what’s the smallest amount of power you’ve seen someone abuse?

Remember the person whose company accountant was nitpicking his travel expenses to the point of responding to a $12 Chipotle tab with,”Ordering extra guacamole is wasteful of member dues”? Or the weeks-long battle about the purchase of a $10 calculator? Or the admin who wouldn’t give anyone a new pen unless you turned in your old, used-up pen first?

There is no amount of power too small for someone somewhere to want to abuse it. In the comments, let’s hear your stories about about the smallest amount of power you’ve ever seen someone abuse at work.

{ 1,808 comments… read them below }

  1. Dr. Rebecca*

    I may have posted this before, but my dad had a heart attack (he’s fine now) years ago, and I answered the phone while at work and left to go be with him at the hospital. The next Monday I came back to work to find a new “no phones on the warehouse* floor” policy, only enforced if you weren’t related to the owners.

    *I was the shipping/receiving person, and much of my day was pretty dull–having a cell for emergencies wasn’t impactful on my job performance apart from, you know, when there was an emergency.

    1. mcfizzle*

      *shudder* Are you still working there? Did you just ignore the super fun new rule?

      So glad you’re dad is okay!

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          I quit. I went and finished my undergrad degree, and then a MA and a PhD, and definitely ignored the rule while I still worked there.

        2. Anon for This*

          We’ve an employee whose job is to submit requests to someone else, who has to approve them. “Make this happen automatically without needing to submit a request for this” is something which can be approved, but the approver refuses to approve this because they like being asked to approve everything.

          Request submitter’s been on their way out for the last month or so, and on their way out they’ve been deluging approver with requests to approve access for people who already have it… and sneaking in “and make it happen automatically” on a few requests each week. It’s incredibly petty, it’s probably taking them more time to write up the requests, but they’ve apparently made it their goal to flood approver into submission before their last day.

            1. Raboot*

              Happens to me too sometimes, I’ll click the “add one” link above the comments but it takes me to a random thread. I assume it’s because the comment volume is much higher than the plugins were meant to handle.

            1. No longer new reader*

              We had somebody who approved various requests for the entry of data into the PDQ system who couldn’t handle the powers granted to her and consequently had them removed. She objected to almost all requests, citing faulty supporting documentation. Supplicants would be summoned and made to review said documentation with her for up to an hour. She was on the lookout for offenses such as attaching required printouts in an order she considered incorrect.

              We had a similar bureaucrat who made it almost impossible to send out required mailings via USPS without engaging in tense and protracted negotiations.

          1. Caaan Do!*

            I mean, Request Submitter is absolutely being a dick, but seriously, everything has to go through Approver because Approver can’t let go of being the middle person?

            I work in academia and I feel the pain of knowing something can be really easily made more efficient but it needs a committee, a working group and consultation with the unions to make the change, but something as simple as automating requests and moving Approver on to something else should be a no-brainer and I feel like Request Submitter had a straw/camel back moment. To be clear though, they are definitely taking it out on the wrong person.

    2. Avril Ludgateau*

      Early in my career, a supervisor set up my workspace at not-a-desk so she could literally watch over my shoulder as I worked. When I say “not-a-desk,” I mean it was a row of cabinets against a wall, with about 2 feet of space between the forward edge of my “desk” and the far end of her desk. It was actually a walkway and my workspace was arranged in a way that I just barely had somewhere to put my legs when my belly was up against the “table” and people were always bumping me to get past (in the <1 foot of space between the back of my chair and my supervisor's desk). I'm 100% sure it was a fire hazard (obstructed walkway).

      Anyway, one time I finished all my duties, didn't have any busy work, check my email and documents a few times over and still didn't find a smidge of work to do. So I switched from my work e-mail to check my personal e-mail. The moment I did – when I tell you it was the moment the page loaded – she stomped over and in an ominous and frantic whisper told me I was committing time theft. She didn’t actually have any work to give me, either, when I asked if there was something I should be doing at that moment.

      What I learned in that moment was that she literally spent her day peering over my shoulder to catch me slippin’. Guess she took “supervision” too literally.

      Surprisingly she wasn’t generally a mean person or a “power hungry” one. I think she was a little naive for her station. I have a feeling she may have been scolded once in her career and fed lines about how the employer owns 100% of your time when you are on the clock, and it stuck with her.

      1. Avril Ludgateau*

        crap this was supposed to be a new comment! Sorry Dr. Rebecca I did NOT mean to piggyback onto your thread!

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          No, no, it’s totally cool because it’s very much related! Like–the only thing my phone was “distracting” me from is the entire lack of packages to send out at that point.

      2. Dutchie*

        Didn’t she have any other work to do beside supervising you? Wouldn’t looking at your screen all day instead of doing actual work also be a waste of company time?

        I realize you probably don’t have answers, but just reading your story made me mad.

      3. jstep*

        I had a supervisor exactly like this. Made me sit directly next to her so she could see my computer all day. The funny thing was, she would spend six hours “writing” a single email. Literally sat there staring at the same screen all day. Once she reported me for using my PTO, one day at Thanksgiving and one day at Christmas, because I was going through it “too fast”.

        1. NNN222*

          This is one of my biggest problems with this type of surveillance micromanaging. You spend more time and energy worrying about looking busy than you do on just doing your job in a way that your brain works.

        2. Ginge1*

          Omg. That’s exactly like an ‘office supervisor’ I worked with. She was horrendous. Constantly watching what everyone else was doing but never actually doing any real work herself. Swanned around the offices trying to look busy. All sales orders has to come through her and she dished them out to the team (2 staff, including me). Wouldn’t learn the system either to help out when anybody on holiday/sick. Wouldn’t give any support whatsoever. Always picked and chose what she wanted to do, no one else got any opportunities. I could go on. As far as I know she still works at my previous employer. Suckers.

          1. Suzy Q*

            I temped at a law firm decades ago, and the managing partner’s secretary was a former Miss Texas runner up, and lord, she thought she was the QUEEN. All secretarial work output had to go through her so she could make “corrections” that were often wrong. I ignored her bullshit as much as possible. One day, I bypassed her (on purpose) and went into the lawyer’s office to ask a question, and I thought she was going to have a stroke! He was totally fine with it, which made her more angry. Heh.
            That was also the office where the guy I worked for was fired and no one told me for half a day. I was thereafter unceremoniously also dumped.

      4. Salymander*

        That is so weird. If she is so worried about time theft, why isn’t she trying to do some actual work herself? Pretty sure her supervision is costing more than your email checking.

      5. Amy*

        Time theft as a concept is so funny to me companies can understand Labor is a commodity when it effects them!

      6. Gruvbabie*

        OMG I had this exact same situation!!! It was a contract and the manager sat right behind me and positioned so that she could see my screen at any time. I even got in trouble if colleagues would come over to my desk to talk to me (even about work related issues).

    3. Read and Find Out*

      Let me tell you about Evil Kevin. We were in the same academic department but I was more junior in rank. As the new director of a program Kevin had previously run, I was given authority to assign work to a more junior colleague. The department faculty even voted to give me that authoirty–that if certain circumstances worked out in a particular way, I should assign that work. Those circumstances came to pass, I checked my plans with my supervisor and the employee, and assigned the work. The employee went to Kevin to ask for help with one of the assignments, and Kevin goes on a rampage because I did not get HIS approval to assign this work (forgetting that they had participated in the vote several months before). They complained to everyone in the department that I dared to set work for a junior colleague (within my job description) without checking with him first. He then insisted that the next department meeting agenda include time for him to berate me.

      I didn’t attend that meeting–as a rule I don’t attend meetings with peers where yelling at me is on the agenda–, and soon afterwards quit running that program. He was mad because I had negotiated a raise for the position after he quit it.

      1. Read and Find Out*

        Ack–I did the thing!!! I’m sorry–I’ll repost below as new comment!!

    4. Frickety frack*

      My dad was hit by a car while riding his bike about 14 years ago, and my mom called to tell me he was in the ER. My sister and I worked at the same place at the time and told one of the lead workers that we were leaving to go to the hospital and she said A) we weren’t supposed to have our phones on us, even though I hadn’t actually clocked in yet, and B) she would see if she could find coverage so we could go. I said, “oh, no, we weren’t asking, we’re telling you we’re going.” She got reaaaal huffy about it and said we could be fired if we left. She didn’t actually have that authority, but we said if that’s what *management* decided, we would just have to accept that.

      We didn’t get fired, but we did both quit not long after due to that place being literally the worst place I’ve ever worked, and I had a job where I was routinely sexually harassed AND had to clean public toilets, if that tells you something.

      1. Ben C*

        My dad actually was fired for leaving without permission many years ago. He had a job moving film canisters and went to take his lunch. The supervisor told him he had to move the remainder before going – said remainder would have taken the rest of the day to move. So he said no, and that he was taking his lunch. Supervisor threatened to fire him and my dad said go ahead. Came back to find himself (happily) unemployed.

    5. Observer*

      but my dad had a heart attack (he’s fine now) years ago, and I answered the phone while at work ~~ snip ~~. The next Monday I came back to work to find a new “no phones on the warehouse* floor” policy,

      So they instituted a policy EXPLICITLY to keep people from finding out about emergencies. Nice folks! NOT.

      Amazon recently was forced to walk back a policy like this (one that was apparently enforced in some warehouses but not others) as they have been sued over it. The claim is that they would have known about a tornado risk early enough to take more effective safety measures had they had their phones.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        *nods* Exactly. If you don’t find out about emergencies, they don’t disrupt the workday!

        And I’m glad the one at Amazon was revoked–the company I worked for was (very much) under the 50 employee cap that requires more oversight by the government, so they got to do their own thing in a lot of cases. Absolutely revoltingly bad place to work for many, many reasons.

        1. Hillia*

          My husband is a supervisor at a similar small company. They also have a ‘no phones’ policy, but he’s told his people look, just don’t make me acknowledge you have it. Put it in your pocket, turn the volume down and listen to your music or whatever. So of course he has employees wandering around with their phones out, heads down, surfing whatever they surf, until he’s forced to write them up before he gets written up for not enforcing the policy. Sometimes you can’t win.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            The store I worked at had a rule against phones on the work floor that wasn’t enforced till I’d been there a few months.
            I expect it was because of employees being distracted by their phones in front of customers.
            There are always the oblivious/clueless/defiant ones ruining it for everyone.

    6. Autumn*

      I work in numerous schools as a substitute school nurse. One day we had a situation where a child needed to be taken to the doctor to make sure something was checked on. The child was fine, it just HAD to be checked.

      The parents worked for a warehouse and were not allowed to have cell phones on the floor. I called the main number and NOBODY answered. I tried several times then the principal and the district superintendent had to become involved and shortly AFTER dismissal the parents finally showed up. Nobody told me how they finally reached the parents.

      If you don’t a;;ow cell phones SOMEONE has to answer the freaking phone? What if I’d had to send the student in an ambulance??

  2. Marketer*

    I was a very young junior employee, with a very low salary. I printed two sheets of music at work. The CEO of this 5000-employees company found it, and screamed in the open space : “Who used the work printer to print some music ? Whose is it ?” until I spoke up.
    I felt so small and guilty at the time. Now, I know he was just a terrible person.

    1. RandomCPA*

      Yeah, *technically* using company resources for anything other than business purposes is considered misappropriation of assets, but the managers that nitpick to that level do nothing other than tank morale. I will say as an auditor I do not care about personal printing as there is no way it’s material to the financials.

      1. Clisby*

        Depends on the company. I’ve worked places where they said occasionally using the printer for personal reasons was OK. I’m sure they didn’t mean printing out your novel manuscript, but 2 pages of music would have been fine.

        1. Lacey*

          Yes, I was coming here to say this. I’ve printed put driving directions (pre smart phones, but post mapquest), coupons, emails. No one cared.

        2. sofar*

          Yes, everywhere I’ve worked, using the printer for personal stuff was A-OK. And it’s one of the things I actually miss about being in the office full-time.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I worked at a place where it was in the employee handbook. Wording that said, in effect, “a little bit of this is expected and all right, but it cannot be for an outside employer, and we get to decide when it’s too much, at our own discretion, and you can’t argue with us.”

        4. BeeKay*

          I once worked at a place where we *could* print out novel manuscripts (or in my case a technical book I was writing). Among the duties of my department was writing software for mammoth printers the company made – the kind of printers Amazon would buy for their print-on-demand operation. So of course we had one for testing the software. It turned out that if Gigantor-the-Printer sat idle too long, the toner caked up or something, so management would beg us to pricing stuff.

          This is probably a unique case, though.

        5. Winterborn*

          I know someone who runs a small poetry press by printing and binding the books at the law firm he works at. He’s been doing it for years and I don’t know if they know.

          1. Anon Supervisor*

            I doubt it…with all the paperwork that lawyers filter through, I’m sure it’s not even a percent of the amount of paper they use.

            1. mb*

              I’m not sure how they don’t know. Most law firms have tracking set up on their printers/copiers, either through user codes or actual software that monitors this so they can bill clients for every piece of paper they print related to their case.

          2. Dove*

            I worked in the print shop attached to a corporate law firm for a year. The print staff would asolutely know…but also, if a lawyer or paralegal told us to print and bind something into a book, it wasn’t our job to care why.

        6. A Feast of Fools*

          Same. My company is OK with us using any company resource for personal use *within reason* and as long as it isn’t impacting our actual work and it isn’t NSFW.

          So, printers, copiers, computers, pens, paper, whatever. They don’t care. We’re a mid-size $4B company and they understand that actual humans work for them and that we don’t suddenly stop being humans with non-business lives during working hours.

        7. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Although I made an arrangement to repay the company 5 cents a page when I *did* print my novel…

      2. Anon for this*

        Many years ago, I worked for a company that made… items. My unit made items for civilian use, other units made military hardware.
        Copies were billed to the team that made them.
        Accounting found that one team had made way more copies than reasonable and did some investigation – which ended in an employee led off site by the police, handcuffed, for espionage. They apparently had sold copies of secret engineering files – this was still during the cold war so definitely a big deal.

        1. Rolly*

          Reminded of a roommate I had who delivered ice cream to ice cream parlors. Every driver “took” one of those big tubs of ice perhaps once a month, for home use. No one cared. They delivered hundreds each month.

          Till one driver started stealing a tub *a day*, to sell in cups on the street, to pay for a drug habit. Then they stopped anyone taking any amount of ice cream. Sigh.

      3. Stephanie*

        Recently the head of Operations sent out an email that the person who had printed 60 COLOR copies of theme park tickets could pick them up in her office – I felt so embarrassed for them. Would I print one or two? Yes but 60 in color is so much worse.

        1. Esmeralda*

          We lost use of our color printer for almost four years because of the colleague who abused it. Just got it back a couple weeks ago. Said colleague has been gone a couple of years…

        2. Nanani*

          Copies of tickets like, they were trying to use the same ticket for than once/with multiple people? Does that even work? Do you work for a theme park company to make it ironic?
          Or were they just printing out theme park tickets for their big family reunion at Local Rollercoaster World?
          So many questions that do not matter.

          1. Stephanie*

            We do not work in anything related to a theme park. My guess is they wanted to print a few pages and messed up based on the technology experience I’ve seen demonstrated…

            1. Lego Leia*

              My guess would be repeatedly sent to wrong printer. Printed the same 4 or 5 tickets repeatedly, to the wrong place, because “they weren’t at the printer”.

            1. Marketing Queen*

              Argh. Page did not refresh for me to see you’d already responded. That must have been an awkward conversation when they went to claim those tickets.

            2. Cath*

              My husband used to work in the print center of a law firm and got a talking to because one of the secretaries thought he was to fast. Just like…walking too fast for her taste.

      4. emm*

        I work for a public entity and legally we can’t use anything. The cost is so small though, that when our accountant announced this apologetically we all just handed her a dollar and she said we’re good for life.

        1. Sorcyress*

          I would absolutely give the public entity I work for a dollar to make up for the ~100 personal pages I’ve used of their copiers in the last five years, but honestly, I know the extra work I’ve put in that I haven’t been compensated for and I’m just gonna call us even ;)

      5. Susan Ivanova*

        Our company’s sales department got a very expensive color printer that was set up near engineering instead of in their section. Not your typical color laser printer, but something fancy that they claimed cost $1/page to print (thermal wax, maybe?) So we must be very careful never to send ordinary print jobs to that printer, or use it for anything frivolous.

        One day a print job went wrong and instead of printing very nice color pages, it was printing raw code – the sort where it’ll be a couple of lines of text gibberish and then a random linefeed, so it spews page after page. We couldn’t stop it by any means other than turning off the printer, so we did, and then tried to find someone who could cancel the job.

        “Oh, just let it run.”

        So we did. 50+ sheets, $1/page, and they don’t care? OK, time for some frivolous – I mean, absolutely necessary – printing to brighten up our cubicles.

        1. Worldwalker*

          The cost per page is for the ink (or whatever), not the paper, so it actually wasn’t as much as it might seem like, if the pages were almost blank.

          1. Susan Ivanova*

            It was special paper too; it might not have been a $50 print run but they still wasted more than we did with a few pieces of cube art.

            1. Anonymous4*

              We got one like that in our marketing department! Really Nice Printing, really expensive to run, NO ONE was to touch it — and I don’t remember what was so extra-specially wonderful about it, but we were all firmly instructed in no uncertain terms that we were NOT to print anything on it. ‘Cause it was special.

    2. RCB*

      The smartass in me would have yelled “Do you have nothing better to do with your highly paid time than to worry about 2 sheets of paper? If you do have time for that are you really that important to the company?”

      1. Spero*

        Exactly! With his salary, the time he spent wasting on this temper tantrum was almost certainly more valuable than the cost of 2 sheets of paper and a tiny amount of printer ink.

      2. Zennish*

        This was my first thought. The CEO probably wasted $100 worth of time ranting over 3 cents worth of paper and ink. I generally think that if the time spent addressing a problem costs more than the problem, you’re doing it wrong.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          There are always people who are firmly convinced that it’s more important to make ABSOLUTELY SURE that nobody is ever getting one pennyworth of anything they don’t deserve than it is to optimize for results. Many of them are in government, but there are plenty at the tops of corporations too.

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            Exactly this. At Previous University Library, we bought tons of books from Amazon. We wanted to purchase Amazon Prime to save on shipping, because at high volume shipping added up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year. We were told no, because Amazon Prime comes with personal benefits, so the employee who managed the Prime account could get to watch movies or other bennies on the state dime. So the taxpayers of my state spent hundreds/thousands of dollars to make sure a poorly-paid employee couldn’t use taxpayer funds to watch a movie.

              1. Observer*

                It’s financially stupid. But it is possible that the Uni is not allowed to do it differently or that they have reason to think that they may not do it differently.

                This kind of nonsense shows up ALL. THE. TIME. when dealing with government funders and / or IRS / State tax auditors.

