drinking and overnight visits to the boss, sounding approachable when you’re stressed, and more

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

1. Drinking and overnight visits to the boss

I have been working professionally in construction as an engineer for about six years now, and am female and in my late 20s. My friend, who is still studying but the same age as me, has just gotten her first ever job as a part-time administrative assistant at a small financial firm. She’s worked there for about four weeks now, and recounts a lot of stories of going out for work lunches and her colleagues encouraging her to drink alcohol to the point where she can’t be productive for the rest of the day. I find this a little odd and old school, but I just assumed that it can still happen in industries where people aren’t responsible for other’s safety. She has now told me that she is flying to a regional town three hours away this weekend to visit her boss’s farm property for two nights, alone, staying in his home, on the premise that he has some young farm animals and she would like to see them. If it matters, he is single and in his early 40s, and is also the company owner.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is super inappropriate? I just cannot for a minute even contemplate doing anything like this with anyone I have ever worked for, even if they were a married female manager and I’d been working with them for years. I now hold a management position and wouldn’t ever think it was appropriate to have one of my employees stay at my home, or even visit one on one and not as a group for a BBQ or something similar. I’d love some other seasoned professional opinions on this please!

You are not wrong. There are red flags all over the place.

There are still industries where people have a drink or two during the day, although far, far fewer of them than there used to be. But pressuring her to drink is both immature and alarming, and the fact that she’s drinking so much that she can’t be productive for the rest of the day is concerning on a few different fronts (one of which is, does she realize she’s prioritizing the drinking over the work she’s being paid to do?).

The out-of-town weekend trip to visit her boss … well, at a minimum, some really serious boundary-violating is going on. I mean, I want to see young farm animals too, and if she were taking a road trip with some coworkers to visit his farm that wouldn’t be a big deal. But an overnight trip on her own to stay in her older male boss’s home raises all kinds of alarms.

2. How can I sound more approachable in high-stress work periods?

I am a graduate student at a large university, working under a faculty member who I have known for 10+ years. I am responsible for the selection and daily management of our undergraduate student workers – a team of 2-5 with frequent turnover as students graduate, get opportunities they can’t pass up, or find they need to focus on classes.

For many of these students, this is their first big job, and there is a lot of training that can only be provided in 1-on-1 calls with me. I also have a full workload and am sometimes juggling multiple time-sensitive projects at once. Since we are 100% remote and communicate via Teams chat and calling, I worry that my tone may come off as short/very direct in the chat when I am just trying to get a quick answer back to them. No all caps responses, but certainly not my normal friendliness. My boss does the same, but I know it’s because they’re pressed for time but don’t want to hold me back. Whenever possible, I do a video call to explain initial tasks, then use chat to answer smaller questions.

I cover tone and communication extensively during onboarding (stating multiple times that I value questions and they should not worry about failing as they figure projects out). Do you have any tips for making sure I remain approachable in a remote situation that is often high-stress? I find myself doing the same with family members (á la drill sergeant), so it’s an issue I need to navigate professionally and privately. I also want to set a good example for these students as they go into their first adult jobs, and some seem to need a lot of encouragement and confidence-building during their first semester.

It’s surprisingly easy to warm up that sort of exchange by just adding one friendly sentence at the start and one at the end. For instance, you could probably convey the tone you want if you start with “good question!” before you launch into the answer and end with “I hope that helps — let me know if you need more.” Obviously don’t use the same exact phrases every time or it will quickly become obvious that you are doling out warmth-by-formula, but it’s surprising how just a friendly expression at the start and end of the exchange can set the right tone without taking much more time. (Other openers: “Oh yeah, that’s important!” / “I can see why you’re confused!” / “Let’s see if I can help.” / “Hey!” Other closers: “Don’t hesitate to ask anything else if you get stuck.” / “That was a smart question, keep them coming.” / “You sound like you’re on the right track!”)

Read an update to this letter

3. Are there offices where things just … work?

Are there workplaces where things just … work? Where everyone is on the same page, clear about their expectations, and able to interact with the technology and teams needed to do their job? I assume that a workplace that functions smoothly and seamlessly is the end goal, but how often does it play out in practice?

In any given semester, I’ll encounter a ton of little issues that add up. A computer won’t update because it’s too old and was never replaced, links are broken, offices move without updating their webpage, design standards change without notice, students can’t log in, FAQs aren’t updated, policies are updated but no one can find them, new tools are added but no one knows which office provides training on them.

Because I work in higher education, I need a reality check if these workflow problems are an institution thing, an academia thing, or if it’s a more common thing than I realize.

There are indeed offices where things work reasonably smoothly! There are also lots of offices where they don’t. The difference between the two is usually the presence or absence of good management. Money helps too, but it’s not enough on its own.

4. My coworker leaves early on Fridays, which adds to my work

A coworker and I alternate shifts each week. One does 8-4, the other 9-5. For the past three weeks when my coworker is on the early shift, she will announce on Friday morning that she is leaving at 3 pm as she “came in early each day and has time owed.” As far as I know, our manager is not asking her to come in early. My coworker seems to arrive at 7:45 each morning so that she can claim the hour back at the end of the week. This has impacted my work as I am left to cover for her during that last hour. It can be busy on Friday afternoons and I have struggled to keep up.

How should I address this? I am sometimes (maybe once a fortnight) 15 minutes late to work due to my bus not showing up. I do, however, stay late to make up the time. Because of this, I worry I’ll seem a bit of a hypocrite if I bring this up with my coworker or manager. However, I also don’t feel like we should be able to choose to leave early every Friday. I would do the same thing if we were allowed! As a note, my manager is exclusively remote currently due to government work from home Covid guidance so I don’t think she is aware this is happening.

Speak up! Start with your coworker and say, “When you leave early on Fridays, it’s tough for me to cover everything on my own. Could you plan to stay until the end of the scheduled shift so we have enough coverage?”

If that doesn’t solve it, then talk to your boss and say, “Would it be possible to have Jane stay until the end of her scheduled shifts on Fridays? In the last few weeks when she’s on the early shift, she’s been coming in extra early each day so she can leave at 3 on Fridays, but that leaves me without enough coverage for the end of the day. I spoke with her about it but she said ___, so I wanted to see if you can help.”

This shouldn’t seem hypocritical; you’re not deliberately altering your schedule to get time back later in the week, which is the issue here. Do keep the focus on the impact on your work though, not on whether it seems unfair in principle.

5. Why am I not rehireable for a job I did well at?

I was let go from an huge organization I had been employed by for six years. During that time, I was promoted twice. When I was in the first two jobs, I had excellent reviews and was held in high esteem by my bosses. The third position was a bust. It was outside of my comfort zone and it was a mistake accepting the position.

I ended up being let go and it wasn’t because I was dishonest, or had stolen anything or had said something offensive to my manager. I just couldn’t get the hang of the job.

Since I was let go, I’ve applied for 11 jobs with the organization, all of which are either the first or second positions I previously held in the company, and I haven’t gotten an interview for any of them. Finally, a friend who is also friends with one of the internal recruiters let it slip that I was “not eligible for rehire due to unacceptable rating in review.”

The jobs I’m applying for have nothing in common with the job I was let go from. It’s like comparing chocolate teapot making to unicorn mane grooming. Is it the norm to basically blackball someone from all jobs because they weren’t good at one of them?

Some companies do have a practice of marking people as ineligible for rehire if they’re fired or have low performance ratings. But in a case like yours, it’s a blunter instrument than makes sense for your circumstances.

If either or both of your managers from those first two positions are still there, you could try reaching out to them: explain what’s going on and ask if there’s a way around the policy since you had excellent reviews in the jobs you’re re-applying for. If those managers really liked you, they might go to bat for you. It may or may not work — it’s a huge company so the bureaucracy might be entrenched and hard to fight — but there’s no reason not to try.

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. AnotherSarah*

    For OP3–I’m not sure that the problems you note indicate that a department/org isn’t working! Most of these are tech issues, and likely minor oversights. I think what matters is what happens when it comes to light that links are broken/a computer needs replacing/etc. Is there a process, do the people who should care actually care, etc.? The issues with not knowing who provides what training is also not necessarily indicative of dysfunction–especially at a university, where some things take place at the college level and some at the university level, and some services are for faculty, some for students, some for staff, it’s normal that you might not know how something can get done immediately.

    1. Loulou*

      I immediately related to OP’s question (and I’m not in higher Ed). My interpretation of the “no one knows who provides the training” line in combination with some of the other things mentioned was that OP was hinting at communications issues, possibly due to an opaque bureaucracy. If websites aren’t updated AND you don’t know where to look for accurate info AND you don’t know who to ask, that really adds up and can be demoralizing.

      Alison’s answer rang somewhat true to me, but if you’re in a large and bureaucratic organization (a university fits the bill!) then ultimately you’re at the mercy of people you have nothing to do with day to day. My boss and his boss are great, but they can’t fix most of the little things that drove me nuts.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, I think this is it. Even a firm answer of “that’s just not something we have in the budget to fix” is less demoralizing than the vague sense that it IS fixable, you just need to track down who has ownership of it.

        Clear ownership of problems – even if the problems are in a holding pattern – is a big part of making an office seem compentent even if there are cash flow issues.

        1. BethDH*

          And colleges often have very idiosyncratic processes that result from having multiple organizational structures in place at the same time. Something like the IT questions mentioned in the letter could go to one of three different IT departments.
          The main IT help desk can triage who to go to, but it will be faster if you know where to go yourself, especially if you’re not a student, and you can easily get sent to the wrong place if you describe the most visible/immediate problem rather than knowing the real cause.
          The system made sense when computing was more highly specialized and siloed, and then persisted because enough people are used to it and enough other systems are accreted around it that it would mess up normal practices to change.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          When I was in grad school, anytime one of us had some kind of payroll or administrative issue, we’d waste an entire day getting pinballed from office to office across campus. “No, we don’t do that, try-so-and-so” and I’d get sent to the person I saw three people back!

          1. Tierrainney*

            OH this brings back memories. And then when you finally got sent to the office that did do what ever it was that you needed, “only Mary does that and she’s not in right now” with no timeline for when Mary would be in the office.

        3. Lucy P*

          From experience, when you hear “that’s just not something we have in the budget to fix” on a regular basis, it’s highly demoralizing.
          When you stop asking to get something fixed/replaced, and just deal with band-aids on everything because you know what the answer is going to be, it really sucks.

      2. LW3 Today*

        LW3 here! The communication issue is exactly it, coupled with some ancient technology and processes. We’re also a smaller university, and the budget and understaffing issues mentioned down thread certainly contribute.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Any chance the communications issues you’re seeing multiplied with the sudden shift to WFH? I think there are plenty of departments still figuring out how to best wrangle remote and hybrid schedules, even if you factor out actual pandemic things like school shutdowns, quarantines, etc. And that has to get better with time….uh, right? After two years, I honestly don’t know anymore. I guess this isn’t advice, just solidarity.

        2. TodayIsAlreadyOver*

          I’m also in Higher Ed, in an Ops role, and I sympathize. For me the biggest frustration is vendors with highly idiosyncratic software processes. I can explain how to work things to one faculty member or student, but these programs are only used for the last year of the program, so it’s a constant churn and no amount of documentation or training videos seems to help. We’ve looked at software alternatives, and they all seem worse. For what it’s worth, I worked at one of the 20 biggest museums in the country before this and things felt much, much more broken.

      3. Jellyfish*

        Yes, agreed. I worked at a few different companies in corporate America for several years, and I’ve worked at a couple different colleges for several years. I’ve seen decent function and astounding failure in both.

        Nowhere do things just “get done.” People do them. Rather, people who have the knowledge, ability, motivation, and time do them. A lot of that depends on organizational culture, resource availability, and the degree to which mostly unrelated divisions can work together.

        At one place, the head of IT didn’t like my manager (for good reason), and so we had a terrible time getting our tech fixed. In another place, IT was theoretically glad to help, but they seemed to think our division was inherently low priority. At a third place, both of those approaches would be seen as an unacceptable breach of professionalism. Lots of factors go into making a workplace run well, and it’s easier to derail everything with ignorance or apathy than to keep everyone engaged, capable, and professional.

      4. Koalafied*

        Agreed. I’d say the larger the organization, the more likely it is that even with decently good management there are going to be communications silos. At my organization we always try to learn from situations where information wasn’t socialized to the correct people by adapting how we roll things out…but I’ve been here a decade and the org has been around much longer, and because we have a culture of innovation and are always trying new things, it’s inevitable that teams who try new things don’t always anticipate every way their new thing will impact others in the organization.

        So, to me it’s about accepting that these silos and communication breakdowns are most likely always going to pop up every so often, but at the same time just because they’re inevitable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to avoid them and improve processes when they do happen. It just means you build in buffer time and contingency plans, document your processes as well as you can, and be ready to take it in stride when something breaks down. I discovered a long time ago that things like this upset me much less when I frame it mentally as “dealing with communications breakdowns is an infrequent but expected and regular part of my job” as opposed to “dealing with communications breakdowns is something that should never happen and gets in the way of my job when it does.”

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I work in higher ed and almost everything is broken al the time. My old boss said it was a lack of money.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Nah, still management. I’m in non-profits and stuff is not broken all the time and I guarantee you we are not better funded than most higher ed.

        1. afishnamedbob*

          Also in Higher Ed and in my experience, the lack of money results in every department being chronically understaffed, which would be difficult for anyone who’s managing – so the best managers struggle and the worst ones just dig the whole department deeper into the mess.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            The decision not to allocate funds appropriately is a higher-level management issue. Maybe not of that specific department, but it’s still a management issue. If schools are supporting big sports programs or whatever but everyone else is begging for newer computers, there is a management problem.

        2. OyHiOh*

          Also in non profit, also have few of the problems OP3 described. For us, the “trick” was contracting with freelancers who are worth what we pay them and deliver promptly. Our HR, IT, and web support are all contracted out to freelance specialists, who deliver specified number of hours a month, and bill separately if/when we go over the contracted amounts. They’re all excellent at what they do and worth every penny. In this way, we’re different from and luckier than higher ed since we can choose our service providers and step out of contracts at renewal if necessary.

      2. Unladen European Swallow*

        Something I’ve noticed in higher ed administration is that it’s rare to come across a position that is well documented on its full scope of responsibilities, particularly for the more support oriented roles. Often times there would have been a person that did the “things” because no one would do it, even if it’s not in their official duties. And then others would expect for those things to be done without any update to the position description. And when that person leaves, if there isn’t really thorough documentation of the work they covered, lots of administrative tasks fall through the cracks. It’s quite frustrating.

        1. Starbuck*

          The same thing happens at the small but not tiny non-profit I work at. We don’t have a dedicated admin or tech or maintenance person, just various people in other roles that took on small chunks of that work because no one else could/would, and they needed a specific thing to function to do their job. But it means that since now I’m the only full-time permanent staff person in my office, I have to be responsible for EVERYTHING because no one else will do it! Things from, when does the recycling get put out, to why is the sink clogged, to why won’t the printer network to my computer, to what is the log-in for X website, to now we have a mouse problem to deal with, etc etc, all these things taking away from the time I’m supposed to spend doing programs, my actual job. Frustrating indeed. I have a feeling this kind of thing is common in small orgs/departments that can’t or won’t pay for admin/office management/maintenance roles.

    3. Chili pepper Attitude*

      I agree with AnotherSarah. It is not so much the problems but how the office/org responds to them (the problems do matter tho!). I switched from a public to an academic version of the same job. Both have many of the same problems but the way the academic job handles them is so much better. It’s not always perfect but it is so much better!

      I despaired of ever finding a space that was more functional! Hang in there, build your skills, and read the Friday good news. And of course Alison’s advice on job searching!

      Best to you!

    4. Plexor*

      All of these are management issues though. Not necessarily your direct manager, but the broader management/leadership of the organization.
      If the people who are supposed to care, don’t care, that is bad management.
      I work for a huge company, but it’s remarkably low on this kind of frustration because there’s a culture of telling people how and why things are changing. This culture is encouraged by management.
      (Also IT is properly funded, which in the year 2022 should really be the case everywhere).

      I know academia is its own beast, but there’s a lot of stuff that people just put up with, that they shouldn’t have to, because they’ve never known any different

    5. anonymous73*

      It may not indicate complete dysfunction, but these things are a constant problem and indicative of a reactive manager. Management (and employees) need to be proactive in order for things to run smoothly or there will always be issues.

    6. Beth*

      My thoughts also — most of the items sounded like typical little things that go wrong because technology is full of tiny moving parts. My vision of a workplace that “works” is one in which the little things that go wrong are handled well — hopefully fixed or dealt with in a timely manner.

      It’s also a workplace where the overall environment is functional enough that there’s space for minor issues — the inevitable glitches don’t crash the entire workflow and ruin everyone’s week — and the people are able to take minor issues in stride, or at least without more than a short period of limping.

