updates: boss wants to talk to my doctor, taking a job where the CEO is a dick, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Should I take a job where the CEO is a dick?

It was very important to me to have a new job lined up as soon as possible because my husband and I were in the middle of a big real estate purchase and risked it falling through if I didn’t have an income. I went against everyone’s advice and accepted the jerk job because I still had a few weeks before I would have gotten offers from anywhere else. I started at the end of July and … it’s fine. My immediate boss is awesome, I have one direct report and they’re awesome, and I can see what everyone is saying about the CEO but so far nothing has bothered me. There are a lot of little ridiculous things that I think are just to feed the CEO’s ego and make him feel like he has a horde of minions that he can control — we had a company photo and they sent a dress code for it (fortunately I was remote that day for legit medical reasons); we have to have our cameras on during all-hands meetings; our email signatures are pre-set and if we want to change anything we have to send an IT ticket. I can laugh all that stuff off and if it’s something I really object to, I have no problem resisting. (We were STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to participate in a walk-a-thon for a charity related to the company’s mission. No way am I doing that.)

Other than that, there are good and bad things about the company, just like anywhere else. In general, I’m not super passionate about this work but I’ve had enough career changes that I don’t want another one, and I’m in a major industry for my area so it should never be that hard to find a new job if this one goes downhill. Thanks for all the advice — I really took it all into consideration even though I ended up going the opposite way.

2. My boss wants to be able to check in with my doctor about me

I did not remember to check your response, because my circumstances ended up being slightly traumatic and I had to distance myself from the situation.

As it turned out, I was “coaxed” out of the position, but also by my own volition because I felt as if the relationships with my supervisors would not be repaired, and that I would be uncomfortably watched with an eagle eye moving forward. The company that I was working for is a major chain that is known for varying degrees of unsafe or unfair working conditions for its employees. Ironically, shortly before all of this, I had overheard a conversation from this same supervisor that they were fighting a custody battle, and intended to subpoena mental health records of their spouse in order to prove that the spouse was unfit to parent. All told, I think I dodged a bullet with this specific employer.

The entire staff ended up being aware of the illness, because I made what I thought was the responsible and humanitarian choice to share it with them for overall awareness of the stigmatization, but my supervisors ended up being quite upset that I did so, which I believe compounded their reactions in wanting to keep it quiet.

I did end up relocating for health and wellness, and am working again in another position (ironically also receiving bullying for different reasons), but the silver lining is that I started my own business as a therapist on the side. It is a tricky circumstance, because I am about to relocate again and am heavily contemplating going back to another branch of that same chain because of how easy it is to earn income there due to my experience. I was guaranteed confidentiality from the former employer as a condition of leaving voluntarily, so we shall see if they keep their word and I will happily provide an update should that not be the case.

We are truly living in an interesting corporate society! It is so easy to be gaslighted as a subordinate, but I am learning to stand up for myself a bit more fervently. I tend to fall into a pattern of emotional abuse in my workplaces (hence my current circumstances) because I am kind hearted, hard-working, but also very talented and ambitious … not always a good combination. My experience earlier this year actually inspired me to take the bold move to report an abusive manager to Human Resources this week, which I have never done before and it was terrifying but needed to be done. Empowerment truly can work for women.

3. Can I call my regular lunch date an “appointment”? (#2 at the link)

Thank you for answering my letter. I’m glad that you pointed out that when most people hear “appointment,” they think medical. I’m a private person, so I was trying to come up with a neutral way to request some extra time without going into detail. I was intending the broader definition of the word that a couple commenters reflected on, but I can see how that term still would have been misleading.

To address some speculation from the comments, according to our published office hours we only get 30 minutes for lunch. I am in a non-exempt position with the option to work remotely (I don’t by personal preference, though everyone else on my team does.) While part of my duties are answering my phone, it’s impossible to arrange for coverage every time I need to leave my desk, and being away for a long lunch isn’t an exception, so that isn’t a huge issue. I didn’t think to mention the fact that our lunch date destination was not a place I would reasonably expect to run into my coworkers. Think a cafeteria/food court within a large office complex—most of the customers are employees of those businesses, not the general public. My friend had passes there so that’s where we met.

As for where I am now… I started with that new job and it’s been going great! My question ended up being a bit premature, though. My friend and I had to give up our lunch dates due to seasonal schedule changes and her getting a new job. Once she feels settled and has a grasp on her lunch flexibility, we can reconsider. I did ask my supervisor once about staying late to make up time for a single long lunch event (different friends visiting on a day trip) and her response was supportive—she even suggested a place to go.

Your suggestion to get the lay of the land first was spot-on. Not all offices would allow as much flexibility, and not all managers are as supportive as they think they are. Since getting to know my team and how they function, I don’t think my supervisor would have any issue at all if I asked her about adjusting my schedule for mid-day commitments, be they social, medical, or incidental. I’ve known coworkers to schedule hair appointments or trips to the mechanic during the workday without issue. As long as we put in 40 hours and attend the meetings already on our calendars, we are trusted to manage our time ourselves.

