I’m managing the mom of the ex-friend who catfished me, and more

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

1. I’m managing the mom of the ex-friend who catfished me

Today I started a new job at a new company, managing a team of five. A member of my team, “Michelle,” has a daughter, “Melissa,” who I was VERY good friends with in high school. Like, hung out all the time, was at their house very often, went to family events, etc. I loved her family very much. I am no longer friends with Melissa because she “catfished” me before there was even a term for it (think AOL dial-up era). It’s very embarrassing because I didn’t stand up for myself back then, and even though I knew/highly suspected she was lying about who I was talking to online (a huge celebrity at the time!), I went along with it. I was painfully shy, non-confrontational, and a pushover. She also lied about having a serious medical condition.

I ended up moving after high school and although it wasn’t far, I made a new group of friends and kind of just stopped hanging out with Melissa. There was no falling out. But we are not friends on social media and have never run in to each other, so there was never any closure. I have no interest in being in contact with her.

Do I remind Michelle who I am? It took me until the end of the day to realize who she was. She’s obviously aged in the 20 years I’ve seen her, and though she looked familiar, I couldn’t place her until I saw her last name on my team roster (my last name is different now because I’m married). It feels weird to have known someone so well and not talk about it. But I would hate for Michelle to tell Melissa that I’m her new boss and have Melissa tell her this embarrassing story, if she hasn’t already. I am nothing like I was back then, but this is bringing up very awkward feelings.

You don’t need to remind Michelle who you are. You are free to decide that you are a different person now (that was high school!) and you’re just going to move forward with a fresh start. Who knows, that could be a favor to Michelle too, who might otherwise have some natural awkwardness about being managed by someone she last knew as the teenage friend of her daughter. However, if that means you’ll be doing weird contortions in your interactions with her to try to avoid her remembering you — or if you’ll always be fearing that it could come out, or if you will panic if she figures it out at some point — you’re better off ripping off the bandage now and getting it over with. You’ve got to be able to manage her, and having a big fear hanging over the relationship will make that hard to do.

However, it’s very unlikely to be a big deal. Michelle probably doesn’t know or remember details about your relationship with Melissa (in part because 20 years have passed and in part because most adults don’t put a big priority on retaining old details of their kids’ friendship drama). But even if she does, you’re not the one who looks bad here! Melissa wronged you, not the other way around. You don’t have anything to be embarrassed about! Throw in the fact that you were teenagers and 20 years have passed, and no one involved needs to feel terrible shame about any of it. Teenagers are weird, a weird thing happened (no doubt among a bunch of other weird things because teenagers always have all kinds of strange things going on), and then you both grew up. Michelle is very, very unlikely to care even if she does remember (beyond, perhaps, feeling bad that her daughter was a jerk to you).

It sounds like you’re still feeling the embarrassment that you felt back then, but if you look at it through your current adult eyes I hope you will see that you don’t need to anymore.

2. Company suggests pride in work is more important than salary

I started a new temp job last week, in a slightly higher role than previous temp jobs with the same company. While I am being paid an hourly wage, this excerpt from my training manual gives me a headache: “Great leaders don’t puff their chests when they succeed. Instead, they exhibit humility and emphasize the contributions of teammates. They understand that true professionals are driven by pride of workmanship. In fact, for many American professionals, receiving acknowledgment and credit for good work often supersedes any form of monetary reward or elevation in status.”

It’s unsurprising, given that in the past few years, the company has eliminated almost all their regular staff and replaced them with temp workers for lower pay and no benefits.

Your headache is warranted.

3. Should I compile coworkers’ warm notes upon my departure and give them to HR for my file?

I’m leaving a job at a prestigious organization to take a job in a state agency. Although I’m leaving under good circumstances, I’ve had a number of significant conflicts with my current supervisor. I’ve got a performance improvement plan and a signed “job in jeopardy” letter in my permanent record. Thankfully, my work is sufficiently technical and I have a great working relationship with the other offices I interact with. In the last two years, I’ve been essentially cross-departmental and I’ve had a lot of flexibility. Now that I am leaving, a lot of my colleagues (outside my originating office) have written me warm, affectionate notes of congratulation, in both Teams and email, noting the loss to the organization with my departure.

I had this great idea — I should screenshot all of these nice notes and make a PDF and ask HR to stick it in my file, to challenge the narrative that my difficult, burnt out, perfectionist micromanaging supervisor has established in these other documents. But then I wondered if I should edit out their names, and if I do that, is there any real point? And should I get their permission, or is that weird? Either way, I’ll probably make that document for myself just as a confidence boost. This position has been challenging for me but I’m very proud that I’m leaving with good relationships outside my direct supervisor. It’s really eroded my confidence at times but I’m looking forward to a new start. I’d like to retain a pretty good relationship with this organization because it has a big presence in my home community and I am mid-career; it would be nice to keep them on the list of employers I could look to in the future.

Make it for yourself, but don’t ask HR to put it in your file. It’s not that you’d need to edit out names (you’re allowed to share feedback you’ve received without anonymizing it) but more that it’s not likely to carry a lot of weight; people say nice things when colleagues leave, even when said colleagues were difficult to work with or had performance issues. That’s not to minimize in any way the sentiments in the notes you’ve received — but because of the context, they’re not likely to be much of a counterweight in an HR file

4. Should I mention my cancer treatment in an interview?

I have an interview for a temporary position in a field that I really enjoy. I’ve held one of these positions before, and in that previous position I was elected as a co-chair of our union. As a co-chair (and unit chair when my other co-chairs resigned unexpectedly), I did quite a few things that are relevant to the position I’m applying for.

One thing that I wanted your opinion on though — does it help to highlight that I was handling serious health issues during important projects? I was considering mentioning that while I was working in these positions, I was also undergoing cancer treatment. In particular, I’m really proud of my ability to effectively spearhead impact bargaining at the onset of the pandemic while actively undergoing radiation therapy, but I’m really unclear on how appropriate that is as a discussion point in an interview. What are your thoughts?

I would not. There’s too much risk of introducing the possibility of discrimination (unconscious or otherwise) or simply making your interviewer uncomfortable since most people have been trained that they shouldn’t delve into health issues in interviews. You also shouldn’t really bring up something as evidence if your abilities if an interviewer can’t probe into it if they want more details — and an interviewer definitely shouldn’t ask for details about your cancer treatment or how it affected you. I’d stick to the work stuff!

5. Summer interns who are only available in evenings

I’m in the process of interviewing the current cycle of summer high school interns for my organization, and I was wondering how I should be handling interns with extremely limited availability due to their school hours. (For example, only being available after 5 pm when our normal business hours are 9 am to 5 pm.)

First, are you sure these applicants realize they should be giving you their summer availability? It sounds like they might be giving you their school-year availability, but if these are summer internships, that’s not necessarily what you want. It’s worth clarifying.

In any case, it’s pretty normal to require applicants to be available during your work hours. Assuming these are part-time interns, their availability doesn’t need to perfectly match your business hours, but they need to have some overlap. How much overlap they need will depend on what work they’ll be doing. If they’ll be doing largely independent work that doesn’t require much checking in and can be done at whatever times are convenient for them, you might be able to hire someone who only has a small amount of overlap with your work hours … but you’ll still need some overlapping time for training, oversight, and giving feedback. If the person supervising them is never available past 5 and they’re only available starting at 5, that sounds like a deal-breaker. On the other hand, if the work requires regular discussion, checking in, and/or collaboration, you might need their work to all take place during your business hours — not necessarily 9-5, but somewhere in that window. So figure out what makes sense for the work.

From there, you can simply reject applicants whose availability doesn’t match what you need. You can include a note explaining that in the rejection if you’d like, but ideally you’d also put the info about the hours right up-front in the ad so people can self-select out if it doesn’t work for them.

(If I completely misread your question and you’re just asking about how to interview them: If you’re seeing that restriction in a lot of good candidates, it could be worth shifting your hours on a few days so you can do interviews from, say, 5-6. With students, sometimes you do need to be more flexible when you’re scheduling interviews.)

{ 357 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta Sky*

    LW 2: Pride in work can be more important than salary. But only if the salary is pretty comfortable. People living paycheck to paycheck have no time for pride in their work.

    And places where that’s true are never run by people who *say* things like that.

    1. CatBookMom*

      “It’s unsurprising, given that in the past few years, the company has eliminated almost all their regular staff and replaced them with temp workers for lower pay and no benefits.”

      If this company truly has mostly “temporary employees”, over a longer time, is it possible that they are avoiding properly classifying these workers as ’employees’, to avoid paying the employer share of payroll taxes, even workers’ comp insurance?

      This is a Red Flag, imo.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        On the topic of red, I hit the comments to as if the handbook was in fact red.

      2. Paid In Pride Dollars*

        The company does classify their temp workers as employees and pay payroll taxes, the work is just sporadic and highly seasonal, usually lasting no more than a month at a time. We’re also not benefits eligible unless we meet a certain annual threshold of hours worked. Which, of course, they do their best to make sure that the work suddenly stops when someone is getting close to that.

        1. the cat's ass*

          That’s depressing, screwed up and too retro for words. Does that nonsense even fly anymore? .While it’s ideal that work be meaningful and satisfying to the worker, we all need to eat. And satisfaction doesn’t pay my bills or feed my cats.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, exactly. I know I could earn more in the private sector, but I’d rather work for the common good than to line the pockets of already rich people. I find too much wealth (more than a million or two) in the hands of one person or family to be morally repugnant, so I won’t contribute to it any more than I have to.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Just a thought to put that number in perspective… those of us in the US have to save enough to cover our medical care. People who live longer than expected can be in dire straights.
        Your homeland is much more humane in that regard. I’ll stop now to not derail thoroughly…maybe it’s a Friday thread, how much is “too much”?

        1. Forrest*

          The fact that hoarding “a million or two” seems like simple prudence because all risk is individualised is one of the most damaging aspects of an anti-social system IMO.

          1. JSPA*

            Agreed! I’m well on the “safe” side of the divide, yet am considering shifting legal residence to a place where I’ll be taxed far more, but with a robust social safety net (and with a different division of tax spending). In some sense, that could be taken as proof that the blighted handbook of doublespeak is right…but in fact, as others point out, it’s the opposite. Money stops being as relevant only when it’s only affecting truly discretionary spending (“more toys”) and when you live someplace that you don’t feel a repeated need to escape. Live someplace constantly engaging, with sustainable food systems, a good social safety net, where daily engagement and movement will remain accessible as you age? Then you need a lot less stuff–and a lot less money–than if you live someplace barely tolerable, and/or someplace where you need to squirrel away huge sums to avoid the spectre of becoming one of an increasing number of increasingly desperate people who have been chewed up and spit out.

          2. quill*

            You know, I hadn’t gotten fully how much the american health care system drives our economic philosophy until right now? Like obviously I knew it was screwed up. But I hadn’t realized that “hey, I have to save ludicrous money in case I have to do chemo after retirement” was a larger concern that even a millionaire might worry about.

      2. Asenath*

        You’d probably be surprised at how many people you would find repugnant, then, especially if you consider older people who have managed to save and invest enough to maintain a lifestyle in retirement not too far below that they had during their working years, plus a bit to contribute towards their and their family’s expenses should they encounter lengthy periods of illness or disability.

        1. yikez*

          Right? Retiring with 1-2mm where I live is retirement for a teacher married to a nurse. 1mm is not a lot in places that have a cost of living.
          Finding a middle class couple to be repugnant isn’t really a woke take.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I think there’s a difference between people who live somewhere with pension insurance or not. Where I am, most middle class people fund their retirement mostly through insurance. While the payouts over the rest of life may correspond to retiring with 1 million, it’s never actually in the person’s posession all at once. Cost of living and medical is all funded through insurance, so having significantly more than 2 million in addition to that is well above middle class.

            1. Student*

              The majority of jobs in the US do not offer that kind of retirement funding path. They offer no pension whatsoever. They let you put your own cash away in a tax-favored investment account. So, if you’re a typical American without a pension, you have to stash enough money into your retirement account if you ever want to retire. $1M is considered a reasonable target for such accounts in a large part of the country, and there’s literally not a choice for most people to save for retirement by other methods.

              We do have a social security system that gives something like a pension payout to everyone with a sufficient work history. However, I’m middle-aged, and for my entire life one of our political parties has been aiming to defund and eliminate that program, to the point where many financial advisors recommend that people my age not plan for the social security program to be available to us in our retirement in the same way it was for my parents and grandparents.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                yeah, I know. that’s what’s really repugnant. I’m sorry you have to live with that system.

              2. Starbuck*

                That number also assumes that you have a house that you’ve bought and paid off by retirement that’s also gone up in value enough that you can either leverage it or sell it if/when your accounts are low or you can’t live independently anymore.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Also there is huge variation in cost of living… that makes an even bigger difference if you are looking at wealth vs just bank account.

              My grandmother’s house sold for almost $2 million at the end of her life. It wasn’t a mansion or anything… just a modest family home with a small yard that needed serious repairs she couldn’t afford. She’d bought it decades ago on a social worker’s salary. But she lived in a town where property values had skyrocketed over the years. So grandma was technically a multi-millionaire on paper even though she had to budget carefully all month to afford a movie ticket.

          2. JSPA*

            make the geographical correction and append “of disposable income,” then? Or roughly double the total, to account for taxation and benefits differential (and fewer tax loopholes).

          3. anonymath*

            Allathian is coming from a very different context (one where I have close family living, and where I have investigated jobs). As a data scientist, in Allathian’s country I would make 1/3 of what I make here in the US (literally) but would pay dramatically less in both health care and daycare (which numbers I have explicitly checked, having a sibling with a same-aged child in daycare there now). And retirement calculations are entirely different there than here, due to the social system, housing costs, and health care costs. Here in the US I’m aiming to save $3 million, because of my family’s habit of living to age 100. My sibling who lives in the same country as Allathian finds that ludicrous and unnecessary, despite having the same family health history.

            1. anonymath*

              Right, didn’t even mention college — sibling does not need to cashflow $240k for a middling college for the kid.

      3. Anonymous here*

        I’m sorry my mother in law, who is 91 years old, worked many years as a professor, and has always lived a highly ethical life, is morally repugnant to you just because she saved close to three million for retirement.

        Or my 85-year old parents, who were K-12 educators, saved and have pensions, and own a small house in southern california that by itself is worth well over 1.5 million (cheap when they bought it) — yes, that’s morally repugnant.

        But hey, you keep signalling your virtue! Maybe someone will salute it.

        1. Loulou*

          Did you read the post???? OP is saying they want to work in the public sector (perhaps, for example, as a teacher!) rather than accumulating significantly more money in an industry like finance….how is this contradicting them at all?

          1. anonymous here*

            I’m not responding to the original OP. I;m responding to the commenter, who literally says that anyone with more than a couple million in wealth = morally repugnant.

            For many in the US, wealth is primarily the family home; if you live in a place with outrageous property prices, that can look like a crapton of $$$.

        2. JSPA*

          They’re not in the USA. That statement is in the context of paying more in taxes, but getting a really robust social safety network, including health care and elder care. The mental correction will differ for every geographical location, even within a country.

          I’m considering a semi-expat situation which will have me close to on one or the other side of the 183 day limit, and thus am looking at some of the differences (of both taxation and benefits) in increasingly granular detail.

          1. Anon4This*

            Then perhaps they may wish to caveat their post to indicate that people without the luxury of a robust social safety net or pension and are on their own to provide for their own healthcare in old age may have a different threshold for “moral repugnance”? If they want to cast aspersions on people, it’d go over better with an acknowledgement of their home country advantage rather than making judgments about people who have to fend entirely for themselves.

