fantasy football offensiveness, asking about my boss’s personal situation, and more

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

1. Offensiveness in the fantasy football league

I need to gauge if I’m overreacting. It’s fantasy football season, and as an HR professional I’m studiously ignoring the emails about joining “work” leagues (due to gambling being illegal). One of our new managers has joined this league (made up of employees, former employees, and spouses of employees) and named his team “Hanging with Hernandez” and his photo is a noose. This is all in reference to Aaron Hernandez. Cue the league’s commissioner reaching out to my grandboss for help as the commissioner is “personally amused and professionally horrified.” One of this manager’s direct reports is in the league too.

We informed him of the social media policy and asked him to change all of it. He complied while stating, “It is ridiculous that anyone could find that offensive and even more ridiculous that someone would report this to HR instead of bringing it to me.”

Am I out of my mind thinking this is completely out of line? I admit that he posts political things on his LinkedIn that oppose my beliefs and that might be coloring my view of him.

I don’t know how to end this email. I’m upset that we allowed this man into our company where I’m afraid he could do real harm to our employees or even our clients.

You’re not overreacting. Joking about suicide is always going to be tasteless and most people should be able to see — especially after it is pointed out to them! — why it’s particularly inappropriate to make light of at work, where there might be (and almost certainly are) employees who have lost loved ones to suicide and/or are struggling with mental health issues themselves or in their families.

But while the team name is offensive, the manager’s reaction when you asked him to change it is worse. A tasteless joke is one thing; proudly declaring that other people’s discomfort is “ridiculous” is a much bigger problem since now you have to worry he’s likely to be saying other offensive things and shutting down team members who aren’t comfortable with that. The fact that he’s in a position of power over others makes it worse. (Also, you said he’s a new manager — is he new to your company? If so, the fact that a new employee would dig in his heels on this is … surprising, and doesn’t bode well for what other attitudes he’s carrying with him.)

Luckily, you’re in HR! Someone on your team should have a serious conversation with him about the company’s values, the values he’s expected to operate with on the job, and what sorts of things are and aren’t acceptable in his role, and find out if he feels that’s going to be a fit for him or not. (Someone should flag all this for his boss too.)

2. My old manager won’t talk to any of us even though she still works here

My manager recently moved to a new role in HR at the same company. Before that, she essentially worked as a customer service manager. She was extremely well-liked and very popular with her direct reports. Honestly, she was one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with.

Since she transitioned to her new role, she refuses to talk to any of us. For example:
• My (male) coworker (who worked under her for a year and a half) asked if she wanted to meet on campus for a coffee and connect to catch up. She declined and then accused him of being romantically interested in her. They’re both married to other people with young children.
• Unfriended half of our old team on Facebook, but maintained online connections with the other half.
• Never talks to anyone from her old department.

I normally try to maintain professional relationships with past managers. However, is it a lost cause in this case?

Well, this is fascinating! It would be less surprising if you had already known her to have weird judgment, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.

Although it’s worth asking — has she been level-headed previously, or was she one of those people who was great to work with directly but you could see she was not as great to people outside your team? In other words, is any of this in character or at least unsurprising for her, or is it all a shock?

If it’s in character/not terribly surprising, then yes, it might be a lost cause. Frankly, it might be a lost cause regardless if she’s refusing to talk to anyone from her old team. But if you’re invested enough in the relationship to do a little digging, it could be worth getting in touch, seeing how she’s doing, and trying to get a feel for what’s going on. It’s possible there’s more to the situation than you know, and if you’ve thought well of her judgment previously, it’s worth giving her some benefit of the doubt until you’ve heard from her directly.

I do wonder if some of this is about her moving to HR, specifically, since the boundaries for HR are different than for other roles. But if that’s the case, she’s navigating it with unnecessary chilliness — being in HR doesn’t require you to refuse any contact whatsoever with colleagues — and it doesn’t explain her response to the coffee attempt.

3. Is it rude not to ask about my boss’s personal situation?

I started a new job five months ago, after being at my previous company for five years. So far, I really like it. The work is interesting, work-life balance is good, and I get paid more!

A couple of weeks ago, my boss told me that he had several doctor’s appointments coming up and he was going to send me and his boss meeting invites so we know when he is out of office. I thanked him for letting me know. I did not think it would be appropriate to ask any additional questions. In the weeks since, I have gotten several of these meeting invites, and it has become somewhat clear that my boss is experiencing some type of major medical/personal issue. Other than the meeting invites, he has not mentioned anything to me directly about what is going on and it does not seem to be impacting his work. Because of that, I am choosing not to bring up these appointments to him (or anyone else); I just accept the meeting invites. In my opinion, it’s none of my business and it’s not impacting his managing me, so there’s nothing to discuss! However, is there a chance that my lack of acknowledgment could be considered impolite? If he is having a medical/personal crisis, I do wish him the best. But he seems to not want to make a big deal of whatever is going on and I am trying to follow his lead.

Yes, please do follow his lead (and your instincts) and don’t ask about it! If there’s something he wants to share, he’ll share it. It’s not rude to respect his privacy; in fact, it’s polite!

I do get why you’re wondering; you don’t want to seem uncaring if he knows that you’re seeing that something is going on. But in a business relationship — and a situation where it sounds like you’re just being made aware of the appointments because you have a work need to know about his availability — it’s safest to default to respecting his privacy.

4. My ex-boss keeps contacting me for help … because I said I might help

About a month ago, I stated (a great!) new job. I am very happy — it’s a big step up and a wonderful team.

I left, however, the most toxic work environment of my life. My boss was a bully and spent 18 months berating me and I knew I had to leave when I would start dreading Mondays on Fridays. My notice period was unreal, I was expected to wrap up months and months of projects in 2 weeks and was pressured to commit to consulting afterwards. To avoid confrontation, I stated that I would have to see what my new workload was like (this was likely my mistake).

Flash forward to today, and I am getting constant meeting requests. I do not want to help but I am consumed with guilt, as a typical people pleaser. I don’t know why I still get so worked up, and I am, how can I cut ties cleanly and kindly?

If you want, you can just block the messages and meeting requests and never think about it again. But you say you want to cut ties cleanly and kindly, and the last time you talked you left your availability an open question, so the best thing to do is to send your former boss a message that says, “Unfortunately my schedule has turned out to be packed and I am fully booked for the foreseeable future. So I won’t be able to do any consulting work, but I wish you all the best with everything.” After that, if the messages continue, block without any guilt. You don’t work there anymore, and you’ll have cleared up any haziness about what your availability might be now.

5. Should I be honest with my manager if it means giving up career development?

I just started working at my first professional job about a month ago, and when my manager saw that I’m genuinely interested in and care about the work, she told me she wants to train me to be a supervisor and then eventually a manager. However, I don’t plan on staying with this job forever. In fact, I plan to only work here for two years before moving to a different state and switching to a more specific part of my field, which I’m pretty sure I mentioned during my interview. But still, I think having the role of “supervisor” on my resume when I move would look great, considering my age and how new I am to the field. My only issue is that I really don’t want to throw a wrench in the company by having them spend time/energy training me for a position I won’t be in very long, especially when they could’ve spent it training someone else.

Should I be up-front with my manager and tell her that, while I appreciate her offering to train me to be a supervisor, I don’t want to waste her time? Or should I take the promotion and run with it so my resume looks better?

Take the training and the promotion. Two years is a long time and things could change between now and then — life is weird that way, and you shouldn’t close off options now for something that’s still a couple of years away.

But also, even if nothing changes and you move out of state as planned in two years, that’s a reasonable amount of time to put in and definitely enough for your company’s investment to pay off.

{ 449 comments… read them below }

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      A world of wonderful sports puns at his disposal for team names like literally every other fantasy league participant uses and this is what he chose instead.

      1. Self Aware Wolf*

        I mean… many, many of those names are workplace-inappropriate. It’s loooooong been a big part of the culture of fantasy football to be a bit crass, though you definitely have to know the time and place. Like my running league with friends has had names like “Show Me Those TDs,” “Ceedeez Nutz,” “Only Fants” and plenty of other immature punnery.

        You just have to have the MODICUM of self awareness to understand that you can use those types of names in leagues with your friends, but not with your boss.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          It’s definitely part of but not a requirement of fantasy football culture. I’ve played in fantasy leagues with a group of friends before without any of us resorting to crass names because that’s just not our sense of humour. It’s not impossible to do!

          1. Jaydee*

            Was part of a work FF league for many years where, because it was a law office, we had a mix between fairly tame football puns and football-law crossover puns. Meritorious defense. Tortious interference.

            1. Former Employee*

              I’m not in (or on) the field, but I worked in an area of financial services so I did have some contact with attorneys and had to review certain types of contracts from a particular perspective.

              I think the examples you gave are quite punny and accomplish the goal. The only people I could imagine taking offence would be members of an opposing, losing team.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      In my complete ignorance of sportsball, I had to google who he was and what this could imply. Not a good look. At first I’d assumed that “Hernandez” was this guy’s last name and thought that an a noose = lynch party, so this comes of badly to those of us who live so far under a rock that they missed the reference entirely

      1. xl*

        I would assume that most people who have enough interest to be in a fantasy league (i.e. his audience) would have gotten the joke.

        Not that I think it’s funny or anything.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My first thought was maybe he’d been a fan of a 90’s show called Hanging with Mr Cooper, but then I got to the noose and just NOPE, not remotely appropriate. And then he’s referring to Aaron Hernandez, really really not remotely appropriate.

        I’m also with Alison going to wonder what his judgement is like in other scenarios given that he’s new as a manager and digging in his heels about something like this.

        1. Observer*

          I’m also with Alison going to wonder what his judgement is like in other scenarios given that he’s new as a manager and digging in his heels about something like this.

          Especially as there is a double whammy here. It’s not just a bad joke about suicide, which is bad enough on its own. But nooses are a bad look on their own; the whole saga is violent and ugly; and there was a lot of racism around Hernandez’s trial and conviction. (I’m not saying that he was convicted because of racism, but I do remember when the trial was ongoing and some of the stuff that was being said was pretty disturbing.)

          So, he’s not only joking about suicide, but he’s also explicitly dragging in and joking about a whole boatload of ugliness that most people just don’t expect to encounter at work.

          1. retrowaveRecluse*

            Precisely this. I don’t think a noose is imagery we really need to see. In my ignorance I thought first along the lines of DANGER:… and I don’t know if my opinion was improved in any shade to find out it is not a reference to murder but to suicide. Not professional at all, come on manager.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Same. In this case the joke managed to come off terribly for many in the know and many NOT in the know. It is impressive

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It’s like the world’s worst multiple-choice test: Is it in appropriate because of:
              a) reference to suicide;
              b) reference to the US’s awful history of lynching Latino people;
              c) all of the above!

          2. Worldwalker*

            Hernandez wasn’t convicted because of racism; he was convicted because it was proved at trial that he murdered Odin Lloyd. If I recall correctly, evidence against him included video from his own security system.

            1. NICS*

              That’s true, but still. Whenever a person in a marked group does something awful there’s always a loud contingent of people who declare that doing awful things is a characteristic of that marked group. People took the “opportunity” of Hernandez’s murder trial to say lots of awful things about the supposed inherent criminality of Latinos.

            2. Observer*

              I agree that he wasn’t convicted because of racism, and I said so.

              But a lot of the commentary WAS incredibly racist.

          3. Hannah Lee*

            “So, he’s not only joking about suicide, but he’s also explicitly dragging in and joking about a whole boatload of ugliness that most people just don’t expect to encounter at work.”

            And given the *VAST universe* of funny or punny name and avatar choices, THAT’s the one this person came up with, THAT’s the one he decided to use … for a WORK league, and THAT’s the one he’s choosing to whine about being told he can’t use with the old “other people are jerks for not appreciating my gross humor” attitude.

            This person is acting horribly, showing incredibly bad judgement as a human being, never mind as an employee or worse a manager.

            Sorry to mix my sports metaphors, but, because 4 downs is way more chances than this dude deserves.:
            – His using that image, language in the first place is Strike 1
            – Doubling down on it and complaining that he wasn’t allowed to use it …instead of apologizing in embarrassment at how offensive and inappropriate it was is Strike 2.
            – He at this point should be one tiny bad decision, action away from 3 Strikes – You’re Out! as in, out of the company.

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        It’s not just a suicide reference, but a death penalty reference as well. The first is bad enough, and definitely thoughtless and tasteless, but I have personally even less appetite for the second one. Given the whole tragic and violent story around Mr Hernandez I can only shake my head.

    3. xl*

      Agreed. Kind of seems like he’s desperately trying to be edgy…like a kid who just learned a new swear word.

    4. Kacihall*

      It really reminds me of the time in college when we came up with group names for our basketball seating lottery – we played Duke and one group named themselves Duke LaCrosse Stripper (something something something, there were like six words and they got progressively more offensive.) The people reading the names shortened it to Duke LaCrosse pretty quick – then just to LaCrosse once the other team showed up.

      They at least had the excuse they were idiotic teenagers. Not sure what excuse the full blown adult has.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Full-blown adult *manager*.

        That’s the horrific part. He’s acting like a stupid teenager (my college buddies and I made pretty offensive jokes, too … *in college*) but he’s a manager. And he doesn’t get how acting like a stupid teenager is not appropriate for an adult manager. While doing things that would probably get him fired from a job saying “Do you want fries with that?”

    5. Big Ol’ Beet*

      My guess is he would have went with an even worse reference but had *some* measure of awareness that it’s a work league.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And that’s what worries me about him as a work judgement issue – if this was his idea of work appropriate, what other judgement issues are lurking around in there and waiting to rear it’s ugly head?

        1. Worldwalker*

          And if this is how he responds to being told it’s inappropriate, what is going on with the people under his authority? What does he do when someone says “Chris at the next desk is harassing me” or something?

    6. Jeff Bingy*

      My guess is this guy is an avid fantasy football player and has used the same team name for years. But like, the absolute inappropriateness of the name aside, there’s a difference between your friends league that’s been going for a decade and a work league at a job you just joined. This dude has no self awareness, or maybe he does and he knows what he’s doing. Either way, a terrible look and I would expect this wouldn’t be the only issue you have with him

    7. pinetree*

      For sure. It’s been ten years since he played. Using a reference to him as your team name strikes me as somebody with an agenda. The possibility that Hernandez was gay and what role that played in his behavior has long been a source of grist to the mill for certain people.

      1. Observer*

        If it were just the reference to the guy, it would be bad enough. But the explicit joke about the suicide just makes it clear that he’s being in your face about it.

        1. NerdyPrettyThings*

          Yes, exactly. There’s a reason this guy has stuck with this team name for ten years, and I’m betting that it’s closely related to the reason he reacted so badly to being called out on it.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Ahhhhh!!! I thought this was more recent and was wondering how I managed to completely not hear a word of it. I must have been living in Bosnia or Georgia (country). I mean I am indifferent to sportsball, but even I know Kobe Bryant died, so I was wondering how I missed this so badly that the name didn’t ring a bell.

        1. Omskivar*

          If it makes you feel any better, I keep forgetting that Kobe Bryant died and I KNOW I was aware of his death when it happened.

