my boss made me leave a note at a grave, work experience vs. good college, 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. My boss made me leave a work-related note at the grave of my bereaved coworker’s relative

Three weeks ago one of my coworkers lost a relative. She has been off work on bereavement and family leave. Our boss isn’t happy with her being off for so long. Since it is out of his control and he doesn’t get to approve or deny her leave in this case (the HR department is in charge of that) I have been doing my best to ignore him whenever he complains.

Last week my boss gave me an envelope with my coworker’s name on it and told me to leave it at the grave of my coworker’s relative. He said it was a condolence card at first, but I didn’t buy it because our work had already sent a card. When I asked him about it again, he said it was a note with some work-related items only she knows about and he needs answers ASAP and she won’t answer her (personal, not work) phone when he calls her. He gave me directions to the cemetery and everything.

Alison, I hope you don’t judge me for this but I did what he said and brought the envelope to the grave. I don’t know if she has seen it yet. I am horrified and disgusted with this. I am disgusted with myself. My boss threatened my job if I didn’t but it’s still no excuse. I don’t even have a year of work experience not counting internships in college. I was scared of being fired and so I did it. But now I’m disgusted with myself and I don’t know what I should do about this. I imagine telling my boss off or telling his boss but I’m scared to actually do it. I wish I had never delivered the letter but I don’t know what to do next. Any help or tips you or your readers have for me would be so helpful.

Your boss is officially the worst person in the world.

But you are not. You are brand new to the work world and scared of being fired. You are not to blame for the fact that your boss is a shitty, shitty person.

Tell HR.


Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. If you go to a good college, do you still need to get work experience while you’re in school?

I recently had a dispute with my younger brother, a senior in high school. I suggested that when he goes to college, he should take advantage of connections through the school to get an internship or two over the summer, for the experience and flesh out his resume, since degree =/= job in this day and age. He doesn’t want to, since he’s guaranteed admission into [pretty good but not Ivy League school], and thinks that it would be pointless to do internships since having the school’s name on his resume would put him ahead regardless. He’s a good student with a stellar GPA, and his field is accounting, if that makes any difference.

So if you were hiring, would you take a graduate from a good school with a great GPA, or someone from a more ordinary school who did internships and volunteer work?

Someone from a good school with a great GPA and no work experience? Nope, because there are going to be loads of other candidates from good schools with good GPAs and work experience, and they are pretty much always going to be preferable — because they’ve had some exposure to the work world and I won’t be starting from scratch with them.

Employers really, really don’t like to hire people with no work experience at all, regardless of what school they went to. An Ivy could maybe minimize that a bit, although I wouldn’t count on it, and other schools — even very good brand-name schools — definitely won’t. I think he’s overestimating the impact of a “pretty good” school on his resume; it’s certainly a plus, but not so helpful that it will make up for having no work experience. He’ll still need to work or intern over the summers or he’ll have a much tougher time when he graduates.

(I will say that for accounting, I think it used to be true that he could pull this off, but now internships are so common that it’ll put him at a disadvantage.)

All that said, his thoughts on all this may change once he gets to college, so I wouldn’t worry about arguing it too hard with him.


3. Managing people with higher risk tolerance than I have

I work for an adventure travel company in the pacific northwest, managing a group of guides who run sea kayak trips. I was formerly a guide with the company, and was promoted to a manager position about a year ago. Once our tours leave the beach, our guides are at that point running their trip totally independently as far as deciding whether or not to divert from their usual itinerary if sea conditions, weather, guest health issues become an issue. It’s a lot of responsibility; we hire experienced people and invest a lot of time into their training. Last season (my first as a manager), I dealt with a number of incidents involving several guides continuing with trips in situations where they patently should have cancelled, or at the very least greatly changed their itinerary (for example – continuing with a trip after one guest became so seasick he was throwing up, or paddling a large open-water crossing in bad weather with a group that included young children). I addressed the incidents with the guides in question; the feedback I got from one guide, whom I’ll call Paul, was that while he understood that I took issue with he did on the trip, Paul felt in control of the situation, personally knew he had the ability to keep the group safe if things went wrong(er), and hey, everything turned out fine in the end, and won’t the guests have a great adventure to talk about when they get home?

Paul is guiding for our company again this season. Being an attentive reader of your blog, the first lesson learned is that I need to be absolutely, crystal sparking clear on my expectations regarding in what situations the guide needs to get his or her group off the water ASAP. How do I do this without giving the impression that I don’t trust my staff to handle themselves in certain situations? I am a very risk-averse guide (probably has something to do with why I’m now a manager) and while I think I did an OK job of giving good risk assessment advice to the risk-adverse guides on my staff, I feel like I haven’t figured out how to be a good manager to the guide who, like Paul, are more risk-tolerant, and in most cases, much more skilled kayakers, than I am. I know that varying amounts of risk tolerance among staff must come up in other industries – banking comes to mind – do you or your readers have any advice for how to manage very risk-tolerant employees in a productive, non-micro-mangey sort of way?

This sounds like it comes down to what you (and the company) ultimately want to leave to guides’ own judgment and what you want to provide firmer direction on. Right now, it sounds a little bit like you want to leave this stuff to their own judgment, as long as their judgment matches yours — which is a recipe for frustration on both sides. So step one here is to get clarity for yourself around where guides do and don’t have leeway, and then make those parameters clear to your staff. If you want them handling situations a certain way, tell them that. If they have some freedom to judge for themselves, but only within certain parameters, tell them that and be explicit about what those parameters are.

But it’s absolutely okay to say, “While I realize that you have a higher risk tolerance in this area, the company does not, and in XYZ conditions, you need to change the itinerary.” The problem, I suspect, is with wanting them to operate that way but not saying it directly. (On the other hand, if you really do want them making those decisions themselves, then you have to get comfortable with that yourself. But even then, one way to do that is to get aligned on philosophy — if X happens, then we do Y because Z.)


Read an update to this letter here.

4. Being let off early your first day on the job

What does it mean if my boss let me off early my first night at work?

Probably that she was attempting to be nice and cutting you some slack on your first day. There’s a small chance that it was actually because you were doing a terrible job and she wanted to minimize the damage, but it’s far, far more likely that she was just being nice. If you’re at all worried, you can always ask, “How do you feel things went today?”


5. Coworker sings and talks while we’re in the bathroom

One of my coworkers sings while using the restroom and occasionally tries to engage me in conversation while she’s doing her business or I’m doing mine. It seems silly, but it makes me very uncomfortable. I’m too embarrassed to ask her to stop and it seems like a ridiculous thing to bring to HR. Help?

Let the singing go; it’s not a big enough deal to get into with her. (It would be different if she were doing it in your work area and preventing you from focusing, but I’m assuming focus isn’t so much of an issue in the bathroom — or that if it is, you can wait her out.)

But if she tries to talk to you while you’re both in bathroom stalls, you can say “Sorry, I have trouble hearing in here” or “This isn’t a good time” or “I’m pretending I’m alone in here, Jane” or whatever you’re comfortable with. (And yeah, definitely don’t take it to HR.)


{ 310 comments… read them below }

  1. Sarah*

    #1- Any work experience is better than none, including a shift a week in fast food. Working with university graduates with zero work experience is exhausting.

    1. Loulou*

      Definitely, and on that same note I think it’s great for students to try out different jobs (not necessarily internships, which might be aimed more at training people for a specific field). It’s great if OP’s brother already knows he wants to be an accountant, but he’s also very young and his interests could change. I know more than one person whose college job ended up influencing their career path.

      1. Mid*

        That’s partially why I still support Gen Ed requirements in college. I understand why people are against them (mostly cost!), but taking a wide variety of classes makes you step outside your planned path and maybe sparks a new interest in something you didn’t even know existed. (I should know—I switched from architecture and engineering to political science, thanks to a random Gen Ed class that I loved.)

        For jobs, retail and food service teach some amazingly universal skills. Tutoring students is also a good gig that has skills that translate to all fields. Explore different things as much as you can!

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Before you work, you don’t know if you’re good with the general public or not, if you like collaboration or not, if you like routine or variety, if you like big corporations or small independents, etc etc. *Any* job can give you insight into those important questions.

        2. LadyL*

          The expense of college has utterly warped the purpose of it. The point of college is supposed to be to train your mind to think like a scholar, and to expose you to experiences and knowledge that will deepen your understanding of the world. But because it’s so expensive most people can’t afford 4 years of “mind expansion” without a clear pathway to a high paying job. College is seen solely as job training, and any classes that don’t directly lead to a job are derided as a waste of time and money. Students can’t afford to feel any differently about it.

          This is my long winded way of saying I agree with you about gen ed :)

          1. Carol S Voigts*

            During the Depression my dad attended a liberal arts college and the a final 2 years at an engineering university. He Was forever grateful for the liberal arts education for 3 yes. And tho they didnt have internships baCk then, he worked 3 jobs during that Time putting himself thru. In the local print shop setting type, slinging burgers as a short order cook , and washing equipment on the chem lab. He got experience out of necessity.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Even if you stay within accounting, it’s really useful to know how public sector accounting differs from Big 4 accounting differs from working in a small company!

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’m one of those people. I was initially majoring in something else and I got a part time job at the public library next door to my college because hey, free books! I got promoted after my first year and realized I’m good at this and I like it, so I changed my whole career plan halfway through college.

      4. Eames*

        I work in higher ed, and accounting firms have significant internship programs and many prefer to hire their interns. Other employers who hire recent accounting grads have internships and will definitely hire students who have internship and work experience. The accounting programs I worked with do a great job of making sure students know this and preparing them for the internship hiring process. Some even require some participation in the process via a class or required internship experience. I think the student will quickly understand the importance of related experience once they start their program.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I actually prefer candidates who have a combo of an internship in the field AND a “real job” on their resume whether that’s flipping burgers, folding shirts at the Gap, etc. It tells me that a) they have some professional exposure to our field and b) some experience with workplace norms and behavior.

      1. bamcheeks*

        yes! I tell students this too. Internships and placements in professional settings tell you about the particular job you want and allow you to learn the language and priorities of your field, but your three-year record of working in hospitality, retail etc tells me far more about your understanding to punctuality, teamwork, etc.

      2. Olivia Mansfield*

        Even just for hiring work study students for our departmental clerical tasks, I like the ones who have done some sort of previous work (customer service, lifeguarding, babysitting, etc.) just so I know that they know what work IS. I mean, for a little work study job, I don’t preclude the ones who haven’t done that, but I do prefer the ones who have at least a little previous exposure to work.

      3. Olivia Oil*

        I’m surprised at how many people find that working in retail/service adds to work experience. It could be just my personal experience (and maybe a product of the times), but I don’t feel like my food service experiences helped me out in my current white collar career path at all. If anything, it gave me a poor sense of workplace culture and boundaries that I had to unlearn. (I’m sure a lot of people are aware of this, but we were regularly forced to work when feeling ill and sexual harassment by our own managers was common.) But having a poor sense of workplace boundaries benefits the employer more than the employee I guess.

        For some context, I went to a public university where I worked service jobs throughout, but went to a fancy professional graduate problem where you do internships and projects as part of your degree. A lot of people who work in my current field grew up super upper class and never worked retail or service, so don’t really care if someone has that experience or not. It would also be weird to put on your resume.

        1. Minerva*

          Agreed. I am sure all the students/new grads I have hired (well, helped hire) have some kind of non career jobs in their past, but they rarely even put them on the resume. The skills they teach just aren’t relevant or they aren’t things they couldn’t get elsewhere.

          It’s also weird to put as more than a footnote on a resume.

        2. Drago Cucina*

          When I was at the public library people with customer service experience had an edge. They were better able to handle the patron screaming and swearing that the brand new book they checked out was already wet, had a big mystery stain, etc. Being called a Nazi and a Communist in the same diatribe isn’t unusual.

          Even in an office job there are internal customers who will go ballistic. We’ve seen enough office supplies horror stories here on AAM to know this is true. Nothing quite gives you that experience like working fast food, being a life guard, or other “menial” job.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      While I completely agree, I think Alison’s last line is dead on–Let him get this advice from people who are not his immediate family members and it may sink right in.

      1. Sandi*

        Yes, it isn’t worth LW’s effort at all, because younger brother is going to quickly realise that everyone else is working, and peer pressure is much more effective than anything else. When he sees that others have money from their jobs and are getting work experience then it will push him.

        1. Olivia Mansfield*

          Let’s hope. It took me a long time to learn some lessons, and I had to learn them the hard way. For example, when I was in college, I *felt sorry* for the ones who had to have an outside job (waitressing, etc.). I wasn’t from a well-off family, either; I’d just never had to work and wasn’t tempted by the money. It took me until I was totally on my own without parental support to see the charms of earning my own money. Sometimes I look back at my young self, and I cringe real hard Lol.

