my boss sent me a message urging me to follow Jesus, my coworker reported me for saying “data Nazi,” and more

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

1. My boss sent me a message urging me to follow Jesus

My boss sent me this after I quit: “Good morning Jane! I wasn’t working on your last day and didn’t get a chance to thank you for your time with us. I sure appreciate you staying your last few weeks! With an employee/boss relationship I am limited on things I can talk about. Well … I am not your boss anymore. I am someone who cares very much about you. I pray for you quite regularly. I know by the messages you have on your vehicle that you might not think that matters. Oh Jane, it does. Satan is real; so very real. I know you have studied about Him and now seem to be inviting him to be Lord of your life. I beg you, Jane; please spend some time studying who Jesus is before you make your final decision. I was 44 years old when I decided to follow Jesus. Best decision I ever made. Eternity is a guarantee for all of us. I truly want you to be a part of mine.”

I never responded. I don’t believe in God and have a hail Satan stickers on my car along with BLM, pro-choice, and pride stickers. She is very Republican and I know she’s religious from casual conversations we’ve had at work. And she also knows that I’m not a fan of mainstream religion from the same conversations. Those conversations have never crossed the line before, but I feel like this really crosses the line. I want to call her out but, she’s a year away from retirement and I don’t want her to get fired when she’s that close. I would feel bad but I don’t know what to do or if I should do anything.

This is wildly inappropriate and it didn’t become okay just because you no longer work for her. Aside from the fundamental obnoxiousness of proselytizing to someone who has never invited it, you’re dependent on her for references so there’s still a power dynamic, and I suspect your former employer would be very unhappy to know your old boss is sending messages like this to people who worked for her.

It’s so inappropriate that I would indeed report it to your former HR department, with a note saying, “I’m especially concerned because I’ll be depending on Jane for a good reference in the future” just in case they don’t connect those dots themselves.

She’s highly unlikely to be fired (rather than warned) over this, unless she’s already been warned not to do it previously (in which case, firing would be a reasonable outcome).

2. My coworker reported me to HR for saying “data Nazi”

I’m a data science manager working in a tech company. I jokingly used the phrase “Data Nazi” in a Slack message in a private team channel. 20 minutes later, I got a slack DM from HR, letting me know that she got some feedback about me that I probably would prefer to get ASAP.

I appreciate the callout and I would like to be more sensitive. However, this also makes me very uncomfortable. My partner is Jewish, our children are half Jewish. I was in a conversation with another person in my company with a higher title than me. He used the exact same phrase. (The particular person happens to be Jewish as well.) I don’t have any ill intentions. Personally, I care about people’s intentions. I don’t get upset or report to HR for things like this. I understand that everyone is different.

I have a hunch about who this person is. This person is certainly on my team. I want to treat everybody on my team fairly and I don’t want this incident to affect my relationship with them. I find it hard to overcome how I feel though.

Try to let it go. It’s a phrase that a lot of people find offensive. Yes, the person who reported it to HR should have just talked to you directly instead, but for whatever reason they didn’t. Maybe they struggle with uncomfortable conversations, maybe they’ve had bad experiences addressing this kind of thing in the past, maybe they had reason to think you wouldn’t be receptive, maybe it’s the fifth offensive thing they’ve heard at work this week and they’re fed up — who knows.

But now you know it bothers someone on your team, so you can avoid using it. That’s all it needs to be. You can choose to turn it into something, but you can also choose to simply accept the correction and leave it there. The second one is better for your quality of life.

(For what it’s worth, avoid the whole “a Jewish person was fine with it” thing — no one Jew speaks for the rest of us, and it’s basically a tenet of Judaism that we have a bunch of different opinions on things.)

3. My coworker’s inattention to detail impacts my work

I work in tech in a QA role. Most of my job is checking work that others have completed, making sure that it is fully complete and without error. My team is cross-functional and I am the most junior person. We use a work tracking system to define and assign work; by the time work is assigned, business has spelled out the requirements pretty specifically and developers have had multiple opportunities to ask questions and make sure that they understand what they are being asked to do.

One of the devs I work with consistently skips half the pieces in his assigned work. For example, if he was supposed to do A, B, C, D, and E (and he previously agreed that this was a reasonable amount of work to be done in this time period and acknowledged that he did not have any questions about it); he’ll do A and C, then tell me the whole thing is done. I’ll come back and tell him that B, D, and E aren’t done yet, and it takes some back and forth before he sees what I mean. Sometimes we even go through a third round of this. It’s an inefficient use of both of our time and I’m not sure how to bring it up or who to bring it up with.

The work that gets done is done well, he’s a nice guy, and I’ve only picked up on animosity in some specific and particularly stressful situations. I’ve also noticed he tends to be inattentive in meetings. I find myself wondering if it’s purely inattentiveness, lack of attention to detail, or if he has difficulties understanding written and verbal communication. Whatever it is, it affects my work and I don’t know how to handle it.

Talk to your boss.

In theory, you could try handling it yourself first. For example, the next time you need to have two or three rounds of “it’s not done”/“yes, it is”/“no, it’s not,” you could ask your coworker whether there was something the two of you can do differently so that it doesn’t keep happening. That can be a polite way to point out that there’s a pattern, it’s a problem, and something needs to change. But this sounds like a big enough issue with his work that I don’t think you’re positioned to handle it on your end, especially as the most junior person on the team. Instead, talk to your boss, explain it keeps happening and what impact it’s having on your work, and ask for her advice on how to handle it. (You do want her advice if she has any, but you mostly want to being this to her attention so she can intervene and asking for advice can be a good way of doing that.)

4. The horrors of an artisanal shop

Could anyone who works in a small boutique selling gorgeous clothes, trinkets, or lovely fripperies tell me what to do when you go into an artisan-type shop, take one look at the hand-carved llamas or llama wool shawls on display (or the attached high-dollar price tag), and think, “Oops, not going to buy in here”? What is the most graceful and face-saving way of rapidly exiting this kind of quiet artisan store?

I have an excess of polite apologetic-ness (being a stereotypical Canadian from the Maritimes perhaps?) and it kills me to leave a store without showing polite interest in the four stained glass mallards or tie-dyed tea cozies because it seems too rude to walk in, look around, go “Nope!”and stride out again.

Do shop owners or assistants prefer the politeness band-aid being ripped off with a swift exit as soon as possible, or is there a benefit to the chit chatters who they know won’t buy anything? Why does this tie me up in knots and am I alone in this feeling?

Shop owners/employees are used to people coming in, realizing the store isn’t for them, and quickly exiting! It’s a normal thing. You can just cheerfully say “thank you!” on your way out the door — that’s all you need to do. You do not need to hang around and make chit chat to be polite, and most shop workers don’t want you to chat with them out of a sense of obligation before you feel you’re allowed to leave.

Readers who have worked in this type of boutique, would you like to weigh in?

5. Should I be setting goals?

A lot of your questions/answers involve employees having goals and managers helping or hindering them from being achieved. Should I be setting goals? How do I identify what goals to set? Overall I just don’t know how to set professional goals, or what it means.

If you’re managing people, you should indeed be setting goals, for them individually and for your team as a whole. Goals are what describe what a successful year (or quarter, or whatever period you use) would look like — so that you and your employees are on the same page about exactly what they’re expected to achieve and what success would look like. (But not just any goals. They should be measurable, outcome-based (not activity-based), and specific enough that you can both agree on whether they’ve been met or not, and should represent meaningful progress. SMART goals — look it up! you’ll find tons of resources — are a popular model organizations use.)

If you’re not a manager and your organization doesn’t use formal goals, you don’t need to start doing it. But a lot of people find it a helpful tool to get aligned with their boss about what their priorities should be and what success will (and won’t) look like.

{ 982 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    There’s a discussion about the new design going on in the weekend thread; if anyone wants to post feedback, please post it over there so that it’s not in a bunch of different places — thank you! But know we’re still making some tweaks to the body text.

  2. Limdood*

    LW2, Allison is correct.

    You can be bothered/offended because of your identification as a certain group, but there is no such thing as “being ok with something” on behalf of a group.

    You said something problematic to others. You realize how it could be problematic. Only option is to own it and do better moving forwards

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I understand the feeling tho, that a higher up used the same phrasing (no matter their religion) and that seemed ok. It feels like OP #2 is singled out bc someone on their team complained while no one is complaining about the other person who used the phrase.

      But they might have been called out and asked to stop using it and you just don’t know it happened. It also could be anyone who complained. Maybe the person who you think it is said something to someone else and they complained. You can really go down a rabbit hole guessing.

      But energy into yourself, not others! Use this as an opportunity for self reflection. Putting your focus on others who said the same thing or who complained won’t help you.

      1. Me*

        I agree that the LW is assuming the higher-up didn’t get a call from HR as well, but the LW has no way of knowing whether that’s true.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          This! I was wondering about this piece of the situation, but realized the higher up could have had the same conversation with HR too. You don’t know. You shouldn’t necessarily know.

          Someone was offended. LW didn’t intend to be offensive, but she did offend someone. Honest mistake (cause lots of people use that phrase); lesson learned; don’t do it again. Intent doesn’t always matter. In this case it doesn’t, you still offended/hurt someone.

          I had to ignore the “it can’t be offensive to Jews because I’m married to one and this other Jew said the same thing” theme in most of the letter. That’s a very bad look, LW. It’s defensive response. If that’s your only defense then it’s incredibly problematic because people who love/are friends with/are acquainted with people of marginalized groups can still be antisemitic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. And they often try to use it as a reason they can’t be racist, antisemitic, homophobic, transphobic when they are very obviously being those things. LW needs to realize this too.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I also wondered if HR had the same conversation with both OP and the higher up – but because HR at this place is competent, OP only knew about the one they had with her. That’s the way it’s supposed to work after all.

          2. br_612*

            Absolutely.

            I also kinda squirmed at the “I think intentions matter” bit . . . Intentions don’t make the hurtful comment less hurtful in the moment. Intentions matter when it comes to how much accountability one should take, they matter in how both parties treat each other going forward, but they don’t, and shouldn’t, matter in deciding to call someone out for saying something problematic.

            Judging by the defensiveness in the letter, I can’t really blame the person who chose to go through HR rather than say something directly and risk that defensiveness being aimed at them. Honestly it’s better for the working relationship that the complainer didn’t see this kind of reaction.

            1. ferrina*

              Ooh, I hate the “intentions matter” defense. I had family members who used it to excuse all kinds of bad behavior. My favorite was when someone literally walked out of the room in the middle of a conversation with me- they had said their piece, and left as soon as I started talking. But they “didn’t mean to offend”, therefor they didn’t see themself as being rude.

              1. LimeRoos*

                Ugh yes, same here, and similar experience. Intent matters to an extent, but it’s not a get out of jail free card. Mr. Roos and I had ex-friends who used the fact they never ‘intended’ to offend us as an excuse to say whatever they wanted, and how we’re the bad guys for calling them out on their toxic bs. So yeah, intent matters is not a good argument.

            2. Tupac Coachella*

              Yeeeeaah, I also didn’t love that. Sometimes people who are able to easily let things go under the rationale of “they didn’t mean any harm” don’t understand why other people don’t, too. Especially for marginalized people, who are routinely and measurably harmed by things that a lot of people don’t even realize they do (which this letter offers a perfect example of), the harm outweighs the intent. I don’t care that you didn’t mean to hurt me, I want you to stop hurting me. “Intent matters” in a socially responsible sense means that once someone finds out they unintentionally caused harm, they take responsibility for changing that behavior, because the harm was not intended (and that people who were harmed take intent into account and extend some grace if safe and appropriate). It’s not a get out of jail free card. If you continue to do the thing, then you now intend to cause harm…and intent matters.

            3. MigraineMonth*

              I’m glad you didn’t intend to step on my foot. I know you didn’t realize I had a broken toe. That doesn’t change the fact that I need you to get your foot off mine right now, and I need you to avoid stepping on feet in the future.

          3. Observer*

            If that’s your only defense then it’s incredibly problematic because people who love/are friends with/are acquainted with people of marginalized groups can still be antisemitic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.

            To take an extreme but incontrovertible example – Does anyone remember the mess with Abner Louima? One of the ringleaders was engaged to marry a black woman

              1. Observer*

                No, they are NOT. She spoke out, and it was clear that she was devastated by the whole situation.

                I really felt bad for her.

          4. tamarack and fireweed*

            I’d just like to point out that you don’t know if anyone was offended. I am not offended by “data nazi”. I *would* either say something myself or otherwise make it stop.

            The feeling of being offended is a bit of a red herring. One can feel offended and be in the wrong (eg. an old-style racist feels genuine offense at the idea of treating people from racial groups they consider inferior like their social and professional equals), or not being personally particularly bothered and do the right thing.

          5. Ellie*

            There’s a good chance as well that the bosses position has nothing to do with it. The complainer might have let it go the first time it was used, and then complained after they heard it multiple times, because its more triggering. The complainer could also have understandably felt that they can’t tell a Jewish person when and where to use the term Nazi, but that you repeating it was more offensive. I feel a similar way about the C-word. I don’t like it, but I’ll tolerate it from another woman if its occasional. If a man says it at work though, you bet I’ll complain, whether he’s married to a woman or loves women or hates them doesn’t interest me. I know its not quite the same, but you should try not to offend the people you work with.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Also did the higher up use it in speech or text. Folks are more likely to report something written because they have proof it happened. LW put it in Slack. Also, if the higher up uses it and now LW uses it, the coworker might have decided, “I can grudgingly tolerate this from a person who can fire me, but like hell am I listening to it from a peer”

        3. Kel*

          I was going to comment this also. There’s no indication that the higher up didn’t get the same message from HR.

      2. Kella*

        “But they might have been called out and asked to stop using it and you just don’t know it happened.”

        This! There is a distinct possibility that that person was also spoken with and asked to stop using the phrase too.

        1. Tinkerbell*

          Or the person who complained didn’t feel they had the standing to call out a higher-up but when the OP repeated it, they saw that as a way to say “this isn’t okay” without directly challenging someone with more capital in the company.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I wonder if there have been lots of complaints and he keeps ignoring them – so now the person who complained when to HR instead of handling it personally? So OP who had only used it then got the same talking to as the person who kept using it after the other guy had been told to stop it.

          Speculation here, but putting it here as a reasonable possibility I’ve seen in the past.

      3. Elitist Semicolon*

        I get that “he said it first so it’s okay” makes logical sense to the OP, but unless they are not in the US or any of the other countries that have seen a rise in right-wing, oft-exclusionary rhetoric and politics in the last few years, I do not understand how someone with any sense of awareness could drop a Nazi reference at work and consider it an appropriate joke. That goes for the colleague too.

        (And even if they are not in the US, there’s still no reason to think calling someone a Nazi is a joke. Because global history, yanno.)

        1. Despachito*

          This would mean that the entire phrase “grammar Nazi” should never have been forged and used by anyone.

          I personally do not like the phrase, and I loathe the way how the word “Nazi” is deliberately misused by politicians who just want to label their enemy with a really nasty label, but the word “grammar” here is for me a clear indicator that the speaker does NOT mean a person who would torture or kill, just a phanatic.

          I would still avoid using it but I do not feel it like comparing it to a real Nazi.

          1. McThrill*

            Of course it’s not saying someone is a literal real nazi, that’s not the issue. It’s that even in a joking manner, the term “nazi” is inappropriate to use because of exactly the issue you are concerned about – this is not a real nazi but someone who was overzealous on some issue. It’s the same reason why saying, “That’s gay!” as a response to something you find stupid is also inappropriate – everyone knows you don’t literally mean that their response is homosexual.

            1. KelseyCorvo*

              Exactly. I had to explain the same thing to someone who was calling stupid people “retarded” (like 20 years ago). “But I would never say that about someone who actually is retarded!” they said. Of course you wouldn’t. But you’re comparing people who don’t actually have those kinds of issues with those who do as an insult. It’s a very weak argument that people try to use.

              1. Anonny*

                People always say “I’d never say that about someone who actually is X!” and yes, yes they would. They won’t say it about/to someone they think is X, but not every member of X group looks like what they think a member of X group does.

                I’ve had so many conversations turn awkward because of that.

            2. pinetree*

              Discouraging the use of the word gay in a negative connotation has been the subject of a huge societal push.

              Using the word nazi in a joking manner has not, at least to my knowledge. Does that make it acceptable? No. However, this is a good example of expecting everybody to have the same awareness of all changing aspects of language is a tall order. Especially now, when so much change is driven by online culture, which not everybody participates in to the same degree.

              OP, I’d look at it this way. You made an error, let’s say akin to making a wrong turn. You got honked at, and we all know how that feels like. Rather than honking back, extend grace to both the other person and yourself. And I’m sure you’ll be more sensitive when making turns going forward.

              1. Sloanicota*

                I would now flinch at “grammar nazi” or “soup nazi” in a way I probably wouldn’t have done a few years ago. I don’t remember it being an issue around the time of Seinfeld. I think it’s the literal resurgence of nazis in media that has done it for me.

                1. Daisy*

                  I think adding Nazi as a modifier was popularized by the radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who absolutely did use it to shock.
                  I do not think the normalization of this term has been helpful in decreasing racism in the US, just the opposite.

                2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Seinfeld was what 20-30 years ago so no surprise language has changed. I think it came out in 1990 so the comedy language and topics used are as outdated as the comedy language and topics from 1960 would have been in 1990.

                3. si*

                  Yeah. It was easier to laugh about something being just like the Nazis when we were less afraid of actual goddamn real life Nazis.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                It’s been getting a rising push over the last 10+ years, even before the Orange Guy — and much more so after Charlottesville made it clear Naziism wasn’t as fringe as it used to be.

                It’s reasonable not to know or notice this as it’s a gradual change, but it’s not nonexistent.

              3. Anonanonanon*

                I like this analogy. You made a boo boo, got honked at, move on.

                I 100% understand that people using “data nazi” or “grammar nazi” are not intending to belittle the horrors of the nazis or align themselves with genocidal white supremacist ideology. However, I also think, given the prevelance of actual nazis (or at least folks aligned with their racist thinking) in our culture, it’s not a great look to use those terms.

            3. Observer*

              It’s that even in a joking manner, the term “nazi” is inappropriate to use because of exactly the issue you are concerned about – this is not a real nazi but someone who was overzealous on some issue.

              And it implies that Nazis (and we know that they still exist) were “just fanatics” about not necessarily big issues. Considering that there are still people around with the numbers on their arms as a testament to that “just fanatic” set of ideals, and some communities with a generation of people who grew up with holes in their families because of those “just fanatic” people, it’s still quite raw to a a lot of people. And considering that there are people TODAY who still subscribe to that ideology, it’s even more raw.

              Please don’t use terms that minimize what the word Nazi actually means, and what lead to for millions of people.

              1. Middle Aged Lady*

                Thank you for this. It expressed my sentiments exactly!
                Same with ‘anal’ for a detail oriented boss, ‘retarded’ for a recalcitrant coworker, and ‘p&ssy’ as an insult to a man. I think we are all better than this.

                1. Eyes Kiwami*

                  I would separate “anal” from the other two, as it comes from Freudian psychology so it’s just plain wrong, but not bigoted towards certain genders/sexualities/groups of people.

              2. queenbee*

                A year or two after I myself stopped using the term “grammar nazi” I remember looking at someone who had just enthusiastically embraced it as a label and saying (sarcasm evident) “yes, that’s exactly what Nazis are: people who care a lot about rules.”

                It made the moment awkward but I’m glad I did it. People should probably feel a little awkward about using the word Nazi to describe something other than a dangerous, racist fascist.

              3. plumerai*

                Perfectly put. I went to college when the term “feminazi” was being thrown around a lot (thank you, Mr. Limbaugh) and I just remember a professor in a gender studies class addressing it by saying, “What did women ever do to be compared to Nazis?” She was Jewish and said it holding back tears. After that I can’t find cute things like “grammar Nazis” OK to say.

            4. McThrill*

              Also, about this – “I don’t have any ill intentions. Personally, I care about people’s intentions.” Say I offered to give my coworker a ride to work and accidentally backed my car into their mailbox while doing so – I never *intended* to do any harm, I was actually trying to be nice, but I’d be a jerk if I didn’t offer to pay for a new mailbox. I’d be a grade-A asshole if I did it intentionally, sure, but even if it’s unintentional the harm is still done and needs to be addressed.

          2. Sleeve McQueen*

            Yeah, Grammar Nazi came into being at a time when Nazis were more of a historical reference/character in an Indiana Jones movie kind of vibe. I feel like it started falling out of favour once Nazis became a lot less hypothetical (not that they ever truly were). While I think it’s clear no one would believe that you were literally calling yourself a Nazi, if you claimed to be a grammar Nazi, they would believe you are insensitive or out of step with the mood. In the same way that I used to enjoy reading about wild conspiracy theories but now I find them sad and depressing because I’ve seen where conspiracy thinking can take us.

            1. Tinkerbell*

              By the same token, though, I can understand how the OP might have only ever associated the phrase with the more jokey version – especially if they’ve never personally known anyone to take issue with it. It’s reasonable to try to be sensitive to things in our own speech we can change and which hurt others, but usually we only learn that something is hurtful when we’re called out like this. If the OP takes the point and is capable of moving on (and this isn’t part of a pattern of behavior), I presume all will eventually be forgiven.

              1. Sleeve McQueen*

                I think where OP is coming unstuck is giving into the (natural) urge to take this as a referendum on whether they are A Good Person, which means they need to start rationalising “why what I said was ok, actually. Some of my best friends are Jewish. They said it first, etc etc” because otherwise they would have to wear a hat with Bad Person on it for the rest of their life.
                They spoke thoughtlessly, we all do it but it’s been pointed out to them, now they need to move on and take it as an opportunity to invent a new kick-arse term like “data ringmaster” or whatever it is that you want to convey.

                1. Despachito*

                  I think that it is useful to get rid of the “Good Person” fallacy.

                  Doing something in good faith and being able to own it if it comes out as Not OK does not make anyone a bad person. (Personally, I think that the notions of “Good Person” and “Bad Person” are misleading and influence our acts in a bad manner)

                2. KelseyCorvo*

                  That sounds 100% accurate. We’ve all been there. Any time one of my friends gets kicked out of a Facebook group or “thrown in Facebook jail” or anything similar – or has a bad interaction with someone in real life – they have to post about it, seemingly because it was so funny and crazy, but really because they want reassurance that they’re not the one in the wrong.

                3. Irish Teacher*

                  I’ve read a theory that doing something good makes us more likely to do something bad because we’ve now established “I’m a good person, so it’s OK for me to do this.” And I think there is some truth to it. I know if I give some coins to a homeless person, I am often less likely to give if I pass another homeless person a few minutes later, because I feel less guilty about ignoring somebody, knowing “well, I did give to someone.”

