my bosses want to give me advice for my chronic illness, reporting my former boss’s Twitter account, 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 bosses want to give me advice for my chronic illness

I have a chronic illness that is diet-related (think celiac but more obscure). I work very closely with the CEO and COO of my company and they know a lot about my medical issues. It would be difficult to keep the details from them, as we often dine with clients and my diet is very restricted. My illness has made it so that I always use all of my sick time for the year, but when I am at work, I get my work done, even though sometimes I look/seem sickly.

The problem is that both of them have started to comment about my diet in a “maybe if you ate better you would feel better” kind of way. Dealing with a chronic illness is really difficult to do while maintaining the level of work that is required of me, and their (very well-intentioned) comments are really stressing me out. Another factor that may be at play is they are both about the age of my father and sometimes seem to want to “parent” me.

Aside from never eating in front of them, which isn’t really possible, how should I approach this? We are a small company and we all care about each other, so I want to be sure that they know that I don’t resent their concern at all.

How about this: “It’s actually much more complicated than that, but I’m working closely with my doctor.” Or, “I wish it were that straightforward, but my doctor has been very clear that it’s not.”

Reasonable people will get the message at that point, but if it continues anyway, say this: “I appreciate your concern for my health but I’m working closely with my doctor to manage things, and I really prefer not to talk about it at work.” If you want, you could add, “I’m much happier just being able to focus on work while I’m here.”


2. Should I report my former boss’s Twitter account to my old company?

A few days ago I was bored and decided to google my former boss from a job I left earlier this year. Most of the search results weren’t very interesting and had nothing to do with him. However, about halfway down the page I noticed there was a link to a Twitter account belonging to someone by the same name. I opened the page and started reading a few of the tweets – there weren’t very many. They all more or less had to do with someone who I presume to be his son and the accolades he has received from his minor league hockey team. That is, until I scrolled down to the very bottom of the page and saw the accounts that user was following.

Of the 75 users he is or was following, approximately half of them are accounts that tweet out pornographic material. Even worse, I can see tweets the user has “liked,” and many of them are pictures containing nudity or videos of people engaging in sex acts. Needless to say, I have a feeling the HR department at my former employer would find this all very, very interesting.

Now, I’m not going to play coy with you. I have a serious ax to grind with this person and made it a point to eviscerate him in my exit interview. What would your reaction be if a former employee brought this to your attention? Seeing as he is a high ranking official who presumably ought to know better – if it is in fact his account – I feel very strongly that he should be punished for this egregious oversight.

You don’t work there anymore, this is his personal Twitter account (maybe — it might not even be his), the account doesn’t even have sexual materials on it (it’s just connected to others that do), and he’s not doing this at work. This is not egregious, and it’s very much not your business. Leave it alone, and work on moving on mentally.

If you report this to the HR department of a company you don’t even work for anymore, their reaction is likely to be “This is mildly embarrassing for the manager (because he’s not savvy enough to realize it’s public, not because of what he does on his own time), but it’s hardly a major work issue.” At most, they’re likely to let him know that it’s publicly viewable. He’s not likely to get in trouble for it, they’re not likely to find it that interesting, and you are likely to look really bitter.

Leave it alone and move on.


3. Should managers also be individual contributors?

I work at a big, well-established corporation, and I’ve noticed that middle managers do an awful lot of work I associate with individual contributors, like running a process or producing monthly reporting (i.e., not just signing off on a deck, but creating the slides themselves). Often the assumption seems to be that managing a team is something you do in your spare time around the edges of your “real” job. We also don’t have standard management training for new managers — it’s usually left to people to figure things out and get informal coaching.

My husband says this is outside the norm for corporate America — that well-run companies push (and train) managers to prioritize management activities and enabling their teams to create work products. Of course there are some functions managers are going to perform themselves, but he says their primary focus should be guiding and developing their team, and removing roadblocks to their work as needed.

This sounds like a good idea to me, but I’m wondering if a) this is generally accepted as the way things *should* be, and b) if a preponderance of companies actually *do* it.

It should be that way in some cases, but it depends on the size of the team being managed. If you’re managing two people, that’s not going to take up all your time and it makes sense for you to have significant responsibilities outside of managing them. On the other hand, if you’re leading a team of 12, you should be spending a sizable amount of time on the work of managing (setting goals and big-picture strategy, monitoring progress against those goals and course-correcting where needed, giving feedback, coaching, problem solving, hiring, etc.). Even then that might not be your whole job (although in some cases it might be), but you should have a significant portion of your time carved out for it — not try to do it on top of a full-time workload of your own individual stuff.

