my boss is angry that I turned down a job with his wife, wearing a Halloween costume on your first day of work, and more

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

1. My manager seems angry that I turned down a job offer from his wife

I work for a big multinational entertainment corporation with much name recognition. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed my job. A while ago, I received a phone call out of the blue from my manager’s wife. My manager is the director of the team I’m part of. His wife called to offer me a job managing her private veterinary clinic, which is their family business. This field is completely unrelated to the field in which I presently work.

The wife then sent me an email to my private email account (not my work email) with the official job offer, which I politely and graciously declined. I thought at the time that this situation was rather awkward.

Ever since I declined the offer, my manager has blocked me from two promotions and also sent me to HR with complaints about things like not CC’ing enough people on emails and working in a silo (we moved to a hybrid model, which means less time in office).

I’m unsure what to do. It seems my manager is actively trying to remove me from my place of employment. I also wonder if a job offer from his wife is an abuse of power and goes against company policy. The whole thing has made me feel uncomfortable and like I have a target on my back. However, because my manager has already sent me to HR with petty complaints, I’m unsure if I should show them the emails of the job offer.

I will add that other people within our corporation seem to value my work and output, so I’m wondering if approaching HR will help or hinder me.

On its face, this sounds pretty outrageous! It’s not inherently an abuse of power for your manager’s spouse to offer you a job, but it’s definitely an abuse of power for your manager to punish you for not taking it.

Now, it’s possible there’s more to the situation — like maybe your manager’s actions haven’t been in response to you turning down the offer and would have happened anyway. Who knows, maybe your manager had concerns about your work but thought you’d be great at this totally different job with his wife, and was hoping this would be a solution that worked out for everyone … but when you didn’t take the job was forced to start dealing with the work issues he saw. But that’s a pretty big stretch and I doubt it’s what’s happening.

It looks enough like retaliation that it’s worth having a conversation with HR about what’s happened. (And don’t let the fact that your boss has sent you to HR for petty complaints be a reason to stop you. In fact, you should cite that as part of what has been happening since you turned down the job offer.)

2. Dressing up for Halloween on my first day at a new job

I’m starting a new job on Halloween, and this is an office where people dress up for the day! I’ve never worked in an environment like this, so I don’t know what’s appropriate for the workplace. Furthermore, this is quite literally my first day at a brand new company, and I don’t want to look like a stick-in-the-mud! Is there well-known (or not) etiquette on Halloween at work?

Do you want to dress up for Halloween? It’s very unlikely that you’ll look like a stick-in-the-mud if you skip it on your first day; generally even in offices where people wear costumes, not everyone wears a costume, but even if that’s not the case with this one, people aren’t likely to hold you to their traditions on your first day. It’s fine to skip it this year and wait until you know the vibe of the office more and what kind of costume would or wouldn’t be inappropriate for your activities that day.

But if you do want to dress up, go low key — a witch’s hat or cat ears — or even lower-key, like skull earrings — something that’s more a nod to Halloween than a total embrace of it (and which you can easily take off if you realize it’s not a great fit for what they have planned for you that day). This is not the right day to show up as an enormous piece of toast or a flamingo.

3. How do I avoid being the go-to person for questions from our new people?

I work at a firm where most people are still working from home for the majority of the time. Management is looking to up this, but hasn’t taken any firm action. Due to my role and because I am one of those folks who enjoys being back in person in an office, I am in-person five days a week.

Recently, a few new members have joined the team, and all of the folks are working to help them acclimate and succeed in their new roles. Most of them are early in their careers. They of course have tons of questions … and they ask me literally all of them. I am interrupted once every 15 minutes. Some of them could easily be googled (“how do I connect to the monitor?”, “How do I change the formatting on this document?”), some could be found with a couple minutes of critical thinking, some genuinely do need to be asked, but to someone more senior than me.

The tricky thing is that they are so nice and apologetic. I am starting to say “this is more of an Angela question” when it isn’t at my pay grade, but it feels aggressive to say “spend more time looking for an answer” when I can give it to them easily.

A large reason they come to me is because I am physically in the same office space as them and most of our team isn’t (which I can’t change). But I’m losing productivity over this, and I don’t think it’s optimal that the bulk of training falls on my shoulders when my team has multiple people. Any suggestions to remedy this?

Tell your boss what’s happening and that it’s impacting your work, and ask to have the training distributed more evenly. This is something a decent manager would want to know about and intervene on. She probably needs to give the new people more guidance on how to handle questions (both that they should go to different people on X and Y and spend more time looking for answers themselves on some things). She’s much better positioned to have those conversations than you are, but she can’t do it if she doesn’t realize it’s happening.

Read an update to this letter

4. My employer only gives Veteran’s Day off to veterans

My company recently announced that they are going to give the Veterans Day holiday only to employees who are veterans. Is this legal?

It’s legal because non-veterans are not a protected class. (Protected classes are things like race, sex, religion, etc., and an employer can’t give different perks based on those things.)

In fact, some states — Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Tennessee — require employers to provide veterans with the day off, even if they don’t offer it to other employees.

5. Should I email the hiring manager after applying?

I’m curious if this piece of advice is still relevant/accurate. In the cobwebs of college past, I was given this piece of advice by a career counselor: After you send in an application through a career portal, you should hunt down the recruiter/hiring manager’s email and send an introductory email. Not attaching the whole app, but just a short, “Hello, thank you for the opportunity. Please keep an eye out for my app.”

Is this pushy, creepy, or annoying? Or is this ambitious and eye-catching? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Pushy and annoying. They know you’re interested because you applied. There’s no need to email them separately.

It’s different if you have a specific connection to the hiring manager. In that case, it’s fine to send a short note (with your resume attached!) saying, “Cadence Warbleworth, who I used to work with, suggested I contact you about the X position on your team because of my background in competitive oatmeal eating. If you think I might be matched with what you’re looking for, I’d love to talk. (I’ve applied online as well.)”

{ 548 comments… read them below }

  1. The Real Fran Fine*

    Re letter #2

    I’m going to second Alison that it’s fine for you not to dress up on Halloween on your first day, OP. My team is getting a new hire that day as well, and I told my direct report to contact her in advance of starting to let her know we’re having a costume contest that morning, but that it’s entirely optional for staff to dress up (last year, half did and half didn’t). We really don’t care or won’t think she’s a buzzkill if she decides not to show up with a costume as she likely won’t be the only one anyway – I just didn’t want her to feel left out if this is the kind of thing she’d enjoy and couldn’t participate because she didn’t know it was a thing.

    1. anon for this*

      I think this is a low-stakes situation and the OP should just do what feels right.

      But I’ll piggyback on here with a funny situation that was a little bit like this. It was over 10 years ago, and in a different country (in Europe, I’ll say) from the one I’m now. I’m doing a bit of camouflaging too – so it should be fine to tell.

      I was working for a young-ish, hip-ish tech company. Most employees in their low 30s, pretty happy to participate in fun stuff at work. We had a full team meeting (~15 participants) on Hallowe’en, and I was a little surprised that a large majority of my coworkers had dressed up rather elaborately. A lot of Harry Potter references. There was also a new person who was starting that day in the team. I worried a bit that he might be a liiitle surprised by the general appearance of it all. He seemed quiet and came from a Baltic country, speaking with a deep voice and somewhat of an accent (in excellent English). When the round of introductions came to him, it turned out his name was … Voldemar. Which, in context, sounded a little jarring, but of course no one wanted to laugh. There was a slight tension in the room at that moment! (He worked out fine – no harm done.)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        The new hire who must not be named! hahaha

        A work friend liked to tell a story of his first day at that job, which happened to be October 31. He’d just arrived from Poland on a work visa and was new to the US. Back in Poland, he’d been a university professor in Warsaw. His first US job was at a small company, located in a suburb of a Midwestern city, where he was younger than almost everyone by 10-15 years. For his first day on his new job, he wore, as was his habit, a suit and a tie with a white shirt and dress shoes. He was the only one in the office not wearing a costume. It was the early 90s, a small company with one person functioning as HR as her side job in addition to her main work title, so, some of the costumes were wild by today’s corporate standards. Someone came in as a flasher, in a trenchcoat that this person would occasionally open to show people a rubber, uh, appendage underneath. My friend did not really know what Halloween was and how people in the US observed it, and was thoroughly baffled, wondering whether he’d last at that unorthodox workplace.

    2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah. It’s one of those things where if the culture is to dress up and you don’t, probably no one will think much of you for skipping one day.

      But if the culture isn’t to dress up and you DO….you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

      1. SarahKay*

        Yes, I’d say everyone will sympathise if you don’t dress up on Hallowe’en as your first day, or are dressed slightly more formally on any first day compared to the rest of the team. Everyone is aware that you’re new, probably nervous, and wanting to make a good first impression.
        On the other hand if you come in wearing a full costume and it turns out they’re fairly low-key I’m sure people will still sympathise but it feels like you risk being ‘the over-enthusiastic Hallowe’en person’ for quite a while.

        1. Charlotte*

          I’m not in the US and every year I’m utterly bewildered by the letters about people wanting to dress up for Hallowe’en in the office. I’ve never worked anywhere that this would be considered remotely appropriate. I would be totally bemused if I had to interact professionally with someone who was dressed up.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I think if it were a normal thing, even if only for others, though, you’d be able to ignore it.

            I liked the Irish way — have Halloween as a bank holiday and just enjoy the day without any issues. I had real fun both not going to work and getting time dressing up for my cousins’ party. Here in the UK Halloween is a blink and you’ll miss it thing, and although we have Bonfire Night a week later, the government is rightly a bit nervous about giving us a public holiday to celebrate the thwarting of a terrorist attack and public burning of a Catholic in effigy, particularly in the age of religious diversity. Trafalgar is seen as a bit jingoistic, I suppose. We’ve been talking for ages about having a public holiday to break up the autumn, but no one has come up with a good enough reason yet.

          2. butwhy*

            ok but consider you’d have an entirely different feeling about this if you were american and knew it was a common thing for some offices to do.

              1. Reality.Bites*

                If it helps any, I could start chiming in every year that all these commenters talking about it as an American thing are ignoring that it happens just as much in Canada, which makes them rather rude. /s

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  My understanding is that the ‘costume’ part of the holiday isn’t just the US / Canada. It started in Ireland, is popular with young people in China / Japan / Serbia / Poland, and has been gaining steam in Australia / Germany.

                  (I knew about China / Japan / Germany, the rest is from wikipedia’s article about “Geography of Halloween”)

                  Full disclosure: I make elaborate costumes for my son, usually take Halloween off or as a half day, and leave some of my son’s old costumes in my chair for the day (eg, Minion from Despicable Me). I mighta just searched flamingo costumes.

              2. Siege*

                Yes. It is absolutely critical that the international readers of an America-focused blog tell us every time that things we do as a cultural norm here or as a standard labor practice are weird/unpleasant/illegal in their countries. It is an enrichment activity for us all.

          3. Asenath*

            I’ve seen it a lot – often in places that deal with the public, store cashiers wearing animal ears of some kind or witch’s hats – but in my former workplace, some people were incredibly into dressing up at Hallowe’en, and others, like me, ignoring the whole thing. It often seems to be a bit of a thing in places like personal care homes (a step down from nursing homes, in local parlance, so the residents tend to be a bit more mobile and less seriously ill), among staff and residents. Some residents, and most if not all staff. My mother, from whom I seem to have inherited my dislike of dressing up, asked me to buy her an orange scarf so she could at least make a gesture and fit it, but in the end decided not to wear it.

          4. Nas*

            I’m not in US and we have our own day to dress in costumes (not Halloween). I usually dress up and some other people do too (though not majority). It’s appropriate in our office. It’s a bit of fun, why would you be bemused by that? I had no problem discussing serious things with a clown with full face makeup. Though I don’t paint my face / wear a mask because it’s too much fun for me and I don’t feel so serious myself.

          5. Jo*

            “bemused” and “utterly bewildered” by people wanting to enjoy a holiday by dressing up in fun costumes?
            lmao okay then, grouchy pants

            1. MK*

              A lot of us come from countries with traditions of carnival that make Halloween seem staid in comparison, but it’s not usual to bring it in the workplace.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                I just lol’d at the thought of carnival outfits in the office, thank you!

                I love watching the Rio Carnival parades on tv, those are incredible costumes.

            2. Charlotte*

              It’s not the dressing up part, it’s the doing it at work, in a professional space. That’s the bit I find bewildering.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Well, as others have said, it is very common in some places. My current job and my previous two companies all had/have Halloween festivities and costume contests. Two companies ago, some departments went all out decorating their cubicle areas in themes. I never participated in the decorating or dressing up, but it was fun to walk around and see the creativity! And these were otherwise pretty staid corporate jobs.

              2. Happy meal with extra happy*

                Don’t you have parties/social events where you work? Surely you can see that having a party for Halloween specifically may include costumes?

                I get that this tradition is odd to you, but it’s really not that confusing.

              3. Books and Cooks*

                If another culture’s holiday practices, or the idea that workplaces/employees sometimes like to participate in some of those practices because they’re fun, are “bewildering” to you, then it’s good that you’re reading here so you can learn more about how some cultures aren’t exactly like yours. I am sorry you appear to live and work in a place where no fun is ever allowed in the office and all offices are very formal all the time; many US workplaces are a bit more casual, and enjoy bringing cultural holidays into the workplace and having a bit of fun.

                (Not just major US holidays, either; a short while ago a friend’s [small] office celebrated Chilean Independence Day with a lunchtime party, because their Chilean employees wanted to bring in some food and share the holiday with their coworkers. A great time was had by all, and the party ended with a rousing [if badly-accented] rendition of La Cancion Nacional.)

        2. Sandi*

          Years ago I bought on sale a themed pajama onesie with a hoodie, and it has been the best halloween investment ever. I bring it into work, and then put it on once I confirm that it’s a quiet day. If someone important suddenly shows up, or if I need to meet with someone who barely knows me, then I can strip it off within a few seconds at my desk. I often wear it home on public transit. I’m not a big fan of halloween, for example I don’t decorate my home or give out candy, but my coworkers and neighbors get a smile out of seeing me and that’s fun.

        3. young worker*

          Siege – what a strangely meanspirited comment. I think bringing up an international opinion can be useful – we aren’t sure if the OP’s employee is from the US.
          A heads up on what the office norm is can be useful, even outside of the cultural differences. Only now with some time working at my office do I realize that a costume would feel inappropriate, especially with our client meetings.

          1. Abimymy*

            Yes, and probably most US work places would have colleagues from a variety of different backgrounds. I don’t get the commenters who try to shut-down international perspectives.

    3. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Okay, but wait! How does LW#1 KNOW that’s the deal at the new job? Obviously someone told them, likely in an effort to encourage some kind of dressing up. I’d agree no need to go full-on Catwoman or anything, but I might do more than nod at Halloween.

      1. WellRed*

        There’s no indication she was told time way or the other what the office does for Halloween. Better to err on the side of caution since I think it’s not super common to dress up and you don’t want to be known as the Person Who Showed Up in a Costume in the First Day.

        1. BubbleTea*

          In the letter, LW says “this is an office where people dress up for the day” which makes it sound like they do know.

          1. Goldenrod*

            Even though this is an office where people dress up for Halloween, I would still err on the side of caution. I really like Alison’s idea to just wear some Halloween-themed earrings or something. It’s better to be slightly formal on your first day (in my opinion).

            LOL – “This is not the right day to show up as an enormous piece of toast or a flamingo.”

            (One time, I had a job interview on Halloween. My future boss was in costume. I thought it was hilarious and commented on it – but we both agreed that it would have been a bad idea for ME to arrive in costume.)

      2. The Real Fran Fine*

        It could be for the same reason I said above – they were told so that if they showed up on Halloween and saw most of their team dressed, they wouldn’t feel left out if they had wanted to participate in something like this with the group. Since OP really doesn’t, she shouldn’t have to, and doing a small nod to the holiday should be fine since she wasn’t told it was a requirement.

      3. Mockingjay*

        OP1 should keep in mind that employee photos are usually taken on the first day – for badges, company newsletter, etc. So maybe something removable – cat ears or a pumpkin pin on the lapel – will give a nod to participation while attending to first day business.

        (Our photos were added to the O365 system, so each time I open MS Word or Teams, my own face stares at me from the little circle in the upper right. It’s rather ghoulish…)

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Oh, that is an EXCELLENT point. I work with people who have been here for 20 years and that’s still the picture attached to their stuff.

        2. acmx*

          Unless your IT blocked it, you can remove/replace your photo. It was a bit buried but I was able to remove my photo.

          1. Mockingjay*

            It’s blocked. At least it’s not a terrible picture. But I’d rather have a picture of my dog!

          2. Hannah Lee*

            My company has the option to add a photo, but no one has.

            But if there’s no photo, MS just puts your initials in a bubble with a colored background. It assigned me a bubble color of bright red, so every time I was in Office or Teams, my brain was flagging everything as URGENT! or PAST DUE!

            I figured out how to load an image – of my initials in a bubble with a white background – and using Teams and Office no longer kicks off a stress response in me LOL.

        3. Lauren*

          Where’s waldo is perfect for this. It’s a striped regular shirt and a hat. you can wear a shirt underneath since many are too thin to wear as standalone.

          1. TheraputicSarcasm*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking. A nice red and white striped sweater and slacks is a solid work outfit that will photograph well for ID pics, and LW #2 can add the beanie and glasses depending on mood. JCP or Old Navy are likely to have one.

        4. DJ Abbott*

          I think you can turn that off? I have turned it off in Outlook before because I didn’t want to see either my own face or my boss’ looking at me.
          Microsoft is always changing things and I don’t know if you can turn it off now, but it’s worth a look.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            To clarify, I did not remove the photos. There was a setting to show photos or not and I put it on don’t show photos.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is the perfect occasion for cat ears or one of those arrow through the head things — something small and easy to ditch if no one in your group is dressed up at all. I think being prepared to do some small thing might make the first day a little easier.