        3. anonymath*

          Your comment says more about your context than allathian’s. I’m aiming to be like your mom, here in the US; my sibling who lives in Allathian’s country has a point of view more like Allathian’s, because it’s a point of view that’s economically feasible there. This is not about “virtue signaling” — this is at its root about different economic systems.

          (House prices are also dramatically different in Allathian’s country, as I know from looking at real estate there. My spouse’s two-story 3-br house only 30 min drive from a reasonable mid-sized city was appraised at 40k euros, 65k euros with a new roof. Of course that’s not in the biggest richest cities, but…. may give you an idea of the difference….)

      4. Loulou*

        Sorry people are wilfully misunderstanding your post so severely! I don’t think you could have been clearer. I also could make more money doing something else, but I make a reasonable salary and it feels good to do work that I consider socially valuable. All the people freaking out below because they know a social worker with good retirement savings do not really seem to have followed you at all!

        1. Two Dog Night*

          The part of Alliathan’s post that people are responding to is

          I find too much wealth (more than a million or two) in the hands of one person or family to be morally repugnant

          Alliathan, if you’re in the US, you really might want to rethink those numbers. Anyone who doesn’t have a pension isn’t going to be able to rely on social security for all their retirement income, and medical care gets more expensive as one ages. Saving $3-4 million for retirement isn’t exactly Jeff Bezos levels of wealth.

          1. Loulou*

            It seems they’re not in the US and I also think people are getting excessively hung up on the numbers and ignoring the exceedingly clear point they were making (though yes, I would have advised them to make the same point without including numbers and I’m sure they now wish they had!)

            1. anonymous here*

              People are getting “hung up” on the numbers because the numbers matter. And because “morally repugnant” is insulting.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Mh, I think it doesn’t make much sense to get hung up on the numbers, firstly because it’s not stated which currency and what cost of living (1M yen in Tokyo, for example, will defintely not get you far), AND secondly 1-2M was included in reasonable, repugnant only starting somewhere unspecified above. I clearly understood it as being shorthand for: way above what are reasonably attainable lifetime savings for upper middle class by saving part of one’s salary.

        2. BigHairNoHeart*

          I follow what allathian said and agree with their motivation (it’s part of the reason I don’t work in the public sector either). But I think people are pretty clearly taking issue with the last line, “I find too much wealth (more than a million or two) in the hands of one person or family to be morally repugnant.”

          “Too much wealth is morally repugnant” is a statement I’m sure most people here at AAM will agree with. But drawing the line at 1-2 million $ seems out of touch. In some high cost of living areas of the US, that would make you middle class at best. Not exactly morally repugnant, just…not actively struggling!

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Especially if you have to make it last the rest of your life at the point where you’re also increasingly likely to need enhanced medical care, home help, etc. 1-2 million can evaporate in a wink.

            1. Data Analyst*

              Exactly. Honestly, someone saying they see more than $1-2M as excessive, to me just means they haven’t yet done the math on how bad the systems in this country will screw them in old age/infirmity.

            2. Anon4This*

              I will add in caring for a disabled adult child to that. Our older child has autism, and we anticipate supporting them well into adulthood.

      5. Joielle*

        Yeah, same. I could make an outrageous salary doing similar work in the private sector, but I’d be working a lot more hours and, like you said, ultimately making money for already-extremely-wealthy people. And I make a perfectly adequate salary in the public sector – more than enough to spend, save, own a home, travel, whatever. Doesn’t seem worth it to strive for more money at the expense of my values and sanity.

        And I also agree on your point about too much wealth in the hands of one person, although I think what’s really morally repugnant is that (in the US) even regular people NEED to hoard wealth in case of emergency, since we have no real social safety net.

      6. TrixM*

        Me too, but I don’t need my org lecturing me on how virtuous it is to accept low pay.
        Unless it’s the tiniest of organisations, they can pay a decent wage. Maybe it’s not going to be the same as private sector, but it shouldn’t be McDonald’s level either. Even less excuse if it’s a govt role.
        And I agree with the comments that places that say this are not the ones who treat their employees well. Good places that are forced into a tight salary budget simply don’t patronise employees – there’s more of a feeling that everyone is in the same boat.

    3. MK*

      It’s like saying “money doesn’t buy happiness”. Sure, if you are at the point where you can afford to consider happiness (as in, your basic needs are comfortably met and you feel safe that this will continue), money isn’t the most important thing. But that’s after a certain point, and you do need money to get there.

      1. Medusa*

        Nothing pissed me off more when I was broke (most of my life) when people would make comments about how much money (they perceived that) I was spending, or asking me why I took a job if it didn’t interest me, or telling me that I shouldn’t be looking for a job “for the money”. Maybe you’re so privileged that you can just not work, but I need to work to be able to pay my rent and buy food.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I take pride in my work. I also take pride in the fact that I am paid for my skills and experience and don’t have to live out of my car. Looking at the history of letters to AAM, many people if not most are in it for the money. Pride doesn’t pay the rent.

          1. KRM*

            Exactly. I love my job! But if they didn’t pay me enough to live on, there’s no way I’d stay. I need to be able to meet basic expenses!
            Also, you know what people like? They like recognition for a job well done AND they like to be monetarily rewarded for it! Or be given more PTO! My old company’s 10 year reward was 1-a nice clock with a plaque, 2-$600 cash and 3-2 extra weeks of vacation that you had 2 years to use and had to use together for a real break.

            1. whingedrinking*

              Yeah, that’s the thing that irks me about a lot of the blather about “take pride in your work!” – it insinuates that when it comes to work, “meaningful” and “well-paying” are mutually exclusive. I think my job is important and changes the world for the better; it’s not going to become less so if my employer decided to triple my paycheque.

          2. Koalafied*

            Exactly, they’re two different forms of compensation. A great salary doesn’t feel as emotionally rewarding as things like praise and pride in accomplishments, and praise/pride don’t pay my bills. Call me a dreamer, but ideally I’d like to have both!

            And it’s true that there’s an amount of money I’m willing to sacrifice for non-monetary benefits – I could earn more than I do now at another company, but there’s a lot of effort involved in job searching, and I like the people I work with, and my job gives me a huge amount of flexibility, so I’m not going to be lured away by an extra $3k a year simply because it’s more money. It’s also true that I earn enough today to pay for my basic shelter and necessities and have some leftover for fun and savings, and that 10 years ago when I was earning half as much, I would (and did) absolutely jump ship for an extra $3k.

            But that handbook isn’t even trying to be that nuanced. “Pride supercedes any form of monetary reward”? GTFOH.

          3. Ace in the Hole*

            I take pride in my work. And part of that is having enough money in the bank that I can be confident I will never have to choose between my values and feeding my family. If I have to walk away from a job with nothing but my integrity, I still have enough in savings to keep us going until I find more work.

        2. Paid In Pride Dollars*

          (OP #2 here). I agree. I definitely wouldn’t be doing this job if I could afford not to. The field I worked in was already short on jobs and budgets and I took what I could get until I could find the right job. Which was working as a temp/seasonal at this company, Then the pandemic hit and my chosen field was hit hard, so what few jobs there were dried up as budgets were reduced to nil. I don’t like this job. It’s a lot of work in a short time with not enough pay, but the dollars I need now outweigh the theoretical dollars I might get later.

      2. Saraquill*

        I was rather keen on “money doesn’t buy happiness” back in my student days. School was big into telling us if we didn’t do as it said, we’d spend the rest of our lives in crushing poverty. Hence any PTSD, lung damage, or other horrors we got during our time there would be worthwhile if we studied our way into high paying jobs.

      3. Antilles*

        There’s been a bit of research done on the “money doesn’t buy happiness” and the general conclusion is that the relationship between money and happiness is a logarithmic curve.
        Below a certain level, more money is directly correlated to big increases in happiness, because you remove major financial stressors. But then the slope of the curve flattens so a little extra money still does make you happier but it’s a smaller effect (e.g., being able to take a longer vacation). Then it basically completely flattens out because money is no longer that relevant of a concern in your life.

        1. Curious*

          I think that you’re spot on — there’s a balance here, driven in part by where you sit in Maslow’s hierarchy. If you have the privilege of a choice between a job that you take great joy and pride in at $150k/year and a more dreary job at $175k/yr, many folks might opt for the lower paid job. Change that to $20k and $40k, and the answer is likely to change.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I haaaate this saying.

        I get that it’s supposed to mean that if you’re a fundamentally miserable person with a bad attitude, no amount of money can change that, but even the best-natured people need a certain amount to not live in stress over, well, money, because being a few dollars away from catastrophe all the time sucks.

      5. generic_username*

        100% Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure does buy things and services that can make you happier.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Money definitely buys comfort and security and it is really hard to be consistently happy without those two things.

        2. UKDancer*

          This is where I sit. It doesn’t make you happier but it can make some situations easier because you can use money to solve them. I got a small promotion a year ago and it’s not a lot more money but it does help. So if I miss a train late at night I can get a taxi rather than waiting an hour for the next one on the cold platform. If I want sirloin steak for dinner I can afford to get it at once rather than having to wait until it’s in the reduced bin at the supermarket.

          Having slightly more money doesn’t make a massive difference but it helps make some situations more pleasant.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think this employer has mixed up the concept of “pride” with “employees feeling valued”.
      It seems to be plausible that an employee who feels valued and recognized will think twice before moving to another job. But that sense of being valued comes from external sources, such as compliments, making a meaningful contribution and the sense that others value one’s thoughts on matters.

      This employer has turned it into something the employee generates themselves. This looks like, “We don’t have to pay you a fair market wage, but you should just “want” to do a good job.” Uh, that’s not how it works.

      I think that most people have pride in their work and that manifests in their desire to do a good job. But left to starve from lack of recognition and compensation that pride can become a secondary issue for the employee.

      1. Lacey*

        Indeed. I was proud of the work I did at my two previous jobs, but I didn’t feel valued as an employee so I left!

      2. FrivYeti*

        Yes, I think that’s exactly it. A lot of the more popular leadership manuals stress that making your employees feel valued and recognized is more important than just giving them money; it shows them that you’re paying attention, you care about them, and their input and insight matters. People want to work places where their work matters.

        But that only works if you’re showing that you value them at a base level first! If you tell them to have pride in their work and then demonstrate that you think they’re interchangeable cogs that you can underpay, they know you don’t value them, and they will respond appropriately.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Yes, I love my job and wouldn’t leave it if I were offered something better paying (not that this is likely to happen, but theoretically!). I also recently turned down a higher paying promotion to a temporary job I do each summer, because I do not think I would be as good at it or enjoy it as much. But I can say that because I already have a reasonably well-paying job. I would not take a minimum wage job for sheer “pride in work” if I had the opportunity to get something that pays better.

      And I suspect the jobs that say “you shouldn’t be so concerned about salary; what about pride in your work?” probably aren’t giving many of the things that encourage pride in work either, like independence, opportunities to work on projects of interest, a willingness to listen to employees and trust their judgement, opportunities for advancement, tailoring of work to strengths and so on.

    6. Batgirl*

      It’s one of those really privileged statements like “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”. Yes, but some of us have another motivation to save us from being horrified at the idea of doing some work.

      1. MK*

        Also, it’s complete bulls**t. I love the law and I love my work. My job is still work, and it’s got parts that are boring, frustrating and hard (some of the time and all of the time). It’s stupid to claim that just because you love what you do, it will never feel like work.

        1. Lacey*

          Yup. I adore graphic design, but it’s work. And it’s different to design for others than for myself.
          If I was suddenly independently wealthy I would quit my day job and make what I want to make.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          yes! Even people who have actually literally made their hobby or passion into their job say that there are always parts that they dislike! Or even parts that they usually like, but time pressure or annoying clients or whatever make it not-fun sometimes.

          1. MK*

            Exactly! I would do my job for half the money, and I wouldn’t quit even if I was financially independent. But it’s not 50 hours/per week of unmitigated joy.

          2. The Original K.*

            I’ve had people tell me I should cook for a living (and I’ve done a couple of small catering gigs before) and I always say “nah, I’d enjoy it less if I did it for work.” It would be … work. I love to cook, it’s a hobby I put time and money into, but as a hobby I can do it on my terms.

          3. Overeducated*

            I worked with someone who once said “I get paid to do the parts that aren’t fun,” which I think is pretty clarifying! In a “passion” field that has lots of student and volunteer interest, pay often gets higher the further you get from the exciting work and the more you get into administration, seeking funding, budgeting, hiring, compliance, etc. – basically less specific to the work of the field itself, and more the aspects of making it happen on a larger scale within an institutional context.

        3. generic_username*

          yes! I know people who have made their hobby their job and stopped enjoying their hobby as much

          1. whingedrinking*

            Exactly. One of the key differences between work and a hobby is that with a hobby, you can stop when you’re not enjoying yourself. And if my hobby turns into my job, including the bits that suck, then what am I going to do when I want a break from work? It’s not going to be more work, I can tell you that.

        4. Adultiest Adult*

          Agree 100% and have never liked that quote. I love the work that I do and am proud of it, but it is absolutely work. And no job is entirely free of administrivia or policy nonsense.

      2. Another health care worker*

        Yes, and this motto also spits in the face of anyone who does work that, frankly, nobody would “love.” Like cleaning public bathrooms: an essential task that everyone else relies on. If you don’t actually think that *everyone* deserves to do work that they love, then really you’re just talking to other elites about vanity projects and pretending it’s a philosophy of work.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Agreed. I’m pretty sure our cleaner is not delighted to come in and scrub toilets five days a week. She does it because she gets paid. While she knows we appreciate her (and it’s expressed to her often), it’s not a “love” kind of job, and pretending she should love it is ridiculous.

        2. Chris too*

          My dad always said you have to love your work. He was a cabinet maker and he did.

          It became a family joke when one hot summer day, a serviceman came by the house to do a job. It was his last stop of the day and when he was done, Dad offered him a cold drink and they sat outside chatting for a few minutes. Yes, dad said to the guy, I’ve always believed you have to love your job.

          The serviceman was there to clean the septic tank.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            You know what though, the septic tank cleaners I’ve met actually do love their work. So do I and a lot of my colleagues (we’re garbage workers). Plenty of people enjoy dirty unglamorous jobs… maybe not every aspect of it, but overall it can be very satisfying.

        3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I do think an argument could be made that no one person should have to clean all the bathrooms, and most of us could probably adjust to cleaning a few extra bathrooms as a form of public service in a more just society.

          (Of course I literally have cleaned a restaurant bathroom because it was full of vomit and I, having a nice night out, was obviously going to be less stressed out cleaning it than some poor bastard making minimum wage.)

      3. CatLady*

        Not only that, but for some people the second you monetize something you love it actually BECOMES work and you often lose the desire to do it. As an example, I took up glassblowing for 10 years. I had a blast! It was so much hot, sweaty, frustrating fun. At one point I took a commission and vowed to never do it again. Some people can certainly monetize their passion but for others, nothing will kill it quicker.

        It very much bugs me when people make those kinds of statements – it can really invalidate others’ experiences.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          Yes! Turning something you love into a job can be a quick way to make sure you don’t love it anymore.

        2. turquoisecow*

          I love doing art for myself but I decided not to become an art major in college because I knew if I had to do it for work it would no longer be fun. I saw this happen to friends who were art majors and were so stressed about getting work done on time and for a good grade that they no longer did things like sketch for fun.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I sew and get asked all the time if I sew on commission, or told that I should sew as a business. Hell, no. I can’t think of a faster way to ruin it for myself than to be dependent on it for a living. (Also, people have wildly unrealistic ideas about how much work sewing is and how much it should be worth. No, it’s not cheaper than mass production. My sewing your daughter’s prom dress won’t cost you less than you buying one and having it altered.)