This is actually one of the biggest adjustments most managers go through — accepting that much of their time will be taken up by the work of managing rather than the work of producing something. They figure they should spend just as much time as they used to doing their own work, and they try to fit management in between the cracks. This leads to a terrible cycle, where the work they delegate gets done poorly because they didn’t invest the time to manage it well, so they take on more and more of it themselves, and then they have even less time to manage other work they should be overseeing. This isn’t always the manager’s fault; sometimes it’s because their employer doesn’t accept that managing well takes a real time investment, and so they overload their managers and don’t leave them time to manage effectively.

Do a preponderance of companies actually see things this way? Well-run ones do by definition, since they’re not going to get well-managed teams if they don’t. But as with anything, there are plenty that don’t fit that model.


4. Do I have to have my last name on my resume?

I’d really rather not have my last name on my resume because I’m estranged from my family. Would it be okay to put my name down as my first name and last initial?

Using just your first name and last initial would be so out of sync with how resumes work that it would come across very oddly. It’s likely to look like you’re trying to hide something (by avoiding being googled) or are just very out of touch with professional conventions, neither of which are good.


{ 104 comments… read them below }

  1. Tinkerbell*

    re #2: This is why I really, really hate when Twitter flirts with putting “so-and-so liked this tweet!” in people’s feeds. If I had wanted to share it, I’d have retweeted it to everyone! “Like” is for a lot of things – this is funny, this is poignant, I agree with your point of view, I don’t entirely get it but you’re my friend and I want you to feel appreciated even though it wasn’t that funny, and – yes – this is funny/hot/amazing but it’s not something I’d pass on to everyone who follows me. What I “like” is my business, only “public” in the sense that you CAN find it if you do a lot of digging, and it annoys me when Twitter throws all that out the window.

  2. TBIed*

    The ability of people, not just in the workplace, but in society in general, to tell people how to manage their chronic health conditions, will never cease to amaze me.

      1. Nocatchyname*

        Completely agree. I am a three time cancer survivor and have had coworkers give unsolicited advice and some that downplayed my condition in the middle of very difficult treatment and basically told me to suck it up.

    1. Saraquill*

      I often fantasize about charging people money for asking “Have you tried…?” One dollar for general suggestions, two for diet related stuff, and five or more for yoga.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Ha! This is so true and hilarious. I teach yoga and constantly resist suggesting yoga in social situations. The other week, my boyfriend invited me to hang out with some friends and they mentioned back pain. I stopped myself from going into diagnosis and problem-solving mode, i.e., “There are some poses/stretches/movements that could help.”

        1. Retired To The Morning Room To Write My Letters*

          Personally, I’m of the opinion that your expertise (coupled with your obvious self awareness and tact) does qualify you to recommend yoga just a little. Like, to briefly, neutrally mention it as a recommendation and then change the subject, and not bring it up again unless they ask for more information off you.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*


        One dollar for general suggestions, five dollars for how to cure the symptoms of stroke, and fifty dollars, per suggestion, for any and all diet/exercise/weight loss suggestions. “Have you tried yoga?”, “A vegan diet will fix XXX”, “Eating meat makes YYY worse” are all $100 utterances.

        What I really want is for people to STFU with that kind of thing.

    2. London Calling*

      I had HR give me a leaflet about how to get a second opinion on my condition. Yeah, I’m sure the head of the oncology department at a leading London teaching hospital who is managing my condition perfectly well is going to appreciate that.

      I binned the leaflet. Didn’t even read it.

  3. Fed is Best!*

    For #1, if folks are saying things like “maybe if you ate better you would feel better,” it sounds like OP’s food isn’t always ‘healthy’. A blanket “doctor’s orders” might not work so well if you have a plate of fried calamari on your desk, but its a misconception that people with gastro issues or chronic illness need to eat seasonless vegetables and lean protein all the time. I have a coworker who eats spicy beef and rice from a food truck every single day, even turning down fancy lunches and “healthy food” like salads. People regularly suggest its “all the spicy junk food making him sick.” But he’s allergic to so many things (tomatoes, onions, legumes, garlic, gluten, dairy) that he literally cannot eat most healthy food. He says things like “It’s either unhealthy or dead with my allergies, I’m afraid,” and “I literally can’t eat that, wish I could!” and “until healthy restaurants cut out all tomatoes, onions and garlic from things, food truck it is.”

    1. Roland*

      The point is that they should stop judging OP’s food for being “healthy” or not since what is acceptably “healthy” has nothing to do with her condition. E.g. with celiac, eating steamed veggies and chicken vs fries and ice cream has the exact same effect on the “having celiac” front – none.

