asking an employee to IM instead of calling, bad writing in hiring emails, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask my employee to use chat instead of calling every time?

I am a middle-manager with a small team. We are mostly working from home, and going into the office one day a week.

One of my team members calls me several times per day. Sometimes they will call me 10 minutes before our scheduled catch up, and often this is for no good reason at all — for example, to say they are moving meeting X or to give me an update that could easily have waited until our weekly meeting.

Their calling me disrupts my work flow and makes me waste time making small chat. 99% of the time they could have simply sent me a message on the instant chat instead of calling. How can I approach this in a sensitive way, given that we are all WFH and perhaps they want to show they’re working hard, or simply that they prefer to call over instant messaging?

Be straightforward! “I’m usually juggling a lot during the day and the phone breaks up my focus in a way that IM doesn’t, so could you default to IM’ing me instead of calling unless it’s one of our scheduled calls or an emergency?”

If you weren’t already doing regularly scheduled calls with them, I’d suggest that you start that (and would point out that small talk has value when you’re building relationships with people you manage) … but it sounds like you do have scheduled catch-ups. As long as you spend some time on softer relationship-building stuff in those conversations, it’s reasonable to more assertively manage interruptions the rest of the time.

2. Bad writing in hiring emails

Today, I received an email from a company I applied to a couple of months ago asking me if I was still interested in a position. Twice, the sender used the possessive “your” when they should have used the contraction, and they used a question mark to punctuate a sentence that clearly was not a question.

I found it really hard to take this person seriously and really wanted to forward the email to their manager (whom I found on the company’s website). Should I say something to the sender? Or should I just let it go? Am I being a snob?

I say this as someone who cares a lot about good writing: You need to let it go, and also reconsider not taking seriously someone who makes mistakes in their writing. Loads of people are smart and talented at all sorts of things but not at writing. That’s no reason to respect them less, just like you (presumably) wouldn’t respect a good writer less if they struggled with, say, physics. Forwarding the correspondence to their manager when you don’t even work there would be so weird that it would reflect more poorly on you than on them!

3. Should I remove a social media post at the request of someone in it?

I’ve been managing social media and marketing for a small business – let’s call it Winterfell – for about one year. I accepted the tasks as a favor for the owner, Ned, who is family. I have no background in either of these categories, and I have no similar experience to help me navigate the request I’ve received: Another contractor, Arya, has asked if I would remove a social post that includes her photo.

Several months ago, Winterfell participated in a fair. Arya had recently won a local award for the type of work she contributes to the business, and would be attending the fair as a promoter of Winterfell. Ned wanted to highlight Arya as a draw for Winterfell’s presence at the fair. Arya had shown an aversion to social media – she does not have profiles on social platforms, and her website is not easily located – so I asked if she was okay with this plan. When creating the social post that announced Winterfell’s participation in the fair, I included Arya’s photo from her website. I showed her the proposed post, and she confirmed she was okay with it. With her approval, I made the post live across our social platforms.

This week, Arya asked if I would remove the post from one of our social profiles. She stated that she didn’t like to keep her photos on social media for very long. I’m frustrated because I specifically asked and confirmed whether she felt okay having her photo included in the post. Additionally, the wording of her request makes me think Arya might believe the post is only on this one specific social platform.

Arya had little to no professional experience when she joined Winterfell. Ned indicated he’d like me to mentor her, but I’ve found it difficult to get a read on her comprehension via email only. I’ve been offering support and guidance when I can and being sensitive to her situation and learning curve, but the whole thing has me aggravated.

My instinct is to not remove the post from any platform, because doing so would 1) remove the announcement of the event / details / Winterfell’s participation, and 2) create a gap on the profiles (we don’t post very often). However, knowing Arya’s preference is having no social media presence, should I remove the post while explaining that this is a one-time allowance of a request that affects the business, and that such a request cannot be fulfilled again?

Remove the posts, because it’s crappy to keep up someone’s photo after they’ve asked you to remove it. Remove it from all your social platforms, not just the one she knows about, since it seems clear she doesn’t want it up at all. Put up new posts without mentioning her if you’d like to, so the details of the event are still available. This shouldn’t be a big deal.

From there, you can explain to Arya that in the future, she should tell you from the outset if her permission is only good for a specific period of time since you don’t typically remove posts. But I would not frame it as a “one-time allowance”; that’s excessively stern when it doesn’t need to be. She’s also a contractor, not an employee, and she did you a favor by letting you use her as a draw. You don’t want to sound like you don’t realize this.

(Speaking of which, any chance Arya is illegally categorized as a contractor? It’s pretty odd to be asked to mentor a contractor, unless they’re actually an employee who’s being illegally handled as a contractor.)

4. Coworkers and eating disorder recovery

I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years. At my toughest point, I was severely restricting food, working out to the point of exhaustion, and doing intermittent fasting. While I’m doing better, I don’t always allow myself to eat meals, and if I do eat, my schedule is very different due to the fasting mentality that persists. I’m typically eating breakfast when my coworkers are getting ready for lunch. I have a full team of mental and nutritional professionals helping me sort this out, but it’s a slow process.

For the past several days, my new coworker Sheila has commented that she has noticed that I eat later. Or questions if I’m taking a “working lunch” when really, I’m working through my breakfast because we get 30 minutes for lunch and I prefer to take that time off with my lunch not breakfast (if I eat lunch, that is). I have to eat my meals in the kitchen because we’re in a cold climate and protocols prohibit me from eating meals at my desk.

Having my eating habits seemingly under the microscope is not helping me on my path to recovery. I’m not close enough to Sheila to disclose this info to her (nor do I think I need to). I’m not her supervisor, but I rank above her in the company and frequently project manager her and act in a superior role within our department and I don’t want things to be weird. We’re a small organization with no formal HR.

How do I handle this? My supervisor is Sheila’s supervisor’s supervisor, if that matters. My supervisor is familiar with my mental health journey but doesn’t know anything about my ED. I’m a fat woman, so I don’t present like most people think of when they think ED.

“I really hate having people comment on my meals — I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t.” If it happens after that (which would be Sheila taking things to a truly problematic level of pushy, so hopefully this won’t be necessary): “Wow, you have commented on this a lot, even though I’ve asked you not to. What’s up?”

Things shouldn’t need to be weird but if they get that way, Sheila would be the one making them so, not you.

Read an update to this letter

5. Putting undocumented clients at ease more quickly

I am a partner in a small professional firm. Sometimes we have clients with undocumented employees or what we call “off the books owners,” as undocumented people can’t/won’t be partners in a business. This is where my dilemma lies.

The other day, I was in a meeting with a new client with three partners. We were in there for an hour and I couldn’t figure out why they had come to me. They hemmed and hawed but eventually disclosed that two of the partners received their legal citizenship during Covid. They had been reporting everything under false Social Security numbers for them for years and now needed to change. They wanted my advice about how to do this. I assured them there was no judgment here and we had dealt with this many times. I went over how to fix this and thought that was it but instead it felt like the meeting just started. There were a lot of needs related to their undocumented status and we spent 45 minutes going through them. This is a common occurrence as a lot of undocumented people have an understandable fear of contacting anyone in authority. I often am asked to handle matters like this that can be terrifying for those who have had to hide most of their lives.

The nature of my job is I must bill them for the entire meeting. That seems wrong to me but what I “sell” is my knowledge and my time. Most of the first hour was them feeling out if they could trust me with their issues around being undocumented. I can’t overlook time that would have otherwise been spent on another client, but I feel like I’m billing them for getting to know me. I’m pretty adept at putting clients at ease enough to tell me their issues within 10-15 minutes normally, but with undocumented clients, it usually takes 4-5 times longer to get them to open up.

Do you have any suggestions for language I can use to speed up the process? Obviously, I can’t start every meeting with, “By the way, this is a judgment-free zone. If you are undocumented, please tell me now so I don’t have to bill you for the time it takes for you to be comfortable.” I have done this sort of work for years and I have never found the right words.

Can you give a brief intro to yourself and your firm at the start of these meetings and, as part of that, mention that one of your specialties is helping individuals and businesses navigate issues related to being undocumented? You’d presumably also mention your other specialties, but by stating clearly and right up-front that it’s work you do a lot of, you might be able to help people feel more at ease more quickly.

{ 541 comments… read them below }

  1. Happily Retired*

    #3 Arya May be dealing with a stalker or similar situation, maybe one that’s not current, but enough of a concern to not want to have her picture lingering in social media.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      This, and even if it’s not something as serious as a stalker, people can and do change their minds about how what kind of internet footprint they’re comfortable with. That might be annoying as the person coordinating it, but it happens and you need to roll with it.

    2. linger*

      At the very least: if you are able to edit that content at all, pixellate Arya’s face in the photo, remove photo tagging if that’s been activated, and redact her name from the text.

      1. Stevie*

        It’s better to just remove the photo entirely, even if it means taking down the content attached to it completely. Even if Arya were okay with what you are suggesting, pixelating someone’s photo while also specifically highlighting them by name to announce their presence at an event seems strange and has little value.

        1. Clisby*

          Especially since, if I’m reading the post correctly, this fair was several months ago. The post is old news.

      2. Agent Diane*

        No, this is poor advice and will also reflect badly on your brand. Remove the posts, all of them.

        1. new*

          I do agree, no one should have their picture posted if they don’t want to, for whatever reason. It’s not weird. I have no social media whatsoever and intensely guard my privacy just because, no stalker situation or anything. The culture of oversharing is a problem.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yes, it’s pretty much never worth the reputational risk to use other people’s images without their consent, even if you have the legal right to do so. People can and will think you’re being scummy if you appear to be using a legal “loophole” to justify trampling on someone’s right to control their own likeness/identity.

      3. RetailEscapee*

        That is… weird. I would be very put off by that on a professional website. I would assume the person had died or their was a scandal. However if the post is removed I would be nine the wiser that it had been there to begin with.

      4. Observer*

        At the very least: if you are able to edit that content at all, pixellate Arya’s face in the photo, remove photo tagging if that’s been activated, and redact her name from the text.

        I agree with the others. Bad advice. If she’s ok with her name up, then just take down the photo or take down the post and redo it with just the text. But pixeltation is not all that useful (it’s surprisingly easy to reverse engineer) and it just draws attention to the missing photo, which is not helpful.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Some people just don’t like to have their photos online for reasons entirely unrelated to stalking, and that’s fine too. There doesn’t have to be a super dramatic reason for it to be okay for the photo to be taken down. Maybe Arya just decided that she really didn’t like that photo.
      The OP in this case should have been much clearer upfront that the post would be on X social channels for X amount of time. Delete the picture, learn the lesson, move on. I also doubt that anyone will actually notice the gap in their timelines.

      1. LGC*

        To be fair to LW3, I think most people now assume that social media is indefinite unless explicitly stated (like an Instagram Story or a Snapchat), and in most cases explaining that would sound a bit patronizing. (In fact, I think Arya should have explained her permission was temporary.) That said…you’re absolutely right that Arya doesn’t need to have been in danger for her to not want her photo on social media, and that LW3 is way more in the wrong for wanting to dig in their heels.

        1. AJoftheInternet*

          Yeah, I would expect the burden of explicitness to be on Arya, especially since they asked for her picture to represent an *event* and it’s beyond reasonable to assume the post doesn’t “expire” until the event date has arrived.

          1. Cj*

            But the fair in question was months ago, so the promotional value of highlighting Arya as a draw for the company being at the fair has long since expired.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, I do assume that social media will be up indefinitely, but it’s always better to clarify that upfront. And also, posts on some social networks have a much longer life span than others. Our central comms dept included this info in a recent training – they said that posts on LinkedIn can have a lifespan of up to 2 weeks (for interaction), but if something doesn’t take off on Twitter within a couple of hours, it’s dead. So people might not be seeing stuff for as long as you think.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It’s not ‘dead’ though–just hidden until someone does a specific search or scrolls back through through one account. I do this when I want to know something about the organization–the kinds of exhibit that a museum or concert hall might put on, previous year vendors, etc.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              Yeah, it still exists, but people are much less likely to see it in their timelines if others aren’t interacting with it – so anyone who wants to see that post will have to make more of an effort to find it.

              1. LifeBeforeCorona*

                Stalkers and toxic vengeful families will make the effort, especially since they are often privy to personal information about the person they are targetting.

                1. The Prettiest Curse*

                  I agree. But we also don’t know that the reason Arya wanted the photo taken off one social channel (not all of them) was stalking. But as I said in my original post, she shouldn’t need a reason as serious as that to have it taken down on request.

            2. Lance*

              But that’s exactly what they mean by ‘dead’; it’s not going to be seen or interacted with unless someone’s looking back through enough content.

              1. DataSci*

                Or if they Google for someone’s name. It seems like you’re assuming they’re looking through Winterfell’s content and come across the mention of Arya, rather than specifically seeking mentions of Arya.

                1. Koalafied*

                  You also never know when a social media site is going to role out a new “on this day” or facial-recognition based feature that suddenly surfaces old photos.

        3. Sloan Kittering*

          Which is such a shame, really, as I have to interact with social media for my job, and I would greatly prefer to have all posts delete after, say, six months. My attitude is, what possible good can it do to have them up, versus the harm of someone digging around looking for intel for whatever nefarious purpose. But maybe I watch too many cop shows. Anyway, most platforms seems to make it deliberately difficult or laborious to delete old posts in bulk. There’s special apps for twitter just for this purpose.

        4. Audiophile*

          Social media posts are generally forever. Short of the social media site shutting down, that content lives on. Even if it’s not actively being searched or engaged with, it still exists and can be found through Google or whatever search engine you use.

          And, for anyone who thinks Instagram Stories or Snapchat has a shorter shelf-life, that is also an inaccurate assumption. There are many apps that allow for any user to export stories (even from private profiles) from Snapchat and Instagram.

          I can sort of understand why Arya might have been under the belief that the posts would be removed once the event passed. It’s not clear exactly when the posts were originally made, but if they were prior to the event and she was being used as a draw for the event, I can see why she might think once the event took place, you’d remove them from the social media accounts. Since she has explicitly asked that they be removed, the right thing to do is to honor that request.

      2. Mongrel*

        Arya may just have changed her mind, “Thought I’d be fine with it, wasn’t. Sorry”. It’s not like people don’t change their minds
        Also while she may have been shown the post seeing it in the context of the rest of the site may have changed her mind, “Oh, you’ve pinned it front & centre so it’s the first thing every visitor sees…”

        As one of the people who doesn’t use social media just because I don’t like social media I try curate my online presence carefully. Arya may just be the same.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I could also imagine that she was willing to promote the event at the point where it might attract people to come – but not have the post just hang around doing no good for attendance years afterwards. I understand OP’s confusion because that’s not how social media typically works but it makes sense to me.

          1. Salymander*

            I think if it became more standard to remove old posts like Arya’s, or at least to remove photos, there told be fewer people who are uncomfortable with being referenced on social media. I wish it was more of a standard thing.

      3. neeko*

        Yes, it doesn’t help to concoct reasons – plausible or not – because it doesn’t matter and we have no idea. They should take it down, full stop.

      4. Candy*

        > I also doubt that anyone will actually notice the gap in their timelines.

        Absolutely this. If OP’s business doesn’t post very often, they likely have very few followers, and even less who are going to notice a tweet disappear.

        OP, just delete the post and make an announcement on your business’ own site about the award for posterity

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      +10’s to both your idea and the corrections in the thread. It is good to start the day with a grin

    5. Elsa*

      My first thought as well. I’ve been dealing with a low-key stalker my entire adult life, and whenever I have occasional bursts of “It’s my life, darn it, and I earned this” about something like getting an award, he’ll pop up up out of nowhere.

      1. Rainy*

        I have a friend who’s currently being stalked online, particularly for photos to enable his specific type of harassment, and her stalker would absolutely LOVE something like the photo described.

        I’m sorry he’s doing this to you; I had an internet stalker in the early 90s and it was only through finding and working together with his other victims that we were able to first curtail his efforts and eventually make him stop harassing us.

      2. anon4this*

        All variety of trigger warnings….
        I have a problematic ex from my youth who, while I don’t feel in any way currently at risk, his name on my screen brings up viscerally bad memories.

        He tries to contact me on some new platform or via some newly rediscovered old connection, every 5 years or so. I presume he wants closure. He’s not owed closure. If he’d really changed, he would presumably read “utter unwillingness to engage for over a quarter century” as a clear answer. And if he’d really changed…yeah, I still would not want to engage. Rape is a full-stop relationship ender. Any past good feelings? Gone. Any past red flags? Ever clearer, in the rear view mirror.

        Then there’s a vague acquaintance whom I encountered for a few minutes at a time, a few times a year, for a couple of years, for the sake of a common friend. I then got to see her way too up-close and personal during her meds-and-fever-induced psychotic break. I wish her well, to be clear; but as this was my first an only extended exposure to her, I find myself unlikely ever to not cringe at any future encounter. (Especially given that she now talks to others about her crush on me–which is presumably her crush on the version of me that lives in her head, as she’s only barely and rarely met me, outside of that one day that she doesn’t remember, and that I remember all too well.)

        Then there’s the person who yelled at a (male, older) old friend for being patriarchal and creepy because he hugged me. They also, it turned out, had a relationship with me in their head. I’d last seen them a year previously, when I talked to them about…a political campaign. (Further proof they don’t know me–I’m not shy that way. if I want to flirt, you will know it; and I won’t use politics as a stalking horse.)

        There are multiple more examples. I seem to be good fodder for the inside-head romances of people I’d rather keep distant from than pick active fights with (as they’d suck up that attention as some variation on “caring”).

        I’d rather give them less to work with than more. There are few pix of me on the internet, and those that are up there are primarily tied to one-time events with a broad participant base (rallies, arts fests, etc).

    6. LifeBeforeCorona*

      That was my first thought as well. It took years before I was comfortable using my own photo on a limited basis because of a stalker and toxic family members. I believe that everyone has a right to decline to have their photo displayed without giving a reason. The LW should respect her wishes and not push back because sometimes the reason can be horrifying.

    7. Amethystmoon*

      Yes thanks, that was what I was coming here to post. It isn’t always not being skilled enough why people aren’t all over social media.

      1. Need More Sunshine*

        Ayra should not have to disclose something so personal. It should be enough to say “I’m not comfortable with being on social media.”

      2. Observer*

        Why? I don’t get the idea that people need permission to not have their picture up all over the place. Even as an employee, the company doesn’t own her and her likeness. If she is accurately being classified as a contractor, then that is all the more true.

        That’s my likeness, please take it down is all the needs to say. It’s not the OP’s business if she had a stalker, a nosy parker mother-in-law, an intense need for privacy or something else.

      3. Spero*

        Forcing survivors of abuse to out themselves in order to ask for accommodations that would be reasonable whether or not they were a survivor of abuse is not the answer

      4. Rainy*

        Have you ever told anyone you were being stalked or anonymously harassed? It’s not as easy as all that, and in my experience most of the time if the person hasn’t ever been stalked/harassed, they’re going to ask a bunch of questions you probably don’t want to answer, and usually immediately start blaming you for causing it.

      5. Nanani*

        They could but they don’t have to – it’s none of LWs business and Arya has probably dealt with plenty whataboutists and haveyoutrieders and “but they meaaaaan well” in their time.
        Just take the photo down. It’s not hard.

      6. Le Sigh*

        Sure, they could, if they’re okay talking about it. But plenty of people don’t want to have to relive or discuss their past or current traumas with their coworkers, especially for something as simple as removing a photo. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that you never know how someone will respond to that information — plenty of people will try to minimize or argue with you about your own experiences. It’s draining enough to have to talk to medical professionals and therapists and law enforcement over and over in order to get the help you need — asking to take a photo down at work shouldn’t be one of those things.

    8. Observer*

      Arya May be dealing with a stalker or similar situation, maybe one that’s not current, but enough of a concern to not want to have her picture lingering in social media.

      Does it even matter? Arya is entitled to not have her picture on social media. She doesn’t need to have a reason that is “good enough” for the OP.

      1. Observer*

        Sorry, hit post too soon.

        There are many reasons why she might not want to have her picture up. Imagining something like this might help the OP get a grip on their annoyance. But fundamentally, I think it’s worth keeping in mind that people are entitled to keep whatever level of privacy they want, regardless of their reasons.

        I realize that you get it. But I’m not sure that the OP does . But that really IS something that the OP needs to keep in mind.

      2. Wintermute*

        I don’t agree, she gave permission, they did the respectful thing and asked. It’s a kindness to her to remove it but I feel like people are framing this as an “of course there should be a no-questions-asked policy to removing content from your social media feed at any time for any reason” and that…. that’s not realistic nor is it good for any organization or business.

        Your media feed is an asset, removing things has a real cost in terms of visibility and engagement and can hurt your search engine visibility. This would cause damage to them, sure, probably minimal but nevertheless. In addition if you let it, redacting old information for people that changed their mind could easily become the LWs full-time job, when they have many more productive things they could be using to drive forward, not tend to the archives.

        1. Observer*

          she gave permission,

          Permission can be rescinded. Others have covered that.

          they did the respectful thing and asked.

          No, they did the REQUIRED thing. You cannot use someone else’s picture without their consent.

          that’s not realistic nor is it good for any organization or business.

          If that’s not doable for the business, the the business has a problem. Because taking down content, and in general complying with requirements around content is not optional. Any functional company had better figure out how to deal with it.

          Your media feed is an asset, removing things has a real cost in terms of visibility and engagement and can hurt your search engine visibility

          Well, this person’s image is an asset to, and leaving it up has real costs, too. And those costs are not yours (in the generic sens of you) to evaluate.

          In addition if you let it, redacting old information for people that changed their mind could easily become the LWs full-time job, when they have many more productive things they could be using to drive forward, not tend to the archives.

          In any situation where there are that many take down requests, the poster is almost certainly doing it wrong. And, in any case, that’s not the problem of the person who is requesting that their photo be taken down. GDPR, for instance, doesn’t have a carve out where “it’s too much trouble” or “too many people are asking about this”. Same for most of the rules in round this stuff in every jurisdiction that I can think of.

          1. Wintermute*

            Sure permission CAN be rescinded, but it’s not reasonable to act like they should treat it as if it’s no big deal. actually, my recommendation would be to get a signed image release– those CANNOT be rescinded and are durable and permanent, even override GDPR because at that point it’s a matter of copyright.

            I understand what you’re saying, but my point is that people here are drastically underestimating how big a deal it can be to memory hole posts just because someone doesn’t like their photo being up “too long”.

            1. Le Sigh*

              “My recommendation would be to get a signed image release– those CANNOT be rescinded and are durable and permanent, even override GDPR because at that point it’s a matter of copyright.”

              This would feel…an unnecessarily aggressive stance to take if I were an employee. Signing releases is a good standard practice, but I’d really hope if an employee came to them and said hey, I know I signed a release but I need this to come down, the company would prioritize employees over content. We don’t know why this person made the request — it could be a discomfort thing, but it could also be a safety thing. They could be no contact with someone, etc., and maybe something changed since they gave permission or they belatedly realized it was an issue. But it’s not like this person has done this repeatedly and keeps creating problems. It’s one post and if it is a safety thing, then you’re prioritizing one digital post over someone’s wellbeing.

              1. Nina*

                Demanding that I sign a release for them to use my image in perpetuity would be a good way to never get permission to use any reference to me in their socials ever again.

                1. Tango*

                  I had this happen at my company. I annotated the release form before signing as I wasn’t happy with an in perpetuity clause.
                  They then chose the easy option and didn’t use a photo with me in.

            2. Observer*

              but my point is that people here are drastically underestimating how big a deal it can be to memory hole posts just because someone doesn’t like their photo being up “too long”.

              And the point that most of us are making is that you are factually incorrect – this should NOT be a big deal, and it doesn’t really matter. The picture needs to come down regardless and it’s not ok to badger someone into “allowing” it to stay up.

            3. Kella*

              If your business can be significantly impacted by the removal of my photo, that means you are monetarily benefiting from keeping that photo of me up. It is unethical to use *my* image for your profit, pay me nothing in return, and then be resistant if I ask you to take the photo down. While the impact on the company might be real, me letting you use my image for free was a kindness I offered that I was under no obligation to provide in the first place. My ability to choose what and when I contribute to the financial stability of your company trumps your ability to make that money.

              I agree that if taking down such an image would truly have a financial impact on the company, then you should always get signed image releases. I’m sure that if they had done that, Arya would’ve said no to begin with, as would many other people.

            4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I believe that GDPR pretty well takes precedence over everything. The EU bureaucrats took ages to hash it all out and think through the implications of everything, and they took the stance that people need to have personal data protection even when they don’t realise it. It’s a total PITA to have to click on “reject all” every time you go on a new website (and I’m doing that 20 times a day in the course of my work) but I remind myself that it’s for my own good.

              I personally would never sign anything that overrode such a masterpiece of legislation and I wouldn’t sign anything that can’t be rescinded. And I’m pretty sure a lot of others would think the same. In which case your SM presence is going to be pretty thin on the ground. Much better to publish something and take it down later once nobody’s even interested surely?

              It’s a PITA to have to remove posts? If it’s your job, you just get on with it!

              I’m a freelancer, and I like to keep my SM very private, I rarely post (although I’ll comment on friends’ posts), I don’t want my clients to know about my private life, I only want them to know I’m great at the stuff they need me to do.