          1. CatLady*

            I’m now a quilter and yeah – people simply do not understand the cost of materials, never mind the time and there is no way I could get even cost of goods for my quilt. I ran across this random quote – you might find appreciate:

            “Quilting is like sex. If I like you and you appreciate it, its free. Otherwise, you couldn’t pay me enough to do it”.

            I make my quilts for people as I choose – or not. Up to me!

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I quilt, too, and give most of them away–I’m binding quilt #18 this week, after which it’s getting sent as a surprise to a college friend who needs a pick-me-up–but it’s strictly on my terms. Way too much work to make it a consumer interaction.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            If you happen to be on instagram you’ll probably enjoy the account “canyousewthisforme”. They collect anecdotes of this kind.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I am extremely grateful to have a job that uses a lot of my interests but doesn’t ask me to use my hobbies directly. I get to skirt my hobbies at work without making them into work.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ugh, “money can’t buy happiness” and “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” are two of the biggest BS tropes I can think of. Money buys me housing and food security, and the lack of either one of those would make me deeply unhappy and anxious. As someone else mentioned, there are tons of studies showing that this is only true once a baseline amount of money is available; it only doesn’t matter after certain base needs have been met. The second one makes me apoplectic just like “dream jobs” do – there is no such thing as a perfect job! They will all suck some days, and setting up the idea that your job should never be boring or a slog is just setting people up for failure. It, ideally, shouldn’t be most days, but your job not being sunshine and roses is not a mark of failure.

        This one’s just personal, too, but I don’t love doing anything for which I could get paid. None of my hobbies are monetizable (even if I wanted to ruin them like that), and I’m not a “passion” kind of person. I don’t set out to be miserable at work, but the thing I enjoy/am passionate about is earning a paycheck that puts a roof over my head, food on the table, and provides appropriate healthcare and therapy for my family’s needs.

    7. TW1968*

      On your last day you could bring that phrase up and ask if the upper management is paid the least amount among everyone at the company, seeing as how the pride in their work should exceed any monetary compensation.

    8. Lacey*

      Yeah. People might take a lower paying salary over a higher one because they would be more proud of the work (or enjoy it more, or it’s more in step with their career goals, etc.) but only if the lower salary is enough to live off of!

    9. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Part of the problem is the context. Put a statement like that in a training manual for mangers, and I don’t think it’s quite so bad. It’s still written really poorly—it seems stuffy and clunky to me (but then, so does most writing for business “leaders”). And the part about “true professionals” being “driven by pride of workmanship”—yeah, that’s just full of bad implications whether it’s meant for managers or grunt workers.

      But something like those sentiments don’t seem entirely bad as advice to managers: Don’t crow about your own achievements—give credit to your team. Realize that people take pride in their work and that recognition and a good working environment can, sometimes, be more important than money (but only if money is already decent—and there are few better ways to recognize someone’s work accomplishments than with money).

      It all comes off very differently—and incredibly poorly—in a training manual for temp employees. It changes the implication from “managers, recognize your team’s accomplishments” to “team, don’t ask for money, because we only pay in kudos.” Someone should have realized that before putting that language in a training that’s not for managers.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, the first part of the quote seems like it was going for managers and saying they should make sure to give credit where credit is due. In line with what I have always believed of “good managers give credit and take blame.” But then it goes a bit off the rails at the end.

    10. Chriama*

      In my organizational behaviour class back when I was getting a business degree, we talked about how salary is a “hygiene factor”. In other words, when it’s missing then so is motivation, but it’s not enough to sustain intrinsic motivation (which is defined as autonomy, mastery, and purpose). This whole “do what you love” and “be passionate about your work” trend has been corrupted into a very exploitative rhetoric. Money is like an empty room. No one wants to stay in an empty room forever, but they don’t want to sleep on the streets with all their nice furniture either.

      1. Paid In Pride Dollars*

        (I’m OP #2). I’m genuinely curious, in your class did they cover behavioral training for employees? Another one of our management training modules suggested that we click train our employees because if we wait too long to provide feedback, our employees might not be able to make the connection between the feedback and the “undesired behavior.”

        My psychology degree was focused on neural development and individual behavior, so I didn’t take any of the organizational behavior courses. After going through that module, I wonder if this is something that’s a part of I/O psychology or if it’s a misinterpretation.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “Another one of our management training modules…”

          So that language was in training for managers? In one sense, that makes the language seem a little better to me (see comment above), but on the other hand: this company is hiring temps as managers? Is that common? I assume you’re managing other temps?

          That all makes the language much worse. If you’ve got hourly temp managers managing hourly temp workers, it doesn’t sound like anyone in that arrangement is in a position to care more about “pride of workmanship” than money.

          1. Paid In Pride Dollars*

            Yeah, it’s temps managing temps. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It’s temps managing temps managing temps managing temps managing temps. My level is currently a temp managing temps managing temps.

            It’s just temps all the way down.

        2. Critical Rolls*

          My only reference for click training is for dogs. I really hope I’m missing something.

          1. doreen*

            I had a longer comment that disappeared – but a modified version is being used to train people, so far as I can tell mainly if not entirely to teach phusical skills. It’s a form of operant conditioning and doesn’t necessarily involve a literal clicker.

          2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            That was my thought too. Probably similar ideas behind it but it makes me laugh to consider a clicker.

            Good job Bob! Keep getting that staple on the page at the proper 45 degree angle!

          3. Paid In Pride Dollars*

            The module talked about operant conditioning for employees and used click training as an example of how that’s accomplished. The way the module described the process, we would have to provide instant feedback the second the behavior occurred or else the employee wouldn’t be able to later connect feedback they got with the behavior. Silly me, I just assumed that this could occur within a reasonable amount of time and I could just talk to employees as adults because their memories aren’t so fleeting that they’ll forget what they did yesterday.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I do find that feedback – positive or negative – is most effective if it’s delivered fairly soon after the precipitating incident, but there are many, many times when everyone is tired and stressed by the time something is finished and doing the debrief the next morning when everyone’s rested and had their coffee is far more effective/less emotional. None of my folks forgot what happened the prior day and were able to course correct despite the 15-hour lag in feedback.

        3. doreen*

          Are they actually talking about using a clicker or other “event marker”? Way back when I took I/O courses , they included content about not delaying feedback – for example, not providing any feedback until annual review time. But actually using an event marker or clicker comes from animal training ( which is a form of operant conditioning) and as far as I can tell it is mainly used for teaching physical skills to people. For example, there is an orthopedic surgeon (Martin Levy ) who uses it to train surgical residents. But from all accounts that I have seen, he uses it to teach physical skills that have been broken down into steps such as how to hold a drill, and the event marker is used at various points to indicate that the drill is being held properly , at the proper angle. I can’t really imagine how it could be used for non-physical tasks.

        4. DistantAudacity*

          That could go back to the thing where it’s considered good practice to provide immediate feedback, especially if it’s negative –
          «hey, in this meeting you interrupted X and talked over them 3 times» followed by coaching language.

          As opposed to an annual check in 4 months later
          «you should listen more and maybe not interrupt»
          «huh? Nooo. When did I do that – I don’t understand. Do you have an example?»
          «…»

        5. Adultiest Adult*

          Why does your employer talk about its staff like dogs? That is 50% snarky and 50% serious. I’m in psychology and I have never heard anyone suggest that you use such a simplistic method of training your employees–clicker training, really? How insulting. How about we go with the more general: “praise behavior you would like to see repeated” and “promptly address negative behavior” and leave the clickers out of it?

        6. Ace in the Hole*

          I cannot fathom someone thinking it’s okay to CLICKER TRAIN EMPLOYEES. That’s just… words fail to capture how demeaning and dehumanizing that suggestion is.

          If you asked me what “behavior training for employees” meant, I would assume you were talking about things like 1-1 coaching on professional norms, constructing effective progressive discipline policies, effective signage, training sessions on topics like diversity & inclusivity/harassment/de-escalation, etc. Not treating employees like unruly puppies.

          This is not a place you want to work for. They have some seriously messed up ideas about how to manage people.

    11. Nea*

      The very definition of “professional” is “someone who is PAID,” not “someone who takes pride.” Many professionals do take pride in their work, but so do amateurs. The difference is the dollars.

    12. missy*

      Yes. The “praise is more important than salary” stuff (with studies and statistics) came up in my HR/Management classes when I was getting my MPA, but the point then wasn’t that you should use the information to cut salary. The point was 1) people will leave a well compensated job when they aren’t being recognized for their work and 2) in positions (like government and non-profit jobs) where you can’t necessarily compete on salary with private sector jobs it is especially important to make sure that you are offering praise, recognition, and opportunities for growth.

    13. Ann Onymous*

      There were a lot of people disappointed when our benefits information for this year came out. In a Q&A where people were expressing that disappointment, someone fairly high up at our large employer responded by saying that he values job satisfaction over benefits. I’m glad he and his family are healthy and/or wealthy enough to be able to see benefits as an afterthought, but many families rely on their health insurance to survive. Of course I prefer to be in a job I enjoy, but job satisfaction won’t pay for my expensive chronic medical condition.

    14. Zee*

      A few years ago I was doing a certificate program in non-profit management. Part of the course focused on managing employees. We had to read a book that was clearly written by someone in a high-paying for-profit industry. It included several quotes from people about how a nice thank-you card from their boss was better than a cash bonus after a big project… one of them said something about how a $5,000 bonus wasn’t a significant amount of money anyway.

  2. Fikly*

    My rent just went up by $500 a month. Somehow my landlord doesn’t accept payment in the form of pride in workmanship.

    1. Dhaskoi*

      The Oatmeal has an excellent strip about this, although it’s about getting ‘paid’ in exposure rather than pride.

      1. AJoftheInternet*

        2005: Artists need to be paid in money rather than exposure!
        2021: EVERYONE needs to be paid in money rather than exposure…. You went the wrong way, guys.

      2. Shiba Dad*

        Recently I stumbled upon a recording studio engineer’s YouTube channel. One of the recurring themes is that musicians want to “pay” their engineers in exposure rather than money. He has done something like 25 videos on “Stupid Musician Texts” and many of the text are along those lines.

    2. Asenath*

      Yeah. I always took pride in my efforts to do a good, honest solid job in return for the money I got paid – but I never deluded myself that it was the money I got, not my satisfaction in doing a good job, that paid my living expenses. Not acknowledging that, as in the quote in the letter, seems delusional. It’s not even manipulative because it’s so obviously a silly idea.

    3. Karenjune*

      Omg, do you live in my building? Same here. I’m finding a second job, not “pride” in my full-time job, very helpful.

    4. Damn it, Hardison!*

      The slogan for a unionization campaign at Harvard was “you can’t eat prestige.” Very effective.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Very effective. I work for an affiliate of a world-renowned prestigious university but name recognition doesn’t pay my bills.

        1. Irish girl*

          well the conde nest folks let a ton of people go during the pandemic so i have no sympathy for that company. Go Union!

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I used to work for a veterinarian. Everybody seems to think that vets and staff should work just for the love of animals and that they’re horrible people for charging for services.

      Sorry, but I don’t get free rent and groceries because I love animals. We don’t get free medical supplies because kittens and puppies are so cute. We don’t get taxpayer money to cover your emergency bill when you can’t. You really do need to have a plan for pet care.

      1. Shiba Dad*

        I’ve heard similar things said about public school teachers. They should work for the love of educating kids and they are horrible people for wanting to be paid decently.

        1. quill*

          That and everyone seems to think that “you only work 7 hours during a school day and have summer and school holidays off!” is 1) even remotely true, given that the kids are in the building for 7.5 hours at minimum and school holidays are usually spent doing all the work that isn’t actual teaching, and 2) an excuse to not pay well.

      2. MAC*

        Same with the nonprofit world. We were told all the time that people wouldn’t donate “because you pay your staff.” Yeah, sorry, I also need to eat and keep a roof over my head and pay medical bills, just like the population we’re serving.
        My heart is in that sector, but I recently left for a position with a federal government contractor that is easier and came with a 67% salary increase. I can support them better as a donor and volunteer than I could as a burned out staff member.

      3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        Full-time clergy here!
        Yes, it’s a calling and I love it, but my family has student loans and car payments and doctor’s bills and all the other stuff. Also we eat food and wear clothes. You know, normal stuff.
        Yes, I need to be paid in ways that are commensurate with my experience and training, because nobody’s born knowing how to preach and teach your twelve-year-olds basic theology while they are literally trying to punch each other.
        Yes, I trust in God to provide. Which, in the world we live in, happens by means of people paying my salary. Congratulations, folks. You are part of the divine plan to keep my house warm and my dog fed.
        (note: nobody’s raising a fuss about this in my current ministry setting, but I hear tales that make my hair curl from colleagues…)

    6. Nanani*

      Your landlord should take pride in their elevated status of owning this building and not charge unimportant things like rent. LW2’s boss can explain it, I’m sure.

  3. bratschegirl*

    Maybe I’m misreading, but it sounds like #3 is saying that these potential interns aren’t available now, for interviews, until after 5pm, rather than that they’d only be available to work after 5 pm in the summer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh my goodness, you might be right. (That would also explain why students are referencing their school hours when giving their availability for a summer internship.) I’ve added a paragraph to the answer in case that’s it.

      1. rubble*

        that’s what I thought too – I think my comment saying basically the same thing got eaten by the moderator filter

  4. Heidi*

    For Letter #5, I’m wondering if the OP is asking how to handle the interview part of the process. The students are going to be available during the summer, but the OP wants to interview them during the school year so they can start right when summer starts. I would interview them at night or on weekends if possible. Otherwise, they would have to get an excused absence for class or do the interview during lunch, which is doable, but missing lunch in high school is tough.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      School day, plus extracurriculars, things like bus schedules and after school jobs, all of which can be hard to skip for an interview. Unlike employees, they don’t have vacation or personal days to use for absences, and getting their parents to write a sick note so they can go to an interview could be problematic.

      I’d block out an evening or two, and some time on a weekend day to accommodate the interviews.

    2. J*

      That’s how I read it as well…the problem being availability for interviews outside normal business hours. I’d suggest accommodating them, even if it means having a few employees stay late one or two evenings. (If that’s possible.) Providing internships is good for the company, the community, and the students.

      There’s usually a counselor helping coordinate career actions. You can also check with them as opportunities where the student might be released early for an interview and determine school holidays when your business is open.

      1. c*

        (sorry, my phone glitched)

        handle interviews during the school year, but the other advice also comes in handy for spring/fall semester interns. It’s a bit tough with the scheduling because I cannot interview alone, and none of my coworkers (authorized to conduct interviews) want to stay past 5 PM. I’m also a little surprised that so many candidates say they are only available after 5 PM, though I may be wrongly assuming they know normal business hours are 9-5 (maybe I should put that in all interview request emails going forward as well….)

        1. Not a Dr*

          High school students are really ignorant of the working world still! It would pay to be clear about your availability and perhaps arrange ahead of time for just a few later options with a few co-workers. Being in high school is hard.

        2. Cercis*

          High school here ends at 4:20 (and yes, the kids had a lot of fun joking about that timing, it IS Austin after all). So by the time they could get to a quiet place for an interview, it will be 5:00 or later, even if they have no after school activities.

        3. DisneyChannelThis*

          The amount of extra curriculars involved with high schoolers can mean really long hours, I was getting home around 11pm consistently in sports season, and up at 6am to catch the bus. They may really not be available until 5PM rather than ignorant of business hours.

          Can you do zoom interviews from your home? That would give the students more flexibility too, no need to wait for parents to be free to drive them to you etc.