      Admittedly, one of my work hats is IT, and my approach to IT is doing my best to make all this happen.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Higher ed is a peculiar beast. As AnotherSarah points out, there are often multiple organizational structures (undergrad vs. grad, college vs. university, faculty vs. staff). In my experience, there’s also often a lack of documentation: too much information is stored in people’s heads. When the old department admin retires (she may have been a holy terror, but knew how to work the system), there’s often no documentation in place, or it’s way out of date.

      And…I’m not quite sure how to say this, but good management and administrative skills aren’t highly valued in higher ed. If you’re staff, it can be hard to get promoted, even if you’re very good at running your own unit, and raises depend less on performance than on the mood of the state legislature. If you’re teaching faculty, taking on administrative responsibilities can be a career killer — as too many women academics have found to their cost.

      Don’t get me wrong, I spent over three decades in higher ed and most of it was very enjoyable. But a certain amount of inefficiency is a feature of the culture.

    8. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I think these issues are very common in higher ed. Quite often projects start in one department and grow laterally rather than going up and down normal command chains.

      Having been in both higher ed and corporate, I would say higher ed tends to be a bit more dysfunctional.

  2. HigherEdna*

    OP #3… I work in higher education at a large public university and that stuff just seems to…happen all the time. My uni does not have tight/consistent leadership and that definitely contributes.

    I’ve had your same question before… would things be different if I weren’t in higher education? Maybe? Probably?

    1. Loulou*

      Sorry to tell you that I’m not in higher ed and this also describes my workplace to a t!

      1. Squidlet*

        Yup. I’ve worked in financial services for 15 years, mostly retail banks, and it’s the same.

    2. Shhh*

      I do think it’s partially a higher ed thing! Or at least very common in higher ed even if it also is in other industries – most of my work experience and all of my professional experience has been at public universities. There’s always something…tech issues, student workers moving on, budget concerns, and on and on and on.

      And my department functions well! We’re all generally on the same page, at least enough so that we can have a substantial conversation about the pros and cons of decisions we have to make. We communicate effectively and all like each other and still, there’s always…something. I’m a librarian and right now, we’re dealing with a vendor that completely overhauled their product and shifted it in a direction that means it’s far less useful of a tool for our needs. I really appreciate that my coworkers and I communicate well and recognize that it makes my work life a lot easier, but there’s still always something popping up because there are so many moving parts to our work that we can’t really control. We can only try to anticipate things and respond when something happens.

      1. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I think the “there is always something” you are describing are normal work issues, every place has them. What the OP describes sounds more like foreseeable problems that are not addressed properly and poor reactions to problems.

        There are workplaces that respond well (like your sounds like) and there are workplaces that don’t (like the OP’s sounds like), but there will always be problems. So OP, look for workplaces that respond well. You can even ask a behavioral question, tell me about a time when you had a problem like X and how the team responded.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I thought it was higher ed (I was non-academic support services at one point), until I worked in the private sector for a company that rivaled the size of the higher ed entity I had once been employed by.

        Might be higher ed. Might be indicative of a really really large company.

        1. All the words*

          My employer has about 70,000 employees. Things don’t always work perfectly, but when they don’t the matter gets addressed. Not always as fast as we’d like, but there’s pretty good communication when issues crop up (the whys and estimated fix time). I don’t think the size of the organization is the issue.

          What I’m hearing sounds like management teams that aren’t supporting their staff’s needs. Making sure the staff has the necessary tools to perform their jobs is ultimately on them. Sometimes that requires some managerial wheels to squeak.

      3. BethDH*

        I agree, and I’ve worked both public and private, including very well-funded institutions. Money definitely is a factor, but you also just often have conflicting hierarchies. The departments will have absolute control of some really high up decisions, but then no control over things that seem really minor, so the authority levels needed to give definitive answers can be really confusing.

    3. Rock Prof*

      Yeah, I also felt like these problems are also very common in higher ed, particularly within a larger system (small state school among many, for example). We’ve been pointing out things like mistakes on the website for years, but even done of those can take forever to fix due to overlapping hierarchies. I had to spend 6 months getting my title updated to my actual title because things needed to be changed at both the university and system level. I know my university system has been slowly consolidating hr and financial services at a central level (the full state system) instead of at the university level for austerity reasons, and this has made everything much worse and slower to change.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Non-profit here: Stuff is not broken all the time at my job. A coworker and I actually realized last week that the contact information on part of our website goes into a black hole (the person to whom it belonged just left, but she shouldn’t have been responsible for it in the first place so we suspect it originally belonged to someone before her. It’s not a heavily-used part of the site. Obviously) and we joked that it was a Major Institutional Scandal. So we CC’ed her former supervisor, who asked the web people to change it to [other contact], and we’re back in business. But we have an ED who actually knows what’s going on and is interested in having things function.

      1. Loulou*

        It sounds like you must also be a fairly small organization, though, which I’d imagine helps a lot.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We are, but we also have an ED who pays attention and acts on things and a board that can at least sometimes be persuaded to listen. We had a dud ED for awhile, but we fired that guy and replaced him with somebody who cared.

        2. Starbuck*

          Haha, I don’t know about that! I’m at a small non-profit and these things happen routinely, but when it’s a issue that doesn’t fall into the scope of anyone’s job (we have no dedicated full time admin / IT / maintenance staff) either the staff person who noticed the problem / has their work affected gets to try to fix it, or no one does because everyone’s busy doing their actual jobs. For example – the recycling contract for our buildings. Who is the staff contact person for that? No one knows. Who contacts the company when they fail to pick up our stuff? Who puts the recycling out? Who gets informed when the pick up day changes? There’s no one who’s got a role where this would obviously be their thing, so it’s a combo no one’s / everyone’s thing. Multiply this by everything that has to do with our computers/IT systems, any other building maintenance issue, ordering supplies….

    5. Butterfly Counter*


      I’ve been in higher ed for over a decade and the universities I’ve been at have all had HUGE problems of different kinds. However, I’ve never experienced what OP3 has for any long length of time. Just this morning (15 minutes ago), I couldn’t get to my Canvas Dashboard. But it’s already fixed.

      I guess, for whatever reason, the universities I’ve been at have all valued technology and access? Which is nice to value today because there are so many other things that are wrong.

    6. irritable vowel*

      I’ve worked in a variety of places in higher ed for more than 2 decades – private 2-year college, public university, semi-prestigious private university, very prestigious private university. In all but the last one (my current employer), dysfunction reigned, exactly as the OP described. However, in all but the last one, I was working in the library, which I think is a particularly downtrodden sector of higher ed. It’s not a moneymaker for the institution, and is always seen as the place where corners can be cut, etc. I got out of libraries because I was so burned out by that dynamic, and so far have been pleasantly surprised that my new line of work is a place where things get done quickly for us and nobody is constantly questioning whether we really need to spend that money. Could be the university, could be the area of work, but it has been an eye-opener that the problems I experienced are not necessarily an “all of higher ed” situation.

      1. just a librarian*

        If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’m curious what kind of job you switched to from libraries. I’m a librarian myself.

    7. JelloStapler*

      I have wondered the same about Higher Ed, and my experience is that leadership can be hit or miss and politics are often rife- no differently than corporate- but without the organization.

      I often say HE is Fire. Aim- wait, are we Ready? They either make a decision too quickly without thinking it through or take years beating a dead horse before they implement it.

  3. river*

    Letter #1 is so concerning. I got stressed just reading about it. The boss sounds predatory to me. I hope she doesn’t go on that trip, or at least take some other people with you!

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I am also concerned for her in this workplace. If I were her friend I’d discourage her from going on this trip and encourage her to find a more professional office/company to work for. If it’s a small company, sometimes startups are HR disasters, but that still doesn’t mean she should go along with them.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, he does sound predatory.

      But even if he isn’t this is a really, really bad idea.

    2. Bowserkitty*

      All I can think is “you in danger, girl!”

      I hope she is able to reconsider this trip…

      1. Spero*

        YEEESSSS! RUN as fast as you can
        And never, ever let these guys get you drunk again. Or physically isolate you after repeatedly pushing your boundaries in other ways.
        This is a situation where she really needs to gray rock them, become ‘competent but just so boring we treat her like furniture’

    3. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Good grief yes. That’s how horror movies start out. Even is the boss’ intentions are innocent, the optics of the situation look horrible.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s how horror movies start out.
        Right? There are adorable farm animals within an hour’s drive of me–I don’t need a three-hour flight to see them.

        For that matter, I have relatives with farm animals who live a three-hour flight from me. I visit to see my relatives; were I instead newly part-time employed by my (completely non-predatory and mild-mannered) relatives such a trip would be odd.

        1. lizzy*

          I agree! It sounds like a horror movie. Something is seriously wrong here. I would also worry about being pressured to drink that much at work. Are all of them drinking to the point of getting drunk? Or do they just want to make sure YOU are drunk?

    4. OP1*

      Hi @River,
      Just to update, she did go on the trip and has returned unscathed from what I’ve seen of her and what she’s told me, which is a huge relief.
      These responses are really helpful for me to have one more gentle conversation with her about appropriate workplace boundaries as this is literally her first ever job, but after that I’ll be leaving her to make her own decisions.

      1. Wendy*

        This situation sounds so much to me like the kind of thing someone young and relatively naive would do… before being be blindsided by the boss assuming that them going along meant they were consenting to more than just work. And then after the inevitable awkwardness (be it truly just awkward or much worse), they spend the next several decades blaming themselves because they should have known :-\

        1. MK*

          She is not that young, and I would substitute “relatively naive” for “incredibly immature”

          1. Texas*

            We don’t know the friend’s age, just OP’s. The information that is at the top of the letter says the friend is currently studying and this is her first job, so there’s a good chance this is a person in very early twenties.

            1. Texas*

              (lol nvm I’m reading this too early in the morning apparently). I still think calling the person incredibly immature because she’s at her first job trying to match her workplace’s (weird, not good) norms of behavior is pretty rude.

          2. Kim*

            Why are you so incredibly unkind? Not all of us have had the benefit of being raised/coached/mentored by people who know the spoken and unspoken rules of workplaces.

            To OP1: I’m so glad your friend came back unharmed.

          3. Le Sigh*

            How about we don’t do that, not today or any day? This sort of name-calling keeps people from speaking up or asking for help if they’re in a bad situation or even if just their spidey senses go off.

            Yes, I see red flags all over this situation but I have the sad knowledge that comes with life experience and I have more years on me. I know nothing about this person, but I do know I have found myself in situations where I “should have known better.” You feel dumb and upset with yourself, but you also don’t’ say anything for fear of making it worse. What matters is, OP1 is rightly concerned enough to write in for help and that’s what we should be here to do.

            1. MK*

              This person is in their late 20s. And has responded to the OP’s concern by implying she is a stick-in-the-mud. I don’t think calling them immature is name-calling.

              1. Pool Lounger*

                It’s this person’s first ever job, OP has said. Late 20s isn’t very old to not know certain norms. Not everyone has been taught these things—read any of the mortifying moments posts. Plus, norms can be upended by bad workplaces—see any post about toxic work environments. Personally, I look back on things I did in my late 20s and cringe. But I’d never worked in a typical workplace with adults, and my parents both had jobs where they had a lot of leeway and flexibility.

                1. MK*

                  Realizing that a younger woman spending the night, let alone traveling 3 hours to spend the night, at her middle aged boss’s house is going to look inappropriate, is not a workplace norm. You don’t need white collar parents (heck, my working class parents would be more horrified by that than more educated people) or years of work experience to know this, unless you had a very unconventional upbringing (which, ok, she might have had one). And, sure, there are nuances you aren’t aware of at 28, especially if it’s your first job. But you are not a very young person at that age, and I find it distasteful to infantilise a grown woman like that.

                  More than that, this person asks the OP, her more experienced friend, about work norms, and she told them it’s inappropriate. And her reaction was to dismiss the advice (because she didn’t like it? From the OP’s comments she doesn’t seem to have any discomfort with the situation).

                2. Observer*

                  I’m with MK.

                  I don’t think she’s a terrible person. But she’s NOT a child, and unless she’s been living under a rock, there are some things she should be aware of.

        2. Student*

          I am boggling at the talk of her being naive about the subtext. She’s mid-twenties. She knows the subtext. I know there are differences in upbringing/culture etc., but come on. The OP didn’t claim she was deeply sheltered in some unusual way, or had an impairment of some type that should make us question her ability to understand social cues.

          I would’ve picked up on the subtext in this situation at 14, easy. Guys have been trying to have sex with me since I turned 11.

          Is it a bad idea, professionally, to have sex with your boss? Yes. Are the optics on this trip bad even if they don’t have sex? Yes. Pretending she’s naive about all of that is just giving OP1 an excuse to avoid the harder mentoring conversation that this young woman might (or might not) benefit from, by letting OP1 and the rest of the commenters just cluck with concern and vague disapproval.

          The conversation OP should’ve had with their mentee was “That trip will, regardless of what you two actually do, create optics that you’re having sex. That will impact you negatively, professionally, in these concrete ways. It will either not impact him or make him look better to other men. Either make sure you’re getting some commensurate benefit out of this arrangement yourself so that the benefits aren’t all to the boss and the harm all to you, or consider taking these various steps to make the trip not look like an expensive booty call.”

          1. Myrin*

            I agree with your overall point, but I really can’t agree with your framing this as basically OP’s duty. This late-twenties woman is OP’s friend, not her “mentee”, and it’s fine and appropriate for OP to have a conversation like what you suggest with her friend if she so wishes but it’s not vaguely “clucking” if she decides that she doesn’t want to deal with her friend’s workplace troubles anymore.

          2. Anon Supervisor*

            You can be aware of the subtext of a meeting and still be taken advantage of even if you’re determined not to be. The modeling and entertainment world is full of stories from savvy young women who were exploited in spite of them knowing what the industry is like. Scenarios like the OP’s friend experience can start out very innocent and innocuous and then morph into something completely inappropriate down the line.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Just to add, as someone who has worked in the financial industry for 30+ years, no, that drinking is not a normal industry thing. We aren’t responsible for people’s safety, but we do manage people’s money. No one wants their money manager to be drunk when they are making decisions on behalf of a client.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I have not worked in the financial industry but have witnessed the effects of exactly that scenario (spoiler: it can be devastating), I have to agree!

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        That sounds like the best approach. I’m glad your friend is OK! But it’s true that even though nothing untoward actually happened, the appearance of the situation could easily raise eyebrows, with coworkers or clients. And it’s also putting her in a position where it’s likely that her boss will expect her to be receptive to pretty much whatever: not necessarily sexual advances, but even just things like overwork or mistreatment: “hey, I go out of my way to be nice to you. I bring you to my farm to look at the cute little lambs. Now I’m just asking you to wait a couple of weeks for your next paycheck, as a favor while I get some financial stuff sorted out, and you’re talking back to me?”

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          So much this. And OP, if the “you don’t want to be seen as having a sexual relationship with the boss” angle doesn’t get you anywhere with your friend (some people just refuse to accept/see that), maybe this angle could.

      4. Empress Matilda*

        I’m relieved to hear it! But oh my goodness, please stress to her how dangerous this could have been. Just because it worked out this time, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the future!

      5. Koalafied*

        I feel so torn about this question, because on one hand I firmly believe that this is a hard line that shouldn’t be crossed in the workplace because at minimum it’s too fraught, and at worst it could be dangerous.

        But I have also worked with farmers in a professional context before – I worked for a nonprofit that worked on food issues and had farmers as external partners and donors – and consistently found them to be incredibly hospitable, like to an extent that we often remarked on with surprise to each other. When we had someone traveling to visit partners/donors in another state these farmers frequently offered to let whoever it was stay on their farms. We never accepted the offers (see above re: hard line that shouldn’t be crossed), but that experience does mean that I’m somewhat more willing to believe this boss may just have bad judgment, and not necessarily any predatory intentions. That’s just about benefit of the doubt in assessing his character, though – in the end whatever his intentions are, the boss needs to stop inviting employees to stay over at his home, full stop.

        1. Observer*

          But I have also worked with farmers in a professional context before

          This guy is not a farmer!

          And farmers are not generally naive. It’s one thing to offer to host a funder (who is generally not going to be an unattached young woman in her very first job!) who is coming for a professional visit and a very, very different thing to offer to host your young, inexperienced employee to see “baby” animals that are not actually babies!

          1. Koalafied*

            The farmers were the funders here – they donated to use to represent their interests – and all but our Executive Director were inexperienced nonprofit workers in our mid-20s and single. I wouldn’t say the farmers were naive! They just seemed to have a noticeably stronger culture of hospitality than other people I’ve encountered. One of them also offered to drive our staff member to all her meetings so she wouldn’t have to rent a car! Which we again politely declined, but which is to say that these kinds of overtures to go out of their way to accommodate us were pretty common with this group of partners and never happened with the other kinds of external stakeholders we worked with.