4. We have to submit detailed “work from home reports” every day (#2 at the link)

We still have to do them. Latest excuse I heard was, “We got PPP money and a new accounting firm, so we don’t know what the auditors will want.” The good news is I gave up being detailed. They’re now usually 3 or 4 words. Nobody has said anything and I continue to look for a new job.

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. starsaphire*

    I always go back and re-read the original post before reading the updates, and today I’m so glad I did.

    I think “trickle-down dickishness” is one of Alison’s greatest phrases ever.

    Really glad to read all the updates; it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. :)

  2. Parcae*

    I was a little surprised by the examples of the dickish CEO’s supposed dickishness. Those things seem pretty normal to me? OK, requiring cameras on for all-hands meetings would be silly in a large company– no one’s going to see you anyway– but a dress code for a company photo and standardized email signatures make perfect sense. The walk-a-thon would just depend on how intense the pressure is and what the consequences would be for opting out. I don’t think it’s inherently wrong for the company to support a charity related to the company’s mission.

    There must have been other things that didn’t make it into the letter, because otherwise I don’t see it.

    1. Koifeeder*

      I think this is one of those ones that’s gonna depend on what you’re used to as a worker and the norms of the industry you’re in. I assume that for the LW’s personal and industry norms, the CEO is indeed being kind of a jerk, but that might not be true elsewhere.

      1. Shieldmaiden793*

        True, but I’d also hope that LW would understand these aren’t that outrageous in the grand scheme of things.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I thought the point was the CEO turned out to be a minor jerk – and those are the examples – but OP hasn’t personally encountered the major jerkishness that was anticipated, which is why it turned out fine.

        1. Darsynia*

          That was my take too. They’re examples of things that are as close to what could be construed as ‘dickishness’ as the LW could come up with, was how I read it. So like if someone complained about a college professor and you attend the class and discover that they require you to sign an attendance sheet, use a specific notation in term papers, and don’t allow grown adults to chew gum while in class.

    2. Kaboom*

      Yeah, I came here to say this. A dress code for work photos and standardized email signatures is pretty normal.

      1. allathian*

        I agree on the standardized email signatures for external emails. I have a standardized email signature, but I practically never use it. I don’t send external emails unless it’s to my own professional network, and they don’t care. I obviously would use it if I sent an email representing my employer, but that happens less than once a year now that I’ve started to use a portal rather than email for outsourcing some of my work.

        My office dress code is pretty casual (clean, neat, no holes), so imposing a special one for work photos would be weird.

    3. Generic+Name*

      I was about to comment on the exact thing. A stated dress code for a corporate photo and corporate-controlled email signature is super normal and doesn’t seem villain level controlling to me at all.

      1. consistency*

        The email signature is a branding decision that most companies have standards for in order to present the company in a certain way.

        We had a day of headshot shoots and we were given a specific dress code so that everyone was consistently dressed for a consistent look across the organization. It can look awkward if you have a mix of jacket/tie, tie only, jacket open collar, button down no tie/no jacket.

        On the converse side, at one small (50 in that office) company we once all dress in a red shirt and black pants on the day the CEO was having meetings with all the external location business leaders. He had a good laugh when he finally recognized that 80% of the staff had participated in the dress code day.

    4. SchuylerSeestra*

      Agree! Especially the IT ticket comment. Most companies have some sort of system to follow for IT requests.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The insanity is wasting IT time on something as mundane as email signatures.

        1. RG2*

          You’d have to do it at my org, because our email signatures are auto-created from the corporate directory and someone would need to tweak the system. It’s not a weird thing for us to file a ticket on. Maybe more normal at a larger company?

          1. Zorak*

            Yes every larger place I’ve worked at had exact standards for your email signature, including font, color and content.

            1. alienor*

              I worked at a small company a couple of years ago (around 100 people, which I guess is technically midsize, but coming from giant corporations it felt tiny) and even they had brand guidelines you were supposed to follow. Tbh because it was a smaller place, they were actually able to police it better than the big ones, where I’d sometimes still randomly get an email from someone whose signature was in a pale pink cursive font and had a motivational quote in it.

          2. Captain Swan*

            I have worked at a couple large companies (including the world’s largest telecom) and some really tiny ones. I never once have I needed to put in a help desk ticket for an email signature change/update.

            So that must be dependent on how the email system is setup.

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Yes, it depends if the signature is created in the client (e.g., Outlook) or added by the server when sending the mail.
              Server-side usually needs IT intervention.
              Many companies leve the signature client-side and habe the server add (useless, but I digress) disclaimers. Those rarely change amd tend to be the same for all employees, so little load on IT.

