apologies in out-of-office messages, avoiding Boss’s Day gifts, and more

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

1. Religious apologies in out-of-office messages

It’s pretty common in Jewish circles to send mass blanket apologies (in email and social media) to coworkers, friends, and family, apologizing for anything they might have done during the year to offend the other person, whether intentional or unintentional. These messages usually come in September, just before the beginning of the Jewish high holiday season.

What are your thoughts on out of office messages in workplaces that are not specifically Jewish workplaces containing such an apology, but not explicitly explaining why the employee is apologizing? I’ve done it for years, as have many of my coworkers (we are a global organization and my Jewish coworkers and I work all over the world).

For example, my out-of-office messages have said something along the lines of, “I will be out of the office from September 25 to 27. If I have done anything to offend you this past year, please accept my apology.” It probably might seem a bit odd and confusing to non-Jews who have no idea why Jews do this, but I still feel compelled to insert an apology in my out of office message every year. My (non-Jewish) boss told me this year that last year’s message was the most interesting OOO message he had ever read, so this year I toned it down; my OOO had just the dates I would be out, followed by, “Please forgive me.”

First, I am Jewish and have never heard of this, nor have any of my Jewish friends/family who I polled! We all agreed we would be confused if we received this. That doesn’t really matter — there are lots of things where different Jews observe differently — but I’m noting it to say I think even many Jews won’t realize what you are doing!

So answering as someone who wouldn’t understand what I was seeing … it would seem very strange and confusing, if not downright alarming. I wouldn’t connect it to Yom Kippur and would wonder if you’d been offending people left and right and were now trying to cover your bases before you got fired, or possibly even if you had been suspended and that’s why you were out of the office. (I’d also wonder how it could be a sincere apology when you don’t even know who you’re apologizing to, since it’s an auto-response. If you had offended me during the past year and then I got that auto-response, it wouldn’t feel like a real apology.)

I’m obviously not commenting on it as a religious practice — although I don’t think you should involve others in your religious practices at work — but I do think it’s going to come across extremely oddly to most people. I would leave it out of your auto-response.

2. How do I avoid Boss’s Day gifts next year?

I had no idea Boss’s Day was this weekend, and my staff have never done anything for it even though I’ve been a manager for 10 years (with the same team the whole time). This year, one of my staff dropped off a gift, with a card with a very sweet message — total value under $10. He gave it to me personally, to my great surprise, told me Boss’s Day was Sunday, and left my office with a smile.

Now, I don’t think he’s trying to curry favor. I think this is genuinely just something generous he wanted to do, and once I read the card I dropped him a note and thanked him. But I still feel awkward, because this has never happened before, and because (like you) I think Boss’s Day is inappropriate. What’s the best way to handle this to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Ward it off ahead of time next year! One easy way to do it is to send around an article like the one I have here (or anything similar; doesn’t need to be mine) with a note saying something like, “I agree with this! I don’t believe in Boss’s Day and hope none of you feel any pressure to buy into it (or to send cards or gifts my way at the holidays, for that matter). Your good work is always the only gift I want!” Do this two weeks beforehand, so it’s early enough to stamp out anything that might be about to be planned. (This might feel a little weird to the rest of your team, who have worked with you for years without it coming up, but they’ll presumably be aware new team members have been added in that time and that they don’t know what other people might be doing individually.)

3. My employer reimbursed my student loan payments and now my payments have been refunded

I recently paid off my student loans!

I work for a nonprofit and I love the organization. One of my benefits over the past few years has been student loan reimbursement. This allowed me to keep paying during the Covid “pause.”

Now those payments (almost $6,000) are refundable and my refund just came through. Do I need to give it back to my employer? HR told me that they would appreciate giving it back. I don’t want to steal from a charity. What do you think?

So you made the payments, your employer reimbursed you for them, and now the original payments themselves have been refunded? Yeah, you should pay that back; otherwise you’re getting an extra $6,000 when that wasn’t the intent of your employer’s program. They just wanted to reimburse you for payments that have now been reimbursed from a different source. You don’t necessarily have to (that would depend on the wording of any written agreement you had with them), but a nonprofit that you still work for and that you love? It does feel like cheating them if you don’t.

(It’s interesting to consider, though, what your obligations would be if you didn’t still work there; in theory the obligation should be the same, but in practice I don’t think it would feel as strongly obligatory and I can’t fully defend that.)

4. How do I tell my boss to stop being so long-winded in meetings?

I work at a social justice organization where the white VP I report to takes up way too much air time during internal and, worse yet, external meetings with prospective funders (we’re a nonprofit). It’s particularly painful when the people of color we’re meeting with can’t get a word in edgewise and she talks over them when they are able to jump in. Colleagues are asking me how to get her to stop behaving like this. FWIW, I’m also a white woman who feels like I should be the one to talk to her about it, but I’m honestly afraid of getting on her wrong side and jeopardizing my job. When I’ve had “radical candor” conversations with her about other issues, she gets a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face and then is angry and defensive.

It sounds like it’s going to need to come from someone above her. You already know that she gets angry and defensive when you give her candid feedback, so it’s a job for her boss or someone else with authority over her. What you can do, though, is talk to someone in that category and ask them to intervene.

5. I made an employer wait 10 days for an answer to their offer … and then I turned it down

I recently had a job offer that I think I may have totally messed up. Basically, I was going through an interview process for a job I was intrigued by, but not totally sold on. There were two interviews, and during each one I let them know that I had a week-long family vacation coming up, and that if they contacted me during that time I might be slow to respond.

On the first day of my vacation, literally when I was waiting in line to board the plane, I got an email from the hiring manager, Bob, offering me the position. This was a Friday, so I asked if I could get back to them on Monday, and they said that was fine.

However, as soon as my flight landed, it became clear that I would not be able to fully consider the offer during the trip. The agenda ended up being booked solid each day, and internet access was slim to none. Not only would it have been difficult to fit in a call to Bob, but I also wanted to give my current employer a chance to counter-offer, and that would’ve been completely infeasible with the trip schedule. So I emailed Bob again on Monday and said I was sorry, but I wasn’t going to be able to deal with this during my vacation after all and would need to let them know the following Monday.

After I got back (the following Monday — so 10 days after the offer had been made) I told my employer about the offer, and they ended up making a very compelling counteroffer, which I decided to take, so I ended up turning down Bob, who was very disappointed. Now I feel guilty, because I know I made Bob wait 10 days to ultimately still be rejected. However, I am having trouble thinking of what I could’ve done differently. What is your take?

You’re fine. It would have been shady if you had made him wait 10 days if your intent was always to just use his offer to get a better one from your current job, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case. And you’d told him from the beginning that that you were going to be away and less responsive during that time anyway.

When a hiring manager agrees to give you more time to consider an offer, that doesn’t create an additional obligation to accept the job at the end of that period. It’s always understood that you could come back and say no. If that was going to be a problem for Bob, he could have explained that he needed your answer sooner. Yes, it’s disappointing when you wait for a candidate (while keeping all your other candidates on hold) and they turn the job down, but that’s a normal part of how job offers can go.

{ 503 comments… read them below }

  1. CC34*

    To be honest, getting an out-of-office that said “Please forgive me” would make me think the person was suicidal and needed immediate assistance.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      While I don’t quite go to that same place, I would be quite confused by this strange and insincere apology. In a good apology, you’re recommended to name what exactly you’re apologizing for. “I’m sorry if I offended you” is about as insincere as you can get and is rather close to what your last year’s message said.

      I’d say skip it at work. People who don’t follow this practice will be confused, possibly concerned, or get the wrong idea. Stick with the practice within your community.

      1. JustSomeone*

        If this practice is religiously important to the LW, maybe a bit more context rather than less?

        “This time of year, I reflect on my interactions over the past 12 months. If there’s anything I should be aware of that I ought to do differently or any harms I’ve caused, please let me know so I can address my shortcomings and enter the new year as a better person/colleague”

        That’s not overly religious and it conveys the intended message in a more sincere, less rhetorical way.

        1. Green great dragon*

          It’s very easy to add a link that explains what’s happening! Like when people started to put pronouns in signatures. I’m slightly mistifyed why anyone wouldn’t with such an international audience

        2. MK*

          Or even mention the religious practice. I understand what Alison is saying about not involving people you know through work in your religious practice, but I wouldn’t mind receiving a message along the lines of “as I prepare to celebrate X, I ask your forgiveness for any offense I might have done you”. It makes it clear that the apology is part of their religious practice, I am not required to respond in any way, I don’t mind. But maybe people would be uncomfortable with it.

            1. Pirhana Plant*

              I’m also Jewish and don’t love this. The reality is that your religious practices should be kept out of the work place. I would bristle a little even at that message as a Jewish person. Similarly, I wouldn’t love it if I got a “in the spirit of Christmas, I am trying to be more grateful and want to thank you for everything you’ve done” kind of message. Just keep your religious practices personal. Way too high a risk of making other people uncomfortable.

              1. lilsheba*

                I have to agree. While it’s nice in theory and the intention is good, by sending that the person receiving it is being brought into their religious practice without consent. Keep it off.

            2. Chirpy*

              If you absolutely feel an apology is necessary, I would suggest something more along the lines of “I will be out of the office X days, sorry for any inconvenience” because it’s a specific apology for a specific thing, not a blanket apology that isn’t going to make sense (or feel sincere) to most people who won’t have the context/understanding of what’s going on.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                The apology is not for being out / inconveniencing people, it’s part of Jewish observance of Yom Kippur.

          1. POV*

            I would be uncomfortable with this language. I prefer the language suggested by JustSomeone if it’s essential to LW to include something. I do think Alison’s advice is best in this case.

            1. MK*

              I don’t disagree that leaving this part of your practice out of your work life is best. But if you do it, I think it’s better to give some context than to hit people with a random expression of regret. YMMV, obviously, but I would prefer to file such a message as “oh, it’s a religious thing for them, nothing to see here” than be left scratching my head about what on earth is going on with my coworker.

              1. Reality.Bites*

                If there are any other Jewish employees in the organization there’s going to be a lot of WTFing going on and, I suspect, from many of them a less-diplomatic version of Allison’s “Neither I nor anyone else Jewish I know has ever heard of this”

                1. dot*

                  Obviously not because the letter writer specifically mentions this is something other Jewish coworkers and other Jewish people they know do. The letter writer’s experience is not all-encompassing, and neither is Allison’s.

                2. Coenobita*

                  I’m Jewish and am definitely familiar with these broad apology statements. However, in my community/congregation they’re actually considered a little gauche and showy – I know they are meaningful to folks like OP1, I’m just saying this to point out cultural differences even among people who know what’s going on. I agree that it’s better to leave it out of the workplace entirely!

                3. MrsMaisel*

                  This letter is being widely discussed in Jewish online spaces today, and I’ve not seen a single person saying they’re familiar with it.

                  Obviously no one experience is universal, but this is a very very niche thing within Judaism. The fact people within LW’s own circle do it too, doesn’t really mean anything – of course your practises are going to be similar to that of those within your own circle.

                  I really wish non-Jews would stop commenting on whether this is or is not common, and especially stop goysplaining to actual Jewish posters.

                4. ICodeForFood*

                  It’s certainly not something I would do at work, but I am Jewish and am familiar with this concept… It may depend on which branch (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist) of Judaism one practices or comes from… Or perhaps where your ancestors came from.

            2. Willow Pillow*

              I agree… As someone with religious trauma, seeing that would make me quite uncomfortable. Please keep religion out of secular workplaces!

          1. I should really pick a name*

            I’d really like to emphasize here that even with wording like this, it’s going to come across as weird.

            1. AsPerElaine*

              Quite possibly, but I think it’s a harmless sort of weird, one I might even find a bit endearing, and LW has indicated that this practice is important to them.

              1. Brooklyn*

                Disagree. Just because the practice is mostly harmless doesn’t make it irreligious. It’s weird and bad to involve someone in a religious rite without consent. If the message was just “Shana Tova to those celebrating” it would be one thing, but any message asking for forgiveness is a conversation and implies a response. It’s not any different than me saying “Christ has risen” in my out of office Easter message.

                Or to put another way, if I am a colleague who has been wronged and I receive this message, am I supposed to forgive OP? Am I supposed to drop my legitimate grievances because OP wants a religious cleansing? As an atheist, I wouldn’t be offended by this language, but it would reflect badly on OP that they are unable to separate their religious life from their work life. If they are engaging in this performative religiosity, are they not going to be professional with Jewish coworkers that they don’t think are appropriately religious? Or non-Jewish coworkers? Or clients who don’t behave appropriately?

                1. ecnaseener*

                  Hang on, apologizing doesn’t become a religious rite just because there’s a religious reason for doing it at this particular time of year. It’s the same type of apology you would get at any other time of year.

                  Demanding forgiveness is always bad form, no matter who’s doing it. A good apology centers the person harmed and makes no demands on them, no matter who’s doing it. So no, you’re not supposed to drop any grievances to cater to anyone.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Maybe shorter and less “I suck” would be better:
              “This time of year, I reflect on my interactions over the past 12 months. If there’s anything that I ought to do differently, please let me know so I can address concerns and enter the new year as a more helpful colleague”

              Taking out “harms”, swapping “shortcomings” for “concerns”, swapping [some positive professional attribute like ‘helpful’] for “better”, taking out “person.”

              My idea is to lean more professional and less personal, which may not be what resonates with OP.

              Either way, OP, thanks for an interesting conversation!

          2. Day Dreamer*

            I’m going to go a bit Jew-y here and say this doesn’t even fit with the spirit of T’shuvah (turning/repentance). An apology should be personal and directed towards the person harmed. I have used a similar phrase with Jewish friends and family during the appropriate time of year, but that was verbal and either in person or over the phone. It’s meant to allow the opening of conversation. A blanket statement in an away message does not fulfill that obligation. I live and work in a very Jewish city, and think most of my coworkers would be confused or concerned by such a message. I have also never seen this in my fairly observant community.

            1. Greg*

              I came here to post this. From a professional point of view, I think it’s inappropriate to involve people in your religious rituals, although I think with some of the alternate wording people have proposed it wouldn’t come across too badly.

              But as a Jew, from a religious point of view, I find the blanket statement to be way too “box checking” to have any meaning.

            2. Eyes Kiwami*

              This was my thought. What kind of apology is “sorry if I hurt you” in an out of office message?? How is that in the spirit of apology?

            3. The Very Jewy Sparrow*

              Yeah, as a fellow Jew who HAS seen this kind of thing before, this is not how teshuva works. You have to do the work of going up to individual people and asking them for forgiveness. Blanket away messages (or Facebook posts, which is most of what I’ve seen) are basically just meaningless grandstanding unless there’s real, honest follow-up with individuals.

        3. The answer is (probably) 42*

          I was coming here to say this, more or less, although I wouldn’t even necessarily omit the religious aspect. I like your wording a lot, but if LW1 wants to include a brief explanation of why now, they might replace “This time of year” with “As the Jewish New Year approaches”

          That includes the religious aspect without creating any awkwardness (IMO) for people who do not observe the same way.

          P.S. as someone who is formerly Orthodox Jewish, this is an integral part of the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur process, so OP may not even realize that it’s not commonly known among other Jewish communities!

          1. Susanne*

            Oh please. Even (gasp) Reform Jews know that apologizing/atoning is part of the RH/YK process. It’s just that it’s not appropriate to bring it to the workplace. This is weird, Alison is right that normal everyday Jews do not send out these mass e-mails.

          2. MrsMaisel*

            I’m Orthodox too and I’ve never heard of this.

            Apologizing and atoning, yes of course. That’s standard.

            Using email auto-reply on your business email as the method? No, that’s extremely unusual even in Orthodox spaces.

              1. Anon Jew*

                I don’t want to derail, but what does this even mean? Why do you think that having Jewish friends gives you any additional weight as a commenter?

                Please don’t use this line as justification in the future.

                1. PennyPo*

                  I think they mean they have sent and received many emails from Jews at all times of the year and they have never seen an automated message like this. I actually think it’s good feedback because if this person- who is well acquainted with but not part of the Jewish community- would find it weird we can assume the random people getting an OOO message would also be confused.

              2. Avalon Angel*

                I am also not Jewish, but my husband is. This is something no one in his family had even heard of, much less done.

          3. Smithy*

            I was raised Conservative in the US and also worked for three years in Israel – and so while this is only my experience, while atoning with Yom Kipur is more widely known the mass email or away message is also something new for me.

            As other Jewish posters have also said, I think this is a bit more about calling this out as a far more niche practice. Personally, I see this more akin to having religious affirmations or symbols up in one’s workspace or responding to emails with “Have a blessed day”. And I know I don’t like that.

          4. Arts Akimbo*

            I find any religion in the workplace uncomfortable. The religious email would actually be creating another offense for which… it would be apologizing? It just doesn’t work.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I really like that too. I was thinking it would make more sense to give some context, but then thought that could come across as pushing religion. Personally, I see no problem with “On Yom Kippur, I want to apologise for any hurt I have caused during the year” and don’t see it as pushing religion any more than exchanging gifts for Christmas would be, but that phrasing avoids even making it in any way religious.

          While it’s not really relevant to the question, I also prefer wording like “anybody I have hurt” rather than using the word “offend” because rightly or wrongly, “offend” often gets used to imply “anybody who is overly sensitive and got upset when I did nothing wrong.” It’s clear the LW doesn’t mean it that way, but I still think “anybody I hurt” or like you said “any harm” takes responsibility more clearly than mentioning offence which sounds less serious.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Both exchanging gifts (reference to gifts of the Magi to Jesus) and referencing Yom Kippur are religious expressions.

            I am an atheist, and I don’t mind religious expressions, so I don’t want to change anyone’s behavior, but I think people should be aware of religious expressions so they can be thoughtful about it.

        5. Artemesia*

          Pretty much all of my close friends are Jewish and I had never heard about this as a blanket auto response. If the OP is going to do it, context is needed and even more than suggested here. e.g. mention Yom Kippur — and then the practice.

          Otherwise, I am assuming the person is about to be fired or is suspended and that is why they are out of the office because they have behaved very badly.

        6. Harper the Other One*

          This was what I was coming to suggest! If it’s important to OP to include it, a bit of context would make all the difference.

        7. Cate*

          I’m under the impression they don’t want to actually do this though, they want the blanket apology that absolves them with no effort. They talk about mass emails being sent out from their social circle, which does not seem to be indicative of wanting to actually work through problems they may have caused and make amends.

          1. MK*

            Eh, in the persuasion of Christianity I am most familiar with people should ask forgiveness from friends and family before they receive communion. It is not intended as an actual apology for specific wrongs you have done, those you are supposed to deal with in a more personal manner. It is a blanket acknowledgement that coexisting with others is difficult and causes friction and hurt without anyone’s intention or even necessarily fault and an expression of regret. It’s not really about absolution.

            1. ecnaseener*

              And that practice is very different from the practice of Yom Kippur, which is supposed to include genuine apologies and amends for specific harms.

              1. MK*

                I wasn’t equating them, I am sorry if my wording implied otherwise. I was just trying to point out that an expression of regret isn’t always an insincere apology. Apparently this isn’t what the practice the OP describes is about, though.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            I think the practical work of raising issues and making amends is something you would do separately as part of your friendships. This sounds more like a religious practice for the purpose of introspection and meditating on the topic.

          3. Happy meal with extra happy*

            And yet, before you commented this, OP responded above you and said they like the wording. So maybe let’s not make such uncharitable assumptions.