            1. Observer*

              Like I said, this guy is not a farmer and there is no way that he doesn’t know that what he is doing is wildly out of the norm. He’s running a financial firm. Also, he’s misstating the stage his animals are in, which means that he’s either lying or he’s so removed from farm management that you can’t even call him a hobbyist farmer.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I think the key thing here is that your team recognized this was inappropriate, re the “hard line” that wouldn’t be crossed.

              This person’s boss wanted her to come out by herself and see baby animals. Overnight. Alone. Even if he were completely above-board and sincere and would never even think of trying anything, if a coworker told me this, it wouldn’t smell like hospitality. It would smell like manure.

              It’s worth pointing that out as a matter of safety, especially in a culture like the one the OP described.

      6. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        As an auntie of many nieces, let me just say OP1 that I understand being the often unheard voice of reason. But it’s still important to kindly say what needs to be said. Sometimes it won’t sink in until years later.

      7. Veryanon*

        I’m so glad she returned unharmed! My spidey sense was tingling as soon as I read that. Yikes.

        1. Momma Bear*

          And, to be honest, she may have wanted the trip and alone time with her boss, but that’s a whole other can of worms about dating your boss.

      8. Daisy Gamgee*

        Thank you for trying to help your friend — many people could have used advice like this when we were younger. I certainly could have. And all good luck — may she listen to you. You never know — even if she seems to blow you off now, when you give her space to think she may keep thinking about what you’ve said and implement it later.

        All good luck to you and to her. You’re a good friend.

      9. Darsynia*

        This is so good to hear! I recall back when I was 19 I had made friends with one of the mall cops that used to talk to me as I waited for my bus home from work. At one point, the bus just… never showed up, and he offered me a ride home. In the car on the way, he asked if we could stop at his house to see the fish he had been talking about throughout our brief friendship. He was a collector and had multiple warm-water, large fish tanks, or so he said. I agreed, I was young and naive.

        He showed me his fish, they were awesome, then he drove me home! Nothing bad happened, but in retrospect, SO MANY RED FLAGS! I’m glad your friend is okay and I hope she can come to understand that both can be true– there can be situations that scream ‘unsafe!’ that turn out well, but our innate sense of caution is like a seatbelt. There for the chance that something will go wrong.

        1. Onomatopoetic*

          I and a friend around fifteen or sixteen years old once got into the back of a van of some guys we’d just met, that said that they were going to play a gig and invited us along. It did hit me when we drove onto the highway that it wasn’t the smartest of things to do. Fortunately it was quite legit and the band was really good. But there are people who pry on the young and naive.

      10. Blllllpt*

        I’m glad she’s ok. I have a lengthy commute and my boss has offered to let me stay with her if I can’t safely make it home in case of bad winter weather. She doesn’t live alone in the middle of nowhere though.

        The getting wasted at lunch time is so baffling to me. I’d get fired if I did that.

        1. nowt*

          I’m glad she’s ok. I have a lengthy commute and my boss has offered to let me stay with her if I can’t safely make it home in case of bad winter weather. She doesn’t live alone in the middle of nowhere though.

          See, this is sensible, compassionate management. I also hope the offer to work remotely has been made, if at all possible for your role, even if only in bad weather.

      11. nowt*

        Thank you for the update, OP1 – that is such a relief that your friend is okay!

        Hopefully, your friend’s boss genuinely meant nothing by it, and I can think of one middle-aged male boss who honestly wouldn’t mean anything inappropriate with such an invitation…but he’d invite the whole team, not just one person, and every other middle-aged male boss I can think of certainly wouldn’t be that upstanding.

        FWIW, the only time I’ve known managers to invite any of their team members over to their home is:
        * if the person owns the company and its office is technically on their property (as in, the whole team works there)
        * for a BBQ for the whole team
        * for an end-of-year party for the whole team, or
        * in a genuine emergency situation (ie: natural disaster).

        For example, I knew people in a large team who worked temporarily from a manager’s house about 12 years ago when their office was literally destroyed in a bushfire. (Thankfully, no one was hurt and no one lost their home.) However, most of their important documents were backed-up on a server stored far away from the fire zone, so most of the work could be done remotely. They only gathered in-person for the truly necessary full team meetings that Zoom/Teams now makes fairly easy to do remotely, and for piecing together the documentation etc that was lost.

        The manager, Bob, offered his place as the temporary office because he was geographically in the centre of everyone else, and because the company’s other office was a minimum of a 4-hour drive for everyone. Even then, Bob still offered everyone the opportunity to work remotely, as he didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to be in his house all day due to the power dynamics.

    5. Kim*

      If their colleagues know about the trip or find out, they will NEVER take anything happening to her career/advancement within that company serious, as most will assume that the friend received that promotion by having sexual relations with the boss. And is that fair? NO! But it will happen.
      And I’m too horrified to even comment about the huge risk to her personal safety during the stay. And I don’t mean that as victim blaming, either she feels pressured or doesn’t realise the risks. I’m just horrified.

    6. No More Office*

      Yeah, unless there is something already going on between friend and boss that OP doesn’t know about, the boss is setting off all kinds of red flags for me. I’ve worked in some extremely unprofessional places, and this just isn’t done, at all.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      My last supervisor and I were actively friendly based on non-work-related interests and there is no way we would have done this, at least not while we worked together. Independently–as in, “Hey, there is [event] going on. We should meet up there,”–in a very different context, after he retired, with his wife and daughter along and me in very much my own accommodations, maybe. But like this? Nooooo.

    8. RabidChild*

      This post engaged my panic response. That girl is being groomed and needs to get out asap.

    9. AnonInCanada*

      Whoa is right! I thought reading that OP was recreating an episode of Mad Men or something similar. Because I’m pretty sure the premise of a “liquid lunch” was a product of that era that has long since past, or so I thought.

      She should run for the hills for her own safety.

    10. EZPast*

      Please do NOT go to your boss’s house. RED FLAGS RED FLAGS.
      And consider NOT drinking at lunchtime. More RED FLAGS
      Be safe.

    11. miss chevious*

      This is the first time I can recall that I am concerned about the physical safety of someone in a letter. This situation is *terrifying*.

  4. Mama Sarah*

    The boss in letter one sounds like a total creep. The invitation to spend a weekend (alone together on a farm three hours away?? Geez!) is rather alarming. It struck me more as a not-so-veiled request for…sex?? This, paired with the day drinking (I am in a field where drinks are had only after 5 and usually at conferences or the like), suggests that the boss – and likely others – has lost touch with professional norms.
    There is something very off about this firm. I’d encourage your friend to dust off her resume.

    1. Observer*

      There is something very off about this firm. I’d encourage your friend to dust off her resume.

      This. Completely.

      OP, please realize that even though the safety concerns of a financial firm are not the same as construction, even just the drinking alone is well out of the norm.

    2. Heidi*

      Agree that this is all super sketchy. One thing I noticed is that the OP doesn’t tell us how her friend feels about this workplace or that she has even asked for the OP’s opinion. If the friend thinks all of this is awesome or she’s wanting to hook up with her boss, she might not care that the OP and all of us think it’s unprofessional.

      1. OP1*

        Hi! OP#1 here.

        To give a little context, this friend has come to me for advice on the workplace pretty consistently for over a year – this is her very first job (literally the first ever). When she was recounting these stories, she seemed to think that the drunkenness was funny and encouraged by her workmates. She was also really excited about this trip. When I expressed my concerns, particularly about this trip alone, she’d mentioned that other people in the office had done similar trips (the main difference, in my opinion, being that the other person she’d given an example of was a male worker in his late 30s who took his family and he and the boss went hunting on the property together).
        I also felt the many, many red flags but she was so enthusiastic about the whole thing it kind of messed with my internal compass a little. I just figured I would write in to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind and then have another gentle conversation with her about what workplace boundaries this kind of thing was crossing.

        To update though, I wrote in a few weeks back so she has since been on the trip and seems to have returned unscathed, however the photos she showed me of the “baby” animals were definitely fully grown sheep because it’s autumn here and lambing season is spring which makes me even more confused!

        1. Batgirl*

          She’s clearly beginning to normalise the way this workplace operates, and since the best case scenario is that this place is warping her professional norms, that might be the gentler route to take with her. (I would want to light up every alarm but she probably is going to scoff at the idea that he could have anything untoward in mind but he invited her over to see grown sheep ffs. He’s also a company owner… There’s absolutely no one to hold him accountable if he’s an arsehole.) Possibly just say “If he didn’t own the company HR would have him dragged in just because of how it looks. You won’t see behaviour like this at your next company”

        2. MK*

          OP, have another conversation with her if you want, emphasizing that this is not usual workplace happenings, and then let it go. I understand this is her first job, and she does come to you for advice, but she is a grown woman and, unless she has had a highly unconventional upbringing/life, she knows flying 3 hours to stay overnight at your boss’s farm for recreation* is unusual. Sounds to me, she is trying to convince you, and possibly herself, that she has a “cool” workplace.

          *That being said, if this guy runs a company, I am assuming he has staff to work the farm for him, so she probably wasn’t alone with him there. Not that it’s not still dangerous and inappropriate, but I doubt it was the two of them in an isolated farmhouse?

          1. Observer*

            That being said, if this guy runs a company, I am assuming he has staff to work the farm for him, so she probably wasn’t alone with him there. Not that it’s not still dangerous and inappropriate, but I doubt it was the two of them in an isolated farmhouse?

            It’s quite possible that the staff is only there by day.

        3. Eat Dirt, Jim*

          I’m glad all went well, though I do worry that this could be a trip to build her confidence for future shenanigans… or he could just be a nice enough but somewhat clueless dude. I certainly hope the only grooming that’s going on is of farm animals!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I would be willing to consider the trip as something that would be sketchy in many contexts but in this particular office means the boss likes you and wants to talk sheep while standing next to his own actual physical sheep. Possibly the drinking also is “ha ha we are a fun office.”

            I think OP is right to take a “warping your idea of professional norms” approach going forward.

            1. Empress Matilda*

              And this is the *best* case scenario. He could just be a harmless weirdo, but he could also be…so many other things. Either way, I hope OP’s friend listens to her very good advice and doesn’t return!

          2. Dona Florinda*

            I agree. Boss could be gaining her trust and planning on not being so pleasant next time, or use this niceness as an excuse to something that might go wrong down the road.
            And the drinking on itself doens’t bother me that much, but the coworkers encouraging makes me think they are somehow trying to make her more… susceptible.

        4. Storm in a teacup*

          Op1 I would definitely speak to her about the alcohol intake during the day. Her colleagues may not have her best interests at heart and she risks sabotaging her rep in the company if she continues this track. Do all of her colleagues also get so drunk they cannot function in the afternoon?

          1. OP1*

            From what she’s told me she’s matching what they’re drinking, drink for drink, and comes out wasted where as they seem to be functioning fine.
            I’m not exactly a heavyweight but I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work after 2/3rds of a bottle of wine!

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Matching them drink for drink is a really bad idea if that means she comes out significantly drunker than everyone else – whatever kudos she might gain from it, she’s going to lose again by looking like she can’t hold her alcohol. If the drinking continues can she at least cut down so that she comes out on a similar level as everyone else?

            2. UKDancer*

              I learnt a long time ago not to try and outdrink people. I’m a lightweight and accepted long ago not to try and drink as much as my male colleagues as it didn’t usually end well. Men can usually drink more than women in my understanding so it’s better and more professional not to try and to switch to soft drinks.

              1. Antilles*

                Your understanding is generally correct: The same amount of alcohol will affect a man less than a women.
                Also, body mass could be part of this too, because if friend is a woman and also weighs less, she’d be more affected on both counts, which would go a long way to explaining why everybody else can function fine while the friend feels very wasted.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Also, the younger you are the less tolerance you may have. Possible as well that what is being brought out at work is different than what friend may choose to drink on their own, and sometimes the type of alcohol can affect how impaired it makes you.

            3. Asenath*

              Oh, that’s so tempting to match the others in drinking when you’re young and really want to fit in, and so dangerous in so many ways! It’s usually OK in a workplace where there’s lots of drinking to drink if you can handle it well, but believe me, it won’t reflect well if you can’t. I remember one youngish and new arrival who got so drunk one evening that everyone was laughing about it the next day – but either someone spoke to her or she figured it out on her own, and she never drank that much again that I heard of. Another newish worker showed up a bit under the weather from drinking, was sent home and lectured severely – again, it seemed to work, possibly because he’d have been out on his backside if it happened again. Drinking, on your own time, was acceptable, even drinking a lot. Showing up back at work hung over wasn’t. I think encouraging your friend to draw a firm line about how much she will drink, nursing her drink, and even (if she feels sharing the cost is essential to fitting in socially) buying drinks for the others and soft drinks for herself are all options.

              1. EPLawyer*

                That is what I am afraid of, they are laughing at friend behind her back.

                Friend is still adjusting to work norms from college. Drinking heavily in college and getting too drunk to function is kinda accepted there. In the workplace, it can have serious repercussions. I don’t think she realizes this yet. She is the admin and is coming back to work too drunk to function — how is that going over with folks she has to interact with outside the company?

                Same with the “oooh cute baby animals.” She is still thinking like college, instead of trying to project a professional image.

                OP1 it might be time for an big picture conversation about professionalism.

                1. Office Lobster DJ*

                  I’d worry about this, too. Even if everyone else has the best intentions — for example, it’s not clear to me whether the friend invited herself out to see the cute! baby! animals! vs being pressured by the boss — this is still going to be a problem. At best, she’s going to be the newbie who thinks she can hold her liquor and takes a 3 hr flight to see some baby animals.

                2. Amaranth*

                  If they go back to the office and she has to deal with clients…what a terrible impression of her friend and the company. I’d gently point out to the friend that if someone complains, they are more likely to let her go and put the blame on her shoulders than just joke about their party lunches.

            4. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Working in a very male dominated industry where day-drinking still hangs on by its finger tips, and frequently industry conferences resemble frat parties, my only suggestion is going to be that if the expectation is drink-for-drink, nothing says you have to finish drink number one when round of drinks number 2 comes out.

              Thankfully the culture is changing now, but in my early 20s, I most certainly did not have the capital to do a thing about it.

              1. Heidi*

                The culture bit is really important. The OP may not recognize that there is any pressure to drink, but how would these coworkers treat someone who does not drink (for instance, if they were a recovering alcoholic or couldn’t drink for medical or religious reasons)? Heck, what would happen if she said that she wanted to drink less? If the answer is that they would be ostracized or put down for being “no fun” or that it would never happen because those kinds aren’t ever going to be hired to work at this place, it tells you something.

              2. Not In the Boys Club*

                And — for women especially — if you can discreetly grab your waiter and ask for club soda with a slice of lime instead of a real drink, they’ll usually try to help out.

            5. I Am Not An Engineer*

              I’m not through all the comments yet & someone might bring this up later, sorry — apart from the general horror show that is her boss’s sheep trip:

              It is also a big ted flag that her colleagues don’t care that she’s too impaired to do her job. Whatever her job duties are, they value the entertainment of watching her be unable to do them more than they value her work, and that is beyond acceptable. They don’t care if tasks don’t get done? Or that someone else has to pick up the slack? Or that she’s frequently known to her peers to be tipsy on the clock? Or that someone outside the drinking circle might interact with her in this state, like a client, vendor or business partner?

              There is nothing about this that says they respect that her presence among them is professional and based on performing well in a working environment. Résumé update NOW.

              1. RabidChild*

                THIS! This woman is risking her reputation and whatever respect she may have had within the company if she continues to fall into these behaviors. Someday soon she will be wondering why she’s not being considered for promotions or being denied involvement in a project she covets, and they’ll sell her some BS about experience maybe, but it’ll really come down to “Who’s going to take the Party Girl seriously?”

                I saw it happen to many young women who were my contemporaries when I was in my 20s, and I’m sad to see things are still the same 30 years later. Needless to say, our male contemporaries were never held back by this kind of behavior and were often promoted. Yay misogyny :/

            6. Trillian*

              It’s all fun and games until she makes a significant mistake at work, one that has financial and regulatory consequences, and winds up sacked, possibly charged, and unhirable.

              1. Observer*

                Op, this is a real potential issue. Keep in mind that although this is not a field with the kinds of safety concerns that you are in, finance is generally highly regulated. And with good reason. Which means that a mistake could be a very serious issue. And the fact that other people regularly pushed her to drink is almost certainly not going to be something that is going to help her.

                1. Office Lobster DJ*

                  All of this. If she makes a mistake or the wrong impression on a client or higher-up, “But I didn’t drink any more than Fergus did” is not going to be an excuse.