        2. Bratmon*

          My college experience was the exact opposite. I realized pretty quick that there were three categories of people: those who had no social life (and were constantly stressed out), those who had bad grades (and sometimes dropped out), and those who had no job. The latter were the most fun to hang out with.

      2. Smithy*

        I agree with this one two points.

        The first is that the information may come more indirectly in the sense of friends and peers just talking about their after class/summer plans. That version of peer pressure that’s neither more a matter of what “everyone else is doing”.

        Second, so often longer standing arguments with family members can turn into larger issues where someone changing their mind is a far bigger deal. Struggles of not being pushed around or made to feel wrong, which very often play out with siblings or parent/child, become more important than just having it be about changing your mind.

      3. RecoveringSWO*

        Yep. In college, I was happy with my camp counselor and waitressing summer gigs and didn’t plan on applying for a real internship until after my junior year–despite my parents protests. But once I saw my friends applying to legitimate internship programs, I felt like I needed to match my peers and meet a sort-of unsaid expectation of attending a “little ivy.” I’m very thankful for that peer pressure–I ended up interning both summers before my junior and senior year.

        1. Allison*

          I went to a well-known co-op school, and I was under the impression I’d be able to get a paid co-op my sophomore year with no relevant working experience. I was very, VERY wrong. In theory, yes, plenty of co-ops are designed to be entry-level, but I was competing against people in my major who had experience interning for legislators, and/or volunteering on campaigns, and of course that’s more attractive to an employer, and I really should have tried to get a State House internship that summer between freshman and sophomore year.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Also, from the student side, getting the chance to “try on” your planned career in different settings (e.g. small vs large co, formal vs casual workplace) is priceless. I wish paid internships were more of a thing when I was in school because I would have loved to be able to learn more about the types of places I might work after graduation. Especially for accounting the potential places to work are highly varied. I have friends who work as accountants for the film industry, in government regulatory bodies, and for the big 4, each of which is a good fit for them, but they’d hate being in each other’s jobs. Alas, I needed to eat, so never got the chance.

    5. CoveredinBees*

      Yes. Especially those who feel the name of the university they went to should carry them along over actual experience. I’m well acquainted with the general shock that a lot of new grads have when they realize they are not as prepared for their jobs as they think (but it’s fine because that’s how it goes for most) but this is beyond that. I know a number of people who are more than 15 years out of undergrad and still constantly drop the name of their school that I have minimal patience for it in general.

    6. AnonForToday*

      As a veterinarian obviously all of my animal related jobs were super helpful in getting me into vet school and giving me the kind of hands on skills that are useful in my job! But the terrible awful retail jobs I worked (working as a cashier at a grocery store in a very affluent suburb w very entitled customers, working at the deli counter at a different grocery store) truly prepared me for the client interaction side of things (and gave me so much compassion for my front desk staff). But being yelled at by angry customers about things that were not my (a 19yo cashier) fault definitely prepared me well for staying calm when I’m being yelled ar now by angry clients about things that are not my fault.

      1. Clumsy Ninja*

        Preach! I worked at a McDonalds in undergrad – so helpful for learning to shrug off irate clients who are angry about nothing (or nothing that was my fault).

      2. EmmaPoet*

        I worked at a restaurant during tourist season in college. Nothing like having fifteen people in a row make the same creepy “joke” to prepare you for people to ask seriously inappropriate questions (and have a ready-planned response to them.)

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, yes, yes. I hire recent graduates and cannot remember ever hiring someone with zero internship or job (retail, food service, campus work-study, campaign/legislative volunteer, whatever) experience. Candidates with public-facing work experience get prioritized because, if you can deal with the general public, the sometimes challenging folks you’ll have to deal with in my industry will seem like a cake walk.

  2. Jopestus*

    #1 We have officially reached the zone where all i can say about the boss is: Bruh. Dude. Uncool.

    The answer given by Alison is perfect and on point.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      OP1 – I read this letter at the time (and the update), didn’t really understand why OP was fired and I still don’t. Obviously I realise it’s objectively a terrible thing to do – but I think there were mitigating circumstances – I wouldn’t have fired her for that. I also (terrible as it sounds) would be giving a bit of side eye to the co-worker who contacted clients (!) to tell them about all this. It won’t be a popular opinion but I think they did overreact.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I think it’s the case of HR/management wanting to be seen doing something given the situation was so egregious and not allowing OP the grace to explain the situation and the boss attempting to throw OP under the bus.

          1. EPLawyer*

            YEP. CLIENTS founds out about it. Therefore SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE.
            I always feel so bad for OP here. Even if she had gone to HR right away what would have happened? Boss was clearly going to lie about telling her to do something that terrible. So now she is branded a liar AND her boss knows she reported him to HR. She would have been gone anyway because Boss would have found a way to blame her for something else he did.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              To be blunt, HR might have shot the messenger themselves. I would have no faith that they would have handled it the way they claimed they would have after the fact.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          They fired the boss, too. But still, they fired the OP for doing what the OP was instructed to do by their manager. This seems to me a questionable policy, as it can lead to employees checking in with HR for anything beyond the most routine matters.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            Trying to represent what the LW did as something that was simply ‘beyond the most routine matters’ is really disingenuous and completely disregards how egregious what they did was.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Sure, but it sets the precedent that an employee can be fired for following their boss’s orders, without setting out any guidelines for what sorts of situations this does and does not apply. It is easy to say that this situation was so egregious as to be obvious, but what about the next situation that is slightly less obvious? Particularly since this precedent started with a junior employee, not someone with years of experience that can be presumed to inform their judgment.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                Sure, but it’s unreasonable to say either an employee can never be fired for following orders or guidelines have to exist to cover every single eventuality.

                I’d also argue that most half decent HR leave policies do mention how and when you can contact employees out on various forms of leave so it’s probably inaccurate to say situations like this aren’t covered.

              2. Willis*

                I don’t think “if you think the thing your boss is asking you to do might be on par with leaving a note demanding work be done on the gravesite of a grieving employee’s dead relative,” then you should go to HR about it before following your boss’s orders is a bad precedent to set. Not saying OP necessarily had to be fired, but the idea that there’s no point to indicating to staff that they should go to HR rather than execute a bad boss’s morally corrupt orders cause there might be some gray area in there is pretty ridiculous. There were probably other ways of making that point, but it’s a really valid point to be made (and would have helped both the OP, her coworker, and the company overall) if it had been something clear to the OP before this incident.

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  There is a rule of thumb in law–more of an observation, really–that certain sorts of cases lead to unintended precedents. You get some horrendous situation that cries out for justice, but is so outside the norm that there are not clear guidelines already in place. The cry for justice is so strong that a new ruling–literally unprecedented–is made to achieve this. But it doesn’t stop there. There is now a precedent. Under what circumstances does this new precedent apply? Who knows? The way you find out is to test it with other cases that are similar. Cycle through this a few times and you can end up with results you are unhappy with.

                  A classic example is a host’s liability for the actions of a guest who got drunk. Start with a truly egregious case: the host plies the guest with absurd amounts of liquor, then at the end of the evening carries the guest to their car and hands them the keys. The guest drives off, and runs into a house where a super-cute kid is sleeping, crippling the kid for life. To add a professional note to this, the guest has minimal automobile insurance, while the host has a million dollar umbrella policy. The real question here is if the plaintiff’s lawyer can bring that policy into play. In this scenario there is a strong urge with both the judge and jury to do just this. Now cycle this through a couple of times with similar, but not quite as egregious cases, and you end up worried that if you have a friend over for a couple of drinks you are on the hook. Should you be? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is that once you open that door, this is the outcome. It is legitimate to ponder this and then decide to open that door anyway, but not to open that door pretending that only the one case will walk through it.

                2. Willis*

                  Except people have friends over for drinks all the time. This is a totally common occurrence. If your sample precedent has cut down on the number of folks who overserve their friends then send them home, I can’t say that’s a bad thing. I don’t think the LW needed to be fired. Could it make others in the company fearful of being fired? Sure. But the idea that now they’re all going to be running to HR every time their boss asks them to do something is really silly.

              3. ecnaseener*

                You’re never going to be able to set an explicit limit for how far the “I was just following orders” excuse should be allowed to go. The answer is not to avoid ever holding someone accountable for following orders they knew were morally wrong.

                I don’t even think LW should’ve been fired! But your argument is way too strong, it can’t start and end with following orders.

                1. BubbleTea*

                  That’s exactly what that phrase means. In my view it’s the grey areas that make the law the most interesting academically, and the hardest to experience in real life. It’s why I didn’t become a lawyer after my law degree (that and the suits). An enjoyable intellectual exercise has real people’s lives attached outside university.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Hmmm. I do agree that the whole thing was just so far away from anything acceptable/normal/etc.

              But I would like to point out that even mature employees often wrestle with things when the boss says, “Do it or be fired.” What the employee hears is “Do it or no food on the table for YOU!” The most recent example we see is with the catastrophic tornado last week. “Stay or be fired!” And we heard similar stories going back to the WTC.

              It’s called abuse of power. And it is not that unusual for an employee to cave and do the dirty work or remain in a very dangerous situation. This reason, in part, why Alison has been so popular all these years. This is a space to talk about this stuff where there aren’t too many places to get solid advice. It bothers me to say this, but abuse of power is more common than we may realize.

              In OP’s setting, OP comes across as reachable and teachable. The boss is a hopeless case and a total loss here. There is no doubt in my mind that OP has learned to loop in other people and get advice from others if (fate forbid!) something extraordinary happens again. I sincerely doubt that OP will ever face another horrible situation like this again, but if she does she has an action plan to deal with it.

              OP sounded very upset about it and I am sure it will weigh on her mind for a long time. Her remorse/sorrow is very visible. I kind of hope that the cohort at some point sees OP’s post sometime and finds some relief in the post. There is no doubt in my mind that the cohort was seriously upset/traumatized by it all. I wish them both peace.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                I completely agree with what you’ve said but I do think, understandably so, but still, some of the reactions to the LW are trying too hard to downplay her own role in this. Probably because she acknowledges what she did was bad, but it can go too far in the other direction.

                I’ve said this at other points, but what the LW presents here, to a completely disinterested group of individuals shortly after they’ve done something, comes across very differently to their colleagues who only see the remorse and pain after the cat’s out of the bag.

                I do very much hope the LW has moved past this and is in a job where she can trust management and isn’t subjected to the kind of treatment she experienced from her manager.

                1. Observer*

                  I’ve said this at other points, but what the LW presents here, to a completely disinterested group of individuals shortly after they’ve done something, comes across very differently to their colleagues who only see the remorse and pain after the cat’s out of the bag.

                  True. But that is HR’s *JOB*. They have the background, they know the boss, etc. They should not be acting out of shock and hurt, in any case. But given that they also have information and context that perhaps others don’t it especially problematic.

              2. HB*

                Very much this. Power is also interdependent. If my boss threatened me with my job in order to try to threaten me to do something I found morally repugnant, I would have no problem at all going to HR because I have a well-employed spouse and thus losing my job would be more of a massive inconvenience than an absolute catastrophe. *But* I also grew up in a highly educated upper middle class household. Even though I internalized a lot of destructive capitalist ideas about the working world (like thinking that I owed my job loyalty even though it didn’t owe me any loyalty – so I feel for a lot of the LW’s comments about fear of finding a new job) which would make me initially want to follow an order because it comes from my boss, I also grew up in a situation where I *always* had options. So if I felt something wasn’t right, I knew I could question it. At the very least, if something like this had happened to me right out of college when I was at my most vulnerable, I knew I would be able to go to my parents for help.

                And like this post said, that’s why Alison’s blog is so wonderful because it *tells people they have options* and tells them what those options are.

                Would really love to hear another update from the LW. I hope they found a job they love and are thriving.

              3. bamcheeks*

                OP comes across as reachable and teachable

                I think this is really important, and I’d be interested to know whether that came through to the HR people who made the decision to fire them or not.

                The professional ethics board for medicine here in the UK puts a very heavy emphasis on “have they learned from this experience, will they do better next time”. You can in principle lose your licence for a relatively minor breach if you don’t demonstrate self-insight and the ability to learn from the mistake, and keep it despite a fairly significant one if you can demonstrate insight and learning. There’s actually quite a lot of discussion about whether this accounts for some of the massive discrepancies in how likely non-UK-trained doctors are to be disciplined, and how severely: some of the cultural markers that demonstrate “contrition” and “respect” in other cultures are taken as “shifty”, “evasive” etc by British people.

