denying a new mom’s request for remote work, punny edits to work docs, and more

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

1. Denying a new mom’s request for remote work while approving a different one

An issue has cropped up at my partner’s job, and I’m curious about your take on it. Pre-pandemic, the job was 100% in-person. During the pandemic, the company went remote. Post-pandemic, they returned to 100% in-person per the CEO, despite everyone proving they could work remotely, no drop in productivity, etc.

In the last year, two women (same position, same duties) got pregnant. They gave birth a few months apart. Woman A had one child. As she was getting ready to come back to the office, she asked to work from home two or three days a week because of a problem with childcare. This accommodation would last for one month to resolve the childcare situation then she could return to work full-time and in-person. She was denied.

Woman B had triplets. Just before her return to the office, she announced that she was relocating to a different state where she has family to help out. She also said that she would keep working for the company full-time, but in an office located in that state. The thing is, she’s going to remain a full-time employee of my partner’s office. So, basically, she’s working in a corporate office, but because she’s in another state, she’s working remotely.

No one is happy about this for so, so, so many reasons. While I know manager’s discretion is a thing, is this legal? It seems like they accommodated one person and not another despite the fact that their situations are the same (both just gave birth, both had childcare issues, etc. I know giving birth to one is different than three, but I don’t know if that makes a difference here).

It’s legal. It’s legal to treat different employees differently, even within the same job, as long as it’s not based on a protected characteristic like race, religion, sex, etc. (and intentions aside, as long as it doesn’t have a disparate impact on people in a particular protected class). That doesn’t mean it’s always smart or good management — although sometimes it is — but it’s legal.

In this case, it’s possible that Woman B is considered more valuable, so the company is more willing to accommodate her to avoid losing her. Or maybe since Woman A was only asking for a month-long accommodation, they’d rather have her extend her leave by a month until the situation is resolved. Or, who knows, it could just be the personal whim of the manager, or a manager who doesn’t accommodate anyone until it’s obvious that they’re quitting otherwise, or all sorts of other things.

But it’s worth noting that Woman A was asking to work from home and Woman B was asking to work from a different office and those are very different things. A company can dislike people working from home while being fine with them working from a different office. Woman A was also asking to work while simultaneously caring for a baby, and it’s not unreasonable for an employer to decide that’s not practical.

Regardless of the cause, though, it sounds like they’ve mishandled the communication around the decision. They might have avoided the reaction they’re getting now if they’d done a better job of explaining their reasons for each decision.

2. Job applicant didn’t tell me she’d been fired after applying

I was pulling together an offer for the top candidate for an open position. Let’s call her Mary. I work in higher education and Mary works in a different part of the same university.

Well, not exactly.

My HR officer reported back that Mary had been let go from her current job during her six-month probationary period. Mary applied on 10/15. Her termination letter was dated 10/28. My first interview with Mary was on 11/6.

During the interview, Mary did not share that she had been let go. However, I did not directly ask if she had been. Instead, I asked about her interest in our position and why she wanted to make the switch so soon.

Should Mary have volunteered this information? Most of the advice I see online tells people not to talk about being fired. I can’t help feeling like Mary lied to me and I am hesitant to hire her if I don’t trust her.

If she just didn’t volunteer the information, she didn’t lie. When she applied with a resume listing the job as current, it was true. As long as she didn’t then talk in the interview about the job as if she were still there (“I’m currently working on a project doing X, which we’ll launch in February…”), she didn’t lie to you.

It’s very, very common for people to be unsure about how to handle the situation was Mary was in and — as you saw — a lot of the advice out there tells people not to proactively raise it with an interviewer (but still be honest if asked), including mine.

If you have questions about what led to the firing, you can certainly ask Mary about that, but I wouldn’t penalize her for not proactively alerting you that it happened.

3. Punny edits to work documents

I’ve just started a new job at quite a prestigious marketing firm. One of my new colleagues, let’s call him John, was on leave during my first few weeks. Everybody was hyping him up as the life of the office, a real character, can’t wait for you to meet him, etc. etc. Alas, turns out his brand of humor is pretending to mishear instructions, e.g. he’ll respond to “could you fetch the printouts” with “why would you want me to fetch primordial ooze?” and then he’ll try to maintain the joke for another minute or three. (Note: he’s definitely not hard of hearing or buying time to process.) It’s an unfunny annoyance, but whatever.

However, his other party trick is editing puns into work documents. I work on the text side, while John designs. So, if I send him 10 banners to design, one is bound to contain a naughty pun when it comes back to me for feedback. He’ll also sneak “puns” into file names — so a PDF named Marketing_batch_3 might come back as snarky_batman_3 (that’s not even funny!). At my previous gig, this was a DEADLY SIN. You would get raked over the coals! The risk of a punny document being circulated? And reaching our clients, who take their subject matter very seriously? I’m astounded that nobody seems openly bothered. As a newcomer, and with him being obviously popular, I’m not sure what to say.

Since you’re new and everyone else seems to find John hilarious, you probably don’t have much standing to say or do anything, other than privately roll your eyes. The exception to this would be if you’re in a position of authority that gives you standing to address it — like if you’re John’s boss or the person with the most ownership of the documents he’s working on. Otherwise, though, chalk this up to different offices tolerating different things, even when they shouldn’t (and make a point of checking the name of every single file John sends you).

4. Are visibly mended clothes still professional?

I’m a huge proponent of sustainable fashion, which includes mending my own clothes as needed. Recently I had to mend one of my work shirts that had a rip in a place where my best option was to apply a patch. It’s about as visible as most stylized elbow patches, and in a complementary color to the pattern of the original fabric, but given the placement it’s pretty obvious this wasn’t an original design feature. Can I still wear the shirt in a business casual office? Would the answer change if the mend was as noticible but more decorative, like embroidering a flower to cover a hole?

For context, the dress code at my office is more like “creative business casual.” Jeans and t-shirts aren’t allowed, but one of my boss’s favorite button-downs has an unsubtle pattern of skulls, another person tends to wear tops and pants in very loud contrasting prints, etc., and in most ways I’m one of the more conservative dressers in the office. I’ve had a few positive conversations with my boss about sustainable fashion, as its tangentially related to our field, and I’m sure I could just ask, but I’m curious as to whether you think “no visible mends” is a universal/reasonable rule in the same way that “no visible holes” would be.

A visible mend via a patch should be fine in all but the most conservative dress codes (and even in a lot of those it would still be fine). In an office where the boss is wearing a skull shirt, have zero worries.

5. Including a background check with your application

I’ve been listening to a podcast that has a lot of ads for a background check service that says including a background check with your resume will give you a leg up. This is ridiculous, right? If a company wants a background check, they won’t trust one you do on yourself!

Yeah, this is weird and not helpful. I assume the intent isn’t to imply this would replace the background check the company would run on you, but rather is supposed to demonstrate that you’ll be able to pass it … but “can pass a background check!” is not a terribly exciting qualification on its own (especially since more people pass checks than not) and it’s likely to make you seem naive and/or out-of-touch with professional norms. This company is just trying to make money off you and you should ignore them.

{ 413 comments… read them below }

  1. The Lexus Lawyer*

    I feel your pain, OP3. This guy doesn’t sound funny at all.

    And OP5….that’s just weird

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      What a bummer to be in that office where that’s the epitome of humor. I like to think I’m pretty good at being chill in the office/not getting visibly worked up about things, but I could see myself eventually losing it on that guy – it just sounds so incredibly frustrating.

      1. short'n'stout*

        He’s basically causing OP3 to need to do an unnecessary extra round of proof-reading once the material comes back. And I wonder whose head it would be on the block if one of these changes were missed?

        1. Becky S*

          #3 – also how much time ( and $$) is this costing the company to have to follow up on everything he submits?

          1. Just Another Cog*

            This. I did research for a company years ago where we used previous research for reference. One summer, college students were hired to scan the old written research into computerized files, then the paper originals were destroyed. One of the students was well-liked and kind of a clown. It was discovered later that he had drawn cartoons and scanned those instead of many of the written diagrams. Sometimes the missing research spanned a hundred years. When those “hilarious files” were discovered, the researcher had to recreate the entire history from scratch. There was a lot of cursing. It was such a waste of time and money.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          And I would think some of these changes he’s making could impact the actual final design, right? Like maybe a certain letter is nearly unreadable in a font he picks or the kerning is weird on some words but that doesn’t get caught because he replaced the real word with something else in the proofs.

          I’m curious if he does this with everyone? Or if it’s some kind of hazing with OP and because of how everyone talks about this guy being “so funny” OP just assumed this was part of it? At a minimum, I would bring it up to my boss and say that you aren’t really sure how to handle it. It’s so weird!!

          1. WillowSunstar*

            I would find it extremely irritating but would be unsure of spending any workplace capital on it. As a woman, commenting on stuff like that tends to get lumped in with “not being a team player.”

            1. Caliente Papillon*

              I’d have to spend capital on it or quit. Find better people- from someone who had to do the same.

              1. Trawna*

                Oh, ya. His quirk would last about a day at my firm. We have actual work to do.

                Plus, I have standards for humour, and this guy ain’t it.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  He reminds me of a friend’s brother who is NOT my friend, partly because of this kind of behavior. (And partly because he wants to hit up my professional contacts to work for him for “exposure.”)

            2. Baron*

              Agreed – I’m not a woman, but I’m from another group that takes disproportionate flack for not thinking guys like John are hilarious. It’s a real thing.

          2. GreenDoor*

            I agree! I hope he’s not embedding things within the actual work product that no one detects because he thinks it’s funny. And man, if I had a client or higher-up on the phone who wanted an update NOW and I couldn’t pull up said draft because this clown renamed it to be “funny”…and then *I* ended up looking incompetent because of it, I’d be livid.

            I mean, I love a good pun/dad joke. But based on the OP’s examples, these aren’t even remotely funny. Like I couldn’t even fake a polite tee-hee here.

        3. fluffy*

          I’m thinking that LW3 should “accidentally” miss some of the more egregious ones (ideally one that gets snuck in after a round of copy-editing) and let them go to press or equivalent, and then use that as a “so hey this is a pretty good reason why we shouldn’t, y’know, do this” talking point.

          And if things become LW3’s fault for missing something, the obvious rebuttal is, “I only missed things that were added in specifically as a joke, and this is causing me a lot more work and wasted time and effort for something that shouldn’t be necessary for me to deal with.”

          1. Seaside Gal*

            This was exactly what I was thinking. I do some proofreading at work and I would NEVER change anything like that. It’s not funny and in my opinion, it’s very unprofessional.

      2. Asenath*

        I would also find OP3’s co-worker incredibly annoying. Even though OP3 isn’t senior, I wonder if she could discourage John a bit by simply, well, not laughing or just giving a pained smile. Or even saying in a rather bored tone, as though it was something trivial, “Would you mind not changing the names of my files? I have to correct them.” But there’s a risk he’d take this as a sign he’s succeeding in attracting her attention. Sometimes appearing to simply not see or get the “joke” is more discouraging for the joker. Changing someone else’s text in such a way is just so weird I don’t think anything other than direct instructions from a manager is likely to get him to stop, and that won’t happen if he’s popular.

        1. Despachito*

          I find it deeply unjust that OP3, whose work is unpleasantly and unnecessarily affected by John’s stupid puns, whose head would be probably on the block if she lets slip one of them, should dance among the eggshells not to hurt John’s fragile ego. Moreover, this could be harmful for the entire company. I think OP3 definitely has a leg to stand on here.

          1. Vio*

            Definitely. It’s one thing to have a joke in something that’s internal communication only and which couldn’t reasonably be expected to be seen by anyone outside of the office. Even then you have to use some common sense and know your audience but there’s a lot more room for joking around. When it comes to anything that could be seen by an outsider you have to take into account that it’s representing the whole company to the outside world and unless you work for a satirical magazine it’s probably not going to be good for the company image… which means it’s not going to be good for your job prospects.
            One of the most important rules for comedy is knowing when not to be funny. I’ll freely admit that it’s one I’ve had to be corrected on sometimes. But I’ve always appreciated the correction and taken it on board.

        2. Fishsticks*

          One of THE most effective ways to shut down people with terrible “humor” is to force them to explain why what they did was funny and feign just not getting it, forcing them to admit that causing problems to other people is the thing they actually thought was funny.

          1. Cormorannt*

            Yes, this is how I would handle it, very straightforward, not picking up the joke.
            Oh, it seems there’s an error in the file name, I had to change it back to [original name]”
            “Oh, [pun name] was a joke”
            “Huh” or “I don’t get it” with a quizzical expression.
            Repeat for “I caught a typo in the copy, it should say ‘Homemade Cookies’ not ‘Homer Made Cookies’” etc.

            1. whingedrinking*

              Agreed. I would also frequently use the words “errors”, “mistakes”, “problems”, “incorrect”, “wrong”, etc. when describing his work because they’d be accurate. He’s doing his job badly. The fact that he’s screwing up on purpose doesn’t mean he isn’t screwing up. OP can state it plainly even if no one else does.

          2. Jo-El*

            That right there is my GO TO. My confused face combined with “I don’t get it” shuts that crap down quick.

          3. DyneinWalking*

            My attempt of shutting this down would be telling him something like this: “Look, it may be funny to you, but all that I see is yet another typo to correct. And also I’m the one who’s going to be reprimanded if I ever miss one. So how’s that joke supposed to go? ‘Ha ha, my coworker is making my work harder’? Seriously?”

        3. Ann*

          Unlikely. I have a relative like this, and he will go on despite any signals that you do not find him funny. I’ve tried to time it out of curiosity, and he can go on for half an hour without stopping – could probably do longer, but at that point I’m done and find any reason to escape. He just loves to hear himself talk. Having a coworker like this sounds painful.

        4. Mr. Shark*

          Right, rather than making a big deal about it, I think LW3 should just matter-of-factly push back, saying that the file name is incorrect or that the comments are incorrect, and that it needs to be corrected so that they can proceed with the rest of the work.
          “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure why you are changing the file names, we need them named correctly and the information in the files to be correct so we can deliver them to the customer.”

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Or, alternatively, pretend the file doesn’t exist at all.

          “What file? It’s not there.” Ad nauseum (and believe Mr, I am EXTREMELY STUBBORN when I want to be.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            This would be me. “No, I didn’t get back file X I sent.” Refuse to admit I got a file from him named something different. Lather, rinse, repeat.
            I have also perfected the “unblinking eye head tilt” which would deploy if I got any “why would I get [supposed funny thing here instead of what was asked for] for you?” –unblinking head tilt and silence–

            1. Oryx*

              This would be me as well. “Oh, well, I sent him v3 of Important File Name and haven’t received a v4 or v3 with edits from him yet”

      3. noncommittal pseudonym*

        This. I’m getting hard flashbacks of a former colleague who thought the epitome of humor was to make some sort of stupid statement, try to make someone believe it, and then laugh at them. It was insanely irritating, but Former Horrible Boss found it hilarious, probably because I was his usual target and she hated me.

        Another “fun” example, we were having a meeting, he said something (I completely forget the subject), and then, when I tried to comment, would interrupt the moment I opened my mouth. It went like this:

        “Funny Colleague” – work related statement
        Me – “Well,”
        FC – additional comment
        Me – opens mouth
        FC – additional comment
        Me – “Yes, but…”
        FC – additional comment

        By this point, “Funny” Colleague was openly grinning at me and Former Horrible Boss was hiding giggles behind her hand. I *wish* I had stormed out at that point, but I just said, angrily, “Does anyone want to hear what I have to say?” to which FHB responded, “No idea, we don’t know what it is yet.” I finally made my comment, and the meeting ended there. It was one of the most spectacularly irritating moments in the toxic dump fire that was that institution.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        All I can think of is how much extra work this “funny guy” is going to cost me to make sure his jokes don’t get through to a client who I’m sure will be upset to see their money wasted on that. I’m also betting that the other people who find him hilarious aren’t the ones interacting directly with the clients.

        He’s not funny…he’s a boor.

    2. MEH Squared*

      Agreed on the coworker of OP3. In fact, I’m curious as to the atmosphere of the office if everyone else thinks he’s just hilarious. I would have a hard time not snapping at him after his zillionth unfunny pun. Alison is right, though. There isn’t much OP3 can do as a newcomer other than to make sure the file names are correct before passing them on.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        If you’re not directly impacted, and just enjoy watching him clown around at another colleague’s expense, it might just be welcome distraction. I’m imagining that the previous person in OP’s role was prim and po-faced and the rest of the office liked watching John rile her up.

      2. EPLawywer*

        I love a good pun. These are not good puns. They are just stupid jokes.

        It would get exhausting to deal with this guy. Oh look you deliberately misheard me AGAIN. He and the Signed Up Coworker for a Racist Organization as a joke should go hang out together — and leave the rest of us alone.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Yeah, this. I’m all for humor in the office but this guy is just tiresome.

      3. Mockingjay*

        OP3 can approach it as a newbie process question: “Hey boss, do we have a standard filename convention? John names/renames files with quirky names. Is it okay to send those to the client or should the files be renamed in a standard fashion?”

        This lets Boss know what’s going on in a (somewhat) neutral manner and provides a potential solution (standard naming convention).

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I also suggest casually mentioning how much time is spent finding and correcting John’s ‘hilarious’ edits and puns. Wasted time might get Boss’s attention.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yup – but if you’re going to go this route make sure you track it for a bit (and if you work with folks other than just Mr Boor track that time too as extra data for boss).

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yes, all of this. I’m surprised Alison jumped directly to “not much you can do about it” when it seems like the kind of thing a manager would like to know about, especially if this is making OP or others do extra work AND if there’s danger of these (not funny) jokes falling into the hands of a client. I think OP should ask manager about it in the procedural/curiosity kind of way that Mockingjay suggested and see what happens. (And send an update to Alison so we know what happened!)