          3. Michelle Smith*

            Could be. I’ve worked at government offices and nonprofits only, most of which were around 1-2,000 employees and I’ve never heard of even being required to have an email signature, let alone not being able to control what it said or needing to go through IT to change it. Would be a huge pain in the ass for me right now because my current office keeps screwing everything up and I’m listed in the directory with my boss’ title.

            1. TrixM*

              Speaking as an “identity management” specialist from the back end, please please please get your HR dept to check the staff database and fix it up as required.

              It’s pretty common (as at my work) that the staff database is “authoritative” for basic stuff like job title, reports-to and so on. While our systems set up and update the accounts, there’s nothing we can do about incorrect HR information… Which then flows to all the other systems downstream.

              It might be one of those things that’s b better coming from the boss, if your staff directory doesn’t have a “change my info” option for the job title. If HR say, “not our problem”, then please put in an IT support ticket to get it tracked down. (99.99% of the time, in my experience, it really is the HR database).

    5. I should really pick a name*

      Agreed. Cameras for meetings depends on the nature of the job, but I wouldn’t call ridiculous.
      Everything else sounded perfectly reasonable.

      Dress codes makes sense because the photo is a marketing tool.
      Common email signatures are good for a consistent image.
      An IT ticketing system is also very normal. If you come from a company where you could do whatever you want with your computer, it can feel weird to submit a ticket to get software installed, but it’s not a bad practice.

      None of these things sound like they relate to the CEO’s ego.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        It’s not the IT process itself but that one has to go through that process to change their email signature. I’m at a very large, standardized company, and I have full control and access over my email signature.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          (Full control as in I can edit it myself through outlook. I just copied my boss’s signature format, but I’m sure there are some sort of guidelines somewhere.)

          1. All Het Up About It*


            I’m fascinated by all the people who are interpreting this as two different things. To me it was pretty obvious that OP was saying it was weird/annoying that they had to use the (totally normal and expected) IT ticketing system to tweak their personal Email signature. Basically everyplace I’ve worked has had brand standards and expected email signature template… That I as an individual updated and controlled. So if I change my name, or my title I just… change the email signature. So that did actually strike me as odd, but like the OP, would probably be pretty easy for me to shrug off.

            I will admit that none of these things struck me as super-dickish, but since most of the people who warned the OP about the place were at a higher level than them, I’m wondering if the CEO’s behavior is more impactful at the C-Suite than the mid-level folk just as they originally theorized.

          2. Sasha*

            I’ve worked places where there was a specific template with the logo, different fonts etc – we could download a template from our intranet and edit it ourselves, but it doesn’t seem egregious that you might raise a ticket with IT instead.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Having to go through IT to change an email signature isn’t unheard of though — annoying and arguably over the top, sure, but really doesn’t make the CEO a jerk with a huge ego.

      2. Willow Sunstar*

        They require cameras for offical team meetings, but anything else doesn’t necessarily require them.

    6. SpaceySteph*

      My team got bit hard by having cameras on at a section all-hands, because apparently our facial expressions betrayed how ridiculous we thought the things our lead was saying were and we got a huge lecture on “respect.” Afterwards we all collectively decided not to turn on our cameras at those kind of meetings anymore and they gave up asking us to.

      1. Pugetkayak*

        If I ever have to return to an in office meeting I definitely need to check myself. I can make my words and tone say one thing while my facial expression betrays my real thoughts. Its actually really nice not having to fake it all the time.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      I got the impression that the Letter Writer was surprised to see that the alleged “dickishness” really wasn’t anything more than minor quirkiness, and was giving examples as a way of showing that the issues are pretty minor.

      I would caution that people who are getting upset about those minor issues may be in a BEC or “last straw” frame of mind – there may be major dickishness examples that the OP isn’t yet aware of or she may not have seen the major dickishness in action. I’d be wary of that, because the examples really were quite minor.

      1. ecnaseener*

        LW said these were minor, but also that they were evidence of the CEO having a big ego and needing to feel like he has minions. It’s that second part people are disagreeing with.

    8. AmIcranky?*

      Since I’m an HR manager I was worried that my opinion might be too “corporate” so I’m glad to see lots of comments echoing my feelings. It’s easier to interact with people when cameras are on in video meetings since we are not in the same room. Email signatures are part of the company brand, standardizing them is a good thing because sometimes people put weird shit in them. Ditto for a company photo.

      The CEO may indeed be an ass, but these things are not reflective of that.

    9. Claire*

      My company has standardized email signatures and it never occurred to me to care. Most places I communicate with outside the company has them too. That was surprising for me as well.

    10. R. R*

      I wish there were standard signatures at work. The mixed up fonts, not just between the subdivisions but within them, drive me up a wall. I wouldn’t complain, because it’s insignificant, but i love uniformity.

  3. NotARealManager*

    Regarding LW1: Is my perception off? A dress code for a company photo, standardized email signatures, and keeping your camera on during an all hands meeting seem like pretty standard business practices. I see how the strong encouragement to participate in the walk-a-thon maybe raises some hackles, but even that is not the most egregious thing I ever heard.

