boss pretended to be calling from Child Protective Services, required to sing on camera, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Boss called employee and pretended to be from Child Protective Services

I am writing this on behalf of a friend, who I’ll call Wendy. Wendy works for a company that provides daycare, a perk for her. By all accounts, she seems to be a decent mom. One day at work, she received a call claiming to be from Child Protective Services accusing her of abuse and neglect. She was on the verge of a breakdown when the caller laughed and revealed herself to be her boss, Winnifred. Winnifred laughed over the “joke.” Wendy was shaken and disturbed, and wound up mentioning it to another coworker. Winnifred later called Wendy to her office and wrote her up for gossiping and taking the incident so seriously. Wendy has been advised to go to HR, but fears to do so due to possible retaliation. Could Wendy be fired for escalating this?

In theory, yes. In practice, it’s very unlikely, especially since HR is highly likely to intervene once they know the situation. The bigger risk is that she’ll face more subtle retaliation from her boss.

But she should go to HR anyway, because this is so egregious. It’s disgusting and outrageous that Winnifred played this “joke” in the first place (although I hesitate to call it a joke because there’s nothing funny about scaring the crap out of someone and making them think their child could be taken away from them). But the fact that Winnifred then took formal action against Wendy for being upset about it takes this from “shockingly bad” to “super villain territory.” If Wendy’s HR people are even slightly decent, she shouldn’t hesitate to tell them what happened.


Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’m being required to sing on camera for work

Each year, the government-funded organization that I work for has a roadshow which the government are invited to – it’s basically an excuse to showcase why our services are required and to encourage the government to finically support us. I completely understand this. In the weeks leading up to this, we were persistently asked to record a speech in front of a camera about how fantastic it is to work for my employer. This would then be shown in a presentation. If we refused (which I did), we were pressured into holding up a piece of paper with something written on it and this would be shown in the presentation along with the videos. To make matters worse, they played awful cringey music during this presentation.

I was very unhappy that I felt pressured and forced to take part in this – I felt mortified. That was several months ago. Recently someone in their wisdom has came up with the great idea that we could sing this cringey song in our individual teams! We are a very small team and I don’t know how to get out of this. Singing in public is my worst nightmare! I was very angry when we were told we’re doing this – I’ve done psychometric tests for them but yet they still don’t seem to appreciate what type of person I am. I am introverted and just want to get on with my work and doing this makes me break out in a sweat. They want to make a video of us singing this awful song and it will be done during office hours. They’re deliberately not telling us exactly when this be apart from “it’ll be Thursday or Friday.” We’ve also been told that we can’t take annual leave, which I find very unfair. I don’t want my face or voice to be used for any promotional or marketing reason. How can I get out of this?

“I don’t sing, and I’m not comfortable appearing on camera. I’d be glad to do other things to support the project behind the scenes, though. What else would be helpful?”

If they tell you this is required, say this: “I’m really not going to sing. Is there something else you’d like me to do, off-camera?”

A reasonable employer won’t insist. Your employer, however, may not be reasonable. If that’s the case, you’ll need to decide how much you want to push this. Ultimately, they can require this as a condition of your job. Shouldn’t, but can. If it comes to that, you might just mouth the words to the song (if you’re in a group where it won’t be obvious) or go for a spoken-word rendition. You have my sympathies.


Read an update to this letter here.

3. My team doesn’t do any personal development activities

I am very into personal development on my own time. I read a lot of books that would be considered self help and love to advance my life by learning new skills. However, at work, none of that is present.

Our manager does not ever talk to us about our development plans, we have done zero Strengths-Finder-like activities and it’s really frustrating as a new employee on the team because I’d like to be able to develop my career but I truly don’t know how to because no one ever talks about it. We’re allowed to move around positions every two years, but everyone on this team has been here for five or more years. I’d like to move, but there seems no easy way out.

