I called my boss a nasty name, my coworker is charging people for coffee, and more

I’m off today for family stuff. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them buried in the archives.

1. I called my boss a nasty name

I just recently started a new job. I’m 55 and having difficulty in learning new tasks, even in areas where I have experience. My new boss has been very frustrated with my performance, and I’m trying hard to improve. She’s extremely overweight. I don’t even know what thought led me there, but I think I may have made a hateful remark about her weight under my breath. If I did say it, it was under my breath and I think I may have said “fat ass” and nothing more. Again, I don’t even know if I said it. I’ve only been there a few months and have been having trouble settling in. I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. I’m going to ask her about it when I’m back at work, but I don’t really know how to handle it. Any constructive advice would be greatly appreciated. She’s been frustrated with my work and has been rather critical, so it’s a tense situation.

That is … not okay. I know you’re not sure if you said it out loud or not, but even the possibility that you would make a cruel remark about someone’s appearance is really problematic. That’s never okay to say to anyone (let alone to your boss). People’s appearances at work (or anywhere, really) aren’t up for your critique, and making a nasty barb about someone’s weight or appearance because you’re frustrated with them is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong.

If you did say it and she heard it, it will be difficult — maybe impossible — to salvage this, although you should still give her a sincere apology. The fact that you don’t know either of those things complicates this, but you could apologize for letting your frustration show.

More importantly, though, this is a sign that you’re got to rethink whether this job is right for you. You’re struggling with the work, your boss is being very critical (which may be a natural result of how things are going), things are tense, and now you’re at a point where you’re conducting yourself in a way that I assume is out of character and that you don’t feel okay about. Maybe this isn’t the right job for you. But if you decide that you do want to stay and try to make it work, there’s no way to do it without resolving to change your mindset about the job and about your boss and getting yourself into a mental space where nasty personal comments would never even be on the table as an option. If you can’t do that — if you still find yourself at risk of muttering awful comments to/about people — you owe it to them and to yourself to move on.


2. My coworker brought in this own coffee maker and is charging people for coffee

We have a colleague in our office who has bought in his own personal coffee machine from home to use at work to make coffees for himself and other colleagues in the office and is charging them £1:50 per drink! Is he allowed to do this?!

He is, unless the rules of your particular office forbid it.

I don’t see anything terribly wrong with it (although those coffees sound overpriced); it’s sort of like asking people to pitch in to cover the cost of the candy they keep eating from your candy dish, just a bit more formalized. People are free to decline his coffees and get their own somewhere else.


3. I got my partner a job at my company, we broke up, and she won’t leave

My partner of eight years and I just split up. We are not legally married. We are both female. Recently, I helped her get a job at my longtime workplace. I have worked there for more than 10 years. Our relationship has been rocky in the past, so when I helped her get a job at my workplace, I asked her to promise me she would find something else if we split up. Well, we broke up and she won’t leave.

I am planning on asking my HR department for help. I don’t know what they can do for me. I thinking about quitting, which I absolutely do not want to do. I don’t want to bring in any drama into my workplace. I don’t want to slander her.

I’m sorry you’re in that situation! That sounds really hard. Unfortunately, though, there’s not really anything you can do here, short of deciding to leave yourself. This isn’t something HR will intervene on; it’s a private relationship issue. The fact that you’d had an agreement that your ex would leave if you broke up isn’t something they’ll enforce. If you approach them, they’ll almost certainly just explain that this is a personal matter between the two of you and that they won’t ask someone to leave because a relationship ended … and it won’t reflect very well on you.

It sucks that you had an agreement that she’s not following through on now, but who knows, she might have more compelling reasons to stay now than she did before. And this isn’t the type of agreement you can insist someone keep; you’d be insisting that she abandon her source of income and do something that could have significant professional ramifications for her. At this point, you’ve got to accept that for whatever reason she no longer feels she can keep it.

The best thing you can do is to wait this out and see if you feel any differently a month or two now. If a few months from now, you’d still rather quit than work there with her, then sure, go ahead and start job searching. But it’s possible that after some time goes by, you’ll decide that you can continue to work there reasonably comfortably — or at least that you’re willing to make it work rather than quitting your job. Don’t decide anything now while you’re in the immediate aftermath of the break-up.

4. I was replaced by a cartoon

I work in an in-house legal department for a large company as a legal assistant. As part of a recent move to promote the legal department to other departments in the company, a few of the attorneys have been doing presentations. Sort of a get-to-know-legal type of thing. One of the attorneys I work with has done a PowerPoint presentation that includes pictures of our “team” and descriptions of what we do. She replaced my actual picture with a cartoon depiction of a secretary sitting a desk with files stacked around her and papers and envelopes thrown up in the air. Every one else has their actual picture featured except me. Do you think this is cause to be offended or am I overreacting? I feel as though I am being considered a non-person by placing this cartoon picture next to my name.

That’s … definitely weird. Any chance that there’s an explanation for it, like that you weren’t there on the day she was collecting photos and she thought this was a cute way to still get you in there? If it’s not something like that, then yeah, it’s demeaning, even if she didn’t intend it to be.

Regardless of her intentions, though, you can ask her to fix it. At a minimum, you could something like: “Hey, can you please use an actual photo of me, like you did for everyone else?” Or if you want to get into it more, you could say, “I’m baffled about why I’m a cartoon secretary while everyone else has a real photo. What happened there?” Followed by, “Well, I’d prefer to use my photo like everyone else does. Can you swap it in?”


5. Is “FYI” rude?

Is FYI considered rude in a work email?

In general, no. But there are always weird workplaces out there where something perfectly normal is considered rude, and if you’re working in one of them, it’s good to be aware of that.

And of course, the way you’re using it matters. “I did your work since you were nowhere to be found, FYI” sounds snarky. “The information about the phone system below is just FYI” is perfectly appropriate. “FYI” at the top of an email you’re forwarding to fill someone in on something should be perfectly appropriate, but I can imagine that there are some offices where that would feel overly brusque if you didn’t add in a line about why you were sending it — again, you need to know your culture.


{ 362 comments… read them below }

  1. Kara*

    OP 1 –

    YIKES! I’m 54 and suffer from anxiety and I am pretty well annoyed by the fact that you seem to think being 55 is somehow an excuse for not being able to “learn new tasks” or for being a body-shaming jerk.

    If you’re having anxiety issues, I think it’s important to talk to a therapist or your doctor, but please don’t use your age or your anxiety as an excuse to not be a decent human being.

    1. Lilo*

      I’m going to bet LW1 got fired. I’ve trained people who jump to defensiveness when corrected and they tend to be a lot harder to work with. We usually have a talk about how they’re getting in their own way. Outright aggression? That’s very unlikely to be workable.

    2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah. I’m in my mid-thirties and I’ve learned that if I find myself thinking petty things about superficial “flaws” in other people….that is a sign that I’m feeling insecure and am going on the offensive to shut down the uncomfortable feeling.

      As an adult we should be able to notice these things and call ourselves on it before it can slip out.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        The times I catch myself thinking such things is if I feel powerless and am being treated poorly. It isn’t an appropriate response. Those thoughts are a good sign I need to GTFO no matter what the consequences.

    3. Ailsa McNonagon*

      I’ve mentioned this in other comments, but what LW1 describes happens to me multiple times a day- I’m not a jerk or an arsehole – I suffer from OCD. Intrusive thoughts in stressful situations are my biggest symptom, and the nature of OCD means I can’t trust my own recollection of an event. My OCD brain will tell me that I’ve done and said awful, terrible things whilst my rational brain is saying that they didn’t happen- typically if you call someone something horrible they have a reaction in the moment.

      People who don’t have OCD think it’s just obsessive cleaning and counting the number of times you turn a lightswitch on and off. For me, I am tormented on a daily basis by false memories of hideous things my OCD brain tells me I’ve done, even if people who were with me at the time tell me I didn’t.

      If this is LW1’s struggle too, it’s not “an excuse not to be a decent human being”- it’s a devastating mental health condition that makes people doubt their own perceptions of reality. I once convinced myself I’d run someone over and left them for dead and stayed up all night obsessively refreshing Ceefax news- despite there not being a soul on the street I had driven down at the time I drove down it (I ran over a pop bottle in the middle of the road, and that triggered my spiralling thoughts).

      I’m also a massive fatty too- proudly so, I’ve worked hard to be happy in my body. If LW1 made a nasty comment out loud, I’m fairly sure that most people would have had a reaction in the moment. It’s not okay to make fun of people for being fat. That doesn’t sound like what this was – and believe me, I’m VERY sensitive to microaggressions for my size!

      1. Luna*

        That’s interesting. I figured OCD basically meant you also had an eidetic memory, so you were a lot less likely to misremember how things went down.

        1. Ailsa McNonagon*

          It might mean that for some people, and my memory is disgustingly good (too good, I struggle to forget things I wish I could)- but for me it’s also unreliable. For instance, I had a really horrible manager but because I hated her so much I tried not to join in when colleagues bitched about her – I knew that if I did I wouldn’t be able to trust my recollection of the conversation and be sure that I didn’t say anything egregious or alarming, because the thoughts inside my head were so awful.

          OCD really isn’t well understood by people who don’t suffer from it. It’s not just needing to have things a certain way, although that’s part of it. It’s not just counting steps or locking and unlocking doors a certain number of times, although that’s part of it. For lots of us, OCD is constant, awful, evil intrusive thoughts- the kind of thing you really don’t want to be thinking, but the harder you try to push it away the more it becomes ‘real’. And if you tell people they don’t believe that you have a dual memory of reality so they think you’re either lying or a terrible person.

          Lots of people understand and empathise with cushion-plumping and hand-washing; very few people understand about intrusive thoughts, thought insertion, false memories, thought-action fusion.

          1. Purple Cat*

            Thank you for sharing this. It’s a disorder I don’t know know much about and I appreciate how much this community helps us all learn more.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              I read a great memoir called “Obsessed,” by a woman who experienced her first grapple with OCD as a teenager. She illustrates it so vividly that it’s sometimes hard to watch as she goes through this massive and mysterious struggle before she learns that she has an illness, but it’s so interesting. I’d recommend it.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Not at all my area of expertise, but I wonder if the need to have things a certain way is a way to protect against thought spirals? I have suicidal ideation (not as serious as it sounds – in therapy – my brain just gets creative on this topic) and it gets triggered by certain items/situations (e.g. heights) so I try to avoid them using work-arounds.

            1. Hydrangea*

              Sort of. The repetitive behaviors are a sort of a way of reliving the anxiety. OCD is a type of anxiety disorder, and the repetitive behaviors are a way of exerting control.

              Fun fact: It can be very difficult to distinguish between spectrum traits and OCD traits as both have obsessions and repetitive behaviors (and can be comorbid).

          3. PostalMixup*

            This is the worst part of my OCD. My intrusive thoughts are vivid mental images of my family dying by random violence – typically shootings. Needless to say, I have escape routes planned for every place we frequent. If I go into a spiral, it can be hard to remember that this isn’t a memory of something that actually happened, and that my kids are asleep in the next room.

          4. BatManDan*

            Memory, even in people that don’t have OCD or related issues, is MUCH less reliable than most of us would like to believe. It’s actually fascinating, once you look into it.

          5. BokBooks*

            That sounds extraordinarily difficult and I didn’t know that about OCD. It also sounds somewhat familiar to how my social anxiety functions (not to diminish OCD in any way, just saying that I experience a far lesser type of memory recall distrust). I hope the treatment that you have helps you and that you’re doing well.

          6. BethDH*

            Does anyone know more of what I could look at to read more about this aspect of OCD from a reliable source? Someone close to me has (diagnosed) OCD and also has intrusive ugly thoughts, but we never made that connection and have assumed it was holdover from some early formative experiences, but this description sounds kind of familiar.

          7. Luna*

            Thank you for sharing. I find this very interesting, and informative. From what I know, I don’t have OCD, but I can understand about intrusive thoughts that you can’t shake off and force themselves to the front of your mind, even though you wish they’d go back to the dark pits in the back.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        That actually makes a lot of sense, as I was wondering how they could not know if they’d said it or not. I did know OCD involves intrusive thoughts but I hadn’t thought of it as being a factor here. It does make sense though, as the LW mentions struggling with anxiety.

        Sorry to hear you are dealing with that, by the way.

      3. Abigail*

        This is a really generous take.

        But everything in this letter is the contributor justifying muttering this slur. My read is that the LW said it, knows they said it, and is downplaying any detail that makes them look bad.

        I think this LW has serious work ahead on self regulation, which is not what they want to hear, but here we are.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Strange how people read things differently as I felt sure that she didn’t say it (audibly anyway) and has just gone into a spiral of “did I say it? I don’t remember saying it out loud but I could have — oh my god I said it didn’t I, why didn’t she react at the time then? Maybe she did and I didn’t notice because I was too wrapped up in the moment” etc etc.

          As someone with anxiety (well controlled now with medication) I can relate to this line of thinking very well, as well as to the specific thing someone mentioned in a comment of feeling sure they’d run over someone on the road! (Mine was with a cyclist I’d passed and then felt sure later I must have knocked them off their bike, even driving back to the ‘scene’ later.) I think this must be a common one as well since one of my Facebook friends who openly talks about her OCD had the same experience!

          I hope this isn’t too close to “armchair diagnosing” but since OP mentioned it — I think getting treatment (or reviewing the treatment, if she isn’t already receiving it) for the anxiety and depression may help some of these problems go away. It certainly did for me.

      4. Baron*

        Thanks for this. I was going to be critical of the whole “not knowing whether they said it” piece, as without the background you’ve shared, that felt very questionable to me.

      5. Come On Eileen*

        I had no idea about this aspect of OCD and really appreciate the insight. In practical terms, what does that mean for how OP handles himself/herself in situations like the one mentioned in the letter? If you honestly don’t know if you’ve said something really rude?

        1. Sylvan*

          Look for evidence that the “you did a bad thing” thought is or isn’t true. If I were the OP, I would consider how the boss acted during that conversation and afterward. A boss who’s been insulted by an employee is going to react to it, and that would have to be noticeable.

          I tend to have the “you used a bad word” or “you insulted somebody” thought about text I’ve written, so I’m lucky that I can just reread the text. The bad word or insult has literally never been there. I don’t review text like this anymore because that reinforces the intrusive thought.

        2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Well, one of the main things with how OCD tends to manifest is that individuals don’t actually engage in the behaviours their intrusive thoughts are about. For example, many people have intrusive thoughts about yelling obsenities, but people with OCD are no more likely to actually do that than anyone else.

