I caught my employee in a compromising position in the parking lot, employer only gives raises for promotions months later, and more

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

1. I caught my employee in a compromising position in the parking lot

One of my employees was seen in her boyfriend’s car in our workplace parking lot, supposedly having sex. When I went out to the car (because she was already late clocking in), her boyfriend was fully clothed but appeared to be using his hand to pleasure her. At that point I did not walk any closer because that was a visual I did not want. I yelled at them that she needed to come to the office immediately. I was going to write her up and send her home but now corporate office is saying no because she was in a personal vehicle and no one actually saw fully what was happening. Can I write her up and send her home or is corporate correct about harassment on my part if I do?

Everyone is wrong in different ways here. First, obviously, your employee shouldn’t be in sexual situations in the workplace parking lot! But the impulse to write her up and send her home is weird (what does sending her home achieve?). You can just have a clear conversation where you say, “That was a real error in judgment; you can’t do that on company property, and anyone who walked by would have been exposed to that against their will. It can’t happen again.”

The other thing is, if someone is late coming into work don’t go outside to track them down, let alone yell at them for not being out of their car yet. There are all kinds of things your employee could have been doing in her car that would have made that inappropriate on your side — having an emergency phone call with a doctor or her kid’s school, trying to fight off nausea to see if she was well enough to come in, etc. It turned out none of those things were the case  — but the impulse to go out to her car when she was late isn’t a good one. If someone’s late, you’ll address the lateness if you need to … but you don’t get to track people down before they’re even at work. And yelling is never okay unless there’s a fire or other imminent danger you’re warning them about. I realize none of this is the point of your question, but there’s a lot revealed here that’s worth reflecting on!

As for what to do from here, your corporate office is telling you to leave it alone, so leave it alone. Frankly, being yelled at by her boss while she was in an intimate situation with her boyfriend in the work parking lot is probably sufficient delivery of the message you want to send anyway, and I doubt you’re going to lose much by not taking further action.

2. Employer only gives raises for promotions during their annual compensation review … the following year

I just came away from a company meeting where they announced how raises will be handled when you get a promotion. I’ve never heard of this before. In order to keep to budget if you get a promotion mid-year, the company won’t give you a raise until the following year during the annual compensation review. I’m honestly pretty baffled by it, but I wanted to know if this is more common than I think. The way they framed it was “some companies do this and that’s how we do it.”

Personally, I think I’d just turn down a promotion (more work, same pay) unless it was being offered around the time the company was giving merit increases anyway. And presumably if they hired outside the company they’d be paying the fair market rate for the position.

It’s true that some companies do this: bad ones. Because this is really a crap policy. It means you’ll be doing higher-level work without appropriate compensation for, what, up to a year? And it means that to accept a promotion, you have to give up all your negotiating power — you have to accept the job without knowing what it’s going to pay (!), and when they do finally offer you a raise, you’ll lack the leverage you normally have before you’ve accepted a position. What if you can’t come to terms on salary at that point? Your only choice would be to quit (and meanwhile, you’re stuck working at subpar wages).

And yep, as you pointed out, when they hire external candidates, they’re not telling them they won’t know their salary until a compensation review the following year. They’re setting appropriate salaries for external candidates to get them to accept the job initially, and they can do the same thing for internal candidates too. They just see a way to take advantage of you, and they’re using it.

3. Am I responding too fast to emails (especially when saying no)?

I know you’ve answered “do I respond to emails too quickly?” but the letter writer in that case was responding in ~1 hour. If I don’t think about it and consciously delay sending a message, I’ll often message back within ~2-3 minutes.

I have a heavily organized email system, so any emails in my inbox are essentially a to-do list and I prefer not to have them sitting around, plus I have ADHD so anything left for too long is in real danger of being forgotten. My work is very responsive, and I am speedy across the board, so I often am just waiting for an email so I’ll have something to do. It’s also pretty easy to come up with responses (think: “here’s that PDF” or “no, I can’t get you that book, it’s only held by the National Library of Slovenia”) so it’s not like I need to put in deep thought before responding.

I get great feedback from the people I can help, and am often thanked for my quick response. But I worry I’m coming off the wrong way to the people who I have to say no to, like I haven’t put enough effort into helping them. I genuinely have! The book would just still only be in Slovenia whether I looked for two minutes or two hours.

Is there a way to balance making them feel like their request was heard with my natural quickness, while also ensuring that nothing falls through ADHD related cracks? I know I can schedule emails but that feels disingenuous, and like it would make communication unnecessarily slow. But maybe that’s the solution!

I don’t think it’s disingenuous to schedule emails! If your sense is that a quick response will make someone feel you only put in minimal effort, schedule it for an hour later; I do that all the time. But also, be realistic about when that’s really necessary. For example, “no, I can’t get you that book, it’s only held by the National Library of Slovenia” should be fine coming within a few minutes (given the realities of that particular answer) … as opposed to a question that obviously required deeper research/deeper thought that would have been impossible in the few minutes you gave it. (Caveat: if you’re dealing with people who will think their questions are in the latter category even when they’re not, those are good candidates for scheduling the response.)

Also, when you’re sending a really quick response, making a point of warming it up (like some of the suggestions here), that can help mitigate any sense on the other side of “did she even read this?”

And last, don’t discount the people who will really appreciate your quick responses! There are lots of us (we might even be the majority).

4. My boss keeps scheduling meetings for the time when I’m supposed to leave

I have a new manager (new to me, not the company — I was assigned to her during a reorg earlier this year) who keeps scheduling meetings after my workday. Granted, I work early — 7:30 to 3:30 — but I do that 1) because my company allows flextime and 2) so I can catch the train home and pick up my kids. I have told her my situation, and my calendar is up to date, noting that I leave at 3:30, and she has yet again scheduled a daily “wrap-up” meeting for 3:30. I don’t want to seem like I’m not dedicated to my work, but this is after my work day. I could probably take comp time for the meeting, but the issue is that I need my schedule to be like this so the rest of my life works — I don’t want comp time! How do I tell her? Or do I just keep declining these meetings?

There’s a good chance there’s no message here — that she’s just forgetting the individual details of everyone’s schedule (especially if you have a large team) rather than implying you should stay late on those days. But when something like keeps happening, it’s better to address it head-on. So talk to her! Say something like, “I know we’ve talked about my schedule being 7:30 to 3:30. I’ve noticed you’ll sometimes send me invites for meetings starting at 3:30, when I need to leave. I know you’re probably just not remembering my exact schedule, but I wanted to double-check with you to make sure I should just decline and propose an alternate time when that happens?” If there’s some larger issue, that’ll prompt her to address it (and if there is, better to get it out in the open at that point anyway).

5. Should I tell my boss I want his job?

I love my job and I love my boss. I’m in the middle-end of my career and, after a long time working in the private sector in a very competitive industry, I’ve landed in a very low stress, yet well-paid job helping people and the environment. I’ve been here a little over a year. My coworkers all do things in my area of interest as well, so I get to help out with a variety of things in addition to my specialized program. I do want to continue to advance, but outside of our really cool group I’d be right back into the higher stress area that I left, which is really unappealing.

My boss recently asked what I’d like to be doing in three years, and ideally he’ll get promoted and I’ll move in to his spot. I’m well positioned to do it in terms of my experience, areas of expertise, and relationships with my coworkers. Should I say something like that? If so, how do I say it without sounding like I’m gunning for his job? I’m very happy where I am, and would love to retire from here in 10-15 years. Knowing myself, if I don’t advance I’ll get bored (and look for higher pay) and leave after 5ish years.

I’d say it this way: “I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now, but eventually I’d love to be in a role like yours.” The first part says “not immediately gunning for your job” but the second part makes clear what path you’d like to eventually be on — somewhere, if not there.

You can also plan to ask more explicitly about advancement opportunities if you’re not seeing natural openings for them over the next year or two.

{ 381 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, I am like you in that I respond very fast to most emails. Sometimes it’s less than one minute after it arrives. I like a clean inbox and having things to do (and emails often give me that). I’ve never worried about it. My answers show I know what I am talking about and the speed lets them get on with their job.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Me too. I notice e-mail can be much like an IM chat when emailing with someone like us and it’s nice. I don’t think anyone thinks anything of it. It reminds me of the rule about not answering before two rings if the phone.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes it can be very much like IM chat.
        I’ve noticed that the quicker you answer, the more likely you are to elicit another question. Like, the sender knows you’re on your computer right now, you’ve just answered them, and you will probably see and be able to attend to this other thing.
        I don’t like getting dragged into such conversations, so I deliberately stall my answers.
        I don’t have ADHD but I could still forget, so I draft an answer and leave it in my drafts till later. (scheduling is too much hassle for me!)

    2. Tiger Snake*

      And then you have me. Who has 231 unread emails (a reduction from the 450 I had before christmas!). Because I get a lot of very, very complicated emails that require very, very complicated responses and usually need me asking at least two spin-off questions to other SMEs before I can get started, that’s how complicated they are.

      Oh, and these need to be done by the end of the day, of course.

      I love OP3. I adore OP3. OP3 is my absolute darling. OP3 is the sort of person that means that these “Exec A had a ‘brilliant idea’ and a corporate credit card, Tiger Snake can make it better right” emails I get stuck with actually progress. OP3 is the person who means that something can be done in the timeframe I’ve been left stuck with.

      OP3; please don’t think that because we live on opposite ends of this spectrum that your clean email policy isn’t one of the best parts of my day.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Yep. I am on your end of the spectrum (2000 unread emails but I get a LOT of administrative/bureaucratic spam) and my thought reading that question was “OP3 is a fabulous colleague; never change.”

      2. fantomina*

        I’m a weird hybrid of the two ends of the spectrum, where I have a ton of unread emails, but I also sometimes answer within a few minutes. Because if I know from the subject line that it’s going to be quick and easy, I’d rather get that out of the way before sitting down to the deep thinking emails. I know it’s not the best productivity strategy (because the deep thinking emails can easily keep getting bumped), but it’s hard for me to focus on the hard ones knowing there’s so much low-hanging fruit!

    3. Allonge*

      Yes, this. If you have an answer and are reasonably sure it’s the right answer, it would require some twisted logic to expct you to delay sending it. From OP’s example, I suspect a library connection – very often indeed I google something, find the requested resource as my first hit and copy-paste the link in a second or four. What’s wrong with sending it at this stage?

      The only time I find fast responses somewhat annoying is when I am in cc of the orignal ask and I get a… it’s not even a holding response, it’s a ‘I don’t know how to answer this’ to me from the other addressee. Wait a sec, I am getting to it. But technically even this has information content, so this is more of a pet peeve. Answers with actual information content are great.

      1. JSPA*

        If my email had said, “I’ve checked [resource A] and [resource B] and can only find the book in the National Library of Slovenia, but apparently there’s a way to request a digitized excerpt of up to 8 pages, but that request or introduction has to come from a librarian, not the end-user, this is important enough for my dissertation that my next option might be a flight to Slovenia” I’d be super ticked off to get, “sorry, it’s only in the National Library of Slovenia.”

        And yeah, that sort of thing does happen.

        But if you’re engaging on each question fully–taking into account the level of need for the item–I see no problem with the response being fast.

        “You are correct about the location and availability. We are not able to make that sort of request because we do not offer reciprocity. Consider contacting a student or faculty member in Ljubljana, noting however that based on the call number and subject matter, the book is likely to be in the restricted stacks” is a very high quality response, demonstrating engagement, thought and effort.

        1. uncivil servant*

          I really like this response. I think I’m in a similar position and I love getting to send the “here’s that PDF” responses within a minute. People think I’m magic! (I googled it, most of the time.)

          I usually try to at least show that I’ve considered multiple ways of finding a resource that is not available before sending the nope, sorry emails. But I don’t usually have requests that are obvious nos so I genuinely do have to spend an hour or so searching.

          1. fantomina*

            when it’s a super quick no, I often like to give a bit of explanation of how I know it’s a no, like “Unfortunately, this text is only available from the National Library of Slovenia (coincidentally, you’re the second person to ask this today, and it does not appear that a digitized version is an option at this time).” And wherever possible ask if there’s anything else I can help with instead: “I know that’s not the answer you were hoping to hear; is there another text I can help you find, or an alternative we can brainstorm on?”

        2. Allonge*

          Sure, it needs to be a real answer – but that applies whether or not something is sent fast or slow!

          1. JSPA*

            Maybe it’s just human nature (or just my human nature),

            but if I get a half-assed response after some time has passed, I tend to think, “guess this is the best they can do” or “dang, they must be totally swamped and understaffed.”

            If I get a half-assed response instantly, I tend to think, “c’mon, you’re not even trying. If you can get to it this fast, you have the time and the skills to do better than this.”

            So, psychologically, if it’s fast, it has to be fast and good.

            Now, that makes no sense, objectively. Waiting an extra day to get something useless wastes 24 hours more, than getting blown off immediately. But when there’s instant back-and-forth, it’s tempting to try again… and again… which (mostly) just slowly raises the irritation level on both sides of the equation.

            (Just me? Anybody else? Near Universal? Dunno.)

            1. Allonge*

              I mean – if the answer shows that they did not in any way digest what I sent, I will go back to the original recipient in any case (unless of course I found a solution in the meanwhile or decided it does not matter).

              Generally speaking faster is better in my book though – if it looks like I am not getting an answer I might as well learn this sooner.

              But I doubt it’s just you, if only on the prinicple that it never is :)

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I don’t know where the idea that OP is blowing people off is coming from. Your example is a complete fabrication. I got the impression that “that book can only be found in the National Library of Slovenia” would have been in response to a request like “just wondering whether you might have an original copy of ‘Places of Interest in Slovenia’, the one with the blue cover?”
              I would delay answering that one, so that they think I’m spending a lot of time researching the answer to their question, and I’d probably pad it out a bit, explaining that we have the edition with the red cover that was published two years after the original sold out, rather than just the one sentence OP gave, simply because I get more gushing thanks as a result.

              1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                I’d say that idea is implied in the question — OP is concerned that a quick “no” will read as not meaningfully engaging with the question, and people are providing examples of what sorts of no do and don’t read as having your question ignored.

                Also I think we’re somewhat moving beyond the scope of OP’s original example and just talking about when a quick response does or doesn’t annoy us.

        3. The OG Sleepless*

          Argh, like the time I emailed a bank manager about some paperwork: “Do I need to bring the forms to Branch A where we did the original closing? It’s a long way from my house. Can we do it at branch B?” He emailed me back within 5 minutes, at 4:30 on a Friday, “The original closing was conducted at branch A.” I was internally screaming as I replied, “Yes. I stated that in my previous email. To repeat my question, can we do this transaction at branch B?” I didn’t get a reply back until late Monday morning, “Yes, branch B will be fine.” People!

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Me: “Your form has been completed and can be ordered by going to (internal URL) and requesting Form #123. Have a great day!”
            Response: “Great, when will the form be completed and how do we order it for use?”

          2. Sally*

            Your response email is great! Sometimes I need to refer to the fact that the other person missed something I already said, and I never know how to word it because I assume they’ll think I’m accusing them of being stupid. I clearly overthink this!

          3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yeah but that’s not what OP was talking about. There’s no intimation that she’s blowing people off or not bothering to read and answer the questions properly.

            1. Yorick*

              No, OP is not necessarily doing this, but it’s useful for them to know that whether people will think a response is too fast depends on the quality of the answer.

        4. Mockingjay*

          The length and timeliness of the response depends on the nature of the inquiries and the work environment, plus context. The emails I get require a mix of response times. Some are immediate: “here’s the link.” Others require research before I can determine an answer.