Is there a way I can bring personal development to my team? I’m fairly young (24), and everyone on my team is 35+ up to 63. My manager also oversees 20 people on various teams, so I’m not sure if he has time to do all this or even cares about it. I feel as though our team would benefit greatly from all this, but it seems like we are just one dysfunctional group of coworkers who don’t work well with each other because we have never taken the time to sit down and discuss our strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe learning these things about coworkers is just intuitive, but I’ve already been told there’s a lot of tip toeing around people to not ask them to do certain things or to not listen to them. That doesn’t sit right with me, so I’m wondering if there is a better way to go about developing our dysfunctional team.

The majority of work teams don’t actually do Strengths-Finder-like activities. Some do, of course! But many don’t, and that’s not in any way negligent. Many people find those types of activities helpful, but many find them irritating and not a great use of time. So it’s not weird that your team isn’t doing them. That doesn’t mean there’s no chance they’d be beneficial; maybe they would be. It just means that the lack of them isn’t the problem.

But certainly having a dysfunctional team that doesn’t work well together is a problem. I wouldn’t assume that’s happening because you’ve never discussed your strengths and weaknesses together; I’d assume it’s instead because of a lack of more hands-on leadership and management from your boss. And that’s something that’s very hard to fix from below.

That said, you can certainly talk to your boss about your interest in professional development. Yes, it would be ideal if she raised it herself, but not all managers will, and it’s definitely something you can raise on your own. Are there skills you want to develop, training you want to take, areas you want to focus on? Those are all appropriate things to bring up with your boss. The same goes for your interest in eventually moving up — that’s something you can name explicitly to her, and ask about what a path to doing that might look like.


4. Yesterday was my last day — but my boss won’t let me quit

So two weeks ago I put in my resignation letter at my job. I agreed to work for two weeks and that’s it. My boss and coworkers had been nothing but rude and unprofessional to me the entire time I was employed there. Every day they would go to a bar and drink while I was back at the office working. That and a few other things are what made me quit.

Getting to the point of my letter, yesterday was my last day at my job. I finished up projects and did everything they asked of me while remaining professional and providing a smooth exit. However, after it was time to leave I was “forced” to make edits to projects and that resulted in six hours worth of overtime. Today, my boss keeps emailing me and giving me tasks even though yesterday was my last day. She keeps telling me they don’t have time to find another designer when I gave two week notice and she just posted the job on my last day of work. Shouldn’t that have been done when I gave my two week notice? Should I block them from emailing me or texting me? It is my first job and I don’t know what to do.

Oh my goodness. They can’t force you to do anything — you don’t work there anymore. It’s not your problem that they haven’t found another designer. People resign from jobs all the time, and it’s often inconvenient for the employer; that does not mean that they get to insist the person continue working for them! That’s not how this works.

Email this to your boss: “Since yesterday was my last day, I’m not able to continue working on this. I wish you all the best with it.” Then if she continues to email you after that, wait two days before responding and then email back with, “I’m just seeing this — I’ve been really busy. Since my last day was the 15th, I can’t continue doing this work on top of my other commitments. Please don’t count on me seeing emails you send to this account.” Then, that’s it — stop responding. (There’s an argument for stopping after the first one, but I think it’s better to reinforce in her head that you might not even be seeing what she’s sending, and that you definitely aren’t seeing it quickly.)

And since this is your first job, I want to make sure you’re really clear on this: This is not normal. Generally when a last day comes around, that’s it. It’s not normal to insist that the person needs to do more work.

Read an update to this letter here.


{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. jm*

    i can’t get over being written up for “gossiping” over telling a coworker something that happened to her personally. that’s not what that means

    1. linger*

      Gloriously enough, you weren’t the only one who couldn’t get over that!
      In the update to #1: Winnifred was eventually fired, after LW1’s departure, as a direct result of another manager preparing a reference letter for LW1’s job search and … finding that write-up.

    2. Cat Tree*

      She realized she was wrong to do the prank and didn’t want others to know. But instead of apologizing she came down with a heavy hand and tried to force the employee to not talk about it.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Exactly. Basically doubling down on her first terrible mistake and hoping it would suddenly become Opposite Day and everything would be fine.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I could not tell from context if this was a “write-up” like a formal reprimand or a like a summary of an incident. My workplace does not do the former, so when I am asked to prepare a “write-up” of an incident at work, it means HR wants a summary of what transpired, not disciplinary action taken against the person involved.

