’ve brought a friend or even my sister to work outings. It depends on the kind of event it is.
        Holiday party at the CFO’s elegant home, when he’s someone who is a bit stuffy and formal – or a sit down fancy dinner holiday party? Only a serious SO or spouse IMO. Summer outdoor day at IT manager’s 2nd home in a vacation area? Friend who is fun to hang out with or non-long term BF would also be fine. Holiday or summer outing/cocktail party/buffet dinner? Same – friend or whoever I happened to be dating.

        At the end of the day, consider that a) it’s a work event, with people you work with, depend on for collaboration, promotion, schedule approvals, signing your paychecks and b) how much do you want to mix your work and personal circles and c) how well you can rely on either your +1 and/or your co-workers to not behave in a way that will damage one or all those relationships for you.

        Depending on the job and your age, stage, career trajectory, “free food and drinks! during holiday season! YAY!” is enough of a draw that a stern look of disapproval from your grandboss when your bestie +1 is chasing down the servers with shrimp cocktail and champagne won’t matter. Other places, you may want to manage your work image more, or would never in a million years expose someone from your real life to the monsters at your workplace.

    4. pancakes*

      Nah. Obviously it’s not a great first date plan, but I have been to numerous work parties that were +1 over the years and the idea has simply been to throw a nice party people can feel relaxed at, not for everyone to get to know one another’s partners. It’s not some sort of courting ritual.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I, for one, am grateful to the guy who thought it was a good first date plan, resulting in thousands of AAM readers being able to enjoy the greatest office holiday party story of all time each year.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I got to go to some pretty swank DC office parties in my 20s as a reliable-friend-who-would-not-embarass-you-in-front-of-your-boss +1. The one at the DC Building Museum was particularly good – gorgeous venue, great food, good music and close enough to walk to the afterparty at Jaleo for some late-night tapas and Sangria.

    5. Asenath*

      Well, this may vary by workplace. In my experience, organizers were generally clear about whether guests were allowed or not. Most work events did not include non-employees, but a few did – not just major holiday parties, but, for example, a celebration of our work that was held regularly. Our rule was that if guests were allowed, an employee could bring any guest, regardless of length of relationship or marital situation. In fact, that’s why we called them “guests” instead of something more specific. Just please, please, in your RSVP say if you’re bringing one or not, so the organizer can have some hope of getting good numbers for the caterers. Not like the time someone brought a spouse and three adult children (well, one of the “adult children” might have been an in-law) because they were in town and employee didn’t want to leave them out.

  11. Middle Aged IT Guy*

    Seconding Keymaster’s comment on OP#4. IT almost certainly has something monitoring your work computer no matter where you are on the internet, and no, launching an incognito window won’t necessarily prevent them from monitoring you.

    You’d probably get away from it off the corporate network, because IT has better things to do than monitor all their employees’ browsing history, but I wouldn’t do it anyway. If you want to watch p*rn on a work trip, bring your own tablet.

    1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      Meh. Incognito mode on a hotel wifi is not going to be seen unless the computer is *very* heavily locked down/audited. That said I agree it’s a bad policy to use work equipment that way. Especially when you can get decent tablets for next to nothing.

  12. BadBossesSuck*

    #1 reminds me of what I experienced with a former boss. For my six month review, she asked what accomplishments I was most proud of, and when I finished, she basically said “That’s nice” and went into a huge list of all the things I had been doing wrong — 10 pages double sided, which showed she was logging everything from emails, conversations, etc., with dates and times. No constructive feedback, just a lot of “you do everything wrong” and was told to improve some non-specific, subjective things by June (this was March).

    Remind me to tell you know I left this job sometime.

    1. Koalafied*

      LOL, I literally left grad school because this is how thesis advisors give feedback. My advisor was someone who I liked, was friendly in our non-work conversations, supported me with good opportunities he found to send my way, and showed enthusiastic interest in my thesis topic. Not a bad guy at all.

      But every thesis review was basically, “Great work on this latest draft. Now here are 20 things you should change:” And the fact that he started with “Great work on this latest draft” was significantly more praise than most other advisors would give to peers in my cohort… I realized that’s just how academia works, that a career in academia was going to be a career where praise was very sparse no matter how much I excelled, and I decided that wasn’t going to work for me.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I am dying to know how you left this job. Did you quit with cod or some other food-related message? That boss sounds awful.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I worked for a guy like that who thought “(his) standards were high”. No, they weren’t. He was just being a jerk about everything. He thought the way to success was to criticize and condemn everything.

      Internally he was called “the revolving door manager”, because he couldn’t retain anyone who had come in from the outside. The place was very much like the ad, where the guy worked in a roomful of chimpanzees.

      People hired from the outside didn’t last long – they said “I don’t have to put up with this horses***” and left. People on the inside? They didn’t know any better, they had never seen how the rest of the world operates.

      Neither did the manager.

  13. Chili pepper Attitude*

    For #1, I think it would have been fun, in hindsight, to send the letter back unopened with a note, “I no longer work there so I assume this was sent to me in error.”