                That said, there’s a very high bar for removing doctors’ licences because of the massive investment in their training and the high need for their skills. The bar for firing a very junior, entry-level member of staff is certainly much lower. :-/

                1. College Career Counselor*

                  Ah, but HR doesn’t really care if the employee is “reachable/teachable” because the calculus was made (either by HR or someone higher up) that OP had to be fired because it was in the best interests of the company. HR is not there to support the company’s employees, except insofar as supporting the company’s employees aligns with supporting the *company* itself. The second those two things diverge, HR’s allegiance is to the company above everything else.

                2. Calliope*

                  I read through some of the old comments last night when I couldn’t sleep, and this is what I came to, I think. Obviously the boss gets fired, post haste. But then I think the right thing to do is talk to the junior employee and try to get a sense of what was going on – did they buy into the boss’s way of doing things? Were they sorry? Did they see how it was wrong? Did they feel threatened by the boss? It sounds like HR didn’t do that from the letter – but to be honest, it can be hard to know how a conversation comes across to the other side when you only hear one side of it. That’s not doubting the LW’s word; we just don’t know what HR was perceiving.

                  I think because the LW knew they had done something wrong, there’s not a lot of point to lecturing them or taking them to task in the comment section. But I also think it’s ok to give advice which is why they wrote in – and the advice going forward is that sometimes when you’re put in no win situations, you have to be careful about how you proceed. In this case, for instance, the LW didn’t feel they could go to HR right away. But they could have told the boss they were going to the graveyard to buy some time and then tried to find someone trusted at the company or outside it to consult. And that’s reasonable advice, I think.

              4. Artemesia*

                The thing that shifts me to the view that she should NOT have been fired was that she was so new. And the boss who basically said that he didn’t tell her to do what was done, but just to ‘deliver’ the message was lying and it is sad that HR didn’t really listen to the OP. But she probably needed to get a different job even after she wasn’t fired, if she hadn’t been fired. This is one that is going to stick to her.

              5. PT*

                I worked in a safety-oriented environment where corners were cut all. the. time. Basically we were expected to uphold safety protocols as part of our jobs, but literally none of our bosses (as in, in the entire industry, hundreds of thousands of people) gave us the resources to do so. You made do with what you had, you got another job elsewhere, or you were fired. That’s just how it went.

                And when someone got caught out- there was an injury, or a death- the low level employee would get scapegoated. “Well, there were supposed to be two employees on duty and there was only one, that person should have refused to work alone so they were negligent.” Never mind that in the entire 20 years that facility was open there had never been two employees on duty at once.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I have such mixed feelings about the outcome.

        #1 (reading letter) oh, no, you should have gone to HR not delivered the letter. You knew it was wrong, but I understand being afraid of boss, but you go to HR to get protection from him.

        #2 (reading update 1) They fired boss? Great! They fired LW? Not great. Young, new employee was bullied by him. OTOH LW knew they did wrong. LW went back to look for the letter, but it was gone to try to undo damage, but they still didn’t report their boss to HR before the bereaved employee did. I feel for they LW, I don’t think they should have been fired, but you can’t excuse the LW as “just following orders” because any reasonable person knew they should not be followed. And even the LW knew that and did it anyway. And in this case, HR demonstrated that they would not have put up with it and would have punished the boss on the LW’s word if they’d brought the letter to HR instead of the cemetery.

        LW was wrong. They probably shouldn’t have been fired. That’s harsh for a person new to the workforce, but they could have expected some discipline because what they did was wrong.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Exactly. As of the second update, LW was still out of work, but what do you want to bet that the boss was happily being a manager somewhere else?

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > HR demonstrated that they would not have put up with it

          Yes, but only after the incident – I don’t think OP could predict that that would be HRs response. I could see OP just as easily thinking “I can’t take this to HR because I’d be fired for insubordination for not following the boss’s direction” for example.

          1. pancakes*

            I suppose, but she also passed up a chance to explain what happened to the coworker who found the letter. “There were no threats in [her email to me] and has been no other contact from her so there is nothing I can do about the email.” Why not respond to say something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry for my part in this. Boss asked me to leave it there and was deceptive about what it said. I thought it was a note of condolence.” The idea that nothing could be said unless and until the mourning coworker was making threats makes no sense at all.

          2. Cold Fish*

            Yes, and you also have to take into account

            1. OP was new to the working world so may/may not be aware of what HR is for. She had less than a years worth of experience! At that point in my career, HR was responsible for posting jobs and onboarding new employees. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me that they would have the authority to help me out in this kind of situation.

            2. You don’t always think clearly when you are a victim of bullying/abuse. Yes, she knew what she was doing was wrong but she was also worried about being yelled at and fired. I’ve been in the working world for 25+ years and I don’t know exactly how I would have handled boss’s dictate after months of working under a boss like that. It breaks you down and creates the headspace to do things you know aren’t right.

            1. Parakeet*

              Yep. There are many things about the comments on the first update, that are upsetting to me – all those people being self-righteous and comparing the OP to Nazis who followed orders to commit genocide! and acting like getting fired is no biggie, and like trying to destroy the life and career of someone who carried out a boss’ orders to be a jerk to you isn’t a wildly disproportionate response. But one of the more subtle ones is the assumption by so many people that the OP should have known to go to HR. It absolutely would not have occurred to me in my first job – or frankly, a couple of jobs later – that this is something HR (which, in my first couple of post-college jobs, was 1-2 people who also had other admin/operations responsibilities) could help with. Like you said, HR, in my understanding, was for posting jobs and onboarding newbies. And dealing with benefits.

        2. The Starsong Princess*

          The problem for OP is they would have been fired whatever happened. They would have been fired if they refused the boss, they would have been fired if they went to HR (either then if the boss said they were lying or later in retaliation by the boss) and they dropped off the note, which is what happened. It was the no- win scenario with a very young OP so chastising them for what they should have done doesn’t really work.

        3. Kevin Sours*

          The fact that HR does appear to have reflected on the fact that they put somebody like Boss in a supervisory position, allowed him to abuse his staff, and did not provide OP with the tools and training that would allow them to respond appropriately suggests that we should not expect them to have “punished the boss on the LW’s word”. This is an organizational failure. Instead of addressing that they went looking for scapegoats when they needed to cover their asses.

      3. Allonge*

        It’s not that I think OP should have been fired, but if the person who was the target of the letter goes to HR and says, look, I cannot work with the people involved in this any more, firing OP could have seemed the best way to go about fixing this. Yes, OP is a victim of the boss, but so is the letter addressee and HR might want to take the addressee’s point of view into consideration.

        1. RB Purchase*

          I totally agree. I do not think OP should have been fired but it seems from the urgency of OP’s boss that the Griever was a key person in the company that they couldn’t afford to lose if there was an ultimatum.

          I really hope in the several years since that OP has forgiven themselves for this lapse. It’s SO difficult when you’re starting your career to fully appreciate when an assignment from your boss is too f***ed up to fulfill.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, if this is how it happened it makes sense. If this *is* what happened though, HR should have fired OP in a way that would have allowed them to collect unemployment, given them severance, something.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah, the fact that they fired OP makes me so angry each time I read that update. At least they somehow managed to fire the actual perpetrator along with the entry-level scapegoat. They were worried about bad PR, well, them firing OP would be bad PR to me and I’d add them to the list of companies never to work for.

      5. pope suburban*

        I agree. I think firing the boss, who has the power and presumably the years of professional experience to know better, would have been enough. Firing a junior person who does not yet know norms (and frankly, if this is how their boss acts, I suspect what information they *did* have about the workplace was badly skewed) and who is deathly afraid of getting fired (and losing their home, and not being able to eat, and so on) is just cruelty. It makes me wonder if any of the people involved in that decision-making process have ever been in a situation where they had no safety net or advantages. LW was a victim of their boss’s massive sense of entitlement, and I think it’s terrible that anyone whose livelihood was threatened would be treated that way.

      6. Wisteria*

        I also (terrible as it sounds) would be giving a bit of side eye to the co-worker who contacted clients (!) to tell them about all this. It won’t be a popular opinion but I think they did overreact.

        It was completely not ok. I’m reminded of the LW whose significant other dumped her for his intern affair partner, who then started trash talking LW. LW was told something along the lines of, “don’t start anything that we might have to discipline you for while we deal with this.” Basically, Intern is wrong, and let’s keep this firmly in NTA territory, don’t make it an ESH situation. The grieving colleague went into ESH country.

      7. Observer*

        I read this letter at the time (and the update), didn’t really understand why OP was fired and I still don’t.

        The OP didn’t get fired because of what she did. She got fired because her HR is terrible and this was easier than dealing with the actual problem.

  3. Just somebody*

    I would really like a more recent update from that poor person who was caught up in the grave situation. I hope she is okay.

    1. Mid*

      Me too. It sounded like they had a rough go of things for a while, but I hope they landed in a great permanent position!

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, me too. How awful to think that she was fired from that job, and her former coworkers talked trash about her.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, it would be good to hear what happened next. I hope they ended up getting a new job and are happy now wherever they are. It was a bad judgment call but for totally understandable reasons, and it still makes me mad that they had to face the same consequences as the lousy boss who threatened their job if they didn’t do this crappy thing.

        1. Alice*

          Same, that update was so disappointing and I’m still mad. It was a bad judgement call but LW was new to the workforce and their boss has threatened their job.

    3. Media Monkey*

      same. i really hope she managed to get something else and is happier now. it was an awful situation her boss put her in and i can’t believe he took her down with him. did he win worst boss that year? i think he did.

      1. Beth*

        Worst Boss of 2017 and probably a contender for Worst Boss of the Decade.

        I also really wish we could get another update from that poor young woman — I really, really hope she’s landed in a great job in a great place!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Definitely not a happy ending. The OP was fired, ineligible for unemployment, pushed out of the field, and living at home. Six months later, she was temping as that’s all she could get.

        Part of me wants another update, but I’m scared to hear that things got worse instead of better.

    4. cubone*

      This is easily one of the saddest AAM letters (stories, really, with the multiple updates) and every time I’m reminded of it my heart breaks for the LW. The power dynamics of boss relationships can put people in such vulnerable positions to do things they never would in another context. It’s a really sad story.

  4. Heidi*

    Does LW2’s brother think that Ivy League students don’t do internships at all? I guess people have lots of weird misconceptions about how stuff works at that stage of life.

    1. Wendy*

      There’s a whole category of internships for “rich kids who want work experience that sounds really good on paper but doesn’t actually require much work.” That’s what half the Ivy League grads are doing. The other half have work-study jobs and real actual work experience because college is expensive as all get-out :-P

    2. bamcheeks*

      The thing is, brand name schools totally sell themselves on what “brand name!!!!” gets you, and it’s not unreasonable for 18 year olds to not see through the marketing! It’s a right pain for us working in careers centres: you get all these students coming in, having been told by Marketing and Recruitment the Uni of X Broadcasting Media department has amazing links with Massive Media Company and here are all our graduates who got jobs with Massive Media Company and if you come and do a Broadcasting Media degree at X University you’re practically GUARANTEED a perfect media career, and we have to come along and undo all that and say, nope, about one in ten of you will go and work in the media, and if you want to be that one in ten you should start looking for internships and work experience from day 1. Repeat for psychology students all expecting to become Clinical Psychologists, law students who all think they’ll be lawyers, sport science students who all expect jobs in elite sport…

      1. Smithy*

        I was an anthropology major in undergrad – and while I did have the common sense of what that did and did not mean, there was a period where I was looking to transfer to a larger school. One of the school’s Anthropology Department’s had a list of all the non-academic jobs people got after majoring in the field, and it was truly a list of every job you’d ever heard of ever. Doctor, lawyer, politician, farmer, librarian, actor, business owner, pharmacist, bench scientist, accounting, etc etc etc.

        I guess it came about as a means of telling parents that their anthropology studying student from this amazing school could definitely get a job, but even then I could tell it essentially said “you better have a second major/be making other plans”.

        1. Calliope*

          Anthropology major lawyer here and I do think this is true, but I don’t think it’s totally a bad thing – few people are cut out for academia (I’m certainly not!) but I do think studying anthropology gave me a perspective that’s very useful as a lawyer for a variety of reasons. And law schools don’t care what you major in.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I mean, the way I’d tell you to read that is, “liberal arts majors are highly sought after and enable you to enter a huge range of careers”. That’s not making “other” plans, it’s just making plans!