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                I wonder if the manager is part of Mr Boor’s fan club, and that is making OP feel like they can’t push back without evidence?

        2. Office Gumby*

          I’m trying to figure out why nobody higher up than OP3 haven’t realised that his stupid little jokes are wasting company time and money. It should be seen as even more egregious that he’s *deliberately introducing* errors into client’s work, and then expecting others to, first, catch them, then second, fix them.

          I know how long it takes to proof something. To have someone send in something that’s already been proofed, and then needing to have to PROOF IT AGAIN due to a deliberate act by another coworker is beyond the pale. Such a time-waste! Also, any time anything needs to pass through a set of human hands means a chance for errors to be caused. Double-handling is bad policy, especially when it is unnecessary.

          His actions are far more serious than his higher-ups are choosing to believe. I am far too old, experienced and crochety not to say something to someone of power.

    3. just some guy*

      OTOH, John does sound exactly like what I’ve come to expect from somebody described as “a real character” and “the life of the office”.

    4. Casper Lives*

      I don’t see the puns. “Marketing batch 3” to “snarky Batman 3.” Where’s the wordplay?

      I think I’d die inside a little every day

      1. Randomizer*

        Same. They’re not even anagrams.

        This sounds more like someone who never moved past the “teehee I’m so random” phase of growing up.

        1. Jlst*

          For LW3, I would be super tempted to send files back to the comedian to be renamed/rechecked every time. Do it in a cheerful ‘I think this is a typo, could you send a clean version through for me to send out please, thanks so much!’ way. This is generating work for you which is unacceptable. If he complains or if anyone else makes a comment about you returning the work, you kind of want to force them articulate exactly what he’s doing, making unprofessional edits to your work, then scrabble to defend it. All you have done is point out an error and asked for a correction to be made. If there’s nothing annoyed/rancorous in your tone, they have nothing to complain about. Gosh he sounds utterly tedious

          1. danmei kid*

            Yes, this. I would not spend my time correcting John’s puns. I would just keep sending them back and asking him to take them out himself. He will get tired of it real fast.

          2. Sloanicota*

            Related, if this was me, I’d probably ask earnestly “John, could I ask you to please not make funny changes to my files – I realize it’s funny, but I’m new here and I’m so stressed out at the idea of actually sending something out with an error” – you’re not commenting on John’s behavior overall or trying to change the culture of the office, you’re just controlling your own work.

          3. AngryOctopus*

            I’d send it back and say “oh looks like you attached the wrong file”. If he sends the right file names and makes his “funny edits”, send back and say “Oh there are extraneous edits in here that need to be removed”. Put it back on him.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Is there room to just take John aside and be like, “Hey dude, I love that you have a sense of humor about our work and that you’re trying to lighten up our day,” [or whatever you can say with a straight face], “but I’m worried that if I accidentally send a client a file with a funny name, or miss one of these jokey edits, that it’s going to come back on us. And it creates more work for me, having to go through and find these. Can I ask you to just not make jokes in our files? It would be really embarrassing to have to explain to a client why they got a banner named [insert inappropriate name here].”

          If that doesn’t work, well…I don’t know what to say. Not a great work culture that would allow one guy to potentially put a ding in the company’s reputation just to be “the life of the party”.

          1. sb51*

            +1 don’t make the initial approach about how the jokes aren’t funny, make it about the impact—even if they were hilarious to you too it’d be a problem if you missed one and sent it out, so do what you’d do if the jokes were funny.

            That way it doesn’t become John defending his humor.

      2. Dark Macadamia*

        I’m really, really hoping the examples are intentionally bad placeholders made up by the LW to be less identifiable, because the idea that this is the height of hilarity in their office makes me very sad lol

      3. Ellis Bell*

        The only thing I can think of is that the first one or two times he did it, it was a genuine pun/joke that just so happened to be funny. Now it’s become a weird in joke that makes no sense to the new person.

      4. Katie Impact*

        My friend group does stuff a little like this sometimes and if I had to explain it, I guess I’d say the enjoyment comes from the mental exercise of figuring out what the person actually meant. Like, I might send someone a message encoded as a rebus made out of emoji and expect the other person to try and solve it before explaining if necessary. Or someone might say they rely on “oyster recollection” instead of “muscle memory” for a task and see if anyone gets it.

        Of course, that’s exactly why it’s a terrible idea at work; you don’t want to make people solve word puzzles to do their jobs.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Well, but your examples actually sound clever and well thought-out and therefore fun (also, you probably don’t do this every time – because coming up with actually clever wordplay or puzzles is hard). The examples in the letter, if accurate representations, aren’t really word puzzles, and they’re certainly not clever.

        2. Despachito*

          You are right it is different in a group of friends, but even in such a case I’d want to make sure everybody is in for it. I had a friend who would do something similar, and it was rather annoying than funny. She did not take as a hint that she was the only one to do this (and I was not brave enough to be explicit about it), and it got old pretty fast.

          Of course it is different if everyone in the group enjoys it and participates in it, as it seems to be your case.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreed – and there’s also less pressure in a friend group if you want to push back because you’re just not up for the puns today.

      5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I don’t think it is “puns” exactly, more like free association of words that sound similar (a couple of examples in the letter).

      6. short'n'stout*

        I guess he thinks that matching “mark” with “snark” and “batch” with “bat” is clever in some way

      7. irene adler*

        I thought there was some “oh so clever” word play here that I was too clueless to understand.

      8. John Smith*

        I think it’s an example of the type of pun, not an actually used pun which might be an identifier of the OP where it were seen

      9. Caliente Papillon*

        Exactly! If you’re going to be a dick be a good one! This guy isn’t even hitting middle school funny bones. What a maroon

      10. fluffy*

        I did some brain calisthenics, and now I have a headache, but if I had to guess:

        marketing -> market -> snark -> snarky

        batch -> batman is a bit more direct

        It reads like an affectation to me, and not a very good one.

    5. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      LW5: The only reason I could of would be if it’s standard for an industry or a requirement stated in the advert, e.g. when working with kids, needing a security clearance or similar. Otherwise, the background check company is just preying on jobseekers.

      1. Antilles*

        Even then, I’m not sure what the point is. Any industry/company which really requires background checks isn’t going to accept a background check you provide yourself. And in such industries, “will this candidate pass a background check” is such a basic requirement that it doesn’t really enter your mind during the initial resume review; it’s just generally assumed that candidates are going to pass.

        1. Trotwood*

          A friend of mine received a resume that included the line “I have run a background check on myself and I have a clean record!” which did not strike anyone as a very exciting qualification…

        2. Sharon*

          When I worked as a notary signing agent, many of my clients made me provide my own background check (and I was an independent contractor!) since I was going into people’s homes and handling their loan papers. It was a control that completely failed to accomplish anything but make the background check organization money. And I could have easily forged it and skipped that step, too.

          1. Alternative Person*

            This. The background checking company my job uses basically relies on the person being honest about things likes addresses/work history and as far as I can tell, they don’t really have the ability to detect even mild obfuscation like not declaring a short term job or fudging an old address whereas an official police/governmental check would (much more likely) show it up.

            *I’m not saying you should lie on these things, but mine is a field where people are likely to move around a lot both in job and country in their careers, in areas that are quite likely to have been developed or even redeveloped in recent years. Sometimes the paper trail just isn’t there for the kind of checks some background checking companies are able to perform (and depending on paperwork keeping practices/regulations, not even the government will have that information)*

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Gotta wonder with OP3 if they could simply “miss” a punny banner this clown inserted, and let it go out into the wild. Would the LW get in trouble for this? Not in a sane organization: Clown Boy intentionally sabotaged the document. He should be the one in trouble. But it is not at all clear that this organization is sane.

      1. stahp*

        That’s not how it works in these kinds of fields, and that’s a terrible suggestion. The job is to make the customer look good; the marketing agency looks good as a side effect. The whole team could get dinged, but the person whose primary job is text-related is the one who would bear the brunt. Reputation matters a lot in this work, and industry news is full of stories about firms who lose big accounts because of stuff like this.

    7. No Longer Working*

      I would just leave his ridiculous file names as is, and let the chips fall where they may. I would keep track of the name change on my end, but once the boss can’t find the file they are looking for, this would end pretty quickly.

    8. Sammy*

      Someone needs to leave that xkcd comic on his desk. “communicating poorly and then acting smug when you’re misunderstood is not the same as cleverness.”

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Indeed, John is proving the maxim that “the failure mode of ‘clever’ is ‘asshole’.”

    9. Really?!*

      There seems to be little regard for LW having little to no political capital to burn.

      I would find it presumptuous if a newcomer started treating the existing team like we didn’t know what’s going on. The team has worked John for far longer than LW.

      The assumption that the team would let “bad work” go through until LW showed up to save the day?

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        While John sounds exhausting, I agree that LW needs to be a lighter touch than an established employee would.

        LW, maybe you can pull off: “Haha, John, you’re a hoot, but your jokey edits make me so nervous that I’ll miss something and send it to a client by accident!” or “Circe, John is a hoot, but his jokey edits make me so nervous that I’ll miss something and send it to a client by accident! Do you have any advice?”

        If you bring it up as something that is making you nervous or worried rather than annoyed (justified as it is), they may take it to heart….or they may not, but either way you’ll have brought it up if something goes wrong.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        I don’t think you have to make a big deal about it, just push back as you would if you noticed something was wrong or there was a typo.
        The whole matter-of-fact method that Alison suggests frequently.
        “Oh, I noticed this typo or that you changed the file name. I’m sure you didn’t want this to go to the client like this, so can you fix it?” Repeat as necessary. If he says it’s a joke, just look at him like it’s completely unfunny.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Agreed – one strategy that I have taken in the past with systematic errors in documents is just to point out the pattern and request it be fixed, which puts the effort on the originator. Eg, “I noted multiple instances of run-on sentences, please fix all instances” or “Valentina Warbleworth is misspelled as Volumetuna Wordlework throughout, please correct”. So, OP might be able to say “I noted several places where the flyer deviates from the approved copy, please review the text I sent 1/03 and correct”, or even “It looks like this is not the final version, can you send a clean copy?”

          This way OP is not wasting her time with making corrections to the designs when it is clearly not supposed to be final.

      3. Despachito*

        But if there is the company’s reputation at stake, I’d think OP DOES have some capital to burn. Because it is not about THEM, but about THE COMPANY (its reputation and its money lost by OP doing less work because of the need to correct the result of John’s monkeying around )

    10. the cat's ass*

      John sounds exhausting, like a toddler. “Lookit what i did!hahaha.” If there’s no fallout for you, OP, I’d just ignore him and release things as they are, stupid puns and all.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        He is absolutely an annoying PITA but the LW is responsible for text, so she needs to make sure the text is what they want if only for CYA purposes.

    11. Sloanicota*

      I particularly dislike the version of this humor (most often men talking to women) where the thing they think they overhear is always naughty. I find it a transparent attempt to steer the ordinary conversation into sexiness and it bugs me. I have a couple guy friends that are prone to it.

    12. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Right. I would simply return the documents to him every time, and say, “John, I need you to clear out the pund. I’m not doing it.”

      It’s not funny, it’s childish. Johnny boy needs to grow up.

    13. Siege*

      This is the kind of crap my sister and niece (who have no discernible senses of humor) find funny. It’s so broad they’re able to recognize that it’s supposed to be funny, and they have no way of knowing it’s not actually funny, so they laugh at it. I have no actionable advice for OP beyond either fight this to the last ditch because someday this will get to a customer and you (as the Fun Police) will be blamed because you didn’t find it funny so John kept doing it, or get a new job because above. There’s no way I can be comfortable knowing the sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, and it is, because You Don’t Think John Is Funny, the worst crime in the world to people with no sense of humor. They are always people who think they have great senses of humor.

      (A fun variant is if you’re blamed for not stopping it when it does get out, because aren’t you the self-appointed Fun Police??? You should have stopped them!!!)

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      The “continue to push unfunny thing” guy/girl is one of the most exhausting types there is. “Yes, I get the supposed joke. I just don’t find it funny, Fergus.”

  2. Cluedo*

    LW1- I’d feel differently about someone wanting to work from another office as opposed to WFH so that they can care for their child full time too. I probably would’ve been flexible and allowed it for a month given the circumstances.. but as a Mother to an 18 month old, there’s no way I’d be supporting my staff to WFH with no plans for outside childcare. When I WFH with full care of my daughter, I’d be lucky to run at 60% productivity.

    1. Goldie*

      It’s worth mentioning that there is a childcare crisis right now so employers are smart to be a little more flexible than was required before.

      1. Yeah, nah*

        True, but I think in this case extended leave would be a more realistic flexible choice than WFH. Caring for a newborn can be a full-time job in itself. It’s not crazy for an employer to not want you to be actively engaged in childcare while working for a considerable length of time.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          It’s more realistic for the company, sure, but for new parents, an unpaid month may not be feasible. IMO, the lack of accommodation is evidence that the company does not value Woman A, which could be just because of her position/experience, or due to her performance. Woman B clearly had the standing to make a decision that worked for her & her family.

          1. ecnaseener*

            But again, woman B was working in an office building and not multitasking with childcare. It could be that she was more valued, but that doesn’t seem necessary in my mind to explain the discrepancy.

          2. Smithy*

            Given that the request was only for 1 month, I do think that it’s fair to articulate this as being that this workplace didn’t value Woman A to make an accommodation for her. But not in comparison to Woman B.

            To me, it sounds like a case of her asking to work part-time but be paid full-time. And while workplaces can have official paths to make those requests, this is also something that workplaces have regularly done with staff members in other “extreme circumstantial” situations over the years off the employee handbook (i.e. shocking death in the family or recovery from severe illness/injury and being told to do what they can, when they can for a period of time). The application of this grace may be uneven and feel unfair – say if last year Man C was allowed a month of “working part-time, paid full-time” for a month after his father died and he ran out of bereavement but it was a uniquely complicated estate.

            Where I think the false equivalence is, is in making the direct comparison to Woman B who will still be working full-time an in a physical office – just one in a different state and with no competing childcare duties. While both women had children, really this is just about an ask to work from another physical office – not a hybrid work schedule (let alone one to address a childcare coverage gap). Had Woman B asked for this arrangement due to unique medical treatments in her family or the relocation of a spouse’s job – then comparisons would not be as obvious.

            However…if there are cases of Man C’s floating around this office….then Woman A should really be pointing to those.

          3. Observer*

            Not true.

            For one thing, the two decisions really ARE different on a number of counts. Also, while I REALLY sympathize with the Mom who needs childcare, it really is not a totally unreasonable stance. Unless there is something significant that got left out. The reality is that Mom is almost certainly not getting much, if anything, done. (Unless she came up with a plan to work around the issues – and I’m not being snarky. It’s possible, but she would have had to bring that up as part of her request.)

          4. AllY'all*

            It could also be a case of “Dear God, triplets!” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to allow for the fact that parents who have just had three entire simultaneous children will need more significantly more assistance and leeway than parents who have just had one, all other things being equal and assuming no one has terrible PPD or anything; but Woman B wasn’t asking for *more* leeway than Woman A, she was asking for *less*. She was still willing to work out of an office.

            This isn’t to say that Woman A’s accommodations should depend on her situation compared to Woman B’s; that wouldn’t be appropriate. But as with any other accommodation, the severity of the condition is okay to take into consideration when you’re thinking about what accommodations should be granted.

          5. Citra*

            Do we know it’s unpaid, though? LW didn’t specify, that I can see. Actually, on rereading, I don’t see where LW said anything but, “She was denied the hybrid plan she wanted.” (And caring for an infant isn’t a “Can be a full-time job in itself,” thing. It /is/ a full-time job. That’s why when parents aren’t there to do it they pay other people to do it, and why we don’t just put Baby to bed, go out, and tell the sitter to show up in the next hour or two. Someone has to be there, and aware, 24/7, and if Baby wakes up or is hungry, or bored, or needs to be changed, someone needs to deal with it right then and there–babies do not wait patiently while you finish your meeting.)

            As others have said, both women being new mothers is basically a red herring. The situation in this letter is that one woman asked to be paid for full-time work while only working a couple of days a week, and was denied, while another woman asked to transfer to work full-time from another office, and was allowed to do so.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              Actually, the letter doesn’t specify the pay situation at all, so we don’t know if she’s expecting full time pay or not.

        2. Fishsticks*

          Yeah, but the mortgage still needs to be paid and we still need to eat and have running water. After 12 weeks of unpaid leave already, asking for some flexibility for a month isn’t the worst thing in the world.

          1. ferrina*

            Agree. I worked with my newborn for a bit (during what was supposed to be my maternity leave- yeah, that boss was super toxic). It really depends on a lot of individual factors- nature of the job, the temperament of the baby, how much sleep everyone is getting, how mom is doing, what additional assistance is around, etc. In my case, it worked really well (easy baby, I was bored and aching to get to work, job where I could easily pause and quickly get a lot done). But there’s a lot of cases where it would be impossible.
            Depends on individual scenarios, so worth a conversation with the manager.

      2. GythaOgden*

        There are lots of people without flexibility on the work front though. I’m looking for jobs with a WFH component, but my current role would be impossible to do from home (like, can’t do essential building maintenance, frank post, greet visitors, take in deliveries etc remotely kind of impossible) and so a lot of people are in the position where they would be struggling with childcare. What is an issue for this person is also an issue for millions of other women whose jobs cannot be done from home //at all//.

        It’s ok to talk about the issues of people whose jobs can be done from home, but we also need to remember that the bulk of people can’t work from home at all, and so people who may be able to WFH are coming from a place of privilege and may well be behind others in the queue for sympathy.

        1. Rosieko*

          There doesn’t need to be a queue of sympathy. “Other people have it worse” is never helpful.