                  I also read that what really say if you are a decent person or not (and I do agree that we are all a mix of both anyway) is how you respond when you are called out. We all say things without realising they have offensive connotations and heck, people’s backgrounds can influence how likely they are to realise something is problematic. The way to show you are a decent person is to take the correction on board. The way to look like you have some problematic views is to double down and insist those who took issue with what you said or did are being “too sensitive”. (Not saying the LW is doing the latter; they do seem to be taking the feedback into account.)

                4. starfox*

                  Exactly…. OP is not a BAD PERSON for thoughtlessly using a common colloquialism. The attempts to rationalize it are actually worse than the offense (“I can’t be anti-Semitic, I’m married to a Jewish person!” “But this other Jewish person said it first!”)

                5. MigraineMonth*

                  @Despachito – There’s a great line by an imam in the new Ms Marvel series: “Good is not a thing you are, Kamala. It is a thing you do.”

                  I think it would be a better world we spent less energy trying to achieve goodness (or allyship, or perfection, etc) like it’s an award that can’t be revoked and more energy trying (and failing, and trying again) to do good every day.

              2. BethDH*

                Agree! And you can handle this with grace if you accidentally use a phrase that you’ve only recently realized was harmful — because it does take time to change speech patterns.
                A coworker recently used a phrase that is widely used but becoming less used as people know the history it references. She immediately said, “oops, sorry, I’m trying to strike that phrase from my vocabulary, let me rephrase that” (without anyone else saying anything). She rephrased it and the conversation continued.
                I liked it because she didn’t put any time into self-flagellation or making herself the center, and was a good model to the rest of us.

            2. Despachito*

              This is true – it is easier to make fun of something that everybody considers to be a distant and unrealistic possibility although back in its time it was horrid (e.g. Spanish inquisition), although if we thought twice, we shouldn’t for the same reason.

              The scenario completely changes if the thing is/becomes a real possibility.

            3. Despachito*

              Re Nazi-themed movies – am I the only one who did not find the British series ‘Allo ‘Allo! funny because I thought it was trivializing the Nazis and taking them too lightly (as practically harmless dumbasses)? I think this is also sort of diluting the notion of nazis and how horrible they were.

              1. Eyes Kiwami*

                I encourage you to watch Lindsay Ellis’s video about Mel Brooks. She explains in detail about the power of ridicule, and how portrayals of Nazis as evil and scary can also backfire into making them look cool. Like how people have latched onto American History X and Fight Club, but not the Producers… But at the same time this takes a deft hand to not depict them as harmless fools and make light of them.

                1. UKDancer*

                  I like Allo Allo and it makes me laugh. Part of it is that it ridiculed everyone equally. I think.it also helped that none of the Germans were really politically committed Nazis. Even Here Flick was more interested in finding a painting and seeing Helga.

                2. londonedit*

                  Yeah, with things like ‘Allo ‘Allo it’s a very British way of operating, making your enemy look ridiculous and laughing at them and whatnot. There was a lot of that during the actual war as well, poster campaigns depicting the Nazis as idiots. It’s minimising the enemy rather than building them up into a scary monster that people are terrified of (of course people were still terrified, but it’s a very British thing to try to laugh in the face of adversity). ‘Allo ‘Allo also attempted (how successfully is of course subjective) to make everyone look stupid – the British airmen are idiots, the French are chaotic and poor Rene is in the middle of it all trying to run a cafe.

                3. Gimmeausername*

                  Also, ‘Allo ‘Allo is a parody of a popular hard core dark WW2 resistance series that was on at the time, we’ve just forgotten the original.
                  Its like if someone made a parody of The Wire that got more popular than the original and in a few decades people are complaining it makes cops and drug dealers look harmless and funnny

                4. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  And watch Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. In his first non-silent movie made in 1940, he utterly pulls the mask off of Hitler, way before most of his atrocities were widely known (WW2 having just begun a year before).
                  There is power in laughter.

                5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Thanks to those who remembered Secret Army. I stumbled on it on Vimeo looking for another old BBC show and wow is that good and dark.

                6. The OTHER Other*

                  Mel Brooks has spoken eloquently and often about the use of ridicule to make fun of Nazis, and Hitler specifically. He believes humor is a very powerful weapon and that it should be used to make them look absurd, and demystify their aura of intimidation.

                  That doesn’t necessarily make him right, and certainly there are other points of view that there’s a danger of trivializing the Holocaust or not taking Nazis seriously. But it’s worth seeking out what he has to say as food for thought.

                7. Kat*

                  you hit the nail on the head here. Also see Taika Waititi’s film “Jojo Rabbit” for a similar lambasting of Hilter through ridicule.

              2. Caroline Bowman*

                Not an ‘allo ‘allo fan particularly, but understand that the British, not that long ago, were faced with the absolutely real and quite likely threat of being taken over by the Nazi’s. It was a genuine thing and there were periods of borderline-starvation involved, and abject terror for years and years.

                It was traditional to mock and sneer at the Nazi’s (have a listen to ”hang up your washing on the Siegfried Line, have you any dirty washing, Mother Dear?”), from Churchill down. V for victory… that was him, about them. The States, bless them and all, didn’t get involved until it suited them to do so for a whole lot of reasons, so possibly they don’t really grasp the nuances, but there it is.

                It’s not a reason to call anyone a Nazi who isn’t in fact a Nazi, but that’s the thing. Those movies reflected that cultural context.

                1. UKDancer*

                  I’d also say that one of the writers of Allo Allo and several of the actors had actually fought in WW2 so were drawing on personal experiences for their characters. David Croft fought in North Africa and India in WW2. The actors Richard Marner (von Strohm), John Louis Mansi (von Smallhausen) and Kenneth Connor (Alphonse) all fought and from interviews they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy working on the programme and laughing at the Germans and themselves.

              3. Long time lurker*

                Allo Allo, and Dad’s Army which is similar in tone, were written largely by and for people who lived through the war, and in the very old British tradition of turning the things that bother us into comedy as a coping mechanism. As with all non-current media it’s best enjoyed through a historical lens. My grandad, who loved those programmes, fought in the war and experienced some horrendous things – he really didn’t need someone to turn to camera and say “but don’t forget, the Nazis were the baddies”.

              4. Lenora Rose*

                I don’t know ‘Allo ‘Allo, but I am actually a fan of Hogan’s Heroes (At least the first couple of seasons), and Jojo Rabbit, for two very different and very mocking takes on Naziism. (The latter of course, made fun of them *while* simultaneously pointing out how dangerous they are, which is harder than what the former did, where they are just goofballs.)

                Meanwhile, Punching Richard Spencer may have made him a household name, but not one with a lot of power to make people afraid….

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Otoh, to bring it back to topic. Comedy about fighting in WWII or dealing with Hitler is taking the actual Nazi issue head on; even when it feels like it’s trying to reduce a terrible things down to triviality, it’s about the real thing. Calling people a “data n—” isn’t, however, looking at and taking on Nazism itself; the thing it’s attacking with the term is excess pedantry about data security. So. not exactly the same.

              5. Middle Aged Lady*

                My dad felt the same way about Hogan’s Heroes but I take the view that mockery (and punched in the face) are the combined way to deal with Nazis. Being able to mock them in the 60s and 70s was a way to celebrate a win. Because of course, if they had won, there would be no space for this kind of humor at all.

                1. Westsidestory*

                  Agreed. My dad spent two years in a Nazi POW camp on WW2. He loved Hogan’s Heroes and found much of its humor relatable.

            4. The Plain Truth*

              “Grammar Nazi” has fallen out of favor? I heard someone use it yesterday.

              Good luck convincing the electorate that there’s a genuine danger of “real Nazis” when you lose it over a witty piece of pop culture from Seinfeld. The boy who cried wolf, and all that.

              1. wcgreen*

                “Electorate” may be another word that causes problems. Does it mean “citizens who exercise their right to vote” or “those uneducated yokels who follow someone blindly and thus aren’t as wise as me”?

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                The man who lost it over “Soup Nazi” was:
                a) An actual soup purveyor
                b) Who didn’t like being called a Nazi
                c) Who I believe was also Jewish, but it’s been a while

                I think Nazis literally chanting “Blood and Soil” while marching past a Synagogue holding services on Saturday (in Charlottesville) would be enough evidence of Nazis and their enablers.

                Nobody needs to get precious about how if some guy in a different state doesn’t like being called a Nazi for having strict rules about keeping the lunch line moving, then no one can believe in any other Nazis no matter how much seig heiling they do.

              3. Eldritch Office Worker*

                It has. That doesn’t mean people don’t still use it. I could list a litany of words people still use that are considered by many to be slurs, for instance. But the assertion that Nazi is not a word to be trivialized in that way is hardly new and you’ll get a lot of cringing around it even if people aren’t speaking up directly. This letter is an excellent demonstration of how that plays out.

              4. Broadway Duchess*

                It’s possible that it hasn’t reached your circle yet, but yeah it’s not really a thing that’s part of popular speech any longer.

              5. Phony Genius*

                As Falling Diphthong mentions above, the actual soup merchant in Manhattan who that character was probably based on did not like the episode one bit, because of the use of the word “Nazi.” He did not care that it brought him lots of extra business. Especially because a lot of that new business used that word to his face. (Which would often result in him refusing service, much like in the episode.)

              6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

                So, “hey can you stop doing that, it’s kind of offensive?” is “losing it” and justifies people electing fascists? I think I’m missing something here. I don’t understand anyone being simultaneously being so sensitive that “hey could you not” is a Whole Thing and so not-sensitive that electing fascists is fine.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  “People are so sensitive these days” alongside a tantrum over wanting to use the word nazi is such cognitive dissonance I do at times feel like I’m being pranked.

              7. I.T. Phone Home*

                My kid is now older than I was the first time I saw the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld. If your concept of what’s witty is what was on television a whole generation ago, yes, you’re going to seem out of step to a lot of people.

              8. Critical Rolls*

                Was this an exercise in how many fallacies and rhetorical shenanigans one can pack into a 4-sentence post? I count: anecdote as data; incident as acceptability; use of quotations to cast doubt without actually making an argument; substituting one situation for another; mischaracterizing a reaction (x2); resort to cliche. And those are just the easy ones… not including the user name.

            5. JSPA*

              We had a letter here from someone in an area where Stalin’s actions still resonate strongly, due to the history and ethnicity of the local area, rendering Stalin a really problematic reference (where for many other people it’s been a generation or more, since that was so).

              For that matter, there are people who still flinch at references as far back as the Ottoman empire, the crusades, genghis khan.

              But the details of why and when and “how long seems reasonable” don’t really matter.

              It doesn’t make you a horrible human being to have said something lightly / as a pop-culture reference that causes pain to others; it makes you a jerk if you keep doing so, after being told.

              Same as for the person who can’t stand to see “shooting self” gesture in the workplace, because of a family history of suicide by gun; if a turn of phrase creates misery, and it’s not somehow essential to the job, you dump the term.

              There are arguments for and against “reclaiming” or normalizing (e.g.) insults, but a) that’s not relevant here and b) you can’t (in any case) FORCE someone (certainly not in a work situation) to join you in reclaiming / de-fanging a term.

              1. Observer*

                It’s totally not relevant here. You can only “reclaim” something that once had something that was at minimum not bad or even a good thing. There is no history of the word Nazi that is less than evil. Nothing to “reclaim”.

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  I’m now wondering what did happen in 736CE. I’ve tried googling, but am not getting any answers.

                2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  @Irish Teacher it is the establishment of the Emirate of Tbilisi and the beginning of Arab rule in Georgia. Some people are still pretty grumpy about it

            6. Still here*

              Just FYI, even at the time when calling some a (grammar, rules, soup) Nazi was “inoffensive” in the mainstream, it was still pretty jarring for many of us whose actual families were murdered by actual Nazis. “Oh whoa, *I* never realized the word Nazi could be offensive because I only knew about Nazis from their sanitized pop culture versions” says a lot more about your positionality than the term itself.

            7. Wintermute*

              I think you make a good callout. A lot of those cultural jokes come from a time when they were a punchline or a stock baddie in movies– think Blues Brothers’ “I hate those guys!” and stuff.

              1. Beebis*

                Just a note – the Illinois Nazi thing in Blues Brothers was based on a very real event and very real people. George Lincoln Rockwell is basically the father of American Nazism to the point of coining the phrase ‘white power” and was pretty active in the 60s

                1. Wintermute*

                  oh I know, the Skokie rally was a seminal free speech case, and there were plenty of others in that era as well.

                  I guess my point was that there was a time when the campy Hogan’s Heroes stock bad guy was a trope and that was more what people would think of as opposed to the real thing, it stood in for any cartoonishly evil villain figure in the cultural zeitgeist.

          3. Beth*

            But your last line is the point, I think. Yes, we all understand that ‘grammar nazi’ doesn’t mean ‘person who thinks mass murder is an appropriate response to poor grammar’. But it’s still better to avoid using it! It’s going to be upsetting for some people, and it really doesn’t have any positive impact to balance that out.

            Things don’t have to be The Worst Possible Thing Ever to be the wrong move. This isn’t that big a deal, but nor is it a big deal for OP to acknowledge that this made people uncomfortable and stop using that phrasing.

          4. OrigCassandra*

            It should never have been forged or used by anyone.

            That’s not the world we live in, however, so the next best thing is to stop using it now.

          5. LovelyLibrarian*

            “This would mean that the entire phrase “grammar Nazi” should never have been forged and used by anyone”

            That’s exactly what should be happening. There are approximately zero situations where someone paying attention to grammar is the level of a nazi. There are certain arguments to be made about education disparities and classism when pointing out grammar/spelling mistakes unnecessarily, but it’s still not akin to being a nazi for Pete’s sake. It’s a phrase that should never have gained popularity and should not be used.

            1. quill*

              Yeah. Phrases that are frowned openly on now were still in poor taste back when they are coined, people are just more likely to be comfortable speaking up about them now.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              And there are plenty of equally good words to convey “strict as AF”: Grammar [stickler, pedant, purist, Precisian, dogmatist, perfectionist, hair-splitter, pettifogger, Dryadust, quibbler, casuist, sophist, fault-finder, etc]

          6. Observer*

            This would mean that the entire phrase “grammar Nazi” should never have been forged and used by anyone.

            That is 100% correct. That phrase is disgusting. I’m not sure why you seem to be implying that this phrase is actually ok?

          7. Autumn*

            Jerry Seinfeld used the term in reference to hard soup preferences. He should have known better! There are better words one can use. I called someone out on “grammar N**I” and had the irritating experience of the person abjectly apologizing as though she had offended me. To the point where I don’t think she heard what I was trying to tell her.

          8. Regina Phalange*

            Yeppp, this is exactly what my (Jewish) husband said. There are literal Nazis marching in the streets in the good old US of A these days; let’s avoid using it casually or jokingly.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          But it’s not a joke; it’s shorthand that no longer means what it originally means, but still can offend. The user of “subject” nazi is very common and has been for years (Seinfeld had a Soup Nazi episode and character in 1995) to mean (from google):

          The term “Nazi” is used as an exaggeration of the strict regimentation he demands of his patrons (cf. grammar Nazi).

          You say “the recent rise of…” is much more recent than the at least starting in the 90s use of using it as shorthand. So the LW has learned a lesson that something that seems to be okay because it is/was very common usage possibly all of her life is offensive/inappropriate for work. She needs to internalize it and move forward not using it, but I think you’re wrong to call it a lack of awareness.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          I’m German. I won’t say “X nazi” as a generic jocular hyperbole.

          (There’s a slightly different use where you make fun of someone who did such a thing, re: feminazi. But that’s more of a quotational use, and not for general consumption anyway.)

        4. Ellie*

          Many people use humor as a coping mechanism to avoid thinking about or dealing with tragic events, or as a way to feel safer, or to make a statement, or to put them at a distance. I don’t have a problem with it, but you need to know your audience. OP made a mistake, they’ve been told that phrase offends people on their team, now they can choose to stop using it.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        As a teacher, I also think we can only deal with what we know about. If the coworker who complained wasn’t there when the higher-up used it and nobody from HR was there, then it’s very likely HR doesn’t even know he used it, so…they can’t really respond. It’s not really possible to either catch every instance when somebody does something you don’t want them to nor is it reasonable to work on the premise that “well, one person didn’t get called out because those in charge didn’t know they did it, so…we’ll have to let everybody do it.”

        1. Despachito*

          Perhaps a bit OT but I remember a scene of a French book “War of the buttons” where a bunch of country boys do not understand a meaning of a certain word, so one of them playfully calls one of his father’s employees that, and his father, who happens to pass by, gives him a thrashing, and all the boys therefore conclude that this word must definitely be a very strong one if it incited such a reaction.

        2. Underemployed Erin*

          The letter writer may use this experience to start a conversation with her higher up so that he knows that someone on her team is offended by this. That would give the higher person an opportunity to stop without HR intervention, and it would make it less likely that the person on her team will experience the same thing again.

      5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        This is a thing that bugs managers so much about HR interventions! Conversations and any actions taken are confidential, so the LW would have no way to know if HR also spoke to the higher-up about the term.

        1. Lydia*

          I think there’s a way for the higher-up to acknowledge it without giving too much away. Even just a quick, “Hey, I used a phrase that, on reflection, was poorly chosen. I apologize for that and I won’t use it in the future.”

          1. Acknowledges the higher-up’s role in spreading the use.
          2. Lets the OP know they were talked to by HR, too, so it doesn’t look like OP was singled out (if HR did talk to both of them).

        2. Cabubbles*

          That’s why when I’m coaching people at work I typically stress that this is not a them specific issue and that I will be talking to multiple team members about it. I feel like it highlights the importance of the topic without singling out anyone.

      6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Exactly. They higher up person may have been told to stop as well, may have been told it’s setting a bad example/making problematic phrasing ok. OP, you can’t knie for sure you were singled out. Let that part go.

      7. FallisComing*

        OP 2: Slack can be set to scan for offensive words and auto report you without a coworker doing it. I wouldn’t be so quick to pin it on someone on your team.

    2. MK*

      There is a difference between “People I know who belong to X group aren’t bothered by this, so you are unreasonable to be bothered by this and I will keep on doing it” and “People I know who belong to X group aren’t bothered by this, and that’s why I got the impression it’s ok, but now that I know it’s problematic I won’t do it anymore”. I didn’t get the impression that the OP is trying to argue that other Jewish people not objecting to the term, and in this case using it themselves, makes it ok to use, just trying to explain why she didn’t realize.

      1. Despachito*

        This is how I read it too – if I see persons from X group using a term, I may genuinely think it is OK. The difference is in what I do after I am told “please do not use it, I find it harmful”.

      2. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

        Except there’s nothing in the letter that suggests LW regrets using the term, only they they’re upset someone reported them using it. There was no apology or acknowledgement that what they said could have genuinely offended someone, only a bunch of defenses as to why they shouldn’t have reported it.

      3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I don’t think she’s saying she’s heard Jewish people use it. I think she’s making a leap that the person who reported her is saying that because she used the term, she’s anti-semitic and she can’t be anti-semitic because she is married to a Jewish person. I think she added a whole extra aspect to the conversation that is not necessarily there. She talks a lot about her intention and how intention matters, and is making it about herself, when it’s just about that one phrase being offensive. If there was more to it, then she would have heard more from HR than “don’t use that phrase.”

      4. ferrina*

        Yeah, it kind of falls under Know Your Audience. Yes, you may hang out with folks that have different standards, but at work the expectation is that you won’t casually drop phrases that offend people. If you accidentally do, whoops, now you know for next time.
        If your intent is truly to be professional, then this is a really easy thing to do without the defensiveness.

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        Maybe it’s not quite that. More like, because they’ve heard Jewish people use it it *feels* particularly harsh to be called on it. I mean there’s a certain amount of irony if for example you get called out about a term that is insulting to group X if you happen to have picked it up from a member of group X. But irony isn’t a logical fallacy, it’s just a paradox – it goes against an assumption, which happens all the time. I could list many examples. It’s ok to feel sheepish and slightly uncomfortable – just stop.

    3. A Becky*

      I have to say, “I’ve heard Jews using it” really smacks of “my black friend says it, so I can!” – it’s not that I don’t get the impulse, but… I cringe

      1. KelseyCorvo*

        I can see the other side of this too, though. 20-30 years ago I never would have called anyone queer because it was an insult, and now queer friends describe themselves as queer, and prefer to be described that way by others. A queer friend was once described as gay by another friend, in front of them, and pretty harshly said, “I’m not gay – I’m queer.”

        So I don’t think it’s wrong to use the guidance from the people in the group. My queer friend doesn’t just say it’s okay to call her queer – she insists on it. When this was a newer thing – say 25 years ago – if I used the term and someone called me on it, I wouldn’t be wrong to say, or at least think, “But my friend who is that thing is the one who told me to.”

        1. Despachito*

          Yes, the meaning of words changes substantially sometimes.

          I think of Robert Frost’s “my little horse must think it queer/To stop without a village near”, and of mentions of “lady gay” in folksongs.

          I can absolutely see how it is possible to say something somebody finds offensive without even realizing it.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          Me too. I come from a place where there is a large, very specific cultural group of people who are called Coloured, Cape Coloured to be precise. There are festivals and types of food and all kinds of stuff like that. You’d say ” my friend Kelsey Corvo, no not Kelsey Borvo, Kelsey Corvo is the tall coloured one, Kelsey B is the redhead” as an example. It’s their actual name, used with pride, by a minority group.

          Outside of that, most of us get that calling someone – anyone – ”coloured” is… a hard no! Things evolve and context counts to some extent.

            1. Squidlet*

              It’s very localised. Carol Bowman and I must be from the same place, since I also know about this *wave*

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Speaking -as- a black man, if you called me ‘colored’ I wouldn’t be offended, I’d be amused and laugh at you for being 70+ years out of date.

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            Right, context matters. Just because there’s an event called the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, and referred to as such (or by its acronym) during the event, it’s not ok for me (who is white) to refer to others as Eskimos. Not even if they do it first. Only in a small group gathering with an in-group individual who’s themselves using such terms I may (and not in all cases!) re-use them in this particular conversation for a particular purpose.

        3. Coyote Tango*

          Yes, but that’s self identification and taking a word back to a marginalized group. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a wider trend of the Jewish community trying to “take Nazi back” for themselves to give it positive connotations.

          1. KelseyCorvo*

            There’s not, but I’m not talking about that in specifics. Just saying that the idea that “people from this group use this term for themselves and prefer others do as well” isn’t something to be dismissed out of hand.

            Also, no one is taking Nazi back in the example. It’s a matter of if the group affected by it is okay using that term against their oppressors. Some Jewish friends of mine call themselves and each other Jews and want everyone to do so. Others find it offensive!

