most popular posts of 2021

Here are the posts that interested people the most in 2021, via two lists: the most viewed posts and the most commented on posts.

Most viewed posts of 2021:

10. I’m frustrated that my employees don’t want to return to the office

9. Interviewer badmouthed me to my references because I didn’t want to “harness the power of QAnon”

8. My coworker told HR I was interviewing and now they’re posting my job

7. My boss was furious that I went to a work party after calling out sick

6. A coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama

5. My employee wants to work from home without child care for his baby forever

4. Our highly-paid, overworked junior staff keep leaving just as we get them fully trained

3. My employee refuses to lie to customers — but that’s our policy

2. My employee gave me an “it’s her or me” ultimatum

1. My employee wasn’t respectful enough after the company messed up her paycheck

Most commented on posts of 2021

(doesn’t include open threads or “ask the readers” posts, which otherwise would hold many of the top 10 places)

10. My new office has a no-humor policy

9. Employer rejected me, then sent a list of everything I did wrong

8. My company’s leadership program for women excludes men

7. I want my employee to be more engaged and work more hours

6. My employee gave me an “it’s her or me” ultimatum

5. A coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama

4. Will I be fired if I refuse a Covid test, I didn’t get a thank-you after helping someone, and more

3. I’m working 2 full-time remote jobs — is this unethical?

2. Our highly-paid, overworked junior staff keep leaving just as we get them fully trained

1. My employee wasn’t respectful enough after the company messed up her paycheck

{ 98 comments… read them below }

    1. ed123*

      It’s like the opposite of clickbate but somehow even when the story is exactly what the headline says…it’s always so much more.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like the ones where you’re like “Another 5 questions post?” and no, they are all parts of the same question.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think They Don’t Make Sunday is referring to the headlines in the most viewed/most commented on post lists, not the “most popular posts of 2021” title.

  1. awesome3*

    No humor in the office, if you’re out there, I’d love to know how you’re doing – and if you figured out what the heck was going on in that office

        1. Lady_Lessaa*

          I’m fourth or higher. That cause me to almost laugh out loud. (If something similar hadn’t happened to me) (no longer there) and where I work now, I provide a great deal of humor by being extremely easy to startle.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had missed the no humor question. Humor is so useful for blowing off steam or pushing through a tough situation. If I had to do 40 hours a week with no humor I’d be afraid that would leach over into my personal life after a bit. No laughter in the workplace would mean I am done. I worked one place where no one laughed. Never again.

      1. allathian*

        I’ve never had the misfortune to work in a place where no one laughed, but just the idea makes me uncomfortable.

      2. Merle Grey*

        I somehow missed this one too. I would not last a day in a job like OP’s, because my mind takes humorous leaps and I crack myself up on the regular, especially at current job where my mind is not fully occupied by my work and there are a lot of things I find absurd. It’s hard to keep a straight face in meetings when they use tons of acronyms, and I always make up what they should mean (in my alternate thought universe) when they aren’t familiar to me. Keeps things interesting.

    2. Batgirl*

      I never saw that letter before; it’s completely wild! I love how the meeting with HR never mentioned how or why they actually began to do this thing, but the attempted explanation of why OP shouldn’t joke with colleagues was actually pretty sinister: “They will take it the wrong way”. I mean that can’t possibly be true can it? If they took everything literally, they wouldn’t be able to report them as jokes. What happens when they leave work and encounter humour on the street or in a shop? Baffled expressions and a stern telling off?

    3. Clisby*

      No kidding. My bet is the rest of the office were really extraterrestrials, and banned humor because they knew their cluelessness about human humor would give them away sooner or later.

    4. Mannequin*

      Seriously, this one haunts me, because it’s just so bizarre.

      OP, we’d love to hear from you! Even if the update seems boring from your end, like it was just a weird misunderstanding, lol.

  2. MS*

    When will we get to see the “worst boss of the year” winner for 2021? I see we voted on it, but the link to it is broken, so I can’t see the highly anticipated final results.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      It was cancelled because one of the nominees was an OP, which is usually not allowed but happened by accident.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I took them down. I normally don’t nominate letter-writers themselves, inadvertently let one slip through this year (the “my employee wasn’t respectful enough about not being paid” letter), and then didn’t feel right about it so removed it. (I had a lot going on in December — family stuff and health stuff — so wasn’t able to spend time on a re-do.)

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        Thanks for explaining — I wondered what had happened. I hope all the family things are good-busy not distressing-busy. Hugs and thanks Alison for everything you do.

      2. Dr Sarah*

        Sorry to hear about the health problems, Alison! I hope that everything (including any family problems included in the ‘family stuff’ is now a lot better.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Wishing you a boring 2022.

