fired for forwarding resumes to myself, boss wants me to buy everyone expensive coffee, and more

It’s MLK Day and I’m off today so here are some letters buried in the archives from years ago.

1. I was fired for forwarding resumes to myself

I’d like to get your opinion on an incident a few years back in my first internship out of school. I had just completed the four-month contract, and my boss couldn’t have been happier with my work. He got me a one-year contract in a higher paying role, still reporting to him, and I ended up taking a two-week vacation overseas between the internship and the contract start.

In the last week of the internship, my boss received a message from the security department, informing him that they had discovered an email I had sent out externally one month prior. This email contained several attached resumes from prior applicants to the company, which I had found stored (improperly) on a shared network drive. They were simply emailed to myself. As for the purpose, it was truly just my own curiosity of wanting to peruse them at my own leisure. I somehow believed that having that extra resource on hand would benefit me down the line, and my curiosity just got the best of me.

It was a very stupid lapse of judgement on my part, which I regretted almost immediately afterwards. I regretted doing it so much that I deleted them from my email before even looking at them. I admitted this to my boss when he first approached me. He seemed genuinely shocked when I admitted to doing it, and although he had a serious talk with me, he agreed that it should not be an insurmountable situation.

However, I received a call from my boss during my vacation that the resume situation had been escalated, and as a result, my one-year contract was rescinded. This was a pretty difficult call to hear, especially since I still had a good week left in my trip. Long story short, when I returned, my boss was exceptionally gracious to me on a personal level, agreeing to serve as a positive reference for my applications and expressing general regret that the situation had happened as it did. Although I was still quite rattled from the experience, I did my best to convey my apologies for putting him through everything as well, since the situation clearly came about as a result of my own actions.

This incident is now a few years behind me and I have been able to move on, but what is your opinion about the way the organization handled it? I guess maybe I’m looking for validation that my boss’ position was more reasonable than the higher-ups who (it seems) made the ultimate call, but what would you have done? For a bit more context, the organization was a medium-sized financial institution.

Well … you breached those job applicants’ privacy for your own curiosity, which raised concerns about your integrity and ability to handle confidential information properly (something that really matters at a financial institution). Is it a huge outrage? No, not the hugest. But it’s enough of a red flag that I can see why they didn’t want to embark on a longer employment relationship with you once they learned about it at a time when it was particularly easy to cut ties.


2. My boss is shirtless in his staff photo

I work for the Southern California branch of a large, multinational corporation. The company recently rolled out a new internal employee directory/intranet platform that allows us to customize our profile photos, resume information, skills and interests, etc. The information is only accessible to other employees, but that’s thousands of people! The platform is what we use to find another employee’s phone number, email, work location, supervisor, and so on.

In their profiles, most people use their default (security badge) photo, a corporate-style headshot, or a casual on-the-job photo. My immediate supervisor, however, is an avid swimmer. He uploaded a profile photo of himself in swim trunks, swim cap, goggles, but no shirt. It’s not prurient, but also not an image I want to have in my head during work discussions.

Although our workplace is casual, it’s not shirtless-casual. I’m no manager, but the photo looks inappropriate/unprofessional to me.

Should I just ignore it, address him directly (“Boss, the photo of your bare chest makes me uncomfortable” would be a very awkward conversation!), or share my concern with his supervisor (I don’t know if she has seen it yet, or if she cares)? I don’t want to get him in trouble, because otherwise he is a pretty good manager. But eewww….

Oh, California.

Okay, that’s not fair. But still … California.

I agree with you that it sounds really off-key, but I don’t think this is a battle worth fighting or a serious enough thing to escalate to his own manager. I mean, he could have a similar photo displayed in his office — because people sometimes display photos of themselves engaged in sporty, outdoor activities, including swimming — and you wouldn’t really have standing to ask him to remove it there. Assuming it’s not the kind of photo that’s moving out of the G-rated realm (like if he were wearing a thong and facing away from the camera), all you can really do here is roll your eyes and let it go.


3. My manager wants me to buy our whole team expensive coffee

I work part-time in a small department of four. My director (not in our department) and I were recently discussing some of my supervisor’s failings (which is a different issue) and one of the things that I mentioned was that she is often cliquish with the other full-time employee in the department, not sharing information with the part-timers and gossiping, etc.

One of my examples was that often (at least two times a week), my supervisor has the other full-time employee bring her Starbucks. Mostly this happens right in front of us with no offer to grab us some, and it doesn’t seem as though the my supervisor pays her back or gets the next round. It’s not really a big deal, but sort of annoying in the “gifts flow downward” aspect of business, plus, it’s just sort of rude and inconsiderate to everyone who is sitting right beside them. Not something I would bring up on its own, but as an example of this reflecting poorly on my manager because it seems like she is getting special favors from this other employee.

I guess my director talked to my supervisor because a few days later we were all given a small Starbucks drink from my supervisor and told we would get the next “round.” I didn’t really want a 500-calorie sugar and caffeine bomb at 4:30 p.m., but it was already bought, so I took it. Now the other part-time employee is upset because every third Friday, we are expected to bring in drinks for our department. Neither of us can really afford that on a part-time salary. In addition to this, if I go to Starbucks on my own, I get the evil eye, or if I go on break, my supervisor asks “Are you going to Starbucks?” I don’t really think I should have to buy my boss a drink every time I go to Starbucks, but I realize I am the one that started this mess!

How do I get out of buying my department coffee every month?

“I can’t afford to buy everyone coffee every few weeks, so I’m going to bow out of the rotation (and of course I don’t expect anyone to buy it for me either).”

And if your manager notices you’re going to Starbucks and asks you to get her a drink, say, “Sure, but I don’t have enough cash — can you give me enough to cover your drink?” or “Sure, I think it’s about $4” (or whatever their drink costs).

And if you just notice her giving you the evil eye for going, ask about it directly: “You look bothered — did I do something wrong?” Followed by, if necessary, “Yes, on occasion I treat myself to Starbucks. I can’t afford to buy it for everyone.”

Straightforward, not a doormat, and totally reasonable.

You also might mention to your director that whatever talk she had with your manager didn’t quite work the way she probably intended.

Read an update to this letter here.


4. Can I give my coworker part of my raise?

I don’t know the right words to describe this, but is it possible that somehow I can give up/ transfer/forfeit my raise and give it to a coworker? I’ve worked for a great fast food place for about a year and a half, and I just recently got a raise. I would like to give some of this raise (or all, or more) to a certain coworker in my store. Is there any thing I could do to make this happen ASAP?

It’s a very kind thought, but it’s unlikely to be feasible. Employers want to pay employees what they believe their work is worth, and that’s really a transaction between the employer and the individual employee. There are lots of reasons for this. For example, one reason is that if you left, they’d suddenly need to lower your coworker’s pay, and that’s rarely a treat to do.

So, typically you can’t reassign part of your pay to someone else. (I mean, you can of course give your money to anyone you want on your own, but you can’t funnel that donation through your employer.)

However, if you think your coworker is doing a great job and should be recognized for it, you can make a point of sharing with your or her manager the things she does that make her so valuable.


5. My manager doesn’t like my maternity clothes

I am 30 weeks pregnant with my first child and having some difficulty with my boss over maternity clothes. I work in finance and my office has a particularly conservative dress. Pre-pregnancy, I generally wore a sheath dress, blazer, and string of pearls. I haven’t really been able to wear anything like that for the past few months. Finding conservative maternity clothes has been difficult but I managed to find a few suits and some plain, sleeveless tops to go underneath. I’ve also found some black dresses that worked well with a blazer. (Similar to one pictured here.) I thought everything was fine.

Last week, my manager pulled me into his office and told me that my current wardrobe was unacceptable. I apologized and explained that I thought I was following the dress code. I asked what specifically I needed to change. He said that if I was going to wear a pant suit, the shirt needed to be tucked in and belted. Also that he did not like the look of side ruching or an empire waist on shirts and felt it was unprofessional. I told him that I would try to find maternity clothes that met his discerption but that it would be difficult. He wasn’t convinced and said that my job depends on me being dressed according to his standards. (There are a few other women but none of them have had any children while I’ve been at this job so I can’t look to what they’ve worn.)

Do I have any pushback here? I spent the weekend looking for clothes that met his requirements but haven’t been able to. He’s out on vacation this week and I’m out next week so I have a little bit of time to figure something out. I’m nervous that my job could be on the line.

Wha…?! What you’re describing is totally standard maternity wear (as is that dress you linked to).

I don’t recommend HR a ton, but this is a case where you should talk to HR. Your manager sounds like he has no idea what typical maternity wear is, and he’s getting way too involved in the details of what you’re wearing. (He “doesn’t like the look of” side ruching? I mean, I don’t like the look of the color yellow, but it never occurred to me to forbid people from wearing it.)

Go to HR ASAP and explain what happened and ask for guidance. They should intervene. Make sure that as part of this conversation, you ask them to ensure that you don’t face retaliation from your boss for involving them.

Read an update to this letter here.


{ 296 comments… read them below }

      1. Jolene Carl Dean*

        Agree! Sadly, not a twist. As I was reading the initial letter, I was like “wait, this creep thinks the women in the office are required to dress to please him?”
        Then the update I was like, “well, we all saw that coming…”
        I REALLY wish I was surprised.
        (To be clear, I don’t fault OP for not picking up on something. Easier to see from outside perspective.)

    1. SarahKay*

      Yes! I actually remember the original letter, but had somehow forgotten (or missed) the awesome update. I did not see that coming at all.

      Also, thank goodness HR had OP’s back on the original complaint.

      1. Amanda*

        But also, of course HR had her back. Firing her because of her maternity clothes would be discrimination based on her pregnancy and highly illegal.

        1. SarahKay*

          I’d like to think ‘Of course’ too but sadly AAM shows us this is not always the case.
          “A coworker stole my spicy food, got sick, and is blaming me” springs to mind as the most egregious, but I’m sure there are other examples.

          1. ecnaseener*

            ‘HR thinks my service dog is too small’ is another prime example of why we’re relieved to see competent HR!

          2. A Feast of Fools*

            Yup. At one job, my manager quit and my five-person office was moved under a manager in another location. We were in sales and I was the only woman on the team. He flew to our city and, as the top-grossing rep, I offered to meet him for dinner. He declined, saying that work-life balance was important.

            Except. . .

            He took all the men in the office out for steak dinners and to a strip club.

            Then, the next day in our office, he doubled my quota (but not anyone else’s).

            I reached out to a contact at our corporate offices and she was like, “Yeah, in the 20+ years he has worked here, he has never once hired a woman and he has ‘managed out’ all the women he’s inherited from other teams.”

            I went to HR.

            HR told me it was his prerogative to set my quota wherever he wanted and that eating dinner with some team members and not others isn’t any of their business.

            At another job, HR told me that they’d spent a lot of money recruiting my co-salesperson (we worked in teams of two) and so I needed to find a way to “get along” with him. He would drop his pants in front of me every morning to show me what kind of underwear he had on, would fake m@sturbate at his desk, would “accidentally” brush my chest when reaching in front of my for something, and would stand behind my chair looking down my shirt when pointing out stuff on my computer monitor.

            So put me the camp that is pleasantly surprised to hear stories of HR having an employee’s back.

            1. Candi*

              There’s a letter on here where a LW was sexually harassed and the HR rep told her to wear less revealing clothing.

              LW wore standard businesswear, a couple steps below formal.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          It is still so satisfying when the update is “I told HR and they were horrified and immediately had my back and said I was fine” it is so soothing and calming when that happens.

          1. londonedit*

            Yep, sadly we’ve all read far too many ‘I went to HR and they said that’s just how Fergus is, he’s old-fashioned and I need to be able to get on with him in order to do my job, so it was pretty clear they’d take his side if I made a formal complaint’.

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

          I wish it was always true, last year I was shocked to hear that someone from other department was suing because she was fired at six months of a complicated pregnancy… I hope she won and her boss was fired.