          4. MrsMaisel*

            There’s no indication that they’ve actually done anything that needs to be amended, or that there are any problems to be solved, though. That has nothing to do with Yom Kippur or what’s being debated here.

        8. Ruby*

          I still think this whole thing seems really insincere and off, and I’m Jewish! Off because I just imagine that if I’m leaving someone a work related the voicemail the last thing I want to deal with is a religious quagmire. The fact that it’s in your voicemail means that other people don’t have a choice about whether to interact in this way. Insincere because a blanket apology for unspecified wrongs is just inherently insincere. Why not go to the people you’re actually close to and apologize for anything that you genuinely feel bad about?

        9. Anonymous*

          Yes, I like this language with the invitation to reach out about specifics. (Most of my Jewish friends and family don’t do any sort of “blanket” practice, but the one who does, it’s in this form of “please tell me if there’s anything I’ve done” so he can then apologize for that thing.)
          The blanket “I’m sorry if I’ve harmed you” message will rub a lot of people the wrong way, perhaps especially Jews who feel strongly about the value of making amends in the repentance process!

        10. Student*

          I like this wording, because it identifies it as a cultural practice. I’d lead with “As I prepare to enter the new year, I reflect…” because that makes the context clear. And maybe end with a Shana Tova? I certainly don’t think that’s an inappropriate level of religiosity.

          I’d also make this a second paragraph, after the business part of the OOO that contains contact info.

          I do agree that you have to either leave it out altogether or give a lot more context so people aren’t wondering what the hell happened.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              I thought “Shana Tova” just was Hebrew for “Happy New Year.” I still don’t think it’s a good idea to put it in a work email, for the same reason that it’s not a good idea to put “Merry Christmas” or “Have a blessed Ramadan” in an email.

            2. Indigo a la mode*

              “Shana Tova” literally means “good year.” Unless you have an equally vehement response to people saying “Happy New Year” or “Gong Xi Fa Cai,” I’d say your cultural ignorance is showing. People get to have cultures, even if you don’t understand the words they’re using.

        11. Dr. S*

          I often here Jewish co-workers (verbally) use the phrase “in the spirit of the High Holidays” so if I saw this in a an email I (non-Jewish) would know what the sender was referring to (“In the spirit of the High Holidays, I would like to…”).

          I’m not Jewish, so I’ll leave it others to comment on appropriateness. Honestly, I wouldn’t really care one way another if I got this as an OOO message. I try to “assume good intentions” so I would try to take it as genuine and think the person is doing their annual soul searching and atonement.

        12. That One Person*

          I like this because the other one would probably make me worried one way or another. Either the person did something and got in trouble over it, or they might be having a downward spiral in mood and have reached a potentially critical point. The second option stems more from personal experience as someone who can become hyper critical of themself to the point of it becoming harmful, something I’ve worked to curb though it’s one of those eternal struggle type deals too so it’d be hard not to view it with a lens of, “maybe a lot’s gone wrong and this is a sign that person’s about to spin out of control on their self.” I can recognize that’s only an option, but it’s one of the ones I’d be worried about, again, given personal experience. Your wording leaves it in a far more positive route of wanting to wipe the slate clean and work towards a better self.

        13. Dust Bunny*

          This would be very helpful.

          The message as it is in the original post would confuse the heck out of me–if I were offended by them or their service to me as a client I’d probably have handled it already.

          But if the part about “this time of year . . . ” were included it would be fine.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I think it’s OK to say that it would read as insincere to you; given that LW has described it as being part of their religious practice, it’s not really OK to suggest that it is insincere.

        1. Raven*

          I’m not sure what you are intending to mean by this?
          Blanket apologies are by their nature insincere and that doesn’t change no matter what the reasoning (religious or otherwise), especially if no actual issue or corrective action has been identified.

          1. AsPerElaine*

            I mean, there are a lot of cultural practices of various groups that might feel insincere to people who don’t belong to that group. (Think: cultures where it is expected that the first invitation will be rejected, perhaps multiple times, and it is expected that a real invitation will be offered repeatedly. And I’m sure there are plenty of things in mainstream US culture that might seem really superficial to an outsider, but I’m not inspired at the moment.)

            Bamcheeks is pointing out that interpersonal interaction — and what is and isn’t sincere — is largely shaped by cultural expectations. While this practice may be counter to what I would consider a “general rule” of what an apology should look like, since we are told that this is what the practice is and that it is typical in a particular community, I don’t think it’s useful to judge the value of the practice.

            1. Raven*

              Ah, so I was confused because I couldn’t see anyone arguing the practice (reflecting on their actions and giving an apology where necessary) was insincere. People were just discussing the wording (blanket apologies etc.).
              So was confuses why bamcheeks was conflating the two.
              But if the wording is the cultural practice (i.e. giving a general rather than specific apology) that makes more sense.
              Also I’m not in the US, so while general aplogies are very much normal, it’s also not viewed the same as a specific apology.
              Thanks :)

              1. anon anon*

                To be clear, as a Jewish person, there is a very clear process for apology/redress laid out in Jewish tradition, and none of it includes blanket apologies. The whole point of teshuvah (return) is to be as specific, transparent, and victim/harmed party-centric as possible as a means of healing and transformation for both parties. I would definitely find this weird blanket apology super insincere and self-serving.

        2. Loulou*

          Thank you!!!!! Actually cannot believe how many people are comfortable saying “your minority religious practice is bad and suggests bad things about your character”

        3. Knope Knope Knope*

          I am Jewish. How an earth can an automated out-of-office email be sincere? The sender doesn’t know what they are apologizing for or who they are apologizing to or that they even sent the apology at all. I would be weirded out, confused and/or offended to receive this.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I’d be weirded out too. I might even disagree with it on the same grounds as you. However, why can a general attitude of apologetic feeling to anything and everything not be sincere? (As I said, I’d be tempted to disagree with it being a good idea, though I’m open to hear someone’s rationale if this was an actual person in my life and not someone I read about on someone else’s blog.)

      3. JSPA*

        Right! I do think you can actually lean in, instead, and be clearer.

        Many people make a mental accounting and seek forgiveness at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. The point isn’t, “my Religion– which I want to school you in– requires me to do this at this time of year.” If it were Chinese new year, or some other calendar, or simply dec 31 / jan 1, we’d intuitively accept, “wiping the slate clean.”

        The OOO could easily read, “I will be OOO [dates] in observance of the New Year, Hebrew calendar 5783. With the ending of the old year, following tradition, I wipe the slate clean, forgiving any trespasses, and begging foregiveness for any offense I may have caused.”

        I mean… you don’t have to! Nobody has to flag their cultural calendar, nor the reason for days off. But if you’re going to drop the “forgive me” thing in, you need to give context.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I agree 100% with Alison (disclaimer: not Jewish, but my spouse is so I have some basic familiarity I otherwise wouldn’t have), but I’d be *super careful* not to brand this as “insincere”. Jewish practices around apologies tend to be an order of magnitude more thoughtful and sophisticated than I ever encountered in my (Catholic/standard mainline Christian) education.

      5. Barbara in Swampeast*

        My first reaction would be ask if EST is making a comeback.
        I once had to sit through a very uncomfortable company meeting (about 75 employees) when the owner apologized for being greedy and lazy and letting the company business go bad. We didn’t know the business was bad until that talk. And then he tried to get other people into the EST training.


    2. Emily*

      Yeah, it would make me wory something was wrong too (not necessarily suicide, but more along the line Alison mentioned that the person had been screwing up at work or that they were so overly invested in their job that they felt the need to apologize for taking a couple days off). I think Alison’s point that you shouldn’t involve others at work in your religious practices is spot on and the main reason not to include it in an out of office message (not nearly as important, but I find “sorry if I’ve done anything to offend you” apologies incredibly insincere, and would find it that way even more so if it was sent as mass email).

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        And imagine if you were external and got apologetic OOO replies from multiple people all “on leave” from the same company… I’d be wondering what the hell went down and if they’ll ever be allowed back!

    3. emmelemm*

      Same. The “If I’ve offended anyone in the last year, I am sorry” would be slightly puzzling, but I’d figure it out. “Please forgive me” would actually freak me out.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, that’s what I thought as well, and it would definitely come across as someone who’s overcommitted to their job.

        2. LW#1*

          LW#1 here. I was trying to be deliberately vague and do both this year–both “please forgive me for being out of the office,” and “please forgive me if I’ve done anything to offend you.” I figured I would keep it generic this year and allow people to take from my message how they wanted to interpret it.

          1. Violet Fox*

            Honestly if I got this, I would assume that the person emailing me was going through a 12-step program and was drinking at work.

            1. Annika Hansen*

              I wouldn’t necessarily assume that they were drinking at work, but I would assume attending a 12-step program. And maybe taking off time to work on their addiction issues.

            2. Ash*

              This is where my mind went too. I’d assume they were at the “making amends” step, whichever number that is.

            3. DataSci*

              I wouldn’t assume drinking at work, but without obvious cues (knowing someone is Jewish or a more specific reference to Yom Kippur than “this time of year” to clue me in) I might think of a 12-step program first as well.

          2. WheresMyPen*

            I don’t think anyone should be asking for forgiveness for being out of the office though – you’re entitled to take leave!

          3. Sylvan*

            Unfortunately, I might think something very bad had happened. When people express something negative (guilt) and vague and then leave, I don’t assume that all is well. Wrapping up loose ends before you leave would also contribute to my impression, even though that’s a normal thing to do before time away from work.

            I think providing context, that this is a message you share every year around a holiday, would be helpful.

          4. Mockingjay*

            Honestly, I’d be bewildered to receive an email with this vague apology. 1) It’s part of your religious practice, not mine. 2) There’s no context. 3) Email is a work tool, not a personal communication means.

            I’m accustomed to emails apologizing for late data or forgotten tasks. I just wouldn’t know what to do with this.

            (And why apologize for being OOO? All I need to know is who to contact in your absence.)

          5. Yorick*

            “Please forgive me” is definitely worse than your older message. If you want to include it, provide more info like people have recommended above.

          6. lost academic*

            Listen, it’s just not right for two major reasons.

            One, it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Out of office messages (and email signatures) are meant to be informative about work. It’s not useful for anyone receiving the message and it’s at best just coming across a little oddly. Maybe people in your circle do it so it’s locally normalized, but it’s far from normal and with work email communications you’re going to be outside of that automatically. This is a useful time to consider that while the line between work and personal life will not always be bright and clear, this falls solidly in the personal realm.

            Two, it’s totally insincere because there’s no way it’s not a lie. You aren’t sorry for offending me this year because you don’t know how you did so and I guarantee you haven’t considered it since you could not have done so – “me” being whoever is receiving the blanket faux-pology. This kind of thing is not at all meeting the spirit of the practice and cheapening it in my eyes. It’s also a little performative which doesn’t come off well professionally and often personally, for that matter.

            No one’s stopping you from doing this on social media and in your personal email communications, but you shouldn’t do it at work.

          7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’d automatically assume you’d been called out for racial, sexual, religious, sexuality/gender bias and were doing a passy-aggy non-apology and were on forced leave/at an anti-bias training if I got something as vaguely worded as that. This might be the only time I’d say make something explicitly religious at work. Even something like, “As the new year approaches….” to clue in that this isn’t what I (and quite a few others) would think it was

            1. Lydia*

              Everyone saying all the things they’d assume about the message…y’all know that’s a you problem and not a LW problem, right? LW can’t control whatever weird fictions you come up with to fill in the blanks on why that message was on their OOO voicemail. And if it took up enough of your brain space to keep wondering about it and talking about it, that would still be a you problem.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Perhaps. But I am clearly not alone, so maybe OOO requests for forgiveness are weird enough for enough people the LW should reconsider

              2. Calliope*

                No they can control it by giving context in the message. When people get an unusual message that suggests something scary happened they’re going to think about it. That’s not at all a “them” problem.

              3. LB*

                If most people would misinterpret your intended message and not have the context to get it, the fault is with the communicator.

              4. Vicky Austin*

                If you communicate with me in a way that I can’t understand, it’s not my fault if you get the wrong idea.

              5. Gerry Keay*

                Communication is a two-way street, and if most people do not understand what you are talking about, that is, in fact, a you-problem.
                A tired communications professional

              6. UKDancer*

                People need context to understand the message though. If you lack any context and the message is vague people will fill it in with whatever they think is relevant. If LW wants people to take a certain message from what they say, they need to be clear what they’re saying and why.

                The fact a large number of respondents (me included) tend to think of a mental health issue or some form of rehabilitation / 12 steps programme indicates that the message isn’t clear enough for the majority audience here.

              7. Annony*

                The LW wants to know how the message comes across to others. They specifically asked. They are completely free to decide that they don’t care about the impression they are making, but their letter suggests that they do care.

          8. Butterfly Counter*

            I watch too many Datelines, 48 Hours, and 20/20s and have seen similar notes from people about to go on a rampage. That’s where my mind would immediately go, but I don’t think I’m a normal person.

        3. I take tea*

          So would I! I keep thinking of the Samuel Pollen tweet about European and American out of messages… (Lunk to follow)

    4. anon24*

      That was my first thought as well. Either suicidal/having some sort of mental health crisis or taking time off to seriously reflect on making major life changes because they felt they made some serious mistakes. Religion honestly would never cross my mind.

    5. snaketime*

      I have a similar reaction.

      It wouldn’t make me think that the person was suicidal, but it would make me think that they were having some kind of mental or emotional crisis, or had exceptionally poor judgement about how their communication would be received. Having the message be just “Please forgive me” without any context makes it seem a lot worse.

      It’s hard to see how anything good will come from trying to do this as part of your work communication.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes, I’d have the same thought. I think if you want to do this, and especially if you’re dealing with a non-Jewish audience, you need to provide some context. I am not Jewish and a message like that would just make me wonder if you were feeling alright or having some form of crisis and wonder how I can help. I think it’s necessary to tell people why you’re sending the message if you want them to understand your meaning.

        1. Violet Fox*

          I’m Jewish and I would wonder a lot of the same thing. Jewish forgiveness.. at least as I was taught is different, and it’s a lot more about doing the introspection and then the work to right the wrongs you have done rather than asking for, begging for, or even expecting any sort of forgiveness.

          1. MrsMaisel*

            I’m Jewish and would also perceive it this way.

            Honestly if I received an email like this, I wouldn’t even put two and two together and realize it was in reference to Yom Kippur.

      2. just another bureaucrat*

        My immediate thought was just “DON’T DO IT!” If I got this I’d be immediately calling someone to see if the person was ok, if they were allowed in the building still. Like this reads as terrifyingly vague to me. I read it as more “I’m about to do something horrific”.

        There are a lot of bad actions that a person can take that they might do that for but oof. The only thing that would stop that is most people see the out of office and don’t read the whole thing? Please OP use some other language.

    6. Buffy fan*

      Ok so one time I got really drunk and I was hanging out with a former roommate of mine. (I actually think this may have been on my 21st birthday which explains why I was feeling so nostalgic). So anyway I said “You’re such a good friend and I’m so sorry about that thing I said freshman year.” And she had totally forgotten about whatever spat I was apologizing for and thought I was apologizing for something else that I had totally forgotten about. (To be fair we were great friends but terrible roommates). And then we sorta did a drunken rehash of both disputes. So I guess the moral of the story is that the thing that you think you need to apologize for may not be the same as the thing your friend thinks you need to apologize for. And weirdly open ended apologies invite a lot of confusion and may even bring up hurt feelings.

    7. Despachito*

      I’d say non-Jews would be confused thinking that you are either suicidal or something very bad is happening.

      I cannot speak for Jews as I am not one, but if the intent is to genuinely ask for forgiveness if you hurt someone, this seems like a very non-personal, easy way out; it costs nothing to just add an automatic answer, and it does not seem like you put any real thought or effort in it.

      I’d leave it out of business mails completely because I cannot see any good coming from it, and if you have a tradition to ask forgiveness, perhaps it would serve better its purpose to do it in person and only to those who understand and share the tradition?

      1. Artemesia*

        This too. Sending it out to people you have limited business contact with seems odd. I would think that the real requirement is to apologize personally to actual friends and family you have offended.

      2. Stitch*

        I used to work for Hillel in college specifically for Shabbat and the High Holy Days (event staff for these things tends to not be Jewish so people don’t miss the holiday or service) and this isn’t something I encountered. And we’d get regular emails from the rabbi.

        1. Stitch*

          My point being as someone who’s non-Jewish but has sat through multiple Yom Kippur services, even then, with just a vague statement of apology in a work email a week before I might simply not make the connection. I think an explicit explanation needs to accompany it. There have been some good suggestions for a script.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            I agree with the idea of mentioning the reason. I, personally, make more of a connection with Yom Kippur, but either that or Jewish New Year would clarify the reasons.

          2. Reality.Bites*

            As a Jewish person who has never once sat through a Yom Kippur service, I am truly and deeply sorry!

            1. Stitch*

              But yeah realizing that the Rabbi was actually very sensitive to the extent we were not expected to participate in any religious activity. There were very common sense restrictions (no eating around people who were fasting, interestingly the Rabbi wasn’t fasting for a couple years because she was pregnant or breastfeeding). They gave us guides to the service but were clear it was optional.

      3. Ruby*

        As a Jew, I agree with you 100%. IMO this kind of thing is in the same vein as including “have a blessed day” in your voicemail. Doesn’t belong in a work context.

        1. Smithy*

          Also coming from the Jewish perspective, this is where this sits for me. If you are at a workplace where “have a blessed day” and similar are common in the workplace – then I think there are ways of bringing it into context in that way. But if it’s a workplace where that’s not the norm….I think that you may continue to encounter friction or confusion from a boss or other coworkers.

          If nothing else, I think this post has shown lots of opinions within the Jewish community around this practice – so I think even if there are other Jewish coworkers where the OP is, they may not necessarily serve as a unified source of support.

    8. Sylvan*

      Same. It might be a huge reach, but I’ve lost relatives to suicide and I’ll notice anything that looks like a gesture in that general direction.

      Or maybe I would think the person was unreasonably apologetic for taking time off from work. I’d think: You’re allowed to take time off! You don’t have to apologize for it! Is your boss making you feel guilty? Yikes, I hope everything’s alright in that department.

      If they provided a little context, that would help.

    9. Snow Globe*

      I had a similar thought. The first version at least made it clear that forgiveness was being asked for *past* actions. Just “please forgive me” could refer to actions taken in the future, so either self-harm or violence to others. I would find “please forgive me” to be very alarming.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        People keep saying this like it’s not totally normal & accepted to bring various christian practices into secular workplaces. I hope everyone firmly rejecting this apology signature is bringing this same energy to things like holiday parties and their office being closed on the 25th.

        1. Gracely*

          I mean, I’d rather we get both Yom Kippur *and* Christmas off. And Eid. And Diwali. That seems like a better route to go. And I definitely cringe at the various religious signatures I see in emails. Blanket forgiveness is also just…awkward, and it puts the onus on the wrong person. Beyond that, work is not the place for this kind of thing, regardless of your religion (unless you work at a religious institution, and even then…).

        2. Flash Packet*

          Some of us push back on Christianity-in-the-secular-workplace as hard and as far as our political capital will allow.

          As for the OP’s question: I would find this kind of out of office message baffling and worrisome. I would wonder if they were OK, if they were on involuntary leave for something, if they were working through the “amends” step in AA or other 12-step program, or if they were about to bring loaded firearms into the office.