              At my previous job, my boss tried to bully me into doing a video saying how proud I was to work at the company. I didn’t feel at all proud, and deliberately scratched my nose throughout the shoot. The boss was trying to save money by filming it himself, and the agency that then made a video out of his footage obviously didn’t use the bits with me in it.
              Had he insisted further, I’d have started citing the law (this was pre-GDPR but there were French laws preventing the publishing of your photo against your will).

        2. tessa*


          No one is owed content for their social media feeds. Besides, how often is anyone going to change their minds? Not often, likely, so claiming that removing old photos could turn into a “full-time job” is a bit over the top.

    9. Emotional Support Care’n*

      This was my concern, too. My kids’ school district had a blanket image release that parents were supposed to sign annually when registering kids at the beginning of each school year. I was always the one hold out because I had a stalker ex-husband who had no custody, a history of kidnapping, multiple credible d**th threats against all of his exes (and mom and sisters), and a lengthy criminal record. No amount of “surely he wouldn’t know which school/which child/what activities…” would persuade me.
      The city’s newspaper posted an image of my son with his half brother, not even realizing they were half brothers (different last names, looked identical even with the age difference and different mothers) at a track event. HE found it. I’ll be honest, I sleep a lot better at night now that he’s passed (this past summer). We all do.

      1. Observer*

        That sounds ROUGH. I can’t imagine. . .

        I can imagine, though, why you wouldn’t want to get into that discussion with employers, schools and random people. I’m glad you are safe now.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I’m really sorry that happened. I wonder if your child’s school would consider using a different release form. Ours has checkboxes for “yes, I give permission”, “No, I do not give permission” “I give permission under these circumstances (ie. parent is okay with me including a picture of their child’s work in a “Look at the grade 7s amazing art projects!” post, but I don’t have permission to publish a photo of the child). We don’t ask questions for parents who don’t consent, but we keep the child’s name on a list with homeroom teachers and in the main office to remind us not to publish pics of kids X, Y and Z.

    10. Student*

      Since the photo came off Arya’s own website, it’s important to note that she owns the photo in question, and OP #3 could actually cause himself legal issues by trying to refuse to take it down at her request. Photos aren’t just free to take because they’re on the internet; they are all owned by somebody unless specifically noted otherwise.

      She may be asking you to take it down because she’s realized she needs to protect her business’s identity, advertising, and her ownership of this photo, etc. – maybe she’s just worried about the business implications.

    11. Just Me*

      Didn’t happen to me but a former colleague once posted some photos from a work event–a person at the event had been fine with having their photo taken but didn’t realize it was going to be on social media. This person had to privately disclose after the fact that she was in the witness protection program and just couldn’t have her photo and new identity online.

  2. Zoe*

    #3 As someone who handles SM for a large agency, yeah as soon as someone asks you to take down a photo you take it down. Then you have the convo about why, future postings, expectations, etc. but in the moment you have to assume it’s an abusive situation, or stalker etc. etc. and delete. Then you can get to the bottom and find out the reason and again, if necessary, recalibrate expectations.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Especially because people rightly have different expectations around social media. There are people who just cannot imagine not posting every time they have any little thing to post, and then there are people who post every now and then, and there are people who, even if they have social media accounts with a few posts, just don’t have any urge to broadcast their movements and never feel the need to post much on social media, and, in fact, often are downright uncomfortable doing so.

      The first types (…who often find jobs as social media managers…) and the third types don’t really understand each other.

      I’m the type in the middle. I have a social media presence, and I make a post every once in a while, but I often am surprised and a little annoyed to find myself in posts by friends where I didn’t assume the fact that there were (unflattering) photos taken that night or at that (messy) party meant that my face would show up all over their feed for the next week. Those types won’t let you beg out of a picture (or then they take even worse candids), and then they want to roll their eyes when you ask them not to post it, or they want to resist when you ask them to take it down, or they demand to know why you untagged yourself from that awkward unflattering photo.

      I sympathize with Arya more than I sympathize with LW. If Arya is uncomfortable with this much social media exposure (even if LW considers it to be just a scant teaspoonful of social media exposure), you need to do what she needs done. She has every right to want to choose how her image is being used by the organization, and not to be lectured about her social media preferences.

      Although LW says that the organization doesn’t post that often, s/he seems to be the type that feels that there is just no big deal about a social media post including a photo and your name. Arya feels differently, and the organization should respect that.

    2. MK*

      No. When someone asks you to take down their photo from your social media, you take it down because you no longer have their permission to use their image that way. (Oh, and if you didn’t ask them for permission to post the photo beforehand, you screwed up and taking down the photo is you correcting your mistake and should come with an apology) You don’t make assumptions about their reasoning, and you absolutely don’t interrogate them about why they want the photos down, you don’t get to judge if their reasons are good enough to recalibrate expectations, because you don’t get to have these expectations in the first place (while they do get to have the expectation that their image won’t be used by their employer).

      The exception would be if being on your employer’s social media is a part of the job understood and agreed upon beforehand. Then, yes, there should be a conversation about it.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Wait. So having asked for and received permission, OP3 put in work to do as they had been asked in a professional context, and then balked because suddenly this was no longer the case and they had to potentially redo it all, with no explanation or expansion re which platforms Arya meant, and now there’s a lecture on Doing The Right Thing into the bargain?

        I think it’s a very fair question. Of course OP3 must remove the photo, but a chat is warranted re the situation going forward. No one need share every single detail of their lives, but social media is widely, widely used by companies and it’s not weird for that to be the case.

        1. MK*

          There is a lecture because the OP obviously thinks she doesn’t have to do the right thing, and it would be a favour to Arya if she did it, and it should only happen once as an allowance. That’s a problematic attitude.

          Having a conversation about what access Arya is generally willing to give is not a bad idea. Asking her the reasons is not reasonable. And, yes, it is weird that employees are used for their company’s promotion.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I was with you until the last bit. Lots of companies use their employees for promotion this way. Personally I’m still bitter that my last company didn’t do enough to promote something I did, because it would have made us look really good. Awards, panels, conferences, articles… all generally viewed as fair game for a company’s social media, and I don’t think that’s strange.

            But that’s me. Arya has every right to ask to be kept off of social media and her request shouldn’t be treated with an, “Oh, FINE, but just this once.” Arya was also allowed to change her mind in this situation.

            1. PleasantlyGrumpy*

              I can’t tell if Arya would find her name without the photo acceptable, and that seems like a key detail to work out as well. Especially since she’s a contractor, but even for the “usual” events above, you get employee permission and let them know the expectation first. Some people will back out of receiving an honor if it means mandatory publicity.

              1. Still breathing*

                Yep. I let my grandboss take credit for a $1 million overcharge I found (he & I & attorney negotiated the issue w the supplier) bc I didn’t want my former abuser to find out where I worked. He also received a cash award.

              2. Not playing your game anymore*

                This is the question. Does she not want her name and photo out there? Is it just the photo she doesn’t like? Doesn’t want her name out at all? I had a situation for a while that caused so headshaking. There was a local TV news personality who had my name. (my name because I’m 30 years her senior) My work email is firstname.lastname@our-institution. Our institution is tangentially connected with her area of the news. She was young and cute and had a um following. Fortunately, she’s moved on to a bigger station elsewhere. But there were times. “just remove my contact info and my name. You can leave the picture. Or similar.

                1. LC*

                  This is how I interpreted Zoe’s initial statement, but upon rereading, I’m not sure if I read that right.

                  Asking why as in “what’s your deal, do you have a stalker, do you just not like how you look in pictures, what?” is not okay.

                  Asking why as in “what is it about this type of post that you’re uncomfortable with, is it just the length of time, is it your picture, is it your picture and name, is it your picture and name and info about where you’ll be at a certain time, what in the future is a no-go for you so I won’t even ask and what might be situational so we’ll talk details ahead of time?” is not only acceptable, but, I think, the right thing to do.

                  OP doesn’t need to know the history of the why, but the why as in why now/why this post would be beneficial for everyone.

                  (This all assumes that there is any chance that the company will want to use Arya’s likeness in the future. If there’s no reason to think it’ll happen again, I don’t think this conversation is necessary, OP just needs to be super clear ahead of time if there is ever another time they’ll want to include her in social post.)

                2. Zoe*

                  LC you are absolutely correct in that is how I would approach it. Everyone in my org has signed forms saying we can use their image for whatever, and we specifically ask before posting, that’s why clarity would be needed. Sometime people just don’t like being photographed, sometimes they want to chose which photo we use, sometimes they have a high risk reason, etc. It just has to be clarified and discussed and adjusted. Usually it can be figured out. Heck, we used a drawing once a kid had done of the person since they hated being photographed but didn’t mind what the post was about.

          1. Wintermute*

            That’s ignoring the fact that removing it could mean there’s no evidence of it when people go looking, and could hurt the visibility of the organization or how easily people can find them…

            I think they should honor this request but it’s not unreasonable at all to want to make sure this doesn’t become a repeat thing

            1. tessa*

              “… could hurt the visibility of the organization or how easily people can find them…”

              …is Arya’s responsibility how?

            2. Kal*

              If the only evidence that this business participated in the fair at all was a single social media post using a contractor’s name and picture saying that they would be at the event, that sounds like a distinct problem on the business’s part, not anything that could be Arya’s fault. If being at the event was that big a deal for the business’s visibility and ability to have people find them, shouldn’t there have been someone there taking photos when the event actually happened? Or shouldn’t there be other people who took photos at that event that would prove them being there?

              If Arya was the only thing representing them there at all, they might still have problems not being able to use the photos, but that then circles back to the fault being that they chose their only representation at the event to be a contractor who was social media averse to begin with and not discussing with her that photos of her participation at this event would be used as advertising well past when the event would end.

              I’m not super social media averse – I have my own accounts on a number of big social media sites, but I would assume that if a picture was used to announce attendance at an event, that while that post may remain up after the event was over it would no longer be of any particular use and could be easily taken down if I asked for it to be. On most social media sites, its usually quite difficult to find a months old post even if you’re actively searching for it or even know some of the text of the post to use in the search, so I doubt its really going to be drawing new people to the business this long after the fact. Instead of lecturing Arya on it, putting that energy into making a new post will be a lot more useful to the business than trying to keep a stale old post announcing that they were going to be at an event that happened a while ago.

        2. Observer*

          <I. So having asked for and received permission, OP3 put in work to do as they had been asked in a professional context, and then balked because suddenly this was no longer the case and they had to potentially redo it all, with no explanation or expansion re which platforms Arya meant, and now there’s a lecture on Doing The Right Thing into the bargain?

          Yes. Because taking down the picture is absolutely necessary. And the OP’s attitude is a real problem. Not only do they want to refuse to do so, they want to attach a lecture to it. Sorry, that doesn’t fly.

          And, no a “chat” about WHY Arya does not want to be on social media is NOT warranted in the least bit. Yes, a chat about if her picture is going to be used, and if so how, is warranted. But WHY? No. Arya most definitely does NOT owe the OP any explanation.

          And if the OP is going to have a problem with taking down posts going forward, they need to never put up posts with Arya’s picture because they are now on notice that she doesn’t want her picture up for long periods of time. Period.

          1. Wintermute*

            That’s totally unreasonable.

            Social media feeds are an organizational asset. They’re how people find you, how people find events, they are a major part of visibility. It’s not unreasonable in the least to make sure that this doesn’t become a repeat thing, that Arya understands this is an imposition and causes damage, and that this doesn’t happen so often it impacts their overall visibility.

            1. Observer*

              It’s reasonable to try to avoid this happening on a regular basis. But it is NOT reasonable to do it by requiring Aray to justify her herself or using her picture without permission.

              In many jurisdictions it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s a legal requirement to have consent.

              1. Wintermute*

                That’s true, but they have consent, ongoing active consent is not a thing in copyright or image rights, for precisely this reason, otherwise someone could force a business to cancel entire ad campaigns any time they wanted. This is, personally, why the organization I work for uses only signed releases. We would honor a safety-related request but we are not going to remove our promotional material on a whim.

                I don’t think she should have to justify herself per se, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make sure she knows this does cause damage and is an imposition.

                1. tessa*

                  Lecture anyway, no matter the many reasons why she could have made the request? Even if it’s about being stalked or threatened?


                  Nope. The photos come down, and if she gets involved again, and the same thing happens, you don’t use her photos anymore. “That’s okay, we’re set.”

                  None of this is complicated.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  The photo was on Arya’s own website, so she has copyright to that.
                  OP did not state that the consent was forever or even that anything was signed.
                  Even if the consent was forever, you should let them rescind it in case their situation changes.

                  You say you would honour a safety-related request, but why should people have to even mention that? Then you might start arguing “do you really think he’s going to go that far looking for you?”. People who have not been stalked don’t understand how dangerous it is.

                  If social media posts are that important for a company, they need to make posts that don’t involve people’s photos.

      2. hbc*

        Whether or not you have rights in a particular situation, when you create more work for people because you change your mind or otherwise have a misunderstanding, it’s reasonable to provide some sort of explanation. It doesn’t have to be “I have a stalker named X who did Y things to me” level, just what’s needed so everyone can be happier moving forward. Something like “I don’t like any references to me up for more than a couple weeks on any platform besides my own webpage, and pictures only if really necessary.”

        I get your overall point, but most of it doesn’t apply to the OP because she explicitly got permission. It’s understandable that OP is flummoxed because she’s basically got to do twice the work because (from her perspective) the contractor changed the agreement. It’s important that she gets more information so she knows what a “yes” actually means going forward.

        1. Observer*

          The OP is not just “flummoxed”. They are being judgemental, and thinking of refusing to cooperate in the short term AND in the longer term. That’s a very different situation.

        2. Spero*

          But she DID provide an explanation! The explanation is that since it’s been up for a while, she thinks the use of including her photo has come to an end and would like it to be taken down. That is enough of an explanation.
          Posting photos is an explicit consent situation, not an assumed consent one. So ex using our most common consent understanding, if you had kissed someone many times in the past, but when you went to kiss them this time they said no – their past consent does not override their current non-consent. Or if you’d borrowed a family member’s car some time ago and were driving it around regularly, and they asked for it back, you can’t say “no” just because they previously told you yes. The online presence of the photo from here forward is what Arya is changing, NOT their past consent to the original post.

    3. River Otter*

      You don’t need the reason. If someone discloses that they don’t want their picture up, just take the picture down and ask what their boundaries are around having pictures up. Then set your expectations around their boundaries.

      1. Very tired researcher*

        Someone may have said it and I didn’t see it, but Arya may not want a photo up due to something like operational security. I happen to be a military spouse, and there will be times (like now) where protocols for social media change. I’m having to get a few recent photos removed, and it’s not fun, but whenever big events happen us milspouses are often hit with SO MUCH cyber junk/attacks/threats/scams.

        But also it’s not fun having your image out there and it could threaten your well-being. And a lot of times I don’t give this reason as why I want the photo taken down, because people tend not to believe it and it just causes a bigger headache. Or because I can’t since it causes people to ask all kinds of security violation type questions. So I can see asking her what her social media needs are moving forward, but don’t critique them or request a detailed reason why.

  3. Heidi*

    Re Letter 1: Would it be feasible to just not answer the phone? Especially if the OP is going to be meeting with employee 10 minutes later. Letting the call go to voicemail would allow the OP to respond to non-important messages at a more convenient time. It could also incentivize the employee to start sending messages through IM if they aren’t able to reach the OP by phone most of the time.

    1. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, that was my thought. Especially if it’s shortly before a scheduled meeting anyway, just don’t answer the phone if you see this person calling. They’ll either leave a voicemail or message or text or wait for the scheduled meeting. I think still have the conversation about preferring not to use the phone, but if that’s a hard habit to break, just ignore the calls.

    2. Matt*

      Some people just hate writing as much as we (I) hate the phone. You won’t get them to write when they want to talk. I’m a software developer, and for me it’s obvious that phone calls out of the blue are the Worst Thing Possible because they break your concentration and take you out of whatever problem you are solving at this very moment. Well, I have several colleagues, developers like me, who prefer the phone and do the instant calling whenever a question comes up. (And they, credit to them for this, are really always available when you call them, what I’d only do in an emergency.)

      Earlier in the pandemic we used Slack for communication. The phone-loving coworkers weren’t very present there, with the others it was comfortable chatting. Then we switched to MS Teams. At first we continued chatting like in Slack. Then on some unholy day someone discovered the unholy call function. That was it. Now I have three individual Teams calls a day plus everytime when some group has a spontaneous video call and decide that they need me in that call NOW.

      I try to be as unavailable as possible via phone / teams call and as available as possible via chat / email. To no avail. If I don’t answer, the callers will call again. And again. And again. (And probably soon complain to someone that I’m “not a team player” or “unapproachable”.)

      1. margaret*

        It is a good point that some people are not comfortable using chat. I have a friend who is a very poor typist (her words) and she hates it. She’d much rather do a quick phone call… and I would hate supervising her because unscheduled calls are extremely distracting to me too. ;)

        OP should probably ask employee to keep a running agenda for their check-ins that has the questions that have come up for them in the course of the week that didn’t need an urgent response. If stuff comes up shortly after that and there’s no check-in scheduled anytime soon, 1) that might be a problem and they might need more frequent check-ins, and 2) letting a call go to voicemail sounds fine to me if you’ve told your employee you’ll return their call when you get a moment and to please leave a voicemail!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, but if she’s so bad at typing, she should look into a voice-to-text app, if she ever has to work for someone who prefers to avoid phone calls as much as possible.

          1. Jasmine Tea*

            I love voice to text, especially when sending longer messages in Mandarin Chinese (my second language)! However, first thing in the morning I find it often makes mistakes in any language. Probably due to a lack of caffeine.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, I really wish it would be possible to flag DND for voice calls while remaining available for IM on Teams.

        I’m fine with scheduled calls, even if it’s just someone on Teams IMing me to ask if I have time for a call, but I hate it when my phone (or Teams) rings out of the blue. Luckily I’ve mostly managed to train people out of this, by not giving them any faster service if they bug me with voice calls, and by responding fairly quickly, if not immediately, to IMs. It also helps that I’m comms adjacent, so everyone I work with regularly is comfortable with written communications, and all of my teammates are good at expressing themselves in writing. And all of us are pretty good at recognizing when voice calls are truly necessary, which they sometimes can be.

        1. Thistle*

          Does setting yourself to busy or do not disturb not help? If we set ourselves to busy you still get messages but people don’t tend to call.

          1. Antilles*

            The problem is simply that many people (most?) would see Busy or Do Not Disturb and assume that means exactly what it says – don’t bother me because I’m tied up with something urgent or in a meeting or etc.
            Which is a slightly different message than what allathian is really trying to say: Please don’t voice call me, but feel free to IM or email.

          2. Liz*

            Setting yourself to DND means you won’t get notifications except from people you’ve added to your high-priority list. I’m not sure about calls – I would expect them to go to voicemail, but the website doesn’t say.

        2. Lore*

          You can set Teams voice and video calls to go straight to voice mail! I had to do this when we first got Teams because I was remoting in to a computer at my office while working remotely so I didn’t have access to the camera Teams was activating, and could never move fast enough to switch out of the remote software t a browser on my laptop to answer a call.

        3. Khatul Madame*

          There is no DND specifically for calls, but you can set your status to “Have a question? Send an IM”, or “No phone calls” and hope people pay attention.

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        I don’t like constant random phone calls either, but some people are just much better at absorbing information given verbally than in writing. I had a colleague who never read more than 2 sentences of any given email (and would sometimes jump to conclusions based on what she did read), but if you talked to her, she would totally get whatever information you were trying to communicate.

        I much prefer written communication, but if someone’s brain is wired in such a way that they absorb information better verbally, you need to take their communication preference and strengths into account.

        And also, not everyone has great levels of reading comprehension. I think something like 50% of Americans read at a sixth grade reading level or lower. So yes, ask the colleague to cut back on the phone calls, but be aware that this person may need to have information spoken to them to be able to take it in.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, poor reading skills are a problem. But that’s what text-to-voice and voice-to-text apps are for. I guess I’m lucky to work in an organization where most things are handled in written form. We don’t have any jobs for people whose reading levels are that low, except in facilities maintenance and cleaning, and most of those jobs are outsourced.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            To just clarify what I said: the colleague I had who processed information much better verbally had a master’s degree. Reading comprehension is really a separate issue. But some people with lower levels of reading comprehension will still end up in office jobs.

            1. allathian*

              Point taken, but I must admit that I’m really curious about what university would grant a master’s degree to a person who can’t (be bothered to) even read emails… At least the master’s degree I got required so much reading that a person with poor reading comprehension would never have been able to pass the entrance exams, never mind actually graduate. That said, one of my close friends in that program had severe dyslexia to the point that she couldn’t reliably spell her own name. She needed more time than most to study for her exams, and she had an accommodation that allowed her more time to complete her exams than others, but she had a really large vocabulary and was probably one of the smartest people in the class. She got very good grades, at least partly because she wasn’t marked down for spelling mistakes on papers, etc.

              Poor reading comprehension has nothing to do with intelligence, but as a poor verbal processor, I guess I’m glad that the likelihood that I’ll ever have to work with a person like your coworker is extremely small.

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                I think it was a combination of not reading emails thoroughly because she was super busy (which ironically then generated more emails) and not being a great processor of written information. I worked with several teachers who also had advanced degrees were way better at verbal than written communication too. (You would expect teachers to be good at communicating verbally because they have to do it so much.) So it also depends on the type and nature of the advanced degree.

                1. new*

                  Pedantic comment incoming: “orally” is the word you want, not verbally. Both written and spoken words are verbal forms of communication.

                  I must agree with other commenters that achieving an advanced academic degree from any reputable institution without accommodation for a learning disability would be quite unusual. Don’t understand why you are pushing this point.

                  Some folks are marginally attentive and that is the real problem, not their language skills whether written or oral.

          2. Morning person*

            I don’t think you can assume that people who work in maintenance or cleaning have low levels of reading comprehension.

            1. Myrin*

              allathian said that the only place in her organisation where people who don’t have a lot of reading competence even have a chance of being hired are in maintenance or cleaning (the implication being that in all other jobs there, someone must be able to read and comprehend at a high level), not that everyone working those jobs has no reading comprehension.

              1. allathian*

                Yes, thank you. Sorry if I was unclear, Morning person.

                Most of the cleaners in my office building are first generation immigrants. For all I know, they could be engineers, lawyers, or medical doctors in their countries of origin, but because they lack language skills, they can only do manual labor. I’m not looking down on manual labor at all, going to the office would be a lot less pleasant if we didn’t have any cleaners.

            2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

              My office cleaner is saving up to get her real estate license, and another person I know works as a cleaner to support her career as a poet.

          3. Koala dreams*

            Calling it poor reading skills is a weird take. If someone preferred IM or email, you wouldn’t assume they have “poor listening skills”. There are a lot of reasons to prefer one or the other.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          In which case they wait for their already scheduled one on one meeting with their manager. OP does need to define any exception that = emergency to call. The rest are “hold for meeting” and request meeting if it can’t wait until next one.

    3. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      This doesn’t necessarily fix the disruption issue though, as just the phone ringing can derail your train of thought so much more than an IM.
      I think the conversation needs to comes first so they know you’re not just suddenly ignoring them, then maybe start letting a few calls go to voicemail, then a more serious conversation if they ignore the instructions and keep calling for non-urgent issues.

      1. aCommenter*

        This is an honest question: I gather you (and other commenters) find instant messages less distracting – can you say why? Yes, the phone ringing interrupts your train is thought, but so do IM pop-ups, no? Or have you set them up so as not to pop up on your screen (which would seem to defeat the purpose of IM, but might help with concentration)?

        1. Hapax Legomenon*

          For me, the phone is like being pushed through a doorway: it is an involuntary change into a completely different space in my head. I have to completely stop what I am doing to even press ignore, much less to answer and find out what it is about. I can glance at an IM popup without stopping what I’m doing, take a moment to find my own ideal stopping point, and walk through the doorway on my own. I can also judge the difficulty of the conversation and decide if it requires my full attention, or if I can continue typing an email or doing whatever task in the space between sending a message and waiting for one back. And because I read MUCH faster than I can listen, the part of the conversation where I am actively reading and responding goes much faster for me than when I have to actively listen and respond in a voice call.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. Besides, if I’m typing a response to someone on IM, they don’t know that most of my mind may be on something else, but on a voice call, it’s very noticeable if you’re distracted. But I’m a fast reader, as well as a decent typist, so IMs just feel like they’re a more efficient use of my time. Besides which, Teams convos are searchable, so you can get back to a particular point of discussion later.

            Verbal convos go in one ear and out the other for me, I have pretty much zero verbal recall. I don’t think very highly of people who force me to take notes because they can’t be bothered to write IMs or emails. Luckily for me, my employer requires tasks to be written down by the person who’s making the request, so it’s not really a problem for actually working. That said, it can be a bit embarrassing in social small talk at the office, because I can rarely remember who said what, and taking notes of casual conversations would be weird.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Besides which, Teams convos are searchable, so you can get back to a particular point of discussion later.

              I can’t agree enough! There are at least a dozen people in my organization who I outright refuse to talk to because there’s no paper trail in the air. I’ll answer IM, emails, or even texts, but phone calls are a permanent nonstarter. I’m not interested in being the next person those individuals get fired by throwing under the bus.