          So in that case it’s very unlikely she would have actually said anything that her boss picked up on (although her boss may have noticed her being distracted). The best thing for her to do would be to get treated with a specialist and possibly ask for accomodations if needed. But with OCD the accomodations are likely to be very personalised and specific, so it would really depend on her particular case.

      6. Pupupu*

        This this this. Obsessive anxiety and moral OCD meant I was constantly checking if I’d said something horrible to someone or done something terrible. The op does need to leave this job but therapy/meds may also need tweaking.

      7. Generic+Name*

        I really appreciate this explanation. I read the letter and thought there must be something going on with the OP, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The “I may or may not have” is something that people who habitually externalize blame do, but it also sounded like a brain health thing could be going on.

      8. Veruca*

        My daughter has OCD, and it’s so misunderstood. People think it’s like Monk, meaning germs phobia and extreme orderliness.
        It is debilitating intrusive thoughts, with rituals (not rational ones) performed to help alleviate the anxiety.
        To see your child suffer with it is awful. One of my daughter’s intrusive thoughts was that she was going to beat our dogs, who she loves. This caused her immense distress. You can’t rationalize with her and explain that she doesn’t want to hurt the dogs, she doesn’t want to beat them, so she never would. The thought is spiraling in her head that somehow, against her will, she is going to beat the dogs. She was breaking her own heart. The tears and panic attacks that she had over this broke MY heart. And that’s just one intrusive thought out of dozens.
        One of her rituals was brushing her teeth. She would brush fifteen minutes or more. She’d brush until she gagged. She felt she had to in order to avert disaster. So unlike many parents who check that their children actually brushed their teeth, I’d sit in the bathroom with my teen and tell her, “That’s enough brushing. Please stop now! It’s going to be ok!” And then there would be tears and exhaustion.
        OCD is not cute. It’s a terrible burden on the people who have it.

        1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I work for a mental health service and while we don’t treat OCD, we have referred a few clients with those symptoms to a specialist service.

          To your point about the ‘cleaning’ stereotype — one thing you will see with cleanliness and orderliness in OCD is that sufferers have such unrelenting standards for themselves that they will become exhausted by cleaning. So you’ll have a fairly messy apartment but an absolutely spotless and completely de-germed desk. Or the closet and kichen will be in dissaray but the carpets will have been rinsed and vaccumed repeatedly. The compulsion to do things ‘right’ and a compulsion to start over if they make a mistake or even if they can’t remember if they made a mistake…means that an individual can spend hours cleaning something that a non-sufferer would clean in tweny minutes. So you never really see the ‘Monk’ presentation.

          Which if you think about it, makes sense, if only because no one has the time to regularly clean everything to that level of detail. Monk wouldn’t have time to finish cleaning his apartment regularly; much less solve crimes.

      9. OCD educator*

        I have OCD too and have had the exact same fear of running someone over with my car. It’s such a terrible condition to have. It’s derailed my life in many ways. Hang in there and thanks for taking the to shed some light on living with OCD

        1. pugsnbourbon*

          Me too. Lots of doubling back just to check. What if I hit someone and entered a fugue state like that one woman did ages ago?

          That said, LW needs to move on from that role. The OCD might be making the situation worse, but it’s still not the right job for him.

      10. Just… no*

        Sure, but the thought you have is yours. If your thought is cruel fatphobic garbage, then you have that in your heart somewhere. And OCD doesn’t excuse that.

        1. Gerry Kaey*

          wow no. that’s not what an intrusive thought is, and that’s a pretty ableist and uninformed thing to say yourself, especially on a thread where people are being generous enough to share the intrusive thoughts they struggle with.

          1. Gerry Kaey*

            (to clarify: I think whether OP had OCD is largely irrelevant and their behavior is unacceptable, I just wanted to push back on the idea that every intrusive thought is based in what a person actually thinks because it’s such a problematic misconception.)

            1. Yoyoyo*

              Yes, I am a therapist who works with people who have intrusive thoughts and one of the most powerful things is when they realize and accept that their intrusive thoughts don’t MEAN anything about them. They’re not some secretly twisted person who wants to throw their baby down the stairs or attack their friend. They are just intrusive thoughts.

              That said, there isn’t necessarily anything in the letter to indicate that that’s what’s going on for this person. I think what just…no might be really thinking of is when someone gets emotionally dysregulated and uses a slur and then tries to say they aren’t racist/sexist/fatphobic/etc., they were just really angry. In that case, I agree – if you didn’t already have those beliefs they wouldn’t have just appeared out of nowhere because you got angry.

              1. Hydrangea*

                when someone gets emotionally dysregulated and uses a slur and then tries to say they aren’t racist/sexist/fatphobic/etc., they were just really angry.

                if you didn’t already have those beliefs they wouldn’t have just appeared out of nowhere because you got angry.

                Racist/sexist/fatphobic/etc. are built into society and can be internalized even by people who they are used against. It takes serious ongoing work to find and root out those tendencies. I can’t remember the originator of this analogy, but removing racism (or anything else) is like removing plaque from your teeth. You get rid of it, but it grows back even with regular hygiene and you need to do more work to get rid of the new stuff. The nature of being emotionally dysregulated means that sometimes people who are doing the work sometimes say racist/sexist/fatphobic things.

                Those beliefs didn’t appear out of nowhere when the person got angry–they appeared over a lifetime of living in a racist/sexist/fatphobic society. That’s why when you call out things in the moment, the advice is to focus on what was said, not on the nature of the person saying it.

                Maybe LW is fatphobic. Maybe they show traits associated with OCD. Maybe they have a hard time regulating. Maybe all of those things. We don’t have enough information to determine. Just…no‘s comments don’t advance the conversation, and neither did your elaboration on what they might have meant.

        2. Kelly*

          Wow that is not how OCD works. I really hope you show more compassion to people than this comment indicates

        3. Banana Pancakes*

          This is the opposite of how intrusive thoughts work. They are, by definition, ego-dystonic which is what makes them so distressing. People with OCD don’t want to do the things we have intrusive thoughts about. Kindly stop spreading misinformation that reinforces harmful, untrue stereotypes about people with mental illness.

        4. Well...*

          uhhhh what? Fatphobia is everywhere in our culture. Thinking thoughts doesn’t actually require an excuse.

          Suppressing your own thoughts and denying they exist is far more likely to result in actions that cause harm.

        5. no really, no*

          That is literally the opposite of what intrusive thoughts are. Please educate yourself before you spout this nonsense. People with OCD often struggle with feeling like terrible people for the thoughts they can’t control, so you comment is cruel and damaging.

          1. Kelly*

            Yeah I won’t lie, even though I know I can’t control my intrusive thoughts, that comment did cause a little bit of anxiety and self-doubt that maybe I really DO believe the awful things I think. And it has me second guessing sharing my intrusive thoughts with others in case they feel the way just…no does. This kind of ignorance is so harmful

            1. no really, no*

              You’re not a bad person! You can’t help intrusive thoughts…. But I’m glad you chimed in to hopefully show Just…no how uninformed and dangerous their comments are. Hopefully they care and are never going to say such ignorant things again…..

        6. Unkempt Flatware*

          Would you be willing to acknowledge what folks have said to you here? I think it would be a good exercise for us all to witness.

      11. Bagpuss*

        That’s very interesting and is something which I didnt know about OCD. I did know that it involves intrusive thoughts and (for many sufferers, I am not sure if it’s the case for eveyone) very real fears of terrible things happening if you don’t complete the ritual / repetetive behaviour or if things are not done ‘correctly’ , and that that is a key ay ot is different from just needing to have things done in a cetain way (e.g. I am sufficiently uncomfrtable anout things like lightswitches being the ‘wrong’ way that I will get out of bed to put them ‘right’, but I don’t fear that the house will burn down / I will harm someone if they aren’t, so I know it’s not OCD, but a much more benign quirk of my brain)

      12. Meep*

        I have OCD too and have driven 35 minutes back to the office just to make sure I locked up. However, I never find myself calling someone I dislike a fat ass. Well, maybe, but I was probably 12 and a brat.

        This is harmful stereotyping as much as the OCD == neat-freak.

        1. Budgie Buddy*

          This is my feeling too… the way people describe intrusive thoughts upthread makes it sound like they are things that go against someone’s desires and values. (Hurting a friend, or accidentally injuring a pedestrian while driving.) LW1 says they do consider the boss to be “extremely overweight” so the insult was actually in line with their real opinion – just more crass.

      13. Anon4this*

        Thank you for this perspective, it’s really interesting.

        I have experienced a variant on LW1’s problem. During the lockdown, my negative self talk started manifesting out loud, and I found myself saying awful things about myself under my breath (rather than just thinking them). “Fatass” isn’t my insult of choice, but “you’re an idiot and nobody likes you” is a regular feature.

        Now that I’m back at work every day, I’m terrified something will slip out in front of someone else. It usually happens when I’m having a cringe attack, reliving something embarrassing I did. So far I’ve never said anything out loud in public, only by myself, but still… being completely isolated from human interaction for a few months actually has negative consequences…

      14. New Understanding*

        Alisa, thank you for sharing this. Not related to the letter at all, but your explanation suddenly allowed some things about my own mother’s perception of reality (which is very different from mine) make sense. At 35, I think I kind of get it now. Thank you.

    4. Luna*

      I’m all for a bit of leeway and empathy towards people with anxiety, I have it myself and I know I’ve come across as odd because I was worried about this tiny mistake. (Oh, god, this tiny mistake will get me fired!) Same with having depression.

      But neither of those stops someone from learning new things. Maybe other things are an issue with learning them, like how they are being instructed is ‘wrong’ because, say, they are better at learning by visually being shown what to do instead of just being given written instructions.

      But, yes, don’t take your frustration out on your boss, especially not if she’s just as (rightfully) frustrated with you. Including not on her weight or outer appearance. (Especially not weight, since that is one of those flux capacitors that does whatever it wants, no matter what you may try to manage it better) Go ahead, *think* it all you want. Yell at her in your mind if it makes you feel better, but out loud you do not talk that way.

      1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

        That’s not totally true – some mental health conditions can cause significant brain fog and make it much, much harder to plan and implement tasks. I’ve been through it myself.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          To be a bit vague, my full time job is reviewing medical records and depression and anxiety, even in people who seem very functional and “normal,” absolutely affect one’s ability to remember, understand, and keep pace in a job!

          LW1 was of course rude and in the wrong and I hope she has worked to retrain her default thoughts about other people, but it is entirely possible her anxiety affected whether or not this job was a good fit.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        My personal take was that if the LW is *really* having trouble learning new tasks on familiar subjects at 55, and if they’re *really* not sure whether or not they insulted their boss, they should get to a neurologist ASAP. Early-onset dementia is brutal but early treatment can help delay more severe symptoms. If we’d recognized the signs with my dad when he was at the struggling to learn phase, we might’ve had more years of him being the person we knew and loved.

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      I’m sympathetic to LW 1’s mental health issues, but the point at which you’re even thinking cruel comments like that, your contempt is likely on full display. This doesn’t sound recoverable to me.

      1. Lilo*

        Having contempt when they admit they’re struggling with the job and are relying on grace and patience. That’s not going to go well.

      2. Abigail*

        I agree.

        I think the shift from “inappropriate slur” to “intrusive thoughts” is quite the glow up, though.

        Imagine being on the receiving end of this at work. I’m a woman, and if I was managing somebody who got frustrated with me and called me a c-word, that would be a big problem. OCD or no OCD there are things you simply cannot say at work.

        1. Presea*

          I don’t think the people bringing up the OCD angle are trying to excuse the OP – rather, it’s useful context for OP to use in the context of finding medical care that will help them better cope with this issue, if the descriptions of OCD ring true for them.

          Of course people with OCD can behave in ways that are unacceptable because of their OCD and those instances should still be addressed seriously without using the condition as an excuse – but in the context of being the person who /has/ the condition, it is several orders of magnitude more constructive to be able to identify the root of the problem and work towards managing it than it is to go on thinking they’re just a broken person or something.

          Furthermore, at least for me, if someone called me the c-word or something else awful, and came back to me later with a truly genuine apology and an explanation that this moment was NOT in character for them and they don’t know what happened or that it was a symptom of a medical condition, I would evaluate that situation 100% differently than if there was only an apology but no explanation, or no apology or acknowledgement at all – because it IS a different situation, even if both situations are a big problem.

          1. Abigail*

            I think it is certainly possible the LW has OCD.

            But I do not think it’s absolutely certain the LW has OCD. I find it shocking so many people are sure this is OCD when the LW goes out of their way to justify using this slur.

            The LW needs to work on self regulation if they want to remain employed. I think we can agree on that.

            1. Presea*

              Absolutely, on both counts. I still think it is a useful angle for OP to be aware of, and perhaps this thread will have value to people who aren’t OP as well but have similar issues, but yes, at the end of the day, I agree that OP using a slur would be unacceptable and they need to work on self regulation – it’s just a matter of what method and potential help they’ll need to seek out.

            2. Clobberin’ Time*

              At this point AAM might as well remove the commenting rule about not diagnosing people.

              1. Gerry Keay*

                Yeah the line between “OP has <>” and “I have <> and have experienced something similar so maybe you should consider whether you have <>” is incredibly thin. I don’t know what the solution is, because “never mention mental illness” doesn’t feel like the right path either.

            3. All Het Up About It*

              I think it’s a useful angle for commenters to be aware of as well. Because this letter and behavior does come across so egregious it is easy for this to be on of the those pile on letters.

              By introducing a different angle for some people to consider it provides both education to those of us reading here, which most of us appreciate, and a different way to view the OP themselves. Their behavior is still egregious, but hey maybe they AREN’T just a straight up asshole looking to use age and mental illness as an excuse. Maybe they are, we don’t know, but I always appreciate letters and discussions where there are multiple takes on the letter. And where it doesn’t just become a huge group of people on the internet saying “You suck.”

          2. Meep*

            My issue (as an OCD sufferer) is it is an arm-chair diagnosis made by someone seeing themselves in them. I know to a degree that is what we do here, but it is wildly inappropriate.

        2. Lilo*

          Yes, I’ve been a person training someone who is failing and it’s absolutely a stressful experience. And then to be attacked for her weight.

          The boss here is a person, someone whose feelings matter.

