is it rude to leave a coworker waiting for the elevator, I recommended a friend and it went terribly, and more

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

1. Is it rude to leave a coworker waiting for the elevator?

I recently got into a sort of mini-dispute with a friend from work about manners, and I’m wondering if you could weigh in.

I work on the second floor of my building. It’s a very short walk up, but there is a very slow elevator. I have one coworker, “Jane,” who always takes the elevator. I know she has some kind of physical disability (she sometimes brings a cane to work, sometimes visibly limps, and sometimes quietly opts out of certain activities) but don’t know any details. Not my business either way, but relevant to the dispute.

So, when I see Jane waiting for the elevator in the mornings, I usually say good morning and then head up the stairs. Recently, I happened to be walking in at the same time as my friend, who also said good morning, then stopped and waited for the elevator with Jane. I greeted both and went up the stairs. Later, my friend found me and expressed shock and disapproval that I hadn’t waited for the elevator as well. She said, “Jane doesn’t have a choice, and it’s very rude to leave her standing there waiting for the elevator.” I was surprised – I like Jane fine, but we’re not friends or close, and she’s perfectly capable of waiting for the elevator without a chaperone. And since I never take the elevator otherwise, it would feel very condescending, even if Jane didn’t know that’s why I was doing it.

So … is it rude to leave a coworker waiting for the elevator?

No! It doesn’t sound like Jane requires assistance and I’m sure doesn’t want people to feel obligated to wait with her. There’s nothing wrong with saying hi and then continuing on your way.

2. I recommended a friend and it went terribly

Earlier this year, I helped a friend get a job at a firm a few friends of mine work at. We’re all women who work in an extremely male-dominated industry so I try and advocate for other women as much as I can.

Recently my friend was fired so I took her out to drinks to catch up and she basically said that they were discriminating against her and people were purposely setting her up to fail. She is thinking about suing the firm and has retained a lawyer to support this.

I was really frustrated about her experience and reached out to my other friends, who had a very different story. Apparently she would delay projects by not working on things until they were at their deadline and then would pretend she was too busy on other projects to help. She would also leave work randomly during the day and would often set up fake meetings to instead go out and run errands. The final straw was when they had an important meeting but no one could get ahold of her so they were worried something had happened. They called police for a wellness check and it came out from her roommate that she had gone to the beach that day. They fired her shortly after.

I’m stuck in the middle right now and feel awful for recommending her and worried that I’ve ruined my own reputation as a result. I’ve tried talking to her and now she’s started accusing me of being in on it.

This is a friend I went to college with and I know she’s a capable person, which is why I’m so lost why she’s acting like this. Do I need to go and make my amends to my friends’ company? I just don’t know what I should do.

You’ve probably already said this to your friends, but if you haven’t, you should now: “I’m so sorry it turned out this way! Obviously I had no idea when I recommended her, and I’m really shocked to hear it.” But that’s really it — there’s no need for further amends. Sometimes hires go wrong, even when the person comes recommended. (And they presumably interviewed her and checked references!)

This shouldn’t ruin your own reputation. No one is going to think you are a bad worker just because she was. That said, it will probably weaken future recommendations for a while (if someone there previously trusted you implicitly to know who would be a good fit, they’re likely not to give your judgment on that quite as much weight for a while) but that’s a different thing from impacting your reputation more broadly.

Also, I’m guessing you’d never worked with your friend. Be really careful about recommending someone when you’ve never worked with them because you’re vouching for their work and work habits … and people can be really different as friends than they are as employees/coworkers. That doesn’t mean you can’t still suggest a friend for an opening, but you should be really clear about the limits of your knowledge — spell out that you’ve never worked with them and can’t vouch for their work, but you can attest that they are smart/personable/passionate about bears/whatever the case may be.

Read an update to this letter

3. I don’t want to put work charges on my personal credit card

I am a public librarian in a city of around 50,000 people. Frequently through the course of my work, I have to buy things with my own money and the library pays me back once a month. This isn’t terribly out of the ordinary. For instance, I may be out at Target on my own time, and I will pick up something I need for work and ring it up separately. These usually don’t amount to more than $10-$20 and aren’t a financial burden and, timewise, it makes more sense than making a special trip to Target on the clock.

However my director handed over the task of purchasing memorial books. Because these books don’t come out of the city’s budget, they need to be billed differently. She told me that I could just purchase the books with my Amazon account and they would get around to paying whenever (!). These orders can be pricey — from $30 to $500! I pushed back on this and found a different way to order them, but it’s not a great long-term solution.The department that is supposed to be paying for these books has refused to set up their own Amazon account.

My director has never worked for another city, and I think she thinks this is normal. (There are a few other ways the city is a little wonky but my boss just doesn’t see it and thinks that this normal.) How can I push back on the city borrowing money from me?

It sounds like maybe you already have! But if it comes up again, stay firm: “I’m not able to put more than very small charges on my own account. We’ll need to set up a department Amazon account or the department that needs these would need to order them themselves.” You can use that same formula for other situations too — “I’m not able to carry these charges myself so we’ll need to purchase them some other way.”

Think of the way you’d handle it if you didn’t have financial credit of your own — meaning that if the department that wants the books refuses to pay themselves and your department has no way of doing it, you’d presumably need to say, “We don’t have any way of ordering these without payment in place” (or you’d say that to your boss and ask what she wanted to do next). If someone pushes: “That’s not an option. What do you want me to do instead?” (I’m tempted to recommend, “That’s not an option, but you could put it on yours if you want to” — but I don’t like reinforcing the idea that employees should have to loan money to their employers.)

And you don’t need to defend your decision. Not everyone even has credit, those who do don’t necessarily have a credit limit that would accommodate large charges and/or may need to leave that credit open for other uses, and not everyone is comfortable carrying a balance on their cards for an employer. It’s also worth noting some employers really suck at reimbursing people quickly, leaving the charges accruing interest on the card if the person doesn’t pay it off themselves.

Read an update to this letter

4. Career advancement with social anxiety

Is there generally going to be a ceiling when it comes to career advancement for a person working through social anxiety (or possibly sensory overload)? I’m very good at my job, naturally take a leadership type role (helping others when needed, making decisions when asked/consulted, keeping track of work at a team level in addition to my own, things like that), but when it comes to things like social gatherings or even big meetings, I have bad panic attacks. We had an on-site happy hour and I could barely make it into the area without breaking down. I had to take a whole department meeting remotely because sitting in the room with everyone was too much. On on one or virtually I do fine, but in-person events are just tough. Even being in the office gets to be too much sometimes with interacting with others.

I’ve been told this will inhibit my advancement because I can’t just be unavailable if I need to have a breakdown. Is there anything (besides loads of therapy, which for various reasons right now is not available for me) that might help make it easier for me to advance? Is it even possible to move up the ranks into leadership/management without the networking/socializing aspect?

The networking does matter, but it’s also that as you move up there are more demands to lead and participate in meetings and other events. I wouldn’t say it would be impossible to move up under the conditions you describe, but definitely harder and the paths more narrow. If your entire job were remote without any expectation that you’d periodically show up in person, and if you’d be okay leading big meetings remotely, then it could be done. That’s becoming more and more possible, so I wouldn’t write it off completely … but it’s definitely a limiting restriction.

5. Can I ask my boss from seven years ago for feedback now?

About seven years ago, I received a six-month evaluation that was the worst of my career. It was a job I was really struggling with, and I really wanted to do well in it, even to the point of hiring a professional coach. But my review was a notch above scathing, and I was clearly headed for termination. Here’s the issue: I can’t remember exactly what was going wrong. Is it too weird to reach out to that boss, now about seven years later, to say, “Hi! I worked for you seven years ago, and I bombed. I’m about to start a new job. Can you offer some advice that might help me start off better in this new job or offer me some insight into where I was coming up short back when I was working for you?”

Seven years is a long time to expect someone to remember those kinds of details, unfortunately. If it were within a year, then you could definitely ask. But it’s probably unrealistic to expect she’d be able to give you useful feedback at this point. (You don’t remember it yourself, after all, and you were more affected by it than she was!)

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer**

    #1 – Waiting for the elevator

    Is your friend one of those folks who INSISTS on helping the little old lady across the street, even when she protests?

    I agree that you had no need to wait with her, and the idea that someone needs to stay with her really is condescending. I mean if you were already chatting with her, ending the conversation would be a bit much. But saying hello and going on with your walk is perfectly normal.

      1. lyonite*

        Even that shouldn’t be a problem. I always take the elevator, some of my colleagues take the stairs. If we happen to come into the building together there’s generally a brief exchange of pleasantries and we each use our preferred route. (I have no disability, just don’t care to walk up six floors.) Unless you are deep in conversation about something, I don’t think there’s anything rude or odd about it at all.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I used to work in a building with a super slow elevator that frequently broke down. It would sometimes take up to 10 minutes to arrive and there were only 6 floors in the building. Nobody ever got offended if you chose to take the stairs or even if you abandoned waiting for the elevator to take the stairs, because everyone got so impatient with that thing!

          1. The Rural Juror*

            My mother worked for many many years in an old courthouse with an elevator that wasn’t the most reliable. She’d walk up the stairs to the third floor regularly. On several occasions, people got stuck in the elevator (one even had to climb out when the elevator stopped halfway and the fire department pried open the doors for them!). I remember one occasion when I was helping Mom get some Christmas presents she had shipped to the office. She went in the elevator with all the boxes, but had me go down the stairs just in case she got stuck. It was a weekend and she didn’t want to take a chance on both of us being stranded!

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              We used to have weekend events in that building and it was my absolute nightmare that someone would get stuck in the elevator and we wouldn’t find them till Monday. Luckily, it never happened at one of my events. Though I did once narrrowly miss being caught in a breakdown where the fire department had to be called.

            2. Jasper*

              Elevators in my building have an explicit message on them that if you’re the only one in the building, do not use, and if there’s only a few, never everyone in the elevator at once. I dread to think what caused that to appear (from the files of “safety regulations are written in blood”), but it’s an extremely sensible thing even when the elevators are perfectly reliable.

        2. Myrin*

          I agree. Lifts make me uncomfortable – I’m not claustrophobic or anything but there’s just something about the abrupt go-and-stop without my being able to see anything that makes me immediately nauseous and queasy. I can use them if I have to but I really prefer not to so I’ve absolutely diverted from people I’ve walked in with before to take the stairs. Yeah, sometimes it’s a bit awkward if people don’t know what’s going on but generally a one sentence explanation is completely sufficient and if it happens more than once, people simply become used to it.

          1. JSPA*

            #4, sounds like you function better than Howard Hughes. He did OK. (Sure, starting with a small fortune to turn into a big fortune helped…but another thing was finding fields that fit his genius well, and where eccentricity was tolerated, or even celebrated.)

            More directly actionable:

            1. being known for being extremely helpful by email or remotely, and congenial in one-on-one’s, then ideally working up to slightly larger gatherings, and making those tiny gatherings something that people seek out–can do a lot to counter problems with larger events.

            2. A friend used strategic recurrent laryngitis. Removing the expectation that she would have to talk to people made it easier to simply exist in the same space and signal that she would love to hear what they were up to. She was able to habituate herself to small gatherings to the point that she began to feel she might like to participate.

            3. Meds (now including those used for OCD rather than anxiety, I believe?) can help many people. You may not be up for extended therapy sessions but willing and able to talk to a doctor and try one or another pharmaceutical. (Not, however, trying it for the first time right before a big meeting.)

            I used to get vertigo from stage fright even just walking onto an empty stage in an empty room. Sitting on the stairs to the stage? Just fine, kind of hidden, very nice. One stair higher? Enough for today… but feels familiar tomorrow. I eventually got to the point of, “this is a familiar space.”

            Finally, once you reach the stage where you have your own admin and High enough level reports that you can send them to present…everything becomes much simpler.

            In many fields, the higher level people are not out mixing and mingling and taking large meetings. Whether being siloed is good or bad is a debate for a different thread… but it’s common.

            PS It should (alternatively) be fairly straightforward to get this diagnosed at the level of a phobia requiring an accommodation if you prefer to go that route. I’m not clear on whether your concern about advancement is more practical matter or more part of the same social anxiety that affects you in crowds. But What you’re describing sounds well into the realm of legitimate recognized disability. (Which isn’t to say that everyone who would qualify for wheelchair needs to stop trying to walk, or that you need to try to be more social, or that you should even watch either a “cure” or an accommodation.)

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              Having a disability only requires reasonable accommodations, some could work but never presenting/leading large meetings might not be workable in higher up roles depending on the field/company.

          2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            Using the stairs wherever possible is free exercise and widely considered good for your health. So you can easily claim it’s your new years resolution!

                1. metadata minion*

                  Yeah, I hate those. Either you’re a patient, in which case you often have a very good reason why you actually *shouldn’t* take the stairs, or you’re an employee, in which case there’s a good chance you’re already on your feet all day.

            1. Formerly Ella Vader*

              LW#1, the elevator question:

              I don’t think you were out of line. I don’t think the co-worker who chose to share the elevator that was already been called was out of line either.

              As someone who doesn’t look disabled but who sometimes chooses to take elevators for health reasons, I am sensitive to people who make a point of taking the stairs rather than ride with me in the elevator that’s going up anyway, especially if they talk about it. I imagine a thought bubble of “she is fat and lazy and I don’t want to get like her”.

              So it might be widely considered to be good for (the majority of people’s) health, but whether it’s good for mine on any given day is between me and my health care providers. Generalized messages about fitness opportunities and saving energy will make me feel unwelcome.

              I think it’s fine that the LW’s usual practice is to say good morning to Jane and then do what they prefer, without justifying it. Jane is already aware that LW doesn’t take the elevator up one storey.

              As for your co-worker, assuming she has good enough social awareness to recognize whether Jane welcomes her company and to avoid being patronizing, what she’s doing could be a kind gesture. I was once in a meeting with an architect proposing an accessibility renovation to a community building. The architect said that one goal was to make the accessible entrance the main entrance, so that people who needed the elevator didn’t feel sidelined by the architecture. The architect also challenged community members to consider taking the elevator along with anyone who was waiting for it, to normalize its use.

              Of course, there are other considerations too. Nowadays I’d rather not share a small elevator with an unmasked stranger.

              1. tusemmeu*

                Yeah I have invisible disabilities that lead me to take the elevator and I would love less messaging about how healthy the stairs are and more normalizing elevator use. Even when people are nice I get some on the elevator teeheeing about how we’re being naughty. No, I’m protecting my joints and you’re making your own choices.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  … I would love less messaging about how healthy the stairs are and more normalizing elevator use.


                  I’m disabled *and* fat. Busybodies used to “encourage” me to “get some exercise and take the stairs.” They did this even when I was walking slowly with my goddamn cane!!

                  No, busybody, I’m not going to get on a self-abusive fitness kick at your behest. Tend to your own knitting and stay the f out of my business.

                2. goddessoftransitory*

                  I’m protecting my joints and lungs–asthma is a bitch.

                  Our apartment’s elevator has been out for a month and having to haul laundry and garbage up and down is a huge pain–and frankly scary when you can’t see your feet!

              2. Goofy Stairs Fan*

                But, as other comments here have shown, there are lots of reasons people choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. There’s no reason why you should immediately assume they’re thinking, “I don’t want to be fat and lazy like Formerly Ella, so I’ll prevent that by getting a little exercise,” and I really hope you can stop imagining those thought bubbles! If I was walking into the building with someone who headed for the elevator and I wanted to take the stairs, I would tell them I’m going to take the stairs–what’s the alternative? Just disappearing?–and it would never occur to me that they would think I was taking the stairs /at/ them.

                I often choose to take the stairs rather than the elevator, for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to stretch my legs (and I actually enjoy walking up stairs, and now that we live in a house without them I take the chance when I can), or not wanting to be in an elevator with more than one or two other people, or maybe I want to make a quick pit stop before reaching my desk and the stairs are closer to the bathroom or the break room or whatever, or I’m running late or am too impatient to wait for the elevator.

                The way you say they “make a point of taking the stairs rather than ride with me in the elevator that’s going up anyway,” makes it sound like either you think people are obligated to take the elevator because it’s already going up or that they don’t understand that the elevator is going to go up so are foolishly not taking advantage of it, or like these people are specifically saying to you, “I’m going to take the stairs, because I don’t want to be fat!” If they are saying that, that’s horrible and mean, and I’m sorry (and please report it). But if they’re not, I urge you to remember that there are lots of reasons why people take the stairs that have nothing to do with fitness and/or weight loss, and that it’s very likely they’re not thinking about you or your body at all–they’re just taking the stairs, because they want to take the stairs. Don’t let your assumptions about other people ruin your day or make you feel bad about yourself like that! That’s not fair to yourself (or to them). Remind yourself that your body is allowing you to go to work, to leave the house, to enjoy whatever things you enjoy, and to do all of the other things humans do. It doesn’t deserve your negative assumptions, and neither do you!

                Sorry this is so long, I was just really struck by your comment. It’s awful that you’re dealing with such self-criticism and making yourself feel so bad, and I wanted to at least try to help you feel a little better.

                1. yala*

                  Yeah. I prefer the stairs because it burns off some energy. Waiting in an elevator (especially our slow ones) is so frustrating to me when I could be *moving* instead (ADHD says Must Move Always). If I’m chatting with friends and they choose to take the elevator, I’ll go with them because, y’know. We’re chatting and hanging out.

                  But the idea of stopping and taking an elevator because a coworker that I wasn’t particularly close with was waiting on it? That gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies. It has the same vibe to me as saying goodbye and then realizing you’re both walking in the same direction.

                2. Robin Ellacott*

                  Yes, I always take the stairs because it’s faster and I don’t particularly like time stuck in the elevator with whoever (especially due to COVID, but generally I find it awkward). I really hope nobody thought I was making some kind of statement about our relative fitness because I’m really, really, not.

                3. Formerly Ella Vader*

                  I don’t think it’s all in my head. When I say make a point of taking the stairs I’m including people who say “gotta get my steps in!” or people who volunteer information about how they always take the stairs one floor up or two floors down to save energy. You are quite right that people have lots of reasons to choose stairs which are not about judging me and I appreciate the intent of your comment. But I still wish that more people would be flexible about it, sometimes taking the elevator that’s already coming just to keep me company.

                4. Courageous cat*

                  @Formerly Ella Vader

                  This is just such a strange stance to me. Some people have aversions to elevators that have nothing to do with health, but even if they want to get their steps in, like… again, no one’s doing it *at* you. Feeling like they have any obligation whatsoever to politely take the elevator with you for company is absolutely a bit odd to me.

                  I can guarantee you no one is taking the stairs and thinking bad thoughts about you as a result. I get the impulse, but it’s a very “main character” thought process. Literally no one is thinking about you when they do that.

                5. metadata minion*

                  @Courageous Cat — in many cases I’d agree with you, but this is a situation where it’s very clear some people think bad thoughts about fat and/or disabled people not taking the stairs, because they express those thoughts out loud, even directly to the person taking the elevator.

                6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  I take the stairs because once when I took the lift, a drug addict jumped in, blocked it and put a knife to my throat asking for money. I’ve felt queasy alone in lifts ever since. I can take the lift with other people but no way do I want to find myself alone in one.
                  I do also like the idea that it’s good exercise, but my phobia of lifts is what dictates my choice.
                  I wouldn’t stop and wait with someone, unless we had come in together and would be going to the same floor.

        3. bamcheeks*

          I usually take the lift because I cycle to work and by the time I get there I am Done for extra exercise. Lots of my colleagues take the stairs because they want the extra steps. It’s very normal to have a quick, “are you getting— oh ok, I’ll see you at the top then!”

        4. AngryOctopus*

          This. I don’t love being in an elevator, and if it were slow, forget it. I’d rather walk up all the stairs. Just saying “I’ll see you up there!” is fine!

          1. yala*

            I love Tower of Terror, but I don’t love the way my brain decides to think about it any time I’m on an elevator that’s going slowly or makes an odd noise.

        5. sundae funday*

          I have a little mental image of Jane thinking “ugh, my time in the elevator is the only 12 seconds I get to myself all day and now Cecilia is in here with me talking to me.”