    2. AnonyChick*

      Yes and no, in that’s not how really “healthy” food works. Because what is healthy for you might not be what is healthy for me, and vice versa. Yes, sometimes it is a matter of “I can eat this or I can starve, so that makes this the healthy choice.” But lots of times, it’s more like “because of my specific dietary needs (which are none of your beeswax), even if there are commonly-healthy foods—for example, a green salad topped with broiled salmon, or grilled chicken served with a baked sweet potato—available that I can safely eat and enjoy, the thing that will provide my body with the highest positives-to-negatives ratio is, in fact, this Savage Slim Jim.” In other words, for me, the “healthy” choice will almost always be a processed meat stick, not because I can’t find anything else I can eat, but because that is literally what is healthiest for me. And that fact, the reasons behind it, and my doctors’ amused frustrations with it being the case are, again, absolutely none of my bosses’ (or anyone’s, really) business!

      (By the way: at one point in his life, my grandfather was LITERALLY under doctor’s order to eat either a steak or a large good-quality burger exactly once a month. Yes, there were medical reasons, and no, it wasn’t a joke. Doctors order all sorts of things when forced by circumstances to think outside the box. So saying “well, ‘doctor’s orders’ wouldn’t apply to fried calamari…says who?)

      1. Fed is Best!*

        Exactly! You explained the point of my comment better. Sure, my coworker can probably eat plain salmon and boiled carrots, but spicy beef and rice tastes great, is $2 a meal, and won’t send him to a hospital. I don’t think that having allergies or any health condition should require someone to give up all “unhealthy” food. The unnecessary health shaming of chronically ill people makes me think of how folks tell poor people to “just eat beans and rice every day if that’s all you can afford”. Like, let people enjoy things!

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Also, I don’t believe the restricted lean meat/no carb/raw veggies, etc. is that healthy.
          I’ve been eating whole chicken thighs for a long time and the skin and bone marrow is full of nutrients! Dark meat has more iron than white meat, as well as more flavor and fat (also a necessary nutrient). Carbs are a necessary nutrient and I’m one of many who can’t digest uncooked veggies. Just to give a few examples!

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            The whole “healthy” food thing is such a crock of nonsense.

            If someone declared that I had to only eat what most people think of as “healthy” – salads without dressing, lean fish or chicken without spicing, or only tofu for protein, raw veggies without seasoning, and no starches, sauces, spices, etc – I think I would just kill myself. Seriously, if I had to abuse myself like that to satisfy some dictatorial idiot I would want out of that life.

    3. Retired to Morning Room to Write my Letters*

      My chronic illness diet looks extremely healthy (tons of varied veg; varied fruit; quality meat; tiny portions of unprocessed carbs) but I STILL get told I’d be better off if I ate differently: “Your diet is too restrictive”, “You need to have fun too!”
      These people, to paraphrase Jeff Goldbloom in Jurassic Park, will find a way.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I suspect these people who are never content in others’ diets are reacting to inner, unnecessary defensiveness.

        1. Retired To The Morning Room To Write My Letters*

          So do I.
          Just today, I witnessed a very nice family roundly criticise a man who announced that he was semi-fasting for a couple of days after eating loads yesterday. In the middle of the curfuffle I looked at him and said, “John, I respect your dietary choices” and he said, “thank you”.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      I feel sorry for your co-worker, because my favorite foods are tomatoes, onions and beans. I’m glad that he is able to find food that works for him and his body.

    5. Reality.Bites*

      Wow, you have even less respect for the letter writer than their bosses! You know less than nothing about their health and give out entirely unsolicited advice! How do you imagine that is at all helpful?

      1. Jamboree*

        @Reality.Bites I can’t figure out who you were replying to because the level of hostility
        doesn’t match any of the prior comments. What am I missing? People sharing their own experiences aren’t saying “do this.” They’re saying “This worked for me.” Sometimes we want to help but we only have our experiences to go on.

          1. huh?*

            But there is no advice there. The comment is just talking about a coworker with a lot of food restrictions and how people respond to that.

          2. Still*

            Have we read two completely different comments? I don’t even see anything in their comment that reads like direct advice. The only thing they’ve said is that there might be pushback to saying “doctor’s orders” if the OP eats anything that doesn’t fit people’s misconception of what healthy means.

    6. Well...*

      We are all way to attached to the fantasy that we are fully in control of our health/mortality. Fat/ill/disabled people challenge that notion and force us to confront the idea that sometimes people just get sick, just have big bodies, etc. The only way for the fantasy to remain is to conclude that they must be doing something wrong, and if they ate “virtuously,” then they’d have the bodies we want them to have. The implication being that we will be rewarded with/have safely earned the bodies we want. It’s an awful way to treat people.

      1. Overit*

        1000% this.
        I have a condition that caused me to put on weight. I was misdagnosed for over 3 years and during that time, I followed doctor’s orders to the letter. Changed diet, exercised more, went to nutritionist.
        Well, several nutritionists because apparently that profession also believes the fantasy that weight is always tied to our diet/exercise.
        Had two nutritionists fire me as a client for “lying” about my food intake because, “There is NO WAY you eat what you list amd weigh what you do. You have to be lying.”