          My other advice would be to reach out to the school, if they’ve a career counselor or anything like that, they may be able to set you up with something – like authorizing a group of students to miss an hour of class to be interviewed on school grounds. I know for college co-ops we had the summer co-op fair where there was a 2 day job fair, and then they selected candidates to interview and did them all in the conference center on campus the following week- little cubicles for each hiring person lol. It made it so much easier to interview while still trying to go to classes. Also could easily schedule 2-3 interviews same day, without needing any travel time etc.

  5. Artemesia*

    High school drama. Practice how you will react if she recognizes you. Do it in the car – the shower etc so when she does, it is not a sudden new thing. And the response you practice is light — sort of ‘oh how amazing is this.’ And then don’t dwell.

    IF she ever brings up the catfishing thing — well you will have practiced that too until you have ‘burned it out’ — the only response is laughter and ‘teens are nuts aren’t they?’ because yeah — teens are nuts and we ALL every single one of us — has memories of things we did while young that make us blush now.

    Seriously — make it a casual light amused thing if it comes up and a distracted ‘what a coincidence thing’ if it is just a matter of recognizing you after all these years.

    1. JustSomeone*

      Just mention it to her. It will be more awkward if she figures it out herself, and you’ll have that hanging over you until it happens. You name has changed, but presumably hers is the same. I’m a bit shy of 20 years past high school myself, and no longer in touch with any friends from that time. But I spent a bunch of time at my best friend’s house back then, and if I ran into her mom and didn’t acknowledge it, it would absolutely be weird.

      Don’t worry about the teenage drama. Teens absolutely do not tell their parents about the cruel, deceptive pranks they pull on each other.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m thinking the word ‘prank’ can do a lot of work here.
        Why did you stop coming around?”She played a prank that…”
        And end with a simple “you’ reason: changed the dynamic, hurt my feelings, made me stop trusting her, something simple & true enough that you can deal with it if it gets back to your former friend.

        1. Mockingjay*

          I doubt the mom will ask. My ‘girls’ are in their late 20s and I don’t remember 90 percent of the drama, let alone the names of most of those involved. The drama stemmed from immaturity and hormones combined with fledgling attempts to establish their adult personalities. They’re not the same people they were then.

          OP1, if it comes up acknowledge the relationship, then move to another topic. “Oh wow, I didn’t realize that you’re Melissa’s mom. Haven’t seen her in ages. Please send her my regards.”

          1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            This. I had a falling out with some of my core friends from high school because of teen drama. I can promise my parents and their parents have no memory of this and 20ish years later likely barley remember them, other than “oh yeah, Jennifer, she was around sometimes” And this is small Midwest town where everyone knows everyone.

            OP, I can promise the mother really doesn’t know what happened. As an aside, I reconnected a bit with my high school friends I fell out with and all is cool. We were all young and dumb, and are far different than the people we were 20+ years prior. I’m even married to the person I dated in high school and we’re vastly different than we were back then. We actively cringe at things from back then, because yikes!

            1. Goldenrod*

              “We were all young and dumb, and are far different than the people we were 20+ years prior”

              These comments, as well as Alison’s reply to OP1 are really helping ME! I often cringe when I think back to things that I did or said when I was a teen.

              But I’m middle-aged now. And teenagers are weird and dumb!! I don’t have to keep carrying that around. That is so helpful to hear!

          2. Smithy*

            100% this.

            My mom still lives in the Midwest suburb where I went to high school, and so occasionally I’ll get the calls of her running into parents of other people I went to school with. Some who I was friends with, some I fell out with, some I never spoke to…..and for my mom a lot of it ends up in a similar memory category. A few times I’ve gotten the message that so-in-so’s mom thinks so-in-so would love to catch up, I say that’s really nice, nothing happens – we all move on.

            Because this is work and more emotionally loaded to the OP, I do think it might be worth considering finding either a friend or booking a few sessions with a counselor just to practice talking this through until it feels less loaded. There was a period of time job interviewing where I had a lot of anxieties talking about parts of my job – that as it turns out have never been an issue or of interest to future employers. I was working with a job counselor at the time who picked up on that specific anxiety, and just had me practice my answers around those questions repeatedly until it felt more and more natural.

          3. Glomarization, Esq.*

            Another mom of a post-teen agreeing 100% with this comment. LW should not bring it up. LW should wait for the mom to bring it up — which she probably won’t because she probably never knew about the prank and probably barely remembers the LW, no matter how close the then-kids’ relationship was. Then LW should just respond with something anodyne.

          4. DataGirl*

            I remember the situations where my kids were hurt, but not names or even faces, so if I ran into them I wouldn’t have a clue. And, that’s the times my kids were bullied/hurt, if they ever did anything wrong to another kid (I hope not, but we all mess up sometimes) I probably never even knew about it.

        2. Julia*

          Yeah, no, do not say any of this. This is not good advice. The mother will never ask why you stopped coming around anyway, and even if she did it would be silly to get into why. “Oh, just got busy I guess!” The end.

          1. JustSomeone*

            If this is in response to me, I wasn’t suggesting that she bring up the teenage conflict. I just think she should mention that she and the mom know each other from back then. It would feel really weird and awkward to just not acknowledge it at all.

            1. Julia*

              Nope, it was in response to Seeking Second Childhood. The nesting is complex to track! Your comment I agree with.

        3. Antilles*

          First off, I don’t think there’s any real chance of the mom asking since the vast majority of high school friendships fall apart very quickly after high school. Even if the mom connects all the dots and recognized OP, she’d just make the natural assumption that the friendship just sort of drifted apart when they went to separate colleges.
          Secondly, even if she did, saying something like that is going to come off like you’re weirdly stuck up on this high school drama two decades later – especially given that OP wouldn’t even be talking to the person that was involved!

        4. Artemesia*

          nah, don’t bring this stuff up — it just puts it out there when you want to avoid everyone knowing about it. The mother is unlikely to ask and if she does, you don’t ‘remember’, I guess we just drifted into different groups. Maybe recognizing her is a good idea, but any information or details provided by the OP is a very bad idea.

      2. Clisby*

        Plus parents often are not hyperfocused on their kids’ friends, especially once they get to high school. My daughter is 25, and I can barely remember her high school friends, much less whether they got into any drama together.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Huh.

          This might be because I knew most of my friends through soccer or the neighborhood, but my mom spent a lot of time with the parents of my friends (sidelines, saying hello at neighborhood functions, etc.), but my mom knew most of my high school friends pretty well. And my mom would definitely remember someone who came to family events and stopped by the house with some great frequency.

          I doubt my mom would have known if I’d have gotten into drama with these friends because I doubt I would have said anything to her, especially if I was the one doing shady things, and would guess (in my case, correctly) that we’d just grown apart at some point.

          1. doreen*

            Yes, but remembering your daughter’s friend from high school doesn’t mean you will recognize her 20 years later when she’s changed her name and in a different context. I knew plenty of my kids’ friends and I remember them but I wouldn’t bet on recognizing them 20 years after I last saw them unless there was some other context to give me a hint – I might recognize a friend who lived down the block who is visiting their parent who still lives there but not recognize that same friend if they turned up at my job with a different name.

        2. generic_username*

          Lol, I think this is something that varies wildly from parent to parent. My dad can barely remember anything about my high school friends, but my mom honestly remembers more about some of them than me (I’m 33, for the record).

          1. All Het Up About It*

            I agree with this, though mine would have been opposite. My mom absolutely does not remember all of my friends whether we still keep in touch or not. My dad passed a few years ago, but his memory for people was unparalleled and he 100% would have remembered a friend of mine from 20 years earlier. However, the drama quotient would not have come into play. Even if Melissa had not pulled the mean prank on the OP, it’s possible/probable their friendship would have faded because it’s so common for them to do so after high school.

            *Side note – my dad once recognized a guy in Walmart, while we were on vacation, who played baseball against him during high school championships and went on to play at the collegiate level. Seriously. I think maybe dad quoted some of the guy’s states to him, while pre-teen me died of embarrassment.

          2. UKDancer*

            Definitely. My mother remembers my school friends and their parents and lets me know if she bumps into any of the friends’ parents in town. I can’t usually remember who they were. I was quite unhappy at school so made a conscious effort to forget as much about it as possible. My father can’t remember any of them either.

      3. MsClaw*

        Yes. Either completely ignore it or rip off the band-aid.

        “Oh, Michelle, I think I went to school with your daughter Melissa? What a small world. Hope she’s doing well’ and then move the heck on.

        It’s extremely unlikely Michelle is going to ask you anything about a friendship that ended decades ago. And if she does, I think a simple ‘oh yes, we lost touch over the years’ will cover it.

        Please note, it is absolutely not necessary for you to actually hope Melissa is doing well or wish her the best, etc. These are just bland social covers because there’s absolutely nothing to be gained by saying ‘your daughter put me through hell and I never want to see her stupid face again.’

    2. nnn*

      Agreed. Establish a benign narrative for your relationship with Melissa to use at work, ideally something that comes across as devoid of emotional weight. (“Oh, Melissa! Right, I remember her now! We hung out in high school, but lost touch when I moved away…must have been 20 years ago now!”) Regardless of whether you decide to proactively tell Michelle that you recognize her or wait for her to say something, come up with a benign, boring narrative for not having mentioned something earlier but realizing now that you know her. (“Oh, right, Melissa! I remember now – I thought I knew the name Saperstein from somewhere but couldn’t put my finger on it!”)

      Also come up with a dismissive and forgettable way to acknowledge the catfishing thing. (“Man, teenage internet drama! That must have been back on . . . was it AOL? I wonder if that’s even still around any more?”) I wouldn’t raise it proactively, but have a script in your pocket.

      Then you can acknowledge these things when appropriate and segue neatly to “So how’s your family doing now?” or “So, TPS reports!” or “How about that local sportsball team?” without being stymied by the bizarrely enduring but very real emotions associated with teenage betrayal.

      1. Zephy*

        Mom definitely doesn’t know or care about the catfishing prank, and if she does go home and tell Melissa that her new boss is a girl she went to high school with, if Melissa tells the story (she’s probably cringing about it, too), Michelle’s response is probably going to be “Why on earth would you do something like that?” – either genuine confusion as to what the point of the prank was, or judging her daughter for being shitty to someone who seemed like a close friend. The response will absolutely not be “Wow, and she fell for that? HAHA what a loser,” that would be (1) unbelievably mean and (2) unbelievably weird on Michelle’s part.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          It’s possible that Melissa won’t even remember exactly why she did it. Like “it seemed funny for some reason at the time, or there was like- something she’d done to make me mad?” *cringe*

    3. Amaranth*

      I’d probably go the route of barely remembering the person or the catfishing. Just a polite ‘oh, how nice to see you…’ with the air of vague familiarity.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. And any mention of long ago can be met with… “oh, I vaguely remember that…back to these reports that are due…”

        OP, remember, remember, YOU were the one who was wronged, NOT her daughter. Honestly, I think you handled it with grace, you simply moved away and got busy with your own life. Hang on to the saying about “friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. She was a friend for your high school season, that’s it. She burned that bridge and you rightfully moved on. Mom can move on also.

        Don’t forget that middle-aged people are very much aware that friendships fade and they learn not to put too much weight on the ebbs and flows of life. In all likelihood mom has some warm memories and no clue what all went on.

        I do think that casting this as “drama” kind of negates how it can impact people. Stuff like this can shape us and shape who we are and how we conduct our lives. I am a fan of thinking of things as learning experiences. If you can think about how you grew older and wiser because of the goings-on that might be a benefit to you. Think about the differences in Current You vs Younger You. You’ve changed and you will continue to grow and change. We all do.

        Last. Keep in mind that you won here, OP. Winning doesn’t always look like a million dollars or parades and confetti. Sometimes winning looks like quietly retaining your self-respect and extracting yourself from a situation. Sometimes winning looks like simply going on with one’s own life. You won here.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          I agree with this approach, in addition to Alison’s really kind response. OP, you didn’t do anything wrong and you did, indeed, win! And you’re not the same person you were in high school, very few of us are. You have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. Just do your job and don’t worry about it.

      2. Lacey*

        Yes, I agree. She probably isn’t super aware of what happened. My mom was really involved with my life in high school, she knew my friends fairly well, but there’s still a ton of drama she doesn’t have the least idea about.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’d say there’s almost no chance she knows about it. Why would a teenager tell her mother she catfished her good friend?

          1. Ama*

            Yup, I had a supposed best friend who decided to try to cut me out of our friend group in high school. My mom knew because I spent a weekend crying in my room when I found out that I wasn’t invited to supposed friend’s birthday party. Years later, my mom ran into her mom who mentioned that they never saw me around any longer — it was clear she had no clue that her own daughter was the one who apparently decided she didn’t want to hang out with me, not the other way around.

            1. Lacey*

              Are we the same person? This happened to me as well, my friend’s mom was utterly clueless.
              My mom asked her about it and she said, “Oh no, Susie still loves Lacey!”

          2. AFac*

            That, and it was online in the AOL years. Melissa’s mom probably never read the AOL chats, and it’s entirely possible that Melissa’s mom wasn’t online herself during that time. My mom basically opted out of the internet until her job forced her to have work email; even now she leaves all personal internet stuff (Google searches, online ordering, zoom meetings) to her spouse to execute.

    4. Asenath*

      I’d mention it, just to get it off my mind, and move on. I agree that it’s unlikely that she’ll remember, if she ever knew, the details about what went on 20 years ago between you and her daughter, and if she mentions her daughter, you can do whatever you want – I’d pass any mention off with some vague comment about “haven’t seen her for years, we drifted apart after high school” that certainly doesn’t imply a desire to renew a friendship, especially one that ended so badly. And as for closure – that’s not an idea I like, particularly when it’s used to imply that I need the other person’s participation. I’d go more for learning to accept what happened until I can think of the person and the incident with indifference, if I think of them at all, it’s with something – “Well, that was a nasty experience, but ….” (I’ve learned to spot catfishing better, I’ve protected myself from the person; what weird things some people do…). I’ve felt for years that requiring the some kind of closure with the other person gives them too much power (if they’re available at all; often, they’re out of my life or possibly, as far as I know, dead).

      1. Koalafied*

        Yeah, I think that there can be situations where things are left so confusing and ambiguous that someone struggles to really move on from the situation. But if you’re in that situation, the closure usually has to come from within – someone who has disappeared from your life under ambiguous circumstances is not likely someone who’s going to rematerialize to explain themselves in a satisfying way. You’re going to have to decide for yourself, “For whatever reason, that relationship is over, and I don’t need to know the reason to have enough confidence that it’s over to move past it myself.”

      2. irritable vowel*

        Yeah, I think the way for OP to frame this is not about closure for herself, but just about acknowledging something (the prior connection) that would be weird if her as a manager if her direct report (the mom) found out about it later. Just saying casually, “By the way, you may not remember me, but I was friends with your daughter in high school.” That’s it! If the mom says, “Oh, I always wondered why you stopped coming over” (unlikely but possible), all that needs to be said is, “Oh, we grew apart/our lives went in different directions, typical teen stuff.” Saying anything to the mother about the daughter having done you wrong is not advisable. If there was no work relationship and you just ran into the mother at the grocery store or something, that could potentially be different, but in this case you just need to politely acknowledge the connection and not tell the truth.

    5. Distractinator*

      If OP and Melissa were high-school besties and spent a lot of time together, the whole “oh, I remember her now!” thing is totally disingenuous. I’d go the route of saying “hey, I didn’t realize until I saw your last name the other day – is your daughter Melissa?” and she’ll realize who you are and make midwestern cooing noises, and that will basically be the end of it. She might bring up Melissa in conversation later, and you’ll just shrug and say “yeah, we had a rough time senior year and we haven’t really kept in touch, but glad to hear she’s doing well” and if Michelle ever tries to put you in touch just say it would be too weird to do family hangout stuff with work people.