          Maybe not, of course. I don’t know why, but I almost always feel a little awkward in elevators, even when it’s with coworkers I happily have conversations with throughout the day. Maybe it’s the forced proximity that makes me feel like I have to make conversation, which then makes my mind go totally blank.

          1. Goofy Stairs Fan*

            Ha, that’s what I was thinking, too! “I love my minutes or two of peace before the elevator arrives, why is she ruining it? She doesn’t even take the elevator usually!”

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I thought this was going to be like she and Jane came back from lunch and then split up or something–I don’t think I would think that was rude, but I could at least see that being something that people argue both ways. But OP’s friend is 100% off base suggesting that this very normal behavior for passing by an acquaintance is rude.

        1. Sloanicota*

          The only way it would be rude is if you get to the elevator ahead of Jane and don’t hold it for her – since she actually requires it and you don’t, you should make sure you don’t contribute to her having to wait longer or something. That’s what I was expecting from this letter, like someone cut ahead and bogarted it. Simply declining to take it is not offensive.

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            Even then I think it would depend on if Jane was on their way to the elevator, and was a few seconds behind.

            But if Jane stopped to talk to someone in the lobby and was not actively coming to the elevator I don’t think someone would be required to hold it.

          2. Salsa Verde*

            I absolutely thought this was going to be a question of; OP got on the elevator, saw Jane coming, and did not hold it. The actual question makes me side-eye the coworker who said this was rude, it’s very strange that anyone would think this is behavior is rude. Would she think it was rude to leave a coworker without an obvious disability waiting for the elevator? I’m so confused!

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I would never leave my coworker with a disability waiting for the elevator on his own, but that’s because the buttons aren’t accessible for him so he literally has to sit there until someone comes along. Given that we couldn’t get the company to install a door assist until he was literally trapped inside during an unscheduled fire drill, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

              Fortunately, WFH has made all these accessibility issues irrelevant.

            2. Sasha*

              Seems pretty clear she only thinks this is rude *because* Jane has a disability, and she thinks disabled people need coddling.

              Assuming no issues like elevator buttons out of reach/non-opening doors etc, it is quite patronising/infantilising to suggest Jane can’t take the elevator without a babysitter.

          3. Irish Teacher*

            That was what I assumed it was going to be about. That the OP rushed into the lift and pressed a button to close the door or something as Jane was approaching.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        Gosh, even when my coworkers and I are going to the same places as a group, we typically split up between those who would rather take the stairs and those who prefer the elevator. Who ever gets up or down the building first just waits for the rest of the group. It’s not anything anyone cares about.

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      Yeah, I thought it would be a matter of, LW got in the elevator, saw Jane just entering the lobby, and didn’t hold the door, which led to a discussion about just how much time should you give someone to catch up vs. letting them wait for the car to return. This, though, I don’t get. What harm was supposedly done?

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Same. So if Jane were at the vending machine as you walk by, are you supposed to wait while she gets her Cheetos and then walk back to her desk with her? If Jane were at the security desk asking a question, are you supposed to stop and wait for her?
            This is ableist BS.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              This is ableist BS


              I could easily be Jane. Don’t wait by the elevator with me out of pity or some misguided “help the disabled” compulsion. If I need help I’ll ask.

      1. Sue*

        OP’s friend was rude to even bring this up. I can’t imagine saying that to someone even if I was thinking it (but I wouldn’t be). I always take the stairs to get my steps and this just sounds like someone looking to be critical, ugh.

        1. Bearly Containing Myself*

          It sounds to me like one of those people who follows a number of ‘rules’ that they have decided are important, but that aren’t accepted by many other people (– r even any other people).

          I have a sister like this. For example, she said that women over age 35 are considered unprofessional in any business if they have long hair (spoiler alert: her own hair was short and mine was long). She kept telling me about that made-up rule until her guru, Oprah, had a show featuring older women who Oprah said look great, and many of those women well over 50 years old had long hair.

          I have since learned that a personality disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (which is different from the more well-known OCD) is often associated with preoccupation with rules.

          1. sb51*

            That did, alas, used to be A Rule, at least in the past; I have long hair and there was a period in my career when I kept getting asked “when are you going to cut it?” — I was still young enough then that it was quirky-but-not-yet Breaking A Rule, but I got weird looks when I said I didn’t plan to.

            Now either it’s not as much of A Rule in society, or it’s just not in my slightly-different current field. Or maybe it’s just that I’m visibly old enough that I’m clearly flaunting my long, salt-and-pepper hair by not cutting it or dyeing it so people think it’s not worth the bother to point it out.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I think it’s totally fine to be a friendly and outgoing person who would prefer to keep a coworker company when an opportunity presents itself (assuming they’re sensitive to cues that the coworker wishes to be left alone!) but it’s hardly a rule that everyone must observe or else they’re being rude.

            2. Common Taters on the Ax*

              Just to clarify, because I’m an encyclopedia of old rules desperate to put them to good use, the rule wasn’t that you couldn’t have long hair at all after a certain age. It was that you couldn’t have long hair and wear it down. Katharine Hepburn’s hair, for example, was always considered appropriate no matter how old she got.

              1. Francie Foxglove*

                Love the username!

                And yeah, I’m over fifty and still have long hair, which I wear in a bun. But that has a lot to do with saving time previously spent keeping it smooth and untangled. If I wear it up, all I have to smooth is the top and sides.

                1. wendelenn*

                  I am hoping it’s a shout out to Charles Ingalls’ clever pun in the book Little Town on the Prairie!

          2. Red*

            I’m autistic and in my experience, because us autistic people don’t “know” social rules inherently, a lot of people have to figure them out themselves. I can absolutely see another autistic person coming to the conclusion that “I never see women I admire with long hair after 35, therefore it’s unprofessional/inappropriate”.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I’ve seen it in various judgy fashion articles/listicles. I strongly suggest they’re written to be controversial to get “engagement” when people comment how wrong they are.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            Unless somebody is wearing their hair in braids that stick straight out from their head, a la Pippi Longstocking, I don’t see long hair as inherently unprofessional.

      2. Despachito*

        I thought that too (that OP went in the elevator and did not wait for Jane to enter too).

        But what OP did is perfectly normal and what OP’s friend said was extra weird. Some people – gasp – even NEVER never take the elevator because they appreciate that bit of extra exercise. According to OP’s friend they are super rude for that? I have yet to wrap my head around this way of thinking.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Some people seldom take the elevator because they get vertigo and elevators are uncomfortable for them – my spouse is like this. I usually take the elevator because stairs are slow and uncomfortable for me.

      3. Caliente Pspillion*

        Me too and I find the friends entire pov infantilizing, precious and ridiculous. Like the woman got to work BT HERSELF I’m fairly sure she can manage ANOTHER elevator ride like the one she probably takes every work day?

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          While I agree that the friend is in the wrong, and OP did nothing wrong, I don’t think the friend is saying it is because Jane can’t handle taking the elevator on her own, but the reasoning seems to be more about social interaction etiquette. It is rude to leave a coworker alone and not interact with them.

          I think similar to the lines of it would be weird/rude if you rode the elevator with a coworker in silence, or when you happen to get on the same train as a coworker and feel the need to socialize with them.

          1. EPLawyer*

            WHY would it be rude to leave a coworker alone? Unless it is a dangerous situation, they are adults and can be left alone.

            In fact, some of us prefer coworkers NOT chitchat with us just to “not leave us alone.” I am fine with a coworker not talking to me in the elevator just to avoid seeming rude or even — heaven forbid — sitting elsewhere on the train so we don’t have to socialize.

            Not everyone needs their coworkers socializing all the time and may actually prefer some alone time to recharge.

            1. Boof*

              It sounds like friend is insisting that one ought to adhere to a vague notion of solidarity – but it really doesn’t make any sense. LW1 is not using stairs AT their coworker and it seems unlikely coworker would care as it does not directly impact them and LW1 is still being normally interactive and polite.
              As an introvert I’d actually way prefer someone move on than attempt some sort of prolonged interaction in the name of solidarity – everyone’s different who knows what coworkers True Feelings are about other people taking the stairs. My guess is it probably doesn’t register much most of the time.

            2. Cmdrshpard*

              Sorry, I should have been more clear:

              “It is rude to leave a coworker alone and not interact with them.” I don’t actually think this, I meant is as this is what I think the friend is thinking.

              I much prefer to ride elevator alone, and have gone to the bathroom to avoid riding the elevator/train with people at the end of the day.

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

              I wonder if this has to do with something a professor of mine told me about. I cannot remember what he called it but basically, because so many people were raised in groups like daycare, often times from extremely young ages, there is more of a group mentality. In daycare everyone does everything at the same time (lunch, snacks bathroom breaks, naps). Because of this people have a hard time being alone or doing basic tasks.
              I see this a lot with college students. Even if one person is extremely hungry they wait until their roommates or friends go to eat because they are so uncomfortable with eating by themselves that they cannot go. Same thing with the bathroom. In safe areas, (i.e. not a bar or other situation) I’ve seen girls beg their friends to go with them to the bathroom or talk their friend into going somewhere to pick something up because they really can’t stand being alone to do normal menial tasks.
              So I wonder if this coworker friend has this same type of mentality and thinks it must be hard for Jane to have to stand and wait for the elevator by herself, so they found it rude that OP didnt go with.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                I’ve had a lot of “social skills” pushed on me that says I am abnormal for wanting to eat when I’m hungry instead of waiting for a quorum, and that I “don’t recognize danger” because I do my errands alone.

            4. Irish Teacher*

              My assumption was that the friend was an extreme extrovert who couldn’t grasp the idea of anybody wanting to be alone for any length of time and therefore sort of felt the only reason you would choose to take the stairs alone rather than join somebody in the lift is if you didn’t like them or at least that the person was likely to think it was because you didn’t like them. I’m not saying this is really logical, but there are people who don’t seem to be able to imagine any experience other than their own so if they would prefer to be with somebody, unless it was somebody they actively disliked, they’d assume everybody else had the same reasoning.

              I have a friend I could absolutely imagine saying, “I had to use the lift this morning because Jane was waiting for it and I’d be afraid she’d think I was snubbing her if I used the stairs. Like, wouldn’t it look as if I hated her so much I couldn’t even stand to be with her for the length of time we were waiting for the lift.” In my friend’s case, I think it is related to just being very anxious about what people think of her. If somebody didn’t wait with her, she’d wonder if they were actively avoiding her, so she assumes everybody else is equally anxious about such things.

              1. Loch Lomond*

                Exactly, there’s a difference between ignoring her versus acknowledging her and then continuing on your way. Maybe the friend is one of those people who doesn’t spend a ton of time alone with their own thoughts? In which case, this is more of a Their Friend problem.

          2. Willow Pillow*

            I don’t think the friend is saying that Jane can’t take the elevator on her own either, but there is often a subconscious bias against people with disabilities that we aren’t capable of doing things independently. Think about it this way: has the friend asked Jane if she wants company waiting for the elevator? Would the friend say that it’s rude to leave an able-bodied person waiting for the elevator?

            To be clear, I think this is a low-stakes issue (not that LW shouldn’t be writing in about it, just that there are more egregious cases of discrimination against PWD). The undertone is that the friend knows what Jane wants/needs without Jane’s input or consent, however, whether or not this was intended. That’s still an issue. I would suggest you read up on infantilization and its broader impacts.

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              I know not a ton to go on, but I do actually think that friend might believe:
              “Would the friend say that it’s rude to leave an able-bodied person waiting for the elevator?” this would be true.

              In that friend would follow a coworkers lead on method of travel to keep socializing/not leave them alone, even if friend preferred a different method.

              If another coworker was taking the stairs, the friend would also take the stairs even if they preferred to ride the elevator, or vice versa, friend would take elevator to continue socializing with a coworker even if they wanted the stairs.

              I can see that the friend might have some bias based on the “Jane has no choice” comment.

              1. Willow Pillow*

                Your first paragraph is an excellent point… But doing what you’ve been socialized to believe is right, despite someone telling you they don’t want it, is still infantilizing. Although it would merit a different conversation than “I think you need this thing you didn’t ask for because you have a disability”, it’s still rooted in “I believe my experience is more valid than yours”.

                1. Cmdrshpard*

                  “But doing what you’ve been socialized to believe is right, despite someone telling you they don’t want it, is still infantilizing.”

                  You are right about that, but at this point I don’t think the friend has been told by Jane not to wait for them.

                  I do think friend is wrong in their belief, but I don’t think they have disregarded anyone’s express wishes.

          3. Loch Lomond*

            It’s absolutely not rude to leave a coworker alone though! You can say hi or good morning and then continue on your way.

            Even if you were both walking into the building together, you could say “Ok, I’m going to take the stairs, catch you in a bit!” But especially if you were just passing by, just say good morning! You’re not then stuck with them.

          4. Goofy Stairs Fan*

            That might be what the friend is thinking, yeah, but that’s even weirder if you carry it on. Like, if LW1 was in the breakroom waiting for her lunch to finish in the microwave, would her friend think it’s rude to just grab a water and go back to her desk, instead of standing there chatting until LW1’s food is ready? Or until she finishes eating it? If Jane goes into the bathroom and Friend is also heading there, does she feel obligated to stand around waiting for Jane to finish? Does she feel the need to hang out at the printer all day because people keep coming up to collect their pages, and she doesn’t want to leave them waiting alone? It’s just so bizarre to me.

      4. whingedrinking*

        My most generous interpretation is that it’s rude to cut off a conversation that Jane might have wanted to continue by saying you wanted to take the stairs, where she can’t or might prefer not to follow. That’s a serious reach, though. I would generally trust an adult to know when it’s okay to end a conversation and walk away, be it up a set of stairs, down a hallway, or whatever.

    2. My Dear Wormwood*

      Not to mention, people are often advised by their doctors to build small amounts of exercise into their day, like using the stairs! Jane’s health is improved by taking the lift, and mine is improved by taking the stairs. These two things don’t need to clash.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Not having extra people is the lift is a safety issue too, with a highly transmissible strain of COVID in the community.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Early in COVID we had a rule that there wasn’t to be more than one person in any elevator. Which was ridiculous with the number of married couples we employ (university department). And that our stairs are creepy and feel unsafe.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I would think a married couple should be permissible, since they share so much space at home and in the car already, they’re not adding significantly to their risk sharing an elevator.

      2. duinath*

        honestly, it’s a reach, but i had a thought that maybe the elevator confronter has a complex about that kind of elevator/stairs thing and is a little upset at lw1 for taking away their “excuse”.

        definitely a reach! but it’s just so odd i can’t help but to speculate.

    3. TransmascJourno*

      Exactly. It’s important to recognize ableism, but Jane is straight up virtue-signaling—and I don’t use that term lightly.

        1. elle kaye*

          I concur with you. Hard to point to actual examples but this feels a lot like “Look at me helping the person with the disabilities, look, I am a good ally to people with disabilities.” If I were the LW in this circumstance, I’d have a hard time not asking if that was the thought going through my colleague’s head (and they might not even be thinking that, but I’d still have a hard time not ASKING).

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I’m able bodied but I have to take the lift at work because my role involves carting around a trolley full of stuff. My coworkers are more unencumbered and not once have they stood and waited with me, even if we walked over together from a different building and got chatting on the way. Even if we are going to the same place they’ll just say: “see you up there”. This feels perfectly natural and has zero awkwardness involved; you’d have to be especially awkward to make it so. I’d also be pretty annoyed if this became the “polite” standard because I’d be sharing a tiny oxygen space way more often, with more potential to pick up viruses, for absolutely no reason. The one or two other people who need the lift are a more acceptable bubble. The idea that Jane is looking longingly at someone taking a different route to her and feeling left out is really just absurd.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Yeah, I have a coworker/friend who uses a cane, and even when we were going from A to B together, unless we were in the middle of a deep discussion, when we got to the elevator lobby I would wave cheerily, say something like, “See you at the top!” and take the stairs. I might wait for my friend on the other end, especially if we still had some distance to walk, but even pre-covid I didn’t see any reason to shove myself in a little box that had a slight possibility of breaking down (It didn’t happen OFTEN, but we’d all heard the horror story of the 12-person tour that got stuck in that elevator for two or three hours) just because it made more sense for my friend to do so.

        Interestingly, if we had a cart I would usually also take the elevator; I think it felt like “our” cart and thus I had a responsibility to remain with it, and also the second person can actually be useful doing something like holding the door or helping guide the cart over the gap between the elevator and the lobby floor.

        1. Nea*

          As a person with a disability, I’ve done the same thing: said “See you up there!” as they head to the stairs and I wait. Often we arrive at the same time anyway.

    5. münchner kindl*

      Wouldn’t it be so much better, that is, more respectful of her as a person, if friend asked Jane what she prefers, instead of deciding “I’m doing the only polite thing, feeling smug about it and chastise others, too”?

      1. Moira Rose's Closet*

        No, asking her that would be infantilizing. Jane has given no reason to assume she needs or wants an elevator companion simply because she has a disability. Assume competence.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          On the contrary, I think that making a unilateral decision about what’s rude to Jane is infantilizing. I say this as a person with a disability who is frequently the target of infantilizing behaviour. I would much rather have a conversation about those things than have to deal with other’s unsaid assumptions.

          1. Observer**

            What “unilateral decisions” are being made here?

            I’m not being snarky. I don’t understand how assuming that Jane is a competent adult who has shown that she can manage on her own, and as such asking her if she needs help that she has shown no signs of needing or wanting, and that other people don’t need or want is an over-step.

            Asking Jane, in this context embeds the assumption that she needs things that are not obvious (or even highly likely), and that she’s also incapable of asking for those things or making her own arrangements unless someone broaches the subject. Is that really a better assumption that “Jane gets around well on her own. She is capable of continuing to do so without my hovering”?

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Disclaimer: I’m not responding with any intent of snark, I honestly don’t know how to respond without a breakdown.

              Unilateral: “done or carried out by only one of two or more parties.”

              The two parties here are Jane and LW’s friend. Friend has decided that it is rude to Jane. Nowhere is Jane’s input on what she considers to be rude represented, so Friend has made a unilateral decision on what is rude to Jane.

              To me – as a competent adult with disabilities, who can manage on my own – asking is the opposite of assuming. There is a right way and a wrong way to ask, to be fair – to me, the right way might be “hey Jane, I see you waiting by the elevator by yourself and I worry that I’m being rude by leaving you alone. Would you like company (while you wait)?” This gives Jane the agency that Friend’s assertion is missing.

              I am not saying this is the best case – I think that Friend should dig into why she feels this way. The issue seems to be that she is *not* assuming that Jane is competent and self-managing, and Jane is typically in the best place to counter that. Asking doesn’t change the fact that friend has said assumption, but it provides the opportunity to de-embed it (providing Friend is of the mindset to do so).

              1. Observer**

                Friend has decided that it is rude to Jane. Nowhere is Jane’s input on what she considers to be rude represented, so Friend has made a unilateral decision on what is rude to Jane.

                I agree with that. But that’s not what the comment you were responding to said. That’s why I was asking.

                If I’m understanding the totality of your comment, you are annoyed with *friend’s* assumptions. If that’s the case, then, yes I do understand that it would be better for Friend to ask Jane than to make assumptions. Although it would be better if they just didn’t assume to start with.

                I just don’t think that *the OP* needs to ask about this.

                1. Willow Pillow*

                  Here’s the context, via the higher-level comments:

                  “Wouldn’t it be so much better, that is, more respectful of her as a person, if friend asked Jane what she prefers, instead of deciding “I’m doing the only polite thing, feeling smug about it and chastise others, too”?”

                  “No, asking her that would be infantilizing. Jane has given no reason to assume she needs or wants an elevator companion simply because she has a disability. Assume competence.”

                  I am responding to the first sentence there. I agree that Jane has provided no reason for Friend’s assumption, which is why I added that I don’t feel this is the best case and that the question would need to be asked with Jane’s dignity in mind.

                  One can assume competence and ask if someone needs help, though – competence should include the ability to decline help. A respectful question would address Friend’s assumption, not Jane’s competence. Friend needs external feedback in order to stop making assumptions.

                  I’m not sure what your last sentence refers to… I wasn’t annoyed, but having that ascribed to my comments is starting to get me there, so I would like to end this sidebar.

      2. Observer**

        Would you ask someone who doesn’t have a (visible / known to you) disability? No? Then don’t ask her.