                  OP, have you tried approaching it as “don’t match drinks, match the level of impairment?” Because Fergus and company are showing her that [mildly tipsy] is acceptable, NOT [a bottle of wine]. And of course, what’s acceptable for Fergus may not be acceptable for her, especially if she’s (a) new and (b) the first point of contact for the public.

            7. matcha123*

              I had a friend who would get wasted on work conferences (I didn’t work at the same place). To make a long story short (and she was mid-30s at that time), she decided not to heed my advice because, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is how the workforce is.”

              If your friend decides not to take your advice try not to feel too bad. Hopefully she doesn’t get hurt, but what’s going on is not normal.

              1. Stevie*

                There are *some* places like that. I did work in one, where conferences were big booze fests at all levels of seniority. If you did something bad while drunk, though, you were punished and certainly gossiped about. For years. The upsides of getting that intoxicated around people you are held accountable to are so few in comparison to the risks you incur if you get too out of control.

                Unfortunately, when you’re in that environment you do think it’s normal. You learn it isn’t normal eventually, but you might learn it the hard way.

            8. Lily*

              How is she getting home from work? Please tell us she’s not driving herself home like that.

              1. OP1*

                Thankfully no, she commutes by public transport (no driving!)
                I would have been much harsher with her about the day drinking had she been driving afterwards.

            9. kittymommy*

              I really don’t want to come across as stoking a fire here, but everything that is being revealed about this guy is concerning. Listen, I could go back to work after 2/3 bottle, but it doesn’t mean one should or that it should ever be common or normalized behavior. The trip may have been fine now but the fact that the “baby animals” weren’t actual babies is not good. It’s also raising so many red flags as a set up for something bad happening in the future that there’d be an advisory warning our soon if it was a hurricane. She just needs to be so very careful right now.

              1. Lizzy*

                So many red flags. Maybe he was “nice” on this one trip, but that could change and she might get seriously hurt (physically, emotionally or professionally). I think people like that boss can really tell that your friend is naive and it makes her a target. Not saying this to victim blame. I was the same way when I first started working.

              2. Eat Dirt, Jim*

                This guy is totally Schrödinger’s creeper. Maybe he’s completely clueless about when animals are born- or he’s setting her up for another trip later, one that may not be as fun.

        5. Bagpuss*

          I think if you can, it’s worth speaking to her again about the drinking – it may be that the others are able to drink more without getting (as) drunk, and while they may find it funny it will impact on her performance and possibly health – maybe suggest to her that she sticks to a single drink so she is still able to work afterwards .
          And maybe suggest that she read these comments to see how it looks from the outside!

        6. anonymous73*

          I was wondering whether your friend thought that nothing about this was in any way wrong, or if her instincts were telling her to run, but she was ignoring them as to not rock the boat. But I see it’s the latter.

          She sounds very naïve and this seems to be more than this being her first job and not knowing workplace norms. Is she very trusting in life and never thinks anyone has bad intentions no matter how sketchy things seem? I’m sure she’s a very lovely person, but if I were you I’d be worried about her putting herself in situations to be taken advantage of all the time. Outside of encouraging her to not blindly trust everyone and offering honest advice, I’m not sure there’s much more that you can do outside of being there for her when she needs you. Sometimes we see friends in a train wreck situation, and can offer advice until we’re blue in the face but we can’t force them to make better decisions. (signed, a woman who’s friend is in a bad and loveless marriage but won’t do anything about it because she doesn’t want to be a statistic).

        7. Blarg*

          Ugh, he’s so gonna invite her back in spring for the newborns, when the first visit went ok so her guard is totally down.

        8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          OP – my concern at this point is that your friend is going to learn some very, very warped norms. I would encourage her gently to start looking for another part time job so that the odd notions from this place don’t become what she expects in future jobs and has her growth slowed down.

        9. Cera*

          Not that it matters…..but a sheep under a year old is still very much a baby (ie a lamb). It takes 2 years for a sheep to be fully grown. The fact that it is autumn is not indicative of how old the sheep is.

          1. OP1*

            @Cera, yes good point! The photos showed younger looking sheep but the enticement was apparently lambs young enough to require bottle feeding which is definitely not happening with the ones in the photos.

  5. Observer*

    #1 – You are completely right. To borrow a phrase that has been used here, there are more red flags than a Mayday Parade in Red Square.

    The really worrisome thing for your friend is that when it all blows up, she is the one most likely to be penalized. And the thing is, it’s not going to help her if everyone else is also penalized – she’s still going to have a mess on her hands. Unless she has a really strong network, or family who can really help her, this could have a serious impact on her entire career.

    I know that this sounds a little catastrophising, and it is true that things might not blow up THAT badly. But, unless she gets out of there it’s highly, highly unlikely that this ends well for her. I’d say that the most likely scenario is her losing the job with little warning, not having a reference, but having a good deal of gossip about her in the industry. Of course that’s not fair, but that’s not going to help her.

    1. OP1*

      I had the same concerns – unfortunately the optics of the situation are much worse for her than her boss, regardless of the outcome.
      Thanks for your thoughts – they are much better structured than what I was trying to explain to her when she told me about the trip!

      1. Beth*

        How is your friend at boundaries in general? I hope she can start practicing saying “no” to the lunchtime boozing, as well as suddenly developing a regrettable schedule conflict that means she can’t come out to the boss’s love nest, I mean farm.

      2. Pants*

        The trip gave me “danger” vibes right off. And the drinking…. Just ew. Kinda sounds like grooming in a way. Even if it’s not, it’s just icky.

        Since this is her first job, please tell her not to get her sausage where she makes her bacon. (I’m trying to think of a female euphemism, but can’t, so please pretend that above sentence includes one.)

    2. Mangled metaphor*

      At least you’re goi g with normal workplace catastrophising. I read “he’s got little farm animals and she wants to see them so she’s flying out alone to be with her boss” and immediately thought “this is how Netflix documentaries start”!
      This is a flotilla of red flags!

      Ok, so leaving aside the flippancy, the drinking culture is a problem all by itself. Coworkers encouraging her to drink to incapability? That’s fraternity/sorority behaviour, and has nothing to do with her industry. It’s a bit worrying if a coworker has more than a pint or two at lunch time, not least because alcohol takes time to metabolise and it’s possible to still be over the limit when it comes to the commute home (yes, I know people travel by train etc., I’m generalising). To say nothing of just the journey back to the office after lunch if it’s not within walking (staggering) distance.

      Your friend needs to brush up her CV and find a healthier workplace culture.
      I don’t want to scroll through streaming content and see a summary I recognise from AAM…

      1. Forrest*

        It’s “drinking to the point where she can’t be productive”, not “drinking to incapacity”– I mean, that to me would mean exactly the “one to two pints” you’ve mentioned, which would also be way too much for me in the middle of the working day!

        1. Mangled metaphor*

          Yeah – I put incapability, not incapacity for precisely this reason. Incapacity would be an entirely different problem! Yikes!

  6. Viki*

    Op 2–never under estimate the value of an emoji when you have to make people feel like you’re approachable.

    Somehow a :) at the end of a sentence is good social lube at making you approachable

    1. Retired (but not really)*

      Also making an occasional joke followed by Lol can work this way too. We have a standing joke of “it’s doing it again” which of course is ITs pet peeve. Naturally I go on to describe the actual issue. In general I’m pretty matter of fact in my slack communications. And try to keep it mostly short and sweet. I don’t think anyone is bothered by that.

      And OP #1 if there’s any way you can convince your friend that things are totally screwed up at her job and she needs to get out ASAP and also learn to control her alcohol consumption, please do so. Best wishes to you and her both.

    2. Gingerbread Gnome*

      I was going to suggest this also! Even the standard happy face or 100% emoji makes you more approachable. I would definitely stay away from anything that might have risque implications (some vegetables or bodily function results), but a dancing parrot is always fun.

    3. No Cheap Ass Rolls Here*

      Yes, although I have seen “lol” used by more than one person in totally inappropriate ways, e.g. “I’m really angry you did that, lol”

    4. eisa*

      Emojis are an excellent idea because it takes basically no time to add one.
      I can totally relate to OP#2’s situation and while Alison’s scripts are of course excellent, I would begrudge the time it takes to actually type them in, if three other people are also calling for my attention in Teams while I am on a deadline doing my own stuff or actually in a meeting where I should pay at least half attention.

      Actually what I came here to say is (only my personal opinion/experience, YMMV) :
      in the regular workplace, it is absolutely ok to respond to IM messages requesting information in the most compact form that can be achieved. One-word answers are fine as long as they convey the information / provide the help that the colleague needs in the moment.
      Chatting and relationship-building (whether in context of a work-related conversation or outside of it) can, and does, happen at leisure at times of less stress.

      I am aware that this does not necessarily apply in OP#2’s situation with young students, so here I would recommend to add the following statement to the very good one you already use during onboarding :
      “.. that said, please be aware that in times of high work intensity, IM communication can be very condensed and short without any social niceties. You will probably observe it in your communication with me. It is normal, it does not mean your question was stupid, it does not mean I am mad at you.”

      1. Nausicaa*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who read Alison’s scripts and thought that seemed like a lot of writing. I think they were longer than my long, friendly replies!

        1. Observer*

          Actually, I don’t think that they are that long to type, but if they are, well that’s what macros are for.

      2. Washi*

        Agreed, I work in a fast paced, sometimes high stress environment (home hospice) where our texts to each other tend to be fairly blunt. It does take a little getting used to but I think if this is common in OP’s field, she will be doing them a favor by explaining what IM norms look like, rather than changing up her communication style too much.

        When I need to send a quick text, I send my quick text, but I do also try to be proactive about sending the positive feedback I get from patients and stuff like that (often by email rather than text) and I find that is plenty to keep the relationship warm and not too transactional. If the OP is brief in IMs but warm and friendly in other contexts, that will likely help a lot.

        1. justabot*

          Agree. Well said. I also think it would benefit undergraduates to realize that workplace IM use is (or should be) very different from their casual, social IMs.

      3. Pomegranate*

        It might benefit to phrase the communication expectations in do’s rather than don’t’s. So “it does not mean I am mad at you” could become “your questions are welcome even when I am busy” and “it does not mean your question was stupid” could become “it is important you ask questions to keep your projects moving. Be aware that if it comes at a time I am busy, you may get a short reply without social niceties.”

    5. Rainy Day*

      And if you feel like :) doesn’t go far enough, the Windows key + . brings up the emoji panel, assuming your employer hasn’t disabled it.

    6. justabot*

      I think some of this also REALLY depends on your industry, role, and company culture. I work with mostly men and none of the men I work with use emojis in their communications. I think I would lose credibility, especially as a female in a male dominated area, if I started sending gifs and happy faces instead of just getting to the point.

      We are social, we make jokes, but the majority of our written communication is professional, direct, and mostly to the point. Frankly we’re all busy during the day. I have one boss who is known for responding with one word answers, no matter how nuanced the question or who his recipient is. “No.” “Why?” “Done.” “Leaving.” We even joke in meetings how we are going to start using his approach and just reply to everyone with, “No.”

      We have one employee who responds to clients something like, “Got the invoice” with happy sunglasses guy emoji and I cringe. It just feels waaay too casual and not on brand for our workplace. It’s different if I have a work friend and we are conversing. But as a female communicating in a male dominated area, using emojis or too many exclamation points would stand out and soften my messaging too much.

      1. Observer*

        We are social, we make jokes, but the majority of our written communication is professional, direct, and mostly to the point.

        Well, that’s the key issue here. When you already have some sort of social connection (not best buddies or anything like that – collegial is enough), then keeping the written communications is fine. The problem is that the OP does not have that existing collegial / social context. So they need to put a bit more work into the written communications.

      2. R*

        I think this is more of a workplace (or age) thing than a gender thing? Because I’ve been in male-dominated workplaces all my working life (10+ years), and emojis and gifs are huge.

    7. anonymous73*

      I agree. I don’t think those of us who are more direct need to apologize for it, or coddle those who can’t seem to handle it. I’m over people thinking direct equals rude. And this only seems to apply to women.

      1. new*

        Yes, I so agree. I’ve been a woman in the workplace for many decades, and my direct mode of communication has definitely been a hindrance. Not fair at all, but I’m not hating on any woman who chooses to soften her manner of communicating to play the game in her workplace.

        I so wish that it was understood that direct does not equal rude. No one judges direct men.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          A women is damned if she is direct (called abrasive) and damned if she isn’t (ignored) so she might as well use whatever mode suits her fancy.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      If it’s something that would not stand out as annoying or unprofessional within the context of the office culture, this is absolutely right! And if you use Slack to communicate, the little reaction emojis are also great. If someone sends me a message along the lines of “I just finished [assignment],” using a “woo-hoo!” sort of emoji reaction takes the same time as writing a quick “thanks,” and comes across as a more friendly and appreciative reaction. Also, judicious use of exclamation points can be helpful, and is often a step down in cutesy-ness from emojis. “Thanks! Send it to me and I’ll review it,” comes across as more enthusiastic than “Thanks. Send it to me and I’ll review it.”

      1. Rosalind Franklin*

        One of my favorite episodes of the show “Corporate” on Comedy Central featured one of the main character’s ! key breaking – I was cracking up when they were reading his emails going “‘Thanks.’ Why is he attacking us????”

        1. Wisteria*

          One of my passive aggressive joys in life is signing emails with “Thanks.” instead of “Thanks!” or even “Thanks,” when I really want to tell someone to pound sand.

    9. Smithy*

      Was coming here to mention the emoji inclusion as well as the mindful inclusion of the exclamation mark. “Got it!” can be read a lot differently than “Got it.”

      Certainly there are workplaces where emojis/exclamation points can impact credibility and being terse in internal communication isn’t perceived as problematic – but in a lot of workplaces, that kind of softening or personalizing can really help. Without having to go into any significant “I hope this message finds you doing well” type of language.

    10. Esmae*

      Just don’t use emojis to soften negative messages. I once got an email from a supervisor that said “We don’t have hours for you anymore, you know how the economy is :(“. It did not make me feel better.

  7. Language Lover*

    lw#1 it’s definitely inappropriate. I think you should share your concerns with your friend one time if you haven’t already.

    But after that? I don’t think there’s much you can do. She’s in her late 20s. like you. You might need to prepare yourself for the fact that she might not be as naive about her boss’s intentions as it seems. It’d be a terrible idea but people make terrible decisions all the time.

    1. OP1*

      @Language Lover,
      Thanks for the advice. I did raise my concerns prior to her going on the trip but she brushed me off by saying that it was a totally normal thing for her workplace. These responses are helping me to make sure my internal compass isn’t off and I’m not some stick-in-the-mud like she implied.
      I actually did ask her if a relationship with him was what she was pursuing with this trip, and she was adamant that was not the case. I wouldn’t have judged her either way, I was just trying to give her an idea of how it would be perceived.

      1. Language Lover*

        Thanks. Glad to see that things apparently didn’t go wrong for her.

        I wanted an updated on this one so I’m glad we’re getting one in real time.

        1. Anon for This*

          This. Former boss would call me at 9 pm to ask random chitchatty questions about how was my day because they were working and didn’t realize what time it was. That was normal. That didn’t make it okay.

      2. Gingerbread Gnome*

        Your internal compass is right on. No workplace with good management is going to encourage a young woman (or anyone) to get drunk during work hours or travel long distances to stay with a supervisor/owner/manager for a one-on-one social visit. Even if everything is above board it will look fishy to outsiders and very possibly hinder her ability to get a position somewhere else.

      3. Observer*

        Your internal compass is working well. Also, as @Ariaflame says, it may very well be normal in that company, but that doesn’t make it normal in general nor a good idea.

      4. Workerbee*

        Lordy, calling you a stick in the mud as if we don’t have countless anecdotes of how young women are considered prey, groomed to think they’re Special, and then led into situations exactly like this by people in power. Cause Boss just is a fun-lovin guy. Real down to earth. Etc.
        I am wondering if her only takeaway from your concerns is just to hide the full story from you.

      5. Pidgeot*

        This is one of those situations where, if you choose to invest your time, you can just take a strong tact that “of course she must be interested in him romantically, because that’s the only way it makes sense” and just bludgeon her with innuendo.

        Her: So I’m going to see the farm animals…
        You: I /bet/ you’re going to see the farm animals,

        Her: The baby pigs will be super cute!
        You: Yeah, sure, that’s the only thing that is super cute…

        Her: Nothing is going to happen
        You, waggling eyebrows: Oh, yeah, /nothing/ is going to happen

        If you refuse to back down, she’s going to have a hard time justifying to herself that this whole setup is innocent.

        1. Observer*

          I hope you just forgot the /sarc tag. Because as problematic as the whole thing is, I can’t imagine that this will go over well. And it also comes across as incredibly judgy.