          With the religious context added, I’d be like, “WTF? Coworkers and customers just need to know that you won’t be responding to their email until next week. What’s with the religious atonement?”

      2. MigraineMonth*

        It’s really the “getting other people to participate” part that bugs me. If a colleague is wearing religious head covering, excusing themselves to pray, eats according to their religious practices, or has ash on their forehead, that’s all fine with me. I bring my religious traditions of honesty, equality and nonviolence to my workplace interactions because I try to bring them to all my interactions.

        Asking me to pray with them, saying “God willing” after our conversation, wishing me a Happy [holiday I don’t celebrate] and similar just feels too pushy.

        So if OP asks colleagues to let them know if there is anything they did/are doing that causes harm, that feels like a sincere personal choice and makes a lot of sense to me from a social justice perspective. (I still wouldn’t put it in an OOO message, though, because that seems too flippant.) On the other hand, saying, “I’m asking you to forgive me because of Rosh Hashana” seems like asking others to participate in a religious tradition.

        1. Gracely*

          As I said above, making this kind of request puts the onus on the wrong person. You’re asking the person who was hurt/wronged to go out of their way to grant *you* forgiveness.

      3. RagingADHD*

        I think it would be fine to say something like “Wishing you a meaningful holiday season,”

        Even “wishing you an easy fast” would be fine, because there is such a major ethnic/cultural identity aspect to Judaism, and plenty of people fast for the holidays (or use it as a greeting) regardless of their religiosity.

        But repentance and forgiveness are really spiritual values, and it’s just so personal.

    10. Tesuji*

      To me, the combination of this being (1) an out of the office message, coupled with (2) an insincere apology that (3) specifically says ‘offend’ would make me automatically think that this person had been forced to go on involuntary leave while HR determined whether or not they were going to be fired for saying something egregiously racist/sexist/offensive in some way.

      I’d be very confused when they actually showed back up again for work.

    11. Erin*

      I haven’t heard of this practice, and tbh, I rarely pay close attention to out of office notifications. I just scan them for dates & alternative contact person for X thing, and move on.

      However, if I did take the time to carefully read out of office notifications, and I realized there was an apology, I would think that the person did something pretty awful to another co-worker, and that they were OOTO for the offensive thing they did.

    12. SP*

      I’m Jewish, and have seen these blanket apologies often of facebook/social media.

      My preference is to keep all of this out of the workplace. That said – you do you! I’ve been wished Merry Christmas about a squillion times, and I just let it go. Same with Happy Easter. Have a blessed day, etc.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I think it also depends on the field you are in. I have received e-mails from Jewish orgs that discuss the holidays and their purpose usually attached to their upcoming holy days schedule/hours, but that is just them letting their partners know what’s up and who to get in touch with if an emergency happens with one of the shared clients. Predominantly Muslim serving orgs and Orthodox Christian ones do the same because, at least in the US, their holidays fall at “odd” times on the Catholic/Protestant calendar. People look at me like I am nuts when I say I’m taking off 1/7 for Christmas

    13. KoiFeeder*

      It would depend on context- if I thought OP1 was just asking forgiveness for being out of office, I’d think that was kinda weird and be a little concerned about their work-life balance, but not worried about suicidal intent. If I’d personally talked with OP1 and gotten other vibes, though, I would indeed be worried about them.

    14. arthur lester*

      This was my first thought too. I would absolutely panic and be trying to figure out how to get that person immediate help.

    15. Thence*

      I don’t know if that’s where I’d go, but the message described would absolutely convey to me that

      1) this person has done, thinks they have done, or maybe thinks they will soon do something horrible (“please forgive me” is a strong, dramatic apology without any context!)

      and 2) this is related to their time out of office.

      Not what OP is going for!

  2. michelenyc*

    I have worked for and with a number of Jews some of which were Orthodox when I lived in NYC and have never seen an OOO that included an apology. One company I worked made sure we could not get into the office during the high holidays. They went so far as to change the code on the door so we couldn’t get in.

    1. fueled by coffee*

      LW1, it’s admirable that you want to make amends with people you’ve hurt in the past year, but IMO the intent of teshuva is to be introspective and think about who in your circle might be owed an apology, not to send a generic “sorry if I messed up” in an OOO email, *especially* because there’s no context for folks who might not understand why you’re doing this (and you can’t provide said context without unnecessarily bringing religion into the workplace!). I’d make personal apologies to any of your coworkers who might need one, and then assume you can let the email reminder about annual fire alarm testing go apology-free.

      1. The answer is (probably) 42*

        I 100% agree with your understanding of Teshuva. That said, as someone who went to Jewish schools for k-12, it was absolutely common for kids to run around to each other right before Rosh Hashana break and go “do you forgive me for anything I might have done to hurt you?” en masse to all of their friends. Once I hit high school things got a little more sincere, but the mindset of trying to reach as many people as possible does persist to some extent.

      2. Triplestep*

        This is what I came here to say. Sending a mass email to apologize is not Teshuva. Also, I’m Jewish and I know (and get emails from) many Jews. I have never heard of this mass email practice. Please do not say “this is pretty common in Jewish circles”. It is definitely not and we are misunderstood enough.

        1. Loulou*

          I mean…there aren’t THAT many Jews, but there are enough that I’m comfortable saying I don’t know about every micro community’s religious practices, although I do know about this one because I’ve encountered it myself….and this is apparently common among people OP associates with so…????

            1. Loulou*

              As far as I’m aware, I’m not in OP’s circle and I’ve received generic apology whatsapps and emails.

        2. MsClaw*

          The OP may be suffering from the same bias an acquaintance of mine does, where they assume that everyone with a particular characteristic does X because the 1-2 people they know with that characteristic do X, no matter how unlikely the conclusion is. (My two German friends don’t really like sausage therefore Germans don’t really like sausage, for example). So they are assuming that because a few people they know do this, *everyone* does this. When in fact, this is a peculiarity of a particular subgroup she happens to know or be a part of.

          Not only would most gentiles (and many Jews for that matter) not immediately pick up that this was about atonement, many people receiving this message might have no idea the person sending it is Jewish and wouldn’t connect those dots making it seem even weirder.

          (I also absolutely agree with those saying that this is very much not how it’s supposed to work. You can’t really atone for an offense you don’t even know you’ve committed.)

          It’s also really not a very professional thing to put in emails. Especially if you interface with any external clients this could be read in ways that might cause real problems.

          1. Triplestep*

            Apologies do not contain the words “if” or “but” or “may”. This is true generically as well as Jewishly.

            Not an apology: “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

            An actual apology: I’m sorry that I offended you; I should not have said that/done that thing.”

        3. Vicky Austin*

          I’m reminded Stephen Colbert’s comedy bit with the Atone-A-Phone, where any Jewish people who had offended him could call and apologize. The phone number was 1-800-OOPS-JEW.

        4. Just another Fed*

          I’m Jewish and have never heard of or seen this. If I were to see it, I would assume suicidal ideations or a 12 step program. Also, I work in the US Federal Government and would think it highly inappropriate.

      3. JSPA*

        It’s ok that people do [insert nominally same religion here] in different ways! If OP is from a tradition of doing blanket “I forgive / please forgive,” to make sure nobody gets left out, then that’s their tradition.

        The question, as I see it, is how to pull it off without freaking people out; not how to pull back on trying for completeness.

        (There’s more than one family near me who drive around in a car with a loudspeaker to do this. I mean… maybe they’re all related? But “being completist about saying it to everyone” is a thing I’ve encountered.

        Can’t say I love the loudspeaker, but at least I’m not racking my brain over what offenses we might be talking about, as I would with a friend or coworker.

        1. Triplestep*

          People get to do [insert nominally same religion here] different ways in the privacy of their own family or community. I am sure Orthodox Jews consider me non-practicing compared to their observance.

          People do NOT get to do Judaism different ways outside of their family or Jewish Community and say “This is what Jews do” or “This is common in Jewish circles”. Especially when it is the opposite intention of the tradition they are spinning. Teshuva is designed for introspection. That is what the Days of Awe are for. You want to do it differently? Publicly in social media or email auto-responder? Sure, that can be your tradition, but you don’t get to say “This is what Jews do” like it’s commonplace or the least bit driven by thoughtfulness. We are already “othered” left and right in US workplaces. Our fellow Jews should not be contributing to that.

      4. BRR*

        Yeah I agree with this. Being raised Jewish, I don’t think the OOO message fits atoning for one’s sins (I don’t think “mass blanket apologies” really does either for what it’s worth). I’m sorry if this sounds harsh but if I was a recipient of this and understood the context, it would feel lazy and insincere. Partially because of the brevity but also because of the means of delivery. An OOO message is for letting people know they won’t receive a response right away and whom to contact if they need something.

        1. Triplestep*

          Doesn’t sound harsh to me (another Jew.) I would think the person who issued the mass email or auto-responder did not understand Teshuva and just did a perfunctory thing. I can’t really say I do a lot of Teshuva, but I would never do an email or social media apology and CALL it Teushuva. Seems pretty out of touch.

      5. repent, repent*

        This. I am Jewish and familiar with the practice of blanket apologies, but only because my rabbi has given sermons about how it’s utterly antithetical to teshuva and should never be done. If I got this email I would be mildly appalled.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          That’s quite interestingly useful to OP. Many Jews and non Jews would be baffled, yes, but you’ve also got a type of Judaism that actively teaches against it. I’m starting to see a lack of good odds here.

        2. Knope Knope Knope*

          Yup. Ironically this email itself could be quite offensive to some (I would be offended), so it really defeats the purpose.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      I’ve seen this on social media from both orthodox and non-orthodox Jews, but never in a work email. I agree with Emily above that this is a very vague type of apology. I don’t think the benefit (to the LW, for attempting teshuva) outweighs the cost here (sending a confusing out of office email with religious undertones).

      Of course, today is also a Jewish holiday (Simchat Torah) in the US, so orthodox site readers won’t be able to chime in on the frequency of this practice.

      1. This Old House*

        I’ve also never seen it in a work email, but I see it on social media every year. I was kind of surprised by Alison’s response – while I can understand people who are not Jewish/do not know that apologies are part of Jewish practice during that time of year might be confused, I’d put it together pretty easily as someone (slightly) familiar with the practice and I would have thought Jewish people would understand the intent even if a mass work email wasn’t a format they were familiar with.

        1. anon anon*

          I’m Jewish and obvs know that apologies are part of Yom Kippur practice, but as many other posters have noted, my understanding of Teshuvah is pretty antithetical to this mass apology practice and I would be pretty confused with no context (and pretty appalled with context tbh).

      2. Triplestep*

        I have never seen a blanket apology on social media, but I have a really hard time imagining that Orthodox Jews ever do this (even Modern Orthodox Jews.) They know the intention behind Teshuva.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I’ve seen it many times and it irks me every time. Sincere apologies require naming the specific action. You can’t be sorry if you don’t even know what for.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m Jewish and I’ve personally never heard of this practice on social media, etc. I’m learning something new.

      My work sometimes involves writing to people I have never met. It would be strange to receive an automatic apology or request for forgiveness from someone who has never been in touch with me until they got my email. I would find it off-putting.

    4. Patty Mayonnaise*

      There is one person in my professional network who sends out a mass email wishing everyone a happy new year and, in keeping with the theme of repentance in the holiday, please forgive any harm caused. So in my experience it’s uncommon but not unheard of. Because of the context given in the email, I wasn’t confused or alarmed about the “please forgive me” part, though I do wonder about the intent (like, is this email primarily a happy new year email with the apology included, or is the apology the whole point?).

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I would only include something if I were working for a Jewish organization (and, of course, if I were a Jew to whom the practice was meaningful). But I like JustSomeone’s wording above.

  3. Tui*

    I don’t know about the student loan reimbursement thing. That’s part of the employee’s total compensation package and presumably they considered that when they decided to take the job and negotiated their salary. If the reimbursement hadn’t been included they could have negotiated a higher salary, used that to pay the loan, and now they’d be getting the refund free and clear. Seems a bit unfair that they’d be out that money because of the way their compensation is structured.

    1. Glen*

      Yep. It’s a $6,000 benefit to the employee; sure it’s reimbursement for education but that just means it’s a “different” $6k that stays in their bank account, there’s nothing particularly special about it being intended for one thing or another.

      1. High Score!*

        Nooooooo…. It was meant for a specific thing. To keep it is double dipping and might prevent someone else from enjoying the same benefit. Given that it’s a non profit, keeping it would be stealing that $6000 from the charitable cause

        1. BRR*

          Only touching on your last sentence, noooooooo. That type of attitude is used against nonprofit employees all the time. Employee compensation and money going to the cause should never be put in competition from each other.

          1. High Score!*

            Ok, even if it were not a non profit, it’s stealing. It was not part of regular salary or a bonus, it is a benefit for a specific thing that it turned out she didn’t need. She puts everyone in a bad position by keeping it.

            1. Lyra Silvertongue*

              It’s very literally not stealing. ‘Benefits’ is usually taken to mean non-monetary perks of your employment that you are legally entitled to.

              1. JayBee*

                No, no I didn’t. I meant to reply to BRR. No one cares but me, but I’m going to go get another coffee and stop commenting. This Tuesday has Monday vibes.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Absent an explicit agreement with the compensation offer, the employer can say “you gotta use this part of your compensation for X, only” or “you may not spend your compensation on Y” all they want, but it doesn’t matter.

          This company made a deal and didn’t cover all its bases. Now they’re coming back, sheepishly, asking if they might not get their money back. But it’s not on the LW to fix. And as others have pointed out, the LW is absolutely not “stealing” — they are getting paid money in exchange for doing work.

        3. Starbuck*

          No! Non-profit employees who are getting good benefits comparable to other well-paid private sector employees are not “stealing!” The org clearly had that $6000 available to spend, and they spent it.

      1. Student*

        Yes, in general, although the CARES Act made a portion of employer student loan reimbursement non-taxable at the federal level. I’d still consider that between the employee and the IRS, though.

    2. Betty*

      If they had more than that 6k in loans, I think it’s completely reasonable to keep the 6k as being reimbursed for the other loan amount they paid back. If the order was reversed— they worked for a nonprofit pre Covid that made payments, left that job 3 years ago, and now got the last 6k they owed forgiven— none of us would think they somehow owed that money to their employer. I don’t think the order should matter.

      1. High Score!*

        Nooooooo…. That’s like all the people who say “I paid the loans I promised to pay so why don’t they have to? Are you going to reimburse me for being responsible and honoring my commitments?” If their arguments are invalid then so is this one.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          …I mean I don’t think anyone should have to pay for school, ever. I am not at all opposed to the idea of tuition payers getting reimbursed, it’s not an invalid argument at all.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I don’t necessarily agree that if they hadn’t received the reimbursement, they would have received a higher salary. Something like tuition reimbursement is a company-wide benefit, but salaries are set based on the job, not whether someone is using a particular benefit, eg., someone else doing the same job who doesn’t have student loans would be making the same salary, and I doubt that person could have negotiated a higher salary based on the fact that they won’t be using the benefit.

      1. to varying degrees*

        Agree. Every place that I have worked that offered tuition reimbursement (admittedly it’s not a lot, but a small handful has) it was not directly correlated to individual salaries so it never would have changed one’s individual pay.

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly. This is usually tied to equity- college tuition is part of generational wealth cycles (for example- I was paying $500/month in loans, whereas my colleague who made the same amount and had their parents pay for college had that as extra discretionary income, which they then used to put the down payment on a property, then the cycle continues).

        This is separate from salary.

    4. Studentloansurvivor*

      That’s a fair point. I’m wondering if it’s through an LRAP, though, or some other forgivable loan program where they’ve signed a promissory note agreeing to certain requirements. The program I used gave us up to $6,000 a year as a loan and we had to certify that we’d made loan payments to get the loan forgiven – otherwise, we were required to repay it. Regardless, this person should read any written terms of their participation in the reimbursement program carefully.

      PSA – If anyone here works in nonprofit or government and hasn’t already applied for PSLF, please consider doing so while the waiver is still in effect! It expires 10/31. It allows payments to be counted that wouldn’t count under the regular program terms. I got 11 months of payments counted from 10+ years ago when I was in the wrong repayment plan.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        I got YEARS of payments counted. I used to be so bitter about the way they F’ed it up with the type of loan being, you know, non-existent when I started paying, so I could never count all those payments. I’m just waiting for my notice that it’s been cleared. :-)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Congratulations! I know it’s been a long, bumpy road, but I’m glad it’s finally paying off for you.

    5. J*

      Student Loan Repayment benefits as I’ve seen them are usually tied to recruitment/ retention. So if your agreement stipulates that you repay only if you leave in x years, then I wouldn’t repay (assuming you stay there through end of agreement). If you leave, then repay as original agreement probably required.

  4. Anonymous*

    This might be an unpopular opinion, but I completely disagree with AAM’s advice for LW#3.

    Not only is the intent of the student loan forgiveness/refund to help out individuals struggling to deal with frequently predatory and completely inescapable student loans, while businesses have been getting PLENTY of their own breaks (that they rarely pass along to their employees unless required to)…

    …but the business has already written off that student loan reimbursement to you. It was presumably a conscientious investment in the LW’s value. The LW who had to put in all the time and effort where they were a student, AND demonstrate that it would be worth it to the business to invest in LW’s education.

    in short, the business’ investment into the LWs education has ALREADY paid off. They’re already reaping the compensation for that tuition reimbursement.

      1. Anonymous*

        It certainly doesn’t change the second part of the argument. Nor does it refute Tui’s (the poster above me) excellent point that I neglected that mentioned that tuition reimbursement was likely part of the compensation package and was considered when accepting the job.

      2. L-squared*

        Not for me. I started my career in non profits, and have now moved into the for profit sector. I have a lot of respect for many non profit organizations and people who choose to work there. But in the end, your job is still in a business transaction, even if you highly believe in the cause. They are paying you to do a job, and they give you benefits to go along with that. I don’t see why those should be repaid.

        Also, non profits aren’t necessarily all some organizations with 0 money. I always like to remind people that the NFL is a non profit.

      3. BRR*

        I also wrote this above but it shouldn’t change the calculation. Yes, there is often a personal aspect for people working at a nonprofit. But it’s still a job and it’s manipulative to try and play off people’s emotions.

      4. Glomarization, Esq.*

        It’s a red herring that the company is a non-profit. The money the LW received was (presumably) budgeted and planned. The company (for, lo, a non-profit is a company) decided that they would pay this money out as part of a compensation plan offered in exchange for work performed by this LW. Absent some other agreement contemplating this development regarding the funds, the LW has no obligation to pay this back.

    1. TechWorker*

      I don’t know much about US loans so might be way off mark but for me, it also matters how much OP has paid off overall. If her company has contributed $6000 to the loan, and they have contributed $20,000… then who’s to say the governments money is to pay back the company and not some of the money the OP has already paid?

      Would it make a difference to the answer if OP still had more left on the loan to pay? Doesn’t seem quite so clear cut to me as it does to Alison.

      (If it’s ‘the loan was exactly $6000 and now OP has been reimbursed twice’, then that feels different)

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I don’t either, but it depends for me on whether this is specifically a covid-linked payment (and the organisation paid for the loans over the covid period) or a more general “loan refund” scheme. Say LW graduated in 2012 with £20k debt (that’s probably wildly optimistic, but just for an example!) and paid of £10k in loan repayments from 2012-2017, and then took this job and their employer has paid £10k in the last five years– it’s not immediately obvious to me that their employer should be the one to benefit from that £6k rather than LW. The £10k in loan repayments was presumably costed into the organisation’s salary and benefits package and I don’t really see why they have more right to it than LW does.

