can I bring my dog on a business trip, manager made up fake reasons for a firing, and more

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

1. Can I bring my dog on a business trip?

I work for a small firm that operates in two cities in the same state: one main office with the majority of employees and business, and a smaller office with one VP and myself about four hours away. I have a three-month plan with targets I have to hit in order to be eligible for a promotion, and as part of the plan they have asked for me to spend a week at the main office. They will put me up at a hotel on the same block as the office for my stay.

Question: is it weird for me to bring my dog with me that week? I live a very short walk from my regular office and normally carve out time in my day to come home and let my elderly dog out (I walk home for lunch many days anyway). The hotel they selected for me is dog-friendly. Even if I don’t have time to let him out during the middle of the day while I am at the main office, he’s fine making it a work day without going out, I just do it to make sure he is comfortable. Obviously I would pay the hotel pet fee myself. Is there any reason it would be frowned upon for me to bring him with me?

Bring your dog! Business travel can be really disruptive to your life and this is a way to make it less so.

If anyone asks about it, you can matter-of-factly say, “Yeah, it made the logistics of coming for a week a lot easier.” That’s perfectly reasonable.

2. I’m worried my coworker might be self-harming

I have a junior colleague with whom I’m friendly. We sometimes chat outside of work. I’m senior to him but not his manager.

He recently went through a rough time in his personal life which we have chatted about, and events came to a head last night. Last I heard before I went to bed, he was upset but okay.

Today he was unable to come into the office as he was in the ER after he burned himself badly when cooking last night. After he left the ER, he joined a virtual meeting and I saw the injury was bandaged. I am worried that it wasn’t actually an accident. I don’t have any evidence for this, but I have noticed scars on his arms which look like self-harm scars to me. He has mentioned previous struggles with mental health (without sharing detail).

Is there anything I can do here? Can I mention anything to him in terms of support? Can I mention it to his manager in case the support should come from her? I feel like I probably can’t, but I am worried.

It could be self-harm but it could also be a cooking accident! I think you need to take him at his word.

That said, he has confided in you that he’s been going through a rough time, and you can suggest support to him based on that. If your company has an EAP, make sure he knows about it. You can also check in with him generally and see how he’s doing. (Also, if he did go to the ER for self-harm, they should/would have done a risk assessment and created a safety plan with him, so hopefully that happened if it was needed.)

But I don’t advise talking with his boss about it, because it’s really up to him how much he shares with her and unfortunately there can be very good, self-protective reasons for people not to disclose mental health struggles to their manager.

3. Why would a manager make up fake reasons to fire someone?

My coworker and I have shared stories about our previous workplaces, and so I found out that he had entered my company in order to escape a performance improvement plan at his previous job, which was a clear sham to justify firing him. His place underwent a change in management, and it was clear that his new manager was seeking to just get rid of all the previous employees in order to replace them with her friends. In a week, he went from an annual review where he was given a good rating to having a performance improvement plan alleging months of problems, and problems that couldn’t just accumulate within a week. I didn’t get all the details, but at least part of the improvement plan were downright false things — things where there was direct evidence of them being made-up issues. Not to mention only hearing about “long-term problems” during a performance improvement plan, instead of multiple times before that point.

My question is why was that even done, when we have at-will employment? Clearly that employee’s previous manager was planning to terminate and replace all the existing staff, so instead of subjecting people to fraudulent improvement plans, wouldn’t it have been much more efficient to simply terminate them? After all, with at-will employment, there’s no such legal thing as wrongful termination, so justifying a termination with fraudulent documentation seems like a waste of time.

First, a quick correction: Even within at-will employment, there is such a thing as wrongful termination. It’s when a firing is based on something illegal, like firing someone because of their race or disability or as retaliation for engaging in legally protected behavior (like reporting discrimination or harassment).

Managers who use an obviously false pretense for firing someone are generally doing it for one or more of the following reasons: (1) They need to comply with the company’s internal disciplinary policies, which require them to present reasons, (2) they know it will cause internal issues (and potentially bad PR and consequences to their own reputation) to just announce “I’m firing you because I want to replace you with my friend” so they find it easier to claim it’s for performance, (3) they think a fake reason will give them cover in the event of any legal challenge or they misunderstand what they can and can’t do legally, (4) they don’t want the company to be on the hook for paying unemployment benefits, or (5) they’re engaging in some internal delusion, because they feel better if they tell themselves there’s a legitimate reason for their actions.

4. Are there legal limits on weird dress codes?

Is there a limit as to what you can have as a dress code in your business? For example, could the dress code say that you have to wear summer clothes in the winter and winter clothes in the summer?

The only real legal limits on dress codes in the U.S. are that they can’t be discriminatory by race, gender, or other protected characteristics, and employers need to make reasonable accommodations for people who can’t follow the dress code for medical or religious reasons. (Employers can have different dress codes for men and women, though, as long as that doesn’t impose a significantly higher burden on one sex than on the other.)

So yes, legally an employer could require employees to wear summer clothes in the winter and winter clothes in the summer (as long as they made exceptions for anyone with a health or religious need) … but generally employers have a business incentive to do things that will attract and keep good employees, not drive them away for the hell of it.

5. Explaining I left a job because we weren’t being paid on time

I recently finished my master’s in the mental health field and completed my required internship at a local counseling agency, which I’ll call Agency X. When I started, I found that the vast majority of employees, even supervisors, were former interns and were relatively recent grads.

As time went on, I found out about some significant issues with the organization. Agency X regularly failed to pay their employees on time. They didn’t use direct deposit and would often issue bad checks to employees, to the point that employees started having to go to Agency X’s bank to find out if the check would clear to avoid bounced check fees. This wasn’t just a one- or two-time thing; in the six months I worked there, it seemed that every pay period employees complained about their pay coming late. It got to the point where the owner was paying employees through Zelle or Venmo whenever he could, which would often be a week or more late (and without paystubs), but yet they continued to hire more staff. At one point, I was told that an employee had to go to the hospital, tried to use her insurance, and was sent a bill because the agency had defaulted on their insurance payments and employees were unaware they no longer had health insurance. The agency agreed to pay for the hospital bill, but still. There were also some legal issues that I won’t get into but that could have ramifications on people’s licenses.

This situation didn’t have too much effect on me since I was an unpaid intern, although there was quite a bit of disorganization and miscommunication within the agency that caused some stress, and the majority of the staff was disgruntled. Thankfully I found a job elsewhere that I love right after graduation. But when I interviewed at one counseling agency (not the job I accepted), they asked why I wasn’t pursuing full-time employment at Agency X. Not wanting to badmouth my current internship, I simply said that I had a great experience there but wanted to explore other opportunities. This was relatively easy for me to skirt as I was an intern, but if I had been an employee, how would you answer a question about why you’re leaving your current employer, especially if you’d only been employed a short time? If I had ended up taking a job at Agency X and then discovered the pay and other issues, I would have been job searching very quickly, but I have no clue how I would have answered questions from potential employers about why I’m leaving.

It’s fine to say, “They weren’t paying people on time.” Nobody you’d want to work for will find it concerning that you require a reliable paycheck in exchange for your work.

The convention of not badmouthing a previous employer in an interview is about subjective stuff (“my boss was a micromanaging nightmare,” “the culture was toxic,” etc.) because the interviewer doesn’t know you well enough to judge if your assessment is really accurate or if you’re difficult/have bad judgment/performed terribly. It’s not supposed to prevent you from sharing a quick, objective, highly understandable fact that will instantly explain why you left.

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. TG*

    LE #3 – I wish I understood why any human would treat snoth to human so awfully as to make up reasons for a PIP; and it’s from personal care experience. A certain big wig at my company didn’t like me and after my director was laid off – he didn’t like him either – he came after me with a PIP saying my former director had agreed to it when I knew he didn’t which is why it sat in his laptop and was not submitted.
    I checked with the people in the PIP and found it was faked on at least two of three items.
    I managed to escape it by moving to another department where the big wig tried to take credit for my promotion and I’ve since been promoted again in only two years.
    Long sorry but it taught me to know my worth and I wound that tolerate a culture like that today. I’m lucky as I love my current role but if my boss leaves I’d probably follow.

    1. John Smith*

      I was in a similar boat but instead of following the advice to resign, I fought on and the case was abandoned when I presented my evidence proving the allegations were false. It was a tough slog, but I’ve not had a repeat of false allegations since. I’m apparently the first person in my organisation to do this and remain in my job. Bullies need to be stood up to.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Regarding the letter, in most companies a manager usually has to get approval from their boss prior to firing someone; and definitely if they are firing a whole bunch of people. A PIP detailing performance issues would cover them with their boss. They could tell the boss that the prior manager was not following up on discipline problems, etc. That would be my guess as to the reason.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I suspect that this is the most common explanation with middle managers in large organizations. With smaller companies, where the person doing the hand-waving is senior, my guess is it is combination of Alison’s (3) and (4). With (3) in particular, I never underestimate peoples’ ability to simultaneously greatly fear legal repercussions and make no effort to learn what those actually are. Many doctors adhere to urban legends about medical malpractice law, with no interest in learning how it works.

        1. Mid*

          Or make things worse while trying to CYA for mysterious “legal reasons.” Sometimes, there is too much documentation. Or like my doctor, who wouldn’t write a letter to my insurance company to support a surgery she agreed I needed but was technically optional, because she “didn’t want it coming back on her.”

          People are very bad at understanding employment law (including many lawyers!) and do all sorts of ridiculous things to get around fictional obstacles and through made-up loopholes. Like the former manager who told me it was illegal to fire someone for being late to work if they also stayed late to make up the time (said manager was often late, and it was an issue because they had the keys to the cash and the codes to start up the registers, and no one else could do it.) Or the boss that said they couldn’t fire a racist, homophobic coworker because she was a woman and it would be illegal (nope, not even close.)

          1. Johanna Cabal*

            My “favorite” employment law misconception is that it’s illegal to give a bad reference. Some people (including lawyers) conflate corporate policies with law.

    3. ferrina*

      I had a manager terminate me who was trying to tell herself that she were the good guy (#5 on Alison’s list- internal delusion). The truth is that she was restructuring and had no idea what to do with me because I didn’t have the type of degree/experience she wanted and she was worried that my strong credibility at the org would undermine her position of power (especially cuz she was remote before it was normalized). But I had been running the dept single-handedly for three years (a totally different issue), I had helped her get the job as dept head, and I generally did good work and was well-liked. She knew I’d been severely overworked and underpaid during my time at the organization. It was a crappy move as a human being to let me go.

      So she honed in on three typos that I had made in the last couple months, claiming I had no attention to detail and should be fired. (worth noting that one of these typos had gone through the editorial dept, and they missed it as well). HR wouldn’t let her fire me, and instead put it on the books as a layoff due to restructuring.

      1. Too tall to cope with*

        The only time I’ve been fired, it was for being too tall. I’d been working there for 2 weeks without a supervisor and that Monday my new supervisor showed up.

        He looked up at me, a woman 4 inches taller, and said that today was my last day. He had me walked out that afternoon.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I know it would have been wrong to have dropped a great weight on him from above…(but you’re allowed to fantasize).

    4. Hamster Manager*

      I narrowly dodged this situation once; they were slowly letting my department go. Why they couldn’t just be like ‘we don’t want to offer the service your department does anymore, sorry’ I have no idea. Instead, I was set up to fail on a huge project (was understaffed and denied any help despite repeated requests) but I ended up pulling it off after a LOT of effort and overtime. After the project was done, they expressed surprise that I pulled it off (and I quote, “wow, this actually turned out really great!”), and I was fired with no reason provided the following week. I truly think they were hoping I’d biff the project so they’d have a good reason to let me go, because I wasn’t giving them any reason to otherwise.

    5. Middle Aged Lady*

      My bad boss took a comment I made about understanding thee motives of mass shooters as an excuse to tell the big boss I had threatened workplace violence. He then made up other lies about me: I was badmouthing him to potential donors (non-profit job) and I was not making my hours. All were lies and I got quit-fired. That accusation of violence stunned me. It was the lowest point in my career.

    6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      It wasn’t a “PIP”, but I was once “:recomended to be put on probation” — then, I learned two others suffered the same fate. Two of us found jobs in a week; the third guy was approaching 10 years in the place and went to HR and told them he was looking. After two of us left, they came to a truce with the third guy — no, they would not expunge the bad review.- but I heard they gave him a glowing review out of the blue, in a frantic attempt to keep him in the fold.

      Didn’t work. He left. He also learned that he was GROSSLY underpaid, he immediately doubled his salary upon leaving.

  2. Anon all day*

    For number 5, in small industries, the reputations of different companies are often known, so if the place is such a dumpster fire, but you just blithely say it was a great experience, that could cause concern.

    1. Also TG*

      It wouldn’t cause concern with me. I wouldn’t expect an intern to know everything that was going on and, even if I did, I would respect that the intern was being discreet.

      1. Ta-Da List*

        As an intern, sure. But the OP’s question was about how to handle these situations when you’re an employee, not an intern.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Whoever is placing the interns needs to be notified of the problems with late paychecks. It can have a very detrimental effect on peoples’ financial security. It’s negligence to send people into that situation.

        1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          Unpaid internships that are required as part of your degree generally don’t have someone in charge of placements who will a) care or b)be in a position to turn down a group that is reliably able to take an intern over bad business practices, unless those actually do impact the intern, sadly.

          1. BethDH*

            Some do; or at least there is often a way to make sure other students hear the issue. If it is common for people to hire on at a place they intern, this would likely affect their choice.
            My guess is that a place this badly run is likely to be running afoul of other labor problems, including (depending on where the org is) ones about the legality of unpaid internships.

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Oh, absolutely agree on that – ideally, the LW would write in to their labor board about what they saw, and the business would face an investigation. The sad truth with community organizations like this though is that a lot of times no one at the organization is willing to make a report because they worry the need for the organization would go unfilled – or, as the LW alludes to, their participation in the org raises questions about whether they’d be able to maintain their professional licensure after an investigation is concluded.

          2. Paris Geller*

            They might! I had to do an internship for my degree–it could be paid or unpaid, but you had to enroll in a class during the internship and there was a professor who was in charge of the program for that semester. They wouldn’t get overly involved, of course, but there actually was a list of places you could apply for internships and also a few we were steered away from because of student experiences in the past, so in my case the department I was in definitely kept track of legitimate issues and complaints and would help students out to the best of their availability. I will say my major was small–my internship “class” had like 9 people in it and I graduated with like 40 other people in my major in a school of 15,000 students, so it was a lot easier I’m sure than it would have been in a large department or major.

          3. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Wrong for counseling. I work in a counseling center and we have 1 intern each year. The counselor who supervises them has to have meetings with the school the intern is at. Counseling is not like other degrees.

          4. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

            Most places care (or should). Because an agency like described will eventually have practices that impact their reputation and the reputation of the employees and interns. Our university pulled all the student teachers out of a school district because of discriminatory practices and re-placed them and have removed the district.

        2. OP 5*

          If you mean the people from my school who were placing interns, it was an online program for a college based in a state other than where I live, so its unlikely another student from that university will be placed at that agency anytime soon. I also don’t think it was a terrible place to work for an internship, I had great supervisors who I learned a lot about the field from (and who stood up for us to admin when they tried to make us see more clients than we needed to). I do think it was important that the interns knew about the pay issue before pursuing employment there, which the ones who were there when I was there did- the internship supervisors were very open with us about it and pretty clearly told us that if we would be relying on the job to pay our bills not to work there after graduation, and that they would be a reference for us to work anywhere else.

          1. Parcae*

            “…the internship supervisors were very open with us about it and pretty clearly told us that if we would be relying on the job to pay our bills not to work there after graduation,”

            Yes, because so many of us pay our bills by means OTHER than our jobs?? Absurd. None of this is your fault, OP, and you’ve handled it well (although as Alison says, feel free to calmly state the facts in future interviews), but you interned with loons and I’d keep that fact in mind when evaluating any professional advice they gave you.

