coworker is angry about a prank, contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair, 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. My coworker is really angry about a prank

Some of my colleagues decided to pull (what they thought was) a harmless prank on a coworker. The coworker, “Jane,” is particular about her car – she always parks far from the entrance because she is concerned about car door “dings” and does not want anyone to park near her. As a joke, several people pulled their cars around her one morning last week. No one touched her car or impeded her ability to get into the car or leave the parking lot.

When Jane saw what they had done, she went ballistic and started yelling at everyone in the office. Keep in mind, Jane is usually the first to pull a silly prank in the office (think printing out pictures and papering a coworker’s cube with them).

Fast forward to today, and the weekend didn’t calm her down – nearly a week later, she is still refusing to speak to anyone involved in the prank. She has started parking her car even further out to ensure it is the only one in the area. The office is typically a friendly place, but Jane feels hard done by and shows no signs of getting over this. The employees who engaged in the prank feel she is completely overreacting since no harm came to her or the vehicle. It is a public lot after all with no assigned spots. Thoughts on what to do?

Pranks tend to be highly controversial in the comment section here (I suspect they’re more controversial here than anywhere in real life, but who knows) but since Jane has a track record of pulling pranks herself, I can’t fault your coworkers for thinking she’d see the humor in this. (You of course shouldn’t do this to someone who’s known not to be able to take a joke or laugh at themselves, because then it’s mean-spirited rather than funny.)

That said, since she’s upset by it, the coworkers involved should apologize. It doesn’t need to be a groveling apology or anything that would be out of proportion to what happened. But they should say something like, “Hey, we’re sorry that upset you. We meant it as an affectionate joke and thought you’d find it funny. But we see that you didn’t, so we’re sorry it upset you.”

If Jane continues to refuse to speak to people after that, a manager needs to intervene and tell her to let it go.


2. Contacting my daughter’s employer about her affair

First, the behavior coming from my daughter is not her. It’s as though someone has taken her away.

My daughter started a new job end of November. She has always had a strong working ethic and went to college for human resources. We just recently found out she had been partying with girls from work and they have been encouraged her in having an affair. Well, her husband found out she is having an affair and all of us have been losing sleep and are emotionally stressed. He (husband) did talk to her and they had a plan to work it out.

The following day she had lunch with these girls and since has changed her mind and is staying with this guy and his roommate. Last night I found out the guy she is having the affair with is also on a dating site.

My daughter has been with her husband for seven years and he is devastated and wants to work on the marriage. I would like to contact the company and let them know what’s going on and also ask if they have a fraternization policy. What are your recommendations?

Oh my goodness, no. Do not under any circumstances contact her employer. This is not a work matter; this is between your daughter and her husband. Contacting her employer would be incredibly out of line.

I’m sure this is painful for you to watch, but you can’t interfere with your adult daughter’s employment in that way (or her personal life, for that matter).


3. An employee told me she found another job and gave me an “offer” letter with the option to terminate her

I just had an employee bring a letter to me saying that she had an opportunity to work elsewhere and that she will be taking that job but would still be available to work for our company one day a week. If we decided not to accept her offer for one day a week, then she would “terminate” her employment with us. At the bottom of the page, it had a place for me to sign whether I accepted her one day a week, or declined her one day a week and accepted that it would be termination. Because she used the word “terminate,” I did not feel comfortable signing her letter because WE are not terminating her employment, SHE has decided to stop working her full time hours with us. But at the same time, we do not need an employee that will only be here once a week. We had a conversation about this and verbally informed her that one day a week would not work for our company and told her to write a letter of resignation and turn it in as soon as possible.

This was then followed by another letter “from her to our company” stating her termination of employment with the company. It also mentioned that she had offered to work one day a week and that it had been declined by the company. Again, I did not feel comfortable signing her letter because I did not agree with her wording. I told her that the letter must state that she is the one resigning from the position offered to her.

I have never had an employee resign this way. What do I do? Have I done anything wrong so far? Should I just continue to not sign her letters?

Yeah, this is super sketchy. She’s trying to make it look like you are letting her go — either so that she can collect unemployment (which she probably can’t anyway, since she’s accepting another job) or for some other reason, which is probably just a misunderstanding of the law.

I’d say this: “We’re not terminating you. You’re telling us that you’ve accepted another job and resigned. We are accepting your resignation.” If she says not resigning because she’s offering you one day a week, say this: “Your position is full-time. There’s not a part-time role available. We consider this a resignation, and aren’t going to continue debating this.” If she keeps pushing, say this: “I’m confused about what your goal is here. Is there some reason why you want this to be considered a termination?”

Also, stop trying to get her to write a resignation letter; if she won’t, she won’t, and at this point it’s just prolonging the debate. Write a memo explaining what happened, being as detailed as possible, and file it away. Additionally, give her a letter documenting the fact that she’s resigned, you’ve accepted it, and her last day will be X. Decline to discuss further.


4. I accidentally described myself as “outgoing” when I’m not

When I interviewed for my upcoming job, I was asked to describe myself in three words or phrases. I said “professional, a self-starter, and outgoing.”

The first two are true, but I’m not outgoing. I’m usually introverted and quiet, although I am very good at networking. Also, my last job required a looooot of customer service interaction (700 or so people in an 8-hour shift), so I was primed to think of that while I was interviewing.

I swear that saying that wasn’t intended as a lie! It was just something that came to mind and I said it without thinking. But when I start this next job — which is NOT a customer-facing position — are they going to be expecting me to be super outgoing, or can I be more like myself?

Nah, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They’re probably not going to mention the exact details of your answer to that question, and even if they did, they’re not likely to hold it against you.

The only thing I’d worry about here is whether you may have inadvertently gotten yourself hired into a job that isn’t the right match for you — if they really want/need someone who’s outgoing and you’re not. But (a) it’s unlikely that a single word in an interview would result in that, and (b) it sounds like you’ve adapted to environments that required a lot of interaction in the past.

Either way, your best bet here is to be yourself and see how it goes.


Read an update to this letter here.

{ 353 comments… read them below }

  1. Tiger Snake*

    #2 – Its very unkind of me, but all these years later I still feel like a parent trying to blame “the girls a work” for their daughter’s personal behaviour explains a few things about why she suddenly went ‘wild’ in the first place.

    1. LadyJ*

      I am inclined to agree. I also wonder what they hope to achieve. Revenge? Fired? I mean what is the goal as for fraternization this isn’t the military and as I understand it from an attorney it is virtually unenforceable one outside company time.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think that an employer can generally fire you for being in a relationship with a coworker, but they can’t do anything other than firing – they can’t sue you or have you arrested – unless there’s some other issue like sexual harassment or coercion. So the most likely outcomes for the LW would be nothing, or her daughter being fired.

        I can see a parent being baffled at what, to them, seems like a complete and self destructive personality change, but the employer certainly isn’t the person to go to to deal with it.

        This is the kind of letter where I’d really like to hear the point of view of the other people involved, because I suspect the story from the other side might be very illuminating, and possibly very different.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. These are old posts, so I’d love to know if the LW actually contacted the daughter’s employer, and if the daughter still talks to her mom if that’s the case. Adult kids have gone no contact with their interfering parents for less.

        2. Tiger Snake*

          Except she’s not even in a relationship with a coworker. The OP describes her daughter’s workmates as being the friends – the girls she hangs out with, not the man she met on a dating site. It feels asking the teacher in a primary school to not let her play with a specific child you think is a bad influence.

          1. Kate*

            I understood it as daughter going to parties with workmates and meeting a guy there, and this guy is also on a dating site (by which OP probably wants to stress that he isn’t serious about OP’s daughter).

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yeah, it’s not specified where she met the affair partner – but he’s clearly not one of the coworkers partying together because those are all women (excuse me, “girls”) – so I would still assume he’s not at their company. I think LW2 wanted the employer to stop their daughter from socializing with that group of coworkers, not directly with the man. (Or, even worse, they want their daughter fired so she has no choice but to reconcile with her husband for financial security.)

          2. Grits McGee*

            The letter writer commented once under the name “Mimi” in the original post, and clarified that the affair partner was a significantly older male coworker. Hlao-roo posted the full comment further down.

        3. Maglev to Crazytown*

          In most work place, especially nowadays with people marrying later and later, the policies aren’t against coworkers dating, but against creation of “conflict of interest” situations. The business just needs to have both parties sign the applicable declaration forms, and potentially move someone if there is a direct power level conflict. But I have myself been, and have worked with, many peer-level married couples over the years (often people in specialized fields who met in college/grad school, or on the job). I knew someone whose parents were both high level government employees who were work peers, but knew they could never advance further because the rule in place was they could not get promoted above each other.

          I can understand the bafflement of a parent, but this is not the way to approach it. And in many work places, even if it is affecting the families and the marriages involved, the employer has no say in many cases (unless a supervisor-supervisee, and oftentimes if the relationship is earnest and serious, all they can do is move them).

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah as a member of a specialized field, and one of the main employers in my area for that field, work is basically a meet market.

            My husband and I both work there (we met through coworkers socially) and my group had two peer couples that married each other, and another guy who transferred to our department because he began a relationship with the manager in his previous department (they’re married now for 10+ years).

            So yeah, the idea of being prohibited from dating/marrying coworkers is really wild to me. As long as they’re not in each others’ chain of command, it’s a gross overreach for a company to tell you who you can/can’t date.

            1. Maglev to Crazytown*

              Absolutely. I did know two people who were project managers on their own, but due to their subject matter expertise areas, periodically provided technical inputs to each other’s projects. When they announced their engagement to their management so appropriate controls could be put in place, senior management in their shock replied, “But can’t you just live together instead of getting married?” Since the policies current in place allowed dating without controls, but marriage required additional controls. Everyone got a good laugh out of that, recognizing it was just a sudden shock reaction, and they were allowed to still provide SME expertise where needed to each other, but someone else had to serve as documented reviewer for the work.

        4. Observer**

          This is the kind of letter where I’d really like to hear the point of view of the other people involved, because I suspect the story from the other side might be very illuminating, and possibly very different.

          In a case like this, I don’t think that there can be any doubt that the story is going to look very different from the other side. The minute someone says “X is not that kind of person.” you know that there is a missing piece.

          1. Elenna*

            Yeah, I read “this behaviour isn’t her” and immediately thought “you mean it’s not the way she is *around you* – maybe because you tend to do ridiculously boundary-crossing things like contacting her employer…”
            Of course having an affair is a crappy thing to do in the first place, I’m not trying to defend the daughter. But OP is most certainly not helping here.

          2. Daisy*

            Yeah, X is absolutely that kind of person. Mom may not WANT her to be that type of person, but her actions speak for themselves.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I’m guessing, but it really is just a guess, that she is hoping the employer will separate them in some way, like bring them both in to the boss’s office, remind them of the policy and warn them that if the relationship does not end, they will be fired.

        It really does sound a little to me like she is…still seeing her daughter as a young teenager who is being “led astray” by the bad girls and wants to get the other people in authority on her side in order to make her daughter behave. Like a parent phoning up the school and telling them “I don’t want my daughter to be in the same class as x next year because they are a bad influence over her.”

        1. Tiger Snake*

          But even then; she doesn’t work with the guy she’s having an affair with! The only people the OP describes as being her daughter’s workmates are the girl’s female friends.

          1. Lydia*

            Apparently when it was originally published, the OP did clarify that the other side of the affair was an older coworker. I suspect OP was hoping her daughter’s employer would get involved on all sides.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          This is my read (Mom wants her errant daughter sent to the principal’s office, so to speak) as well.

          I’d be curious to see a letter or update from the daughter. And I’m very curious as to why we’re hearing what the son-in-law wants, but not the daughter. That to me is interesting.

            1. Anon for this*

              And because “person who initiated an affair is in the wrong” is the default mental state people jump to. Or because some households really do value sons, and the son in laws their daughters marry, over daughters, and daughter doing anything to jeopardize that relationship is bad daughter. Or because the LW might subconsciously realize their daughter is hurting her husband, but not want to admit that to themself.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        I got the impression this is someone who used to have pretty tight control over her daughter, was floundering because she had no way to step in and control this situation, and so was looking around for someone else who might be able to exert the control over her daughter that she’d lost. I think she just (rather naively) thought the employer might could stop them from seeing each other, which would obviously save the daughter’s marriage?

        1. Rex Libris*

          Yeah. I laughed at the “This isn’t like her” bit for this reason. My parents couldn’t tell you what my favorite breakfast cereal is, because if they knew they’d have to judge or control it somehow. People with controlling, over-involved parents either create a palatable fake persona and keep their real self distant, or cut off contact.

      4. Observer**

        and as I understand it from an attorney it is virtually unenforceable one outside company time

        Unless something was misunderstood, the attorney is wrong. Unless a company’s rules are discriminatory (eg it’s always going to be the woman who is fired), the company can most definitely enforce such rules. Whether they should is a different question.

      5. pope suburban*

        It seems to me that they’re trying to find someone who *can* influence their daughter’s behavior, since they cannot anymore, what with her being an adult and independent from them. I wouldn’t call it tattling as such, but sort of similar? Like…they want this to stop, but they don’t have the sway they did when she was little, and they’re thinking of her employer as a kind of stand-in for that authority. It’s excessive in any case, but I suppose I can understand the basic thought process behind it, even if I disagree.

    2. Portabello*

      It’s pretty telling about how the letter had several mentions of what the husband wants and feels but nothing from the daughter. The husband seems close to his parents in law, the daughter, not so much.

      1. UKDancer*

        I noticed that. I think it’s entirely possible the daughter wants out of an unhappy marriage, doesn’t want to work on things and is using the affair to give her better feeling reasons for leaving.

        As people say below, nobody decides to cheat on their spouse because their colleagues are encouraging it. People have to want to have the affair and / or be sufficiently unhappy in their relationship.

        I’d also say that if the colleagues are friends with the daughter and don’t know the husband, of course they’re going to support her. It’s fairly common for people to back their friends and cheerlead for what they want. That doesn’t necessarily make them a bad influence, it more likely means they’re aware the daughter is unhappy and are trying to support her in doing what she wants (which sounds like it involves leaving the marriage).

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          It’s kind of wild that all I know about this woman is that she was cheating on her husband, and I still felt so much sympathy for her. Like, her parents are so deeply out of line that all I want is for her to get some freedom. If your boundary stomping parents are team husband I am looking at team husband with a skeptical eye. That’s how far over the line these people are, everything they want is automatically shady.

