I don’t want to work with my childhood bully, employee wants to start earlier than everyone else, and more

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

1. I don’t want to work with my childhood bully

For the last several years, Company A has been recruiting me pretty hard. The salary, benefits, job description, executives, etc. are perfect, but I’ve said no at least four times now. I feel terrible, and they keep asking me what they could offer me that would make me change my mind. Company A isn’t the problem. Jane is the problem.

Over 25 years ago, Jane bullied me very badly when we were in school together. She emotionally tortured me, socially isolated me, and lashed out at anyone who was nice to me. She was excellent at recruiting people to bully me. No one in charge did anything, and I was left to defend myself.

Today, Jane is an HR executive at Company A. I haven’t seen her in over 25 years. I wouldn’t be working alongside Jane if I took the job, and I wouldn’t see her on a regular basis. But the idea of being in the same building as her or potentially bumping into her terrifies me. I wouldn’t be able to work effectively with the knowledge that she has access to my confidential personnel information or I’d have to go to her or one of her direct reports with a private matter. I’m not mad at Jane; I merely don’t want to be around her ever.

Of course people can change. But that doesn’t mean I want to work at the same place as she does, especially as she has power.

I’d like to send Jane a cordial email to let her know about these multiple offers and that, if pushed again, I’m going to tell Company A (her bosses) the truth. I want her to know that I’m not taking revenge but rather I value Company A and they deserve honesty when they keep making me offers. I don’t want Company A to think they’ve done anything wrong, but I don’t want Jane fired either. (Yes, I get that she wouldn’t be, but if I spilled the beans, my story would affect her in some way.)

Do you think this is the right path forward? Is the email a bit much? Should I avoid corresponding with Jane altogether because she may have not changed at all?

The email is too much. Revealing that Jane was a horrible person 25 years ago as a minor isn’t likely to have a significant impact on the way Company A sees her. First, because she was a kid then and second, because their own experience with her will have more weight with them than an account of what she was like two and a half decades ago from someone they don’t know well.

Also, people’s default response to someone sharing that kind of thing from so long ago is often to feel it’s overblown and/or out of line — which means that it’s likely to make the Company A more uncomfortable with you than with Jane.

But you don’t have to justify your decision not to work at Company A to the people who are trying to recruit you. And you don’t need to feel bad about saying no — people turn down offers all the time, for all sorts of reasons. You can just say that you appreciate their interest but your answer isn’t going to change for the foreseeable future. If they keep contacting you after that — after 5+ rejections — it’s actually a little weirdly pushy on their side, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to block them if you wanted to so that this doesn’t keep coming up and over and over.

2. My employee wants to start earlier than everyone else — am I a tyrant if I say no?

I manage three people, one of whom started a few weeks ago. My hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; I give my employees the option of setting a schedule that starts as early as 8:30 a.m. or as late as 9:30 a.m. The newest employee wants to start the day at 7:30 a.m. They say they are their sharpest and most creative at the start of the day and they are an early riser, so the 7:30 a.m. work time is better for them.

I kindly told them no — we work closely and need to brainstorm together a lot, proofread each other’s work in a timely manner — usually within an hour. I feel it’s important to have overlapping working hours most of the day.

I’m wondering if this is the right approach. I never used to think anyone could be productive through telework, and now I’m enjoying three days at home and wishing I could have more! My mind was changed on that count — so am I thinking about work hours in the best way? I want the employee to be happy, of course, but I also want them available when I’m working. I fear I’m being a tyrant, though.

It depends on what the work impact would be of that hour by herself at the start of the day, as well as the hour at the end of the day when she’s gone and the rest of you are still there. If it negatively affects the workflow of other people or the team as a whole, it’s reasonable to say that it won’t work. But if that’s not the case — and if it’s more just an attachment to your previous way of doing things — then it’s worth rethinking. It sounds like it’s the former, not the latter, but make sure you’ve thought that through. If you’re unsure, you can always offer to try it for a week and decide once you see how it plays out.

In general, though, if the work requires collaboration throughout the day, it’s not tyrannical to say you need people working roughly the same hours.

3. Can I opt out of my new job’s culture of constant availability?

I started a new job a couple of months ago. I’m in a senior role, but I mostly work independently and it’s rare that someone needs me right away and unexpectedly. What I’ve noticed is that my coworkers tend to act like the expectation is that they’ll always be available. I’ve been apologized to because someone took a couple of days to answer an email, even though they had an out of office message up. People post on our chat if they’re going to be out for a doctor’s appointment, even if they’re only going to be gone for an hour. One of the managers calls into meetings when he’s on PTO, and I’ve had someone feel like he had to give me an elaborate reason for why he was ending his work day at a totally normal time to end his work day.

While I otherwise like the culture of this organization, this aspect really bothers me and I’m not interested in participating in it. Can I just opt out? It’s very unlikely someone will call me on it specifically — my manager likes the work I’m doing and has commented that my role can be done fairly asynchronously. But am I making myself less effective or look bad if I don’t engage in this thing that everyone else seems to be doing?

Nah, opt out. You’re senior and you work independently, two factors that work to your advantage here. If you start noticing a weird vibe from people about it, you can address that at that point (probably by a conversation with your manager about whether she thinks it’s an issue) but it’s pretty likely that you’ll be fine.

Read an update to this letter

4. Why did this company waste my time when I told them what salary I’d need to move?

In March, a prestigious company in my field reached out to me to ask me to apply for a position there. I was flattered as they have a reputation at the top of this field. The position was similar to the one I currently hold at a smaller organization. My only concern was whether they would be able to make the move worth my while on salary, as I’m currently paid well and have very good benefits.

After the first interview, I put in a formal application, which asked for salary expectations. I named a figure using my current salary plus the bump that would make it worth my moving (about 15%).

The company moved forward with interviews and several tests. In a process that has stretched over three months, I met with six people.

They moved ahead to asking for references, and I got a call from HR asking my salary expectations. The person in HR seemed to have no idea I had already filled expectations in on their application form, and the number they had in mind for the position was much lower than I am making now. They said they’d be willing to go higher for a special candidate, and named a higher number. I politely let them know that’s just under what I’m making now but that I’d love to continue the conversation. (They weren’t phoning to make an offer — I understood the salary conversation to be a preliminary to doing so.)

That was three weeks ago. I haven’t heard from them since, though they did check my references the next day. I feel pretty annoyed, because I was transparent about my expectations at the beginning of the process, and they seem to have just ignored their own application forms. How do I avoid this situation in the future?

You can’t entirely avoid it, but you can minimize it by raising the question of salary yourself. Ridiculously, this used to be frowned upon but conventions have changed and it’s pretty acceptable in most fields these days to say, “Before we move forward, can you tell me about the salary range for this role so we can make sure we’re on the same page?” If you ask that, you do need to be prepared to be asked what number you’re seeking on your end, but it sounds like in this case you were.

You were no doubt figuring you didn’t need to do that since salary had already been addressed on the application, which was a reasonable assumption! In your case, because you filled out the application after you had already done the first interview, it’s possible no one looked too closely at it — you were already in their process at that point and they might have treated the application as just a formality. That’s not something you could have known, but I’d especially make sure to have the salary conversation in a situation like that one.

5. Responding to applicants for jobs I’ve shared (but am not helping to hire for)

When the company I work for lists open positions, I tend to share them to my networks and professional groups. Occasionally, an applicant reaches out to me to tell me that they’ve applied, and why they feel that they’re the most qualified for the position—basically, an elevator pitch.

What do I say when I get messaged by an applicant (especially when I’m not on the hiring committee)? “Great—good luck!”?

Yep, that’s all you need to say! Or if you want to say a little more, you could reply, “I’m not on the hiring committee and don’t have any influence on how the hiring goes, but I wish you luck!”

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    LW1 there’s always this great dream when we can tell a person who was horrible to us, decades later how horrible they were and make sure people know. A great sort of revenge fantasy with catharsis.

    It never works that way, in real life. It’s not even clear that Jane remembers you from twenty-five years ago. I truly don’t remember the names of everyone I went to high school or elementary school with.

    Reject the recruiting efforts, block the email and let the dream of telling Jane’s boss she was horrible twenty-five years ago. It makes you look more unprofessional than her.

    1. Nika*

      LW 1: If you have a social rapport with whoever is recruiting you, and truly want to give them a reason, you could briefly say that unfortunately you have heavy personal history with someone who works there and just couldn’t find yourself happy there, but you wish them all the best. They will assume it is an ex, which is fine.

      1. rubble*

        yes, I think this is the way, if you want to say *something* tell them something like this, and don’t tell them Jane’s name.

        that makes it clear to them that they can’t do anything to change your mind, and hopefully should make them chill out about contacting you

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Yeah, but “only call me again if Jane leaves” isn’t really a professional response to a recruiting attempt.

      2. Smithy*

        I like this approach, because while it may be a case that for where the OP lives – the chance of Jane leaving is smaller – in a larger market, this might be possible in the coming years. Giving a more vague, personal answer in the near term buys that kind of fuzzy space for it being a recent ex , estranged relative, or other situation that is entirely separate from work. And can also put the ball in your court to reach out at a time when circumstances have changed. .

      3. Irish Teacher*

        That is an awesome approach. It gives them as much information about the reason as they need without implying anything did anybody wrong. Like you say, they will most likely assume it’s an ex and it could well be something that was nobody’s fault but has bad memories for you.

        1. What's the Problem?*

          I don’t like this approach at all, it’s messy. The company is creepily persistent, but should give up if you just keep declining.

          1. Coder von Frankenstein*

            But it has the advantage of keeping a door open in case Jane leaves. If everything else about the job is so great, and it really is just Jane that stands in the way of OP saying yes, why close off the option?

            As for whether the company is creepily persistent… that somewhat depends on how OP has engaged with them. If OP has expressed interest and gone on interviews, and if OP has an unusual or in-demand skill set, I can see why they might check back every six or eight months (remember, those four requests were over several years) if not given a decisive “No, I just don’t ever want to work for you.” Recruiting ain’t dating.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        This! And add that if you ever learn through the grapevine that the person has moved on, you’d be happy to pick discussions back up.

      5. Julia*

        I’m not a fan – I think the company isn’t entitled to this information and they may misuse it, like they may think LW is a drama llama. That would be an unfair assumption, but people do make those kinds of assumptions. Why give more detail to people who work in your industry, and with whom you might want to work if Jane leaves?

        This response sounds reasonable to us because we know the backstory, but I think a hiring manager would be taken aback.

        1. Koalafied*

          I actually like it for the exact opposite reason – I think by declining to name a person, it makes it clear that the LW isn’t trying to stir anything up but just giving a candid explanation for their refusal. (This is specifically in the context Nika suggested, “if you have a social rapport” with the people recruiting her. I wouldn’t suggest it if they’re just being cold called by an HR recruiter.)

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      When I was in high school, another girl bullied me (I guess? – the term then was “picked on”). I finally went to the 25th class reunion, and I took my yearbook, in which she had written rude comments about me all through it, in red ink and large writing. I let that book circulate so that EVERYONE there saw it, but I didn’t say a word about it. At some point, the Picker-Onner saw it. She sought me out, very embarrassed, and apologized for how horrible she’d been to me. I’ve only seen her a handful of times over the years since then, but she’s been very nice to me, and was the ONLY person from that town who sent me a card when my mother died. So yes, people can change from what they were in their childhood or teens. Sometimes they were miserable themselves and it was a learned behavior. But it’s certainly hard to take that chance!

      1. jane's nemesis*

        I love this – I’m so glad you got this closure, and it’s very understanding of you to realize that there are often reasons that bullies bully.

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Yeah – it’s entirely possible, maybe even probable, that Jane has changed. A lot of people who behave horribly as kids grow up to be wonderful people. The problem is that OP has no way to verify that. Given that the company clearly wants OP pretty badly, Jane would no doubt be on her best behavior until the offer was accepted. And if Jane *hasn’t* changed, taking the job would put Jane in a position of power over OP.

        (Moreover, even if Jane did change, that doesn’t mean OP has any obligation to give her a second chance.)

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, it sounds like even if Jane did change it would still be uncomfortable for the OP to work there.
          Which is fine!

        2. Sleeve McQueen*

          Yeah. My daughter was bullied at school. The ringleader’s father had died the year before. I’m sure she was in a world of pain and things could change with time but it’s not our job to wait around and find out

      3. Erin*

        Since Jane is an HR exec at Company A, which has been aggressively recruiting you, there is a very good chance that Jane does not remember you from 25 years ago at all. Her role as HR exec is pretty involved in hiring decisions/why won’t Candidate X accept our offer conversations. Why would she want to tarnish her professional reputation by hiring someone she bullied?

        While it’s totally fine to not want to deal with Jane at all (especially since she is in HR), stop letting her control your professional life. At any rate, you sound like a competitive candidate in your field, so if Company A isn’t all that attractive to you, ignore them.

        1. Morticia(she/her)*

          I actually wondered if Jane is behind the aggressive recruiting. I can think of two scenarios: in the first, she wants to continue bullying the LW; in the second, she is desperate to make amends. Either way, it’s not on LW to make it happen.

      4. Dmitri*

        True enough, but not every bully changes; two of mine did not. In fact they’re worse now. But even if she has changed, OP could be feeling such PTSD from the bullying, nothing will make up for it.

    3. Viette*

      Yes, agree so much with the unfortunate reality of who would look unprofessional in that situation. OP writes “I don’t want Jane fired either. (Yes, I get that she wouldn’t be, but if I spilled the beans, my story would affect her in some way.)” but actually it probably wouldn’t affect her very much if at all.

      It might be especially painful to have Jane appear out of nowhere to ruin yet another good thing for the OP and still suffer zero consequences. There’s nothing OP can do to force consequences on Jane, but it’s worth acknowledging to herself how deeply unfair this is.

      1. Observer*

        “I don’t want Jane fired either. (Yes, I get that she wouldn’t be, but if I spilled the beans, my story would affect her in some way.)” but actually it probably wouldn’t affect her very much if at all.

        If the company is good, it shouldn’t affect her at all. Keep in mind that they DO have experience with Jane, but no experience with the OP. We take the OP at their word, but in this context, the company really can’t afford to take this too seriously.

        1. Lizard on a Chair*

          Yeah, it would probably be a bad sign about the company if it DID affect Jane. The company might be very interested in hiring OP, but they don’t know her the way they know Jane, so Jane is going to have more credibility and good will built up. Sharing this story is way more likely to damage OP’s reputation with the company than it is Jane’s.

          1. Lizard on a Chair*

            Posted too soon! I really do sympathize with the OP’s desire for some sort of vindication 25 years later, but you can’t use a prospective employer as a vehicle for meting out punishment to your old bully. Not only is it not going to work, it could easily backfire on OP and harm their reputation.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Most times I think about how much I’d love to just be able to broadcast exactly what kind of person hurts another badly enough for them to need emergency medical attention and ruin their lives like they have forever damaged mine.

      But there’s nowadays a small part of me that points out that 1) I literally couldn’t do that without letting the worst part of my anger at the world out 2) I’d look even crazier than I usually am but most importantly 3:

      It’s a huge amount of emotional labour and stress that I just don’t want to take on. Living in this world the best I can*without* those horrible people in my life is revenge enough.

      (Not to say I’ve forgiven them. I haven’t. I probably never will)

      1. quill*

        There is a person who I would breathe a sigh of relief if I learned he was dead in a ditch. He can find his own ditch without me, I have way too much on my plate as it is.

        Commenter, if you find yourself dwelling on Jane every time this company contacts you, please ask them to stop contacting you. Don’t force your self into a situation where ‘being professional’ means reliving a bad period of your life constantly.

        1. Salt*

          I think you just coined a phrase for me to say in my head! “He can find his own ditch without me.” Even if not literal, it’s a reminder that taking the energy and time on certain people is not worth it. Just let’em find their own ditch.

    5. JSPA*

      If Jane even remembers LW, and remembers their interactions, any of the following are possible:

      A) Jane is still on a power trip, trying to rope in the LW
      B) Jane is trying to make up for her prior acts
      C) Jane feels that she was somehow training or toughening up the LW, and expects thanks for LW success
      D) Jane was also [whatever she tortured LW for being] and will expect LW to be forgiving, once Jane reveals this
      E) some other high-drama-potential situation.

      Equally likely, Jane remembers none of what happened, or has no clue LW is being recruited.

      There is essentially zero hope that poking this hornet’s nest will work out well for the LW.

      No matter how many times you walk past the hornet’s nest, the right answer remains, pass quietly. Do not spray, do not poke, do not yell and wave your arms.

      1. Smithy*

        D is a tough one, and if combined with something from column E – it won’t make the OP’s experience of bullying any different now. And very likely has impacted how Jane has remembered the situation and her own journey of growing and maturing.

        I say this as someone who during Middle School (11-13) was an insecure girl who was in a shifting friend group of other insecure girls. If one girl from that time period called me or my group of friends out for bullying – they’d probably be right. But most of us were also actively being teased, or picked-on, or bullied as well, were deeply focused on ourselves and our own assorted issues at home/school/socially.

        If ever called out directly, my response would be apologetic but also coming from a place of knowing my complete story of that period in my life. Very much a case of “hit dogs bite”, and having empathy for my younger self. Which I acknowledge might be the last thing someone who’s been bullied would ever want to hear. Or an attitude that would feel dismissive and avoiding responsibility. But this is where that element of asking adults to bear the responsibility of the bad acts of their younger selves is an area most employers really don’t want to wade into if at all possible.

        1. MsSolo UK*

          This is a really important comment. I can’t remember the stat entirely, but it’s certainly over 50% of bullies are simultaneously victims of bullying. I think you’re exactly right, especially about having empathy for your younger self while acknowledging the potential to sound like you’re dismissing another victim’s pain; there isn’t a perfect solution that’s going to undo the hurt at this point, no matter how cathartic it is to fantasise about it.

          1. Smithy*

            Yes – and in many ways, I do think this is why many young people when given the option do choose to move away from their childhood lives. And that can be physically or just metaphorically, where you see people still living in the same or nearby communities but in different social groups. People often choose to distance themselves from their younger selves – and that can be the softer side of being awkward or geeky, or the ickier side of being crass, immature, and/or mean(er).

            This truly isn’t to discount how difficult bullying can be and how long the affects can last. But because it is so complicated and does typically involve another (at the time) minor – I just think there are so many more opportunities for disappointment as opposed to catharsis.

            The OP never has to sign up to work with Jane or feel pressured to ‘get over it’ – but I do feel that raising this as an issue might compel someone to problematize it. If I say that I’m turning down a job with a salary of $100k because I want $200k – I might think that’s a flat refusal because I’m asking for double the salary. But depending on the industry and needs for that role – that might be viewed as a problem to solve. Either raising the salary band of the position, including more benefits plus the pay, etc. Saying “I’m rejecting you because Jane is your head of HR and she’s my teen bully” may sound like a flat rejection – but assuming the OP’s role/skills are in demand, that could open a can of mediation offers that could include a lot of rehashing, retelling, etc. None of which may feel good.

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          There’s a difference between knowing internally that you were dealing with difficult things and bullied someone because of your life situation, versus telling that person that is why you did it.

          The first is about you understanding yourself, and coming to terms with what you did and why. It is good introspection, and something many of us need to do. Young Cthulhu’s Librarian was a jerk – here is why I was like that, and here is what I’ve done to grow beyond it, and here is how it shaped me is a great thing for me and my therapist to explore.

          I would never say these things to anyone who I had been a jerk to, because that is not what they need to hear, and it comes off as minimizing what I did to them. To those people, I say “I was a jerk when I was younger, and I didn’t care/couldn’t see the impact I was having on you then. I’m ashamed of it now when I look back, and want to apologize for how I behaved. I’m sorry.”

          To my mind, apologies aren’t about us, and why we did what we did; that’s an explanation, and it carries with it the undercurrent of justifying your behavior, regardless of how regretful you might be about it. Apologies are about acknowledging the wrong we did to others, and telling them that we recognize that, accept responsibility for it.

          1. Smithy*

            I guess perhaps what I’m trying to say is that while I’d be apologetic for the hurtful actions of 11-13 year old Smithy…I think that apology might come up short from what someone might be hoping for. Because the reality is that because I understand why I did it and have empathy for my situation and age at that time, I’m not ashamed or deeply regretful.

            It would have been great if I was kinder more often when I was younger and I am not proud of moments when I was unkind, but it’s not a regret that I carry as an adult for how I was as a child. It lives in a more complex place of understanding why insecure girls at that age can be cruel at times. And in other moments kind and thoughtful and insightful.

            While I get your point about that context not being needed in an apology in the context of an adult bringing up the wounds of childhood, it is that very often we won’t accept responsibility for it. We are sorry for the hurtful caused. We are sorry that the pain has left a lasting mark. But there very often isn’t that ownership or responsibility because of the mitigating factors of age and circumstance.

      2. RC Rascal*

        Here’s another one: Jane is aggressive, Company A is an aggressive culture and so Jane has thrived there. OP did say they have contacted her repeatedly. That’s an indication of an aggressive culture.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          That’s reading a whole lot into a very small amount of information.

          OP said it was four times over “several years.” People say no for all kinds of reasons, and circumstances change. If OP seems like a really good fit, and seemed interested in the past, and has not explicitly told them “This is not *ever* going to happen,” it’s not unreasonable for them to check back every six or eight months.

      3. KoiFeeder*

        If B is the case, I would be surprised to discover that Jane is trying to make up by having the company try to recruit OP? Maybe I’m misreading what you meant, though.

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        Odds are extremely high that Jane doesn’t remember it at all, or remembers it as good clean fun. It sucks, but it’s how these things usually go. Nothing good is going to accrue to LW as a result of bringing it up here and now.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Heck, it doesn’t even have to be from a few decades ago to be remembered as a fun joke between friends- remember the update to the letter about the person interrupting their ADHD coworker?

        2. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Yeah. As the saying goes, “The axe forgets, the tree remembers.”

    6. Luna*

      I agree, I barely remember the names of the people of my graduation class. I remember the two or three that I was friendly acquainted with, and I recall some of the ‘jerks” names, but that’s about it.

      Now, I was bullied horrendously in school, across several grades and even schools. But I learned two things very fast: I likely won’t see these people again post-graduation. And nobody will care what happened to you in school post-graduation. Of course, emotional scars won’t go away, and trauma remains.
      But that doesn’t mean you intentionally have to… ‘force’ carrying those scars with you, at all times.
      Also, if you cannot work professionally with someone that was a jerk to you previously, that puts more of a bad light in terms of professionalism on you than them.