      3. JSPA*

        Sure–if the manager were writing in, I’d suggest they do that.

        But the question is whether it’s illegal / inconsistent / immoral to treat the two cases differently.

        In one case you have someone who is moving with the express goal of making sure that their children have the least possible effect on their work life, by rallying a premade support network.

        In the other case, you have someone apparently without a support network who wants to try to multi-task childcare and work.

        Is it sad that some people have no available family nor other support network or access to child care? Yes.

        Is it true that they would lose fewer workforce hours by allowing the mom to work (less efficiently) from home than they would if the infant were being sent off to daycare, there to pick up diseases and bring them home to the parents who would then be out sick? This year, maybe so.

        Is it a bit cut-off-nose-to-spite-face to hold this line, and potentially lose a trained employee (after having covered their pregnancy- related leave)? Not to mention all the other employees who are aghast? Yep. “No work from home” is an increasingly stupid hill to die on.

        Do many jobs have 2 or 3 days worth of work per week that can be done practically on auto pilot, or asynchronously round the clock (like sending emails or proofreading) while the baby is asleep? Yup. There are any number of ways to make a 2-3 days a week at home with an infant, for a couple of months, work out just fine.

        But it’s still their prerogative to refuse.

        1. Smithy*

          The nose to spite your face point I think is very apt….

          In my current job, the lingering impact COVID/childcare has had on the moms I work with is obvious. They do need ongoing flexibility and have increased challenges around illnesses “rippling” through a household that can make a “few days out” be a few weeks of being in and out.

          However, they’re also really good at their jobs. And it’s not that they can’t do their work or we as teams can’t function with the flexibility they need – it’s that we often just need to actually plan strategically as opposed to winging it. Which means we get to keep them (and their high quality contributions) on our team, but also helps the rest of us also be sick, also have emergencies and unexpected out of offices, or have periods where multiple people on a team quit. So you can prioritize work loads and replacing staff.

          If this is a management practice your team isn’t doing – then combining that with an offer of hybrid work – and it just won’t be hard for other employers in your field to tempt away your high performers.

    2. Deanna Troi*

      I agree. Wanting to work from home while you have an infant there is not conducive to being very productive (as was proven during the pandemic). The woman working from another office is not caring for her children while she is working. It seems very odd to me that so many people at the workplace seem to think that the two situations are comparable.

      In addition, I don’t consider working from another office in my company to be remote. When someone who worked for me got married and wanted to move and work from another office, we still considered that person to be a 100% in-office employee.

      1. Despachito*

        I disagree.

        It fully depends on the character of your work. I was perfectly able to WFH while personally caring for an infant (and later a toddler and an infant), because I worked when they were sleeping/ late at night, and I was productive just as required (I am a freelancer, my clients would definitely not cut me any slack and if my work was not up to par they would just find another provider) but I am aware this would not be possible with a different kind of work.

        So I’d not say you can never be productive in such a situation, it depends on the type of work the person is doing.

      2. Bisque*

        Yup, it’s not remote to go to a different office.

        I say this as someone who commutes an hour each way to an office where I don’t work with anyone. I am NOT a remote employee just because my colleagues work from another office.

        1. Kaiko*

          Aren’t you, though? You’re off-site from your team, which I would definitely consider a type of remote work.

          1. Littorally*

            I’m in the same situation as Bique, and am not classified as a remote worker. I sit in an office, receive in-office perks from my company instead of at-home perks, have to keep my badge access active, etc. Just because my team sits in various locations doesn’t make us not on-site workers.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yup! Our building is being partly converted into a hotdesking location for an organisation not totally national but certainly with interests over a wide swathe of south-western England. People would be able to use us if, for instance, they were up from Taunton in Reading and needed a place to focus and the resources an office environment could provide. That would still be classed as in-office.

              (As an aside, that will cause an issue for building security, since we currently require an active site badge for access to the area earmarked for hotdesking — but as usual, that will be a question that gets lost in the shuffle between various departments and puts all the responsibility onto our shoulders…which is why I’m trying to get out of this gloom factory while I still can.)

            2. Bisque*

              Exactly. If we were truly remote we could work from anywhere. But I’ve been told I need to be in X office that happens to not be the same office my colleagues report to. According to my company I’m office based.

              Although I’d much rather be remote.

            3. Dragon*

              Gytha reminded me of when I worked in a big-city high rise building when 9/11 happened. Afterward they required advance visitor registration with building security, and the question arose how to handle unexpected visitors.

              My big firm and the building management compromised on authorizing certain employees to escort unexpected visitors up to our office. Those included all dept heads, all admin assistants and certain other key players.

              One time because of a mixup, a client who spoke only Spanish came to our office on the wrong day. My boss and I both had to go downstairs to meet him; he spoke Spanish, and I had the authority to let the client in.

              Good luck with your job search, Gytha.

          2. DataSci*

            Lots of companies have distributed teams. My team has people in five offices, and my manager is the only one in her office. Which of us is “remote”?

          3. doreen*

            It might in some cases and for some purposes be “sort of ” working remotely but not others. I worked for a government agency and it was not at all uncommon for someone to be part of a team based at the central office but physically located somewhere else or even to be employed at one agency and working at another agency’s office – for example, I might work for the agency that handles HR and physically work at a DMV office because that is the agency I am assigned to. But I’m not really remote because I’m responsible for HR issues at the DMV. ( Some governments centralize certain functions so that the DMV can focus on DMV functions and not deal with HR , employee benefits ,payroll, travel reimbursements, etc)

          4. LilPinkSock*

            Nope. My company has offices in six different US cities; I have teammates working out of three of those offices. They don’t sit with us, but since they’re still in a [company name redacted] office, they’re not remote–the woman who lives in my neighborhood but does not come into my city’s office, however, is.

          5. Yorick*

            The only similarity to remote work is that you have phone or video calls rather than in-person meetings. There isn’t equipment you need to take home, remote access, etc. Not to mention you’re still physically in an office so your boss can be pretty sure you’re at work instead of taking care of your baby.

      3. Rosieko*

        I think Alison’s point that the reasoning for the decision likely wasn’t communicated properly by the management is probably why people aren’t seeing the situations as different.

        My office is having a similar battle lately. Many people want to continue the flexible/hybrid/remote work they’ve been doing for the last couple years, while our leadership wants everyone back in office full time. Some teams have full discretion to manage it how they like for now, while others are being given more strict requirements. The only reason they are given is “we need your team on site every day” (even when they often go all week long with no one interacting with them in person at the office, because the work itself genuinely doesn’t involve much in person interaction with anyone), and there is no explanation of why it doesn’t apply to the other teams. So we have a lot of people feeling like “this makes no sense” even though there could theoretically be legitimate reasons for the differences, if only they would be transparent about them.

        My suspicion in our case is that the real reason is that those are lower performing teams, but the leadership just doesn’t want to say that out loud. Of course, requiring in-office work is not going to make anyone perform better for our type of work, so admitting that is the reason for differences among teams would just backfire on them even if they were willing to be honest about it, which is probably another reason they aren’t. (It is already silently backfiring on them by getting lots of people job hunting again though, and that is definitely not the intent; every team has unfilled positions that we are hounded about filling constantly. We get great applicants who want hybrid or remote options regularly, but we can’t consider them. Make it make sense??)

        So I can easily imagine the LW’s management’s communication was something insufficient like “we need/want everyone here collaborating in person,” without addressing the fact that that is apparently not true for one person. Poor communication is so often the real problem.

        I wonder how long it will take for these dinosaur employers to lose enough employees to decide to catch up with the rest of the world. The improvement in my quality of life gained by a flexible hybrid schedule is priceless. AND I am MORE productive that way. It’s just bad business anymore.

        1. Allonge*

          I would argue that there is a major difference of not communicating why a team needs to be in-person and why a certain person gets or not an exception. This on top of the issue that Woman B is in person, just not at the same office.

    3. thatoneoverthere*

      I don’t understand the parents that think they can work from home and care for their kids. As a mom of 3 it is extremely hard. During the pandemic we had help with childcare (which we are so thankful for) and there were days my kids had to be home, while we worked. It was very hard to work and get stuff done.

      I am part of a local women’s networking group on Facebook. Several times a week a woman will ask about WFH jobs she can do with kids home. Most members try and gently remind the person that alot of companies won’t allow it, unless you have care for the child.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        For some parents, it’s not because they want to, it’s because it’s the only option they have.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a real problem. And I think that it’s ridiculous that we haven’t figured out how to deal with this. But it STILL is a genuine and legitimate issue foe any employer.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            Agreed, I was giving context for why parents might ask for that option, even knowing that it’s not optimal.

      2. Caroline*

        Ah yes, the ”I just want to work around my kids” crowd (often women, not always, but often), who want money and the various benefits of employment, but also want a LOT of personal freedom, very little accountability and to be 10000% present for their children.

        I say this as a mother of three who spent a solid decade (more, actually) freelancing and working around my kids, because realistically and over time, it’s simply not feasible to work at the same time as caring for and running around after kids. I suppose one can do it for a couple of days, in an emergency, when someone is ill, but going into a job with no plans for regular childcare is just not workable.

        1. HNY*

          My agency extended the workday from 6 am to 11pm during the pandemic. People could log in and out anytime during these hours. The intent was to allow maximum flexibility for caregivers. For work that can be time-shifted, which was a lot at my agency, this was an amazing accommodation. Don’t know if it is still in place.

          People also forget to have compassion for single parents who must work and supply their own insurance and everything else. Good it worked for you, but not everyone can live off the uncertain income and lack of benefits that comes with freelancing.

          Caroline, your first paragraph assumes a lot, and not in a good way. People don’t want to work around their kids, they have too. Have you seen what happens to poor single mothers who left their young kids unattended because they had no choice but to go to work? They get prosecuted and can lose custody (there was a letter last year in AAM that touched on this).

          It’s a wonder anyone has children in this so-called advanced country that does not support child care at all. It’s a societal problem.

      3. JSPA*

        Maybe she’s one of those parents who are blessed with a baby who really does predictably and reliably go down to sleep for 5-6 hours at a time? (I’m told they exist.)

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          Or is perfectly happy so long as Mom is in sight, or perfectly happy sitting casually in Mom’s lap. I seriously could have worked with my oldest alongside me til he was about 2 years old, no problems whatsoever. (Still has a really chill personality)

          Then there’s my youngest. These babies who are chill and sleep? I don’t believe that they’re ever the youngest, for the record. I couldn’t even brush my teeth without holy heck being raised about it from day one!

          1. curmudgeon*

            That was me, or so I’m told. I slept through the night and when my mom was freelancing as an editor (back when floppy disks were novel), I was happy to be in a playpen or held. If you go by what my mom says, I was happier observing from the playpen than when I was being held.

            But this is a rarity.

      4. Ann*

        I’ve done it, with my oldest child. I lasted about three months and it was horrible for my mental health. It worked, in the sense that I aced my work and kept the kid fed and safe, but not a good experience, I do not recommend. As I recall, I’d get 2-3 hours of work done most days, then another 2 hours when his dad got home and took over child care, and the other 3 hours? Either at night instead of sleeping, or on weekends. No free time. None.
        Also, he was a baby… once kids start walking and talking, it’s not possible to work with them around. Last week I was home with a toddler whose day care closed early, and got about an hour of work done. That’s it.

      5. Roland*

        She asked for one month, so it’s pretty clear it’s not the long term plan. One of my friends is crying from stress figuring out what to do when her husband’s education schedule put him on a class schedule that means he can’t do dropoffs/pickups and only babysitter they could find can only do li6le 2t hours a week. Working for home on days the babysitter can’t cover and doing daycare dropoff/pickup would solve a lot of their problems but her boss doesn’t want that. They can’t wait until their schedule doesn’t require that but it is what it is.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      It’s not clear from the letter that she would be caring for the child full time and unavailable to work full time. Dads can do childcare, other family might be helping out, etc.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Having seen the comments in here, I’m going to add –the employee was asking to work from home for a total of 12-15 days. That’s it. There is also no indication of what childcare arrangements she’d have for those days–a lot of infants have grandparents who could care for them, eg. Or she’d be working odd hours but not fewer hours. Or she’d be taking leave for part of the days or working weekends to make up for the time….all sorts of possibilities. Plenty of times, I worked from home in the evening when my kid was small.

        This country provides no support for mothers (parents, but most of it falls on moms) and then people blame the moms (not the dads), and it’s bogus.

        1. Observer*

          The issue here is not blame. But it’s simply not reasonable to assume that the Mom actually had childcare lined up for the time she was in the house, otherwise why would she need to be home.

          Maybe she didn’t, may she did and never explained, or she did have and her bosses were being unreasonable. It doesn’t really matter *in this context*. Because ultimately, the issue of working from home while she has “issues with childcare” is a real potential problem. And it’s a TOTALLY different scenario than working IN THE OFFICE at a remote location.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            “it’s simply not reasonable to assume that the Mom actually had childcare lined up for the time she was in the house, otherwise why would she need to be home.”

            She’d need to be home because grandma was watching the kids and she and dad were picking her up on their respective WFH days and Mom didn’t think it made sense to waste time commuting on those days, or similar but the family member who was primarily watching the child needed a little more support, or she needed to be working from home because she had a babysitter or mother’s helper for part of the day and planned to work that part of the day and make up the rest on days in-office, evenings, and weekends; same but without a mother’s helper but working during naps + the rest on in office days, etc.

              1. Roland*

                I mean, yeah? Of course that’s not exactly what’s happening, they’re just plausible scenarios. But there are many plausible scenarios. Assuming she definitely has 0 plans and is planning to do 100% of the care is just as much of an assumption with no supporting evidence.

                1. Observer*

                  It’s far more likely.

                  Not that this is the core of the issue. It’s just something that the company can be legitimately concerned about.

              2. Double A*

                This letter is also a secondhand account of what happened at the LW’s company, so there are a lot of details missing.

                It’s very reasonable to think “I need to work from home 2-3 days a week for the next 4 weeks until my childcare situation is fully worked out” would mean that employee has some kind of support during that time, like a spouse who can stay home part of the day or a grandparent or “mother helper” who can mind the baby but will bring it in for nursing or being put down for a nap. Sure, it’s not evidence in the letter, but neither is the evidence that the worker has no support at all.

      2. sb51*

        Yeah, it could even be that she had childcare in this period but it wasn’t compatible with her commute or something.

        1. DocVonMitte*

          This is why WFH was essential for me for the first few years of my child’s life. He wasn’t home with me during work hours but it was the only way I could get to pick up/drop off on time. If I added a commute in he’d be at childcare longer than I could afford each day.

    5. sundae funday*

      Yeah, the situations are totally different. If Woman B were planning to work from home while caring for her babies in another state, then it would be the same thing.

    6. Pinto*

      I absolutely agree. I do not consider working out of another branch office to be working remotely. The only similarity in the two situations presented was the fact of the employees having newborns.

  3. CLC*

    Woman A was asking to work from home presumably so she could also take care of an infant while working. That may be why she was denied. Woman B was moving to the new location so that she would have childcare while she was in the office.

    1. Generic Name*

      Agreed. I don’t get why that’s so hard to understand. It seems like there’s a lot more going on that is making people resent the mom of multiples.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It could be that people are very resentful in general of having to return to the office, and are upset that Woman B seems to have gotten a special exemption, not realizing the difference between telecommuting from your home (which they still don’t allow for anyone) and working in person at a satellite office (which they did approve).

        1. MK*

          Or more likely, they are resentful of having to return to the office and are latching on the technicality of one person being allowed to work from another office to argue that remote work was allowed. I find it hard to swallow that they don’t realize the difference or that the company failed to communicate properly.

          If a company advertised a job as remote, and then the candidate was told that what they meant by remote was that they could work from another office, I doubt anyone would say it’s miscommunication or misunderstanding, they would rightly say the company was misleading.

          1. EPLawywer*

            Yeah the company is acting like Woman B is remote because she is not physically in the office she is associated with. When in reality she is in the office just as the others are.

            I agree this is resentment that remote work was taken away for everyone when it appears there was no lost productivity.

            1. GreenCrayon*

              The one thing that I wonder about is what she needs to go into the office to do her work. Meaning the work and software licenses may be at her former office and not available at a satellite location. Because if this, she might have to rely on people at her old office to do these loose ends. It might be less than if she was remote, but it is a possibility.

          2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

            That’s exactly it. You cannot care for an infant AND work (bar something like dogwalking, where it’d be fairly easy to strap a carrier to yourself) at the same time. Having a new baby does not automatically grant you the privilege of flexibility. Woman A needs to take extra leave to fix the childcare issue.

        2. GythaOgden*

          They really need to get over that resentment, though! Many people have been in-person since the beginning of all this and got overlooked in the conversation (and our needs are still being ignored by management), and being resentful about it is their problem rather than their employers’ at this stage.

          I will admit I’m looking for hybrid work due to my commute being a PITA, but honestly, more people being back in the office means more people actually understand the day to day needs of the organisation, and not being completely tone-deaf to everything else.

          1. Giant Kitty*

            No, it’s the employer’s problem, for not taking care to understand the needs of ALL their employees, WFH and on-site.

            And if the employer’s only reason for wanting people back in the office or refusing WFH requests is “butts in seats” or “seeing peoplesfaces” not “actual business needs that we can clearly articulate, with data to back it up”, then people have every right to be resentful.

      2. Well...*

        I get the sense that when people write in with, “is this even legal?” that the situation has escalated and there’s a general sense of outrage/unfairness permeating the whole environment. That seems to fit with the context that people justifiably don’t want to go back to the office in-person.

        1. hbc*

          I agree. If I had to guess, I bet a lot of the messaging around returning to the office was about the value of in-person collaboration. Woman B working from a different office isn’t WFH, but she certainly isn’t working in person with her team. People naturally get riled if the logic isn’t good.