          1. Clobberin’ Time*

            That is pretty wild, actually. It can be true both that she is behaving awfully and that her parents need to take several giant back from the situation. Why does everything have to be picking Team This or Team That?

            1. Lydia*

              Because OP should always be Team What’s Best for Her Daughter and it’s not clear that’s actually what she wants. As was mentioned, OP has a lot to say about how Husband feels, but not a lot to say about what might be happening with her daughter other than implying that she has no agency and is only having this affair because of her bad friends.

              1. Lydia*

                And just to clarify, what’s best for Daughter is not what Mom thinks is best, but what Daughter actually wants for herself.

              2. Blue*

                I disagree that she should always be on her daughter’s side by default. She should do her best to support her daughter, look at things from her perspective, not unduly blame her or interfere in her work life, etc., but if her daughter is in the wrong, then she shouldn’t always be only thinking of what’s best for her daughter and not anyone else. It isn’t necessarily that the daughter is trapped in a freedomless, unhappy marriage, but people instinctually try to paint one side as good and one as bad while taking sides.

                1. Lydia*

                  It doesn’t have to be spelled out, though. We can infer a lot without taking too much risk. 1. Daughter started a new job, met new people, started spending time with them. 2. Whatever happened, daughter is having an affair and mom is worried (fair). 3. Mom wrote into an advice column asking if she can contact daughter’s employer. A normal, non-invasive parent would NEVER EVEN think that. That would not cross their minds except in a “I wish I could” sort of way, but that person already knows it’s a bad idea. 4. Mom does no reflection on why daughter has made these choices except to say it’s obviously because of these band influence friends, but Mom does spend time talking about how devastating this whole thing has been to husband. Mom seems really invested in husband’s feels on this and not so much concerned with what’s going on with her daughter.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Right?! The letter sounded like OP is talking about a ten-year old who needs parental guidance to get through her day, but is also somehow a married adult with a college degree and a career. I too would go to extremes (like moving in with a random lover and his roommate) to get away from that entire family. OP can keep the STBX son-in-law, since his behavior is more to their liking anyway.

            Lord, my parents weren’t nearly as controlling and this letter still brought back all.the.memories. I moved out of their place at 17 for college and never moved back. I lived a 2-hr train ride away and it was customary for kids from my home town to go to college in the same big city I did, and to come home every week, but I only did this maybe the first couple of years, and then started only coming home a couple of times a year. Would be interesting to see updates on this from all sides involved. Wonder if daughter is in contact with the parents anymore.

      2. Susie*

        I think OP hopes that if the employer is notified of the affair, it will stop the daughter from leaving the marriage. More likely, both people involved get fired. Of course, then the daughter might be more inclined to stay if she has no job.

        OP/the mom really needs to get out of their business or she might find herself cut off from her daughter is she divorces the husband.

      3. Selina Luna*

        The times I’ve seen parents who are THIS much on the husband’s side, they’ve effectively chosen the husband for their child. Sometimes, they’ve actually done this: some very religious families and some very cultural families do choose spouses for their children. Other times, they have encouraged their child to date and eventually marry only within a very small subset of men, and so the adult children choose someone who their parents will like. Indeed, their parents do like their spouse, but it turns out that they don’t.

        The parents have obviously been nosing in for a long time. Their daughter may just want to escape them and this is the only way she knows how.

        1. SHEILA, the co-host*

          I had this thought as well – that the Son-in-law is the child of family friends and/or from their church, and is one of a very small group of Mom-approved life partners. I’m guessing Mom (and probably Dad) sheltered/smothered daughter, and now daughter is figuring out there’s more to life than what mom and dad showed her. Not that that’s a reason to have an affair, but I get it.

      4. sundae funday*

        My total conjecture is that this woman has always been under her parents’ thumb, married the safe, parent-approved guy, and now isn’t happy. Clearly, her parents are extremely controlling. (not excusing the affair, though… get out of the marriage before you cheat… but no one can be “talked into” cheating unless they already want to cheat….)

    3. Phryne*

      People in happy healthy relationships don’t really get ‘encouraged into an affair’ by co-workers. Something was rotten in Denmark already.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes – someone who is in a happy, monogamous relationship isn’t going to cheat just because co-workers suggest or encourage it.

        Someone who is unhappy and already flirting with another person might be more likely to follow through if they get encouragement rather thaa disapporval from others but I’d think even that is a pretty minor factor in the decison.

        1. Lydia*

          “Before I met y’all, I hadn’t tried jalapeño poppers, a Long Island Iced Tea, or having an affair and since we partied last night, there’s only one thing left on that list!”

          is not a thing that happens.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think LW focuses on the friends because “remove the friends, marriage is repaired” seems like a plan that might work. Whereas telling the two people in the marriage what to do is not working.

        1. SHEILA, the co-host*

          Right. And also LW can’t control who the friends are, while it seems like there’s a strong chance she was involved in picking the spouse (i.e. only allowed daughter to date within their church or similar).

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. And I wonder if part of it was her own mother’s interference in their life. Bottom line is that the daughter is making a choice and it is between her and her spouse if they fix it or not.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Can we also note that the parent’s response to this is “maybe putting my daughter’s income at risk will bring her into line”.

      1. Three Flowers*

        Almost definitely to keep her financially dependent on her husband and/or them, and therefore where they think she “belongs.” Goes nicely with the writer’s clear disdain for women who work.

        1. Madame+Arcati*

          I don’t know, LW seems proud of their daughter’s work ethic and education and doesn’t seem to suggest she should be fired. Granted they are being awful and should keep their nose out but I get the impression that they think these girls are the bad influence and they should be moved or prevented from seeing the until-now-perfect angel daughter. Who would then obviously resume her goodness and work ethic by not partying, doing as her parents say and going back to her husband.

          1. Three Flowers*

            OP doesn’t *say* she should be fired, but obviously wants to use her daughter’s employer to make her go back to her husband. The leverage an employer would have, if they decided to participate in this ridiculous separate-the-kids-on-the-playground farce, is a threat to her employment or performance records, and therefore her current or future income. So the parents want to put her income at risk to make clear to her that she must obey her parents and stay with her husband—making her dependent on them, if not for money, for the stability that allows her to earn money. You’re right—they’re not quite the same thing (though personally I think her parents want her out if that “work environment” and want the employer to do that for them).

            It’s grotesque either way.

      2. Momma Bear*

        That is a super creepy, controlling statement. I wonder if the mother sides with the husband because he’s similarly controlling vs being a nice guy. Birds of a feather?

    5. Jasper*

      Also “woman makes new friends and suddenly wants to get out of seven year marriage” sounds a lot like “because they convinced her that she was an abusive relationship” to me, or at the very least “she suddenly realizes that she wants more from life than that relationship”. And given that no children are mentioned and the seven years thing, there’s good odds that “get out before you have kids to make things complicated” is by far the best option.

      1. Big Tech Burnout*

        That was my immediate thought (having lived it myself so I may be projecting). My parents loved my spouse and my spouse was charming and outgoing but he was a horrible person to me.

        I started making friends at a job and we would talk relationships and I started to realize it wasn’t normal and that self discovery was seen as being around bad influences and not me learning that I shouldn’t be scared of my spouse’s reactions and temperament.

        I could see them trying to interfere with my life in this way to keep my spouse from being hurt and upset. They also gave off strong “don’t be such a child” vibes regardless of my age or career success.

    6. Cat Tree*

      Referring to adult women as girls is gross. Clearly the LW doesn’t view women in general as having their own agency and views them as perpetual teenagers. Whenever someone wonders why I don’t like that term, I should show them this letter.

        1. WellRed*

          Yeah, it doesn’t have to be some infant lilzing thing. I also prefer to think of women as women but if I tell my mom I’m going away with my high school friends, it’s “the girls.”

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            I once had a man try to play gotcha with me about the word “girls” because women talk about other women with it.

            I told him that it can be a term of endearment with people you have a warm relationship with, but it’s overly familiar with people you don’t know, and part of how sexism works is that men are not taught to maintain the same polite distance from women they don’t know well as men they don’t know well.

            I said although there no direct male equivalent because sexism doesn’t really work that way, the closest proxy for him to consider might be the word “buddy.” That he might refer to a close coworker as “a buddy from work,” but it would be weird for him to go around talking about, “the buddies in finance set a new policy” or “ask the buddy behind the desk” when the men are just random colleagues. Likewise, a woman you have a warm relationship with might be fine with you referring to her as “a girl from work,” but you shouldn’t go around talking about, “the girls in finance set a new policy”or “ask the girl behind the desk” unless your company has started hiring actual children.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Men do refer to buddies as “boys” sometimes — “I’m going to play poker with the boys.” The significance is that, like “girls’ night out,” is used to refer to social settings and relationships. “The girl at the front desk” is a business relationship, not a social one, so it’s just as wrong as “the boy at the front desk.”

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                That context is definitely the key, but I went with “buddy” in the conversation at the time because while “the boys” is definitely a common expression, I don’t think men really use the word in the singular to talk about “a boy I know,” even in a purely social context. I wanted to get across the undertone of affection/close relationship that accompanies a woman using “a girl I know” so I reached for a term that men would be very familiar with using, but only in an affectionate personal relationship. Men don’t as commonly have the experience of being treated very familiarly by a stranger/distant acquaintance purely because of their gender, and I felt like a man who digs in and tries to play gotcha games in response to being told “we don’t like that” might be more open to empathizing if I could offer up a situation for him to imagine that wasn’t so far-fetched but he would definitely understand felt off.

                1. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  Thank you for this! I prefer the term “girls” for my group of female friends (ie. This weekend I’m going for dinner with the girls). Ladies always feels too prissy (and I can’t imagine anyone saying “I’m going out with the lords”, or “I’m going out with the gentlemen”), but I feel like I’m doing a disservice to feminism when I use girls. This context is perfect!

              1. Petty Betty*

                The buds or buckaroos. I should start calling the shop guys the buckaroos. Only my kids would get it (yes, two of my own kids work in the shop).

            2. Amyll*

              I think “bros” is becoming comparable to “girls”. Affectionate in some instances dismissive in a frat guy way in another

        2. ecnaseener*

          Parents who respect their adult children can of course still have “I can’t believe my baby’s all grown up” feelings and also recognize “she IS grown up and not mine to control.” This parent clearly hasn’t internalized that second fact. In the full context of this letter, I don’t think the “girls” thing is just a harmless imprecise-wording thing, I think it fits into the overall pattern of disrespect.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I live in an area where it is common to call all women “girls” and all men “boys,” but…given the context of the letter where she is talking about whether she should contact her daughter’s workplace and where she seems to think her daughter’s marriage is her responsibility and blames her workmates for influencing her daughter, I…sort of feel there is a pattern here and that it has very different implications to somebody saying they are going out for the evening with the girls or even just a parent referring to their adult children as “my girls” or “my boys.”

    7. Madame+Arcati*

      I got that vibe too – I feel like “this behaviour is not coming from our daughter it’s like someone has taken her away “ really means, our adult daughter is not doing exactly what we tell her anymore and I can’t cope, waaah, where is my dolly that I dressed and posed and dictated all her actions?”
      Someone “has taken her away”? More likely she’s taking herself away from your attempts to control her.
      She’s an adult. What she does is not for you to police (if legal etc), even if you think it’s wrong or it’s objectively stupid. You are not the boss of her.

      1. alienor*

        I mean in fairness, “our nearly 30-year-old daughter started partying like a teenager and has left her husband for an older man from a dating site” is a pretty sudden reversal for someone who doesn’t have a history of self-destructive behavior. (I reread the original letter, and the LW said in the comments that the daughter was 28 and the new boyfriend was 42.) I can see why this would be surprising and worrying even for a parent who isn’t controlling. That doesn’t make the LW’s actions right–they’re still blatantly wrong–but I doubt even the chillest mom or dad would be able to just shrug at this one.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Being concerned is fine! But this isn’t being concerned— it’s casting around for an answer to the question, “ok, who is an authority who can MAKE her?” Its just not ever appropriate to think that about your adult child.

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Reminds me of the Friends ep, Monica discovers, at her engagement party, that her parents hate Chandler. Ross blamed him for the pot smoke in their dorm room.
      Monica: Tell them it wasn’t Chandler!
      Ross: OK. But who do we tell them it was?

      Because parents of a Golden Child will always look to blame someone else.

      OP, if she truly believes it is the other people’s influence should be more worried about her adult, married daughter being so swayed by peer pressure. Instead she expects any “bad” decision to be done else’s fault.

    9. Citra*

      My first thought was, “Ah, a ‘The Missing Missing Reasons’ parent.”

      (It’s an article on toxic forums for estranged parents; it’s really fascinating, if anyone wants to Google it.)

      1. TallTeapot*

        OMG–thank you so much for that “Missing Missing Reasons” link–so interesting and helpful!

    10. Heffalump*

      Does she refer to all adult women as “girls,” or only those she thinks are behaving badly?

    11. MK*

      Maybe, but blaming someone else for a loved one’s bad (according to you) behaviour is a pretty universal human reaction, although usually not to this degree.

    12. Dust Bunny*

      Thiiiiiis. It’s always “fell in with a bad crowd” or “this wasn’t why s/he really is”.

      Yeah, it is. They’re part of that bad crowd.

      The LW/parents in general should stay out of it, anyway, but assuming that your kid isn’t responsible for their bad behavior is how you get a lot of bad behavior.

    13. sundae funday*

      RIGHT. And the “the behavior coming from my daughter is not her.” Nope, literally, it is!

      This could be totally false, but the way the LW is so over-involved also makes me think this woman has been controlled by her parents for a long time…. went to college for a “safe” career, married the “safe,” “parent-approved” guy… and now she’s going “wild.”

      I’m not excusing the affair, of course! If you’re not happy in your marriage, get out of your marriage… don’t cheat, obviously. But this whole story makes me think “preacher’s kid who goes to college and goes wild” kind of thing.

    14. GingerCookie*

      I mean, yes there are boundary/control issues, but the daughter is a grown woman who has been married for seven years. So, she is the primary culprity in own her infidelity: not her friends and not her mom.

      We all sort of have to like… get therapy and fix ourselves rather then harming others.

  2. Samwise*

    I know it’s an old letter, but…

    OP 2, this IS who your daughter is. Nobody forced her to cheat on her husband. She chose to do it.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, absolutely. Time to take your daughter off her pedestal and see her for the fallible human being she is.

      1. Madame+Arcati*

        And for all we know, it isn’t about fallibility – daughter might have quite rightly left the control of an abusive husband with the support and help of her lovely friends.