              I actually have the opposite problem; my memory’s usually pretty good (and the things I can pull from memory often amazes those around me), but it’s all assertions without the evidence of a paper trail.

          2. Chili pepper Attitude*

            Well said Hapax Legomenon
            I can pace myself when I get a chat but the phone requires all your focus. I can multitask a (typed) chat but less so with a phone call.

        2. Stevie*

          For me, it’s that I can respond to an IM a minute or two later. I see the notification, but I don’t have to respond within a certain timeframe, unlike with a phone that will stop ringing if you don’t pick it up. I guess it’s not the IM notification or phone ringing sound itself that distracts me; it’s the implication. Also, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that a phone call could mean a long time-suck (or not, but you don’t know until you pick it up) whereas IM is generally short, or you can suggest making it a call/email if it’s a more detailed thing.

          1. Matt*

            Yes, this.

            It might be different if there weren’t the expectation to pick up calls, but there is. We have the culture that if someone calls you, you answer. You won’t get a public flogging for missing calls, but the “people who are always on the loo when you call them” (I have read this exact wording) are frowned upon, so if I don’t take a call, I need to have an explanation, and just “working undisturbed” unfortunately isn’t enough explanation to do it daily. So ignoring a call creates much more stress than taking a few minutes to wrap up my current train of thought and then think about my response to whatever IM another few minutes before answering it.

          2. Sloan Kittering*

            +1. You can prioritize before you engage with IM. You have to stop what you’re doing and answer the phone *before* you realize your coworker is just lonely or bored.

          3. DataSci*

            Yes, this.

            An IM ping is a single notification, and with my settings it’s silent – just a discreet red number on the Slack icon. I can notice it, finish what I’m immediately doing (a few lines of code, or an email, or editing a slide), read the message, and then respond if necessary or put it off if what I’m doing is more important. A phone is needy and won’t shut up until you deal with it.

            A ringing phone is both about 10x more distracting – instantaneously demanding 100% of my attention – and not ignorable. I cannot shake the thought that if it’s important enough for someone to call without the courtesy of a “do you have time for a call” IM first, something is sufficiently on fire that letting it go to voicemail is not an option.

          4. Cold Fish*

            Another +1
            The phone demands I stop what I’m doing and answer immediately no matter where I am in my current thought or the current task.
            An IM lets me at least finish my current thought process before reading the IM. I can then read the IM without fully removing myself from the current task and determine if I need to switch gears to answer the question or if I can finish the task at hand and then answer the question.

        3. Susan Ivanova*

          Every place I’ve worked has seen IM as a cross between the slow detailed asyncness of email and the immediacy of a phone call. Unless you get lucky and both members of the conversation happen to be free at the same time, assume the conversation will be spread out across the day.

          And please, do not start with just “Hello”, especially if you are on the other side of the world. Start with hello *and* the question. This is very informal, it’s fine!

        4. Beth*

          For me, a big part of it is just that instant messaging is more comfortable. I grew up using AIM, texting, and various messaging apps way more often than phone calls, so text communication feels natural to me. I can do phone calls just fine, but they’re not my preference.

          Phone calls are also more disruptive in practical ways. The ring is loud and jarring, and continues for several rings if I don’t answer right away. I can’t finish my thought and then either pick up or decline the call; I have to interrupt my thinking to check caller ID, decide whether it’s important to pick up, and act accordingly right away, or I’ll miss the call. I also feel like there’s more of an expectation that I’ll answer right then with a phone call, compared to texting where leaving it for a few minutes while I wrap up what I’m doing is no big deal. If I choose not to answer, odds are decent that they’ll leave a message, and I’ve yet to see a voicemail system that isn’t annoying to navigate.

          I strongly prefer to think of calls like meetings. If there’s something substantial that needs discussion, then schedule a call about it, make sure everyone knows what the topic is, and call at the set time. If it could be handled in email or IM, though, then insisting on a call feels pretty demanding to me.

          1. BethDH*

            I’d never thought to express “calls as meetings” but this is it exactly. I often prefer a call to a long series of emails, but either it’s simple enough to be a text/email, OR it is complicated enough to need a conversation and should be scheduled.
            This is my personal life too, FWIW, where an unscheduled phone call is always a sales call, an emergency, or my birthday.

            1. BethDH*

              I’ll add that I’m happy to jump on a call with a colleague on short notice (often five minutes or so) — long enough for me to have any relevant notes/files at hand and set aside current tasks in a way that I can remember where they are.

              1. Beth*

                Yes! ‘Scheduling’ a call could mean two weeks out to get it on a bunch of stakeholders’ calendars, or it could mean five minutes out after a quick “Do you have time to hop on a call about ___?” message. I’m not trying to be unreachable. I just need a few minutes to switch tracks.

                1. Liz*

                  This is it exactly. We often have quick calls on Teams, but they are never cold calls. They either start with an IM question that gets too complicated, or something like “Do you have a few minutes to talk about X?” “Yes, give me 10 mins to wrap this up”.

                  For laypeople, I often use the interstate metaphor. “You know, how on long journeys every bathroom break adds 30 mins to the time, even though it’s only a 10 minute stop? Same with my thought process. If I’m concentrating on something, I have to slow down, switch gears, deal with the new question/topic, and then try to get back to where I was.”

        5. Green great dragon*

          Probably equally distracting if I have to do something about them immediately, but I can absorb a short IM in a glance and decide to deal with it later without breaking my train of thought, whereas a phone call has already broken my train of thought by the time I’ve picked it up and we’ve exchanged hellos.

        6. Sean*

          Since a written exchange takes a bit longer than a verbal one, and progresses a little more slowly, IMs tend to stay on topic. They lack the waffle that comes with a voice call – especially if the other party tends to be verbose.

          “Oh, while I’ve got you on the phone… blah blah..” “….and just quickly before I go, blah blah”
          You don’t get any of that on IM.

          1. allathian*

            That’s true. I’m a pretty fast typist, but it does take longer than speaking. I also tend to go off on tangents when I speak, which is much less likely to happen on IM.

        7. AcademiaNut*

          If you wait five minute to look at a IM, it’s still there. If you wait five minutes to answer the phone, the phone has stopped ringing and the caller has either given up, or left a voice message (and then you have to wade through the voice message system).

          In my job, there’s almost nothing that requires instantaneous response, so I turn off all notification popups, sounds and alerts, but have the habit of checking when I have a brief break in concentration. I literally have the do-not-disturb on my laptop set from 3am to 2:59 am, because I find popup notifications so annoying and pointless.

        8. Metadata minion*

          Most systems let you set your preferences to not have noise/popups/etc. for IMs if you prefer not to. Mine just makes a little icon in the chat program saying I have new messages. You can’t really do that with a phone and as other people have said, it would kind of defeat the purpose since phone calls require you to answer them immediately rather than as soon as you reach a good stopping point in what you’re doing.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I do this as one of the first things on both email and instant messaging systems. For me, the preview of the message is quite distracting (although not as much as an unscheduled call), so I turn it off. (This also has the side benefit of ensuring no one else will see your message previews when you’re sharing your screen.)

        9. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I use a non-MS not-really-used-outside my industry software in order to do my job. Its a heavy on-screen component. Further, because its far and away not the most awesome software (whole separate convo here) its not at all ideal to get lost mid-stream, because you’re going to lose your place.

          A phone call means physically turning 180 degrees from my screen to even see who it is. Because of our current phone set up, if the call is coming from on-campus, I can see who it is. If its from off-campus? Forget it, it just says outside call. This could be ANYONE including my kids’ school, my parents, etc. Outside of my department it seems its really a non-issue, but for my role, the lack of outside caller ID is truly an aggravation.

          An IM beeps once, and gives me a preview including who it is. I can make a decision very quickly as to whether it can wait til I finish up the immediate stream or not, or create my own stopping point very easily if it is an emergency.

          Some of it is me dealing with ADHD, some of it is less than ideal equipment set up over which I have zero control, some of it is years of dealing with industry norms of “gotcha” and “can I get a status update on thing due in twenty minutes” via phone (“pestering me to see if I am done is NOT going to get you my finished product faster” is a frequent truth bomb from me), but I absolutely loathe using the phone.

        10. Antilles*

          For me, it’s mostly about the forced immediacy of the communication. A ringing phone basically demands an answer at that exact instant whereas an IM can wait a couple minutes until I’m done with my current thought.
          Think about this pre-pandemic example that I’m sure we’ve all experienced: You’re meeting your boss/co-worker in their office about a project or task. Halfway through said meeting, that person’s desk phone rings. What did they do? I’ll bet they picked up the phone right then and there. No matter how deep you were in the details of the meeting…that phone rang and you (the person physically sitting in front of them) effectively got put on hold because the ringing phone demands an immediate response.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Yes, that has definitely happened to me. Personally, I really appreciate the rule: The person in front of me has priority over anyone calling or emailing me.

            Obviously, there are exceptions, but it’s a solid baseline.

        11. Koala dreams*

          Yes, it’s baffling to me too. Nowadays you can choose the settings on the phone so that phone calls go directly to voice mail and messages get a classical ringing tone if you want, and what notifications people use vary a lot. Personally I dislike voice mail and get interrupted by those short pinging noises so I set up my phone up accordingly, and find it well worth the couple of minutes it takes.

        12. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          When someone calls me, they frequently want to talk about something that I am not currently working on, so I have to open that document. Usually, they continue with their question while I am trying to find the correct page of the document, and I have trouble both following what they’re saying and finding the correct document and page. (Even when I tell them, “Just give me a second to find the right page.”)

          Then, I have to figure out the best way to take notes on what they’re saying so that I can make the change later (because I am in the middle of something, so I’m not necessarily going to do it after the phone call ends). Plus, if anyone ever asks about it later, I don’t really have any proof that that requested change came from them.

          If someone IMs me, there’s an expected break between my answers. I can find the right page without being rushed (I can first take the time to note where I was and save and close the document I WAS working in if I want). And, then, when I want to make the change later, I can look at our written conversation that should tell me exactly what I am supposed to do.

          Since we’ve moved mostly away from regular phone calls and onto Teams calls, most people at least shoot me an IM to ask if now is a good time for them to call me. I much appreciate that. I can ask for information upfront to be prepared, I can ask for five minutes and then go use the bathroom first, etc.

        13. Kimmy Schmidt*

          For me, it’s related to how loud and long a phone ring is. IM = one quick, soft *ping*, and I can easily disable the notifications if I really need to. I take half a second to glance at notification and figure out how quickly I need to respond. Phone = continuous ringing for several seconds, if not minutes. Something about this continuous sound disrupts my concentration for not only that minute but I also lose my focus for several minutes afterword.

        14. Erica*

          We are an almost entirely Slack-driven organization (I check my email every couple of days to see if, say, HR has sent something, but daily team communication is all in Slack channels.) You can customize notifications pretty precisely. I have no popups or sounds, I schedule focus time for certain hours of the day when the visual notification badge won’t appear, I have Google calendar integration so people see in Slack when I’m in a meeting, and (as is the default) channels only show a notification badge if I’ve starred them or someone mentions my name directly or does the dreaded @here all-channel alert. Plus because of channels everything is classified by topic.

          As others have mentioned, the asynchronous nature of Slack or other IMs makes all the difference. Unscheduled phone calls feel to me like someone has come up to my desk and rudely demanded to speak to me RIGHT NOW!!!! drop EVERYTHING!! it’s URGENT!!! Slack is way more calm and respectful and feels like ‘hey, when you have a minute I have a question’.

        15. Software Dev (she/her)*

          I think people have already answered this well but for me, with IMs I can look up information, so if someone asks me “Do you know why method Y does X” I can take a minute to look uo that method in the codebase and doublecheck.

          On a phone call its like “uh—hold on—let’s see—okay I think—this code is legacy—oh wait no maybe its used over here….”

          I hate unscheduled phone calls. When I did account management, I always asked clients to tell me what a call would be about before I called them so I had time to gather any information needed before we talked.

        16. Lenora Rose*

          A small visual flicker in the corner of my eye, like an IM or an email flag, is something I can glance at, see it’s not urgent, and continue my train without issue, knowing it will sit there as is until I choose to pay closer attenton. (Similarly, there are milder audio notification tones which do the same — although overall, I find audio interruptions more likely to distract, the text notification from my phone is still a much smaller break in concentration than the call ring.)

          Most phones, however, are designed as a significant loud audio interruption, with a noise meant to say “React NOW”, and generally *do not stop* until they either go to voice mail or you pick up. They are the audio equivalent of a message that pops up in the middle of your screen in lime with blinking text.

        17. some of my divisors*

          I find noises more distracting than pop-ups – also, the acceptable window of time for a response is much longer with IMs than with a phone call, since I can type my reply up to 10 minutes later without people getting too annoyed, but if people call it goes to voicemail after only a minute or two and if I don’t respond to repeated calls some people get very annoyed.

          Of course I do still prefer emails over either IMs or phone calls, at least for work stuff.

        18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My clients sometimes ask to be able to message me on skype or whatever, but I refuse to do that.
          They used to ping me with “are you available?” and I’d be wary of saying yes in case they then bullied me into doing something I didn’t like. So I’d say “it depends, what’s up?” and they’d give me the info bit by bit, like pulling worms out of their nose as the French so eloquently put it. Then they’d send me the actual job, with a PO, that clearly stated all the info in one concise box.
          Now that I refuse IM, I get the PO info, clearly labelled as “job proposal”, and I can give them an answer straight off, because all the info I need is right there.
          If I had to use IM, you bet notifications would be turned off. I only have notifications for my pro email, and for our family chat, because the kids are even more important than my work, everything else is muted. I’ll still look at all the other chat and emails and messages regularly, but it’s when I’m available, not when I’m trying to get my head round a new concept.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      Good idea. And then maybe chat them “hey I’m busy but we’re going to meet in 15 minutes for our catch-up. Can it wait until then?”

    5. Koala dreams*

      Why make people play guessing games instead of telling them what you want? A short conversation should be enough.

      Making settings on the phone so you aren’t interrupted when busy is a good thing in general, but not as an “incentive”.

      1. Heidi*

        I agree with having the conversation. However, AAM is filled with letters from people who have asked for all sorts of reasonable things from coworkers and employees without success. Letting calls go to voicemail is something that the OP can do entirely on their own to help manage a situation they find frustrating.

    6. AnonInCanada*

      Sounds feasible, but what if this person who gets the voicemail doesn’t bother leaving one then calls right back hoping to catch the OP? I’ve had a few people do that to me and it’s just. plain. annoying. I would simply kick it in the bud and let them know your preferred method of communicating non-urgent tasks.

      Of course, if everything is urgent to this person, then there’s likely no hope for OP.

    7. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Someone on this board (and I apologize for not remembering who!) mentioned an idea I have adopted with my fully remote team. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I have a half hour “office hours” where I open a teams meeting and then if anyone has questions, they can hop on and ask. Whoever you were, thanks! A lot of the time, no one joins, and I spend that half-hour doing low-attention tasks (dealing with eamil, eg).

    8. Meep*

      My former coworker used to call me 5 minutes prior to all-staff meetings to get what I was working on so she could be “prepared” (really, she just wanted to claim the work as her own). I stopped picking up because she would spend 10 minutes prattling on about her exciting night last night before actually giving me 30 seconds to speak. It ended up being very helpful when dealing with her as she would leave a voicemail if it was actually important. If she didn’t, then I knew she just wanted to gossip.

      10/10 recommend

  4. JenniferAlys*

    OP3 you’re being really unreasonable. Take down the post. It doesn’t matter why she no longer wants it up. Often people who don’t have a social media presence are highly protective of their privacy for a reason, and it may be uncomfortable to explain why. Your case for wanting it up is pretty weak and shows you value some arbitrary idea of continuity of posts more than another person’s peace of mind.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this is a fair point.

      That said, it doesn’t have to be anything as awful as a stalker, it can simply be a matter of preference. I don’t have a social media presence, unless you count WhatsApp, and there I almost exclusively communicate with people who are in my contacts anyway. Exceptions include some of the parents whose kids aren’t friends with my son to the point that they’d spend time with each other outside of school, in the group for parents of kids in my son’s class.

      I would not be comfortable with my picture being used in my employer’s marketing materials, including social media posts and blog posts, with the exception of completely internal blog posts on our intranet, at least not named and tagged.

      1. Wintermute*

        A mere matter of preference is a weak reason to disrupt an organization’s PR and make work for someone though… I feel like people are really downplaying how much memory-holing posts can hurt an organization’s image and visibility (my default assumption is there was something so wrong that they couldn’t let it remain, and many people would make the same assumption). I don’t think doing that over a “mere preference” is at all reasonable! especially after explicit consent was asked for and given.

        Taking it down this time is a kindness but I feel like changing your policies and practices to ensure a repeat and making sure she knows this is an imposition is perfectly appropriate.

        1. Nanani*

          Are you OP2?
          Arya’s privacy really is more important than your business. No amount of “mere” and “but business” is going to change that fundamental truth.

          1. Wintermute*

            No I am not, I just think too many people here are treating this as no big deal at all and not realizing it’s actually harmful and damaging and risks making the organization look bad. They were responsible, they got consent, Arya is acting unreasonably here.

            They should take it down, as a kindness, even if they may not have a legal obligation to do so. But I don’t think avoiding a repeat is unreasonable.

            1. Lizy*

              Editing a post is a pain, sure, especially if the post was centered around Ayra. But we don’t know the situation around why she wants it taken down. It could be as simple as “I changed my mind”. It could be as complicated as “my ex has reached out to me and I’m terrified that something violent will happen.”

              Changing the post or taking it down is a kindness, yes, and it’s not unreasonable for the company to want to avoid it happening again. But it’s a very, very small price to pay to keep someone happy and quite possibly save someone’s life.

              It’s none of the company’s business. It costs $0 to be kind and do the right thing. If they want more social media presence, post more stuff on social media.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yeh, take it down. Though it’s not clear to me whether it’s the photo she cares about or the whole post, or the bit of the post that mentions her. Might be worth checking in with her on that (in a totally non-pressuring way with no leading questions).

        1. ecnaseener*

          Sure she can, for the mention of her. Just like her picture, she might not want her general location publicly stated.

          1. MK*

            I mean, she can, but I think there is a balance between using employees and vendors for promotion and giving your clients relevant information about the business. If you own a restaurant, the pastry chef shouldn’t have to provide a photo or personal information for your website or be prominent on your social media, but listing her as an employee would be normal, especially if she has won awards and presumably you hired her partly as a draw. There is no expectation of confidentiality about the fact that X person works for Z business.

            1. The Face*

              I would say that there absolutely is an expectation for most jobs that the list of employees’ names and images is not freely and easily available to the public. Some fields, sure, like a medical practice would probably have all its doctors listed, and of course some places might want to publicise who they have working in their kitchens or with their clients or whatever as a marketing strategy, but for most jobs this wouldn’t even come up and even the sort where it does it is a thing one can opt in to for most reasonable companies in most fields.

              In my field the people with my particular job are kind of the face of the company and most company websites will feature some of us with names, photos, and a little bio, but as I’ve never been comfortable with that I’ve always opted out, and this was always completely a non-issue except at one company that was extremely toxic and had a whole rake of other issues as well.

    3. MK*

      I would think it would be possible to edit the posts to just remove Arya’s photo.

      And OP, if you tell her this is a one-time allowance, she will most likely tell you never to use her photo again in your posts. It might affect the business, but the company doesn’t actually have a reasonable expectation that they can use their contractor’s images in their social media.

      I am also confused by the whole “mentoring” situation. You are doing work you have no background or experience in, Arya has no experience but apparently she is good at her own work. What are you supposed to me mentoring her in? Did Ned discuss this with Arya first?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Re your last paragraph, I’m confused about how Arya is simultaneously new and needing a lot of coaching, and a major draw such that they are centering their promotional materials around her. Especially when she’s not even an employee.

        1. SongbirdT*

          Same. Best I can figure is that it’s some kind of creative work where a person can be highly talented and skilled in a non-professional space which then parlays into a professional career? (For example, a home cook who wins a cooking competition and becomes a chef.)

        2. Salymander*

          The whole thing was confusing, and sounded a lot like it was one of those organizations that have a lot of workers who are either “contractors” or “interns” when really they are employees. Inexperienced people are told that they are “mentors” or “managers” as a way of getting them to work for less while expecting that their hard work and investment in the company will pay off. If you say no to anything or set reasonable boundaries, you are being weird or not fitting in with company culture. They often hire people who don’t have a background or official training in whatever it is the organization does, so they can be paid less, but their actual skills mean that they are well able for the job. It all sounds very shifty. I have lived in Silicon Valley all my life, and this kind of just-a-bit-offness is really common. Exactly the kind of place I would be unsurprised to find out has poor boundaries on social media and with it’s employees and their personal info.

  5. Mid*

    Something that LW 5 could try to do is partner with local groups that work with undocumented workers as a way to help signal that they’re safe to work with. I’m guessing that 5 is an accountant of sorts, so maybe if they could reach out to some local groups that provide legal services to undocumented people and let them know they’re a possible resource? I’m not totally sure how that would work, but it might be worth trying.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      Being referred by a trusted immigrant nonprofit is definitely a good way to go. Though I did write a long post later on because some of the original post did not make sense. No one goes from undocumented to citizenship Or works off the books and with a fake SS #.

      1. Candi*

        With the “fake” SSN, it might not be fake as in “made up”, but fake as in “belongs to someone else”.

        For instance, SSNs have been around long enough there’s plenty of dead people’s numbers to use, and while you can write scripts to compare and catch, or have someone check manually (ugh!), someone has to be paid to do that. Which means it comes out of some department’s budget when they have a bunch of other things to spend money on.

        As for the undocumented to citizen, I’ve heard alleged stories of people entering illegally, then getting their paperwork to be in the country legally, then getting citizenship. But I have no idea of the truth of such stories since, for obvious reasons, no one is going to identify themselves as such.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          Also, don’t forget about Dreamers..if they were brought over as a child and then were using illegal SSN and then started the process for citizenship

          1. The Lexus Lawyer*

            Again, it doesn’t work like that at all. You can’t go from undocumented directly to citizenship. Dreamers included

          1. merula*

            Seconding, though I’m just someone who does tax volunteering with undocumented folks. The common understanding of how undocumented life works is incorrect, though it’s understandable.

            PSA: You can get a tax refund for taxes withheld under a false SSN. You can get a tax ID number (ITIN) as an undocumented person. The IRS does not communicate any information about the immigration or employment status of taxpayers to other agencies.

      2. Observer*

        No one . . . works off the books and with a fake SS #.

        That’s just completely out of touch with reality. Of course, it’s usually or (either off the books or using a fake SSN). But this stuff is still incredibly common, even with e-verify etc.

        1. Wintermute*

          yeah, I know for a fact it’s done. A friend of mine is still dealing with the social security ramifications of the fact someone was using their social when they were a child. Fortunately there are minimal negative side effects (the worst case is that they have more reported lifetime income than reality, it wouldn’t cause less) though background checks often look very strange for them and they have to explain the situation carefully to whomever is doing the checks.

        1. The Lexus Lawyer*

          No, it’s not.

          It hasn’t been legally possible to go directly from undocumented to citizen since about 1937, unless you’re talking about a baby going from nothing to born in the US.

          Even if an undocumented person marries a US citizen, they don’t just automatically get citizenship, nor is there a direct process. You still have to go through permanent residency first.

    2. OP5*

      I like your suggestion a lot! Thank you!

      To clear up any confusion, I’m an accountant and my role is completely different. I was attempting to truncate my question but still give examples of where this comes up in my job. We have business clients where someone partners with a friend only to find out that person can’t own a business because they are undocumented. We have individual clients where a person marries an undocumented person or a dreamer. Those are the meetings where this comes up.

      1. SJ (they/them)*

        OP5, I just wanted to let you know your letter here was so full of kindness, it meant the world to me to read. I was undocumented as a young adult while going to school and it was just so scary. An immigration centre employee at my school was aware of my situation and looked the other way, which was the only reason I was able to complete my schooling. I will forever be grateful to that person, and that gratitude extends broadly to you as well, for recognizing the pain and fear that is inevitable with this situation and taking such a thoughtful approach. Thank you!

      2. Bee*

        Another way you might want to think about this is that it’s worth it *to them* to pay for enough time that they begin to trust you. You feel like it’d save them money to skip that step, but they’re willing to pay that money in exchange for comfort. If you can find ways to increase the level of trust when they walk in the door, do it! But some people won’t be comfortable until they’ve spent a little time with you. As long as they know they’ll be paying for that time beforehand, it’s fine to let them have it.

        1. N'Mousse for This*

          These people literally have their life to lose. Reframing it as its okay to take advantage of them doesn’t make it feel any better when you take their money. I say this as someone who sees it all too often.

          I see them being taken advantage of simply because they don’t speak the language, or weren’t born here, and I can say I really struggle with this. I watch as trust fund babies who don’t work complain about paying anything yet someone who works harder in a day of their life pays so much more for my time (and that of others).

          It isn’t about their comfort so much as it is their livelihood. They don’t have a choice – you literally have the power to destroy their lives. I know this response is harsh, but I think once you become okay with taking advantage of the misfortunes of others you lose a bit of your soul, and I can’t support that reframing.