    1. Sharkie*

      I think that OP is pushing back against the IT ticket part. My company has a standard email signature, but we can add/ leave out things at our discretion.

      1. NotARealManager*

        Yes, but I can understand why a business would not want to give employees full control of their company signatures in which case an IT ticketing system is very a practical and standard way of managing that.

        1. Sharkie*

          Totally, but if it is put into place because the CEO doesn’t what employees to put Pronouns in their signature, put their name pronunciation or put their preferred name in the signature that is a jerk move. If is to prevent Donna Sue from accounting to put pink font bible verses in her email its a great policy!

          1. RG2*

            The most likely explanation is it’s just for general standardization/company logo integration and not targeted toward any political/religious reason. My company auto-generates ours with some software IT uses and we’d have to file a ticket to change it, but it’s not a big deal.

            1. T*

              Yeah, or to make sure updates can be made company-wide without relying on each individual employee to change them.

              I wouldn’t mind if our email signatures were handled that way. Right now, every year they send around the current template (they’re not just making changes for fun – there’s certain info in our signatures that changes annually, and they sometimes roll in aesthetic changes with that) and ask us all to update our signatures. Which means I then have to find time in my day to make the change…and help the less tech-savvy in our department change theirs as well.

              It’s not a huge issue, but I can see how it would be way easier to have it controlled by IT.

    2. Nobby Nobbs*

      I’m gonna give LW the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re filtering the behavior they have witnessed through reports of larger dickishness they haven’t. These things look a lot more like petty tyranny coming from a known jerk than a faceless unknown. Or maybe it’s a tone thing?

      1. Hunter*

        Maybe it’s just that LW1 didn’t have to deal with those things in their previous position. I sometimes find myself thinking that as well-“We didn’t have to do X at Y company, I don’t know why we have to do it here.”

        The email signature thing is honestly something I wish more companies did. At my last one people would put all kinds of weird stuff in there, including religious and borderline political. I am also someone who needs to check the info that would normally be in a signature block, like title and department, and when people omit it or choose to only include one piece of info (or a colloquial job title instead of their actual one) it gets annoying to trawl Outlook.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I’m assuming there’s context, especially if numerous people see this guy as being unreasonable. A lot of things can be either reasonable or unreasonable, depending on context. Like for the dress code, if it’s a case of “dressing professionally and giving a good impression of the company,” that’s reasonable. If it’s a case of the boss insisting people dress in particular styles or colours that they might have to specifically buy for the photo and there is no reason beyond “purple is my favourite colour so I want all my employees in purple jackets” or say, he wants everybody to dress in duck suits or something, that would be unreasonable.

      3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        LW also sorta implies that none of these things is really a big deal, just seem like minor power trips to them. Which, depending on industry norms, company size, etc, they might be. I can’t say I’ve encountered any of these specific things except the email signature thing, and that only when I’ve worked for much larger and more conservative organizations (mostly government contractors).

        I’ve worked for orgs with hundreds of people where emails signatures were uncontrolled though too. I’ve never seen a dress code for corporate pictures. It was always assumed that people would naturally wear something nicer that day, and if Bob the Engineer Troll was wearing a ratty t-short he’d be stuck in the back.

    3. SleeplessKJ*

      Re LW#1, all of those “things” you listed as appeasements for the CEO seem like pretty reasonable and normal expectations in the workplace. Even the walkathon thing. It wasn’t mandatory – it was just encouraged. In my too-many years of professional experience that’s also not unusual. I’m glad it all worked out for you but this made me go hmm?

    4. Darsynia*

      My reading of it was that those were the most ‘out there’ things the letter writer could come up with. So rather than it being an argument for those things being out there, it is an argument that those things are the most egregious things they found, IE. everything is pretty normal.

  4. Nate*

    The issues at #1’s company don’t seem too bad! It’s a bit ridiculous that they need IT to change their signature, but even that doesn’t seem like a serious issue, unless the company is doing something like refusing to let employees put their gender pronouns in it.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      This has been standard in most places I’ve worked. Pronouns are usually ok but it’s more to control corporate branding, so someone isn’t sending emails with a very obnoxious font/color/Bible verse.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        This is was I was thinking, along with the picture dress code. Sometimes organizations have to create these policies because someone has an unprofessional email signature or someone showed up for the company photo dressed inappropriately.

        1. Nate*

          Yes, the dress code for the photo seems absolutely fine, I can certainly see why they’d want to have standardized attire for a company photo, and the email signature probably isn’t a big deal.