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Ugh, that’s really horrible I’m so sorry. I got lucky because I found out about the Health at Every Size movement before I started looking and was able to find a HAES dietician in my insurance network.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          I’ve been told there are no educational or certification requirements to become a nutritionist. This was several years ago and may have changed, but it explains a lot.
          Every nutritionist and dietitian I’ve tried to work with knew much less about food than I’ve had to learn to cope with my food allergies. I ended up teaching them, and it was a complete waste of my time.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          This is why I no longer trust the general medical establishment to know anything about weight management, diet, exercise or anything to do with my metabolism. Because they just spew “conventional wisdom” that is again, and again, and again proven to be absolute bullshit.

      2. TomatoSoup*

        Yup. They’re certain that you just eat all the “right” things and do the “right” things so nothing bad will ever happen. Being sick becomes a moral failing. While a healthy diet can correlate with better health overall in populations, it won’t prevent everything in individuals.

    7. Artemesia*

      I have a couple of health conditions that essentially require conflicting diets; the food I should eat for X makes me sick because of Y — really sucks. I really don’t want advice about what I am eating. Feel for the original OP.

      1. Fed is Best!*

        That’s so lousy! I’m sorry you have to balance that. I’ve sometimes wondered how a celiac could go vegan, for instance, since so much vegan food is carbohydrate based. I’m sure people do it and are just fine but it sounds tricky to manage given the lack of options at most stores where I live.

        1. Rufus Bumblesplat*

          A friend of mine tried to be vegan and gluten free and said she pretty much found it impossible. She’s settled for vegetarian and gluten free instead as much more manageable.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          They can’t, basically. Or rather, the diet would be A) so insanely restrictive and B) so insanely expensive that nobody who isn’t a millionaire with a full time staff could manage it.

          We get so many people asking about vegan and gluten free and the answer is one or the other, not both. The regular crust is vegan (unless you avoid live yeast) but FULL of gluten, the gluten free has milk solids and egg whites as ingredients.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Eh, vegan and gluten-free is do-able as long as you have ZERO other constraints and are willing to pretty much give up on being able to eat at “normal” restaurants but instead scratch-cook and/or eat at some pretty niche vegan places. If you’re cooking entirely at home, it’s even pretty cheap if you go heavy on the beans/lentils and rice/corn side of things.

            I believe tofu is gluten-free, and certainly there are many kinds of nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes for protein that would be gluten-free, so if you wanted to eat a diet of nuts, beans, corn, rice, potatoes, other non-gluten grains/starches, fruits, and vegetables you could get by easily at home. (My favorite bring-to-potlucks soup is both gluten-free and vegan unless you choose to add garnishes on top of your particular bowl.) I would imagine it would involve a lot of bowl-based meals with rice or another non-gluten grain on the bottom with veggies, legumes, and/or beans on top.

    8. zuzu*

      I had a dietician who had Crohn’s and couldn’t eat very much fiber at all. Which meant she really couldn’t eat fruits and vegetables. She shared that with her clients because it illustrated that “healthy” meant different things for different people and a lot of people use “healthy” as a moral judgment (see also “good” or “clean” or “whole” or “processed” or “junk” or what have you). But in the end, it’s just food, and you need to eat what your body needs and avoid what doesn’t agree with your body or makes it sick.

      None of it is a really appropriate topic for your coworkers, though, once they’ve been told you don’t want to talk about it.

  4. Flying*

    Report someone for liking porn? Unless the dude is like, “I work for KPMG and I can’t get enough of [redacted]!” I can’t see a problem. Well other than him being an idiot who should probably learn to hide his interests better due to the probable embarrassment.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I got a chuckle out of the idea that HR would find it at all surprising that one of their workforce likes porn. Unless it’s that workplace with the morality pledge.

      1. Jackalope*

        When I first saw the title for that letter I was thinking it must be something like some of our other past letters here where the person on Twitter was posting angry rants against the employer, gossiping about employees they managed, etc. I did not even imagine that it would be something this… mundane and not newsworthy.

    2. Seashell*

      Yeah, barring the workplace being a religious one, working for a politician, or maybe a school, the odds seem low that anyone would care.

    3. L-squared*

      I mean, is liking that something to be embarassed about? I mean, I may not want my browser history made public, but I don’t see it as something anyone should need to feel ashamed of either.

      The OP here is just ridiculous

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I mean, I personally would be embarrassed but I am glad that the sentiment these days seems to be that we don’t need to be. I see that as progress. It wasn’t always that way.