            Many Native Americans despise that term and now want to be called American Indians (which was once considered outright wrong) or Indigenous Peoples or even First Nations People. There will never be a consensus, and that makes these things a mess for everyone involved.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              It’s not a mess to just move forward without assumptions, be open to feedback, and apologize if you offend someone. That doesn’t mean you can outright avoid offending people in the first place, but you can do your best and just meet people where they’re at.

              A good example of this is the autistic community. The majority (not all, but most) of autistic people prefer “autistic” over “person with autism”, but there’s a big movement (led largely by allistic folks and autism moms) to use person-first language. You’ll even hear that in professional education at this point. So if you’re using person-first language, that doesn’t mean you’re bad or wrong or mean, it means you’re working with the best information that you have. If someone corrects you and tells you what they prefer, just roll with it. Or ask to be educated if the diversity of preference is new to you.

              It’s never been a monolith. Even at the time queer was being used ubiquitously as a slur you had the “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” chants. The key is just to be graceful and not defensive. What Alison is doing here is calling out the defensiveness of “but I know Jewish people who use it”.

              1. Dr Sarah*

                Since you brought up the autistic example, can I just take this chance to stress the fact that most autistic people *do* prefer the term ‘autistic’ to ‘has autism’, and therefore this is by far the better one to which to default unless you know the particular person you’re addressing prefers the term ‘person with autism’ for themselves’?

                I completely agree that if you’ve been using person-first language for autistic people because that was what you thought was best, that doesn’t make you a bad person but a misinformed person (which is the point I think you were trying to make, Eldritch Office Worker, and I agree). But this is also a great chance to clarify that most autistic people *do* prefer the adjective ‘autistic’ (because it’s a better way of expressing the fact that this is a fundamental part of the person rather than something extra or separable) and that, if you have been mistakenly using person-first language for autism, this is a good time to change.

          2. Ellie*

            There’s a rich history of Jewish comedians making jokes about Nazi’s though. I don’t think this joke was giving the word any positive connotations, I see it as someone who’s being bullying and unreasonable, possibly shouting etc. I agree that if it was being used positively (you should aspire to be a data Nazi, etc.), then that would be a much bigger problem. I would have thought that would warrant an actual warning/talking to by HR, instead of a more casual ‘don’t do that again’.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I also think the “Nazi” thing is a bit different because the Nazis affected so many different groups and I’m not sure any one could say it was OK for any of the others. Jewish people, gay people, Romani, the disabled, Eastern Europeans, a lot of Western Europeans too, socialists… all these people had horrific experiences due to the Nazis and then of course, there are people in today’s world whose countries are experiencing the rise of far-right groups.

          This doesn’t only affect one particular group and even if one were OK with it, it wouldn’t necessarily mean it wouldn’t give offence to any of the others. I do see that there could be a difficult issue if one group wanted to make light of Naziism to take away their power and another didn’t want them trivialised and both were groups that had been negatively affected, but it is rather more complicated than simply a group choosing to identify with a term that had been used against them.

        5. Littorally*

          Right, yeah. Picking up language from the people you spend time with is how humans do, so that’s not something to cringe at.

          However, when you transplant that language to another setting, you do bump into the possibility that it just isn’t appropriate for that audience. So things that OP has said with their friends are not things that necessarily belong in the office. Casual ‘X nazi’ terms are in that category for sure.

        6. JSPA*

          That’s legit- – but if your friend instructed you to call all non-cis-het people “queer” or if you generalized to doing so yourself, it would be similarly problematic.

          But the equivalent in terms of the 3rd Reich, of “reclaiming an insult as a badge of honor” is people wearing the pink triangle or the black triangle or the Jewish star. Not “saying ‘soup Nazi.'”

          Mocking Nazis was effectively part of the war effort (see, der fuehrer’s face, spike jones).

          Using “Nazi” to add easy “edginess” to a comedy routine was certainly a thing in the 80’s (when, pre-internet, people could be mostly ignorant of real neo-nazis being anything other than random isolated misfits).

          Retrospectively, those of us who laughed, probably laughed too soon, and in ways that may have reduced the horror and unthinkability of should have continued to accompany the term.

        7. Bebop & Rocksteady*

          That’s entirely different. That’s people telling you the labels they’ve chosen to identify themselves. You may hear Black friends use the N-word but that doesn’t mean white people can use it, but that’s also different from reclaiming the word “queer.” It might be beneficial to not think of this as a two-sided (us vs them) issue, but each situation as a new one you need to learn context for.

        8. Kk*

          Of course you should use terminology your friend prefers with her.

          But she also doesn’t speak for every queer person. Im gay and personally don’t like straight people saying queer. So…proceed cautiously.

    4. Not All Hares Are Quick*

      On a point of order, ‘Nazi’ is probably inappropriate by definition anyway. The MO of National Socialism wasn’t to dictate the minutiae of daily life, but rather to say that absolutely anything goes in the pursuit of a single overriding objective, be it ignoring or directly contravening existing standards and laws. So, a true ‘grammar Nazi’ would say something like ‘You need to express yourself in good English, but how you do it is completely up to you, as long as you do it’, which lets face it isn’t usually the attitude of those to whom the label is applied.
      Maybe a better term would be ‘data’grammar Puritan’ or ‘fundmentalist’ (accepting that at least one of those opens a whole other can of worms).

    5. Gnome*

      I came to say this. It’s not just about Jewish identity, but any group. That type of thinking – I/my SO/my friend/others I know are ok with X, so it is ok (or universally non-offensive) is not good thinking. It’s not something special to Judaism! Also, you never know what bothers people that they don’t bring up for other reasons. Or what didnt used to bother people that now does bother them (because they learned something, had an experience, or whatever).

      1. Ajewadozen*

        I wanted to add some of my own perspective as a Jew-antisemitism is seriously on the rise at the moment, and I think that makes a difference as well. I have to say that things that used to not even register for me now really give me pause.

      2. br_612*

        Also we shouldn’t forget that Jews were not the only victims of the third reich. Romani people, LGBT+ people, disabled people, all also victims.

        Even if one Jewish person could speak for all Jewish people, which obviously they don’t and can’t, that person cannot speak on behalf of the other groups who were harmed and may be rightfully offended by LW’s words

        1. Observer*

          That’s a good point. I was thinking about that last night, after I saw this letter.

          Keep in mind that the nazis killed 20million people in their camps and extermination drives. So, yes, a lot of people who might have connections you wouldn’t know about.

          It’s not for nothing that the people who talk about “replacement” specifically when icomes to Black people are so comfortable with Nazism. Because while the Nazis had a special hatred for Jews (because they committed the unpardonable sin of bringing morality to the world), they considered Black people, and Slavic people among the “subhuman races”.

        2. Gnome*

          Yes, although that’s a bit skew to my point that the LWs thinking is just… not appropriate for ANY group (thinking: oh, well, person X is ok with it, so it’s ok). Separate from the whole Nazi issue.

          I don’t think explained my thought well… it’s been all squirrels in my head all day long :)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with Limdood, just stop using the expression.

      This is one of many expressions that people use for emphasis. It’s very easy to find other ways to emphasize a message or a compliment without involving any groups of people.

      (For me, I read way too much about Nazi Germany and I am hard pressed to see a compliment in the expression. What frightens me ever more is studies/reports that say we are no wiser and just as vulnerable to such oppression.)

    7. ecnaseener*

      Not to mention, if Jews were a monolith we still wouldn’t have sole jurisdiction over whether nazi jokes were offensive. You’d need buy-in from all the Roma in the world at the very least.

        1. quill*

          Yep. Also you might want to ask their political prisoners, like the french and polish resistances…

    8. High Score!*

      That’s nuts. The term “Nazi” isn’t the new n-word. It should only be offensive to Nazis, white supremacists, etc… And “data Nazi” is a commonly used term.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I can see why people would be offended to have the murder of millions of people equated to rigidity about data. There are actual Nazis among us, who are truly dangerous people, and using the term so casually waters down how dangerous they are.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Well since I don’t know what it is meant to mean, it’s obviously a useless one. Is it someone who destroys data or someone who is pedantic about data? If the latter then a data pedant would be more appropriate and easier to understand.

        Please learn the first rule of holes.

          1. quill*

            As opposed to a sloppy yes-man who both obsessively documents their crimes and tries to destroy the evidence when it looks like they won’t get away with it.

        1. LB*

          Because the hypberbole of calling someone a “[noun] nazi”, derived from the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, has been extremely common and widely used since the ’90s, and not considered spicy in the least. This is starting to change recently, as we’re again dealing with, you know, actual nazis, so using it as a hyperbolic way to exaggerate someone’s uptightness about a given subject doesn’t seem as neutral. But pretending that Soup and Grammar nazis weren’t common in casual speech for two decades isn’t doing the discourse any favor.

          1. Esmae*

            “It should only be offensive to Nazis, white supremacists, etc…”

            I’m replying to this. I’m fully aware that “[noun] nazi” was commonly used, and I’m not pretending it wasn’t. It was offensive to some of us then too.

          2. DisgruntledPelican*

            No one is pretending that. But you should know that the actual real life person who was the reference for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi was horribly offended by that name and portrayal. So it’s been offensive since it became a thing.

            Just because something is common place doesn’t mean it’s not offensive to all the people *not* using that term.

      3. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Really? When did you become the judge of what’s offensive? Why do you get to decide who “should” be offended and who shouldn’t?

        Also, of course, “XY is a commonly used term”… isn’t an argument for or against its use. There are a lot of offensive, commonly used terms.

        I think what you mean is, “I don’t find this offensive, therefore you’re wrong if you find it offensive.” Try reversing that, “I am surprised you find this offensive. I never have, but since I respect your feelings, I will not use it again.” It’s that simple.

        1. Julia*

          I largely agree with this and think it’s a good point, but it’s also sort of more nuanced than this. There do exist some times when people who are offended need to suck it up and we should not cater to them. For example, if someone is offended by hearing me talk about my same-sex partner near them, screw them, right? So the rule is not just “whenever someone is offended, cater to their preferences.” There is a sort of filter of reasonableness here.

          I think therefore that the question really is “is it within the realm of reasonableness to be offended by ‘X Nazi’?” And perhaps the answer to that question was different thirty years ago, but I’d say these days the answer is yes. Which doesn’t mean everybody needs to immediately cut it from their vocab or everyone needs to be offended, but it does mean if you encounter a person who is offended, you should dial it back.

          1. Observer*

            It’s never been unreasonable to be offended by the flip use of that term. It’s just that recently we’ve begun calling it our more.

      4. Blanket Statement*

        You read through all these wonderfully thought out, nuanced considerations on use and language to post this. That’s certainly a choice.

    9. Hall or Billingham?*

      I wonder why LW2’s colleague didn’t want to speak to LW2 directly about it. Was it perhaps because they assumed LW2 would react by using their proximate relationship to their Jewish family members to excuse something offensive? Or maybe that LW2 might spend a lot of energy on explaining why it’s not a problem instead of saying, “Thanks for letting me know; I’ll change my behavior going forward”? Questions abound.

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        I’m guessing it was most likely “LW2 might spend a lot of energy on explaining why it’s not a problem.” Without fail, the person making the complaint ends up bearing the brunt of the emotional labor when they call out behavior insensitive to minoritized people, and it stinks. IME, directly calling someone out for their behavior in instances like this results in getting an overly effusive apology and a dubious explanation of why they aren’t a racist or whatever they’ve been “accused” of (which usually makes me suspect that they actually kinda are, even if I didn’t think so before) at best. At worst it’s met with hostility, doubling down that I shouldn’t be offended and I am in fact wrong for being offended, and even thinly veiled threats (“not sure I can continue to work with someone who would say something so horrible about me…”). I have never, not once, gotten anything close to “thanks for letting me know, I didn’t realize that. I’m sorry for the offense and it won’t happen again.” The former reaction is more common, and I understand feeling embarrassed or defensive, but it’s still exhausting and guilt inducing (no one wants to make an otherwise nice person who genuinely wasn’t trying to hurt anyone feel bad, even if the learning that caused the bad feeling is productive). I haven’t had the latter happen too many times, but it’s unpleasant enough to make once too many. I save that level of risk and emotional labor for people I know well and trust. For coworkers, HR or their manager can handle them. I don’t need to help them be better, I just need to not hear their nonsense.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, it could be. But we don’t know – I’ve certainly known people to rather go to HR instead of telling their co-worker *anything* unpleasant. From “coworker neglects to empty their wastepaper basket” to “coworker hums while working and it annoys me” some are sufficiently conflict shy that talking to the coworker isn”t something they’d do.

      2. Smithy*

        To add to what Tupac said, the more IM becomes a regular way of informal work communication – the more casual work language has a written record. So instead of feeling like a scenario reported to HR would require an investigation with “two sides” before anything would be done – you have incidents like this where someone can just screen capture and say “this is what was written, it bothered me”.

        This isn’t to say that what was said didn’t genuinely bother and distress the person who reported the comment or perhaps other things that have been said on the team previously verbally. But it’s straight forward and simple proof of the type of language that makes them uncomfortable. And when we work in a context like this (where so much communication is written/recorded and easy to report for offense), it is worth reminding ourselves that anytime someone tells us that we hurt their feelings or bothered them regarding something sensitive and personal – that takes WORK. Even with our families and friends, the responses people will have can be all over the place, and so people invest a lot of energy in thinking of when and how to share that kind of information.

        So at work, someone taking on this kind of emotional work is very often more the exception. And with an increased ability to have “receipts” that can be dropped in HR’s inbox – if your HR is decent – I wouldn’t be surprised to see these moments increase.

    10. Sloanicota*

      I totally understand that OP feels weird/bad right now. They didn’t mean to offend someone and now they’re feeling like they “got in trouble” plus they have to grapple with having said something that upset someone. I’ve been there in situations where I got called out for using a word I never realized was offensive. But I’m begging OP to redirect their anger and just decide not to use this term anymore; let that be your takeaway. You don’t have to decide you’re a terrible person or antisemetic or whatever. Just remember in future to choose different words, the end, done and dusted. This defensiveness is normal but it’s not helpful. “Personally, I care about people’s intentions” is a bad take you’re using to protect your ego. Just make like Elsa and let it go.

    11. Missy*

      It is even possible that nobody reported it. If OP was using a work slack it’s possible that the system is set up to alert when certain words are used. But in any case, just stop using it going forward because obviously it isn’t something that your workplace thinks is acceptable.

    12. tessa*

      I just do not understand that anyone could use the “data —” phrasing in such a casual way. For the record, I am an atheist.

      Have we become that de-sensitized?

      1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

        My former company has an actual job titled “data steward” for the informatics group. Perhaps this title could be used as a substitute.

      2. Blanket Statement*

        I think what we’re seeing is the swinging around from casually throwing nazi around to actually giving it weight again. Once upon a time, most White folk thought Nazis were defeated and gone. They disappeared at the end of WWII and they were all German anyway, right? (What do you mean Ford was a supporter?) At that point, it became easier to use nazi as a synonym for pedant. We’re in a different time where Nazis are active and where we are seeing white supremacy very openly being expressed by politicians and regular folk alike, so we’re becoming more sensitive to the weight of that word.

        1. tessa*

          Yeah, it’s like these days, the word is being normalized somehow, and therefore, used so casually.

          Maybe we’re finally seeing the effects of continued indifference to the humanities, history and literature in particular.

      1. daffodil*

        How is this satirical? Hyperbolic maybe. But honestly it muddies the waters around what is actually the problem with nazis. Not rigidity or enthusiasm: racism, nationalism and fascism. (Good) satire clarifies or at least points out some reality.

      2. Mim*

        YIKES

        You don’t have to personally dislike hearing the term used in a joking or satirical manner. That’s fine. But I can’t tell if you are being short sighted or just plain trolling here. Do you really not think that a lot of people who are members of groups formerly targeted by a genocidal regime (including children and grandchildren of survivors) could possibly be upset by use of that term? You really believe the only people who don’t like it are the people who identify with the people who committed genocide, not those who were victims of it? WTAF

  3. book reader for hire*

    LW 4 – fellow Canadian from the East Coast and oh boy does this sound familiar… I usually end up doing a reasonably quick tour around and politely thank the staff before leaving. Is this too much? Is this a stereotypical Canadian thing? I don’t know but I do have a recent horror story of going into a shop like this in a touristy part of the province where the very proud shop owner requested that I follow the shop on social media *right then and there* I nearly died of embarrassment and polite anxiety rationalizing when I could unfollow after having left the shop!

    1. SwiftSunrise*

      OH YIKES!

      I work in a boutique bookshop, and while my extremely extroverted boss can be a little over-enthusiastic, even he’s never gone THAT far. I do mention our social media, but only when I’m checking someone out, and it’s a breezy by-the-way/FYI. That shop owner would have caused me to spontaneously combust on the spot.

      But yes, #4, a quick and friendly “Thanks!” on the way out is more than enough – we get it! Our wares aren’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Normal and expected, even.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Folks. FOLKS. “Oh, nice FB page. I’ll look into it. I’m pretty selective about who I follow. Thanks, though!”

    2. Cold and Tired*

      I’m a Minnesotan by birth so I have a similar feeling/fear. I always do a quick circle of the shop, tell people “oh I’m just browsing” if they ask anything, and then conveniently end up back at the door so I can slip out with a thank you. I don’t know if I’m capable of just straight up leaving haha.

      1. PoliteKiwi*

        LW4 – I think most New Zealanders operate on a similar level of politeness so I definitely suffer from this myself. Not all kiwis though – once (when we were quite young, maybe 18) I went into a shop like that with a less tactful friend, who announced very loudly as we entered “Ooh, this smells expensive!”

        (obviously not a recommended approach!)

        1. londonedit*

          It’s the same for many British people – politeness dictates that you should at least have a cursory glance around the shop before you leave, but it is awkward when you realise there really isn’t anything that you want to look at! I’ll usually just ‘admire’ a couple of things near the door or do a quick walk round before leaving. Luckily shop staff here are less intrusive – if it’s a small boutique shop then you might get a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ when you walk in, but there isn’t the whole ‘Hi, good morning, welcome to Shop, is there anything I can help you with today?’ thing so it is a bit easier to just say hello, have a quick glance round and do a brief ‘thank you!’ on your way out.

          1. Media Monkey*

            ohhhh i did this in a wedding dress shop i had booked an appointment at. this was pre being able to browse everything online and a friend (who i thought knew my style and definitely knew my budget) recommended this one to me. i was taking up a precious saturday appointment and as soon as we walked in realised it was all giant floofy tulle princess dresses, many of them pink and all of them way over my limited budget! but to be polite i ended up trying on a few before we left. so embarassing!

          2. English Rose*

            Another Brit here. I usually do a quick circuit out of interest and then the brief ‘thank you’. But I also sometimes get some great ideas for craft-y things I could make. Or at least daydream about making one day, so these shops can feed my creative juices.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            As a Brit, I’d simply say “oh no, it must be next door” as I exit. The sales staff have no idea what I’m shopping for after all.

        2. anne of mean gables*

          Honestly you probably made the shopkeeper’s day – I would laugh so hard if someone walked into my store and said that. Not as good as an actual sale, but probably the next best thing.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Originally from the Deep South – I’ve frequently used “just looking” if a shop owner/employee stops me as I walk in. Otherwise, I do a quick browse and then leave. What I generally make sure to check though is the clearance area if they have one. I’ve found some really cool clothing items back on clearance racks in boutiques in the past.

      3. Missy*

        I usually do a little white lie (if asked) of “I’m just passing time until my friend gets here” (or waiting for a reservation). And then when I’m ready to go I can look at my phone and be then leave.

    3. Kay*

      As someone who has done a retail stint, or two – please feel free to just leave without any guilt. Trust me – making painful chit chat isn’t pleasant for either of us! The quicker you leave the faster I can return to whatever dull nonsense I was doing before – cleaning, studying Sanskrit, ya know, whatever…

      From the other side of this – I have walked into some shops where I looked at the offerings and went “oh H3LL no”, but after wandering around I was shocked to find something really cool, unique and reasonable which I promptly bought. It has happened a few times – so I personally choose to do the walkthrough just in case – but I’ve also simply turned tail & run without feeling the least bit guilty. Feel free to do as you please, guilt free.

      1. Florp*

        Seconded! Feel free to enjoy looking at anything that catches your eye and then leave! You can say “lovely shop” or something if you like and then just dip. Retailers (good ones) really don’t mind. Retailing is a numbers game–you try to get as many people as possible in the store or on the website, knowing that only a small percentage will actually become customers. If just two out of a hundred people who visit my website make a purchase, that’s actually a really good result. And if the store sells expensive fripperies rather than affordable necessities, it’s going to get a lot more browsers–that’s just part of the deal. But everyone who visits might know someone who is looking for a stained glass mallard, so retailers are happy to have you look around.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Somebody who thinks they won’t find anything an wanders in might see something and buy. Somebody who doesn’t come in never will. If I owned a shop I’d rather than a bunch of people step in and immediately leave than not come in at all.

      2. nobadcats*

        Same here, retail veteran of many years, on and off. We’re paid to be nice and chit-chat, if a possible customer doesn’t want to chit or chat, we cool! If I was paid on commission, I’d put in a little extra effort after the initial, “Might I help you?” but not much.

        I’m from the Chicago/Milwaukee area, if I stumble into a shop where everything is out of my $$ range, I just breezily say, “Oh, I’m only looking, go on with what you’re doing!” If I find a treasure, great! If not, it’s a “Thanks! Have an excellent day!” Or if the shop person is pushy, I often say, “I’m looking for a particular thing for sister/brother/bride/dad/stepmother, I will know it when I see it.” And look dreamily off into space, trying to think of The Thing. I’ll act all “hmmm, no…” til I can escape.

        1. nobadcats*

          And actually, as I think on it, I’m finding this a little weird.

          None of us would have a qualm about noping out of a website where we didn’t find anything we liked or wanted, so why should we be shy about saying, “Thank you for your time, have a great day!” and noping out of a brick and mortar shop?

          Before the internets, we did this all the time. Just… say thank you, and GO.

          1. Rose*

            People still do this all the time. I don’t think this has anything to do with internet culture. Some people just have a lot of social anxiety.

            1. nobadcats*

              I’m not shaming anyone for social anxiety! Perish the thought! I’m the last one to do this, since I usually need my wingwoman to shepherd me through new things.

              Maybe I find this a little weird because, before the internets, no one would have even thought to voice these issues. And now that it is coming on the heels of the pandemic, more of us are just fraught with social anxiety. I know for myself, I have to plan ahead about 36 hours in advance of going out into the world and talking to people. In the Before Times, it was only 12 to 24 hours.

              My thought process is: “Is there an online option in which I don’t have to talk to anyone?” “If I have to show up in person, what ELSE do I need to do?”

    4. Brain the Brian*

      I am so awkward about leaving that I usually wind up buying something that I know I don’t want or need. I once spent $150 on a hideous blanket because I couldn’t figure out how to gracefully save face and exit a store full of expensive household decor. Any scripts to help leave are appreciated!