      There’s also the strong possibility that Michelle is aware that Melissa has issues, and doesn’t blame you one bit for friend-dumping her. And if Melissa tries to spin her telling crazy lies and you believing her as a funny story, she’s obviously still got issues. If Michelle ever does bring it up, feel free to be a bit blunt about your side of the story – “I remember that a bit differently – I’m sure she thought it was hilarious that I fell for her story, but I’m surprised anyone would blame me for trusting my friend even if she didn’t turn out to be trustworthy” The key is to practice detaching the emotions from the story, you don’t want this to be a big deal going forward with Michelle and if she can tell that you care, it can turn into a big deal.

  6. river*

    #2 “We’re going to underpay you, and the most reward you can expect is a pat on the head.”

  7. Heidi*

    For Letter #4, I would also be worried that mentioning the cancer treatment would make me seem like one of those “rub dirt in it and suck it up” kinds of bosses who don’t believe in using sick leave for sickness. There are some places where that is totally the culture, but it’s a risk.

    1. Pants*

      I am a member of the cancer club.* I wouldn’t mention it because people get all weird around it. They get the “cancer whispers.” Their voice drops low like cancer might hear them speaking and attack. It also makes a lot of people involuntarily freak tf out.

      I’d like to commend you for working through radiation, OP. There’s no way I could have done that through mine. I could barely stay awake for more than a few hours a day. You are awesome!!! And when someone calls you a survivor, tell them you fought. You’re not a survivor, you’re a veteran.

      *I’m a long time out, everything is fine.

    2. ferrina*

      I was afraid of this too. While it’s an incredible personal accomplishment (and LW is right to take pride in their emotional strength and resilience!), a lot of places have a culture of “well So-And-So could work through their illness and it was worse than you, so you can suck it up and keep working.” I’ve run into that several times in my career.
      Health conditions and their impact are so, so variable and depend on so many things, both in our control and outside our control. It’s too easy for folks who are distracted/ignorant/have an agenda to lump all health conditions and all bodies into one category, then apply a universal expectation.

  8. Dhaskoi*

    ‘In fact, for many American professionals, receiving acknowledgment and credit for good work often supersedes any form of monetary reward or elevation in status.’

    How dare you ask for a living wage you nasty, greedy, horrible person!

    1. Mangled metaphor*

      Whoever wrote the handbook came sooooo close to the point without ever actually hitting it.
      Acknowledgments and credit supersede the *receipt* of monetary reward, not the preference. They *get* praise instead of a raise, but that’s not what they’d *prefer*.

      It’s almost like they could see this waving at them from the horizon, but took a sharp right turn just before they read the actual detail.

    2. SophiaS*

      Honestly the way this is written makes it sound like a foreign company (something with different workplace norms) on how to interact with your American coworkers. In America, give compliments, not curt acknowledgement that task was completed

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen this type of thought expressed but it presumes the fact that the person is comfortable with the salary level they are at. I think they skipped this part.

      It also ignores that fact that working underpaid and disrespected drives people right out the door.

    4. Pippa K*

      This view of capitalism:
      Workers shouldn’t pursue higher wages, but investors should pursue higher profits.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Until acknowledgement and credit for good work pay my bills, I’ll take the monetary reward, please. I don’t do this for free/cheap.

  9. my 8th name*

    Re: letter 3. Is this a thing? I figured hr files were proverbial at most orgs, and I certainly didn’t see them as something you could add to upon request. Am I wrong? HR peeps, are there files and can we add to them?

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Not an HR person, but there were definitely HR files at my previous iob, because there was a paragraph in the employee handbook saying that you could ask to see a copy of your file. I considered asking for a copy of my file just to see how they documented the nasty bullying situation that I reported, but decided that it would be too excruciating.

      1. PollyQ*

        In California, you have a legal right to request your HR file from employers past & present. I’ve never heard of an employee being able to submit something to them on their own initiative, though.

    2. Order of the Banana*

      We do have HR files, although we typically put things like offer letters, disciplinary letters, PIP forms, accommodation letters, etc. in them—so just a record of formal documents. We don’t really keep things like peer reviews in these files.

      1. Despachito*

        I would not give the reviews to the HR , but I would definitely save them and use them exactly as OP said as a morale booster. It is a great thing to have for moments of weakness I assume everyone of us sometimes experiences.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I am not an HR person, but I do know there are formal HR files at my org. According to HR when I worked with them on a project, the files are mostly used for offer letters, PIPs, FML paperwork, and such. They are electronic at my office and people can ask to see them if they wish, but they are mostly boring. However, in their electronic tracking system, they can flag if someone was fired for a serious enough reason that they can not be rehired and then that can be used to make sure another department doesn’t accidentally hire someone whose been flagged. It’s big org, so that could happen. No idea if people could ask to add things, but that wasn’t relevant to our project.

    4. Asenath*

      I’m sure there are files, but I always assumed that they contained the information HR needed to pay me – when I was hired, at what pay level, when I took leave and whether it was within the appropriate limits and so on. I do think asking to have the kinds of compliments you often get from your co-workers when you leave added would be pointless at best (because how would it affect anything HR might do?) and at worse, leave the impression that OP was trying to do something weird with the evaluation process.

      1. doreen*

        My job had HR files and they would have included letters of commendation written by those higher up in the agency regarding specific work-related events and letters from other organizations expressing thanks for specific assistance , but not generic good-bye notes from peers.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      I’m curious, if OP is leaving, why they care what is left in the HR file at the old organization. Are they planning on returning at some point?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Maybe in case the previous supervisor gives a bad reference? Although I don’t see HR going to the file and saying “no, look, she was actually a good employee!”

      2. Koalafied*

        Yes, the letter says: “I’d like to retain a pretty good relationship with this organization because it has a big presence in my home community and I am mid-career; it would be nice to keep them on the list of employers I could look to in the future.”

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I’ve been HR for smaller organizations. Sure, you can hand me something to put in your file. (Currently, the file is virtual – you can upload things to it yourself.) Will someone actually look at as part of the hiring process? Unlikely. The primary thing to consider if you are looking to be rehired is if your file says that you are eligible for rehire. If the file doesn’t say that, then that will make things harder. If you are referred by someone who does know your work and the hiring manager trusts them and not the prior manager’s judgment, they’ll consider you – but that’s probably based solely on what you bring to table *now*, not what is in your file. You’ll need to be qualified for the role and interview well.

    7. kittymommy*

      We definitely have HR files and typically it’s going to be on-boarding documents, yearly reviews, disciplinary actions, trainings, etc., however if an employee gets formal notice of recognition by an outside agency or resident we do put those in there. Emails, notes from colleagues? No.

    8. generic_username*

      At my old job, we literally had a paper file for every employee, which got put in a box in storage when they left (but pulled out if they ever reapplied). At my current job, I’m not in HR, but I’m guessing there’s an electronic file

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      There is a crapton of paperwork associated with hiring and maintaining staff. We keep hiring materials, info required to pay people/taxes, performance evaluations, salary increase/bonus info, and the like. If someone’s done/said something that may lead to termination or insinuates they’re going to sue us, there will be memos to file documenting the incident, but those aren’t that common. We do not keep collages of praise people send us. I always ask that that goes to the person receiving the praise with a CC to their boss, who can include information about it in an annual review.

    10. blood orange*

      I’m in HR (currently hospitality/entertainment, formerly medical). If an employee asked me to add a document they had compiled of well-wishes and praise from colleagues to their personnel file, I’d probably go ahead and do it but I’d fine it pretty odd. It’s not really a thing that I’ve been asked before, and I’d likely add a notation that the document was provided by the employee and added at the employee’s request. I’m not sure what purpose it would serve, and there’s the possibility of it being manipulated anyway (these messages wouldn’t come from the source, they’d be coming from the employee). Honestly, that aspect makes me rethink if I’d add it at all. It might be better to say that you can’t add a peer review without a signature, but would be happy to if it came from the peer directly. I’ve also had really terrible employees who were beloved by their peers for one reason or another, so if I were reading a document like that, say when reviewing for rehire, I’d just take that into account as a possibility.

  10. Kevin Sours*

    For #2 you should read that as “your contributions will never be rewarded monetarily” and adjust your commitment to the position accordingly.

  11. Kevin Sours*

    #3. It might be useful to keep in touch with some of those people — particularly if they were managerial level and familiar with your work — and use them as references. That might carry more weight.

    1. Just my 4 cents*

      Great suggestion. Most employers will only give dates and titles and a few who are less risk averse may give rehire status. But any comments in your HR file wouldn’t help unless you were reapplying for a position at your current employer. In that case they MAY look at your file, but nothing is guaranteed.

      1. Rainbow Carebear*

        Generally HR files aren’t accessible to anyone except HR and upper-level management, or the manager of that person. And even then, it’s usually only for specific purposes. It’s not like anyone can go browse through your “permanent file.” At least at ethical organizations.

    2. ferrina*

      Absolutely! If you are worried that your bad supervisor talk badly about you to reference checkers, it can help to have someone that worked closely with you that can speak to your great work. The refence shouldn’t explicitly say “LW3’s supervisor was terrible!”, but getting both sides can offset a snarky supervisor.

  12. Dennis Feinstein*

    #2
    Ugh. Just ugh.
    I’ve had it up to here with people/companies that don’t get that people work for money and that the best way to reward people is with money and that taking pride in your work is nice & all, but the best thing about work is getting money for it.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I read the title of #2 and thought “ha, no.” I’m so sick of having to say that when you work you should get paid a living wage. This is not a hard concept.

  13. Laure001*

    OP1… Your story makes me think how I was haunted by my high school misadventures for years, and hoped I would somehow run into my old high school classmates to show them how much I had changed, how together I was now, what a cool job I had, etc.
    And then one day, I dreamed it happened. I dreamed there had been a sort of high school reunion, I attended, it was fun and pleasant and I had a great time with my former “enemies”.
    When I woke up, the problem was solved in my mind. I never thought of those people again and could let go of all the awkward or unpleasant memories and go on with my life.
    It was so strange. My unconscious had done the work, deciding that enough was enough and it was going to take care of my ridiculous hang-ups, saving me the therapy money.
    It was magic, seriously!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This ties into the advice I was going to give about closure usually being something you (or here your subconscious) give yourself. The other people don’t need to be in the geographic area.

      If closure would require other people to say certain lines acknowledging the damage they did… that’s rare that they cooperate. Quite often they have forgotten altogether.

    2. Julia*

      This is a great story. It also highlights what Alison mentioned in her response, which is that for LW it sounds like this is occupying space in her brain because of residual shame. No one else cares about this catfishing incident at this point – you’re carrying it around because you were a kid when it happened and it gut-punched you the way things do when we’re kids. It’s ok that this happened to you – it doesn’t make you stupid or naive; you were a kid for goodness’ sake. Where possible, try to forgive yourself. I have found therapy to be enormously helpful for dealing with leftover childhood shame.

      1. MeTwoToo*

        This is great advice. As a therapy technique, I choose an arbitrary point and ‘forgive’ all my awkward, anxiety sins beyond that point. For instance, in grad school, I let go of everything from high school or earlier. If I start to cringe remembering something from that time, I remind myself that I ‘forgave’ that stuff. It helps my anxiety to give myself those boundaries.

        1. Laure001*

          Wow, Metwotoo, that is wonderful advice! I will try it when the dream thing stop working for me. :)

        2. Joielle*

          Aw, I like that. It reminds me of when you progress in your career and start dropping your random college jobs and internships off your resume… just stuff that’s not really relevant to your current life anymore.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Yes, for many years I actively looked forward to my 20th reunion because I wanted to “see [cheerleader/bully] fat, divorced, and living with her mom” while I was looking good, gainfully employed, married, and with a pile of higher degrees.

      By the time that reunion rolled around, I had no interest in even attending. I hadn’t thought of [cheerleader/bully] in years. I still wouldn’t pee on her if she was burning, but I wouldn’t set her on fire. Buh bye, bully!

      I hope the OP can evict Melissa from occupying much space in her head.

      1. Laure001*

        Ha, Esmeralda, I totally understand. It’s like one day, there a sort of “click” happening in your head and suddenly those disagreeable memories don’t matter anymore. What is strange is that in my experience, it’s not a gradual process. One day you’re still haunted by some anecdotes of your past and the next, bam, this part has suddenly stopped to matter. No (obvious) explanation.

      2. Zephy*

        See, this is the double-edged sword of Facebook and the like. I don’t think I would have gone to my 20th HS reunion anyway (which hasn’t happened yet anyhow), but also, I graduated in 2009, which means I added basically my entire class on Facebook so now I already know who got fat/skinny/pregnant/rich/married/divorced/whatever. I don’t need to wait 20 years to see the aftermath, I got live updates as it all happened.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Graduated HS in 2000. We have never had a reunion. No one cares, we’re in touch with those we chose to be. Every now and then someone suggests it but as the Xennials we are, we’re very meh about a reunion.

          1. quill*

            Class of 2010, was supposed to go to a ten year reunion just because I still lived in town… on year 3 of the pandemic that canceled it, I feel like I’ve aged 10 years and also no longer care about that reunion.

        2. Kit*

          If my class actually holds their 20th reunion this year, I’m not going – because, uh, pandemic? But yeah, I know a lot of the gossip as it happened, and if I still bothered to log onto FB I’d know all the details. Besides, aside from a scant few people I actually liked my desire to catch up with them is essentially nonexistent, so even in less plague-ridden times I’m not sure I’d be able to summon any interest in attending a reunion. (The fact that it really would be my 20th feels surreal, though.)

      3. GRA*

        I am fat and divorced … and really happy with my life. These two things really aren’t the worst that can happen to a person.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      In my case, it was a group of friends from my university (friends of my ex), and I used to have a recurring nightmare where there was some situation where I was stuck with them again and couldn’t run (it was mostly them, but I could have that nightmare about anyone I’d cut ties with). In my dream, I told one of them where to go (not quite worded like that, but trying to avoid moderation for language) and that worked for me, I never had the dream again.

  14. Bobina*

    OP3: as Alison said, its not likely to have much value in sending them to HR, but things you can do:
    – stay in touch with these people! This is what places like LinkedIn are valuable for, as well as just good old networking. Having people who can vouch for your work is a great resource
    – use them as references
    – if you have something like an exit interview, it may be worth highlighting the issue there instead. Obviously it depends a bit in what context your current issues with your manager were raised and what HR knows about them. But you can certainly raise the fact that you have had good results and working relationships with others in the organisation (and previous supervisors?), and you would hope that would also be remembered.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d recommend going back to some of the folks that had nice specific comments and ask if they’d feel comfortable turning their message into a LinkedIn recommendation. Fairly easy to do, and then it can be seen by the people who need to see it.

    2. Smithy*

      If there is an exit interview, you can certainly mention to HR that you received a number of kind messages following your departure and ask if they’d be open to including any of those or other letters of appreciation in your file…..but I just don’t see it holding a huge amount of HR file weight. Making zero comment on the OP’s work or their manager, I think there are just a lot of cases of staff well liked outside their team but a challenge on their team or to their manager. And unless HR has been heavily involved already in the OP’s situation and knows more of the details – they’re just unlikely to want to open that door on a case by case basis based on farewell wishes.

      What I would add is that if the OP’s field is one where future jobs will require using this employer as a reference more formally (i.e. you have to provide a contact to HR and/or your supervisor and can’t use a peer/colleague/grandboss as a reference), you might want to consider contacting a employment lawyer to discuss negotiating your reference. The negotiated reference might just be that HR will confirm your employment dates but not reference the PIP or job in jeopardy pieces. And perhaps if there are any key technical items you developed or papers published while employed, asking for those to be included?

      I had a friend leave a job under terms where he felt he was unfairly treated due to his supervisor and was really concerned about this. Leaving with a negotiated reference was really important for his peace of mind and is a way to get more security on this issue, particularly if this employer is super high profile and you have no other reference there who can speak for you.