      1. Shiara*

        Three-legged person where you stuff an extra pant leg, pin a shoe at the bottom and belt it on could also be a good choice.

        The guy who I saw did this used his hands in his pockets to make the third leg move when he walked and it was really funny how long it took some of our coworkers to realize what was going on.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Too much effort. Your first day you are probably going to be brought around the office to be introduced to be people. You want something simple that allows you to do all the normal first day stuff without also having to worry about your costume.

          Honestly even an email telling me there was a costume contest would have me wondering if I am expected to dress up, even if I am told its optional. It needs to be clearer “Hey it’s your 1st day, no one expects you to dress up. “

      2. Shhhh*

        Headband-based costumes have always been my approach to wearing a costume at work – definitely recommend.

    5. Sutemi*

      At many work places, you will have your picture taken for your badge and company directory taken on your first day. I would strongly consider not doing any costume that can’t be easily removed for a headshot.

      1. See you anon*

        That’s what I came here to comment! I work somewhere that encourages dress up but ID pictures and orientation are on your first day. I wonder if we’ll see a crop of Halloween themed IDs in a couple weeks!

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        Very good point! If LW chooses to participate, definitely something removable and low-key. Maybe a fascinator?

        And stick to something super non-controversial.The office might have said they all dress up, but a new person is not likely to know where the lines are. Not even just the controversial stuff (which is, of course, best avoided always in an office), but the “everyone knows” stuff that people wouldn’t necessarily remember to communicate to a newbie. Maybe “everyone knows” Fergus’ phobia would be triggered by a spider costume, or Jane just lost a loved one and folks are being sensitive about anything to do with the grim reaper/ghosts.

    6. LB*

      I think the best happy medium would be some kind of eyes-only mask on a stick, carnivale-style or like a cat or something. That way it reads as participatory but it’s an accessory that you keep off most of the time.

    7. pbnj*

      I’d be concerned that usually your ID badge gets made on the first day, so I would wear something that could be quickly taken off, like a witch’s hat or a vampire cape. Although having a Halloween costume be in your ID picture could be fun.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have a button I sometimes wear that says, “No, I am NOT wearing a mask!”

      Or, of course, the OP could just wear normal clothes, and if asked, tell them that they dressed up as “New Employee”.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh good point… ThursdaysGeek this is probably NOT the year for that one, unless you keep a mask on all day.

    9. NotBatman*

      My go-to strategy for exactly that situation: I wear a business suit, put on glasses, carry a notebook… and put on a Superman t-shirt under my button-up. If anyone asks if I’m in costume, I open my top two buttons to show off the Superman logo and tell them I’m Clark Kent, which usually gets a good laugh. If not, then I’m in western business attire and no one is the wiser. (Also: I’m a woman, and this does work as an all-gender costume.)

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      My way of handling this would be to dress in “Business Formal”. Most offices are business casual, so this can be a costume “Stuffy Executive” or “Banker” but still be business appropriate. For the Banker add a toy cash drawer and monopoly money, or generic loan forms.

    11. Momma Bear*

      Not all offices do anything for Halloween so I would err on the side of caution and go very low-key.

  2. LemonLyman*

    Op2: Definitely don’t show up to work in a full (squeaky) Spider-man costume like Mitchell from Modern Family. Those scenes were hilarious!

    1. GythaOgden*

      Or as Charlie Chaplin like Pam in The Office when she was working at head office to fund her art school semester. Because no one else dressed up and without the bowler hat, she totally looks like Hitler…!

    2. Reality.Bites*

      An important plot element was that he was a new employee in an office where most people didn’t actually dress up – he’d heard two people talking about it, without realizing they weren’t respected or valued employees and it was more of a thing that was tolerated, not expected.

      I once left a job because of the Halloween dress-up. Not really, but when someone wore the same thing two years in a row and I remembered it from the previous year, I thought “OK, I’ve been here long enough.”

      His costume was a sweatshirt to which he’d attached some of those small one-serving cereal boxes, each with a plastic knife inserted. He was a cereal killer.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      I once started a job in late September so I had only been there about a month when Halloween rolled around. I was told by several people that everyone “went all out” for Halloween. I still have no idea if I was trolled or if we just had a very different understanding of “go all out” but I showed up head to toe, full make up as a zombie nurse. Two people wore assorted animal ears. I was not allowed to go to the front desk that day.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          LoL! No I wasn’t fired for dressing like a zombie nurse. The lack of participation from work and having to walk a half a mile through downtown was all that was needed for that day.

  3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Have to reply to OP1 – please head to HR ASAP and take all the documentation with you. There may be some innocent explanation, but the simplest answer seems to be retaliation (because that what it smells like). A good HR will want to know about this so they can squash it.

    Also, you mention that other people appreciate your work, would any of them be in a position to put a stop to retaliation, or have a similar position in a different department that you could transfer to?

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Even if it has nothing to do with the manager’s wife’s job offer, the complaints are so petty and the promotion blocking is unconscionable, so they need to be brought to HR’s attention to solve these issues with the manager.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, it seems like OP thinks the HR complaints will make this more difficult, but it seems to me like they would make the case pretty clear-cut. For one thing the email offer is dated and that will show clearly that the complaints began after you turned down the job, and also the fact that your boss went to HR for something as absurd as the number of people CC’d on an email??? OP this looks so clearly like retaliation I am having trouble imagining any competent HR department wouldn’t agree.

        And it’s just so weird!!! So bizarre that your boss wanted you to go work for his wife in an unrelated field. I’m really sorry you’re having to deal with this, it sounds super frustrating.

        1. RIP Pillow Fort*

          I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned that going to HR about the number of people CC’d on an email or “being silo’d” is ridiculous. HR doesn’t manage that kind of thing- the manager is supposed to.

          My HR would be questioning what is going on with that manager and not necessarily that employee. The emailed job offer would make the situation clearer and not look good for the manager.

          1. Observer*

            I agree that the complaints are such that any good HR is going to realize that something is off.

            But I also think that given the size of the company it’s quite possible that no one is actively tracking complaints, so a couple of really odd ones wouldn’t set off any alarm bells or even set a yellow flag waving. On the other hand, if the OP comes along with those complaints AND the email chain, that is something that any decent HR is going to be looking at very closely.

            OP, I have not read most of the comments yet, but I suspect that you are going to get a number of comments saying that you shouldn’t go to HR because they are there to protect the company not help staff. And to some extent, that is true. But competent HR understands that bad management can be harmful to the company. And if they are better that “minimally competent” they will also know that even if something is legal, it can STILL be bad for the company *and* that they can take action against bad or harmful behavior even if it’s legal.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              Plus, even if this particular HR is one of those 100% look out for the interests of the company ones, I’m guessing a manager 1st trying to poach an employee to go work at a family member’s company and 2nd when the employee declines to be poached trying to derail the employee’s work, and potential contribution to the company in different, higher role by filing petty complaints with HR are going to be things that would be deemed as “not in the interest of the company” and would line HR up to take aim at the manager and not LW.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            This is my concern also – to me it’s a red/yellow flag that HR didn’t laugh the boss out of the room for involving them in this regardless of context. It would make me leery to involve them further

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I wonder about the side of the company and the size of the HR Dept. If it’s large enough it’s possible that the complaints from manager haven’t all been handled by the same person, which makes it hard to track and notice nonsense* like this.

              I am labeling the managers complaints as nonsense, because they are – but nonsense can still be dangerous. OP, if the HR Dept is generally good please go to them with all the documentation you have and calmly but briefly lay all of this mess out.

          3. Ellie*

            My company really wouldn’t like that job offer, even if there hadn’t been any retaliation. It might not be illegal but its a really bad look to headhunt someone on your team for another company, and then block their promotion.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The offer email (presumably dated before the first complaint) also shows that the OP’s reputation was in fine standing with the manager at this point. Presumably the wife’s only connection or exposure to the OP’s work was gained through her husband.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’d also be curious to know HOW the manager’s wife got OP’s personal email address. If they somehow had it because of previous fundraising or some innocent reason a while back, that’s one thing… but if the manager gave the wife OP’s personal information specifically for that purpose that’s not OK. No one at work should ever hand out anyone’s private information (phone number, email address, home address, etc) without the person’s explicit permission.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          This, and that the wife *called with a job offer* – not an interview! Not a “hey we have this opening and Fred thinks you’d be perfect” – A JOB! OFFER!!! Sight-unseen! That’s demented behavior right from the start.

    3. Artemesia*

      Framing is important here. Very clear and brief. ‘I am concerned. I got a job offer form boss’s wife (show the email) which isn’t in my wheelhouse and so I declined (show the email.). Since then I have suddenly had a whole series of complaints made to HR about such things as (list them) and feel I am being retaliated against for not taking this job with his wife since that wasn’t happening before then. (get that his wife part in at least twice). I need your advice here.’

      It is possible he was hoping to get rid of you this way, but it smells enough like retaliation to get your licks in asap before he escalates to a PIP or something. The complaints sound very trivial so listing each of them with a look of surprise that they would go to HR is important. I have had bosses ask me to CC more people or do various things differently. NEVER has that resulted in a complaint to HR which always sounds like getting ready to fire someone.

      1. Annony*

        Instead of pointing out that the job wasn’t in their wheelhouse, they could say “but I am not interested in leaving Company Name so I declined.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And I would make sure that a copy of the email where you declined politely is part of the documents you take with you.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yes I think mentioning the field being totally different helps show how bizarre the behavior of boss & wife is – it wasn’t even a reasonable offer!

          2. Ellie*

            ‘I’m not looking to leave’ highlights that your resume isn’t on any job sites, and this was a cold call (that must have come from her husband). You don’t want to risk giving the impression that you’re about to leave anyway.

      2. Knope Knope Knope*

        Such excellent advice on the framing. OP says they have a good reputation with others in the company, so once this is pointed out I feel like the true motivation of the manager is moot. The appearance of retaliation is so strong I would be surprised if HR doesn’t intervene. Honestly, I feel like this could got to an employment lawyer if necessary, though hopefully it won’t get that far.

    4. Non flying flat vowels*

      Also, getting in earlier helps if the retaliatory boss is reframing OP’s competence to HR as substandard.
      I seriously wonder if they think perhaps the OP will take the other job if they’re fired from this one? Or it’s petty vindictiveness.
      Either way, getting in earlier to HR with this documented context should help.

      1. MK*

        Is the wife that desperate to hire the OP? I think it’s much more likely that the boss is trying to push her our for dome reason.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          She made her a job offer without an interview, or even confirming that OP was interested in the job. I suspect the veterinary clinic is desperate and can’t even get a warm body, and so hubs tried to get one of his workers with cross-applicable skills to take the job on the theory that at his company, the top people would quickly fill that role for him.

          I mean, we could get into “he wants his mistress to have OP’s job,” but I think a straightforward “he really wants you to take the job and rescue his family income” colliding with “I think of myself like a lord of the manor, and the employees are like serfs, personally loyal to the house of Williams” accounts for it.

          1. JSPA*

            There’s a bunch of options.

            He sees OP being promoted to his job, and is worried.

            He mentioned to his wife that OP has pets.

            He’s been told to cut a position for cost savings but to keep the financial problems quiet, and OP’s salary is the one in the sweet spot, but he can’t justify the firing, over someone more recently hired.

            You can write your own.

            But “poaching our own people for the sake of my wife’s business” isn’t something the company is likely to see as any form of acceptable management.

            Even if he retroactively tries to say, “well, OP’s work kind of sucks, but is nice, and my wife is desperate, so I wanted to entice OP to change jobs willingly.”

          2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            “I think a straightforward “he really wants you to take the job and rescue his family income” colliding with “I think of myself like a lord of the manor, and the employees are like serfs, personally loyal to the house of Williams” accounts for it.”

            ^nailed it

          3. Knope Knope Knope*

            OP said it’s the family business, so I think either he is desperate to get rid of her and thinks it will be easier for his wife to hire then fire her, or he’s desperate to keep her and thinks she’ll be more valuable at the other job. Either way, the way they went about it is odd to say the least.

        2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          Veterinary clinics have been knee-capped in the last few years; support staff in particular have fled. So I actually do think the wife* might be that desperate to hire.

          *If it’s a true family business in which both wife and husband are financially invested, change this to *wife and husband.

          1. Observer*

            This is true. But I would be surprised if Manager really thinks that the OP will take the job once they get fired.

            Of course, it’s possible that he really IS that stupid – or is just that blind when it comes to this particular issue.

            But I do think that just being a petty jerk is the most likely scenario.

          2. Starbuck*

            Yeah vet service unfortunately is in a market failure similar to what’s going on with childcare in the US – both are essential services with staff that requires expensive training/regulations/insurance, but the people who need the service often don’t have the funds to match what the service really costs. And when you need it, you REALLY need it so for clients there’s a huge stress of being trapped between their need for the service but lack of funds, and that frustration often gets taken out on staff. Add on that employees are expected to do these jobs because they care about pets/children and that should be more important than what they’re paid. It sucks, vets have my extreme sympathy.

            But all that aside, boss’s wife is wild here!!

          3. Ellie*

            Yes, I don’t think the job offer sight unseen is that much of a red flag – vet clinics are absolutely desperate right now, and presumably her husband has said that she’s great.

            What stinks is the husband trying to recruit someone on his team, into his family business, and then retaliating against OP for not going. I’d never trust that snake again. This is such an obvious case, you may as well take it to HR.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, out of all the possibilities it COULD be?
          Petty vindictiveness is the one I’ve observed most often out in the real world.

          Particularly since if he was looking to get rid of LW for *real* performance issues, he’d be flagging *those* performance issues to HR (instead of nitpicks about email cc’s)

    5. Venus*

      Hopefully OP can show that the complaints all started shortly after they refused the job offer. Ideally OP will have emails or performance agreements from boss to show that they were doing well before this. An obvious email or paper trail would be the best thing for HR.

    6. J*

      One extra thing to add if it’s relevant – your boss’s wife called and emailed you with your personal contact details. Are those things she would have had access to from previous interactions? Or has your boss given her those from company records? Because that’s a pretty hefty breach of your privacy if so

      1. Almost Empty Nester*

        That is a super important point. Presumably she would not have had OP’s contact info any way other than it being provided by the boss. Big breach of privacy there.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And even if HR is less than awesome – take the “manager gave my private info to an outside source” complaint to HR. Everywhere I’ve worked that would have been a huge violation.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I agree. It’s all relevant and HR should know OP’s side of events leading up to these reports. It is incredible overreach for her to contact OP with an unrequested job offer when she should not have had OP’s contact information. I think if no one else has any issues and there’s a clear uptick since the rejection from OP that the manager is very likely being vindictive.

        Also, if I were OP, I’d push to be moved out of that department. If the promotions the manager blocked were in the same department then all the more reason to get out.

      4. NN*

        Hi, thank you (and everyone!) for your helpful responses. Truly appreciated! To answer your question, my boss told me after the surprise phone call from his wife that he had given her my phone number. We had met once prior to the phone call. During our phone call she asked for my personal email address which I gave to her out of respect, as she is my boss’s wife and I didn’t want to tell her no.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I get why you gave it to her, but re-read what you wrote. Your boss gave her your phone number but didn’t ask you first. Then you felt pressured to give her your email address *as she is [your] boss’ wife [you] didn’t want to tell her no.* So you felt pressure to give out personal information after HE gave her YOURS because of his role as your boss. If HR is even a tiny bit decent they will see that this power imbalance is problematic.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          In that case, you can mention that your boss gave your phone number to his wife — that plus your name makes it identifiable information in many places, and he shouldn’t have done that any more than the email. If you ever get asked for your email address like that again a “ha! I never check my personal email, if you need me my work one is the way to go” is a good deflection; you should be able to just say “no” but I know *should* and *able to* aren’t always synonyms.

          (Also, for anyone looking, OP1* LW1* reply above!)

        3. Ellie*

          So he headhunted you for the role then? And is now being petty and vindictive because it didn’t interest you? Take it to HR, this really looks like a conflict of interest, as well as retaliation. They will likely get rid of him, and your problem will be solved.

    7. Sparkles McFadden*

      I am normally a person who advises staying away from HR, but in this case, I, too, say take everything to HR. You boss opened the door to HR, so you need to walk through it.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Another vote for talking to HR – the complaints from the manager are incredibly petty, and I would bet they weren’t being made before the veterinary job was turned down.

    9. Abogado Avocado*

      x 100 re Where’s the Orchestra’s comment! Definitely print out all the documentation and take it with you. Keep copies for your own files.

      And, yes, this smells like retaliation.

      It also smells like your manager wanted to get rid of you and, because there was no good reason to institute a PIP or manage you out, asked his wife to take you off his hands. Which opens up a whole other case of trouble for your manager because asking one’s spouse to handle one’s managerial issues isn’t how management is done.

    1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

      Originally read it as a toasted flamingo and thought that was quite the costume!

  4. Not A Manager*

    LW3, one helpful phrase when people ask you easily-researched questions is “what have you already tried?” When they say something like, “I rebooted the computer” or whatever, you can respond, “that’s a great start! When that doesn’t work, one place that I look is google.” You can still tell them the answer if you want to, but if it keeps happening then you have a good reason to say, “hey, did you google this before you came to me?” At some point it isn’t rude to make it clear that people should do their own troubleshooting before asking you.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I had a coworker who actually had the hall to call me his portable brain – so he never needed notes, I could answer every question. Our first manager didn’t see a problem with that attitude. But when a new manager came in, it was stopped. He was read the riot act, and I was told to tell him to check his notes or go ask the question of the lead (so they could address any training issues that existed).