      2. Kip*

        My husband’s office just had to re-standardize the email signatures for the entire company because one person added a Latin quote, then one person added a bible verse, then a couple changed their fonts and colors, one put in a whole “Go Sports Team!” thing, then someone else did a “Go Rival Sports Team!” It kept going on and on like that for about six months or so.
        One day Husband actually needed to call someone to get some clarification about several points in a long email but, while their email had an entire exchange from “The Princess Bride” in the signature block, it did not include their direct dial number.
        The madness finally stopped when one of the big bosses sent out a compliance reminder/form to all staff and everyone was required to fill it out and send it back. Getting hit with dozens of non-standard signatures of every type all at once finally illustrated how out of control things had gotten and the next Monday everyone was told they needed to start using a set signature and no changes could be made without approval.
        I’m sure some folks feel it was an infringement on their personal liberties but it looks much better.

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        You’d think that people would know that Bible verses are not appropriate (unless one works at a Christian school or something). I’ve always thought signature meant name, department, and contact information, and maybe pronouns: “Davos Seaworth (he/him)/ Teapot Shipping Department/email/phone.”

        1. Disclaimers*

          Plus, often, some advertising (…product now shipping!) and disclaimers/legally required warnings about confidentiality.

          And in my experience, it’s people leaving these off that are mostly the problem.

          In some previous roled, I *wish* that I had been able to enforce email signatures.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      We used to do our own email signatures (so loads of people didn’t even have one), but it got standardized, and now we would need IT to do this. We are a school so literally everything we send out is under scrutiny from parents. Ironically for a religious school, it was only the head IT guy’s email that had their (atheist) belief system in. That wasn’t why emails were standardised though; it was a district wide thing.

    3. Captain ddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      At my previous company we had a similar thing to the one others have mentioned, where the email signature was auto-applied when you log in, by pulling information from Active Directory (i.e. the name, phone number if there is one etc that’s registered in the main system you log in with).

      It worked fairly well except that some people needed to have the “letters after their name” in their email signature for legit reasons and this had to have a ticket submitted to IT which resulted in their actual name being changed in the system, so for example Jane Smith would have had “Smith” as her surname, and then it would be changed to “Smith, B.S.C.” or whatever. That caused difficulties with other systems that pulled from Active Directory as you can imagine.

      I didn’t see any instances of people wanting to put pronouns in their signature, although this was a few years ago and I feel like it’s a recent change that this has become more accepted. The only way they could have done that would have been to change the name to “Smith (they/them)” etc.

    4. I+went+to+school+with+only+1+Jennifer*

      I could see a problem if the sig pulled from HR files, and someone had a legal name that they never ever EVER used socially or in the workplace, and the legal name is what had to go into the sig for some stupid reason (probably a requirement from someone who never consulted with IT to see what was possible from a systems standpoint).

  5. Curmudgeon in California*

    I’m glad we only have to do status reports every week, and that’s so our manager can report to his boss and the CIO. Daily would be annoying, unless I was in a billable consulting role and that was my time card.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      2022-11-28 – Veni, operi, vadi.
      2022-11-29 – Veni, operi, vadi.
      2022-11-30 – Veni, operi, vadi.
      2022-12-01 – Veni, operi, vadi.
      2022-12-20 – Veni, operi, vadi.

      Came, worked, left, inspired by Julius’ Caesar’s famous veni, vidi, vici (came, saw, conquered). That man knew how to give an efficient status update.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          veni, vidi, vici is for the good days.
          veni, vidi, vixi is for the bad (came, saw, died).

          1. Kit*

            I was hoping you’d see this one! And yes, brevity is not just the soul of wit, it’s necessary in a situation like the OP’s. (Although veni, vidi, vixi is also a useful response to particularly funny memes!)

      1. Gnomeo*

        I giggled! The classics nerd in me wants to correct the Latin (you wouldn’t use operi or vadi like this, I was really confused until I saw what you meant to say, but Latin is tough if you haven’t studied it) but the joke is cute! I could see myself using it to be maliciously compliant.

    2. Willow Sunstar*

      Ugh yes, where I work we have to keep detailed minutes of what we do. It’s surprising what we get to lump under “computer issues” or “questions” or “reports” though. Computer slow? Computer issues! Have to reboot because it installed updates? Computer issues!

  6. raincoaster*

    I was in a “submit detailed time reports” situation like that once, and made it a priority to include all the time spent tracking and reporting. Then I multiplied it by the number of non-exempt employees in this situation, multiplied that by their average hourly wage, and sent that to my manager and cc’d the district manager. The tracking requirement was quietly dropped a couple of weeks later. Very satisfying but at the same time there definitely was blowback on me from management.

    1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I mean, in some instances it’s important/worth the time. We had to do detailed timesheets when I was in government contracting, because the company had to know what contract to bill, and justify the billing amount by Federal law. Lawyers and accountants and others that bill hourly also need that kind of fine grained tracking. For most jobs it’s definitely a time waster though.

      1. raincoaster*

        You’re right, it’s really context dependent. In this case the cost of the tracking (sales of a particular product) in the way they demanded was more than twice the value of selling the item.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Sure, but doesn’t that make it all the more important to calculate the tracking time, so you can tell when it is and isn’t worth it?

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I must applaud!

