can I change teams because of my coworker’s values, I’m working for my parents’ business, and more

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

1. Can I ask to change teams because of my coworker’s values?

I have an issue that’s minor compared to some I’ve read, but it’s big to me. One of my teammates recently got a new dog. Normally this is great; however, he decided to buy the dog from a breeder, as he wanted one with a specific “look.” I frequently volunteer for a local animal rescue (which he knows). He’s allowed to spend his money how he wants, but this feels like a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity, and I don’t know if I can work with him after this. Would I be out of line to talk with my manager about this and potentially ask to be moved to another team?

Yes, that would be out of line. I agree 100% on the need to adopt from shelters and rescue groups rather than buying from breeders or pet shops, given that millions of dogs and cats are euthanized every year in this country for lack of homes. But it’s not something you can bring into work in this way. You’re expected to find a way to work with people who will have different views from you on many issues, including some that may be core pieces of your identity — whether it’s working with someone who hunts, or opposes reproductive freedom, or all sorts of other things. It’s also highly likely that you work with other people who do things that you would strong oppose if you knew about them, but you’re simply unaware of those beliefs/acts — and any team you moved to would have the same issue too. You can’t quiz all the members of a prospective new team about where they stand on buying from breeders … and even if you did, they could hire someone new a week later whose stance you disagreed with.

You can have any values tests for friends that you want, but at work you have to assume you’ll be working with people who have some views that bother you (and that you’ll have views and take actions that bother them as well).

2. I’m working for my parents’ business and my role is unclear

I used to work in the corporate world in advertising and had an amazing yet strict boss who made me work hard and I loved it! My parents own their own company and are in the process of retiring and asked me to step in and come to work for them, so here I am. My mom, who is the boss-boss, is only in the office a couple days a week and when she is it’s a couple hours a day. Because of this I have the title “office manager” but that doesn’t really mean a thing.

I have a receptionist, working typical 8-5, who comes in 15 minutes early, “doesn’t take a lunch break” but actually does and does not hide it (30-minute break, she eats and watches Netflix, which I see every day) and leaves early at 12:45 pm every Friday because she comes in early and “works through lunch.” I have said something to the boss but she never has my back as she thinks I am too hard on her. I’ve confronted the receptionist several times but she just rolls her eyes or talks back (I hate confrontation and she can tell) and also she is so scary to confront about even the smallest problems with her work because she will start screaming and bawling that she is trying her hardest and everyone is out to get her. She’s also scolded me more than once, saying she is 41 and I’m 35 and have no business telling her what to do, so with that I have given up.

My main question is, she will take an afternoon off (sick or vacation) and count those hours as physically working and still leave at 12:45 pm on Friday. Is this legal? It’s almost like she’s getting paid twice. I’m so confused. I’ve just never worked anywhere that is so lackadaisical, it drives me insane!

You are focusing on the wrong things!

First, though, if you’re saying that the receptionist takes time off but doesn’t charge it to her PTO balance, that’s not illegal (the law leaves stuff like that up to employers) but it’s presumably against your office policy and someone can require her to use real time off for it. If she justifies leaving early on Friday by saying she’s already worked 40 hours that week when you know that she hasn’t, it’s the same thing — the law doesn’t care, but your organization presumably does and can tell her to stop.

More importantly, though: I can’t tell if you’re actually in charge of the receptionist or not. If you’re not her manager, you can drop this entirely; you’ve alerted the person in charge (your mom) and she doesn’t care, so it’s officially not your problem. If you are her manager, though, then you need to find out from your mom exactly what authority you have so that you can begin managing her accordingly — which would mean making it very clear she cannot scream at you or anyone else, roll her eyes at people, misrepresent her lunch break or time off, or otherwise violate office rules, and then backing that up with real consequences if it continues, including firing her if necessary. But again, you need your mom on board with that, which leads to the next problem…

Working for a parent in a family business is tough under the best of circumstances; it’s basically impossible in the ones you’ve described, where your parent won’t back you up on anything and is fine with an employee yelling at another employee. This situation is bad for you, professionally and otherwise, and I strongly urge you to get out unless (a) you’re given clearly defined authority that your parents will back you up on or (b) there’s a clear and definite timeline for you getting that authority, and you have your own internal deadline for moving on if that doesn’t happen.

3. Can I eat lunch at my desk?

I am hoping you can help me figure out the norms around eating lunch at my desk. I just started a new job and decided to work from the office. Most people are working from home. One or two days a week there is someone else sitting in a cubicle in my area and the rest of the week it’s just me in a cubicle and one or two people in one of the surrounding offices. The cubicles are low, so people can definitely see me if they walk by.

There is a kitchen nearby with seating, but I haven’t seen anyone sit in it. Eating my lunch there would be uncomfortable for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’m disabled and have chronic pain. The chairs in the kitchen area are uncomfortable for me and I don’t particularly want to move my lumbar support, footrest, etc. to the kitchen and back every day. Second, it’s not a separate room entirely—it’s part of a hallway that people walk through to get to their desks and I’m concerned about sitting in an area like that unmasked for an extended period of time due to Covid.

Is it okay for me to eat at my desk? Is it only okay when no one else is working at a nearby cubicle? Would it be weird if I brought an apron to cover my clothes while I eat? I’ve only ever had a private office before this job, so I have no idea about the norms other than not bringing smelly food.

Pre-Covid — or now, if it’s one of the days where there’s no one near you — I’d say go ahead and eat at your desk. It’s generally fine and you’ll usually know if it’s not. Now, though, I’d be concerned about whether people nearby will be worried about you being near them unmasked while you eat. If they’re staying masked themselves (and thus showing a continued interest in being cautious), it’s worth asking your boss or HR whether there’s a more isolated space (even an empty office you could borrow) to eat in so everyone stays safe.

4. How do I tell a bunch of interviewers I’ve decided to stay at my current job?

Due to some changes at work, I started applying to jobs. In the last week I’ve done eight first round interviews, invited back for second-and-final rounds at four places, and already have one *very* nice offer in hand.

The thing is, I’ve realized doing all these interviews that I’m actually pretty happy with the day to day of my job. My direct manager is great, incredibly supportive of finding me projects that match my interests and providing opportunities for growth. I was on the interview panel for half the people my group, so it’s no surprise that I work really well with my teammates. I’ve decided none of the shenanigans the C-suite have pulled outweigh those factors … for now.

That “…for now” has me worried though. My industry is small and gossipy. How do I withdraw from all my interviews (and decline the one offer on the table) gracefully, and leave the door open for potentially reapplying in the future, in case the executives at my company make the place unbearable or I eventually outgrow my current role?

People do this all the time and it’s not a big deal. You can simply say, “I really appreciate the time you’ve spent talking with me so far. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided now isn’t the right time for me to leave my job so I need to withdraw from consideration, but I’d love to talk with you in the future if my situation changes.” And you can say a similar version of that to the place that made you an offer too, just tweaking the language slightly.

5. Can you mention a rescinded offer in your resume?

I have a friend who has been out of work for a while. He’s getting to the point where he is getting questions as to why it is taking him so long to find a job. He has a lead on a position at a major corporation. However, he is concerned because other companies in this field have recently had layoffs and rescinded offers. If he gets an offer but it is rescinded due to the economy, how does he address it in his work history? He’d like to be able to reference it so that other companies know that he was able to get a plum job. Can one put this rescinded offer on a resume? It seems odd to me. If there is an opportunity for a cover letter, it’s more obvious where and what to say, but many online applications don’t have a place for cover letters.

A rescinded offer shouldn’t go on his resume or cover letter. If asked in conversation about what he’s been doing, he can mention that he had an offer lined up that was rescinded due to a hiring freeze (or whatever the circumstances were), but putting it in a resume or cover letter would be putting weight on it that employers won’t think it warrants. Employers aren’t likely to be especially moved that he got the offer — they’re more interested in what people actually do once they’re in the job.

{ 523 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please no comments debating dog/cat breeding, explaining the reasons you personally bought from a breeder, your opinions of rescue groups you’ve dealt with, etc. Stay focused on advice to the letter-writers. Thank you.

    Updated to add: I am removing comments that ignore this request.

  2. PollyQ*

    LW#1 — You can also assume that you are doing things that are antithetical to the values of some of your coworkers. Can you imagine the chaos if every employee demanded that they only work with people who share all the same social & political values? Finally, to borrow a phrase from Captain Awkward, your colleague did not buy a pet from a breeder AT you. It is not a “slap in the face” for someone to do something differently from you in their private, personal life.

    1. RadManCF*

      Society functions because we find ways to cooperate with people with differing viewpoints. I’m sure OP wouldn’t oppose fixing potholes on their street just because their purebred puppy buying coworker supports the idea…

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        I’m not quite sure what you mean by your example. Do you mean that if you don’t actively lobby your local government to fix potholes that you must be pro-pothole?

        1. Audrey Puffins*

          I think RadManCF just meant that while you might disagree with people on some things, that doesn’t mean you will disagree with them on all things, so there’s no reason why you can’t work with someone who disagrees with you on one particular value (as long as these values are based in differing opinions and nothing actively harmful/discriminatory/illegal/etc).

          1. Green great dragon*

            Honestly, even if you think their views are actively harmful/discriminatory/illegal you may still have to work with them. Both sides of the abortion debate are considered so by the other side, narrow views of gender roles are discriminatory, speeding and other driving-related illegalities are unfortunately often considered acceptable, illegal drug use is not that uncommon…

            1. Less Bread More Taxes*

              Yeah I think the dog thing is a bad hill to die on (and I’m someone who literally cut off a friend in part because she bought a dog from a breeder, too) – but, I do think there is a line that you get to draw for yourself. When a coworker doesn’t believe you are deserving of the same rights that they are, for example, or doesn’t believe you are a person at all, I think you do have the right to not work with that person. Obviously this is entirely dependent on the company and their own views on the subject, but I think a lot of people would rightfully choose that hill to die on.

              1. Green great dragon*

                Oh, agreed. There’s a line you draw for yourself, and there’s also a line where most companies would accept that’s a valid reason not to work with someone (I hope most companies would agree your examples are over the line, at least if they are voiced at work). Just pointing out that generally even harmful/illegal may not be sufficient.

              2. Claire W*

                Absolutely this – as a woman in tech, I will refuse to work in teams where I’d be working either with or under someone who believes I’m not intellectually as capable as they are based on my gender. But that’s because it will have a heavy impact on ny work and my career. But I can’t refuse to work with someone who, say, dislikes my green hair or thinks I shouldn’t have lived with my husband before we married…

                1. NananaN*

                  As another woman in tech… my first tech lead and mentor had some grossly sexist ideas that he was not afraid to share in front of me. Oh, he didn’t think they applied to _me_, obviously, but he was just saying… and, you know, he just thinks this feminism thing goes to far sometimes, so I needed to understand… and… and…
                  I got to where I felt comfortable arguing with him a bit, or just rolling my eyes and telling him I firmly disagreed and changing the subject. I learned a lot from him, but I had trouble respecting him as a person. That’s how I drew the line — sometimes you have to separate what you know about a person professionally from what you know about them personally.

              3. CommanderBanana*

                Same. While I personally find purchasing dogs from breeders repugnant at best and cruel and inhumane at worst, this isn’t something you can bring into the workplace (unless you are actually working at a dog rescue). If I were supervising someone who made this request, even though I personally agree with them, I wouldn’t be able to honor it.

            2. RadManCF*

              To answer with another analogy, if I was stuck down a well with Reinhard Heydrich, and the only way out was to work with him, I absolutely would. You could always knock him unconscious and toss him back in after climbing out.

            3. DrunkAtAWedding*

              I was just thinking abortion debate, because, whatever your views there, you’d think we could all agree that preventing unwanted pregnancy in the first place via education, contraception, encouraging consent/discouraging assault is generally a good thing, and we could all theoretically work together on that. That’s exactly the example where you could work with someone whose views you find abhorrent for the common good.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I think they meant that if OP wanted the potholes fixed, they would likely collaborate with everybody else who wanted the potholes fixed and probably wouldn’t refuse to lobby the local government just because somebody who bought from a breeder was also lobbying or taking part in the campaign.

      2. Lacey*

        Yes, I’m baffled that she’s taking it personally. He didn’t adopt a dog from a breeder to spite her!

        Some of my coworkers make life choices I think are foolish or wrong, but none of that is trying to attack me somehow.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Agreed – he’s not buying a purebred dog AT OP.
          OP, there’s really no place to go. There’s going to be someone who does not share your values – even things you feel very strong about – everywhere.
          The important thing is to demonstrate that you can not only work with this person, but that you can do so *professionally*. Doing otherwise will not get him to See The Light about purebreds – it will only paint you as precious and fragile and possibly limit you professionally (not saying that you would, just saying that you have to get along with him politely and professionally, not just exist on the same team).

        2. IDon'tGetIt*

          Yes. This is one of the most entitled questions that has come through this site in a long time. The only OP can avoid such value differences in the future is to open up their own, one-employee business. It is baffling indeed.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      And in fact it’s not generally beneficial to have a bunch of coworkers that all have the same political and social values. That’s how you end up with a lack of diversity at work because people start to assume what your values are based on your demographics.

      I’ve had to stop a coworker multiple times from trying to get us to hire specific candidates for jobs because “they’re just like us and we’d all get along so well” when she herself assumes everyone shares her politics and anyone that doesn’t must be a terrible person. She has a hard time remembering when I tell her that’s how you end up with a team consisting solely of middle-aged liberal white women, and how that should not be our goal.

      1. Wintermute*

        This is an excellent point. This is how you get teams that are out of touch with their customers and totally blindsided when something they thought was just super falls totally flat with their intended consumer base.

        In most cases your customers, clients and users are a diverse base, a team that is made up of people that are entirely of one bent in any regard, whether that’s socioeconomic background or ideology, will not be able to understand how customers may see things, they’ll miss political connotations, they’ll fail to understand how things that seem common-sense or self-evident to them are wrong-headed or even offensive to their customers, or you may be putting out things you think are just fine but are alarming dog whistles to some of your users.

    3. Jonquil*

      Exactly! The only time it should be a factor is if the opposing values are impacting on you or your coworkers ability to do your jobs. For example, one of the letters from the before times where a “dog friendly office” caused problems for coworkers with dog allergies and phobias. In this case it doesn’t even sound like he talks about the dog very much, so it seems like a big overreaction on LW 1’s part.

    4. LK*

      If I decided to work only with people who shared my values, I imagine I’d be working by myself most of the time.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I generally take this tack, but I need a certain level of similarity in overall team values or else I feel very disheartened. In other words, assuming there’s no egregious discrimination going on, when there’s one coworker who feels differently, I may think poorly of their choices, but I consider it none of my business unless it affects the work environment. Otoh, when I worked for a company where I clearly didn’t hold the prevailing values (and I felt strongly that the views were harmful), I needed to leave because I was never going to make meaningful connections (beyond the 2-3 others who also left) and it felt like I was compromising my values to stay there.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I think there’s a big difference between working for a company that opposes your values and working with a coworker that does the same.

          If I found out one of my coworkers was part of an MLM, I’d roll my eyes and ask a manager to intervene if they were badgering me at work. On the other hand, I turned down an offer to do tech support for an MLM-like company because I didn’t feel like I could support a predatory business. (Fortunately, I was able to pick and choose; I realize not everyone can and that every company has problematic aspects.)

      2. Smithy*

        As someone who’s always worked in nonprofits, this has been my take. I work best when there’s some common value alignment.

        However, even then there will inevitably be areas where the mission of the organization does not entirely carry over into all world views – and again, that’s not bad. In my line of work, political primary season is always a fun reminder on where differences can be, but as someone who’s always worked for organizations with missions primarily looking at people – differences around animals are the ones I see come up the most. One organization nearly had a physical fight in the kitchen around whether or not we were ok with meat going into the microwave.

        While that result is comically bad, it’s always stuck out to me that striving for that complete level of workplace homogeneity leads to a road where you’re fighting with coworkers on what goes into the microwave.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree, however that’s not necessarily a ridiculous fight if, for instance, you have a colleague who keeps kosher. Which is not to be pedantic, but to make a point that there’s a difference between deeply held beliefs and actions that actually impact people at work. Someone getting a puppy from a breeder doesn’t impact you *at work*, so at work that’s absolutely none of your business and you need to not bring it up as a fight. If you’re a vegetarian and your work doesn’t order from somewhere with vegetarian options, you’re not then evangelizing your beliefs to ask for some more friendly lunch options, but you would be if you scoffed constantly at your coworkers turkey sandwich.

          Point being, sometimes you have to work with people who live their lives differently than you, and common value alignment is great (especially in nonprofits where you, in theory, all care about the mission of the organization), but only to a point. And you do have to be both tolerant and accommodating when the points of divergence have real impact.

          1. Smithy*

            Funny you should mention keeping kosher, as this microwave fight did happen at an Israeli ngo – but not around kashrut. The overall fight was about whether or not any meat should ever be microwaved in the office as the smell of warmed meat was offensive to vegetarians/vegans.

            All to say, had the issue been about ensuring spaces kept for kosher colleagues to store/prepare food remained separate – I easily imagine that conversation being held far more pragmatically because of the overall familiarity of the office.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Ha. Sigh. Part of HR life is sometimes trying to find pragmatic solutions to ridiculous problems.

              1. Smithy*


                In this office, I could easily see someone making the case that the solution was to let everyone fight about this once a quarter to let steam off provided no physical violence was ever involved. Basically just to validate that this was an office full of people with strong values based convictions who felt better when they were heard.

                I wouldn’t hold that up as preferred approach, but if anything just to show the mud you can end up stuck in if this is a road you really want to go down. In the US, I’ve worked other nonprofits with people based missions that also have a high number of staff clearly committed to animal rights. Depending on the office/how that’s voiced – I will make a choice of whether or not I want to wear my vintage coats to the office that have fur collars. I’m ok with that choice, have thought about it and certainly happy to have the conversation. But am also mindful of my colleagues and where it is and is not worth it.

            2. Purple Goblin*

              “as the smell of warmed meat was offensive to vegetarians/vegans”

              Offensive as in “that offends my sensibilities,” or similar to a perfume sensitivity?

              This fascinates me.

              1. Ness*

                I’m a long-time vegetarian who has never in my life intentionally eaten beef or pork (my parents were vegetarians too), and I often think meat smells delicious. *Shrug*

              2. Smithy*

                If I recall properly, it was more along the lines of the the smell of microwaving meat made them feel sick. Now….whether that’s physically ill in the way a scented candle might cause a migraine to vs physically ill because of a connection to values…I never explored the issue.

                As kitchen issues of nonprofits go….as heated as this could get…it’s also one of the few nonprofits I’ve worked for that hired a daily cleaner who had the kitchen under his remit. So maybe it was because we weren’t fighting about the fact that no one was cleaning coffee cups that this ended up being an issue? Mind you, this is also the smallest nonprofit I ever worked for. All of the others were FAR larger and spent far less on cleaning services for common spaces like the kitchen.

          2. My Cheap Ass Rolls*

            I think this is a really great way to distinguish things. If it doesn’t impact you at work, it’s not something you should be concerned with at work. Unless OP’s work is specifically about shutting down dog breeders, this really doesn’t have anything to do with work. They don’t have to hang out with him socially, they just have to work collegially.

          3. a clockwork lemon*

            It’s on the kosher-keeper to manage their own dietary needs. If their level of observance is so strict that they require separate cooking appliances, it’s on them to bring dairy-free lunches or food that doesn’t need to be reheated in a microwave. Enforcing a strict “no meat in the microwave” policy to accommodate a single kosher-keeping employee is not a reasonable religious accommodation.

      3. Herber*

        The fact that people think opposite opinions might give you the right not to work with someone is in part what is wrong with the world. Is OP so perfect and right that no one disagrees with anything they do? I find it down right terrifying that someone even thinks this is a possibility……

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          I agree. Its so upsetting to me that so many people feel justified in labeling anyone that doesn’t share their values/opinions as ‘Bad People’ – and therefor feel justified in treating them like ‘Bad People’ – with thinly veiled disgust at best, all the way up to outright hostility and anger.
          Even fellow humans they may agree with 99% and have known in a positive way for years, that one ‘sin’ of disagreeing on a single topic is often enough to chuck them over into the Deserving of Judgement and Second-Class-Citizenship camp.

      4. Worldwalker*

        Exactly. The only person who is 100% like you is you-today. Not even you-yesterday; you and your ideals have changed and evolved, however slightly, since yesterday, and they’ll change again by tomorrow. That is how it has been since the beginning.

      5. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

        If I decided to work only with people who LIVED my values 100% of the time, I couldn’t even work with myself lol.

        Like, it’s very possible that this coworker agrees generally with LW about adopting rather than shopping, but acted outside that value in this instance, for any number of reasons. No one lives up to their own moral code all the time–we definitely aren’t going to live up to the codes of every coworker as well!

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      I deliberately never discuss politics or any other remotely controversial issues with my colleagues because, if they have views that are offensive to me (or I do to them), we’re still going to have to work together regardless. Same with following colleagues on social media. I just imagine that everyone has the same political opinions as I do for the sake of office harmony. (Of course, if someone decided to be an extremely vocal bigot, or decided to start harassing anyone who doesn’t share their views, that’s a different situation.)

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        This is where I am too. I deliberately choose to not ask my coworkers’ opinions on controversial topics, we continue to get along, and no one ends up miserable. It helps that the firm we are in has a decent code of conduct, so I and my coworkers can all wordlessly and without discussion agree that while we are at work we will all abide by the spirit and letter of the code of conduct and everyone is happy.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I am an election worker (low level, checking voters in and giving them the correct ballots). We are paired R+D for almost every action. We are forbidden to talk politics while we are there.

          And it works out nicely. We have a good time and work together as a team. Yesterday’s team was very mixed, both ethnically and politically.

          (In Ohio, you have to be up to date on your voting to be a poll worker) I did feel sorry for one party’s workers, because in yesterday’s primary almost all of their races were unopposed

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I have worked the polls since 2016 primary and cosign all of this. We knew each others affiliation because the precinct captain checked to make sure we had a representative split with D, R, and unaffliated voters. It didn’t get in the way of us being able to work together or help out voters who made it very clear they had completely different views than the 80% Black/Native/Hispanic voters who came to the polling station (e.g. voters came with MAGA hats, a bunch of Proud Boy paraphernalia, That green and black shield thing that is common with another group of bigots). All the workers agree that voting should be easy, fast, and fair and it didn’t matter how we wanted the vote to go personally.

            1. Rain's Small Hands*

              I’m also a poll worker. By and large we firmly hold that VOTING is the important thing, not who you vote for. Yeah, its personally not easy for me to act as an assistant (with a second member of the team from a different party) when a voter wants to vote for a candidate I find abhorrent. But I’m there to help them vote, not have a personal opinion about who they vote for.

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              Ohio doesn’t have registration by party, but you have to ask for a Republican, Democratic, or Issues Only primary ballot. And which ballot you vote in the primary is a matter of public record. So it’s pretty easy to tell if someone considers themself a member of either major party.

              1. Clisby*

                We have to ask for Republican or Democratic ballots in primaries here, too (SC) but anybody who drew any conclusions from that would be an idiot. I generally identify as Democrat, but I’ve voted in the Republican primary plenty of times – it depends on which races are contested, etc. For example, in 2012 Barack Obama was uncontested in the Democratic presidential primary. So of course I voted in the Republican presidential primary. It’s no different for the down-ballot races.

            2. Kit*

              Closed-primary states like OH and PA have party affiliation as a component of voter registration. It’s usually easier to change than your address, as far as these things go, but it’s on file at the department of elections. If you’re a member of a party with no candidates, you may not have a valid ballot in the primary, and registered independents/unaffiliated voters also don’t get to vote in the primary, unless there’s a ballot measure or other such nonpartisan option to register one’s vote on.

              The actual book of voters that they have us sign in on includes name, address, and party affiliation in order to make sure that we’re given the correct ballot, it’s very straightforward in practice!

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this is where I’m at as well. It can get rather uncomfortable when you know too much about a coworker. A former teammate was so vocally child free that she sounded anti-children to me as a parent. I don’t talk about my kid much at work, except in passing, like when I say I have to leave early or come in late because I’m taking him to an appointment (we work pretty independently, and as long as we attend the meetings we’ve agreed to attend, we give notice of absences rather than ask permission). Every time someone mentioned their kid, that coworker would bring up her child free status, and it got annoying after a while, because it felt like she was judging parents for choosing to have kids. When I finally had enough, I just asked to talk to her in private, peer to peer, and said something like “You have the right to your opinion, and the right to express it at appropriate times, but do you really have to say you’re child free every time someone mentions their kid in your hearing?” She looked a bit shocked, so I continued with “As a parent, it really feels like you’re judging people for choosing to have kids, and I wish you’d stop.” She did stop, and we gradually discovered that we actually had quite a lot in common otherwise. We’re both sci-fi and movie geeks, for one thing. I love reading, and she’s a published author with one short story in an anthology. I read it, and liked it, and I hope she’s going to write more. When she got another job and left, we were good work friends.

        1. WellRed*

          This child free person is applauding you for doing this. And I’m sure all her future coworkers will benefit.

          1. londonedit*

            Seconded. It’s like the ‘How do you know someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you’ joke – that’s come about because there is a branch of militant veganism that has led to all vegans being tarred with the same brush. Same for yoga/running/keto diets/anything else people get particularly passionate about. You don’t want to be *that* person who’s only known for banging on all day about how everyone should live their lives in the same way they do.

            1. Things have nuance!*

              This is exactly how the “adopt, don’t shop” crowd sounds when they start to deal in absolutes. It’s bizarre to me to hear the decision of where to get your dog framed as a “value,” as if there was a moral component to it. Many people who buy from breeders would not ever adopt a rescue dog for their own personal and valid reasons, so it shouldn’t be viewed as a “if they buy a dog, another dog’s losing out on a home” situation. It’s great to rescue dogs if you have the right kind of situation to attend to their unique challenges, but people shouldn’t be treated like pariahs for making a decision that is best for their personal life and needs, whether it’s their diet, pet choices, hobbies, etc. I would find this behavior very off-putting for a coworker, who I would expect to treat me as a well-rounded individual.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                For me it’s not the “if you buy a dog, a dog is losing a home,” it’s because there is zero oversight, licensing, or inspection of dog breeding operations.