      Nope, he is still trying to ask other people questions instead of the leads. He has quit asking me though – because I always reroute him to notes, google, or the leads.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lovely autoincorrect,

        “I had a coworker who actually had the GALL to call me his portable brain”

      2. allathian*

        Some people are inherently lazy, and if they can outsource searching for information to someone else, they will. I’m glad you were able to put a stop to it. I hope your coworkers follow your example and stop being so helpful.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Most of them now refer him back to the Leads as well. Sadly he only does this with the female staff……

            1. Petty Betty*

              I automatically just assumed he only did this to the women in the office. Both glad and sad to see that I was right.

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          This type of person is so interesting to me, because while I can be incredibly lazy, I’m also a control freak, so if I can’t be arsed to do something, I’ll sooner let it just not get done than trust someone else to do it for me. I’m always amazed at people who will just take someone else’s word for the answer to a question instead of Googling it themselves so they can compare the top 10 answers and determine for themselves what the right one is.

          1. Allonge*

            Ha! I am practically allergic to asking questions until I have exhausted all possible ways to find out myself.

            It’s still laziness in a different way – admitting I don’t know something and interacting with people have a higher ‘cost’ than googling and checking various databases and so on.

            And I used to be a reference librarian, so I am pretty good at finding things. That helps.

      3. Driving Ditalini*

        I had a coworker who just wanted the attention. My first day, I saw her cursing and scowling at her computer. I was new, but sometimes a second set of eyes helps, so I eventually asked if I could help. She told me all about how annoying the bug was, but got squirrelly any time I tried to get actual technical details. Finally she showed me the error message. I said “hm, that is strange! Sounds like it could be related to X. What’d you find when you googled the error?” A scowl. She’d spent half an hour making a show of throwing a fit, but had no interest in actually solving the problem. I’d see this repeated over and over every day, but she never bothered asking me again because I had the audacity to know things.

      4. Observer*

        I had a coworker who actually had the hall to call me his portable brain –

        Tell him to get EverNote ~~evil grin~~ They advertise themselves as your portable memory.

        Seriously, your guy is a real problem and your former manager was not doing his job. It’s not just that you (and you work) were being negatively affected. This is just no way to be effective at what you do.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Former manager was notorious for not doing her job, his constant questions were just one of many examples. He’s still around because he’s a warm body on a B-Shift who can just barely make the expected numbers. We struggled when we were in the office to get people willing to work B-Shift, hoping it will get better now that we are remote.

          (The newest manager talks to me – I’m the most senior person on the shift, I at times hear stuff with regards to hiring that I possibly shouldn’t hear.)

      5. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        One might just respond to such questions with – try it out, it tends to get the point home quite well.
        It stands for “let me google that for you”.

      6. SpaceySteph*

        I had a coworker who leaned on me all the time as a crutch to help him find things. He’d get mad when I was like “try searching X” or “did you look at document Y” rather than just sending him the answer.

        Turns out that knowing how to find answers was basically the key to being successful at that job and, well, he didn’t last very long.

    2. Allonge*

      I would say it’s not rude at all to direct people to other sources (unless you do it rudely of course). Either being a universal support desk is OP’s job or it’s not (hence the talk with the manager), and even then, training needs can be satisfied in different ways – there is nothing about formatting in Word that only OP knows.

      1. TechWorker*

        It’s also not really unreasonable to just… take a long time to reply. If helping people isn’t part of your job then there’s nothing that says you see the message and have to respond immediately. People get surprisingly more able to do things themselves when they just don’t get a response for a bit.

        1. hamsterpants*

          It’s a good suggestion that gets a bit harder when you’re in person. You will still need to establish a boundary for when they run to your desk to ask how to attach a document in Outlook, or whatever.

          Channeling all the questions into scheduled help sessions, at *your* chosen duration and cadence, can help a lot. You still do have to stand up for yourself when they try to bring questions outside that time, but at least it can help make *you* feel less guilty or whatever.

          1. Snow Globe*

            Even in person, you can just respond – “oh, I’m right in the middle of something. Give me a few minutes and I’ll get back to you.” If a few minutes turns into an hour, oh, well, you were busy.

            1. Environmental Compliance*


              I have a person that will ask for help with the most random and irrelevant things – which seem to be a way of trying to make things easier for them without understanding it makes it more difficult on everyone else around them – and often it will be a “if you really need help, send a screenshot. if you really need me to physically look at something, I might have time this afternoon, but it’s going to be a few hours before I can pull myself away from meetings/projects/etc.”

            2. Momma Bear*

              This. I’m fine with helping but if it’s really not a fire, then no need to jump anytime the coworker thinks about a problem. If given a few minutes they figure it out, yay! You just taught them to fish.

          2. Allonge*

            There is no way to solve this without establishing a boundary, one way or the other. Even going to the boss counts as that.

            I know it’s hard! But still.

        2. SFal*

          I tried this with my troublesome person and it quickly became clear that he would tell his manager ‘I asked S and they never replied’.

          He was a expert in shuffling off questions but actual mental load onto others as well. Oh well I asked and now it’s their problem.

    3. Laila*

      and if there are questions that are within your scope, one way you could adress the frequent interruption in set some time aside (30minutes at the end of the day or every other dat, or at the end of the week) for a specific period of time (like their first month) so you can answer all these questions. You can ask them to take notes for all questions they have, share any links where they could already find the answers, and if they still have questions, they can come up to you in this specific time to discuss it. Even with that I’d still not give the answers straight away, and rather ask then questions to direct them on how they can solve thses issues by themselves. You’d be doing them a long term favor, as you’d be actually coaching them to do some critical thinking and solving the issues by themselves.

      1. AnonNewHire*

        Agree with this! You could even set it up that you come to them, so they’re not interrupting your flow – e.g., “Since I’m present in the office when new hires start, I find that they often have a lot of questions their first few weeks (even if it’s stuff outside my area of expertise.) Since I’m juggling my own projects, how about I stop by at 3 pm and we’ll go over any questions then – just keep a running list so that we can take care of them all then!”

    4. SelinaKyle*

      #3 It may be extra work to begin, but could you as team start a FAQ document that you can give to new starters? It may save you and others having to suffer frequent interruptions in the long term.

      1. the cat's ass*

        I started a “hit by a bus” file when i realized i have a lot of institutional knowledge and that the new folks come to me regularly. I’m still happy to answer their questions if they aren’t in the file (and if they’re not i add them in), but it’s nice to have a file to direct them to!

      2. hamsterpants*

        This is a great task to assign to the new people! And require that they have updated the document with the answer to their nth question before you answer their (n+1)st question.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve created documents like this for our intranet. That way, I can refer people there or just send them a link.

        As a former trainer, I am good at explaining things but also good at referring people elsewhere.

      4. Smithy*

        So I’ve been going back into the office a bit, and for the kind of new hire insecurity the OP is referring to – I doubt that a FAQ document is going to be enough. Some people can learn that way, but a lot do not and really need questions and demonstrations.

        Sure there are always going to be some staff members that use weaponized incompetence as a way to avoid work – but for those newer to the work world or newer to any given workplaces computer system….a lot of those questions aren’t coming from a place of ignorance and cluelessness. My last job used Google mail, and after over a decade of using Outlook at work – and even having a personal Gmail account – the switch wasn’t easy or immediately intuitive. And that’s on top of learning other aspects of a new job.

        In times with more crowded offices, you could spread those questions out over a number people over each day, over the week. But with systems going to more hybrid models – workplaces are going to have to figure out how they’re going to balance the work of onboarding. It may just be accepting that jobs that used to onboard in in a month or two now take closer to 5-6 months. Or assigning/acknowledging staff to be on-boarders/trainers and positioned to bring staff up to speed.

        1. JustaTech*

          My department’s EA has been having issues like this, where there are things that only she knows, so you have to ask her (and that’s her job and it’s fine) but this sort of snowballs into “EA knows all, ask her” and she doesn’t have time for that.

          So she’s making an FAQ, but also having a weekly meeting for folks to ask her questions like “where should I search for the templates for this kind of document” that she both answers *and* get added to the FAQ.

          Mostly what we’ve learned is that people *are* trying to find the information for themselves, but that stuff either isn’t where it should be, or has the permissions set incorrectly so the people who need it can’t see it.

          The rest of us long-term staff have also been trying to make ourselves more accessible to the newer folk so we can spread out the question-asking. Our EA also has the advantage of being off-site (and when she is in, her desk is up by the Director so no one wants to go up there), so that cuts down on the “just walking past” questions.

      5. Mockingjay*

        It’s a good idea, but the root cause is an onboarding issue. OP3 is getting hit with a lot of random questions that the newbies’ managers should be handling, or wouldn’t need to ask they were trained properly by their remote managers.

        My company teams people with an experienced employee in person for several weeks just for this reason. Managers handle the job training, but the “buddy” is there to answer all the random questions. With the mix of remote and present employees, OP3 could suggest a variation of this: a dedicated company Teams chat or Slack channel in which people can post the “How do I…” questions, allowing anyone or a support team to respond.

        1. ferrina*

          Yup. This is something that is an onboarding issue at it’s core.

          A dedicated Team/Slack channel is a great idea! I’d also recommend a cheat sheet of internal resources- right now folks are going to you because you’re there, but if they know the person that they should be reaching out to, they’ll be more likely to reach out to that person (and you’ll be able to easily pinpoint the Usual Suspects who want others to take care of issues vs those that proactively reach out to the right person). Our company actually has a catch-all person for random questions- the interruption time is built into her job description.

        2. Smithy*

          100% this is an onboarding issue and also – one of the very common onboarding speeches managers will give is about asking lots of questions.

          Talking to coworkers when you are confused is normally a behavior you want to cultivate. And while questions like “how to attach a document” may seem silly – but for someone who’s largely worked in Google docs – it may be coming from a far more genuine place. Not to mention, questions like “how do I print” are so different from work place to work place, for someone new to working – knowing “how do I print” is a pretty normal question and “how do I attach a document” isn’t…..that’s just workplace norms.

          Add on top of this jobs that are very computer based becoming more frequently remote, this is just a far more significant question around good onboarding.

          1. kiki*

            I was also going to say this! I am somebody who is terrified of asking questions and honestly that bites me in the butt in worse ways than the folks who ask a few too many questions. The issue I see here isn’t necessarily that these folks are asking too many questions (because everyone new is going to ask a few questions that they likely could have googled or spent a bit more time researching), it’s that they aren’t being provided a proper outlet to ask them.

          2. JustaTech*

            One of the things we’ve noticed is that there’s this expectation of computer knowledge of things like email and calendars that isn’t covered anywhere in our training or onboarding and isn’t something that folks who are new to the workforce would be expected to know (I sure didn’t use Automatic Replies or block my calendar in college).

            So we have folks who’ve worked with us for a couple of years who still don’t know how to mark themselves Out of Office, but because they’ve been here a while it’s just expected that they do know and are just choosing to not. (I’ve written three “Best Practices” on this kind of stuff this month.)

            (All that said, I do still ask my boss if he’s googled for the answer to his problem with Word, because I don’t want him to just depend on me. Sometimes the answer is “yes, but I couldn’t find anything” which is good because he tried but bad because it’s another formatting nightmare that will take us hours to fix.)

            1. Starbuck*

              Yes, features of email and local norms on how to use them (this is how you do an OOO message, and this is when you should CC certain people) are part of our onboarding. Same with use of calendars. You can’t just assume that the way your workplace does it is “common sense” and everyone new will just know!

            2. Smithy*

              This assumption around “basic workplace computer skills” – I think more and more is showing a disconnect with how any of us learned those tasks. And then how we teach and instruct those tasks.

              I will also add that while there some people are able to learn just by reading and working a task out solo – for others, that’s a much slower way to learn. And watching someone do a task, or being walked through a task while they do it themselves has a much higher comprehension/ retention rate.

              If this question was about the onboarding process of one new employee or around a specific task – that’s one question. But when you’re seeing systemic holes and gaps like this – I deeply disinclined to think this is something to be fixed with more “new employee binders”.

    5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Or “What does your research say?” just to make it clear that you expect them to have done that before coming to you.

    6. greenland*

      I’ve historically been the person who gets asked allll the questions for the department, despite the clear centralized resources I wound up putting together, and I always felt a little rude brushing off newer/more junior staff so I wound up answering the same questions over and over again. “What have you already tried?” is so simple and yet it is *excellent* — I can’t believe I’ve never used this framing before, but I absolutely will going forward. So thank you!

    7. StarTrek Geek*

      I gave up trying to get a coworker to “help” herself or the manager to deal with her. So I announced there would be a $1 fee for all repeat questions. My manager said I couldn’t do this but was just as unwilling to make me stop as to make the coworker learn her job. The coworker was soooooooo unbelievably lazy, she paid. I was able to buy lunch on her $$ several times until I moved on to another job.

    1. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

      But don’t be like Pam Beesly on The Office and use impossible-to-remove grease paint for the mustache!

    2. CharlieBrown*

      But without the hat, isn’t it basically just a Hitler mustache? That might not be the impression you want to make on your first day.

        1. Observer*

          Which means that it is likely to really go wrong. There are a LOT of people who would never identify this – never saw The Office, and may never even have hear heard of it.

          Please don’t ever use a pop culture reference that “everyone” knows about in a workplace or other place with a really diverse population if it’s possible for that reference to be really problematic for people who don’t get the reference. Something falling flat is one thing. But something that could be read TOTALLY differently and as highly and legitimately offensive is another kettle of fish entirely.

          1. CharlieBrown*

            Agreed. I would totally view someone who did this as “That guy that dressed up as Hitler on his first day” and not as “That guy who did a funny thing from The Office on his first day”.

            It would definitely color how I saw you for a long while.

              1. CharlieBrown*

                This is a good example of why you don’t want to do this.

                #2 – Go as Charlie Chaplin.

                sounds like a suggestion to me.

    3. Wicked Annabella*

      I once went to a party dressed in black and with a top hat. I told people that seen from above, I was the period mark (as in punctuation).

      1. Wicked Annabella*

        … in hindsight it probably would’ve worked better if dressed in white with a black top hat. Next time, perhaps…

    4. Dragon*

      I have a black tunic with thin gold stripes that I wore as a bee one year. If something had come up, I would have simply taken off the antennae/headpiece.

  5. StressedButOkay*

    For OP4, it’ll be interesting to see if they’re in one of those states that require veterans being given that day off. Or if they’ve expanded their remote staff to those states and are now scrambling to catch up to state laws (something my SO’s company had to do with leave when they got staff in CA).

      1. acmx*

        Military member receive a form that indicates the type of discharge and branch served, etc.

        At my company you can self-disclose that you’re a veteran.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        Everyone discharged from the US military is given a DD Form 214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” It is the proof a veteran uses to prove they are a veteran.

      3. EPLawyer*

        the company can ask for proof before allowing the day off. it’s not illegal to ask for documentation.

        Probably if you are in one of the states which says you must give vets the day off (I didn’t even know that was a thing), it is in the personnel file already.

      4. Loulou*

        I’ve always had to declare my status when applying for jobs. I assumed this was something HR was legally required to keep on file.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          Same. To my understanding is one of the metrics that the US Federal government uses for everything from school funding (if a parent is military then they might get extra funding?) to veteran-friendly business acknowledgement. The Veterans’ Affairs (VA) tends to keep track of that particularly for vocational rehabilitation programs.

          Also, speaking as a veteran I think this is a lovely gesture on the part of your company! Especially if it’s one of those scenarios where the company can’t shut down for a federal holiday, offering the day off to veterans is a sweet gesture. Another way to honor vets is by giving them the space and time to share their stories. The military makes up 3% of the US population, we can be pretty insular, and it gets annoying to see veteran = unstable / PTSD / whatever because that’s how the media often talks about us. So if you have a few veterans in your office who wouldn’t mind sharing a story or two about their time in service asking them to share it is a lovely way to show you support us in a tangible way. If you ask me, for instance, you might get the story about helping out with earthquake relief… or the time I got to play John Wayne (and learn why that’s an AWFUL idea)… or… or the difference between SNAFU and FUBAR. :) We tend to have a lot of funny stories mixed in with tedium and insanity.

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

        When filling out job applications there is usually a question along the lines of “Are you a current or former member of the military?” People can choose to disclose if they want to. I think there may also be similar questions on paperwork from HR.

      6. LB*

        Companies usually ask you to disclose veteran status upon hiring, at the same time as they ask disability status. Both are voluntary, but most people probably disclose.

      7. Here we go again*

        A lot of ways. A VA card, discharge paperwork, state IDs can have a label for veteran status. This is an awesome perk for our veterans.

      8. Kyrielle*

        Oregon requires paperwork showing you were on active duty at least 6 months (not just National Guard and not called up), and honorably discharged, and you have to ask for the day off and supply the paperwork, apparently.

        I live in Oregon (but am not a vet), so I was curious and looked it up when it was mentioned.

    1. Antilles*

      I’d actually never heard of these state laws until this post despite working for companies that have offices in some of those named states. Based on a quick Google search, apparently it seems like the state laws have two main commonalities/limitations:
      -Employers don’t have to offer it proactively to all veterans; each employee has to specifically request the day off. Once requested, the employer has to make it work, but it’s on the employee to make the request. In 4 of the 5 states, there’s even “notice requirements” where the employee has to tell the company a couple weeks in advance.
      -Employers can make that time paid or unpaid as they choose.

      Personally, everywhere I’ve ever worked has been open on Veteran’s Day itself, then called the Friday after Thanksgiving the “Veteran’s Day (observed)” holiday.

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

        I like the idea of observing the Friday after Thanksgiving! Its such a great idea since it allows folx to spend some time with their family without having to worry about asking for the day of and being denied.

        1. Siege*

          The problem with that is that Veteran’s Day events aren’t held on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I’ve never worked anywhere other than retail/fast food that it wasn’t already a holiday, largely due to the tendency of folks to travel.