    8. MapleHill*

      Even before I got to the part about this referencing Aaron Hernandez, I found it alarming. I mean, a noose definitely has specific connotations in the US relating to racism and lynching of black people and the majority of NFL players are black (70%), so it’s really a bad look all around. I watched the tv show The League, and this is more offensive than anything I can recall from that show.

      His own reaction is a good example of why someone would feel uncomfortable going to him to address the issue as he’d clearly have dismissed it and made them feel in the wrong. He also clearly has no understanding of the need to consider your audience. He definitely needs coaching!

      1. Observer*

        His own reaction is a good example of why someone would feel uncomfortable going to him to address the issue as he’d clearly have dismissed it and made them feel in the wrong.

        Exactly. What else is he going to do this about?

        He also clearly has no understanding of the need to consider your audience.

        I’m afraid that you are giving him too much benefit of the doubt. I don’t think that he doesn’t understand. I strongly suspect that he DOES NOT CARE.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, on the continuum of “does not understand” >>> “does not care” I suspect that this person has blasted right past lack of understanding and care and sped right to the end of the line to “understands exactly what he’s doing and how it’s coming across; is purposely trying to intimidate and/or rile up certain kinds of people” extreme.

          This guy is NOT a keeper on the work team, and if he stays, this will NOT be the only time he creates problems.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Yeah, I read “noose” and immediately went “nope” before getting any further. I recently picked up a book of Agatha Christie short stories I had on hold from the library and the cover art is a noose…I read in public, so there’s now a big ol’ sticky note on the cover because just no.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Man…. that’s when I’d donate $20 (or whatever the replacement cost is for that particular book), ask them to find one with a better cover, and then trash this one. But that’s just me. My sticky notes aren’t that powerful! (Funny side story – I took a fantasy novel to a Middle Eastern country where adult pictures are banned. I forgot that the fairies were humanoid figures that weren’t clothed… until we were coming into the airport. Hooray for a fine tip Sharpie! Those fairies had nice little dresses on by the time we landed.)

      3. MigraineMonth*

        While it is discussed less often, US history is also rife with lynchings of non-black latino people, often so that white settlers could steal their property.

  1. prof*

    My immediate thought was that the noose was a reference to lynching and rather racist and problematic because of that. Just…yikes…

    1. NeutralJanet*

      Aaron Hernandez was a former NFL player who was convicted of murder and hanged himself in his cell, so the reference here is suicide, though if I didn’t know about what had happened, my mind would probably have gone to lynching as well.

      1. prof*

        Oooohhhh. Ok, that’s…not really better but makes sense. Though could still have the racist reference if just seen by someone (like me apparently) who doesn’t know the famous person reference). A yikes either way…

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

          same thought I had. I don’t follow sports stuff and I probably saw the news but since it wasn’t anything that I remembered so I thought Lynching reference. This is still just as bad.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Also, it’s an older reference. It has been almost a decade since the events surrounding Aaron Hernandez were front page news, so the far more casual fan will probably not know about them – and go straight to noose = lynching.

            There’s just no good way to approach this name and imagery.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am not familiar with Hernandez so didn’t know this and thought maybe it was this guy’s own name and just a really dense play on words. But this is beyond ‘poor judgment’; this is grotesque. I totally agree with Alison here that the fact that he didn’t immediately face palm and apologize is a very big red flag. The suicide and the lynching reference make this poison in the workplace. WOW.

        1. Jackalope*

          Right??? The fact that he chose this as a team name at all was at the minimum a lapse in judgment. But doubling down on it takes it to a whole new level of WTF. There’s not a single way in which this was okay. Not the murder reference, not the suicide, not the lynching connection, not the fact that Hernandez had CTE…. So much toxicity, in one neat little package, that to laugh it off is a huge concern. Especially for a manager. What’s he going to do next; laugh at one of his reports who’s sad about a family member dying in one of those ways? Because I wouldn’t put it past him.

          1. Mongrel*

            “Right??? The fact that he chose this as a team name at all was at the minimum a lapse in judgment. But doubling down on it takes it to a whole new level of WTF.”

            I’m going to speculate that the not only does he know what he’s doing but he’s itching to get into a fight about it.

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              Came here to say this. He really seems like he wants to get into it about the topic. And he’s a manager. And a new employee.
              I think he needs a note in his HR file, once they have a one on one about this, of course. This is super poor judgement in the first place, and then to double down on it? NOPE

      3. Felis alwayshungryis*

        My mind went there, never having heard of the guy (not American, don’t follow sport). I thought it was something like making light of a hate crime, but this is in terrible taste, too.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I’m American, but not a sports fan, and the reference was a little obscure. BUT, the noose alone is so wrong, because of its connection to lynching.

      4. rubble*

        I thought I was sure that was the name of the nascar driver who had that noose “situation” a few years ago. yikes, I was very wrong. but yes I did immediately think of lynching too, because of that mistake.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The NASCAR driver is Bubba Wallace, and the “noose” was spotted by and reported to NASCAR Officials a member of his pit crew. Wallace never saw it at all, but had gotten a bunch of race related hate mail in the weeks prior to that race.

          For those unfamiliar, Wallace was then, and still is now, the only African American driver in that league. And the team he drives for currently is half owned by Michael Jordan (of basketball fame).

      5. DJ Abbott*

        I didn’t know that either, and now that I do it’s clear this guy has a very perverted sense of humor and no concept of what’s appropriate at work. I have to wonder what other inappropriate things he’s done or will do.

    2. just some guy*

      The other context makes it worse, but you’re not wrong about the noose being inappropriate even on its own.

    3. philmar*

      I think most people who care enough about football to play in a fantasy league know Aaron Hernandez’s story. This interpretation didn’t even occur to me because his case is well-known among football fans.

      1. Liz in the Midwest*

        I play in a fantasy league with my friends, just to be social, and did not know this story. I would definitely not assume that.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Especially in a work league; I’ve joined some March Madness stuff at work just to join in the casual colleague bonding though I have never participated in anything like that outside the office and do not generally care enough about sports to follow anything like that.

      2. Russian In Texas*

        I am not at all personally interested in football and would never ever play fantasy, but I am a friend with enough sports people, who watch sports, play fantasy, talk about sports, that I got the reference immediately.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            ^ this!
            I’m not a big sports fan, and am aware of the Patriots, their players only around championship time when it’s impossible to avoid hearing about it. AH and his issues, career, bad behavior, crimes, trial, suicide and subsequent revelation of the extent of CTE he was suffering from (likely from his time playing football … due to the kind of workplace injuries that are STILL happening to youth, college and professional football players to this day) were explored in the press in depth, detail and for a long long time. I think there was even multi-part Boston Globe Spotlight investigative series that explored his tragic life from many angles.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Gotta say that not having the knowledge made me think the team lead’s last name was Hernandez and the noose was a play on them being his posse/lynch mob. I’m not sure that’s any better than what he was going for

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Same. I assumed Hernandez was the last name of the manager and that the noose was a reference to his lynch mob.

    5. mreasy*

      I read it that way too (not knowing the story), but making light of a murderer (potentially influenced by CTE) who later takes his own life is also breathtakingly bad. Then saying nobody could be offended????

    6. EPLawyer*

      Yeah its a reference to suicide, but the noose image is not good no matter what its referencing.

      Fantasy Team names are supposed to be punny. This guy got stuck on that without realizing that punny and acceptable are not always the same thing.

      Although, OP, you might be going overboard here. You think this person might harm the company or the clients because 1) he had terrible taste in fantasy team names which he did not seem as a problem and 2) his political opinions on Linked In. You might be making a leap too far here. Should he be spoken to about his reaction to being told to change his team name? Yes. Probably about his LinkedIn too because that is a more professional thing than other social media. But to then watch. Don’t assume he is automatically harmful. We can’t all work with people of the same political persuasion.

      1. ceiswyn*

        No, but the way we work with people of different political persuasions is by respecting professional boundaries. This guy has just shown himself to be unwilling or unable to do that.

      2. Lizzo*

        Empathy for others (which this dude is sorely lacking) isn’t political. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

        1. professional feelings-haver*

          If it wasn’t already political, it became so when a certain faction in politics started wearing “f*** your feelings” T-shirts :-/

      3. pie*

        The harm is that his discretion is fantastically poor. I have different fantasy team names for my league with my high school classmates compared to say, my spouse’s family. If I were in a work league (which I am not, because I abhor sports as a small talk topic), it makes sense to apply the same rules you would to making jokes in front of clients or your team. If he’s willing to have a fantasy team name that’s off color, what else will he say in front of someone that could bring on a lawsuit?

      4. Observer*

        Don’t assume he is automatically harmful. We can’t all work with people of the same political persuasion.

        The problem here is not that he has a different political opinion, though. It’s that he expressed hateful and bigoted ideas in a workplace situation. And when he was called on it, he doubled down and insisted that he was right, and anyone who was offended was “being ridiculous” – and also complained that someone “tattled” on him. He didn’t use that term, but that’s what it meant.

        Which means that he almost certainly will be bigoted to his team and let them know that they are not “allowed” to go to HR.

        Is that 100% for sure going to happen? No. But it’s likely enough that I’d say that it’s not unreasonable to worry about what happens “when” – not “if” – he misbehaves. If someone sues the company without going to HR first, the company is likely to lose, because this is going to be stark proof that the company “should have known” that he is a problem.

      5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        It’s the way the name he has picked (and per the letter is digging in his heels over) is so spectacularly awful – and so lacking in awareness of how it and the imagery he’s using may land with others that is the problem. This guy has no problem making jokes out of murder, suicide, and lynching. What other problematic issues is he potentially going to make into a “joke” and then argue back about to upper management if they criticize his words and actions down the road?

        Plus, HE’S the manager……would you go to a manager with a problem when he’s already shown that he thinks murder, suicide, and hate crimes are things to joke about? I know I’d be leery of going to a manager like that.

      6. Unaccountably*

        “Jokes about suicide, displays pictures of nooses in their fantasy football team, and doubles down when told they’re disturbing other people” is not a political persuasion anyone is obliged to respect or tolerate in the workplace.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          This. That’s not politics, it’s insensitivity.

          Bigotry and hate are not just politics, even as much as some people seem to think they are. You can have differences of opinion on things like fiscal policy and the role of government – that’s politics. Not considering members of various minorities to be fully human or deserving of any rights is not politics, it’s just plain bigotry.

          Racism, sexism and heterosexism are not politics – they are bigotry and hatred toward other people. The fact that certain political groupings have these things as central tenets still doesn’t make them political opinions.

      7. Lydia*

        This is not a great read on the situation. Someone who has no understanding in this situation of why it was a bad idea is not going to suddenly develop an understanding when it comes to their staff. This isn’t about political leanings, it’s about how a specific group of political leanings affect your behavior towards people who work for you.

      8. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I totally missed the reference and assumed that it was a joke about lynching (what else does a noose mean?). The harm is if I was a client who saw the person managing my account had that posted, I’d ask to be transferred to a new manager, since anyone with that bad of judgement isn’t going to touch my stuff. If I was a potential client, the company would just get dropped entirely because, seriously, who want’s to trust a company that has the poor judgement to hire this guy and let him do stuff like this. I can see why HR went hard

      9. Worldwalker*

        It’s not about his political persuasion. It’s about the fact that he did something very tasteless at work, then doubled down and acted like a jerk when called on it. This is not a good thing no matter what his politics. It doesn’t matter if he managed to do something tasteless about *knitting* (yes, it can be done and has) or any other topic — it’s the fact that he did it in the first place, and reacted the way he did subsequently, that’s the problem.

      10. MCMonkeyBean*

        He was already spoken to about it and his reaction was to double down and complain that someone complained about his behavior. That is the behavior of someone who cannot be trusted to manage other people.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      This is a rare case that it doesn’t matters what someone who is not getting the joke thinks. Everyone playing in this league will likely get the “joke.” It’s not funny; it’s awful. I don’t play fantasy football and barely follow news on my own football team news, but know enough to vaguely recall that Aaron Hernandez murdered someone and killed himself. The fellow fantasy league players are understanding it, and it’s in terrible taste and definitely potential to trigger someone who is sensitive to suicide.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I’m from New England and he played for the Pats. Yeah, convicted of one murder, acquitted (but probably just as innocent as OJ) of two others. Nothing racial about the reference — he hanged himself in his prison cell.

        So it’s in incredibly bad taste. The sort of thing that goes from “what were you thinking?” to “WERE you thinking?” I think the person who said this guy has been naming teams like that with his buddies for the past ten years or so, and just continued, is probably right, but how could someone *not* see how this is going to go over with anyone who is not his drinking bros? And then to think the problem is *them*, not *him*???

        Besides, Aaron Hernandez’s name should be left to fade into obscurity. Remember Odin Lloyd instead — the man Hernandez was convicted of murdering.

        1. Observer*

          Nothing racial about the reference — he hanged himself in his prison cell.

          Yes, he hanged himself, so the primary reference is to suicide. But keep in mind that in all probability others outside of the league will see this. Also, the choice of a noose rather than a bed-sheet (which is what he used) is telling. Because I do remember the trial and later the suicide. Not because I follow sports (I don’t) but because this was a high profile set of events that was all over the news and there was A LOT of bigotry and racism splashed around.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I’m originally from the Deep South, and even though I was a kid and teen in the 80’s and 90’s…..and I could still at that time tell you who was the local chapter leader for the KKK.

            The noose has a very specific connotation for certain regions and populations. That imagery alone makes this team name and logo horrible – before we get into anything else (which the whole name is horrible, tbh).

  2. Chad*

    Holy overreaction on #1 Batman! Aaron Hernandez murdered someone. Yes, he committed suicide, but the dude murdered someone and was convicted. I think that team name is dumb, but I disagree with Alison’s jumping to it being insensitive about suicide. The dude murdered someone.

      1. Ginger Pet Lady*

        It’s worse to me, but I think because the references are about the way Hernandez died, it makes sense that Alison’s response addressed that instead of the murder.
        I agree we cannot forget what Hernandez did, but that’s not the reference that was made.

      2. JSPA*

        So it’s kryptonite for,
        A. people who have lost someone to violence
        B. people who have lost someone to suicide
        C. people who have lost (or are losing) someone to various sorts of brain injury
        D. people who feel anxious that they’re working with a psychopath (in the sense of, “someone who does not or cannot recognize, predict, process or avoid causing pain in others)…

        How long does the list need to be?

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          E. The noose imagery, which even independent of everything else is incredibly loaded and horrific to people–my first reaction was “was this guy lynched? Oh my God, the manager is joking about a hate crime murder?” because I didn’t know anything about the whole Hernandez thing.

          There’s no, NO “innocent” use of noose imagery in this context.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      And? Is it impossible to imagine that joking about suicide could be upsetting to someone even if the joke was about a bad person committing suicide?

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t think a workplace fantasy league team name should be referencing murderers either, to be honest!

        1. Antilles*

          Given that it’s been a decade, the thought process was very likely this:
          1.) A decade ago, when Hernandez was still recent, it was an edgy joke team name with football connotations in a league with friends where several people had crass or offensive team names – fitting right in with “Inflating Brady’s Balls” or a deez nuts joke or whatever.
          2.) He’s just kept that same team name ever since and didn’t even think about it.