        3. Wendy*

          My freshman year at Duke, the college put together a list of the average starting salary for recent graduates by major. Religion majors were really raking it in at a $300K average! Of course, that’s because Shane Battier was one of the five religion majors the previous year – had just graduated and went straight into the NBA :-D

      2. Rachel Greep*

        My nephew got a baseball/academic scholarship to a well known (not Ivy League) private university. Baseball was not working out, so he was considering transferring to junior college to play in the hopes of getting an offer from another D1 school. He really struggled with the decision between having a degree from this prestigious school and continuing to pursue his baseball career. I told him that future employers care that he has a degree, not where it comes from. The name of the college is something cool to brag about senior year of high school, but it doesn’t really matter out in the real world.

      3. pancakes*

        Maybe, but it is unreasonable for teens making decisions about college to only speak with fellow teens about what to expect and how to parse the marketing.

    3. Beth*

      Younger Brother is also assuming that he’ll stay with accounting right through college, and work in that field afterwards. Neither of those is a safe assumption.

      I remember that at my 10-year college reunion, I was the ONLY person in my group who was actually working in the field I had studied! I think the average rate was about 27% the last time a study was published.

      1. kitryan*

        I had a friend in high school who opted out of math after meeting the requirement because she’d never need it, she was going to be an actor. If she took math her sr year that was allowing for the possibility that she might need backup plans and might not make it as an actress and this would basically cause her to fail due to her lack of commitment to her dream.
        Guess who’s not an actress.
        As far as I can tell, she got pretty much no professional gigs after college and has had a very piecemeal work history.
        That’s what this sort of thinking always reminds me of. Stuff changes, it’s good to have a variety of experiences both to help with pursuing one’s ideal career path and to just be the kind of person who has options in life.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Also, math is useful for life in general even if your career doesn’t seem to need much of it. That’s actually true of most high school classes. I took a many classes as I could reasonably handle because it was free education. I can’t say that taking three foreign languages has directly helped me in my career as an engineer. But they were interesting at the time and gave me a broad perspective of language in general. Communication is on of my “soft skills” that I always get good feedback on, so maybe those classes helped me indirectly.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Or the teenager with good communication skills is more likely to take multiple foreign language classes?

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            For some reason I found the skills I learned in foreign language classes useful for coding. Maybe because, technically, coding is actually communicating in a different language?

          3. kitryan*

            I mean, generally, I feel like some people are very clearly intellectually curious and some aren’t and given the choice in hiring/coworkers, I’ll always want someone who’s down to learn stuff, it’s a whole outlook that comes into play in how a person works and lives their life.
            Side note, I took a retail job between undergrad and grad school at a Mailboxes Etc and almost nothing has been as universally useful to me as knowing a bit about shipping services and packing techniques / materials has. Almost every job thereafter has touched on those skills in some way, which was not something I’d ever have expected.

      2. doreen*

        I think some of that both depends on which field you are talking about and exactly how you are defining “field”. To use accounting as an example , the people I know with accounting degrees are all employed in that field, although their actual job titles vary from accountant to management auditor to IRS
        agent . Few of the people I know with bachelor’s degrees in psychology went on to become clinical psychologists – but I wouldn’t say the ones who became mental health counselors or social workers or CPS workers or probation officers or school guidance counselors have gone into a completely different field.

      3. hamburke*

        Most of my college class/department-mates are working in the field we studied (chemistry) but it’s a wide range of jobs! I think I’m the only one of the 28 of us that graduated that year that doesn’t have a chem or chem-adjacent job (science majors from a liberal arts schools, weird bunch).

        And every single one of us worked/work-studied/interned in the field while a student. This is a state school, well-regarded here, but not a public ivy or even a flagship,

      4. RB Purchase*

        He’s also assuming he will have a great GPA in college just because he has a great GPA in high school. I know plenty of great high school students who settled for “Cs get degrees” in college because the parties were rad.

    4. Curious*

      Is work-study no longer a thing? That’s where I — on financial aid at an Ivy League institution — got my first office-work experience (albeit more years ago than I care to admit).

      1. dresscode*

        It is, but depending on your institution, they sometimes only have so many to give out. In my Master’s program, they were all or mostly reserved for international and out of state students to help counterbalance the tuition costs.

  5. Astor*

    I really like “I’m pretending I’m alone in here, Jane.” It’s something I can imagine myself saying warmly with ease and also something I’d hear without feeling badly that I’d misjudged the other person’s preferences!

    1. JustaTech*

      I had a coworker who wanted to chat in the bathroom when she first started until I was forced to say “hey, I don’t talk in the bathroom”.

      What I wanted to say was “This isn’t a middle school dance and you sit right next to me, let me have my four minutes of peace!”

      I will say the coworker took it well and never pushed the boundary again (unlike most of the rest of the boundaries I put up with her).

    2. The Starsong Princess*

      OP should quote Bender in The Breakfast Club “Don’t talk. Don’t talk. It makes it crawl back up.”

    1. John Smith*

      I think there should be a “Worst Boss Of All Time” and he’d win that by a landslide too. Totally disgraceful and unforgivable.

    2. Kiwiapple*

      has there been a worst boss of 2021? I haven’t seen a poll like previous years. maybe there’s just too many??

      1. Ashkela*

        We’re on final round I believe! It’s down to the last two. I know one of them is the boss who wrote in to complain about the employee whose paycheck was late daring to speak to HR. Scroll back a day or two and you’ll find it I believe.

        1. Willis*

          It looks like a bunch of the posts from this year are gone? Or there is a weird glitch? They show up in search results but then say something along the lines of “this page no longer exists” when you click on any of the 2021 worst boss posts.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            If it’s the voting posts, they may not be fully accessible in order to be able to tally up the final votes.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I took the worst boss of the year polls down. I normally don’t nominate letter-writers themselves, inadvertently let one slip through this year (the “my employee wasn’t respectful enough about not being paid” letter), decided it was justifiable and left it up, and then didn’t feel right about it. Frankly, I didn’t give it as much attention as I should have when I first realized the mistake; I’ve been sick for a big chunk of my vacation and exhausted, plus taking care of a husband recovering from surgery and dealing with some other family health stuff (including a beloved niece who just had open heart surgery), and I’m running at low capacity health-wise and sleep-wise and don’t trust the earlier call I made on it.

      I’m actually thinking it could be time to stop the worst boss contest for good but I will figure that out once I have more bandwidth.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        That totally makes sense. I know readers love the polls and the nominations, so maybe a more lighthearted contest would work. Things like:

        Happiest update of the year (high stakes and low stakes categories)
        Weirdest story of the year
        Letter most wanted to be come fanfic or TV series

      2. the cat's ass*

        I hope everyone gets better/recovers quickly/gets some rest. We can let graveside letter boss have it for this year, too.

      3. kkt*

        Alison, so sorry much of your vacation was taken up with being sick instead of having fun! Best wishes to you and your family.

      4. Just somebody*

        Thanks for doing this. It was bothering me too.

        I’m really sorry about everything going on in your life right now. When it rains it pours, feels like. You’ve shared a number of little snippets about a niece, she’s hilarious and wonderful and I’ll keep her and your whole family in my thoughts. (I would if she was an absolute toad as well, sympathy during hard times doesn’t need to be earned–but that’s a digression.)

  6. Pennyworth*

    #5 – as soon as I enter a bathroom stall I effectively become deaf. The only thing I would respond to is an emergency.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I will never forget the coworker who, after I entered a stall and sat down to do my thing, decided to ask me what I was working on. I’m in a stall and am hearing a repeated “What are you working on?” that gets louder each time. I thought someone else had come in and she was talking to that person, because the alternative was far too weird! Told a group of friends and someone said I should’ve responded with “the burrito I had for lunch!” (insert the appropriate sounds)

  7. The Prettiest Curse*

    In the comments to the original post of #3, somebody mentions playing a board game called Pandemic. I would say that we’re all playing that game right now, but they also mention that it’s a collaborative game where all the players are on the same side…

    1. Tali*

      I saw that too, oof. It’s like seeing that 2019 Ted Talk or whatever warning us of the next pandemic…

      1. Wintermute*

        Totally agreed, co-op games are much better in a lot of cases, especially when you and the group you’ll be playing with don’t really know each other and the level of competitiveness you enjoy very well.

        The thing with most traditional games is that unless their design is so random that they’re not much fun at all, by a quarter of the way through there’s usually a clear leader and a clear no-hoper who could not possibly win, and by the last third of the game there’s usually a few people who have literally no chance of winning.

        Unless the game itself is so much fun you’d keep going regardless, that’s a big ask, for someone to commit several more hours to a game they cannot win just so the people who are winning or within range of it can finish out the game. This leads to half the board being disengaged and on their phone or just tuned out, which slows the pace down even further, and it just leads to a bad time.

        In a co-op game even if you’re not the one who pulled the best items or got some great dice rolls, or got the right abilities to form a super-combo you can still pick a niche, whether that’s covering the rear, running around finishing off the downed zombies before they get back up after your combat monster knocks them all down, ferrying around items for the team or acting as a healer or source of bonus dice.

        In short, everyone’s in the game the whole time and there’s a lot less friction.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Sigh, I used to love that game. But now I can’t enjoy it for obvious reasons. Maybe they will re-tool it so it has the same game play as a different theme.

      FYI, another good cooperative strategy game is Forbidden Island, although it’s a lot less complex than Pandemic. Dungeons & Dragons can also fill that role depending on your group.

    3. Anonononononymous*

      My partner and I finished up Pandemic: Legacy not two weeks before our state went into shut down from COVID. It felt really odd to say the least. Especially considering I technically work in Public Health.

      Great game. I would recommend it. Though not for everyone right now.

      1. LizB*

        I was two games from the end of Pandemic: Legacy when the real pandemic hit… we still haven’t been able to bring ourselves to finish it up.

    4. Elenna*

      Oooh, Pandemic’s a great game! My sister and I played it at a board game cafe in late 2019, and in the middle of the March 2020 “we’re stuck at home, what shall we do with all this free time” phase, we decided to create our own handmade version of it. Yes, the choice of game was a bit of an f-you to the circumstances, although we also just wanted to play that game.
      Turned out pretty nice, although it took many more months than we initially expected because it turns out that actually the internet can eat up a whole lot of the aforementioned free time. And yes, we’ve played and enjoyed it several times since then (although I’m sure it helps that our family has been lucky enough to personally be pretty much unscathed by the pandemic).

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      In the before times, I used to go to a gathering/convention type of event that was called The Pandemic. There was swag. I have a wine glass, a shot glass, and a beer glass at home all labeled THE PANDEMIC! My son that was living with me during the 2020 shutdown, happened upon them, and was extremely impressed. And yes, I’ve been using those glasses daily in the last 21 months.

  8. River*

    #3) I loved the letters and the follow ups. As a weekend warrior kayak instructor and raft guide in the PNW… This letter was really interesting to read.

    I’ve taken the ACA whitewater kayak instructor training from two different kayak instructor trainers. The first spent an entire day reviewing the waiver and legal stuffs with a complete emphasis and reliance that you will always and in all ways be covered if you have a waiver. I think this approach to teaching gives the impressions that the risk adversion across guides really doesn’t matter because all clients sign waivers. I’ve seen raft guides do incredibly dangerous and stupid risky things because they can hold up a waiver like a shield. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

    The other instructor took that time and did so many more rescues scenarios and drills. We talked about the different nuances in decision making. It was absolutely fascinating the difference between the two instructor trainers

    If I had been faced with your scenario , I would hold an in services skill building with rescue scenarios at a local pool so that everyone is on the same page for how to handle the different scenarios and decision making. It also ensures that if you have enough people for multiple instructors on a trip, they know how to co-lead.

    1. bamcheeks*

      As a potential client, I thought it was so interesting that Paul’s idea of “good decision, well made” was “we all got back safely” and not “my clients had a good time”! That’s not the kind of kayaking instructor I want.

      1. FridayFriyay*

        Yeah the description of Paul’s approach had be sweating bullets. I’m admittedly somewhat biased because I grew up in a very small community where a boy just a few years older than me was severely injured in a rafting accident being led by a local tour company and a several relatively young guides who weren’t able to salvage the situation. He was profoundly disabled (nonverbal, very low cognitive function, exclusive wheelchair user and paralyzed from the neck down) from that accident and recently died in his mid-30s. It really hammered home the survivor’s bias of the “well everything was fine” attitude. Yes, 98% of the time it’s fine and people get through safely, but when you take risks in that sort of setting the consequences can be staggering. It only takes one serious accident to sober you up about how much risk you’re willing to put yourself, the company, and your groups through for an “adventure.” Clear guidance for all tour guides seems essential here and is in everyone’s best interest.