              2. DataSci*

                I honestly don’t think it’s mean-spirited. I suspect it comes from needing to be ABSOLUTELY SURE there is no appearance of abusing taxpayer money, and not wanting to hear a hostile legislator railing about how tax dollars are paying for someone’s Amazon Prime account. (We all know an explanation will never catch up to a hostile sound bite.)

                (Same reason why my wife, who is a scientist working for the government, can’t accept any ‘gifts’ whatsoever. She’ll go give a scientific talk at a university where the policy is that the department pays for the speaker to go to dinner with the grad students and she’ll need to hand over her credit card first thing to pay for her meal, because under NO CIRCUMSTANCES can she have anyone else pay for her meal when she’s on official business.)

            1. Ruby Julian*

              I also work for a university and am not surprised at the insanity of that logic. Our departmental office’s purchasing person refuses to make more than one office supply purchase per month because she doesn’t like reconciling paper work. So when we run out of things, we either do without or buy them ourselves, and then we can’t get reimbursed for them because we did not purchase them through official channels. It’s really quite hard to run an office with no toner for the printer and no pens to write with.

              1. Observer*

                I think that it’s time for malicious compliance.

                Make sure that the requests are documented. Then request permission to make purchases that will be reimbursed. I’m sure that they will be refused, but you want to create the paper trail that you are trying to do your job. Then, when you run out, document that you cannot do X, Y or Z because you don’t have said supplies. Keep your boss (and her boss) in the loop.

                Either she needs to order more at a time or she needs to order more often. And her boss needs to make her do it. But they won’t unless they are pretty much forced to do it.

                1. Distracted Librarian*

                  Exactly this. Stop buying any supplies with your own money. “Yeah, sorry, can’t send that donor acknowledgment letter. We’re out of letterhead, and the next order doesn’t go in till the 20th.”

            2. Susan Ivanova*

              Mom worked in a government office back when they were first given Windows machines, when the standard install still included Solitaire and other games.

              Government bean counters were shocked! shocked! that employees might play those games, and they must be removed at once! Now this was so early in the computer era that most of the people using them knew how to get to the work app and nowhere else, and didn’t even know how to find the games, much less play or remove them. IIRC Mom said if they wanted it off, they could do it for her, and ignored them. If they tried to accuse her of playing the game she’d have told them to prove it.

            3. mb*

              Now you could get around this by signing up for a Prime Business Account. The manager of the account would have to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to watch movies, and I believe that the option for movies and music could be turned off, thereby still getting the shipping reduced and avoiding anyone using the account for entertainment.

        2. Carol the happy elf*

          I’m sticking in my concern about the cost of his BP meds, his take-home monitor, and his stroke….

      3. Reluctant Manager*

        Those are the people who expense their bathroom renovations. I swear there’s a link between believing you’re entitled to use the company as your personal cash cow and being outraged that anyone else gets a completely reasonable perk.

    3. Anonym*

      We don’t have a currency denomination small enough for you to pay back the cost of that… maybe you could have clipped a penny in half? Amazing.

    4. Lady Blerd*

      The only time I’d have an issue with this is if you’re doing it at time where the office is busy. We had a receptionist who used to photocopy entire cookbooks during work hours. I didn’t care for the why she was using the copier, only that I need to get work done but she was holding up the machine.

      1. Evelyn Carnahan*

        I had a coworker who planned her entire wedding at work. Fine, whatever, not my problem. But our offices had drop ceilings and no sound isolation whatsoever. She somehow managed to get herself a brand new desktop printer for her office when about half of the people in our department had no individual printers at all, and then spent most of a week printing out her wedding invitations while she worked. Everyone else in our row of offices spent the whole week wondering what that constant noise was.

        1. Bern Notice*

          Same here – I got to listen to someone yell at people on the phone all day (the phrase “it’s MY wedding” still makes me shudder) and do all her planning at work. And as an added bonus, got snapped at when I asked for help with something I was doing that was actually HER job, she was just too busy not working to do it.

          1. Evelyn Carnahan*

            Luckily my coworker was not that loud usually. But I know that the supply closet ran out of ink when she was printing her invitations. And then years later she became an “acting interim director” (what a mess of a workplace) and squeezed every single bit of power out of that ridiculous title for the few months she had it, including monitoring how other people used their time at work!

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I suspect that’s not as uncommon as it might be. After all, she knows *she* got away with spending a lot of work time not working, so of course she’ll assume everyone else does, too.

        2. Anonymous4*

          We had someone who not only planned her wedding at work, she was also interviewing various guys to see if she could get a better deal on a groom. Seriously. I guess she was on a dating website, but she talked to at least half a dozen guys and asked them where they worked, how much money did they make, what were their future job prospects, so forth and so on — and I’m sitting in the next cubicle, about three feet from her telephone receiver, thinking, “Just – shut – up, would you? JUST – SHUT – UP!”

          She eventually married the original guy, and I have no idea how it worked out. I moved a few months later.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            We’re getting off topic here but this reminds me of my SIL. There was some deal in her family about not wanting to be the last sister to get married. SIL got engaged to my brother and announced a wedding date that was about 2 years off, smirking because one other sister was not yet engaged.
            That sister promptly announced her engagement, and a wedding date that was 18 months off. SIL was livid.
            The sister’s fiancé then suddenly left her in the lurch, and SIL started breathing again.
            Only to nearly faint when six months later she received an invite for her sister’s wedding: same church, same date, just a different groom…

      2. Margaretmary*

        I’m a teacher and once worked in a school where there was an issue with student teachers photocopying large amounts of text for their course (like taking books out of their college library and photocopying the chapters they needed in the school rather than at college, where they would have to pay for photocopying) just before the summer tests when teachers were trying to print out the tests for the students in the school. (I’m guessing the college and the school had end-of-year exams around the same time.) The principal was saying she needed to make it clear to them that of course, it was fine for them to print out stuff for college when the photocopier wasn’t urgently needed but not to be printing out large amounts of text for personal use when there was a queue of people waiting to use it for actual school business.

        I think even when it was busy, two pages would have been fine though. Might be different in an office but at a time of year in a school when numerous teachers are printing off maybe 30 5 page tests for each of the classes they teach, I really don’t think two pages would make any difference.

      3. Observer*

        The only time I’d have an issue with this is if you’re doing it at time where the office is busy.

        The truth is that with a high speed printer, 2 pages takes almost no time. Given that it looks like a shared printer in a high use environment, I suspect that it was a high speed printers, not something that goes at 8 pages per minute.

        1. GingerJ1*

          Based on my time as a student teacher, sub, and tutor….schools did NOT have high-speed printers or copiers.

          Copier time is a huge deal at a public school.

          1. BlueSwimmer*

            Yep- former high school department chair here, whose classroom was next to the copy room. I became the de facto person for all copier complaints.

            School copiers/printers are typically not high speed, not kept in prime working condition, and have so many users who jam them and clear them incorrectly that they constantly have issues. Teachers also have limited time before school or between classes, so every school I’ve ever been in has a 5 minute rule for the copier. My last school actually posted the number of 1 sided or 2 sided pages you could do in 5 minutes prominently because there were always those people who ignored the rule or sent a massive job and acted like it was an accident and they didn’t know how to cancel it.

            I needed to print 15+ page practice tests for large classes of 35 students a few times a year and would come in on Saturday or stay until 5:00 or 6:00 when most teachers were gone to have the time to copy them all. I could grade an entire set of essays in the time it took to print them all.

            When teachers talk about lack of planning time- it’s stuff like this that takes away from their actual work of planning instruction or giving feedback on student work.

            1. Sorcyress*

              The school district I worked for just finished and opened a new high school building last May. The project cost was something around a quarter of a million dollars total.

              I cannot express in human noises the rage I felt when I went into our shiny brand new prep room for the first time and saw the same 10+ year old copier from the old building, complete with tattered “You MUST use Tray 4” sign taped to it. Thankfully we did get new copiers at the start of this school year, but oh, I was _furious_

              1. RT*

                “Oh no, looks like the copier short-circuited and mysteriously caught on fire. Hmm, guess we have to get a new one.”

      4. Anon for This*

        Looooooong ago, the College of General Studies in the school on the south bank of Charles river went and bought themselves a fancy photocopier that was allegedly SO expensive to use that we had to get written permission to copy more than 20 pages or something. I had about 20 students per class, if I recall, so I could basically do a 1-page handout each class period and no more without a lot of useless paperwork. I wound up doing a LOT of after-hours photocopying so that I could teach my classes properly.

        Bonus: College of General Studies (and the school generally) yelled at faculty if we didn’t give low-enough grades. I was supposed to make the class average a B- if I recall, no matter how much better than that the students actually did.

        I quit.

    5. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      At my first office job, I printed ALL my choir music at the office. No one seemed to notice, ever! Maybe not the best idea in hindsight, but for just one or two pieces, the idea that someone would a) actually care and b) scream about it in front of everyone!!! is bananas.

      1. Salymander*

        When I was six years old, with terrible pneumonia, my mom brought me to work once I was fairly on the mend. She set me up in a corner with a sleeping bag and my giant pile of books, and I was happy to spend a week lying around and reading rather than going to school. On my second day there her boss was trying to be nice, and offered to pay me a dollar every day to run the copy machine. My mom showed me how to make copies, and I happily spent the rest of the day figuring out the machine. I learned how to fix a paper jam, how to load the ink, and everything. Over the next several days, I cheerfully stood in front of the copier for hours, making photocopies of novels including but not limited to: the first two books of the Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, and The Hobbit. So many books. No one bothered to check my work, so I was given a dollar every day and went home with stacks of paper in my book bag. The following Monday, there was much confusion because all of the copier paper and most of the ink had mysteriously disappeared. I don’t think my mom ever told anyone, and her boss forgot all about it, so I remained blissfully free of any consequences.

  3. Expiration Date Keurious*

    We had a coworker who was responsible for budgeting. They were kind and I believe were trying their best, but they didn’t want to order new K-Cups and sent an email stating that the expired K-cups (year-plus) were completely safe to consume.

    One of my coworkers also said they had to justify why their staff needed real laptops and couldn’t do their administratively heavy work on iPads only.

    1. ThatGirl*

      To be fair, old K-Cups wouldn’t be dangerous to anyone unless they’d gotten contaminated … but they sure would be stale as hell and not taste very good.

      1. Expiration Date Keurious*

        I hear you! I think it’s more about what the K-Cups represent. We were an office that felt constantly overburdened and understaffed (jobs hadn’t been filled for a year+, saving tons of money because that work was redistributed to existing members without any salary adjustments or removal of responsibilities), and our one small joy was a free hot chocolate or donut shop coffee in the morning

        1. ThatGirl*

          Oh I get it, I wouldn’t have wanted to drink them either!

          The stupid petty office coffee thing I witnessed was the company I worked for *taking away* free coffee to save costs. They installed Flavia machines (similar to Keurig, but pouches, and made by Mars) but told us we had to buy our own pouches. You could buy them in bulk through the company at something of a discount. But it was just so dumb and such a small thing on the bottom line of a Fortune 500 company. Eventually people revolted and free coffee returned.

          1. Expiration Date Keurious*

            Yeah it’s so “penny-wise, pound-foolish.” To motivate folks to do good work and be positive brand representatives, you don’t take away small perks that have little to no impact on the bottom line.

            1. JustaTech*

              Oh, someone else who has those machines! We got them so people would stop stealing the K-cups (I’m not sure that theft actually happened). Before the holidays I noticed that we were running out of tea bags on our floor (the only floor that regularly has people anymore) and when I asked about a re-supply I was told that we were only getting the Flavia tea pouches going forward “to save money”.

              Which is utterly laughable because acceptable tea (Tazo) is very cheap and the Flavia stuff is so not good that no one drinks it.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                My preferred brand of tea costs about $0.08 per cup of tea. I’m willing to bet the Flavia stuff is more than that.

            2. rita*

              Right? I worked at a company that was super stingy, and I worked at a company that was relaxed and generous, and you get one guess which one was the place where we figured out ways to work around the system and “punish” them for being cheap in the first place. My expense reports were MUCH larger at company A than company B…

              1. Rachel in NYC*

                I was wondering how bad the company was the people were stealing k-cups. I work at a university- we don’t get a paid well (see university pay scale.)

                want to know what doesn’t happen? people taking home k-cups and other drinks and snacks.

                though we’ve always been pretty sure some of the security guys used to stop by our floor for night time snacks. But honestly, we’re fine with that.

                1. Hannah Lee*

                  For a while our UpS route driver would take his break at our company… he’d come in with his travel mug and make some mocha latte espresso thing that used 4 Flavia packets. Every day. Which was bad enough. (Like occasionally? Sure, but every day?)
                  And then he started timing his deliveries to be when the production group was about to take their morning coffee break, he liked to chit chat with them, so everyone else had to wait for Ed the UPS driver to finish helping himself to his free Xtra large coffee… which took a while because of the 4 separate packs and brew cycles… and then wait for the reservoir to refill and heat back up before they could make their 1 cup of coffee and sometimes there wasn’t enough time for everyone to make a cup before they were due back … because UPS Ed was hogging the coffee machine for 8 minutes of their 15 minute break.. One day our production manager handed him a $10 DD gift card and told him our coffee machine was off limits from now on. He’d also come back to our building’s parking lot on his lunch break because it was one of the quieter out of the way places in the industrial park… but he’d eat lunch in his truck with the motor running and his radio on loud, so if any of us wanted to enjoy fresh air or peace outside during our lunch break we were SOL.
                  Again, someone had to wave him off, because he never noticed or cared that he was negatively impacting other people.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            My employer is not legally allowed to provide free coffee, because it’s a public research institute, and buying food or drink for internal events is a waste of taxpayer money.

            I’ve run into the no free coffee thing in four different countries, so it’s not unusual. The pettiest was at a research institute located out at a science park outside of town that had no nearby coffee shop, where a visitor saw the free coffee and made an official complaint, forcing them to get rid of it.

            1. Divergent*

              I’m in government here and we have tap water that hovers around the legal drinkable bacteria count, plus if you leave a glass of it overnight it precipitates about an inch of white goo. So, it’s mostly legally drinkable.

              There is already a water cooler in the building. Employer will not provide any sort of drinking water other than tap normally — it looks bad — so we have to chip in $4/month for the water cooler or bring drinking water from home. The water is tested by the employer monthly and when the bacteria count pops above the minimum limit they pay for the water in the water cooler for that month only since we would otherwise be in contravention of workplace health and safety rules around providing drinking water. Then when the water tests legal we have to pay again.

              As a fun bonus, many of us have heavy field/manual labour jobs that can lead to heat stroke.

              1. Very Social*

                Huh. I wonder how much more those monthly water tests cost than just paying for the water.

              2. Meg*

                I’ve seen a lotta dystopian sh*t on this site, but I think this wins. I want to go cry for a hundred days straight.

          3. Momma Bear*

            We had an old office with a Flavia machine. Corporate pulled the budget for our coffee/tea. I didn’t realize until later that one of the senior staffers was buying more for everyone because he thought that was stupid. When he left (massive layoffs) the Flavia machine was the first thing to go.

          4. Marketing Queen*

            That happened at my old company after we were acquired by a much larger one (think guppy swallowed by blue whale). They bough Keurigs for all the offices, but employees have to buy their own pods. Which they could get through some online marketplace the company sponsored. Except…it wasn’t any cheaper than going through Wal-Mart or wherever. Luckily, management in my office said NOPE, we’re not taking away free coffee.

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        K stands for Keurig, a coffeemaker. The cups are sealed plastic cups of ground coffee and flavoring, so you can get a single cup of whatever coffee you like, rather than a whole pot.

        1. Mischief & Mayhem*

          My parents have a Keurig but were able to find reusable pods. They just fill the pods with their own coffee, wash, and reuse.

          1. CatWoman*

            The refillable pods are available on Amazon, and they are fantastic. Fill with any coffee you prefer.

            1. Always Happy*

              With my current company, before the pandemic when we were actually in office, we had 2 very nice Nespresso machines in our main eating area, as well as loose leaf tea that you could make your own tea bags,and then each floor had a smaller machine that took the pouches. I miss the office somedays lol.

          2. Always Happy*

            Yeah, I tried to bring my own refillable ones into work, and the commercial machines weren’t compatible with them…I will say though, the only upside of working for the collection agency was that EVERYONE who worked there was addicted to either coffee, Pepsi, or Mt. Dew….the coffee was free and you know that the soft drinks were refilled on a regular basis!

            1. JDubbs*

              Off-topic, but as a Canadian, I always forget that Mt. Dew is caffeinated everywhere else, and then I drink it sometimes and wonder why I’m so jittery for the rest of the day.
              (Legally in Canada only brown/caramel coloured soft drinks are allowed to contain caffeine…)

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          An economic one, too. If I’m paying $50/lbs for coffee, I want the grower to be getting the money.

        2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          You can find ones that biodegrade now! I have some and when I make my coffee, I take the pods home anbd throw the pods into my garden .

          1. Christina*

            The compostable and recyclable ones are still an environmental atrocity – they still take far more resources to produce and ship than just getting beans or ground coffee. Keurigs are nice in offices – the coffee is way better than the normal hotplate industrial machine, but they really are horrifying. At home we use an Aeropress which still gives us a single cup of coffee – we have four coffee drinkers with three different tastes in coffee drinking coffee at different times during the morning – so the hotplate/carafe was a bad idea at home as well. And the Aeropress is way easier to clean the the French Press. Plus, coffee in pods is expensive – even the cheap coffee in pods – compared to beans. We even travel with our Aeropress.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Side comment about industrial coffee makers. Often coffee tastes burned because the default brewing temperature is higher than necessary. When my inlaws owned a restaurant, they had to adjust the temperature down after every vendor service visit.

          2. CorruptedbyCoffee*

            My favorite is when I worked in food service, worked a 9 hour shift without breaks, short two people, and closed at midnight, only to get a call at 3:30 in the morning from my manager demanding to know why I didn’t clean a pop stain under one of the booths. I would have been back at work at 8am, but apparently the lecture couldn’t wait.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          My intern last summer “recycled” K-cups and made himself dozens of tiny Jello shots. Yogurt cups were too big, and he was a grad student, so jello shots were academically required.

      2. Anon for This*

        Single use, bad for the environment but very convenient, pods filled with everything needed to brew one cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) that can be plugged into a machine and brewed. It avoids any and all “but I don’t like this brand of coffee” office coffee pot drama by allowing people to select the pod which corresponds to their personal taste, and bring in their own pods if the office selection doesn’t appeal to them.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          My company (and later my household) switched to Nespresso pods. More expensive, but the pods are made of aluminum and the company has a facility you can ship them to (for no extra charge) that empties them, sends the spent coffee to farmers for fertilizer, and reuses the cups.

          Highly recommend for people that like the convenience of Keurig, but hate the way k-cups work.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            The Nespresso cups are not exactly environmentally friendly. Aluminum needs a lot of energy to produce.
            Of the Single-Server systems, the Senseo pads are the least atrocious – they are basically comparable to tea bags.