      I have to do time tracking for a client, and it is a PITA. The reality is that I estimate a reasonable amount of time for each activity, then populate a timesheet with it for the various projects. This avoids me having to actually track minutes/hours, and also avoids me being underpaid (because I am very experienced at what I do, it could take me half the time of someone less experienced, kwim? I know what is reasonable to charge, so I do that).

      1. analyst*

        I mean….padding your time sheet is fraud. If you’re faster because you’re more experienced, you charge more per hour or you charge based on product, you don’t lie to your client. What you’re doing is a fireable offense, and outlined as such in contracts I’ve seen.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Thing is, the client won’t accept a higher rate even if you tell them it’ll work out cheaper to hire the experienced worker who charges more by the hour.
          So I just write down the time I start work and the time I finish, and I don’t log off to feed the cat, take delivery of my parcel, make a cup of tea, read a page or two of AAM. Especially AAM, because it’s a website that helps me keep my English up to date, very important for a translator in a non-English-speaking country, and I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t working, I’d be out at the dog park.

    3. JustaTech*

      Yeah, we had to do this (internally) for a few months because our then-new CEO decided that one of the formerly largest departments in the company was sitting around on our collective tushes, setting money on fire.

      When you’re in R&D and between major projects it can be hard to use a time report to justify “being a subject matter expert on call for any major or minor catastrophe”.
      Thankfully we were able to justify ourselves long enough for another department to catch the CEO’s ire and then we could stop the pointless sheets.

  7. Bookworm*

    #1: Even if you decided to take the job anyway and it’s not a paradise, glad to read it still worked out (at least for now). :)

    1. Willow Sunstar*

      Most jobs aren’t paradise. I’d be very amazed to find a job that was 100% perfect at everything. There’s at least one jerk at every corporation.

  8. Marla C*

    I don’t have high hopes for the “confidentiality in exchange for voluntary exit” thing working between branches of the same corporation.

  9. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I’m an auditor who has gotten to spend far more time than I would like to mention on the waves of govt funding that rolled out for Covid this year. I can just about guarantee that the auditors won’t care about the ‘daily report’, because the PPP funds are based on whether or not the funds were put into payroll and the business’s report of its business activities, not on what the people being paid were doing (unlike some of the hospital/healthcare funding). If those reports aren’t being used for your timecard, we don’t care.

    1. many+bells+down*

      Yeah we’ve had at least one PPP loan forgiven, and our DFO is a huge stickler for detail, and… I just have to submit my hours. It’s never been an issue because everything gets done.

    2. Frustrated*

      I hope our auditors tell the ED and bookkeeper that. They keep saying it’s for “accountability.” We put all the info in a spreadsheet and turn it in as a pdf when we turn in our timecard. Now I just put things like “marketing” instead of going into specifics. The ED is a luddite so programs like Slack and Teams aren’t used. Even though several of us would love a shared calendar at minimum, that won’t happen either since some of my coworkers will flat out refuse and others will never be able to figure it out because they’re technology-challenged.

  10. Not your Admin Ass(t)*

    Just “popping up” (hehe) here to say that I refreshed the AAM site just now, which put this post at the top of the page–only the browser was still loading web elements, so the screen jumped a little. Which meant that my eyes were suddenly on the second line of the title while my mind was still processing the first.

    For a split second, I thought the first letter topic was, “updates: boss wants to talk to my dick”


      1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        For me, it’s definitely “12 years old every day!”

        (If your boss wants to talk to your dick, AAMFam, I’m pretty sure Alison will tell you to go straight to HR/the top about sexual harassment.)

  11. SleeplessKJ*

    Re LW#1, all of those “things” you listed as appeasements for the CEO seem like pretty reasonable and normal expectations in the workplace. Even the walkathon thing. It wasn’t mandatory – it was just encouraged. In my too-many years of professional experience that’s also not unusual. I’m glad it all worked out for you but this made me go hmm?

  12. Michelle Smith*

    I’m happy it worked out for you LW1 but I went back to your original post and had to laugh at “How much can a CEO with a bad personality affect a middle manager?” In the world of late 2022 with the acquisition of Twitter by a CEO with a bad personality, it made me chuckle. It can affect a middle manager so, so intensely. Thank goodness it worked out better for you!!

  13. Dave the Cat*

    I’m LW#1 and the cumulative tone of everything feels like we’re not treated like adults. I agree that my concrete examples are minor, but I worked somewhere for years that had a strong philosophy of “treat adults like adults” and I’m hyper aware of cultures that don’t feel like that. The dress code was “wear this list of solid colors,” for the type of photo where it’s a giant mass of people and nobody in any kind of normal clothes would stick out. The email signature – should we not be trusted to add our out-of-office dates, nickname, etc.? Have a policy of no non-work-related stuff in the signature and take action against violators. Cameras on at the all-hands meeting, I didn’t mention that they’re scheduled during lunchtime and there’s an unwritten rule about not eating on camera. It has a petty tyranny feeling. Why can’t I fold laundry while I listen to you talk about the quarterly investor call? The walkathon was multiple emails every day about what team was ahead, how many steps we needed, let’s have 100% participation, there will be prizes for the team who donates the most money… if the company wants to make a big donation to the org, great! But don’t pressure the employees. That was going on when I was too new to know whether there would be consequences for not participating. I’ve worked places with great culture where I was happy to participate in the silly hat day for charity or whatever, but this place makes me reflexively reject that stuff.