      If my HR head got wind of what happened here, she would have wanted a record of it, especially if the employee every wanted to follow up. (She also would have gotten the evidence and authorization to fire Winifred faster than you could say “Winifred”.)

  2. Rainy*

    That boss in #1…I remember that letter from the first time it ran, and the update, and I stand by my original opinion, which is that I hope Winnifred steps barefoot on a Lego at least once a day for the rest of her life.

    1. TomatoSoup*

      I don’t know why anyone would do that. I could see some pranks as either missing the mark or simply not knowing their audience. What Winifred did was beyond the pale. However, I don’t blame Wendy for not wanting to rock the boat. I’d put up with a lot of nonsense for free or subsidized childcare.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Yeah, Winnifred’s behavior went way beyond nonsense. She’s a textbook example of immature, toxic management.

        What still gets to me? Wendy felt stuck between a rock and a hard place, and she kept quiet about Winnifred’s awful behavior. How awful to feel powerless, especially when your manager is SO BAD at it. Not gonna lie, I felt good reading the update.

        1. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

          Why am I not surprised that a manager as mindless as Winnifred compounded her vicious “joke” by writing up an account of it and putting it in Wendy’s personnel file? Nothing like playing a stunningly nasty trick on a subordinate AND then confessing to it IN WRITING! Oh, and then being fired for your “prank” in a way that ensures that you’ll never get a decent reference from that company!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Yes! This is not a prank, it is wanton, calculated cruelty.

        Many pranks are mean spirited or dangerous, but even the cast of Jackass wouldn’t try this kind of crap. It’s one thing to let a horse kick you in the crotch, another to tell a person that CPS is investigating them! The first is ill thought out, to say the least, but isn’t meant to hurt another person, whereas the only reason to do the second is to hurt another person.

  3. allathian*

    Re #3, professional development is great, but employers should butt out of any form of personal development stuff. Sure, they can overlap a bit, especially in soft skills, but in general, personal development is what you do on your own time.

    1. Rainy*

      I also really don’t want to do personal development activities with my colleagues. Professional development, yes, but I don’t think personal development needs to be a group activity at work.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        When I as OP#2’s age, the horrible head of my department made us do some truly weird things in the name of personal development. Mind you, this guy thought that perfection was baseline and anything less than perfection was inadequate, so he was a real joy to work with in the first place. I often had volunteered to “man the department” or had “conflicting deadlines” when he scheduled these things.

        My very favorite one, he led off with a story about his father abandoning his family as a child and his feelings of rejection and inadequacy when his dad remarried, had other kids, and barely contacted him. He then asked everyone to go around the table and share something in a similar vein that had deeply hurt them. One coworker talked about a friend dying, another talked about having to put down farm animals as a child… it was A LOT. These are tragic things, and I’m sorry they happened to people, but they are thing you talk about with close friends or a therapist, not your entire department and a guy who would make a robot look empathetic. Being vulnerable requires a level of trust this guy could never earn.

        So, bottom line is that people can do their personal development on their own time, and I will only participate in programs at work that develop my professional skills. I’ve seen too many “personal development” things at work go very, very inappropriate and unprofessional.

    2. CL*

      This is a good point. In reading the original letter, I assumed the OP meant personal professional development, but I realize now that may not be the case. My reaction was that personal professional development (as opposed to team building or group skill building) is usually individual. My professional goals are likely quite different than a colleague who may have the same job description.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Not only goals, but in the individual strength and weaknesses, so something that’s best addressed one on one rather than in a group.

        Also, a workplace assigning self-help books or personality tests and having you discuss the results with your colleagues is something I would regard as a red flag (or at least an orange one) from an employer. Personally, this sort of activity ranks below visits to the dentist in ways I’d like to spend my time. These are things that can be useful for individuals, but don’t work as group activities unless everyone involved has chosen to be there, and is interested in participating.