            1. Coffee Nut*

              The vast majority of environmental harms are created by the military and corporations. Every single American could recycle and it wouldn’t even make a dent (especially with places like China rejecting our recyclables). I still do low waste and low impact practices but there’s no need to try to police other individuals on things like this – we should be focusing that energy on corporations and governments!

              Also Nespresso has the best tasting coffee for machines under $200 :)

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I don’t think it’s policing to give people the information about what is and isn’t environmentally unfriendly. Nobody’s glaring at the folks who absorb that information and then go back to their favorite single-use; we won’t even know if they do. Nobody’s even complaining about folks who choose not to read the thread and find out. It’s their choice. But there’s nothing wrong with making the information available to those who might want it. I don’t drink coffee, so I had no idea, but I might someday have occasion to order it for someone else.

              2. LiraB*

                You’re not wrong, but the reason that corporations have a big footprint is generally because they’re producing goods for the consumer. Sometimes it is important and effective to focus on the individual (although probably not in the case of recycling).

              3. Summer*

                Big Agriculture is actually the biggest polluter on the planet. The New York Times has created some excellent videos recently that really break it down and show how much that industry contributes to pollution and climate change, etc. while simultaneously owning the government thru various lobbying arms. I’m not saying individuals shouldn’t try to help but truly the difference any of us can make is a drop in the bucket compared to what Big Ag is spewing out.

              4. Zweisatz*

                Why would China be obligated to take any body’s trash? You know that the US could take care of it themselves, right?

            2. Lenora Rose*

              But reusable aluminum is still better than only-disposable plastic. It’s manufactured once with that intense process, then cleaned and reused.

              1. Kristi*

                Reusable k-cup pods and filters are available – little plastic thing with a wire mesh bottom, pop in a marching filter, add your own coffee. Environmental impact of a single-cup pour-over, but uses less filter paper.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah. Melting down and recycling aluminum takes about 10% of the energy that extracting it from ore does, and it can be reused forever, unlike recyclable plastic materials.

        2. Delta Delta*

          I worked in an office where the Big Boss only liked hazelnut coffee, and got a little offended if he’d brew a pot and nobody wanted anyone. Dra. Ma.

      3. Random Bystander*

        Disposable cups to make coffee in a Keurig — at one time, the 2.0 version of the machine was made to reject almost every cup not made by a Keurig-approved maker, but they’ve conceded that customers do want more variety–including the capability to use re-fillables, which is my preference. The coffee is pre-measured and comes in a wide variety of flavors, regular and decaf, etc. It’s a really nice thing for an office, or someone who has a lot of guests in their house, since you can get specific varieties to match the taste of your guests or a broad sampler array so that everyone can have their preferred coffee and not have one person’s coffee-making taste rule the office.

      4. *daha**

        K-cups are the little disposable plastic containers filled with ground coffee and other ingredients that are used in the Keurig coffee maker. One cup produces one mug of coffee. The coffee isn’t very good, but it is quick and convenient.

      5. The Buddhist Viking*

        For those who might own Keurig machines but want to reduce their environmental imprint: It’s possible to buy reusable K-cups! Then you simply pour in your own coffee grounds. Clean the cups between uses, and then you’re able to use your Keurig just fine (and save a little money on coffee too, without the K-cup markup).

        And yes, I am aware that industrial/governmental actors are by far the largest contributors to climate harm. But I look askance at the idea that this means everyone should forget about taking actions on their own. One person’s switch to reusable K-cups won’t change anything, but larger consumer shifts towards reusable products and better packaging actually could.

    2. publicsectorprincess*

      I work for a county government organization that did force everyone to do their work on ipads for the 9 months that we worked remotely during the pandemic. I ended up purchasing my own laptop because I could not successfully complete my job functions with the provided equipment.

    3. DecorativeCacti*

      I don’t know why, but your K-cup story triggered this memory in my brain:

      I was in charge of writing the supply order for my department, but it still had to be approved by a manager. One month, I tried to order compressed air so we could clean our keyboards and whatnot. My manager called me in to her office and said, “What is this? Why are we spending $15 on AIR?” I explained what I was trying to order and why. She’s incredulous and says, “You want to clean your keyboard? I’ll show you how to clean a keyboard.” She then proceeded to pick up her keyboard, turn it upside down, and bang it against the desk.

      I didn’t point out that new keyboards cost more than compressed air.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        I’m still using an IBM MF-II keyboard, built October 1992. The thing is built to last – it weighs almost twice as much as my laptop. If I’d bang it on the desk, I’d fear for the desk.
        To clean it, gust pull all the key caps off, put them in the washer on low (best to put them in a sock), let try and putthem on again. In the meantime just vacuumthe crumbs and whatnot out.

  4. Fleur*

    When I was in college, I worked at my college’s dining hall. Two of the students employees, “Laura” and “Annie,” were promoted to leadership position that involved them being in charge of writing the schedules for other student employees. They were both new employees who were not qualified and put 0 effort into their jobs. Laura used to wear inappropriate clothes, such as low-cut sparkly dresses (better suited for a dance club) and shorts that were so short that other employees could see her butt. (I am also a woman, but I was bothered by the inappropriate clothes.) Annie used to complain that “this job is so boring.” They refused to hire anyone even though we eventually became severely short-staffed. We had about 10% of the staff that was needed for the dining hall to operate efficiently. They would set up interview times with applicants. When the applicants showed up, Laura and Annie would say “We don’t have time to interview you. Go away.” Eventually, they both quit and were told to choose their replacements. They decide to promote the newest, least qualified people who applied for their positions because they thought it would be “funny.”

    1. Imakesigns*

      What?! I worked in marketing for campus dining at several colleges and the way they were dressing is not only inappropriate, but a health code violation?? At our operations even capri-type pants were not an option because it’s not safe to have your legs exposed like that when working in a kitchen. How in the world did the non-student managers allow this?

      1. Fleur*

        I’m not sure why it was allowed. The full-time managers allowed them to wear it. It was bizarre. The student managers refused to work more than minimal hours, and they often worked as a cashier or in the office.

      2. HoHumDrum*

        I dunno, when I was a student worker in the dining hall there was no uniform, students just showed up wearing whatever they wore to class that day and put an apron on. Short and skimpy clothing was pretty standard. But at that school student workers didn’t make it handle food, we mostly cleaned tables and dishes.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We didn’t have UNIFORM uniforms but we had dining hall T-shirts and mandatory hats and we very definitely had to adhere to basic safety standards–long pants for some positions and closed shoes. The dining hall directors and lunch ladies did not mess around with safety and hygiene.

      3. Bruce*

        I worked for several years in a large, hospital based outpatient treatment clinic. There were 4 or 5 physicians who owned the practice, and about 30 employees. The department was a real money maker for the hospital, and the docs did very well. There were three staff bathrooms-one of them located as part of the break room/kitchen area. At one staff meeting, we we’re told that we would each need to contribute $1 for the bathroom air freshener fund.

          1. Journalist Wife*

            Yes, this!! I would far rather smell crap air than crap-smothered-in-faux-linen-scent air. Barf.

          2. DataSci*

            Except that they are, without exception, terrible. There is no K-cup that corresponds to my personal taste, which is “beans that were ground that morning, and roasted no more than a month ago”. I have preferences for origin of the beans and the brewing style but despite “freshly ground” being a ridiculously low bar to clear K-cups still manage to crawl under it.

            (Pre-pandemic my office had a pod-based machine, I forget if it was Keurig or Flavia. I brought in a grinder and Aeropress from home so I could have drinkable coffee. My morning commute now includes driving to drop my kid off at school (vs walking) so I now just bring a cup in from home.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Oh h*ll no! I wouldn’t pay to be poisoned with “air fresheners”. Those things cause me breathing problems – it’s hard to breathe when you are tryin to cough out a lung!

          That’s insult to injury in my book.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        At least Romy and Michelle were nice people who (apparently) got it together enough to run a business.

        (That’s one of my favorite “this is so not literature but I don’t even care” movies.)

      2. Hex Symbol*

        This is slander. Romy and Michelle would have had a ridiculous second act screw-up, and then a third act redemption where they made it all work.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Former college dining hall employee here: What the actual F?

      The guy who ran our dining hall was a jerk but at least he was a competent adult who treated it like a full-time job. Your college was bonkers.

      1. Fleur*

        Their behavior and clothes were so terrible that I reported them to the director of dining services. The director position was a full-time professional position. They didn’t get fired, but I observed that they wore more normal clothes after that. (I quit that job due to their terrible behavior. I didn’t see them as often after I quit.)

      2. Medievalist*

        I second the bonkers. I *was* a student-manager (fellow student employee, who managed other student employees) in a college dining hall, and no way would I have gotten away with any of that! Had to wear long pants, closed shoes, uniform shirts—and HR hired all the student employees, with the full-time adult managers as our bosses.

        I think the only small power I abused was that I arranged my work schedule so that I rarely had to swipe in for meals, and then used all the extra money left on my account to buy cases of chocolate and high-end juice from our campus shop…

    3. bookends*

      I’m shocked at the manager who thought it was a good idea to have two college students in charge of hiring and supervising their peers!

      1. Fleur*

        The dining halls hired my college’s students to be in charge of hiring, firing, and scheduling the part-time/student employees. It was a problem when the people who got promoted to this position didn’t care and/or were unqualified.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Where was their manager (or whoever ‘supervised’ them in the hierarchy) in all of this? Whoever let them do this stuff should have been held to account!

      1. Fleur*

        It was bizarre. I quit because of their terrible behavior. After I quit, I reported their behavior to upper management. They didn’t get fired, but I saw them wearing more normal clothes after that. I’m not sure why they weren’t fired.

  5. Salad Daisy*

    Our new VP of sales wanted his fingers in every pie so in order to order any office supplies I had to make a formal request to him. My admin was working on a rebate project where she had to tape proofs of purchase to the forms they had been sent in with, so I needed to order 6 rolls of tape at $1.29 per roll. It took 4 emails back and forth before I was given permission to purchase them, which included providing a detailed explanation of how the tape would be used. My thought was, what happens when I need to order bathroom tissue? Do I need to provide a detailed explanation of how it will be used? I never got up enough courage to do that, and would just say that we needed bathroom tissue to replenish the supply.

    1. Mr. Cajun2core*

      At OldJob our accountant was like that. I ordered office supplies including copy paper from an on-campus source. I had to do a written request for everything I wanted to purchase. I couldn’t specify “General Office Supplies”. I had to list everything I was buying. Luckily, I could do one purchase request form for all of the office supplies and didn’t have to do one for each item! Even one of our previous accountants who was previously an auditor at a Las Vegas Casino wasn’t that bad. Yes, there were times, where I had to fill out a form which had to be approved by the Dean and then by the accountant before I ordered a $10 item.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Ugh – crap like that pisses me off. I’m an accountant and yes, we have a fiduciary duty to the company to control costs, but a big picture view is needed. A former company had massive workers comp claims and a little investigation uncovered that buying the $60 straps vs the $25 straps would cut down on both workers comp claims (when the straps broke they would send parts and pieces flying), scrap, and replacement parts. The $60 straps were guaranteed for 1 year and the $25 straps lasted MAYBE a month. Nope – because we bought them in bulk and the $60 straps were not a “preferred” supplier, the Controller wouldn’t approve the purchase.
        Same Controller approved upgraded rental cars, monthly golf outings, and allowed his cronies to expense their travel meals as “Client entertainment” so they weren’t limited to the per diem.
        He didn’t survive the annual audit.

        1. Anonymous4*

          Omigod! People were getting hurt because of the cheap straps, and Mr. Golf Outings For His Pals wouldn’t approve the better-quality equipment??

        2. Anon Supervisor*

          Ugh, that’s so gross. I’m wondering if you were self-insured for w/c and the payment of claims came from the company’s budget (part of me thinks it wasn’t because if you are a self-insured company, management tends to take employee safety seriously, just from a financial standpoint).

    2. Cat Tree*

      It really irks me when high-level people don’t understand that labor costs money. The company had to pay both of you to write and read those emails, and the time it took almost certainly cost more than the actual tape.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Ugh, yes. I once had a travel reimbursement docked $.05. I’d tipped a nickel over 20%. Someone was checking the tip amounts on every meal receipt, changing the form, and adding a note–for a nickel.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          I worked for a company that wouldn’t let you tip over 15%. I’m not sure if they enforced it, but that was the rule.

          1. Summer*

            There is no way I would only leave a 15% tip! I tip 20% as an absolute minimum regardless of service. Stingy tippers seriously piss me off!

    3. Summer*

      Ugh I remember at OldJob when they implemented a new policy and all supply orders had to receive pre-approval from the home office. I ordered all of the supplies and got into countless arguments over why I needed to order the more expensive but still reasonable pens instead of the $.30 pens that stopped working after a day. I got pushback over the dang pens while all of the sales people received yearly all-expenses paid trips to a different exotic locale for hitting sales goals. I guess they needed the money more ‍♀️

    4. Tiny Soprano*

      Oh my lord I used to have a boss like this too! He also used to pour the contents of open, out of date milk bottles into open, in-date milk bottles because he personally didn’t believe milk went off and was a complete penny pincher. I still wish I’d been able to work how much money the company actually lost on food poisoning thanks to his attempts to save on milk…

      1. FloraPoste*

        As someone who just had her day* ruined by accidentally making and taking a gulp from a cup of tea with slightly off milk, this chills me to my core

        * OK well the 5 mins it took to make a new cup with fresh milk

    5. Pigeon*

      This was an enormous problem for a team I used to work on… I had to sit down and do the math in front of them regarding our hourly rate vs. costs of items before they’d just buy things like tape without feeling the need to consult me (budget owner) multiple times.

  6. Sandy*

    I’m not sure if this counts as power — more like Potemkin power— but I have had two different colleagues in two different jobs repeatedly change their signature blocks within hours of their boss being out of the office.

    One of them would change his signature block to “Acting Deputy Spokesperson” every time his boss took even an afternoon off to go to the dentist or was out of the physical premises of the office for a conference.

    The other changed hers to read “Acting Deputy Director” within an *hour* of her boss sending around a message that he had to go into five day quarantine because his son got COVID.

    Hot tip: don’t do this. It doesn’t make you look like you stepped up to the plate, it makes you look desperate and insecure.

    1. Banna*

      I once had someone do this for a two week acting!! Everyone thought they were ridiculous and they did not get the full time job when they applied.

      1. Anon for This*

        See, if they’re acting as a direcotr because the previous director is gone, this makes sense. The person who is acting as director for my department in my former boss’s absence has changed their signature to acting director for because they got tired of people asking why they’re chiming in on this issue, where is oldboss, and oldboss has been gone for less than a week.

        1. Squeakrad*

          in California, governor and Lt Governor are voted on separately. So it has occasionally happened that Lt governor is not of the same party is the governor. So Jerry Brown was governor and Mike Curb was Lieutenant, whenever Brown left the state Mike Curb would take over as governor and do all kinds of wacky things. Nothing to put anybody in any peril Burt signed executive orders that Brown never would have

      1. La Triviata*

        At a previous job, one director-level person would decide that if her superior was out of the office that day, she could take the day off but claim it as a work from home day.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      OMG, did these two also list everyone in the department in an Order of Succession, and a rotation for the Designated Survivor who should remain offsite?

      Also, yes, they sound exactly like Dwight.

    3. Red5*

      There’s a guy in my office that has his signature block as “Deputy Branch Chief.” There are two people in the branch, the Branch Chief and him. LOL

      1. Wintermute*

        reminds me of that meme of the little dog and the big dog both carrying the big tree branch, with the small dog more hanging onto it than carrying it.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        This might actually make sense though, because ‘deputy’ often has the same or close to the same level of authority as the person they are ‘deputy’ to (in the way that an Assistant Manager generally doesn’t), so any communications that go outside the branch or when dealing with head office etc, it makes it clear that he has branch chief-level authority.

      3. kitryan*

        At one job I used to *joke* that I was the head of the Fabric Dyeing department (and the only person in the fabric dyeing department) but it was very obviously a joke.
        Ditto when I was the only person in my current role/department after layoffs, though that time it was more black humor, as the department’s workload is really more like 2.5 to 3 people’s worth and being the only person in my department was basically crushing me.

    4. ecnaseener*

      At that point, why not just include the org chart in every email? With an X over the absent boss and a little arrow showing that they’re stepping up into the vacancy :P

    5. Wait, what?*

      When I was at teacher’s college, one of my classmates listed her degrees in her school email signature. No one else did. She included B.Ed. in her list of degrees, even though she didn’t have a B.Ed. yet. Which we all knew because we were all in the B.Ed. program together. It was weird.

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

        I think I’ve told this here before; for years my boss added “RGB” after his name (as a joke) and no one ever asked him about it. He was the Director of the graphic design dpt.

        I’m irrationally irritated by people who add undergrad degrees to their sig. We had a board member who insisted in adding her BA to her name/title on everything. Several of the other board members had PhD or EdD or other doctoral degrees; adding it just made her look insecure because it’s not the standard to list undergrad degrees, and at a certain level, it is sort of assumed a person has one.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If I ever have to add qualifications to my email signature, I’m going to rephrase whatever I’ve got repeatedly until I get the acronym RtFM.

        2. Software Engineer*

          The only time I mention my degrees is if I’m applying for a job. Putting them in my email signature just seems crass.

          1. OtterB*

            I put my PhD in my work sig. It felt a little pretentious when I first started doing it, but most of my email is with people at academic departments and it gives me more credibility and more cooperation. I didn’t use it in my previous job, because it didn’t matter to anyone there.

            1. AnonCanadian*

              I work in academia in a staff role – I was told by my first boss to put all my credentials in my signature because I would always be taken more seriously. Unfortunately he was right. I also felt very pretentious at the time but now it’s just normal.

          2. Reluctant Manager*

            We had an HR director who used PhD in her signature. I could see using the HR credential letters, but that one was weird. (Not related to the field, not an academic field, just someone who wanted to tell us about her PhD in Sociology.)

        3. Free Meerkats*

          In one of RAdm (Ret) Daniel V Gallery’s books (I think U-505</u) he talked of when he was stationed at a joint base with the Brits in WW2 and added DDLM to all his correspondence. When asked, he said it was like a KCB (Knight Commander of the Bath, a prestigious Chivalric title), and they accepted that for a while. Finally someone asked and he replied that it stood for, "Dan, Dan, the Lavatory Man."

        4. Anon for this one*

          In a prior job of mine, people wanted their “letters after their name” in their email signature, and because the email signatures were put into Outlook using an automated process that pulled from the company directory, their surname was in the directory as “Smith, Ph.D” or whatever.