        The idea that a clearly reasonably self sufficient adult who clearly gets around on her own might still be longing for some random acquaintance to essentially baby-sit her is just really waaay out there.

      3. RagingADHD*

        I guess if the only 2 choices available were A) ask Jane if she wants / needs company, or B) assume Jane needs company / help and chastise others, then in that case option A would preferable.

        But in this situation, the right answer is C) Mind your own business.

    6. File Herder*

      I generally take our very slow lift for even one floor at work, because I like not falling down the stairs. I am happy for my colleagues to go on ahead via the stairs unless we are already actively involved in conversation and depending on the context it may still be appropriate for them to go ahead. OP1’s friend appears to be virtue-signalling. (“Appears” because it’s possible this behaviour was dinned into them by someone else.)

      1. Observer**

        I’m going to go with virtue signaling. The fact that she was ok with actually chastising the OP over this is far more compatible with virtue signaling.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Absolutely. Like it or not, virtue signalling exists from allies, particularly where disability is concerned, and it’s maddening.

          It’s not necessarily as bad as active bigotry, but as disabled, you get a LOT of people assuming that e.g. all disabled people are happy being in wheelchairs (a lot of us aren’t; many people with mobility issues who regain function or want it find ways of maitaining an upright posture, and my husband, who needed a wheelchair in the last few weeks of his life, hated the miserable thing as a symbol of all that his cancer had robbed him of), all autism is is being ‘differently abled’ and not an exhausting handicap in many regards that has a physical component such as overstimulation, lack of balance etc, and so on and so forth. Many of us regard our disabilties as things to be overcome or alleviated, if not cured, rather than parts of our identity. Some allies end up perpetuating the ‘magical’ stereotypes that they’ve abandoned for other marginalised groups. That’s where virtue signalling has become a problem in itself.

          The point is that to those without disabilties, it can be tempting to approach them are purely social issues that would evaporate overnight if only people would be more considerate. The crappy thing about being disabled in the first place is that many of us are in pain, need to drop everything to rush to the bathroom, have confusing or painful or stressful thought patterns, and those will never go away even with the most accepting and accessible society in the world.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yes, this.

            I would love to be able to: take several flights of stairs, stand for hours in line, hike up a mountain, ride a bicycle, go for a run, dance the tango, carry a box with two hands, not have to stay near a bathroom, etc. But I physically can’t. That’s part of what my disability means in my life. All the wishing and striving to overcome it won’t change that.

            What I think disabled folks need from allies the most is normalizing the idea that there are some things some folks can’t do and that’s okay, plus encouraging the implementations of work-arounds and accommodations. Abled officials often don’t listen to the disabled, so having other ableds echoing our concerns and actual needs helps.

    7. Kim*

      LW #1’s friend needs to get of TikTok and go outside.
      This is what I would consided a chronically online take.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Yes. Removing someone’s agency is not polite, respectful, or helpful. If someone expresses that they don’t want help, treat them like an adult and don’t help them. In fact, I try to treat helping as opt-in and generally will offer the help before actually doing it.

    9. Random Dice*

      Agreed. She’s failing the “Assume Competence” test for interacting with those of us with disabilities.

    10. Katrina*


      I feel like the co-worker may be vastly overestimating her own importance in Jane’s life.

      In fact, she may be making Jane’s time on the elevator less pleasant by forcing her to make polite small talk with this person who insists on following her around. Not everyone is a social butterfly.

      1. MazMellem*

        This! I have a vision problem that means while I can walk up stairs if need be, it’s difficult for me to walk down them, so I take the elevator. I would much rather just be in my own headspace while I do so than have to make forced conversation.

    11. learnedthehardway*

      It would be different if the OP was going to take the elevator herself – then it would be rude to not wait for a disabled coworker if she was almost at the elevator.

      But it is ridiculous to expect someone to change their normal routine of taking the stairs to wait for anyone (disabled or not) to take the elevator with them.

    12. Awlbiste*

      Going to add my voice here as a person with a disability that requires me to use a cane sometimes and an elevator sometimes: there is no need for you to wait with me. Please walk up the stairs and know I am spending zero seconds thinking about that at all.

    13. HannahS*

      Yeah, I agree. As someone who has sometimes been unable to take stairs, the only situation where I’ve ever felt that others were being rude was in the very specific situation where:
      1. My entire team was going somewhere together (e.g. another department for a meeting.)
      2. The team lead assumed we would all take the stairs several flights together, leading me as a junior person to have to speak up and draw attention to myself.
      3. I got a dismissive, “Oh…uh…I guess we’ll see you up there, then.” (A real nice tone of well you LOOK able-bodied)
      4. I arrived later, alone, and the meeting had started without me.

      So…that’s pretty different from the situation described. You’re in the clear, OP.

    14. AnonInCanada*

      When I read the title of this blogpost, I was under the impression that OP#1 didn’t wait for Jane while she was already on the elevator and essentially closed it in her face. Reading OP’s story, yes, she did nothing wrong. A salutation, and head up the stairs. What’s the big deal? Except for the busybody “friend” who just wanted to cause drama where there wasn’t any.

    15. KayDeeAye*

      When I first saw this letter, I assumed it was on “waiting *in* the elevator for someone else to board it.” Which, yes, you generally should do, at least within reason. (The convention around here is that unless the elevator is fairly full, you wait on someone if they’re in the elevator lobby.) But to wait while another person is waiting on the elevator? Um, why? I mean, maybe if you were in conversation with that person, but other than that…um, why? The OP’s friend has some unusual etiquette “rules,” it seems to me.

    16. Van Wilder*

      I just look at the elevator ride as having a different morning routine. If your coworker had to use the lobby bathroom immediately upon arriving at work everyday, would you be obligated to go with them? No. Is it different if this need was due to a physical limitation? Still no.

      If your coworker buys coffee and a paper in the lobby in the morning, do you have to wait with them for that? No. What if they need to buy a snack immediately because they’re hypoglycemic? Still no.

    17. Curmudgeon in California*

      I could easily be “Jane” in this instance. I’m disabled, sometimes use a cane, and habitually take the elevator. I would think it was ridiculous if a normally stair using person thought that they had to wait for the elevator with me. I don’t need an escort, FFS!

      If you want to take the stairs, do it, don’t wait for me out of some misplaced politeness or sympathy.

      If you are in the middle of a conversation with me, you might want to ride the elevator to continue the conversation. Otherwise I would think it odd if you hung around and waited even though you usually take the stairs.

    18. Momma Bear*

      If OP was waiting for the elevator and shut the door on Jane, that would be one thing. But OP was just going their own way. No obligation to wait for Jane in this case.

  2. Observer**

    #3- Charges on your CC

    You might want to point out to your director that what she is suggesting would be considered very poor financial practice by most auditors. Now, auditors by an large don’t care about the effect of policies like this on staff, but they DO care about the fact that this stuff is harder to audit and manage than accounts that the organization owns and controls. Even the small purchases can be an issue, but in most cases, if you keep the total amounts low, they won’t get bent out of shape. But this much money is just too much.

    Also, if Amazon collecting sales tax in your area? If they do, then you have another problem – your library may not be permitted to reimburse you for the sales tax, since the library is not supposed to be paying sales tax.

    1. Massmatt*

      My last job had corporate cards for travel expenses. A coworker had been using his for personal expenses, and even though he was paying them off, he was fired.

      I get that some small businesses can’t afford business credit cards, but at the very least reimbursement can be quicker than “whenever”. It sounds as though the city/department in this letter is trying to get the LW’s personal finances entangled in this interdepartmental dysfunction.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Auditor here – while you’re not wrong, if this is the approach to finances the library maintains this policy is probably the least of the potential issues.

      Good call on the taxes though.

      1. Observer**

        Oh, I’m sure it is. I’m not even a fiscal person, but I interact enough with that stuff that all sorts of alarm bells were going off in my head as I was reading this.

        But, I’m just being pragmatic here. The OP can’t fix the lackadaisical attitude at play here. All they can do is find something that they can push back with.

        And one can fantasize that someone will wake up and smell the coffee – especially if this is just the OP’s director and not the whole department. But that’s just a side fantasy.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I was going to say this isn’t the best financial practice. But it is common, so it might be that’s not a powerful argument in your organisation.

      If “the department who is supposed to be paying for this” that you’ve spoken to wasn’t the actual accounts payable / finance department, it’s worth getting in touch with them to see if they’ve got any advice. There are a couple of other options apart from “LW pays themselves”, or “departmental Amazon account”, like a organisation credit card or a purchase order. Hopefully your Accounts Payable people will have some ideas on how not to put it on your own account.

    4. BuffaloSauce*

      It probably wouldn’t be a big deal auditing wise. As long as you provided receipts of everything. I worked for a mid-sized-large non-profit. I bought a lot of stuff on my personal CC (which I was fine with) and got reimbursed. I always provided receipts and coded them for where the money was being spent.

        1. Observer**

          Well, it’s the amounts that will ring bells for competent auditors. $10-20, not a big deal. $300 at a pop? Nope. Unless you have a really, really good process in place, which these guys OBVIOUSLY don’t.

    5. to varying degrees*

      The LW may want to speak with the finance/comptroller department as well. As a city department they should not have to be paying taxes, but if she’s paying for it then the tax exempt status is not transferable to her, regardless if she’s purchasing for them. And every single municipality/government I have ever worked for WILL NOT reimburse taxes to an individual. It gets too legally hairy. I’m surprised the department doesn’t have a purchasing card issued to them (even if the LW doesn’t have one themself) and setting up an Amazon business account is pretty damn easy to do.

      Continually asking for reimbursement for so many purchases is going to be an auditing nightmare for this government.

    6. MangoSlice*

      Is the library considered a non-profit? If so, Amazon offers discounted non-profit prime accounts and the ability to make tax free purchases through them.

    7. I Herd the Cats*

      I admit this one filled me with second-hand rage. I worked at a business that held events, and I was expected to charge significant amounts of business expenses on my personal card, which was reimbursed 2-3 months later, so I had to pay it off myself each month to avoid interest charges. I pushed back on that for a year, and then quit. (Their justification was partly, well, look at all the points you’re earning!) At a more recent job I had a corporate card (in my name, with a huge line of credit, like $250K) but they were slow about paying it sometimes, and I had different concerns about liability and whether it was affecting my credit rating, and never did get a clear answer.

    8. EthelM*

      The taxes! My understanding is that cities don’t need to pay taxes. So they are in fact wasting money by having her pay for it.

      I wonder if OP reached out to the city’s financial department if they could assist.

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny*

        Based on personal experience, the library is not wasting money because they’re most likely not reimbursing the taxes. The OP is in effect paying a convenience fee for the library by having to pay the taxes.

    9. The Library Lady*

      I’m wondering if anyone is getting a break on sales tax even when the LW goes into a physical store. I’ve bought stuff for my library and always had to pay for it with a credit card with the library’s name on it and tax free paperwork for the store to review. Alternately I’ve worked retail and had to run tax free transactions and the only way we could do that was with a credit or checking account with the organization’s name and tax free paperwork.

      It seems strange that a library would have this set up. My library is strict about budgeting and would not want to pay any more than they had to, and the tax on a $500 purchase could go a long way in buying other supplies.

      1. nona*

        For my state at least, there was a state tax form/certificate I could take with me to a store to show that I was buying something on behalf of a sales-tax exempt institution (in my case a public university) and they would not charge the sales tax at point-of-sale. I could pay with my personal card, get the receipt and then get reimbursed.

        This was also 15 years ago and I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but there may be ways to avoid incurring the tax (so that reimbursement isn’t necessary) even if it does take some extra work.

        1. doreen*

          Some stores/states? will not allow you to do that with a personal credit card – I was able to make tax-free purchases at some stores with the form and cash but not with a personal credit card. Also stores that required membership sometimes required that the organization have an membership to make tax exempt purchases.

          1. to varying degrees*

            Same with my state. Shure there might be a cashier who doesn’t realize it and does it, but it is illegal here.

          2. Observer**

            Some stores/states? will not allow you to do that with a personal credit card

            True. And there is a good reason for that. The potential for abuse here is incredibly high. How is a store supposed to verify that you actually are purchasing for the organization? With a card, they are permitted to make the reasonable assumption that you didn’t steal it. With your own card, it’s a lot easier to take the form that you got for another transaction and use that with your own card to make personal purchases.

        2. mlem*

          Yeah, I do this for a non-profit in Massachusetts. As long as I can present a valid tax exemption certificate, no one cares who’s making the actual payment. (One store did have a problem that someone kept bringing in a long-expired certificate and using it for their own personal purchases, but that got sorted out in one fashion or another.)

          1. mlem*

            That being said, some stores are more stringent than others about it. I buy cat food for a shelter; one grocery store just looked at the certificate (and has since started bothering to record the certificate number); another grocery store requires logging every single tax-free transaction in a book; a pet-supplies store puts the certificate number and organization name into their POS during the purchase and filled out a card for me to present in place of my increasingly tattered certificate.

            I think that as long as the store can provide the associated certificate info per purchase if challenged, they’re fine; but I’ve learned to check with the service desk before actually trying to make any purchases.

        3. kitryan*

          This is how it worked for me with govt and non profit orgs I worked for. Also 15+ years ago, though. I have had more recent experience using personal cards for work purchases but only in a state w/no sales tax, which simplifies things on this front for sure!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I don’t see how a functioning library doesn’t have the tax free stuff in place! I sell pizzas for a living and we have to handle this tax stuff all the time for donations, it’s not unusual at all.

    10. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I wrote a finding on a single audit (federal grant) last year because the governmental entity purchased items on an employee’s Amazon account and couldn’t produce appropriate support. I believe they had to pay the money back.

    11. Rex Libris*

      OP3… See if they’ll go for an Amazon Business account. Those are easy to set up and you can get a revolving line of credit through Amazon, where they will just invoice you for monthly payment. Many libraries use it, at least in my area.

      1. What She Said*

        We use an Amazon business account as well (we’re not a library) and it works out really well. Just keep in mind when ordering around holiday closures. You don’t want those orders to go missing if left on the doorstep because you’re closed.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Ditto. The library I just retired from had an Amazon business account. Easy to set up, easy to use, and we never had any problems with our own internal finance department about it.

        OP#3, talk with your director about setting up an Amazon business account — they may not know what it is, or that it’s available. If your library system has a central business office, they may be able to help you.

      3. Observer**


        I happen to hate Amazon, but we use it because they allow us to make purchases on our business account, and bill us. I don’t know if it’s monthly or on a per transaction basis, but whatever it is, it works. We don’t have to worry about the (insane) rules a lot of our funders have around credit cards, and we do not have to deal with the issues of staff reimbursements.

      4. Spero*

        This is also what I do – I work at a nonprofit. We order a lot of things like food for food pantries and it looked sketchy to be reimbursing individual employees for tuna and pringles. Amazon business account is much better and honestly, it wasn’t even hard to set up.

    12. NotAManager*

      Maybe in the for-profit world, but not libraries. I’ve put purchases in that range on my personal card and sometimes not seen reimbursement for months, it just comes with the profession. I’ve also had situations where performing my job duties involved just swallowing hundreds of $$ on my own over the course of a year with no expectation of reimbursement for supplies for programs. I really feel for OP, but this is extremely normalized in public libraries, especially smaller ones with not a lot of funding.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is ‘normal’ because people put up with it. The OP should stop putting up with it. There are other options. The director could put it on her own card. The library could open a business account with Amazon. etc. She is being a patsy here.

      2. Lydia*

        Just because it’s a Thing That’s Done doesn’t mean the OP can’t or shouldn’t push back and just because it’s a bad system you dealt with doesn’t mean everyone else should, too.

      3. Observer**

        I really feel for OP, but this is extremely normalized in public libraries, especially smaller ones with not a lot of funding.

        That doesn’t make it right. And it may not even be legal.

        As I said, if the library wants to own those books, they NEED to reimburse the OP and that means that all of these issues are likely to come back to bite them. Hard. And the stupidest excuse is the limited funding. Don’t spend on stuff you can’t afford. Because doing it this way WILL make it harder to get outside / additional funding.

    13. LCH*

      You can add more than one card to an Amazon account. Would they be comfortable with your PERSONAL account holding a company card? My assumption is no. Which is a good illustration of how uncomfortable it also makes you. They need to be professionals and set up their own account.

    14. goddessoftransitory*

      And while I know that it legally probably doesn’t fit the definition at all, this also feels like wage theft to me! “Use your own money and we’ll pay you back…whenever” isn’t how I want to think of my employer handling finances in general, let alone using MY money to meet their expenses.

    15. e271828*

      Sales tax even on small items the librarian picks up at Target would add up to “real” money over the course of a few trips.

      The LW should stop being able to provide this service; the library is picking their pocket. “I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. Have you talked to Purchasing?”

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Yeah, sales tax in my area is about 9.25%. That’s 92 cents for every $10 purchase, or $9.25 if you accumulate $100 in purchases. The employer’s already getting some free labor picking out items at Target–and they expect LW to pay them for the privilege?

    16. ArtsNerd*

      The taxes is LW3’s best angle. Came in here to say as much. Amazon does not accept tax exemption forms. I’m not allowed to get supplies there for that reason.

    17. Here for the Insurance*

      I agree that this is all true, but I don’t think OP should use it as part of a discussion. Reason being, it reinforces the idea that the boss had a right to ask and that OP can only say no if they have a good enough reason. “I don’t want to” is all the reason you need not to let someone use something that’s yours. It’s probably too aggressive to come out and say that, which is why Alison’s language or “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me” is better.

  3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

    #1 As someone who has to take the elevator for physical limitations, if your friend only stayed to keep Jane company because “poor Jane has to take the elevator”, I’d feel like that was really patronizing. Insisting that you should also stay for the same reason seems really odd. Why? It’s not like you were abandoning her in an unsafe area where she couldn’t fend for herself. She was going to wait for that elevator regardless of whether she had company.

    You were totally fine.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      #1–You’re fine taking the stairs. Revanche is spot on. The assumption that someone with a disability automatically needs attention can be offensive. People with disabilities spent decades advocating for the right to be independent and not to be pitied. While this has included things like laws codifying wheelchair access to buildings, buses, and sidewalks, it’s also about being able to go about their day without strangers asking if they need help.

      At a former job, I worked with a woman who uses a wheelchair and she told me about an experience she’d had. She was at the airport on her way to a conference where she was a speaker, and held a cup of coffee while she waited for her flight. Someone walked by, assumed the cup was for donations, and tossed coins in it, splashing my colleague’s nice business suit she’d worn for her presentation.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        It’s people like the friend that makes my husband very self conscious and reluctant to use his cane as much as he should. His disability is new, and he’s still coming to terms with his new life. People like the friend make him feel like everyone sees him as helpless, so he’d rather not use his cane or parking pass to avoid that. He’s slowly getting over that part, but I know it’s hard for him when people like the friend think they are helping, when it’s really just the opposite.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Just tell him, the cane gives him extended strike capability.

          If anyone tries to “help” he can whack them with it. (only semi joking here).

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My cane is absolutely a self defense weapon. Especially if anyone gets into my space or tries to “help” me. They get an absolutely accidental not at all on purpose whack or trip. You can also use it to maintain physical distance from close-talkers. It’s a great multitool.

        2. Singing in the rain*

          I was like that too. I was disabled for several years (until surgery last May) and I also had a real problem using my cane and my handicapped parking tag. I finally had to come to terms with it when the pain just got too severe and I really NEEDED the cane and the accessible parking.

          And yes, if someone waited for the elevator with me who usually took the stairs, I would feel a bit patronized too.

      2. lilsheba*

        They tossed coins in her CUP? What is wrong with people? They assumed she was there to collect money, and nothing else?

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, Jane is aware that some people take the stairs. It doesn’t make her sad and dwell on her own need for the elevator to be reminded of it. I’ve been unable to use stairs at certain times in my life and while I don’t get to speak everyone else, I either just didn’t think about it or I was glad to have the elevator available. The US needs to improve on a lot of things, but one thing we do reasonably well is accessibility in public places. Of course there is room for improvement but we have made a lot of progress so far.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, it strikes me as being a really patronising assumtion by friend – both that Jane needs company and that she isn’t capable of addressingit herself. Even f Friend thinks it’s always rude to take the stairs if someone you know / work with is taking the elevator it’s still a weird assumption!