          How LW3 responds works for her role and her company (evidenced by feedback), so I don’t see the need to change anything she currently does. No reason to delay a response when a quick answer can be provided and that item checked off.

        5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Concur. If you can give some assurance to your correspondent that you aren’t just blowing them off.

          When I worked retail, and got asked “Do you have any more llama chow in the back”, I made heavy use of “Sorry, no – I checked for another customer earlier today. It’s scheduled to be on tomorrow morning’s truck.”

      2. Asenath*

        I always liked and tried to give quick responses – and usually gave them, although of course it depended on the question. If it was a quick response for an assignment to Site A, I could and did respond in the seconds it took for me to check my schedules. If it was a request, say, for a change (for reasons that were within policy) at Site A, I would write a longer one explaining politely that Site A was not going to be operational for about 6 months due to major repairs. And if I got a non-standard request, I might take hours or days (depending on how long it took me to find and collate the information) to respond, although if I thought it was going to be days, I might send an immediate reply saying something like “I received your request for a report on site usage, and will get back to you by Friday when I’ve collated the data.” I love a clean inbox, and also use my inbox as a to-do list.

      3. Marion Ravenwood*

        I will admit to being the person who sends the quick ‘I’m afraid that’s not something I know about but you could ask Such-and-Such who might be able to help’ reply, and then will get an email from my manager or another colleague where they do know about the thing. So unless it’s a ‘I need to find out about X within the next 20 minutes’ type message and the people who might know aren’t available, that’s the reason I sit on replying sometimes (although I do then occasionally forget I haven’t actually replied to the email until someone reminds me).

      4. Allegra*

        I get that your phrasing of “twisted logic” is probably hyperbole but there are genuine reasons to sometimes delay an answer even if you have it. I get a lot of email that I do immediately have an answer to, and if I’m looking at my inbox I can reply within a minute. However, my team’s workload is extremely variable based on client needs, and I don’t want to create an expectation on the client side that five to ten minute response times are our norm. So I’ll draft the reply when I get the email but schedule it to send in an hour or so. It helps cut down on people emailing once a day asking “did you lose my email??” in the busier periods because they got used to having us reply within half an hour.

        1. Allonge*

          That’s a good point – I was thinking twisted logic on the side of the recipient, to be honest. Of course internally (so on the side of the reply-sender org) there will be other considerations.

    4. MK*

      There is a distinction between declining something for objectively objective reasons (I don’t have what you want and can’t get it, it would be against the law/regulations, my supervisor told me not to) and something more nuanced, like e.g. “it’s against policy”. In the second case it’s better to delay your response and also include “I did look into it” language to convey that you aren’t just brushing people off, but your don’t need to do it every time for everything. It protects you on the rare occasion when you won’t, in fact, be right.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        If you’re worried about coming off as harsh, it can also soften a no to suggest alternate action that you _could_ take that might help accomplish the goal. “I’m sorry I can’t get that book for you; it’s only in Slovenia. However, our Slovenian literature collection is otherwise unusually good, so if there are other books that might be useful to you, please let me know!”

        Of course, you need to actually understand the original question; if you’re answering the wrong question and then try to suggest alternatives, that just comes off as annoying.

    5. Helvetica*

      Me too! Especially when it comes to e-mails which don’t require a lot of thought, I can send them out immediately.
      In my experience, people do appreciate the responsiveness and I’d rather be thought of as fast than someone who needs to be chased down for a very simple answer to a very simple question.

    6. Dimity Hubbub*

      Oh hi OP3, I often had to send emails saying e.g. ‘sorry, we have nothing on Rainbow Striped Llamas, but I could order you something for tomorrow if it’s urgent?’ It surprised me how often I’d get a reply almost immediately saying ‘thanks so much for the quick reply, we’re just assessing whether we could take on care of this herd or not, it’s not urgent’. Definitely talk to your chatty/engaged users to see what they value! I thought saying ‘no’ would be a problem, but what they mostly needed to know was ‘is it possible?’ and ‘how much would it cost or how long would it take?’ Adding a suggestion for what to do next was also very popular e.g. ‘the Multicoloured Llama Society may have something if you’re a member’ Regarding people with unreasonable expectations- well, you generally find out who they are quickly.

    7. WiscoKate*

      Just echoing this. I don’t like having a cluttered inbox, especially with unread emails. Especially if something is easy to answer, it’s much less stressful for me to just answer it and move on rather than having another thing I need to come back to. I have ADHD as well, OP, and it gives me a little dopamine hit to be able to just finish a task and have it complete (aside from the fact that if I don’t respond then, there is a good chance I will forget about it in 30 seconds).

    8. Minerva*

      I also answer email immediately if it is something that doesn’t require a long and involved answer.

      And I know I appreciate a fast response as it often mean I can continue with a task immediately with it fresh in my mind rather than having to shelve it and come back to it later. If I found out that someone was artificially delaying responses, I would actually be quite annoyed.

    9. AnonInCanada*

      Me too. A quick response shows the person on the other end that you’re on in and are engaging your efforts into coming up with a solution. If you don’t have an immediate answer you can still respond quickly by acknowledging their email and you’ll get back to them with an answer as soon as possible. And I’m complimented for my quick responses as well.

      Like you (and OP#3 I presume) I’m an inbox zero type of person and think of it as a to-do list. My ADHD hates seeing blue numbers in the Outlook pane. Especially when this bleepin’ computer will not mark an email as read even though I force it to and move it to the archive but it marks itself as unread. GRRR!!

    10. Selina Luna*

      The only thing I ask of those like OP #3 is that they never send emails outside of work hours. It sets a negative precedent.

    11. Michelle Smith*

      I’m a person who takes forever to respond to emails because I agonize over my words. But I LOVE when others respond very quickly so I don’t have to wait around for an answer!!

    12. Clisby*

      I always appreciated quick responses. But for the love of all that is holy, if my email includes 3 questions, please either reply to all of them at once, or acknowledge that you’ll be answering two of them later because you need to look into those a little more. I’ve experienced too many people who seem to think if they answered question 1 they can just ignore 2 and 3.

  2. KN*

    LW5, I really want to know what kind of job you have! I’m looking to move on after many years in a competitive, high-stress industry, and that sounds lovely!

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, I am not sure who should be more embarrassed: you or the employee. (I am embarrassed for both of you.) Frankly, I’d call it a toss up.

    1. Really? In front of my cereal?*

      I don’t know. If me and my girlfriend were being inappropriate in the work parking lot, AND it was causing me to be late to work, I’d honestly expect my boss to yell at me to stop being a tosser and do my job… and my boss isn’t even the type to do that!

      When you’re the one breaking decency and just doing generally gross behaviour – especially on private property, I think you forfeit any shred of of decorum or respect. If you’re going to behave like horny teenagers, you’re going to get treated like horny teenagers.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yeah, this. Sexual activity on work premises is an absolute no-no. As to whether or not O.P. should have been going to look for the employee in the first place – well, there are cases where this would be warranted (employee is ill or otherwise in distress, for example) and indeed probably welcomed, and you’re never going to know if it’s the right thing to do or not until afterwards.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          Worth noting that OP only yelled after she saw what was going on, not just because the employee was late. If I knew that an employee had pulled in to the parking lot a little while ago, but hadn’t come in to work yet, I might go out and check on them just to see if there was something wrong.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            The yelling was not great, but I can imagine seeing something like that and yelling out of total shock.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              In the letter, LW already knew what they were going to see (someone had reported having seen the employee “supposedly having sex”), so the shock was self-inflicted in this case.

              One cannot really go look at a trainwreck and then complain about what one saw.

              1. The Prettiest Curse*

                But the OP didn’t exactly know what they were going to see – some people would classify kissing with tongues or heavy petting as public sexual activity, when it’s clearly not in the same category as what was happening here.

                1. Anon consent matters*

                  She said it was clear that the boyfriend was pleasuring the employee. Heavy petting also not work appropriate.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  Eh, if someone tells me someone else is having sex, I’m expecting sex, not kissing. And if I don’t want to see it, I don’t go look.

                  I can understand a certain “that can’t be right…” disbelief, but LW still can’t say they weren’t warned. I can also understand wanting to confirm the accusation, but again, need to think through what confirming it would mean.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                To clarify: it really was a trainwreck and I don’t actually blame LW for not acting ideally in the moment. Wanting to stop it and not knowing how seems normal to me. Just the yelling-in-surprise seems unlikely to me. Yelling-to-be-heard-from-distance more likely and understandable.

                1. ferrina*

                  I read it this way too. And I don’t really blame the LW. That’s such a weird situation! And one person already saw it, and I would be wary of someone else seeing it as they walk in to work.

                2. BatManDan*

                  Walk up slowly. Knock on the glass. Make eye contact. Watch. I bet that’ll put a stop to it ASAP.
                  (Y’all know I don’t REALLY think this is the right way to handle this, right?)

              3. Asenath*

                Well, if you’re investigating a case of wrong-doing on company property, even if you suspect the report is correct, I think it’s not necessarily wrong or even unexpected to stand at a little distance and shout instructions to the offender instead of walking right up to them.

              4. TechWorker*

                I can understand the instinct to go outside though, especially if the business is one with customers or clients who visit the premises. Would you really be like ‘well I don’t want to see that so I guess I’ll just let them finish’….?

              5. Colette*

                Yeah, I see the OP’s decision to go outside as a result of being told her employee is having sex in the parking lot – I can understand why she’d need to deal with that, because that’s not OK in an area exposed to clients or other employees.

                1. DrSalty*

                  Yes exactly. You can’t have people having sex on company property where anyone could see them.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  I see it that way, too. OP was told about her already late employee doing something on company-owned, public property and went to said space to confirm. Instead of walking up to the car, OP ‘yelled’ from a distance, telling the employee to come inside immediately. That doesn’t strike me as out of line on OP’s part.

                  Now, OP’s impulse to send the employee home is overboard, IMO, but a write-up about the employee’s very poor judgment makes sense.

                3. A Poster Has No Name*

                  I read it that way, too. The visit to the parking lot was more about the report of inappropriate behavior and less about being late (though lateness was another factor).

                  I can’t entirely blame the LW for their actions in the parking lot, as the situation just sucked all around, but I do agree that a talking-to and warning not to do such things again was a better response than trying to send her home.

                  But I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear there were other issues with this employee, as being late due to being pleasured by your boyfriend in the work parking lot shows a whole lot of bad judgment.

                4. Stitch*

                  Yeah I don’t think OP did anything wrong. The way those above are acting is crazy. This absolutely was a work issue.

                5. Common Taters on the Ax*

                  Yep. I think this is the rare case when Alison read it wrong. If you get a report that your employee is doing something egregiously wrong in the parking lot, you do need to stop it ASAP, and I think LW1 took the best route. Make sure it’s not a case of somebody confusing the activity with something innocent (like trying to get a stain off clothing) or even indicative of an emergency (like CPR). Then, once confirmed, yell at them to cut it out. I do agree there’s no point in sending her home and suspect that impulse came from being grossed out and not wanting to look at her, which is understandable but not useful. But writing her up seems totally appropriate to me. Wouldn’t you write up someone who was doing something else gross or wildly inappropriate in the parking lot, like urinating?

              6. Falling Diphthong*

                I mean, if one or more workers come in and say “My coworker, over whom I have no authority, is having sex in the company parking lot” I think it is incumbent on management to go check out if it’s true, and if it is tell the employee to stop. And it’s fine to do that from a distance, via yelling.

                This is also true if the employee is having sex in the front lobby, on the table at the front of the shareholder meeting, or anywhere else on company property visible to passersby.

                I imagine the employee and partner thought they were invisible to passersby after failing to check the front windows from outside the car. Like people who think no one suspects what the rhythmic banging from the copyroom might be, for they are using next level stealth ninja affair-obscuring plans of genius.

              7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                yeah, like phones are just perfect for when you want to say something without getting too close to the person.

            2. amoeba*

              I actually understood it as her yelling to be heard over the distance (as she did not want to step closer to avoid seeing more details). “Called” might have been better wording in that case though, I guess…

            3. Bit o' Brit*

              I didn’t read it as being yelling-in-anger, but yelling-to-be-heard-from-a-distance since they didn’t want to approach the car. I’m not sure how else one could phrase that without it being similarly ambiguous.

              1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                Yeah, there are actually two times yelling at people is ok at work.
                1. Immediate danger, like Alison mentions
                2. Trying to be heard, like if you are across a field, or near noisy machinery, or trying to communicate with someone in a car when you don’t want to get any closer.

            4. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I think ‘yell’ is often an overused and misused term.

              People often say ‘I yelled’ when they mean ‘I raised my voice to get the person’s attention.’ OP’s reaction is a possible example, IMO. No one ranted and raved, or used heavy lung power.

              I’ve also known a LOT of people, embarrassed for getting caught doing something wrong, say, ‘My boss yelled at me’ instead of ‘I got called out for my behavior, and it was bad enough that my boss was flummoxed.’

              Just a thought.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                I’ve been trying really hard to correct my language on this. I say yell when I mean speak firmly or with disapproval, and I recognize it is confusing and alarming. But you’re right it’s just in the vocabulary for a lot of people.

              2. Yorick*

                And people also use “yell” when they mean someone talked to them harshly but didn’t raise their voice, so the word can be super ambiguous

                1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  Agreed. I’ve been in staff meetings where our boss was unhappy about something, but spoke in their normal tone of voice – we missed a project deadline or failed to take mandatory training or such. They repeated their expectations and made it plain they were disappointed, but they never even raised their voice.

                  I’d later hear some of my teammates say things like, ‘Well, Boss yelled at us about this training thing (heavy sigh) so I guess I have to cancel my afternoon plans and get her off my back…’

              3. Emmy Noether*

                Interesting. I wonder if “calling” is being more and more connected to just phones, and so “yelling” is moving into the semantic space of “raising voice to be heard at a distance”. “Shouting” could be an alternative.

          2. Random Dice*

            Alison got that one wrong – the manager didn’t chase down the employee because she was late, but because someone came to her and *reported that the employee was in her car having sex in the work parking lot*.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I actually can’t quite tell from the letter if you’re right. The employee “was seen” – by someone else, and this is the first event in the story, or by LW and this is just the introduction to the story? LW went out to the car “because she was already late clocking in” – is there an unspoken “and because I’d been told she was having sex, which I might have let slide before her start time”? It’s genuinely unclear.

            2. Sylvan*


              The manager went out there because someone reported that something inappropriate was happening.

            3. Dancing Elaine*

              Yes. The answer didn’t address some important facts. Another employee reported this to management.

            4. Cynan*

              In fairness, the letter explicitly says the manager went out to the parking lot because the employee was late.

            1. ferrina*

              This is how I read it. And at that point you have to address it. You need to think about optics. Otherwise it might get around that “LW just let the person do their thing and barely did anything! Can you believe LW would allow that?”

              1. Stitch*

                Yeah exactly what was LW supposed to do here? I think they handled it appropriately and if I was LW, I’d seriously reconsider this employer. They clearly don’t have reasonable management support.

          3. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

            I worked somewhere where quite a few of us were dealing with burnout, in a rough work environment. One of our coworkers was known to be Mr. Early Bird, and typically the first car in the parking lot in the morning. A few of the rest of the early bird flock would occasionally find him sitting in his car for up to 30 minutes before coming in to start his day, just leisurely reading the newspaper. We had flexible work schedules, and as long as we did our hours, no one cared. But Mr. Early Bird just really needed that time to ready himself for the day occasionally!

        2. Worldwalker*

          From the letter, I got the idea that someone else reported the employee (“was seen…”) and the OP went out to verify the report. They didn’t just go check on the employee — they expected what they found.