          It had started because there were actually legit reasons certain people needed to put specific letters after their names in their email, mostly about membership of professional bodies where they were writing in their capacity as a member of that body (e.g. registered Chartered Engineer, etc). This then spread out to the rest of the company with people wanting BA or BS etc because they had a degree in History/Physics/whatever it was, so could “legitimately” use those letters.

          I don’t work there any more, but my company does occasionally work with people from this company, so I see some of the emails they send, and they are still doing it! Why no one has put a stop to this ridiculousness I’ve no idea.

      2. Allegra*

        I work adjacent to STEM academia/research (a customer service/support role) and I’m sometimes tempted to put my degree in my signature so people know that I *don’t* actually do the science. Folks will call me Dr. (which is fun and I don’t actually mind) or go off into extreme detail on their projects of the physics of llama grooming and microbiology of alpacas when I just push paper to actual SMEs, and I wonder if I’d head off any of it with “Mx. Allegra Lastname, MFA” in my signature. (Doubtful, but it’s funny to think about.)

    6. Generic Name*

      That’s hilarious. I have one coworker who finagled a title bump for himself simply by starting to put “field supervisor” in his email signature. I figured what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so I decided to add “senior” to my job title (I’ve got 15 years of experience). I’m not sad that tomorrow is his last day. :)

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      In a few states, the governor and the lieutenant governor don’t run on the same ticket, so they can end with being from different parties. In some of these states, the lieutenant governor automatically is the acting governor whenever the governor is outside the state’s borders. So the governor goes to a conference somewhere, the lieutenant governor issues a bunch of executive orders, the governor comes back from the conference and revokes all those orders. Repeat the next time the governor goes anywhere. Good times!

      1. Martha*

        Yep, this happens in my state. In fact it’s so bad that the Governor quit telling his Lieutenant when he’s going somewhere, because she makes such a mess of things every time he sets foot outside the state.

      2. NNN222*

        You see that happen in Idaho a lot with the current governor and lieutenant governor and they’re from the same party. They’re just both extreme about different issues.

      3. Sorcyress*

        WHAT?!

        I mean, I understand what’s happening but this seems like…such…a ridiculously broken system.

    8. Acting*

      I was worried at first when I started reading this one, because my boss left the organization on a Friday and on the Monday I changed my email signature to my new acting role (his old one). But he’s gone from the org and not just on vacation, and it’s going to take a while to formalize the permanent role (government), and people need to know both that I’m now leading the team and that it’s not necessarily permanent.

      Hopefully I’m not as petty as these colleagues of yours? eek.

      1. Mostly Managing*

        It’s actually going to be your role for more than ten minutes.
        There’s a big difference between changing your email signature as soon as you are officially in a new role, and changing it because your boss is on vacation.

        Congratulations on the promotion! I hope if you want the role long term it works out for you

    9. SallyScience*

      I had a coworker at my old job who changed her job title in her signature no less than 3 times in her first year. None of the titles she tried to use even existed within the organization, and the one she finally settled on and kept didn’t either.

      This is also the same person that announced that she was the manager as soon as she started, which wasn’t the position she was hired for and was news to me (since I was the manager) AND my boss. She then proceeded to change my title on the nameplate outside my office door without discussing it with anyone.

      As far as I know she still works there and is still a miserable petty person. I’ve since moved on to a better (and better-paying!) position in a different industry.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Who hired her, if both you and your boss were unaware of the ‘manager’ title?! I wonder if it was a genuine miscommunication somewhere — being told (by whoever it was) that you’ll be Manager of a team and having certain expectations that go with that — and then being (from her possible perspective) “bait and switched” — could certainly lead to being miserable and petty!

        1. SallyScience*

          My boss hired her, but to be fair he was a horrible communicator so I can totally see how he didn’t set clear expectations for her. But I had been in the role for 14 years prior to that, so the fact that he let that happen and let her throw her weight around and make ME miserable because of that really roasted my onions, I’ll tell you!

    10. WhiskeyTango*

      I once had a boss who’s title was Assistant Vice President and he reported directly to the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO). On a call with a strategic partner, I accidentally conflated his title with hers and called him the “Assistant Chief Compliance Officer.” He started calling himself that (i.e., changing his email signature, introducing himself that way both inside and outside our company). People started complaining that no announcement had been made about the promotion, not to mention a number of people were annoyed they hadn’t been given the chance to apply for the Assistant Chief Compliance Officer role. Eventually it came out that he had “promoted” himself.
      I corrected myself on the call and I was in no position to confer promotions on anyone. He just liked the way it sounded and went with it. (And for anyone wondering, he was the terrible boss who lead me to AAM.)

    11. Work From Homer Simpson*

      Oh man! I thought I didn’t have a petty power abuse story (just lots of regular power abuse stories), but this jogged my memory! At my previous job we had an odd org chart where I was the only one at this location in a technical role who didn’t report to the engineering manager (long story). When the engineering manager went on vacation for a few days, he’d often pick one of his reports to attend meetings in his place and take notes. If there were actual decisions to be made while the EM was out, the EM’s boss would make them. Even so, when one young engineer had his turn as note-taker while the EM was out, he spent all week walking around like he owned the place and telling everyone he was Acting Engineering Manager. We all just rolled our eyes and ignored his antics. But then, a minor emergency came up and a meeting was called to decide how to handle it. A key decision needed fell squarely within my jurisdiction, and another manager asked for my opinion. Fake Acting EM loudly interrupted me to declare that as Acting EM, he would make the call. I looked him dead in the eyes and told him he was not Acting EM, and even if he was, the EM is still not my boss and this is not his decision. He turned every shade of red imaginable before sputtering that he had “more important work to do” and marching out of the meeting. Absolutely priceless.

      1. ICodeForFood*

        I LOVE that you stood up to him and that he scuttled away, tail between his legs!

    12. Frustration Plantation*

      You won’t believe this, but I worked a gig where EVERYONE. DID. THIS. Possibly worse, there were managers who would send facility wide memorandums (numbered and archived!) to name their “acting.”

    13. NotAnotherManager!*

      Sweet, that means I get to be “Acting CEO” next week while my boss is taking a half-week vacation. Maybe I’ll give myself a raise.

    14. A Feast of Fools*

      Ohhhhhh… they were *serious*??

      We would have done this at places I’ve worked at, but it would have been a huge in-team joke and done every single time the boss stepped out of the office, even just for lunch.

  7. Justin*

    Here for this.

    Probably any number of things in my years as a doc student. Anything involving journal reviews and people taking out petty grievances on other people who are slightly less senior in the academy. Obsession over “data” being plural and docking grades because of it.

    But the most absurd story is probably way back in my retail days when I had a manager at a soap store who was very upset over our supposed lack of cheerfulness and fired people because of it.

      1. Justin*

        I really wanted to pull off a “why are the way that you are” Office moment given that this was only a couple years after that episode aired. But I was planning to quit anyway because I was leaving the country so I just accepted it.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Woah now, I thought this was supposed to be about petty uses of power! As far as I’m concerned, using “data” as a singular noun is a capital offense… :D

      1. Magenta Sky*

        While I agree in principal (proper language usage is a pet peeve – “action” is a noun, not a verb, dammit!), that seems like an awfully small hill to die on.

        1. Justin*

          Oh boy, I have a lot (a whole book I wrote) to say about language ideologies and who decides what’s “proper” but we don’t need to get into all that here.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Hold on, yes we definitely do! Please tell me more about your book, it sounds right up my alley.

        2. Pippa K*

          Well, academia is not a very hilly environment – we’ve got tiny hills like this, and a couple of big serious hills like academic freedom, but otherwise we’re basically Kansas. I go to war over the Oxford comma just to stay in fighting trim.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I will fight for the Oxford comma and I’m not even an academic. I am a writer, though. We get into these battles too.

        3. Cat Tree*

          I mean, those noun/verb pairs are a perfectly mundane feature of our language. It seems arbitrary to draw the line at “action” when you use hundreds of others routinely. I guess my pet peeve is other people getting peeved about this.

        1. MM*

          If you really want to have your datum/data notions bent out of shape, I invite you to google “geodetic datum”!

    2. SallyForth*

      Funny about the lack of cheerfulness. My hair stylist told me she had a text from her past salon owner that she was not actively promoting an “atmosphere of merriment” in the salon. The stylist leased a chair. She broke the lease and changed salons.

        1. Salymander*

          Or like some sort of Jane Austen themed place. We shall go to the ball at Netherfield before adjourning to London to taste the delights of The Season! Such merriment!

    3. LCH*

      i was threatened with firing for not smiling enough. not a customer facing job. it wasn’t clear when i wasn’t smiling enough… like, when at my desk not interacting with anyone? when walking down the hallway? i definitely smiled when actually talking to people. it was weird.

      1. Msnotmrs*

        This is the opposite of that recent letter/update about the office that doesn’t allow humor, ever.

      2. Salymander*

        I was given a verbal warning for failing to smile while I cleaned a bathroom. There were no customers in the bathroom. I was in there alone, scrubbing baby diarrhea off the floor. The manager walked in to check that I wasn’t just hanging out in there (with the diarrhea? gross) while pretending to clean, and noticed that my face was neutral rather than smiley.

        1. allathian*

          We have a winner!

          I would probably have grinned at them like a Tasmanian devil. That look has made grown men quake in their boots.

          Luckily I’m in Finland, where people in the streets look like Jason Bourne for six months out of the year, so RBF is usually fine. Matt Damon has Finnish roots and he’s never looked more Finnish than he did in the Bourne movies, usually he smiles too much to pass as a Finn.

      3. nonee*

        My weird mentor told me this at my first professional job! And she definitely meant for me to be smiling when I was at my desk not interacting with anyone, because she specifically told me that’s when she noticed I wasn’t doing it. My main role was squinting at Excel all day, no smiles were generated.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      My mother doesn’t have a Ph.D. because her advisor was in a power struggle with another professor. Her prof finally transferred to another department and told her she could defend in that topic–one she had not been studying–the following Monday if she wanted the degree. She quit and got a job.

      Her advisor was almost entirely in the wrong. We heard that years later, when he retired, nobody showed up for his retirement party. As in . . . literally nobody. Not just under-attended but unattended.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is a flaw in the system of graduate level degrees, that the advisor has boundless capacity to abuse the system, the existing student is strongly penalized for changing advisors, and the incoming student has little information about potential advisors. I am surprised that situations like your mother’s don’t arise more often than they do.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This was decades ago. I hope that there is a little more oversight/a little less idolatry now. Not holding my breath, though.

          1. Dragon_Dreamer*

            There’s really not. I know of one professor who pulled a page out of Harry Potter and had his students tested on his OWN work. He’s also known for taking first authorship on his student’s papers that he did no writing on. The few times I met him, he was very dismissive of me.

            He recently changed universities, because the new one bought out the research site that HE wanted. One that had already been worked at for years by a colleague, who was still actively doing research at the site, and was finding exciting stuff. And no, the colleague was not allowed to return to the site.

            At the old university, he offered to let his student transfer with him, IF she could get her own grants. He then left her behind without a thought. She did get her PhD under another professor who had retired from taking students. There’s a reason his nickname around the old university and museum is “Gilderoy.”

            There was also a recent scandal involving an Antarctic researcher, and few female students who came forward. They were denied PhDs, because they wouldn’t let him sexually harrass them. He only lost his funding recently, after YEARS of reports and coverups. He was finally fired, despite his colleagues arguing for leniency! https://www.science.org/content/article/boston-university-fires-geologist-who-sexually-harassed-women-antarctica

            1. PhysicsTech*

              Oph yeah that was an intense case. The woman who reported him has so much respect from me.

            2. Reluctant Manager*

              Oh, that was awful… It was an extreme example, but a reminder that a bad boss can give you lifelong physical injury. (He harassed her when she needed to go to the bathroom, so she held it until she developed lifelong kidney/bladder issues.)

          2. Dust Bunny*

            This guy held at least one other grad student’s degree hostage for almost a decade because he (the prof) couldn’t get any more advisees. I forget how Mom said the advisee got out of that; I think the university finally forced it.

            1. PhysicsTech*

              I know 10 years is the max at many grad schools, often because of situations like this so perhaps that is how?

          3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            I defended about a decade ago, and my advisor definitely had petty-power-trip energy in spades, with gobs of casual misogyny to boot (AFAIK, I’m the only woman who has ever completed a dissertation with him, not sure whether that’s tenacity or stupidity on my part).

            The time I got utterly reamed out for not overnighting a printed copy of my entire dissertation to him on a different continent springs to mind. Because he didn’t want to have to print it himself. Yeah.

          4. Nesprin*

            There is not. My PhD advisor was a profoundly sane and decent human, but the horror stories are myriad.
            I tell anyone thinking of a graduate degree that the average length of a marriage in the US and the average length of a PhD are about the same, and the degree of power your PI has over you is similar to/greater than a spouse.

        2. Student*

          Similar stuff still happens all the time.

          In my degree program, I saw a professor withhold a degree because they didn’t approve of the student’s future job plans (as in, a job the student had interviewed for and been provisionally granted based on completing their degree…). The student’s new job would not sufficiently strengthen the professor’s personal network because it was in an area the professor didn’t want to work in. The prof planned to withhold the degree until the student got a job someplace else the prof approved of and found more interesting, or until the student dropped out. The professor succeeded and the student eventually took a job more to the professor’s liking.

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            I haven’t heard any that bad but I definitely know of one where a professor got made a ph.d. candidate because he decided to take a job in the private sector and not in academia. admittedly the job in academia was at the school so it’s very possibly the job had been organized at the candidate’s request.

            but yeah, that was the end of that relationship.

        3. Tau*

          Absolutely agreed, possibly the worst part of doing a PhD (which is saying something). My main advice to aspiring PhD candidates was always to pick your advisor really damn carefully, and that having a good advisor was more important than having an exact match to the subject you wanted to work in. I went to some effort to vet mine and am 100% sure I wouldn’t have succeeded with my PhD if he hadn’t been incredibly supportive the whole way through, while a friend who was, frankly, better suited to research than I was ended up burning out and quitting due to a conflict with his advisors. :/

          1. JustaTech*

            And please, please, listen to the whisper network. I knew a person from undergrad who ended up with a horrifically sexist advisor who harassed everyone, but especially anyone feminine-presenting. The professor harassed this person so hard they ended up suing the school to be granted a Master’s for their time worked but were driven completely out of their field. Basically the professor destroyed their career. But he’s still there.

          2. SpookyScarySkeleton*

            If you interview in person, ask to go out with the current graduate students for drinks/social hour/whatever. We 100% will tell you if your potential advisor is not a good person. My program scared off a potential student who was coming to work with the worst professor in the department just by telling her what he was like as an advisor. We know who does academic hazing. And we know who’s a creep.

            Students have less to lose if the department loses a promising candidate because they aren’t a good fit.

            1. anneotherPhDcandidate*

              Also, if you’re in a program that does rotations or something like that, ask around to find people who worked with your potential advisor but chose not to do the PhD with them. They’ll give you really honest assessments of their flaws & strengths.

          3. Emmy Noether*

            Yes! My advisor and the whole group were *the best* (I knew them from a sort of internship) and they definitely pulled me through some very dark times. I don’t know what would have happened if they had been less supportive.

        4. Etcetera*

          People who don’t ask around to find out everything they can about prospective PhD advisors are really *painfully* naive, and setting themselves up for a really bad time. There are *always* meetings with current graduate students, and this is a well-known enough problem that they should know to ask.

          1. Tau*

            Also, history. Has this person had successful PhD students before? How many – and is that number high, low or average for your field? How long did they take? Did some of them continue on to have successful careers in academia? Did some of them not continue in academia? (You ideally want to see both.) Do you know if any were unsuccessful, and if so how many? Some of this info you may be able to find out from academic genealogy sites, even – no interviews needed!

            I mean, obviously someone has to be the first PhD student, but it’s taking a risk. A prospective advisor having a track record of successfully graduating their PhD students is a very good sign.

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              Then there’s the professor with a habit of marrying his 18 year old students… Yes, he married and divorced more than one.

              1. PhysicsTech*

                ahhhh wow I am always shocked when that doesn’t get someone fired, but then again lots of stuff goes on in academia that really shouldn’t.

                1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                  The professor I allude to in the comment above is actually quite famous, and has appeared in a few documentaries. >.<

            2. PhysicsTech*

              I would add, if you are a minority always make sure that they have graduated people like you. It’s not a sure bet if they are younger / a newer professor, but it really, really says something if a mid career professor only graduates white men.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            In this case, it was a small department and the prof in question was a) new and b) a member of what is now a protected class, so I think the school wasn’t eager to criticize him. Mom was also a first-generation higher-ed student who wasn’t from the area (so no preceding contacts with the school). And I doubt it helped that she was a woman in grad school in the late 1960s. She wasn’t the only woman in the program but I know she got a lot of crap from male grad students, too.

            1. La Triviata*

              When I was in college (class of 1973, so this was the bad old days) I was in a fairly exclusive college with a number of really smart women. Applying to grad school or a professional school was a nightmare for them. Medical and law school had (unapoligetically) restrictions on the number of women they’d accept, so a woman had to be stellar to get in, where any number of mediocre men had no problem. One woman was rejected because she was married and they assumed that, as a married woman, at some point her husband would either move and she’d be required to follow him. Another woman’s husband decided he wanted to be a forest ranger and she was expected to drop out and follow him to a remote location (no schools and this was before the internet).

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                My mother went to law school in 1969. More than one school turned her down by openly explaining, “You’re a 21-year-old woman. Statistically speaking, you’re probably going to get married and have a kid within the next three years. You’ll drop out of law school and never practice. Why should we waste a space on you?”

                Mom politely thanked them for their time and moved on. After NYU Law accepted her, she enrolled… and she got married in the summer after her first year. She took her second year finals with morning sickness, and I was born by Caesarean section during January break of her third year. She went back to class ten days later holding a pillow against her stomach to brace the incision from jostling… but she never missed a day of class, and she had a forty year legal career thereafter.

                Mom was the epitome of the “backwards and in high heels” era of feminism. I have enormous admiration for her and all the women like her who broke the trail, and I’m deeply grateful that I *don’t* have to do things the way she did.

          3. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

            I was painfully naive, now that I realize it. I started my PhD program straight out of college, at 21, with a starry-eyed view of the academy and absolutely no idea how to vet potential advisors. Disaster predictably ensued.

          4. LadyJ*

            Someone I know admitted they ignored all the warnings because it was just gossip even from those who had dealt with the man. She was in tears and a lot of us were fighting back saying we tried to warn you. Also, the way she was raised to define gossip was weird.

            1. Etcetera*

              I’m a PhD student in a department with a <15% gender ratio. I consider a good gossip network to be an essential survival skill.

          5. Zelda*

            “they should know to ask”

            How?

            A well-known problem *in academia,* to (especially female or POC) *academics,* but seriously, how is a brand-new bachelor’s degree holder to blame for being naive and not having connections in academia?