      For all we, or she, know, Jane enjoys the few moments of peave she gets riding the elevator in solitary splendour.

      And there are some many reasons why people might be chosing to take the stairs and might not necesaarily want to get into a discussion about – wanting to get in a bit of exercise is one, claustrophobia or fear of elevators. Or indeed chosing not to use it to try to ensure that those who need to can without having to wait or be overcrowded!

      I personally have mild claustrophobia – it doesn’t stop me using a lift (just as well given I also have some physical limitation!) but I don’t like being in a small box, and being in a small box with other people is worse again, so things like how many other people are waiting and how crowded thelift is likely to be are relvant to whether ot not I use it – so friend being present might (for me) mean I’d make a differnt choice than if she wasn’t!

      but it’s not rude, no matter what your reason.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I am also a Jane in this scenario and I would find it really weird if someone waited for the elevator with me when I knew they usually took the stairs. If the elevator took a long time or someone in any way indicated they could take the stairs, I’d tell them to go and that they didn’t have to wait with me. It’s weird.

      1. Antilles*

        Honestly, I’m betting the answer is even more bland than that:
        If OP chose to wait for the elevator on a particular day, Jane wouldn’t think twice about it unless OP specifically pointed that out. It wouldn’t even cross Jane’s mind that “oh you’re trying to keep me company”, it’d just be that OP is taking the elevator instead of stairs today.

        1. Observer**

          Of course. And that’s just the thing. Taking the elevator or not is just NOT a “thing”. Making it so in the case of Jane because “the poor thing” doesn’t have a choice is pretty gross.

          It’s a whole lot more respectful to treat Jane like an adult who doesn’t actually think about who else does or doesn’t take the stairs vs elevator.

        2. Delta Delta*

          It would be different if OP saw Jane and they started a conversation and then both took the elevator. And that might happen sometimes, but suggesting OP needs to wait to make sure Jane gets in the elevator before she goes up the stairs is weird. And it probably isn’t something Jane wants or cares about.

    5. blam*

      Yeah, I am back to using the stairs now but have been a Jane at times in the past and…I didn’t need looking after. I just needed the elevator. (In fact I often preferred to get around by myself unless my companion was clueful and paying attention, because otherwise I’d have people zooming ahead into the elevator and pressing buttons so quickly that the doors tried to close on me as I entered, or not backing up enough for me to manoeuvre with my crutches. Also small talk is not a joy to me.)

  4. Viki*

    I truly think if remote leadership is the way of the future, than leadership skills including being able to network is extremely important. If all your interactions with your team are only via text or video calls, being able to be personable and networking with people (ie cold calling into meetings where before you might have run into them in line of coffee) is a huge asset.

    Often being a manager/lead means you’re in meetings with people/departments you don’t know very well/at all, and you need to make sure your team and theirs work well together to execute the project.

    Social anxiety can hinder you if leading a huge meeting, or being in a huge meeting is causing a panic attack and for leadership in my industry/company, large meetings and meetings with departments you may not know are the norm for management.

    1. Zweisatz*

      Conversely, we’ve been very remote as a company the last years and I’ve been fine as a teamlead having 99 % of my conversations remotely.

      So I think Alison is right that remote work could make this happen for you, OP, more easily (with the caveat she mentioned: leading meetings remotely).

      HOWEVER, it was also true that there were two or three events a year where it was expected to meet leadership face-to-face and from my experience that becomes more frequent the more you move up.

      So in short, it depends on your company, remote helps, but there might be some events without alternative.

    2. OP #4*

      Agree 100%. Most of my team is remote so interactions have been easy, virtual meetings, etc. I’m basically the only one who is regularly (a few times a week) in the office, partly because I like the workspace and partly for that networking/facetime with management who are also in office. I could very easily avoid a lot of these issues by going full time remote, but I do want to have that face time and that opportunity to network.

    3. SoUnidentifiable*

      I work remote, which means that when we do have meetings in person they are long and large because they’re so infrequent. Think week-long project kickoffs that involve staying in a large city with a team I’ve only met in person once or twice. And there is socializing after 8 hours of in-office events.
      Social anxiety would not be triggered day to day in my leaders job but I can only imagine what they go through planning these, and there’s a LOT of FaceTime.
      I used to have such bad work anxiety I was seeking paths to SSDI. Appropriate treatment was a long slog but absolutely necessary. I highly encourage OP to address this as a quality of life issue.

  5. Yomiko*

    As somebody with a disability who usually needs to take the elevator, if I found out somebody that I barely knew was waiting with me out if a sense of obligation or maybe even pity, I would be incredibly angry.

    I do wish that my coworkers who know me well and know my limitations would stop just heading straight to the stairs when we’re in a conversation while walking to the same place. But that’s just because I would hope they’d remember something I’ve told them a few times.

    But what your friend is saying is rude? Nope. Not unless Jane specifically said “I wish more people chatted with me in the mornings” or something. The funny thing about people with disabilities is that we’re all individual people.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “But that’s just because I would hope they’d remember something I’ve told them a few times.”

      It’s this weird duology, right? You don’t have to take the elevator with me but it would be great if you didn’t assume I can take the stairs. It’s like remembering I don’t like sugar in my coffee if we get each other coffee regularly, I think. You don’t have to think of me as disabled but at least remember my general habits if we see each other every day.

  6. Seal*

    Agreed. I just had my knee replaced and was unable to take the stairs for several months prior to the surgery. Sometimes people took the elevator with me and sometimes they didn’t. I honestly didn’t care one way or the other so long as I didn’t have to take the stairs with my bad knee.

  7. Artemesia*

    #5 don’t embarrass yourself. She won’t remember the details; she might literally not remember you after 7 years. You have presumably been successful for the years since in other jobs; go forth, pay attention, you will be fine.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think I’d find it embarassing for them if an old report reached out to me like this. I might only be able to give them broad impressions that stuck with me, but I get requests like this for references and it wouldn’t feel so different.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        I’m in the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” camp as well. Worst case, the old boss doesn’t remember either, and that’ll be it.

        Now, this is assuming the boss is likely to remember OP as a person! OP, if you were serious about needing to re-introduce yourself (if you actually do have to say “hi, I worked for you seven years ago”), then it’s probably not a good idea. But if you’re confident the boss would remember you, then it’s worth a shot.

    2. ferrina*

      Yeah, after 7 years, I wouldn’t trust her memory. Some folks will remember, some folks won’t, and sometimes they think they remember but they’re mixing you up with someone else.

      What about the career coach you hired? They might have notes on what you talked about.

    3. Sloanicota*

      This was a bit of a strange one to me. I wonder if OP blocked out the details due to shame or stress at the time; I’m pretty sure I’ve done that. It’s like a form of denial that takes on legs of its own. To be honest, it was long enough ago that I don’t think it’s worth dredging up; presumably it was a bad fit but OP has grown and changed so much since then – they say the entire body is reformed every seven years! (Not positive that’s scientifically accurate, but emotionally true).

      1. Sam I Am*

        I wonder if LW has been out of the workforce since that job? Maybe they went back to school, cared for kids or aging parents, etc. So that is their most recent work experience and they want to know what went wrong in order to avoid making the same mistakes at the new job. Otherwise, I don’t see how being fired 7 years ago is at all relevant (especially if it was just a poor fit), and LW likely has nothing to worry about.

  8. Sophie K*

    #4 you don’t provide a lot of detail, but what you describe doesn’t really sound like social anxiety to me, and you also suggest sensory overload as a possibility. Since this is affecting your career prospects, it’s worth it to take a closer look and try to figure out exactly what the problem is.

    You say that therapy isn’t an option right now, but you can still do a lot of this work on your own. When situations come up that trigger your symptoms, afterwards try to think about what exactly about the situation was overwhelming or upsetting for you. It’s hard to solve a problem if you haven’t identified what the problem actually is. A mental health professional can be helpful in this process, but ultimately, you’re the expert on your own experiences, so you should be able to find at least some answers on your own.

    I would also suggest reading up on the different conditions that could be at play – social anxiety, generalized anxiety, sensory processing disorder, autism, to name a few. Seek out material from people who actually have these conditions, not just the diagnostic criteria. From my own experience, the cut and dried symptom descriptions often do very little to explain what it’s like to actually live with many mental conditions.

    Hopefully, developing a clearer idea of what exactly you’re struggling with will help you to find the most helpful solutions and strategies.

    1. OP #4*

      Agree 100%, and thats why I suggested sensory overload as well as a descriptor. At this point it’s more limited to huge meetings or entire company events, I can just feel a panic attack coming on as soon as my brain realizes how many people are around. I’ve been suggested to look into autism and it definitely checks several boxes for my life on a daily basis.

      1. lilsheba*

        Same here, I haven’t been formally diagnosed but autism and sensory overload definitely check off boxes for me too, and I would have the exact same issues as you are. I’m fully remote, I have zero plans to move up and have zero networking to deal with, and that is what works for me. I hope you find a way to work with this, and I really wish companies would adapt to us more instead of forcing us into situations that are hell for us.

      2. Malarkey01*

        Does it happen in other crowded stressful situations too or with social parties? How do you feel walking into a crowded restaurant or trying to meet up with a friend at a busy venue?

        It could be a combination but it may help to know if it’s crowds, unknown situations, work expectations, strangers, or social.
        I only say this because you expressed interest in potentially working on it.

        1. OP #4*

          Same in any environment basically. Restaurants are alright because everyone is doing their own thing so it’s more everyone is doing their own thing next to each other, although I havent been to a crowded restaurant in 3 years so maybe that has changed. But noise is definitely a trigger for me, seeing people I know socializing and either feeling left out or not knowing now to integrate is a trigger. It definitely helps to walk into a crowded situation WITH someone else versus by myself. Not sure why.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      A thing that has helped my son, who has anxiety issues, is to “own the space” by arriving early. As a manager, you’ve got a great excuse to be the one walking into the meeting room first, setting up your things, and otherwise getting comfortable and centered in the new space before then having to deal with the stressors of people coming in. For him (and for me) it helps to separate out the various stressful things into manageable components.

      Inviting others to start off the meeting, having a physical agenda to point to, practicing with people who you’re comfortable with, having a secret comforting item in your pocket, or other tricks might be the thing that makes it more possible for you.

    3. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

      One thing that can be helpful in situations where there is *something* going on, especially something that could be helpful for requesting accommodations at work, is neuropsychiatric testing. Unfortunately, it is often not covered by insurance and can cost a couple thousand dollars, so it isn’t accessible for everyone, but when done well people can get very detailed information / diagnoses recommended along with potential accommodations. In particular, it can be really helpful for the “learning disability vs adhd” type questions, and I’ve seen people receive very detailed reports that evaluate things like auditory processing (which is a great area for accommodations, such as having someone else take notes in meetings).

  9. Anxietyequipped*

    LW4-I also have crippling anxiety, but I have been able to move up the ranks (right now I am an assistant director). Therapy helps a whole lot, but also when the pandemic happened my job went remote and stayed that way. But it CAN be done. It also helps to work in the right sort of environment for you. Best of luck!

    1. human-woman*

      I agree with this. I also have quite a bit of social anxiety, and am a director leading a team of 10 and get consistently good reviews. Part of it is surely luck for me: during the interview for this job, I blurted out that I’m an introvert and immediately regretted it, thinking that’s automatically a weakness. My interviewer (now boss) volunteered that she’s an introvert too, so I’m lucky that she and the leaders above her do not see that as a hard limiter. Will I ever be CEO, or Executive VP? Probably not, and I don’t want to. But for what I do want to be doing, my social anxiety is an imperfection but not a disqualifier. Also, forcing myself (and being forced) to do some of the icky things like lead big calls, deliver presentations, mill around at cocktail hours, run awkward team-buildings, etc., has helped chip away at the panicky feelings that stuff usually induces. I’d still rather not do it, but it doesn’t make my heart race and throat close up QUITE as much anymore.

  10. Mooncake*

    #1 – Directed at the ironically rude person accusing LW of being rude: “Take a hike”.
    #2 – Not your fault, you never know what people are capable of otherwise we’d never again hear the phrase “I never thought they’d do something like this!”. Yeah, well they did. THEY. Not you.
    #3 – Not your (lack of) budget, not your problem. Put the responsibility where it belongs.
    #4 – LW sounds like they have the aptitude and personality to handle
    payroll or technical writing as a career. Usually can be done remotely, pays well, and not overly hard to get training for.
    #5 – Yeah, it’s weird. Time to yeet that emotional baggage. You clearly put thought and effort into self improvement. That’s what counts!

    1. Area Woman*

      Time to yeet that emotional baggage! I love that phrasing. I think that really applies to work because you can move on a lot better than other types of emotional situations (family, personal relationships). I had a terrible boss here and we kept talking about her even after she was fired for a while. I’m going to think of this the next time I am tempted to dwell on the past.

    2. Phony Genius*

      For your response to #1, I wouldn’t be surprised if that person doubled down and then accused you of using an “ableist” expression. (I actually love that bit of irony in your response.)

  11. Sue*

    On #2, I’m not sure what’s going on there. The OP and the answer presume that the recommended friend was completely at fault but her story and the fact that she was pursuing a claim with an attorney is very strange. She would have to have a very distorted view to press a claim under this scenario. Very odd..

    1. LG*

      The friend said she was *thinking* of filing suit and had retained an attorney. Doesn’t mean she actually has a case. She also may just be exaggerating for sympathy from the LW.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or, honestly, some people are so entitled that they think they have valid complaints in situations like this. But it doesn’t mean they succeed in their lawsuits.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I was prepared for the dilemma to be whom to believe, but I must say, what the friends at the firm said sounds pretty damning. I don’t see how there could be a reasonable other side to this (especially the unexplained absence/beach day fiasco).

      There are people who are entirely unreasonable and always think the world done them wrong, even though it was their own behaviour that was egregious. Her attorney will hopefully set her straight.

      1. Caroline*

        Agree. Life’s victims are always, always railing against the injustices of life, and quite often – NOT always, but often enough that it’s noticeable – they are people who have objectively had quite a few advantages along the way, of various kinds.

        1. Artemesia*

          We have a current case all over the news. Some people are perpetual whiney babies who don’t understand how their boss can well, boss them around and think they can go to the beach whenever they please without consequences at work.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There are people who are entirely unreasonable and always think the world done them wrong.
        Apparently the key to a powerful social media algorithm is to direct folks to posts that will feed their sense of being a victimized minority. They will sit there and keep clicking. Something about modern humans seems to really resonate with this, and it’s worth being aware of when you find yourself sinking into social media.

        The above in no way suggests that no one has ever been harmed by people with more power. Something about observing people who are indubitably in the right and yet X is keeping them down really resonates with us–think about how often that’s the basis for introducing a fictional story. I type this as someone who adores Leverage–the story resonates with our sense of justice, and if we’re going to be the heroes we either start out oppressed, or start out as the only people sufficiently bad ass to take down the oppressors and rescue the oppressed.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep this is true, researching algorithm development is absolutely fascinating. I personally find that the algorithms try to lead me down “everyone wants disabled people to die” rabbit holes and I often end up just…really uncomfortable. I don’t feel like a victim, people in my life are generally thoughtful and supportive, but the internet does try to convince me that the world is out to eradicate me quite a bit.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I agree. That’s I really have to stay off social media unless I absolutely positively need to post to promote my company, participate in a tweetstorm for a cause, or communicate with a specific person/group.

            It seems the algorithm is very fond of “everyone wants Disabled people to die” (which is understandable the way everyone is treating our global communicable disease problem) and a few other Disability-related themes.

            “Please donate to my GoFundMe because I’m Disabled and can’t make the rent/replace my wheelchair/buy my insulin.”

            “I’m feeling sorry for myself about my disability today and need my horde of followers to cheer me up.”

            “$FamousPerson said something ableist, if you don’t join me in piling onto them, you hate all Disabled people!”

            It isn’t healthy to get such an “unbalanced internet diet” of outrage on a regular basis.

      3. lifebeforecorona*

        At a previous job a co-worker quit in a dramatic fashion on a Friday in the middle of the day. They turned up Monday for work and were shocked to find out that they were no longer employed. All their anger was directed at the manager who took them at their word that they quit.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We literally had a girl call us from a city four hours away, an hour after her shift had started, to tell us she wouldn’t be in that day, and maybe not the next day, since she had decided to extend her weekend vacation. She thought this was entirely reasonable and was shocked when we told her not to come back.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      She was talking to the person who recommended her, who she probably needed for future jobs and this is someone who’s fine with telling a lie just to go to the beach. It’s unlikely she was going to say “Oh I was a nightmare and I kept disappearing whenever there was work to do.”

    4. LW 2*

      Hello I’m the second LW. My (former) friend retained an attorney as she felt she had been wrongly terminated her reasoning at the time was that she had not been given proper notice of the issues her work had with her. I honestly don’t know if that’s true or not, but that was what she approached the lawyer with.

      This happened a few months ago and I really haven’t heard much from my friends at the firm regarding the matter so I don’t know if a lawsuit was actually field or if it’s currently in progress.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I have to imagine the lawyer told her “you don’t need ‘proper notice’ that ditching an important meeting to go to the beach without calling out is a fireable offense” lol!

        1. Stitch*

          There’s also no requirement that your employer give you “proper notice” that they’re unhappy with your performances. Plenty of employers document misconduct in the event there are allegations of firing based on a discrimination, but there’s no inherent legal requirement that someone get a PIP before they’re fired (in the US, there could be something in a contract of course but that’d be very rare).

          1. ferrina*

            This. Yes, it’s best practice to be clear and direct about issues, but it’s not required. And really, “Go To Important Meetings” isn’t something that you should need to tell a professional adult.

      2. Smithy*

        I just want to extend my extreme sympathy to you, because there was a period in my life where I had a far far more low stakes situation than you did but was also working with some less reasonable people.

        I had just started working and had some friends still in graduate school, and was often asked by my colleagues if I knew of people who might be looking to do work similar to what I was doing. One person I recommended for such a job opening, she was offered the position but ultimately turned it down. One of my senior colleagues told me how badly this reflected on both of us – and in particularly me for vetting my friend’s application which clearly was not serious. While I now realize the overall silliness of his reaction (and to be fair the huffiness of that situation was not a long term thing), it did put into persepctive how my friend’s behavior could impact mine….and how relying on other people being reasonable could only go so far.

        Since then I’ve worked with people who’ve become friends with but would not recommend professionally under any circumstance. And friends who I’ve seen go through jobs from afar and would rather just emotionally support them as a friend rather than assess whether they’re in the right at work or their bosses/coworkers are. I’ve also worked with people a little who seemed like normal professionals, and then when we’ve worked together closer – seen far more problematic traits.

      3. The Ultimatee*

        I recommended a friend to my employer (I had only been there a few months myself). He wasn’t as egregiously bad as your recommendation but he bristled every time he was given instructions(?!). He wasn’t fired but rather quit in semi-dramatic fashion. Then he actually did sue the company for discrimination. He eventually dumped me as a friend because I refused to quit in dramatic fashion too. Luckily, it was never held against me by the company, and I still work there to this day.

        1. Nick B*

          I just reread the post, and I don’t think OP ever said that it was a law firm she was fired from. OP only said it was a firm, which usually means professional services but not necessarily law.

      4. Observer**

        My (former) friend retained an attorney as she felt she had been wrongly terminated her reasoning at the time was that she had not been given proper notice of the issues her work had with her.


        So, she’s admitting to her misbehavior. And she really thinks that they had to give her notice? I mean in GENERAL actions this extreme (ie firing) should not come as a surprise. But if you’re the kind of person who thinks that someone needs to WARN you to show up when you said you did, then I don’t see how a warning is going to help. Next time, it’s going to be “you didn’t warn me hard enough” and then “you warned me too hard” and it never ends.

        And that’s on top of the fact that in most places in the US, employment is at will.

    5. bamcheeks*

      It’s also the possibility that she’s been fired for cause from the company’s point of view, but there’s still some element about the way it was done that means it might be worth taking a case, especially if she’s in a role or state that has any labour protections. It’s not that unusual for someone who was objectively at fault to get a payout because the company didn’t follow its own processes or have sufficient documentation.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And we have no reason to assume that this retention was the sort where the attorney only gets paid if they win the case.