      If Jane was so horrible that she hurt OP so badly, that’s of course not okay, and not something easy to swallow. But I wouldn’t keep it in the forefront and cite it as The Reason to not work with someone. If OP genuinely cannot tolerate working where Jane is, not ‘just’ because of what happened previously, but that they are mentally incapable of doing it because the trauma causes them to physically not function well, that makes absolute sense. No point in working there, even if you love every other part of the company.

      To quote Frozen: Let it go.
      It happened in the past. Maybe Jane changed. Maybe she didn’t. You cannot work in the same building as her, especially not if she’s in a position of power as you say, and that’s that. It’s unfortunate, but you cannot work at this company. Maybe, if the company asks again, you can tell them that it’s not a matter with the company, but a personal one. Other than that, shrug your shoulders and walk on to greener pastures.

      1. Eden*

        For many people, it’s a formative experience and they can’t “let it go”. I vividly remember my high school bully, who was the usual level of teenage terrible to me, but the things she did to her specially selected worst victim did physically (and likely otherwise?) damage them forever. If I saw her on an HR panel for a potential job, I would certainly run the other way. But I agree that there is nothing to be gained by the LW bringing it up with her or the company.

        1. Inkhorn*

          Yup. I thought I’d moved on … then I learned the new employee starting the following week had the same first name as the classmate who made my life a misery in school. The cold horror I felt on hearing that told me no, that trauma is still lurking in the basement of my brain somewhere. And this was fifteen years since I last saw the guy.

          Finding out that he – or any of my other tormentors – worked at a company would absolutely kill any thought of taking a job there. I’ve moved halfway across the country, have a different name, and probably wouldn’t be recognisable – but even guaranteed anonymity wouldn’t make me feel entirely safe.

        2. As per Elaine*

          I would also be very alarmed by the thought of my former bully having power over my professional career. I don’t think I would have a trauma response to encountering him, and PROBABLY he’s grown and changed as a person, and would never behave like that now… but the years of data points that I have about him tells me that I wouldn’t put him in charge of a dog I liked, and I certainly would not put him in a place where he would have input on my annual review. Of all the HR people in the world, I’m not picking one who I know to have a history of being personally terrible.

        3. WillowSunstar*

          Yes. I was bullied incessantly all through school, and only got a break when I went to Germany as an exchange student. Possibly I was being bullied there and didn’t know it because my German wasn’t good enough, but it was the only break I ever got til graduation. My mother was also sick with cancer since I was 11 and she died when I was 17. So I’ve got no desire to ever attend a high school reunion or see 98% of those people ever again, after how they treated me. If I had to work with one of them, I’d be looking for another job.

        4. quill*

          Yup. “Bullying” is used socially to cover so much ground between casual social glassbowlery to things that would have involved restraining orders and/or a charge of assault if an adult did them, that culturally no job is going to have any frame of reference if you bring it up. Even then, it’s OP’s word against Jane’s, and Jane is the one who is a known quantity by this company.

          The great part about being an adult is that no one can force you to be in the same building as the bully who spent multiple years making your life hell, ever again. Be clear that you don’t want to be contacted, then filter out the company’s number, and celebrate that Jane’s presence there is unable to take you by surprise.

      2. Pool Lounger*

        How exactly does one let intense trauma “go?” Many people spend years in therapy trying to process trauma that happened in our childhoods. Telling people to met it go is unhelpful and dismissive.

        1. staceyizme*

          I agree. You kind of have to work with it. It doesn’t just up and go away on its own. There’s acknowledging impacts, grief work and sometimes other kinds of personal work when dealing with the aftermath of events that are traumatic.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Perhaps for you, but some people can. Don’t tell me that the Amish parents who forgave the school shooter in 2006 didn’t experience trauma. This is much more minor: I was in a years long abusive friendship and it affected me. But I didn’t want to let those memories influence the things I used to like to do, and, with time, I was able to let it go.

            1. quill*

              I think most commenters are referring to that as recovery, not “just letting go” (Usually used somewhat dismissively and without the context that for some people that’s a years long process that takes sustained, intentional work. Potentially using tools such as therapy or medication. Potentially using other tools, maybe religion/spirituality, maybe moving far away from everyone involved.)

              Nobody’s saying that it is impossible to feel better and let what happened have less of an impact on you. But many people are pissed off when people insist that OP “just let it go” as if it was a matter of simply flipping a switch, since it implies a lack of understanding that recovery does not happen quickly. And when trauma is involved, the implication that someone has just said you should bootstrap your way out of it is a pretty hot button commment.

          2. Distracted Librarian*

            I’m going to gently suggest this isn’t universal. I was bullied mercilessly in school, to the point that I used to fantasize about ending my life. It was definitely trauma. And I have let it go. I learned long ago that the people who hurt me were also hurting, and while I can’t forget, I’ve attended reunions, spoken with one or two of them, and feel little to no pain when I look back on my school years.

            It’s dismissive to suggest that what I experienced wasn’t trauma b/c I’m not wounded enough now or didn’t require professional help to move forward. Everyone is different.

        2. FromasmalltowninCanada*

          I had a situation recently where I was asked to maybe come into contact with someone who made my life hell for several months when she had power over me. We now work in the same organization but I’ve only ever seen her once from a distance. It was 20 years ago, and I thought I was over it. I was asked to pick something up from the office she works in – there was no guarantee I would even see her, and I couldn’t. I had a panic attach. I didn’t expect it, I didn’t want it. But it turns out I’m not over it however much I want to be and thought I was.

      3. Shirley Keeldar*

        “Also, if you cannot work professionally with someone that was a jerk to you previously, that puts more of a bad light in terms of professionalism on you than them.”

        Gosh, that seems unnecessarily harsh.

        There is nothing unprofessional about turning down a job offer. You can turn down an offer, even one that looks good on paper, because you don’t want to move to a particular location, or because the team culture strikes you as off, or because you don’t like the color of the chairs in the conference room, or, yes, because you don’t like someone who works there.

        The OP said, “No, thanks, I don’t want this job,” and when uncertain about next steps, asked for advice. That seems entirely professional to me.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Agreed! I worked for a woman who was a bully, & I would never work for or with her again. (She was also devious, dishonest, & lazy.)

        2. Smithy*

          While the wording might be inelegant, my interpretation of that point was more about how telling an employer that you’re turning down a job for that reason has that risk of judgement. Turning down a job isn’t unprofessional, but I do think that when sharing personal reasons – we open ourselves up to for that reason to be judged as more/less professional. And in this particular case, I think it’s far more likely to be judged as less professional.

          In other situations, many many people apply for jobs in more expensive cities while being told what the salary is and thinking that will work for them. And then it’s not until later (they visit the city, they’re offered the job and do the math on moving) that it hits them that the salary in question wasn’t actually enough to make the move appealing. This is a very common reason to turn down a job, and depending where you are in the process – particularly if it’s post offer – if you share that as the reason, you may be judged as unprofessional. No matter how common.

          Very often, giving a reason can feel comforting and that it will help people empathize with us, particularly when we’re giving bad or disappointing news. But when we do that, we’re really just trying to hide our own discomfort with delivering a disappointing message and often forget how common it is for people to take those reasons as a point to counter, argue, push against, or judge – and ignore the “polite no” part.

        3. Luna*

          I mean that refusing to be professional with someone that you (personally) don’t like at a job, that is unprofessional. And in this case, I think if OP brought up they don’t want to work at the company because Jane is there, it would look bad on OP because it says, “I cannot, and will not, behave professionally towards Jane.” Which is not something you want in any kind of employee.

          There’s nothing wrong with turning down a job offer, I agree! Especially not if, like in OP’s case, they have a good reason to not do so because of trauma. I just don’t think they should specifically mention they won’t take an offer at the company *because Jane is there*. Go ahead and say it’s not a company reason, maybe say it’s a personal one, if OP feels comfortable saying that much.

      4. Jennifer Strange*

        Also, if you cannot work professionally with someone that was a jerk to you previously, that puts more of a bad light in terms of professionalism on you than them.

        Uh, no. I agree OP shouldn’t try to “out” Jane to the company, but not wanting to work with someone who tormented you doesn’t put a bad light on their professionalism.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        I mean, I wouldn’t say I was bullied by my classmates (who were generally just taking cues from the teachers), but I certainly wouldn’t want to work with most of them and I definitely would be leery of them being in an HR capacity over me where they had access to personal information about me.

      6. quill*

        “Also, if you cannot work professionally with someone that was a jerk to you previously, that puts more of a bad light in terms of professionalism on you than them.”

        Not sure why you would even include this statement if you’re attempting to be helpful to OP. Bullying has many degrees of severity and assuming that OP’s experience was on the shallow end that can be boiled down to “someone was a jerk to you previously” is unnecessarily dismissive.

        You clearly understand that bullying can cause trauma based on the rest of your comment, so I’d advise that you remember: some people’s trauma has not healed as far as yours has. People who carry scars are not forcing themselves to carry them: rather everyone heals at a different rate and is given different opportunities for escape and recovery.

      7. starfox*

        Yeah, most of the people who bullied me in the past are just, whatever. I don’t even live in the same city where I grew up, but I would have no problem working in the same place as them. It was just kid stuff.

        But I had one particular bully–whom I have actually spent time with socially, and it was fine–but I would never want to work somewhere she has power. She was just a step above “normal kid stuff” with the way she was so conniving. It’s not that I haven’t let it go… I have, and I’d spend time with her, but I don’t trust her to have changed enough. I would still never in a million years cite that as the reason for turning down a job, though!

    7. thisgirlhere*

      I think this is the best comment. I don’t know what Jane did to LW or how old they were, but so often the kids who bully are miserable (or being bullied themselves). We found out years later my bully was being molested at home and it was a cry for help. We’re friendly acquaintances today. There are exceptions, but I truly believe kids should get a clean slate at 18.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        No victim should ever be or feel obligated to give their abuser a clean slate, and bullying is absolutely abuse.

        Being better than we were as children is an act of change, and it is on those who have changed to prove that they have done so.

        1. Lizard on a Chair*

          This. What does it mean to “get a clean slate”? An explanation is not an excuse. Process your trauma, forgive yourself for the harm you caused, try to put good into the world — but it’s not on the people you hurt to give you absolution.

        2. starfox*

          100%…. I’ve “forgiven” my bullies and put it all behind me, but there is one particular bully I would never want to work with because she was truly a step above and beyond “normal kid stuff” with bullying. I don’t trust her to have changed enough. I’ve actually spent time with her socially, and I don’t mind doing so, but I would never work with her because she’s not trustworthy. Sure, we were kids, but when you know someone for 11 years and you know them until they turn 18… it would be stupid to just blindly assume that she’s fine now and gets a “clean slate” after turning 18.

      2. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I know too many people who were raped by teenage boys to ever agree with such a statement. And I haven’t even gone into any other category of youthful malfeasance, from the people I know whose classmates bullied them in hideously racist ways to those who were verbally and physically assaulted by their siblings.

        1. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

          +1. I immediately thought about the racist bullies at my high school when I read this. The idea that people should “just get over it” when they’re abused is a huge part of the reason why these patterns of abuse persist. And for the record, those particular abusers don’t change.

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I know too many people who were harrassed and assaulted by teenage boys to ever agree with such a statement. I would be condoning those assaults if I did agree. And I haven’t even gone into any other category of youthful malfeasance, from the people I know whose classmates maltreated them in hideously racist ways to those who were verbally and physically abused by their siblings.

    8. lilsheba*

      Good plan. I think it would be a good idea to add journaling what you would want to say about her. Write it down so you can still satisfy that urge with no harm being done, just do it in a journal that they will never see.

    9. MsClaw*

      I agree. This impulse is just…. an absolute no. ‘I’d like to send Jane a cordial email to let her know about these multiple offers and that, if pushed again, I’m going to tell Company A (her bosses) the truth.’

      There is no way to *threaten Jane* that is going to make her look bad and you look good.

      It is unfortunate that your childhood bully works somewhere you’d like to work. Only you can decide if you’re willing to risk contact with her. It sounds like you’re not. So you just say ‘I’m not interested in making a change at this time’ and ignore further reach-out from them.

    10. Meep*

      I had a girl follow me home in the 5th grade to physically assault me and her mother let her do it! Like drove the car in slow motion following and watching. In the 10th grade, I came back mid-semester to find I had been switched into her class. I was told it was “long ago” and asked if I could get over it. I burst out into tears. Ten years after that when she tried to use me as a reference, I had to stifle a laugh when I told the hiring manager I couldn’t help her. (She is trying to be a teacher now, apparently.) So I get it.

      But it sounds like OP has spent 2/3rds of her life letting Jane live in her head rent-free. Therapy might be more effective.

    11. FormerLibrarian*

      My elementary school bully is a luxury home builder who married a former Miss (Homestate). He just ran for a mayor. I’d bet a thousand dollars he wouldn’t even recognize me.

    12. New Mom*

      I live in the same area where I went to high school and I had a few people that were just so horrid in high school. I have fears of this happening to me. Three people that all kind of went out of their way to be cruel all still live in the same area and though I’ve never bumped into them, I have always hoped that I don’t cross paths with them and would definitely freak out if I had to work with any of them, even though that was so long ago. I’m usually really good at chatting with people, but I’d be at a loss for what to say to any of them.

      I agree though with other posters that it wouldn’t garner the reaction you would want. The hammer forgets but the nail remembers.

  2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: definitely with you on not wanting to work with your school bully. It’s been over 30 years since I was put in hospital by (one of) mine and I have zero desire to encounter her ever again. Or work for the same firm.

    Same deal with one of my exes (20 years and there’ll never be forgiveness for him)

    However, Alison is correct that bringing up these past horrors isn’t going to help in this situation. A clearly stated ‘not interested, stop contacting me please’ will be better. Here’s one I used for a company I won’t work for again despite their persistent ideas:

    Dear (name of contact at X)

    Thank you for your letter. I am not interested in the role at your firm but wish you all success at finding someone else.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I love your reply to the company. Short, sweet and professional.

      And I’m with you on some people from my past – some would definitely remember me – but I’ll never be willing to work with them. They showed me who they are, and I’m more than willing to believe them.

      For OP – maybe instead of that email, hand write out what you want to say to the bully and then burn it instead. I’ve done this in the past – and I found it helped me because I was able to get the words and thoughts out, but then burning the page removed the temptation to send it – which would have been useless to do, and just reopened communication which I didn’t need or want.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That is an excellent idea and one I’ve done myself. Getting the words down on paper often involves a lot of angry tears but seeing the words vanish in the flames also feels kind of validating.

        Alternative if I’m somewhere where I can’t set things ablaze: trying to see just how tiny I can tear it all up. I’m down to ‘confetti’ level, new goal is ‘smoke particle level’

        1. Trauma sucks*

          Keymaster, I’m so sorry that you have to keep practicing your paper tearing skills in this way. Just wanted to acknowledge the pain behind that action.

      2. Luna*

        I recall encountering a classmate of my training school working at a place I was applying. She recognized me instantly, I took a few seconds. (I have facial blindness to a degree, so it took me a few seconds to place her more based on her voice than her face)

        She did tell the manager I ended up interviewing with that we didn’t get along during our time at the school, which I did agree with. It’s not a matter of Her Fault vs My Fault, we just didn’t gel. And I told the manager that, regardless of how we were in school, I would be able to work alongside her professionally. I didn’t get the job, so I don’t know if that was a tipping factor, if my former classmate somehow put in a veto, or maybe the manager decided to not hire me, just to avoid a potential drama occuring.

    2. Lucy Skywalker*

      I totally can relate to you about not wanting to work with my ex. I haven’t seen my ex in over 20 years, and we parted on good terms. He was actually a very kind and funny person, but he just wasn’t compatible with me, because we wanted different things out of the relationship. However, it was my first real heartbreak, and to this day, every time I see a picture of him or hear his name, (which, thankfully, hasn’t happened in a very long time) all the memories of the pain and the heartbreak come back. You’d think I’d be over it by now, especially since I’m happily married to the love of my life.
      But the experiences we have in our youth have a way of sticking with us for life. So, even though he really didn’t do anything wrong or malicious to me, I am unable to separate him in my mind from the heartbreak I had because of him. That’s why I couldn’t ever work with him. Thankfully, we are in completely different fields, so it’s not something that I ever have to worry about.

  3. Jessica*

    I can relate to LW1, and I get that adult work life is not a John Hughes film and there won’t be a glorious cathartic ending in which Jane finally gets her comeuppance, more’s the pity. But the problem I’m still having with Alison’s answer is that it sounds like Company A might be a pretty desirable place for LW1 to work, and if she gives them the brushoff too firmly now, she could miss out on any opportunities there might be if Jane ever leaves. Since Jane bullied LW1 in school they’re probably of similar age, but people do leave jobs. Any day now for all we know, Jane might clean out her desk and leave Company A a safe, nontoxic place for LW1 to consider a new job at.

    1. TiredMama*

      That’s what I was thinking. She might want to leave the door open with company A. I like what someone else suggested, I have history with someone who works there and I do not want to come into contact with them. If that person leaves, I would love to come work with you.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        In theory I like that but in reality LW1 would then have to name said person – Jane. Which then would probably lead to quite a number of assumptions and/or ideas about how OP and Jane relate to one another, and possibly even get back to Jane (especially since Jane is head of HR and the hiring manager would probably talk to her about OP as a candidate) – who then could interprete the situation however she wants to (play it down or not remember or possibly show regret), leaving the LW vulnerable to how her former bully sees things, and possibly being seen as unprofessional herself.

        1. Imtheone*

          No reason to name the person. You’re not their employee. They can’t make you say anything.

          1. Observer*

            True. But by the same token, the OP does NOT “owe” them honesty about their reasons, either.

            Whether or not the OP fills in the details or not, it’s just going to come off as a lot more dramatic than most companies want to deal with.

      2. JSPA*

        I think you can explain things to the company, in a way that doesn’t make you look bad, and can’t be construed as a threat.

        “Dear [company], someone highly problematic from my early life works for you. While they have doubtess become an excellent adult human being, I cannot comfortably share a workplace with them. If they happen to leave at some future point, I will contact you to indicate potential interest. Until then, please stop reaching out.”

        This could be bullying; played “doctor” together resulting in dramatic freakouts by parents and church; accidentally shot me when we were both toddlers; outed me; peed on my bithday cake; killed my dog while learning to drive; framed me for shoplifting candy.

        Whether it’s “just too painful” or “just too awkward” or “she could do it again” need not be specified; most people can imagine a scenario that would emotive justify ongoing avoidance.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t know, I think that even something like this is more info than is warranted and kind of comes off as dropping hints in quite an odd way – “*Somebody* at your company did *something bad* to me but I’m not going to say who or what, but I want you to know anyway”. I feel like a polite email stating that the OP isn’t interested at this time but best of luck in the search would still leave the door open for the future.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Or alternatively, something like “I am happy where I am at the moment, but I appreciate the offer.” Makes it sound like you don’t want to leave your current job now but you might be open to offers in the future if your current project ends/your personal circumstances change so you are more available/something changes at your company.

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          What Irish Teacher said is the way to go if the goal is to keep the door open. The other suggestions still make the OP look like a potential problem and are likely to turn off the recruiter.

          1. Loulou*

            Yes! I would really strongly recommend this approach over mentioning a “someone.”

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          I like this one. Because sometimes things change where you are and you wind up thinking “oh hells naw, get me out of here yesterday”. Been there, done that.

      4. Distracted Librarian*

        I like this response. Maybe the company would react badly, but if so, OP is no worse off than they are now. But reasonable people would probably understand. There are so many reasons to not want to work with someone from your past.

      5. sunny days*

        Unfortunately I just feel like this would come across really unprofessional. If my job got a response like this, they’d definitely find it odd.

    2. Nodramalama*

      I just don’t think there is a way for OP to respond indicating that their issue is with Jane that would make them more likely to hire OP in the future.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I think this is the “for the foreseeable future” part of Alison’s script. Then if LW1 hears that Jane has left Company A, they can apply to open positions at that time.

    3. quill*

      If LW does want to leave the door open, put an end date on the request to not be contacted, say a couple of years. Something like thank you for your interest, for personal reasons I won’t be able to consider a position at your company for the next two years, wishing you the best, etc. (Anyone got a better script?)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Or just say, “At the moment I am not interested in making this move, but I will reach out to you if that changes. I wish you the best of luck filling the position!”

        The reality is, it will change if a) Jane leaves and b) the OP knows that, and short of telling company A who is being avoided, the company has no control over those two things. OP can check if at any point they think “gosh, I really need to make a move – wonder if A is an option” – but they don’t need them coming back periodically (on a schedule or otherwise) while Jane is still there. OP can control the timing of when they check, and probably should for their own peace of mind.

    4. Observer*

      . But the problem I’m still having with Alison’s answer is that it sounds like Company A might be a pretty desirable place for LW1 to work, and if she gives them the brushoff too firmly now, she could miss out on any opportunities there might be if Jane ever leaves.

      True. The thing is that what the OP is thinking of doing is a lot worse that giving too firm of a no, in terms of possible negative repercussions. Because while that might close the door to THIS company, sending the email she is planning to and then “spilling the beans” to the company is likely to do them a a great deal of reputational harm.

      Keep in mind that there is not such thing as a “cordial” email in which you threaten to expose someone. And their whole chain of thought here sounds convoluted enough that what they wind up telling the company (If Jane doesn’t show anyone the “crazy” email she receives) could look a lot worse for them than they realize. The one who is likely to look bad is the OP. And it’s the kind of drama that people talk about.

      So the OP needs to decide if they really want to close that door. If they do, the best way is to do it the way Allison suggests, because that won’t cause any collateral damage.

  4. Casper Lives*

    #4 I find the salary mismatch frustrating. A former coworker tried to recruit me for his new workplace. That’s nice of him, but it’s less PTO and likely less salary (specifics weren’t discussed but he knows the range I’m in). I like my coworkers and boss. Why would I leave unless it’s a worthwhile salary increase, similar or better benefits, and I’m not jumping into a bad work environment?

    I’ve also had law firms reach out to recruit me on LI. I’ve been screened out on preliminary screens for naming my current salary. Sorry they can’t even match that but I’m worth it!

    1. MK*

      People who are recruiting aren’t trying to get you a better job, they are trying to fill a position. Even if they do know your salary and benefits, and can remember them off the top of their heads, it’s not their job to make the decision for you beforehand that you won’t be interested.