      1. Electric Sheep*

        Just leave without being obliged to buy, Brain the Brian! Think of being there in person like browsing an online store – you are looking at the products then you make a choice to buy or not! No obligation just for looking! It is on the business to make something appealing to sell, they do not deserve your money just for existing. It is so so common for them not to sell things to people, it is unremarkable and expected for them. Entering the store is not entering into any commitment to buy.

        You can just walk out; if there is no one else you could say ‘have a good day’ as you go, but it’s not essential

        1. BethDH*

          I feel Brian’s anxiety here, for some of us this is really hard.
          I’ve found that the faster I get out the better for avoiding anxiety purchases. The phrase I keep in my brain is “I was looking for something else, thanks!”
          For some reason this helps me leave even if I don’t say anything to anyone there. I guess it feels less like a rejection of things they’ve worked hard to make available.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          As someone who thinks of myself as quiet and mild-mannered–but has no problem wandering a store without buying anything–this thread is an eye-opener.

      2. Despachito*

        LW I usually do what Cold and Tired does – if asked, I say with a smile “just browsing, thank you”, and “goodbye, thanks” when leaving.

        I find normal if the owner/assistant asks “may I help you”? but if they try to force me more, I just smile and leave, because I think this is inappropriate and it is on them.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        On walking in: “lovely store/nice weather”, and then on leaving “thank you!” Basically if you can pretend it’s a museum or gallery this is easy. In those situations no one expects a purchase and your politeness is directed to the people, not the stuff.

        1. Mrs whosit*

          A shop owner once said to me, “You don’t go into a restaurant just to smell the burgers,” and I was young & meek and bought something I didn’t need as a result of the pressure. Now? Pssh. I can be polite and respectful and leave if I choose.

      4. Mami21*

        Look at your phone, frown with concern, walk out fast. Maybe throw in a quick smile and ‘thank you’ or a nod, but keep attention on the Very Important thing happening on your phone screen that unfortunately requires your immediate departure.

        1. Carlie*

          I used this almost legitimately to get out of a tiny high-end bicycle store once. The worker had already struck up a conversation with me, and I was realizing with horror how out of my price zone the place was when my phone pinged with a text that happened to be my brother saying that an organ had come in for my dad and they were on their way to the hospital. I joyfully exclaimed “Oh! My dad is getting a transplant! Thank you, but I’ve got to go now!” and ran out.
          Reality though: They lived 6 states away. There was nothing for me to do but wait for more texts.
          Also, I continued shopping. And when in the same situation in another small store an hour later, pretended that the text had just come in, said the same thing, and sailed out. I haven’t used that since, though.

          (It turned out to be a dry run, as the organ was not suitable. But I thanked him for getting me out of the store. And he got another one later. He is good now.)

      5. Allonge*

        ‘Let me think about it’ is a good one if someone is giving you the sales pitch. Otherwise I try to remember it’s all in my head and ‘thank you, bye’ works fine.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Yeah, I’ve definitely used “Hmm, $$$ is a little too much for an impulse buy for me. I’ll think about it and you may see me again soon!” with a laugh and smile before. It’s really helpful when you’ve had to ask for a price, and it’s waaaaay higher than you thought it would be.

      6. Britchikka*

        Honestly, spending $150 because you didn’t feel comfortable just walking out the door, when there was absolutely no reason not to just walk out without a word, is alarming.

        You don’t need a script, you need to analyse whether you have issues with anxiety or something else. Have you tried therapy?

        1. ferrina*

          This does seem like an extreme response to me as well. Scripts can definitely help, but it can also help to think about if there are any underlying issues that caused this response.

          One mental trick I have is to consider my first visit to a store as acquainting myself with it (not there to purchase). I learn about what they have, then if it’s not for me, I think about whether it’s something that someone I know will like. It’s just as good for a store if you recommend it to someone else who buys something. The script might be: “Thank you, I don’t need anything right now, but I’ll definitely keep this in mind” (A simple “thank you” is better, but if you need more so you can get out the store without spending money, this can work)

        2. MBAir*

          I have to concur with this too, sorry. Because I could see myself doing something like that when my social anxiety was at its worst and professional help was what helped me dodge that $150 bullet.

        3. Brain the Brian*

          Weekly therapy, yes. And it does help… some. Medication is out of the question because I already take Fun Brain Meds for a non-psychiatric neurological condition.

      7. Lady_Lessa*

        I can appreciate the problem. Once in Turkey at a rug dealer/manufacturer I ran out leaving the priest in the group (we were sorta paired up, and we were the only singles) to deal with the high pressure salesmen.

        I did escape without a purchase. I saw one or two of the smaller silk ones that I wouldn’t mind having, but we are talking about BIG bucks.

      8. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        “Just looking today, but maybe I’ll be back with my partner.”

        “Just daydreaming/browsing/window shopping”

        The main thing for me is making sure I turn down any attention from the retail associates when offered – I find it uncomfortable to have them hovering, and will buy something if I feel like I owe them for their time/attention. A firm no with a polite social lubricant usually takes care of that.

        Alternatively, set an alarm on your watch or phone for five minutes before going in. If you like the store, you can silence it as unimportant; if you don’t, you can leave pleading an appointment.

      9. Underemployed Erin*

        I have never worked retail, but your comment makes me want to open a shop full of unnecessary things for people too polite to walk out without buying something.

        Fall fashion jackets for llamas, anyone?

        Now you may say, “But I don’t own a llama,” but there are so many polite llama groomers on this site that someone would surely want a fall fashion jacket for their llama.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If you google “llama costume show” you will discover a wealth of costumed llamas at state fairs. Llamas dressed as grapes. As dinosaurs. As lobsters. As Robin. As a doctor shepherding a covid 19 virus.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Funnily enough, there is a llama farm near where I grew up, and some of their llamas do, indeed, compete in costumed events.

      10. Florp*

        [Regretful smile] I just don’t know where I’d put it/I already have so many.
        [Rueful smile] If I buy one more thing, my partner will leave me.
        [Wry smile] I will definitely buy that mountain climbing jacket if I ever decide to climb a mountain!
        But really, you can just say “Nice Shop!” and then leave.

      11. JSPA*

        If you don’t feel right just leaving, “I like to know where the super-nice things are in town, for when I need a wedding gift.” (Has the added benefit of being true, often enough.)

        I’ve also said, “I’m starting the process of shopping for a friend who style I don’t quite get, so I’m nowhere near buying, but may be back.” (Again broadly true. I have fluffy pink unicorn plushy friends, muted tweed tea cozy friends, leather and ball-gag-themed T-shirt friends; all equally foreign to me, stylistically, but all stuff I might feel called upon to buy, at some point, for them.)

      12. Missy*

        Just pull out your phone, look at it sort of confused, and then walk out and pretend to be talking on it as you walk away. If you were talking with someone say “Oh, I have to take this” or “oh, my lunch companion just arrived” before you do so.

      13. nobadcats*

        There’s no need to save face!

        You are not required to buy something just because you walked through the shop doors!

      14. Rose*

        Woa, this is pretty extreme. I have worked in expensive artisan shops before. 80%+ of people who came in were just browsing and didn’t buy anything. Absolutely no script needed. At the most you can say thank you or have a good day as you leave.

        We do not want or expect anything from you!

      15. MBAir*

        Look at this way–buying $150 blankets you don’t need or even want (and might be a huge PITA to return depending on the cutesy shop) is a slippery slope that could lead to bankruptcy.

        I know that’s a little extreme but I recently filed for bankruptcy and unchecked spending was very much a factor. My unchecked spending wasn’t caused by “I can’t extricate myself from this fancy shoppe” but feel free to use me as a cautionary tale anyway.

        TLDR: STOP BUYING BLANKETS YOU DON’T WANT JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE ARSED TO JUST LEAVE THE SHOP!!!

      16. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        Oh noooooo! This is so heartbreaking! I can’t speak for all retail staff, but I know for me I was always way more invested in the customer going home happy than in just making a sale. I think a great out if you’re just feeling too awkward to leave is just, “I’m not seeing anything for me, but I have a friend who would love this place, can I grab one of your cards?”

        1. Sunny*

          I had a boyfriend teach me the card trick. People love showing off their business cards and it works especially well at craft fairs.

      17. whingedrinking*

        “I’ll think about it” is a near 100% universal substitute for “no” in a lot of situations.

      18. nnn*

        So this takes a bit of confidence to carry off, but I use “Terribly sorry, I seem to have underestimated your price range. Apologies for wasting your time!”

        In contrast to the apologetic wording, I use a bright and cheerful tone that’s not at all self-effacing, like I would use in a professional situation to acknowledge a trivial, easily corrected error like a wrong number or momentarily mis-hearing someone or almost getting off the elevator at the wrong floor. Honest mistake, no shame in it, boldly and confidently own it, then get out of the way.

        (I’m a middle-aged white Canadian woman; if you’re a different demographic, you might adjust the script accordingly.)

      19. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If you realise quickly enough, you can just say “oops no, it’s not here, must be next door” as you exit.

    5. KateM*

      Nobody’s going to know that you are leaving because yopu think the stuff hideous, after all. Maybe you took a look around and thought “oh, I had hoped that this llama-themed shop sells llama wool shawls but looks like they only have hand-carved llamas, my bad”. Sometimes, when I’m looking for a definite thing, I feel better when I after taking this short look around ask the shopkeeper “do you have anything for black tie dress code for a 8-month pregnant woman?” (plus, if they do, they can direct me right to that white elephant) or “seems you don’t carry clothing for children – do you?”.

      1. raincoaster*

        Peg Bracken used to ask, “Do you have any Swedish bobeches?” And if they replied that they had, she would sadly find they were just not old enough to add to her collection, how tragic.

    6. turquoisecow*

      I’m from the northeast US and I’m like this as well, I hate to walk into a store and not buy anything, especially when there’s no one else in the store but me and an employee/owner. I even had this issue looking at a farmer’s market stand! I felt better about it when Husband was with me because I felt less obliged to make casual conversation with the worker. On my own it was just super awkward.

      Glad I’m not the only one who’s felt like this!!

      1. UmbrellaAcad8*

        NE here too. Also very extroverted. But absolutely hate being the only one in a store to the point I won’t go in. I also call some stores the ‘too much space’ ones, where women’s clothes so much there is little inventory- auto No.

    7. Pennyworth*

      I’ll usually say ”I’m just browsing”, as for being asked to follow on social media I can say, hand on heart , that I have no social media accounts. I’d recommend saying it even if you do.

    8. MK*

      I think saying “just taking a look” and leaving is fine, arguably pretending you might buy is less courteous because it wastes the salesperson’s time. Also, I would think shops like that would be more used to browsers who were intrigued by the unusual window but aren’t interested in buying.

    9. Poppy*

      As a customer I say, “Just mooching thanks,” and as a staff member in a bookshop I was always glad when customers felt they could talk or not talk, buy or not buy, as they pleased. Who wants shopping to be an uncomfortable experience?

    10. Merle Grey*

      I briefly worked in a shop that sold a lot of expensive fripperies and fol-de-rol, and was definitely targeted toward a certain demographic. Said demographic spent a lot of time in there, often not spending or even saying anything. So it’s ok to pop in, glance around, and leave. This is normal! Acknowledging the shop worker is nice but not required. There is no expectation that you come back and spend lots of $ like they periodically did!

    11. Harper the Other One*

      Delighted there are so many Maritimers here! I do what you do – enough of a browse to get a good look and a thank you as I go. Sometimes I discover there IS something I like (or that I would get as a gift for someone.)

      The owner asking you to follow social media on the spot would be stressful!

    12. Rufus Bumblesplat*

      I’ve worked in the kind of retail where it was incredibly common for customers to be looking for ideas/comparing options or prices with competitors/not ready to buy for other reasons/ had simply walked into the wrong shop as they’d meant to walk into the neighbouring unit.

      This was completely normal and perfectly fine. There’s no need for embarrassment. All staff members were used to browsers and there was no expectation that everyone would make a purchase. There’s no obligation to strike up a conversation either, we’d probably find it just as awkward as you would!

    13. OP4*

      OP4 here. Why yes, it’s a delight to see a bunch of Maritimers and other awkwardly polite folk on here.
      I love little stores and really want them to stay afloat so it does pain me to leave without supporting them. I really like the suggestion to post something on social media (although I’ve not got that big a presence.)
      When I go out day to day around where I live the chit chat is very large everywhere. It’s a super friendly and gentle place. So when I chew a shop assistants ear off it’s usually friendly, genuine and brief but I was not sure if it was appreciated at all. I’ll keep it to a ‘lovely thing, thank you!’ And be less guilty in future. Thanks all.

      1. Bluenoser*

        Another Maritimer who feels your pain here! I love going into little stores like that, but always curse that I never developed my grandmothers’ and aunts’ ability to make small talk with a doorpost. Aside from wishing I was more gregarious, I’ve never had any issue with doing one semi leisurely circuit with a pleasant “Just browsing, thanks!” and another thank you on the way out the door.
        Also, if you like this kind of shopping, do you ever check out the Holiday Craft fairs in December? Lots of fripperies and usually crowded enough that you can quietly sneak out of the booth when you catch the price on the stained-glass mallards.

        1. Jam on Toast*

          I grew up in a small Canadian town where obliging chit-chat while shopping is absolutely expected. Brief inquiries regarding the general health/happiness/general state of mind of both the purchaser and the retailer are followed by an exchange about today’s weather being very cold/will be cold soon/too hot/how bad the mosquitos are this year/how slow the road construction is progressing/plans for upcoming holiday, and closing with a cheerful goodbye. When I went away to college, I always perplexed the heck out of my big-city “Ter-ahna” (Toronto) classmates. “Do you know the grocery store clerk??” “No, of course not.” “But you TALKED WITH THEM!!!” It just blew their minds and showed me how shopping norms are surprising cultural barometers.

      2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        In my brief, long-ago experience in retail, I found it useful to have a couple of displays of less expensive stuff just for those who will feel better for having bought something. And place them so that you have to walk past all the expensive stuff to get to them, of course! Near the register so that if you are asking about the Swedish bobeches, we might be able to catch your eye with a pair of earrings or a tote bag or a door wreath.

      3. Theodore*

        I am also in the Maritimes! I often joke that I live in the biggest small town in the world. I think part of the stress of the small shop experience is that I feel guilty about not buying something because it might reflect that I don’t care about the shop or people that run it (this is my own inner anxiety) and I want to support the community. Also I will probably see or encounter the people who run the shop sometime in the future. I want them to know I appreciate them even if I don’t buy anything. So my go to is I always try and say ‘Thanks!’ with a little wave or something or some kind of acknowledgement before I go out the door. It leaves things open for when I will inevitably run into them at some holiday party 5 years from now :)

      4. Carlie*

        The other thing I sometimes do, which can be a bit risky, is that I do have a few odd things that I’d like to buy if I ever came across them but are not likely to be found in stores. So sometimes when they ask if I need any help, I can reply with “Oh, I was wondering if you carry any (esoteric weird item)?” When the answer is no, there’s my ability to say “Oh, thank you anyway” and leave. The danger is if they actually do carry it, so I try to leave it to things I would want to actually buy, or that I can then honestly say I’m saving up for and now I know where to get it.

      5. AnotherLadyGrey*

        I used to work in a specialty retail shop like this. We had tons of browsers and knew most folks wouldn’t buy anything, and that was totally fine with us. I agree that you can just leave at any time and no one will take it amiss. A cheerful “Thanks, have a good one!” as you nope out of there is even better. But if you are feeling friendly, or want to show your support without buying anything, a kind remark about the store could go a long way. I always appreciated it if a browser took the time to say something like “your store is so beautiful, thanks!” on their way out. Obviously only do this if it is genuine (we can definitely tell the difference, lol) and certainly don’t feel obligated – but honestly some (many!) days a genuine nice moment like this meant more to me than a big sale.

    14. Jenna Webster*

      A store is a store and you are a customer in any store. If you can’t afford things and want to look around anyway, have at it. If you don’t want to since you can’t afford anything there, just say thank you or have a nice day, and head out the door. The concern over how to leave makes it sound like you are worried you offended them by having the gall to walk through their door when you aren’t good enough for them, and I really hope you can reframe that. There is no personal relationship created by walking into a shop – just shop until you’re done and then leave.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If you can’t afford things and want to look around anyway, have at it.
        I imagine this is how a certain percentage of word-of-mouth business gets to the shop: People who don’t buy something, but remember they have Celtic art or small tea kettles or some other thing that a connection of the browser was looking for, and browser remembers.

        Or browser didn’t buy anything on first visit, but months later they want a special gift and remember this shop.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        I agree, and if you are really not interested and/or can’t afford the merchandise you are not helping the retailer by making idle chitchat or feigning interest, you are wasting time for both of you. Plenty of people browse a shop without buying anything, it comes with the territory..

        What’s far worse than idle chat is when people act personally offended by the prices and start arguing about them. No, you have not seen the same llama grooming tools at another store for 1/2 the price, these are solid silver. Maybe solid silver llama grooming tools are not for you?

      3. quill*

        This. I used to go to a lot of small art galleries and crafts things and I know from some of the people exhibiting that just seeing people around admiring a piece makes people who might buy pay more attention.

      4. Sabina*

        Agreed. I worked in a mildly high-end museum type shop for awhile. Never felt bad at all about people who came in and made a quick exit. It was not a super expensive store but sold the type of things that appeal to probably a fairly narrow range of people. There are so many more ways retail visitors can be obnoxious: bringing in prohibited food/drink, letting their kids run amok, buying a $12 item with a hundred dollar bill, etc. Walking in and immediately out? Not an issue.

    15. Pool Lounger*

      I only have this problem if the store employees are chatty. I’ve worked in small boutiques and I did not care one bit if people bought anything. I wasn’t on commission and I didn’t have sales goals. Mall stores are really where I get nervous—a lot of those places make employees really push credit cards and product. Some store get judged by the average cost of purchases, so if you buy one cheap thing it can actually be bad for them! Independent boutiques don’t tend to be so intense in sales strategies.

      1. Chirpy*

        Yeah, usually I just make a courtesy lap of the shop and say thank you on the way out, but last time I was at a mall, I paused at an expensive shoe store to look at a sandal in the doorway and the sales guy started to chitchat. I was really only mildly interested in the sandal, but because he was so chatty and the store was empty I did the courtesy lap…until he started asking personal questions, so then I just noped out.

        From a store employee perspective, I would rather have someone tell me they were just looking and leave than taking up all my time with useless questions/ chitchat and then not buying anything, because that could be taking time away from me helping someone else who is shopping more seriously.

    16. Alan*

      This seems like a really regional/cultural concern. In California, if the sales person showed interest in me particularly I might say thank you or goodbye, but otherwise I just look around and leave. You’re not shouting “F, this stuff is expensive!” and flipping them the bird on your way out the door :-), it’s just not for you. No reason in the world to feel bad about that!

    17. Oh, no thanks!*

      I’m Nova Scotia born and bred and I just pass the time of day for a couple minutes and say “Thanks!” cheerfully when I leave a store if I don’t want to buy anything. If someone asks you to follow them on social media, you can just say “oh, no thanks!” with a smile.

      Actually, “oh, no thanks!” in the same voice you’d use if someone offered you something to eat but you weren’t hungry works for almost every situation where someone’s trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do.

      1. Bluenoser*

        I think you’ve landed on the tricky bit, neighbour! Passing the time of day is a component of Maritime Polite, especially in more rural areas and it’s hard if you missed that gift of gab gene. I’m from “the big city” so I can get away with “just browsing. thank you!” but I can’t go anywhere near a small shop with my friend from a rural area without the typical pleasantries (weather, origins of the shop, compliments to the area).

    18. Gigi*

      Can I just say how enchanted I was by this question? Thank you, OP, and everyone else on this thread, for worrying about being gracious and how you’re impacting someone else’s day. You are the people who will save civilization.

    19. 2 Cents*

      I never thought of asking Alison, but I (American from the NE, grew up in the South) also do a quick tour, show polite interest in a few things, make sure not to touch anything (see: one time I put a hand on a $700 cashmere throw and took it off so fast, you’d have thought my hand was on fire), then say a cheerful “Thanks!” on my way out. I also feel guilt, but feel less guilt if I do that. Also see: craft fairs (when I didn’t realize all the wood carvings were of suggestive persuasion), bake sales (turns out the cookies were made for dogs, which I love but don’t own) and other misguided attempts at shopping.

    20. laowai_gaijin*

      I’ve totally bought stuff I didn’t need because I’d have exploded from awkwardness otherwise.

    21. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m from the U.S. south, so I can’t speak for the Canadian-ness of it, but if I walk into a small boutique-y shop and instantly realize it’s not for me, I just do an obligatory walk-through and pay some cursory attention to a few items, because it feels to awkward not to. I can’t even imagine myself walking in, taking one look around, and being like, “Yeah, no . . . ” right to the shop owner’s face, so I just make my rounds briefly and say thank you on the way out.

    22. Ash*

      US Southerner here! Similar awkward politeness thing. I usually do a quick lap and just leave. Honestly, I’ve also gone, “Oops–wrong store!” like I walked in by accident. Which, in OP’s case, is technically true.

      Otherwise, in situations where I’ve been shopping with my mom and she’s pulled us into a store that has NOTHING I want–greeting cards and novelty pens. There’s almost always a little display or spinner around somewhere, and I will use both eventually. If you *must* buy something (which you absolutely don’t have to) those are what I usually migrate towards, and they’re relatively inexpensive even if they’re overpriced.

  4. Observer*

    #3 – Offensive comment

    Maybe they struggle with uncomfortable conversations, maybe they’ve had bad experiences addressing this kind of thing in the past, maybe they had reason to think you wouldn’t be receptive, maybe it’s the fifth offensive thing they’ve heard at work this week and they’re fed up

    I added the bold because I would be willing to bet that the person who reported this knows that you won’t be receptive. And they are correct. Right now, you CLAIM that you “like to be more sensitive” but your reaction to being called out says something very different. Alison is 100% correct that just because someone in your company who is Jewish used the term, that does not mean that no one else is allowed to be offended by it. And since when does having a Jewish spouse or “half-Jewish” children make you some sort of expert on what’s offensive, much less an arbiter of what people can find offensive?

    Personally, I care about people’s intentions.

    So? You did harm. If you had used a phrase that you really couldn’t have know might be offensive, that’s one thing. But it’s really not credible that you really couldn’t guess that someone might be offended. If you toss a ball around in a china shop, you will be responsible for anything you break, even though you “didn’t mean” to do any damage. You sling around phrases that you should have knows could be highly offensive to people, *you* ARE responsible for the fallout, not the person who doesn’t have the wherewithal to try to educate you on why this would be so offensive to some people.

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Yeah, the “Personally, I care about people’s intentions” does get an eyebrow raise from me.