        4. EmKay*

          I’ve worked too many jobs were it would not have been “of course HR had her back”, even in a case like this. So this is nice :)

          1. CoveredinBees*

            Yeah. I can think of a specific HR where I worked that only got along with other white males over a certain age. Everyone else was treated with rudeness and condescension. He absolutely would not have supported OP and probably told her to be grateful to have a job at all. He liked telling people that, even when we brought in record-breaking revenue. This was the same HR who went on about how generous they were to give federally mandated unpaid (FMLA) leave.

            1. Candi*

              I’m personally hoping that right now all such businesses are seeing their best workers bail for better jobs with sane HR and management.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yeah, yuck!
          I can understand having an issue with certain maternity wear that just looks frumpy and unprofessional. But nothing OP described fit under that umbrella. Her outfits sound quite sharp, actually.
          And trying to insist that shirts be tucked and belted? While that’s fine for general purposes, it doesn’t really work for maternity clothes.
          Maternity clothes tend to come in 4 flavors: ruched on the sides, empire waist, completely shapeless, or skin-tight. The first 2 are usually the most professional looking. So even if he weren’t a complete creep, I’m not sure what he thought she’d wear if he nixed her current wardrobe.

    2. HB*

      Holy cow! Did not see that coming and yet it’s not all that surprising that a guy who would do that would also feel that pregnant women should dress to his standards. I almost wonder if he didn’t like her being in the office at all while pregnant.

      Also major kudos to the intern who reported him!

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, when I read the original letter, I felt like there were two possibilities:
        – this man has a lot of hangups about business attire (which actually isn’t uncommon– I’ve definitely met people who get so absorbed by nit-picky dress rules that they forget the point of professional attire is to help take focus off of personal dress and place it on business)
        – he thinks being pregnant is unprofessional and is, consciously or unconsciously, setting dress code rules that make it impossible to be a pregnant person in the office

        I felt like the latter was more likely and then hearing the update definitely solidified that for.

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          I feel like it was less about “pregnancy is unprofessional” and more “If you’re visibly pregnant, how can I have SexyThoughts about you?”

          1. More anon today*

            I initially thought it was the first, but after the update the second does seem more likely.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Personally I’m leaning toward “women need to either be My Type of Professional or My Type of Entertainment.”

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      “This seems like the tip of a dysfunctional iceberg… Oooh, yeah, there’s the iceberg.”

      1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        My thoughts exactly. :) The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve seen that these things are quite rarely one-offs, and are more a pattern of complete dysfunction, raging sexism, etc.

        While many HR reps are completely incompetent and will back the boss no matter how wrong, this shows the value of reporting horrible actions. They already had this guy on record of discriminating against a woman; it wasn’t this young intern’s word against a man with nary a whisper of malfeasance.

  1. Pennyworth*

    Am I meant to take away from the updates to #3 and #5 that Starbucks can cost you your job and sexual predators don’t like ruched clothing?

    1. Double A*

      I think the lesson is that weird jerkish behavior is often the tip of the iceberg of behavior that’s gonna get you fired.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        The lesson is if you are stealing from your workplace, don’t complain to the support staff about the quality of the boxes you are loading up with your loot.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          … and another inspirational AAM throw pillow is born.

          “Gladys, this box is low quality. I need you to run over to UPS and buy some better boxes, with your own money.”

        2. Bilateralrope*

          It’s not just a thing within workplaces.

          One story out of Poland recently is that the police caught a convicted murderer who had been on the run for 20 years because they arrested him for not wearing a mask.

          Or there are regular stories about drug runners who get their car pulled over because of obvious traffic violations.

          The small, obvious, rule breaking attracts attention that discovers the big, but hidden, violations.

          1. Nina*

            A reasonably common adage in my country is “only break one law at a time”, usually said in regards to traffic offenses.

            1. Joielle*

              As a former public defender, I would advise that if you’re going to break some laws, do them all at the same time, and you’ll probably get some of them dismissed in the plea deal! That’s probably country-specific, though (I’m in the US).

            2. Esmae*

              “Don’t speed with a dead body in your trunk” is the one I hear in the southern US. Yours is a bit more polite :)

          2. More anon today*

            I used to do child support enforcement and once a week we met with folks who were in the county jail. Some of them hadn’t been on our radar and were there for other reasons, but there were always some who’d been stopped for minor stuff… and then their warrant for failure to appear on the child support matter would pop up and they’d be arrested instead of just ticketed.

        1. EmKay*

          oh hey, this is new to me! thank you for that, I’ve got some interesting reading to do with my lunch :)

    2. Bagpuss*

      Ir seems to me that it all fits together – he was viewing the women he worked with in a sexual way, hence his controlling attitude to what they could wear.

      good for the intern who reported him, and that the company took swift action, but awful that it had been happening for a while an he’d been getting away with it (and goodness only knows how many other, less extreme forms of harassment or inappropriate behavior)

    3. SuperLibrarian*

      I am OP #3 and there is even more to the story;
      The director got weirder and weirder and even threw a book at my supervisor. The director also told me a full year before that she was going to fire my supervisor (I started looking for work immediately).

      There was tons of bullying that I didn’t see at the time and once my director fired my supervisor, she turned her bullying towards me (withholding information and just generally making it impossible to do my job, looking for or creating errors)! I was let go and found a great job in an adorable small town with a wonderful boss and a lot of freedom. I am actually a supervisor now and still read AAM.

  2. Anon for this*

    I’m surprised on the feedback and fall out in number one. It’s very similar to looking at someone’s linked in but with better formatting. Ive done the same (I’m not in HR or a sensitive role) when interviewing one or two peers because I liked their resume layout and formatting. It never occurred to me that it could be inappropriate. Now I can see that it contains emails, phones and addresses. I will make sure never to do this again in the future. I’m sorry this happened to you OP. I bet that this is more common than you know.

    1. Just somebody*

      I think it’s highly relevant that LW had no legitimate business reason to look at them in the first place. She was snooping. Not the same as looking at it because you’re interviewing and need to, then dog-earring for later to remind yourself yourself that glitter gives it something extra.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        No one should be forwarding documents that contain someone’s personal information to their external email addresses. Full stop.

        1. Just somebody*

          I agree it’s not okay, but I think it’s different levels of violation. LW pulled these from a drive they’d been stored on improperly to get them. That is substantially different from hanging on to one you have legitimately to remind yourself of formatting. Also I didn’t catch that the email was external, which is also an issue.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Normally I would agree with the LW’s boss that this was a big lapse in judgement, but.. well. Intern, no real work experience, no idea of the norms, immediately deleted info, stern warning. Given the casual mention of a recent college grad taking a two week vacation out of the country though, I suspect this is a British/European company. Not a fact obviously, Americans regularly travel out of the country, but in the EU, which Britain was part of the time, it’s easy like interstate travel in the US.

          If I’m right, EU data protection laws are *much*’stricter than the US. The escalation could easily have been legal getting involved and insisting LW be let go. It conjecture, but it tie together several slightly weird bits in the letter. The extensive and expensive level of email auditing for one.

          1. ecnaseener*

            The letter is from 2017 though – GDPR came into effect in 2018. Anyone know what the data protection law would’ve been in 2017?

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              I think it still would have been illegal. There’s certainly comments to that effect on the original.

            2. AJHall*

              Since you ask: Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data as enacted into local law by the Member States.

          2. LDN Layabout*

            Immediately deleted info but didn’t tell anyone until it was discovered is where that excuse goes sideways.

            And quite frankly even as an intern, for any organisation of this sort, I would bet money she had to sit thrown a presentation on mis-use of personal/company data etc.

            1. Stitch*

              I just did my annual personal info/security training and part of it is to report any breaches immediately. So if you mess up, much better you tell them than they discover it.

            2. Artemesia*

              it is worse for an intern who has no business with the information and it is easy to cut your losses with an intern who is problematic. So not surprised they cut their losses on that.

      2. Lucious*

        Even if they did have business reason to access the resumes , OP #1 emailing other people’s personal data from the company’s digital drives is a Big No-No on multiple levels. If memory serves that’s a finable regulatory violation for financial institutions. To underscore the seriousness of this, at my last employer a director level employee was dismissed for unintentionally compromising the network via a phishing email . Not to mention the ethical problems with distributing PII of the applicants.

        Good news here is the manager handled it as best as can be , and the OP learned an important error.

      3. What the Jorts?*

        I must have missed something. I don’t understand why OP was looking at them. Quote: “I somehow believed that having that extra resource on hand would benefit me down the line…” How are these resumes a resource for her that would benefit her?

        1. Barbara Eyiuche*

          Maybe she thought seeing resumes from other people would help her improve her own resume. When I was asked to help with hiring, I was given about a dozen resumes to look through. The variety of ways people presented info surprised me a little. Most definitely looked better than my resume. I could have used them as a resource to improve mine. On the other hand, it did amuse me that so many stressed their leadership skills. The perfect candidate for the advertised job would have been an introverted bookworm.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Yeah, I’ve never forwarded stuff to my own computer, but I’ve certainly taken mental notes when reading resumes or cover letters when I’m hiring.

    2. Observer*

      No, totally NOT the same. Resumes are not necessarily the same as what’s on linked in. And emailing documents out of the company for personal use is always highly iffy. In a financial services firm? These places are highly regulated and data security is a real issue. TERRIBLE judgement.

      At least, even though the OP didn’t realize why it was SUCH a big deal, they did realize that they should never do it again. So, clearly they are someone who can learn from mistakes. That’s a plus.

      1. Marty*

        Agree. LinkedIn does not contain your phone number, sometimes home address, and names and personal phone numbers of references. Although much of this information is not advised, it still happens.

        It’s a hard lesson for an intern but ultimately, I think the manager went light and the higher-ups objectively made the right decision.

        Sorry, and I’m glad you’ve learned from it.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I think it’s important that the intern

      1) didn’t have official access to the documents, but found them somewhere by accident

      2) was working in finance, where data security and proper handling of personal data is a really big deal, and subject to a lot of legal regulation.

      I find that when it comes to letters about confidentiality, embargoed data, etc., the comments tend to be strongly divided, with those who actually work with confidential data, or in regulated industries, coming down on the side of a this being a really big deal, fireable offence, and people without the experience regarding it as an unfortunate mistake, but more stern lecture than fire-worth. (see also the letter about someone who leaked information to a friend who happened to be a reporter).

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I work in banking, which is heavily regulated. Privacy and information security are a really big deal, so it’s not unreasonable or far-fetched for something like this to be a fireable offense.

        1. Joanna*

          Yup. I’m also in banking and its such a big deal that if we attach files to an email going outside the company there’s a popup where we have to confirm that sending these files is compliant with out informational security obligations

          1. londonedit*

            I’m not in banking but I once tried to send PDF copies of my electronic pay slips to my personal email address (needed them for a flat I was trying to rent) and a great big pop-up came up saying the files I was sending potentially breached company IT policy and I should reconsider, or if I went ahead it would be my responsibility. As it was my own pay slips and my own personal email address I figured it was fine, but yeah they do not like you sending that sort of stuff.

            1. LizM*

              I’m in government, we have really strict rules about PII (personally identifiable information). I actually did get counseled for using my work email to email my own PII to my personal email without encrypting it. I can’t remember if it was a pay slip or the personnel action documenting a pay change, but it got flagged in our system, and my supervisor was required to address it with me.

            2. Bernice Clifton*

              Yes when I worked in Finance I tried to email my income tax returns to myself and the company email wouldn’t let me because it contained a SSN.

        2. Lacey*

          Yes, I worked for a financial institution, but as a graphic designer – I never saw or had access to any financial information at all. I still had to undergo weeks of security training and that training had to be repeated every year.

      2. Snow Globe*

        I fully agree, and I also work in banking. What most people don’t realize, is that if there is any kind of security breach with client information, the bank must report the breach to regulators and also must notify the customers who were impacted. I’m not sure if this would apply to a breach with job applicants, but I would guess that it probably would – meaning the bank would have to notify those job applicants that their information was breached. And any one of those people could post about their experience online, which would be a PR nightmare, and could impact the bank’s ability to hire people.