          1. the once and future grantwriter*

            I have worked with a lot of undocumented immigrants, and there’s definitely something to be said for being willing to pay for more of a professional’s time than someone with papers might in order to get peace of mind to feel them out. I also second the suggestion of partnering with some kind of immigrants’ rights group for referrals, and stating early on in your consultation that you often work with undocumented immigrants and are familiar with the intricacies of those sets of needs. (Do NOT in any way imply that you are guessing that the client in front of you IS undocumented – I’d advise you to make it part of your standard spiel.)

            There also may be a little bit of a cultural element here. Can’t speak to other countries, but in many parts of Latin America, having ‘confianza’ with someone before you do business with them is huge, even if it’s not high-stakes, like immigration status certainly is for many undocumented people. I understand that you are billing for your time and want to be sensitive to that, but fwiw, when I took a medical interpretation course, we were instructed that many of our Latin American clients would want and expect to make conversation with their doctor for what might feel like a long time to us before getting down to their medical visit, and that this was an important part of the cross-cultural doctor/patient relationship that we as medical interpreters needed to value, respect, and defend if we wanted our clients to feel comfortable confiding sensitive medical information to their doctors. Given how little time doctors have with patients, this could create issues, but if it’s true in a medical context for Spanish speakers with US citizenship like our medical interpretation clients, I have to imagine that that this dynamic could plausibly exist when people with sensitive immigration situations are turning their finances over to you.

            I would implement these suggestions and know that you are doing right by your clients, but ultimately, if this doesn’t change and clients still take a while to suss you out before confiding in you, understand that there may be a good reason for that.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Honestly, I’d give them that first hour for free. If your business can’t absorb an hour of unpaid work here and there it’s not a going concern.

  6. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    My heart goes out to you, #4. I can relate to your struggles and I wish I had a solution for you but I have never found that people who want to talk about your eating habits when you’re fat are willing to stop when asked. They typically take it as a personal affront and double down and I wish more thin folks realized this.

    I work in an office with a lot of people who are constantly talking about their diets and joking about how fat they are when almost all of them are very obviously thinner than me. I pack the same lunch for every day of the week because it’s a system that works for me, and people are always quizzing me about it. Sometimes it’s just to make conversation, but every time I have ever tried to set a boundary about this, other people have become defensive. Working from home has been helpful for me because it takes the pressure off having my eating be observed or commented on in any way, but that doesn’t sound like an option for you.

    I’m so sorry. I wish I had something more uplifting to say but I’m glad you are getting treatment and support. You are not alone and you deserve to be treated well. I find listening to the Maintenance Phase podcast very validating and supportive, but a lot of the content can be very triggering so it may be something to save for a later stage in your recovery. Or never! That’s okay too.

    1. Batgirl*

      These people sound perfectly dreadful! Yes, it’s unfortunately common for diet talk and people’s lunch to be used for small talk but if people are at all invested past the point of small talk, they’re being deliberately weird.

      1. marvin the paranoid android*

        Unfortunately we also live in a society where it is very normative for thin people to bully fat people about their habits and appearance, although the extent of this tends to be hidden from thin people because of the way privilege works. But there are a lot of cultural and media institutions that totally condone this supposed “tough love” approach, which is just a way to excuse cruelty and discrimination.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. At almost every in-person job I’ve had someone has commented on my food, how much and/or when I eat.

          I’ve been fat since puberty, and diets, with their inevitable failure, have only left me heavier. Diet talk is triggering to me, and my dysfunctional psychological reaction is to binge when I have it addressed to me.

          Working remote has been great for my health, because I don’t get diet talk as much.

        2. Oakenfield*

          I’m a thin person and have been bullied, quizzed and overly observed about what I eat at work, with the larger bodied women banding together against me, in several different workplaces. So have my other thin family members. This extends to comments about wearing sweaters indoors during summer due to being thin. I’ve never been apart of nor have I ever witnessed thin women bullying a larger bodied woman, and I’ve just texted these same family members and neither have they. It’s strange how experiences can be so different. NONE of this nonsense about commenting on others’ bodies or diets is acceptable and it’s just so stupid that it’s such a big part of work life for so many people.

          1. Robin Ellacott*

            We had to fire someone for mocking a colleague’s weight on social media and trying to bring it up in nasty ways with others.

            I’m thin too and people comment about my weight/eating fairly often, which obviously I dislike, but people society reads as too fat get a level of systemic prejudice that I’m profoundly grateful not to experience. They earn less, are perceived in lots of inaccurate and hurtful ways, are refused medical treatment, etc..

            The Maintenance Phase podcast and Aubrey Gordon’s book really opened my eyes to how pervasive it is and when I was reading the book I was too angry to sleep if I read it right before bed.

            I heartily agree – we as a society should just drop all this nonsense and we should call it out whenever possible. ESPECIALLY at work. I hope someone calls out the creeps at your work, too, because that’s not ok.

            1. Starbuck*

              I’ve been working my way through that podcast as well – to say that I’m enjoying it wouldn’t be quite right, but it’s very good and I’m learning a ton. Also having a lot of dots that have been floating around in my head for decades connected. Definitely satisfying.

              1. Robin Ellacott*

                Yes, I’m grateful for how funny the hosts are because some of the material is dark. :(

                But it’s given me some useful perspective for work matters too, e.g. I just swapped out some boardroom chairs because I hadn’t ever thought about how the fact that they all have built-in arms means they might not fit some folks.

          2. FormerProducer*

            I’m sorry that people have been cruel to you about your body. No one deserves that, ever. But being a thin person being bullied is not at all the same as a fat person experiencing constant systemic oppression. It is just not.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Yep. I’ve been having a hell of a time getting anyone to take me seriously about how little I eat because apparently as a fat person I should be doing that anyway. Trigger warning: I’m about to get very specific so OP please don’t read further.

              I am an adult athlete and eat less than my 4 year old daughter. I’ve almost passed out on 25k runs. But all I get from doctors is “man I wish I could go 3 days without eating!” and “you should consider cutting out green beans; those have a surprising amount of carbs.” Those are actual quotes from two different doctors from the past two years alone. There would be a ton more if I thought back further. I want help. I don’t want to get dizzy when I run. I don’t want the nasty voices in my head telling me I don’t deserve to eat. I’m tired of being told I’m obviously lying or not being restrictive enough or in the right way because I mean LOOK at my body. I never experienced that when I was smaller.

    2. allathian*

      Ouch, that’s awful.

      I’m lucky in that I’m just fat and don’t have an eating disorder. I also don’t particularly care if people, including coworkers, like me or not, at least as long as we can work together. Luckily I work with sensible people who respect other people’s boundaries, at least mostly, and that discussing other people’s food choices is off the table unless it’s to ask if someone’s lunch is as delicious as it looks. The one time a teammate (late 20s, attractive, and athletic) commented on my food choices in the cafeteria in a negative way, “are you sure *you* should eat that much chocolate mousse?” I looked her sternly in the eye and said “Yes.” Then I watched her blush and flounder a bit and pointedly ignore me for the rest of the meal, even though she sat right opposite me. Luckily I had someone else to talk to, so I could just ignore her as well, and I admit that I made a show of eating that mousse with even more enjoyment than I actually felt. The next day she came by my desk to apologize, “I’m sorry I said that about your chocolate mousse,” and I just said “I accept your apology, but maybe next time don’t comment on someone else’s food choices. That way you don’t have to apologize later.” Before the pandemic, we had joint team lunches maybe once a month or so. That particular coworker was on a fixed-term contract, and for the remainder of her time with us, she never sat near enough for me to talk to her during our team lunches. That said, she was good at her job and pleasant to work with otherwise, so no harm, no foul, I guess.

      I realize that things are very different when you’re dealing with an eating disorder, and I wish you well, LW. I just hope that the former coworker learned something from her encounter with me. The next fat person whose food she comments on may not be able to shrug it off as easily as I did, so if asserting my boundaries made her change her ways, there’s at least someone who won’t make anyone else feel bad about their food choices.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Good for you for standing up for yourself… and good for her for apologizing. You’re right that she shouldn’t have said something in the first place, but hopefully it made enough of a difference for her that she stopped doing that to other people too.

        I work from home (have for years) and every once in awhile my coworkers and I will chat about food, but it’s definitely more in a “hey what’re you having for lunch; I need ideas for recipes for lunch/dinner”. Very non-judgmental, and have gotten some great ideas that way.

      2. Cate*

        I love your response, I think this was handled really well. I think a lot of the time, when people make comments like that, they’re parroting what they hear / have heard growing up. It seems like her assumption on how to act here was challenged, and hopefully it’s made her more reflective and caused a more permanent change.

      3. Miss V*

        I had a coworker who always had to justify any “unhealthy” food she ate by saying something like ‘I earned this, I walked X miles on the treadmill this morning’ or something.

        One time she saw me eating an ice cream bar and asked what I had done to deserve it, so I looked at her straight on and said ‘I am a human being who requires calories to live’. I noticed she left me alone after that.

        My heart goes out to the LW because while I’m pretty recovered now I also struggled with disordered eating in my past. And I was pretty consistently a women’s size 12 or 14. So not fat, but not what you think of as someone with an eating disorder. And that made it so, so hard to talk about, because people don’t necessarily believe you. But I also think that may work in your favor in this situation. When your coworker comments, just a breezy, oh, I’ve always had a weird schedule. Make it so uninteresting for her to comment on. And if she keeps it up a ‘why does this interest you so much?’

        Good thoughts for you and your recovery.

        1. Erica*

          Oh, the “justifications”. It’s such a strange twisted form of female bonding. I didn’t understand this when I first entered the workforce and was so baffled by coworkers who would stand around for fifteen minutes saying “Oh those donuts Sally brought in look so good… but really I shouldn’t… but I love maple glaze… oh Sally you are so BAD to tempt me like this… no I’ll be good… but maybe if I work out later today…”

          Lady. Eat the donut or don’t. No one cares and it’s certainly not a deep moral dilemma. Argh!

          1. Margaretmary*

            Yeah, it irritates me, because it seems so basically unhealthy. Especially when the people going on and on about their need to lose weight are already thin.

            I am a ridiculously picky eater once had a colleague say “oh, I wish I was like you and didn’t want *whatever cakes or sweets were on offer*”. I just replied, “no, you really don’t.” It’s not a big deal or anything, but it is irritating and certainly NOT something I’d recommend as a diet strategy. I am also on the overweight side – probably a US size 12ish, so yeah, not like she wanted to be as thin as me or anything.

            I do tend to respond to those kind of conversations with “I am not restricting myself any more than I have to.” When I say “picky eating,” it’s probably some kind of sensory issue or something.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s possible OP4’s questioner is trying to make small talk, and this is her idea of a conversational opener: Who doesn’t like food? (Or: Who doesn’t obsess about food and want to judge it?) If OP can follow up a firm “I don’t walk to talk about my food” with a topic she would be willing to have a brief sociable chat about, her questioner might be happy to have been shown the correct path for making friendly chitchat with OP.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I also thought of both small talk and if she’s newer, checking office norms. Is this person looking at OP like a long standing employee who can be a guide through unwritten rules. “Do we work through lunch here?”
        “Do people not go out for their half hour?”
        I think OP would be well served using this assumption. “You seem to be noting if I’m eating/using my lunch time or not. My lunch time has no routine. I decide what to do when when the time comes, eat or do something else, so there is no point in asking me about it.”
        So if coworker asks again, OP can simply say that she explained this, sorry, got nothing to add.

        1. Cold Fish*

          Chiming in to agree. From your example, it doesn’t sound so much like she is judging your food as it is either trying to feel out lunch-time norms at a new company or trying to make small talk with a new coworker.

          If she is trying to figure out norms a gentle, “don’t set your clock by me, my schedule tends to be a little different than most around here.” or “I don’t mind being interrupted when I’m in the breakroom, if you have a quick question feel free to just ask it.”

          If she is just trying to get to know a new coworker, having a couple scripts that steer the conversation to a safe topic. I know some people who just talk about food and think it’s a very neutral topic. (I lean toward thinking this is typically a safe topic so can see myself doing just that.) You don’t have to disclose your ED. If they are persistent, a neutral “I don’t really enjoy speaking about food, can we change the topic?” would get thru even my dense skull.

        2. Ashloo*

          I was wondering if it was a work norms question too. It didn’t seem as straightforwardly rude or nosy as some experiences here. Although, I don’t know, is there a reading that she’s implying OP is taking more than one food break by asking if this break is late? I think a breezy answer about liking a different schedule would be fine as a first try. Or a “why do you ask?” in case she’s trying to gauge office culture.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        From the letter, I’m not sure the co-worker has mentioned food, just the lateness of OP taking a lunch break or possibly working through a lunch break. The intent could be small talk, finding out office norms (as Not Tom, Just Petty suggested), or a way to sympathize with OP — “Wow, you’re just getting lunch NOW? You poor thing.”

        Of course, intent and impact clearly aren’t the same in this case, and OP needs to figure out how to shut this down for their own well-being. If OP has the bandwidth to give Sheila the benefit of the doubt and is able to start with a script about how really, they work best with a different schedule (or take breaks on the fly), means nothing, boring to talk about, how about that local sports team….that might be a gentle way to start.

        But really, the priority is for OP to feel safe, and if that means coming out more firmly from the start, then that’s what needs to happen. Sheila might be taken aback in the moment but can get over it, especially if OP is otherwise friendly.

        1. daffodil*

          This is my read too. The example didn’t read as particularly judgmental and maybe more schedule-oriented (Can I expect you to be here in 15 minutes, or will you be taking a break soon? should I start a longer conversation now or wait?)
          But I also agree that the advice applies anyway, OP doesn’t want to talk about meals, their content or their timing and that’s a reasonable boundary.

    4. MicroManagered*

      Maintenance Phase is one of my fave podcasts right now! One of the hosts has an atypical ED diagnosis and is pretty diligent about content warnings.

      1. Cold Fish*

        I love Maintenance Phase. I just started listening a couple months ago and have learned so much. The hosts are very good at disclosing warnings early but agree with “fine point” above that it is probably best to leave to late stage recovery.

      2. salt grains needed*

        Ooooo I can’t help myself here – yes, MP is great about content warnings, but oh heck, so much of what they say is very wrong. I’m a public health historian that focuses food & health in the 20th century and I really wanted to love the podcast, but it has me tearing my hair out a lot of the time… Just take everything with a grain of salt!

        Their deep-dive episodes on specific cookbooks are pretty great though!

        1. JustaTech*

          OT, but public health historian sounds like an amazing job! I’m going to add it to my list of second careers.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Could you expand on what information in MP is wrong? Is it the history, the nutrition info, or something else?

          1. Calliope*

            Yeah, not really a big fan of people anonymously asserting authority to declare something wrong and then not giving any details that other people can use to verify it for themselves. Especially when it’s about something that by it’s nature is challenging the authoritative consensus that is in place.

          2. NotADoctor*

            I’m not affiliated with anything health-related professionally (geoscientist, so science literate) but I am occasionally familiar with the texts they work from – and every time they do an episode on something I know, I also find myself gritting my teeth in frustration.

            In general, their understanding of statistics seems to be lacking, and they straight-up misrepresent or misunderstand certain papers. Take the recent sleep science podcast, for example. They say that the author says that lack of sleep causes autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder – but the author definitely does not do that. Instead, he describes the link between different sleep patterns and those with these disorders, suggesting that people with ADHD etc. sleep differently. As someone with ADHD, this was helpful for me to understand my own weird sleep habits.

            Saying that the author said that lack of sleep causes these disorders is straight-up false and easily verifiable by reading that book.

    5. Nikki*

      I’ve been guilty of diet talk at work and I’m really glad that someone told me why it’s harmful so that I could knock it off!

      I’ve had my own struggles with both weight and mental health and I would never want to make that harder for anyone else.

    6. Nellie*

      I’m another person in recovery from an eating disorder. I had to navigate something like this just last week. I have a coworker whose office is across the hall from me who constantly comments on what I eat (“you haven’t eaten that TREAT that I left you. Do you not like sweet things? Do you chow down on a bag of chips instead? What do you eat for snack food?”). I need to learn how to say “please don’t comment on what I’m eating”. I’m not there yet.

      I suppose it’s better than a place I worked at previously where there was a “biggest loser” competition, and everybody was strongly encouraged to participate. I got LOTS of questions about why I wasn’t in the competition (even though what I wanted to say was “I would win that competition hands down, and then end up in hospital with a tube up my nose, so no thank you”).

      Sending strength.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        A biggest loser competition at your workplace??? WTAF. I’m so sorry, that’s just ridiculous and awful. And highly inappropriate for a work environment.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Oh god, I used to do software support at hospitals and was horrified to learn–while having lunch with some nurses–that they were participating in their department’s Biggest Loser competition. They didn’t seem to understand why I thought competing over rapid extreme weight loss was a terrible idea. I just sat there guzzling cola to stay awake through my 12-hour shift.

      2. snarkalupagus*

        A couple of years back I was on our employee engagement committee and shut down a suggestion for a Biggest Loser contest. To their credit, those on the committee who had been pushing for it said that they hadn’t thought about it as a triggering issue (or any of the other reasons I spelled out about why it’s a terrible idea) and thanked me for the insight.

    7. Sweater-over-oxford*

      I have type 1 diabetes. It’s well controlled, and I use tech that means no one ever sees me with a syringe or drawing blood out of my fingers; meaning, it’s also largely invisible, and I’m not totally “out” at work. It’s also easier for me to control if I’m conservative on carbs, which means I get salads for lunch almost every day. And I had a coworker who just glommed onto it. She wasn’t mean about it, but every day she’d make a comment or a joke about it; once even asking, “why do you always eat salads?”

      I think people are like this because, for most of them, it doesn’t occur to them that there could be an uncomfortable answer.

      1. SPDM*

        I have about a bazillion food intolerances that mean salads are often the safest things on a restaurant menu for me to eat. One colleague eventually thought I just really loved salads!

        If you vaguely allude to indigestion, (almost) nobody will want to follow up.

        1. Salymander*

          This is true. Works for my husband and for me. I have recurring problems with gastritis, which makes me super sick. I have to be picky about what I eat because I don’t want to spend 3 days with my head in a toilet. I had a couple of acquaintances that tried to do a lot of diet talk with me Now that I’m in my 50s and a bit heavier than I used to be, all of their weird ideas about weight and food come crawling out of the woodwork. I finally shut it down by being really, really explicit when describing my symptoms. I might not do that at work unless I was really at the end of my patience, but it did work like a charm.

          My husband will just stop trying to cover up his burps and other assorted noises and issues from his reflux. He doesn’t have to say anything, people just back off really quickly after that.

          1. Salymander*

            I’m not saying that OP should do this, because it is not anyone else’s business. I just dislike diet talk intensely, and I tell people about my issues because they can be gross and off-putting and maybe deter people from doing this.

            This sucks, OP. I’m sorry you are going through this.

      2. Burger Bob*

        I just think it’s a really strange thing to be obsessed with anyway. Even if there’s NOT some kind of health answer behind it, who cares if somebody eats the same thing every day? Maybe you just really like salads for whatever reason. Or maybe you’re one of those meal prepper people who makes a big batch of the same thing every week, portions it out, and has it for every lunch. Or maybe you’re not much of a cook for whatever reason, so something like salad that doesn’t require any cooking is a nice, low maintenance thing for you. There are so many reasons someone might have the same lunch every day. Why should she care? I just truly do not understand some people’s fascination with what other people are eating. I have never cared what my coworkers are eating, beyond perhaps an occasional, “That looks/smells good!”

    8. MigraineMonth*

      I’m sorry that’s been your experience. I wish dieting was never a topic of conversation outside of intimate friendships.

      You did note an unexpected benefit of WFH. People see my face, but not the rest of my body, so I no longer have coworkers asking me if I’m pregnant. (No, I’m not. It’s a medical issue. Stop asking if you don’t want TMI.) Plus, no one can see/judge my lunch, and I can heat up fish in the microwave!

  7. McThrill*

    LW #2, a few years back I fell in with a group of friends who were all mostly comprised of masters’ students in the country on student visas. They were all very well educated, had published multiple papers, and wrote casual emails and IMs with often atrocious grammar (thanks to a combination of ESL and autocorrect on phones set to various non-English languages). Let your negative feelings go and focus on the content of the email rather than the form, you have no idea what the background or workload is of the person who wrote that email.

    1. ggg*

      Let the grammar go, only if you have absolute certainty that this is a legit company.

      Many years ago (so long ago that apartment ads were published in newspapers) I answered an apartment ad that had an obvious spelling error in it. I put my reservations aside because I needed a place quickly and it was a fairly good deal. It was a scam.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I like this take. If OP has already interviewed once, determined that the company is a company and not a pyramid scheme and is interested in continuing, just reply yes and let the rest go.
        Who knows, if you end up working there, you might find the situation where the boss insists on reviewing emails like this and makes “incorrections.” I hope not. But I’m only writing it because there’s already been a letter!

      2. I should really pick a name*

        It sucks that you got scammed, but I don’t think minor spelling/grammar issues are a solid indicator of whether something is a scam or not.

        1. bee*

          Scam emails actually do tend to have obvious typos/confusing syntax! They use it as a screening method because if that raises a red flag, you aren’t likely to buy into whatever they’re trying to get you to do. It’s probably not relevant in OP 2’s situation but it is A Thing.

          1. PSA*

            The difference between your/you’re is taught in US college textbooks, so I agree — use of the wrong commonly confused word or an obvious spelling error is not a sign of a scam. Be wary of the syntax and usage errors.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              If someone were dictating speech-to-text, your/you’re would be an easy one to mess up (if it’s anything like autocorrect on my phone).

      3. Kayem*

        Agreed! My cousin has atrocious writing and spelling (not to mention handwriting). However, he is a retired geophysics professor who has published a lot of papers in his career. I imagine the days before computer word processing were pretty tough on him.

        1. Salymander*

          Yep. My husband is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He has dyslexia, and can’t spell very well at all. It happens.

    2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      If this were math instead of language, no one would say it’s okay to state 2+2=5, because even if it’s incorrect, it indicates that two numbers combined come out to a bigger number. Wha-a-at?

      Your writing goes where you don’t, so if it’s unclear you aren’t there to explain what you meant. Your writing is supposed to say what you mean.

      Crap writing reflects badly on a person in my view–that they are too lazy to check their work or that they think it doesn’t matter. It does matter, to a lot of people.

      1. TechWorker*

        Saying 2+2=5 is more equivalent to an email where the meaning is totally obfuscated by the number of spelling or grammar errors. I would also not exactly be impressed by the type of errors LW mentions but depending on the role they’re potentially just not a big deal. (And the instinct to report to their manager is definitely overkill!)

        1. Erica*

          The difference is that, as far as I know, there is no easily accessible math equivalent to grammar- and spellcheck. If you’re sending a casual text it’s no big deal, but for important emails, take two minutes to run it through spellcheck!

            1. Kayem*

              Not to mention mobile devices that use things like autocorrect where the OS’s dictionaries can vary wildly, even across updates in the same OS. Obviously, it’s better to be more vigilant when sending business emails vs chat texts, but it can be very frustrating to correct so many mistakes that were originally typed correctly. Especially if autocorrect is still needed for other things,

              I’m currently irritated because my iPad keeps changing present tense verbs into past tense and changing “50” to “5-0” even though I’d never typed the latter before on any device. I had finally fixed it, then the OS updated and it went back to doing it. I’m sure I’ve sent a few emails where I missed fixing one of these changes.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                This is why I always disable any kind of automatic “correction”. It’s more work to reverse the mistaken automatic changes than to go through and correct my own typos myself.

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Exactly! Spellcheck doesn’t know whether you meant to type “either” or “wither,” but both are words that Spellcheck recognizes.

      2. April*

        One of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known also had some of the worst dyslexia I’ve ever seen in my life.

        He taught himself calculus for fun. He also had me proofread his important emails because they were filled with grammar and spelling errors he was incapable of seeing, much less fixing. He listened to audiobooks as much as possible instead of reading paper books, as well.

        If you understand what someone is trying to say, your/you’re is not a big deal.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, it shouldn’t be in internal communications between peers. But if you’re writing something that’s going to be read by the top execs at your employer and/or by external stakeholders, the stakes are higher. I’m glad you were able to proofread his important emails.

      3. John Smith*

        Ah, theirs nothing like pour spelling/grammar that wiends sow many people up like nothing else does…

        I’m a huge fan of Eats Shoots And Leaves. Proper use of language is important when it matters, but it doesn’t always matter. Where it doesn’t matter, let it go.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          LW #2: Although I would not forward the e-mail, there are situations when clear writing is necessary for communication. It’s not a matter of intelligence, or intellect, or socio-economic class. If a statement isn’t expressed clearly, communication is hindered.
          April’s colleague is wise to have someone look over their writing, just as I have asked colleagues to translate for me when my communication needed to use French, Spanish, or languages other than English.
          Consider writing as a technique for communication, rather than as a set of regulations.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Stuff like homophone errors such as confusing your and you’re, however, have little effect on clear expression. At most they produce a mental hiccup.

            1. Worldwalker*

              They have little effect on people who have to sound out words to understand them. But for people who read the written words, rather than “hearing” them and understanding that, they can be a lot more than a hiccup.