    1. Phillippe II*

      That sounds like the royal pain in the butt level of dickishness from above that was how I read your initial letter. I’ve worked for those types and while each little thing is ‘normal’, in aggregate they wear you down.

    2. Claire*

      I still don’t see the email signature thing.

      A company that trusts you to put in your out-of-office dates and nicknames has to trust Person A in Accounting not to put Bible verses into hers, and trust Person B in IT not to put in a three-paragraph-long quote from Infinite Jest, and Person C in Shipping not to put “Let’s Go Brandon” into his, and Person D in Sales not to put in a link to their MLM, and on and on through the alphabet. Those things can have real consequences if your company depends on outgoing email as a communication. The alternatives are pretty much (a) have a standardized email sig that people don’t control, (b) have someone whose job it is to go through Outlook all the time looking for potentially offensive signatures, or (c) wait until someone sends out an email with an inappropriate sig to the wrong person, have your company caught up in a sudden social media firestorm, and *then* implement standardized sigs. This might not have even been the CEO’s call; if you have a legal department, they might have recommended it.

      I get that you’re primed to see this stuff as the CEO being controlling, but not everything that restricts your ability to do whatever you want to do is irrational. Sometimes treating adults like adults bites you in the ass and you learn that you can’t safely make that assumption.

      1. Lily of the Valley*

        “I get that you’re primed to see this stuff as the CEO being controlling,”

        I think this is a large part of OP’s reaction. He heard the CEO is a dick, so every annoying thing becomes “wow, he really is a dick” rather than “not what I prefer, but whatever” which is what all those examples are.

      2. allathian*

        Our IT doesn’t have time to police people’s sigs. Thankfully I work in an organization where people are expected to behave like adults, and generally they do. I’ve certainly never seen anything offensive in anyone’s signature, but then, it’s not compulsory to use your signature for internal email at my org.

      3. blood orange*

        Totally agree. I’ve worked for companies for years where branding was really important. At one, we had no formalized signatures and it was a mess. In another, we had a designed signature from marketing that we were required to use.

        The Bible verse example is perfect (same would go for any other quotes). That doesn’t belong in the vast majority of workplaces.

      1. Me*

        I would agree they either need to let you eat on camera or not have the meeting at lunchtime, but I don’t think it’s problematic that the CEO doesn’t want you doing non-work activities during your conference calls. That’s not a good example of him being a jerk.

        I’ve been the person presenting to a sea of blank black squares, and I think it makes everyone, including the speaker, feel a bit disengaged.

        1. DataSci*

          “Not have the meeting at lunchtime” is hard once you have more than two timezones involved. We have big offices on US Eastern Time, US Pacific Time, and multiple European timezones – that means lots of lunchtime meetings for US eastern time. Fortunately nobody’s insisting on cameras on for these.

    3. Peachtree*

      Seriously? You can’t understand why someone wearing a lime green top or a dotty print that looks awful on camera might not be what your company is looking for …?

      It sounds to me like you’re looking for excuses tbh.

    4. TrixM*

      I’m not in the US, and yet all the places I’ve worked in the last 22 years (three different English-speaking countries; about 7 orgs) have required a standardised email signature. And frankly, given the “handwriting-style” bad font and magenta text choices I’ve seen in other sigs, I’m grateful for it.

      Where I work now, I’ve seen people add a line before or after the signature (with a line break in between) with their preferred pronouns or an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land. This often in bold letters in the same font as the signature, but a smaller size. So adding extra info that way, while maintaining the main signature format, might be acceptable.

    5. blood orange*

      This is helpful context. I’m not sold on most of your examples being a big deal, but I get that there is a culture of treating employees like children (or idiots). I worked with a CEO in a previous position who was very controlling, and he always came from the standpoint that everyone was trying to take advantage of him, and that meant a lot of decisions on policies and such treated employees in a similar manner to what you’ve described.

      You might see this come up in other important ways, like your company benefits or policies. If the CEO is a jerk, he’s less likely to approve policy changes that are fair, flexible, or even generous. For example, during our last open enrollment, I was ready to advocate for a higher and broader employer contribution, and our COO actually came to the table with a really generous increase. I see this in other ways when we need to interpret a policy for a specific situation, and our philosophy of being fair and generous to employees comes into play quite a lot.

        1. Commenter #33*

          Same. If you’re constantly getting emotionally abused at various jobs the problem is probably with you. And those traits equating to being mistreated… There’s something wrong here.