          As my dad has gotten more into his veteran status, I’ve participated in some of his events (he’s in the VFW and they do toy drives and parades). It’s nice to have the time.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yeah, my employer just gives us the Friday after Thanksgiving off outright, not as a nominally different holiday observed on that day.

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

              Yeah unless there’s some law in your state that requires veteran’s day be a holiday (and this shenanigan doesn’t violate that law), just call it “the day after thanksgiving” which is what it is.

          2. Chinookwind*

            As a Canadian, that would be so weird to have it as a floating day like that. Ceremonies are big here and are half the reason you get the day off – so you can stand in the snow and cold at the local cenotaph. Even the schools are closed and they, instead, have a ceremony on the previous school day.

          3. I'm just here for the cats*

            I understand that, but not all veterans attend ceremonies or events. And I’ve heard of few jobs that give you the day off paid after Thanksgiving. My current place you have to take PTO or go unoaid, even though almost everything is closed. Other people I know are in the same situation. So it’s nice that your job allows you to have the day off after Thanksgiving but a lot of places don’t and I’ve seen many places observe Vetera s day on a different day

      2. Drago Cucina*

        Ugh. I would dislike that. As a veteran I would see it as, “We can’t be bothered to recognize your military service.”

        I’ve had to push back against working on Veteran’s Day. I had a development director who wanted me to come in for special fund raising presentations. Just because it was convenient, not related to Veteran’s Day. In a school I worked in the calendar didn’t have Veteran’s Day off, so I took a personal day.

        I don’t go to BBQs on US Memorial Day either.

    2. Penny Pingleton*

      The only-veterans-are-a-protected-class thing puzzles me. That would be like saying only women get the day off because women are a protected class. Isn’t it sex/gender that is the protected class? You can’t discriminate against people based on gender (not “based on women”). Isn’t it “veteran status” (y/n) that is the protected class? It’s the difference between the variable of veteran status and the attributes of veteran/non-veteran that’s tripping me up. Thoughts?

      1. Blarg*

        It’s similar to disability — you can’t discriminate against people because of a perceived or actual disability. A person being “not disabled” is not a protected class because … in what circumstance would that come into play?

        It’s perfectly allowable to choose to prefer to hire veterans in the US — the federal government has veteran hiring preference. But it would be wrong to prefer to NOT hire veterans.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        The only thing I can think of is that in the US, military service is a choice–as opposed to sex, race, nation of origin, etc.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          The last of the Vietnam Era vets are aging out of the workforce, but for them, their service was not a choice.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            *For many of them.

            There were still many people who voluntarily chose to serve during the Vietnam war.

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

        I’m sorry but I’m a bit confused. I don’t think veterans are a protected class, unless the company is working for the US government. From everything I’ve looked into its only if you work for the government and/or your company is under a federal contract. So John Doe who works at the local hardware store would not be a “protected veteran” but if he worked at a company that had a contract with the government he would be. At least that is how I’m interpreting what I’m reading on Department of Labors website.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Vets are not a protected class. Giving them a day off is a thank you for their service. It’s a nice thing to do. Same reason vets are usually given preference in hiring. But you can discriminate against someone solely for the reason they are a vet.

          Both Hubby and I are vets. We have this status on our driver’s license. FYI – vets get into national parks FREE. There is a military pass you can request. It is good for the vet plus 4 other people.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            That’s one of my favorite veteran perks! Our Spring Break routine is to find at least two new ones to go visit. :)

      4. Siege*

        She didn’t say that veterans are the only protected class that exists. She said that in the context of only giving veterans Veteran’s Day off, non-veterans are not a protected class, and therefore it is not discrimination to not give them Veteran’s Day off. I don’t recall if I’ve heard it here or elsewhere but basically everyone in America is a member of a protected class on some axis. That doesn’t mean all protected classes are in effect at the same time in every situation.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Literally everyone is, because “protected class” in this context means it’s illegal to discriminate based on (among other things) race, national origin, gender, or religion (including lack of religion).

          1. Siege*

            My hesitation was in noting I wasn’t sure where I’d heard that, not in stating it was accurate. My limitation to “basically” was “I have other things to be doing and have sufficiently replied to this comment and do not want to dig into the ways a lot of people are members of multiple protected classes that can come into play in different ways and at different times, which adds a lot of words but also a lot of nuance.”

      5. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Veteran status is not a protected class whether you’re a veteran or not, but veterans enjoy legal protections that were enacted separately from laws that deal with protected classes.

        1. Legal Rugby*

          Yes. It is a protected class. It is not a Title VII protected class, but it is a protected class.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Ah, I guess somewhere I’d gotten the wrong impression that the term was specific to Title VII and different terminology (like “protected status” etc) was used in other laws. Thanks for the correction!

          2. Decima Dewey*

            In some civil service jobs, there’s something called veteran’s preference. If two people are equally qualified for a position, the city/state must offer the job to the veteran.

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

        Gender is a protected class, so you can’t not give men the day off just because they’re men.

        A more similar protected class is people over 40. You can’t discriminate against people over 40 for being too old, but it’s legal to discriminate against people under 40 for being too young (or even for being too old, if they’re only 39 or less, AFAIK).

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          One thing about age discrimination: If you discriminate against someone for being “too old”, there is no way they can change that. But if someone is “too young” (eg to serve booze or drive truck.) the problem resolves itself in a few years. IOTW, you can get older, but you can’t get younger.

          Same with disability in many ways – once you are disabled, you seldom suddenly are UN-disabled. This is why things like broken legs get a temporary disabled placard, but a stroke with hemiparesis gets a permanent one.

      7. Today’s name*

        Being 40+ is a protected class, but being younger isn’t.

        Veterans are a protected class because of the discrimination Vietnam veterans faced. It’s hard to imagine how non-veterans being protected would work… a veteran looking for work after 4 years’ experience serving would need to be considered the same as a fresh high school grad? Or someone who has just done nothing for 4 years? That would be the implication of making non-veterans a protected class.

    3. Chinookwind*

      My question would be if this includes immediate family members of veterans as well. I may not have served but as a spouse I also feel the need to attend the ceremonies. Or how about someone who has lost a classmate or friend overseas?

      As well for anyone attached to the military, it can be on par with a religious obligation (my husband compare it to me attending an Easter service and I can’t disagree with him). I know that when I worked for one company where it wasn’t a stat. holiday and they told me I didn’t have to take the day off (the office was 3 blocks form where the national service took place), I just coldly looked at them and said I had somewhere I needed to be. And it wasn’t a lie – not only was I attending the ceremony, but I was the designated driver for my husband and his buddy for the follow-up trip to the Legion (because drinks are poured in memory of fallen comrades).

      So, OP, follow up questions could be asked. For those for whom this is an important date, it us not a vacation day but an obligation (and possibly a day where they are not focused if they were to be at work).

    4. Fart Noise*

      My company gives me the day off without it counting against my PTO (ie: a free day off)
      I’m pretty sure I’m the only vet in my company, they give me a day off, they get whatever benefits they get for hiring a veteran. (yes I live in one of the listed states, and yes we get federal funding)

      I am happy they gave me the day off, and accommodate them as best I can- if it’s convenient to take 11/11 off, I do. If it’s easier for my team to take another day that week I have no problem switching.

  6. Broomhilde*

    There’s compromise to be had here, and I think it was Wednesday Addams who did that first.

    One potluck a long time ago, when I didn’t want to go in costume (it was not a Halloween party, but close to, and the host loved costumes and made them optional), I wore normal business clothes and but put a name tag on my blouse that read “Serial Killer”. Every time somebody would ask why I wasn’t in costume, I would smile and tell them that I was, revealing the name tag and claiming that those look normal.

    I received a few chuckles, host was satisfied and I didn’t have to put on harlequin make-up. WinWin.

    Depending on the dress code of your work place, a name tag can easily identify Agent Scully/Mulder/Cooper, a health inspector, the local ferret farm owner etc. But that can backfire, so beware. On the second thought, wearing a name tag with your actual name with or without a bogus occupation might even be helpful on your first day.

    1. nnn*

      A similar idea I saw somewhere on the internet:

      If people ask what you’re dressed as or where your costume is, tell them you’re a spy. If they say “You don’t look like a spy,” say “Exactly!”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Years & years ago, I went to a costume party where someone was dressed as a Secret Service agent. He wore a plain black suit, sunglasses, & an earpiece on a wire (those old enough will know the kind of single-ear piece for transistor radios I am talking about). Turns out it really was connected to a radio, because he didn’t want to miss hearing scores for a game.

        But I thought it was a very clever, easy costume.

        1. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

          I did that once foe answering the door for trick-or-treaters, but I called myself an MIB.

          Tip: The MIB “neuralizer” can double as a “sonic screwdriver” for a Doctor Who cosplay.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        One year it was particularly bitterly cold on Halloween where I lived, so I dressed in my warmest wool suit and handcuffed a briefcase to my wrist (with play handcuffs that can be released without a key) and said I was a secret agent.

    2. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I worked with a guy who came on Halloween dressed in a normal business suit and wearing a badge that said IRD (i.e. IRS). That was pretty scary ;-) He carried a prop briefcase with bits of Monopoly money sticking out of it.

      Personally I’d just wear black and have some cat ears ready to go, and maybe an eye pencil so I could draw on some whiskers if I wanted.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’d probably not dress up in the morning, but bring some accessories I could easily put on if and when I feel like it later. So like Alison said, a witches hat or cat ears or even something like a wizard’s robe which can be worn over normal clothing, but would just bring them in my bag and decide during the day.

        1. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

          I did that several times in my office. My “base” outfit was black slacks and a red turtleneck. After lunch (or after work, for the NYC Halloween Parade), I would put on my Star Trek uniform jacket, rank pins (four for captain), and Vulcan ears.

    3. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I normally just dress up as Wednesday herself! Her outfit is iconic enough to be recognizable, and easy to pull from my actual work wardrobe.

      1. Jackie Straw from Wichita*

        Same! Add a $7 white Peter Pan collar to my black dress and I’m Wednesday in under a minute.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, OP shouldn’t feel like they *have* to dress up, but if they want to I would probably go with something like this–a reasonably recognizable outfit that can be put together from work-appropriate clothes. I usually wear my Halloween costume to work but sometimes I have put together separate office-appropriate costumes. I think my favorite was Archie: with orange slacks, a white blouse, a black best that I ironed an “R” onto, and a bowtie necklace I found cheap on Amazon.

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

        last year I went as Carmen Sandiago. Black skinny jeans, black shirt, yellow scarf and red coat (I had a long red sweater as I couldn’t find a coat). and a big red hat. Take the hat and whatever else you want off and you have a business casual outfit!

    4. Hlao-roo*

      Not for someone to do on their first day, but the cleverest work Halloween costume I saw was a coworker who wore jeans on Halloween, which was a Thursday, in an office where jeans were only allowed on Fridays. When our manager said “hey, what’s with the jeans?” he responded “I dressed up as Friday Me for Halloween,” and our manager admitted that was acceptable.

      1. I edit everything*

        Similarly, in college a friend wore torn jeans and a T-shirt, and went as an 80s disaffected youth.

    5. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I think a name badge with a Halloween sticker would be perfect (or under their name a silly job title, like “head of operations and spookiness”

      1. Christmas Carol*

        One year I taped a slip of paper with Barbara Gordon over my own name on my badge, and a tiny BatSignal over the company logo

    6. Merci Dee*

      My daughter is dressing as Louise Belcher this year, and it strikes me as a costume that could work for a situation like this. An A-line green dress and flat black mary-janes would be acceptable for many women to wear to work, and then the pink bunny ears hat could be added on later if you got in the spirit of things.

    7. Robin*

      I did this my senior year of high school after having dressed up rather intentionally (in terrible home made costumes) the previous three years. I spent a few weeks leading up to the day practicing Wednesday’s line so I could say it without laughing.

      Day of, my class dean asked if I was okay because I was not dressed up. I looked confused and then told her, emotionless, “I’m a serial killer, I look just like everyone else.” The moment of shock and a tiny bit of genuine fear was incredible; I was sternly told never to do that again because their heart could not take it. Good times

    8. Hen in a Windstorm*

      My husband went to a party one year as a “lawyer”. He wore a suit, carried a briefcase, and wore a pair of devil horns (he had just passed the bar, so this was funny).

      1. This IS my costume*

        Haha, I would’ve pegged it as a subtle nod to Daredevil!

        /me has been watching too many superhero shows

        (Wow, I typed an IRC command without even thinking about it. Haven’t even used IRC in years.)

    9. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      A similar idea would be “Error 404: Costume not found” I had a coworker who wrote that in sharpie on a T-shirt and wore it a couple of years in a row.

    10. Jessica Fletcher*

      One year I taped cat memes to my cardigan and was The Internet. I could easily take it off for serious meetings as needed.

    11. Santa's Former Helper*

      I was working as a temp several years ago and my first week was during Halloween. The office manager had gone all-out decorating, but I wasn’t sure what the expectation for costumes would be, so I went as Leslie Knope. Regular office attire, but I made a little pin that said “Knope 2012” that I could add to my cardigan if everyone else was dressed up. No one else was dressed up, so I was very grateful to leave my pin in my bag for the day and not have to walk around in a more elaborate costume.

    12. Very Social*

      My thoughts exactly! “I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.”

      Unfortunately, it only works if someone actually asks about your costume…

  7. Heidi*

    A colleague of mine found a large plastic jack-o-lantern and cut out the bottom and wore it over his head. It was surprisingly scary, but he could take it off really fast if he needed to look normal. Not that the OP needs to do this, but she could do something similar like a fancy mask that you put on over normal clothes.

        1. MCL*

          Domino mask, I’m guessing. Just over the eyes, not a full face, like for a masquerade ball. Or like what Robin from Batman wears.

    1. AspiringGardener*

      A mask is a really bad idea on your first day where you’re being introduced to people for the first time, unless you plan on never putting it on.

  8. Chris*

    LW #3 can you have an informal meeting with all them and basically say they need to google, etc. and that they should only come to you if they’ve tried many things and are stumped. Seems like they’re using you as a crutch, which is a disservice to them and you.

  9. nnn*

    #3: A useful work tool to have is a “Who to ask for what” list. It can include a sequence of things to try, to give people a sense of what they should be doing. (e.g. “For tech problems, try googling a solution first. If none of the things you’ve googled work, call the helpdesk.” or “You’re empowered to use your best judgment in client relations issues. If you’re uncertain, informally run the situation by any team leader. Bring the manager in if things need to get formal.”)

    Who should write up the list depends on the specifics of the situation, but it’s an idea you can pitch to your manager. (And ask for some leeway on your usual productivity expectations if they decide it’s your job to write up the list and/or answer the questions.)

    1. Allonge*

      One way to create this list is to assign it as a task to the newcomers – it will not be done in an afternoon but they will have to think about it a bit more consciously and they notice more when something is not obvious than someone who has been there for years.

      1. JustaTech*

        We’ve been doing something like this recently, where our EA has a weekly meeting for asking questions, and then she puts those questions (and answers) into an FAQ for everyone (because there’s a lot of stuff it turns out that no one in the past 8 years got trained on).

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, a couple places I’ve joined have had me update the onboarding docs to cover stuff that got missed or was wrong when onboarding me. That way they know what they had problems with, what the solution was, and can document it for the next person.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      We have a system at work for onboarding new hires where we give them a checklist with names and a “skill” next to each one so they can show them how to do general things and where supplies are. They’re encouraged to go on the calendar system and choose a 30min time slot to meet people on the list and have them go through the items. It socializes the new hire and makes sure all the bases are covered. It also helps to spread out the load so that one person isn’t necessarily the go-to for ALL the questions. It’s been really successful!

  10. Nodramalama*

    Maybe it’s because I’m Australian and halloween is by and large an American holiday, but I’m always surprised that so many questions come up around decorating the office or coming dressed up for Halloween. I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere that people dressed up for Halloween

    1. ChrisZ*

      In Canada, I had a friend who immigrated from Wales and dressed up as Al Capone. At her bank teller job :)

    2. MugShot*

      Same in the UK, I find it really strange too! The only time we would even consider wearing non work clothes is on Christmas jumper day, and that’s not obligatory.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Also in the UK here. I might wear something like my Halloween cats and dogs collared shirt to work around Halloween, or my grey checked dress (depending whether I had formal meetings that day), but I don’t think I’d get fully dressed up. We do have a fairly casual office though so your mileage may vary depending whether you work.

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          *where you work, even.

          (I should also add the grey dress has a Peter Pan collar and very much looks like something Wednesday Addams might wear, but isn’t overly Halloweeny.)

        2. Edwina*

          Yes, that’s what I was going to suggest too–you can get Halloween themed socks, or a little vest, or as Alison said, earrings (bat earrings are fun too!). So you look good-humored but you don’t have to do more than that.

          This reminds me of a funny occasion, years ago, my husband and I were invited to a 10th anniversary party of some friends who LOVE dressing up, and they announced the party was in a “Casablanca” theme. I didn’t mind going as Ilsa with a pretty hat and a silk dress, but my husband LOATHES dressing up. So I suggested he could go as Julius Epstein, one of the writers, who just happened to dress exactly like my husband! It was a great solution.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            A long time ago I went as his grandson/grand nephew (forget who is who), Theo Epstein, who’s a baseball exec

      2. AlliterativeApple*

        UK here too and in my experience it’s been a bit varied. When I was in a call centre they went in hard on dressing (and not just on Halloween) as a method of staff engagement. Other offices have maybe put one or two token decorations (maybe a carved pumpkin on the reception desk), or had the one employee who decorates her desk/area. At one place, some on our small team did dress up for Halloween as we were heading out in costume for drinks after work and it was easier than having to take a costume to the office, get changed, and carry your office clothes with you to the pub.