            1. Etcetera*

              It’s not really a question of ‘blame’, I don’t think? Obviously abusive advisors are to blame for their abusive behavior. But it’s like someone choosing to work at a tech startup, burning out, and then asking if the employee is ‘to blame’ for the company’s awful work-life balance. They’re not… but also this is a well-known problem, and they *really* should have done the most basic research before taking the job.

              It’s not expecting them to ‘have connections in academia’, (though given that graduate school applications require three rec letters from professors, I think that most incoming graduate students aren’t totally in the dark). Even the most cursory google search of ‘how to choose an advisor’ would tell you that this is something that they should watch out for.

              So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that people should look at *the most well-known pitfalls* of a career choice, before signing on for 4-6 years of it.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                This may be obvious in retrospect, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that it wouldn’t be obvious to an undergrad student trying to figure out “what to do next” if they didn’t have access to meaningful advising. I know the sum total of advice my undergrad department had on the subject of grad school was “working at a SLAC is totally awesome, so you should go to grad school so you can get a job like mine someday”, with a few anecdotes thrown in. (These were generally professors how had been there for decades and also had no idea of the current academic hiring market, since the department had not hired recently…) The idea that you should probably have a research specialty in mind and find a program with an advisor who specialized in that may have been…under-emphasized as a result.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        My mother doesn’t have a Ph.D. because her proposed thesis was “too European” for the Business School.

  8. Justin*

    Oh. I forgot one thing. But, my colleagues were upset that a person was being hired to manage them (because they were kind of bad at their jobs) so they all switched their desks so the new boss would have a worse desk.

    And then she ended up liking her new desk.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Or she’s smart enough to not show that she didn’t like it. Might be the reason she was selected!

      1. Justin*

        All I know is she was a great hire for that mess of an office. And then a lot of them left.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    The person who won’t let me join the LGBTQ forum at work because as I’m married to a man I count as ‘straight’ apparently.

    I’m not. I’m pansexual.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Thank goodness my company’s ERG doesn’t have that kind of gatekeeping – it’s open to anyone on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and allies! (And we have multiple pan/bi/queer women who are partnered with cis men, because we count too.)

    2. Have you tried sparkling at it?*

      That’s gross.

      I have a related one- the woman who wouldn’t let me leave the Women’s Development group. I’m not a woman. My cis male collegues weren’t invited.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Ew. (Not you, of course. At the gatekeeper who wouldn’t let you leave a group.)

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Oh, that’s just disgusting. (not you, obviously- the person who wouldn’t let you leave!)

      1. Another Queer Woman Married to a Man*

        Somebody really needs to ask them precisely what they think the B in their own name refers to.

    3. Susan Calvin*

      Not relevant to the larger topic, but allow me a commiseration anecdote:

      Last summer, being a bisexual woman and recently promoted manager, I decided to celebrate pride month (and effectively come out) by making a gently educational “hey, let’s talk about the variety of queer experiences, ‘invisible’ identities, and the folly of making assumptions about your coworkers” post on the social section of our intranet. Great responses all around! My one openly gay colleague was so delighted, he posted a selfie with the little pride flag he’d decorated his workspace with in the comments.

      Guess which one of us was approached by marketing.

    4. Beth*

      And the woman who ran a women’s group I belonged to once, who refused to let my sister attend, because my sister is trans. My very first encounter with a TERF. Her specific reason? The group, as a “women’s space”, was only meaningful for women who had experienced menstruation.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Nothing angers me faster than trans exclusionary women’s spaces. Trans women are women.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Man she’s going to be very upset when she learns about the variety of conditions that cause some women to never menstruate!

        1. Turtlewings*

          Yeah, friend of mine didn’t menstruate until sometime in her twenties, for medical reasons. Nice to know she was actually male up until then, she and her husband would sure be shocked to know it.

      3. PolarVortex*

        I am so sorry for what happened to your sister and to you, that is completely unacceptable.

      4. Elenna*

        Ah yes, because the only thing women ever discuss is menstruation, of course. Nothing else that might possibly be relevant to your sister is ever discussed. Don’t you know, us women, we just sit around talking about periods all day. /sarcasm

        1. ferrina*

          That is so true. And I never experienced any form of sexism or gender bias before I started menstruating, and the sexism and gender bias I do experience is all based in menstruation. /s

        2. Michelle*

          When I go to ladies’ book club, all we do is menstruate. Together. Just menstruating all night. It’s really the only female bonding experience that counts.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Memories of the boss I worked for long ago who straight up said there’s no point in having a womens forum because all they’ll talk about is having babies.

        4. Salymander*

          Yep. That is literally all we talk about together at all ever. All Menstruation all the time. That is the only topic that can ever be of use or interest to a group of women.

          I wonder if this terf group leader will ever realize how incredibly sexist actions like hers are, and how detrimental to women.

        5. Art teacher*

          If anyone ever invites me to any sort of social group where menstruating is relevant to my participation, I will nope right out of there. For me, menstruation is a strictly individual activity.

      5. Anonym*

        Oh, because menstruation is the sole and primary cause of a female experience in the world. Nothing to do with gender roles, perceptions, bias, society’s expectations, none of that. Cool.

      6. alienor*

        Was she expecting every session to be filled with menstruation chat? Honestly after 35 years of having periods, I think I’ve said all I have to say about them.

        1. Verthandi*

          I’m pretty sure that since I’m done with that bloody* situation, I’m not woman enough for her club.

          *Pun totally intentional.

        2. drtheliz*

          You know who loves a good menstrual chat? My cis husband. Because he’s a feminist, and he listens to his friends and his sister and his wife, and really enjoys providing a sympathetic ear (with the occasional “wait, you’re cool with talking about *tampons*? And period poops? Wtf?” double take).

      7. Storm in a teacup*

        Ugh that’s awful. Maybe the Womens’ group could read Deborah Frances-White’s brilliant book The Guilty Feminist. There’s an excellent chapter all about the experience of Trans women

      8. tinybutfierce*

        Always gotta love how TERFs think reducing women to their reproductive organs is somehow a positive or remotely feminist.

      9. Woof*

        I guess trans women never experience sexism etc eh? (Please read this with extreme sarcasm; my understanding of intersectionality and experiences as a cis woman lead me to believe trans women probably get hit at least as hard and probably harder by sexism – and that’s not including the lgbtq parts)

      10. Nanani*

        TERFs don’t deserve the F. There’s nothing feminist about reducing women to bodily functions – that’s literally what patriarchal systems do!

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          I had to explain what a TERF was to my mother recently, and I was so proud of her when she was instantly like “What?? How dare they consider themselves feminist then?!”

      11. Rachel in NYC*

        because menstruation is the definition of being a woman…

        well that’s news.

      12. Curmudgeon in California*

        Oooooh, hey, since I had a hist does that make me male now? Because if it did I could be making $50K more a year! (I’m actually enby and bi – ace, and get erased pretty consistently in LGBTQ spaces.)

        1. The Leanansidhe*

          Fellow enby and bi-ace person here. I see you :) I was part of multiple LGBTQ+ organizations in college and still never met another ace person (at least one I knew about) which is a shame. Lots of so-called “safe spaces” aren’t made for us.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Very true. I’m married to another enby ace, which helps me not get hit on. But between enby, bi and ace, I am definitely odd person out.

    5. PolarVortex*

      Pans unite!

      As someone who runs an LGBTQ ERG, I am so goshdarn sorry that kind of gatekeeping/bigotry is existent in your company. Is there a way around it? Or a way to create your own since clearly theirs is lacking in acceptance?

      (A way to continually share in some kind of diversity initiative all kinds of articles about bi/pan erasure and celebrating bi/pan awareness days/weeks, continual petty mosquito bites until said gatekeepers look like fools?)

    6. sadnotbad*

      Gosh this really gets me mad. On top of the bi/pan-phobia, there are just so many other assumptions there. That you’re cis, for example, or that your spouse is cis. Or that your current gender/orientation in public is how you feel deep down (some people join affinity groups before they’re ready to be fully public about their identity). That’s why I think queer spaces should take people at their word that they’re queer.

    7. Beautiful Bi+ Butterfly*

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! That sounds like blatant discrimination. Wish I could say it was unusual for monosexual queer folx to disbelieve in the existence of bi+ people, but nope.

      Here’s a brochure you can print to help them be a better ally to bi+ people: https://biresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Ally-Brochure-2022.pdf

      specifically: “Believe that sexuality is a spectrum which allows for attraction across many variants, including gender. Just as a monosexual (gay or straight) person can fall for people of differing hair or eye colors or personalities, a bi+ person has the potential to fall for people of many different genders…. It doesn’t matter what our “count” is with any gender, whether we’re currently in monogamous relationships, or even whether we have no interest in dating. Accept that we know where our attractions lie and who we are.”

    8. SaffyTaffy*

      Our LGBT+ group in college decided that bisexual people weren’t welcome. Ultimately, looking back, I realize the impetus was the same old story of a college romance breaking up, but the dump-er was bisexual, so the dump-ee (LGBT+ Club vice-president) decided all bisexual people are toxic and secretly straight. Gotta love that sense of togetherness fostered by all being members of a marginalized group. o.O

        1. Another Queer Woman Married to a Man*

          I asked the same question a little up the thread. But I have to admit our university wasn’t much better. We had a separate Bisexual Union because the school’s GALA wouldn’t let us in.

          By the time I was attending, the two organizations were getting along pretty well, and did a lot of events together. But we were always a little irritated at them for leaving the rest of the queer community out. We compensated by being radically inclusive ourselves, and welcoming anybody who wanted to show up. We usually had a few straight folks who just liked the company — although some of those did end up coming out later.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            And that’s the thing isn’t it! That sometimes people who thought they were straight/cis/whatever-the-opposite-of-ace-is just need a welcoming environment to figure themselves out in.

        2. Deejay*

          No doubt something other than bi, just as some groups which include the letter A exclude aces on the grounds that “It stands for Ally”.

    9. Bagpuss*

      Keymaster – that’s horrible, and also in direct violation of the Equalities Act as sexual orientation is protected characteristic and explicitly defined as
      “Sexual orientation means a person’s sexual orientation towards—
      (a)persons of the same sex,
      (b)persons of the opposite sex, or
      (c)persons of either sex.”
      So explicitly includes protection of Pan / Bi individuals.
      Of course I appreciate that you may not have the time/energy to address it but given that it’s a work forum it’s something that HR or your diversity /equality officer (if you have one) should be very concerned about.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Gets even funnier when you consider I have administrator rights to the server their main chat channel is on….

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          Ooh, please do report on the fallout after that conversation with HR, AND the realization that you hold the keys to their little clubhouse. ;)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            It’s one of those ‘if I get the energy sometime I’ll raise it as an issue but right now I’m knackered’ things unfortunately. Just don’t have the spoons to do it :(

            1. Salymander*

              May your spoon count rise swiftly and may your days not require their use. :)

              I will still imagine you chuckling ominously and tapping your fingers together like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, before leaning toward your keyboard to unleash a can of internet whoop ass.

            2. OhNo*

              Understandable! We shall simply have to live in anticipation of the day when you do have the spoons for it, and can report back to us on the fallout. I can already picture it, and it is absolutely making my day.

              1. Another Queer Woman Married to a Man*

                Mine too!! Totally understand if you aren’t up to tackling it for a while, Keymaster, but I hope you do someday, and please tell us how it went if so!

                Meantime, I hope your spoons recover s(p)oon!

    10. YetAnotherNerd42*

      As a bi guy whose primary partner is a bi woman, this kind of gatekeeping is repugnant.

    11. This is a name, I guess*

      I founded an ERG, and I’m bi and in a relationship with a woman. However, I make sure to make non-visible queer people are super welcome!

      The major issue – and this is such a queer issues hah – is that a lot of bi/pan staff in relationships with the opposite gender are actually in polyamorous and nonmonogamous relationships. So, we’ve had to grapple with how to talk about nonmonogamy, which normal in our community but less normal in the workplace.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh goddess, that reminds me f an ex coworker who proudly proclaimed that all bi folk must be in polyamory relationships or ‘it’s not valid’.

        Only to state a few minutes later that he didn’t believe bisexuality existed at all. Man he was annoying (one of those types who’ll mansplain everything and keep talking for hours never letting anyone else speak).

        1. Salymander*

          Wow.

          I guess I will have to tell my husband that we are required to bring in some more partners to our marriage. We don’t want them, but if those are the rules I guess we have no choice unless we don’t want our relationship to be valid. Especially because my bisexuality doesn’t exist. FFS

          What a tool that guy is. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but a tool nonetheless.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        I feel like that’s the eternal queer issue! Yes, bi/pan people CAN be in monogamous relationships, despite being attracted to multiple genders, and the implication that we can’t is feeding into the offensive “slutty bisexual” stereotype…but also, some of us aren’t in monogamous relationships, and that’s also good and fine (sluttiness is also good and fine, though perhaps not something that should be discussed in the workplace). All queer people CAN exist in normative relationships that are virtually identical to normy cishet relationships with the exception that both partners are men, both partners are women, or one or both partners is trans and binary, and we should have the right to do so…but also, that lifestyle is not inherently superior to any others.

        I had to define what a gay trans man was for half the members of my workplace LGBT+ group, so I really don’t have faith in us to get into any of these types of discussions.

        1. This is a name, I guess*

          My company is pretty young and has an informal work culture, so it’s been really easy to integrate discussions of nonmonogamy into our social events. This has been a blessing for several bi/pan staff in relationships that appear to be in straight relationships, but who actually have queer partners they can’t discuss more openly at work. It’s also been great for bi/pan staff who have never been “out” at work because they been in relationships with opposite sex partners. I’m hoping full acceptance of their queerness at work helps encourage coworkers to explore queer relationships if that’s what they want (no pressure, obvi). So many bi/pan people – myself included – don’t explore or even claim their queerness because of larger systemic issues. I wish I had had that implicit encouragement when I was younger.

      3. Dina*

        Yeah as a fellow married to a woman, read as female queer, I try to be especially open about my bisexuality to normalise it for the ones who are always read as straight. And I’m the first to start yelling when people treat them as not queer.

    12. UKDancer*

      Oh yuck. That’s just wrong.

      Affinity groups should be inclusive of those who want to belong to them and not pressgang those who don’t. I’m straight and white and I belong to the LGBTQ group and the BAME group as an ally so I can be a better colleague and ally to my BAME and LGBTQ staff.

    13. Queer in all the flavors*

      *stares in trans and bi in a straight facing relationship with a pansexual at your colleague*

    14. Cat Mouse*

      Ugh. I gave up on trying to be out as a cis-ace. If the community is open to allies, I’ll participate, but apparently being married to a man means I can’t be asexual. Half the time it’s cis-het people claiming I can’t be a member even. So frustrating

      1. Squeebird*

        Oh man, this kind of thing is why my husband is the only person who knows I’m asexual. I’m afraid of getting this exact kind of response.

      2. lesbian opinion*

        If you’re an asexual woman and not romantically attracted to women, gay spaces really aren’t for you. You will never know what I experience as a lesbian. Sometimes it’s not gatekeeping, it’s just wanting to be around people who share your experiences…

        1. Aroace Opinion*

          Honestly, why gatekeep like that? If you want to only hang out with other lesbians, that’s up to you. No one’s saying that having an inclusive LGBTQIAP community means you have to be best friends with every person from every letter of the acronym. But a lesbian doesn’t know firsthand what it’s like to be a gay man or experience biphobia, either. Do you want to exclude the G and the B as well?

          My point is, as an aro-ace woman, I gravitate towards queer people and queer spaces because of the common experience of being not-straight. I’ll never be attracted to the people that society expects me to be into. Isn’t that enough common ground for you?

        2. Tali*

          Gross. Doubt most gay men, bi people, trans people, and nonbinary people would know what you experience as a lesbian either, but only aro/ace are excluded? That is the definition of gatekeeping…

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Ewwww. Just ewwww.

          What a nasty bit of gatekeeping – which is what it is. Your personal circle of friends is where it’s okay to gatekeep like that. Not an ERG or other public org.

          I’m enby, bi, and ace. I’m married to another person who is also enby and ace.

          Why do you think that aces are not familiar with attraction to women, men, or both?

          I’ve had relationships with both men and woman. I’ve even had sex. But it didn’t do anything for me, which is why I’m ace.

          I am not so shallow and petty that I require others in LBTQIA spaces to have shared all my same experiences in order to be considered valid.

          After all, the idea is to celebrate non-cis-het-allo lifestyles, not to decide who is legitimate LGBTQIA.

        4. Fushi*

          If you want a solely “gay space” then make one yourself and label it as such, cause the LGBTQ community ain’t that and never has been.

        5. Nell*

          Actually, as a panromantic asexual, I share those frustrations with Cat Mouse. No matter whom I’m dating (straight cis man, lesbian trans woman, panromantic asexual ciswoman, etc.) the LGBTQ spaces can sometimes be less friendly to me, even the ones that insist I call the group LGBTQIQA. Asexuality does belong, as a sexual minority, and I find it extremely frustrating that people, especially cis-het allies, exclude us. People are becoming more willing to accept people who aren’t straight and cis, but they are nearly always taken aback by the idea of someone who has no interest in sex. (Please do not take this as claiming asexuals have it worse, as gay or trans panic is still sometimes accepted as a legal defense while asexual panic is not a legal defense.) I am simply tired of my acceptance in LGBTQ spaces having gatekeepers that may or may not exclude me depending on whom I happen to be dating or claim that I don’t count because I don’t want to have sex with women, regardless of the fact I don’t want to have sex with men. All of us who are not cis and straight have difficulties with acceptance and dating. It is churlish to argue otherwise. If you do not want to accept asexual, cis, heteroromantic women or men, I recommend groups focused specifically on your sexual orientation. Asexuals are supposed to be included in LGBTQ spaces, which is emphasized in the recent LGBTQIQA name emphasis. We are the Asexuals at the end, after all.

        6. Food For Thought*

          I have a strong suspicion most of these commenters replying aren’t lesbian or gay. No one likes to be excluded so it’s very hard for people to recognize (or accept) when their inclusion is harmful to others. As a lesbian, I agree with you completely.

        7. TrixM*

          I’m queer, a lez, and I think your attitude is disgusting and embarrassing. Sorry, I can’t be more polite than that
          There are het-aligned asexual people and there are queer-aligned asexual people, and like bi/pan people, being in an opposite-sex relationship has absolutely zip to do whether or not they’re queer.
          If being queer is about having sex with people, do I no longer qualify after not having had sex for two years, despite being out for 35 years? If you think that sounds ridiculous, well, that’s how your assertion sounds to me. (Apols, ace people, I know it’s not the same, just making a point.)
          I suppose the better way to express it is whether you accept bi/pan people in opposite-sex relationships as queer. If so, ace people that ID as queer/have an affinity with queer community seem pretty similar to me, just without the wrestling body parts/romantic inclinations/whatever ace-spectrum they are.
          You need to learn more about queer-identified ace people and asexuality in general. For example, a pretty fundamental thing is that being asexual is not the same as aromantic (someone can be both, of course). And a multitude of ways they live their lives and how their sexuality might be experienced within them. Like the rest of us.