              Also, I know several people who can read and write English but not speak it. They learned in chat rooms and by reading technical documentation. For them, “your” and “you’re” are totally different words. Since they didn’t learn by phonics, the meaning is in the word, not the sound that the word encodes.

              And I would suspect that there are deaf people for whom “that word sounds like the one I meant” is equally useless.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I am very much in the “read the written word” camp. The usual homophone errors are so common that I find it implausible that they are a genuine barrier to comprehension. I notice them, but quickly move on.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  They bring my reading to a screeching halt because I never learned phonics — I don’t sound out words and then comprehend the spoken word in my head; I read the written word and comprehend that. “Your” is no more like “you’re” to me than it is like “youth”.

                  And I can read, at least to a limited extent, languages I can’t speak. I have no idea what those words are actually supposed to sound like. I’m definitely not reproducing the spoken word in my head and then understanding that; I wouldn’t know what it’s supposed to be! So I have no doubt there are people doing it in the other direction. As I said, I know several people who only understand written English; they don’t know what either “you’re” or “your” is supposed to sound like, because they don’t know the sounds, only the symbols.

                  And, again, what about deaf people? They don’t have *any* sound to represent “your” or “you’re” — they just read the word.

                  So, “get it close to right and people will figure it out” doesn’t work for some people. It doesn’t work for people who don’t “hear” the words on the page. It doesn’t work for people who don’t know what they sound like. (and come on, this is English we’re talking about … the language of “through”, “rough”, and “plough”) It doesn’t work for people who never have and never will hear the sounds of the spoken word.

                  If you’re emailing a person in, say, France, who reads but doesn’t speak English, throwing in different words that sound — to you — like the ones you actually mean, but aren’t, you *are* going to have communication difficulties.

                2. Observer*

                  @Worlwalker, I don’t know why these errors bring your reading to s “screeching halt” but I highly doubt that it’s because you never learned phonics. The simple fact is that MOST fluent readers do NOT actually sound out most of the common words they read. It is extremely uncommon that by the time a fluent reader is in the workplace that they are actually sounding out words like they’re vs their.

                3. daffodil*

                  Worldwalker, I could maybe buy this argument about to/two/too but your/you’re are actually pretty close in meaning. They’re both about something to do with you. They are two marks different. I agree that the rules of grammar, spelling etc make for clear communication but get a grip.

              2. The OTHER Other*

                Well, I’m sorry this affects you so profoundly, but what do you suggest, exactly? Spellcheck cannot differentiate between “there” and their”, or among many homophones. People are not going to submit every email to a proofreader before sending it. If we waited for everything to be spelled perfectly with perfect grammar, communication would slow to a trickle.

                Are you arguing that a recipient should report someone to their manager for using “their” instead of “there”? If I ever got such a complaint I’d assume it came from someone with way too much time on their hands. And I say that as someone who rolls my eyes hard at these kinds of mistakes.

          2. Sloan Kittering*

            Yeah this is the issue to me – OP is considering *reporting this person to their manager??* I don’t really like the term “Karen” but that’s what this behavior is like – you try to get them in trouble, possibly fired (at least in your imagination), for typos in an email? It’s totally fine in the privacy of your own mind to think that a garbled email is a bit unprofessional or even let it color your desire to work with that person – although others are giving good points on what that’s a bit silly. But someone who even considers going to management over this has seriously lost perspective.

            1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

              Right. This was also my thought. LW needs to figure out what their motivation is to research this person, find their manager on the company website, and try to… ???

              I’m a fan of the guiding questions: Do I want to be right or do I want to be kind? Do I want to be right or do I want to be helpful? The desire to be right is what is in play here because if LW wanted to be kind or helpful, they’d let it go. And if they just couldn’t fight the need to reply, it would be with a kind correction, “I’m not sure if you realized” email to the original writer, not their manager.

        2. Artemesia*

          All true and yet if someone had sent such a thing to me when I was a hiring manager, that person’s application would have gone in the do not hire pile. Imagine what a PITA a person who thinks forwarding the email to get someone in trouble is a good idea would be on the job?

      4. McThrill*

        The letter writer in question clearly stated that the only errors were two your/you’re mixups and a misplaced question mark, I’d hardly call that overly confusing or egregious. Mistakes happen, even with (and because of) autocorrect, and for such minor mixups cold-emailing their manager to complain is absurdly over the top and pedantic.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, that type of error is annoying, but unfortunately you’re just going to make yourself look like an arse if you complain about it. Let those among us who have never made a typo or grammatical error cast the first stone.

        2. Worldwalker*

          I refer to it as “autocorrupt.” It does things like putting in apostrophes where they don’t belong and insisting, for some reason, on capitalizing “may.”

            1. LC*

              Sure, but autocorrect can determine context, that’s how you get corrections for your/you’re and it’s/its, etc. It’s obviously far from perfect and varies wildly from platform to platform, but it’s a thing that is very much possible and currently exists.

              So it’s thoroughly understandable to me that someone would be annoyed that it keeps changing something like “you may go” to “you May go.”

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Oh, I didn’t say it’s not annoying. It’s very annoying!
                My iPhone is definitely not good at determining context.

      5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Math is clearly different because even a small error can fundamentally alter everything that comes after. If I accidentally write “Cheetings” instead of “Greetings” in my first line — it may be an error, but it’s not going to somehow change the central question in my email.

        There is also (at least in arithmetic) an objective ‘right’ or an objective ‘wrong’. Language doesn’t play by those same rules. Spellings and grammar change over time and with usage and in different contexts. Nor do all pieces of writing require the same level of attention. If I found out that I had employees spending time proofreading internal emails for grammar instead of working on more pressing problems, I would not be impressed by their lack of ‘laziness’.

        If writing is unclear, of course OP should ask for clarification. But it sounds like OP understands the writer’s meaning.

        And always remember the Golden Rule of Being A Pedant — if you delight in judging other’s errors, others will delight in judging yours. You’re basically inviting critique.

      6. Claire W*

        Are you really suggesting it’s reasonable assume anyone who makes a small typo or someone who has dyslexia is lazy or doesn’t care about their work?! This is a preposterous and horribly cruel attitude to take to something that many people can’t help. In what way does this judgemental attitude benefit you, and is it worth making people feel worse about a learning difficulty or a small innocent mistake?

        1. Anonym*

          Yes. People’s ability to perceive spelling and grammar errors varies widely, and isn’t indicative of any other form of intelligence or virtue. Get off your high horse and repeat this to yourself until it sticks!

          I’m a fairly senior communications professional, and I would not judge someone for these errors, and I definitely wouldn’t rat them out (?!) to their boss for it. If someone came to me with this about someone on my team, I would think the sender is wildly out of line and unreasonable.

          Now, if it ended up in a professional publication or website that should have undergone editorial review, I might look askance at their comms team, but I’d still reserve judgement unless it was a pattern.

        2. Cera*

          I had a 2nd level boss who did that. Any simple error in an email would result in an immediate call out. It got to the point where employees who had been top rated for years, were spending hours a day proof reading emails before they hit send.

      7. Batgirl*

        If you’re assuming that the only explanations for not using the correct rules are laziness and thoughtlessness, you haven’t had much experience with people who have genuine low literacy. Not only are they often very bright, but they care so much they will go to great lengths to avoid outing themselves as poor writers. I teach students to catch up on their reading and spelling, because they have started high school with the same reading and writing levels of some five and six year olds. I can often get them caught up so they can read independently and well, and write expressively, but they may never have time to capture every single, tiny rule while still at school. There are many reasons for this, dyslexia is just one.

      8. Falling Diphthong*

        I work in a field where we print mathematical equations. (Though usually not in emails unless we were hashing out how the equation should appear.) Correct spelling and grammar are very important, too–but not in emails where we hash out that thing with the equation.

        When someone uses “your” for “you’re” they are not making a passionate argument that “your” is correct. They are rapidly typing an email, possibly with enthusiastic autocorrect provided by a phone. People are able to understand the intent even in the presence of a typo.

        When there’s a typo in math, or with numbers in general, it usually does affect the meaning. “Let’s meet two hours from now at 11 am” when 11 am is one hour from now. Errors in math are akin to mixing up Tuesday and Friday–usually you need to correct these typos for someone to understand whether you mean Tuesday at 11 or Friday at 10. The examples given in the letter are typos that do not obscure the meaning and so don’t need to be pointed out or fretted over.

      9. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

        It’s one thing to have a single error come up in an email message. I probably wouldn’t mention it. However if it seems like it’s a constant or a consistent mistake, it makes it appear that the person either might be lazy or might not realize they’re making a mistake. Your style of writing represents you. With all the technology like grammarly and spell checker, I feel like there is not that much excuse for having a bunch of grammar errors in your writing. Then again, I did have school teachers who drilled proper grammar into me.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If it recurs AND the person is your direct report (so coaching them in business norms is part of your job) or has explicitly asked that you do this, then it makes sense to point out recurring errors that matter to the meaning or the presentation. If the meaning was clear, then don’t go around policing typos in emails or imperfect spoken grammar.

          For example: Grammar is a noun, not an adjective, so it should be “a bunch of grammatical errors.” Does that make you flinch thinking “Well it was obvious what I meant” (and it was!) or are you grateful that the correction was made and excited to embark on a side discussion about the evolution of the meaning of words? Because in my experience the latter never happens.

        2. Batgirl*

          Every English teacher drills grammar. However the human brain is not a bucket you simply pour stuff into, or drill onto. There are even more fundamental things than grammar that a student needs to be able to do before any real sense of grammar can stick permanently with a particular individual. The technology you suggest is only useful to the very capable. You need an editor’s eye to be able to identify a mistake before you can use grammarly to double check it. Also, you can’t possibly be suggesting spell check as a valid solution for people who can’t spell well. It’s the worst culprit for creating poor spelling.

      10. Metadata minion*

        Why would you assume someone is “lazy” rather than, as in McThrill’s comment, that they aren’t a native English speaker? Or that they have dyslexia? Sure, if you’re talking about something produced by a large company you can raise an eyebrow over the fact that they haven’t prioritized hiring a decent copy editor, but plenty of individual people actually can’t recognize or catch spelling errors no matter how diligently they proofread.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Yes, and the people I’ve known who do this are all about making themselves feel superior by picking at insignificant things.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Sometimes it’s good old-fashioned racism and ableism, too! My understanding is that American Sign Language has completely different grammar than spoken English.

      11. SheLooksFamiliar*

        2+2+5 is incorrect. Mathematics is more structured and precise than grammar, and isn’t meant to convey expression. At least, I don’t think so.

        ‘Hey, everyone, I have a question?’ and ‘What if……..we……..staged a protest!’ are also not correct. However, the writer might argue that a question mark is a tool for their writing style, as it indicates how their voice goes up as if asking a question instead of making a statement. Likewise for the writer who uses drama dots instead of ellipses, because the comment is so……profoundly filled……with thought……and other stuff. Or maybe American English is their second or third language and keeping track of grammar and punctuation is more challenging for them.

        Whatever the reason, telling the employer about it is an overstep, and it only the complainer look bad. Please, OP, don’t complain.

      12. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        The writing equivalent of “2+2=5” isn’t using the wrong spelling of “you’re”– it’s sending a message that says “we will be meeting tomorrow as usual” instead of “we will NOT be meeting tomorrow as usual.”

        This is closer to someone using a hyphen instead of a minus sign, or worrying about “2 + 2 = 5” versus “2+2=5”.

      13. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Are you willing to have every mistake you make attributed to your laziness? Or is this a case of fundamental attribution error? It’s a good compassion exercise to try and think of all the reasons something might happen — maybe this person is doing the job of three people and every minute spent proofreading is a minute that has to be made up by overtime. Maybe they were distracted by something that day. Maybe they have poor eyesight and rely solely on voice to both dictate and read things.

      14. lilsheba*

        exactly! Basic writing/spelling/correct word usage is not the same as physics. In theory everyone goes to elementary school to learn how to write correctly. I see so much bad writing everywhere from social media to work communication and I really don’t take people seriously who can’t be bothered to write correctly. Use you’re and your correctly, and there, their and they’re. And for the love of everything when you mean lose do not write loose, that is my personal pet peeve.

        1. Writing Pro Here*

          I’m a professional writer and this type of contempt reads as naive to those of us who write for a living. When I see someone say this kind of thing, I assume they haven’t had the breadth of professional or life experience to know the many, many talented experts in a variety of fields who don’t write or spell correctly. It’s naive and small-minded (in the literal sense) to think this is about “not being bothered to learn.”

          1. Batgirl*

            I had a well to do acquaintance who said anyone with a manual job, cleaners specifically, had “obviously been lazy in school”, and I replied “Wow it’s amazing how many working class people are lazy, yet get up earlier in the morning and do more physical work”.

          2. Margaretmary*

            I will just add here that I have made spelling errors, most notably spelling Britain as “Britian” in my teens and probably into my early twenties, due to the fact that in Ireland, we start learning to read and spell in Irish around the age of 6/7, after starting to learn to read in English at 4/5 and to spell in English as 5/6. In other words, I was learning two sets of spelling/phonic rules practically simultaneously and occasionally confused them – in Irish, if the last vowel in the first syllable of a word is an “e” or an “i,” then the first vowel in the second syllable must also be an “e” or an “i” (and I’ve just realised how confusing that sounds, but having learnt it right from the age of 7 or 8, it is just fixed in my head as “caol le caol, leathan le leathan” (slender with slender, broad with broad)).

            I guess what I am saying is that in that case, the error came, not from “not bothering” to learn, but from learning a second language.

        2. Dahlia*

          “In theory everyone goes to elementary school to learn how to write correctly.”

          Theory is doing a lot of strong lifting there. Are you confident that every elementary school cares this passionately about their students? Including the socially disadvantaged one? Are you sure that exists in every part of the world? Including places where English is not a primary language?

          Are you very sure that just “going to elementary school” can get rid of dyslexia and other disabilities?

          1. lilsheba*

            there are tools in place to help overcome those types of learning disabilities. The point is for the most part people are admittedly lazy about writing, they’ve stated that they don’t care. And I can’t take someone who doesn’t even TRY to write in a legible manner seriously about what they are saying. Between school, such as it is, and reading, and tools in place there is no reason why the majority of people can’t write a whole lot better than they do. Sorry but that’s just how it is.

            1. Elenna*

              Your first sentence isn’t capitalized. In addition, you’ve inserted an extra, ungrammatical “and” before “reading”, when there should be only one “and” at the end of a list. Should I now assume that you’re just being lazy and not trying to write legibly, and thus I can ignore everything you’ve said?

        3. JustaTech*

          That’s an interesting assumption, that everyone has the same education. I know that when I was in early elementary school there was a trend for a new style of language teaching (I don’t know what it was called) that resulted in me not learning the names of sounds (long a vs short a etc).

          So no, not everyone learns the same things in school when it comes to writing.

        4. Rocket*

          All sentences start with a capital letter, so the “exactly” that begins your comment should be capitalized. There should be a comma after “theory” in your third sentence since “in theory” is a prepositional phrase. There should be a comma after “communication” in your fourth sentence, since the “and” links two independent clauses. And in your final sentence, there should be a comma after everything (another prepositional phrase) and a period after loose. Tacking on “that is my personal pet peeve” with a comma makes it a run-on sentence.

          Should we not take you seriously?

      15. Observer*

        If this were math instead of language, no one would say it’s okay to state 2+2=5, because even if it’s incorrect, it indicates that two numbers combined come out to a bigger number.

        So? If the person said “The job pays $x per hour” and they really meant “$Y per hour” or “$X per week”, then you would have a point. If the person wrote “The job pays X” without it being crystal clear what currency, what base (eg single, hundreds, thousands), and what time frame (hour, day, week, etc.) then you would have a point. In the first example, the information is objectively wrong, which is the only actual exact analog to 2+2=5. But the second, where the information is being hidden (intentionally or not), is “close enough” that it’s still a significant problem.

        And “close enough” is a really important point here. Because unlike basic arithmetic, in most cases, there is not a SINGLE, OBJECTIVELY CORRECT way with everything else being WRONG. It’s more muddy because proper usage is actually sometimes not technically grammatically correct – idiomatic usage is expected and no one who wants to be clearly and easily understood avoids it.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          “Because unlike basic arithmetic, in most cases, there is not a SINGLE, OBJECTIVELY CORRECT way with everything else being WRONG.”

          Building on this: Is it color or colour? Agonizingly or agonisingly? Does a car have a “trunk” or a “boot”??

      16. former grammar cop*

        I used to be a pretty severe grammar cop, because I felt that the most important thing was to have correct grammar. I have now realised that not everyone has equal access to education, or to education in English, or capacity for language. It can be seen as classist or ableist nowadays. I certainly back off correcting people unless they ask me to, and I have changed my attitude to not judge people based on their grammar. I no longer see perfect grammar as the most important thing; being kind and non-judgmental is more important to me now.

        That said, of course many circumstances require perfect grammar (public facing media, reports, communiques, etc), so these should be corrected. And when I’m hiring, I do consider writing skills, like I would any other skill. I’m just not going to judge people I see writing poor grammar in casual situations.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, same. If the professional copy editor I work with is making errors, I will find a new copy editor. When I hire, I screen for strong writing skills and clean copy because that’s a huge part of the job.

          But one day I’m gonna die and no one is going to eulogize me for my ability to distinguish “your” from “you’re.” We’re going on year three of a pandemic and things are hard enough without having my manager get an message reporting me because I used the wrong word in an email. (But also, my manager would wonder why someone was spending their time like this.)

      17. Cait*

        I kind of have to agree with you here. I agree with Alison that the OP needs to let this go and certainly not email the manager (geez!) but I disagree that bad grammar is fine in this instance. Yes, it’s not fair to judge someone on a skill they don’t possess, but this person sounds like writing is an integral part of their job! And they are writing to candidates whose first impression resides in their emails. So while an occasional mistake would be fine, I wouldn’t be pleased if I were this person’s boss and saw they were sending emails to candidates riddled with bad grammar and spelling (although this could be a one-off where they were having a bad day).

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Clarifying question, are you saying three mistakes in an email is “riddled with mistakes” (that’s how many mistakes was in the email)? Or are you referring to a hypothetical situation?

          I agree with your hypothetical, but three mistakes that doesn’t make the email difficult to understand isn’t a big deal to me as long as the results are solid.

          1. Cait*

            I dunno, it depends on the length of the email, I guess. If it was a long-ish email then three mistakes might not be much. If it was two sentences then that would look like a lot.

    3. allathian*

      Yup, this. It’s one thing if the email is so poorly written that you can’t understand what they’re trying to say, quite another to get all worked up over a few spelling/grammar mistakes.

      That said, I have a problem with poorly written reports and presentations, and a person who consistently makes mistakes in more formal, professional writing, will get the side eye from me. I don’t expect perfection, but don’t make the reader work harder trying to understand what you’re trying to say than you’re willing to work to ensure that your text is readable.

      When I was in college, I volunteered as an exchange student tutor. English is my third language, but I’ve been fluent since my early teens, and some of those exchange students had astonishingly poor English when they arrived, to the point that I wondered how they’d ever be able to pass their courses. They learned quickly, though. I volunteered to proofread the papers of a few students who were taking the same master’s courses that I was taking, and one guy got into trouble because our professor couldn’t believe he had written his paper himself, and all but accused him of plagiarism. The problem went away when I told him to hand in the version with my edits as well as the fixed version. He took me to lunch a few times as a thank you. He aced the course otherwise because he was very smart and dedicated, he just needed a bit of help with English.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      The thing is, stuff like homophone errors is at most a tiny, tiny part of good writing. Good writing is about expressing ideas clearly, concisely, and felicitously. It is entirely possible, and indeed common, to find terrible writing with flawless grammar, spelling, and punctuation. For those who genuinely care about good writing, don’t obsess over trivia.

    5. Mockingjay*

      Let it go. I say this as an English major and technical writer.

      Most of my colleagues make these common errors in emails and casual writing. Which is why the big formal reports and business correspondence are reviewed by a TW before going out. These small errors in no way diminish their expertise in their jobs.

      And errors are often caused by predictive text which gets stuff wrong morning noon and night. Someone replying to email via phone can have multiple typos and mistakes.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        My grandboss in a previous job would sometimes introduce errors as part of the proofing process and I couldn’t take them out because she had the final say. So don’t assume that the person who sent out the job description doesn’t know that it contains errors!

    6. Delta Delta*

      My brother is one of the smartest people I know. He also can’t spell to save his life; a fact we’ve known about him since he was about 6 (and now he’s 40). He’s embraced it and now has fun with words he knows he doesn’t know how to spell.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      In general, when I find things off-putting i have found it sets me up for more difficulty down the road. This isn’t just about someone’s writing.

      OP, if we want to find annoying things about people, we definitely will. The trick is to remember what we are being compensated for is our willingness to get along with people.

      I get emails from people who have more education than I will ever have. These emails contain every grammar error you can think of. What I did that was super helpful for me was to chuckle and say, “I guess they won’t be bugging me about my writing.” I picture the person hitting send and gasping “oh nooooo…..” but the email is gone by then.
      Another helpful thing I have found is to tell myself that the person realizes they need to contact me or answer me. It’s far worse when I get dead silence.

      My opinion is the better we become at overlooking other people’s foibles, the easier our workday and our lives will be. The trick is to know the difference between a foible and an offense.

      1. just another bureaucrat*

        This is excellent advice. I think part of it is I work a lot, I do a lot of work. I see a lot of people do bad work. (The bad spreadsheet that caused me to work an extra 20 hours on top of the 60 I already put in strikes me as really high in the list of FFFFFFF UUUUUUU.) Those people who cause me to work all that extra time want to complain that I didn’t caps an I or I picked the wrong form of something or I spell like my hands are broken and I’m typing with my notes? They can pick on me when 100% of their work is 100% perfect. Until then we are all humans who make different kinds of mistakes. (Do not put random empty rows in your spreadsheet that’s supposed to be data. Do not decide that you know the work better than the people who have done it for decades. Do not give a partial set when asked for a full and complete set.) Get over picking on other people’s miskates that cause you nothing but a few seconds of tilting your head and focus on the ones that cause harm.

        (yes I’m sure this was misspelled and other error-ridden, but if you spend more time picking apart the spelling and grammar than the message…)

    8. Sara without an H*

      I wouldn’t get worked up over a minor error in an email message — it’s hard to proofread on a screen. Many people (I am one) try to work through email in batches, so it’s probable that LW#2’s contact was simply powering through a bunch of email and didn’t check everything. It happens.

      Oh, and if someone forwarded me an email written by one of my reports, complaining about relatively trivial errors, my reaction (hopefully unexpressed) would be, “You must have a lot of time on your hands.”

      This does NOT apply, of course, to formal written presentations, reports, and other documents, which should always be proofread carefully by someone other than the author. Email? Most people are just trying to keep up with overflowing in baskets. Give it a pass.

    9. AnonInCanada*

      My sentiments exactly. One of my pet peeves with grammar are people misusing possessive adjectives vs. contractions (they’re/their/there, you’re/your, and my biggest one: it’s/its) but I also get it that some people, especially those whose first language isn’t English, may be unaware or confused by it. Unless OP was applying for a job as an editor for an English-language newspaper or something similar, I’d let it go. If you understood what the writer said, then you shouldn’t be picky about grammar.

    10. Christina*

      My husband is OCD regarding copy….as in he gets out a pen to correct menus. And my writing skills are pretty good, but I’m not a great speller and don’t always use punctuation correctly – at least not according to the standards of my husband. Having him proof my work – well, he doesn’t anymore because it isn’t good for our marriage. Its annoying to be constantly corrected…and yes, honestly reflects more poorly on him – that he can’t let it go, than on whomever wrote the menu and put periods after some sentence fragments but not others. I judge a restaurant based off if I enjoyed the food and service, not based on if they misspelled arugula.

      Someone with less than great writing skills may be struggling with learning disabilities, English as a second language, or a to do list that has them not getting a change to pee from the time they sit down at their desk until they leave ten hours later. And a lot of younger people don’t consider email – even business email, as a “formal” form of communication where spelling and grammar are important.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I can relate to your husband. A friend and I had a late breakfast yesterday, and the brunch menu included this: Enjoy Our World Famous “Bloody Mary’s”!!!

        There were four things wrong with that menu item, and I admit that I rolled my eyes a little. But I kept my mouth shut.

      2. Jacey*

        I hate to give you a correction on such a great post about how constant correction isn’t warranted! But I do want to let you know that “is OCD” is a fairly hurtful phrase for someone (like me) who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (If you’re having trouble coming up with a good replacement word going forward, I’m a fan of saying someone is “particular about,” “finicky over,” or “fixated on” a topic.)

    11. CB212*

      I know a couple of people who use adaptive tech, like speech-to-text, that isn’t great at homophones. At this point I assume that’s the most likely explanation – even though I know statistically a lot more people are just not the best writers, I’d rather grade them all on the curve than make one false judgment regarding someone who isn’t doing the literal writing. (And then, my own phone “autocorrects” my typing from right to wrong usage far too often, and I don’t always see it til I’ve sent something off! After all these years my phone is still convinced I’m trying to write “What the he’ll”…. So it can happen even to the A+ grammar students.)