        1. Betty*

          People with student loans in the US can get $10K forgiven [it’s more complicated than that, but that’s the simplest summary for a non-US audience]. However, there was ALSO a Covid “pause” in student loan payments being due for the past 2 years, prior to the loan forgiveness being announced. Because some people (like the LW/their company) kept paying during the “pause” even though they didn’t strictly have to, the government is reimbursing those “voluntary” repayments if they would have been eligible for forgiveness had the person taken advantage of the “pause”.

          1. Qwerty*

            Something for anyone in this situation to consider is that by double dipping, they are putting the government loan forgiveness or employer loan reimbursement programs at risk.

            If it gets out that people are getting twice the assistance they were eligible for, then those programs will either get defunded or the enrollment process will get more complicated and harder to navigate. The myth of “welfare queen” comes to mind and how some high profile stories have made funding and enrolling in social safety nets difficult.

            1. Wilbur*

              I don’t see that as an issue. Student loan forgiveness is great, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the cost of college. Tuition reimbursement is still something companies can offer that will benefit both parties, and will entice candidates to stay/join a company.

              The idea of paying it back is absurd, any company that tries is going to be looking at a huge loss of morale. Especially in this job market.

            2. Glomarization, Esq.*

              The answer is for employers to tighten up the terms around their loan reimbursement programs. Here, the employer is trying to guilt-trip the employee after realizing that they didn’t write a contingency into the compensation package offer in the event that the LW got refunds from another source.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            So the details in the letter imply that had they not been paying those 6k during the pandemic (employer reimbursed), that $6k would have been forgiven/forgiveable now. So neither the employee nor the employer would’ve had to pay that $6k today, had they paused with the pause. Am I understanding?

            Also to everyone saying “depends on if there’s more balance on the loan” the first sentence says the LW paid off their loans.

    2. Limdood*

      Replying to myself here, but obviously I understand that NOT paying it back, especially now that it’s been brought up, is likely to poison the relationship with the employer. Additionally, the tuition reimbursement agreement very likely specifically covers things like this so it has to be adhered to.

      I’m not saying that the LW shouldn’t pay it back (due to those two reasons), I’m saying the LW shouldn’t HAVE to pay it back.

      1. High Score!*

        Wow. This is why we can’t have nice things. Of course OP needs to pay it back (minus any taxes). Not doing so will definitely make her employer and coworkers and future references think less of her. Also, they may take away that benefit for others bc of abuse. And it’s a nonprofit, that money should go to the charitable cause.

      2. Sloanicota*

        It’s a bit strange there wasn’t a contract for student loan reimbursement that covers such things, considering OP is at a nonprofit. I used to run a tuition reimbursement program and we did have this rule – if you received other reimbursement, our funds needed to be returned. Of course, we also had limited funding and had to cap reimbursements, so you would literally be taking the money from someone else who needed it. That may not be the case in an employer-run program.

        1. Spero*

          I’m guessing they got public service loan forgiveness, because that does refund any payments made over the 120 required for the program. However, until the pandemic’s temporary PSLF program reconsidering previously ineligible payments as eligible, there was no reason to think that these payments would have been refunded. The option to refund only emerged after the payment was made.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Right but OP’s employer should have had a contract that stated the terms of the agreement, and it’s not much of a stretch that something like this would have been included. Under what circumstances, if any, the money might need to be returned is the most important part of such a program.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*


          This company appears to have had a poorly written plan. It’s not on the LW to solve this for the company.

    3. ten-four*

      I agree with this take, and I think it’s pretty shady that the non-profit is making it known that they expect LW #3 to pay it back. The loan reimbursement was part of their compensation package, and should be treated as such. Nickel-and-diming your staff is not good management practice, no matter how charitable the enterprise!

      Non-profits/charities already get a steep discount on the salaries they pay; shaking down staff for yet more dollars is not appropriate. At the end of the day it’s still a job – people are trading their work for money. There is a reason why the overwhelming majority of charities have a paid staff instead of volunteers!

      It’s also very shortsighted of the org to pick this fight. It’s hard to see a path forward for LW#3 to stay: either they allow themselves to get shamed into handing over $6k or they keep it and have their reputation tarnished. In either case it’s hard to imagine wanting to STAY at a company that would behave this way. The cost of hiring/training LW#3’s replacement is going to exceed 6k by a substantial margin.

      1. High Score!*

        This is not nickel and diming though. It’s $6000 that was given to OP as a benefit NOT as pay. They probably have a fund for college debt reduction. So if OP insists on double dipping – which is what this is – she is likely taking away someone else’s opportunity to have the same benefit, either bc the fund ran dry or bc HR sees her actions as abuse (which they are) and decide the program is not a good idea.

    4. Love to WFH*

      Will loan forgiveness be treated as taxable income? If so, then _definitely_ don’t turn that $6,000 over to your employer!

  5. Dark Macadamia*

    “Sorry if I offended you” is the most insincere, meaningless way to apologize even when it’s specifically directed at an individual you know you’ve wronged. It sounds even more empty and performative as a generic mass auto-reply! Does it really feel like you’ve made amends when you do this?

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Oh yikes, that wasn’t my intent at all! I just meant this doesn’t seem like a particularly meaningful exercise from either end of the message (in this specific format). And the “if” type of apology is a giant peeve of mine.

        1. moss*

          I hear what you’re saying and it’s nothing to do with religion. It’s the genericness of it. It doesn’t sound sincerely sorry. (and as a colleague I would be like… sorry for WHAT?)

          1. Loulou*

            Genericness??? Have you heard of…prayers? I am finding the level of discussion on this completely unbelievable.

            1. moss*

              I’m talking about a generic religious-based apology in a work signature. If you hurt me, I want a specific apology. If I work with you but don’t know you, I’m interested in your work activities, not your religious ones.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              Right? I’m pretty sure everyone commenting about sincerity and generic comments has said “Good morning”, “how are you?” “Have a good weekend” or something rote to signal an occasion/mood/time of day!

              1. fhqwhgads*

                That’s beside the point. The “if I offended you” trope is a very well known, completely secular, oft criticized thing that people – having nothing to do with Yom Kippur – are often taken to task for doing because it’s not a real apology. It’s a method of avoiding actually apologizing.
                I think it’s worthwhile to point out to someone using that wording in what is intended to be an actual atonement that due to the above trope, it is very unlikely to land well, whether the recipients know why the person is apologizing in the first place.

            3. LB*

              An apology is pretty notoriously meaningless unless it’s for a specific thing. See website “Sorrywatch” for an example. If it feels meaningful to someone that’s fine, but let’s not pretend to be unfamiliar with conventions around what makes an apology real vs boilerplate.

              1. Loulou*

                This is a religious custom, not a regular apology though? Let’s also not pretend to be unfamiliar with the concept of “ritual”….

                1. Gerry Keay*

                  Okay, but religious ritual really, REALLY does not belong in the workplace.

                  A genuine apology for a genuine mistake? Totally work appropriate.

                  But if by your logic, this isn’t intended to be an apology the way that term is most often used and is instead intended to be like a prayer/ritual, that’s an even stronger argument for it being wildly inappropriate for the workplace! Like, I cannot express how offended I am at the idea of someone praying at/for me or involving me in a religious ritual without my understanding or consent, and how much worse that is than just a poorly executed apology — especially in a work environment.

                2. anon anon*

                  As a Jew- including non-Jews (especially strangers, especially at work!!!) in your rituals is super weird. And yeah yeah two Jews, three opinions and all that, and I am certainly not an authority, but the practice LW1 is describing is pretty at odds with everything I have ever read/heard/practiced about the custom of Teshuvah. I think it’s worthwhile for LW1 to hear that this feels off/insincere to other Jews.

                  (LW1: highly recommend Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s new book “On Repentance and Repair” if you’re confused at the pushback from other Jewish folks here! Pretty sure she also talks about the Sorrywatch website)

                3. Kit*

                  “Ritual” in this case should probably be “ritualized” in the sense of formulaic; certain Jewish populations have adopted the widespread ‘sorry if I offended you’ format as a default, although other Jewish populations, like those represented here in the comments, disagree with that approach.

                  It is – or should be – a proper apology, in order to actually fulfill teshuvah, however. The religious aspect relates to the timing of when amends are made on the religious calendar, but the amends themselves should be sincere. Conveying that sincerity to non-Jewish friends and acquaintances often means secularizing, but it should still be individualized, and an OOO is… not the place.

                4. fhqwhgads*

                  As you can tell by Alison’s answer and the myriad Jews chiming in, this specific OOO-apology is not an official religious custom. To atone is. This method of doing so, while I’m sure not entirely unique, is also not exactly the spirit of the thing. Many rabbis would be like ‘no, you’re doing it wrong’.

                5. Eyes Kiwami*

                  Here is how the conversation you’re envisioning would go:
                  OP: Everyone, sorry if I offended you.
                  Non Jewish coworker: Huh???
                  OP: It’s for Jewish new year, I am apologizing to you.
                  NJC: Oh, ok. What are you apologizing for?
                  OP: Whatever I did that may have hurt you.
                  NJC: That doesn’t feel like much of an apology…
                  OP: It’s a ritual, it doesn’t have to be sincere.
                  NJC: Well, I don’t feel apologized to, and I don’t know why you’re involving me in your religious ritual, but whatever floats your boat…

                6. SpaceySteph*

                  Yeah another Jew here to agree with anon anon. I don’t want to be dragged into other people’s religious rituals at work, so why would it be ok to drag non-Jews into our religious ritual either?

        2. JSPA*

          Many religions have a formula that’s used for a process; that’s independent of the sincerity of underlying feeling.

          Equally true of, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” (Or, “Merry Christmas,” for that matter.)

          The point is the wiping clear of the mental and emotional weight, as one would any other sort of debt.

          The point isn’t to dwell on the transgression, but to start fresh, having wiped clear not only grudges, but any associated awkwardness or anxiety. Its a social reset.

          It predates modern psychology, and thus it’s not required to make sense under those precepts.

          Sociologically, this sort of periodic cancelation of debt is likely particularly common in circumstances where people could simply not afford to be riven by old grudges.

          1. moss*

            That’s great. If I was interested in comparative religions, that would be super fascinating. I’m not into hearing about that at work.

            1. moss*

              And to be clear, I am also not that into “blessed day” or “Merry Christmas” on work signatures.

            2. JSPA*

              Someone chose to discuss “aparent sincerity” on a blog; my responding to that has zilch in common with discussing religion at work. Furthermore, I’m not discussing religion, I’m discussing the sociology underlying ritualized phrases (religious or otherwise).

              If you prefer, substitute, “sincerely yours” at the end of a letter, or “good morning!” as a greeting.

              Using “good morning!” doesn’t hint someone doesn’t care. Even if they say it to everyone. Could be merely a formula, could equally be heartfelt. Ditto for “sincerely.”

              1. moss*

                … did you read the letter? It’s very much about discussing religion at work. It’s specifically asking about putting in religious observances *in a work signature*. Saying “have a great day!” is not analogous at all.

                1. JSPA*

                  If an atheist from China did it for Chinese new year (say) the question would still stand, minus any explicitly religious concept.

                  “It’s inexplicable without context, and you can’t presume others have the context” is the core issue. That you also have to thread the needle to give context without discussing religion at work, is the secondary wrinkle.

                2. moss*

                  Sorry, no. If someone from China asks me to take an action in response to their observance of a cultural holiday, that’s asking me to participate in their observance in a way I am not comfortable with.

                  And in the OP’s case she’s explicitly asking me to do emotional work on behalf of her religion in an office context. 100% not okay by me.

                3. JSPA*

                  Hunh; I never took “please forgive me” as a demand (or even a request) for emotional work.

                  It’s a sort of syntactic displacement; that is, “begging forgiveness” is “begging” only in the same sense as in saying, “I beg your pardon?” when you didn’t hear something correctly.

                  The general meaning is, “I acknowledge I may have done some harm, and hope that this acknowledgement makes the situation sit easier with you.”

                  This is obviously not the case when it’s something in the list of major harms! But those should not be happening–certainly not unawares–in the workplace.

                  This is, “I filched 5 of your paperclips” level, or “clears throat unusually often,” or “imitated your laugh that one time, that wasn’t cool” or “I keep calling you Jane, because you sit where Jane used to sit, and I’m stupid about it.”

            3. HoHumDrum*

              I hope you bring this same energy to your office holiday parties and calling “Happy Holidays!” to each other.

          2. Cate*

            But forgive us our trespasses is aimed at the Christian God, not the religious person’s coworkers (right?). I think it’s more sensible to be generic when it’s meant to be a phrase that’s spoken to a deity by everyone, trying to cover everything, rather than be focused on individual wrongdoings and making amends. And people wouldn’t be praying to their coworkers. I like the messaging which talks about what the period means and invites coworkers to reach out to OP, if they feel it would be beneficial to.

            1. Shhhh*

              Right. The thing about generic/blanket appeals to the Christian God for forgiveness is that in Christianity, God is omnipotent and already knows what you need to be forgiven for. One’s coworkers either know what they would like you to apologize for and are likely to want a more personal approach or don’t have anything in mind and are likely to be like “Um, okay?” at best. Without the larger context it’s just too far outside of professional norms so a blanket apology in an OOO message with no contextualization is definitely not the way to go.

            2. snarkfox*

              Right. I’m Christian, albeit a very liberal one, and “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” is basically a reminder for the Christian to forgive other people. It’s a way to reflect, like, hmm… here I am, asking for forgiveness, so if I’m asking for my wrongs not to be held against me, then I need to try to let go of what I’ve been holding against someone else. It’s all personal. It doesn’t even involve interacting with the other person.

              Now, if a Christian changed their OOO message to “if you trespassed against me, then I forgive you,” it would be more equivalent! I personally wouldn’t mind at all if LW explained in the OOO message about Yom Kippur and the meaning behind the apology, but I also don’t care whether someone wishes me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah or a Ramadan Mubarak. I’m just happy to have well-wishes directed in my general vicinity, lol. But I also think that’s my own personal bias as a religious person, so I don’t make any mention of religion in the workplace at all.

          3. snarkfox*

            Those don’t seem at all equivalent to me…. unless a Christian were to put “I forgive you if you trespassed against me” in their email signature, I guess.

      2. L-squared*

        I’m not Jewish, but I also don’t think it was debating the custom as much as criticizing the delivery. Even if you want to apologize, just saying “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” as a general thing is just not a very good apology in any situation.

        1. metadata minion*

          But that’s not what the LW asked for advice on! They’re not asking for advice on how to most effectively make amends with their colleagues; they’re asking if this particular thing that they’re doing will confuse people.

          1. Loulou*

            Right…if it’s not appropriate for a secular workplace then I don’t see how it matters if it’s sincere/effective or not?

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Part of the issue is that it will confuse people, in part, because of the delivery. The predicted result of the behavior LW asked about is “why is this person vaguely and insincerely apologizing to me? how odd.” That’s why people are discussing that aspect.

          2. Gerry Keay*

            And the commentariat seem to have reached the consensus that yes, this will confuse people, and here are all of the assumptions people are probably making about you, rightly or wrongly, without you realizing it.

        2. JSPA*

          Objecting to a formula, especially in the context of religion, is complicated.

          But the main issue here is, confounding a cultural formula with an individual utterance. It sets up the wrong yardstick.

          Its like telling people that “happy birthday” is glib and insincere, while “magical aniversary of your birth” would be heartfelt, because it’s not a formula.

          If you’re not from a culture that has an ancient formulaic way of asking and granting forgiveness (or wishing happiness on birthdays) you will tend to parse it as everyday speech; but it’s not.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            . . . which is actually an argument for either leaving it out or providing context in situations such as work where you can’t be sure people will know that.

            I was raised Quaker and we call everyone by first names, regardless of age or social prominence, but I knew better than to do that to my friends’ parents and my teachers outside of the Quaker community because it would have been received very differently and not in a good way. Someone I know through meeting is a professor at a major institution, in a discipline related to my job. If I see him on the street he’s Firstname. If I see him at a [discipline] event, he’s Professor, because the context matters.

            1. JSPA*

              I think we’re in agreement on that. But if you’d somehow gone to a separatist Quaker school, and mostly socialized with Quaker friends, there would probably be some less-obvious turns of phrase that didn’t feel like they needed explanation.

              The condolence, “may his memory be for a blessing” (for example) is a 100% Jewish thing, and it’s really the only stock phrase I know of. I can see someone (including a non-religious cultural Jew) using it, unselfconsciously.

              There’s a lovely article that I’ll link (Alison, please cut, if the Supreme Court constitutes politics), about how those words can still resonate in a non-religious but rights and responsibilities context so familiar to many secular jews.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                There are a lot of turns of phrase that don’t feel like they need explanation, but they do, and it’s on me to keep them in mind and either avoid them or explain them.

                1. JSPA*

                  We’re in agreement again.

                  But life is a process of finding out what such things are non-universal enough that they need explanation (and occasionally, finding it out the hard way). We don’t come pre-equipped with cultural translation software, useful though that would be.

                  Additionally, there’s a bit more awareness, these days, that people “of the dominant culture(s)” (locally or globally) don’t feel the need to do this extra effort, while everyone defined as outside the mainstream is expected to do so, as a matter of course.

                  We could, y’know, commit to cutting people (including ourselves) some slack for the occasional culture-specific utterance, in the same way that it’s OK if some people talk about cricket or rugby while others talk about baseball or American football.

          2. MrsMaisel*

            As an Orthodox Jew, please take my word that out of office email auto-reply messages are not “an ancient formulaic way of asking and granting forgiveness.”

            1. MigraineMonth*


              We should go back to putting the request for absolution in the email signature, as God intended.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I get your point but if the phrasing is, then the exact medium doesn’t really matter–it could be an auto-reply or a printed calling card or whatever but the misunderstanding would be the same.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            Except the particular formula LW is using is not a specific religious custom. They’ve adopted doing so. They know others who do it that way to. But that’s not what the holy day requires of us. That’s just a choice for how some people have decided to do the thing. It’s not the thing itself.
            In other words, I am from that culture and we do not have an ancient formulaic way of asking and granting forgiveness. We have an ancient requirement that we ask for forgiveness on a particular date.

      3. Reality.Bites*

        When religious customs are brought into the workplace, debating their appropriateness and their effect on co-workers, clients and the general public is inevitable

      4. MrsMaisel*

        There’s a clear divide here between posters who are actually Jewish, and those who are not.

        It’s a key part of Judaism to debate and question. Judaism is completely different from other religions that require obedience, and regard questioning or challenging rules as sacrilege. Jews are supposed to question and challenge, and it’s just a normal part of our culture to have healthy debate and argument about stuff.

        I agree that this might not be the right forum for it, but debating and arguing over the ‘right’ way to observe a particular custom or way to mark the High Holidays is an extremely Jewish thing to do, it’s very normal to debate this stuff, we do it all the time, we constantly debate and challenge and question each other, and it’s not considered offensive or, like, being anti someone’s religious freedom of expression. Most of the comments “debating” the LW’s customs are coming from other Jews because that’s our cultural norm.