                1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  And the solution to that is to lobby your congress critters to get legislation that includes those things passed – not to get upset with the buyer of the animal.

              2. A Cita*

                I think I’m a quadruple threat: vegan, child free, yoga/running, and I got my dog from a reputable breeder. I don’t ever overly share any of those facts to coworkers or acquaintances; I only share the amount that is appropriate for small talk…what did you get for lunch? What are your plans for the weekend? Although admittedly, I talk way to much about my dog to my friends (probably like kid talk)–I’m a new pup parent; I can’t help it (I do try to rein it in though!)

            2. quill*

              Ah yes, the fact-free vegan will definitely tell you what to eat and how to eat it. And make you wonder what planet they got their information on.

              Personally, I would have much more charitable thoughts towards a coworker who got a dog from a (attempting to be reputable!) breeder than one who, say, cropped it’s ears. There’s almost as much animal advice floating around as diet or kids advice, and there’s conversations to be had about whether it does any good to convince individuals to make different purchasing decisions when the effort could be directed towards institutions and corporations. (This is as true when pet breeding for profit is the subject as it is when the discussion is about plastic straws, or Styrofoam containers.)

              1. TrixieD*

                This is off the beaten path, but I was at a National Night Out event last night where they were serving fajitas, beans, rice and nachos with cheese and jalapenos.
                One of the people attending was just drinking a bottle of water. When one of the event organizers asked if he wanted anything to eat, he replied that he was vegan, and that his water was enough. That instantly spurred all the busy-bodies to try and come up with a solution:
                “We can take the meat out of the fajitas!” (Um, nope)
                “You can just eat the beans!” (But lard)
                “You can just eat the rice!” (But made with chicken broth)
                “You can just eat the nachos!” (But cheese)
                But my favorite one was, “That’s fine, I’ll make you some shrimp.”

        2. Lacey*

          Good for you! I’ve had a couple of semi vocal child free coworkers. I probably hear about it more bc I also don’t have kids and they assume it’s by choice. But they’re also charming to people’s kids when they’re in the office for a few minutes and celebrate the new births and what not.

          1. Clisby*

            I’m not child-free, but will always be dog-free. That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy for co-workers enjoying their dogs. The fact that I would never want a dog doesn’t mean I hate them or their owners.

        3. Art3mis*

          I’m also childfree and I’ve left online CF communities because there are so many vocal and militant anti child people in them. I don’t like kids, I don’t enjoy their company, but I don’t wish them any harm. They are like ferrets. Sure they are cute, but they smell weird and I don’t want to have one of my own. I certainly wouldn’t hurt one and I would absolutely prevent someone else from hurting one. But those people would laugh and news stories of kids getting hurt or killed. So, thank you for calling someone out. I don’t think your coworker was one of those types, but still. Stop them before they go over the edge.

          1. smeep248*

            It was hard for me to realize that all the things I don’t like about kids are ways I was not allowed to be a kid (too loud, too rambunctious, too random, too needy, too whiny, too … anything). People joke that I am just like my dad since he didn’t like kids either – nope just realized that while he was a great dad in some ways, in other ways he legitimately caused my trauma with how he reacted to me acting like a child. Oof.

      3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Exactly. Unfortunately during the last two years I found out way too much about my coworkers beliefs. It’s just things you can’t unknow. I still had to work with them. Remote helped, but it was awkward.

        I have a new job now, remote and I’m back to knowing zero about my coworker’s views. It’s nice.

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          I’m guessing your childfree coworker was so vocal because of how often we get lecture and questions and pressure around our choices that we’re very sensitive to mentions of children, and how often talk about children tends to take over a conversation: trust me, parents do it more than you realize! Most of us know it isn’t malicious, it’s a common talking point for many.

          I can tell you how rarely people ask me about my interests and plans unless I bring them up; I get asked most often about my plans for children and marriage as if OF COURSE that’d be my plan! After all, I’m only 30 (wrong! I’m 46!), and it’s peak baby making time, don’t you know…. etc. I get asked what my favorite things to do are, what my life goals are, and what my day to day looks like far less often, so I feel like I have to pointedly bring it up a lot. And then fend off aforementioned “family/children” lectures, which is exhausting to say the least.

          It’s great that you made a point of finding something to connect with her on that doesn’t involve children! I truly wish people did that more often, personally, because the choice not to participate in the American Dream can be isolating in the worst way, and it shouldn’t be.

          1. pope suburban*

            I agree, and I think allathian handled it perfectly. It can be very easy to slip over into a place that is unwittingly adversarial when you are constantly being bothered or singled out about something. A direct, matter-of-fact observation that you might want to back off is a great way to both alert someone to their behavior, and allow a reset going forward. Lord knows I am aware how frustrating it is to hear that I don’t have real responsibilities, or I don’t do enough to pick up slack (Particularly galling after recent years, which have been hard for us all, no matter what), or that my family constellation is somehow lesser or invalid. I’m lucky enough to have been mostly spared that at work, but man, if I hadn’t been so fortunate? I can easily see starting to take the offensive position to stop those comments before they start. This sounds like a graceful resolution to a normal human error, and that’s always nice to see.

            1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

              It really was! I was thrilled to read it: they found so. much. common ground. I’d personally love to get out of the habit of defending (and feeling defensive about!) my life choices, and it’s so hard. There’s always the feeling that I’m Not An Adult going on, sometimes from a certain type of parent (really, do they think having the responsibility of my own business, a full time job, AND an elderly — if still mostly independent — mother is somehow less because I live with her? It doesn’t make sense in my life to support 2 households when we can pool together for one!), sometimes from people in general who turn up their noses of multigenerational living, which is common in the Black community, especially for women. And some is internal because I do sort of feel like I should have my own space at my age, even if I do better living with at least one other person, when I think about it.

              1. pope suburban*

                Yes! And there are some workplace cultures where this is extra hard. My previous position, for example, extended unlimited slack to parents, while I had to either schedule appointments for my lunch hour or simply go without. There was simply no recognition that I might need to go to the doctor during business hours, or that I might have a home emergency that needed attention. I had to work myself to exhaustion for…nothing! So if the colleague in question had felt those kinds of pressures in another office, I totally understand the feeling of needing to defend herself or be super-clear about her choices. It’s a shame, because at the end of the day, we all have responsibilities, necessary maintenance, and emergencies. We’re all human. Building an understanding of that into working culture so that all of us have flex and feel respected would go a long way to solving a lot of problems.

        2. Juliet*

          One of the many reasons why I’m not “friends” with nor follow most co-workers on social media. The less I know about things not related to work, the better.

      4. Worldwalker*

        “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a good policy for anything potentially controversial at work. We don’t have to be best buddies with people, just get along during the work day. We can do that very well without knowing what they think about politics, religion, or the best game console.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep. I often think about how easy it is in my industry and location to just blithely assume that everyone thinks the same as you – I work in a creative industry and in a city where you can broadly assume people won’t be fans of the current government, will support equal rights for women and minorities, and will be at least left-leaning politically (which has a different connotation here than in the US). But intellectually I also know that can’t be true, and I do sometimes feel uncomfortable in group conversations where someone’s banging the ‘Tory scum’ drum, for example, and you just don’t know how everyone else in the group actually feels. Thankfully in Britain topics like politics and religion aren’t generally seen as appropriate for polite conversation, but of course they can and do come up at work, and I always think it’s better to operate on the basis that no one needs to know all about my political/religious beliefs, or lack of, and I don’t need to know about theirs.

          1. Peachtree*

            Agree so much! My partner is a civil servant who worked for a very well-known UK minister in his office a few years ago (in a role that was civil service, not Tory party, ie she was not there for her own political views). It made it a bit awkward when people were very openly slagging him off a while back and I had to say … “actually I think he’s a nice guy, even if you disagree with his policies?”. In short, you shouldn’t assume that even those who are liberal minded will agree with your ranting about the person behind the policy!

            And for the record, the minister was someone who was socially liberal, and supported reproductive rights in particular, so there wasn’t any hypocrisy or bigotry that would justify disliking the individual over the policies.

      5. Fledge Mulholland*

        I tend to adhere to this as well. But in this particular case, the coworker sharing they got a new dog should be considered a normal and apolitical thing to share at work.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, I thought that, too. Tons of people buy dogs from breeders, despite what other people think of that. It’s not like he publicly announced he had bought a dog so he could get into the dog-fighting business.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I overheard one colleague and his wife being pretty sexist at a team party one time and another woman once wore an anti-abortion tee shirt to a company event (I still am baffled at how she thought that was an appropriate thing to wear to a work event!). It definitely impacted my personal opinions on those employees but I continued having to work with them. Now I try to learn as little as I can about my coworkers honestly because I want to minimize the chance of learning something that affects my personal opinion of them.

        To be quite frank I think OP needs a bit of a reality check beyond just what is appropriate in the office here though. I understand this is an important issue to them, and if it affects how you view this person that is one thing. But it is wildly overdramatic to call it a “slap in the face” when his decision to buy a puppy from a breeder just has literally nothing to do with OP at all. Judge him silently and complain to your friends, but anything beyond that is really not reasonable.

        1. Observer*

          To be quite frank I think OP needs a bit of a reality check beyond just what is appropriate in the office here though. I understand this is an important issue to them, and if it affects how you view this person that is one thing. But it is wildly overdramatic to call it a “slap in the face” when his decision to buy a puppy from a breeder just has literally nothing to do with OP at all.?i>

          Yes, I had the same thought. The reaction here is really outsized.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I get the feeling that the OP is quite young and new to the working world, and has mostly been around people who have similar beliefs and opinions to theirs prior to now. They’re not accustomed to a world of widely differing attitudes and beliefs.

      7. Rain's Small Hands*

        I worked in a fairly liberal office in a blue state that had a partner office in a red state. We always said “they are really nice people, just DON’T talk religion or politics.” They also respected that rule. And that worked well. And the office was full of people that I enjoyed when I visited – but I did stay away from religion and politics.

      8. Observer*

        (Of course, if someone decided to be an extremely vocal bigot, or decided to start harassing anyone who doesn’t share their views, that’s a different situation.)

        OP, *THIS* is where you draw the line.

        If your coworker keeps on trying to talk to you about his dog and how it’s SO much better than “those worthless mutts” that “waste your time with” or anything like that, you have an issue and I would hope that your manager would intervene. Otherwise?

        PS Don’t goad him! Don’t start trying to change his mind of convince him that he did the wrong thing. And since you are having such an outsized reaction, I do want to point out that trying to convince him to change his mind now that he has the dog would run counter to the values you espouse – that dog now has a home and it should not be punished for the sins of its breeder.

      9. MsClaw*

        I prefer to know as little as possible of my colleagues’ beliefs because that makes it easier for me to work with them. I find the less I know about coworkers in terms of their religion, politics, etc , the more I like them (there are exceptions but this has been the general rule).

        I definitely have had to work with people I found utterly repellent and who probably thought I was the antichrist. It’s just something you have to learn to do. Unless the person involved is actively harassing you or working to make your life *at work* harder, this is just the reality of the working world.

      10. sofar*

        Same. I find it strange that companies are encouraging people to “bring your fully authentic self” to work. I’m like, “Ummm, no I’m good bringing my un-authentic professional self to work, thanks. I see it as part of my job to work well and professionally with everyone.

        If a person has hateful views and they espouse those values publicly, the company can always choose to terminate them (so as not to be associated). But that’s not what’s happening here. I personally (as a shelter volunteer) am against breeding pets for profit, but having a job (and paycheck) lets me volunteer my time to help my cause. And part of that is working with people who may have purchased a pet from a breeder.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          My “fully authentic” self is parked on the couch, covered in dog hair, and usually has crumbs/dog slobber all over herself, so no, I wouldn’t bring that one to work.

    6. EPLawyer*

      OP1 I can almost guarantee you that the person buying the dog wasn’t even THINKING about you and your values when making the decision. Sounds harsh but its true. People don’t spend NEARLY as much time thinking about us as we think they do.

      You are taking this personally when it really wasn’t. The person did not say “Oh I know how I can REALLY annoy my coworker who I know volunteers for a rescue, I will buy from a DOG BREEDER. That will show her.” This was done done as a “slap in the face” to you. The person bought the dog they wanted. that’s it.

      1. Napster*

        “People don’t spend NEARLY as much time thinking about us as we think they do.”

        THIS. I have repeated these wise words to my kids for years, because kids/teens are always worried about what everybody else thinks of them. But this reminder is just as applicable to us adults, who seem to think we are far more fascinating to others than we actually are, and who are hell-bent on taking others’ words and actions as personal affronts.

        1. Straw Into Gold*

          A very wise person once wrote:

          When we’re twenty, we worry about what other people think about us.
          When we’re forty, we don’t care what other people think about us.
          When we’re sixty, we realize – they were never thinking about us in the first place.

          Sometimes it’s best to skip ahead to sixty!

          1. Violet Fox*

            Everyone is the main character in their own life. No one is the main character in someone else’s life

      2. ThatGirl*

        All of this. She wasn’t doing it to spite the OP, or probably even thinking about OP *at all*. She was doing what she wanted, and what worked best for her/her family, without regard to her coworkers — which, honestly, is how it should be for 99% of decisions outside work.

      3. Jade*

        I suspect its less about it being personal, and more about feeling like this coworker doesn’t care about dogs to the same extent as LW, and that action makes her think coworker is a bad person. To me, if somebody I know and like buys a dog from a breeder (puppy mills anyway) my initial thought is, this person is either ignorant, selfish, or just uncaring about the suffering of these animals, and how can I keep someone like this in my life?

        I know its not personal, its not meant to upset me, but it still colors my opinion of somebody.

        1. ThatGirl*

          You’re allowed to let it affect your opinion; that’s part of being human. But the OP says it feels like a slap in the face of their core identity — I think that’s pretty much the definition of taking it personally.

        2. Observer*

          suspect its less about it being personal,

          Except that the OP quite specifically makes it personal. They say that it’s “a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity“. That’s personal.

          but it still colors my opinion of somebody

          Which is fine, normal, and reasonable. There are a lot of things that color my *personal* opinion of people, too. We all do that. But that’s very different, and a far cry from “I don’t know if I can work with him after this

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Exactly this. Having an internal grumble about someone because they’ve done something to lower your opinion of them – totally normal. You are still expected to be professional and work with people who believe or do things you may disagree with. If I were OP’s manager and they brought this to me as “I cannot work with this person” I’d have serious doubts about their judgment and ability to work as part of a team.

          2. catsoverpeople*

            The quotes you highlighted make me wonder if the OP’s coworker specifically asked or talked to the OP about it a lot to make it sound like coworker really respected OP’s opinion on the matter, and then went ahead and got the breeder dog anyway. I wonder this because something rather similar happened to me once — I’m not a volunteer with a rescue, but donate occasionally, and when boss started chatting about getting a breeder animal for the specific “look”, I gently suggested checking with shelters first because boss was balking at the designer price tag.

            Ultimately, boss got the designer animal (after expressing concern about behavioral issues in rescue animals around young children, an unfair assumption IMO), and I still have to hear about it because chatty boss asks me for animal-related advice. I try to keep my opinion out of it (such as, the kids are too young for multiple animals in the house) and suggest solutions at this point, but I don’t know why boss continues to ask me if boss isn’t going to do what I recommend anyway. Maybe “slap in the face” is a bit much, but I agree it is tiring.

          3. Rain's Small Hands*

            I dislike tattoos. Actually, it goes beyond dislike…..And yes, having tattoos colors my opinion of someone. Yet my husband and both my children have tattoos as do many of my friends. And I’ve worked with plenty of people with tattoos – some lovely full sleeves – I can appreciate the art while my first reaction is “who would do that to themselves – what bad judgement.”

            This is a ME problem. Obviously other people have other views on tattoos and obviously its so normalized that it isn’t bad judgement by itself (you choice of tattoo might show bad judgement). So when anyone shows off their new innocuous art I say “that is great artwork” or “that’s really nice” or “wow, that one took a lot of time.” Not “how dare you defile yourself in that fashion which is against my own values.” I’m pretty sure I have nothing at all to do with their tattoo and it really doesn’t affect me – even my husband’s tattoo really doesn’t affect me. And I try to overcome my own acknowledged bias.

        3. Juliet*

          It can color your opinion of somebody without affecting how you are able to work with them. You are allowed to set those personal boundaries in your life. You are allowed to have “deal-breakers” when deciding who you socialize with or have personal relationships with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that with co-workers. You are not required to like all of your co-workers; in fact, you can dislike them. But you are still required to treat them civilly and to maintain a healthy working relationship with them.

      4. Mornington Cresent*

        “People don’t spend NEARLY as much time thinking about us as we think they do.”

        Absolutely- just look at that wonderful story from a few months back about the fellow who spilled condoms all over his interviewers desk- the interviewer didn’t even remember because she was too busy worrying about the lipstick she had on her teeth! “One person’s condom indicent is another’s lipstick incident” are wise words I’m still remembering.

      5. Critical Rolls*

        There’s a quote attributed to Oscar Wilde that fits here: “You would worry less what people think of you if you could know how rarely they do.”

    7. Up and Away*

      This kind of made me laugh in an ironic way. If I’d left my team during the last election cycle (I was waaaaay outnumbered) every time someone made a comment I didn’t agree with or found offensive (of which there were many), I’d have quit hundreds of times. Thank God I got Covid and got three weeks off (being sarcastic – but honestly it would have been a nice break if I hadn’t gotten so sick.)

    8. A Cita*

      Yes, no two people in a work place will be exactly aligned on deeply held values. And that’s ok. And you get to pick your hill to die on, and maybe this is that for you. But if it is, I don’t think bringing it up to management in this way would get you the result you are looking for. And I don’t know if you’d ever get that result around this particular issue (except maybe to work for yourself?). And keep in mind, issues like these can be complicated. I also very strongly believe in adopt don’t shop: volunteering, fostering, and donating for over 30 years. But when it came time to get my own first dog recently, I did end up having to go with a very reputable breeder for a lot of very valid reasons. It was a hard choice but it was literally the only choice in my situation. In any case, I understand the upset and frustration. And I also agree with Alison’s advice that this isn’t an issue you can to bring to management and get the result you are hoping for.

  3. Dark Macadamia*

    LW1, I agree with you about breeders but he didn’t get a dog AT you. “A slap in the face to a core piece of my identity” is a deeply personal way to frame a decision he made for himself that you happen to disagree with!

    1. Loulou*

      Yes, the very personal framing struck me too. OP, I wonder if you should take this as a sign that you are too emotionally invested in your workplace and need to take a step back. It’s normal to care about working with people you like and respect, but this is much more than that. Creating a little more separation between work and your personal/emotional life would probably help a lot.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        It makes me wonder if the coworker has been rude about the animal rescue in the past. Does he make fun of LW for their volunteer work? Say unpleasant things about shelter pets? Is he going around bragging about the superiority of breeders and his purebred pup or did he just… get a dog?

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I had the contrary impression; that OP was sharing the details of her volunteer work with animals with her colleagues (“which he knows”) and getting positive, supportive noises in response. So, she feels heard and understood about her values to the point she thinks her colleagues share them. Then it feels like an about face when a colleague does something not in alignment with that. But of course, colleagues are just trying to be pleasant, and hearing about volunteer work with animals is pleasant! It’s a hard thing to disagree with and doesn’t mean a colleague isn’t going to go to a breeder. The colleague isn’t looking as closely at OP’s values and rationale as they are looking at his, because work is not the place for checking out people’s life choices.

          1. Anya Last Nerve*

            Totally agree. I would describe one of my peers as my “work bestie.” She is on the board of an animal rescue and has 2 rescue dogs herself. My dog is from a breeder. I have 2 kids and she is child free by choice. None of this matters at work, I support her animal rescue work even though for various reasons adopting a rescue was not the choice I made, and I’m certain we will remain friends even after we are no longer coworkers. People who can’t accept others with differing viewpoints at the office are missing out, in my opinion. You can learn a lot from people who are different from you. Surround yourself with your clones and you are shouting into an echo chamber.

            1. jane's nemesis*

              Right! This! People can support animal rescue work AND buy a dog from a breeder *for various personal reasons*, they do not have to be mutually exclusive things!

              1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

                Exactly. I’ve volunteered at a shelter, I donate to my local humane society, and I bought two dogs from a responsible breeder. People make the decisions they need to for their own personal needs.

              2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                I have one dog that’s a mutt from a humane society and one dog that’s purebred from a breeder. Luckily, if any of my friends or coworkers are judging me for either of them, they haven’t said a word to me about it :P

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            That was my read too. I would also make those supportive noises at the rescue colleague, but I would also make supportive noises at the colleague who decided that getting a puppy from a breeder was the best choice for their family. That doesn’t mean I’m slapping either of them in the face – in fact my personal beliefs shouldn’t factor into either interaction. It’s a work environment, it’s polite, I want puppy pictures in either case, and I’m glad both are taking an action that makes them feel personally fulfilled. Beyond that, they’re coworkers and it’s not my business.

        2. Despachito*

          To me, it seems rather that OP1 is EXTREMELY invested in their cause, and should work on their ability to become more relaxed about it.

          The wording “slap in the face to a core piece of my identity” struck me too as VERY strong given the circumstances.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, I agree. A “slap in the face to a core piece of my identity” would be understandable if, say, a trans woman had to listen to a coworker spouting TERF propaganda, or a POC had to listen to a white supremacist voicing their awful opinions, or an atheist who had been raised in a religion that they rejected as an adult had to listen to someone of their former religion, or any religion, openly proselytizing at work.

            Thankfully, apart from the last one, the ones I mentioned count as discrimination and should have consequences for the speaker. Luckily some employers are enlightened enough to ban proselytizing at work as well.

            The rescue vs. breeder dog thing would IMO be closer to differences of opinion about climate change and what, if anything, individuals should be expected to do about it, than core identities.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              In the US, religious discrimination is also illegal (unless it is a religious organization). Whether proselytizing falls under that is a gray area (religious accommodation vs hardship), but if it’s targeted at the atheist colleague it isn’t allowed.

            2. Gerry Keay*

              Yeah I gotta say, as a trans person whose civil rights are literally under attack by states, that line really made me roll my eyes into the back on my head.

              OP, unless you are an actual dog who was saved from an abusive breeder, this is not a slap in the face to a core piece of your identity.

        3. Worldwalker*

          I think the letter would have mentioned that if it was the case. It sounds more like he just got a dog.

        4. That One Person*

          See that’s my mindset too. If the coworker is side-eying OP every time they talk about their dog and the two have rarely gotten along then maybe some small part of it was malicious, but that’s also generally an expensive way to be malicious so I sincerely doubt it. I’d say its okay to have that initial, visceral reaction given how strongly passionate OP is about rescuing, but the big thing to remember is to not act on it and let reason seep back into the situation. Besides the future’s unpredictable and maybe someday that coworker gets a second dog whose adopted from a shelter or rescue next time – but if they get a strong reaction over Dog#1 then I’d worry more on those chances getting hampered because they worry about getting judged critically by other rescuers/volunteers.

          Also as someone well known for working with dogs I’d suggest remaining approachable because if someone needs resources you’d strike me as a good starting point. If the coworker runs into walls it’d be better to work with them so they can keep a happy home life for the dog rather than it end up in a shelter for one reason or another.

          1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

            I mean, it MAY have been slightly malicious, but I don’t know that I’ve ever disliked a coworker enough to spend thousands of dollars and sign up for a 12+ year time commitment just to spite them.

            1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

              Spite is wearing a Pride ally shirt to a meeting you know your anti-LGBTQ+ coworker is at. Not getting a dog.

              1. quill*

                Most people get a dog because they want a dog (or their idea of what having a dog will be, but that’s a different kettle of fish.)

                OP, I know you probably wish one of your shelter dogs could have gone to a good home like your coworker’s, but overall, what has happened is that an already born puppy has found a home. The net consequence in terms of picking one individual dog over the other has not changed.

            2. Worldwalker*

              Yeah. Getting a dog is a big deal. Deciding what kind of dog to get is a big deal. Both of them involve a great deal of thinking, consideration of options, and evaluating things that do or don’t make a particular breed or individual the right dog for you and your family.* “This will annoy my co-worker” generally isn’t any of them.

              *Well, for decent people … the other kind are a major reason why there are so many dogs in shelters.

        5. Observer*

          It makes me wonder if the coworker has been rude about the animal rescue in the past. Does he make fun of LW for their volunteer work? Say unpleasant things about shelter pets? Is he going around bragging about the superiority of breeders and his purebred pup or did he just… get a dog?

          Honestly, this is really stretching it.

          The guy could be a real jerk, been rude about the OP’s work (unlikely given what the OP says, but possible), made all sorts of derogatory comments about rescues and gone to the worst puppy mill around.

          And it would STILL be highly unlikely that he got this dog just to spite the OP. Because it’s a lot of money. Unless the guy is also a nut with money to burn, the likelihood that he’s going to spend thousands of dollars just to spite a coworker is low enough to be considered zero.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            Oh yeah, I don’t think he got the dog out of spite ay all and it’s unlikely that he’s already like… anti-shelter (who would be?!). Just speculating on what would make it feel so personal to LW since they had such an outsized reaction! I doubt their volunteering/passion factored into Coworker’s decision at all.

        6. Big Bank*

          The likelihood here is that coworker got a dog, shared that fact, and LW asked if it was a rescue dog. I doubt very much the dog owner went into a long winded explanation of how and where they got the dog, until asked.

          I get asked, constantly, if my dog is a rescue. I don’t understand why, because whether he is or isn’t, he exists and is mine. Do these same people walk up to moms and ask if they adopted?