    3. Mockingjay*

      People have different ideas about what constitutes professional development because they look for what’s important to themselves.

      I have a coworker who loves personal strength and communications exercises. I prefer technical training and certifications for subject matter expertise. Another coworker wants a defined career path. Still another wants daily business processes and workflows outlined in written procedures. And so on.

      A good manager (and company) can meet most of these expectations: define career paths (even a small company can explain how people can move up or laterally); provide or pay for training (within budget, of course); meet with teams regularly to ensure projects and tasks are running smoothly; discuss communications styles (we actually did this last week – as a support team we deal with many different personalities – some people are very challenging to work with); and so on.

      Note: I am not a fan of “personality trait” exercises and soul-searching, but last week’s discussion was very useful because it had context – how we can effectively work with someone who has a different communication style than our own.

    4. Stitch*

      I’ve been asked to take personality tests and do strength finders as part of my job and frankly, I hate it. I find it invasive, judgmental, and a huge waste of time.

    5. Lulu*

      I remember doing a lot of these development activities when I was in Americorps. I got the impression this person may have previously been in a job that catered to young people figuring themselves out. But their inconsistent use of personal vs professional development makes me think they don’t really understand the different types of development that can be done. As a manager I’ve generally focused on job skill development, but for specific people I’ve recommended things like strengths finder for their own use. I’ve never required it, always let them know it’s entirely up to them if it’s something that interests them, and I don’t do those things in a group setting. I can imagine this person has little enough professional experience they don’t realize you don’t need to know someone’s Myers Briggs in order to work effectively with them. You get past that initial job and you learn how to just ask for someone’s communication preferences and go with that.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      My experience and not saying it’s universal:

      I’ve seen a few extremely young subordinates or people in other departments throw this request back at managers at a deflection. I’m not saying no one wants development, but it’s hard to discern what is behind the request at times.

      For example, you will ask someone nicely why they failed at a few basic things and came in really late a few times and then they start talking about goals and development long term, and my response will be something along the lines of, well, we can’t even get to the development part until you do basic parts of your job

      It very much feels like a tool to keep managers in check. I don’t see stellar employees asking for a development plan or time, they just automatically start doing the stuff and then ask you if it’s OK or ask for help

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Addition: one of my other challenges has been that people ask for development but when you start giving them options, a solid half let the request die out. I don’t know if this is a growing trend or just a new way for employees to explore options? It feels like that once people see the plan is work too and also long-term, they sort of shirk away from it and maybe realize their status quo is good

        1. Rainy*

          I mean, I think sometimes it’s a case of “I’d love to learn this thing or get better at that thing and I know that my office has a professional development budget, so what’s out there that I could access?” and then when you are given the options, you realize that as much as you want to do it, the timing for the seminar doesn’t work for your workload, or the time commitment is pretty huge at the worst part of your year (or even worse, the time commitment is pretty huge and you still need to be doing the 1.5-3 people’s jobs you are currently doing) and you can’t manage it this year because you didn’t build in time for it when you were doing your planning for the year.

          How often do they come back the next year or two years later and ask again, when they’ve been able to build some time for it into their schedule?

        2. King Friday XIII*

          I don’t think it’s bad that people are curious what their options are but maybe decide they don’t have the energy/spoons to pursue them right now. It’s not a failure if they don’t follow through, especially because letting them know they have options may make them more likely to stay even if they don’t want to take that course right now.

        3. KX*

          I think “professional development” has become watered down at companies. I’ve asked for it before and gotten links to self-directed video “instruction” in series of very short videos. It’s not real development. It’s just watching. But companies can point to it and say “your development is in your own hands!” And “we provide resources!”

          You can watch it and print the little certificate but it isn’t real knowledge or learning, and you can’t put it on your resume.

          After a while I stopped asking for developmemt.