          I’d also bet that management *believes* it’s largely about communication, but also fears a lot of the things that go along with letting people WFH. Trying to draw boundaries on how quiet and visually appropriate your home office is, how productive you need to be to be trusted working from home, whether your internet is good enough–it’s a lot easier to say that the flexibility is to work from any company office.

          1. GythaOgden*

            There’s also another aspect which isn’t obvious to people working from home — people lose touch with the needs of those who can’t work (and in ‘can’t work’ I mean physically impossible) from home. In many ways I actually appreciate the managers who are making people come back at least a few days a week, because they seem to have more respect for the people who have been maintaining the infrastructure their WFH employees have been taking advantage of.

            The worst thing that happened to us recently was someone who has moved 200 miles north of us ringing us up, needing us to send a package, then insisting that we go and scrounge a box from someone in which to pack it for a courier who would be in — oops! — in an hour or two to collect it. We are reception staff, so having someone pick something up from us is OK. What was not OK was that the package, a laptop, was not all ready to go: we don’t keep packaging supplies at reception, we don’t have any spare boxes, our management in their infinite wisdom decided we could do without a printer, so we couldn’t even print a label out for them.

            They had /no idea/ that we would struggle with their demands because they had no clue as to what resources were on site. The sad thing was that this was someone who had been promoted from admin to manager, so she’d probably dealt with unrealistic demands on in-person staff before. We’ve had a lot of similar incidents with stationery etc, WFHers on about 4 times my pay standing in reception braying loudly about how much money they’re saving working from home (oh but if you actually talk to them directly, they claim less commute is offset by more utilities bills…you just have to hear them when they don’t realise you’re listening to them) and so on. It’s pretty galling to have been ignored for three years and then given platitudes when you make a polite request for assistance.

            From our perspective, having people linked closer to a specific office, even if not 100% of the working week, would keep people grounded in the reality. You guys need a lot of infrastructure to support your ability to WFH, and people need to remember what needs to happen in order for you to have that privilege.

            1. Giant Kitty*

              Your comments seem to hold a great deal of resentment towards people whose jobs allowed them to work from home. WFH employees are “taking advantage” of people who couldn’t WFH?! Nope, sorry, that’s your “crab in a bucket” mentality, not a realistic assessment of the situation the pandemic left people in.

          2. bamcheeks*

            This is the explanation that makes the most sense to me! If they’ve been talking a lot about how much better it is for everyone in the team to be working in the same space and that’s why you can’t WFH, but suddenly it’s fine for Brenda to work from Colorado even though everyone in her team is in New York, you can see why people would be pretty pissed off.

            1. AllY'all*

              My company has three locations nationwide and many of us are fully remote from our teams. No one is allowed to work fully remotely, because “water cooler conversations!” and “collaboration!” even though, pre-pandemic, the company was all about collaboration between locations. We all commute in three days a week to sit in our offices and have zoom calls with our remote teams.

              We lost or turned over 30% of our head count in 2022, and the people who are left have gone past “pretty pissed” into demoralized and checked out. We all know that the real reason we’re back is that leadership wants to be able to walk around the buildings and see all the people they’re paying for. HBC’s right: the effect on morale when the justification doesn’t match the logistics of the workplace is horrendous but companies just don’t seem to care.

            2. The Real Fran Fine*

              Yeah, which is why the in-person collaboration argument companies keep making about why they want to enact these return to office policies is problematic (or, at least, one of the problems), especially when the real reason this particular company is rescinding the privilege of full time remote work is because it was being done from home, which he doesn’t like. It’s the “from home” part that’s really the problem from the CEO’s perspective, so if they had just said that upfront and left the word “remote” out of the conversation about returning to offices, this would not be an issue.

              1. GythaOgden*

                From the other direction, though, it has been really hard for in-person workers to get the attention of WFHers, and the cracks are really starting to show.

                Companies may not be communicating it well, but WFHers themselves are pretty out of touch in many ways, and having even a few days in office means people are much more aware of those of us who have essentially been doing the actual infrastructure work and maintenance.

                And who ALSO have children and other dependents that need care, by the way. That lack of cognisance here gets really old, really fast, and a lot of the complaining just looks out of touch. So please watch yourselves when you comment.

                1. Giant Kitty*

                  There are plenty of businesses where the businesses infrastructure & maintenance was done by people WFH. My husband works in one, though he is an on the ground essential worker who cannot do so because of the nature of his job, not one person at his level had any resentment or anger towards the people who were able to do so – because that meant less people around to spread a potentially deadly disease. His company sent everyone who could to WFH even before it was required due to lockdowns & other restrictions, and nobody at my husband’s level was resentful about it because they were far more worried about getting sick themselves than holding a grudge that office people could WFH while warehouse workers (by the nature of their jobs) couldn’t.

                2. The Real Fran Fine*

                  Your comment has nothing to do with what I said. Nowhere have I said anything on this thread that would be construed as complaining about WFH policies – hell, I’ve been fully remote (working from home) long before the pandemic, so I have no dog in this fight since I’m staying fully remote because that was the agreement made when I was hired (and my company is in tech and has always had a third of its workforce working from home).

                3. Rosieko*

                  WFH work is “actual” work too. You seem to think that your work keeps the business going more than others and that’s just not true. You are frustrated with aspects of your role and wanting other people to assume unjustified burdens because of it. If you want people to be more aware of your situation and needs, try communicating! Try speaking to your leadership or coworkers. The answer is not to force people back to the office to make your life easier. You are projecting quite a bit about resentment here and you should probably watch your own comments, which is a very entitled thing to say in this context by the way.

            3. Rain's Small Hands*

              I worked for a company for years where none of my team was in the same state as I was though the majority of teams worked out of the same location (and most of my team was in the same place, just not me and one or two others). When I started in that role, I did have another team member at my location, but she moved on and then it was just me. Full time remote work happened, but wasn’t frequently approved – and was something that was between you and your manager. And the policy was that if you worked from home regularly, you needed childcare for the days you worked from home (I did work from home one day a week in that position).

              I think they generally did a pretty good job of evaluating each situation individually – and work from home and working out of a different office are situations that require different skills. Certainly the pandemic has shown that some people are more productive from home…but other people are not. Some teams do great with slack and zoom, others loose a lot when water cooler conversations and prairie dog cube questions aren’t available. Sometimes the right person for the job isn’t in the ideal location for the job (which was my case when I was brought in for that role) or someone you’d hate to lose moves (which sounds like its this case.)

              And there is a catch to this as well. Those work from homers and the workers that weren’t with the rest of their teams – it seemed like when it was time to RIF those people were let go more frequently. We could find the right person in the right location when we needed to staff up again. I survived RIFs, but a lot of people in my situation didn’t. Its possible that the person moving to a different office is being told its OK, but that there is a subtext of “the labor market is tight right now, she’s doing a fine job we need to have done, and we can always let her go in a reorg when the labor market or our situation shifts.”

      3. Observer*

        Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that there something about the second woman the people just don’t like. I mean why even bring up that one woman had a single child while the other had triplets? It’s not relevant to the question.

      4. No Tribble At All*

        I’m guessing most people don’t realize that Woman B is working *in person* just in another office. Without that context, it seems like:
        A: Hey I just had a baby, can I WFH?
        Management: Nope!
        B: Hey I had 3 babies, I’m going to not work in this office anymore
        Management: Sure thing!

        And everyone has assumed that triplets = a More Special Circumstance that allows B to work remotely, without realizing that B is just transferring to another office, and without realizing that A was going to try to WFH while caring for an infant. Now if only there’s some way to correct the rumor mill.

      5. Sylvan*


        And I’m not a parent, but it seems natural to me that you’d go the extra mile to accommodate someone who’s recovering from having triplets and now taking care of those kids.

    2. Fishsticks*

      Yeah, daycare costs for triplets would be astronomical. I think she made the right financial decision. And I don’t feel like she is a WFH employee at all – she’s moving to a different location, but still in the office. I feel like that still fits within management’s idea of 100% in-person, as she would still be subject to physical supervision?

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Woman A was asking to work from home 2 or 3 days a week for a few weeks. She seemed to believe that whatever arrangements she had would allow her to get her job done. The amount of doubt being directed at her about that is dispiriting. I worked on the biggest case my org ever dealt with when my kid was 5, and I made it work by working nights, weekends, trading with Dad, etc. She may be planning to work 12 hours days on her in office days and staying in touch and triaging emergencies on her WFH days.

      1. Observer*

        That all may be true. But you simply cannot make the argument that what she’s asking for is the same as what the other woman is asking for.

        Is it possible that the CEO is being unreasonable in the level of opposition to WFH? Yes. But the whole discussion of WFH is totally different than the discussion of dispersed teams.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        The question isn’t whether or not person A’s request should be granted, it’s whether person A’s request is comparable to person B’s request.
        People are citing the differences between the situations, not directing doubt at person A’s needs.

  4. The Real Fran Fine*

    It seems like they accommodated one person and not another despite the fact that their situations are the same (both just gave birth, both had childcare issues, etc. I know giving birth to one is different than three, but I don’t know if that makes a difference here).

    Their situations aren’t the same though. Woman A is asking to work from home due to childcare issues that while she believes may only last a month, could stretch longer than that through no fault of her own, and the CEO has made it clear he wants butts in seats in an actual office moving forward. Woman B has childcare thanks to moving near family and isn’t asking to work from home – she’s asking to change offices to work from a satellite location. While she may be remote from her actual team, she’s got her butt in a seat in an office per the CEO’s mandate, which is probably why she was approved and Woman A was denied.

    It’s the working from home thing that’s the issue here for the company (even if it’s just a couple days a week), not working remotely from another office space. If Woman A was asking to work from another office and was denied, then I could see why this decision would ruffle feathers.

    1. Cordelia*

      And also, isn’t Woman A asking to go part-time, whereas Woman B will continue full-time? The situations aren’t the same at all.

  5. Kyle*

    Regarding LW1 and the difference from working remotely from home and working remotely from the office – I once interviewed for Tesla (mid-pandemic, pre-Musk-demanding-everyone-return-to-the-office-even-though-they-didn’t-have-room-for-everyone), and when I asked if the position would be remote post-pandemic, the recruiter said that they’d only hire for in-person or remote-from-office.

    When I asked why, the recruiter did their level best to work around Tesla not actually having a good reason to communicate to candidates.

    I followed up after the call and declined to continue, citing the remote work policy as a reason. The recruiter did not reply, but I haven’t had a Tesla recruiter reach out since, so bullet dodged!

    1. TechWorker*

      I’m not saying Tesla was reasonable over this, idk, but I think there are some ways in which ‘remote from another office’ is legitimately different to ‘work from home’:
      – Easier to guarantee professional background and decent internet connection for meetings (I have some colleagues with issues with their reports where their home internet is 4G/5G based and flaky at busy periods)
      – Some tech issues much easier to resolve on-site. If someones laptop has a technical issue and needs to be completely re-imaged, for various security related reasons, the process to do that is much simpler on the company network vs on the vpn.

      Not insurmountable problems at all, but being in an office does give some consistency.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Thank you! As in-person since the beginning, the permanent WFHers have zero knowledge as to what we actually do, and have made demands of us that they would never have done had they been working from the office. In three years people have simply forgotten what their WFH stuff relies on, and while it’s awesome that people have relative flexbility, it’s become increasingly exploitative of those who simply cannot work from home. WFHers need to check their privilege and do their best to stay in touch with those who maintain and run the systems they need to be able to do that.

        The strains are beginning to show in many, many ways and I would hate to have a job where I became one of the people I am starting to resent.

        1. Just Stop*

          Enough! You’ve filled the comment section here with your bitterness about WFH for long enough. Either stop reading those questions or get therapy.

  6. Happy meal with extra happy*

    I’m not sure why it matters that Woman B had triplets? The fact that it was pointed out and that OP seems to have made a pointed dig about it somewhat makes me side eye the entire letter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know whether you’re interpreting it correctly but it does feel irrelevant to the letter and I’m going to edit out the parenthetical note on it so we don’t end up with a huge derail on it.

  7. Ida Cook*

    I’m wondering if the OP is, perhaps, referring to the amount time off the triplet mom needed before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and since the babies were born.

    1. Labrat*

      My thoughts too. Likely hospitalized bedrest and time in the NICU lead to a longer leave. The writer probably already resented what they percieved as special treatment.

      1. Well...*

        ehh probably is a bit strong. I think LW & co. seems annoyed in general by going back to work in-person. IDK that it’s being directed at woman B because she had triplets and needed more leave, it might just be general dissatisfaction with most people not getting remote work privileges and nobody being able to use it to WFH.

      2. Caroline*

        I think the fact that Woman B had triplets is completely relevant because childcare costs would be exponentially more difficult and expensive and I cannot believe that anyone would not realise this, just on a pragmatic level. Thus the fact that Woman B made a very reasonable decision to move closer to where help is at hand, and to work from a different office location seems much more likely to be acceptable than Woman A, wanting to work from home with no childcare for ”about a month”. The two things are completely different. Three newborns are different from one newborn. That is a factor. It just is. It’s not subjective. It cannot be ignored.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I do think that “about a month” is doing a lot of work here as well. Company may have asked what the plan was if the childcare didn’t come through after the month, and if there wasn’t a good answer, they didn’t feel granting the request would work. If Woman A had said “we have a childcare slot in a month, my husband and I have worked out shifts for care so that the other has uninterrupted work time, we will do paperwork on weekends for the month to stay caught up, and if the childcare falls through my next door neighbor can come watch the baby 4 days a week” then that’s a solid plan. “I want to WFH with the baby while waiting ‘about a month'” is possibly too vague for the company to say yes. And yes, Woman B clearly has a solid plan in place and is going to work from an office, so the two are not comparable.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            I’m really confused why people are bending over backward to be pro-employer here.

            1. AllY'all*

              You might be confused because you’re mistaking people speculating about the employer’s reasoning with being pro-employer. Those aren’t the same thing.

              This employer is just as crummy as every other employer whose employees kept them running for two years working from home during lockdown and still thinks those employees can’t be trusted to work from home. I don’t think anyone is disputing that. But the LW presented the situation as “Two people with identical jobs and circumstances made the same request and one got denied, how is that fair,” when that’s just not accurate.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              I don’t see anyone bending over backward to be pro-employer. They’re just providing insight into why the situations would be considered differently.

            3. Hen in a Windstorm*

              Listing possibilities with qualifiers is not bending over backward (note the words may and possibly). Nor is listing possibilities pro- or anti- anyone.

              I’m really confused why you are reading pro-employer bias into this comment. Like, what do you imagine a “pro-employee” response would be? “Burn it all to the ground and salt the earth, this company hates women who only have 1 child!”

            4. GythaOgden*

              The more we turn it into a pro/anti thing, the less we can actually do something about it.

              Also, personally, as in-person for the last three years, my heart bleeds (/s) for WFHers complaining about employers trying to get them back to the office. We’ve had all the same struggles you’ve had, including child- and elder-care, with none of the advantages. As I’ve said elsewhere, people who still WFH have no clue as to what we actually provide for them, and don’t realise what we do, but would miss us dreadfully when we’re gone.

              So please can we stop pretending that WFHers are the bottom of the workforce heap? You’re not; in fact you’re actually towards the top of the pile, particularly when it comes to having the ear of the media. It gets so old to hear you complain all the time. It sounds like ‘Let them eat cake’ and it’s not actually helping your case.

  8. Jujyfruits*

    OP3, I am worried about the “naughty” puns. Snarky Batman is one thing, but if he’s making sexual puns that would be something to call out.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      The work issue angle is that someone needs extra time and effort to check and change back the “puns” plus the risk of any of this slipping out – deadlines and all that.
      While LW may not have standing (yet) to address it, LW’s manager should (“please do not waste my employee’s time, we’re busy enough as it is, thanks!”).

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Particularly as it’s in material that’s going to be circulated externally. It’s putting the responsibility of constant vigilance on the LW – proofreading really well is hard enough without people deliberately sabotaging the work.

        It’s only a matter of time until something slips past and makes it to a prestigious client, who probably isn’t going to be amused by “Oh, that’s just John. Isn’t he so funny!” when their new, expensive marketing material has a salacious pun inserted in it.

        1. EPLawywer*

          And guess who will be blamed for not catching it? Not PunBoy who is just the Life of the Office.

        2. Dwight Schrute*

          I would be so tempted to let a naughty pun slide and then totally pretend that the joke went over my head and I didn’t catch it

      2. John*

        OP may want to consider approaching Boss and sharing a story about how, at their previous workplace, a “snarky edit” wasn’t removed before being sent to a client, with disastrous results.

        Maybe wait a couple months so they have better standing first.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          oooh yes this is the best solution, and if they don’t have any stories, they can easily make one up! there are plenty to be found online!
          I’m currently working on a huge translation, and the source text is full of errors. I’m compiling a list of all those errors as I go, and checking stuff I don’t normally need to check, because if I don’t, any mistake in my translation will be my fault, even if I just translated a false statement in the source text. I’m hoping they’ll find a better editor next time, because the person who edited this text clearly didn’t do a very thorough job. The length of my error file will be a convincing argument.

      3. Smithy*

        I could see this being one of those things that over time has a far greater “copy/paste” error potential than when it started. Like if all of your internal draft copies are saved in Word, but the external copies go out in PDF’s – and in a bygone system new names would have to be assigned. So naming all Word draft copies after Friends or Office episodes wouldn’t really matter, because they’d have to be changed when they went out as PDFs.