          1. Gracely*

            Some people do! Or ask even more intrusive questions.

            People ask weird, inappropriate questions all the time.

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely this. And I do understand that hearing people – especially people on the internet – saying that something is an opportunity to develop a thicker skin or be more resilient is deeply irritating. However…

        My take away from this wasn’t even so much around the issue of the dog, but really the ability of the OP to control the people who works with and for that much. A few years ago I took a job largely because I was genuinely excited to work for Desired Supervisor. I started the job with that supervisor on leave for a few months (reporting into someone else), then worked for Desired Supervisor for about 9 months at which point she was promoted and I had another new supervisor. As it turned out, both my first interim supervisor and my new supervisor ended up being great. But those weren’t people I had vetted much at all when taking the job and had zero control or say when they were placed as my supervisor.

        I’ll also be honest, when I first started with both supervisors who weren’t Desired Supervisor, there was some emotional pushback on my part. And so some of the resilience was just about letting go of myself and adapting to them as different supervisors. Being able to personally let go a little I think is also really helpful because sometimes that new supervisor/coworker really is a PROBLEM and switching teams/finding a new job is all that can be done. But over the course of your career that can happen so often, that being able to calibrate it will only help you.

    2. Comment Blah*

      (I hope this isn’t violating the no talking about breeders rule). Many humane society places have roles that prevent some people from adopting. Just for example other pets, small apartments, young children. All the more reason to not take what your coworker did personally.

      1. ND and awkward*

        Being under a certain age, being over a certain age, having a full-time job, garden fence being too low, never having had a dog before, having had to surrender a pet before…

        Black and white values are very easy to hold in an echo chamber, and only get more extreme in one. Which is another reason why I think it’s important not to try and sequester yourself away among only people who think like you do and have your same values.

    3. Julia*

      It’s not a decision he made for himself; it’s a decision that impacts other living things, which is why LW is upset. Still, unfortunately we as a society have decided this does not rise to the level of something it’s acceptable to raise a stink over at work, so LW, you will have to keep your opinion to yourself.

      And really, you presumably work around meat eaters all day – that contributes to far worse animal abuse on a far larger scale than your typical breeder customer. There’s a ton of injustice in the world and you are likely to find some wherever you turn at work, so picking your battles is probably wise.

      1. Pennyworth*

        One of my personal beliefs is that climate change and overpopulation are going to make life increasingly difficult, but it would never occur to me that a coworker having a baby was a slap in the face to my identity.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I mean I accept people may do things I disagree with. In my early career I worked with someone who hunted to hounds. I am strongly opposed to foxhunting. I still had to work with her and be polite. I just avoided discussing social activities. I did think badly of her for it but I remained professional because that was what I had to do.

      2. ecnaseener*

        The question isn’t even about whether LW can make a stink. They didn’t ask if it would be okay to criticize the coworker about it, they’re jumping right to switching teams. That’s what’s so far beyond the boundaries of acceptable.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I find that level of personalization unsettling. OP, no one is doing anything “at” you.

      I remember my first boss talking about getting along. “Something no one will tell us, but it stands, one of the things we are compensated for is our willingness to get along with others..” OP, you are being compensated to find a path through whatever issues come up.

      If you decide that you will only work with people who do not use breeders (this is where you are going if you continue), then you are probably going to work alone or be unemployed for a very long time. I am trying to remember ANY workplace I my life where someone did NOT have a dog from a breeder. I can’t think of a single place.

      OP, finding people who share our values is a JOY but it is not a reasonable expectation.

      The problem with the attitude of “they are doing this at me” is that this attitude is like a bad infection. It seeps into the way we view everyone and everything. It isolates us from others. Taken to an extreme it can make us unemployable, unteachable and unreachable.

      Going big picture: We have a world where people are very willing to personalize everything and take it as a personal assault. People who make out well in this world are people who learn to navigate these situations.

      My suggestion is instead of trying to avoid/correct/punish?/etc this cohort, let the situation show you that people out there still have not gotten the word about adopting a rescue dog. Instead of “fixing” the people at work, decide that you are going to do more at the rescue to help them with their cause because you can see first hand that people are not aware. Key point: This would be an activity NOT done at work. It would be done in your off hours away from work people.

      I am on my 5th dog in life. All of the dogs have been rescues. I think that tells you where I stand. I am at the age where I can probably have one more dog and that last dog will also be a rescue. I have had 4 other animals and they were all rescued too. I am so happy that I was fortunate enough in life to be able to do this. They have all been a gift in my life.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Getting along is so important. OP if you went to your manager asking to be moved and explained this is why using the language you did here. The manager just might do it. Not because they agree with you, but to be rid of you. They may worry what will be a “slap in the face” to you next time. Let you be someone else’s problem not theirs.

        You don’t want to be known as “that person.” Who takes everything personally. Next thing you know you will be complaining about the rolls someone brought to the potluck.

          1. Rolly*

            Rolls. If someone brought cheap @$$ rolls I’d take that as a personal slap in the face. Rolly don’t play that.

      2. Missb*

        I absolutely love the concept of compensation for our willingness to get along with others.

        I’m watching a coworker just blow right through that willingness right now, and it is not a pretty sight. The aftermath will be… bad.

    5. Worldwalker*

      I came here to say this. The guy considered his options and made a decision on where and how to get a dog. It’s highly doubtful that any co-workers’ opinions, yours or any other, crossed his mind at all. You are taking this *way* too personally.

      Imagine you do switch teams. Then you find out that one of your new co-workers is volunteering for the campaign of a candidate running against the one you support. You switch again, and a co-worker differs in another way. And again. And again. The only question is which runs out first — the available positions, or your employers’ patience. I would bet on the latter. And I would bet that after the first request, they’d be thinking “Do we want someone this touchy and self-centered working for us? What will their next problem be?”

      1. Observer*

        he guy considered his options and made a decision on where and how to get a dog. It’s highly doubtful that any co-workers’ opinions, yours or any other, crossed his mind at all. You are taking this *way* too personally.

        OP, you should notice something here. @Worldwalker is not saying that your coworker made a good decision (nor that he made a bad decision.) Because the point here is NOT whether the decision was good or bad. But whether it makes any sense to believe that you, your beliefs and your concept of yourself had anything to do with it.

        The answer is no.

    6. Koalafied*

      It’s such an odd framing that I partly wonder if LW1 is just using the expression incorrectly, like they think “slap in the face to me” just means “deeply offensive to me,” rather than, “deliberately provoking me.”

    7. Mewtwo*

      I’m in the same boat. I agree with OP 1’s views regarding breeders but workplaces are for getting work done. You don’t have to be friends with your coworkers.

      I once worked at a place where I was the only nonwhite person and a bunch of my coworkers had terrible, racist and regressive belief systems. One guy would brag about missionary trips he would go on. I didn’t say anything. I just played nice until I got a new job.

  4. Heidi*

    Re: Letter 5. I’d be worried that mentioning a rescinded offer might have unintended negative effects. One could explain that it was due to economic reasons, but people also get offers rescinded for bad references, not passing background checks, etc. Interviewers might wonder if it was one of those things, and you can’t really fact-check that kind of thing. At the very least, it puts way too much focus on a job you never had.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, I would not assume the rescinded offer was because of totally benign reasons as a person who hires folks. I would have questions. Plus, putting it on a resume or cover-letter is just… not done. It would seem super strange.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Employers want to know about your abilities and accomplishments, and having a job offer rescinded is neither. It’s somewhat like saying you almost sold a house.

        I get that the LW’s friend may be feeling desperate to answer the “what have you been doing” question, but that’s better solved by working PT, or volunteer work.

    2. Sandgroper*

      It’s also problematic for privacy/confidentiality reasons. Usually job offers are in confidence, and you might want to read whether the rescind was in confidence too. Companies don’t normally like to air their dirty laundry. If I interview you and this comes up what am I supposed to say to you? If I offer you a role and later my manager suddenly leans on me to reduce headcount by 1 and I rescind are you going to put our company on future resumes? Are you telling me about Company A because I’m supposed to be impressed? Or to spite them? If impressed…. Then I wasn’t at your interview with them, and don’t know what you said, or what they were recruiting for etc, so impress me with yourself, not them.

      While you might have had a job offer from Company A rescinded, running around town telling everyone (even worse sending it out on resumes) shows a lack of professionalism I feel. Company A is being touted to sell you… while they either don’t have the resources to employ you, or are going through a restructure, or are being ‘flaky/cavalier’ about job offers etc. It insinuates that Company A is unprofessional in some way, and is thus showing you are prepared to throw them under the bus. It has an ‘icky’ feeling to it, and would make me wonder what other professional norms you are ignoring.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think it necessarily insinuates anything bad about Company A, such as that they are unprofessional. It’s a statement of fact: this market leading company thought I was good enough to hire, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in the end due to the hiring freeze that was in the news. Company A having thought I was good enough to hire would presumably be a compliment to Company A in that they are highly regarded and hiring me is sort of a stamp of ‘approval’ that I’m a top tier llama groomer or whatever. That’s why I think (mentioned in comment below) there may be a subtle difference between “hired by Desirable Company A but then the recession happened” and “hired by Unknown Company B and offer rescinded [; what a flake!]”.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It might depend on what “rescinded” means here specifically though. There’s the type you mention, where a bad reference etc causes the company to backtrack at the last minute. There’s also the other type (which I am seeing a lot of on LinkedIn at the moment) where the references etc were all fine, the person was actually due to start the job (possibly with equipment having already been sent out to them and so on) and then the company essentially “fires” them before they start, due to the economic climate / company financials. From the context I think OP must have been the 2nd type.

      Which makes me wonder… is there any exception to this not being noteworthy enough in the case that the company is truly desirable in your field.. e.g. (in my field of tech) if I’d been about to start a job as an AI Engineer at, say, Facebook/Meta ?

      1. Other Alice*

        I’m also in tech and I’d regard that as very bizarre and out of touch with professional norms regardless of the company’s name. It doesn’t tell me anything about a candidate’s ability to do their job. At most, it tells me they can interview well.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Agreed. I once had a similar situation. I didn’t exactly get an offer, but was subbing in a school where they were adamant that there WOULD be further work for me, “we haven’t got the funding from the government yet, but it’s learning support for students who REALLY need it so of course, they’ll give it to us and you’ll have a job for the rest of the year.” Even as they were saying it, I was doubtful, because this was JUST after the 2008 economic crash when the government were cutting everybody’s funds, not giving more. I don’t know the school genuinely believed they’d be the exception or whether they were just trying to ensure I took the subbing work by promising something they were unlikely to be able to offer, but sure enough, at the end of the original subbing, they said “oh, let’s finish up tomorrow actually.” I wouldn’t mention if for that very reason, while yeah, most people would probably have assumed that in that specific situation it were due to not getting the funding, there could well be questions about whether they had been displeased with me when I was subbing for some reason.

    5. londonedit*

      I just don’t see the point. It doesn’t really tell you anything about the person or their ability to do a job – it just tells you that they had an offer that was then rescinded. I mean, I had an interview at Oxford but ultimately didn’t get an offer – I don’t put that down on my CV because it tells you absolutely nothing about my education that my actual degree from another university doesn’t tell you.

    6. CheesePlease*

      Yes agree. Additionally, I understand that someone might be very proud they got an offer from Big Important Company, but including it in a cover letter or resume is giving it more weight than it deserves. I would think someone is out of touch with cultural norms if they had it on a resume.

    7. Junior Assistant Peon*

      If I was the hiring manager, it’s a good reason for a candidate being unemployed. Quitting for a new job that was pulled at the last minute is a much better look than impulsively quitting with nothing lined up, or being fired.

  5. louvella*

    As someone who is ethically opposed to animal agriculture, I am trying to imagine what would happen if I refused to work with anyone who wasn’t vegan…I, uh, don’t think it would go over well.

    1. Science KK*

      For some reason while imagining a letter where someone did try to refuse to work with non vegans, my mind then jumped to someone yelling at farmer ants farming aphids, and being upset that the ants weren’t listening.

      I either need more sleep or just wrote a great SNL skit.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think even if people were allowed/understood to do some shunning of people with other values at work…it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do that anyway? One vegan shunning one non vegan at work will have exactly what effect on a huge system like animal agriculture? It makes even less sense with a fait accompli like a new dog; OP starts giving the cut direct to this guy at work; what’s he supposed to do about that? Decide he cares about a colleague’s opinion? Give it back? Tell the breeder off? It can feel lonely to have certain principles but OP isn’t acting on behalf of any animals by being rude to an individual, they’re only assuaging their own feelings. I don’t mean to underestimate the impact of customers on systems, or underestimate the impact of social pressure, but focusing your frustration on one person is a little eccentric. Especially when you’re just colleagues.

    3. Dmo*

      I was hoping I wasn’t the only one who was thinking this! There are sooo many choices people make each day that could be considered a slap in the face to someone else’s values but the world has to keep spinning. Maybe the dog owner is bothered that OP doesn’t recycle if it involves going out of their way, or drives a car that uses too much gas, or wasn’t careful enough during Covid, or always cheaps out during potlucks, or doesn’t go out of their way enough to help the new people…. I don’t know, but the point is that everyone would be working on teams of one if everyone had to pass everyone else’s values tests.

    4. Lilo*

      My brother actually used to work in a vegan restaurant despite not being vegan himself. Obviously he wasn’t going to bring a non-vegan lunch or anything like that, but his employer didn’t care if he ate meat at home.

      1. louvella*

        There are definitely ethically vegan businesses and nonprofits out there that do prefer to hire vegans, which I think is just fine (meat eater isn’t a protected class, it makes sense to hire people who are aligned with the mission of the organization). Personally I work at a nonprofit that provides services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, so if I refused to work with people who weren’t vegan I would probably get fired pretty quickly.

        1. quill*

          A case could be made that a vegan would be more knowledgeable about providing food to vegans.

          But even within veganism there’s so much potential conflict over the concept of veganism that I would not expect complete values allignment in a vegan organization where everyone is vegan.

          For examples:
          – Is the point of veganism the environment? Then new pleather can’t be better than recycled / thrifted leather.
          – Is the point never supporting industrial scale animal husbandry? Then what about the actual mechanics of individual animal husbandry, such as keeping a couple of hens and eating eggs, shearing sheep, keeping bees?
          – Is the point of veganism that it’s an attractive panacea to your feelings regarding animal welfare and the environment? Then oh boy you’re not going to like the math involved regarding vegan replacement foods and materials, because agriculture is a vast system with a lot of moving parts and a lot of ways that workers, animals, and local environments are exploited to make a buck.

          1. louvella*

            Organizations (including for-profit businesses) that oppose animal agriculture for ethical reasons often want to hire people that have that same belief, just like the organization I work for doesn’t want to hire people who don’t believe people experiencing homelessness deserve compassion, housing and health care. Like yes every ethical issue is complicated but it’s not that complicated to hire people who align with your mission, organizations do it all the time. Doesn’t mean every person who works at my workplace has exactly the same beliefs about homelessness, they don’t. But they’re still not going to hire someone who is like “that person sleeping outside is a nuisance and they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

            1. Lilo*

              I will say the restaurant world is often very different. Lots of turnover and a lot more “make it work with what you’ve got”. In general a good line cook is a valuable commodity. My brother has done everything from baking to Indian food to Barbecue to Vegan coop.

              1. louvella*

                Oh yeah, definitely not all restaurants care! Especially when it’s hard enough to find staff. I have seen some restaurants specify that they want vegan employees, though.

            2. quill*

              Yes, this is true. I just pointed this out in terms of even if hiring people committed to your cause is both beneficial to business functioning and creating a lot of unity among coworkers, you can’t AVOID having people whose opinions clash with yours, even on your joint cause, in ways that seem to have obvious (to you) solutions.

              Bringing this back to something more helpful to OP: this is why there’s such an emphasis on education and outreach. Because when you commit to a cause you not only have to combat people’s ignorance, you have to learn from people for whom your proposed solution does not actually work, due to circumstances you probably didn’t anticipate. Changing teams from your coworker will manage your feelings regarding their choice of supporting a dog breeder, but cut you off from opportunities to learn how you can further support people in choosing adoption / rescue… if for no reason than you won’t get any practice being civil with someone who could easily chose to adopt their next dog, but didn’t chose it this time.

    5. Alexis Rosay*

      Right?! As someone personally committed commuting in ways that minimize harm to the environment, I can’t refuse to work with people who commute by car.

  6. my 8th name*

    Lw#5. Another reason your friend shouldn’t mention a rescinded offer is because hiring freezes are not the only reason offers are rescinded, and he doesn’t want to unintentionally send the wrong message (“e.g. I failed the background check”).

    1. RC+Rascal*

      Yes. Transitioning from the corporate world to small business can be difficult in and of itself an then you add the family layer. This could easily turn into a fraught situation that does no one good. Story time:

      A had an acquaintance who left a VP role at a Big CPG company to join his wife’s family business. This was the In Law’s idea–they wanted him to take over their company, and since he was successful in business they thought he should be the succession plan and pressured both the VP and the wife (daughter) for this move. He quit Big CPG to work in the family business and it *did not go well*. His father in law ended up firing him.

      Compounding the situation, the Big CPG company was one of the few major employers in their middle market city. He couldn’t get an offer doing anything else and was out of work for years. The wife/daughter refused to relocate. Meanwhile FIL ran around town telling everyone how useless his son in law (former VP) was, and how he couldn’t get a job.

      It was a giant mess. While the former VP did eventually find work it wasn’t the kind of job he had a Big CPG and pretty much permanently set his career back. The relationship with the In laws never really recovered.

  7. Troutwaxer*

    LW2. I think the question is why you’re working at your parent’s business. If it’s just because you’re between gigs, then don’t worry about the things you can’t control. On the other hand, if you’re working there to learn the business and you’ll be taking it over at some point, the receptionist can go on your todo list…

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Yeah! Are you taking over the business once they retire because it sure sounds like your mom is well on her way out the door, but you’ve been given no authority. If you’re taking over the business you can start by managing that receptionist out of a job and finding a replacement who does a good job and doesn’t lie to your face every week. Start with managing people and move on to doing whatever technical skills / special skills or knowledge your mom has about the business specifics. And also work on being more of a manager and being comfortable with difficult and uncomfortable conversations. A boss and manager has to be willing to have honest conversations which might feel confrontational. The boss can’t be a pushover.

      And if you’re just holding down the fort while your Mom works less than part time until she totally shutters the business, you should leave now. You sound unsuited to be whatever an office manager is doing in your mom’s business.

      1. Mockingbird*

        Just from having tried to manage selling a house for my parents, all of the responsibility and none of the authority is a really bad combination that will lead to bad outcomes and fights with your parents. Get the authority you need to do the job to the level you expect of yourself, or tell them they need to hire someone else.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, this was my concern too. If mom is refusing to cede any level of control (i.e., authority) to letter writer, this will never be a good place to work. It’s a silly form of micro-managing, with a bit of “I don’t have to listen to you, you’re just my kid” thrown into the mix.

        2. Greg*

          Fourth generation family business member here. My grandfather ceded none of the authority for decades. My dad and uncle are 61 and 59, respectively, and make it very clear they are done by 65 and are taking the succession steps necessary to make that as seamless as possible. This situation sounds like a nightmare (and a reminder that being in a family business isn’t all sunshine and nepotism!).

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah I got the impression OP was bullied into this job by her parents. It has nothing to do with what she was doing before and she doesn’t sound at all comfortable with managing people. Maybe if Mum were to give her real firing authority, she’d be able to find her feet, but it does sound like OP is a bit frightened of the receptionist.

      2. BethDH*

        There are books about this too (I edited a textbook once about managing family businesses and I was surprisingly riveted and thought it would be helpful even to people not taking an official class). You can get advice specifically about the alignment between family values/relationships and responsible management. This might help OP step back mentally and figure out the big picture elements Alison mentioned.

      3. Sara without an H*

        Yes! OP#2, why are you there?

        Your first sentence describes what sounds like a very good job. Then comes the second sentence: My parents own their own company and are in the process of retiring and asked me to step in and come to work for them, so here I am.

        Why are you there? Did you lose the first job, and your parents offered you this “office manager” job as a stop gap measure while you looked for something else? Do they expect you to take over the business when they retire? If so, is there a formal succession plan? What’s the actual value of the business now? Have you seen the financials?

        You said in your letter that you “hate confrontation.” Frankly, it sounds like more than that — you come across in this letter as really passive. I apologize if I’m misreading you, but your letter makes you sound very much like a passenger in your own life, rather than an agent.

        For now, let the receptionist goof off to her heart’s content and concentrate on you. What do you want to do? Does the idea of running your parents’ business attract you or not? If it does, how do you want to set up the transition? If it doesn’t, what kind of career do you want? (You, not your parents.) If you have a lifelong pattern of passivity, it might be time to look into some therapy, so you can make these decisions and follow through on them.

        Good luck, and please send us an update.

        1. JustaTech*

          Expanding on Sara’s comment:
          OP, do you *want* to work for or run this company? Is it in your preferred industry? Are you excited or interested in it (any part of it)? If the answer is no, please, find a way to tell your parents that and help them sell the business.

          My husband’s parents run a small business in an industry he’s not interested in and not good at (sales and marketing). He started telling them in college that he didn’t want to run the business (and that he would be bad at it). It took years of gentle firmness (and building his own, separate career) but they accepted this and now they’re selling the business. Because he’s always said “not for me” he’s been more than willing to help them around the edges (being their IT guy, etc) and putting in a lot of hours cleaning things up for the sale without it being a Big Thing.

          If you *do* want this business then you’ll need to go back to your mom with a specific plan of what authority you need now, and your plans for the company going forward so you can start hashing all that out before she’s utterly checked out and things start to slip.

          It is OK to not want to run your parent’s business. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad child to say “this is not for me, I would not do it well”. At the end of the day, what’s more important, a good relationship with your parents or a profitable company?

          Good luck!

    2. Sandgroper*

      It’s really tricky to get parents to hand over businesses that they’ve created and grown themselves.

      I’m in a similar situation… and would handle this by nibbling at the edges. If she’s watching Netflix on the work computer I’d block it on the servers. If she’s doing it at her desk I’d ask her not to watch Netflix when working. Just narrow it out, without going full blown into her performance. Then nibble at the next thing – shouting and crying. Explain that it’s really not ok for the receptionist to be crying and shouting at people. Ask her if she can commit to working with people professionally, or would prefer to move to another role where she has less people contact (and if she chooses that move her to a junior filing role, or a general hand role or whatever, if your business can allow for that). Tackle the Friday afternoons by taking a good look at what the impact is – does she actually need to be at her desk those days? If you are able to cope fine with her gone start logging the time she has off, and then say “It seems you have every Friday afternoon off…. So we are moving you to 90% time – a four and a half day week, formally. If you feel you can’t get all the work down in four and a half days let me know and I’ll up you to five full days again”. Re working at her desk for lunch… easy …. Say “I’ve arranged for “Junior Sam” to replace you at lunch times at your desk each day so you can have your lunch. Working through lunch isn’t giving the impression we need at our front reception. I know you’ve appreciated the ability to then clock out early on a Friday but it’s clear we aren’t really needing you here those hours too. On that note I’d like to confirm your hours at the reception desk are X to Y, so I can arrange coverage at other times.”(If you want her to take a lunch break then she needs coverage at the desk – even if it’s not that busy this will have three impacts: 1) she doesn’t hold the keys to the kingdom in that time, other people will learn how to run that little empire, 2) she will have a very visible start and finish for lunch breaks and other times, and 3) it shows her you are taking her role seriously and that it’s valuable enough to not be an after thought. It will have the added bonus of lifting the professionalism there, as other people will have a chance to do it professionally and well. Ideally it won’t be you there as that’d add more conflict, but if needs be, do that.

      Nail one thing at a time, and pick some easy wins first…. I like turning Netflix off personally … if she can’t sit and watch Netflix at her desk (and any other non work internet access) then she might huff and walk off and eat lunch elsewhere, solving the fake ‘work at desk’ stuff. The screaming she’ll give you and easy excuse to bring that up when she gets upset about the loss of Netflix…

      Annoyingly you will have to get your mum’s ok in all this … because she will go to her and complain, so you need her to be across it. It sounds like your mum doesn’t want the drama, and this woman has learnt that if she pushes and shouts she can manipulate whatever she wants. Point out to your mum that this is driving good employees away, and creating a complicated hierarchy and mess at work. Ask her what she wants done about it, and then be prepared to say “Either it’s the receptionist, or me. I need the power to make this a positive and pleasant place to be, and for some reason the receptionist has decided to go up against me, so choose…. “

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I agree. In a functional workplace I would never recommend this, as it’s missing the forest through the trees in a big way. But here? Where you’re trying to scrape some power over the situation and have no teeth to show? I think it’s a good approach.

        At some point, it’s going to come down to needing to fire the receptionist or establish real authority, so I do agree with Alison that OP needs to get clear management responsibilities or get out. But in the meantime this is a start.

      2. Rain's Small Hands*

        When I graduated from college back in the dark ages, I had a couple of receptionist jobs while I looked for something more permanent. Receptionists jobs are “the desk MUST be covered” jobs. If she can stroll away Friday afternoons without impact, do you need a receptionist?

        And yep, Mom either needs to take a role, or retire. And when she retires she needs to not peanut gallery. Otherwise, they should just sell the business to someone else the the LW can go back to the corporate type jobs she loved and was good at. AND the LW needs to decide if she wants the business. Because owning a business can be very confrontational.

        1. to varying degrees*

          Ehh, I think that would depend on how busy Friday afternoon is. A lot of places are slow enough at that time that they could get away with a “ring the bell for service” for a Friday afternoon, but not necessarily Monday morning.

      3. Cat Tree*

        This seems unnecessarily passive aggressive. I get the temptation because of her previous behavior, but it really is Ok to just use your words. I would *start* with her yelling. If she’s unwilling or unable to change that, the rest of it just doesn’t matter. Once she knows that expectation, just *tell her* that she can’t watch Netflix at the front desk and then block it.