  4. Seal*

    #3 – Our new director held a staff retreat within their few months on the job that revolved around a variety of strength finder tests. Even though it included a free lunch, the day was widely viewed as a colossal waste time. Most people found the exercises and discussion that followed to be tremendously uncomfortable and more than a little tone-deaf, something our new director failed to pick up on. Perhaps not surprisingly, knowing our “strengths” hasn’t made us any less dysfunctional.

    1. Violet Fox*

      I’m wondering for #3 if some of it is/was an age thing as well. The type of personal strength-finder self-help type stuff that appeals to someone in their 20s is really not something that is going to appeal to someone in their 40s or older.

      The whole thing of let’s sit down and think/talk about our strengths and weaknesses just feels very juvenile and very invasive at the same time to me.

      1. OP2*

        Nah, plenty of older people think that stuff is great and plenty younger people despise it. I don’t think age has anything to do with it.

    2. My coworker is a dog*

      This must be common practice for new directors trying to fix disfunctional teams because I just had the exact same experience! If someone wants to take a personality assessment on their own time then more power to them, but it just feels inappropriate to do in a work setting. It’s probably a sign that #3 was in a functional work setting if they weren’t required to do these assessments.

    3. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This would have been pretty tone deaf at most of my jobs. The biggest issue I’ve seen is lack of turnover, most companies outside tech never do annual purges of low performers. We spend an enormous amount of energy at times working around low performers in other departments and recreating work they should be doing. This has occurred at basically ever corporate job I’ve been in. That’s the elephant in the room every time these exercises come up. Yes, I can improve Sally’s skills by 5%-10% but what’s the point if she wastes half her day redoing work someone failing at their job in another department should be doing?

    4. zuzu*

      Yep. My last workplace had that. Our last staff live staff retreat in 2019, the director wanted us to do a Strengths Finder, which I was HIGHLY suspicious of. Why? Because the director was hyping it up as the thing to resolve all our communication issues (our theme for the retreat was communication). We were going to use the results to guide our interactions going forward.

      I tried to get out of participating, but no dice — the person who was the “expert” (someone in another department who’d taken a course on this stuff) called me and pretty much forced my hand. I just didn’t know how invasive the questions were, and given that the director had a record of being vindictive and capricious, I didn’t want to give him any information he could use against me.

      My manager, who reported to the director, told me he’d get bored with this soon enough and just treat this like a party game that doesn’t mean anything.

      So I took the damn thing, gritted my teeth and sat through the retreat in which the director kvelled all over himself and his own results, and his one acolyte piped up about how she would use the results to make her team run better.

      Meanwhile, the rest of us all knew that the communication issues all stemmed from him and the fact that no one but his one acolyte trusted him. And even she understood why the rest of us didn’t and didn’t sell us out.

      I’m now in a much, much better environment with a much, much better director that the staff trusts (and who trusts and communicates with the staff!).

    5. It Might Be Me*

      I’ve done staff retreats and used some of these tools. But, being in my 60s, I’ve done a lot of them. To a certain extent I’m going ‘Again?! Didn’t I do that a few years ago? Oh, 1990 was 30 years ago.’

      At a certain point you want to continue to improve, but you know your personality style, strengths, love language, etc.

  5. Taking the long way round*

    #2 – I am convinced we work in the same organisation! Solidarity.

    #1 – this boss is out of her mind. Very glad to hear you got out of there and I hope you’re doing well, OP.

    1. Taking the long way round*

      Oh, I got mixed up with another letter I was reading. I am pleased to hear that Winifred was fired and Wendy got another job.

  6. Heidi*

    There should be a warning to the update on Letter #4. I got sucked into the whole bird phobia letter! Again!

    I’m glad that the LW did finally get out of that terrible situation. Imagine how insane hiring would be if you actually couldn’t leave until they found your replacement.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah, I want more update on that, but what I *really* want is the injured employee’s side of the story.

    1. Mimmy*

      I went back and re-read everything too! I have a feeling the OP did not expect the level of attention the situation got.