  3. Former Hominid*

    I think number one was bad advice. There is a huge difference I think between “plastering someones cubicle with silly pictures” and figuring out a coworker has some anxiety about her car getting scratches/damaged (why? Were they in an accident? Is it there first non-beater car and they’re terrified it will get damaged and they’ll never be able to afford a non-beater again?) and then targeting someones deepest fear and making them think their car has been damaged/been placed in a situation where it will be damaged. It’s like that old vine of the family where the dad/mom/son are making some noise to celebrate New Years and then the little girl goes YEAH! And smashes the punch bowl to smithereens. Putting someones car in danger/perceived danger when it may be their only way of driving to their work, therefore their only way of earning a paycheck- seems way beyond the pale. I’m not a prank fan in general, but “harmless funny pictures that can be taken down” is not the equivalent of “making someone think their worst fear has come true” and I think her upset is way more reasonable than OP wants to admit.

    1. Properlike*

      They parked near her car in parking spots in a lot that is not private. Anyone could park in a spot next to her car at any time. Personally, I’d really hate having my office plastered with pictures, but the OP said the person with the car phobia leads most of the practical jokes.

      Maybe this person only drives to work and back home, but I find it hard to understand how someone with this level of other-car fear.

      1. WellRed*

        There’s also no indication it’s a phobia. Lot’s of people are precious about their vehicles.

        1. Pudding*

          This. My office has a couple. We have free for all parking, and several buildings in a campus style layout. The parking area where one can probably avoid space neighbors is limited and tends to move depending on the time of year and day of the week. Some of the finicky parkers have multiple cars and only drive the ones they’re protective of when they’re sure they can find a space that no one is likely to park next to. I’m amused at the idea of parking next to them as a prank.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This. A random person could have parked next to her, simply out of not knowing that this section of the lot is Jane’s designated 10-15 parking spots. Sheesh. How does Jane ever go out? Admittedly, I’ve lost count by now of how many dings I have on both sides of my car. I like to park far away and walk, but I also spent 18 months living in an apartment in a city setting, where I paid for spot in a city lot in a busy area. Probably got new dings on my doors every week but living in the area was worth it. It’s just a car and it’s not like people are damaging its transmission by parking next to it.

        1. HS+Teacher*

          Just because you’re okay with dings on your car doesn’t mean other people should be. I am a car chick. I drive really nice cars, because really like nice cars. I would be more than annoyed if my coworkers pulled this crap as a prank. I don’t think it’s the same as papering an office, because you’re not suggesting that person’s personal property get damaged.

          There are zero dings on my cars. I keep them in a garage at home. Luckily, our spaces at work are pretty wide, and everybody tends to park in the same spot daily. Again, just because you don’t care about something doesn’t mean that someone who does has an issue.

          1. doreen*

            But no one was suggesting that anyone’s personal property get damaged. They didn’t touch her car or prevent her from getting into the car or keep her from driving the car out of the lot. What that sounds like to me is that they parked in the adjacent, actual parking spaces – and Jane wants at the very least an empty space to her right, one to her left and one in front of/behind her if parking is a double row. And she probably actually want 2-3 empty spaces on each side and 5 or six empty spaces in the other row.

      3. sundae funday*

        I’d be incredibly annoyed if someone plastered my office with pictures. First of all, that’s incredibly wasteful! How many trees had to die for this prank? (I’m kind of kidding but also, that’s what would be going through my head).

        1. Clisby*

          I would, too. If Jane does this kind of thing, any sympathy I might otherwise have for her just flew out the window. Not only did this prank not endanger her car, it didn’t require her to clean up after it (aside from pulling her car out the parking space).

          A prank-free zone seems to be called for.

    2. Kalongdia*

      I think that it’s fairly unhelpful to move from “someone parks farther away because they don’t want any dings in their door” to “making someone think their worst fear has come true”. I know that I personally (and many of my family members), will park farther out than most people, and none of us would have a remotely similar reaction to what Jane had. For the majority of people, especially pranksters, this should be a relatively lighthearted thing, especially considering that someone parking near your car is an everyday occurrence: I’m assuming that Jane doesn’t have the same reaction when someone parks next to her at the supermarket.

      1. ecnaseener*

        +1 Plenty of people care about keeping their cars pristine and still manage not to fly into a rage at anyone parking near them.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I sometimes park next a car when there are open spaces elsewhere because it’s easier for me to to see the car than the lines marking the stall. I had no idea this was a huge deal for other people!

          1. Flowers*

            I don’t know about other people but it’s extremely odd to me when someone parks so close to me in an otherwise empty lot. It’s kind of like sitting in an empty bus or train and someone sits down RIGHT next to you.
            (one time I was parked in an empty lot and the person waiting for the spot next to me became abusive when I took too long to clean out the debris from my car).

      2. Antilles*

        I’m assuming that Jane doesn’t have the same reaction when someone parks next to her at the supermarket.
        I assume so too because I also park a bit further out at the supermarket and at least once every few trips, I’ll come out to find someone parked next to me. So I am 100% confident that Jane encounters this elsewhere.
        Does it make me sigh and roll my eyes that there are 10 empty spots and you just happened to pick the one right next to my car? Sure. But it’s worthy of a “mildly annoyed for 10 seconds” level of irritation, not “go ballistic and refuse to talk for a week” level of outrage.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Plus, not everywhere has parking lots big enough that there is a distant empty space. Sometimes you are parking downtown and you have to park next to someone no matter how far you get. Heck, sometimes you go somewhere that is randomly busy and there is only one spot – I went to a strip mall in a tiny town yesterday to grab lunch and only one spot was open. It’s nice the work has a big lot, but I have worked plenty of places where the lot was only big enough for everyone that worked there and a few visitor spots. Parking in isolation is not even close to always possible.

        2. southwest*

          I mean I actually prefer to park in the spot right next to another parked car because I find it makes it easier to align myself in a spot!

            1. RishaBree*

              *raises hand* I still have to open the door to make sure I’m parallel to the line, but another car makes it 1000 times more likely that I’m even fully in a spot.

          1. Russian in Texas*

            I do it because it’s more difficult to get to my catalytic converter!
            I have a fairly new car and I prefer not to get dings and scratches, but someone simply park next to me is life.

          2. Heffalump*

            I try to park on the right side of another car. When the owner comes back, they’ll definitely be opening the left door, but they may or may not open the right door–to let a passenger in, to put groceries in, or whatever. But I’m not fanatical about it.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Jane assuming that she’s entitled to not have cars parked next to hers at work, though, is out of line. A visitor or someone who doesn’t know the “rules” could just as well park there. Yelling at your coworkers who *didn’t even touch the car* is beyond the pale.

      4. EchoGirl*

        I think the difference here is that it was intentional. Cars park near her in the supermarket lot (or a visitor’s car in the work lot, or whatever), that’s just the luck of the draw. In this case, people intentionally parked next to her knowing that that’s something she specifically prefers to avoid. It’s not entirely surprising that she’d react more strongly to the latter.

        That’s not to say her reaction isn’t over the top; it’s absolutely over the top. But the “what if someone parks next to her in the supermarket lot” argument is probably a little oversimplified, as the intentional nature of this situation is likely part of what she’s reacting to.

    3. nnn*

      They just parked near her. They didn’t make her think her car was damaged or put her in danger in any way. They just used parking spots near her car.

      And “worst fear”? That’s not in the letter. It just said she’s particular about her car.

    4. Casper Lives*

      This is a stretch. “Targeting someone’s deepest fear,” “putting someone’s car in danger,” and “making someone think their worst fear has come true.” Wow.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Also, if this is really Jane’s biggest fear, she’s making people responsible for an outsized level of anxiety about something any of us who has a car faces all the time.

        1. Claire*

          She is, and as unfortunate as it might be for her, it’s just not her co-workers’ problem to manage. It’s hers and she has to be able to do it in a reasonably professional manner in the workplace.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        (running through my current life/work/family member situations in my head) OH MY GOD YES PLEASE i want a scratch on my car to be the worst thing that can happen to me

      2. SadieMae*

        Last year, while parking my car, I didn’t realize the parking lot sloped slightly, and when I opened the car door, gravity swung it open harder than I’d intended and it knocked the side mirror loose on the adjoining car. I left a note with my phone number and an apology. When the lady called me back, she was absolutely furious. She also must have repeated 4-5 times in a brief conversation that it was a BMW (like, when a regular person would just say “car,” as in “When I got back to my BMW and saw what you did, I just couldn’t believe it. I called the BMW dealership and they said that a BMW side mirror…” etc.). Of course I just apologized again, didn’t know what else to say. Then she called me back twice that day to complain at me. The last time I just said, “I’d like all communication to go through our insurance companies, please,” and then I blocked her number.

        And the whole time I was thinking the exact same thing: “Lady, I *wish* that a knocked-off side mirror on my fancy car (that someone else’s insurance would pay to replace!) was the biggest problem I had. Sounds like a nice freakin’ life.”

        1. askalice*

          OMG you could have done a runner and she would have had no one to complain to! Totally right to block her.

    5. Roland*

      This isn’t “they knew Jane was deathly afraid of being parked near and parked near her bc they wanted to trigger her”. This was “they considered Jane to be a little precious but still normal about her car and wanted to poke some lighthearted fun” and turned out to be wrong. Intent does in fact matter imo, not only results. Like yeah apologize like in the advice bc turns out they were wrong but they aren’t monsters for thinking that “parking near someone in legal spots in a public lot” is ok.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I agree. I can see how Jane’s co-workers decided on this prank – to me, it sounds pretty tame (Jane’s always precious about her car and it’s a running joke, so we’ll park next to her car because we know she hates it, we’re not doing any actual harm, it’s just poking fun at one of her foibles) and they weren’t to know that Jane would have a huge reaction to it. Especially as Jane has previously been behind similarly harmless-seeming pranks. I suppose this is an illustration of why pranks don’t really belong in the office in general – you can think you’re really good friends with someone in a work context, and that you know enough about them to assume they’d find a prank funny, but actually you probably don’t know them quite as well as you think you do.

          1. londonedit*

            It is objectively mean, but if you have a close relationship with someone and that relationship is also based on jokes/pranks/taking the piss/etc, and it’s all equal, then there isn’t too much harm in it. The problem is that Jane’s co-workers thought they had that sort of relationship with her, and it turns out they didn’t.

            1. Jackalope*

              Which actually kind of calls HER actions into question for me. If you dish it out all of the time but can’t take it at all, then why do you think it’s okay for YOU to do this to everyone else but not for them to do it to you? It would have been fine if she’d said, “Hey, y’all, this particular prank wasn’t funny, let’s leave my car out of it for Reasons.” But still being angry a week later is kind of not cool if she’s one of the main perpetrators and expects everyone else to be down with it but not herself.

              1. yala*

                But it doesn’t sound like her pranks are the kind of thing that she does because the other person will hate it?

                1. londonedit*

                  The problem with pranks is that they tend to escalate because people get overexcited and think ‘Oooooh, what can we do next???’. And then things can easily get a bit OTT. On paper, parking some cars next to Jane’s car doesn’t seem like a big deal. And if it’s one of ‘Jane’s little things’, those are precisely the things that end up being turned into a prank. Like ‘Ooh don’t touch Bob’s blue pens, he’s very precious about his blue pens!’ (cue prank where Bob’s blue pens are ‘held to ransom’). What the co-workers didn’t know is that to Jane, it wasn’t just one of her silly little foibles, it was actually a massive deal. And that’s the risk you run with a prank – it might seem funny and not a big deal, but it all depends on how the person being pranked takes it.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  I mean, she’s not exactly doing them because she knows the person will love it? At the very least it’s inconveniencing them in some way?

                3. Wannessa*

                  Idk, the point of plastering a cubicle/office with paper or bubble wrap or whatever is that it’s really annoying and disruptive to their day, and it’s “funny” to see them upset for a minute. I’d say it lands in a similar way.

                4. MigraineMonth*

                  @londonedit – It also tends to involve people who don’t want to be involved. I once stopped a prank war cold because someone tried to prank my roommate and got me instead. I just stood there glaring while the prankster apologized and cleaned up.

                  My previous manager didn’t play pranks exactly, but he liked to shit-talk and make fun of people. It made me intensely uncomfortable, and I’m so glad his replacement (who was targeted for some of the worst teasing) doesn’t continue the “tradition”.

                5. yala*

                  @Wannessa it is? I assumed it was more that it was goofy, and that the pranked person would be the sort of person who would feel the same way (and would have help cleaning it up)

              2. Totally Minnie*

                I really wish the OP had mentioned whether this was the first time Jane was on the receiving end of a prank. We know she’s initiated pranks before, but we don’t know whether or not she’s ever been pranked until now. So it could be that she’s super serious about her car, or it could be that she can dish it out but not take it. We can’t really be sure which it is.

          2. Samwise*

            Kind of like…plastering pictures all over someone’s cube/office so then they have to waste time taking down the freakin pictures.

            Pranks often have a streak of meanness to them. As Jane should know, since she’s the head jester.

            Eh, right, people like that never think they’re being mean. It was a joke! It was a funny little prank!

            1. ADidgeridooForYou*

              This comment section seems to hate pranks more than anyone I’ve met in real life. Lots of people enjoy harmless pranks and don’t look at them as mean. There’s this picture of a puppy with a little tail growing out of its head that I find absolutely horrifying, and one time my coworker printed out a bunch of them and hid them all over my cubicle. That terrifying puppy haunted me for the entire week by popping up in random places, but I thought it was hilarious.

              1. Snell*

                Coworker pranks you, and you thought it was hilarious.
                Coworkers prank Jane, and she flips out, and is still angry over it a week later.

                Maybe you and Jane both like playing pranks, but you’re clearly different in regards to getting pranked.

              2. nona*

                Lots of people enjoy them. Lots of people don’t.

                Lots of people think they don’t belong at work.

                Lots of people think its *really* dependent on the relationship of the person pulling the prank.

                It’s a lot like teasing – it’s all about context and how well you know the person.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Except Jane is apparently a prankster herself and she must know that the stuff she pulls, people will also kind of hate.

            1. ADidgeridooForYou*

              Sheesh, it is definitely not bullying. If someone knew that their coworker hated it and continued to do it even after they were told to stop, that would be bullying. Plastering a cubicle with pictures – assuming they’re not hateful in nature – might be annoying to you, but it’s not bullying. And many people would find it funny.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I assumed the prank was going to be applying a “fake broken window decal” or similarly trying to make the car look actually damaged. Which again, seems like it would fly as a prank for most people who enjoy them. Just parking next to her car seems pretty normal.