        The main problem is that OP has zero authority to actually enforce any of this.

      4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        Working through lunch isn’t giving the impression we need at our front reception.

        Tangent, but good LORD, I wish someone would come to this conclusion at my office. I’m putting in close to 50hr/wk on the front desk because I don’t get any breaks. We’re an international corporation with VIP’s in and out on the daily, and I just think it’s so unprofessional-looking and embarrassing to have the city mayor, the CEO of Major Japanese Manufacturing Company, and their entourages comes strolling in when I’m sitting there with food in my mouth, a sandwich in one hand, and all six phone lines ringing at once that I’m desperately trying to answer with only one free hand and talking around a bite of PB&J. (And of course no one TELLS me about half the expected guests that are coming in each day. My workplace has…problems, to put it lightly.)

    3. RachelNeedsHelp*

      This is LW#2 and I am going to attempt to answer all questions and give clarity to my situation.

      Firstly, I want to thank you all so very much for your responses, it has opened my eyes and helped me tremendously!

      Second, a little background information. I have had 2 amazing jobs beginning as a receptionist and working my way up. I’ve always taken extreme pride in my work and believe rules are there for a reason. My first job I worked my way up only to eventually be laid off. I was unfortunately expendable because I had started to take advantage of a good thing (which once you lose a good thing you learn to not take it for granted ever again). After losing that job I again started as a receptionist/assistant to 5 people for a very successful GC firm and worked my way up the ladder again. I had so much to do that I barely had time to use the restroom most days and honestly I loved it and thrived.

      Third, I was asked to work for my parents, which I felt obligated and thought it a great opportunity as well, because they are retiring soon. We specialize in all things construction and my brother and I will eventually take over. The hierarchy is the boss-boss – my mom, then I – the “office manager” and lastly the receptionist. There is no one in between my mother and myself as far as management. As of now business is small and slooooow, yet successful and in my opinion there is no need for a receptionist. I fully believe I can handle all the work as of now and would gladly do it and save us a large salary and frankly, it would help us grow as I feel the receptionist holds us back. Later, my brother and I have do have huge ideas to change this and make it thrive.

      Fourth, as for our receptionist – someone asked about her relationship with my mother. My mother is a very compassionate woman. She has had daughters that were receptionist and from our reporting she knows being a receptionist can be hard and sometimes demanding (which is not the case in this situation). It sounds like a small title but as a receptionist you initiate how the whole office moves and runs, you are the first and last person customers see and your tone on the phone gives the first impression, the receptionist is a HUGE moving part and perhaps that is why I am so critical. The receptionist was here about 2 years before I came in to “take over”…eventually  and I think this is why she has her initial authority problem with me. I may sound passive and not ready for management which was because I didn’t have backup and I didn’t have clarity on my position, everyone is correct. I fully believe I can manage whomever, as long as they are “normal” and do not throw child-like fits, if that makes sense. It’s just really hard for me to ignore someone whom I feel is taking advantage of a situation, especially when it comes to my parents. I know what a hard worker is and it pains me to watch someone get by with the bare minimum.

      In closing, I haven’t addressed her lunch break much in this response because there’s really nothing I can do about it although your answers have helped my greatly for the future – I think I have a solution to everything. After speaking to my mom about my concerns with the receptionist for the past 3 years, I feel like she is finally hearing me and we have come up with a plan; because my mom is so nice we have decided to tell the receptionist that we can see she is not happy working for us (we’ve had a lot of complaints by customers that she is rude over the phone) and to start actively looking for a new job and until she finds one she can continue to work for us. I haven’t had the conversation yet so if anyone has any ideas on what I should say and/or do in this situation where she will become hostile and cry uncontrollably upon learning this please let me know.

      Again, I really appreciate all of your constructive criticism and if you have more to offer please do!

      1. Mid*

        This is still very passive, and I’d put a timeline on how long you’ll keep her on board as receptionist.

        Sure, she might not like working for you, but she has a sweet gig that’s apparently full time pay for less than full time hours. I don’t see her being super motivated to leave. In fact, I’m guessing you’ll get even less out of her, because she’ll need time off for “interviews” and whatever else. So sure, offer to keep her employed until she finds a job or XYZ date. And be firm on that date.

        You and your mom also need to be very clear to everyone what the chain of command is, who has hiring and firing authority, who makes decisions about everything, etc. It needs to be very clear that you are the receptionist’s boss and your mom will not override your decisions regarding her. Even if she cries or makes a scene, you are still her boss.

        You also need clarity about everything else. What do you have control over in the office? What does your mom retain control over? What is the concrete secession plan? When is she retiring fully? Are you buying her out of the business or just taking it over? Will she continue to get profits from the business after she retires? Are her personal and business assets intertwined? What ownership stake are you and your brother going to have? Will it be 50/50? Are you both putting in capital to the business? How are the two of you going to make decisions if you don’t agree on something? Will you be the big boss because you’ve been working there longer? Will you have two separate areas of work? How will that be divided up? When will your brother be joining in the business?

        It might be worthwhile to talk to an attorney about this, because there can be some very messy and expensive legal complications, even if you and your mom and brother think it’ll be smooth and no one has any hostility towards each other. You really want clear differentiation between personal and business assets, and how the business is divided up.

        And see if you have a local community college that has classes related to business management, managing people, contracts, accounting, and anything else you can think of. A lot of people who are really great employees are really bad at running a business. The skillsets can have overlap, but there are a lot of things that you don’t seem to have any experience in that will become very necessary if you’re planning on 1. taking over the business completely, 2. expanding it 3. adding in a new partner (your brother).

      2. pieces_of_flair*

        I know your mom wants to be “nice,” but this plan of telling the receptionist she can stay until she finds a new job is passive, wishy-washy, and most likely won’t serve anyone well in the end. What if it takes her months or years to find a new job? Are you going to allow her to stay as long as she wants while she continues to actively harm your business by being rude to customers? Are you going to continue tolerating hostility and screaming and other ridiculous behavior that would have gotten anyone with a decent manager fired years ago? Like you said, the receptionist represents your business to customers. And if she is already rude and hostile, imagine how much worse her behavior will be once you tell her she’s being (kinda-sorta-maybe-sometime-in-the-future) let go.

        Just let her go. You don’t need her and she is detrimental to the business. The longer you keep her there, the more harm she can do.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Agreed. In fact, I suggest, based on your comment about not needing a receptionist at this point, that you simply let her go and give her a generous four weeks’ worth of pay. That will enable her to look for work on. a full-time basis but with a definite ending time–and she won’t be around to wreck havoc. If you do that, you should do it immediately. And if your mom cannot handle the temper tantrum she shouldn’t be there for the final meeting or be reachable to the receptionist for a long time afterwards.

      3. MJ*

        Don’t just leave it at “until she finds one” for her job search – set an end date. To start it can be somewhat flexible, i.e. 2-3 months, but if she hasn’t found anything by the 2 month mark then have another discussion where you fix a firm date at the end of month 3. You don’t want this to drag on because she isn’t putting any effort into finding a new job.

        Also, think about what you would say if called for a reference. You don’t want to lie and say she’s great just to get rid of her, but equally you don’t want to just list all her bad points so they won’t hire her.

      4. Sandgroper*

        Just a thought… in the past when I was doing organisational change in a large company we had a two package offer for redundancies (bear with me, this is not a layoff/redundancy!) ….

        If staff left effective immediately (within less than a month) then they got a payout that was significant ‘early exit bonus’ (an additional six weeks of pay or so). If they left later they got their legal entitlement but not the bonus for leaving early.

        You face a bit of a conundrum. This employee has already proven to be unprofessional and hostile, and is not likely to improve (and highly likely to get worse) during any ‘exit period’.

        Why not offer her two deals? A severance now that is effective in two or three weeks and pays out all entitlements plus a quick exit pay (that you can couch as a severance bonus because you value her service over the years but need to push through a fast business change) – you can tie this to a contract that means she cannot badmouth you if you get a lawyer to sign it up (and I’m not sure what the rules for unemployment are in your area, but maybe look into that too and the impact). You can include that either her position is eliminated (which might leave you open to more costs re unemployment, severance pay etc), or that it’s due to her unsuitability for the position (ie she’s being politely fired, or does not have the skills for the role). Seek advice properly for impacts.

        The second deal can be “stay for six weeks, but nothing more, and we will terminate you if there’s ANY issue in between – best behaviour, and yes you can take time off to interview, but that will mean you make up the hours or use annual leave etc”.

        One sees her cash out fast and leaves. The other might pay her slightly more, but she has to behave. I suspect she won’t. Call it instinct ;) But anyone who is yelling and crying in the office, manipulating working hours etc isn’t someone you should feel compelled to retain, nor expect to suddenly become a paragon of professionalism overnight.

  8. bookartist*

    LW#2 – That’s some gonads there, to claim her being 6 years your senior gives her the right to act as if you are a greenhorn.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Some people think that no one younger than them ever has the right to tell them something they don’t want to hear. “Respect your elders” is a very outdated phrase some still cling to and think a few extra years around the sun gives them carte blanche to treat you however they want.

      1. MK*

        I have never heard of “respect your elders” used in the context of a small age difference. It may be outdated but in amy case it’s supposed to refer to respect for older generations, not everyone older than you.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          My primary school principal used to sort of use it the latter way. It was quite funny sometimes. She insisted that not only should the children stand back and let teachers pass first, as is fairly normal but also that younger children should stand back for older ones. When I was in 5th or 6th class (about 11 or 12), I once passed her taking a group of 1st or 2nd class children somewhere (7 or 8 year olds) and she passed through first, then insisted they all stand back for me because I was older and they should be respectful to me.

          I mean, children are a bit different but she also gave examples with teachers, telling us she would stand back and allow a teacher older than her to pass first. I THINK it was mostly an attempt to be fair though, that she thought it unfair to say that children should respect adults because they are older without also allowing children to be respected by younger ones.

          That is the only time I’ve seen an argument like that though and even there, the age gap between a 12 year old and a 7 year old may be the same as that between a 41 year old and a 36 year old, but the maturity gap is a lot bigger.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, I can sort of see her point in terms of ‘let’s teach children to respect everyone’ but I don’t think she went about it in quite the right way! When I was at school Year 6 (final year of primary school) got to sit on wooden benches at the back of assembly whereas the rest of the school sat on the floor, and they were sort of conferred an extra level of respect because the teachers were trying to get them to behave in a slightly more mature manner in preparation for secondary school. And at secondary school the sixth formers got a LOT more respect from teachers and other students because they were practically adults (16-18). But there was no ‘you must let them pass you in the corridor’ deferential stuff, it was more ‘if a sixth-former tells a Year 9 to stop doing something stupid in the playground, they should listen’. And it was used the other way round, too – it was extremely common for a teacher to say to a rowdy class ‘Excuse me, this isn’t Year 8! You’re Year 11, behave like it!’

            I’m nearly 41 myself and would never tell anyone younger than me to ‘respect their elders’, except perhaps in a very joking way with friends or family. Certainly not at work!

    2. SweetestCin*

      Normally I’d agree that that move takes huge cajones.

      But add in a scoop of “my manager’s daughter is helping part time, how cute” sentiment, and I’d think that gap mentally doubles or triples…NOT that that means a 12-18 year age gap gives you a right to treat a coworker as the receptionist has been doing!

      1. BethDH*

        And some of the things OP mentioned could be “inexperienced boss comes in and tries to be authoritative focusing on the wrong things” in an otherwise good employee.
        Flexing hours (even not working 40 hours if you’re salaried), occasionally watching Netflix if there’s no active work to be done (receptionist jobs vary widely, some are response centric and have a lot of down time), those are both things that a boss could reasonably allow to keep a good employee happy without it having a business impact.
        The yelling and response to critique is a big problem, but the rest I could see being interpreted by a long-time employee as a green boss trying to prove their authority by making lots of rules.

        1. ferrina*

          Taking a whole afternoon off is a little more than flexing hours, especially for a role that is so visible to the public! That’s really something that should be done with the manager’s blessing.
          If she were an otherwise good worker and Fridays weren’t busy, I’d say it’s a great way to keep a good employee. But this person isn’t a good employee. This person cries and screams when given feedback, and I’d put them on a PIP really quick for the professionalism issue. I’d probably have them work Friday and set hours (with flexibility when arranged with me in advance) for the time being to reinforce that they can’t make that decision unilaterally, but maybe that’s me being petty.

          1. Siege*

            Taking a whole afternoon off and claiming it’s compensation for something she’s also not doing isn’t flexing her hours, it’s lying and theft.

            1. LJ*

              It’s possible the receptionist doesn’t leave their desk during the lunch, so there’s no need to arrange coverage = “working through lunch”. It really depends on what the arrangements have been over the years. Maybe there used to be a lunch coverage person that they don’t have anymore

              1. Siege*

                From the letter, they’re watching Netflix and claiming they’re working through lunch. If they can watch Netflix at other times of the day and not impact coverage, that’s one thing, but it’s certainly not presented that way, so my understanding is that OP’s understanding is that the receptionist is not “working through lunch”, merely saying she is.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, as a receptionist myself, the basic premise of the job is that you are in your seat and stay there between set hours. Netflix is something I was able to do from my phone during the pandemic, but even though we’re not much busier, now people are back in the office it would look a bit less politic.

            I’m really stunned people here aren’t making a bigger deal of it tbh.

  9. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

    For LW#2, I read it as the LW’s mom is the “boss-boss” (so the top of the hierarchy), and there is a “boss” below mom who is the manager that the LW spoke to. If that’s the case, I wonder how Alison’s advice would change? Should the LW take it up with her mother? Do something different?

    1. to varying degrees*

      That’s how I read it as well. And I’m not sure what the LW’s role is here – is she a colleague? A manager? I know she says her title is Office Manager but then discounts this. Also, is she going to be taking over the Ownership/Management of the entire company upon her parents retirement? If so, that changes a lot of how she needs to proceed here.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes my guess is the same lack of clarity that is affecting us trying to read the letter is at play in OP’s relationship with coworkers. If the receptionist doesn’t know that you are their direct supervisor with hiring/firing powers, they likely see you as just the bosses part time daughter throwing her weight around.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      If there is a boss in between the LW and the mom (boss-boss), then I think the advice is largely the same. LW should have a conversation with the boss about who is managing the receptionist (LW or boss?), and if the boss is the receptionists manager, LW can back out and stop worrying about the receptionist.

      Separately, the LW should have a conversation with their parents about succession planning. When do the parents officially step down? What is LW’s role after the parents have ceded control of the business? Is the power-transfer gradual or will it be more of a one day Mom is the boss, next day LW is the boss type of transfer?

    3. Starlike*

      I read it that way too, and I think it puts LW in an even more difficult position – their parents essentially brought them in with all the resentment that comes with nepotism, but no power.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      Yes. Mom is the boss-boss, and there’s an intermediary boss – the one who screams and bawls, and who is only 6 years older than OP.

      But I don’t think that changes the advice. OP needs to get clear with their parents about their role and the scope of their authority, and do some serious thinking about whether or not this job is the right fit. Good luck, OP!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think the receptionist is the one who screams and bawls and is 6 years older than the OP:

        I’ve confronted the receptionist several times but she just rolls her eyes or talks back (I hate confrontation and she can tell) and also she is so scary to confront about even the smallest problems with her work because she will start screaming and bawling that she is trying her hardest and everyone is out to get her. She’s also scolded me more than once, saying she is 41 and I’m 35 and have no business telling her what to do, so with that I have given up.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I think you’re right. The letter is confusing and unclear in that regard.
      – Mom is boss-boss and barely around.
      – There is another boss (mentioned once); thi is the person who never has th LW’s back and thinks the LW is too hard on the recptionist.
      – The recptionist is the one who will start screaming and bawling.

      The LW should clarify her role and the succession plan. Will LW become boss-boss when Mom fully retires and is she working as the “office manager” to learn the business until then?

      LW probably should flee. She’s passive, non-confrontational, sacred of reactions of a junior employee when providing valid feedback and just doesn’t sound like she’s cut out to run a small (?) business. She used to love her old job in marketing and running a business is a far cry from that.

      If she doesn’t, though, she needs to clarify succession plan and clarify her current duties, responsibilities, and authorities as the “office manager.” The receptionist should probably be fired, but if the office manager is not her manager then the LW is overstepping. I she’s just supposed to be learning (with not authority) until she becomes boss-boss, then stop worrying about the receptionist and create a plan to learn the business and follow through with it so you’ll be ready to be in charge. But I suggest you work on yourself to become less passive and moe willing to have difficult conversations because managers, bosses, and business owners need that skill to succeed.

  10. MissM*

    LW1, assuming this is a good faith letter, you will encounter a wide variety of co-worker activity that does not perfectly align with your moral framework and honestly it’s good to figure out how to be civil/pleasant with people that are not just like you. This is not a situation where you’re a vegan and your co-worker invited you to a lamb butchering. Please try to keep it all in perspective. You don’t have to have dog chat if you don’t want, the weather is always an evergreen small talk topic.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Going even one step further, learn how to decline such invitations without… let’s say… making yourself look unapproachable.

      I have worked with people who did their own slaughtering (farm country). I have a friend who hunts and he can prep just about anything. This stuff is not for me. My friends all know that when work is needed to be done, DO NOT call me. But they are confident I am still their friend.

      More to your scenario, OP, you can land on “my coworker knows I am a big supporter of animal shelters. but my coworker knows I am willing to work with him and he can count on me to do a good job each and every time.”
      It’s easier with cohorts- you do not have to make them your friend- you do have to work in a cooperative and helpful manner.

  11. RagingADHD*

    LW1, you can ask, sure.

    You can’t expect it to go well, or that it wouldn’t affect your boss’ opinion of your judgment. And/or your relationships with your coworkers who may well think it’s a very extreme position and a wierd hill to die on.

    But yeah, you could ask. Just make sure you’ve thought through how you’re going to continue dealing with that coworker and the rest of the team after your boss says no and they all hear about it.

    1. Allonge*

      Sure, asking is ok – actually it’s also ok for OP to decide that they will only hold a job at places where everyone feels the same.

      But this is on OP and very unlikely to be accommodated in a lot of places! Most managers will not want to invite conflict into their workplace over issues that have nothing to do with the job and are low-priority for most people at best.

      1. Owned by a Siberian husky (and not another breed)*

        OP would do well to consider that her superiors, to whom she’d presumably direct this request, may well have preferences for specific breeds and have gone to ethical breeders to obtain the dogs they want. Then she’ll find out what “taking good faith differences of opinion personally” means.

        I would think very poorly of an employee who came to me with this request.

    2. Ed123*

      Also, how will lw make sure in the new teams dog owning employees have all gotten their dog from a shelter? And if someone gets a dog from a breeder then just resign again? Doesn’t seem very practical.

    3. GarlicMicrowaver*

      I think this would be an ok “hill to die on” for OP if they worked in the animal rights industry. Just not in the real world.

  12. Science KK*

    Did I click the link and see a rescue chinchilla I’ve been looking at/dreaming of (but can’t currently care for) for months? Yes.

    Sad she’s still available but maybe once I pay off some debt and look into my job’s pet insurance, maybe Princess Leia the chinchilla will one day be mine. (sorry if this is off topic/sorry for inconveniencing Alison if she has to remove it)

  13. WhatDayisit... itsHumpday*

    #3 I would ask HR. Some companies have policies where employees have to be completely away from their work station/ desk if they are on lunch. It may be different with Covid.

    1. Antilles*

      Unless you’re in an industry with clearly defined on/off hours or something with very strict security rules, I don’t really think you’d need to ask HR.
      Eating at your desk is sufficiently common that I honestly think you’re probably fine just going ahead and doing it barring some specific reason to think that your industry/company would be an exception here.

    2. lilsheba*

      I wouldn’t ask HR, I would just eat at my desk. I have done it on and off for years and I wouldn’t stop now. Especially being disabled and being uncomfortable in those chairs, why suffer?

      1. PB Bunny Watson*

        This… it feels like Alison missed that part of the equation since eating in an empty office has the same problem of having to move all of OP’s stuff.

    3. londonedit*

      The only time I’ve ever encountered an office environment where you weren’t allowed(/supposed) to eat at your desk was the time the company moved into a brand-new office space and decided all desks must be left clear every evening (in a book publishing company with masses of proofs everywhere…we were supposed to put it all away in a drawer overnight…) and no one was allowed to eat at their desk because everything was brand new and they didn’t want people spilling soup on the carpet etc. You weren’t even technically supposed to drink tea or coffee at your desk, but come on, this is Britain and you can’t expect people to leave their desk every time they have a cup of tea! I could sort of see the point of that, as they’d obviously spent a fortune on the new offices, and they did provide a kitchen with communal dining space, big fridges, extremely posh coffee machines, etc. Even then, within a couple of months it had been amended to just ‘no hot food at your desk’ (to get away from the worst spills/smells – sandwiches, sushi etc were fine) and the no tea/coffee rule was never really implemented at all. The only other office spaces I’ve worked in haven’t had dedicated spaces with tables and chairs for lunch purposes, so everyone’s always eaten at their desk and it’s never been a problem.

      1. JustaTech*

        The only place I’ve worked that had a 100% “no food of any kind at your desk” was when my desk was inside the laboratory, as in my computer was less than 2 feet from a lab bench where someone could be working with something smelly, dangerous or both.

        But that was a clear safety rule that was explicitly stated to everyone as soon as they started (and were reminded as needed, mostly the guy who kept mixing up the lab microwave and the food microwave).

        The only other place I can think of that would have a “no food at your workstation” would be retail or manufacturing.

  14. Julia*

    LW2, not sure if you are aware – in many offices, the “office manager” does not actually manage people. That person manages the office, which typically means a lot of clerical work and taking care of operational stuff. You seem to think you are at least technically supposed to be in charge in some capacity and mention that you “have” a receptionist – has your mother told you your role is a people management role? Like Alison said, what you need is to get clarity on what your actual role is. And google “office manager”.

    1. GythaOgden*

      The smooth running of reception, essential to an office environment with visitors, post, clients etc coming in and out on an ongoing and unpredictable basis, fits really well within an office manager’s remit. You surely manage the people who are responsible for that aspect of the job as well as being responsible for paperclips.

      This woman is not doing her job. She’s not there when she is supposed to be there. Even over here in the UK, she’d be let go with extreme prejudice.

      How do I know this? I’m a receptionist. It’s not possible to allow us such significant flexibility, because of the nature of our job.

      1. Just My Worthless Opinion*

        Actually, upon reading LW2’s information, it’s not clear to me that the receptionist ISN’T working through her “lunch break.” It sounds very much like whatever she is doing, she’s doing at her desk.

        If her primary job is to be available to greet people who come into the office or to answer the phone and the business needs coverage from 8-5 Monday through Thursday, but not on Friday afternoons, if she eats at her desk but still greets people who come in and still answers the phone, she’s right, she’s entitled to be paid for that time.

        So she arrives at 7:45 every morning, and works until 5. That’s a 9.25 hour day X 4 days, which is already 37 hours. If she leaves at 12:45 on Fridays, they’ve already got over a 40 hour week out of her. If we remove the 2 hours of “lunches”….she’s still at 35 hours…which since she came in at 7:45…would make leaving at 12:45 precisely correct.

        It sounds to me as though the receptionist is doing her job in a way that works for both her and LW2’s mother, and LW2 is being unreasonable.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Sure. But she can’t just take off at lunchtime on Friday — she needs to be taking her lunch and staying later, because they need a receptionist on Friday afternoon.

    2. ferrina*

      They can manage people. At OldOldJob, the office manager did oversee the receptionist. Office Manager was in charge of all things building-related, from keeping things stocked and available to ensuring that the office was presented professionally to our clients. The receptionist was key to the presentation of the office, so reported directly to the Office Manager.

    3. Ama*

      Yes, it seems like everyone in OP2’s office could use some clarity on what OP’s role is and what authority it gives her (including the OP). I do think you have hit on something, in that the vagueness of what an “office manager” title means and whether or not that means managing people may be causing some of this confusion.

      If OP’s parents want OP to be handling personnel performance issues in her new role (whether just the receptionist or additional staff), they need to explain that very clearly to all of their staff. If OP’s parents didn’t intend for that to be part of OP’s role they need to clarify that with the OP.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Eh, it can be common for the office manager to supervise the receptionist or other support staff that fit into the basic office operations. I was an office manager and my company had clearly gotten my job description online somewhere rather than writing one based on my tasks. One of my assigned responsibilities in my job description was supervising the receptionist – we didn’t have one.

  15. Sassafras*

    LW3, my sister has a disability and likes to pop on an apron before eating at home, but in public she has some washable patterned scarves that unfold quite widely to cover her front – search for “dining scarf” or “dignity scarf”.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you so much!! This is extremely helpful! I honestly didn’t know they made a product for this and I will be ordering one immediately.

    2. Mek*

      My Aunt works in a retirement community and makes these for her residents. They are super popular!

    3. Prefer my pets*

      This is amazing! I’m just clumsy with big boobs that mean anything I spill lands in a very obvious stain spot. I’ve joked for years that I just need to eat with a bib (and do in fact often tuck napkins into my collar as bibs when I can).

    4. cottagechick*

      Wow, I have never heard of these before – so thank you for sharing. It is a running joke in my family that some of us end up wearing our food and of course its always when you are wearing a light colored shirt

    5. Carlie*

      You have just changed my life. My family always jokes about betting on how many minutes it will be before I get food on myself during a meal. The ability to protect my clothes will be awesome.

  16. John Smith*

    Re LW1. Agree with the comments and Alison’s response. What about out of work situations though with this colleague (here, called John)? Let’s say LW and John find themselves in a social setting outside of work. I’m going to guess LW will not want to be conversing with John at all and may have to say as much (e.g, if John approaches LW for a chat). What would LWs best response be that wouldn’t come back to bite at work? And if John was a manager rather than a colleague, would the advice be the same?