  15. Xavier Desmond*

    Op2 the phrase “Many American professionals” also annoys me. Why does this just apply to American’s?

    1. MK*

      Because most of the countries U.S. American workers compare themselves to (usually Europe) have better labour protections. Apparently that’s because these people have no pride in their workmanship and have to be inticed to work by higher minimum wages and legally manadated PTO.

      Seriously though, it’s obviously a U.S. company and they mentioned Americans because it applies to them. I doubt the person who wrote this even thought about other nationalities (unless they are bigots who think everyone else is just lazy, … which is possible, I suppose).

    2. Kate*

      That’s an odd objection. It would be much weirder if an American claimed to know what the world’s workforce wanted.

    3. Allonge*

      It does not. The writer was feeling the major, major issue with the sentence and qualified it to the best of their ability.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        I think the OP was quoting the handbook so my criticism is for the employer not the OP.

    4. Asenath*

      Perhaps the employer operates in the US, and is therefore mostly hiring, and mostly referring to, American employees?

      1. Batgirl*

        Is this extended reference to the nation a common way of referring to a company’s employees though? I would find it really odd in my country to see a reference to “British employees” as though the entire country was a monolith of workers’ values. I have seen “Company’s employees”, when discussing company policy, and “industry’s professionals” when discussing professional standards.. but never anything national unless it were referring to British things like Brexit or GDPR rules. I agree with Xavier that there is something slightly odd with the idea of evoking the idea of an “American professional”.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think it’s a common way to refer to a company’s employees particularly, but it is a common way of talking in general. Generalizations and cliches are often used. I definitely think it says something about the person who wrote the handbook, that they are attributing this (obviously positive to them) quality to Americans. And possibly imply that all the company’s employees are American?

          1. Holly*

            Well, it’s very likely that all of the company’s employees are American. Hiring foreign workers is extremely difficult, expensive and usually unnecessary because there are plenty of qualified Americans, including people who live here and have the right to work here, but aren’t citizens.

        2. Asenath*

          Well, I’m Canadian, and I don’t think it’s terribly common for an employer to write about “Canadian employees” – especially since not all employees were Canadian, although for many industries in many parts of the country, the vast majority are either citizens or permanent residents. But my observation of the US from next door leads me to believe that the usage of ” Employees” might be more common there than here. We do see something vaguely similar in Canada – in government ad campaigns sometimes, encouraging us all to pull together, or promoting participation in programs they’ve set up for Canadians. quite often in local companies promoting the idea that they’re selling a Canadian product, made (or grown) “right here” in Canada (well, OK, maybe “right here” means “three or four provinces over”, which always seems odd to me).

          1. Asenath*

            I was trying to write Nationality Employees, but I used quotation marks and I don’t think the system liked them.

          2. a tester, not a developer*

            The only time I’ve seen reference to Canadian employees with my company is in documents produced for our offshore contract workers. It’s usually around ‘work culture’ differences (e.g. “our Canadian employees work from 8am to 6pm, with some exceptions. Calls or emails outside of those hours will not be responded to until the next business day”).

        3. Xavier Desmond*

          I’m British too and this seems like a cultural difference judging by the replies. American patriotism is such a different thing.

          1. Landon*

            It has anything to do with patriotism. It’s just the way Americans tend to generalize. I think the actual cultural difference is that the US isn’t as affected by other countries as the rest of the world is, especially Europe where all the countries are tiny and dependent on each other. Over there it makes sense to generalize more universally, but we don’t have to do that here.

            1. Xavier Desmond*

              I think I broadly agree with you in that it’s to do with how Americans see themselves. I do think patriotism is part of it in the sense that there is a desire to define concepts or attitudes as “American”.

      2. Holly*

        Yes, exactly. I don’t understand this insistence that Americans should be 100% inclusive of the rest of the world 100% of the time. No other country in the world is expected to do that. We’re allowed to have things that are just for us.

      3. Paid In Pride Dollars*

        I’m the OP for #2. The company is actually British though the branch I work for does their hiring in the US and (to a lesser extent) the Philippines. Though a lot of my coworkers are British and Australian, here on work visas or as permanent residents.

        1. Polopoly*

          Well that explains it then… we don’t need to pay the *American* workers a fair market wage or benefits. Unlike in the rest of the world, a few polite words will pay their bills.

    5. Dasein9*

      Because the subtext is that asking for a better wage would be un-American and unpatriotic.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      I could be wrong but I assumed they were referencing some study that happened to be done among Americans. And most likely taking it completely out of context. A survey that asks “what is the most important aspect of your job to you?” is a very different context to a manual written by the company.

    7. Emilia*

      I think it’s in “America” because it’s referring to statistics collected in the US. There are polls showing that indeed, Americans are motivated by rewards that are not financial. But as others have pointed out, this is probably true only once people are adequately compensated already.

  16. Never Nicky*

    #3 I keep warm notes from colleagues and externals, emails, screen grabs of stuff etc I’m proud of in a little notebook. But that’s for me, and it’s a great pick-me-up on tough days.

    The monthly one-to-ones with my manager are a place for achievements and mentioning these things ‘for the record’ so maybe a mention in your exit interview might be appropriate, but not the screen shots.

    Good luck in the new role.

  17. John Smith*

    #2. The one and only point I agree with is where a manager should emphasise the contribution of the team (assuming there was a contribution). Nothing worse than a manager who takes all the credit for other people’s work. But my word, this isn’t a headache. It’s a full on supercharged migraine that could come straight from the UK government clapping for the NHS (because supermarkets accept hand claps as payment for goods, don’t you know).

  18. Lizzie Bennett*

    LW 1: If it helps, I empathize SO much. Those teenage wounds run so deep and you just don’t forget those teenage years, as much as we may want to. That’s probably why Hollywood makes so many movies about high school drama: it resonates. Also, back in the AOL dial up days, it was easier to be tricked because the internet was new. There weren’t any ground rules or logic standards to say, when this celebrity starts messaging me, it’s probably a prank. No one knew how the internet worked back then in regards to those things.

  19. Luke Skye*

    LW 2: How long before you can run far far away from them? You’d hope they’d get the message that they can’t get away with that stuff now with the great resignation, but nope! Companies still try to get away with that stuff.

    1. Paid In Pride Dollars*

      Until something better comes along, which isn’t likely. The field I worked in is one that keeps getting budgets slashed by the people in charge who don’t prioritize things like literacy and the arts, which was affected badly by the pandemic. I did have a part time job that I enjoyed and would have continued working at if the legal firm that oversaw everything hadn’t done something monumentally asinine and decide rather than fix the problem they would just let go of our division and hope for the best. So, back to the company that thinks my paycheck should have hearts written in the dollar field.

  20. Dee*

    I’m just commenting to let LW1 know that I was catfished with the almost exact same modus operandi when I was a teen (the celebrity and the medical condition and all). Only difference is that it was 8 years ago. So, I hope it helps you to see you’re not alone. It’s okay!

  21. Forrest*

    LW1, this isn’t work-related, but that seems like a lot of shame and self-hatred to be carrying for your younger self! I bet it’s the kind of thing where if you heard that story about another 17 year old, you’d have a lot more compassion for them and wouldn’t see them as a “pushover” or want them to still feel humiliated twenty years later. Is it worth speaking to a counsellor to try and process some of those feelings?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Agree with this! LW, you might also consider reframing this as, “I made the mistake of trusting someone I shouldn’t have trusted.” We have all made that mistake! (Ditto not speaking up in an uncomfortable situation.) Best we can do is learn from it and move on.

      The amount of shame you’re clearly carrying around about this situation is such a heavy, but unnecessary burden. I hope you find some help in setting it down.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah – I don’t see how the LW went at all wrong or what she is ashamed of! For going along with it? LW, even if you had called her out, she still would have considered the prank as successful because… she got a reaction. For believing it a bit? Believing people is not a character flaw! You took the best possible option – you stopped hanging out with her and saved yourself the headache of her company. You are feeling too much second hand embarrassment for ridiculous situations that *she* was responsible for. I also truly doubt she would remember it well enough today, to tell her mother about it now. People who behave like this have pulled too many stunts to be able to remember just one of them like that.

      1. moonstone*

        I was very non confrontational in high school and sometimes find myself regretting being a pushover at the time. But then…I remember the reasons WHY I was non confrontational. It was a survival mechanism.

        In high school, you are more likely to get in serious trouble for even being politely confrontational than as an adult. Some kids have volatile tempers and can really lash out. My school had a policy that anyone seen in a fight would be suspended – doesn’t matter who instigated it. So if you were the one being beat up you could get suspended. This discouraged confrontational behavior a lot. Also, school is a very closed environment where you see the same classmates for 4 or more years. It’s strategic to not ruffle too many feathers and just keep the peace for those years. As an adult, you have more freedom to migrate social circles as you see fit and cut off contact with people you don’t want to be friends with.

        1. moonstone*

          Oops this was meant to be a reply to the original commenter. It’s kind of a tangential comment, but another reason why I think the OP might be being tough on herself.

  22. Turingtested*

    LW 1: Assuming Michelle is a decent person, she’s likely even more embarrassed and upset by her daughter’s behavior than you are. It’s normal and ok to be naive as a teenager.

    I’d guess you both desire a cordial relationship and can just let your past slip by unmentioned.

    If it turns out Michelle somehow holds this against you, talk to a trusted supervisor/HR. But I think that’s very unlikely.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        100% that — I would assume the daughter would want to keep her bad behavior from her mother.

        1. quill*

          Also, 20 years, online bad behavior… it’s even less likely that the parents know what their kid was doing online in 2000-2003 than if it happened even ten years ago. The internet was a toy / time waster / nothing to do with real life to most parents back then.

  23. Ms. Technical*

    OP #3, your letter is the perfect example of how we can be different people to different people. Several years ago, I worked with someone who struggled with the job requirements in a technical job. It just was not their strength. Their strength was the social game, which they played incredibly well. I’ve never seen anyone chat as much as this person and make friends easily everywhere they went. It was impressive. The problem was the job required being at their desk doing the technical work, not in other offices chatting with coworkers. This meant that I ended up doing my work and my coworker’s work as well (management wasn’t effectively dealing with the situation). I ended up feeling resentful toward this person (and management) as I was bogged down with work while they were having a great time. I cringed when I heard their laughter all over the building as they made their rounds. Everyone else thought they were wonderful to work with, but I had a completely different view based on a completely different experience with this coworker. While it sounds like you may have struggled on the technical side as well, you should be proud of your ability to form great relationships. It is a gift and strength, so you should definitely put it into a file to keep for yourself when you need a boost, but I wouldn’t give it to HR. As others have said, it won’t carry much weight. Good luck at your new job.

    1. Smithy*

      I was talking to a colleague recently about how I’ve been realizing of late that there are a number of people I’d trust to work with but not necessarily work for…..

      We met working at a large nonprofit that is not terrible but does have a half baked approach to management. Which results in a lot of unknowns regarding what kind of half baked manager you would get – half baked as in a brownie with a gooey center or undercooked chicken. Could go either way!

    2. Letter 3 OP*

      OP of L3 here. I’ve had actually the opposite situation here- I’m good at the technical part of my work and bad at the social. Thankfully, it’s the IT team I’ve been working with who are sending me the kind notes. I didn’t realize when I joined this office that they had a weird, No-boundaries, “everyone is a family here” dynamic that I’m not good at it. I’m a serious, head down, deeply private person. My PIP was largely about my inability to adjust to office culture, and it was absolutely a surprise because, as my supervisor said, my work is excellent but my communication is unkind, technical and withholding, which yeah- I’m not gossipy, I eat alone, I write for a technical audience. I will admit I haven’t always been easy to work with- I am a data person and an introvert, and I’m bad at email and chats and am always working on getting better at those. I’ve been really lucky that folks in IT at my organization have been more willing to meet me where I am. I will admit to being charmed by the image of me “doing my rounds”; if I had done rounds, I might not find myself in this position. I’m honestly really, really proud of the technical work I’ve done here, and I’m really proud that the folks who’ve been writing kind notes to me are people who’ve I worked with on large, complicated problems. I haven’t gotten any warm notes from people in my current office or even the division of the organization where my office is located. I’m sorry you had a hard time with that person before. She sounds like a lot of folks I’ve worked with in my current job. I’m glad she doesn’t sound much like me.

      1. Smithy*

        OP 3, thanks for the context!

        I just want to add that based on your reading of your corner of IT world, if you don’t think you’ll need 100% need your former employer as a reference in an official capacity beyond the most standard background checks (yes, they actually worked here from x-y) – then it may just be worth connecting to that IT team on LinkedIn or reaching out via your personal email and say you’d be happy to remain in touch. Basically, hope to use one of them in future as a “technical reference”.

        I have one job where I worked for 3.5 years and my key reference is someone who was my supervisor for 6 months and then other coworkers. Reality is that my longer term supervisor there likely won’t have great things to say about me, and that’s that. As a result, I have worked harder to maintain the relationship with that shorter term supervisor because I really need her (supervisor before her has retired, English isn’t her first language, she lives outside the US, and has always been a wild card – and then supervisor in the workplace after will likely be fine but generic). My sector doesn’t do extensive reference checks, but I need people for the perfunctory ones.

        It’s not ridiculous to think about how to manage this from a reference perspective, if that’s what you want – but I think there probably other ways to be more strategic about this.

      2. blu*

        OP I would challenge you to perhaps reconsider how you are framing some of the feedback. It looks like you are equating being kind with being gossipy and going to lunch with others, but that’s not what it sounds like the feedback is. If you are interacting with non-technical folks then it is unkind to insist on communicating in a way that you have been told is difficult/challenging for them. I’m not surprised the IT folks like you, they probably can easily follow your communication style, but as you go to other roles it’s really unlikely that you will only ever have to work with/talk to highly technical folks.

        1. Letter 3 OP*

          Hi- sorry, there’s a lot of context I wasn’t able to provide. I didn’t fit in with my office, which was apparent to me immediately. How I got here: I was given the choice between quitting or getting a 7% raise to accept a similar position located in the office I’m in now. I really considered quitting, but decided the raise meant they really wanted me to stay. I didn’t realize they didn’t ask my current supervisor about this set up, so I’ve been golden handcuffed ever since. I knew going in that I would struggle in this office- it’s a bunch of hothouse flowers who know everything about one another and text each other 24 hours a day. The office ate lunch together every day as a group. They used mean nicknames about other offices and other workers. I tried to keep to myself. I’m not aligned with this culture of this office- that much is true. I don’t really mind that, though.

          I appreciate everyone’s concern that I’m really an asshole. I’ve also never been through something like this online, before, and it’s really made me realize how easy it is for some people to extrapolate a whole existence for someone else on shockingly little information. I will take that lesson from this, along with the gracious answer by Allison, forward with me into the future.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Well, in a forum like this, nobody has anything to go on other than the words you use to describe yourself and your situation.

            You could choose to assume that everyone is being mean and derogatory on purpose, and get huffy about it. For example, nobody here called you an asshole. They just pointed out that the actual words of the feedback and your interpretation/dismissal of the feedback don’t jive.

            OTOH, you could choose to consider that maybe you aren’t coming across to other people the same way you perceive yourself. Which, paired with the management feedback, sounds like a recurring theme.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Oh, dear. In your position I would be far more concerned about your communication being “unkind” and “withholding.” Especially since nobody in your local office or even your local division (the people you presumably deal with on a day to day basis) are countering that with supportive comments.

        Terms like that do not, in normal English usage, equate to “not gossipy” or “introverted.” They usually means more like, “unhelpful” or “insulting.”