        2. Popinki*

          Bad idea. That would just make #1 come off as a jerk and make the friend quit talking to her, period. It would ruin the friendship and give the friend one less person she can go to for help and advice if something serious happens.

  8. abcd*

    #3 My first job was at a small engineering firm, and our systems and processes were pretty efficient. But what made it even better was the fact they they listened to new ideas. I had some ideas on how we could improve things a bit, and my boss (the company owner), actually listened to my ideas and let me implement them. I think the fact that it was a small company helped.

    The place where I am now would never do that. Even with 15 years of experience behind me, they will not accept any suggestions from someone who is not in management.

    1. The Castle is Captured*

      Yes, I’ve only worked for mid-sized accounting firms (50-100 professionals) and they ran well. I always knew who to go to to solve my problems, and they were taken care of quickly. Maybe not unrelated, if I couldn’t do my work, I wasn’t billable! I think it’s the nature of accountants and engineers to appreciate when things run smoothly and have the money to make it happen. And also aren’t getting paid if staff are consistently running into brick walls.

  9. June*

    For me, I’d forget speaking to the coworker who makes her own hours and go straight to management. She knows exactly what she is doing, would not be doing it if Boss was in-house, and doesn’t care it makes more work for you.

    1. Gingerbread Gnome*

      Eh, if you otherwise have a good relationship I think it would be worthwhile to speak to the coworker. I would suggest doing this on a Monday or Tuesday, not right before she is ready to walk out the door. If the coworker is set on starting work early (due to an easier commute or something) perhaps she would be willing to take a slightly longer lunch Monday thru Thursday and work regular hours on Friday or find some other compromise that doesn’t leave OP with extra work. It certainly isn’t fair for her to skip out on a busy day and leave OP holding the bag, especially in a coverage-based job.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          Of course that’s what co-worker wants. OP #4 needs their boss to step in and tell co-worker that they’re scheduled to work until 4 pm Friday and not a second earlier, as it’s unfair to OP. If they start early, take a longer lunch to make up the time, not leave OP holding the bag!

      1. Mockingjay*

        I’d try talking with the coworker directly, at least once.

        We often host large customer meetings in our facility for our project. My coworker is the one who sets them up as meeting host. Company regs require that visitors be escorted at all times and that the meeting host is responsible for ensuring that. It’s a very strict rule due to our industry.

        For 5 years, Co-irker would wait until just before the meeting started to whisper that he has to leave at noon or 2 and I would have to stay and monitor the visitors. Most times he’d wait until just before he left to tell me. These are all day, week-long meetings with large groups in which we arrive early and stay late. Not once did he ever ask if I could stay. I’ve been very late getting home or missed my own personal and family obligations many times.

        He tried this again last month, when we began re-opening the facility. I stopped him mid-sentence and told him, “No. No, I cannot watch these people. I am not even supposed to be in this particular meeting. You are the meeting host, it is your responsibility to ensure coverage if you are not available. I am no longer doing it. I cannot do these last minute requests.” “What am I supposed to do?” “I don’t know. I suggest you ask your supervisor for assistance.”

        He hasn’t spoken to me since, but I’m okay with that. I also haven’t had to come in for meetings that don’t involve my area. I only wish that I had spoken up earlier, rather than putting up with the inconvenience because “Team.”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      “Have you addressed this with Darlene?” is often the first question management will ask. Good to tick off that box in most circumstances, and this is not an “If I warned her she would start burning documents” thing.

      Also, she may view it as barely noticeable rather than a real pain for OP. It’s precisely the sort of thing that can be no big deal if it happens once, but then gets annoying when the person tries to establish this as the new pattern.

      1. Cold Fish*

        “I haven’t. I’m coming to you because it is above my paygrade to address. I don’t think it’s my place to discuss timecard issues with Darlene. However, it is causing problems for me.”

        I don’t think this is one of those problems that talking to coworker first will be productive. Coworker likes leaving early for the weekend. Every other week she is working the late shift so she knows how busy Friday afternoons are and doesn’t care that she is leaving OP in the lurch.

        Now, the most passive aggressive way to approach this is for OP to work 15 min late M-Th on her early schedule week (as it seems being early isn’t in the cards due to bus schedule) so that OP can leave an hour early every other Friday. I have a feeling Coworker would cry foul at being left alone to cover until close on her late schedule weeks.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I agree with this. It’s unclear if there is a flexible time policy, and I think the best approach would be to raise with the manager that Friday afternoons are often unmanageable and ask if it’s possible to get additional coverage past 3 p.m. when Coworker typically leaves. It assumes that Coworker is taking off early appropriately but flags that additional help is still needed and OP needs a hand a little bit longer – the response to that could be the boss telling the early departer to work their scheduled hours or it could be them stepping in to provide overflow coverage as needed.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        We wouldn’t ask this kind of question when talking about schedules though. If it’s an interpersonal issue, we will ask. But for something like this, I wouldn’t ask if the employee talked to their coworker about it. At my office, we have coverage issues too. And we staff people at certain hours for a reason. I would expect that if someone on my team was pushing work onto their coworkers (that’s what this is essentially), I’d expect them to come to me first.

        1. Amaranth*

          If LW is concerned about singling coworker out, they could approach it as a staffing issue and phrase it under the assumption that coworker has permission to be doing the early hours/Fridays. Just mention that there is too much work for one person and that two people need to be scheduled through the end of the day.

    3. Melicious*

      Eh, I wouldn’t assume she realizes the impact it’s having on her coworker. Some people just don’t think things through like that. Talking to her directly with a “hey, this makes things difficult for me, can you change it?” is a good idea before going to the manager.

      1. L-squared*

        This was my thought. Depending on the type of role it is, I can easily see this person saying “It is completely dead in here from Noon-3:30, so I’m going to shuffle my schedule to leave at 3 and Jan can cover by herself the last bit of time, while not knowing that it gets incredibly busy after she leaves for the last hour of the day. Having worked retail, I know there are people who seem to LOVE coming in when we are getting ready to close, then don’t understand why people are annoyed that with 15 minutes til close, they are still casually browsing.

        1. EPLawyer*

          but she knows the work that has to be done on Fridays because every other week she is the one scheduled to stay late. of course, she is not stuck with a double work load because OP doesn’t bail early.

          I agree that coworker knows EXACTLY what she is doing. But you do have to at least attempt to address it with her. So management knows you tried but got nowhere. Who knows you might get useful information like she says “I like having my Fridays to myself, so i will keep doing this.” That will add to your case with management. OR you find out that no in fact management did approve it. So then you can decide if you want to raise it or not.

      2. turquoisecow*

        Agreed. She wants to go home early on Fridays and she might not even realize that OP is struggling in her absence. If OP points it out and she shrugs off their concerns, then OP should go to the boss, but it’s possible coworker is just thinking about themselves and not even considering OP.

    4. Batgirl*

      She may not know the impact on OP though, and if she does it will be interesting to see if she’ll try to brazen it out. An easy way for OP to raise it would be to calendar it. “I keep forgetting to tell you how slammed we are on a Friday at Xpm, because sometimes you’ve already made plans; Can we block off this time for doing y-task as that’s when it gets really busy.

    5. Blueberry*

      Sometimes this is how certain business’ and even industries operate… if you’ve put in your hours you can leave as long as it isn’t unreasonable. In my last job we did this all the time. Usually you didn’t bother to pick up the slack… if you had to redirect your work to something else, so be it, no one was expected to cover the work of someone else (even if that meant client calls went to voicemail).

      The letter writer had the privilege to stay late in order to make up for coming in late, and the coworker seems to have the same privilege. The coworker is also covering when the situation is reversed – she is likely also frustrated at times when OP comes in late when she started early. It could really open a can of worms.

      Management is 100% the way to go before mentioning anything to the coworker. For all we know she had expressed permission to leave early if she has put in an extra hour in advance or that might just be policy – to approach a coworker and prioritize your own work over their approved time off can destroy the relationship. And IF management wasn’t aware and doesn’t like it it is up to management to correct her, not a coworker.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        In a coverage-based position, it’s also possible that the coworker has been flying under the radar because she’s following the letter of the rules but not the spirit. My team is coverage-based and I’m okay with letting someone who’s usually punctual make up the time when they’re late occasionally, or arrange a situation like the coworker’s so they can leave early for an appointment without using sick time as a one off. But if someone was doing this every week, or every time they were scheduled for the early shift, it would become a problem.

        It’s really a know your office/know your coworker kind of thing. Some coworkers would respond with hostility when approached directly on something like this and would need management to handle. For others, it could end up being more detrimental to the relationship to involve management when a simple conversation would suffice.

      2. Gov Contractor*

        Right–the OP works in a government office, so they might have similar flexible schedules to mine. Everywhere I’ve worked, once you’ve put in your hours it’s generally OK to leave. I do something similar to this, in that I often stay 15 minutes late so I can take back my time when I have an appointment or something. But that comes with the significant caveat that my job is not coverage-based with set hours, like it sounds like the OP’s is.

        However, I still agree with Alison: talk to the coworker first.

    6. anonymous73*

      You always want to start with the co-worker. The only exception is if you fear for your safety (like in a bullying or harassment situation).

    7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      For me, I’d forget speaking to the coworker who makes her own hours and go straight to management. She knows exactly what she is doing, would not be doing it if Boss was in-house, and doesn’t care it makes more work for you.

      I really feel this is a ****ed if you do and ****ed if you don’t choice. If Management has signed off on this, going to the coworker can be backfire, and if the schedule change was done on the down low, going to Management could go over poorly since the coworker won’t have an opportunity to save face.

      I think I might try asking my supervisor how to prioritize the workload during 3p-5p on Fridays since I can’t (or am struggling) to get everything done.

      The other thing I might try is manipulating my schedule so that I hit 40 hours for the week at 3p on Fridays and have to leave at the same time the coworker does, including having Management sign off on the new schedule if that’s part of the by-the-handbook procedure.

      1. Myrin*

        If Management has signed off on this, going to the coworker can be backfire

        How? The most likely scenario in such a case would be for coworker to say “Actually, I got the okay from management to do this!”, wouldn’t it? Am I missing something?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Am I missing something?

          I’ve been on the receiving end of resentment from inquiring about things that the other party think are between themselves and Management and no one else, including PTO scheduling.

          1. Despachito*

            But this situation is directly affecting the OP, and even if it is OK’ed by the management, they should have TOLD the OP, and it seems illogical if they didn’t.

            Assuming they are decent people, what is simpler than tell the OP that the arrangement has been actually approved by the management? I understand that the REASONS for that can be just between the other party and the management but OP does not inquire for details, just wants to know the FACT, and is absolutely entitled to that (i.e. to be told “this schedule has been approved by the manager”, not “this schedule has been approved by the manager because Coworker has to take a sick puppy to the vet every other Friday”), and is also entitled to ask the manager how to handle the situation if it becomes overwhelming.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              You may well be right and I may well be the frog in the stock pot.

              1. Despachito*

                Nah, I admit it is easier said than done, and I have also been on the receiving end of sh.t hitting the fan for asking something perfectly normal, so I think I understand what you mean. It always feels awful to be scolded for asking a perfectly reasonable thing, and for me, it always created an awfully split feeling – you KNOW almost for sure you are in the right yet the reaction of the other party is so blown out of proportion that you start questioning the reasonableness of your own feelings. I hate it, and this is why I love this site because it restores the normal perspective and is able to say that the strange one is the other party, not you.

      2. Gingerbread Gnome*

        I wouldn’t tell management I’m struggling with my job *without mentioning the other person is not there.* This isn’t an OP problem and it in no way should be presented as OP isn’t able to do their job. This is a scheduling/coverage issue.

    8. kittymommy*

      I’m confused by the time a little. If the coworker is coming in at 7:45 on days shes scheduled at 8am that’s only 15 minutes early. But the shift is 8-4 and she’s leaving at 3pm, which is an hour early. How does that jive with being “owed time”? Did I miss something?

      1. Koalafied*

        She banks 15 extra minutes the first 4 days of the week, so by Friday she has 60 extra minutes banked.

    9. Snarky Snarkerson*

      She may have gotten permission the first time she did it and then just thought the boss was okay with it. I agree that she knows exactly what she’s doing and a longer lunch will not make her happy. I suspect that if she is no longer allowed to leave early on Friday, she would not come in early those other four days.

      At some point, she may even start coming in 30 minutes early then bugging out at 2!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        At some point, she may even start coming in 30 minutes early then bugging out at 2!

        Or an hour early each day and not returning from lunch!

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      I definitely think it’s too early to go straight to the boss. If it’s been three weeks and they alternate shifts–that seems like this has happened twice at this point? Or I guess if they have the same schedule every week then it will be three times which is only just enough to establish it as a pattern. At this point you definitely have to talk to the coworker first IMO.

  10. cncx*

    I worked in a company like number 4 where it was the receptionist who came in early and expected to bail at 3. She would do stuff like come in at 6 am then want to recoup her hours, yet there are no phones at 6am.

    Guess who wound up doing the mail, answering the phones, letting workers in and working late to catch up on her real work?

    I can understand people coming in early to get thinking work done, but if coverage is part of their job then they need to make up their overtime in another way.

    I don’t know why someone for whom butt in chair is literally the job description (reception) thought they could shift hours on the reg.

    1. Dixie*

      My thoughts exactly. Coming in early doesn’t matter if your job involves handling things that happen during normal business hours. I had a manager who worked 7 – 3. Except we were a clinic that served children, which means most clients were there from about 3 pm – 7 pm, after school. As it was we didn’t open until 9. She never had a clue what was going on in those hours, which were the busiest and the most likely time for problems to come up. It was not a good look for her.

    2. OP4*

      OP 4 here. This is why I think it’s crazy as our job is a ‘coverage’ job. We work in a hospital as booking coordinators in a diagnostic department. We have 1 phone line for outpatients to ring to book routine scans, and 1 phone line for inpatients so the wards/ED can book urgent scans. We are quite a specialised department and only do the scans between 9-4. The phone lines are open from 9-4. 8-9am and 4-5pm is the time to set up and close down the scanning rooms and reception area. That can easily be done by 1 person. Answering two ringing phones cannot, which is why it is so difficult when she leaves at 3pm.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Does your employee manual say anything about flexing hours or needing permission to come in early? For our coverage-based jobs, the staff handbook says that you’re not to come in early unless it’s been requested by your boss or project lead. (Jobs that are not coverage-based are more flexible, but it’s really not fair the coverage ones to have someone making up their own hours and sticking coworkers without help.)

        I don’t know how approachable your boss is, but I’d be tempted to let them know that Fridays get a little frantic from 3-4 when you’re the only one there and could you get some help covering after your coworker departs at 3. Let them decide if they want to tell the coworker to work their scheduled hours or help you themselves.

      2. Lena*

        That sounds so difficult. I worked in radiology scheduling for many years, so I know exactly what you mean – you need people there during the operating hours! I think you should really talk to your boss.

  11. PX*

    OP2: I would also just be upfront about it! Mention in your first meeting with student workers that when things are busy, you may only be able to give quick/short answers to questions and that its not a reflection on them. Or if you know you have a busy/stressful period coming up, an email in advance that while you are available, responses may be brief can also be useful.

    But also as others have said, an emoji here and there can do a lot of heavy lifting for you :D

    1. Nikki*

      I wouldn’t do this. If you tell people, especially student workers, that you’re stressed and busy, they may be less likely to come to you with questions. They don’t want to feel like they’re bothering someone higher up who doesn’t have time for them and they won’t get the help they need to do their jobs. Much better to keep your stress to yourself and, like Alison said, just add an extra sentence or two to make the message more friendly.

  12. Heather*

    For OP2, I was promoted to senior llama groomer at my job, which essentially meant I had no team manager responsibilities, but I was expected to help train the new staff and answer questions from everyone, rather than the boss fielding everything.

    I struggled a bit at first with the interruptions to my workflow, especially when people were standing at my desk. I found that matters improved enormously if I explicitly stated what I was finishing off (let me just send this email, hit save on my document, etc) and paired it with then starting the conversation by turning completely toward them (away from the computer) and asking “How can I help you?” or “now I can give you my full attention, what is the issue?”

    For me, this let me switch tasks properly, and for them it gave them confidence that I was ready to help, instead of being 2/3 still focused on the llama I was grooming. And oddly, it resolves questions faster than a one line response.

    At some point, the team needed a wiki for shared information, and I devoted a chunk of time to putting the explanations I needed most often there. It was amazing how often people were completely satisfied with “oh
    I think that’s on the wiki ” followed by a link to the wiki page, after that. It didn’t feel like I was being short with them, but as though I had spent the time to give them the whole explanation all over again.