          (The Urban Outfitters in my town had one of those stickers over their entire glass storefront. It took me quite a while to realize when they actually had their front window smashed.)

    6. MicroManagered*

      Pranks tend to be highly controversial in the comment section here (I suspect they’re more controversial here than anywhere in real life, but who knows)

      I think you have identified some possibilities as to WHY Jane had the reaction she did. I appreciate the empathy and I especially resonated with the “first non-beater car” possibility because I am only on my second non-beater car and for sure still have leftover anxieties from years of driving a car that might die in an intersection, etc.

      However, her reaction is still disproportionate to what actually happened. As OP pointed out, it’s a public parking lot — anyone has the ability to park right next to her at any given time. Her car wasn’t ACTUALLY damaged.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        This right here. Maybe Jane does have a sympathetic history about cars or parking lots. Her reaction is still over the top for all the reasons you listed.

        The co-workers miscalculated and should apologize for causing Jane distress, in the same way you would if you accidentally stepped on someone’s foot or unknowingly crossed some other boundary. In my perfect world, Jane would be able to take a breath and apologize, too, and everyone would simply move on with the knowledge that Jane’s car is not something to be joked about going forward.

    7. alienor*

      Well yes, but they didn’t put the car in danger or perceived danger. If they had sent Jane photos of someone pretending they were going to pour paint on her car or smash it with a baseball bat, or staged an “accident” where they ran into the office yelling “Jane, Jane, someone hit your car!” so she would panic, I’d be totally in agreement that it was inappropriate. Parking in normal marked spots in the public parking lot seems like about the mildest prank they could pull, though.

    8. to varying degrees*

      Putting someones car in danger/perceived danger when it may be their only way of driving to their work, therefore their only way of earning a paycheck- seems way beyond the pale.

      Seriously? They parked next to her car in a public lot, the same thing that one has to deal with in any parking lot anywhere. They didn’t put her car in danger or take away her mode of transportation. Listen, I hate pranks. I think they’re idiotic and pointless, and people don’t play them on me and I don’t play them on others, but Jane’s reaction was ridiculously over the top. Okay be a little ticked that day and in the moment, but multiple days? Nope. Jane needs to grow up and act like a professional at work. And stop playing pranks if she can’t handle them.

    9. Elenna*

      They had no reason to think it was her greatest fear, though? Plenty of people, including me, park farther away to decrease the chance of scratches as a “just in case” thing, without being super terrified of other cars. If I found my coworkers had parked in my usually-deserted corner of the parking lot, I’d just be like “huh, that’s weird” and I think that’s a much more typical reaction.

    10. Observer**

      I’m not a prank fan in general, but “harmless funny pictures that can be taken down” is not the equivalent of “making someone think their worst fear has come true” and I think her upset is way more reasonable than OP wants to admit.

      This is what is called catastrophizing. And it is not something that reasonable people should be expected to take into account unless they know that the person suffers from anxiety.

      Because for a reasonable person, the prank was mean. But nothing close to making someone’s “worst fears” come true. No one made the car look like it was destroyed. They didn’t even paint on fake scratches.

      If you are guessing correctly about her issue, she’s reacting to something that is totally in her head and it’s not reasonable to expect people to know about that.

    11. Roy G. Biv*

      The problem with pranks is the escalation factor, and the “can’t tell the difference between harmless and malicious” factor. There was an expert level prankster at my company who had finesse, patience, and a dry wit that resulted in funny, slow reveal and tongue-in-cheek targeted pranks. Truly the stuff of legend. And then there was the other prankster, who could not pick a target without leaving bad feelings and light damage in his wake. No finesse at all.

      Oh, and guess which prankster could graciously take it as well as dish it out, and which one was angry every time someone tired to prank him in return?

    12. Jenna Webster*

      This does seem really mean, as most pranks are at the root of it. In this case, they took something they know worries her and then made those fears come true. If this happened to me, even if I brushed it off at the time, it would completely change my relationship with those involved. Why would I trust people who just decide to be mean to me because they think it’s funny?

      1. Grace*

        I didn’t get the impression they’d actually damaged her car? They just parked near it. If her fear is “people parking near her”, that’s one thing but it’s very odd, but if the fear is “damage to her car”, that didn’t come true.

        If her worst fear is honestly people parking in spaces near her, that’s a bit beyond what you can generally expect people to accommodate without a clear explanation, I think.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Her level of worry, though, is way over the top. She’s making her coworkers responsible for her out-of-line reaction to an everyday situation.

      3. Observer**

        This does seem really mean

        I agree, this was mean.

        it would completely change my relationship with those involved. Why would I trust people who just decide to be mean to me because they think it’s funny?

        That makes a lot of sense. And if that was what was going on here, there wouldn’t be much of a letter and Alison would have told the OP that they can’t mandate that everyone is best buddies. But there is a difference between “Civil but that’s it” and “won’t speak to people.” The latter is out of line.

      4. somanyquestions*

        How is it mean to park next to someone? It’s a public parking space. People seem to keep conflating this with them somehow actually damaging her car, when all they did was park in the lot where they’re supposed to park for work.

    13. Cyndi*

      I don’t think it’s anything as drastic as “making someone thing their worst fear has come true” but it does seem to me that the core of the joke was making Jane worry that damage had been done to the car, and even though it actually hadn’t been touched that’s at least a little mean spirited.

      I don’t drive so maybe this analogy is off-base–but I used to work in an office near an ice rink and I would bring my skate bag to work so I could go at lunch or after work. My ice skates were, and are, the most valuable physical possession I have; I paid more for them than even my laptop or my sofa. But, like a car, they’re no use if you don’t bring them places and get them knocked around. If a coworker had taken my bag and hidden it somewhere to make me think something had happened to them, I’d for sure have taken that as mean spirited–and while I do think Jane overreacted, I’d withdraw socially from that person at least a little.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        I don’t even think there was any reason for Jane to believe her car had been or would be damaged. They just parked next to it. That’s not automatic damage. If anything, they were probably much more careful than random people in public parking lots. The joke was just “you’re a bit precious about the car.” It’s no more mean spirited than ordering Hawaiian pizza *for yourself* to tease a coworker who fervently believes pineapple toppings are an outrage.

      2. EchoGirl*

        At the very least, it was poking at a known sensitivity. Maybe they weren’t trying to make her think the car was damaged, but they know that she dislikes other cars parking next to her enough to go out of her way to avoid it, so deciding to deliberately do that exact thing is definitely going to come across differently than a more random prank.

        (And yes, I know it’s a public lot, people will park next to her sometimes, yadda yadda. But I feel like there’s a difference between something just happening and it being done on purpose by people who know she’s sensitive about it.)

    14. Russian in Texas*

      I am fairly precious about my car because it’s less than year old and the nicest vehicle I’ve ever owned.
      In this situation, it’s not like they surrounded the car and she could not get out like in some photos I’ve seen. They simply parked in real, available to everyone, parking spaces next to her car.
      Her overreaction is bizarre.

    15. HowdyHelp*

      Agreed – they just parked in spots in a public lot. They can certainly talk to Jane about not intending to annoy her, but Jane’s response is way out of line.

    16. e271828*

      Yes, papering someone’s cube with printed-out pictures doesn’t have the implicit threat that parking very close to someone carries. That’s actually aggressive, particularly since her concern for the car is well known. “Haha, we can mess up your precious nice car any time we want!” is a bad message to get from coworkers.

      1. Katy*

        To me, plastering someone’s wall with pictures is much more threatening than parking near someone. It’s a parking lot, and Jane only gets one space. Parking in the next space is a totally normal thing to do and not a threat at all. It’s a biiiiiiiig stretch from “I parked legally in the next space to you, within the marked lines,” to “I can mess up your car anytime I want.” Whereas going into someone’s office and changing their decorations is actually invading and messing with space that is theirs.

      2. Grace*

        It is not aggressive to park near someone. It’s parking. I’ll admit that it was probably not a good idea because Jane is clearly extremely twitchy about the precious car, but generally speaking, parking near someone is not aggressive.

        1. Snell*

          As with lots of things, it’s in the context. In Jane’s case, I agree that it wasn’t aggressive to park near her. If you’ve just ended your shift at 11:00 and you see someone’s buddied up to your car in the otherwise empty lot, that’s suspicious as hell.

          This wasn’t directed at you specifically, Grace, but I said it because some jerks like to harass others based on their legitimate fears by removing all context from those fears.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        As I said below, I’d find someone papering my cube more annoying than someone parking next to me. One is something I now have to clean up; the other has no affect on me and is something that happens in life.

      4. Giant Kitty*

        They didn’t park “very close” to her, they parked properly in the adjacent slots. Nothing aggressive about it, Jane is a freak.

    17. Claire*

      None of the “what ifs” you mentioned make it reasonable for it to be someone’s “worst fear” that their car might get scratched or dinged. A scratch from someone parked too close doesn’t make your car a beater, keep you from driving to work/earning a paycheck, or make you unable to ever afford to buy a decent car again. They literally just parked in spaces around her; they didn’t put her car in any realistic degree of danger, let alone shatter it like a glass punch bowl.

      Now, if the purpose of your comment was to demonstrate the type of irrational catastrophizing that LW’s co-worker might be engaging in, that’s one thing, but I don’t see how it would lead you to disagree with the advice given. The nature of other people’s irrational beliefs is that you can’t really predict when you’ll accidentally trigger one. About all you can do is apologize, and the wording Alison suggested makes perfect sense.

    18. somanyquestions*

      How in the world is this making her think her car was damaged? They parked in legal, public spots next to hers. You’re making a huge deal out of someone parking next to another car. That can happen every place you go unless you own a spot.

    19. Working Today*

      Parking next to someone does not put them at risk of not being able to drive their car to work and earn a paycheck, sheesh.

    20. ENTJane*

      This. I think she overreacted, but I also think she was owed an apology. A comparable prank to her picture prank would have been surrounding her car with little plastic toy cars, not real ones.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        That to me would be more annoying since she could potentially slip on one or run over it. I think their prank WAS comparable (or even less annoying) than her picture prank.

  4. Language Lover*

    For the first letter, I know the lw knows their coworkers better than internet strangers do, but I can’t help but get a whiff of meanness to the prank. It’s why the “she starts pranks too” defense falls a bit flat to me. On the surface, putting up a coworker’s pictures might be annoying but I don’t think it’s meant to ridicule them.

    The coworkers have every right to park wherever but purposely selecting right next to her feels like they’re mocking her desire to avoid dings.

    I don’t think it changes the advice because there was no harm done to her car, and it is time to move on, but if Jane is picking up an undercurrent of mockery as a motive for the prank, then it might explain her reaction.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah, it doesn’t even have to be intentionally mean but the part I would object to here is it feels like they’re ganging up on her! How many people did this? One person parking next to her would be funny, especially if it’s someone she had recently pranked. Three people? More? Feels a little overwhelming.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I’m wondering if it was everybody she had pranked recently that parked in spots near her as a return of the pranking favor.

      2. Nocatchyname*

        Pranks in the office are always a bad idea, no matter the intent. Learned this the hard way early on.

        1. Risha*

          I wish there was a like button. Yes, pranks in the office are ALWAYS a bad idea. I said in my comment below that some people may be triggered by pranks. Some people don’t like to be the butt of jokes/have people laughing at them. I don’t know why adults do this to each other. It’s best to just not do it because as we can see from this letter, it can go too far and someone will be upset.

          1. Llama Identity Thief*

            This 100%

            I tend to think I have a decent sense of humor. I crack jokes fairly often, and many of them are with my own size/volume/inability to wear anything other than a Hawaiian shirt as the punchline.

            Don’t prank me. Do NOT prank me, ever. Pranks, and “surprise situations where something is Not Right,” even when mild, trigger my fight-or-flight response, which tends to be mostly fight. I’ve gotten good at not letting that response out – catch myself, move away from the situation, blow off steam, return – but I’ll still end up feeling very prickly the rest of the day. As much as there is some level of my own work to do there, it also seems like “hey don’t purposefully set up a situation where you make me think Something Is Not Right” is a fairly reasonable expectation in a professional environment, even one filled with other forms of joking.

            I don’t have a ton of sympathy for Jane here, though, as she was the original prankster, and the level of harm/”this is Not Right” caused by the prank reads as fairly similar to the level she has caused with her own picture posting.

          2. ADidgeridooForYou*

            This comment section doesn’t represent how the vast majority of people feel about pranks, though. All of the office pranks I’ve had played on me and/or witnessed have been mild and out of love – no one was making fun of anyone. No one was laughing at anyone.

            1. Snell*

              I haven’t the slightest clue how you determined how the “vast majority” of people feel about pranks. Further, whatever your personal experience is with office pranks, not all pranks are “mild” or done “out of love.” Sometimes, people make fun of each other. Sometimes they laugh at others. Sometimes, it’s absolutely out of malice, NOT love. I’m glad this hasn’t been your lived experience.

              We get it. You’ve been all over these comments, defending pranks in a professional setting. Some people aren’t into pranks the way you are. In any case, pranks aren’t necessary to the work being done, and there is the potential to hurt one’s coworkers. Keeping the workplace free of pranks is a perfectly tenable solution.

          3. Dancing Otter*

            Well, if Jane doesn’t like being on the receiving end of the jokes, she shouldn’t be making them at other people.
            Yes, don’t make fun of people /in general/ but Jane has no right to object to a dose of what she’s been dishing out.

      3. hohumdrum*

        Eh, the group pranks I’ve been a part of on either end felt like an act of love- there’s something flattering about the idea that everybody knows you and wants to come together to tease you. The time I was part of a group prank to someone else, it was because the guy who was the target was so universally beloved that people wanted to prank him. And when I was targeted I couldn’t believe people noticed me enough to want to spend the time doing this.

        I’m not saying that means that’s what happened with Jane! I’m just saying the fact that many people participated doesn’t automatically equate to bullying or make it feel more cruel.

        I dunno, sometimes people can dish it out but not take it. I’m a youngest sibling, I know all about thinking everything is fun & games and then once it’s my turn to take it I’m crying & deciding I want mom or dad to step in. This doesn’t sound like bullying to me so much as I wonder if perhaps Jane felt some kind of pressure to be the ring leader when actually she’s clearly not comfortable with pranks?