      3. Observer*

        (see also the letter about someone who leaked information to a friend who happened to be a reporter).

        That one was much worse, imo. And the letter writer at first didn’t even see what was so bad with what they had done – LOTS of excuse making and blaming others.

        To their credit I think that the strength of the reaction shocked them into realizing what they had done.

      4. GS @ a GSIB*

        Improperly stored PII in a financial institution would be a huge, huge, huge issue and definitely not to be taken lightly.

      5. QA Peon*

        Very true. I work in research that uses human subjects and this would be a BIG DEAL here. We have to sit through so many yearly trainings about data security.

    4. Joanna*

      The big difference is consent for how the information is used. People are putting information on LinkedIn with the assumption it could be seen by anyone in the world. People are putting information on resumes (including contact details) on the assumption that it will only be accessed by a handful of people directly relevant to the hiring process.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, and actually resumes contain quite a lot of personal information that can get “misapplied” in the wrong hands… For example one of my security questions on a financial system I use is “in what town was your first job”.

        I worked for a boss who was recruiting people and was handed peoples CVs (usually more detailed than resumes even, this is in the UK) to review; literally tossed in the trash all those that weren’t to be taken forward – all that personal information just lying around in bins. I wonder if I should have said something to someone – I didn’t, but it rankles.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Security PSA for everyone: Don’t actually answer your security questions, e.g.,

          Q: In what town was your first job?
          A: Farts and giggles

          No reason to put down personal information that could be doxxed (either to break into an account or stolen from your account). Use an answer that you can remember, of course, but not the straight answer.

          1. Be kind, rewind*

            That’s the thing. No way am I remembering a fake answer. I have a hard enough time remembering how I formatted the correct answer. (Did I capitalize it? Did I use the full name or just the first word? Did I use singular or plural?)

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Almost none of these use case sensitive answers. So only the full name or first word, or singular/plural aspect matters.

            2. Nina*

              I answer them for a fictional character and use the wrong answer for each question, e.g. Mother’s maiden name: Hogwarts. Primary school: Hedwig. First pet: Evans. If they’re all different lengths it makes it easy to remember which answer lives in that box.

              1. Cassie*

                I do something similar – for college, I write “Greendale” (from the show Community, and toss in some numbers). For former job, I put “Pawnee” (from the show Parks and Rec, and again toss in some numbers). It helps me remember because the answers are relevant for school and govt job, but it’s not my *real* info.

            3. Userper Cranberries*

              I lie in ways I’ll remember. Mother’s maiden name? Actually dad’s middle name. Town you were born in? Actually street I lived on as a kid. Similar enough that I can remember the conversion, but obscure enough to confuse people. (And those aren’t actually substitutes I use, just similar ideas.)

            4. Kal*

              I use a password generator and have it generate random passwords as my answer, and store it for me.

              Why yes, my mothers maiden name is wDAj1_h9uG?jn2, why do you ask?

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            If you have trouble remembering fake answers, come up with a system that will be easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess. Like, use your best friend’s answers. You know his mother’s maiden name, his first pet, etc. But most folks won’t guess that.
            Or use the answers for your favorite fictional character. Mother’s maiden name: Evans. First pet: Hedwig. Favorite color: green. Hometown: Little Whinging. See? Easy to remember, but not easy to guess.

            1. pancakes*

              To the contrary, using answers for a fictional character that is also millions of other people’s favorite character, has franchises and theme parks built around it, etc., seems analogous to using 1234 as a password. This isn’t very secure at all and using a random text or number generator would be much better.

        2. Verthandi*

          I hate when you are forced to choose between canned security questions. I can come up with better ones that wouldn’t be easily guessed.

          For what it’s worth, most of the canned security questions are things that don’t apply to me due to my sexual orientation, and if you use one and it comes up, you can’t use the same one again, so if I forget my credentials, I’m stuck with questions that can only be answered with fake responses. You also can’t have the same answer for all three questions.

          I tried using “not applicable” as an answer for all three. The system threw me out and I had to start over, and all previous attempts at security questions were eliminated from the list.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            When our agency changed payroll companies, we all had to come up with answers to several security questions. As I filled out the answer to each one, I wrote it down beside a copy of the question (e.g., “What was your favorite childhood game?” “Basketball”). Easy to refer to and impossible to forget!

              1. Cedrus Libani*

                I do write them down, but I write them in my password manager (I use LastPass). Even if I was telling the truth, which is a bad idea, how am I supposed to remember whether I said my place of birth was Hometown or Hometown, CA or Tiny Town Adjacent to Hometown (where Hometown Hospital is technically located) or…

              2. Starbuck*

                I have to write stuff down or I’m just not gonna remember it. I figure the risk of a burglar breaking into my home, finding and taking my password list rather than my (insured) valuables and then using it, is much lower than the risk of having to re-use usernames and passwords across different platforms that could be stolen/hacked.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Now I’m stuck trying to think of security questions that would be related to orientation, and I honestly can’t remember ever seeing one. Sounds like a very wierd system that needs fixing for a bunch of reasons.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Agreed. I cannot think of a single standard security question that depends on gender or sexual orientation. Mother’s maiden name is the closest, and that is only dependent upon having a mother, with the assumption that she changed her name. It has nothing to do with my sex.

            2. Lady H*

              I am thinking of a few security questions I’ve seen oriented around a spouse, e.g., the city where you first met your spouse seems to be a popular one, and while they’re generally not gendered, I can see how they wouldn’t work if someone isn’t in a relationship or is poly?

              1. Lady H*

                (Also not everyone has legal rights to non-cis or hetero marriage so questions around spouses can exclude that way.)

              2. RagingADHD*

                Sure, but it was the phrasing that confused me. Relationship status isn’t the same as orientation. For example, poly people aren’t necessarily in a poly relationship at any given time, any more than straight people are always partnered. And ace or demi people can be / often are in relationships.

                It was just a confusing turn of phrase, or a really very wierd set of questions.

          3. Simply the best*

            I’m very curious about this. Most security questions I come across are things like what was the make of your first car or what was your high school mascot or what was the name of your first pet. My being queer does not change any of those answers.

        3. Barbara Eyiuche*

          At a school I worked at in Taipei, resumes we received were just put in the recycling box, and so were used for photocopying. So students would get exams and worksheets printed on the back of random pages of resumes. I was astounded. Everyone else thought it was reasonable to not waste paper.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      There’s a very, very big difference between looking at something that’s available freely online and forwarding information held on company servers to your personal account.

      One is fine, the other will get you the full wrath of IT.

    6. Jen*

      I work for the government and was actually required to return printed resumes to be shredded after I participated in a resume screen. Some of it is considered PII.

      1. Allonge*

        This. We have rules on how long we keep this info and who can access it (actually, whoever misfiled them in the first place would get talked to too).

        Sending them to Google (or any other email provider) is a major no-no.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I have to say, though, I am really impressed with OP’s boss. He had to let OP go, but he still remained aware that he was talking to a fellow human being. This is what the world needs more of. OP, if you ever find yourself in the position of having to let someone go, think of this boss as a positive example of how to handle a difficult thing.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Agreed. Clearly, this wasn’t malicious on the OP’s part, so it’s good the boss was as kind as rules allowed. OP had to be fired, but didn’t have to be made an example of.

    8. RagingADHD*

      It’s not about looking at resumes. It’s that LW found files that *they knew* were supposed to be stored securely, but were not. And instead of alerting someone, they forwarded those files to their own external email.

      The content of the files doesn’t matter. It was a breach of security protocol. They can’t afford to let that slide, because people who wind up making egregious violations usually start by making smaller ones, either because they are sloppy or as a way to deliberately test the waters.

      A responsible firm won’t wait and see which one it was, because then it’s too late.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        This is where I land as well.

        I’m not saying this was the LW’s thinking, but I can see making the conclusion that emailed the resumes to herself so no one would see her viewing them at work.

        1. pancakes*

          That’s a pretty faulty conclusion. It centers the LW’s own security while overlooking that of the people who submitted their resumes, and assumes that no one is or will be looking over the LW’s shoulder electronically, only in person. It’s not thoughtful or realistic on either count.

    9. Bert*

      Any company documentation sent to an external (i.e. personal) email address is a major security breach. For a financial institution, that’s not an unusual outcome.

    10. Kittymommy*

      Yeah I think because I work in government and in a state where A LOT is public record I have a weird barometer, because this really doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, a lot is public information. On the other hand, if something is NOT *explicitly* public information, best not share it. Because any information that MIGHT be considered sensitive would be a MAJOR issue to share.

    11. Sunny*

      It’s not at all the same as looking at LinkedIn – besides personal contact info, potential reference info (their contact info, but also insight into who’s agreeing to be a reference for someone), not everything in a resume for a specific job is necessarily on LinkedIn. Nor does everyone who submits a job application have a LinkedIn profile. These are not her documents – they weren’t given to her by the applicants, or in any capacity related to hiring for the role,

      There’s an expectation of privacy when applying for jobs. Of course, it’s not rock-solid, but in general, you assume the resume only goes to people who are involved in hiring, and that they’ll keep your application confidential, and use it only for the purposes you provided. When I apply for a job, I don’t agree to giving my resume to an intern to save on their personal computer for their own uses. Imagine meeting someone who says ‘oh yes, I know who you are b/c I have a copy of your resume stored on my personal computer that I’ve copied for myself.” It just feels icky, creepy and vaguely stalker-ish.

      And she now knows who applied for the job, which is also very confidential, especially if there are high-profile candidates, people trying to leave jobs quietly, and so forth. This is poor judgment on all fronts, and the manager was far too kind, and left her confused about whether her behaviour was legitimately wrong.

    12. A Feast of Fools*

      It’s a financial institution where company/sensitive information is highly protected and regulated.

      Heck, I’m in manufacturing and even our employee manual says not to send company data to your personal email account (or Dropbox or other cloud storage).

      If the OP had forwarded a copy of their own resume to their personal email, that probably would have been fine. But those resumes were company property; the OP couldn’t have accessed them without being on company servers.

      I can see someone saying, “If they’re willing to break the rules for *this* how can we trust them with really sensitive info?”

  3. Just somebody*

    I remember the maternity letter. I still laugh about “belted.” When I was heavily pregnant, a belt that went under my belly would have dipped below my crotch. Buckle just…hanging there. Fantastically professional. Or perhaps he wanted the belt over the girth of the belly, like a jolly garden gnome.

      1. LadyJ*

        Please tell because I can not imagine wearing a belted anything when I was pregnant and the whole unprofessional thing just what does he think professional maternity looks like.

        1. Observer*

          If you look at the update, it turns out that the people who noticed that he was way to hung up on the “look” of details on her clothing were on to something. He apparently had a history of explicit “quid pro quo” demands – mostly from interns who would normally not feel able to push back.

          His problem was never that the OP’s clothing was unprofessional.

    1. Double A*

      I did actually have to wear a belt for most of my pregnancy because I wore a radio on it. I had to buy a really long belt! And eventually I had to move to a kind of holster for the radio.

      But it was a pretty casual dress code. I don’t think my Old Navy maternity jeans with a belt from Ross would cut it.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I wear a headset at work that when not pregnant I clip to my pants waistband. While pregnant I tie a ribbon belt over my bump, puts a cute little bow on top of the baby lol. That way my push to talk button is also easily accessible rather than stuck under my bump (where I inadvertently triggered it before I came up with the belt idea). I’m now envisioning OP tucking their shirt into the over-belly panel and then strap a belt over the bump.

    2. Virginia Plain*

      I remember enjoying the comments on the original letter with suggestions for malicious compliance, like tucking a shirt into the (hopefully beige) elastic panel at the front of maternity trousers. I’d like to add:
      Father Christmas outfit with very long belt buckled over the apex of the bump.
      Belt worn over one shoulder like a bandolier (well you’d still have your clothes belted and the shirt would be under it).