    1. Allonge*

      I don’t think there is a surefire way to never ever talk to someone you know and not have this come back on you (unless they never interact by default). OP coud walk away a few times but John will recognise a pattern at some point and depending on his level of investment in the relationship may well ask what’s up.

      TBH I think OP is taking this personally enough; no need to encourage them to take extra measures.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The LW would need to be civil to any colleague or manager, whether it’s a social conversation in the office, or whether they’re approached for a social conversation outside of the office. By that I mean they don’t have to be marvellously sociable, but a polite exchange of words is needed at least before they excuse themselves. Basically what every colleague does when another colleague is not a kindred spirit but still has the right to work around civil people.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I mean I don’t like all my colleagues and some I disagree with. I still have to make nice at work or social ecents. I think the thing is to be polite and stick to work or neutral topics. If all else fails I talk about the weather. Neutral small talk is wonderful.

    3. Lab Boss*

      It’s not at work, but I volunteer with a large international group and there is a fellow local volunteer I can’t stand. Their politics, mannerisms, the way they fill their role in the org, everything they do is the opposite of the way I do it.

      When we have to interact for the org, we just do the job, it doesn’t matter that we aren’t friends. When we end up physically sharing space and they want to socialize, I just make polite small talk until there’s an opportunity to politely pivot to talk to someone else. Just because I would never choose to socialize with them doesn’t mean I can’t make standard polite noises when the situation calls for them.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Am shaking my head. Try getting through life withOUT a boss who has a pure breed dog. I have had so many bosses ( or bosses in other departments) with dogs from a breeder. Good luck with that.

    5. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Wouldn’t you just approach it in the same way that you talk to anyone from work that you don’t necessarily get on with? Keep the conversation polite and quick and excuse yourself to go talk to some one else or do something else. There are just some coworkers that my personality does not mesh with, and I don’t need to go out of my way to point that out by announcing what I feel is annoying about them or their shortfalls outside of work or in a public setting, especially when I wouldn’t want them to do that to me.

    6. Observer*

      No, there is no way for the OP to tell John that they refuse to talk to him without it coming back to bite them in a big way.

      That doesn’t mean that the OP needs to have long conversations with John in social scenarios. But unless John is a pest, politely disengaging yourself from a conversation is not hard. But it DOES mean actually exchanging a pleasantry or two then finding a way to drift off.

    7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      “Some weather we’re having, huh?”
      “How’s that work project going?”
      “Excuse me, I need to refresh my drink”

      It’s really, really not that hard to be civil to people we don’t like or 100% agree with!

  17. Daria grace*

    Re: number 1, in addition to what everyone else has said about having to work with people with different values and them not getting a dog at you, there could be all sorts of factors they don’t feel like sharing with you that meant going with a dog from a breeder was a good choice. Perhaps they needed to be more sure the dog was low allergen or had great temperament due to how their kids behave and the right rescue dog wasn’t coming up. I’m very very pro rescue option but accept that sometimes breeders fill legitimate needs.

    1. allathian*

      This. There’s also the fact that unless you’re a middle-class family with one adult who’s not working full time, many shelters will reject your home as unsuitable for a rescue animal. Some people would also prefer to get a pet from a reputable breeder rather than risk adopting a pet that has suffered horrible trauma in the past and may need treatment for animal PTSD.

      But regardless of the reason, the LW is being unreasonable here and may well risk their employment if they ask for a transfer to another team. This will get them the reputation of not being a team player.

    2. Daisy*

      Yes, there are many more factors than “looks” that go into deciding which animal to bring into your home. Genetics have huge impacts not only on athletic ability and coat type but also on a multitude of behaviors that include how laid back/anxious, acceptance of strangers, acceptance and interaction with other animals, roaming instinct, and much more. Responsible owners think about these issues and specifically look for a good match for their individual situation.
      LW1 if you are really into volunteering at rescues you should know that PREVENTING dogs from ending up in rescues is very important. Don’t bash your coworker for making a different choice than you would, but encourage conditions that will allow this dog to be a cherished and long-term member of their family (puppy classes, socialization, obedience training, etc.).

    3. Bunny Girl*

      Yes this. LW1, try reframing your way of thinking about this person and their decision, which was a deeply personal one for them as well. Some people for a large variety of reasons just can’t make pet adoption work for them and they chose to go to a (hopefully ethical and reputable) breeder instead. They weren’t trying to be insulting to you. They were trying to make the best decision for them and their family’s needs. Most people who aren’t able to rescue a pet from a shelter/rescue for whatever reason still deserve the companionship and love of a pet. Their decision doesn’t make them a bad person.

    4. Alana Bloom*

      Yes, this. Without running afoul of Alison’s request, I would like to gently point out that getting a pet from a breeder can be the right decision for some people, for reasons that others have already mentioned (need for a certain temperament, inability to care for a dog with trauma history or severe behavioral issues, not meeting requirements set by the rescue, etc.).

      I know that it’s hard for OP #1 to see this from a different perspective, given her passion for animal rescue efforts, but if she can try to assume good faith on her coworker’s part (maybe he has a legitimate reason for going with a breeder! maybe he’s simply less aware than OP is of the number of rescue animals in their area!), it might help her maintain a good working relationship with him.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I think trying to see things from another perspective and approaching a situation with an assumption of good faith is such an important and under-appreciated skill. Yes, we all have things we feel passionately about, but (in most cases) just because someone looks at the same set of facts and comes to a different conclusion doesn’t mean they are Wrong and a Bad Person. It’s ok to disagree without making it a personal blood feud!

    5. Not your typical admin*

      Yes to all of this. And I think it helps to keep in mind people have all kinds of reasons for the decisions they make, even ones we disagree with. Our lives, needs, and passions are different than our coworkers, and that’s a good thing.

  18. Sandgroper*

    LW1 you seem so very, incredibly passionate about this. To the point of possibly jeopardising your employment. To ask to move teams over this is to show you don’t trust or like your current team enough to work with them, and that you place your passion about dog refuge and welfare about the workplace requirements (of team work and easy workplace relations). I’m not saying you’ll go all out and abuse him or similar, but to ask to move your job role, to another team, is to ask others to make considerable effort for you, to rearrange corporate teams isn’t as easy at it might seem and can come at quite the company cost (IT services, management realignments, desk moves, technology moves, and that’s all assuming it’s same job role elsewhere).

    So I ask you… if you actually feel this passionately about dog rescue… have considered changing your employment to somewhere that will be more in tune with your values? Not just your team assignment, but your employer. Maybe see if you can pick up paid work with animal or dog rescue, or with animal welfare/pet food management/veterinarians etc? Somewhere views like this are common and your passion wont’ interfere with your employment as much!

    1. Owned by a Siberian husky (and not another breed)*

      She shouldn’t apply to be a vet tech with that chip on her shoulder. Clients will bring their purebred dogs for treatment.

      1. Sandgroper*

        Yes, she’d need to screen the vet locations carefully. My local area is all designer oodles, and any around here will be stuffed full of them… none of which are likely to wind up in shelters. Probably not a good area for her to work in.

        I think it’s important we really sit down and ponder our values, and the work out how to make those work, with the income and lifestyle that comes with it, in our lives. It IS possible to have values such as these and earn a living wage but it takes thought, planning, effort to pull it off, and possibly a ten year plan. I’m not sure I’d sacrifice my creature comforts over the rescue vs bought stuff, but I have made conscious decisions in the past when working in corporate restructuring to ensure that I remained faithful to reasonable human first transitions.

        Vet tech. Running a rehome shelter herself. Working in marketing in public information to promote responsible pet ownership. Becoming a dog trainer so people can learn to live well with their pets and not need to send to shelters. Setting up a non profit that works with families who are suddenly homeless to maintain relationships with their suddenly homeless pets. All sorts of ideas you could cook up. Not all super stable income though… so that’s got to be considered.

        There’s two things that come to mind:
        Many employees work just to pay the bills and have mad fun hobbies on the side – they work to live (not live to work). This person could work their way up into well paid positions and use that influence and income to promote outside hobbies.A long term picture, but not impossible for many.
        The argument about bought vs rescue is binary, when our lives are multiverse. No one answer is correct, it’s not black/white or zero/one. A well supported bought dog might never wind up in a shelter, and a shelter dog may require extraordinary levels of support to integrate into some homes, and a great many things for and against either. It’s a passion of the OP, but sometimes it’s worth looking at our passions and seeing if the edges aren’t all hard and whether there’s a little fluff / soft there too.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, she’d need to screen the vet locations carefully

          It would go well beyond any reasonable level of “careful screening”. I simply cannot imagine any responsible vet practice refusing to care for purebred animals. So the practice would have to be somewhere where people really can’t get purebred pets NOR pets from the really bad puppy mills. How are they going to do that?

          Something similar is going to be true for most of the other suggestions you make.

          Having said that, I do very much agree that the OP needs to step back and recognize that their workplace may not be the best place to live out their passion.

      2. MsM*

        Honestly, I’m not even sure going to work for a rescue org would be a great idea. Seems like there’d be even greater risk of OP getting upset over decisions they don’t agree with because in their mind being committed to the cause means doing things exactly the way they think they should be done.

        1. quill*

          Yes. OP risks not seeing the forest for the trees in terms specifically of animal ethics, because there are many factors in finding homes for animals and a one size fits all rule is only going to prevent opportunity. At a rescue org I would worry about OP becoming the Chidi Anagonye of whether any given person has enough time, outdoor space, money, or experience to give a dog a perfect life and get in the way of materially improving the lives of the animals at the shelter in ways that are not perfect, but *are* lifesaving.

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        Yep. And also discover just what can go horribly awry when someone adopts a dog with an unknown genetic makeup and background. Side note: “vet tech”, specifically, is a person with a two-year diploma degree. A vet assistant does not have a formal degree. I try to reserve “tech” to mean a licensed tech.

    2. Worldwalker*

      For a typical employer, they’re going to see the animal rescue work as a hobby, and see the objection to the co-worker as hobby-related, not work-related. It would be the equivalent, to someone who doesn’t share that as an area of concern, of someone saying that because they’re a Red Sox fan, they won’t work with a Yankees fan. The OP doesn’t see it that way, of course — but their *boss* very well might. And then they will look very, very bad.

  19. Fish*

    LW1, I’m curious about why you’re taking your coworker’s method of dog acquisition so personally. I have three cats, and I’ve been fairly vocal about my opposition to declawing whenever it’s come up at work (which is only twice, but that’s more often than I thought it would come up.) A few years ago, one of my coworkers got a cat and opted to have the cat declawed. Do I think she made a bad decision that’s bad for her cat? Yes. Is her decision any of my business? No. She didn’t declaw the cat to spite me, and your coworker didn’t get a dog from a breeder to spite you. You can be disappointed that someone you know made a different ethical choice than you would, but you have to recognize that that choice isn’t about you.

    1. Luna*

      To be fair, declawing a cat is basically like cutting part of a human’s fingers off, and leaves the cat without defenses on their paws. I don’t think those two are quite the same level of thing…

      1. Owned by a Siberian husky (and not another breed)*

        To be fair, if the facts were identical to those LW1 presents, except that they involved declawing a cat instead of purchasing a purebred dog, it’s still none of LW1’s business.

        1. Despachito*


          I can (and do) consider a lot of things other people do for pleasure either unappealing, or downright stupid, and sometimes even harmful, but they are none of my business if they don’t affect me (of course, barring some exceptions such as criminal activities or actively harming or being dangerous to other people). Active preaching and / or being obnoxious with it counts as affecting me.

          I may deeply disapprove of my coworker declawing his cat (or eating meat, or taking an animal from a breeder, or being unfaithful to his wife) does, but I have (and should have) no say in it, because it is HIS business, not mine. I am certain some people at work must disapprove of certain things I am doing, but I would be very miffed if they tried to criticize me for that, let alone not want to work with me. In such a case, the weird ones would be them, not me.

          OP1, please, do not try to mention this to your superiors, or even to that coworker, and rather work a bit on detachment from what you consider your core values. Not abandoning them, of course, but realizing that other people can have different preferences and still be overall decent persons.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Good point. We can always look at our own selves and realize how we may be annoying other people.

          2. allathian*

            Yes. Thankfully I’m in an area where declawing a cat is illegal, and no reputable vet will even consider doing it, and the procedure isn’t taught in veterinary school. If a vet is caught doing it, they’ll get struck off the veterinary register and will never work as a vet or a vet tech again.

            Heck, even docking the tail and cropping the ears of a dog is illegal here.

            1. Despachito*

              But there were times when these were considered perfectly legal and non-questionable (I have yet to get accustomed to poodles with long tails as for quite a long time I was seeing them just with the little stump with a ball of hair on the end). And I suppose most of their owners were not tyrants but would be seen as such nowadays.

              My point is not to express my opinion on these operations but rather to point out that points of view may radically change over our lifetimes, and I am not able to get too invested in accepting or harshly condemning a practice according to what is currently trending. (I may consider, say, declawing or tail cutting weird, but I will probably not refuse to work with a person who did it to their cat).

              1. Napster*

                Circumcision actively and unnecessarily harms another human being, but it’s still being done in hospitals (and in private homes as part of a longstanding religious ceremony), and none of us (hopefully!) ask whether our co-workers are circumcised and then criticize their parents for that choice. Maybe we all ought to take a breath and consider how we spend our energy.

    2. Raboot*

      Just because something wasn’t done at you and/or doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean you can’t object to it. It’s one thing to tell OP their request is unreasonable bc work but it’s frustrating how many people are like “well ot wasn’t done AT you”, people can and should care about things that don’t affect them.

      1. Observer*

        No one says that the OP can’t “object”. But they need to object TO THEMSELF ONLY.

        And the reason that people keep telling the OP that “John” didn’t buy the dog AT them is because that’s pretty much what the OP is saying happened. Specifically, they say that it feels “like a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity”. That’s way over-personalizing it.

      2. Worldwalker*

        The reason so many people are saying “it wasn’t done AT you” is that from the letter, the OP apparently believes that it *was* — the “slap in the face” framing, etc.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        I think people are more responding to the LW’s exact phrasing. Now, OK, they may not have meant it the way it comes across as it’s often hard to evaluate tone and so on online, but “I feel this is a slap in the face as my work with animal rescues is a core part of my identity” comes across very differently to “I no longer respect this colleague.” The former does sound a bit like “I feel personally offended by what this person did” rather than “I really care about this issue and feel my colleague is harming animals and I cannot condone that.”

        Yeah, you can definitely care about things that don’t affect you and when it comes to things that affect children, animals or vulnerable groups like immigrants who may not have a vote to protect their own rights, then it’s often arguable that you SHOULD, but…while I would probably think less of a colleague who went on an anti-immigrant rant and certainly HAVE thought less of people who made bigoted comments about the Travelling Community, I would not consider any of those comments a slap in the face to ME, as I am neither an immigrant nor a member of the Travelling Community.

    3. Gracely*

      This. I am deeply, profoundly opposed to cat declawing. A coworker of mine had a declawed cat that she loved dearly. She was older/grew up in a different time, and did not know that declawing is essentially cutting off their top digit. That cat passed away (old age), and she mentioned she wanted to get another cat, and maybe get it declawed.

      Because I hadn’t jumped down her throat at the first mention of declawing, I was able to explain why it’s so bad for cats, even indoor-only cats. I suggested that if it’s important to her, perhaps she might find one that was surrendered to a rescue that was already declawed. We ended the conversation with me saying “If you can’t find one already that way and got one with claws, I really, really wouldn’t have them declawed, but ultimately it’s up to you and your vet.”

      She did not get her new cat declawed! But even if she had, it wouldn’t have been done AT me.

      The point I’m trying to make is that, if you’re only ever around people the same as you, there is no chance to have an impact on those who are different, or for them to have an impact on you. And you can’t expect for someone to change what they want or believe because it’s important to you–and them not changing isn’t a dig at you. I think a lot of the pushback vegans and meat-eaters get to/from each other is because of a similar myopia.

      1. irene adler*

        Well said! It may be that someone just always declawed their pet cats, and didn’t realize what this actually does to the cat. Your approach is a teaching moment and leaves one open to thinking about doing things differently.

        Chastisement and shaming -for me anyways- always made me want to dig my heels in further. But then I’m like that.

  20. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    For LW2, I’d like to gently push back on the idea that the receptionist isn’t “working through lunch”. If she’s sitting at her desk available to answer the phone and accept deliveries (etc) and nobody else is needed to sit there, is she truly taking a break?

    Now, if she’s taking off at lunchtime on Fridays then you may have a coverage issue, and I’d recommend going from that angle. Is it easier to cover half an hour five times, or one whole afternoon? When are your busy times and who else in the office can cover the desk? Do you actually need someone physically present at the front desk at all times when the office is open? Is this an optics thing?

    1. Madame X*

      It doesn’t sound like LW2 has A problem with the receptionist taking a lunch break. Rather, they seem to have an issue with her not taking her work (or the letter writer) seriously and lying about how she doesn’t even take a lunch break.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        She may well not be taking her work seriously and she’s clearly rules lawyering to some degree. But I don’t think it’s as simple as “lying about […] lunch break” because if she is still available at the front desk then she’s still working, isn’t she? It may well be that this is what has been agreed with someone other than LW and that boss considers it preferable to having the desk empty over lunchtime.

        “She says she doesn’t take a lunchbreak but she does” is the weakest part of LW’s complaint about her.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah…I get an hour’s unpaid lunch and the company I work for encourages us to take a full hour, but more often than not I’ll nip out (if I’m in the office) or make something for lunch (if I’m at home) and then eat at my desk, and I will deal with any emails or bits and pieces that happen in the meantime. I know I should get out and do something with my lunch hour, but if the weather’s rainy/too hot/too cold or I’m tired or I just can’t be bothered then I’ll just faff around at my desk while I’m eating. So theoretically my employer is getting half an hour or so’s extra work from me most days. Especially with a reception desk, if there’s no one else to cover at lunchtime then the receptionist might prefer to ‘take her lunch’ at the desk so that she can answer the phone if needed, in which case I’d say she was still ‘working’.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Yeah but the complaint didn’t seem to be “said she worked through lunch but didn’t” but rather “claimed she worked through lunch in order to leave early” – that doesn’t fly most places. The hours are set to when they need a receptionist. Whether she actually worked through lunch or not, it’s not normal to be able to use that as a method of leaving early. Just like usually you can’t take your lunch break at the tail of your shift.
            If the issue is she has to take lunch at her desk because otherwise there’s no coverage, and is thus working and not getting a lunch break at all, management needs to find a coverage plan so she gets her break. But if she’s choosing to do it when they would absolutely let her take that break, her manager should make it clear they need her to actually take that break. And also that one cannot choose to work through a break to leave early in a position that interacts with the public who presumably will still come or call during normal hours.

      2. Meep*

        The receptionist is working 40 hour weeks if she is working 8.75 hours a day Monday through Thursday and a half day on Friday. OP is the problem.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      And she’s also apparently only taking half an hour. I don’t know what the norm is in the LW’s office, but…if she is working 8 to 5, I would assume an hour? That would mean she is missing out on half an hour of her lunch break, plus coming in 15 minutes early. That’s 45 minutes a day, which comes to 3 hours Monday to Thursday, plus the 15 minutes in the morning on Friday. That would make up most of the time on Friday.

      It doesn’t make the other issues, like telling the LW she is older than her and therefore shouldn’t have to take instruction from her, OK though.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        But also, I’ve never worked anywhere where a receptionist could set their own hours. Their hours are tied to the business hours.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, this stuck out to me. The receptionist is the first impression for clients, so things like hours are usually in place for a business reason. If the receptionist isn’t there, someone else is covering. Any ongoing change in schedule should be coordinated with others on the team (not decided unilaterally)

    3. Pass the Just-For-Men*

      @General von Klinkerhoffen – I agree. While it is a reduced capacity (which is everyone who eats at their desk), if she is still picking up the phone or handling visitors/deliveries, then she is still working and shouldn’t have to clock out. She still sounds like a nightmare to have to deal with though and it makes me question how welcoming she sounds on the phone/appears to visitors, but that’s not the question that was asked <>

    4. Raboot*

      Unless it’s a job where it’s fine to watch movies 100% of the time then yes, it’s taking a break.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I used to have a job where I needed to be physically present at a location just in case someone turned up. There were tasks to do, but let’s say in a typical three-hour window there was one hour’s worth of [task] to do, and two hours of sitting about waiting. I couldn’t go anywhere else: I had to be exactly there in that building on my own for that entire period.

        I was absolutely allowed to watch TV or read or play mah jongg or whatever. Because I was being paid to be present for the rare occasion when my presence would be needed.

        Some jobs are about measurable work product, and some are about availability. It isn’t clear from the OP whether this employee is avoiding actual work product (eg letting the phone ring out) or just availability. And it isn’t clear which of those the workplace and employer actually needs. LW2 would do well to clarify either with boss, grandboss (mom) or even just in their own mind what the employee is doing objectively wrong and what she’s doing that’s just subjectively annoying.

  21. GythaOgden*

    LW2 — as a receptionist, my mind is boggled that the subject of the letter gets to leave so early and hasn’t been fired yet. The whole point of the job is to be there to open doors for delivery and other visitors. Mine includes the post, but yeah, you’re actually right to be concerned — the office needs to have someone there in the fixed hours they’re open to make sure people can access the building. Particularly if she’s solo, she can’t just leave when she feels like it. Even if there’s another receptionist, she’s imposing the burden on someone else.

    Even in worker-friendly Britain, this would probably be grounds for progressive dismissal. Sorry, but as someone who is conscientious about doing the job I was employed to do, she’s missing the whole point of her job and apparently getting away with it.

    My gast is well and truly flabbered. SMH.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      As a once and likely future receptionist this was my exact reaction.

  22. Luna*

    LW1 – I don’t want to devalue pets, but this is not the hill for you to die on. It’s not like your coworker is open about… cannibalism that they partake in or they spout racist or bigoted opinions all the time or they are anti-vaccination. It’s ‘just’ your personal opinion on not buying from breeders. Get over it and move on. If said coworker starts to talk a ton about breeding animals, then you can point out that your personal stance is to prefer shelter adoption or similar, then leave it at that.

    LW2 – Talk to your parents and ask exactly *what* your job position is. Your duties, where you are on the hierarchy, and just what they expect from you. Once you know your position, you could even go to this receptionist and say, “I don’t care if you consider my age to mean I ‘can’t tell you what to do’, but I am [position] here and I am telling you to stop lying to me about not taking lunch breaks, when we both know that I am aware that you do. If you don’t shape up, I have the authority to put you under scrutiny and I will make use of that when necessary.”

    Unless your position is not one that gives you such authority, in which case… we are back to asking your parents just what they want from you. They want you to ‘work for them’. Great… as what? Janitor? Office manager? Successor to mom’s boss-boss position? But this is an issue when working with family: you need clear boundaries and rules.
    If you are not getting that, then you have to be firm to your parents (however difficult that is, especially for someone who already doesn’t like confrontation) and tell them that you will not, and cannot, work for them.

  23. Green great dragon*

    Not the key point of letter two, but – if the receptionist was working Mon-Thur with no lunch in order to leave early on Fri, and had an afternoon sick/PTO, then yes she absolutely gets her Fri pm off. Otherwise you seem to be suggesting she’d both lose an afternoon’s sick/PTO and then make the time up anyway? Of course the hours of PTO she takes need to cover the amount she’d usually be working, not the amount someone working regular M-F would be working.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      I think the LW believes that the receptionist IS taking lunch and therefore is NOT making up any time. This is arguable because if she’s at the front desk eating and watching Netflix, technically she is available for visitors. If she’s also supposed to be answering the phone and ignores that and ignores anyone approaching her, then she is taking a lunch break.

    2. Lab Boss*

      It depends if the receptionist is taking enough time off to cover the extra hours she normally works. If she’s scheduled for 5 x 8 hour days and she normally just works an extra hour the first 4 days and leaves 4 hours early on Friday that’s fine- but if she took time off and only used 8 hours because that’s her normal day, then she wouldn’t be entitled to leave 4 hours early Friday

    3. Lab Boss*

      If her schedule is supposed to be 8 hours a day and she’s working 1 extra hour Mon-Thu so she can leave 4 hours early Friday, then it depends how much PTO she took earlier in the week. If she only took enough PTO to reflect her “official” 8 hour day (working 4 hours, then leaving at lunch time and taking 4 hours of PTO) then she should only be leaving 3 hours early Friday (because she only put in an extra hour on three days that week).

      But that’s only the one hour that didn’t get worked extra, she definitely shouldn’t be expected to “make up” the full four hours of PTO on Friday.

      1. Greg*

        But if she is simply doing it on her own without getting sign-off from management, then she shouldn’t be leaving at all. I’m all for making sure people get their proper time off and comp time, but it needs to be vetted and cleared through their manager.

        (Of course, it sounds like her boss is ok with it. Or just afraid to confront it…)

    4. GythaOgden*

      Reception is not the sort of job where you can routinely take flexitime. I did it once, but I had to agree to coverage if necessary, and being the public sector we have two people.

      This is really the point where if the receptionist wants flexitime or afternoons off, she needs to find a different line of work. Everything else is angels-on-a-pinhead stuff.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Or conversely, if Friday afternoons are so quiet that it’s not a problem and there’s legitimately non-receptionist stuff that can be done after hours, switch her officially to 9-hour days + 4 hour Fridays. My team IS able to have a lot of flexibility and even still, they’re expected to have a standard schedule that matches their usual hours.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Not really. I mean, I don’t want to sound harsh or unkind, but what do you think receptionists actually do?

          You/your managers pay us to be doorkeepers. We can’t therefore choose to be out of the office when people are likely to come to the door or couriers with extensive multi-drop routes and thus no direct guarantee of timing get to us. The incoming post can come any time during the morning, and while the outgoing post goes at a more fixed time, our slot isn’t until 3.40-4pm, including Fridays. Our work takes place during set hours; we don’t take it home with us, but we are coverage-based rather than task-based. Many jobs beyond office work simply don’t have this kind of flexibility in them and are inherently positions where the work is done within fixed hours or on a shift basis.