      1. Oakwood*

        It’s their job to get you to take less money and fewer benefits if that’s what it takes to get the job filled. Remember, the recruiter works for the company, not you.

        And people do leave jobs for lower paying ones occasionally. Maybe they find their current working conditions intolerable, are on a PIP and need to move before they get fired, they have heard layoffs are coming to their company, or they want to move into a new area.

        Nonprofits throw out the “make less money, but the work will be rewarding” line all the time.

        1. KRM*

          Or salary is lower but benefits are better than current company, they want a less stressful job that comes with better hours for them, more flexibility or WFH is worth more to them than the salary cut, etc. For the company, they can’t know what the prospective employee is looking for, so it doesn’t hurt to ask! I just took a job with lower salary, but the benefits at the company are better (410K match and more vacation, and more retirement benefits the longer I stay) and it’s in an area of research I’m more interested in. My current employer would have no way of knowing my calculus for taking the job, so all they can do is offer what they have, and it’s up to me to say “yes that works” or “no I can’t, can you do X” or “no I’m sorry that doesn’t work for me”.

    2. RuralGirl*

      There are things people value beyond money and benefits, genuinely. I’m hiring currently and several applicants have emphatically insisted they are interested even though it’s a pay cut. And I did the same thing when I joined this company years ago. It’s not my job as the HM to assume I know what matters to someone else. If I name the range and they decline, fine, I do understand. But if they don’t, that’s their choice to make.

    3. Emily*

      If a recruiter tells me upfront what the salary is, even if it’s out-of-step with the field/level of experience they want, that’s fine. What I find annoying is when they make me get on the phone with them to get a number and then it’s a number that is not realistic for what they’re looking for. (Which I have a sense of because I talk to other people in the field and I’ve been involved in hiring, in addition to my own experiences on the market.) It’s a waste of time!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I can’t agree that one single phone call to get on the same page is a waste of time. That sounds like a fairly extreme stance on it.

        1. Emily*

          These are not five-minute phone calls. I wasted an hour with a recruiter who refused to give me a number, and said “salary is absolutely not an issue, we’ll pay what we need to pay”, and then an hour in I say a number and he says “that’s what the last candidate who we made an offer to wanted, and we were not able to go that high.” If you’re having candidates turn you down over salary, then clearly salary is an issue. That was the worst, but I’ve had multiple others that were pretty bad. And these are not jobs I’m applying to — these are recruiters who are trying to get me interested in their position. This makes me less likely to be willing to talk to recruiters who don’t give me numbers upfront, and I think this is a common response.

        2. quill*

          It’s a case of this phone call could have been an email that 1) would be an on-paper commitment to the number 2) I could have opened and laughed at at 3 am in the bathtub without having to find a quiet, private place to take a phone call that might have been 30 minutes of someone playing chicken about giving me an actual number during business hours.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      It is an annoying waste of everyone’s time!

      Though honestly I do think OP really should have not assumed anyone would even glance at her application if she filled it out *after* they interviewed her. That sounds very clearly like a formality just to get her into their system to move forward. Definitely bring it up in interviews, especially if the ability to hit that mark is the only concern you have about a job!

      1. Artemesia*

        yeah, it is annoying but it is also naive to think anyone else is vitally interested in your well being and will have combed over your application and remembered your salary needs. It is something to clarify in the initial discussion — especially when you are being recruited.

  5. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    It would be nice if LW1 could say i’m unwilling to accept a position becasue of someone who works at your company but then that opens a Pandora’s box and expecting them to fire Jane so they can hire you is not realistic.
    If you tell them the problem is Jane they will may want to probe further and that won’t end well either.

    I am loathe to say you are not available now but maybe in the future you would consider an offer (on the unspoken premise that Jane has moved on by then) becasue they won’t understand what the issue us and would be trying to figure out what the issue is, money, benefits etc when it would not be any of them.
    It galls me that a bully still wins the day here.

    I wish i had a good answer on this one.

  6. Aggretsuko*

    #1: I think it’s reasonable to explain to them that there’s an employee at their company (don’t say who) that you have no interest in working with/for for personal reasons. Do NOT involve Jane, don’t say she was a teen bully, but I feel like after they’ve asked FIVE times(!!!) they should at least get an indicator as to why you’ll never take their offer. I don’t think you can punish her/warn them really, but polite saying no isn’t working and I think it seems fair to indicate it’s a personnel issue.

    #2 sounds like my office because half the staff wants to work 7-4 hours. As long as they’re in between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., it’s allowed. How much of that time does that employee have to be available to everyone else? Because frankly it hasn’t made much difference with my teammates working 7-4 and me doing 8-5, other than I have to deal with any emergencies that come in at 4 p.m. (sadly, no emergencies come in at 7). Unless you literally collaborate with people for all 8 hours the entire time…if there’s a little hourly leeway it might not be that bad.

    1. Set in my ways*

      I agree re: #2. Pre-Covid, we had some team members starting the work day as early as 6 am and others as late as 10 am, with most getting in somewhere around 8 or 9. As long as you were there for core hours, worked your full day, and got all your work done, no one cared. Even with highly collaborative work, you are not working together with someone else every single minute. We all appreciated the flexibility – an earlier start time can make a huge difference in terms of commute, for example, or being able to leave at 4 pm may make the difference in picking up kids or doing other errands.
      (Now we’re all on a hybrid schedule, and I notice that on in-office days, people are pretty much still working the same hours they did before.)

      1. EllenD*

        Many years ago, I inherited a very well regarded member of staff who started at around 6.30am and left at 3.30pm, while I worked 9.30 to 6pm. It took a short while to adjust, but once I did we found we could be very efficient. He’d leave me stuff to check/review/clear at 3pm and I’d then used the time from 4pm onwards to review and e-mail it back to him, so it was waiting for him when he got in the next morning. Equally, I could ask him to do something at 5.30pm and by the time I got in the next morning, he’d have it done, or have had time to identify detailed questions on what was needed and we could quickly finish. It meant that if we timed the handover of work right, we got effectively instant responses. We make a point of catching up regularly during the day (late morning or early afternoon). I imagine it was rather like working with someone in a different time zone.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Agree re #2. Most of my offices have set about five core hours a day, during which everyone is supposed to be in or online, and then you can flex beyond that. I really encourage LW2 to seriously consider something like that, because, frankly, anytime between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM … isn’t very much flexibility at all. It’s one thing if strict hours are really necessary, but it’s something else entirely if those hours are just your habit / preference, and therefore you think they are more than reasonable, and don’t see why anybody really needs to be doing anything else.

      This is especially because having slightly shifted hours often means that you are able to do certain things in peace at times other people are not demanding your attention. Set your meetings and collaborative time during core hours, and then you can do your writing and reviewing and such at times other people are not online, and then you will have it ready for them when they get online to work in peace, and their work will be waiting for you when you get online. You will very much get into that groove.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Funny: I work from 930 to 6, and much of my team logs off between 430 and 5. I power through a lot during my last hour or so.

        My dad, who very much is aware of my work schedule, for some reason loves to call me at about 5:15 to ask if I’m almost done with my day, and then he wants to stay on the phone and chat about nothing! Yes, I’m **almost** done, but thanks for pushing being **actually** done beyond the end of my workday!

      2. L.H. Puttgrass*

        “anytime between 8:30 AM and 9:30 AM … isn’t very much flexibility at all”

        It also happens to be a half hour window on either side of LW2’s preferred 9:00 start time, which makes me wonder if it’s about core working hours or if it’s just LW2 treating their own schedule as a baseline for everyone else’s.

        Nearly everywhere I’ve worked, 7:30 would be a perfectly reasonable start time. I even did a 7:00–3:30 schedule for a while long ago; it let me get in a lot of biking in the evenings. Lots of people at that company worked similar schedules for similar reasons.

        For the LW2, I’d suggest thinking about whether they really need 7-8 hours of collaboration. Few jobs do, IMO. Even collaboration-heavy jobs benefit from some time where a person can just put their head down and get stuff done for a while.

        I’d suggest setting more flexible “core hours” for everyone’s schedule. The core hours where I work are 10-3, for example, but even expanding that a bit to 9:30-4:00, say, would leave most of the day where everyone is at work while still giving people more flexibility than they have now.

        1. Mf*

          “ it’s just LW2 treating their own schedule as a baseline for everyone else’s.”

          Ding ding ding! I’m getting the strong vibe that the LW wants access to their staff at all times for their own convenience. Like you said, unless LW is truly collaborating with their staff for 8 full hours/day, that’s a very micromanage-y approach.

          1. KRM*

            This for sure. LW, the new employee wants to start an hour (just an hour!!) before your earliest “acceptable” time and let’s say it’s the same on the later side of the day. That leaves Six! Hours! for collaboration time! Nobody, even in a highly collaborative environment, is going to be working together for a full six hours, never mind 8. Let this person come in at 7:30 and do work while they feel the sharpest! If for some reason after a month you see that things are suffering, then you can revisit, but I predict that things will move along smoothly and you’ll never notice. A little bit of flexibility on your part can go a long way to making your employees feel valued and happy.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Exactly. LW said ‘I want the employee to be happy, of course, but I also want them available when I’m working.’

          3. My Useless 2 Cents*

            I don’t even think there is anything wrong with LW wanting access to their staff at all times while they are working… as long as they own it. Just don’t say the job has flexible hours. It is trendy now but some jobs just aren’t meant to be flexible.

            If you truly feel, as the manager, that everyone needs to have the roughly same working hours you shouldn’t feel bad about that. You may be wrong, you may not be wrong, but it is your call to make. Something in the future may cause you to test that theory whether you want to or not (like a pandemic and tele-work).

          4. Butter Bonanza*

            But LW2 definitely has some self-awareness of the fact that they could be wrong, and I think Green’s bit of advice about trying the earlier start time that the report proposed for a couple weeks is absolutely the way to go.

            I can relate because I, too, thrive in the early hours, only need about fivish hours of sleep and wake up obnoxiously early. It’s just how some of us do. And if this is a creative field, it doesn’t do anyone any favors to hobble someone’s peak thinking times.

            1. J*

              And as someone who has been forced to work in a collaborative highly responsive environment, it’s totally not my style. I like to think on topics and I have my own projects. I used to change my schedule so I could have 90 minutes of my own time to focus on longer-term projects which enabled me to be more responsive when the whole team was online. Right now I’m trying to launch a database and I would love to just have an hour of peace each day to focus on that.

              I think finding out the why for this worker is so crucial. Is it for quiet, for carpooling, for babysitting? Will it make them more productive and/or happier therefore increasing team output or reducing turnover? Right now, the why not seems based around the manager and maybe the team but certainly not each individual.

          5. fhqwhgads*

            On the one hand, OP said they generally needed to respond to each other within an hour. If that’s really the case, then I sort of understand the wiggle room only being +/- 30 min on either side. However, I am also skeptical that the hour is truly necessary and not just the boss’ preference.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I notice that OP found out that she is more productive working from home. I wonder how much collaboration really goes on with some people WFH and some in the office on any given day? If there is WFH, then how is it different that someone comes in earlier and leaves a little earlier. They aren’t physically there to talk to.

          Also how important is that this stuff be proofread within an hour? Is it that deadlines need to be adjusted so there isn’t a rush? Or is it “well we’ve always expected that, so we will continue to expect that?” I mean if I have to rush proofreading something to get it turned around quickly, how good of a job am I really doing?

          but let’s not be too hard on OP. They did say they are willing to reconsider their thinking on this.

          1. Mockingjay*

            Agree about rushed proofreading and deadlines. My team is fully remote across 4 time zones. While I mainly support one project, the others are a spread support team. Our supervisor pops onto chat a couple times of day – “hey new doc just came in; who wants it?” Or, “I’ve finished my edit; can I get a second pair of eyes for proofing?” Whoever is available lets her know, including times: “I can take it; I’m free this afternoon when I finish current task.”

            OP2, as Alison suggested, try flexing times, though I’d do it for a couple weeks or a month to establish a rhythm. Also, agree with EPLawyer about examining your edit/response times. An hour turnaround is pretty tight for most reviews. Is it habit or need?

          2. Cj*

            Also, what the OP finishes between 5 and 6 their employee could review at 7:00 next morning, so it would actually get done quicker.

            Between 8:30 and 9:30 are actually pretty late start times for most office jobs. I would say 8:00 is more normal, and places that allow flexible time some people start at 6:00 or 7:00.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              What time zone are you in? When I lived in the midwest, 8:00 or thereabouts was a common start time. On the east coast, 9:00 is a lot more common.

              1. A*

                Varies a lot by industry etc. I’m on the east coast and the default start time at my employers has always been around 8:30. But every employer I’ve had has only required people to be in during core hours of ~10am-3pm, both for general flexibility and because traffic is so bad that requiring people to stay until 5-6pm often means they won’t get home until late in the evening.

          3. Esmeralda*

            Collaboration can happen with some people in office and some people WFH. Zoom, gchat, google drive, phone, text, slack…. It’s different than hanging out in someone’s office doorway, which I find valuable, but I don’t have to do it every day. Some people I only ever collaborated with in formal meetings, so virtual meetings work just fine now.

            OP should consider what collaboration means in their office, what are the activities you are expecting, what happens at an in-person collaboration and is there any reason it couldn’t happen remotely at least some of the time. How much actual collaborating is needed = actual hours that you’d expect people to be collaborating.

        3. Antilles*

          Even collaboration-heavy jobs benefit from some time where a person can just put their head down and get stuff done for a while.
          Bingo. If the job has a few solo tasks that don’t require collaboration but do require some focused thought, those are often much easier to get done early in the morning specifically *because* it’s so early that nobody else in the office – so I can work in a straight line without interruption from meetings, calls, emails, etc.

        4. I Don’t Know It All*

          I agree about the baseline. And, I just left a job and one of the factors was that they changed the core hours from 9am to 3pm to 8am to 4pm.

        5. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I think finding a way to allow flexibility without sacrificing needs can be tricky – core hours are a good solution.

          I work somewhere that requires a lot of collaboration and we have one employee who prefers to work 7-3. It IS pretty disruptive sometimes, to be fair, but the shakeout is basically if she needs to be somewhere after 3, she needs to make it work for that day. She grumbles and gripes every time but sometimes that’s the nature of the work. Flexibility and accountability typically go hand in hand.

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            People who take early shifts like 7-3 probably end up working longer hours than people who start later. In most office cultures I’ve seen, the early risers are willing to stay after their shifts to make meetings or get collaborative work done. And the general culture I’ve seen is usually that it’s easier to stay late (child care pickup duties and such aside) than to get people to come in early. So when a meeting needs to be scheduled and the core hours are all full, 90% of the time that meeting will be scheduled late, not early (although there are sometimes exceptions where “early” means, say, 8:30).

            1. amoeba*

              In my experience that really depends on what the majority prefers – I normally work 9ish to 6ish and I’ve had my share of 8 am meetings (for which I do have to come in early), while we almost never schedule anything after 5.
              But then the majority of our department are early risers, so I just have to adapt – which I happily do for those days, but would hate having to get up that early every day!

              1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                True. Meetings scheduled in advance can be set either early or late within whatever range tends to be thought of as “reasonable.” But when things come up that need to be dealt with that day, they almost always push into the evening; it’s a rare workplace that will say, “Jane comes in at 7:00 tomorrow, so this can wait until then.”

            2. UpperLearning*

              I agree with this, especially because I’ve found there’s a general reluctance to schedule meetings “first thing” in the morning. With a range of start times from 7-9:30, any meeting before 10 is someone’s “first thing,” which means if you try to schedule a meeting before 10am it’s seen as rude unless it’s very urgent. The same courtesy doesn’t seem to be extended to the end of the day until 5pm. In my experience a 4pm meeting that requires the 7am worker to stay late is perceived as ok, but asking the 9am worker to arrive for an 8am meeting is seen as a much bigger deal. YMMV depending on workplace culture, etc. of course.

        6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I was wondering what time the TEAM gets in, or would like to. It may be that people start at 8:30 but would be happier to have more flexibility. Also, does that proofreading within an hour HAVE to happen within the hour or is that just the usual practice?

        7. Jora Malli*

          Man, I loved my old 7-3:30 schedule. I got to have some quiet time in the morning and then my afternoon was free for whatever I wanted to do.

          OP, can you do a trial period with your new employee at the schedule they want? If you run into snags, you can revisit it and make adjustments, but there’s no reason not to try it and see if it will work.

        8. quill*

          Yeah, a 7:30 start time is pretty reasonable in most places with core times and flex hours, given that it may be the best way to dodge the longest commute times or leave early enough to pick up a kid from school / run errands after work.

        9. Curmudgeon in California*


          Most places I’ve worked in office jobs have “core hours” between 10 am local time and 3 pm local time. This works in both on-site and remote.

          One place where I worked my manager came in at 7 and left at 3:30, while I came in at 10 and left at 6:30/7:00. In both cases it was to take advantage of commuting troughs along with personal peak hours. Since it was IT it also gave us good coverage to have someone available for nearly 12 hours.

          Essentially, people have different peaks. If you are in a job that doesn’t need a time clock for shifts, it makes good sense to allow people to work when they are most effective, or can flex around their personal needs, as long as they are available during a subset of “core hours”. It’s a cheap benefit and makes moral better when people feel they have control over what hours they work.

        10. A*

          Agreed, especially since OP mentions they need to overlap hours for ‘most of the day’, not all. Everywhere I worked also had core hours, typically ~10am-3pmish. Another benefit to that flexibility is that it opens the potential candidate pool as many folks might struggle with strict requirements to work later in the day (school pick ups, etc)

    3. turquoisecow*

      Yeah I get OP2’s concern but I wonder how much of a difference an extra hour or two will make in terms of collaboration. I could see not wanting this for the first week or two until the employee gets up to speed and can work more independently, but is there really a difference between someone working 7:30-4 and someone working 8:30-5 or 9:30–6? Unless a lot of meetings are scheduled at the end of the day and the person will miss those, it doesn’t seem like those extra two hours will make a huge difference.

      I did work at a place where it often seemed like there were “emergencies” later in the day and as a person more likely to come in later than earlier, I might be annoyed by someone who came in early and left early and I was stuck with work coming in after 4:00. Or if the employee was constantly not available for end of day meetings or something like that. If that’s a situation OP might be concerned about, it would be valid to tell the employee that it won’t work out. But if it’s just “no one else does this, so you can’t,” then I can see an employee viewing that as a bit tyrannical.

      1. ND and awkward*

        That did used to drive me mad pre-pandemic when I would work 9-5 and the rest of my team would work 8-4. I’m not IT support but the rest of my team are, and originally one of them working 8-4 was to provide extended support hours between them. When they all started leaving at 4 I became the default IT support until 5 despite that not being my job in any way.

        Obviously that isn’t the same scenario, but if the unaligned work hours could cause similar resentment that’s worth taking into account.

      2. Threeve*

        It makes sense that OP1 wants their newest employee to keep standard hours while they’re still getting to know each other. The manager is still assessing the new employee’s work style, communication and their reliability. This is something to revisit when the employee is trained and settled in.

        1. Loulou*

          Agreed, I really don’t find this an outrage. Even if this person should eventually be able to start at 7, someone who has just started a brand new job might not be able to work independently yet and there could be a clear benefit to working the same hours as their supervisor.

          1. Artemesia*

            This is a reasonable negotiated compromise especially since their argument is efficiency and preference and not some external issue like child care. Let them keep standard house for 3 or 6 months during training and settling in and then promise to revisit if things are going well

      3. Smithy*

        Beyond the OP’s schedule – I do think that if there’s a timezone issue at hand – that would also be relevant. If you’re on the East Coast and have a heavy West Coast work load – having a regular early departure might be more inconvenient or shrink those core hours more significantly. However, I do think that having a few additional features like that is critical in making that case more firm.

    4. Allonge*

      I don’t know about LW2. It may well be that on a small team your additional efficiency in working when you prefer is lost overall because of the non-overlap, and they don’t need to literally cooperate 8 hours per day for that. If someone needs to sign off on / proofread things before they are final, then sure, one hour is ok, but two hours of non-parallel availability may be too much.

      And when emergencies come in is a good point to consider too. Long term, having to handle everything after a certain hour because others prefer to start earlier can be an issue.

      I mean, sure, LW2 should consider if this is really an issue.

      1. Momma Bear*

        We have “core hours” during which time you’re expected to be at the office. You can flex in either direction to fulfil your duties, but if there’s a meeting at 10AM, you’re expected to generally be in the office to attend. Would a core hours concept work for LW2? And/or I’d suggest the option of meeting in the middle at 8AM for this person. Will that half hour really be detrimental?

        If the issue is not coverage but project, I’d give it a try. If the early bird can have work in-hand for folks arriving at 8:30, is that really any worse than the 8:30 folks meeting with LW after 9? Can LW pair up the early bird with someone who arrives within that “golden hour” for a project to progress?

        Also, while not all jobs can be flexible, flexibility is an inexpensive way to improve morale, retention, and work-life balance.

    5. GythaOgden*

      If you’re bearing the brunt of emergencies when the other person is able to skip out on them, that’s your answer! Someone might work best earlier, but there has to be a consideration of sharing the workload so they take on some of the burden you’re shouldering.

      I work in a coverage role so it’s not the same thing, but there are two of us so one can cover the other during breaks. I was taken on for afternoon coverage because they needed someone to close up, so me skipping out early or trying to do 10-3 because it suits me best would leave the job shortchanged.

      Jobs are there to make sure the work gets done and those people who are paid to handle it — including emergencies — are there to do it. My perspective is coloured by doing a role that is contained within fixed hours, and the hours have shifted from 12-5 to 11-4 to reflect different office hours post-pandemic. I have a 90 min commute each way (public transport) so I’d quite like to finish at 3 rather than 4. But I am there until 4 to make sure the post goes out and putting that burden always on my colleague would be unfair.

      So yeah, in this case, it is a little bad that your colleague comes in at 7 when there’s no interruptions, but you’re always on during that last hour when you regularly get them come up. You need backup at precisely that time.

      It’s not about butts in seats; it’s about sharing the burden of work and not always getting to skip out before the emergencies come in. That’s why some people in-office also get a bit resentful of those who can work from home but are giving us work so they can do so — it’s about the perception that other people are pulling their weight as well as the reality, and that starts grinding away at a sense of fairness.