      Seriously though since when are smart ladies’ business suits, skirt ones or trouser ones, worn with a belt anyway? Non maternity ones I mean. The ones I’ve had don’t even have loops; the aim of the design is usually for sleekness and to avoid bulk at the waist – many smart skirts and trousers don’t even have waistbands.

      1. Ana Gram*

        It’s hard to find women’s dress pants with belt loops. I’m a cop and wear plainclothes and I need to wear a gun to work. The only way (other than a shoulder holster and that’s a weird look) to make it work is to wear a belt. It’s so difficult to find appropriate, flattering pants with belt loops big enough to accommodate a belt that will hold a holster. I swear by Betabrand!

        1. Tazzy*

          I haven’t actually looked into it but I see Betabrand come up on my feed a lot. What do you like about their pants?

          1. Ana Gram*

            The fabric is thick enough to be supportive (not shapewear level support but just enough to smooth out panty lines and such). They hold up really well in the wash. I line dry and don’t even need to iron them. They’re super comfy to sit in for hours. My regular dress pants would start to cut into my hip at the crease where my leg met my torso after awhile. And the pockets!!! My god, the pockets! I can fit my phone, keys, and mask with room to spare. I can shove my whole hand and spread out my fingers in the front pockets which blows my mind. And I wear men’s gloves because I have long fingers! I highly recommend them.

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          I remember a plainclothes sergeant back in the 70s who wore her revolver in a horizontal shoulder holster, balanced by handcuffs and ammo on the other side. She usually wore a seasonally appropriate (i.e. light or heavy material) poncho-style top over her blouse, but sometimes jackets.

          I never was comfortable with shoulder holsters, even before I gained a lot of weight. My arms are too short and shoulders too broad for it to be comfortable for me.

          1. Ana Gram*

            I tried out a friend’s and it just seemed so bulky and awkward. And I hate the idea of drawing across my body.

    3. sunglass*

      I had never read the maternity clothing letter before and was laughing incredulously to read it this morning. I’m 25 weeks pregnant right now, and “tucked in and belted” is a) basically impossible and b) would look so utterly ridiculous even if I did manage it. I don’t have a waist to buckle any more!

      One of the few things I’ve appreciated about being pregnant while covid keeps me working from home is that I’ve not had to find work-appropriate maternity wear and can just live in maternity leggings and comfortable jumpers. But if I had needed to, the dress the LW linked would have been exactly the sort of thing I would have looked for. It’s perfectly and completely appropriate. Even before the update it’s clear that this boss was looking to punish the LW for being pregnant.

      1. Darsynia*

        I’m laughing along with you! After 3 pregnancies, some of which didn’t really ‘show’ all that much, to the point where when waiting to be induced at 9 days late with my first, someone in the waiting room thought I was the aunt, not the mother! But the point I made to them and anyone who made comments was that there’s still a baby in there, it’s not the normal under-skin real estate. Even if this LW was able to get clothing that fit the bill, they’d likely be far too uncomfortable to wear with regularity. And that shows the true nature of her boss even before the update, because even if you don’t understand what’s available for ‘professional’ office wear, you can comprehend that pregnancy bellies aren’t just a ‘visual’ modification, shall we say! There are physical comfort level considerations.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      The irony is of course now, that letter writer is probably working from home wearing sweatpants (and maybe a blouse on top for video meetings).

    5. Miss Muffet*

      Yeah, tucked in and belted had me LOLing too. Show me the maternity pants with belt loops and not the big panel? On the flip side, it’s not like he was like, “I don’t want to have to see that you are pregnant.” – I remember a letter to Dear Abby or somesuch a while back that was lamenting that women didn’t wear the big tents anymore when they were pregnant because the guy was like, grossed out that you could “tell” they were pregnant because their clothes (totally normal clothes) were more form-fitting. I wonder if anyone ever told him he was once the baby inside there….

  4. Drifter*

    I bet he actually meant ‘Victorian Maternity Corset Belt’ which cinched down so no one could see the baby bump. Not healthy or comfortable for Mum or baby. But at least blokes didn’t have to see evidence of baby and could indulge in their sexual fantasies of trim attractive women *blerk*

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      What misogyny (spelled correctly?), I mean women-hatred! How did the blokes think that the women got pregnant in the first place?! Sigh. It’s hard to read about the patriarchy, especially when I’m already awake past my bedtime.

    2. Beth*

      This guy is actually way worse than the Victorians! Victorian women did wear corsets all the time, but the idea that corsets cinched waists down to tiny proportions is mostly a myth. Tight lacing was a trend for a little while, but it was only ever popular with rich and hyper-fashionable ladies–think the equivalent of the Kardashians today. For most people, corsets supported the bust, smoothed the shape of the torso, provided a place to attach pads to the hips or bust (that super curvy silhouette is mostly illusion!), and maybe cinched a little (but not enough to limit movement–after all, most women needed to work, either in or out of the house).

      Maternity corsets existed, but didn’t really cinch down the stomach. They had extra lacing on the sides so they could be adjusted to the stomach. Some even had elastic lacing. They were for breast support and smoothing, not restriction. is an example of one.

      All of this is to say, this boss is WAY more misogynistic and WAY more aggressively objectifying woman than the Victorians were. And considering what the world thought of women in the 1800s, damn, that’s a bad look for him!

    3. Papillon Celeste*

      I think you are spot on. He saw women as mere sexual accessories with the extra benefit of being able to work. When OP became pregnant he had to face the fact that she’s not just a pretty dress up doll but had added features like being a person and soon to be mom that demanded consideration and that made him uncomfortable.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP failed at being eye candy any more. Skip the part about hurting the baby/mom and boil the situation down to eye candy, wth. I hope he never has a child as he just gives me the creeps about everything.

    4. Gamer Girl*

      Imagine carrying a basketball or larger for months. Support is helpful! Corset during pregnancy sounds shocking at first, but they were a support garment, not for waist-training.

      These still exist (now with velcro), and are prescribed by doctors for sciatica during pregnancy. Like I had during my pregnancy. They are worn over or under clothes and lift the belly slightly to a better position.

      It’s not true that these were routinely used by women to cinch down a pregnancy (except, of course, in a few desperate situations, which I’m sure we can all imagine…)

      1. sunglass*

        Pregnancy support belts are absolutely amazing inventions – they relieve so much pressure, and are the one reason I’ve been able to keep running (very slowly) through my second trimester. But they definitely don’t do anything to hide a bump! I can imagine that there *were* garments specifically to try and hide evidence of pregnancy, but I can also imagine that a well-fitted pregnancy corset was really helpful.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I actually wore a velcro corset system after my C-section, and it really helped to decrease the pain and help me move around. I was even sleeping in the thing for the first week.

      3. Lab Boss*

        Fascinating! I’m not going to google it at work but I’m visualizing something like a power lifter’s weight belt, helping keep everything supported and in line- I can 100% see how that would be super helpful.

        1. Userper Cranberries*

          One of the fashion historians I watch on YouTube has said she finds moving furniture easier in her corsets, as they act similar to a weight belt, so you’re totally on the right track!

      4. Drifter*

        Cosertry using support are absolutely beneficial, and as you say exist today. Even in Victorian times the corsets weren’t laced as tightly, nor as damaging as current popular culture would have you believe. They are actually coming back into fashion currently as an alternative to the bra!
        However, the Victorian Maternity ones were used for hiding the baby bump. There were social reasons to do so depending on class. Working class cinched down to keep their jobs, upper class to keep their social freedom and not have to enter confinement too early. They laced up each side, not the back like normal everyday ones. It’s a very interesting subject and there are numerous pictures available online if you wish to see how they worked.

  5. awesome3*

    I love that the updates are included! So satisfying to be able to get that instant update gratification

  6. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

    Hoooly crap, OPs 3 and 5, but those updates are deeply satisfying. (Not surprising there were other issues with both bosses, given the behavior already on display, but still. Holy crap.)

    May OP 5’s ex-boss in particular never again be put in a position of power over another living being. What a creep.

  7. Fanaana*

    Alison, I am a huge fan! …. But your “oh California” comment … just…just…No. Please don’t succumb to stereotypes. This isn’t my industry, so I can’t say whether the photo is inappropriate or not! But if it isn’t, I suspect a regional stereotype isn’t the explanation. Sure, we may be the low hanging fruit of humor out here on the left coast, but let’s not succumb to the temptation of cheap humor at the expense of millions of hard working professionals (many of whom don’t even fit the “oh California”/left coast stereotype!). I expect better of this website. Not going to engage in argument about this (! *please commentariat, don’t bother!*), just leaving my disappointed thoughts and moving on.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I didn’t think “California is sporty and more casual than other regions” was a negative stereotype.

    2. mreasy*

      Californian here, didn’t take this to be negative at all, simply Californians tend to be more outdoorsy and less buttoned-up (literally in this case) in the workplace – and this is entirely my experience.

      1. Cercis*

        And if it had been in Austin, TX, I would have expected a similar comment. Because “oh Austin” with their more casual and outdoorsy lives (used to be more biking, lately seems to be more hiking, so unlikely to see shirtless, but, if biking, maybe more lycra than you ever wanted to see). Good part of living in Austin? No one bats an eye at my braless self (the bad part is that I’m not “weird” and some folks really seem to make being weird a competition and don’t like that I don’t try to be as weird as they are, I’m not being “not weird” AT them, but some seem to feel like I am).

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Tangent, for those people who are annoyed you’re not trying out weird them, can you say it’s a metacommentary and you’re being weird by Not Being Weird?

          They may roll their eyes, but then leave you alone because “You Just Don’t Get It.”

      2. cacwgrl*

        Yes, especially in SoCal. I can picture a handful of coworkers that I would not be surprised to do this, especially since one of our sites is right on the beach, so close that lunchtime surfing is definitely a thing. Not negative to me, but I did chuckle because it fits the vibe.

    3. Ana Gram*

      I thought “oh, California” was more a reference to the fact that California (and academia!) are often exceptions to the HR rules. California is such an exception that there’s the PHR and the PHRca!

    4. Coffee Anonymous*

      Yeah, I’m from the other coast but have a number of clients and colleagues in CA (and regularly traveled there for work in the Before times) and that comment didn’t sit right with me, either. Sure, professional dress standards tend to be less formal than in some other areas, but that doesn’t mean there are no standards. Swimwear still isn’t appropriate for work (unless you work at an athletic facility or something like that), and using a photo of yourself in a bathing suit on your company’s website when everyone else is using a standard professional head shot seems off even in SoCal. I agree the OP probably shouldn’t be the one to call her boss on this, and that the photo probably wouldn’t raise eyebrows if it was in a collection of “my personal life” photos displayed in his office — but I also think we can acknowledge regional variations without resorting to such broad brushstrokes.

    5. Double A*

      I’m a Californian and I love a good joke at our expense. Part of the reason I love it here is because we’re more relaxed, but it can be amusing when that goes too far.

      1. Mannequin*

        I still laugh over reading and old science fiction story where California was referred to as the home of the prune, the peach, and the nut- meaning retirees, starlets, and oddballs! LOL!

    6. Pennilyn Lot*

      This is the funniest, most innocuous thing that I’ve ever seen someone get ruffled by. Won’t someone think of the Californians!

    7. Kevin Sours*

      I’ve worked almost my entire careers in California and in an industry where the dress code tends to lean toward “please wear clothes”. And I’d consider the picture in question to be inappropriate for any formal work specific use. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it offensive and I agree with Alison that seeing a photo on somebody’s desk in beach attire wouldn’t come across as the least bit weird. But I’d expect that a work profile pick would show somebody dressed for the office and we aren’t *that* laid back.

    8. Emotional Support Care’n*

      You’d be surprised (no, no you wouldn’t) at how many guys in Alaska have their professional photos set to outdoorsy fishing/hunting/pilot photos. Like, bruh, you’re a lawyer/banker/IT specialist/office jockey, nobody needs to see the same photo you use on your Tinder profile (and yes, they do, even when married, and we make fun of that too).