            1. J!*

              I think that 1) that’s a tactful way to put it if you’re trying to avoid saying “this place is a dumpster fire” outright to keep the relationship going and 2) it’s not a crazy assumption that students who have the luxury of taking an unpaid internship rather than a paid one or a job might have another source of support somewhere.

              (Now do I think they should be placing interns at a place that is such a dumpster fire, when the whole point of an internship is to learn what business looks like? Absolutely not, and that’s without even getting into the part about how unpaid internships are a scam. But the language makes sense, I think, if they’re trying to be delicate and not burn bridges.)

              1. Parcae*

                That’s a fair point, and the supervisors deserve a gold star for tact under pressure, but my goodness, I want to march down there with copies of Alison’s How to Get a Job book for everyone who works there. I’ll help proofread their cover letters, even! You’re not getting paid in full and on time? Time for a job search.

                Also, while I agree that students in an unpaid internship are less likely to need to work for a living than the general population, I’d bet the vast majority still need to do so after graduation. Family financial support usually comes with a limit. I’d love to see the numbers on how many interns this organization has been able to retain as employees.

            2. Worldwalker*

              Some people rely on spouses to cover the bills while they work in a place with low (or unreliable!) pay for a couple of years because it looks great on their resume. Some people live with family and have minimal bills. And a few people even have trust funds or other inherited wealth. So, yeah, even though *most* of us rely on our jobs to pay the bills, some people really do have means other than their jobs.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                I know this happens, I have clients that work at a foundation where the staff are mostly heirs with trust funds and/or have wealthy spouses. It’s odd seeing the parking lot of a nonprofit filled with new BMWs and Audis.

                But a business model that relies on a combination of unpaid interns, occasionally paid new grads, and trust fund dilettantes is deeply flawed, to say the least.

        3. I'm just here for the cats!*

          It was unpaid. Unfortunately most (if not all) counselor internships are unpaid. I don’t understand why but I think it has to do with licensing requirements.

          However, the OP may want to reach out to her school because if there are legal issues with licensing that can affect the interns. They have to be supervised by someone who has licensed and is no longer under supervision themselves (in my state counselors have to have 2-3 years of experience under an already licensed counselor before they get their independent license.) So yes OP you should reach out to your school and tell them about your experience. Not as someone who is gossiping but to say that there were issues that you saw that may be relevant to future interns.

    2. Ariaflame*

      Well, it was certainly an experience they learned a lot from. (if only what not to accept as a paid employee)

    3. Cat Tree*

      I would just assume the candidate was trying to be diplomatic. If I already knew that a certain place was a dumpster fire, why would I even ask them why they’re leaving?

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        ^This right here. I had 2 terrible bosses in a row (jumped from bad in intolerable ways to bad in semi-tolerable, sometimes ways) at two womewhat to extremely dysfunctional orgs whose reputations were well known. All I have to do is say the employer, the dates, and the work, and interviewers get the “Oh yes, you worked for TwilightQueen and LostBoss. My condolences.” look. Usually, after I am hired, I get asked about things those bosses did to other orgs and people by coworkers who are trying to figure out if it was a them thing or a TwilightQueen/LostBoss thing.

        1. MPH Researcher*

          Even if a place is known as a dumpster fire, it’s still worth asking the question as part of due diligence in hiring. Sure you are likely to get a bland answer, but it’s also possible that they will say they attacked a coworker and got fired, or embezzled money and had to leave, or that somebody else had brought cheap-ass rolls to the potluck when they had signed up to bring rolls and they were so incensed over the clear and obvious slight to their professional life that they couldn’t stand to work there anymore.

    4. Covered in Bees*

      I wouldn’t count it against them for three reasons: 1-I would assume they were being polite.
      2-During school internships, everything is new and OP may have genuinely learned a lot
      3- Just because the administration was a complete mess, doesn’t mean the rest was bad. Plenty of non profits and probably companies are run by people with good intentions and experience delivering a service, but no admin or managerial skills.

    5. Smithy*

      I think as you get older, you learn more professional euphemisms that let you stay largely positive in interviews but those who know will get it.

      First, instead of saying something was a “great experience” – saying a workplace or any given job has been a “great learning experience” is a good way to indicate that while the employer may be problematic, you’ve still be able to learn a lot about the industry, sector, role, etc. For the OP’s situation, I do think that referring to a workplace as being in “start up mode” can work as a euphemism for a more chaotic employer. On the flip side, you can also use versions of the word bureaucracy to allude to a workplace full of red tape and no decision making. These terms are most effective when articulating why a current job posting is desirable. Such as “Old Job constantly seemed to be in start-up mode, and I’m interested in positions with more set processes and structure” or ” Old Job’s processes were heavily bureaucratic, and I’m seeking roles on a more nimble team.”

      For interviewers in the know, you’re not completely dodging well known employer issues but for those who might be unaware those should still remain relevant points.

    6. OP 5*

      It definitely is a small industry where people know people, this was actually part of my concern about giving a direct answer. I left out some details about that interview for brevity, but my interviewers had already mentioned that they knew the owner and many of the people at my internship agency, and one of them had actually trained the VP of my internship agency when she was an intern. When they asked the question about why I wasn’t pursuing a job there, I got the impression by the way they asked it that they had heard things about the agency and were trying to get details, and when I gave the answer I did they said something along the lines of “that’s a tactful answer” in a tone that seemed like they could knew it was more than that. They seemed to respect it in my case since I was an intern, but I can see where as an employee that could raise some red flags.

      1. ferrina*

        Not necessarily! This will reflect well on an employee as well- you aren’t denying there are issues (or oblivious), but you also aren’t willing to air dirty laundry. That shows both awareness and discretion, great traits to have.

      2. Plain Jane*

        OP I think you did exactly right and the interviewers likely appreciated your tactfulness. I work in the non-profit sector where everyone knows everyone and lots of agencies struggle for various reasons. The ability to be tactful and discreet is a huge plus.

      3. Smithy*

        So I used to work for a boss that had a notorious reputation across my niche industry and then worked for a different organization that was a real IYKYK disaster.

        While it did make me improve on finding effective euphemisms (and I have many), I also learned that interviewers looking for too many details during an interview show themselves as being a bit unprofessional and potentially just seeking out gossip. Which you can’t control what they’ll do with and at that moment don’t really know too much about them.

        Workplaces that have major issues and wildly implode or explode are often subject to industry intrigue beyond a genuine interest in why you’re leaving your position. If I was an employee from the OP’s old employer looking for new work, I’d probably say something along the lines of where I was able to grow professionally but some recent institutional disruptions were making it clear it was a good time to seek new opportunities. If anyone wanted to press for more details, I’d try to hold a similar line unless it was super closely tied to my duties (i.e. being in finance).

      4. Hannah Lee*

        OP, though it’s likely “not your circus, not your monkeys” at this point, depending on where you work, the shenanigans around paying people late or issuing unfunded paychecks (what is called “kiting checks” if regular people do it) may actually be illegal, a violation of employment and wage laws. That stuff happening once could be waved away as a clerical error (someone forgot to make a funds transfer, had computer issues when completing a process) but repeatedly it’s a pattern. And it’s a pattern that says nothing good about the organization, I don’t care how important their mission is.

        I worked for one small company once, which had been in business for years … when there was a really rough patch and funds were limited, and there was a question of whether there’d be enough money to go around, to keep things running, the owner instructed the person managing cash “pay employees first” and “if you have any reason to think we can’t make the next 2 payrolls on time, I need to know sooner rather than later” so he could juggle other things so that the employees would be paid. A) because it’s the right thing to do for people who are working for you, especially when some are living paycheck to paycheck … being poor is expensive, overdraft fees can be onerous B) messing with employees’ pay is a GREAT way to demotivate even your best most dedicated employees C) employment wage law in our state is no joke and getting it wrong can be very expensive.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My father as a professional engineer years ago left a firm that was known to be living on past glory. His answer was that “the company is currently experiencing a lot of financial turbulence, but that the employees were great people to work with.”

        From what he said none of his interviewers batted an eye at that answer.

      6. EmmaPoet*

        I think you handled it just fine as a former intern. If you’d been an employee, the straightforward, “The agency wasn’t paying people on time,” Allison suggests would not make me bat an eyelash and given what they said, they already know there were serious issues there so it clarifies that yes, Agency is a dumpster fire and you are a sensible person who’s not going to try to dish the dirt during an interview.

      7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        A tactful answer is what an employee would want to give, so what you did was fine for interns and employees. Tact is a very desirable quality in an employee

      8. LisTF*

        Was it in Philadelphia? Because I think we did our internships at the same place! The bank run…. the last few ppl to make it there did not get paid. Ppl would speedwalk, jog, hail cabs etc to try to cash their checks before the money ran out.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      I worked three years for Terrible Boss, who was notorious for his behavior. I felt I had to address this in later job hunting, lest potential employers think that I thought this behavior was normal and would adopt it myself. It has been long enough since he was disbarred that his name does not usually evoke a response of horror, but for years I dined out on having worked for him.

      1. Anon all day*

        Yes, this is the type of scenario I’m thinking of – while I don’t think people need (or should) get into the nitty gritty details of the awfulness, there are tactful ways to convey that “I do understand workplace norms, and I do understand that what happens at my current job is not normal.”

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I had that with LostBoss. She’s been such a jerk for so many years that folks really wanted to run their stories by me and see if that was SOP for her or she was extra special jerky to them (it was SOP). People very much valued my advice on how to work around her and my confirmation that no, they were not the problem, LostBoss was the problem.

    8. Worldwalker*

      “My paychecks bounced” is pretty straightforward, and can be substantiated by your bank if necessary.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Well, the internship was unpaid. The issue was the company wasn’t paying their regular employees on time. And defaulting on insurance premiums and paying via Venmo with no pay stubs (are they withholding taxes? Signs point to no!) is alarming as well. The place sounds like a dumpster fire, possibly by design, certainly it’s no surprise almost all their employees are recent grads with little experience of workplace norms.

        I’m surprised the LW seemed surprised that many of the employees were disgruntled. Shouldn’t they be?

        1. OP 5*

          Oh I wasn’t surprised at all that the employees were disgruntled, I mentioned that more to say that was the aspect that affected me as an intern more than the pay issue itself- employees were stressed, so it was sometimes a stressful environment to be in even though I wasn’t directly affected by the pay issue. I was surprised, although maybe I shouldn’t have been, that the company was as irritated as it was that the employees were disgruntled or “negative,” as they often put it. And yes, I think the reason they’ve got away with this as long as they have is because most of the employees are recent grads. Since they’ve hired a few people outside the organization with more experience, it seems that more people are being spurred to leave as these people are telling them that this isn’t normal and they have other options. Almost everyone I knew there was job searching.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            My dad (mentioned him above – he was a Professional Engineer, Chemical) – left an engineering firm that was a ball of stress and toxicity because the owner was bouncing paychecks to support staff (but never the engineers – they brought in clients which equaled money). Dad argued it was a bad idea to do that, and then left when he couldn’t change the owners mind. His line in interviews was “X Firm is experiencing a lot of financial turbulence at the moment, I’m looking for stability.”

            We heard after he left that firm that they lost six clients (dad had been really good friends with another engineer there who specialized in Civil Engineering). It spelled the beginning of the end for that firm.

  3. Lingret*

    Re: OP 3: It sounds as if you’re taking everything from your friend/past and current coworker as the absolute truth.
    You may have seen some of these things played out. You likely didn’t see all it and therefore don’t know the full story. Obviously you want to believe these issues from your friend and likely saw similar shenanigans.
    I’m just saying to be aware that you’re only getting one side of the story. And perhaps every bit is true. Just keep this in mind.

    1. Anon all day*

      The actual question is about why, generally speaking, some bosses/companies make up BS performance reviews and bogus PIPs, which definitely does happen. It’s really not relevant the veracity of the coworker’s specific story.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        True, and also we are to take LW’s at their word about facts in the letter, but it’s notable that it seems as though all evidence for this PIP etc are coming from the employee who quit and has every interest in painting themselves as the wronged party and the prior employer is terrible. It’s worth mentioning that the situation the LW is hearing about may be more complex than this coworker is letting on. Many people put on PIPs or let go from their job are likely to give a skewed perspective on the employer.

        I have nothing to add to Alison’s advice about why employers give bogus reasons for firing someone, but would add that I’d keep an eye on this coworker. Maybe they are right and they were put on a PIP for no good reason. Maybe there were problems with their work or attitude that called for a PIP. If the latter, chances are good that it will recur eventually in the new job. Wherever you go, there you are.

        1. Lyda*

          They found another position and moved on. There’s no reason to cover for a firing. One of the things this particular comment thread is doing is implying the OP doesn’t really know their friend and it’s a little weird. It’s one thing to offer our experience in hopes it provides something to the OP; it’s another to tell the OP we know the situation better than they do, which is what this comment thread feels like.

          1. GythaOgden*

            They may know their friend but they may not know the company involved or the internal issues — the friend might not even know all the details, or be less than honest about their own qualities.

    2. Sotired*

      I agree. Also, it could be that the new manager was brought in to improve performance and when reviewing the performance of people his opinion was that improvement was needed.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I’ve seen a manager or two allow employees to skate by, giving them good reviews with a footnote of couple things to improve upon next time around. Then the manager moves on and a new one comes in, and suddenly the employee is on a PIP. To an outsider it seems like the new manager doesn’t like the employee and is out to get them or whatever, when in reality they’re trying to correct performance issues that were glossed over by the old manager, sometimes for years.

        As to whether OP’s friend was on a bogus PIP, who knows? Maybe? I’ve never seen it happen, but I suppose it could. But usually there needs to be buy-in from the manager’s manager, as well as HR. So I don’t think it happens all that often unless maybe you’re in a very small business where you report to the CEO and/or there’s no HR.

        1. Kacihall*

          I was put on a PIP by a manager who didn’t like that I occasionally used the internal chat to make plans for lunch with a coworker at the next building. (She spent all her time ‘training’ someone where they discussed personal issues 8 hours a day at top volume but oh well. ) As soon as she left the company, the plant manager and HR called me into a meeting where they revoked the PIP and apologized for it.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Yeah, that’s a bad sign. I once worked at a place where one of the senior leadership was terrible. No PIPs involved and he wasn’t my boss so the situation was a little different, but he was generally terrible. Corporate apologized to me about him when they were trying to convince me to relocate to a different branch. At the time I appreciated it, but looking back I realize that it just means they were completely aware of the situation and CHOSE to do absolutely nothing about it. That turned out to just be the top of the iceberg of dysfunction at that company.

        2. OP 3*

          As the OP in question, I can say, even with the full knowledge of myself only getting one person’s side of the story, it boiled down me hearing about my coworker getting a PIP without any real prior knowledge of the problem. If it was theoretically really just a new manager fixing issues that were long ignored, it’s still a matter of a PIP being the only time someone is aware of serious problems, and under no circumstances is that good management.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Of course a PIP shouldn’t be the first step. In the cases I mentioned, a PIP wasn’t a first step. These new managers had spoken to the affected employees prior and when there was no improvement, a PIP was put in place. It didn’t happen over a week. It happened over a few months.

          2. doreen*

            But to an extent , that’s based on what the person is telling you as well – somebody not having any knowledge of a problem doesn’t always mean that they weren’t told. Sometimes it means that the person doesn’t see it as a real problem until they end up on a PIP or it’s mentioned in a evaluation or they get “written up” even though there were previous conversations.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Hey, you know my ex! Despite the number of times I told him the issues I was having with his behavior in our relationship, he acted as if I brought them all up out of nowhere when I dumped him. Lots of people are really good at hearing only what they want to hear

              1. OP 3*

                I can say very much I trust my friend’s word with how he was never in any form told about the “months of issues,” and it’s a telling sign that he literally had evidence to prove the issues raised were made up. I’m sure your ex didn’t have direct evidence against your very issues said to him… Also an individual month is longer than a week, so multiple months is also longer than a week, for those who wish to speculate on the timeframe of several months accumulating within the course of a week…

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I certainly know people like this. I also know that they didn’t have a week’s gap between great eval and PIP.