        If the people in your office that you work with directly perceive you as unkind in real life, I would encourage you to consider and work on that. Even if your new position is entirely remote and entirely working with people with the exact same temperament as your IT team, it may limit your future options if you can only collaborate effectively in such a narrow niche.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        ” my work is excellent but my communication is unkind, technical and withholding”
        “I’m not gossipy, I eat alone… I will admit I haven’t always been easy to work with- I am a data person and an introvert, and I’m bad at email and chats”
        ” I haven’t gotten any warm notes from people in my current office or even the division of the organization where my office is located”

        OP, I hope you’ll take this in a constructive spirit but I don’t think you’ve fully taken what your management were trying to say on board. Honestly, most people are familiar with the idea of the introverted tech person. Even in companies where people are extremely extroverted or sociable, people don’t typically get put on PIPs or get given job-in-jeopardy letters because they eat lunch alone. The fact that your interpersonal manner apparently overshadowed your excellent technical work to that extent and you were directly told that you communicate in an unkind, withholding way really makes me think this goes way, way beyond introversion or being “bad at chats”.

        It absolutely sounds like you have the technical skills to thrive in your next role, but my concern is that if you continue to focus on nice things said by people who never actually worked directly with you on a regular long-term basis or put this down as a matter of personality type then you could end up here again. Okay, you’re a data person – data people can be kind, data people can communicate politely, data people can be easy to work with! You don’t have to suddenly transform into a different person (which I think people often worry about when they get this kind of feedback), but I seriously urge you think about if this is really just a matter of your company being weird and you not gossiping enough or if there’s more to the feedback than that.

      5. Ms. Technical*

        Thanks for clarifying, though I didn’t mean to imply that I thought you were like my coworker; only that we’re viewed differently by different people. I hope your new job is rewarding and that the culture is more suitable. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. I can understand somewhat because if you looked up introvert in the dictionary, my name would be beside it. And, I work with all extroverts so I get the toll the social side can take and the effort needed to nurture relationships when it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve found some helpful videos on YouTube that teach good communication skills. If you’re interested in that, a simple search will bring up lots of options. I’m a work in progress, but I’m getting there! Good luck!

    1. MK*

      At this point, it’s possible that the daughter might not remember it, at least as anything more than a prank. These things stay with the person who got hurt more than the one who did the hurting.

      1. Laure001*

        Yes, exactly. Chances are the culprit doesn’t even remember doing this, or remember it a different way (this harmless funny joke I did) or remembers it with a shrug (this stupid little thing I did when I was a teen, ha.)

        But yes, 20 years later? I vote for “she doesn’t remember.”

    2. anonymous73*

      Unless Mom is a mean girl with a mean girl daughter, I highly doubt it. And if mom asked daughter why OP wasn’t around anymore, daughter probably made up a reason that didn’t make her seem mean.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I wondered that too. I’m rather doubtful a teen girl would admit her mean spirited prank to her mom.

  24. Irish Teacher*

    OP 1, it’s really Melissa who has something to be embarrassed about. She made a mistake and behaved badly, admittedly as a child and she has probably matured since. It sounds like you responded graciously and maturely. I really doubt she would tell her mother the story. It looks bad for her, not you. What would she say? “Oh, I was at school with your boss. I made a real idiot of myself by pretending to be a celebrity and lying about a medical condition and she eventually stopped being friends with me.” You look mature and sensible in that story. She looks pretty silly.

    Melissa, now that she is an adult, may even have guessed that you realised it was her and were just being nice to her by not calling her out on it and may feel embarrassed or even think you were secretly laughing at what a silly teenager she was. I guarantee you she is more embarrassed about it than you are.

    And even if she did tell her mum…well, worst case scenario, her mum might be worried that you would judge her by her daughter’s poor behaviour as a teen. She isn’t going to think the less of you because you dealt with the situation by simply letting it happen and not telling her daughter off. That was a really kind way to deal with it and probably a sensible one. Confrontation for confrontation’s sake is pretty pointless.

    For what it’s worth, I did that a few times as a teen too, just let people think they were fooling me, partly because I didn’t like confrontation and partly just to be nice to them. Looking back now, I wonder if they realise I knew all along and feel embarrassed or if they still think I believed them or most likely, have forgotten the whole event. But I am not in the least embarrassed. If anything, I am proud that I didn’t care about what they thought of me to the point I had to “prove” I knew they were lying. I had nothing to prove to them and knew it.

    You have nothing at all to be embarrassed about. Even if you do think you could have handled it better or even if you had overreacted and been mean to her in response, her mum would be unlikely to judge you as an adult, especially for a situation where her daughter was in the wrong. But it sounds like you handled it really well.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      A big agree on the possibility that mom is concerned that OP thinks mom condoned this behavior.
      A friend’s son got arrested for doing a terrible thing. My friend was gutted. We chatted for hours. One of the points he said was, “Do people see that is my son, NOT me??? This is not anything I am about and it’s not anything I condone.”

      Mom may be relieved that you can see the difference and go on to have a positive working relationship with her in spite of what happened.

      1. MK*

        It depends. I don’t think most people would assume a parent condones the dumb things their child did when they are a teenager. Even with serious crimes, I doubt anyone would think a parent raised their child to be a criminal, though they may question if they were maybe negligent in their upbringing. If the terrible behaviour stems from, say, racism, people may wonder if they were raised in a family with similar beliefs.

      2. Nancy*

        Mom probably has no clue what happened and doesn’t remember who LW is. Melissa may not even remember. People forget.

  25. Ashley*

    Do I value getting praise and acknowledgement on a job well done? Yes. Is the best way to acknowledge that my hard work is appreciated by giving me more money? Also yes.

  26. Bagpuss*

    I agree that objectively, Melissa is the one who should be embarrassed,
    However, i thin it’s very unlikely that Michelle knows what happened. Melissa is unlikely to have have told her truth, so most likely, at the time, Michelle either thought that the two of you just drifted apart, or she may well believe that OP did something to end the friendship.
    If she asked Melissa at the time, it’s much more likely that Melissa’s response was “OP just stopped taking to me” or OP got offended at something I said and won’t listen when I try to work things out with her” than “Yeah, I lied to OP, embarrassed her by making her thing she was talking to someone famous and telling them personal stuff, so she stopped hanging out with me”
    Also, if Michelle does recognise OP and mentions it to Melissa, Melissa may well remember it very differently to the way OP foes. She may remember it as “OP massively overreacted to some harmless teasing, and ended or friendship” or even “OP ended our friendship and I never knew why”

    So I think that *if* the new employee recognises OP, the worst case scenario is that she sees OP as someone who was mean to her daughter or ‘ghosted’ her.

    I don’t think that means OP should necessarily say anything now , but I think she may need to give some thought to how she will respond if Melissa brings up the subject – maybe have a fairly anodyne response “Oh yes, I thought you looked familiar but didn’t make the connection. I hope Melissa is doing well now” and if she says anything about your and Melissa’s break up ,maybe have something like “I was really upset at the time, but that’s all water under the bridge, and nothing to do with your working relationship with me ” or if she says anything suggesting that she thought you were at fault then “She obviously remembers things very differently to the way I do. Her actions hurt me pretty badly at the time, but it’s a long time ago” I would only go into any detail if you find that Michelle won’t let it go and it affects her work relationship with you, at which point it may be appropriate to say something.

    1. Delta Delta*

      One of my favorite non-answers is, “who can say?” If said right, it says “there’s a whole story here but I’m not telling you, so shut it.” If Michelle asks why they stopped being friends, OP can breezily say, “it was a long time ago. Who can say?” And just be done and that’s it.

  27. Sarah*

    Hey LW, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I wanted to share it with you because I think you need to know you’re not alone.

    When I was in high school I met a boy online that I really liked. I thought he was into me, too. He told me his name was Jack. He sent me a picture of himself and I thought he was so cute! I showed all my friends. They all nodded and smiled but didn’t really engage and I thought it was just that they thought an online relationship was strange.

    Well, Jack ghosted me, and I was sad. It wasn’t until a few years later that I watched Titanic for the first time and realized that the picture he sent me… was of Jack… and I had lived under such a rock (Titanic was not a new movie at the time) that I didn’t realize that my crush was mocking me and my friends were being polite.

    They never brought it up to me and, like I said, I’ve never mentioned it before now (over fifteen years later lol).

    But when the night gets dark and my mind invariably leafs through its Book of Embarrassing Memories, I am forced to face the truth: I’ll never let go.

    1. Moonlight Elantra*

      That last line is the icing on the cake of this amazing comment. 10/10, no notes. Perfection.

  28. ecnaseener*

    LW1, I would mention that you used to be friends with Melissa but not volunteer any info beyond that. In all likelihood, it will end there and Michelle will not probe into why you stopped being friends. I don’t think there’s any benefit to telling her what Melissa did to you. (Especially since you’re her boss! You have power over her and you don’t want her worrying that you’re going to hold a grudge against her.)

    The one thing I could see her saying that you’d need to be ready for is “Melissa still lives in town, I know she’d love to see you, I’ll tell her to give you a call!” In that case your response should be something like “oh that’s all right, our friendship actually didn’t end on the best of terms.” And then change the subject.

    1. Vinessa*

      I don’t think the LW should do this. Why do you think Michelle wouldn’t ask why you aren’t friends anymore? If the LW brings it up, I can’t imagine Michelle not asking about it further (even if she’s expecting an innocuous answer, like the LW moved out of town for college or something).

      1. ecnaseener*

        Because it’s been 20 years? It would never occur to me to ask someone why they aren’t still close with a high school friend from 20 years ago – that’s the exception, not the rule.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I mean I’d not be at all surprised if someone wasn’t friends after 20 years. People drift apart especially if they move onto different places in life. I’d just say “nothing significant, we just lost touch.”

  29. Anon for This*

    LW 1: on the off chance your feelings stem from hostility towards Melissa, rather than embarrassment… there’s no sign from what you’ve written that Michelle ever knew. Children are often skilled at hiding their cruelty from their parents. Michelle is not Melissa, and there’s no signs she knew, or approved, of what Melissa was doing. Even if she did, 20 years is long enough for her to have had a revelation that teenage “games” are actually cruel.

  30. Person from the Resume*

    Regarding Letter #3, what kinf of permanent record do you think companies are keeping on former employees?

    I expect very little information retained for former emplyees.

    And I expect it is getting to be more and more electronic. As a whole, it will have to keep moving that way as more and more employees never go into an office.

    For my organization, paper records are not a thing at all. You do have performance reports, hiring/pay information, PIP, equivalents of “job in jeopardy” letter on very specific forms stored in an electronic system. There is no room in the system or form for a kudos file. You’d give that to your boss at annual report time for them to incorporate in your performance report.

    And for LW3, I don’t think it will do what the LW wants it to do – challenge the narrative that my supervisor has established in these other documents. The time to challenge the narrative is when it was happening and to prevent the PIP and the “job in jeopardy” letter from ever being signed and formalized. You just can’t expect anyone to go back and look at your record and see the formal and signed negative stuff and the positive notes and come to the realization that the negative infroamtion was an error even though the company’s process was followed through the signing and filing. Like if you want a job there again, the good stuff is not going to outweight the PIP and the “job in jeopardy” letter.

    And I don’t understand the point of challenging the narrative as you leave the company and these documents are unlikely to ever be reviewed again except possibly to be destoyed after a certain period of time.

    1. yikez*

      Great comment. Part of me is wondering if all of this is as one sided as LW is making it seem. It’s a bit extreme to be on a PIP simply due to a supervisor being a perfectionist, and it’s a bit odd that LW isn’t taking any responsibility. Seems like we’re getting half the story.

      LW, if you do need to use this company as a reference you can just contact the people you’re on good terms with.

      1. Wisteria*

        How odd that you focused on just the “perfectionist” word and not the rest of the letter. It is not extreme at all to be on a PIP due to a difficult, micromanaging supervisor while having *good* relationships with *multiple* other people.
        I’m sure the supervisor could also say that they have a difficult relationship with OP but good relationship with multiple other people. Jumping to a PIP instead of developing the emotional intelligence to manage their relationship with OP sounds like someone who was promoted to supervisor without the necessary soft skills to actually supervise.

    2. Smithy*

      I mention this above, but because of the PIP and the job in jeopardy letter, if the OP has genuine concerns about their reference situation based on practices in their field – I do think their best bet would be to contact a lawyer around negotiating a reference. Essentially for the organization and their supervisor to not mention the PIP/job in jeopardy if contact in future.

      I’m not saying there’s legal cause for this, but more or less in the spirit of conflict resolution or mediation to give the OP a more neutral slate professionally.

      1. Rocket*

        OP wants to keep the relationship good in case she wants to work there again. Getting lawyers involved to quash reference to an actual PIP the OP was on is not going to do that.

    3. Katie*

      Right. My company does sorta keep track of systematic kudos but there isn’t a file for ‘good job’ emails.
      And when/if someone calls for a reference they are not going to say well she was on a PIP but her colleagues seemed to like her based off of the goodbye messages in the file.

    4. Ancient Grudge*

      Yeah, I came here to say that a permanent record at work is about as influential as your permanent record in school. It does not matter! It’s not a thing! Build good relationships outside of your Horrible Boss so they can serve as your reference. But a permanent record? Not A Thing To Be Concerned About.

    5. anonymous73*

      Yeah, unless they’ve marked her in their system as “not eligible for re-hire”, I don’t see how it would matter.

      1. Cpt Morgan*

        And if they did mark her as “not eligible for rehire” then it doesn’t matter how many of LW’s peers (that aren’t even in her department) like her.

  31. BA*

    LW1: I’m very sorry you still feel shame and embarrassment over the catfishing incident with Melissa. I would not bring it up at all with Michelle, though. As others have said, she likely didn’t know, or doesn’t remember. If you were to bring it up, she might wonder if you can manage her appropriately, and that’s not a situation you want to put yourself in. If she recognizes you, go with it. You don’t need to take the lead and recognize her first, but you also shouldn’t have to tiptoe through your workday trying not to be recognized by someone who knew you 20 years ago. And if Melissa ever comes up, you were friends 20 years ago, ended up running with different friend groups following high school, and that’s it.

    1. Brookhaven*

      “If you were to bring it up, she might wonder if you can manage her appropriately…”

      Horse hockey.

      The letter writer is likely in their 30’s at this point with a decade or more of adult responsibilities under their belt.

      If the mother thinks “OMG, when he was a pimply teenager someone played a prank on him; he must not be manager material” then she’s the one with the problem.

      The letter writer is an adult now, not a teenager. He doesn’t need to bring it up, but he doesn’t need to run from it either. A simple reply of “I was a kid then, I’m an adult now” is the only reply required.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It’s not about LW being manager material, it’s about unpleasant history. I certainly would be a little worried if I found out my new boss had been harmed by someone in my immediate family! LW could make life difficult for Michelle if they wanted to.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Not in the way BA meant, but I have to say that if a new manager brought up out of the blue that my kid was a jerk to them in high school and they were still visibly upset about it, I might kind of wonder about their professional boundaries.

        To be clear, I wouldn’t worry about their ability to manage *because of the prank* but because bringing it up that way makes the current situation needlessly weird. It wasn’t something the mom did or apparently knew about at the time, and there’s certainly nothing the mom can do about it now.

        OTOH, I think greeting the mom as someone OP used to have a social connection to, just as a pleasantry, is a positive step that will de-escalate the tension of the situation. No need to mention the catfishing at all.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I assume it is more that the mother might worry that the LW still remembering it means they still hold a grudge and might judge her by her kid’s behaviour. There ARE some people who think bullies must be “badly raised,” and blame the parents for the child’s behaviour, so I can see somebody being a bit concerned if their boss were to say, “your child bullied me in high school.”