        I would also tell her coworkers that IME pranks go better when the prankee can clearly see the prank caused you nearly as much suffering as it caused them. Parking around Jane’s car is no effort to you but bothersome to her. But say you had made some kind of elaborate & ridiculous “car defense shield” out of cardboard and craft supplies that you sneakily put up around her car? Or something to that effect. I think that kind of effort is what has given me the warm fuzzies in the past when I’ve been pranked, or maybe I’m truly just too conditioned by my older siblings to accept abuse as love =D

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      To me, it sounded very much like bullying until I got to the part about Jane participating in the pranks. In which case, I guess I could see them not realising she wouldn’t think it funny.

      Though the tone of the letter does seem to be “why did Jane overreact to what was only a joke?” rather than “oh flip, we thought she’d find this funny but it actually upset her. How should we apologise and how do we ensure pranks don’t get out of hand again?”

      I think that is a…yellow flag that pranks are becoming mean-spirited/ edging towards bullying – when people get annoyed rather than apologetic when they cross a line. This puts pressure on people to pretend they are OK with being pranks even if they are not.

      The prank itself might have been meant in fun but it seems like the pranksters are coming close to blaming Jane for the fact they upset her. Are other people now going to feel comfortable calling out other pranks that cross a line for them?

      1. Teach*

        Agreed–I sense there are other interpersonal issues at play here, maybe even unrelated to bullying. If no one involved has apologized to her yet, after a whole weekend where she didn’t cool down? It’s such a simple fix that it feels like there’s a reason they’re not doing it. If LW didn’t have another personal beef with her, I hope LW did apologize, because I doubt anyone else ever did.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Bullying? I think that’s a big stretch, and really downplays what bullying actually is. They parked in spaces next to her car, in a public lot. They didn’t block her in, or damage anything. Since she regularly pranks others, they assumed she’d laugh at it.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Like I said, the fact she participates in pranks does change that a little. Without that…a group of people planning to do something they know somebody would hate and then accusing them of over-reacting when they get upset…could well be bullying.

          Yeah, the fact that she had participated in pranks herself makes it more likely that they thought she would find it funny than that they were thinking “let’s upset her.”

          1. Observer**

            She inmates pranks so that really is a big deal.

            But even beyond that, bullying is very rarely about ONE action. Yes, the prank WAS mean, and I hope that the OP and co. started thinking about that aspect and keeping it in mind for future behavior.

            Now, could this turn into bullying? Yes, if “everyone” decides that it’s “open season” on her because she’s “too sensitive.” But a single mean action? Not really.

        2. INFJedi*

          Yeah, this doesn’t come near to the definition of bullying. They just parked their car close to hers, in a public and legal place to do it. Once!

      3. Observer**

        The prank itself might have been meant in fun but it seems like the pranksters are coming close to blaming Jane for the fact they upset her.

        I hear why you are saying that. But the reality is that Jane’s reaction is so over the top that it’s really hard to blame the OP, unless there is a LOT of context we don’t know.

      4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        This! I feel like the decent response is, “oops, we had no idea this would bother you this much, we’re sorry.” Not “get over it.” Maybe if people had apologized, she would have forgiven them. Telling someone to get over it usually has the opposite effect.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Huh. To me “mocking someone’s desire for a normal thing” is the heart of most pranks, so I’m really not getting the distinction made by people who think parking in a parking spot is over the top cruel toward someone who themselves likes to pull pranks.

      Like, this exact thing could happen because a farmer’s market opened up down the street and the spots far from the employer’s door filled up. Unlike papering the cube, filling it with balloons, hiding a pop-up clown to scare someone with a clown phobia (or just a normal life aversion to pop up clowns when you’re trying to work), etc.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I also assume that she drives the car, in which case it is regularly put in far more danger than getting a scratch.

      2. Mississippi*

        “this exact thing could happen because a farmer’s market opened up down the street and the spots far from the employer’s door filled up.”

        Sure, other cars could end up parked next to Jane because there was nowhere else to park. That is not what happened here. What happened here is that people had plenty of other options to park and deliberately parked next to Jane because they know she doesn’t like it. It’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen, but the element of doing it because they know she doesn’t like it makes it way more mean-spirited than papering the cube or filling it with balloons. Maybe the people on the receiving end of those pranks had a serious dislike of paper or a serious dislike of balloons, but there is nothing in the letter to indicate that that was the case.

        Now, hiding a pop-up clown to scare someone with a clown phobia is bullying. Hiding a pop up clown to scare someone with just a normal life aversion to pop up clowns when they’re trying to work is mean-spirited. Any prank that centers on somebody’s dislike for some thing is on a different level from a generic prank.

        Everybody is wrong in the situation. This is an old letter so 0P can’t take the advice at this point, but anyone who has done a prank that landed poorly should just apologize for doing the prank. Note: do not apologize for how the person feels. Apologize for doing the prank.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I have a dislike for cleaning up messes I didn’t make, so the stuff about filling a person’s cube with stuff they will need to clean up lands far more mean-spirited to me.

          1. yemilly*

            yeah i agree with this. Parking near me? normal occurrence that I don’t like, but can be easily rectified. Papering my office? Annoying as heck and takes up a lot of my day with cleaning.

            Obviously it’s the opposite for Jane, but all I’m trying to say is that harmless pranks (which messes, pop up clowns, and parking close to someone all are) land differently for everyone and maybe Jane shouldn’t dish it out if she can’t take it.

    4. Observer**

      For the first letter, I know the lw knows their coworkers better than internet strangers do, but I can’t help but get a whiff of meanness to the prank.

      From the way the OP describes it, it was definitely meanness dressed up in “all in good fun.” Which is a good reason to really rethink the whole pranking culture.

      I don’t think it changes the advice because there was no harm done to her car, and it is time to move on, but if Jane is picking up an undercurrent of mockery as a motive for the prank, then it might explain her reaction.

      I agree that it’s time to move on. But her reaction still really is over the top, even to the point at which the OP wrote in. Yes, her coworkers did something mean and mocking, and she does have a right to re-assess her relationship in light of that information. But actually refusing to speak to people a week later?! That just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    5. I am Emily's failing memory*

      “On the surface, putting up a coworker’s pictures might be annoying but I don’t think it’s meant to ridicule them.”

      I mean, that depends entirely on what the pictures are and how the cube resident feels about them. Maybe it was just 45 pictures of Rick James hidden behind 45 pictures of Rick James (ie something totally random and probably harmless), or maybe it was 45 pictures of somebody spilling milk because the coworker spilled milk recently (ie ribbing about something the coworker might feel sheepish or embarrassed about which runs the risk of not landing well with many people), or maybe it was 45 pictures of sharknados because the coworker mentioned a fear of sharks (ie forcing the person to confront something they’ve said they don’t like, which is not likely to land well with anyone).

  5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I really don’t understand what the employee in Letter three was aiming for. They are leaving for a new job – they offered part time, it was declined. And they aren’t terminating her – she is resigning. I really don’t blame them for not signing those letters saying that her employment was being terminated.

    But like Alison said – just write up the memo stating she resigned the position, put it in the file, and move on.

    1. Sandgroper*

      I’m guessing she was hoping to go for some kind of unemployment, or to come back and claim a redundancy payment or somehow claim benefits of some kind? Maybe something to do with health insurance? Maybe retain employment in a field to maintain insurance?

      I’d just write her a letter stating “We accept your resignation at X date, with Y being your final day with us” and be done with it. Like Alison says, if she tries it on again just reiterate in a confused voice “I don’t know why you want to stress it’s a termination, it’s not. We have a full time position which you aren’t wanting anymore, so you are leaving of your own accord, and that’s a resignation” and close the conversation off.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, it seems odd. And I guess if OP wrote the note saying thry accept her resignation, if she in fact doesn’t want to resign at all, she can say so.

      I don’t know how unemployment benefits work – is it possible that she was holping to be able to claim something to fill the gap between a new part time job and the old full time one? Is partial unemployment a thing?

    3. Green Saucepan*

      I wondered if it was just a misunderstanding of words. She’s terminating the position and wants that acknowledged – she wants it acknowledged that she offered to work part time and was refused.

      Maybe she’s heard urban myths (or had negative experiences herself) about bosses that do not take resignations well – and she’s oddly thinking well if it is in writing with both signatures they can’t pretend they didn’t know I was leaving, and they can’t expect me to keep working after I leave if I offered and they said no.

      I mean it’s really weird – but it could just be them confusing the words termination and resignation.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      In the current zeitgist I will credit her with being an early-Elon-email-writer: You hunker in the bunker with your good friends who never tell you you’re wrong, and writing this thing with the checkbox seems like a brilliant ploy that the Unemployment Office will HAVE to accept, based on a vague impression of unemployment statutes drawn from Christmas movies.

      And then you try the ploy outside the bunker and people are like “What is this… thing?”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        See also the letter from someone whose employee was like “My landlord demands a special payment based on your work actions!!!” and work was like “… That’s your friend Barbara. Even if it wasn’t Barbara, this isn’t a thing. But we all can see Barbara.”

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I replied with links but while they go through moderation, search for “am I being considered for too many jobs, my former tenant’s manager is requesting money from me, and more” posted on October 9, 2018. I think this is the situation Falling Diphthong was referencing.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        “based on a vague impression of unemployment statutes drawn from Christmas movies.”

        Lol, thank you for this

    5. Mockingjay*

      Alison was correct in that the employee didn’t understand employment law.

      I had a conversation with my daughter a few years ago, explaining the difference between quitting (leaving a job of your own volition), termination (fired for cause), and layoff (the entire business unit was suddenly closed and her job eliminated). She kept calling her layoff a termination. I explained that would really hurt her chances with other jobs, and that a layoff is a perfectly acceptable reason for applying to new jobs. Layoffs and quitting come with good recommendations; terminations do not. Layoffs qualify for unemployment; most terminations (there are exceptions) and quitting do not.

      Employment is a very complex subject: exempt, non-exempt, ADA, paid to wait, professional exempt, part-time vs. FTE, overtime rules, independent contractor, and so on. It takes a long time to learn this stuff. I picked up a lot when I began writing proposals and had to address government labor contract clauses, but it was a steep learning curve. Interestingly, my daughter is now an entry-level HR assistant and is being trained on employment policies and law, so she’s seeing how these things work first hand.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        In my state you can collect unemployment for being terminated for normal work reasons (inefficiency, making mistakes), but not for misconduct. This was important to me because resigned from a job that was so notorious for telling people to resign that even quitting qualifies for unemployment.

      2. alienor*

        I wonder if she got confused because some companies call every departure a termination, at least internally. I resigned from a job a few years ago to take another one, and all the emails and paperwork about it referred to “termination” even though I had given notice and was leaving on good terms. At my current job, I’m a people manager, and we get regular reminders to process our terminations ASAP–it sounds like we’re firing people weekly, but really it just means someone leaving under any circumstances.

    6. Clobberin’ Time*

      Some people get dumb ideas about how the law works. She likely thinks this is One Weird Trick Employers Hate! for getting unemployment or being able to sue them for gobs of money.

    7. Artemesia*

      You would NEVER ‘sign a letter’ presented by an employee leaving for any reason. This is a very big red flag. There is no good reason someone would create something for the manager to sign when they are leaving. While it is ridiculous, it could provide the person leaving with ammunition to attempt to get unemployment or some sort of severance or who knows what in their fevered imagination. Never sign anything presented by an employee like this.

    8. Tesuji*

      I feel like the LW and the employee both have the same energy, in that they have only the loosest comprehension of how employment law works and are getting hung up on formalities.

      The employee keeps wanting the LW to say she’s being terminated for the same reason that LW keeps trying to get the employee to write up a letter of resignation: Because they want to cover their ass against some future possibility that may or may not actually exist, but they think that if they get stuff in writing, they can protect themselves.

  6. Luna*

    LW1 – I overall don’t like pranks, but Jane’s prank seems overall genuinely harmless. A waste of paper and maybe tedious in removing the paper from the cube, but overall it does no harm. Several people parking their car around hers, when they know she’s concerned about stuff like harm to her car because other cars have parked around her.
    They did something that they knew she was not okay with, maybe even to the point of irrational fear. (If Jane were to put papers into the cubicle of a coworker who has a severe issue with touching the texture of printer paper, that would be just as bad in my eyes)

    I think that’s where my sympathy for Jane lies.

    LW2 – What does your daughter’s affair with a non-employee have to do with her work? Seriously, there is no reason to contact her work about this. And even if she’s having an affair with an employee, you still shouldn’t contact the company about it.

    1. Snow Globe*

      I would not assume that someone worried about getting dings on their car has an “irrational” fear about people parking near her. I’d assume that she’s very careful with her car. If she’d never pranked anyone else, I might wonder why they’d choose Jane, but since she does regularly do pranks, I think that would *seem* to be a reasonable prank to pull on Jane, and I don’t think anyone could have predicted she’d be that upset about it a week later!

    2. Gray Lady*

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Jane’s co-workers to assume that Jane’s fear of having her car damaged is irrational to the degree that it is, any more than you would expect Jane to assume that the person who makes snarky comments about how trashy cubicles look with notices taped up in them has a severe issue with the texture of paper (though, just like in Jane’s case, it’s possible that they do!) Not liking stuff posted in your cube and being a little precious about your brand new car are normal things that it’s reasonable to think would have a normal reaction when pranked on.

      I don’t think we need to impute a level of heartless disregard for people’s genuine issues to the co-workers; I think they’re not unreasonable to assume that their targets are among the 99% of people who would react with mild annoyance to such pranks, rather than those who would be sent into a major tailspin. Because of that, I think this is a good argument for not doing pranks at work, because you get these occasional situations where people could intend only a bit of fun in all good faith, but occasionally someone is much more negatively affected than anyone could reasonably have anticipated.

    3. Wannessa*

      The prank with the car is also, literally, harmless. There was no actual harm. Jane didn’t even have to do anything to fix the situation, her car was completely untouched and she could freely drive away.

      Her emotional distress is unfortunate, but it’s also…unusual. It’s not realistic that her coworkers could have expected she’d be that upset. In a similar vein, when my coworkers decorated my cube for my birthday and went over-the-top (balloons hanging off my monitors, ribbon criss-crossed blocking my entry into the cube, paper scraps taped all over my keyboard and mouse), they had no way to expect that I was in a seriously crappy mood that day and was deeply upset by it. And they never found out, because my outsized reactions to harmless stuff is my problem, not theirs.

  7. Keymaster of Gozer*

    2: You’re thinking a problem through in the wrong way. There is a mismatch here between:

    – problems that can’t be solved or don’t want to be solved
    – problems that can be solved by the people involved
    – problems that can be solved by an external person getting involved
    – problems that can be solved by an external person getting involved with another external person and stopping their actions

    You’ve got a case of the first one or two, and you’re thinking it’s the last one.