          A) we have no idea if LW has a specific condition and B) accommodating someone’s mental health never includes allowing them to be cruel to someone else in the workplace, ever. There always has to be a firm line drawn on that.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I think the suggestion about OCD is that the LW may not actually have said this but may be simply obsessing over the possibility that they did.

          I don’t think the idea is that if they have OCD and said it, that makes it in any way OK; it’s more that if they have OCD, they may be worrying “what if I said something inappropriate and don’t remember it? I was thinking she was fat; what if I accidentally made a slur?”

          And I don’t think people are necessarily sure the LW has OCD. I think people are just suggesting it as an alternative possibility to “said it and just trying to play it down; there’s no way they could not know if they said it or not” by pointing out that people with OCD can convince themselves they have done something wrong or are about to do something wrong even though…well, a counsellor on our local radio (who may well be wrong as I wouldn’t be too impressed with him overall) said that those things are usually the things the person is least likely to do, so a person who would never dream of making a slur starts worrying about doing so.

        4. Danish*

          I appreciated the thread about OCD because a) i didn’t know that about ocd, i learned something, and 2) i opened these comments expecting LW1 to be eviscerated for “i honestly dont know if i said it or not” because i could not think of a scenario where you WOULDN’T know if you’d said it (see: a) outside of intense blame-deflecting. Having the first comment be a reasonable explanation of that part of the LWs question reduces the knee-jerk “youre just an awful person i guess?” reaction.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            I just made a comment saying essentially the same thing, but you said it much more eloquently!

    6. Veryanon*

      Right? I am also 54 and there is never an excuse to be rude like that. Also, I learn new things every day. Being middle-aged doesn’t mean you’ve become brain dead or that you have carte blanche to be a giant glassbowl.
      If OP has issues with anxiety, then OP should go to a medical practitioner to be evaluated. Many of us have anxiety and have taken proactive steps to seek out appropriate treatment. Again, having anxiety doesn’t give you a license to be a jerk who refuses to learn new things.

      1. Abigail*

        The President of the United States, many members of the Supreme Court, and many members of Congress are all in their 70’s or 80’s.

        One would certainly hope they have the capacity to learn new things.

        So age cannot be used as a reason for struggling in the workplace.

        1. BokBooks*

          One can certainly hope for your example but I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that hope was misguided.

          I do agree that OP sounds like they need to seek some help with their trouble learning new tasks and their recollection and self-control issues.

      2. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

        Replying to show the greatest admiration for your use of “glassbowl”.

    7. Temperance*

      I will say that one of my anxiety symptoms is intrusive thoughts. I don’t ACT on these things, and I definitely don’t say them out loud, but I have ugly thoughts that just keep rolling through my head sometimes.

      Using anxiety as an excuse to insult people is not ever okay, but it’s a disorder that’s different for everyone.

      1. Well...*

        I think the anxiety angle is about whether LW actually said the slur or whether they just imagined they said it and are anxiously gnawing on the possibility.

    8. Fluffy Fish*

      I don’t think they were trying to imply their age was an excuse.

      My assumption was they mentioned it because they just started a new job and it can absolutely be much more difficult for “older” employees to find work, which adds to the stress of not succeeding.

      Yes they were a jerk, but I personally have thought and said things under stress that are not nice and not really who I am. I’m not saying this person gets a pass. I am saying people are humans and we all suck sometimes.

      The fact that they reached out and admitted that it was a hateful remark, AND intended to talk to their boss, is indicative that they are regretful. I think people who are trying to be better deserve a bit of grace.

      1. Orora*

        The OP literally pairs “I’m 55” and “I have difficulty learning new tasks” in the same sentence. It’s not stretching to believe that they are using their age as a reason they have trouble with learning new skills.

        It sounds like OP should consult some medical professionals if they are having difficulty remembering if they insulted their boss and difficulties with learning that cause them that much frustration.

    9. DJ Abbott*

      I’m 60 and learning new things in a new job such as I’ve never done before. Age is not an excuse.

  2. boring fed*

    The FYI one is so dependent on context within your workplace, too – my boss and I forward each other things with just “FYI” appended all the time, but I wouldn’t do it with, say, my grandboss or my committee members or Wakeen from Comms who I talk to once a month.

    1. Ambarish*

      > or Wakeen from Comms who I talk to once a month

      But how about if it’s with Joaquin from Comms?

      1. linger*

        (For the uninitiated, it’s a site in-Joaq, originating with an OP who failed to reconcile the pronunciation and spelling of their coworker ‘Joaquin’ for an embarrassingly long time.)

    2. Era*

      I was going to say at my last job, I was told to use FYI in emails to account managers I rarely interacted with otherwise — but you’re right that I wouldn’t dream of putting FYI and nothing else! It was just a good way to mark, early in an email, that I wanted to inform them of a situation that didn’t require action at that moment.

      As with (almost) everything, it can be polite or too abrupt or anything in between, depending on what surrounds it!

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, though that’s not so much about “FYI” specifically and more just how casually you would write to various people in general. FYI is definitely casual but it’s not inherently less appropriate than other brief and casual language one might use with someone you email frequently!

      1. Smithy*

        This is it. As acronyms go – FYI is about as “business professional” as you can get, but like many things at work – it’s about how you use it.

        I used to work for a small nonprofit, and would often send emails with the heading “FYI: Donor in the Office Tomorrow Morning”. But, using FYI in the body of the email in lieu of much other text is generally more informal but also does provide some context as opposed to forwarding an email with no note.

        That being said, if subtly and subtext are particularly confusing to someone – then I think the major rule would be to largely use FYI for internal emails and with those on your immediate team and not in more senior positions.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      It means almost exactly the same thing, but my manager uses “Just to keep you in the info loop” instead of FYI. It takes longer, but to him doesn’t feel as rude.

    5. steliafidelis*

      Seconding the workplace-dependent. At OldJob, FYI meant “this is solely informational and contains no action items for [recipient],” and we sent things with just “FYI” all the time. At my current job, it wouldn’t be rude exactly…but would come across as very brusque.

  3. Lioness*

    For #2

    I run a snack club at work. People are free to join or not and there’s also some shops nearby if people would prefer to not get them from me but sometimes people are willing to pitch in a little extra for the convenience of having it nearby. Those coffees seem a little overpriced but I guess it depends what other options are nearby and it’s up to the individual to decide if they want to buy in.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      The letter’s a few years old but by todays prices he’s only undercutting Starbucks by 5p (price of a filter coffee) and I bet his coffees aren’t as big as even their “tall”, which a little Googling tells me is 355ml so a bit more than a can of Coke – that’s bigger than a normal mug!
      Nespresso (the likely machine type I would say) pods come out at 50p each so he’s quids in especially if he gets the cheaper ones from Aldi.
      So yes he’s laughing all the way to the bank but he’s not forcing anyone to buy from him! Those that do are probably paying for the convenience of not going to a café as well; most U.K. offices don’t have coffee machines, or free hot drinks of any kind.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        What type of area are you in? In my major US (top 5 by population), a starbucks drip coffee is $2.95, so $1.5 would be decently cheaper.

        It seems like the coworker is making the coffee for people not just allowing use.

        ” to make coffees for himself and other colleagues in the office”

        So you are paying for the convenience of not having to leave the building, and getting it made for you. Also depending on what kind of coffee grounds they are using they might be cheap or expensive.
        A coffee from a local coffee roaster costs $20 for a 16 oz bag, assuming 1oz of grounds per cup of coffee that means the grounds themselves cost $20/16= $1.25 per cup. Starbucks coffee grounds are $16 for a 16oz bag, that’s $1 per grounds.

        Factoring all that in $1.5 even $2 seems like a decent price/deal.

        To me the more accurate comparison would be a coffee vending machine (if the office had one) the kind that drops the cup and makes the coffee. The price might be the same as a vending machine would cost but the quality if higher.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          You have to factor in the exchange rate — in 2015 it was around 1.5285 USD. Meaning that a £1.50 coffee was $2.30. The price of a large Starbucks was raised in 2015 to $2.45 (found a USA Today article about it, must’ve been a slow news day).

          The large/venti is 24 ounces, and I’m guessing the coffee they were getting at work was 8-12 ounces. So, yeah, it is pretty expensive to pay almost what you’d pay at Starbucks for double the amount of coffee, but as you said it’s convenience they are paying for.

        2. BatManDan*

          I’d be more concerned that is making and selling coffee when he should, presumably, be working. (Of course, I’m the kid that discovered the wholesale candy distributor in town, and sold M&Ms to my classmates for 3 years of high school.)

          1. ferrina*

            Yeah, I was a little concerned about this too. But it depends on what kind of drinks he’s making and whether the ‘customers’ all come at once or throughout the day (which impacts the time that the machine needs to warm up).

            At best, each ‘customer’ would be 90 seconds. I used to work at a Certain Coffee Chain, and professional standards there were that you should be able to deliver a drink in 90 seconds. That was with the machine warmed up and ingredients easily on hand. In an office setting, I’ve found it’s closer to 2-5 minutes per cup (depending on whether the machine was warmed up, plus 1-2 minutes set-up/clean-up (depending on how complicated the drink was). Granted, I was making raspberry mochas at work.

          2. turquoisecow*

            I mean, the machine does most of the work there. Unless he’s super popular I doubt it takes much time.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            At my office coffee club, the club members just kept the coffee brewing and it was self-serve for everything else. They had the pot where they could see it, and a money can sitting out beside it, and they would all look up whenever someone went up to the pot; I would always just make sure they could see me putting my coins in the payment can. It didn’t really take much time on their part.

        3. Le Sigh*

          This is what I’m wondering. I used to bring my own coffee in because I hated the office coffee set up. The stuff I bought (not Starbucks, but local roastery coffee) was $20+ for 12-16oz. Expensive? Yes, but I had long ago decided that it was worth it to me. $1.50 for a cup of the good stuff strikes me as fairly reasonable, considering that if you go across the street to the nice coffee shop, it’s at least $3 for a single cup, if not $4-6. If I was regularly sharing with a group, I’d be going through a $20 bag very quickly, so yes, I would want reimbursement, maybe even a little extra since I was saving them time and hassle.

        4. Madame Arcati*

          The OP said £1.50 not $1.50; like me he’s in the U.K. Im in London (one of the most expensive areas of U.K.) and a Starbucks drip coffee (we say filter) is £1.55 which ar todays rates is only about $1.77 because the pound just plummeted to the earth’s core but was probably more back then.
          And apart from exchange rates costs of living aren’t always comparable across the pond. I get the impression that in general food is cheaper but I’ve also seen people talk about fresh veg and fruit being expensive (compared to processed) whereas here it’s not.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m in the UK and would disagree with the statement that most UK offices don’t have free hot drinks.
        I have never worked anywhere where we didn’ t have free hot drinks.Even when I worked a saturday job in a supermarket we had free hot drinks in the breakroom. They were vile, from the kind of machine where you can’t tell by taste or appearance whether what you have achieved is supposed to be tea, coffee, or (in extreme cases) soup, but they were free!

        It’s often a kettle and teabags / coffeerather than a coffee machine, although pod type machines have become more common.

        Even people I know who work in big organisation such as universities and within the NHS usually have a breakroom with a kettle and the ability to make drinks.

        I’m now really curious about where you work where it is’t usual? I know some public sector employres have differing rules!

        I think when my mum worked in a school they hda coffee club abd paid for their own coffee and teabags, and biscuits, but that was in part becaue they were a small department and had their own spearate breakroom, I think there were school supplied ones in the main staffroom but they were not allowed to take teabags from the main staff room to their own breakroom,

    2. Luna*

      If it’s his personal coffee maker that he brought to work for the convenience of making coffees or having a machine that’s easier to use, I can understand wanting to get payment out of it. I don’t particularly think it’s good or like it, but I can understand it.
      But if it were a coffee maker he bought *for* work to be used by everyone, then it’s work property. And he should request to get reimbursement from the higher ups for this purchase out of personal pocket.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        An epic past letter about “enjoying a cup of coffee” tried to make the case that while people who regularly drank from the employee-provided coffee should probably put into the fund, someone who just happened to attain a cup of coffee–this was described in ways that made me picture a lion taking down a wildebeest on the savanna–were just enjoying a cup of coffee and shouldn’t have to pay. Sometimes, you see, cups of coffee are just roaming wild about the office…

        Which makes me very sympathetic to anyone who looks at the annoyance factor of “Jim! Buddy! I notice you have a coffee maker and coffee and as I just want to enjoy a single cup of coffee, surely as a special one off for me…” and either says no to everyone, or sets the price high enough to the point where they aren’t annoyed by requests to one-way share what they brought in.

        1. coffee*

          I am now imagining myself as an ambush predator, waiting for a cappuccino to carelessly wander past my desk before pouncing.

      2. Artemesia*

        If he brought in a personal coffee maker perhaps plenty of people were expecting him to be their barista and make them free coffee; by charging he gets a handle on that. If it is those stupid pod things, then the cost is high. Otherwise, it is a hassle to manage if everyone is drinking the coffee. In his shoes I would have brought in one of those two cup mini pots or a drip cone, but it is fair enough that he charges if it is his pot.

    3. English Rose*

      This situation might have arisen out of frustration. Although it sounds quite a recent thing for #2, we had someone at work who brought in a small coffee maker just for themselves, and kept getting people either dropping heavy hints or outright asking for a ‘good’ coffee with no efforts to pay. They ended up a) spending loads of time making other people coffee and b) seriously out of pocket. They wanted to start charging but didn’t feel they could. Snacks and drinks in offices: always controversial!

      1. Important Moi*

        What’s that you say? You don’t drink coffee often but since I’ve bought in “good” coffee, you’d like some. [Also, you make no effort to see or speak to me otherwise, but hey free coffee amirite?]

        I bought in my coffee maker on Monday and took it home Friday for that same reason.

    4. Bronze Betty*

      At my previous office, the free office coffee was terrible, even after we switched to a fancy coffee machine. One person brought in their own coffeemaker and several colleagues (I think just a handful) belonged to their “coffee club” for a monthly fee. Others were free to opt in or out. I think most people were unaware of this club, as it was kept in a cubicle, not easily seen. It seemed to work out just fine.

      Note: I do need my daily coffee, but since I am both not a coffee connoisseur and pretty thrifty, I just drank the terrible free coffee. One of the perks of working from home is that now I drink better coffee; it’s still not fancy, but it is better coffee.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        We had sort of the same thing at an office I used to work at. A group of coworkers had a coffee club, and others could join the club, or you could just pay for coffee on a cup-by-cup basis. They had a coffee can with a coin slot cut in the top of it, so if you were paying by the cup, you could just drop your coins in.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      The colleague seems quite shocked by someone charging this amount for coffee, but they can always start their own coffee club and undercut the competition if they don’t think it’s a fair cost. They could even arrange a round system and go joint shares on their own machine. Probably, though charging anything less would make being “work beverage person” totally not worth the hassle.