      3. This is a name, I guess*

        I started an ERG at work, and we try to be super open to the aro-ace community. My partner is trans, lesbian, and on the ace spectrum. However, I think it’s harder to be out as ace at work because talking about asexuality – especially when you’re partnered – encourages outsiders to think about and even ask questions about sex life. This is also why I primarily use “queer” in more generic work settings and “bisexual” only when necessary at work. I have no problem being bi, but it invites people to ruminate on my sexual history in a way I find frustrating. I don’t think it’s right that we have to do this, but alas, I definitely feel the pressure.

    15. Panda (she/her)*

      That is awful! There is already so much bi/pan erasure in LGBTQ communities because apparently we need to “pick a side” (as if this is…soccer? Or something?).

      Also pan and married to a straight cis man.

    16. Michelle Smith*

      Seems like inappropriate discrimination. Maybe HR can step in? I get not wanting to be involved in a group with a bigot like that though.

    17. Unkempt Flatware*

      “That’s not what your wife told me last night” or something equally gross to match his gross.

    18. Lirael*

      I’m so sorry. Of all the places that should accept pansexuality the LGBTQ forum should be top of the list!

    19. Elle*

      I’m shocked they’re allowed to operate it that way. My work LGBTQ group would never even want to behave that way- I think we have a ton of bi women (unfortunately no out bi men but that’s a larger issue)- but we’d (rightfully) get shut down immediately if someone started pulling that.

      On the other hand, we have a mandatory ally leadership position (every group has this rule-eg the group for Black employees has to have a white person in leadership ) which unfortunately is not working out *great* at the moment but you do what you can do

      1. Zelda*

        “the group for Black employees has to have a white person in leadership”

        What?! I’ve read that four times now and I still can’t wrap my brain around it.

    20. Nanani*

      That’s not how anything works AAAAAAA

      Does this person get confused by pull-out couches (“it’s a BED so it doesn’t count as a couch!”)

    21. theythemtheirs*

      My ex-boss said that people “shouldn’t have to use my pronouns if they weren’t comfortable with them.” (There’s pending EEOC litigation so I can’t go into the other details…)

    22. LadyJ*

      That sort of gatekeeping is not cool and as a Bi woman who was married to a man I would be having a fit

    23. Caaan Do!*

      What the actual f?!
      I’m bi but not out at work. I am also married to a cis man. One Bisexual Visibility day, a manager who I shared an office with at the time asked why BV is a thing because why do people need to state what they are up front, no one who is reasonable cares who is what etc etc

      I gently said “because bi erasure is a thing that happens” and she shrugged it off with a lame joke about the band Erasure and reiterated her point about ppl defining themselves by their sexuality. She is someone with usually inclusive views, so i was pretty shocked she didn’t see that straight ppl get to be their sexuality by default and LGBT+ folk are more often than not seen as their sexuality and nothing else

    24. Pigeon*

      I’m asexual… our LGBTQA ERG thinks the A stands for ally. You can guess how welcome I feel lol.

  10. WomensRea*

    My very first job out of undergrad was at a super dysfunctional, super small law firm. A partner’s wife worked in the same office space as a “travel agent.” In reality, she mostly did nothing and monitored the office for things large and small she could grieve. There were many little gems on that front – but my favorite is when she confronted me about having “too much joy” in the workplace because I was laughing at something a coworker had said. The workplace was indeed joyless though so perhaps she didn’t want to change the status quo.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Same experience! I was pretty new to the office and I was joking around one day, as one does, and my colleague who had been there a while said, “Mr. Waters doesn’t like levity in the workplace.” I laughed and said, “the day I can’t enjoy myself at work is the day I quit.” BTW, Mr. Waters and I got along quite well, TYVM!

    2. nonprofit llama groomer*

      I love your username.

      I’ve never worked in a law firm where the significant other was that involved but I’ve heard of many law firms and doctor’s offices where it happens.

  11. SheLooksFamiliar*

    A long-ago office manager at a long-ago office was distinctly odd about office supplies. For instance, I couldn’t have a whole box of staples, but I could take several bars to my desk. She was especially odd about pads of paper. If I asked for a pad of paper – memo pad, legal pad, whatever – she asked how many sheets of paper I expected to use. She wouldn’t hand out the whole pad of paper, just the required sheets.

    We were a profitable Fortune 100 company and there were no complaints from management about supply costs. There were complaints about her, but she was ‘such a dear’ that no one talked to her about her behavior. Or if they did, the message wasn’t received.

    1. Lurker*

      I worked with someone like that! The office manager at a for-profit college. (It was my first job after college and I didn’t know there even such a thing as proprietary schools. I hated it.) Anyway, if I asked the office supply guy for paperclips he would ask how many I needed — I couldn’t get a full box. Petty, petty, petty.

        1. Lurker*

          Ha — I should have asked for the quantity in a box minus 1 or 2!

          I also had to fill in for the receptionist when she took her lunch break and a lot of the students would come flirt with me. (I was basically the same age as them, as I had just graduated myself.) I couldn’t leave the desk, and I didn’t want to be rude so I would talk to them. (Also some were cute!) The owner’s lady friend, who was also the VP of the school, told me I wasn’t allowed to talk to students. Also not allowed: open toed shoes and bare legs for women. Everyone was called by their first name except the owner, who was called Mr. [Last Name]. Ugh, that place.

          1. Art teacher*

            You: I need 500 sheets.
            Her (suspiciously): Oh a full ream? Isn’t that convenient?
            You: Okay, you got me. I just need 498.

      1. EPLawyer*

        that’s when you learn how many paperclips are in a box and ask for that many. or how many sheets are in a notepad.

        But honestly the WHOLE POINT of a notepad is the sheets are stuck together. So you don’t have to keep track of loose sheets of paper. By breaking up the pad, you are defeating the purpose.

        1. LCH*

          nah, with someone like that, you could ask for the exact number in the box, but if they try to hand you the whole box, no way. they need to count them out. their rules, you’re just following them.

        2. Jaydee*

          No, you always ask for a number that’s an annoying percentage of a whole box/ream/whatever. The box contains 100 paper clips? You don’t need 98 – it’s too easy to count out 2 and give you the rest. You need 48 paper clips. Or 65 paper clips. Some number that requires a lot of tedious work for them to count out that exact number. Ideally, you might determine that you use, for example, 100 paper clips per quarter, which translates to 33-34 paper clips per month or about 8-9 paper clips per week or 1-3 paper clips per day. You figure out the most annoying interval at which to request paper clips and do that. Every time, it’s “Morning Fergus! May I have my daily/weekly paper clip ration today? I will be needing 3/9 today because that’s how many new llama protection referrals I have today/this week. Thank you.”

          1. Salymander*

            No, you ask for a number that is not dividable by anything easy to count. So, not dividable by 2, 5 or 10. That way the Supplies Sergeant can’t make little piles of 5 that can be counted at a glance. They will need to make little piles of 13, and have to count out each one. Because counting each one is super important, and you are just trying to be helpful.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I was tempted to mess with her and ask for 4 1/2 pages, but that would’ve meant spending more time with her.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      We just, you know, keep partial pads? You use what you need and then either keep the pad and use the rest later or tear off what you needed and put the pad back on the supply shelves. Yes, some of the pads are ridiculously old but we’re not wasting them or anything.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          It goes back on the supply shelf for the next person. I literally have a pad on my desk right now that belonged to guy who died six years ago after being retired for about 15 years. The paper’s still good, right?

          1. Retired (but not really)*

            I recently used a notepad with the logo of the company we bought out ~ 10 years ago that had been out of business for a few years before we bought the stuff that had been in storage. It was a little discolored from age but worked just fine for listing what I needed to print.

      1. Antilles*

        Anybody who was smart enough to understand that you can re-use legal pads would *also* be smart enough to realize that a notebook or legal pad is such a trivial cost (seriously, they’re like a buck each!) that it isn’t remotely relevant in the context of business expenses.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          This lady wasn’t stupid by any means. But today’s topic is about abuse of power over silly stuff and she made sure to wield as much control as she could over those pads of paper!

          1. Antilles*

            True, a better term might have been “reasonable” or “logical” – and again, anybody who would be willing to accept re-using legal pads as an acceptable outcome probably would also just shrug at losing a few here or there.

      2. Cat Tree*

        One of the biggest changes in mindset to work on my hoarding was to understand that there are other kinds of “waste” besides the material objects. Keeping an ancient half a notepad *is* a waste because it’s wasting storage space. It’s better to put it in the recycling bin and move on.

        1. Turtlewings*

          Hoarding is a hard thing to overcome, so good for you! My whole family has tendencies in that direction and have to fight to keep it bay.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I wouldn’t say that I have overcome it, but I have at least changed my thought patterns quite a lot. Another example is that I realized buying two incredibly cheap thing that are each only 80% of what I want doesn’t add up to having what I want. So now I generally only buy one thing that is 95% of what I want.

            But a small part of me dramatically protests every time I throw away an empty bottle that could be theoretically used to sort or store something someday.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              It was an achievement for me when I finally started just throwing out socks with holes in them, since I hadn’t darned a single one of those 12 pair to a pack socks in the past 20 years. Same with underwear – yes, I “could” repair them, but realistically I wouldn’t, I now made enough money to just buy new ones.

              1. Gumby*

                I do throw away holey socks, but usually after I have used them to dust/clean something. They fit so well over my hands and make corners, odd-shaped areas easier to reach. I have never had the pile o’ dusting socks get too large but would probably throw some out unused if I had more than 5 or so waiting around.

        2. Bryce*

          The other day something in the back of my closet was actually useful and all I could think was “well there’s years of hoarding therapy undone.”

          1. Bryce*

            Mostly tongue in cheek, it was an old graduation gift from 20 years ago that I wouldn’t have thrown out anyway, but I could feel the hoarder tingle.

        3. Elizabeth Bennett*

          OMG THIS. I’m all for keeping what you need at your desk, but it seems that everyone with whom I’ve ever worked keeps whole boxes of pens in three colors, highlighters in five colors, regular pencils, mechanical pencils, a box of staples, a box of paperclips, three or four white-out tapes, tons of binder clips, sticky notes… and we literally do not write anything out or store much of anything with paper. It is all electronic, and if a hardcopy comes in the mail, we scan it and recycle the hardcopy. Of course their desk drawer is crammed so full of this stuff that it’s hard for them to use it at all, as is the pen cup on their desktop. SMH

    3. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

      In my first professional job, I needed to take phone messages off my voicemail all day long. I would keep track of them on a scratch pad – one little square for each message. Then the organization started refusing to buy scratch pads. They would, however, buy legal pads.

      We were not allowed to touch the copier, so I was unable to access blank pieces of copier paper. So I took the legal pads, cut them up, and made them into scratch pads.

    4. Pointy Stix*

      The office manager at the first CPA firm I worked for was like that with the blue & red pencil lead refills. This was a national firm & back in the old days, so tick marks were made in red or blue pencil. She did the same with erasers. She’d hand out one at a time if you asked for any. One of the senior accountants asked her if she though we were hoarding them & selling them on the black market. Office manager wasn’t amused, but she never did change her ways.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I love your senior accountant. BTW, IS there a black market for erasers? And possible one for pencil sharpeners (yes I still use pencils that need to be sharpended I LIKE them, mechanical ones bust at the worst possible time)

    5. Momma Bear*

      I would think that just a few sheets of paper would get lost/be harder to keep together/look unprofessional. It’s like doling out three sheets of toilet paper.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “So you need to go number one AND number two? At the same time? Alright, but remember these five squares come straight out of your weekly allotment.”

    6. Lucy P*

      Ummmm. I’ve been that person, and I’m sorry for it. The manager above me gets made at what they deem as waste, particularly people who grab a paper pad, use a few pages of it, lose the pad and then grab another. That’s why tablets are now hidden and only get taken out for clients and executives. They also won’t let me buy new folders. That’s why we’re reusing the ones with labels from 1994.

    7. Hamburke*

      I’d be explaining that the point of the pad is to not have loose sheets of paper so that my desk doesn’t look disheveled. And if that didn’t work, I’d say 3, and then take the pad out of her hand instead of the 3 sheets.

    8. Jess*

      I have to admit, *I* was the person who took back a box of staples!

      Working for a charitable org, so not a huge stationery budget anyway, and we didn’t go through huge amounts of staples so I tended to just have a box in the stationery cupboard at a time and people would come and just take a row when they needed them (and a small office, so it wasn’t like asking someone to traipse to a different floor or anything like that). We had someone new start and as always I set up their desk with some basics, showed them the stationery cupboard and told them to let me know if they needed anything else, or were taking the last of something.

      Week or so later I went to get more staples for myself and couldn’t find any anywhere in the cupboard. Ended up taking the box back from new staff member’s desk – I’m afraid she seemed quite put out, but TBH a box would last the whole office a year, I can’t imagine she was doing enough stapling to need to have a whole box to hand! It was just a culture/expectations clash.

    9. GK1*

      A friend of mine had thee opposite problem with ordering supplies once. He needed more padded envelopes, and discovering they came in boxes of 250, instructed the ordering manager to “get him one.” Two weeks later, the ordering manager handed him one single envelope. My friend then said no, he actually needs 250. Two weeks later he got an angry call from the loading dock asking what he wanted them to do with his 250 boxes of 250 envelopes as they barely had room for them. He never did figure out if the ordering manager was petty or just clueless.

  12. Anonymous Graduate*

    A few years before my time, a professor took up the position of Safety Coordinator for the engineering school. Usually this person is just responsible for filling out some paperwork, making sure all the labs are properly stocked, maybe running a training for staff, etc. Except this professor decided that he could do more! This was following a period of (non-violent) student protests. This professor decided that all the security guards needed to carry guns. In case of more student protests.

    You can imagine the student protests this proposal caused, and he was removed from the position. He retired the year before I graduated and the rumor is that he still thinks they should have let him arm the security guards.

    1. Anonym*

      What?!?!?! I’m flabbergasted. Also there are typically best practices and policies in place – the job is to ensure they’re followed, not become Independent Safety Overlord and use your imagination to decide what’s best. Yikes.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Back during my newspaper career, we got a new safety coordinator who decided each department needed people to be fire marshals and get everyone out of the building in case of disaster. They also ordered special hats to be worn by the fire marshals.

      There were a great many editors available, but this person did not check with them before ordering the hats. The editors who had been dragged into fire-marshal duty grudgingly agreed to help with the evacuation process if needed, but flat refused to wear a hat that said FIRE MARSHALL.

      1. pandop*

        We had new hi-vis vests ordered for our Fire Wardens.

        One size fit all. In that the one size would fit all the fire wardens at once. Anyone smaller than a sumo wrestler looked like they were wearing a tent!

        Thankfully someone somewhere authorised their replacement with ones that weren’t a H&S hazard in themselves

      2. Journalist Wife*

        I am an editor and I love this so hard. In my last campus position before now, I was “volun-told” I would be the new building safety coordinator (largest building on campus). The next time my annual performance review rolled around, I noticed there was a ridiculous caveat in the template for Safety Duties that described the nearly-unattainable “Outstanding” rating for that column as involving correctly wearing and managing all use of appropriate safety attire. We were literally an academic dean’s office. There was no safety attire. So, in order to be smarmy about getting the regular “E” for “Expecations Met or Exceeded,” instead of that hardly-ever-used “O,” I dug out an ancient carton of orange Velcro arm bands–all of them covered in dust and dead spider legs–that read “B.E.R.T.” (the safety abbreviation for our campus), and marched around the office each day with them securely wrapped around both biceps and both ankles for eight hours at a time. I normally wore pants more often than skirts, so I went out of my way to noticeably wear skirts every day so these were on display across bare legs just above high-heeled pumps. After three straight days, the Dean finally picked up on my objective, rolled his eyes, and brought me an amended copy of my review with my “E” changed to an “O” in concession, so I would take the damn things off and stop embarrassing him with my suddenly-very-conspicuous nice legs. Hahaha. God, I miss that office.

    3. BugHuntress*

      Ah yes, Safety Coordinator… which everyone knows is synonymous with building your own armed militia (!)

    4. lyonite*

      What?! I’ve known some overzealous safety coordinators in my time, but it’s usually been things like, “you need to put on all your PPE even if you’re just walking through the lab to get to the stairs.” (The lab does not handle anything particularly dangerous.) That said, I was just voluntold for the role at my work, and now I have an idea of how to get out of it. . .

  13. ComplicatedIsAlright*

    My company president doesn’t want us to tip over 20% and really only tip 20% when you get great service. I tipped $7 on a lunch tab where a 20% tip would have been $6.86 – a $0.14 difference. I had to pull back my expense report and reduce the amount I was asking to be reimbursed by $0.14. Lunch was with a buyer where we were celebrating an increase in his orders to my company by $200K/month!

    1. Hills to Die On*

      I worked at a place like this! The company would only reimburse tips at 15% or lower so I would tip the 15% on the credit card and leave cash for the rest.

      1. PivotPivot*

        I work for a place where previous employees tipped extravagantly, (their words), so company wasn’t going to reimburse for ANY tipping. At all. Ever.

          1. Fitz*

            I INTELLECTUALLY know that this is nickel and diming, but I also sympathize with these accountants because I approve a lot of expense reports and it’s common to see people here tipping 30% or 40%. Or 20% on a delivery order. It’s hard for me to believe these employees would be tipping 40% if it were their personal funds.

            I guess that’s how some of us get this crazy about things like allowed tipping percentages.

            1. TipTop*

              I’m curious why talking directly to the over-tippers doesn’t work? Are there too many of them?

                1. TipTop*

                  Ah, I see.

                  Sometimes I’ll leave a huge tip when I’m taking a table and haven’t ordered much. Like I’ve had business meetings with a client at a restaurant and the client decides to only get beverages. I’m not going to tip 20% on two beverages when we have taken a table for an hour or more.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Yeah, we do 20% at my house – people are shopping/picking up orders, driving, then schlepping stuff up our stairs. I figure that they don’t get paid well enough by the apps/restaurants, and some people don’t tip at all, so I will tip well to make up for the crap they go through.

              2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

                20% has been the bare minimum for years and during the pandemic I’ve been trying to do at least 25% – these are people doing one of the most dangerous jobs in our society right now. I get that not everyone can go higher and it’s ridiculous that we have to because of the lack of a proper living wage in the restaurant industry, but I would be deeply unimpressed by an employer who tried to go lower.

            2. recovering admission counselor*

              Wait, why shouldn’t people be tipping 20% on a delivery order? Delivery apps often take huge cuts of the fees and people who drive for those apps are spending their own gas money to bring you your meal.

