should I tell my boss I have a crush on him, I got in trouble for tracking my coworkers’ time off, and more

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

1. Should I tell my boss I have a crush on him?

Okay, this sounds really bad but I swear it’s not like that. I started this role about a month ago now, and one of my direct managers (I have two) I find wildly attractive. He is a couple years older than me and married with kids. I am in a very happy and loving relationship and would never come between his or leave my own.

That being said, I am a woman in my late 20’s and I will say I know I am far from ugly. I am not trying to flex, I am just being honest with it. I work in a field that’s about 20/700 women vs men. My manager has made a couple comments to me about how the “guys around here aren’t used to seeing women who look like (you) … that’s about all I am allowed to say.” This was very flattering and not in a weird way — we were talking about if how there were issues with guys here, I need to report them right away.

Fast forward to now, we talk every day (work-related) and text here and there (99% work-related) with the occasional picture from his bike ride view. Both my managers communicate with me like this and we joke around with each other often, but it never crosses a line.

I just cannot get over this dumb little crush I have. Do I mention it to him and apologize if anything I do say/do ever comes off inappropriate? I don’t think it has, but I have become very hyperaware of how I am around him and sometimes I struggle to focus. Let me be clear he has never ever fueled this crush of mine, and does talk about his family often.

Definitely don’t say anything about it to him — it will make it awkward for both of you and will put him in an especially uncomfortable position as your boss. Plus a lot of people take that kind of confession not as an effort to explain your behavior but as an attempt to test the waters for reciprocal attraction. (And often that’s exactly what it is, even if not consciously.)

Relationship advisors often recommend responding to crushes by channeling more energy into your primary relationship and focusing on trying to find excitement there. The biggest thing, though, is not to feed it — don’t indulge in daydreams, don’t get into “what if” thinking, don’t analyze his behavior for signs of attraction back, and maybe pull back on the social behavior. Crushes are normal, even when you’re committed to someone else, but it should go away in time as long as you want it to go away.

2. I got in trouble for tracking my coworkers’ time off

I was written up for writing down coworkers’ absences in my calendar, just so my manager would know because she has the tendency to forget. She once put down that a coworker was off for two days when really she left early one day and was gone the next day, and that team member didn’t get paid for her full time. I don’t put reasons why the person called out, I just put “out of office.” I also put down lunch times on my calendar once in a while when a team member wanted to switch lunches with me.

A coworker complained without letting me know that she was uncomfortable. If she had told me it made her uncomfortable, I would have been okay with removing it. My manager never gave me a warning and wrote me up. It seems like every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing. I don’t know why it’s a big issue, and I’m not sure if she just doesn’t like me.

Even though you did it with the intent of helping your coworkers, it was an overstep. It’s not your job to track that kind of thing and a lot of people would feel uncomfortable having a peer track their time off (especially if they didn’t know your reason, since it’s easy to assume you were tracking for less altruistic purposes). People who want to make sure their time off is recorded correctly have the option of writing it down themselves if they want to.

It is possible your manager just doesn’t like you — and it sounds like there are other issues with her — but this particular thing was reasonable to take issue with (although writing you up was excessive; she should have just told you to stop).

3. Telling an intern her English isn’t good enough for our field

I am a native English speaker now living in a European country. I am a team manager in a company that has English as its working language (although plenty of communication happens in the native language). One of the interns we hired has borderline-quality English — which we knew when we hired her, as her CV looked great! — but it’s proven to be a problem, especially for my non-native-English colleagues even if their English is fine.

As it’s “only” a summer internship, our hiring criteria were quite generous and we were very open to taking a risk. However, my non-native-English colleagues have said that she’ll struggle to be hired full-time anywhere in this country with her current language skills. (In our field, only English is necessary in this area of the country — the native language is only a bonus.) I agree, and have pondered privately that I’d only hire her if she could take intensive language and accent instruction for a couple of months.

I feel awkward talking to her about it, especially as her professional work for us seems to be going pretty well. As her line manager for the internship, is this appropriate to talk to her about, or is it best left alone?

Tell her! It’s in her interests to know that she has a skill she’d need to strengthen if she wants to work in your field full-time — just like you’d presumably tell her if she needed to take an Excel class or work on her public speaking. Frame it as part of the normal feedback process you always do with interns — maybe a mid-internship check-in where you talk about what strengths you’re seeing and what areas she will need to shore up if she wants to work in your field.

4. Promotion went through just as I put in my two weeks notice

As my manager was sealing the deal on my long overdue and well-earned promotion and title bump at a large nonprofit I loyally served for several years, I received and accepted a job offer at another company, doubled my pay, and got a great title bump. I followed your advice and knew I had to angle for the promotion at my old job despite the fact that I was actively job-searching. In fact, I had been pushing for that promotion for years. I’m confident that my promotion was officially signed off upon during my two weeks notice period, but understandably I was never officially anointed with my new title or increased salary. When my old job was posted online, the posting reflected the new title that I had fought for and achieved for the position. I’m happy about that and feel that it’s a great win for a position itself and the new hire.

Is there a way I can reflect my old position’s title bump on my resume/LinkedIn? I don’t want to lie about my title, but I feel like there’s some gray area given the fact that I earned the new title and the promotion was signed off on while I was still employed at my old job. Would it be weird to check with my old company’s HR about this? Or do I leave the title alone on my resume/LinkedIn, but adjust the bullets to reflect the fact that I earned a promotion just before leaving?

You can’t really list the new title because it was never officially yours. In theory you could write something like “position evolved to director of oatmeal promotion near the end of my tenure” … but that’s not going to strike most hiring managers as significant enough that it’ll carry much weight. (And if it does grab their attention and they ask you about it and your response has to be that you pushed for the new title but never actually held it, it’ll seem like an odd thing to have included.) It’s bad timing, but I think you’ve got to accept it’s not something you can use on your resume.

5. Cover letters when you’re not sure you want the job

There’s a position that I’m very qualified for but I’m not sure I want; it will depend on things that I can’t find out until the interview (for industry-specific non-negotiable reasons, just trust me). I assume I don’t want to say that in my cover letter, though, so should the letter simply focus on why I’d be good, and omit why I’m excited about the position?

(This is with an organization that I regularly interact with in my current job, by the way, so should I get an interview, I’d love your thought on whether or how to convey “I love my current job and would only come to your organization if you could give me a better one,” in a way that doesn’t potentially insult or burn bridges with the interviewing organization.)

The most important thing for your cover letter to focus on is always why you’d be good at the job. If you can add in a line or two explaining why you’d be excited about it too, great — but it’s not a big deal if your focus is just on evidence that you’d excel at it.

However, it’s always the case that you can’t be sure you’ll want a job until you get more information in the interview (although people often lose sight of that). So having big outstanding questions doesn’t preclude you from talking about what’s compelling to you about the job thus far. Presumably there are reasons you’re drawn to the work, and you can mention those (although, again, that shouldn’t be your main focus anyway).

On your second question, it’s very normal not to be willing to leave your current job unless you’re offered something better so you don’t need to spell that out. It’s assumed! But you could definitely make a point of mentioning that you’re very happy where you are currently, although open to moving for the right position.

{ 534 comments… read them below }

  1. Polecat*

    #1- In commenting on how attractive you are, your manager has already crossed the line with you. Both of you are literally flirting with disaster. Even if neither of you act on it, if you continue to grow closer and have a flirtatious relationship, he’s going to be engaging in inappropriate behavior for a manager, and you risk losing the respect of your coworkers if they feel you are flirting with the boss. I’d say “danger Will Robinson“ but you’re too young to get that reference! Nothing good is going to come of this, either for your work life or your personal life.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Commenting on how attractive she is also comes across really poorly in terms of how he’d actually handle sexual harassment — he seems to be implying only really attractive women can get harassed, which is obviously not the case, and doesn’t see how he’s participating in that with the comment. How to handle and report harassment is useful information for all staff, regardless of gender or level of attractiveness. Lots of red flags here.

      1. Janet*

        > he seems to be implying only really attractive women can get harassed, which is obviously not the case

        Yup! And that sort of attitude is used to both demean and dismiss victims of harassment. Just like everyone who responds to an allegation of sexual assault with “well, what was she wearing” as if choice of clothing was so tantalizing that a predator could be compelled against their will to assault someone, rather than assault being the MO of a predator who looks for vulnerability and opportunity. As if, if you dressed modestly enough, you’d kill the boner of a would-be rapist so fast that they’d just decide to leave you alone. Super duper problematic.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          not to mention not believing women who report sexual assault because they wear shapeless jumpers.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Or even telling women who are harassed that it’s a compliment and they should be flattered by it rather than offended.

        3. Lilo*

          Fun fact, I was once sexually harassed on public transportation while I was literally wearing a baby. Yep, I guess I was really asking for it with my 3 month old in the K’tan.

          Of course the reality is the person probably did it because they knew I wouldn’t confront him because I just wanted to get my son out of the situation as safely as possible.

          1. Janet*

            Predators look for victims. Any attempt to analyze an attack by what the victim did or didn’t do, say, or wear is ignoring that basic fact. Predators are not compelled by irresistible urges. They make deliberate choices, which are often implicitly permitted by society’s inherent sexism.

      2. Lilo*

        He’s also white knighting. “Oh, you’re so attractive, you’d better let me know if the guys harass you”.

        There’s just so much wrong with this I can’t even begin to unpack it all. It definitely threatens employee relations as he’s started her off suspicious of her colleagues, he’s setting himself up as the “good guy” despite his own creepy comment, indicating harassment is based in attractiveness.

        Find better people to have crushes on. You’re playing right into his game.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          Yeah. My workplace is more than 90% men (I’m a woman) and I seriously cannot imagine my supervisor or any other coworker saying this sentence to me. It would be beyond inappropriate.

          Furthermore, our manager has never needed to set out explicitly warnings about sexual harassment because it’s obvious that the vast majority of employees, men and women, would not find this behavior acceptable. Of course it can happen—but it’s not a topic I worry about day to day.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I can’t imagine having the hots for someone who would say this. Maybe when I was very young and inexperienced (which I assume this OP is), but now it would be an instant crush-killer. ::puke emoji::

        2. Up and Away*

          What stood out to me, and what bothered me the most about this part, is that the OP seemed to be flattered by it! Nope, nope, and nope.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I remember feeling complimented when men whistled at me from passing cars… I was THIRTEEN and just figuring out this whole having-boobs thing.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              I remember skipping right past the “feeling complimented” and going straight to being weirded out, followed immediately by being terrified as the whistling creep turned his car around and drove slowly next to me as I was walking, then pulled over and tried to drag me into his car. I ran away, ducking behind nearby houses, hid on a friend’s porch until he didn’t seem to be around anymore, ran as fast as I could back to school (6th graders were allowed to go home during lunch if they lived nearby)

              As far as I could tell there was ZERO police follow up (since other girls at my elementary school got followed, catcalled, whistled at by him after this) But the school put new policies in place: girls could no longer go home at lunch, and could no longer be crossing guards, except on the crosswalks right in front of the school. So basically 11-12 year old girls lost privileges and the creep had no repercussions. All I learned from that is to be wary of strangers, fend for myself and not report harassment. Good Job School!/s

              But in any case, this manager’s behavior would have my skin crawling because it is so out of line.
              LW needs to a) NOT admit a crush on this dude b) roll back the interpersonal stuff back to the zone of professional colleague (and maybe mention to trusted colleagues how weirded out his boundary crossing makes you feel, as a pre-emptive strike on the likely already humming gossip networks) and potentially c) consider seeking a different position if they don’t want to do b.

              This guy is bad news for LW’s personal and professional life … even if LW themselves does not cross any boundaries.

          2. Gerry Keay*

            Eh, plenty of people who are socialized as women are really heavily conditioned to believe this type of stuff *is* flattering. I wouldn’t be too hard on OP.

        3. INeedANap*

          I bet he’s not giving similar offers of “protection” to the less conventionally attractive women in his department.
          I feel bad for their partners. Crushes are normal, but this is open flirtation.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        And he’s sort of implying men can’t help it. “If you get harrassed come and tell me and you might because the men aren’t used to dealing with somebody as good-looking as you.” The implication is that her being good-looking will somehow cause them to harrass her which at least borders on victim-blaming. It also makes me distrustful of him because it would make me wonder is he basing people on himself? Does HE doubt he could stop himself from harrassing a good-looking woman and therefore assumes nobody else could either.

        Yeah, I really don’t think she should give him any indication she has a crush on him. I don’t think it would be a good idea to tell a workmate that in pretty much any circumstance anyway, as it would be very likely to make things awkward, but in this case, I also wouldn’t trust the guy with such information.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Commenting on appearance is just really bad workplace behavior in general. I might tell my coworker her earrings are really nice but I wouldn’t say anything more personal than that. Commenting on personal attractiveness is just . . . no. Not OK at work.

        This guy is bad news for so many wide-reaching reasons and the LW a) doesn’t quite seem to grasp how bad this really is and b) is enjoying it and looking for permission to engage.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          It’s the difference between “My niece loves that style of earrings, where did you get them.”
          and “Those earring would look good on my nightstand.”

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yes. I do hope the LW comes around pretty fast to considering the boss’s remarks to be reflective of the sexism of the work situation rather than flattering. I’m pretty confident she will see it like that one day (not all women do, but IME a very solid majority), so the faster the better.

    2. Omnivalent*

      This. People who are behaving appropriately don’t need to reassure anyone (including themselves) that they haven’t crossed a line! Because they’re not thinking about what the line is and how close they are to it.

      1. Erin*

        Total +1 to this. I have seen a few co-workers/friends lean in to these crushes, and they have always ended in disaster on varying levels. The main disaster for the subordinate employee, besides heartbreak, has been getting a poor reputation within the industry. That can be impossible to rebuild.

        Don’t let this go any further. Keep the relationship professional and courteous.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. HIS comment was almost certainly testing the waters. Here lies danger. You absolutely need to exercise some mental self discipline. Cool your jets; avoid socializing beyond that necessary for work. And don’t allow yourself to dwell on the ‘crush’. Crushes are perfectly normal — everyone has them sooner or later; the key if you don’t want to blow up your life is to accept that and discipline yourself to not dwell nor put yourself in his way. Don’t avoid in a pointed observable way, just stop finding ways to be in his presence — don’t ride with him if a group is going to lunch; don’t be the one that delivers the TPS report to him personally if there are others who can easily do it; don’t make excuses to yourself about getting coffee around the time he does. And for heaven’s sake never tell any boss you have a crush on him; absolutely no good can come of that and especially not when he has already made a move as this guy has.

      I’ve had a little experience with this sort of thing over a long life in the workplace and a personal CTJM with myself and then being careful about opportunities to slide into in appropriate behavior worked just fine. You can if you want to — stop this.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Yeah, the manager could have easily told her to let him know if there’s any kind of harassment without telling her she’s way more attractive than they’re used to there. Gross.

      2. Up and Away*

        Absolutely, and well stated as usual Artemesia. I would add that reminding yourself that you are only seeing a 2 dimensional part of this person can be helpful. Presumably, you are not seeing this person at his worst, in the way only an intimate partner can see him; you’re not seeing the whole picture. You’re most likely romanticizing the reality right out of him.

      3. Not my normal name*

        OP are you early in your career? This has danger written all over it. I’ve had a crush on a boss before, while happily married. Time, and a change of focus, with deliberation help a lot. Also, in most relationships with your boss they’re going to tick you off some day – and that helps. :)

        But also you need to maintain better boundaries – I know some industries and companies make that hard but really try to minimize alone time and alone communication. My grand boss once invited me out for lunch – I suggested we also bring my boss and now the three of us do this regularly. It’s safe and comfortable for everyone this way and I’ve dealt with too much craziness over the years to not err on the side of cautious. People talk and you need to keep perceptions in mind not just actions or you will hurt your career. And it will be yours that’s hurt, not his.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah “that’s about all I am allowed to say” made me say EWW out loud. Telling your subordinate that the only reason you’re not flirting/pursuing/harassing her is that you’d get in trouble is pretty gross no matter how much you talk about your kids.

      1. Janet*

        > that’s about all I am allowed to say

        Any time people talk about what they’re “allowed” to say there’s the implication that it’s the overly politically correct social justice warriors that are getting in the way of everybody just having a good time. And I have to wonder: if you know you’re not supposed to say it, why not just… not say it? Don’t imply that you *would* say it if not for the killjoys in HR, because you’re effectively saying it anyways! There are so many other ways to address the issue, but someone focusing on how they’re *not* allowed to address is sounds like someone who resents being held to standards of professional or appropriate behaviour.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, I absolutely agree with the commenter who said that he’s testing the waters.

          My intial thought from the title: “no”.

          Now that I read the rest of it? “HELL NO”. This is a married boss actively pursuing an affair with a subordinate. It’s wrong on enough levels that he could lose his job over it already.

          1. Julia*

            That’s an overstatement; it’s a married boss who made an inappropriate comment to a subordinate, not someone actively pursuing an affair, and in most workplaces he would not lose his job over one inappropriate comment. Otherwise agree with what you’ve said here.

          2. Hannah Lee*


            Your “no” >>> “HELL NO” is the perfect response to this letter.

            The boss is WAY out of bounds personally and professionally in this situation.
            And sadly, the LW is the one most at risk from his behavior (given the double digit number of times I’ve seen this play out in workplaces)

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Exactly. OP’s crush could very well feel the same way about her, which doesn’t mean he has to say anything. He knows he crosses a line if he tells her he reciprocates her feelings, and he could choose to be a professional and/or mature adult and just not cross it.

          Instead, he makes an incomplete yet telling comment about his feelings and blames those pesky codes of conduct in the workplace for why he ‘just can’t’ say more. Mutual flirtation is achieved and no hard line is (apparently) crossed.

          Nope. Just say and do nothing, and focus on your current personal relationships.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t think it is incomplete. Anyone who isn’t oblivious knows what he’s doing.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I used ‘incomplete’ in that he didn’t come right out and say the words. But I also believe his intention was too obvious to misinterpret.

              Clearly, I need to be more specific in my comments.

              1. Janet*

                I understood what you meant. The boss is toeing the line of plausible deniability while ensuring he still gets his message across. “Incomplete” for HR complaint purposes, not for understanding.

      2. Observer*

        Yeah “that’s about all I am allowed to say” made me say EWW out loud.


        That comment is as red a flag as you are going to get. Is it POSSIBLE that it was innocently said? Yes. Is it likely? Not in the least bit. Given the rest of the context? I’d say about .000000001% likely.

            1. Julia*

              I mean, no, not really. It’s inappropriate because it’s sexualizing and because it implies harassment is just something that happens once you reach X attractiveness level, not because it’s manipulative.

          1. Czhorat*

            Yes. That’s the point at which any semblance of plausible deniability is gone; while I agree with you that firing is extreme for this level of offence if it’s the only one this might be the comment that could push some organizations over the line to cut the manager loose without offering a second chance.

            In any event, the OP needs to think long and hard about disentangling herself before it gets worse.

            1. Observer*

              Oh, I agree that there is no plausible deniability. The fact that something is possible is not the same as “this is a reasonable thing to believe.”

              I have actually seen one conversation where that kind of line was used, and it was OK. I’m not going to get into details because it would take explaining years of context both before and after. But, having said that, I have been in workforce over 30 years and I have seen this happen ONCE.

              So, this is very much a matter of “horses not zebras”.

              1. Observer*

                By the way OP – please do NOT think that you are dealing with that 1 in a million situation. Trust me when I say that NOTHING in your letter remotely supports the idea that this guy was being appropriate. And I do mean NOTHING.

      3. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

        My eyebrows just YIKED all the way into my hairline at that line. Gross.

    5. Janet*

      The boss was problematic from the beginning. Implying that OP is more likely to be sexually harassed because she’s more attractive than other women is sexual harassment, misogyny, and “boys will be boys” dismissal all rolled into one neat little package.

      OP is also flirting with danger (#sorrynotsorry). What possible good could there be in telling your boss “excuse me, but I have a crush on you that’s so strong I might not be able to control my behaviour”? What outcome are you hoping for, OP? Because the best case scenario is that your boss gently lets you know that it was a completely unnecessary admission and pulls back from interacting with you socially. Which would be kind of humiliating, so I doubt that’s what you’re imagining when you’re fantasizing about this dramatic confession. I would assume you’re hoping, maybe subconsciously, for your boss to say something like “I also find you attractive but I’m your boss and also married so alas, we can never be.” Because then you get to share this secret, forbidden and unconsummated attraction for each other and get to bask in both your mutual attraction and virtuous lack of action (until you inevitably cross that line too, of course). OP, can you imagine telling your boss’s wife about this attraction? Or a trusted and respected mentor or senior coworker? If not, then admit that part of your desire to tell your boss is to further feed this crush you have!

      I once heard someone say something like “We often hear that the grass is greener on the other side. This is untrue. The grass is greener where it’s watered.” OP, you need to start watering some other grass (relationships).

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I love your saying “The grass is greener where it is watered” – wisdom right there!

        The OP should learn to sublimate the attraction. This is an effective way of transitioning out of a crush. Think of the manager in another context – as an older brother or cousin. That should be enough to kill the crush right there. Frankly, thinking of the boss as a potential sleaze should also do it – because he is coming across that way.

        1. Nonny-nonny-non*

          If thinking of the boss as a sleaze doesn’t do it then I can definitely recommend thinking of him as a male relative. I had a brief crush on a past manager, until I noticed that his hands looked just like my dad’s hands. Talk about killing a crush – that comparison turned the crush into ten-day-old road-kill in considerably less time than it took to type this comment!

          1. Aerin*

            Dr. Nerdlove has a lot of good advice on killing unwanted crushes, and one of them is just imagining them doing normal gross/annoying stuff like farting and snoring and leaving laundry around the house. Crushes are so powerful because they’re pure fantasy, especially if you have an existing partner with whom you share all the reality. I actually caught a weird crush on one of my best friends, and I was able to make excellent use of his other advice: treat it like any other intrusive thought, acknowledge it and redirect your thoughts. “Ah yes, there’s that inconvenient crush, which is just my brain misfiring and certainly not something worth blowing up all of our lives for.” (It helps a bit in my case that I’m ND so “stupid brain acting up again” is a pretty normal state of affairs for me.) Sure enough, after a short while it went away.

            1. Twenty Points for the Copier*

              This is my strategy. A long time ago I had a lot of trouble getting over someone, but then he told me he only brushed his teeth once a month. (not sure why he shared this info, but it worked to quash the lingering feelings!)

              Now anytime I feel inappropriate feelings starting, I imagine that the otherwise very attractive person never brushes their teeth.

            2. pancakes*

              Wouldn’t that also encourage people to put their more-appropriate crushes up on pedestals? All of us do normal and gross things. It’s just part of existing in human form. I don’t like the idea of people purposefully playing mind games with themselves about that. I’ve had unwanted crushes too, of course, but that doesn’t seem like a healthy way out to me.

              1. Aerin*

                I don’t follow with the putting people on pedestals. It’s not a good idea to do that to anyone. The fact that humans do normal and gross things is the entire point: when you’re in crush mode you’re not seeing them as a complete person. Forcing yourself to view them that way helps cut the hormones out of the equation and contend with the reality of a relationship, which clears space for the part of you that might already know intellectually that this is a really bad idea to reassert itself.