          Seconded. The boredom can persist into 2023, too.

        2. Chashka*

          Sometimes, boringness is underrated.

          Several years ago, after a few weeks of stressful happenings, including my son breaking his arm at school, things had settled down. I then chatted with a friend, who asked how things were. I responded that life, at that point, was uneventful and rather boring, and, you know, boring was not such a bad thing. Maybe not so much boring as uneventful. It was good to just breathe and settle down.

          Hoping 2022 will be a year of breathing and settling down.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        One of the things that first caught me on this site was a commenter changing their mind and sincerely apologizing.
        It’s so rare on the internet, and if this one site is an indicator, apparently it comes from the top.
        Thank you for your work on behalf of civil discourse.

      4. MS*

        Oh I see. I was wondering what happened there. Did that one end up winning? If that wasn’t the winner, it would be fun to see the worst boss winner and just remove the posts that had that article as a nominee or revote when you have more time in lieu of a regular post one week.

        Sorry to hear about the health/families stuff going on. I hope all is smoother in 2022. Totally understandable to not have time to redo that.

        1. Double A*

          The other nominee was the boss who wanted to pay the employees for the sex tape, so that could be considered the unofficial winner for 2021.

        2. Mannequin*

          When I had last seen it, that one was well on its way to winning, but since the other final nominee (sex tape boss) was equally egregious, I’m fine with accepting them as unofficial winner. I found it quite difficult to choose between them!

  3. Observer*

    What I’d really like to see, but know that we probably won’t, is a follow up from the boss who was upset that their employee was not respectful enough. In an ideal world, Alison’s response and the pushback from the comments would be a serious wake up call.

    One can dream…

    1. AJoftheInternet*

      Hey, we got the Ultimatum Boss to give us a thought-out, woken-up response, so… either count your blessings or anything’s possible?

      1. WomEngineer*

        I’d love to hear from Ultimatum Boss next year… it seems like they were taking steps to change, and I want to hope it will work out for her company.

        I also hope Miranda is thriving at BIL’s company.

        1. AJoftheInternet*

          Yes! It would be super great for Ultimatum Boss to turn her story from a “I didn’t know what I was doing and everything fell apart” story into a “I learned from my mistakes and came back stronger.”

            1. Hlao-roo*

              I’ll post the link in a separate reply, but while it goes through moderation you can search “update: my employee gave me an “it’s her or me” ultimatum”

              The update was posted on August 30, 2021.

            2. Yvette*

              Follow the link to the original letter and the link to the reply is posted at the bottom. All letters with updates appear like that as well. Apparently someone worked with Alison to link all updates to the original letters and for that I am very grateful. I love using the “Surprise Me” feature and now I don’t have to wonder about/search for any updates!! (I didn’t post the link because I didn’t want the comment held up in moderation.)

        2. quill*

          Yeah, I’m glad she saw how much she needed to extract herself from the situation that her business had created, and I was glad that the commentariat was able to remind her that if her business ended up failing she had options.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I read my husband that letter and the follow up. His eyebrows went up so high. We had a good time speculating on why things went down the way we did.

    2. Yvette*

      I am wondering if they boss found out they were a Worst Boss nominee (with a very good chance of winning), or if they quit reading after the roasting by both Alison and the commentators.

  4. Middle Name Danger*

    I’d love to hear if time after that amount of commenting changed the perspective of the LW who wanted young employees to work 100 hour weeks and be grateful for it. He was really defensive about it in the comments.

    1. AJoftheInternet*

      iirc, he was defensive because he wasn’t senior enough in his firm, let alone his industry, to make changes, and while he agreed change would be great, his hands were tied without setting out on his own (a thing which not everyone is necessarily wired or funded for.)

      1. PT*

        This is a really common issue that crops up in workplaces- a manager gets caught in the middle where they have to deal with managing the consequences of bad management above them, but they’re also too low to really effect meaningful change in how management above them runs the business, and their only leverage in the situation is using interpersonal relationship building to soften the blows on their employees.

        But of course, the commenters start hammering on some low-power middle manager for not taking on the CEO and taking down a whole industry like some sort of renegade.

        1. applause applause life without pause*

          “But of course, the commenters start hammering on some low-power middle manager for not taking on the CEO and taking down a whole industry like some sort of renegade.”