              And even if it’s not through an app, again, the person is literally coming to you with food. That’s a huge convenience for the person ordering. 20% seems reasonable.

              1. Fitz*

                OK, I’m willing to hear I’m wrong on this one! I haven’t seen this since the pandemic started, but a $20 tip on $100 of delivered food always seemed like a lot to me.

                1. Fitz*

                  This is really good for me to hear from the other side, thanks everyone. I’m much more relaxed about this since earlier in my career, and I’m now even MORE retroactively embarrassed that I asked people to pay back a few bucks.

                2. MsChanandlerBong*

                  I don’t even think $20 is enough for that big of an order. These drivers are out there rushing from place to place, trying to make a living, so the least I can do is tip well when it’s their work that allows me to not have to deal with traffic, standing in line, etc. I make it a personal rule to never tip less than $7.25 on a small order; so even if the order is $15, I’ll tip $7.25 so that the driver ends up getting at least $10 when the tip and base pay from DoorDash/Uber Eats/etc. are added together. On larger orders, I usually tip 25-30%.

                  We often get the same driver if we order pizza, so we tend to give him extra because he is nice, he’s coming to our house in the dark, and he does a good job.

                  tl;dr IMO, 20% is pretty much the bare minimum tip.

            3. TOD*

              Re: Delivery Tips: Someone has to pack up the food in a way that makes sense (hot food stays hot, cold food stays cold), makes sure it’s correct, make sure you have all of the utensils and incidentals that you need, and then they have to navigate the city, find the office building, find the one out of 100 identical rooms, all within a certain time frame. They don’t get paid the delivery fee, and their wages are offensively low. 20% tips on delivery are deserved.

            4. Michelle Smith*

              I never tip less than 20% on a delivery order and routinely tip 30% for great service at restaurants and bars. And I don’t get “company reimbursement” for anything, ever.

            5. Hawk or Handsaw*

              Is 20% on a delivery order not normal? That definitely the standard here in chicago

            6. JB (not in Houston)*

              I don’t know what the people you work with are like, but I routinely tip a lot. 20%, even on delivery orders, is the bare minimum for me. So maybe the people you work with wouldn’t do that with their own money, but I sure would.

            7. Nanani*

              But like, when it’s a small amount, rounding it up can easily produce a big percentage without being a lot of money. It’s also less hassle to drop a bill and let them take the change as tip, even if it ends up being a lot more than the standard percentage.

            8. Stazya*

              I mean, I tend to tip 30 – 40% when I’m traveling for work, because I’m only buying for myself. If a 20% tip is only going to end up being about $3-4, then I’m going to bump it up to make it worthwhile for the person serving me (I would do that personally as well, but I don’t tend to eat alone frequently on my own time). I like to make sure that with my tip, I’m at least getting someone somewhat close to a living wage. For delivery, that means I want to give them at least $50 for a 20 minute drive.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  When we were overseas, my dad once he paid for our lunch and the waitress seemed surprised. She asked if he was sure, so he checked the number and said yes, that was correct. Two minutes later he realized he’d done the currency conversion incorrectly and left her the equivalent of a $50 tip on a $45 lunch bill. He shrugged and didn’t ask for the money back.

      2. The Hero of Canton*

        I worked at a place that was so intense about this that my coworkers and I all had checkbooks at our office to reimburse the accounting department that HAD to have the receipt match the expense report and couldn’t take cash. Every single person had a story of having to write a check for less than $1 because they tipped over 20%.

    2. PT*

      I worked somewhere where we *weren’t allowed to tip at all.*

      I had to apologize to each and every one of our tip-based service vendors.

        1. Beezus*

          Not everyone can afford to tip in cash and not get paid back. I had this same experience working for a producer. I the unpaid student intern had to order delivery lunch but wasn’t allowed to tip on the company card but I also had no money personally. It sucks.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            Yep. If, back in the days when I was first starting out as an outside B2B software salesperson, my company wouldn’t reimburse for tips, then the waitstaff or delivery people just weren’t going to get tipped. That $20-$50 was the difference between me eating sandwiches with real meat or instant ramen and beans.

      1. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Ayup. Worked for a “won’t reimburse tips” place. But they also paid me per diem, so I took the tip money out of that.

      2. Zee*

        My job is one of those. My boss’s justification is that we’re a non-profit. As if servers should be forced to donate their time/wages to us!

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think this wins the “petty” category. Also, if I was your client and saw you tipping 20% or less, I would judge you. (Or, maybe more appropriately, your company.) I start at 25% now, since the tipped minimum wage hasn’t budged in over 30 years.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        This is a plot point in an episode of Sex and the City! Samantha is meeting with the actress Lucy Liu over lunch in an bid to represent her. She wins the deal because Lucy suddenly reaches over and checks the bill folio, and notes that she used to be a server and is pleased that Samantha tipped 25%.

        (It all falls apart later, but that’s neither here nor there.)

      2. Gumby*

        the tipped minimum wage hasn’t budged in over 30 years

        That is not true in all areas. The state of California specifically says “No. An employer may not use an employee’s tips as a credit toward its obligation to pay the minimum wage.” And it changes annually (for now). Plus several individual cities have higher minimum wages.

        1. Hex Symbol*

          California doesn’t have a tipped wage at all, it’s just the one minimum wage. The federal tipped wage is still $2.13/hr, the same as it’s been since 1991. Some states (less than 10) don’t have a separate tipped wage, because it’s a bullshit and exploitative system, even for America, and that’s kind of our whole deal here.

      3. LB6*

        The tipped wage depends on the state you’re in. Seven states have the min tipped wage equal to regular minimum wage ($8 – $10 an hour) and 23 other states have their tipped wage higher than the federal minimum tipped wage.

        So, depending on where you live, it may not be true that tipped wages haven’t increased in the last 30 years.

        Additionally, the standard percentage to tip has also increased over the last 30 years. The “normal” tipping percentage was more like 15%.

        Tip 25% or more if you want, but I don’t think your reasoning supports being judgemental of someone who lands on 20% instead of 25% or 40%. Ideally, individual customers wouldn’t have to determine a “fair wage” for a worker when they really don’t have the information to do so.

    4. layniek*

      This reminds me of a former boss I had. We went to Chili’s for a team lunch for someone’s birthday. He always paid for himself and the birthday person, and everyone else paid for themselves. When the bill came, it had that “suggested tip” line printed on it that many restaurants use. He got so offended by that that he decided not to tip at all! I was super intimidated by this guy and usually wouldn’t argue with him (I was a young woman in one of my first professional jobs and he was my dad’s age and could be mean and petty at the slightest thing), but not tipping is one of the worst things you can do in my world. So I meekly pointed out to him that the server wasn’t the one who put that on the bill, but he didn’t care and still left no tip. I ended up leaving a bigger tip on my own bill to try to make up for it, even though I made practically nothing compared to my boss.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I was once out with a group of “friends” where only one of the others was my actual friend. We went to a cheap restaurant and our waiter was a bit inattentive but honestly not that bad. The other two in the group that I never liked to begin with complained about to the group (not to the manager who might have been able to do something) all evening long, along with bizarre and petty complaints about the food, which they ate anyway and had nothing to do with the server. We split our checks and they left no tip. I left a generous cash tip for my part that didn’t fully make up for them leaving nothing. But they were so mad that I left any tip that the one guy actually reached to grab my money off the table. We had a tense moment and he eventually left the money there, but what an ass!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Guy would have had a fork over his hand and me hissing “touch that money and your hand will be permanently stuck to the table.” I would have meant it to.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          This reminds me of the Christmas Party Date From Hell that gets reprinted here every year. The letter writer left a tip for the coat checker, Date From Hell takes the money out of the tip jar because “coat check is free”. Letter writer says, “I know that” and puts the money back in the tip jar.

    5. Lies, damn lies, and…*

      Federal reimbursements don’t allow for tipping on taxi rides, which is kind of non-sensical, since everyone whose every ridden in a cab knows that you too.

      1. I edit everything*

        I still feel terrible about the time in high school when I got separated from my group on a trip to D.C. and had to take a cab from the metro station to our hotel. The cab fare literally took my last dime, and the look on that cabbie’s face haunts me decades later.

        1. I try to tip*

          I got ambushed by a cash only place the other day and scuttled out wreathed in embarrassment and apologies, leaving a 50p tip scavenged from the bottom of my bag.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          You could have just explained. I mean, I understand they feel ripped off if they don’t get a tip, but in your case, there was absolutely nothing you could do about it.

      2. zinzarin*

        Never assume that everyone knows what you know.

        I didn’t know that you’re supposed to tip a cabbie.

        1. Karl Havoc*

          I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the federal government knows national tipping customs.

        2. GK1*

          It depends on where you are. I once flew from the New York City area to Louisville, Kentucky for an interview. When I ordered the ride to the airport in NY, the first thing they asked me before even dispatching it was if I wanted to tip 15% or 20%. Not how much I wanted to tip or if I wanted to tip. Those were my options. I landed in Louisville and got a taxi to the hotel and the guy had to get his manager/dispatch on the phone to figure out how I could leave a tip on the card (since I needed a receipt for reimbursement) since nobody had ever done that before in all his years of driving!

      3. CatCat*

        Yep, other government entities do this as well. I got dinged for this once by my government employer. So instead of taking a cheap taxi ride to go to/from some meetings I had to fly into that were being held less than 2 miles from the airport, I rented a car. Fully reimbursable.

        1. rita*

          Back in the days of yore, if you were paying in cash and just got a blank receipt, you could lump the tip in with the cost of the ride. We used to keep blank cab receipts on hand all the time to cover expense report items that we knew wouldn’t be reimbursed…

        2. calonkat*

          Our state lets employees tip $3 (if I remember correctly) on a cab ride. $75 cab ride? $3 tip. $10 cab ride? $3 tip.

          You can tip anything you want, but you’ll only get reimbursed for $3. We’ve also not gotten cost of living increases in 10 years so you can imagine how “well” our state comes off when attending federal meetings.

    6. FwdFwd*

      This is a law in my state — only 15% on the pre-tax total only will be reimbursed, so our accounting department had to develop special spreadsheets to figure the difference on every single meal reimbursement for any state employee that both the employee has to complete and the accounting department must double check. Going to bet that it saving the state a whole bunch of money. Doh.

    7. T-totaler*

      We are allowed 15%, maybe 18% if it was “exceptional” service (which you will be called on to describe).

      BUT NO TIPS ON ALCOHOL!!!

      No idea where that comes from. Alcohol is not banned. The CEO just read an article that suggested tipping on the alcohol “portion” of the bill at a restaurant was up for debate and not settled standard. So he will pull out his phone app and re-calculate the entire bill….while the rest of us turn red with embarrassment and try to slip the server a decent tip without getting caught.

      1. Fushi*

        He won’t even let you tip the server *yourselves*?? Ew.

        My grandfather was like this but at least I didn’t have to worry about consequences for ignoring him. =/

    8. bean counter*

      The irony is that the amount of billable employee time it took to reject & process this $0.14 change was significantly more than $0.14.

  14. LadyByTheLake*

    Many years ago I was a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company. I learned that the mother of a professional colleague — a colleague who was also a vendor to the company and someone with whom we worked closely — had died. I wrote a condolence note to the colleague and put it in outgoing mail. The admin for the department refused to send it unless I personally paid for the postage because it was handwritten, so it couldn’t be business correspondence. When I explained that it was business-related because it was to a vendor, she demanded that I “prove” that sending the note furthered the business interests of the company before she would send it.

    1. Me (I think)*

      Whoa. This one is my favorite (least favorite?) so far.

      A hand written note can’t possibly be business related? Huh, I wonder about all those handwritten thank you notes we’re supposed to send.

      Also, a senior exec at a Fortune 100 company wants to mail a note, I am having a hard time with the idea that there is pushback on this. Wow.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        I seem to recall that her direct supervisor caught wind of it and shut it down. I do recall that I offered to take it to the post office myself, which would have meant a senior executive would be out of the office running an administrative errand — a cost of far more than a stamp. I was pretty annoyed.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Damn. “It furthers the interests of the company because I am senior executive and I decide what furthers the interests of the company.”

    3. Amaranth*

      I’m all for admin power, but you were…a senior exec? And she was policing your postage?

      1. Valkyrie*

        Also don’t stamps cost, like $0.89? I could see it being an issue if you were using the companies stamps to mail 150 invitations to your wedding, write letters to your grandma, and pay a bill, but why would you come down on SENIOR EXEC for mailing something to a vendor?

        1. Midwest Teacher*

          Stamps are 58¢ now, and this happened “many years ago” so it would have been an even smaller expense then.

    4. Mr. Shark*

      Wow, this is just…too much. It’s a perfect example. The obvious power imbalance here, and the fact that it was a legitimate use of company resources, it’s just astounding that she wouldn’t send it.

    5. Hamburke*

      I had our admin mail a condolence note to one of our clients just this week on the company dime…and last year I sent a pet sympathy card to another client when their dog died (this dog came into the office with them frequently). And I’m just a worker bee. I can’t imagine the admin refusing to pay postage for personal-business correspondence.

    6. Hepzibutt Smith*

      I genuinely love that this department admin treated you (a senior exec!!) with the exact same petty bs she treated all your reports.

  15. Salty Pup*

    I had to get approval from the VP of IT procurement to get an $8 privacy screen for my work laptop. The ill will that it created is at this point worth so much more than that $8.

    1. Salty Pup*

      Oh! Probably worth mentioning that I work in healthcare and regularly have to look at PHI.

    2. GoodGuyIT*

      This comes from the “you give an inch, they take a mile” mentality.
      Of course, I’ve seen folks try to buy department-level multi-thousand-dollar networked printers as “office supplies” to skirt the procurement rules for IT. And that’s how you end up with “no exceptions” policies.

    3. Msnotmrs*

      I work for a big government dept (like, second-biggest in my state) and I’m frequently surprised at the absolutely petty things the higher-ups will deny to save, like, $50. One of my colleagues had vacation pay mistakenly taken out of her PTO bank, and it took weeks and had to be escalated all the way up to the director before it was rectified. For TWO HOURS of vacation. It basically destroyed any semblance of goodwill she had towards the organization. She used to work a ton of overtime etc. but not anymore.

    4. OrigCassandra*

      At Toxic Ex-Job we had to sign out every single thing we took from the supply closet (which was only open four to eight hours a week, for extra added fun).

      Every pen. Every box of staples. Every square of sticky notes. Everything.

      That place was a mess on a lot of levels, but I sure do remember specifically this as being incredibly petty and power-trippy.

      1. noncommital pseudonym*

        It always amused me when I worked at a Federal agency that the staples and paperclips were locked up, but there were shelves filled with binders full of grant proposals, which listed the SSNs of every single applicant lining all of the halls.

        I hear they’ve finally digitized everything, and that no longer happens!

      2. geek5508*

        When I was an IT Contractor for a County agency, we had to sign out pens and post-its, but could just grab PC hardware (drives, video cards, RAM) without any documentation

      3. MigraineMonth*

        My Toxic Ex-Job had an open supply closet with company-branded pens in various colors. In front of thousands of employees, the CEO got up and ranted for fifteen minutes about how she went to a local restaurant and the pen they gave them to sign the check with was a company-branded pen, and this showed we were all careless and wasteful of company resources. We should all emulate them and only take pens home if they were already broken or leaky.

        Our CEO was a billionaire.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I can think of two people who that could fit, one of whom was the CEO at $job-4. The one I’m thinking of also said that she “didn’t believe in feminism”, even though feminism was why she could be a CEO and bring her baby to the office.

          1. Zweisatz*

            But don’t you understand? Rich people always got there on their own merit. Only poor people are responsible for everything that got them there.

        2. Buttersucker*

          It’s embarrassing that a CEO would view this as an issue of property rather than marketing.

  16. Teacher, Here*

    I worked with an Accounts Payable person who would only accept disbursements on their form that was printed on neon green paper. Fine, fine. But she would only give out ONE FORM PER DAY, so if you thought you might ever need to submit two requests for a payment in a day, you’d have to go by on another day to get your single form and save it for that day.

    And then the second year, we discovered that she’d scanned the green form and then printed it IN COLOR onto green paper when she ran out of the original forms, meaning she was using green ink to cover green paper, and also that regular pens would no longer work on the now very shiny form.

    The third year I bought my own green paper and started printing my own forms. She was furious, because of course the “you can only get one form per day” policy was to ensure she never had to actually pay anyone. But since it would be very hard to explain that to her boss, she just huffed a lot about “where I was getting all these forms” when I’d turn them in.

    Good times.

    1. Bibliothecarial*

      I am cackling at your second paragraph! Funny how these penny pinchers are so expensive.

      1. Teacher, Here*

        It was honestly amazing — the first thought was “wait, why is this paper so shiny on one side but not the other?” and then the second thought was “oh no, she couldn’t have? She did!”

        The best part is that teachers didn’t have access to a color printer. So all that green ink was just quietly mocking us.

        1. Bibliothecarial*

          Nooo that’s the worst! Why didn’t she just cover it in diamond dust while she was at it?

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, that would require a LOT more colored ink (yellow AND blue, right?) and would cost a heckuva lot more than just buying green paper, wouldn’t it?

        And I love Teacher’s hack of getting their own green paper. Brilliant!

        1. KateM*

          She bought green paper as well, as I understand. Scanned green form, bought green paper, and printed that colorful form, complete with green background, on green paper. So yeah, printing full colorful pages on green paper would come more expensive than just printing the text on green paper.

        2. EchoGirl*

          If I’m understanding the top comment correctly, it was worse than that — she was printing the full-color green forms onto paper of the same shade of green, making the excessive amount of color ink completely redundant.

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      Good LORD. I am trying to imagine writing on a printed picture, smears, pen dying…..

    3. Regular Human Accountant*

      I wonder if on the day she ran out of green paper, she had already used her Daily Form and couldn’t fill out a second one to buy more paper.

      1. Hex Symbol*

        She tried printing another form on the back of her used Daily Form but the paper got too shiny and it broke her pen! o_o

    4. Mr. Shark*

      That’s so incredibly odd. The one form per day is definitely excessive, but the green paper part, and then printing green onto a paper…what the heck was this woman thinking?
      I love that you just bought your own paper to throw off her whole system!

    5. Ash*

      This one is my favorite. The amount of money she wasted on ink is just *chef’s kiss*. And buying your own green paper and just printing off your own forms is brilliant. I love all of this.

  17. Plastic forks rule the world.*

    The darn student staff at my higher education institution were using plastic forks (paid for by the department) to eat their lunches when a meal time occurred during their working hours. At first, signs were taped up on the kitchen cupboards that plastic utensils were for full-time staff only. But this wouldn’t stop those students — how dare they. Next step was clearly to lock up those plastic forks in an office that only full-time staff had access to. That showed those students. Fork-gate ceased.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      WTF. That’s the most ridiculous thing. Department can afford forks. Students make wayyyy less.