                Also, as I said, I’m ND. “Playing mind games with myself” = “tricking my brain into approximating normal function.” I haven’t been through cognitive behavioral therapy myself, but my understanding is that it’s basically just that. Of course it can be misused just like anything, but there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about it.

              2. Observer*

                Wouldn’t that also encourage people to put their more-appropriate crushes up on pedestals?

                No. The idea is that one of the baseline requirements for a relationship to be healthy and flourish is that you can deal with the reality of the whole person, including the annoying things. If thinking about your “appropriate” crush clipping their toenails grosses you out to the point that it really affects your attraction, this is not a relationship with staying power.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              That wouldn’t bother me, though; they’re normal people things to do. Anyone who’s lived with a partner is going to hear farts and snores, see dirty laundry, and still love the person. I read somewhere that true love is when you can watch someone be sick and still want to kiss them (not at that moment, lol).

              The cringey “that’s all I’m allowed to say” remark would do it, however.

              1. Lydia*

                I think the difference is that crushes tend to be firmly fantasy with all the romance swelling of music and hot sex fantasies tend to have. Fantasies tend not to include the farts, dirty socks, and griping about the thermostat. I would argue that most people aren’t attracted to their crushes because of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, rather they crush on them because they don’t have to think about it. It’s all mystery so you can project whatever you want on them.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Clearly you are not inside my head, lol. My crush daydreams include being in the mundane with the object of my affection.

                  Besides, farts are always funny.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I’ve had crushes on coworkers before but wild horses wouldn’t have dragged that admission out of me. Also, (they didn’t, but) but if they had said stuff like this to me I would have realized really quickly that they were gross and that would have killed it pretty fast.

          LW needs to extricate herself from this mindset and possibly this whole job and workplace.

      2. MEH Squared*

        Yes to all of this and everything the other commenters have said about the grossness of the comments by the manager. I was stuck on why the OP wanted to tell her boss because there’s no practical reason for it, but I think you might have nailed it. It would be an intimate secret between the two of them that no one else would know.

        OP#1, it sounds bad because it is. Not the crush itself because everyone has crushes, but your manager’s comments about your attractiveness and your tendency to lean into it are not saying anything good about him or the situation. It would be best if you just kept everything strictly professional and divert your emotional energy elsewhere. The crush will run its course if you let it.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I once had a crush on a married man. It was the first time I seriously considered dating someone who was married, and I thought about the consequences and decided it wasn’t for me.
          After I’d known him a few months it was clear we would never have been compatible, not even enough to be close friends.
          OP, keep your distance, keep it professional, shut him down if he tries to get closer. In a few months you’ll wonder what you ever saw in him.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’ll add that sometimes the grass is greener because it’s AstroTurf – fake, and catastrophic for the environment.

      4. just a girl*

        I read that comment by the boss and as a woman in a very male dominated field my heart just sunk. This is why these fields remain male dominated. I am so used to having to be the person who spells out why this kind of thing is problematic and it was incredibly heartening to see multiple comments about this already. Thank you all.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes to all of this, speaking from personal experience too. And one possibility that did not exist for me, OP might look into being transferred to another role/manager so that she doesn’t need to talk so much with this guy.

      6. EPLawyer*

        In this case, the grass is always greener over the septic tank.

        OP your boss looks good because he is feeding you a line of BS.

          1. Chestnut Mare*

            Me, too.
            Her husband Bill’s eulogy was one of the loveliest things I’ve ever read.

      7. Hannah Lee*

        I’m loving all the “The grass is greener …” variations popping up here. Brilliant!

        The “What outcome are you hoping for, OP?” question is a great one, worth a good, hard, think. Possibly over drinks with a really good friend who knows LW well, knows what their goals, hopes, values are.

        Because at the end of the day, we all (the friend, all the commenters here, and likely the LW themselves) knows this guy is Absolutely. Not. Worth. It. Every thing about him is screaming that as loud as it can. And LW could use a trusted person to say that part out loud.

    6. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      Yes, I came here to say this. His comment was already gross. Stop flirting. Let the crush run it’s course.

    7. Lilo*

      Yep. This situation is already well over the line snd display some really misogynistic attitudes.

      This is bad all around.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I could see a Captain Awkward letter in the extreme passive voice from either of them in future.

      That’s not a good thing, OP–keep your mouth shut.

      Anecdote: About 45-50 years post college, an old college friend stopped in to visit my in-laws. She decided the time was right to confide the massive crush she had had on mil back then. It did not provide helpful context for anything back then; it made the now relationship weird and uncomfortable. Just because you have or had a crush doesn’t mean you are duty bound to inform the target.

      1. Silly Janet*

        Exactly! I have had a few crushes on coworkers. They were not in my line of command, but they were definitely not available. Telling them would have made things so uncomfortable. We were also friends, and I’m pretty sure the awkwardness would have ended the friendship. We all get crushes, even when in relationships, and that is perfectly human and normal. But we can’t make it the other person’s problem! I’m pretty sure it was on this brilliant site where I read a great way of looking at unattainable crushes on someone – it’s a “over there being awesome crush.” You can see them being awesome, but that’s it! No flirting, unnecessary texting, reading into how they interact with you, etc. Like many things, this too will pass.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Decades ago, I had a huge crush on a male coworker – I was very young and he wasn’t much older than I – but never did or said anything about it. He was friendly but not flirty, we both had significant others, and I moved on to another job and got over it. Very fast, too, so maybe there’s a lesson about getting over crushes.

        Anyway, we ran into each other at an industry event years later and I told him about my crush on him. Not sure why I did and it’s not something I’d recommend in general, but there you go. He had no idea I felt that way and took it in stride. We’ve run into each other since then and, thankfully, there’s no weirdness.

      3. Dust Bunny*


        He’s married, LW is in a relationship . . . what, exactly, does she think this will accomplish?

        I do think that she’s either not admitting to herself that she’s testing, or somehow thinks we’re too naive to notice, but she totally is and is hoping there’s a permissible way to do something with it.

    9. Saberise*

      I was extremely surprised Allison didn’t comment on that aspect of the letter. There are so many red flags in that letter. He’s made it very clear he’s attracted to her and she has a crush on him. This is not going to end well.

      1. Julia*

        I think that was wise, actually. Telling the LW that her boss is attracted to her and that comment was testing the waters is the sort of thing that’s going to encourage rather than discourage this crush. Think about how you’d feel about reading a hundred comments saying that your crush clearly likes you back – it’d be pretty exciting and probably would not motivate you to do the right thing.

        It would be better for LW to focus on the rest of the boss’s behavior: he’s happily married, the two of you almost never talk personal stuff, and he would likely be weirded out and uncomfortable if you confessed your feelings to him. He’d probably also tell his wife and the two of them would discuss you unfavorably. Just keep that picture in your mind.

    10. Jules the 3rd*

      OP1: The way I get over crushes is to imagine the person behaving in a way that’s a deal killer for me. With me, that’s usually being jealous or possessive, but it’ll be different for everyone. Whining is a good one, I think. Then I imagine my spouse acting in a way I like, or do a little something that makes my spouse happy.

      And you need to actively resist this crush. Some you can let drift, but a manager who’s made a comment about your attractiveness is a situation to avoid like the plague, unless you want to lose your job and your marriage both. Because they always fire the women (or manage them out); they only sometimes fire the men.

      Polecat: They rebooted “Lost In Space”, it was pretty good, I think “Danger, Will Robinson” is coming back into vogue. And it fits this scenario perfectly.

      1. Pikachu*

        1 – Having a work crush is easy, because you only ever see the person in a very specific context. They look their best every day and are on their “best” behavior (not quite, for this guy, but you know).

        And call me a prude, but I think even 1% of non-work-related texting is unacceptable. ESPECIALLY if there is flirtation already happening face to face! It always starts with the non-work-related texting. How many “work-spouses” become affair partners because of getting emotionally invested in a colleague outside of work hours? Bosses should not be checking in with direct reports (of ONE MONTH!) on how their personal lives are going.

        Why would you want to tell your boss that anyway? Who wants to text with their boss off the clock about their personal life? Why would a boss you’ve had for a month (I can’t even with this detail) be sending you pictures of his personal life? Why? There is just no justifiable reason that a professional relationship between manager and direct report requires this kind of communication off the clock. Period. That’s what work emails and the 10 minutes of annoying small talk is for at the beginning of a morning meeting.

        1. Pikachu*

          The more I think about it, I cannot imagine the circumstances under which I would give a f*ck about how my boss is spending his free time outside of work, let alone enough to want to get texts about it. It’s just bizarre.

          1. Despachito*


            I can imagine my boss mentioning his hobby at the water cooler, as part of the small talk (How was your weekend? We went biking but it was scorching hot so we ended in a swimming pool instead), or if relevant to the work (I brought a backpack, I am going to swim after work) but ANY TEXTING about non-work related issues is suspicious per se.

        2. Artemesia*

          Wow. I missed that. Even worse. Absolutely don’t respond to any personal text after hours, even something innocuous seeming.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          So I had a crush on my boss’ boss which was flipping ridiculous. He somehow hit all my buttons despite being way older (and I am generally uninterested in older). He has 2 kids my freaking age FFS! He never was anything but professional and I wasn’t even single, so I just channeled the crush energy into making going to work pleasurable. That little extra zip made my days pass fast. So basically I transferred my crush from this poor dude to a crush on my job

      2. Dust Bunny*

        She should remind herself that he’ll use the same line on the next pretty coworker they hire.

      3. Julia*

        For me personally, the best way to get over a crush is to convince yourself that THEY don’t like YOU. Tell yourself this guy makes these inappropriate comments to every attractive female coworker. Tell yourself he’s thinking about his wife right now and what he’s going to make for dinner. I said this in another comment, but tell yourself he knows about your crush and discusses it with his wife.

    11. The Bat*

      Yes, OP, as someone who has been in a very similar situation – I know this feels good. Flirting is fun. It is NOT a good idea. Lean into your current partner and work to find flaws of your boss (I promise you, there are plenty to be found).

      This might not be everyone’s experience, but being conventionally attractive in a male dominated field got me invited to the table, so to speak, and got me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. To be fair, I delivered on those, which helped my cause. But when I woke up one day at the ripe old age of 33 and realized I’d built a career on pleasing men by being cute and fun, I decided to stop. THE MEN WERE NOT PLEASED. It was the same quality of work, I still looked the same, but I didn’t initiate flirting or entertain bullsh1t. I ended up changing fields doing similar work. (It sucks over here, and I’m going back in two weeks, I’ll let you know how the return goes.) Anyway, cautionary tale.

    12. pancakes*

      Yes, and why is it “very flattering” for him to say that “guys around here aren’t used to seeing women who look like (you)” in an environment where there’s approx. 20 women and 700 men? It’s icky and inappropriate the way he phrased it, for reasons numerous commenters have noted, and the fact that men in a heavily male environment will tend to have something to say about the presence of women there isn’t particularly flattering at all. It’s not something that only happens when world-class beauties are around, it’s not remarkable, it’s not an achievement on anyone’s part. This is very basic hetero behavior.

    13. tennisfan*

      I’ll add that the occasional bike ride view photo maybe sounds innocuous, but you’ve only been there for a month. That’s super quick to get to the point of even a single non-work related text.

      1. Pikachu*

        Yup. OP should ask herself whether he’s sending the same photos to his WIFE AND CHILDREN.

        1. pancakes*

          It truly doesn’t matter, she shouldn’t actually need to try to delve into his family life to justify pulling back on this to herself. Likewise, if he does flirt with other people who aren’t his wife in similarly gross ways that’s not a good reason to persist. Someone trying to orient themselves in a situation like this by looking toward the wife is a bit lost.

          1. Pikachu*

            I agree it shouldn’t be necessary, but to get over crushes it can help to think about stuff like that. It’s the reality that outweighs the fantasy.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        That’s what I was thinking — one month in seems super quick to be sending regular personal texts with anyone, especially the bosses.

        1. Artemesia*

          And she should assume this guy has played around with subordinates in the past. This kind of aggressive behavior is seldom a one off. This ends with her losing her job and her marriage and him moving on to the next attractive subordinate.

        2. Sabina*

          Exactly. I had the same boss for 12 years and think I probably only had non -work related contact with him a couple of times and one of those times was a condolence call after a family death. OP needs to hit the breaks on this whole situation HARD.

        3. higeredadmin*

          I also picked up on the text messaging. I HATE it when employees text me (as a manager). It should be for emergencies only, e.g. if I’m out of the office and I’ve let everyone know I’m not reading emails so text in case of something urgent. Maybe this is an age thing, but between IM and emails (which are on my phone, and our IM pings my phone as well) you’ve got enough ways to get in touch other than text messages. I mean, maybe with a work friend you’ve known for years, but not a boss after a month.

    14. Esmeralda*

      Right. “Guys around here aren’t used to women who look like you” — ick. Ick ick ick. Because, you know, plain Janes don’t ever get harassed or treated inappropriately.

      I guess the boss isn’t used to it either, because right there he stepped over the line.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I can understand why the OP would be flattered by that but once you start to think about it too hard, it’s gross on so many levels. Right up there with boys being “distracted” by girls in school.

    15. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      What I do, when I find myself experiencing an inappropriate crush, is to figure out what the crush object has that I am lacking in my life. For instance, during my marriage I developed feelings for a friend who has a Ph.D. I did some serious thinking and decided that what I really wanted was to reconnect with learning and academia. Instead of cheating on my spouse, I went to grad school.

      If you’re just enjoying the excitement, that’s a sign that you need to amp up your out-of-work life. Take flying lessons, start a band, learn a language, take up stonecarving, whatever floats your boat.

    16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I literally screamed when I re-read the letter and saw that part! What was he thinking? What does this comment even say about the committed family man, who “talks about his family often”? Especially the last half, “and that’s all I’m allowed to say”, gross. OP, your manager does not seem to have quite as good of a handle on what’s appropriate in a workplace. Do not tell him anything. You shouldn’t tell him either way, but with this guy, I don’t know how he’s going to react and it might be in ways that will end badly for you.

      I’ve had crushes on coworkers in the past. Most of these people I don’t even remember anymore, and those that I do, I cannot for the life of me understand what I saw in them. It was a weird way of my mind reacting to being connected to those people 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week (or more, in some cases – I’ve done 24/7 support and was on all-night calls with some of my teammates). Something tells me this guy isn’t really crush-worthy and one day, you’ll snap out of it. Just sit back and wait for it to pass.

    17. quill*

      Yeah. I dunno if he’s fishing for anything, consciously, but that line stuck out to me as totally inappropriate. OP’s looks have NOTHING to do with the job, and are not a good subject even in an office where people joke around and share random photos. OP: for the sake of your career, back off, and make any further comments about your appearance land like a lead balloon.

    18. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I also want to add a tale of caution about how this kind of stuff, once it gets out into the open, never goes away. I had a crush on a lead dev at my first job and he found out. I was 30 and he was 29. I was unhappily married and he was single. I tried to hide it, he noticed, and did not take kindly to it at all. I changed jobs, eventually left my husband, moved several times, lost contact with everyone I’d known back at that time and through that job, forgot all about the guy, then one day when I was in my 50s, his brother (whom I’d known from back in the day) married a woman who owned the house next to mine, that she’d been renting out, she decided to stop renting, and imagine my surprise when one day my old crush’s brother moved in next door to me! The brother turned out to be a great neighbor, I have to add. But it certainly did light a fire under my arse – I’d been meaning to sell my house and move away, but had been dragging my feet, until this happened. Got out of there within a year, motivated by the pure terror of one day potentially running into my old crush in my own driveway. It’s a small world, OP, don’t tell him now if you don’t want this information to come back to you later. It will never just blow over and be forgotten by everyone involved.

    19. HufferWare*

      Commenting on her body while encouraging her to report harassment to him…the guy who just made an inappropriately sexual comment to her. YIKES!! And also GROSS! This boss is no good.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      Absolutely. What the manager said was hugely inappropriate. OP, you need to act professionally with him at all times. If this gets out of control in any way, you could very well be the one to suffer the fallout, not him.

      DO NOT tell him you have a crush on him. Like Alison said, don’t feed it and do your best to concentrate on work.

    21. Anona*

      Yes. They are both vying for an emotional affair. She’s flattered by his inappropriate attention. They are sending personal text messages and she is trying to dilute that. But it’s there.

  2. Janet*

    #3 – I hope this is cool to mention and doesn’t come off as nitpicky, but as someone who works in EAL education I wanted to mention that “accent instruction” isn’t really considered favourably any more. The goal is for comprehensibility, not to sound like some nebulous definition of a “native English speaker” (a definition which is often rooted in complicated social and racial privileges). I understand this doesn’t make a meaningful difference in OP’s case, as I’d assume the issue is that her intern’s pronunciation of English words is so nonstandard that it’s incomprehensible to others, and I don’t say this to criticize OP for her language.

    But I’ve had people come to me with the goal of “sounding like an American” and that’s kind of a problematic target. Furthermore, if anyone has ever had trouble understanding a nonnative English speaker, I’d ask them to think about whether the pronunciation was incomprehensible or just nonstandard. I find that sometimes there’s a level of willful misunderstanding that operates in the subconscious when we label people a certain way — again, not to imply that any such thing is happening in OP’s case. This is more a general “food for thought” being put out to the AAM commentariat (a group I’ve generally found willing to consider issues of social relations and privilege) at large.

    1. Janet*

      Edit: I hope people will take my comment in the spirit it was intended, but Alison feel free to remove it if it proves derailing or off-topic.

      1. WhatAMaroon*

        I’m glad you added this point because I agree wholeheartedly with interrogating accent is that don’t affect understanding. I appreciate you bringing this up.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. For example, I have a friend whose native language has only 1 word for 3rd person he/she/it. When he speaks English, everything is “He”, the house, the car, his wife, his kids, his old Saudi boss, etc.. Socially, NBD, I just ask him what he’s talking about. At a job, though, this would be a bigger deal. My out-laws speak English with a heavy accent, but every word is correct and their grammar nukes mine from orbit. Their accent should not be an issue in any setting

      2. Fikly*

        I appreciate it greatly, as people who police accents and culture specific terms are generally some variety of bigot.

        1. Asenath*

          Not necessarily, in my experience. They may or may not be misled as to the importance in their situation of the particular accent being used, but that doesn’t make them a bigot.

          1. pancakes*

            It can if they were misled by bigots, or by bigoted views. Both are quite popular, particularly in certain corners of the media landscape.

        2. Gumby*

          I think that there are limited circumstances where it would be legitimate for a heavy accent to be disqualifying for a job. For example: college instructor. It’s not that *any* accent would be problematic, but that strong accents really can impede understanding. Ahem, my university math department that took “passed the TOEFL” to mean “can teach diffy-q to undergrads.” I am sure that particular TA was a brilliant mathematician seeing as he was working on a PhD at one of the best math departments in the country. But I understood next to nothing he said because his accent was very very prominent. Dropped the course and took it the next quarter with someone who also had an accent but less of one.

      3. TransmascJourno*

        I think that your input is very valuable in this case, for the reasons you stated.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        May I add to your comment to make sure there is telephone and video call practice as well. Sometimes an “accent” can be understood in person, but will become harder to understand through other mediums.

        For reference, I have a coworker who we have had to pull off appointment scheduling and confirmation calls after we got lots of feedback that his very regional (and American) accent became hard to understand on the phone.

        1. Janet*

          Absolutely — according to academic tests I’m a B2 French but I still stress out about taking over the phone or in group conversations with fluent French coworkers. Knowledge of rules does not equal operability, and I would go so far as to say that no person has universal operability in all contexts, even in their maternal tongue. Try showing up at a technical conference in a field you have no background in, for example!

        2. Aerin*

          Or it can even be fine on the phone under ideal circumstances, but combine it with background noise and softspokenness and you get an unholy trinity of incomprehensibility. So that’s a thing to be aware of as well.

          1. quill*

            Yeah. Always have non phone (text based if possible!) options and actually decent conditions when people are presenting while speaking.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I babysat for a Malaysian couple (I’m from the American south) and became friendly with the mom even after I no longer babysat for them. I could always understand her perfectly in person, but it was a little harder on the phone. I found that the phone conversations were easier if I quit straining to understand and kind of relaxed into understanding. I think when I was straining to understand, I’d get stopped on a particular word that I didn’t quite catch, but when I switched from focused attention to more diffuse awareness, I found that I would catch up as she continued to speak.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Phone conversations can be harder in general because the sound isn’t as good even if your hearing is fine. Especially on cell phones.

      5. LittleDoctor*

        I’m glad you said this. I have a strong accent and when I read “accent instruction” it was a huge eyebrow-raiser for me.

      6. My Useless 2 Cents*

        Not necessarily even nonnative English speaker issue. English pronunciation can be a landmine for even native speakers. As an American it always takes a moment or two for my brain to decipher vitamin when I hear it from a British speaker. Simple word with dramatically different pronunciations.

        I think OP would be doing her intern a huge favor by bringing the issue to the interns attention. I have found practice to be my biggest obstacle to learning a second language. OP if you have time, could you offer a few coffee break or lunch time chat sessions if intern wanted to practice conversing?

      7. tamarack and fireweed*

        I came here to say the exact same thing. (I have lived as an adult in four countries, two – including my home country – non-English speaking, the other two being the UK and the US. I also had at one point a qualification to teach English as a foreign language in country #2.)

        It is tempting as an ESL speaker functioning in an environment where English is a vehicular language, largely used between ESL speakers, to consider accent as just a dimension of language skill, but it really isn’t. Sure, as an ESL speaker from, say, France, an ESL speaker from Belgium, or a Southern British English speaker, or someone speaking the US English of the Atlantic Coast, will be easier to understand than someone with a native language from East Asia. However, once oral competency is developed, accent will remain, and it’s up to everyone to accommodate accent diversity.

        A requirement about accent is to a requirement about language like demanding someone straighten their natural hair and cover up a scar with makeup compared with demanding professional standards of dress and appearance – too intrusive, not necessarily physically achievable, and easy to let slide into discrimination.

        So by all means the LW should tell their employee that to be competitive on the market, she needs to get to, say, CEFR level C1 or even C2, and that especially verbal/oral skills need to get leveled up. But leave accent alone – pronunciation will come along as it does. (I’d also suggest to be as lenient as possible with someone who’s on the right trajectory – say, is taking classes to improve – as the technical skills she has shouldn’t be overshadowed by needing to work a little longer on language.)

    2. learnedthehardway*

      As a Canadian in a role that deals with people from all over the world, the only people I have absolutely not been able to understand were other native English speakers. Accent can make a real difference to comprehensibility.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        In my experience, it’s most likely to be a problem when a non-native speaker is listening. You have someone speaking English with a strong Japanese accent talking to someone with a strong Indian accent, and while they’re both fluent speakers, they can have real trouble understanding each other. It’s also an issue with regional English accents – a non native speaker will usually have been taught either a generic American accent, or English received pronunciation, and when faced with an accent very far from that standard, will have problems. I’m a native speaker who grew up in a fairly diverse environment, works in an international environment, and has lived in multiple countries – I can follow a wide variety of accents quite well. My husband, a fluent non native speaker also working and living in multiple countries, who speaks more languages than I do, struggles to understand some accents.