  8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    My thoughts on the Prank Wars. It sounds like Jane may have started the pranks, and had been the ringleader for previous pranks. And I have a really hard time getting worked up about people using marked parking stalls, and it also doesn’t sound like her car was touched or blocked in. My thoughts for going forward:
    1. Have the parking group apologize for the fact that their prank upset Jane (as the prank clearly didn’t land the way they thought it would)
    2. Announce a ban on all future pranks in the office (as not everyone is enjoying them – some of them are landing poorly)
    3. If Jane doesn’t stop freezing the other guys out after the apology, you’re going to have to talk with her – she doesn’t have to be their best friend, but professionalism means that you can’t freeze out coworkers without a far better reason (like racism, sexism, illegal or unethical behavior, etc)

    1. WellRed*

      I think putting a stop to pranks is a good idea in most offices. They eventually become a distraction or go to far.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      My thoughts exactly. Time for everyone to put the brakes on and step away from shenanigans for a while. All else aside, if you can’t trust your coworkers not to harm your car (and I don’t necessarily mean that as “Jane’s coworkers were planning on harming Jane’s car”, but “Jane does not trust her coworkers enough”) then you shouldn’t be engaged in pranking. The only really acceptable pranking I’ve found is where you trust the other party to make all good in the end.

    1. metadata minion*

      Normally I would be 100% in agreement, and I’m not a fan of pranks period, but the prank in this case was just parking in spots next to her. They didn’t actually put their coworker in any danger that someone shouldn’t expect to risk by parking in a parking lot.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, the details don’t give you warm cozy feelings, do they? It all feels very coercive in a “the parents and the husband have a Plan to bring the wayward daughter back to the fold.” Definitely bad vibes.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Based on the letter I will give the husband a pass. It’s normal to not want your spouse to leave you. There’s no indication that he is engaging in lengthy plotting with his mother-in-law, rather than, when asked, responding that he wants to work it out. (Or she could even have deduced that part without talking to him, and is taking it as given.)

        1. bamcheeks*

          I was thinking exactly the same thing. Nothing he’s described as doing is necessarily controlling (though, “he talked to her and they had a plan” *could* be.) But the parent who wrote this, o boy.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Honestly with that kind of parents/in-laws, “I talked to her and we have a plan” could be a way to get the overbearing, pushy parents off his and his wife’s back. (My x and I used “everything is under control” with my parents.)

            Or it could be controlling. Who can tell with such a weirdly boundary-crashing family?

        2. Artemesia*

          It made me wonder if the family belonged to some repressive religious sect and that the marriage was heavily pressured or arranged or pushed when she was very young and this is her escape. The mother’s attitude really feels like that kind of culture. I know someone pushed into an early marriage in a situation somewhat like that — she recently left the marriage and came out as gay. She genuinely did not know that about herself when she was a teen being pushed into a godly marriage.

        3. Observer**

          Based on the letter I will give the husband a pass. It’s normal to not want your spouse to leave you.

          Sure, it’s normal, but still over-stepping. It turns out that the OP did response once, and it does confirm that the marriage may not have been as happy as the OP thinks it was. It’s really hard to tell, because we are seeing it through the distorted lens of someone who also doesn’t have all of the facts. But, yeah, the husband sounds like he might be part of the problem here.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it’s possible for the husband to be anywhere from “the sole person ruining this marriage” to “a decent guy who nonetheless she has decided isn’t for her.” And for his interaction with the mother-in-law to be anywhere from “he hasn’t told her anything but she infers” to “he calls her regularly to discuss her daughter’s perfidy.” He’s really a minor character in this after mother, daughter, daughter’s work friends, and guy daughter moved in with.

            I grant I get annoyed when people are mad that their soon-to-be-ex is telling people the marriage ended for (reason it ended) rather than stick to the cover story preferred by the person who needs a cover story.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think she is! It looks like the LW commented on the original post under the name Mimi:

      Thank you and everyone else for your comments. I agree with you I will redirect my thoughts and energy. I will stay out of my daughter and son-n-laws issues. I guess I was shocked she would have an affair with someone from work. She is 28 and the man she’s having the affair with 42yo. Her and her husband had just purchased there first home. She stoped going home 3 weeks ago and abandoned him. He’s not perfect and will tell you that. He is going to counseling. She won’t call her friend of 18 years or me even though I send her loving messages every few days hoping she will reach out. I just hope she is safe.
      Thank you for your comments.

      So I think the LW backed off her daughter, and hopefully both are doing well.

      1. HS+Teacher*

        It sounds to me like she doubled-down. She’s still talking about all their private issues. Why is this mom so involved in her adult daughter’s life? That would cause me to cut off contact with a parent.

        1. Snell*

          “I will stay out of my daughter and son-n-laws issues.”

          She very definitely backed off, or at least made conscious effort. Maybe she didn’t handle the details precisely how you’d like, but OP definitely agreed to move in the right direction.

  9. FashionablyEvil*

    I am just imagining being on the receiving end of a call from LW2–I can only think it would amount to, “Dear heavens, Tangerina’s mother is COMPLETELY out of her gourd.”

    But also, reading between the lines, I have to wonder if this is an abusive relationship and the parents have a “you must stay married at all costs” mentality. At a minimum, the parents seem unhealthily involved and I hope the daughter is okay.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I left my first husband, the first words from my mother were ‘why are you doing this to us?’ In her circle divorce meant bad parenting. I on the other hand still consider it my finest hour and recently celebrated my 50th anniversary with my second husband. Parents do go nuts when kids do the unexpected.

      1. turquoisecow*

        When my mother-in-law filed for divorce, her husband’s parents were insanely upset with her because they considered it her duty to take care of her husband and now that she had refused, it was going to fall back on them. The idea he would take care of himself was apparently never considered.

      2. SadieMae*

        My mother grew up poor, and when she married my dad (a well-to-do attorney), her mother was absolutely thrilled and spent a lot of time telling all her friends about how her daughter had moved up in the world. Which in and of itself is an unpleasant thing to do. But here’s the kicker: when my mother filed for divorce after 20 years of a marriage that had turned unhappy in about year five, her mother hit. the. roof. Lots of teary and angry phone calls, lots of the same thing: “How could you do this to me?” And no empathy or actual concern for her own daughter, much less emotional support. (Which was not surprising; she was a mean old bat. When they were choosing the bridesmaids’ dresses for my parents’ wedding, Mom had wanted something simple and her mom of course had wanted something very fancy to suit the big fancy wedding; my mother gently insisted on the dresses she wanted, and my grandmother, in the middle of the bridal salon, slapped my mom across the face. They got the fancy dresses.)

        The kicker: Grandma actually called my dad and told him that my mom desperately wanted to reconcile but didn’t know how to tell him. He called Mom, hopeful and wanting to discuss it. Of course Mom had never expressed that wish to her mother at all. But I guess my grandmother thought that it was OK to fool Dad in order to trick them into talking again and maybe reconciling.

        So, yeah, the mom in this letter sounds familiar to me.

  10. Madame X*

    LW1: Jane is being a bit of a hypocrite here. She’s the one who seems to be leading pranks in the office, but couldn’t handle a harmless joke in which her car and her person was never in danger. Parking in designated parking spots is an extremely low stakes prank. Her response is wildly over the top and inappropriate. It makes me wonder how she handles parking in public spaces like the supermarket, for example? Regardless, it clearly didn’t land well so I agree with Alison that the coworkers, should simply apologize so that hopefully she can move on. If that doesn’t work, then she needs a serious talk because you cannot freeze your coworkers out and act as unprofessionally as she has for the last week over something silly.

    If this letter was written in real time, I would recommend that the letter writer reconsiders whether or not pranks are allowed in the office.
    Pranks can be tricky to get just right. With the right group, lighthearted pranks can actually help people bond with each other. However, they can also land poorly if the people pulling the pranks are inconsiderate or mean spirited.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I posted up above that the prancing coworkers should apologize for the prank not going the way they expected (and I agree this was a super low stakes, almost flop of a prank – they parked in designated spots near her).
      But if Jane can’t get over it she needs to be talked to – her behavior here is anything but professional.

  11. Workerbee*

    #2 I don’t know, suddenly I found myself thinking, if OP is seriously thinking of contacting her daughter’s place of employment over this…what else has OP done in daughter’s life? Helicoptering, monitoring, repressing, pushing her toward her current husband, ignoring or overriding any input from daughter about what she likes to do or who she likes to be with? Sounds like daughter is finally breaking free.

    #1 Big difference between an in-work joke and messing with someone’s known concerns around their personal property outside work.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree, this is all very odd. What does the OP expect her daughter’s employer to do? This isn’t school, she can’t demand that her daughter doesn’t sit next to Sally and Sarah because they’re a bad influence. Her daughter is a grown adult and is responsible for her own life and her own marriage.

      1. UKDancer*

        I mean the employer shouldn’t really do anything about her socialising with her colleagues unless there’s a work issue (such as not doing their jobs properly). While employers can and sometimes do odd or irrational things, it would be very unusual for an employer to try and stop colleagues building a friendship. It’s not clear if her affair partner also works in the company but if so then there may be rules saying they can’t work together or supervise each other.

        But in any case if someone were to contact me to say that they weren’t happy about their adult daughter socialising with her colleagues, I’d laugh in their face. I’m not running a playschool so it’s not my job to control peoples’ non-work socialising.

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    I suspect they’re more controversial here than anywhere in real life, but who knows.

    Here there’s a comment opportunity to tell the world HOW YOU REALLY FEEL without needing to preserve professional capital and the ability to seem like an easy going person who doesn’t bring drama and isn’t still stewing about that thing in ’17.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      (Also, the sample here is going to be “someone was very upset about a prank” or “someone pulled a prank that was over the top cruel or unprofessional.” Very few people are writing to Alison to say that a light-hearted prank was engaged in, attuned to office norms, and people chuckled and went on with their day.)

    2. Hungry Hungry Hippo*

      When interacting anonymously on the internet, I typically assume everyone is a bored 15 year old until they indicate otherwise. Things make a lot more sense that way.

      Here on AAM, the demographics obviously skew differently, but I assume a number of commenters come here for fun and outrage. Sometimes it’s nice to indulge the emotional reactions that would be way too much offline (See: Jane). There’s a frequent element of “here’s what I’d like to say, but can’t,” especially if a letter taps into a commenter’s unrelated struggles or insecurities.

      That doesn’t always pair well with people asking for genuine advice or commenters trying to offer realistic scenarios.

    3. Grace*

      I mean, there’s a lot of people out there who think pranks on the level of “leaving a foot-tall plastic dinosaur in someone’s office when they’re on vacation” are not actually horrible. (The intended target liked dinosaurs.) They can go too far. They can also be entirely harmless.

      “Parking near someone’s car, in a legal space, is a horrible thing” makes me wonder if Jane has ever had to deal with going to Trader Joe’s on a Saturday afternoon. There just is not space for you to have your protective bubble.

      1. Llama Identity Thief*

        You brought up a very good point here that I think is important to this convo – the definition of a prank. I am notedly, STRONGLY anti-prank, but “leaving a foot-tall dinosaur on vacation”, or even “leaving one to find in the morning” wouldn’t register as a prank to me.

        In my own head, a prank specifically involves either making someone believe something that isn’t true, or making them suffer some form of inconvenience. If it doesn’t do one of those two things, it’s a joke, not a prank. The dinosaur example is a joke, not a prank.

        1. Web Crawler*

          That’s a really good point. My personal definition of “prank” is an unexpected physical manifestation of a joke. So a foot-tall dinosaur would be a prank. Also, my partner hiding candy for me in random places around the house, so that occasionally I’ll open a rarely-used drawer and find a Kit Kat. (This is the best prank- I highly recommend.)

          Using your definition of a prank, I’d agree that they don’t belong at work. Using my definition of a prank, I can think of enough examples that would be fun for everyone involved.

          1. Grace*

            Surprise candy sounds like fun. Obviously not everyone can eat every kind of candy, but in that case they have candy to give to someone!

        2. ADidgeridooForYou*

          I think that’s a good point. I’d consider leaving a dinosaur or hiding little trinkets in a desk a prank, but I can see how others would view it differently (as in not a prank, just something to make the day more fun).

      2. Petty Betty*

        You leave a dinosaur in my office and that’s becoming my new assistant. Leave all messages with Hubert, thanks.

      3. e271828*

        Grace, I own a nice car for the first time in my life, and I have in fact adjusted my parking and therefore my shopping timing and locations accordingly, because I do live in a place where someone is quite likely to ding a car or whack a mirror on their merry way to and fro. No Trader Joe’s on Saturdays, no. I don’t do two-spaces splits, but I park in Siberia. I don’t doubt Jane is being similarly careful. Cars are expensive, bodywork is expensive, and people aren’t always considerate.

        Allow Jane to enjoy having a nice thing, coworkers. Stop trying to take her down a peg.

        1. Grace*

          Fair enough. If you’re worried enough about making sure your car is untouched that you won’t park near people and you’ll avoid times/places where you’d need to, but you will drive it, that’s your business.

          I didn’t get the impression they weren’t letting her enjoy having a nice thing, though. They didn’t actually hurt the car. They just parked near it.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Allow Jane to enjoy having a nice thing, coworkers. Stop trying to take her down a peg.

          No one is keeping her from enjoying having a nice thing, nor are they trying to take her down a peg. They likely saw she enjoyed pranks (based on the fact that she pulls them on others) and assumed she would take it in the good humor in which it was intended.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I honestly got the impression before the prank parking Jane was the office ringleader when it came to planning and pulling pranks.

            And she just went off the deep end here. Apologize for the prank falling flat, and move on.

    4. ADidgeridooForYou*

      No, pranks are definitely more controversial here than anywhere in real life. On the whole, this comment section trends toward a more conservative approach to work relationships (I don’t mean politically). Lots of people are adamant about not wanting to interact with coworkers in any non-work related context, participate in after-work social events, or chat throughout the day. There’s a very “my work is separate from my personal life” vibe, and that’s fine, but many, many people don’t see it that way and enjoy social interactions with coworkers, including pranks.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s ever good to look at the comment section of any website and take it as a representation of how most people feel. Different sites attract different kinds of people, so you’re always going to have bias in the comments. I wouldn’t look at AAM and think that’s how the average worker thinks.

  13. FashionablyEvil*

    I have to say, I think Jane’s colleagues should apologize, but her reaction (yelling and a week plus of the silent treatment) is not acceptable. Her manager should be stepping in now.