          ^Yep. Middle management is a delight. All the responsibility and none of the authority. The OP can’t change it with the snap of the fingers, but it’s time (if it hasn’t been done already) to have the first of several uncomfortable talks with the higher ups about why retention sucks so bad.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            I think that’s part of where the commenters frustration came from, having just read through the whole thing – a lot of people DID suggest having a cards-on-the-table “this is what the problem is and until we fix that we’re going to keep losing people” talk with management, and OP’s responses were that they knew their bosses wouldn’t listen to them so it was pointless and they had no power or influence on anything and I think at one stage referred to themself as Cookie the Clown. Which, obviously that’s a very difficult situation to be in but I can’t imagine what sort of advice they thought they would get that didn’t involve taking some kind of action at some point? And also leads me to wonder how they planned to implement their punitive clawing-back-salary measures if they actually had no power.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              And also leads me to wonder how they planned to implement their punitive clawing-back-salary measures if they actually had no power.

              Right? That might’ve been the wildest idea I’d read all year! “oh maybe we should just have them pay $72,000 back if they leave after a year” or else what? Sue them? Sue all of them?

            2. applause applause life without pause*

              ” I think at one stage referred to themself as Cookie the Clown.”

              Oh my. I confess I didn’t get that far into the comments. It’s discouraging that the OP went immediately into punishment mode instead of how can we start to change this system that isn’t working.

            3. quill*

              Honestly it became apparent that the LW needed to get the hell out of dodge as well and was in denial about it. His company sucked.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          That LW had some pretty simple options to limit the over-working and training issue. They mentioned that they were hiring analysts who were weak on Excel and math skills (also makes me wonder where the hell they were recruiting* – how do you even find analyst candidates who have low Excel/math skills???). Using skills tests in those areas would eliminate some of that

          *I’m guessing MBA programs???

        3. Forrest*

          This is a “low power middle manager” in an industry where the entry level salary is over £200k: my sympathy is strictly limited! You might not be able to change the industry practices yourself, but you certainly have a voice, you almost certainly have plenty of capital within the organisation, and unless you have made some very foolish choices you have straight up capital-capital which allows you to walk away if you want to. Presenting yourself as powerless is very much a choice.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This part of his letter caught my eye as another reason for why he might have been defensive: “Ideally it gets better, although with the junior team working less than I did it seems like that might not be the case any more.”

        I am reading it as “the junior staff was expected to work the bulk of the hours, and now that they aren’t, it’s more hours for the rest of us and this is all completely the junior staff’s fault.” Which is, like… the junior staff did not create this work culture, and are under no obligation to stick around perpetuating it. It’s not their fault that you are working insane hours. If you don’t want to work insane hours, do what they did and go to the companies that they went to.

        Admittedly, I have not read all 2,000 comments yet. Maybe there is more nuance from OP further down in the comments.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I think that was a case of:
      “The way we’re doing business isn’t working in this new era.”
      “This is true! You should change your industry.”
      “… Not actually in a position to do that.”

      1. Forrest*

        But there’s a productive conversation to be had there about how you push back against industry norms which are losing you staff even if you’re not in a position to change it with a click of your fingers. There’s just no way you can have less power than your staff AND your managers unless you choose powerlessness.

        1. Boof*

          As i recall there seemed to be some productive discourse; leaning away agaibst punishments for those who quit (the initial consideration) and more towards possibly offering multiple tracks allowing those who want to to do half hrs for half pay, and maybe just doing what they could to make the environment more supportive

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I believe middle management is considered the most stressful position precisely because the expansion of responsibility can be much more than the expansion of power.

          Reminds me a bit of the letter writer who was being told to keep the old boss she’d been promoted over… but management would not approve the use of anything so crude as “more money” or “a promotion” or any of that stuff. Eventually he left, and OP did too. At the time of the update, upper management had not seen a reason to change even as they kept losing staff.

          1. Forrest*

            I’m a middle manager and I just don’t have much time for that argument. My job is to make sure my managers have the information they need to make good decisions, and if that information is “we can’t keep good staff if they have to work 100 hour weeks”, then it’s my job to tell them that. The middle manager almost certainly had more options when it comes to walking away from the job than their staff do, too.