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

        Seriously. That name is basically the definition of two wrongs don’t make a right!

        1. Chad*

          I don’t disagree. But (as I responded below), the company doesn’t have an issue with the illegal part (which could be offensive to recovering addicts) or that the commissioner went straight to HR instead of just asking him to change it. No, they get HR involved and OP was out of line to not say a word about the leagues when the emails first started coming across.

          OP is absolutely out of line on the inaction here.

          1. Artemesia*

            A guy who responds like this guy did is probably already known to be a bullying jerk — not the sort of person you ‘just talk to’ unless you are his boss or HR.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Yes and that’s why someone in the fantasy league took it to OP.
                I agree with Artemesia– this guy may be a problem. I hope OP considers flagging this with his boss, and quietly checking with people below him on the org chart to find out if there have been any other issues. (If he’s treating people unequally or otherwise behaving poorly it doesn’t matter to me how it was revealed.)

                1. RVA Cat*

                  This, plus it sounds like one of his direct reports is on his team, which smells of favoritism in addition to everything else inappropriate.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              The thing is I bet he’s already shown his colors to the team under him – and the letter says some of his reports are in that league. I bet they went to HR because they thought that was the only safe avenue left.

          2. Yaz*

            Like the person who says it was ridiculous for anyone to be offended was going to be receptive to peer feedback…

          3. Fluffy Fish*

            So your argument is there’s other things you personally think should have been addressed that were not. And since those other things are addressed, then the team name should have been fine?

            Well then lets just not do anything about anything!

            There’s always going to be things people feel are “wrongs” that aren’t being addressed. That’s not a justification.

          4. Observer*

            the company doesn’t have an issue with ~~~snip~~~ or that the commissioner went straight to HR instead of just asking him to change it.

            Why SHOULD the company have an issue with the fact that the commissioner went straight to HR. For one thing, it’s something that HR needs to know about anyway. Also, it’s quite obvious WHY the commissioner went straight to HR. This guy is a straight up jerk who would not have taken it down unless directed to by someone with the authority to insist.

          5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I would have because I would have assumed it was a joke about lynching (I learned about Hernandez from this letter) and I absolutely do not have the bandwidth to deal with anyone who makes lynching jokes at work. And, for his sake, that is probably for the best. Because I am white I could and would totally burn all my political capital to tell him exactly what I thought of him and people like him. He could explain to them that he the joke was really about a murderer who committed suicide.

          6. MCMonkeyBean*

            They “absolutely” are not. I don’t know if I’ve seen many more clear-cut “take this straight to HR” cases on this site tbh. The name is appalling and whoever reported it to HR was correct to do so, and OP is correct to be horrified at not only the original issue but at the employees terrible response to being asked to change it.

      2. Artemesia*

        Murder. Suicide. and the universal symbol of lynching. This guy should be fired — not for the initial poor judgment, but for not seeing it when notified by HR and resisting removing the name.

        1. Dr Smartypants*

          Totally agree! I had a situation happen to me where a colleague from another institution (this is HE) showed a noose in a zoom call full of black people AND joked about suicide at the same time, when confronted at a later date it was a response “sorry you feel this way about my actions”. If I had any power, firing is the only way to go. Personally, both in my case and the OP’s case, I’d never be able to work with that person again.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, if anything this is an *under* reaction because imo this should be cause for immediate termination.

      3. philmar*

        Every fantasy football league I’ve been in has had a team named something like “Ray Lewis’ Limousine.” It might be crass but here I think we’re now in the territory of true crime/celebrity crime. I.e. why would this be inappropriate but My Favorite Murder is not?

          1. Myrin*

            In fact, there was a letter here a few years ago where this was heavily discussed in the comment section.

          2. NotBatman*

            Strong agree. As someone who has lost a coworker to murder and seen friends permanently injured by an attempt, I find the whole premise disgustingly insensitive. People can listen to what they like, but salacious discussions of true crime should not happen at work.

        1. MsM*

          …I think that says more about who you’ve been playing with than whether this is a “just comes with the territory” kind of deal.

          1. So Tired*

            Right. My mom and I have been in her work’s fantasy football league for as long as I can remember and there has *never* been a name referring to crime or a person/player who committed a crime. I’ve seen plenty of punny team names in my years doing fantasy sports, but I would never think it’s ok or normal to have one related to such a topic.

        2. Nikki*

          What’s appropriate at work is very different from what’s appropriate in other contexts. I love My Favorite Murder and never miss an episode. It would be wildly inappropriate for me to go into detail about the gruesome crime discussed in the latest episode during a discussion with work colleagues. If this guy wanted to use this name for a non-work fantasy team, it would still be in poor taste but not nearly as problematic as doing this at work.

        3. yala*

          a limousine also isn’t the a widely-used symbol of lynching, and Lewis also didn’t commit suicide. But honestly, I would think naming a team after a murderer on MFM would be inappropriate as well.

          Maybe being common doesn’t make it okay

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          In my case I don’t know what you are talking about so wouldn’t care. In this case the noose takes it into the territory of pissing off people who aren’t even football fans

        5. starfox*

          This is a workplace event, so it doesn’t matter that the “traditional” names are crass and offensive. Do whatever you want in your free time… not at work.

          And yes, if someone put up a My Favorite Murder poster in their office or something (no idea if they make posters), that could be cause to complain to HR as well if someone found it offensive.

        6. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Is My Favorite Murder the name of a fantasy football team? Rhetorical question, because I would find it objectionable if it was–but as far as I know, the name of a true crime podcast has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.

          Context, context, context.

      4. Michelle*

        I personally wouldn’t involve myself in the situation with the great boss that moved to HR. The account of the coffee date, I assume, comes from the guy that asked her to coffee? Is it possible she *did* sense that he was after more than a friendly professional meeting? And that maybe she’s been having to navigate boundaries in a way that’s uncomfortable for her the whole time she was your boss?

        I dunno, I just don’t think you should chase after people who make it clear they don’t want you to do that. I’d assume she has good reasons for her chilliness and respect the new boundaries.

        1. Green Gator*

          I’d be surprised because he asked to meet her at work (we have a coffee shop on-site), not somewhere off-campus where they can avoid being seen by others. I suppose it is possible, but I doubt it. Yes, I am leaning toward just leaving it as-is rather than trying to maintain a professional relationship. I think she made it quite clear that she didn’t want any contact with her former team through her actions, though she is normally a very level-headed person.

      5. Hannah Lee*

        I don’t think a workplace fantasy league team name should be referencing murderers either, to be honest!

        Or simply nooses on their own, particularly along side the image of a person of color. That imagery invokes up a barge-load of baggage about the *violent* racist history in the US and depiction of nooses is often an attempt to intimidate people of color (leave or you’ll be lynched is the implied threat)

    3. just some guy*

      The name specifically references his suicide. IMHO either of those two elements makes it inappropriate, but about twice as many people die by suicide as by murder (US numbers) so you’re more likely to have co-workers who’ve been affected by suicide than by murder.

    4. Ginger Pet Lady*

      It absolutely IS insensitive to suicide.
      Alison’s response wasn’t meant to be a definitive statement about what’s wrong with Hernandez, it’s about what the name/image gets wrong.
      This is about the employee and what he named the team. Alison was not wrong to focus her response on that.

    5. Emily*

      Chad: Alison is not jumping to anything. Aaron Hernandez died by suicide by hanging. Him having killed someone doesn’t make joking about suicide ok. The team name is widly innapropriate and as Alison pointed out, the manager’s reaction is extremely worrying and shows a real lack of judgment.

      1. Chad*

        I think the name is dumb and I wouldn’t use it for work. But Mr Dumb Name is right – the fact the league commissioner didn’t ask him to change it first is a serious misstep and the fact that HR turns a blind eye to the leagues as bad too. To say, “I’ll get involved when people come up with dumb names and not bat an eye at the illegal gambling part” tells me Mr Dumb Name isn’t the only issue here.

        1. Curious*

          the concern about the illegality of gambling is a bit precious. First, gambling may or may not be illegal in your jurisdiction. one can’t watch a sportscast without seeing a dozen commercials for online sports betting. second, where it is illegal, it is considered below notice. Or do you get offended at folks driving 5mph in excess of the speed limit?

          1. Lucy P*

            I’m confused as to how it actually is illegal. Maybe I’m missing context here. I realize that sports betting is a big thing now, but I’ve been on plenty of fantasy leagues where no money was involved, including several in the office.

          2. Koalafied*

            In fact, in many states fantasy leagues are not considered gambling because they’re classified as games of skill rather than games of chance. Per a Forbes article, “the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 includes an explicit carve-out for fantasy sports games that meet three criteria: (1) the value of the prizes is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of fees paid; (2) all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants; and (3) the fantasy game’s result is not based on the final scores of any real-world games.”

            A handful of states do take a stricter view and consider it gambling if there’s ANY element of chance involved, but most take the view that it’s only gambling if it’s PREDOMINANTLY a game of chance. (And even in those states that view fantasy sports as games of chance, it’s still only gambling if there’s an entry fee and a cash prize, though I’m assuming LW wouldn’t have even mentioned gambling if those things weren’t present in this case.)

            1. Greg*

              Thanks for that clarification. I also thought I had read once that office pools for fantasy, March Madness, etc. are not gambling if there is no “house”, ie, all of the prize money is paid out to winners.

        2. Emily*

          Chad: You’re argument doesn’t make sense. Whether or not the league commissioner should have asked for the name change is irrelevant. The manager has shown terrible judgment twice, first by picking a horribly offensive team name (the name is not dumb, it’s offensive and you seem to be trying to downplay what the manager did by calling him Mr. Dumb Name), and second in his response to HR when they told him to change the name.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Honestly, a few of us have mentioned that the guy dug his heels in, and over the name of a fantasy football league that was incredibly offensive to boot. I have a feeling the commissioner is lower on the Org Chart and thought (correctly as it turned out) that he would need support getting this changed.

            1. Flash Packet*

              You know, what’s really striking is how many of us are attempting to explain to Chad why (1) the name is offensive and doesn’t belong at work, (2) it doesn’t matter that someone went to HR instead of Mr Dumb Name, and (3) Mr Dumb Name digging his heels in took a pocket-sized red flag up to the size of one that is flown outdoors on a flag pole. . .

              . . .and Chad is digging his heels on and inventing reasons why the offensive name isn’t offensive. Or if it’s offensive, it should be ignored because someone went to HR instead of following Chad’s Rules of Fantasy Football; and/or because haha these names are super common in Chad’s World of Fantasy Football; and/or because HR turning a blind eye to something that may or may not be illegal is an even worse sin than an offensive team name.

              Chad is literally doing what Mr Dumb Name did. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re being trolled.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Flash Packet, I think it’s quite likely that we’re being trolled. But I must admit that I’ve enjoyed reading all the replies telling him (politely, because this is AAM) that he’s wrong.

                If this is trolling, I doubt that the troll is getting much satisfaction out of it. ;-p

        3. Observer*

          the fact the league commissioner didn’t ask him to change it first is a serious misstep

          And because of this, the OP and HR should ignore it?

          Also, what makes you think that he is telling the truth about reacting like a reasonable human being? Remember, his first reaction is that the mere idea of being offended is “ridiculous”. There is no good reason to believe that people don’t know what his attitude is like.

          “I’ll get involved when people come up with dumb names and not bat an eye at the illegal gambling part”

          So, according to you, is it ok for police to dismiss car theft because the victim was parked illegally?

        4. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Ah yes, the good old “the first person I encountered didn’t care so you shouldn’t either” argument.

    6. Empress Matilda*

      I have no idea who Aaron Hernandez is, but I did lose a close friend to suicide by hanging. Surely you can see how this kind of thing is not appropriate in a work context?

    7. NotARacoonKeeper*

      The fact that Hernandez had a work-caused disability that causes irrational behaviour and suicidality (CTE) makes this response extra extra gross. It’s more than likely if he hadn’t pursued football as a career, none of those murders/shooting his bff in the face would have happened, not his suicide, so let’s back off the idea that joking about his own death is fine.

      (Also, for the record, hiking about suicide is basically never okay in my books, but how is it a question that we shouldn’t do so at work?)

        1. Worldwalker*

          Consider the subject.

          Consider the Florida ballots of the 2000 presidential election.

          Consider the offender’s name.

          Make your own puns.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      Yes quite right, it’s just as ghoulish to those affected by murder as well as those affected by suicide.

    9. Andrea*

      “Aaron Hernandez murdered someone.”

      What better way to celebrate that homicide. Name your fantasy football team after the perp. LULZ

      Get a grip ghoul.

    10. Irish Teacher.*

      Personally, I think that makes it worse as that means it’s sort of referencing suicide AND murder, so now there’s the risk of causing serious discomfort to people who have connections with either. And you may not know. I stumbled upon something online that mentioned a colleague’s husband had relatives who were murdered. Before they met and she never mentions it.

      I think that makes it even less of an overreaction. Not that it would be OK if it were “only” likely to upset those who had known somebody who died by suicide or who had made attempts themselves or knew somebody who had, but adding on the connection to murder, to prison and the possibility it could be mistaken as being a racist reference…woah, that has layers of awfulness

      Though I agree with Alison that the reaction is the worst part.

      1. Despachito*

        References to suicide and murder be poor taste even if there was nobody around who had direct experience with them.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Exactly.

          This guy used a name that was funny with his drinking bros, then insisted that it should also be appropriate at work. That’s in the same vein as telling fart jokes at a board meeting and saying everyone is over-sensitive because they didn’t laugh.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Nearly everyone I know has lost a friend or relative to suicide. My personal list of the lost has at least three names on it, maybe more if I stop to tally it up. Not a joking matter.

    11. Storm in a teacup*

      I’m a bit confused as to why the fantasy football league is being called illegal and gambling?
      Our one you all just set up a team and choose players. Obviously there is fake money to spend on players but you don’t pay to play. There isn’t any actual real money that goes in or gets bet – just the glory of winning and lording it over your mates for a few months.

      1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

        I used to work for lawyers and the Sweet Sixteen was the only thing that got done in March every year. This kind of league is NOT illegal in most states. The difference between this and a casino is that the “house” does not keep any part of the money. As long as all the money goes to the winner(s), it is okay in the eyes of the law.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          From Forbes via google:
          “In Recent Ruling, IRS Again Concludes That Daily Fantasy …
          Oct 19, 2020 — In a Private Letter Ruling, the IRS concluded that daily fantasy sports are gambling transactions.”

          1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

            Thank you! Please note that this is the IRS – they want you to declare your winnings. I am going to go read the article though to see what it says.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Right? The IRS doesn’t much care how you got the money so long as they get their cut. See also, Al Capone, tax evasion, etc etc. :)

          2. Snarky McSnarkerson*

            “The distinction is a nuanced one, but one that, long before it drew the attention of the IRS, has been debated in numerous states around the country. Individual states vary in their regulation of DFS: some have determined that DFS is illegal gambling under state law, while others have enacted legislation based on the premise that DFS is indeed a game of skill, not gambling, in order to decriminalize the activity under state law. Still other states enacted legislation simply stating that DFS is not gambling (without opining on whether DFS is a game of skill), while others have taken no position specifically relating to DFS. And some states have seemingly done all of the above; as evidence, look no further than the epicenter of the legal battle surrounding DFS: New York.”