      First of all, “Intention doesn’t erase impact,” dunno how many times that has to be said. Second, if you don’t want to be informed when you do harm…you don’t actually have good intentins. And third, why does LW’s “personal” philosophy on this matter? LW isn’t the one who was bothered by it. LW lives in a society full of people who can’t read their mind, and wouldn’t necessarily feel the same way even if they could.

      1. darcy*

        if someone accidentally steps on my toes, they didn’t intend it, but I’m still going to say “hey, get off my foot!”, and not necessarily in the calmest and politest manner, because they’re on my foot and it hurts!

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think intentions reveal themselves in the person’s reaction to being told “hey, get off my foot!” or equivalent.

          Someone who intends to step on my toes, and then steps on my toes, when I say “hey, get off my foot!” will laugh at me and not move. Then I know their intentions are to cause harm, and I will do everything I can to leave the situation and avoid them in the future.

          Someone who does not intend to step on my toes, but does so accidentally, when I say “hey, get off my foot!” will apologize and remove their foot immediately. Then I know their intentions were good, and I can accept their apology and have a pleasant relationship with them in the future.

          1. The OTHER Other*

            Sadly, some people respond by saying stepping on your foot was just meant as a joke and what’s the matter with you, can’t you take a joke?

            Or denying that they ever stepped on your foot. Or anyone ever stepped on someone’s foot.

            Or that the people who complain about foot stompers are JUST as bad as those stepping on people’s feet.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Yeah, too many of those people exist. I would lump them all into a category of “intend to protect their own feelings/self-image without regard for anyone else’s feelings.” Perhaps not as outright malevolent as the “I intend to stomp on your toes” crowd, but still best to exist the situation and avoid in the future.

            2. Esmeralda*

              What About All the People With Feet Who Don’t Get Stepped On? Huh? What about THEM? They COULD get stepped on, and we need to think about them. Why’s it always about you people with stepped-on toes?

            3. Irish Teacher*

              Or “well, somebody stepped on MY toes once and I just got over it. Why are YOU making such a big deal of it?”

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I like this analogy! Lack of ill intent should pave the way to restoring the relationship, not give you carte blanche to be a jerk. Honestly, if you make the ability to make flip comments about murderous totalitarians your hill to die on, I think you’ve lost a lot of claim to those good intentions.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I feel like in the past decade there has been a marked increase in attempts to claim “The impact of my actions shouldn’t matter, only my intent!” Or at least it’s 98% intent and 2% impact.

        Things aren’t only bad if you intend them to be bad, and totally fine so long as you intended them to be fine, witty, funny, brilliant, etc.

        1. MoveAlongNothingToSeeHere*

          As the writer John Scalzi likes to say: The failure mode of clever is a@@hole.

      3. Julia*

        Regarding “intention doesn’t erase impact”: Intentions absolutely matter. If you offend me and you didn’t mean to, I will be much less hurt than if you intentionally offended me. However, intentions are not *everything*. Impact also matters.

        In other words, if you extend someone compassion because their intentions were good, that’s great. If you find yourself using your own good intentions as a shield to argue your own behavior was acceptable, that’s a problem.

        1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

          That doesn’t respond to anything I actually said, though.

          I didn’t say intentions DON’T MATTER.

          I said:

          1) intentions don’t erase impact

          2) if you don’t want to be informed about the harmful impact of your actions, in order to prevent future harm, YOUR INTENTIONS ARE NOT THAT GOOD.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            Also, if you’re more concerned about your intentions, your intentions are not that good. It’s super frustrating to have to de-prioritize harm to yourself to manage someone else’s discomfort. I’d honestly be less hurt by someone intending to offend me than someone who insists that I shouldn’t be offended.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep. Half the letter is about why the LW isn’t wrong, and the other half is why the complainer is. Obviously that’s kind of how every advice letter sounds, but they do not come across here as someone who appreciates the callout.

    3. Kim*

      Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was ‘I can’t be racist, I have black friends!’
      It’s not a good look.

    4. BubbleTea*

      I feel sympathetic to LW because I know what it’s like to believe sincerely that you are not X bad thing, to be actively working on not being X bad thing, and therefore to be really thrown and hurt when someone points out that you did X bad thing.

      It’s part of the process, LW. When this happened to me most recently, I got all worked up and angry at how the person had taken what I’d said in the worst possible light when it was CLEAR I meant something different! How could they be so unfair?! My intentions were good!

      And then I did the same thing you did: I took it to someone who I trusted to give me good advice, someone with more experience than me in the matter who was closer to the issue than me. They gently told me I was wrong. Yes, the person took the least charitable interpretation, but I had laid myself open to that by making a comment that was problematic.

      I digested, felt awful, thought about it some more, learned from it, and moved on. The key for me was that I had to stop centering my own feelings and think about the person(s) my statement had harmed. That’s not easy to do! But it’s essential.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Transparency. If you have no bad intent then keep your actions and words in line with that intent.
        Your walk has to match your talk.

        In supervising people, I saw this a lot. If I wanted people to believe I was a sincere leader then I had to make sure that my intents, actions and words were all in alignment. People feel free to mention when they aren’t!

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        And I would say to the LW that saying X bad thing does not mean that you are a bad person and it doesn’t mean that someone is saying you’re a bad person. All you know is that someone wanted you to know that that phrase is hurtful to some people. For reference, I don’t like the casual use of the term Nazi in that way AND I wouldn’t think someone was anti-semitic if they used it, because it is kind of common. But I might want to let them know because how can people be more sensitive (as you wish to be) without knowing what hurts.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I will add that it is impossible to know people’s intentions in a lot of cases. Even if you care about them, you really can’t take them into account; what you are taking into account is your impression of their intentions, which may be way off.

      Generally, in a situation like this, you only get a glimpse of their intentions after they are called out. The person who had good intentions and just didn’t think would usually be horrified that they said something that hurt people and will be apologetic. The person who just didn’t care if it insults people will start complaining about how “people are too sensitive these days and need to ‘toughen up’.”

      I do think it’s possible somebody might use that term without thinking of actual Nazis at all (but that may be because I live in a country that was neutral during World War II AND has not had a far-right rise in recent times), but even if it WAS like this, I don’t think they should be blaming the person who reported them for not being able to read their mind and realise they’d spoken without thinking.

      1. Marcia*

        “I do think it’s possible somebody might use that term without thinking of actual Nazis at all”

        Ok, I’ve seen this sentiment a few times in these threads. What on Earth are y’all talking about? Nazi means nazi. By calling oneself a nazi, the speaker invokes the mass genocide of Jewish and Roma people. Even if you’re trying to use it in a different context, nazi is a specific term and it doesn’t mean something else just because you would rather it mean something else.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Oh, I wasn’t saying it DIDN’T mean that or that it makes it OK, just that the speak may genuinely not have thought of it. I was responding to a comment which said that it wasn’t really credible the LW didn’t realise in advance that it was something people could find offensive and…I do think that is credible.

          That’s not to say it’s not offensive, just that it is possible the LW genuinely didn’t know. They do now and should stop using it. But people DO speak without thinking and while I agree that they WERE invoking the mass genocide of Jewish, Roma, gay, disabled, Slavic and socialist people, as well as any groups I have forgotten, but I don’t think it is certain they were consciously thinking of that connection. People can overlook even really obvious things sometimes.

          Now they do know and should avoid using it in future, but I thinking saying it’s not credible that they didn’t think of it in advance and that they must have known it was considered offensive…well, it looks like there are plenty of people in this comments section who didn’t, so I think it’s distinctly possible the LW might not have also.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Well, this *does* happen with people who, for whatever reason, don’t think very often of the genocides perpetrated by the Nazis, but really first thinks of the metaphorical sense. And that happens pretty regularly, and on a sliding scale of abrasiveness and injury. Things that someone perceives as belonging into the vast stores of history become material for figurative cultural artifacts. Think of cowboy-and-Indians games (MUCH more thoughtlessly practiced in Europe than in the US). Or think of words like vandal/vandalism.

          This doesn’t mean I disagree that it’s inappropriate and thoughtless! I do agree. I just think we have to make deliberate choices. My own criterion is whether there are real-life people now who get excluded (“othered” if you will) by the use here and now. There are for both genocidal situations, the one perpetrated by the Nazis and the situation of the indigenous peoples of America. There pretty much aren’t for the descendants of the people whose villages were sacked by the Vandals in the 6th century CE.

          Maybe in 1000 years in whatever language people will speak then an etymon going back to Nazi will have a bleached out figurative sense the way “vandal” does now, but meanwhile here we are in a world where it doesn’t.

    6. Perfectly Particular*

      There is a huge difference between being corrected quietly by a coworker or friend vs. having HR called on you. LW likely feels embarrassed and is trying to justify their slip up to a degree. Doesn’t mean they won’t take the feedback to heart.

      I can remember being called out for saying something racially insensitive by a fellow waiter more than 20 years ago. He was very kind, and I was truly coming from a place of ignorance not malice, but it’s mortifying even now! I’ve never ever used that phrase again.

      1. Well that’s not great*

        I’ll also add that there are turns of phrase that are so ingrained in our vernacular that sometimes you don’t realize you’re about to say something pretty awful until it’s out of your mouth.

        Example: I (a white woman) once *barely* stopped myself from saying “I’m not trying to be a slave driver” to my black employee. I was absolutely horrified with myself and immediately tried cover, but it kind of forced me to take a look at the phrasing I use. My intentions were bad but if I’d finished my sentence as I’d intended she’d have had every right to call me out on it

      2. Observer*

        Doesn’t mean they won’t take the feedback to heart.

        The problem here is that the OP is insisting that they weren’t wrong, and that the fact that they heard this from another Jew and that they have a Jewish spouse means that they can’t be wrong.

        If the OP were expressing mortification that they said something insensitive, that would be one thing, But there is no trace of mortification in this letter. It’s about how the person has no right to be offended because they “didn’t mean anything offensive” and how they “want” to be fair, but “can’t help” being angry at the team member (who they have power over!) for going to HR.

        That’s a very poor starting point for taking the rebuke to heart. Hopefully Alison’s answer that comment section will provide some clarity.

      3. Smithy*

        While this might be true – saying that people would be more receptive to correction if the feedback was given more kindly or palatably is very often used to shift the goalposts from talking about the actual bad behavior. Because then the flipside can always be that the correction provided wasn’t clear enough.

    7. Come On Eileen*

      It’s important to point out to OP that intentions aren’t visible! We don’t see them and really only know them if someone shares them. It’s best not to make people guess your intentions and to instead make sure your words and behaviors align with your internal narrative.

    8. JewishAndVibing*

      Really quickly, to address from the POV of a younger professional who is Jewish: I never really experienced this kind of phrasing past middle school onward. (Also adding here because there’s fewer replies and I’d like it not to be lost)

      I also view it differently from making Nazis jokes and trivializing them. You’re not trivializing a Nazi, you’re equating them with being overly interested in rules and order, something that genuine white supremacists might not even find offensive. If there’s any grey area, it doesn’t work. You’re also not trivializing an existing Nazi, but using it as an insult toward someone who may not be one. The two options are you’re calling a coworker/customer/boss a Nazi or you’re calling yourself one. And if it’s the latter, I definitely would be uncomfortable!

    9. CPegasus*

      Hey, why did you put “half-Jewish” in quotes? I know lots of people who identify that way, taking Jewish as a cultural/racial identity rather than religious.

      1. Ursula*

        The Jewish community doesn’t consider “half-Jewish” to be a thing that exists. If you have Jewish ancestry, you’re either Jewish, or if you’ve done something to reject your Jewishness (like be Christian) then you’re not Jewish. Jewishness doesn’t work like either a religion or an ethnicity, it works more like a nationality.

        1. CPegasus*

          OK but tons of actual people do consider it to be a thing, because they were raised among Jewish family on one side and non-Jewish on another and find the cultural differences important, and both sides to be a part of themselves. You can also be half-nationality, for the record, and I think that’s a great metaphor. My friend with family in Canada and the US and dual citizenship is allowed to call herself half-Canadian if that best expresses how she feels about her nationality. Likewise, my friend raised in a household that celebrated both Christmas and Rosh Hashanah with family on one side speaking Hebrew and the other side going to Mass is allowed to call himself half-Jewish.

          Sorry, I was raised Jewish and some of these people would tell me I don’t have the right to say I’m not, so I don’t care *at all* what official Jewish leadership says when it contradicts peoples’ lived experiences.

  5. FG*

    I tend to disagree with the answer to #1. It’s true that she’s not your boss any more, and not responding is fine. It is indeed inappropriate but she’s no longer your boss or coworker. I think reporting to HR is inviting drama and staying embroiled in something that doesn’t really affect you. If she’s retiring in a year you probably won’t be using her as a reference in the future, but I just don’t see the point of reporting her. I would think in some cases HR would be puzzled about what you expect them to do, anyway.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      I was put in this position once by a proselytizing soon-to-be former coworker (no power imbalance, but I was on the clock, still within my notice period). I did report it, on the grounds that they would want to know in case he tried it on someone else. The response I got led me to believe it was not the first time it had come up.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Good point. The former boss in the letter is so obnoxiously bold I would not be surprised if this wasn’t her first time. It’s common for people to test the waters and get bolder over time.

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        It never is the first time, is it?

        That your boss knew they couldn’t say anything until you left almost certainly means they’ve been spoken with about doing it to reports before.

        1. EPLawyer*

          And figured they found a loophole. I have been told I cannot talk to my reports about religion anymore. Hey OP is NOT my report I can talk to her about religion now.

          NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. Just stop it.

          Also as a quick aside, for #2 I love Alison’s summary of Talmudic scholarship.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The fact they explicitly said they knew they couldn’t say anything while she was your supervisor tells me she has strayed into “you can’t say that territory” in the past. And she felt that the fact you don’t work there anymore was her “out” to send you the email.

          Personally for myself, I’d forward the email as is to HR because they deserve to know she’s doing this because it may hurt their ability to hire former employees back. Plus, all we have is she’s a year from retirement age – not everybody retires right when they are first eligible to.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        What a narrow range of proselytizing targets–coworkers who are about to leave, and so you can corner them in a cubicle but they may not want to bother reporting it if they’re on the way out.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, it’s a tough one. On the one hand, I get a visceral reaction whenever I hear about people proselytizing at work. At least this person had the sense not to do it for as long as she was the LW’s manager, but just reading about it made me itch.

      Ignoring the e-mail is probably the best course of action, I at least would find it very hard to shut that sort of thing down politely because I find it so offensive.

      That said, LW, do you have any other references you could use from that employer? You’re probably going to need them anyway when your former manager retires.

      1. Ame*

        It doesn’t matter that they are no longer a manager. They hold the power of a reference. What if she asks for a reference now and he keeps holding ‘Jesus is coming’ over her?

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, I’m scratching too, wondering whether things could have gone better if my boss hadn’t been thinking “I must convert this woman” during all our interactions.

    3. Despachito*

      I second this – I’d let it go.

      She was professional enough to not do it at work, so it is not likely she will proselytize at work and bother her coworkers. And she is retiring in one year.

      1. WellRed*

        I took it as, she’s knows it’s wrong, that’s why she waited to dump this on OP now. It did NOT read as a testament to her professionalism.

        1. Despachito*

          If she were romantically attracted to OP, there would be nothing wrong with it per se, yet it would be unprofessional to reveal it while working as her superior.

          So while I agree proselytizing is almost never OK, I do not think that the fact she refrained from it while at work means that she must have known it is wrong, just that she considered it not work appropriate, which was true.

          If she did it at work, I’d probably complain as it would potentially affect my work. As I do not work for her anymore and there is reasonable chance she would not do it to her coworkers (because in my case she managed to wait until I did not work there anymore), I would consider it just annoying and not report it and get her into trouble for it.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            A manager should not be asking their former report on a date as they walk out the door either. There’s still that need for a future reference that makes both conversations inappropriate.

      2. Cringing 24/7*

        I feel like the boss not doing it at work was not at all out of a desire to exude professionalism, so much as she was not wanting to get in trouble.

      3. Not a Dr*

        I used to work in HR and did reference calls. Sometimes retired references would say really inappropriate things like “before you hire him you should know he is gay”. I think the HR team needs to know – what if this person does act as a reference and says “before you hire OP you need to know she worships satan”? Or other odd things. Maybe OP even wants to ask HR to act as a reference.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Well, if the job falls through because of either reference you cite here, it’s a bullet dodged at least.

    4. DJ Abbott*

      Having grown up in a fundamentalist area, my first instinct is to shut this woman down hard!
      I was hesitating because of this point about it not being necessary, and I admire OP1’s compassion here.
      However, the people I’ve known who do this don’t stop. If you ignore her she might email again. And call. And maybe even show up at your house or get in your face somewhere else. The times I had people do this to me in person (shudder), I had to tell them firmly to leave me alone or I would report them to authorities.
      Try ignoring her and see what happens. You’ll be giving her a chance to avoid being reported, but if she continues and/or escalates you will have to report her to HR and maybe the authorities too, and don’t feel bad about it.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I agree with this. Don’t respond, but if they send another proselytizing email forward it to their HR.

        My visceral reaction to the email from the former boss was fury. I am pagan, and an ex-Christian. I grew up with that crap being how people talked, especially to unbelievers. It’s belittling, condescending, rude and altogether fake “concern” for the person. If that letter had come to me I’d print it out and burn it, then block the person everywhere I could, and to hell with the reference.

        I realize that with the ubiquitous presence of evangelical Christianity in the US that people don’t really realize just how insulting and condescending that stuff can be, but if you are not Christian it gets very old, very fast.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Forward both emails to HR. :)
          Fundamentalists are so offensive because they don’t actually care, and it shows. Their goal is to force their religion and rules on everyone. They have no respect, just force.

          1. starfox*

            Fundamentalists are the absolute worst. I had the displeasure of sitting next to one on a flight once. I’m a liberal Christian, so I thought telling her that I’m Christian would shut her up at least, but noooo. That’s not good enough. You have to be that specific type of Christian that hates the gays and believes that women should be submissive or it doesn’t count!

            1. astral debris*

              Ah yes. The clue is in the line “I was 44 years old when I decided to follow Jesus.” You, me, and everybody else in the room know perfectly well that this woman grew up Christian and has been a Christian her whole life. But at 44 she started going to a new, fundamentalist church and for some reason it spoke to her, and now she’s convinced that for the first four decades of her life she was just as atheist as I am. And in her eyes, so are you.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                I’ve met some people who were atheists for 30-40 years, and while many came from a family with roots in Christianity, they were of the “we still have a family Christmas dinner and Easter is all about chocolate” distance from the faith. and they can be sone of the most passionate and loud of preachers.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              Yes… many of the ones in my hometown really believed that only the people in their church were saved. Not just their domination, their physical church. The 100-200 people in their congregation were the only ones who had it right and were saved. *facepalm*

        2. Anon Supervisor*

          I’m Christian and this manager ticks me off. I know that it’s an important part of some denominations, but I get irrationally offended when someone tells me I’m going to hell because I’m not the right kind of Christian.

    5. Constance Lloyd*

      I would not let it go. While OP no longer works for this person, their relationship is still a professional one. OP of course should do what works best for them and letting it go is indeed a viable option, but reporting it would not be out of line and OP doesn’t need to stay involved after forwarding that email to HR with a note about their concerns. If HR receives that email and blows it off rather than at least having a discussion with the manager in question, that HR is not doing their job.

      1. Beth*

        Yes! The now-ex-boss is still in a position to do harm to the OP (the threat of a bad reference), and to continue to do harm to any number of other people in the immediate future. It should not be ignored; it needs to be shut down.

    6. Snow Globe*

      I think it is within HR’s purview if this manager makes a regular habit of contacting ex-employees with the proselytizing. It’s not clear if the manager contacted the LW because this is what they always do, or because of the bumper stickers. But I don’t think it would be “inviting drama” to contact HR so that they can talk to the manager and explain that it is not ok to reach out to ex-employees just because they’ve left the company. A review on Glassdoor that mentions something like this would not be good for the company’s image, so HR has reason to speak to the manager about this.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. If HR doesn’t have a problem with it, they will ignore it. If HR does have a problem, then it is not inviting drama. OP is NOT “getting boss in trouble.” Boss got herself in trouble by sending the email.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I really wish we could excise all “tattling” “narcing” and “getting someone in trouble by accurately stating what they just did” from workplace discussions.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yes. If the boss is a year away from retirement that’s not an excuse for her to see what she can get away with. She’s an adult and can make choices. If she wants to get retirement smoothly she can CHOOSE to not do things like this that risk her employment. Just like millions of other people do who are close to retirement.

    7. mreasy*

      I think you should report it, if only to alert HR in the event it happens again to someone else. Whether or not this affects a future reference (and note that retired former bosses can still be references), it would be a good deed to help a future employee not deal with this.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I also think not responding is fine, if that is what you end up choosing, OP.

      As a church person myself, I think that these people are doing everything they can think of to make sure others go away and stay away from church. It’s disgusting to me.

      She knew that you HAD to read her email so she could put whatever she wanted in the email. You had to read it because this is your ex-boss talking to you. That deference, respect for authority is still in place and she is mistaken on this point. She is not now considered your friend, she overstepped and she totally failed to grasp her role in your life. It’s simple, she’s the boss turned ex-boss. This is not hard.

      At most I think I might send back a message something like this:

      I still consider our relationship as a professional relationship, therefore I can’t discuss this with you. We have many common acquaintances who are also professional acquaintances. That professional arena continues on even though we no longer have formal boss-employee titles. I will always think of you as my boss and me as your employee. I wish you the best.

      [sign name]

      Here my thought is to reinforce that boundary that was (or should have been) in place. Again I can also see NO reply as being a good response, too.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Exactly this. A professional relationship doesn’t become a personal friendship just because someone changes jobs.

    9. ecnaseener*

      You can use retired people as references. People do it all the time. They only need to be able to speak to your past work, no reason they themselves still need to be working.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Three of my four most recent bosses are retired, if I couldn’t use them as references I’d be in trouble!

    10. English Rose*

      Yes I agree, I would let it go. If it escalates though as DJ Abbott suggests below, then that’s the time for action. But as it stands and in these circumstances with the forthcoming retirement, perhaps ignoring is the best policy for now.

    11. Cait*

      I would be so tempted to say, “Dear Gertrude, Thank you so much for looking out! I’ve prayed vehemently to my savior Satan (who, as you know, is very real) and he has assured me that not only is my soul in good hands but that yours is as well. After all, Jesus hates a hypocrite and I’m sure he’d be pretty upset to hear one of his valued followers is jamming their dogma down the throats of unwilling participants! So Satan wanted me to pass along that he’s already accepted you in his life and can’t wait to meet you one day!”

      Maybe write that down and don’t send it.

      1. lilsheba*

        I like it, and I would be inclined to actually send it. This harrassment of people to find religion has got to stop.