          1. Sea bass*

            Yep. They may well be kind hearted, hard-working, talented and ambitious, but those traits have nothing to do with their apparent propensity for falling victim to emotional abuse.

            If anything, those traits can actually protect people from abuse, because talented, ambitious and hardworking people often end up with the ability to pick and choose where they work, and those who are kind hearted have the wisdom to pick the least toxic options.

            The problem isn’t definitely with them – perhaps they’ve simply been unlucky. But, I’d encourage them to investigate whether their perception of what’s happening is out of whack or if their behaviour is feeding into a negative cycle.

            1. Sea bass*

              To be clear – not suggesting in any way they’re not talented, ambitious etc. because of what they’re experiencing.

              Just that those traits are almost certainly not the cause of whatever is going on, and OP could usefully investigate further, perhaps with the help of someone whose opinion they trust.

            2. inko*

              I wonder if LW is referring to a dynamic I have seen where talented people who want to do a good job can also be insecure and very afraid of not doing a good job – which makes them a bit too willing to believe that ‘a good job’ entails running themselves into the ground making up for understaffing and other issues. Or willing to endure office nastiness because they don’t think it’s their place to rock the boat. Putting the workplace above their own wellbeing, basically. I don’t think I’d quite put that the way LW does, but maybe that’s what she means?

              1. inko*

                (I’ve been on a whole team like this where we basically were all former gifted children who were TERRIFIED of letting people down and worked 12 hour days because that was the only way to be good enough. Funnily enough nobody lasted more than a couple of years there.)

                1. Criterion*

                  Being a “gifted” child has nothing to do with showing talent in a professional context though. Talented professionals tend to rely on a variety of attributes, only some of which are purely academic, and often people who weren’t considered “gifted” as children outperform “gifted” children in their tertiary studies.

                  Perhaps you mean people with a particular flavour of childhood trauma are more prone to having poor boundaries? It still has nothing to do with actual talent in a professional environment…

                2. FashionablyEvil*

                  I think inko is probably talking about people who were labeled “gifted” as children and absorbed some unhealthy emotional lessons as a result. I don’t think it’s meant as any sort of subjective label.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah I didn’t really understand it on the whole. There’s like…some subtext it seems we’re supposed to get, but I don’t get, and don’t want my mind to go off on a tangent trying to figure it out.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, that’s exactly the feeling I got. Of course, just like with every letter, OP is intimately familiar with her situation and as such might simply not realise how confusing leaving some things out might be for an outsider, but all while reading I felt like there was a vague… “something” in the background in the letter in a “ya know?” kind of way, only that I don’t know.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I feel like there’s a fair amount of detail missing and I would be very intrigued to hear the other side of the story.

    2. Mel*

      I’ll admit that not updating how the original problem progressed combined with “decided to email entire staff with details of my illness” got my eyebrows up somewhat. This update might be missing some steps.

    3. Moira Rose's Closet*

      Yeah, this was a confusing letter, and the tone was…very off. The fact that the LW assumes that emotional abuse goes hand in hand with being “kind,” “hard-working,” and “ambitious” is problematic, and it requires further examination.

  14. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #4 – I’m glad you realize its BS, because if they really weren’t sure what the auditors would want, they could easily call the auditors and ask. I’m an auditor and have gotten those types of questions from clients. I prefer to get those questions rather than the client not have what they need, or have way more than they need.

  15. JadedLawyer*

    Re Detailed Reports: I started a job where my grand-boss asked for monthly reports of our activities. My boss’s template was to be very detailed and I would spend ~2 hours at the end of each month writing it. A couple of months later, I saw a colleague’s report – same level as I, but in a slightly different area within the department, with a different boss and the same grand-boss. Her monthly report: “All activities this month were of a routine nature.” I was thankful that grand-boss discontinued the requirement shortly thereafter.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      “All activities this month were of a routine nature.” That’s awesome! I aspire to her level of chill.

  16. cncx*

    Other people have said this already, but email signatures being controlled is pretty normal in a lot of jurisdictions; this is to prevent people from signing off as CEO or HBIC or whatever. In most of the places I have worked, the signature is pulled from the data in Active Directory (which would come from HR) so for the IT team it’s not a question of a manual change to the signature but rather the employee’s attributes there (not sure about non- Microsoft environments). Where I live it’s not illegal per se but opens the company up to liability if the signature’s job title doesn’t reflect their contractual job title, and every time I’ve had to change that I, the IT person, needed approval from HR and the line manager.

  17. londonedit*

    Yeah, I’m not sure whether it’s the culture of the place I live and work in, or the industry, but in my 20-year career I’ve never come across weird and wacky email signatures, or worked anywhere where it’s been necessary to have guidelines and templates to stop people going off-piste. It’s just name, job title/department, work phone number, company address. We work with books and we might put a small banner advert for one of our upcoming releases at the bottom. That’s it! No Bible verses, no crazy colours, no backgrounds, no photos or quotes or anything like that.

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