            “DFS” means daily fantasy sports according to the Forbes article. For the most part, they are discussing corporations such as FanDuel and DraftKings. The main question is whether fantasy sports are a game of chance or a game of skill. The IRS says they are a game of chance (shocking) and therefore are wagers. The paragraph above that I quoted from the article is in line with what I said. Some states say it’s not illegal; some states do. Regardless of whether it’s legal or illegal, the IRS still wants you to claim winnings.

            1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

              Right, but that is specific to the question of pay to play leagues, where the league runner is taking a portion of the transactions as their monetizing scheme.

          3. Old and don’t care*

            Daily fantasy sports are, as mentioned below, conducted by for-profit corporations and are different than fantasy football leagues conducted among friends, where there generally no “house” take.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yup – there is a fantasy football league where I work – buyin of zero. All that’s needed to play is a wish to play. Spouse’s job has a league as well, buyin is a nickel per player.

              The IRS is only concerned if there’s money involved so they collect their portion of the winnings (if there are any winnings).

          4. doreen*

            I may have read a bunch of stuff wrong , but it seems there were two decisions in 2020 where the IRS decided that Daily Fantasy sports (not season-long leagues ) are gambling. One decision was whether the money paid to DraftKings or FanDuel was a “wager” and therefore possibly deductible when the tax return was filed – the IRS decided yes, it’s gambling and therefore a wager and potentially deductible as a gambling loss. If I itemize deductions and report $2000 in gambling winnings , I can deduct up to $2000 in losses on schedule A and it’s not subject to a 2% limit. If I win $2000 as a prize in a non-gambling event, ( such as a golf tournament) , I can deduct expenses including the entry fee but I have to do it as business or hobby income and the methods used are different from the method to deduct gambling losses.

            The other decision was about whether DraftKings, etc. had to pay an excise tax imposed on wagers. Shockingly, the IRS decided they do.

            Neither decision has anything to do with whether a season-long league where no one profits except as a player is legal under state laws.

          5. Worldwalker*

            Note “daily” — this is things like Draft Kings, which basically *are* sports betting, not “rotisserie league” type groups.

      2. TBagpuss*

        I assume it depnds how it’s set up.
        The ones I’ve seen (I am not in the US so rules may differ, both about whether it is classed as gambling and whether it’s legal) were slways on the basis that eveyone paid a small amount to play, the winner got 50% of that pot as their prize and the other 50% was donated to charity.

    12. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I knew absolutely nothing about the Hernandez situation until I googled it on reading this letter. Yes I do live under a rock, and when I say I am indifferent to sportsball I am really indifferent.

      My first thought was that he had the noose because his name was Hernandez and the team was his gang. Gang+noose in my brain = lynch mob. Now this would not offend me because of any lynch mob fears on my own behalf, but I’d find referring to your team as a lynch mob something inappropriate at work (and in life – but this is a work blog) and I’d really want to avoid working with or sending work to this guy’s team or any one he recommended to me. Because of this stupid team name, I think he’s an unprofessional douche who is tone deaf at best, racist at worst.

      Now imagine I am a current or potential client or a VC whose cash you want to woo. What impact do you think his dumb joke would have on the business. This is why it had to go to HR.

      1. TBagpuss*

        Yes, I wasn’t aware of the case but a clearly hispnic name and a noose would say ‘racist lynching’ to me, and having read about the case it then comes acoss as mocking the suicice of a mentally ill man who committed murder.
        It’s gross, insensitive and not remotely funny, either way

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. The chance for interpretations of those in the know and those NOT in the know to reflect poorly on the business is high with this one. I’m glad someone took it to HR. I’d hate to be the employee who brings a potential client into the office and it blows up because that person gets pissed all because this manager thought his joke was funny

          1. Worldwalker*

            I’m not sure what’s worse — to not know about Hernandez so someone thinks it’s a reference to lynching, or to know it’s a reference to murder and suicide. I think we’re getting into the question of what’s worse — dying of heatstroke or dying of hypothermia. There comes a point of awfulness where it’s meaningless to try to determine which alternative is more awful.

    13. Michelle Smith*

      So because someone commits a horrible harm against someone else we should have free reign to bring them up in professional contexts and laugh at them? You really wouldn’t have a problem with him making Cosby jokes in his team name, for example? Just because you don’t have any sympathy for Aaron Hernandez due to his crime doesn’t mean Alison is wrong. She is in fact, spot on, and you are scarily out of touch.

    14. Miette*

      It is a WORK LEAGUE. He is a MANAGER. Of, you know, PEOPLE.

      The noose is horribly insensitive full stop, with zero context. Understanding the context might elicit a smirk in some corners (I’ll bet it did where he worked before), but it’s still in horrifyingly bad taste.

    15. yala*

      A. What…does that have to do with anything? Do you think the reason we feel joking with suicide is inappropriate is because it would hurt *his* feelings or something?

      B. Putting that aside, noose imagery generally isn’t appropriate at work for a few reasons.

      C. Honestly, kinda feel like the fact that he murdered someone makes this worse, not better?

    16. the cat's ass*

      eww. This is so not okay, on so many levels, and then that new manager doubled down and was defensive when called out, even less okay. HR needs to keep an eye out for this one; his judgement is really questionable.

    17. Fluffy Fish*

      So joking about suicide is a-ok as long as that person murdered someone? I don’t think you get to decide its not insensitive on behalf of people who’s lives have been affected by suicide.

      Everything surrounding that situation is a tragedy – and it’s disgusting to joke about.

      Not to mention this is work – a place where many things are off limits.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, it would even be inappropriate if it was “Hanging with Epstein” and a noose. Because even when the guy was white and an accused pedo it is not work appropriate.

    18. Worldwalker*

      People who murdered people are generally not funny, at least not unless they’ve been dead for a few centuries. Atilla the Hun is fair game for jokes; Josef Stalin isn’t.

    19. Spero*

      I’ve lost a loved one to suicide by hanging, and I would find this horrifically insensitive regardless of whether he was a murderer or not. If I see a reference to hanging by noose I always think of my lost friend regardless of if it’s a lynching reference, suicide, etc. Also, suicide is always a tragedy even when the person ‘deserves to be dead’ by your metric.

    20. Sparkles McFadden*

      For me, it’s not the original tasteless action that’s the main issue. The real problem is the guy’s response to being told he’s violating the company’s social media policy and being asked to make changes. Saying anything but “OK, I’ll go make those changes” would be problematic, but the guy sends a defensive response to HR and dismisses the idea that anyone should be offended by his “joke.”

      In my experience, this is the type of manager who doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions or listen to anyone else. He’s also the type who makes offensive remarks all day and then says “Just kidding. Can’t you take a joke?” This is someone to monitor, especially since he’s new to the company. I’d love an update to this one because I’m guess HR is going to see lots more problematic behavior very soon.

    21. Unaccountably*

      No one’s going to HR to complain about hurting Aaron Hernandez’ feelings, and OP’s co-workers didn’t kill anyone. I think you’re missing the point.

    22. fhqwhgads*

      Right, so…the dude murdered someone, naming a team after him is bad because of that. The dude hanged himself in his cell, so using a noose is a second level of in bad taste. It’s double bad judgement. Also, imagery of nooses is super loaded, regardless of why it’s displayed, so that’s third bad judgement.
      “He’s a murderer so it’s ok to mock his death” seems to be your argument? But why the hell would anyone want to bring him up in the first place?

    23. Darsynia*

      Gotta add my voice to the idea that no, this is not an overreaction. This is an inappropriate reference in a work setting. It’s unnecessary, leads to all-around bad connotations, and I have to reiterate: not work appropriate.

      Sure, you can decide on your own time to associate yourself with ‘punishing’ someone who is a stranger to you by naming your fantasy football league something you think is funny and references his manner of death. But that is not something to do at work, and it’s not an overreaction for work colleagues to push back on this astonishing lack of judgment.

    24. Curmudgeon in California*

      No, it’s not an overreaction.

      The “joke” ends up referencing murder, suicide, race, homophobia, lynching, and sensationalism. Any one of these things is not work appropriate.

  3. Luxurylime*

    I’m just…dumbfounded at the fantasy football name. It’s incredibly tone deaf and honestly, just gross. The fact that he thinks it’s not a big deal is a HUGE red flag.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      His reaction is the most annoying part for me, lol. The idea that no one could possibly be bothered by it – he knows what he did and usually the “defense” for this kind of thing is that people are too sensitive and don’t appreciate his “edgy humor” or whatever, but he’s trying to pretend… that he’s just extremely clueless and unfunny? What’s even the point

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I wonder if anyone has checked this person’s references. It just seems really strange to me that a manager could have such an immature sense of … well, humanity, and for it to have never come up at work before. He’s not a teen boy on the internet, he has people’s wellbeing in his hands. It could just be that it’s one bad joke, and an embarrassed and defensive response to being called out (though that’s not great either), and this is all therefore isolated. However I’d want to check his references and keep an eye out for future “jokes”.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m stealing “an immature sense of humanity” for future use. An immature sense of humor is fart jokes… this is just lacking in empathy and bringing up an entire bushelful of issues that don’t belong in the workplace.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, when people say that the offended person should have come to them directly, it’s because they feel entitled to have an opportunity to try to convince the person to not be offended (while they change nothing about their behavior). but based on how poorly he reacted, he’s just proving that the person made the correct decision to not talk to him directly.

        1. Sauces*

          I’m not 100% sure that’s the case here to be honest, considering we don’t have any evidence that this is a consistent thing from this person. I’d never do what this guy did in particular because it’s WILDLY stupid, but yeah I’d maybe be a bit confused and frustrated if someone went to HR about a single (relatively minor in the grand scheme of things) indiscretion without mentioning it to me first.

          They’d be well within their rights to escalate it, but I think we’ve all made a comment, joke, whatever that didn’t go over how we thought it would and if it’s an isolated incident, most normal people would respond well to a “hey, don’t do that you idiot” before making it a “thing.”

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Expecting someone who is feeling hurt and vulnerable to talk to the person who hurt them and has already shown that they are insensitive around the issue is a pretty tall expectation. This is doubly true if the person is from a more privileged group or company role (such as a manager).

            That’s half of the role of HR. Why should someone–particularly a subordinate–risk retaliation and being labeled melodramatic?

      3. Big Bank*

        The point of team names like this is literally to walk the offensive line. His mock outrage to it being considered offensive is… clearly a game. He knew how it could be received but figured people wouldn’t call him on it.

        Which is a public league, if you didn’t like this “humor” you find another league. His failing to appreciate his coworkers (and directs!) don’t just get to walk away from him when he’s being crass is very concerning.

      4. Lizzianna*

        “People are ridiculous for being offended!”

        “Why didn’t this person come directly to me!?”

        The fact that he doesn’t see the contradiction in these two statements means that I would keep a very close eye on him as a manager. (Or he does see the contradiction and doesn’t care, which, in my opinion, is even worse.)

        If he responds this way to being called out by HR, I would be really worried how he’s treating members of his team. This type of defensiveness is really hard to coach.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Same. If he’d just recycled his hobby league’s name without thinking about how work is different I would be totally OK with it if he said, “Oops! Never even thought of that” and changed it. His reaction to being talked to makes me think he’s a giant crybully who should just cry harder

    2. Heidi*

      The manager’s response is particularly lacking in awareness: “It is ridiculous that anyone could find that offensive and even more ridiculous that someone would report this to HR instead of bringing it to me.”

      Umm…maybe they didn’t report it directly to him because he would just tell them they’re being ridiculous?

      1. Gritter*

        Normally I’d agree that people should at attempt to adress issues with people directly and only involve HR as a last resort. But here I’d make an exception, this a real violation of professional norms.

        1. Evergreen*

          I also found it concerning that the person reporting it called the name “personally amusing but professionally horrifying”

          1. Observer*

            Yeah. But at least this is someone who gets a REALLY important distinction. And this distinction is where I would say that “you can’t always work with people who think like you.”

            But I certainly would never want to be friends with this guy!

          2. Gritter*

            I don’t think that’s an issue. There nothing inherently wrong with laughing at a bad taste joke as long as you recognise there is a time and place for it.
            What you laugh at in a bar with your friends is different to what you would laugh at in work.

            Most adults should be able to tell the difference, a manager has no excuse for not being able to.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. This guy reacted poorly and pushed back to HR bringing it up. Can you imagine being a peer or, even worse, a subordinate trying to bring something up? Shoot, for all we know someone did talk to him and he blew them off

    3. MEH Squared*

      Agreed. Everything about his response is terrible, including his claim that he couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t just tell him that they were offended by his name. It would make me very uncomfortable, but I certainly would want to tell SOMEONE, if not him.

    4. pinetree*

      His response is so over-the-top that I wonder if he deliberately went with a team name as provocative as possible as some bizarre version of a power play. For people of a certain political ilk/temperament, instigating confrontation is a core part of their persona. They relish playing the victim. I can see this being the start of this guy’s campaign to push boundaries and keep attention focused on him at all times.

      1. RVA Cat*

        That was my impression too, especially with the politics on LinkedIn blurring boundaries.

        TBH this tasteless “joke” reminds me of the letter where an intern (?) made a 9/11 joke in front of a victim’s relative. The fact he’s manager makes it worse.

  4. just some guy*

    On #4: some employers put restrictions on outside work as a condition of employment. These can either be hard restrictions (“no outside work without manager’s approval”) or soft (“outside work must not conflict with your duties here”). If the new employer has policies of that kind, that could provide a diplomatic out.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is almost always a mistake to consult with former place when you leave because the first few months on a new job are when you are working extra hard to learn your ax and also trying to make a strong impression. She doesn’t need to weasel around with an excuse ‘I am just covered up with the demands of the new job and won’t have time to work for Oldcorp ‘ is the best answer. A boss this offensive and aggressive is not beyond calling up the new company to check on their policy or ask an exception be made because ‘she promised to help us out.’ You want a firm ‘no’ not a ‘oh I would if only I could but they won’t let me..’

    2. Cat Tree*

      I’m not optimistic that the dysfunctional workplace will be respectful of such policies. This really is a case where it’s OK to just ignore them! They have no power over OP anymore. They don’t give OP a paycheck and OP doesn’t have to interact them on a regular basis so doesn’t need to keep the peace. They were unlikely to ever give a good reference in any case. They won’t listen to reason. Just block, ignore, and move on with life.

      1. Lydia*

        It’s not so much that the former workplace will respect them, but it gives the OP an easy, and repeatable out if they don’t take the hint.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Don’t give an excuse unless you would be pleased if someone came up with a workaround so you could do the thing after all.

    4. Colette*

      The OP would be better off using Alison’s advice and saying no, unless she wants the previous boss to contact her employer and ask them to make an exception.

    5. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here!

      Yes, good point and I thought of that. The problem is any sort of answer that was not “no” has been taken as “maybe” – even that response would be met with more and more follow up.