      1. quill*

        Counterpoint: sometimes the reason a work group has “emergencies” close to the end of the day is because most people are working 9-6 and they don’t get started on the big, difficult tasks likely to spawn emergencies until late in their workday. So it’s worth figuring out if it really is inevitable that emergencies come up at 3:45 pm or if it just happens that way because you have mostly meetings from 9:30 to 2 pm and don’t work on anything that could generate problems during the first half of the work day.

    6. Greg*

      With a previous role I found that when people were ‘collaborating’ I actually got much less done. Pre-kids I would come in at 6:30, get most of my prep work or high-priority work out of the way so when people started coming in around 8 and started to interrupt me I wouldn’t get surly or annoyed because they weren’t pulling me out of an important flow.

      Now, when I left between 3 & 3:30 my (super traditional) great grand boss would get bent out of shape because I was leaving “earlier than everyone and how does that look?”

    7. BethDH*

      If it is a legit problem for reasons others have mentioned during this thread, consider whether it’s a problem if it’s not every day. I changed my schedule for a while due to a family transportation thing (thanks flexible bosses!) and had an early-shifted schedule twice a week. I was able to prioritize my tasks to use that alone time in the office to focus on the projects that needed it.
      If OP’s employee does indeed work best at that time, it may be enough to give her two or three days a week of shifted time, sort of like you splitting working from home and in office. I know that kind of changing schedule may just be an annoyance to one or both of you but remember that you do have an option between 100% yes or no.

    8. Oakwood*

      “I think it’s reasonable to explain to them that there’s an employee at their company (don’t say who) that you have no interest in working with/for for personal reasons.”

      If LW says that, the company will assume she is the problematic person who can’t get along with others. It will slam the door shut for any future employment at the company.

      Just say you aren’t interested at this time and leave it at that.

    9. Beth*

      I shifted to a 7-3 schedule some years ago, when my commute stretched past the 1.5 hour mark each way. Shifting my hours halved the commute time and doubled my productivity. Once in a while, something comes up and I need to stay later than 3; but it’s REALLY rare. My overlap with my colleagues is still 6 hours out of every day, and that’s ample.

      There’s an added bonus: if a client has some kind of emergency between 7 and 9, there’s a human being in the office to take their call. Since some of my co-workers tend to arrive a little late and stay late, our coverage for calls is now well over the usual 9-5.

      LW #2, if there is ANY way you can accommodate your early riser. please do it! It’s not that big an ask, and you’ll probably get much better work from your employee while being a better boss.

      1. coping in healthy ways*

        Commute is why I shifted to an 8-4 schedule from a 9-5. I actually left home only about 30 minutes earlier in the morning than when I worked the normal shift. Then, the hour I was in before everyone, I slammed through work that was hard to do when others were present (I worked in an office suite with two offices, two cubes, and my cubby next to the door, that was across from the kitchen – it was loud and regularly very smelly).

    10. the cat's ass*

      I’ve kinda drifted to flex time over the last 15 years, coming in at 6 am and getting out at 4, which allowed me to pick up the kids after school and get dinner without it being 8 pm before we sit down to eat. I also got to avoid the worst of the horrible traffic commute. Hybrid or WFH isn’t a thing here, but this is the next best thing and I can’t think why more offices don’t go for it.

    11. Artemesia*

      Someone arriving at 7:30 when most are starting at 9 most probably IS very productive during those early hours. I would bend over backwards to be flexible here as long as there was a big overlap. Not all jobs can do this but I would bet it is the rare position that is not customer facing where having 6 instead of 8 hours of overlap would not work. Of course you do have to be able to measure output and have confidence in the person flexing.

    12. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      I have definitely solved emergencies at 7:30 AM and only informed my colleagues about it when they roll in between 8 and 10 AM.

    13. Clisby*

      I wondered about that, too. I worked for years at a company where 9-3 were the core working hours and you were required to take at least 1/2 hour lunch (but up to 1.5 hours for lunch was OK, too). You could come in as early as 7, and leave as early as 3:30. You could come in as late as 9, and leave as late as 6:30. I guess it depends on how much overlap in schedule is really necessary.

  7. NeedsMoreCookies*

    #1: I don’t think there’s any way to inform her coworkers about the high school bullying without looking vindictive and petty yourself. But maybe you could say without naming names that there’s an employee there that you wish to avoid for personal reasons. If Jane has reformed, they’ll have no reason to believe it’s her.

    That said, it does seem odd that this company is being so pushy with you. I wonder if it could be Jane still trying to toy with you.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I doubt Jane is toying with LW. That’s a big leap. It’s more likely in my experience that Jane doesn’t think, at all, about LW or what she did as a child to LW.

      Bullying leaves scars on the bullied. Bullies don’t remember it like that.

      1. BRR*

        Yeah I don’t think Jane decided after 25 years to go back to picking on the LW. There’s of course nothing wrong with the LW deciding they don’t want to work with Jane but it’s also very plausible that Jane wasn’t a great person in HS and is a perfectly fine adult. Our personalities and actions as teenagers don’t define us for the rest of our lives.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I would be really surprisedof Jane remembes OP, or if she does, she may remember them as having been friends, or at last friendly.
        I ran into one of the people who bullied me for a period of about 5 years when we were both at school and it became obvious that in her memory, we had just both been part of a the same group of friends. In reality she was one of the ringleaders in bullying me (and to a lesser degree, a couple of others)
        I didn’t confront her about it butI also turned doen her FB and linked in requests etc.

      3. quill*

        Not to go TV tropes, but the sad reality is that when someone does something horrible that scars someone for life, for the victim it was their worst day and for the perpetrator it was tuesday.

    2. Not Always Right*

      yeah, this thought crossed my mind as well. Although, I really think it is a bit of a reach, but stranger things have happened. I’d like to think that the bully has changed her ways and is trying to get OP on so she can apologize. Totally unrealistic, but hey, it’s my fantasy and I can make it however I want it to be. LOL

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        When I saw my arch-nemesis from junior high and high school again, decades later, she asked if I remembered her. My answer was a growled “Yes.” She apologized for having treated me badly. We are now cordial when we see each other. It helped me a lot to see that she had outgrown that and was a decent person now.

        Our paths did not overlap at work, though.

        I did get a gut clench when a former (bad) manager started working in another department where I worked. I got laid off due to Covid not long after that, although there’s a part of me that wonders if he didn’t have a hand in making up the layoff list. It’s unlikely though, since it seemed to be based on seniority in my group – I’d been there less than 5 years, everyone else was there 10 or more.

    3. astral debris*

      That seems really unlikely. The impression I got was that LW1 would actually love to work for this company if only Jane was not there, and that they have been unintentionally letting that conflict leak through in their interactions with the company. If they’re giving a strong “I love everything about this offer and am dying to accept if only…” kind of vibe, I could understand the company thinking that they want to be wooed.

      If I’m wrong, though, and the company has been making all of these solicitations without any participation or encouragement from the LW, that’s definitely odd and it would at least give me pause about the company. I still wouldn’t attribute it to Jane, though. That would be supervillain levels of fixation on her part, and if adult Jane is still nursing that kind of malice towards the LW then she would have found ways to be a recurring presence in LW’s life in the past 25 years.

      1. BethDH*

        I bet you’re right about the vibe OP is giving off. It comes through in the letter already.
        If I were on the hiring manager’s side, hearing that tone without knowing what to attach it to, my mind would go to things like special accommodations. I remember one employee who’d negotiated that they’d always take January off entirely because they hated January and always went somewhere else. He might have changed roles by now since it’s easier to work remotely, but back then his plan was to stay pretty much forever because he figured no one else would accommodate that in a way he could trust.

        1. Antilles*

          Honestly, I wouldn’t even go to unique accommodations like “no January”, I’d just think that it might be some relatively minor vanilla issue that could be potentially solved – e.g., you really like to travel so I can give you more than the usual amount of vacation days or whatever.

      1. Meep*

        That is what I am thinking. Even if Jane still enjoys inflicting pain on anyone, she hasn’t seen OP in 25 years. There is easier prey.

    4. thelettermegan*

      When childhood bullies remember what they did as children, it’s usually with regret and remorse, not with continued desire inflict pain.

    5. El l*

      Honestly, I think that’s the best course. “Look, thank you, but my no is final. You have a staff member with whom I have a history, and there is no way to resolve that issue. Your company is awesome – but it’s not a good fit for me.”

      1. allathian*

        That’s the nuclear option, and one to use if the LW never wants to work for the company under any circumstances. But it rather sounds like they might want to do that, if Jane ever leaves.

    6. Meep*

      I have a former coworker that I will never work again with due to the trauma she inflicted on me as late as February starting in July 2017, and even I would be hard-pressed to go to any future employer and mark her as a bullying jerk. She knows she is a bullying jerk. Out of 7 siblings, only two give her the time of day and her daughter won’t speak to her anymore. Anyone who meets her knows she is a bullying jerk five seconds after she opens her mouth.

      If Jane is still a bullying jerk then chances are the company already knows this and just doesn’t care. People who torture other people for shits and giggles aren’t good at hiding it. It is more likely that Jane is aggressively trying to hire OP as some sort of atonement than it is that she wants to torture OP 25 years later, because honestly, OP is old news if she is still a bullying jerk.

      1. Clisby*

        Eh, I don’t know about that. I’ve never worked anywhere that HR took that kind of interest in hiring. Certainly not that HR, on their own, would be aggressively trying to hire someone.

  8. zinzarin*

    LW1: I don’t agree with Alison’s advice. I wouldn’t reach out to Jane in any way, but I would contact Company A with a respectful note pointing out that you could never work with your childhood bully. I would careful word it to make clear that you weren’t trying to impugn the adult that they employ, just that you’d never be able to work in the same organization as the same human who left you with that kind of trauma. You can do this without identifying Jane.

    Childhood bullying is awful; I think more people should speak about it. The adult Jane is likely not the same person as the child Jane, and should not be penalized now for what she did as a child. But other adults should definitely have a stronger awareness of the effects of childhood bullying; it can only encourage more vigilance and prevention.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I disagree – because the default will be to think that the OP is the one with the problem. For someone who doesn’t have the experience being seriously bullied, it’s quite likely going to sound like the OP is weirdly fixated on something that happened 25 years ago. Mentioning the situation isn’t going to cause the company to do anything about it, and even if the OP named the person, the individual is either going to say they have changed or they are going to say that they remember the situation far differently or that the OP was a drama llama then and still is, or whatever. And the company will discount the OP’s experience in favour of their current employee, probably even if Jane continues to be a horrible person (after all, if she is still horrible, they’d have gotten rid of her already if they were going to do so). There’s just no upside to the OP raising the real issue.

      A far better message would be, “While I appreciate your continued interest, I am not open to making a move to XYZ Corp. for the foreseeable future.” The OP could follow that up with a statement to the effect that they will reach out if/when their situation changes OR they could say that they will be open to being contacted in X number of years. In either situation, the OP can check and see if their nemesis happens to be still employed by the organization, before agreeing to consider an opportunity there.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Don’t assume the company would have gotten rid of Jane is she was still a horrible person. Lots of horrible people are in high positions in Corporate America. They get kept because they are effective, or they are surreptitious about their horribleness, or because the job requires someone willing to be horrible.

        A college friend had a horrible side. She ended up in the credit card collection business and had done quite well. The job requires someone without a lot of empathy.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, but that’s why @Learnedtheharsdway said that they would have gotten rid of her “if they going get rid of her.” I’m pretty sure that in the situation you describe, the OP’s response wouldn’t cause the employer you describe to get fired of penalized.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        For many people who had the experience of being seriously bullied, it’s going to sound like someone is weirdly fixated on something that happened when everyone was a child.

        I am totally in favor of holding boundaries as an adult–it’s why shows like Buffy struggled when they left high school, because adults can just say “Yeah I’m not going to live on the hell mouth” and move away, and it’s weird if they act like they are trapped. But laying out to complete strangers–whom you want to respect you professionally–that the reason you’ve given a polite no is childhood bullying, or a crush, or the presence at the company of someone you hurt badly in the past, is too much information for these strangers and not going to reflect well on you.

        1. quill*

          In a professional situation we usually default to not randomly telling strangers who make decisions about our hiring and salary about the worst period of our lives. It doesn’t usually help anyone.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I agree with the last bit – make it way less about Jane and more about how OP doesn’t see themselves working there, thanks for the interest but no thank you.

      4. Meep*

        I was physically assaulted 17 years ago by a classmate while her mother let it happen. It will never leave me. Nor will the fact I had a coworker/at-times manager who made it her life mission to torture and toy with me for nearly five years because I was a young female with stable loving relationships. But even I would think OP is the problem regardless of how she shares this information. At the very least OP would seem unprofessional.

        Part of life is dealing with people you dislike. Would I love to slog each of the Supreme Court Justices right now? Of course! If I met them in person, would I still smile to their faces and be polite? Sadly, yes. Because while I am sure many would cheer to see Kavanugh’s nose broken (myself included), nothing good comes of it from swinging at him to inflict damage. OP needs to stop deluding herself that she isn’t trying to do that. She wants to inflict pain on Jane, but all it will do is hurt her more.

    2. Nodramalama*

      I disagree I think it has the potential of making OP all about their personal history and perceived drama and not about their relevant attributes for the job

    3. Emmy Noether*

      I don’t know – if I imagine being the hiring manager who received such a letter, I would feel very sorry for the person, but I also wouldn’t know what to do with that information. I think sharing personal tragedies in a professional context without there being some clear action the other person could take just feels too… intimate. (Yes, there’s an action the hiring manager could take – no longer contacting OP, but that would feel to me like I’m punishing, not helping, the person for their problems. I also don’t need all that background to do this).

      Add to that the risk that the person on the other end isn’t compassionate and is a bully and a jerk themselves, opening up in that way is, I think, just not a good idea.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’ve still got permanent scars (mental and physical) from what a bully did to me at school – she was never punished, I was told to ‘consider her hard life’ – and while I’d love for her to finally see what 30 years of dealing with that trauma is like…

      …I wouldn’t report it to a place that I do not work at.

      If I worked there and suddenly discovered she was head of HR or whatever I’d feel a lot differently because then it’s become something that will impact upon my work. Actually not sure how I’d react. Nor if I found my abusive ex in the same county as me. Probably flee. Dunno.

      Now do I talk to my nieces/nephews about bullying, it’s effects, that auntie Keymaster has been there and is a safe person to come to? Yes, With permission of their parents who all managed to get through school without trauma so have no frame of reference.

    5. L-squared*

      I disagree. I don’t think that comes of well at all.

      The thing is, “bullying” gets thrown around A LOT, and has a lot of meanings to people. So its still vague enough that I feel it does more harm than good and serves no purpose except to make people look at jane differently.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah. I’ve heard the term ‘bullying’ used to cover everything from someone setting reasonable boundaries…to toddlers squabbling over a toy….to violent and organised humiliation.

        It’s just too vague for any third party to know what OP or anyone else means by it.

        1. quill*

          Yeah. Accusations of bullying I’ve heard of have ranged from “I heard Felicity and Addison are having a sleepover and I, Kit, was not invited!” to “these people were not charged with assault and battery because they’re 13 and no one believed their victim” to “boy shunned by classmates after sexually harassing one of them claims they are bullying him, takes his story to the New Yorker because OBVIOUSLY nobody whose nudes he hasn’t shared without their consent is allowed to avoid him proactively.”

          This is why zero tolerance bullying rules famously don’t work in schools: they try to lump all behavior from name calling to assault into the same category and ignore socioeconomic factors that contribute to who is bullied and who has the power to bully them. And they are vulnerable to use by bullies to insist that their victims not be allowed to escape them.

          A third party is not going to know what to do about it without a lot of detail, which will probably ulitmately hurt the OP to rehash, fling into the void, and then potentially answer questions about. Therapists and help groups are much better people to talk to than one of Jane’s random coworkers.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, I think if I were the hiring manager who got that letter, I’d be very conflicted. Is this a case where the person who wrote the letter was horrifically abused, physically injured, possibly deeply traumatised…and if so, have I some obligation to ensure that experience doesn’t continue to have an impact on their life? Should I somehow reassure them that they can take the job without interacting with this person? And how do I do that without prying into my employees’ backgrounds?

        Or is this a person who thinks “this one person didn’t play with me once in grade school” or “the cool kids didn’t come to me personally and beg me to be part of their inner circle; that’s exclusion, I should be allowed to play with whoever I like so they were bullying me by not specifically befriending me and I still resent them for that and want to get back at them by undermining them with their company.” OK, that would be extreme, but there are people who make drama over the slightest little thing and assume everything is a slight against them. We’ve seen it here with things like the cheap-ass rolls. And if they were that kind of person, I wouldn’t want to employ them.

        Like you say, bullying is such a wide term. People use it for everything from kids being insensitive and making jokes that land badly (I was horrified as a preteen/young teenager when I realised a girl could have felt bullied by me; I wanted to be friends with her and was trying to show her how hilarious I was but I didn’t realise until afterwards that she was genuinely irritated and not just putting it on to joke back. I am talking STUPID stuff like moving her pens around on her desk or appearing in front of her and acting like “woah, isn’t it strange we bumped into each other again”) right up to truly criminal and abusive actions, like physical or sexual assault.

        And while I don’t want to minimise any of it. Even silly jokes can be hurtful to a child or young teenager. But it is hard to know how to take it coming from an adult. Are they still annoyed over stupid childhood behaviour or has somebody on the staff done something truly horrendeous that an adult would go to prison over or does this fall somewhere in the middle?

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          You know that old “sticks and stones” line? It’s baloney.

          Words, and the hate behind them, absolutely can hurt. Sure, it seems trivial when you say “they called me ‘ugly'”, and can’t describe the feeling of hate and rage at you that they were projecting.

          But that stuff leaves emotional scars – it wasn’t until I was in my third year of college that I could look in a mirror and not hear “ugly” echoing in my head. After all, when you hear something like that over and over for more than a decade, it seeps in to your very identity.

          So even verbal bullying, if done over the entire school experience, can cause lasting trauma.

          1. allathian*

            Verbal bullying activates the same neural circuits that process threats and pain in the brain as physical assault does, so yeah, words can and do hurt. The trouble is that they don’t leave scars, so the abuse is much harder to prove.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I think the advice upthread to make a vague reference to unfortunate past history with someone at the company (not named) is better, if you have to say something which I do not think is necessarily a good idea.

      This conversation prompted me to Google one of my childhood tormentors, and it turned out she became a social worker! I can’t imagine.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I hope that means she has turned her life around and wants to help kids today who have behavioural problems like she did and not that she is still a bully and chose a career that gives her a certain amount of power over vulnerable people.

        1. East Coast Girl*

          Agreed. I made the mistake of Googling my high school bully, a few years ago, and found out she became a police officer. I genuinely hope she matured and went into law enforcement due to an interest in helping others/her community, but power/authority seems just as likely a motivator.

    7. BRR*

      I mean this genuinely, not sarcastically, what’s the goal in pointing out you couldn’t work with a childhood bully? If I’m understanding your comment correctly it’s advocacy?

    8. pancakes*

      “Childhood bullying is awful; I think more people should speak about it.”

      I don’t doubt that it is; a number of people seem to have grown up in places where children bullying one another weren’t discouraged, separated, or disciplined for it, even if it got physical. Surely the best time to speak about it is while it’s happening, though. What is the point of bringing it up decades later to people who were not in any position to step in and handle it differently at the time it was ongoing? Telling people in the abstract that bullying is bad and left you feeling hurt years ago isn’t actionable.

      1. astral debris*

        Talking about it can be powerful advocacy, but only when it’s done in an appropriate forum. What would be the effect of normalizing talking about childhood bullying in corporate spaces? I think all it would serve to do is help further erode healthy boundaries between professional and private life. And that’s assuming this was part of a broad cultural movement, but it’s not. Practically speaking, the most likely effect that the LW’s email would have is just that it would make their contact person at the company vaguely uncomfortable, and that’s not going to help anyone.

    9. Anon all day*

      But the issue is that, I would wager that a majority of (most even?) people would say that they were bullied at sometime in their childhood. There’s just such a scale of the type of bullying and how one is affected by it long term. So, there’s a major risk for someone to get that response and think that OP is the one with an issue, because they (the hiring person) were bullied as a kid, and it’s no big deal.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, just like women who have light periods just don’t understand why others are writhing in agony for a week.

        1. pancakes*

          Right, it doesn’t follow that we all need to talk about our periods at work to raise awareness. There are times and places for things like this.

    10. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I agree that “Childhood bullying is awful; I think more people should speak about it.”
      But here is not the right place. It needs to be discussed in schools and other places kids interact at. Here, OP will just come across as someone who is still letting anger over what happened in her childhood fester. If Jane were identified, she would simply deny it (most bullies don’t even remember it as bullying, just as harmless ragging). Zero awareness raising will have been achieved.

    11. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Childhood bullying IS awful, I experienced it myself. However, if someone sent me a vague, ‘respectful note’ as you suggest, it wouldn’t spur me to action because I’d have nothing to act on. I can’t poll our employees and ask, ‘Did you bully this person?’ Even if I did find out it was Jane, I could/would not terminate Jane because of it, unless she was a known bully to our associates.

      However, that note would end my interest in recruiting the person who sent it. I empathize and sympathize with victims of bullying, but this method is not the way to address it. Just tell me you’re not interested in our opportunity, and you’ll reconnect if that changes.

    12. Observer*

      But other adults should definitely have a stronger awareness of the effects of childhood bullying; it can only encourage more vigilance and prevention.

      Two things:

      1. Doing what you suggest will not have the effect of making people more aware.

      2. The OP should do what is best for them in this case. And sending an email like that is NOT good for them. Best case, it won’t make any impression. But in the worst case it could make the OP look very bad. I don’t think that it’s remotely reasonable to expect them to take that risk.

  9. municipal government jane*

    LW#2, I’d encourage you to trial run your employee starting a little earlier (if you think they would be able to manage a trial/pilot and revert back if it really wasn’t working–not the case for everyone, to be sure). 7:30 isn’t wildly outside your core business hours, and flexibility about hours can make a huge difference for people’s productivity and home lives. Speaking as a morning person, maximizing my early working hours makes me more productive and responsive overall, not less. At most of my workplaces, things that have come up after, say, 4:00 usually can wait until first thing the following morning for a response (and my response will be all the better for having waited until my sharper hours of the day). Again, YMMV–but I encourage you to continue considering it!