          3. Lydia*

            OP, I’m not sure why everyone is so keen on disproving your friend is being honest with you. You know your friend, who actually left the job and found another one so doesn’t have to lie to cover for why they were fired, better than the folk creating fiction here. And your question wasn’t even about that. AND Alison knows that BS happens or she wouldn’t have answered your question. In all, people are petty and childish and while I wish that disappeared as soon as they get to be in charge of other people’s livelihoods, that isn’t the case. I don’t think it’s common for managers to make up PIPs, but it exists, clearly.

            1. OP 3*

              I myself was also disturbed at people seeming to doubt the seemingly-not uncommon story of a PIP being an employee’s first time being made aware of ongoing problems, real or not (which, for my friend, were not). Any manager who uses pretexts to get rid of someone should have never been in a position of power to begin with, and, contrary to how some people are questioning the accuracy of this fact, “months of problems” literally don’t accumulate within a week if one just does basic math…

          4. RC+Rascal*

            I was put on a PIP in retaliation for making an ethics complaint about my manager. The entire PIP was based on fabrication, and I fought it, even hiring an attorney and filing a discrimination complaint. Corporate legal supervised the PIP and I passed it.

            My manager then put me on a second PIP for “Failure to Communicate” and he and the HR VP he was likely sleeping with DID NOT TELL ME ABOUT IT. They did tell corporate legal, who told my attorney, which is how I found out about it. This was the very definition of legal retaliation.

            A year later my division was sold and the company was forced to double my severance because of the retaliation.

            I have seen PIPs misused so many times I question their validity as a legitimate management tool.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          I’ve seen them used to rein in or “manage out” employees where the stated performance issues seem trivial, but it’s something that could be construed as important to the role, is reasonably within the employee’s control and can be objectively measured … but the *real* reason the manager/management wants the employee to shape up or ship out is something else.

          The ‘something else’ in one case was a personality/work-style mismatch between the employee and an important internal client and in another it was a likely not-acceptable personal relationship with an employee in another department who was lower in the org chart, where the employee in question had not been honest on some work reports about the nature of expenses or time spent or something. In both cases, the manager had enough information to be certain of what the issues were, but didn’t want to build a case for termination based on those things. I suspect it was mostly because of hassle, time involved gathering info on a complex, messy thing, when they could pick something more black and white (like habitual tardiness) to let the employee know they were generally on-notice, but also to avoid the difficult documenting details, work impact of affairs, personalities and other interpersonal stuff, including the ripples of impact of OTHER employees opinions, involvement. In the case of the personality/work-style clash, from what I know that issue had also been brought up during reviews, feedback during the project so they’d been trying to manage the employee to improve on that front already with little improvement, he wound up improving a bit on both the real and PIP issues, but applied for and got a transfer away from the project to a better fit, but with the affair, although it was a not-so-secret secret, I don’t know that that had ever been brought up directly by the manager (though the employees involved both knew they were acting outside of policy, norms and ‘good idea’ territory) In that case, the guy failed to improve on the PIP issue, plus had some issues with a couple of expense reports and got fired.

          1. Smithy*

            I agree that I’ve most often seen these types of terminations happen at places where those in charge either need to use a certain process or believe they need to use a certain process to terminate someone. It may be in an at-will state and for an at-will issue, but for their employer’s structure – that’s the easiest way to do it.

            A few years ago, I’d been trying to file a complaint against a colleague at work for behavior I believe to be sexist. Went over our handbook more thoroughly, and the options closest were sexual harassment and bullying – and ultimately bullying better described the situation. I looked at the system in front of me and went with the option available.

            For a lot of employers with more formal structures, wanting to terminate someone requires either a “big bad” reason or a “building a case” reason. And I’ve seen versions of both the “big bad” and “building a case” that felt like they were seized upon to take advantage to fire someone people wanted gone as opposed to more genuine performance issues. And sometimes more genuine performance issues were there, they just hadn’t really been addressed earlier. But they often weren’t the reason for the termination and didn’t necessarily show up in any performance reviews.

      2. Not So Super-visor*

        we had this happen here. A new sales manager came in and ran audit reports. He found out that half of the sales department had been making bogus calls to disconnected phone numbers and then counting them for their sales call quotas. He ended up firing half of the department, and a lot of people were really quick to point the finger at him because these were “good employees.”

  4. Dragon_Dreamer*

    OP #3, in my experience, reason #4 is the most common, at least in retail. Unemployment is at least partially paid for by the company, and most will fight hard to keep from paying it.

    Of the 2 managers/companies who did it to me, one tried the excuse of me being a “typical woman,” and the other tried to claim that a customer complained on a survey that they’d over heard me on the phone being rude to another customer. On my day off. But I was re-hireable! At minimum wage, minimum hours, a store 2 hours away, total loss of seniority, a promise I’d never be management… and the same high sales goals.

    Both companies were shocked and upset that I applied for unemployment. Both fought it without success. The first was told off by the judge for his comments.

    The second company lost because of marking me re-hireable. They also were caught forging writeups, AND were told off when they tried to claim I was ineligible for rejecting a “reasonable job offer.”

    I do not miss either workplace.

    1. dePizan*

      Yep, I had an employer fire me for a disability (very small healthcare clinic), but then demand that I work another two weeks until she found someone else. The firing was out of the blue, so I didn’t have anything else lined up and needed those hours, so I worked till then.

      When I filed for unemployment though, she didn’t want to be on the hook for unemployment. So she lied to them about the date of my firing–dating the firing to the second to last day I actually worked, rather than the two weeks earlier when she first told me. She also lied and said she had addressed performance issues with me several times over the last 6 months.

      Too bad she caused her own downfall, because by letting me work for another two weeks, I had thought to forward all emails between her and I to my personal email address. So I had emails that proved my version of the story about the date of the firing, proved that there was no PIP or performance issues I had been told about, and that she had told me that my disability was “too much of an inconvenience” for her to keep me on. I got the unemployment.

      1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        That’s what happened with my discriminatory lay-off: they gave me two weeks notice so I could finish a major project and train people on all the work I did! Yes, I gathered tons of evidence in that time: emails, performance reviews, Slack screenshots, Google Doc version histories, you name it.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I enjoy the schadenfreude of them trying to take advantage of you and you using that to nail them.

      2. Beka Cooper*

        Wow, what a horrible person. It reminds me of a daycare I worked at as an assistant teacher. The teacher I worked under got let go because of a safety incident that was really nobody’s fault, but the director tried to blame a whole bunch of past incidents on her as well in order to deny unemployment. However, the director made one of the managers forge incident reports after the fact (when they should have been written on the day of), and on one of them he said that I was the assistant teacher in the classroom that day. But since this daycare had several locations, I had been moved to another location the day of that incident and remembered well that I was NOT there, so I wrote a letter to that effect, and the teacher got her unemployment. I also ended up getting a check for overtime I hadn’t been paid for.

    2. Books and Cooks*

      One of my first jobs was in retail. One Friday afternoon I went in, wrote down my schedule as normal, and went home. When I next went in on Wednesday, I was told I didn’t work that day, and had missed my Monday and Tuesday shifts so I was fired–but I hadn’t been scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, and my name was written on those days in a different pen.

      I later learned, after it happened to a few other people at various places, this was a very, very common way for retail employers to get rid of employees right before their probationary 90 days ran out (and would thus be eligible for benefits). There was a Barney’s at a nearby mall that was famous for it.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        The first job I mentioned, the manager fired me at day 88. I still got unemployment. It’s always a good idea to apply!

        1. Books and Cooks*

          I wish I’d thought of it! I was only 16, I had no idea unemployment was even a think for part-time retail jobs!

    3. Koalafied*

      I once worked at a very tiny org: Executive Director, Operations Mana Director, Membership & Marketing Director (me), and Communications & Policy Director. The ED let the Ops Director go, shifted his office management and regulatory compliance duties to me, and got a bookkeeper on retainer for the financial stuff he had done. In other words: his role was eliminated. Which makes it a layoff, right?

      But when the poor guy filed for unemployment and the ED evidently saw the impact it was going to have on our UI payments, she appealed it and tried to argue he was fired for gross misconduct… because… he was chronically 5-10 minutes tardy.

      In our state, fired for “simple misconduct – any “for cause” reason that falls short of gross misconduct – makes you eligible for benefits, but only after a 2-3 month delay. Gross misconduct – defined as “serious or repeated violation of rules” – makes you ineligible, period. So she alleged that because the tardiness was repeated violations, that made it gross rather than simple.

      Which, ugh, I do not agree with. Even if you consider it a firing (which is itself questionable given his role was not backfilled), to me minor tardiness in a role that had no public facing component or coverage needs is simple misconduct, and gross misconduct is intended to be applied to people who was acting unethically or illegally.

      Sadly I don’t actually know if she prevailed. She tasked me with sending the paperwork in, but I never saw the response, my job duties didn’t provide any reason I should have needed to know the outcome, and it obviously wasn’t my personal business to inquire. I often thought of him though and hoped he won.

  5. Prefer my pets*

    One caveat to bringing your dog…make sure there aren’t going to be expectations for evening social activities. Most places I’ve been, when you were sent to other locations there were at least a couple evening group dinners that would have cost a lot of capital to get out of.

    (I say this as someone who is THRILLED most conferences and trainings are still remote because it typically costs me over $100/day to either board or have someone stay with my animals.)

    1. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

      I’m a night auditor at a hotel and I suggest you check to see if you can leave an unattended dog – even crated – in your room all day. You can’t at my hotel. If you’re not in there, your pet is not supposed to be in there.

      1. Justme*

        Good point. You can even be kicked out of some hotels for this. Also, you’ll need to remove your dog/be present to have housekeeping service your room.

        1. Lilo*

          I’d also change my answer a bit based on whether the employer is directly booking the room or merely reimbursing LW. If the employer’s name is on the card, very bad idea without 100% clearing it with employer first. Any damage will get billed directly to them and it LW gets kicked out it involves the employer in a dispute issue.

          You definitely DON’T want them finding out only if something goes wrong. This is not an “ask forgiveness not permission” thing.

          1. Letter Writer*

            This is the only answer that has been truly helpful that I hadn’t considered. I think there’s like a 0.2% chance of him getting us kicked out of the hotel because he lives quite peaceably in a high-rise condo anyway and if dogs got Marriott Bonvoy points he would have a formidable ranking, but thank you for putting this on my radar.

        2. Red Queensland Heeler*

          Yes, you may need to arrange day care. If your dog is too elderly or infirm to enjoy day care, you can go to Rover.com to find someone who can care for your dog in their home while you’re at the office.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s been the case at every dog friendly hotel I’ve ever stayed at. But sometimes they do offer on-site daycare.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I have two evening activities on my schedule, one a happy hour with some colleagues I initiated so I have some freedom in going back to the hotel to take him out, and the second a networking event that is conveniently at the hotel I am staying at so I can similarly spare a few minutes to pop out with him.

      It wouldn’t be the end of the world to board him that week, the money is not an issue and I have a boarding place I trust, but I prefer to keep him with me if I am able. I don’t know why I am struggling with this decision so much! I feel like a big weirdo.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Oh heck no. You’ll sleep better with him there with you. Elderly animals come with their own worries. I wouldn’t even bat an eye at this if a visiting new colleague brought their dog. You might even find your boss telling you to bring him in!

        1. Anonym*

          I would 1000% want to meet my out of town colleague’s dog (or weasel, or llama) if I found out they brought them. I feel this is more likely than people thinking you’re strange for bringing him!

          As the in-town colleague, I would probably suggest a dog-friendly happy hour spot if no one in the group (especially the dog owner) objected. :)

          1. Fido Fan*

            I’m second to none in my love of dogs, BUT then I’m not allergic to them! Bringing even the sweetest, best-behaved dog along with you to meet someone that you don’t know is NOT a great idea. They may LOVE your dog…or they may wonder how on earth they’re going to get away from this allergen-factory without offending you. And if it’s the latter, they’re going to resent you for putting them in that position.

            1. MuseumGal*

              This is very true- and a lot of people are also either afraid of dogs or just don’t like them, which is harder to explain than an allergy. I have a lovely friend who is terrified of dogs but also hates offending anyone (and has a lot of shame around this fear) so he would never object if someone asked to bring their dog to something social at work , and would then just be in fear the whole time, even the dog is completely calm and sweet. I’m not saying by any means that the OP definitely shouldn’t bring their dog to the evening events, but it’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone likes dogs. Perhaps sending an email in advance to ask everyone if it’s okay so no one feels pressured to say they’re okay with it because they’ve been asked in front of a group of people.

              1. Ali + Nino*

                Yeah, I’m just really not a dog person. If you brought your dog around to networking events, I’d likely say “hi” from a distance and not go out of my way to socialize near the dog.

            2. Letter Writer*

              He’s pretty large so I have no expectation he is invited to happy hour or networking events, lol. He will be fine at the hotel with regular walks.

      2. SP*

        I travel with my dog a lot for dog sports so I stay in hotels with him pretty often all over the country. No hotels will allow a dog to stay in the room unattended since it’s a massive liability.

        You could see if there’s a doggy daycare nearby your dog could hang out at during the day, but it might be better to leave the dog at home.

        1. Letter writer*

          Untrue, he has been in at least three or four hotel rooms before unattended with no issues. No hotels we have stayed at with him have ever advised us of such a policy, otherwise we wouldn’t have stayed there.

          1. I edit everything*

            That’s extremely unusual, at least in the US. Be sure to clarify with the hotel ahead of time.

            1. PhyllisB*

              We just stayed in a dog-friendly hotel in Illinois, and they had signs to put on your door advising housekeeping there was a pet in the room, so not all hotels have that rule.

              1. Laney Boggs*

                I was just at an extended stay hotel that had magnets on the door so you could state your dog was inside. I think LW1 is OK :)

              2. Environmental Compliance*

                Yeah, we’ve stayed in a handful of pet-friendly places (including one for work long term!) and none of them have had that policy.

                Perhaps region-based? I’m in the Midwest.

              3. AM*

                Interesting! In California, it seems pretty universal. It is often a reason we opt for an Airbnb rather than a hotel, since we love having our dog along but not every activity is dog-friendly.

          2. Smithy*

            As someone who’s done a lot of recent travel for work, I’d follow up with the hotel via email. I’ve found a lot more policies less clear or subject to change. So having something in writing from the hotel would be far more assuring, particularly to avoid an alternative of needing to find last minute boarding/day care in case there are any issues.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            In my experience it varries based on hotel. Some insist you take your dog along, some have a daycare you can leave your dog at during the day, some will allow a crated dog be in the room unattended (in designated crate styles). It’s about checking in with the hotel about their requirements.

            And I’ve never seen a hotel that will send housekeeping in while the dog is in the room.

            Source – worked at a few hotels, several of which were pet friendly. Also, used to do a lot of traveling with a medium sized dog.

          4. KatEnigma*

            Respectfully speaking, just because you weren’t advised of it specifically doesn’t mean it’s not in the rules. It is absolutely the standard rule. I travel with dogs often. I do know of exceptions, but people advising you of this aren’t making it up or just saying it to hassle you. Unless your dog barks when alone, since there basically IS no housekeeping anymore, it won’t come up. But know if anything goes wrong, you are liable.