        1. Ses*

          I’m from the UK and I notice retail staff quite often wear something holiday-themed with their uniforms – though not all shops do this. I wonder if it’s a class thing somehow? Like, more stereotypically middle-class jobs are more formal about how they dress anyway? Idk.

      3. Tau*

        This reminds me of trying to figure out how to participate in Christmas jumper day as a non-Brit who didn’t own one (“do I have to buy a Christmas jumper just to wear it on this one day?”). Not obligatory but still weird not to participate if everyone else is – and IIRC there was something like cake for people who wore one. In the end I ended up buying a fuzzy holly decoration and pinning it to a regular jumper, which passed muster. Pretty sure this is the equivalent of the “nametag saying Serial Killer” advice upthread.

          1. the cat's ass*

            I have a pin that says, “this IS my Halloween costume.” In my Halloween enthused office, it passes muster.

        1. Kaye*

          I dislike Christmas Jumper Day. It’s one of those infuriating ‘make people spend money to raise money’ initiatives, and this year of all years I think it’s inappropriate. There will be a lot of people struggling.

          I have a navy blue jumper with a pattern of red and green frogs, which I wear throughout the colder season but which looks quite Christmassy from a distance. If pressed, I claim that they’re the twelve lords a-leaping.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I don’t disagree that it’s a pointless “spend money for the sake of it” thing, but there’s no reason why you can’t wear the same jumper multiple years in a row. I’ve got a Christmas jumper and it comes out each year (including the year I was three months pregnant for Christmas, it was large enough to accommodate bump).

          2. Artemesia*

            there is always the person who gets complimented on their great ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ and then confesses that it is a gift from his mother who knitted it with her own two gnarled hands just for him.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I won a “best Christmas jumper” prize with a dinosaur jumper that I’d borrowed from a friend.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              I really, really hate how the phrase “ugly Christmas sweater” has become so common. People seem to use it to describe any Christmas sweater now! It seems like something people should literally only use to describe their *own* sweater. It’s always going to end up in hurt feelings if you describe everyone else’s that way!

          3. Asenath*

            I don’t think we have Christmas jumper days in my part of Canada, unless it’s ugly Christmas jumper day, in which case it might be similar to the ugly Christmas sweater events we sometimes have. But in my former workplace, which was large enough to have lots of people who loved stuff like that, but never forced it, that was usually part of a different event. Maybe you’d be encouraged to wear an ugly Christmas sweater to the office potluck or a special Christmas coffee break. No money was involved, especially for me since I had no intention of spending some on an ugly sweater (or sweatshirt, which these often were). Now, Jeans Day, that usually involved paying a small fee to charity if you wore jeans.

          4. TechWorker*

            I admit to owning two Christmas jumpers (mostly because one was in storage one year) but I’ve had them for ~5 and 8 years respectively, expect them to last for many years to come, and they get worn throughout December… sure if you buy a new one every year but otherwise doesn’t seem more wasteful than other infrequently worn items of clothing (evening dresses, smart coats, etc).

          5. Hen in a Windstorm*

            Oh, you’ve missed your terrible pun opportunity. If questioned, say “they are Christmas *jump*-ers”.

        2. SarahKay*

          As a Brit, I hate the thought of buying a jumper just for Christmas Jumper Day, it feels like throwaway fashion personified, so I went with a similar solution. I had one of those tiny strings of lights that had come in a particularly nice Christmas cracker the previous year so I tacked it on to a green jumper, added some Christmas tree earrings (to my ears, not the jumper), and called it a day. Went down very well.
          As a bonus, I then used the lights to decorate my monitor. Covid had hit by the following year so I was WFH and could ignore the whole business the following two years.

          1. Anonny*

            I have a playstation themed Xmas jumper, which to be fair is something I might wear anyway around that time of year.

            It is pretty funny lending it to people who are outside what is considered the normal demographic for video games when they need an Xmas jumper for something though. Like my 90something grandmother when her Parkinson’s support group had a party.

            1. Caaan Do!*

              I have a Street Fighter (chun li vs sagat) themed jumper. It’s awesome :) I got it years ago and since I only wear it once a year just reuse it for Xmas jumper day and make a donation if I can

        3. Morning reader*

          I feel like the new trainee who should be googling this morning. What is a jumper? What is a Christmas jumper? And how can there be lights in a cracker? I’m picturing British people at work slung into those bouncy things that babies sit in before they can walk, hanging in front of their cubicle monitors, eating sparkly Triscuits. Yeah, I know that’s not what’s going on but the images are amusing. Language, amirite?

          1. UKDancer*

            A Christmas jumper is a top or sweater with a festive design or image on. These range from the traditional to the obscene. Many workplaces have a competition for the best one as part of the festivities. Sometimes this is associated with giving a donation to charity for wearing it. It’s not something I’ve ever done because I don’t enjoy it.

            I don’t know what another word for Christmas cracker is but google will give you an image. They’re kind of tubes containing a spark and a small gift and paper hat and they’re always on the table for the Christmas dinner in restaurants and at home. Two people pull the ends of the cracker and it parts with a bang noise to reveal contents. The gifts are usually very minor things which can include a string of fairy or tree lights.

            1. Asenath*

              We have Christmas crackers in my part of Canada (the far east). When my mother and father moved to the US (Tennessee, initially), she went to a store looking for a box of these essential Christmas items, and was directed to a bakery. Obviously they were not part of the local Christmas traditions! She never did get used to putting up Christmas trees in November and taking them down right after Christmas Day, although that’s also a practice in other parts of Canada too. No, she stuck to putting her decorations up as close to Christmas Eve as possible, and taking them down after Twelfth Night.

          2. Madame Arcati*

            I thought jumper was a pinafore dress to an American? Like dungarees (overalls?) with a skirt instead of trousers incorporated? Source – Stephen King Firestarter, small girl wears a “denim jumper”.
            Anyway, TIL that Americans don’t have xmas crackers. This is terrible! We need to spread this tradition of unreliable snap noises, dad jokes and cheap gifts all enclosed in shiny paper…

            1. TechWorker*

              I have never heard of ‘jumper’ meaning that. In the U.K. it is just what I think Americans would call a sweater.

              1. sb51*

                It’s a specific type of little-girl’s outfit that isn’t very common any more; my private school uniform included one for grades 1-4. Still used that way, just that most people don’t have reason to refer to the piece of clothing.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  They come & go in popularity. I had several in the 90s when I was in my 20s. They’re what are called a pinafore dress in the UK & worn with a t-shirt or blouse underneath. I liked them because you could dress them up or down & change the shirt based on weather. Also, they usually had pockets.

            2. Ingemma*

              Jumpers are just what we call sweaters in the UK! Incidentally my school uniform when I was an infant in the UK was a pinafore dress and we called it a pinafore. I don’t doubt that Stephen king got that from somewhere but you’ll end up very confused in the uk if you’re thinking about a pinafore whenever people say jumper!

            3. Patty Mayonnaise*

              Yes, that is an American “jumper” but they haven’t been in style for a long time so the word has kind of fallen out of use. Though I saw a couple in an upscale store yesterday so they might be coming back!

              1. Patty Mayonnaise*

                I think the threading got messed up but this was in reference to the Firestarter “jumper”!

            4. Doreen*

              In the US, a jumper is a sleeveless, collarless dress meant to be worn over a sweater or blouse. It can be denim, but isn’t always .

              1. Observer*

                That’s how we always used it.

                I’ve seen pinafore type dresses used that way, but generally with an asterisk / explanation.

            5. Amy*

              I see Christmas crackers sold all over, at least in the North East. We always did them growing up and so did my husband’s family.

            6. Asenath*

              In my part of Canada – which often seems betwixt and between as the English language goes – a jumper was a sleeveless dress often worn by young girls in my youth, although the same style can be worn by women. We used to wear them as a kind of sun dress, but more often, wore a blouse or even a lightweight sweater underneath for added warmth. The mother of one of my elementary school friends called this type of dress a “pinafore” which confused me initially, because I thought a pinafore was one of those bib aprons with ruffles around the edges worn by Victorian girls in the illustrations in some of my books. She was a local woman, not from England, and I don’t know where she got the term.

            7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Christmas crackers are available in my part of the USA, in regular stores (I think I got mine at Homegoods last year, and have gotten them at the grocery store some years), but there isn’t much in the way of selection. I enjoy convincing others to wear silly hats, so I always pick up a bunch to inflict on people at holiday gatherings, but they’re not a typical thing.

              I wonder if it’ll be like Advent calendars with prizes in them, which my family was very unusual for doing back in the 1980s but which are everywhere now. (Growing up, if you went to a stationery store or a religious-stuff store it was possible to find the kind with religious messages printed behind each door, usually telling the Christmas story, and to find the ones with very cheap chocolate if you went to a few different grocery stores, but they weren’t common items and my friends didn’t have an Advent calendar with pockets and little prizes like my mom always put together for me.)

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I’ve seen Christmas crackers on store shelves every now and then, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that store staff don’t know what they are or what they’re called.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                Do you have any German ancestry, perchance? Advent calendars are traditional here (we’re big on everything advent).

            8. fhqwhgads*

              UK jumper = US sweater
              US jumper = US little kids dress
              UK Christmas jumper = US Christmas sweater

            9. SomebodyElse*

              I’ve seen Jumper mean the pinafore uniform dress and also the UK sweater.

              Christmas crackers are becoming a thing in the US (upper midwest at least), I’ve seen them available in stores like world market and target for several years now.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                I’m from Texas but now on the East Coast and agreed — they may be a bit niche and you won’t find them as an integral part of every Christmas dinner, but I haven’t had any trouble finding them in the last 10 years.

                (Target is a rather ubiquitous big box store and World Market is a store that has a lot of affordable imports for those not in the US — when I started buying Christmas crackers I had to go to World Market, but now I can pick them up in Target or my grocery store, as another commenter mentioned)

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I’m Irish, where Halloween is most definitely a holiday but it still wouldn’t be normal for adults to wear costumes to most workplaces. I work in a school so we do and people might in places like retail, but otherwise, not really. Decorating workplaces for Halloween would be more of a thing.

      What I find interesting is how the US costumes often include things I would not consider Halloweeny at all.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Once again I’m disagreeing with you on something! Please don’t speak for all Irish people. Maybe it’s not the case for teachers, but I’ve worked in two offices that went all out with Halloween decorations and costumes, including games and costume contests. I understand that not every adult here enjoys the holiday and not every workplace encourages festivities, but enough do that you can’t make blanket statements like that.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think you misunderstood me. I wasn’t at all saying that people don’t enjoy the holiday here or that nobody dresses up for work in any office, just that in most workplaces it’s not that common.

          1. Bubbles*

            And that’s exactly how it is in the US. In most workplaces it’s not that common for anyone to dress up, but some people and workplaces do.

            1. Catherine Tilney*

              Exactly. I’m an American who has only worked a one place where people dressed in costume, and it was completely optional. Any decoration has been something like a pumpkin and leaves, which are kept up all fall.
              I usually just wear orange (which I own a lot of anyway) and maybe some subtle spider earrings or something.

            2. Student*

              I’d argue it varies by industry, and a lot of US business industries would be receptive to people dressing up for Halloween. In contrast to you, all of the places I’ve worked are receptive to dressing up for Halloween, as long as you can still do your job. Some of those jobs only had a couple people dress up out of a large office, while others had a majority of the office dress up. Some jobs encourage or require it, especially if you’re customer-facing.

              It’s a fun holiday, and there’s a long tradition of adults doing costumes that are relatively low-effort or subtle.

      2. Amy*

        I’ve never seen anything more than Halloween earrings or a pin in any office I’ve worked in (US)

        1. JustaTech*

          Whereas my office can go all out on the Halloween costumes (like, it used to be an all-day thing with skits and the whole 9 yards). Nerdy, elaborate, borderline NSFW, very very cynical, super casual, pretty much everything you can think of, plus plenty of people who either didn’t dress up, or only dressed up for the party.

          I think that it is one of those things that just really depends on your office culture. Some places go all out, some places do nothing, and most places are in the middle. I think this is really one of those “know your office” kind of things, so for a first day something easily removable is the best choice.

          (My costumes from years past: roadworks fairy, raven, plague doctor, former coworker, plague rat, the Doctor from Doctor Who, and the pie lady from Sweeny Todd. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten.)

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Any costume at all is Halloweeny in the US! The holiday is generally “scary” themed overall, but costumes are not limited to scary things. Anything at all can be a costume. We usually go for geeky things in our house, characters from TV shows or comics. Although I supposed I am technically dressing as a witch this year (Eda from The Owl House)

      4. LB*

        For Gen X and younger (the age lines are blurry but I think that’s about where the divide falls), “traditional” or classic Halloween costumes (black cat, witch, ghost, etc) are usually for little kids, and from teen years onward you almost exclusively dress up as pop culture characters. Some people still do scary ones, like dressing up from specific horror movies (anything from Freddy Kreuger to Midsommar), but usually it’s just literally any pop-culture reference: The Log Lady, Wes Anderson characters, Ted Lasso…

        It’s much less usual to wear a scary one to work though. Our (large) organization is specifically very into Halloween as part of the company culture, and has inter-department costume and decoration contests with prizes every year. Departments vote on the theme, which means demographically you’re going to end up with a lot of Minions, Disney movies, and candy themes. But then again we are in healthcare so there are limits on how spooky it’s appropriate to show to patients!

        I think younger generations are just continuing celebrating Halloween as adults kind of like a larger percentage of us are continuing “doing nice things for one’s birthday” as adults, moreso than older generations: most of us figured that it’s fun and there’s no reason to arbitrarily stop and decide that fun things are only for kids. You just do more grown-up versions of Halloween and birthday things rather then pretending you suddenly stopped liking them at age 25.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I don’t see why it’s surprising? Halloween, as a holiday that started as an American holiday, is going to be more of a thing in America…. (I’m discussing
      Halloween as the somewhat recent dressing up/trick or treating holiday, not the more traditional versions, so I’m not looking for history lessons to “contradict” me.)

      1. Inkhorn*

        Granted, but from the other side of the Pacific it can be eye-opening to realise just *how much* of a thing it can be.

        1. Bubbles*

          As an American, it can be eye-opening to realize just *how much* non-Americans jump to conclusions about our entire country based on one letter.

          1. len*

            If it makes you feel better, I promise you that the average non-American has a more nuanced understanding of America than the average American has of most other countries.

            1. Lucky*

              The average non-American *thinks* they have a more nuanced understanding of America than the average American has of most other countries, but I’ve been on the internet long enough to learn that non-American are usually as uninformed about the US as Americans are about other countries.

            2. LDN CAT*

              I don’t think that’s true. I’m an American who spends a lot of time in Europe and I’ve had a lot of conversations with Europeans who have really bizarre and inaccurate impressions of the US based on an anecdote they heard once.

            3. Amy*

              In plenty of places in the US, a large number of the Americans are 1) foreign-born 2) first generation or 3) children of first generation immigrants

              NYC is something like 50% of first two categories. And lots of people have very strong connections to these countries.

              Half the students in my child’s 1st grade class are bilingual Spanish / English and return frequently to DR, Colombia, Mexico, Chile etc with their families. Just as my husband spent years visiting the homes of his grandparents abroad. I doubt their perceptions lack nuance.

            4. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Do you feel superior for making that comment?

              Thinks of the stories about the number of Brits who voted for Brexit and then realized it had no idea what it meant. Thinks of the “American” themed parties across Europe that are often just red solo cups with a side of racism. Oh, wait, but I can realize and accept that those groups don’t represent all Europeans, and some people are just ignorant everywhere.

          2. Madame Arcati*

            There is plenty more than just this letter, even on AAM alone, to indicate that Halloween is a much bigger thing with a different perspective on it in the US vs the UK.
            But yes, it probably doesn’t need to be said any more than we need to bang on about employment rights.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I suppose the surprising part is that it seeps into work. We have a semi-equivalent in Bonfire Night (November 5th) but workplaces don’t mark it in any way (not least because fireworks in the office would be a poor choice). I think it speaks more broadly to societal attitude to the work/life boundaries.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I want to throw in a small defence for dressing up at work. I love dressing up for Halloween (former theatre kid here), but in recent years a combination of age and stage (late 30s), covid crowd avoidance and just that late October tends to be a busy time has ruled out a costume party. If I want to dress up (and I do!) it leaves work. Working at school does make a difference, though, in terms of getting my Halloween on (this year ghost grey lady).

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            As a former theatre kid, I’m the opposite – I feel like I’ve had my lifetime quota of dressing up (did a degree in drama), so I don’t want to do it myself, but enjoy looking at other people’s costumes.

            Of the 2 long-term jobs I had in the US, people at both offices did dress up, but it was very much optional. In my experience, it is more common to run into people who are really, really into Halloween in the US than the UK, but I think it’s slowly becoming a bigger deal here.

        2. bamcheeks*

          >>I think it speaks more broadly to societal attitude to the work/life boundaries

          I don’t think it does, there are plenty of places where people will do non-work fun things in work in Britain– football tournaments, Christmas jumpers/dinners, Children in Need events. I don’t think there’s any wider cultural meaning here except that Hallowe’en is a different kind of holiday in the US than it is here.

          1. londonedit*

            I suspect British people will never fully understand American Halloween in the same way that Americans will never fully understand British Christmas.