      1. Pupupu*

        I really wish Alison’s advice had been to undercut his prices. Gosh, that’s funny to imagine.

        1. Admin of Sys*

          “No, I agree with you, cubical 3 has the best coffee, but conference room 4 has seating, and just released a pumpkin spice flavor!”
          “Yeah, but cube 2 is still the cheapest – sure, it’s not as good, but I’m trying to cut back on costs”

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I worked in an office, one woman brought in empanadas, tamales, and piki bread and sold them. You could also pre-order if you have a meeting or wanted to bring dinner home. IIRC her mom ran a business out of a local Tribe’s business incubator so this was just a way to reach a different demographic. I swear her pumpkin empanadas are the thing I miss most about that job.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Nobody complained about early meetings if they knew I had bought hot, fresh empanadas. If it was an 8 am meeting they’d still be piping hot and the smells were so good I’d have folks asking to join meetings they didn’t have to be in.

          And now I am drooling and trying to figure out when I can get out to her mom’s store.

      1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

        Never heard of piki bread before, had to look it up. Now I’m wondering where I can go to find some to try!

    7. Mallory Janis Ian*

      My coworker used to go to Sam’s Club and get sodas and snacks to sell. She stocked her mini fridge with sodas and sold them for $0.50 each, which undercut the building’s vending machine by about a dollar, I think. Plus our campus had a Pepsi contract, so you couldn’t get a diet coke from the vending machine, but you could from coworker’s resale stash.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Ha. My cousin used do this at his summer camp. His parents didn’t have much money so he figured out a way to make some pocket money by undercutting the vending machines and getting better snacks.

      2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I used to work at a company that refused to buy sodas, so I stocked the communal fridge with a few (including my favorite) and a jar for 50 cents. It wasn’t at all about making a profit, it’s just a rounder number than 42 cents or whatever. That said, I was definitely my own biggest customer. I kept doing this even after the head of my department sent out a long rant about how unhealthy soda is to consume. (He didn’t order me to stop and he certainly couldn’t have gotten me to stop bringing in sodas for my own personal consumption.)

  4. HBJ*

    #3, I think the lesson is don’t help someone get a job at your workplace if you have to include the caveat “you quit if we break up” while doing so. Yikes.

    1. Short’n’stout*

      Yeah, this. Also, have a good hard think about the relationship, if it feels like an arrangement like that is a necessary part of it.

      1. Lilo*

        Yeah, the fact that LW put that caveat on suggests not all was good in their relationship at the time.

    2. JayNay*

      just what i was thinking. having your relationship and work life so intertwined is putting a lot of eggs in one basket (no pun intended).

    3. Luna*

      Unless the breakup involves getting threatening or violent towards the other, you really should be able to work alongside each other in a professional setting and manner. If you can’t do that, don’t mix work and private.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The ex must have really needed work if the OP got her a job in spite of their misgivings. However did the OP really believe there would come a day when this person would be happy to just quit a job that they really needed!? Even if it put them in a better position experience-wise, job hunting is not exactly a snap.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I also wonder if the ex had started job hunting, but not said anything because they hadn’t found something new yet? I could absolutely see the ex wanting to get out of the stress of an unsatisfactory relationship so they could focus more effectively on a job search.

          1. Science KK*

            I was wondering this too! Did the ex say I’m not leaving directly or are they job searching quietly and not on speaking terms with the OP?

            If I was the ex I DEFINITELY wouldn’t tell my former partner I was job searching, lest she tell my boss and get me pushed out

    4. AcademiaNut*

      It’s a lot like having your partner take your last name when you marry. After it’s done, it (the job, the name) now belongs to them – it’s not something you’re loaning them for the duration of the relationship that they have to give up later. Asking someone to quit their job – forgoing their source of income, and forfeiting the ability to collect unemployment insurance, maybe damaging their work history and making it harder to get a new job – is too much to ask.

      It can also do wonky things to the relationship dynamics. Dumping someone and then demanding they quit because of an agreement is pretty awful, and feeling you can’t break up with someone because you’ll be unemployed isn’t great either.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, that last line was something that hadn’t occurred to me and should have – that the ex might have found it more difficult to break up with the LW as a result of the agreement. And honestly, that could also be true for the LW as breaking up with somebody when they’ve agreed to quit their job if you do is something most people would be reluctant to do, I think.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Yeah, demanding that a domestic partner first promise to and then follow through with quitting their source of income is a level of controlling that’s frankly concerning, and THEN going to HR or obliquely threatening to slander her is full on alarming. I actually hope the ex is the one who ended up going to HR…

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Agreed, red flags for highly controlling behavior abound. I had a friend narrowly avoid what would have likely been an abusive relationship that started with, “I know you’re struggling financially, so move to my city (where you don’t know anyone but me) and I’ll get you a job at my company.” Luckily we all saw the flags.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, and also that’s honestly just not a reasonable thing to ask of someone. Especially if they are desperate to find work and would likely feel like they needed to agree to anything (not that we know if that is what happened here).

      OP, this is a sucky situation but you cannot enforce this and I don’t think you should ever have asked it in the first place. And you *definitely* can’t ask someone at your job to enforce it!!! That would be wildly inappropriate and they would definitely think less of you for it.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah, I get that it sucks for OP that they had this agreement and the ex isn’t following it, but it’s also not an agreement they should have made in the first place, or something you can enforce. If you won’t be able to handle breaking up and still having to work together, don’t put yourself in the potential for that situation in the first place.

    6. Heffalump*

      Some years ago I was on a contract assignment, and after the assignment ended, I started dating one of the other contractors. If we’d been direct employees and would have had to work together for the foreseeable future, I definitely wouldn’t have dated her.

      Not only did the relationship not work out, she did me wrong. It really confirmed my longstanding policy of not dating coworkers. I hate to think how it would have been if we’d been in a small town.

    1. AcademicAdmin*

      Also, if it’s something like a Nespresso machine, a single pod cost just under that amount.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        I just checked even the branded ones are only 50p each never mind the Aldi knock-offs.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            Exchange rates are a factor, and anyway costs of living aren’t always comparable across the pond. What a coffee costs in the US could well be more, or less, than other countries even when you convert the currency.

        1. londonedit*

          I get mine from Odd Coffee Co and I think it’s £24.99 for 100 pods. Pretty good value! And you can get a gadget that empties the coffee out of the used pods so they can go in with your metal recycling (you have to send the Nespresso ones back to Nespresso as they have plastic elements as well).

        2. Fluffy Fish*

          I have a nespresso vertuo wchi brews more than just straight espresso – the pods are over a dollar a piece. There’s also no generics available like there are for Keurigs – definitely not available at Aldi.

          At most, I’ve found Starbucks recently started making some that fit the machine but they are not any cheaper.

          Perhaps it’s location dependent. This is in the US.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            The version of Aldi we have in the U.K. has knock offs of everything lol but it might be about relative popularity of coffee machines. Here nespressos are probably most popular, and I’d never heard of Keurigs or K cups until I started reading AAM. So it makes sense your Aldi would have off brand K-cups and ours would have pods to fit nespressos.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      IN 2015, it would have been about $3 US. Not cheap, but if it’s good coffee and doesn’t involve having to leave the office, worth it for a lot of people.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought in the machine, had a lot of people ask if they could have some too, and decided to charge a reasonable retail price for it. People can get the coffee if they want, but it’s not so cheap that he’s overwhelmed with orders.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’d guess he got fed up with everyone mooching his coffee and starting charging to reduce the demand, and cover the cost.

      2. TechWorker*

        I went to fact check this cos I was like ‘the pound has dropped but not by that much’ lol and it would have been about $2.40 in 2015. Either way £1.50 is cheaper than what coffee shops would charge by quite a bit – if they were factoring in the cost of the machine or if it has expensive pods… *shrugs* it’s opt in!

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          A fellow researcher :) I also googled the pound dollar exchange rate and was shocked that it is currently $1.14! That’s lower than I ever remember.

          1. londonedit*

            It was even worse than that last week, before our government decided to row back at least partially on their insane tax policies…

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s also reasonable for him to set the price high enough that he isn’t annoyed by the requests.

        I recall a minor celeb who had a ridiculously high speaking fee. Because he didn’t like those jobs, so wanted almost all offerers to say “Good gracious no” when his agent told them the price.

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          I love this angle, and it is 100% what I would do. when my pre-pandemic job that I didn’t want to go back to asked me to come back, and I priced myself out of the job with the salary I asked for. Oh, well. ;)

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I think that’s commonly advice given to freelancers who want to deter problem clients, too – develop new, much higher rates so they’ll either drop you as unaffordable or pay so much it’s worth keeping them as clients.

          1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            Yep! I *can* build Web sites but I don’t like to, so unless you’re my friend or a nonprofit I support, you are quoted the PITA rate.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Yes, the a**hole tax, and it’s not just freelancers. Businesses that charge for rush orders or change orders or out of scope requests…these are all part of the a**hole tax.

        3. Bagpuss*

          I seem to recall that Neil Gaiman did / does this because he gets so many requests for appearances so it’s designed to weed out most at the enquiry stage to enable him to have time to write .(I think he then quite often discounts it for things he actually wants to do)

    3. irene89*

      The way I read it, he was charging for the use of the machine, not the coffee. Which makes a little cheeky but… If I was really particular about my coffee, and I wanted it at work, and the only way I could get it was by my coffee machine, I might also charge money (an amount that would be a bit too much, in the hopes that it would put people off using it too much, and therefore lessen the wear and tear).

  5. Kiwi policy wonk*

    I use FYI a lot at work, as do my workmates and bosses, and I use it with my direct reports. When we have an email with info someone else will find interesting or useful, but no action is required on their part, we forward on with “FYI” in the email body only. It makes it clear you don’t have to do anything with it but keeps people in the loop with a minimum of fuss. I’m in NZ in the public sector, so we might have different norms to the OP, but it’s absolutely normal and not rude here:

    1. bamcheeks*

      I’m now thinking this is actually a pretty good temperature-taker for how positive your office is. There’s about half my team I’d feel fine sending “FYI!” to, and half my team where I’d feel like it was going to be misread as brusque / careless / dismissive if I didn’t add a salutation, a longer comment and a sign-off. I think FYI is very much a symptom rather than the disease…

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah I think it’s one of those things that definitely depends on tone and on the culture of your office. Whenever my boss sends me something with ‘FYI’ it’s usually because they’re forwarding a particularly outrageous email from an author and it’s more of an ‘FYI…!’ I can’t imagine just forwarding an email with FYI and no other info unless it was in more of a ‘WTAF is this’ way, because that’s not really the email culture of my office.

        1. English Rose*

          Was just going to say this, in our office also FYI plus ellipsis definitely means WTF!
          If it’s a genuine FYI, people here normally soften it with “Just FYI, no action needed”, and we have one grandboss who takes pains to do that because she knows people might otherwise feel they have to respond. I really appreciate that extra wording.

          1. Merrie*

            At Oldjob, emails would have “Inform” or “Action” in the subject line, depending on whether you needed to actively do a particular thing in response or not. If in a rush you could usually put off looking at the “inform” ones until later.

      2. hbc*

        It’s affected by both the sender and the receiver, I think. I have plenty of people who will send an “FYI” meaning what it literally stands for–“I thought you might want to see this.” There’s one sales guy who will forward a customer complaint up to the highest person he knows with zero context, and what he means is “My customer is mad, it must be our company’s fault but it’s certainly not mine, you need to drop everything and make sure this is handled.”

        But I guess like any shorthand or standard, it can be abused.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t use it if there is tension or if the person really does not know me. More words is my go-to in those instances. “I don’t know if you were aware so I wanted to mention _____.” OR “Please excuse if this is redundant, but I wanted to be sure you know that ____.”

      I email a lot of people that aren’t true peers and could be considered “up the chart” from me. But one such person I know of would never bat an eye at “FYI”, he would just send a gracious, “thanks for the heads up.”

      That said, my grandfather was a big fan of talking to peers the same way he’d talk to the CEO. It must have meant something to people. The church was packed to standing room only at his funeral.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Canada here – I use FYI too – particularly to point out in Subject lines of emails that the content is not something the person needs to act on, although they DO need to know about it.

      1. Military Cat*

        We use FYSA or ‘for your SA’, where SA is situational awareness. This is probably a military/government thing, but its used all the time and avoids the possibly snarky implications that FYI has.

    4. MissMeghan*

      Yep, we do it the same way in my office and I find it super handy. FYI means keeping you in the loop, nothing for you to do.

    5. chriseay*

      I’m also in NZ (tertiary education, so public adjacent) but am originally from the US. It has always been appropriate in my workplaces (in the US and NZ) to use FYI for emails that don’t need any action or response. It’s also super useful to use for emails that come from a shared email account or email list that need to be forward onto the group.

    6. Zeus*

      I’m also in public service in NZ, and had the exact same reaction as you. It’s a quicker way of saying “looping you into this information but no action is required from you”. Perfectly polite, or at least not rude.

  6. Natalie*

    I disagree with Alison’s call on the coffee— it would be fine to share coffee at or around cost with co-workers he knows but it sounds like this person is making a substantial profit, and might not be as close with the people he is selling the coffee to as you would generally with someone at the office you ‘go in’ on snacks with. I think most businesses would not like employees using the office as their captive audience to run a mini-catering side hustle. It has the potential to distract from work, and probably technically has licensing requirements unlike “three co-workers sharing a coffee maker.” I don’t think there’s any obligation to report this, but I would personally steer clear.

    1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      For me, it depends a bit on how it’s happening.

      Like if this dude has a nespresso in his private office and people started asking for coffee, then I’m fine with him either profiting or setting the price high so as to dissuade people from asking for a coffee unless they *really* want it.

      But I still think it’s weird; ‘coffee guy’ is probably not the reputation you want to cultivate at work.

      1. Snow Globe*

        That is my assumption on how it started; a few years ago, a few coworkers and I chipped in to get a coffee machine, and almost immediately people in the next department over started dropping by wanting to use it. We ended up just hiding our machine under a box during the day, but I can see just charging.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I did summer research in college my professor had her own coffee machine in her office (just a drip machine) that she and one other professor used to make coffee (I think he supplied the coffee).
          We students never, ever even considered asking for a cup (even though it smelled really good) because 1) we were deeply intimidated (terrified) by the other professor, and 2) there was free-if-mediocre available year round next door.