          Thinking any receptionist can just take off early on Fridays or whenever is really not getting it. They may or may not have other clerical work to do (we don’t, because public healthcare is a massive business and can afford someone who isn’t trying to do two or three jobs simultaneously and it drives me crazy sitting there for five hours with nothing more intellectually stimulating than sudoku. I’d love to do some busywork, and am looking for another job with more to do and moreover, working for people who actually appreciate what we do) but they also have a responsibility to be physically present.

          I’m sorry to get annoyed, but this sort of stuff is pretty out of touch. It’s also incredibly patronising in a way — you’re siding with an employee who is not doing her job properly because you see her as some object of pity for doing a job, like Little Dorrit or Bob Cratchit. Speaking as someone in the role and who still has the dignity to do it well, this is not what a receptionist is or what she should be doing.

          It’s like excusing someone for bad behaviour because of mental illness or neurodivergence — it does a massive disservice to those who do their job responsibly and keep to the rules established by their conditions of employment. It’s counterproductive tbh and I’m really rather surprised to be on an office-focused website and find people who just don’t understand what a receptionist needs to be doing.

          1. Lab Boss*

            Woah, that’s a lot. I never said “any receptionist can just take off early on Fridays or whenever” and I’m not “siding with” anybody. Clearly this particular receptionist is consistently leaving early on Fridays but we don’t know nearly enough about the business to know whether that’s OK *in this specific case* or not. The only problem that the OP said was that she’s claiming to work extra on the other days- not that there was any problem with half-day Fridays.

  24. LifeBeforeCorona*

    OP1 Reminds me of the “loyalty oath” letter from earlier this week. Do you really want co-workers to read and sign a 40 page manifesto agreeing with your ethical world view? It’s impossible because people have their own moral compass. If your mail carrier has a dog from a breeder, are you going to refuse mail delivery and pick it up from the post office? My point is that everyone is different and even though dog rescues are your passion you cannot apply the same standards to random co-workers or anyone that you interact with every day.

  25. Harper the Other One*

    LW1: to stop yourself from getting hung up on where your coworker got their particular dog, it might help you to think of the dog’s life more globally. Where you get an animal is only one part of animal welfare, after all, and as people have commented, there are many reasons your coworker may have chosen that path. If the dog gets love, good training, proper vet care, etc., that is more important for that individual animal than where/how it was born.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      This is probably going off topic, but the problem with this is that in thinking about that individual animal’s life, which will arguably be very good, it’s hard not to think of all the other individual animals who get put down *because* of breeders and the animals they sell. Those aren’t independent institutions; they are very much related.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I understand that they are related, but the decision is done and OP needs to be able to work with this coworker. They need strategies for managing their emotions around their coworker’s choice and one of them could be that the dog’s origin is not the be-all and end-all of animal welfare.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Honestly, I also think it would be a good exercise for the OP to think about the reasons someone may buy from a breeder versus adopting from a rescue. I’ve done both – 2 breeder pets and 8 rescue pets in my adult life. But right now that seems like too big a hurdle for them to jump, so starting with the general welfare angle is probably going to be most effective for their current issue, which is figuring out how to work with this coworker.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        They don’t, though–that’s a massive oversimplification.

        Where I am, a lot of the dogs in shelters are pit bull types. If you go to the shelter looking for a 25-pound dog that your apartment will allow, you’re not going to find one and you’re not going to adopt a 60-pound pit mix instead, because you have nowhere to put it. You’re going to go elsewhere to find a dog. But it’s not that small dog’s “fault” that those dogs didn’t get adopted today–it’s that those other dogs don’t fit your life,

        “Adopt at all costs” people sort of gloss over how important it is that the dog be the right dog for you, not just a dog that is no longer in a shelter. The actual problem is people who don’t spay or neuter or who get dogs that *aren’t* the right dog for them, which might have been avoided had they talked to a responsible breeder in the first place.

        1. Daisy*

          This exactly! In my area also about 80% of the dogs in shelters are some sort of pit mix. The other 20% are Chihuahua-type dogs with anxiety/aggression issues. Any other type of mix is snapped up in an instant, usually not even making it to the shelter page. These are not dogs coming from responsible breeders (who require signed contracts that the dogs come back to them at any time, and dogs are chipped with the breeder as backup).

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Haha, I have two rescues – one is a pit mix and the other is, you guessed it, an anxious and sometimes snappy Chihuahua mix. And they are both 100% good girls and the absolute queens of my heart.

          2. Lilo*

            That’s been a big issue for me for adopting a dog as well (I do not have a dog). I was attacked by a pit bull when I was a teenager and it’s just not a type of dog that I want to own because I’m just never comfortable around them. But that’s what shelters generally have.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              And that’s certainly your prerogative. I know that I wouldn’t be a good fit for certain breeds, because my ideal dog is a lazy couch potato snuggle bug, and my old, lazy, chubby and sweet pittie mix is the perfect fit.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Aren’t those animals all there because they belonged to humans who for whatever reason couldn’t/wouldn’t care for them? It’s really not the fault of the golden retrievers for existing.

        Ideally there would be just a tiny number of animals in shelters because all humans were deeply responsible for their animal companions. If this actually happened, then in turn most companion animals would come from people deliberately breeding their pets, rather than being really surprised when their unfixed dog or cat had a litter.

      4. Worldwalker*

        It’s more complicated than that, though.

        I’ve heard people who don’t spay/neuter their dog (because it’s “not natural”) say that they’re not concerned if they have puppies, because they’ll just take them to the shelter and someone will adopt them.

        Those rescue dogs are coming from somewhere, and it’s rarely dogs sold by breeders. That’s something that needs to be addressed. Because otherwise, there are just going to be more and more of them coming from the same source, and no amount of encouragement to adopt can possibly keep up.

        1. Lilo*

          There’s also, unfortunately some argument that rescues and shelters enable or prop up puppy mills and back yard breeders because they provide and ‘easy’ out and in some cases rescues even pay thr bad actors for the dogs. Just like how there’s some argument greyhound rescues enable dog racing.

          Look I’m not a dog person and I have a shelter cat, but it’s actually a super complex issue.

  26. Irish Teacher*

    LW 1, I think it would be very difficult to find a workplace where nobody has or ever would buy a dog from a breeder. A huge number of people have dogs and I very much doubt every one of them have adopted. I have no idea where any of my coworkers that have dogs got them, but the odds are high at least one went to a breeder. If you change teams, it’s quite possible that somebody there will also have bought from a breeder. Or if they haven’t, that they will disagree with you on some other issue that you consider central.

    And this is not an issue that should affect you in the workplace. I mean, if you were an atheist and had a coworker who was pushing their religion/insistent that it was not possible to be moral without being religious, that could affect the interactions in the workplace, especially if they were pushing their agenda at work or if you were a woman and the person was very strongly against working mothers, that could affect how they would behave towards you if you got pregnant. People still have to put up with issues like these, but this is one that doesn’t really enter the workplace or shouldn’t.

    I also think that while our values may be a core piece of our identity, they can usually only affect how we behave. Like if somebody considered their religion to be a core piece of their identity, it would not be reasonable for them to insist on changing teams because one of their coworkers was an atheist or did something that their religion prohibited – was divorced, living with a partner outside marriage, working on a Sunday, whatever. If somebody were vegan and considered that to be a core part of their identity, it wouldn’t be reasonable for them to change teams because somebody on their team ate meat. I think this is similar.

    1. LolaBugg*

      Came here for this comment. Imagine LW1’s surprise when, on the new team they somehow successfully switched to, there’s another coworker who bought a dog from a breeder. Because it’s really not that uncommon. LW will have to learn to exist around people with different opinions.

    2. quill*

      This. OP needs to realize that there isn’t a one good and appropriate way to live a life, it’s all managing circumstances and values to make (hopefully) a net positive.

  27. L-squared*

    #1. This seems like an extreme reaction. Even if I agree with you in theory (which mostly I do), the fact that you are calling his choice to get an animal this way a slap in the face to you is too much. Even if he knows how you spend your time volunteering, I can assure you, what you do in your free time had NOTHING to do with this choice. You are a coworker, thats it. That would be like a vegan wanting to change teams because they saw their team members eating meat. This has nothing to do with you at all, and you probably need to not be so extreme in your views.

    1. Abigail*

      I would rather work with somebody who used a breeder than somebody who is self righteous.

      1. Daisy*

        I would rather work with somebody who used a breeder than someone who adopts and returns animals to the shelter on a regular basis (I have known several).

  28. Reality.Bites*

    I’m enjoying this by going with the premise that this IS a hill to die on, so I can then theorize on what other reasons for changing teams would be equally acceptable.

    Eurovision would be an annual HR nightmare.

  29. GarlicMicrowaver*

    Trying again as twice, my comments have not gone through. Not sure why. But this has been happening a lot lately.

    OP1, with all due respect you are not being fair. Please consider applying for a job at an animal rights organization where you’d be a better fit.

  30. Coffee and muffins*

    LW2 This isn’t how your office operates, many places are lenient about letting people go early on Fridays and I’m not sure that she is actually stealing time from what is written. Bottom line you took a job working for your mom/parents and you want the one person working for you to follow “Call Center Dictatorship rules” when the rest of the office is on “Island time”. You may like/thrive on the call center mentality but there is a reason most people hate working in a call center. Leave the receptionist alone about leaving early

    1. ABCYaBye*

      While I’d generally agree that there’s a difference in (I like your examples) “Call Center Dictatorship rules” and “Island Time” and the LW should know what they’re walking into, we don’t have quite enough information to totally say that they should leave the receptionist alone about leaving early. If that’s putting the business in a tough spot to not have the receptionist any Friday afternoon, I’d suggest there’s reason to push back. If someone else has to drop what they’re doing to cover the receptionist’s duties, that’s a problem. But we don’t know exactly what’s happening.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I definitely think the receptionist’s yelling is a serious problem, but I’m less concerned about “fixing” her hours.

      Her arrangement is likely informal, but she’s been doing it this way for a long time with the tacit approval of her actual boss. And it’s working for the company, by whatever definition of “working” they’re using. Maybe OP wants it to work better, but that’s just not their job (yet). It seems like OP objects on general principle, not based on a specific negative effect that is their responsibility to handle.

    3. Luna*

      I think the bigger problem is that the receptionist is lying to OP’s face and isn’t showing her any kind of professional attitude. Even if OP is not their manager or is properly given the manager role that they apparently have, the receptionist is still being a jerk to her.

      Though the main problem, I’d say, is OP working for family. She needs to be told an exact role and what she can and can’t do in that role. As it is, it sounds like a wishy-washy situation of ‘work for us’, but nothing is defined (as it happens when you mix family and work) and that causes problems.

  31. McThrill*

    For LW #1, if pet adoption is such a huge part of your identity that you will refuse to work with someone who obtains a pet in any other way then you should probably look for jobs either within that industry, or at companies that expressly state your beliefs in their core values. Even if your work allowed you to switch teams, what if you had to work with your former team in the future? Would you refuse to do any work that [former co-worker] asked for or needed? Would you only talk to the team through a third party?

    1. londonedit*

      And, as someone else pointed out above, how can the OP know who out of all the other teams has or hasn’t ever bought an animal from a breeder? What happens if someone joins the team and proudly shows off their new Dalmatian puppy – will the OP ask to switch teams again? Or what happens if they go to the boss to ask about a switch to a different team and the boss says ‘Actually…we got our last two dogs from reputable breeders’? It’s just not sustainable. Assuming the colleague is just minding their own business while owning a dog, rather than somehow harassing the OP for their stance on animal rescue, there really isn’t anything to be done except to put the issue out of their mind and get on with work.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a really excellent point.

      “Boss, I want to be moved to another team. First, I will need to know the pet makeup of the household of everyone on those teams. Current, former, and plans for the future. Also, do you think they and their families would all sign binding contracts to at no point in future take in any animal that at some point belonged to a breeder?” That isn’t going to fly with your boss, or with your coworkers–including a lot who only have shelter pets, but don’t care about your opinion on that.

  32. Kay Zee*

    Wow! #1 took me by surprise! By no means do I consider it a frivolous issue, but in these times especially, I did not see that coming.

    What it really shows me is that people – all people – are really living in their own heads.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah given the time and place of reality (2022, planet earth) I really did not expect this to be the issue that someone absolutely could not stand a coworker over.

      I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it to be honest.

    2. Mek*

      I read the title and expected the “values” to be one of the political hotbuttons. A coworker who was vocally bigoted or anti-choice or something. Not this!

      1. quill*

        Yeah, I came in thinking “this OP has encountered politics and/or religion in the workplace” and left thinking “OP needs some coaching in accepting that other people’s decisions do not primarily hinge on their binary views.”

    3. mcfizzle*

      I don’t know if it matters, but I get the sense that OP is probably pretty young (early 20’s? maybe first-ish professional workplace?) and honestly hasn’t had to experience the “real world” yet and how to handle differing expectations / potential conflicts. I too am rather astounded that this is apparently the hill to die on. It makes me wonder how many other hills are out there (vaccines, masks, pick a darn topic…) for OP if this is such a big one.

  33. Baron*

    Hi, LW1!
    I want to offer you some kindness. I appreciate your passion. Dogs are important to me too. My whole life is built around dogs. I understand how strongly a lot of people, including myself, can feel about dogs. But as someone who’s been bullied at work for being queer (a core piece of my identity), for the colour of my skin (a core piece of my identity), and for my gender (a core piece of my identity), the language you use in your letter is a bit concerning to me. Again, I’m on your side here. But my advice to you would be to work on resilience.

    1. Science KK*

      I wash thinking this too. Plus, if they reacted this way for a coworker, imagine if a friend or a loved one did the same? Would they lose members of their (social at least) support system?

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I’ve been stewing around this myself. I’ve only ever caught flack over my gender, nothing else, but believe me when I say that I lean harder into dealing appropriately with colleagues who believe women have no business being in a “man’s job” than I would dealing appropriately with a colleague who “believes thing that does not denigrate the well being of another human being”. The former requires full pushback; that latter, potentially suppressing an eye roll on my part and changing the topic. (Some things would, some things wouldn’t. I honestly haven’t thought much about where the dog argument falls.)

      (I draw a personal line at “your opinion is valid but dehumanizing an entire group of people for things they cannot control is not an opinion”.)

    3. Observer*

      Thanks for saying this. I was trying to find a way to say something similar, but I would have been both less kind and less effective.

      So I’ll just say that you are 100% correct, a thousand times over.

    4. SP*


      I can’t imagine having where someone procured their family pet from as the biggest personal conflict they’ve experienced unless they have little to no “real world” experience to put it into perspective. I’m imagining LW1 is a fresh graduate with their first ever job and is still learning about what is and is not an actual problem to escalate at work.

    5. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Agreed. I value cats in general more highly than humans in general, I hate unethical breeders (but responsible, ethical breeders are absolutely not the problem with animals being in shelters!), and the language in the letter still had me cringing away from the screen. Your comment illustrates perfectly the major reason why.

  34. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Resisting the urge to pile on OP1, because OP1 is likely not going to hear/absorb/accept any comments from any commenters (or likely even from Alison).

    #3 – Take a look around at other colleagues and observe whether others eat at their desks, too. It sounds like the kitchen area is pretty unused, which means people must be eating somewhere. An apron or scarf or other clothing preserver is a great idea (and probably a good idea for everyone!).

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I’m not sure why you included the bit about #1. By posting it, you’re not “resisting the urge to pile on”

      1. Observer*

        I think they were taking a swipe at all of the commenters that did have something to say about #1

  35. Enn Pee*

    LW2 – many, many years ago a former boss was in a similar situation with some of my coworkers. They said they “worked through lunch” and wanted to leave early every day.
    In our state, non-exempt (from FLSA) employees who work 6+ hours are REQUIRED BY LAW to have a 30 minute lunch break.
    He told them that he would be breaking the law if he did not require them to take 30 minutes (unpaid) for lunch – and so, they could not leave early because otherwise he would be violating state labor laws.
    Your situation is, of course, more of a boss situation than an employee situation, but you may want to see if your state has a similar law (and which employers/employees it applies to). Your mom could very well be violating labor laws by allowing her employee to work through lunch.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I grew up and worked in a similar state. I had a job at a flower shop in college, and usually worked on Sundays; we were open 10-4, so exactly 6 hours, and usually worked open-close on Sundays. It was pretty common for the Sunday crew to get wrapped up in projects because it was often kind of slow. People would take breaks, but often not a formal “lunch” because it sort of seemed unnecessary. We, as employees, didn’t understand this was an issue until the business owner explained at a meeting that the business could be in a lot of trouble because of this.

      1. Mek*

        I’m not sure if it’s just differing state laws, but my husband gets around the situation you describe by giving his employees a paid, unscheduled break. Basically they work 7-1, are paid for 6 hours, and at some point in there they are supposed to take 30 minutes for themselves, but nobody really tracks it.

  36. Bibliovore*

    Focusing on the advise requested. No you can’t change teams because you disagree with a person ‘s values. Keep your eyes on your own plate.
    I was horrified to discover there is actually no ethical way to have a companion dog. Read this well researched book for the evidence. Bottom line dogs are being bred specifically for rescue. “In her meticulously researched, unbiased book, The Doggie in the Window, Rory Kress exposes the two main problems with commercial dog-breeding in our country: the utter inadequacy of federal laws and regulations related to this activity and their equally inadequate enforcement. If Kress’s mission was to inform, educate and inspire us, she most definitely achieves her goal.”

    1. EnglishSetterLady*

      Lack of regulation and enforcement does not mean individuals cannot ask pointed question do their research. You’re right, it’s a fairly poor system and there’s severe lack of information but suggesting there’s no ethical way of having a companion dog is also extrapolating…

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    So here I am.
    OP2, there’s a great Captain Awkward letter where someone describes the life pickle he has got himself into, and she suggests that he rewrite the whole thing in the active voice. That sort of exercise might help you, because you seem to feel buffeted by prevailing winds rather than making firm decisions about what you will and won’t take on.

    It sounds like you loved your old job and have no interest in management. (Or in whatever management/child-of-owner hybrid this is.) Both are fine! Lots of people do not want to be managers. “Because my parents expect it” shouldn’t be the reason you quit a job you enjoy, are good at, and can support yourself on so you can go take a role under them.

    The receptionist sounds like a symptom, not the underlying cause of all your frustration.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep. If I had a time machine I’d tell OP not to leave their old job in the first place, it’s going to set them up for anger and resentment. But we’re way past that. Now OP needs to look at the situation they’re in, they agency they have in it, and make some real choices.

  38. This-is-a-name-I-guess*

    I have a lot of family-owned businesses in my, uh, family.

    LW2, you need to check with your mom what the arrangement is for the receptionist, today. You also need to stop treating a family business like a corporate job. Small businesses are often relationship-based, even between employer and employee. Adding “corporate efficiency” too early will disrupt the ecosystem and leave you with no employees!

    Your mom probably set up that work arrangement (shortened lunch, shortened Friday) with her long ago, as a special perk. If the receptionist has been there a long time and is one of few employees, your mom might have a special relationship with the receptionist, and this is why she has that schedule. Maybe she is/was paid below market or started very part-time, and her schedule was a perk to thank her for her early flexibility in helping grow a small business.

    Very small business owners often have relationships like this with their employees, especially early employees in a young business. Your mom might see herself as a humane employer and might derive some self esteem from her employee’s relaxed scheduled.

    The yelling and shouting needs to be dealt with, but if your mom and her employee have a special relationship/agreement about her schedule, you should honor it.

  39. blink14*

    LW3 – I often used an empty cubicle pre-Covid in my final office space to take my lunch break and I found it really helpful for a few reasons. 1. I was physically out of my personal workspace, which is really important for me mentally. 2. It established a pattern of when I was in that cubicle, I was on my break and didn’t want to be bothered, also really important if you are someone who needs your break to decompress. 3. The cubicle I used, for the space we were in, was as far away from other people as I could get. Which wasn’t actually that far, but enough so that it felt like I was in a separate space, not bothering anyone and vice versa.

    I’ve also worked in a shared space with a very large kitchen that had multiple tables. I preferred using this area in that space because we had so many people, and it was really the only designated lunch/break space that was consistently available. It did mean that I had to interact a little bit more, but I sort of “trained” my co-workers that if I was sitting a table reading my book, I wanted a quiet break. And actually that started a sort of informal book club/quiet lunch club where we took a corner of the space and were together, but doing our own thing.

    1. JustaTech*

      Honestly I miss when everyone went to the lunch room together to eat lunch. (It was a separate space away from desks and labs.)

      But between ongoing attrition and COVID, hardly anyone ever uses the lunch room anymore, so if we’re having a surge I eat in an empty office (because I have a cube), and if there’s not a surge I just eat at my desk and watch YouTube (SFW).

      For me part of it was training from my first job where eating at my desk was Not Allowed by safety rules and part of it was proving to myself that people were willing to sit with me at lunch (very middle school, but true).

      1. LW3*

        I wish there were empty offices here, but space is at a premium. They are all reserved for executive level staff, who do come in at least once a week from what I can tell. I do miss the pre-COVID days when there was more socializing. It is hard to get to know people as a new employee!

    2. LW3*

      Thank you for the advice. Unfortunately there are no unclaimed cubicles. They are empty in the sense of no one sitting in them 99% of the time, but they have other people’s files and personal effects on them, so I’d feel weird about using them as an eating space. I’m actually borrowing a co-worker’s desk until there is a space available for me (she’s opting to work from home for now).

      I really love this idea though and will consider trying it out if circumstances change!

  40. idwtpaun*

    LW #2 reminds me of the “organization chart” letter we recently had, another instant of looking for a button on the floor of a sinking ship (I will add this phrase to AAM lore if it’s the last thing I do!). The real problem is that they felt obligated to work for family and are unhappy with it, but are concentrated on one symptom of the larger problem.

    LW, I think you need to sit down with your parents and have an honest conversation about how this will work. Either you have taken over and have the authority to discipline, fire and hire people, or your parents are paying you for the illusion of transition while keeping the status quo.

    Also, do you have to work for your parents? It doesn’t sound like you at all want to.

  41. I should really pick a name*

    Reception is usually a position where coverage matters.
    I’m surprised there aren’t any problems caused by your receptionist regularly leaving at 12:45 on Fridays.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve definitely encountered small businesses where the receptionist didn’t work full-time hours – usually they’d have a receptionist who worked mornings, or three days a week, or a similar arrangement. If the receptionist has agreed that they can flex their hours and/or leave early on a Friday, and it isn’t a business where 9-5 reception coverage is absolutely critical (where it’s more like a situation where there’s an email inbox that needs monitoring, occasional calls to pick up and a post delivery that arrives in the morning, for example, rather than a constant stream of customer enquiries and visitors) then it doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem.

      1. catsoverpeople*

        What you described is more like an office assistant than a receptionist. I’m not at all arguing with you personally, but I think the title difference is what’s tripping up most of the commenters. A “receptionist” is usually handling frequent incoming calls and visitors, so coverage of that front desk and phone during all business hours is essential.

    2. biobotb*

      I’m curious as to why coverage problems weren’t the meat of the LW’s complaint. If the receptionist’s behavior somehow isn’t causing coverage problems, and the the LW’s mom is OK with her behavior, the LW doesn’t have much standing to insist on butts-in-seats merely for optics.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, this has been going on for some time so it presumably works for the company in some capacity. OP didn’t express how this is negatively affecting anything.

  42. ABCYaBye*

    LW2 – I’m getting some non-sweary, non-illegal activity “Succession” vibes from your letter. It sounds like your parents want you to take over the business and have brought you in at this point to learn. But you’ve not been given any actual direction as to what your role really is and what responsibilities come with that role. Get that clarity for sure! And find out from your mom what her ultimate plan and timeline are. Or else you’re going to be continuously frustrated.

    As for the receptionist, I am wondering both how her taking an actual daily lunch break impacts the business and how her absence every Friday afternoon affects the business. Daily lunch break – if she can’t actually step away easily and eat in a breakroom or run errands, then she’s not actually getting a lunch break, even if she’s eating at her desk. On the other hand, if there’s a system in place for coverage of her duties while she’s on that break, then she probably doesn’t need to be at her workstation. Also, how does her watching Netflix and eating at her desk impact others coming into the office? That is information we don’t have enough information about. If you’re a business with frequent visitors, that might be off-putting to your customers. If it is accepting a random delivery or answering a phone call every now and again, it may not be an issue.

    Is someone else having to “cover” for her on Friday afternoons? Does it have a negative impact on the business and other employees? Even a small negative impact can be a challenge for sure. A friend called me to talk through a situation similar to this. He had two (of four) employees “not taking lunch” every day, Monday through Thursday, and then taking flex time every Friday afternoon. Ultimately, he had to tell them that it wasn’t something that could continue because that left the office shorthanded every Friday afternoon and made it almost impossible to schedule / accept meetings or for anyone else to actually take PTO that included that time. Similarly, if you have others that have to drop what they’re doing to cover or others are unable to utilize their time off because she’s out EVERY Friday, that’s something that needs to be addressed. By whom … that’s part of that conversation you need to have with your mom.

    Also, just throwing this out there… if it is your role to discuss the schedule with the receptionist, do be prepared that she might walk. I’m not saying that’s not reason to have the conversation with her, but it may be that she does decide that it isn’t worth it to stick around.

  43. just another queer reader*

    LW3 – oh goodness, your office sounds miles more COVID-aware than mine. At my office, 95% of people are maskless all day long. (It’s concerning.)

    I like Alison’s idea to find an empty office or conference room. It might also make sense to talk with your one coworker and get a sense of their comfort level if you were to eat at your desk unmasked.

    Finally: I am not an aerosol scientist nor a public health expert, but there may be ways to increase airflow or get an air purifier that may help further reduce risk.