      Some people insist on having one aspect of their lives be their entire personality. Sometimes, they do need to be told that they can’t have a shirtless outdoorsy photo for their company website photo because that’s not what they look like in the office, or while they are representing the company in general. Everyone should have a photo on the website of them wearing clothes that they’d typically wear while representing the company.

    9. Mannequin*

      I am a born & raised Californian, and personally, I thought it was hilarious. We really do have lots of interesting types out here and it’s part of what makes living in this state so grand.

    10. Critical Rolls*

      Just another unoffended Californian weighing in. “You all are relaxed lol” is about the mildest and most inoffensive stereotype imaginable.

    11. Imaginary Friend*

      I’m agreeing with you, Fanaana! (It’s too bad that nobody will see my comment because it’s 2 days later.) If Alison had said, “Oh Southern California” it would not have ruffled my feathers one bit, and I grew up in beach towns in SoCal. I live in the Bay Area now, where we have different stereotypes.

      The thing is that California is very tall – over 750 miles N to S – which means that we have a wide range of climates. And while the LW specified Southern California, Alison extended it to the whole state. That’s similar to assuming that Brooklyn stereotypes apply to everyone in New York State.

  8. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: you messed up, badly. Like horrendously badly. There’s no mitigation here – no ‘I just happened to find’ or ‘but I deleted the documents’ – and if you’d been in IT it could have been a career ending move. That’s seriously the level I’m talking here.

    Once you realise that yes, this is all on you and losing your job was an acceptable punishment for this though you’re in a much better place to move forward. Own up to your mistakes, don’t try to justify them.

    (I know I’m not normally this harsh, but any member of my staff caught forwarding company documents to their personal email without formal approval and a damn good reason would be in serious trouble if not fired)

    1. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, the moment I saw ‘financial services’ I was thinking yep, fired. Maybe the LW would never dream of doing the same with someone’s private financial information, but they sent out of the company private info that they shouldn’t have been looking at in the first place. Feels like far too big a risk for pretty much any financial, health or legal role.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      LW1 also clearly saw that they’d made a mistake, but never informed their manager or security of what happened. They highlight resumes were stored improperly, but did they tell anyone?

      I know we get a lot of letters here about terrible bosses, but if you have decent management, I think that one of the most important things you learn in your career is how to hold your hand up when you make a mistake vs. ignoring it and hoping no one will notice.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Most important thing I teach any new techies of mine: if you’ve screwed up then OWN up. Most systems can be rolled back if we catch a problem quick enough but not if you sit on it for 24 hours.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I think it’s one of the biggest hurdles to get over in terms of a lot of types of work: Making a mistake is fine, hiding or not informing someone of a mistake is a far bigger issue.

    3. londonedit*

      I don’t work in IT or financial services, but if my boss discovered I’d saved a load of CVs from somewhere on the company server there would definitely be serious questions asked. Last time we were recruiting, I asked my boss if I could see the CVs for the people we were doing second interviews with and he said he’d been told by HR that no, I couldn’t, because under GDPR rules only he was allowed to view them as the hiring manager, even though I was going to be sitting in on the second interviews. So if I was then found to be in possession of a load of CVs it would look very, very bad. Even if they had been filed incorrectly. The right thing for OP1 to do would have been to notify someone that personal information was being stored where anyone could access it, not to email the CVs to themselves for their own perusal.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep. It would be opening up the company to HUGE fines, and potential reputational damage as they’d have to report the data breach, and have it on record for any future clients… huge mess.

        1. londonedit*

          Ugh, I can just imagine…my industry is a very small and gossipy one and I can guarantee there are people who would clap their hands together in glee if the company I work for was hauled over the coals for a breach of job candidates’ personal information. It would be a total mess!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            This is also why when I was brought in as a contractor years ago to clean up the absolute shambles they had and to make them GDPR compliant I didn’t put which company I was working for on any public media while I was doing it. That industry would have had a field day knowing that company was in such bad shape.

      2. curious cat*

        I’m curious, what do you mean by “sitting in”? Being in the room to observe only? I can see how you don’t strictly need access to resumes to observe.
        If you need to ask questions/talk to the candidate, that sounds like you’re an interviewer too and should have access to resumes.

        1. londonedit*

          I was pretty much an additional interviewer, but my boss was the lead interviewer and I was mainly sitting in so that I could also form an opinion of the candidates – I did ask a couple of questions, but it was mainly as a ‘…this is londonedit, you’d be working alongside her in this role’ sort of thing. In the end my boss typed up a few salient points from their CVs for me but I definitely wasn’t allowed to have access to the whole thing.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yup, I mean technically I have administrative access to the HR systems and *could* look at anybody’s details but it would be a severe breach of ethics and data protection if I did.

        1. Observer*

          I know that I have access to some systems, but if pulled that, I would probably be out of a job the day it got found out.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            The privilege of having access to a system is equal to the responsibility of knowing when to use it, and when not to.

            In theory I could take down an entire region with a few keystrokes. It would be the instant end of my job, my career and probably any future employment at all.

            This is why I generally stay far away from the finance or HR systems.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      There’s a difference between justifying and explaining the thought at the moment.

      The kicker is these momentary thoughts we have can have long term repercussions. Sadly I have seen people make career ending decisions with a blink of an eye. All it takes is a moment of disconnect, a moment of not thinking.
      There’s a sad story of a person who took a bag from a night depository. No criminal record. Never had any other problems anywhere. In a weak moment the person took the bag. Career ruined, life ruined, everything got lost from that one moment. This is scary stuff to see a reliable person suddenly just fall apart like this.

      A really good way to combat this type of thing is to frame everything at work as “not mine”. This looks like, “X is not mine, therefore I cannot do Y.” This covers tangibles and intangibles such as ideas, concepts, innovations and so on.

      I have another sad story of a person who took money out of a cash drawer. They had reached the end of their rope financially, their situation was Bad. In that bleakness and lacking any other resources, they took from the cash drawer. All it takes is a moment of thought and a person can act on that thought.

      Granted OP was not facing desperation. But on the scary side, we don’t have to be desperate to take sudden actions that we spend a life time regretting. I think OP’s story is a good reminder for anyone to stay sharp and don’t fall for “how easy it is” to just take something that belongs to the company.

      1. londonedit*

        This is all so true. And it’s amazing what people’s brains can come to regard as ‘OK’ – often people will start off doing something really minor, like (as a made-up example) maybe sometimes they’re a bit late starting work on a Monday morning. And after a few weeks they’re quite comfortable with being a bit late on a Monday morning, so it becomes every Monday. And instead of five minutes it becomes ten and then fifteen and so on. Until, well, they’re working from home anyway and they’ve never missed anything really important, so they just…stop doing any work on a Monday morning. And then a few months down the line a major issue kicks off and all of a sudden it’s ‘Fergus has been failing to turn up for work on a Monday morning for the last six months’, WTF Fergus, disciplinary action, all the rest of it. And meanwhile in Fergus’s mind it’s probably still ‘…but I’m only missing the odd bit of work on a Monday morning, nothing ever happens anyway’.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      Career ending mistake for an intern? That seems really unlikely, no? Not to downplay it, esp at a financial institution but you’ve seen the bizarre s**t that people do and come back from!

      1. Observer*

        If they were in IT? Not unlikely at all. I’ve been in the field since before people were worrying about PII, Data security etc. In fact, before the internet was much of thing for regular / smaller businesses. And even then, IT was one of those fields where knowing how to keep your nose in your own business and your mouth shut was a REALLY important thing.

        By 2017? If I heard a story like that about someone I was considering for an IT job, their resume would go on the reject pile. Almost any IT job comes with too much access to make it safe to hire someone who doesn’t get it.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I hear that – I’m an old timer myself… My comment was more to Keymaster b/c she mentioned that had someone on her staff done this, they might not even be fired, but then in the same comment said it could be a career ender, so I wasn’t quite following the distinction

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Like all things, it would depend a lot on the specific circumstances. If this had been company internal IT stuff (like an infrastructure diagram, or some systems code) and it wasn’t reported immediately and the person tried to justify it then they’d likely never work in IT again.

            In a decent company anyway, I’ve worked for a few fly by night operations who’d probably let anything slide but those kinda firms tend to go under.

            If someone on my team forwarded CVs from a work server to their home address and acted like the OP I’d be pushing for them to be fired but the ultimate decision on that goes to HR here and they may overrule me. Hence the uncertainty.

    6. Lab Boss*

      Yeah, I trend towards the far end of the “be understanding if people make mistakes” scale, but there’s still some things that just can’t be salvaged. I’ll always remember a previous job where a new hire did something that had the potential to cause major injury and was immediately fired- the manager who fired him said “I believe you that you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but what you did proves you’re so stupid that you’re dangerous.” Not the most professional wording but it drove the message home to me, that something can just be a lapse in judgement and still prove you’re too much of a risk to keep around.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        I have to admire your boss for being forthright enough to actually say that. Because it’s true.
        We recently had to let a nurse go because of something that’s technically a learning disability, but is life-threatening for any patients under her care. She’s severely dyslexic. Not a big deal in most careers. But in medicine, grabbing the morphine instead of the motrin can kill a patient. And her dyslexia is bad enough that she makes mistakes like that all the time, unless she has someone else checking over her shoulder constantly. And don’t get me started on how illegible her charting was.
        I feel bad for her, not because she’s dyslexic, but because no one in any of the classes she struggled through to get her nursing degree had the guts to tell her that severe dyslexia precludes a career in medicine. So now she has tons of student loan debt for a degree she can’t use. Because having someone follow her around and read all her charts, medicine labels, patient ID bracelets, etc. is not a reasonable workplace accommodation. Yeah, maybe your college was willing to do that for you, but this is the real world. We can’t afford to pay two salaries for the work of one nurse, in order to hire you a full-time personal assistant. Nor can the other nurses on staff constantly pause what they’re doing to check your work.
        So, sadly, she had to be let go. She has no clue what she’s going to do with her life now, because apparently she always wanted to be a nurse, and it never occurred to her that dyslexia so severe she’s always had her tests read aloud to her in school, might be a problem at a hospital.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I can relate, I had to leave the field of virology when I became disabled. It’s a dreadful shock to realise that you really can’t do the career you trained for any more.

          Husband is severely dyslexic too, he works in IT (application development, not support) which isn’t the field he qualified for either. I don’t know if there’s something about IT that draws in people who can’t fit in anywhere else.

          Sincerely hope she finds something.

  9. Paperdill*

    I know this is a stereotype-y sexist way to think, but I’m wondering how random, male, sexual-predator, conservative, finance office, manager type person knows what side ruching and empire lines are? I would have been so intrigue to be a fly in the wall during that conversation because it’s so bizarre that I just can’t envision it.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      It’s possible he didn’t actually use those terms; maybe when the OP asked specifically what the problem was he was like “those shirts that are all bunched up at the sides” or whatever, and OP has used the proper term for clarity.

    2. Batgirl*

      In my mind, when he asked her to wear belts and to “tuck in”, she explained that maternity clothes can’t possibly do that and that they use ruching and empire waists. So instead of accepting he clearly knows sod all about women’s clothing, much less maternity clothing, he just said “I don’t like the look (of a pregnant belly)”.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Which is funny, if you think about it: How did he think that HIS mother looked while she was pregnant with HIM?

        1. Paperdill*

          In one of those old 40’s smock things with the subtle side vents designed to hide your hideously offensive condition. Except, of course, someone would look even more conspicuous wear such nonsense in 2022.
          And she would have been confined to the home and not shown her vulgar tum to the outside world until she looked damn well decent again!

    3. Amethystmoon*

      Right? I’m a woman and I don’t like side ruching myself, but I’d think most men wouldn’t even know what it was called if they weren’t working in the fashion or clothing retail industry.

      1. Mannequin*

        I know women who don’t know what ruching is, and the only men I know who do are gay.

        My husband would call it ruffles.

