my favorite posts of 2021

Here are my favorite posts of 2021, in no particular order:

1. My employee told me “I prefer not to” when I tried to give him a new project
Because Bartleby the Scrivener lives!

2. Interview with an employee at a majority-autistic company
Because this was fascinating.

3. Someone keeps farting in important client meetings
Because this was such a relief after more than a year of dark pandemic letters.

4. I accidentally threw a sandwich and it caused a work crisis
Because sandwich drama!

5. I accidentally threw condoms all over my interviewer’s desk
Because it was funny. Speaking of which…

6. Mortification week, all of it
Because mortification is universal and makes us human, and is often hilarious.

7. Our white manager centers herself in conversations about racism — and other questions with Michelle Silverthorn
Because Michelle is awesome.

8. Ask a Manager speed round
Because this was fun.

What were your favorites of the year?

Want more? Here are my lists from 2020201820172016201420132012, and 2011 and of the whole last decade.

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. Spencer Hastings*

    I’d forgotten that the “accidentally threw a sandwich” letter had happened just this past year, and wasn’t an old classic! (Almost exactly one year ago, it turns out.)

  2. EPLawyer*

    I love the condom incident. It’s hilarious and I felt bad for the person. but if it happened in a job interview where you KNOW people are nervous (hello interviewer who complained to candidate about them being nervous), I would burst out laughing and then say “well that’s a helluva icebreaker, let’s begin” I would not hold it against the person.

    1. J.B.*

      The follow up was awesome. I also missed the sandwich post first time around (or maybe didn’t remember, it’s been a LOOONG year) and that was great to read.

    2. ecnaseener*

      The condom letter might be my very favorite of the year. It’s so charmingly written, it’s simultaneously HUGELY embarrassing (condoms in a work environment!! taboo!!) and not a big enough deal that we really had to worry about him (condoms fell out of your bag, big whoop) AND then we got a best-case-scenario update!

  3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    FWIW, I loved the speed round and would be super stoked to see that happen again occasionally, time permitting.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I encountered formal shorts this year! On men!

      Granted it was a summer wedding rather than work. But they were wearing well-cut suits that happened to end at the knee.

  4. Alaine*

    The Condom Incident, the Condom Incident!! What an absolute gift that whole saga was.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  5. Mer*

    The sandwich story I read out loud to my mom, who was *dying.* It’s a funny story, but the way the person wrote it made it so much funnier.

  6. Rainy Day*

    Everything about the Condom Incident was wonderful- the way it was written was so funny, the update was just as good, and “my condom incident was her lipstick incident!” is a good life lesson. What is mortifying to you may not have been noticed by someone else!

  7. Mimmy*

    These are all great, but I’m particularly happy to see “interview with employee at majority-autistic company” made the list. I thought I’d commented on it, but it appears I did not. I identify as neurodiverse but with no formal diagnosis. I love that there is an employer who recognizes and accepts neurodiversity in their workforce; I hope there are others out there and not just in the IT field.

    1. Aquawoman*

      Same (ND/no formal diagnosis) and I just joined my org’s disability inclusion committee. Going to save that column!

  8. Person from the Resume*

    I’d forgotten about “I’d prefer not to” employee but now I’m bummed we didn’t get an update because I want to understand what the heck was going with that employee.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Me, too, but my best guess is that the OP *did* make the suggestion sound like “opportunity” rather than “assignment” and the employee either had the pandemic-blahs and would just prefer not to, or had a new side job and didn’t want to spell out other commitments at that time. Honestly, if I was part time somewhere, and my boss said ‘here’s an opportunity for you,’ I might be okay-ish enough with the reduced hours to be like nah, too.

      1. KHB*

        I’d bet money that that was what it was. “Here’s a cool opportunity for you” definitely reads more as “I’m offering this to you for your sake” than “I’m telling you to do this because it needs to be done, and I’ve decided that you should be the one to do it.” Whatever the employee’s reason for wanting to say no, it sounds like he just genuinely thought that the “cool opportunity” was optional.

    2. Banana Pancakes*

      I don’t think I commented on this letter the first time around because I was so confused about why everyone else was confused, but I can 100% see myself giving the same answer because I would also not have understood that OP was telling not asking if the wording used was similar to what was in the letter.