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree! Your decision seems based in annoyance rather than in a genuinely thought out one.

      I too work from 7:30-4:00. I had requested that when I moved over to work with my now (newly retired) boss. He didn’t come in until 9:00-9:30 and often worked past 6:00. We had plenty of time to overlap between 9:00 and 4:00, and when there were urgent matters or even an occasional work emergency, one of us was there earlier or later to handle it. It made for great coverage.

      Try it. Surely your team doesn’t collaborate the entire days, that you all have projects that require individual attention. If there’s an urgent question before one person is in there are so many ways to communicate: phone, email, IM, text. It’s not as if not there in person = not available. You may be surprised to find that having each of the four team members start in four half-hour increments may be a superb decision, stretching out the coverage during the day and making for greater efficiency.

      You shouldn’t be a hard ass about this “perk.” It’s small, it will make a good employee happy, and it may well turn out to be a surprisingly effective strategy.

      1. Nodramalama*

        I don’t know it really depends on the job. In my job we get a lot of things come in after 3.30 pm that often need action that day. Often people end up staying much later than 5 to deal with them, so having someone leave earlier than 4 would often be quite problematic

        1. Annony*

          I think this is the key part. At this job, how often will something need immediate action from her in the late afternoon, especially considering she will get to it even earlier than others in the morning.

        2. Snarktini*

          That is a consideration. I had one job that was like this — urgent requests tended to float in around 5pm and since I was the one who stayed the latest I caught all of them. Unlike my colleague who silently vanished out the side door earlier.

          But that was an outlier in my jobs. Right now my collaborative team works across 3 time zones and we make do with 4-5 overlap hours without anyone getting stuck with anything. Because I’m always the late bird my commitment is having my stuff finished and waiting for them in the morning.

      2. Trillian*

        Also, since it sounds like writing is a large part of the job, please make sure that the employee is actually able to DO their work in common working hours.

        I’ve had managers and executives who were all rah-rah-brainstorming, rah-rah-team, but what it meant was constant interruptions from managers and fellow team members, which might work for them but not me. I would come in early to get ahead of that, to get some focussed time in.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yep, 90mins a day of non-collaborative stuff is really not that much. Are you absolutely sure you can’t offer that extra flexibility without harming productivity? If the only downside is you occasionally have to leave them a note or email at 4.30 rather than talking to them, that’s not a very big downside.

      How about offering them 7.30 as standard on the basis that they will flex that if you need more overlap on particular days or weeks?

      1. Squidlet*

        It would be 3 hours of non-collaborative time, because if the employee starts 90 minutes earlier, they will also finish 90 minutes earlier. That said, unless the job requires 5+ hours of collaboration every day, there’s a lot of time for collaboration and meetings.

        One of the work-related reasons OP shared is that a quick turn-around is needed on reviewing / proof-reading colleagues’ work, but if OP finishes something at 5.30pm, there won’t be anyone there to review it. On the other hand, if their employee starts at 7:30am, it will could done by the time they get to the office the next day.

        OP, I do think you’re being a little inflexible on this – maybe not to the extent of being a tyrant! I suggest you explain your concerns to your employee and then give it a try.

        1. Green great dragon*

          But the last 90 minutes is not their working hours… only 90 mins of work time is non-collaboration time for each person (employee in the morning, and OP in the evening).

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            But collaboration is by definition measured at the group level, not the individual level. So the critical measure here is how much collaborative time the group has. And this arrangement sounds like it would result in 3 hours less collaboration time than would otherwise have been available.

            3 hours may be trivial in this business. I don’t know. But I do think that’s the actual unit of time we’re talking about here.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              The 3-hour calculation double-counts hours. It’s saying that since Alice is shifting her hours by 90 minutes and Bob is shifting his hours by 90 minutes, then that’s 3 more hours of non-collaboration time. But it’s counting time that one person or the other wouldn’t be working anyway.

              Look at it this way: if either Alice or Bob shifted their schedule to match the other’s exactly, you’d only gain 90 more minutes of collaboration. You can’t gain 3 hours of collaboration time without making one or the other work more hours.

          2. L.H. Puttgrass*

            Right. If one person works from 7:30 to 4:00 and the other works 9:00 to 5:30, then their shifts overlap from 9:00 to 4:00. Assuming they take lunch breaks at different times, that’s 6 overlapping hours. You only “lose” two hours of collaboration time.

            1. amoeba*

              Yeah, and they could still have lunch at the same time, anyway, I don’t think that really depends on you start time – we usually go for lunch as a group, at 11.45 or so, including people who start at 7.00 and people who start at 9.15 and everything in between.

    3. Anon777*

      Totally agree.

      In my organisation, we had four people in a shared office. One started at 6am, one at 9am and the others in between. The 9am starter finished at 6pm, so we had coverage in the office from 6am to 6pm and everyone was happy with their hours. Nobody minded staying a little late to meet a deadline or finish something up.

      Then the company sold to a new owner. They had a consultant come in and tell us our hours were 7am to 4pm, no exceptions (which is actually illegal in my country where you can request flexible hours for childcare-related reasons and they can’t refuse without a genuine business reason). So now we all work 7-4 and people get frustrated that nobody is available after 4pm. Absenteeism from the one employee who is a parent to multiple young children is high due to a lack of available childcare (there are no long daycare centres, she is relying on family members for care most days but they’re not always available). Nobody is willing to put in a little extra time unless it’s specifically asked/demanded by management. By playing hardball on our hours, they lost out in the end, and there was really no reason it had to be that way.

        1. Tedious Cat*

          Hard agree. This is absolutely the sort of thing people leave jobs over. If you value this employee, OP #2, do something here to show it.

    4. Quinalla*

      I would highly encourage giving it a test run too. Our core hours pre-COVID used to be 10am-3pm, so some worked 6-3, some 10-7, most fell somewhere in the 7-6 range. We have plenty of individual work, so this works well for folks to slot their work time where it works in the lives and where it works with their temperament – morning person/night person/in between. I would try 7:30am and if it doesn’t work, maybe offer 8am to give some flexibility? I’m a morning person and in the new normal, I usually start work ~6am, take a break somewhere around 8-8:30 to wrangle kids to school/summer camp and another ~2:30-3 for pickup and am usually done for the day around 5pm but sometimes even log on in the evening after dinner to take care of something.

      It won’t work for all jobs, but I honestly feel like managers often overestimate the amount of collaboration time really happening in a day and often focus time can be shifted around to make flexibility work.

    5. Mf*

      Agree! Why not have the employee try starting at 8 AM for a while? if that works, they can move their start time to 7:30.

    6. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      Also, OP1 already has some employees starting at 830 and others starting at 930, so there’s already an hour of time where people’s hours don’t overlap.

      OP, I would really encourage you to think about whether your reaction is knee-jerk or well-thought-out. Many people (myself included) are morning people, and are better/sharper earlier than we are later. If you can harness your employee’s natural biorhythms, it will be a net benefit to your workplace.

      Also, having someone in earlier will mean that anything left over from the day before is tackled early, giving additional time for revisions.

    7. Delta Delta*

      I agree with this idea. It could be that employee is able to get a lot of other stuff done in that 7:30-9:00 bubble, and make everyone more productive in the long run. That would still give several hours during the day that the employee is present and working together with others.

    8. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agree on the trial period. The fact that OP is still wondering about the issue suggests that there could be a way to make it work.

      I will say, though, that I wonder what conversations happened when discussing working hours during hiring. Did OP say flexible start times without specifying they meant only between 8:30-9:30? In that case, leaving out that detail is on the OP and they should definitely consider accommodating the request. On the other hand, did the employee agree to certain hours during the hiring process and immediately start asking to change them once hired? If so, OP should still consider the request and a trial period, but I can see why that would raise an eyebrow.

    9. Lab Boss*

      LW could also sit down with the employee to discuss what they’d do during that early time, how they’d handle a meeting later in the day that could only be scheduled past their normal leaving time, etc. and then do the trial run with all that in mind. That’s exactly how our company let my department totally revamp our schedules- I would say 75% of their concerns ended up being non-issues once we tried it, and the other 25% we had already decided how we’d deal with them so they didn’t end up being deal-breaking surprises.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        This sounds like a good plan. Talking though the workload and pace of the day could ease a lot of LW’s concerns. If their employee can slam through a lot of writing/editing/proofing in that hour/hour and a half, that might make it worth the cost in collaboration time.

    10. Gracely*

      Yeah–at the very least, a compromise with an 8am start would be very reasonable.

      I’m not one of those morning working people, but I know plenty who are, and they really do get a lot more done when they can have those hours–just like I get a lot more done when I have later afternoon hours.

  10. Varthema*

    LW2- sounds like the most productive thing to do would be to decide which and how many hours a day you need everyone to be in the office at the same time (presumably taking into account an hour’s lunch in the middle) and then let everyone organize their start and end times around those. It could be as large a window as 9:30-4:30 with only a little wiggle room, or it could be as narrow as 11-2. Obviously the expectation would still be that everyone would work their normal x hours, but they’d be able to plan their lives around making sure that their hours include that window. That makes it seem less like you’re penalizing this one early bird and more just being thoughtful of how you want the office to operate.

    Alternatively, you could let early bird start days at 7:30 on days when she doesn’t have many meetings and could really benefit from that ideally-timed focus, with the expectation that she’d still be open to meetings (maybe even non-standing ones) scheduled later in the day (and on those days would start later as well). That might be too open to issues for some people and workplaces and work just fine for others.

    1. Anony*

      I think the real question is whether this early riser employee not being online in the later afternoon would affect productivity. At my former job I didn’t have an issue with my team coming in up to an hour earlier and leaving an hour earlier, but missing more than the last hour of the day would have been a problem and delayed everyone else.

  11. SunnySunflower*

    I start at 7am, or sometimes earlier because I too work better first thing, and my productivity has dived by about 3pm.We are all different so embrace the difference!
    And do you really need to be collaborating all day? I think it’s more likely that you are just tunnel visioned on this matter. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt and at least trial the early start time,

    1. Nodramalama*

      You could also give LW the benefit of the doubt and believe them when they said that they need people to be collaborating and responding in the same day rather than wait until the morning and then another hour and a half after that when the next person arrives

      1. BL73*

        This. Anytime a manager writes in with an issue, the commentariat is quick to disbelieve them and give the benefit of the doubt to the employee. And when an employee writes in, we’re always told to believe them.

        1. Green great dragon*

          The manager is writing in to request a sense check on their initial reaction. They say ‘Am I thinking about work hours in the right way?’ If we are to take as fact that responses cannot wait 90 mins then why do you think LW wrote in?

      2. Oakwood*

        It’s not an hour and a half, it’s one hour (8:30).

        If the LW changed the morning hours from 8:30-9:30 to 7:30-9:30 he might find he’s got more people coming in earlier than 8:30.

        This still gives him 6 hours of core time, which is a pretty big window.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          They want to start at 7:30 which is an hour and a half. And the current approved window is 8:30 to 9:30 which means if this person starts at 7:30 they are shifted by 2 hours from some other people.

          I think it’s still highly possible that isn’t a problem though! I’m curious how much of the collaboration is spontaneous vs through scheduled meetings. If a lot of it is scheduled the first thing I would do is check through your outlook calendar at past meetings and see how many of them are after 4pm. I would bet it’s not that many of them. Personally I think “I’m not available for meetings after 4” is likely not to be a huge hinderance even on a highly collaborative team. People might even find it beneficial to have a couple of hours of the day blocked off as a “no meetings” time where they can expect to be able to focus without interruption.

    1. Thoughts*

      I just read that post as well as the update. While I have little sympathy for the OP’s actions, I do hope she landed on her feet. Would be great to get another update.

      1. Observer*

        I kind of hope that we get another update – because that’s only going to happen if the OP got a handle on their issues. At no point did she seem to understand how her behavior both past and present (at the time) played into what had happened, and the reaction she got, while sympathetic, was clear. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t like it.

  12. Chris too*

    LW2, I work at a place where a couple of early birds start their days at 06:30, for the same reason. By the time the rest of us straggle in at 07:30 or 8, the early risers have their priorities in order and are getting through a lot of work.

    If somebody feels strongly that they do their best work that early, they truly mean it. I think they get more done in a day than the rest of us because they can effectively *use* the quiet time. Why don’t you let them try?

    1. Allonge*

      If someone feels so strongly that they do their best work that early, then they can find a company where this is not an issue though.

      OP does not need to revamp their entire team’s working method any more than early bird needs to change their circadian rythm. It may just be that they are not a good match for each other.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I’m far from convinced that OP needs to ‘revamp their entire team’s working method’! If that’s the case, sure, she doesn’t have to, she’ll just get sub-optimal productivity from one person. But if what she needs to do is schedule the collaborative work between 9.30 and 3.30, that doesn’t sound too hard?

        1. Allonge*

          I mean – it may or may not be necessary. They are a small, collaborative team, a particular person’s avaialbility almost by definition has a larger impact than it would in a team of 20, with less interaction.

          I am not saying it’s impossible! But everyone who is like ‘oh, what could it hurt / does not sound too hard’ clearly never had to schedule anything remotely the same. It is work and it can have a detrimental effect. And OP will have to judge if that effort is worth it for the happiness of the employee and the higher efficiency.

      2. Lt*

        The flip side is that offering as much flexibility as you reasonably can is a great way of recruiting and retaining talented staff. If it’s not possible to offer any more flexibility that she’s already offering, that’s understandable, but come with the risk of this employee and others seeking that flexibility elsewhere, especially now that flexibility has become a priority for a lot of employees.

        1. Rayray*

          I agree. I worked at one place with flexible start times for a few years and then went somewhere with a strict 9-5. I am now back to flexible start times.

          I don’t ever want to work somewhere with strict hours ever again.

        2. Allonge*

          Sure thing, flexibility is great. It’s just something OP will have to balance out with the (actual, real) needs of the job. A trial period was proposed by some commenters, that would bring out the specific issues.

  13. Nodramalama*

    LW2 I think expecting people to work the same general hours is appropriate for your workplace. It sounds like it would be less of an issue for this person to start early but more there would be several hours in the afternoon they would be off line when their input is needed and probably shouldn’t wait until the next morning.

    I think sometimes people can take a nice to have as an entitlement. Sure, would it be nice for the employee to set their own hours to suit them? Sure, but it’s not an entitlement and it sounds like there are operational needs here that take precedence over a preference

    1. Cat*

      It doesn’t sound like it would be several hours. It sounds like it would be an hour and a half. Maybe OP’s job is unique in that people have to work collaboratively for the entire day, but in the vast majority of office-based jobs, there is a mix of individual work and collaborative work and having slightly staggered hours can be a good thing because it means that there are more total hours in the day when work is getting done.

      1. Nodramalama*

        For my job a LOT of work happens between 3.30 and 5.30. Many clients realise they have issues in the afternoon and most of them don’t finish work at 3.30. Having someone always gone for that time period would often cause issues. I think if LW thinks that not having someone in the office after 3.30 every day is an issue operationally we should take them at their word.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. My colleague complains when people bring us post to be franked at 3pm when our cut-off is 3.15. But you know what? People don’t come out to us for every letter. They bundle it up, bring it out all at once before our posted deadline, and that’s why it’s all hands on deck between 3 and 3.30 to get the post done for collection at 3.40.

          It’s not surprising!

        2. Lt*

          Your experience is far from universal. OP did ask if she should change how she’s thinking about this and recognizes that she did change her thinking about remote work and it turned out ok, so I don’t think it’s inappropriate for people to suggest that OP should think about it and maybe test it out.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. My work isn’t like that, and having one person shift their hours a bit but still being available during core business hours is common and a non-issue.

          2. nodramalama*

            LW is saying that they believe there are operational requirements that requires late afternoon collaboration. Many people in the commentariate are assuming that isnt accurate. I am giving an example of when it is

            1. pancakes*

              Not necessarily. My experience on teams that have been flexible this way is that the people who prefer an early start are balanced by people who come in later and stay later. This balance may be trickier to find on a small team but it’s not inherently impossible. If it seems feasible here they can give it a trial period.

        3. KRM*

          It really sounds like your particular job could use staggering so that you have people working until 6 (or later). Most jobs aren’t like this. Yes many require a certain amount of collaboration and help. But sounds like OP could let this employee come in early and be very productive without really affecting anything. The references in the letter to changing their mind about WFH productivity and also wanting staff “available while *I’m* working” makes it sound like for sure there is flexibility there if they’d just try it out for a while. Maybe OP will find that although they have a bunch of stuff that needs attention at the end of the day when people are gone, the new employee will come in early, bang that out in 30′, and then move on to new stuff because they work so well in the AM.

          1. Allonge*

            I think that is a good point: a trial period will also show what the increased productivity looks like from the employee and if it’s worth it overall.

          2. nodramalama*

            Not really. most of the work I do can’t be done in isolation- we need to be checking in with our co-workers or escalating so staggering wouldn’t work.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – likely the information didn’t get through about what your compensation expectations were. It could also be that the organization is used to people taking a pay cut to join them (I worked for a company like that once. It was odd). Or perhaps they didn’t understand that your base salary in no way equates to your total compensation (eg. if you have a big bonus potential or commissions) – it’s amazing how people will get fixated on a number and then fail to understand that the number they are fixated on is only a part of the whole figure.

    It could also be that the hiring manager or their recruitment team thinks that you inflated your current compensation (people often do), or they may think you set your salary expectations with the idea that you would negotiate to a mutually agreeable figure, when in fact you put your actual salary expectations.

    It could also be that the original compensation range was one you fit into but that the compensation range was reduced due to some budget constraint, and people just plain forgot that you were expecting $X.

    So, lots of possibilities. It pays off to clarify compensation expectations at the outset, and then to revisit them with the appropriate person (HR, or the hiring manager) during the process. That way, there aren’t any surprises at the end.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I suspect the second para is true. They hoped they could persuade OP to take the a salary they could offer. Like all the estate agents (erm, realtors in American?) who persist in showing houses just above the budget we gave them, and then getting slightly offended when the negotiations fail because it turns out the budget we gave them was our actual budget.

      1. Antilles*

        The thing is though, a lot of people *do* list their salary expectations higher than their actual budget, figuring there will be some back-and-forth negotiation so it gives you some float room to move down if needed…and every so often, the company will just straight up accept your higher number which cool.

  15. CanIretireYet?*

    1. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up reading how Jane’s company keeps reaching out to recruit OP. I see that as a red flag and that OP should steer clear completely. Jane could be plotting to ruin your career and your life in general. I base that on what she did to you in the past. She hasn’t offered any apologies. It’s already a game of “poke until OP responds”. It’s a control game and now Jane has more control than she probably ever has to bully people. I’d personally send one more reply saying “as I stated previously, thanks but no thanks” then just start ignoring the requests.

    From my personal experience, childhood bullies don’t change for the better. If they have never experienced consequences for their behavior, over the years, they’ve become emboldened to be even more conniving and abusive.

    I was on Facebook for just a short time a decade ago. The person who bullied me from seventh grade through senior year, sent me friend requests again, and again, and again. I was able to read some of what she had posted on her page and quickly came to the conclusion she had not changed except to become even more emboldened and self righteous in her bullying. Eventually, I blocked her and then shortly after, disabled my facebook account altogether. The combination of her constantly wanting to be Facebook friends followed by stalking by other former classmates who then started sharing personal information, triggered my PTSD. It’s not worth all that stress to engage in any form or way with someone who has horrifically abused you in the past.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think it’s helpful to the OP to make up improbable scenarios about Jane, with whom she has had no contact for 25 years, trying to ruin her life. Is it really so unbelievable that OP is great at their job and this company wants them? Or that it’s a hard to fill role?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This right here.

        The repeated offers are a bit weird and might be a yellow flag–I remember a letter where OP had turned down an offer because they didn’t think they could fix that dumpster fire, but the people in the dumpster fire kept saying “When OP comes, this will all be better!” But maybe it’s a niche role and OP is local with a great rep, and so they offer it to her every time just in case. That someone in the company is plotting revenge via job offer hoping to pick up where they left off several decades back when everyone involved was literally a child is… not the most likely scenario here.

      2. Just… no*

        I would normally agree, but I had something similar happen. I asked enough questions to ascertain that I wouldn’t have to work with the person I wanted to avoid and I took the job. (Not a childhood bully, but a former friend who was unbelievably cruel when my daughter died, so I was no longer willing to have her in my life.) I took the job, all was well, and then 6 months later my boss (who recruited me) was laid off in a RIF sweep.

        My new boss, who had recruited my former friend, immediately showed no confidence in me. Hired someone new above me and functionally demoted me. She had never worked with me, and I had a good record at the company of many years. (This was an internal recruitment, not an external one) It was such a blow to my morale. I was baffled.

        Then the person who was hired above me sang my praises to me new boss. Said he couldn’t do any of it without me. All of a sudden her opinion of me changed, and she ended up being my biggest champion.

        I asked her, one day, why she was so skeptical of my abilities to start with. She told me sheepishly that when I transferred to their team when my original boss recruited me, my former friend trash-talked me like crazy. …. In retrospect, I’m not surprised. She is the type of person who would be so scared I would speak negatively of her that she would try to preemptively poison the waters against me. (I never mentioned our history to anyone.) But, anyway, that’s all to say —— OP should just stay away and say nothing. You have no reason to believe your bully has grown up to anything other than a bully.

        1. Observer*

          The difference here is that your former friend didn’t embark on some plot to destroy you. When an opportunity fell in her lap, she took it. And, as you say, the reason was probably because she was trying to “protect” herself in a twisted way.

          I’m not saying that OP should take the job. But while it’s IMPOSSIBLE that Jane is trying to destroy the OP’s like, it’s a highly unlikely scenario. And fundamentally different from what you experienced.

          PS I am so sorry for your loss, and that you wound up stuck dealing with someone like that.

          1. Just… no*

            True. I definitely don’t think there is a plot afoot. Just that until she has seen differently, she shouldn’t assume the childhood bully has changed and shouldn’t assume she wouldn’t seize on an opportunity to try to hurt OP. And thank you. I appreciate your kind words. I often remind myself how sad it would be to be the person who feels compelled to do such things to “protect” herself. And, to be frank, after my daughter died, this sort of thing matters so much less.

    2. Nodramalama*

      This seems very speculative and pretty unhelpful.

      Also frankly it’s not true that childhood bullies don’t change. Plenty of bullies are bullies because they’re insecure jerks, they don’t know how to regulate their emotions and lash out, or stuff is going on at home. It doesn’t make it any nicer for the victims of bullying but plenty of bullies do in fact grow out of it.