      2. Yorick*

        Agreed, I disliked the “clients had a good story to tell” mentality. If most of the clients are too stressed to enjoy themselves, maybe you should cut it short even if you think it’s safe enough.

      3. EmmaPoet*

        Speaking as a risk-averse person and potential client, anyone telling me this would have me running the other way. And warning my friends.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I work in personal injury law. Waiver: Give me a moment to roll my eyes. … OK, I’m back. As a matter of personal curiosity, I really want to see this outfit’s liability insurance policy. It must be prodigious! Next, as a mental exercise, let us imagine the discovery requests in the lawsuit. It would include that insurance policy as a matter of course, but it will also include all written policies about safety procedures, all training materials, and the specifics of this guide’s training. That’s just off the top of my head while sipping my morning coffee. There would be much, much more. In the meantime, what jumps out at me is that I see nothing in the letter or the update about those written policies. Do they even exist? That seems like a thing that an adventure travel company would have, if its interest in its clients goes beyond the check clearing. If they do exist, did Paul follow them? It would be odd for this not to arise in the ensuing discussion, which makes me think that there is no written policy. Now imagine the discussion of this absence in the closing arguments to the jury.

      1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        It sounds like the kind of place where they think that having written policies would stifle the guides’.. independence? Spontaneity? Like there’s no middle ground between “you must follow these step-by-step instructions exactly” and “you have free reign to do anything you like”.

        It does sound like OP is headed in the right direction with the training on decision making processes, and hopefully Paul doesn’t spend another summer making their life difficult courtesy of people in power pulling strings for him.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Or simple laziness. Drafting policies would take work. Drafting good ones would take even more work.

          1. Curious*

            Written policies are important — indeed, in this context, necessary — but I doubt that you can prescribe a comprehensive algorithm that will determine what to do. At the end of the day, this kind of activity will require the exercise of judgment. I think it *is* fair to instruct a guide that their employer has a lower risk appetite, and that they need to make judgments with that in mind.

      2. PT*

        I worked in fitness and I’d hear stupid stuff like this all the time. Well they signed a WAIVER.

        No. The waiver covers normal and expected injury in the course of the exercise. Not negligence on the part of the facility or instructor.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          When you also take into consideration that “assumption of risk” is a really, really good defense, it makes you wonder if those waivers aren’t a complete waste of time. I have a daughter in the Girl Scouts. The GS are waiver-happy. The lawyer parent in the troop and I exchange eye rolls as we sign them. That being said, the existence of a waiver might discourage a potential plaintiff who doesn’t get to the point of talking to a lawyer.

          1. Wintermute*

            Waivers are often there not for their legal effect but their psychological one.

            Signing a waiver tends to key you in to the fact you are undertaking a risky activity, that you need to have your wits about you. They also serve as a reminder from the company that you have to take your own responsibility in your hands, the guides are there to help but ultimately you have to be responsible.

            They also serve to dissuade nuisance lawsuits from that same effect. Yeah, they COULD still file a baseless suit, but those “I’m totally going to call my lawyer!” types who use legal threats to win arguments about service tend to be cowed by things like signed waivers.

  9. Anonynon*

    Not that the “wah, my employee wasn’t respectful when we didn’t pay her” boss doesn’t 1,000% deserve it, but does reposting the “Note On A Grave” story mean we can vote that boss Worst Boss Of The Year again? Because if so, it might be a tie….

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      After reading the two updates to this letter, I’d strongly consider this boss the worst of all times. The boss was allowed to throw the LW under the bus, and the LW was trash-talked throughout their industry. It just sucks as the power imbalance was such that it should be easy to see why the LW did what she was told.

      1. le teacher*

        This is one of those letters on AAM that haunts me. In my first few years in my career, I was an intense rule follower and I can see myself in OP’s situation. If my boss told me to do something, I would do it. Clearly the OP felt so guilty and torn up about it and I really place the blame squarely on the boss for that one. So awful.

        1. Dwight Schrute*

          Same here. I could totally see myself in OPs situation as a new grad and employee with few options and being terrified of being let go.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Exactly. It took freaking STONES to tell my boss (retail job in university) that I wasn’t doing (insert illegal stuff here) because I literally needed X hours to make rent. There was no fluff.

        2. Ama*

          Yeah, back in my 20s I had a boss who was fired for embezzlement and I realized afterwards he had spent much of the six months we worked together testing to see if I would be as inattentive as his previous admin was. (He had been embezzling by charging expenses on his company credit card and then also requesting reimbursement as if he had paid for them directly — which was something I actually flagged that he had done on the first expense report he gave me, thinking he’d done it by mistake. Apparently previous admin never checked his work that closely.) Later he tried to tell me that I could book a plane ticket for a personal trip on company funds as a reward.

          The only reason I didn’t just believe him flat out is because the boss I had before Embezzlement Boss never knew what the company’s expense policy was (which he openly acknowledged) and so had taught me to check with the finance office directly any time I wasn’t sure about an expense — I assumed that Embezzlement Boss was the same way. I still cringe a bit at the memory of how naïve I was in going back to him to say ” I double checked with the finance office and the policy is pretty clear that personal plane tickets aren’t allowed on company funds, so I don’t think we can do that but thanks for the offer.” If I hadn’t had the previous boss I probably would have just believed Embezzlement Boss about that personal plane ticket and gotten myself in some serious hot water.

          1. pope suburban*

            Oh god, I’ve been there too and I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I could never prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my boss was not simply profoundly ignorant of the rules, rather than knowingly attempting malfeasance, but that didn’t really make it less stressful. In my case, he thought I just wasn’t bright enough to catch him, but I’d had jobs before that had taught me some basic rules, and I was a stickler for transparency, so I would bring everything to our business manager and/or accountant when something looked hinky. It was an exhausting dance, but I’m grateful that that wasn’t my first job, so I had the tools to keep myself out of some really serious trouble. I will never, ever understand what is wrong with some people that they feel entitled to do these things. If nothing else, it hardly seems worth the inevitable comeuppance- surely paying for your own car is cheaper than what will happen when you get audited and end up in bad bad trouble!

            1. Observer*

              If nothing else, it hardly seems worth the inevitable comeuppance- s

              Well, this is where a bit of humility is useful. Most of these folks are SURE that THEY will never get caught. Because THEY are sooo much smarter than prior thieves. And the people around them are sooo stupid.

              After all, your boss was so sure that you were not “bright enough” to catch him, even though you clearly saw that he was out of line.

              1. pope suburban*

                Fair point. It was just so, so obvious that I couldn’t get my head around *not* entertaining the possibility that it would end in him getting caught. He was a particularly unsettling blend of genuinely ignorant (He was an IT guy who couldn’t fix software or hardware problems; he’d gotten his previous job through family connections) and awfully rude (and prejudiced, which certainly factors into why he thought he could get this stuff by me), so that it was never clear *which* particular personality dysfunction was driving the bus to a bad idea. Oh well, I suppose I’m grateful that I can’t understand it, and I’m definitely grateful I’m not dealing with it anymore.

          2. Observer*

            That is both hysterically funny and really, really scary. Basically he was trying to get you in trouble so that you wouldn’t be able to get him in trouble. What an awful person.

            How did his embezzlement come to light?

  10. CatBookMom*

    #1 above is my personal choice for Worst Story Ever, with the updates, wherein she got fired, as the WORST boss/company treatment of an employee, ever. Yes, she was new. Yada. She made a choice, to follow her overbearing boss’s directive. And then she was shunned, fired, ostracized.

    Worst ever. Stop.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yes, I think this person and the boss from this year’s Worst Boss who was cruel about the death of the letter writer’s son are The Worst Bosses In Any Ask A Manager Letter, Ever. The level of callousness involved in both situations is just astounding.

    2. bamcheeks*

      yeah, the first letter is like, “huh, bad boss, contender for worst boss of the year”. The updates where LW had been ostracised and fired because the boss refused to take responsibility for the decision and continued to blame LW even though it didn’t save their own job raised it to extra special heights. I feel SO bad for that poor LW!

    3. Be kind, rewind*

      I know. The OP may have made the wrong choice, but she was so remorseful and wouldn’t have done it if she weren’t under duress.

      The boss, on the other hand, was intentionally being a selfish, awful person.

      The fact that they both got the same punishment is beyond unjust.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, there’s a huge difference between doing something unethical that you were ordered to do because you’re scared of losing your job and ordering a junior employee to do something unethical because you know that they will be scared of losing their job.

    4. anonymous73*

      Yes the boss is the absolute worst, but the HR department isn’t far behind. She did not deserve the same punishment as her boss.

      1. Wintermute*

        What would you do though, if there’s so much hurt feelings and damage to the working relationship no one will work with someone? I’m not sure they had a lot of choice there.

    5. Wintermute*

      I don’t think what the company did was at all unreasonable or even particularly bad treatment– She caused someone a lot of pain and distress and if that damaged working relationships beyond repair I can understand why they went that route. Being fired isn’t a “punishment”, it’s a business choice, after all. It may just not have been possible to keep them after the damage done.

      I am heartened the boss ALSO got fired though, any attempts to shelter behind the original LW were in vain. I have to actually give them credit for going to the root of the problem even if the behavior was so egregious or the damage done so severe that they couldn’t justify keeping the LW around.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 – I read this letter at the time (and the update), didn’t really understand why OP was fired and I still don’t. Obviously I realise it’s objectively a terrible thing to do – but I think there were mitigating circumstances – I wouldn’t have fired her for that. Would she be fired in most companies?

    I also (terrible as it sounds) would be giving a bit of side eye to the co-worker who contacted clients (!) to tell them about all this. It won’t be a popular opinion but I think they did overreact.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Counterpoint to that would be, there are some actions where mitigating circumstances mean absolutely nothing to the person who’s been wronged.

      If someone’s off for three weeks bereavement leave? That indicates either the company is very generous or it’s a spouse or a child that’s died. And someone left a note regarding work tasks on their grave.

      I can feel sympathy for the LW but I also don’t think the coworker in question should have to deal with the boss or LW ever again and that means LW gets fired.

      1. Coffee Cup*

        I don’t know, I think the OP’s name should never have come into it at all. It was all on the boss.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t know, as the person who actually carried out the boss’s orders I think they do bear some responsibility. He’s the ultimate villain, of course, but if I was in the colleagues situation I don’t think that I could just dismiss the OP’s participation.

          1. londonedit*

            The whole thing is a mess and I can completely understand that the OP was new to the working world and terrified of being fired if they didn’t do what their boss told them to do, but at the same time leaving what looks like a condolence card but actually turns out to be a load of work-related questions *on the grave of the person the co-worker is off work grieving for* is just so awful that I really can’t blame the co-worker for a) telling everyone what a terrible thing Boss and OP did and b) not wanting to work with either of them again. If the boss really had to get in touch with the co-worker, why not send a note to their house? Why resort to the absolutely batshit solution of leaving a card at the grave, and why send a junior member of staff to do it? I do understand that the OP might not have known how these things are meant to work, but they absolutely should have gone to HR rather than to the cemetery.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Yep, agree with all of this. It’s just such an egregiously awful act.

              And I don’t believe for a second that this boss actually thought that this was a genuine way to get information from the grieving colleague. It strikes me much more as lashing out at her for daring to not answer his calls, kind of like something a vindictive ex might do if you’d been ignoring them – “you think you can ignore me?? Ignore THIS”, that kind of thing. Very personal and malicious. If that’s how it felt to the colleague then I can absolutely see why she would just want nothing to do with anyone involved, let alone the person who actually carried it out.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                Leaving it at the grave is a message. The manager already has the employee’s address or easy access to it.

                It still would have been a massive overstep delivering it to their home, but it would have also have been much less of a violation. That was deliberate and calculated cruelty.

                1. Overit*

                  I have always wondered how the boss knww what cemetery it was and that the employee was going to visir the grave daily.

              2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

                Interesting, I didn’t read it as lashing out or ‘sending a message’ etc, rather that the boss (in his mind) genuinely did need the answers to those questions and knew the coworker was (rightly, of course) ignoring him. It seems to me more like the way “process servers” trick someone into being served by posing as someone else… by presenting the letter in a way that looks like a condolence card, and placing it on the grave, ensures that coworker will open it and see it. I don’t actually think the intent was malicious, per se!

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  Tricking someone into reading correspondence by disguising it as condolence card left on a grave where the dirt would still be fresh is not a tactic used by someone with good intent.

                2. Critical Roll*

                  That’s a wild take. Disguising intrusive work communications as condolences and then bullying a very junior employee into leaving them ON THE GRAVE is inherently malicious to the point of inviting armchair diagnosis.