        Or it might have been worth the attorney’s time to find out more, given the initial complaint of wrongdoing… and on learning more, they will have dropped the case.

        1. Stitch*

          She also just said she was thinking about hiring an attorney, not that an attorney agreed to do anything.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Plus we don’t know what she told the attorney. Someone could agree to take her case based on what they’re told, but when they start to get into the actual details of the case, they’ll come back and say “you were in the wrong here and don’t have a case, and I will no longer represent you in any way”.

            1. Stitch*

              Yeah I wrote below, but something I learned from my very first clinic case when I was still in law school, clients will lie to you. They’ll lie about very easily verifable things.

      2. Observer**

        but there’s still some element about the way it was done that means it might be worth taking a case, especially if she’s in a role or state that has any labour protections.

        Based on your spelling, I’m going to assume that you are not in the US. Here, there just are not that many labor protections. She’d need some pretty strong arguments that claimed reasons for her firing are not the real ones, and that she was REALLY fired for one of the few illegal reasons. “Not following their own procedures” generally does not mean anything.

        The only time that “following procedures” is even a potential issue is if you have a person who is a member of a group that is regularly discriminated against (and in a category that is protected – eg religion vs socio-economic status) and the organization doesn’t have a great track record.

        In this case, yes, she’s a woman, so the membership in a protected class is there. But unless her former employer has a pretty poor track record, she’s not getting to first base. Because she’d have to show that men in similar positions sometimes get away with bad behavior that’s as bad as hers to get any traction.

    6. American in Ireland*

      I know a person whose first reaction to any slight (real or imagined) is to talk to a lawyer and find out if they can sue someone. The situations have been absurd. Person A claimed to have ‘been in the room’ during a meeting held by Reactive Person and that was enough to threaten to sue Person A for defamation. Or Contractor B used content they created for Reactive Person’s company and that was enough to sue for copyright violations. Or Conference C took an idea Reactive Person had and used it (in accordance with standard industry practice and in compliance with the submission guidelines for the conference) and that was enough to sue for … something. I don’t even remember what. I know there were also threats for ‘hostile work environment’ and ‘wrongful termination’ thrown at their former employers, too. (In the 4 – 5 years I interacted with them, they dramatically and abruptly lost 3 jobs)

      There are people out there who will threaten to sue for anything even (sometimes especially) when they’re in the wrong.

      1. Onward*

        Ha – yeah, I had someone threaten to sue me because I was “bullying” them.

        The bullying behavior? I sent them an email that said they appeared to be struggling with meeting expectations, and how could I help?

        1. Pierrot*

          This same thing happened to me in college with another student.
          She was actually openly bullying several of my friends: for example, she was transphobic, she’d cyberbully people and try to get people in trouble with the school’s administration. She was cyberbullying a friend of mine and I told her to stop.

          One day six months later (months after she had graduated from said college), she sent me a message telling me that after I told her to stop bullying my friends, she was so upset that she tried to kill herself. She then told me that I was “slandering” her and that “defamation is a serious offense” and then threatened to sue me. Before I could respond, she had already blocked me. Basically, if you crossed her in any way, she would blame you for a suicide attempt and then threaten to sue or have her powerful family member “blacklist you from the workforce”.

          People like this have a disproportionate sense of their own importance. They maintain grudges and vendettas, but they have so many of them that they can’t keep track.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        In the US, you can sue anybody for any reason! You can’t *win*, but you can certainly sue them.

    7. Stitch*

      I mean, people come to lawyers with distortions and half truths all the time. It’s something I learned as far back as clinic – clients lie. You will sit there and tell them how very very important it is to have all the relevant details and the full truth and they will still lie to you.

      1. Avery*

        Seconded. I’ve learned that myself the hard way as a paralegal. Clients will lie to benefit themselves, or just to see what they can get away with. That’s why evidence is so important.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Working in a type of law, I feel like about half of the work is (1) extracting the facts from the client and (2) telling the client that no, he really can’t do what he wants to do, really, I mean it, DON’T.

        Mine usually don’t quite lie (it’s not personal enough), but they certainly don’t quite seem to hear me when I tell them the law isn’t on their side.

    8. penny dreadful analyzer*

      I use a heuristic where if one person’s side of the story involves claims of fact (concrete things that some party has said or done) and the other person’s side of the story consist solely of psychoanalysis, vibes, and an emotional arc, I assume it’s because the facts are so not on their side they can’t even figure out how to twist them. It’s not a completely foolproof approach, but it serves me well most of the time.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        I use that same heuristic, with the added parameter of whether the person explains why other possible scenarios are not likely. If you’re super sure of the truth, you probably aren’t good at eliminating non-truths…

        And I think that approach is super common, btw. Source: this very site. Letters that contain more feelings than facts and/or don’t consider alternative interpretations get a lot of doubts and pointed questions, from Alison as well as from the majority of commenters.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I do the same.

        I also watch for signs of (lack of) introspection. If someone is constantly “betrayed” by absolutely everyone, or sees malice in everything, that also makes me suspicious. It’s often a combination of things that make an unreliable narrator.

    9. Loch Lomond*

      The worst, most incompetent grifters I ever worked with (two unrelated coworkers in unrelated jobs) habitually talked a big game about suing when they were fired. They were fired for UNBELIEVABLY good causes.

    10. Observer**

      The OP and the answer presume that the recommended friend was completely at fault but her story and the fact that she was pursuing a claim with an attorney is very strange. She would have to have a very distorted view to press a claim under this scenario.

      That’s surprisingly common. And if she was as bad as the OP describes, she clearly DOES have a fairly distorted view of reality.

      We had someone who quit in a huff over our organization trying to deal with some really serious issues that had come to light. They applied for unemployment citing constructive dismissal, and lost – based COMPLETELY on *their* description of the situation. Then they DID sic a lawyer on us. But when we had our lawyer respond with a detailed list of everything that had happened, the lawyer disappeared.

      As someone directly involved, I saw some of the back and forth, and to say that this person had an incredibly distorted view of the situation is the kindest way of putting it.

      Also, read the archives here for people (bosses and employees, both) who have jaw droppingly distorted views of reality.

      1. Anon4This*

        My husband worked with someone with this kind of distorted view of reality. He was a textbook example of Dunning-Kruger & a pathological liar to boot.

        A few months ago, he put in his 2 weeks notice and quit, seemingly amicably.

        He’s now trying to die the company for “firing” him.

    11. fhqwhgads*

      I mean, if we assume the people who said they did a wellness check and found out from the roommate the friend was at the beach (which we have to take at face value at the moment) then whatever other perceived thing the friend might think was a discriminatory reason for firing her becomes irrelevant. Her no-showing a big important meeting without telling anyone and turning out she bailed to go to the beach is reason enough to fire her. So, unless that whole thing were fabricated or misrepresented, even if the friend did have some other thing in mind that she perceived as the “real” reason they fired her, or whatever she thought she’d pursue with the attorney, even if that unknown thing is well and truly discriminatory, she wasn’t fired improperly. The beach thing gets her the boot either way.

  12. Eyes Kiwami*

    #4 I have not worked anywhere where a manager/member of leadership did not have to sit in department meetings. It’s my understanding that as you move up the ladder, your workday becomes more and more meeting-heavy.

    On top of being always remote, you also struggle even with 1-1 meetings in person… how would you conduct performance reviews? Could you effectively manage staff who must be on-site? Would you enjoy a job that was entirely meetings and collaborating with others, even if it was all remote?

    You might want to look at project management instead of management–you get to do the management parts without the expectations of networking.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Even project management might be challenging – that’s still a pretty people-heavy job in a lot of places. Maybe if it’s 100% virtual? But I have to say that your people management skills have to be ON POINT if you’re going to manage virtually. It’s not impossible, but as a lot of posts here have pointed out virtual really makes you have to manage people rather than relying on metrics like butt-in-seat. Not that those are good metrics, but incompetent managers skate by with them.

    2. Engineer*

      Project management still involves people wrangling. There’s multiple meetings with the client over the life of the project. There may be advisory committee meetings, which get large. Public involvement meetings, which are *very* large and busy. Internal team meetings to discuss status. One on meetings to discuss progress. PMs may not have to evaluate subordinates, but they deal with just as many if not more people interactions as a regular manager.

    3. OP #4*

      I have no issue 1×1 or with small groups, and most of my team is remote, except my bosses, and I have no issue with communication or collaboration with them! The meetings or events I have had to leave because of what I describe as panic attcks have been 50+ people in the same room. I have always had this issue, but we were all remote for 2 years and coming back to the office now has exacerbated things to a more extreme degree.

      1. Eyes Kiwami*

        Ah okay, I guess then it depends on where you fall in terms of the number of people in a room. If you stay with small companies or in certain divisions of the company, you rarely have to present to 50+ people at once. But you won’t be able to attend conferences and network there…

        This is the sentence that gave me pause: “Even being in the office gets to be too much sometimes with interacting with others.” Many people get stage fright or have COVID-induced anxieties of crowds, but I think it’s common for leaders to do business trips and retreats and site visits where you are meeting with people in groups or generally making yourself available to talk to. If you can’t even be in the office comfortably, that would be difficult.

        I hope you can find something that works for you!

  13. Lexi Lynn*

    I have asthma and rarely can take the stairs. Too much dust and no air movement makes me cough. I would never expect someone to take the elevator with me. I’m happy that other people can take the stairs if they want.

  14. Ellen Ripley*

    For #4 is it your goal to advance into positions higher up the chain of command? Or is that just what you feel you are “supposed to do”? People can find their careers to be enjoyable and meaningful without advancing upwards all the time, by advancing pay/benefits, moving laterally, etc. Just some food for thought.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Adding on to this, there are some fields where you can advance in an individual contributor role. For example, I’m in engineering and for some people, advancing looks like: engineer -> manager -> director -> VP. For others, advancing looks like: engineer 1 -> engineer 2 -> engineer 3 -> engineer 4, where you get promoted for working on more advanced technical projects and (often) specialize as a Subject Matter Expert in a certain area.

    2. OP #4*

      Little of A little of B? I like the “leadership” stuff I do, and being on site has led me to be the go to person at times for my managers when they need something for a critical issue, and the facetime definitely helps them see me as more available and strengthen those relationships. Most of my team is remote, so working with them and doing the little bit of leading I have been doing has been with remote people. I’ve enjoyed the leadership stuff I have been doing and want to explore that path more, but don’t want to dedicate the resources if I know upfront that even the next role will be unsustainable by me currently.

    3. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

      YES! We have an odd belief in this culture that everyone MUST want to rise to a managerial position and MUST want to climb every possible rung on the corporate ladder – and that, if you don’t want either of those things, well, there MUST be something wrong with you. But plenty of us recognized right off that this was NOT something we’d ever want – but that our abilities would fit perfectly into a very different path.

      If that LW truly wants to advance in his company, there are plenty of excellent suggestions being offered by Alison and the commentariat. But yes, they should definitely stop to consider whether that kind of advancement is what they really want or what they’ve been TOLD they SHOULD want.

      1. Avery*

        Yep. Sometimes it’s people assuming that nobody would want to work in “lower” positions and must be aiming for some higher goal, whether that’s climbing the corporate ladder or swapping to another type of position altogether. But people really can be happy working retail, or as cleaners, or as admin staff/secretaries… myself, I’m a paralegal and have been asked a number of times whether I plan on going to law school and becoming a lawyer, but I’m perfectly happy staying a paralegal and working on document wrangling all day!

      2. Splendid Colors*

        There was an AITA post recently where the issue related to a teenage autistic girl who was not dealing well with traveling. One of the commenters said her dad needed to force her to put up with a bad situation “because what if she needs to travel for work?”

        My response was that even if she doesn’t grow out of sleeping poorly in strange places, most jobs don’t require travel. She can just… not apply to jobs where travel is required. Even if that means she’s not going to be a manager or whatever. She probably doesn’t want to be in sales in the first place, which is the #1 “requires travel” job AFAIK.

      1. c*

        Now I’m thinking about a new line of grooming products named “Bear Spray” marketed to a certain sub-culture.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          That reminds me of a story. When my uncle visited, he wanted to buy an electric beard shaver since a tremor in his hand made shaving with a regular razor difficult. The department store worker immediately led us to a section in the men’s department and handed my uncle a trimmer cheekily named “The Lawn Mower”.

          Dear Reader, it was not intended for trimming beards.

  15. Roland*

    LW2 – I would really recommend taking yourself out of this as much as you can! You say you are “stuck in the middle” but do you need to be anywhere at all? You’ve already asked for details and had some discussions but I think it’s still worth trying to walk that back. Absolutely do not try talking to her about it again, and don’t get into discussions with the other friends either. If anyone brings it up, deflect deflect deflect.

    1. LW 2*

      I’m the second letter writer, I think on a logical level I understand that but on a personal level I feel guilty about the hassle.

      It’s also really ruined me for being willing to recommend people. I’d previously had a lot of luck connecting friends and networking in the field but this whole experience has soured things for me.

      1. Stitch*

        Yeah, hard truth here: don’t recommend friends. I personally won’t recommend someone unless I’ve worked with them directly.

        1. run mad; don't faint*

          Yeah, it’s difficult. A friend asked me to be a reference when she was job hunting. I was only called once, and the person who called me was an acquaintance of mine. I was quite clear I only knew her socially and through some volunteer work we had done together. Basically, I said that she was honest, intelligent, quick to learn things from what I had seen and likely to work hard for them. They hired her. At first it was fine, and then they either lent her out to another department or perhaps she was always meant to move there? I never really did find out. But she messed up something rather important not long after and was let go. My friend said she felt like she didn’t have adequate training on the set of tasks for which she was let go. I genuinely don’t know.

          The next time I saw the acquaintance, he just shrugged and said, “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.” Which I thought was pretty gracious of him. I am incredibly grateful though that he and I are in completely different fields and that I will never need a reference from him. I really don’t want to know what he thinks of my judgement based on this.

          1. Boof*

            at least you did some volunteer work together! Sounds like you relayed everything accurately and didn’t stick your neck out inappropriately; rest is on the hiring manager.

          2. Curious*

            Gracious, yes, but I see no reason to question your judgement. To the contrary, you were clear about the limits of your information.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Same. Sorry, but I know plenty of people who are super nice and fun to hang out with but whom I would not at all want to rely on as coworkers. If a prospective employer wants a personal reference? Maybe. Professional? Nope, sorry–we’ve never worked together and I draw a hard line at estimating their job performance.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Worked with them directly AND would actually recommend them. I definitely have a circle of middle-millenial refugees who struggled graduating into the recession and trauma bonded in a way that there’s a mentality that you help someone get a job, no matter what. But I can’t do it. I have one friend who hassles me whenever a job pops up at my firm and I know she would not be a good fit here. It’s very difficult to navigate sometimes.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I wouldn’t let it ruin you for recommending people, but I WOULD make sure I’m being really clear about what I do/do not know about the person and can/can’t speak to:

        “Oh, Jane’s great! You should speak to Jane!” — does this mean you have worked with Jane in a role similar to this one and can vouch for her? Or that she was there for you when your boyfriend dumped you, including being late three days in a row because she was out doing tequila shots with you? (good for Jane! But possibly not the best recommendation for work.)

        “I have a friend, Jane, who works in this area, and I think she’d be worth talking to. To be clear, she’s a personal friend so I can’t speak to her work directly, but I know she’s interested in getting into this area and she definitely has experience in ABC and a qualification XYZ. Can I pass her resume on?” — makes it clear the limit of your knowledge and that the responsibility to do a full screen, reference and probe her experience remains with the employer.

        Ideally, employers should ask these kind of questions and make sure they understand the nature of your recommendation when you make it, but they don’t *always* so it pays to be explicit yourself.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. I’ve done this for a couple friends. “I have a friend that might be qualified, but I only know him personally and haven’t worked with him before. He might mention me when he applies, but that’s because he knows of the job and the company through me. I honestly can’t recommend him one way or the other, because I just don’t know anything about his work.”

          That has never tainted the relationship for me. The hiring manager appreciates the candor. In one case, my friend bombed the interview (spent the whole time complaining about an ex-employer). Even though company policy was that hiring managers wouldn’t give feedback to candidates, the hiring manager actually sought me out so she could pass on some feedback through me without a paper trail.

      3. Moo*

        It’s kind of a rule of life that you can be friends with someone and also have no idea what their attitude to work is (also what they’re like on holidays). Very early on in my adult life I recommended a friend for work and I was shocked at how much she slacked off, even though very obviously her slacking created more work for me. Now I wouldn’t recommend anyone unless I’ve worked with them. And even then I’d be a bit circumspect because fit and personalities always play a role.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        As someone who does a lot of hiring, it’s fine to refer people – just tell people how you know them and in what capacity. It’s also fine when you’re early in your career and the roles are individual contributor to say you’re referring a friend you think might be a fit. It is really up to the interviewing team / hiring manager to determine whether the person is qualified and a good fit. And they should be doing references with former employers / managers.

        As you get more senior, then you want to make sure your referrals are generally qualified. If you want to give a referral, then you should have worked with the person.

        From a reasonableness perspective, your friends at the company should realize that you were providing a contact, not a referral per se, as you hadn’t worked together. In future, if you have a friend you think might be a fit, but haven’t worked with them, just specify that this is a contact the hiring manager might want to consider, but that you can’t comment on them beyond that they are a personal friend.

      5. Artemesia*

        Been there. You really need to stop recommending people you have not worked with. You have no idea what they are like as an employee. At most give a ‘she has always been a good friend and fun to be with but I haven’t worked with her so while I think she’d be good to work with I really don’t know.’

        Don’t put your own reputation on the line for someone whose work you don’t know.

      6. Alanna*

        I had a similar experience recently. Recommended a good friend and former coworker to a former manager of mine who had moved on to another company, and recommended the former manager to that coworker as a good boss (with some drawbacks). It did not end quite as explosively as your situation, but it really, really didn’t work out, and everyone involved felt bad about it for awhile.

        But really, there’s no reason to feel bad. I promise this company didn’t hire them solely on your recommendation and I very much doubt they’re blaming you for this outcome. I’m in the middle of dealing with a hire who came highly recommended and has not worked out. Of the people I blame in this situation, the people who recommended her are… not at the top of the list. Perhaps nowhere on it! I’d step back from work talk with this friend for awhile, if you can, and rest easy that this situation really isn’t your fault.

  16. Yup*

    OP5, I’ve managed people for a long time, and the scathing review in a job you were struggling with to the point you felt the need to hire a coach says a lot more about your former boss than it does about you.

    Whether they remember you or not, I very much doubt that your ex-boss’ opinion would be either useful or valid. They clearly failed to provide with you the support, management and training that is literally their job.

    The fact that you are having trouble remembering exactly what was going on is also very telling: if there was an actual problem, I guarantee that you would remember it, at least somewhat, because it almost cost you your job. It sounds to me like a mismatch between a manager and a direct report, and/or a bad manager prone to bullying, criticism and blame shifting than someone who actually deserved their power.

    1. linger*

      The fact LW5 doesn’t remember the details suggests one of three things:
      (a) the criticism at the time contained no actionable items for improvement — in which case, there’s little point asking OldBoss for such items now; or
      (b) LW5 was so shocked by the tone of delivery as to be unable to retain the actionable details at the time — in which case, reaching back now carries considerable risk, either of repeating the trauma and/or cementing OldBoss’s opinion that LW5 wasn’t able to improve, for little chance of reward; or
      (c) LW5 was already checked out enough from the job that any items for improvement were moot, and safe to ignore at the time — in which case, it would be more fruitful to consider lessons learned from more recent jobs.
      In conclusion: don’t do it. This is one of those times it’s better to look forward than back.

      1. Nonny anon works with dogs*

        I agree with you and Yup, and really like your breakdown. Went through something similar to what you’re describing a few jobs ago. Helpful for me to read your comment today!

      2. Antilles*

        I was thinking something similar to (a) but a little different: OP doesn’t remember the feedback because it wasn’t particularly unique or memorable.