          But if you don’t have that kind of reputation to protect your stuff and your space (or that kind of power dynamic) then I can totally see needing to either hide the machine or put a really high price on a cup of coffee to keep out the moochers.

    2. Allonge*

      This would not fly at my office but I don’t think people are a captive audience for this either. They can get coffee from wherever; the guy cannot be expected to provide free coffee for others just because he has a coffee maker.

      That said, yes, it’s on management to say something if this is not ok in any way. Again, my place would stop you for fire safety reasons before you can say espresso, nevermind selling the coffee.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I’d agree. Unless there is no other way to get coffee onsite and no coffee shops within 10 miles it’s not a captive audience. People can pay the money or not depending on whether they think it’s worthwhile. Some people may elect to do so and others may not.

        My office would probably also stop this for fire safety reasons as we’re only supposed to use electrical items they’ve provided or which have been tested by the building services company for safety (which doesn’t happen often).

        1. Despachito*

          “Unless there is no other way to get coffee onsite and no coffee shops within 10 miles it’s not a captive audience.”
          Even then, because no one is forced to drink coffee, and were it not for the guy they’d have to figure it somehow or have no coffee at all.

      2. Lizzie*

        Same with mine! We have coffee makers here, with free coffee but its disgusting. There are also Keurigs scattered about, but employees have to bring their own K-cups in. I used to do that, pre-pandemic, but now, because I’m silly and think the Keurig is gross and germy, I just bring in a big cup or thermos I make at home.

        but we have options too; many people stop on the way in, or like me, bring it from home. But i don’t think anyone would be allowed to have their own coffee maker!

        1. ecnaseener*

          I don’t think that’s silly, unless you know for a fact the keurig is well-cleaned frequently! They absolutely do get germy.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Once a coworker brought in a K-cup machine and set it up in an empty cube in our shared office. Folks could either bring their own coffee or give her a dollar and use hers. Sure, she was making a good profit, but no one was obligated to use her coffee. There was gross free coffee in the kitchen, a coffee shop 2 blocks away, and you could bring your own pods. I think she mostly charged to avoid people interrupting her to ask for a pod.

    3. MK*

      Alison said this is allowed, unless the company objects. All the potential issues you mention are reasons a company might object, but it’s still up to them to decide if this is something they want to shut down. Personally I don’t think this has any more danger of blowing up than a snack club. And whether he is really making a profit depends on what he is offering. If the coffee maker can do cappuccinos, it’s pretty cheap at than price.

    4. Green great dragon*

      I hadn’t thought about the time issue, but yes, if it’s distracting him (or neighbours) from work, or taking up space, management would be well within their rights to shut it down. LW needs to let it go though, and just stick to their preferred coffee routine.

    5. londonedit*

      I don’t think the company I work for would be very impressed, either, but then they provide tea and coffee making facilities (and it’s decent coffee, too) so it would be very weird for someone to have their own personal coffee machine and charge people for the privilege of using it. Add to that the fact that we’re in central London with a load of different coffee options at different price points within a two-minute walk of the office, and it seems particularly pointless. If people want their Pret coffee, they can have it, if they want to make their own coffee using the office machine they can do that. I suppose if someone who had an office (not very many people here) wanted to have their own personal coffee machine, it might be OK as long as it was PAT tested (all electrical items in offices here have to be tested for safety once a year) but it definitely wouldn’t be OK for someone to start making money off their colleagues.

      I imagine this chap got sick of people trying to mooch off his own personal coffee supply and decided to start charging people who wanted to use his coffee machine, but still, it’s not something that would fly where I work.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        I worked in an office that provided free (low quality coffee) in commercial style coffee makers for each floor. Most floors also had at least one or two keurigs.

        But about 1/3 maybe not sure on exact numbers, of people still had their own personal coffee maker/keurig in their office.

        Some people like the convenience of having it in their office, as others have pointed out communal coffee machines can get pretty gross if not clean regularly.

        But even so at 1.5 I don’t really think person is making much money if any, when you factor in the increased use/wear and tear on the coffee machine (it would have to be replaced sooner than if he used it alone), the time spent having to purchase additional coffee (more than they would buy for just themselves), and time/hassle of making the coffee.

        I can understand the saftey issue with it needing to be PAT tested, but if an office would normally allow someone to bring in a phone charger, plug in fan or other plug in device without issue, I don’t think a coffee maker should be a problem.

        1. Bagpuss*

          We strictly don’t allow anything, although anything with a heting element of any kind would be a major no-no.

          (We did say no to the person who wantedto bring in a toaster, but we bought one for the office instead, as that meant that we could ensure it was tested appropriately, kept somwhere suitable and not plugged in to an extension cable or anything like that . We had a similar approach when people started asking for a coffee pod machine – it it’s ours, in a worst case scenartio any issues would be covered by insurance.

          I admit that with phone chargers it’s more of a ‘don’t let us catch you plugging those in at work…’ situation.

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            I can understand the prohibition on a heating element and not allowing heaters, toasters, coffee makers.

            On the phone issue is it because you don’t work in an office setting?

            I could see in manufacturing, or retail where not everyone would have access to an outlet, and to try and make it fair for everyone. When I worked retail the issue was we were technically not supposed to have our phones on us, rather than an actual issue over plugging them in/charging them.

            But in an office setting it would seem strange to not technically allow phone chargers, assuming you have computers, monitors, printers etc… plugged in, a phone charger would only be slight additional risk.

    6. Yellow+Flotsam*

      Every office I’ve worked at has had some sort of coffee machine – and usually a cost associated. It’s typically substantially cheaper than commercial & always open.

      That price sounds expensive to me – but everything in the UK does so I don’t have a reference point. But – coffee, sugar, milk, and coffee machines are pricey. Unless there’s reason to believe he’s making a profit I don’t see a problem.

      I’ve had colleagues do the same thing. When the machine died they replace it. If there want weight in the pool they’d pay ahead and collect back as people purchased coffee.

      1. londonedit*

        Whereas I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that didn’t provide free tea and coffee. OK in a couple of places where the bosses were very cheap it’d be your standard PG Tips and instant coffee, but tea/coffee and milk were always provided, and people could bring in their own ground coffee to use with a cafetiere or whatever. Even places with fancier coffee machines (we have a nice bean-to-cup one where I am now, but previous places have had Nespresso or provided nicer ground coffee) have provided it free to staff, I’ve never had to pay for basics like that at work.

        £1.50 would be a lot cheaper than getting, say, a latte or a flat white from an outside coffee shop (my oat latte this morning was £3.40 but there are cheaper places around, and obviously things like an espresso or an Americano would be cheaper than a latte or a cappuccino or whatever) but he’d definitely be making a profit assuming he was bulk-buying Nespresso pods or buying a bag of supermarket ground coffee.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          When I’ve worked in places where there is no budget for tea and coffee, it’s very common for this situation to create a “beverage organiser” out of the masses. Of course, they don’t stand the costs themselves but offer it out as a shared cost with others. They take on a fair amount of hassle reminding people to put money in the kitty or get change, or replace the milk. Just charging people per drink actually sounds a lot simpler.

          1. AsPerElaine*

            Yeah, I’m actually pretty okay with him making a profit here — this seems like a hassle, and eventually the machine would need to be replaced.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          Paying for bad coffee is pretty standard in a lot of government jobs. I’ve worked at or visited research institutes in four countries where they were legally prohibited from providing free coffee to employees (as a waste of taxpayer dollars).

          1. Joielle*

            Government worker here – we have a Keurig in the break room that nobody ever cleans (which someone brought in from home years ago after they bought a new one), and you can bring your own pods if you want to use it. God forbid we spend a dime of taxpayer money on something pleasant for the workplace. Ha!

            (I’m not really complaining, I love my job. But it’s a bit absurd sometimes.)

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              Yup. This is government employment. The kitchen equipment is people’s donated hand-me-downs, if you want a plate or flatware for lunches you bring your own from home, and if you don’t want to drink the tap water (which in my city tastes terrible but isn’t actively dangerous), you make like a camel and drag your entire day’s allotment of water in with you.

              One time at a past job our microwave died and finance wouldn’t approve a replacement, so they suggested we have a bake sale among staff to raise the money.

          2. to varying degrees*

            My last job was government and it was prohibited to use work funds for the coffee supplies. Someone tried once and finance rejected it and the money had to be reimbursed to the organization.

            I don’t really get what the issue is, you don’t want the dude’s coffee don’t buy it. Unless someone is forcing everyone to fork over a buck fifty, stay out of it.

          3. Ness*

            Yep. We also can’t use government funds to provide coffee or food for meetings, even if it’s an all-day meeting and even if we’re hosting non-government folks. Sometimes employees will provide some coffee or snacks with their personal funds, because it feels rude to offer nothing.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          A lot of not for profits seem to have a pay your way coffee supply. I’ve seen 25 cents or 50 cents.

          We have a machine that charges 50 cents for coffee here (or 75 cents for hot chocolate or “mocha”, ie, coffee and some of the hot chocolate), but there’s also a lot of the big carafes meant for meetings – who are charged for the privilege of their own carafe. Because of those, the woman who runs the kitchen and orders the milk and supplies orders two kinds of coffee packets, a nicer one for meetings and a less nice one for everyday, and makes a full carafe that’s just tagged “Help yourself!” (With full permission and awareness of the upper echelons; she has enough budget for it). So people only use the machine if they really prefer the machine coffee – which is nothing to write home about – or really hate the everyday carafe coffee – which isn’t bad coffee, it’s just not *good* coffee.

      2. JustaTech*

        My work has free coffee (started as giant carafes we brewed ourselves, then an office-sized K-cup machine, then a weird pouch machine, now home-style K-cup machines), though at one of our sites they started charging $0.25 because management decided that people were stealing the coffee/note grateful for coffee/ something. (Personally, anyone who charges the night shift for coffee is being penny wise and pound foolish, but I’m not in management, so what do I know?)

        Back when we still had the carafes one guy brought in his own K-cup machine, but I don’t know that anyone else ever used it. (There was a coffee shop across the street, but they closed at 3 and could be kind of odd.)

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > mini-catering side hustle

      That’s exactly what it is, and maybe in some sense it’s not too different from someone using the captive audience at their workplace to market those candle catalogues, parties etc — my mind went to the tax implications though. Is he declaring income from this – almost certainly not.

      Initially I thought it was a small amount and relatively speaking it is, but if for example 10 people a day buy a coffee from him and it is $2 each that’s $20 a day or an extra $5000 a year!

      1. MK*

        I doubt he is “marketing” coffee to his coworkers, as in pressuring them to buy coffee from him, like MLMers usually do. And I don’t understand the “captive audience” comments; no one has to buy coffee from him. The only issue I can think of is this becoming a distraction, though I don’t see how it could be more of one than people pooling money to buy a machine and handle cleaning and supplies; I suppose it depends how many people buy the coffee, if it’s only a couple per day its umlikely to matter.

        As for calling it a mini-catering hustle and being concerned about whether he is declaring his income, look, unless he is serving dozens of coffees every day, any profit he makes is probably miniscule. Frankly, the original post’s outrage sounds more like someone upset it isn’t free than anything else.

        1. L-squared*

          Right. I didn’t get the sense they care about safety or taxes, they care that they aren’t getting it free

      2. Dinwar*

        “…it’s not too different from someone using the captive audience at their workplace to market those candle catalogues, parties etc…”

        We don’t know that that’s how he’s set this up, though. Those require active marketing. A guy with a coffee pot, some cheap disposable cups, and a sign saying “Coffee: $2” or whatever is unlikely to get distracted, and the aroma is sufficient advertisement.

        As for the price, if it’s cash sales, no one cares Technically the tax agencies are supposed to, but it’d cost more to chase this down than its worth. Plus, in the USA at least, the situation can be more complicated. A self-sustaining hobby (where you sell just enough to buy materials for what you do) isn’t treated at all like a business, even if the two are doing the same thing. A judge, upon hearing “I wanted coffee, figured other people would as well, and thought I’d try to differ the cost a bit” would likely ask why the prosecution is wasting the court’s time.

        1. Ness*

          Yeah, presumably this is more akin to tossing a catalog in the break room with a note that says “contact Jane if you’re interested in buying anything” than it is to actively marketing.

    8. Justme, The OG*

      It’s his machine. He can do whatever he wants with it, including charging for wear and tear when people in the office use it.

    9. L-squared*

      I feel like calling it a mini catering side hustle is a bit much.

      Frankly, IMO, if people don’t want to pay, they are welcome to leave and go buy some. He isn’t forcing anyone. Coffee isn’t a necessity. If people was, then they should be mad that the employer isn’t providing it. This is something people want, and some people are willing to pay for it. I’m not going to begrudge him using getting paid for the use of his own equipment. If others want to, they can either bring in their own coffee, bring in their own machine, not drink coffee, or leave and buy some.

    10. Probably not popular*

      I think wear n tear on his personal machine also accounts for the price. Nobody is forced to take his coffee

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      But the audience isn’t captive. They can attain coffee by a variety of other methods–bring in their own coffee maker, go to a coffee shop.

      I assume he set the price at a level where the number of people who still wanted coffee was a manageable level of profit/annoyance.

    12. Angelinha*

      Who cares if he’s making a profit? People are opting in to buy from him, and if they don’t want to, they can buy from wherever!

    13. Dinwar*

      Unless they’re in total lockdown (no one in or out for hours on end) they’re not “captive”. Most offices I know of have allowed people to do a short coffee run to a Starbucks or something; most managers are reasonable people and understand the need for a brain break on occasion.

      And I doubt it takes much of his time. I’m imagining a coffee pot with a basket and some cups beside it with a sign “1,50 a cup”. Most people will be honest, especially if the guy’s sitting right there. I’ve seen similar set-ups–I know of a fire department that has a similar setup for sodas, and it works well even when no one is around.

      Any setup like that won’t make much money. It’ll pay for itself, plus maybe a burger once a month or so. Not enough for management to worry about. And that’s assuming management isn’t patronizing the service. While technically there are issues with licenses and inspections and taxes, quite frankly as long as he’s not making much over breaking even no one cares. It’s more effort to track down such people than it’s worth. The lack of creamers and other flavorings indicates that we’re talking low profits here.