        I actually don’t think this is the right forum because most posters here are not Jewish, but please know if the LW had sent their letter to a Jewish forum or Jewish website, it would have a thousand comments debating and arguing over LW’s decision to observe in this way by now.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I do think that can be healthy debate in those spaces; those types of website sound wonderful! Here’s the thing though; OP didn’t send it to one of those Jewish websites for discussion on whether they are doing Judaism correctly. They want to know about the workplace angle and how it would be received by a broad audience generally. If you look at OPs comments, they are not welcoming the segue either.

          1. Loulou*

            Exactly. I find it mind-blowing that people here (of any religion) think it’s appropriate to debate whether this is *religiously* appropriate in this forum. And despite the snide comment above, I actually think it’s pretty obvious that many of the people passing judgement on OP’s religious practice are not Jewish, so it’s pretty goofy to be like “if y’all were JEWISH you’d think this discourse was great!”

        2. Roland*

          I’m Jewish and of course the forum was the context I used for my comment. We are on AAM not among personal friends or a jewish website.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I sort of want there to be one comment that says “if you’re Jewish and have never heard of someone doing Yom Kippur OOO apologies, reply here” and another that says “if you’re Jewish and know of people who do Yom Kippur OOO apologies besides the LW, reply here” and all the replies just be +1s and get some sort of count. Mainly because I’m curious, because I’m very much in the former bucket, and grew up in an area with a much higher than average Jewish population (as in, public schools close for the High Holy days because if they didn’t the absentee rate would be unacceptably high). My completely unscientific polling of Jewish family and friends are also “huh?” But I realize one’s own circle is not representative.

    1. Cat Tree*

      FWIW, I agree with your general point. It really truly isn’t an apology in real sense of the word. If the intent is to go through the motions of saying the words with no thought of the actual effect on the the recipient then I guess it’s OK if that’s what their religion desires. It comes off more like certain denominations of Christians saying generic things like “have a blessed day”. But as Alison said, if the person had wronged me this attempt at an apology wouldn’t even start to fix that and might make me feel worse.

      1. JSPA*

        “Apology” is an imperfect translation of a much older concept. (“I attest to my awareness of how my imperfections and mis-steps may have caused harm,” however, is NOT more work- appropriate.)

        For that matter, our concept of adequate apology, even in english, has gyrated madly over the centuries.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I don’t think it matters what “apology” used to mean. That’s an interesting linguistics lesson but doesn’t change anything in the present day. Based on what “apology” currently means, such a statement does nothing for the recipient. It helps OP fulfill their religious requirement but not much else.

          1. moss*

            Exactly this. It’s for the OP to observe her religious customs. It has zero to do with OP’s work product, and it’s information that someone who is sending out the weekly HR update or checking on the status of a document (or whatever other work-related reason someone is emailing the OP) does not need.

          2. JSPA*

            It tells them you are not going to carry a grudge, and that you will ideally approach them without any baggage from past conflicts.

            That’s actually quite powerful, in a work context, where small dislikes or a mental tally of past slights can ferment over time into defensiveness, anticipatory stress, “active defense,” etc.

            1. moss*

              Nobody needs to bring “powerful” emotions into a work context. I do not accept to carry your burden along with my own.

              1. JSPA*

                Nobody here is talking about powerful emotions (except for you?) or about emotional burdens.

                Ever been in a workplace where due to small irritations over time, people no longer had the habit of assuming the best of each other?

                Ever been in a workplace where people, conversely, did (by and large) assume the best of each other, and live up to that (work-appropriate) level of (professional) trust?

                They’re like night and day.

                That’s the “powerful” difference.

                Nothing to do with offloading “emotional labor” or “big emotions.”

            2. Calliope*

              That would be saying “I forgive you” which feels even more presumptuous in a mass email. I’d be like forgive me for what?

              To be clear, I’ve gotten these emails (from a personal friend not work acquaintances). I wasn’t offended; it was fine. But it was not personally meaningful to me in any way. If it is for the Lw that’s great, but you shouldn’t expect recipients to read anything useful into them.

            3. Eyes Kiwami*

              I think you’re misunderstanding who is apologizing to whom. OP would be asking for forgiveness, not providing it. And their non Jewish coworkers have no context for it, nor are they obligated to forgive & forget just because it’s a religious holiday for OP.

    2. iliketoknit*

      I get your point, but I also think there are religious conventions (not actual ritual or practice, but conventions) that exist for a variety of reasons. I take the work OOO as a convention reflecting the broader focus on atonement and forgiveness driving this holiday, not an actual practical mechanism for the LW to atone, which presumably will be done in more depth in other contexts. It’s not my place to fault them for following that convention, though I agree with Alison and everyone else that this isn’t really a work kind of thing, or that if the LW is going to do this, they should make the religious context explicit rather than implied.

  6. Kat*

    I’m an Israeli Jew, living in Israel. I am familiar with the mass apologies as people tend to also post these on social media and such, and I dislike them with a vengeance.

    Seeing one in an out of office message of someone out for the High Holidays would have been weird even in our office where everyone knows what is Yom Kippur and the related sins/forgiveness discussion.
    This is to say, we don’t do those. Never seen them, from any Jewish religious colleague.
    I can’t imagine what would a European colleague think of such a message, as well:)

    1. Anon3456*

      Ive never heard of this custom. The more I think of it, the more it’s a wonderful idea. We are all so burdened by slights (big or small) made by others and the ones we do ourselves. Having a period to reflect on those harms, ask forgiveness and give forgiveness seems like a beautiful thing to start to lessen that burden. I’m so glad the OP wrote in because this is something I’m going to reflect on.
      Putting the message in your signature? It’s tricky. It definitely could alarm people in its current format and I’ve seen some excellent alternative wording in this thread.

      1. ecnaseener*

        If you want to do a little more reading on this from a Jewish perspective (but explicitly written to be accessible to non-Jews as well), highly recommend On Repentance and Repair by Rabbi Danya Ruttenburg! She delves deep into an amends/apology framework by medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides and how to apply it in the modern world.

        I haven’t finished it so idk if she addresses OOO messages ;) but I think she and Maimonides would both be against that practice since it skips the steps of confessing (specific) harm and making amends.

  7. Jj*

    I’m Jewish and I would have immediately recognized what was going on, but personally would find that approach off-putting and unsettling. Part of this is that in general, I find most OOO messages annoying and unnecessary, and the more context they provide the more I dislike them. In this case – the idea that someone is somehow apologizing for something we both know they are unaware of, and in a blanket perfunctory way, would also seem bizarre to me.

    However, I also think – Jew to Jew – that their approach isn’t very good teshuva anyway. I don’t mean that in a rude or judgemental way. I just don’t think it gets them the intended experience and benefits. I’d recommend sending a more personal message to your most frequent work connections, explaining teshuva is and why you are sending the message. Invite them to write you or schedule a 1:1 time to talk if they choose. It’s very unlikely anyone will take you up on this, but if they do, you have a chance to apologize sincerely if you wish.

    1. municipal government jane*

      Ooh, interesting and creative suggestion! I was really drawing a blank for an alternative for the LW if 1:1 teshuva at work is important to them. Best I could think of were some different general/impersonal approaches (for example, attending some action-oriented DEI training and practicing what they learned, etc.)

    2. allathian*

      I don’t put any details in my OOOs, either. With a former (micro)manager we were expected to put a reason for our absence in the OOO, and I really hated that. Since then, with managers whose management style suits me better, I just put the date when I’m returning to work.

      That said, at my job requests are expected to be sent via our ticketing system, and if anyone tries to get past that with personal emails, it’s somewhat their problem if they don’t get a response in time. Our queue is read by me and my close coworker who has the same job description, and by our team lead or manager if both of us are OOO for some reason, usually when one of us is on vacation and the other gets sick. We are also expected to schedule absences on our calendars, so that anyone who tries to schedule a meeting will get notified of the absence even without an OOO.

      1. I take tea*

        I dislike “funny” OOO’s. Just say for how long you are out and who to contact if needed. Thank you.

      1. Jj*

        thanks for posting! it feels nice to see the nitty gritty of a jewish experience discussed and portrayed respectively in a comment section like this. i hope you had a great chagim!

    3. hbc*

      I agree that your suggestion seems to match the good intentions of the OP with better results. The outcome of the OOO apology is that anyone who emails during vacation gets an apology. That group often includes people who you’ve never met (ex: cold-calling salespeople) and excludes people you work with often (because the coworker sitting next to you knows it’s your vacation.) Apologizing only to the people who 1) email 2) on those three days and 3) don’t have some sort of autoreply blocker/filter isn’t very effective.

    4. Charles Shaw*

      Genuinely curious, though, whether this type of personal invitation to engage in what is essentially a religious observance/practice would be appropriate to send to a work colleague?

      1. Ellis Bell*

        It’s something to think about; I think that’s why JJ specified “most frequent” work colleagues. I would probably go a bit further and say colleagues who you know for sure are pretty comfortable with religious exchanges.

      2. JSPA*

        The TIMING is tied to a lunar calendar (that’s in turn tied to religious holidays).

        The act of forgiving, however, is not in itself religious.

        Compare New Year’s resolutions.

        It’s not EVERYONE’s new year! It’s not “the” new year for a fair chunk of the global population!

        But we don’t wring our hands over people who expect others to understand why a New Year’s resolution would have something to do with January 1, rather than, say, (gregorian) 1st of May, year Reiwa 4. People making some sort of life change or commitment, annually, in ways that are tied to their calendar start or end, are common enough. And it’s not like all other calendars are religious, but the Gregorian calendar (named after…Pope Gregory XII…) somehow isn’t.

        This is all a bit of a, “fish blind to being in water” discussion, frankly.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          I think there’s a pretty clear distinction between “this is part of my active practice of religion” and “this is the end/start of the year on the most widely used calendar in the world, which originated with the Vatican 500 years ago but many people have no idea, anyway I’m gonna learn to knit this year!”

      3. municipal government jane*

        In my own observance/practice ahead of the high holidays, when I am working to make amends for where I’ve caused harm and left things unaddressed, nobody would have to know the reason is related to my religious and spiritual practice. I’m sure there are people who relate it to that (and many contexts where it would be appropriate to do so) but no particular participation is required of the other person, so it would be just like any other apology process.
        (This is a bit of an aside, but… Personally I find red and green “holiday” office parties in December (and the implicit expectation that everyone participate in them) more explicitly religious than most teshuva practices I’ve witnessed/experienced.)

        1. Kit*

          Exactly! The religious aspect is the timing – our religious calendar’s new year is the prompt for apologies that we’ve left unaddressed through the year. The apologies themselves, just like the ones we’ve (hopefully) issued in the moment, are about acknowledging harm and making amends; the fact that our religious or spiritual practices provide a framework and schedule for those apologies doesn’t make the act of apology inherently and irrevocably religious to others. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if it’s clear the apology is offered only because of the religious prompt, it is insincere and not proper teshuva… but I’m not an authority, so nobody is bound by my opinion. That’s my BIL’s job!

      4. Jj*

        I don’t think that is an issue. If I sent a message explaining why I won’t be eating the pork ribs at the staff bbq (I’m kosher), and say I will be bringing in chicken wings for myself – and let people know I will bring enough to share for anyone who wants them – whether they are kosher or halal, or just like chicken. Sure, I am eating the chicken for religious reasons, but I am offering to share and anyone who doesn’t want my kosher chicken is welcome to take a pass.

        Similarly, a Jew can explain that they have a spiritual reason for offering apologies in this way at this time of year. But the apology itself is not intrinsically religious. People who want to take a pass, can take a pass, but some people might want to partake. Those that do, might appreciate the benefit they receive, even if for them, it has no religous grounding.

        1. JSPA*

          I like this analogy.

          Or even, serving kosher hot dogs without making a big deal about them being kosher. It doesn’t somehow bind others to your religious dictates! (And if it did, any number of ballparks would be guilty.)

  8. tuition benefits*

    I’m curious for LW#3 if HR meant they’d “appreciate” it as in LW must pay them back. Ideally, you could take them at their word and keep it. However, reimbursement policies can and often do stipulate that any leftover/returned funds need to be paid back to the employer ASAP. My employer’s policy states this pretty clearly and I’d be at the very least ineligible for future reimbursement until I paid it back, which might be fine for someone like the LW since their degree is paid off unless they wanted to pursue further education while at this employer. If it’s available, I’d try to consult with any formal written guidance; my employer’s policy is clearly provided on the form I use to submit the reimbursement, so perhaps the LW could check something like that if it exists. Otherwise, I’m not sure it’s wrong to keep it unless it would jeopardize their reputation or employment, although if I were in this situation I’d be inclined to return it unless I was explicitly told to keep it.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      Generally, the rule with benefits in an employment context is that you don’t get to benefit twice for the same event/item. For example, if you are injured in a car accident while on the job, obtain worker’s compensation benefits, and then get a monetary amount from the insurance company for the driver who caused the collision, your employer can demand you repay your worker’s comp benefits out of the insurance award. (And plenty of employers do exactly this.)

      LW#3 has already benefited once from the employer’s loan repayment policy. The refund would allow her to benefit twice. She should pay the refund to her employer.

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

        I’m wondering if the OP still has loans to repay if she could take that $6000 to pay them. As long as the company doesn’t reimburse her again for the $6000.

    2. Student*

      Given that she’s approached her employer about it, she probably needs either to pay it back or to come up with a rationale not to and tell them. For example, if her total loans were $15,000, and her employer has paid $6,000 and she’s paid $5,000, leaving a $4,000 balance, it makes sense for her to request a refund of $6,000 to take full advantage of the one-time forgiveness. In her shoes, I’d explain that I got a refund of $5,000 of my own money and $1,000 of my employer’s money, and I’d offer to refund the $1,000 via payroll or to donate that money back to the organization.

      I would not complicate things by worrying about who was making the payments during the official refund period–I’d just figure out the total I paid and the total the org paid, and consider the refund to apply first to my own payments. Anything above and beyond that, I’d consider returning to the employer.

      In OP’s shoes, I’d also reach back out to HR and let them know that I’d decided to request a refund on only my own payments, not payments they made. That concludes the matter from the org’s point of view and prevents weird tax issues.

  9. municipal government jane*

    I’m so curious about OP1’s colleagues’ responses to this (and it sounds like they’re not alone in this practice at their org?)… even as a Jew, and even if I worked at a Jewish org, I would feel pretty awkward about apologetic mass emails or auto-responses during Elul/the holidays. If you had offended me, and I got this mass apology, then what? This doesn’t repair the harm or provide either of us the opportunity to meaningfully address it in any way. (I am very biased here by my own spiritual/religious values and practices around repentance here, but even before I held these value so closely/deeply I think this would have been, at minimum, odd and slightly off-putting.)

    1. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I’m not Jewish (though my husband’s family is) and I’m not familiar with this practice at all. I would be confused even if I connected it to the holidays, and annoyed, because if you had offended me, I would have expected an apology in a timely manner, rather than at the end of the year in a mass apology to everyone. So it becomes an almost meaningless phrase attached to a mass email, like “have a great weekend” or something, only apologetic instead of celebratory.

      It might not strike me as unprofessional, and I probably wouldn’t complain to the person’s boss or anything, but it would make me think the person was a bit odd and maybe self-deprecatory.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I feel similarly. That said, in the organizational culture of my employer, this seems so unthinkable that I can’t even imagine how I’d react if I got an OOO like that.

        Religion tends to be a very private matter here. I expect that most of my coworkers, absent any evidence to the contrary, are either lapsed Lutherans/secular like me, atheists, or practicing Lutherans/Orthodox, with other religions, if any, a tiny minority. I work for the government in a country with a state church, and we shut down for a number of Christian holidays. Although now with flexible working, people who don’t celebrate Christian holidays and who prefer to work through them can do so, provided their work doesn’t require collaboration every day (I could do so easily), and use the comp time to schedule time off for their own religious holidays without eating into their vacation days. Even those who are practicing rarely mention it at work.

    2. LW#1*

      LW#1 here. Many (but not all of us) just insert a brief apology at the end of the OOO with no further comments. Some explain why we are out of the office (the name of the holiday) and others just list the dates. The only response I’ve ever had is from my boss, who told me that my OOO last year was “epic” and “hilarious,” and I’m very fortunate that they find a lot of things funny as it makes for a good workplace.

      1. Llama*

        Is the apology supposed to be hilarious?

        I think most people will have opinions on this, but won’t say anything directly. I’d read it as an apology for being out of the office and wonder if you’d regard it as a personal slight if I took time off and didn’t immediately respond to your emails.

      2. Cyndi*

        Obviously you’re the best judge of your relationship with your boss and your workplace culture so this may be reading very inaccurately to me. But Yom Kippur is a holiday solemn enough that it’s rude to wish someone a happy one! Someone saying observances around it are “hilarious” sounds more offputting than genuinely supportive.

        1. municipal government jane*

          Yes, I would find that response off putting too. Which I think comes to the crux of why the practice isn’t ideal. Lots of room for misinterpretation/miscommunication and unclear benefit or other positive impact (including—to me—spiritually, though mileage likely varies widely on this!).

  10. Another_scientist*

    LW 5, this reminds me of the 10days that everyone in my job title is entitled to, for considering an offer. In that case, a union contract ensures this time, but it’s really just the basics of treating candidates fairly and with dignity.

  11. Venus*

    With OP3 it sounds like if OP gives the refund back to their employer then essentially it became a loan from the employer and not a reimbursement program. Yet it’s also not reasonable for OP to make money if their tuition was less than $12,000. I think some subtlety is needed with the numbers – if OP’s tuition was many $10ks then makes sense to think of the work reimbursements and refunds as being for different parts of the educational cost.

    1. Mockingbird*

      I’m wondering about this too. If I’m understanding the letter correctly, they’ve been refunded the amount paid during the Covid pause, and that the LW’s loans got fully paid off during that time. If their current employer repaid all their loans then sure no question they get all of that back. If they’d paid them before working there, it’s less clear to me, as that $10,000 in forgiveness could have gone towards those payments, and the $6000 overpayment during Covid could pay them back some of the money they paid out. But if they want to stay at this job, they probably need to pay it back. And immediately negotiate for a raise as they’re no longer getting the benefit of the org’s loan repayment policy as part of their compensation plan. Yeah your loans are paid off, but you kinda just got a salary cut.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > no longer getting the benefit of the org’s loan repayment policy as part of their compensation plan

        But they’re also (presumably) no longer making the payments… the benefit is that they aren’t paying those payments out of their own pocket, which still applies.

        It seems pretty clear to me that keeping the $6000 would be unethical double dipping. I suspect HR thinks this way too and that their language will go from “appreciating” repayment to something stronger!

  12. Rhymetime*

    #4, that situation sounds awful. I work in fundraising and have been in your position hosting potential funders. One thing I’ve found that is universal is that when I include my colleagues who are the experts about our programs, they inevitably do nearly all the talking unless I prep them ahead of time and tell them the importance of giving our guests opportunities to talk instead of churning out everything they know in their enthusiasm to be informative.

    In your situation, the racial dynamic makes that pattern even worse. In my role, I set up a prep meeting for all involved before hosting a funder. In addition to giving my colleagues background about the funder and their interests, I emphasize that it’s critical to not do all the talking. This might be our one and only chance to hear from the funder about their priorities and opinions. They’re not bank accounts, they’re people, and a true partnership includes significant listening.

    It sounds like there’s more going on with your white VP talking over funders of color, but might you be able to bring this up at comparable prep meetings with everyone there? Then it’s sharing the importance of listening overall with everybody, and not personally addressing your VP, so it might land better. That also avoids setting up a separate conversation with the VP to discuss it as A Big Problem.