    As long as you got all your pay, you can delay any actual, official, correspondence.

    1. usernames are anonymous*

      Or shred it and put the confetti pieces back in the original envelope and return it to the old manager.

  14. CatCat*

    #1, sounds like Mary celebrates Festivus and was participating in the “Airing of the Grievances ” ritual. That ritual is really meant to be done in person at a family dinner. So inappropriate in a professional context.

  15. Texan In Exile*

    Two years ago last week, my position was eliminated by the new VP who had started in January.

    She chose that time to tell me all the things I had done that she didn’t like. She never said a word when I could have actually done something about the issues and didn’t mention them at all in my review in August. (In that review, she said – in a tone of great surprise – “Everyone I talk to really likes working with you!”)

    I guess I take comfort in knowing she is a horrible manager and leader, doesn’t know how to run a meeting, can’t set objectives, and will someday be found out. In the meantime, everyone I respect who worked for her has quit, one of them without even another job lined up. So it wasn’t me.

  16. Egmont Apostrophe*

    “Dear Mary,

    Thank you for your feedback, which is just what I expected from you, both pointless and rude. As I no longer work there, please stick it…”

    1. Curious*

      Let’s develop that further:. Normally, it’s a really bad idea to push back on criticism from your boss. Here, though, is an opportunity to return the favor, and explain to Mary –in detail — why they suck as a manager.

      Ok, probably still not a good idea, but it’s fun to think about!

  17. Egmont Apostrophe*

    Actual conversation from the dot com ad agency days:

    OFFICE MANAGER, DOING A POLICY SEMINAR: And of course you can never use office computers to look at anything pornographic. That’s an absolute no-no, and creates a hostile work environment.

    EMPLOYEE: Did you know that we’re currently pitching Playboy?

    OFFICE MANAGER: Um, well, I guess if it’s FOR work…

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I used to work for a print shop. Quality Control was required to call every phone number that we were going to print on a piece, just in case… You might be amazed how many phone numbers are one character away from being sex lines.

      1. Artemesia*

        We had a new fax machine and I was using it on a weekend to send my SS# etc to a conference organizer so they could pay my stipend. Turns out my phone code (that we tapped in before making a long distance call or fax) was the same as the phone number of a local sex shop and the process for long distance was different on the new machine and so I essentially dialed up this shop and faxed my info to it. Bless the manager of the shop who got my fax with my ID theft details and who called our office on Monday instead of getting a credit card in my name. I had to hear about this for years — everyone thought it was hilarious.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #1 – As a general rule – people who leave a company are advised to never “burn their bridges behind them”.

      But what is oft-forgotten or ignored = THE SAME THING APPLIES TO MANAGERS. It is never a good idea for a management team, or a manager, to go out of their way to burn bridges with a former employee. Now, this does not mean that a company might put a “do not hire back” or “do not give a recommendation” in that guy/gal’s personnel file – but a company , or any of its managers should NEVER engage in “hostile fire”.

      1) I have seen it come back to haunt a manager – when he or she gets in trouble and starts applying to places around town, the word might have gotten out there. If “Mary” walked into “Jane’s” new company as an applicant – even if Jane isn’t in the chain of command, she’s going to be asked about Mary. So it’s payback time for Mary (sound buzzer).

      2) If someone like Jane attempted to leave on good terms, but the management “burned the bridge” behind her, it makes it far more difficult for them to EVER ask Jane to come back, or even to provide cooperative assistance.
      Should the company ask Jane to come back or for help (common in IS/IT) , what could have been “sure, what do you need?” becomes “Go to Hell”.

      3) Managements that spew garbage on a former employee can be subject to litigation. Mary’s manifesto to Jane might not have an immediate effect on her, but should the company do something detrimental to Jane, even accidentally, later on – Jane has some potentially solid ammunition.

      So managers = keep your cool. Whether the employee was good OR bad – hold your temper.

  18. OP#5*

    Don’t know if anyone will care but I thought i’d update everyone again!

    Cecil and I ended up breaking up in May 2021. I learned that during the 4 years we were together, he had another girlfriend of 18 months (though he’d known her longer than me!! they started seeing each other casually a year before we met).

    Our relationship had gotten a LOT more serious over the last 2-3 years, talking about marriage, me moving in, i met his family, was invited to a family wedding, etc. Only to find out that he had been cheating on me for literally years.

    The night I found out, I called my direct supervisor and sobbed/told her what happened and that I wouldn’t be in the next day. My coworkers and grandboss have been SO supportive. The day I was out, grandboss kept going up to my supervisor and asking things like “she doesn’t live with Cecil right? We would need to get her out of there this weekend” and such. My coworkers have been very sweet, asking me how I’m doing, buying me lunch/coffee, etc.

    1. Rainy*

      Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry to hear this but A) big yikes, Cecil, what a garbage person; and B) good for you for leaning on your community and not feeling like you had to go it alone.