    4. GreyjoyGardens*

      Agreed. I don’t see what’s wrong with liking porn. It’s none of the OP’s business. Now if all the tweets OP’s former boss liked were of racist hate groups or something, yeah, that would be concerning. But porn? What, is Tipper Gore asking AAM for work advice now?

  5. Alternative Person*

    Letter #3

    The lowest level of proper/formal management in my company is basically a combo management/individual contributor role. I think it works pretty well overall, though it does depend on middle/senior management pulling their weight.

  6. Burnout*

    I’ve been on teams where the manager is also an individual contributor. In my case we did it because the office was understaffed, and I struggled to get clear direction from my manager because he was too busy dealing with his own work. So I wonder if the way op’s company works is because of the size of the company, or is it because the top brass doesn’t want to hire enough people to actually do the job.

    1. JSPA*

      I can see the utility of having the manager be directly responsible for collecting and summarizing the data on the team’s effectiveness and team members’ individual contributions, in the name of responsibility (and avoiding one report subtly tweaking wording to make themselves look better, or another report look worse). Manager making a manager-level PowerPoint themselves =/= manager making a PowerPoint on a task that’s parallel to what their reports are doing. IMO, it’s pretty normal to solicit a slide or two from each report as a jumping off point, but then edit / tweak / borrow / combine / standardize / reword. But if people are encouraged to use their own style in their powerpoints, it’s sometimes easier and faster to start fresh with just the charts and data. (And when there are hints of a buried problem, it can become necessary to start with the raw numbers.)

      Also, separately:

      If a company has a top notch individual contributor who loves that job… but the normal career arc is to become a manager…it can be really counter productive to take away all of the individual contributor duties, while finding out if that employee is also effective and happy as a manager. So it’s normal to have some number of hybrid positions that’s used to figure out whether they can move up the normal path; whether they instead want to sidetrack into a slightly higher level individual contributor status (that may be a dead end), whether they’re going to have to look elsewhere to advance, or what.

  7. ugh*

    Wow. #3 is exactly what my workplace is like.

    I asked my manager after I was promoted to assistant manager if she had any advice. She said, and I quote, “I kind of just wing it.”

    It showed. She was a terrible communicator and her lack of experience led her to make some absolutely nonsensical decisions. I received no training on how to manage our team.

    What’s more, we’ve taken on so much work from the communications department over the past few years under her rule. And yet, we were never trained on basic things like labour laws. I had to try and look them up when problems came up. I’ve done my best to fill in the gaps, but as we took on more tasks outside our purview, I ended up with less and less time to self-train on how to manage effectively (and, y’know, respect labour laws).

    This is, of course, a thing that permeates the entire company, and I don’t think it started with her. But still.

    1. Shipping Up to Boston*

      I’m glad Alison pushed back against LW #2 taking the Twitter account to HR at their former company. If I were in the HR department and a ex-employee brought their former manager’s Twitter likes to me to try to get them in trouble for looking at porn in their off hours, it’d reflect so poorly on the ex-employee that it might change my perspective on any personnel issues or conflict that had occured during ex-employee’s time at the company. Like, it’s such a petty and vindictive thing to try to do and *so* misplaced that I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d been that petty, vindictive, and focused on the wrong things while working for us.

      There are plenty of instances where revenge like that doesn’t have any formal, obvious drawbacks but it will call your judgment into question and potentially harm your reputation. It wouldn’t be enough to get you on a do not hire list or anything, but it would be enough that if, in the future, someone said “hey, you and LW #2 both worked at Company Inc. They applied for our new opening, what were they like to work with?” I’d have to say “they’re kind of a dramamongerer” even if they had otherwise been a good worker.

      Getting along with coworkers (or at the very least, *seeming* to get along with them) is important, and your professional reputation is worth more than whatever momentary satisfaction that this kind of petty revenge can provide.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I had someone pull a stunt like that on me. I never found out who it was for sure, but if I had any proof he/she would be in a LOTTA trouble.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I agree. I would wonder at the caliber and trustworthiness of an ex-employee who acted like a kindergartener tattling that “Teacher, Liam said a bad word!” This is an example of Alison’s distinction between tattling (just to get someone in trouble) and telling (a coworker or colleague is doing something that interferes with a LW’s work). LW is tattling. Someone who would try to get another person in trouble over something harmless and personal (even if LW themselves found it distasteful) is someone not to be trusted.

        Now if LW saw that Ex-Boss was favoriting tweets by armed militias, or anyone the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group, I’d be a bit more inclined to say something. But merely liking tweets by people who watch porn makes LW sound like the proverbial town gossip.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The nuance is important….a hate group or the sort of porn (think child/appears to be child/revenge) that is illegal I would report.

          Just generic stuff – to each their own; reporting that stuff is just tattling.