    1. PsychNurse*

      I agree and I think Alison’s advice was spot on. A mild apology— “Sorry, we didn’t realize you’d be so upset”— and then moving on. But she needs to be spoken to about her reaction, which was wildly inappropriate.

      And it WAS inappropriate, even if she gives a reason for it. “Well once, a gang of ne’er-do-wells surrounded my car and made me watch while they smashed the windows.” Okay, terribly sorry, but you still can not yell at your coworkers— who didn’t know that— for parking near you.

  14. ABCYaBYE*

    Was there ever an update to #3? I’d love to know if the motivation wanting a termination letter was ever determined. It seems like that employee either had something odd planned or they just had no real clue how the real world works. The employee was terminating her employment, as the role was full-time. The company didn’t terminate their employment. Going from full-time to one day per week isn’t feasible in most cases. It would be a different situation altogether if there was an offer that if the company needed someone for a day, they’re offering their services. Like, “hey, if you ever need me, my new job is Monday-Thursday, so I’d be available Fridays.” But to demand that the company sign a letter saying anything about termination seems like a wild departure from workplace norms. You get a new job, you tender your resignation, and that’s it. Even if the company doesn’t want you to leave, unless there’s some sort of contract in place, they aren’t required to agree to anything.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’ve re-read the letter about 3 times trying to think what the motivation might be. The only thing I could come up with was she’s worried about the employer not fully letting go (as we’ve seen here in other letters) after she’s left and saying “oh but can you just come in next Friday to help with month end as Sue is off sick” etc… this way she’d have something in writing that she gave the company an option to have her one day a week but they’ve declined so now they have no ‘claim’ on her time.

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        I went back and there was an update from the OP, right before comments were closed on that post. No real explanation for the motivation, but OP prepared a letter that was given to the employee stating that they had agreed that the employee was resigning and their last day would be X. The employee brought in another letter and OP didn’t sign it, filed it and told the employee that given that they’d agreed upon the resignation and the final day, there was no reason for them to sign anything. And then told the employee that they expected that they’d work their last week with no issues. And there were none.

        I still wish we would have been able to figure out if it was some nefarious intent, poor understanding of the word “termination” or something else…but it was good to see that it all passed without further incident.

      2. Antilles*

        My initial thought was applying for unemployment because “company terminated your employment” may be treated different than “voluntarily resigned”. But if she’s getting a new job, I’m not sure why that would come into play.
        The only thing I could come up with was she’s worried about the employer not fully letting go (…) this way she’d have something in writing that she gave the company an option to have her one day a week but they’ve declined so now they have no ‘claim’ on her time.
        I get what you’re saying but it still doesn’t make sense to me. The letter isn’t going to do anything to prevent that scenario. If OP is a manager who’d demand an employee work after leaving, they won’t be stopped by the mere existence of a “termination letter” stop that – especially since OP knows full well that the letter was a sham.

      3. Artemesia*

        I think two of her dumber friends convinced her she could get benefits or severance or whatever if they agreed she was ‘terminated’ and that she hadn’t really ‘quit’ if she offered to continue one day a week. It has ‘jailhouse lawyer’ thinking all over it.

        1. MsClaw*

          That seems likely, that she was trying to finagle her way into some sort of severance package, which is one of those things that people have wildly inaccurate ideas about anyway.

          Like, my company, except in localities that require it, does not offer any kind of severance. If you’re let go, you can cash out your PTO but I’ve run into people convinced you get a week of severance for each year you were with the company. There is absolutely no such policy and hasn’t been in the 20 years I’ve been here. It’s like something someone saw on TV and thinks is real.

          1. doreen*

            I think there are a few reasons for people believing that your company offers severance – and it’s almost like someone saw it on TV and thinks its real. The first is that people often think that if they had one job that did something a certain way , that must be a legal requirement. Almost every job I had was in a union workplace and all of the contracts provided for two weeks notice when someone was fired. (not “laid -off ” because laid off means something different in my work environment) And of course, all the employers gave two weeks pay in lieu of notice because who wants the person who was just fired coming to work for the next two weeks. People frequently referred to that as “severance” although it was not . As far as one week per year, that’s actually a pretty common formula when the company wants the separating employee to sign a release (which is not nearly everyone who is let go) So you get someone who knows that a former employer paid something to people who who terminated and who has heard about people getting one week per uear and somehow, in that person’s head it morphs into “every empl0yer gives one week of severance per year”

  15. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Re #2, it sounds to me like the mom and daughter are part of a religious community (or ant least a deeply patriarchal one) and she hoped that the employer would help bring the daughter to her senses. I mean, that the employer would exert parental type direction/control here.

  16. Tree*

    I wonder if the Terminator had it in her head that she could sue for wrongful dismissal and wring some money out of her resignation? Maybe she got some “legal” “advice” from that one subreddit or she’s one of those people who knows how the world really works, and figured that if she had a termination letter in hand they’d throw some money at her to avoid a lawsuit.

    1. Tree*

      Correction, *thinks* she knows how the world really works (because this is clearly not how the world works).

  17. yala*

    #1 I really feel like “printing out pictures and papering a cubicle with them” is at least a level below “everyone park around this person who very clearly Does Not want people to park around her.”

    I remember a coworker and I had a prank war based on our respective phobias (jellyfish for him, spiders for me), where we’d leave pictures/toys/etc of the Scary Thing for the other to find. He finally won by putting a massive halloween spider on a cart of DVDs before I went to shelve them. I thought it was hilarious.

    I’d’ve thought that a lot less hilarious if instead of finding that spider around the DVD cart, I’d found it on my car.

    1. Roland*

      I don’t understand how “trigger each other’s known phobias on purpose” seems milder than “park near someone who prefers people not park near them”. They had no reason to believe it went further than dislike/dis-preference for Jane. They didn’t do anything to her car

      1. yala*

        It was milder because it was something we both agreed to. Neither of us would’ve done it if it actually made the other one upset, and we took care not to take it too far (nothing realistic, no jump-scares, etc).

        Whereas Jane clearly Does Not Want this to happen, even playfully, and takes steps to avoid it.

        I guess you could say it was a matter of consent?

        1. jane's nemesis*

          How did you both agree to it though? Did you discuss ahead of time “hey, let’s prank each other with our phobias”? Or did you both realize you were both okay with it because… each of you pranked each other and neither of you got upset?

          How were the coworkers supposed to know that Jane would freak tf out in response to a prank until they tried it?

    2. sam_i_am*

      > #1 I really feel like “printing out pictures and papering a cubicle with them” is at least a level below “everyone park around this person who very clearly Does Not want people to park around her.”

      Really? They seem pretty equivalent to me.

      1. Mississippi*

        What if you thought of it as “do the very specific thing that you know someone hates”? Jane probably would have taken a papering of her cube in stride and laughed.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Knowing that someone is trying to avoid something isn’t the same as knowing they’ll hate it. Also, the point is that Jane pulls these pranks on others without thought even though they may be annoyed by it.

          1. yala*

            “the point is that Jane pulls these pranks on others without thought even though they may be annoyed by it”

            I don’t think we have enough information to say that. I’ve seen the whole “paper the cubicle” thing done as a friendly goof. I wish LW would have said whether or not the recipients of Jane’s print-outs where annoyed by it (and if Jane helped clean up after)

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              But the car thing was also done as a friendly goof. A large point of papering a cube with a funny picture is to be obnoxious and a pain in the butt to the recipient who has to deal with all of that paper before they can get to work. I don’t have problems with either prank, but I think the paper one is objectively “worse” (more of a pain) than the car one.

              1. yala*

                The car thing was done *specifically* because it was something Jane *specifically* did not want to happen.

                That’s not a fun goof. That’s poking a sore spot.

        2. sam_i_am*

          A lot of people park in the back of lots to avoid others parking too close. I do the same because I have anxiety about driving, and parking lots are the worst. I’d still find that prank funny! Pranks are often about picking at minor pet peeves. Turns out Jane’s aversion to cars parking near her is more than a pet peeve, but the coworkers clearly didn’t realize that.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m the exact opposite. Papering someone’s cubicle with pictures requires that person to take them down (not to mention all the wasted paper). Parking around someone’s car requires no extra effort on their part.

      1. yala*

        Wouldn’t the person who put them up help take them down?

        If Jane had printed pictures of something that person hated and that she knew would upset them, then I could see it being the same. The car doesn’t technically require extra effort, but it’s CLEARLY a thing that Jane felt strongly about and actively took steps to avoid.

        That’s where the difference is to me. Doing something goofy that might be annoying doesn’t seem as meanspirited as doing something to deliberately upset a person based on their actual stated dislikes. Ideally, neither would happen

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Except it’s not clear. There are tons of people, including commenters here, who do try to park away from others, but wouldn’t react like Jane did.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Wouldn’t the person who put them up help take them down?

          Not necessarily?

          That’s where the difference is to me. Doing something goofy that might be annoying doesn’t seem as meanspirited as doing something to deliberately upset a person based on their actual stated dislikes. Ideally, neither would happen

          I’m sure Jane’s co-workers thought they were doing the former rather than the latter. I doubt Jane said “I will be so upset if anyone parks near me” so as far as they were concerned they were just annoying her with a goofy prank.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          While some viewpoints on this site have made me self-conscious — didn’t realize my chattiness was THAT loathed, for instance — I genuinely feel enlightened by the range of commenters here. The world is a strange place!

        2. Shan*

          Me too! This is kind of similar to how I felt when the letter came in about leaving mail on coworker’s chairs, and half the comment section seemed to think it was on par with committing literal murder.

  18. Risha*

    I hate pranks, even if they are “minor”. I hate being the target of jokes or center of attention and I truly do not understand why *adults* feel the need to prank each other. Of course, I do realize some people enjoy them. But for those that do, make sure the target is also a fan of pranks. Personally, I would flip out if someone pulled any type of prank on me at work (or anywhere). For some people, pranks bring up bad memories of things from the past. For me, my parents and family were always pulling horrible pranks on me when I was a child then would laugh at me when I cried. There are many people out there just like this. And since you have no way of knowing who is triggered by pranks, it’s best to just not do it at work.

    Since Jane is upset about that prank, apologize to her then don’t do any more pranks. Also make it clear to her that she should not do any pranks either. It seems like she’s the type to dish it out but unable to take it, make sure you set that new boundary that there will be no more pranks from anyone. If she wasn’t the type to also pull pranks, I would sympathize with her reaction a bit. But she also pulls pranks on people and her reaction was way over the top. I hope a manager stepped in to stop that behavior.

    I know this is an old letter, but hopefully others reading this now will think twice before pulling what they think is an innocent prank on someone else. Save the pranks for your family and friends that you know truly enjoy this type of stuff. Jane’s reaction is what may happen when people just decide to do whatever they think is funny without any consideration for how the other person may feel about it.

    1. Madame X*

      All that aside, Jane herself is a fan of pranks since she has put several on her own coworkers. For me, it’s the hypocrisy coming from Jane. Apparently, she can pull pranks on other people but a harmless prank of parking a car next to hers caused Jane to respond by yelling, bullying and serving the silent treatment for over a week. She’s completely out of line. A mild apology would hopefully calm her down. In the future, if she’s really not a fan of pranks, then she shouldn’t participate in them either.

  19. CLC*

    I wish I could meet LW 2 so I could find out why they think this situation is work related, what they think the employer would do about it, etc. The tone is so matter of fact in the last paragraph. Is the LW a man or a woman? Have they ever had a job themselves? Why do they think work ethic has anything to do with this? Are they from a wildly different culture—like one from another planet?

    It sounds like the “girl” in question was pressured into marriage at a very young age and is finally getting to experience life as a young adult with a new job and a group of friends who want to support her.

  20. SMH*

    “(You of course shouldn’t do this to someone who’s known not to be able to take a joke or laugh at themselves, because then it’s mean-spirited rather than funny.)”

    Maybe I’m just mean, but these are the best kind of pranks.

    I once had a grandboss who could not take a joke AT ALL. Very thin skinned. We had a training room with a whiteboard for scheduling. It would have the date, what group was using it, and the title of the training. One day mysteriously this training appeared: “Friday. Grandboss. How not to be a baby.” Of course when Grandboss saw this, he flipped his lid. He started an “inquisition” (his term!) and grilled half the employees about this with no luck. Friday came and around 8:30am that morning we heard an announcement over the intercom. It was GreatGrandboss and he said, “Grandboss, please report to the training room for your training session.”

    In retrospect I realize how toxic all this was, but it was pretty funny at the time.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’m with Alison on this. Pranks and teasing should be consensual, and if they’re not it’s just meanness.

      I can’t remember where I heard this, but it feels like a good fit for this topic. In a boxing match, both contestants have agreed to being punched in the face. Anywhere outside of the boxing ring, punching somebody in the face is assault.

      In Jane’s case, her participation in past pranks made it seem like she was a consenting party who would take a prank in stride, but that turned out not to be the case.

      1. yala*

        “Pranks and teasing should be consensual, and if they’re not it’s just meanness.”

        That’s what it comes down to for me.

        Jane’s response was inappropriate, but I would LOVE to know if *her* pranks actually upset or annoyed her coworkers, or if they thought they were fun goofs and only Jane was laughing. That really makes the difference between “can dish it out but can’t take it” and this just being a prank that overstepped by poking a sore spot.

    2. Observer**

      In retrospect I realize how toxic all this was, but it was pretty funny at the time.

      The “funny-ness” is a sign of the toxicity.

      This is NOT a “good” prank. It’s the WORST kind of prank – the kind that will (and SHOULD) get your judgement questioned in a sane workplace. Because the whole point of this was to utterly humiliate someone. And when it became obvious how badly the person was taking it, the Grandboss just gleefully rubbed his face in it. That’s not just not funny, it’s actually pretty gross.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      I feel like the guiding principle for a prank should be whether or not the subject could be reasonably expected to find it funny.

      Doing something because you know it will upset someone is just unkind.

      1. yala*

        This is it exactly, in so many fewer words than I’ve been using to try and convey the same thing.

    4. I+would+prefer+not+to*

      SMH, that’s a terrible prank. This is the reason so many people say they hate pranks.

      If someone is “thin skinned” in a way that impacts others and impacts work, then address it through proper routes.

      But if this is the type of thing that passes for acceptable humour in this office, I question whether this person was “thin skinned” at all. If the “jokes” they “couldn’t take” are anything like this one, perhaps they’re in fact just a normal person.

      In any case, escalating this sounds really pathetic.