      I took Alison’s great advice and just wrote back that I am unable to take this on. Period. Feels great now that it’s over :)

      1. Leems*

        Awesome! This is one of those times when remembering “no is a complete sentence” served you well. Best in the new role!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        So glad to hear! Feel free to block them too, so you don’t have to waste a single second more on that dumpster fire.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    #3 – If he doesn’t offer details and you only have a newish working relationship with him, it’s totally acceptable to not ask/pry.

    If you want, if the topic of the meetings comes up in conversation, you could say something like “If there’s anything else I can do, just let me know” and leave it intentionally vague/open-ended. If he wants to provide more info, then he can. If he doesn’t, then you’ve made the overture and don’t have to worry that you were “rude” or “uncaring”.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yeah, I agree. If it happens to come up organically, I think you can say something like “I hope everything is okay and if there’s ever anything you need from me, please don’t hesitate to ask,” but it sounds like your boss is a private person, so not prying is definitely the way to go.

    2. Pucci*

      It also doesn’t have to be anything of concern. He may simply have scheduled a number of routine medical checkups for September, after the kids are back at school/after family vacations/etc. Dentist, optometrist, physical, allergist, colonoscopy etc can be time consuming but not mean that he is at all ill.

      1. drinking Mello Yello*

        This. e.g. I usually need to do a round or two of physical therapy every year for my hypermobility. Nothing dire, just keeps me functioning better.

      2. Ann Onymous*

        I’ve got a couple chronic conditions that require some routine monitoring and extra doctor’s appointments, and occasionally I end up with several appointments in a short period of time. It’s still all stuff that’s just routine for me, but I worry that somebody will think what OP did – that there’s something wrong. For practical purposes my coworkers need to know if I’m going to be out of the office, but my chronic conditions aren’t something I want to discuss at work. If OP’s boss wanted them to know more details, he would have shared them.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, I just went through a month of that . There’s nothing terribly wrong – but my every five-year colonoscopy ended up getting scheduled close to the time when I had my yearly ophthalmologist appointment which was the same month as both my four times a year blood test and every four month visit to the cardiologist.

          1. alienor*

            Same here. With one thing and another, I haven’t been to the doctor in a few years beyond what was required to get prescriptions refilled. Just went last month and left with multiple referrals to get caught up on everything and deal with a few minor complaints – nothing life-threatening, but it’ll probably total 6 or 7 appointments before I’m done.

      3. Diocletian Blobb*

        Yeah, I had several months after starting my then-new job where I was going to medical/dental appointments every other week simply because it was the first time in years I’d had decent health insurance and had a ton of long-standing-but-not-urgent stuff to get taken care of.

      4. Books and Cooks*

        My dad is in the process of getting injections for degenerative eyesight (don’t recall the exact name offhand) and will be getting cataracts removed soon. (Dad is 78.) I drive him to these appointments. They aren’t long or difficult, but there are a decent number of them, especially in the lead-up to the cataract surgery where he’s had to have a bunch of scans and exams. It’s certainly possible that Boss is driving an older relative to appointments, or maybe they’re for him and they’re like Dad’s eyes–not a huge deal, just a lot of appointments in a fairly short time period.

    3. Maz*

      Exactly. You could just say in passing that you have no intention of prying, but please let you know if there’s ever anything you can do.

  6. nnn*

    #1: It’s not so much that he made a joke name that grossly misfired, it’s the “It is ridiculous that anyone could find that offensive” part.

    Surely he should be able to see how a noose and a murderer and suicide could be offensive elements, even if he disagrees on whether it’s outweighed by whatever the joke is (I’d never heard of any of this before reading this blog post so I can’t tell what the joke is)

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah. Any of us might occasionally make a joke that it upsetting to other people; we all have moments of questionable judgement.

      But the complete gracelessness? Oof. No wonder no one came to him about it!

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed 100%, we’ve all (or at least most of us) make mistakes and think something is funny that is actually offensive. When that is pointed out, the reaction should not be anything close to this guy’s reaction, yikes! I even understand some defensiveness, but to claim not have any clue why this is possibly offensive to someone?

      And yeah, I would prefer someone come direct to me too and say something, but based on this person’s reaction, I can understand why someone would skip trying to talk directly to the guy and go straight to HR. You have to earn folks’ trust before they are going to be willing to speak up to you on something like this.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      Yup, this is a clear example of the principle that in many cases what really says what kind of person you are is less what you do and more how you react when somebody calls you out on it. Somebody who just made a really poor choice would be horrified at the thought that they might have give offence, not dismissive.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, I once innocently used a term which apparently has the capacity to offend (in French, so I had no idea – a very similar word in English being perfectly harmless) and when it was pointed out to me, I was horrified and embarrassed and couldn’t apologise profusely enough, because obviously I didn’t want to offend anyone.

        OTOH a former colleague signed up for a marathon and was added to a chat of other participants at the firm. Turned out some of the boss’s friends were on there too, posting nudes with very rude comments. When she complained, they all laughed, they didn’t care in the least that the one woman on the chat was uncomfortable. She noped right out (but still finished the marathon, being incredible and all that).

    4. Beth*

      Speaking as someone who had no idea about the murder and suicide reference, my first thought was “Lynching”, which is NOT an improvement. If this dude can’t learn from this mistake, he needs to be fired.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Honestly, this name and the logo is just horrible all the way round – and his reaction is just the crap topping to the total s*** sandwich of this situation.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. Any one of those elements – murder, suicide or noose would be work inappropriate. All three is triple yikes.

    6. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I think the joke is that the phrase “hanging out” (spending social time with) is similar to the word “hanging” (with a noose). That’s it! That’s the so-called joke. A crappy play on words that’s offensive even without any context, plus the image of a noose to make it worse.

  7. AnonyMouse*

    I’m not sure how it’s up for debate whether noose imagery and references to suicide are okay in the workplace. Both are wildly inappropriate for many reasons. As someone who has lost a friend to suicide, I hope OP / HR addresses this.

    1. L-squared*

      In fairness, if I’m giving this guy the benefit of the doubt, I think that since there are a number (not sure how many that number is) of non company employees there, the question becomes whether or not this is a work league or a social league that includes coworkers. If you see it as the former, I think its out of line. If you see it as the latter, I can also see why the guy would be upset that someone would go to HR about it.

      I don’t necessarily believe that just the fact that some coworkers are there makes it a work league, just like if I have a party and a few coworkers are there, I wouldn’t call it a work party. Do certain restrictions still apply? Sure. But I also can see feeling a bit more comfortable being a bit more edgy with stuff than if it was all coworkers

      1. starfox*

        If it’s being discussed in the workplace and non-participants are being sent emails about it, it’s a work thing.

        1. L-squared*

          Again, it depends on a lot.

          As an example, I’ve had work emails in my office go around saying “My softball team has a couple of extra spots, would anyone be interested in playing”. If it was something like that, I don’t know that I’d consider that a work softball team, even if the original emails that went out about it were done through work. Its clearly not made up of ALL work people.

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

    You gotta love the obliviousness of the guy in #1. Dude doubles down on a glaring error of judgement, than can’t figure out why someone might not want to bring it up to him personally. Gee, I wonder why…

    1. Miette*

      Exactly this. Anyone defending this guy’s stance about who ought to have approached him isn’t the point at all. My dude, you are giving off vibes that you wouldn’t have taken it well. That should be your takeaway (and perhaps a point OP should look into a bit or perhaps bring up to him?)

    2. starfox*

      Yeah I mean, I guess ideally, you bring it up to your coworker before you go above them. But the league commissioner clearly didn’t know what to do in this situation, so they asked their boss. I think based on the guy’s response, we can assume how he would’ve treated the league commissioner if they had come directly to him!

  9. Sleeve McQueen*

    #5 I once took a job with the intention of staying there for under a year for some experience and then going travelling but ultimately decided I’d rather stay where I was. I got made redundant from the company 17 years later when it downsized. Unless you’ve got a non-refundable one-way ticket to the space station, things can always change.

    1. Plumbum*

      One of my coworkers was talking about this the other day, that she’s been here over 15 years despite accepting the job “temporarily” because she lived around the corner.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Right? I took a job earlier this month just to finish out my degree (graduate in March 2023) and I am just terrified of getting stuck here because I know this is a terrible fit for me.

          1. Lydia*

            Right, but I don’t think the people the other posters are mentioning “got stuck” or took jobs that made them miserable. So while this may be a bad situation for you to find yourself in, it’s not going to be the same for everyone.

            1. Kyrielle*

              This. My first job, I intended to stay 2 years and then try for a job in my “dream industry”.

              I ended up learning more about that dream industry, AND about the one I’d landed in, and I came to absolutely love my work and stayed there over a decade. I had other options and could have left, but I liked what I was doing (and the progress I was making, internal to the company).

    2. Asenath*

      I accepted a part-time job as a temporary measure when I was planning to finish a course and then apply for a job in a different field. I retired from the job (which went full-time a year or so after I started) nearly twenty years later. You never know when your plans might change.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I took a six month contract at a hospital because I needed a job, but after living with my mom who had been a medical biller/coder for 20 years, I knew it was going to be a short-term thing. 18 years later…

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the second-hand “Agh! Just…. agh” letters here was from someone trying to figure out how to convince a relative (sister-in-law?) to take the training that her work offered. To become a supervisor, at a markedly higher pay rate that started with the training, because they thought she was great. Relative didn’t see herself working there long term (despite being there for years) and she was going to do something else (though years later hadn’t). More money would have really helped; a resume that listed her promotions and greater responsibilities would have really helped with the hypothetical future career switch; but she would never do any training at this job because she’d decided that some future day she would have a different job.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      I took my first jobs fully intending to quit as soon as I had the funds saved for a PhD degree (I figured about 2 years). Discovered I liked having an income, had the intellectual stimulation I needed, and didn’t miss my area of academic focus. MANY years later, I am still in the same industry.

      Accept the training!

    6. Quinalla*

      Yeah, it’s great to have plans, but always remember that circumstances can change a lot or a little and completely derail those plans. If you already had a new job offer, yeah it might make sense to pass on this opportunity, but it’s 2 years out. Take the opportunity, as Alison said you will give plenty back to your company in that time for it to be a worthwhile investment, but even if you felt it wasn’t quite enough time, you shouldn’t put stuff on hold at your current workplace for something that isn’t set in stone yet.

    7. Charlotte Lucas*

      I also took a job intending to be there 6 months & stayed 17 years. (I did leave of my own volition, probably 5-10 years later than I should have.)

      Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

    8. turquoisecow*

      I just passed my five year anniversary at my current job. I was supposed to cover for someone on maternity leave, and they decided not to return. I’ve since done two or three other jobs, all at the same company, and am now part time remote.

    9. Librarian of SHIELD*

      One of my coworkers took a part time job at our organization, intending to stay about a year to save up enough money to take his wife on a fancy vacation. 15 years later, he’s still here working full time.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      I took my current job and intended to stay for only 2 years because of the low pay. But it has everything else: good and fun work, good co-workers, good management, good work-life balance, good learning opportunities, and I’ve been in enough jobs to know that if I left this job for more pay, I’d lose out on at least one or two of those other things. My 10 year mark is coming up, and I’ll retire in a couple of years. I have adequate money.

    11. starfox*

      Yeah I’m in year 3 of my “temporary while I finish grad school” job! I got a fantastic, unforeseen promotion.

  10. MK*

    #2, since this former manager has moved on to HR, it’s not odd that she is trying to become more distant with her former reports, with things like unfriending them on social media, refusing to meet for coffee and generally not being social with them. HR isn’t supposed to be too close with the other employees.

    Her unfriending only half the team is odd, but maybe she made the selection with some valid factor in mind (like only staying connected with people she won’t be an HR contact for). Her not talking to her former team, well it depends what the OP means by that. Is she refusing to speak to them at all, that’s weird, but maybe she just keeps any conversations work-related and professional. As for the guy who asked her for coffee, it’s possible that he was trying to hit on her and is now backpeddaling like crazy.

    All in all, I cannot figure out if this is someone who is trying to transition her work relationships into the impartiality required from HR, maybe not in the most gracious way, or someone who is really behaving oddly.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I wonder if she was warm to her staff as part of being an excellent manager, even those she didn’t like, and no longer feels obliged to pretend. She’s remained facebook friends only with those people she actually likes.

      I think it’s the wrong way to do it – she’s still working for the company, there are more subtle ways to get someone out your facebook feed, and this is clearly impacting her reputation. But it’s possible. In which case, LW, stay low key, and try not to push the connection beyond what she’s responsive to. If you are no longer one of the facebook friends, stay extremely low key.

      1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

        That’s also what I thought. Everyone loved her as a manager, but she didn’t really like some of them.

      2. pie*

        +1 to this. I just left a job where my direct reports thought I was the best supervisor they ever had. Turns out it was KILLING me to be that person and I went to a job without direct reports.

        Now…I’m not being rude to them now that I’m gone and certainly haven’t accused any of them of untoward behavior. Still doing it wrong, but really think it’s plausible she didn’t actually like some people.

      3. Alternative Person*

        Same, it’s not a good look, but that’s where my mind went. Some people just discard others once they’re done being ‘useful’ to them.

    2. cncx*

      yeah, part of me too is like maybe she’s having a hard time navigating the transition to HR and is going about it in an awkward way but then another part of me is like you said, is she just being really odd?

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah…I do think there’s a much larger middle space for odd as awkward as opposed to bad or problematic.

        I worked for a really long at a place with very high dysfunction, therefore when I had a job with a supervisor who seemed normal and nice in a largely normal workplace environment it felt like a true godsend. Now unfortunately because of how much time I’d had at an incredibly bad workplace, it took me a lot longer to realize the issues at that place. Nothing was on fire or horrible, but it was a place with weaknesses. Combined with a big name reputation, it was a good place to do your time and then move on with the resume bump.

        My supervisor who I’d reported into for years and felt like I had a good relationship with, never offered me her personal email address or offered to be a reference in the future. She’s never talked to me since via LinkedIn and despite knowing deep down there’s no reason for her to “hate” me, my work, or how I left anything…it’s been odd. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to from that job has always just flagged this as her just being a bit odd and not quite having that larger picture grasp on being a supervisor/mentor.

        All to say, feeling sad about this is normal. Either this means that this former supervisor 100% no longer has your back or at best would be a fine job reference but is no longer willing to be a mentor. And that sucks without it meaning anything more sinister.

    3. KateM*

      I had read enough AAM “what HR should do and with whom not have friends” stories that the only weird part for me is that she hasn’t unfriended *all* previous colleagues. (Although now that I reread it, OP only wrote “maintained online connections” – maybe those that she maintained were in linkedin or another non-facebook place.)

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I’m coming down on this being likely. Sounds like they were all in HR and she was their boss. Now she’s in another part of HR and realized that she may need to weigh in disciplining the people she used to supervise so is cutting ties. Or realizing she shouldn’t have been quite so friendly on social media in the first place.

        Specifically for the social media aspect: How does the LW know that she only unfriended/unfollowed some people on social media? If that is true, it’s also possible she’s unfriending old employees as they pop up in her feed. Or just missed unfriending some people; my friend’s list is huge (and I’m thoughtful about FB, but sometimes one meeting and friending doesn’t lead to more in person connections). Or maybe she’s unfriending on FB, but not IG because she doesn’t remember her IG password.