        3. M2*

          As it sounds to me someone told the LW they had seen it in the parking lot (most likely due to parking and going to work) and honestly let’s give the LW the benefit of the doubt. The employee could have been in distress and to go out and check to make sure everything is ok was in my opinion the right thing to do.

      2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        If someone came in, before I was at work, and said to my manager “Zoe’s getting drunk outside the court next door and yelling at the lawyers!” I would expect my manager to come and take a look, because even though I’m not at work yet, that’s inappropriate.

      3. lilsheba*

        I agree, I mean who does that kind of thing? That is not acting like an adult, but is in fact acting like a dumb horny teenager. Save that for home. And yeah I would be yelling at someone for that too.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          We don’t know that they aren’t in fact teenagers or in a teen-like life stage (college/living with parents etc where cars are the only “private” space they have easy access to).

          However, in many jurisdictions this is in fact illegal or close enough to to get you a court appointment.

      4. lifebeforecorona*

        Being inappropriate in a car in broad daylight where other people can see you shows a serious lack of judgement far beyond being late for work.

      5. Spero*

        I don’t think the yelling should have included both the inappropriate behavior AND the lateness. Anyone who is having sex in a parking lot, which is clearly visible to passerby, should get yelled at to stop/called the police. It’s public indecency and is a crime the business has a clear interest in stopping from happening on their property.

        But if you’d yelled at them to stop having sex and then, mortified, they fled back to their home – that would be an equally likely response to being caught in this scenario. You as the manager can’t command them to come to work after that or force their response. It’s the manager LINKING the sexual activity with the lateness that is the issue to me. They should be separately addressed, according to how you would address any other parking lot sex havers and any other late employees.

        If the person who did this WAS ALSO late, they should get penalized for that as you would penalize an employee who was late for ANY OTHER REASON. Now, maybe after the standard lateness penalty, there could be a reminder of standards of conduct that employees committed to on work grounds. Also, how do you respond to employees who missed work due to over drinking, skipping out to go to a concert, or any other ill advised personal choice? I don’t think you can respond to the lateness side any more strongly when it’s due to sexual choices than any other personal choice

    2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      What about the other employee who saw them and told OP1? (And could possibly make an HR complaint, because they did not consent to that)

    3. Smurfette*

      It’s mortifying for everyone I think. And maybe OP1 shouldn’t have gone out to the parking lot. But what then? What if more people saw the frisky couple and it came out that OP knew about it – but did nothing? I can’t imagine that would gone well for them. I think being written up is an appropriate consequence to having semi-public sex on company property.

      1. OhNo*

        Agreed, I’d have to disagree with Alison on this one about the inappropriateness of the LW’s response. Even if the employee was in a private vehicle, at least one person saw them doing inappropriate things on company property and was uncomfortable enough about it to tell management. That’s enough for a serious conversation, if not a write-up, at any place I’ve ever worked.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Agree. Company premises involves all areas, whether parking lot or copy room. An employee was conducting themselves inappropriately on the premises and was seen by another employee and LW1. That definitely warrants a writeup.

        2. ferrina*

          I agree.

          Though I wonder if the employee then called her boyfriend and said “Well, I guess I’m no working today….”

        3. Elsie*

          Yeah the employees behavior is terrible. The employee is subjecting other employees at work to witnessing their sexual activity, which is unfair to other employees. I don’t see how this is different from the letter where the OP caught her colleague masturbating in the office. The employee should be fired, it’s not right to subject other employees or customers to this kind of behavior

      2. Dancing Elaine*

        As do I. Manager should not have yelled or even indicated she was there. She should have asked HR for advice.

    4. AnonInCanada*

      In other words, in AITA speak, this would be considered ESH? No pun intended on the employee’s part, of course. :-P

  4. Brain the Brian*

    I’m always scheduling emails. Most of my colleagues are in time zones 8-9 hours ahead of me, and if I send an email during my workday that arrives at 11pm or midnight their time, they will answer me immediately even if I include a line that specifying that I don’t expect an answer before their morning. My office ranks more highly than theirs in our corporate structure, so I suspect they feel compelled to answer instantly — but they really, really don’t, and delaying emails until 2am or 3am their time seems to be the only way to stop them from giving up their evening to answer me. So, OP3, delay emails without regret.

    1. Not at 2am please*

      Just as a counterpoint, I’d recommend scheduling emails for 8.30am or 9.00am their time, rather than 2 or 3 in the morning.

      Because if someone checks their emails as soon as they wake up, they’ll see a pile of emails from you that they’ll treat as urgent.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I used to do this — but our email software won’t send scheduled emails unless my computer is on and the program open, and my computer often auto-restarts during non-peak hours to run OS updates, thus logging me out and leaving anything scheduled in my email outbox unsent. So now I schedule them to go out at the very end of my workday, which is 2am-3am for my colleagues. It’s the best I can do, and I make it clear that I don’t need an answer until *my* morning, which is very near the end of their workday.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Yeh, our IT department likes us to shut down properly, and Outlook doesn’t send scheduled emails unless I’ve got the programme open. So as a late starter, I have to send immediately or by the time it’s sent people have lost a couple of hours to work on it, or even there’s been a couple of hours’ progress making my email out of date and confusing by the time it arrives. Doesn’t affect the sort of short delay Alison’s talking about, but worth noting.

          On topic, as a similarly fast responder at times, I love people like OP3. I get a reply while I’m still in emailing mode and still have the question top-of-my-mind, and can do the next stage immediately.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Same– and it annoys the heck out of me that “delay sending” requires the computer to be on! It seems so self-evident that I mean, “hold this on the server and deliver at the time I tell you”, not “hold this on my computer and deliver it at whatever time I turn my computer on after the specified time.”

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Also same. Holding it on the server would be a useful feature. But if I have to be online for it to send anyway, I may as well just send it myself from drafts, then at least I’m sure that it did indeed send correctly.

        3. CL*

          Yup. If you are using Microsoft 365, there are a couple workarounds like using webmail but it’s still a pain in the neck.

    2. Asenath*

      I didn’t mention scheduling in my previous post – it was an invaluable tool for me. This wasn’t because of time zones, but because I did a LOT of complicated scheduling and discovered very quickly that without reminders, most of my target audience tended to forget things. So once I’d made arrangements for something or other, I scheduled reminder emails. That way, I didn’t need to remember each thing as it came due and then send the reminders.

    3. ferrina*

      Worth noting that this isn’t necessary in all circumstances. Brain the Brian’s company has a culture of “answer immeidately”, so delayed send is a kindness to them. Not every company has that.
      My company does not have that culture (at least around the emails I send), so I don’t need to delay send. I regularly send emails at weird times for the recipients (I also do flex time, so sometimes I send emails at weird times for my timezone). Out of the 100+ people I regularly email, only one or two have tried to respond immediately. They are always junior staff, and I quickly clarify expectations for them.

      So LW- I’d say totally up to you. If no one is complaining, then do whatever you’d like.

  5. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Re #4: I’d add a recurring meeting to my calendar that blocks 3:30-5pm so that it’s clear I’m unable to meet then. Yes, this assumes your boss notices/cares about scheduling around existing meetings, but it may help reduce this kind of thing if you always look unavailable at 3:30pm (because you are!).

    I work somewhere with really flexible hours too, but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where I like to start and end much later. I just pop a recurring block in my calendar for before 10am so no one can book me before I’m actually ready to meet.

    1. allathian*

      With Outlook, it’s also possible to schedule your worktime. We have lots of flextime, and I typically stop working at 3:30 like the LW. On my calendar, the background is grayed out before 7 am and after 4 pm, while most of my coworkers have set their basic workday to 8-5. This doesn’t mean that I always start work at 7, or that my coworker who prefers a later schedule than I do is always available at 8 am. Our core hours are 9-3, and if we’re absent for any other reason than our lunch hour during that period, we’re expected to block the time off on our calendar. Most people do that and mark it private if it’s like a doctor’s appointment.

      1. allathian*

        Obviously scheduling your worktime doesn’t necessarily help with an oblivious boss, but it might help in reminding them that this LW is typically unavailable after 3:30.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I do this also, but I must say the visual cue of the grayed-out areas is too subtle for a lot of people. They’ll schedule over it all the time. Which is fine for me, because I’m pretty flexible, but those of my colleagues who absolutely need to leave at X time put an actual meeting block there and that seems to work well.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          The work hours thing is exactly what I used to try and everyone ignored it because it’s definitely too subtle and most people apparently don’t even know what it means.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Yep. I work 7 hours ahead of a lot of my team and ended up having to put “After work hours” as a recurring daily event on my calendar, and even then they’ll send me meeting options during that time. (Like,yes, I understand that 3pm on a Friday is a great time for a meeting, totally normal for most people. But despite having it clearly marked that I’m not working then, I’ve had to tell more than one person that if I’m expected to take a 10pm meeting on a Friday, I’m scheduling one with them and our CEO at 10am my time since the CEO is in my time zone and they can explain why we’re having the call then.)

              1. DataSci*

                That’s an unwritten agreement many places, including where I work. The trouble is it creates nice blocks of empty space in crowded schedules!

        2. Lost academic*

          Now Outlook will warn you if you’re scheduling a meeting outside of someone’s working hours and suggest the next available time. Heck mine now warns me if I’m sending an email after hours and suggest I delay delivery.

        3. Miette*

          I think this is the way to go here, because Outlook won’t flag “end of work day” as “unavailable” the same way it would note a conflict with an existing meeting.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            I have run into this with 2 circumstances. The first was with someone who was legitimately in an opposite time zone for me. And the other was when someone had their time zone set incorrectly. So my assumption (which would be clueless and wrong) if I got that suggestion in Outlook was that it was an incorrect setting.

        4. Aerin*

          I need to go and set a meeting block like that. I work a 4×10 schedule with my work hours set in Outlook, and I’ll occasionally get meeting invites or trainings scheduled on Fridays. 99% of the time it’s just because it’s a group thing I’m not required to attend, or because my boss was trying to reschedule something on the fly and grabbed the first open spot in his schedule he saw. (The other 1% is the rare occasion where it’s a very important thing and there’s literally no other time when it can be done, and then there will be a conversation explaining the circumstances and confirming that I’m okay logging in on my day off.)

    2. Academicadmin*

      I had boss that blocked her time off and also had an automated “decline invite” for those times. It might be worth setting up an auto-decline after you talk to her, especially if she has a lot of reports and it’s just that she forgets your schedule.

      1. ferrina*

        This is smart! I have a time block for when I need to stop working, and that does the trick with 80% of my coworkers and with my boss (who does check my calendar before sending invites). If your boss doesn’t check your calendar, the auto-decline would save a lot of time.

    3. JSPA*

      It might help to end the day at 3:29:59 (a second short of 3:30) if for some reason the system isn’t flagging her because her preferred start time is EXACTLY OP #4’s end time.

      Or block out 3:20 to 3:35 as “wrap up and leave.”

      I’m not as sanguine as Alison that this isn’t some sort of intentional jerk move / a push-back against flex time.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I’m absolutely not feeling its NOT push-back. Previous boss scheduled my department’s update meeting for (checks notes) after my leaving time. On purpose.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah. I was the only mother at one company I briefly worked for. I had to leave at 5pm sharp to get my kid on time, and was always the last mother to pick my kid up, so no way was I staying for a minute longer than I was being paid for.
        I’d meet with the boss in the morning, and see a paper on his desk and think “that’ll be for me”, but he wouldn’t mention it. Then at precisely 4.55, he’d come flying in with “this has just come up, it’s urgent, for tomorrow morning” (knowing I had lessons all next morning).

        My 20th-century solution was that I took to putting my coat on at 4.50 so it was clear I was on my way out. It worked.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I have a colleague who doesn’t start until 10am and just has her calendar marked as purple/out of office in Outlook from 8-10am every day. Gets the job done.

    5. LTR FTW*

      This is my MO. I work 8-2 and I just put a recurring appointment on my calendar from 2-5 every day that says “busy”.

      In reality I’m somewhat flexible and can make room in my day for a later meeting if it’s warranted, but that little bit of gatekeeping generally keeps me from getting stuck in needless meetings after my day is over.

      1. ferrina*

        This! I can be a little flexible on my day end, but it takes some pre-planning (i.e., I can pick up my kids early but not late). The calendar block means that people don’t see it as a convenient option- they’ll reach out if that’s the only time they can meet.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I had this issue for years. I was part time, and there were others in the organization who were sort of part-time in a flexible way, but in theory, I had set hours, including days I didn’t work. My boss and others often scheduled me for meetings during those days and hours I was supposed to be off. I just played it by ear. If the meeting was internal or not time sensitive, I’d either ask to reschedule or cheerfully decline and ask someone to share their notes with me. I sometimes got the feeling my boss didn’t love that, but … I’m sure my boss would have preferred to pay part time and get a full time employee lol. If a meeting was important enough, I’d graciously rearrange my schedule to attend and make up the hours elsewhere. I’d try to mention it in the hopes of people remembering next time. It was much easier to defend my whole day off versus my after-3PM hours. Eventually I switched my schedule to work full days on or off.

      1. LTR FTW*

        “I’m sure my boss would have preferred to pay part time and get a full time employee” — THIS!!!

        I mentioned above that I work a 6 hour day. That means my salary is 75% of what I’d make if I worked 8 hours. It’s REALLY important to me to protect my time and not get sucked into working full time for part time pay, which is why I block that time out on my calendar like that. I have colleagues that are on the same schedule and don’t protect their time, and they’re getting screwed (intentionally or not) by the company by regularly accepting “after hours” meetings.

        I am salaried so I will work late when it’s warranted, but for the most part I stick to my 30 hour week because I get paid for 30 hours, not 40. If my boss wants me to work 25% more, he can pay me 25% more!

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yes, when I was part time, I didn’t get benefits because of that – no insurance, 401K, nothing. Others in comparable roles were receiving those benefits. So, it was critical that I not just get sucked into working full time anyway because I was so nicey-nice and a people pleaser. I worked hard to defend those boundaries.

    7. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      If your boss can view the detail of your calendar– I label the meetings as “do not schedule” vs. “block” or “focus time.” It has helped IMMENSELY with my boss scheduling things for me when I’m not available.

    8. Prod Mgr*

      If you have a hard stop, blocking the time when you’re unavailable as out of office is the best way to avoid getting scheduled for meetings. I do this on days when I’m on the hook to pick someone up on my way home.

  6. Massmatt*

    #2 I’ve worked at places that would often only promote someone after they’d been doing the job for a period of time, but it was never as official (or as long) as waiting until the annual review of the following year. That’s nuts, it means the company gets a year of increased value out of you while you get… more work. It’s a lousy policy and hiding it behind a need for bureaucracy or budgeting is a real cop-out. I hope it costs them dearly with retaining the best people.

    1. Alternative Person*

      I’m actually in this situation right now due to my company abolishing a particular position, then the knock on effect of the workload toppled a higher manager. I was temporarily seconded because someone needed to make sure things moved along, though my job at least has the sense to pay about 50% of what the promotion is worth and this experience will be a massive leg up for my career.

      The bureaucracy reason is true as far as I can tell (calling the process byzantine is severely understating things), but yeah, my plan is to hold out long enough to finish my Masters then job search. If they open the position before I go, I’ll definitely be tossing my hat into the ring.

      1. TechWorker*

        My company also works like this but (to be fair) a promotion is almost never a complete change in role, but a gradual change in responsibility. The formal promotion with title & pay comes partway through that gradual change. I have been pissed in the past that it came what felt like a few months too late… but overall I don’t think it’s a terrible system. It also lets people try out more responsibility without it then being a demotion if they hate it or are no good at it.