    1. BatManDan*

      The comments here at AAM, over the years, would lead us to believe (from reported experience) that attempting to address a problem behavior specific to one employee by addressing ALL the employees will have ZERO effect on the offender. I have had one experience with this (I was brought in to teach proper email etiquette to the whole team, who all really just wanted the president to do better with his emails) and experienced similar results. That is, none. (I think the president may have even skipped the meeting – he “knew” he wasn’t the one doing it wrong – lol.)

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, mass messages like this, when only one person is at fault (and a lot of people know it), is just skirting around the issue and giving the offender plenty of room to avoid/ignore it. It needs to be made clear to them directly that they need to fix something.

      2. hbc*

        I think scolding/improvement mass meetings don’t work, but this situation could benefit from something more like a training meeting. I think it’s in everyone’s interest to understand what the company considers best practices, even if it’s just to say, “Well, duh, that’s what I’ve been doing all along.” I’ve seen people adapt immediately, others who grumble but try to meet the new requirements, and you can at least remove any excuse that people who keep up the wrong way are doing it out of ignorance.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I guess I could see a “best practices in fundraising” guide where a main takeaway was to talk less and listen more. So many people in nonprofits have zero training in fundraising and are just winging it (particularly if they are promoted former subject matter experts). But it sounds like OP is in a very tricky position to offer this message.

      3. Smithy*

        Coming from a fundraising perspective, doing a generic “best practices in fundraising” meeting or training won’t help – however how I interpreted Rhymetime’s comment was more regarding how before every donor meeting having a prep meeting only with those attending from your organization.

        During that meeting, I usually explain the donor, our goals with the donor and our goals with the meeting. In that context, I have the ability to call out how much they’re going to want to hear from which staff members or X community leaders. And if it’s ultimately necessary to include those long talkers, to really call out “we have an hour, it’ll take 15 minutes to get started and have them give us an update. Then you ONLY HAVE 5 MINUTES before we must move to ABC.” Basically creating an internal agenda that calls out how much time everyone has to ensure you fit in all of your objectives. For someone who is more senior than you, this is often an easier/softer way to communicate you want them to talk less.

        Furthermore, if you give them 5 minutes and then they talk for 25 which means that other staff members/community leaders have limited to no time. Or the meeting has to go ten minutes over and you have no time to really discuss next steps – the OP has far more concrete examples for management/their supervisor of what’s happening and the impact. Because then it’s not just that this staff member is talking over people, but rather that they’re contributing to and agreeing to the internal prep process and organizational goals. And then not allowing the team to execute the plan and not allowing the goals of meetings to be met. And those goals can include points like “understand the breath of expertise at Org ABC by hearing from multiple team members”.

        It also makes for more concrete examples around how to fix something. It’s not just “be a better team player in meetings” but rather “follow the internal agenda, be mindful of time and concise speaking, etc.”

          1. Cassandra Mortmain*

            Your line about how this is an opportunity to hear directly from the funders was a lightbulb moment for me, fwiw. No one has told me that before and it will change how I prepare for meetings. (I don’t work in fundraising but I do occasionally work on funded projects; I usually see those meetings as an opportunity for them to hear directly from us about our ideas/what they’re funding, but it makes total sense to view it as the other way around!)

            1. Smithy*

              When I’m planning an agenda, the basic agenda is always 1) intros, 2) donor updates, 3) our updates, 4) discussion, 5) next steps.

              Roughly broken down by time and assuming an hour meeting that can not go over, 1 & 2 is usually between 10-15 min. Usually in that time you can at least get a rough idea if this is a general update, if there’s an opportunity to pitch for new funding, if their strategy is changing, etc. Occasionally you realize you’ve planned for almost an entirely different meeting, and while you can 100% press on with your planned presentation – you’re probably better off to pivot.

              A lot of times these power differentials are just so great, that going into the meetings with equal footing on what you’re going to talk about should never be assumed. So I usually see that opening part of the meeting to gut check you’re headed in the right direction or pivot as necessary.

      4. Rhymetime*

        I agree with with you about not scheduling a special meeting for multiple people when it’s just one person who exhibits bad behavior. To clarify, site visits at nonprofits for funders typically already include a prep meeting, so that’s what I was referencing as the place to bring this up to avoid being targeted by the VP. It’s an addition to Alison’s sound advice.

    2. Sloanicota*

      My boss definitely does this (not more so to funders of color, she actually talks too much all the time) but to be honest, I can’t care about this more than she does. I have given it too her ‘slant’ a few times, talking about how “we” can be less technical and avoid jargon in these meetings, but she is the Ex Dir of the whole organization and this is how she chooses to run her meetings. I see times that it is self defeating but it’s honestly outside my lane to check her.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree- you can’t fix something that your boss doesn’t see as a problem. If it’s something that they higher-ups would care about, flag it! But this is company dependent. My current company would want to know, but the past two companies I’ve worked at wouldn’t care at all (and may have even punished me for ‘complaining’ about a VP).

        Proceed based on what you know about your own company.

      2. Starbuck*

        Yeah, having like a 1:1 convo with VP about it to try to correct her would obviously not work. But I think OP could try some more interjections – like, “just a moment, Sally what were you saying about the xyz project? I didn’t manage to get it down in my notes when you mentioned it earlier” etc. Gentle, subtle. Not the whole solution but it can be helpful.

    3. Prairie*

      Yeah, I was thinking something similar to this and your second paragraph explains it beautifully. LW4, just frame it as the approach you want to take. Not as a mistake she’s been making.
      And then after a meeting you can positively reinforce the behavior by pointing out what was gained. Like “He mentioned caring about ____, maybe he’d be a great fit for the ___ fund.” or “She said she volunteers with her women’s club, let’s see if they want to help with ____ .”

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I feel so hard for LW4. We are an org that provides technical expertise to community groups who provide housing, social, health, etc. services to their communities and this is a constant battle when we invite funders, project officers, etc. to events. White people with power getting the mic in front of an audience of “the needy” sets off a whole lot of monologue and ‘splaining in some people and it is a terrible thing to see. And when it is a touchy funder/evaluator you can’t actually handle things as forthrightly as you’d like.

      We have a “technical difficulties” signal so that we can kill a mic/projector of a guest speaker who has gone off the rails which probably won’t work in your situation. Is there anyone you can speak to above her about your concerns? I had to do that with WorstBoss when she hijacked the mic for the rest of the event (2 hrs!! – no one else got to speak) about historical trauma and basically ran down her life story as a poor white person in Illinois in front of a room full of Native boarding school survivors. I ended up going to her boss and a funder because I was afraid she was going to sabotage all the relationship building I’d done in the community. I presented it as a business problem (i.e. if she antagonizes people they won’t work with us even for money) and presented a solution (not having her rep us at any events). They took me seriously and it worked at external meetings. Internal meetings I just had to be direct, correct her in public, and deal with her hating me. The feeling was mutual so I was OK with it. Sorry there isn’t an easy fix!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That sounds like a nightmare! It’s the worst when people pivot from talking about the subject at hand to talking only about themselves.

        That reminds me of an experience I had, when I…

      2. Rhymetime*

        Wow, nightmare situation! I think I would have spent that two hours trying to dissolve in my chair. Good for you for moving forward with a course correct despite it making you a target of your boss.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I really wanted to crawl under the table and disappear but I made myself take notes on the audience reactions and got the recording after because I was convinced no one would believe me. It was so truly out there and she started crying and hugging the rest of the people on the panel who didn’t even get to speak. It has been 9 years and I still feel that burning secondhand mortification

          1. Rhymetime*

            Crying and hugging the people she had shut down… I’ve had some uncomfortable moments in my fundraising career but this is way beyond the pale. It sounds like you have gotten away from that manager, and thank goodness.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I am an extremely empathetic person and totally a hugger (if the other person wants to hug). I have been rear-ended twice, and both times the driver who did it was so upset that I gave them a hug and comforted them.

            I would have leapt off the stage to get away from this woman. Eeaugh.

    5. Starbuck*

      “not personally addressing your VP, so it might land better”

      The reason it “lands better” is because the VP is able to keep believing the message doesn’t apply to them so they can ignore it and not change. The advice to go over VP’s head is good, but I’d also encourage OP to try a little more conversation-managing in the meeting – addressing the other attendees directly, and asking them to continue their point if they get cut off.

      Obviously if you’re subordinate you can’t be too heavy-handed with this, but you’d be surprised how much a boss might let you do in the meeting because they don’t want to be seen as rude for calling you out on what you’re doing. Take advantage of it – use your privilege for good! But also of course you’ve got to be careful not to end up being, eh, patronizing to the attendees or make them feel put on the spot or the rope in a tug-of-war between you and boss. There’s definitely a wrong way to do this.

  13. Anonymous Jewish reader (in Israel)*

    I’ll save some readers looking up a couple of words that commenters used here without definition:
    Teshuva: repentance (related to the word for “return”)
    Elul: the month before the New Year, in which there is a focus on the above

    I’ll reframe but agree with what others have said: the goal is to appease those who we have upset, so if a general apology like this won’t have that effect (as we seem to assume) there doesn’t seem much point

    (I live in Israel so for me today is not the not-engaging-with-day-to-day-activities holiday it would be if I lived elsewhere)

    1. Beehoppy*

      I fear that your OOO apology might actually be having the reverse effect than what was intended. Rather than apologizing for past upsets and offenses, based on this comment section you are creating new upsets with people who don’t understand the intent. Will you next year have to send a specific apology stating I’m sorry I confused you/annoyed you/made you fear for my mental health in my OOO last year? An apology should be for the recipient, not the apologist. Your boss (and likely others) are receiving it as a joke. Some here state they would find it offputting or upsetting. I would speak with a rabbi or respected leader in your faith to see if there isnt a better way for you to honor this practice.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This is reminding me of two of my former classmates who have sent me apologies while they were going through a 12 step recovery process. The first one reached out to me individually, was clear and specific about the ways he had come to realize he had harmed me, and seemed sincerely regretful and repentant when he offered me his apology. The other created a chat group with about 30 people and sent a generic “I’m in recovery now and I want to apologize for anything I did that hurt you while I was drinking.” I’m still friends with the first person, but I haven’t spoken to the second one since we left school. Her “apology” just felt like something she was checking off her to-do list, not like something she’d actually thought about and wanted to do, and it wasn’t enough to make me want to restore the relationship.

        If the point is to heal your relationships and come to a greater understanding of how to be a less harmful person in the world, a blanket mass apology doesn’t seem like the way.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Huh, Eylul is September in some Turkic languages. I’d always assumed they’d picked it up from Arabic or Farsi but Hebrew would totally make sense too.

      1. municipal government jane*

        Your comment made me curious so I did some googling—they do share a common origin! :) Very neat.

  14. SAS*

    In my personal experience its also important for Muslims to attempt to heal grievances during Ramadan (before Eid), but I have never ever come across even the idea of a generic spiritual apology via mass email and frankly find it offensive and the antithesis to the objective of making sincere amends during a holy period.

    It would never occur to me that your email was of a spiritual nature, and I would have a similar response to Alison of mild alarm, and finding it inappropriate for the workplace.

    1. GythaOgden*

      That’s the reason many Christian denominations also confess in private. Different traditions have different grades of privacy — Orthodox prayer-ropes are carried in the pocket so people don’t see you praying, whereas the Catholic rosary is done openly. Confession varies as well, but the emphasis is on privacy and atonement — being ‘at one’ with the specific person you’ve wronged rather than just making a public apology. In the Anglican church we publicly recite a prayer of repentance, but we are expected to inwardly name things that we have done wrong or not done etc because it helps us to focus on our own faults rather than make a public spectacle of it.

      For OP, though, I would see it as a part of their religious tradition that they feel the need to do this. It’s a structural thing; for me ritual keeps me connected with my faith and it’s these kind of open gestures, like my Muslim colleagues praying five times a day, that keep people focused on their spiritual path and dutiful elsewhere in their life. It’s like my old retail boss, a Hindu, keeping a statue of Ganesh in his storeroom and lighting incense in there. It’s a way of externalising something that is inherently internal, rather than just posturing.

      So I think the way it works for OP as a ritual and an ‘affirmative’ element of her belief would be reasonable. It’s not proselytising and I personally would rather be on the inclusive side of things than excluding/marginalising the spiritual from the temporal.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I’m with you in reading it as somewhat offensive and inappropriate for the workplace. You want to pray at certain times of the day, keep kosher, say grace before you eat, take off work for religious observances? Please do. Just leave me out of it.

  15. Nodramalama*

    Both options for LW#1 are so intense to me. Maybe it’s because I work in government (although I don’t think so) but I work and have worked with many Jewish colleagues and have never received a mass apology email or an out of office. I would be fairly confused to get it- to me out of office messages are purely to convey when you are away and who to contact in your absence.

  16. bookartist*

    LW1, if I received this OOO message, it would actually strike me as an evangelical Christian practice. I would also wonder what my obligation to you would then be. Am I obligated to forgive? None of this belongs in a business communication.

    1. Inkhorn*

      I’d wonder what I’d missed – what thing had happened in the last year that I apparently *should* have been offended by but wasn’t.

      1. ferrina*

        Me too! I’d be wondering what on earth happened that the LW needs to send a blanket apology. Reminds me of a branch of a certain corporate client that was so shady that the government had to issue exacting standards on their training materials. I wasn’t around for the initial bad behavior, but everyone that had to take their updated training knew about their bad reputation.

        Don’t make an accidental bad reputation!

      2. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        Even though it’s a generic OOO, my anxiety brain would probably start wondering if I’d been responsible in any way for making the OP feel like they had offended me. They would probably come back to a rambling email from me apologizing if I’d made them think they did anything wrong.

      3. Half-Jew*

        That was my thought–if I got an OOO that included the phrase “Please forgive me,” I’d be hitting my gossip network to see what the person did that was so huge that a) they needed to apologize to everyone and b) they didn’t even feel the need to reference specifics.

    2. Cat Tree*

      There’s definitely some trickiness with apologies in general, where in some cases it is used to push the emotional burden to the aggrieved person and make it their responsibility to make the guilty person feel less guilty. Since OP is a stranger to me this definitely raises my hackles a bit, but if I personally knew OP from work I would probably feel differently about it.

      (And yeah, yeah, tell me you were raised in a dysfunctional family without telling me, etc. I know my experience isn’t universal but it’s still somewhat common.)

  17. I heart Paul Buchman*

    #3 Brainstorming options. Would a donation to the NFP be tax deductible? Where I live I’d get $2400 back on the $6k. That might take the sting out if you decide that you want to reimburse. Or perhaps you could go halves and make it a receipted donation? That would give them $3k and you $4200 (3k+$1200 tax return). Obviously numbers differ by location.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Please explain differently so I can understand. I usually like tax and financial information but I don’t get this one.

      1. Starbuck*

        They’re trying to say that instead of “paying back” the tuition money, the LW should make a “donation” for that amount to the organization so that they can potentially get a tax deduction on it and benefit from that. But I agree with Gerry that I don’t think it would work out that way.

    2. Gerry Kaey*

      That is… not how tax deductible donations work? You dont receive what you donated as part of your tax return — he amount you donate is subtracted from your overall income before taxes are calculated, and even then you need to be giving enough that you pass the standard deduction, which a 6k donation alone would not do. Unless I’m missing something?

  18. I heart Paul Buchman*

    #1 I would be confused without more context. Perhaps if it said “In light of the approaching Jewish New Year and in the spirit of Teshuva I would like to….” .
    I personally don’t see the difference between that and an ooo that wishes a ‘blessed Christmas’ or whatever else and those are common. However, I’m a religious person myself so I’ve got a broader tolerance than some for religious expression. YMMV

    1. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I meant to say. If I received the other message without context I would assume that you were suspended for disciplinary reasons.

    2. misspiggy*

      Just a quick note that reception will depend on the general religiosity of your audience. I work with mostly non-religious people who don’t know much about Judaism. In that context, a message like the one above would make me worry that the person was keen on evangelising. Not an issue with Orthodox Judaism, but recipients used to Christianity won’t necessarily know that.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      Nope, nope, nope. Please leave me out of your religious observance. “Blessed Christmas.” *Shudder*

      (It’s really the evangelism angle that rubs me the wrong way. In a personal context, have at. In a business context, hard pass.)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I would smile and slowly back away, assuming that the next thing they were going to do was ask me if I’d accepted Jesus as my personal savior. It would remind me too much of the guy I dated who broke up with me because I wouldn’t go to his Christian church with him because I wanted to go to my own Christian church instead.

    4. Reality.Bites*

      Trust me on this one – if you ever wish me a blessed Christmas it will make a strongly negative impression on me. I know people do it. That doesn’t make it right or acceptable.

  19. John Smith*

    Re Bosses Day. Agree with Alison, but I’d send the email a month beforehand to catch those who may buy early (especially if BD is just before pay day). I’d also personally address the gifting employee to explain why so that they don’t feel its something on them.

    1. Artemesia*

      I like the idea of sending an article like Alison’s that discusses the ‘gifting up’ thing. And then send it before bosses day noting that you agree and do not want to receive gifts for boss’s day or the holidays. Make it an office policy on gifting up and in such a way that no one is embarrassed i.e. well in advance. If the person who gave this year’s gift apologizes or acts embarrassed you can then say ‘oh that was thoughtful of you and I had never given it a lot of thought before, but I’d like to have this policy going forward so noone feels pressured ever to give.’

      1. Scott*

        Just adding my agreement with John Smith and Artemesia to address it with the gifting employee so they are not left feeling like they did something wrong.

    2. Kes*

      Yeah honestly I would probably talk to the gifting employee and sincerely thank them and make it clear you appreciate the thought, but also that you don’t actually expect gifts from them on Boss’s day, you don’t want them to feel obligated to give you gifts and you think these things should flow downwards if anything

  20. Invisible fish*

    Anyone else read the one about the “boss’ day” gift and think, “What I wouldn’t do to work with someone I hold in high enough esteem that I’d even think of complimenting him or her!”?

    1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      Absolutely. Well, work for — I’ve had coworkers who were deservingly awesome, but I can’t think of a manager I’ve had who was like that, not least due to the effects of power.

    2. Kes*

      I mean, I’ve had and I know some good bosses. But I don’t know if I’d be that enthusiastic to want to go out of my way to get and give them a gift

    3. Vio*

      Bosses Day isn’t a thing in the UK thankfully (I’d never even heard about it before reading this site) but I’m fortunate enough to work for a couple of very good bosses and because it’s a mental health charity they’re very knowledgeable and respectful of my occasional issues and limitations. Being part time also helps. But it still wouldn’t feel appropriate to send cards and gifts

  21. Laskia*

    I’m from a family with Jewish roots, and we are not practicing but I definitely know the apology tradition ! I agree that it would be very worrying as an out-of-office message though.

  22. nnn*

    I’m not Jewish myself, so I’m going to take LW’s word for it that mass blanket apologies are common and appropriate.

    Within this paradigm, a few logistical considerations occur to me:

    1. What proportion of the people who receive your out of office message are going to be people you might potentially have offended? (As opposed to being people you’ve never had any contact with before?)
    2. What is the likelihood that people you might have offended will see your out of office message (as opposed to not emailing you during that particular time period?)
    3. What proportion of the people you might have offended who are going to see your out of office message are not already going to have been reached via other means of apology?