        2. LimeRoos*

          We went to the Dells in January with our dog and the hotel was fine leaving him alone in the room. I think it really depends on the hotel and isn’t just a blanket rule everywhere like people seem to think. We left our number with the front desk and room number to let us know if he did end up disturbing people we’d come back from whatever we were doing (never more than 10 minutes from the hotel). He was fine, and everyone had a great time :)

        3. CommanderBanana*

          “No hotels will allow a dog to stay in the room unattended since it’s a massive liability.”

          LW, ignore this – it’s not true. I travel regularly with one of my pets and she routinely stays with me at conference hotels, and no place that I have stayed at that is pet-friendly has this policy.

          Many hotels have a pet policy that says they won’t send housekeeping to a room with a pet in it unless that pet is crated, but I just don’t get housekeeping and let them know on check-in that I’m declining housekeeping for the duration of my stay.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I don’t travel with a pet and I don’t have housekeeping come in anyway. They use cleaning solutions with fragrance in them, and I am allergic. By the time I get the room aired out enough to sleep without coughing myself awake I certainly don’t want someone to come in and spray air “fresheners” and other cleaning solvents where I sleep.

            1. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

              You can ask if they have scent-free cleaning supplies. Many hotels do because of allergies. But you do have to ask.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              May I recommend calling the hotels a day or so before you arrive and alerting them to your scent sensitivity. I know from time in the past working at two major chains we had a procedure we followed to do everything we could to reduce scents when we knew in advance we needed to. It took us about 8 hours though – so it wasn’t something we could do just as you checked in unfortunately.

      3. MuseumGal*

        It’s not weird! I think a lot of people with older dogs struggle with leaving them. I find for me, it’s most difficult to make decisions when the emotional and logical parts of my thought process aren’t lining up and it’s definitely worst for me when it comes to my elderly dog. We love them so much, of course anything to do with their care is extremely emotionally charged! But, you’ve got a kennel you trust and they’ll be able to take great care of him. As others have said, it’s unlikely the hotel will let you leave him in the room during the day while you go to work. I understand completely that it feels “wrong” to leave them, but in my experience, my very negative emotional reaction to that and the reality of actually being at the kennel for my dog are very different and, for me at least, even though I know that logically, I struggle with not letting the emotions get in the way of my decision making when situations like this come up. If I were you, I would board her. You’re doing a great job caring for her- remember that!

      4. to varying degrees*

        Not weird at all. I have cats so leaving them is a bit easier, logistically (they free feed) and very few hotels allow cats, but even when I go away for a night or a short weekend I still have cameras all over my house and obsessively check on them.

      5. Erin*

        Take him with you. I took my senior pup on a few business trips, and had a similar situation to you (everything was close by, I had time to be with her, etc) and it worked out really well. Several of my co-workers who had previously met her were excited to see her. The hotel staff was wonderful, and it gave me peace of mind to continue our normal routine (which can be delicate with seniors!) while I was away.

        It did require a bit more packing & planning (I took wee-wee pads just in case of an accident, her medications, meal prep things, and just extras of a few things in case of an accident) but it was totally worth it. She had a v productive business trip!

      6. Paris Geller*

        Aww, you’re not a weirdo! I don’t have a dog but I have two cats and I would bring them with me everywhere if I could. I think many of us pet people get it.
        I think you’re getting a lot of good advice from Alison & the commenters, but I would also add–I would make sure you look up a vet in the area you’re comfortable with just in case something happens and you need to take him in! I know the chances of that are slim, but it’s the kind of thing it’s way better to plan in advance & not have to use than face a pet emergency and try to find a vet you like in a city you don’t live in.

        1. Letter writer*

          I have family and friends in the area who have dogs so I would ask for a referral from one of them if necessary. Thanks!

    3. Malarkey01*

      I think the only thing making me pause on the advise to bring the dog along is that this travel is part of a promotion step and visiting the office. It may be 100% fine but it would also be a time that I would want to be 100% focused on work and flexible and not have something pop up like a call from the hotel that there was a problem or watching the clock because boss has gotten talking at the end of the day.
      It might not apply in your case, but not having the potential distraction during the week would be important to me (And I love being with my doggie).

  6. Panhandlerann*

    OP1: In my experience, pet-friendly hotels typically state that a pet mustn’t be left alone in the hotel room. So it would be important to make sure you won’t run afoul of such a policy.

    1. Language Lover*

      I was coming here to mention this as well.

      Even Air BnBs that are pet-friendly require the pet to always be attended or in a kennel. The lw needs to make sure that works for their pet.

    2. It's Bamboo O'Clock, Tick-Tock*

      Interesting… I had to bring my dog with me to a week long out of town work thing. I went to the hotel to check on her during my lunch break and found that she’d locked me out of my room! The desk clerk said that happened all the time. Clearly, mileage varies on what pet-friendly places will expect.

      1. Language Lover*

        Inquiring minds would like to know, how does a dog lock a human out of their room?

        Doesn’t a hotel room door lock automatically when you leave it anyway?

        1. Varthema*

          I’m thinking the dog jumped up and engaged the physical latch by pawing at the door (the loop one that swings over and makes it so you can only open the door an inch or two)?

        2. nerdgal*

          We have left our crated dog in a room at several major US hotel chains. Usually they have a door sign that says “pet inside” and they do not clean if they sign is up.

        3. It's Bamboo O'Clock, Tick-Tock*

          If you engage the button on the inside door, it overrides the keycard. Dogs can paw at the door or bump it with their snout, and then (at least in my experience) a kindly handy person has to come over and physically unlock it! I was very embarrassed, but the hotel workers were very matter of fact about it.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      Every place I’ve ever stayed with my dog has had this policy. I’ve always assumed thst the reason is to prevent property damage. It sounds like OP has a fairly chilled-out older dog, but even old dogs can damage stuff, so bear in mind that of your dog pees on the carpet while you’re out, you may well be on the hook for the cleaning costs.

      Pet-friendly hotels sometimes have dogsitters you can hire, so it might be worth looking into this if it’s in your budget.

      1. EasilyAmused*

        I think there’s also the concern that an unattended dog, in an unfamiliar environment with lots of sounds happening on the other side of the door, may bark all day.

        1. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

          This is a big reason. We’ve kicked a few guests out because they leave their dog alone for hours and it barks and barks and barks. When we contact them they’re always “we’ll be right back” but don’t come back for hours.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            My dog is the opposite – she only barks when I’m there, because Mom there = guard Mom! When I’m gone or if anyone else is in the room she just snoozes.

            I always ask for a room at the end of the hallway so there’s no foot traffic, and I play a white noise machine.

        2. Lilo*

          Especially becauze remember that vacuums are a very, very common sound in hotels, particularly during the day when LW would be gone. And if your dog doesn’t have its normal safe hiding place, it might bark instead.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Especially as the barking/whimpering stops when their human returns, so the human may sincerely believe the dog is quiet.

          At a ski area, I was staying in the room while my family skied, and the poor dog down the hall would whimper on a 2 minute cycle. The entire time. No one would come, and he’d stop for 30 seconds, and then he would start in again. I felt so badly for him.

          I know another dog who I trust would be like “Well it’s napping time!” and settle right in to snooze until human returned. My own current dogs would bark. A lot.

          It really depends on the dog.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            We thought Sir Fusspot was a quiet dog because our neighbors simply neglected to tell us that he would scream constantly when we weren’t home. He was a corgi, so I do not mean howl- he screamed. We all felt really bad when we figured it out.

    4. Letter Writer*

      Gotcha. There’s nothing in the hotel’s pet policy on the website that indicates this but I will confirm when I call to pay his fee. I also need to make sure they don’t have an unspoken weight limit, he is 90 lbs.

      1. Theothermadeline*

        I’ve left my dog in hotel rooms before, but not for full days so YMMV. She’s also older and tends to chill, and I just put the do not disturb hanger on the door. In my experience if they don’t list a weight limit, then they don’t have one. Places with limits don’t tend to downplay them. I have found that finding a local sitter on Rover or a local daycare is still cheaper than finding a overnight sitter, so I’d check that out if you’re concerned about your pup in the room all day.

        I actually had to bring my dog with me to an out of town job interview because everyone I knew who would usually watch her was on spring break (post-MBA interview) but I was doing a favor for a person in the city I was interviewing in and she dogsat for me during the day in trade, haha

      2. Engineer Gal*

        Turn the TV to something bland-my inlaws swear by golf:-). News channel is my goto

        It’s background noise for the dog -and confused any barks with other noises

    5. Lilo*

      What if your dog gets scared and starts barking? My experience with elderly dogs is that they can get more scared in new places (most older dogs have at least some degree of cataracts, new places are scary when you can’tsee). What if someone is vacuuming the hall or rook next door?

      I love dogs but based on my experience with elderly dogs, I do not think this is a good idea.

    6. Shhhh*

      Depending on the hotel, the policy could be that the pet has to be crated if left unattended. I’ve only had my dog in a hotel with me 3 times, but that was the policy at all 3 of those hotels.

  7. Jo*

    LW #1: bring your dog and don’t think twice! My girl went on all of my business trips with me. When I was a vet tech she came to work with me; when I changed careers she was my travel buddy. I’m glad I have those memories with her. She was a well seasoned traveler who made friends with hotel staff around the U.S. When I had evening events, I just made sure to carve out a couple of hours in the evening to walk, feed, and spend time with her.

    1. Really?*

      A special shout out to dog-friendly hotels! We travel with our pets and it’s very important to us. A few staff members at different hotels have wanted to be photographed with my dogs because they are so cute! (The dogs, I mean.) :-)

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yep. I love bringing one of the dogs when I am on a solo driving-distance business trip. The only comments I have had from my coworkers/meeting stakeholders have been:
      * You brought your dog? Where is she? Can I meet her?
      * Wait, is that a dog in the back of your car? So cool!
      * Hey, can we ask you a favor? Can you take your dog out to say “Hi” to the kids over there?
      * Gumption, can you bring your dog to the meeting tomorrow? Strategic planning goes better with dogs

      1. EmmaPoet*

        NGL, I would spend that meeting sitting on the floor loving your dog as much as they want. One of my friends fell apart laughing when her very cuddly pom decided that he was loved out and needed a break from all the cuddles, she said he’d never actually gotten all the petting to the point where he got tired of it. (He came back for more love half an hour later.)

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          At this point I am asked to bring senior lady dog to all strategic planning and brainstorming meetings since no one in our group is allergic. Apparently it isn’t only me that finds petting a pet part of creative problem solving

  8. Chilly*

    LW4, if you live in a place where winter and summer are extreme and you work outdoors, OSHA has some great factsheets with clothing recommendations that might be worth showing your employer. If someone in my area were asked to wear season-inappropriate clothing in an outdoor environment, there would very quickly be a health issue!

    1. ReChilly*

      The LW is just using that as an example of a hypothetical situation, not one that is actually happening. The question was about legal limits of dress codes in general.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Actually, the military does that in a sense. My late step-father was a Navy chief and he would have to change to summer or winter dress according to the date, not the climate. It was tough having to wear winter clothes in Mississippi when the temperature was still in the 90’s. (Now this was in the 70’s, so things may be different now. )

        1. Delta Delta*

          I know some law enforcement agencies do this, as well. Near me at least one police agency wears long sleeves beginning on a certain date, maybe October 1, and then short sleeves on a certain date, maybe April 1 (idk the exact dates but I know there’s a date certain). The spring date always feels a little early, and all the officers have to wear their coats a little longer because they get cold from the short sleeves.

          Otherwise, if it’s an office setting, I’m not really sure what the difference would be in “summer” and “winter” clothes. Is this like no white after Labor Day?

    2. Varthema*

      Once I worked in a retail establishment where our section of the building had absolutely crap doors, constantly broken climate control, and no other barrier to the elements. We were allowed to wear our branded sweatshirts but not coats, even though the inside temp plunged to the 50s or maybe even 40s at the stations closest to the door, I can’t remember. (And in the summer, it was easily in the 90s.) I was a little bummed that OSHA didn’t actually cover as much as I thought it did.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      OSHA may have recommendations, but last I checked they were really interested in, “Is this dangerous?” Their job is to make sure you stay alive, keep all your fingers and aren’t poisoned; it isn’t really any of their business whether you are comfortable while at work.

      That said, low enough temperatures would actually be a health hazard. 50F + tee shirt and shorts=merely miserable (and some people would like it). 30F + tee shirt and shorts=probably dangerous.

      1. lilsheba*

        High enough temps can also be dangerous. And to be forced to wear winter clothing in hot temps is asking for heat stroke.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        High temperatures can also be dangerous, and there are quite a few OSHA rules about heat (although it varies by state).

        Even if there’s no specific rule, there’s the “general duty” clause… employers are responsible for providing a work environment free from serious hazards. Forcing employees to (for example) wear parkas while working in 80 degree weather would be a serious hazard for heat stress. Similarly, even at 50F people in light clothing have a risk of hypothermia if it’s wet, windy, or they have certain health conditions.

  9. Phil*

    I’m picturing the hypothetical employer in #4 (I hope it’s hypothetical!) walking through an open plan office multiple times a day and declaring “change places!” and everyone has to immediately get up and move to another desk.

    1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      I don’t get that question – whist an employer could mandate such a dress code, why would they? What possible benefit would anyone – employer or employee – get from it?

      1. Asenath*

        It’s puzzling me. I could only come up with the idea that the employer wanted employees to wear flimsy summer clothing all year round in a climate that varied considerably. But that wouldn’t work here because our summers don’t get all that hot, so it’s not a big deal to wear similar clothing indoors all year round. And I’ve noticed that in places that do have very hot summers, there’s usually air conditioning, so indoor workers sometimes shiver when wearing summery clothing. Now, some places do have seasonal uniforms – lightweight in the summer, thicker in the winter, but that seems reasonable. I can’t come up with anything else.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Oooooh, what if there were seasonal uniforms required from such-to-such calendar date, but headquarters are in the opposite hemisphere, so they’re for the opposite season? Which is obviously absurd, and should be cleared up promptly, but may be the type of thing that is never corrected in the handbook because everyone just does the obvious thing of inversing it?

          1. KateM*

            Or they insist you have to wear summer uniform because it is summer… and turn the a/c to max.
            But I think as others that this was just an extreme example, not an actual situation.

            1. ceiswyn*

              I worked at that employer :) I had to wear a woolly jumper (is that a pullover in US?) to work in July. People were desperately opening windows to let the heat in. More than one person brought in a space heater. It was nuts!

              1. Cold in here*

                I live in Arizona and it is extremely hot outside in August. But I wear a sweater/sweat shirt for at least part of most work days because our AC is controlled by the central office and it’s set way too cold.

                1. JustaTech*

                  There was a news story recently about, in an effort to combat climate change, in Spain there’s a push to not wear ties/full suits in the summer so that offices don’t have to turn up the A/C so high. (I think there was also a new regulation passed about how much businesses will be allowed to cool/heat their buildings.)

                  But that would be the opposite of this hypothetical.

            2. londonedit*

              Reminds me of primary school – we had to switch to summer uniform after the Easter holidays, which was shorts for the boys and a gingham dress for the girls. There was a lot of wearing tights/knee socks/school jumpers with our dresses for the first few weeks of term!

        2. kiki*

          I was thinking maybe an overzealous clothing shop where they like employees to dress in the current styles for sale, but the seasons of the clothes don’t quite match up to the actual season (e.g. fall clothes start being sold in late July/early August). But maybe it’s just a pure hypothetical– can an employer legally just be inconveniently weird with their dress code.

        3. crookedglasses*

          This is a very specific example, but this was very common when I was picking up gigs as a movie extra. A show or film may be set in a totally different season than when it’s being filmed. I’m in New Mexico, time that means there can be an outdoor football game being filmed to look like it’s summer when it’s actually 40 degrees out, or a late autumn scene with coats and scarves being filmed when it’s in the 80s!