    2. Miette*

      I too worked in such a company and it was a well-known nightmare of a place (where the CEO was sent to prison years later for stock option backdating shenanigans so there we go). I was promoted from being an admin to a sales person mid-year, and aside from the commission I earned, I was not given my salary raise until the start of the following fiscal year. This meant not only was I doing the job of someone with earnings 50% higher than what I was getting, I was also expected to use my ancient jalopy to drive all across my 3-state region to sales meetings. Sure, I was compensated for the mileage, but I couldn’t afford the repairs that started accruing due to a much higher use of the vehicle than before.

      It was a crappy policy that people just seemed to accept and it warped my sense of business norms for years (this was my first job out of college). See what you can do to get out, OP, because they’re telling you exactly what they are: a crappy employer that doesn’t really care about employee compensation, and it’s not going to get any better.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I agree with OP that the affect of this policy is that all promotions should be declined until they’re within a month of the period for raises. That’s certainly what I would do. If it happens often enough the company will likely reevaluate their policy very quickly.

  7. Vixen of the Bean Realm*

    LW1, you’re her boss, not her mother, and she’s an adult, not a child…
    Chill out, you’re massively overstepping.

      1. anon here*

        IME it’s shades of grey. It depends on the inflection. Angry anything is terrifying- my father would be trembling with rage while speaking quietly, and I was terrified of him. My mom was loud, but would cool down before scolding me, so I wasn’t scared of her. Her yelling was exasperated, not angry.

        I worked at a daycare for years and saw this was true there. The daycare had 3 teachers who were LOUD. Two of them were deeply beloved by the kids. That’s because they were fair, predictable, and when you got scolded, you knew exactly why and the scolding was proportional to the crime, and they always gave you a fresh start (2 minutes later, once your time-out was done). They were never yelling in anger- I think I only ever saw them get annoyed with adults. The third teacher was awful- she would snap at you for any reason, automatically assumed the worst of certain kids (high energy kids were disproportionately punished), and her yelling always sounded like she was disgusted with you. She regularly complained about her kids to other teachers within the child’s earshot. Intent and emotion comes through.

    1. Yada*

      I agree completely.

      What is the obsession that so many managers have with treating workers like children? Writing them up, sending them home, not letting them work from home until they’ve “proven” themselves by some undefined metric that exists only in the manager’s head…

      1. Worldwalker*

        One would hope other people aren’t looking in their car windows.

        And, er, that behavior is not limited to teenagers.

        1. Really? In front of my cereal?*

          You’re generally not entitled to public indecency inside your car on a work property. You’re also generally not entitled to being treated like an adult if you’re not going to commit to the social contract of not having sex in public.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You actually don’t get to treat adults like unruly children just because they’re behaving badly! You still need to adhere to to some basic standards of conduct for yourself, particularly as a manager.

            1. M2*

              I’m confused as to why the Lw behaved badly. I read it as LW yelled so didn’t have to get closer and in order to tell them to knock it off.

              It’s not appropriate (and probably illegal) to have sexual activity in the car in front of others and to do it at work is poor judgment/ what is this employees other choices at work if doing this?!!

              To another point, the employee could have been in distress. I have worked in areas where if someone said something was happening outside a boss or security would go check in order to make sure that employee was not in danger of some kind.

            2. Nela*

              I struggle to imagine what the appropriate conduct would be? If the goal is to immediately stop people in performing sexual activities on the company parking lot, what should have the OP done? Knocked on their window and said pretty please?
              There are situations where yelling at someone from a distance to stop them from doing something extremely irresponsible is acceptable, no matter their age.

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                “If the goal is to immediately stop people in performing sexual activities on the company parking lot-”

                It’s arguable that goal was itself not appropriate. People keep referring in their comments to “company owned property” and “customers,” which are reasonable things to assume are involved, but aren’t actually stated in the letter. And based on corporate’s response, the scenario I’m getting in my head is that this may be an office park, where the company does not own the parking lot, and they aren’t open to the public/don’t have customers coming in. (Think Dunder Mifflin.)

                It’s the only context in which corporate’s response makes any sense to me. If the company is just a tenet in the building, they don’t have any authority over the parking lot, and probably should have handled a report of an employee having sex the same way they would have handled the same report about a non-employee – which presumably corporate would say is to ignore it or call security, not to personally run outside to stop the sex from happening.

                Further, if the employee was not on the clock, then legally it’s actually a huge gray area whether her employer can discipline her for her behavior. When employment cases like these have gone to arbitration or court, the decision usually hinges on whether the employer can legitimately claim that their business interests were substantially harmed by the off-hours activity. If the act happened where customers could have stumbled upon it and had some reason to associate that behavior with the business enough to stop patronizing them, sure, they’d be on pretty solid ground. But if it’s a private parking lot, which members of the public do not hold one of the office park tenants responsible for policing, and the employee wouldn’t have been recognized as an employee by any customer or member of the public, it’s much more likely this would cross the line into harassing the employee for off-hours activity that has no bearing on the business.

                I think the appropriate response would have been to wait for the employee to clock in, issue whatever penalty or conversation is appropriate for tardiness, and then have a mortifying conversation with her along the lines of, “Another employee reported they saw you having sex in the parking lot. I don’t know what they saw, and because you were off the clock it’s not my business, but if indeed you were having sexual relations in our parking lot, it would show extremely poor judgment. I hope I can trust that I won’t receive a report like that ever again,” or something along those lines.

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  It’s arguable that goal was itself not appropriate

                  It is 100% appropriate to try to stop people in the moment from engaging in lewd behavior in and around the company premises during the business day.

                2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  Would you feel the same if it wasn’t an employee of that company, but someone from another office? If index the context my comment supposes is true – the company is a tenet but does not own the lot, and members of the public don’t use the lot – then an off-the-clock employee is effectively no different than a non-employee. Would you really approach two random people you saw fooling around in a car and shout at them to stop? Or would you reason it’s not your circus or your monkeys? The instinct to intervene makes sense if and only if the manager has some formal authority over the parking lot or there’s a significant risk that customers/clients could have seen them. If neither of those things imply despite how morally justified the manager might be, they’d be on very shaky ground legally.

                3. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  *ack, phone typos:

                  “If INDEED the context…”
                  “If neither of those things APPLY”

                4. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  I think you’re throwing in some facts or premises that aren’t in the letter. In fact, per the letter the person was an employee, not a random person. The employee was late and should have been at their desk or station or whatever. And it’s not just clients and customers that have a stake in not seeing lewd conduct in the parking lot — it’s also the other employees! A supervisor can’t let this kind of behavior continue once they suspect or know it’s happening.

                  Wow, there are a lot of people in the comments section today who seem very invested in excusing the employee’s conduct here. They were engaging in a public sex act within view of their co-workers. This wasn’t OK and shouldn’t be waved away. The supervisor and the higher-ups are risking opening themselves up to liability if they don’t address it and take measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

                5. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  If it weren’t for the corporate response, I’d have a completely different position on the matter. It’s only because of corporate’s 1) position generally and 2) use of the word “harassment” specifically, that leads me to seek an explanation for why that would be corporate’s position. There are many examples of wrongful termination or suspensions being turned over in arbitration or court, with penalties imposed, because the arbitrator or judge did not find there was a credible claim that the employee’s misconduct was reasonably likely to directly impact the business. Relevant factors in these decisions are often things like whether the employee is in a public-facing role or wearing a uniform or in some other way recognizable to the general public as an employee of that business, AND whether there’s enough of an association between the wrongdoing and the service/product the company provides that customers would be likely to consider not using the company if they knew the employee worked there (things like selling weed to a CI being fireable for a high school counselor who parents would rightly no longer trust to be able to counsel students about drug use, but not fireable for an office worker; financial wrongdoing and money-handling roles; etc).

                  The manager’s reaction is extremely relatable and understandable as a human with a sense of decency, but putting on my corporate HR hat, it’s a problem when a manager uses her authority in the company to penalize someone for behavior she finds personally horrible but which the company she draws that authority from has no legal grounds to penalize.

            3. Sylvan*

              In that case, yelling at adults who are having sex in public is still an understandable reaction. WTF.

              1. anna*

                They weren’t having sex, I don’t know why that’s getting repeated all over this page. What the letter described could be the boyfriend’s hand over her jeans, still not at all ok in a public parking lot but really different from ‘having sex’.

                1. Seriously?*

                  ” but appeared to be using his hand to pleasure her” is absolutely sex, and in fact if this were a same-sex couple, there would be zero qualms about whether or not it was.

            4. Yorick*

              I don’t think LW treated the employee like an unruly child. I think yelling at them to stop (they were in a car some distance away engaged in highly inappropriate behavior) and writing up/firing/whatever is perfectly reasonable in this situation.

              1. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

                I think the unrully child part is that she was going to send her home for the day, which accomplishes nothing. This isn’t a high schooler who is misbehaving and the parents need to pick them up. It makes 0 sense to send someone home from work as a form of punishment

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  Sure, it does. It’s completely reasonable for someone caught in misconduct to be sent home while HR can discuss the situation and decide whether the person’s employment should just be terminated.

                2. Cheez It*

                  Why would it be reasonable for HR to send them home? Do you think that, if she’s not sent home, she’ll start having sex in the office? Is she somehow a security risk? Why can’t HR deliberate while she’s working?

                  Sending her home smacks of “…and think about what you’ve done, young lady,” and that’s not HR’s role.

                3. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  If an employee is accused of misconduct that is so serious that it would likely result in their termination, it’s a pretty standard practice to simply send them home for the day, sure. Keeping them at their desk or station introduces a security risk (data, money, merchandise, etc.). If the misconduct was an act of violence, then the company definitely can’t risk keeping the person on-site.

                  In the scenario described in the letter, the company’s position might be that it’s simply way too much of a social and professional disruption to the rest of the employees to keep this person around while the decision is being considered.

            5. Glomarization, Esq.*

              If you can’t yell at someone for engaging in lewd conduct in broad daylight on company property, I’m not sure what you can yell at someone for. It is 100% reasonable for a supervisor to lose it a little — or completely lose their religion — at encountering this scenario.

              These adults weren’t acting like unruly children. They were engaging in a very adult activity way beyond the standards of conduct for the time and place.

        2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          You don’t have to deliberately look in someone’s car windows to see them being intimate, especially if that car is in a public place, which you have to go through to get to work.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Front car windows are transparent. (Usually, and in this specific case.) Rolling up your car window doesn’t make your activities invisible to passersby.

          If they were having discrete sex inside a storage shed in the parking lot, where no one could see or hear them, then the whole situation would not have arisen.

        4. Seashell*

          I doubt the person who reported this behavior was deliberately looking into every car window in the parking lot. It’s easy enough to see a person in the car as you’re walking by. For all we know, the co-worker saw people in the car, went over to say hi to employee they knew, and then saw the boyfriend reaching third base.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        And they’re still not children.

        Adults are perfectly capable of making poor decisions.

        That doesn’t mean their manager treats them like a child.

          1. EPLawyer*

            With the sending her home for the day. That’s like sending them to their room. What would it accomplish.

            the right way is to explain this cannot happen again, if it does its a terminable offense.

            I’m torn on the yelling. I think its the “Get in the office immediately” that is also kinda infantilizing. Get in this house right now, missy kinda vibe.

            I do seriously wonder what else is going on in this place. Corporate is all oh hey no big deal, she got caught. Other employees are reporting on the goings on in the parking lot. I wonder if the dysfunction is warping OP’s norms and that is why she reacted the way she did.

            1. to varying degrees*

              Yeah, I agree the sending her home for the day was bad, but more bad management than treating them like a child IMO.

              I have no problem with the yelling. You want to get fingered by your BF in the middle of a parking lot, you get what you get.

            2. Sylvan*

              With the sending her home for the day. That’s like sending them to their room. What would it accomplish.

              Keeping the sexually inappropriate person away from their colleagues while OP figures out what to do.

                1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                  I would not be able to look my co-worker in the eye without thinking “I just saw you getting fingered by your boyfriend…” so it might be nice for everyone to get a breather.

              1. ferrina*

                Eh. There’s cases where that would be appropriate, but almost always because there’s been a highly public issue and you need people to cool down (or the person to stay out of the way until the immediate fire is put out).
                It sounds like only one other person saw her (that we know of). LW could have called the person into their office, told them it was inappropriate and LW would be consulting HR for next steps, then sent the employee to do their job. Honestly, might even be better- the tension of “my boss is talking to HR about me” would drive home the lesson, and LW would be able to take the time they need to ensure everything is done right and with the appropriate transparency.

              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Oh please, this is a bit much. Being caught engaging in one specific kind of sexually inappropriate behavior doesn’t make that person somehow a threat to everyone around them. It’s plainly intended as a punitive measure, not a safety one.

                1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                  Context matters. If the sexually inappropriate thing was fooling around with his girlfriend in his car, then yes, I would not in the slightest think he was a dangerous sexual predator who needed to be kept away from others.

                2. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  An employee engaging in sexual activity in and around the premises is likely not a sexual predator problem, but it’s absolutely a workplace sexual harassment problem for a supervisor not to do something concrete about a scenario like the one described in the letter. I really wish we had more details about what the LW stated to corporate, and what corporate responded with. I really can’t imagine that a competent legal department would just wave off sexual activity taking place in the company parking lot.

                3. Danish*

                  Sylvan – man + sex = threat!! Is not the gotcha you think it is.

                  Please explain how a man being seen inside his car being pleasured by his boyfriend is a such threat to his coworkers that he must be sent home (for a single day).

            3. Glomarization, Esq.*

              I mean, how inappropriate and illegal does an employee’s conduct have to be for it to be OK for their supervisor to send them home while they check with HR to confirm whether -checks notes- getting it on in the parking lot is a firing offense?

              1. Danish*

                Oh I think sending her home to give everyone – manager included – some space to sort out what we do without also having to live field the rumor mill is reasonable. It’s the specific framing of sent home as a punishment for public sexy time that is silly. Send her home, sure, but know WHY you’re doing it.

                1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                  I mean, people get arrested and can be punished with a fine or prison time for engaging in public sexy time, because public lewdness, indecency, etc., are illegal. Getting sent home from the workplace should be the least of an employee’s problems in a scenario like the one described in the letter.

                2. Cheez It*

                  I think that sending someone home is reserved for when their continuing presence is a threat or security/liability risk for the company. It’s not supposed to be a punishment for immoral behavior outside that scope – HR isn’t your parents.

                  And Glomarization, Esq., I really, really love your name.

  8. Persephone*

    LW1 – I think Alison might have missed the mark on this just a little. LW yelled so they didn’t have to get closer to the car and see anymore. As long as they don’t have a habit of going looking for late employees in the parking lot, I don’t think they’re immediate response was really wrong. An employee engaging in a sexual ecounter at work needs to be shut down (unless it’s their job, of course).

    That being said, as the employee was in a personal vehicle and off the clock, you probably wouldn’t have any standing to write her up anyway. And I definitely don’t agree with sending her home. The mortification from needing to work after being caught would have been enough recompense. Good management does not involve punishment.

    A conversation along the lines of what Alison recommended would be enough, especially if it occurred immediately after the fact. Otherwise, listen to corporate and let it go. Don’t stick your neck out because of this.

    1. Myrin*

      I was also surprised Alison didn’t mention corporate’s assertion that OP would make herself guilty of harassment if she chose to discipline her employee – that’s not how that works!