            Where/when I grew up, Halloween really wasn’t a thing. It was all about Bonfire Night and a ‘penny for the Guy’. Halloween has become more popular as a children’s thing over the last 20 years or so, and yes you’ll see supermarket staff wearing cat ears or witches’ hats next weekend to try to drive sales of pumpkins and Halloween sweets, but it’s not really something adults in general would get involved with unless someone decides to have a fancy dress party (US: costume party). Maybe when I was a student that sort of thing was more popular (because students will use any excuse to have a party, especially if it involves fancy dress). So to me, it seems odd that an ordinary workplace (i.e. not something public-facing) would go all-out for Halloween. But then as I say, it’s something that’s only really been mainstream for 20-25 years maybe. We don’t have the same fond memories of trick-or-treating as a child etc (my fond memories are going to the village fireworks display and the thrill of holding a sparkler in a gloved hand, and my mum making something hearty and autumnal for afterwards like a big stew or a minestrone soup and jacket potatoes). I think we also have a different view of ‘holidays’ – we only really use the term if you’re actually getting the day off. Halloween isn’t really a ‘holiday’, it’s just a day where extra stuff happens.

            1. happybat*

              Honestly, I think there is a pretty strong Scottish/English distinction on this one. I don’t think there is a British tradition.

              1. londonedit*

                That’s true, maybe I should have said English then. But the whole British/American thing is confusing enough in the first place without getting into regional variations around the UK! Yes there have always historically been Halloween-ish things happening but the US-style stuff that people here are familiar with has not been part of the culture on this side of the Atlantic for very long.

                1. Ellis Bell*

                  When I was a trick or treating child (Liverpool, in the eighties), the cultural importance varied from house to house! One house would have more outdoor Halloween decorations than you would dream of seeing for Christmas (homemade usually; mostly pumpkins, bandages and sheets) and the next house would be very “ugh, it’s an American tradition, go away”. But the things that were done in the Halloweeny homes were customs I’ve never seen popularised in American media, and my mother bobbed for coins or apples and peeled them for divining as a child in the sixties. True, our witches dresses were made out of bin bags, and the face paint made of flour, so there was no Halloween representation in the shops back then, but it honestly felt like retail shops caught up with a family’s Halloween demand, not created it.

      3. happybat*

        So… you don’t want to hear about guising where Scottish children dressed up and went from door to door performing a party piece and receiving treats and money? I’ll grant you Neepie lanterns rather than pumpkins, but otherwise very, very similar.

    5. amoeba*

      In Germany, dressing up for Halloween would be unusual (though probably not unheard of) but in the region I’m from, it would be pretty common to dress up for Karneval – pretty much the same thing, but without the scary connotation, so just all kinds of fancy dress. But that’s highly regional, I’m from one of the places where it’s a big thing.

      1. Tau*

        I was just wondering if those parts of Germany would dress up at work for Karneval! I have a vague memory of some coworkers from around Cologne doing something for it, but I am in a boring Protestant part of the country so no Karneval(/Fasching/Fastnacht/etc) here.

        I always thought the equivalent holiday in terms of kids wandering around at night would actually be St Martin’s Day, although it’s been long enough that I’m no longer sure whether/how much candy is involved. But lanterns can stand in for costumes, right?

    6. Bubbles*

      I’m American and I’m always surprised that so many questions come up around decorating the office or coming dressed up for Halloween. I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere that people dressed up for Halloween.

      The letters Alison answers are in no way representative of the US.

      1. acmx*

        I think at least half of the companies I’ve worked for have dressed up for Halloween. I’ve worked for a non American company with foreign coworkers who dressed up.
        I’ve mentioned it before, my current company C Suite dresses up.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      For many Americans, Halloween is their favorite holiday. As kids it is all about dressing up, followed by vast amounts of candy. My kids put a lot of thought into what they want to go as, this being a topic of discussion months in advance. As adults, the vast amounts of candy is less the issue. If an adult wants vast amounts of candy, they can just buy it. We generally don’t, because we are more aware of the long term consequences. But many adults have some combination of fond memories of childhood Halloweens and a continued fondness for playing dress-up. Personally, my hobby for some twenty years was historical reenactment. This scratched my dress-up itch. I never felt the urge to expand it into my civilian life. If pressed, I would wear my reenactment garb. This was considered cheating within the hobby, but was the low-thought, low-effort option.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        There’s a Cathy cartoon where she easily passes up several fancy Hallowe’en themed desserts (a la cake in the shape of a witch’s hat) only to find, at the end of the table, a bowl of Hershey’s miniatures like she used to gorge herself on one day a year when she was five. The willpower broke.

        Like pop tarts, which I feel are not objectively a tasty food, but are so entwined with memories of a special treat while watching Saturday morning cartoons that the actual taste is a minor part of the experience.

    8. Amy*

      As an American, I always find the “fancy dress” stuff a bit odd to me. My spouse lived in London for 5 years and we’ve been invited to about 5 weddings of Brits. I always seem to get a packet about 80s night or Mad Hatter brunch. Theme dress parties seem to be a bigger deal. In the US, Halloween represents about 90% of my thematic outfit choices for any decade.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah we love fancy dress all year round! Though not for *actual* weddings. But it’s definitely common for a hen do to have a fancy dress theme, like 80s or whatever, and for people with big birthdays to have a party themed around the decade they were born in and stuff like that. It’s also a huge part of events like the London Marathon – it’s much easier to get a charity place than to get in through the ballot or a qualifying time, and a lot of the people with charity places will run in some sort of fancy dress (anything from a tutu and fairy wings to a full-on animal costume/giant nurse costume/cardboard replica of Big Ben etc etc). People try to break world records every year for the fastest marathon dressed as a giant shoe or the fastest marathon dressed as Paddington Bear or whatever.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        That is a good point, maybe if we in the US were allowed/encouraged to wear costumes for other occasions we wouldn’t be so into Halloween lol.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          It’s a really good point! There are very few costume parties other than for Halloween in my US adult life.

    9. The Person from the Resume*

      The podcast Throughline just repeated their 2021 episode The Dance of the Dead” which gives a fascinating history of Halloween starting in Ireland in pre-Catholic times to the Irish potatoe famine bringing Irish immigrants and Halloween to the US to Halloween blowing up as a holiday for adults (Coors advertising and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark) and the US exporting Halloween to throughout the world – starting with the northern hemisphere but moving towards a worldwide holiday.

      IDK for adults who like to costume, for adults who like scary stuff, for some misfits, for creative/DIY adults, Halloween it is often their favorite holiday. They love the opportunity to dress up in multiple costumes. Those are the people decorating the office and wearing costumes into work. I am not one of those people and my goal for a costume is usually comfortable and I can repurpose items already in my wardrobe.

    10. The Original K.*

      I worked somewhere once that loved Halloween. There were Halloween festivities from like 3 PM on, including department costume contests, usually themed around our industry, but nobody was in costume all day. Everybody suited up before the events. That’s the only place I’ve worn a costume at all; I never do it now.

    11. JimmyJab*

      It’s certainly not universal in the US – no one at my job has ever dressed up or decorated to my recollection.

    12. curly sue*

      I work at a theatre school (like the school in FAME). Hallowe’en here is amazing – I’ve taught to classes full of fully-costumed students when it falls on a weekday. One year I had about half the class dressed as Hogwarts’ students, a skeleton, a couple of old-school punks, and a full-body unicorn.

  11. Vet spo*

    As a spouse of a veteran, I fully support them getting the day off and myself not benefitting from it. Would I like it off too? Of course, but I think it is a bit unfair to think it is unfair (making an assumption about why the letter was sent in) given that they 1) made the sacrifice to serve and 2) they generally have a harder time finding employment after exiting.

    I recently recieved over 20+ emails in the last week from candidates asking about a position that I am the hiring manager for. While I have taken the liberty to respond to all of them with a “form letter” copy and paste generic response, it is a bit off putting because it is a bit out of touch with understanding how hiring happens like with what A said but also because nothing in that email would show me why I should hire you and neither of us would gain anything from it.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      but I think it is a bit unfair to think it is unfair (making an assumption about why the letter was sent in) given that they 1) made the sacrifice to serve and 2) they generally have a harder time finding employment after exiting.

      Eh, paid days off are pretty scarce in the US as-is and I feel like there are other ways to recognize service. In other words, it’s an opportunity to provide another paid day off for everyone while still celebrating veterans.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Eh, for LW#4, I read it as a “Out of curiosity” email. Nowhere in the email did the OP make any comment about it being unfair or seeming annoyed, so that’s an unfair assumption to say they sent it for that reason. Some people, such as myself, want to better understand what workplace rules are legal and what aren’t. I’ve come to find out over the years that various places I worked did some things that turned out weren’t fully legal, so being better informed is very helpful. I think the question is very reasonable and many people may wonder themselves. I’m glad it is legal as I think our military and veterans deserve it. It would be nice for everyone to get the day off, but it’s awesome to learn in some states it’s the law to give them that day off.

    3. Olivia*

      I mean, I’ve never heard of an office where some people got MLK Day off but some people didn’t. People who’s civil rights are never threatened seem to like having that day off and I bet a lot of people would cry “discrimination” if they didn’t. Now of course this is a little different, as such a policy would be illegal discrimination.

      Honestly it doesn’t strike me as good for morale or group cohesion to specify that some people are special and get a special day off and others don’t.

      1. JTP*

        They’re not comparable. Being a veteran is a protected class, “non-veteran” isn’t. However, ALL races are protected classes. Also, some businesses choose to follow the stock market when deciding whether or not to close. The stock market closes for MLK Day; it does not for Veteran’s Day.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          To be clear, not all veterans are a protected class. There are four different criteria of which you must meet one to be considered a protected veteran.

      2. Cruciatus*

        I work at a university whose motto is “we are”. Anyway, for years faculty and students got MLK Day off and staff…didn’t. We did not get any sort of floating holiday to use later. We just did not get the day off. This coming year, only for the first time, will staff also get MLK Day off. I do not know why it took them so long to figure out that this was pretty crappy.

    4. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I actually find it confusing, because I thought Veterans Day was supposed to be a day we *all* honor veterans, like Memorial Day. We can’t do that if we have to work. So it’s great veterans get the day off, but no one else can attend any of the ceremonies.

      Also, it causes unnecessary division. Just give everyone the day off, ya stingy bastards.

        1. Chinookwind*

          This makes sense now – we Canadians do both on the same day, which is why I am confused that people would be irate at someone getting time off to go to a memorial service. I did not realize that your Nov. 11th holiday was so different from ours and this suddenly explains a few things I have seen on tv.

          1. Here we go again*

            Veterans Day is always November 11th it started with WW1 vets then just kept adding anyone who served. Memorial Day is the last Monday in May, it started as a way to maintain and decorate civil war veterans graves with wreaths or flags, it’s now for anyone who has died serving in the military.

  12. AnotherLibrarian*

    #2: Personally, on my first day, I would err on the side of not dressing up, because I want people to know me for my work, not my costuming skills (unless costuming was my work). I mean, I’m not a huge Halloween dress up person, but I have been known to sport a crown when I had a public facing job and people expected it.

    1. Allonge*

      Indeed – nobody sane will think that a person on their first day (or in their first week / month even) is a buzzkill for not coming in costume.

      If you feel like it, some minimal accessory can be a nice midway solution, like Alison says, jewelry, a badge or something easily removable.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    When I started in my job, we had a dress up for Halloween day. I wasn’t sure how widely it would be observed so I wore a long black skirt, a black top with gold stud things and brought a witch’s hat. That way, if I needed to look more professional, I could just remove the hat.

    A colleague has a really cool dress with Halloween stuff – pumpkins, witches, etc – on the skirt, that she wears rather than a costume.

    Something like that might work.

    1. Not Australian*

      When this has come up in the past, someone else has mentioned wearing all black but with a pumpkin-coloured scarf and pumpkin earrings…

      1. Angstrom*

        Yup. Black with an orange accessory/jewelry/pin should be fine. Any reasonable person will completely understand “I heard you dress up for Halloween, but wasn’t sure what that meant”.

  14. Zircon*

    I don’t think I would dress up for my first day – it’s the day that photos get taken for ID badges! Imagine having and ID badge for the rest of your career that has you looking like a ghoul, or Wednesday Addams, or a cat!

    1. Anonny*

      I get what you mean, but on the other hand my ‘how many obscure folklore references can I pack into this’ witch costume would serve as fair advance warning as to what to expect from me :p

      (Don’t worry, my worksona is much less of a horrible nerdy gremlin than my normal self.)

    2. KateM*

      Ha, that is an easy thing to ferget about… and indeed, it should be at least possible to make oneself look like a normal employee for photo moment.

    3. The Real Fran Fine*

      My company doesn’t do photo ID badges for employees and my team is fully remote, so our new hire that starts this Halloween wouldn’t need to worry about this. Just throwing that out there that not all companies do pictures for employee badges in the first place (my last company that wasn’t remote didn’t either).

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      If I could finagle being a cat or witch on my ID badge (it’s a proximity badge to get in, not like anyone looks at the thing), I would 10000% do that. I would be incredibly entertained.

      Plus – what a good talking point if someone does notice and asks!

      1. Chicago Anon*

        Absolutely! I was coming here to wonder how many people were now going to try to start their next job on Halloween so their badge would show them as a cat for the rest of their tenure there.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I’d rather be a cat than have a picture from quite literally 35+ years ago. My workplace apparently never updates your picture, so the picture you get is the picture you get. We have several long term employees here that their picture is from when they were 18-25, and they are coming up on retirement.

    5. Texan In Exile*

      I would actually be OK with that. I hate having my photo taken and this would make it bearable.

    6. linger*

      As we’ve already seen, best to avoid anything requiring the clarification “I am not a cat!”

  15. Waffles*

    LW4 –
    I was in the military but I’m not a veteran. Even still, days which honor veterans can be very emotional for me. I can imagine it’s far worse for people who served overseas or in active conflict. Be kind to veterans. For many it might be very triggering to be around so many reminders of a difficult time.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      How can you not be a veteran if you were in the military? Even if you didn’t see combat, you are still considered a veteran.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        It’s possible they were a civilian contractor in a support role.

        Also possible is someone who had an unknown medical condition discovered during basic training that lead to a very quick medical discharge (I have an acquaintance who discovered in basic that they have several naturally fused vertebrae in their neck – which lead to a quick medical discharge. They do not consider themselves a veteran as the never served or completed basic training).

        1. CharlieBrown*

          I would not consider civilians to be a veteran, since the definition in this case is “a person who has served in the military”.

          And I agree with your friend–they are not really a veteran, either.

      2. linger*

        A veteran is, by definition, someone who served in the military — but some people do limit that to cover active service in wartime (thus “Vietnam vet”, etc), and some people’s military career consists entirely of deskbound duties in peacetime. So it’s easy to see how some may exclude themselves from the definition. And who are we to argue with them?

        1. NorthBayTeky*

          Perhaps the OP didn’t serve more than 180 days, the official amount of time to be recognized by the VA that you are in fact a Veteran.

          All that other stuff you mentioned has no bearing on actual Veteran’s status.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Which is why *everyone* should have the day off! I didn’t serve, but I have a lot of family who have.

        1. Chinookwind*

          While I know that you meant that as a joke, but it also tells me that you have not had family or friends serve overseas (never mind injured or killed). For many, days like Veteran’s Day are a time to remember and reflect on those we have lost as well as remind us of the injured who walk among us. If you dwell on it everyday, it drags you down but, by having one day a year where you can allow yourself to remember, then the other 364 become manageable.

          As for the right or wrongness of the military, that is a debate for the other days. This dates are meant to remember the sacrifices made.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*


            I mentioned it elsewhere, but one thing companies who choose not to shut down but still want to honor veterans can do is give them a time and space to speak. There is a catharsis in sharing stories – the good, bad, ugly, funny, and every shade of everything in between. Not only does this allow the veteran (or someone from a Gold Star family) to share their story, it gives people who typically don’t have much interaction with military folks a chance to see the human underneath the uniform.

      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        And a lot of veterans want to spend the day with their loved ones! My partner’s a vet, and he doesn’t like the idea of only vets getting the day off. Because if it’s just him free and everyone else at work, he’s gonna be lonely and bored since he doesn’t like crowds and won’t leave the house for free meals at restaurants or big public events celebrating veterans.

  16. GythaOgden*

    Re #3 — I feel your pain.

    This is the flip side of most people working from home. A lot of stuff gets dumped on us that wasn’t even our responsibility, from both in-person workers and from WFHers. We have some very bright divisions between organisations in our health service office — meaning that even if we wanted to help, we couldn’t physically do it for them, since a shift from local to national management actually took our printers away last year in an effort to go paperless, but where we actually do rely on printed forms for maintenance and building administration reasons — and it’s created some friction where none was before in the Before Times. The WFH people assume that because we’re in the office we can just do their busy work so they don’t have to come in, and some in-person staff are getting upset about our management being blind to what we actually need.

    It’s making me want to leave to support in-person teams (e.g. clinicians within a hospital) rather than continue as a receptionist for an office block.

    Please respect those people in the office. Granted, OP is there by choice, but many of us aren’t (either by the nature of the position itself or de facto because the majority of work needs to take place on site to make sure all bases have been covered) and it’s amazing how much things have changed in terms of equity and an egalitarian approach to work — and not for the better. What was really nice was this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality was threatening our ability to maintain our switchboard. They only talked to us late in the process, but the result of a conversation with us — front desk staff who had been taking calls on the central number for the entire pandemic — was her going in to bat for us with the myopic management. It was a bit of a ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ moment — even with her consulting us, we had to remind her just how much we still actually worked for their organisation. She’d been with the org for two years but only been in the office three times, so had actually lost touch with what she was managing for us.

    Please remember that WFH is actually a privilege and act as such towards the staff that keep your office going. It adds insult to injury to be treated as skivvies beyond what we’re actually able to do, and is making a lot of us reconsider our positions. We feel like we have lost status as a result of WFH being more normalised, and you have to be more cognisant of who manages the infrastructure you need to be able to WFH.

    1. linger*

      Sounds like the underlying problem is absentee (and therefore clueless) management!
      I gather they decided their own roles could be entirely WFH?