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

      The only bad thing about empire waists is that are so closely associated with maternity clothes that I can’t wear them without people assuming I’m pregnant. No thanks, I’m just fat.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Personally my issue with empire waists is that I’ve never found one that actually fits larger bust sizes. But that’s a ‘sigh and admire from afar’ issue. Claiming they’re inappropriate for the workplace? Um, no.

  10. Paperdill*

    I know this is a stereotype-y sexist way to think, but I’m wondering how random, male, sexual-predator, conservative, finance office, manager type person knows what side ruching and empire lines are? I would have been so intrigue to be a fly in the wall during that conversation because it’s so bizarre that I just can’t envision it.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I just assumed he didn’t use those terms as such but said something more like “the high up waist with the fabric hanging under it” etc..

      1. Paperdill*

        That just makes the whole conversation and manager in general sound even more ridiculous! It’s just such a silly conversation to imagine. It’s so comical it could be a sitcom.

  11. Cassie*

    I appreciate that US law may vary, but in my country and a majority of the rest of Europe the actions of OP1 would have opened the company up to serious legal liability. I obviously don’t think OP was being malicious (and we have all made mistakes at work especially early in our careers), but it can be worth considering their may be wider reaching consequences for your actions than you might assume.

    1. Liz*

      Agreed. Based on my training, this would infringe upon the GDPR and land the company in hot water. Use, storage, and access are pretty clearly restricted ONLY to the appropriate use according to the business, which absolutely does not extend to members of staff copying it to an external location to peruse off the clock.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Companies here need to have training and documents for new starts to sign with big “I agree never to do this” clauses. If company didn’t have that for intern, not 100% their fault. If they did, and intern didn’t read properly… yeah, their fault. And the damage which could be done to company is seriously massive.

        1. BethDH*

          I wonder how differently it would have turned out if they’d owned up immediately when they realized it was a bad idea. I’m guessing “I didn’t even read them” was less convincing when the OP didn’t say anything until it was caught.
          Not saying that to pick on OP — I can imagine having handled it that way at the same point. It’s easy to imagine that the crime would be in actually looking/using the data, but for the company it’s the breach itself. It’s like breaking into a bank and deciding not to steal anything after all.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Agreed, but I’m also wondering how much training LW got on this stuff. Privacy and information management has changed SO much in the last twenty years, and I don’t know what is formally stated and what is assumed. There’s a big difference for me between, “You should have just known this was wrong”, “You’ve been trained on keeping financial and personal data confidential, and whilst CVs were never explicitly mentioned, you should have realised it applied here”, and “you have been trained on never downloading any data from the employer for personal use”. I am very much not a fan of companies firing entry-level staff for failing to follow rules if the rules weren’t explicitly communicated.

        (there’s a bit in one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels where two ensigns find a file that can’t be downloaded or copied, so they turn one of the desks around so that someone outside the office can read it over a screen. And the moral here is “your security has a hole in it”, rather than “you totally failed to train your staff in how to handle classified information”! It makes me so annoyed every time, but it’s also an awareness of how understandings of where the responsibility for confidentiality have changed since the book was written in the 80s.)

    2. Snow Globe*

      Financial institutions in the US are subject to serious regulation regarding maintaining privacy, so yes, there would be legal repercussions. In a different, non-regulated industry, maybe not.

    3. Observer*

      In New York at this point, this would have opened the company to serious issues. It’s not QUITE as bad as some other breaches, but if the company had not acted quite severely, it would have been something that would open them to greater liability down the road if a more serious breach (eg client information) happened.

      At the time the letter was published, the legal landscape was a bit different, but as I said then, it was STILL a huge deal for most companies. And for the heavily regulated ones like financial services, this would be a big deal on all fronts including legal.

    4. Bernice Clifton*

      When I worked in Finance in the US, our annual compliance trainings would use scenarios like this to highlight what not to do.

  12. TiredEmployee*

    So obviously forwarding yourself files found on the company drives that contain personal or proprietary information is wrong, but I’d like to ask where the line is on moving files you created.

    For example, in an old job I had nothing to do – literally nothing – for most of my time. So I made myself financial models in Excel (retirement calculator, mortgage calculator, take-home pay calculator, that kind of thing) and took them home via uploading them to my personal email account (which being an uncommon provider was not blocked). I’d be surprised if that were a fireable offense, given that there was zero personal or company data involved. Though accessing my personal email account could have been, but serves them right for not giving me any work.

    In my current job I have compiled a library of scripts and queries I’ve written to make my job easier. If I were to leave this job, I would want to take a copy and strip the company-specific information from this library to take the generic syntax guides with me. That feels like a more grey area now, since the file as it currently stands does contain a lot of company data. Would that also be over the line? If so, would it be better to make a separate, generic-only library that never contained any company data? Or am I wildly off-base all it’s inappropriate to ever use a company computer to make files for your personal use?

    1. TiredEmployee*

      That first sentence is meant to read “moving files you created between work and home machines”. And the last sentence is meant to say “and”, not “all”. Clearly need to proof-read!

    2. londonedit*

      I think it’s different if it’s information you’ve created for your own use, but I agree that you should strip out the company-specific info before you take it to another job. In my industry you’re expected to bring a certain amount of information with you to a new job – if you’re a commissioning editor, you’re supposed to have a stable of agents and authors and it’s expected that those will move with you. If you’re a desk editor like me, you’ll be expected to have a stable of freelancers that you can bring with you to a new role. But those details very much need to be kept private and only for your own business use. We recently had an email go round checking that we had no freelancer information stored on the company servers and no ‘blacklist’ or document with reviews of people’s work – we’re allowed to keep personal lists of contact details on our own desktops but we’re not allowed to make those available company-wide or keep any judgement on file like ‘don’t use this person, they’re always late’.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d say its probably ok if there is zero data on them – so your own stuff is fine. I wouldn’t risk company data, even if you think identifiers were removed, so generic one.

    4. techie*

      For the scripts and queries, I wouldn’t take them with you. They were written for the company and is theirs. Take notes or generic snippets, enough to jog your memory of how you did it.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’m an IP paralegal and strongly agree. If it was a work tool you created in work time, it almost certainly belongs to the employer who paid you for that time.

        You can recreate something incredibly similar for a new employer, or for yourself, but you really shouldn’t just take it with you. It’s not just the customer information that matters.

    5. EmmyNoether*

      It wouldn’t be a data protection problem, but I think in theory anything that is created on the clock is work product that belongs to the company – you cannot take it with you.

      In practice, it’s going to be a lot more gray in a lot of jobs – people think about work stuff at home and private stuff at work. No one will expect you to forget what you happen to have memorized. Some industries have different expectations about this stuff. But the general answer is yes, taking *anything* from work is stealing. I was even once advised to be careful with intellectual property created the first three months on a new job, because it may have been invented/created in OldJob and therefore belong to them.

    6. Nikki*

      You probably want to check your employee handbook to see what your company has to say about this. I work in IT and at every company I’ve worked for, the handbook says anything created for the company is owned by them and I’m not allowed to take any of it with me when I leave or copy it to a personal device. Even if you strip out company specific info, they still see it as proprietary information because competitors could glean information about their internal processes by looking at the scripts.

      1. TiredEmployee*

        To clarify, this library is in a note-keeping application with separate notes for individual scripts etc. and a “Generic” tag that’s all the kind of code snippets you can find on the internet, sometimes combined into more complex functions, all organised, commented, and tagged to save me having to search online or reverse-engineer how it works. Like

        dateadd(day,-1,getdate()) returns date and time from yesterday
        datefromparts(year(getdate()),month(getdate()),1) returns first of this month
        datepart(month,[DateField]) returns numerical month
        datename(month,[DateField]) returns month name

        Obviously a simple example, but that is verbatim one of the notes. Others include things like a VBA subroutine that deletes all blank pages from a document, or a SQL function that creates a table of dates between two given dates. Anything that reveals how e.g. databases are structured wouldn’t be included, it’s just the “Generic” tag I’d want.

        The employee handbook does mention confidentiality around information on business processes, which presumably would cover the work scripts and queries themselves (which I would obviously delete) but nothing about things “created for the company”.

      2. Nikki*

        Even if it’s very generic code and not proprietary, a lot of companies would still have a problem with you taking it. It was created on company time so they paid you for that work. If you take it and use it in a future job, they’re basically providing their competitors with free work product. Unless you’re 100% certain your company would be fine with it, I would be very careful about what you copy over to a personal device. It could jeopardize any bonus or severance payout as well as future references from the company if they feel like you violated your terms of employment. Especially since it sounds like these scripts are easily recreated, it’s probably not worth the risk.

        1. TiredEmployee*

          The company I work for has no competitors, so that particular concern is moot, but you’re right about it probably not being worth the risk.

          Though, follow-up, if I compiled an equivalent library of generic snippets on my own computer in my own time, brought that to my next job, and added to it over the course of said job, would I then not be able to take it with me to a second hypothetical future job?

          1. Colette*

            It depends. I’ve definitely worked jobs where anything I created belonged to them, even if I did ti at home on my own time and equipment. (These were software development jobs; if I’d written a novel, they would have cleared it to belong to me; if I’d written the hot new app that related to my job, they wouldn’t have.)

    7. Amethystmoon*

      Before COVID, I worked on Toastmasters speeches when it’s very slow at work and I had nothing better to do. I forwarded them to myself so I can practice them after work. Although nowadays, one can just log onto the work computer without logging into the VPN also.

      1. Verthandi*

        I did that, too. My workplace encouraged people to become members. Our club tended to come up with inventive themes each week.

    8. Coffee Anonymous*

      Officially, doing this with any artifacts you made for use in your work is a big no-no in my industry, and could get you fired. Most companies monitor email for suspicious-looking traffic, and will almost certainly catch someone who’s just turned in their notice and is now emailing googobs of documents to a non-company address. (Obviously getting fired is a moot point by then, but you would burn a bridge, and you might get sued if the breach was especially egregious.)

      Unofficially, it still happens often enough that there’s a quiet “don’t ask, don’t tell” assumption about where your colleague got that item they shared with you, and a not-so-quiet periodic reminder (especially to more junior staff) to use these sample docs only for reference. If the TPS Report Wakeen sent you is exactly what you want for the Client X proposal, create a new document based on that model, but don’t just rename or copy/paste the whole thing only to find a competitor’s name lurking in the header or document properties.

  13. Works4cats*

    I’m curious if the response to OP2 would change today in the world of virtual meetings, where such photos can be your “face” when you’re not using video (at least on the platform my company uses). Maybe the answer is still of the “roll your eyes and let it go” variety but wondering if higher use/exposure would change answer. One thing I’d recommend if OP2 was writing in today would be to see if the company has any sort of guidelines/policy for these types of employee photos – I vaguely recall my company sending out photo guidelines* and this photo definitely wouldn’t fly. And I would definitely sympathize with the OP at being uncomfortable with having to “see” any of my coworkers shirtless while trying to work.
    * don’t remember if it was after start of pandemic WFH and number of virtual meetings skyrocketed or when we go switched video conferencing platforms – time has no meaning anymore

    1. BethDH*

      I think the zoom use does make it different. The photo is a lot bigger (when the person is talking with video off at least), you’re seeing it longer and can’t just click away after grabbing an email, and of course there are more likely to be external people on a call at some point.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think it would make a difference because the relationships are not substantially different.

      1. Works4cats*

        Thanks all for replying to my comment. Mostly just a thought exercise (my brain wouldn’t let it go so I put it out in the world) and I think I see can where folks are coming from. I definitely agree with the point that people don’t have “their bodies ‘at’ other people” and shouldn’t be treated as such. I’ve had those experiences myself (getting comments from others when wearing the exact same uniform as others – polo shirts are my enemy). And maybe I didn’t think through my wording as well as I should because the uncomfortableness/discomfort is not that someone has a body but that the outfit is outside the workplace norm/convection that I’d expect when interacting with someone in a work context. I would feel the same discomfort regardless of the person’s gender if I’m in work context but seeing them wearing an outfit that covers less than is typical in the office setting. If such a photo was someone’s desktop background, I wouldn’t even give it a second thought (don’t need to look at their desktop background to do my job). What makes it different in my mind is if I’m trying to have a work conversation through teams with someone and that’s the photo is showing and I need to look at my screen so can’t “avoid” it. I also acknowledge that I’ve been blessed in my professional career in not having to ever deal with anything like this and having really easy to talk to supervisor, leaders, etc.
        Again, meant more as a thought exercise and maybe more of a suggestions that context matters and to maybe choose your work photos as carefully as you choose your outfits going into work.