      1. MK*

        I wonder if this about the OP’s choice to approach the car where the employee was allegedly having sex? I don’t understand why the company would be so cavalier about an employee doing this in the parking lot, I am assuming in view of the business premises, but the OP’s reaction is also …odd. Personally, I wouldn’t knowingly go within a kilometer of a coworker having sex, let alone approach them close enough to speak to them! Why not wait till they come in and then address both the tardiness and the report of them making out in the parking lot?

        1. Asenath*

          Possibly because then it turns into a debate over whether the person who complained or the people in the care are telling the truth about what happened. I can understand why LW needed to investigate what was said to be happening in the car park (not only company property, but in view of co-workers, and, depending on the car park, possibly others!). I can understand why LW didn’t go up to the car, once she realized what was going on, and shouted to the employer. I think HR’s reaction was odd, and LW’s suggested discipline a bit much, a verbal instruction to not have sex on company property again might be enough.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I disagree. The OP is not the police or security. I don’t think they should be chasing down employees in the parking lot. Wait until she comes in to work and talk to her privately.

            1. Allonge*

              It’s not about chasing an employee down, it’s stopping what is a pretty disturbing thing either way (one of team having sex publicly or one of the team lying about the other having sex publicly).

              Let me put it this way: if OP was my manager and I went to them with this complaint, I would not have appreciated them being all: well, ok, hopefully they will finish having sex at some point, thanks for letting me know. And I don’t see how asking security to do it is better.

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                Asking security is better because it’s their job, so they have the authority and procedural training necessary to know how best to act without exposing the property owner to legal liability or escalating a potentially dangerous situation. A manager who takes it upon herself to perform security functions does not.

                1. Allonge*

                  I am not convinced it’s wise to treat ’employee is most likely having sex in parking lot’ as a security matter or a potentially dangerous situation (sure, there are all kinds of dangers in sex but not that kind).

                  Yes, if it’s an unknown person, security is the way to go. As it’s an employee – well, I would guess it would be treated as an overreaction by a lot of people.

          2. ferrina*

            The verifying motivation occurred to me too. It could quickly become a “Did it happen, did it not?”, and you don’t want to discipline someone for inappropriate behavior when it didn’t happen. Sounds like LW got close enough to confirm (and no closer), took immediate action to get it to stop (yelling, which I read as being loud so as to be heard from a distance, not being punitive), and then took further action to discipline. I disagree with the disciplinary action (a write-up, sure. Sending them home?), but the rest….well, I guess I don’t know a better way to handle it. Corporate is already saying LW was in the wrong because no one could confirm it was happening, but what did they want? LW to get close enough to ‘confirm’?

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        The corporate response actually is the main reason I suspect the parking lot is both not owned by the company (ie a corporate office park where they simply rent an office on the third floor) and also private (only tenets can access or have reason to be in the parking lot, no shops that draw customers).

        If both of those things are true, then telling LW to leave it alone and warning her about possible “harassment” if she persists in making a work issue out of what happened, actually makes sense.

    2. Numbat*

      I also read it as yelling because LW1 was too far away to be heard, as opposed to yelling aggressively. Probably a moot point given everything else, but still…

    3. Electric sheep*

      Yeah, my sense was that she only went out because someone came and told her that the employee was hooking up in the carpark, and the manager went out to stop that if it was happening.
      (I think the being late was included more as another example of the bad judgement of the employee, rather than the reason the manager went out.)

      1. ecnaseener*

        The letter says LW went out “because she was already late clocking in,” so your parenthetical doesn’t really make sense. Either the employee’s lateness was the sole reason for LW to go outside, or it was a major enough reason that LW felt the need to specify.

        1. OhNo*

          I guess read that as “if it had been completely before her scheduled hours, I would have ignored the report without any further investigation, but because she was supposed to be clocked in I felt like I needed to check”.

          Not sure if that changes any one’s opinion, but I do think that it makes the LW’s actions slightly less weird, in that she wasn’t just scouring the parking lot for an employee who was entirely on their own time.

          1. ferrina*

            I’m reading it that way too. The LW includes the lateness as a parenthetical, which makes me think that the other employee reporting it was the precipitating event. Which then makes me curious why the LW felt it necessary to include the parenthetical about being late. Is that a reflection of the workplace culture?

        2. Allonge*

          It’s not a legal filing, it’s an email to an advice column.

          Possibly, with OP being human and all, they don’t even have a clear recollection of in what exact distribution was lateness and news of having sex the prompt for them going out to the parking lot.

          Personally, I would say either of these is a good justification for going outside. Sex is an obvious no-no; lateness would in our place trigger a concern for the well-being of the employee at some point and if they are known to be present, one way to check how they are is walking up to them. I mean we don’t make a habit of this, but if someone says ‘oh, they are just outside’, it’s not totally out of line to check if they are ok.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I’m not holding it to legal filing standards? I’m saying LW presumably had a reason for writing what they wrote. Good grief.

    4. Sometimes supervisor*

      Agreed. I think what’s happened here is the actual problem with OP’s behaviour/motive (as in, being overly interested in punishing the employee – which is something which I would encourage OP to reflect on) has been conflated with OP’s actions – which there isn’t actually too much wrong with and would likely be viewed as fine with a different set of motives attached.

      I wonder how different we would feel if OP’s letter had instead read something like “I heard my employee was hooking up in a place where it needed to be shut down ASAP. As I went to stop it, I realised I couldn’t get much closer without seeing something I didn’t want to see so I yelled at her to stop” or “I noticed Jane’s car had been in the car park for some time but she hadn’t come in. That’s unlike her so I went outside to check she was ok. As I got closer, I realised she was engaged in some pretty heavy petting with her boyfriend and, as other people were likely to be able to see it, I shouted at them to stop.”

    5. Marshmallow*

      Where I work we waive rights to “privacy” in vehicles in company property whether we are on the clock or not. Like vehicles can be searched entering, leaving, or while in the lot.

      If having sex on company property is against company policy then I would think it would be as legal and appropriate to be fired for it on or off the clock as it would be for being on company property and doing anything else against policy (drinking, drugs, heck shouting racial slurs at people with my windows rolled down… or anything else against policy that you could do from your car). If on company property, being “off the clock” is not necessarily a “get out of jail free card”.

      1. Antilles*

        Every single company I’ve ever worked has that same policy. . The rules for behavior on company property include ALL company property – including the parking lot. And it doesn’t matter that you’re not actively working or in a personal vehicle, you’re on company property and subject to their rules.

    6. Again, why is it asking again?*

      The boss could “write her up” for being late.

      That’s what ideally should have happened. LW calls out to her employee that she’s late and to get into the office (really to mean, STOP what you’re doing visibly in our parking lot) and then write her up for being late and have her get to work. LW could also say (but shouldn’t have to) don’t do that on our property again.

      1. Happy*

        Yelling to someone to come in to work because they are late is weird all around and doesn’t sound any less weird in your “ideal” scenario.

    7. Yep*

      Good management does not involve punishment.

      + 100000000000. I want to have this observation hung on the wall of every manager’s office in a fancy frame.

      I am so, so sick of managers immediately jumping to disciplinary actions, including PIPs and the like. It is poor management at best, and bullying at worst. Stop doing it!

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Is a PIP necessarily punitive?
        Yes, some managers use it as a formality to fire someone, but some are legitimately trying to improve performance and give the employee a shot at saving their job.

        The alternative would be to just fire them right away which seems worse to me.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          I think Yep is talking about managers who immediately jump to formal disciplinary action in situations where actually managing — e.g. a direct conversation and expectation setting — would have worked. In the right hands, a PIP could be a coaching tool, but in the wrong hands, it’s the weapon of someone who isn’t confident in their ability to manage otherwise.

    8. Curious*

      As a manager, the message I’ve always received in HR training is to document, document, document.

      So, is having sex on company property in a manner visible to others a serious violation of policy or not? If it is, it needs to be documented so that if the conduct is repeated, that violation may attract more serious discipline. Yes, the situation is embarrassing for all concerned.

      I would also note some similarities to the case of Jeff Toobin, who was fired for his conduct.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Corporate was alerted and said how to handle it, which to me is documentation as well as a response to how they interpret policy. Now do I love how corporate responded? No. But this seems to be their call.

        OP could keep her own documentation and have a conversation with the employee, and should, but I don’t think they should jeopardize their own position by going against what they were told to do.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        is having sex on company property in a manner visible to others a serious violation of policy or not

        Good heavens, if it’s not, it needs to be.

    9. EPLawyer*

      Uh just becauses its off the clock and in a personal vehicle does not make it okay to engage in sexual activity on company property. You most CERTAINLY can discipline someone for what they do off the clock or in their personal vehicle if it affects the company and/or their work. Which being late because you are making out with your boyfriend in your car in the COMPANY PARKING LOT certainly qualifies.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        Right? Apparently it should have gone like this:
        “Hey boss, so-and-so is having sex in their car in our parking lot.”
        “Are they clocked in yet?”
        “Well, okay then. Let’s all just mind our own business, shall we?”

  9. WS*

    was seen in her boyfriend’s car in our workplace parking lot, supposedly having sex

    LW #1 – does this mean someone has reported this to the LW and *then* they’ve gone out to see what the problem is? I feel that “employee is having sex in the workplace parking lot where people can see it” is a little different to “my employee is late so I’ll go check on her, oh no I didn’t want to see that”. The former situation shouldn’t be happening and I can see why the manager wouldn’t want to get any closer when attracting her attention so she’d stop.

    1. Language Lover*

      I sort of agree.

      I also think it matters what kind of workplace this is. A parking lot where customers might pass her car? I might go shut that down.

      A school? I’d 100% shut that down. And that might get her fired.

      A random parking lot where they’re in the corner? Still not great but not something worth pursuing.

      1. Electric sheep*

        It was clearly somewhere her coworkers could see her, because a coworker *did* see her. Terrible judgement. “Don’t have sex where people who don’t consent to seeing it can see you” is a low bar to clear. Especially if those people are your coworkers who have to keep seeing you at work!

      2. Ellis Bell.*

        The optimum thing to do would have been to ignore it while ongoing if possible, but I can also see it being a situation where the OP would feel compelled to shut it down because of an effect on staff, clients or customers. I do think there are possibly better ways to do it: 1) A phone call where you blow it up until the recipient answers, hopefully interrupting or 2) When OP got close enough to see something, turning their back before rapping on the rear window and walking away. I don’t think “yelling” was such a terrible option either, so long as it was just a raised voice making a presence clear, a bit like a cleared throat outside a door; “Uh Sandra is that you, I need you to stop and come inside please” rather than “Sandra, what time do you call this! Get your arse inside”. The word “yelling” usually does imply angry shouting though, as does the mention of her already being late. The problem is that the OP has come off like the sort of manager who goes outside to herd up any stragglers and scream at late employees; OP needs the air clearing talk as much as the employee, to clarify why they actually needed to call them in. We do need to give OP some grace about this being a bit of a WTF situation though.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I don’t think it’s appropriate anywhere her coworkers can see her.

        The #2 “you may also like” link is about a guy who was jerking off at his desk. Comments are all “ew”, “gross”, “predator”, “fire him now”. And I agree. To be fair, that was an ongoing issue while this was a one time thing. But it’s still sex at work, while visible. Why is this one no big deal? Her coworkers still don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see that!

        And it was obviously visible. Somebody saw it!

        Sex at work needs to be shut down hard the first time.

        1. Elsie*

          Exactly! I’m really surprised that so many people don’t seem to think this is a big deal. The employee should have been immediately fired. This isn’t just poor judgment, this is indecent behavior that other employees should not be subjected to. If I were the other employee who saw my colleague having sex in the parking lot, I would be very concerned by the company’s response to basically do nothing. I would probably quit, I don’t think I could ever be comfortable working again with a coworker that I saw having sex in public.

    2. Catwhisperer*

      Agreed, I think Alison may have misread this one and thought the boss was the one to discover them. Also, I wonder if the parking lot was on company property, because in my mind having sex on company property is never acceptable, whether it’s in the copy room or the parking lot.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I reas it that way and it’s part of why I find corporate’s response so odd. If it was happeneing on their propoerty and another employee was so concerned that they reported it, i would have throught that a failure to takeany steps to adress it might be an issue that the other employee might raise.

      I wonder whether there was a miscommunication and it wasn’t clearly understood what happened.

      I garee that wanting to sen the employee home is weird. I think that telling her that acting in that way on workplace property is unaccaptable, and that beahving in that way where others can seeis, at the very least, unwise.

      I can’t help wonering what would have happened if, instead of reporting it to OP, the person who originally saw them had called the police to report public indecency, or something of that tkind (I assume that laws vary by country and state, and am not sure how much difference it would make if the parking lot is private proprty, her I think offences like indecent exposure and outraging public decency depend on whether you can be seen , not whether you are on public or privte property, so I think an offence could still be committed in this kind of situation even of the lot is privately owned (whereas if you were inside your own fenced garden and someone climbed up to look over your garden fence, the situation would likely be treated differently.)

  10. Coverage Associate*

    I am trying to think of my experiences of people being at the work premises but unable to work, just to fill in the “don’t go bringing in workers from the parking lot” advice. There have been a couple times where my key hasn’t worked or I have forgotten it, and I would have welcomed someone coming to look for me.

    I think some workplaces might have the culture where someone could be reminded to come off of a break, whether in their car or in a break room, if it was just that the late employee had lost track of time.

    In general if I might be in distress, I would prefer a peer or lower to offer help, rather than a manager, but I have worked in reasonable places where anyone could offer assistance for a small illness or other small emergency, and it’s often the secretaries with the most life experience. We don’t need permission to call security or whatever needs to be done.

    1. Allonge*

      I agree – of course it should not be normal practice that manager checks the parking lot in case any employees are late (for multiple reasons) but I would hope that if someone is legit late, and in some kind of distress in our parking lot, they would get help / an ‘are you ok’ and not a ‘well, it’s not my business until they clock in’.

    2. This used to remember my name*

      We have some people who regularly take longer than their allotted lunch time, and since we are coverage based, this causes real problems. And because it’s retail, we have lots of younger people in their first jobs who don’t understand work norms yet. So if I am sure they have been gone significantly over their allowed time, and I need them, I absolutely will call them or go look for them. Like, bro, other people can’t go to lunch until you come back.

      We have one who I have reason to at least wonder if they are coming back late for exactly the same reason as OP’s employee, although I have no evidence of this. Not sure what I would do if someone told me that’s actually what they were doing.

  11. Splendid Colors*

    LW#3, go ahead and schedule responses if someone has a history of thinking you didn’t actually work on their request if they get a quick response.

    However, I would be annoyed if I had to wait for a response just as part of some neurotypical etiquette ritual that “it’s rude to send the answer as soon as I finish the email about it.” If you’re sending me a file I need or approval of drafts/prototypes, I may be waiting for it to proceed with that job. I typically don’t have a lot of other clients’ jobs I’m juggling, so that would be time wasted if I don’t have some admin stuff queued up to work on while I’m waiting for a response.

    It would be particularly annoying if you decided it would be rude to send a file at close of business, because I tend to work more in the evenings than the mornings. If I’m not working that evening, the email isn’t going to get stolen overnight by porch pirates like a courier drop left on the front steps or something.

    1. Rainbow*

      THIS THIS THIS THIS, all of this! If you don’t want to see emails coming in, don’t check your email.