        It’s a tricky issue, because if you genuinely can’t understand someone, you can’t will yourself into greater comprehension. About the only thing that works is repeated exposure to a particular accent, over an extended period of time.

        In the LW’s case, I’d guess it’s a combination of pronunciation, grammar/word order and vocabulary. The native speakers like the OP can fill in the blanks reasonably well, but the non-native speakers are having trouble. When I interview interns (our program is also in English, with mostly non-native speaking participants), one criterion is whether we can communicate with each other well enough to do a project over two months.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I share your experience (English is a second language for me and I sometimes have trouble understanding strong accents), but my husband has had a different experience. He also isn’t a native speaker, and finds that some native speakers will talk too quickly and not enunciate clearly (swallowing sounds, trailing off at the end, etc.). He finds the more deliberate, slower way that most people speak foreign languages easier to follow, even if it is accented. Now, strong *native* accents, that’s trouble for both of us, hah.

          I find it fascinating that there are apparently different ways of hearing and processing language. I have no trouble with speed (I actually dislike it when people talk too slowly), but I’m easily thrown by background noise and by pronunciation being even slightly off. Other people can sort of filter accents, but need processing time to do it.

          1. UKDancer*

            Mumbling is definitely a problem. There are some programmes on TV (some UK, some US) where I have to watch with subtitles because people mumble so much. The Wire is a classic example of this for me. If people would speak clearly and not mumble their lines I’d find several TV programmes more enjoyable.

            I think the other thing is familiarity. The more you listen to a particular accent the easier it is to understand.

            1. Riot Grrrl*

              Going a bit off topic here, but this is a well documented problem in the film and TV industry. It has to do with changing acting styles, technical and budget limitations on sound, and a few other factors. It’s not just you–things really have gotten much worse.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Now I can’t stop thinking of the episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie with Wheat Week.

              2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

                This is good to know! I’m a native English speaker, and I’ve noticed over the past few years that I’ve had to start putting on the closed-captioning/subtitles more often, even when I’m watching English-language media. I thought it was because I used to watch TV with CC just for the heck of it years ago and got too used to reading-while-listening, or that maybe my hearing was getting worse with time, but it’s interesting to learn that audio really is changing, and not for the better.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  Same for me — I’ve started using closed-captioning/subtitles as a default, and I thought it was just me.

                2. Lana Kane*

                  Same for me – captions are on by default at my house. It’s only been in the last couple of years. I’m sure my many years of blasting music thru headphones play a part, but I also swear up and down that it’s also the mumbling and the random whispering tones.

                3. My Useless 2 Cents*

                  Also started using CC as standard when watching TV. I chalked it up to my hearing or (I apologize in advanced as I don’t know if this is the right terminology) sound mixing. The background noise of modern tv and movies just seems to be louder. Like the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr., I’m not sure if it’s the accent, the speed at which he speaks, the background noise but I find them incomprehensible without subtitles and I’m a native English (granted American English) speaker.

                  I really appreciate it myself when people slow down their speech when on the phone and focus on speaking clearly. Accent or no. And I agree with many commenters that regional native English speaker accents can be the hardest accents to understand.

                4. higeredadmin*

                  Ditto. It started with needed to keep the TV quiet at my kids bedtime, and now I realize I really prefer it.

              3. quill*

                Also people keep cranking up the background sound in scenes compared to the dialogue, and people who watch TV that still has adds aren’t going to max out their volume to hear the quiet confession scene if the adds scream at you about SHAMWOW!

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Yeah, background music shouldn’t be louder than the dialogue, but it often is.

            2. Mary Ellen*

              What you’re calling “mumbling” is a core feature of the accent of the characters in The Wire. Flattening that out would have come at great creative expense in the show. It’s OK to need subtitles to track it, though. Lord knows I need them for most Scottish media.

          2. Aerin*

            I remember seeing Pink Martini, a global chic sort of band that performs in a bunch of different languages. It seemed like they were hitting every single language I had studied, and I couldn’t understand *any* of it. Then they sang a song in English and I couldn’t understand that either, because we were in the very back row and the acoustics meant that we basically didn’t get any consonants. (Though that shouldn’t have made a difference for French, since spoken French barely bothers with consonants anyway.)

        2. Ariaflame*

          My mother had to translate between my Scottish grandfather and a Srilankan doctor. Everyone was speaking English, but were not mutually understandable.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I’m a native English speaker, I’m really good at discerning accents and understanding people, and I might have needed help with the Scots too. :-)

            1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              Agreed! I’m an American who works with a company that has foreign partners in England and Scotland and when some of the Scots call I’m like ‘um, can you email me after this call to make sure I got everything?’

              We get along well so I told one guy that has less of what I hear as an accent about not understanding some of his teammates, and he said ‘oh yeah, at our morning meetings, I barely understand some of them’.

              I’ve always wondered if the Scottish and English find me hard to understand. We did have one of the English guess where we grew up in the US based on our accents and they’re normally really spot on.

              1. allathian*

                In general, I expect that Americans have more difficulties understanding British accents than vice versa, simply because people in the UK are more used to hearing American accents on TV than people in the US are used to hearing British accents. The world domination of American media plays a huge role here.

            2. LZ*

              I’m a native English speaker, and the only time I have found another native English speaker literally impossible to understand was while traveling in northern Scotland.

            3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I definitely need a translator. I was in Glasgow and for the life of me could not understand the cashier at Tesco. Finally the person behind me took pity and told me she was telling me I needed to pay 4.87 pounds

            4. Lab Boss*

              I work with a Scottish team and there is a huge range of understandability. When I first got involved I was warned about one woman in particular- she’s notorious for not only having an extremely strong accent, but also using extremely regional/old-fashioned slang. Most of the team will realize they’re not being understood and will re-phrase- she has to be told specifically “your words make no sense, can you use different ones?” at which point she happily complies.

          2. PhyllisB*

            Very true on understanding accents. I’m as Southern as cornbread, and when I call tech support and get someone with a strong Indian accent, I know it’s going to be rough going for both of us.

          3. PhyllisB*

            Yep. My step-grandmother was from New Jersey, my grandmother was Southern as turnip greens. They liked each other, but when they were together, it was constantly, “what’d she say?” My mother and I had to play interpreter always. And on the phone? Forget it.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          In my experience as a Brit in Europe, I find that the Germans and Italians will understand each other just fine, and I’m the one who doesn’t get that “tree” isn’t part of a forest but a number.

        4. PhyllisB*

          Very true on understanding accents. I’m as Southern as cornbread, and when I call tech support and get someone with a strong Indian accent, I know it’s going to be rough going for both of us.

          1. PhyllisB*

            And it’s not only live people. When I call these voice response lines I can guarantee that at least once I’m going to hear, “sorry, I didn’t get that.” Or, “sorry, I didn’t understand you.” How many ways can you say yes or no?

            1. quill*

              Or you have to keep shouting “OPERATOR” at the walgreens automatic phone thing because it cannot understand ordinal numbers or months. (Who taught that thing how to say February? or, for that matter, the difference between nineteen and ninety? Asking for me, a person born in February of 199X.)

              1. chidi*

                Most systems like that will transfer you to a real live person after you hit zero about 3 times.

      2. PollyQ*

        It can, certainly, but it’s by no means the only issue. I work in software, and have had many co-workers from various countries who spoke English as a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) language. The only one I had real trouble understanding was, unfortunately, one of my bosses, and it wasn’t so much the accent as the fact that he mumbled. If he’d chosen to work on diction & enunciation, he would’ve been much easier for me to understand, without necessarily make him sound any more like an American.

      3. Asenath*

        I wouldn’t say that. So far in my life, I have understood most non-native speakers and nearly all native-speakers of English, sometimes with a little more concentration, sometimes with a little lest. But the point here isn’t that the intern is a non-native speaker, but that several people, employed in the field the intern is working in, think that her English skills are not good enough for that field. That’s something that the intern can work on, but her supervisor should mention it to her to ensure she’s aware of the problem.

        1. Asenath*

          Response to Learnedthehardway’s comment that the only accents that were difficult to understand were those of native English speakers. That’s what “that” in the first sentence refers to.

    3. Koalafied*

      There’s a video of YouTube that’s probably several years old now with the cast of Harry Potter attempting American accents with varying degrees of success. They were interviewed individually and all had slightly different “flavors” of American accents they went for. The most fun was I believe Tom Felton, who seemed to interpret “American” as specifically Texan.

      1. TG*

        LW #1 – stop the flirting, stop any inappropriate discussion and maybe look for a new job. This has badness written all over it.

        1. urguncle*

          This was clearly an accident, but an absolutely hilarious reply to this specific comment.

      2. Alex the Alchemist*

        I also saw a similar video of the Downton Abbey cast reading a scene from the show in American accents. It was amazing.

        1. Clisby*

          I used to be a big fan of BBC TV series (like Masterpiece Theater and Mystery) and was always amused at the incredibly bad American accents British actors would come up with. Years later, I watched The Wire, which featured at least 2 English actors and 1 Irish actor – and they had perfectly credible American accents. (Whether they were credible Baltimore accents is something I can’t speak to.) I remember wondering why the BBC couldn’t be bothered to get decent accent coaches.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            There’s an episode of Roseann that guest-stars Emma Thompson, and she whips out a Midwestern US accent. It is lethally funny.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          There’s an episode of Roseann that guest-stars Emma Thompson, and she whips out a Midwestern US accent. It is lethally funny.

          1. Lydia*

            What’s fun is going from Hugh Laurie’s A Little Bit of Fry and Laurie American accent (so very bad) and then hearing his House American accent. It’s night and day.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My mom still doesn’t believe me that Linus Roache, who played DA Cutter at the end of “Law & Order”, is British.

      3. Gumby*

        Daniel Craig in Knives Out. My first reaction was “no, this is wrong” but given a few minutes to adjust from seeing him as James Bond and it was, I think (though I am no expert) a good accent for the role if a little over the top maybe.

    4. Varthema*

      Came to say the same, also as an ELT professional! Accent reduction is a kind of sad place I suspect that the OP really meant that the person in question needs English classes with a strong focus on pronunciation/intelligibility. A lot of people still think that language classes are still all grammar and conversation practice (and regrettably, some are), but pronunciation with an aim of intelligibility should always be a part of any good language teaching plan.

      And anyone who finds the whole concept of “whose English are we teaching” interesting should definitely check out English as a Lingua Franca / Globish. :)

    5. Adam*

      I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, yes, it’s more important whether you can be understood, and ideally that would be the only important thing. But on the other hand, the actual world is filled with people who will judge you based on your accent, often subconsciously, and I can’t fault anyone for trying to eliminate a source of unfair bias against them. Here in the UK, one regularly meets people who went off to university with a working class accent and came back speaking RP, and they’ll probably have more successful careers as a result, as unfair as that is.

      1. Janet*

        > I can’t fault anyone for trying to eliminate a source of unfair bias against them

        Yes, but my comment was to people in positions of power and privilege to re-examine some of their assumptions, many of of which are rooted in unconscious biases against others who “don’t belong” to whatever group we feel we belong to.

        For example, though there’s nothing to indicate that in this letter, I would challenge a boss who gets complaints about an employee’s spoken English to consider whether there are real issues intelligibility or if the complainants are maybe acting as if they should not have to put even the slightest modicum of effort into understanding their colleagues.

        I’m thinking of a comment I read in one of the mortification posts yesterday when someone described how their 4-year old liked to play “with himself” in the corner (with legos, OP was a NNES who meant to say *by* himself) and their coworker apparently blanched and excused themselves. At a certain point when someone insists on the literal meaning while refusing to consider context or likely alternative interpretations, it’s because of a belief (maybe unconscious, maybe not) about how they view other people.

      2. PhyllisB*

        Very true. A lot of people look down on Southern accents. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy nailed it when he said people hear a Southern accent and automatically deduct 30 IQ points. I presume other countries have equivalent feelings. This is why I stressed proper grammar to my children. I told them they were starting with a disadvantage with their accent, don’t compound it by sounding uneducated.

      3. starfox*

        I think this is one of those cases where individuals can choose to do that, but it’s probably not great for someone in a position of power to recommend.

        I say this as someone who has watched countless YouTube videos on how to get rid of my Southern (US) accent after a fully adult man made fun of my accent when I was 14 on a class field trip to Chicago! It’s fine for me to choose to try to get rid of it, but it wouldn’t be great if my boss told me to, you know?

    6. Despachito*

      I am very glad you say this about the accent – I am a non-native speaker, and although my English is fairly good I have a lifelong complex of “not sounding like a native”.

      Rationally, I know that the effort put into achieving this would not be proportionate to the outcome, and that the outcome (i.e. speaking in a manner it is impossible to tell I am non-native) will possibly not be achievable no matter how I tried, but inherently, this little sting prevails, and it is nice to hear a confirmation it is not considered necessary.

      1. BubbleTea*

        There’s also the question of which native you want to sound like. A strong Geordie, Glaswegian or Cockney accent can be just as hard to understand.

        There’s nothing wrong with it being discernible that you’re multilingual. It’s a good thing to speak multiple languages!

      2. UKDancer*

        I don’t think you can ever sound exactly like a native so I wouldn’t worry. As long as you can use the language for the purposes you need it that’s fine. I’ve spoken German all my life learning it from family friends and then more formally but a native speaker can tell that I’m not even if they can’t quite say where I’m from (and usually they peg me as Scandinavian for some reason). Not so much because of the accent but because sometimes I use a word that isn’t quite right in the context or isn’t the one a native speaker would pick.

        Some things are just innate. So for example I would say “I have a big blue bicycle”. One of my Polish colleagues asked me to look at a presentation and he’d put the equivalent of “I have a blue big bicycle.” No English person would say that. It’s not wrong it’s just not the norm. But I couldn’t tell you why.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          While native speakers can just “feel” the right order for those adjectives, those learning English as a foreign language have to learn that adjectives have to be in a particular order. It’s an excruciating rule and most students simply take away that they should avoid piling on adjectives.

        2. Amy*

          It’s called the “Royal Order of Adjectives.”
          Most of us never explicitly learned it but we all (native speakers) observe it.

          Like your example. Or for example, we’d never say “My Fat Greek Big Wedding.”

          1. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

            I’ve heard people talking about that (and I hear a lot of people in this thread echoing the language used in that viral post about it) but the truth is that that’s an oversimplification. Adjective order is in reality nowhere near so regular.

            For example: “Big fast car” and “fast little car” order the size adjective differently, but both sound fairly natural.

            1. Amy*

              The more adjectives you use, the clearer it becomes.

              Another example linguists use is “lovely little old rectangular green French whittling knife”

              A “French little green rectangular old lovely knife” will just sound very odd to most speakers, even if they don’t know why.

              1. Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein*

                Swap out the adjectives for others in the same class and it doesn’t hold together the same. It isn’t an inflexible hard-and-fast rule and particularly within the “opinion” category of adjectives there is flexibility in the exact order.

                “Ugly big new oval brown Belgian carving knife” follows OSASCOMP and should be the equivalent, but it’s not the most natural way to arrange those adjectives.

                (Plus, stringing together long lists of adjectives is already a somewhat unnatural way to speak; if you’re trying to say that a natural and instinctive rule is only clearly followed in a rather unnatural formulation, that doesn’t make it very natural, does it?)

              2. Aneurin*

                From “The Elements of Eloquence” by: Mark Forsyth:

                “[A]djectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.”

        3. Emmy Noether*

          The way to sound like a native is to not learn words, but entire phrases. The only way to do it is hours upon hours of input from native speakers.

          I can pass for a native French speaker for the time it takes to buy a croissant, because that is a very limited set of phrases and I say them exactly as I have heard them, melody, rythm, inflection and accent, as if it were a song*. If I have to have an actual conversation with actual new sentences, I’m out.

          *relatedly, there are singers that can sing in a foreign-to-them language accent-free, but have a strong accent when they speak.

          1. KRM*

            When you learn to sing in a foreign language, you learn the words phonetically, so you 1-don’t have any accent and 2-don’t necessarily know anything about that language despite being able to sing an entire opera in it. It’s a whole fascinating rabbit hole to go down!

            1. Jackalope*

              I’d argue about the not having an accent when singing. I am American, and have heard other Americans singing in other languages and can totally hear their accents when singing. It’s easier when they are singing in another language that I know, but I can hear it even when it’s a language I don’t know. I remember once talking with a friend who thought he could sing in a language I spoke, so he tried a few lines. If he hadn’t been singing from a few lines I had I’m front of me, I would have had no clue what he was saying. And likewise, I remember going to a concert in a country where most people didn’t speak English. They were singing some of their songs in English and I could barely understand a few words here and there.

              In situations like that the point isn’t necessarily comprehension – you can still enjoy concerts and singing even if you don’t understand all of the words. But in most cases I’ve heard, the person’s original accent still comes through loud and clear.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yep, I have classical voice training and we did use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) when preparing songs that weren’t in English. I hadn’t used it in years and was delighted to rediscover it when I started working on conlang phonemes.

                But you absolutely can sing with an accent. I listen to soundtracks all day, some of which come from anime and games, and there are a lot of J-pop songs. The performers are very obviously singing phonetically and you can hear their accents plain as day.

            2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Yup. I remember learning to sing various songs in French, Latin, German, and Japanese as part of music classes during elementary/high school – we sounded great. My actual language classes were in Spanish, and I had the advantage of being able to speak it with a great grandparent who was a native speaker – I was consequently ahead of most in my conversational studies, but drove the instructors up a wall, because I had learnt to speak with her (very strong) Andalusian accent – which was not the Latin American Spanish we were supposed to be learning.

              1. Pippa K*

                I had Spanish classes at two different points in life, once from Latin American instructors and once from Spanish instructors. In the second setting, the person who initially assessed my level said “I can tell that you’ve learned Latin American Spanish before – it shows up in how you speak” and then added, mostly joking, “we can fix that!” (And they did!) But beyond these broad categories, I’m not nearly advanced enough to discern other differences like region or class, which I can do pretty well in English and to some extent in one other language.

                This whole discussion of language fluency and how we perceive it in ourselves and others is really fascinating. Thanks, AAM crowd!

            3. Elenna*

              I’m a non-native French speaker, and I went to a summer camp in Quebec several times as a kid, and learned some camp songs there. One of them has one verse in English. To this day I’ll sing that verse with a French accent, despite being a native English speaker, because that’s how I heard everyone else sing it.

            4. HanahS*

              That’s not true. The same challenges of pronunciation are present in singing, too. Singers work on learning correct pronunciation in other languages; if the phonemes are not in English, then they will struggle as if they were speaking. Singing doesn’t magically enable an Anglophone to say “je n’ai pu voire” with the proper /y/ sound.

          2. Despachito*

            This is because the hardest thing to learn is the MELODY of the language, and it is this what betrays even the most accomplished speakers ( I know I will probably never get it fully right). Not the individual accents, those can be learned relatively easily, but how you handle the melody of a sentence while speaking.

            While singing, you do not have to do that, and therefore it is much easier to sound as a native speaker.

        4. Turtle Duck*

          You can definitely “feel” the adjective order as a “non-native” in the same way natives do – you listen to other people speak and you read! :)

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, while I very definitely don’t sound like a native (as much as I’d actually like to – which in itself isn’t a problem, I’d say, if it’s just your own goal/preference!), I’d say that I’ve certainly aquired a “gut feeling” for order of adjectives, idioms etc. Reading lots of English books and writing in English helps. And no, I don’t understand the rules behind it any more than the natives, unfortunately!

            1. Turtle Duck*

              Yes, what I mean is that the idea that there are some things that you just “know” as a native speaker is linked a lot more to fluency, practice and habit. If you listen and practice enough, you will for sure acquire a lot of “native” and “innate” rules and expressions etc you will use correctly without realizing or being able to explain (this also goes for “native mistakes”)! A lot of “native” habits are just fluency and a high level of knowledge!

              1. si*

                Yeah, it’s about having massive levels of exposure to the language as it’s used day to day. Native speakers get that automatically (though still might very well not be qualified to teach their language, translate into it, whatever). I personally will never translate out of my first language into my second, because I know I’m not at that level – my text will be comprehensible but it won’t sound as good as it needs to, there’s too much I still don’t know. It’s not impossible for a non-native speaker to get that good, though.

        5. Another ELT professional*

          It’s called adjective order and there is a (general) rule (in English, anyway, and no doubt in other languages too), but as you say most native speakers couldn’t say why! It comes naturally as a native speaker and you only really learn the rule if you have to teach it as an ELT professional.

        6. ThatGirl*

          This is pure anecdote and not meant to be argumentative, but I have a friend who was born in Hong Kong and spent her childhood in HK and Belgium, then moved to the US for college. Before moving to the US she mostly learned English by watching American television, I remember her mentioning Friends.

          So to my ear – she sounds like a native speaker, with hardly any accent. While English is an official language of Hong Kong, I’m still fascinated by how American TV shaped her accent.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            That’s my SIL and her sibs. They moved from Taiwan when she was 15 and her sisters were 13 and 17. Through TV they all picked up perfect, CA accented English, despite not living in CA at any point. It is incredible especially since they only speak Mandarin with their parents. It was literally just TV, movies, and school that had them all CA accent by ages 23-27.

        7. pancakes*

          “As long as you can use the language for the purposes you need it that’s fine.”

          For the most part, until it isn’t. This line made me think of what happened to a friend who was visiting Montreal. He’s American, like me, but speaks French, he thought reasonably well. Someone approached him in Montreal and asked directions, in French, and he was just familiar enough with the city to answer, in French. The person thanked him and said, “Its a pity you don’t speak French, though.” He thought it was hilarious and it is, but if he was trying to live and work there, maybe not!

          1. Elenna*

            Living in Quebec for a few months definitely exposed some holes in what I thought was decent French. Like the fact that I learned French as a kid in a French immersion elementary school, so I didn’t know words like “credit card” or “the bill” because elementary school kids don’t have to say those words. But they’re rather important as an adult!

            (Although actually a lot of cashiers, waiters, etc looked at me and started in English before I said anything. My best guess is that they consciously or subconsciously assumed an Asian-looking person wouldn’t speak French.)

            1. UKDancer*

              Canadian French is different from France French. I have lived in parts of France with a strong accent as well as Brussels and would describe myself as having good French (good enough for a technical discussion). I went to Montreal for work and couldn’t understand a word anyone said. They understood me fine but the accent / dialect was so unfamiliar to me that I really struggled even with simple things like ordering food.

              The only similar experience was going to Switzerland where I discovered that Swiss German is really different from the way I learnt it.

              1. Gracely*

                The Quebecois accent can be rough on people who learned French in France/Belgium. It’s kinda wild that it sounds so different, but at the same time, I think of it as being not unlike the English spoken by Irish or Scots people.