    In remote work, I have found that switching my camera on performs a similar role to turning away from the computer. The conversation is also typically much more relaxed that way than if we were just talking to thumbnail pics or a circle with initials in it, which makes it easier to be approachable. That said, in the Teams chat, a one line response, even a link to an earlier chat where someone else answered the question, is often viewed as sufficient. As long as you give people time when you are not juggling projects, they are likely to give you leeway in chat for short answers.

  13. Susan Calvin*

    Well LW5 just tapped into a particular point of bitterness for me!

    My hypothesis is that in most orgs that grow beyond a certain size, senior management loses trust in the “front line” managers and relies more heavily on easily enforceable, across the board policies, and would rather lose out on certain opportunities than rely on someone’s judgement call.

    (This is something I perceive as a major issue in the company I’m about to leave – and fun fact, I’m won’t be eligible for rehire either!)

    1. MK*

      Maybe, but when you are fired for poor performance, the nuance of “bad fit for the particular role” vs. “unsatisfactory worker” can get lost. To begin with, not everyone is going to agree with you that your poor performance was actually only due to bad fit.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Sure, not everyone will! But if say, one of the LW’s previous managers would take them back, based on their own first-hand knowledge, what’s the benefit in telling them that’s not allowed? That’s what I mean by trusting the judgement of middle managers.

        (I feel I should clarify, in my case, I’m leaving of my own volition for totally normal personal development reasons, on good terms with my team and next three managers up, but will be unable to return, ever, due to the C-suite’s notion of “loyalty”)

        1. MK*

          Absolutely, a former manager should be able to do that. But it doesn’t sound as if the OP has reached out, and maybe they don’t even work there anymore.

          It’s moot now, but the OP would have been better off trying to transition back into her previous role while she still worked there.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I was laid off from a Fortune 500 company in 2017 and given two choices:

      a) I could apply for another open position in the company – I think I had a week to decide, they provided a list
      b) I could sign the severance agreement, get my 6 weeks of pay and become ineligible for rehire
      (If I applied for a different position and didn’t get it, I could have still gotten the severance)

      b) even applied to freelancing/contracting — I had a former manager reach out saying she’d love for me to do some contract work for them and she got shut down. It seemed very dumb to me.

    3. honeygrim*

      My previous job at a fairly large but local organization had a weird, across-the-board policy that people were not eligible for re-hire if they didn’t give 30 days notice. Even though the standard is two weeks, and even if the employee was otherwise excellent. I was never able to understand the reasoning behind this.

      I ended up giving nearly two months’ notice but that was more due to the nature of my job than any desire to follow that 30-day rule.

    4. I Don’t Know It All*

      I don’t even know if it’s about organization size. I think in some places it’s just about culture. And, by culture I mean ridiculous petty stuff. I worked for an organization for over a decade was promoted multiple times and left of my own choosing. I am not eligible for rehire. Why? Because the senior leadership believes leaving to go to a competitor is a betrayal. I mean I think if another organization contacted them and asked if I was eligible technically they’d say yes, but in real terms I’m not. Luckily, I knew that when I quit.

      1. Cold Fish*

        My company has a no-rehire even if they quit policy. It is less of a betrayal issue as a dependability issue. There was a long-ago problem of people routinely quitting for a “better” job and then wanting to come back a few months later. Our workload can be a little seasonal and correspond with the construction industry. So people would quit and get a job in construction during our busy times, then want their job back during the slow winter months when we are also slow. It became easier to just create the no-rehire policy. They’ve made exceptions in the past but it is very rare.

    5. Mockingjay*

      It can also be HR policy. I left one company for more money and higher title. Natural progression – the government contract I was on had only an allocation for a mid-level position, so no hard feelings. During exit interview, they asked what would I improve? I said overall everything is great, but for those of us onsite with the customer, we don’t always see our manager regularly and we weren’t always sure they were aware of contributions, successes, and problems. (Occasional one-on-one or team meetings would easily fix that.) That minor criticism was enough to be put on “Do Not Rehire.” Big company with one-size-fits-all exit checklist.

      Every departure since then, even ExToxicJob, I stayed cheery, vague positive in the exit call or meeting.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I work for a 500+-person organization and have lived through two generations of senior leadership. The first is exactly what you describe where they relied on across-the-board policies that disincentivize doing more than the bare minimum and assumed all employees were luck to be there and out to take advantage of the organization. Second generation came in about 10 years ago and totally changed the tone – merit-based pay/bonus/promotion versus butt-in-seat years, more management discretion to provide the level of flexibility appropriate to their teams’ positions, making sure that systems were set up to treat people equitably and incentivize performance based on the core goals of the organization. It’s really a great place to work now, and people tend to stay a long time because you feel like your contributions are appreciated and rewarded and people who slack off or try to foist work onto others don’t last long.

  14. Virginia Plain*

    I’m glad for OP#1 and her friend that the weekend ended up passing harmlessly but I think the OP may still have cause for concern (although what she can do about it having tried to talk to her friend is another matter). The thing is, office gossip can be terrible and mud sticks. People make stuff up – they shouldn’t, and other shouldn’t take notice, but they do. Even if both boss and friend are innocent as can be, scurrilous rumours of an affair could still easily happen and it would be bad for both reputations. You know what people are like; it starts with “she stayed over at his farm” and by next month he’ll be reported to have been dangling from a wardrobe in his balaclava as she wore nothing but stilettos and an oven glove [joke for Brits over forty].
    And with the wine – even if others are drinking too, if she’s the only one showing the effects she’s going to get the reputation as the office p*sshead. Unfair but there we are.

    1. Lady Knittington*

      I’m a Brit and over 40; I had to look that one up. Should have stayed reading my Woman’s Weekly.

  15. Helvetica*

    LW#1 – besides all the other red flags, as Alison points out there are industries where a work lunch with a drink is fine. I work in such an industry/field. However, 1) no one is forced to have a drink if they don’t want to; 2) no one would ever drink enough to be incapable of work for the rest of the day. A glass of wine is fine (I also work in Europe). In that context, while I think adults are capable of doing their own decisions alcohol-wise, I do worry a lot about the implications of alcohol consumption in this particular workspace.

    1. Alice*

      I’m also in Europe where many restaurants have work lunch menus that include a glass of wine or a small beer. Even in that context, the situation described in the letter would be considered very much not okay, for the reasons you state. LW’s friend can make her own decisions regarding how much she wants to drink, but I think it would be helpful to have one last conversation about how this does not seem aligned with professional norms in workplaces.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’ve worked in Brussels where the work canteen served wine and beer at lunchtime and it would have been very frowned on to drink a lot and get very drunk. If people have alcohol with lunch it’s one glass or one small light beer and it’s less common than people might expect. Drinking a lot and becoming incapable would be very much frowned on.

      2. Batgirl*

        I don’t think this is a continental workplace somehow! I was imagining somewhere like Britain, Ireland or Australia. Even here in the drink-culture epicentre of northwest England, even in shmoozy industries, competitive drinking at lunchtime is getting very, very outdated.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          OP1 said “it’s autumn here” and the friend flew to a sheep farm in “a regional town three hours away”.
          I’m guessing Australia.

        2. Helvetica*

          Oh, I did not think this was a continental workplace. Just that while I work in a country and industry where drinking with lunch is not abnormal, the drinking described in the letter would not be normal here either.

          1. Batgirl*

            Oh I know, I was just pointing out that the whole “drinking at lunch” is the very reason continental cultures are good at drinking with boundaries; they see it as an elevation of lunch and about flavour. In countries like mine, in the past it’s more “drinking your lunch” where it’s more a replacement of the meal, and the point is to sink down what you possibly can.

  16. Bagpuss*

    LW#2 – you mention that you talk about communication and that you tell them you welcome questions – do you explicitly explain that when you are busy you are likely to give short, brief answers? If not, I would start doing that, and explain that this is not because the questions are inappropriate or that you are annoyed, it’s just that you are busy, so if they see a short or abrupt response that’s normal, and it’s OK to ask follow up questions if the answer doesn’t give them what they need.
    If you don’t already, it might be worth having some screenshotted examples .

  17. KaiAnnePepper*

    LW #2
    I’m an undergraduate student and I’ve been in a few internships that sounds like they could be similar to yours. I find the best thing is to communicate that your stressed to the student like “sorry if I come off a bit short today just have a lot on my plate.” I had one advices tell me similar since she was very stressed and it was honestly really helpful. I think most students will really understand this.

  18. orange line appreciator*

    LW 5, if you’ve been rejected from one company 11 times, I think you need to accept that it’s not going to happen. It might be disappointing and frustrating, especially if you had many years of good performance at that company, but they’re sending a pretty clear message that you’re ineligible for rehire.

    Continuing to spend so much time and effort on a company that has communicated pretty clearly that it will not consider you, even for roles you were demonstrably successful at, is a recipe for disappointment. It’s time to search for greener pastures.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Eleven seems like a high number of retries, OP. I am not sure if you really like the company or if you feel that by going back you might redeem yourself/your resume in some manner?

      I guess the thinking behind the 11 apps is moot because the result of being ignored 11 times is a hard pill to swallow. For your own well-being, quit applying, OP. Their NO means NO. I am thinking time will give you a different perspective here and you will be very glad you moved on. Unfortunately, it will take time to see that.
      Let go of this company, put yourself in a different place where you have a solid opportunity to thrive. You owe that to yourself to be you own best advocate for your own success.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Agreed. And as to the years of good performance, I think there is also a bit of a “but what have you done for us lately” thing in these circumstances – OP might have done really well in the first couple of roles, but whatever led to them being let go might overshadow that in people’s memories because it’s the most recent thing they remember. And there are a lot of things other than stealing or cursing out your boss that can leave a really bad impression.

    3. Washi*

      Eleven is a lot, but it also seems possible that OP’s old team would be happy to have her back, but have no idea she’s been applying because she gets rejected before her resume ever makes it to their desks. And especially if OP happens to know if there’s a shortage for this position, I think it’s worth reaching out to her previous managers ONCE.

      Sometimes HR can be ridiculously rigid about these hiring policies. In grad school, I wanted to go back and do an unpaid internship at an organization I used to work for (common in my field) and interviewed with the intern manager, filled out the internship application, gave 3 references, got accepted. Then HR demanded that I ALSO go through the employee hiring process, including filling out another application, and giving 5 references! Again, for an unpaid internship at a place I had already worked. I refused to bother my references again (it was one of those forms where you put the person’s email and then the ATS sends increasingly ominous emails if they don’t respond) so the compromise ended up being that I would fill out this application but put 5 fake references in. Because what they really cared about was having a completed form.

      Anyway, if there’s more to the circumstances of OP’s firing, it might not work, but if she feels like she really did well in the first two jobs, I do think it’s worth a try in case this is more an administrative hurdle.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        My large national company has a policy like this. Even when it was due to their own damn layoffs!

        However. IF the manager wants you back badly enough, and IF they’re having difficulty filling roles, HR may give in and rehire provided the dismissal wasn’t for cause.

        Your only bet here is a outreach to that former manager. It’s worth a try. But be professional and don’t get buggy. Personally, I’d opt for a email ask with a phone call follow up as it’s important for the manager to understand what happened (why the one position wasn’t a fit) and why you still want to come back so badly. Which honestly, do a little soul searching there… but I get it if it’s an otherwise good employer where you live.

        For what it’s worth, I don’t think you should be punished for trying to do a role that may have been too much a reach or wasn’t what you thought. They should have just moved you back/demoted, not fired you if you were otherwise diligent.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I think it depends on the size of the company. There are some very large, competitive companies in my area and it’s common to apply to many positions and not get an interview simply because literally hundreds of others also applied. But I still got a job at one of these places after probably 25 applications sporadically over 5 years.

      IMO, the bigger concern here is that a recruiter specifically said that OP is not eligible for rehire.

    5. EPLawyer*

      11 times trying to get back at old roles is a lot. Why THIS company? Unless this is the only decent employer in the area, time to try other companies. You might find you fit better in a new company anyway.

  19. Data Analyst*

    LW3 – I’ve worked on the data side for several types of places:
    Medical research arm of a university
    Huge drug development company
    Fundraising arm of a university
    Currently, insurance
    And it really depends. There were the problems you mention at the university medical research facility, and I’d have been inclined to link that to it being part of the university…but then when I worked for the drug development company, I was shocked at how inefficient everything was. I only lasted a year, and the whole time I was supposed to have a laptop so I could occasionally work from home, but I never got one. My manager was in another country, and for various regulatory reasons I never had much to work on and would try to stretch a two hour task to fill the whole day. I was always just shocked at how things could be so uneven and inefficient at such a big profitable company.
    At the insurance company I’m at now, it’s probably the only place I’ve been at where “everything just works.” I think it comes down to a few things: big company, lots of resources for functional technology and tools. And then, even though I don’t handle claims personally, our overall goal is to make money by retaining customers and keeping them happy, and we do that by processing claims as quickly and accurately as possible. And I think having that as everyone’s goal, makes it so there’s just no way to justify major inefficiencies or bad processes. Oh, and I guess also since so much of claims stuff is online now, that requires a functional tech framework and that flows through to other areas of the company. I’m sure this doesn’t hold true for all insurance companies but I do think being customer oriented drives a lot of it.

  20. EventPlannerGal*

    OP5 – “there’s no reason not to try”

    I actually really disagree with Alison here! I’m not sure from the letter if you actually intend to keep trying, but if so, the company has rejected your applications ELEVEN times. They know who you are, they’ve seen your applications and they’re not going anywhere. Yes, you could reach out and ask your old managers to continue to litigate this… or you could close this chapter and focus your energies on finding a fresh start elsewhere. (I think you should also consider the effect it might have on your relationship with those managers, who are presumably your references.) Unless this is literally the only employer in your area or something, I just don’t see the benefit of continuing to apply when the company’s message seems loud and clear.

    1. Asenath*

      Yes. You might try to get that notation taken off your file by your former bosses, but it might be a better use of your time and energy to apply elsewhere.

    2. Chili pepper Attitude*

      I don’t see how touching base with her previous managers could harm her relationships with them. She is not asking them to break or even bend the rules!

      It may be her reputation in the last role more than company policy that is causing the re hire issues. Maybe her former managers would be interested in rehiring her or would let her know they cannot.

      There seems little harm in asking. And I would want to know for sure.

      1. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I should have added, when Alison said, maybe the managers know a way around the policy, I did not take that as “secretly break the rules for me” but as a question, “is this a hard rule based on my last role or is it possible to look at my performance when I worked for you?”

    3. WellRed*

      I agree she might want to move in but I read that this as the apps possibly get stuck in some rigid quagmire and her former managers are unaware she’s even applying. Before the first application it would have been a good idea to reach out.

    4. Antilles*

      Yeah, I’m kind of surprised that didn’t get called out, because OP#5 seems overly focused on this company and this role, while the company has made clear that they’re not interested, so I think the proper response is to sigh and invest your energy elsewhere.
      Personally, I’ve only once seem someone get past the “ex-employee not eligible for re-hire” red flag and in that case, it was several years later far enough away that the applicant was able to demonstrate how he’d learned his lessons, that he’d been successful elsewhere, explain how he’d avoid making the same mistakes, etc. And even so, the manager who did the re-hire had to really fight for it politically. I just don’t see any of that being true when it’s OP’s last company.

    5. anonymous73*

      I disagree. Most times when you apply for a position, you will get a form email stating that your application has been received. It’s computer generated and unless a recruiter actually looks at your application and decides you qualify, you won’t every hear about the job again. Based on how she heard about her status with the company, it’s not getting past the recruiter stage. Her former managers may not even know she’s been applying. It’s also really shitty of the company to allow her to apply that many times and not let her know she’s ineligible for re-hire.

      1. OP#5*

        Thank you so much to Alison and all the other readers who took the time to weigh in on my situation! Trying to take an unbiased look, I do realize that I had been overly focused on getting back in this company. It was my home for six years, I knew how things worked, I was comfortable with the software, I had 42 days of PTO banked (which, by the way, they were not required to pay out when I got the can)

        To be honest, I really thought that when that prospective hiring manager was told I was ineligible for rehire it was some rogue internal recruiter who was mistaken! I thought that because nothing else made sense to me!

        I’m embarrassed to admit this but, after my 7th or 8th attempt I actually found the head of HR’s email address and told my whole, tortured story to him. He responded within an hour (!) and said he’d look into it then had someone lower on the HR food chain call me the next day. I could never get her to came out and said I was ineligible for rehire so I thought I should keep plodding ahead. Man, I’m getting embarrassed just typing that!

        And to add to my embarrassment, I somehow found the name of the recruiter for one other other applications I filled out and actually wrote him and asked for some advice on getting my resume noticed. Including asking him if I should take the year I graduated college off of my resume in case the recruiters think I’m too old to hire. Geez, I sound like a stalker! LOL

        I finally gave up and put my resume out there and got two offers within two weeks. Despite the fact that I have tons of experience and I have a very sought after skill, I was surprised that someone actually wanted to hire me. I really gave my old company way too much space inside my head.