    3. Amethystmoon*

      Right, I use a photo of myself all dressed up for a speech contest on Zoom and also Microsoft at work. But at least it looks professional.

    4. JSPA*

      IMO, people, very broadly, should not be treated as having their bodies “at” other people.

      That’s true if you have detectable nipples or cleavage, and it’s also true if you have a masculine- style chest and chest hair.

      If the grandboss wants to take up the issue of professional dress…fine!

      But, “I have personal reactions, positive or negative, to noticing your noticeable body, and I’m making it your business” should be avoided whenever possible.

    5. RagingADHD*

      The swimmer using a sports photo is LW’s boss, not their direct report or even their peer. You don’t police your boss’s adherence to the employee handbook unless you are making some kind of formal complaint to HR or their superiors, which would be a wildly inappropriate escalation in this instance.

      If the employee were “uncomfortable” with seeing a photo of their female boss in triathalon gear, for example, I think a lot more people would be clear about the fact that the photo is none of LW’s business.

  14. Richard Hershberger*

    OP3: Side issue, but it appears from the letter that the first time the LW got included, they were presented with a coffee not of their own selection. From the description it was something I would find undrinkable, as in I would involuntarily spit it out. I don’t do sweet drinks. My understanding of Starbucks culture is that each person’s choice of drink is highly specific to that person. Surely just buying drinks for everyone willy-nilly is simply bad gift-giving.

    1. Batgirl*

      It’s extremely bad round culture. You ask if people want to be in a round, what their drink of choice is, and you ask if they are in the mood for said drink before you go get the drink each time. This was not a round, it was favour sharking.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely – you can’t just plonk a drink on someone’s desk and claim that means they’re now ‘part of the round’ and responsible for buying drinks for everyone.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “favour sharking” is a great phrase that I shall immediately magpie – thank you!

    2. Virginia Plain*

      Yes, if for some bizarre reason you could t ask people their choices you’d at least get black coffees, grab sugar sachets and pick up a pint of milk on your way back, to cover most based – you wouldn’t order an extra large decaf strawberry cream unicorn mochafrappalatte, easy on the glitter, insulin on the side.
      But even the first option is both rare and heavily context dependent. It’s what I did when I went to meet and update colleagues assisting me at a non-office location who had been up all night doing the assisting, and I didn’t know them from a bar of soap, I was just thinking how nice it would be if they liked coffee and bacon rolls. Luckily they did. Of course I come from a culture (U.K. government work) where the in-office beverage choices (unless you are an honours guest and hot drinks/bottled water have been ordered in advance and brought on a trolley) are usually coffee or tea, with or without milk, sugar or not. They might have decaf, if you want sweeteners you’d better bring your own, and water is from the tap and probably served in a mug! I get the impression USA office coffee is a bit fancier. Probably isn’t even instant lol.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s an example of how thoroughly the supervisor managed to warp the suggestion that she now bring coffee for the team occasionally. Maybe with an extra dollop of “If you screw up a chore, then no one ever asks you to do it again.”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Weaponized incompetence.

        But I think the terrible manager just was terrible enough not to understand (or care) what the real issue was.

    4. Nancy*

      That’s not specific to Starbucks, that’s whenever you buy food and drinks. Going to the coffee shop on the corner still requires knowledge of who wants milk, cream, sugar, and who wants nothing.

      LW just needs to decline being a part of the round. Uf she goes on her own and someone asks, invite them to go with her or offer to pick something up if she wants.

    5. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      It would be well worth it in terms of both money and morale for the office to simply invest in a good Keurig, a good selection of coffee / tea / hot chocolate pods, some sweeteners and milk / non-dairy creamer. Then everyone could have what they wanted and no one would be on the hook for buying Starbucks for the whole department. And if someone wanted a special beverage unique to Starbucks, well, they could buy it themselves with their own money. Problem solved!

    6. Coffee Anonymous*

      Remembering a work trip several years ago where we sorted this out reasonably well. Since the coffee in our hotel was undrinkable, the 8 members of our team took turns picking up morning beverages. 2 principles kept it manageable for the duration of our work there:
      1) The coffee car brought basic coffee, tea, or hot chocolate only. You could get it lightened or sweetened to your liking, but if you wanted an espresso drink or anything more complicated, you were on your own.
      2) Since 1) kept everyone’s costs modest and in the same range, no one needed to repay anyone else or keep track of who owed who — you just bought a round about every 2 weeks, and helped carry the coffee when someone else bought it.

      This also led to one day when my colleague was running through the orders to make sure we all got the right drinks, said (to colleague next to him) “You’re hot,” (setting his own coffee aside) “I’m black,” and (handing me a cup) “You’re light and artificially sweet” … and it took us a good 10 minutes to stop laughing while our manager glared us.

  15. The Lexus Lawyer*

    Glad OP1 learned their lesson and were able to recover from it.

    But that was honestly such a strange out there thing to do. Why would anyone think it’s ok?

    1. BethDH*

      I can see having done this very early in my career. I have never put things like physical addresses on my resumes, and in college our career services was constantly telling us our resumes should be on personal websites that were easy to find. I would definitely have thought of a resume as a public document.
      That said, I can’t imagine having done it after four months in a job, especially somewhere like financial services. Maybe if you take things really literally and think all that data privacy stuff is just for customer data?

    2. londonedit*

      They were doing their first ever internship – this is the sort of thing where people think ‘surely we don’t have to spell it out’ but if you’ve never worked in an office before then you might not have come across a shared drive and you might not be thinking about company policy. I can imagine a part of OP1’s brain thinking well, if the info is on a shared drive then what’s the harm in looking at it – and it’s clear that the rational part of their brain kicked in soon after and said no, this doesn’t seem right, better delete that email. If there was specific training on ‘here is the company IT policy, you must not copy anything from the shared drive for your personal use, you must not share client information’ etc (which there should have been) then the OP is obviously 100% responsible but otherwise I can see them thinking ‘oh this might be a useful resource, I’m only going to look at them myself, it’s not like I’m sharing any of the details’ and not fully understanding what a big deal it is.

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

      Is extremely usual. In the last two years I received lots of messages from recuiters from companies I’ve heard about and never applied to. Considering I removed my personal phone number in 2016, and the few I talked to have extremely outdated copies of my resumé… My safest bet is several people copied as much resumes as possible from a shared drive before leaving and used their “database” to cold call potential candidates.

  16. Dr. Rebecca*

    I’ve seen #4 work once, though the devil’s in the details, which are what made it work. My aunt was an AVP of finance for a large museum. She made her promotion to VP contingent on distributing the resulting salary bump among her subordinates. She was valuable enough to the museum, and looking back on things I see she was also willing enough to walk over this issue, that she got them to do it.

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s very sweet! But yeah, it makes more sense for a VP of finance to make a call about the budget, essentially taking a pay cut (from the raise) to give her reports raises, than for LW4 who has no authority over the budget.

  17. Lunch Ghost*

    I managed to miss the word “me” in #3 and was trying to figure out how a boss wanting to treat their team to coffee was somehow a problem worth writing in about.

  18. Velocipastor*

    I am now even more grateful that my fairly conservative, business casual office has been incredibly lax in enforcing the dress code on me during my pregnancy. Apparently, every company that makes maternity clothes assumes every pregnant woman can stay home in comfy clothes all day now. If only…

    1. RagingADHD*

      Back a million years ago when I was expecting, Pea in the Pod had a whole section of very conservative work clothes. Looks like they’re still around, but they seem pretty pricey to me for stuff you can’t wear very long.

      1. Velocipastor*

        Yes the price of maternity workwear is really prohibitive! I have been able to find some stretch dress pants on amazon but they look a lot more like yoga pants than dress pants and that wouldn’t normally fly where I work so they’re being really nice to me!

    2. SpaceySteph*

      I was so uncomfortable toward the end of my previous pregnancy I wore long shirts and leggings every day to the office. I even bought more long shirts in the last couple weeks just so I wouldnt have to wear “real” pants to the office. My office is not super fancy, but I was still basically just daring them to tell an 8 month pregnant lady to dress nicer. They didn’t.

      I’m lucky this time around I’ve been about 60% WFH and plan to go fully WFH 2 weeks before my due date (mainly to avoid COVID exposure but also because leggings are life)

      1. Velocipastor*

        I’m only about half way there but I’m already daring them to dress code me. As long as I can keep wearing pre-pregnancy leggings under tunic tops without buying maternity pants, I intend to!

    3. turquoisecow*

      I was pregnant and working from home plus it was pandemic times so I wore a lot of clothes that I might not have worn around people, and while a lot of the pandemic pregnancy was a pain, not having to see people was a big bonus.

      1. Velocipastor*

        There were definitely morning sickness days where I truly felt bad for everyone who had the misfortune of seeing me in public. They’re letting me work from home 2 days a week now to lower my exposure to covid (because it can only spread on certain days of the week??) so that’s 2 less outfits I have to figure out!

  19. meagain*

    The great thing with Starbucks mobile app is that everyone can order (and pay for) their own coffee. I realize this is an old letter, but that’s an easy way to say, “Sure, why don’t you order exactly what you want through the app and I can pick it up when I get mine.”

    1. EPLawyer*

      It wasn’t that the Boss bought the OP a coffee she didn’t want. It’s that boss SPECTACULARLY missed the whole point of the coffee buying thing. OP used it as an example of the overall problem of favoritism. OP didn’t want boss buying her coffee. She wanted Boss to stop playing favorites in the office.

    2. turquoisecow*

      That sounds super easy also because then the other person doesn’t have to worry about inadvertently getting the order wrong and getting, say, a soy latte for someone who’s allergic to soy because they confused it with several other orders for soy beverages.

  20. Kim*

    So an intern was fired for emailing resumes to herself? If there is such an expectation of privacy for job applicants, why were they stored on a shared drive with presumably access to all employees? Was that person fired ? Early in my career my boss would circulate resumes and cover letters among the department when he was interviewing people . We usually met the person briefly. My boss even sent us resumes that had spelling errors as an example of what not to do. (Should he have been fired?) I kept copies of some of the good ones so I could get some pointers on skills and education to develop or resume and cover letter style etc. Should I have been fired? There should not be residential address or other info that could be used for identity theft on a resume . I think the company didn’t want to tolerate this by an intern, but they let the careless hiring managers skate.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Circulating resumes among the department for work purposes, or even accessing the resumes on a shared drive, is fundamentally different from sending them to your personal computer in a company that has strict privacy requirements for legal reasons.

      I don’t understand what you mean by this:

      There should not be residential address or other info that could be used for identity theft on a resume

      Is everyone supposed to get a PO box for resume purposes??

      1. Observer*

        Well, you would also need a burner phone so you don’t have your primary phone number, nor any dates of anything you’ve done, nor the actual names of the companies you’ve worked for or the names of any schools you’ve gone to.

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      Yes, you should have been fired. Resumes/cover letters are “need to know” personal identifiable information, and that need to know includes the context in which you are handling them. So: circulated for departmental feedback during an interview cycle = need to know. You keeping them for pointers on skills? =/= need to know.

      1. Calliope*

        No of course they shouldn’t have been fired, come on. This idea that resumes are suddenly super secret information is ridiculous. If you’re submitting a resume to a company you need to expect that anyone at the company could potentially see it.

        Apparently Europe has stricter rules but the US definitely does not.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          No, not everyone at the company is privy to resumes, nor should they be. HR, the hiring manager, and possibly a handful of other people have access; that’s it. And none of them should be sending those resumes to their private email.