        1. quill*

          I tend to pull out my great aunt, who was a nun, to keep people from trying to add me to their religion.

          It helps more in some contexts than others to imply that the Dominicans already have dibs.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            My great-aunt is also a nun and I also pull this card. It also helps that my great-aunt is very cool and I genuinely like her a lot.

    12. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      If she’s retiring in a year you probably won’t be using her as a reference in the future

      Retired people can still serve as references, BTW!

      But for my main point: what if she DOESN’T retire after all, and stays on doing this to people she has power over? Plans and circumstances change all the time. And…even if she’s retiring tomorrow, it’s not on OP to care about that. This former boss behaved inappropriately and needs to be called out for it. If she’s doing something inappropriate in one context, you can reliably bet she’s doing it in others.

      1. Jora Malli*

        One of my best references in my current job search is my recently retired former manager. They’re still happy to answer calls and talk about me to prospective employers.

    13. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, at first I was like “oh jeez, does she send this to every person after they quit!?” When I thought that was the case I was fully #TeamReportHer. But… it seems like this is probably a direct response to the Hail Satan bumper sticker. That doesn’t make the message any less absurd or inappropriate, but it does at least mean that OP is probably the only person she sent something like that to rather than it being like an ongoing pattern of trying to convert people as they leave. Just because of that I’d probably leave it alone at work, and just share this extremely ridiculous story with everyone I know socially.

    14. Hiring Mgr*

      I’d ignore it personally and be happy to be gone… maybe they were upset by the Hail Satan (if you believe in that stuff Satan’s kind of like the Nazis )

      1. Sloanicota*

        I admit, I was surprised this manager has apparently been able to be a pretty good boss to someone with that bumper sticker! I realize it’s probably a funny joke to OP but it likely was not to the boss. The email was out of line though.

        1. Hen in a Windstorm*

          You are *surprised* that a manager was able to be professional despite someone else having different beliefs? That does not speak well of your own professionalism.

        2. lilsheba*

          and why would that be? At least they aren’t shoving it in people’s faces. You can look away from a bumper sticker.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Genuine question, because I must be missing something, but isn’t the *point* of having “hail satan” on your car meaning that you think religious people are stupid and you want to say the deliberately most provocative thing you can to offend them? Like a bumper sticker with a drawing of the prophet (although of curse I understand it would be “punching down” in a different way to attack Islam in the US so maybe that’s a bad metaphor). Yes of course it’s legal and protected but it was supposed to be insulting – right? If so, it doesn’t seem strange to assume OP’s apparently very religious boss was likely insulted by it. Maybe I’m not understanding the meaning – if that’s the case, I apologize. I didn’t think OP was some genuine follower of a satanic religion or something.

            1. Darsynia*

              There’s a relatively popular true crime/interesting stuff podcast called Last Podcast on the Left that uses the catchphrase, and it’s quite possible people could have that bumper sticker as a fan and not necessarily want to ‘stick it to religious people. It’s mentioned at least once per episode, and the podcast is at least five years old, so it’s even possible the ‘shock value’ of the statement has been nullified.

              Honestly, what someone’s bumper sticker says at an office job is generally as much your boss’s business as the box of newly-bought tampons in the back seat, isn’t it?

            2. Frankly*

              This is my take, too. It’s an obvious insult and meant to provoke christians, catholics, etc, then OP puts on shocked pikachu face when someone does respond.

              1. saddesklunch*

                Or maybe the OP just really digs that one song by the Mountain Goats and they’re not thinking about christians at all.

      2. Well...*

        Hard disagree, Nazis are a group of people who actively work to harm others as a fundamental tenant of their beliefs. Satan worshipers are not the same. Just because Christians think Satan worshipers want XYZ does not make it so.

        1. Jackalope*

          Satan worshipers might not be, but the point was that Satan is. For those who believe in the biblical bad guy Satan, he’s the one responsible for all evil in the world. He brought about hatred, m*rder, all of the terrible isms we talk about here (racism, sexism, etc.), torture, SA, and so on. As I’ve spent more time on this specific site I’ve heard from people who consider themselves Satanists and I’ve gained a better idea of what that means. But given the historical understanding of who Satan is, my pre-AAM gut reaction to a Hail Satan bumper sticker would have been similar to an “I love genocide!” bumper sticker.

          This isn’t to justify the boss’s attempts to proselytize, since that was clearly out of line. But I think that people who grow up outside of faiths who consider Satan to be the ultimate incarnation of evil don’t understand what that really means to someone in that faith. It’s all well and good to try and blow it off by saying that that’s not what you believe and isn’t it so cute that those stupid religious people believe in a real Satan, but that won’t help you get why you’re getting this reaction.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            But given the historical understanding of who Satan is, my pre-AAM gut reaction to a Hail Satan bumper sticker would have been similar to an “I love genocide!” bumper sticker

            No. Look, I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, went to church every weekend, received all of the sacraments. While I completely get why anyone would not like the bumper sticker and maybe even have a visceral reaction by it, it’s not the same as an “I love genocide”. One is theoretical (perhaps even real, but still theoretical for all of us on this earth right now) while the other is something that people living now have witnessed.

            (Also, I should point out that a good chunk of murder in the bible is actually committed by God himself.)

            1. Jackalope*

              Respectfully, you don’t get to say “No” to what I tell you my gut reaction would be. I was raised in an Evangelical milieu, which is very different (from what I’ve heard) from being raised Catholic. Part of the reason that I’m explaining this is that I tend to hear 2 possible responses when people from a different background or different beliefs hear about the Evangelical response to Satan: 1) because they don’t believe in Satan as a real figure, they assume the Evangelicals do not as well; or 2) because they don’t believe in Satan as a real figure, they decide that the Evangelicals are stupid/ridiculous and can be dismissed. That goes completely against what many people from that background are taught, which is that Satan is a real, living, non-theoretical being who is literally responsible for the literal evil in the Universe. He’s not an allegory, or a hypothetical. In my younger years I attended trainings on how to recognize the workings of Satan and demons in the world around me, and how to fight back against it. For reals! And I remember having earnest conversations with a friend who said, “Hail Satan!” to me as a way of pushing my buttons (not as a part of any sort of actual position he held regarding the Church of Satan, for example), explaining that that’s like being pro-genocide/torture/m*urder/etc. I’ve also had conversations with other people who grew up in a similar background and agreed with me on this.

              Look, I’m not trying to argue that this viewpoint is correct. I’m not trying to convince people that God (or any other deity) is inherently good and that they should believe in a literal incarnation of evil known as Satan. There is a wide range of viewpoints on this area that even include debating whether Satan is actually evil or not. The only reason I’m saying this is that so many people have one of the views I shared earlier (either that no one believes this stuff or that they’re ridiculous and so shouldn’t be taken seriously). That doesn’t mean that people can’t do whatever they want, and have Hail Satan bumper stickers if they want, and expect not to be proselytized to by their bosses. But so often people who are having this discussion (on this site at least) don’t get what Satan really means to this specific community, and don’t understand what they are communicating.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                So would you also agree that saying “Hail, God” could be seen as being pro-murder for some folks? You know, considering he kills many people in the bible (and others in real life have committed murder/genocide in his name)? Or that it could be seen as being pro-torture (since he does torment Job to win a bet with Satan)?

                1. Jackalope*

                  “So would you also agree that saying “Hail, God” could be seen as being pro-murder for some folks? You know, considering he kills many people in the bible (and others in real life have committed murder/genocide in his name)? Or that it could be seen as being pro-torture (since he does torment Job to win a bet with Satan)?”

                  That’s entirely possible, although my personal experience is that Christians are the main people (for obvious reasons) that spend enough time reading the Bible enough to have such an in-depth understanding of what the Bible says about God’s actions in the past, so if someone were to ever say “Hail, God” (which sounds odd to me, but perhaps we could substitute “Hail, Jesus!”, which seems more probable?) I don’t know that people would have a default knee-jerk gut reaction that causes them to think immediately of, say, the problematic description of God’s choices in Job. My experience is more that people who would have a response to that would have a response to any sort of Christian bumper sticker (including the icthus fish, or something like “My boss is a Jewish carpenter”, things like that) because they are reacting to general bad stuff in Christianity rather than one specific attribute. But I recognize that anecdata isn’t the same as a vigorous study.

                  More to the point, by talking about this I’m not trying to get into a religious debate about the correctness of the Evangelical beliefs on Satan, or whether there’s biblical evidence or real-life evidence for or against that view, or how Satan stacks up against the Christian God, or anything like that. I know I’ve said that a few times, but I’m not sure that’s coming across. It’s just that I’ve been a bystander in a number of debates in the comments section of this very blog where people talked about Satanists vs. Christians. In general it seems that people who haven’t lived through the Evangelical culture don’t understand that for many people who have, Satan isn’t offensive like an f bomb, he’s offensive like genocide. What they want to do with that information is up to them, but if they don’t know that then the conversation isn’t even going to make sense.

                2. Jackalope*

                  Anyway, I posted during my various breaks during the day and realized when rereading that I’ve been posting in circles. So I think I’ll leave it there and not follow up anymore if more comments get posted. But I hope this makes sense!

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  Hiring Mgr, absolutely agreed! But OP didn’t put “Hail, Satan” in a work email, so I’m not sure what that has to do with anything?

              2. DJ Abbott*

                So, I read a book explaining the way fundamentalists operate. They use Satan as a way to invoke fear. And they use that fear to control their followers. They teach people that any attempt to reason with them or bring them out of the fundamentalist nightmare or introduce them to the real world and a respectful society is the work of Satan.
                There is literally method to their madness.

    15. Sparkles McFadden*

      I’m not a big fan of going to HR, but there needs to be a record of this sort of intrusive proselytizing for the sake of the current employees. No one is let go for just one thing. There has to be a preponderance of evidence for anything to happen, so the LW should let them know.

      Also, not listing someone as a reference doesn’t mean that person won’t be contacted, especially if it’s the most recent former manager. HR departments that do their due diligence may very well contact that person anyway. HR needs to know.

    16. This is Artemesia*

      This is truly outrageous. I’d love to see the entire text on glassdoor and would certainly send the entire text to HR and the CEO. But I understand that it may be a risk for the OP if they depend on this company for a reference. If I were hiring and someone showed me this email as a reason they could not include their former boss as reference, I’d be good with it. This person should be demoted at least.

    17. Temperance*

      I think it’s extremely valuable information about the potentially discriminatory shit this manager has done.

    18. Gingerblue*

      If HR is “puzzled” about what to do with aggressive religious harassment, than the problem is that HR is incompetent, not that the LW reported it. A company should absolutely be aware than one of their managers is proselytizing to departing employees. The LW is right to be worried about using this person as a reference, the company should be very worried about how this sounds to everyone LW tells about this experience, and it’s just gross. A functional HR will absolutely want to know about it.

    19. Rainy*

      The point of reporting her is that she’s doing something that is absolutely unacceptable and she waited until LW left so she wouldn’t be reported to HR. She knows what she’s doing is inappropriate, which is why she waited til she thought she was safe.

      HR should be informed that she’s doing this, because it’s not okay, and she’s using her platform as a manager at their company to proselytize.

      Frankly, I think proselytizers should always be clapped back at in the strongest terms possible, and the strongest terms possible for this particular person are reporting her to her HR.

    20. Amy*

      We have no idea if she has done this to other people. It’s like someone speaking out about sexual harassment. One person complains and it results in a flood of people saying ‘me too’. HR could be aware of multiple complaints about her. The employees never know because it is confidential.

    21. Books and Cooks*

      LW is driving around with a bumper sticker on their car that literally says, “Hail Satan.” Maybe LW finds that hilarious and edgy, but religious people don’t. This isn’t some personal thing of the LW’s that she never talks about or mentions at work, or something that she only admitted at work because her boss pushed and pressured her, and now the boss won’t leave it alone. This is a sticker on her car, in public, where everyone can see, and sorry, but that is basically inviting comment. You want the world to know that you Hail Satan. Do you really expect that no one in that world is going to have thoughts on that?

      I’m not saying it was right or appropriate for the ex-boss to send the email. It absolutely wasn’t, and isn’t. But it’s also not just a shot from nowhere.

      If LW had been driving around for years with a bumper sticker that said, “The Planet Doesn’t Need our Help,” or, “Technology is Going to Kill Us All,” or something, and the manager was a devout environmentalist or fan of all the newest tech, it would be /just/ as inappropriate for them to email LW, and /just/ as Not Something That Needs to be Reported.

      LW, you have been essentially trolling this woman and her faith with your bumper sticker for years, and now she says something that is clearly meant kindly, and you’re so offended you want to report her to HR? Instead of going, “Yeah, well, I realize she takes the idea of Satan very seriously, and this has probably upset her for years but she never said a word or treated me any differently, so maybe I should just let this go?” Do you really think her email had /nothing/to do with, wasn’t at all inspired by, your “Hail Satan” bumper sticker–you think she sends everyone emails asking them not to choose Satan, even when they–unlike you–have never implied that they are doing so?

      However stupid and silly you think Christians are, they have a right to their beliefs just as you do yours, and your bumper sticker is deliberately designed to make fun of their beliefs and declare your opposition to them. That’s fine! You have every right to do that, and you should feel free to exercise that right. But you also can’t pretend that making fun of and declaring your opposition to their beliefs is not what you’re doing, and you can’t get all offended when someone calls you out for making fun of their religion. If your ex-manager was a Maori and you had a bumper sticker that says, “Hail Whiro,” would you not think they might have something to say about that?

      Just ignore the email. If you feel you MUST reply, just say, “I appreciate your thoughts.” No need to debate or get into some terribly-offended dialogue. Just let it go. It wasn’t appropriate of her to send it, but you don’t need to report her to HR, either, for responding to your deliberately-provocative bumper sticker.

      1. metadata minion*

        Hi, religious person here who is fine with that bumper sticker (and Satan in the Jewish tradition is really not the same as the Christian figure, but that’s a massive tangent). Not to mention the many, many religions that do not involve Satan and for whom that bumper sticker is probably neither particularly funny nor particularly offensive.

      2. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. (Jackalope described the mindset above very very well, and I nodded in recognition at many of the details cited.) Based in part on having been taught that Satan was as real as a tree and more destructive that a nuclear bomb, I think that a “Hail Satan” bumper sticker is absolutely nothing like a “Technology is Going to Kill Us All” bumper sticker let alone one with an antisemitic statement.

        What I was taught was wrong. Satan is an entity in certain religions but to the best of my knowledge he’s not walking down the street. He can’t be touched or handled like technological items can be. Also, Christianity is not just another religion in the US. It’s a massive cultural and political hegemony which impacts so many people’s lives, including many people who are not Christians and who suffer under its omnipresence. “Hail Satan” cannot be an announcement of attacks against Christianity when Christianity is vastly too powerful to be attacked. It tweaks that power with a small defiance. That’s all it can do.

      3. nom de plume*

        This seems like a strange take. The manager may have thoughts about it, but that doesn’t mean she gets to voice them to the OP, whether she’s quit or not. The fact that the manager did was wildly out of line, and I don’t see how attempting to mind-read OP’s intentions (which you claim to be mocking Christianity) changes that.

      4. DJ Abbott*

        My experience with proselytizers is any indication you aren’t/won’t follow their religion and rules will set them off. If it hadn’t been the bumper sticker, it probably would have been something else.

      5. Rainy*

        Wow.

        (For the record, “I appreciate your thoughts” is not the right response when you do not, in fact, appreciate their thoughts. That response will make the manager think “yes, I am Getting Through To The Heathens, time to step up my game” not “oh, I’m being politely brushed off”.)

      6. What is actually wrong with you?*

        You must be the letter writer’s ex-boss. I can’t imagine why else someone would immediately leap to such a negative, judgmental a-hole false take on the character and motivations of the letter writer/nonChristian people.

        Or you’re just a–as previously stated–negative, judgmental a-hole. The stated two options need not be mutually exclusive. Either way, you need to take a step back and look hard at yourself. You’re doing exactly the kind of thing that your homeboy Jesus said is not cool with him and his dad.

  6. Analyst Editor*

    Really disagree with the “data Nazi” advice. That was *not* an offensive phrase even a year ago. That’s a complete over-reaction.
    Even if you are a direct descendant of Holocaust survivors, extrapolating the use of the word “Nazi” into something hateful is ridiculous and extremely counterproductive. This is stupid and micro-managing language policing, and while for your own well-being you should avoid using the non-permitted terms, your norms that reporting someone for an innocuous phrase is bananas should not change, but your assessment of your HR department and your co-workers should.

    1. Observer*

      I hope that you have no authority over any policy that requires the least bit of sensitivity, or over any human being.

      Your total dismissiveness of the issue is rude and offensive. And it’s seems to be based on total ignorance, to be as kind as I can make myself be.

      No one needs to “extrapolate” Nazi into something hateful! Unless you think that a philosophy that includes the need to eradicate “subhuman” peoples, and that considers the introduction of morality to humanity as not being evil.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        Nazis were hateful, but the use of terms like “data Nazi” or “grammar Nazi” clearly has zero connection to actual Nazis and does not carry moral weight or intent to minimize Nazi crimes, or the sufferings of Jews, or the badness of Nazis? Reporting it imputes all of that negative intent when it is pretty obviously not there.

        1. Kella*

          It has zero connection *to you*, which is not a universal truth, as is evidenced by multiple people in this thread agreeing that the term is offensive and harmful.

          Malicious intent is not the only problematic kind of behavior. Being neglectful or inconsiderate of the impact of your words on other people is equally harmful. What’s worse, though, is if you are informed that a phrase like this negatively impacts other people, ignore this, and insist on saying it anyway, in which cause your intent *is* to blatantly disregard the needs of others. Like what’s happening in your comments right now,

          1. Djuna*

            Yes, it’s not about intent, it’s about how it is received.
            It’s easy to go on the defensive, feeling like you’ve been personally targeted, and what that does is make it easier to disregard the important feedback you’ve been given. It’s a form of self-protective misdirection.
            No-one likes to feel that they’ve upset someone, but we learn the most when if we start to feel defensive about something like this, we take it as a sign of a potentially uncomfortable truth and step back to think on it.

          2. Curious*

            Does the concern for the impact of one’s words on others extend to the “hail Satan” bumper sticker in #1? I would venture to guess that many Christians would find that quite offensive — and I’d also speculate that that was OP1’s point (rather than their religious belief) (and, no, I don’t think that justified the proselytizing).

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              There’s a biiiiiig difference between a flesh and blood political movement and a mythical figure.

              1. anne of mean gables*

                Also a biiiiig difference between a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot, and actual words said(/typed) to a colleague. It’s the difference between wearing a cross necklace and asking someone to come to church with you.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  True, I was going to make that point but given the context – I would have a big issue with a swastika bumper sticker.

              2. quill*

                We’ve been over this before on the site and only one of those entities (the nazis) has been proven to have murdered a bunch of people, so yes, I’d figure that is the more offensive one.

            2. please and thank you*

              I would say you are wrong. Born and raised Catholic, lived in highly Christain areas most my life. We’d at most roll our eyes. We mostly really don’t care. Just because one person (or a few) are vocal about something doesn’t mean the rest of the “group” (whatever category of people you’re talking about) feels the same.

              1. Nathan*

                That…is exactly the attitude that Alison’s original response corrected LW about.

                Some people WOULD find a Hail Satan bumper sticker offensive. You might choose to dismiss these people, or decide that their attitude is itself intolerant and wrong, but your example of someone not being offended by something does not invalidate someone else who is offended by that same thing.

                1. JSPA*

                  If someone made joking Satan or Christ references in the work Slack, that would be analogous. And HR would likely also step in.

                2. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  To be honest, I think if LW 1’s letter from former boss was something like “Hey, I’m an Evangelical Christian and rejecting Satan is an important part of my beliefs. Would you mind terribly removing the bumper sticker?” the LW should at least give it some serious thought. What happened with LW is more like if she had stickers promoting body positivity and the boss waited till LW resigned to start a hardcore campaign for LW to join boss’ weight loss MLM.

                3. Observer*

                  There are some significant differences, not the least of them that fact that Satan worshipers (even of the sort that actually worships the Christian version of Satan) generally don’t pose a real threat to Christians, nor have they ever.

                  Having said that, if HR had told the OP in #1 to get rid of the stickers on the car she drives into the office parking lot, I would say that she should get rid of them.

            3. Temperance*

              “Hail Satan” is equivalent to “Praise Jesus!”. It’s basically the exactly same thing.

            4. Kella*

              Sure it does, but HR is unlikely to intervene about a bumper sticker that you put on your own personal car, out in the parking lot, where your coworkers won’t see it the vast majority of the time, vs. saying something directly to another employee. I’m sure if OP had said, “Hail Satan” in a slack chat, it would’ve been addressed in a similar way, since that could be construed as harassment on basis of religion.

          3. Despachito*

            Perhaps it might help to reframe it as “I did something I genuinely thought was innocent but now I see people have strong reactions to it, so I understood that there is something wrong with it and will stop doing it out of respect to those people. That I did not realize this definitely does not make me guilty or a horrible person. However, now I know and if I continue using it, this would be different.”

          1. ShanShan*

            It’s like Seinfeld was on the air thirty years ago when an active Nazi movement wasn’t politically prominent in the US.

            1. ShanShan*

              I mean, come on. A million nineties comedies also used the r-word, and that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to use it now. That was a full generation ago.

              1. Caramel & Cheddar*

                Right? And I’d be willing to bet the people impacted by such jokes today were also impacted by them thirty years ago, and probably got the same “it’s just a joke!” response when pointing this out.

          2. Frankly*

            It’s like Seinfeld didn’t set the standard for social behavior. The whole dingo ate your fiance joke done in extremely poor taste comes to mind.

          3. quill*

            Seinfeld started airing in 1989. It would be 33 if it was a person, so to have seen it in the cultural context it aired in, you’d be in your 40’s at minimum.

            Yes, it’s like many people have never seen Seinfeld because, like Friends, it was before the time of many people.

          4. Observer*

            It’s like people have never seen Seinfeld.

            So, if it was on Seinfeld it was not ever offensive and can never be offensive forevermore.

            Got it.

            Actually I get that this is your point of view. A lot of the rest of the world happen to not agree with it. It’s not that we’re just to *ignorant* to understand that we can no longer be offended by this kind of usage. It’s that we DISAGREE with the premise.

        2. Mouse*

          The thing is, even assuming that “data Nazi” or whatever is used with no intent to refer to actual Nazis…that in itself is minimizing. It’s genericizing the term, removing it from its historical context and reducing the weight/connotation associated with the word from atrocity to annoyance. That in itself is harmful, intentional or not.

          1. thelettermegan*

            +1

            There’s so many ways to say “I really like to make sure the data is perfect” without giving any credit to a genocidal fascit political movement. I hope OP can see this less as a personal call out and more as a gentle request to retire the term from our collective vocabulary.