    3. Different name now?*

      OP may be married with a different last name. Jane may not even know who she is.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Or if it’s a common enough name, Jane might not have clicked that “Alex Smith” is the same one from school. And even though she’s in HR, it’s possible she’s not actively involved with recruiting for that job and hasn’t even seen the resume.

    4. Silver Leaf*

      I’m sorry you had such a difficult experience, but this level of catastrophising is really unhelpful and inappropriate. Most likely Jane doesn’t even remember the OP. Jane isn’t the one contacting OP about a job, and there is precisely zero evidence that she is in any way involved. It would be super-strange for an HR person to repeatedly insist that their company contact someone and offer them a job in this way – that isn’t happening.

    5. BRR*

      This is a huge leap. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates Jane has so much thought about the LW in over 25 years. We also don’t know if Jane is aware of people trying to recruit the lw.

    6. JustKnope*

      This is a wild overreaction to the facts presented here. It is far more likely that OP is just a talented professional that this company wants to have work for them. It’s a lot of outreach but it’s way speculative to think Jane even remembers OP or would try to bring childhood dynamics into adulthood.

  16. voyager1*

    LW1: I am going to kinda disagree with AAM. If you really want to tell someone, tell Jane herself. Tell her that that you will not work for the company as long as she is working there and to stop contacting you. She is in HR she should be able to get the contact to stop.

    But to be honest, there is a chance Jane may not even remember you if this bullying was when you were a very young age… which would make you look like a weirdo.

    Also even if this happened in high school, bullies many times forget how they made someone feel. NPR did an awesome episode on Talk Of The Nation about this 10-12 years ago. It was really interesting how bullies and bullying victims go through life and process those events over time.

    I agree with AAM that reporting Jane is going to come off as really weird.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      In the UK, it’s just come up as a storyline on a soap opera – this one character (George) was bullied in high school, hadn’t seen the bully (Frank) for years, and now one of his friends (Sean) has just introduced him to his new man, and it’s the same person. George is going out of his way to avoid Frank, hasn’t raised it with Sean, George’s partner Eileen is aware but has only seen a charming side to Frank and feels like it’s a bit of a fuss about nothing. Frank gives the impression that he was really pleased to see George again and remembers them as friends.

  17. Re*

    LW2 – I agree that it depends on the specifics and industry, but 1.5 hours does not seem like a huge differential in the grand scheme of the day. Examine the actual facts – how much work comes in during the last hour or so? How often do you really need to be proofreading work in that timeframe? And do you have to have it edited then, or could it just wait until the employee comes in at 7:30 the next day and knocks it out?

    I’ve often worked different hours from my bosses due to school start times and childcare needs (which is just a giant cluster here in the States). As a freelancer and contractor in the editorial disciplines currently, it really doesn’t matter when I proofread something as long as I turn it around in 24 hours. Consider if your work really needs that time, or if it’s just a preference borne of long habit and practice.

  18. Sharpie*

    LW2 – maybe offer to try her preferred hours as an experiment for a set time, perhaps a month or two? With the caveat that if it doesn’t work out, she will start at eight (or whenever your earliest start time is otherwise). It may be that there is work she can complete tht doesn’t require others to review it afterwards, which she can do in that time before other people start – obviously we can’t say that is or is not the case from here.

    Be as flexible as you can be as a manager, without turning into a doormat and letting people do as they please… But there is awide range of things between here and doormat stage!!

    1. JSPA*

      Yes, or at least, 8, so that the people who start at 8:30 can have half an hour to get their own morning thoughts jotted down, before doing timely feedback on the early bird.

      I do worry that an early bird will (otherwise) get to set the agenda to a disproportionate degree, because they’re items and responding to their items always take time priority. But the same could be said for whomever is on the latest flex shift; their last contribution or edits will roll over to morning.

      If the workplace is overall functional and not too territorial, having new eyes at 8, 8:30, 9, 9:30, 10 could be a good thing.

    2. Riot Grrrl*

      I agree with this. And also agree with the month or two timeframe. Obviously it depends on your industry and your particular business, but in my experience one week often isn’t enough time to judge workflow issues–invariably that week will be the one week it’s unusually slow with no overlap in work.

      1. urguncle*

        If she absolutely can’t be that flexible, there’s no reason to write in for advice.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        But she didn’t say that. She’s asking about it. She’s considering that she was wrong about WFH, so she might be wrong about this. If the employee starts at 7:30, she and OP will still have about 6 hours of overlap in their respective workdays. That might be enough time for the collaboration the team needs.

        I think the suggestions of giving it a trial run of 2-4 weeks are on point. Someone above also suggested that OP talk through the plan with the employee, and organize workflow and agree on contingencies for issues they expect to crop up.

  19. Avi?*

    For #1, outright naming Jane as the problem is a no-go, but if the company’s being this persistent I would definitely be inclined to get specifically non-specific with them. Something like, ‘I have an extremely negative personal history with someone in your management structure (or just ‘one of your employees’ to obscure it further) and do not want to come into contact with them. As such, I will not be able to accept a position with your company for the foreseeable future.’ If they push for specifics, tell them that it’s not really any of their concern as your decision is final.

    1. Anon all day*

      Sorry to pick on this particular comment, but I’m just really surprised by all of the people suggesting this. If I got this response from a potential candidate, I would be pretty alarmed by it. It’s just so weird. And I would want further info, but OP wouldn’t give it (understandably!), so it would just be so odd and off putting.

      1. SoloKid*

        I agree. The comment upthread which suggested “I’m happy where I am now.” is what I would say.

      2. Sylvan*

        Yeah. I would definitely not say this. What is someone who hears about “an extremely negative personal history” with an unnamed person supposed to do with that? What might they assume the negative personal history is, and what kind of concerns would arise?

        If I were OP, I would say I was happy in my current position and not looking for a new role. And it’s unlikely, but if they ever get a new job and get asked why they said they were happy before, they could say the new job came along unexpectedly and they couldn’t pass it up.

        1. Sylvan*

          * they could say they *were* happy — but the new job came along unexpectedly and they couldn’t pass it up.

  20. Early Bird*

    #2: I work 7:15-4:15 and have no trouble collaborating with my co-workers during the day. Once or twice in the beginning I had to stay late (circa 20 minutes) because a co-worker didn’t know I went home early but now they’ve all gotten used to it.

    We’re all different, but if I were forced to come in as late(!) as 8:30 and stay until 5:30, I wouldn’t get home until after 6. I’d also start looking for a new job ASAP.

    1. KRM*

      Yeah I’m quite an early bird, so I’m in at 7:15. I’ve never had an issue with meetings, or collaboration, or anything. And it’s preferable because I can knock out experiments that require shared equipment before anyone gets in, which is good for everyone! If I was told I had to start work at 8:30 and stay later, for sure I’d be furious and would be finding a new job as well. No matter how much collaboration your job may require, there also has to be time for people to work on their own (to check things! to produce things that others check!) and if this person works best in the early morning, OP for sure needs to give them that chance.

    2. Rayray*

      I’m also an early bird as is most of my department. Our office is in a location that while central to many areas where people live, it’s also not exactly close to many people so most of us have 20+ minute commutes. We come in early to avoid traffic congestion. There are a few though that come in much later. I know all offices are different but many offices and teams function just fine so long as everyone has a few core hours they’re all working the same time and if people remain consistent with their schedules.

  21. Karia*

    “people’s default response to someone sharing that kind of thing from so long ago is often to feel it’s overblown and/or out of line.”

    Interesting. I wouldn’t. Bullying ruins lives and is now acknowledged as a potential cause of complex PTSD. Obviously I wouldn’t fire anyone over being a childhood bully, but I’d certainly take it as an understandable and sensible reason not to want to work with someone. (The infamous Rockstar letter comes to mind).

    1. Luna*

      As a former bully victim myself, I can agree that it can lead to lasting trauma. That can’t be removed.
      Another part of me does think that you should not cling so much to what happened X-ty years ago in school, a time that many people didn’t care for, and have mostly forgotten once they enter the adult working world.

      1. Karia*

        You don’t ‘cling to’ trauma. That’s not how it works, it’s not voluntary. Like I say I find it fascinating that the responses to:

        “I didn’t get a job because I was a bully”


        “I don’t want to work with my childhood bully”

        Are so radically different.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          ‘I say I find it fascinating that the responses to: “I didn’t get a job because I was a bully” And “I don’t want to work with my childhood bully” Are so radically different.’

          I would certainly react differently to each. Someone who has realised that they were a bully has come a long way and is probably working through a sense of remorse. Whereas there is no indication whether Jane even has OP on her radar here.

          1. Raboot*

            They’re different because the situations are different. Responses are advice to the OP based on realistic options available to them, not “here’s what we wish would happen”.

          2. Observer*

            I think you should read that letter. The situations were very different – and that OP was actually NOT working through a sense of remorse.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Just coming back to say yes, wow, I’ve just read that whole sorry tale and the even sorrier update… it takes a special kind of obtuseness to blame everything on your victim like that. I always assumed victim-blamers are just putting on an act, but in fact that OP has a particularly warped vision and self-awareness that’s close to non-existent.
              I had no idea I’d be needing that much popcorn today!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree with both of these points. Whenever bullying comes up here, it seems that some past victims have made sure to carry on the bully’s work through their adult lives–the bully might literally have died a decade ago, and they are still hunkered down reliving it. I was bullied. Pretty badly. I even got an apology from someone (whom I didn’t remember at all) when they tracked me down for the first reunion and I didn’t want to go–their argument was that people had changed* and I did believe that–not enough to put myself back in the gym with them, but enough that if they hadn’t called I would have continued to leave that stuff in the past.

        As a child I learned to go silent in the face of anger, because it was the only choice I had at home. As someone in my 20s I worked hard to overcome that pattern, because it was not fair to the (completely different) adults with whom I interacted to default into my scared-12 role.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          * I recently ran across a charming example of this. In high school this one kid had been really into yo-yos, and many people mocked him for it. At the reunion, someone asked the guy if he still was into yo-yos, the guy pulled out his custom-made yo-yo and did a bunch of complicated tricks, and everyone clapped and high-fived him and thought it was cool to be passionate about something and really hone your abilities that way. Between age 17 and 27, turned out people had matured a lot, and handled things differently than they had as children.

        2. Riot Grrrl*

          As someone in my 20s I worked hard to overcome that pattern, because it was not fair to the (completely different) adults with whom I interacted to default into my scared-12 role.

          I want to acknowledge and commend you for this. As a manager for 25 years now who has also gone through lots of therapy, it’s excruciatingly obvious when an employee is working out some sort of past trauma on me or on their coworkers. This sort of self-development is all too rare.

        3. Sylvan*

          I agree with you and I appreciate your comment. I’ve been having trouble putting my thoughts into words.

          Dealing with past bullying is difficult, whether the bullying was anything from a bad time to capital-T Trauma, but we don’t have to continue self-defense forever.

        4. quill*

          I think the main problem is the vast range of what is covered under bullying. Some people went to school and were never happy. Some people thought at some point that they were going to die. Some people endured a finite amount of time or from only one peer, for others it was all encompassing. Some people had their problems compounded by many of society’s -isms, or bullying by authority figures, or contributing health problems, physical or mental. For some people escape was almost instant post-graduation.

          I could go on, but the main issue I am seeing in the comments section is people who think “let it go” is a helpful comment because recovery is a good goal, but don’t acknowledge that it takes a different amount of work for different people in different circumstances, and people who think that those who angrily point out to them that if you don’t add the context that this is not necessarily something you can achieve by putting it on your to-do list for next week you’re not helping are invalidating people who have managed some degree of recovery.

          Generally speaking: if you shake it off quickly and easily the event may have been traumatic but you may not have suffered a traumatic injury from it. If later you achieved the ability to not have it affect your life? That’s recovery, forgiveness, something else, not “let it go.”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think variations on “you need to let it go” can also reflect experience. That for people who have moved on from a bad time in their past–years of middle school bullying, an abusive family of origin, that really dumb year when they were 24, an addiction–the change came from within. Whether that was a mental trick of compartmentalizing or a few years of therapy, it was not some outside factor coming and freeing them at last and lifting them out of their rut of repeating the same pattern.

            That can be compatible with skipping all your high school reunions, living on the other side of the country from your siblings, not taking a job at ACME corp where Cersei works, not watching musical comedies that remind you of someone, not loaning your car to any relatives, or whatever other boundaries make you comfortable now. It’s less “you should just shrug and move on,” more “do not hunker in this rut reliving this pattern when the people who first set it up aren’t even around any more–the only person who can shift this pattern is you.”

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            I could go on, but the main issue I am seeing in the comments section is people who think “let it go” is a helpful comment because recovery is a good goal, but don’t acknowledge that it takes a different amount of work for different people in different circumstances, and people who think that those who angrily point out to them that if you don’t add the context that this is not necessarily something you can achieve by putting it on your to-do list for next week you’re not helping are invalidating people who have managed some degree of recovery.

            This is so well said I had to quote the whole thing.

      3. quill*

        Again, the degree to which bullying impacts someone is multifactored and the progress of people’s recovery is different.

        Just as you wouldn’t tell someone who has chronic fatigue after a long battle with cancer that they shouldn’t cling to the trauma or physical effects of a medical condition they thought might kill them 20 years ago because your tumor and it’s removal stopped causing you issues within the year, don’t tell people in the same breath that something causes trauma and that they shouldn’t “cling” to what happened.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I think both though– the trauma of bullying is absolutely real, but I’m not sure there’s any reason for trauma which wouldn’t be extremely disconcerting to receive in a “I cannot take this job because” email. “because the person who sexually assaulted me / my abusive family member / the things I saw during my tour in the Gulf War” would also be disconcerting.

      I don’t know whether that’s how it should be– I don’t know if a society more at ease with talking about mental health and more trauma-informed would cope with that better or whether we’d still feel that it wasn’t appropriate in this context. But I don’t think believing that this is too much for a polite work rejection email necessarily means thinking that teenage bullying is trivial or not a genuine source of trauma.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think it feels inappropriate *because* it’s not trivial. It’s not a good idea to unload serious trauma on, essentially, a stranger who didn’t ask for it. It’s too intimate, too personal, and you don’t know what that person may be dealing with themself. If it was actionable in some way (say, one worked there and an accomodation or reorg was requested because of the trauma), that would be one thing, but just like that out of the blue… no.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      This discussion has caused me to think about some scenarios I’d never considered, like:

      How would I react if I got a letter from someone I wanted to hire telling me that someone else in the firm had bullied them seriously badly at school?

      Because as someone with more mental problems than limbs, some of which caused by trauma in my past, I’d be having my ‘oh dear goddess no I cannot ever forgive a bully’ meltdown.

      But as a professional and a manager I’d be more into a Spock eyebrow moment, a mental note to not hire this person or reach out to them so they don’t encounter more trauma, a quiet note to HR that this person really does not want to work here, and their letter probably even shredded because that’s way too much personal information to have round the office. (Or if email, deleted. Privacy regulations. Actually I need to go refresh my knowledge on that. BRB, chatting to our data protection officer)

      1. Old Admin*

        Keymaster, as a person who suffered trauma and has *partly* risen above it, I would say your response is well thought out and very interesting!
        Switching the point of view in this question (what if an applicant mentioned a bully at *your* company) is smart, and hard, and enlightening. That’s a big jump in personal growth and wisdom in my book.
        I need to do that kind of abstraction more myself. :-)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I’ll be honest – I’ve done more time in therapy than in server rooms, you pick stuff up :)

          Won’t say I’ll ever get over what was done to me, nor will I ever stop hating the people who did it, but at least I have some ‘buffers’ in the head these days that (mostly) help slow down and logic through the panic.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      It’s not that it isn’t a sensible or understandable reason – it’s more that it’s a lot of very personal detail. If I miss work because of a graphic medical condition, I just need to say I’m not well, I do not need to give all the gory, blow by blow details. Here, all LW has to do, is to say she doesn’t want the job! That’s all they actually need to know. It’s very pushy of them to require more, but if she wants to go along with explaining herself, the farthest she can go really is “personal reasons” or “Oh I have a personal past connection with an employee, but don’t want to get into the details.” When you’re an unknown quantity, the more discreet and to the point you are the better.

      1. Karia*

        I agree it’s a lot of personal detail, and not something I would do. Oversharing is often a sign of untreated trauma as well. I also recognise that a very key difference in the Rockstar letter was that she was a well established known entity with a stellar reputation.

        I just find it interesting that the majority response there was “Of course she doesn’t want to work with her childhood bully” whereas today’s comments have a different feel.

        1. pancakes*

          Do they? I haven’t read them all yet but I haven’t encountered anyone saying the letter writer should take this job and simply try to keep the bullying out of mind.

        2. Anon all day*

          But I don’t see anyone here saying OP should work at the company. The comments are different because the OP is thinking about taking revenge against the bully.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            There are a few comments saying that being unable to work with someone for personal reasons is unprofessional, and folks should be able to let it go. Those comments are getting a lot of pushback.

        3. MsM*

          I think the biggest key difference is that if Rockstar didn’t speak up and make it clear the hiring would potentially be a dealbreaker, there was a very real chance she’d be stuck with the LW as a colleague. Today’s LW doesn’t actually need to do anything to prevent that outcome here: the recruitment pitches may be annoying or even uncomfortable, but the company can’t kidnap them and chain them to a desk if they just ignore them or say “no thank you” without further elaboration. (Which doesn’t mean they can’t be a little firmer in saying “no, really, this is not some kind of negotiating tactic; if I change my mind, I’ll call you, but please stop reaching out,” but they still shouldn’t need to explain that further to have it respected.)

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Not only did Rockstar have the relationships and capital to make a personal disclosure, her wishes were relevant to the hiring decision, were something her bosses could act on, and would do so willingly! Oversharing isn’t unprofessional when it gets a job done. However if you’re today’s OP, the conversation might get sympathy but it would very awkwardly end in a whole lot of nothing being able to be said or done to express it.

        4. Observer*

          Well, to be honest, most people seem to be just fine with the OP not wanting to work with their past tormentor. What they are pushing back on is the idea that it’s a good idea to tell the company that. Two different things.

          Also, in the “rock-star” case, the history was a lot more fresh. And it turns out that the OP had a LOT of growing up to do, as well.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I think it depends on what the person hearing it has as their own expriences. Many of us tend to read things in light of our own experiences. If somebody has been severely bullied or had a friend or family member who was, they are more likely to take it seriously. If they had a few people at school who were mean to them on occasion but looking back, it’s something they can shrug off or if they have acquaintences who take everything as a slight, as in the story of the cheap ass rolls, they may assume the letter-writer is somebody like this.

      Bullying can definitely ruin lives but there are also people who think they are being bullied when somebody doesn’t do what they want – when one of my cousins was about ten, she informed me of all the times she’d been bullied, which included a friend called her a nasty name in an argument and her big sister wouldn’t let her play with her when her friends came over. Now, she WAS about 10 and I’m sure she doesn’t think those things were bullying now she’s an adult, but if the hiring manager had a sibling or somebody who was complaining about being bullied for reasons like that, they may well underestimate what is meant by bullying.

      And also, there ARE some adults who seem to think that nothing that happens in childhood matters. I think they are getting less common, but they definitely exist. Or who think bullying “toughens you up”.

      Without knowing the hiring manager’s views or experiences, it’s hard to know if they are somebody who’d be sympathetic and concerned or whether they are somebody who would dismiss it as “still whining because somebody teased them a bit in grade school” or any of the many options in between. A lot of people have little or no understanding of childhood trauma and how it affects people. Heck, I know people who think somebody is overreacting if they are upset when the trauma is happening, let alone years later.

    6. Observer*

      Bullying ruins lives and is now acknowledged as a potential cause of complex PTSD.

      True. But not really relevant. For one thing, you have no idea of the truth of the matter. Especially since the word gets used waaay too broadly.

      And on top of that, there are still plenty of people who don’t see bullying as THAT big of a problem unless the bully is doing literally illegal stuff.

      So, the OP doesn’t know who their letter is going to land.

  22. Greige*

    OP 2: Assuming you do the thinking Alison suggests and conclude it’s really necessary to keep the short window of flexibility for your staff, could you find out whether anyone on your team is actually starting at 9:30? If not, maybe you could meet your employee half way and let her start at 8? The window is the same length, it would just be earlier, and you could still start at 9 like you do now.
    When I ask my team for input on what they would like, I’m often surprised. That’s why I ask. Maybe no one wants to start that late. Maybe more people would appreciate an early start.

  23. Helvetica*

    LW#3 – my organisation (and my career in general) has a very high expectation of being always available, i.e. people reply to things immediately and are super reactive. I thrive in this environment, however, I am also careful to draw lines where I see fit and how they suit with my work. For example, vacation time is sacred and I will not read e-mails; I will not apologise if sometimes my response is delayed and while I check my e-mail notifications at night, I do not reply if it can wait until morning (usually it can). I have colleagues who do all of that but I don’t let it get to me.

    My main point is that even in a culture of constant availability, you can and should draw your own boundaries. Unless it is otherwise a terrible place, being matter of fact about it and pre-empting people’s expectations of your availability, should be enough.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      As a senior person, OP could blaze a trail in the direction of not apologizing for not reading the email until their out-of-office said they would read the email. Normalize holding boundaries around time off, particularly for things that did not need an immediate response.

  24. Riley and Jonesy*

    OP it doesn’t sound like your office is the kind of situation where collaboration is imperative all minutes of the day (say like a dentist and dental assistant) so I’d let them have the earlier start as long as there are core hours.
    I’m an ‘extreme lark’ – totally awake and buzzing at 5am. By 3pm my energy really starts to dip. So 9-5 would feel sluggish to me and I’m glad my managers are ok with me starting early.

  25. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1: I’m thinking that your bully is perhaps the person responsible for the many times this company has reached out to you. Either because she wants to continue to torture you, or because she’s heard you’re great and remembers you from school, but doesn’t remember bullying you. This is very often what happens: the bully is just “having a bit of fun” and often doesn’t realise just how hard it is for the person they bully.
    I find it really weird that they reach out to you that often, unless you’re that total rock star in your field and it’s a real niche.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Honestly, that’s kind of a reach. Just because Jane works in HR doesn’t mean she has anything to do with recruitment or hiring, and the notion of her deliberately manipulating the whole recruitment/hiring process just to antagonize someone she hasn’t seen for 25 years is a plot right out of a bad movie.