                I definitely had the same problem understanding some people when I was in Montreal. It’s not unintelligible, but it requires so much more concentration to parse, especially if you’re not expecting it or haven’t dealt with other French accents (I had a host father with a very strong Pyrenees accent–but that’s so tame compared to Quebecois). At the same time, the Quebecois have no trouble with the more “standard” French because that’s still what everyone speaks on the TV/news/etc.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              So you are me calling a plumber in Bosnia? I knew how to say “international development”, “economic uncertainty”, “pre-exposure prophylaxis”, but not “pipe”

          2. Lydia*

            Except that was just a shitty thing to say to someone who literally just gave you directions you understood, in French. That example is exactly what UKDancer was talking about; it’s just this particular person decided to be a dick about your friend’s accent or one of the words he used.

            1. pancakes*

              Right, but it’s not as if that one person is the only dick in the world. They’re pretty much inescapable. There is very, very often someone who will be a dick about someone else’s accent.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                If you have power in a workplace, you should be working not to accommodate, but to minimize the influence of dicks/jerks/assholes.

        8. EmKay*

          the adjectives must be in order of opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material, and finally, purpose :)

        9. Kotow*

          Ha! This example made me laugh. I do speak Polish and though I’ve never had anyone correct this, I would definitely say “big blue bicycle” (Mam wielki niebieski rower) instead of “blue big bicycle” if we were just talking about what types of bicycles we have. If it were in the context of asking which big bicycle I have, then I’d be more likely to say “Mam niebieski wielki rower” (I have *the* blue big bicycle) or more likely “Niebieski wielki rower to moj.” I’ve given up on the idea of ever sounding like a native speaker though, because Polish has so much flexibility in its word order and sentence structure that I’m never truly going to understand it innately as long as I live in the U.S. Incidentally though, I get pegged for a German speaker because I want the word order to be SOV.

      3. Pippa K*

        I have the opposite problem – I’m apparently good at picking up accents, speech rhythm, etc., so when I was living in a country where I was a non-native, competent-but-not-fluent speaker of the local language, I was regularly mistaken for a native speaker at the start of a conversation. And then at some point, the person I was speaking to would be baffled that I didn’t know some ordinary vocabulary or grammar.

        A friend had the more usual problem that her grammar and vocabulary were at near-native fluency, much better than mine, but she had a strong foreign accent. People always assumed that I was the more fluent of us, just because of how we sounded.

        1. Gracely*

          I’ve had that happen! I was staying at a resort in another country, and after a few days, one of the waiters we’d had almost every day at breakfast broke down and asked me where on Earth I was from “because your French sounds French but your English sounds American most of the time.” It was like he was pretty sure I couldn’t be French because I was too American, but he couldn’t account for why my pronunciation was so good. Add to the fact that I have a pretty standard American accent most of the time, but it reverts to Southern when I’m talking to relatives (like at breakfast time), and it’s no wonder he was confused.

          On a separate, but related note, I remember when I lived with my host family, I realized I had no idea what the word for “clothes hanger” was. It’s weird the words you don’t realize you don’t know until you’re faced with trying to say them.

      4. Critical Rolls*

        As a monolingual person, someone speaking English as a second language with any degree of intelligibility has made a major accomplishment I will probably never achieve. It’s admirable. I also detest the idea of someone feeling the need to obscure their accent, just as I would if they felt the need to eliminate cultural indicators from their dress or food.

    7. Susan Calvin*

      I 100% agree with you in terms of facts, HOWEVER – as a non-native speaker, who has spent their entire professional (most of academic) life in contexts where English was the primary shared language, but native to few or none of us, it needs to be said that there is such thing as not being fluent at a business level.

      LW #3, if this is truly a case of severly lacking vocab or genuinely confusingly bad grammar, rather than a ‘bad’ accent – would you consider outsourcing The Conversation to someone who is also not a native speaker, ideally someone who shares a cultural background with the intern? That might be more effective, and probably also better in terms of optics.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I think it would be a good idea to ask the person who has made this observation if they could feed it back to the intern, or at least to ask whether they’d be available for follow-up questions if LW passes it on as feedback. It’s partly about optics but also, if the intern has questions about exactly what’s they should work on or the broader context of that sector in that country, they’d be better placed to answer them.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes I think there’s a difference between accent and grammar / written skills. I don’t mind what accent people have (as long as it’s intelligible) but I need people who can read and write English correctly and accurately as it’s a key part of the job. Several of my team don’t have English as a first language in fact. All of them have some form of accent and it has never been a problem.

        It’s critical to identify what the specific issue is with the intern so that you can coach them accordingly.

      3. Janet*

        Rather than not being “fluent”, I think it’s fine to say that OP’s intern lacks the ability to use/operate in business English. Those are objective standards. Even “native” speakers make typos, genuine grammatical errors, assume a background knowledge that their recipient doesn’t actually have, or fail to explain themselves clearly.

        The difference between being able to operate or not has to do with general knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, idioms, and pronunciation but also with whether they’re able to employ strategies for comprehension and clarification of understanding (aka do they get the gist of what’s being said well enough to zone in on word or turn of phrase they didn’t understand, are they able to substitute words or sentence patterns with similar meanings, etc).

        The reason I point this out is sometimes people think native/fluent means “never has to ask for clarification or be asked to clarify”, and so they end up applying a harsher standard to nonnative speakers than they would to native speakers — a NNES asking what a certain idiom means isn’t functionally different from a NES asking what a certain business jargon term means. The truth of languages is that we all participate in shared meaning-making. My goal in sharing this info is to push for people to apply objective standards of intelligibility rather than subjective standards of “nativeness” or “fluency” that are so often rooted in race, class, and privilege.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes! And it’s also perfectly possible for a “native” speaker (however we’re defining that term) to be completely unable to communicate in a professional setting if the language is highly technical. The fact that I had no idea what was going on when I got sent to represent our department at a meeting about implementing a major IT project is because I don’t speak IT, not because I’m in any way lacking as an English speaker.

          1. quill*

            Yes. Combined with the discussion of business jargon yesterday, technical knowledge can effectively be a language barrier.

            (To say nothing of people who don’t understand that they need to speak louder to counteract environmental noise, or that if you make a phone call in your car it WILL sound like you’re talking into a tin can in a wind tunnel…)

          2. MJ*

            I used to say that while my colleagues were bilingual French/English, I was bilingual English/computer. I don’t think the boss ever got it.

            1. Observer*

              Yes, I say this on a regular basis. Because it really is true – understanding technical language is a real thing.

      4. Observer*

        would you consider outsourcing The Conversation to someone who is also not a native speaker, ideally someone who shares a cultural background with the intern? That might be more effective, and probably also better in terms of optics.

        I was thinking the same thing.

        I will say that even a “bad accent” could be a genuine problem. I’m not talking about not sounding like a native speaker or even being “accent free” or not being able to tell where someone is from. I’m talking about an accent that keeps people from actually understanding what you are saying.

        1. Aerin*

          Yes, I get the feeling that a lot of OP’s discomfort with raising the issue is the fact that “You need to speak English” is a very loaded statement in anglophone countries. Someone who’s a native speaker of the local language wouldn’t have the same kind of baggage.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I agree with you. Accent is not a problem unless people can’t understand. And with English being spoken as a native language by millions of people, we all need to make efforts to understand others (imagine a Texan and a Scot together!). Most people will naturally improve their accent as they learn more grammar and vocabulary, as they ask about the differences in pronunciation of similar words “ship and sheep” are problematic for the French, although somehow they tend to remember better when you replace the p with a t.

    9. Clare*

      I agree with Janet and was going to comment something similar.
      As an EFL/EAP teacher based in Germany, I do think it’s worth reiterating that the general field of English teaching has moved away from trying to get learners to sound “like an American” or other “native-speaker” model, and towards being able to use strategies for mutual comprehensibility – so these would be what I would tell this intern (and your other colleagues, if necessary/appropriate) to focus on. In relation to what others have commented: It’s sometimes monolinual English speakers who’ve had the least training on these, which is why some discrepancies / understanding issues may occur.

      Also, as others have said, accent “policing” or saying that an individual’s accent is “wrong” is often seen as discriminatory. Plus, I think you have to be pretty careful with the terms “native” and “non-native” speaker – as far as I know, we’re not allowed to use those terms when advertising jobs in the EU, at least partly because there’s no clear, agreed definition.

    10. Purple Cat*

      Thank you for this. I cringed hard when I got to the accent part. Of course, if the interns basic language skills aren’t up to par, that’s one thing. But to expect an Italian (to randomly pick a country) to speak English without an Italian accent, when they’re working IN Italy is a bit much. It would be too much if they were in America too.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Agreed – and unfortunately that’s exactly what one of my colleagues has dealt with. She’s French and works in France, but was paired with me on a project with a US client. One of the vendors gave me a call with a snarky message about how somebody left a voicemail he couldn’t understand, named a different French colleague as the potential caller (she wasn’t), and complained about how impossible it was to listen to and could I tell him what he needed to know. My coworker is perfectly easy to understand and I cannot begin to explain how livid I was on her behalf at the insulting way he spoke about her, but it’s definitely something that happens to my coworkers on a semi-regular basis.

        That said, I’m a non-native French speaker living in France and I definitely can understand the line between having a strong accent and saying the wrong word better than I ever have. I’ve got a few words that I have to try saying a few ways because I can see when I’m really not able to be understood and I can only get close enough that people can kind of mentally correct the way you do when you see somebody type “loose” instead of “lose”. It’s incredibly disheartening to try and try and fail and fail, but it would be so much worse if people didn’t help. I think the idea to highlight specific issues around comprehensibility is good, but the focus should definitely be on the actual issues making the intern hard to understand.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, absolutely. I’m struggling with my Russian listening comprehension at the moment — my Russian colleague won’t speak her native language in public at the moment, and Russian-language media untainted by Putin’s BS is hard to find at the moment. The depressing thing is looking at screenshots of Russian media on the BBC and having to look away because I can read the captions (and thus the propaganda) without even having to think about it. Still, my mum’s cousin was rather pessimistic ten years ago when I told her I was thinking of studying Russian in order to do a PhD on eastern European politics, and she said that there was no mileage in Russian and to learn Chinese instead.

          Funny old world :(, isn’t it?

          1. Lydia*

            I just wanted to let you know I love your name and I just went and read the Wikipedia entry on Nanny Ogg and it made me smile.

    11. GythaOgden*

      There are many languages where pronunciation can change the meaning of words or make it hard to be understood. In my experience of learning various Eastern European languages, one (Polish) has a very regular stress pattern (penultimate syllable), but others (Russian, Lithuanian) are only really intelligible if you can get to hear someone speaking and imitate

      I was also in the unusual position of hearing a British guy who spoke Polish being interviewed on Polish TV, and I couldn’t actually understand him because my ear was tuned to Polish spoken by Poles. When speaking Polish, I do try to pronounce the letters as they are pronounced by others because it would mean that the person I was speaking to would not understand me. And then there’s Russian, where we might pronounce the word ‘derevo’ as ‘de-RAY-vo’ and not as ‘DEE-reva’ and hence not really be understood; and where SO-rok means forty but so-ROK means ‘magpies’. Accent matters. I totally cringe when history YouTubers make no effort to pronounce the names of people properly. The most blatant was one disaster channel talking about the ‘Esh-sheed’ disaster rather than the Eschede (Esh-eh-deh) disaster.

      These are all, of course, white languages, but I wonder if you said ‘accent shouldn’t matter’ when dealing with something like Igbo where the ‘gb’ is pronounced as a single gliding letter and the word is pronounced sort of like I-ngb-o (‘o’ as in hot) rather than just Igg-boh as it looks like in English pronounciation. Then you could make a case that the reverse was true — that it would be racist/asserting English privilege on a non-white language.

      So yeah, accent is important. It shows respect for the language and helps intelligibility. It shouldn’t be a problem in purely communicative situations, and traces will undoubtedly remain, but teaching pronunciation and hence accent shouldn’t become a taboo, for the very reason you state — if we English-speakers are learning other languages, then we should not privilege the way a word might be pronounced in English over how it’s pronounced in their language.

      1. Janet*

        > teaching pronunciation and hence accent

        But we can decouple the two. Accent is tied to country and place of origin. Pronunciation is about mutual understanding. We often conflate them because it’s convenient, but that can reinforce all sorts of biases. Teach pronunciation, of course! I’m thinking of my Japanese students who were so used to translating English words into katakana that they couldn’t hear the difference between the words “fast” and “first”. It’s one thing to train people to listen for the “r” sound. It’s another to insist on it being pronounced with a hard “ir” vs a soft “ah”. One is accent, the other is pronunciation.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This reminded me of me trying to do a good job pronouncing Hawaiian words and trying to give directions to Pi-Pe-Li-Ne Rd and getting baffled looks from Mr. Gumption. It was Pipeline Rd.

    12. Little Bird in the Big City*

      Thank you for this comment. The letter itself hit a nerve for me. My mum, who has lived more than half her life in an English-speaking country, took every class she could possibly find to study English, worked as an English translator because she can speak 3 Asian languages and 3 Chinese dialects, worked in education, and government customer-facing jobs for all her working life using English everyday with her clients and colleagues. But she had a real complex about her accent because of how native English speakers would make her feel inferior because of it.

      Encouraging a person to take language classes to improve their ability to communicate in said language is good, and honestly something a non-native speaker will appreciate and can improve. Telling someone they need “accent instruction” is very problematic.

    13. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah, I think there’s something to this. I’m used to working with people who are non-native speakers and I sometimes am pretty described when someone is described as having “a strong accent”; often I’m so used to how that person speaks that I barely notice their accent.

      However, a very strong accent can be a problem. I say this as a former world language teacher. Learning to pronounce words in a way that people can understand is part of learning a language, and not all pronunciations are comprehensible. I would also say that as someone living abroad, OP is most likely familiar with accented English and has a sense of what is understandable.

    14. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I will offer you some food for thought as well. I sometimes struggle to understand people with strong accents, especially on the phone, because I have an auditory processing disorder.

      1. Jack Bruce*

        Same here! I just had a multi-day class in English with a person whose native language is French and it was so difficult to understand them, especially over several days. It’s not a matter of expecting them to sound like an American, but just the fatigue that comes with an added layer of difficulty in accents. I have the same problem with some American and British accents, it’s just very hard to keep up with what people are saying for any length of time. It takes me time and processing power to decipher what people are saying generally, so adding accents and different sentence structure on top of that ups the difficulty level a lot.

      2. pancakes*

        There are lots of people who don’t have auditory processing disorders who struggle with understanding accents as well. But what are you suggesting is meant to be the take-away, the food for thought? Should everyone with a strong accent strive to eliminate it? Should we have more investment in accurate captioning and other technologies? Or . . . ?

        1. Observer*

          Better technologies to help would be good.

          But the point being made here is that the issue of accents is not just about prejudice. I can also really be a functional issue.

          I agree that “sounding like a native” or something like that should not be the goal. But “accent instruction” may actually make sense, if the intern’s accent is contributes to genuine comprehensibility issues.

          1. Jack Bruce*

            Yes, this is what I’m reading as well, and also hoping to share. Don’t assume it’s about prejudice but sometimes a very functional thing. And it will be different for every person.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          And what makes the idea of everybody with a “strong” accent striving to eliminate it even more problematic as…often only certain accents get classified as “a strong accent.” I have my doubts most people would classify an RP British accent as “strong,” although it often is and is one of the accents that is VERY recognisable. It generally means not just a “strong accent” but “a strong working class and/or non-British-or-American accent.” Upper class or middle class urban English and American accents tend not be read as strong. I was going to say “British or American,” then thought that an upper-middle class Scottish accent might well be read that way, but a “Home Counties” one, even if equally strong, would not.

          I do see an issue with people with different accents finding it difficult to understand each other, but it often seems to only go one way and REALLY mean not the people should just strive to “lose” their accent, but that working class people should strive to gain a more middle class accent and rural people should strive to gain a more urban accent and people from smaller countries or ex-colonies should strive to gain the accent of more powerful countries.

          There is no such thing as a “neutral” accent; there are just accents we hear more because those in powerful positions are more likely to have them.

          I can see situations in which being able to speak in the local accent might be helpful, but…the fact that you will rarely hear a middle class person being told to learn a more working class accent to help them be understood or an English person being told to learn a Scottish accent to work in Scotland indicates that there are prejudices about what is “normal” going on here.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Exactly – there is no such thing as no accent – there are just socially acceptable and unacceptable ones and that is messed up.

            I learned to spell things a lot and to talk with my hands a lot (not terribly hard for someone with mostly Ashkenazi heritage, haha) and it does help with being understood by people.

          2. pancakes*

            Yes, exactly. An RP accent is not un-strong, an Estuary English accent is not un-strong, but are those the ones people typically mean, no.

        3. starfox*

          “I find that sometimes there’s a level of willful misunderstanding that operates in the subconscious when we label people a certain way”

          I think the point is that those of us with auditory processing disorders (mine is part of my ADHD) aren’t “willful[ly] misunderstanding” people with certain accents. I’m not saying anyone should strive to eliminate their accent, but I am saying that I’m not being racist or prejudiced if I can’t understand you.

          Accurate captioning technologies would be amazing, but I’m not sure how practical that is for daily life. Although, as someone who has to turn the captions on, it would sure make my life easier.

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          What do you mean ” not understanding accents”? Everyone has an accent. I presume it’s something like “accents that happen to be relatively more different from their family accent” or “accent that happen to be farther away from what’s on TV where they are” – which is very different in Glasgow, Christchurch, and Houston.

          I personally once I started tuning my ear to US speakers, found Californians harder to understand than Southerners for a while. The reason was that to my ear, all vowels in Californian’s English tended to blend into each other with little distinction. I remember (many decades ago) listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and trying to make out the lyrics…

      3. starfox*

        Me too! And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone should have to go through any kind of intensive accent training or whatever for me, but I’m also not being racist if I can’t understand a strong accent.

        I’m usually okay in person, and I assume that’s because maybe I subconsciously read lips or something? But I very frequently cannot communicate with someone with a strong accent on the phone, and yes, I do feel terrible about myself every time I have to say, “I’m sorry, what?” when I call my insurance company which apparently has a call center in India.

    15. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh that’s good news. I was once in my career, told, by my manager, at a performance review, that “some of our end users complain that they cannot get through your accent”, which led me to taking accent reduction lessons that I thought I needed in order to keep my job. (I recently reconnected with the ESL teacher who’d given me those classes, and she said “by the way, those classes I gave you were useless. If you were past puberty when you came to a new country, you’ll always have an accent”. Wish she’d told me before I spent the $$$ on the lessons, but better late than never I guess!)

      In hindsight, it was such a bizarre comment for my manager to make, because the IT department where we worked at that time, had people in it from everywhere in the world, to the point that our dept was known around the company as “The United Nations” :) Our end users were located all through North America and of course had different local accents (think Canada, Mexico, deep American South). The manager was a Black man whose family had migrated to our Midwestern city from the South (so, not some oblivious Anglo guy who’d lived his whole life in his upper-class suburb in the Midwest and had never seen anyone before that didn’t look or talk like him). I cannot comprehend why he felt the need to put my accent on my performance review(!!!) and tell me to work on it as part of my professional development(!!!) Hopefully something that could only happen in the early 00s and not now.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      This is interesting to me because I am a native English speaker but when learning other languages – particularly those with, for example, sounds that do not exist in English – the instructors have always referred to whether I had a “good accent” or not. But not in the way we refer to some generic “American” accent, or even a British one, or any specific regional accent within countries that speak the language. It was more from a “are you saying this sound the way it’s supposed to be said in this language – or do you sound like the closest equivalent in your native language”. But I don’t know what that ought to be called.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        That’s just shorthand for saying how your skills in producing the sound inventory of the language is coming along. Even once you’re up to the highest level your course will offer, you will *still* have an accent.

    17. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

      I came here to say this!
      I have a strong Spanish accent and the only ones who have ever complained have been native English speakers. I’ve worked in companies with 40+ different nationalities and English as a working language, without any communication issues… Except with native English speakers.

      At the end I noticed that they had no issue trying to understand a German or a Scottish, but suddenly the Indian (native speaker) or me pronounced words “incorrectly”. So it was never about having an accent, but whether your accent sounds white enough.

    18. Books and Cooks*

      Coming in late to leave this here; it made the rounds about a decade ago now, but maybe some here have not seen it. It’s an Italian singer doing a song called “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” that is basically “What English sounds like to a non-English speaker,” and it’s catchy and pretty fun to watch.

  3. Heidi*

    If LW4 was doing a lot of work beyond what the current title indicates, that could make its way into the resume or cover letter. Say your title is dinosaur DNA technician, which usually only involves extracting mosquito blood out of amber, and then you took on the additional task of splicing raptor and pterodactyl DNA to make flying raptors, you could list that under your accomplishments and that would indicate that the work you were doing extended beyond the title.

    1. Migraine Month*

      Of course, you want to focus on the results, not just the duties. Make sure to include measurable achievements, such as the percentage of human visitors the spliced dinosaur consumed when it (inevitably) escaped its cage.

  4. Mind Over Matter*

    Alison your advice for #1 is BOMB.COM. That wisdom can be used in a lot of different settings, especially the part about investing in YOUR own relationship for excitement and care. YES! I appreciate how practical and straightforward your thoughts are…like with all of your advice. Relationship column next?
    j/k ❤️

  5. Nes*

    #2 I kind of disagree with the advice but realize its not worth spending capital on.

    While it may seem weird to track when others are out of office, it’s public information (in that coworkers can see when someone isn’t working) and there are no realistic nefarious purposes that the information can be used for. What evil intent would the OP supposedly have: blackmail, extortion? They are not tracking why people are out of office so why is the information so confidential? I can’t imagine they are spending any significant amount of time recording this where is could be considered loss of productivity.

    On the other hand, it can be useful as information the OP can use to advocate for themself if they notice everyone else seems to have 20 days of pto and they only have 10.

    1. Goldie*

      Hmmmm… the LW doesn’t necessarily know when their coworker has a private dr appt., a meeting with HR or anything else. Their coworkers’ arrival time and departure are not their business. Putting it on the public calendar is obnoxious and busybodyish.

      It’s also jerky to back up your boss’ responsibility because they made a mistake once.

      1. MEH Squared*

        Yeah, it’s not OP#2’s business and they doesn’t have all the information. In the link Alison provided, that person did it because they felt the coworker was taking advantage of the sick days they had (even though the coworker was taking the allotted time). It did not affect that OP at all, but they just felt the other coworker was taking too much time off.
        No one was asking OP#2 to do this, presumably, so I can see why the coworkers think it’s an overstep.

      2. KRM*

        Exactly. It’s the responsibility of the boss to keep track, and then of the person who was affected by the time off mistake–that person needs to go to the boss and clear things up. LW should not be involved at all unless they are in a support role to the boss and the boss has specifically asked for them to take this on. Given that LW was written up, this is not the case, so again, LW needs to stay out of it.

    2. Janet*

      It feels a bit like there are missing missing reasons. OP’s coworker reported her to the boss rather than bringing it directly up with her. The boss wrote OP up rather than talking to her. Maybe it’s just a dysfunctional work environment or two people who like to jump straight to the nuclear option, but it certainly feels like there’s something off about the relationship dynamics as described here. OP mentions that one coworker wasn’t paid properly for their time — was this issue OP’s responsibility to fix, or were they asked about it? Is this a team resistant to the implementation of any new system because “we’ve always done it this way”? Or is OP being maybe too proactively helpful and it’s rubbing people the wrong way. Hard to say from the outside.