    Wishing you the best!

    1. LW3*

      Thank you for the well wishes! I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have air purifiers in all the conference rooms! They’re really trying!

  44. it's hard i feel u*

    OP#1 Something that I think of often on this subject is that I work in a large very liberal university and was once attending a meeting with a big DEI workgroup and there was bickering around what kinds of outreach to do, what kinds of organizations to work with, etc. Everyone wanted inclusion and solving social problems like poverty and inequality, but nobody could work together long enough to team up on things. People were struggling with having to work with other people because “how can that person care about other people and the world while also holding x beliefs or supporting y policies”, or “how can I work with this organization or nonprofit service that provides x beneficial thing when they also believe in y thing, which I feel is fundamentally wrong.”

    And the director, frustrated from years of social justice work, visibly upset with people’s inability to work with and tolerate and care about people who may have held beliefs they felt were harmful, dropped the only time I’ve ever heard a professor drop an f bomb in a meeting. It was something along the lines of

    “We will never solve the world’s problems if we all []ing hate each other.”

    When we all care passionately about things it becomes easy to forget that at the core of it all, these kinds of efforts are about truly respecting and caring about each other as people, no matter what. All the outreach in the world doesn’t matter if we can’t even manage to learn to mutually respect and work with and exist in the same room with people who do not agree with our core values, even if it’s difficult and uncomfortable.

    This helps me when I’m working and volunteering with people who have beliefs that bother me, because at the end of the day even the worst person in the entire world still needs and deserves food and housing and healthcare and such.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I’ve never put it into words, so I’m stealing this: “We will never solve the world’s problems if we all []ing hate each other.” I manage volunteers, some who have WIDELY differing views on all kinds of things, and I sometimes have to remind them that the passion for the thing we are volunteering for is what we share–and that has to be enough some days.

    2. quill*

      “We will never solve the world’s problems if we all []ing hate each other.”

      + one thousand

  45. MuseumChick*

    LW 1 – Asking to change teams over this will very likely leave a bad impression of you on management and your coworkers for a variety of reasons. Of course, you can decide if this particular issue rises to a level where it is worth it to you. Years ago I worked for an organization where most people skewed liberal in their beliefs and politics including myself. I don’t remember exactly what it was but I ended up putting something up in my office that clearly indicated where I stood and a specific political issue. Two weeks later a coworker of mine put up some Trump material in their office. No one if the entire office said anything about it and we all just continued to work together. Were there some hushed discussions between people about this person supporting Trump? Yes. Did we let it get in the way of getting work done? No.

    And, for the record, I agree with you about adopting and not breeding dogs.

  46. I should really pick a name*

    I think my answer is slightly different from Alison’s.

    Yes, asking would be out of line. But, if it’s that important to you, you can ask. Just don’t expect it to go well. You might get moved, but this would probably mark you as a difficult employee. They might also decide that it’s not worth it to keep you as an employee if you’re not able to maintain a cordial working relationship over something like this.

    You can ask, but are the potential costs worth it to you?

  47. Minerva*

    LW3 – There 2.5 questions here are:

    1. Is it against your “company culture” to eat at your desk? If the answer to that is no they it is 100% at your discretion.

    1.5 Since you brought it up, does you food tend to be smelly/messy? If so then it might be a courtesy to find somewhere else to eat even if eating at your desk isn’t generally frowned upon.

    2. Do you feel safe/comfortable eating at your desk in this, the time of COVID? it sounds like you are not, so that’s the bigger question, and yeah you might be able to find somewhere more private to eat. Assuming it is not roasting hot where you are, would eating outside be a temporary solution? I know that is also very dependent on your office structure and if there are things like benches/tables as part of your building/campus.

    1. LW3*

      I started a couple of weeks ago and none of my team works from the office. I don’t know the office culture or have anyone I trust to ask. I’ve been very careful about not bringing food that smells. I may love tuna salad but I don’t want to upset people so I switched to chicken sandwiches when I started coming into an office again (after being remote for 2 years). They don’t smell at all.

      It is roasting hot but regardless there is no place to eat outside. The office is in a high rise on a busy city street with no park and no benches of any kind. It’s a shame!

  48. Toddler Teacher*

    For LW3 I feel as though eating in your personal cubical is already a pretty good way to social distance during lunch time as you already have barriers that keep everyone a preset distance away from you while you’re unmasked.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you for this feedback. Yes the cubicles are consistent with the 6 ft of distance recommendations between people and the closest offices are about twice that away from me.

      1. Toddler Teacher*

        Than I think you should feel good about using that space to eat! Like Alison said, in non-Covid times this wouldn’t be an issue, just remember obviously to keep your office free of lunch based trash while your working, and maybe find a way to indicate you’re on lunch so people don’t come in trying to engage you in work while your on your break time.

  49. Jade*

    I think there are cases where if a coworker’s views clash with my own, it would be a problem. If someone is homophobic/transphobic, even if I am not part of the LGBT+ community I would definitely have a problem working with someone with such opinions. But I can’t articulate why different views/values on other issues are “lesser” and have to be tolerated.

    Ultimately, I suppose the rule is pick your battles. I would definitely quit a job where homophobia is tolerated. Are you willing to quit a job where people who (in your belief) harm animals are tolerated?

    1. metadata minion*

      I think for me, one difference would be that if someone is transphobic, for example, they have a problem with me personally. They may be campaigning for me to not be legally allowed to be myself in public. Conversely, I have pretty strong opinions about environmental preservation and might think it’s unethical for my coworker to take plane trips every weekend, but that doesn’t make me feel *unsafe*. That coworker might even in theory agree with many of my views on environmentalism but just have different priorities in life.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      But the thing is–it’s not “tolerated” at the job unless the dogs ae physically there or part of the work. It’s one person who got a dog from a breeder, not a host of people calling animal rescues terrible. Homophobia or racism are different because they involve the direct treatment of the workers in the workplace.

    3. Observer*

      But I can’t articulate why different views/values on other issues are “lesser” and have to be tolerated.

      Perhaps because these are views about the basic worthiness of people.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I also think those views are more likely to have an actual impact IN the workplace. If somebody views all LGBT+ people as “sinners” or thinks that people who are transgender don’t know their own gender or that atheists are “sinful and hate God” or that people of a certain religion or ethnicity are inherently untrustworthy or that people from working class backgrounds are less intelligent or well-educated than those from middle class backgrounds or that women should be at home looking after their kids and not working, then even if they keep their mouths shut about it, there’s still a good chance it will have an impact on how they interact with people from the group, they have prejudices against.

        Now, I don’t think that is the ONLY reason to have a problem with such views, but I do think there is far more chance that somebody who thinks women are only working because they “can’t get a man to look after them” is going to have a poor working relationship with me or might not respect me if I am put in a position where I have some level of authority over them than than somebody disagreeing with my views on rescues versus breeding or say my view on whether or not Ireland should join NATO is going to affect our interactions in the workplace. The latter is only likely to do so if one of us gets evangelical about our views whereas I think the former can have an impact on relationships, even if nothing is said.

        1. Observer*

          That’s also true.

          The bottom line is that there are some significant differences between the two types of things.

  50. Gnome*

    LW 1.

    Your coworker didn’t get a dog AT you. I totally get that this is important to you, but we don’t get to live other people’s lives for them and their choices are not a comment about your beliefs (like if you were having some chicken for lunch, it’s not a comment about the vegan coworker’s beliefs, it’s just you having your lunch). However, if it’s bothersome at a personal level, you can opt out of conversations that involve the breeder stuff – or pets in general – if it makes it more comfortable for you, but you have to do it politely. Like, “You know, I’m sure you did everything responsibly, but I’ve heard so many horror stories in my work with rescues about unethical breeders that the whole topic just makes me upset, so while I love to see pictures of Pookie, it’s probably best for everyone if we don’t discuss that. Thanks for understanding!”

  51. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP1 and OP2… both may need new jobs, although OP1 may need to be more realistic about coworkers and not get so personally incensed at decisions that don’t involve you

  52. Just Me*

    LW 1 – you also don’t know ALL of the circumstances surrounding your coworker’s decision to get a dog from a breeder. I have a boss who frequently airs very unusual opinions/concerns that rub people the wrong way, and it’s only after much more digging that we discover that she’s actually concealing different issues. For example, she fought tooth and nail not to have our department moved to the third floor of an old building, arguing to her boss that it would make our clients “feel like third class citizens.” Strange, right? I discovered later that she once had a veryyyy bad fall down a flight of stairs and is somewhat afraid of them, but didn’t want to tell her boss. It is POSSIBLE that your coworker *says* he chose his dog for the “look,” but it’s also possible that his spouse was pushing for it against his wishes, he has a sick child who is allergic to dander and can only have a dog with certain hair, someone in his family is afraid of dogs and this was the only way they felt they could make sure the dog had no questionable history or didn’t frighten them, etc. (ex. I myself am firmly pro-rescue, but I now own a purebred. I had a boss who had a harebrained scheme to become a breeder, which went horribly awry, and so I took one of his puppies so that it could go home to see its siblings and mom again sometimes.) It’s worth giving your coworker the benefit of the doubt and, if you make small talk, just focusing on your love for dogs.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a REALLY good point. Just because people are presenting a certain reason for doing something does not mean that is the actual reason or the full story. I had horrible allergies as a kid. We had to get rid of several cats and dog because of it and let me tell you a little kid I felt horrible about that. My parents ended up getting us two pure breed dogs with a hair type I could tolerate. Could they have waited for on to be available at a shelter? Probably but with three kids all begging for a dog, one of whom is blaming themselves for the lose of the other pets and wanted to ensure a good temper so the dog and kids are safe for each other, it makes sense why they went to a breeder. And even then, they select dogs that had other issues that made they somewhat difficult to place. One was a runt with some health problems, I can’t remember what the other one had but my parents picked them so they would have a good home.

      1. Just Me*

        It also occurred to me that OP should also be careful about the cultural ideas around pets and dogs, as the idea of dog rescue is very common in the Anglophone countries but not in the rest of the world. It’s possible their coworker or their partner is from a country where dogs are seen as work animals and only the wealthy adopt fancy toy breeds. Again, I don’t AGREE with it, but they may be able to feel less frustrated with their coworker if they consider that that wasn’t a value they were raised with.

  53. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    LW#3, we have a small kitchenette with a table and chairs (like 8) for an office of over 100. My take is that it’s not really meant for people to eat lunch at, but to wait while their food is being heated or for the microwave line during peak periods. I’ve always eaten at my desk, as does pretty much everyone else in my office. From a COVID perspective, if you’re a masked office, I think it would be understood that you unmask to eat and then re-mask when done and not just sit around with your mask off after you are done eating (that was my office’s rule when we were required to mask). If masks are not required, I’d say there is no issue about unmasking and eating. In my opinion I would see the apron as being out of the norm and a little strange, so I wouldn’t personally do it.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      A story about aprons in a [corporate] office: An attorney who retired recently always wore an apron when eating in the office. It was a quirk he was known for, definitely (when he retired, we gave an award to his best coworker: The Apron!) but it didn’t work against him. His reasoning was, you need to always be prepared to walk into court and that meant no risk of mustard stains on your suit jacket. Of note, he was a very highly respected attorney and had to my understanding worn the apron for many many years, long before becoming a partner.

      I’m not saying, of course, that everyone can get away with wearing an apron in their office to eat without reputational damage, but if you’re great at what you do and you therefore have the capital, it’s possible you can lean into it and be just fine. (And fwiw, I LOVE his story and reasoning, especially as someone who for similar reasons usually keeps at least one entire change of clothes in my office drawer.)

  54. Lilo*

    As someone who reviews resumes, definitely do NOT include a rescinded job offer on a resume or cover letter. I wouldn’t bring it up at all. It simply won’t help and including it inappropriately would raise a red flag.

      1. Lilo*

        I’m struggling to think of any context in which it would work. Definitely not in a resume or cover letter. Even in an interview, you’d spend most of the time justifying that it wasn’t because of you the offer was rescinded and you’d be wasting time you could spend talking about positives.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I think you can have one line ready about “everything was coming together and I was excited to start, then unfortunately they had a hiring freeze and rescinded all open offers”. Or whatever it was. But only if it comes up somehow in an interview and you really don’t want to dwell on it.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          I don’t think it works, but think I understand where the LW is coming from. They want to say: “someone wanted me” / “I was selected” but that doesn’t work in this context.

          LW, selecting someone to hire is taking a chance on them. You hope that they are the most qualified, interested and available applicant, but you don’t know if they’ll succeed. You assume they haven’t lied throughout their resume and not over inflated their skills and accomplishments so much that they basically lying. Being selected for a job means you were the best of the applicants, but that doesn’t signify a concrete thing.

        3. kiki*

          I think if a manager were to very directly and persistently ask why LW5 has been out of work for so long, it may be something to casually mention? There have been a lot of layoffs and rescinded offers lately in my industry (tech), so it may come across better and require less explanation if LW is in an industry like that.

          I would say something like: “I took some time for XYZ. I also had an offer lined up at X and was ready to start work, but my offer was rescinded along with many others due to a hiring freeze. It was disappointing, but it allowed me the opportunity to apply here.”

          1. Lilo*

            Although if an interviewer is being that aggressive about a resume gap, the interview has already gone off the rails and I’d consider that a red flag about the workplace.

            I think having a very brief sentence like above for an interview might be a good idea, but just definitely NOT in a cover letter or resume.

        4. Jackalope*

          The one reason I can think of to mention it in an interview is if the interviewee were trying to explain a gap in work history. “I was hired by Prestigious Company who the rescinded my offer as a part of Publicly Known Mass Layoff so I had to start over,” is an explanation that might alleviate some concerns about this applicant’s viability as an employee.

        5. Irish Teacher*

          I could maybe see in response to a question about the length of time they’d been out of the workforce, responding with something like, “due to the economy, a position I was very interested in was not able to go ahead.” That’s terrible phrasing, but basically giving the message that you had leads but they didn’t work out due to circumstances beyong your control.

  55. Lilo*

    For LW1, the only way this kind of thing would work is if you pick one issue and then you seek a workplace focused on that issue. I’m talking about issues that aren’t generally more black and white, of course racism/sexism/homophobia/similar are another ball of wax.

    If you want all your coworkers to be devoted to pet adoption or veganism, you’d have to work at an organization for which that’s a core value (and even then, my brother worked as a cook at vegan restaurant but was not himself a vegan at home (obviously he never brought any personal food into the restaurant that wasn’t vegan)).

    If you’re not able to get a job at a place that has that as core values, you’re just going to have to accept that your coworkers have different opinions.

    1. RagingASD*

      We live in an era where the most innocuous opinions is sexism/homophobia/racism so I don’t think even that is as black and white as much as you assume it is.

      1. quill*

        I’m not sure I understand your comment?

        What is / isn’t sexist etc. hasn’t changed, we’re just more aware of it and less inclined to brush it under the rug. Most people want to do better, so an effort to say “hey, assuming that everyone here has the same experience is going to alienate some people, we should change that assumption” usually ends up going down well… except for people who either believe in oppressing people or who believe that being asked to change their habits for the sake of civility is a slight to them, personally.

        1. Lilo*

          I have to say I’m skeptical of people who make statements like this because it’s usually to justify some blatantly not okay behavior.

        2. RagingASD*

          Look, I’ve even seen comments here claim that using the word y’all and the phrase underwater basket weaving as racist. Furthermore, I’ve seen the label of racism, sexism, whateverism used in lieu of an actual reason to be against something. It wasn’t this way even as recently as 10 years ago so it’s definitely changed.

          1. DogLover*

            I saw that and it was 1 person and then a bunch of people disagreeing with them. It’s not talking in good faith to talk about 1 crazy option as if it represents more, especially with anonymous comments where that 1 person could have been a troll.

            1. RagingASD*

              There’s a 1000 more examples I can easily come up with. The poster down below came up with a good one like white people ordering Chinese food or when white peoples get publicly accosted for their hair style (bonus points if you lay hands on them). I can send you the video for that one. It’s a real treat.

              1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                “Political Correctness Is Destroying America! (Just Not How You Think.)”

                The vast, vast majority of political correctness in America is conservative, and it‘s extremely dangerous.

          2. quill*

            Ah, I see you’ve encountered the Buzzworder.

            The buzzworder is not concerned about the actual impact of their actions and/or statements, they just like to be more-righteous-than-thou, so they will make ludicrous claims that, for example, buying chinese takeout is cultural appropriation. They provide cover for the people who dismiss actual problems that aren’t well known by making a huge fuss over using words they barely understand to pretend to be the most moral person. I don’t know what to do about the buzzworder other than continue acting rationally (is it really a bad thing to pay people who made a business of selling food from their own culture, if edited for their local clientelle, for food? I would argue no,) and ban them on whatever platforms you may own.

            The buzzworder is not a new phenomenon, but the fields in which they operate change at least once a decade. Whatever issue is well known is where they will plant their piety flag.

            Unfortunately you have to trap buzzworders under a cup and throw them out the back door individually. Becoming the buzzworder of the opposite team, claiming that things these days are just “too sensitive” or “the most innocent of statements is now problematic” is providing cover for both bigots and other buzzworders.

            1. RagingASD*

              The problem is too wide spread to just cup and throw out the back. We’re at the point where the whole country needs fumigation.

            2. Irish Teacher*

              I think this issue arises when people worry more about being CALLED “racist” or “sexist” or “homophobic” than they do about actually BEING any of those things. Both the buzzworder (never heard that term before, but it’s a good one) and the people who claim “you can’t say anything nowadays” because of the buzzworder are more interested in what the “rules” are than they are about hurting other people. They are thinking “somebody might criticise me if I say something that is considered racist, sexist or homophobic” rather than “I need to learn about racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, in order to ensure I don’t contribute to the marginalisation of certain groups.”

      2. Observer*

        We live in an era where the most innocuous opinions is sexism/homophobia/racism so I don’t think even that is as black and white as much as you assume it is.

        So you mean that even when someone expresses overtly sexist / racist / whateverist views, we can’t treat it like a black an white issue?

          1. Observer*

            So please explain what you mean when you claim that pushing back on racism, etc. is not “black and white”?

  56. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I don’t know that I’ve ever disliked a coworker enough to spend thousands of dollars and sign up for a 10+ year commitment to keeping another being alive simply to spite them.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, I’m pretty shocked that LW1 thinks that the new puppy has anything to do with them. Guy just went to a breeder, there’s reasons to do that, there’s reasons not to do that, and for him the reasons to outweighed the reasons not to. I doubt he was even remembering that LW1 doesn’t consider any dog breeding to be ethical.

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Haha, I love this framing of the letter. I laughed out loud at my desk. Thanks for that! :)

  57. Justme, The OG*

    LW1, you need to grow up. Part of life is being around and interacting with people you disagree with. I’m sorry of that is blunt but I think it’s warranted here.

  58. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP#1: I’m a childfree-by-choice, liberal, pro-choice, atheist vegan that hates sports. There’s a 100% guarantee that I’ll disagree with everyone I meet about SOMETHING. I find some of my co-workers political beliefe absolutely appalling, but that doesn’ mean I get to change teams unless they are making the work environment hostile. And even then, the only recourse I’d have under normal circumstances is to ask management or HR to tell them to table talk about that subject during work. You don’t have to like or respect your co-workers beliefs, but you do have to respect THEM as humans in the workplace and do your best to get along to whatever extent you need to in order to do your job.

  59. B*itch in the corner of the poster*

    LW1, I work with someone who once served in an army that directly attacked my husbands country…we don’t discuss politics and we work together fine. We aren’t happy hour buddies or anything, but we both remain professional. It is what it is.

    1. usually anon*

      Most of us work with people who have taken direct action against us by voting to deny/rescind our basic human rights, to deny us legal personhood. People I would as soon spit on as work with, but those people are the outliers and a good company/management know this, and my disgust does not pay my bills.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      One of my colleagues had to sit and listen to another colleague sneering at students for doing something that I knew she had done in her teens and implying they would never be successful in life because of it. What she thought about it, I don’t know, but five minutes later she was offering to cover a class for the colleague who had been sneering, so clearly she didn’t let it affect their working relationship. Now, I don’t think anybody is obliged to be that relaxed about it; there is a middle ground between doing favours for people who have just indirectly insulted you (albeit probably without knowing or having forgotten about her background) and asking to change teams because one of your colleagues behaves in a way you disapprove of, but…we do have to work with people we disagree with.

  60. Observer*

    #1- Rescue volunteer

    I want to highlight something. A number of people have pointed out that going to your supervisor is likely to have a negative effect on your employment. Believe them!

    If someone came to me and wanted to transfer, using your language in these kinds of circumstances, I would not fire them for that. But I would totally keep them out of positions requiring discretion, judgement and emotional regulation. As for allowing them into any position where they have any control of other people’s work or working conditions? Absolutely NOT. Because your reaction is outsized and you don’t seem to have any idea of what reasonable workplace norms are.

    1. Lilo*

      I’d definitely hesitate to promote someone who had complained about coworkers about issues like this.

    2. Just… no*

      Anyone who brought this issue to me would be seen as a little hysterical. I would have serious reservations about their professionalism and ability to work with other people. This is beyond bizarre. I hope LW#1 can step back, think this over and get some perspective. This is kind of beyond.

  61. Rach*

    I’m a little disappointed Alison requested not to talk about valid reasons for going to a breeder, which I think is relevant advice for the LW. Arguing of course wouldn’t be productive but helping the LW see the thought process of others who bought from breeders could potentially help the LW not have such an extreme reaction to their coworker.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s not relevant. The point is not to change the letter writer’s mind about breeding, the point is that you have to work professionally with people regardless of whether or not you agree with them and you cannot take other people’s beliefs this personally.

    2. Raboot*

      Well tons of people are doing it anyway which is a little frustrating since I’m not going to break the rules by responding :/

    3. I should really pick a name*

      The thing is, the LW has to be able to work with other coworkers whether they can agree with their thought process or not. That’s just part of working with people. It doesn’t really matter if they can be persuaded in this specific case.

    4. yala*

      The letter could have been about virtually anything that wasn’t direct bigotry/discrimination toward the letter writer, and the advice would’ve probably been the same.

      It may be helpful for LW to see the thought process, but then again it may do nothing (consider the “outside cat” argument. Very few folks on either side become less upset when the other side explains themselves)

      What’s relevant right now is that LW know it would be out of line, and that she still has to work with her coworker, even if he did something she doesn’t agree with.

    5. Observer*

      Arguing of course wouldn’t be productive but helping the LW see the thought process of others who bought from breeders could potentially help the LW not have such an extreme reaction to their coworker.

      Maybe. But if so, only a very little.

      The fundamental problem here is not that the OP disagrees with their coworker. Because even if the guy went to a puppy mill and bought a breed that is unhealthy and did it for the most unacceptable reasons, the OP would still be wildly out of line.

      They need to understand that by and large, decisions that people make out of work are not theirs to weigh in on. And they need to realize that their coworker’s decision had zero to do with them and framing it as a personal insult, never mind as a “slap in the face” is bizarre.

  62. Olivia*

    My strongest reaction to this post was some thoughts about LW1’s self-absorbed mindset, but at this point it seems to have all been covered and I don’t want to beat a dead horse.

    For LW3, I do want to mention that some people might think it’s strange if you wear an apron while eating lunch. I’ve only worked in two different offices, but I think this is pretty unusual. If your office had a barbecue and you were grilling, it wouldn’t be strange to wear one then. But if you wear one just to not get food on your clothes while eating, I do think it’s something that people will notice because it’s very unexpected. By itself it’s just a little idiosyncrasy that most people will just think “oh yeah, LW3 does that” but it probably won’t change how they view you. But if, for instance, you were neurodivergent or had OCD and there were maybe multiple unusual things you did, people might think of you as a little quirky. I say this as an autistic woman who has to make myself not repeatedly sniff really-good-smelling food at the office because I don’t want people to think I’m weird.

    If there was a messier food in particular that you were worried about getting on you, maybe skip that for lunches at work? I rarely have pasta with red sauce at work because I manage to get some sauce on my shirt about every other time I eat it. I also carry around a Tide pen in my purse; those things are amazing. If spilling food on you is something causing you anxiety, I’d recommend getting one (they will just make the spot visibly wet for a short time afterward). But honestly, everyone makes messes sometimes and I don’t think people would think much of it if their coworker had a small spot on their clothes after lunch one day.

    And to echo what Alison said, eating at your desk in and of itself isn’t unusual at all. I think an office where no one ever did that would be unusual. People generally don’t care about coworkers eating at their desk unless you’re a receptionist, in which case it is sometimes seen as not good to have the person at the front desk doing that. If you’re in a cubicle, don’t worry about it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s easy for others to see it or not. Outside of the possible COVID concern, it’s a totally normal thing to do and no one will care.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      An apron might be a bit much, but how about a big napkin? I use bandanas from the dollar store as work napkins and they cover me nicely.

    2. LW3*

      I had Tide pens many years ago and had completely forgotten they were a thing. Thank you for the reminder and for the feedback about an apron. I was concerned it would be weird. I’m using another commenter’s suggestion of getting a dignity scarf and I’m adding Tide pens to my order too. I have a ton of meetings in this job and limited clothing options so I am very anxious about my appearance and staying stain-free (not so easy for me with my unsteady hands).

  63. thelettermegan*

    #l2 –

    How important is it, really, to have the receptionist there on Friday afternoon? How critical is it to your business that she really work a 40-hour week? Beyond all the terrible insubordination and attitude, is she generally good at her job?

    Is it possible to reset this relationship to a place of respect by throwing out the rules that clearly aren’t working?

    On the other hand, do you actually need a receptionist? Or is this an underpaid, under-respected position that only exists because the boss thinks that all businessses should have receptionists?

    1. Olivia*

      Two of the not-great things about being a receptionist are that it can get boring sometimes and that you pretty much always have to have a butt in the chair.