    2. Brookhaven*

      “I’m very sorry you still feel shame and embarrassment over the catfishing incident with Melissa.”

      The letter writer said he loved the family. He was close to the family and one of the members stabbed him in the back.

      He should feel betrayal rather than shame, but I can see how a teenager could feel confused over the incident.

  32. anonymous73*

    #1 I wouldn’t bring it up unless she mentions it. And even if she mentions realizing who you are, I wouldn’t go into detail about what happened. It’s likely she doesn’t know the details of why you stopped being friends, and it wouldn’t benefit either of you to explain it to her.

  33. Butters*

    I’ve had a couple jobs where I was expected to put myself last behind my clients and my work 24/7. One place even had that in their official slogan! Unfortunately that’s an incredible recipe for burnout if you’re not the owner/boss who is driving a luxury car and lives in a home I could never expect to afford in my life while paying me peanuts. I peaced right out of that industry despite it being my dream to work in it.

  34. Avril Ludgateau*

    #2

    In fact, for many American professionals, receiving acknowledgment and credit for good work often supersedes any form of monetary reward or elevation in status.

    Ugh, one of my superiors (not my direct line manager, but somebody who nonetheless expects me to clean up after her) is one of the people who claims to live by this kind of manifesto. Whenever somebody laments their poor pay, she brings up – rather derisively – that she expects us to work for “passion”, not pay.

    I once cheekily asked her if she would give up her salary, you know, since she was here strictly due to passion, and hey, the equitable redistribution of her salary would go a long way toward combating morale issues re:wages. It might even elicit some more passion from the disgruntled masses.

    She gave me a look.

    But I guess it didn’t stick because as soon as the very next day, she was back to the Passion Pit.

    Sigh.

    1. The Original K.*

      At a previous job the head of the business unit, who was VERY well-paid, said a version of “passion over money” at an employee town hall and somebody called out “if you don’t want your massive salary, can I have it?” Stopped him cold.

    2. Anon this time*

      My grandboss is similar; twice I’ve brought up our company‘s (openly grumbled against among staff) terrible raises (no one got more than 2% this year; this is a large company!) and both times her response has been that there’s research that shows that pay is only a small part of what makes people stay or leave at a job, and that culture is more important.

      No, culture is more important when you’re above market in pay. When the annual increase is so small that your pay is really going down when you consider inflation, pay is everything!

    3. Nanani*

      People like this believe in what they say for OTHER PEOPLE only. Whether because they’ve never though it through or for a more malicious privilege-pyramid reason varies, but that core is stable.

  35. Dasein9*

    LW #3, I once had a PIP from a bully of a boss as well, and at a job where I was both extremely productive and well-liked. (IOW, I wasn’t exactly a failure!)

    My therapist at the time suggested that I request that HR remove the PIP from my file in light of the fact that I had resigned and was otherwise quite successful at the job. They did!

    If there’s no risk to asking, it might be worth a try.

    1. Letter 3 OP*

      Hi- thanks, that’s an idea that hadn’t occurred to me. I will consider that. It’s been two years since the PIP, so I’d like to think the continued employment speaks to that some, but I’d rather it not be there at all.

  36. Mr. Cajun2core*

    I wish more interviewers would be willing to be available for interviews after 5:00. That makes interviewing easier when you don’t have to take time off of work. I did that with one job and it was one of the best jobs I ever had because the boss was flexible and was willing to put in time after hours if needed.

    I know that not everyone can handle and interview after working all day but it worked for me.

  37. xl*

    For #1, I can see that you’re still embarrassed and harboring a lot of anxiety over this situation from many years ago. One thing to keep in mind is that other people generally aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.

    I don’t mean this in a mean way; what I mean is that embarrassing things naturally stay in our memories when they happen to us, and we tend to think that others are thinking about them just as much as we are—when the truth is that people are thinking about their own lives and problems.

    I also had things in my past that I had anxiety over, and this was a liberating thing for me to finally realize.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Yeah, stuff like this is like having a zit. You can feel it as well as see it in the mirror, so you it is huge and painful and glaring.

      For everyone else, if they can see it at all, it’s a minor detail they don’t care about.

  38. Brookhaven*

    As to the high school catfishing:

    I long ago quit being embarrassed about the dumb things I did in high school (and there were plenty) because I know I wasn’t the only one. That’s what teenagers do–dumb things.

    You’re an adult now. You have a job; you manage other people; you buy your own food and clothing; you pay your taxes; you vote; you probably own a car and a house, are married, and are a parent. Get rid of that inner voice that says you’re still a child. You’re an adult.

    The correct response is they should bring this up is to think to yourself “F ’em; I don’t care what they think; they can kiss my a**”.

    Now, you probably don’t want to verbalize that at work, but that’s the attitude that should be behind your response. A terse “so what?” is all you need to reply to let them know you don’t give a damn what they think in regards to this incident.

    If the mother suggests getting together with the daughter for old times sake, simply decline. If she pushes, just say you had a falling out with her daughter. If she wants to know more she can ask her daughter.

  39. MCMonkeyBean*

    OP1 – I know it’s easier said than done to decide to feel differently about a situation, but I really hope that it helps to hear a bunch of strangers on the internet say they would not find that story to be something to be embarrassed about! I think the feeling that is most likely to bring up in other people if they found out about it is something along the lines of “ah, how naïve we all were when this big wide internet world first came into our lives.”

    I do think it is worth casually mentioning the relationship. Given what you described about how much time you spent at her house I actually think it’s really likely that she will recognize you! I had a childhood friend across the street who moved away when I was like seven. We couldn’t drive of course so it felt like she moved sooooo far away. But when I was nineteen I was canvassing door to door for summer work raising money for the DNC and apparently rang the bell of her new house. Her mom recognized me almost immediately and I was so surprised! And I was so young when she had last seen me. If you spent a lot of time at her house in high school I think it’s likely she would recognize you as an adult.

    I also think that given that it sounds like you pulled a slow fade on the friendship and there was no big fight over this, the catfishing that was such a big deal to you was honestly probably a lot less memorable to Melissa. And assuming she has grown up at all if she does look back on it now it’s likely to be from the “god, I can’t believe I did that what a jerk move” perspective. It seems unlikely that she and her mom would discuss that now, and if for some reason they did it is highly unlikely to be in a way where they think you have anything to feel ashamed of.

    Lastly, it sounds like aside from Melissa, you had a relationship with her mother and her family at the time as well! And they didn’t do anything! So I think it would be odd not to acknowledge that. It will likely be a bit odd, but I think the most awkward thing about this situation isn’t the catfishing but rather that she may have some trouble moving you mentally from “my daughter’s childhood friend” to “boss.” So, I would say acknowledge the relationship, but don’t dwell on it.

  40. Delta Delta*

    #1 – From Michelle’s shoes, she likely remembers OP was a friend of her daughter’s, and that she came over sometimes, but then didn’t anymore. She probably doesn’t know about her daughter’s online activities, especially if they were cruel. [I work a lot with kids and teens; literally none of them are running off to tell their parents how they’re catfishing (or whatever) someone online.] I think OP can say, “it took me a minute, but I realized you’re Melissa’s mom!” Then if Michelle asks further about why the friendship dissolved, OP can mention she moved (true) or with a wave of a hand say, “probably kid stuff. It’s 20 years ago, so it’s ancient history” or something like that if she doesn’t want to get into the nitty gritty. And Michelle might be thinking OP seems familiar, as well.

    If Michelle tells Melissa OP is her manager, OP can’t control what Melissa may say. I suppose if Melissa comes clean with her mom, OP can either say, ‘yep that happened’ or selectively remember, if that’s convenient.

  41. Lizzy May*

    I don’t know if anyone else is watching Severance, but that quote from #2 is right out of the Lumen handbook. And when your real life workplace closely matches the fictional workplace from hell, rolling your eyes is a very healthy response.

    1. Paid In Pride Dollars*

      I am thoroughly enjoying that show, but it definitely gives me the heebie jeebies when an eerily smiling manager appears out of nowhere talking about perks.

  42. anonymous73*

    #4 I’m not in any way diminishing what you went through with your cancer treatment, but it’s irrelevant in this situation. People can have any number of personal struggles that could affect their productivity at work, and none of them should be mentioned in a job interview. Your references can give you kudos. Not to mention, we hear of plenty of managers/companies who make it impossible for their employees to take time off – if you mention that you were still able to complete projects while sick, that could potentially give them ammunition to never change.

  43. Observer*

    #1 What would you expect to gain by bringing this up?

    I noticed that you mentioned the lack of closure. So, if that is factoring in to your thinking, I’m going to point out that you will almost certainly NOT get any sort of closure by talking to Michelle.

    Make your decision about this based on your current comfort. If worrying about Michelle figuring this out is going to stress you out, or make you feel like you need to watch every word you say, mention it to her. Not as a “BIG REVEAL” but more in a “by the way, I’m from here and used to go by OldLastName”. Otherwise, I’d say don’t bother.

  44. Rainbow Carebear*

    Sending some love to LW3. I had a nearly identical experience at my last job – my micro-managing, control freak boss decided after years of great work that she was done with me and started inventing reasons (like bringing up minor mistakes that occurred and were corrected YEARS before) to get rid of me. It was soul-crushing when I knew I had to leave and most of my co-workers were shocked, but were wonderfully supportive. Their kind words and offers to be references have kept me from falling too deeply into the PTSD/depression pit. So definitely keep a record of those positive comments and support for the moments when you doubt yourself!

    1. Letter 3 OP*

      Thanks so much. It’s been a little crushing to see some of the comments here, in a place I generally consider a pretty warm and supportive comments section. There’s no way to put enough context to make people understand how awful this has been, and what a boon it has been to be valued for my work by these others folks. I really appreciate the love, and can use it right now, so thanks.

  45. sometimeswhy*

    LW4 – Please don’t.

    Please don’t set yourself up for an employer expecting you will never need to take time off, even for something major, traumatic, or debilitating. Please don’t set the example that that’s a reasonable expectation. Please don’t reinforce a rub-some-dirt-in it culture as desirable or reasonable. I am a manager in such a culture and have been making myself incredibly unpopular pushing back on it. In a pandemic. With a team doing work that must be done at the worksite.

    I’m happy for you that you’re doing well and that you were able to continue to do something you found engaging during your treatment but Alison’s right, this isn’t something appropriate to highlight as a work-related skill or strength.

  46. Now With Extra Macaroni*

    LW4- For what it’s worth, I hear you, and I am proud of you. I went to college for engineering while undergoing chemo. It genuinely feels to me like my “moment I have overcome something and achieved” but unfortunately I can’t use it for interviews or conversations. Such is life.

  47. LegalEagle*

    I don’t have work advice for OP1, but I was similarly low-stakes catfished in high school (I thought I was talking to someone I wasn’t, the person who was doing it lied about certain critical details of her life to get attention, etc.) and I was so embarrassed about it for years, never telling anyone about it. I ended up sharing it about five years after it happened with a friend who was having someone do something really similar to her, and it made me far less embarrassed to know I wasn’t the only person who failed to spot red flags and got bamboozled. The more people I share the story with, the more it becomes a funny “wow how weird are teens” kind of thing, and at this point, over 10 years since it happened, the shame is completely gone. All this to say, in my experience, sharing something embarrassing makes it way less embarrassing. That doesn’t mean you have to share it with this woman’s mom, but if you’ve never told any of your current friends, sharing it with someone you trust may be a healthy start to the process. And who knows! A lot of us have been catfished, you may find you’re not the only one in your friend group with this story.

  48. Observer*

    On #2’s company, perhaps someone should point them to a price in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

    There is a conversation where the family is discussing whether money can really affect happiness or not. Marianne insists that it does not ad cannot make a difference as long as the basics are covered. Elinor says that it most definitely can and generally does make a difference. Then we discover that Elinor is talking about a situation where annual income in approximately £500 per year, whereas Marianne calls £2,00, MAYBE 1,800 per year a “competence”.

  49. Panda (she/her)*

    LW4: also consider the narrative that you are reinforcing by talking about how much you were able to accomplish while undergoing radiation. Many people can’t maintain that (or any) level of performance while undergoing cancer treatments, but talking about how much you were able to do might create an expectation in the minds of other people. I had cancer and didn’t require radiation OR chemo, but definitely could not perform at my usual level due to other effects of the cancer. It’s very individual.

  50. RagingADHD*

    LW1: If you can gird yourself up to do it, the best way to end the dread is to get ahead of whether or not the mom will recognize you. Introduce yourself: “Hey, I realized after seeing your full name on the roster that you’re Melissa’s mom, aren’t you? I’m (Birthname), we were good friends in high school. I haven’t seen you all in years, how is everyone doing?”

    No reason to say anything about how or why the friendship ended. This will probably pass as a minor pleasantry, and even if Melissa says anything about how mean she was to you, it will only make her look bad, not you.

    I think once you rip this bandaid off, it will be over.

    LW3: I think you might be a bit overly concerned with your “permanent record.” Nobody is going to look in your HR file after you leave, except to verify your dates of employment and whether or not you were marked as terminated for cause. Any kind of job reference is going to come from an individual, out of their own knowledge.

    And keep your network fresh, so you know where those supportive folks migrate over time. If you want to re-apply to this organization, tap that network.

    Keep the names and contact info of the people who will speak well of you so you can use them as references in the future, instead of your supervisor.

  51. Peridot*

    In fact, for many American professionals, receiving acknowledgment and credit for good work often supersedes any form of monetary reward or elevation in status.”

    Sure, Jan.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Is being highly-paid + appreciated a whole lot better than being highly-paid + treated like crap? Absolutely, yes.

      Is being decently paid + appreciated better than being highly-paid + treated like crap? For some people, yes. Others, no. It’s a tradeoff.

      Is being underpaid and verbally appreciated better than being decently or highly paid? No, because when you’re underpaid the verbal kudos are just lip service.

  52. Orora*

    The company in #2 should just write “You’ll never be paid what you’re worth.” and be done with it. They probably would love the savings on paper and ink.

  53. JHC*

    Re #2: The company didn’t come up with this nonsense on their own. I’m currently finishing up my MBA, and this “receiving acknowledgment and credit for good work often supersedes any form of monetary reward or elevation in status” business is practically verbatim from my Organizational Behavior textbook. I’m already a couple of decades into my working life, so I was able to take this stuff with a Spring Street Salt Shed’s worth of salt. But it makes my blood boil that this is what’s being taught to future business leaders.

  54. moonstone*

    OP 1: Don’t say anything! Just act like everything is normal.

    This is definitely one of those situations where you’re feeling more awkward than the other person because your experience was more direct and you remember feeling shame. But your friend’s mom doesn’t have any of that going on. I highly doubt she even knew it happened! Kids don’t usually advertise their jerk behavior to their parents.

    I sympathize because I’m one of those people who still wakes up at 3 am in sweats remembering embarrassing experiences from as far back as 1st grade. My brain doesn’t let me forget things!

  55. Polecat*

    #4 Don’t mention your cancer treatment. There’s no reason for you to be proud of being able to work while you were getting cancer treatment. That’s not something you can control. Some people experience side effects that make it impossible for them to work, and some people don’t. You have nothing to do with Which group you fall into. By taking ownership of your ability to keep working, you’re inadvertently maligning people who weren’t as fortunate as you. It also sets up cancer patients to be judged on their productivity which is a weird thing to be judged on. All the way around it’s just a terrible idea.

    I had one treatment for my cancer where the side effects were manageable with a full-time job; then I had another treatment for my cancer where the side effects were not manageable with a full-time job. It’s just how my body reacted. It had nothing to do with my level of effort. I wasn’t proud that I was able to continue working on one treatment, nor was I ashamed when I wasn’t able to continue working on the second treatment.

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