      1. Cheshire Grin*

        I didn’t read in the original letter that this was on the public calendar, only on the LW’s one. I’ve put quick notes on my calendar when people were out of office, left early, or were taking long lunch just to be sure I wasn’t looking for them when they were unavailable. This was very helpful when trying to work with 3 teams across several states.

        Personally, I think this is a rather strange over-reaction.

        1. Allonge*

          Making notes in advance for when people you work with are not available (if there is no shared system, or their calendars don’t show it) is different from tracking everyone’s absences after the fact in case boss screws up again. One helps your work, the other is wasting time on something that makes people uncomfortable and you were not asked to do.

          I agree with the missing missing reasons mentioned by Janet. OP says ‘every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing‘ – sounds like this was not a one-off maybe?

          1. EPLawyer*

            Something tells me this is not the first time the OP has done something that was just not her job to do.

            OP – I tell you this in all kindness. You need to examine these “innocent” things that seem to keep getting, in your view, blown out of proportion. Look for a pattern of YOUR behavior. Not anyone else’s. Not how your boss handled it. But what YOU are doing that seems to get you in trouble. Then examine YOUR motives. Are they truly innocent? Don’t start from the place of “my boss hates me.” Your boss could hate you. OR as it could be your actions are not really all the innocent or little and are making you “that coworker” that no one wants to work with.

            1. un-pleased*

              Agreed. I think there is some self-reflection missing here. It doesn’t matter if the actions are innocent or little if they create a work environment that makes life harder or unpleasant for colleagues. A write-up can be a nudge take a broader look at behavior, rather than focusing on what’s being interpreted as a singular behavior (spread over time) that provoked this response. The OP is into disciplinary processes now, so it’s probably past time, but there’s no time like the present.

            2. sb51*

              I’m wondering if it’s just missing subtle redirects — if LW2 doesn’t catch those, they might be missing some pointers that the boss/others are giving and then being surprised at the follow-on actions. In this specific example, I immediately wondered if there’d been a past conversation along the lines of:

              LW2: [gives correction to Boss on someone else’s time tracking]
              Boss: You don’t need to track that.

              Meaning, in a subtle way, “stop tracking that and erase all past data”. But LW2 just heard “you don’t need to do that” which is true, they don’t need to, but they wanted to, so it was fine, right? And then when Coworker went to Boss, Boss felt they’d already told LW2 to stop that, LW2 had disobeyed, and went straight to a writeup.

              Now, Boss should be catching that their communication style isn’t working for LW2, but catching that this is happening can be hard from both sides.

          2. Janet*

            > OP says ‘every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing‘ – sounds like this was not a one-off maybe?

            Yes, it’s hard to tell if the problem is OP or her coworkers or both, but it feels like something is wrong here.

            1. ferrina*

              My bet is there’s problems on both ends. OP is overstepping (tracking coworkers time out) but only because Boss isn’t doing the basic responsibilities of her job (i.e., paying people for the time they worked). OP should get herself into a more functional place where she can better learn to channel her desire to keep bases covered (and get some decent mentorship around it too)

              1. Unaccountably*

                Even if Boss isn’t paying people for the time they worked, how does OP know? Is she in a position where she has to deal with payroll?

                I feel like OP is very, very concerned with things that are very much none of her business, and it sounds like she thinks everyone is treating her unfairly all the time. That’s a bad combination.

          3. Observer*

            I agree with the missing missing reasons mentioned by Janet. OP says ‘every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing‘ – sounds like this was not a one-off maybe?

            Yes, this stood out to me.

      2. MK*

        Or maybe the OP is being inappropriate and this wasn’s so much an overreaction as a reaction to their overall behaviour. They say “It seems like every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing.”, so apparently there have been issues several times in the past. It could be that the OP is disliked or that they are being pused out. It could also be that they keep overstepping and are resistant to correction. Not to be harsh, but the fact that they think it’s ok to monitor their coworkers’ time off is hardly an indication that they are the reasonable one in the situation.

      3. Doctors Whom*

        I completely understand the coworker going to the boss first. I would want to know *from the boss* if they had assigned someone else the responsibility to *track my comings and goings*.

        I could handle it deftly without being accusatory but I would absolutely ask my boss this question and skip the coworker who was tracking my absences.

        1. Unaccountably*

          I would too. I would assume that someone keeping track of my comings and goings is not the type of person who will readily stop if asked to.

          Also, as the boss I would hope the coworker came to me, because I do not want that kind of boundary-stomping on my team.

      4. Observer*

        Maybe it’s just a dysfunctional work environment or two people who like to jump straight to the nuclear option, but it certainly feels like there’s something off about the relationship dynamics as described here.


        Or is OP being maybe too proactively helpful and it’s rubbing people the wrong way. Hard to say from the outside.

        I’m thinking that it’s at least partly down to the OP’s behavior. Because they also note that they’ve had problems before doing things that they think are innocent, but that “they make a big deal.” Which means that they have been spoken to about other issues – and they still don’t understand why it’s a problem.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I have a relative like this. She wants to be helpful, but her method of helping is to overstep people’s boundaries. The person whose boundary she crossed gets upset about it and she can’t quite grasp that we’re not upset at her for helping us, we’re upset at her when she pushes up against boundaries and makes us uncomfortable.

          OP, I get that the things you’re doing at work feel like innocent ways to help, but your coworkers and your boss are telling you they feel uncomfortable. It’s not helping if the other person doesn’t want you to do it.

    3. Justme, The OG*

      I have my coworkers work from home schedules written on a post-it. This is not that kind of thing.

    4. MK*

      There is so much wrong here I don’t know where to start. Keeping track of publicly available information on other people doesn’t just seem weird, it’s genuinely inappropriate behaviour, unless you have a very specific valid reason to do it; it’s not enough not to be able/willing to use it for “nefarious” purposes, it’s problematic in it’s own right. It’s not illegal, I ‘ll give you that, but just because the information isn’t confidential doesn’t make it ok. The times my neighbours leave their house is publicly available and non-confidential information, but if I recorded their comings and goings in a calendar, that would be creepy.

      Also, “nefarious” purposes doesn’t have to be a felony-in-the-making; if I was feeling uncharitable, I could suppose the OP is trying to get her boss (with whom she seems to have an antagonistic relationship) in trouble for incorrectly tracking time off, or their coworkers for being absent too much. And being constantly on the lookout for when people are out may well take a significant amount of time and attention from the OP’s work, depending on how many people work there. But again, that’s not really the issue; tracking people’s movements when it’s not your job is problematic, period.

      And, no, the remote possibility that it may be useful to them if there is a PTO imbalance doesn’t make it ok, as there are less obnoxious ways to find out, like, you know, asking your coworkers with whom you have fostered a friendly relationship with. Also, this isn’t what happened here. If the OP had written “I noticed my coworkers take a lot more PTO than me and I started tracking it to have data when I go to my boss”, I would still think it inappropriate, but at least understand why the OP did it. However, the OP’s “my boss forgot my coworker’s time off once” is flimsy at best.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        All of what you said, and to paraphrase something that typically comes up in the “but free speech” context – if all you have to say in favor of what you’re doing is that it’s not literally illegal, you might want to rethink some life choices!

          1. Heather*

            Not really? If the only thing you can say in defense of something is that it’s not illegal, that’s hardly a strong argument.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              No, I meant the “if all you have to say in favor of what you’re doing is that it’s not literally illegal, you might want to rethink some life choices!” part is a good point. Sorry, communication skills broken :(

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I agree with all of this. If a coworker of mine did this, it would feel like a massive overstep. I can keep track of my own time off and clear up errors myself, thankyouverymuch. The most charitable interpretation is OP being a busybody, and no-one likes busybodies.

        And there are possible nefarious purposes. What if there’s an error to the employee’s benefit? Would OP flag that? It could also be used to build a case that a colleague always takes time off during busy times to complain about them. Or colleagues could be thinking OP is trying to catch them cheating. An athmosphere of surveillance and snitching is never nice.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        If someone used the calendar to note the clothes that each coworker wore, that would be publicly available information, yet very weird to track.

      4. Purple Cat*

        There was a Reddit AITA post where someone had been tracking their friends’ outfits for weeks. The friends were upset and creeped out when they found out. The reason? The poster was neurodivergent and couldn’t grasp the unwritten social rules as to how often you can rewear clothes. So she studied her friends. So nothing “nefarious” and it’s not “confidential” but it was weird to track.

        Same situation here, LW is coming across as a busy-body and is up in everybody else’s business. I only keep track of my direct report’s time off. And even then, it’s half-hearted – I *think* they were out this day, did they enter it.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          This example really highlights that communication can make all the difference in these situations. “I’m having trouble figuring out how often I can rewear outfits, can I see how you guys do it for a while?” or “There have been a couple issues around time tracking, would it help if I kept a general record?” *in advance* would have headed this off at the pass. The outfit tracker would have gotten a yes/no, and the LW would have been told that’s an overstep, it makes people uncomfortable, don’t do it.

    5. Beth*

      No matter why OP is doing it, it’s nosy. It doesn’t have to be against any particular rule to be intrusive. Best case scenario, it’s the work version of the neighbor who’s constantly peering out from their curtains. Yes, technically they’re just looking out into public space–but most people don’t like being watched every time they open their curtains or step into their front yards!

      I think it’s generally overstepping to be ‘tracking’ your coworkers in any way that isn’t required by your job duties. If you think you’re getting shorted on PTO and want to know how much everyone else has, just ask.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      If a colleague of mine were doing that, I’d be worried that she was going to snitch on me for coming in late (when in fact I stayed late the night before, which she didn’t know about). I could be out of the office for a number of work-related reasons that she is not privy to, but that I might not be able to prove (maybe I was supposed to go somewhere on Thursday, then at the last minute it was postponed to Friday at my request and I had no need to write it down anywhere) if she went to the boss about it.

    7. What a way to make a living*

      It isn’t their business, they don’t have all the context, and it could be used for harmful ends even if that isn’t their goal.

      To say nothing of it being a bizarre waste of their working time.

      It seems kind of entitled and arrogant. Track your own hours, let other people worry about advocating for themselves or correcting mistakes about their own hours. Unless of course they ask you to help.

    8. anonymous73*

      It’s not private information but it’s also none of OP’s business. And PTO is usually based on your tenure, so it’s completely possible that co-worker gets more days off than OP. OP needs to worry about herself and stop being in everyone else’s business.

      1. Antilles*

        And PTO is usually based on your tenure, so it’s completely possible that co-worker gets more days off than OP.
        It’s also completely possible that co-worker gets more days off as part of an agreement with the company due to a specific reason that’s none of OP’s business (e.g., medical issue).

    9. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I’ve had a coworker do this to me and it was terrible. They had a spreadsheet and tracked when people left, how long their lunches were, etc. When she was training me she updated this for someone else, so I knew it was doing it to me as well. Why was this an issue? She obviously said something to my boss who then told me “You leave right at 4:30 every day and Rachel often stays until 6.” As if she was a much harder worker than I was. I left every day at 4:30 because for one, my work was done, I was hourly and had put in my 8 hours. Also, I needed to get to daycare by 5pm. Yes, most days I was there by 4:50, but as any daycare parent knows, you don’t want to risk being late. And Rachel wasn’t working harder. She spent all day tracking people, chatting, etc. that she needed to stay later to get stuff done.

      Even if she didn’t bring this up to my boss, it’s literally none of her business and it doesn’t feel good to have a colleague track you. If you’re worried about your personal time off and flexibly, that’s fine. But what your coworkers are doing is irrelevant to that. They might have more PTO, or a health condition, or something else they arranged. Bottoms line is if you’re not their manager, it’s not your business. Stay out of it.

    10. hbc*

      Even if all you say is true (it’s not hurting anyone, it could help OP, etc), I have never seen this kind of behavior from someone who is doing good work and has a good relationship with their boss and coworkers. In my experience, it’s one of those things that isn’t horrible, but is one of the more tangible signs of a larger problematic situation. Which would include, by the way, being so distrustful that you assume your coworkers have more PTO than you for nefarious reasons and turning into a detective rather than just asking about the situation.

      I guess the question you and the OP would need to answer is: If this is so helpful, why wasn’t this done openly and with a “Hey, let me know if you have vacation payout issues, I’ve started keeping a log”?

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Nailed it. Especially: “I have never seen this kind of behavior from someone who is doing good work and has a good relationship with their boss and coworkers.”

    11. Colette*

      That’s like saying “I keep track of when my neighbour leaves the house.” It’s public information, but there is no reason I need to know it – and in particular, no reason I need to track it.

      In the OP’s case, it’s not that the information is confidential – it’s not – it’s that it is literally not her job to track it. She’s not responsible for what her coworker gets paid or whether they’re late for work or leave early. She’s spending time and energy doing something that is not her job, and it raises questions about how she’s going to use the information.

    12. Lacey*

      I laughed a bit when I read she was in trouble – we have a shared calendar where everyone notes when they’ll be out. It’s partly for coordination (if I see other people already have the day off, I can plan around it) and partly because our boss cannot remember when people are out.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        That’s a bit different since everyone knows that information is there and adds it themselves. This was being done secretly by OP. That’s the issue. I’ve had this done to me and it really made me distrustful of my coworker. What else where they tracking? How many times I used the bathroom? Even if they weren’t it just comes off as OP is keeping tabs on everyone when that’s not their job.

    13. DCompliance*

      If the OP gotten written up, most likely more to the story. There has go to be some policy violation or OP was missing metrics or committed time card fraud by tracking other’s people time and not doing their own work. No one gets written up for “tracking time” .

      1. Lydia*

        I doubt it was anything about fraud or policy. More likely OP was written up because they’ve been warned about other, similar, things previously. If it were fraud, chances are OP would have been fired, but there are a hundred things similar to tracking the schedule of coworkers the OP could have done in the past that warranted a warning that has now become a write-up.

        1. DCompliance*

          I noted a certain type of fraud above. Timecard fraud means you are an hourly employee not working when you say you are. For example, if your your job is a loan processor and instead of processing loans you are clocking your coworkers time, your employer may consider that to be timecard fraud. Usually writeups have to be tied to a policy or metrics. It is unlikely it would have escalated to a writeup without being tied to policy.

    14. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      I have mixed feelings about this one. I get why other people felt like this was intrusive, but on the other hand if Boss is constantly asking after people’s availability (which was the impression I got from the ‘tendency to forget’), having a note that X is out-of-office seems reasonable? If Erzebet asks me in the morning to tell Throckmorton to come by her office, it’s more helpful if I can tell her Throckmorton is out til Wednesday rather than to keep saying I haven’t seen Throckmorton yet this morning.

      I guess my question would be, *is* there a public, central place where people’s availability is noted? It seems like there probably ought to be, and while it’s a little weird for LW to take it upon themselves to create it unasked, it feels like they might have been trying to solve a genuine problem.

      The lunch time thing doesn’t seem weird at all because it involved people switching with the LW– in which case it seems like LW is writing a note of who’s covering who when? I can’t see how that’s objectionable.

      1. Observer*

        Sure, they might have actually been trying to be genuinely helpful. It still wasn’t their place to do it.

        Especially since the reason they give for this tracking was NOT to make it easier to coordinate and communicate with people. Which makes sense, because that wouldn’t require keeping that information past the time it happens. But the OP was actually logging this stuff and their say they were doing it to check on the boss.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        The manager has an easy way of finding this information out though. The manager can also require Throckmorton to note this on their calendar and if the manager keeps asking the LW where Throckmorton is, the LW can suggest that the manager check Throckmorton’s calendar.

        I am assuming that since the other employee found out this was happening that the LW is using something like Outlook and these notations are available to all. That suggest everyone has access to a calendaring system and therefore if people need to know who’s available for lunch or a meeting, they can look that up.

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          That’s totally not how I read this- I assumed the LW was writing notes on a planner or paper calendar, and that there was no consistent source of this information being tracked otherwise. That’s maybe less common now with hybrid being so common, but I’ve had jobs where if it wasn’t noted on the paper schedule at Reception there was no way to know if someone was out or just away from their desk.

          I don’t disagree that the LW probably overstepped but I’m not sure I agree that it was as egregious as people are assuming, and I definitely don’t think it warrants major consequences without even a warning.

      3. Lydia*

        This is one of those situations where it doesn’t matter what the intent was, the outcome was overstepping and causing discomfort. If boss asked for help tracking who is in when, then cool. But the OP decided to take it on without being asked and that’s where it crosses a boundary.

      4. biobotb*

        The LW secretly keeping tabs on their colleagues’ time away on their own calendar is totally different than suggesting to the group that there be a public team out-of-office calendar that is separate from the LW’s calendar.

    15. Fluffy Fish*

      It’s not about intent. Its about it’s not OPs job and it’s not her business.

      Tracking other peoples time off (when you arent a manager) will always always come across bad. It boils down to being overly invested in what other people are doing when you should be focusing on yourself. By your logic if OP started writing down when people came into work and when they left for the day, that too would be fine because it’s public knowledge. There is exactly zero reason for OP to track it.

      OP also has no idea what type of leave is being used, so your example makes no sense.

      Bottom line – it’s not OP’s business.

    16. Observer*

      there are no realistic nefarious purposes that the information can be used for

      You really can’t think of how this could be a problem? If nothing else, it comes across as someone who is assuming authority that they don’t have. That’s a problem right there. Also, yes, it CAN be misused, especially in the context of taking on more authority than they actually have. Like talking to the manager (or a GrandBoss) about someones schedule, especially complaining about it. Or trying to manage the other employee.

      In general, it’s also very much a nosy parker / butinsky / stalkerish thing to do in most contexts. Even if it doesn’t take a lot of time, that’s a lot of headspace to devote to someone else’s schedule.

      On the other hand, it can be useful as information the OP can use to advocate for themself if they notice everyone else seems to have 20 days of pto and they only have 10.

      No. Because all they know is when someone is in the office and when they are not. What they don’t know, and have no way of knowing, is how much PTO they are taking vs unpaid leave. Or whether there is some ADA or FMLA accommodation at play. I can think of other scenarios where someone is out of the office and even unreachable that are not PTO that the OP would not necessarily know about, but these are the most likely scenarios.

    17. Jora Malli*

      OP has no idea whether their coworkers are taking paid or unpaid time. The only person in the office who should be tracking employee absences is the one who submits that information to payroll.

    18. Elizabeth West*

      You might need to know if your coworkers are in the office or in a meeting, etc., if you handle their calls or scheduling. But that’s what shared calendars are for. All you have to do is look to see if they’re available.

      It’s completely unnecessary to closely monitor their time unless you’re billing it or you’re the one entering their PTO. Even in that case, they’d be the ones tracking it, not you.

    19. Unaccountably*

      I wouldn’t want a report of mine tracking people’s in and out of office time if it took them two seconds a day. Why?

      1. It’s weird. What *do* they want the information for? Do I need to have a talk with them about keeping their eyes on their own paper in general?

      2. If anyone finds out, which people have a way of doing, my report is going to look like a creeper. Having a creeper on my staff damages both my political capital and our relationships with other departments and divisions, which I have worked hard to build – especially if they’re engaging in other uncomfortable behaviors.

      3. The fact that my report even wants to do this, and is apparently oblivious to the workplace repercussions of both (1) and (2), is a black mark against their personal and professional judgment. I now have to think twice before I hand them projects that require a lot of collaboration or judgment calls.

      4. We work with public, private, and semi-private data. If my report gives me the “But they wear their outfits out in public!” excuse, they can say goodbye to any project that requires finesse and nuance around what information is okay to disseminate and what isn’t.

      OP doesn’t have to be an extortionist to be someone I don’t want on my team. My bar is higher than “does not actually blackmail others.”

      1. Nes*

        Most peoples replies tend to be that what OP is doing is weird/creepy or that it’s not their job.

        So what if it’s weird or creepy? It doesn’t harm anyone. Others feel discomfort? Again, so what? They can get over themselves. If the OP is actually stalking or accessing confidential employee information then those issues can be addressed.

        It’s not their job? So what? No one at work spends 100 percent of their time on official work (bathroom/watercooler breaks, chatting with coworkers for a few minutes, etc…). If they try to manage a coworker or try to pry into why someone else is taking time off then those actions can be addressed.

        This whole thing comes down to someone being written up because people think they weird. Unless OP left something out, the write up seems a lot weirder than tracking time.

        A good rule of thumb is to not do anything in public that you wouldn’t be comfortable having recorded.

        1. DCompliance*

          At work, you are required to consider if what you are doing gives people discomfort. It is is tied to professionalism. You can absolutely get written up for not being professional.

          While most people don’t 100% spend all their time doing work, you can absolutely be written up for not doing work when you are supposed. Whether tracking time or taking too long of a break at the water cooler, you can get in trouble.

          “A good rule of thumb is to not do anything in public that you wouldn’t be comfortable having recorded.” OP’s coworkers are not the ones getting written up here so they are probably not doing anything they are uncomfortable doing. Blame shifting does not make the OP’s behavior less unprofessional.

        2. Observer*

          A good rule of thumb is to not do anything in public that you wouldn’t be comfortable having recorded.

          You’ve just accurately captured what makes this behavior “creepy and invasive”. Have you noticed that people don’t like the ideas of cameras recording everything that happens in public? Yes, it’s public and you shouldn’t do private or bad things in public. But it’s also pretty obvious that tracking people’s public behavior is NOT generally benign or even neutral. It’s not INTENDED to be neutral – it’s explicitly intended to figure out non-public things about people that they don’t want to be made public. And although there are sometimes legitimate reasons for that (like when you are trying to figure out who committed a crime), the idea that “if you aren’t dong anything wrong, you have nothing to hide is nonsense.”

          In a work context, people don’t really have a choice but to take off “in public”. That doesn’t make it ok to track their comings and goings.

          When you are working with people, doing things that are creepy, invasive and / or overstepping authority are legitimate problems. When this is part of a pattern – which is it according to the OP- being written up is far from “weird”.

        3. MK*

          If you really think people being creepy at work doesn’t harm anyone, I don’t know what to tell you.

          Actually I do. If you are making me uncomfortable at work, I am not going to “get over myself”; why should I? I am going to call out your creepiness and complain early and often to management till they do something about it. I fail to see why you think any self-respecting person will just… accept being made uncomfortable at work by a coworker who invokes the right to be weird, or that any reasonable employer is going to accommodate this. You don’t, in fact, have a right to be creepy, but employees have a reasonable expectation to a comfortable working environment , and most decent employers try to provide that.

        4. biobotb*

          Wait, everyone else needs to get over their feelings, but the LW doesn’t, and can keep acting (creepily) on their feelings?

      2. Observer*

        My bar is higher than “does not actually blackmail others.”

        Really? My, you’re picky! (not!)

        Seriously speaking, the idea that it’s only a problem if you can do something as nefarious as blackmailing someone is just very very odd.

    20. tamarack and fireweed*

      There are obviously nefarious purposes: Keeping tabs on peers to cast suspicion, enforce unspoken rules or even install new ones. If one co-worker has a medical appointment every Thursday from 12:30-1:30 and is coming back to the office after a slightly longer than usual lunch break, and this is displayed prominently on a calendar tracked by another employee, the co-worker has reason to worry about the privacy of their medical appointment, however above the board the break.