      2. Anon for this*

        I think that’s kind of a cop out. OP wrote in with a plan involving major contract changes – clearly they believe they have enough power or sway to do change. If they see their change as reasonable but any other suggestion is out of their hands, well, that’s not on the commenters.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I read through most of the comments in the post and it seemed like the OP was coming around to a small shift in perspective. (They commented under the handle Vaca for anyone interested in reading the comments.) They mentioned at one point that they had taken on a lot of work for a junior employee to give him a (small) break and he quit soon after, which left them bitter and spurred them to write a letter focused on punishing people who quit rather than enticing them to stay.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yep, they sounded like they were in a bad place at the time of writing. Honestly for the OP’s own sake, I hope that any update we ever get from them starts with “I quit”. I don’t have a huge amount of sympathy towards them but it did seem like they were really caught between a rock and a hard place, and some of their thinking on the topic of loyalty was actually quite concerning.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Want to add, while the industries I’ve worked in were not nearly as demanding, I remember getting a wake-up call in my 30s when I was in a job that required doing 24/7 support (on a rotation, mind you – and with very flexible hours – i.e., it was normal to message your boss and say “I had calls all night, so I’m going to catch up on my sleep this morning and come in around noon”). An older coworker, 20 years my senior, did not come in on a Monday after her on-call week. We were told that she was in the hospital with heart issues, after having a bad week with a heavy call volume. That was when I knew that I needed to get out of that place before the same happened to me. No workplace is worth destroying my health over. Especially in the US, where medical issues are not cheap!

    4. B*

      It’s completely baffling.
      They basically described what life is like for a military deployment to Iraq. Oh, but it’s two years long and not much better after that and you don’t even get a medal. Yay?
      Even the ****ing Army gives you four-day holidays and 30 days of leave, to compensate for the crap they ask you to tolerate.

  5. EventPlannerGal*

    I would love an update from the person working two director-level jobs – it’s only been a couple of months so maybe they’re still getting away with it but I do hope they update later in the year. Quite apart from the ethics, which I found questionable at best, it really didn’t seem like a plan that lent itself to the long term.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      My thinking is that this isn’t a long term plan. It can’t be sustainable on the long term. It’s usually meant to accomplish a specific goal, and once that goal is accomplished, one of the jobs goes.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Very true. I do wonder if the OP did have a specific goal in mind – I remember they engaged quite a lot in the comments and they mostly seemed interested in the money in a general sense and maybe to see if they could get away with it.

        1. Forrest*

          Not like the tweet going around yesterday about someone who joined a software company, fixed a bug in their product that had annoyed them as a user, and then immediately handed in their notice. Now that’s goal oriented.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’ve heard that for two decades now; I’m pretty sure it’s a joke that’s taken on Urban Legend aspects.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          they mostly seemed interested in the money in a general sense and maybe to see if they could get away with it.

          I remember that, an ill-defined sense of entitlement due to gender, and the sense that her sense of danger had completely abandoned her. My impression was that the OP felt entitled to double-dip and intended to do so until 1, the charade became a burden, 2, an interesting position became available, or 3, it was time to retire from even that level of effort.

      2. feral fairy*

        Based on my recollection of the letter, the motivation was simply to earn more money. Her plan was to maintain both of these jobs (which were director level) and perform adequately enough that she wouldn’t get fired. What bothered me the most about that letter was that the OP’s jobs seemed to involve managing direct reports and that requires being responsive and attentive, two things that are hard to do when you’re juggling another job simultaneously.

  6. Sled Dog Mama*

    I love that “My employee wasn’t respectful enough….” was the top viewed and commented on post.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes it makes up for the fact that we didn’t have a worst boss this year. I mean, it was most viewed and commented for a reason!

  7. Been There*

    #9 I had a similar experience as the OP. The interviewer sent me a lengthy email of what I did wrong in the interview. It showed that I never want to work there ever. The interviewer was a jerk and thank goodness I dodged a bullet working for a person like that. After I read it, I felt awful, but I remembered why sometimes “we” have to go through bad moments, because then, we can realize what good interviewers are.

    For those experiencing bad feedback, do not worry! It will be better. Just keep applying! Remember, you are interviewing them as well!

    1. Wisteria*

      I had a job tell me they had feedback for me after my interview … I was like, O.o
      If you are not paying me, I don’t care what you think. If you have concerns after the interview, either just don’t make me an offer, or schedule a follow up interview to talk more. But feedback? Nah.
      Fortunately, I had already accepted a different offer, so I just told them I was grateful to have been considered but I wasn’t looking anymore.

  8. Not really a Waitress*

    I read the “My office has a no-humor policy” to my co-worker and his immediate response was “You and I would be so fired.”

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Half the time people find me funny I wasn’t intentionally doing it and something I said tickled whoever was around’s fancy. I’d be fired from this place and not even mean to get fired.

  9. Safely Retired*

    I could not help but notice that 1 thru 4 of the most viewed posts had Allison straightening out the letter writer. Sort of “Wished You Hadn’t Asked A Manager” for the letter writers. With most letters coming from victims our host doesn’t often get to respond to the one causing the problem, but when she can it comes across as wonderfully forthright. 8-)

  10. Meep*

    I am still glad that the paycheck one got voted worse boss, even if it broke the rules. That person is all shades of “WTF is wrong with you?”

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