  17. bamcheeks*

    Do one of those extremely specific-and-quotidian Japanese costumes, like, “Guy whose first day is 31st October and he doesn’t know whether to dress up or not”.

  18. Persephone*

    Re: LW 1 — I’m assuming the only way your boss’s wife could have gotten your personal email address was through your boss? Because if so, that means he’s giving employees’ personal information out without their knowledge or consent. Another thing to add when speaking to HR.

    Even if the actions following your decline of the job offer aren’t retaliatory (which we can be pretty sure they are), your boss allowing his family to use the company as a personal employee poaching-ground would absolutely be something HR would be interested in.

    1. Came in just to add...*

      Totally agree here. Most companies, especially in the current hiring environment, do not want to see their employees hired away by other firms. That someone who is a people manager is apparently enabling this by passing information (your suitability for this other job at a minimum, and apparently/possibly your personal information too) would be a fireable offense in my book.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Great point that’s easy to lose in the noise – definitely makes the argument for retaliation, since boss had to be involved in the original exchange at least peripherally. And clearly does not understand boundaries.

  19. Luna*

    LW1 – Go ahead and talk to HR. His behavior is odd and they might even already be wondering if something else is going on because, if your stance is correct and other people have been praising your work, then it would seem odd to them that someone with a decent standing is suddenly being reported to them for not CCing enough people onto an email and similar.

    LW2 – You could call your supervisor or similar and simply ask if you are expected to dress up as well, if it would be alright to dress up, etc. I know my own place isn’t one for dressing up for Hallowe’en, especially since our ‘uniform’ is having to wear something on top that we sell. But I talked with my manager and mentioned wearing cat ears on that day, and she said that would be fine. Turns out I am not scheduled on Hallowe’en, which is unfortunate, but oh well.
    I can still wear the ears that day.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – I posted up above about checking in with the other people who like your work….if HR isn’t awesome maybe those other people can make the manager knock it off.

      But no manager should be passing along personal or private information to outside organizations. That should definitely be flagged to HR, even less than stellar ones should have to take note of that.

  20. bamcheeks*

    , my manager has … sent me to HR with complaints about things like not CC’ing enough people on emails and working in a silo

    I’m very intrigued by this “send people to the headmaster” style of management, which seems attractively low-effort.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’m very curious why HR isn’t immediately pushing back and asking why the manager is wasting their time with this.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        They might be. Depends on how they’re structured, they may have to address anything that comes across their desk but on the back end still be able to be like “wtf Bill we have actual work to do”

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This was my question as well. If I tried to “send” someone to HR for this, I would get a call from the head of HR asking why I wasn’t managing the issue myself (and also probably questioning my judgment as a manager). The very first thing HR wants to know on general supervisory problems is whether or not it’s been addressed before and how exactly it was addressed. They would not get involved until I had made reasonable effort to remediate the problem myself, and then the conversation would be about the employee’s failure to comply with supervisory direction, not who should/should not be CCed on emails. And they’d be really interested in why I was my giving my spouse their info to recruit them.

      3. ferrina*

        Our HR usually starts by assuming a complaint is legit, so they’d start by coaching the manager (which is something OP wouldn’t see). But this still only gives HR the manager’s side- if manager is saying that they are having issues with reliability or communication, that could be poisoning OP’s reputation already. OP needs to talk to HR to get the other information (about the wife’s offer) on the table. A good HR needs all the context.

        Side note- this is weird enough behavior that the manager might already be on HR’s radar for other stuff. I work tangential to the HR team, and we get a lot of information on a lot of people in a lot of ways (both good and bad! We also like to know that Mary rocked the presentation so we have that info at promotion time) We compare notes to make sure issues aren’t falling through the cracks, and provide coaching/support/moving people out of supervisory role’s as needed. In 99.5% of cases, only one or two people have the full picture (usually the Talent Director and the person’s supervisor).

  21. Gnome*

    Costume-not-a-costume for the first day: dress up like you are going to an interview (business formal) and get a name tag that says “The New Guy” (or The New Hire).

    1. GythaOgden*

      Love it! Or maybe dress up in something like cabin crew uniform — not comically overdressed, but like smartly over-padded with a patterned silk scarf or a blouse with a floppy bow collar. Slick back your hair, put on eighties makeup, and go as a yuppie…then undo it as much as possible to work in more comfort than those awful suits permit you. I’d add a pillbox hat for a joke, but I’m like that. (I would cosplay a lot more if I could, but I don’t go to many conventions and just keep stuff around as if I have an adult’s dressing up box.)

      As an aside, though, I’m so, so glad I can mix and match and wear cardigans rather than suits. My grandma took me shopping before my first day of work twenty+ years ago and fussed over the right cut of suit and made sure the patterns matched at the seams and it was just embarrassing when I arrived at my new job and people were, if not casual, then much more relaxed and looked much less like they were about to bring round the duty-free trolley than I did.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    I might or might not go to HR in #1 depending on how they reacted to the boss sending you there for those petty crimes (is this the principal’s office??). A normal HR would be “WTF is he doing ?!”

    1. ecnaseener*

      I was thinking the same thing, if they’re on board with this weird tactic of his then they’re not likely to be good at handling retaliation issues.

    2. Ama*

      Even if they haven’t been handling things well so far, contextualizing the situation for them could get a very different response. It’s one thing to be like “this manager is being weird but I guess I’ll tell the employee that yes, he’s allowed to require them to cc him on all their emails”, and quite another to go “this manager is trying to poach our employees to his private business and is even registering spurious HR complaints to drive the employee out of our company.” One sounds a lot more alarming than the other.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Yes, this. Up until now they have only had the boss’s side of things. They need more context.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. And they’re primed to understand the full context since Boss has already involved them.

      3. ferrina*

        Exactly. Without OP’s information, I might even be wondering if OP has performance issues that Manager is having trouble putting his finger on (I had one employee who had really weird lapses of judgement- it was so hard to point to examples of it!)

        With OP’s info….yeah, that really changes the conversation.

  23. I should really pick a name*

    I’d love to know what HR’s reaction to you being sent in for such frivolous reasons was. These really seem like things that would be beneath their notice, and makes me think they already suspect that your manager is a bit off.

  24. Workerbee*

    OP#2, assuming you have a dedicated way to get ahold of your new boss, a colleague, HR – ask them now! Is your team dressing up, what kinds of costumes appear, anything off-limits, etc.

  25. RC Rascal*

    LW 1– Here is what I think. For whatever reason boss wants you gone. He conspired with his wife to give you the odd job offer, hoping that would get you out. It didn’t work and he is escalating.

    If you are in a protected class, blocking the promotions is discrimination. Either way you need to go to HR and present your case because his next step
    will be a PIP with some ridiculous requirements.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It’s only discrimination if they’re being blocked BECAUSE they are a member of a protected class. Being a member of a protected class is not sufficient reason.

        1. Roland*

          Protected classes aren’t “women” and “black people”, they are “sex” and “race” (etc). So unless we’re talking about”age over 40″ it doesn’t make sense to say someone is in a protected class.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Basically, people misunderstand “protected class” to be a synonym for “minority,” but it’s not. “Protected class” refers to a *characteristic*, and everyone has multiple ones. You can’t legally be discriminated against due to sex, no matter what your sex is. You can’t legally be discriminated against due to race, no matter what your race is.

          Race is the protected class, not (for example) “Black.” Sex is the protected class, not “female.” And so on.

  26. Marie*

    Re #3 – Alison, your advice often relies heavily on employees having a single boss to whom they can escalate working issues.

    But what if you don’t have a boss? This comes to mind because I’m going to start work at a law firm soon as an attorney, and the structure is such that you have no “boss”, just multiple partners you’re working with on various projects. Whom would you suggest talking to in a situation like that?

    OP describes themselves as working in a “firm” and talks generally about management without mentioning a specific boss (and also mentions new people starting around the time when a new class typically joins a law firm), so I wondered if this might be relevant to them.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Oh that’s easy. You go to the partner with the most seniority. There’s almost certainly a “letterhead” order. Which ever partner you work with that has the most juice you go there. But CAREFULLY. If the most juice is the biggest glass bowl, get advice from next one down.

      Ask me how I know /s

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Even if you don’t have a formal boss, surely there would be someone responsible for managing your work and your progress? Who talks to you when you mess up on a case? Who helps you plot your career trajectory? Who mentors you towards becoming partner? Who would fire you if you needed to be fired? etc. Because that person is probably the same person you’d go to with something like this.

      1. Marie*

        I have actually asked extensively about this, and there… does not seem to be one single person who performs all those functions! Like, the director of your department would be the one to fire you, and a senior associate you connected with personally might become a mentor or advisor, and the partner you’re working with on a particular case would be the one to talk to you if you mess up… but those would all be different people. I know, it seems wacky to me, but this is apparently how they function.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          As doom-y as it might sound, I’d probably ask the person with firing power. That person sounds like the person who deals with day-to-day stuff, and I feel like training/institutional knowledge stuff should be coming from someone more operational, which the director sounds like.

    3. FineWithHybrid*

      At our firm, new Associates are given 2 mentors (usually 3rd year or higher Associates) to help navigate or answer any questions they have. I can’t fully agree with Snarky McSnarkerson’s advice to go to most Senior Partner on file cuz at my firm, that’s a sure way of getting in trouble. You can go to Senior Partner when you need final decision/call made, but work with the other Associates on file first to try to solve problems. Also, use resources like your firm library, law clerks and even your assistant to help point you in the right direction. The biggest issue mentors have is when someone doesn’t even try to figure things out first. As my teacher used to say “If you have a question, ask 3 peers before you come to me for help”.

      1. Marie*

        Yeah, Snarky’s advice sounded wrong to me too, thanks for confirming that.

        Your comment sounds more geared toward what to do when I can’t figure out a legal or technical problem. Which I actually am not too worried about. What I’m wondering about is more what to do about situations like the OP’s, which is kind of an interpersonal problem about people coming to you for help when they shouldn’t be. It seems like in that situation what you need is not somebody with knowledge like the library or clerks, but somebody with the direct *authority* to shut it down – and in a law firm I’m unclear on who that is.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Depends on how the firm is structured and how large it is. Many firm have an administrator who is responsible for professional development and these sorts of logistical issues related to non-partner attorneys. If not, you go to the most reasonable partner whose work is being impacted by these interruptions. It’s antithetical to the billable hour model (or most AFA setups) to having a fee-earner answering stupid questions to the detriment of their own revenue-generating work.

      Law firms are challenging from a structural standpoint. I worked in law firm administration for years, and the dotted line reporting can be really problematic, if there is not a strong administrative structure willing to handle these sort of situations (and to tell attorneys who are muddying the waters to butt out). Attorneys also tend not to care whether work is getting done efficiently as long as it’s getting done and they’re making money on it, even if this ends up dumping on the most competent people on the team. And don’t get me started on the tolerance for bad behavior from highly-profitable people.

  27. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Is no one else stunned that the boss’s wife sent a summons to work for her without any participation on the part of LW1 … no application, no interview, no discussion at all?

    And then that there may be retaliation for that? That’s the part that I’m having trouble with. How does the boss think that it’s ok to decide to reassign LW1 to whatever job is laying around, regardless if it is even in the same company or not? Seems to me that we don’t have bondservants any more.

    1. irene adler*

      Assuming there’s little in the way of a prior relationship between boss’s wife and the OP, then yes, why would anyone simply extend a job offer?
      A request to come and interview for the job seems reasonable. Maybe boss spoke of the skills of the OP to wife. And wife is interested in hiring for those skills. But still odd in one respect: most people don’t like to poach employees out from people they know (or are related to)- unless there’s some “drama” behind such moves.

      Maybe wife presented this job offer to OP to create an avenue for boss/hubby to get OP to leave. But when that plan backfired, boss resorted to picayune complaints and denying promotions in the hopes of getting OP to quit. Pathetic “high school” antics on the part of the boss and wife.

      1. Erie*

        “Maybe wife presented this job offer to OP to create an avenue for boss/hubby to get OP to leave. But when that plan backfired, boss resorted to picayune complaints and denying promotions in the hopes of getting OP to quit. Pathetic “high school” antics on the part of the boss and wife.”

        Alison presented this possibility in her response. I’m always a little surprised at how a few people seem to skip past her responses straight to the comments. Her advice is the best part to me!

    2. EPLawyer*

      I am thinking it was something like his wife mentioned she was looking for a new office manager. Boss said oh hey OP would be GREAT at this, why don’t you offer her the job. Wife who is extremely bad at hiring saw an easy way out and just offered the job. Boss is not miffed that OP did not JUMP at the chance to work with his wife after he recommended her. Without thinking that 1) OP has no clue he recommended her and 2) that OP might not actually be looking to change fields. So now he is punishing OP for her refusal to accept his help. Which she never asked for.

      It’s just a deep well of self-centeredness by Boss and his Wife that fails to acknowledge other people are not just characters in the the set piece of Boss and Wife’s lives.

      1. Ama*

        Another theory I saw upthread is boss wants OP out of the company for one reason or another, and the job offer may or may not have been genuine. The whole thing is legitimately bizarre.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I get a strong sense of Manager and Wife being the stars of their own show, bewildered and then annoyed that the supporting cast is not playing the assigned role. Lack of a competent office manager is hitting their family income.

        The simplest explanation for M&W trying to shift OP into the role is that they are desperate to fill it and thought this tactic would work, no elaborate double fakes needed.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah it feels like he’s gifting her to his wife…. and his tantrum about her not going along with it like a good servant/pawn just increases the icky-ness.

      3. NorthBayTeky*

        I learned from my coworker today that they call this “Main Character Syndrome” because they think they are the main character everywhere they go.

    3. metadata minion*

      To me, the initial offer seems weird but harmlessly so. Maybe there was some misunderstanding and Boss thought the LW was actually looking to go in to the field and his wife needs a manager, so hey, networking! But all the fallout afterward puts it into weird-in-a-bad-way.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I’m wondering if the retaliation isn’t for refusing, but for the offer happening at all. I can imagine a scenario where Boss thinks Wife is romantically interested in OP or having an affair with OP and is angry about *that*.

  28. Red 5*

    My spouse works in an office that is -very- into Halloween. Like, I don’t think I actually can explain how much they get into it.

    Even at their office, there’s a fair amount of people who don’t dress up or participate much and nobody gets onto them about it at all. I’m sure they’d totally understand someone on their first day not wanting to dress up. They’ll just probably tell you about what you could do next year.

  29. Dinwar*

    #2: You can always dress normally, then after the second person asks why you didn’t dress up do the Wednesday Addams thing. “I’m dressed up as a psychopath. They look just like everyone else.”

  30. Purple Cat*

    Oof, LW2 I feel for you. That’s such a minefield to navigate on your first day. To further complicate things, most places I’ve worked at, while lower-level employees might dress-up, manager and above rarely do, so you also run the risk of sending the wrong message about your level in the organization. Alison’s answer is also pretty female-specific, so if you present as male, it’s a whole different minefield.
    For me, I would try to reach out to my direct supervisor and get their take on the matter. I would worry (too strong a word) about being too formal for the day, so if the office is typically formal business, but everyone dresses casually on Halloween, whether or not it’s an actual *costume* is what I would focus on. I’m female, so my go-to is a Game of Thrones reference T-shirt that says “A Girl has no Costume”. So it’s holiday-themed, without being a costume.

    LW1 – This situation is bananas. It does feel like your boss is trying to manage you out and is upset that you didn’t take the “peace offering” I guess, of taking the job with his wife. Absolutely bring this up to HR and if there actually are performance issues, make sure those are clearly communicated.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      How is it a minefield? I think there’s a pretty tiny number of offices where people are going to hassle you for not wearing a costume.

      And how is it wholly different if you’re male? A hat or small accessory (like a pin) is fine.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        I think it is slightly different if you’re a male because you can’t just accessorize with Halloween-themed jewelry is what Purple Cat meant. I see a lot of Halloween jewelry this time of year, and all of it is for children or women.

        And while men don’t typically wear pins or brooches, something like a small jack-o’lantern pin would suffice, I think. A hat is more noticeable, and easier to remove if need be.

        1. metadata minion*

          I think in this sort of situation ties are the masculine equivalent for business-appropriate eccentric attire.

          1. CharlieBrown*

            Assuming they wear ties, this is a really good alternative. It needn’t even be Halloween themed, just something in a fall color.

          2. Purple Cat*

            I’ve been in a casual workplace for so long, I completely forgot about Ties as a suitable alternative for men.

  31. KnotKaylee2*

    LW1 – Please go to HR! I also find it strange/would be upset if my manager gave my person email to their spouse. I would feel it is an abuse of power because you’d feel obligated to respond, even if it’s just to decline the offer.

  32. Abigail*

    LW4 has a “all lives matter” vibe.

    My advice: keep your opinion about Veterans Day to yourself because any opposition to this can sound like opposing veterans and this has the potential to be a spectacularly bad look.

    1. Parakeet*

      “All lives matter” is about opposition to the liberation movement of an oppressed group in the US. Wanting to have the same holidays as your colleagues, whether a reasonable expectation or not, is not about that.

      1. voyager1*

        Dude read Abigail’s second paragraph. She isn’t saying it is the same thing, just saying it feels similar. She is right opposing veterans isn’t a good look.