  12. Antony-mouse*

    For OP #3 I have the complete opposite problem. I’m in a job where due to the nature of our clients, they often email us fairly time-sensitive questions outside of work hours. There are three of us who monitor this one email account but none of us work full time. Also, whilst the client thinks their questions are very simple, due to our systems and procedures, even the simplest questions can take up 5-10 mins to answer. Also also there are some questions (again that the client thinks are ‘simple’) that can only be responded to by my coworker who has enough seniority to make those decisions, and she only works 2 1/2 days a week. As you can imagine we get a lot of grief for why their ‘simple’ question hasn’t been dealt with fast enough

    1. Antony-mouse*

      Should also add due to company policy I am not allowed to respond to their emails outside of our core work hours, which adds an extra layer of fun

    2. Bagpuss*

      Would it be feasibke ti have an auto response that gave some information about timescales? I have a collleague who gets a huge volume of mail and he has an auto reply which basically acknowledged receipt and says that most mails will reieve a response within 24 hours .

      Yours might say that you aim to provide an initial response within xx working hours and the normal working hours re 9-5 Mon-Fri (or whatever) but that more complex queries requiring a more senior staff member may take 1-2 days (or whatever a realistic timescale is)

      You’ll still get peopl who don’t read it or think they are the execption, but it dos mean youve set expectations and gives you something to refer to is someone is chasing ot comaplining that you havenn’t replied fast enough.

  13. Anon consent matters*

    Honestly? I’d have been checking with legal and planning to fire the employee reported for having sex on company property in a way that’s easy to get caught. People walking past your car cannot consent to the exposure.
    Even if it hadn’t passed the extent that the LW saw.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      That’s where I land too, and why I would have wanted to send the employee straight home that day. The employee’s actions here are SO inappropriate that I can’t fault the OP for reacting the way they did. It’s maybe not the most ideal response, but it’s a perfectly understandable and reasonable one (to me). Honestly, what manager is ever fully prepared for and expecting a situation like that..?

        1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          They’d be doing the exact same thing by pursuing action without documented evidence.

          The whole scenario is a he said/she said situation. Looking at the language used: someone was “supposedly having sex” and when the OP went outside, the boyfriend “appeared to be” sexually pleasuring her. That doesn’t mean you do nothing, but firing her certainly isn’t the first step (caveat: video footage of the parking lot is available).

    2. Aerin*

      When I was at The Mouse, getting caught having sex on company property was immediate termination, and that included the employee parking lot that was two blocks away and fully screened from street view.

      Of course the majority of park employees were attractive, horny twentysomethings, so the operative phrase there was “getting caught.” There were a few out-of-the-way corners backstage that were a bit notorious. (The parking lot was decidedly NOT one of them.)

      This was nearly 20 years ago (…oh god) and looking back it was a sexually charged environment that probably met the definition of hostile. Hoping things have changed now.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Based on what I’m seeing in the letter, the LW and the company are definitely risking liability if they don’t take some concrete measures after this incident. Whether firing the employee, or clarifying in their employee handbook or worksite rules that indecent behavior in and around the company premises is actionable misconduct.

      The other employees do not have to put up with being exposed to this, and, yes, having it occur in the parking lot that the other employees use is “being exposed to this”.

    4. HR Friend*

      Thank you. I feel like I’m in bizarro world with all these comments defending the employee having sex.. on company property.. in full view of their coworker. Commenters here debating what constitutes sex is giving “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”.

      Send the employee home while you talk to HR/legal to clear firing them for disorderly conduct. FFS.

  14. Wendy Darling*

    I’ve mostly worked at companies that lived and died by their Outlook calendars and am used to people checking my calendar availability when they schedule a meeting with me. Then I started at my current place, which is better in nearly every way, but is very loosey-goosey with the calendars. So people will just send me meeting invites for time I’ve blocked off.

    The first halfdozen times I was mad about it but now I either message the person and ask them to reschedule because I have a conflict or do the suggest-another-time reply in Outlook. I just do a very matter-of-fact “I have something at that time, can we do X instead?” and no one minds.

    1. Llama Llama*

      People are so bad at my work for not checking my calendar and block time for already blocked time. My manager has taught me to just decline the meeting. If they don’t think my presence is important enough to check to see if I am available, then obviously they didn’t need me.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I need people to live or die by their outlook calendars because I live and die by people’s outlook calendars. This is the second comment this week (I think) about people being loosey-goosey with their calendars and I’m going to cry knowing this world exists.

      Okay I’m being dramatic but only a little.

    3. MassMatt*

      This used to happen to me with clients all the time–I would say I can meet anytime tomorrow except between 2-3 and sure enough, they would suggest meeting at 2. Or I can meet Tuesday or Thursday and they’d respond “let’s do Wednesday”. Some people’s brains just seem to register the “not X” as “X”. It improved dramatically when I started using Calendly; already booked times don’t appear on the schedule at all. I had to train myself to be sure to list my own Dr. appointments, time off, and travel time, but overall it’s led to much less back-and-forth and confusion about appointments. It’s reduced last-minute cancellations and no-shows also.

  15. Language Lover*

    lw #3

    I face similar situations as you do.

    Sometimes, I’ll phrase the email as if it were a process update to let them know what I’ve done, in very vague terms, and whether or not there’s a long shot I’m planning to try that they shouldn’t necessarily expect to work.

    Something like “I looked for the book in my usual places and it only the University of Slovenia has that book and doesn’t share it. I can send out an emergency call to a professional ListServ to see if someone else has a hidden copy they could lend but it’s a long shot. If we happen to strike gold, I’ll let you know but you may want to start considering alternatives.”

    Obviously, if there’s no other option, then leave the last part but saying what steps you took, even if vague, conveys that you took action even on a quick response.

  16. UKgreen*

    I work until 4pm. My Outlook calendar is marked ‘out of office’ on a recurring meeting from 4pm, and if anyone adds in a meeting after that time I hit decline. They soon get the hint…

    1. Ama*

      One thing I’ve discovered, after years of being a people pleaser who agreed to meeting requests even if it was massively inconvenient for my own work flow (and then felt resentful about it), is that the vast majority of people do not actually mind rescheduling a meeting if you can just gently push back with “actually I need to focus on X project that morning can we reschedule for the afternoon?” or “putting that meeting at 1 means I don’t get a lunch break Wednesday can we do Thursday instead?” Occasionally you do get a “actually Jane is about to go on vacation for three weeks and we need her to be there” but most of the time it’s fine.

      It’s actually something I coach my reports on now, that it is totally fine to push back on meeting times and also that no one is going to manage their schedule for them — if they don’t say “sorry I really needed to do X this morning,” the person asking for a meeting isn’t going to know they’ve overstepped. I always use as an example that I prefer to have the first half hour of my work day free of meetings to give me time to read emails and update my to do list if needed, and sometimes that means I need to push back on someone who wants a first thing in the morning meeting.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. Once you realize everyone else is just focused on themselves and not you, it’s a lot easier to focus on yourself as well.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely, most people don’t mind if you tell them if a slot is inconvenient. A meeting invite is usually not a summons. I don’t always remember what all of my staff like and don’t like in terms of timings for meetings. If I suggest a slot that doesn’t work for them I’d much rather they said so.

          Occasionally you need to speak to people urgently or there’s no flexibility but most people are quite happy to move it, but will only know you don’t like a slot if you actually say so.

  17. Electric sheep*

    LW2, that’s a terrible policy and they are taking advantage of their employees. I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

  18. philmar*

    I’m gonna be honest, I think it is 100% okay to yell at someone who is having sex in public on company property. I don’t care how people are inevitably going to nitpick the definitions of “public” and “company property,” but if I can tell that you are screwing in your car in the parking lot of your workplace (even if the parking lot isn’t explicitly owned by that company/shared by a lot of properties, whatever), I am within my rights to yell “stop that right the hell now!!” This also applies to people having sex in toilets, conferences rooms, or offices after hours.

    That said, I did walk in on 2 employees having sex in a dry goods storeroom and I didn’t yell at them, I told them to knock it off and bring me a number 10 can of cake mix, so I guess I’m more level-headed than I thought.

    1. Marshmallow*

      I also read this as someone reported seeing the sex act so supervisor went to check on the situation not so much that the supervisor was trying to “track down a late employee in the parking lot”.

      Tracking down a late employee is very different than responding to a report of public sex in the company parking lot. The latter, in my opinion, is well within the rights/responsibilities of a supervisor.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        That’s how I read it too, because of course a supervisor would check out that report, right? But it’s interesting though that OP specifically says “because she was already late clocking in” as a justification in the letter. I do wonder why they felt the need to include that detail, since it’s a minor red herring in the overall context.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Probably just adding to why it’s extra bad. Not only is the employee doing something that’s illegal in many areas, as well as exposing coworkers to sexual activity without their consent, but the employee is also doing it on what is supposed to be work time and not employee time.

        2. Sylvan*

          I agree. I was also wondering about that comment — maybe OP included it to show that they knew their employee wasn’t in the building yet, which would have proved the report fake.

        3. I should really pick a name*

          Speculating as to why a LW included a particular detail can be the first step on the road to madness.

    2. Emi*

      If you’re doing it in public you should except to be yelled at by any bystander who happens to see you, and you should count yourself lucky if they’re not the police.

  19. Tinamedte*

    LW5: if you have the feeling that your boss wants to move up, how about trying to find ways to help him do that? Getting your boss promoted is a good way of setting yourself up for success. Just a thought. Good luck!

  20. Rainbow*

    LW3, I wanna be like you-oo-oo. I wanna walk like you, talk like you do-oo-oo…

    Yeah, I have the opposite problem. I recently replied to an email from 2020… and got an amused/playfully chiding answer almost immediately (to be very slightly fairer, it was something that ought to take months, and not a work task of course).

    1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Years ago, when I was working in news, I would have constant deadlines measured in minutes. I was visiting my aunt, an Ivy League professor, and she confessed that she had handed in an article a YEAR late and it was still OK. Blew my little mind.

      1. Robin*

        Academia deadlines are mind bending. They are entirely fake, nobody cares! You just…get it done whenever and send it in whenever and most of the time it works out?? I worked as an assistant for a professor in grad school who had a little journal he published that went along with a biannual (every other year) workshop and talking about how to set deadlines for these two things was bananapants. The most flexibility I have ever seen. I mean, even the event and publication date itself got pushed off multiple times because the prof, as the editor, was late!

        Very affable, kind hearted, intelligent person. But deadlines…nope.

  21. Marshmallow*

    I get that it’s because so many people are weird about all kinds of perceived “etiquette” around emails, but I think we, as a society put way too much mental energy worrying about the timing of emails you’re sending.

    I’ve seen so many things here about not sending stuff in off hours and now this about responding too fast.

    I don’t have the time or energy to worry about scheduling an email to send. With the increase in flex work arrangements sometimes people are going to send you emails when you’re not working. If you don’t like it then stop checking your email off-hours. I get that people should put thought into a response, but good heavens… if I send someone an email to ask a question often times they are indeed an expert in what I’m asking so they can answer off the top of their head while it would take me hours to Google or call people or find other references. I don’t just assume they didn’t think about my email. I assume they know more about it than I do and that they probably answered accordingly. There are exceptions of course – but not enough of them that I feel people should have to worry about scheduling an email to send later so that I think they thought about it for longer. In fact… I don’t assume that just because the email came later that any more thought was put into it generally. As far as I know they read it and answered it just as fast but just didn’t see the email right away.

    Everyone should stop being weird about emails so people have to sit and fret about the subtext of what their email behavior might mean to someone.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I agree– I do think it’s very much, “wait until there’s clearly a problem, and THEN think about whether speed of email response makes a difference.”

      Like, if you’re getting annoyed with your frustrating colleague who keeps asking you questions he could google because you answer so quickly, then it makes sense to think about whether waiting a couple of hours or days to answer would make google more attractive. But “answer emails really quickly” is not in itself a problem, and you don’t have to anticipate people finding it a problem in the absence of any evidence that they do!

      1. londonedit*

        I also agree. Most of the people I email regularly are nice and reasonable and so it doesn’t matter whether I send them a quick response as soon as I get their email, or reply later that afternoon, or whatever. But there are definitely some people where I’ll deliberately wait before I respond, because I don’t want to set up the expectation that I’m sitting there at their beck and call ready to respond immediately to every little thing they want to ask me. Thankfully there aren’t too many of those, and with most people I prefer to respond as soon as I can – at least with an ‘I’m not sure what we need to do about this; I’ll look into it and get back to you’ – so that I don’t forget to respond altogether.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Agreed. “I received an email in my off hours” is a you problem, not a me problem, and one that can be solved by not checking your work email when you’re not working. If that’s not something your boss or work culture allows, again, that’s still a you problem, not a me problem.

      1. Robin*

        Thinking about it a little, I think folks might be bristling at off-hours emails for a couple of reasons:

        1) If they feel like the norm is to respond quickly to emails, then getting an email in off-hours might feel like a demand to be checking emails and responding beyond normal hours

        2) If the norm is to only do work between, say, 8-5pm, then an off-hours email looks urgent because one would only send a norm-breaking email if it were urgent, and now we loop back to being expected to check for such emails even in off hours

        Neither of the norms above have to be true, other norms exist! And the solution still is “enforce your own boundaries around your work time” but we have also definitely all heard stories of bosses and coworkers who expect folks to be on all the time and knee-jerk responses of irritation are hard to break. Plus we have a culture of being always accessible to work, etc.

        I know you said “it’s still a you problem, not a me problem” but I guess I just feel like there is room for compassion when people get prickly about it. You do not have to change your behavior or anything, but people are responding like this for reasons.

      2. DG*

        This take is a little dismissive. In my experience people model the behavior they see, not necessarily what they’re told is the norm/expectation – this is especially true for new/junior employees who are still figuring out the unwritten rules of a workplace. If a manager or higher-up person sends an email at 10pm or on a Saturday afternoon, many people will assume they’re expected to respond, even if they’ve been told that working hours are 9-5, M-F.

        As a manager I feel an obligation to model the behavior I want to see in my teams – among other things, this means that I try to adhere to my standard working hours as much as possible, and in the rare event that I’m working at an odd time, I schedule delivery of emails to be within working hours.

        “Just set boundaries and don’t work after hours” is easy enough advice to follow for some people, but for a recent college grad who’s living paycheck to paycheck in their first job, someone who just came off of a long stretch of unemployment and desperately wants to do well in their role, someone who HAS had bosses in the past who expect round-the-clock availability, etc… it’s not always that easy.

    3. Lunar Caustic*

      YES, THIS! My response to so many of these comments is, “Holy tortuous pretzel logic, Batman!”. Thank you for your eminently sensible reply.

  22. ELS123*

    It sounds like LW1 went to look for employee because someone reported that she was having sex in the car and when to see wtf is going on (and she was suppose to be working already) and yelled so they could be heared without whitnessing the show upclose. Not yelling agressively. I mean sure she could have waited till employee came (and came) into the office to talk or went to knock on the car window and ask her to come to the office. But I don’t really see the issue with lw going to look for the employee or yelling in this context.

  23. Stitch*

    I thibknfirongnan employee for having sex in the parkin lot is legitimate. It’s exposing your coworkers and potentially any clients to sexual activity without their consent. Not okay HR here is being absolutely ridiculous.

  24. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–I think it’s also really important to consider what parts of your job are being responsive and which parts are things like “planning for how we can improve customer service.” Replying to email quickly can make it feel like you’re really on top of things, but a lot of email can be low-value work and the constant disruption of checking it can come at a cost and impede activities that require more thought and strategy (but which are higher value in the long run.)

    1. ecnaseener*

      Let’s take LW at their word that it works best for them to use their inbox as a to-do list and keep it as empty as they can. When you find a system that works for you with ADHD, you don’t toss that aside lightly. Sometimes that system involves working with distractions instead of against them.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        What? I didn’t suggest that the LW get rid of their system, just that there might be tradeoffs they might not have considered.