      1. Thhat Was My First Thought Too*

        While I ran into another couple of ideas skimming through a few of the comments, speech-to-text was totally my first idea here too (and why I felt compelled to head to the comments for this one). At this point, as long as I can quickly decipher it, I try to just assume that seemingly everyone besides me moving to smartphones has led to either this, or that blasted autocorrect that I keep hearing so much about.

        I think the only time I recall in the past few years where it genuinely introduced ambiguity for me was the distinction between “to” and “too” and how that modified which variant of the next word applied (because of course English has words that behave this way). This led to an amusing mix-up as it was in a context where either meaning could be legitimate, but that’s seriously the only instance I can think of where I couldn’t parse it out.

        I absolutely have an immediate spark of frustration at this (middle school for me included a week of words like this and understanding which is which), and I get that it’s difficult to dial that back. Reminding myself that me spending time focused on this at a younger age is not an everybody thing is difficult, and it’s also important.

        1. *That* Was My First Thought Too*

          Good grief, takes removing the text from text box before I see a double-character because the Name field does something that disables spellchecking (I’m testing the Comment box, spellcheck is fine, guessing it’s off on Name because how names work?). Speaking of times that the computer’s attempts to be helpful actually anti-help, am I right?

        2. Observer*

          I try to just assume that seemingly everyone besides me moving to smartphones has led to either this, or that blasted autocorrect that I keep hearing so much about.

          Auto-correct sometimes does this on desktops, too. Which is why many people disable it. But also, so does predictive typing and that’s becoming a big thing on all sorts of platforms.

        3. CB212*

          Yes, I also grew up being taught grammar and spelling and the importance of getting it right, and I absolutely thought less of people who didn’t. But now I have a friend who uses text to speech because her hands can’t do typing, and another who uses it because she’s Chinese and not confident with writing English – plus some who just use it because they like to walk and talk! – and on top of that we know so much more about why not everyone can write well… It’s amazing how much we can shift our perspectives within a lifetime.

    12. LCH*

      my BF (English as first language, English masters) is an amazing writer. he cannot spell for crap.

      i am way more of an organizational/maths person. i can spell most words and am pretty good at grammar and differentiating between homonyms. i’m a terrible writer.

    13. infinitebuffalo*

      yeah, my reaction was going to be “You need to … reconsider not taking seriously someone who makes mistakes in their writing. Loads of people are smart and talented at all sorts of things but not” native speakers/writers of English.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I didn’t want to tell my reports not to call me, because I don’t in any way want to make them think it isn’t ok to reach out. So what I do is let the phone calls roll to VM, but then immediately respond in chat. I usually say something like “can’t take a call right now, what’s up?”. So as to sort of train them that chat is the best way to reach me. At this point they only call now when we need to walk through something and not for just random question and updates. (and we do see each other in person a couple times a month so have opportunities for regular catchup and chats)

  8. Amaranth*

    LW#4, you definitely should tell Sally to stop commenting on your eating habits. However, your letter confused me when you mentioned all meals MUST be eaten in the break room. Are you ignoring that and eating breakfast at your desk or sometimes having breakfast AND lunch in the break room? Its still none of her business whether someone has accommodations or different hours, or wears a headset if their own boss signs off, but I’m wondering if the optics make it appear you’re breaking rules others have to follow.

    1. Faceless Old Woman*

      It sounds like they’re following that rule but just not eating when Sally would think their lunch would be.
      LW says they don’t like taking a break for their breakfast at lunchtime unless they’re skipping lunch.

    2. iliketoknit*

      I didn’t read that as “employees are required to eat any/all food in the break room/can’t eat anything at their desk, ” but as “protocols require me to take my 30 minute meal somewhere not at my desk, and when I am eating a meal/on an official break, I have to eat in the break room because there isn’t anywhere else to go and it’s cold outside.” Most people (on ordinary 9-5 schedules anyway) don’t eat breakfast at work and those who do don’t usually take it as a 30-min meal break.

      That said, I agree to the extent that if Sally is new she probably trying to figure out what is/isn’t appropriate in this particular workplace (can you do a working lunch? what times can you take lunch?). So I think her intent is probably innocent and about her needs rather than intended as a comment on the LW’s meals (not like the chocolate mousse comment referenced above, yikes), but that doesn’t at all address the impact her comments have on the LW, which is more important. The only reason I mention is that it’s possible that if the underlying question is addressed (“what are my options for eating and when?”) she’ll stop commenting on other people’s meals.

      1. Late Luncher*

        This was my thought as well – that the new employee is asking questions not to assess the OP’s eating habits, but rather to suss out office norms and options. I too eat really late at work (though I can do so in my office) and most new people either ask or just look puzzled. I’m always happy to explain, and every now and then someone tries it out too.

  9. Beth*

    LW3: Take it down, across the board, and don’t pester her about it. Lots of people prefer to keep pretty private online. Some have very strong reasons behind it (e.g. trying to avoid a stalker); others simply prefer to keep a low profile. Regardless of Arya’s reasoning, the only respectful thing to do here is to respect her decision regarding her own image. Also

    I think the lesson to be learned here is that in managing social media, you need to be really explicit about these things. People won’t always know what social media platforms you have accounts on, and people who don’t use social media may not be aware that posts generally stay up forever. If you had told Arya upfront where you planned to post it and that it would be up indefinitely, then you could have had this conversation long before now. (I don’t mean this to be harsh to you. You’re doing this as a favor, and you have no background or training in it! But the situation is a good reminder that things you might consider common knowledge, like that brands usually post to multiple platforms, aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone.)

  10. Wendy*

    LW#5, as much as it’s noble to want to speed up the process, they are paying for your time and this is how they choose to use it. I commend you for trying to find a way to lower their costs but ultimately, it’s their choice if they want to pay your hourly fee to sound you out – and you must be worth it, if this comes up a lot! Maybe if you reframe the first part of these conversations as “advice” rather than “general chit-chat,” it will help you feel more comfortable giving them the service they need of you in that moment (and then billing for it). Don’t sell yourself short :-)

    1. MK*

      Time spent by the client gauging whether they can rely on you is not chitchat. Though I understand why the OP is feeling weird; this is something a citizen or someone with a visa would not have had to do, so she is making more money because of these people’s unfortunate circumstances.

    2. Asenath*

      I was a bit puzzled by the problem, because I would expect to be charged for the time a professional takes when setting me at ease so I can explain what really brought me to the office. The first parallel I thought of was visiting a doctor (although then of course I pay through my taxes and not directly for the time), because it must be very common for a patient to have a problem they are nervous about disclosing, but I expect lawyers run into this sort of thing too. And also people in any workplace, but especially in HR or an employee support services, when meeting with an employee who is nervous about disclosing something important. The time is still paid for, and spending it trying to make the client comfortable enough to explain their problem is part of the service.

      1. Missy*

        A therapist is probably a good example. Even if someone has a pretty good idea of what they want to talk to the therapist about, it might take multiple sessions to be able to express that. I wouldn’t expect my therapist to wait to bill me until we are doing the “real work” because the stuff needed to get to that place also counts as therapy.

    3. Forrest*

      Yeah, I’d be really interested to hear from people who have been undocumented whether they think there is anything LW can do, but I suspect this is just the nature of the beast. As long as you are upfront and honest about how your billing works, then I think you have to assume that your clients are choosing to spend 45 paid-for minutes deciding whether they can trust you, and they are the people best placed to decide whether that’s worth it to them.

      There may be things you can do outside the meeting to speed that up– testimonials or case studies on your website, partnership with non-profit orgs working in this area, encouraging word-of-mouth referrals, former clients who can vouch for you? Maybe even reach out to former clients and ask if there is anything you could have done differently? Or see if there’s a business case for a different pricing structure– a lower-cost one-hour pre-consultation where people can get to know you, which leads to a full-cost one-hour consultation, but the same amount of prep/post-meeting work so it doesn’t need to be billed at two hours full cost?

      However, everything that you could do to try and reassure or speed up that process is probably something that a state agency could do to try and catch undocumented people, so they would probably still need to go through the process that makes them feel safe. If you can’t change your pricing structure, I think you may just need to trust that these clients are making the best decisions for themselves and they are the experts.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Yes, it’s common to start out the business relationship with a general conversation and building trust, before you get down to business. It’s part of your job to have those conversations. If you don’t do a presentation like Alison mentioned in her answer, you should start doing that, but otherwise, don’t worry.

    5. Purple Cat*

      I think it’s a bit short-sighted to say “this is how they CHOOSE to use it”.
      The very problem is that these clients feel they have no choice and have to tread very lightly.
      LW#5 rightly feels bad, because although they knows their “safe” they have to convince their clients of that and that wastes time and therefore money.

      1. Forrest*

        The very problem is that these clients feel they have no choice and have to tread very lightly.

        But the clients are experts on managing their own safety. As long as LW is upfront about the costs and the process, then you have to accept that the clients are the experts on deciding whether $X is worth it to them to feel safe and comfortable before disclosing their immigration status.LW is asking if they can short-circuit that process, and the answer is probably not.

        Though I’d also say that “how do I deal with people who are made vulnerable by the actions of the state” is very definitely the kind of question where you should be asking the people with lived experience.

        1. bookworm*

          On that theme, if LW has built up particular rapport/trust with some clients in this type of situation, she might be able to ask them for advice on whether she should adjust anything about how she approaches this meeting. Not necessarily calling out the specific issue of the up front “get to know you” time, but more generally saying something “I work with a lot of clients with special concerns related to their immigration status. Do you have any advice for me on how I can do a better job of demonstrating that this is a safe place to bring up those concerns?” You never know, there might be something you could change outside of how you approach that initial 30-40 minutes that would make a difference.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Yes, I think there’s a difference between having a medical problem that may cause embarrassment and having a legal problem that might result in prison time.

  11. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Something is off in number 5. People don’t go from undocumented status to citizenship. That is missing a lot of steps and a lot of time. First the person would get a visa: asylum, U Visa, T Visa, VAWA, SIJ. All of these have a process that takes a long time, based on the type of visa: credible fear interview, application, additional intervews, providing documetation, immigration court. If any of those visas are awarded then there’s a wait to be eligible to apply for a green card. Then a several year wait to apply for citizenship. That also has a process and a wait. Work permits can be issued before permanent residency, like at a certain point in the asylum process. Off the books and fake SS numbers are also a contradiction. It’s usually one or the other. You could have the terminology wrong, but you said this is what you do for a living.

    1. 36Cupcakes*

      You are reading way too much in to this letter and we are asked to not pick apart wording in letters like this by Alison.

      1. They mention different types of legal issues. They aren’t saying this client worked off the books then quickly became legal but it’s one type of issue they deal with.

      2. They only mentioned that they gained legal status during covid. The letter isn’t about this client and their issues so why would they list every step to becoming legal?

      This is honestly one of their weirdest comments I’ve seen on this site.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        I understand your point. But I was pointing out factual errors. OP says that undocumented immigrants went from using fake SS numbers to getting citizenship. It just doesn’ work that way. They would have had work permits at least 3-5 years before apply for citizenship.

        1. Anima*

          There is nowhere in the letter any indication of a time frame. It’s totally possible they had those permits at some point.

        2. 36Cupcakes*

          It never mentions when they started the process or what the process was. Only that it was finished during covid.

        3. Washi*

          I know many immigrants don’t feel secure until they have citizenship, not just work permits. If these are business owners, possibly they got green cards at some point but wanted to wait to switch things over until they got citizenship in case it raised flags.

          Also it sounds like OP is some type of accountant, not an immigration professional! They may be fuzzy on how the visa process works but knowledgeable about their actual business.

      2. The Lexus Lawyer*

        This is one of the weirdest comments I have seen on this site.

        Phoebe is completely right here. There could be serious repercussions.

        Using a false SSN is one thing. But depending on the specific facts of the situation, if the clients made a false claim to US citizenship to a government official, there is a chance that they could be banned from the country for life, with no recourse unless the law changes.

        It’s a serious potential problem that they should probably consult an immigration lawyer about, not a tax professional.

        And of course, we don’t know if they already have consulted or retained a lawyer. They potentially could have. But it’s not mentioned in OP5’s letter, so none of us know.

        Either way, it’s not a joking or weird matter. It’s something that could permanently bar them from getting citizenship even if they did everything else correctly.

        1. JustKnope*

          None of that has anything to do with the advice that the LW needs, and we are asked not to second-guess LWs here. You are making a LOT of assumptions here and digging into irrelevant details to the issue at hand. This is contrary to the site’s commenting rules.

    2. WellRed*

      Why do you keep pressing this? It’s a letter to an advice column that I’m sure had to meet a word limit. All the background info is actually irrelevant to the question. OO is NOT asking about the process for citizenship.

      1. The Lexus Lawyer*

        It might not be relevant to the question about whether OP should bill them.

        But it is very relevant to the legality of their status and their continued presence in this country.

        If you were a doctor and you saw someone potentially about to make a life or death mistake, would you just ignore it?

        1. Colette*

          But the OP has nothing to do with whether their client should/will stay in the country. It has nothing to do with the question they asked.

        2. Wants Green Things*

          If I only saw it because of a drive by post with a word limit on an advice forum for a totally different issue, yes, I would ignore it. Precisely nothing is gained by nitpicking in this situation.

        3. Lunch Ghost*

          If a doctor wrote in and part of the background to their question was “I diagnosed a patient with X illness”, I wouldn’t comment questioning their diagnosis even if I was a doctor myself. Can’t diagnose without seeing the patient.

    3. Anonymous Hippo*

      Possibly citizenship was the wrong word and they simply went from undocumented to documented (not necessarily all the way to citizenship status).

    4. iliketoknit*

      or they married a citizen and that person petitioned for their citizenship, which is absolutely a way to go from undocumented to legal status. There are lots of things that could be going on here, and other have already pointed out that the LW is only talking about the last step, not when the rest of these things happened. Also, because the LW and their firm use the term “off the books partner” doesn’t mean that the person in question doesn’t pay taxes or make other use of a fake SSN – it sounds more like a reference to their position in a company structure, not whether their pay is being documented at all. None of these things are really pertinent to the question LW asked.

    5. Prairie*

      The writer condensed that part of the story because it isn’t relevant to their question. There’s no conspiracy afoot.

    6. Ope!*

      Why would you just not assume that OP is heavily consolidating or using layman’s terms for the sake of being brief because that’s not the part that’s relevant to their question, and move on? Honestly that easily explains the majority of details comments try to pick apart on this site.

  12. SAS*

    Argh LW4 I’m so sorry people are so fucking rude. Please take or leave my advice as I haven’t had an eating disorder, but I had very disordered eating for 10 years due to a serious medical condition which didn’t allow me to tolerate much, however much of the things I could tolerate were highly processed foods that people often place a moral judgement on (i.e. “bad”).

    I would alternate between two phrases for years; “I have an unusual eating plan due to a medical condition” and “I hate when people comment on my food”. Both easy enough to say very politely but I would never expand on either of these statements and it generally shut things down pretty quick.

    Of course, i was not dealing with the associated mental impact of peoples ignorant comments (other than still being angry about it years later lol) so give or take whether it works for you.

    1. Nikki*

      Yes, I was dealing with medical issues in college but people were so damn nosy about what I ate! It’s been years but I still get really stressed if people comment on my food.

  13. Oh no it's the GDPR*

    This might not be relevant to LW#3’s situation, but thought it was worth mentioning anyway: if Arya’s based in the EU, you may have a GDPR obligation to take down the photo (and as GDPR is extra-territorial, I believe this is the case regardless of whether your company is in the EU or not, though I’m not a legal expert). Photos that are clearly of an individual/group of individuals are considered personal data under GDPR laws and consent under GDPR can be revoked at any time.

    (I also think it’s ethically the correct thing to do – Arya has a right to control her own image regardless if you think the reason is ‘good enough’ or not, and regardless if she was happy for this to be shared initially – but just thought the GDPR aspect was worth mentioning.)

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Good point! In fact even of she is not in EU but the company works with other companies or has separate offices in the EU they may want to brush up on the GDPR.
      I worked for a global company that offers professional education. Even though my unit only dealt with the states we had to abide by GDPR.

  14. PX*

    OP3: I think this is where your lack of experience is showing a little bit, there are lots of ways to post about what happened without including Aryas photo or even name. So, first off you absolutely need to respect the request to take it down, and the advice about clarifying in future what the scope is is also good.

    But as far as how to manage this in future, this is where being generic is your friend. An announcement like “One of our brilliant employees represented us at X event/won Y award!” or whatever is totally fine to post on social media without naming people specifically. You post pictures of the company booth at the fair but without anyone. And also, its absolutely fine to post on some channels but not others (although consistency is generally good from a social media perspective, its not critical, especially if you’re not regularly active anyway).

    Depending on how much time you want to spend on this, I’d look at how other companies in your field (or outside your field as well) do this – but it can be done without compromising peoples personal preferences.

    Also, the tangent about mentoring Arya and her lack of professional experience seem like you trying to justify why you should be able to just do what you want, which…not cool.

    1. Cate*

      I know, didn’t love that they spoke about lacking experience in this area…. and then directly criticising Arya’s experience levels to delegitimise her decision and legitimise their own. It’s fine to believe that Arya’s view on this may change as her industry exposure develops, but that doesn’t mean her opinions on the use of her own image should be usurped.

    2. Observer*

      Also, the tangent about mentoring Arya and her lack of professional experience seem like you trying to justify why you should be able to just do what you want, which…not cool.

      Yes. Especially in the context of the person being so good at what she does that you need her name to draw people to your business! If she’s so “unprofessional” why are you making her a centerpiece of your business?

  15. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #4 I’m so sorry this obnoxious woman thinks she has the right to comment on your meals. Work should be a safe place from intrusive behavior like this. I agree that you should tell her to stop, but I be less apologetic and more strsight forward. She is new and you have authority. Maybe use that, at least in tone, and tell her to stop. “Don’t comment on people’s meals.” Or maybe do it on a day you are supervising her. That will have more authority.
    You are working so hard toward recovery. I’m sorry she is making it more difficult. You don’t need that.
    Hugs from an internet stranger

  16. Forrest*

    LW3, are you happy about doing this social media work? You sound a bit resentful about it and I wonder whether that’s colouring your reaction to Arya’s (perfectly reasonable!) request.

    I’m not sure whether “agreed to do this as a favour” means you aren’t getting paid, aren’t getting paid enough or just see this as a bit of an inconvenience that you can’t get out of. Or if you don’t mind doing it when it’s all nice and straightforward, but you didn’t sign up for dealing with complicated things like permissions and removing posts when people change their mind. These are totally legit things to think, but what Arya has asked is a completely normal thing for a social media manager to deal with, and if this makes the job not worth it to you, then that’s a problem with the job, not with Arya.

  17. Popinki*

    I sincerely hope that an email with a couple of you’re/your errors and misplaced punctiation marks is the worst problem #2 ever faces in life.

    1. Gray Lady*

      Are these worst problem ever/first world problem type comments appropriate for this site? I understand that LW#2 could be seen as exaggerating the importance of mistakes in writing, but I don’t think this dismissive approach to any LW’s issues fits with the purpose here. They’re asking in good faith, and writing to Alison does not imply that an LW thinks their question is the biggest problem in the world or even that they personally have. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m out of line on this one.

      1. Loulou*

        No, you’re completely right. I’m also pretty sure that if the boss of the person writing those emails to candidates wrote to Alison about it, she’d tell them sending typo-ridden emails is a serious issue and they need to work with the employee to get it to stop. That doesn’t change the fact that OP does really just need to let it go and focus on other parts of the job search, but people don’t need to be unkind about the letter!

      2. JimmyJab*

        No, you’re correct. People are allowed to write to advice columns with non-life threatening problems.

      3. Popinki*

        After thinking about it, you’re right. I was way too snarky about it, and I apolgize to OP2 for that.

        Definitely no more pre-caffiene posting for me :O

  18. I'm just here for the cats*

    #1 have you ever told your employee that you prefer chat? How are they supposed to know if you seem fine with calls?
    #3 I’m no expert with social media but aren’t there ways to edit posts without taking the down? Like I can edit my Facebook posts, delete the photo and change the wording. Also it sounds like you don’t do social media on a regular time, so there’s long times between posts. This means her picture and stuff is probably front in center more than she realized it would. Like if the event was in July but you go to the Facebook page and it’s the first post. You also might want to consider doing more posts.
    #4. Your coworker is being nosey and inconsiderate. There are lots of people whom do fasting diets that do not have ED. Also some people just can’t eat right away in the morning and so eat breakfast around 10 and then have lunch around 1. I’m going to give the coworker the benefit of the doubt and think that they don’t know what they are doing.

  19. Delta Delta*

    #4 – While I agree with the spirit of Alison’s answer, it strikes me as a little bit strong right out of the gate. I might take it down one notch at first. OP mentions that Sheila is a “new coworker;” I take that to mean she recently started working at OP’s company. Obviously there’s no need to get into deeply personal information about eating habits, etc., but at the same time, if Sheila is new to the company, maybe she’s feeling out when/how/where she can take lunch based on what they’re seeing her coworkers do. Or she may be trying to coordinate her breaks so that she can get to know her new coworkers better by taking breaks at the same time. Because she’s new, I think I’d start a little softer with something like, “I’d rather not discuss my lunch schedule,” and if it seems appropriate, add “but you can always feel free to take lunch when it works for you” or whatever. Or even, “I’m on a slightly different schedule – medical stuff, so I take my break later. Let’s leave it at that.” If she persists, go a little stronger.

    1. Drag0nfly*

      I agree the answer may be too strong, because of the “working lunch” question Sheila asked. To me that sounded as if she was trying to find out the work culture. Do the workers *have* to work through lunch? Are they obligated to take lunch at a specific time, and did OP negotiate a perk to take it later when she needs to? Sheila may simply want to know if *she* is allowed to flex her lunch schedule, or if work is so busy that she won’t have a proper moment to eat her own lunch. There’s no indication Sheila actually cares about whether OP is eating “too much” or “too little” (in Sheila’s view).

      Often in these types of posts, the OP is convinced they’re being asked to share intensely personal information, because that information is at the top of *their* mind. However, their interlocuters are not remotely interested in that information, because they have no idea what’s in the OP’s head, and are focused on *their* own issues. This can be liberating to realize. At face value, Sheila may not be rude at all, unlike in allathian’s anecdote about the coworker demanding to know if she was really going to eat that mousse. In the OP’s place I’d assume Sheila isn’t out to get me, and instead tell her I have a different schedule, but if she needs to see me she can shoot me an email, or stop by before or after X o’clock.

      1. Loulou*

        Yes, I had a similar thought that Sheila may just be trying to work out norms around lunch breaks. The letter was a little confusing to me and may reflect a confusing policy that new employees need help with!

      2. DrSalty*

        Yep. I would just answer Shelia with the lunch policy. “Oh, the policy is you have to take a 30 min meal break in the break room once per day. I’m taking mine later.” Or whatever OP feels comfortable with.

    2. anonymous73*

      I disagree. Too many people feel like it’s okay to comment on other people’s food choices and eating habits. If I’m new to a job, I’m going to inquire about work related things and mind my own business about other people’s personal choices. Even if they’re doing something that seems to be “against the rules”… I’m not management and it’s none of my business. Unless someone offers up some personal info, or I get to know a colleague and feel comfortable talking to them about personal things, I mind my business. Because I respect people’s boundaries. If more people did that in mixed company, the world would be a better place.

      1. iliketoknit*

        But the thing is that when/where you eat lunch isn’t always a “personal choice” in the workplace. I agree that the LW shouldn’t have to justify anything or put up with any questions she doesn’t want to, but trying to figure out when/where people in a given workplace eat lunch isn’t necessarily personal and absolutely can be work-related. Sally is just as likely trying to get info about what she can/can’t do without asking outright because she doesn’t want to look dumb, as she is passing judgment on anything the LW is doing. Again, that doesn’t excuse the impact on the LW at all, but I don’t think that means Sally has no boundaries (if she’s still doing this 6 months from now, that’s another thing).

        1. KRM*

          This. Maybe the new coworker is thinking “hmmm, OP eats at very different times, but I got the impression that we’re all supposed to eat between X and Y times…” and she’s trying to suss out if she’s allowed to do that. Now if it were me, I’d be more direct, but not everyone is like that. A simple “Oh I prefer to eat at these times” or even “Oh I know everyone else likes to eat around X time but my schedule is different” might stop her comments because her unspoken question has been answered. Now if she continues, you can give a more firm “I really prefer not to discuss my eating schedule, thanks for understanding” or similar, and escalate as needed.

      2. Drag0nfly*

        You could take that sentiment, but by your own words you would clearly be out of step with most cultures. Or have you never met the people who ask “have you eaten yet?” instead of “how are you?”

        Not all offices are the same. Some offices respect work-life balance, and others think you live to work. Some offices are focused on outcomes, and others are focused on butts-in-seats time. One way to tell where you’re working is to look around you, and see what people are doing. Some people are doing X, some are doing Y. Is it a personal preference? Or is it the “unspoken rule” of the office? Or is it a perk for a specific circumstance, like working from home on a snow day, but coming in to work when the roads are safe? Or only for specific classes of employees, like managers? It’s reasonable to *ask* questions to find out the lay of the land. Not everyone wants to get acculturated by trial and error in a setting where their paycheck is involved.