        But over time new staff, new processes – and something that before had opportunities to catch the jokes now doesn’t. I still think that it’s something best brought up after a little time, because it does have the potential to make you appear a little rigid. However, after working there for a few months, building up some credibility – it may be more clear that the silly names really do have almost zero chance of ever getting out externally. Or, there will be a more clear cut example of this process taking up time and presenting a reputational risk beyond just being an internal point of levity.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          It seems problematic to have original docs in Word with completely different filenames to the PDFs for distribution. How do you track down the original Word file for the next version of a document?

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Except the choice to use the word ‘naughty,’ which generally does have a sexual/racy connotation.

      2. Roland*

        What? “Naughty” is a quote from the letter, that’s about the best evidence we can hope for.

  9. TheyThoughtYouKnew?*

    OP 2, if I were that applicant I’d assume you knew given it was an internal interview. So I’d assume you’d bring it up if you wanted my side of the story or had questions for me. If it was going to be a problem I’d expect you to cancel the interview or otherwise tell me so. Since you didn’t I’d assume it wasn’t an issue for you, especially if the reason was bad fit or similar.

    1. Deanna Troi*

      Except it was no longer an internal interview because the applicant no longer works there. For this reason, I disagree with Allison’s advice. If she was external, then I would agree that the applicant wasn’t obligated to bring it up. But because it is a university, it is likely that she applied through a different process than an external candidate and perhaps was even given preference. I work for the government, and sometimes there is a preference to hire internally due to the length of time it takes to get people on board, paperwork, balancing total FTE, etc. I would unhappy if I thought I was considering someone as an internal candidate and it turns out that was not the case.

      If I were the LW, I would ask the candidate what happened, and I would also reach out to the supervisor that let her go (we always talk to the current supervisor for internal applicants anyway) and then once I heard both sides, try to determine if I wanted to proceed. I wouldn’t automatically assume anything based just on my conversation with HR.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I think TheyThoughtYouKnew’s point is that since Mary was an internal applicant and went through the internal channels, she probably assumed HR would have updated LW on Mary’s status much earlier than they apparently did. Particularly if internal applicants are supposed to get preference, it really should be HR’s job to say “hey, this person no longer gets preference”

      2. PinkCandyfloss*

        But what you are saying supports this commenter IMO. If there is a different process for internal candidates that is usually HR directed, so what is the excuse from HR for not following through the chain of communication on this candidate prior to the interview? I agree with the poster that I don’t think the fault here is on the candidate or on the interviewer. What it has done at the very least is exposed that there is a serious gap on the HR side around candidate communication for internal hires.

        1. Anonyboss*

          Hi PinkCandyfloss, I’m LW3 and I couldn’t agree more with your comment – “What it has done at the very least is exposed that there is a serious gap on the HR side around candidate communication for internal hires.” I am revising my own process to account for that gap in the future. Our HR department is overworked and understaffed. They suffer from poor leadership that has made some less-than-stellar hiring choices. The strongest people have left for greener pastures.

      3. DramaQ*

        When I worked at a university you has 6 months after a job ended to still be an internal candidate. I only knew this because HR told me. I would imagine it’s not something most people including those that interview know off the top of their heads.

        I can imagine in 2018 there was some disconnect with my resume but it wasn’t my job to explain HR policy regarding candidate status. If asked I would have explained but no one asked.

        Otherwise it’s like Alison said those things usually aren’t preemptively brought up.

        And TBF the candidate might not have known herself either her status changed. Our software didn’t show on my end if I was internal or external just that I applied. It’s not unreasonable for her to assume since she was at the time of applying she still is or that it isn’t an issue since no one mentioned it.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Except that if it’s a huge establishment, news doesn’t always get around that much, so how would they know?

        1. Miss Muffet*

          I worked at a hospital that wouldn’t disclose this info on candidates (they weren’t really involved in hiring) so if you had an internal candidate, you were wise to proactively reach out to HR to see if they had anything to share. But they wouldn’t share unless asked.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Sure, but the point being made here is that Mary could very reasonably have assumed this was HR’s job to convey.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Exactly. It stands out to me this is in an academic setting. Suppose it’s Massive State University, and Mary worked as an office assistant in the Geology Department. She then applies for a position in the front office of the Basketball Team. (I’m just trying to think of two very different things that both exist at a huge university) It may be that the applications go directly to the departments and not to HR, and so they may be entirely out of the loop. Mary might have seen the writing on the wall that Geology wasn’t the department for her, so she applied to other positions. HR might not even know she was interviewing with Basketball.

    3. PinkCandyfloss*

      +1 I was thinking the same. I might have assumed since it was an internal interview at the same place that HR would have communicated this to the interviewer. I would probably have been expecting the interviewer to bring it up as well if necessary.

      Although LW I did note you said you’re both in academia so any assumption about HR doing anything that makes sense like that is probably being too generous…

  10. Sue Wilson*

    OP3: I would do a little character reconnaissance before doing this (to gauge whether he would get affronted regardless or not) but this is a place to do the “it’s not you it’s me” dance.

    for reasonable people with questionable humor, a good “John, you seem like you’re trying to liven up the day a bit and normally i’d appreciate that, but it’s actually making me pretty anxious when I check edits, do you mind not doing this on my work?” with some verbal fluffing, maybe compliment one of his little puns or something and persistence friendliness will get it to stop.

    but if this is like…his whole personality, then that’s more dangerous waters and I’d just be triple checking stuff and give him as much sample text as I could so that I’d remember to change everything.

    1. Yeah, nah*

      Yeah, an “I know you’re trying to make things fun, but it just adds more work for me, please don’t,” could curb this with a reasonable person.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        In my experience, people like that are rarely reasonable. They really do think everything they say not only needs to be said, but is so hilarious that anyone who doesn’t like it just is a humorless kill joy. My BFF’s brother is like this, and even though we were not friends on Facebook, I had to block him. I couldn’t make a comment on any of my friend’s posts without him jumping in to make some kind of joke. It was exhausting and her telling him to stop didn’t work, so I blocked him. OP3 can try but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried even more to be funny just to annoy her.

      2. The Eye of Argon*

        Unfortunately, I’d bet my paper clip collection that “John” isn’t reasonable and would just respond that the LW is being a grumpy sourpuss who’s trying to spoil a little harmless fun, because after all the rest of the audience thinks he’s hilarious, and triple down on his “jokes” now that he knows he’s getting LW’s goat.

        I’d also bet that he was the “class clown” (translation: disruptive and unteachable, but made the class giggle) in school, the “life of the party” (endless vulgarity while getting staggering drunk, fun to watch in a trainwreck kind of way) in college, and after his career as “office cutup” he’ll become one of those grandpas who loves to tease and torment his grandkids, who will be told by their parents “Grandpa’s just teasing you because he loves you.”

        Yes, I had a teasing grandpa. Yes, I’m still scarred 40 years later :D

        1. Splendid Colors*

          It also occurred to me that if OP uses words like “worried, stressed, nervous, or anxious” that gives John an out by suggesting she “get the help that she needs” from EAP. Because clearly, if his “fun” is stressing her out, that’s an OP problem, not a John problem. /s

    2. mf*

      Agree with this, and I would add: really lay it on thick that you think his puns are hilarious. This will go a bit smoother if you play along with the idea that he’s the Funny One in the office.

      1. sundae funday*

        maybe everyone secretly hates John but they’re all so good at faking how funny they think he is that no one realizes….

  11. Goldie*

    For LW #3 I’d be real clear that he is responsible for ensuring puns are out before the final version.
    As a manager I have to approve a lot of things-average 10-20 a day. My pet peeve is when my staff move something for final approval and not share a concern they had. Like they are testing to see if I caught it.

    1. Pennyworth*

      She needs to be clear in writing about his responsibility for cleaning up his puns, so there is a paper trail. She could also point out that what he is doing was a firing offense in her previous job, so he can’t say he wasn’t warned.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Standards at the LW’s previous job aren’t really relevant at the current job.

      2. EPLawywer*

        I don’t think OP has that authority. They are basically peer level, not different levels. So she really can’t assign responsibilities or threaten his job.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It’s only a matter of time before one of his funny filenames etc gets missed (or “missed” collectively perhaps…) and something goes out that shouldn’t, at which point this situation will flush itself out.

      1. Antilles*

        I’d be less concerned about the filenames than about the content of the document. The filename you directly click on so it’s easier to note that you’re clicking johnsgreatpun rather than “Marketing Batch 3 – Project 23A7B4 Rev1”.
        But the content inside the document? If he’s replacing a couple random words of a document you’ve already reviewed, it’s super easy for your eyes to slide right past that paragraph or even for your brain to just unconsciously auto-correct.

  12. Observer**

    #2 – I can’t help feeling like Mary lied to me and I am hesitant to hire her if I don’t trust her.

    You can help what you think and what you do, though. And if you are going to be scrupulously honest, I think you will have to admit that there is no lie here at all. Even if there had been some obligation to proactively mention it, the failure to do so would hardly be a lie. And why on earth would she even have an obligation to bring it up?

    If you don’t want to hire her because she was let go during her probation, that’s one thing. I can see that being a yellow flag. But don’t make up excuses for your decision. And, it IS an excuse. There is no dishonesty here, and you have no reasonable expectation that she would have brought it up.

    1. Fikly*

      The person in the wrong here, frankly, is likely the LW. She’s hung up on the dishonesty of a candidate not proactively disclosing information that would make them look bad, regardless of whether or not it would have anything to do with their ability to do this job, when they were never even asked, so it’s not even a lie of omission.

      This is one of those times where I’m on the fence – I hope Mary has other options, because this is a red flag not about Mary, but that you don’t want to work for LW.

      1. Poor Mary*

        I hope Mary has other options, because this is a red flag not about Mary, but that you don’t want to work for LW.

        I have to say that I completely agree.

      2. Snow Glob*

        I think that is too harsh. While I agree that the candidate doesn’t have an obligation to proactively bring this up, and there is a lot of work advice saying they shouldn’t, I can certainly understand the LW’s concern – they sat down and had a conversation, and LW asked questions specifically about that previous job, and the candidate answered in such as way as to imply that they still worked there (even if they didn’t technically lie). In the LW’s position, I’d be disconcerted and might be wondering if this is an employee who would come to me with a problem, or would try to cover it up. The LW wrote in to ask whether to consider this a red flag; they didn’t automatically disqualify the candidate. It’s a big jump to think that the LW is a boss that the candidate wouldn’t want to work for.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          LW asked questions specifically about that previous job, and the candidate answered in such as way as to imply that they still worked there

          We don’t actually know that that’s the case.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          The LW never said that. Alison mentioned it as a reason for LW to be more wary if they noticed it happening, but we don’t know for a fact that it did.

        3. ecnaseener*

          As the others said, we don’t know that Mary did anything of the sort. What we know from LW is “I asked about her interest in our position and why she wanted to make the switch so soon.” Does that mean the conversation included “why do you want to switch out of your current department?”? Possibly. But it’s equally possible that it was more “why do you want to switch from llama grooming to alpacas?” answered entirely honestly.

          I do agree it’s a bit much to take this as representative of LW as a manager. It still might be true that Mary specifically would not benefit from working under LW, though, if LW won’t trust her.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It is a little bit dishonest (a lie by omission is still a lie). Mary submitted a resume saying she was employed at X. Mary is then fired / let go during probation. Mary knows that OP still believes her to be employed at X since that’s the only information she has. The situation has changed materially though but Mary’s representations are ongoing as she doesn’t have the new job yet. I am not sure I agree with OP but can certainly understand them.

      1. PinkCandyfloss*

        Disagree. The process for internal candidates is normally managed closely by HR. In this case HR should have communicated the issue with Mary before the interview took place. If I were Mary I would have assumed HR was handling this aspect of things and because the interview wasn’t canceled, I’d have expected that if the interviewer didn’t bring it up then the interviewer didn’t have any questions specifically about that. This is not a character flaw of Mary, this is an exposed gap in the HR offices at this institution.

      2. Observer*


        For one thing, there is never any obligation for someone to bring up changes in their status. In this case, you can’t even make the assumption that the OP still was under that impression that she was still employed, because HR could have easily informed them that the applicant had been let go.

        So, we’re calling someone a liar for not proactively providing information that they really don’t have an obligation to provide, which giving HR – which probably DID have an obligation here – a pass.

        That doesn’t sound like a really functional workplace.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          If you’re always assuming the worst of the people who work for you, then you do not have a functional workplace, absolutely agreed! It’s no way to run an office or have a team/management that trusts one another.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        But Mary applied on 11/15 and her termination letter was dated 11/28. So yes, she knew she was getting let go, but 1-she didn’t lie and 2-it’s possible that she was let go because the job was a bad fit for her, and she was trying to get ahead because she wanted to ‘still be employed’ when sending out applications. She can honestly say when asked “why do you want to change jobs” that it was a bad fit for her and she wants something more aligned with X like this job, but she didn’t outright lie.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I was just guessing that she knew this job was a bad fit and they weren’t going to keep her–it’s only two weeks between applying and her being officially ‘out’ at the old job. Most people let go during a probationary period are aware it’s a bad fit (or funding was lost, or they need to hire someone with more of experience X, etc), and her applying before it was official indicates that she at the very least knew something was up and she was unlikely to be kept.

            1. Maple Bar*

              Possibly, though where I worked you couldn’t transfer to a new position until the six month probation was over, so if she wanted to leave for literally any reason the timing would have to be like this.

      4. Eldritch Office Worker*

        A resume is a document that represents your candidacy as of the time of submission. Things change, but the basic package of marketing a candidate does not. The applicants skills and work history as presented have not changed.

        Employers are not required to disclose nearly as much as applicants are, and there is already a huge imbalance of power and bias stacked against job seekers. There is no ethical issue with this candidate choosing not to disclose a change in employment status, especially if OP didn’t bring it up.

    3. 1*

      Also looking at the timeline it could still be during the point that Mary was consulting a lawyer about why she was fired, therefore saying nothing is sensible rather than being defensive or sounding like she’s admitting she was fired for a (disputed) cause.

      Mary clearly had reasons other than “I was fired” to want to change jobs as she applied before she got fired too. Sure, she could have seen it coming, or it could have just been a bad / less good than OP’s offered role fit for her.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        It’s also possible HR is aware of some potential legal issues regarding the termination.

      2. sundae funday*

        You know, it’s not impossible that she was fired because they found out she was applying elsewhere. It’s not legal, of course, but it’s much easier to find an excuse to fire someone when they’re still in their probationary period….

    4. Mockingjay*

      OP2, have you considered why Mary was applying for another position while she was still in her probationary period? Something made her want to leave. Culture mismatch, actual job was completely different than advertised, Mary spoke out against unsafe/unsound practice. Or Mary was a really poor employee. Funding was lost. You don’t know.

      Ask Mary and then talk to her supervisor.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        You know, this is a really valuable point I hadn’t even considered. Mary was still in her probationary period and the OP knew that. Theoretically, that’s already a yellow flag. And yet OP was okay with moving forward. But now that OP finds out Mary has been terminated, it’s suddenly not okay? Mary was looking to leave her new job for a reason, and it seems like she was right to be looking.

        1. münchner kindl*

          Why is it a red flag? Isn’t the whole purpose of a probationary period for both sides to figure out if this is a good fit?

          To me, it sounds as if LW thinks that being fired/ being let go is some kind of moral failing by Mary, and thus should have been disclosed, similar to smoking cigarettes or having committed theft 10 years ago.

          Which is a skewed view of why people quit – especially during probationary period – or are fired: Alison has often commented on how jobs can be bad fits without it being anybody’s fault: a good teapot painter is not a good TPS report maker (square peg in round hole), plus cultural differences.

          That’s before other possible scenarios: on the third day of work, Mary met a person she knew before (ex-boyfriend/ colleague/ childhood bully) which is her new coworker/ boss and realized she wouldn’t be happy working with them; Good Boss quit and New Boss demonstrated to be a Bad Manager; Boss wanted to hire their niece and fired Mary to make place….

          Mary being fired is not a stain on her character which she needed to disclose.

          Now, if LW, as Alison recommends, asks Mary, and Mary said “I set fire to the archives and pooped in the potted plant, I don’t understand why I was fired” – then LW is right in considering that against Mary.
          If Mary says “I just discovered I’m allergic to llama grooming so now I want to paint teapots (with llamas)” that’s not a problem.

          1. Anonyboss*

            Hi, I’m the LW on this question. I appreciate your feedback. I didn’t see it as a moral failing – all of Mary’s interviews took place after she was terminated and she answered interview questions as if she was still employed (i.e., she used the present tense when talking about her work at the unit that had let her go). In hindsight, I see several places where I missed crucial steps in the hiring process. So, I also have some work to do here on my own process.

    5. Schubert*

      Hmmm- this omission happens to be about something extremely pertinent to her application and how a new employer would view her. So I can see why LW2 is hesitant. I would be too.

      But really, I ageee that the omission is not thing to focus on. You’ve since found out information that may have prevented you from making the offer, so focus on that and decide if you still want her.

  13. Sadie*

    Those are really bad. Those aren’t even puns. That’s just…words that vaguely have some of the same letters or sounds as other words.

  14. T*

    I dont think the situations in Letter number one are comparable at all. No one is working from home at all.

    1. LilPinkSock*

      Well, Singleton Mom wanted to work from home a few days a week temporarily–but yes, they are completely different situations.

      1. J!*

        I think T’s point is that the person caring for a baby wouldn’t be working a full day at home because of child care responsibilities.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      Mom with 1 baby wanted to work from home temporarily. Mom with triplets moved to a different office in a different area to be closer to support for her kids.

      I do think these situations are different. If Triplet parents were no where near family or friends this would be an incredibly difficult situation for them. Not only are babies hard, but 3 babies are VERY hard. My husband and I receive a lot of support from our family, and I can’t imagine not being to close to them (esp while our kids were babies). Not to mention childcare costs. Having 3 babies in daycare would run (in my area) about $3-4k per month. I am assuming that maybe there is a family member willing to contribute to childcare or maybe its a lower cost of living and the 2nd parent can stay home.