        Think of something like “you need to improve your timeliness, we ask for weekly reports completed by Friday but you’re consistently several days late” and “also, your sales targets are X but you’re only barely cracking 75% of that number”. It’s a major problem and serious issue…but it’s also vanilla enough that over time, you easily forget much beyond the super broad strokes. Something about timeliness and my metrics, I think?

        Of course, in this scenario, if OP doesn’t remember details, there’s no way the Boss would either so there’s still no point in reaching out.

      3. Allonge*

        To be honest I can think of several other options, but it’s probably more useful to think it was one of these – because I fully agree it’s better to look forward. It’s been seven years! People change and experience a lot in that time.

      4. ferrina*

        Or LW was in a mental haze and stress impacted memory formation/retention. Or LW has had to focus on very different things and this job feels like a lifetime. Or LW has another condition that can impact memory retention (PTSD or ADHD for starters. Not in every case, but it’s not uncommon).

        But it’s definitely worth considering that it may have been the boss/job, not LW. Especially if LW has had strong performance since that point.

    2. ILoveLlamas*

      7 years is a long, long time. A scathing review makes me wonder more about your manager, not you. Why did it have to build up and issues were addressed as they occurred? You took actions that show you have a learning mindset and desire to improve. That’s the best takeaway IMHO. Forget about it and look forward.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I was going to say pretty much the same thing. If the OP#5 has done reasonably well in other roles, and genuinely had no idea about what the issues were in the first role, then I would suspect that the issue was the manager in the first role.

      Nobody should be blindsided like that in a performance evaluation. If there were issues, particularly for a junior employee new in their career, the manager should have been pointing them out all along.

      So, either the manager failed to manage serious performance issues or they were just being a horrible person.

      Instead of contacting them about the performance review, talk to a more recent manager who you would consider a mentor, and ask them for their thoughts on what you could improve or work on, as you progress your career. I guarantee you’ll get more useful information, from someone who is almost certainly a better person / manager.

    4. Common Taters on the Ax*

      Lots of people suppress unpleasant memories entirely, and the LW said they were struggling on the job, so I do think there’s the possibility that the review was bad because it needed to be. And it’s possible that it might be helpful to review what went wrong. I agree it would not be good to contact the boss, but (as a pointless aside), I disagree that they would necessarily not remember just because the LW doesn’t. (Maybe they gave out awful reviews all the time, but most people don’t, and problematic employees can be memorable.)

      But I think it would be way more useful to somehow access your own perspective than to have the review. I wonder if the professional coach would have notes about your struggles? I have no idea what kind of records professional job coaches keep, but who knows, if there are any, they might be useful. It’s possible that if you recalled the main issue, you might be able to see that it’s not even relevant anymore, and that could put your mind at ease. (For example, I know one person who was pushed out of a job for not keeping good hour-by-hour record of her time, which was absolutely necessary for that position because time was billed to clients, but she went on to a job where that wasn’t required and has done fine.)

      If you paid for the service and they keep records, it seems to me you should be able to get that information. If not, are there any friend you might have talked to at the time? I have one or two friends whose prior job struggles I’ll bet I remember better than they do, because they’re prone to suppressing bad memories, and I unfortunately relive them constantly, even those of my friends.

      1. you-better-believe-it*

        I agree it would not be good to contact the boss, but (as a pointless aside), I disagree that they would necessarily not remember just because the LW doesn’t. (Maybe they gave out awful reviews all the time, but most people don’t, and problematic employees can be memorable.)

        With respect, there are a lot of bosses who give out awful reviews when they aren’t deserved, for a variety of reasons, including personality clashes, inappropriate blame-shifting, micromanaging, the boss feeling threatened by the employee’s skills or experience or friendly personality, the employee being told they’ve been hired to be a Llama Groomer (when the employer actually needs a Llama Shed Builder, but they can’t find one and desperately need to fill the role), and just the boss being bad at the job.

        From my own experience, including from experience being a manager, decent managers don’t give out “scathing” reviews, unless someone has made a series of errors that were so dangerous/bad that they resulted in the office literally being set on fire. It is possible that LW5 deserved a poor performance review, but bad performance reviews are very rarely actually deserved, and usually just point to someone not being fit for a people management role.

        I agree with some of the other commenters who’ve noted that the whole bad experience probably says a lot more about the ex-boss than it does about LW5.

  17. Socially anxious but not socially inept*

    Hey #4, just reaching out to say thank you for this! It’s nice to see a question that I still think about a lot myself.

    I used to have a worse level of social anxiety than I currently do (I believe it to be more c-PTSD these days) and only recently have I improved enough that I feel that people management is something that I’d be comfortable with. However – it doesn’t make me happy.

    I’m an assertive, confident person whose brain also struggles when there are too many loud people around. I can pull through it, but it costs me a lot of my social battery. I also feel that it doesn’t take me very long to become tired, and not do as well as someone who is energised by the experience. It’s not bad by any measure and I am sure I am the only person who notices, but… you know, its still hard to not compare.

    As well as the other commenters who ask if there are any other types of promotions you might be interested in, I also ask you – do you view a goal of management (where you would regularly need to attend in person meetings that are currently beyond you) as part of your recovery? Do you believe you will eventually enjoy them? Or would it always be a bit painful, or a bit like something you will mentally recoil from? Do you view it as a step up because you want a promotion, and usually when people think promotions they think management?

    I think Alison is right that there are ways around this, however, I don’t think there’s a short term solution depending on the severity of your symptoms.

    Above all, you have recovery journey to begin, and I would urge you to choose a career that allows you to relax & focus on doing a good job at both your job AND your recovery, not simply keeping your head above your anxiety-water! At least for the short term until you have a way of gently approaching the things that are hard for you right now.

  18. TechWorker*

    On #5 – I agree 7 years is a good long time if you’ve not been in touch at all since. But managers get asked to give references for people who left that long ago; isn’t this just sort of the opposite? There’s definitely an awkwardness in asking (as Alison says they might not immediately remember you etc) but if the manager is still working in the same place there’s a reasonable chance they have a copy of the review accessible still. Or not – but it wouldn’t be about them remembering themselves. However if the manager has moved onto another organisation I agree there’s no point asking.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I put it in the same bucket as references. I won’t give a reference if I can’t remember your work, and I don’t mind directly giving you the same feedback I’d give a recruiter. I don’t think the request is a big deal, personally, but I wouldn’t hang much hope on what you get in response.

    2. Observer**

      The truth is, if I called a reference that old, I would not be expecting that level of detail, unless the employee were stellar.

      The only employees I could give you really solid information on that far along are the ones who were REALLY good or REALLY bad – and in the bad cases, generally it would also have to be something that really affected me or pretty spectacular.

  19. L*

    LW5: honestly, in my opinion, it’s worth a shot to ask. There could have been some pettiness wrapped up in that just-above-scathing review. I worked for a Very Prestigious Private University for a couple of years and had just-above-scathing reviews for things like:

    – arriving “late” for a workday (I arrived at 8:45 and my workday was due to start at 9)
    – not intuitively knowing the faculty preferences for catered luncheons and asking was *far* out of out of the question and considered rude beyond belief
    – being visibly sweaty on days when it was 95F outside and I was tasked with carrying documents from one building to another

    1. L*

      Oops, I forgot to add the most important part of this, and I’m sorry for that:

      A couple of years after I’d left this job, with proper notice, I emailed my former boss to ask if I could use him for a reference. And he replied,

      “Since you didn’t conduct yourself in accordance with our norms, I’m afraid I can not provide a reference for you.”

      1. you-better-believe-it*

        I’m sorry you went through that!

        There could have been some pettiness wrapped up in that just-above-scathing review.

        In my own experience, there’s usually a lot of pettiness involved in a bad performance review. In the rare situations when there really is a “problem” of some kind that the manager is not skilled enough to fix (or the employee was hired as a Llama Groomer but has been forced to be a Llama Shed Builder instead because the employer can’t find one and desperately need to fill the role, but can’t train someone), there will often still be a reliance upon the type of petty stuff you had inflicted on you, and on exaggeration.

        If it is the much more common scenario where there is no performance problem, or if there is one, it only exists due to a lack of training, support, instructions, management, etc, there will be a reliance upon either heavy exaggeration or outright fabrications.

        Poor fit for a role someone does have the skills and experience for does exist, sure. But it is extremely rare. A much more common problem is a bad company and/or manager, and the employee who needs to earn a living getting the shirt shrift.

    2. ecnaseener*

      But if LW’s review was as petty as yours, what’s the point of asking for it to be repeated now? It’s not going to be helpful.

      1. Allonge*

        I think if this is really the case, seeing the review could be helpful in the sense that OP would see that former boss was really petty (and so put this experience behind them with a ‘what an idiot’).

        But we are all just guessing here – I suspect OP is better off devoting time and energy preparing for the real new job, not trying to find out what happened way back when just in case that helps now.

    3. ferrina*

      I think this is why it’s not worth it to ask. Bad bosses can easily misrepresent facts on reviews.

      I had a boss that would ding me for petty stuff, but she would frame it like I was massively incompetent. I couldn’t fit 70 hours of work into a 40 hour week? Clearly I was bad at time management and prioritizing. She didn’t read my (short, bulleted) emails, then didn’t know the status of my projects? Obviously that was my bad communication. Or another boss I had downgraded me because I had only achieved 80% of my annual goals- but she didn’t mention that I only had 30% of the promised resources! When you knew the context, I did amazingly, but when she left it out, it made me look terrible.

      Conversely, one bad boss hired in her good friend into the department. The friend regularly missed deadlines and had no attention to detail. Bad Boss expected us to hold her hand- if you gave her a deadline of a week, you were expected to check in on her every other day to make sure she was on track, and help her catch up if she wasn’t. Then Bad Boss gave her a stellar review, completely leaving out the issues with deadlines and details. (I later became the friend’s manager, and I got access to the review. It literally had no critiques at all, and gave the friend sole credit for a team project. It was super inaccurate).

      1. you-better-believe-it*

        I am so sorry that you went throuh this!

        Bosses like this need to be removed, permanently, from positions of power and influence. They are all too common, yet they ruin people’s careers and livelihoods. I’ve had several of them and they are so damaging to every aspect of work and life.

        Those experiences have made me a better manager, I suppose, as I am more aware as to what is probably actually at play if someone is a supposedly “problematic” employee who is “argumentative” or gets “bad reviews”, including if they are fired or laid off as a result. But people should not have to go through this.

        I still don’t understand why managers are always believed, and why their word holds so much weight, especially when compared to hard evidence that shows that they are not being honest. It needs to stop.

  20. I Can’t Sleep*

    I manage an employee who is same as OP4 and unfortunately, his anxiety and lack of wanting to attend meetings and social events (after work dinners, etc) will hold him back. He’s only been with our organization about 8 months but shared this about himself very early on. The last time we had an all-group meeting he stood in the back of the room with a hood tied tightly over his head trying to sink into the background, and did not leave his hotel room in the evenings. We have a big regional meeting coming up which normally he would be invited to but I am not inviting him as I don’t think he’d get value out of it while being so uncomfortable.
    For the record, i am fine with him only doing what’s in his comfort zone, and never push him or make him feel bad, but being able to form relationships with our business partners is crucial to our success. With him shying away from opportunities to do that it’s going to hold him back.

    1. ecnaseener*

      FWIW, if the reason not to invite him is truly just his own comfort, maybe invite him but be frank about why you think he won’t get any value out of it, rather than taking the choice out of his hands. Maybe he wants the opportunity to work on the issue – even if he doesn’t, he probably wants to know that his work merits an invitation.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I mean, I’d hate to have one of my reports trying to curl up into an invisible ball at the back of the room while we were in public. Forget about their emotions-I’d be feeling profound embarrassment!

    2. WellRed*

      It’s always interesting to me when someone who wants to sink into the background inadvertently makes themselves more visible.

        1. Overstimed Olivia*

          Agreed. He is possibly overstimulated. With that many people in room, possible back to back meetings he likely can’t handle it emotionally. I can get this way alot. Sometimes even being in a car with my 3 kids over stimulates me.

          OP 4- I don’t know if you feel comfortable suggesting this. But ear plugs can help alot in situations like these. I am ordering myself a pair for car rides with my kids (I am always the passenger). Another thing that may help is frequent breaks outside in the fresh air.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            As an event planner, I always make sure that any large events have quiet areas (indoors and outdoors) so that people who get overwhelmed and need to take a break can do so. People go in and out of the main session all the time at trainings and conferences and (unless they’re supposed to be presenting), mostly nobody notices. People will remember you were at a large event, but if you’re just attending, hardly anyone will remember what you did while you were there.

            In my last job, I had to attend a mandatory all-staff training where the person who was currently bullying me would also be present, which made me very anxious. I negotiated with my supervisor that I could leave the training at any point if I needed to take a break (and did this several times), so this might be something you could do for larger events if you don’t have to participate in every minute of the event.

            Finally, if you’re at an event and need a quiet place to take a break but it’s not obvious where to go, please ask the event coordinator! Tell them that you need to make an important phone call or get on a vital Zoom meeting – people ask us this all the time and anyone who’s planned a large event before should have designated these spaces in advance.

        2. Jackalope*

          Or something else entirely. I’ve often worn hoods in public places for a completely different reason – my head gets cold. Other options for maintaining head warmth all seem to revolve around hats, which as detachable headwear are super easy to misplace.

  21. Bearly Containing Myself*

    Alison, thank you so much for the callback to the bears letter from yesterday. (I laughed out loud and scared my cat.) The commenter who wanted bears to join llamas in AAM lore will also be happy to see their wish coming true.

  22. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I’m guessing your friend is one of these people who hates being alone. I have friends like that. “I’m going to get X. Are you coming?” Either that or she overthinks about whether people like or dislike her and would worry that somebody was deliberately avoiding her if they took the stairs while she took the lift.

    But she seems to be projecting onto Jane. Just because she feels that way doesn’t mean Jane does. It’s equally likely Jane would find it awkward standing waiting and making small talk with somebody she’s not close with. And most likely she wouldn’t care either way.

    But I do find that some people who really dislike bring alone or feel it is a sign somebody dislikes them, tend to assume everybody feels the same way and that not joining somebody is akin to ignoring or excluding them and therefore rude. It’s the “if you see someone sitting alone, ask them to join you,” logic.

    So no, it’s not rude. It sounds like this is just a “thing” your friend has and she assumes Jane feels the same.

    1. Batgirl*

      I know someone like this, and was reminded of her by this letter. It’s a good friend who is hyper social (think someone who can’t walk through town without greeting every passer by and knows what’s going on with all of them). We used to work together at a call centre, and to get to the main office space you had to walk past a huge cafeteria. She started getting in early because she felt compelled to go over if someone was eating alone. She would stay until it was time for her shift and apologise that she had to go! She did express to me that it was odd that I just walked through with a few hellos. We are close enough though that I was just able to tell her she was nuts and not everyone is her.

    2. Filosofickle*

      I had the same thought. It could absolutely be a weird belief that Jane as a wheelchair user needs help, but it could also be a desire to ensure someone (anyone) doesn’t have to wait and ride alone.

  23. Call Me Wheels*

    I feel like everyone’s already said the main points about #1 (you’re in the clear, letter writer!) but it did remind me of the first time I went to class on crutches.

    It was a bit of a trek from the bus stop to the academic wing of the hospital and I was going very slowly. A classmate who had been on the same bus came by me and asked what was up with the crutches (wasn’t being rude, last time he’d seen me pre-pandemic I was pretty much able-bodied so he assumed I’d injured myself) and I explained I was disabled now. He said “oh, don’t worry, I’ll walk with you!” and then… continued speed-walking off far away from me.

    About 5 minutes later I made it to class where he had already been a little while and he looked at me and said “hey there you are! I wondered where you went!” -_-‘

    Now I use a wheelchair I’m actually much faster than most people about campus and they struggle to keep up with me! XD

    1. Asenath*

      I’m neither on crutches nor in a wheelchair, but I’m a lot slower than I used to be, and I have learned to absolutely insist that anyone who wants to keep me company walking go on ahead, and meet me (if needed) at the destination. They invariably, sooner or later, start walking at something closer to their normal speed, while I either struggle for a bit first or immediately start falling further and further behind. Often my companion keeps chatting until they notice I’m too far back (or too out of breath) to respond. I sometimes think back ruefully to the days I was usually one of the faster walkers, and wonder if I did the same thing without realizing it!

  24. Grith*

    #4 – Appreciating that you do state therapy isn’t an option for you right now, I think you might need to consider thinking about that as if it were a necessary piece of professional development before you can consider yourself ready for this kind of management role.

    Others in this thread have pointed out that being able to actively participate in large meetings and/or carry out difficult 1-on-1 in-person meetings sounds like a required skill for the jobs you are currently targeting. And in the same way that others might choose to get certain certifications or courses for jobs they’re targeting (my partner is currently learning to drive in part because the jobs she wants generally require this), it sounds like therapy or similar that teaches you coping techniques might be a process that needs to happen before you can confidently move forward with these higher-level jobs.

    1. Trawna*

      I do agree re: therapy. This might be a fix yourself issue, or a know thyself issue, or combination of both.

      I don’t have anxiety; I can chat; I can lead meetings. I just thoroughly do not enjoy professional networking. Toward the beginning of my career, I assessed my strengths/likes/dislikes and compared those to what I saw in colleagues in their various roles. I went straight for an individual contributor role (writing, production, project management).

      I make the same money (or more) as many managers, and don’t give a darn about where I fall on the org chart.

      My bandwidth and psyche are spared for other important things in my life.

  25. borealis*

    Apologies if this is a stupid question, but what is a memorial book in this context (#3)? All I find when asking the Internet by way of Google are condolence books for funerals and remembrance scrapbooks, and neither of those are books I’d expect to find in a public library.

    1. LaFramboise*

      They are books you buy with funds donated in memory of someone. Often they get a special “in memory of” plate in the front of the book with the person’s name and the people/org who donated. And special recognition in any press releases.

    2. AHN*

      Libraries receive donations from families or groups to purchase new books in memory of someone who died. Those books often then get a special bookplate affixed to the inside cover noting “Given in memory of John Smith by his family” or the like.

      It makes sense that those funds would be kept separate from the regular operating budget and need to be reimbursed differently than, say, buying a package of printer paper. But getting that reimbursement should not be so much harder.

    3. Lexi Vipond*

      Our local libraries actually are the place where public books of condolence are occasionally kept for people to sign (most recently after the Queen died, but also if there was some kind of local tragedy), but I agree it doesn’t sound like that’s what they’re talking about!

  26. Varthema*

    LW5 – another element that nobody has mentioned is that giving feedback, ESPECIALLY negative feedback, is kind of a big emotional task for many of us. While on the face of it, it seems like no big deal to say, “Your projects were late a lot and you didn’t seem to care about that at all, you spent a ton of time socializing and were too flippant which really pissed grandboss off”, in reality, a lot of us will spend a ton of time and thought and energy crafting those facts into constructive feedback. She already did that labour once; it seems to have worked; it’s not really fair to do that again without a really compelling , timely reason (e.g. you’re applying to work for her again, for some reason). Especially given the passage of time.

    1. Curious*

      If the employee (1) has the liquidity to float the charges and (2) trusts the employer to reimburse them reasonably promptly, they may get cash back/points from the use of their personal credit card. But, it is unreasonable to compel them to do so.

  27. Asenath*

    I frequently take an elevator one floor, and I don’t think anyone has ever felt the need to keep me company instead of using the stairs (quite a popular option in that building). I don’t think that it is necessary at all for anyone to keep a single solitary person company on an elevator (barring obvious exceptions such as wanting to chat with them).

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I met someone who rides the elevator up and down just to get a break and a few moments of quiet. He’d be pissed if anyone insisted on keeping him company, haha.

  28. CQ*

    LW #4: I would honestly see your working through your own anxiety to be a leader as a huge asset. Too many people who suffer from anxiety have managers who have no idea what they’re going through – you’d bring a level of understanding to a leadership role that many employees will respect and value.

  29. LaFramboise*

    LW3, not only would I refuse to use my card/own money for small purchases, I’d push for your library to get a corporate card. After all, you’re already paying for those items separately, you might as well pay with a non-personal account.