          1. Giant Kitty*

            If I found out a coworker was interested in illegal forms of pornography (revenge, child, etc) I wouldn’t be reporting them to HR, I’d be reporting them to the police.

    2. Artemesia*

      Promoting a competent individual contributor to management is often a disaster. Being good at X has F all to do with being a good manager. I remember my engineer father, practicing in the bedroom with a tape recorder before having to make a presentation after becoming a manager. It was painful. He was literally a rocket scientist- helped put a man on the moon but had none of the chops to be a manager and had zero people skills.

      1. MassMatt*

        We see this come up SO often, I have to think it’s a very widespread management issue. Good salespeople, engineers, nurses, etc are not necessarily at all skilled in managing teams of salespeople, engineers, or nurses. But so often, the only way up the career ladder is in managing people, and the most prominent candidates are the best individual contributors.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – back in the 80s, early 90s, it was a “thing” for some people to operate under pseudonyms or adopt strange names (legally). I interviewed a guy who had held four jobs in 10 years (not unusual in IT) but under three different names, and the name he was using at the time was rather strange.

    If you remember the movie “The Outsiders”, two of the boys had REAL names of Pony Boy and Soda Pop. Yeah you might wanna change those monikers. But if you change a name TO a name like that – you have to wonder. That’s what this guy did.

    1. GreyGhost*

      On the other hand, in IT in the 90s you generally got known by your use name as opposed to your given name. There’s a whole generation of co-workers who know me by my use name only. So long as HR had my legal name and the checks cleared into my account, it really didn’t matter to me.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        This was not in the “internet era”. We used our real names in corporate communications.

        In fact, any job I had in my working life (1973-2020) , we did.

    2. AnonyChick*

      My family knew a guy whose birth name was UncommonName SoundsDirty, so of course he changed it…to RareNicknameForUncommonName SoundsDirty! I definitely thought weirder of him after he did that than before!

      1. Giant Kitty*

        But what was he supposed to do? Change his last name/family name from SoundsDirty to something else because some people might not like it?

  9. Shipping Up to Boston*

    (reposted as a standalone comment due to earlier nesting fail!)

    I’m glad Alison pushed back against LW #2 taking the Twitter account to HR at their former company. If I were in the HR department and a ex-employee brought their former manager’s Twitter likes to me to try to get them in trouble for looking at porn in their off hours, it’d reflect so poorly on the ex-employee that it might change my perspective on any personnel issues or conflict that had occured during ex-employee’s time at the company. Like, it’s such a petty and vindictive thing to try to do and *so* misplaced that I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d been that petty, vindictive, and focused on the wrong things while working for us.

    There are plenty of instances where revenge like that doesn’t have any formal, obvious drawbacks but it will call your judgment into question and potentially harm your reputation. It wouldn’t be enough to get you on a do not hire list or anything, but it would be enough that if, in the future, someone said “hey, you and LW #2 both worked at Company Inc. They applied for our new opening, what were they like to work with?” I’d have to say “they’re kind of a dramamongerer” even if they had otherwise been a good worker.

    Getting along with coworkers (or at the very least, *seeming* to get along with them) is important, and your professional reputation is worth more than whatever momentary satisfaction that this kind of petty “revenge” can provide.

    1. Observer*

      Totally agree.

      And while it probably would not put someone on a FORMAL “do not hire” list, I suspect that anyone involved in that email would have the OP in their internal “do not hire” list.

      But also, since the OP seems so focused on destroying this guy that they may not care about the cost, there is another and perhaps bigger issue here. And that is that such an email would SO weird and out of touch that it would make anything that they had said about ex-boss totally non-credible. The OP already “eviscerated” former boss in their exit interview. It’s a question if HR took it seriously. But if they get an email like this any further investigation is NOT going to happen, because you’ve just provided proof that you are not someone whose judgement and evaluation of behavior is remotely reliable.

      The OP did sound like they were hurting from this old job. I hope they found a better way to move forward.

    2. Artemesia*

      This. This person would become notorious in the field and any future reference would be pretty hilarious.

  10. Yellow aeroplane*

    In LW4’s position I’d just use a different name, consistently for work, with or without legally changing it. It’sa bit of extra work come tax time as I have to list both names, but other than that straightforward.

    It can be a little problematic if your workplace goes booking travel for you or something without checking – because of matching ID etc, but most companies have you fill out your travel profile.

    I know quite a few people who’ve done that. Some keeping their initial or previous name for work and adopting a new name legally following marriage (or divorce), others choosing a new name for work for privacy reasons, and others just for convenience if their legal name is hard to spell/pronounce.

    This isn’t simple in all countries, but is a great option where you can legally use multiple names.