  25. WellRed*

    Well, OP 1, if you had sent her home, I guess am she and her boyfriend could finish what they started where they should have kept it in the first place. This whole situation is ridiculous but best to move on. If the employee has any sense, she’ll be so embarrassed she’s looking to get another job.

  26. Asenath*

    After reading a lot of responses, I’m reminded of something I read about “yelling”, which I (and apparently others) tend to interpret as “raising the voice” now (or, perhaps in some areas of the English-speaking world, always) means something more like “scolding loudly”. It seems like here, too, there are different interpretations of what LW meant.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes…I was assuming that what happened was the OP kept their distance, raised their voice so they could be heard by the people in the car, and said ‘Hey! Jane! Would you please come to my office, right now!’ or whatever. Rather than ‘Jane! What the hell do you think you’re doing? That is disgusting! Get out of that car and get into my office this very instant!!!’

    2. ecnaseener*

      It’s the difference between “yelling at” and “yelling to.” LW says they yelled “at” their employee, which I’ve only ever heard to mean scolding.

      1. Anon consent matters*

        I mean a “what the ### Jane” in this situation seems warranted. And would probably be yelling. But when distance and this type of event happening a little “I can’t believe this wtf” yelling is understandable.
        But then again. If it were me, the employee would be fired.

  27. Lost my name again*

    Tbh, I think I need to know where the car is relative to the building and sidewalks etc.

  28. MicroManagered*

    I read #1 a little differently than Alison did.

    Someone reported to OP1 that something inappropriate (sexual) was happening in the parking lot. OP1 went down to verify the report and to locate the employee in question because she was already late for work. OP1 did see that something sexual (though not full-blown intercourse) appeared to be happening, but stayed at a distance from the car and called out* to the employee to get her attention and tell her to come inside immediately.

    *The letter says “yelled” but in context, I read the word yelled like, mom yelled up the stairs that dinner is ready, rather than verbally abusive yelling — raising one’s voice to be heard over a distance.

    1. Springtime*

      I thought the same thing. Also, I disagree that yelling is always just for emergencies. In many non-office workplaces, yelling is the normal level of communication because it’s the only way to be heard over machinery, etc.

      After the OP’s reference to clocking in, I was also surprised that Alison didn’t see what would be accomplished by sending the employee home. It sounds like the employee is an hourly worker who would miss out on the pay for the shift if she’s not allowed to work it. Maybe this practice is becoming a little old-fashioned now, but it’s pretty familiar to me from my experience in blue-collar work environments.

    2. Directorial Manager of Managing Directors*

      Yeah, I’m certainly not getting close enough to that to speak quietly in the parking lot. A little befuddled by how many people (including Alison) seem to be taking a “Cmon, guys, does this really justify yelling?”

      I certainly think if it had been expressed as someone “flashing” in the parking lot, it would have been answered differently, even though exposing someone un-consenting to witnessing sexual activity is, in essence, flashing.

  29. Lost my name again*

    Question for Alison and the group, if this incident in #1 occurred after the employee’s shift (so the lateness issue was removed), would that change your answer?

    1. Lost my name again*

      To be clear, not about the write up part because corporate has already told her not to

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      The visible and on company property parts are where the problem lies.

      If you clock out for your lunch break, and then you and your partner have sex in the lobby in view of coworkers/visitors/passersby, it’s not okay because you’re off the clock. Nor okay if you use some strategically placed manila folders to shield certain areas, nor okay if you technically remain clothed and it’s all third base action.

      For OP, I can see how being already annoyed that the employee was late would color the response on learning WHY they were late. If employee was in the parking lot performing a fully clothed interpretive dance about squirrels, the focus would be on the lateness.

    3. Olivia*

      That kind of reminds me of the Duck Club letter, where the manager was trying to figure out if it was okay for him to be upset about it, because after all, it was during their lunch break. In fact, he felt like maybe he was in the wrong because he had opened a door that was locked and barged in on them.

      No, it’s still not okay to engage in sexual activity on company property.

      But I agree that the inclination to send someone home early sounds like you’re treating the employee like a child. I get why the manager would come out, though, because if one person says that someone’s doing something egregious on company property, it makes sense to want to verify that for yourself. But it probably would have been better to turn around and walk back into the office and then address it later.

  30. bamcheeks*

    So, someone reported she was having sex, LW could see enough to make a PRETTY DETAILED GUESS at the specific kind of sex she was having, and Corporate says, “Nobody saw FULLY what was happening”???

    Corporate seems pretty relaxed about at least two people pretty definitely seeing someone having some kind of sex! It’s kind of wild to me that that wouldn’t trigger some kind of, “listen, maybe DON’T DO THAT” conversation. I’m intrigued to know what level of “seeing someone having sex” they would consider worth acting on!

    1. MicroManagered*

      I thought this too. Whoever took this call at corporate is pretty clearly saving themselves some paperwork. I wish OP1 had included what kind of industry they work in–I have definitely had jobs where this kind of rug-sweeping is more common, and the common denominator for those jobs is that they were lower wage and employees were less likely to know their rights or have resources to sue the company.

    2. EPLawyer*

      that’s what I don’t get. Corporate is all — just ignore it. HELLO. An employee is engaging in sexual activity on the premises.

      I don’t think she will be so mortified at getting caught that she will get a clue. She thought sex in a public place was okay. This is not someone with great judgment. I think it needs to be spelled out explicitly that this CANNOT happen again.

  31. DomaneSL5*

    LW1: You were not wrong in your actions. Sad to see your company not supporting you. Alison is plain wrong on this one.

    I can only imagine how disfunctional your workplace is. Having sex viewable from the office is a fireable offense everywhere I have ever worked.

    1. anna*

      they were not having sex, i don’t know why people keep saying this. it could be a makeout session that got carried away when they were saying goodbye. not appropriate but not ‘having sex’.

      1. ThatGirl*

        however pedantic you want to be about the definition of “having sex” (what if it was a f/f couple?) – they were engaged in sexual activity.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        her boyfriend was fully clothed but appeared to be using his hand to pleasure her

        That sounds a lot like sex to me.

      3. Pierrot*

        Well, sex isn’t just PIV sex. Regardless, fondling someone is not something people do in public (unless they’re at a specific venue for that). Making out in public is one thing- generally not the best to do in close proximity of work where your coworkers/boss could see you. Anything beyond that, even if clothes are on, seems totally inappropriate to do in a parking lot at work just as it would be inappropriate in other public settings like a restaurant or on public transit. Getting “carried away” as an excuse only goes so far- this was going on long enough that one employee saw it, went to tell the boss and by the time the boss showed up, it was still going on.

        For some people, the risk of getting caught or other people seeing them is the motivation and I feel like that was likely going on here (whether consciously or not).

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    #3 doesn’t sound like a problem to me. If nobody’s complaining about your rapid responses I’d just continue doing what you’re doing

  33. Avril Ludgateaux*

    #3 I find this so relatable (especially the system and the likelihood of something being forgotten if not addressed right away – sidebar: I’ve been finding a lot of ADHD characteristics way too relatable and it’s got me thinking).

    One suggestions and one caution:

    Suggestion: if your workplace uses Outlook or a similarly robust email program, you can set up reminders and flag items for follow-up. With Outlook, in doing so, you not only create a to-do list, you can also set it up to remind you to follow-up with a pop-up message, similar to a calendar event reminder. This might be a little tedious if it’s a very simple answer, but for things that “should” take longer to do, you can set up a deadline and follow-up alert for, e.g., an hour or two later. You can even draft up the message in advance if you think there’s a chance you’ll forget what you want to say, and simply refrain from clicking “send” until you get the follow-up alert. It’s a roundabout way to delay sending a message but perhaps it would feel less disingenuous for you.

    Caution: I used to schedule emails regularly, especially if I was working off hours (very rare, but also something I do not want to encourage, so I would schedule delivery during the workday) or if I needed something to send out while I would be OOO. I also don’t like sending late-day emails; I’m convinced people will open them on their way out, and then forget them by the morning and then since it is already “read” it is mentally categorized as “finished” so they never revisit it (why, yes, I am projecting my own tendencies onto others; why do you ask?). Then one day, I noticed I did not get a response from a generally responsive individual, to a fairly critical but simple request (along the lines of, “can you approve this before I submit it? Deadline is next week.”). I figured she must be out and submitted the thing without a response, since the approval request was more of a courtesy/FYI and I had an upcoming OOO it needed to be done before. Some time after I returned, I thought about it again and I checked my Drafts and my Sent box to make sure I did in fact send the e-mail. I did not find the email in Drafts, but neither did I find it in Sent. That’s when I noticed a number by my Outbox. I checked and for some reason it got “stuck” in my Outbox and never sent. The worst part is, I found a couple other older scheduled emails stuck there, too! Less important ones that nobody ever followed up on, so no material harm, but it made me wary of scheduling e-mails if I am going to be out and they are time sensitive. I don’t know why it happened – I’ve used the feature without problem for years – but maybe it was some sort of server issue. I’m almost tempted to believe my organization somehow disabled the feature on the e-mail server side.

    But anyway, this is less to say “don’t schedule emails” and more “if you’re going to schedule e-mails, make sure you check your Outbox every so often.” Technology is always reliable until the first time it isn’t!

  34. Ginger*

    When reading #4 did anyone else think of the recent letter where the boss asked the employee to schedule meetings with them and they got indignant about it? The irony of one person’s problem is another person’s solution :)

    I too work an early schedule and wouldn’t accept a daily meeting when my work day is ending. I do occasionally accept meetings at that time, but not regularly scheduled ones.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This probably isn’t helpful to OP but “daily wrap up” also sounds like a meeting-that-could-be-an-email so I would also not accept it. I think most 9-5 people would be pretty aggrieved to get a daily 5oclock meeting.

  35. AdAgencyChick*

    OP2’s company is incredibly short-sighted, on top of all the reasons this is bad that Alison mentioned: When you promote someone and don’t give them a raise, now that employee is underpaid for their job title. That is CATNIP for recruiters, who can get someone to make a lateral move to a new company just by paying market rate.

  36. cosmicgorilla*

    The response to the boss scheduling the “late” meetings seems a little over complicated to me. “I know we’ve talked about it…”

    I’d decline the meeting with a note, “Hey boss, just a reminder that I leave to pick up my kids at 3:30. I can meet any time after 7:30. Would x time work for you?”

    1. peacock limit*

      This is one of those things (in my experience) that’s easy to overthink, especially with a new manager. You’re already trying to figure out their style, so you may have some anxiety about communications with them. Evil Brain tells you maybe they’re doing this on purpose because they are testing your commitment or don’t care about your schedule. I have to tell Evil Brain to STFU, assume positive intent, and THEN I can respond like you suggest.

  37. All I do is lose lose lose*

    I, too, am like letter #3. I like a clean inbox and nothing hanging out there. I don’t have an issue. Until my boss wrote me up for it. Eyeroll. So now I don’t even open my inbox until an hour before I leave for the day. I can’t win, it seems like.

      1. peacock limit*

        I did not write up my employee for this, but I did have to coach a report who liked to have inbox zero, but then would repeatedly ask me for information or forget to do tasks that had been emailed to them because they had filed it away.

  38. Casual Librarian*

    LW #5, it really sounds like you work at a reference desk of a library. From my experience in that situation, often a quick response like “no, I can’t get your book” can be warmed up or sent quickly if you explain a bit about the process or the places you looked. That way it shows 1) where a person could look to verify and 2) why the process was so quick (i.e. you didn’t have to call the Library of Congress or individually search the catalog of a bajillion libraries).

    I’m a chronic quick-follow-up-er, and that’s how I’ve started to buffer my quick turnaround times. I will say that I have been bitten in the back a few times when replying immediately in the negative where someone else cc’d on the email responded with a clarification that the original question was framed incorrectly, etc., so if there are other people cc’d that may have additional information, I’d also recommend delaying an hour.

    During my reference desk days, I had a rule of thumb to respond to external inquiries immediately and internal inquiries would be scheduled for after lunch or end of day just to build in a buffer for the cc-ing madness.

  39. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    “It’s true that some companies do this: bad ones.”

    Sometimes, Alison, you just sum things up so beautifully. Thank you.

  40. SpicySpice*

    I’m an ADHD email fast-responder too! My co-workers love it. My previous two bosses both told me many times that they appreciate that I’m able to answer their questions immediately. In fact, my 2x previous boss would email me questions while he was in meetings, so he could have the freshest data on hand when it was time for him to speak.
    Sidenote: I keep from losing email asks by liberal use of the red flags. If I am not able to immediately respond to an email (have to pull some data or do some research), I red flag it RIGHT THERE ON THE SPOT, even if I’m going to turn around and start working on it right then. That way if I get distracted, it will still be flagged. And every couple hours I review flagged emails to make sure I didn’t skip one.

    1. Robin*

      I *love* the flags on Outlook. I use them and the task function for my to-do list in combination with my inbox. So helpful

  41. Meghan*

    I’ve been in one case where I was told to slow down my responses to email and it was pretty situation specific. I worked in accounting and got an email from a manager in operations asking for me to pull some data down for the CEO. We were in close but my manager told me to go for it quickly, it was just a summary/pivot.

    I did it quickly and got a response immediately with a new question. (Which would have been answered by the pivot table if she just changed the parameters). I responded quickly for about 20 minutes to similar emails before asking my boss what was up with this lady.

    She then told me to not respond until EOD to any follow ups unless the manager spoke to her first because it was clear this person was just trying to get me to do her job. The standing rule from then on was that our team would only respond next day to this manager’s emails unless she’d scheduled with us in advance.

    1. peacock limit*

      A colleague of mine advises her direct reports to deliver delayed responses to a director from a parallel unit. The director tends to assume everyone works for him with no regard to actual chain of command or task prioritization, and if you respond quickly to him he will expect that quick turnaround every time.

  42. Smithy*

    #5 I just want to say that AAM’s language is really good – and want to add a few caveats to be mindful of where the advice being given may direct you to look else where.

    The two biggest ones I can think of are first where essentially your boss can or will never move up – so while your boss can enrich your current role, you can only get their job when they retire. The reasons may be vast, but they realized their level is all they can get or all they want, and they’re not budging upwards.

    The second is that for whatever reason, your place of employment might think there’s an intermediate level required before they’d hire someone with your current experience for your boss’s role. Think of boss as a Director, OP as an Officer – and they’d like to hire someone who’s been an Associate Director before becoming the Director. But they have no need to create that Associate Director level role, and would want to see someone leave – do that role elsewhere, and then come back.

    I’m sure there are other reasons as well, but I do think having a careful ear for reasons like this can make the overall advice more helpful.

  43. sc.wi*

    OP#1: Totally agree with Alison’s response. Obviously, your employee made a very, very bad judgement call. But, by going outside and yelling at her like she’s a child, you lost your professional control of the situation. If you had remained in your office and then had a very serious discussion with her, you would have clearly been the poised, seasoned manager in the situation – not the boss who just lost her cool and yelled in the parking lot. Thankfully, it seems like you can be done with this particular incident, but it’s definitely something to reflect on.

    1. CheesePlease*

      Are you supposed to remain in the office for a long time until the employee is ready to come in? What if a client had parked next to this individual? or a senior manager? You can’t address the behavior while it’s occurring? This is the part Allison didn’t address clearly. Having sex isn’t like having an emotional private phone call you want to take in your car.