    But for the memorial books, why on earth doesn’t someone set up a separate account with your jobber? You do have one, right? (Fyi to the commentariat, ajobber is a book/media wholesaler that libraries use for mass purchases.) They are usually far cheaper and more efficient than Amazon, and you can have separate accounts as well. I’d highly advise this route, even if you aren’t a big system.

  30. Guin*

    Library Person: Stop buying ANYTHING, even small items, with your own card immediately. A library is either a government organization, or possibly a non-profit, or some weird combination of both. The library needs a separate purchasing card tied to its IRS tax id so the spending can be tracked. If the new person pushes back, go to whichever department in the town oversees the library spending. Using your personal card is going to unleash a can of radioactive worms for the auditors.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Well, not really. If it’s only occasional purchases that are well documented, auditors understand that this is a thing that happens.

    2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      Not necessarily.
      I work for a government organization (state university in the US), and pay-personally-for-work-purchases-and-get-reimbursed is very much a normal thing here. The spending must indeed be tracked, but the reimbursement process creates the necessary paper trail for that. There are rather strict regulatory limitations of the types and circumstances of purchases that can be handled in this way, versus being required to be paid by corporate purchasing card or purchase order. But it’s nonetheless common enough that most departments have at least one fiscal/admin employee for whom processing those reimbursements is a significant portion of their job duties.

      1. Downtown Bureaucrat*

        Seconding this – unfortunately, reimbursement for certain purchases is common in government work, at least in my experience (I work in city gov for a major US city). I will say the Amazon book thing sounds weird and like something that should be set up through your library’s procurement/purchasing process if one exists. But generally, using your personal card and getting reimbursed is annoying but not that unusual in the public sector.

  31. Morning reader*

    Re LW3: I’ve been retired for a few years now, but libraries must have changed tremendously if they are even considering buying books from Amazon. The big library distributors have better discounts (usually was 40%), better availability, and the books come with cataloging data. How much extra work and expense is your library going to with this process? The only books I was ever allowed to buy directly were specialty items not otherwise available. Example: trip to nearby large city to buy books in Spanish at a bookstore that stocked from Mexico.
    Then, your library is probably tax exempt for state sales tax. On what should be rare occasions of your shopping directly, you should have a tax-exempt letter to present. And you should be using a library credit card, not your own. Or the library could have accounts set up with your most frequently used stores. (We had that at the hardware store and perhaps even a bakery? For special occasion city cake.)

    Frankly, this seems like it might be an indication of a larger management problem at your library. This kind of thing frustrated me during my working years. They hire a professionally credentialed, educated librarian, who tells them that best practices are to do X. But management or the board says, no, we’ll do Y anyway, because that’s what we do at home or in our corporate job. Even if Y is impractical or unconstitutional or just plain stupid. If this is the case, I.e. poor management decisions that you have no power to influence, start looking for other jobs.

  32. PsychNurse*

    #3: I always think about what will happen if you put $700 on your personal card and then suddenly quit or are fired! I mean, obviously it is still their responsibility, but how are you going to make them pay it? It could take weeks or months of tracking them down, threatening a lawsuit, whatever else, while that charge is sitting on your card.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Came here to say this!
      A million years ago I was the controller at a company that went out of business (Enron was a huge customer…ahem). A sales manager persistently carried an enormous balance on his “company” AMEX card. I say “company” because HE was liable for the balance. The only reason he had a huge balance was because he downright refused to submit expense reports and actually called me a b—ch for repeatedly reminding him.
      Guess who had a balance of $40k when the company went under and was calling me asking what we could do for him?

      1. Curious*

        Suggest that he file a proof of claim in the bankruptcy. Of course, if he misses the deadline for doing so (the “bar date*), then he is …. outta luck.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          That was the only thing I could tell him to do.
          And I felt bad for him but also kinda didn’t….

  33. Another Academic Librarian too*

    I am Jane. Please do not give this another thought. Your friend is wrong.

    Right before Covid, I bought independent press books at a conference for my collection. This is not unusual. Books went to cataloguing with the receipt and sat on someone’s desk for 3 months.
    When I followed up finance told me I would not be reimbursed for over $300 because the reimbursement exceeded 60 days.
    Then six months later Cataloguing wanted to know how they should note my “gift” on the record.
    Do not be me.

    1. Skytext*

      IANAL, but I would think you could fight this. After all, YOU submitted the receipt in a timely manner—it was the business/organization that failed to act in a timely manner! That doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility. They would NEVER have to pay money they owe, just st on the receipt for 61 days, then say “oops, too bad, you’re out of luck, it had to be not only submitted with 60 days, but we actually had to get around to paying you”.

      1. Another Academic Librarian too*

        I did not have the bandwidth to fight them. I went straight from that conference to holiday break to a work trip to Bologna and got the receipt and books right under the wire. And then pandemic, an uprising, and remote learning.
        What I did learn was never ever pay for work expenses.

  34. CreepyPaper*

    Re letter #1: it’s weird to wait with someone who uses the lift if they don’t want company or don’t need an extra pair of hands. It’s not ‘rude’ to leave them, it’s what, a minute of their day they’d have to be alone?

    I take the lift at work (four floors can do one, I’m too old and tired for that) and if I happen to walk into the lobby at the same time as a colleague who is taking the stairs, I’ll look at them and go ‘race you’ which then invariably means they’re going to try and sprint up to the fourth floor and I will sail up in the lift and then wait for them at the top of the stairs.

    Some of my colleagues are weirdly into the races and one has even said that her goal for this year is to beat the lift. At least we’re having fun, right?

  35. Maggi O*

    #5 Alison’s comment. You don’t even remember and having an issue bad enough to get fired is something that absolutely would be something you probably would remember more than a manager.

    1. you-better-believe-it*


      I would ping this as the manager’s (very serious) problem (which should have got them fired), not LW5’s.

  36. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (library expenses on a credit card) If you are comfortable with a white lie – it may be the case that you don’t have access to a credit card any more as it’s been cancelled because they thought you were using it to run a business and that was against their terms…

  37. MicroManagered*

    On #1 – I have a coworker who sounds a lot like Jane (uses elevator, sometimes uses a cane). We are both hybrid workers and we happen to live near each other, so we will occasionally carpool if we both need to be in-office on the same day. When we do that, I wait for the elevator with her and we take it together because we drove together, parked together, walked through the parking garage together, swiped our badges and held the door for each other… so yes, it would feel weird and rude to suddenly be like “see ya up there!” and jaunt up the stairs.

    OP1 this doesn’t sound like my situation. It’s not rude to say a polite hello and head on your way, the same way you wouldn’t walk her to her desk before putting your lunch in the fridge, etc.

  38. Overstimed Olivia*

    OP 4- I often feel the same as you. I have alot of trouble opening up to people I don’t know well. Although as I have reached my late 30s it has gotten better (not sure why, lol).

    Have you thought about networking virtually? I have noticed since the pandemic alot of networking organizations hold meetings virtually. You may have to do some digging but they are def out there.

    Things that help me…. ear plugs, taking breaks outside (or away from the crowd if its an outdoors event), going with a trusted friend, theray and anti-anxiety meds.

  39. Baron*

    #3 – I’m also a librarian, and this is a thing, yes. Before I got here, my library had a big “oh, the librarians can just pay for stuff out of their own pocket” culture; luckily, I’m in management, so I’ve been able to shift that in the direction of “librarians can pay for stuff upfront and then be reimbursed”. You see this kind of thing more in “women’s” professions like librarianship and teaching—“oh, the librarian will be HAPPY to buy decorations for the library out of her own money, girls love shopping and decorating!”—which is doubly aggravating, because these professions are also lower-paid to start with. I have a very part-time, low-paid employee who, over her years here, has probably spent more on stuff for the library than she’s made in pay. It’s terrible.

    I’m starting the process of shifting from “librarians can pay for stuff and then be reimbursed” into “let’s find ways to get the funding agencies to pay for stuff”. The main thing I’ve found is that no one pays enough attention to the library to even really know that there’s a problem. So the first step is, if you haven’t, you have to make sure decision-makers *know* that you’re paying for stuff out of pocket—they simply might not even know that, even when it’s their job to know that. They might not be paying attention. If they do know, then Alison’s script is great. Suggesting alternatives is a great idea – “I can’t front this expense, can we get a library credit card for this kind of thing?” – but, really, “I can’t front this expense” should be enough.

    1. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

      The main thing I’ve found is that no one pays enough attention to the library to even really know that there’s a problem.
      This! The city (at least in my, granted limited, experience) has very little idea how libraries actually work and we’re basically not on their radar unless there’s a problem or a controversy.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, I’m not surprised by this, but it is also super not okay. I agree that this is common in libraries and needs to change.

  40. ABCYaBYE*

    LW1 – The only thing I might suggest (and leaning heavily on might) is asking Jane if she’d like you to wait with her. She probably hasn’t given it a second thought at any point. If she sees that you take the stairs every day, she realizes that you take the stairs. If you’re engaged in conversation then definitely stick around and ride the elevator with her. And if you do ask kindly if she’d like you to wait, then go with what she says. I’m guessing that she’ll just tell you she’ll see you upstairs.

  41. Dr. Rebecca*

    Had to jump down before even reading the rest of today’s column–disabled person here: please don’t wait for me, unless we’re already doing something/going somewhere together; it’d be weird and awkward. Or, like, unless you genuinely want/need to take the elevator, I don’t judge.

  42. Allonge*

    LW5 – is this something you had on your mind for seven years or are you maybe jsut worrying overmuch about starting a new job and trying to do really really everything you can so it does not repeat?

    Either way Alison is correct that it’s unlikely that Old!Boss has any actionable information any more, but what you can do is a bit different.

    If this has been bugging you since it happened, you could maybe look into some therapy-type methods to process it. I totally get having a bad experience stick with you, but it’s been long enough that you carried this.

    If you are worried about your new job: can you maybe list all the ways this is different, including how you have grown in the meanwhile (experience, responsibilities, technical skills, other competencies)? What do you think is similar in the situation now to the situation then that worries you? Can you focus your prep for new job more on the present? I am all for learning from the past and our mistakes, but if you don’t recall what happened any more, this may not be useful even if your old boss would have a precise recollection of the events.

  43. Bad Wolf*

    LW#4 I didn’t see this suggested, but have you thought about medication for your anxiety? It seems like you are fine in smaller situations, but the larger and louder the situation gets you have trouble. I can understand that. It also seems like you have the ability in most cases to see these situations coming.

    I used to have *debilitating* panic attacks in certain situations, and for the most part they were situations that were readily predictable. (Driving in a high twisty place, which happens to be a property of my commute, as a good one.) It got to the point that I was having anxiety about the panic attacks themselves. Which of course becomes a vicious loop.

    My primary care doc who was absolutely amazing Rx’d me the smallest dose of ativan that exists, and told me to take it a half hour before I knew I would be in that situation. Worked like a charm. There are other meds that are fast-acting for immediate panic attacks as well. I have a friend who has an Rx for when they fly or go to the dentist.

    Over the years I got comfortable enough to no longer need the ativan for these situations. (I know that is not everyone’s situation, but it has been for me.) I think it was because I had enough experiences without the panic attack that my body figured out I would not pitch off the road into a ravine. Who knows.

    BUT. I did not see a therapist – I started with my regular doc to explain what I was feeling and see what he recommended. He prescribed for me and it worked out great. He told me if I did want to try to manage without medication he’d give me the name of a couple therapists but the low dosed meds worked out. If you are not opposed to medication being part of your toolkit, I would recommend talking to your regular physician. With social anxiety I would still try to pursue therapy when it does become an option for you, but your primary doc should be able to help you.

    As someone in a leadership role at this point in my career I can honestly say my experiences with anxiety symptoms and panic attacks have helped me to better understand actions & encounters in my workplace and made me better able to be an empathetic manager, better able to diffuse challenging situations, and a better communicator to a wider range of people. I do not think you need to change your career or are doomed not to advance as you like, if you can get the right tools for you into your toolkit. Good luck to you!

    1. Lyra Belacqua*

      Yeah, I was going to say–talk to your primary care doc about medication (which doesn’t necessarily have to be benzos, though I will vouch for them as very helpful)! There are also social anxiety therapy groups that are often cheaper than one-on-one therapy and allow for practicing skills in a safe space.

  44. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    LW4: My favorite trick for avoiding big presentations and meetings as you advance – hire people who are awesome at big presentations and meetings! Could you hire a deputy who does all the public-facing stuff so you can focus on strategic thinking and team management, which can mostly be done in smaller groups? (It would probably be seen as Very Odd to delegate this work to someone early-career, and you’d need to carefully vet the skill set for it to make sure they can really deliver, but it is super nice when you can do it.)

    That doesn’t totally solve the challenge, but it can dramatically reduce the networking burden on you. Couple that with some 1-1 reputation and relationship-building, and you might have a pathway to get rid of 99% of the stuff that makes you uncomfortable. It might not be enough to get you to a C-suite role, but it can get you up the ranks in middle management in the right remote-friendly culture if you’re doing everything else right.

  45. Moira Rose's Closet*

    No, asking her that would be infantilizing. Jane has given no reason to assume she needs or wants an elevator companion simply because she has a disability. Assume competence.

  46. CRM*

    For #2 – Holding up projects, neglecting responsibility, and going to the beach instead of attending an important meeting all sound like fireable offenses… but am I the only one who also blocks time on my calendar to run errands during the day? I’m not exactly pretending to be in meetings, I just label the blocks as “busy” and my direct report and my boss both know that they can schedule over my Busy blocks if needed. It helps add structure to my remote days! My organization is flexible on how people use their time and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person that does this, but is this a bad practice?

    1. LW 2*

      I can’t speak to your company but after talking to both sides it sounds like my (former) friend said she would do what you did, which tbh is something I do occasionally as well and then just make up my time accordingly. But from talking with my friends at the firm former friend
      would block out huge chunks of time and be missing for hours multiple times a week. It sounded like it became an availability issue.

      1. CRM*

        Yeah, doing it for several hours a day is definitely an issue. I generally keep mine to an hour and I don’t do it every day. Sounds like that is reasonable and normal. But if my manager asked me to stop blocking time on my calendar then I would absolutely stop doing it!

    2. SnowyRose*

      It all depends on the organization. We operate on a hybrid schedule (3 days in, 2 days WFH) but still have a set schedules based on the needs of the organization and what we do. Blocking time to run errands without taking leave would be a no go. Other places it’s not a big deal.

    3. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I block out time as needed for errands too. I’m remote and all my colleagues know that I like to take my “lunch” at a time convenient to run out and do something in the daylight and see another living being. Having said that–there’s a big difference between putting a regular 30 minute block for Fridays at 10AM for picking up my farm share (as a hypothetical) and putting multiple blocks for a 90-minute hair appointment, my 30 minute block for my farm share, then an hour block to go to the supermarket all on the same day.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        See, I will take long lunches to do stuff. But that’s my lunch, and I work later at the end of the day to make up for a long lunch. (EG if I start at 9, take lunch from 12 to 2, I work until 7 pm.) I don’t do this if I have a 1 pm meeting – I take a different lunch period. If I had a hair appointment, I would block it out as a long lunch on my calendar, and adjust my work hours accordingly. I wouldn’t bill that time to the company, though.

    4. Observer**

      but am I the only one who also blocks time on my calendar to run errands during the day?

      No, but as the others have pointed out, there is a limit to how much of this you can do. But also, if it were just that, it would be one thing. The other stuff is fireable even without over-use of “meetings” for personal stuff.

  47. Social Anxiety*

    OP 4 – I have social anxiety, alongside CPTSD, depression, and generalized anxiety. I also have a leadership role (approximately director level) and have been quickly moving up in them overtime. Therapy is not something for me and while I’ve been in it, it hasn’t been useful for me. I’m also not on medications, though that could be another route to look at.

    However, I also haven’t had a panic attack in awhile and the recent closest one was in a personal, not work situation. I do work remote, but lead large meetings on occasion and have several in person meetups per year – which have gotten more frequent as I’ve increased my responsibilities.

    I’ve worked really hard on my anxiety personally- I used to be unable to ask for help in the grocery store or call the utility company if they billed me wrong and now I’m on calls all day – with vendors, coworkers, customers, my reports, etc., some of those calls being easier than others.

    I definitely get my anxiety (and othet issues) triggered and I can be a mess (internally) leading up to something (what if…, I’m going to look bad, I can’t do this) and afterwards (ruminating over everything and dissecting the whole experience), but do well during externally. I think I probably come across as a bit nervous or people may suspect I have some of these issues, but that’s ok.

    Why do I put myself through this? I love my job, my role, and progressing in those. I love getting through these things and feeling capable, even if I wasn’t perfect. I stay really goal oriented about these things and actually handle my anxiety better in work than in my personal life.

    Overall – if doesn’t have to hold you back, but you have to still do the things the role requires which means handling your anxiety, whether that be through therapy, medications, or your own coping methods. Just make sure to ask yourself if this job is really what you want to do. If you don’t, it’ll be that much harder and there are so many other job options out there.

  48. Phony Genius*

    On #1, so how do you deal with somebody who tells you you were rude when you were not? I have been in this situation (something other than an elevator) and found that any response just seems to bury you deeper, as if you’re defending rude behavior (which it wasn’t). And this situation could happen to the LW daily if they keep arriving at the same time.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      “Unless/until (purported target of purported rudeness) tells me they have a problem with it, we’ll have to disagree on that.”

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        If the ‘target’ was the person speaking to you, then maybe a non-apology. “I’m sorry you took it that way, that wasn’t my intent, but I certainly won’t do it again (to you).”

      2. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


        How did that friend become the Official Decider Of What Jane Deems Rude, and did Jane have a say in that decision?

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah that’s a fair question. I’d return awkwardness to sender. “I don’t think Jane needs a babysitter” or “It’s odd to think someone would care about that”. But how you respond would depend on the relationship and would have to keep in mind that you have to keep interacting with everyone involved.

    3. SJ (they/them)*

      A magic phrase I like is “be that as it may”.

      “it’s so rude of you to leave Jane alone!”
      “be that as it may, I normally take the stairs”

      I like it because it doesn’t say one way or the other whether you agree with the speaker, just that you are moving on to your own point regardless.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      Assuming you’re dealing with a reasonable person, talk to them a bit to understand the disconnect as to why they think it’s rude and you don’t.

      1. Observer**

        The problem is that it’s kind of hard to assume that you’re dealing with a reasonable person. The whole thing is just SO bizarre.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          In the general case of someone calling you rude, it shouldn’t be that difficult (the commenter isn’t referring to the situation in the letter)

  49. RagingADHD*

    LW1, I think your friend is revealing something about themselves.

    IME, when people insist that others need an unreasonable amount of caretaking or reassurance, it usually tends to be projection. I’d bet your friend hates to be alone (to the extreme) and tends to imagine that others are snubbing or rejecting her when they are just minding their own business.

    She is following “the golden rule” of treating Jane like she wants to be treated — but the way she wants to be treated is pretty odd for a grownup.

    1. Common Taters on the Ax*

      Yes, exactly. A long time ago, I had a roommate who finally told me she worried I was mad at her every time I went into my bedroom to read or whatever. She was someone who at that time in her life did not appreciate alone time at all. Some people are like that–they have to chat up everybody and sincerely don’t understand that it’s not rude to keep to yourself sometimes. The friend probably doesn’t even have a usual way to get to the upper floors. I’ll bet she just goes wherever the People Who Will Talk With Her go.

      I’ll also bet she’s pretty young, and will grow out of it. It seems like an opportunity to help her along with that by kindly explaining that not everyone needs or expects company all the time, and those who do are going to be sorely disappointed from time to time.

  50. TomatoSoup*

    OP1, if Jane was standing at the copy machine waiting for a large printing job to finish would you be obligated to wait with her? Would everyone else in the office also be so obligated to join you or to take over standing with her? No. That would be absolutely ridiculous.

    What if Jane was heating up food in the office microwave and you’d brought something that didn’t need heating. Would you be obligated to stand there with her until the microwave had finished because you’d happened to be in there when she entered? No. Honestly, this is all starting to sound a bit creepy.

    I think the same principle applies in your situation.

  51. Bay*

    #4: I know you say therapy isn’t an option, but what about medication? You can talk to your GP, more and more GPs are becoming comfortable prescribing basic anti-anxiety medications that will help a TON if they work for you. I found very quick relief from social anxiety with a daily anti-anxiety medication, and was able to work on the rest of it with my therapist. It might lower the symptoms enough to stop them hampering you from being promoted.