    1. Brooklynlite*

      The name I use professionally is not my legal name. It isn’t an issue at all. I just tell HR and mention it once to my boss after being hired. They put my legal name on my paystubs and everything else has my preferred name.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, in the LWs circumstance I would use my middle name as a surname, and just tell HR the wallet name on the official paperwork for taxes. (I have a unique last name that has less than 100 households in the US.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      Considering some ill-advised petty revenge (and taking the time to ask for expert advice before doing anything!) doesn’t scream “needs help” to me. I hope they took the advice and have a healthier outlook now, too, but something rubs me the wrong way about pathologizing every baser instinct.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that the two things are mutually exclusive.

        The OP was certainly wrong and I think “baser instinct” is probably a good description. But it ALSO sounds like the OP was in a bad place. Of course, given how out of touch their question was, it’s hard to tell why that job was so toxic – was it actually the boss or the OP – but clearly something was badly wrong there.

      2. L-squared*

        I don’t think this is a base instinct.

        She went searching for dirt on this man, grasped at straws on the “dirt” she found (oh no, he is looking at adult content), and then considered reporting it to a company she no longer works for. This is premeditated stuff, not just a reaction to something that fell in her lap.

          1. L-squared*

            I guess I’ve just never had that instinct. When I’ve left a bad job, I was happy to not think about it again, not to go looking for dirt on my former manager

        1. ecnaseener*

          I didn’t mean baser instinct as in literally instinctual reaction, I meant being tempted to do something petty, a temptation we all occasionally face.

          And the fact that this person meditated on that impulse long enough to ask advice about it is exactly my point.

      3. Michelle Smith*

        I don’t think “help” and “pathologizing” are necessarily the same thing. The help LW2 needed maybe is further distance from that job, a healthier work environment, correction of something else that went wrong in their life around the same time they were contemplating this, etc. We don’t know what was going on in LW’s life at that time that they wrote in. Doesn’t mean mental illness necessarily, although it could.

        1. ecnaseener*

          When I hear “the help they need” in this context I think psychiatric help. Otherwise why wouldn’t you say you hope they’re in a better situation now or etc?

  11. MK*

    This sounds unnecessarily complicated to me. If your estrangement from your family is so severe you don’t want to use your shared last name, just legally change it as soon as possible no matter the inconvenience. Messing around with multiple names is more likely to create problems for you in all sorts of ways, if it is even legal where you live. The one exception is if you work in an industry where aliases are usual, like publishing.

    1. NameChanges*

      While I agree that changing it legally asap is the best option in general, it’s not always quite that easy. (I’ve been researching a lot since I’m trying to get my own changed hopefully soon as part of my transition) Different places have different requirements as far as the steps and paperwork needed (sometimes requiring publishing an announcement of the change in local newspapers, which could be detrimental depending on your situation), different costs (I’m jealous of the areas I’ve seen where name changes are free, but boy am I glad I don’t live in some of the areas I’ve heard people say it costs $1,000+!!), and sometimes you’re just at the mercy of a judge who goes “No, I don’t think this is a valid reason to approve this name change” (which very much sucks, it’s definitely a fear of mine that resurfaces whenever I see people asking for legal advice when it happens to them).

      I don’t know what LW’s exact situation is, so they might not have been in a position to actually change their name yet. I definitely agree that juggling multiple names complicates things! I’ve been struggling with it myself as I try to work on my own resume pre-legal-name-update, and I realize my situation is different than the LW’s, but I do have some sympathy for their situation.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        I briefly helped at an LGBT organization in a major city that had a small legal aid department and did a number of name changes. One of the ways they “got around” the publication requirement was to publish the notice in the local LGBT newspaper that was large enough to be considered a newspaper of general circulation.

        1. bleh*

          There is a small trade paper they use in ABQ NM for the purpose of publishing name changes. The only people who read it are debt collectors looking for people evading debt through name change. We had to go before the judge and swear we were changing name for getting married and not for said debt evasion, but it was pretty easy.

  12. just another queer reader*

    I have quite a few friends who go by names that are not their legal names, for lots of reasons: family, gender, or just preference.

    In the US, you have to have your legal name on your payroll and insurance documents (and if you book air travel). Everywhere else – name badge, email, etc – you can go by any name you want. Best case scenario, nobody at work even knows that you have a different name on paper.

    If you want to go by a different name, best practice is to put that name on your resume and throughout the interview process. Once it comes time to do the formal onboarding, that’s when you’d need to put down your legal name.

    Good luck.

  13. LB33*

    #2 says they have an axe to grind with the boss – does that mean they’re on the same axe throwing team? I wouldn’t report anything unless you want the axe squad to suffer dissension

  14. L-squared*

    #2. Yikes.