      1. MrsMaisel*

        Orthodox here – yes, definitely never come across this before.

        I can only imagine it’s some very niche thing specific to LW’s own personal circle.

        1. MrsMaisel*

          To clarify, I have heard of doing a mass apology via social media, or a mass email to one’s social contacts/friends and family. It’s not super common and a lot of Jews frown on it, but it does exist.

          Doing it specifically in a work email, and as an out of office message rather than an actual email (so no one sees it unless they happen to email you during the period your OOO is switched on), that part I’ve never heard of before.

    1. Moira Rose's Closet*

      “I’m going to take LW’s word for it that mass blanket apologies are common”

      As a highly observant Jew, this is something that’s bothering me about the first letter. This practice is NOT common, and it’s strange to me that the LW suggested that it is. I am observant and I work with multiple Orthodox Jews. I have never even heard of this practice, and it seems counter to the spirit of teshuva to me.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Logically (to copy nnn’s approach), we have to assume it is common from OP’s standpoint, since they clearly perceive it as common. Taking their word on their own experience, I mean. As a non Jew that didn’t automatically make me think “Oh so every Jew must do this then” because a big religion is a big place for differences. Not every Christian has a rosary for example, and many non Catholics find those deeply offensive.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      “I’m going to take LW’s word for it that mass blanket apologies are common and appropriate.”

      They’re not, though. I’m Jewish and I have never heard of this. One of the core parts of Yom Kippur is deep introspection about one’s behavior, and offering an impersonal blanket apology to anyone who happens to email you while you’re out seems like the opposite of that.

  23. Frally*

    I am an Orthodox Jew and would find the apology very odd. I’ve never seen anything like this from Jews in other companies. Please reconsider.

    1. allathian*

      I’m not Jewish, but I agree. I don’t think blanket apologies are appropriate at any time, but particularly not at work. It’s much better to sincerely apologize to people you have offended in some way, and preferably as soon as possible after the offense occurred. Otherwise it’s going to read as insincere at best.

      A number of Jews have commented on this post, and most seem to agree that a blanket OOO apology is inappropriate at work.

  24. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

    I just wanted to say that one of my very favourite things about this site and Alison’s approach in general is this kind of thing:

    (It’s interesting to consider, though, what your obligations would be if you didn’t still work there; in theory the obligation should be the same, but in practice I don’t think it would feel as strongly obligatory and I can’t fully defend that.)

    Lots of work stuff is in that “how it feels” space and it’s so refreshing to see that acknowledged upfront, without trying to come up with a rational defence which ends up not reaaaaaally being rational or a defence at all. It’s a big part of why I trust this site/Alison so much. (Similar with the recent “can I vape/smoke on Zoom” discussions – “there’s no real/rational reason not to but it has an unprofessional vibe” is the most satisfactory answer to me!)

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      There’s a sinple answer to why it ‘feels’ different here though: it’s ethically dubious, which is much more brazen when done to people you work alongside every day and are still committed to that employer.

      1. bamcheeks*

        See, it’s not that for me— it’s more the sense that your financial obligations on both sides are tied up and closed off when you leave that workplace.

      2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Yeah, but that’s the thing: those “is”es in your comment make it less convincing to me. It IS ethically dubious (why?) which IS much more brazen (why?). Saying “it FEELS dodgier” seems to me, maybe paradoxically, to be on more solid ground.

        I agree with you, though! I think the feeling is indeed about the existence or otherwise of ongoing reciprocal relationships.

  25. SkåneAmerican*

    I’m Jewish, and have never received an e-mail like the one LW1 describes. If I had from a professional contact, I would assume they had been disciplined for sexual harassment.

  26. anxiousGrad*

    I’ve gotten this Yom Kippur message mostly from Orthodox friends and, even though I’m Jewish, I was also confused and somewhat concerned when I first got it. It’s very much a religious and spiritual part of observing Yom Kippur, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to include in work emails at a secular organization.

    Also, I see some people who are saying that there’s no point to this apology because it’s insincere. On Yom Kippur we’re atoning not just for our own mistakes, but for everybody’s. We’re also atoning for sins we committed willingly and unwillingly, knowingly and unknowingly. That’s why the apology is for anything one might have done to offend or upset someone. This makes the phrasing of this apology very specific to a particular religious practice, so again it doesn’t seem appropriate for work.

    1. Jackalope*

      As a Christian I can’t comment on how this relates to Yom Kippur, but I appreciate the way you phrased this here about the blanket apologies. Many people are saying that if you’re not apologizing for a specific thing then it’s insincere and meaningless, but that’s not necessarily the truth. To me it feels more like a recognition of the fact that even as we try our best, we still won’t get it right all of the time, and we can do things that have hurt others without having any clue. I don’t know if an OOO msg will get that idea across, and don’t want to debate that specifically. But saying that you can’t truly be sorry for something if you don’t address it specifically isn’t true.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think people are getting confused between saying “I’d assume this was a secular apology and therefore it seems odd and insincere for that context” and “spiritual reflections don’t really belong in workplaces, even with fellow Jewish colleagues, because of religious and irreligious differences”. Somehow people are blurring those two considerations and coming out with startling comments which appear to say: “You’re doing your own religious beliefs the wrong way because a) insincere and b) not universally Jewish” even though that’s not really the objection people are having; the objection is to the public nature and it being prone to misunderstandings.

      1. Eyes Kiwami*

        Really weird to see an admitted non-Jew criticizing Jews for criticizing other Jews. Seems like you don’t have a dog in the fight and should just sit this one out.

  27. Woah*

    It’s an interesting interpretation of Halacha that I’ve seen in very observant communities, but we are Conservative and take the approach that asking for forgiveness needs to be done individually and blanket asks like this don’t fulfill the obligation anyways.

    I ask my husband and friends to forgive me for specific offensives as well as “anything I have done this year that I have been unaware of that hurt you” but it wouldn’t work, for us, to just mass email that out, even to friends, not at work.

  28. Wording*

    Re: Boss’s Day letter, I felt like the suggested wording “I hope no one feels pressure” wasn’t strong enough. Someone could read that and think, “Oh, but maybe Boss would still like a card/gift. I don’t feel pressured and I actually like them so I’ll go ahead anyway.” (And power dynamics might cause someone to read it and think they are expected to give something.)

    1. Despachito*

      I agree.

      “I hope no one feels pressure” could sound as a covert card/gift/attention grabbing, even if not meant like that. It still admits you’d welcome it.

      If you do not want your employees to give “up”, I think you should explicitly make it clear that you do not want them to do it (not that you don’t mind if they don’t do it) .

      It should of course be worded gently and in a way not to embarrass the person who already did give you a gift. I like the wording that explains that no gifts should ever go up, and that the best thing they are doing for you as their manager is that they function as a good team.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It could also be worded in anticipation of upcoming year end holidays.

      “Hi team, with upcoming year end holidays (and other events such as birthdays and other special days), I’d like to encourage everyone to share appreciation, good wishes, and/or token remembrances with each other — and to remember that any gift to me should only be your continuing good work throughout the year.”

  29. Ferret*

    For LW1 I think part of the problem with your original wording is that phrasing like “Sorry if I have done anything to offend you” has been specifically criticised a lot recently as a non-apology and brings to mind someone who is being forced to apologise for bigoted speech/conduct while rolling their eyes.

    I realise that this is absolutely not what you are doing, but the perception issue may be there for other people. “Please forgive me” also has issues, which have been discussed above. If you absolutely have to do this then honestly I think explicitly calling out Yom Kippur would make the most sense, but overall I agree with Alison’s advice that it will read as a bit odd outside of your specific office

    1. Moira Rose's Closet*

      I agree about the tone and implications. If this person isn’t in the US, those concerns might not be as salient, but if they are, it could definitely come across in the way you suggest.

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    While #1 does seem a little odd, it sounds like OP has already been doing this for years with no issues, so I don’t see the problem.

    1. Freelance Anything*

      Issues they’re aware of. I think this is potentially one of those things that *could* silently damage your reputation. If you look at various commentators of interpretations (from self-harm, to a subject of disciplinary action), then I think LW1 is just opening themselves up to that risk unnecessarily. And people have suggested better phrasing.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Completely agree on the wording – I’m Jewish so I get it but there needs to be some context..

  31. DarthVelma*

    LW# – Check with a tax attorney before you do anything. While the amount of student loans forgiven is not considered income by the Feds for income tax purposes, that it not necessarily the case in some states. I found this out the hard way. I got loans forgiven under the public service loan forgiveness program and got a nasty tax bill from my state. If you’re going to end up owing personal income tax on the amount of your loans forgiven, then I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t keep at least the amount you’ll owe.

    1. Doctors Whom*

      There could be terms in the reimbursement program that basically says the recipient is warranting that the funds are not being reimbursed by another source.

      The LW should check the terms of the employer’s program to verify all the details she signed up for.

      Most benefit programs are set up to not allow double-dipping.

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

      This isn’t the PSLF though. This is because she was paying during covid and didnt need to so the government is refunding that back. I don’t think that there would be taxes since it would already be taxed once (when she received her paycheck). The problem is that what she paid has already been refunded to her by her employer. I think she needs to look at the clause for the repayment from her employer. I’m not sure but if she does still have loans she could take that $6000 to repay more of her loans but not ask her employer to reimburse her.

    3. H3llifIknow*

      The loans weren’t forgiven. The OP stated plainly “I recently paid off my student loans.” This is a refund of either overpayment that her company paid on her behalf or a refund of payments made during the COVID “Pause” period. But the loans were paid off. If her company included that benefit in her salary, as supplemental salary (as mine did) then she already paid/is paying income tax on it.

  32. Adam*

    That auto-reply Yom Kippur apology is so weird and so insincere. Though if they still felt obliged to apologize for something they didn’t know they did, then adding more context would help.

    “I will be off _____ for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As the Jewish new year begins it’s tradition to reflect and ask for forgiveness. Often we make mistakes and don’t notice them. Sometimes those mistakes harm those close to us. If my actions have harmed you, please accept my apology and if you feel comfortable replying we could discuss this as I endeavour to make myself a kinder world for 5783 and beyond.”

    It’s still weird but not too weird.

    1. Meghan R*

      I like this! It feels way more sincere and provides context for the apology. If OP feels strongly that they do need an apology, I’d go with this wording.

  33. EW*

    My Judaism is offended by an “I’m sorry if I hurt you this year” message, whether it’s in an 1:1 interaction or a mass message. That isn’t an apology or acknowledgement of specific wrongdoing. It’s certainly not teshuva.

  34. L-squared*

    #3. I’m wondering if this is just because its a non profit that this is the answer. To me (and I guess I don’t know the details of the agreement) this was a benefit of your employment. Now the government decided to make some changes and wipe out things, but I’m not sure I feel the benefit is negated because of that. Its not like you took it in bad faith knowing what was coming. I’d also wonder how they know that you are getting this refunded. Did you proactively tell them?

    I’m having a hard time thinking of something equivalent. But it just seems odd that they expect to be reimbursed for a benefit of you working there because of circumstances out of your control.

    I’d also be surprised if the answer for someone working at a fortune 500 company was the same, but I could be wrong.

  35. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    To add a data point, if I received a generic apology of that kind my first thought would be that it was part of a twelve-step program.

    I hope LW finds a satisfactory solution.

  36. A Pound of Obscure*

    #1 – ooh, yes, I agree this could reflect poorly on you in a workplace setting. Lots of things feel normal to people who were raised with a certain tradition or behavior, but to everyone else it’s just weird and off-putting. Imagine having dinner with someone who believed that loud belching was a compliment to the chef. Your OOO message would have nearly the same repellent effect on me.

  37. Worked at a Jewish NP*

    I’m Jewish and worked in a Jewish Non-profit for years, and no one ever put an apology message in OOO notices (we got major holidays off but more observant folks may take additional days for various things).

    I wouldn’t do it, especially outside the Jewish world. No one will know what you mean, and the non-Jewish folks already get Yom Kippur wrong (my current office sent out a bulk “happy Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur” message which as you know, isn’t quite right).

  38. MicroManagered*

    OP1 I was raised Catholic but as an adult, I’m not religious, so take my opinion for what it’s worth.

    In recent years, it’s become increasingly common at my employer to add a tagline below one’s email signature acknowledging that we’re on unceded indigenous lands. (There are websites where you can look up which tribes’ land your home or employer is on — pretty cool.)

    Anyway if you really WANT to do the apology thing, maybe do it like that? One sentence below your email signature that says “It’s customary around the Jewish High Holiday for people of my faith to seek forgiveness for any offenses in the past year. If I have done anything to offend you, please accept this as my apology etc. etc. etc.”

      1. CharlieBrown*

        I don’t think it was MicroManagered intended them to be equivalent. They were merely pointing out an example from a different context of how this could be done.

        1. MicroManagered*

          Yes, you got it. I was trying to think of a way OP1 could still do the apology thing if/since the letter read to me like they strongly wanted to do it.

    1. Han's Solo*

      There is a lot of pushback against that practice by indigenous groups because it comes off as rather performative and meaningless–similar to what may be happening with people who receive LW1’s auto-reply.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Oh interesting. I had not heard that about the land acknowledgment thing, but it makes sense and doesn’t surprise me when you say it.

        My answer is the same though. Sub in “inspirational quote” or confidentiality statement for the land acknowledgment thing if you want. If OP1 feels very strongly about wanting to incorporate the Jewish holiday apology thing into their email, which the letter sounded like they do, that’s a way to do it that will probably make more sense to the recipient than an OOO response that says “please forgive me.”

  39. Cpt Morgan*

    LW2: They got you a token gift to be nice. Just say thank you and don’t make a big fuss either way. I cannot imagine a bigger slap in the face than to take the once every ten years nice thing this guy did than to send out emails telling them to never say thanks to you again.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I agree. It was a minor gesture from one person. Just let it go, don’t make the person feel bad. Most people don’t know about Bosses Day anyway so by not calling attention to it they’re likely to forget going forward.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      It’s an issue because gifts shouldn’t flow up.

      to send out emails telling them to never say thanks to you again

      Wow, that’s a big misreading of what Alison is advising here. This is not about saying thanks, it’s about an employee using their time and money to purchase their boss a gift.

      It’s important that LW put the kibosh on this, because things like this tend to snowball. Other employees see one doing this and figure they’d better do the same thing next year.

      Remember, this is about the direction gifts (not thanks) should flow in a company: always down, never up.

      1. Lucy P*

        Think of the guy who gave the gift this year. How is he going to feel next year when he reads that email? I think the “ward off” email needs to be put in a way so that this guy doesn’t feel foolish or offended next year

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      The other piece of Alison’s advice was to send the email next year, a few weeks before boss’s day. That way it’s not so much a clear call out to gift the LW just received and more of a general announcement.

      But the LW may want to consider a message about Christmas gifts in early December to head things off in case the gift giver is just a person who gives gifts for every occassion. The LW can consider what he knows about the person to take a guess if Christmas gifts might be forthcoming from the new employee and not anyone else.

    4. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Exactly. Sending articles about it or acting like it’s some huge social misstep read weirdly aggressive to me and a misapplication of the idea that you shouldn’t be expected to gift up.

    5. H3llifIknow*

      Way to misread that totally. Employees shouldn’t be “thanking” the boss. The BOSS should be thanking employees. Authority shouldn’t be accepting gifts from subordinates. It is common sense.

  40. Lacey*

    If I heard a blanket apology like that I would think they’d done something pretty bad, but were trying to keep it under wraps as much as possible or to avoid any legal reprecussions and offering general, vague apologies to everyone they could think of to tamp things down.

    Because I’ve known people who have done that for some pretty gross crimes.

    The other possibility I would think of is that they’re doing AA or similar and have gotten to the “making amends” step and are trying to cover anyone they forgot they hurt.

    1. opinion haver*

      This is exactly what I thought – I’m a member of a mainstream sort of synagogue, and I have never seen or heard of this use of email for Yom Kippur.

      I would definitely assume the sender had started some sort of 12 step program – alcohol, narcotics, gambling, etc – and was on the “make amends” step.

  41. Despachito*

    I agree.

    “I hope no one feels pressure” could sound as a covert card/gift/attention grabbing, even if not meant like that. It still admits you’d welcome it.

    If you do not want your employees to give “up”, I think you should explicitly make it clear that you do not want them to do it (not that you don’t mind if they don’t do it) .

    It should of course be worded gently and in a way not to embarrass the person who already did give you a gift. I like the wording that explains that no gifts should ever go up, and that the best thing they are doing for you as their manager is that they function as a good team.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      “I hope no one feels pressure” could sound as a covert card/gift/attention grabbing, even if not meant like that. It still admits you’d welcome it.

      It’s a very passive-aggressive way of saying that you actually want the gifts.

      How do I know? Because I’ve worked for some very passive-aggressive people. I agree, it’s better to be clear and explicit.

  42. HannahS*

    Am Jewish, can confirm that it’s common in some circles but not most. I know one person who does it. Personally, I don’t thinks it’s appropriate at work, and I don’t think it aligns with Jewish understandings of repentance and apology.

  43. Anomie*

    I’m not Jewish and I’ve heard of this atonement. But I do not think it’s appropriate for work.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      I agree! If I got that in an OOO reply, I’d be like “WTH are you apologizing to ME for?” If it said, “I’m sorry there will be a delay in responding to your email,” sure. Or “I apologize for my absence during the week of…” but that blanket apology/atonement thing would not sit well with me TBH.

  44. I should really pick a name*

    You’ve been active in the comments, but haven’t actually said what you think about Alison’s advice, and I’m quite curious.

  45. Your Father's Brother's Nephew's Cousin's Former Roommate*

    LW2 – I’ve been there and realized that my office has a gifting/cheerleader who was usually coordinating Boss Gift efforts over various milestones and holidays.

    When I stepped into the role, I sat down with her and mentioned that I appreciated the things she does to make others feel seen in the office. However, I never want someone to feel obligated to spend money, nor do I ever expect or want a gift. I asked that she focus on making things optional and leaving gifts to me off of her to-dos.

    She agreed, liked the idea of making sure no one feels undue pressure to spend, and the boss gifting stopped. I still get a small token from her every year. It seems like a fair compromise.

    Bottom line: see if there is one person you can go to about this. You may be able to curb the gifting with one conversation!

  46. whatchamacallit*

    3- it would definitely be worth considering asking about the tax implications. I don’t know how your reimbursement was set up, but I would be concerned that $6k would be counted as income now if you didn’t return it. However I’m not an accountant so that’s why I think you should ask!

  47. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #4: Just to be clear, your boss’ behavior would be wrong even if there was no racial component to the discussions, or if your business was just selling spark plugs or pool cleaning services.

  48. Cyndi*

    As a pretty unobservant Jew, LW1’s first OOO would have been recognizably about Yom Kippur to me because of the reference to the new year, but “Please forgive me” without context would come across as overwrought to me and I’d be a little concerned. And I’ll join the list of people saying that automated mass “repentance” seems very much against the spirit and intent of the occasion.

  49. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    LW1: A few people I know post social medial messages like “if I have done anything to hurt you in the past year, please tell me so I can make amends.” I’ve never felt the need to answer one of those messages, but it feels potentially meaningful — it’s an invitation to their friends to say that a specific thing is/was a problem, and an offer to do something about that problem.

    The offer to listen and then make amends, or at least try to do so, feels significantly different than a generic “to anyone I’ve hurt in the last year, I’m sorry.”