  52. TomatoSoup*

    OP4, it’s not a complete solution but there are ear plugs intended to help filter, but not block out noise. I’ve been contemplating getting some because I have an auditory processing disorder and can’t have conversations in medium loud places or if there’s another conversation nearby. It also means that I can get easily overstimulated and anxious in large gatherings. Having less auditory input helps a lot. They’re pricey, so I haven’t bought them yet but other people have raved about them.

  53. Qwerty*

    OP4 – Why do you want to be in management and leadership? A lot of being a manager is the people aspect of it. Even if you had a non-people manager role like a project manager, there is still a whole lot of the people interaction side. When I’ve been in various management jobs (people management and PM), my entire day was meetings – it’s the biggest complaint from managers in my field.

    If you move up the ranks before your social anxiety improves, what is going to happen is that someone who reports to you will have to make up the gap. Maybe they’ll be even be fine with it at first. But the people who you are supposed to manage will suffer. I’ve had to be the “deputy” for multiple managers (tech isn’t known for people management skills) and I’ve come to resent that.

    Does your field have a non-management seniority track? The types of leadership skills you mention having are also useful for senior contributor roles, where you do more mentoring that management. You have smaller talks with the manager to help with planning stuff and 1×1 convos with more junior team members. Maybe something like that could be a near-term goal and you can build from there as the anxiety gets better?

  54. Jake*


    This is a classic blunder. My best friend is a manager. From our conversations he appears highly successful, and a top performer. I would never recommend him for a job because I’m only tangentially observing this, not directly.

    Now, I wouldn’t hesitate for a split second to REFER him to a job. There is a world of difference between the two.

    I’ve hired quite a bit, and if a person’s recommendation doesn’t work out, the only impact on their reputation for me is that I won’t take their hiring recommendations seriously any more. It wouldn’t impact any other aspect of their reputation for me. After all, you can be a Rockstar at most jobs without being a good talent evaluator.

    1. LW 2*

      Yeah my mistake was that we went to college together. We worked on homework and projects and presentations together and she knew her stuff and pulled her own weight! She worked multiple jobs and was in a ton of clubs. She graduated Cum Laude! So I assumed she had the same get up and go attitude she did then. I guess that’s not the case.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        How long ago did you all graduation? It sounds to me like she’s struggling with adjusting to work from school – lots of top performers can graduate college, start an office job, and realize they have no idea how to do a day-to-day job when they’re were used to a college procrastinating/cramming lifestyle.

        1. Jake*

          Exactly. I’m a much better employee than I was a student. I know several great students that are literally in prison right now.

          School performance and work performance are correlated for sure, but not strongly enough to recommend for a job years after graduation.

        2. LW 2*

          Its been about 5 years? She’d been working for one company for that time but often complained about not having work load. We work in a field that really relies on higher project managers selecting who they want to work on your project. You’re either super busy all the time or fighting for work. It can be a lot of politics and I’ve worked for some companies that really play favorites even for bad employees.

          So she started looking for work elsewhere which is how we ended up here. Makes me wonder if there’s more to her old firm then I heard.

      2. The Ultimatee*

        As long as you were honest with them (about both your experience with her and the limitations of your experience) you have nothing to feel bad about. Sounds like your friend changed or was different in the different situation.

        1. Jake*

          I agree there isn’t enough to feel bad about for sure.

          This is just a lesson learned moving forward in recommendations for jobs.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Also need to be careful because some companies don’t distinguish between refer and recommend.

  55. Nea*

    #1 – I am Jane: I have a mobility issue and I exclusively use the (very slow) elevators in my office building.

    I’d be offended if someone felt they “had” to stand with me. It’s one thing if a good work friend comes up and talks to me, but a friendly colleague standing with me just to stand with me? It implies I need help (I don’t!) and it disrupts my last few minutes of quietly thinking before I get to the office.

  56. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    OP#3, this is my absolute biggest peeve at my company. We’re nonprofit/public sector, and we do not have corporate cards. It is indeed borrowing from employees to do this, and it is lousy business practice. It is also common. Instead of Amazon, call a local bookstore and ask if you can order through them using an invoice system. This also allows you to send over your tax-exempt paperwork (if you are). They send the bill to the library, it’s processed and paid out of the library budget, you support a business in town.

    You can also escalate to your COIB board, if that’s applicable in your town/position, but that’s a big step not to be taken lightly.

    1. GreenDoor*

      My husband’s for-profit company does this. And it’s not for small things. He recently had to put his convention travel on our card to the tune of $1450. What really irks me is that, at the same time he and his coworkers are expected to personally float their work travel costs, the company decided that now that things are getting back to normal, they will be throwing monthly department luncheons – with a $500/department budget. How the F do they have money for fun lunches, but employees have to float travel costs????

  57. Maybesocks*

    Anxiety attacks: Have a look at the Youtube channel Therapy in a Nutshell. These videos have helped me more than my counselor (a bad match) did. At least they’ll give you some new approaches to consider. Best wishes!

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

    Oh Boy there’s a lot to unpack today!!!
    #1 Your coworker friend is really odd. I could see if you and Jane were in the middle of a conversation as you walked in and then you just left mid-conversation. But then you could always say that you’ll catch up with her later. But you acknowledged her and went about your normal behavior. If anyone was weird it was your friend to you!
    I’ve actually been in this situation but in reverse. Many times I take the elevator and have been coming in the same time as my coworkers. We’ve been talking and reach the stairs/elevator area and I excuse myself and say “today I need the elevator. see you up top”. Usually, my coworker is near the elevator when I get off and we continue on.

    #2 I would like to know how this recommendation went if you haven’t worked with the friend before. Because in my experience people will call a referral a recommendation. Like was it Friend B does this type of work and is looking for a job, Here’s her info. Or did you actually recommend saying that she was a good worker? If it was more of a referral, and you said you didnt work with her directly I don’t think anyone (logical) will take that against you.

    #3. If you work for the city shouldn’t things be tax-free? You can set up amazon accounts that wont bill taxes. I would explain this to your boss “Being that this is a large amount there is a significant extra tax, which we shouldn’t be paying. Can we talk to other department manager to get an account set up that they can order these?”
    I would also ask your boss what you are supposed to do if you use your personal account but do not get paid back in time for interest to be charged. Will they pay you for the interest? What if you reach your maximum limit and you have other bills to pay on that card? What if you are trying to improve your credit score or will be needing a bank to run your credit soon? Having a high balance can cause issues. I think you need to explain these things very clearly and say you will NOT be using your card for purchases over $20.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I seldom use a credit card for purchases under $20. That’s what debit cards are for. But I also seldom buy things for the company without a company card. I also seldom put hundreds of dollars in company expenses on a personal card unless I can absorb the risk that they won’t reimburse it, which is almost never.

  59. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Surely as a public librarian, LW#3 has access to city policies, a city controller or auditor, a union rep, or someone in the government who deals with municipal purchasing. There should already be any number of controls and procedures in place that direct how any sub-entity of the city handles this kind of thing.

    A government employer is not like a private employer. Personally, I wouldn’t touch the current status quo with a ten-foot pole: The LW is dealing with taxpayer money, even if it’s a perceived small amount here and there. There’s almost certainly some kind of requisition process and paperwork, beyond just the receipts and credit card records, that is supposed to be generated around the transactions.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I agree that this is not an okay set up, but memorial books are usually bought with donated funds and therefore are outside the regular structure of library funding- which is part of the issue I suspect.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I’m coming at it admittedly from a lawyer’s perspective, where we have to strictly follow rules about holding client funds in trust — but wouldn’t donated funds be held in trust as well? Whether taxpayer money, institutional endowment money, or donated money, this can’t be a best practice. I guess I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around this kind of (what seems to me) loosey-goosey accounting.

        1. Observer**

          You are right – I can’t speak to formal law here, but I can tell you that our auditors would have a cow if we were ok with spending wasting money just because it’s donor funds.

          In this case, it’s even worse. If Donor X gives $X for books, they want as many books as is realistic for that amount. If you then waste money of sales tax, that could mean fewer books. Or the library winds up paying that sales tax out of other funds, which is even worse. Also, because of the “loosey goosey” accounting going on here, it becomes harder to clearly document that you actually bough these books with Donor X’s money.

      2. Observer**

        but memorial books are usually bought with donated funds and therefore are outside the regular structure of library funding- which is part of the issue I suspect.

        Which doesn’t help. Donated fund ALSO need to be very carefully tracked and spent. There is no way this is ok.

  60. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP #1: I absolutely hate being in the elevator with people (which is why I typically opt for the stairs no matter what floor I’m going to unless there is absolutely no one around)–if I were Jane I would really HATE someone taking the elevator with me just because I had a cane. Even if I didn’t loathe being on elevators with random people (a quirk that I’m sure most other people don’t share), I would frankly be insulted if I found out someone was taking the elevator just because I had a visible disability. Like, that seems really infantilizing and I would not appreciate it. If you don’t want to take the stairs, take the elevator. If you don’t like the elevator, take the stairs. Let Jane exist without making her your good deed for the day, OP# 1’s coworker.

  61. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

    LW 3 – Ugh. The idea that library workers – who aren’t exactly high earners – should front costs because their library isn’t well funded needs to stop. If anyone should front this from their own account it’s the director who probably makes more than anyone else at the library. And if they aren’t willing to do it, they should expect an employee who makes far less to. The only expenses I’ve been required to front have been for conference travel (tax rules on our library’s credit cards) and even then my director offered to put them on her card and have the library reimburse her.
    You can set up an Amazon business account with tax exempt status (as I think others have mentioned) and they’ll invoice the library – so you know, the library can reimburse Amazon… Also, if someone can refuse to do a part of their actual job in setting up the account, it shouldn’t be made your personal problem.

  62. McS*

    FWIW LW1, I take the train with my bike to work. I’ve had a couple injuries in the last 2 years that meant I couldn’t carry my bike on the stairs and had to take the elevator. I have coworkers who sometimes arrive on the same train and would never expect them to wait for the elevator with me! Or even to wait at the bottom to ride together.

  63. Joa*

    #3 – Push back. There are almost certainly other options, but it sounds like no one has taken the time to pursue them or like there’s a lack of expertise. If your director doesn’t know what options are available, they should work with the city’s finance department (or whoever the equivalent is) to identify them.

    It is very normal in public libraries for staff to make small purchases (say, under $40) and get reimbursed for them. As a library director, I make sure that there are alternate payment options available for staff who don’t want to do this or don’t have this option personally available to them; this usually requires more advance planning so staff often opt for reimbursement for that reason. For larger purchases, reimbursement is a rare exception and is to be avoided whenever possible.

    Some possible options in your situation include paying using the library’s regular collection budget line and having the other department reimburse the budget; using a library-associated nonprofit (Friends or Foundation) to receive memorial donations and make payments directly; ordering through a book vendor like Ingram or Baker and Taylor and invoicing the correct department (this would probably cost less, too); getting a purchasing card or credit card issued by the correct department.

  64. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I had a job once where our office was on the 7th floor. It was sort of a fun game to see if you could take the stairs and beat the elevator to the top (sometimes it worked!). My coworkers and I, though, sometimes took the stairs and sometimes didn’t. Nobody thought any differently of either choice – even if another coworker was waiting for the elevator.

    Jane probably doesn’t notice or care whether people take the stairs or not. I suppose if I saw Jane and we started a conversation that made sense to continue, we’d do that and take the elevator together. Or if I saw Jane and she was waiting I might say hi and say I’d see her upstairs, or something. The coworker of OP 1 is being very weird in her expectations.

  65. The Rural Juror*

    I once worked for a small business where we had had company credit cards, but then were told a mistake happened on the account when we hired a new controller. That seemed odd to me, but I didn’t mind holding off on making charges for a bit. Then it turned into a longer timeframe and I needed to buy some supplies, so I charged to my card that got the most cashback and figured it was nice to get the points. I was reimbursed quickly and all was well.

    Over time, we STILL weren’t able to use company credit cards and my boss (the owner) seemed to be relying on me using a personal card. Lots of cashback/points for me, but I became very suspicious of them not fixing the issue with the cards. When they missed a cycle and didn’t get me my reimbursement quickly, I revised and resubmitted the expense report to include interest accrued. My boss seemed huffy about that! He paid me back for it, but I was already become very wary of these new business practices and a few other shady happenings.

    I ended up switching jobs for a number of reasons, but it never sat right with me that the business was willing to risk me getting stuck with expenses or having to pay interest out of my own pocket. I suspected we were having financial problems, and I’m pretty sure I was right, but I’ll never know for certain. Moral of the story – don’t feel pressure to take on ANY amount of financial risk for your company. You should never have to pay to work. That goes for mileage, paying to park so you can run a company errand, or any of the above. Always submit your expenses!!! And if they give you grief, that’s a red flag!

  66. kiki*

    #5 I guess I’m curious why LW feels they need this feedback now, 7 years later. Did they take some sort of break from work for most of the last 7 years? If that’s the case, I suppose I can understand the desire more, but 7 years is such a long time– if LW is struggling to remember the details, their boss likely would as well. I’m wondering if there’s any documentation left over from the coach LW saw that they could reference first instead? I would save reaching out to this old boss as a last resort. And honestly, I think LW should really reflect on if they need further information about this at all at this point.

  67. Foyer Office*

    #4 – I have pretty bad social anxiety and I was able to get to the top of my profession (in a government field.) Things that are hard for me are talking to strangers, public speaking in small groups, public speaking in large groups, making phone calls, walking alone into a room that’s already full of people, etc. I can make myself physically do them, but I feel terrible the whole time.

    What made it possible for me is that in purely social situations, I have no idea what I should do or say and I’m really worried about other people judging me. But in work situations, I know that I am the expert and I know more than just about anybody I’m going to be talking to in any given situation. So I have been able to do things like lead meetings, give trainings to large groups, etc. I still sweat and shake and have to ask for a stool to sit on so I don’t pass out.

    I make connections with the other managers by doing things like taking on extra work and offering to help where it is needed, more so than by pure frivolous small-talk. They like me because I’m helpful and a good listener, not because I engage in constant chitchat about sports or whatever.

    So I think it depends on the profession and what the norms are. But I do think it’s possible for less socially capable people to advance.

  68. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #4: Everywhere I’ve worked there has been room for an individual contributor to get to pretty high levels. You don’t have to be a manager to progress your career.

    This also shouldn’t block you for getting managerial level roles. I don’t know if I’d want you being the head of a team of 50. But you should be fine leading a team of 5. If you can do that in a complex field, then that means you’ll have a good career. And I mean, I worked with a Senior VP that had only 5 reports.

    If you want to get into management, I’d urge you to look at small companies. If there’s only twenty people in the company, then you’ll be able to be in upper management easily. But most large companies are structured such that you don’t have to lead huge teams. I worked for a huge company where directors were only leading teams of ten people or so.

  69. Observer**

    #4 – Meeting anxiety. In addition to all of the good advice, I think it’s worth considering that therapy doesn’t need to be off the table. I get it – right now it’s not a viable option. But that doesn’t mean that this will always be the case. Which means that at the moment it may not be something you need to worry about that much. As your career progresses, you can re-evaluate the practicality of therapy if you still need it.

  70. CLC*

    Elevator: I think if you and Jane are heading to the same meeting or you are walking back from lunch together or something and chatting then it would be more polite to wait at the elevator with her. Just happening to cross paths in the morning it seems fine to say hi and head up the stairs.

    Bad recommendation: I think there’s a big difference between passing on a resume/facilitating a hiring and recommending someone. I think it’s 100% fine to pass on a friend’s resume if you’ve never worked together but you should state that you’ve never worked with the person and can’t vouch for them professionally up front to both the hiring company and your friend.

  71. Elsa*

    LW 1 – I’ve seen situations in the opposite direction, where, say, almost everyone uses the elevator to get to the fourth floor office, but the one claustrophobic guy always takes the stairs.

    But I’ve never heard of anyone joining the claustrophobic guy on the stairs “so he won’t be alone”.

  72. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I’m disabled. I have to take the elevator. I’m also an introvert who hates mornings. I would much prefer to wait for an elevator alone than make small talk with a coworker who is only standing next to me out of obligation.

    You’re fine.

  73. Verde*

    LW #3 – In this day and age, there are so many simple, FREE, easy to use expense card systems (see: Divvy, for one) available that weren’t a thing a few years ago. Organizations large or small can sign up with them, cards can be provided to staff, virtual cards can be created for online ordering, and everything can be managed from one login, easy-peasy. They are so much better than bank credit cards, and so easy to set up, use, and manage spending limits on. I’ve done finance at nonprofits for years, and reimbursements/expecting employee to spend their own money, drive me absolutely nuts. Push back, tell them to figure something out and stop this BS practice.

  74. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    It’s bad manners to correct other people’s manners (exceptions for children you are raising, people you are raising, or possibly direct reports/mentees).

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Eh, meant to also say: so I would take any criticism of manners from coworkers with a grain of salt.

  75. AceyAceyAcey*

    LW #1, if you were already conversing, it would be polite to wait with her. I sometimes take the elevator for health reasons, and it’s disappointing to me when someone breaks off a conversation to take the stairs while I wait for the elevator. But it sounds like you just said a “hi” in passing, so I think it’s fine to move on.

  76. Skippy*

    LW4: I think that in so many conversations about both leadership and management, we set up this platonic ideal of what a good leader and/or manager needs to be — and it usually involves a long list of traits and skills that very few people actually have all at once. Unfortunately, I think that it ends up being a form of gatekeeping, particularly with people who identify as women or BIPOC or as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who see these lists and assume that they are not “leadership material,” much as they assume that they cannot do jobs with long lists of qualifications unless they feel they can meet 100% of the requirements.

    The reality is that imperfect people take on leadership positions all the time. Some of them fail, but many succeed, and even the best leaders and managers are challenged by some aspect of their position. I’ve worked with and for many leaders over the years, and I much prefer the leaders who know their limitations and work within them than the ones who forge ahead with no self-awareness whatsoever.

    As others have said, there are definitely leadership roles to be found at smaller organizations and in smaller teams that won’t involve being in huge groups very often. There will probably be situations where you would encounter those expectations, but the key would be finding strategies for dealing with them. As Alison says, it may be challenging, but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.

  77. Jefe*

    #1 – At my previous job, I would often get to work at the same time as my boss (40 years my senior) and we would talk until we got to the lobby after which he would take the elevator and I would take the stairs and no one would think anything of it.

  78. Anonymous Bosch*

    People are always writing to Miss Manners about being scolded for breaches of etiquette that turn out to be something the other person made up.

    The following is a recent example:

    “My son is getting married, and my wife is greatly offended because his aunts on my side of the family (my four sisters and two sisters-in-law) did not throw a wedding shower in his honor.”

    Of course, Miss Manners responded that she was wondering why the LW’s wife was looking to be offended by something that was actually correct in terms of the rules of etiquette because relatives are not supposed to throw showers.

    What I find especially interesting is that these “rules” tend to be used as a way to legitimize making comments about someone else’s behavior, something that is invariably none of the commenters business.

  79. Anonymous For Now*

    If we were standing by the elevator and chatting , then it would be natural for me to get in the elevator with you when it showed up.

    However, if I was passing by on my way to wherever and said hi or waved, I thought it would be kind of strange for me to stop and wait with you.

    Thank you for confirming my thinking. While I’m not exactly disabled, I am older and I wouldn’t like it if people assumed I was infirm.

  80. Anonymous Individual*

    From what OP#2 has said in the comments, it appears that her (former) friend has retained an attorney or is in the process of doing so. I have to think that if they get to the point of taking depositions, it will not be a day at the beach for the fired one.

  81. It Actually Takes a Village*

    #4 – I have the same issue (unless I’m presenting!) and a whole load of other issues due to neuroexpansive-ness and a mood disorder. I’m also very gifted and a natural leader, so my solution was to start my own business.

    I call the shots so the way I operate has always accommodated my own needs, skills, gifts and limitations (even before I was diagnosed).

    Obviously not a short-term solution or applicable to everything, but if you’re able to transition into consulting or building up something small on the side, it could be an option!

    Good luck.

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