      Where as mom of 1 was asking to work from home for a few weeks. These are strikingly different.

      1. thatoneoverthere*

        Although I do feel a bit bad for Mom of 1. I do think they think they should have let her work from home temporarily.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    4. Rock on with your great sewing skills! Just as an aside, be aware you may get a lot of people at the job asking you to sew/alter/mend their clothes and it’s perfectly ok to not want to end up doing all the sewing in the office.

    1. WS*

      +1, I immediately had this issue but could recommend a good book on the subject and some relevant sites with how-to guides.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Probably not the same one WS recommends, but Make, Sew, and Mend by Bernadette Banner is a great resource for basics of hand-sewing (including mending as you can guess from the title).

        2. Phlox*

          My favs: Mend It Better by Kristin Roach (very chill, visible mending focused), Modern Mending by Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald (beautiful full color photos, incredibly detailed, has the basics but also next level skilled stuff). Bernadette’s book is also fun and I really want to get Visible Mending by Arounna Khounnoraj because her work is stunning (she’s honestly worth a follow on IG at bookhou).

    2. The Eye of Argon*

      Yeah, I had to put my foot down about becoming the office seamstress after one coworker decided that I was just the person to do the complicated and way beyond my skillset alterations on a bridesmaid’s gown for free.

      Although I will help out in an emergency, such as the time when another coworker split the butt of her dress and came tearing into my office in a panic. She hid out in the ladies room in her underwear while I hid out in an empty conference room and mended the split, giggling like a looney the whole time.

    3. eeeek*

      Ah, an opportunity to cross my feeds – check out the canyousewthisforme instagram feed. It’s a stunning insight into what casual acquaintances, coworkers, bosses, and others feel perfectly entitled to demand of others. More than a few times, I’ve had to return a bag of unlaundered “mending” dropped off by some colleague who hears I sew, and who plans to pay me (if at all) in candy bars or expired coupons. (Nope. I sew for myself and for my own reasons, and won’t be guilted into being the office mender…)

    4. RLC*

      In my 35 year career I never heard a peep of criticism of neatly mended clothes, whether mine or others’. Visibly damaged and re-worn repeatedly with damage, and not mended, may be a different matter in some workplaces.
      When my dad was in the Navy he found himself as the only sailor on board his ship who could operate a sewing machine. He apparently made a bit of pocket change charging his shipmates to repair their uniforms, using the brand-new Singer sewing machine supplied by the US Navy.
      (Yes, Dad is the parent who taught me to sew.)

  16. bookartist*

    LW#3 – is there no project manager who can enforce file naming guidelines? And if not, any luck getting the Creative Director on your side to do so?

    1. esra*

      Seriously, I’ve worked on marketing teams in everything from nonprofits to #startuplife and no one has ever been chill (rightly so) about file names and copy proofing.

  17. Poor Mary*

    I tried to post a comment before, and it appears to have completely disappeared for reasons unknown, but LW2, you are making an issue out of nothing.

    Mary didn’t lie to you at any point. People “fail” their probationary periods all the time, and in my own experience, it is very rarely because of a genuine performance problem. Studies show most managers are unfit for their roles, and far too many managers are bullies.

    I’ve also seen people let go at the end of their probationary period because the company was facing financial issues (and they didn’t want to pay legally required severance), and because a boss wanted a pay rise so they got rid of someone to pay for it.

    Even if someone is fired because of genuinely poor work performance (which is my own experience, is extremely rare), it doesn’t mean that they won’t perform well in another team, role, or organisation.

    With all due respect, Mary deserves better treatment than your organisation have given her so far. And that includes you.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > Even if someone is fired because of genuinely poor work performance (which is my own experience, is extremely rare), it doesn’t mean that they won’t perform well in another team, role, or organisation.

      True, but there’s 2 separate things here. Mary being fired/let go and what that does, or probably doesn’t, predict about her performance for OP. But the more serious one is that she’s conveniently not mentioned that information. What else would she find it ‘convenient’ not to mention if it results in a smoother ride? Something to think about.

      1. bamcheeks*

        You’re implying that there’s something underhand about not disclosing that and that it speaks to broader probity issues, which is simply not the case. As Alison notes, the standard advice everywhere including on AAM would be not to mention it.

        If you hold that against someone, you’re not selecting for someone who is honest, you’re selecting for someone who doesn’t have a good sense of professional boundaries and when it’s sensible to withhold information. Probably NOT what you want to do.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          The termination letter was dated around a week prior to the interview, which means Mary attended the interview and deliberately didn’t mention that material change, which I do think points towards *possible* honesty issues that need further investigation, yes. I appreciate that Mary wasn’t asked directly, so didn’t state “I am currently working on project Q in position X” etc, but still, she was at an interview knowing full well that the interviewer had an incomplete view of relevant information.

          I can only assume OP found out about the termination letter after the interview, otherwise it would have been a prime opportunity to ask a tactful version of “has anything changed since the resume you submitted?” (could cover positive changes as well, like if she’d gained a certification subsequently that wasn’t on the resume — as has happened to me this week with a resume (CV) I’ve submitted, haven’t been asked yet though!)

          1. PinkCandyfloss*

            What you aren’t considering is the role of HR in all of this. Internal candidates for positions usually go through a different process than external and HR is usually involved in that. If I were Mary I would assume that HR knew and had communicated to the interviewer the change in her candidate status. Since the interview was not canceled, I would have assumed that this was OK with the interviewer. If the interviewer didn’t bring it up, I would have assumed that there were no questions about it and would not have brought it up myself. Assigning some nefarious intent to Mary is an interesting reaction to finding out that the HR processes and communication from that department within this institution apparently have a gap large enough that this candidate slipped through with no communication from HR to EITHER Mary or the interviewer until AFTER the fact. That is the real issue, here. Not Mary’s silence on the matter, but the silence of the department whose JOB it is to keep track of this stuff for internal candidates.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              Yeah, the HR angle is puzzling to me since Mary was presumably a potential internal transfer prior to being fired. Now, I get that HR teams have a million things going on and it could simply be that this slipped through the cracks and the rep handling the requisition just forgot to close the loop with OP to let her know one of the internal candidates was let go and would now need to be considered as an external hire. Or maybe there’s no system to track that sort of thing here, or the different departments have different HR teams, so the communication between the two was dropped, etc.

              What I think OP can take from this situation moving forward is to be proactive herself in confirming an internal candidate’s standing prior to holding an interview for an open position. That way, there are no surprises and OP can decide whether to move forward or decline in advance of deciding to make an offer.

            2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

              But if she assumed the interviewer already knew and that HR would have communicated it — how is it that it didn’t come up in the interview even in response to being asked about why she was moving on so soon? That’s what makes it suspicious to me.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          What? No.. You can support Mary without claiming that someone who DID mention this doesn’t have a good sense of professional boundaries.

      2. Well...*

        I don’t see how any suspicions about Mary can’t be cleared up by just asking her directly about it. I don’t see the point in holding this against Mary when there’s so many reasons she could not being saying anything that aren’t dishonesty (like, not wanting to overshare with multiple job status updates, following advice online, not sure whether the firing would stick if there is some legal action in play, misinformation coming from the university admin side, the list goes on). Jumping to thinking someone is underhanded and dishonest is an odd choice.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Also, if she was working for someone at the same University it seems like it should be pretty easy to get the full story from her previous boss. Then you can find out if they simply thought she wasn’t a good fit in that department or if there was something that should actually concern you.

          1. sundae funday*

            Well… it should be easy to get the “full story” from the previous boss’s perspective… which isn’t necessarily the full story! I was in academia long enough to learn that!

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          If anything, a job candidate ought to be wary of working for someone who is going to assume the worst of them all the time. “Oh, dearie me, Fergus didn’t mention this petty mistake he made years ago. I will be watching him like a hawk from now on! Can’t trust him! *clutches pearls”

      3. GreyjoyGardens*

        An interview is not a cross-examination. You don’t shoot yourself in the foot by pre-emptively bringing up negative things about you and your work history. Nobody is going to *volunteer* to make themselves look bad, and there’s no reason to expect they should.

      4. BluntBunny*

        Would you tell a prospective employer that you are interviewing elsewhere, that you were trying for a baby, that you have a chronic illness, your age and marital status?

        It’s common place for interviewees to not proactively share info that would hinder their application, it’s generally sensible to do.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I tried to post a comment before, and it appears to have completely disappeared for reasons unknown

      That probably means your comment went into moderation and it will show up later when it’s approved. Links, and certain keywords trigger moderation.

    3. Silly Janet*

      I am curious where you are seeing these studies about “most managers are unfit for their roles.”

      This issue makes me think of the opening scene in Emily the Criminal. When you are applying for a job, is it your duty to reveal things like a prior conviction or a firing (yes, I realize they are not the same things and the severity of a conviction can vary wildly). Technically it is not a lie if they don’t bring it up. But the hiring manager can very easily just ask why she was terminated. I do think I would say she was lying, but there may be an element of dishonesty to it.

      1. bamcheeks*

        When you are applying for a job, is it your duty to reveal things like a prior conviction or a firing

        UK job application forms nearly always have a “Please declare any unspent convictions” section and require you to sign to say you have answered honestly. Absent something like that, I would say, no, you do not have a duty to disclose anything.

        1. Gray Lady*

          It’s also pertinent that at the time of applying, she had not been fired. LW seems to think that she should have mentioned that she just got fired in an interview regardless of whether the issue ever came up, which, while information that LW might genuinely like to know and have a legitimate reason to want to know, is not something that she was ever legally or ethically obligated to reveal on her own initiative.

      2. CharlieBrown*

        There was a book in the 1970s called The Peter Principle that said basically, you rise to the level of your incompetence. In other words, as long as you do well, you get promoted, and when you get to a role that you’re not good at, you stop getting promoted. Rather than move you back down to a role you are good at (which would cause you and the people who promoted you to lose face) they just leave you at the level at which you are not performing well.

        Overall, the book makes a lot of generalizations, and IIRC, there was not a whole lot of research that went into, other than anecdotal. While there are a lot of bad managers out there, I would like to think that most of them care about doing a good a job and make an effort toward doing that.

        1. 2 cents*

          I need to go back and re-read The Peter Principle! Having just encountered our fourth truly awful manager in a row, a colleague of mine has just reminded me of this book, and how accurate it unfortunately often is.

          I hope that most managers care about doing a good job, too, but for every year that goes by, I believe this less and less. While I’ve had some fabulous managers, and know there are some great ones out there, a majority of managers probably shouldn’t have those types of roles, or should at least be subject to a lot more oversight from people who do deserve those types of roles. Just my two cents.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’m curious as to why you think it’s a candidate’s duty to disclose whether or not you’ve been fired or convicted of something in an interview. I know a number of people who’ve been fired or laid off for reasons that had nothing to do with their fitness for the job for which they are applying. Why disclose something like that when you have no idea how a hiring manager is going to be predisposed to view firings?

        There are some jurisdictions in the US (and I work in one) where we are not allowed application or interview questions that as about the candidate’s arrest record, pending charges, or convictions. My company can be fined $5,000 per incident if I include a question about criminal background on applications for employment or ask in the interview – it is specifically prohibited by our interviewing guidelines. I am actually supposed to cut a candidate from discussing criminal matters, if they offer them up in an interview.

    4. to varying degrees*

      You’re making a lot of assumptions here about the organization which do not reflect in the letter (what “studies”) and to brush most managers as bullies is unfair and pretty judgmental. We have no idea if the organization treated Mary poorly. She may have been crap at her previous job and should have gotten way sooner, she may have been horribly mistreated and may have grounds to sue them, we have no idea (my personal opinion is it’s probably somewhere in the middle – she wasn’t meeting expectations and they just wanted to pull the trigger during probie time rather than wait) and it’s not really helpful to the LW to start speculating.

      The LW just needs to ask Mary if it’s such a big problem for her, but otherwise I don’t think it’s that big of a deal (although weirdly I’d probably have said something but more because I figure they’d find out anyway and I’d rather have control of the initial narrative then after).

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think, given the timeline, the probation could have been failed in retaliation for the internal interview.

      I am getting the Scarlet F vibe, too, from LW#2.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Retaliation for the internal application, not interview.

        Coffee hadn’t made it to my fingers yet, apparently.

      2. sundae funday*

        This is what I’m thinking! It’s so easy to find an excuse to fire someone during their probationary period. What if they found out Alice was looking elsewhere and fired her? Not legal, of course, but they could find another “reason.”

  18. bamcheeks*

    I can sort of see the “joke filename change” if I squint sideways– “johns_stupid_joke_name.pdf” is a lot easier to identify immediately as the updated file and I can see someone getting into the habit of doing that as a weird and individualised form of version control.

    But changing the text INSIDE the document itself just seems egregious, and is making me wonder whether John’s got a different idea of the workflow from you and whether that’s something that’s worth clarifying with him directly or with your manager: “John quite often changes the text when I send it to him for the design and layout, and I’m baffled by this. Did my predecessor send him dummy text for the layout and then re-do it after the design work was done? Because I have been sending him final text, and the fact that he’s *introducing* changes and puns that I then have to catch– in work that I’ve already edited and am starting to become blind to! — is super stressful. Have I misunderstood the workflow? Should I only be sending him dummy text or Lorem Ipsum or something?”

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      Good advice.

      I enjoy playing with words as much as anyone I know, but there is a time and place for everything. This workplace needs clarity on the time and place John is allowed to play, so our correspondent doesn’t have to keep redoing her work.

    2. genderqueer reader*

      Tbh whether John is changing the filenames as his type of “version control” or not, the OP could fix this with a different workflow for these documents. Like instead of sending him the actual files, send him a Google doc he only has permission to comment on, or something.

    3. AllY'all*

      LW should definitely do this. She’s still new, it’s okay to ask questions like that, and the answer will most likely indicate one of three things: either (a) her predecessor did in fact give him dummy text and no one thought to tell her, (b) her boss doesn’t know he’s doing this and will put a stop to it, or (c) her boss doesn’t care and neither does anyone else. In the event that it’s (c), she’ll have to decide if she can live with not only this jerk but all the people who are weirdly convinced that he’s funny, all of whom are willing to make stupid, unnecessary work for her.

  19. bamcheeks*

    LW4, I’ve only just started to get into the darns/embroidery type of visible mend recently, but I’ve been sewing elbow patches onto cashmere cardigans and jumpers for a decade and wearing them in business casual offices– and no complaints yet! I’ve always done a lot of knitting and sewing and wear a lot of bright colours and patterns, so it all fits in with my broader style. I really can’t see it being an issue in the kind of environment where skull prints and bright colours are OK!

  20. SL*

    I am Mary except that i dont apply to my company’s subsidiaries. My boss hinted to me 2 months into probation that she will not pass me bc of “fit”, so ive just been applying and not mentioning the job at all on my resume. Then i got asked to resign 5.5 months in when my boss managed to find a replacement

  21. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    For LW2 – Why haven’t you asked the manager at your company why Mary failed her probationary period? I mean… that decision presumably didn’t come out of no where, and that manager should be fine with justifying it with you.

    I’m guessing that Mary may not even have failed it – she may have been entirely upfront with the manager there that she didn’t love the position, and wanted to be in a different part of the organization… and the manager then looked at the protections her level got when they finished up probationary work, and said “well, I’m going to let you go before those kick in, if you’re not enthusiastic about this position!” I have absolutely had that happen when I was due to obtain union employee status at an organization before – because the protections were such that union employees could only be fired for cause, and the at-will nature of my employment would have been less present after my probationary period ended, management took me saying “well, this isn’t my dream job, of course, but I don’t hate it” as a good reason to let me go before I hit I “made an internal transfer to warehouse, and left them looking for another body anyways” (spoiler alert – piece work in manufacturing probably isn’t anyone’s dream job, not matter how much they say it is. Especially not if you have a history of cutting corners on quality and safety.
    They just have to say that so unrealistic bullies will hire them). That sort of thing is bad management and vindictive, but… well, a lot of managers are that.

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (puns) I think I’d start responding to John taking those puns etc at face value as mistakes/weird things that have got into the document… So if I got back “snarky batman 3” or whatever I’d ask if that was the intended final version or if he intended to attach something different. For wording inside the document I might ask if he knows how that might have got there and ask if he makes any corrections to the text to let me know what he had to change, so I can also change it in my “master” copy.

    I’d be surprised if this is a “this company has different norms” situation, actually. I think the ‘powers that be’ more likely tolerate and encourage his humour thinking that the misheard instructions are the extent of it, but they don’t know that he is disrupting the workload and potentially sabotaging customer deliverables.

  23. Blarg*

    #5 — so that’s what I’m missing when I skip the ads?? That just seems like a gateway scam. “Oh we “found” this incorrect thing on your background check. Pay us more money to fix it before it causes you other problems.”

    1. SuzyQ*

      I used to deal with backgrounds at a previous employer and we had to run our own. I had people who tried to be proactive and hand me ones they had done and I couldn’t even accept them so they had just wasted their time and money.

  24. MurpMaureep*

    Given the time it takes to even screen resumes for some jobs in higher education*, as a hiring manager I assume things could have changed between application and interview. I’ve had candidates take whole other jobs before I have a chance to contact them. Given that this person was internal, I’d say it was on the manager to verify current employment status and then decide if she wanted to move forward. Heck, the candidate probably assumed, given the timing, that that had happened.