        Most people don’t have a complex or ideology around food. They simply eat it, and enjoy it if it tastes good. The OP might want to consider the Streisand Effect here. If she answers Sheila from the stance of “How DARE you ask about my lunch schedule!” this will simply draw attention to her lunch habits. She wouldn’t be striking a blow for “Team Never Talk About Food,” she would only present as being weird and uptight about eating. If she assumes Sheila is simply trying to figure out how the office culture works, and breezily answers that she flexes the lunch schedule, she will more likely accomplish her goal of not having her eating habits become a topic of conversation.

        1. anonymous73*

          So respecting people’s boundaries and minding my business is out of step with most cultures? Mmmmkay.

        2. Not A Manager*

          “Most people don’t have a complex or ideology around food. They simply eat it, and enjoy it if it tastes good.”

          I actually don’t think this is true of most people in the U.S., at least. Food and food rituals are incredible markers of self- and group identity for a lot of people here. That’s why seemingly-innocuous remarks are so fraught on both sides. Put aside issues of weight and appearance and just think about things like someone declining the offer of meat, or alcohol. They are frequently tagged not only as an outsider, but as a hostile outsider.

            1. LV426*

              I found this out the hard way. A coworker was eating the exact same thing everyday for almost a year and one day I was curious and just asked if she was training for something (I knew she regularly did different running events). She said “No, why?” and I commented that I noticed she’d been eating the same thing for lunch every day. It triggered an explosion that lead to the entire breakroom leaving me to deal with her tirade on how I was an awful person and how I was always judging her and how dare I comment on anything she does. It went on for 15 min and was loud enough that another manager stepped in and asked her to stop shouting because people could hear her in the hallway. Mind you this wasn’t an argument, I just sat there while she screamed in my face. I wasn’t even sure how to remove myself until the manager popped in and I left my lunch on the table and hightailed it out of there.

              I never said a word to her again after that. I had never said anything to her prior to that other than to make small talk when I saw her in the hallway but apparently she felt like I was personally attacking her over tuna and lettuce.

              I’ve never commented on what someone is eating at work ever again. Even if it looks good, bad, delicious or horrid, I just stay away from food comments from now on.

        3. EmKay*

          In my experience, I’ve found that just about everyone has an unconscious “ideology” about food, as you put it.

        4. Daisy Gamgee*

          Most people don’t have a complex or ideology around food. They simply eat it, and enjoy it if it tastes good.

          This is both inaccurate and harshly dismissive.

          1. Drag0nfly*

            That’s a matter of opinion. Most people really don’t have a complex about people asking them about food or their lunch schedule. They just don’t, because they have a functional relationship with food. It’s not tied to any particular facet of their selfhood, like the person in the example up above who thinks she has to “deserve” certain food, versus the person who simply enjoys it.

            Think of it as a person with a healthy romantic relationship not minding if you ask about their anniversary plans, versus a person with a stormy, dysfunctional relationship finding the question fraught. The former knows you’re just asking a variation of “what are your plans for the weekend?” The latter person thinks you want to know about the fights, the affairs, the disappointments and putdowns, and all that stuff. But the interlocuter is not asking about that stuff, because they don’t know about it. They would be satisfied with, “we haven’t decided anniversary plans yet, or we’ll probably just Netflix and chill” or whatever.

            If you have a dysfunctional relationship with food, you may assume that everyone is out to judge what you’re eating, or pry into your health. Some people are, but that doesn’t change the fact that most everyone else is simply making conversation. There’s little value in jumping to the conclusion that Sheila is trying to judge or pry into the OP’s health problems. The average person will simply not respond to a question about lunch with “I never talk about food,” so it *will* stand out, and more than likely invite more questions. If the goal is to not draw attention to her situation, a casual “Netflix and chill response” would be more likely to accomplish that than the suggestion to make discussing food a taboo.

            1. Daisy Gamgee*

              If you have a dysfunctional relationship with food, you may assume that everyone is out to judge what you’re eating, or pry into your health.

              Well that’s victim-blaming. “if you’ve had the experience of people judging what you’re eating and prying into your health it’s because you brought it on yourself with your obviously dysfunctional relationship with food.” Good luck to the fat people in your orbit.

              1. Daisy Gamgee*

                And extra good luck to those with eating disorders whom you feel entitled to force food talk upon, which I should have put in my original comment.

            2. Not A Manager*

              You’re wildly misunderstanding the LW. She knows that she has a dysfunctional relationship with food. She’s not assuming that her colleague is judging her or prying into her health – she says that it’s *bad for her* to have someone inquire about her eating. Your suggestions are explicitly aimed at normalizing those inquiries by responding to them as if they are okay, which pretty much guarantees that they will continue.

              “I never talk about food” might not be the so-called average person’s response, but the LW doesn’t want to be average, she wants to be safe. She’s asking for a way to shut down conversations that are dangerous to her. “Pretend that you’re fine with them” isn’t helpful.

              I also think it’s wrong and unkind to suggest that setting any kind of limit is just “inviting” more boundary violations. Even if the colleague does feel some kind of way about the LW stating that she never talks about food, it would be wildly inappropriate for the colleague to respond by talking about food even more. If the colleague did that, it would be her fault, not the fault of the LW.

        5. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ummmm…. US culture has a *lot* of baggage around food, eating, and weight. IIRC most of us are considered “ob*se” by the medical establishment, which keeps ratcheting the label downwards. Add in the constant barrage of diet and exercise ads, plus the same number of junk food ads, plus a big heaping of guilt for whatever your food choices are, and you have a toxic stew that creates disordered eating. Even people without eating disorders are affected by it, considering all of the “normal” weight people who think that they are “fat”.

          The diet industry is a huge moneymaker, which is bizarre because it doesn’t actually deliver the promised results and is mostly quackery. It’s everywhere, even in everyday food advertising – “Only x calories per serving!”

          So start talking about food in any way other than sharing recipes and you are likely to step in the giant turd that is US diet culture. Even the word diet, which should just mean “what you eat”, is perverted into meaning “weight loss program.”

          So yes, I’m on “Team Never Talk About Food”. US culture is weird and uptight about eating. It’s not wrong to want to opt all the way out of that.

          1. Drag0nfly*

            If you live in a part of the country where people are openly judging you for what you eat, I’ll accept you live there. I don’t, though.

            But my question is, what are your goals, and by what means will you achieve them? If the goal is to *not* draw attention to eating, why choose the tactic guaranteed to result in attention? Those of you annoyed about people talking too much about food are, in fact, admitting that it is IS a normal topic of discussion. Therefore, there are conversational *norms* regarding it.

            What gets attention, conforming or not conforming to a social norm? My response is to avoid attention by not treating Sheila as if she was asking OP loan her $5,000. Something that would be against social norms between strangers and coworkers, let alone coworkers who are strangers to each other. Rather, treat the question as falling within a social norm, “what do you do for lunch around here?” and responding accordingly. “Oh, we can eat at this or that place, and at this or that time.”

            “I never talk about food” is not an ordinary response, and normal people pay close attention to things outside the ordinary. If your goal is to not talk about a topic, keep that in mind. There are some topics you can justifiably answer with “none of your business,” but it’s obvious to everyone here that lunch or eating lunch is not one of those topics in and of itself. Your mileage may vary, of course.

            1. Not A Manager*

              *“I never talk about food” is not an ordinary response, and normal people pay close attention to things outside the ordinary. If your goal is to not talk about a topic, keep that in mind.*

              If my goal is to not talk about a topic, probably the best way to ensure that is to say that I never talk about that topic. This seems pretty straight-forward to me.

              “If the goal is to *not* draw attention to eating, why choose the tactic guaranteed to result in attention?”

              The goal isn’t anything about the other person’s attention. The goal is not being drawn into damaging conversations. You really seem to not be taking seriously that these interactions are literally dangerous to the LW.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              A “normal topic of discussion” like diets is still damaging because of how pervasive toxic diet culture is in the US. Also, the question wasn’t “what do you do for lunch around here?”, it was “For the past several days, my new coworker Sheila has commented that she has noticed that I eat later. Or questions if I’m taking a ‘working lunch'”. Big difference. One is taking about the general timing of breaks and places to eat, the other is making an issue of when OP eats.

        6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Many people have ideologies about food, they just don’t think of it that way, because “ideology” is what someone else believes.

          A lot of those beliefs are about what counts as food, and what food other people should eat: is white sugar OK? How about coffee, octopus, seaweed, pork, crickets, or raw horsemeat? Are vegans weird?

    3. moonstone*

      I agree that OP 4 should start with a softer approach, but it’s not clear from the letter that Sheila is trying to suss our workplace norms. Otherwise she could have just asked “when do people usually take lunch?” She is doing a very socially awkward thing of commenting on OP’s lunch taking behavior. However, I wouldn’t characterize is it as malicious behavior based on the details given, and react accordingly.

      1. moonstone*

        I do want to add though, responding to Sheila with a sentence about lunch norms is a good idea for a script for the OP, and to act like Sheila is curious about workplace norms whether or not she is. It’s a good example of diffusing an awkward question with just answering a generously less awkward interpretation of the question.

  20. Elsa*

    #2 I used to work in a large school district, and the superintendent had very poor writing skills. More than once he approached me to check an email or a letter before he sent it. He’d approach anybody; he figured it was a safe bet that any nearby adult had better writing skills than him.
    Nonetheless he was a good superintendent and the school district functioned well.

  21. I should really pick a name*

    LW #1
    You could ask your team member to send you a chat message like “are you free for a call” before calling.
    That would give you the opportunity to say something like “let’s take care of it during our meeting today”, or schedule the call for a time when it wouldn’t be as distracting.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      We do this a lot at my office. Various acceptable answers include:
      – “Yes” (immediate response)
      – “Yes” (delayed by a few minutes)
      – “Give me 5/10 minutes to wrap this up/get more coffee/use the restroom”
      – “Not right now, how about at X?”
      – “I’m booked for the rest of the day/about to leave for the day. Can we talk tomorrow (at X)?”

      In other words, the person who caller is expected to make sure the callee is available before starting the call, and the callee is expected to reply in a reasonable amount of time to either take the call or schedule another time for the call. Seems to work pretty well for us.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. We do this often on my team. It gives you a chance to say you’re in the middle of something, please give me five minutes.

    3. Drag0nfly*

      Simply perfect. This is the equivalent of “call before you visit,” a point of etiquette everyone understands if they want to make their home presentable before their mother-in-law drops by. Text or chat before you call someone at work, to make sure you’re not interrupting their work should be understood just as easily.

  22. Agent Diane*

    OP3 – Firstly, take them down. All of them. Now.

    If Winterfell have a blog, do a blog about having attended the event (without any photos of Arya) and then do new social media posts linking to the blog. (This also moves people from your socials to your own website, which is presumably one of your objectives for your social media work.)

    Second, start learning more about social media management as there are both guidelines and – in Europe – rules about using people’s images. You know you need consent (good), but you need to also accept that it can be withdrawn at any time. And that if consent is withdrawn you need to act on it. As with all things around consent, “no means no”. Not “no means no unless it inconveniences me”.

    Finally, why did Ned think highlighting Arya’s attendance would be a draw when she’s new to the profession? Having been around when explicitly using young women to attract people to an industry stand was explicit (“we need some booth babes…”), a tiny red flag is waving at me. This could be tricky for you to think about, given Ned is family, but is what he’s frequently asking you to post is content that is stereotypical about people and which could shade into sexism or racism? That’s also not good for Winterfell’s brand.

    1. Agent Diane*

      “explicitly using young women to attract people to an industry stand was explicit” should read “explicitly using young women to attract people to an industry stand was the norm”.

      Editing fail, which will have annoyed OP2.

      1. Observer*

        I have to laugh a little, because the original mistake actually could have been correct – this was not even an “open secret”, it was very public knowledge and policy.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think the bit about using young women to attract people is an uncharitable read of the situation.

      I’d assume that they’re highlighting Arya because she’s an award winner and having an award winner working for them is prestigious.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        Exactly. I used to do social media; no one cares if the person is young and beautiful per se. Horse-face Arya (as she’s described in the books) would STILL be a draw if she won a prestigious award that was relevant to the event, or if she did something else that gave her buzz. The buzz is the factor, the prestige is the factor. The looks are not a factor unless you’re in a specific situation where the looks are highly relevant, like a party to reveal the cast of a show based on literary works. “Omg, she looks JUST like how the character is described!”

        I would assume that “Arya” has more going for her than her looks, and that OP has more going for her than just caring about looks. The OP has enough problems from a professional standpoint without impugning her character as shallow to boot.

        1. WindmillArms*

          I think Agent Diane is trying to understand how Arya can be a big draw for Winterfell *and* so new to the profession that she requires mentorship from OP, who herself has “no background” in this.

      2. Observer*

        I think the bit about using young women to attract people is an uncharitable read of the situation.

        Yes, it is. *BUT* it’s worth noting because the OP also claims that Arya is inexperienced and unprofessional – so much so that it makes it ok to seriously consider refusing her very reasonable request to take down the photo.

        If she is that bad, why is her photo so necessary? The two most probable answers to that question are “She’s bad but she’s attractive” and “She’s actually NOT bad, but we need an excuse.” I think that the latter is more likely, but I can see how someone comes to the former.

  23. Delta Delta*

    #5 – Maybe this could be a good situation for flat-rate billing? Some clients will take longer and some won’t take quite as long so it’ll all come out in the end. Or, if you can’t do that, be very clear in your engagement agreements that all time spent with clients must be billed so when that client who spent 45 minutes assessing your trustworthiness gets a bill for 2 whole hours they don’t get upset. And, depending on the power you have in your organization, are you able to cut some of your bill? Sometimes noting “No fee – courtesy call” or something like that on your invoice does more than earning that 1/2 hour’s worth of billing. Just a thought (from a lawyer who is terrible at billing).

  24. ecnaseener*

    LW2, I’m curious why you even feel the need to be able to “take this person seriously.” It doesn’t sound like they’re the hiring manager or a direct report of the HM, I’m guessing a fairly junior recruiter/HR staff since you were tempted to notify their manager.

    What does it matter to you that the company has some junior staff that make typos? That is true of every company. Be privately irritated, I would be too, but irritating does not automatically equal concerning.

  25. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP5 – I’m an immigration lawyer, and
    1. You should bill for your time. It’s not your fault the preliminaries took so long. As you pointed out, that time could have been billable to another client, and the preliminary talking could also have been their assessing their comfort level with you.

    2. There is no such thing as going directly from undocumented to citizenship. Perhaps they meant legal residency.

    3. The IRS has a long standing don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to immigration status. The forms don’t ask. The IRS also won’t proactively disclose to Homeland Security.


    4. I would strongly suggest that you advise clients in this situation that while you handle their taxes, you aren’t equipped to handle the immigration part.

    5. They really should at least consult an immigration lawyer. False claim to US citizenship can be the kiss of death. That’s one of the very few transgressions where there is no waiver or forgiveness, and it can ban someone from the US for life, with no recourse. The technical and legal concerns are too in depth to go into in a comment on a blog. Each case is different, and specific facts matter. They need actual professional legal advice.

    1. Reba*

      It doesn’t sound like OP *is* handling the immigration part. Nothing in the letter indicates that they are working the immigration case or being asked to, only that disclosure of the clients’ status is relevant context for the work they come to the OP for.

      1. The Lexus Lawyer*

        I didn’t say OP is handling the immigration part.

        But while the IRS doesn’t proactively tell Homeland Security, Homeland does have access.

        Things that OP does on the tax side for these clients can affect their immigration status. Potentially permanently.

        I’m a lawyer. If you come to me and I spot a medical problem, I’m going to tell you to consult a doctor. Here, where I spot a potential huge legal issue, I’m going to tell OP to tell their clients to consult a lawyer.

        1. un-pleased*

          I’m sorry people are arguing with you every time you post; you’re not nitpicking or being unkind to note that the legal context in which these conversations are happening, whether LW is an accountant or something else, really is important. And there have been comments including misconceptions posted as certainties, which you’ve refuted. I am not an attorney or an accountant, but it was striking to me that the LW did not mention directing people to a lawyer. If that’s an oversight the LW made, it’s a big one. The stakes are just so high here.

    2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      Plus CPAs (if OP is a CPA) are obligated to not look the other way when it comes to illegal matters. Plus plus, partnership/business/tax structures sometimes mandate that the partners be citizens. OP might not be able to take the job as it’s presented if the clients are clearly not citizens, and I’m not sure that completing a job (with the knowledge of fraudulent citizenship) would go well for OP.

  26. Clueless #26*

    Op #1 they might have worked for a micromanager in the past and are scared to make any changes without letting you know first. Could be helpful to reassure they have latitude in certain areas.

    #2 Im always for giving when people make simple mistakes. Ive made my fair share and have appreciated when someone was patient . So I return the courtesy!

    1. ecnaseener*

      The problem in letter #1 isn’t too much contact, but specifically too many phone calls. I don’t see any need to dance around the issue with “you don’t need to call me as often” when the actual, completely reasonable message is “please do not call me often, I prefer IM.”

  27. anonymous73*

    #3 – she asked you to take down the posts, so you take down the posts. Period. The when or the why is irrelevant.

  28. Not So NewReader*

    #5. One thing I have seen that works very well is for the service provider (service of any sort) is to announce upfront, “Unfortunately, I must bill everyone by the hour. But I am most willing to put in the time it takes to work through matters.”

    Your ability to reassure people IS a skill. And skills are worth compensation. I can almost promise you that if you start a standard operating procedure of warning people about your billing methods, that almost nothing will change. People will still come to you and people will still pay you.

    A friend went through a comparable thing in his work. He let people know he had to bill for time spent regardless of how he spent it. After about a decade of this pay-by-hour and with people willing to pay anyway, he found that he just did not want to offer particular services any more.

    So as you think about payment structure, also think about the various types of problems you are and are not willing to handle. This could save you a lot of wear and tear in the long run.

    1. Reba*

      Yes, I think it’s great that OP5 is thinking about how their billing affects their clients, and so they want to cut to the chase. I do think it could be beneficial to put something on the website or maybe a partnership or listing with an immigrant community org as another comment suggested, as something to signal willingness to address these issues.

      But also consider that the time they spend feeling you out is not wasted time! As much as you are evaluating their business issues, they are evaluating you. It may well be worth it to your clients to have a sense of knowing you better and building a relationship.

    2. anonymouse*

      I would just leave out the “unfortunately”. Billing by the hour is a standard practice in the legal profession and a lot of services in general- I don’t think the LW should sound apologetic about it at all unless there was a major misunderstanding. Ideally, they go over the payment procedure first.

  29. Clueless #26*

    #2 English may not be their first language. Lots of intelligent people are not native English speakers may struggle. Your vs you’re is such a small difference.

  30. bleh*

    I would argue that assuming everyone should be able to write but not everyone should be able to understand physics actually diminishes writing. Some people are good at writing and others are not, which is why employers, who need good communicators will pay for that skill.

    1. Dasein9*

      YES! I write for a living and have found that writing well is a skill that is in much shorter supply than I used to believe. (I came to “industry” from academia, where language does tend to be more precise, except when it isn’t.)

      And make my fair share of errors, too.

    2. WindmillArms*

      I used to be very pedantic about other people’s professional writing. Now, I make my living as a writer because I’m good at it, and other people can’t do it well. If everyone could write clearly, I’d be out of a job!

      1. Sylvan*

        Same here! And I’m much less pedantic… Because I don’t even try to write well when I’m not being paid to do so.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I am actually unique in my field in that I write, and write well. Most others either can’t, have ESL issues, or just hate to do it. So I end up doing a lot of documentation work, because I can translate between different forms of geeklish and English.

      If I ever find that I am tired of keeping up on the technical skills of my area, I will switch to tech writing, so that I ask the people doing the tech what they are doing then translate it into plainer English.

    4. just another bureaucrat*

      Absolutely! If everyone must be a perfect writer then why on earth do we have professional writers? Seeing something I brain dumped turned into a well-written thing is glorious. It’s one of my favorite moments to see something where I produced a whole bunch of ….stuff, and someone else turns it into what I was trying to say but lovely and eloquent and in 1/1000 of the time I would have taken to get a tenth of the way there. Great writers are great and should be considered professionals along with accountants and developers and whatever other profession you think is a real job.

      That said none of the great writers I’ve had the opportunity to work with have ever given me grief over my poor writing and when they need content from me and I unload an armload and tell them to light it on fire they are happy to help turn the ashes into something lovely. I don’t associate great writers with grammar nitpickers.

    5. Jacey*

      That’s an interesting read of Alison’s answer that hadn’t occurred to me. I interpreted it more like “most people are taught the basics of reading/writing and expected to use those skills daily in social and work situations, but far less people learn the basics of physics well enough to use them daily in social and work situations, nor are they expected to do so.”

  31. Esmeralda*

    #2. What Alison said.

    Also, you might consider your own interests here. If I received an email like the one you’re proposing, I would think, “Wow, that’s snotty” — and I would *remember* you. And not in a good way.

    Do you want to work at this place, possibly? Do you want to work at a place where the supervisor might move to?

    [btw, I understand why the error tweaks you. I feel bonkers when people misuse less/fewer. But I don’t share my feelings with anyone because, you know, it’s not nice. Or necessary.]

    1. LolaBugg*

      Misusing less and fewer is one of my pet peeves too haha. But I’m also aware that pointing out the errors of others when not specifically asked to do so comes off as condescending and definitely gets you remembered for the wrong reasons.

    2. Empress Ki*

      Less and fewer are translated by only one word in some languages, for instance in French. So it’s not that obvious for everyone. I am sure I make the mistake.

    3. Kate in Scotland*

      Those are great points Esmerelda. You can think what you want about someone’s writing but there are only limited occasions where you should act.

      [I used to be a less/fewer pedant but Fowler’s Modern English Usage (one of the UK’s standard style guides) has changed my mind.]

  32. Kelly*

    #2 – One thing to watch out for is that scammers often don’t proofread well, and that could end up being the case when there are lots of spelling/grammar errors.

    1. just another bureaucrat*

      I’ve had people send me things to check for scam/phishing because of bad spelling. I’m excellent at running things through phish checkers and doing stuff like that (*knock on wood*) but am horrible at spelling. So my favorite is someone once sent me something that I’d written to me to check it to see if it was a phish. (It was great, it was actually the real thing not a phish, and I was delighted to run it through my normal checks anyway.)

    2. Drag0nfly*

      The errors in that case are deliberate. The point is to attract gullible, greedy, or desperate people who will fall entirely for the scam. People who blow past obvious red flags are the targets of those misspelled emails aimed at parting people with their money.

      However, in the case OP #2 was talking about, their position is unreasonable. There is a time when it matters if a person has proofread correctly, and there’s a time when it doesn’t. The OP doesn’t seem very discerning regarding those differences, which is a problem.

    3. Observer*

      That’s not the only red flag by FAR. And the level of error in scams is far higher that a couple of homophones and a misplaced question mark.

  33. anonymous73*

    #1 – it sounds like you’ve never had a conversation with your employees about expectations. That’s step 1. And I’m concerned that you mention being “sensitive” in your letter. This isn’t really a sensitive subject (unless there’s more background that wasn’t in your letter). Yes having a team that’s WFH can be challenging sometimes, but as long as you make your expectations clear, it shouldn’t a problem.

  34. EventPlannerGal*

    OP2: I think you are indeed being a snob about this, but mostly I think you are probably annoyed that this company didn’t respond to your application for months and are now looking for reasons to nitpick their response. If they had emailed you right back after you applied with the same SPAG errors would you have cared? Either you are still looking for a job and interested in the role, in which case you know perfectly well that emailing the HR assistant’s boss about their use of apostrophes will get you nowhere, or you aren’t, in which case you presumably have better things to do. Let it go.

    1. essie*

      I don’t know that OP is *trying* to be a snob about this (would a snob write into an advice column first?). And I sympathize with OP2! I have a degree in writing and once got a (snarky) rejection letter for an editing job which had at least four major typos in it. I say at least four because I didn’t read the whole email once I skimmed and saw it was a rejection. I certainly wasn’t trying to look for typos; I was just skimming to see if I got the job. That was an editing job so that one stung.

      But in general, no matter what the industry, as an applicant we are usually expected to be scrupulously perfect in grammar, spelling, and professionalism and such in our correspondence with the hiring manager and in our resume/cover letters, knowing that even one small mistake could axe our chances at getting hired. It’s one of many of those small things that are a double standards in the hiring process – we can’t have typos, but they can. Sure, there’s nothing to be done about it, but it’s a little annoying yet the same.

  35. new*

    Re: No5: “By the way, this is a judgment-free zone. If you are undocumented, please tell me now…” is actually pretty good wording.

    1. anonymouse*

      I feel like the only issue is that some people might be offended by this if they aren’t undocumented. It could come across as making assumptions, and while the LW would know that they say this to every client, the client doesn’t know that and might think that the LW is making this statement based on stereotypes. I have experience doing intakes at a nonprofit, and there topics where you need to have a sensitive approach.

      I think it’s better to say “I have experience working with clients with different immigration statuses, including clients who were undocumented or had undocumented employees. If you have concerns about immigration status on your tax forms, it is helpful to know from the getgo. Everything said here is confidential.”