  33. ABCYaBye*

    LW1 – Definitely talk to HR. Maybe it isn’t anything like retaliation, but if you’re feeling it, you have a right to say something. I’m curious if your work style has changed recently, or if you’re doing things just as you had before the job offer? That’s especially helpful when you’re talking to HR. If your boss hadn’t said anything to you previously, and hadn’t raised concerns like these to HR, then the timing is… suspect at least. If you can not only show the evidence, but also show that before the job offer, nothing like this was happening, it paints a better picture for HR. And as others have noted, it is worth noting to HR that you were contacted out of the blue by your boss’s spouse. While not the worst thing in the world to have someone refer you for a job, it does smell funny that you were contacted by the spouse on your personal email and for a job in an industry that you’re not even associated with.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      And how did the wife get LW1’s e-mail? If my boss shared my personal contact information with someone else and didn’t ask me first, that would not be OK with me.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I’d say it could potentially be a Big Problem. Many large companies have lots of rules in place about providing private info like emails and such to third parties. It would be considered a privacy breach and that would not bode well for the OP’s boss. Definitely something to include in the materials they provide HR and/or the company’s ethics hotline. Obviously, the boss isn’t paying attention to any of the info sec privacy training most large corps make you sit through!

  34. Alex (they/them)*

    #2: My work has invited people to dress up, but I work in the lab so it will be a fun halloween shirt for me.

  35. Esmeralda*

    OP #5: I’m going to be annoyed that I have to take time to acknowledge your email, which is just going to say: “all applications must go through the online application system. If you have already applied, you will be contacted if you have moved forward in the process.”

    Yes, I have a template email that I use for this sort of thing. It’s still one of the small annoyances. I won’t hold it against you if you do it just the once. But I’m gonna be annoyed.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Same – and I’m hoping it’s a “WTF” moment from HR who aren’t at this moment really aware of what the manager is up to.

  36. Nea*

    When in doubt on Halloween, dress in an all-black business wear. It’s perfectly professional, doesn’t require special accessories or makeup, won’t require you to come up with a clever name tag or title, and “reads” as suitably gothic simply due to the day.

    Alternatively for men, a black suit, white dress shirt, red tie, and sunglasses was the official uniform of the demon Crowley in the book Good Omens. Again perfectly professional, the sunglasses can be ditched, and now you have an answer if anyone asks “What are you dressed as?” But most people will just see a standard business outfit.

    For women,

  37. Moi*

    Security was worse than the DMV at my old work. Day 1 photo op for your ID badge. One shot. No retakes. For life. Lose your badge? Photo stored in the system was used to reprint. I sure would hate for that to forever memorialize that one year’s Halloween costume.

    1. Polly Hedron*

      What good would a security photo do if you cut and dyed your hair, got glasses, gained 100 pounds, and aged 40 years?

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I had one security badge pic that I had to use for 3 years that looked like I smushed my face on a scanner and scanned it and used that as my pic. It was probably one of the worst pics I ever had taken of myself. I was so glad when I ended up losing my badge and was able to take a new pic. At least it reflected my shorter hair!

      2. JustaTech*

        For some reason a lot of the senior management in my building got new badge photos when we moved to our new building, right at the end of November, which normally would be fine but our company was doing the “Movember” challenge where people grow mustaches to raise money for prostate cancer research. (This is very relevant to our work.)

        So all these people had photos of themselves as badges with mustaches that they shaved off immediately and never wore again.

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

    #1 How did the wife get your personal email? If it’s something that you have shared with her or is made public somehow like via your company or LinkedIn, etc) then that is and that’s not a huge problem in itself. HOWEVER, if your boss shared your personal email with his wife that is a huge overstep and crosses borders (maybe illegal or violates company policy).

    #2, Find a fun Halloween shirt and wear that with some black pants. I’ve got several. Even a goofy shirt that says something like “This is my Halloween Costume” You can wear that under a blazer and take the blazer off if you feel more comfortable. If you are into doing your nails there are lots of nail art stickers that are Halloween themed. You could also wear a black suit and sunglasses and say you are from Men in Black! Business and a costume rolled into 1!
    I would recommend against doing anything wild with your makeup or hair. Most places I’ve worked take your employee picture on the first day. You don’t want to look like a fairy or a witch for your ID!
    #4 I was very surprised by this as I didn’t realize that this was a thing! Perhaps OP lives in one of those states where this is a requirement? Or maybe the company’s headquarters is in a state that has this requirement so they are doing it for all employees now? Either way, I think it’s great, allows veterans to take part in any veterans programs that they may want to without having to use PTO.

  39. Brian Katcher*

    My first year as a teacher, I wore a dress from a cosplay I’d done earlier (I’m a dude). You’d think they other teachers would have mentioned they didn’t normally dress up.

    1. Purple Cat*

      oh no. Hope the kids loved it at least!
      As a parent, I’ve seen most teachers dress up for Halloween. Definitely something that should have been pointed out to you if it wasn’t expected.

  40. LizB*

    If LW2 wants to dress up but also fly under the radar, they could look into “Disney bounding” – wearing a normal outfit that evokes/pays tribute to a character. (This is a thing because adults aren’t allowed to wear actual costumes in disney parks, so people find creative ways to not be wearing a costume but still be in the spirit.) Pinterest has MANY ideas and resources for this. :)

    1. Jessica Ganschen*

      Agreed! Closet cosplay/bounding can be a really fun way to ride the line between “costume” and “normal clothes”. One time a few years ago, I wanted to dress up for a Halloween party, but didn’t have the time/money/etc to buy a costume, so I put together a yellow skirt, blue button up, red headband, and a red scarf to go as Snow White. A surprising number of people picked up on it!

  41. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I’m always a little dubious about costumes, especially since the time I saw an assistant supervisor in our call center get fired and walked out of the building wearing cat ears and whiskers.

    (To be clear, the costume wasn’t why they were fired. They were fired for unimproved PIP stuff that I wasn’t privy to the details of. But there are just so many situations in a workplace where you just need to have a little more dignity and you might not be able to predict when you’ll be in one.)

    1. LizB*

      The latest episode of Great British Baking Show had a Halloween theme, including contestants wearing costumes/Halloween-themed outfits, and one of the contestants joked at the top of the show about how annoyed he’d be if he had to do his heartfelt going-home goodbye speech wearing a shirt with a pattern of candy corn and pumpkins. It’s a fair point!

  42. Avril Ludgateaux*


    I know Alison dismissed this as unlikely, but my mind also immediately went to
    “your boss has noticed you were not performing and had their wife extend the offer to allow you a gracious exit/to save face.” Maybe it’s not completely farfetched. It’s still bad management, especially if you’ve never been told you needed to improve so it would predictably catch you completely off guard.

    1. Heidi*

      The part that seems odd to me about this scenario is that if the boss thought the OP was not doing well at work, why would he want to hand off an underperforming employee to his wife? Even if he doesn’t care about his wife’s job, he’d still have to hear about it from his wife if the OP took the job and then underperformed.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Well just because someone is unable to do a job well, doesn’t mean they don’t have the skills to excel at a different type of work.

        We had an employee who was awful – got promoted multiple times to get rid of her instead of dealing with the problem (which ultimately was firing her).

        But she had absolutely a fantastic receptionist/customer service skills. We did try to encourage her to apply for positions in the company more suited to her strengths. But ultimately we had to let her go.

        Absent any further info from OP it does sound a lot like retaliation, but I can also see it being a ham-handed attempt at encouraging her to move on instead of having to discipline.

    2. irene adler*

      Maybe there’s no underperforming at all. The boss wants to move someone else into the OP’s role (a family member? friend?). Only, the OP won’t take the hint and go.

    3. Observer*

      I know Alison dismissed this as unlikely, but my mind also immediately went to
      “your boss has noticed you were not performing and had their wife extend the offer to allow you a gracious exit/to save face.”

      So did mine, but I also immediately realized that it’s highly unlikely. It’s a great *excuse* but I think that it’s pretty clear that it’s not likely to be the case.

      This would be true in any case but given the specific issues that OP mentions their boss went to HR over, it strikes me as SO improbable that it’s just not reasonable to seriously consider. Unless the OP is leaving out a TON of context and backstory, who in their right mind goes to HR to complain that their employee is not cc’ing enough people? This makes zero sense unless someone is just trying to create a paper trail that X “has a lot of HR complaints against them”.

  43. Blarg*

    My own little Halloween dress up or not story …

    A few years back I was invited to help out at an event geared towards kids who’d previously been hospitalized; I worked for a partner agency and had become close to some of the team there. It was in October, but I didn’t associate it at all with the holiday, so I just wore regular clothes. I arrive and EVERYONE is dressed up. Kids, staff, everyone. I was literally the only person in street clothes. My contact was so apologetic for forgetting to tell me.

    The next year rolls around, and I am ready. I had a fun dinosaur onesie and sauntered into the event proudly. Only to find that … that year all the adults decided to just wear t-shirts with the name of the org on them. The kids were still dressed up. But I was the only adult in a costume. The staff offered me a t-shirt, but I didn’t have any regular pants, so I would have had to put it over the onesie. Honestly, the kids kinda thought I was the coolest grownup there, so I embraced it.

    I moved away and don’t know what happened the next year.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Honestly, the kids kinda thought I was the coolest grownup there, so I embraced it.

      And this is truly the only thing that matters.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Seconding this soooooo hard. Those kids have had it rough, a little joy is wonderful.

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

      That is embarrasing but also so heart warming at the same time. I can see all those kid’s face lighting up at this cool adult among all the stuffy ones! If I were you every year I would have wore that onsie, regardless of what the other adults did!

  44. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    OP2, are you familiar with the Japanese concept of “mundane Halloween” costumes? Something like that might be workable as both regular clothes and as a costume.

  45. ECBeace*

    LW#2: you can find a lot of Halloween themed scarves, socks, and ties. They add some fun without you feeling like all eyes are on you.

  46. Essess*

    Big warning about wearing a costume on the first day… Unless it is a costume that you can take off (and no face makeup), don’t do it. Usually you get your id badge picture taken on the first day and you need to be able to take a professional photo that looks like you for security purposes.

  47. Rage against the printer*

    As far as Veteran’s Day goes, at least this company is just giving them the day off. As opposed to the year my org asked the rest of the staff to donate vacation hours to the 5 or 6 vets on staff so that they could take the day off.

    (I didn’t really question it at the time, but thinking of it today and typing it out – jeez.)

    1. Delta Delta*

      I once worked at a place where it was never entirely clear if we were open on Veterans’ Day or not. Because of this, one year our one veteran on staff ended up taking a vacation day so they could have the day. This prompted the idiot boss to tell everyone the office was closed, but the idiot boss didn’t then refund the veteran their day off.

      The staff has fully turned over twice since then.

  48. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    One might just respond to such questions with – try it out, it tends to get the point home quite well.
    It stands for “let me google that for you”.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Agreed, especially given that OP mentions this:

        The tricky thing is that they are so nice and apologetic. I am starting to say “this is more of an Angela question” when it isn’t at my pay grade, but it feels aggressive to say “spend more time looking for an answer” when I can give it to them easily.

      2. kiki*

        It’s also really aggressive for new folks who are trying to get their bearings! I think it’s easy to forget that new people (especially new to the company AND their career) need their hands held a bit more than you might expect. I get that it’s clear to LW what could and should be googled, and it might even be clear to some of the other new employees, but when you’re new there’s a lot of information coming your way and it can be hard to parse what is something to reach out for and what is something to research yourself.

  49. ferrina*

    LW 3 – Are you able to wear headphones? What about a sign that says “On deadline- do not disturb” or something similar? Or saying “hold on- I need to finish this. I’ll come find you when I’m done, but it may be 40 minutes”.

    It sounds like part of the issue is that you are readily available. If you can gently make yourself less available, that may decrease some of the questions. (recommend combining with other strategies for best results)

  50. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    My wife’s office had a “Peter Pan” theme for Halloween a few years ago. One woman didn’t have to do anything because her name was already Wendy.

  51. Darury*

    I first read “This is not the right day to show up as an enormous piece of toast or a flamingo.” as This is not the right day to show up as an flaming piece of toast, which both confused and intrigued me for costume ideas.

  52. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW1, I would be weirded out that the wife had your personal e-mail, unless you’ve given it to her. Seems like a violation of privacy.

  53. voluptuousfire*

    For OP #1, IIRC from my most recent role at a huge conglomerate company’s information privacy training, giving out private info like emails and such to third parties without consent could likely be considered a privacy breach, which is definitely a Big Problem. If your company has an ethics hotline, this may be something you can report to them. Having said that, it’s entirely possible for the wife of your boss to have googled you and found your personal email, but I’d say it’s easier for your boss to go into whatever HRIS system your company has and pull your info. (I gather they can do that since you would report to them in the database. I don’t think it’s otherwise available to any random employee who looks you up.)

    Anyhoo, that’s definitely something to consider. Good luck!

    1. voluptuousfire*

      Of course, include it with your info to HR as well. This is definitely something they would want to know about, managerial hijinks aside. That may be a bigger issue than the one at hand, TBH.

  54. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

    A similar idea would be “Error 404: Costume not found” I had a coworker who wrote that in sharpie on a T-shirt and wore it a couple of years in a row.

  55. Delta Delta*

    #2 – If you don’t know how it’ll go over, don’t dress up. But, you could still have fun and go sort of Halloween-themed. Black turtleneck or sweater (or whatever), pumpkin earrings, or my absolute favorite accessory – a plastic spider ring. That way it’s fun and in-theme if others dress up and easily removable if others don’t.

  56. Stephanie*

    Second OP- I am in the same situation this year, so I’ll tell you what I decided- I ordered a poncho-style costume (it’s a deer and super cute), so I will wear black pants and have the poncho with me. If everyone else is in costume, I can throw it on. If not, I just leave it off and no one is the wiser.
    Here is the link, if you want to be twinsies (not a commissioned link or anything):

  57. Elitist Semicolon*

    “This is not the right day to show up as an enormous piece of toast or a flamingo.”

    This is the best sentence I have read in a long time – possibly forever.

  58. Vio*

    I’m now wondering how a toast costume could be considered scary (although to be fair I wonder that about several Halloween costumes I see on TV) and whether I should legally change my name to Warbleworth…

  59. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I second the cat costume. Back when I was an active church member and very serious about it, my workplace had a big Halloween celebration with mandatory costumes (yes you read that right), where each department was assigned a theme. Somehow my department’s theme turned out to be Halloween Ghouls. Now in church, our priest had specifically warned us the Sunday before not to dress up as “evil spirits” (it was a really laidback church and Halloween costume in general, handing out candy, trick-or-treating with the kids etc was allowed and encouraged.) After some back and forth with the team member who insisted on me being a witch, as well as our manager who said that I HAD to be in costume, or else!, I convinced them to let me come in as a black cat. I had cat ears on my head, a blue velour tracksuit, a tail. Drew a cat nose and whiskers on my face with an eyeliner. That’s it. That was the costume. And it would’ve been super easy to remove all the cat stuff and just be a person in a tracksuit, if needed. Very lowkey and easy. Also very cheap. (The person that insisted on the Halloween ghouls theme turned out to already own a very extra, very scary, very expensive looking costume – which was why they’d been pushing that theme for our group in the first place.)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      *black velour tracksuit. Sorry, no clue where the word blue came from. Though today’s me would’ve totally come in as a blue cat, just for fun!

  60. no one reads this far*

    It might be worth asking HR or whomever you’ll be onboarding with in advance if costumes are OK.

    We’re having a costume contest at work this year for a cash prize so you never know.

  61. blood orange*

    OP #1 I totally agree with Alison’s advice. I wanted to ask, though, if this is a normal procedure in your company? I’m in HR, and if a manager sent an employee to me over such frivolous things, I would be having a performance discussion with the manager, not you. Those are quick coaching things that should come from a manager, not HR. It’s possible they are more serious disciplinary issues I suppose, if they were repeat or had significant ramifications, but still they should be handled by the manager. Unless that’s a normal procedure (which I still think is very wrong based on the details you’ve shared), it does feel like your manager is doing something weird that looks very much like retaliation.

  62. Lee*

    Ha! I lived LW2. My first day on job. Show up in suit and tie. Entire office is decked out in costumes. So much that I was feeling odd man out. Damn funny.

  63. TheraputicSarcasm*

    No idea if LW #2 is this kind of person or not, BUT. I have several ‘stealth nerd/geek’ clothing items in my closet, accumulated over the years from ModCloth, Disney, Svaha, etc:
    *a perfectly nice light blue dress (with pockets) and a grey print around the hem. It’s only when you look closely that you see that the print is the household from Beauty and the Beast, and the buttons on the top are tiny blue roses.
    *A black A-line skirt with red, blue, and green ‘stripes’ that are lightsabers.
    *A white short sleeved button down with a light grey print that’s Avengers themed.
    *A classic cap-sleeve A-line dress with a galaxy print on it.

    I’m not talking about the everyday-cosplay stuff that’s super obvious, or things like printed T-shirt dresses. When I wear these to work, people rarely notice the fandom-nods unless I point them out. They make great icebreakers.

  64. WhoKnows*

    I’m curious if the day off only for veterans on veterans day could be appealed on the basis that for a long time LGBTQ people were banned from service and could no be beyond the age of enlistment and therefor ineligible for the benefit due to a potentially protected class – and also never have been able to be eligible because during the age they could have served they would have been barred from the military?

    1. Agno*

      I get what you’re saying, but also that’s not entirely true. Am gay. Was in the Navy for 6 years. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was heinous and at its height when I served. But I still served and I’m still gay as heck. So did a lot of people I know who are LGBTQ.
      The military has a bunch of issues, but please just let me have Veteran’s Day off. It’s the one day I get with my friends and let my self be proud and reminisce a bit with them about the stuff we did.

  65. Candice*

    For LW#2.
    Dress up appropriately for a first day at the job and tell everyone that your costume is “The New Person”. It might get a laugh and be a conversation starter. You could add a slightly large name tag for novelty.

    1. Catherine*

      I was just going to say this! Everyone dresses up as The Newly Hired Person their first day on the job anyway. Wear a business suit and (definitely) a TIE. The oversized nametag idea is brilliant!

  66. Rosacolleti*

    LW3 – I feel so sorry for those starting off their careers and new roles without good training and mentoring because some people work from home. I think this new generation of the workforce are going to really struggle

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