    *I am well aware this is dysfunctional and it doesn’t please me, but hiring is really slow at the institution where I work

    1. PinkCandyfloss*

      I started out wondering why HR hadn’t stepped in prior to the interview to let the interviewer know about the change in status of an internal candidate, but when I saw they are in academia, I threw any expectation about timely & effective HR communication out the window. The communication gap here should not rest squarely on the candidate. HR fell down on this one as well.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I got as far as academia and thought “yup, there it is”. Our HR was just on a different level of….something. When I had to make a four hour round trip during winter holiday break due to HR’s untimeliness, because otherwise I wasn’t going to get the promotion that we’d been fighting for for the better part of 6 months? Yeah. (My application on file was “expired”. It wasn’t expired when the promotion paperwork was submitted, I specifically asked.)

      2. MurpMaureep*

        Ah yes, I agree it’s also on the HR group to flag that an internal candidate for a position is no longer internal. But as others have said, trying to attribute rationale and logic to academic HR organizations is a recipe for one’s brain going kerplooie.

  25. CatLady*

    LW#3 – you might want to do a little CYA with your boss too. If I understood you correctly, one of those puns getting out might be detrimental to *your* reputation. Let your boss know that you are aware of his habit and that it’s causing you extra effort and anxiety because you are human and its possible you could miss it in the editing process but you will do your best to ensure that such things don’t make it out into the wild.

    Then, if it does happen, you are on record for having brought it to your manager’s attention.

  26. Emily*

    LW #1: If the answer is something like “Woman B is better at her job/we don’t want to lose her, but we’re less concerned about losing Woman A”, that’s not something it would be appropriate for management to tell other coworkers. And we don’t know what the actual people involved were told. I’m not convinced the messaging here was necessarily done poorly.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      I mean, they could have clarified for the employees what they meant by remote work because it seems that the remote work descriptor is being misapplied here by the OP and people actually in the office who are upset Woman B gets to be “remote” (when she actually isn’t – being located in a satellite office isn’t remote work). HR/CEO could have just said “no working from home after X date, no exceptions,” and then that would have shut this whole thing down before it began.

      1. Emily*

        If that’s the issue, and they’re going to commit to behaving like in that in the future, sure! But if that’s not the issue – which we don’t know – then they shouldn’t say that.

        1. AllY'all*

          An awful lot of employers have been absolutely committed to “No work from home ever, no exceptions” until they started losing employees and couldn’t replace them. That didn’t make them any less committed at the time. I think it’s better to clearly state what the policy is currently, then change it later if necessary and clearly communicate that policy as well, than to leave it ambiguous and risk this kind of dust-up.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Yes, yes, yes! Clearly stating your current policy does not preclude you from making updates to it as circumstances change. That’s pretty standard.

          2. Emily*

            My comment was “If the answer is something like “Woman B is better at her job/we don’t want to lose her, but we’re less concerned about losing Woman A”, they shouldn’t say this is actually due to the WFH policy. If this is actually due to the WFH policy, by all means say that. But if this is due to individual circumstances, you should not lie about that, and you should also not share in detail issues with individuals’ performance/how much you’d be ok with losing them.

      2. Quinalla*

        Yes, there is a big difference between a satellite office (what I used to be) and full time WFH/remote (what I am now). Is being in a satellite office the same as the main office? No, but it is also not at all the same as being full time WFH/remote. Though if you are the only person in a satellite office on your team, from your team’s perspective, it may not make much difference for sure. So I can understand why some folks are likely upset about this, but remote and satellite office are still very different and comparing the two situations seems odd to me too, because of what I said and because one would be WFH with no childcare, the other has childcare.

        I do think it would be nice for the employer to have some flexibility, I would have personally agreed to the arrangement provided employee could still get in full-time hours during their week, but not everyone can or will be accomodating.

  27. metadata minion*

    For #2, unless her resume has a bunch of other suspiciously short-term jobs on it, this seems like a situation where being fired doesn’t necessarily reflect particularly badly on her, and I can’t really fault her for not bringing it up at the interview. She was apparently job searching while still in her probationary period, and then was fired — to me this says there was something deeply wrong with the job. Maybe the job was misrepresented, maybe it was a stretch in job duties that she just completely couldn’t handle, maybe it was a terrible impossible-to-do-right work environment.

    1. Jan*

      Or maybe they fired her when they found she was job hunting, which happens a lot and something else which is more about them than Mary.

    2. kiki*

      Even if the job was just a bad fit, it shows that she’s self-aware. That alone isn’t a reason to hire her, but honestly, it’s easier to manage the person who realizes when they aren’t achieving what they need to rather than the person who thinks they’re killing it when they’re not even meeting expectations.

      People can be bad fits for jobs and good employees otherwise. Knowing somebody was fired is a data point and it can be informative, but getting fired shouldn’t be a kiss of death to a career. It’s worth looking into, but the impulse to not consider somebody who was fired is a mistake, imo.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Agree, but imo it’s reasonable to want more info from someone who was just fired in a probationary period by the same org she’s now applying to.

    3. rayray*

      I agree. I knew someone once that had a job where she and her boss agreed mutually that the particular position just wasn’t the best fit for her. It was nothing about her work ethic, intelligence, integrity, or anything. It was just a mismatch. She was let go on good terms. Technically it was a firing, but it wasn’t because she was awful in any way.

      I hate this idea that because you get fired once that you should be blacklisted from ever working again. Give people some grace, if you liked their resume and interview and feel good about them, give them a chance. Just because they had one job where things didn’t work out, doesn’t mean they need to be further punished by other people who had nothing to do with that situation.

      Like others have pointed out, there were probably other things going on if she was applying for other jobs before being fired and it was also such a short stint at this place. I just get the feeling Mary isn’t the problem.

      1. AllY'all*

        Agreed. I’ve had to fire three employees, and in every case, they were spectacularly bad at the specific job I hired them for, which is pretty specialized. Despite all the problems and issues, I still feel that in every case there’s going to be a job out there in which they’re a rockstar. It’s just not my open position, and I had to have someone who would be a rockstar in *that position.*

        I’ve also gone from a job for which I was completely, spectacularly unsuited to a job in the same organization for which I was very well suited and in which I gave an outstanding performance. Sometimes people just turn out not to be suited for something and it’s no one’s fault, but they have to leave that position so that someone who *is* suited to it can come into it.

  28. CheesePlease*

    OP#4 – I just bought myself a visible mending book! I’m so excited to add fun patches to my sweaters etc.

    My company is very much “jeans and a polo” variety of business casual, but I think a little embroidered sunflower or similar “quirky” mending would work fine.

  29. JustAnotherDirtbag*

    Background checks on yourself are more problematic than just a money scam! There are times when a background check will reveal info to YOU that could not be legally revealed to the company- the most common being criminal convictions. I’m not sure this would happen with a commercial check, but, as a public defender in NYC I can assure you that if you request a criminal record check on YOURSELF in nyc, or certificates of disposition for yourself, you may receive (if requested in certain ways) information on otherwise legally sealed cases(for example, cases that were ultimately dismissed or resulted in non criminal violations), that would not be legally accessible to a third party check. DONT DO THIS.
    (In nyc it would also likely implicate the ban the box laws if conducted pre-job offer).

  30. I should really pick a name*

    For #1

    Regardless of the cause, though, it sounds like they’ve mishandled the communication around the decision

    I don’t think they’ve mishandled the communication. The LW is the one conflating WFH with remote work from another office. For that matter, I don’t know how much the company needs to communicate about why any particular individual’s requests were granted or denied.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I don’t really see anything that was mishandled at all. And the two women’s situations aren’t comparable. Sitting in one office location and logging into the server at another location isn’t working remotely. She’s physically in the office.

      1. AllY'all*

        I work at a satellite office. Can confirm: having to get up an hour earlier, dress in business casual, commute in, and sit in an office for eight hours a day is in no way the same as working from home.

  31. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 – it was standard practice at one of my jobs to deliberately include Easter eggs in the almost-final version of a proposal for the ‘red team’ review, as a way to ensure that they read the entire thing (and for the people writing the proposal to blow off steam after pulling >60-hour weeks). But those were deliberate, and there was supposed to be a list of them tucked away in the proposal manager’s file. These were very dry, technical proposals to the government, up to 3000 pages long.

    I remember one time we had capsule bios for the half-dozen most senior members of the management team, with a few bullet points for each person, under a headshot photo. One of them had bullet points that read:
    * 25 years experience in Pentagon program management
    * One of the initial developers of the XYZ Command & Control system
    * Bears a striking resemblance to Walter Matthau

    That particular Easter egg didn’t get immediately removed, and we only found it about 24 hours before the whole thing was going to be delivered to the Pentagon!

    1. bamcheeks*

      This kind of thing is why I suggested approaching it as if it’s a process/workflow issue. I’ve known of offices where things like this were encouraged as part of their quality control or data management, but it obviously requires everyone to be on board with it!

  32. Lily Potter*

    LW1 – take out all references to children, child care, and whether a remote office=working remotely. What the LW is asking, at its core, is whether two employees of equal status in title/longevity/duties can be treated differently with respect to work from home arrangements. The answer, of course, is yes. Perfectly legal for management to allow some to WFH while requiring others to be butt-in-seat. And they are under no obligation to explain their decision – and if they’re smart, they won’t. After all, saying “We’re allowing Mary to WFH because we value her more” really doesn’t serve anyone.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      whether a remote office=working remotely.

      Yeah, but you can’t really take this piece out of the equation completely here because one of these employees isn’t actually working from home, so there’s no actual difference in treatment here.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yes. Mary is NOT working from home. She’s working from an office in another state. You can argue whether or not working from another office within your company from the rest of your team members constitutes “working remotely”, but Mary is complying with the CEO’s demand that she work in-office.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Absolutely agree. The LW incorrectly stated and Lily Potter perpetuates the idea that two employees asked for the same thing and are being treated differently. They asked for very different things.

        – WFH 2-3 days a week to also care for her child while waiting for the child care issue to resolve.
        – Work from an office 5 days a week while someone else cares for her children.

        In this case, in this company, the boss want 100% in-person. WFH is not in-person. Working from an office is meeting the requirement to be in-person. The boss doesn’t care about virtual teams, but he doesn’t want people working from home.

        To be fair to the boss, working from home while providing childcare for an infant is not going to be easy and the company won’t likely get a full day of work from the employee. Childcare has to be the priority over work because when the child needs food, diaper change, and comforting that will need to come before work and interupt meetings.

    2. AllY'all*

      Your comment is basically saying “When you take out everything that makes the situations completely different, they’re the same, and here’s my opinion on the legalities of what is now a totally different case.”

      I don’t know how helpful that actually is, with respect to legalities or anything else.

      1. Lily Potter*

        Okay, I’ll be more blunt. This has nothing to do with confusing WFH with work from remote corporate office location and everything to do with personalities.

        The people in the office think that mom-of-triplets is getting away with something. Whether she’s working from her sofa or from another corporate location isn’t the point – they’re thinking that she’s getting special treatment by being “allowed” to not have to work in the office with the rest of the team. They don’t like her getting to do something that’s not available to everyone. They’re wondering if it’s legal to give her that special treatment. Of course, it is.

        Complete speculation here but I’m wondering if mom-of-one is a beloved figure in the office that everyone is rallying around. Mom-of-triplets might be generally less loved, or as others have wondered, already used up a lot of office goodwill by being out on bedrest prior to delivery. OR it could be that working in that office is awful and mom-of-triplets getting to work in a different office location is something that’s seen as desirable. Could be a million things……

  33. Laughie*

    #3 …. I think playing dumb is a great excuse, if you could get away with it and letting something go wouldn’t cause a huge problem.

    At one of my first jobs, a slightly older/been there longer employee liked to tease me for being ‘too innocent’ and ‘naïve’?? I was 23 and she was in her early 30s and she liked to put in off color jokes, tongue in cheek comments, etc. into documents to see if I noticed or said anything. They were usually slightly sexual in nature and it was very funny to her. The fact that we worked for a *school* didn’t seem to bother her.

    We did alumni profiles for one year’s annual report and the final proof copy (one last look before it went to print), I left in the fact that she put “Fudge Packer” as some guy’s job. I knew what she was saying but figured it was easy enough to 1) play dumb about the meaning and then 2) ask why it was funny to imply or say someone was gay like that was a bad? thing …

    Considering our boss, the head of the school, and the head of marketing all saw it, the “jokes” stopped immediately. I was completely innocent since I was “just 23” and didn’t write it LOL

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I agree completely. LW3 should pick one to let go by her, and let the client dish out the fallout. Perhaps everyone else in the office will think it’s less funny then.

    2. Observer*

      Goodness. That’s a great story – and one you should use with your boss OP, if you talk to them.

      Here is the thing – I’m not 23 and haven’t been for a LONG time. I don’t think that I am either “innocent” or “naive”. But I did NOT know what this term means. Which is to say I could have allowed it to slip through with no intention of creating a mess.

      What I imagine might have happened in my case would be that I realized that this is not likely to be a real job but someone’s “sense of humor”, but it slips because I don’t have the time right now to find that person’s ACTUAL job, and then I forget about it because it’s not that big of a deal. Doing stuff that requires people to have the exact same set of cultural references 100% of the time in order to not cause damage is a very dangerous thing.

  34. kiki*

    The background check ads are 100% trying to boost sales by selling something nobody needs. Most people pass background checks! Like, upwards of 80%. Knowing that somebody will be able to pass one in advance of interviewing them isn’t a tremendous benefit for most companies. Additionally, most companies aren’t going to skip their own background check just because you’ve done one on yourself, so they don’t even save money. And even if a company did skip their own– background checks are not *that* expensive. If a company is making a hiring decision because they’ll save $40 once… that’s not a company making good decisions.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I worked at a place that would make decisions that way. They…. did not make good decisions.

    2. MapleHill*

      #5, yes people, please don’t waste your money on this. If a place runs and actually cares about the background check, one that the candidate provides will not be acceptable. They’ll still run their own on you. And as someone else said, this is probably a way to get you to pay more to try to get something off your record (which may not even work).

      Also, backgrounds aren’t “pass/fail” at all companies. I regularly review the background results and a conviction doesn’t mean we won’t hire someone. We take various factors into consideration from candidate disclosure, recurring patterns, how long ago it was, what the conviction was and the job itself (some jobs have access to people’s homes & identifying information). So you might think that you can’t “pass” a background check if you do it yourself and not apply to a job because of that, whereas we may not consider it a deterrent.

    3. BuffaloSauce*

      Also if you are really worried, most states post their court dockets online. If you have lived in the same county (or even counties) you can search your name and see if appears in any of the court dockets. I realize this may not account for absolutely everything, but you can always check to soothe any anxieties you may have,

  35. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’m not sure how old this letter is. if the dates are from 2022, that means Mary applied on 10/15 (Saturday). A termination letter was dated 10/28 (Friday), and she was interviewed 11/6 (Sunday?). It seems odd to me the first interview at a university would be on a Sunday. It also seems to me that if the interview happened on 11/6, she may not have received the termination letter yet. Suppose it was dated 10/28 but not mailed til 10/31 (Monday), it legitimately may not have made its way to her yet. but that also assumes the mail actually goes out on the day a letter is written; if it sat in an outbox or takes a little time to get from the mail room to the postal service, that may cause even more delay. And while she may know she was terminated, she might not have. [Note: I deal frequently with a governmental agency that regularly sits on letters for a week or more before mailing them, which is deeply frustrating]

    I guess my point is more that while Mary may have omitted this information, she also might not have. How LW deals with this is up to her, I suppose.

  36. TX_Trucker*

    On #5, the only time it “might” make sense to mention a background check, if it’s a military one.
    Those could take 2-6 months, depending on the level of clearance. An applicant with a current military clearance is a much more attractive candidate that one that may take months to clear.
    But for a regular criminal background check, I agree with Alison that a company is just trying to make money off you.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      But you can’t pay for one of those yourself, so that’s not relevant to these ads. Only a company/government entity can request a security clearance/check. My hubby’s Secret clearance with a former employer expired after 2 years, and he can’t just go get another one.

  37. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    I’m a ‘seated’ government contractor, which means I work on site at the government office. I am a ‘remote worker’ for my parent company. Years ago, I was an ‘unseated’ contractor, which meant that I worked at the contracting company site and was a ‘remote worker’ to the government team. The difference I see between ‘remote work’ at another office and ‘remote work’ at home is that in the office setting there is still the oversight that everyone else at the main site has. Woman B will likely get some sort of ‘manager’ at the remote site that is responsible for her personnel management type of things such as attendance, dress code, and other managerial tasks that don’t require knowledge about the actual work she is doing. The government office expects that the management team at the remote site is managing their employees appropriately to get work done. For both instances, I had government managers that are responsible for my technical work, and contractor company managers that are responsible for my personnel stuff.

    Note, I’m not saying that this should be the way things are handled, I’m just saying that there is supposed to be a difference between being in a building with a supervisor and being at home. Therefore, the request from Woman A is not commensurate with the request from Woman B. I’m leaning towards what Heather said above, that Woman A is much more popular amongst the LW and the staff than Woman B. Or there is some perception that Woman B has received more management favor, therefore any request approved for Woman B would have been considered unfair by LW and their group.

  38. Jane*

    LW #1 this is how I convinced my employer to let me move out of the city where the headquarters office is located and that I ended up hating. Our CEO is notoriously anti-work from home so I committed to moving to a city where there is a regional office and go into the office there instead. I saw that they routinely denied people’s move requests when they’re framed as work from home, so I developed a plan that would be more reasonable (to them – I’m doing the same work no matter where I am) so they’d be more likely to say yes.

    1. Dragon*

      One might need to be committed to the new city. A past employer was a big firm with multiple offices, two of which were in say, New York City and Newark NJ.

      Requests to transfer from other offices to Newark were reviewed very carefully, because some employees tried to use Newark as a steppingstone to The Big Apple where they really wanted to be.

  39. Somehow_I_Manage*

    LW2 – there’s really no need to speculate. If you feel that the circumstances of their departure would make you re-evaluate your decision, then find out what they were. Go through the proper channels and request feedback on why they were terminated and whether it would affect their prospects working for you.