  7. Luna*

    The only thing LW4 should have told the boss is, “Your compliance to my resignation is not a factor.” and then stop any work for them. You have resigned, you have done your duty, you owe them nothing anymore. No time to get another designer? Yeah, not your problem.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed. A friend of mine gave 2 weeks’ notice and her boss and grandboss kept her after hours to work on new projects they had planned to give her anyway, and to go over current workloads. They also complained about her leaving them in a fix and that she owed them some loyalty after she left, or words to that effect.

      She told them, ‘When I gave notice, I wasn’t asking for your permission. At the end of the two weeks, I will be working at another company. I will not work on your projects, and you need to find someone else.’

      She said they didn’t appreciate her tone – of course, they didn’t – but they did stop asking her to work overtime or on new projects.

      1. Rainy*

        The tone thing–there’s just no good way to hear bad news, and the kind of workplace that treats people like that is always going to be full of people who don’t like to hear you say no, but they have just enough self-awareness to realize that if they throw a tantrum about being told no they’re going to look ridiculous. Hence complaints about tone or how your face looked when you said it.

  8. WoodswomanWrites*

    #1 is a level of vile that I can’t even comprehend. I’m trying to envision Winnifred thinking to herself, “Oh, what a great joke it will be to call the person I supervise and pretend I’m from CPS and going to take her children away.” And then to punish Wendy for sharing how upset she was in a conversation with a colleague. The mind boggles. Poor Wendy!

    It’s such a relief that Wendy got out of there and that Winnifred was fired for her vile behavior.

    1. Giant Kitty*

      The write up was because Winnifred does not want Wendy telling people true stories about what a vile person she actually is. Glad to hear she got fired.

      1. EPLawywer*

        Yep. Winnie wrote up Wendy because she didn’t want anyone else to know how terrible she was. So she … doubled down by being more terrible.

        Winnie should not be a manager of anyone or anything.

      2. Dr Sarah*

        The beautiful irony of that part is that if Winnifred hadn’t written Wendy up, Other Boss would never have known what was going on and Winnifred would have gotten away with it. Her attempts to crush dissent were what finally led to her downfall.

        1. Giant Kitty*

          It’s the most beautiful and satisfying kind of schadenfreude ever when the unmitigated a-hole is brought down directly by their efforts to hide how horrible they are.

    2. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I am just pleased that HR appears to have done the right thing here. Reading it shows me just how jaded my experiences have made me. At one company, I and coworkers were left adrift to be bullied out of the company by upper management because we had filed an ethics complaint about being pressured to do things illegally. I have also gotten “let go” conveniently after reporting an incident where a coworker and myself were physically threatened by high level management. Both of these were women in entirely male industries. These type of things are still alive and well today in our society, unfortunately.

      Had to ultimately leave industry for public service, and would never darken the door of private industry again.

  9. Sandgroper*

    The alternative for No.4 is to respond with your consultancy rates. Make these four times the general pay rate for your usual work, and all at home, not in the office. “I have some availability as a consultant, please note my hourly rate is $120/hr and I have five hours available, which I could complete task A, D or F in, but not them all, which would you like me to do, and please understand that this is a $600 invoice for my time coming to you to complete five hours of work. Changes or alterations after this time will be charged at $120/hr, if I am available to do them.”

    But given how demanding and dysfunctional this office is that’s probably a mistake. How on EARTH they made the OP “work six hours over time” on their last day I’ll never know. I’d have bailed on that, grabbed my handbag, said something along the lines of “Well it’s been great learning from you all such valuable lessons, but I have another engagement to get to and the work day is over!” And WALK OUT.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Every time I’ve left a job I’ve cared deeply about getting everything finished and tidied up and felt vaguely anxious about getting everything done until the SECOND the clock ticks onto 5pm, 5:15pm, 5:30 or whatever the end of my contracted hours are, when I flip instantly into, “welp, guess this is someone else’s problem now! Have a great life everyone!”

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, people suggested in the original comments to respond with exorbitant consultancy rates, but that only makes sense if the LW would be willing to keep working for these people at those rates. In this case it was more important for LW to get out of there.