      My main concern is the pot itself. They typically contain heating elements that can, if left on over a weekend, result in a fire. A lot of offices don’t allow heating elements in cubicles or private offices. But if this is a Keurig or something similar that’s a non-issue as well (though sanitation is probably a bigger concern).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        If the company is putting everyone into lockdown, one would hope that they put “caffeination” near the top of the list of things to provide. That’s the start of things-go-bad in a post-apocalypse movie right there:

        *dusty, exhausted mid-level managers huddle in the shell of a cubicle in the midst of a demolished office. They wear copier paper boxes on their heads as improvised armor.
        “I’ve heard Myrtle in Accounts Receivable kept her own private coffee source.”

        1. Ginger Baker*

          This was a minor plot point on…I think The 100? Or possibly Babylon 5. (Obviously minor enough it didn’t stick in my head, but indeed SOMEONE had an under-the-table coffee source!)

          1. allathian*

            Commander Ivanova used a part of the hydroponic farm on B5 to grow coffee beans, against regulations.

        2. Dinwar*

          In the case I was thinking of, it’s a bomb shelter near a rocket test stand. The building has plenty of amenities–they’ve got a commissary in it, plus two kitchen areas that I’ve seen, plus water and power supplies that are hardened against explosions. All of that is safety precautions. Experimental rockets have a tendency to explode violently, and OSHA frowns upon workers being vaporized. But you’re right–if they ran out of coffee during a test, the person with the coffee pot would either instantly become everyone’s best friend, or would be stalked like a gazelle on the prairie!

          The real issue in those buildings is cell phone reception. 24 inch thick blast walls are not great when you’re trying to make phone calls.

    14. Colette*

      He’s also doing all the work for the coffee, which is much more significant if you’re supplying coffee (and milk, and sugar) for the office. There’s not just the cost of the supplies, there’s the time & mental energy involved to pick up the supplies and make sure you’re stocked.

      If people don’t want to pay it, they can do whatever they’d do if he didn’t have a coffee maker.

  7. Managamber*

    I read in a “funny book of business stories” (might have been Scott Adams before he got all weird?) about an employee who got a new boss and kept forwarding her industry articles with FYI written across the top (as she’d done for her previous boss). After a couple of weeks, new boss came over and very icily said, “Do you have a problem with me? You keep writing FYI on my papers. I know what the FY stands for, but what’s the I mean? *Enormously*???”

    I probably read it about a hundred years ago, but it still makes me laugh.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      We used FYI to stand for “F You Idiot”, so usually only showed up in passive aggressive or annoyed emails.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I had a boss once who advised me in a quiet voice to maybe not use f/u on documents because people might misunderstand … and then they circled back about a week later to apologize very sincerely, because they had learned that, in actual fact, people understood it the way I meant it and nobody was confused.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I giggle internally at my very proper manager often using f/u in her emails, but that’s the part of my brain that’s still not fully grown up. I am aware it means “follow-up” and respond accordingly out loud or in e-mail reply.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          Yes. I’m also aware of what it means in a business context and often write it as a note to myself too… but every time I see “FU Marsh” I think “hey”…

  8. Emilu*

    Oof, OP #1. I also have chronic depression and anxiety and would never think about calling someone a “fat ass”, let alone doing it (or not?). Please don’t use mental health as an excuse for being a jerk.

    1. Ailsa McNonagon*

      I suffer (and I do mean suffer) with OCD, and intrusive thoughts/ not knowing if I’ve spoken bad thoughts aloud/ not being able to trust my own recollection of a situation are a massive issue for me. What LW1 describes is exactly the kind of thing I experience- something difficult happens, I have a bad thought about the person, my OCD brain tells me that they somehow heard the thoughts inside my head and now they know what a cruel terrible person I am.

      It doesn’t make sense to people who haven’t got OCD, and I’ve tried explaining it to many people who think I’m a lunatic. Eventually I found a therapist who I told about my weird obsessive intrusive thoughts and she said ‘Yes, that’s OCD. Did you not know that’s what those thoughts are?’

      Mental health isn’t an excuse for being a jerk, but I can massively sympathise with LW1 who doesn’t KNOW if they’ve been a jerk or not!

      1. Sylvan*


        Different MH stuff going on, but also have intrusive thoughts. If that’s what’s going on with the letter writer (which is a big “if”), I sympathize and I want them to know that help’s available!

      2. Just… no*

        Sure, but the thought you have is yours. If your thought is cruel fatphobic garbage, then you have that in your heart somewhere. And OCD doesn’t excuse that.

        1. Sylvan*

          Intrusive thoughts are typically things you find upsetting or morally wrong. People with harm OCD, for example, are very distressed by the thought of hurting anybody. This “in vino veritas” logic doesn’t apply to mental illness.

          But we don’t know that the LW is describing an intrusive thought or not, or whether they said it out loud or not. If they did say it out loud, there’s obviously no excuse for it. Their story just sounds a little familiar to some of us and they mentioned having a related condition.

        2. Zeus*

          No, not at all. Intrusive thoughts are coming from your brain, yes, but they’re not what you actually think or feel at all. That’s what makes them intrusive. They can be very disturbing and/or disturbing, and telling people that’s “what’s in their heart somewhere” isn’t at all helpful. Please don’t make statements about this sort of thing if you don’t understand or experience it yourself.

          Of course, we don’t know if this is what the LW is experiencing. But there’s no need to be cruel to Ailsa.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I think the solution for OP1 has several parts. First, seek treatment for the anxiety.

      Next, do sit down with the Boss and have that very difficult conversation about performance. To structure the discussion, pick one or two of the biggest problems. Be open with your boss: “I’m not doing well in these areas; I’ve tried steps A, B, and C to improve. What should I be doing to be successful in these tasks?”

      Importantly, don’t tackle everything at once. Ask Boss what you should work on first. Master that and hopefully that alleviates some of your stress. Then work on the next piece. Your boss may set a timeline for improvement – this is normal and expected, so don’t let that add further stress.

      Also, I wouldn’t disclose your medical issues unless you want to ask for accommodation. I think if you come up with an improvement plan for work in tandem with private health support (therapy, medication, whatever you and your medical provider feel is appropriate), you can turn things around.

    3. CharlieBrown*

      I don’t see where OP said “I have mental health issues; please give me a hall pass to be a rude jerk to everyone”.

      FWIW, mental health covers a pretty big spectrum of stuff. There’s a huge difference between how you experience depression and anxiety and how OP experiences it. Nobody on this site has ever said that health issues are an excuse for being a jerk, but we all have our moments. In all fairness, OP wasn’t asking whether they were right or wrong, or looking for approval; they were looking for advice on how to salvage this working relationship. They are probably well aware that they have no excuse for saying something this rude or else they would not have written to Alison.

  9. Dark Macadamia*

    I’m… unimpressed by the number of times LW1 claims that they might not have actually said it. Like I get not being sure if the boss HEARD it, but “IF I think I may have said it, but I’m not even sure, I just think I may have…” sounds like an incredibly weak excuse to “get out of trouble” rather than sincere concern about being hurtful.

    I’m very disappointed that “replaced by a cartoon” wasn’t something along the lines of Clippy stealing someone’s job lol

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, I don’t quite get/like the ‘not sure if I said anything but if I did it might have been X’ either.

      OP certainly thought it or something like it, and that can be scary already but obviously it’s a lot less harm for anyone else. Everyone’s heads can be weird on the inside; the trick is to catch it on time for you and others not to get hurt.

      Once it goes out of your mouth, it’s better to take responsibility and acknowledge that the only question mark is if the recipient heard it or not, and that is a question of luck more than anything.

      1. bamcheeks*

        What’s that quote about how your first thought is what you’ve been socialised to think, your second thought is who you actually are?

          1. bamcheeks*

            But that’s why it’s “thought”, not “words”. Your first thought might be to insult someone based on a characteristic your culture denigrates, your second thought should be to catch it and dismiss it before it does any harm.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I was expecting the “replaced by a cartoon” to be somebody modelling or like being the face of the company or involved in advertising it or something like that.

      But the idea of Clippy stealing somebody’s job is hilarious.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Back in the mid-90s, there was a program that allowed you to replace Clippy with an on-screen pet. I had the most adorable black lab puppy running around my desktop! He’d have been a fantastic replacement worker!

    3. bamcheeks*

      yeah, it reminded me of my four-year-old covered in chocolate swearing down she never touched the cake.

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        See, I read it as (potentially) being someone with anxiety doing the thing where they had an intrusive thought and then became fixated on whether or not they said it. I’ve had stuff like that happen plenty, especially when muttering at my computer (FWIW, it’s never a cruel statement about someone, but I’ve definitely had moments where I forgot someone was in a cubicle next to me and once I realized it, I couldn’t remember if I’d let some inappropriate comments slip out out loud.) Still not great, but better. But yeah, it could also be the LW not wanting to believe it happened.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          The comments on this letter have been fascinating to me because I’d never thought about the possibility of intrusive thoughts being about saying something. It is a fair bit easier to check if you cut your hand off than it is to check if you called someone names.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Bottom line on this one is that neither OP nor the boss have much respect for each other. I suspect this did not have a good ending.

      It’s very different when a person is saying, “I am struggling with my job and I feel so bad for my boss. My boss is trying to help me and I am just not covering what I need to cover.”

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I initially thought that was strange, but there’s an interesting take upthread from someone with OCD whose brain does this–tells them they did a bad thing, even though their friends/coworkers tell them they did not. So apparently this is a brain quirk some people have, where their recollections of personal screw-ups can be false.

    6. Purple Cat*

      I took it as they know they *thought it*, but couldn’t really remember if they *said it out loud*.
      Which when you’re worked up about something and have an angry monologue going, I can sort of see happening.
      I had someone recently file an HR complaint at me, claiming I swore at them. I was certainly frustrated, but I don’t swear AT people, and really didn’t think that I swore, but I wasn’t willing to state that 100% it didn’t happen. Luckily the 2 other bystanders confirmed that the conversation did not go down the way the complainer reported.

    7. giraffecat*

      My grandmother used to say things out loud that she totally believed she only thought in her head. And they were usually mean things. This was during the early stages of her dementia.

    8. JB (not in Houston)*

      I learned something about myself today based on this and other similar comments–it’s not an uncommon thing for me to not know if I’ve said something out loud or only thought it, and apparently that’s a rare thing. I talk to myself a lot–while I’m working in my office, or while I’m heating up my food alone in the break room, or making copies–and really don’t know sometimes if I was just thinking to myself or actually talking (fortunately I have an office with a door at work). Granted, this has never happened with calling someone something rude, but just the general concept of not knowing if you said something out loud is something I’m very familiar with.

  10. NotOP*

    Just FYI, OP 4 (or?) answered with more info way back when as “OP#1 aka the Cartoon*”:

    “Update – I ended up speaking to my manager about this, who spoke to the attorney and an apology and explanation were offered. Apparently a previous manager, who is no longer with the company, had told my team that I did not want my photo to appear on presentations. I have no idea where this information came from as I never said or indicated anything of the sort. I will say that I don’t like my picture but not many people tend to like their own photos. I have never had any conflict with the attorney before so I don’t think it was meant to be vindictive. I think in general I am just overlooked. I have worked in law firms both big and small for the past 20 years but this is my first in-house experience and it is very different. Thanks to everyone for their comments and advice.”

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Ah, that just sounds like a misunderstanding, so. People often say things like, “oh NO, don’t tell me everybody is going to see THAT; I look awful in it.” It sounds like maybe the LW made some comment like that at some point, just meaning it as a throwaway comment/semi-joke, but the manager took it seriously and passed it on as she didn’t want her photograph. Sounds like they meant to respect her wishes but somebody got miscommunicated somewhere along the line.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Thanks for finding that comment! Glad to hear it was likely a misunderstanding and not indicative of any lurking ill-will toward the OP.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      I genuinely don’t want photographs of my face out there (I have faceblindness and genuinely do not recognize pictures of myself), so I have a selection of pictures of blahaj shark doing things like working on my laptop with a cup of tea, lifting weights, etc. for usage in lieu of my face which I offer immediately when someone says they need/want a photo of me. I’d be a little miffed myself if I said “I don’t want my face” and instead of using one of those options (or asking me to take a picture of a new version, which I also offer to do!) they used clip art.

      1. Kit*

        Well now I’m going to picture blahaj every time I read your comments, so my genuine thanks for this image!

    4. Deborah*

      Considering how often we hear the opposite problem – people having to work far too hard to keep their photos off the internet – this seems pretty kind and sensitive.

  11. Gnome*

    I’ve been seeing FYSA (for your situational awareness) around and have picked it up. it seems a little bit, I dunno, nicer? It is clear that it’s meant as background info, and just seems a little less curt than FYI. Maybe because when actually said out loud and in full “For your information” sounds like really snarky in my head (it is said by an angry teen girl in a snarky voice when i “hear” it in my head).

    1. Darsynia*

      There’s an interesting aspect to modifying a well known acronym which adds undue weight to the change; I would find this version to be more likely to be making a statement than if it weren’t related to FYI! It reads to me like a specific comment on the target’s situational awareness in a way that FYI doesn’t, if used typically.

      I tend to be concerned with how something can go wrong, however, so it might not matter unless folks new to its use aren’t brought in with a comment about the office’s quirky version of FYI.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      FYSA is a military thing and, in my experience, not widely used in other circles. (Had to ask about that when I started working with some who used to work for the Department of Defense)

      I will say, my favorite piece of military jargon is OBE, which is “overcome by events.” Covers all manner of “boss decided to go in a different direction,” “got info that changed our approach,” or “planning for an in-person meeting got derailed by Covid.”

      1. SweetestCin*

        Ooooh, I like that one. (Granted, there are a number of less-than-polite bits of military jargon thrown around my office so it fits.)

      2. Gnome*

        Yes, I work with lots of former military. and OBE is a favorite. when I first encountered FYSA, I liked it and have picked it up, which is why I shared

    3. Person from the Resume*

      But FYI is not inherently snarky. It’s literally “For Your Information.” It’s the more famous sibling of FYA “For Your Action” – also used in the military more than outside it I think.

      FYI let’s the receiver know that this is not something they need to act on or necessarily do anything with. It’s something that might be good to.

      1. Gnome*

        It isn’t, but as I said, I hear it in my head said out fully by snarky teen voice. I know that’s just me.

        1. mlem*

          Not just you — it’s *a* way it can be used. “FYI, the assignment is on the board, right in front of you; how could you possibly have missed it?”, or “FYI, only Kayleigh is allowed to wear pink, you’ll have to wear something else”. That’s unlikely — but not impossible! — in a work context.