        4. fhqwhgads*

          I assumed that example was a stand-in for the weirdness level of the criteria, rather than the literal criteria in the LW’s situation.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I assumed it was just an extreme example. Maybe the LW knows of some company that has a rather bizarre dress code in a lesser way and they just wonder just how far a company could go and if they would fall foul of the law if they made people wear clothes that were actually inappropriate for the weather.

        I would imagine it’s just a way of asking “are there any laws about dress codes? Do companies have to allow their employees to dress appropriately for the weather?” with an example given to make it clear they are not talking about mandating stricter dress codes for one gender or people of a particular race or anything like that that is likely to come under different laws.

      3. Nia*

        There was that one letter where the employer was trying to accommodate an employee with OCD and mandating ridiculous changes to the dress code.

      4. Lacey*

        It’s not a super helpful hypothetical. I suspect the real situation is something more like the employer insisting on employees wearing long sleeves or heavy uniforms even though it’s a hot kitchen.

        Or on the flip side, I had a manager who talked about possibly writing up an employee who kept her coat on at her desk, even though we weren’t customer facing and the office was freezing cold.

        1. plaid blueberry*

          I previously worked for the mouse, which has designated “summer options” for many roles and also sometimes optional winter accessories like cloaks and beanies. Those outfits can only be worn within a certain range of months, but some individuals would prefer wear these seasonal options beyond those dates if they were allowed.

      5. Daisy-dog*

        It’s probably an extreme example, but I can see a less extreme version happening in retail. Some stores strongly encourage employees to wear the items that are currently available in the store (or incentivize it by offering steep discounts) – and some may actually require it. In January, the stores start to get their “Spring Transition” line out like lightweight sweaters and jackets. The Spring line will be in full-force by the start of March (including Spring Break items) when it may still be coat-weather in the area. That is followed by Summer line in May where it might not be warm enough for shorts/sun dresses. “Fall Transition” starts in July for back-to-school shopping, so there are likely some flannels and chunky cardigans when it’s hot out.

        Again, not required everywhere. Every store that I worked in has just incentivized these items, but local managements is totally understanding of dressing for the real seasons.

    2. Gyne*

      I have a memory of the MASH episode where they had to pack up and move the entire hospital across the field because one of the commanding officers got it into his head that “The M is for ‘mobile’!” Despite there being no reason whatsoever to move the camp.

  10. Playing With Puppies And Kittens All Day*

    LW#2, I would strongly encourage you to move away from this kind of speculation, because I don’t believe thinking that way actually helps you OR your colleague. Compared to other kinds of relationships (friends, family, doctor-patient), I think being coworkers makes it extra important to respect his autonomy and privacy.

    I think the fairest, kindest, and most productive thing to do is to take him at his word, and follow Alison’s advice about supporting him with the issues he has chosen to open up to you about, rather than ones you worry he may be hiding.

    Also: Please be kind to yourself as well, and preserve your emotions and energy when you need to.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. I had a bad day a few weeks back and was grumpy. I cooked dinner and managed to burn my hand and spill water when draining the spuds. I was preoccupied and so less attentive to what I was doing.

        If someone says they hurt themselves cooking then I think it’s best to believe them and offer the help Alison suggested.

      2. LimeRoos*

        This! It’s so much more likely to be an oopsie while being upset and cooking. Husbands worst one (before he stopped talking to his dad) was after an hour+ of just a horrible phone call. I had just pulled out a shakshouka out of the oven to see how the eggs were, and he grabbed the pan handle to shake it… it was a 400 degree oven, he didn’t have a glove or pot holder. We spent the night in our bathroom running his hand under cold water and putting burn cream on. It was bad. But the biggest factor in that was being upset on a shitty phone call. We had made shakshouka plenty of times with no issues, but this one time, ope, distraction and emotions, and boom, burn.

      3. Autumn*

        An upset person is even more likely to have an accident, I can’t count the number of times I’ve done something foolish while upset about a thing.

      4. Gracely*

        This! The only times I’ve ruined meals or injured myself cooking was when I tried to cook while upset over something. My rule now is if I feel like that, dinner for everyone else in the house is “fend for yourself” and I’ll just make a sandwich or a bowl of cereal for myself.

      5. Elenna*

        This! I feel like OP is thinking it might be self-harm because of the timing of it happening right after a Bad Thing. But being upset about a Bad Thing can also make it a lot easier to completely accidentally mess up and hurt yourself because you’re distracted and not focusing on being safe.

      6. Nathalie*

        Yeah when I was reading this letter I couldn’t help thinking about 10 years ago when I was going through a really rough time and mostly coping by drinking every night after work, and one night I was happily sauced and majorly burned my forearm when taking a pizza out of the oven because my drunken brain miscalculated how high up my oven mitts went. Took months and a lot of gauze pads to heal and I still have a scar a decade later. Another night later that year I decided to flat iron my hair while pretty drunk and accidentally grabbed the hot part of the straightener with my bare hand and burned my fingers (not too badly that time at least). Both incidents were indirectly caused by my mental health issues but I never self-harmed on purpose and if someone had tried to talk to me about it I would have just gotten really anxious and felt worse.

        (I am much better now and haven’t burned myself on anything in ages)

    1. Lilo*

      As someone who has someone close to me who engages in self harm, it’s a really really complicated thing and even if the coworker had hurt themselves deliberately having a coworker who isn’t a friend call them out on it wouldn’t necessarily be that helpful. It’s really not a simple thing at all. My relative has been in therapy for this and other issues since they were a teenager.

      But also you don’t have any idea what’s going on here and you really shouldn’t just jump there. It’s going to make your coworker incredibly uncomfortable.

      1. MistOrMister*

        “But also you don’t have any idea what’s going on here and you really shouldn’t just jump there.”

        That wad my thought reading the letter. Just because the coworker has some scars and admitted to previous issues, it doesn’t sound like they told OP they used to self-harm. So to me, that is an odd thing to assume. And odder still to assume someone who went to the ER did so because of self harm, based on the details given. I think it makes perfect sense to direct the coworker to the EAP based on the curent details they have shared with OP. It’s commendable to want to make sure the coworker is getting help, but when you have so little information, I think making assumptions and acting off them is more likely to be harmful than helpful.

        Side note – I once managed to slice my wrist while cutting carpet. I was very lucky that it was a shallow cut and didn’t hit anything other than some fatty flesh but as it happened all I could think was, dear god I am going to bleed out and everyone is going to think I commited suicide. And then I survived and thought, oh man, people are going to see the scar and assume I have an attempt in my past. Point being….sometimes a suspicious scar is not what you assume it is.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I currently have shallow dog scratches on my arm that look like they could be from SH. Nope – just an excited puppy with a fresh nail trim.

          Also as someone who HAS struggled with really severe mental health issues – having work be a place where people treat me normally and I have a predictable routine where no one is up in my business has always been incredibly helpful. That won’t be the case for everyone, but bear in mind that sometimes the best thing you can do is be kind but normal with people who may be struggling.

        2. londonedit*

          Definitely…I also feel like commenting on the scars or injuries is only going to make the employee even less likely to share anything at all at work, so it could have the opposite effect from the one the OP is hoping for.

          I have a scar on my foot from an incident years ago where I was wearing sandals and somehow managed to slice the top of my foot on something – it wasn’t even a big injury and I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but for some reason it’s left a very clear and very straight white scar. Several times when I’ve been for a massage or physio session or something the therapist has commented and asked whether I’ve had surgery on my foot (in the context of ‘is there any prior injury here that I should be aware of’) and it always surprises me when they ask because it’s not even something I pay attention to most of the time.

      2. ceiswyn*

        To add to this, it’s important to note that self harm is often used as a coping mechanism. That’s one of the things that makes it so complicated; it’s very easy for a well-meaning person to just make the person more stressed with no way to deal with it, and that makes the wider issues much worse.

        For similar reasons, it’s extremely counterproductive to try to force help upon a self-harmer, especially as a manager is not likely to be well versed in mental health and may make the issue worse by heavy-handed tactics that bundle self-harm in with suicide warning behaviour.

        This colleague may or may not be self-harming, but if they are they are definitely not willing to talk about it with the LW, which means that the LW is not in a position to usefully act. I agree with Alison that it is going to be much more helpful for the LW to look at support options for the wider mental health issues that are definitely there, and which the LW does have standing to talk about.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That is precisely why I self harme(d). I’m not going to say when the last time was, but for me it’s a kind of release. It’s an affirmation that I am completely worthless ANd it’s also a chance to feel something other than the grey demon of depression. Even if that feeling is pain.

          The more stressed I get, the more chance of it happening. Someone making a big deal of it means I get more stressed.

          (Btw people, do not worry or offer me sympathy – I have a very good support system and you’re gonna have to put up with me for a long while!)

          1. Ceiswyn*

            That is very much how it worked (please stay in the past tense, brain demons) for me, too. Having to try to deal with someone else’s well-meaning concern on top of everything else I was dealing with at the time… never improved matters.

            Even professionals whom I actively sought help from sometimes made some incorrect assumptions and missteps that made matters worse; unwanted help would definitely not have actually helped, no matter how well-intentioned.

        2. Pool Lounger*

          Exactly this. In addition, while it must be obvious to every boss I’ve had that I’ve sh, based on scars, if a boss ever tried having a discussion about it like this I’d feel so embarrassed and ashamed I’d probably quit. I wouldn’t feel safe at work anymore.

      3. AnonForThisOne*

        This. You don’t know. I have a close friend who used to self-harm. They have gotten lots of help and are in a much better frame of mind and live well, but they still have visible scars. One day their young, boisterous puppy knocked a freshly brewed cup of tea on them and burned them badly (required several surgeries to repair). Because of their history, people looked askance at them. But it truly was an accident! (Their roommate witnessed it. By the way, the splash completely missed the pup.)

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Thank you for saying this. Part of the (often unconscious!) stigma re. mental health is the assumption that EVERYTHING that happens to someone must be related to their disclosed mental illness. People who self-harm still have accidents just like people with depression can genuinely be out of work for a week because they caught the flu and not because they’re too depressed to work, etc.

      Offering support is great but be cautious that you don’t start to identify your coworker and all their actions through the lens of self-harm.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Please don’t assume self-harm is the reason for scars. I’ve met clumsy people and others who had been abused in the past.
      Alison’s EAP reference is useful, and you can also simply ask your friend how he’s doing.

      1. Gracely*

        Yes–I have some gnarly scars on my arms, and they’re not from self-harm at all! They’re from when I was younger and my brother jumped out at me while I was holding a skittish cat. I got clawed all over the arm I was holding the cat with.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Yes, please leave this alone and for the love of everything DO NOT share any of it with the boss. The last thing this person needs is for their boss to start thinking of them as unable to handle their work.

      We’ve had at least one other letter on this site where someone assumed their coworker had self-harm scars on their wrist, but in the update it turned out the scars were from oven burns – it’s very easy to accidentally bump your wrists on the oven while cooking!

      1. si*

        Yeah, I have SI scars and scars from my oven shelf, and frankly they look exactly the same. It’s only my memory telling me which scar was from which incident.

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        Heck I have self harm scars that I don’t cover at work (it took a while, but it is what it is and Hiding it just makes people more suspicious), but if a well-meaning coworker tried to help me by discussing it with my boss if I injured myself (accidentally or intentionally) I’d be pretty annoyed and if it was intentional it wouldn’t help. I have my own support systems that are not work related for this issue. Also… adult me is wayyyyy better at hiding it (it’s been a while but it never completely goes away), so in my experience (which is anecdotal) the chances that your coworkers accident that led to an ER visit and lots of very visible bandages was anything more than an accident is small. If he wanted to burn himself for self-harm reasons, you likely wouldn’t know about it.

    5. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Agreed, PLEASE don’t make assumptions and say something. As someone who had a wrong assumption made about me and my mental state, it was extremely upsetting, embarrassing and not helpful at all. To the point I lost trust in people that one would go to when they truly did need help. It was very damaging to my mental health and a horrible experience all around.

      Also, I’m a clumsy person who is very likely to injure myself when I’m upset and not paying close attention, so I could see myself accidentally burning myself like your colleague did.

    6. Lacey*

      Yes. Some of us are just super clumsy. I know when I was a teenager I had some people think I might be abused because of how often I had some injury or another – but I’m honestly just SO clumsy.

  11. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW5 – I suppose you run the risk that some employers might think you’ve got big britches, but any reasonable employer would be OK with your explanation.

    1. Other Alice*

      Any employer who takes issue with an employee wanting to be paid on time is not an employer you want to work for. We had a letter from someone complaining that their direct report hadn’t been respectful enough when payroll messed up their payment and they sounded like a nightmare.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I recall that letter. The employee missed about 3 paychecks in a row. The LW felt they weren’t grateful enough when the issue was finally resolved after a lot of pushback from the unpaid worker.

      2. GraceC*

        Yeah, I think that’s the letter Zaphod is directly referencing – the manager was very indignant that their report had asked to be paid on time, and specifically said that she was “too big for her britches”

        1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

          That’s the one – the manager actually said that their report “had some big britches”, so not only was their indignation completely out of order, but they got the expression wrong!!

          1. Other Alice*

            Oh, sorry! I had forgotten that bit of the letter and thought you were cautioning LW about not saying that. Useful reminder for me that tone gets lost easily in online conversations and I should read comments more carefully before replying. :)

    2. MistOrMister*

      Can you imagine saying in an interview that you were leaving your last place because they weren’t paying you on time, as a regular thing, not even an accidental this happened once and then never again over 25 years, and the interviewer got an attitude with you? Hahahahha! I mean, the NERVE of people these days. Expecting to be paid on time. Pah!!

      Maybe not paying people on time is a secret way bad employers are trying to stamp out the too big for their britches phenomenon. After all, if you don’t get paid, you don’t eat. If you don’t eat, you will soon fit your britches perfectly or even have extra room in there!!

      1. Emotional support capybara*

        Heck, my current boss knew my previous boss through some social thing or another, was on pretty good terms with her, and still went “oh HELL no no no” when I mentioned Previous Boss’s bad habit of “””forgetting””” to get back to the office in time to do payroll and generously loaning us $20 from petty cash for the weekend (to be paid back in full at 8 AM Monday morning Or Else).

        No decent employer is going to hold “I quit because they kept forgetting to pay me” against you and if they do, that’s about as clear an “if it sucks hit da bricks” as they come!

    3. EPLawyer*

      That was exactly the letter I thought of when I read #5. If an employer is aghast you want to be paid on time, you don’t want to work for them.

      If they get huffy and want to lecture you on your finances because you insist on being paid on time, you really don’t want to work for them.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I can totally see an employer misunderstanding the principle that job candidates should not badmouth their previous employer in subjective matters and expand it to stuff like “they didn’t pay me on time.” This, however, is a special case of the broader principle that you can’t predict what irrational prejudices a potential employer might have, so trying to accommodate every possibility is a lost cause.

  12. Jasmi*

    OP2, it’s kind of you to care about your coworker and I think it’s fine to check in on them to see how they’re doing based on what they told you. I wouldn’t however ask if they are self harming or mention it to their manager as it’s the coworker’s decision as to how much, if anything, they want to share with them. I still rememer this post https://www.askamanager.org/2014/04/i-gossiped-and-now-my-coworker-doesnt-trust-me.html andwhile I don’t think you’re gossiping in any way (and hopefully your coworker’s manager would not be like the one in this post) it does show that you can’t always control what happens when you disclose someone else’s personal information.

  13. Lilo*

    I’m going to be contrary on LW1. I very much think this is a bad idea. I do not think you should leave a dog alone in a hotel room all day.

    As many people have pointed out, the hotel may specifically have a policy for not leaving the dog alone. Even if they allow the dog to be left briefly, all day is a very different proposition. No one will be able to enter your room both for your safety or your dogs. If they DO have to enter the room and your dog isn’t crated, there’s a chance your dog could run.