              3. IndustriousLabRat*

                “like something a vindictive ex might do if you’d been ignoring them – “you think you can ignore me?? Ignore THIS”

                That’s how it struck me as well, and made me think about how restraining orders (at least in my state, where I’ve had to file for one) have a clause that EXPRESSLY forbids the individual under the order from using an intermediary to attempt to make contact with the person to whom it was granted. Very personal and malicious, indeed.

            2. Observer*

              If the boss really had to get in touch with the co-worker, why not send a note to their house? Why resort to the absolutely batshit solution of leaving a card at the grave, and why send a junior member of staff to do it

              Because the boss is a terrible person. They knew where the employee lived, but they probably knew that anyone who answered the door would refuse to take the letter. Doing it this way means that the person will be “forced” to see the letter while causing the maximum amount of pain. And make no mistake, the Boss surely was intending to cause as much pain, because he was angry that the person had had the temerity to take off.

              Why send the junior staff person? Because he thought he would be able to blame it on her. And when he saw that it was not entirely flying, he still preferred to see her lose her job than admit the truth.

              Like I said, just a terrible, terrible person.

          2. LDN Layabout*

            It’s also far easier for us to sympathise with the LW because they’re the ones who emailed in, scared and contrite but all HR and their coworkers see is someone who’s behaved that way once they were caught.

            1. anonymous73*

              Based on the first update it seems like HR didn’t even give OP a chance to tell her side of the story though. They had the grieving employee’s story and the jerk boss denial. Based on the content of the letter did they really believe OP wrote it? I feel like she got the shaft, although being new it seems she didn’t really stand up for herself either. HR is supposed to be unbiased, and while the act of leaving the card demonstrates very poor judgement, it deserves an explanation in order to make a fair decision.

              1. LDN Layabout*

                Based on the update she was not accused of writing it, only of delivering it. And unfortunately OP only got to give her part of the story after the letter was discovered which makes any defense of what she did much weaker.

                It explicitly states that boss denied threatening her job, so OP did get a chance to state her case to HR. I don’t agree with what HR did, but I can also see not trusting either her or her boss.

                1. Observer*

                  I don’t agree with what HR did, but I can also see not trusting either her or her boss.

                  Given his track record and what he’d been allowed to get away with till that point, I don’t agree. They knew that he was perfectly capable of doing something like that.

                2. LDN Layabout*

                  And they could have considered it irrelevant because the LW did what they were accused of doing and did not inform anyone before being caught. At every point LW made the worst possible decision and there’s no proof for HR that they didn’t buy into the boss’ plan.

          3. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

            I might agree more heartily with holding the LW responsible if she hadn’t had less than a year of work experience. Someone with 5 or 10 years of experience- absolutely should have gone straight to HR, but this LW was in her first job, clearly had an awful boss and reached out pretty immediately to Allison after feeling awful for being pressured into this. She even went back to get it but it was already gone. I, personally, can forgive them everything. They were caught up in this and the boss would not have asked someone more savvy to do it. LW was a victim here. Who has certainly paid a heavy price. I hope she is doing okay now.

            1. Colette*

              I agree with this. I also understand why the person who received the note might not agree.

              (And I wish the OP had decided to not deliver it and tell her boss she did.)

              1. Noxalas*

                That’s what I thought I’d probably end up doing if I was in that situation – stash it in my glove compartment or something, then claim the wind must’ve blown it away if it ever was mentioned again. Lying is bad, of course, but so is being put in such a predicament to begin with.

            2. Olivia Oil*

              I think this is an example of a situation where the LW did screw up, but she immediately realized the gravity of what she did which is, I would say, a resolution in itself? Like, at least Alison and the commentariat didn’t have to explain to LW why what she did was bad (like some other LWs), and the LW is unlikely to repeat this type of mistake again.

              Like, I’ve made honest mistakes in the past that I’ve learned from. But the people who were directly inconvenienced by those mistakes have a right to negatively judge me for them. It is what it is.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            Couple things:
            OP didn’t have enough capital built up at work for people to say “This is 100% on Fergus and 0% on his minion.” He was probably spinning hard about how she took it on herself, young people and the internet they can figure out where graves are, and it was a he said/she said with the note on the fresh grave of an immediate family member as the only bit of evidence. “Cleanse it with fire” can be the response then.

            With perfect hindsight, OP should have gone straight to someone higher up and said “Boss wants me to leave a note on the grave of Jane’s husband/child.” In some cases, if you knew a company bus was careening over a cliff–but you kept your head down and it wasn’t your fault and you just followed orders and didn’t alert anyone–then the company will fire you too.

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah, with perfect hindsight even if the OP didn’t know/didn’t feel they could approach HR (I can see a new-to-work employee not knowing that they could go to HR for something outrageous like this, they might think HR is just payroll and discipline), you’d have hoped there might be someone, anyone, that the OP could have approached – a manager who wasn’t their direct boss, even a peer who’d been at the company longer – to say ‘Hey, Fergus has asked me to take this card to Jane’s husband’s grave and leave it there. I’m not sure I feel comfortable with that, but I don’t know how to say no to Fergus. What should I do here?’. Admittedly in a screwed-up company like this one, they might still have got ‘If Fergus tells you to do something, do it, otherwise you’ll be out the door’, but at least it would have given them a second opinion and you’d hope that the response would have been ‘What?! That’s outrageous – I’ll come with you to HR and we’ll sort all of this out now’.

            2. anonymous73*

              But is it reasonable to believe a minion would write note to co-worker asking about work updates? If she was too new to think to go to HR, wouldn’t she also be too new to write such a note and bother someone who was out on leave (regardless of the reason)?

          5. Beth*

            The employee was bullied and threatened by her boss. It’s not a good approach to blame the victim of that kind of bullying (or any other kind).

            1. LDN Layabout*

              The employee participated in the bullying of another employee. Being abused does not give you the right to abuse other people in turn.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Let’s not get carried away here.

                Was it wrong? Yes. Was it bullying? No. It was highly insensitive to someone grieving, but not bullying.

                I think the person did overreact by contacting CLIENTS. You don’t spread your dirty laundry out. I mean a burn it all down approach was not good either.

                1. LDN Layabout*

                  The boss repeatedly attempted to contact the employee during a time where it’s understood that you do not contact employees. Employee ignored this, boss escalated to the point of interfering with the employee’s mourning.

                  That’s bullying.

                  And yes, the person shouldn’t have contacted clients. That doesn’t mean the LW isn’t responsible for their own actions in the first place.

                2. Calliope*

                  We don’t know how the client conversations went down though. Was it a call when the person returned that went “oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I am glad you got to take some time off.” “Well, not really, [BOSS] had [JUNIOR ASSOCIATE] leave a note on my dad’s grave with work info, I’m livid.”

                  Like, no, that’s not the best. But that’s also not really contacting clients just to badmouth and I also kind of get it. Plus, if I were the grieving coworker, I’d be thinking about whether I wanted to jump ship and take clients with me and laying that kind of ground work isn’t necessarily dumb.

              2. Wisteria*

                Being abused does not give you the right to abuse other people in turn.

                How far do you take this? Do you extend this to the grieving coworker, as well? Are you prepared to say that smearing OP’s name to clients was abusive, and she doesn’t get a pass just bc she was abused?

                1. Heffalump*

                  Sounds like the coworker represented to clients that the OP had complete agency, leaving out the fact that she did what she did under duress. That’s a selective piece of the truth about her actions = smearing.

              3. Curious*

                This is literally shooting the messenger (well, firing rather than shooting, but still). I think that acting purely as the delivery agent fits poorly within the concept of “participat[ing] in the bullying.”

      2. Heffalump*

        The coworker’s anger is 100% justified, but it should be directed at the boss, not the LW. The LW is as much a victim as the coworker.

      3. Wisteria*

        Counterpoint to that would be, there are some actions where mitigating circumstances mean absolutely nothing to the person who’s been wronged.

        What is the goal of consequences in this case, then? Is the goal to help the wronged person get revenge or is the goal to reduce or remove future harm? The ultimate source of the harm was OP’s boss, not OP. To reduce future harm for all employees, firing OP’s boss is the right way to go.

      4. Observer*

        I can feel sympathy for the LW but I also don’t think the coworker in question should have to deal with the boss or LW ever again and that means LW gets fired.

        I don’t agree. I’m not sure that the injured party gets to never have to deal with OP again. But even if that makes sense, the company is big enough for the OP to have been transferred. And the trash talk? Sorry, totally out of line.

        Especially sine she knows that the Boss *is* a piece of trash and won’t behave even then HR tries (tepidly) to rein him in.

      5. Wintermute*

        This is where I come down on it. I totally understand how the aggrieved party would want nothing to do with them ever again, and how that could spread to everyone that head about what happened.

        Firing someone isn’t a punishment, it’s a business choice. If there’s absolutely no working relationship between two people possible any more, one of them is going to have to go if you can’t work around it somehow. And it would be cruelty beyond the pale to fire the person who was upset someone intruded on a funeral for being upset about it.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The OP was fired because they were an entirely expendable junior employee caught up in the damage control measures. “God will know his own.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. It was all about the superficial how things look aspect of the problem. Additionally, many, many people cannot deal with a crying person. It’s true that is hard to do. The most efficient way out was for HR to fire both people.

        But with those firings, HR is not done. They have only started to trouble shoot this one. I hope HR takes a long hard look at what is going on in their company that allows the toxic cesspool of a boss to even exist there.

        If I were on the receiving end of this disaster, I don’t think I would even be able to return to work. My faith in the company as a whole would also be shattered.

      2. Alice*

        Absolutely, my gut feeling is the company freaked when the grieving employee started contacting clients, so HR was more interested in sending a message that “the problem has been handled” than figuring out who was responsible.

    3. AnonInCanada*

      Not only was OP fired for it, but she was essentially blackballed from getting hired in the industry! That’s what made this sinister boss’s egregious act even more disgusting! No wonder he was Worst Boss in 2017 by an overwhelming landslide and, if there were a category for Worst Boss of the 21st Century, he’d be on that short list as well!

    4. librarymouse*

      I got the impression from the updates that OP either didn’t tell HR their job was threatened or that they weren’t believed because of the boss’ lying. I really hope OP is doing better now.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, the OP says that the Boss lied about it. And HR (pretended to) side with him.

        Because of COURSE this would have been the kind of thing s junior employee would think of, and he (who had shown his true colors) would NEVER do something so bad. They only fired him because they were forced to by grieving employee’s reaching out to clients, and because, well maybe he shouldn’t even have suggested leaving the note anywhere.

        Unfortunately, I’m not being sarcastic – I really believe that that’s the line HR took.

  12. LDN Layabout*

    #2’s brother is forgetting how a lot of prestigious college graduates get their first jobs with no work experience: it’s because they often come from families that have the kind of connections where work experience isn’t necessary. It skews the perceptions.

    Anecdotally, I also don’t know anyone who went to an Ivy or Oxbridge who didn’t either have a job, do career oriented volunteer work or an internship during their studies, so your brother would have been behind any of them in terms of resume out the gate.

    1. Anon scientist*

      My husband’s parents were the definition of “born on 3rd base and think they hit a home run” and they honestly believed that he could end up in the same type of job they had (wall street) based on academic merits alone. Nope, all those finance jobs he was interested in got taken by connected mostly Greek kids. Back to retail with his fancy degree.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “Greek” in the sense of members of fraternities, not Greek in the sense of the ethnicity or nationality.

    2. Saraquill*

      #2’s brother’s mindset reminds me of my high school days. School was adamant all we needed was prestige in order to make piles of money. I still remember one girl who said her own brother made $100K a year working until noon and spending the mornings playing video games. The implication being we’d get similar jobs if we attended the “right college.”

      1. EPLawyer*

        I remember when I told my coworkers that I was going to law school. All I heard was how I was going to be making $150K a year (this was early 2000s). I finally had to say “you know they don’t hand you a check for $150K at graduation right?”

      2. LDN Layabout*

        Yup, and it really hurts people who don’t have the other connections already in place and who might not understand that prestige is just one factor in terms of making piles of money.

    3. AnonAnon*

      Yeah it’s too bad LW2’s brother wasn’t listening.
      Yup went to two Ivies (undergrad and grad), and had jobs, internships, and career-related volunteer work throughout. Everyone I knew at school did too, including the well-connected students. Hopefully once Brother got to college, he realized how stiff the competition is out there, and quickly learned to adjust his thinking.

    4. Wintermute*

      I’m reminded of an interesting experiment an IT professional pulled.