    Just to recap, you didn’t like this guy, “eviscerated” him in your exit interview (just that wording makes it seem like it was more personal than professional criticism, then after you moved on, chose to go out of your way to google him (I assume to find “dirt” on him), then bothered to look through the different accounts he follows and content he likes? Then you are clutching your pearls because an adult likes adult content? Yeah, I feel like YOU were probably the problem here. This is so far out of bounds that you seem obsessed to an absurd degree.

    You shouldn’t even tell anyone this, because you’ll probably (rightfully) be judged by anyone who hears about it.

  15. Michelle Smith*

    I hope LW4 was able to get the money together to get a legal name change. That’s what I would have recommended for them.

  16. Kimberly*

    I do recommend “The under the care of the expert in the field response” for people who at least want to look educated.

    I have a set of chronic conditions that are kind of in your face because they are skin conditions and experts suspect there is a link to food allergies/intolerances. (Research on going)

    Since I was a child people have offered help. Some because they thought I was injured and needed first aid. They stopped when my parents explained that bandaging the “cuts” (actually fissures) in my skin was against medical advice. (In part because I’m allergic to latex and the glue on bandaids). They also explained that no the “cuts” can’t be/ don’t need to be stitched up and weren’t me self harming. (That part went in the Don’t kill Kimberly letter to teachers in Middle School after concerned teachers kept reporting me to the counselor because they thought I was cutting myself.)

    Then there were the I know better group. Many of them wouldn’t recognize science if it bit them on the ass. My parent’s and later my response is “I’m under the care of Dr. Blank, one of the top experts in the Houston Medical Centre.” Said in a certain tone. If they kept it up they got the I’m going to freeze you in an ice cube look or the don’t mess with a Marine look. They would then shut up.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      Awesome! :)
      Have you ever tried to figure out your food allergies yourself? I figured out mine, and the medical establishment is way behind. The most straightforward way I know of is to keep a food and symptom diary and look for patterns. Or you’ve probably heard of the elimination diet.
      Good luck!

  17. DJ Abbott*

    I know I’m a little late and these letters are from the past, but in case anyone else needs the suggestion – for #4 – if you’re an adult over 18 or 21, depending on local laws, you can change your last name to whatever you like. I think there’s a restriction for people who have been convicted of felonies, but otherwise you can change it.
    I sometimes wish I had, but when I was young it was expected I would get married and change my name. That didn’t happen and I still have the same last name. At least it’s an unusual one, so I don’t get the problems caused by every third person having the same name as me.
    BTW, having an unusual name is a big help. You don’t have people confusing you with someone of the same name on the FBI watchlist, or in jail, or three people of the same name at your workplace….

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      On the other hand, if you’re trying to avoid being found by, or connected with, your family of origin, there’s a lot to be said for “Mary Smith” rather than “Tangerina Warbleworth.”

      I have a fairly ordinary given name and a relatively rare last name, with the twist that I am related to almost none of the people who share that last name. This at least means that if someone who shares my name ever does something notorious, I can confidently say that no, we’re not related.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Same here – common first name and unusual last name. The few who do have my last name, spell it differently. There’s only one other person in the world as far as I know with the same first and last name, and she’s in a different country. :)
        If I had changed my last name when I was young, it would’ve been too much more common name and I’m glad now I didn’t. I’ve avoided all kinds of confusions!

    2. Giant Kitty*

      I have a very common first name and an unusual name. In over half a century living in many areas, I’ve met only one other person with my same last name who was not 1. a direct relative I grew up knowing or 2. married to my sibling. Googling MyFirst MyLast shows me that just enough of us exist in this country that I am not easily singled out while still being distinctive enough to not get confused with masses of others.

      But since my sibling was once married to a woman with the same very common first name, and I was at one time their roommate, all of the sites that can show you people’s address & etc history have us hopelessly & permanently entangled.

      That sibling happens to have the same name as a famous musician with a now decades long career, though it wasn’t a factor in my siblings name as the musician is only about a decade older. No confusion there though.

  18. Elio*

    Man, I thought the Twitter thing was going to be juicy gossip but instead it’s “he liked some naked people”. I get hating your boss but I don’t see how that’s a problem. I was expecting him to be an ISIS sympathizer or something.

  19. Luna*

    LW1 – “maybe if you ate better you would feel better” What the F? That’s like telling a depressed person ‘if you weren’t always so negative, you’d not be depressed’. Or even ‘if you smiled more’. It’s rude, it’s uncalled for, and really inappropriate. Also, absolutely blind to the actual issue.

    “I have it under control with my doctor, there’s no need for concern” or even a more blunt “I would like to not discuss my diet at work”. Stone wall it all.

    LW2 – I don’t like the movie, but I gotta quote it.
    “Let it go.”

  20. fgcommenter*

    LW2’s situation depends on whether their social media was also used against them in a similar way. If it was, it’s not revenge, it’s holding the boss to the same standards the writer was held to.

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