      As for staying 6 hours, they said in the comments they have social anxiety and felt too intimidated to leave.

      1. Giant Kitty*

        I’m so glad that my social anxiety operates in a way that would just make me so nervous & uncomfortable that I would literally HAVE to escape and would blurt out some kind of bizarre Romy & Michelle- like “Excuse me, I cut my foot and my shoe is filling up with blood!” line as I grabbed my belongings and RAN out the door.

    3. Artemesia*

      It is a huge mistake to do work for the old place when starting a new job, even if it is well compensated. The first few weeks of a new job is where you need to put lots of extra energy. This is the time to do the fully committed work to get yourself up to speed and make a good impression. Being saddled with old work and tired from the demands of new things and still dragging old ones is a recipe for a poor start at the new employer.

      Ideally you’d have a couple weeks between.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I agree, it’s often going to be a mistake to do work for a previous job when starting a new one.

        I took @Sand’s suggestion (in LW4’s case) to be more “quote a ridiculously high rate so they will leave you alone” rather than a genuine offer to help.

    4. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I did this when leaving a job at a boundary-less company that believed I owed them anything they asked of me because they thought their mission statement was the bees knees and everyone should sacrifice everything to advance it. It was NOT a non-profit, either! It was a small enough company that I was aware of the budget constraints that meant they would NEVER hire me at that rate, so it was an effective deterrent.

  10. Giant Kitty*

    I can’t sing on key to save my life, I sound like Lucy Ricardo trying out for Ricky’s show. Believe me, I would utilize this power VERY LOUDLY for the greater good if I ever worked for a place that expected it’s employees to sing on camera as some kind of word promotional tool.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Same. I like to say I don’t hit high notes; I bludgeon them. I’d be doing my level best to shatter the camera lens.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Approving of this method. Learn how to peel the enamel from people’s teeth with great gusto and abandon. I’m the very person for this job.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      The other approach is the monotone mumble. I am keeping this in reserve for the mandatory karaoke session.

  11. Another Academic Librarian too*

    Oh please save me from these “development exercises”
    We did the strength training one.
    What a racket- according to this “tool” our most of our staff fell in one category.
    We are and were outstanding colleagues, high engagement, loved our jobs, and good at what we did.
    We spent two hours “discussing” how to diversify our hiring to bring in “other strengths”
    Meanwhile my assistant who was on a PIP turned out to be “woo” and lodged a grievance to the union rep that I wasn’t taking advantage of her “strengths” and forcing her to do work that wasn’t aligned with them.
    Spare me.

  12. nm*

    Re LW1, I’ve gotta wonder if the real CPS would be interested in knowing that someone is impersonating them. Like how it’s illegal to pretend to be a cop or something of that sort? Just curious.

    1. ecnaseener*

      In theory, maybe that is illegal, but in practice I really doubt they would go to the trouble of prosecuting this. Especially if there’s no hard evidence of the impersonation (which I’m guessing there wasn’t, since the writeup probably didn’t include all the backstory)

      1. bamcheeks*

        If you see the follow-up, it includes enough of the back-story that when another manger found it, Winifred got fired!

        Winifred: not just mean, also bad at it.

  13. Wendy*

    The boss is letter one is horrible

    Glad they were fired

    It is sad that the letter writers co-worker chose to find another job instead of reporting the incident

    But at least the co-worker is in a much better place

  14. lilsheba*

    #2….there is NO WAY I would participate in a forced “sing in”. This whole idea that companies have that you need to “get out of your comfort zone” is bs. They need to start learning to accommodate OUR comfort zones. I won’t be humiliated like that. Maybe others can join in the protest and this kind of foolishness will stop.

  15. Dances with Flax*

    LW3: Professional development is fine, and well within an employer’s purview, but your PERSONAL development should be just that – personal and YOUR responsibility. LW, please search this site for appalling examples of what happens when employers start sticking their corporate noses into their employees’ non-work-related lives. You’ll find descriptions of bosses who want to monitor and direct their subordinates’ diets, spirituality, and just about every other aspect of those subordinates’ lives – none of which are any of those bosses’ business! Be glad that your company is NOT doing that and that you’re not in the untenable position of having to choose between your livelihood and your private life choices.