      He sent out his resume with all his skills and his low-tier state school as the alma mater.

      Then he sent out one with most of the relevant skills replaced with nonsense or even concerning things like “Top shot drinker of [prestigious fraternity]” but listed an Ivy league school.

      Which one got an order of magnitude more callbacks should be obvious (it wasn’t the one with real IT qualifications on it)

  13. Elle*

    I remember reading #4 way back in the mists of time when I first found AAM and was trawling through the archives. At that point I was very new to the world of work and would likewise have panicked at being sent home early on my first day! I’ve now managed a team for 2 years, and I almost always give longer lunches and early departures the first week to my (mostly entry level) staff – mostly so I can get some of my individual contributor tasks done in peace and quiet, but also as an acknowledgement of just how much information we are stuffing into them that first week! It’s amazing how much perspective 6 or 7 years of professional experience can give you!

    1. londonedit*

      I can also imagine myself completely overthinking something like this. It would have been nice if the boss had said ‘You’ve done a great job today – starting a new job can be really tiring so we like to let people go home a bit early on their first day. Feel free to pack up at 4.30 if you like. See you tomorrow!’

      1. bamcheeks*

        It’s also such a big jump going from the kinds of jobs you might have before your first permanent/professional role to that first job. When I got my first “career” job after university, I had tons of experience waitressing, retail and office temping, where you get half an hour’s orientation (if that!) and then you’re straight into doing the job, and by lunchtime you’re pretty much as oriented as you’re every going to be. (Which is not to say that experience and knowledge don’t count in those jobs– they very much do!– just that people don’t tend to give you a quiet week or two to acquire it.) Having a week where I wasn’t expected to be actually produce or do anything, just shadow people, ask questions and get familiar with various bits of documentation was so stressful!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          For the LW, if they were making that transition, I can totally see why getting sent home early would freak them out. When I worked in food service/retail, getting sent home early meant you were 1) too drunk to work and going to be fired; 2) too high to work and going to be fired; 3) in a fight with coworker/customer and the cops were on their way and you were going to be fired; 4) you were suspected of theft and going to be fired.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Love that this implies the existence of “drunk/high, but not so much badly you can’t work”.

            (flashback to the day that both the all the grown-up kitchen staff were busy and decided that three 17yos and a 15yo could handle the kitchen themselves, which they would have if they hadn’t decided it was a good time to introduce the 15yo to pot, and there were three of us front of house trying to explain why literally no food was getting produced today.)

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I love that you automatically knew those examples were from my food service days, the only industry I know of where somewhat drunk/high on the job was OK :)

          2. Bernice Clifton*

            I worked as kind of “shift lead” in retail in a small shop many years ago, and I could see myself doing this if my boss hadn’t asked me to train them on closing the store. It was easier and faster to close myself than explain what I was doing and why.

    2. Annony*

      Yep. It isn’t necessarily the boss trying to be nice. I rarely keep new people the full time on their first day. There simply isn’t enough they are capable of doing yet and having them sit around is both unproductive and distracting.

    3. cookie monster*

      I don’t think its unusual to leave a bit early or right on time on your first day – you don’t have any tasks yet usually and its also tiring meeting new people and getting settled in etc.

    4. Lucy P*

      I was actually going to say the same thing. The jobs I train others on are often multi-faceted. There’s no way I can train someone on all of the details at once (nor can most people absorb all of it in the first month). While I’m not at liberty to let people leave early, I totally understand the need to get some time to do my own daily work.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      Oh yeah. Late start, long lunch, early dismissal for employees’ first day. It’s exhausting for them to take in so much new info, and I need some desk time for myself too.

  14. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    Re #2- I am not sure when you would go straight to a job in accounting but it wasn’t that way when I graduated 20 years ago. Internships (paid) are necessary and incredibly competitive if you want to go into public accounting. Sometimes over multiple years before graduation. Maybe if you were going into a company as a lower level finance analyst it could work, but internships were part of the process.

    1. Gray Lady*

      34 years ago I was recruited by an accounting firm before graduation, with no internship (they were barely a thing back then). I didn’t go that route but it did happen.

    2. Hillary*

      Most of our entry level analysts come from our internship programs – the others all had other internships at other places.

      Knowing we don’t have to teach them how to talk on the phone or show up on time is a huge differentiator.

  15. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Letter 2 makes me remember of someone I know who went to a Expensive School. They thought that they could get the job of their dreams just with that, only to learn that Expensive School’s reputation was just marketing, and companies prefer, in fact, graduates from Public Underfunded School! In the end, their parents spend a small fortune in tuition, school materials, and other fees for a degree, and the person in question had to work double to overcome their school’s negative reputation to land the same entry level job.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I figured out long ago that on the undergrad level, to a first approximation the quality of education does not correlate with the school’s branding, so long as we are talking about genuine colleges. If you are counting on the school’s branding for getting a job, you need to make sure that the employers in your field buy into the idea. I gather that there are some fields where they do, Wall Street being the classic example. I’m not sure why they do, as this is objectively ridiculous. It may be branding higher up the food chain, used to market to potential clients. This just pushes the ridiculousness up a level, but I can see how some CEO might decide to go with the outfit with the Ivies for that stock offering.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My graduate school is an Ivy (something I hadn’t realized when I was going there – 1st gen college, so “Ivy League” = Harvard/Yale/Princeton) and as far as I can tell it only helped me when 1) someone in the hiring team went to an Ivy or 2) it was a status obsessed workplace that I would not like working in. Beyond that, my work history and experience mattered 10000x more

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Graduate school is a different matter. There where you go can matter a great deal, but which places are good and which are not is very specific to the individual field. It may be that what appears to the rest of us as a generic state school has a fantastic program in one specific field, and everyone in the field knows this, but people outside the field would never have guessed. (The academic press version is that the University of Nebraska Press is the leader in sports history. This hardly is intuitive. By way of contrast, the absolute worst baseball history book I have ever read was published by the University of Columbia Press.) On the graduate school level, an Ivy might be great, nothing special, or weak. That being said, I have a relative who got their doctorate at an Ivy, and it was strongly implied by a member of the hiring committee that this helped them get a tenure track job.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Now that I am long out of school I get that, at the time, though, TBF, I went to the school that accepted me and gave me the most money. Back in the day there were only 10 schools in the country that offered my degree so I just applied to all of them and took the best offer. Later I learned my school was 5 out of 10, so middle ranked, at the time I went (I was a mediocre student so this was a good match). Today there are more schools offering the degree and my program improved greatly, so it is now considered #3, but most people don’t remember or know how mediocre it was considered back then, so people are sometimes more impressed than they should be.

  16. HB*

    “and his field is accounting, if that makes any difference”

    I realize this letter is from 2016, but even back then I can safely say that it doesn’t matter if he does internships or not. He will find a job. But also when you’re in accounting, you typically do internships through the school – either summer or during the semester (so you get school credit, but also get paid for it). Accounting is a weird magical field where if you can hack it (not everyone is cut out for it) you’re basically guaranteed employment. Even still, the people who do the internships get the better jobs. The way I’ve seen it work (I came to the field late so my situation was different) is the college accounting majors use their GPA to get the best internships in the summer or Spring (busy season) and then the firms typically hire them when they finish school.

    Seriously if anyone is interested in a career switch GO BE AN ACCOUNTANT. Specifically tax. Everyone is fleeing this field and we need fresh blood. I mean warm bodies. Damn, there’s no good way to phrase that so it’s appealing…

    1. Amira*

      Payroll as well is a pretty safe bet. It’s a combination of the lovely joy of “it’s a simple concept with complex application” and “if you’re curious and driven and willing to weather knowing that four times a year your job literally sets itself on fire and panics, you’re a perfect fit”

      I probably shouldn’t love my job this much…

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Neither fresh blood in a cold body nor stale blood in a warm body sound like good ideas…

  17. Meg*

    Ugh, #1 and the updates are so sad. I really don’t think OP deserved to be fired. I think a stern talking too and an eye kept on them for a while would have been good enough. But damn, that Boss really needed to get their head screwed on right.

    1. Beth*

      Boss needed to be fired, and was, and needed not to take OP down with him. OP needed to be assigned to a dofferent boss who was a recognizable human being, and given the chance to learn what a healthy work environment is like. Admittedly, that might not have been possible at that company. I don’t think the boss was the only toxin in the air.

  18. Falling Diphthong*

    Anecdote re #2:
    HS sophomore: “It’s better to take classes where you get an easy A rather than challenging classes. Because your GPA is all that anyone looks at.”
    Me: “Totally untrue; colleges want to see that you are up for challenges.”
    Spouse: “What your mom said, absolutely.”
    Child: “Ha! I have the scuttlebutt in the halls of the high school and we know the stuff.”

    Several months later, child goes to information session at the ivy her dad and I attended.

    Child: “So it’s important to have high grades in the most challenging classes you can take; they really look down on high grades in an easy class when there was a tougher alternative.”

    She had to hear it from someone who wasn’t her parent.

    Relatedly, I live in a state where there are restrictions on drivers’ licenses under 18. Kids who were mature and sensible and very intelligent in all the other ways would believe any weird story from their peers about how these restrictions magically vanished in various common circumstances, e.g. the cop would first check if you were within 5 miles of your house, a zone in which anything goes. Sometimes high school students are naive yet brashly overconfident.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Me, to my first grader getting ready for school: “It is getting colder. You should put on your winter coat.:
      Child (paraphrasing): “Go away old man. Stop spouting absurdities!”

      a few days later:
      Child: “Where is my coat? My teacher says it is getting colder and I should wear it.”

      1. anonymous73*

        Mine, who is now 16, has not worn a coat in years. He recently asked for one. I have no idea why but I’ll take it.

        I have a rule in my house that came from my mom (I’m the stepmom so he generally takes me more seriously). I will provide advice or recommendations and you can choose whether or not to take it, but if you choose to not take it, you’re not allow to whine when you’re cold/sunburned/uncomfortable/etc.

        Obviously I wouldn’t let him out in the frozen tundra all day with a hoodie and his crocs, but they need to learn on their own and eventually realize “hey, mom/dad were right” (of course they’d never admit it LOL)

        1. EmmaPoet*

          At my undergrad in the very far North, students in one department were notorious for running around in shorts and hoodies and crocs year round because the building was so hot. I always wondered why their toes didn’t freeze between the parking lot and the building.

        2. D'Arcy*

          I really wish my parents had done that. My mom literally refused to believe that I had a different temperature comfort zone than she did — if *she* was cold, she’d yell at me for not putting a jacket on already, and conversely she’d yell at me for wearing a jacket if she thought it was too warm.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This also applies to in-laws.

      Mr. Gumption or my SIL: Dad, that is a really bad idea. Don’t do X, Y, and Z for $reasons. A, B, and C are much better options for you guys

      FIL: Nope, I am doing X, Y, and Z. (undercurrent of what the hell do “kids” (e.g. 54 and 49) know!)

      Me: FIL, that is a really bad idea. Don’t do X, Y, and Z for $reasons. A, B, and C are much better options for you guys.

      FIL: You are right, Gumption! I never thought of that. Thank you so much. I’ll get to A, B, and C right away

  19. College Career Counselor*

    Ah, but HR doesn’t really care if the employee is “reachable/teachable” because the calculus was made (either by HR or someone higher up) that OP had to be fired because it was in the best interests of the company. HR is not there to support the company’s employees, except insofar as supporting the company’s employees aligns with supporting the *company* itself. The second those two things diverge, HR’s allegiance is to the company above everything else.

  20. Pi573*

    I saw someone else say this about LW1 and I concur – the grave note story has haunted me ever since I read it. Absolutely the worst boss that’s ever been featured on this site, and I certainly hope the worst that ever will be featured.

    I feel bad for the OP if she’s reading this because I think of any of the letters I’ve read since I started following the site back in 2016, this is the one I’ve seen myself the most in. I absolutely could picture a time when I was new enough to the working world, and afraid enough of repercussions, that I would have done the same. I’m thankful to be in a better place now where I could tell that boss to shove off and get HR involved ASAP and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me if I got fired for staying true to my principles.

    Seeing this letter here again has made me realize that for all the times I’ve hoped for another update from the OP, I think I actually don’t want one. I want to know that the OP is okay, for sure – that she’s bounced back and has a steady job, preferably in the same field she wanted to be a part of, and has built a positive reputation – but I can imagine not wanting to be associated with such a terrible event anymore. I truly hope the OP is in a place where it’s all behind her now and she has brighter days ahead.