    While your dog might not bark or have to pee all day at home, being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar smells, potentially strange dog smells and noises and vacuum noises, may put additional stress. Elderly dogs who get excited can pee a little (at least two of my dogs developed some excitement peeing when they were older) and the hotel definitely won’t be okay with a dog barking all day.

    You also want to be focused in your trip and not in a position of just running back.

    For an elderly dog, I’d recommend a dog sitter who comes to your house over boarding. Let the dog stay in their own familiar space and nice regular scheduled and paid for walks. I think it’ll be much, much more comfortable for your dog and for you.

    1. Letter writer*

      Hi there, I appreciate the advice but I wrote Alison to ask about the problem from the perspective of my employer, not my dog. I am confident that having him at the hotel with me would be preferable to boarding him as long as it isn’t a professional faux pas. For a couple of reasons I can’t get into here, having someone in our home to care for him isn’t an option.

      1. Lilo*

        I mean, I will say if I heard about a coworker doing this, I’d really be pushing them to go take care of their dog. I would not be inviting you out to dinner or happy hours because I’d want you to go take care of your dog.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I would trust my coworker to know what their dog does and does not need and to be an adult that can assess their own ability to attend dinner and/or happy hour.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          That sounds really pushy and invasive tbh. They could have daycare, they could have a schedule of some kind, someone could be checking in – it’s really none of your business.

          1. Lilo*

            Assuming full knowledge that the dog is just being left in a hotel room all day by itself. Most dog lovers will be “hey, go walk your dog” instead of “hey, let’s get a drink”.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I would certainly ASK if someone had to go walk their dog, just like I would ask if a coworker had to get home to their family or if they were free for a drink. No one should assume a place of authority in either case.

            2. Firecat*

              I mean, we had an example a few weeks ago where a bunch of coworkers allegedly ignored a baby in a car. Do you think coworkers are going to become more demanding of a dog in a hotel then they were about a human baby???

            3. New Jack Karyn*

              No, most dog lovers don’t phrase their concerns that way. “Do you need to go walk Dribbles? Meet you at the bar in what–half an hour, 45 minutes?” would be my tack.

        3. Ana Gram*

          But do you do that in the office? I mean, whether your coworker’s dog is in a hotel room or in their home, they have the same needs, right? So by your logic, you never invite dog owners to after work functions and encourage them to care for their pet. That seems like overstepping. I generally assume pet owners know how to (and are!) taking care of their pets responsibly.

        4. Brent*

          We specifically schedule happy hours when I’m in town with my dog so everyone in the office can meet my dog.

        5. CommanderBanana*

          “I would not be inviting you out to dinner or happy hours because I’d want you to go take care of your dog.”

          That is a massive overstep.

          1. searching for a new name*

            100% agreed. I have 3 dogs, they don’t require much “taking care of”! or constant supervision! My dogs sleep all day!!!!! They might chase each other around in the fenced in yard, go for a walk, but there is no reason I need to skip all evening activities to take care of them. I think we can trust LW knows their dog and how to take care of them without other people policing what they should or should not be doing in the evenings.

        6. Daisy-dog*

          Unless the dinner/happy hour is meant to be several hours long and include lots of bar-hopping all over town, I think LW can logistically manage to do both. If anything, I would just bow out claiming to need to take care of my dog when really I just wanted to rest and have alone time.

      2. doreen*

        I think that’s the thing, though – it could turn into a professional faux pas. I’m almost 100% sure your employer won’t care that you brought your dog along and that he’s staying in the hotel room while you are at work. That doesn’t mean they won’t care if there are any complications caused by your plans – for example, if you arrive and then find out that there’s a policy prohibiting leaving him from staying in the room all day without you. Or if it’s allowed, but he barks all day so they ask you to leave. In either of those cases, it might not be possible to either find a suitable hotel or arrange for local boarding on short notice.

      3. Esmeralda*

        I don’t mean this to sound snarky, but your confidence in your dog may not translate to actual acceptable behavior on the part of your dog.

        Anecdotally: we were at a pet-friendly hotel (without our pets). I’ve got no problem with an occasional bark and I enjoy pet hijinks, but we got stuck next to a room with a dog left alone for hours. Poor thing barked and barked — the hotel had to ask the people to leave when they refused to stay with the dog or take it out with them. They were *certain* their dog would be ok. But it wasn’t.

        1. Lilo*

          I’m also going to say that elderly dogs change a lot. I just said goodbye to a beloved family dog and she changed quite a bit in her last year of life. The arthritis and sight issues started affecting her a lot. A dog that was okay a year ago may not be okay now.

        2. Raboot*

          Or we could take LW at their word, especially after they specifically address a concern in the comment section

          1. hamsterpants*

            Sadly, many people are either in denial about how much their dogs bark, or mistake “the dog isn’t barking when I come back to the room” for “dog never barks when left alone.”

    2. Forkeater*

      I’m really surprised so many people have dogs that would be more comfortable in a strange hotel room, rather than home with a sitter or at a familiar kennel. I’ve had four dogs over the years and none of them would have gone for this. But as LW1 points out – it was a question about the employer POV. From that perspective, I agree they wouldn’t care as long as the hotel is okay with it, and it doesn’t interfere with work activities.

      1. Anon all day*

        I know, for my dog, my presence can be the overriding factor. Even though he may not like different places, if I’m there, he can deal. If I go away for a couple days, and my parents (who we used to live with, and he still sees constantly and loves) stay with him, he still gets freaked out.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I’m surprised at your surprise, because I generally assume that (like children!) most pet parents know what is best for their pet.

        I have two dogs. One is extraordinarily bonded to me and stays with me at our local event hotels and does fine. She is potty-pad trained, hates going outside, and adores hotel stays because it means undivided Mom time when I’m in the room with her.

        My other dog gets anxious in new surroundings, so she stays home with a trusted sitter and also does fine.

        I know what situations are best and most comfortable for my dogs because they are my constant companions. They have very different personalities and likes/dislikes.

        Unless you’re seeing actual evidence of mistreatment, I think it’s best to operate on the assumption that the LW is making choices based on what is best for her dog.

    3. Brent*

      Most pet friendly hotels that I’ve stayed in specifically have a door hanger sign that let’s anyone know there’s a dog inside and they are not to come in for any reason. It’s never once been violated.

  14. FashionablyEvil*

    #5–if you’re still friends with folks at your old job, you might choose to mention that they can file a wage complaint with their state’s department of labor over these issues.

    1. WellRed*

      They should also make sure their taxes are being paid properly or it could cause trouble down the road.

      1. KRM*

        This. If people are getting payments from Zelle or Venmo, and no paystub, there’s zero chance their taxes are being properly allocated. OP should definitely mention this as well, because it can put the employees there in more kinds of trouble (not getting paid on time AND getting hit on your taxes is not a fun place to be).

        1. OP 5*

          I know at least one person who is in the process of working out the details of a new job offer, and she is planning on getting her paystubs before she gives notice and is planning to report them to the labor board when she leaves. I have also heard through the grapevine that other employees who recently left may have also made reports to the labor board. I thought the same thing regarding taxes when I heard they were being paid through Zelle/Venmo.

    2. OP 5*

      I know at least one person who is in the process of preparing to leave, she’s finishing up background checks for another job, and she is planning on getting her paystubs before she gives her notice and reporting them to the labor board when she leaves. I also have heard through the grapevine that employees from another one of the agency’s offices may have made a report when they quit recently. I think people are concerned about making a wage complaint while they’re still working there. Most people I know there are actively job searching, and we had 2 or 3 people quit around the time I left.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP2: From the desk of someone who has a very long history of self harm:

    Beyond saying something like ‘you’ve mentioned about feeling down, do you want to give our employee assistance a call?’ absolutely do not go any further. I know it seems like trying to get to the truth, stopping them from harming themselves further etc. is a noble cause it will more than likely have the opposite effect.

    If I turn up to work during a period of severe depression and say an accident happened in the kitchen then take me at my word. If I show up with scars on my arms and say that’s my cat then take me at my word. Definitely never escalate to management or, worse, call in emergency psychiatric help (that is only for a clear and immediate danger to life btw – I once was put on a hold just for having a few self harm scars, that did NOT help).

    Psychiatric issues require a very hands off approach. Seems contrary I know.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Similar horror story, too.

      Be a listening ear for this person if you have the capacity and nudge them gently into talking to an EAP/psychiatrist. Don’t do anything more.

  16. Falling Diphthong*

    I’m fascinated by 3-5, where to justify a planned firing you have to convince yourself the employee is terrible, even if the reasons they are terrible are things you just now made up.

    It seems to be a common thing in human group dynamics. Often on Survivor, there are players who view voting someone out as a very negative thing they struggle with, and so they work out reasons that Brett is a terrible person and so by voting Brett out they are just acting as one does when confronted with a terrible person.

    I don’t know if this has become more common or if naming the pattern has become more common, though I suspect it’s the latter.

    1. Kaboobie*

      I think this falls under “cognitive dissonance”, and it’s something all people are prey to. Put simply, it’s the discomfort caused by holding two contradicting beliefs. Once we’ve made a decision or a choice, we search for reasons to justify that we made the right choice, and any evidence to the contrary we tend to ignore as that would point to our choice being wrong or unjustified.

      In terms of understanding human behavior, this is one of the most valuable concepts I’ve learned as an adult.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s very much a human thing and has probably always been true. I actually think a lot of prejudices like racism come from this phenomenon. A lot of the peoples who got invaded were portrayed as “lesser” than their invaders as a way to justify, “I want this land. I have to get rid of the people living there in order to get control of it, so I need to believe they are evil or stupid or uncivilised in order to justify that to myself.” That’s a far more serious example than firing somebody, but I think it’s an example of the same thing.

    3. Sure*

      People who do this should be permanently banned from people management.

      Job loss can destroy people’s lives. The powerlessness and injustice of an undeserved job loss (especially if it happens more than once) is devastating.

    4. Gracely*

      People have always done this. A flip side of it is when people who knew serial killers are surprised because “he was such a nice person”.

      We want to believe that only people who are mean/terrible to us do mean/terrible things, or that if we have to do something mean/terrible to someone, they deserve it because they’re just a mean/terrible person. Or that people who are in terrible situations must have done something to deserve it. It’s not reality, but we tell ourselves it is. It’s how charming people get away with literal murder, and how we as a society excuse not providing a better social safety net, and why people will convince themselves that someone they have/want to fire has brought it on themself. Humans are very good at justifying their action/inaction.

    5. Florida Fan 15*

      I’ve tended to think of it as a form of conflict avoidance. If the person is terrible, then it’s not your fault you fired them, it’s theirs for being terrible. Essentially a way to avoid ownership of your actions by pushing the reason for the action onto someone else.

      People are a trip. They’ll twist themselves in knots to take credit for stuff they didn’t do but run screaming from taking responsibility for stuff they did do.

  17. Michelle Smith*

    As a follow up to LW4’s question, could the different dress codes for men and women be challenged as discriminatory? I’m nonbinary and am neither a man nor a woman so I’m not even sure which dress code would apply to me. Wouldn’t such a dress code be inherently discriminatory towards nonbinary and intersex people who don’t neatly fit into one box or the other?

    1. Yes Anastasia*

      My amateur, not-a-lawyer opinion is that, in light of the 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County decision, you could absolutely make that case, though the outcome would depend on the vagaries of federal courts. If you do a search for “Bostock dress codes” you can find a bunch of lawyer chatter on the topic (most of it advising employers to consider gender-inclusive dress codes in order to fend off possible lawsuits).

      1. Kelly*

        What that case DID make clear is that if there ARE different rules for men and women, the employer must let you follow the rules for the gender you identify with. (It’s unclear how it would apply to non-binary employees – probably they’d be able to self-select which rules to follow, but may not be able to “mix and match” or flip-flop from day to day.)

        Nonetheless, that court case did reopen the issue. OTOH, most of those cases upholding different (but “equal”) standards for men and women are 1) Decades-old (one of the more recent cases involved Hooters in the mid-late aughts) and 2) Challenged based on employees who thought it was unfair certain items had to be worn by one but not the other gender (e.g. ties for men or high heels for women) as opposed to an employee asking to present in a gender-non-conforming matter.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          I’m super interested to see how this evolves over the next couple of decades, because not being able to mix and match or flip-flop or still having to choose between being able to follow “man” or “woman” dress codes is still going to be dysphoric for such a variety of people outside of the gender binary like genderqueer people, gender-fluid people, agender people, and others. I’m intrigued by Yes Anastasia’s mention of gender-inclusive codes that could simply be a non-gendered guide to professional work attire.

    2. doreen*

      Federal courts haven’t found different dress codes for men and women to be discriminatory , although some states probably have. As far as people not neatly fitting into one box or another, I think to a great extent that depends on the dress code – at my last employer, the only difference in dress code between men and women for non-managers was that the women’s dress code allowed for skirts and dresses while men were required to wear pants. If that option had been eliminated , the dress code for men and women would have been exactly the same.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The push in the HR community is to make gender neutral dress codes, but there have been very few actual discrimination charges in this area and for the most part courts have upheld gender specific dress codes. I think we got at least one letter here, and I have heard elsewhere, about places telling NB folks to follow whatever feels best for them but that of course can get dicey in a variety of ways.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      I think Alison answered a letter about exactly this! Let me search the archives to see what I can find.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Hmm ok so it wasn’t quite about discrimination but it was a question and update about being non-binary in an office with very binary dress codes. I’ll post the links in a reply, but if you just want to search the titles they’re called:

        “is an “intro meeting” the same as an interview, dress codes when you’re non-binary, and more” (question #2)
        and
        “updates: the filmed pregnancy announcement, the dress code, and more” (update #2)

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Oh, I remember this one – but I didn’t realize there was an update – thanks so much for the links!

            It’s so all over the place based on employer, because I work in an environment where I (genderqueer) would NEVER be able to dress in a way that makes me feel euphoric about my gender, but my spouse (agender) works in an environment where they would be allowed to borrow from whichever side of their employer’s (still binary) dress code that they want with the understanding of – if it’s appropriate for one gender to wear, it should be appropriate for any gender to wear.

  18. Another Thought on LW2*

    LW2: Those scars could be much older than you’d expect. I admire how much you care for this colleague and that you’re looking out for them, but I wouldn’t speculate too much on something that could easily be from a different moment in their life (and not reflect how things are now).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It can be so hard to carry scars from a dark part in your life that change how people view your forever. Keep that in mind, OP. Though your heart might be in the right place you could be contributing to stigma simply by altering your behavior based on the information you have. It doesn’t always feel like caring feelings are stigmatizing, but they can result in unwanted attention and a focus on mental health that detracts from what your collegial relationship should otherwise be.

    2. anon this time*

      Yeah, I’ve got self-injury scars that are more than 20 years old. While mental illness is something I’m going to live with and manage my whole life, that particular issue hasn’t been a problem in a very long time. Cooking injuries, on the other hand, are very common and happen to everyone who cooks from time to time.

      1. quill*

        I picked up what looks like it will probably be a new scar from frying tofu this year. Hot oil is not your friend.

  19. ferrina*

    LW5: Please put this on Glassdoor! Potential employees need to see what they’re coming in to.

  20. SMH*

    10 years ago when I was working retail, the store manager was convinced I was management material and I took some of the assistant manager training. This was a big-box national retailer. One of the trainings was on employment protections. There was a scenario where a Muslim employee’s hijab made some clients uncomfortable. The manager asked the employee to stop wearing the hijab, and fired her when she would not.

    The training then asked, “What did the manager do wrong here?”

    The answer?

    “The manager should not have told the employee she was being fired for a reason related to her religion.”

    It went on to explain at-will employment and unlawful termination, then said the manager in the scenario should have made up a pretext (it literally used the word pretext!) to fire her for some performance related reason. The training never suggested, you know, NOT VIOLATING THE LAW.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Of all the things I like most about public sector employment, it is that the question of what you can do changes fundamentally from private sector employment. In the private sector, the question is always “what does the law explicitly forbid me doing, and are there ways I can work around that? Is it profitable to remain ignorant of the laws and their spirit? Are morals and ethics becoming too expensive to keep?”