    2. Me (I think)*

      I bet those darn students were using department-purchased toilet paper when they went to the bathroom. Clearly the only way to solve that is to keep all bathrooms locked and only full time staff have keys.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          What? No…just no.
          I would walk out the first day at the job.
          And that would be my first question at my next interview, “Before we start, does the company supply TP for all of its employees at the office?”

          1. it's-a-me*

            Interviewer: And why did you leave your previous employer?

            Me: Allow me to counter your question with a question of my own…

        2. Salymander*

          I went to one of those scary religious boarding school that abuse students. It was eventually shut down by the state after a student died. When they were raided, I think at least one helicopter was involved. This school did terrible things. They also did ridiculous, petty things. They would ration toilet paper for students, but not for staff. We started out by getting 5 squares. Over time, they whittled us down to 1 square. No matter what. They would hand you one square, and you would go into the bathroom with it. One square. So petty. Such an abuse of power.

            1. Salymander*

              Well, at least they were eventually rounded up and deported by the Mexican Army because they had an abusive school on that side of the border too. That was pretty satisfying to hear about.

      1. The Rafters*

        Eons ago, the man who was in charge of purchasing TP for our very large building had decided to purchase TB that was like sandpaper. After receiving the first e-mail claiming gynecological problems as a result of using said TP, he blushingly replaced it with our usual not quite as crappy brand. The revolt started at 10 AM and was over by noon the same day.

    3. NHNonprofitDirector*

      I worked for a small publishing company back in the 90s. Every month the owner had the HR person shake everyone down for a few dollars to pay for their share of expenses related to the water dispenser. When they started asking the (unpaid) interns to contribute, we protested. The ownership insisted so some of us paid staff chipped in on the interns’ behalf.

      1. Guin*

        That’s when I would refuse to pay and start drinking tap water, or bringing a water bottle from home. Insanity!

    4. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

      This happened in my old department, except it was staff using up the extra forks from events. Our dean’s assistant started keeping all of the plates, forks, spoons, everything locked up in her office. I never understood why we could just let someone sign up to bring those for an event, but nope, we couldn’t do that.

      1. La Triviata*

        At terrible old job, there was one person who got a little, confused to be kind, about what was a saving. We’d have catered lunches, meetings, etc., and she would grab plates, flatware, napkins, etc. She’d put them in a closet and guard them. Then, one year we were having a Christmas party and she was put in charge of getting the plates, flatware, napkins, etc. She blew the entire party budget on buying new plates, flatware, napkins, etc. Someone had the nerve to ask her why she bought new and didn’t use the old ones she’d hoarded … her response was that we couldn’t use the old ones because we might need them someday.

        1. EPLawyer*

          “saving for a rainy day.” Honey, Noah is building an ark, time to break out the saved stuff.

      2. Cold Fish*

        We had a lady that worked here that would go thru the trash after we had an company sponsored employee lunch and pull out all the plastic forks/knives, then wash them for the next company lunch. I understand the environmental impact but dollar store plastic utensils don’t hold up to BBQ lunches (our company go-to), they especially don’t hold up when they are re-used.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      A former admin in my department started policing use of the disposable plates/bowls/silverware provided by the organization. She locked the cabinets that contained this stuff and kept the key at her desk. She counted said items daily to monitor usage and compared it to her key log. She also claimed that the C-level person in charge of the department had asked her to do this.

      I knew the C-level department head, and they were not petty or unreasonable. They also had plenty of things the admin could do other than count forks daily. I clued them in to what was going on, and they were livid that this sort of crap was being done in their name and shut it down stat. I think they were upset that the staff who’d put up with the admin’s power trip actually believed they’d do such a thing.

  18. Mary*

    After finishing all my work one day, I left 10 minutes early. My boss chased be down to the elevator – said he had something for me to do. He needed me to make a PDF file.

    1. Anonym*

      My level of patience with people who won’t just look the thing up on the internet is so far below zero I’ve lost sight of it. Good grief!

      1. Cold Fish*

        Hee Hee…. read as I sit here reading AAM for 3 more minutes until I can clock out!

    2. NoMoreOffice*

      I worked for an absolute monster of a CEO several years ago. He called me, irate, one evening well after business hours because I didn’t email him a file he wanted to work on right that second. He made make a 40-mile round trip to print the three-page document out and hand it to him after dark in the very not nice neighborhood where our office was. Potentially understandable if I was the only one with access to said document and it was an emergency. But, the reason I hadn’t emailed it to him in the first place was that I had saved the damn thing to the company server, in the folder with his name on it. He literally made me make an hour-round trip because he didn’t want to look for it.

    3. Anony*

      I had a boss in a small company (4 people total, she founded it) who wouldn’t let us leave for the day until she decided it was time. We all worked in the same WeWork office room and ended work at 6pm; it was understood we could not leave until she said “well, I think it’s time to pack up for the day”. I tried to leave on time on my first day, not knowing this was the unwritten rule, and got reamed out. The boss would often close up her work before 6 and then watch to see that we were working right up until whenever random time she decided we were done (6:03, for example).

      1. Journalist Wife*

        That last sentence alone upgrades this story from “medium” petty to “wicked-stupid” petty, in my opinion.

    4. Brienne the Blue*

      Reminds me of my first job out of college. I had concert tickets one night and a couple of days prior, I asked the boss if I could leave at 5 instead of 5:30 if I came in early. He granted the request, and then at 4:55 decided to call a meeting where he proceeded to spend 45 minutes pondering whether a program should be called “Teapot Handles for Coffee Drinkers,” “Teapot Handles, for Coffee Drinkers,” or “Teapot Handles—for Coffee Drinkers.”

  19. Janet*

    Worked at a federal agency in a job that required a lot of travel. The person who processed our travel mapped out the mileage from every person’s address to the airport parking lot that she felt we should use, then required that everyone use that mileage for reimbursement.

    1. ladonnapietra*

      I worked at a university whose travel department required employees to do more or less the same thing via Mapquest (which then needed to be printed out and attached to all travel claims).

      1. fposte*

        It’s a state requirement for us to map, and it may have been a federal requirement for Janet, but I doubt the feds insisted on the travel processor’s choice of parking lot.

        1. ophelia*

          Yep, this. I (contractor) need to document mileage, but it needs to be, like, “house to airport” not “specific spot I have parked on the street to space in Lot B.”

        2. fposte*

          Actually, I take it back; the text printout was sufficient without the map, but we did have to have the external information about the miles.

      2. Dr. Doll*

        Yes, and if you used google maps instead of mapquest, your travel reimbursement request was tossed back. 10 cent difference in mileage reimbursement.

      3. Steph*

        I worked for nonprofit that required we use the shortest distance from place to place as outlined in Google Maps, or to explain in writing why we took a different route. A copy of all directions had to be added to our mileage reimbursement form.

      4. After 33 years ...*

        I know someone who applied that requirement in reviewing claims for taxi fares for conference travel in other cities.
        That person also objected to my claiming reimbursements for repeated monitoring visits to the same coastal field site. “You went there last year – why do you have to go again?”

      5. WFH is all I Want*

        Same! I had to enter mileage reimbursement to the second decimal place and attach the print out from whichever mapping tool that showed the lowest mileage…and they checked!

        One of the directors was 14.23 miles on one app and 14.22 on another. I claimed 14.23 without checking the other app and got dressed down by the admin in charge. It didn’t even change the reimbursement amount.

    2. Mr. Cajun2core*

      The university I work for states that the mileage must be from the university to the airport regardless of where you live even if you drive from your house to the airport. For some people it actually works out better.

      1. Guin*

        This is pretty common. My company does that also. They won’t reimburse you for a cab from your house to the airport, only the distance from work to the airport. I think it’s petty, but on the other hand, some people live more than an hour away from the airport, so that would be a $150 cab fare these days.

      2. *daha**

        I worked doing travel reimbursement for a University and that’s what we were taught was correct. Daily travel from home to work and back is not reimbursable – it’s personal. Business travel to someplace other than your usual worksite is reimbursable. So the journey from the worksite to the airport is the part we reimburse. And that was based on what the IRS found acceptable for business expenses.

        1. Random Bystander*

          At one time, I was being asked to train to potentially fill in at a site other than my normal work place. There was a substantial difference in commute distance, and I asked about reimbursement and was told that I could not be reimbursed because I was traveling from home in both instances. I pleaded not to be sent, as I could not afford this other commute. At the time, gas was *very* high, and I was a single mother with four minor children whose ex was not paying child support, *and* the lowest paid person in the particular office. Well, after I got to other location, the person training me for the alternate job caught me not eating lunch so that I could afford the hit in gas–this was going to cost me around $75/week more than my normal commute, and the only place that I could cut my expenses was to drop to one meal per day–it was, in those days, rather routine for me to get down to less than a dime in my bank account on the day before payday, and I really had no expenses that could have been cut. Trainer went nuts, pulled out the $5 cafeteria vouchers that were normally given to visitors and made me go get lunch. While I was at lunch, she called up a friend of hers in the finance office. Friend in finance office stated that under these circumstances, I was to be reimbursed at the IRS rates for the difference of [commute to alternate work site from home] less [commute to normal work site from home]–that difference was 48.8 miles for a round trip. Suddenly, it was decided that I didn’t need to be trained for this job, that the other people in the office could do it when needed–the other people had a max of 14 mile difference between the two commutes, and two of them had either no difference or were actually closer to alternate site. At least I did get reimbursement for the two days that I had gone to alternate site.

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

        Same at my org — campus to off-campus site; finance gives us the miles to fill in on our report rather than leave it up to us to map out. My coworker lived within a mile of an Annual Event off-campus site, but had to commute 40 miles to get to work… she loved volunteering to work the event because she was paid to “travel” to and from campus.

    3. Mona Lisa*

      My state university’s travel department did the same thing. We had to attach a Google Maps screenshot of the exact route we took with the mileage on it as justification, and it got kicked back if you forgot to include it.

      Actually that travel department might be the power-trippiest group I’ve ever worked with. They denied my expense request for and $11 BART fare once because the time stamp on my ticket was before the conference officially began. Never mind that I needed to take the train into the city to actually check-in for the conference at the appointed time.

    4. Can’tAdultToday*

      I’m federal, and we have to claim the mileage from our office to the destination. Makes sense.

      I turned in a claim for, say, 36 miles round trip for a week. It was returned to me because it wasn’t calculated correctly. I’d calculated home directly to new destination and deducted the home to work miles.

      I was told I have to map home to work to new site. Added 4 miles per day to the trip. Thanks for the extra cash!!

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      My mother worked for the federal government in Anchorage, Alaska back in the ’70s. Her job would mean she’d need to travel to various other places in Alaska. Every time she had to buy a plane ticket, she’d have to fill out a form explaining why she couldn’t take, say, the train instead. The most common reason would be that she was flying into a place that was only accessible by bush plane, but the forms were apparently designed back in D.C. where it made sense to justify why every single individual trip on the taxpayers’ dime could not be accomplished by a specific hierarchy of methods, which definitely thought flying was only for fancy people and not government employees.

  20. Claudia Lamb*

    A mierable Assistant News Director, in San Francisco, who made reporters and producers BEG for pads of legal paper and pens.

    A power-mad Admin Asst, in Denver, who took away the traffic reporter’s microwave because a colleague burned popcorn in the microwave.

    1. Claudia Lamb*

      There was a miserable Assistant News Director, at a radio in San Francisco, who made reporters and producers BEG for pads of legal paper and pens, which she kept locked in a drawer.

      Then there was a power-mad Administrative Assistant, who worked for Clear Channel in Denver, who took away the traffic reporter’s microwave because a colleague burned popcorn in the microwave. We had no way to heat up our meals after that. That was the same woman who refused to buy Kleenex because we could use the hard, brown paper towel for drying your hands if we had a need.

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        I feel like I’ve crossed paths with that admin. I worked with someone (in Denver) who would police the fridge and announce a fridge clean out if she thought someone’s food was going to be “too smelly”. I’m talking about food that had only been in the fridge for an hour but looked “too ethnic” (her exact words). The glass plates in the microwave started to disappear too and I caught her stashing them in the supply closet when we’d have our CEO visiting (his lunch was always catered so he’d never know).

        1. Liz*

          That sounds like one of our old building services people. She would take it upon herself to “police” and clean out the fridge. If something was one day past the “best buy” date, say a yogurt, or mustard, or something that was perfectly fine, she’d toss it, no questions asked. She was about to toss a small bottle of milk I had, which for some reason HAD no date, but I had bought like 2 days prior. Thankfully the EA who knew it was mine caught her and told her to leave it alone!

        2. Jinni*

          OMG my ex’s office had a manager who prohibited the microwaving of ‘ethnic’ food in the microwave. I’m in LA and that *meant* Mexican. He said the smell of burritos upset him.

          1. Machine Ghost*

            I once worked in a very small customer-facing department. We were allowed to drink tea at the customer counter. Once my cowoker brought instant-coffee instead. Boss came out of the office and told us, coffee wasn’t allowed. Why, asked coworker. Boss claimed, because a customer with a coffee-allergy could come in. An allergy to the *smell* of coffee. We laughed for months about that. He just didn’t like the smell.

      2. It's Growing!*

        My mom showed me that one when I was little. You take the brown paper towel or a napkin and scrub it between your knuckles of both hands like when you’re trying to rub out a stain on your clothes. It softens the paper enough to not take the skin off your nose when used as a tissue. As a person who currently has a runny nose (ah, Spring), I can attest to the fact that this is good only in an emergency. Bet that AA has her own stash of real tissue.

    2. Valkyrie*

      The microwave thing happened to my spouse! They worked at a large, internationally recognized entertainment company. Someone on their floor burned popcorn so it was removed. The other floor of the building got to keep theirs. Thus beginning the hatred towards the “floories” and their microwave.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        At my ex-job, we had free juice, snacks and microwavable popcorn. We also hosted a large conference once a year, with lots of customers and vendors visiting. The week before the conference, the microwavable popcorn would disappear out of all the break rooms to avoid having the fire department called during the big conference. Of course, that meant that 2 weeks before the conference, people stashed microwavable popcorn bags in their desks so they could continue to make popcorn.

        1. EchoGirl*

          I’m going to guess you had one of those smoke detectors that automatically calls the fire department? I understand why those exist but they can also be a real pain when something innocuous sets them off. (Something I learned during a certain synagogue Hanukkah party in my youth where we got paid a visit by the fire department because someone burned a couple of latkes.)

    3. Mystik Spiral*

      To be fair, burnt popcorn is a very good reason to remove someone’s microwave. ;)

    4. asteramella*

      A previous CEO of a company I worked for, before my time, banned popcorn from being made *anywhere* in the 5-floor building because someone had burned a bag of popcorn *once*. This edict was in place for years.

      I was told that when she finally got fired, my department popped a bottle of champagne and popped a bunch of microwave popcorn while singing “ding dong, the witch is dead.”

    5. catsamillion*

      once had a full newsroom, hourlong debate spurred by budget cuts–EIC asked us to choose the long pads or the short ones, no more having both. Staff of five were split on it and we annoyed the EIC into keeping both.

      1. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

        Oh man-this reminds of my old company where we had to have four different kinds of pads of paper. Yellow legal, yellow regular, white legal, white regular because everyone there had a preference for a different type of pad.

  21. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Someone was in charge of reducing the office supply budget at a long ago former job.

    My job requires multiple colors of writing implements to be effective. Yes, it sounds a bit odd, but it truly is a thing, I just can’t really explain the ins and outs of it here. But suffice it to say that every iteration of this position that I’ve held, at every company I’ve held it, a first visit to the supply closet has involved snagging one of every color highlighter and pen, with early roles being at the behest of my manager to do so.

    Honest question because it sure seemed ridiculous: How much money would be saved by eliminating multiple colors of writing implements and highlighters? This was not a huge office…we’re talking maybe 10 people in my role altogether.

    1. Popinki*

      I also need different colored pens in my job, and I’ve been basically buying my own because the office manager will either blow me off or else buy the world’s worst pens that only work if you scribble them a million times before each use.

      1. HE Admin*

        I can see a couple of things there this would be very, very useful and you’d possibly have to do thing over again, or explain things unnecessarily, if it was all done in one color. Edits on documents going back from different people. Signatures that need to be in different colors–my husband is in accounting, and it’s apparently standard in a lot of offices (though I would guess not all?) that the person preparing a document signs off in one color, and the person reviewing it signs off in another. Contracts where multiple people need to sign in multiple places; Kate signs in all the green-highlighted spots, Mary signs in all of the blue-highlighted ones. Stuff like that.

        1. Nina*

          I used to work in a lab that had some pretty stringent analytical accreditation – bench techs used blue pens, results recorders used red, results checkers used green, and SMEs who signed off the reports used purple. Nobody, ever, used black. All the photocopiers had color printing locked to make it obvious at a glance whether a document was original or photocopied.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Further elaboration – I deal with both electronic and physical paper formats. Manual color coding on physical paperwork is essential to doing things quickly and accurately.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              The majority of colorblind people are red/green colorblind, so you could either not use one of those colors or make sure the shades were very different (e.g. dark red vs light green). Yellow-blue colorblindness is rarer, but could be approached the same way.

              If the individual cannot see any colors, you would probably want to use a different indicator, such as shapes, letters or icons. A lot of web pages will pop up a red error that also has a (!) or stop sign icon so it can be interpreted correctly by the colorblind.

            2. ScruffyInternHerder*

              There is no set “system” that I’m aware of for the color coding and everyone uses what works for them, in most cases.

              I have had this issue come up before and the solution was “what colors CAN you see since we’re both working on this and I’ll only use those ones”.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m a lawyer, and while it is less common now to have to do it by hand, because color photocopies exist, there are some things such as marking boundaries on a title map where you have to be able to identify different boundaries / pieces of land in different colours.

        Technically if you amend a court pleading after it has been submitted, you are supposed to mark that with different colours, and when first started we still if have to do that sometimes. Red for the initial amendment, then other colours – green, purple then yellow, I think , in that order although I don’t recall ever having had to go past green. (These days, you can use footnotes to identify any changes instead if need be)

      3. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

        Speaking for my former role, different org levels used different colored ink for approvals that needed to go up the chain of command. No one could read the signatures but if it had a black, blue, green, and red squiggles, you knew it had been routed through the team, department, division, and command level, respectively.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        My dad was a geologist and in his field-work days he lived by those four-color click pens, for mapping and a bunch of other things. My brother and I still consider them icons of our childhood.

      5. Awesome Sauce*

        One more example. Going over chemical processing plant diagrams line by line to make sure that all the possible disasters have been identified and safeguarded against. This is done as a group workshop with one engineer from each design team, plus some reps from maintenance and control room. You cover the walls with 22×34 printouts of all the plant diagrams, colour-coded so that everyone knows what portion of the plant you’re analyzing, and then go through the plant one coloured portion at a time, listing out all the ways it could blow up!