    If I heard that really generic “if I’ve hurt anyone” from someone who had hurt me, or who I was still angry at, it would feel like they were trying to get an automatic “it’s OK” or at least “I accept your apology” without risking being told that no, it’s not OK, or that I accept the apology, but that doesn’t mean I’ll trust you in the same way as before you did the thing.

  50. Spicy Tuna*

    #4 – I have encountered this situation twice. The first time was with a co-worker in my department. She was a step up from me hierarchy-wise, but we reported to the same manager. Therefore, the dynamic was different than if she were my boss. She was known throughout the company for being long-winded and extremely precise (ie, any error or mistake had the same weight, so getting work product from her was slow). Everyone just ended up avoiding asking her anything, which is unfortunate because she had a wealth of knowledge. She still works there because of that. IDK if the dynamic around people avoiding asking her questions is still in place.

    Currently, I am self-employed in a business with my husband. He is very long winded and it drives me crazy, especially since our division of labor is that he is in the office and I am always out with a client. I finally asked him in a professional manner, when it was just the two of us, to talk less. He ended up not speaking to me at all for 2 days and then went right back to being long winded. For obvious reasons, this situation is also radically different from the posters and there is not much I can do about it.

  51. Connor Marshall*

    #3 Did you request a refund because of the loan forgiveness that is coming? If so then giving it back makes sense. If that’s not the case, I’m not sure why you would request a refund at all.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      She made payments, there was a vehicle for requesting a refund so she did. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe it was an automatic refund of COVID pause payments. It isn’t clear. It’s also possible that the payments added up to an overage since she said she “paid her loans off.”

  52. Sans Serif*

    I’m Jewish, I’ve been in the workforce for close to 40 years, and I’ve NEVER heard of it. First, it would alarm me to get this message. I would think they were suicidal or at least that everything in their life was collapsing. Also, even if I was given the reason, it doesn’t seem very sincere of an apology. If you’re supposed to repent for your sins of the past year, then it seems talking to people one on one, with specific mention of what you’re apologizing for, would be more appropriate. A generic apology on a voice mail isn’t exactly heartfelt. And if someone doesn’t call you, then they don’t get an apology?

  53. RagingADHD*

    I have worked for many years in locations and businesses where a significant portion (and sometimes the majority) of my neighbors and coworkers were Jewish, and strictly observant, everywhere from Reform to Orthodox. I have never heard of blanket email/social media apologies for Yom Kippur, nor received one.

    I agree with Alison that, as worded, I would have no idea it was related to Yom Kippur. And I agree with the person upthread that I would think the sender was having a breakdown of some kind.

    If it is intended as a Yom Kippur tradition, why not say that outright? “In the spirit of reconciliation and humility that we observe for Yom Kippur…”

    Or something like that?

      1. RagingADHD*

        What the heck is the point of the message if not to put religion in the foreground?

        The LW is asking / inviting everyone they email to participate with them in their holiest religious observance. If they want to keep religion out of it, don’t it at all.

        1. municipal government jane*

          Though I can understand drawing a different conclusion, I disagree that the LW is asking/inviting people to participate in their religious observance in a way that must be explicitly called out. The intent of the message is not proselytization. When I work to make amends (throughout the year and during Elul), I am in a sense inviting the other people involved into my religious observance—but they would likely never know or have to know. I am very private about my religious observance at work and unless someone was clued into the holidays, my coworkers would likely not know I am Jewish. I still take time to reflect and attempt to make amends for my missteps at work and strive to be a better person and coworker. For me, this is a very Jewish experience. As far as anyone else involved would be concerned, it wouldn’t be. And at work, that’s how I aim to keep it.

        2. Covered in Bees*

          I disagree that LW1 is asking people to participate in Yom Kippur. Anyone may ask another person to forgive them at any time in the year. Doing so myself means I’m practicing my religion, but just asking you to forgive me doesn’t suddenly mean you’re practicing Judaism.
          Judaism, by the way, is strictly against proselytizing.

  54. Luna*

    Regarding #5, this makes me think of a recent post that had the other side: where the employer ended up waiting for about 5 days to get a response, and considered that ‘too long’ and decided to not want to interview the candidate anymore.

    I do wonder why we consider it so odd that the interviewee should never be late in answering, but the interviewer can take weeks before they even seem to react.

    Nothing you did was wrong. You were on a long-planned vacation with family, your job search had nothing to do with that. And since they knew, and you did give them a timeframe of when you’d send them an answer, it’s fine. They were willing to wait, and a rejection is always a possibility.

  55. Fiona*

    I’m Jewish and beyond the fact that it’s inappropriate for work, I never understood the point of a blanket message like this. It takes no personal risk or emotional vulnerability at all to just say “sorry if I ever offended anyone who might be reading this.” As others have noted, the point of the holiday is to really dig down and think about the thing you’ve done that have potentially hurt someone – real stuff, not hypotheticals. Then doing the tough and scary thing of talking to them about it and genuinely saying you’re sorry. What are you even apologizing for if you don’t know…what you’re apologizing for? It makes no sense to me.

  56. Cacofonix*

    #4 – I don’t think OP needs to direct to mach-1 and go to grand boss or boss peer here. Unless s/he doesn’t have a more diplomatic approach to “radical candor.” Why not think of a better meeting approach and pitch it? E.g. I always have a short round table in meetings like this where participants get to raise or respond to anything on topic and they are aware that discussion and time will be facilitated – for everyone, regardless of management level. Works even better if you change facilitators every meeting. That’s just one idea of many that doesn’t blame and gets it done.

  57. Fish*

    LW#1: I’ve seen coworkers with their pronouns in their email signature, followed by a small, hyperlinked “What’s this?” linking to an explanation. If you wanted to keep the apology, you could do that so it would be less jarring/alarming to people who didn’t know what you were doing.

  58. Bertha*

    I have a lot of confusion about #3, and I think it’s because of the confusion around “refunds” as they apply to student loans. As of today, applications for *forgiveness* have just opened. While people have been able to get “refunds” of payments, let’s say OP #3 got a “refund” of the $6000 that her employer paid. Until the student loan forgiveness is finalized — and the Biden administration has said this won’t happen until 10/23 at the earliest, and also there are still legal challenges so I would NOT assume it’s guaranteed (and I’m applying this logic to my own loans)… while the LW got this $6000 “refunded,” the tradeoff at least for now is that she owes this $6000 on her loans. I had my own payments refunded, and it just increased my loan balance. The idea is that it gives you back the money that you put towards debt, and you now have that money for other things — the refund is NOT loan forgiveness yet. (Perhaps the LW has PSLF, but there was no mention made of that, and “refund” usually refers to getting voluntary payments made during the Covid pause returned to you.) Long story short, paying the $6000 back to the employer NOW would be a terrible idea in case anything happens with the legal challenges to the loan forgiveness. We have already seen certain FFEL borrowers become ineligible.

    1. H3llifIknow*

      I think you missed where the LW said, “I recently paid off my student loans!”

      So the “refunded” payments should not increase their original debt at all.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I don’t know that it would be a huge risk — if the loan forgiveness doesn’t go through, assuming they still offer the same benefit, wouldn’t they just start reimbursing the OP’s new payments? — but I might suggest to HR that I wait to pay it back until my loan forgiveness is finalized, since until then I don’t really know if I get to keep the refund.

  59. I should really pick a name*

    What I find fascinating about question #1 is that it is incredibly low stakes, but easy to feel really strongly about.
    At the end of the day, if the LW includes some kind of note, the reaction will probably be “that’s weird” and the recipient will move on with their life, and never think about it again.

    But it touches on so many things:
    1. The appropriateness of religion in the workplace
    2. Familiarity/lack of familiarity with this specific practice
    3. How common this practice actual is or isn’t
    4. The form of the apology itself
    5. The fact that it’s an out of office reply

  60. Mailer Daemon Targaryen*

    The suggestion to LW2 feels over the top to me. It would be one thing if you’ve been getting Boss’s Day gifts from your whole team for years, but sending a team email with an article about Boss’s Day and a plea for no gifts because you got a $10 gift from one person in ten years? It’s overkill and will probably have the opposite intended effect no matter how you word it.

    If it happens again this year, explain to that individual your preference for no gifts and then let it go. Unless and until it escalates, there’s nothing to “get ahead” of this year and no reason to loop in the whole team.

    1. sarah*

      Totally agree. If I got an email from boss after years of not getting them a gift that said “Please don’t feel pressured to get me a gift!” my reaction would be “oh crap, was I supposed to be getting them a gift all this time??”

  61. moss*

    For the “Please forgive me” in the OOO message.

    If I’m OPs coworker (not friend, just colleague), I need info on whether OP will respond to my emails in business time or not. That’s literally all I need an OOO for: will my email get a response in the next 24 hours or not.

    If the OP wants to add the reason she is out of office, that’s fine, but I don’t actually care. If the reason is that OP is observing a holiday, that’s great for OP but it doesn’t matter to me at all. I work in a global business with colleagues in literally every world timezone and they all observe different holidays and I care zero about it, it’s kinda interesting but not that relevant to me.

    The OP’s current setup is something like “Please forgive me.” OK, now, the OP is trying to get me to participate in her observance of her holiday. I am not cool with that. Asking for forgiveness is asking me to take an action (at minimum to mentally consider what OP did over the year and whether I felt any kind of way about it) to participate in her religious observance. I think that’s inappropriate for work.

    info: fine, but not needed. Asking for action from me: over the line intrusive.

    And before everyone wants to minimize the action as “oh it’s just a custom”… either you mean it or you don’t. You are either asking for forgiveness (in which case, I have to go through thought processes around my feelings about you), or you’re not. If not, don’t include it. Please, allow me to work with you without having to do any emotional labor about it. I just want your document updates (or whatever). I don’t want to get into any feelings and I don’t want to reflect and look back because I like looking forward.

    Please leave me out of your religious observances entirely, every religion, every holiday, that’s my ideal, thank you.

  62. Lynne*

    I know there are already a ton of comments here, but I’m hoping someone will see this and answer a question for me. Honestly, I want to stay where I am, but there are some issues (namely pay) that have me looking elsewhere. I’ve read on this website that someone shouldn’t leverage a job offer to get a better deal at their current job, but in Question #5, they say they told their employer about the offer to give them an opportunity to counteroffer. How is that any different than leveraging an offer?

    1. a clockwork lemon*

      It’s very context dependent. If you’re casually looking and pay is the only sticky point at an otherwise fantastic job, the counteroffer can get you more money, but it can also seriously limit your potential for future comp increases if you’re at a company that doesn’t give regular raises or significant annual merit bonuses.

      The flip side of that is more money won’t solve culture/management/actual work problems if you’re unhappy for reasons independent of compensation.

      1. Lynne*

        Thank you for your response. And you’re right – it won’t fix the other issues. I’ve got a lot to think about.

    2. ClearedCookiesOops*

      The LW is very non-specific, they say they told their employer about the offer – which could mean anything from “I was offered another job” with no follow-up to “I was offered a salary of $X by [Company] with [benefits], what can you do to match that?” – and the company “ended up” making a counter-offer, which sounds like part of a conversation rather than the LW’s goal.

      When I’ve taken a counter-offer in the past (I shouldn’t have), the exchange went like this:

      Me: I have to give notice, I’ve accepted another job
      Boss: Why did you decide to take it?
      Me: The day ends at 5pm rather than 5:30pm and the salary is £3,500 higher.
      Boss: Excuse me a moment

      And he went and phoned someone to get their sign-off on matching the offer. It wasn’t the point of the conversation, I just wasn’t cagey about my motivations and my boss wanted me to stay.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      It’s the same.

      I’m fairly certain Alison would not advise trying for a counteroffer, but the LW wasn’t asking about that part of it and had already done.

      Alison just answered the question asked, but generally advises against trying to leverage a counteroffer.

  63. Jessica Fletcher (RIP)*

    OP3, why did you apply for student loan reimbursement if they were already paid off and you had already been reimbursed by your employer? Did you really think you were going to take home $10k, 60% of which you didn’t even pay yourself??

    I say keep the $4k you had paid *if that was not also reimbursed* but Alison is right. It would be unethical at best to keep what your employer paid. It would also affect how they treat you. You might even get fired. They’d definitely stop reimbursing anyone else’s loans.

  64. a clockwork lemon*

    I’m also in the camp of “Jews who have never heard of this thing” and think that LW1’s “please forgive me” OOO is a bit much. Personally, my office culture (also a large global corporation) doesn’t really encourage people providing any context to their OOO messages.

    If I got a “please forgive me” message, I’d probably chalk it up to a funky word choice from a non-native English speaker missing the mark on the connotation. If I got something that said “I apologize if I have offended you in the past year” I would be deeply concerned about the sender, and have some real questions about the team culture they’re working in.

  65. H.Regalis*

    “Please forgive me” in English from a native English speaker would freak me out a bit. For anyone else I would assume it’s just an odd choice of words, but if I know English is your native language, I would be worried about you and wonder if you’re okay. “Please forgive me” sounds really dramatic, like you’re Bilbo in the Hobbit movie and you just snuck out of the keep to give the Arkenstone to the people of Lake-town or something.

  66. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Our office has a pretty strict no Boss’s day policy. But this year our team rebelled and got a small gift for our boss who had gone to bat for us and got pretty beaten up in the process. But we did it as a team. It was more about the message that we appreciate them as a boss and know sometimes their job sucks too.

  67. H3llifIknow*

    Something similar to the student loan payment thing. My former company (a gov contractor) paid $100 a month towards my student loans, (and anyone else who registered). I left after just shy of 3 years, but they continued paying for another 6 months! I contacted them, but they outsourced the payment handling and when I quit, it apparently didn’t trickle down. I asked if I needed to pay the $600 back and they said, “No, it was our mistake in not following through, not yours. Enjoy!”

  68. JLC*

    I’m a non-practicing Jew and I’ve never seen what LW1 is referring to. However, I believe I’d connect it to the time of year/holiday. While I personally agree with the general advice to avoid it, I wanted to offer an alternative.

    If you’d still like to do this, I’d suggest including a link to explain it. It’s a good opportunity to assuage people’s fears as well as educate by posting even just the Wikipedia article on Yom Kippur.

  69. Allison*

    On #5, I work in recruiting, and it is generally irritating when someone takes that much time to make a decision, but LW did have a good reason in this case, they were genuinely preoccupied with something. And yeah, waiting that long for an answer just to have the offer rejected sucks, it does, but we also know that giving someone extra time won’t guarantee a yes, NOTHING guarantees us an acceptance, nothing we do obligates a candidate to accept an offer. When we give someone extra time to decide, it’s always a gamble.

  70. Coco*

    LW#3: I work in employee benefits and can definitely speak to this. When you applied for the loan payment reimbursement benefit you no doubt agreed to some sort of terms and conditions. Reread those documents to understand the policy. You are definitely not the only person in this position. A smart HR department, (upon the announcement of Biden’s loan forgiveness/refund plan) would formulate some kind of policy or statement that would be applicable to everyone. Then announce that policy to everyone effected. “We would appreciate it” is not a policy. You need more clear direction. Find out explicitly what is being requested of you.

  71. Don't Call Me Shirley*

    LW1 – I am only jew-adjacent (my kid’s school neighbours a kosher grocery store, and several synagogues), and I see messages from friends on Facebook or as a tagline to an email telling me someone is going to be out with that language regarding forgiveness pretty frequently.

    I don’t know about work appropriateness, but maybe it is more regional how common it is? It’s common enough all I think is “Oh, didn’t know X was Jewish, I should wish them a meaningful fast”

  72. Canadian Librarian #72*

    I’m Jewish and have heard of these mass apology things, but I’ve only ever seen them on social media, and would be perturbed to see it in a workplace communication. Frankly it made me a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable just to read about it. Just… don’t do this.

  73. It's Me*

    For #2, Alison writes “(It’s interesting to consider, though, what your obligations would be if you didn’t still work there; in theory the obligation should be the same, but in practice I don’t think it would feel as strongly obligatory and I can’t fully defend that.)”

    I wonder if that’s because if LW no longer worked there, the relationship would be at an end? Like, apart from potentially needing a referral from a specific manager, I no longer have any ties to or contact with old employers wherein employer = corporation. And if it included every single person who’s had loans forgiven, that could go back literal decades and surely no one would expect that?

  74. Cacofonix*

    Religious epitaphs have no business in the correspondence of a non religious organization full stop, in my opinion. Blanket apologies to cover off any possible situation is a non-apology, also in my opinion. There. I said it. Now I’ll just go get my coat.

  75. nnn*

    Further thoughts for #1, based on a sort of synthesis of the other comments. (And, as I mentioned above, as a non-Jew I’m taking LW’s word that it’s common and appropriate.)

    Is your goal to have people receive your apology in the spirit in which it is intended? Or is your goal simply to put your apology out into the world?

    If your goal is to have people receive the apology in the spirit in which it is intended, the suggestion that some have given of explicitly stating that it’s for the occasion of Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur would probably achieve that best.

    If your goal is to put it out in the world, putting it at the end of your email signature like a quote as other have mentioned would probably be best.

    Also, some have mentioned that, for those unfamiliar with this practice, it could come across as alarming or dramatic. I’m wondering if that might be mitigated by using language that sounds more religious and less generic. Using an example from Christianity (because that’s the religious frame of reference that’s available to me), I might say “Forgive me my trespasses.” People who share my religious background would recognize the reference, and even those who don’t would likely think “That sounds like it’s from something…”

    Is there some comparably non-generic religious language available to you?

  76. Covered in Bees*

    In re: #1: I am also Jewish and like Alison have never seen or heard of such blanket apologies. And also like Alison, if I saw one I would doubt the sincerity of an apology in an auto-response. I really can’t see how it would accomplish what LW1 intends.

  77. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    This is very late so OP1 probably won’t see this but something to consider: how many people actually read OOO messages in detail? I see the little preview at the top of the message in Outlook, MAYBE check for the ‘will be back on date’ if the email’s about something important, and delete the actual OOO message without even opening it as soon as it arrives. If you had something important to you in an OOO that wasn’t in the first line, there’s a good chance I’d never see it.

  78. That'sNotMyName*

    I’ve seen the mass requests for forgiveness (or invitations to talk about something they need to apologize for) on social media, although they seem to have faded away over the past few years. If I saw an OOO like that, I’d probably make the connection with the days they’d be gone, but I think it was odd and a bit uncomfortable. Theologically (I’m an observant Jew), I’m not a fan of the mass apologies in general. Professionally, bringing that to a workplace that isn’t explicitly Jewish feels like crossing a boundary. I wouldn’t want to get messages like that from someone from any religious background or any other reason.

  79. Tuba*

    I am Jewish –raised Orthodox from ages 0-10, conservative from 11-18, and am now part of a Reform shul. Part of Hillel in university. Many different cities. Most of the family is Ashkenazi but some are Sephardic. All to say I’ve had a wide variety of Jewish circles. This is the first I’m hearing of the practice and like many of the other commenters it made me uncomfortable. I can imagine my thought process going like this

    ~Reads email please forgive me~
    1 min in -Did this person rob the company or something?
    2 min in- Oh, they probably meant please forgive I’m not responding to emails! Mystery solved, closes email.
    10 min later in reflection – “Wait, isn’t Rachel Jewish? This couldn’t possibly have to do with Yom Kippur, could it?
    11 min later- I hope other people don’t think that I as a Jewish person go around begging strangers for forgiveness via email.


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