    1. anonymous73*

      I agree. I would like to think that I would have had the guts to stand up to boss or go to HR immediately, but I can’t say for sure that I definitely would have done that back in the day. Now I’d run to HR (and I don’t run).

      1. Kevin Sours*

        There is a good chance I would literally tell my boss to go f*** himself in this scenario. But that’s the jaded cynicism of decades of work experience talking. And the privilege of knowing I’m still going to get to eat if I lose my job over it.

        If you want new, venerable employees to go to you, you need to be clear on how and when. And you need to demonstrate that you are worthy of the trust you are asking of them. This HR department… has failed.

    2. quill*

      Did we ever do “worst boss of last decade?”

      We certainly should. Grab all the winners from previous years and vote between them.

  21. Dust Bunny*

    #2 I graduated from a college that is literally the most prestigious in its state and, no, it did not guarantee me a job right out of school. Even 20+ years ago when things weren’t so brutal.

    I’m pretty sure your brother is going to need to hear this from someone other than you or your parents, though.

  22. A Simple Narwhal*

    I said this in the original post of #2, and I think it’s worth repeating: success in high school is no guarantee of success in college. I was similar to the brother: straight As in school, got into a good college, figured it would be more of the same. But when I actually got to college, the environment was vastly different and I ended up with just ok grades – not awful, but definitely not the straight As I was used to. I know my experience is not universal, and plenty of people who did great in high school go on to do great in college, but just saying “well of course I’ll get awesome grades in college” is not a strong plan.

    College is about self-discovery and preparing for your future, and part of that is about learning what you aren’t good at or what you aren’t interested in – and sometimes that comes at the expense of your GPA. And from a mental health perspective, it can be a big hit to your sense of self to go from being the smart, special kid who got straight As in high school to being just the average college student, or even just another straight A college student among tons of other straight A college students. There’s more to life than grades – he should make sure those aren’t the only thing going for him.

    Since the original post is five years old and the brother could have graduated and been in the workforce by now, I’d be interested to hear an update!

    1. Allison*

      Very true! In high school I could get by putting off papers and not studying for most tests (or barely looking over my notes the night before), and I could skim the reading material when we had it, but in college I needed to study, I needed to do the readings before class otherwise I’ll sound like a dunce in the discussions, and I needed to start papers way ahead of their due dates or they’ll come out dreadful. It was definitely a transition, and honestly, I should have acknowledged earlier on that my major wasn’t quite what I’d imagined and maybe not for me after all, but I hated the thought of a “soul-sucking” corporate job. Nowadays? I wish I’d at least explored other possibilities in business or computer science.

  23. Kenobia*

    “I’m pretending I’m alone in here”

    I’m noting this down for the future.

    I’m going to read the follow-ups for the boss who sent a letter with work to a bereaved person. What a slug of a human. Good for the letter writer feeling badly and asking for help with the situation.

  24. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    It’s evil to put someone in the position where they have to choose between their livelihood and human decency, particularly someone young without the roots to stand firm for themselves. OP1, you made a mistake but were put in a terrible position by a shitty, shitty person. I hope you’ve forgiven yourself for this over the years.

  25. Sunflower*

    #2 A degree doesn’t mean you’ll get your dream job or start at the top. Any job experience (even retail or fast food) can provide a reference that shows potential employers that you can follow instructions and can deal with people.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      This is why I recognize that my unpaid internship after my junior year that gave me a leg up (and gave me references) was a privilege.

      I definitely think interns should get paid. I had classmates in college who had a harder time finding jobs in their fields because they couldn’t afford unpaid internships.

  26. Jean*

    LW2 – I, too, remember being 17 years old and feeling absolutely certain that I knew everything about how life worked. Your brother will be humbled by life, just like I and most others have been. Don’t waste your breath debating this stuff with him. Save it for “I told you so” ;)

    LW4 – My workplace dismisses new people early every day for the first couple of weeks. The cognitive load of starting a new job is huge, particularly in the very beginning. It’s a kindness.

  27. JohannaCabal*

    I really hope #1 was eventually able to find a permanent job.

    2009 saw me laid off in January, and then fired from a bad-fit, three-month job that summer. The firing did a number to me, and even though I’ve since moved on and then worked at two places where I was promoted, it’s still in the back of my mind (and I definitely deserved to be fired, although at this point, I consider it a mutual separation).

  28. Jennifer Strange*

    Count me among those who is always saddened by letter #1. Yes, OP screwed up royally, but they also were so new to the work force that I can completely understand them being flustered and not knowing what other options they had. Obviously now I would feel emboldened to go to HR if my boss tried to pull that stunt (or, if there wasn’t an HR or I knew HR was ineffective, I’d have no problem tossing the note and just telling my boss I had left it there), but when you’re so new (and likely so young!) you don’t always realize that’s an option. I really hope they’ve found a better job with a boss who isn’t so awful.

  29. YL*

    #1 makes me feel sad. I wish HR had been more compassionate. I get that there’s a zero tolerance approach sometimes, but LW was clearly being threatened by their boss and was scared/naive.

    1. Salad Daisy*

      Please remember that the purpose of HR is not to help employees, it is to make sure the company does not get sued. HR and compassion do not belong in the same sentence.

      1. Colette*

        This isn’t true. Yes, HR exists to do what’s best for the company, which includes treating employees well. That doesn’t mean they’ll put the interests of the employees ahead of those of the company, but it’s not accurate to say that they can’t be compassionate.

  30. Heffalump*

    OP#1: If the boss had left the note at the grave himself instead of browbeating the OP into doing it, then he’d be only the second worst person in the world.

  31. quill*

    Grave note Boss is in fact worse than I remembered! (I had forgotten how junior the person browbeat into delivering the note was.)

  32. lilsheba*

    #5….ok my daughter used to sing in the public bathroom when she was 2, and it was cute then. As an adult it’s weird and creepy. As for talking in the restroom, I don’t like it when it’s done to me at home and I don’t like it anywhere else. That is not a time for socializing either in person or even worse on the phone.

  33. Gracely*

    Since it’s an old letter, it doesn’t really apply to #2, but a lot of 4-year university programs/majors are starting to require some kind of internship/study abroad/etc. experience in order to graduate. So even universities can see how much of a leg up those kinds of experiences give people.

    Also, seconding everyone who says you might not end up in the field you got a degree in. Were it not for a job I had as an undergrad, I would not be in the field I’m in now. I even did graduate work *while working for the same employer in a higher capacity job*, left and was a teacher for two years, and gave that up because teaching is for martyrs these days, and thus came back to the field I’d discovered via that undergraduate job.

  34. Noxalas*

    #1 haunts me, too. At first I thought this was an update post. I always hope the LW finally caught a break.

  35. Orange You Glad*

    #2 I hire college students as part of a co-op program with a local university. My field is even accounting related. Even for these student experience positions, the best candidates are ones that have been holding down a part-time job while in school. It tells me that the student is able to effectively manage their time balancing a job and school while still maintaining good grades. That student most likely understands how to prioritize responsibilities and has already experienced some of the first job norms such as working with a supervisor and/or working with others. I also think it’s a good sign to see someone who has had the same part-time job for a while since that means their employer likes them enough to keep them on for so long.
    I had a student very proudly tell me the other day that they made a deal with their parents that school was their job so their parents will pay all their expenses while they are in school and don’t need to work. She had nothing on her resume for experience (not even a high school job). To me that says that this person wouldn’t be able to manage to keep their grades up if they had other commitments. The real world is full of responsibilities both at and outside work that we all need to learn to manage. College is a perfect time to learn those skills while the student has a lot of support behind them.

    1. old biddy*

      I’m a scientist rather than an accountant, but I’ve had a similar experience. The students who have had some entry level jobs are a lot more mentally prepared for grad school than the ones that have only done research internships. It doesn’t really track with socioeconomic status, either – I’ve seen a lot of students from wealthy families do well, but they’ve usually had some combination of entry level jobs and parents expecting them to have some skin in the game, even if it’s mostly a drop in the bucket dollar-wise.

  36. bee*

    Just as anecdata for #2: I did go to an Ivy (the uhhh one in New Jersey) and I got both my current job and my freelance gig from summer internships/work study! My main job is the same library job I did all four years + a summer, and I got hired originally for my freelance job because my summer internship boss happened to be working there.
    Besides the work experience, being able to go “Oh! I worked with Tim!” in an interview (and to have Tim say nice things about you) is a HUGE leg up in hiring.

  37. Minerva*

    I will make a counterpoint to the brother work experience – for professionally focused programs, retail or fast food are neutral and most applicants don’t even mention them on a résumé unless they are filling out a page or explaining mediocre grades. (we give a chance if we think they underperformed because of financial issues, but it’s not guaranteed)

    I screen and interview entry level engineering candidates. We mostly look for projects (4th year course projects) and clubs (solar car team! Concrete toboggan!) and relevant work experience if they have it (work term program). Almost all the candidates have worked as camp counsellors or in retail or whatever (I worked as a ceremonial musician), but it would hurt them to work instead of getting better marks in the relevant courses or being in a relevant project.

    The local schools mostly arrange paid work terms, which are great. But even hiring for those, retail is fine to demonstrate basic skills like teamwork, but so is making costumes for theatre or volunteering as a scout leader, or engineering clubs, or hobby clubs irrelevant to the work.

    Hours of fast food are hours not spent mastering math or requirements analysis. So they may be better spent getting marks or performance to get a research assistantship if the money isn’t desperately needed.

    Different industries, different analysis but I care if you can analyze a problem and have enough math and physics to code the solution, not whether you were a good retail employee (I would be a lousy one. Fortunately I am good at my job)

  38. Allison*

    #2 The reality is, it’s very, VERY hard to get a job fresh out of school when all you have is education, but no work experience to back it up. Employers might theoretically be open to hiring someone with no experience, but when so many of the people applying to the same jobs as you have some work experience – some experience needing to stick to a schedule and show up on time, experience being accountable to an employer and having to meet/exceed expectations, and experience with office-related skills – all other things being equal, the employer will understandably hire the person with experience over the one with none.

    Depending on your major, working in the real-world is very different from being a student and writing papers. I don’t hate my life these days, I got lucky and fell into a line of work I ended up really liking, but I can’t ignore that my life would be very different, and my post-college job search would’ve been much more fruitful, if I’d graduated with more job experience.

  39. Laurie*

    It’s funny, I attended an Ivy, but in my industry and location that’s often seen as a negative. I’ve found I get a better resume response I omit the university name & only put the name of the college I graduated from, which most people haven’t heard of.

  40. Matt*

    I do not get people that like to talk to each other in the bathroom. I’ve watched co-workers have full blown conversations while standing next to each other at the urinal and it kreeps me so much out. The worst though was a co-worker who needed my “help” so much he came into the bathroom while I was sitting in a stall, made DIRECT eye contact with me through the gap in the stall door, and continued to have a work conversation. I was so shocked I just went along with it because I couldn’t even process anything else at the time. I never brought it up with HR because he shortly retired afterwords, and he and his wife were very popular at my workplace and I was brand new, and I knew the politics of the place enough to know I’d be made out to be the bad guy in the situation.

  41. Aphrodite*


    I too have always felt deeply for the OP. But I have wondered from time to time if anyone from that rotten company ever read this. If so, would they contribute to this, to let us know what they saw and believed, and if it changed, if they were outraged by the OP’s mistreatment but couldn’t say anything.

  42. Candi*

    In the update to 3, OP says that a higher-up overruled the site manager on re-hiring Paul. Paul was doing stuff with company equipment in his off-hours, and something in there was clearly against company policy. OP emailed the higher-up Paul’s FB photos proving his messing around, and the higher-up still said they had to rehire them.

    My thought on that was there’s a higher-up who doesn’t trust his staff. I hope that person’s moved on by now -I don’t think much of higher-ups who dismiss the lower ranks instead of listening to them and then using their own judgement to figure out how to proceed.

  43. Ellena*

    I so hope that the OP with the letter got a good job with normal people. Thinking about how “green” and scared I was in my first jobs(I worked for other types of psychos), I can’t say I would have handled it better than her. But now things are so great I wish everyone the kind of supportive environment I have.

  44. Chickaletta*

    #2 – A prestigious education with little/no experience can actually work against you when compared with candidates from less-known schools but have the experience. Just witnessed this happen recently among executive-level job candidates: 3 candidates, 2 from small colleges but with years of experience doing the job of the people they will be leading. The third from an Ivy-League but never actually worked in the field. Guess who ranked the lowest in the interviews? There was a lot of concern that the people she would be leading wouldn’t respect her, that she wouldn’t understand the work culture of those people, that all of her knowledge was theoretical and not based in the actual real-world, etc.

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