      It’s simply not your job to track your co-worker’s PTO use and absences, not without a *very* good reason which may well be antagonistic (ie. documenting an abuse that impacts you or that is maybe illegal, in order to report someone). It’s like stalking – the road in front of your bedroom window is public, no? So your ex can swing by every evening and note when the light goes out, right? All fine?

      What the LW should have done is to get together as a team and to suggest something like “[boss] seems to have trouble tracking our work schedules and it’s annoying when they assume someone is here when they have taken the day/afternoon/whatever off. what if we all keep our schedules in a place where [boss] can consult it, in public? would anyone have a problem with that?” And then try to address anyone who has concerns, openly and in a constructive, friendly manner.

  6. Janet*

    #1 – I used to teach conversational English to students in Japan, and one time I had a guy tell me that he thinks the reason Japan’s birth rate is so low is that since workplace culture has started becoming more aware of sexual harassment, people don’t get together at work any more (never mind the fact that birth rates are falling in pretty much all developed countries, but the Japanese government has been pretty resistant to the common solution most countries take of increasing immigration).

    This seems a bit like that — so clueless you have to wonder if it’s maybe disingenuous. “Let me know if ‘the boys’ bother you, but don’t be too hard on them if they do. It’s just they they’ve never seen a girl as pretty as you — oops, I’m not supposed to call women pretty anymore, am I? Dang feminists,” is a pretty clear sexist dog whistle. At the very least it’s intended to test the waters as far as OP’s receptiveness to other advances. Humans are lucky enough to be able to filter what we think out of what we see. Anyone who acts as if they can’t help but say some troublesome statement is being disingenuous. You can help it, you just choose not to because you *want* to say it for some reason.

    1. Janet*

      Ugh, typing on my phone is the pits. “Humans are lucky enough to be able to filter what we think out of what we SAY.”

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Yes, it’s like “I’m just saying what we’re all thinking.” Firstly, no, we’re not *all* thinking (racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, transphobic etc. thing), and secondly, even if for some reason we are, there’s a reason you’re the only one actually saying it.

        “I’m not allowed to say that” – “I want to say that, but look at these PC warriors who want me to keep the workplace professional.”

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yup, and even if we ARE, which is almost certainly untrue, sometimes saying it makes it even more problematic. Like you might THINK somebody was fat, but saying “Hi, you’re fat” is obviously unacceptable even if one is just “saying what we are all thinking.” Maybe everybody IS thinking they are fat, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear it or that it is in any way relevant. I know we are talking about racist/sexist/homophobic things, but I think it applies there too because even if we ARE all thinking that Mary shouldn’t marry her girlfriend (we’re NOT, but hypothetically), telling her she shouldn’t would still be unacceptable because regardless of what we think, it isn’t up to us to tell her who she can marry. Or in the above case, it’s fine to THINK somebody is the best looking woman in the company, but to say it to her, in the context of discussing harrassment? NOT OK.

          Even if you ARE only “saying what everybody is thinking,” well, you should probably be asking yourself why they aren’t saying it. The most likely reason is they aren’t thinking it (and honestly, it’s pretty arrogant to assume one knows what EVERYBODY is thinking) but even if they are, the second most likely reason is that saying it has no benefit and will harm people so they have made a conscious decision not to do so, knowing it would be the wrong thing to do.

          1. Janet*

            Yes, true. Sometimes we are thinking something that’s not helpful or kind to say. Since we’re all older than 7, we’re capable of keeping suck thoughts to ourselves.

    2. Observer*

      and one time I had a guy tell me that he thinks the reason Japan’s birth rate is so low is that since workplace culture has started becoming more aware of sexual harassment, people don’t get together at work any more

      OMG. I know that this is not the point of your comment, but someone REALLY said that with a straight face??

      Aside from everything else affecting birth rates, Japan has some specific issues – their birth rate is falling more than other developed countries. And the government has some ideas about the issue. Not being sexist enough (!) is NOT one of the problems they see. Still being too sexist IS one of the issues that the Japanese government sees.

      1. Janet*

        Yes, it very much conveyed the tone of “men are afraid of being reported so they don’t ask out their female colleagues, which means fewer workplace romances and therefore fewer births”. It took a lot of me to keep a straight face and change the subject gracefully.

  7. Fikly*


    You missed two very important steps here. Asking your manager if they were ok with this, and asking any coworkers whose time you were tracking if they were ok with this.

    If this were the first time this happened, a write up seems a bit much, but given what you said, I’m guessing it’s not the first time you’ve done something that’s a pretty big overstep, and despite repeatedly being told to stop, you keep doing it in new ways, hence the write up. The problem here is that you don’t seem to understand why what you are doing is a big overstep. I would suggest that any time you think that you should do something “just to help” that is not directly in your job description, you run it by your manager, and if they say no, ask them to explain why, and maybe you can start to understand what is and isn’t appropriate.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I feel that if the issue is that the mamanger is bad at accurately recording when people are out then it would have made sense to suggest a shared calandar to the manager or to have spoken with your coworkers and suggested that you all keep a spreadsheet or clanedar in case anyone’s pay or leave gets messed up becuase the manager is over-recording time out.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Or, each person can just keep track of their own hours, and bring it up with the manager if there is an error. Why does the OP think that they need to be doing that?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      While I do not agree with the manager for turning this into a write up, I can see where a boss might be very angry with someone who appeared to be trying to take over the boss’ job.

      OP, it’s the manager’s job to track PTO. You decided to help without being asked to help. Additionally, it does not seem that your cohorts wanted help either. So nobody wanted help. And you helped anyway. I think you can probably relate to someone trying to help you when you did not ask for help and did not want it.

      If there are errors it is up to the cohort and the boss to sort that out.

      I do think that the boss might be wondering what other projects you are spending time on without authorization. The boss gets to tell us how to spend our time and if we do not do as directed that is considered insubordination. In extreme cases if following the boss’ directions causes an employee difficulty (ethical dilemmas, law breaking, etc.) then the employee is free to report the boss and/or quit the job. I don’t think this situation reaches that level.

      Punchline- just as in life, sometimes we can see mistakes, know they are happening and we have to decide to let people work it through on their own without us. This is because they have not asked us, it’s none of our business and/or because we may not have the full story. “Wanting to help” is not a reason for getting involved without the permission of others.

      1. Lydia*

        I suspect, based on other things the OP said, there’s a good reason this became a write-up. I am willing to bet the OP has been warned about other “helpful” things they’ve done in the past and this was the last straw for a write-up.

    3. Observer*

      You missed two very important steps here. Asking your manager if they were ok with this, and asking any coworkers whose time you were tracking if they were ok with this.


      OP, your coworker should not have had to ask you to stop. You should have asked them if it’s ok to start.

  8. Audrey*

    For the crush thing— I have a system that has been really helpful to me when I have an inappropriate crush while in a relationship. Because I’m getting my relationship/emotional needs met in my relationship, I treat a crush as an alarm bell that there’s something I need to fix in my relationship. The way I address it is as follows:

    1) I write a list of everything I like about my crush. What is it specifically about them that is causing the crush. Personality traits, physical things, and things they do. I write an actual list on paper so it’s in front of me.

    2) I then write my partner’s name at the top, and circle each item on that list that does NOT fit my partner.

    3) I take those circled items and those are the needs not being met in my relationship. I don’t tell my partner about the exercise, but I might bring any of those issues to them, and it’s great information for me.

    I’ve also found that after I do this, my crush tends to dim. I’m focusing my energy on my current relationship and I often see things in my current partner that my crush DOESN’T have.

    Good luck!

      1. Despachito*

        Sorry, I did not mean to post it so many times, my “Submit” button just got crazy.

    1. aussiefirefly*

      I have a strong relationship with my husband and we communicate really well, so if I find I start crushing on someone at work or at the gym, I actually tell my husband about it! It removes the little secret “I like this person and my husband doesn’t know” feelings and just becomes “oh yeah, there’s that cute guy that my husband knows about” and it quickly takes the mystery out of it for me, and pretty quickly I stop giving them extra space in my thoughts.
      I’m sure it’s harder when you are working more closely with your crush, and I also know some home relationships could not handle the revelation that you have a crush on your boss. Nevertheless I thought I’d share this as an idea that has worked for me.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        My partner and I do this as well (disclose our little crushes). It helps keep things grounded and helps put an end to romanticising thoughts.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        My first thought was that if OP feels chatty about this, and a need to be transparent and demystify the situation, why not confess to her partner rather than her boss?! Crushes happen, often for innocent reasons and it can be helpful to just accept that and spit it up, though not always. Audrey is also right that sometimes it’s a reflection on something neglected in the relationship but there’s three other causes of a crush imo: 1) poor boundaries of your own, 2) poor boundaries from the crush, (like saying to a subordinate that you’re pretty enough to be harassed!), and 3) plain old random attraction. Number one is easy to implement (and I think OP has historically acted with decent boundaries, unless of course she carries out her plan of confessing), number two is easy to identify and disapprove of, and number three can be tolerated. It’s a combination of numbers two and three that is giving this crush more power than usual. Because OP is flattered by her crush liking her appearance, she’s blinded by the very real problems behind the comment. She may also be overly affected by the macho culture she’s entrenched in, where she’s giving way too much credit to a man for only making one unfinished comment, and for saying he’d help with a harassment problem. This is a professional issue if she takes those kinds of low expectations of male colleagues elsewhere.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think sometimes it’s 1) something neglected in your relationship, or 2) something missing in your own boundaries, or 3) sometimes it’s the crush’s boundaries towards you (like: “you’re so pretty you’re totally going to be harrassed”) and 4) sometimes you just have a stupid random crush. When it’s the last one, I do like aussiefirefly’s method of just owning up to it; I’ve found that this works in my relationship where we both know it just happens sometimes, rarely, and we’re not interested in pursuing it and it does help to demystify it. I think in OP’s case it’s a combination of 3 and 4, but she hasn’t been able to appropriately categorize her manager’s comment as poor boundaries. I think this is a professional issue for her, as well as a personal one. She’s been in what sounds like a male dominated and sexist culture for so long that she’s overlooked the inappropriate comment on her appearance just because he was talking about a willingness to deal with sexual harassment. This is a basic expectation which doesn’t overrule poor boundaries. Also, because he’s usually generally appropriate with her, she’s given him a pass on the one time he wasn’t, but again that’s a basic expectation. She’s also given him a pass because of 4; of course she’s flattered that her crush likes her. However, if she were working in a less macho atmosphere, she wouldn’t be dealing with any response to his poor boundaries, especially not to the point that she’s considering going to 2) and responding with poor boundaries of her own.

      1. Janet*

        > she’s overlooked the inappropriate comment on her appearance just because he was talking about a willingness to deal with sexual harassment. This is a basic expectation which doesn’t overrule poor boundaries.

        Well put! Sometimes we’re so relieved about being away from one form of bad behaviour that we become a bit numb to other, subtler transgressions.

        I also got the impression that the boss’s initial comment was to ensure that if any coworkers made off colour comments the boss would rather OP report it to him to deal with off the record than go straight to HR. Which could be a good thing (You can trust me to enforce professional standards, so feel free to let me know if any of your coworkers do try to push any boundaries), but in this context reads a bit more sinister (Oh, don’t mind about old Joe. He says off colour things but he doesn’t mean anything by it. And besides, you’re so pretty he can’t help himself. Take it as a compliment! Don’t be the “feminazi” who goes to HR over a simple comment).

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is amazing. Saving this for future reference.

      Despachito, thank you for the laugh. :D

    4. Silly Janet*

      That is really good. What’s helped me is really picturing being in a relationship with them, living with them, having them meet my family, etc… And I just can’t see it happening. I tell myself it’s a fun little distraction, but it’s not going anywhere, and it will pass in time.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this is what I do. I haven’t had a crush on a coworker or anyone else I know in meatspace for years, not since a coworker started working for us about 8 years ago. We get along great, but there are many reasons why I could never be happy in a relationship with him. I got over my crush pretty quickly once I deliberately started to think about the things about him that I wouldn’t want in a partner, and refocused my energies on my marriage. That said, I never told my husband about my crush on my coworker, although I have shared my past and current celebrity crushes with him.

  9. AnotherLibrarian*

    #3- I just wanted to second the encouragement to speak to your intern. This is something that may hold her back, just as if she had an issue with punctuality, or using too many emoji’s in her emails. I think it feels weird, because it feels personal to tell someone their language skills need work. However if you don’t tell her, she’s going to have a sudden rude awakening and letting her know is a kindness.

  10. Allonge*

    OP1 – I have some doubts about the reason you want to share your crush (you say Do I mention it to him and apologize if anything I do say/do ever comes off inappropriate?).

    I almost always hesitate to advise people to share information preemptively to excuse any future mishaps, even when that info is less likely to blow up (so, e.g. when someone wants to share that they are distracted because waiting for a medical intervention for a partner). I never really know if it makes sense to draw attention to something that may or may not happen at all, but invite scrutiny at the same time for sure.

    My point is: even if we ignore the content of what you want to share, what outcome are you hoping for? Because if it’s leniency about saying inappropriate things – talking about the crush makes it just as likely that even genuinely innocent comments will be interpreted as flirting / inappropriate, because the context is now spelled out, the maybe-subtext became the text, as it were. There is no way it ends well in this situation.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      To follow up on that line: OP, how is “I just did something inappropriate. BUT I did it because I have a crush on you, so it’s okay!!!!” going to play in actual life?

      Hopefully like the first “You may also like…” in which the boss dealt with all signs of crushing by pulling way back, interacting less, and being very strictly professional.

    2. si*

      This is what I was wondering. Part of the fear of doing/saying something awkward around your crush is that it’ll make it obvious to everyone that you DO have a crush. Disclosing the crush upfront doesn’t make anything less awkward. Like, at all. It just means absolutely everything LW does or says will be interpreted by the boss through the lens of the crush. This is how to shred your credibility, LW, not rescue it.

      1. si*

        (Which makes me suspect that LW’s crushbrain is talking them round into thinking there are sensible reasons to disclose, when the real hope is that boss will reciprocate the crush.)

  11. Sherry*

    Your boss is a field of red flags.

    Something to notice with attraction: Is it coming from you or from them?
    Sometimes people sexualize us so much the feeling is in the air.
    Notice that you said nothing about him that explained why you had a crush.
    No common interests, attractiveness, positive personality traits, or values.

    Keep in mind lots of older men like younger women because they have less experience and are less able to navigate their games. You aren’t so mature for your age you’re exactly your age.

    1. Despachito*


      One of the possibilities can be that OP just feels flattered that he finds her attractive. She mentions in her letter in passing that she is, and it sounds to me it is important to her.

      1. Apples*

        Agree. It sounds like LW1 likes her own reflection in the boss’s eyes more than she likes the actual boss. He’s a power figure who makes her feel that she is pretty and special (so pretty and special that ALL her coworkers find her attractive and might harass her! LW doesn’t find this point of discussion weird but I sure do!). I’d bet when this crush wears off she’ll realise he’s nothing special himself.

      2. pancakes*

        Feeling that one’s own looks are important to oneself doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with feeling like any attraction is good attention. Being undiscerning about where that attention is coming from is a thing in itself.

    2. MK*

      I wouldn’t expect any OP to gush in their letter about “why” she has an inappropriate crush on her boss.

      This isn’t an older man, he is a couple of years older, and the OP is in her late 20s. Both of them should be mature adults, neither of them are doing the best job right of it now (him being more accountable because he is the boss).

      Is it really helpful to tell an adult woman that probably she isn’t feeling what she tells you she is feeling, a man has projected their own feelings on her?

      1. Pyjamas*

        The OP seems to be unaware that her boss is acting inappropriately so yeah, it’s worth considering that he made the first moves and she’s responding to them. It may be that even when she starts redirecting her interests, he’ll keep up with the low key flirtation

        1. my 8th name*

          I don’t think she’s unaware. I just don’t think it’s unwelcome because she has a crush.

          And something about telling a women she’s not in control of her own emotions and is a just a victim of his attraction is really bothersome. We don’t have to infantilize us as women to protect us.

          1. Sherry*

            I didn’t say that she doesn’t have a crush.

            I did say find out the footwork of why she has a crush.

            Is it really about him or is it because he’s made it a thing.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        You would think so, but I would swear we’ve had several OPs do just that. Admittedly, the one coming to mind is the boss of those college interns, so not quite the same situation?

  12. Jonquil*

    LW1: “I swear it’s not like that” “it wasn’t in a weird way”

    It is exactly like that, and it was in a weird way

    1. MsM*

      In situations like this, I’ve found that any attempts to explain why “this isn’t what it looks/sounds like” generally translate to “please tell me I’m the exception to the rule, even though deep down I know I’m not.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Another advice columnist observed that relationship questions are eternal, because everyone knows that their situation is the unique exception.

    2. Everything Bagel*

      LW, if you didn’t happen to find your boss attractive whatsoever, would you have taken his comments about your looks the same way, or would you have thought he was being weird or saying something inappropriate? Something to think about. I suspect you would have taken his words quite differently if you didn’t already like him like that.

      You also absolutely have control over whether or not you flirt with him. Telling someone you have a crush on him and so you might accidentally flirt with him but he should just ignore you, because of course he should, is just weird and I don’t get what you expect as a result of that conversation other than him being flattered and flirting back. Find someone else to crush on who is less problematic for you.

  13. Green great dragon*

    #4 – it might be something you could use *in interviews*, if you were working above the lower job title level and you can use the promotion as evidence you were working above the job title level. But yeh, needs a bit more explanation than you would want on a resume.

    1. JSPA*

      Or you could fit it into a cover letter. If (for example) there’s a pattern of you “going beyond,” and you’re applying to a position where that sort of flexibility and willingness to evolve would be helpful, you can point out that self-development within a job, to meet emerging needs, is your specialty.

      While you have to be careful with, “they needed three people to do the volume of work I was doing” (unless you want to be hired as a tireless packmule), “they had to look a level up to replace me” doesn’t carry the same risk.

  14. Beth*

    Op1: Telling your boss you have a crush on him ‘just in case I say or do something inappropriate’ is a thinly veiled excuse for telling your boss you have a crush on him in the hope that he’ll be interested in you as well. No judgement–based on my experience of crushes, I’m betting the excuse is targeted mostly at yourself! For me, part of having a new crush is oscillating between trying to talk myself into acting on it and trying to talk myself into letting go and moving on. This excuse sounds like you trying to talk yourself into confessing even though you know it’s a bad idea.

    It is a bad idea, though. He’s married with kids. You’re in a happy, monogamous-sounding relationship. He’s your boss. You work in a male-dominated field where (based on your boss’s comment) it sounds like people around you already view you as a sex object as much as a coworker (which isn’t fair to you or your professional skills); starting flirtations at work won’t help with that. Nothing good is going to come of telling him about these feelings.

    For me, the fastest way to make a crush go away is to spend some time thinking about everything I DON’T like about the person. It’s a really effective way to counter all of the “wouldn’t it be nice to ____ with them?” daydreaming that crushes can inspire.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      and/or simply transfer to another role so you don’t see him all the time

    2. Snow Globe*

      A similar way to get rid of a crush is to imagine that person doing normal gross human things, like clipping toenails or leaving dirty laundry on the floor for you to pick up. Bring the fantasy down to a mundane reality.

      1. Betsy Devore, Girl Sleuth*

        Exactly. Once in high school, I had a crush that I knew was not going to be fulfilled. Knowing that didn’t stop my thoughts and feelings, until I saw him spit a giant loogie into a trash and get a high-five for it from another meathead. After that, any time I had lovey/sexy thoughts about Mr. Wonderful, I pictured that. Echhh.

      2. pancakes*

        That seems like a good way to unintentionally get yourself to a place where you can’t maintain an attraction to someone you live with or get similarly close to. We all produce dirty laundry and toenail clippings.

          1. pancakes*

            I think it’s weird for someone with an unwanted crush to try to wreck it rather than try to focus their attention elsewhere, and I don’t think it’s weird to say so, so we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    3. hbc*

      My trick is to indulge the fantasy but not allow myself to skip all the unpleasant logistics of the matter. Are we going to start having an uptick in closed door “meetings” for make-out sessions in the office and having to lie to colleagues (and the other manager) about why there’s a need for this? Sneaking off to the supply closet and hope no one randomly needs paperclips? Or are we figuring out a way to hide restaurant and hotel bills from our partners and lying about where we were?

      The unpleasantness of actually making it happen carries over into not wanting to act on it anymore. It kind of turns it from “I want to jump his bones” to “he’s good looking, but so not worth it.”

    4. Omnivalent*

      Assuming the whole bit about “your coworkers can’t be trusted to be decent to attractive women, unlike me, who will protect you” routine is even true.

    5. JSPA*

      One of the most inappropriate things one can say when one has an inappropriate work crush, is, “I have a crush on you.”

      I mean…also don’t say, “you have beautiful eyes” or “nice ass.”

      But boss is not modeling good boundaries for OP–and possibly co-boss isn’t, either, if they’re both using the same tone–so OP is going to have to develop some of their own.

      “[women who look like you]… that’s about all I am allowed to say” is already stupidly flirty (at best). If he were writing in, we’d be telling him so, and that he could be looking at a harassment charge for commenting on attractiveness, and that he should knock it the hell off.

      If OP (in a major, “hunh, how’d that happen?”) manage to slip and fall on his dick, OP will either blow up OP’s and boss’s respective relationships, or (more likely) will find out that they are the freshest meat in a series of young women who come in, fall for him, fall on him, fall out with him, and are then pressured to leave the company…thus leaving it with such a crappy sex ratio, and with a deficit of women whom said boss considers attractive.

      It is not ever a compliment for one’s boss to let on they know that you’re hot, stacked, or whatever. “U so fine” is not ever part of being proactive about harassment–it IS harassment. People or various ages and shapes and sizes and “sexiness” get sexually harassed. Any legit harassment protection will be offered to all people, regardless of percieved hottitude.

      It’s pure nastiness to suggest that the guys might not be able to handle OP’s presence, because OP is someone they will find attractive. Especially as so far, it’s only boss who’s having problems. Yuck, yuck, and yuck. OP, don’t be flattered, be careful.

    6. BRR*

      Your first paragraph is such an excellent observation. I also get the feeling the lw just wants to be able to tell him in hopes of some further interest back. And I don’t fault the lw at all! I think adults often tend to be a little flirty with no intention of doing anything. But it’s usually an unspoken thing. You definitely don’t want to expand on this in any way because: he’s your manager, he’s already made inappropriate comments (you should also probably try and shut this down), he’s married, and you’re in a relationship. Literally nothing good will result from you telling him.

  15. bamcheeks*

    Okay, this sounds really bad but I swear it’s not like that

    LW, I’ve been here, so no judgment, but no matter what you tell yourself, it is *exactly* like that. Don’t be messy!

  16. Jayne*

    OP1, do not say anything about this. At all. Very bad idea.

    OP2, your boss sounds like an incompetent manager and a bully to boot. Writing you up over this is absurd. Talk to HR and/or find another job.