      I wish you many wonderful things in the New Year :)

    2. Heidi*

      Sorry this happened OP! Sometimes I need to remind myself that even though this site deals with a lot of workplace fails, coworkers can also be great people who want to help you.

    3. Candi*

      I am so sorry this happened to you.

      But your grandboss had me going “Awwwwwww!” in appreciation of them willing to step up and help -moving is neither easy or cheap!

  19. Koalafied*

    LW #1, take comfort in knowing that whenever one party writes a 3-page screed to another party…it is the writer of the letter who has lost the war.

    1. Egmont Apostrophe*

      So true. Responses, ranked:

      1) Ignore like they don’t rise to the level of mattering
      2) One cryptically snide sentence

      1. Rainy*

        Many years ago I was cheated on by a guy I was seeing; he made a bunch of “working through it” noises and I thought he was sincere until he did it again, twice, so I dumped him. About eight months later I got an email from him apologizing for the *timing* of cheating on me, but not for the actual cheating. This plunged me back into the morass of feelings right before a much anticipated three-week two-country trip to see a bunch of friends, and I really thought it was going to ruin my trip.

        Instead, on my third stop, it turned out that my old friend’s new roommate was among other things a SLAM POET and she PERFORMED HIS EMAIL for us. Now, it is a glorious memory of her just going to town on this dude’s fauxpology, and when I think about him at all it is with scorn. I never responded to the email.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Everyone needs at least one slam poetry interpretation of a such an email. I had roommates who provided this sort of service (dramatic reading v. slam) in my 20s, and it was so therapeutic.

          1. quill*

            Ah, college dramatic readings of the nasty letter/rage text diatribe someone sent me upon quitting from an organization I was running…

    2. Artemesia*

      I come from a long line of letter writers and this is so true. My favorite was when my mother wrote a long screed to my brother complaining about how they were treated on a visit (to be fair my SIL was never very nice to my mother) and she was lucky my brother’s wife insisted they not cut my parents off completely — my brother was ready to do so. When he told me about it, I reminded him of the letter my grandfather wrote my father complaining about my mother after she had taken care of him after surgery for 3 mos in their home, waiting on the old t@rd hand and foot. He was younger than me and didn’t remember — but I could not believe my mother had so little self awareness as to not realize that her letter would get the same response as my grandfather’s letters. Tendentious letters are ALWAYS a mistake. Say it in person or zip it.

  20. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    LW 1 as unprofessional as the the manager’s letter was I can’t say its unusual. Especially in small family type businesses. I once was laid of seasonally with an expectation to be called back when needed. (this had happened to other employees that same year) I almost immediately found a new job with a different company with the same kind of position. Sent a letter with my 2 week notice and the key to the business. ( i had already cleared my belongings out when I knew I was being laid off) Boss sent me a letter saying she was “letting me go” that was clearly dated after she would have received my resignation letter. She also tried to accuse me of stealing 2 programs that belonged to me. That I had earned by attending seminars outside of work and had paid for the seminars myself. We had X mandatory hours of training per year. She wouldn’t pay for anything over X. Both seminars were after I had hit X and I had all the receipts to prove I had paid for and attended these programs for myself not for work. Ironically 2 employees from the same place were supposed to attend the seminars for her and both failed to go which meant they didn’t earn the program. She tried to tell my new bosses about this but as she had a reputation for banana crackers in the industry it didn’t do her any good.

  21. Elizabeth West*

    3#–I would assume that someone set it down absentmindedly and forgot to pick it up again, and without comment or leaving any note, just put the self-help book in the break room. If it belonged to someone else, then they can pick it up. And if it was left on the desk deliberately, that sends a clear message to whoever left it that you’re not interested.

  22. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    LW#2: I know of this happening once and yeah, the new person was rather panicked about it. And it was similarly in a short time after the replaced person had left. (But she returned not for a promotion but because her planned trans-Atlantic move was a bust and she returned back to North America and asked if there was still a spot for her at the old job.)

    In the LW’s case and in the one example I know, a simple conversation would have been beneficial to explain what happened and calm the nerves. Why can’t managers share more? One conversation is all you need.

  23. MK1386*

    “Funny” story about a time porn is acceptable on a work computer! I work with survivors of traumatic experiences, primarily folks who are suffering from PTSD and the vast majority of whom are sexual assault survivors. There have been two specific instances where we have accessed porn on company computers. 1. As part of exposure treatment to help someone begin to explore their sexuality again (this typically includes just identifying specific, “safe” porn and providing the client with the link, not watching it together in session) 2. when our clients have been victims of revenge porn and we’re working to report/have it taken down.

    Our IT department….does not love us.

  24. Troutwaxer*

    If you only have a work computer and want to do something private, try creating a Linux boot CD/USB and working off the Linux desktop. The boot USB won’t do anything to your hard drive and shouldn’t leave any records there. Any good boot CD/USB will come with a modern browser.

    At that point your work shouldn’t be able to detect anything you do (interesting hardware hacks aside – as always, you should consider the quality of the opposition!)

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