        But I still don’t know why I was apparently unrehirable. I did learn one thing, though, trying something new as far as a job concerned is a bad idea. And for goodness sakes, don’t stalk the HR staff!!!

        1. anonymous73*

          I’m happy for you that it all worked out in the end. Sounds like your old company couldn’t handle being honest with you and you’re better off with a new opportunity. A lot of us do things we regret when we’re in need of a job. No need to be embarrassed.

        2. Antilles*

          Glad to hear you found something else!
          As for the “unrehireable” part, I can explain that a little from the other side of the desk.
          Whenever you departed, your last manager filled out some paperwork about your departure. There’s a yes/no checkbox of “eligibility for re-hire”. If they check no, there’s either a follow-up check box with a list of common reasons or a tiny box to write a comment. The most crucial part here is that the only person who decides that is your current manager – the fact your prior manager(s) loved your work in a different role doesn’t play into it. And yes, you can get checked as “ineligible” simply for poor performance; it’s not only reserved for fraud or theft or etc.
          Then when you re-apply later, whoever screens the resumes (internal recruiter, HR, hiring manager) sees that you’re flagged as ineligible for re-hire and your application stops right then and there. And when I see it as a potential hiring manager, all I get is the output from the form with no context of “Not eligible for rehire. Reason: Poor performance”.

        3. LDN Layabout*

          It boils down to your last interactions with the company as an employee being poor ones. You might be able to compartmentalise between ‘I was good at X and Y, but terrible at Z and that’s why I was fired’ but to a lot of people it will be simply about that last position.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*


      I see that the LW has commented on this thread, which is great. I’m weighing in to say that the situation sounds like a perfect storm of both “they’re just not that into you” and “let it go.” The LW did something that caused the company to say “nope, we’re not ever going to rehire them,” and sometimes that’s all you get. You have to shrug and move on.

  21. Lady Knittington*

    I read the first letter and my immediate thought was that this young woman is going to be plied with drink until she’s unconscious and then sexually assaulted. Very glad that didn’t happen – but if so many people have a similar response then it’s clear that the situation is wrong.

  22. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP1 – I’m curious what country this is in.

    OP4 – are you both salaried or hourly? This sounds strange. Someone who has to be at their desk from 8-4 or 9-5 doesn’t generally have the power to change their schedule. What if she decided she wanted to work from 4-12 or 5-1 then leave you with the whole afternoon alone?

    Finally, OP5 – surely there is more than one employer. Why are you so into this one corporation that doesn’t seem to be into you? It’s probably time to move on and seek other opportunities elsewhere

    1. anonymous73*

      #4 – I don’t know if that matters. It sounds like they need coverage from 8-5 and each of them is on their own for an hour each day. And honestly if she’s coming in early, what exactly is she doing if they don’t need coverage earlier? Sounds to me like she’s taking advantage of the fact that their manager is remote and just wants to leave earlier on Fridays.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      We don’t know that the coworker *officially* changed her schedule–it’s possible their manager doesn’t know she’s doing this and leaving the OP high and dry.

  23. justabot*

    Just a personal pet peeve, but perky exclamation points and overly cheery comes off as fake to me. I’d rather be direct and just exchange information. I’m still friendly and say thank you! and show appreciation, but too many exclamation points or just being too familiar or casual can come off to me as glib, fake, lazy, or even unprofessional. I think there’s ways to soften a message and show a human side, but the overuse of exclamation points so often feels forced and fake to me, especially when the message itself doesn’t quite match the tone. It’s like just be direct and say it, which feels more authentic and transparent, instead of trying to dress it up with some fake pep which can even come off as passive aggressive or condescending. Just my personal feeling when I read things like that, but I have a very different writing style in general.

    1. Threeve*

      If the rest of your coworkers consistently use more informal and friendly language than you do, chances are you’re coming across as rude and irritated, not direct and professional.

      And we’re talking about undergraduate students; it’s even more important to seem approachable if they’re going to feel comfortable reaching out with questions.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        This is a “know your audience” situation. As OP #2 is a grad student, using emojis and informal language usually would work. If I tried that as an older professor when responding to our undergrads, it would come across as weird, or even dismissive – they expect me to respond in a more formal way.

      2. justabot*

        I think if you have generally positive relationships with your coworkers, you can give short yes, no answers in chat or ask for data without having to give a lot of filler words or worry that someone is mad at you. Maybe the difference here is in being fully remote. Most communication with my coworkers is in person. When we use chat or messaging, we’re usually trying to get a quick answer to something, not conversing or using it for social communication or to build a relationship.

        1. Observer*

          Maybe the difference here is in being fully remote.

          I think that this makes a HUGE difference.

          1. K*

            +1 — even if you’re not “fully remote,” if you’re in an office where people tend to mainly use messaging software to communicate (for paper trails, visibility, sharing links or error messages, etc), or you’re working with teams in different locations, you have fewer opportunities for in-person social communication.

    2. Beany*

      I may be (OK, I am) a middle-aged fuddy-duddy, but emojis irritate me in almost any situation, and in business communications especially. And I *loathe* LOL. If it’s just preceding more formal language, it would feel like Dolores Umbridge was on the other end.

      Younger people’s mileage may vary, but as long as there’s a generation gap between parties, there’ll be differing expectations of communication, and many opportunities for a misstep.

      1. K*

        Oh, yeah, I have nothing against emojis and have grown to like them after my initial resistance, especially for mostly-remote communications, but I hate hate hate “lol.” In personal and professional contexts. Can’t wait for the day it goes out of style.

  24. L-squared*

    #4. I guess i’m not clear if what she is doing is allowed or not, and I think that is the first thing to try to figure out. I had a job where my time was definitely calculated down to 15 minute intervals, and I admit, I did the same thing your coworker would do. I banked extra time here and there throughout the week so I could leave early on Fridays. So I’d first try to see if that is allowable via your policies.

    After that, I’d say its going to be tough. You can definitely ask her to not do it, but I wouldn’t count on it working without involving the boss.

  25. Workerbee*

    #2 Teams makes it super easy to convey tone, especially when you mix it with some texting conventions. The tool is supposed to facilitate collaboration and communication, which to me means you’re still having a conversation, it just happens to be online. You just have to put a little tone and context in if you’re mostly doing this over text, not calls. So if you’re doing 1:1 chats/group chats, you can judiciously:
    -Use its built-in .gifs, emoticons, and stickers (if your Teams/Office 365 admin allows them).
    -Choose to not always end a sentence with a period/full-stop (Yes, this used to bug me, but like all language, syntax, grammar over the eons, I too am able to adapt).
    -Pepper in no-strings-attached fun stuff. Start a free collaborative Spotify or YouTube playlist.

    I work this way with my team and we get so much work done while rollicking along with off-topic chatter. It brings our personalities out as it stands in for the typical in-person office chatter/breaks/idle conversation/breakroom that otherwise can fill a day. And it cuts way down on formal meetings because we already know what we’re working on, why, and to what end.

    Too often, employers forget they have people working for them and people are more than their job titles. Sometimes the employees forget, themselves!

    Not All Offices permit all things, of course, so adjust parameters and expectations, et al.

  26. Anon for this*

    OP#5 my very very large employer famously does this. The policy sucks and every manager I know hates it for the very reason that there’s no nuance around role fit, which is ridiculous because at such a huge company there are few cases where you could confidently say someone could never ever be successful in any job there. There IS a mechanism for changing the do not rehire designation but to do it the hiring manager for the role would need to appeal to a very high level of their org chart, so unless you had concrete proof you were fired for an unlawful reason it’s hard to imagine a manager sticking their neck out like that unfortunately :(

  27. J.B.*

    #2 I hope you’re being paid as an employee, and not on one of those “20 hours a week but takes over 40” stipends. Supervision is a lot of work! Supervision of remote students has been particularly hard. What has worked best for me is to have a weekly meeting with all of my students when our schedules overlap, and go through everyone’s schedule and updates then. It’s not the best use of their time perhaps but is the only thing that works for my time. I will individually schedule with them for particular work projects.

    BUT – and this is key – I also reorganized my schedule to lessen my technical work as I did this. If you are supposed to do everything all at the same time, I would suggest being accessible by teams but then not worrying at all about tone. You are busy because you are being expected to do more than IMO you should be expected to.

    1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      Yeah, I was thinking as I read this that at least if OP’s general work organization is anything like the program I went through, this amount of responsibility sounds completely inappropriate for a graduate student. At the end of the day you’re judged on the technical work you do, and mentoring undergrads is basically just for brownie points. It’s one thing to pick up 2 or even 3 dedicated undergraduate workers over time (like, one every year) who help with small parts of your project, theoretically lessening your workload over time. 2-5 undergrads at any one time with varying levels of dedication and time to devote to the project when it’s their last priority is just a time suck, and the PI should not agree to take on so many undergraduate workers if they don’t have the time themselves or the number of graduate students that they can spread the training around so it isn’t such a burden on one graduate student. I hope for the OP’s sake that I’m off the mark, but graduate programs can be such a shitshow with such warped norms.

  28. I should really pick a name*

    I think you should step back from this company. Applying for a 11 jobs with a single company is unusual, even more so when it’s a company that let you go.

    If they were open to hiring you in a different role than your final one there, it probably would have come up when they let you go. It is very normal to be considered unhireable by a company that fired you.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I’ve seen OP’s responses, which are very helpful. I’ll add another thought. Perhaps part of any conversation OP has with Friend is to help her think about future jobs. Friend likely won’t stay at this company forever, and when she changes jobs, she’s likely not to encounter the same office culture. Many places wouldn’t permit drinking at lunch (some do, some don’t). And while it’s nice to be friendly with co-workers, the farm/trip thing feels very boundary-crossing, which may set her up for weird expectations in future jobs. Just a thought.

  30. Jay*

    OP#1: Is there any chance you’re friend is actually dating the owner? I mean, she is either the most sheltered, innocent person I’ve ever heard of outside an old Disney movie, or she has to have SOME idea what is going on? There is a reason everyone starts with a comparison to a book or movie. It’s just so obvious.
    It would actually make a bit more sense to me if one or the other wanted to keep things quiet (which is in and of itself a REALLY SERIOUS red flag). The behavior makes more sense if it’s less of a real job and more of a hobby/token job a rich older person gives to their younger partner. So does the drinking. It’s less day drinking at work and more clubbing with her Significant Other and his friends.
    Would she be the sort of person who would be embarrassed about this kind of relationship? Some people would, some wouldn’t. If the desire to “cover it up” for a little while is coming from her, it should be fine. If it’s from him, it’s way more problematic and even dangerous, and is setting your friend up for huge problems down the road.

    I just wanted to make clear, I’m not trying to engage in any type of “shame and blame” of any sort.
    It just sounds like two socially awkward people trying to keep their relationship from some of their friends and family for a while, for whatever reasons. And just doing a really, really bad job of it.

    1. OP1*

      @Jay, I can definitely see where you’re coming from there, but as far as I know she didn’t even meet this grandboss until week 2 of her job (he mostly works remotely due to ongoing Covid restrictions) and I helped her with her CV to apply to a bunch of jobs at the time she got this one so I don’t think this is the case.

  31. Prof Ma'am*

    OP #3 if you’re in higher education I’d say 99% of the problem is funding related.

    Case in point: Computer’s can’t be updated? Where’s the money coming from to buy new ones? Research funds? Gift funds? Department/School/Institution funds?

  32. hbc*

    OP3: I think those kinds of issues are common across most businesses of any size. It takes a lot of work to prevent most of those things from happening. For example, with the computer update, someone would need a master list of all the computers in the org and their specs, and be ahead of the curve on pending update releases to review that list and find any that aren’t compatible. To be efficient and cost conscious, you’d also want to know if the computer actually needs that update–maybe it’s just being used as a remote terminal or for a barcode printer and doesn’t need the latest version of Office.

    And for a student never having a problem logging in, that requires 100% perfect information supplied and 100% perfect data entry for hundreds of students. In a lot of these cases, the stuff that prevents issues (say, a second employee logging in as every new student to check access) is more costly and time-consuming than dealing with the occasional mistake as it happens.

  33. Esmeralda*

    OP #2: Don’t kill yourself coming up with new sentences every time. It is perfectly ok to use the exact same friendly phrases. EVERY student email I reply to ends “Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns”. All of them. I have a template.

    Same thing for that first sentence. My template has: “Good question!” “Hope you’re doing well” “You have questions? I have answers!” I choose one. Or none.

    Student workers who g-chat me questions? I don’t even bother with the opener/closer. It’s supposed to be fast. I *d0* include “thank you” or “NP” or “TY”. Nobody’s feelings are hurt.

    1. Esmeralda*

      But don’t use “hey” — Sorry Alison, you’re wrong on this. It drives many faculty members bonkers, and OP using it in a work setting is giving students the wrong impression.

      1. Loulou*

        What? I think it’s fine to say “hey” in many, many work situations. And this is one of them! This seems like an odd generalization.

        1. Phoebe*

          I don’t really get why “Hey” is unacceptable here either. It’s a pretty standard informal greeting and I’m not sure what “wrong impression” it would give someone.

      2. K*

        My boomer professors used “hey” in emails all the time in college, and it was fine (and they were perfectly normal, professional folks). Certainly, in my workplace in industry, “hey” is such a common opening that no one even notices it. I just searched for “hey” on my workplace’s Slack, and it brings up about as many hits as “hi,” and 7 times as many as “hello.”

        Respectfully, this sounds like an individual pet peeve.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Nope, doesn’t bother me personally.

          It bothers the professors. Respectfully, I think I do know what the profs at the institutions I have worked at think about it.

          1. K*

            Individual to the professors at your institution, then. I was a professor myself in former life, and worked with professors at four different institutions (between undergrad, grad school, postdoc, and being a professor) before jumping to industry, and I can’t think of a single professor who seemed to mind “hey” or similar conversational registers. My spouse is a professor and when he takes calls from home, he always opens with “Hey.” Anyway, OP2 should use their judgment on this based on their institution. My spouse and I have always been in Northeast or West Coast private schools, so norms may differ elsewhere.

            1. F.M.*

              I started using “Hey (Name)” openers in my email, despite originally disliking the phrasing, because so many of my profs opened emails that way, it seemed like the most in-touch-with-local-norms approach. I suspect that many institutions develop their own little email dialect quirks like this, and it isn’t always apparent to the people inside them that it’s individual to some institutions rather than common to the industry.

              1. K*

                True. Thought, people move around a fair bit in academia, and interact across university lines for research, but usually within certain (fuzzy) circles, so I think there are multiple industry standards depending on the circle you’re in. E.g. I notice PhD students from universities in Florida tend to call professors Dr. Lastname, which is unheard of in the (multiple but similar) places I’ve been in.

      3. Starbuck*

        Hmm, are you sure that’s generalizable? It’s been a while since I’ve heard of it being unprofessional. My English teachers 20 years ago might have had qualms, but I’ve never encountered objections once I got to college and then the workforce.

  34. Pidgeot*

    OP3 – “Happy [workplaces] are all alike; every unhappy [workplace] is unhappy in its own way.” – Tolstoy

  35. Esmeralda*

    OP 3. You work in higher ed, where, unless you work at a very wealthy institution, there is not enough money to make everything work fabulously.

    Your examples are all tech-related, which is especially tough in terms of budget in higher ed.

    The issues where the institution (or some office within the institution) has fallen down on the job are communication-related — that’s often the part that gets short shrift, or not even considered at all (design standards, policy changes, offices move but don’t update). You can only dig around for the info you need, and then alert the offending office. Often they have no idea…but they will then fix it.

    The others are potentially budget-related (old computer). Or are not the fault of the institution (student can’t log in — might not be student’s fault, but often is).

    Even places with buckets of money (I’ve worked at some of those) and on-the-ball staff who communicate early and often will have some of these problems.

    Most of what you list are minor annoyances. Yes, they add up! How’s the rest of the stuff functioning? That’s what really matters.

  36. Blarg*

    For #2, at my workplace (US non-profit), I was hired early in the pandemic and so was entirely remote and never met anyone in person for almost a year. Most people start Teams chats with ‘good morning’ or similar, and while at first it almost made me cringe, now … I really appreciate it and it helps with feeling like there’s more of a connection/makes me feel less short. Like, “Good morning! Do you have an update on the contract I sent over last week?” is just so much nicer than skipping the greeting. So I’d encourage you to do that — somehow those two words at the beginning make the request so much kinder. And my workplace is much as #3 describes – it isn’t perfect, of course, but we actually work on things to make them better. It’s wild after years of working at places full of dysfunction and such.