          2. I.T. Phone Home*

            It’s not just removing it from its context. The whole thing hinges on a dangerous revisionism that Nazis were these precise, orderly, rule-following people, marching in perfectly straight lines in their crisp Hugo Boss uniforms, and that view doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny. They were capricious and arbitrary and cruel for the sake of it, not because of some over-adherence to rules but because that was their whole project. They were weird creeps from the top down. There’s this History Channel idea that “while they were racists, which is bad, you really do have to admire the other stuff about them!” And you don’t! Not at all! Not even a little bit!

          3. Martin Blackwood*

            +1
            There’s enough holocaust denial in the world and minimizing nazis to people neurotic about X….I’m not a fan.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          I don’t think reporting it does impute negative intent, actually! Reporting it was simply a way to stop the usage of the word regardless of intent. Perhaps a benign intent is actually worse because it’s a promise that the word will be sprinkled around liberally and unconsciously. I totally believe OP when they say intentions matter *to them*. But if a word is offensive enough to report, then the offended person isn’t going to care about intent. “Oh well if you didn’t mean it, then the word no longer hurts me” is not how it works.

        4. BubbleTea*

          If it has no connection, what purpose does the word serve? Why not say grammar penguin or data puddingbowl? It clearly has a connection because it adds meaning based on context.

          1. Grey Coder*

            Exactly. Words have meanings, and no matter how much anyone says it “clearly has zero connection” to genocidal fascists, it really does have a connection, because that’s what the word means.

          2. Casual Fribsday*

            Can we please make “grammar penguin” happen? If it needs a justification, perhaps the fact that penguins are black and white, like the thinking of those people who believe in strictly imposed grammar rules.

          3. Robin*

            Thank you for this!

            I also want to say, we HAVE a word for this: stickler. A stickler for grammar or a stickler for data or whatever you want. It conveys the same “unreasonably intense” vibe that one might desire. “Grammar obsessed” or “data obsessed” is also a possibility. Or “[person] is always rather particular about data/grammar/whatever”. Multiple options available which do not use any terms related to genocide. These terms are perfectly natural to English, so it is not like data/grammar n*zi is filling in a lexical gap or anything.

        5. PhyllisB*

          This is the point I was wanting to make. Granted, it’s probably not a good thing to say, but I hear people say grammar Nazi all the time and there’s no pushback. What’s the difference?

          1. Observer*

            What’s the difference? Either the people you run with are none to sensitive or the people who would want to push back feel like they can’t.

          2. Isben Takes Tea*

            You may not have seen pushback on “grammar Nazi”, but I absolutely have, for the same reasons outlined by many in this thread.

          3. Jora Malli*

            I’ve been hearing pushback against grammar nazi since I was in university in the early 2000s.

        6. Jora Malli*

          Analyst Editor, you’re using pst tense to describe Nazis as if they aren’t active in the current political landscape, which they very much are. It’s not that Nazis *were* hateful, Nazis ARE hateful. Present tense. There are modern day Nazis in the world causing actual, literal harm to marginalized people. Insisting that people should be allowed to use the term as an analogy for someone who’s a little overzealous and annoying devalues the word as a descriptor of evil, harmful people. Stop arguing for why you should be allowed to use a word that hurts people just because you want to.

        7. Observer*

          Thanks for proving my point.

          Nazis were hateful, but the use of terms like “data Nazi” or “grammar Nazi” clearly has zero connection to actual Nazis and does not carry moral weight or intent to minimize Nazi crimes,

          I have no idea of the INTENT of the people who coined these phrases. But they most definitely DO minimize what an actual Nazi is.

          As I said, considering that there are millions of people alive who either suffered directly or indirectly due to the crimes of these people and that there are ctual Nazis who are trying to take power in many countries around the world, insisting that people who find the flippant use of the world offensive are problematic is terribly insensitive and ignorant. And that’s with me trying to come up with a favorable explanation of your comments.

          Reporting it imputes all of that negative intent when it is pretty obviously not there.

          No, reporting it imputes negative impact with the knowledge (validated by the OP) that the speaker will not take correction appropriately.

      2. Kella*

        Let’s also not forget that while Jewish people made up a large portion of the people Nazi’s attempted to eliminate from the population through horrible, torturous means, they also did that to disabled and queer people and some other populations that are escaping my memory right now. AND Nazi’s still exist, and continue to do harm to marginalized people. It’s not just Jewish people who experienced the holocaust that get to be offended by using the term “Nazi” in a joking way.

        1. Bayta Darrell*

          I came here to say exactly this! German Nazis targeted groups besides Jewish people. And you have no way of knowing how Nazi violence affected people’s loved ones or communities.

          Additionally, neo-Nazis are still alive and well, increasingly bold and still hurting and killing people. You also can’t know how this has affected others. Maybe someone has a friend who faced violence from a neo-Nazi, or has a loved one who has lost their way and joined a hate group.

          They are asking you to remove one word from your vocabulary. There are plenty of other ways to get your point across without using the name of a group that has caused the death and harm of millions of people.

        2. darcy*

          just want to say quickly because a lot of people don’t know – one of the groups escaping your mind right now is travellers

          1. c-*

            Rroma and Romani communities as well, and Communists, and some Catholics, and anyone who opposed or resisted them. And neonazis have kept killing since WW2, just in smaller scale. Today, they keep attacking and killing homeless people, POC, immigrants and queer people. It’s nothing to joke about.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              … folks with disabilities, elderly, people with mental impairments, eh, people who simply disagreed.

              A distant family member of mine ended up in a camp for just saying, “I don’t think Mr. Hitler’s policies are the best.” That’s pretty tame in comparison to the punishment.

              1. JTP*

                Can you elaborate on what “ended up in a camp” means? Just curious because I don’t understand.

                1. Ferret*

                  I don’t know for sure but from context it would be referring to a concentration or extermination camp

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  It was at the beginning of the war and sometimes people got released. My family member got released after serving some time in the camp. I dunno which camp it was so I have no reference points to share. I tend to think of all of them as extermination camps because people died from starvation, cold, lack of medical care, worked to death, etc. People were killed one way or another. Did it have gas chambers? I don’t know.

                  This distant family member was later killed by a Russian soldier.

          2. Rain's Small Hands*

            Just for education purposes, Travelers are not Rom (Romani) – they are a distinct cultural group and ethnically separate. The Nazi persecution was against Rom – although Nazi persecution was wide ranging and its very possible Travelers were caught up with it (my understanding is that Travelers are mostly a British Isles thing, though the British Isles also have Romani). Both groups of people are referred to by the pejorative word “gypsy” and very few people understand the difference. The Romani genocide during WWII was not recognized as such until the 1970s or 80s – before then it was seen as the extermination of a criminal element unrelated to race or culture. (Yes, that is as screwed up as it sounds).

            The Rom were not as targeted during WWII as Jews were – if you were assimilated as a Romani you had a good chance of being left alone whereas there was no assimilation out for Jews – just having a Jewish grandparent was enough to send you to a camp. This was unlikely to remain the case as Nazis thought Rom were inferior, but the Jewish genocide was a higher priority.

            My father’s family is Rom, but assimilated way back in the 19th century and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s.

        3. GraceC*

          A coworker is second-gen Polish in the UK – she lost almost all her family on both sides. There’s her grandparents and their post-war descendants, and then there’s no-one else. You don’t make Nazi jokes around her. No Soviet jokes, either.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            The legacy goes on for generations. We have no idea what it will take for families to recoup what they have lost or if they ever will.

            We have a person reading here. I am sorry, Person, I cannot remember your user name, but I remember you. This person is working with memory cells. (I will say this poorly so please correct me if you see this.) Studies show that memory cells form and are passed down through the generations. Person who reads here said that studies are showing memories of starvation are passed forward especially in subsequent generations of men. Children who have never been starved, still have a higher awareness of food and problems procuring food. Again, I am not saying this very well. My point is that the damage goes on and we have no idea for how long nor how the damage is spread.

        4. Saraquill*

          I tried explaining this years ago to someone who was using the word in a “grammar N—” kind of way. He ended up doubling down and making fun of me for objecting to him. It was so bizarre I’m still at a loss of how to respond to such things.

        5. Observer*

          It’s not just Jewish people who experienced the holocaust that get to be offended by using the term “Nazi” in a joking way.

          This is absolutely true.

          I don’t know if anyone is aware, but one of the reasons why the term “Apergers” has been retired and it’s been more officially folded into ASD is because the name refers to an actual Nazi doctor who actively cooperated with the Nazis. There are records of him referring children he treated to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic, which conduced childhood “euthanasia”. (Google Hans Asperger.)

          This is just one example of just how pervasive the Nazi ideology was – and continues to be. Asperger was in active practice for decades after the war and never suffered any consequences for his behavior.

          1. Nameless in Customer Service*

            Today I learned something important and horrifying. *shudders and makes a note to do some research*

    2. Kella*

      When someone uses language that harms other people (and the people who get harmed by it are the ones who decide whether or not being upset by it is “an over-reaction”), the appropriate response is to flag for the person that the word/phrase is offensive and harmful and ask them to not use it again. That’s exactly what happened here, with HR as a go-between. OP didn’t reported for a hate crime. They were just asked to use different language.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this.

        In the early 00s, in my 20s, I self-identified as a Grammar Nazi, to the point that I had that as my nick on a now defunct writing forum. I just refused to understand or accept why most people found it offensive, although I did change my nick to something inoffensive, when the alternative was a permaban. I’m still somewhat pedantic about grammar, but I no longer pride myself on pointing out other people’s spelling and grammar errors, and this makes for a much more pleasant time online. Including for myself, because others don’t call out my occasional grammar errors, either. Now I cringe whenever I think about how inconsiderate I was when I was younger.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Gotta disagree with you that describing something as Nazi was not considered offensive until a year ago. I find many references online to people saying its casual use is offensive in 2008 to 2018; including a lawsuit about it in 2010.

      1. darcy*

        yep, when I was online in the early 2000s I remember wincing whenever someone used that phrase. It’s probably correct to say it wasn’t widely considered to be offensive but there definitely was discussion about it

      2. EuropeanAnon*

        I even remember my dad (Jewish and a survivor himself) being upset by the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” jokes in the early 90s. It was a long time ago now, but if I recall correctly his concern was that even Jewish people who didn’t experience those events themselves shouldn’t be trivialising it in that way.

        Of course, this is purely anecdotal and reasonable people can disagree, but it’s clearly untrue that saying “[unrelated topic] Nazi” only recently became problematic.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        There’s been a lot of wincing and upsets for decades before. We have just decided to talk about it now. As a kid, I can remember that people made it a point not to say the word Nazi. I grew up in the 60’s and 70s.

        I think it might be fair to say that subsequent generations have learned more as they grew into adulthood and that might account for the more public discussion.

      4. Grammar Penguin*

        Hey, I recall hearing this exact conversation (“Using the word Nazi diminishes its meaning, minimizes the Holocaust” “No it doesn’t, and I don’t care!”) over and over, the first time when I was in high school in the mid-1980s.

        How out of touch is anyone who claims this is a new thing?

    4. ItMe*

      I can think of instances from about 2007 when people were being called out for using “grammar nazi,” so this seems more like a personal experiences thing. Honestly, your own reaction to the letter writer’s anecdote is more eye-raising than whatever coworker made a complaint against LW. Nazi is not an innocuous term, you’re just personally used to it and accept it as such. Not everyone does. Take a breath and let that fact go.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. Agreed, I’ve been seeing people trying to shut down grammar nazi for decades. Just because you personally never encountered that or weren’t paying enough attention to notice it doesn’t mean it wasn’t hurting people.

    5. That Coworker's Coworker*

      While it’s a term that’s thrown around quite a lot, it is indeed offensive to many – and that’s certainly not something new within the past year. There was a big kerfluffle +/- 15 years ago with a radio host who was fired for calling someone a “health Nazi” on air, because the station got over 50 calls about his use of that term. He sued over the firing and lost. Also there was an American tourist arrested in a German airport for using that term – she ended up losing too, and being responsible for a mess of court costs.

      1. münchner kindl*

        “Also there was an American tourist arrested in a German airport for using that term”

        Because in Germany using the term without good reason (historical context or obvious parody) is forbidden by law. As is the Hitler salute, Swastika signs etc. It’s not funny, and we don’t want to be Nazis. Bad enough to have Neo-Nazis again.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          To be clear, it’s “forbidden” in the sense that it is (rightly) considered an extremely grave insult – the offense commited would be defamation. The word itself is not forbidden. One can say it, and one can call actual Nazis, including current Neo-Nazis, Nazis, because truth is not defamation.

          1. Despachito*

            Tbh, when in Germany, I avoid using the word altogether for fear that just the sound of it might make a German think I am talking about him and call him that.

            1. Myrin*

              Absolutely the right choice on your part. I can assure you it’s incredibly shocking to hear said casually even when I know what someone is saying.

    6. Goldie*

      This is not a newly offensive phrase for work. I’ve been conscious of this phrasing for more than 20 years.

    7. Elder Millennial*

      As someone who would have been murdered by the nazi’s I would like to have the privilege to say that the use of the word is not a hateful act. Sadly I am not in that position, so every time someone uses that word around me, even at work, I am reminded of how in the 1940’s I would have been taken to a camp and killed. (I live in one of the countries they invaded.)

      Maybe you could visit your local holocaust museum and educate yourself on why this is not an “innocuous phrase”, Analyst Editor.

      1. Despachito*

        I understand why you are deeply affected by the word, and think it is rightful, but I’d argue that it was “hateful” in this case.

        Thoughtless, yes. But not “hateful”. Like, if someone finds a German military cross in an antique shop, buys it and wears it because they like it but are ignorant of its full meaning, it is highly inappropriate but not hateful.

        1. münchner kindl*

          “Intentions aren’t magical and don’t erase impact”.

          In case of antiques, people buying them usually are interested in history in the first place, hence buying and collecting them.

          If somebody steps on your foot, it hurts you. Whether they did it with intent or weren’t looking only matters because of how they react when you say “Ouch, you’re standing on my foot, get off”. Everything else than “I’m sorry” and getting off – means your intent is now deliberatly hurtful, because you know and keep doing it.

          1. münchner kindl*

            urgh. Mixed up the persons: If they don’t get off your foot, they are deliberatly hurtful…

          2. Despachito*

            Some time ago, there was a case of a youth buying and wearing some German military decoration (much less obvious than a svastika) just because they liked the aspect of it. It was wrong and people obviously rightfully objected to it, and I think there was some sort of court proceedings against the youth. I think that it is OK that they were called out for it, and it would be wrong if they wore the decoration AFTER the trial with full knowledge what it means.

            But my point is that if they indeed did not know what the decoration was when buying and wearing it, they are definitely not guilty of supporting Nazism, just of ignorance.

            And I assume that although someone steps on your foot and once he finds out he apologizes and gets off, you will not hold it against him, although your foot will still be hurting.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              “I assume that although someone steps on your foot and once he finds out he apologizes and gets off, you will not hold it against him, although your foot will still be hurting.”

              Well, sort of. For one thing, the apology/wish to make things right needs to be a component, and the LW is more focused on arguing this was an unreasonable complaint than on saying “wow, I didn’t realize that was hurtful, I’ll try to be mindful in future.”

              And that’s the second thing. Stepping on someone’s foot can be forgiven unless you have a pattern of carelessness that repeatedly results in stepping on people’s feet. At some point individual apologies are not sufficient and you have to investigate the pattern and figure out how to stop doing that.

              I’m not saying that’s the case for this LW, just that we have to keep in mind that we can’t treat every action in isolation, and that we all have a responsibility to say “are there aspects of life and history that I do not have a sufficient understanding of to avoid hurting people around me, and how can I fix that.”

              1. quill*

                Also if you step on someone’s foot and exacerbate an old injury, it’s going to take them much longer to forgive you than if you hadn’t done any damage. Speaking as someone who has had the foot thing literally happen and also someone who stretches a metaphor on this site, in case something (not your joints, hopefully) clicks for anyone.

      1. Allonge*

        This. There are a million things that we do differently in specific contexts to accommodate other’s needs. THIS is what you pick to claim as your own ‘thing’?

    8. Katiekins*

      “Extrapolating the use of the word “Nazi” into something hateful is ridiculous.”

      What is ridiculous is thinking that you even need to extrapolate the use of the word Nazi into something hateful. Nazis are the very epitome of hate, no need to extrapolate anything.

    9. Kay*

      Wow! The term “Nazi” has had a negative connotation since I can remember. I know I’ve slipped up at least once in my life (hello humans do stupid things sometimes) and I can tell you the amount of internal cringe when I do it is not insignificant. As it should be!!

      I think any time you are using a term referencing a regime responsible for some of the most horrific crimes against humanity it is worth taking a hard look at whether doing so is a good idea. Unless your co-workers decided to shave their heads and spout racist epithets – perhaps loosely using the term in the office isn’t wise.

    10. Roland*

      0 people are saying that OP was “hateful”. You arr making up claims to argue against. It’s actually almost the exact opposite of the problem with “X Nazi”. It’s awful specifically because people use it with so little thought for such minor things. Funny and harmless to you to use “Nazi” about someone who idk is uptight about grammar, meanwhile they are the reason my grandmother’s entire family was murdered and most of my other grandmother’s family was also murdered and my grandfather’s parents were also murdered. Ha ha. Guess I should lighten up.

      1. Despachito*

        For me, this is the main reason for not using the term – it is very strong and powerful and such casual uses dissolve and attenuate its meaning. Which should absolutely not be done, just because of the history you are mentioning. Everyone should shudder whenever they hear the word, because what Nazis caused was horrible and should never ever be repeated.

        I think some politicians are well aware of it when they call their enemies “Nazis” without any reason, and I hate this manipulation with the force of thousand burning suns, just because of this – the word carries very heavy connotations and everybody knows who Nazis were, and it is likely to make people hate whoever is called a “Nazi” albeit unjustly.

    11. Violet Fox*

      It’s also entirely possible that people have actually found the phrase offensive for a long time but not feel comfortable speaking up until now, or it’s easier to speak up about something on Slack because there is a record.

      Granted I can only speak for myself but I’ve never found that sort of phrase comfortable, but the modern environment makes it easier for me to say in some way that “hey this is not okay”. And that I don’t have to just put up with things that are hateful/hurtful/harmful.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My family has a German surname (upsetting to them). My elders found casual use of the term offensive because this is nothing they stood for, matter of fact they were willing to lay down their lives to stop it because it was the antithesis of everything they believed.

        1. Esmae*

          My pre-war immigrant grandmother is in her 90s and still talks about how hurtful it was to be called a Nazi because of her German accent. It’s not like this is in the distant past.

    12. Felis alwayshungryis*

      There are all kinds of words a lot of people flippantly use that rightfully upset people – gay, retard, spaz, gyp, OCD, etc. I’m of the opinion that you can think whatever you want, but as soon as your words cause hurt or harm to another, you should consider why, and if there’s a better choice of words in our rich vocabulary to make the same point without making others feel bad.

      (And I’m not trying to tell you off – I’ve used all the above, as well as Nazi, until I started thinking a bit harder about my language. The first time was our German teacher calling us out for saying ‘that’s so gay’. The word ‘Nazi’ is undeniably hateful, and I know that most people don’t mean it like that, but I think if someone asks another to stop using a term that upsets them then they should, out of simple respect.)

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Thank you for your well-explained comment, Felis. A lot of words that used to pop up in my vocabulary–including some that you mention–no longer are, because it was pointed out to me that they are hurtful and offensive to people. It really is about being respectful when another person shares this info.

        It’s hard to eliminate a word you’ve used most of your life. The difference between then and now is that I notice when it happens. I correct myself, apologize, and overtly share that it slipped out as an old habit and I’m working on changing my language.

        I think about concept of intention vs. impact. In the past, I sometimes would tell the person harmed by my language that I didn’t mean it that way. I now see how that negates the impact on them and minimizes their feelings about it. Instead, now my intention is to be sensitive to the impact I may have with my words when it’s pointed out to me. I respond by listening to the other person’s experience, apologizing for hurt I may have caused, and recommitting to being respectful in my language going forward.

      2. AGD*

        This. When I see ‘Nazi’ thrown around loosely, I half shudder (people who have learned the history know how strong and visceral the reactions to this term are and why!) and half think, “Wait, you really couldn’t find an alternative to that? Even with ‘cop’ or ‘police’? Really embarrassing.” Using that term is drawing an overt comparison to some of the worst behavior in human history. If the message is ‘sharp’ or ‘rigid’, choosing ‘responsible for enormous human-rights atrocities only a few decades ago’ isn’t easily brushed off. For the sake of defending (often unnecessary) grammar pedantry, it’s a good way of causing a scene.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah. Really. There are how many words in the English language and you could not find a single word that got your point across?

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Exactly. Lizzo JUST rewrote a song to take out the word spaz (I think it was spaz) because people told her it was offensive and she listened. She obviously didn’t know beforehand, she wasn’t being hateful. She changed her behavior anyway. Ignorance and misunderstanding are everywhere, we all slip up. How we handle it is the important part. Falling over ourselves to defend our right to be hateful is not the look.

    13. Nina*

      Speaking as a queer Gentile who has exactly zero Shoah survivor ancestors but is aware of actual neonazis actually existing in the town where I live, and of my sibling’s nazi sympathies and of one of my coworkers’ nazi sympathies: no, ‘Nazi’ has not ceased to be a horrible, despicable thing to choose to be, and it has not ceased to be an extremely loaded word under any circumstances. ‘Nazi’ being thrown around in work slack channels would be really upsetting because, again, nazis are not consigned to a distant past. There are still nazis and they still really, really, violently dislike people like me and people like the oblivious LW’s coworker.

      tl;dr: nazis at work, not even once.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I’m sorry you have to deal with that in your own family.

        I’m a queer Jew whose mother and grandparents survived the Holocaust, and there are actual neonazis in the city I live in too, and it scares me. “At least none of my relatives have nazi sympathies” is small comfort, but I wish you had it.

    14. M. from P.*

      Well, the *intent* of the unknown person who reported the phrase to HR was probably to educate you in a friendly way, so why is the OP upset? After all, according to their own logic, the intent matters more than how the recipient of the message feels / is affected.

    15. Britchikka*

      It you’re not Jewish then that is absolutely not your call to make, and how dare you tell minorities how to feel.

      For a comments section that’s known as being super-woke and constantly pulling the “you can’t ban microwaving fish because it could potentially discriminate against a far northern indigenous subsistence fisherman / rules mandating hand washing in hospitals discriminate against people who are allergic to water” card, this commentariat is often pretty aggressive whenever an actual minority asks people to avoid using slur terms. It’s happened multiple times with disabled and trans posters.

      Is your life really going to be so negatively impacted by not being able to use these words anymore?