    1. Lydia*

      This is not great advice because if you read the letter, there’s a really good chance this isn’t the first time the OP has done something like this and already been warned about it.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Talk to HR about what? The OP was written up for intrusive behavior (and it sounds like this has been an issue previously).

  17. Rebecca*

    Can we please stop talking about ‘native speakers’? Especially if you are working in Europe, it’s illegal. It is discrimination on the basis of country of origin, and making hiring decisions or promotions based on nativity or accent has been challenged in EU courts and been upheld. OP, I know that you are talking about improving language skills and not requiring your interns to be native speakers, but I would encourage you to not even use that vocabulary when describing language proficiency because it perpetuates discrimination and inaccurate ideas about language.

    Your intern does not need to speak like a native speaker. They need to speak to a certain proficiency which has nothing to do with nativity. And absolutely, please do not recommend an accent coach. Good language lessons will include diction and clarity, but there is absolutely no reason why that diction and clarity needs to sound like it comes from a particular place.

    When we talk about ‘native’ speakers we are talking about racism, classism, and colonialism. The number of countries that have native English speakers but whose native English doesn’t ‘count’ – nobody means India or Jamaica when they say they want Native English. It also completely negates the skills of people who learned the language as a second language, many of whom are better speakers than people who learned the language from birth. And it’s incredibly difficult to even determine nativity – my son, who is French, will only have lived and been educated in France, and will have only a French passport and French school diplomas, but he’s growing up in an English speaking house. He won’t ‘count’ as native, even though he’ll have all the skills.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Er no, it’s not illegal to talk about native speakers. In professions where linguistic ability is important, like teaching languages and translation, it is perfectly normal and legal in Europe to require that someone has this or that language as their native language.
      My entire career here in France has been built around the fact that I’m a native English speaker, and I’ve never got into trouble over it. I have seen countless arguments over this on translation forums, and nobody has ever mentioned that it’s illegal.
      Nationality is a completely different matter, discrimination is illegal. And yet the UN and EU have very rigid quotas for how many of whatever nationality work in this or that department.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        (countless arguments about the need to use a native English speaker that is: there are lots of non-native speakers whose English is almost good enough to translate into English, and there are not enough native English speakers who speak foreign languages (Mandarin and Mongolian are two notorious examples) to handle all translation needs from those languages into English. So Mongolians end up translating into English and a native English speaker will perhaps check it and correct anything that doesn’t sound natural)

      2. Rebecca*

        You need to follow up on some new legal developments. I can’t link it here, but google ‘native speakerism court case’. The EU law was upheld in Germany. The law has been around in the EU for a while but it’s now getting its precedent in court.

        I’ve been working in French schools for more than a decade, 5 years in France. I’m sorry, but the fact that your career has been built around where you learned English and not the skills and experience you have is the problem. My passport is not my teaching license.

        (I do actually count as a native speaker, so this isn’t bitterness speaking. My native speaker status is NOT on my teaching resume)

        1. Turtle Duck*

          Rebecca – your son could absolutely count as a native speaker by citing you as his parent. (Also I have struggled with proving different language competencies my whole life, consider myself alingual and strongly object to the idea that everyone has one language that they express themselves the best in, so I am definitely on your side! I am just talking in practical terms)

          I just looked up this Commission answer to a parliamentary question and it seems to me that it concerns job ads, not the use of the term native speaker as a whole. Also I am not clear on whether it is enforceable. It is on EUR-Lex but there is no directives or regulations (sorry, EU nerd here).

          1. Rebecca*

            That parliamentary question was used to successfully sue a school in Germany when they declined to hire a teacher. Very, very recently. So, it is enforceable now!

            1. Turtle Duck*

              ok, I see, that is certainly interesting. Though knowing how Member States can be, I wouldn’t count too much on a single German court decision yet, unfortunately. :( I am sure it will help evolve things though!

            2. Myrin*

              Okay, now I’m intrigued.

              I am German and just searched for this case in both German and English and couldn’t find any reference to it whatsoever. I didn’t find any EU laws around this, either – the three court cases relating to this topic I found – from 2009, 2013, and 2015 – all referenced the German law, with one court in Hesse specifically saying that “native speakerism is so intrinsically tied to ethnic origin that requirements along those lines inevitably lead to discrimination based on one’s nationality/ethnicity”.

              I am personally all for this and agree with your overall point but I’m still wondering if I’m understanding you correctly, that you’re saying the use alone of the term “native speaker” is illegal? Because this is not a sentiment I have ever encountered literally anywhere and the few EU documents I just casually perused actually used the term themselves. Like Turtle says, I’m seeing some cases regarding job ads and hiring decisions but nothing beyond that.

              1. Turtle Duck*

                The EU reference is a parliamentary question to the Commission from 2002 (I will copy paste a part of it below – if you search a couple of phrases the link will pop up), so it doesn’t outlaw anything but can definitely help a case in court. However, my reading of it isn’t that you can’t use the term native speaker at all, but that you can’t use it in a job ad context and eliminate someone solely based on their ‘non-native’ status.

                “The Commission is of the opinion that the phrase native speaker is not acceptable, under any circumstances, under Community law (see replies to the Honourable Member’s Written Questions E-4100/00(1) and E-0779/01(2)). However, a requirement for perfect knowledge cannot be seen, as such, as illegitimate under Community law, provided that a very high level of knowledge of a particular language is necessary for the post concerned; the employer has to justify the need for this requirement. As the requirement for a perfect knowledge of a particular language is not, per se, contrary to Community law, the Commission does not intend to urge Member States to ban this requirement from job advertisements which require such a knowledge. However, the Commission recommends using a phrase such as perfect or very good knowledge of a particular language as a condition of access to posts for which a very high level of knowledge of that language is necessary.

                The Commission will continue to use its powers to fight against any discrimination caused by a requirement for native speaker knowledge in job advertisements.”

                1. Turtle Duck*

                  So it is more “we recommend that you not use this term to indicate a high level of knowledge of a particular language”, which is great, but does not make it illegal. I can’t find the German case but I also don’t speak German. :)

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  The idea of “perfect” knowledge of a language kind of makes me laugh. I certainly wouldn’t say I have perfect knowledge of any language, not even my native language. And I’d heavily side-eye anyone who claimed to have or want such a thing. It does not, it cannot exist. It’s like counting to infinity.

                3. Turtle Duck*

                  Emmy – haha yes, which is why I chose to quote “a high level of knowledge”. Then again, anybody could ask for “perfect” anything, whether you get it or not (mostly not) is a whole other thing!

                4. Myrin*

                  Thanks for the quote, Turtle! In my search, I saw some phrases which seemed to refer to this but I couldn’t find any case numbers (or whatever this is called in such an environment) so wasn’t sure what to look for.

                  I even found the whole thing in German and yeah, it’s exactly like we’ve both been saying – it relates to job ads. It’s a direct answer to a question (E-0941/02 by a certain Bart Staes) which explicitly says “to ban completely the discriminatory formulation ‘native speaker’ from job advertisements throughout the European Union”.

                  I would be incredibly surprised if such a common expression, especially one that I hear mostly used in relation to oneself, were basically “censored” in everyday speech – I’m not sure I’ve seen that even with slurs or historically problematic phrases (like certain expressions Nazis used to use, for example); the way those disappear from language seems to work mostly via social pressure, not out-lawing.

                  This is a topic I’m interested in so I, too, am really enjoying this conversation!

      3. Another ELT professional*

        This is simply not true. I work in an English language school in an EU country with English as one of our official languages. Many – MANY-of our teachers are not native speakers of English. They have extremely good skills in English obviously but it is absolutely not required that they be native speakers. That would be extremely discriminatory and what’s more would eliminate some of our most skilled teachers from being able to work. This is standard in schools across my country, too, by the way.

    2. Turtle Duck*

      Talking about native speakers is definitely not illegal in any way in the EU, though I agree that the definition should be improved and broadened.

      1. Rebecca*

        Absolutely it is. Google the EU native speakerism law that was upheld in a German court a few months ago. A language school declined to hire an English teacher based on the fact that she was not a native speaker. She sued and won, bringing the new law from being theoretical and unenforced to having precedence in the EU courts.

        Things are changing.

        1. Turtle Duck*

          I have, I wrote a message above. This is definitely a great development! Though I wouldn’t advocate for lowering language level requirements, but if we can get rid of this “native speaker is best regardless of education and experience”, I will be happy!
          Though I wouldn’t say it is straight-up illegal to talk of “native speakers” as per your first post. :)

          1. Rebecca*

            I’m jumping between threads, apologies.

            I am absolutely not advocating for lowering language level requirements! The standards should remain high. I am only advocating for changing the requirements and cultural expectations of how and where someone got to that language level.

            1. Turtle Duck*

              No no, for sure. I once had someone who refused to interview me because “I hadn’t spent at least 5 years in the UK” right before I got hired to do communications thanks to my level of English…So it is all over the place. Weirdly, the harshest judges (who are super wrong obviously) of who should be hired based on language skills that I have come across haven’t been so great themselves, to say the least…

              1. bamcheeks*

                I had an Irish friend who taught EFL in Germany, and was asked to teach a British accent. He said no!

                1. UKDancer*

                  Quite right for your friend to say no. Interestingly one of my Dutch friends learnt English from an Irish teacher and has a slight Irish accent. Another colleague was German and studied and lived in Texas so he has a rather incongruously Texan accent when he speaks English which always makes me laugh somewhat because it’s not what you expect to hear from someone who speaks such formal and clipped High German that he opens his mouth in English and this drawl comes out.

                  We learn the accents we hear around us and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. So my German sounds slightly Rhine Franconian because I lived in Saarbrucken and apart from one chap who said I sound like a Saarland peasant, it’s never been a problem.

              2. bamcheeks*

                I had an Irish friend who taught EFL in Germany, and was asked to teach a “British” (obv southern English) accent. He said no!

                1. PhyllisB*

                  I used to work with a man who is Asian-American. He had a Chinese accent. His younger brother sounded like Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. (Upper class Southern accent.) Same parents, same schooling, but different accents. You just never know.

      2. bamcheeks*

        It’s certainly not illegal to talk about, but in English-speaking professional contexts it’s certainly best practice not to use “native speaker” as a term. My partner works in languages professionally and they don’t use it in formal contexts (and try not to use it in informal ones) because it’s not relevant. The level of proficiency and the knowledge of technical vocabulary in a particular area is what matters.

    3. Turtle Duck*

      “It also completely negates the skills of people who learned the language as a second language, many of whom are better speakers than people who learned the language from birth.”
      Also hear hear on this, I couldn’t have put it any better!

      1. Another ELT professional*

        Exactly. As I said above, some of the best English teachers in my English school, located in an English-speaking country, have another language as their L1.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Exactly. As I said above, some of the best English teachers in my English school, located in an English-speaking country, have another language as their L1.

          That doesn’t surprise me. The time I’ve spent on French, Spanish, Italian, and Latin (they overlap a lot, it’s not as impressive as it sounds, and I’m nowhere near fluent in any of them) has improved my English markedly, and I am a “native” speaker. It’s the reason I’ve heard most often for encouraging/requiring students to study another language, any other language. Each of the four has improved my speech in the others as well.

          But I’ve had people come to me with the goal of “sounding like an American” and that’s kind of a problematic target.

          That one made me laugh out loud. There are so many dialects and accents that qualify as “American,” most of which have irreconcilable discrepancies.

          1. Rebecca*

            Nobody who puts “American or British accent” on a job add means Cockney or Alabama, do they?

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Nobody who puts “American or British accent” on a job add means Cockney or Alabama, do they?

              Job Ads/Descriptions have such a reputation for being bad, wrong, made up, or out of date that those examples wouldn’t surprise me. =)

          2. quill*

            Latin improved my English and Spanish vocabulary, but it destroyed my ability to conjugate a verb. (Don’t do Latin verbs and Spanish preterite tense in the same afternoon.)

    4. Emmy Noether*

      Of course your son will count as native under any common sense definition. If he went to a french-speaking school from a young age, he’ll have native level for certain. Also, there’s, to my knowledge, no regulatory body that certifies “native” level anyway. It’s a self-description most of the time, and people will look at his nationality and diplomas and find it plausible.

      1. Rebecca*

        They will look at his French nationality and his French diplomas and find it implausible that he is an *English* native speaker.

        In many of the places I’ve worked, where language skills are a factor in hiring internationally, passport mattered first in determining language skills for visas and hiring, and diplomas from schools counted second. “I grew up with an English mom in a French city” doesn’t, really.

        1. Turtle Duck*

          Rebecca – In your son’s case, legal or not, practically, the only thing he needs to say is that he has an Enlish native speaker as a parent within the EU. Really, I know something about living in a very international place. I can even tell you about how to do this and not get penalized in certain EU-related applications (in some cases, if there are foreign language requirements, don’t put two native languages, but English native and French C2 with all the diplomas, for example). It is such a common thing and people do it and get accepted all the time! One of my best friends grew up in France in an English family and declares a different native language based on the context all the time! No one in an EU context will blink twice at your son being a native English speaker with French diplomas (as I mentioned, here I am talking practically and not about the implications of being “native” or not). I insist so much because I don’t want you or your son to think this and disadvantage yourselves. :)
          As for passports for visas…well, yes, unfortunately, and I KNOW a thing or two about this unfortunately… Currently a French passport is a lot better than a UK one in the EU though!

          1. Turtle Duck*

            If it helps, I even find that this is within the same unjust situation in terms of language level justification: “oh, your parent is a native and thus so are you and speak better than everyone”, but there you go, again, practically. :) I definitely think it would be better if we did away with arbitrary “native speaker” criteria all together… but as things stand, your son could use this to his advantage haha.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I mean, it’s very often the opposite. Your native language might be the one you can say, “OMG, have you seen what grandma’s done?” but if you’ve been educated in another language it doesn’t follow that you can write clearly correct business, academic or technical documents.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I mean, it’s very often the opposite. Your native language might be the one you can say, “OMG, have you seen what grandma’s done?” but if you’ve been educated in another language it doesn’t follow that you can write clear, correct business, academic or technical documents in your L1.

              1. Turtle Duck*

                I am talking about it in the strict context of applying for a job with unreasonable expectations and a flawed understanding of language. :)

            3. Rebecca*

              Sure, and I’m mostly just using him as an example of how even defining what a native speaker is, if we’re going to use it in hiring and promotions, is so difficult. So much so as to make the term useless for anything OTHER than nationality gate-keeping.

              My kid’ll be fine, but the point about the definition stands.

        2. Heather*

          …so then he’ll mention that he grew up in an English speaking household, the way tons of children do. This seems like a total non-issue.

          1. Rebecca*

            I mean, it’s not a total non-issue. I’ve seen people lose their visas and jobs when an employer or a government decided to change their definition of what a native speaker is. A bunch of my English teacher colleagues lost their jobs and had to start all over again when China decided that getting a visa for their job meant you had to be a native speaker and being a native speaker meant having one of the passports on the list, and mentioning their parent’s language to the Chinese government didn’t help them much.

            But as it happens, it’s less about the issue my specific kid will have – he’ll be fine – and more about using him as an example of how meaningless the word is when we’re trying to use to make hiring and promotion decisions. So meaningless as to be useless, unless we’re using it to gatekeep.

    5. Nonke John*

      “Can we please stop talking about ‘native speakers’? […]

      “Your intern does not need to speak like a native speaker.”

      Your tone seems a little harsh here. The LW did describe herself as a native speaker, but I didn’t see her let that color what she thinks her industry requires. She doesn’t seem to be a language-education professional, so she reached for the everyday catch-all word “accent”. That doesn’t mean she thinks her intern needs to stop talkin’ like one o’ them furriners.

      Like many other workplace skills (project management, public speaking), language facility is partially about knowledge of things you can memorize mechanically and partially about the X factor of whether you get the desired reaction from the audience in practice. Sure, there are small-minded, racist people who think anyone who doesn’t sound like them or like a newscaster isn’t speaking properly. We should work to keep their thinking from dominating hiring decisions! But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s possible to learn to choose sentence structure, vocabulary, enunciation, and intonation that work more effectively overall with an audience of people thinking and operating in English (whatever their backgrounds). It seems a kindness to point that out to the intern.

      1. Rebecca*

        Of course it is a kindness to point out to the intern that their language skills need to be improved! Not hiring someone on the basis of their language skills not being up to par is also perfectly acceptable.

        I simply encouraged the LW to rethink her vocabulary around how you communicate those skills, and also let her know that an accent coach isn’t the appropriate or necessary step to take to improve those language skills.

        I work do work in language education, in a country where English language skills are in demand, and I assure you, it’s not the small minded or racist people who think that native speakers should have an advantage in the job market. Lots of intelligent, kind, otherwise very liberal people will put “native speakers only” or “British accents only” on their job ads and think it’s an entirely reasonable way to conduct hiring. I see qualified, experienced teachers lose work to people with no experience, education, or skills because of accent or passport discrimination all the time.

        1. Rebecca*

          I assure you it’s not *just* the small minded or racist people. I’m typing too fast!

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      Could it make things less awkward if the OP explained the issue in terms of specific proficiency levels like CEFR? Eg “to work in this field successfully most employers would expect a B2/C1 (or whatever) degree of proficiency so I’d advise you to work towards that” or something? It feels less personal.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          It’s a really good idea, provided the OP actually knows what proficiency levels are needed. Many employers may not know that answer.

          1. Another ELT professional*

            Looking at the descriptions of CEFR levels might give OP some language to use when explaining what the employee will need to work towards, though.

      1. Rebecca*

        This is the answer.

        You can even use less empirical language – has to be able to communicate with clients, has to be able to have natural conversation, language barrier is causing work problems, use of idiomatic language is causing confusion. You can talk about the proficiency or lack thereof of the language all you like – just now where or how they got it.

        Language skills are things you can acquire, work on, get better at. Being a native speaker is not.

  18. Turtle Duck*

    Ha, I would bet money that #3 is in Brussels. It is really hard to talk to people about their language competency as everyone kind of assumes they are fine… But if it is to the point that all colleagues agree and it is creating issues, I am sure the intern also knows, and it is valuable feedback for the future.

    1. Alan*

      I’ve found people are very touchy if you even suggest that their language is not perfect. Not sure why.

      1. Turtle Duck*

        i mean, I kind of get it if they are corrected daily for minor things, that is just annoying (and more often than not a power play)…But if it is to the point that others can’t understand, it certainly needs to be addressed.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. When I worked abroad I didn’t mind if I wrote a memo in German having my grammar corrected by my German colleague because my adjectives don’t always agree and sometimes I forget which case a preposition takes, and I’d rather they did that before it went externally. It would annoy the crap out of me to have someone do that to me at the tea point if I’d not asked them to correct me.

  19. What a way to make a living*

    LW1, I’m not surprised your field remains male-dominated if bosses talk about, and to, their staff like this.

    How does he know other women haven’t been harassed? He doesn’t exactly sound like someone you’d want to tell.

    Alison was very generous in saying that sometimes the subconscious goal in telling your crush how you feel is testing the waters for reciprocation. I absolutely think that is the reason, because why else would feel compelled to do it?

    My advice is that you think about what it is that is exciting to you here and try channeling that back into your own relationship. Maybe you’d like your partner to say those kind of things more often? Maybe you’d like to role-play him being your boss? Maybe you want to feel like you can’t control yourselves? Maybe you want to recreate your early memories when you first liked each other? Maybe it would be fun to imagine meeting each other for the first time now, in a different context, and imagine having crushes on each other?

    This is an opportunity to share and connect more deeply with your partner.

    Depending on the type of relationship you have and how well you communicate, handle jealousy, etc, you could consider mentioning crush-feels to your partner. I’ve done that myself and it totally takes the drama and thrill out of the crush by bringing it into the cold light of day. It also makes you stop separating out “crush world” from “partner world” which makes it harder to indulge cheating thoughts or fantasies.

    Talking about it with trusted friends (not ones who will encourage it) or your partner (in a kind, careful way) can force you to take responsibility for what you’re doing. The texting, compliments, flirting, these things are all choices you are making. If it leads to cheating, you made those choices too. Hold yourself accountable.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Definitely the boss is deliberately inappropriate at worst, hapless and untrained in creating safe spaces for women at best. Even a good boss would feel awkward and wrong footed by OP’s planned confession, but one like this would be entirely out of his depth (and again, ineptitude is the best case scenario). What’s the bet that he would consider OP’s confession to be sexually forward instead of simply unprofessional? I wonder how much stock he’d put in any sexual harassment complaints from her after that. He’d pigeonhole her as a temptress straight away, and he’d do it without ever thinking of the inappropriate example and tone he himself set.

    2. Observer*

      How does he know other women haven’t been harassed?

      He doesn’t. Best case, he just doesn’t know. Worst case he knows that they have been harassed, but the victim was “too attractive” so that doesn’t really count.

  20. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    OP #1: Be very careful around your boss. He has already shown he’s inappropriate around you. Regardless of your crush, it is harassing and wrong, and you do not have to put up with that kind of behaviour. I believe he’s testing you, and would use your crush or any other signs he decides you’ve given him against you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree.

      To my way of thinking there was no need for this conversation. The boss simply could have sent around a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy to EVERYONE. Then he could have highlighted what to do if a person felt they were being sexually harassed.

      Additionally since the boss knows there are remarks being made, he should either be warning the person speaking and/or reporting it. He should not be chatting about it with OP. And that is another thing this is manipulative- now OP is supposed to feel grateful for the boss’ protection of OP. grr. NO, the boss’ job is to maintain a safe work place for all. He does not need a gold star, it’s his job.

      ‘ To me the boss had a conversation without having a conversation. He loaded this up with plausible deniability. “Oh, I wasn’t coming on to OP. I was trying to protect her.” Yeah, bs!, I say. I have seen so much of this with women being treated this way. No the real conversation here was “I am on a fishing expedition, to see what you think about ME, OP.”

      To me this is a classic example of the very thing women are fighting to eliminate from the workplace.

      OP, you seem very honest, where you admit this is flattering. I have an exercise that I suggest. Pretend this person was not attractive and pretend he is not a boss. How do you feel about the conversation now? Let’s go one more step. Imagine a person who fits your very definition of repulsive- that could be ugly, mean, irresponsible in life, whatever that means to you. Now picture this repulsive person saying the same thing to you. How do you feel about the conversation now?

      It took younger me a bit to find and draw that hard black line. I’d like to encourage you to think more about boundaries and what truly professional behavior looks like.

  21. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I once had a job where my workspace had a clear view of the parking lot, so I could see who was coming and going. I didn’t make notes of when people came in but I generally knew who was there based on what I could see. At one point there was a question about something and I was able to say I knew Jim, Pam, and Dwight were there but Phyllis and Stanley weren’t. Not being creepy – just looking straight ahead out the window. Turned out to be helpful.

  22. my 8th name*

    #1 “Do I mention it to him and apologize if anything I do say/do ever comes off inappropriate?”…Inappropriate like telling your boss you have a crush on him?

    This feels like a thinly veiled attempt to (a) test the waters or (b) to get your boss to tell you that he thinks you’re pretty again…and it’s going to feel like that to him too. It’s going to feel like you’re volleying the ball into his court. Also be fair to your partner please. Would you want your partner running around telling other people they think they’re so attractive it’s distracting?