      As the long as the receptionist is helping anyone who comes in or calls, it should be perfectly fine to be doing whatever on the computer during lunch. I do think it takes away from the professionalism a bit if the person either has the volume on through the speakers, or is wearing headphones. But if she’s watching something with the sound off using subtitles (I do this), who cares? Getting to peruse the internet during downtime is like the only perk I have as a receptionist. On this aspect, it seems like the LW is getting caught up in some kind of “principle of the thing” mindset, which is unhelpful and amounts to not picking your battles.

      But while most of the office workers in my organization have summer flex time and it doesn’t matter if they come in a little late or leave early or whatever, I can’t do that. It’s the nature of the job. When I’m away from the desk on break, someone else has to be here. Watching everyone around you get way more perks kinda sucks! But that’s the job. Receptionists generally don’t get to leave early on Fridays, usually not 15 minutes and definitely not working half-days. Your clients expect to have their calls answered on Friday afternoons. When the receptionist leaves at 12:45, either that’s falling to someone else (probably the LW) or clients are getting bad customer service. It’s not mean to have a policy that the receptionist can’t flex their hours. That’s just the nature of the job and it’s to be expected. But the LW has to be able to have a policy that is enforced and that she has backing from her parents on. The lunch thing is a red herring. The reason the receptionist can’t leave early is because that’s how her position works. But I think the LW feels so out-of-control that she’s grasping to the only reasoning she thinks might or should work with her parents.

      At the end of the day, Alison’s right, the LW should just get the hell out of there. It sounds like a dysfunctional workplace where boundaries are blurred (common in family businesses). And with that in mind and the receptionist not being a family member, I think you’re almost certainly right that it’s underpaid and under-respected. Which is a good way to get people to not care.

    2. JustaTech*

      You have a good point about asking if the business really needs a receptionist.
      During COVID my in-laws had one of the employees at their small business move to being full-time remote. Then when they started sending their sales people out to shows again my MIL said “oh no, we need to hire someone to answer the phones when everyone is gone!”
      “Why don’t you just have the main phone forward to Remote Employee’s phone?”
      They seriously were considering hiring an FTE (who would mostly be bored out of their mind) for a problem that could be solved with a very simple bit of technology that they already had.

      (Years and years ago they had a full time receptionist when they did get a ton of calls and some walk-in business, but now most stuff is done by email and the only people who come to the building are delivery people, and anyone can let the FedEx person in.)

  64. Gnome*

    True, although it might be worth considering that sometimes someone says “because X” and there’s more to it that they don’t want to share, so publicly X is the reason.

    Like, if their autistic kid bonded with a neighbor’s puppy or something. Not saying it’s the case, but it’s something to consider in general, sometimes people give cover stories.

  65. Meep*

    Re Lw#2 – So she comes in at 7:45 AM and leaves at 5:00 PM. That is 9.25 hours minute 0.5 hour lunch break that is 8.75 hours a day, four days a week which adds up to 35 hours plus the 5 she does on Friday for a total of… 40 hours a week.

    Yeah, you are the manager from hell here.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But if the receptionist’s role is to greet people and answer phones and the office actually opens at 8 and is open until 5 on Friday, the recptionist is not doing her duties for half the on Friday and isn’t really doing anything from 7:45 – 8 every morning.

      I don’t know if the LW is a manager, but the receptionist probably shouldn’t be setting her own schedule to allow her to leave early every Friday on her own inititive.

    2. ABCYaBye*

      The difference here is, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the nature of the position.

      First, if the receptionist is hourly and clocking in 15 minutes early every day, they should be reminded not to. Depending on where the letter is coming from, it could be that the individual is supposed to get an hour. Maybe 2 15s and a 30. That’s somewhat of an unknown.

      But by and large a receptionist is there as the front-line for the business. Calculating a way to game the system and dip out over 4 hours early on a weekly basis is problematic. The system has failed here, as it does (as you point out) allow her to get her 40 hours and still have that time at the end of each week.

    3. Luna*

      I’ll be honest, as spotty as my employment history has been, any receptionist job I have had, or have heard about, never had flextime like this. You were slated to be there from X to Y o’ clock, with a 30 minute or 1 hour lunch that was unpaid and that you *had* to take, done. No chance of working through lunch or taking a shortened lunch and then leaving on Friday several hours early.
      If you did have a shorter shift on Friday, it was because someone came in to take over reception duties when you left.

  66. Lilo*

    I feel like LW2 shows the organizational challenges with working for a family company. I’m not clear on what LW’s role in the company is or hierarchy. And then there’s the problem that people who work for a family company may have more backdoor power (or, conversely try to assert authority they shouldn’t have).

    Basically, if you’re her supervisor or her actions directly affect your work, you have standing to raise issues. Otherwise, no, that’s not your job.

  67. Gato*

    OP #5 here: Some clarifications here. I had told my friend about a time I was job hunting after being laid off. It took close to a year and I was starting to get asked by Staffing people why it was taking me so long to get a job in a booming field (tech). So, he’s worried about that. Second, this company, Acme corporation, is a household name, and is a very major employer in our city. If they start rescinding offers, it is likely to be national news, and will definitely be big local news. So, if he says that Acme rescinded an offer, it will likely be assumed it was just due to economic conditions.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      … but if the offer was rescinded because of an economic downturn, it’s not a booming economy.

      If the question comes up, he can answer honestly, but he should not try to head off the question by putting it in the application or cover letter because that’s odd and not relevent fact.

    2. Lilo*

      I understand having that job offer rescinded may be super frustrating and he may think that having had that offer makes him look good due to the prestige of the organization, but ultimately it doesn’t change things at all. It’s just not an appropriate thing to put in a resume/coveretter as it doesn’t demonstrate his skills and experience. Doing so will make him look out of touch with professional norma potentially cost him interviews.

      1. Lilo*

        I want to add on something I want to articulate explicitly. Saying “you should want to hire me because Acme wanted to hire me” isn’t something you want to explicitly or even implicitly say to a company. I have my own criteria and implying that I should substitute Acme’s judgment for my own isn’t appropriate.

  68. Koli*

    I can’t help but notice how Alison comments on the substance of the “breeder vs. rescue” issue but the rest of us can’t. Like we’re expected to, she could have left her personal opinion about the issue out of her advice.

    1. DogLover*

      Pretty sure it’s normal for the person running/hosting the space to have a different role than the peanut gallery.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’m also pretty sure she’s saying “I love rescue as much as anyone and even I realize you’re out of line,” taking away the critique that Alison might answer differently if she were* someone who valued rescue. It’s not an opening for discussion; it’s removing that as a possible justification.

        *Subjunctive tense; statement contrary to fact.

      2. EnglishSetterLady*

        Hey just a heads up that the term ‘peanut gallery’ has some racial connotations that have made fall into disuse.

    2. Raboot*

      It’s her personal blog and she can do whatever she wants. People write in for her opinion and she can decide topics are off-limits in the comments for any reason she desires.

      Personally I’m more annoyed that tons of pro-breeder comments are breaking her request to stay away while those against it are actually respecting the request.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      It’s her blog that she publishes and moderates without charging you, me, or any other readers a cent… Sometimes I can’t believe the “demands” some people make of her in her own space.

    4. My heart is a fish*

      She gave one sentence to help contextualize her advice. That’s tremendously different from long comment threads debating the merits of breeders vs shelters vs rescues, which is exactly what would happen without her request and subsequent hefty moderation of people who are ignoring the request.

      Also, her site, her labor, her rules.

    5. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      Alison can say what she wants because 1: it’s her site, and she gets to call the shots (if someone doesn’t like those shots, they can always go elsewhere and are not bound here); and 2: she’s not trolling or trying to start an argument by voicing personal takes in her advice letters. She’s stating/clarifying where her advice comes from on a personal level, since people ARE asking her, and her personally, for advice. The same can’t be said for all the random unverified Internet commenters–they can’t all be expected to reply in good faith, and it’s usually not their personal advice the LW’s are seeking when they write in; helpful advice from the comments is just the cherry on top.

    6. Observer*

      Like we’re expected to, she could have left her personal opinion about the issue out of her advice.


      Also, did you notice that Alison posted her request because the people making the arguments were totally derailing the discussion rather than just doing a bit of explaining to set some context. Setting context, which is what Alison did, is useful. Going into a discussion of how terrible many rescues are etc. is not useful in the least bit.

  69. usually anon*

    This is a fascinating take on dog ownership. I had no idea someone I work with might decide to ostracize me for purchasing a dog based on the needs of my farm and other pets & livestock, or assume I purchased a puppy without trying 2 years to adopt a suitable rescue. I’d hope that person let me know so I could do them a solid by grey-rocking them.

    1. GingerNP*

      I had never heard the term grey-rocking so I looked it up – turns out I actually do it in certain situations. Not really apropos of the discussion, but I learned something new today, Anon, thanks.

  70. Lisa*

    #1) I work for a very large, international company. I work with an extremely diverse group of people that come from many other backgrounds, cultures, etc… Sometimes it is not easy. Occasionally there is someone who’s beliefs directly conflict with my own, but I am still expected to work with them in a reasonably professional manner. We all have things we are passionate about and sensitive too and sometimes our own personal life experience afford us perspectives that others don’t have.

  71. Bluephone*

    “but this feels like a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity, and I don’t know if I can work with him after this”

    To be so unflustered by life’s problems that THIS becomes a hill to die on. What is that like.

    I work with animal rescue too but guess what LW 1: you’re way out of line and being way too precious about this.

    1. Observer*

      To be so unflustered by life’s problems that THIS becomes a hill to die on. What is that like.

      You know, I hadn’t thought of that in quite those terms. But I think that that’s a bit of what’s blowing many of us away.

    2. Raboot*

      You have no idea what is going on in their life. If we’re making up stories, I’ll make one up that they’re overwhelmed by people who are also hateful in ways that the commentariat sees as acceptable and feel like this is the only “safe” thing to bring up at work. Ultimately we have no idea what OP’s life is like and it’s unkind to take the “must be nice to have such an easy life” angle.

  72. Reality.Bites*

    Really what astonishes me most is not how deeply OP feels about the issue – I’ve certainly known people with stronger opinions on similar issues – but that they think it might possibly be the kind of thing an employer would agree to get involved in.

    1. GingerNP*

      Yes – this is wild to me. The absolute most I might expect from an employer when two employees disagree vehemently on certain values is to instruct both parties to leave their personal stuff at the door and get their jobs done.

  73. CoffeeFail*

    LW 1. If I were your manager, I would definitely label you as difficult to work with and be unlikely to put you up for promotions that involve managing other people. I also might encourage you to look for mission driven jobs so that you can definitely work with like minded people.

  74. CoffeeFail*

    And it seems to me that if you ran into an unbridgeable conflict, you would quit instead of making it your employer’s problem. To be clear, I’m drawing a line between a belief that involves actively threatening or harassing a person.

  75. leeapeea*

    LW #4 Echoing Alison’s comment, this is SO common you may be the person who sent me very similar wording this past Monday withdrawing their candidacy in order to stay in their current position. Our response was to thank them for letting us know, let them know we would be interested in chatting if things changed for them in the future, and to request they send any colleagues with similar credentials that are looking for a change our way (the last one was my supervisor’s request – not sure if it was an overstep but it’s also true we’re desperately looking for someone at that level).

    1. LW4*

      Hah! Wasn’t me, because alas the other shoe dropped at work and “…for now” ended between my writing to Alison and this post going up. Pro-tip for employers in tech (or any male dominated field really): your female staff talk to each other. And when multiple women have stories of being passed over for bullshit reasons (“she’s too emotional to be a manager”), and when we see retaliation for reporting harassment, and when there’s a pattern of female tech leads not getting their projects funded when similar projects run by mediocre men get showered with money, well, I don’t know why our VP Engineering is wringing his hands and asking whyyyyy all the women are leaving.

      Anyway, by the time I realized that as much as I love my manager and team, I can’t function in the larger company environment, I had a second offer, plus four invitations to second round interviews. I’ve never before had so much choice when job searching (and thanks to Alison for the great resume and cover letter advice!). I just accepted one of those offers yesterday and withdrew from the other interviews, because I felt like I had learned enough information in the first rounds to know that those weren’t the kind of work I wanted to do (either because I didn’t really believe in the product, or because they wanted a llama toenail trimmer and I really want to focus on llama hair braiding, or whatever)

      I’m sad and angry that the VP and up leadership have poisoned the culture at my old job as badly as they have, but really looking forward to the new job.

  76. EmmaPoet*

    And depending on the breed, it may be hard to find any of that kind at all. My mom did breed rescue in our state. In the 30+ years she operated, there was one litter of puppies that we were sure were that breed. The others that turned up might have been mixed breeds or not that breed at all and this was before DNA testing so who knows (mom took them anyway and made sure they got good homes, including keeping two of them.)

  77. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW1: A request coming across my desk with that reasoning would likely cause a performance review. I would be extremely concerned about your overall judgement and if you’re a long-term fit for the organization.

  78. GingerNP*

    LW 1 – more than anything, going to work requires at least getting along with and behaving respectfully toward people who do not share your values. I work with a handful of people at the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, and they are absolutely the most vocally opinionated people in my department – which can be problematic because we are in the ER, which means many things these coworkers say (loudly) could be interpreted as judgmental or even hostile toward the people we care for. I have gotten really good at deflecting, changing the subject, and in some cases directly addressing the casual classism/racism/judgment with these coworkers. The reality is that I am going to encounter people who disagree with me on the most fundamental ideals I hold and I am still going to have to work effectively with them. We’re probably not going to hang out outside of work and be best friends, but we can still collectively get our jobs done.
    Choosing to work in an organization that does not share your values is a different story, and certainly that is something I think folks should examine when interviewing and deciding whether to accept a role in an organization. However, asking to be moved to a different team because you have fundamentally differing values from one of your coworkers will, at best, make you look really hard to work with, I think.

    1. GingerNP*

      And I agree with an above comment – if working with people whose values do not align with your own is a deal-breaker, you may want to find a mission-driven job to alleviate that conflict for yourself.

  79. Observer*

    #1 – Animal rescue

    I have another thought about your situation.

    What is your end goal? Are you focused on making the world a better place by improving the lot of animals? Or are you looking to make yourself feel good because you are so invested in this noble work?

    If what you are ACTUALLY after is improving the plight of animals, then you need to realize that you will accomplish the exact opposite if you go to your boss to ask for a transfer. Futhermore, your entire attitude is counter productive. This laser focus on people only ever getting pets from rescue organizations doesn’t really address many of the issues that exist and that lead to abused and abandoned animals.

    If you REALLY want to improve animal welfare here are some areas to you could focus on (in addition to your current volunteering):

    * Trying to make sure that there is good enforcement of laws against dog fighting.

    * Trying to make sure that rescue organizations have appropriate placement policies. Many do, but there are those either way to lackadaisical or have ridiculously and unnecessarily stringent requirements for adoption. Neither serves animals well.

    * Trying to get more resources for no-kill shelters

    * Educating people about rescue animals as pets and helping people to connect to rescue organizations.

    * Educating people about other ethical ways to get pets – as others have noted, rescues don’t always have an appropriate match for people.

    * Educating people on how to make appropriate and ethical decisions about getting a pet. One of the classic issues is people who get pets as gifts for other people who have no interest in a pet, or who don’t have the ability to care for a pet. But it’s not just that. People need to understand what it takes to take care of a pet before getting one.

    This list is not exhaustive. My point is just that there are much better ways to help animals than by alienating people who might actually be educable. You may not be the one to do that particular task in your office. But you REALLY don’t want to feed into stereotypes of the sort that people have mentioned, because then the next person, who might otherwise have a chance, will have a MUCH harder time.

    1. Violet Fox*

      Pet boarding and veterinary care for low income people.

      Making it harder for rentals to disallow pets.

      Workplaces with more flexible hours to make it easier to care for pets.

      An end to poverty wages so people can always afford food, heat, power, rent, their necessities, and things for their pets.

  80. Canadian Librarian #72*

    this feels like a slap in the face to a core piece of my identity, and I don’t know if I can work with him

    Good lord, I thought this was going to be, like, a gay employee who felt unable to work alongside an open homophobe (justified!), or conversely, a homophobe who didn’t want to work with an out gay person (unjustified!) – this is really not something that you can expect other people to work around.

    I agree with the LW about “adopt, don’t shop” too, but I can’t imagine thinking this is a remotely appropriate hill to die on in the workplace (assuming the workplace isn’t an animal shelter or something). Some perspective might be warranted here.

  81. LW1*

    Thank you to those who have commented on my letter. Whether or not the observations were kind, they’ve given me a lot to think about. For whatever it’s worth, my coworker has complained several times during meetings about issues with his dog that stem directly from getting her from a breeder: health issues he wasn’t informed she had, vet care she hadn’t received, and an absence of proper socialization with men.

    That being said, it seems clear that I need to get out from up my own butt about it. I agree with those who suggested I’m too emotionally invested in my work. It’s led me to be a doormat in an effort to feel accepted and useful; and the vast majority of my social life happens at work, so it’s often on my mind after hours. I also appreciate the advice some gave about being able to channel my passion into appropriate actions instead of unfocused zealotry.

    FWIW, I’m queer and disabled, but luckily have not had to battle for those pieces of me at work.

    1. quill*

      I see how frustrating it must be when someone gets an animal from what sounds like a less reputable breeder and also doesn’t know ahead of time about common health problems with the breed!

      Honestly I think that you have an opportunity to mentally plan what you could do if you were to give this coworker advice in searching for another dog (but not give it unless they ask!), so you can develop cordial and factual scripts that could help other people in your volunteering work.

    2. catsoverpeople*

      So your coworker continues to complain to you about the designer dog’s issues? That may help some people here be more sympathetic. That’s the part that is tiring: no matter the topic, if someone asks me for my opinion, does the opposite of what I suggest, and then comes back and complains to me repeatedly about the results, I do lose patience with that person.

      Perhaps you could calmly and politely change the subject or ask your coworker not to discuss the dog with you at all? You could explain that your volunteer work makes you extra sensitive to hearing about problems with animals, even acknowledge that’s more of a “you” problem and not a “them” problem, and ask to talk about something else.

    3. Cymru*

      This information about your coworker’s lack of research would’ve been really helpful in the framing of your mindset. Particularly since the areas described (poor socialization, poor health) are reasons perfectly trainable dogs are surrendered to shelters.
      Your colleague might benefit from your expertise on how to make sure that the behavioural problems can be solved at the very least, so that’s a bonding point for you potentially to help keep that dog out of a shelter and benefit both the dog an your colleague.
      For the record, those issues listed do not come from “getting the dog from a breeder”. Those issues come from getting a dog from a BAD breeder and not doing actual research about what you are purchasing. The same thing can happen to people who get their animals from poorly run shelters and rescues which also exist.

    4. Observer*

      Oh gosh! That’s annoying!

      You could politely push back on that. Commiserate that the problems stink (they do) then suggest some general resources (eg tell him to talk to his vet, give him the number of your rescue if they can give him advice etc.) And then, when he complains again in a meeting tell him “Yeah, that’s bad. How about those TPS reports?” Or whatever if it that the meeting is about.

      @Quill’s suggestion is also good.

    5. anonandon*

      Ohhhh. Yeah those aren’t problems with getting a dog from a breeder, per se, those are problems with getting a dog from an irresponsible breeder without doing enough research. You’ll see things like that also when adopting from a shelter that’s understaffed/overworked, or has too quick a turnaround to notice issues, or a rescue where people aren’t honest with themselves (or adopters) about important problems.

      This is also an actual work problem, if coworker is taking up meeting time repeatedly complaining about something that you already tried to give advice about. That’s super annoying! Observer is right, work up some scripts you can use to give short advice (“at my rescue they do XYZ to help undersocialized dogs” or “i worked with a dog who had [health problem], and she really benefited from XYZ”)–but only if you aren’t sick of the whole thing, if your coworker is actually looking for help, and if it’s not taking up yet more meeting time. Otherwise, work up some scripts for making sympathetic sounds and then steering back to work topics.

      I hope you can build up some good social resources outside of work. Energy spent feeling aggrieved about a coworker buying a puppy is energy that would do so much more good for you elsewhere, and if you’re socializing around animal volunteer work you’ll be with more like-minded people. (Until, of course, it turns out that they have a different opinion about yet another aspect of animal welfare… it’s a tricky road, trying to only deal with people matching your views.)

      1. Owned by a Siberian husky (and not another breed)*

        This is also an actual work problem, if coworker is taking up meeting time repeatedly complaining about something that you already tried to give advice about.

        This is not an “actual work problem”; it’s a co-worker making idle chatter for a few seconds before a group sits down to a meeting.

        There is zero evidence that he’s monopolizing anyone’s time with his dog issues — and as everyone else has said above, they could apply every bit as much to shelter dogs, and in fact are probably *more* likely to apply to shelter dogs.

        1. anonandon*

          Well, I was just going off what OP said about how he “has complained several times during meetings about issues with his dog.” It’s true that we don’t know how often that is. All I meant was that “guy is regularly complaining about stuff in meetings” is more of a work problem than “guy bought a puppy from a breeder.”

          Re: shelter dogs…yes, that’s what I just said?

    6. Dawn*

      My rescue pittie had all the same issues; she died of a genetic issue no one knew she had, she didn’t get care when she was on the street, she wasn’t socialized properly. None of it stemmed directly from getting her from anywhere. Your coworker is likely just making small talk and the point everyone else has made remains: you’re too invested in correcting someone’s personal actions at work. If it’s the *complaining* that bothers you, address that — someone being overly negative about anything in meetings is a valid issue to bring up! But you bring THAT up, and divorce it from how you feel about the dog, because that is truly and completely irrelevant.

  82. Well...*

    OP 1, it sounds like your gut is really telling you something. If it were me, I’d sit with that gut feeling with openness and curiosity. Maybe you’ll find that you actually want to pursue a career change where your work is focused on this cause that’s so central to your identity. Or, maybe you’ll find that there’s something else bothering you about your current work situation and this dog thing is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    My guess is that there’s something going else going on (like maybe you’ve had this argument before and felt dismissed, or there are some other interpersonal issues with your coworker for you to work out or make peace with).

  83. Dorothea Vincy*

    OP 1, I agree with you about rescue animals being better, but I want to offer a cautionary tale.

    I worked with someone, “Tracy,” who was very passionate about organ donation. At one point, she asked to be moved to a different project because she didn’t want to work with someone who said they wouldn’t donate their organs (for, I think, religious reasons). The boss accommodated Tracy because it could be done without much trouble, and maybe also because they thought that would prevent harassment of the other coworker.

    Unfortunately, that meant Tracy thought management agreed with her position, and she started getting more and more militant with people, questioning new employees about their position on organ donation, and demanding to be moved again when someone disagreed with her. This time, it couldn’t be done and the boss told her she had to stay in place. She ended up calling someone who was on bereavement leave and ranting at them about how they had BETTER make sure their deceased family member’s organs were donated or else. Tracy was summarily fired.

    Obviously, you’re far from this right now, but don’t become the kind of person who thinks that you have the right to never hear anyone disagree with you. If you make enough of an issue of it, and it’s not genuine discrimination or bigotry, you’re the one that management will look at as the problem.

    1. Observer*

      She ended up calling someone who was on bereavement leave and ranting at them about how they had BETTER make sure their deceased family member’s organs were donated or else.

      That is mind boggling in so many ways.

      It’s a perfect example of one issue that even the biggest advocates of a cause, who think that it doesn’t matter how how much of a jerk you are, should think about. That is that it’s too easy to get detached from reality. It’s quite possible that this person was not the one with authority to decide on organ donation. And it’s also possible that the deceased’s organs were not appropriate for donation. And let’s face it, there is no way Tracy could have known the status of either point.

      1. Lilo*

        I also have to point out that by the time someone’s on bereavement leave, the window for organ donation has way passed. So for someone who claims to care a lot about organ donation she either doesn’t know that much about it, or she just wanted to bully someone.

    2. PB Bunny Watson*

      Agreed. There are also situations where breeders might be necessary, in terms of getting a particular type of animal that works with allergies or whatever. I personally believe in using shelters (or just adopting strays from the streets, usually), but I also recognize that that’s not always possible for everyone… and sometimes a person might have a legitimate reason for doing what they are doing. And they do not owe me or anyone else an explanation.

  84. CLC*

    If this coworker went to a breeder for a dog for the sole purpose of sticking it to you and trying to upset you and you knew that that was case (for example if this coworker has harassed you or others similarly in the past), then I can see a case for moving to a new team. This doesn’t seem like that’s the case though—most people don’t choose their pets (and how much they pay for them) just to annoy their coworkers.

  85. anonagain*

    It sounds like LW 5’s friend hasn’t even had an offer rescinded, so this is all hypothetical anyway. I hope things work out with an offer that comes through.

  86. DrunkAtAWedding*

    Question 1 is the sort of thing that taught me not to add coworkers to social media (not to say OP did, it just reminded me of that lesson). You just don’t need to know most of that stuff about people you work with. You can’t do anything about it and it will just upset you.

  87. Live and let live*

    #1 I think that being able to coexist with others, especially others who hold differing common beliefs is part of being professional in the workplace. As long as the coworker is not shaming you or making offensive comments, I don’t see why you need to leave. If you have strongly held values, the best part that you can do is live them peacefully. Continue to support the cause, but don’t let your passion lead to a rash decision. If you need to change fields, think this over carefully and have a backup plan. I work with people who lead very different lives than I do and I feel good about it. I am here to further my career and earn a living and so are they. I also know that no one is perfect. Somewhere you also have a coworker who might not agree with all of your choices. This coworker doesn’t believe in, for example: driving cars, eating certain food, practicing a different religion, watching television or even reading a certain genre of books. But nonetheless they are able to treat all coworkers with respect, can you treat a coworker who purchased a dog from a breeder with respect? I am careful not to make value judgments. As an employee, my job is to get the job done professionally, what people do in their personal lives has no bearing on how I view them.

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