    4. Nutella and banana on toast*

      I feel like the OP may not have all the information here. The unfriending some people online isn’t odd when you change positions, and there may be a reason they are not talking to their former team. Going from Customer Service manager to HR, I would expect that they would need to cut out the former teams questions (which you always get an onslaught of when you leave as a manager) or if they were making complaints about the new manager.

    5. Koalafied*

      I had similar thoughts. If she’s truly icing people out in a deliberate way, like blanking people who try to hello in the hallway, then she’s definitely overcorrecting or something else is going on. But if it’s just that she’s left the team’s social channel on Slack and doesn’t take her break in the same place and hasn’t been coming to find them during the day to chat, that could be easily explained by a combination of her being busy getting up to speed on her new job, and making time for chatting with her old team no longer being a priority worth deliberately carving out time in the workday for as it was when she was actively managing them.

      Similar thoughts as well about the fellow who asked her to coffee. If she really did point blank accuse him of hitting on her out of nowhere over a simple coffee invitation, that’s indeed strange. But I could see a few explanations that would make it less strange: One, that she said something along the lines of “inappropriate (because she’s now in HR),” and the fellow interpreted “inappropriate (because obviously you’re hitting on me)” – like perhaps it didn’t occur to him that she was worried about impartiality in her new role and he just assumed that she was calling his invitation inappropriate on the basis of assuming romantic intent.

      Or, like you say, maybe he *was* hitting on her and reacted to rejection by protesting that she had gotten the wrong idea – after all, he wouldn’t be the first married man to hit on a married woman, and it could be damage control.

      1. Green Gator*

        Can confirm that it was point blank. She sent him back about 4-5 paragraphs accusing him of trying to hit on her in response to a calendar invite for an on-campus coffee. I think it’d be one thing if he wanted to meet her off-site too, but the invite specified that it would be on-campus (we have a coffee shop there).

    6. Malarkey01*

      I don’t even think some of this behavior is all that odd (I’m assuming that if someone in the hall said “hi” she would respond and it just means she’s not engaging in conversation when we say not talking).

      *As a manager she connected with all her subordinates online, now that she isn’t supervising them she doesn’t feel she needs to connect to all and has selectively pared it back (something a lot of us do when we change jobs)
      *I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from the coffee thing, I’ve had several instances when I’ve moved that a former male coworker, subordinate, or boss has used the “now that we don’t work together we should get together” line and maybe this was innocent or misread but there could also be more backstory here and clearing the air that you aren’t interested isn’t odd to me (if she was overly aggressive about it, odd)

      I think sometimes when people have managers they love, they see it as more of a friendship than it really was and moving on to a new role a lot of people don’t continue the relationship (again I’m assuming she’s not literally ignoring a “hi how are you” and just not engaging in catching up.

    7. New Market*

      She also may not want to step on your new manager’s toes. While her actions may seem over-the-top, I have seen managers take a strong no-contact rule, or do things like cc the new manager in all correspondence, to prevent the appearance of stepping on toes, and for their own peace of mind, to fully make their own transition to their new role.

      1. Green Gator*

        This occurred before the new manager was hired. We had a 3-4 month gap between when she left and when the new manager was fully on-boarded.

    8. pinetree*

      Getting to the root of OP’s question, I don’t think there’s enough information for OP to know what’s going on. The coffee incident is difficult to parse without being directly involved.

      So I’d suggest OP specifically focus on the status of their a professional relationship with former manager. Give it a few months while former manager settles into their new role and then try reaching out and see what kind of response you get. If there is no receptiveness, well, at least you tried.

    9. starfox*

      That’s a good point. Maybe she’s also struggling to figure out the boundaries and is taking it too far so she can’t be accused of favoritism for her old team or something? The part where she accused her former colleague of making a romantic overture is weird, though, unless there’s something LW doesn’t know.

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, I may be odd person out here, but IMO being Facebook friends with coworkers is not a really bright idea. Yes, some of my past coworkers are my FB “friends” now. But generally I don’t follow them on FB until I’m headed out the door.

      1. JustaTech*

        That’s my rule: only be FB friends with people you don’t work with anymore. I may have made up that “rule” on the spot to avoid a guy who was too friendly/not great with boundaries, but it’s served me well for years.

  11. JSPA*

    Op#2: she’s seen all of your HR files‐‐which can be a morass of speculation and over-reaction by long-gone, barely-remembered past coworkers.

    Fiction, by way of example: 4 years ago, Cyn (filling in, and listening to others, to clue in to processes) adds 2 and 2 to ger 22, and thinks they maybe overheard Bob call Jane a MILF. Mentions it to old friend Soo, who happens to be in HR. Soo makes an abbreviated note. Five years later, Jane (now in HR) reads Soo’s old note on the matter…thinks that half the department knows that Bob’s been calling her a MILF…and then Bob drops a coffee invitation.

    Internal promotions to HR carry that risk.

      1. JSPA*

        Thus flagged as such!

        Point being, HR files can be a morass of miscommunication and supposition that a) led nowhere but b) remains unsealed and open to those in HR.

        Whether it’s, “someone has B.O.,” or “I think my manager has a thing for my coworker and is giving them preference,” or “I’m not sure if he/she/they asked me to check the plug under the desk as a real need or as a joke or as harassment” or “my manager is loud and distracting” or “this might have been a race / gender / sexual / religious reference,” HR files are where all that stuff goes to live a zombie life.

    1. Green Post-Its*

      It’s slightly possible, that OP#2’s boss has seen unsavoury rumours about her entire former department. But I feel it’s unlikely – because as their former manager, she should have been in the loop about anything serious already. So why the change in attitude?

      And do HR files really contain old speculation and overheard rumours? If so, that’s a terrible HR department. Sounds more like a spy ring!

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Agreed. HR files shouldn’t really contain anything that the subject of the file is never made aware of. Actual disciplinary action (or preparation thereof): yes. Random old rumors with no follow-up: definitely not.

        Also, it would kind of squick me out if the first thing this person did upon being transferred to HR was read all the files of their former teammates. Don’t they have anything productive to do?

        1. Allonge*

          I got the sense this was the team’s manager – in which case she would have had access already to the files, no? At least that’s how it works for us – you and your manager has access, and HR of course.

          1. Koalafied*

            I’m a manager and I honestly have no idea if HR maintains files on my employees beyond what I have access to. Like it’s definitely true that I can access details about their compensation history, performance reviews, records of internal trainings completed, answers to career goals questions, and that sort of thing. None of my employees have ever been formally disciplined but I assume I’d have access to those records as well.

            But as far as some sort of file of handwritten notes about rumors or HR speculating about things that never got formally investigated, I suppose I couldn’t say with certainty whether it exists and I don’t have access to it, or whether such a thing just doesn’t exist. I would hope it doesn’t exist, because surely anything worth writing down is worth investigating and looping in the manager… but not ever having been in HR, I can’t say for certain there’s not something like that?

            1. Allonge*

              Oh, we definitely don’t have handwritten notes of rumours! Actually we have a formal list of what can go in your file and that is what you describe; nothing goes in the file without the person whose file it is having seen it.

              But sure, we have seen here that everything weird you can imagine and some that at least I could not, exists somewhere and people write to Alison about it, so…

          2. doreen*

            Depends – I only had access to my own files and any files my predecessor in that particular office left behind. But for staff who worked in multiple different positions/offices throughout their career , the only complete file was the one in HR , which I could get access to only upon request and with a good enough reason.

      2. Green Gator*

        I am the person who submitted that one and honestly doubt it; we’re a pretty chill, easy-going group of decent, hard-working people. I’d find it hard to believe any unsavoury rumours for most of our department (save 1-2 people). The person who she accused of being attracted to her is a big teddy bear of a guy. Completely harmless. Definitely odd, though.

  12. Michele*

    in #3’s shoes, I might take a middle ground approach and ask one very indirect question that would offer the opportunity for your boss to share more if desired – for me, that might be an intentional (eg not when you’re both running in opposite directions) “How are you doing?” – he can easily say fine and change the subject but it’s an acknowledgment that you know they may be some challenges and an opening for him to share more if he wants.

    I’ve been a manager with significant health problems, and one who only shared information with my staff that felt relevant to their work (e.g. when I was going to miss meetings), I didn’t want to burden my staff with undesired information about my health so I kept it all to myself, but as a human being, I certainly appreciated signals of caring from my staff, and did share a bit more with staff who indicated they cared to know more.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is where I land as well – at the start of a meeting with the boss asking how they are doing to me feels like part of the basic social grease of society. From there the boss can decide how they wish to respond, but the big key is accepting and not pushing.

  13. Adam*

    For #3, it’s definitely not rude not to ask, since your boss hasn’t given an invitation to talk about it.

    I also don’t think it would be rude to ask, as long as you do it in a way that clearly lets him know it’s fine if he doesn’t want to talk about it, and you respect it if he does.

    1. Lydia*

      I think you can acknowledge it without sounding like you’re digging for information. “I hope everything is all right” or “Let me know if I can take on anything else [only if you really want to or can]” can acknowledge you realize something is up without making it sound like you’re asking for details.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yeah, I’ve used, “Thanks for the heads-up – and I hope everything is (or at least will be) okay!” when my direct report gave me a heads up that she would need a handful of late start/early finish days over the next (at the time) few weeks to accommodate “some medical stuff.”

  14. G*

    4 – You told them they could do this! Your perception of the previous workplace as toxic is colouring this, because there is nothing wrong with their actions since you left. It’s on you to redefine the relationship as AAM suggests.

    1. Roland*

      I mean yeah OP can and should clarify they don’t have time but a) they were pressured into this in the first place even though old job knew OP was going to a new job, and b) after multiple invites that have not been accepted, they could have read the room that OP is not going to say yes. OP should of course follow Alison’s advice but the old employer is not coming off great here.

    2. Sean*

      I’m wondering how the previous boss is contacting LW4. Phoning them at home? Or on their personal mobile? Or burrowing in via their personal email? Or, worse, maybe contacting them at their new place of business?

      Whichever it is, it’s a serious overstepping of personal boundaries on top of everything else.

    3. Zweisatz*

      Uhm, if they are not paying LW (which it didn’t sound like) I do NOT find it normal to send several meeting requests to a former employee. Sporadic quick email? Maybe.

      Regardless, LW, send whatever definitive statement or no statement at all, but definitely draw the boundary with your actions: trash the invites or block their email addresses. If they get you on the phone/in person: “That doesn’t work for me, I’m completely booked. But good luck with your endeavors!”

      1. Khatul Madame*

        LW referred to consulting, so to me it means that they are being paid. I sincerely hope I am right.
        At any rate, tell Former Boss that this is the last week (5 business days) and you will not be able to consult with them any longer. Cite being busy at work, if you want, but do not go into details or apologies. And do not let your self be persuaded or bullied to change your mind.

        1. Lydia*

          It means they could be paid, but it doesn’t sound like the OP has any formal written agreement in place. The boss was sending meeting requests without outlining how the OP would be compensated for their time.

    4. Dr. Rebecca*

      I thought it was pretty widely acknowledged that “I’ll see what I can do” (or the equivalent) is an obvious hedge and not to be relied upon without a further concrete discussion.

      1. Eater of Hotdish*

        I agree with you, particularly since I come from a very Guess-oriented cultural background. If someone told me, “I’ll see what I can do,” I’d read that as a polite “probably not.”

        By the same token, though, a bullying boss in a toxic workplace seems likely to take an obvious hedge, or really anything short of “NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN,” as an opening for further discussion/requests/demands.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Bullies don’t even take no for an answer, let alone a vague polite brush-off. A cease and desist might have some effect.

          1. Eater of Hotdish*

            …Holy crap, turns out I really needed to hear somebody say that.

            I’m just now realizing that on some level, I’d been blaming myself for years for not standing up to my own bullying boss/mentor figure (PhD advisor). When I was in the thick of the situation, I told myself that if I were a better grad student, they wouldn’t behave like this to me. As I got distance from the situation, I started telling myself that if I’d only been a stronger person, I could have made them stop.

            Maybe now I can start telling myself that I was in a bad situation, I got out, I learned stuff, and the person I was then didn’t deserve to be shamed and belittled for not knowing everything already/not working at a superhuman capacity.

            Thanks for the insight!

    5. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here. I tried several times to say I could NOT do this but it was met with more and more questions on why and how we could make it work. For my sanity for the last two weeks I was just trying to be vague with “maybes” but you’re right. Direct is better!

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Very direct. And if they come back, you just repeat “As I said, I can’t do any more work for you”. Ad nauseum.

        1. Khatul Madame*

          This. You don’t owe him an explanation. Say no and do not answer any more calls. You can do this and still remain a nice person.

    6. PotsPansTeapots*

      This is all completely true, but as someone who has left a toxic job, it can be very hard to say no and you want to do anything you can to get out of there.

      Yes, OP should redefine the relationship, but I think it’s completely understandable how they ended up here.

      1. mondaysizecoffee*

        OP here! Thank you. That’s exactly it – it was 100% a flight response but it’s now time to reevaluate.

  15. G*

    4 – You told them they could do this! Your perception of the previous workplace as toxic is colouring this, because there is nothing wrong with their actions since you left. It’s on you to redefine the relationship as AAM suggests.

  16. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    #2 – Yes, like Alison I wonder if this is a case of someone who’s always nice to the ‘in-crowd’ and exlusionary to others…and you’ve just recently switched categories.

    I’ve definitely worked with folks who were really good at comisserating with their team and advocating for their teams needs, but who were completely blind to the impact their team had on other departments and would throw other departments under the bus rather than hold their own team accountable, even if the fault was theirs.

  17. Despachito*

    The HR manager:

    I can understand not wanting to have coffee with the coworker, unfriending people on social media, and not engaging in personal talks anymore (because of need for more distance as a HR).

    What baffles me is the WAY she did it – that she declined the coffee invitation was OK but to imply he was hitting on her was completely unnecessary. Unfriending would seem OK to me but for everyone – if it is only half of the team it looks weird.

    And not speaking AT ALL (if that is what OP means) is super weird – I understand not engaging in personal stuff anymore, but even small talk about weather/the new deli across the road? Weird.

    It seems that she perhaps feels insecure for some reason, and does not trust herself to be able to clearly draw the line, so she preferred to cut the ties altogether.

    1. Sean*

      Also, in her new capacity as HR manager one of the first things she did was falsely accuse someone of being romantically interested in her simply because they asked if she might like to join them for a coffee and catch-up.

      What will her judgment be like when she has to deal with all the difficulties and dilemmas that come with being a HR manager, tasked with resolving disputes?

    2. MsM*

      I realize this is completely unfounded speculation, but maybe her partner is influencing who she does and doesn’t feel comfortable staying in touch with and under what circumstances.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Not necessarily unfounded. Years ago, our lab group (mixed male and female) asked one of our co-workers (I don’t remember if she was the receptionist or another position) to join us for lunch. She had to turn us down because her husband didn’t allow it.