  37. Not Me*


    OMG! I’m having a PSTD anxiety attack. When I was in my mid 20s I took a job working as an admin assistant. I also did a lot of the PC support for the department. My boss – a Fortune 100 level Executive VP – who had boundary problems (like encouraging people to drink at work lunches) needed his home PC set up for remote access. I ended up getting roofied and raped. It – understandably – affected the rest of my life. I did report it to HR – which decided initially that his story was more he said she said and that his version of it being consensual was true – just moved me to a different department.

    As a young woman my mother (who once hit a guy over the head with a beer bottle to escape his apartment) gave me the advice (translated to 21st century terms) that unless you are interested in a hook up, never enter a guys apartment by yourself. I didn’t think I’d need it when doing tech support for my boss. To your friend – unless she is interested in a hook up – with all the possible ramifications of that (including finding herself fired when the owner finds the situation uncomfortable) – stay away.

    1. Not Me*

      And I read the update and am so happy she came through it fine! But, oh (insert swear word here) no!

    2. Observer*

      That is HORRIBLE.

      I do hope that “initially” means that eventually someone came to their senses and changed their minds…

      1. Not Me*

        After about a year he was let go – I understand that it was recorded as “unrelated” to his treatment of me but I got strange insider knowledge – from a corporate psychologist they’d hired to work with him who – oh, my god, what a breach of professional standards – found me to say “this is screwed up” and by a corporate lawyer who I worked doing discovery with two years later who pulled me aside to say “this was screwed up” – also a breach of professional standards, but I think both of them did the right and ethical thing. I also found out through the attorney that the HR rep who handled my case was having an affair with our COO, so was probably not the best person to be dealing with “inappropriate relationship” issues.

        1. Observer*

          OMG! That is utterly insane!

          Yes, breach of professional ethics, but agreed that it’s one of the few times where it was the right thing.

          1. Not Me*

            I think that two people who breached professional standards that badly is a sign that it really was ethical. I suspect it was also a subtle “if you wanted to sue, we’d be favorable witnesses.” But I just wanted to move on. And I did. I had a fairly successful career for decades and then retired early. But there were strange triggering events for 30 years – like every company I ended up with exempted me from sexual harassment training after I spoke to HR so that I wouldn’t run out of the room and crawl under my desk.

    3. Daisy Gamgee*

      This breaks my heart. Thank you for trusting us with this, and I am so sorry this was inflicted on you.

  38. Jenny*

    OP#3. I feel you, but there are good units out there, but they are few and far between. I’ve worked at both a midsized regional university and a super large flagship state university, and they’ve all had issues. In my current large institution, departments are relatively autonomous, and it depends on the unit.

    I’m now institution adjacent, not associated with an academic department, but falling under the big university umbrella in a highly functioning unit. We still have our complaints about campus HR, but we try and stay as autonomous as possible and more organized to keep prodding at HR. As a result, no one ever leaves – we know the levels of disfunction elsewhere because we’re all “refugees” from other departments.

  39. Ranunculus*

    LW#3, based on my career in both academic institutions and larger corporations, the answer to your question is “No”. They’ve all been equally bad, and nothing works, not just computer systems but decision-making and operations, communication, people management, the works.

    I’m not sure what world Alison is living in, but if a spaceship seat is available I’d like to move to it!

    1. ok then*

      If the management hasn’t worked, you’re not disagreeing with her—she said good management was what makes the difference. You said your jobs have all been badly managed.

  40. LizB*

    A computer won’t update because it’s too old and was never replaced, links are broken, offices move without updating their webpage, design standards change without notice, students can’t log in, FAQs aren’t updated, policies are updated but no one can find them, new tools are added but no one knows which office provides training on them.

    As an office admin, my process-improvement instincts are twitching reading this list… but they’re all very normal issues. The best organizations will have a robust admin staff and/or IT department who know what they’re doing and are empowered to nip problems like this in the bud (scheduling a regular update cycle for website and FAQ content, making sure policies are available and finable, setting up a system for students to request their login info or change their passwords). Even with the most proactive systems in place, there will be some issues that don’t get identified until after the fact, but there should be a way to alert the right people to the problem to get it fixed promptly. In practice, a lot of institutions put way too much work on the shoulders of too few admin/IT people, who are then always putting out fires instead of figuring out how to prevent from them from starting. So yes, I’d say this level of hiccups is pretty normal – it can be better, but it can also be much, MUCH worse.

  41. Scott D*

    Having worked in academia I can tell you some of the reasons the administrative areas are disorganized:
    1. Staffing. Staffing is usually not sufficient for the large number of projects leadership wants to accomplish. For example, a web site gets built but there’s no time budgeted for anyone to maintain it going forward. No one MEANS to let the site get out of date or have links break, but the smaller staffs get pulled onto other projects and things fall by the wayside.

    2. High turnover. Many working in academia are students who leave after, at most four years, but usually only 1-2. There is also high turnover among administrative staff, especially in IT. Academia used to provide good pensions, which encouraged people to stay, but that’s no longer the case in many places AND they didn’t raise salaries to compensate for the lack of pension.

    3. Leadership pet peeves. Management in academia is much more by committee than by fiat. There’s no one person who ultimately makes decisions–they’re generally made by committees and often new leaders come in and decide to change things up without surveying what’s already going on. For example, our web sites were in WordPress, our new leader wanted Drupal because that’s what she knew so now we have both. Finding information involves an extra step: not just knowing what you’re looking for, but knowing WHERE to look. This results in some people assuming some things were never posted and so they re-do work that has already been done.

    4. Government regulations. For a public university, community college, etc. there are a myriad of dictates from government about what schools must do but those mandates don’t come with funding to actually do the work. For example, the state may say “We want a report by Friday of every student’s grades, by race, to determine if everyone is being treated equally.” This means the person who normally maintains the web site has to drop what they’re doing and create a report so the web site becomes a week out of date.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

  42. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: The only organization that I worked in that ran smoothly (in the sense that you are talking) was a big law firm. Technology was tightly controlled and highly serviced. There was a big IT department with highly skilled employees, including 24-hour onsite IT help desk and regular daily onsite software training classes. New technology roll-outs were highly organized and always involved mandatory training and roaming IT trouble-shooters on day 1 of the roll-out. The expectation was that all new roll-outs should go without a hitch — and they did. Also, the expectation was that no employee should be wasting time on technical problems or break-downs, and that any such problems should be promptly fixed. Time is money in a law firm. Lawyers bill by the hour and can’t bill clients for computer problems.

    Contrast this with the other small companies I have worked for… the technology is a HOT MESS by comparison. Every time something new is rolled out to the company, something goes wrong. All roll-outs are rocky roll-outs. Software is replaced with new software a lot because people are so bad at picking out software that will meet the company’s needs– I’ve seen software that was replaced each year for three years in a row, simply because of bad choices. There is typically no actual training on new software/systems at all – you might get a 30 minute presentation on new software, but that’s it. Having a technical problem? Well, expect to spend hours on the phone with help desk people who are contractors, sometimes in another country. You got about a 5–50 shot at getting your technical issue resolved.

  43. K*

    Of course OP1’s friend’s situation is crossing the line, but I’m curious how people feel about former bosses. I don’t think I’d have a problem visiting my former married-with-kids managers overnight if the situation arose, though that’s never come up for me. And my spouse who is an academic has had his former PhD students stay in our guest room a couple of times when they were visiting him for a collaboration. He himself has stayed at his former advisor’s home on occasion (not so much now, but in the past when funds for hotels were tight). His colleagues have done that with their advisors and students too. It is all very friendly and not a big deal.

    Same with one-on-one dinners, even with current bosses. The only reason I’d avoid it is if it looks like favoritism for not inviting other reports/students. But if, say, you’re the only report? Doesn’t seem terribly out of line to me.

    1. Popinki*

      To me, once they’re no longer your boss/teacher, you’re on equal footing with each other and so there’s nothing odd about doing whatever you’d do with any other friend or colleague.

      1. Starbuck*

        Unless of course you’re still counting on them as a reference for future work or helping you as part of their professional network/connections.

    2. Observer*

      All of the things you mention change the situation dramatically. Former boss vs current boos; married person with spouse on site vs single person, especially in a possibly isolated place; dinner as the only employee vs over night? Each on alone is different as night and day. Combine any two? It’s just not on the same planet.

  44. dedicated1776*

    Re: #5, this is my cynicism showing, but I would not rehire under those circumstances either. I would be too concerned about sour grapes and that this person might be trying to get rehired to sabotage the company. I have great employees but if they left me and got fired from another team and then wanted to come back to me, I would say no to all of them. I can’t take that risk as someone with a responsibility to the company.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Eh! I think this can really depend on the situation.
      Some companies promote fairly quickly and people can find those promotions just too much of a reach. Or, maybe the new position wasn’t what the person thought it was going to be. Being unable to do a particular job doesn’t mean a the employee is bad at all jobs or not still valuable to the company (seen a lot of people try to come into marketing over the years from other roles only to hate it–usually because everyone “thinks” they can do marketing).

      However, it depends on how OP handled themselves in that role where they didn’t do well. Ideally, if they were struggling in the new role, they should have tried to go back to previous role they did do well in (provided it was open) if they liked and wanted to stay at that company. So, IDK? I’m kind of surprised that conversation didn’t happen before they got fired actually.

      A lot of companies do have that rule though, even for layoffs where people did nothing wrong. My company made people ineligible for rehire after people were laid off for the pandemic-related slowdown.
      So, I don’t think it’s always right.

    2. OP#5*

      You have a point there. The job I ended up not doing well was way out of my comfort zone but because I’d done so well for the company up to that point, it was offered to me. Plus it was a $17,000 pay raise and an extra 40 hours of PTO because the job jumped two pay grades, so I guess I was kind of blinded by that. Believe me when I say that the biggest thing I’ve learned that money isn’t the most important consideration in taking a job.

  45. K*

    OP2: If these are people you interact with regularly, I find that establishing a bit of rapport when you do video calls — some light humor, asking people about their weekend, allowing some spontaneous chit chat about unrelated topics — for a few minutes before diving into the order of business helps everyone feel more at ease, and then, when you do need to business-like or brusque on chats, it doesn’t really offend. Also, emojis.

  46. Alexis Rosay*

    LW2, is there any way you can create more training materials for your new hires? Training for high-turnover positions is exhausting–I’ve been there. It does take more time up front, but it might help free up some of your time in long run and make space for less stressful conversations with them.

    Otherwise, just saying, “Good question, thank you for asking” is enough to show someone that questions are welcome.

  47. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I was concerned about the encouraging to over drink and seeing a waving red flag. At baby farm animals I half my brain was wanting to go see them despite the 3 hour trip and the 2nd waving red flag. OP1 noted up thread that it wasn’t even the right time of year for baby farm animals.

  48. JayemGriffin*

    Hi, OP#3! I work tech in higher ed, and some of what you describe is just inevitable. We have a lot of intersecting systems, stuff gets processed wrong or glitches out, there are bugs, it happens.

    But also… the person who can fix that stuff? It’s me. My coworkers are also That Person, but they all have small children who need to be taken care of while daycare and schools are closed. So the ratio of one person who can fix problems to 20K people who need problems fixed is…. not great, and unfortunately I do need to sleep sometimes. (This is only slight hyperbole; I work seven days a week, and I’m on call 24/7.)

    If your organization is like mine, someone is probably aware of the issues and would love to fix them, once they pull the headcount numbers for the budget office and talk a new manager through how to approve time sheets and correct a student’s misspelled name so they can log in, and make sure the scheduled software update isn’t going to break everything, and…. just please be kind to your IT people?

  49. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    OP #3 – I know that he has since dropped off the deep end and into the Dark Side, however Scott Adams made an entire career about pointing out the foibles of all sorts of offices. Once upon a time, I would judge a company by how many Dilbert strips I saw posted in cubicles. (Likewise, in the Navy, I would see his comics with rank insignia drawn on his white shirt.)
    For me, I have always been amazed (and slightly relieved) to see the perpetual gap between what sales people sell and what engineers deliver.

  50. SportyYoda*

    OP2: Ha! Similar boat to you; I thought I might’ve written the letter. In addition to everyone elses’ advice, I find an apology as soon as possible is helpful; “Sorry, I’m concerned I might’ve sounded a little brusque earlier; I didn’t mean to be rude, I just had a lot going on and wound up being overly direct with you.” I have a high stress personality, and I’ve had to tell undergraduate interns to wait five minutes with a non-urgent question when I was in the middle of something; sometimes it’s a calm “hey I need to jot this down so I don’t lose my train of thought,” sometimes it’s a… firm “If I answer your question right now I will miss a crucial timepoint and need to restart this experiment.” Your undergrads can’t read your mind, and I find they’re typically a little more understanding if you give them an explanation.

  51. Catabodua*

    OP5 – it’s too bad you couldn’t work out a return to a lower level/former position before your most recent position ended. It’s generally easier to switch roles while still employed than trying to get back in.

  52. Catabodua*

    OP2 – I worked for an international company and interacted with everyone differently. The folks from Italy and Hungary? If you didn’t include several lines of “I hope your family is well ..” in your emails, they’d ask about what was going on to cause so much stress. The folks from South Korea and (then) Taiwan? Answer the damn question.

    All that to say – my communication style is more like the folks that I interacted with from Asia. I don’t want flowery emails. Ask me a question, I will answer it, and we move on. I give you a lot of credit for being aware and trying to make adjustments. But, just a thought, they might not mind that you are answering abruptly.

  53. MsChanandlerBong*

    OP 5:
    It’s possible you weren’t quite as good at the job as you believed, or that there was some kind of personality conflict with a higher-up that caused them to add you to the ineligibility list. Maybe you did a perfectly fine job and the company just doesn’t want to rehire you. I would encourage you to move on. Applying over and over again is one thing–after all, you didn’t know you were ineligible for rehire at first–but trying to go around HR is another. It doesn’t matter if their system is stupid; it’s the system they use, and presumably they have a reason for using it. Trying to get around it is not going to come across well.

  54. Sabine*

    I know the teapot thing is an inside joke here but for #5 it would actually be helpful if we knew the kind of job that they were talking about. It’s possible the actual jobs have some overlap (which I realize isn’t the main point of the letter) but we wouldn’t know because the LW made up the titles.

    1. Wisteria*

      “The jobs I’m applying for have nothing in common with the job I was let go from.”

      OP knows the company. If their assessment is that the jobs are as disparate as chocolate teapot making and unicorn mane grooming, then it’s a safe bet that they are correct.

  55. OP1*

    Hi all! OP1 here.
    Thank you very much everyone for your responses. As I’ve mentioned in other comments, it’s helped me to recognise that my internal compass is still pointing (mostly) North and that this situation is odd and sketchy on many levels.
    I have read all of your comments, and I’ve decided to have a conversation with her the next time we see each other in person. The gist of it will be:
    1. Express gentle concern about the optics of her and her colleagues and grand boss’s behaviour, as well as her safety for future events that may not be as pleasant. Mention that colleagues thinking her intoxication is funny and pushing her to drink is likely them laughing at her, not with her. Also mention that the professional world is a lot smaller than you’d expect and reputations tend to precede you when you move on to your next job.
    If she continues to push back or brush me off on the concerns, then I’ll move on to;
    2. If you are enjoying this workplace and everything that is happening there, that’s your decision. Just keep in mind that the behaviour of your colleagues and grand boss are NOT the norm and you should not expect this in any other workplace. (She is studying to be a lawyer and I am fairly certain you’re not allowed to be drunk in court!)

    Happy to answer any questions anyone else might have on this thread :)

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I appreciate you coming back for the updates!! And I am relieved to hear it seems to have went fine enough.

  56. MooBaaCluck*

    How has “access to young farm animal” never once been suggested as a possible new perk on our annual staff survey?
    We lobbied hard to get a Keurig and free k-cups and we could have gotten baby goats and llamas instead?

  57. DinoGirl*

    #3, this is higher ed. Enrollment is down, people and resources are spread thin, and many in it haven’t worked outside of higher ed. There are trade offs, however. Higher ed is its own animal.

  58. Maddierose*

    no 2. two words. text expander. the thesis whisperer had written a book about its uses for academia, and this is a good eg of when it would be handy. both for the softening and the answers

  59. Mack*

    Lw5… I can’t say this is the case for you, but I have been at a large company where marking someone ineligible for rehire meant the people dealing with the employee leaving had maybe 10% of the usual paperwork and meetings. There wasn’t any incentive to oppose this, so most employees were marked ineligible so HR & management could skip some work. Bizzare for me to discover at the time, but I’ve told this to friends and heard of other places where it happens the same way. Fortunately for my team, the list of ineligible rehires was deleted when we were acquired and we were able to rehire an employee with valuable experience.

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