      1. Violet Fox*

        This is unfortunately not the first time I’ve seen this sort of reaction to antisemitism here and elsewhere.

        Heck I’ve had a long conversation with my local stationary store trying to explain to them why selling ink with antisemitic artwork on the side is such a huge problem, and the only think they could think of was some people being made fun of for buying very expensive pens.

        1. Vivian*

          As a neophyte fountain pen hobbyist, I googled based on your comment and was shocked! Definitely never purchasing that brand; horrifying to see anyone casually justifying that imagery.

          1. philmar*

            Nathan Tardif has always creeped me out with his ultra-libertarian politics. I was not surprised for him to cross a line. Also, his small batch thing meant that a lot of his inks were inconsistent… and his pens SMELLED AWFUL for some reason?? Then again, I’ve never been a fan of Noodler’s ink. If de Atramentis released an offensively named ink, I might find it harder to quit buying their products. :/

            1. Violet Fox*

              That line was crossed a while ago, but people still bought his inks, promoted them and still do so to the point where I just will not buy from any store that sells anything of it because to me that is the same as the store also promoting antisemitic propaganda (Okay this has actually been true for a while). All of this, of course, makes me feel alienated from the online pen community and like surprise!antisemitism is something I have to worry about there.

              Personally, I’m more of a J. Herbin type. Okay also Skript but it’s just a good workhorse.

              To go back to the original topic a bit, it can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe feeling to have to explain to people why something is antisemitic or why that is bad. I’ve lost friend groups because I won’t put up with casual antisemitism from one person in it. So yeah, I totally get going to HR or through a management line rather than dealing with the person directly. Personally I would also go through my management line because I would want it documented that this is a problem.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I hate Alison having to deal with antisemitism on her own blog. Do you think readers forget she’s Jewish? Because she said it right there in the answer.

        3. Anon all day*

          It’s really uncomfy when we get antisemitism from both the right and the left. I think a lot of super liberal people on the left equate, subconsciously or not, Jews with “the man” and capitalism and the powers that be and what not, so antisemitism isn’t called out because it’s seen as punching up. (Even though this whole idea is a massive, awful, dangerous stereotype.) A lot of anti-Israel sentiment can also easily morph into antisemitism in general.

          (I’m saying all of this as a liberal, fighting for social justice Jew.)

          1. quill*

            Gotta love* how many social attitudes have their roots in conspiracies that are often rooted in antisemitism, and which most people haven’t examined enough to know that their origin and impact are antisemitic. Between the idea that the rich are disproportionately jewish going back to when christians didn’t lend money and the idea that there is a “coastal” elite, american politics has been poisoned with conspiracy.

            *And by love I mean despair over

          2. Punk*

            Tbh the Christmas thing is one of the big issues. Progressives will freely call out privilege when they’re not the ones being oppressive, but as soon as it’s something they like, they don’t understand why they can’t force it on others.

            It’s almost like their identities depend on not believing that their privilege is unchecked.

            1. Violet Fox*

              Yup, Christmas and sometimes bacon/pork products. I’ve never seen more people offended or taken aback then when I’ve said things like “oh I don’t celebrate Christmas” and “I have my own holidays”. In a very no big deal, live and let live sort of way.

              Also just because I love gingerbread cookies doesn’t mean I secretly want to celebrate Christmas, it just means I really love gingerbread cookies. Nothing more.

      2. darcy*

        I see this all the time regarding autistic people (of which I am one) – people will fall over themselves backwards to excuse someone being an asshole with “they’re probably autistic and can’t help it” but whenever an actual autistic person needs minor accommodations suddenly it’s simply impossible and people just need to fit in

    16. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s been offensive all my life and I’m close to 50.

      If it’s just one word that you’ve been told is offensive why not take the path of least resistance and stop using it?

    17. Koalafied*

      It’s perfectly valid for a company to decide they don’t want certain language being used in the workplace, just like they can decide they don’t want certain attire. If you think the terms are fine, go on saying them all you want outside of work, while wearing your ripped jeans and spaghetti strap tank top – your time is your time. At work, there’s a social contract. If you’re asked not to say something there anymore, just do your best not to say it there anymore. It’s really as simple as that. There’s no need to agree with the policy or the people who set it, and there’s no need to argue against it because complying with it costs nothing.

    18. Falling Diphthong*

      Extrapolating the use of the word “Nazi” into something hateful is ridiculous.
      The who what now?

    19. Generic Name*

      Just because you personally don’t find it offensive doesn’t mean nobody else gets to be offended by it.

    20. OhGee*

      Really? Less than a year ago? Not, say, in 2017, when white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, VA chanting ‘Jews will not replace us?’ Not in [insert year] when [insert other incident of antisemitic violence]? As someone who has, in the past, used the kind of joking terms as the LW (if you grew up watching Seinfeld, you remember the Soup Nazi), I’m GLAD to see people moving back in the direction of treating that word with the caution its meaning merits. Especially as we see certain US politicians evoke the specter of Nazism in anything they disagree with. I think it’s pretty dangerous to defang that particular term of its meaning, and there are LOTS of other ways to jokingly say ‘I’m a real stickler for [subject].’

    21. MCMonkeyBean*

      Uh, you really don’t actually get to disagree with whether or not *other people* find something offensive. And this is not new or surprising to find that anyone was unhappy with that phrasing. People have reasonably been objecting to using the word “Nazi” in that way since… well for as long as people have been using the word that way.

      Any time you feel like you have to justify what you said by saying “but I have a friend who…” then you already knew it was possible someone would not appreciate that language. Impact matters more than intent.

    22. mdv*

      Huh. This has been offensive for as long as I have worked in my job, which is going on 25 years, as a “parking nazi”. Equating a parking ticket to the death of millions of people is … wildly offensive, and inappropriate.

      I agree that policing language can get a little over the top, but THIS is not the item to skip.

        1. lilsheba*

          People are getting offended at something I wouldn’t even think about. It’s not a phrase I would use myself but if I heard it I wouldn’t care. Being PC is getting kind of insane.

          1. Kella*

            Yeah, wouldn’t want to be *too* kind and considerate of the impact of your actions on other people /s

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            You seem to be confusing “politically correct” with “considerate of others.”

    23. Jackie*

      I am on the fence about this one. My colleague was very upset because they title a document (it was for a social thing, nothing serious) “crazy something-or-rather”, and were called out by HR that “Crazy” could be offensive to people with mental health issues. That sounded far fetched. My colleague was convinced that this was HR overreacting, but we don’t know if there was somebody who actually complained. It’s true that at some point language policing becomes too much, but it’s hard to know where to draw the line. I too have Jewish ancestry on one side of the family (who were mostly murdered in the holocaust) and don’t find this term that offensive, but can understand why others might.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          That here. I think we *all* are potentially at one point in our lives in a situation where we might use language this way and get called on it. The right response is not to get defensive, or upset, or apologetic. It’s just to say “let’s find a better title then”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Err, I do find ‘crazy’ offensive. While I might use it to describe myself, it’s been a long time slur against anyone with mental health issues like me and I don’t like it. See ‘schizo’ to refer to anyone behaving out of the norm.

        1. Esmae*

          You’re not the only one. And it’s just not that difficult to call the document “wild” or “ridiculous” instead.

      2. Observer*

        Please. I do think that “language policing” could go too far. But expecting people to not minimize Nazi in a workplace context doesn’t come CLOSE to that.

        The fact that your colleague was “very upset” over the matter makes them sound like someone who simply is too immature to hold a responsible job. Because when HR asks you to re-title document, EVEN IF THEY *ARE* over reacting, the strongest reaction that is warranted is rolling of the eyes. Considering that even you and your coworker are aware that this might actually affect existing coworkers, the outsized reaction sounds toddler level.

    24. tamarack and fireweed*

      I’m German. I find it quite important not to trivialize this topic – and that’s even though I’ve functioned in a world in which some self-declared to be “grammar Nazis” or similar, and I get what it means, and I most of the time didn’t say anything.

      But this doesn’t change that “data Nazi” is about the same level of problematic as if an American went into a tough negotiation announcing that they would “scalp” the other party. See what the problem is?

    25. JLC*

      I too am getting a little exhausted by people being what feels like over-offended so often. A level set of company culture could help by having people think what type of people they want to work with and how they’d like them to comport themselves when there is friction.

      No one is in the right here (commenters included) but perhaps not for the reasons they think.

      The complainer is pushing the boundaries between self expression and censorship in an unhelpful way that will only erode trust. It would be incredibly different if it were something clearly unacceptable such as a slur. Would there have been a difference if the LW had said “data fascist” or perhaps “data Khmer?” One is more generic while the is a different flavor of oppression simply less well known. The meaning and negative connotations are the same but I’d argue would not have the same reaction as people aren’t ready to pick up on or pick apart this.

      The LW’s rationalization that “but I/my friends are Jewish” is wrong. I’d hoped we’d mocked this approach enough that people looking to make a difference wouldn’t reach for this crutch in lieu of creating better arguments. Maybe this is just the hard version of the lesson for this person and they’ll come out the other side more prepared.

      I believe Analyst Editor’s intent is that it feels like we’ve ratcheted up what counts as offensive or is able to be reported as offensive. Word choice matters here too as it would be impossible to prove if the “nazi” suffix is or is not offensive. People’s opinions aren’t factual and can change often. What looks like an over reaction to some can even appear as an under reaction to others. I think that’s because we’re more worried about policing than setting clear expectations and being frank.

      Observer’s comments and line of thinking are the most worrying. I am unable to claim they specifically are dangerous. However, their writing contains the same dictates from the same playbook both the left and the right use for repression dressed up as if it is for some greater good. Case in point, they use the same absolutist language that LW used when they tried to justify the lack of offense due to their heritage and then immediately use it to ad hominem another person’s abilities. Again, perhaps not this individual but this type of person has no qualms doxing the commenter and attacking their livelihood.

      tl;dr all of us need to become comfortable with the world not being tailored and sanitized to our liking. It’s a part of being an adult and living in a functional diverse society. People will be more ready to erode your rights when you’ve eroded theirs even in small ways like this.

    26. Mim*

      Perhaps *you think* that nobody found it offensive until recently because your lack of empathy, as demonstrated in this and other comments you have left here recently, means that people in your life don’t feel safe expressing such things to you.

      Not personally finding it offensive is one thing. But being so aggressively unwilling to entertain the idea that others could find it offensive for good reasons is unreasonable and alarming. If I knew you, I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to discuss it with you. I’d just avoid you as much as possible. And if necessary, report you to HR.

  7. many bells down*

    LW1: I had a similar situation, but fortunately it wasn’t my boss that sent the letter. It was a group from an entirely different department, and they went to my grandboss and asked that I be fired. For not being Christian. Fortunately she shut the whole thing down, and my direct supervisor had my back as well. Definitely go to HR, or her supervisor.

    1. ChrisZ*

      They wanted you to lose your job for not being “Christian”. I have been wondering more and more, especially lately, just how many of these people who loudly profess to be Christians have ever even read the actual teachings of Christ. Because IMHO, and your experience bears that out, it sure doesn’t seem to be too many.

      1. Empress Ki*

        Many horrible things have been done in name of religion, even worse than firing someone. Being religious isn’t a guarantee of kindness and intelligence. Many people are religious because their religion is part of their culture/family. Nothing to do with faith.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed. The sad truth is that man has spent more time killing his fellow man in the name of religion that for just about any other reason.

      2. Cat Tree*

        It really doesn’t matter. Christian is as Christian does. There’s quite a wide variety among Christians and all groups think they’re doing it the right way (and most groups think that least some other groups are doing it the wrong way).

        1. ecnaseener*

          Thank you, the no-true-Scotsman fallacy is understandably tempting but kind of rings false what with *gestures at everything*

          1. quill*

            Given that converting people is a cornerstone of many branches of christianity, and the whole emphasis on ‘everyone else will go to hell’ it’s a big leap to argue that the religion itself doesn’t lend to nosy nellies pestering people because they’ve been told that’s the right thing to do.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, these people have clearly never read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, one of THE most famous stories in the Bible, where Jesus clearly says, “hey, those people who you look down on because they don’t share your religion? They may well be more moral than the people you look up to as church leaders, so stop categorising people and just be decent to everybody.”

        1. TimM*

          Other verses that they have apparently not read:

          “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

          Matthew 7:5-“You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

      4. Well...*

        I don’t think the new testament weighs in much on workplace discrimination, but I generally agree with you.

      5. TimM*

        It reminds me of a Mahatma Gandhi quote, when he was asked why he had an issue with Christians. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

        Granted, I have had a mixed bag of experiences with organized religions, as pretty much anyone on the LGBT scale has, but one thing I’ve noticed generally speaking is that the more someone prides themselves on being Christian, the more they fall under the umbrella of what Gandhi was describing.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          As someone who was actively instructed to be the kind of Christian Gandhi lamented, I completely agree.

    2. EPLawyer*

      What that, what the ….. They did this at a presumably not religious organization? And they thought this would fly? If anyone needs to be fired it sounds like that group — for being so far outside professional norms that I could not trust their judgment in ANYTHING.

    3. Parenthesis Dude*

      These situations are extremely different.

      In the current case, the old boss sent the letter a proselyting letter. This put OP in an uncomfortable situation, but it’s highly unlikely that there will be any long-term consequences from this. The boss didn’t say convert or be fired. Didn’t say become religious or get a bad reference. It was, “I love you, so you should be religious.” In your case, someone wanted you fired. That has drastic consequences for your life. Especially since they wanted you fired and not merely laid off.

      But then let’s talk about it from the company’s perspective. If the company were to fire you for not being a Christian, then you’d be able to bring a religious discrimination suit against them. You may be an at-will employee, but that doesn’t mean they can discriminate against you based on religion. They can fire you for wearing a green shirt on Tuesday, but not for not being a Christian. In OPs case, it’s frankly questionable why HR would care what one of their employees says to someone else when they’re not on the clock, but certainly they have no liability.

      In your case, the offending employee/group should have been fired. Keeping them there would led to a hostile environment for you that can’t be remedied easily especially since they wanted to fire you for blatantly illegal reasons. I mean, if they’re kept, and anything happens to you, you’d presume it’s due to religious animus. It’s just begging for a lawsuit. In this case, HR has minimal grounds to interfere. I mean, sure, HR cares that people you employee reflect well on the organization, but it makes sense to be careful when people what they can’t due on the clock.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        “In OPs case, it’s frankly questionable why HR would care what one of their employees says to someone else when they’re not on the clock, but certainly they have no liability.”

        Incorrect. Managers have what is called ‘strict liability.’ They are seen as agents of the company.

  8. MPerera*

    “Eternity is a guarantee for all of us. I truly want you to be a part of mine.”
    Sounds like hell.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I understand that the ex-supervisor used this phrase to express how much they care about the LW – but frankly, they strike me as the type of person who wouldn’t stop going on about the wonders of their religion even if they DID make it to heaven. And the thought of spending eternity with someone like that isn’t exactly appealing!

      1. Accountress*

        That’s a very standard evangelical argument for becoming Christian. I have a cousin who lamented on Facebook my father’s passing- she and her family wouldn’t see him again in the kingdom of heaven because he was an atheist (not true, but there’s no nuance allowed for non-theists in the evangelical mindset.)

        His brother and sister-in-law called repeatedly to talk to him and try to get him to accept Christianity in hospice, and I hung up the phone each time they started. He was a 70 y/o man who’d been agnostic for 50 years, let the man be.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “Never proselytize your cause with a phrase that sounds like the tagline for a Jordan Peele film.”

        1. Gracely*

          Also, I don’t exactly consider it a selling point if you seem to think all your religion/belief does is provide fire insurance.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I call those proselytutes “Eternal Life Insurance Salesmen”.

            They are just as annoying as a door-to-door life insurance salesman, but their product has even less of a concrete value. At least with term life insurance you can cash it in later in life.

    2. Not really a Waitress*

      I once heard someone say “You people need to find Jesus, cause I don’t want any of you in hell with me”

      1. EPLawyer*

        Now that I can get behind. I’ve seen the people who think they are going to Heaven. I’ll take Hell if it means not spending eternity with them.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Thank you, I needed a laugh this morning.

        Have you read Mark Twain’s comments on Heaven? All the things people don’t like here on Earth….

      3. TimM*

        Another quote that I loved: “The fact that there is a highway to Hell, but a stairway to Heaven, says a lot about expected population growth.”

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My grandmother used to say this kind of thing to me and even from a family member who meant it completely earnestly it used to make me a little uneasy. From a boss? Who had clearly been ‘holding it in’ staring at my car stickers every day and praying for me? I would be incredibly uncomfortable and definitely tell HR so no one else got that kind of message.

    4. Generic Name*

      Hilarious. A part of me very much admires people like her who have such pure faith, but this lady has no chill and apparently also seems to not get sarcasm or irony. She also doesn’t seem to get that the email she sent was inappropriate and might make people feel uncomfortable.

    5. many bells down*

      My version of that letter said “I want to party with you in heaven.” Haven’t heard from any of them since I left that job 25 years ago, maybe they didn’t want to party with me that bad.

  9. MHA*

    In regards to LW2’s question, I’m a little surprised to see the idea that the direct report “should have” brought it to the LW directly? I feel like the innate power imbalance makes it pretty understandable that they’d go to HR instead, and that that might even be advisable over approaching the manager directly.

    (Maybe I’m just misunderstanding the LW calling themselves a “data science manager” and then saying “I want to treat everyone on my team fairly” and they aren’t actually this person’s direct manager, but I was surprised to see that dynamic not even being brought up in the response, especially since the LW admits that they’re having a hard time letting it go.)

    1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Agreed. Plus, someone senior to LW used it as well, so they probably both got mentioned to HR rather than one junior employee single-handedly taking on their superiors.

      1. KateM*

        Very good point – as it was a common problem for two higher-ups to this junior employee, it certainly made more sense for her to speak of both at the same time to HR instead of tackling her boss and grandboss separately.

    2. Cat Tree*

      LW wanted a chance to try to convince the employee to stop being offended, and even feels entitled to that.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      Good point and I was going to bring it up to. It is difficult to call out a manager, especially the manager who would say “Oh, it’s just a phrase, don’t get so hung up!”
      LW2, you screwed up. Move on and don’t do it again. This would make you A Good Person.
      “Data Nazi” is a stupid phrase anyway.

    4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      > especially since the LW admits that they’re having a hard time letting it go

      I know that in my life, when I have a hard time letting something go, it’s usually because somewhere inside I realize that I’m in the wrong. Which makes sense to me. People can tell me I did a wrong thing and if I truly disagree, I just shrug it off (possibly while saying that I disagree). But I have learned that when something keeps eating at me, I should pay attention to that.

  10. Kinsley*

    LW4, I’m not Canadian, but I take it even further. If I go into small mom and pop type shops, I *have* to buy *something.* My weird politeness will not let me leave empty handed. So I think how you have been handling it is a dream goal for me! Sorry, no advice. Just commiseration.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      This was such a great question to publish, Alison! The worst for me is when it’s quiet and I’m one-on-one with the shop owner in an empty store. “Oh, uh, hi. Did my spouse just come in here? No? Okaybye”

    2. Minerva*

      Right? I feel so bad especially if the shopkeeper is nice. Fortunately I can always seem to find something small in a price range I don’t feel terrible about. I am such a soft sell lol

    3. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      Same! When the zombie apocalypse comes and we discover the cure is artisanal beeswax lip balm, I’ve got us covered!

    4. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Kinsley, this is me 100% in an independent yarn shop–I know they are all struggling so I HAVE TO BUY SOMETHING…..and now I have enough yarn that I will never use up to open my own yarn shop.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      I have this a lot when I got to art festivals and farmer’s markets. I’ve discovered, “I’m going to think on making a purchase and come back later.”

      Sometimes I do. Mostly, I don’t.

    6. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      One thing that helps me with this is remembering that my going in the shop and not buying anything doesn’t actively hurt them, and in fact, could help them in the future. If I go in and realize I don’t need anything, no harm, no foul. But I may remember in the future when someone is looking for something and say “oh, hey, did you try XYZ shop.” So they may not have gotten me to buy something from them at this point, but I might buy something later or send someone their way that could be a customer.

  11. All Hail Queen Sally*

    LW4: I work in a high-end yarn shop (most yarns are out of my budget–even with my very generous employee discount!) and we get customers all the time that are shocked by the prices. I just explain the difference between our yarns and the yarns they are used to seeing at JoAnn’s, Michael’s, or Hobby Lobby. Then I show them some of our fanciest yarns and enjoy the oo’s and ah’s. It is no big deal.

    1. Grumpy Chipmunk*

      I work in a shop that caters to the makers of a product and because Google tosses us in with sellers of the final product we get people all the time that don’t actually need our shop. It’s really fine with us if someone just takes a look and says thanks so much before leaving. No need to feel bad or awkward.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is one thing I’ve found. Part of what boutiques do is educate – maybe not everyone can afford it, but it really makes a difference in the consumer mindset when they can really experience the difference between high quality goods and mass market goods. Which I think is very useful. I buy when I can but sometimes just touching the nice yarn is a good reminder to save up for a special purchase instead of hoarding every cheap color I can find.

      1. Liz W.*

        I go into these shops for the pure please of looking at beautiful things. Owners of artisanal shops/boutiques know this.

        And I am not ashamed that I cannot afford every item because sometimes I do find something I love and can purchase and or come out having learned something (sometimes that is just as pleasurable and important to the owner as a sale even if it does not put food on the table).

    3. Girasol*

      I make an artisanal product. When my temporary shop is up, I work in it, since my craft allows me to do that. That way I don’t have to stare at every person who comes by and make us both uncomfortable. I want everyone to look at my stuff though I know most won’t buy. That’s fine, I expect that. What I make is certainly not for everyone. I enjoy chatting with people who are curious about what I’m doing even if they don’t buy. But I figure that if I’m looking mostly at what I’m doing and not staring longingly at each person I see, I’ll make it more comfortable for people to come look, and with more potential customers I’ll make more sales. That said, when I’m the one visiting an artisanal shop and the artist is looking at me, I feel really awkward too. I tend to look surreptitiously from a distance rather than go close/go in for that reason.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      We used to take a lot of day long drives and end up in shops that were well beyond our budget.

      I had to laugh, these were like “Museums of things I will never own”. But it’s nice to see what is available. And most certainly I can appreciate someone’s hand work. I can be pretty picky, and I enjoy spotting someone’s work who is head and shoulders above the rest in quality and originality.

      And antique stores are sort of a free museum if you think about it. You can get to see all kinds of stuff. My husband and I used to play, “Guess what this tool was for?”.

      OP, you can teach yourself to look around for a few minutes and then turn to the person running the store, “You have such lovely things here. Thank you! I hope you have a good day.”

      In all the years and all the stores we only had two store owners who were