      In public sector employment, the question flips to “Is there a law that specifically authorizes me to do things about this, and what does it authorize me to do? Am I accomplishing the intent behind that law, in addition to the letter of it?” Though the answer sometimes regrettably is “No, and so I can’t do anything”, at least I don’t find myself being asked to dream up excuses and rationales to skirt the edge of what is permissable.

      1. Mimmy*

        I work in the public sector and the workplace discrimination training we have to do every year is VERY clear on what employers can and cannot due under the law.

        From what I know about disability discrimination law, such as the ADA, my guess is that the public sector is subject to higher standards than the private sector when it comes to other forms of discrimination. Private sector employers probably have more leeway in demonstrating why they chose a certain action than public sector employers, such as termination.

  21. Really?*

    For LW1 – if you tell coworkers that your dog is with you, make sure that you note that there was no dog fee at the hotel, or that the company is not out any money because you brought your dog. I took my elderly dog on a business trip many years ago and A snarky coworker generated stories about how the company has paid extra money for me to travel because of the dog. It worked out perfectly and my boss was very pleased with my work, but, let’s face it, some people are just jealous. Especially as you’re in line for a promotion. Good luck!

  22. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’m a lawyer and have represented several people with restaurant experience. I represented a woman once who worked in kitchens for 20 years, and her arms were covered with scars from cuts and burns. She got stopped for speeding, and was crying because she had just learned her child was rushed to the ER (she was speeding toward the hospital). The officer saw the speeding, the crying, her statement that she was trying to get to the hospital, and the scars, and immediately concluded she was suicidal (she wasn’t). Rather than letting her go with a ticket (which is normal), and maybe following her to the hospital to make sure she got there okay, he summoned an ambulance and a crisis team, which ended up keeping her on the side of the road for about an hour, and delayed her getting to her child (who ended up being okay in the long run but she didn’t know that at the time). Her repeated explanation that it wasn’t about her was completely ignored. This is extreme, but seriously, sometimes kitchen accidents happen, and sometimes you have to just accept an explanation at face value and not assume you know better than the person whose life it is.

    If you want to offer support to your colleague, you can offer to help them while they recover from the injury. They will probably be thankful.

  23. Sure*

    Op3, this happens literally all the time. The vast majority of PIPs are completely unfounded and should never have been put in place, and the vast majority of managers are terrible.

    “Underperformance” is, for the most part, a complete myth: it usually stems from bad management, inadequate training, poor instructions and communication, bullying, underpayment, and other poor treatment.

    1. MBAir*

      I think you forgot to put a “sarcastic” or “joking” tag at the end of your comment, heads up.

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I don’t see any need for a sarcasm tag. Based on my decades of experience Sure is reporting the truth of the business world, with the possible exception of when “underperformance” is defined by demographics rather than deliverables, ie, “if you’re a woman you have to be twice as good for half the credit”, etc. But comments aren’t meant to be exhaustive, just accurate.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          Are you…serious in suggesting that the “vast majority” of all PIPs across all business are unfounded? The “vast majority” of all managers are terrible? That underperformance doesn’t exist, and the only reason people suck at their jobs is due to external factors? Everyone could be an amazing AAM-style rock star if only everyone around them didn’t suck so much? What an interesting view on humanity.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            Based on what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced, yeah, I would say so. Most of the people I’ve known well enough to know the details of their PIPs had subjective items such as “improve bad attitude” listed (for non-customer-facing positions, without metrics) and/or received them coincidentally soon after incidents like maternity leave and major surgery and invoking ADA compliance. Also, how many managers get any management training, as opposed to being given the opportunity to bully as a job perk?

            On underperformance, I’ve seen far too many people who performed much better than others scolded, written up, or fired for underperformance (and this includes coworkers whom I had experience with and could privately assess) and these decisions generally ran along demographic lines.

            I am very glad for you that your experience has evidently been different. That must be pleasant.

            1. LittleMarshmallow*

              I only have anectodal evidence but at my company keeping someone who is bad at their job no matter what coaching, training, etc they get because they “just came back from maternity leave” is more common than the latter. The optics of that is something managers at my company don’t want to deal with so they just put up with the “underperformer”. And it affects the whole team negatively instead of affecting just that person. Managers that put employees on PIPs are not automatically bad managers. PIPs are a necessary part of doing business because people are human and not every person is right for every role.

              Side note: attitude matters in non-customer facing roles too. A person with a toxic attitude can take a heavy toll on a team if left unchecked (ask me how I know). There needs to be specific examples of what attitude is bad (and the behavior displaying it) and guidance on what is expected, but attitude issues can be some of the hardest to fix because there can be a level of subjectivity, and those with “bad attitudes” usually don’t just improve that because they’re on a PIP. It’s often a pretty ingrained personality trait. But to say that all PIPs about attitude improvement for non customer facing roles are crap is a pretty heavy stretch.

    2. Lyda*

      If you’re being sarcastic, this is a pretty shitty take on OP’s letter. The person in question 1. Has no reason to cover for why they were fired because they left the job, 2. It’s not unheard of for a manager to lie to get what they want, and 3. The OP knows their friend better than any of us do and has reasons to believe they’re being honest. The OP has given no reason why they should be skeptical of their friend and this isn’t helpful.

      Actually, even if you are serious, this isn’t helpful. Because it’s not accurate.

    3. Oh Please*

      Vast majority? Some, sure…many, maybe…but definitely not most.

      And I only wish underperformance were completely made up!

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        Right?!?! I’d say, a manager that puts someone on a PIP isn’t automatically a bad manager, but a manager that refuses to put someone on a PIP that should be is more likely a bad manager.

  24. notyourcircusnotyourmonkeys*

    LW2: This is not your business. Mentioning mental health struggles is not “confiding in you” especially given your coworker didn’t go into detail. I repeat: this is 10000% none of your business and it would be a massive overstep and most likely disrupt any working relationship you have with your coworker. I’m having a hard time understanding what LW2 thinks would come of this–there’s a lot of talk about their feelings on the matter and very little consideration as to how bewildering and potentially triggering this would be for their coworker.

    I personally have a number of SI scars on my forearms. They are over 2 decades old. If a coworker brought up the appearance of my arms and tried to connect it to my current mental health state, especially due to a cooking accident, I would be livid. I would not trust them or be able to work comfortably with them going forward, because I would not be able to trust that my coworker is actually able to focus on work and not my body of mental health history.

    You couldn’t even see what his injuries are because they are bandaged.

    Whatever is making you jump to this conclusion instead of taking him at his word like everyone else in the office seems to be able to do, is your issue to deal with. Part of navigating the professional world is understanding that you are not the main character, this person has other people in his life and clearly has access to medical care in an emergency, and most importantly has not actually come to you for anything. You need to take him at his word because this has absolutely nothing to do with you.

    1. Anon3*

      Seconded. I’m in my mid 20s but have scars that are 10+ years old. I’m lucky they’re subtle but everyone’s body heals differently and there’s just nothing that can be done about them. If a coworker noticed and tried to mention it or infer anything about my current behavior/ mental state it would feel extremely intrusive and violating and I would not be happy. I was a sad tween/teen- that’s it.

    2. Sylvan*

      +1

      My scars are very, very old. I’ve moved on — and the way I see it, I don’t have to care about minor skin differences forever. I’d be uncomfortable if a coworker got more invested in my scars than I am at this point. However, I appreciate that the LW is trying to do right by their coworker.

    3. DKS*

      Yes, I 1000% agree with this. Also, you co-worker may have specifically mentioned mental health struggles in the *past* as a way to subtly acknowledge his scars and reassure that there is nothing to worry about now. I have done that, usually when I felt someone was a little too interested in my scars. I wonder if he has seen you looking/staring and felt the need to say something based on that? (Trust me, very few people are as subtle as they think they are when they are noticing your SI scars). Please take him at his word about his injuries, please do not approach him about potential self-harm, and absolutely don’t talk to his manager (!!) about it. Just let him do his job.

    4. LittleMarshmallow*

      I think that LW 2 (as with many others) is assuming that self harm = suicidal (to answer what they think they’re accomplishing). They’re not the same thing. Self harm is more about control and catharsis… suicidal is quite different but people conflate the two a lot and think that self-harmers belong in hospitals when that’s not necessarily necessary.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    I’m surprised a manager could get away with a PIP with provably false information. Isn’t that something what upper management or hr would deal with?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Depends. Not all places have HR, a lot of times managers become the final say on things like employee performance. It doesn’t say if the employee pushed back or escalated the issue at all. We really don’t have enough details to assess that piece of it, but this definitely happens sometimes.

    2. OP 3*

      Well, before my coworker had escaped, he reported to HR, with exact evidence of information on the PIP being false. He said the HR lady literally asked if she was supposed to do anything about it, clearly making the HR person’s agenda to work against employees even if management is proven to be doing unethical things…

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Bottom line, HR exists to protect the company. GOOD HR understands that keeping workers protected, happy, and incentivized is very good for the company. However if you have a company that’s allowing managers to do fraudulent PIPs like this, it’s not surprising this was HR’s response. It may have even been their idea as a CYA in case there are unemployment or wrongful termination claims.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      You’d think, but the manager applying the PIP is also the person informing Upper Management.

  26. CLC*

    I’ve been at multiple companies that hand out PIPs before lay offs as a threat so people will voluntarily resign rather than being fired. They don’t want to pay severance/unemployment benefits.

    1. Bryce with a Y*

      @CLC, I’ve seen that happen quite a bit. Another thing in the mix is the PR angle: Letting people go for performance rather than laying people off says, “there was something wrong with the employees—not the company.” Laying people off can lead to bad PR, both within and outside the company. Employees get spooked and end up quitting—even those who do good work and contribute to the health of the company. Investors look askance at the company and sell shares/don’t buy shares. People who would otherwise apply for jobs decide not to.
      So the situation you describe is to avoid the financial hits of unemployment insurance and/or severance, as well as bad publicity. Whether it works is another matter.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        Usually, if a company is mass firing a bunch of folks, the UE people often get suspicious (“Why has Large Company fired a third of its staff for performance issues within the past six months?”).

  27. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP5, while interviewing at some point I stopped pretending everything with my (soon to be ex) employer was fine and I said that I wanted to leave because a) there were no opportunities and they were also facing but mainly b) they were under serious struggles. If they googled them, they would find several bad reviews complaining about late payments, unpaid insurance, and stagnation.

  28. Environmental Compliance*

    #2 – please do not make those assumptions. If the employee mentioned anything (separately) that they could benefit from the EAP, please give them that information, but do not assume that the burn is anything but what they stated.

    Signed as someone who is very clumsy, works with horses, and sometimes has weird injuries, but also has a history of mental health issues that were really badly exacerbated by a very overbearing boss thinking pushing into my private life would be helpful. Spoiler – it wasn’t.

    As a sidenote, I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story here, but at a different job than Boss above, I had an older coworker sit me down and ask if I needed a safe place to stay. I was very confused….. until he flat out asked me who was beating me. I forgot I had a black eye from my gelding and Coworker did not believe me until I showed a picture of the horse. When both Human and Horse are spatially unaware, you learn that horse heads are harder than human heads. Can you imagine having that conversation with someone who was actually in an abusive situation? Especially as a young woman? It was uncomfortable enough as someone who’s just clumsy.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      My dog head-butted me with her large wedge noggin (she also has zero spatial awareness and is incredibly clumsy/enthusiastic) and split my lip.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I had the same problem because I was constantly limping and covered in bruises for a bit, but I’d just joined a martial arts class. I got hit with some wooden swords a lot before I improved. Also once I just ran over myself with the big cart we had for moving stuff around. D:

  29. Beth*

    LW #2: It’s understandable that you’re concerned about your colleague. But do not, DO NOT try to pump him for information about his mental health, and ABSOLUTELY DO NOT share your thoughts with your boss, his boss, or anyone else at work.

    The stigma against self-harm is so extreme that even bringing it up is unlikely to do anything but damage to your co-worker. You’re genuinely worried and caring; listen to the part of your gut that is warning you not to risk making things worse.

    Also, as others have said, it’s none of your business. You can continue to be supportive and approachable, and if he chooses to share information with you, without being prodded, that’s great. In such an event it will be even MORE important that you do NOT tell anyone else at work.

  30. HannahS*

    LW2, a coworker is rarely in a position to help someone with what’s going on in their personal life, whether that’s a sudden need to find new housing, mental health issues, the death of a family member, cancer etc. The best way to support someone is to continue to be a good colleague: cover for people who are unexpectedly on leave, be considerate and kind, draw appropriate boundaries with your boss so that you’re not overworked, etc.

    I think it’s normal to be worried about someone you care about, and the idea of someone you care about hurting themselves can be very distressing. At the same time, other than encouraging him to seek help when he needs it (which he did) and let him know about the EAP, there isn’t a lot that you can do.

    Think it through: if you were 100% sure that he WASN’T engaging in self-harm, you could encourage him to seek help from others in his personal life or through the EAP for whatever problems he’s having. If you were 100% sure that he WAS engaging in self-harm (let’s say he told you he was,) you could… encourage him to seek help from others in his personal life or through the EAP for whatever problems he’s having. Exactly the same outcome.

  31. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #5 from my (limited) experience, if your area of counselors is as tight-knitted as my area it might come out sooner or later why you (or anyone else) is looking for work elsewhere. Especially if there are legal issues with licenses, that’s bound to come out, especially if people have to look for other licensed people for supervision or for new employment.

    I think you did the best thing. And I would say you will probably get asked about your experience there by new coworkers. Just be matter of fact and say “I was unpaid, so I don’t have any experience myself, but I had heard some of the paid counselors were having issues.

  32. Minerva*

    LW 5 – The vast majority of people work to get paid. If a hiring manager decides they don’t want to hire you because you expect to be paid you simply do not want to work there.

  33. Cringing 24/7*

    Not necessarily with OP4’s situation, but moreso with Alison’s response, I have a difficult time parsing out how dress codes can be prohibited from discriminating based on gender, but also not legally be forbidden from being *different* for men and women, while also completely ignoring intersex, nonbinary, and agender people. Like, it all feels a bit discriminatory to me (but I know that it’s been found not *legally* discriminatory, so I guess I’m just using the colloquial version of that term, not the legal definition – as is sometimes done with “hostile work environment”).

    1. Mockingjay*

      IANAL, but much of dress code legality has been decided through legal challenges. There are still outliers; Vegas casinos come to mind.

      At least in my industry (federal contracting – engineering and IT), dress codes are being rewritten to reflect work functions, not gender characteristics. If you are in the field or a lab, or a server room, closed toe safety shoes and sturdy clothing are required. In the office, professional dress commensurate with our federal customer. The code works really well, IMO, because it comes down to practicality. If you’re doing field work, you pull out your sturdy clothes that won’t snag and you don’t mind getting dirty, same as you would working in your home garden. If you’re in the office, you wear something dressier, but you get to choose what that is. My company’s code doesn’t mention dresses, skirts, or trousers, or sex. It simply asks you to wear what is appropriate for the work setting.

    2. just another queer reader*

      1. Yeah, it seems like binary dress codes probably won’t hold up for long. Fingers crossed.

      2. Job-requirements-based dress codes make tons of sense. My company has one dress code for the factory and one dress code for the office.

      3. A new trend: some companies are eliminating all dress codes and just saying “dress for your day.” I think this is the worst! It removes the benefits of having clear expectations and leaves it all up to individuals and their managers.

      1. JustaTech*

        Re your #3: I remember back in the 90’s when “business casual” became a thing, and my dad, who had comfortably lived his professional life in suits suddenly had to figure out a whole new way to dress for work (and buy a bunch more clothes).
        He was on an extended business trip with some coworkers, so they did what seemed like a sensible thing and went to the local department store to ask for help. Unfortunately that local department store was Nieman Marcus, so the sticker shock was *intense*. (“Fifteen hundred dollars for a sweater?!” In 1995.)