    Lastly, based on the context, I am not sure you boss was complimenting you. It’s sounds to me like he was warning you. I read “all I can say” as “we have/had a problem with sexual harassment, but I can’t explicitly tell you details.”

    To be clear, I am not shaming you for having a crush. Crushes are not inappropriate! Telling a married man who you work with that you have a crush on him would be though.

  23. Workerbee*

    OP#1, don’t let your boss’s agenda mess up your career. People unfortunately still remember just the woman involved as if she acted in a solitary vacuum.

    His “not like the other girls”-ing of you is a glaring red flag, as are the other comments. Don’t fall for it, don’t make the first, second, or any move at all, and get out of there.

  24. DJ Abbott*

    #5, I applied for a job that sounded like something I could do and played to my strengths and had two interviews. I didn’t really feel excited or like it was a dream job, but I was underemployed for two years because of the pandemic and had to take a good job when it was offered. There was another position I was more excited about, but it turned out to be an inconvenient location and the one interview wasn’t great.
    Turns out The job I took is exactly what I wanted! I get to work a lot more with people and use my administrative and detail skills and I get to help people.
    So you really never know till you’re there! Go with the flow and see what happens. :)

  25. AthenaC*

    #1 – just reading the title, without reading ANYTHING else, the answer is NO. Literally none of the other details / justifications matter. The answer is NO.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I feel like 98% of the time, when my answer to the title is no, my answer to the actual question is oh, hell, no, no, dude, no. This one was not in the 2%.

  26. anonymous73*

    #2 Your co-workers schedules are none of your business. Period. You are not being helpful at all, you’re being intrusive. You’re being a micromanager without the title of manager – it’s not your place. If your manager messes up someone else’s time off, it’s up the THEM to get it straightened out. You don’t know how much time off everyone gets or has left. If someone came in late, they may have worked late the night before, or plan to work late that same day. Regardless, it’s not your concern. Stick to worrying about your own schedule and PTO.

    1. Narise*

      As someone who has managed someone who thought it was their duty to track teams comings and goings..every day arrivals and lunches etc. I can tell you I agree with your statements fully. We finally had to write her up to get her to stop because she was spending so much time tracking people’s time it was eating into her productivity. She was tracking several people but if this is not what you are being paid to do you are wasting company time.

    2. WillowSunstar*

      I agree. What if you were listing someone as “out of office” who was on FMLA? They don’t necessarily have to tell you that they are on FMLA, this is something normally discussed only with HR and managers. I was in a job where people completely dissing a coworker who was on FMLA and she had been open about it. Unless manager has designated you as some kind of assistant, this isn’t something that is part of your job duties.

  27. KGB*

    OP1 What would happen if your current partner finds out that you have a crush on your boss and that you told your boss about it? My guess is you would damage your own relationship.

    Once you tell him you cannot untell him and your relationship will be viewed through this lens forever.
    If he’s standoffish, if he doesn’t recommend you for a project, if he won’t travel with you, you will always view it as ‘Is this because I told him I have a crush? I’m never going to do anything about it just wanted him to know.’ If you really thought it was a good idea you wouldn’t have written to Allison to ask if it’s a good idea.

    You feel burdened by the crush and you want to relieve your burden by sharing it with him however all this does is transfer the burden to him because now he has to figure out how to navigate your working relationship with this information. My guess is you’ll be job hunting in three months if you share this information because it will be so uncomfortable and the friendly banter you enjoy now will end. Part of being an adult is learning to work with people you don’t like but also learning to work with people you have a crush on and being professional in both situations.

  28. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP1 – no.
    OP2 – no!!!
    OP3 – soft no, unless you can explain why accent instruction is necessary.
    OP4 – lol no.
    OP5 – uh, no.

  29. somanyquestions*

    LW1- you are not telling the truth here. You think he’s going to jump in your arms if you tell him, and somehow everything will work out just beautifully. This is a really selfish & awful impulse. Don’t freaking do that and you should really examine why you think that doing something like that is OK.

    1. PinkCandyfloss*

      LW#1 is reading down through these comments saying “But I’m not!” at every reply like this one. LW#1: but you are. You are.

  30. WillowSunstar*

    #3 I would like to suggest Toastmasters. It is an organization to learn public speaking and leadership skills that does have clubs outside the US, including Europe. Most are online these days, but the employee may be able to find a local group meeting hybrid or in person if they would like that. Many people join Toastmasters to practice their English skills. I’m in a local corporate club where at least half the people joined for that reason alone. Since contest speeches must be given in English, many clubs (even overseas) are only in English when they meet. Some clubs may be bilingual, so check out their social media first.

  31. CLC*

    At any given moment there people everywhere having the thought that a colleague is attractive or realizing they have chemistry together. But for most adult professionals, especially when both parties are in relationships, it stays a thought. Maybe it’s a recurring thought, maybe it makes you feel a little self conscious around the other person. But it’s going to go away eventually, and it has to stay just a thought. I think the manager was wrong in making the comment he did about the other men not being used to seeing someone who looks like you—harassment can happen to anyone, he didn’t have to say it like that. To me he has already crossed a line and I would stay very far away from the line myself if you want to keep your job and your relationship.

  32. Radical honesty*

    #1 – this sounds like how I was when I was from ages 18-25. I had a huge desire to flirt with people and cross a line of inappropriateness. Professors, men I worked with, etc. I’m 35 now and CRINGE at some of the things I’ve done and said.

    My advice to you is to control yourself and ignore the lusty feelings, which will get easier with time and as you get older.

    There’s nothing you gain from telling your boss you think he’s attractive. Focus on work :)

  33. Similarly Situated*

    OP4, for what it’s worth your new position with title bump will show anyone looking at your resume that you have a clear progression. I would make sure the bullet points under your old position really reflect the work you were doing at possibly a higher level than your title implied, but your new job will accomplish what you want on your resume by the time you are looking again!

  34. Smithy*

    #3: My read on the letter is that the OP may have proficiency in other languages either due to their upbringing or education or not.

    Therefore, while encouraging this intern to seek further English education and practice to increase their proficiency in order to succeed in this field in this country – I do want to recommend being cautious in the OP stating exactly how much time would be necessary. It may be that other people in this company would have recommendations, but those recommendations might be much longer term experiences (i.e. doing their undergrad in an English speaking university) or impossible/impractical to replicate on a whim (i.e. having an English speaking parent or partner).

    I’m not saying I’d necessarily point to specific colleagues who’s English the intern should emulate, but if there are styles of presentations or length of writing in a certain time frame – I think those are good goals to share. Basically skill sets the intern could take to a teacher/tutor/program and say “this is what I want to achieve, let’s create a learning roadmap”.

  35. MCMonkeyBean*

    #4 — The title itself is less important than the fact that it sounds like you grew that role in a lasting way. The fact that they are listing the position at the higher level is still good for you because that must mean that you accomplished a lot and that is ultimately what you would want to put on the resume anyway. So think about what the role looked like when you were hired vs the role it is now, and write down some of the specific things you did/improved/expanded to make the role what it is today!

    1. ferrina*

      Exactly. There’s a difference between earning a promotion and receiving a promotion. LW clearly earned a promotion, which will be reflected in her accomplishments. But the official title still needs to be aligned with what the company gave her.

      That said, a decent hiring manager will recognize that you are performing higher level work. OldJob did the same thing to me- I did higher level work without the title/pay- and the next company was very happy to hire me since I was already performing that level of work.

    2. Smithy*

      Absolutely this. I also want to flag that when we are working somewhere, it can be easy to focus how they define titles/hierarchy. So at Llama Grooming Inc the Move from Officer to Manager may be a *big deal*. But then at Llama Complete Hair Care LLC, Officers may be above Managers with a very modest pay difference between the two. I recently know someone who went from being a Sr. Director at one job to a Sr. Program Officer at a new job – the new job pays significantly more and is a similar place of hierarchy in the employer. They just title positions differently.

      While the change in title can easily note a promotion/achievement on a resume, I think the OP can just see this as a challenge to make sure the bullet points convey that more strongly. Where the OP started in the job to where they finished, and what was achieved over time.

  36. Just Me*

    #3 – I used to work at an English school. Many of our staff and employees had attended the English school. There were frequently conversations about how students were progressing but, also, occasionally staff. It’s worth having a check in with this intern about this, but I would suggest bringing it up first by asking, “How do you feel you’re progressing? What do you feel is going well? What do you feel you need to work on?” The intern may mention that they feel insecure about their English or want to improve in certain areas. If that isn’t what comes out, you can say, “Your work has been great, and we want you to progress in the field. To do that, we should make sure that you feel confident doing xyz things in English [ex. leading a meeting with native English speakers, talking on the phone in English with people from various countries, explaining the nuances of contracts that are written in English, what have you].” When you move the conversation from being personal (i.e. about “your” English) to being about skills (which is how language acquisition should be thought of anyway) it will become a lot easier. It may also help you evaluate what exactly the issue is–sometimes, native speakers will overall see that someone is making the same grammar mistakes everywhere, but when you look at the overall criteria you see that they’re actually doing fine overall and it’s just one area of their job that might be affected.

  37. Nora*

    #1 – Aside from all the other comments (correctly) pointing out the red flags, my advice for getting over a crush on a married person is to focus on the paradox of what it would be like if you were together. Any time you think about being with them, picture them also lying to / cheating on / abandoning their family in order to do so. Is that someone you want to be with? No.

    #2 – We actually do a similar thing in our office but the key difference is that some coworkers got together and let the other coworkers know that the manager was not keeping accurate time and so encouraged people to put their time off on the shared calendar themselves. Sometimes we do enter time off for each other if needed but generally it comes from a place of people tracking their own time publicly to keep the manager accountable. So, my advice would be to talk to your coworkers! Tell them that your manager is bad at keep track of time off so they should make sure to do it themselves!

    1. Pikachu*

      1 – I call this “watching the whole movie.” Sure, the opening act might be you both confessing your feelings for each other and having some kind of star-crossed affair, but the movie only ends with breaking up families or nuking a great career from orbit or both. There are no other outcomes.

      1. Nora*

        That’s definitely true but I also think of it in a Groucho Marx “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member” way. I don’t want to be with a person who would cheat on their family, therefore I don’t want to be with this person because if they were with me then they would be cheating on their family.

        (though I suppose there are some people who are not as bothered by that and this advice wouldn’t work for them)

    2. anonymous73*

      One mistake does make the manager bad at keeping track of time. I’m happy that it works for your office, but in general it’s a bad idea. If your manager was so inefficient at keeping track of everyone’s time, it should have been escalated. Employees shouldn’t be keeping track of each other’s time unless you’re all okay with everyone knowing all of your business.

      1. Observer*

        It sounds like this was essentially a way to escalate it in way that was open and transparent – and that the boss couldn’t really push back on. It wouldn’t work in every office, of course, but it does one thing that’s really useful. It deploys the power of the group push back while being less in your face about the “push back” piece.

      2. Nora*

        Everyone in my office keeps track of their own time, it is just available “publicly” (within the office) if people want it to be. It is additionally useful for scheduling meetings or not expecting responses to emails while someone is taking time off, without them having to share their whole calendar

  38. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    LW1 – what do you hope will happen if you confess your crush? That is your true answer.

    I’m echoing all of the first commenters on there – this is…not great. Go to strictly professional with this person and do some personal work on where these instincts are coming from. Your manager is incredibly inappropriate as well; do not feed into it even if it feels good.

    1. danmei kid*

      I think everyone who ever had a crush on someone in their early years has been there and knows exactly what LW#1 is getting or hoping to get out of this confession: validation, endorphins, dopamine, serotonin … those addictive little hits of feel good chemistry and damn the consequences later on.

  39. Sylvan*

    1. Don’t do that. What do you think will happen if you do that? I can’t think of anything good.

    2. Don’t do that. I get why you want to, but your life will be easier if you keep your eyes on your own paper.

  40. PinkCandyfloss*

    LW#1 is already trying to justify in her head making an approach on her married-w-kids boss. Do you really have to write in to a management advice blog to know that telling your boss you have a crush on them is a HUGE RED FLAG NO-NO? LW#1, this is a tale as old as time. Movies, TV shows, novels, tragic rock & roll songs and angsty poetry has been written about this very issue through the ages. If you have truly reached adulthood without the knowledge or understanding that this type of thing rarely ever works out well for everyone involved …. I can only shake my head.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      But if they didn’t write in, what would we talk about?

      And you always have the choice to skip it…

  41. Oxford Comma*

    LW #2: this is a stay in your own lane issue. If your supervisor had asked you to do this, it would be one thing, but they didn’t. It’s not your job to keep track of people’s time off or lunch hours. I work with a person who does this kind of thing and it’s annoying and intrusive.

    1. Just Me*

      This can be very common in some transnational companies and sometimes even in higher education in parts of Europe or Asia. If you’re working with clients/customers/companies from around the globe, the lingua franca is often English (rightly or wrongly) and having the language skills to work with the local population in their native language is just a “perk” (rightly or wrongly). Ex. I recently met an American who works for Carnegie Melon Qatar–as an “American” university all work and all instruction is in English. She doesn’t speak Arabic at all, and neither do many of the students. Likewise, I know an American who does digital marketing for a tech company in El Salvador. Internally they all use Spanish, but as they are actively marketing to an English-speaking audience all of their written work needs to be in English that seems natural to a native English speaker. It all feels very colonialist and icky to me, but there it is.

  42. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    LW #4: I’ve got the same dilemma right now; in my case, my manager has been pushing for the promotion for two-plus years, and budget freezes and HR nonsense have been holding it up. But I’ve been doing the work of a Senior Llama Director for two-plus years while my title has remained Llama Fencer, and have it on my résumé as:
    Llama Fencer, May 2019 – present
    – Served as team Senior Llama Director
    — managed design and data structure for llama dashboard
    — coached junior llama groomer on grooming best practices and behavioral analysis
    — [more accomplishments]

  43. Observer*

    #1 – I haven’t read all of the posts yet, but I do see that you’ve already gotten a lot of feedback on a few aspects of your letter. Something I have not seen yet, that I want to address.

    Any time you start a request for advice with “Okay, this sounds really bad but I swear it’s not like that. that tells you that it really IS “like that”. Maybe not 100%, but close enough that this alone should be a BIG red flag for you.

    You’re playing with fire. This could blow up both your personal life and your job, possibly even career. Stay awaaaaay.

  44. M.W.*

    OP1: My advice is to stop looking for permission to escalate your relationship with your boss. That is what this question is. The thinly-veiled excuse (“in case anything I do comes across as inappropriate”) is bad. Bad bad bad.

  45. Mary Mary, Quite Contrary*

    LW#1: I was recently in your shoes. I don’t seem to think along the same lines of my coworkers, so sometimes when troubleshooting a problem or organizing data, their methods don’t make sense to me (and I’m sure mine don’t seem logical to them!). So when my now-boss was hired as an analyst, I was intrigued because I’m interested in that role, and then once I started working with him, OMG. We think along the same lines, but he’s been doing it much longer than me, and has the patience to teach me tricks of the trade. Instant crush.

    Yeah, we’re both married with kids, and like you, I’m not interested in breaking up anyone’s relationship. So whenever my hopes get up, I just kill them with sad thoughts, “He doesn’t want me.” As time has passed, I’ve noticed that he can be a bit much to handle, such as insisting that I use a specific formatting for numbers or not highlight cells, but make notes instead. I imagined that if I was married to him, he’d be the nitpicky one about objects always being in the same place, or never trying a new recipe with his advance approval of every single ingredient, and my crush disappeared. I still enjoy working with him, but I scaled back socializing a bit.

    So maybe find a flaw in your boss and imagine living with that, day in and day out and how much it’d annoy you. Maybe that’ll help quell the crush. Good luck!

  46. BBB*

    #2 I also put my coworkers pto on my calendar. I’m on a small team and generally need to cover some aspect of someone else’s work when they are out, so I need reminders for myself when this is happening. my calendar is only shared within the team so idk why that would ever be a problem? but then again, I have a genuine work reason why I need to keep track of this information. so OP your reasoning is weird… why exactly are you worried about other people’s time?

    1. anonymous73*

      What you describe is normal office behavior. When we take PTO, we send a calendar invite marked as “free” so our team can see who is out at any given time. OP is crossing a line.

  47. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

    LW 1 – a lot of people are saying to redirect your energy to your current partner, but a caveat – even IF your “very happy and loving” relationship has run its course (that’s fine, most do) that doesn’t mean the boss is the next logical step! Staying where you are or having the most drama-bearing affair possible are not the only options. Consider if it’s time to move on in a completely different direction; does the thought create a sense of possibility, and is that sense of possibility what’s fueling the crush? You could use that energy to start a new life that doesn’t involve getting fired or being subpoenaed in a divorce.

  48. Observer*

    #1 – OP, please read the Friday letter from a LW who was overly involved with a former boss. Read the comments, and read her update in the comments – She responded as “LW#2 the original author”.

    Solid food for thought. Your situation is different, but what’s the same is the boss pushing the line and the excuse making on the part of the LW.

    The thing is that in many ways, you have more to lose.

    1. PollyQ*

      OH. MY. GLOB.

      Well, thank you for sharing that! I hadn’t seen it, and now feel that my life was incomplete without that bananacrackers bonkerballs update. Wow.

  49. Mewtwo*

    #1: I’m someone who gets workplace crushes, but I never take them seriously enough to consider acting on even when we’re both single. I actually enjoy workplace crushes because they are completely no stakes crushes I don’t get involved in and they break up an otherwise monotonous workday. I don’t understand why people feel the need to “say something” about coworker crushes – particularly when it’s your married boss!

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    As many others have mentioned, imagining the ordinary day to day things that your crush might do is one way to kill the spark – this is even seen in art and popular culture The classic example is the Brady Bunch episode where Marcia had a crush on the roguishly handsome young dentist. But it quickly evaporated once she realized (in a dream) what the realities of being married to a dentist would be like.

  51. Lab Boss*

    LW1: There’s a lot of comments here that I agree with that address this from the employee side, but adding my $0.02 from the boss side of the equation:

    A few times over the years I’ve had to deal with an obvious crush from people I’ve had some authority over- though slightly flattering, it put me in a position where I needed to balance between avoiding behavior that would feed the crush and avoiding treating them needlessly coldly. They faded on their own, as these things do. It would have all been so much harder and more awkward if any of them had made the crush explicit. If he’s a good boss you’ll just be putting him in an awkward place, and if (as I suspect) he’s NOT so innocent you’ll be throwing fuel on a fire.

  52. Nancy*

    LW2: Stop doing that, it’s weird and unnecessary. If you really wanted to help, you could have suggested that the manager set up a shared calendar that everyone can access, or suggest that everyone email their time off requests to the manager and enter the time into their own outlook calendar so the manager can look up the information. You don’t need to track anything , it is not your job, and you were not asked to do so.

  53. DefinitiveAnn*

    Re #1: when I had a crush on a guy I met through political work, it was torture. I told my husband. My husband was a little taken aback, but realized it really didn’t have anything to do with him, and now, instead of being this secret thing that I was reinforcing with my secrecy, it was out in the open. It was literally like popping a balloon. Crush was gone. It was a huge relief.

  54. Semi-retired admin*

    This is my first comment :) Re: LW2, I used to work in a 2-person office and the way coverage worked was that I opened the office and my co-worker closed it so they started their day later than me, and also ended later than me. I had to make several appointments related to a medical procedure. I made sure to schedule those appointments at the end of the day; I never had to leave more than 30 minutes prior to my regular end-of-day, all firmly within their working hours, and not anywhere near lunchtimes. I sent my boss, and cc’d them, a list of those appointments. I had to do something at her desk one morning, and saw that she had printed out the email, highlighted the dates and times I was leaving, and then was crossing out the appointments as they occurred. It struck me a very strange, and made me very uncomfortable, although I never mentioned it to them or our boss. All that to say it’s just odd to publicly track your co-workers’ comings and goings, it feels intrusive and I don’t blame your coworker for going to your manager.

  55. Observer*

    #2 – I want to highlight 2 things. The first has been mentioned, but I want to be explicit.

    You say that “It seems like every small thing I think is innocent, they make it a big thing.” That sounds like you have been having an ongoing issue with being told to stop doing things. So, your boss is seeing a pattern here and that is why you are getting written up. It’s not just THIS thing that you did, but it’s a thing that’s the latest in a string of things.

    You need to do one of two things:

    Option 1 – Talk to your boss and explain that you were trying to be helpful, but realize that this was clearly not the way to go. But since you don’t really understand why this is a problem, could she explain what you need to think about / run past her / just not do, when you decide to take initiative to be helpful. Only do this if you actually respect your boss and can really ask in the spirit of learning what to do and what not to do, with no challenges, arguments, criticisms (explicit or implied, or excuses for your behavior.

    Option 2 – find someone who has a good sense of social and workplace norms that you can trust to be honest with you. Tell them about this *and all of the other things* that “they make a big thing” about. Ask your mentor to help you understand the issue and how to avoid doing whatever it is (like overstepping boundaries) again.

    You also say that “ If she had told me it made her uncomfortable, I would have been okay with removing it.” I don’t want to nit pick language, but I think that this bears mentioning because it sounds like you would be making a concession and doing her a favor by taking her name off. Now, if that IS the way you feel, that’s a major issue on its own and explains why she wouldn’t come to you. She shouldn’t have to ask you for a favor. And undoubtedly she would have been aware of your attitude and would not want to deal with it, justifiably!

    On the other hand, I realize that you may NOT feel that way and the reaction would have been *genuine* “OF COURSE, I’ll take your name off! I only wanted to be helpful, but if it doesn’t work for you, that’s that.” But that means that there is some miscommunication happening – it SOUNDS like you think you have more standing than you do or think you do. Given that you are doing something that’s problematic on its own, it really is on you to make sure that your communications around this are clearer, though, so some help with better communications might be a good idea.

  56. LilPinkSock*

    LW2….why, though? Why are you tracking your coworkers’ out of office time? Have you been asked to do that by your boss? Is that a part of your job duties as assigned? Seems like you’re busily policing something that’s not yours to worry about.

  57. Dancing Otter*

    LW #2, you say you were trying to be helpful, right?
    I’m reminded of the Boy Scout helping the old lady cross the street, when she didn’t want to go.
    If you want to be helpful, ask first.

  58. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    My manager has made a couple comments to me about how the “guys around here aren’t used to seeing women who look like (you) … that’s about all I am allowed to say.” This was very flattering and not in a weird way

    Except that comment is weird, OP. He shouldn’t be making comments about your physical appearance or how attractive you are AT ALL. You really need to draw a line and keep your conversations strictly business only. I’m also worried about how he would react if you did have problems with male employees because he’s already demonstrated inappropriate behaviour, even if it’s just mildly inappropriate.

  59. Sadder But Wiser*

    LW1: I was in this situation — married, with a crush I couldn’t get over on my married supervisor — and it quickly spiraled out of control, led to an affair, and destroyed my marriage. (Through sheer dumb luck it managed not to affect my career.) I spent the following decade trying to rebuild my life. Do not go down this path. Your supervisor has already indicated that he has questionable boundaries and intentions. You are playing with fire and you need to take a HUGE step back and get a therapist ASAP.

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