        Before I left, I think that she had moved on, I occasionally remember the situation because there is a barn roof that has her or a similar last name painted on it.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          She had to turn us down because her husband didn’t allow it.

          Yikes! That would send up red flags about her husband to me, but that’s because I’ve known people in abusive relationships whose partners tried to cut them off from any friends who weren’t also the partner’s friends.

      2. Green Gator*

        I wouldn’t necessarily think this was the case. She worked in our department for 5+ years without any issues at all and was married that entire time.

    3. Esmeralda*

      Unless, you know, he actually was hitting on her.

      Just because both people are married with children doesn’t mean “hitting on” couldn’t happen. Trust me on that one.

      1. Green Gator*

        I would find this extremely hard to believe. His kid was just born in the last year, so he has been pre-occupied, plus he is a big teddy bear of a guy. Totally harmless and chill dude just looking to do his job and take care of his family.

  18. Green great dragon*

    LW4 You did exactly the right thing in saying you’d see whether you could consult. If you’d said no, they’d have nagged you to change your answer for the entire notice period, and yes would have set up expectations. With a less toxic workplace you should have been more honest, but people who don’t accept an honest answer are setting themselves up for a weasley one.

    And now, as Alison says, you can just tell them you find you haven’t the time, and never give the matter another moment’s thought.

    1. Bug*

      I was there myself (in fact a few years ago I could have written that letter!). You handled it exactly right. Now it’s time to practice saying “I’m sorry I can’t help more but the new job is really keeping me busy.” Whether you mean it or not, it helps to preserve the relationship and the reference.

    2. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here! Thank you both for this. Yes it’s time to just say “no” as difficult as that is. And I did just that this morning :)

      1. AnonInCanada*

        Good for you! And hopefully your former bosses will take “no” for an answer. And if they don’t, just block every phone number and email address associated with them and don’t answer any unknown number. Let it go to voicemail and if it’s them, block those numbers too!

  19. Snarky McSnarkerson*

    Football and basketball pools are not illegal in most states. As long as the “house” doesn’t keep a cut, they are clear. Still obnoxious, but clear.

    1. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

      Why are sports pools obnoxious? Many people enjoy them and participation is voluntary. Unless it somehow excessively interferes with actual work, I don’t get the objection.

      1. L-squared*

        Because companies are puritanical about it and they want to see everything as gambling, even when totally hypocritical.

        You want to all put in money for powerball tickets? Go right ahead. Want to put cash on a sports pool or march madness bracket? Somehow that becomes a lot more questionable.

        It really makes no sense

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        Also, there is a tendency for these pools to be “invitation only” – and particularly in the case of fantasy sports, I’ve seen a lot of people lord being in the “good” league over others.

        Also, it is regrettably common for the participants to never shut up about the league and how they are doing in it, which makes sports curmudgeons like me just seethe when we are expected to act interested when listening to the details of your fake lineup for the hundredth time this week.

        1. goducks*

          While I agree that people tend to go on and on about their teams which is annoying if you’re not interested, people tend to do that about anything and everything. I heard plenty of weekly loooong discussions of Game of Thrones, or The Bachelor, or recipes tried over the weekend or any number of shared passions between coworkers, having zero interest myself.

          Calling out exclusive behavior, fine. But people being passionate about them isn’t a problem.

          1. PotsPansTeapots*

            This. I don’t care at all about the NFL, but I did enjoy the one workplace where there were soccer fans in the office. People having some small talk about shared interests is one of the things that makes work not terrible.

      3. Jackalope*

        I think the part where people can go on and on about them to people who aren’t interested is obnoxious. Not any more obnoxious than any other obsession that people can’t stop talking about, but a bit more frequently encountered due to their popularity.

  20. Turingtested*

    LW #3: In situations like that, I say “I hope it’s nothing serious or chronic” and leave it at that. It expresses care without asking a question and also leaves an opening if the person would like to share.

    1. NetClari*

      As a a person with multiple chronic illnesses: please don’t say this. There’s a fair chance that it IS serious or chronic. If so, a comment like this might come off the wrong way. Plus, it traps them to sharing at least some info.
      If they’re relatively healthy they can say “thanks, I’m doing fine, it’s nothing big.” But if it is serious (and they don’t want to outright lie) they’ll be stuck with something like, “well, it *is* chronic and serious but thanks anyway for your concern.”

      I would recommend something more like “hope you are doing okay” or “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Neither of these responses are perfect. But IME it can be grating to have people always asking if you’re getting better, or hoping that it’s nothing serious, when it is serious and you aren’t better.

      1. Koli*

        +1, do not comment on the nature of the illness at all! “I hope you’re doing alright,” or “please let me know if I can be of any help” is about as much as you want to say.

      2. Turingtested*

        Thank you for the perspective! I think hope you’re doing ok serves the same purpose of showing care and allowing the person to share if they want to without prying.

      3. Atalanta*

        Yes, this! I also have several visible and invisible chronic issues and there are days I just don’t want to go through the conversation. Best to follow their lead on this issue and see how it goes. Plus it also opens you up to the well meaning Health and Wellness folks (and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt) and the last thing a lot of chronically ill people want is another round of “have you tried yoga/kale/tumeric/acupuncture/accepting Christ as your personal savior”. Tongue in cheek on the last part but I have had random strangers pray over me and one guy literally try to faith heal me in the office break room. Not an experience I’ll forget any time soon!

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Plus it also opens you up to the well meaning Health and Wellness folks (and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt) and the last thing a lot of chronically ill people want is another round of “have you tried yoga/kale/tumeric/acupuncture/accepting Christ as your personal savior”.

          This. Also add vegetarianism, keto, veganism, and massage to the list.

          I essentially had a stroke 27 years ago. It left me with hemiparesis and memory issues. I have lost count of the times people have offered me health “advice”, including religion to “gain the healing of God”.

          The biggest blessing about working remotely for a company that doesn’t have a “cameras on” policy is that I don’t have to deal with the alternative health fanatics pushing their way into my business.

          I am a person who takes various supplements to address various conditions. But that’s because I’ve studied this stuff for a long time (thanks to an interest in herbalism since college.). I have an entire shelf of books on herbalism, and I still don’t consider myself much more than a well read amateur. If someone asks me what an herb is good for, I will look it up and tell them, with the appropriate caveats. I would never start advising someone else on it out of the blue because a) they didn’t ask, and b) I am not certified or anything. If someone asks what I take and why, I tell them, but I certainly don’t volunteer it, because that’s just plain obnoxious.

          1. Atalanta*

            Same here, I do not offer opinions or advice unless requested or we’re close enough we’ve commiserated over it (migraines, ugh). The only time I’ve ever offered advice to strangers has been when people have approached me because their child has the same issue (scoliosis) and they haven’t seen many adults in public with advanced cases but it’s more to sooth their fears then anything else.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Agreed. Please do not say this to people. Even people you know well and are close to.

      First, it’s assuming a lot. What if they’re planning for a divorce (or wedding)? What if it’s because they are trying to adopt a child? Maybe they’re trying to use up benefits in a certain amount of time and these are all annual checkups, etc. There are loads of non-medical reasons for a person to have a bunch of appointments all at once.

      Second, you’re centering your need to say something. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS. If they want to share, they will. Leave it at that.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        It’s also somewhat flippant. Even said with care and concern, it comes across as a way to brush things aside/move on or to get gossip or information. Just let the person control their own narrative, please. Because if it is chronic or serious, there is little else that they CAN control.

      1. Turingtested*

        I’m surprised at these comments because I have two serious, chronic health conditions that are invisible. Neither one can be treated beyond basic health practices and both are likely to lead to premature death. My all time favorite response from a coworker was the ‘nothing serious or chronic I hope’ and I adopted it.

        This thread is a good reminder that people are individuals and what I found kind and respectful others may not interpret that way.

  21. DJ Abbott*

    #4, I think it would be well worth the effort to send a message as Allison suggests for a couple of reasons.
    1. It leaves the employer with a much better impression of you in case you ever need them as a reference.
    2. You won’t feel like you broke a promise and left them hanging. Even though they’re horrible, you will have done your part for the relationship and you’ll feel good about that.

    1. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here. Thanks! Yes, I hit “send” this morning on an email I’ve been drafting and redrafting and feel much better. Now I can ignore, guilt free (or close to it :))

  22. Katie*

    On the flip side, in regards to 3, my kids have lots of medical problems and there are times when they have to go to a lot of appointments. I am open book and will tell anyone anything if they ask. All my previous managers and reports knew what was going on. However in a series of events, I have all new managers and people reporting to me.
    I struggle with the ‘does it matter to them?’ when sending details of why I am out (kids Dr appointment is basically it).
    I think people do care, but I am never sure when to download the info.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      My approach is to provide minimal information.

      In part because I’m a private person, but mostly because if I usually provide details, it becomes more noticeable when I don’t provide them (such as when I’m taking time off for an interview)

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        On this note, this is why we have a no-details policy at my office. It is strongly encouraged not to provide details when taking time off for medical situations. Not even a simple, “Oh, I’m having a cavity filled.” The thinking is that once people start getting used to providing a reason, it becomes very obvious the minute someone doesn’t.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          In my previous job my boss told me not to give any details of medical appointments. This was in a hospital and I assumed it was because he was very aware of confidentiality.
          Don’t know if that helps with this question though.

  23. L-squared*

    #1. I’m a huge fantasy football guy, and even will play in work leagues. But part of choosing to participate in a work league is knowing that there are totally different sets of rules. This is for recruiting, team names, and even smack talk. If my personal group of friend’s league had that name, I would probably find it funny, I even chuckled a bit reading it here. (Not that it makes it right, but Hernandez was an awful person who killed someone). I’ve had plenty of tasteless team names over the years. But my work team is always a pretty neutral PG (at most) rated thing.

    That said, with the amount of people in this league who don’t currently work for the company, it would probably be better in the future to just not have it be a work league. If a few coworkers want to do a league together, with others, that is fine. Just don’t advertise it to the whole company and make it clear it is NOT a company league.

  24. Nutella and banana on toast*

    #2 Unless they are Dwight Shrute style shunning people I think maybe its more possible that there are other reasons this is happening. Conversations the manager now HR Rep were having prior to the job change may be something as a HR rep they would have to report. You can complain to your manager and friend but complaining to an HR rep is different. There were bigger issues the OP and others were not aware of.

    The romantically involved co-worker scenario I don’t think we or OP has enough information on this to make the judgement.

    1. Green Gator*

      I’d find it odd to say the least. She works in recruiting specifically, not necessarily the day-to-day of existing employees.

  25. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    LW2 – You would think someone in freakin HR would know better than to accuse someone at their company of having romantic interest in them, especially with zero credible evidence to support that. This person sounds unstable and it’s probably for the best that she isn’t speaking to you.

      1. Workerbee*

        I was thinking this. “Both are married with small children” is NOT anywhere near the deterrent OP seems to believe. And moving teams to get away from someone / more than one someone is nowhere near unheard of, either.

        1. Heffalump*

          It’s not a deterrent, but the man who asked her to get coffee may still have had innocent motives.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Or may have been hassling her before, but she didn’t dare speak up then because of their close working relationship.

        2. Green Gator*

          I doubt she was switching jobs to get away from someone. She’d been their manager for 1.5+ years already without issue. She also outright said to me that she’d been looking to transition to HR for a long time. Her role recently changed which team she was managing about two months before she left too, so she already moved away from managing this individual.

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

        True, but even if he did hit on her that’s not something that she should be saying to other people. Talk to that employees boss and others in HR for documentation, yes, but not spread it around the office, which it sounds like she did.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          The letter doesn’t say that she said that to other people.
          Maybe she did, maybe the male coworker did.

        2. Cj*

          It’s not really clear from the letter, and I assumed the guy she accused of hitting on her is the one who told his coworkers. Like he said, can you believe she thought I’d do that?

        3. Jackalope*

          Did she, though? Or did the male employee who approached her for coffee share it? It’s entirely possible that he could have asked her for coffee in a way that was not 100% platonic and then when she said no, shared the story to get im some damage control. The OP doesn’t state how they found out about this, after all.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Idk- I’ve had enough experience of men taking it badly when you clarify that you are not romantically interested in them to give this one some side eye. If she aggressively accused him of hitting on her with zero grounds, yeah wrong.
      However it’s a stretch to think she’s unstable for telling him it’s inappropriate to be involved romantically or that she wasn’t interested in him romantically. And, if it was a simple misunderstanding it’s a really easy one for him to fix with a “oh sorry, no I just meant we could catch up professionally. Oompf sorry” and then both of them have cleared the air.

  26. EPLawyer*

    #4 — and pretty much everyone else — your notice period is NOT for wrapping up projects. It’s for transitioning the projects to someone else. If your boss expects you to wrap up months long projects in 2 weeks, they are a lunatic.

    1. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here! Yes, that’s all I have ever done in the past. This most recent job I was working on, I kid you not, a deadline for March ’23. Unreal!

    2. toolittletoolate*

      That’s right–you are transitioning work, not finishing work. I have a friend who got a layoff notice and then they handed her a new project the next week. She told them no that she is wrapping up work in anticipation of her last day (which they told her would be 45 days after the RIF notice). They are in an absolute panic saying they don’t have anyone who can do this project and that they are willing to extend her last day of work by a month to complete this project.

      She proudly told them she already had another job at a better company with higher pay. (It was the fastest hire I have ever seen–she’s a rock star and this other company knew it). They are now trying to match this offer, which she is of course not entertaining in any way.

      So a layoff notice three weeks ago, and a counteroffer of employment this week? What on earth???????

      1. just some guy*

        Galaxy brain: giving laid-off staff new projects during the notice period.

        Universe brain: giving laid-off staff new projects AFTER the notice period.

        One of my old employers took a couple of years to get the message that I wasn’t interested in working for them for free after they fired me. Adding insult to injury, the excuse they gave for firing me was “we’re not doing that kind of work any more” (because the actual reason would have been illegal).

        They were also doing stuff like sending me stuff to sign (for their benefit, not mine) without including return postage, and then chastising me when I didn’t get back to them within the urgent timeline that was No Longer My Problem. In hindsight I should have been a lot less nice to them than I was.

  27. Workerbee*

    #1 How fortunate that this employee has already provided a line for you to use when served his exit papers (and invariably gets upset about it, if he runs true to that very unoriginal type): “It is ridiculous that anyone could find firing you offensive, including yourself.”

  28. Luna*

    LW1 – “When in doubt, leave it out” If you are unsure if something you will write, post, etc may be misunderstood horrendously and reflect badly on you, better to not post it. Nooses are, overall, not something I would use as a profile pic for anything… unless it were, maybe, a historical Twitter account based on the history of nooses… or a reference to Hiimdaisy’s Persona 4 comics. (“Nooses are bad.” Super!)

    But I would also overall re-think if even ‘work’ leagues are something that should be discussed at work. In your leisure time, sure, maybe even when you are on break. But overall, I’d say keep that out of work, for everyone involved.

    LW2 – Benefit of the doubt, maybe her promotion to a higher position made her rethink her relationship with everyone and try to keep much stricter boundaries? Though to immediately jump to the idea of “You are interested in me” by bringing up an offer to chat over coffee (and most likely about work things, like how’s the new position going?) is a bit… overzealous?