        2. pancakes*

          It’s not so much that they’re “suddenly super secret” as that they’re simply not yours. The fact that documents your employer has in its possession don’t belong to you and shouldn’t be taken home for perusing at your leisure isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) new news.

    3. Gingerbread Gnome*

      The OP specifically said the resumes were improperly stored. The proper thing for OP to do would be to notify their boss, not copy for themselves then happily (or guiltily) go on their way. Yes, this is a firable offense in many workplaces where security is important. Just because someone made a mistake does not mean you have no responsibility for your further actions.
      In a financial services business there were very likely repercussions to the individuals who improperly stored in the first place, but OP would not have that information. I am guessing you do not work in a security-dependant business, but in many places yes, those are fireable offenses. Nowadays examples of all types of resumes are available on the internet.

    4. comityoferrors*

      An intern was fired for finding, snooping into, and emailing herself documents that she had no business with at all.

      It’s very different for a team to review resumes for candidates they’ll meet. It’s…not great, IMO, that your boss used real resumes as bad examples, but he was the intended recipient and can choose to share those with his team. You were an intended recipient once your boss shared them, and it sounds like he was aware and encouraged you to keep/review them for your own experience.

      That’s not the same as this intern. She found some materials that weren’t intended for her, recognized that those materials should not have been on a shared drive available to anyone, and after recognizing that she sent herself copies so she could continue to access them anyway. It sounds like the hiring manager stored them in the wrong location, and it’s very possible that hiring manager was scolded for their mistake, but storing your own files in the wrong location is a much more minor issue than surreptitiously copying files to your personal accounts when you have no reason to access them at all.

    5. londonedit*

      I mentioned above that when I was involved in a recruitment process my boss was told that even though I’d be present for the second interviews I wasn’t allowed to view or access the candidates’ CVs beforehand. My boss ended up typing up notes for me with details of the salient points from each CV so that I at least had some idea of the candidates’ backgrounds before the interviews, but I wasn’t allowed to see any information beyond that because of data protection. So there’s no way our HR would let people a) circulate CVs amongst a team without very good reason and b) do what the OP did and copy CVs to their personal email address. Yes they were saved in the wrong place but that’s no excuse for the OP to copy them for their own personal use.

    6. Observer*

      I think the company didn’t want to tolerate this by an intern, but they let the careless hiring managers skate.

      You have no idea what the company did. But, given the fact that IT alerted the manager about files being mailed out, it’s quite probable that whoever left the resumes exposed that way had their head handed to them.

      If there is such an expectation of privacy for job applicants, why were they stored on a shared drive with presumably access to all employees?

      So your argument is that if someone leaves their car keys in the car, it’s ok to drive off with the car? Someone left their wallet in the break room so you can copy their driver’s license and use it? I really doubt you mean that. This is no different. The fact that someone messed up and left something where it does not belong is a problem. The fact that the OP then went ahead and misused that access is a problem too. And given that they don’t have a long track record with them, it makes sense that the company doesn’t want to take on someone who appears to have bad judgement and doesn’t seem to quite get how serious of a breach it was.

    7. Bernice Clifton*

      If you were working in Finance, yes, you should have been fired for keeping resumes unless they had all names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers redacted.

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

      I wish more companies behaved like this. They are extremely outdated copies of my resume circulating among recruiters, and I suspect this is how they got it…

    9. Macapito*

      At my last company, I had access to all the CVs and resumes for the job I was hired into. I could literally go and look at all the documentation for who I beat out for my position. When I brought it to my boss’s attention, he didn’t care. Years later, every person we hired also had access to CVs and cover letters for people they had beat out for their job. There was no policy, and no one seemed to care. If anyone was tracking file access or downloads, it was never flagged as a problem. I think purposely downloading all those CVs/resumes and then emailing them to an external address would have been problematic if escalated to the right people, but there was no policy, and it would have been a hand-slap and a side-eye, at most, IMO.

  21. Bert*

    LW1: never ever ever ever email company documentation to an external email address. Never. That is a breach of security.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I worked at a place where you couldn’t reliably connect remotely. If you wanted to work on something at home you either needed to put all your documents on a usb drive and carry it, or email it to yourself. A former coworker got in some trouble later for this, but it was clear she had just sent herself some research she downloaded. This feels very different from going into what should have been protected personnel-type files and taking them.

  23. Kittymommy*

    Yeah I think because I work in government and in a state where A LOT is public record I have a weird barometer, because this really doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

  24. Pam*

    Hey, California has great workplace protections, including overtime after an 8 hour day. I will put up with a shirtless boss pic for that.

  25. Bernice Clifton*

    #2, you don’t really have standing to say something, and his boss can see it and say something if they wish.

  26. Meep*

    LW3: Jeebus. That crazy lady wasn’t trying to be inclusive, she was punishing whatever part-time worker had the nerve to complain.

  27. CatPerson*

    A co-worker once came across a profile photo of an employee posing with the animal (maybe a deer?) that she had just killed.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Blech! (Very normal in some cultures though — but not a good idea for work, because blech for other cultures.)

  28. LizM*

    I’m not sure I would have fired OP1 over this if she already was a permanent employee, but I can see this being enough to not bring her on permanently. I’m in government, and it becomes so much harder to fire someone when they become a permanent employee, so unfortunately, a lapse in judgment can mean that we don’t want to risk it becoming a bigger issue later on when we can’t address it as easily.

    Emailing unencrypted PII (which is what the resumes were) outside of the network when you had no legitimate business reason to even be looking at the files is a huge lapse in judgment. Doubly so in an environment (like government or finance) where PII is heavily regulated.

    Even if she deleted them immediately, just the act of emailing them exposed them to a potential security breach.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      I see two sides. It was perhaps less egregious for an intern because they are by definition still learning workplace norms.. a full time employee doing this I would have even more concerns about their judgement since they should “know better.”

      But it is true that doubts about a person during their internship is a good enough reason not to keep them around as a full timer, before you have to then get into PIPs and other processes to terminate like a permanent employee. With LW1 I’m most concerned that reflecting back from a few years into their career, they still don’t seem to grasp why it was such a problem.

  29. Lady Pomona*

    It would be well worth it in terms of both money and morale for the office to simply invest in a good Keurig, a good selection of coffee / tea / hot chocolate pods, some sweeteners and milk / non-dairy creamer. Then everyone could have what they wanted and no one would be on the hook for buying Starbucks for the whole department. And if someone wanted a special beverage unique to Starbucks, well, they could buy it themselves with their own money. Problem solved!

    1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      Except the problem wasn’t really the coffee, it was the favoritism shown by the boss.

  30. Badger*

    I can understand firing someone in OP1’s situation, but what about forwarding your own work projects for a portfolio? Should you ask first and get permission to put them on a thumb drive?

    1. Calliope*

      Generally if it’s work that was done for a client or the company, you should get permission before including it in a portfolio.

  31. Macapito*

    #1 – in college, I interviewed at a well-known bank to be a part-time teller, was offered the position, and came back in to follow-up with HR, sign papers, and watch some training videos. Right as we started that morning, my would-be boss walked out of the conference room, and I happened to see a quarter on the ground next to my chair, near the door. I picked it up and put in my pocket…right as the boss walked back in. The job offer was rescinded and I was told to leave. I still think about that.

    #3 – I worked in an office once, where one of us decided to get lunch from a place down the block. Another coworker went to a different place around the block. And another coworker went to a third different place around the block. My boss didn’t like “inefficiencies” like that and yelled at us to coordinate lunch, buy from one place, try our best to have it delivered, and stop “sending” three people out for lunch each day. My boss just really didn’t want any of us taking lunch breaks and inconveniencing her and was known to purposely interrupt people who were trying to eat at their desks. So, if one of us went out to grab lunch and bring it back, we were under instruction to coordinate with everyone else in the office and determine what they wanted from the same place, which turned into guilt-fests, “I’m not hungry yet,” different people not wanting Restaurant #1 despite the person who decided to go get a lunch wanting Restaurant #1, trouble with coordinating money, people not getting paid back, ect, and, ultimately, none of us going out for lunch anymore. Boss got what boss wanted. I learned that how a boss handles lunch and stuff like coffee runs tends to correlate with dysfunction and toxicity.

  32. t4ci3*

    For OP1, I don’t understand what benefit they thought there was for them in reading other applicants resumes, since they did say that they had gotten a 1-yr contract and a raise already at that time.

  33. Snarkastic*

    Do you think they would have responded immediately if it was a woman in a bathing suit or would that be ok as well? Have to admit, I can’t see most women doing that, because we can’t deviate from business norms as easily. But in the context of active California, it does track that someone would post an activity photo.

  34. MistakesAreOK*

    Disagree on OP1. The point of internships is to learn how to work. You should be allowed to make mistakes. Unless the company hit you over the head with their training on not sending anything to your personal email, it isn’t fair to fire someone for ignorance about resume confidentiality. It’s not obvious. I’ve worked at companies that freely give away people’s addresses and phone numbers without thinking about it. And these are people who have worked for years, who should presumably know better. A lot of commenters are assuming that everyone knows what is confidential and what isn’t. They absolutely do not and it varies widely by company. Even the fact that the OP thought better of it is not an indication that they needed to do anything about it. I can understand someone wanting to erase their mistake and not make it worse by opening a can of worms when they didn’t end up following through. I’m assuming this intern was young, and to me, this is a normal thing that young people do and need to learn from. I don’t think it was necessary to fire them to teach them the lesson.

    I also don’t agree that this is a red flag about the OP’s integrity. Especially if they’d been responsible and shown integrity in every other aspect of their job until that point, which it appears they did. I put this on the company. People who are new to the working world shouldn’t have to learn unspoken rules by osmosis, or even with a short training video. That’s not how people learn.

    I say this having worked in HR my whole career where I’ve watched countless people make much bigger mistakes than this and get away with it. A mistake like wanting to review some resumes should be ok as an intern, especially if the company isn’t making those kind of norms exceptionally clear. Let’s draw the line at actual problems like stealing or being consistently unreliable.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that the OP STILL didn’t get it years later. Yes, they realized that this could get them in trouble and that’s undoubtedly a good thing. But they look back at it and think that it just wasn’t such a big deal. Which, it WAS. Maybe not a firing offense – but I really, really cannot say that it is NOT a firing offense either.

      Unless the training, guidance and oversight the OP was given was really poor, I would expect that expectations of privacy would have been pretty strongly communicated. Remember, the problem was not just that they LOOKED at the resumes, but they mailed them out of the company. And this is a financial services company. If by that point they didn’t understand that data security is a BIG DEAL then it’s reasonable to worry whether they will pick up on really, really important stuff.

    2. Batgirl*

      I don’t think the thinking was so much “Oh she’s unteachable and a terrible person, let’s go out of our way to fire her” as much as it was “That was really poor judgement, she hasn’t even started yet and we should just stop the trial here and go with our other options”. I think the person managing her was more invested in having it be a teaching opportunity, because what you say about how people learn is true! However the overall faceless people higher in the structure are going to be more: “A random intern almost caused a security breach? Well, she can learn by never being invited back”.

  35. Candi*

    #2: “Oh, California.

    Okay, that’s not fair. But still … California.”

    Alison, my dad was born and raised there and would agree with you! And when he retired from the Army, he chose to retire somewhere considerably farther north.

    #5: The update always gives me the warm fuzzies, that the intern felt confident enough in her workplace to report the situation, and that HR lowered the boom.

  36. Avril Ludgateau*

    re: #2

    I don’t necessarily agree with what I’m about to say, but could having a shirtless pic, even in an innocuous context, be interpreted as sexual harassment? Or, in another capacity, sexual discrimination, IF the same picture from a female-bodied individual would be considered inappropriate?

    Even if I might not want to see my boss shirtless, the picture as described would not make me uncomfortable, per se, especially in the absence of any suggestive, lascivious, or otherwise inappropriate behavior. I can see how it could make a person uncomfortable, though. I wonder how it is interpreted legally. Something like this has never come up in our yearly sexual harassment trainings!

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