  21. Risha*

    There’s something about LW2 that bothers me, besides the overstepping and excessive involvement in the adult daughter’s life. I can’t quite articulate what bothers me about it. It’s not even the traditional vibe, I’m a more traditional woman too and there’s something just really off about this LW. If my mom called my job for any reason, I would not have spoken to her for a long time.

    First, I want to say there’s no excuse for cheating. No matter what is going on in your marriage, cheating is not the answer and doesn’t fix the issues. There are other options besides breaking your vows and hurting your spouse. Try talking to your spouse if there’s an issue.

    Having said that, LW has no idea what goes on in the daughter/son in law’s home. Maybe he’s abusive or controlling. Maybe he treats her like a servant and not as an equal partner. Maybe he’s just insufferable to live with. Bad people are really good at putting up a nice front for everyone else. Those of us who were in abusive relationships know this to be 100% true. Or maybe the daughter is just a cheater and now has the opportunity to do so. In any event, it’s not the fault of the girls (yuck for calling women girls) at work. The daughter is an adult and can make her own decisions. No one forces you to cheat, it’s a choice the person makes. Stay out of her marriage and stay out of her employment. It’s none of your business. LW should have told son in law to handle it on his own, whether he wants to work it out or go to counseling or divorce.

  22. LilPinkSock*

    What could LW #2’s end goal possibly have been? Why does she think it’s her right to interfere in another adult’s career this way? Why doesn’t she let her (presumably) adult daughter take responsibility for her own life? Ugh.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The end goal is that daughter realizes LW was right about everything all along, and shapes her life to reflect that.

    2. Heffalump*

      Sometimes people have feelings of, “If I can’t make them straighten up and fly right, I can at least punish them.”

  23. That One Person*

    Prank – I think Jane does deserve the apology here. I think she’d subsequently have to apologize if someone didn’t like one of her pranks too though. If someone gets upset because their office gets papered or covered in sticky notes etc. then it’d be on her and those involved to apologize. Yeah it both were ultimately harmless, but that’s the unfortunate thing about pranks: if the pranked person isn’t having a good time then apologies are needed and understanding not to do it again.

    “Termination” – This is weird and really does feel like the person’s fishing for something. It feels like an unemployment angle, though judging from some comments that might be a bad angle the employee didn’t realize since terminations aren’t “good” things. Still though have to wonder what they were trying to accomplish.

    1. MassMatt*

      I also think it’s odd that the LW/employer kept asking the employee to write a resignation letter. Maybe an official letter is a required or customary thing in their location, but I’ve never written a resignation letter when I’ve quit a job. If this letter is essential then the employer/LW should write it.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        In places where written contracts are a thing, written resignations are often required. I’ve always done one, and had a receipt signed.

        However, this doesn’t sound like that, or else LW would be much more concerned about deadlines and effective dates of resignation and how that influences the last day. This sounds like no-one knowing or bothering to find out what the correct form of doing this is.

  24. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    Watching someone self-destruct is confusing, enraging, frightening, sometimes hilarious, and unbalancing. Nothing makes sense and the closest witnesses can get pretty desperate in their mental gymnastics to cope with it. Emotionally mature witnesses will recognize the weird mental gymnastics for what they are — a panic response — and then set about making more practical decisions. LW2’s desperate plan to get their daughter’s boss to someone stop the daughter’s self-destruction is not a particularly practical decision. I do feel for LW2, though. I’m currently watching someone close to me self-destruct spectacularly and man, I can feel the appeal of a magical plan that somehow involves his boss fixing it.

    1. Appletini*

      Is the daughter necessarily “self-destructing”, though?

      From the letter we know she’s having an affair and “partying” with friends from work. From the LW’s further comment we know she left her husband 3 weeks before the letter was posted and didn’t talk to him since.

      There’s more than one narrative that could fit these events. I have seen someone gain an addiction and act like this while burning down their life in pursuit of the addiction. I have also seen more than one person who got married young realize the marriage was not what they wanted, and gain a group of friends who were the first people to encourage them to actually live their lives as they wanted to. I wouldn’t call the latter self-destructive (though of course the affair is unethical), and saw the people being left behind use such terms as an attempt to cram the butterfly back into its chrysalis, as it were.

  25. RagingADHD*

    LW4: Having read the update, sometimes the subconscious just jumps up and blurts out what it wants, for a reason.

  26. Mississippi*

    #1: ESH
    This is the wrong time for a non-apology apology. The coworkers should apologize for parking near her car when they know she doesn’t like parking near others.
    At the same time, Jane should be counseled to start speaking to her coworkers again.

  27. Avril Ludgateaux*

    Re #3

    In some states, if you are collecting unemployment and then find work for under a specified number of hours or days, you are considered sufficiently underemployed to still collect partial unemployment. If I recall correctly, in New York in the late 00s-early 10s, if you were unemployed and then found part-time employment for 2 days a week, you were encouraged to take the job and you could still apply for a reduced UI benefit. (I distinctly remember them doing it by days and not hours, because to me it was a bizarre choice. If you worked 20 hours across two days you were eligible, but if you worked 20 hours across 5 days, you were not.) I imagine the idea was that part-time employment was closer to self-sufficiency than nothing, saved the DOL money by reducing your payout, gets you into the workforce (because long-term unemployment makes it harder to re-enter the workforce), and perhaps could lead directly to full-time employment.

    I do not know if they still do this or if other states offer this benefit; for all I know, it was part of an “emergency response” to the recession and high unemployment.

    I’m sure we all know that if an employer cuts your hours to an untenable degree and you quit, it can be considered constructive dismissal rather than a resignation. I have a feeling this is what the deliberate phrasing of “termination” was trying to achieve, even though in this case, she was trying to cut her own hours to what was an untenable degree for the employer.

    At any rate, I’m almost entirely certain that the employee in #3 was trying to commit some manner of unemployment fraud. She likely would not have succeeded regardless of the action taken by LW3 but I am confident that’s what she was going for. Maybe the new job she took was only a couple days a week, maybe there was no new job at all and she wanted to quit but could not float the gap. It’s one thing if she offered to stick around simply because she could and wanted to, but the phrasing and insistence on a signed letter specifying “termination” pushes my suspicions toward unemployment fraud.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Illinois doesn’t look at hours so much as $$ earned. At least, that’s how it used to be. When I was unemployed and temping, if I worked, say two days but made 60% of my benefit (easy, as benefits were low), I’d get the other 40%, not 3/5. Not that it matters for OP #3’s question.
      When I think how hard most people try to spin a firing as anything BUT, there just doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason for phrasing in the “not resignation” letters.

  28. Lily Rowan*

    I probably commented along these lines at the time, but #4 reminds me of a time a former coworker hired me at the new place she had gone to work. She told the new coworkers that I was good, but very quiet and reserved. Well, that was because I HATED the previous job and didn’t click at all with the coworkers! So then I overheard people planning happy hours I wasn’t invited to, so I just retreated even further, etc. The new job was much more my speed and my kind of person and I was definitely not quiet and reserved in that role!

  29. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 – I wish Jane’s manager addressed this directly and told her something like: “Jane, you’ve instigated pranks before so you must have realized that sooner or later you would be the recipient. Your yelling and silent treatment response has been immature and unprofessional, and it’s reflecting badly on you. Your car was not harmed, so you need to cut out the silent treatment and get over it. In the future, don’t prank coworkers here because you’ve shown us you can’t take what you dish out.”

  30. HokieOx*

    Years ago, a couple of friends/coworkers gave me a talking stuffed Kermit for my birthday. While I was away from my desk, he got ‘kidnapped’ and I got an email from a ‘savethefrog’ address. I later got a picture of him taped up and a voicemail with his ‘voice’ being muffled. I found the whole prank quite hilarious and it makes me smile to this day, but, I’ll second the comment that you have to know your prankee audience.

  31. fgcommenter*

    LW3 is just doing what companies do; they’ll offer a change in hours and the employee can either accept or resign. LW3 is offering a change in hours and the company can either accept or terminate.

    There is no reason for anyone to have hypocritical outrage against the employee.

      1. fgcommenter*

        > No one is “outraged”.

        Not according to the comments.

        > But your description is simply inaccurate.

        The employee is offering change in hours, and letting the company accept or decide the change is unacceptable and terminate the employment. This isn’t fundamentally different from companies saying that they will change an employee’s hours and saying the employee can either accept or resign.

        1. Nomic*

          Yeah, companies can’t do that either. They have to fire you if you say no, you don’t have to quit.

          It’s a huge deal, because unemployment is involved. Which is probably what the employee is trying to scam in the first place.

          1. fgcommenter*

            Are you sure they can’t? Reducing hours is a popular way to push people to quit.

            Is it a scam when employers say “you can choose to accept this change in hours or you can choose to resign”? If not, why do so many commenters assume it’s a scam when an employee says “you can choose to accept this change in hours or you can choose to terminate the employment.”?

            1. doreen*

              Either one can result in the company terminating the employees. . Assuming that the company really does say “you can choose to accept this change in hours or you can choose to resign” if the employee does neither, the company will fire them when they don’t show up for work as scheduled. The company doesn’t care if they resign- they’re being offered a chance to resign rather than be fired . Maybe they want to leave open the possibility of returning in the future. The company could (and some do ) go straight to ” “If you can’t work these hours, we don’t need you”. If the employee says ” you can choose to accept this change in hours or you can choose to terminate the employment” and the employer does neither, eventually the company will terminate the employee when they don’t work the hours the company has scheduled them for. The “scam” is that the employee is quitting due to a new job and trying to make it look like she was let go so she can collect unemployment – which is the only way this makes sense. It’s not necessarily what’s happening – but if she’s not trying to gain some benefit by making it appear she was eliminated by the employer, then the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.

              1. fgcommenter*

                > The “scam” is that the employee is quitting due to a new job and trying to make it look like she was let go so she can collect unemployment

                That is a very negative assumption.

                > which is the only way this makes sense.

                No, it also makes sense because it is the same thing companies do with employees, giving them a choice of whether to accept the proposed change in hours or end the employment.

                1. fgcommenter*

                  Also, if she has the job already expecting her, and can’t give the expected two-week (or longer) notice, then offering this choice to the employer gives a chance for them to accept the help she is able to offer for transitioning her work, instead of leaving the company high-and-dry on no notice, and gaining a reputation for being someone who does so.

                  Though ultimately, it doesn’t matter if this good reason is the case or not; the basic fact is that offering an employer a choice of accepting a change or ending the working agreement is no more evil than offering an employee a choice of accepting a change or ending the working agreement. Assuming this behavior is borne of evil intent and declaring that anyone who asks for a reference should be told this employee tried to commit a scam is illogically negative and utterly reprehensible.

  32. Critical Rolls*

    I’m baffled by the number of people reading mean-spiritedness into the “prank.” Jane is pro-prank. I’m very confident that if her coworkers had any inkling how she was going to react, they wouldn’t have done it. They did no damage, and did not do anything to make her think there was damage. I’ll re-use a comparison from up thread — this is about as mean as ordering Hawaiian pizza when your coworker detests it, when they have their own lunch and no allergies.

    By all means apologize for the inadvertent upset, but her response was out of line, over the top, and not something that could be reasonably anticipated.

  33. EchoGirl*

    I think one thing some of the comments about the prank letter are missing is that Jane is likely reacting to the intent as much as the action. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying her reaction isn’t over the top — it’s absolutely over the top. But I do think there’s a difference between someone just randomly parking next to her and people going out of their way to park next to her specifically because they KNOW she doesn’t like it. (From my perspective, while I don’t have Jane’s particular protectiveness over my car, I have some other things I’m somewhat sensitive to that I occasionally encounter in the course of a day — I can deal with the annoyance when it’s just circumstance, but I’d definitely take it much harder if someone who knew I was sensitive to X specifically decided to do X to poke at that sensitivity.)

    And yes, I know Jane plays pranks on other people, but it’s not quite comparable unless she’s doing it to someone that she knows would be bothered by e.g. having their cube covered in pictures. Intent isn’t magic but it’s not irrelevant either.

    1. EchoGirl*

      I would add that if Jane DID play a prank that upset someone, whether it was knowingly or completely inadvertent, I would absolutely expect her to apologize. So apologizing to her doesn’t seem that far out of the equation in any case.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      And yes, I know Jane plays pranks on other people, but it’s not quite comparable unless she’s doing it to someone that she knows would be bothered by e.g. having their cube covered in pictures.

      At the least she knows she’s going to inconvenience them, otherwise there’s no point in pulling a prank. And there’s nothing to indicate that the co-workers knew she would be bothered by their prank, even if she tends to park far away to avoid car dings. There are plenty of people who are particular about things but are also able to laugh at themselves about it. It’s fine that Jane isn’t in regards to her car, but it’s not fair to expect her co-workers to be able to read her mind (especially when she herself is a prankster).

  34. Bob*

    Got to love those people that just love office horseplay and jokes right up until the jokes on them, then they are a furious ball of anger and hate.

  35. I+would+prefer+not+to*

    I partly sympathise with the daughter because I just wonder, given the unreasonableness of the letter and total focus on the husband not the daughter, if there’s a *lot* more going on from the daughter’s perspective that the OP either doesn’t know, ignores, or omits.

    Was the marriage ever happy? Was it arranged? Has she told her husband before that she’s leaving but he’s refusing to accept it? Is he treating her badly?

    Of course it might simply be an affair but the nature of the letter just makes me question the LW’s judgement so strongly that I really, really wonder how the daughter would tell this story.

  36. KellyPorter*

    I usually say I hate pranks, then I remember at my old workplace I didn’t, I always found them funny, even when I was on the receiving end. I think that’s because they were always harmless and silly. Mostly it was a golden rule, if you didn’t lock your computer when leaving your desk, what you came back to was your own fault. At first it was your homepage being change to something ridiculous, but then our work kicked off about accessing any web page that wasn’t work related. So the evil geniuses I worked with found the perfect alternative, changing your mouse settings to the opposite hand. Like I say, I hate pranks, but I had a laugh being on the receiving of that.

    But the number one rule of pranks is, if you hate being on the receiving end, then you never prank other people. If you give it out you have to be able to take it.

  37. Bob*

    You just know that Jane is the kind of person that says “PCs gone mad” but who throws a wobbly as soon as someone says something she doesn’t like.

    “I initiate pranks” – HOW DARE ANYONE PRANK ME

    “PCs gone mad, I call a spade a spade” – YOU CANT SAY THAT! THAT AFFECTS ME!!!

Comments are closed.