      I miss a lot of what is “common sense” or “obvious” to other people because one of my most pronounced autistic traits is being overly literal in communication. I can just imagine telling my SO about this interaction and them having to explain to me that a neurotypical person would have understood the implicit order.

      I have no idea what the case is for OP’s employee, of course, and I’m not speculating about that. I can only speak for myself.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*


        My dad: “Do you want to go for ice cream?”

        Me: “No, I’m good.”

        Me, later: *head smack*

        I’ve had to train myself into taking a beat between being asked an “obvious” or “personal preference” question so that I don’t answer overly literally and/or fail to take the implied meaning into account.

        1. KHB*

          Yep. When I worked for a couple of years in the UK, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that “Do you want a cup of tea?” doesn’t mean “Do you actually want a cup of tea?” but rather “It’s time to stop what we’re doing and take our tea break now.” I baffled way too many of my colleagues by saying “No thanks.”

          1. Burger Bob*

            I mean, I wouldn’t get that either. If you ask if I want tea, I’m going to figure you’re asking if I want tea. What’s wrong with saying, “Let’s take a break” if you’re asking to take a break???

            1. allathian*

              The implication is that in the UK, people are always willing to take a break. So the expected answer would be “Sure, why not?” whether or not you actually drink anything.

              1. Dr. Rebecca*

                *nod* It’s a *very* non-direct British way of doing things. If you said “let’s take a break” you’d be given *ALL* the side-eye.

                1. londonedit*

                  Yep – my sister used to work teaching English abroad, and one of the most fascinating things for her was teaching the nuance and non-directness of British English speech. For example, she’d ask her students how they’d react if someone did a shivering-arms gesture and said ‘Ooh, is anyone a bit cold?’ They all said they’d respond with ‘No’ or ‘Maybe a little’ or whatever. Most British people would recognise that question’s actual meaning as ‘I’m cold and I think we should close the window/put the heating on; would anyone mind if I did that?’

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

      That was my take too. Sort of a bit of what happens to me when my boss decides to give me “an opportunity,” I’ve been around long enough to know what that means and so do it, and then get thanked by someone else for volunteering…the f I did. I’ll do what I’m assigned, but I refuse to play along that I volunteered. “Oh, Boss asked me to join this committee; I’m happy to be of assistance, but I didn’t volunteer.”

    4. First of 5*

      I taught my 4-year old to say “I’d prefer not to” on Thanksgiving one year. My in-laws had a habit of forcing food on him that he didn’t need or want. He was small for his age and extra food wasn’t going to make him grow any faster. Anyway, the first time he said it, it impressed everyone so much that they forgot to force food on him. Now, he is 6 feet tall and has healthy food preferences.

  9. Cat Tree*

    The meeting farter was wonderful, and I loved the twist that there were actually two farters!

    1. Nanc*

      I had forgotten about the update that there were dueling farters. (cue banjo music). As someone with a ridiculously good sense of smell may I recommend Red Hots candy if you’re ever in this situation. A little tip I picked up years ago when temping at a sewage treatment plant.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    From October:
    Putting Mensa on Your Resume, because it’s a good example of how something can be interpreted many ways, not only the way in your head.

    My Dysfunctional Company Will Give Me a Free Day Off Every Week If I Stay Several More Years, because it’s a good example of “if I just stay on the path and all the ducks eventually land sunny-side-up….” thinking. (Also thinking of all questions re staying put in the dysfunction for the stock options, which are purely hypothetical but what if you’re working at Google 2.0?)

  11. Scotlibrarian*

    I’d forgotten the working in a majority autistic company interview, so really enjoyed reading it again since I got my autism diagnosis in November. I’ve been working part time training managers in how to be autism friendly employers and it is so much about saying, ‘what works really well for autistic employees is good for everyone and it’s about being a good manager’. I regularly refer to AAM to give people examples of clear communication and good management – thank you Alison

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Suspended this year because Alison hadn’t realized an LW slipped in there, contra to policy.

  12. Egmont Apostrophe*

    “I offered a cheese sandwich via email…
    ‘Would you eat a human?'”

    Does my sister work at your company?

  13. Quite Anonymous*

    It wasn’t the most entertaining post, but as an essential worker I remain deeply grateful for last April’s “People who have been at work all along are exhausted.”