    LW3 – He volunteeres nothing, you offer nothing. Maybe if he happens to mention in person that he’s off to another doc’s appointment, perhaps a quick, “Alright, hope all goes well” would be okay to say? Acknowledge the thing, indicate that you care about his state a bit, but not too much like you want details.

    One of my coworkers is out sick for several weeks now with a medical issue. I don’t have direct contact with her, and her main contact is with our boss, so everything I might hear is trickled down. I know about what the issue is, but I know no details and I ask none, as it’s not my business. I do worry a bit and hope that she will be able to get the all-clear to work again soon.

  29. Observer*

    #1- If someone has not pointed this out yes, I want to highlight that his reaction to someone going to HR is a huge red flag all on its own.

    If nothing else, PLEASE make sure that his staff are all aware that, despite his attitude, they most definitely CAN come to HR when issues come up – and make sure that you back it by protecting people from his retaliation if they do come to you in HR. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that if he finds out that one of his staff “snitched” on him, he is going to make their lives very, very difficult.

  30. heretoday*

    Sorry, I have to agree with manager here. Commissioner could have solved this all with an email telling manager the team name was unacceptable for a work league instead of running to HR. Sounds like LW has some personal bias, also.

    1. Colette*

      Would that have solved it? Or would it have resulted in arguments about how it was not inappropriate?

      Is approaching this particular person likely to be “safe” – physically and job-wise – or is it going to result in harassment and abuse?

        1. Colette*

          A joke that references violence is threatening, and I can understand why someone would feel like they couldn’t approach that person. And, since his reaction when HR approached him was to complain about the way it was brought to his attention, I suspect he’s generally not approachable.

          And he’s a manager, who has power over peoples’ livelihoods, who could definitely retaliate if he wanted to.

    2. Observer*

      Commissioner could have solved this all with an email telling manager the team name was unacceptable for a work league instead of running to HR.

      That’s just not true. The guy did NOT say that he would have changed the the name. He DID say that being offended is “ridiculous” and that the person who was offended should have told him directly that they were offended – but did NOT say that they would have taken it down. Far more likely, he would have told the commissioner that their being offended is ridiculous and the issue needs to be dropped.

      1. heretoday*

        And he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to make that choice? Oh. I forgot; he offends the LW politically, and she’s awesome, of course, so why go through all that when they can just vilify him?

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          He made a suicide joke in the workplace. There is no possible spinning you can do that would make it okay and it was entirely appropriate for that joke to be reported to HR.

          1. heretoday*

            NOT the workplace. A social device that happens to have company employees participating. One that HR chose to ignore until the opportunity came to pile onto someone LW finds unpleasant.

            1. NICS*

              Someone who proved by his combative answer that HR was the correct agency to deal with him rather than a fellow employee getting into a pointless personal fight with him.

            2. starfox*

              A social device that exclusively has company employees and their wives participating and that is discussed in the workplace. Yeah… that’s the workplace.

              HR ignored that the employees were engaging in an activity together (that actually isn’t considered gambling). HR acted when someone started openly making suicide jokes in the workplace.

            3. just some guy*

              Just because you’re not getting work done doesn’t make it “not the workplace”. There is plenty of precedent for work-connected social stuff being considered part of the work environment when it comes to things like harassment/hostile work environment.

              Here in Australia, a similar kind of social activity led to an industrial relations case some years back. An employee was fired for cheating in the office football tipping contest. He appealed to a tribunal, arguing that it wasn’t part of his work duties and that his employer didn’t have the right to discipline him for non-work conduct. But the tribunal ultimately rejected that argument: “Anything which erodes the trust and honesty between work colleagues is destructive of harmony and cohesion and has the potential to effect the work environment significantly.”

              It’s not an exact parallel, but it does illustrate the principle that even in a country with significantly stronger employment protections than the USA, this kind of social activity among co-workers can be considered part of the workplace.

              Text of the judgement: http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/AIRC/2005/872.html

        2. Observer*

          And he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to make that choice?

          Given the egregiousness of his behavior, and the risk to the person who would bring it to him, not he does NOT.

          This is not about politics. This is about extremely inappropriate and flat out bad behavior by someone who should know better. And who is also in a position of power.

          When someone in a position of power does something that they should absolutely know better, that is just flat out BAD – nothing whatsoever to do with politics – they lose any standing to expect someone who is not higher up / with more power to come to them first. Because what they are asking for is for someone to take a risk that they should not have to take.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I’m not a big fan of going to HR, and the commissioner should have just dealt with it instead of turning it into A Thing (why be the commissioner if you don’t want to deal with things like this?)….but it’s the manager’s reaction that’s the problem. If HR says “You’ve got to change this because of our social media policy” you just make the change with no comment. Stating that anyone who is offended is ridiculous is not a good response.

  31. somanyquestions*

    Someone who posts a bunch of political stuff on their linked in has a basic lack of understanding of how the world works outside of their jerk kingdom. His bad behavior here is not surprising.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I’ve unfollowed people who post certain inflammatory types of political statements on LinkedIn. Also people who post misinformation as if it were scientific fact.

  32. Former Gifted Kid*

    I’m also a fantasy football player. There are definitely leagues I am in where there are some crass or edgy names, but those are leagues where it is all close friends who know each other’s humor well. I am also in leagues where everyone has boring names. This is totally a “know your audience” situation. My Favorite Murder is not work appropriate either.

  33. kiki*

    #4: It can be really hard as a people-pleaser to work with bosses with unreasonable expectations (And expecting you to finish up all your months-long projects in 2 weeks is a wildly unreasonable expectation. Also, including an employee who has been gone for a month in continuing business is unreasonable.). Usually, you want to go into discussions with the goal of getting everyone to a mutual understanding– even if everyone isn’t happy with the plan, everyone is satisfied. With unreasonable people, this isn’t likely to happen. I like to write down my boundaries beforehand and go in assuming they will not be okay with the boundaries.

    1. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here – thank you for this! It’s one of those situations where I find it so unreal I wonder if I am the one out of touch. It was a bad situation all around, and one to be glad out of.

  34. CD*

    For LW #4, I’ve been there, too. The best thing to do is to not offer to help beyond your last day. Even if it’s only for goodwill, you don’t want people taking advantage of your time and for free.

    For me, I had smaller roles like volunteer or freelancer at non-profits. I would offer to answer questions on projects that I had been working on (and that their staff wouldn’t have familiarity with) because we didn’t have time to do a knowledge transfer. Well, they would totally not here the part when I said “things I had been working on.” One place’s assistant contacted me over a year after I had left and asked me questions about their website’s SSL certificate. The most annoying part was the assistant had reached out to their website’s hosting and domain provider and those companies had given her directions on what to do. I guess it all went over her head and her boss told her to email me because I had “IT experience.” I told her honestly that their website certificate wasn’t something I had set up, but those companies did give her instructions and she needed to reach out to them because her boss is paying for a service and support comes with it.

    1. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here – thanks for responding. Also a nonprofit here, imagine that :)

      Agreed 100% – one wrinkle here was that they kept offering to pay me – but I knew the Pandora’s Box that would open so I didn’t want to take a cent.

  35. toolittletoolate*

    I hate to see people refusing professional opportunities because of something that might happen in the future. I used to counsel new graduates on job searching, and I cannot tell you how many times I heard someone say–after getting a job offer they really wanted– “well I shouldn’t take this job because I am planning to go back to grad school in two years and at the interview they said they wanted a three year commitment.”

    I would respond–have you taken the GRE? Have you been accepted into grad school? Do you have your finances lined up? After the three “nos” I usually got, I would then say, “So this is just an idea in your head, which you are giving more weight than the opportunity that is in your hand. Does that make sense to you?”

    I appreciate that they did not want to mislead an employer, but nobody can guarantee an employer a specific amount of time they will stay there. Things happen. Relationships break up, plans fall through, people have babies, etc etc etc.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly. Plans change. All. The.Time.
      Good advice to take the job and see what happens.

      And, that employer might even lay off this employee way short of that 3 year commitment. So really no one can guarantee what will happen in the future.

      1. Lizzianna*

        Exactly. I always ask, are they giving you a 3-year commitment, in writing, or is this still at at-will relationship, and they’re just asking you to limit your own options, while not giving anything in return.

    2. Lizzianna*

      Exactly. I always ask, are they giving you a 3-year commitment, in writing, or is this still at at-will relationship, and they’re just asking you to limit your own options, while not giving anything in return.

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

    In regards to the HR person. I kind of wonder if she is one of those people who now she is in the “better” department doesn’t want to degrade herself by being friendly with customer service folx. Having worked in CS roles in the past I have known a few people who were friendly but as soon as they moved to another department and were no longer Customer Service their attitude changed and they thought they were better than the CS people.

    I bet that the folx she did keep on social media are those she was closer to or that she believes will benefit her in some way.

    The thing with the coworker asking her for coffee. I see a lot of people saying that he could have hit on her. And that is true but she is in the wrong for saying stuff to others. It sounds like she has an inflated ego now that she has been promoted to HR. OP I think you should just lie low, be friendly to her but do not engage. I think she is going to be trouble as an HR person.

    1. Green Gator*

      That’s my best guess as well. Knowing the type of person that he is, I doubt that he truly hit on her. He’s a chill guy and keeps it 100% professional in the office.

  37. PersephoneUnderground*

    The ad algorithm has apparently decided “draft kings, bet now!” is a good ad to put here. I love it when “x was seriously messed up at my job!” letters lead the keyword scanners to think “readers of this will be interested in more x!” *Laughing/crying/pained face here*

  38. J.T.*

    For #3, the phrase I use is “I hope whatever’s going on turns out as well as possible” (in a tone that doesn’t make it sound like a question) as a way of (1) showing support and (2) making it clear that I’m not asking for details. It also leaves room for it to be anything from a hangnail to a family member nearing death. (And if it is just routine stuff as some posters have suggested, it leaves room for them to laugh it off.)

    If they were trying to hide that anything was going on, I’d follow their lead and ignore it with them, but if they’re telling you about their schedule openly, it would feel weird to me to say nothing.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      If #3 has room on her plate, she could also make it clear to the boss she has the time to take on some tasks for him. This risks getting more work from him regardless, but it’s one way to show concern without prying.

  39. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW4 – You left your last job because your boss was a bully. Why would you expect them to behave any differently now that you’re gone? Simply put, if you don’t respect them, why do you still crave their approval? Allison’s advice is spot on. Take the high road, thank them, wish them well, and then move on. You’ve set a wonderfully healthy boundary and I’m proud of you for getting out!

    1. mondaysizecoffee*

      OP here – thank you! A month into the new role I am relearning what ‘normal’ office relationships look like and already feeling much better.

  40. She of Many Hats*

    I am absolutely horrified that a manager thought it was a good idea for an office league team and then doubled down on it. I really hope the company has a solid DEI policy in place because not only was it terribly insensitive to those with mental health issues, there is WAY too much room for a racist interpretation based on the noose image and the fact that an overwhelming number of professional athletes are Blacks and other POC. As a non-football fan, I didn’t know the player named or their story but just saw Noose, Football and a non-white player name and went straight to “whoa — that is way too KKK-adjacent for anywhere!”

    HR needs to revisit this, make the manager change that image AND the name or face serious DEI -based consequences. This manager has seriously damaged their credibility with any historically marginalized group within the company, called into question his judgement, and opened the company up to risk by using the historically racist imagery in a unofficially company sanctioned activity.

  41. English Rose*

    #1 Reading this on the day we discovered a colleague’s father has just taken his own life. You are not overreacting.

  42. Joanna*

    I’m really not in the mood today, and I realize I’m not really management material, but can we just fire these dudes? How many Black people have been traumatized by coworkers leaving nooses in their work space? This should be a zero tolerance kind of thing. In the US, you cannot separate a picture of a noose from lynching, and no one should have to deal with something like that in anything even tangentially tied to their job. If this dude thinks it’s not offensive, he shouldn’t be a manger.

    Also, as someone who has been impacted by suicide, eff him. It’s been several years, but it still hurts every time I’m reminded of it, and again, not something I should have to deal with at work.

    This dude is a glass bowl and doubling down on it is a bad look. Fire him now before he does more damage, and I can assure you, he will. Because he’s a glass bowl and glass bowls gotta glass bowl.

  43. mxb*

    For #2: I had a gender-affirming surgery last week. I felt comfortable discussing this with some people in my organization (mostly other trans people), but not with my direct reports or my direct management. I told them I was “having surgery” with no other details. I would be really upset if someone would’ve tried to find out exactly what the surgery was, but I received several lovely messages from people saying they hoped that everything was okay and the surgery would go well.

  44. Toolate*

    LW2, I had a similar (slightly more severe) issue with a former boss this past year and wish I knew how to resolve it. My former boss got a major promotion to a different division in January and the two of us “dregs” who were her direct reports got absorbed into a different division. Former boss used to be very good about communicating, but she became oddly shut-off after the change (and even hostile to me, frequently speaking ill of me to my former boss for no obvious reason). The problem is that we still work on a project together, and her secretiveness and information hoarding has made it difficult for us to succeed with this deliverable. She was perfectly normal before – not exactly the world’s best boss, but certainly supportive in her own way – but some mystery switch flipped to make her kind of unbearable and difficult after her promotion. If anyone figures out how to handle this kind of situation please let me know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’d love to just write off the relationship and never speak to her again but this project with her is unfortunately ongoing. Plus, she is now in a powerful position in my industry. Ugh.

  45. Raw Cookie Dough*

    OP1, this jerk might as well have named his team Michael Vick’s Dog Pound. This guy is definitely a future headache for you and the company. Good luck.

  46. Quickbeam*

    #1….as a newly retired person from a sports insane company, I feel your pain. One of the greatest bonuses of pandemic work from home was no longer having to be in the middle (literally) of a sports betting ring. I hate gambling and after the hundredth request to collect the bets when my colleague was away from his desk, I did go to HR. I’m sure they are glad I retired but for the rest of my time in the office it was stopped.

  47. Chickaletta*

    #3 In situations like these, I’ll make a polite comment to express I hope the other person is ok, but I’m careful to phrase it as a statement, not a question. For example, “I hope you’re doing well.” instead of “Is everything going to be ok?” That lets the other person know I care and allows them to respond with a simple thank you, nothing more unless they start talking about it which is my cue that they’re open to sharing. I did something similar last week when a senior VP told me that a colleague of mine was no longer with the company unexpectedly. Of course, I wondered if they had quit or were let go, but asking would have been a bit gossipy (and there was no reason for me to know) so I simply said, “that’s too bad, I will miss them”. They agreed, and left it at that. I got a chance to let them know I was sorry the employee was gone without being nosy about it.

  48. Aspiring Great Manager*

    OP 5 – have no guilt and take the training and the promotion and everything you can to build your skills and your career! Always knock on all doors, explore all paths that appear and see what works out. You have an idea now, but life evolves and so do each of us, it may turn out your dream job is where you are, or that the skills you learn in this job you will leave anyway, will open doors for other dreams you have for later. Learning is never wasted.

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