  12. Guess who?*

    In regards to Poster # 2, while I am sympathetic, trying to make someone promise that their livelihood, and therefore income, is contingent on the status of a personal, intimate relationship is not cool.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Also, considering that the breakup happened within the last month or two, I think the OP is being unreasonable in expecting their former significant other to have acquired another job to go to, within the short space of time. Depending on the level and nature of their ex’s role, it could take several months for the ex to FIND a new job that will satisfy their compensation & benefits needs as a single person, present the level and type of role they want to do, have a good culture fit, etc. etc., even if they do intend to abide by the (informal and unenforceable) agreement.

      Not to mention that the Ex may want to be with their current employer for a minimum amount of time for job stability – it’s unreasonable for the OP to expect the Ex to do something that could affect future employers’ impressions of their stability.

      Add onto that that the Ex is experiencing the end of a relationship (a major change), and may just not be up for more major change, at the moment.

      I think the OP should focus on being professional and civil in the office, NOT discuss this with HR or anyone’s manager (for all the reasons Allison gave), and make their own decision about whether to leave or not. A job hunt might be instructive for them, in how difficult it is to make that kind of change.

    2. Cmdrshpard*

      I don’t know that I would go as far as to call it “not cool” it was not wise on OP’s part because there really is no way to actually enforce it. OP should not have gotten their partner a job at their employer, especially when things were already rocky, it was already a not wise thing to do.

      I have a pretty good relationship to my partner of 10+ year and would not even consider trying to help them get a job at my employer, and would be upset if they tried to get a job my employer even without my help.

      If the ex was begging for help and OP was already apprehensive, it is not unreasonable to say I will help you on x condition, again it was not wise but it is understandable to want to make that condition.

  13. Lady_Lessa*

    Grin about coffee machines. Our big one at work, (connected to the water system, so that it automatically keeps full of water) has been acting up lately by only making 1/2 pot at a time. So, at different times, both our purchasing manager in trying to reprogram it, and our head of sales, in finding someone to go and buy a coffee maker, got involved.

    We now have a small one. Should be interesting to see how long it lasts, because some of my co-workers drink coffee all day. (company supplies everything)

  14. Abigail*

    What did #1 expect Alison to say?

    “Once you turn 55, you can say rude things when you are frustrated with no repercussions. It is your boss’s fault for making you learn things at your job, that’s why things are tense at your job. Carry on.”

    1. CharlieBrown*

      OP did not ask for permission to be rude and snarky; they asked for constructive advice on how to salvage the relationship.

      You are being unnecessarily unkind.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the question is “How do I salvage a working relationship when I have been doing poorly at the job? How do I salvage it if the intrusive thought I fixated on actually came out of my mouth?”

      1. Abigail*

        I think that is a very generous take.

        I think it’s possible the LW said this, know they said it, and is grasping at justification.

        Most of the letter is explaining why this slur was okay. But it’s not okay. It is just not okay to use a slur against your boss.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          I just re-read the letter, and I don’t see anywhere the LW explained why the slur is okay. They did have mental-health-related reasons for why they might have said anything at all, but they were very clear that what they did say was not okay. They actually use the word “hateful”.

    3. Lilo*

      She’s not performing, now she’s alienated the person best able to help her.

      Sometimes Alisonnisnsympathrticnto mental health issues but people have to remember mental health never is an excuse for cruelty or harm to another person.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yes. And in the context of a workplace advice blog, getting along with the people you work with is a basic job requirement. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to be an okay person to spend eight or nine hours with.

    4. Ginger Pet Lady*

      Way to jump to the WORST possible conclusion about the letter writer.
      She did NOT ask if it was okay. She said “I think I screwed up, can I fix it?”
      I would think the letter writer expected Alison to *answer the question LW asked.*
      Commenting rules here say to be kind to the letter writers. I encourage you to start doing that.

  15. neurodivergent office queen*

    I would worry too much about FYI being taken the wrong way. you could probably get away with just using “update” especially in the context of an email subject, or expand it out to “i wanted to go over X with you so that Y can happen.”

    1. DataSci*

      But that’s not what FYI is. If it’s something you have to go over in a meeting, it’s not an FYI situation. The entire point is that it’s information not requiring action.

      I’m really baffled why a common, straightforward acronym causes such stress!

  16. parsley*

    Plus, some abbreviations have multiple meanings – I first learned ETA as Estimated Time of Arrival, and then later found that some other people used it to mean Edited To Add, which I initially found very confusing.

    1. JK78*

      I learned ETA as Edited to Add first, so when my boss was asking repeatedly “what’s your ETA??” I was very confused! Yet, I use ETA in the writing I do, hence it wouldn’t make sense in the other way.

    2. JustaTech*

      My work has a list (it used to be part of onboarding, now we have a wiki) of all of our company-specific acronyms (and if the same acronym might mean two different things for different parts of the company).
      It really helps, especially when talking to folks from other departments.

  17. CharlieBrown*

    My early morning ADHD brain read it as “replaced by a carton” and my mind immediately produced an image of a large cardboard box sitting in a chair behind a desk.

    I miss coffee.

    1. Allonge*

      Well, there is a place you can get a coffee for £1.50. Or could a few years’ back anyway.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Ha! This could be the start of an absurdist horror movie: you come into work one day and everyone ignores you. There’s a cardboard box in your chair and everyone is interacting with it as if it is you. What is happening!?

      1. CharlieBrown*

        LOL! If I could drink coffee, I would have just spit it out all over my computer! I do love absurdism and I do love horror movies, so I can see this.

        Thank you for this!

  18. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    I have an FYI abuser in my office and it’s very frustrating – quite often I get messages forwarded from him with “FYI” in the body, when there is actually action required from me. I can’t seem to make him understand that “FYI” means for information only, and shouldn’t be used when I need to do something. I’m at BEC level with this entire job though, so it’s probably bothering me more than it should.

    1. R*

      I… Didn’t know BEC was an abbreviation used anywhere other than a (different) random message board I go to.

  19. Dinwar*

    #2: One thing to watch is whether the office allows heating elements. When the coffee machine at my old office went down (for the tenth time…) I looked into getting one and found that due to the fire hazard risk regular coffee pots weren’t allowed. French press was fine, because I heated the water in the microwave. You should have seen some of the looks I got, though! Engineers deprived of coffee are NOT happy people!

    At the field office I currently work in they are, but have to have automatic shut-off features and need to be inspected. We also have to have a 15 lb fire extinguisher within 20 feet of it. Again, fire risk–I know at least two buildings on that site burned down due to coffee pots being left on over the weekend.

    It’s probably okay, since it’s been going on for a while, but it’s definitely something worth him looking into to protect himself.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I highly recommend the coffee machines that have an automatic cutoff time. Mine makes the coffee, then the burner stays on for 2 hrs before turning itself off (if you haven’t already).

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

        yes auto shut-off coffee makers are the best, and I think most of them are like that now. My desk is right next to the breakroom, which is really handy when I just need to grab some coffee and can still hear if someone comes in. However, that darn coffee maker beeps so loudly when it done cooking and when it shuts off after 2 hours. Someone thought it was a fax machine!

      2. Dinwar*

        For my part, I like a French press. It gets around the whole heating element issue by virtue of not having one–you can nuke the water in the microwave, or have an electric kettle–most have internal heating elements that have automatic shut-offs. As an added bonus, electric kettles can be used to make ramen, tea, hot chocolate, or anything else requiring hot water. But I’ll admit, cleanup is a pain with a French press.

  20. toolittletoolate*

    LW #1 I’m not sure there is any coming back from what you say happened. Especially if you don’t even remember if you said anything or not. I think this is a serious red flag that indicates you are probably in the wrong job.

    LW #2 Try being the person who is expected to share their coffee and coffeepot with the office and see if you feel differently. I had an employee who brought in her own ice machine. It didn’t take long before she almost never had any ice in it because the entire building was stopping by to get “just a little ice” –even when she wasn’t in her office! She started saying NO and locking her office when she wasn’t in it–and became the focus of a lot of resentment.

    I had to call a meeting of the entire building and set them straight–this was her personal stuff and she had no obligation to share it with anyone.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Oh, the entitlement.

      We’ve had to have the manager and HIS manager explain to department B that our (department A) snacks are NOT for department B’s consumption. Department A all chips in/replenishes as needed, while B just decides to pop into the office belonging to the Dept A manger sits while he’s in meetings/not in office and ransacks. Dept B just cannot get it through their skulls that its not paid for by company. Jerks and platelickers, the lot of them. (The term “Platelicker” in my industry – someone who goes along on every free meal offered by vendors, often inviting themselves…but has zero decision making power…)

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I think the fact that department members are breaking into a manager’s office to rummage through his stuff is a bigger problem than what they’re taking!

  21. yala*

    re: #1, what really makes my uncomfortable here is the whole “I *may* have said something bad. But IF i did, it was just under my breath. But I don’t know if I said it at all!”

    Like, I have some kneejerk things I said to (and *about*) myself in moments of anxiety (it…may be OCD? I’m not sure), but this doesn’t sound like that. This doesn’t sound like it has *anything* to do with anxiety at all. It sounds like OP just called her boss a very mean name. And that very much feels like something you’d know you did or not.
    I recognize the equivocating attitude from a slightly similar incident I had once. Only, I was in a teenager in highschool. OP is in her 50s. It’s pretty human to slip up and say something you don’t mean to be overheard. But you still usually know whether or not you did.

    It also kind of reminds me of when people “accidentally” say slurs. If you keep those out of your mouth overall, there’s less of a chance of them “accidentally” popping out.

    1. Sylvan*

      Things you find upsetting or morally wrong are pretty classic intrusive thoughts. “You said a bad word” and “you insulted your teacher/boss” are some of my intrusive thoughts.

      This is to say that, if the letter writer didn’t insult their boss out loud, they’re having an experience that’s common with some anxiety disorders, OCD, and Pure-O. Treatment can reduce these thoughts and make them feel less important and more like spam. If the writer actually said it out loud, there’s no excuse.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s most accurate to think of it as a description of intrusive thoughts from someone who doesn’t know that term. Just as memory can rewrite your actions so you believe you most certainly did not say the thing you definitely said, for some people memory can apparently rewrite their actions so they remember saying the awful thing and yet it didn’t actually ever come out.

      If you crudely insulted your boss that is very, very bad. You should apologize, as the decent human thing, but if you’re also performing poorly you are likely on your way out.

      If you did not speak aloud to your boss the insult in your mind, then you very definitely should not tell them how you keep thinking horrible things about them, and if one of those phrases came out then you apologize. In that case be direct with your boss about the things you struggle with with the work (e.g. understanding the filing system) and which ones you should prioritize and does she have advice for mastering them. Possibly the job will not work out even if you do this, but there could be something salvageable.

      Short version of sound advice upthread: Tackle the anxiety; ask your boss what you should prioritize learning at work; don’t try to fix everything at once.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      As I posted upthread, I don’t always know if I’ve said something out loud or not, and other people in these comments have said the same thing.

      Heck, it’s “did I just say that out loud” is even a bit of a trope in tvs and movies, so it’s very surprising to me that a number of people in the comments here don’t buy the idea that you could not know if you said something out loud or just thought it.

      The OP’s letter shows a number of issues to be concerned about, but I don’t understand why people are so sure that she absolutely knows if she said it or not.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        I think in the media trope “Did I just say that out loud?” the person isn’t actually doubting whether they’ve said something or not. It’s more like “Oops I’ve had that thought in my head for a long time but now I’ve just accidentally let it out.” Whatever the person said is meant to be their real opinion, just socially unacceptable, and the person is acknowledging a slip up. It’s more about lacking a filter (at the key moment at least) than about being able to perceive the difference between a thought and utterance.

        I didn’t know OCD could make people not know what they’ve actually done versus what’s just a thought – learned something new today. I tend to be more anxious over how my actions might be interpreted, but not over remembering inaccurately.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I don’t want to derail on it, but–I don’t know what is officially considered to be a trop by people who track that kind of thing, but i have definitely seen over the years multiple instances of characters not seeming to know if they actually said out loud their thought. I always notice it when I see it because it’s very relatable to me–a person who, as far as I know, does not have OCD but who has a running monologue of their thoughts in their head* and doesn’t always know for sure if they vocalized a thought or just thought it.

          *it was just within the last few years that I learned that there are people who do not have an inner monologue, and that was mind-blowing

          1. Loredena*

            Same! Constant monologue, music track, and occasionally a book on mental read (and it can be a book I recently read or one from ten years ago that I now have to track down and reread) My mind is a very noisy place and I was stunned to learn that wasn’t typical

  22. Lilo*

    For LW3, you just can’t demand someone quit their job. The past agreement you may have had really doesn’t matter. Your ex presumably needs to pay their rent and bills and needs to work. No, you can’t go to HR over this, that’s massively inappropriate and you will not look good in their eyes if you do so.

    I’d suggest job searching

    1. sofar*

      Yep, this letter made me roll my eyes harder than LW1 for some reason.

      Getting a significant other a job at your company is a HUGE step and not one to take lightly and one that could have serious consequences. You always have to assume the worst will happen in these cases and ask yourself, “Am I willing to deal with the worst-case scenario?” and “What is my exact plan if the worst case scenario occurs?” And, no, having a person who needs a job to “agree” to leave if you break up is not planning for the worst scenario.

      LW, these are the consequences. You may have really wanted to help your now-ex in the past, but it’s on you to either quit, or show up and do your job, hard as it may be.

  23. Sylvan*

    OP1: You can’t do this again. Since you don’t know if you actually said it, I won’t tell you to apologize. If you think it’s possible that “you called your boss a derogatory name” is an intrusive thought that doesn’t reflect something you actually did, this is something to discuss with a therapist*.

    But back on topic, you cannot insult your boss. Getting along with your boss and colleagues is a basic requirement of your job.

    OP4: That’s offensive. No advice because this is an old letter, but it does feel like some people in certain roles are considered replaceable or interchangeable.

    OP5: Sometimes people read “FYI” as sarcastic, although you don’t mean it that way. I try not to use it if I can’t make my normal, non-sarcastic tone very clear. I’d rather rephrase things than risk being rude when I’m trying to be polite and friendly.

    *This is the most common for people with OCD/Pure-O, but it can happen to everyone with anxiety, which you’ve mentioned having. In college, I had intrusive thoughts like “you insulted your teacher in that essay” and reviewed my essays to find insults before submitting them. Wild stuff! Not actually that uncommon, and treatment can help you!