      It would be far better for OP to politely cut ties with this company and get on with her life and working through her feelings in whatever manner works best for her, rather than dwelling on highly improbable “what if”s.

      FTR I was bullied severely in junior high, to the point of being suicidal at one point, and the adults in my life who were supposed to protect me were completely useless, so I fully understand OP’s feelings.

      1. irene adler*

        There might be something to what RebelwithMouseyHair writes. The bullying experience – from the bully’s point of view- may be recalled with fondness or with positive feelings. After all, it was fun for the bully.

        I do agree, there is small likelihood this is to continue the bullying. Rather, it’s might be to bring on someone ‘known’ to the company who has the desired skills. And maybe have the opportunity to recall those fond childhood memories. Not all bullies recognize the harm they did to their victims. And the OP is under no obligation to find that out.

        And yes, just keep rejecting the advances. Life is too short to knowingly endure discomfort from working with a childhood bully. There is better out there.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I agree with the part about possibly remembering OP in a fond “oh yeah, we went to school together, used to kid around” way. But I doubt Jane has anything to do with trying to recruit OP multiple times–she would be the lead contact if that were the case. “Someone in HR insists that we keep making job offers to this one woman over and over” is not really how recruiting engineers to the robotics lab works.

      And I truly believe the number of high school bullies who a) remember themselves as a bully b) intend to pick up at 51 where they left off at 15, and expect that to work with adults, is vanishingly small. 40 year olds just do not sit around remembering how, at 15, they were really horrible bullies, and tormented certain people, and lovingly polishing the memory, and then sending out some psychic brain waves to torment the victims some more.

    3. metadata minion*

      That’s hypothetically possible, but really unlikely and honestly not a great thing for the LW to get stuck in their head. Reaching out that many times is kind of weird, but it seems so much more likely that it’s some combination of a pushy (but not evil!) recruiting department, a tight job market, and the LW being a genuinely stellar candidate. I also agree with someone upthread who pointed out that since the LW would otherwise love to take the job, the interviewers may be picking up on that and figuring that maybe *this* time the have the perfect offer.

  26. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP2: you could very well suggest a compromise, say an 8 o’clock start? You’ll see whether the new hire is productive or not, and you’ll see whether her clocking off earlier is a problem or not. Then you can adjust either to 7.30 if you see that the new hire is amazingly productive in the mornings, or 8.30 if you realise that you often need to have late afternoon meetings.

    When my previous boss decided to shut down our office and make us WFH, my colleague asked to work from 8.30 to 4.30 instead of 9-5, and her manager said no, 4.30 is too early. There were zero late-afternoon meetings, we worked completely independently (proof being that head office tended to forget about our existence). If anything it was better that she finished earlier, that way she’d hand her work in just before leaving and the PM would have time to check the work and deliver to the client before finishing their own 9-5 shift.
    I had been hoping to have more flexible hours if I had to WFH, like taking a long lunch and going for a swim, then working later into the evening, but I realised if they were that petty with my colleague, they wouldn’t be kind to me. They ended up having to make me redundant and pay me my full severance.
    And I heard that they were having trouble finding someone to replace me, he he.

  27. L-squared*

    #1. I guess I’m confused. Is Jane reaching out to you directly? Do you know for a fact she even knows they are reaching out to you? If the answer to both of these is no, then I’m not sure why you are involving her in this at all. You are basically trying to blackmail her to get the company to stop doing something, when she may not even be involved. I don’t know why “I’m not interested, please stop asking” isn’t your go to instead of reaching out to Jane. And you say you don’t want her punished, but that isn’t really what it sounds like. If nothing else its the type of soap opera thing where someone threatens to “show people who you really are”, but I’m just not seeing why you are putting her in this at all.

    #2. This does sound a bit too controlling to me. If you already have people coming in an hour before theoretically the last person may come in, and presumably leaving an hour before too, I’m not seeing what another hour will hurt. Also, that is still a good 6 hours of overlap. I guess I’m not clear on the specifics of the job, but it seems that most things can likely be prioritized in those 6 hours. Also, is the whole team getting 3 days of work from home? If they are, and things manage to get done that way, I’m not really seeing how allowing this for an employee is some kind of massive challenge.

  28. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I don’t think the company is going to think they have done anything wrong. Assuming you already have a job, they have no reason to believe you are anxious to move on. Just “I’m happy where I am at the moment, thanks,” explains it perfectly neatly. Apart from anything else, taking a new job is always a chance (you might not get on with your manager, you might not do the work as well as you do your current work, there might be parts of the culture of that company that you didn’t know about that you would be unhappy with, etc) and not everybody is willing to take those chances even if there is an offer of higher salary or benefits. Or you could be in the middle of a project you want to see through. I doubt most companies would assume “we must have done something wrong if one candidate would prefer to remain where they are.”

    1. Mary Jane*

      The only thing I wonder about is their persistence in offering her the job. Is it because OP 1 hasn’t given a firm “no”, or indicative of a culture issue at the company? Either way I think OP does need to give a firmer rejection. Something like “I have no plans to accept an offer with company A for the foreseeable future and I think it would be best for you to focus your recruitment efforts on other candidates.” Eh, maybe not that last part. Just something that says “I’m not saying yes even if you keep asking so please stop.”

      1. quill*

        It’s possible that the position is in demand / they are hiring for multiple identical positions and every “no” has been read as “no to this particular listing. Wait, didn’t you ask me about this job 6 months ago?”

  29. let me be dark and twisty*

    LW 3 – I wonder if the constant availability is at the request of managers from other departments or previous leadership? It’s definitely a trait of toxic leadership somewhere in the organization. Since it sounds like your manager is on the same page as you wrt the constant availability, definitely keep them apprised of any conversations you have with others about it in case they need to intervene and course-correct others’ expectations, especially if those “concerns” are coming from other senior-level staff above you.

    My former boss was like this so it makes me wonder if there is an external factor forcing your colleagues to operate in this manner. She demanded constant availability from our team at a rate that no one else in our organization expected and it caused a few problems that eventually led to other managers from other teams intervening since they were starting to affect results.

  30. Early Riser Sympathasizer*

    LW 2, please reconsider if there’s any way this actually does make sense to accommodate, or even if you can flex the time for this person to start at 8AM instead of 8:30AM. I share that person’s schedule and am truly at my absolute best from about 7AM-11AM and am really just useless as the day approaches 5PM. I’ve explained to people before I would truly rather begin work at 3AM than work after 5PM. I’m just not sharp then.

    I’m not saying there aren’t real reasons to have everyone align, but I guess the question is how often are you really meeting and collaborating in the last hour of the day that isn’t an emergency? And when people need to review each other’s work, can it be waiting in her inbox for her to start the next morning at 7:30?

    I’ve had so many jobs where I was told an early start wouldn’t work even if I (exempt positions) actually agreed to work more hours than everyone else. And I was always told there were legit reasons for this but they never seemed that real in the job.

    1. KRM*

      I’m the same way. I work OK up till about 2. I can read some stuff and plan for the next day after that, but I really do my best work and get a lot done from 7:30-1:30. If I had to work until 5, I’d be miserable and slow and probably would have to redo a lot of stuff.
      Example: I did some math for an experiment before I left at 3:30 yesterday. Today I came in, looked at it, and immediately thought “nope that’s all wrong for the best way to do this” and had to redo it all.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m similar. Especially when I’m WFH, I’m usually at my desk by 7.30, often earlier. I can work past 3 when I’m working a tight deadline, but more than occasionally would burn me out fairly quickly. Luckily my job doesn’t require much oversight or synchronous collaboration. My closest coworker often starts at 9.30, but he works late. Works for us and our manager.

    2. Tired of Working*

      I can think of why there is a legit reason for not allowing an employee to have an early start, and that is if the employer has to take the employee’s word for it that they are starting early.

      At a previous job, where I was told to work from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, I was told that Hildy worked from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Fine, but Hildy was never in the office when I arrived. I eventually figured out that when the owner called before 9:00 AM and the call went to voicemail, Hildy merely told the owner afterwards, “I was talking to a client, so I let the call go to voicemail.” The owner would not have wanted Hildy to put a client on hold in order to answer another call.

      One day, the phone rang before 9:00AM, and I answered it. The owner was surprised that I answered it. She asked if Hildy was there. I said no. I wasn’t going to pretend that she was there. If Hildy had called the owner’s cell phone afterwards and said that she wouldn’t be in that day, my credibility with the owner would have been destroyed. After this happened a number of times, the owner asked me if I would be willing to change my hours to 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. I said okay.

      Sometimes people figure out that by arriving early (or claiming to arrive early), they can game the system. After that happens a few times to a company, TPTB might decide that from now on, no one can come in early (and leave early).

  31. Oakwood*

    Re: responding to job applicants

    The entire point of networking is to help your friends through the hiring maze.

    How would you feel if you desperately needed a job, applied at a company, and your “friend” who worked there said “good luck” and washed their hands of you? They wouldn’t be your friend (which is why I put it in quotes above).

    If you really are this person’s friend you should, at a minimum, contact the hiring manager and let them know you are acquainted with the applicant.

    1. Emily*

      I don’t think these are friends or necessarily even people they know. “[M]y networks and professional groups” sounds more like posting it on LinkedIn or sending it an alumni or interest group. When I post about jobs in that context, I do make myself available to answer follow-up questions, but I wouldn’t contact a hiring manager in part because I don’t have any firsthand experience with the applicant.

      1. metadata minion*

        And depending on the size/structure of the company, the hiring manager might not know the LW particularly well. I’m not sure that “hi, distant coworker, someone from my llama discussion board applied to your open job” really carries much weight.

    2. pancakes*

      From the letter it sounds like these are people who follow their account on social media. There’s nothing that suggests these are friends rather than fairly loose acquaintances. Following someone on social media can be the start of a friendship, but it doesn’t in itself create a close friendship out of thin air.

    3. Nanani*


      There may be companies and locations where that’s a thing you can do – like one of those places with a fancy referral program – but a lot of the time random Me can’t do much more than wish them “good luck”. If you’re not involved in hiring – which LW IS NOT – you can’t magically fix that because it’s supposedly what good friends do.

      You cannot gumption. Not even in the name of friendship.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        My company doesn’t do referrals or allow informational interviews during open searches or do anything else that may give a candidate with connections an edge, for equity’s sake. So even knowing someone involved in hiring won’t help. If anything it will make sure we structure things so they don’t have a say in your application.

        1. Nanani*

          Yep. So no amount of “That’s what friends are SUPPOSED to” will affect anything /shrug

    4. Mockingjay*

      This point came up in a letter yesterday. I am happy to share company openings with my network, friends, and acquaintances. What I can’t do is call the hiring manager unless I can speak knowledgeably of the applicant’s specific qualifications and experience. I’m happy to answer general questions about the role and the company, so people can decide whether pursuing an opportunity makes sense for them. But sometimes that’s all you can do within your own organization. I’ve had to interview people because someone at company insisted that I “just talk to them.” These people were not qualified in any way and of course did not get an offer. (One guy told me he didn’t even want the role; he just wanted an “in” at the company and planned to transfer as soon as he could to his area of expertise.)

      You can point opportunities out, but then applicants need to do what Alison says: write a good cover letter and tailored resume, and be prepared to interview well.

    5. Stink Mole*

      Hi, I’m LW #5. (Thanks for publishing my letter, Alison!) In the situation I wrote about, the people who’re pinging me privately aren’t friends, or even acquaintances—they’re just fellow members of the listserv/FB group I shared the job posting to. I’ve vouched for a friend before, but this ain’t it. ;)

      Next time this happens, I’ll make sure to be clearer that not on the hiring committee/don’t have influence in hiring (where applicable)—hoping to get fewer repeated elevator pitches that way.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      I definitely wouldn’t expect a friend who worked a company I was applying to to do any more than say “good luck” and maybe give me some advice for the interview, if I got one (though even that, I could see if they felt it would be unethical). For one thing, they could be putting some of their reputation on the line if they give the hiring manager the impression I am a friend of theirs and I turn out to be unimpressive and for another, it might well be seen as my trying to get an unfair advantage over other candidate and could go against me. People complain a lot about how “who you know” gets people advantages in the hiring process, so one can’t really complain when “who you know” DOESN’T help.

  32. Becky S.*

    OP1, maybe not a bad idea to keep that door open a crack. Jane may leave someday and it sounds like she’s the only reason you don’t want to work there.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I think the “for the foreseeable future” part of Alison’s answer covers keeping the door open a crack. LW1 has no idea if or when Jane may leave Company A, so the “my answer will not change” stops the “will you accept our offer now?” questions and the “for the foreseeable future” leaves the door open for the LW1 to look at open job postings at Company A and apply to them after Jane leaves.

    2. yepyepyep*

      Was just thinking the same thing! OP1, if the bully’s presence is the only barrier to you accepting an offer at this company I would let the company know that “I’m not interested at this time but please keep me in the loop for future opportunities”. That way you don’t completely shut the door in their face and there might come a time in the future where the bully is gone.
      Only caveat I suppose ia if it causes you distress to be contacted by them (and her by association) then maybe just firmly shut that door.

  33. Oakwood*

    Re: starting earlier

    Maybe nobody is coming in earlier than 8:30 because you haven’t given them the opportunity.

    You’ve already framed it as “working hours start between 8:30 and 9:30”. Not just early risers, but those that like to beat traffic often come in early and leave early.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      And gaining a single hour of private work time at the expense of a single hour of collaboration time isn’t that much of the day–it’s not like the employee is asking to work 3 pm to 11 pm. In a lot of cases, chunking the day into “fine to interrupt” and “let me focus” times is a boon for productivity.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Why do you work 9 – 5:30. It’s awful convenient for you that your preferred schedule slips right in the middle of what you’re offering the team. /sarcasm.

      Your schedule is very weighted to a late start (anything after 8:30 seems quite late to me) and a late finish. Lot’s of people prefer to get off earlier than that for afterschool stuff, kid pickup, just to be home before 5pm.

      I work 7 – 4:30 (yes, 9 1/2 hour compresed schedule). I don’t like starting at 7, but I much prefer it to ending at 5pm or later.

      Maybe that geographic to where you live or industry, but my particualar working life experience has always leaned to starting closer to 8 (or earlier) than 9 and that was accompanied by an earlier end time than you’re giving people.

      Do you need to be so rigid about it?

      1. stressball*

        I will say, some of what is considered “normal working hours” depends on time zone, at least in the US. When I lived on the east coast, starting around 9 and working until 5 or 5:30 was normal. Getting home around/after 6 was just a given unless you lived super close to work.

        Then I moved back to a city in Central time. Normal hours are much more usually 8-4:30 — probably to align with the Eastern time zone working hours.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, in my (UK) experience, office hours of 9-5, 9-5.30 or 9.30-5.30 are extremely common. I’m surprised to see people commenting that getting home at 6pm would be late, because I’m used to London where most people have a commute that’s at least 45 minutes or an hour, often more if you live in a commuter town outside London and get the train in. Where I work we can flex our hours as long as we’re still working the same hours as a regular pattern, but I’d say it’s a minority who do anything completely outside the norm (I know one person who does 7-3.30 and one who does 10-6.30 – I do 8.30-5 which isn’t hugely common but slightly more usual).

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, looking from Ireland, a 9:30 start is…probably on the later side of average. 9-5 would be the norm, but 9:30 to 5:30 would be pretty normal t00. As a teacher…well, classes in my school start at 8:55, so that is the earliest I would start. Having worked in different schools, most would start between 8:45 and 9:15.

            I would think 8:30 to 9:30 to be allowing people to start at the normal time or slightly early.

        2. J*

          They why is so important here. Why does OP think collaboration is important every minute of the day? Why does their worker want to shift the schedule?

          I started my current job, which is fully remote, by asking my boss what time she wants me online each day. She said she usually logs on at 9-9:30 central time and works till after 6. Ideally she’d prefer if I’m online around 8:30-9 to start identifying the east coast team member’s issues so when she comes online, I’ve triaged for her. I also do a lot of work that needs her review so when I log off around 4:30-5, she knows the east coast people have also logged off and she can focus on projects without interruption. We definitely flex as needed but knowing her why helped me plan my day and she found out my quiet project time and she does what she can to protect my peace. It’s really empowered both of us to be more productive and to have a better work-life balance.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I agree with stressball that “normal working hours” are driven by time zone, and I think by industry too.

        Manufacturing adjacent work tends to have earlier hours (start times around 7 – 8 am), same with market analysis work (need to have the analysis done before the market opens). There are others commenting in this thread that they tend to have a lot of work come in around 3:30 – 4 pm, when clients run into problems and reach out for help so in those environments a 9 – 10 am start time is probably preferable.

        Of course there are also jobs where it’s good to have staggered working hours for more coverage, or where most of the work is independent so start times can be more flexible.

  34. Falling Diphthong*

    I don’t want Company A to think they’ve done anything wrong.
    OP1, Company A is not a person. They are not hurt by your rejection. They are a business trying to fill a role, and “No, I don’t see myself moving soon” is all you need to tell them.

    Imagine if the problem employee was not your former bully, but your former boyfriend. Or awkward crush. Or someone of whom you are painfully jealous. Would you truly think to yourself “I can’t let poor Company A think I dislike them personally, I’d better lay bare all the crush stuff so they can truly and compassionately understand why I have to say no”? Or would you leave it at “Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested in changing jobs just now”?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right. It’s one thing to worry about burning bridges – but you won’t do that as long as you handle the situation professionally. Don’t complicate the situation by applying emotions where they don’t belong.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think the fact that Company A is courting the OP so hard, that it’s given the OP a few misapprehensions like 1) they would give serious weight to her opinion and 2) they’ll be crushed or disappointed if she turns them down and 3) they’ll consider it rude unless she explains. I think these three misapprehensions have led her to believe that she holds a powerful gotcha over Jane, and the only debate is in whether to deploy it or not. The real truth is that they’re just trying to make a hire! They’d like OP to say yes, but they honestly don’t care about the reasons if she says no.
      Not unless Jane bullied every viable candidate.

  35. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Since OP3 is high-level in the company, would it make sense for you to say something to your supervisors or others on the same level as you? Maybe along the lines of “I’m concerned that everyone feels they have to account for every minute of every working day even when they’re on PTO.” But I agree with Alison that you can just opt out and if someone brings it up you could say that it doesn’t seem necessary to apprise everyone of every single personal appointment you have. I just wonder if it might be useful to try to change the culture, if you are feeling up to taking on that battle.

  36. Knope Knope Knope.*

    LW 2: idk enough about what you do or why things need to be proofread within an hour but you may want to look up asynchronous communication if you’re looking for workflows and management styles that support different work hours.

  37. Not really a Waitress*

    #2 – I am a team member who likes to come in a little earlier . I discovered this years ago when I worked on a team that had staggered starts and I found that hour before the rest of the team came in to be my most productive. Almost 2 decades and several jobs later, I still come in a tad early.

    Because of the nature of my role, I have found that coming in a half an hour early helps me to at least get through a recap of the previous 24 hours before the interruptions and questions start. I need that quiet transition time before the crazy starts. I still have plenty of collaboration time (also a part of my role) but I don’t feel like I am starting the day behind.

    1. londonedit*

      I’m the same. Our standard working hours are 9-5.30, but we have core hours between 10 and 3, and you can flex your hours to do anything from 7am-3.30pm t0 10am-6.30pm. You have to stick to the same working pattern and your team needs to be aware of what you’re doing (we put our working hours in Outlook and in our email signatures) but it’s no problem to start/finish earlier/later instead of doing 9-5.30. Personally I like having as much of my evening available as possible, and I have a standard London commute of 45mins-1hr, so I like working 8.30-5. When I’m back in the office two days a week I’ll be doing 8-4.30 on those days, because getting on the Tube at 7.30 and 4.30 makes a massive difference to how crowded the trains are compared to 8 and 5. I also like having half an hour/an hour at the start of the day to get through my emails and sort anything urgent out before my boss starts work and people start asking me questions, and my boss knows to get anything over to me before 5 if they want me to see it/work on it that day. It’s possible that the OP might genuinely need everyone to be around together at the same time every day, but I’d really encourage them to look at whether that’s actually true, because a simple flex in working hours really can make a huge difference to someone’s day.

  38. foolofgrace*

    #2 — I believe a rethink by you is in order. My schedule is 7 to 3:30 whereas everyone else starts at 8 or 9, and it’s working fine. People send me emails in the afternoon about stuff they need or leave a document on my chair in the afternoon, and I can address it first thing in the morning when it’s quiet and the phones aren’t ringing. It’s a win-win and I think you’d get a lot of capital from this employee if you agreed to give it a chance.

    #4 — After reading this and thinking about how the game of “chicken” where one party gives the salary they want to receive and the other party gives the salary they want to pay but nobody wants to go first, I am reminded of the old-fashioned method of each party writing their number on a piece of paper at the same time and exchanging the papers. That way nobody gets an unfair advantage. There was a scene in Mad Men where this method was used, and it actually makes sense. To me, anyhow.

  39. Typing All The Time*

    OP 1: Unless you had some type of documentation about the bullying, it would be your word against Jane’s. In my experience, mentioning someone’s past behavior is listened to when you’re a current employee. Maybe write back and say that you’re happy where you are right now, but thank you for the opportunity.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Documentation doesn’t even matter. 25 years ago in school Jane “bullied” the LW. We do not know the extend of the bullying, but even on the most terrible end of bullying the company has had Jane working for them for a while now. Even with documented proof of bad behavior 25 years ago, they are not going to fire the known quanity Jane and hire the unknown quanity the LW.

      They aren’t going to fire her for things she did so many years before she was employed by them. Jane has changed; everyone has changed 25 years after school. They might even say, yeah, Jane can be harsh and mean and I can see that she was a bully in school. Still doesn’t change the fact that they hired her and haven’t fired yet. They think she’s doing a decent enough job to continue to employ her. They aren’t going to fire her for things she did so many years ago even with proof.

      LW bringing it up (even with proof) risks being taken as a person who doesn’t let go of things or can’t get over things that happened many years ago. I’m not saying she should work with Jane. Just that she won’t come out of top if she brings it up.

  40. Just my thoughts*

    #2 – as someone who has started between 7 and 7:30 for a number of years now (originally necessitated by my son’s school schedule), I love working that schedule. It encompasses my brain power hours, much shorter commute, etc. I am also overtime exempt, so I know there will be days here and there where I’ll have to stay over a little for a later meeting or reply to a request after I leave the office, but it is infrequent and totally managable.