      1. sc.wi*

        I thought about those possibilities, but honestly, it sounds like no one was 100% sure that it was happening. The piece that felt most telling to me is that LW’s corporate office, of all places, would have thought about those possibilities as well, and they didn’t find cause to discipline this employee. If the situation was that unclear, I feel like LW jumped the gun and lost her control by yelling in the parking lot.
        I would agree with you if someone had clearly, obviously seen the two having sex in her car, but reading between the lines of the letter, it sounds like it was more of a vague accusation.

      2. Any old username*

        Yes – I’d be interested to know what the advice would have been if someone wrote in to Alison that “my coworker was having sex with her boyfriend in our employee carpark and our manager did nothing when she was told about it”.

        1. sc.wi*

          Right! I wish we had more details about what was actually said, and what the employee said, because I think it changes the advice quite a bit in this situation.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      And if the very serious discussion goes “A coworker told me you were having sex in a car in the parking lot rather than clocking in” and she says “Why I never, I was on a bus that was late. No idea what that person thought they saw”?

      Having sex, visibly, on company property, is the sort of shocking thing you want to verify as a first step. Which in this case could be done by walking outside and scanning the nearby cars.

      This could have been anything from a kiss observed by a disapproving person to two people naked on the hood of the car.

      1. sc.wi*

        This is the same issue for me as I mentioned above: the LW isn’t clear on what the accuser said, which, as you mentioned, could be anything from a kiss all the way to blatant indecency. And I think the exact accusation changes the advice. I’m saying, that because LW’s corporate office didn’t find anything to discipline, it’s likely (to me) that this case was too unclear and vague for the LW to be yelling in the parking lot.
        If the accuser did use clear language, and was certain of what they saw, then I would agree with you that verifying would be the next step.

  44. Guin*

    3:30 Person: Block your calendar off from 3:00 until 7:30 the next morning, every day, so no one can schedule meetings with you at 3:30. Be wary of your new boss. Next time she tries to schedule a late meeting with you, send her an email (for tracking evidence) saying, I have a flex time schedule, per company policy, and my working hours are 7:30 to 3:30; I’m happy to meet any time within those hours. I’ve run into this situation with a new boss, and what she really wanted, in a nasty passive-aggressive way, was for me to change my hours to 9-5, which was not happening. It took referencing the actual paragraph on flextime from the HR handbook for her to stop demanding meetings at 4:30.

  45. eisa*

    I am pretty sure OP suffered second-hand embarassment. But why would you be embarrassed for OP ? What are you blaming him/her for ?

    1. Happy*

      Management via yelling at someone in a parking lot is pretty embarrassing. So is being eager to punitively send someone home early after being told not to by corporate.

  46. Essess*

    OP4 – one of my OldJobs had a policy that if you didn’t work the core 8-5 shift, then you had to block out the time you were gone from your calendar (so your calendar would show a block of time marked as Out of Office from 3:30-5). This way when someone is scheduling meetings, you show up as unavailable to flag them that you can’t attend.

  47. Erin*

    I can’t imagine working at a business where the manager patrols the parking lot like an elementary school hall monitor and screams at employees.

    Regardless of what the employee was doing in the car, the manager’s behavior says very little about the employees, but it screams volumes about how out of control the manager is.

  48. Sunshine*

    How is #1 not a fireable offense? Isn’t it illegal to engage in sexual activity in your car in public? At the very least doing it on work property should carry a penalty more severe than a talking-to, shouldn’t it? I’m not a prude, but if other employees walked past and saw that it would make things very uncomfortable for everyone.

    1. sc.wi*

      I totally agree that it’s a fireable offense in the vast majority of places – and that made me think about it more. Reading between the lines of the letter, it sounds to me like the situation was actually unclear. LW’s corporate office, of all places, would want to protect themselves if they felt that the staff member was visibly having sex in her car. And that makes me think that maybe it was more of a vague accusation, maybe corporate did look into it, and wasn’t able to find enough evidence to fire her. I’m not sure, but I would assume that a corporate office would be all over this if it was clear.

  49. Gigi*

    Every time I think I’ve reached my limit on what situations should be included in leadership training, I get hit with something new. Now I’m thinking about writing up a case study on what to do when a subordinate’s boyfriend is doing her in a open parking lot and the subsequent discussion of how it’s appropriate to talk to her and her coworkers about said public sex act.

    Really, as if it weren’t tough enough for middle managers. Who starts a day knowing exactly how they’ll handle this??

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I think this is a situation where you need to work from core principles as opposed to covering specific situations.

    2. MurpMaureep*

      Maybe it’s because I am a manager, but after reading the letter a couple times I honestly felt bad for LW 1. It’s just such a wild and unexpected scenario (or it should be!) . I can see anyone reacting poorly in the moment and being confused by the corporate response. I also get the sense that the description was a bit unclear and LW deserves the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t read her as “yelling” as at a child, but more “speaking loudly because she didn’t want to get any closer to the car”. Clearly at least one other employee had been exposed to this already and she says she didn’t want to get too close to the situation.

  50. Pippa K*

    It is absolutely wild how different the takes on the parking lot-sex letter are. Some people are reading it as an out of control manager “patrolling the parking lot” and screaming; others see a manager responding to a report of egregious misconduct and wondering how to do that better; some think the sex-having employee should be fired. I fall more in the second category, and it’s weird to me that people want to nitpick things like “technically not on the clock yet” or “technically not sex” when in earlier letters about sexual activity at work (at a desk, in a stall, etc.) there’s been a much higher degree of consensus that any degree of sex at work is just not ok.

    1. MurpMaureep*

      Yeah, I think I’m pretty cool under pressure and also pretty empathetic, but I can see myself reacting in the moment as LW 1 did.

      Perhaps what might be rubbing some people the wrong way (I realize that is unfortunate phrasing) is the fixation on being late to work and “yelling”. This causes the manager is seen as a snooping taskmaster. But keep in mind she reacted to a report from another employee who had witnessed the behavior first hand! I took her reaction as more “omg what is going on and how do I make it stop”, followed by trying to figure out how to discipline the employee and ensuring this never happened again.

    2. KatCardigans*

      I was just thinking this! It’s like people are envisioning completely different scenarios. I also lean toward your second category, and have been amazed at the people who see the LW as an overzealous hall monitor.

      This is a case in which I wish the LW could come into the comments and add some further context.

  51. I'm Just Here For the Cats!*

    #1: what an uncomfortable situation. I agree with Alison’s advice but I would add one thing If you know someone is in the parking lot and it’s been a while and they haven’t come in please go check on them. Someone may have had a medical emergency or in some cases been attacked. So if you saw Jane pull into the parking lot and she is now over 15 minutes late I don’t think it would be a bad idea to go and check on her. If you see that she is on the phone maybe just waive and get her attention. But don’t yell!

    I also really hate the “get sent home” thing. You aren’t a principal and this isn’t high schoolers. These are (presumably) adults and they do not need to be punished.

  52. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    OP#4, I’ve worked with enough people who would deliberately “forget” that the moms had to hit the door at 5 (3:30 in your case) for pick-up, that I am not confident this isn’t an undermining tactic. I’m guessing the manager isn’t in at 7:30. I’d bombard her with email, etc., in the early hours to establish you are at work, working. Some people can’t process what they don’t see, and some people are misogynist jerks, and some people are both.

    1. Sunshine*

      I definitely agree that people like this exist, but this seems like a pretty antagonistic read on a new manager to me. I think it’s more likely that the manager figured “OP works until 3:30, let’s have a wrap-up at the end of her workday” not realizing it’s a hard stop for her. (At least until the manager displays other red flags that she’s anti-parent.)

      1. Nomic*

        Sunshine, I disagree. If you know I end my day at 3.30 and you “have a wrap-up at the end of the workday” after my day ends, that’s a pretty big red flag for me.

        If my day ends at 3.30, you don’t get to wrap-up after then. If you want a wrap-up do it at 3.30.

    2. Camellia*

      This. My work is very flexible, thank goodness. Most are in by 9:00, with a few not in until 9:30, and they work correspondingly late. Me and a couple others like to work from 7:00 to 4:00. We gently combat the tendency to schedule meetings after 4:00 with a ‘funny haha’ remark of ‘If WE schedule a meeting at 7:00 AM, will you attend?’ Chuckle chuckle. The point is taken.

      And yes, I do send emails and replies early in the day, just ’cause, you know, it doesn’t hurt to see that 6:58 or 7:05 time stamp occasionally. It’s call CYA.

  53. I Work for Cats*

    #3 At my former job there was a program installed on our computers that measured how long it took for us to answer emails. I was told that I was replying too fast and it made the rest of the team look bad, so I was not to reply to any email in less than an hour. In writing. Absolutely, categorically, no exceptions. Got an email marked URGENT from my grand-boss at 4:30 in the afternoon. I leave at 5. Left it until the next day.

    That was the end of absolutely, categorically, no exceptions wait for at least an hour before answering emails.

  54. lilsheba*

    I answer emails regularly all day and it may be a minute or it may be up to an hour, I have to admit this is something I’ve never even thought about, worrying about the speed of answers is so not on my radar.

  55. Cacofonix*

    I’m a little bit impressed that LW#1 wrote in, given that reading even a few letters on this site would surely have brought him/her more insight than the question implied. But all learn in different ways. I’d encourage the LW to read here more, because there are probably other ways practical advice given on AAM will apply.

  56. irene adler*

    #3: Hope this is a simple case of a manager who just doesn’t think before scheduling. If not, folks have posted some good remedies.

    I interviewed for a QC job that was for weekend night shift. Full-time. I think the hours were 6 pm to 6:30 am or 7 pm to 7:30 am- three or four nights a week.

    I was told that, in addition to these work hours, I was expected to be available for management meetings with any and all upper management on THEIR schedule, i.e., day shift. I asked about how often these management meetings occur. “Whenever they need you” and with little to no advanced notice.

    I thought this was a giant disrespect of people’s schedules!

    (Yeah, salaried position)
    They did not hire me (whew!).

    The job ad gets reposted every few months or so. No doubt why.

  57. Former Retail Manager*

    OP #5….I am reading between some lines that may not be there, so apologies if I’m off base. It sounds to me like you transitioned from private to government. If that’s the case, and you are in the US, I would tell you that government is its own animal. You say that ideally your boss will get promoted in the next 3 years, but do you know that he is seeking to do that? Also, even if he is, are there others in the group that are high performers that have been there longer than you? In government, there is often emphasis placed on seniority, which is not as frequent in private. While your work may be AMAZING, seniority will often allow you to gain organizational knowledge and build necessary relationships within the organization that are needed to accomplish goals more effectively or just helpful in general.

    Also, you say that if you don’t advance, you’ll get bored. But even if you can advance to his role, will that satisfy your desire to advance, or will you eventually be looking to continue moving up, essentially ending up right back where you don’t want to be?

    I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer by any means, but I can tell you that I have seen many folks come to govt from private, be showered with praise for amazing work (well deserved), and they believe that this will translate to quick (in the world of govt) and repeated promotions (as is typical in private) only to have their hopes either dashed because they don’t get the gig, or they get the gig and realize that once they know the ins and outs, it’s not what they thought it would be. For example, I love my boss, but I know his job is super stressful, but he both handles it well and really doesn’t let it show. To someone who hadn’t been around terribly long, it would appear from interacting with him that his job is not stressful while having great pay and benefits, but that’s just not the reality at all.

    I don’t think Alison’s suggested wording is bad at all, but I’d focus on learning more about other aspects of the organization to see if there may be other roles that are not super stressful that you’d be interested in as well, in the event that your boss has no plans to leave.

  58. ABCYaBYE*

    LW1 – I think you probably want to have a conversation with the employee in question. But start that conversation with an apology for your gross overreaction. As Alison said, storming out to find the employee rather than waiting for them to come into the building and then yelling at them is not even close to good management. So start by apologizing for coming to the parking lot and yelling. Then let them know that people may have witnessed what was happening. It is obviously something that cannot occur on work property. And let them know that the optics can be harmful to them professionally. If the coworkers even think they saw something, that person may be thought of in a much different light than they’d like to be. So for their own interest, along with the laws and social code, it would be best to keep that sort of activity (or whatever activity might look like something sexual) away from the view of the unwitting public.

    1. Stitch*

      I massively disagree that LW1 owes rhe employee an apology. Having sex in front of her coworkers is a HUGE violation. If I was a coworker and this was just allowed to happen regularly, I’d absolutely feel uncomfortable and look for a other job.

    2. Pierrot*

      I wouldn’t necessarily apologize for having a “gross overreaction”. Aspects of it might have been an overreaction, but it’s an overreaction that makes sense in the context of seeing your employee in a compromising position in the parking lot. I think a “I realize that I lost my cool when I saw you in the parking lot and in hindsight I could have reacted differently. That said, I was pretty shocked to witness you doing that in the parking lot where others could see you.”

      “I’m sorry” could send a bit of a mixed message here. Based on the information available, I think that LW keeping her distance and therefore raising her voice to make her presence known makes sense to me. It depends on what yelling means in this context and what she was yelling. I don’t think that sending the employee home was necessarily the correct solution, but on the other hand, at least one of her coworkers saw her and that coworker could want some space from the employee for the day. I guess I am just concerned that someone who lacked the judgment to know that what they were doing was not okay for the parking lot at work might also misjudge an apology from the boss. For the boss to acknowledge that things could have gone differently and explain briefly where she was coming from suffices here.

  59. Jan*

    Concerning the not going to the parking lot to look for a late employee.

    Allison please put a note on your response to this one that its ok to visually check on your employee that they are actually ok in the parking lot. My dad had a medical emergency in his offices parking lot and had he not been checked on he would have died. They saw his vehicle was there and thought it strange he hadnt come in yet so checked on him thank you god they did.

  60. mlem*

    LW2 – My company has the same bad practice, which it “mitigates” in two ways:
    – To get a “promotion” to the senior version of the title, you have to be doing all the responsibilities anyway, and the title is just recognition of that.
    – They don’t hire for anything except entry-level, so there’s no market competition for higher titles. (Then again, new hires are getting paid about what 10-year-tenure staff are getting because they’re not fixing stale salary progressions, either.)

    *Such* a mystery why everyone with options keeps leaving ….

  61. MurpMaureep*

    I see the rationale for sending the employee in Letter #1 home.

    She acted in clear violation of acceptable workplace norms and could use some time to think about her judgement and actions. It feels less punitive for the sake of punishment and more “you need the adult (ha!) version of a timeout”. The purpose it serves is to impresses upon her the seriousness of the situation and why it can never happen again.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Exept there really is no adult version of a timeout. I’m not saying adults wouldn’t sometimes benefit from a timeout (they frequently would), just that there is no way of imposing one on an adult without being infantilizing.

  62. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    LW1: It doesn’t sound as if you have anything to worry about going forward unless you hear your employee saying “Quack, quack!” in the break room…

  63. Echo*

    LW 2, is there any chance you misheard or that they explained it poorly? My company’s policy is similar, but with the key detail that promoted staff receive no merit raise IN ADDITION TO the promotion. So for example, let’s say an Excellent performance rating corresponds to a 5% merit raise. If you’re a Teapot Officer making $50k and you receive an Excellent performance rating, you get a 5% raise to $52500. But if you get the Excellent rating AND get promoted to Senior Teapot Officer at $75k, you don’t get an additional 5% raise to $78750.

    I ask not because I doubt you, LW 2, but because I myself had to read the letter twice to realize this wasn’t what you were talking about. It is genuinely difficult to explain!

  64. Tom*

    Looking at the answer given to LW#1 and some of the comments about how LW#1 “overreacted,” I can only come to the conclusion that we might be taking the whole “sex-positivity” thing a little further than is healthy.

Comments are closed.