  24. calvin blick*

    It’s been four years I guess LW#1’s situation has resolved itself one way or another by this time, but it really sounds like LW is dealing with bigger problems than fatphobia. They are having trouble learning their job, even though they have experience in that area, and they think they might have said something grossly inappropriate, but maybe they didn’t. This sounds like extreme uncontrolled anxiety and or some other medical condition, and to me it seems like “get help ASAP” is the only advice. Having difficulty learning new tasks (55 is not that old) and obsessing about things you don’t even know if you said is not normal behavior, and I’d be extremely alarmed if a friend of family member was experiencing that.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      It reminds me of when a relative in her late 50s lost her job in the great recession. She’s fairly computer savvy, but she had so much anxiety about not being able to get another job that when I showed her how to do so something on the computer (I think it was applying for something on a job site but can’t remember), she could not understand simple parts of the task or retain what I’d explained to her. It may not have been anxiety or mental health issues that were causing or exacerbating the OP’s issues, but it sure sounded like it could have been, and if that’s the case, I hope the OP got some help.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      My high school computer teacher once described me as the perfect example of an ID-10T issue. Though that wasn’t an accident.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        That’s . . . awfully unprofessional of them. And unkind. I’m side-eyeing that teacher.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I mean, I really was that bad. He had to use the infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters putting out better work quote about my code a few times.

    2. JustaTech*

      One summer in college I was wrestling with a really old version of MATLAB (mathematical modeling software) and, at the end of my rope trying to figure out an error I typed “why” into the command prompt.
      “Because I hate you.” What? I type “why” again.
      “There Is No Manual!” I screamed, prompting my professor to come check on me. When he sees what the computer is saying to me (a “funny” Easter egg) he lets me have the rest of the day off before I throw my (personal) computer through the window.

  25. Sunflower*

    #2 I never understand the outrage when people are not giving away services for free. The person is not forcing you to buy. Bring your own coffee maker and coffee grounds.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      I don’t think LW is expecting their coworker to give away coffee for free. (Honestly, there’s nothing in the letter that even suggests this. What is it with this weird conservative mindset about people on the left?)

      I suspect they’re just wondering about the legality of the thing. And that is a legitimate thing to wonder about.

      But yes, if it bothers you to have to pay to cover another employee’s basic costs, you are free to bring in your own beverage-making device.

  26. X*

    So, if Op#1 had just thought to herself “dumbass” in regards to her boss, that’d be okay right? That could be considered a “normal” reaction at times? Or is it a sign of being so frustrated that she should start looking elsewhere?

    I mean, I’ve rolled my eyes at my boss’ back or flipped her the bird when I knew she wouldn’t see me and she was being unreasonable . . . but yesterday I had the thought that I could probably outlast her (we tend to do “musical managers” every 2 years) yet I wasn’t sure I’d like the person I’d become if I did outlast her. I’m not entirely sure I like the person I am now, WITH her around though. Yet I’m terrified to leave because I’ve been here for SO long and maybe this too shall pass?

    I guess I always thoughts managers/bosses were supposed to be a bit adversary, they tell you what to do after all. It’s almost like a teacher relationship, that’s not really a “friend” that’s more of a “judge” on your work/yourself. Hence, a little rebellion isn’t the worst reaction? Example: a tongue sticking out but NOT to the extreme of loosening the chair bolts. Am I totally off base?

    1. OrigCassandra*

      It’s definitely a sign of frustration, and if it’s more than just once in a long while, or has gone on for a long time, or is escalating — yes, it’s a sign that a job search would be a good idea. If it’s gotten to the point of insult based on personal characteristics (as with OP1), a job search and serious introspection with an eye to changing the behavior are imperative.

      Relationships with bosses do not have to be adversarial. Yes, opinions can differ, yes, goals and point of view can differ — but those legitimate differences don’t have to lead to bad places. When they do, something’s out of whack somewhere.

      As someone who got toxic-ly frustrated in Toxic Ex-Job… I think it’s good you’re examining your own behavior, and are open to the idea that maybe you’re not the hero of your own story at the moment. I wasn’t either, then, and while I was more sinned against than sinning, I definitely sinned. I wish I’d done the necessary introspection sooner and left faster. I’m in a much better situation now, and you know what? Zero inclination to eyerolls and insults.

    2. Hydrangea*

      I used to work in a seriously toxic place. I knew it was toxic, and I mostly just observed the toxicity and thought, “damn, that’s not ok.” I happen to be a woman, and I happen to work in a male dominated field. One day I realized that by percentage, there were way more toxic women than men. On that day, I realized that I needed to get out bc there was a strong likelihood that I would become toxic myself. Eventually, I was laid off, and yes, I had absorbed some bad habits. Many years and more toxic jobs later, I do sometimes find myself moving toward ad hominem thoughts in my head when I have a conflict with someone. I do not consider those thoughts as “okay” in response to conflict, rather, I recognize those thoughts as a sign that I am *really* not doing well.

      Your reactions are understandable and also are not constructive or helpful to you. Your belief that managers/bosses are supposed to be a bit adversarial is worth examining. Some managers *are* adversarial. I wouldn’t say they are *supposed to be* adversarial, though. It’s probably not helpful to either your relationship with your manager or your mental health to continue believing that you are supposed to have an adversarial relationship with your manager.

      There are many modern views of management that are more collaborative. I know the commentariat here got all in a bunch over the term servant leader, but it doesn’t mean Jesus, it means your manager is not a top-down, process driven person who uses people to create product or whatever that wording was. Servant leaders support their team, remove impediments to doing work, provide coaching, and generally value people over processes. If you are familiar with Agile environments, Agile really incorporates the servant leader concept. My own bias is that servant leadership looks a little too much like the upside-down org chart of the 80s, so I give it some side-eye. It’s just an example, though, of how management is not inherently adversarial.

      If your manager *is* adversarial, top down, or process-over-people driven, you probably can’t change that. You *can* change your response to her, though. First, stop rolling your eyes and flipping her off. You are just reinforcing negative and unconstructive responses when you do that. Stopping those actions are something you can immediately do in the moment. Longer term, and way above my paygrade, you need to find more constructive responses to replace those unconstructive responses.

      Good luck!

      1. Danish*

        This is good insight. I did a lot of work on myself in my 20s to get out of the habit of insulting people in my head, because it was unhelpful/unfair/keeping me in a constantly angry headspace. I too now take it as my warning-canary, if i find my brain reacting to someone going “oh yeah?? Well… Their…hair is… Bad!”, that it is a sign that i need to remove myself from the situation/calm down/whatever. Going for the personal attack never solve a problem!

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I agree with Hydrangea’s point here:

      Some managers *are* adversarial. I wouldn’t say they are *supposed to be* adversarial, though.

      Because of the nature of the manager/employee relationship, there will be times when you think “I don’t agree with that decision but I’ll do it your way because you’re the boss” or “I’m not looking forward to doing [task].” But that doesn’t need to be expressed in eye rolls and stuck out tongues.

      The most important part of your comment is:

      I wasn’t sure I’d like the person I’d become if I did outlast her.

      This is sure sign to start looking for a new job. Two pieces of advice that may help you:

      1) The only prize for outlasting your manager is (probably) turning into a version of yourself that you don’t like. Is that a prize you want?

      2) If you look for a new job and all of the offers you get seems worse than the job you have right now, you can decline them and choose to stay! And if you get offers that seem better (higher pay, a non-adversarial manager), then accepting and starting a new job should be more exciting than scary.

  27. My+Useless+2+Cents*

    Letter 1 – I’ve been trying to put myself in the manager’s position and I just don’t know how I what kind of response I would like to see….
    A – LW did call manager a fat ass and manager heard it – obviously manager ignored it at the time so bringing it up again seems unwise.
    B – LW only called manager fat ass in her head or manager didn’t hear her – again it seems unwise to bring the topic to the surface; “I’m sorry about the other day when I called you fat ass, it was out of line.” “What!? You called me what?” no way to really dig yourself out of that hole.
    I’ve struggled with the brain fog that anxiety and depression can cause. It can be very frustrating. It does not excuse name calling. I really hope LW found a new job.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree. There’s not enough information to give informed advice. You really need to know if it was said aloud and if the boss heard it. But extrapolating from the LW not describing a reaction best guess is that it wasn’t said/heard.

      The LW should know at least if it were said aloud or not; maybe harder to know if it was heard. The equivocation is suspicious making me think the LW did say it and is trying to make herself seem less bad because saying it and thinking it are both bad. If someone was annoying me I’d go to a–hole, jerk, eff-er. Something vulger or mean but generic for anyone annoying/frustrating me. The fact that the LW went to something that is physically specific to the boss is not making the LW look good. It was past time for the LW to job hunt to find a better fit for herself.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, I think Alison’s response is helpful but I’d be interested in more specific advice about what the OP should actually do at this point. How do you go back to your boss and ask if they heard you insult them??

      I think I’d drop it, but take it as a clear signal that things are going off the rails, and start job searching in earnest. Whether or not the OP actually insulted the boss out loud and whether or not the boss heard it, it’s past time for the OP to get out of there (and since this is a few years old, I hope they did!).

  28. Checkert*

    I use FYSA a lot (For Your Situational Awareness) for this kind of thing but that may be a govt jargon thing. I also will do a quick BLUF (bottom line up front) to start emails where I put a sentence summing up the message and any important parts to bring to their attention. That allows them to get what they need without reading the whole thing and then the rest of the info acts as greater context.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      BLUF is totally an armed forces thing BUT it’s so useful that I’ve taken to using the format, I just spell out the phrase.

  29. Budgie Buddy*

    I get a lot of FYI emails in my office, or emails that are just forwarded to me with no context and I need to decide what action to take. When it can get a little grating is when I’m working hard on a project, and I keep getting emails from multiple people essentially stating “Project exists” with FYI at the top. Like, I know? But even if email back saying “Yep, got it, been working on it; here’s what’s going on” a day later I’ll get the same exact email from the same person letting me know that this project exists. It’s crazy-making.

    Someone else brought up the point that FYI can feel passive-aggressive when it’s obvious that some action needs to be taken. Then it’s not really just information – it’s a request or an order depending on the seniority of the sender. But a request without content – I as the receiver need to guess what action I should take. And if I don’t feel like the sender trusts my judgment, then that can be stressful. “Must do something…but if I do the wrong thing then I’ll be letting the team down…” (Yes, I also am in an office of people who won’t always answer requests for clarification over email.)

  30. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    Many moons ago, I worked with a passive-aggressive micromanager who was the absolute epitome of the Peter Principal.

    When I worked there, the business (technically a non-profit, membership-based organization) was raising dues while simultaneously opening new savings accounts at new banks because it had LITERALLY SO MUCH MONEY it exceeded the FDIC-insured amount at MORE THAN ONE BANK. Members were furious, and rightly so.

    Ms. Micromanager decided that we no longer could brew pots of coffee at work unless we had member meetings and/or we personally paid into a coffee fund. She put a sign-up sheet in the break room and everything. She took the coffee pots away and locked them in a closet, so someone would have to ask her or the office manager for the key in order to get a pot to brew coffee, and you had to justify if it was a meeting or for personal use.

    We were a staff of six FT and two PT people.

    My MIL had given me a Keurig, so I brought that into work, plugged it in, and brewed my own coffee anytime I wanted some (reusable pods, various flavored coffees, etc.)

    She and I were the only coffee drinkers in the building, and once she realized that she could not force me to pay for truly awful coffee but would, as CEO, have to pay for it herself and impale herself on that sword, she went into a tailspin of outrage and passive-aggressive behavior.

    I’m not saying that’s the reason I left that job, but that happened in October and I was gone by January.

    1. seeeeeps*

      I really wish she had asked you for some coffee and you could have asked her if it was for a member meeting or personal use!

  31. HIPAA-Potamus*

    1 – I do not feel sorry for you in terms of your actions. Your mental health does not justify the mistreatment of others. Also, by using your mental health as an excuse, you are insulting the rest of us who struggle with MH and make a valiant effort not to be cruel to others.

  32. Delta Delta*

    I FYI’d someone today as my way of saying, “hey, jackpot, that thing you thought wasn’t needed actually is needed because look at these documents saying exactly what I said would happen.” Even better, I sent the documents to a whole group of people with the FYI. All those people are appropriate to receive the documents, and all of them know the specific person I was FYI-ing. Not that this happens a lot, but that FYI did a lot of lifting in that email.

  33. Legal assistant too*

    LW4. I’m not as generous as Allison. As a fellow legal assistant, respect for our role is not high. I would be offended as well. My guess is it was intentional.

  34. To Tell The Truth*

    I wonder how many people started illegal, unlicensed food & beverage businesses as a result of Alison’s incorrect answer to #2.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I wonder how many people got in any kind of legal trouble for such things. I’m guessing none.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      This question was from 2015. In the seven years since then, I have started over 80 (Ask me how!) illegal, unlicensed food & beverage businesses.

      Want to make big bucks? Just join my illegal, unlicensed food & beverage MLM plan and you’ll soon be on your way to making millions. Guaranteed!*


  35. fat kiwi about town*

    not to only pop up when this comments section gets weird about fat people but people really went out of their way to a) armchair diagnose someone with OCD, b) get OCD wrong and then c) start defending people with/explaining the nature of OCD in response to this when

    the core issue was about this person calling a fat woman a fatass as a pejorative?

    i am begging people to not make armchair diagnoses about letters that clearly and obviously are not depicting or asking for advice with that particular diagnosis. i’m further asking people to not derail a conversation that should be centered on how messed up it is to call someone a fatass when you disagree with them in the workplace.

    OCD is a difficult mental health condition to deal with, and the effects of it on a person and their actions are poorly understood by people without the condition. but that doesn’t have anything to do with the blatant fatphobia on display in this letter, and i’d urge people to just…take the fatphobia at its face value?

    we don’t need to explain people’s fatphobia by positing what mental health conditions they might have. the letter writer called her boss a fatass, externally or internally, because her boss is fat and the letter writer was stressed and frustrated, and that manifested as the urge to say something hurtful.

    the fact that the hurtful thing she said turned out to be fatphobic is entirely predictable based on like, the society we live in. i would dearly love if we could focus on that (and what advice is applicable to that situation), rather than derailing ourselves into explanations, diagnoses, misunderstandings, and explanations of a mental health condition that has, again, nothing to do with the letter.

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