    I’d reassess the needs of your team, maybe even see if anyone else prefers an earlier start time, see if there is a good compromise, and give it a test run. Even if it didn’t work out, it would go a long way toward making your employee feel truly valued.

  41. Marie*

    LW2 – From a work-life balance perspective starting at 7:30 can be much better for some people. For example, if I have a young child who goes to bed at 7 then getting done with work at 5:30 really becomes miserable since by the time you get home there is barely an hour to spend with your child before putting them to bed. If I were in your shoes I would be as flexible as possible.

  42. Nanani*

    #1 reminds me of the saying “the axe forgets but the tree remembers”
    Odds are good Jane doesn’t even remember LW1, or at least doesn’t remember the bullying.

    Just keep saying no. You’ll never make Jane’s dark secret come to light because 1) it’s been 25 years and 2) you probably don’t live in a quaint television village where everyone is interested in everyone else’s childhood drama, but that doesn’t mean you have to go against your instincts.
    You can carry on with your stated decision of “never being near Jane ever again”

    1. Sara without an H*

      I was just coming here to say this. I’d bet lunch money that Jane doesn’t remember LW1 at all. The commenters speculating that LW1 is being recruited by this company as part of a plot by Jane to torture her again are letting their imaginations run away with them, to put it mildly.

      OP#1, just keep telling the company recruiters that you’ve heard great things about them, but you’re happy where you are. Keep your LinkedIn presence up to date and, if you ever learn that Jane has moved on, you can reconsider.

  43. staceyizme*

    LW1: You’re right to avoid Company A. And equally well advised to avoid them so long as Jane is there or inspires that kind of reaction. It’s nice to be wanted, up to a point. But unless they’re by far the best and only option for your career advancement, this isn’t something that you should touch. Jane was a terrible person. She’s truly unlikely to have changed the whole of who she is and you’re wise to be concerned about what she could do with access to your personal information. I’m really sorry to hear that you experienced this and appalled that nothing effective was done to help you. Pretend like Jane is kryptonite. Avoid her. You have nothing to gain by coming into her sphere of influence other than more potential difficulties. It does sound like you’d benefit from some support for dealing with the impact of those memories whether it be meditation, coaching or counseling. Living well is the best way forward and having the freedom to do that without her is probably enough in the way of revenge.

  44. Overeducated*

    #2 please rethink this. I am seriously considering staying in my current job, over taking an offer for work I think I’d enjoy more, in large part because I’m able to work a very early schedule, which allows me to be there for my kids after school. We meet and collaborate generally between 9 AM and 3or 4 PM, I stay later when I need to and can plan ahead, and have some time to independently answer emails and work on our own at the beginning or end of our days. It’s fine from a work standpoint, and meaningful in terms of retention.

  45. HungryLawyer*

    LW1: just popping in to say I’m sorry you had that experience as a kid. Even though Jane was also a kid at the time, you didn’t deserve her bullying and her age doesn’t excuse her behavior. While her past behavior may not affect her employer (or affect Jane herself), it makes sense that it still impacts you. Good on you for recognizing that working there would be too painful.

  46. BRR*

    #2 I would suggest trying as hard as you can to accommodate the employee both because it’s their preference and because it sounds like you’ll get their best work if you can adjust their hours.

    If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to make it work you can even involve the employee in the process.
    Would it work to ensure a certain amount of coverage in the late afternoon? Could the employee do it part of the week? As Alison suggested, could you try it out first?

  47. Parenthesis Dude*

    OP#2: I found your letter confusing. It would be one thing if you told people that they needed to work their core hours between 8:30-6:00 but you’re letting people work from 8:30-9:30. How is someone working from 1-9:30 available to you during your work time as opposed to someone working from 7:30-4? Is it that you simply like to sleep until 8:15 in the morning and don’t want to be bothered with calls in the morning, but are fine with being called at 7:30 in the evening if necessary?

    One reason I’d make an exception is if you had a meeting early in the morning like at 9 or 9:30 where you gave your team members their work for the day. If this team member is extremely junior and requires that type of hand holding, than maybe your time frame is justified. But provided that your team member has the potential to be productive early in the morning, I see no harm in letting them start at 7:30.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      No the starts can be in the window of 8:30am-9:30am, there aren’t people working 1pm-9:30pm

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “I give my employees the option of setting a schedule that starts as early as 8:30 a.m. or as late as 9:30 a.m.”

    2. Hlao-roo*

      As Eldritch Office Worker notes, the start times range from 8:30am to 9:30am.

      Just to show it a little more clearly, the people working on the earlier side have the hours:
      8:30am to 5:00pm

      The people working on the later side have the hours:
      9:30am to 6:00pm

      The LW works from 9:00am to 5:30pm.

  48. windsofwinter*

    I’ve seen several comments about LW2 along the lines of “why can’t we take LW2 at her word that the hours can’t be more flexible?” And I’m confused. I don’t think that’s what LW2 is saying at all. She is, after all, asking if she should rethink this decision. I don’t see anything in the letter to indicate that this is something set in stone rather than just her preference. Am I missing something?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think so – I mean it’s not just preference, LW lists out the work reasons for the decision, but it certainly doesn’t seem set in stone.

  49. thelettermegan*

    LW1 – I’m going to throw out a different perspective on bullies –
    TW suicide

    I had a bully in middle school who died right after college, and after some reflection, I genuinely grieved for him. He never got a chance to ask for forgiveness or demonstrate a real change in his thinking. A few years later, another bully died suddenly, after she tried to make contact me with me over facebook. It bothers me now that I didn’t follow up with her when I could have – that door is closed forever now.

    This isn’t to say we should track down our childhood bullies and make them apologize for their own sakes, but I do think it’s worth giving people a second chance. Jane might be looking back at that time now as a mark of failure to be the kind of person she really wants to be.

    When I read stories about people unable to forgive their teen bullies as adults, I sometimes wonder if refusing to give someone even the benefit of the doubt is more petty a revenge than is deserved.

    My advice would be to write to Jane directly, under the guise of catching up and learning more about the company, since you have a shared history. If she still is as terrible as she was 25 years ago, she’ll find a way to tell you.

    1. quill*

      As with most perspectives on forgiveness, the choice of what to do about it is so individual and dependent on context that it’s very hard to actually advise someone on whether they should reach out to former bullies. Much like some people forgive abusive parents and others don’t. It’s a question that everyone has to answer for themselves, so I would not advise reaching out to Jane if you don’t actively want to, OP.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think that this is good advice, to be honest. I’m not talking about right or wrong. And I’m not talking universally, either. Obviously someone for whom this works, this is great. But for the OP, who pretty much flinches at the thought of being in the same building, this is not good advice at all.

      The OP doesn’t need more engagement with their bully.

      Also, “lack of forgiveness” is not necessarily about “revenge”. In general, it’s even possible to not wish harm to someone and still not forgive them.

    3. pancakes*

      “Jane might be looking back at that time now as a mark of failure to be the kind of person she really wants to be.”

      Maybe, maybe not. No one here has any visibility into that, and neither does the letter writer, since it’s been decades since they spoke. I certainly don’t think the letter writer is obliged to try to look into how Jane feels about her past. The Janes of the world who want to be better people don’t need the approval or buy-in of their former victims or targets in order to start being better people. They’re not entitled to an audience with their former victims or targets, and don’t need one to start trying to be better.

    4. The OG Sleepless*

      I was in a graduate program with someone who…”bullied” me isn’t exactly the right word. He was an unpleasant, gloomy person who was really rude to me most of the time, as he was to many other people. He died very suddenly at a young age, and all I really felt was sorrow that he never got to mature enough to acquire some self-awareness. I was sorry for his family. But I could not work up one bit of sorrow for his actual death.

    5. metadata minion*

      Even if the LW and Jane had a heartfelt talk and it turns out Jane feels terrible and wants to make amends, it would still be completely reasonable for the LW to not want to work with Jane. You can forgive someone and still not want a reminder of a horrible time in your life.

      If Jane wants to be a better person, awesome! Sometimes the way to do that is to leave alone people you hurt in the past and leave them to heal in peace.

    6. Nameless in Customer Service*

      The last thing LW #1 needs is more contact with Jane. If she got better, good, but I personally wouldn’t put $5 on it.

  50. Astrid*

    LW2: Please be more flexible with this. Your reaction to their request sounds like a control and trust issue. I have almost always started my work day at 7am or 7:30am my entire career. My employer gets my best self the earlier I start and it benefits my family too. I am pretty useless after 3:30 or 4pm. I worked once for a company that required me to start at 8:30 and I asked twice to change my starting hours. My request was refused twice. I lasted 90 days exactly in that job and found another, better one. It is not as if they are asking to start at 6am. I have a coworker who starts and stays later. It works for him. We both put out exceptional work. Don’t be so rigid. And if you do agree to their request, watch yourself that you are not suddenly trying to reach them or get work out of them near the end of or after their working hours so you have “proof” it is not working and then use that against them.

  51. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    LW#2 – it doesn’t make you a tyrant but consider if you are making the decision based on a rational argument.
    Does your job require collaboration constantly? Will that extra hour make a functional difference? What happens typically between 4 and 5 that would be impacted.

    I’ve worked at places that flexed around the core hours of 9 and 3. It was expected that all but emergency meetings would be scheduled in those hours.

    If she truly is more productive in the morning what could be gained by honoring this flexibility?

    It sounds a little like you worry there might be unforeseen consequences, nothing would prevent offering expanded flexibility on a trial basis with the caveat that it will be revisted in X months and a policy set from there.

  52. Pisces*

    As long as LW 2 and the other two team members aren’t adversely affected, letting team member 3 work an earlier schedule is fine.

    If an early-leaving employee is frequently leaving mid-task and someone else has to finish the job, that’s not acceptable.

  53. Camellia*

    I’m surprised at the number of people saying that Jane probably doesn’t even remember OP1. The bullying wasn’t something that happened one or two times, it was an active campaign against the OP, and in my experience, people who do that, at any age, do remember and often cherish those memories. Because they had power then, and used it.

    I’m more concerned that Jane DOES remember the OP and would loooooooove to get her back under her thumb again. Especially as she now works in HR, a department that gives her access to exactly what the OP is concerned about. I’m wondering if that is behind the multiple attempts at recruiting, even after being told no.

    OP, stay far away from this company, and please don’t contact Jane for any reason.

    1. Camellia*

      Sorry, hit send too soon. Meant to also say, if Jane is a changed person now, then Yay! Let those around her benefit from that. But if she isn’t, you do not want to find that out by going to work for them.

      1. quill*

        Speaking only for myself: the majority of the people who bullied me either bullied so many people that I doubt they remember me specifically, or thought that a campaign of demeaning comments about me was joking around & remember me, if they remember me at all as the kid who was too sensitive to take a joke / too weird overall. Only one was so horrible that 1) I’m certain he remembers me 2) I’m certain that given the opportunity he would stalk me again.

        Campaigns of belittlement and demeaning might be slightly more likely to be forgotten than other forms of bullying, both because of plausible deniability of it being “just words” and because each act might have been an individual decision to shower scorn and derision on someone who wasn’t within the bully’s narrow range of acceptability, so the bully doesn’t remember it as a campaign, or at all premeditated or coordinated. Not certain of that, because I don’t have the empirical data, but it would make sense based on ancedata I’ve seen about specifically bullying of girls by girls that is later ‘forgotten’ about by the perpetrator. (And by forgotten, I mean: maybe forgotten, maybe just self-justified to hell and back.)

  54. Enn Pee*

    For LW2:
    I worked in a place where one coworker had had an agreement with a previous boss that she would come in at 7:30 – leave at 4pm. (This was due to long commute.)
    That changed (not by agreement) to her coming in at 7:00 and leaving at 3:30pm.
    She moved into a slightly different role that required coverage of customers after 3:30pm; she thought just letting them know she wasn’t going to be available after 3:30pm would cut it. Her customers were more patient with delays than I would have been.
    I’d occasionally come into the office early (for me; 8am-ish) and she wouldn’t be at her desk; it turns out, she’d take from 7-8am to go to the in-building gym or else be out for a long walk with the other people who came in early to be productive.
    I think most people can be trusted, and I think in your case it’s worth giving the employee some flexibility.
    But – I’ve worked with a crew who really pushed it to the detriment of others.

    1. Pisces*


      Many people are responsible. Others aren’t, and unfortunately WFH/hybrid/flexible schedule aren’t an exception to “Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    2. Tired of Working*

      Exactly. As I mentioned upthread, I had a former co-worker who was supposed to show up at 8:30 AM, but she never did. I was supposed to show up at 9:00 AM, but I was always early. When the owner would call in before 9:00 AM, I would answer the phone, and the owner was always surprised that my co-worker wasn’t there. We eventually figured out that my co-worker claimed to be on the phone with a client whenever the owner called in, letting the call go to voicemail. My co-worker figured out a way to game the system and be paid for being at the office at 8:30 AM when she really wasn’t there. Well, it worked until I was hired and showed up early and didn’t mind answering the phone (instead of telling myself, “Well, it isn’t 9:00 AM yet, so I’m not gonna answer the phone.”

  55. kiki*

    #2: Every workplace and job is different, so I can’t tell you if requiring everyone to overlap for most all of their day is necessary. I do think it would be worth considering some factors:

    – How often are you and your team meeting at 3:30-5pm? Are you really collaborating during this time?
    – How often would it cause an issue if your early bird coworker was given something to review at 4:00pm and got it to you the next morning at 8:00am instead of 5pm?
    – Does this job do best with some periods of uninterrupted, solo work time? Is there any reason this time couldn’t be early in the morning for your morning lark?
    – Do you experience any issues with the staggered hours system you already have in place?
    – Would it be possible to table this for a few months and see how your new employee works? Sometimes it’s easy to shoot things down when somebody’s new, but once they’re actually working you can see it wouldn’t make a tremendous difference to make a tweak.

    In my experience, having a core 6 hours has worked really well. I’m a night owl, so I really like being able to come back to work later in the evening for a couple hours rather than force myself to hold normal office hours when I’m not most productive.

    1. Nanani*

      I worked in a place with core hours (something like 10-3 IIRC) but everyone could set their own hours outside of that provided their work got done.
      Some people came in very early and left right at 3, some people came it at 10 and stayed until very late.
      It worked – meetings and collaboration are scheduled for the core hours.
      Asynchronous stuff also works very well if its the kind of job where “look at this when you get a chance” is a common type of collaboration.

  56. cactus lady*

    LW3 – my org is very similar, and it took a little while to fully opt out, but once people get used to the idea that you’re not going to respond outside of business hours unless it’s a true emergency, they’ll stop expecting it. Especially in a senior role, you have more leeway to do that.

    1. sofar*

      Yes, this! And, while it’s hard to be the first to opt out, I guarantee others are grateful you’re doing so because it makes it seem like it’s OK to do so (and it is!). If you have the power to opt out, do it, not just for yourself but for others.

      I get that it’s hard, though. If you work at a place where nobody respects vacation, you likely also work at a place where people will make decisions in your absence instead of saying, “Let’s table this until Mike is back next week, this isn’t an emergency.” There are a lot of times when I’m out, see 23 frantic Slack messages, check them to see what’s on fire, and then have to make the decision of, “Would I rather spend 30 minutes of my vacation weighing in on this, or spend a solid week when I’m back untangling the knot my coworkers have tied us all into by promising we can do something we cannot, in fact, do?”

      I once had someone take a chunk out of the budget to double-assign work I’d already assigned to a contractor (and that I’d clearly documented was assigned AND copied this person on the emails for) because I didn’t answer a Slack message on vacation asking if I’d assigned said work. So I returned to find no budget left and the same work assigned to two contractors.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      This. My line when asked about it is:

      “I have started putting a firmer barrier between my work and home life because of previous overwork and burnout that was negatively affecting my relationships. I am a firm champion of work/life balance, and that includes being respectful of people’s non-working hours. Unless it is actually a Sev 1 emergency, please don’t contact me after hours unless I’m scheduled for on-call at that time.”

      Yes, I still do on call, but when I’m not on-call and it’s outside working hours? I’ve locked my computer, and possibly logged out and shut it down.

  57. K*

    I’m surprised by how many people are recommending that LW1 make a statement to the effect of “I can’t work with you now because I have a bad history with someone else who works for you”. I definitely agree with not naming Jane specifically, but I think that it’s highly likely that whoever LW is communicating with will either just shrug and go “well, okay”. If the workplace is high-drama and/or LW is a very desirable candidate, there may be some internal gossip about this or attempts to guess who LW’s nemesis is, which won’t be helpful for anyone involved.

    It’s fine to just say that you aren’t interested and then reach out in a couple years (or whatever) saying that you are. No one from the company should bat an eye at that.

  58. Sunflower*

    #1 reminds me of a previous letter from the former bully’s POV. The LW applied for a job but it turned out a former classmate who she bullied in school is currently a superstar employee for the same company. The superstar told the company that she will not work with the LW if she got hired.

    They didn’t hire her.

  59. quill*

    Allison, could I ask in future posts regarding dealing with former bullies we put a moratorium on people advising that people should simply “forget” or “move on” from traumatic events, since we 1) do not know the actual content of the bully’s behavior towards OP, and 2) have no standing to evaluate if it was ‘really’ that traumatizing regardless of what it was? Relitigating whether people should be able to simply grow out of the effects of being bullied, which is a very broad term that can cover things including physical assault or authority figures denying that the bullying even happened, has the potential to be retraumatizing for a LW.

    Or would that not be practical?

    1. Observer*

      You know, I wasn’t a victim of bullying, and *I* am finding those discussions exhausting. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone with that history! So, I agree with you.

      I just think that trying to stop it might take more moderation that is practical. But, I think that a reminder on top that this really is not up for discussion would be a good idea.

  60. Zephy*

    OP2, having an employee working 7:30-3:30 still gives her six hours of overlap with the rest of the office, assuming some people are opting for the 9:30 start – is not having her there for, at most, two working hours (only an hour and a half of your working time) really going to bring your operations to a screeching halt? Will someone die if there’s a sudden “need to collaborate” at 4 PM and Jane has logged off for the day? Will the office burn to the ground if she’s by herself for an hour before someone else logs on or comes in? If the answer to these questions is “no,” then I don’t think you have a business case for not letting her shift her schedule to a 7:30 start.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      I agree with letting the employee try out some kind of alternate schedule. At least for a predetermined period of time.

      But a business can be negatively affected long before it comes to a screeching halt, people are dying, and buildings are burning down. Sometimes you just need to optimize a process for the business to work well and comfortably. Implying that anything short of catastrophe doesn’t justify trying to optimize that process really isn’t taking a very balanced view of how business works.

  61. pancakes*

    I wouldn’t give it a moment’s thought. It’s a weird, trifling thing for people to try to have a go at.

  62. Kara Danvers*

    LW2 – I work with people in various different timezones, including teammates -1 and +5 hours compared to my time zone. We do need to collaborate, and we do need to do independent work.

    If you’re not sure, you could try to let the employee work their preferred hours on a trial basis. Have a clear idea in mind of what you’re trying to measure, see if they mostly meet those collaboration hours well, if the quality of their independent work is reasonable. Losing an hour of collaboration time for an employee to work a bit better may be worth the tradeoff, and keeping it as a “trial” gives you the wiggle room to say “we need that extra hour of collaboration” if it doesn’t work out.

  63. Observer*

    #1- Childhood bully

    I’m kind of amazed, in a not good way, at the number of people saying the you should “let it go”, “leave it behind” etc. I think you should ignore them. Also, even though those voices are probably going to be louder to you, I think that most people really do understand why you wouldn’t want to work with Jane. Lean into that if you find it validating or comforting.

    I do think it would be good for you to think about what you really want here. While you say that you don’t want to get Jane fired, it’s quite clear that you ARE trying to get back at her while not acknowledging it. It’s one thing to have a revenge fantasy – as long as it stays firmly in the realm of fantasy. But actually thinking of trying to damage her (and I realize you’re not looking to do anything outrageous here) is not really good got your mental health. Failure to acknowledge what you are trying to do just makes it that much more unhealthy.

    I don’t know if you’ve tried therapy, but perhaps that might be useful to you.

  64. Amber*

    LW1: I want to be sympathetic to you. I was bullied as a kid. I had fruit thrown at me (oranges and other similarly hard fruits). My nickname in high school was “Fat, Flat, and Ugly” with hand motions to go along with it. (I went through extremely late puberty and have always struggled with my weight, so I looked like a obese 10 year old until I was about 19.) But I can’t get behind the normalization of allowing ourselves to be affected by normal childhood reality that we want to mete out revenge on something someone did as a CHILD 2 and a half decades ago, especially to the point where you are willing to withhold what sounds to otherwise be a perfect opportunity for you. It’s not healthy on an individual level, and it’s not healthy on a societal level. We all need to allow room to grow from who we were as children.

    Bullying is unfortunately a part of childhood. Kids can be cruel, and usually there is a devastating and/or diagnosable reason for it that most have worked through by adulthood. I would imagine most people have gone through stages in their childhood where they have been both bully and bullied. You say you don’t want Jane to be fired, but it’s coming through pretty clear that part of you wants her to suffer for what she did to you when she was a child. You are even willing to make YOURSELF suffer in order for that to happen. Unless there’s an extreme abnormality on Jane’s end that you haven’t mentioned, this is no longer on Jane.
    If, after 25 years of no contact with her, you are THIS affected by being in the same building as her, this is entirely a you problem and I very sincerely advise you seek professional help. There’s no evidence to suggest that she deserves to suffer for choices she made as a child, and you aren’t going to be happy either living this way.

  65. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW2, I’ll join the chorus that you need to interrogate WHY you want everyone starting 8:30 to 9:30. I work in a satellite office for a large multi-national company. I have co-workers I regularly speak to in 3 US states and 2 other countries. I have one co-worker who may be online at 4:00 AM to speak to co-workers in Europe and that same co-worker may be online around 10:00 PM to speak to co-workers in Japan. I have a second co-worker, on the same team, who greatly prefers working early. As in, he starts every day somewhere between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM. We know that if we want him in a meeting, the meeting must end by 2:00 PM. It’s called accommodating employees as best as you can, provided the work product and quality stay where they should be. Especially in today’s environment when it’s so easy for employees to decide your company is not a good fit and go find a job at a different company with better pay/culture.

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