  16. DramaQ*

    I HATE mandatory professional development stuff. The problem with it is it tends to end up being super generic. My last employer was trying to push this and I looked into their offerings and it was all for office related type work. My job is highly technical none of those classes were relevant to me. On top of that they wanted us doing it during work hours which meant my actual job wasn’t getting done. I am all for making those things available to those who want to use it but I would murder my coworker if they decided for me that I needed it and pushed management into requiring it. You have no clue what I do for personal development. Just because you don’t see me doing it in office doesn’t mean I don’t do it. And perhaps I don’t WANT to throw myself into being the best of the best of the best at my job maybe I am happy working a McJob and I seek personal development with other pursuits that I chose not to discuss at work for various reasons. I think it’s fine to discuss making it available to management and maybe her coworkers will take advantage of it if offered but coming in and trying to force the company culture to conform to your ideas of how it should work never goes over well. I am not shocked that “nobody cares” about her concerns regarding professional development.

  17. Ex-Manager Material*

    Re: #3 – FWIW, I’d highly recommend building your own personal network with the goal of having some mentors in your corner. I agree with another commenter on the original post, that personality assessments and the like are tantamount to your horoscope – useful in that it helps you arrange your own thoughts about yourself and your path, but no discrete information.
    Build that network and stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you. It will be so much more useful to your career in the long run.

  18. thatoneoverthere*

    #1 – could cause serious mental anguish to someone. My BFF’s ex -husband was sent to jail for a crime. My BFF had nothing to do it with it, but still lives with a great fear that something will happen and her kids will be taken away (he is in jail and has little to no contact with the kids). This would seriously ruin her for days.

    1. Observer*

      I feel really bad for your friend. But you don’t need that level of trauma for a stunt like this to more than ruin your day or week. That’s an insanely cruel thing to do.

    2. Giant Kitty*

      If it’s any consolation, my brother for real has the proverbial “record as long as your arm/as thick as a phone book” and was/is heavily involved in drugs, and it still took a monumental effort on his ex’s part to get full custody and restrictions on his visitations that were necessary for their child’s *safety*.

      He ended up losing all parental rights because in between jail stints, he kept taking her to court trying to get custody himself (he cleans up well and is an excellent public speaker, while his ex was shy & nervous) and the judges finally got tired of all his a-hole maneuvers.

  19. Delta Delta*

    #1 – That letter was disturbing when it was first published and it’s disturbing now. Calling Child Services is no joke. and if it happens, there’s almost no way/no explaining to get out of that interaction. And even if it is a mistake if they get involved, there’s a record of it. I’m an attorney who represents kids. I’m all for protecting kids and ensuring safety, but I am never for false reports or joking at a parent’s expense.

    Winnifred is a bad person.

  20. stitchinthyme*

    I shuddered at letter #3. I’m an introvert and I hate those “personal development” things with a passion — along with icebreakers, personality-type tests, etc. I’ve learned not to be too vocal about my distaste for those things after someone overheard me badmouthing one and reported me to the VP (I apologized for being unprofessional in voicing my feelings, but not for the feelings themselves), but I will never, ever like them, and I only do the bare minimum when I’m forced to participate. So please, LW#3, do your personal development on your own time and leave your coworkers alone. Not all of us are into self-help.

    Thankfully, I now work for a company that never does anything like that.

  21. smol might*

    Winnifred needs to have no power over anybody, ever. I can easily imagine putting my head down and trying to get through it like Wendy did in the update, because if Winnifred is awful enough to play that prank and put that write-up on record, where would she escalate to if I continued to push back? Is the daycare at the company – i.e. does Winnifred actually have access to my children’s care provision? To my children? Might she actually start rumours or make reports about me mistreating my kids, to discredit me or worse? This is such horrendous stuff to even joke about. I would be a mess.

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