  36. RagingADHD*

    #3 Unless you are doing everything backwards, upside down, and the hardest possible way, replacing the post with one that doesn’t include Arya, on all platforms, should take about 20 minutes.

    The event was last fall. The post is stale and irrelevant now anyway. A fresh one will be new content, which is better for your profile than stale content just sitting there.

    Throw some other, approved photos up there and make it a throwback post remembering how great it was, looking forward to the next one. Boom, done.

    You are way too aggravated over an extremely minor request. I don’t think this has anything to do with Arya’s professionalism, but maybe with your company’s familiarity / usage of social media in general. It just ain’t that hard.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Okay, sorry-I focused more on your second para than your first, about lacking experience. Here is a sample workflow to make posting (or replacing posts) simpler.

      At a desktop/laptop, open a browser tab for each platform, logged into your profiles. Also open a text editor like Notepad or Google docs.

      Find the old post, and if the wording or hashtags differ, grab the longest version and copy/paste the text into your text editor. That way you’ve captured any details you want to repeat.

      Now delete all the posts.

      Pull up your photos from the event and choose a nice one. Don’t bother editing it or making anything fancy.

      Now revise the text to be a looking back / looking forward theme. “The fair at ___ last year was so much fun, can’t wait to see everyone this fall at ___! Are you going to be there? What was your favorite [insert thing we did]?”

      If you use different hashtags on different platforms, or need different lengths, copy-paste the text a couple of times to create separate versions all on the same page.

      Now you just do each platform in turn: copy-paste the text, upload the photo.

      If you wind up doing more social media stuff, there are any number of batch schedulers that will let you create templates, make a whole bunch of posts at once, and do useful things like automatically publish the same post to multiple platforms.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    #3 Can you take down the picture without removing the entire post? Or replace the photos with more generic ones of the booth/event? I get your frustration because you did check with Arya but her request is reasonable. I’ve asked friends to take down summer/vacation/girls night photos with me tagged while job hunting because I work in a conservative field (I don’t have social media so its not a huge deal but I still ask). Check with Arya and see if there is a compromise that can be reached (article or blurb with no photos but her contribution mentioned)

    #4 I don’t have an eating disorder but tend to eat at weird times. I’m simply not hungry until 10/10:30 range so I don’t really eat until then and once lunch time comes around I not hungry. If you want something more benign that Alison’s response, just say “Yeah I guess I do eat at sort of weird times…I’m just really not hungry in the mornings but can’t make it until “official” lunch time so I guess I have “brunch” every day.”

    1. Sylvan*

      While I think a bland and uninformative answer is the way to go there, I wouldn’t recommend coming up with a story about not being hungry in the morning. It’s common for people with EDs to have assorted ways of hiding the ED, like providing explanations that aren’t true, and they don’t need more.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        That was actually supposed to be an example of my response when asked, not necessarily a recommendation for the OP to lie, but I see I miss worded it.
        My suggestion was more to acknowledge that “yeah, I guess this thing I do is outside the norm but it works for me.” Sometime busybodies go away if you simply acknowledge their random and intrusive observation even if no explanation is given.

  38. Sunflower*

    #2 I admit to being a grammar snob and cringe in my head, but I would never point out other people’s mistakes unless they ask me or if it will affect their grades or something like that. I agree there’s no point in out pointing mistakes and sending it to a manager since you don’t work there. While the letter writer may learn from it, they may also pass it around to become an inside joke within the company.

    I’ve also made mistakes, typos, and had incorrect auto-corrects in my own correspondence. I’d be grateful if a coworker kindly point it out, but will not have nice thoughts if an outside applicant “grade” my email and forward my mistakes to my manager!

  39. DJ Abbott*

    #2, it sounds like the email you received had some typos, and that was because they didn’t proofread it, and most likely they didn’t proofread it because they’re overloaded and don’t have time. Many companies spread their people too thin and overload them and that’s gotten even worse with covid. It’s good to be understanding of these situations.
    On a side note, iPhone text dictation has introduced a whole new set of typos. When I got my iPhone the Apple associate had me talk into it to set its expectations with my accent and voice, but that was lost in updates a few years ago and it makes the most amazing typos. I see the same sorts of typos everywhere and know many people don’t have time to proofread. Even when I do proofread I sometimes miss one or two.
    I have time to proofread this comment, but starting tomorrow I won’t because I’m starting my new job!

  40. AM*

    LW # 3

    IDK why you’re trying to frame Arya’s request as unprofessional. Echoing what others said, she might be asking because she has a stalker and is afraid for her safety. Maybe she’s having second thoughts about being used to promote a business that she’s not an employee of because she feel she’s being used/exploited.

    You mention trying to be sensitive to her situation and learning curve, but ultimately feel aggravated with her. It sounds like you’re letting that cloud your ability to show empathy towards Arya’s reasonable request.

  41. Dax*

    LW #4: Don’t feel bad about being blunt with Sheila. I also absolutely despised having my food/eating scrutinized and this would seriously piss me off. It’s nosy and weird for her to comment on it. Why does she care?

  42. OP5*

    OP5 here. Whoever guessed that I’m an accountant was right. I meet with clients at various points in their journey to citizenship which is why I wasn’t being specific about time frames, status, etc. I’m not a part of their legal journey through the system except as support for what the immigration attorney might ask me to provide during the process. My fixes for these issues are completely on the tax and accounting end and usually are prefaced with, “My attorney said you would be able to fix my K-1s in my S Corp/add in my new owners who are now citizens/file my tax return and provide them with proof of filing, etc.” I have zero desire to practice any form of law and we have the numbers of 5 or 6 immigration attorneys we give people if they ask or if they venture into areas where we aren’t able to help. We keep lists of attorneys for lots of reasons – as I was typing this, a client called to ask if they could separate liability on a building they are trying to purchase and gladly sent them off to their attorney because I don’t do that. Believe me, Congress is piling enough on accountants (why am I the health insurance hall monitor?) and I don’t have any desire to add in more.

    We don’t usually include this in our meetings as a specialty because it’s a very polarizing issue where I live plus it affects maybe 10% of my clients. My engagement letter does state how my fees are calculated which is a blend of time, value, and complexity. I mention it during the initial meeting but usually it’s after we’ve talked about the scope of the work they need. Mentioning it earlier in the meeting would probably help with this issue and that’s something I can do without having to get agreement from the other partners.

    Thanks for those who suggested solutions! After tax season, I will work on amending our presentation to see if there’s a way to add wording that would address our work in this area. I am not sure if the other partners will go for it but a few of us have brought it up recently so I might be able to get it passed. I did propose a flat fee for our initial meetings based on what services the client needs instead of time, but that did not pass with the other partners. Since initial meetings do vary wildly, I understood why the flat fee was rejected.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      1) So the basis for rejecting the flat fee was that the nature/content of the meetings varies wildly? I understand the rationale, but I’ll disagree with it. The usual practice I’ve done as a solo and as someone working for a law firm is that we offer a flat fee consultation for one hour. It’s just so easy to implement: you get my brain for an hour, I get a flat fee. Same price whether we’re talking about the simplest of simple wills, or you want to pick my brain about, say, immigration. At the end of the hour, if you want to move forward with my services, then I’ll draw up a quote and we’ll go by the firm’s usual schedule for lawyers, assistants, and administrative costs.

      2) Could it be that your clients are concerned that you will report them to the relevant immigration authorities? If so, you might consider proactively letting them know that you’re not some kind of mandated immigration reporter and also that your firm has a policy of not reporting undocumented people to the authorities. Not something you start a meeting with, of course, but it could be something that they are seeking reassurance about.

  43. TNP*

    #4 Casual comments about eating later or taking a working lunch are just that, casual comments.
    You seem to be somewhat over the top by this new coworker making conversation. It isn’t like she is demanding a detail of your eating schedule or offering unwanted suggestions. A simple reply in kind and change of topic should suffice.

    1. Daisy Gamgee*

      This comment deliberately excises the societal trend to discuss and criticize what fat people eat. In my experience coworkers who start asking about when/what/where/why/how one takes lunch are usually not put off by attempts to change the subject, and sooner or later bring up “I’m just CONCERNED about your HEALTH”. I think LW#4 has every right to be wary of this line of questioning.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*


        Living fat in the American diet culture is like walking through a field of landmines. IMO it’s best to shut down eating/food choice/meal timing talk *fast*. Do not allow it to become a workplace norm.

        To me, any discussion of food that isn’t casual recipe sharing is nearly on a par with politics and religion, because dieting for some folks is a religion, plus some religions have food restrictions, plus some people mix their politics with their opinions of other people’s food choices.

        Plus, concern trolling about “health” is endemic in American culture. It sucks.

    2. Not A Manager*

      “A simple reply in kind and change of topic should suffice.”

      The word “should” is doing a lot of work here.

    3. topcat*

      I think Alison’s suggestions are reasonable if the person is being very intrusive, but there would be a far more gentle and tactful way to shut it up, such as: “I’m dealing with a medical issue that affects meal times”. Which is also the truth.

      Then if the person presses for details, obviously: “I prefer to keep my medical details private” which any reasonable person would then shut up about.

      Otherwise the suggested responses frankly come across as at least mildly abrasive, and would make the OP seem rather unfriendly and “touchy”. This is a new colleague, people often bond over food, better to defuse the situation with something more matter-of-fact than make yourself sound irritable.

  44. Tuckerman*

    #3 A local business used a photo of a local kid, without permission, to make a meme for one of their social media postings. The parent asked them to remove it and they didn’t immediately take it down (told her to be patient). Within hours, much of our community knew about the situation because her story was shared in a local Facebook group. They took it down I think 12 hours after her initial request, after one of the owners got involved. But a lot of people were disgusted with them by then.

  45. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 2 – Your reaction to an email that, despite errors, you could still make sense of, is so absurdly outsized.

    All of us have made errors especially when shooting off a quick email.

    But my concern is the fact that you think this is remotely something to elevate to management. I’m hoping this is an out of character reaction from you. Because otherwise, wanting to bring minor things to management so you can shame someone is not a good look.

    1. Observer*

      But my concern is the fact that you think this is remotely something to elevate to management. I’m hoping this is an out of character reaction from you. Because otherwise, wanting to bring minor things to management so you can shame someone is not a good look.

      This. 100%

  46. Observer*

    #2- How “not seriously” are you taking this person? Is it so bad that you never want to work at this company ever? Because unless it’s that bad, do NOT email their manager. Because you can be sure that their manager is NOT going to fall all over themselves trying to thank you. But there IS a good chance that your application will be not go into the reject pile but into the “NOT EVER ELIGIBLE FOR HIRE” pile.

  47. GoodBadWriter*

    #2 Presume positive intent. I am a terrible speller and mediocre proof-reader. I am a very effective writer. I write reports for Congress and to authorize billion dollar projects. I am a good storyteller and often find creative ways to visually communicate complicated engineering and science concepts that many of my coworkers struggle to communicate. I have received national awards for this work and mentor others. But a quick email /message to my teams may have one or more minor typos along the lines of your/you’re. When writing long reports I often need to print them, read backwards, or read out loud to catch the errors my brain misses. When I NEED to ensure no errors, I can. But it takes significant time. My brain just does not easily see minor spelling/grammar error, never has! I am not a lazy writer and I very much value clear communication and the time of my teams and editors. There are many types of communication skills and talents. Being good at one thing (e.g. grammar rules) doesn’t mean you are a good communicator.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      This all day, every day: “Being good at one thing (e.g. grammar rules) doesn’t mean you are a good communicator.”

      The rules of grammar and spelling are rigid AF (except all the exceptions lol). Being good at those don’t make you a good communicator. In fact, I often find the opposite is true.

    2. Batgirl*

      “print them, read backwards, or read out loud to catch the errors my brain misses” Superb tactics. I’m always amazed at what I can catch when I read aloud.

    3. Clisby*

      Copyediting is hard. I say that as someone who used to do it for a living. And that wasn’t correcting my own writing – it was correcting other people’s writing, which you’d think would be easier. It probably is easier, but it’s still not easy. I get the impression newspapers don’t hire as many copy editors these days, because I notice more and more errors. Grammatical errors, spelling errors, and simple factual errors.

  48. RagingADHD*

    #4 To me, the suggested response sounds really needlessly aggressive and fairly well guaranteed to make it wierd. This is a new person who has made passing comments for a couple of days. She has no idea that this is a sensitive topic for you, and will be completely bewildered by such hostile wording.

    You didn’t include anything about how you are responding now, but if Sheila has anything resembling typical social skills, giving one of the suggested replies about her ability to flex her own lunch schedule, or simply saying “Yep” and “nope, ” followed by a complete subject change, should be ample indication that you don’t want to talk about it.

    If she doesn’t have typical social skills, you can be equally direct without saying you hate anything or anyone, because an extremely literal person might well worry that you now hate them.

    “I don’t like to talk about food.” Then change the subject.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      Dropping hints fails so often that I don’t think it’s helpful to label the social skills of the recipient. There are a range of replies between single word answers and a complete shutdown that are direct without escalating.

    2. Daisy Gamgee*

      In my experience people who feel entitled to interrogate one about one’s eating choices will change the subject right back, and escalate when one tries to change it again. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard “But I’m just WORRIED about your HEALTH” I could buy a new computer. Better to shut the topic down once and for all.

  49. Carmen*

    A bit tangential to LW3……what are folks’ opinions about photos on company web pages? My face appears in a few photos on my former company’s home page and I really wish they’d take those down. They laid me off during Covid and I’ve since moved on. Needless to say, I no longer appear in group photos of any kind with my new employer!

  50. OP4*

    I’m OP4 and want to clarify a few things!
    1.) our current COVID protocols primarily keep us from eating at our desks. I could hide my eating habits before COVID (hello, symptom of ED) but now, I can only eat at my desk if there is no one else around me. Doesn’t happen much since I sit next to the boss.

    2.) the intent of her questions actually doesn’t matter here. Maybe she’s trying to suss out when we can eat (not likely considering I know the onboarding protocols clarify ), maybe she’s making small talk, but either way it’s detrimental to my recovery so I need a way to shut them down. I know she’s not looking for incredibly personal details of my life, but I still don’t want the questions.

    3.) re: working through a meal. When I let myself eat two meals a day I work through one of them to adhere to our 30 minute meal break policy. A typical successful day of eating would be working “breakfast” at 11:30, “lunch” break around 4. So me eating a meal at lunch time with my computer is viewed as a working lunch when really, I’m trying to be respectful of the 30 minutes we’re given.

    1. Just my 4 cents*

      I empathize with you. It’s hard when people point out things that we struggle with. If you can, try to treat it like you would if she were asking you about taking a personal phone call. “Well you’re taking your lunch break late today,” – “Yes, is there something work-related that you need or can I get back to you when I finish”; “Are you doing a working lunch again” – “My stomach hates mornings, so more like breakfast – is there something I can help you with.” Or, of course you can always be more blunt and tell her it’s really not polite to comment on others eating habits and you wish she’d stop. But as someone who has a weird food intolerance – black pepper – I’m always having to find some way to explain my seemingly picky ordering. Good luck!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Black pepper intolerance isn’t as unusual as you think. Long ago when I was first learning to manage my functional dyspepsia I saw that almost everyone with IBS is sensitive to it. It most definitely doesn’t do my stomach any good either! One of the many annoying things about American food is it’s put in everything.

    2. Daisy Gamgee*

      either way it’s detrimental to my recovery so I need a way to shut them down. I know she’s not looking for incredibly personal details of my life, but I still don’t want the questions.

      Which is absolutely your right and very sensible besides, no matter what anyone would require of you. I am cheering you on!

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      Would you feel comfortable asking your supervisor to shut it down for you? Something like “Jane often comments on my eating habits. I don’t think it’s ill-intentioned, but I’d appreciate it if you could ask her to stop.”

    4. moonstone*

      I mentioned this upthread, but do you think it would be effective to answer her questions *as if* she was asking about lunch policy (whether or not she actually is)? The definitive ness and possible blandness of the answer might discourage from continuing, but if it didn’t you could escalate the request to a more blunt “please stop asking.”

    5. fine tipped pen afficionado*

      Thanks for clearing things up, OP4!

      I have, since my original comment, remembered that one line that had like a 60% success rate of shutting these conversations down for me was, “I keep a weird schedule and I get asked about it too much, could we talk about something else?” There were still people who soldiered on being nosy or feeling entitled to evaluate my habits and their impact on my health because I am a fat woman, but it diverted most well-meaning people.

      I do feel like someone needs to gently tell Sally it’s not appropriate to quiz people about their eating habits, but that’s a job for her manager, and getting involved in that conversation can only be detrimental to your health at this point.

      I hope Sally turns out to be a well-meaning person and I am wishing you all the strength, love, and patience with yourself on your journey.

  51. Ozzie*

    LW3: There are any number of reasons for people to not want their faces to linger on social media. That she doesn’t have profiles should be a solid indication that perhaps asking her in the first place may have been a little bit overstepping, and that she was generous to allow you to use it at all (I hope she didn’t feel pressured!). My employer has pressured me before, and been frustrated that I did not want my face all over the internet in ways I did not have control over. Take the photo down, and keep in mind that not everyone wants to be findable in every avenue of their lives at all times. The why isn’t particularly relevant.

    LW4: It’s so weird to me that eating late is weird? I typically don’t eat lunch until between 2pm and 3pm… I’m not even thinking about food at “normal” lunch times. It’s nearly noon and I’m just finishing my first cup of coffee! Would it be possible to just explain her away in that way? It’s really none of her business, of course, but maybe just casually brushing off that you just eat lunch late? I know it won’t feel casual to you, so maybe practicing it alone to get more comfortable. (my supervisor used to be concerned I was putting lunch off in favor of work, and while that does happen sometimes on accident, she’s learned over the years that it’s just when I eat… but as someone who has had people really monitor their eating habits in the past, which contributed to an anxiety disorder, I found it very stressful, so I am sympathetic to that part of your situation especially) Hopefully she would stop asking though with a distinct “Please stop” message though, as it really is none of her business.

  52. PotsPansTeapots*

    #2- Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself a good writer and take pride in my grammar. I was also pretty judgey about poor spelling and grammar until I dated a man who told me he thinks in sounds.

    Me: You mean you can’t see the words in your head and see if something is mispelled?
    Him: No, that’s weird, that happens to you?
    Me: …honestly I thought everyone did that.

    Anyways, I’ve been much less bothered by grammar and spelling mistakes in emails and the like since that conversation.

    #4 Been there, done that, have T-shirts in 3 sizes. Some lines I’ve found helpful:

    “Gee, not even my mom notices my eating habits as much as you.”

    “If I knew my eating was going to be a show, I’d have sold tickets!” (Both said in a cheerful, joking voice)

    “Actually, my doctor and supervisor think this is best for me.” (Said very matter-of-factly)

    Another strategy is eating with headphones on or a book during the meal when you take your break or scheduling any phone calls for the meals you work through.

    1. Just my 4 cents*

      Your comment on #2 made me think about how in the spelling bees you see some people write the words on their hands and others seem to picture them in their heads. I think more in words than pictures – I have a running dialog/monolog going through my head all the freaking time. I thought everyone was like that until I got some very real “nothing” answers to my “what are you thinking about questions.” And my son sees certain words, letters and numbers in different colors. I had no clue this was a thing as 1. I normally don’t picture them, and 2. if I did they’d all be black. If #2 isn’t interviewing for a copywriting company, maybe it just doesn’t matter too much if they misuse you’re vs your.

  53. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    LW #2 – To your last question, yes, you are being a snob. Your reaction is classist and elitist, just don’t do it. I’m a licensed English teacher, and I’m giving you permission to not care, not correct, and not judge.

    Aside from the glass houses and stones your letter brings to mind, unsolicitedly correcting someone’s grammar, spelling, or punctuation says more about you than it does the person making the mistake. If it’s your job or they are your employee that you are coaching/developing, by all means. But if it’s not, you look like (and are) a jerk.

    PS Wanting to forward the email to the person’s manager at a place you don’t currently and in the future don’t want to work is… a lot. You may want to sit with this a bit and figure out why you feel the need to do that because it’s not going to be most people’s reaction.

  54. minkysmom282*

    I don’t have an ED but I like to eat at particular times during the day and now my body and mind are used to eating at those time. I usually will not eat breakfast and choose to eat lunch early. I have established- Minkysmom goes to lunch at 11 everyday. It doesn’t create any problems and nobody has really asked me why either. I’m not toally inflexible either, if I can’t go at 11 that’s fine too but I usually can work around it.

    1. Clisby*

      I’m the same way. I usually don’t eat between about 7 p.m. and 10-11 a.m., except for the 2 cups of coffee (with lots of whole milk! I’m getting my dairy in!) I drink when I first get up. I don’t have an ED, I’m not on a diet, but I’m just not hungry in the early morning. My “lunch” might be at 10 a.m., because that’s when I first feel like eating. I’m retired now, but when I was working this wouldn’t have been something to comment on. The more I read AAM, the more I feel lucky at the jobs I’ve had.

  55. Robin Ellacott*

    #4 is a good reminder – we insist all staff take a lunch break and don’t work through, but I’m now thinking we need to be careful that this is always phrased as about using their break time for a pause from working, and doesn’t seem like concern about whether/when they are EATING.

    1. Wintermute*

      I think that most people will understand but it would be a good thing overall to remind people that it’s about work/life balance, fairness and worker’s rights, not about food.

  56. oxford commas*

    LW2 do not say anything. If I had a say in hiring and heard you reached out about the grammar, I would question your decisions. We can demand high standards and proper grammar from our own organizations only. I would be hesitant for you to work with my junior staff.

  57. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Grammatical and spelling errors on the Internet set my scam radar off for good reason. A lot of scams originate from countries with lax law enforcement. Bee raises a good point though; a lot of scam emails are deliberately bad in order to filter out skeptical people who will ultimately waste the scammer’s time.

  58. TiredMama*

    That is perfect advice for LW5 – noting it in your opening or in running the list of issues that crop up and you have handled.

  59. Nophotosplease*

    #3 Was it clear that it would be up indefinitely or did she just think she was giving permission to have it up for the duration of the fair? Either way, people have a right to change their mind. How long is long enough? A month? A year? 10 years? 20 years?

  60. OP3*

    Thank you all for the comments and advice. Some of the replies took things in directions I definitely did not expect, but they all gave me things to consider. I will apologize to Arya and insist the post be removed.

    One commenter rightly deduced that Arya is an outstanding creative. All of her work that I’ve seen, whether for Winterfell or other purposes, is incredible.
    Also that I am desperately frustrated with Ned / Winterfell, and it negatively influenced my reaction to Arya’s request. My response was defensive and self-preserving instead of compassionate. I will try to do better as I work to get out of this situation.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      Thanks for checking in, OP! I’m glad to hear you are taking the advice and learned something today.

    2. Jacey*

      Kudos to you for the good grace with which you’re taking the comments and for pausing to reflect on your own reactions! Best of luck to you in dealing with the situation as a whole :)

    3. Observer*

      You deserve credit for reading with an open mind and heart. Also, I hope you get out of this morass – It sounds like it’s seriously pulling you down.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      Thank you for chiming in! It can feel a little repetitive, I guess, when a lot of commenters are hammering on the same point. I appreciate you keeping an open mind & heart. Good luck with your working relationship with Ned; he’s good man, but I imagine he can be difficult to work for. And occasionally he loses his head.

  61. essie*

    I don’t know that OP is *trying* to be a snob about this (would a snob write into an advice column first?). And I sympathize with OP2! I have a degree in writing and once got a (snarky) rejection letter for an editing job which had at least four major typos in it. I say at least four because I didn’t read the whole email once I skimmed and saw it was a rejection. I certainly wasn’t trying to look for typos; I was just skimming to see if I got the job. That was an editing job so that one stung.

    But in general, no matter what the industry, as an applicant we are usually expected to be scrupulously perfect in grammar, spelling, and professionalism and such in our correspondence with the hiring manager and in our resume/cover letters, knowing that even one small mistake could axe our chances at getting hired. It’s one of many of those small things that are a double standards in the hiring process – we can’t have typos, but they can. Sure, there’s nothing to be done about it, but it’s a little annoying yet the same.

  62. In Case of Emergency*

    #5 – That sounds absolutely altruistic and amazing! What’s the name of your business so I can recommend it to some people I know?

  63. Observer*

    #2 – You’ve gotten (justifiably) slammed for you attitude about the typos. The other thing I’ve been thinking about, which didn’t get quite as much attention, is your considering forwarding this to the manager. There are VERY, VERY few situations where it would be in the least bit ok for you to take this kind of effort to get someone essentially random person in trouble.

    So I’m trying to figure out if you are just a self-appointed enforcer of The Right Way ™ As Decided by OP2 or you actually equate making a couple of typos with something along the lines of sending you a racist (or otherwise) bigoted email turning you down for this position. And, to be honest, I’m not sure which I find worse.

    I *can* say that I would never hire you for anything in either case.

  64. Running on Coffee*

    I wonder whether Alison purposefully didn’t edit the incorrect use of ‘their’ in the first letter to emphasize the point about letting it slide in the second letter?

  65. Liu1845*

    Helping Undocumented Workers – If the process can be put into a booklet on PDF that could be sent by email, as needed, it might help streamline this. The vendors could then come to a meeting with specific questions and cut down on time spent answering questions.

Comments are closed.