    But in the grander scheme, no, the applicant did not deceive you. All signs point to them assuming you had this information already. It would be silly, bordering on clueless, for them to assume you’d never find out.

  40. EMP*

    OP #4, I think visible mending of the type that’s being popularized is often seen as creative and artsy, and if you’re in a creatively business casual environment, unlikely to offend. Totally agree with Allison here!

  41. Observer*

    #1 It seems like they accommodated one person and not another despite the fact that their situations are the same

    There are some fundamental things that you are overlooking here.

    Firstly, there is no legal requirement that you treat people the same. As long as the differences in treatment are not due to illegal reasons, you can treat people as differently as you please.

    Even from an ethical point of view, treating people the same is not always necessary. People need to be treated FAIRLY and EQUITABLY. But that doesn’t mean “the same”. For example, even if ADA weren’t at play, would it be more ethical to treat everyone the same by insisting that they all have the exact same equipment even though someone really needs a bigger screen or is if more ethical to provide “different” equipment to the person who needs a bigger screen?

    In this case, that’s not even the issue, though. Their situations are NOT the same at all, as they are asking for two TOTALLY different things. One person is asking to *work at home* – and they don’t have childcare for the time they are at home. The other person is asking to *work in the office just at a different site. There is simply no comparison, legally or ethically.

  42. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I think there are some factors that people may not be thinking about re the new mom in letter 1. First, there are a lot of assumptions that she has NO childcare because otherwise, why work from home. (I wonder if the people at the Dad’s work are thinking the same about his WFH request?) When I was the mom of a young child, my commute was 45 minutes each way. Now it’s an hour, so that would be 7.5 – 10 hours a week solved. If she’s cobbling together babysitters, grandparents, etc, that time helps. Also, some jobs are flexible as to when they get done–I have worked evenings after returning from work, weekends, longer hours on days when Dad had childcare responsibility, and I know other moms who did the same, and this was before WFH was a common things (early 2000s).

    1. Observer*

      None of that is really relevant. It’s not so likely that the scenario you paint is what’s going on, but even if that were the case, it’s STILL not relevant.

      Either the Mom doesn’t have childcare, or the company is doubtful. In either case the issue of childcare is a perfectly legitimate differentiating factor. Beyond that, even if there were no babies in the picture, how does it make any sense to claim that working from the office, albeit in a remote office, is the same as working from home? If it were the same people would not be yelling about it.

      As for your question about the husband’s WFH request, I can’t make heads or tails what that is about. We have no indication that he made a request. We also have no idea what the WFH situation is with the husband. But I would be willing to bet that this employer would be at least as inflexible with a father as with a mother.

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Well there has to be some sort of childcare issue, because “she asked to work from home two or three days a week because of a problem with childcare.”

      And if your question is if a father asked for the same accommodation, to work from home two or three days a week because of a problem with childcare, I would still assume the same thing, that he was going to be home with the baby during those times.

      If it is solely a drop off/pickup issue or the in-house sitter can only stay until 5pm, I would recommend to people to be more specific that’s what the issue is when requesting. Perhaps she could have asked to be allowed to arrive late or leave early and make up whatever hours she misses at home (I had a coworker that did something similar, she did drop off and came in late, husband did pickup and left his work early). The way that this letter is formatted, you could surmise that the employee has no childcare at the moment and would be ‘teleworking’ with a baby that needs constant supervision.

      However, LW seems less focused on whether or not the employer is inflexible, they are upset because they perceive Woman B to be getting what Woman A requested, and she’s not. It’s two very different requests. Woman B sounds like she clearly conveyed the problem statement and her requested resolution to the employer in a way that was palatable to the employer while Woman A did not.

  43. Texan In Exile*

    “He’ll also sneak “puns” into file names — so a PDF named Marketing_batch_3 might come back as snarky_batman_3”

    He’s changing FILE NAMES? Who does that? The entire point of the name is so people can find the file.

    I had a boss who did not understand the concept of shared drives and tracked revisions. I would send him the financial reports to review – file name something like “BOD financial report Dec 2022” and stored in the “Board of Directors/Financial reports/2022” file on the shared drive.

    He would save it to his hard drive, review it, then return it to me renamed “010323BODFinRep.”

    I had already given up on his saving the file to its original location, but I did ask him why he named the file like that.

    He told me that was the date that he had reviewed the file.

    I tried to explain that that date was not useful to anyone but him, but I finally gave up and would rename the file and save it to the shared drive.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Agree! There are teams that do version tracking by putting the date in the name, but you still have to stick to the convention of the person who gave you the file to review (and if you put the date, for the love of all that is holy, do some version of year-month-day so that it will sort right).

      I once had a boss who broke hundreds of links to the shared drive in one fell swoop. He renamed the R&D shared folder from “Research” to “RD”. No reason except for liking it better. Most of our Matlab routines and whatnot used absolute links, so that they would run anywhere. Same for reports. All broken. He wouldn’t let us change it back.

  44. Zarniwoop*

    Return inconvenience to sender.
    “John, the new entries are funny but the document can’t go out that way. Please send me a clean copy too.”
    If it doesn’t work, repeat cc’ing boss.

    1. Zarniwoop*

      I think two issues are being conflated.
      1). You think his attempts at humor are tiresome rather than funny. I might well agree, but it sounds like some of your coworkers are amused. This is a difference in taste and therefore not subject to persuasion. The best you can do is be an unrewarding audience so he makes his jokes with others.

      2). Putting jokes in work documents so you have to spend time removing them. This would be a problem even if they were hilarious.

      1. danmei kid*

        #2 is the bigger issue, I agree. In a productivity minded world, creating unnecessary work steps for others is neither funny nor efficient.

  45. Starfox*

    OP3, if you have the patience for it you could probably drive this guy insane by “not getting” his joke. Email him back like
    “oh you seem to have sent me the wrong file, I need customer_edits3”
    “No no SnarkyBatman is the right one lol.” “Sorry all that’s attached is something about Batman, can you send me cutomer_edits3?”
    “SnarkyBatman is the right file :D”
    “All I have is SnarkyBatman, I need customer_edits3.”

    Sometimes with people who have to be The Funny One, being extremely unfunny will annoy them until they leave you alone.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This would be my route. Just blank “no I need customer_edits3” until he gave in. And if it came close to a deadline, I’d cc in my manager and say “I’ve been trying to get customer_edits3 from John, but he keeps accidentally attaching a file about Batman, if he can’t send the right file we may be late on X”.

      1. MurpMaureep*

        This would also be a perfect opportunity to force a higher up to explain why this time wasting nonsense is acceptable.

        I’d love to eavesdrop on the conversation about “wait, so you are condoning renaming files to nonsensical pop culture references while I’m trying to get work out to our customer? How very odd…”

    2. rayray*

      This is exactly what will drive those type of people crazy. The types who think they’re super cute and hilarious really, really don’t like it when their jokes don’t land.

  46. Yes, I'm a Triplet Mom*

    Well, I mean if we want to talk fairness here, how about Triplet Mom get 3x the standard maternity leave? That’s what she’d get if she had singletons — she’s actually getting less benefits per baby.

    It’s also worth noting that triplets are not allowed to go past 35 weeks due to a high chance of infant mortality past that gestation, so best case scenario, you have 5-week premature babies. It’s possible/likely that Triplet Mom had to move to be near family because her medical team advised her not to put her premie triplets with low immune systems in daycare.

    1. I Was A Preemie*

      I was wondering about this as well. I do not want to derail with “which mom had it harder?” comparisons, but it struck me as unkind of the office to, essentially, pit two new moms against one another. Especially when one of them had what is, by definition, a high risk pregnancy and had to relocate to create a support network for herself and her kids.

      It’s also not up to coworkers to arbitrate or speculate about who needs what time off where and when. In any situation. That’s not a good path to go down.

  47. HNY*

    Working with people not in your physical location when you are in the office is a red herring. That does not make you a remote worker. That said, the first situation could have been accommodated just for goodwill. No need to be so inflexible.

  48. theletter*

    Getting a continuous message that I’m not speaking loud enough or mumbling tends to hit me right in the self-esteem. Punny John would quickly find me yelling at him to get his ears checked.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      I have both speech and hearing issues. I can’t always speak clearly, I often speak too softly (and then TOO LOUD or TOO EMPHATIC) if I try to speak up, and I have difficulty understanding speech over background noise. (It’s a coding issue, not a hearing loss issue, so hearing aids would make it worse.) John would be hitting all those weaknesses and I’d want to look for a new job if I had to deal with that every day.

  49. NNT*

    For OP3- I don’t think this needs to be overly complicated. Just ask him to stop. How you ask is important- the tone you want to strike is friendly, casual, and non-judgmental. Is it sometimes annoying to have to wordsmith your responses this way? Sure. But people are gonna people, and acting like you are the One True Arbiter of Professionalism is just going to make him defensive. Your object here isn’t to turn him into a less-obnoxious/more professional person- your object is simply to ask him to do you a favor and stop doing a thing that makes your work harder. Just say, in a casual tone, “hey John, I love puns as much as the next person, but can you do me a favor and not change the text of our stuff together? I’m super nervous I’m going to accidently forward it along.” At this point, most people would agree to stop. Maybe he’ll do it again, at which point I would say, again in a casual/non-judgmental tone, “c’mon, john, we talked about this!”

    John sounds exhausting, but his primary objective here probably isn’t to annoy you. Start off by assuming good faith, and you can probably get him to stop.

    I sometimes think that when people are being super annoying, in our pique we stop assuming good faith in them; that judgment seeps into our communications with them, and ironically creates the very behavior we don’t want. Just approach him with non-judmental friendlinesss and the underlying belief that he is a reasonable person, and ask for what you want. It doesn’t work every time, but it works more often than people give it credit for.

  50. Pikachu*

    #3 – If I were a client of said marketing firm and found out my billable hours were being wasted on nonsense like renaming files for one designer’s entertainment, I’d be LIVID.

    1. Elm*

      I worked at a firm that told me to bill every time I so much as thought about a client, and I was SO uncomfortable. But, they also told me I couldn’t have “personal hours” (e.g., checking emails, *being in meetings,* etc.) go above 1.5 per day, so I had to bill everything…

      Needless to say, I got out of there as fast as I can. These weren’t all multibillion-dollar corporations. Some were mom-and-pop startups, and they deserved better.

  51. Elm*

    When I was hired at my current job, it was still unclear why I was let go from my previous one. I even had both “position eliminated” and “performance” on my reason for termination–they refused to tell me which OR to tell me what the alleged performance issues were! The EEOC eventually had to get involved. It was a whole mess. And that last part? Even scarier to have to admit if that came up during hiring. “Oh, I got fired, so I went after them with the government?” I know some bosses would be fine with it, but others would see red flags.

    So, when they asked me why I was leaving, I literally didn’t know what to say. So, I said the closest thing to the truth: My position was eliminated, and we agreed it wasn’t a good culture fit for me to end up in a different spot if one had been available.

    I almost got fired from another job for having pneumonia. Not working while sick and potentially risking others. For being unable to walk and talk simultaneously and, therefore, needing to stop walking to talk. This wasn’t a go-go-go job, but this was unacceptable to the boss. If it wasn’t a union position…

    If I had been interviewing elsewhere, I wouldn’t have known what to say if they asked why I was terminated and then dug deeper into the question. I was terminated based on falsified documents, not falsified by me, and I can prove it? I was terminated because they terminate that position every six months to not have to pay freelancers? I was terminated because the boss actively disliked women and people with disabilities and wasn’t shy about it? You can’t talk smack on previous bosses, but you also can’t defend yourself!

    I’m not sure what the best way is to find out the information needed, as people who are truly terrible to work with shouldn’t constantly be given chances by new companies. But there has to be a better way to address the termination issue than expecting them to bring it up or asking in a way that could put them in a bad spot.

  52. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW2: I don’t think that job candidates have any kind of “duty to disclose,” unless they are filling out an actual legal document (which is what an application is). So no, Mary didn’t lie by omission. She just didn’t bring up the subject because you didn’t ask.

    Besides, if Mary was fired after her interview with you she would not have known.

    If you want to ask her specifically about that, then ask. If you want to hire someone else, then do. But since job applicants, unlike, say, car manufacturers, have no duty to disclose, no lies or ethical breaches happened. Mary just presented herself in the best light (if she knew beforehand).

  53. MurpMaureep*

    Years ago I was the employee who was “treated differently”, aka “better”.

    One of my coworkers with a similar (but slightly lower) job title and similar responsibilities as I was placed on a PIP for a number of reasons including chronic problems getting to work on time/staying for a full work day.

    A requirement of the PIP was that she check in with our boss when she got to the office. She pitched a fit with HR because I was not required to do this and she claimed it wasn’t legal and she was being treated unfairly. HR explained that there was no requirement to treat us “the same” because we were not, in fact “the same”.

    If you wonder how I know this, it’s because she was also clueless enough to complain to me about her “unfair” treatment…when I was the one being forced to pick up all her slack and work extra while she was working 5-6 hour days and calling in sick when she had a deadline.

    All this is to say sometimes people are, in fact, treated differently, given different accommodations, etc. and many times it’s justified (or at the very least not against the law).

  54. Lizzianna*

    For #1, how would the company get ahead of that?

    It would be weird to talk about Employee A or Employee B’s request with other employees unprompted. And even if directly asked, there’s only so much it’s appropriate to share – I’m a manager and I feel like if an employee shares something like childcare concerns, that’s private info and not mine to share. So I’d just end up repeating company policy and hoping people read between the lines. Which may help provide some context, but not if employees are already upset about the policy itself and convinced it’s being applied unfairly, and/or Employee A is sharing her version of events, which may or may not line up with what I actually told her.

    1. surprisedcannuk*

      Why do you need to get ahead of it. They asked for completly different things. If a coworker ask for a free bus pass and I ask for a free parking pass. They get the bus pass and reject my request is that unfair? It’s not an apples to apples situation.

      1. Lizzianna*

        I was reacting to Alison’s last paragraph:

        “Regardless of the cause, though, it sounds like they’ve mishandled the communication around the decision. They might have avoided the reaction they’re getting now if they’d done a better job of explaining their reasons for each decision.”

        Maybe I’m just grumpy and cynical, but I’ve worked with people who, no matter how well I explain my rationale, will hear what they want to hear, and share their experience with their colleagues in a way that paints them in the best possible light. Not so much that I can call what they’re doing lying, because that would almost be easier to address, but spinning it in a way that I have a hard time correcting the record absent sharing info that’s either not mine to share, or would make me look petty for wading into it.

        I guess I feel like I have to spend a lot of time telling employees “trust me, I can’t share all the details but I promise I took all the info into consideration and made a fair decision that’s consistent with our company’s policy.” Fortunately, with most of my team, I’ve built a level of trust that when I tell them I can’t tell them something, I do get the benefit of the doubt. But I am still stuck with one or two people who just aren’t going to be happy about certain decisions and are going to stir the pot when they’re told no.

      2. Lizzianna*

        I mean, the fact that the wife of these women’s coworker is writing in tells you how much this is churning through the rumor mill. Obviously HR isn’t going to reach out to coworker’s wife. So how should the company have communicated differently? Who should they have communicated to? How do we know they didn’t communicate this all to Employee A and she’s just mad that she didn’t like what she heard?

  55. Rosa Rosa Rosa Diaz Diaz Diaz*

    Oh my god, John sounds infuriating.

    I’d be curious about whose fault it is if and when a pun or mistake or unclear font or whatever creeps into a client’s project. If someone kept making errors by accident, wouldn’t the LW have standing to say something, despite being new?

    Basically LW is expected to be responsible for undoing John’s poor work (that’s what it is).

    Is it worth even politely raising it with your manager to confirm that this is indeed part of your role? Describing it factually, out loud, making eye contact, in a calm, warm tone, and forcing the manager to look you in the eye and say “yes that’s correct, your job is to redo John’s deliberate mistakes, that’s how I want you spending your time,” might just prompt them to hear themselves and reconsider.

    Also, I bet you’re not the only person who finds this annoying. Are you the only one who has to correct his work? Get to know your coworkers and I bet with time you’ll find out there’s others who feel the same way. You can deal with it together.

  56. Quickbeam*

    Re#1…..pre-Covid I was denied any flexibility to work from home, ever. 3 of my colleagues in the same job were allowed to WFH 2-3 days a week. When I confronted this I was told “well, they have children or grandchildren and we are a family friendly company”.

    So there you have it. When the pandemic hit we all WFH and I was able to retire before being forced to return to the office. So I kind of won.

  57. AsterRoc*

    Regarding LW #3, if the “naughty puns” are sexual, gendered, about race, disability, or national origin, note that they may fall afoul of workplace discrimination laws.

    My work one year brought a comedian for a company-wide meeting who had a bunch of sexist jokes, and then even the EO officer thought they were hilarious. I submitted anonymous feedback that sexist jokes in a mandatory meeting are a liability for the company. We haven’t had a sexist comedian since.

  58. 1234*

    There’s a lot I could say about LW2’s letter, but what I will say is this. I have never been able to work out why people often automatically assume that the manager, and/or employer, are in the right, and the workers are in the wrong.

    Mary may have been fired to genuinely poor performance, but having worked in higher ed, and with people with similar attitudes to LW2, I doubt it.

    I had a manger falsely claim for years that he fired me, and I’ve had a couple of managers try to fire me based on falsified claims of poor performance. All of these managers who were not only bullies, but also incompetent and either trying to deflect attention away from their own problems by throwing people they thought were easy targets under the bus, or trying to get rid of people they thought threatened their status quo. And not only would they never admit the actual truth, they also held all the power, and often had the protection of senior management.

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