        “Dress for your day” works if (big if) the standards for various “days” are already clearly explained. (Lab days are X, vendor days are Y, client days are Z and the CEO is Y*Z.)

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        I like “dress for your day”. I work in a manufacturing R&D environment most of the time, but am also relatively close to our headquarters. Dress for your day means I can now go to headquarters without having to change out of plant clothes (plant dress code is for safety reason) if I just have to run there for a couple hours for a meeting or to get a new badge or something and then back into plant clothes when I go back to my location. Our company is pretty clear on what it means though. If I was meeting with an external customer at headquarters for the whole day or something I’d wear more “professional clothes”… maybe… I’m a dress code rebel… you just gotta not care. Haha!

        It’s also a pet peeve of mine when people that care a lot of about “professional attire” visit a manufacturing site without proper clothing for what they want to do that day (of course assuming it was communicated properly – although mostly if they care about “professional attire” they’ve been around long enough they should know ask), that is markedly not “dressing for your day”.

        1. JustaTech*

          It’s so challenging to figure out what to wear when you’re visiting a potential vendor’s manufacturing site! “Meeting with a potential vendor” is full business attire.
          “Touring a manufacturing facility” is full-coverage close-toed sturdy shoes you can walk several miles in, and clothes that will be OK if you brush up against a wall or machinery.

          Finding an outfit that does both at the same time? Challenging, especially for women. (My last site visit like this involved sitting on a half wall and swinging my legs over and then putting on shoe covers – not something I would attempt in a skirt or heels, and also not the standard way of separating spaces. I was very glad I’d chosen to wear pants.)

  34. Pass the Just-For-Men*

    For LW#3 – May the karmic retribution for messing with someone’s livelihood, reputation, and sense of self be swift. I can only say that lack of character and basic human decency is why you wouldn’t want to work for them in general, and it’s a bullet dodged, but when it’s out of your control, that stinks.

    1. Great*

      As someone who has been through this, and has seen it happen to m at great people, I must thank you for this comment.

  35. Brent*

    LW#1 – Do it! It improves business travel so much. I live in Austin and commute every other week to Houston. I always take the dog. It makes the 3 hour drive better, it makes coming back from work better, it makes everything better. We always end up scheduling a happy hour so that people from the office can see the dog.

  36. Amber Rose*

    LW #4: There are some restrictions around that from a safety perspective. Like, I can technically require all staff to wear loose, flowy robes… but not if they work with machinery that could catch. Legally I have to make sure they wear fitted clothes. And I could potentially see some liability if someone passes out from heat stroke in the middle of a summer day where they are wearing a winter jacket.

    1. LittleMarshmallow*

      The summer clothes in summer and winter clothes in winter “example” seemed weird to me… like do they mean like “shorts are only allowed in summer”… I can’t think of a winter analog… maybe “no UGG boots in the summer”? I’m assuming a company could say that because it’s not inherently discriminatory… just weird. But I could see a company that has people working outdoors requiring things to protect from sunburn or frostbite or heat stroke or hypothermia depending on the season. They make us wear yak tracks in the winter where I work if you’re walking outside (excluding parking lots) and they provide winter wear (bibs and coats and hats and stuff) for cold weather work and t-shirts and cold vests (for extreme conditions) for summer.

  37. About pets on business trips*

    We have a mid-20’s employee in our office who will be taking her first business trip with us later this week. She will be traveling ~2 hours by air and staying 2 nights. She has had an insane number of questions in the leadup to this trip, including some about her cats:

    1) Will the company pay for a cat sitter while I’m traveling? — No. They also don’t pay for babysitters for human children when people travel.

    2) What will I do?

    3) Perhaps I can take them with me…

    As hilarious as it would be to see her learn the hard way what a bad idea it would be to take two cats on a business trip, we’re hoping for the cats’ sake that she doesn’t go with that option.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Has anyone tried advising her on this rather than silently hoping she figures it all out on her own?

      1. B*

        We have, but she hasn’t really been listening to any advice we’ve been giving her on this trip or anything else of late, so we figure we’d likely be wasting our breath. For example, part of this trip includes working in a booth in the exhibit hall–something her manager told her at least 3 times was a requirement before she came and asked me (another manager on the team at the same level as her manager). We thought we’d finally gotten through to her, but she asked more related questions in an all team meeting. As far as we can tell, it seems like she’s trying to find a way to get out of the requirement to work in the booth.

    2. LittleMarshmallow*

      Ok… I didn’t ask a ton of questions and this does sound excessive, but aww. I remember my first business trip… I was terrified. I didn’t know how it worked, what the etiquettes were, how to make reservations, what the requirements were at the site I was visiting, etc, at the time I didn’t have pets so that helped. I’m sure I asked my more trusted colleagues some “dumb” questions about it. I’ve also answered a ton of travel questions for first timers now that I have done it a bunch and know how it works…. That said, I recently went on my first business trip since the Rona times and man… that felt like starting all over. I was an anxious mess… I had to fly, stay in a hotel, work in a hot smelly place I was unfamiliar with, work with people I didn’t know. It was a lot and I honestly did try to get out of it a couple times. In the end it was fine (I mean not my most glamorous trip but I didn’t die) but the anxiety leading up to it was real and even though I’ve traveled a lot in my professional life, I actually asked questions to my travel partner (she had gone a month before) that I likely wouldn’t have previously because I was nervous. I have pets now too… I have a trusted friend that checks on them, but they’re aging so it does give me some additional worry when I travel (I travel for personal things too… family lives far away… and cats don’t travel well so I leave them home to be checked on by my friend for that too, but it still gives me worry).

  38. Lyda*

    Seriously. OP knows their friend better than any of us, and it’s not impossible that a crappy manager would make up reasons for a PIP to move someone out, so how about we refrain from creating fiction?

    1. Great*

      I believe OP3’s friend entirely. It happens a hell of a lot. There are more bad managers than good ones, as studies show, and a majority of managers are pone to bullying. A PIP is a perfect bullying vehicle.

      The new HR leader at my ex job literally just threw out 95% of PIPs because of lack of evidence that they were warranted. I only wish she’d been there when I was.

  39. AnotherOne*

    LW #5, are you working at my friend’s old job? because i swear it is scarily similar.

    i don’t think they’d gotten to the point of zelle. but people were regularly missing parts of paychecks. and she narrowly missed the state investigation that happened after she left.

    i don’t think she was ever so grateful to have left a job.

  40. quill*

    #2: In addition to it being possible that the scars are from something else, it’s possible that the scars are very old. I second the EAP recommendation because you don’t ever want to make things worse by bringing up previous bad times.

  41. Avril Ludgateaux*

    Re #2

    Tangentially related, but relating to the EAP advice: Am I the only person here who is immediately wary/suspicious of EAPs, even if they are administered by a third party? In much the same way I don’t trust our third-party “wellness” program at work to not share PHI with my employer. My employer’s EAP is an in-house service through the much larger parent department of our small office. There is not a chance I would ever reach out to them, even just to get a referral to a therapist or financial advice, because now that is on record, even if it is officially off record (i.e. somebody affiliated with my employer knows I am having private mental health or financial struggles).

    1. just another queer reader*

      Yeah, my friend feels that way and opted to pursue therapy completely out of pocket.

  42. fhqwhgads*

    If I were #5 I’d probably say “they had some cashflow issues that affected payroll” and leave it at that.

  43. urguncle*

    I had a boss institute what we now call “secret PIPs,” where she would tell you that she took an issue that she had with you to HR and the leadership team and they had wanted to put you on a PIP, but she, she fought SO HARD to keep you off it. So the “compromise” that the leadership team and HR came up with was that she would keep the PIP private between the two of you, no one else had to know and if you failed that PIP, it would be entered into your file.
    It was all fake. I went to HR with my fake PIP, they had never seen it, never even discussed the issues on there that were brought up. These also happened to coincide with things like planned vacations, or inter-departmental moves so that you’d *have* to cancel part of your vacation, or stay for a few weeks longer before being released to your next team.

    1. Great*

      She sounds exactly like my ex-boss.

      I’d love to know what cheerful alternate universe so many of the commenters in this thread live in where managers are always honest and PIPs are never abused as a power trip, bullying tool, money saver, or anything else. I’d love to move there.

  44. BellyButton*

    I have taken my dog many times when I have traveled for work. Just make sure to let the front desk know you are leaving for the day and do not want anyone to enter the room, put the DND sign on the door and leave a post it on the door. If you happen to see housekeeping while leaving, tell them too.
    I know someone whose dog was accidentally let out of the room and then got out the hotel door, it was a nightmare trying to find him in a strange city.

  45. Meep*

    Politely, LW#3, I want to put you in a bubble and protect that naivety of yours.

    My former manager fired a guy for having Chron’s disease, a transwoman the week of her surgery for being trans, and a non-binary person for being non-binary after she repeatedly willfully messed up their pronouns (she told them point blank she was going to use “she/her” pronouns because it was easier for her. The trans person was MAB to boot!). She also tried to get me fired for having the audacity to purchase a house. All were “performance issues”.

    Some people are just evil.

  46. Lcsa99*

    I know #4 was a hypothetical – but I would love to know what the real problem with dress code was that made them ask in the first place!

  47. Seashell*

    Letter #5 reminds of an interview I had after working a part-time job at a law firm during law school and putting that on my resume. The interviewer asked, “Why didn’t you get a job at Smith, Jones, and Frankel?” The answer I gave was that all of the attorneys there were a father and his adult children and they didn’t seem to be looking to add anyone from outside the family. I don’t think I got the job I was interviewing for, so I don’t know if that was a good answer, but it seemed like a weird question.

  48. Just Me*

    LW 2 – there is a very good chance that the employee just hurt himself when he was cooking and in a state of agitation. Many people go into panic mode when they hear that someone is going through serious depression and want to make sure that they notify EVERYONE to protect the colleague/friend/family member/acquaintance, but the best thing you can really do is continue to be supportive and to direct them to help if they need it or confide that they want support. If your colleague is in IMMEDIATE danger, of course, that’s a different story, but generally just showing kindness and support and directing them to mental health services if it comes up is enough.

  49. RPOhno*

    To expand on Allison’s response to LW4, there ARE some specific legal/regulatory limits on what a company can require you to wear/not wear outside of discrimination, but they tend to be health and safety based. For example, a company that employs chemistry lab workers couldn’t reasonably mandate shorts/skirts and sandals without running afoul of occupational safety regulations unless they made an exception for lab spaces (there’s also a note to be made here about whether that example company has to provide and pay for lab attire at that point, but that’s a bit outside the scope here).

  50. Willow*

    LW #43 Can you make a video first draft of your cover letter and then adapt it into a written letter? If you find it easier to express your thoughts verbally this might get you past the blank draft paralysis.

  51. Response to #45*

    I was sexually harassed out of my job at a prestigious employer and received a settlement to quit. I tell people not to mention my name when asked because of the nature of my departure. It’s not about anyone who asked me about the company, it’s about what happened to me. I am not allowed to disclose what happened to me either so I’m sure this rubs some people the wrong way, but, it might not have anything to do with you.

    1. Howie*

      I am so sorry that this happened to you.

      (This type of awful behavior, and the commonality of legally-binding agreements when people depart jobs, including on very good terms, is why the question “wy did you leave your last job?” needs to be banned.)

  52. Tier*

    LW02 I rarely comment but wanted to gently add to any comments already stating that the existence of scars + a recent injury does not necessarily mean self harm. You do have to trust him, as even if he IS self-harming pushing won’t help much. Being a non-judgmental and approachable place is very valuable.

    Relevent experience: me and my spouse have both self harmed. He, specifically, has a number of very visible scars. If he falls over and scrapes his arm on a wall, as he did today, it is still that injury despite his old scars.

  53. Liv*

    Quick note to Letter #1 from a former hotel worker — it’s worth a quick call to confirm that “pet friendly” means you’re allowed to leave your dog there unattended during the work day.

    The hotel I worked at allowed pets, but they could not be left unattended for multiple reasons: some dogs bark more when the owners are away and we had no way of helping, the liability gets iffy if anything happened during the day, the housekeeping staff needs to be able to enter the room but can’t with an unattended pet, etc.

    I’m a huge dog lover myself and hope everything works out, but I’d hate for you to be stuck in a bind at the last minute due to how misleading the term “pet friendly” can be!

  54. Howie*

    OP3, I am sorry to hear that this happened to your friend. Variations of this story – a lying, bullying boss fabricating “problems” about employees for various reasons – have happened to most people I know at least once, and it happened to me three times before I became a manager myself.

    The worst of these three siutations left me literally homeless thanks to an illegal firing during the GFC, despite the offending manager admitting to the CEO that there were no actual problems with my performance. Because I wasn’t going to be disadvantaged like that again by a bully, I took legal action on both other occasions. In both cases, it was revealed that there were no actual problems with my performance: one manager was consistently throwing me under the bus to cover up his own ongoing mistakes, and the other manager was “threatened” by my skills and qualifications.

    None of these situations should have happened, because there was no evidence to back up the accusation of “performance problems”, and a huge pile of easily-accessible evidence that showed that I was one of the best performers. These experiences inspired me to study law, and to enter HR. As the person who now reviews and approves things like PIPs for a large government organisation, I am sorry to say that less than 5% of the PIP requests that I see are actually valid or warranted, and that most of them could have been avoided with half-decent management, support and training. Even the somewhat valid PIPs are not structured in a way that are either measurable or achievable.

    To the commenters in this thread who think OP3’s friend must be lying, exaggerating, or not telling the whole truth, I am going to have to assume that you have either had the immense good fortune of never having this all-too-common-type of bad manager, or that you are the type of person who would also be willing to do this type of thing. It happens every day.

    1. OP 3*

      Well, this statistic about your own experience having at least 95% of the PIP requests you’ve been given being unreasonable is disturbing, to say the least. As for my friend’s situation, no he didn’t go through any such “good reviews with a footnote of couple things to improve upon next time around.” He was a genuinely good employee, but inconveniently occupying a role that a bully in power wanted to just hand someone else… I can say with confidence that he wasn’t just undergoing progressive discipline in the period leading to his bogus PIP, because there weren’t ongoing problems that called for progressive discipline.

      I also have a first-hand unrelated story, in response to some commenters seeming to believe that all employee discipline is both justified and done with fairness. In a different job, I myself was put on a PIP, and ended up terminated. While only that management team would know their true intentions with the PIP, part of that period literally involved facts being misleadingly documented to make me look worse, and “concerns about my ability to do the job” for not knowing certain concepts or how to handle certain situations that stellar employees doing the same role for a longer period weren’t sure how to handle. Literally at one point, when I had accumulated some unplanned overtime as an hourly employee on one individual day, I was threatened to not be paid overtime if I accumulated anything more than the standard hours in that pay period…

      Unlike my friend’s story, I was well aware of my situation being bad for a considerable time before the PIP started, and it wasn’t the literal PIP as my first time knowing about the issues… Indeed, with the talk about bullies in power, more than once before it got to that point, I was sworn at, after issues had already happened, in front of coworkers who didn’t even know about said issues before the bully I answered to chose to swear at me in front of them instead of literally scheduling a private meeting or anything else that wouldn’t have been witnessed by others…

      As a whole, I believe that a PIP conceptually exists for the right reasons, and if it genuinely gets to the point of a PIP or any other form of discipline as the last resort to maintain an employee, (or avoid other consequences like demotion or reassignment, etc) can also be executed correctly. Whether real or imaginary, a PIP should never be the employee’s first time being made aware of recurring problems, and any such cases where it’s exactly that is a clear attempt to unfairly fire someone at worst, and poor management at best…

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