    1. EO*

      Agreed! I am also an essential worker although I am a white-collar worker. The pandemic has been even more alienating because all the media aimed at people in my social class assumes you are working from home, which was correct for the majority of my family, friends, and social circle. So on top of the awfulness of having to still show up in person and put myself at risk, and the same things that everyone went through in the pandemic, I was feeling so disconnected and angry because the experience I was having was so different from the experience of my peers, and the things they said and did often felt so privileged and out of touch with what I was living through. AAM was no exception, and it was really nice to see that finally addressed.

      1. Quite Anonymous*

        100%. I felt every word of that comment, and I hope you’re doing better these days and staying safe and well.

        For me, the intensity of the anger has faded somewhat over time, but it’s still hanging around with its friend bitterness…and a big dash of being annoyed with myself because I’ve had it way better than many, many essential workers.

        The disconnection is still very real and why I can see myself always prioritizing working places where I have strong relationships with the rest of my team. These past two years would have fully broken me without the mutual support of my co-workers, who understand in ways no one else can.

    2. Jacey*

      That one was such an important post for me to read. My field (public libraries) sort of straddles the “is it possible to do this remotely” divide, and I totally lucked out for the first 15 months of the pandemic in that my then-job could be totally remote. Reading that post really drove home just how different a life I was living than some of my coworkers. I’m incredibly grateful to all the in person workers who commented because, man, did I ever need to listen to them!

    1. Paris Geller*

      I don’t know if it was my favorite, but I definitely consider this one the most interesting.

  14. Faith the twilight slayer*

    My absolute favorite was the manager upset with the employee who had the AUDACITY to actually expect to get paid…

  15. Esmeralda*

    Why I love this blog: The author gleefully makes a reference to Bartleby. The readers get the reference.

  16. P*

    Thanks for highlighting and re-highlighting auticon! It’s estimated that between 80-85% of us (autistics) who hold college degrees are unemployed/underemployed… not because we can’t DO the work but because FINDING the work (navigating ableist recruiters, challenges networking, and biased ATS parameters) has become an insurmountable obstacle. In 2022 I hope more AAM readers with recruiting/hiring power will confront their own ableism and invite us to their teams. :)

    1. Jacey*

      That statistic is very interesting (and disappointing but sadly not surprising) to me! Would you please explain a little more about what you mean re: biased ATS parameters?

  17. Skeeder Jones*

    “My VP of HR says my service dog is too small”

    I don’t want to say “I loved” this one due to the frustration that was experienced by the letter writer but I loved loved loved the resolution! I think we were all waiting eagerly for an update and we were not disappointed.

  18. Martin Blackwood*

    I didn’t realize you made a category for mortification! Amazing, makes it real easy to revisit that wonderful week lol

  19. Erin*

    The sandwich throwing & the condom throwing are instant classics! I had many, many LOL moments with both letters.

    Please, everyone, keep throwing random stuff around offices. It makes for delightful stories!

  20. Jessie*

    My favorite was the one where everyone in the office had to speak/ask questions in a very very specific way. I can’t remember what the title of the letter was, but it was bizarre. I loved it!

  21. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    The one that sticks in my mind is the utter twerp who wrote in stating they refuse to get vaccinated or tested – not for amusement value but for the sheer amount of ‘knew it!’ when the OP turned out to be a total wanker who sent Alison a whole load of conspiracy BS.

    Which I’m still thankful Alison didn’t post.

  22. Hamtaro*

    I’d somehow completely missed Mortification Week, otherwise I would have added my own.

    When I was 22, at my first professional job in a Silicon Valley stalwart…I brought my pet hamster to work with me because I was worried about it. It was in a travel cage and slept the whole day, but still…what was I thinking?

    I still don’t think it’s as bad as the coworker who brought 3 kittens in a cardboard box and put them under her desk for the entire shift.

  23. Andrew*

    I missed the Scrivener story. I’m a late Boomer/early Gen-Xer, and didn’t hear of Bartleby until he was mentioned in an episode of “Head of the Class” in 1986.

  24. Jennifer Juniper*

    I wanted to throttle Barnaby when I read the story as a college sophomore. I thought he was an insubordinate jerk.

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